When I was in junior high and high school in the early to mid 90’s, long before I ever met Jesus, before I developed my current musical tastes, I listened to rock music and heavy metal music. I was an angry and depressed kid, and that was the music that connected to me and expressed my inner self. There was one particular band, with one particular singer, that I really liked, and I followed this singer for years.
That era of rock music was pretty dark. Most of the stars of that period were heavy drug users, depressed and angry, and not entirely comfortable with the glamorous spotlight of stardom. In fact, many of them died from overdoses. If you wanted to listen to something happy, this wasn’t the genre. But this one particular singer that I liked, despite stories of similar struggles, kept performing all the way through. Continue reading
I know you have heard this said over and over again, watch the company you keep. A lot of us probably heard this growing up from our parents and other adults in our lives. When we are young we tend to hear things but they don’t sink in. Those words don’t have meaning. It’s not until we get older that those words of wisdom creep back up into our thoughts and we begin to understand what our elders meant. Continue reading
I play guitar in a band that plays a blend of blues and gospel music. I’m the youngest in the band by at least 15 years, and I’m no spring chicken. So needless to say, we approach this band as a ministry, maybe as something having a local appeal and bring some Good News through music to venues that don’t typically play Christian music. We don’t have any aspirations to become rock stars and tour around the world.
A couple of months ago, we decided to play a full, two-hour concert at a local venue for our friends, fans, and family in our hometown. I had an idea one day. We play gospel music. A lot of people go out to lunch on Sundays after church. Most live music happens at night time, so stages are probably available on Sunday afternoons. Let’s call it… the Gospel Lunch!
The church that our singer goes to, which is also the church that I and our harmonica player used to attend, is located in a downtown area and very close to a pizza restaurant that has a stage. We’ve shown up to this restaurant a couple of times for their open mic nights. Our bass player knows the ownership of the pizza place, so we went up to them one night and said, “We want the stage on a Sunday afternoon. You don’t need to provide any equipment, just the stage, and get ready for a busy lunch hour.” The owner said, “Okay.”
Wow, that was easiest gig we’ve every booked.
Playing a two hour set isn’t easy, especially for a group that isn’t as young as it used to be, so we had to practice hard to build our endurance. We promoted the show all over town and on social media, hoping that it would be a convenient time for all of our friends. We wanted the Gospel Lunch concept to take off.
We initially told the restaurant that we could estimate 50-100 people, but it would be hard to give an exact number. You can’t trust Facebook “event” statistics and responses, because people have the option to respond maybe. “Maybe” is awful. You can’t even split the maybe’s in half and estimate that way, because that is based on a faulty presumption that maybe is 50/50. Human beings are far more maddeningly whimsical than that.
The gig happened on May 7th. For the first time in social media history, every maybe showed up. And a lot of other people, too. The place was packed, full of family and friends, fans from social media, and many from the nearby church. A lot of churchgoers, ordering a lot of pizza, listening to us play…
And the restaurant wasn’t ready for the crowd. They called in every staff that was on standby and they still had trouble keeping up.
We played our hearts out, and the crowd loved it. It felt great. And we figured that the restaurant loved the business; Sunday afternoons aren’t even this busy during football season! But I wondered just how they handled being backed up and overwhelmed.
The staff told me, after the gig, that they felt so bad that the delays were so long. But the crowd was SO NICE. Everyone was forgiving and friendly. The wait staff were truly touched by how this primarily-churchgoer crowd treated them for the inconveniences. I suppose it is sad that they were expecting to get slammed with complaints. But I was every bit as happy with that form of Christian witness as I was with the opportunity to play our music in that environment.
And this is really what it is all about. Publicly, the words “church” and “Christians” carry a lot of baggage now. Misconceptions about who the People of God are, and what they stand for, get fueled by unfortunate, isolated, or maybe out-of-context incidents or people. But this is the type of stuff that makes a small, but real difference.
I do not believe we are going to be the beneficiaries of some large scale event that will change the perception of Christianity today. It seems to me as if Jesus designed this mission of ours to be relational, based on love, and perceptions will change on the smaller scale due to a surprising encounter with God and His people.
The world is not going to make it easy for us! All in all, a big crowd of Christians really only encountered a few wait staff at one local restaurant. But God cares about those few, and how we handle inconveniences, how navigate our lives through varying degrees of turmoil, changes perceptions with the few observers we may have. I loved seeing how God’s people, formed and filled by God’s love and grace, did something as simple as conducting themselves maturely and lovingly in public, to reflect God’s love with the world.
If you’ve been following my Twitter feed for a few weeks now, you’ll know that Mercy Me’s Even If has been my anthem lately. I kind of feel like when the band was writing the song, they were looking at some struggles in my own life. Although, I’m not a singer, so… maybe the first part of it doesn’t quite apply.
I have learned to do something I have never done and that is refresh my brain daily. I feel that we should always refresh our minds daily as we evolve in our spiritual walk and our emotional walk as well. Refreshing our minds is quite easy to do.
There are times when you get so discouraged, that your mind starts to play tricks on you. You’ll start to imagine the most irrational scenarios and convince yourself that those scenarios are more likely to come to pass than… well… reality. I’ve spent my fair share of moments with my head down, my face in my palms, and saying pitiful statements like, “Even my phone doesn’t like me; it just froze and I need to reboot it, and… stuff. I hate my life.”
Before I go on, let me just say that anyone who chastises you for having fleeting thoughts of discouragement, anger, sadness, or doubts about the future, isn’t really helping you. You do not want to completely repress certain feelings, which are an essential part of your very humanity. In fact, I wouldn’t even call any feelings “negative feelings”. They are all just feelings, as I see it, and they are important feedback to you about who you are and how you are reacting to situations. How you respond to that feedback, what you do at your next step, makes all the difference. But I have learned to stop trying to hide discouragement, or to pretend that moments of discouragement are not happening.
I recently found out about a couple of positions that would have been incredible opportunities for me and my career. As I saw the job description, I had the necessary qualifications and skills, I even had a couple of references that knew the people hiring. I was not even granted interviews. For a moment, I started to question everything. Am I just not cut out for this? Are there that many other candidates out there that I can’t get in the door anywhere? Is someone badmouthing me, is there a black cloud over me that I don’t know about? Is my resume awful?
So I had my moment of internal chaos, followed by lifting a bit too much weight at the gym, followed by tearing through the kitchen looking for comfort food (and having to settle for a little chocolate Christmas tree lost deep in the pantry; yes, it is Easter time).
At times like this, as you are regrouping and buckling down, it is important to return to the Bible and look at its stories, to remind you of what God sees in you. The entire book is full of characters used by God who had a pretty poor resume, did not look the part at all, had to wait a long time, and had monumentally screwed up in the past. Let’s do a quick survey.
Noah apparently had the tendency to get drunk and pass out naked. Moses killed a Hebrew before being called to lead the exodus, and he himself thought he was a stutterer as a public speaker. Samson was a womanizer. David didn’t look the part when he was appointed, and was a womanizer and murderer while he was king. Peter denied that he knew Jesus when the pressure was on him. Paul arranged for Christians to be killed before he was saved. That’s just the short list.
God’s economy is completely different from how things work in the world. God sees weakness in a person as an opportunity for glory to shine. God sees past regrets as an opportunity to redeem. God
sees seemingly insurmountable odds as just as chapter in a great story being written.
I have to continue to remind myself that I placed my entire being, my whole world, in God’s hands when I was adopted into God’s family through Christ. Therefore, my whole world is not going to crumble because I did not get a certain job. God is not going to miss any deadlines (if God misses my deadline… then my self-imposed deadline was entirely flawed and fraught with impatience). God is not limited in how He will bless and use me by my resume and history. He sees it all completely differently, and He is faithful.
During the third week of March, my church held a week-long revival meeting. Friend, let me just say, the messages from that meeting were needed and to see the Lord move and touch in people’s lives was an absolute blessing.
About a week and a half before revival began, I felt the Lord nudge me into mailing out invitations to the lost and backslidden and invite them to attend the meeting. This is in no way, shape, or form a “look at me” post. A brag post for the Lord, yes. But, me? Definitely not.
I spent a good portion of a week googling mailing addresses and bothering everyone in the church to find accurate P.O. numbers and street addresses. The list of people I had planned to invite started out small (think six or seven), but quickly grew to a whopping seventy-two by the time I got finished.
Imagine for a moment: what if everyone that received an invitation came to know the Lord? That would have been over 100 people (some invitations were addressed to whole families) added to the Kingdom! I did not realize the burden some of my church members carry for their lost family members until I mailed invitations to their lost children. Oh, the burden those mothers and fathers must carry! I won’t lie, it put a lot of things into perspective for me and opened my eyes just a bit wider.
Of those seventy-two invitations, though, there was one particular man that I just could not find an address for. I searched the White Pages for days. I Facebook messaged anyone I thought might know his address, including his direct relatives. I texted my pastor (and by that, I definitely mean pestered) hoping he would have some information.
Nope. Nothing. Not a thing from any of my sources.
For days, I prayed the Lord would help me find his address. All things that are hidden or lost are eventually found, right? Well, in the case of this man’s mailing address, that was a no and I was running out of precious time.
I gave up and handed the invitation to the pastor’s wife and asked that she take care of it. I had exhausted all my resources and at that point revival was mere hours from starting. There was nothing else I could do, but continue to pray for the man’s salvation, regardless of whether he received an invitation or not.
On the sixth night of revival, the pastor was welcoming out visitors. He welcomed a man by his first name, but I didn’t catch it. I was battling an epic cold during this time, so it’s likely I was busy grabbing a cough drop or searching for my hanky. My mother caught my attention and said, “That’s him.” Of course, too focused on my temporary relief from the sinus infection, it took me a minute to process what she had said and to whom she was referring.
The man that I spent hours upon hours searching for his address and failed to find was seated on the back pew. Friend, when an altar call was given, the man prayed and gave his life to the Lord that night!
I have absolutely no clue if the pastor’s wife delivered the invitation I had written to the man. I don’t know if he even saw the letter at all. I could not find an address for him. He was essentially lost to me. But, the Lord found him and offered the man eternal salvation.
I do remember my pastor saying that he had spoken with the man several times the day that he decided to attended revival. So, whether the invitation from me was handed to him or my pastor invited him, I do not know. And truthfully, it does not matter. I am reminded of a verse found in 1 Corinthians. 1 Corinthians 3:7 says, “So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” Regardless of who invited the man, it was God that found him and saved his soul from Hell.
So, I guess to answer my original question: What’s lost and hidden will be eventually find, right? The answer is always yes. Those prayers you’re praying for your lost friend of family member, the ones where you ask to the Good Lord to save them, they will be answered. You might have a hard time getting through to your loved ones, but someone, somehow, and someday will. A little effort, a little faith, and a whole lot of prayer goes a long way.
Keep the faith-
As Spring cleanings and Spring Breaks are enjoyed lets always remember to Spring forward into all of the goals and dreams that you want to accomplish this year and even this week. Do not let this be the week that you feel that you didn’t accomplish anything. Be sure to learn and take everything in. This is the season of variety and growth and making things right.
Easter is not just a holiday. It is a reminder of how much Jesus loves us. It is a celebration of not death, but a celebration of life. We should only remember this once a year, but this should be a reminder to us everyday.
Jesus loved us so much that he was willing to die for our sins. That’s a whole lot of love. To be willing to die for the sins of not just you and I, but for the whole world. Because he died though him we have eternal life. That should always give us hope. The stress, the hurt, the pain of this life will not always be. One day there will be no more tears, sorrows, heartache, or pain. We will be with our heavenly father in our new eternal life.
John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.