Why Evangelize?

Featured Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I listen to wisdom pour from the mouths of those with far more to share than me, constantly. Sometimes I listen and I don’t think anything comes of it. My wheels hardly spin around the idea, and sometimes I am so uninspired that I stop listening while the message keeps playing. Then, sometimes, it grabs me. Something said in the first 30 second pulls me in and I begin loosing touch with the things I can feel in my physical presence because what I am listening to is far more real than anything else in the world.

One concept that held me so tightly; God’s sovereignty and evangelism. In listening to a teaching from the book of John, I learned that God hardened the hearts of some Israelites. His chosen people. He chose them, but also hardened their hearts so they would not accept Jesus as God in that moment. I listened and recalled then, how God hardened Pharaohs heart in Exodus. In Isaiah “He blinded their eyes so they would not see Him.” Who is this God, who would make a space between humanity and himself? It’s so far from the God I thought I knew. The idea was further developed. “The nations rejection of the Messiah was an outcome produced by the will of God.” It came to be this way because if they had all heard, they would have believed (duh! isn’t that the point?) and if they believed God would have been obligated to make good on his word to heal them then and there, and essentially the Kingdom of Heaven would have come before the gospel could reach the gentiles. “This is good and pleases God our savior, who wants all people to be saved…”  (1 Timothy 2:3-4) He wanted all of humanity and made His chosen people wait, by deafening their ears for a time, so that the message could reach the rest of the world before His Kingdom would be established on earth.

(This is the study I am referencing, specifically lesson 12. I encourage you to listen to all of them. It’s an in depth look at the full gospel of John and really full of amazing insight.)

Whoah. What? So also this brings up the question of sovereignty. If God would harden their hearts, why would we evangelize? What role do we even play? If God has already pre-destined His chosen people, why do we share God at all? He can do it without us. He literally doesn’t need us.

I’m going to change the question a little, to make a point.
(in a tone of distaste)
Why would we even evangelize?  implies that there’s no real reason.
(in an inquisitive tone)
Why, what is our motivation, for evangelism? – suggesting we simply can’t see the reason, yet.

Let me pose one last question. What if it has nothing to do with someone’s conversion? What if the motivation wasn’t to see someone become a Christian? What if the motivation, instead, was purely to live more like Jesus. Regardless of how you feel about the theology of evangelism and it’s potential pointlessness, we are all charged with living like Christ.

(for the record I also believe we are to care for the eternal souls of all, but that’s a different point, for another day)

Ephesians 5:2, Romans 6:4, Colossians 2:20 All speak of ways we can live more like Christ. We have “WWJD?” bracelets to remind us to live more like Christ.
“I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

Jesus came to bring us the Kingdom of God, so (maybe over-) simplified, our life mission is to become more like Christ, in bringing the Kingdom of God by showing people the ONE source of life abundant. An abundance which reaches beyond death! If Christ is our example and our only motivation is to become more like Christ, no matter the outcome of any one interaction, we will evangelize, we will live from love, we will show kindness to everyone we meet and if we REALLY knew the impact of the gospel, let it wash over the depths of our disbelief, we would be so overjoyed about what it means that we couldn’t be silent!

The God who placed the stars int the sky, put the waves into motion, who stacked the mountains beyond the cloud, who designs every snowflake, He looked at it all and said it was good, but when that same God looked at us, humans, He called us “VERY good”! (emphasis added) We are his desire! To live with us! WHAT?! who am I that the Lord of all creation wants ME? But he does. Does that not break open your deepest self?

It’s been years since I asked someone in public if I could pray for them.
A man was clearly in great discomfort and moved slowly, deliberately but still uncontrolled in some ways, by weakness and pain.

“Excuse me sir, I can’t help but notice the discomfort you must be in. I believe in a God who wants to heal you. Can I pray for you?”
-yes, he said.
“Can I pray for you right now?”
-yes, again, he said.
“can I place my hand on your leg?” (One place of clear discomfort)
-Yes.

His wife thanked me before we parted ways.

I have no idea where their faith is, but I know that The Lord found joy in being welcomed into that place. He loves being asked to heal pain. He is pleased that for just a moment, we asked for it to be “on earth, as it is in Heaven” Is that not the charge of all Christian life?

We Evangelize by showing love, sharing the gospel story, by being kind, by praying for one another, sometimes we are overt and other times we are covert. Evangelism looks different every day and isn’t always a sign on the corner shouting “JESUS LOVES YOU!”

He sees you,
He wants you,
He loves you.
He sees them,
He wan’s them,
He loves them.

Since we know, how can we not share?
If it is not your greatest joy to boast about the stories and great works God has done in you life, you DO NOT fully grasp the darkness from which you have been saved.

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Already Won

Victories you’ve achieved are ones you live from, and can share with others.
Sharing testimonies increases faith, so sometimes it’s okay to just pray for yourself and ask for a victory. Maybe the lesson you’re supposed to learn is not HOW to do something better except to lean on God, and ask for a win so you can live from victory instead of for it. It’s day’s exactly like this one for which I got my arm tattoo that says, “Already won.” It’s hard to remember that we live from the victory which has already been won on the cross, instead of always striving for survival. I have to believe that Jesus has overcome the world because that’s what he said and I can’t afford to believe differently than he said, but there’s a difference in believing and knowing. I’ve learned this to be one of my greatest battles in life. I am quick to know with my mind. It makes sense so I believe it but how much do I , really? When I’m faced with a direct challenge to what God has said, how far can I go before I stop believing? When do I lose my peace? When do my emotions seem to become more powerful than the solid truth that is God’s unfailing word?

Today was such a test. I write this speaking from cerebral faith and belief, but with a broken heart and hoping to see God move this mountain. I know what he’s said, but I may have reached the end of my faith for today. Perhaps that’s why it’s called a gift of faith. Because when it makes sense it’s not hard to believe, but when you’re challenged and it DOESN’T make sense it is still no less true. It’s just harder to keep believing. That deep breath of peace, the one you have when it makes no sense but you’ve given up working it over in your mind or trying to make sense of it because you just feel like it’s going to be okay. Is that the gift of faith?

I took my car into the shop for some well overdue repairs. My timing belts (yes, two in a Subaru) needed to be replaced six months ago. For the mechanics reading this, my tension pulley was broken so it had essentially been rubbed flat on one side and was tearing through the ribs like a hungry man fresh off a deserted island. I knew it would be a couple hundred dollars, but after keeping an eye on the damage for a few months I finally decided it could wait no longer. Turned out to need much more work than I knew and today was a three hundred dollar bill, with an additional $5,000 prognosis. Let me also acknowledge that this is entirely a first world problem! I get it, I have a car and at that one worth putting money into keeping. but for a single mom, or anyone for that matter, just trying to figure out how to keep putting one foot in front of the other, this is kind of a devastating blow. I sat in the mechanics office working  (praise the Lord I can bring work with me!) frantically scribbling down my budget, while the office manager kept giving me updates on what they found, like a scrub nurse in the ER. I kept re-working it to accommodate the days repair, feeling less and less hopeful each time.

So I ask myself again, how much do I really believe in God’s goodness? I drove home with my most urgent needs covered, but still a heavy heart, resolute to keep my head up. my resolution failed me. I had found the end of my confidence “of this; That I will see the goodness of the Lord in the lad of the living.” Psalm 27:13. Good thing God can handle our doubt. I believe in my head that He is good and will take care of my every need, but I can’t help feeling doubt in my heart. My circumstances cast such a heavy shadow.

I’ll be wrestling this for a while I’m sure. All I know to do is keep reminding myself that feelings are temporary, so is my car and my circumstances. God’s faithfulness is eternal and unwavering no matter how I feel. And it’s okay to feel bad about it for a while. Maybe this will be one more testimony I can stand on, and share with others in the future, that they may have more faith too. In the mean time I’ll do my best to worship who I know God is, and use it as my weapons of war agains doubt and fear.

If My Story Were Written

girl-covering-eyes-ffound-1

With the recent explosion of (what we call) social networks it’s apparent that most of our efforts are based around building community. We do it through Facebook, reading and interacting on each others blogs, searching hashtags and making new friends on instagram and all kinds of other platforms for connection. All this so say, I am deeply thankful for my friends and community.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to video chat with one of my longest standing friends, whom I hadn’t seen in nearly a year. What a breath of fresh air. He’s a pretty spectacular human being. As a performer in musical theater, he is naturally a great story teller. We caught up on the happenings of life, as much as possible via the web. throughout the whole conversation the way he shared what God has been doing in his life and the seasons he had recently been through, it filled my spirit with hope. It was the kind of conversation you could tell God was present for. I don’t know if you have ever experienced that sort of sensation but at the very least it holds your attention and you just know there’s something, beyond the actual words spoken, that is being told to you. God is saying something too.

In my case, hearing the victories Lance had just been given and celebrating what God had done to change his life so intimately lead me to think, “It’s got to be pretty close to my turn for this kind of breakthrough” ….
I held the thought loosely as I try not to dwell, but it kept rolling around in my head and changing shape. Something about that initial thought seemed like it is the way I feel, but it’s not the truth. I don’t doubt that breakthrough and greater things are exactly what God has planned for every moment of my life, but I’ve come to this question as my conclusion.

If my story were written, like they are in The Bible, would it say, “She was blind to the things God was doing.” or “God covered her eyes to these things.”
Ultimately have I just been so focused on the circumstances that aren’t what I want them to be, or is God doing things without letting me in on it, intentionally? I want to believe it’s the later but I guess I would know better if I had been spending more time hanging out with Him.

One part of this revealing conversation with my friend that really stood out, is how devoutly he and his friends have been laying every last thought before The Lord. Seems pretty simple, or at least a relatively basic part of living a Christ centered life. It takes a kind of awareness though, an intentionality and focus that I don’t think I’m alone in lacking.

“This is what it’s supposed to look like.”
That’s what God told me during this video chat sesh. Not that my friends story is flawless, but that every one of our stories are meant to be just as un-real, as if it couldn’t have been written any better, and that it starts with putting every moment in Gods hands. Not theoretically, but literally and in the moment consulting God on every choice, even if its a toss up between Arbys and Burger King.

 

How often do we blame our circumstances? How often do we complain about the struggle of the day? How often do we let frustration fill our scope when the truth about all of these things is that they have nothing against the author of history?

How different would life be if only we found the discipline to shift our focus?