This evening has been a roller-coaster of emotions! At Cru tonight, Pastor Paul talked about poverty and how Jesus usually was with the impoverished (Luke 5). When Pastor Paul started talking, my mind went to "yes, I know all about poverty in the United States, I took a class on it" and I even had a little debate in my head about his statistics. Then he moved into the passage in Luke, showing how Jesus called fisherman (pretty much the lowest social status job one could have), how he touched a leper and healed him (one would not even stand mere feet from a leper let alone touch someone who had leprosy), how he healed a paralytic, and called Levi (or Matthew) to follow him (a man who was a tax collector and a traitor to his people, for he worked for Rome), and finally when Jesus talks about the sheep and goats in heaven (the sheep fed, clothed, offered hospitality to the lowliest of the low, and when they did that, they served Jesus). Intense stuff, let me break down my thought process for each passage.
Jesus calling Simon and his business partners to follow Him, did not really hit me. I have known that fishermen are not the highest on the totem pole of jobs to be desired back then, but once again, it is mentioned so many times in the Bible. The men dropped everything and followed Jesus. While yes, fishing is not the loveliest job, it was their livelihood, they had family to provide for, dreams they wished to accomplish, and they left that for Jesus, a man who they hoped and believed and had faith was the Messiah. What if they had been wrong? They lived their lives out with so much faith, so much hope in the times of persecution. I have to ask myself, would I drop everything and go follow someone? Jesus? I admit, I sometimes don't follow Him, where is my faith in that moment? Would I be willing to proclaim His name when it seems like there is no proof, no justification to follow this man, but my faith keeps me grounded? I sometimes question God and demand proof, even though I have a whole book of proof from the Bible! This is my human flesh rebelling against a wonderful God.
The story about the leper is the one that started to make me really dig deep. The leper says "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean" Did you get that? If, you, are, willing. Many times in the Bible it points to the will of God, and if our hearts are directed to allow His will to be done, He will grant our desired, because we desire His will be done. Do I say that enough to God? Do I mean it enough? I cannot imagine this leper, his skin rotting as he lives. For the first words to be they will be done? Sure, I add that phrase at the end of prayers, but in reality, it is to just appease God. Sometimes yes, I so desire that His will above mine will be in my heart, but many times, I am just saying it to "humble myself" Jesus replies "I am willing" Do I remember the God is part of this ongoing conversation, this ongoing journey? No, sometimes I forget that He is walking, holding, and loving me all through my days and nights. Jesus took that man's leprosy away from Him, He can do all things, there is proof time and time again in the Bible, he served the lowly and the poor. I feel that way sometimes and yet, I feel too unclean for Him to really be able to take away this flesh rotting human nature I have. Sometimes I worry if I believe I am clean, God will just laugh at me and throw me to the wolves. (If you cannot tell, I am trying to work on faith, not a spiritual gift of mine.)
Jesus and the paralytic. What is so fascinating about this piece is the reply Jesus gives to the friends. "Friends, your sins are forgiven" I forget that the world is not just me trying to get through this journey, that other people are walking the same walk and trying to grow in their faith. I deeply struggle with the thought that other people close to me sin. In my mind, I am the one who is sinning horribly, and others, I can forgive their sins without any thought. Jesus says though "Friends, your sins" plural. I need to remember that more.
The Jesus and Levi story was a good summary to the whole point Pastor Paul was trying to make, Levi was not a favorite among the Jews at all, and they despised him for being a tax collector for Rome. Yet he became a disciple of Jesus'. Jesus called Him to join him. I sometimes think "Oh yeah, the disciples were all big shots by just being Jesus' disciples!" No, during that time, they probably lost some status points by following this man who claimed to be the Messiah. People must have hated them, their family may have turned their backs on them. Am I willing to do that for God? Am I willing to accept whatever happens, thy will be done, to take up my cross, leave my possessions and walk with Him in my sight? At times, yes I can, easily. Other times, when things aren't so tough and life seems pretty decent, I would think twice before making that decision.
Finally, the sheep and the goats. I know this passage well, I have most of it underlined in my Bible. Pastor Paul brought up a good point. Many international students at TU feel very lonely, the loneliest they have ever felt. Am I going to the lost people on campus? The impoverished so to speak? No, I am still trying to find my comfort zone, I don't even really think about making too many new friends on campus. But, many people on campus have never even heard the name of Jesus. What a beautiful opportunity to be able to minister to students and grow alongside them! Yet, I hesitate. Because sadly, my human nature is to be a goat, to deny others needs above my own, because I am a sinner. The problem is, I am not actively fighting that nature, I am settling in it. When I have read this passage before I have thought "I am too young, too poor, to be able to really go out and help others who are poor, or imprisoned, or need clothing." Yes Pastor Paul laid it at my feet, there are students living on campus, maybe next door to me, who may not know Christ. I can talk with them. I can make friends, one can never have too many friends, more specifically, and one can never have too many brothers and sisters in Christ. This is what floored me.
For some reason, I think a deep desire of mine is to be a songwriter, problem is, I can't write songs. Every once in a while though, I think of a "lyric" that I think would fit well in a song, and it keeps rotating in my mind. Tonight I had such a moment. I kept thinking this lyric so to speak "How can You even look at me? In this world full of broken dreams, broken hearts, broken souls, I cannot seem to fit Your image." It probably makes no sense, though I hope my rambling about tonight can help paint the picture.
When Pastor Paul was talking about reaching out to the lonely on campus, I was transported back to Point 11 this summer when Keith Chancey talked with such a peace yet passion for spreading the gospel. Like it was as fundamental as learning the ABC's and easy to talk about with anyone! I had thought earlier in the night as we were singing "please God, do not let that moment at Point 11 be a mountain top, but a transformation" and Pastor Paul did that tonight, or rather, God used Pastor Paul to hit me to the core. It made me very quiet. Like my spirit just needed some open, vulnerable time to take it all in. We stood up to sing soon after this revelation, and the first time in my life, I sang solely for God, and it was almost a whisper for the first song, and when I sang the second, it was not full out, showy hand movement humbling experience. It was soaking up that indeed, God is stronger than I am, and He is Lord over all. Not me, not just me, but all, past, present, future, troubles, joys, tribulations, life. All.
Anyway, this is really dense and heavy blog, but I needed to process tonight, but to talk with someone would have been hard, because I felt like God was saying "You and me, process through Me" which is ironic cause my computer would not play any sound, and my thought when I came back to my apartment was "I will listen to music while I type this" and obviously God was saying "No my love, just listen to my spirit and I will be the music in your heart" I am a Child of God trying to grow in Him more, and He definitely stopped me in my tracks tonight!
P.S. The title of this post is based off the song "Orphans, Kingdoms" by Brooke Fraser which I have been listening to all day today! And I think Pastor Paul would agree, the Kingdom of God is for the Orphans of the world. :)