For years, one of my favorite passages in the New Testament has been:
Now, who will want to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for doing what is right, God will reward you for it. So don't worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it (1 Peter 3:13-15 NLT).
I liked the part of letting people ask questions about my hope; it relieved me of guilt. I had it figured out. I don't have to push my hope down someone else's throat; I just have to wait till they ask about my "hidden" hope. But for years, no one asked.
I had missed the part about living so that Jesus looked good, I wanted to live so I looked good (spiritually good). At the end of the day, I taught a lot about Jesus, but I never let him out of the box. I knew all about HIM. I could tell about miracles and teachings from centuries ago, but nothing from last week or the week before. He was master of the past and designer of the future, but the present was mine.
To work off the title of an old movie, "Honey, I had shrunk my Savior." He was no bigger than my words, or my expectations, or my human abilities and understandings. I was in dangerous territory. Thank God for second chances. (Have you heard Carlos Whittaker's new song "God of Second Chances" or seen the video of him singing it with a homeless guy who wants to join in on the video praise? Check it out at: http://bit.ly/HL94h87m and also find the lyrics to the song!)
When you get to the point when you have God all figured out, when you have all the "right" answers, you'll find no one really wants to ask you anything. No one cares about your hope. Words and lectures don't display hope. What does display hope is living a full life, packed down, shaken together, overflowing, that sees Jesus in unlikely people, living each day looking for Jesus in others, and in yourself, living to bring out the best in others, living to put in a good word for Jesus, living to inspire second looks and serious questions. "Where does that come from? How do you keep going? Why do that? What do you get out of that?"
Those questions will be asked, but only if you have lived with abandon. I'm not talking about getting the facts straight, or posing for PR pictures; I'm talking about giving up everything you learned in Sunday school and letting God take you where you were meant to go — out of your box. You will experience faith-on-the-go. You will collect snapshots of your memories; you will discover the joy that really does pass understanding. You will know HIM — present tense.
Mike Erre, author of "The Jesus of Suburbia," has a friend with a story you will remember long after reading FaithNotes. Let's call the friend Randy:
Randy took his five-year-old to Disneyland for the first time. Once through the gates, there is a relatively small area where you can take pictures with costumed characters and you can hear the sounds of the Disneyland Express.
The park lies beyond this picture area, but Randy's son didn't know that. When Randy tried to take his boy away from the characters and into the part beyond, the boy howled in protest, convinced that his dad was forcing him to leave the park.Be the Jesus your friend needs, today!The little guy had assumed that where he was standing was the extent of the park. Imagine the little boy's joy and thrill when Randy dragged him around the corner into Disneyland itself, and he realized what he thought was the park wasn't the park at all, but only the beginning.
Imagine the joy of knowing that you have all day to explore this place with your dad. Imagine life with God beyond what you have read.
Time to write a story or two.
Get your journal or your computer and begin writing about a time when you could see Jesus around you, a time when you were forced out of your comfort zone and into a moment of extreme trust. Tell about a nudge, a push, a new perspective, a risk. Write about a time when you thought you had reached the end, when you knew what to expect, but God forced you into another world.
Write about a person you know who needs to meet Jesus. If you were writing a storyline about how Jesus would touch this person, what would Jesus talk about, what would he do, what would he look for? Would he whisper unimaginable words of second touches and forgiveness and love? Or, would he reach out and hug and say nothing?
Now, forget about telling the person about what Jesus did in the past ... be the Jesus your friend needs, today.
Be the Story.