Keep it Smaller and Change the World

This weekend was a busy one for me.  On Saturday I attended an all-day women’s event at my church.  Then yesterday morning my husband and I attended services at church and then a class after church.  Last night we attended a home group meeting.  The amazing thing about all of these events was that each event discussed essentially the same topic, which was not something that was planned to be that way.  The women’s event was IF Gathering (IF Gathering website) and was pre-recorded at a recent, nationally-broadcast live event.  Our pastor preached on the next chapter of Acts in a series of sermons based on that book.  The class Sunday afternoon was an informational class about our church as we are fairly new and considering membership.  And our home group has been discussing the same book for months now….last night was just a continuation of that.  None of it was connected except for the fact that it was all centered around our church.  It all was connected because of the theme that just kept making itself known.

The great big word that sums up the theme is “Evangelism.”  It is a word that has come to mean such big things in our culture, and to those who are not believers it has come to mean scary, pushy things.  When one hears evangelist or evangelize, it is easy to conjure pictures of Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and even more modern-day folks like Benny Hinn or even pastors like Joel Osteen.  I’m not trashing these people, so please bear with me here.  These people and their ministries are known for going really big…for having a lot of people and TV shows and a lot of opinions that they freely shared with the world.  I am not commenting on their righteousness or their correctness, I am commenting on their showy methods that attract followers.  So many of our local churches today put on a big show, try to do it up really big to attract people.  People feel like church should be entertaining…a show!  Again, I am not putting anyone down here.  I have been a member of or visited many churches who do it big who love the Lord a whole lot and who are trying to reach people for Jesus.

What I learned about this weekend is a version of evangelism that is quiet.  That is more personal.  That involves cookies and milk, coffee, time spent talking and being with someone.  Time building a relationship with someone, quietly, and sharing who you really are is more valuable than anything in making a difference in someone’s life.  When I think back over my life to the moments that have made a difference to me, the things that come to mind are moments with people, quietly loving on me and listening to me.  I can’t think of one big splashy moment that meant anything to me that didn’t involve the intimate interaction of another person.

I learned that my offering people a ride, or going to lunch, or inviting someone over to just hang with us and spending time being real is what I can do to change the world.  Showing love and consideration for others, sharing who I am, sharing my faith and what makes me who I am can help someone else to change.  It can influence someone else to love, to be authentic, and even to find faith.  I don’t have to wait until I can do something big to change the world.  I can care, and change the world that is right around me.  Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples will grow and spread and make a huge wave of difference.

 

Big God…

There are some days when life just seems to be overwhelming.  You struggle to make ends meet day in and day out and often it feels like a losing battle.  You do whatever you can to try and change the status quo.  Interviewing for jobs, looking for ways to save money, trying to live. Then you get hit with something unexpected and quite frankly out of the realm of the doable.  What then?

I have been no stranger to hardship in 20 years of marriage.  My husband and I have had financial trouble due to us being young and irresponsible and financial trouble despite us growing up and trying to do things the right way.  We have faced big health scares, near death, and lots of surgery.  We have two kids who have various disabilities and issues.  We have faced extended unemployment,  and having no income at all.  We have faced betrayal of a pastor and the loss of friends.  We have experienced the effects of sin and the failures of each other have pushed us to the brink.

There have been blessings in there too.  I don’t want to discount that.  But there have been hard times that leave my husband and myself gasping for air, trying to breathe through them.

Why do we face problems like this?  I have been thinking a lot about that in the past year or so.  We have a job now, thank God, but the situation we are in with our housing and the cost of living has left us fighting for survival.  It is almost worse than when we were unemployed.  My husband and I are believers who both would say we trust God.  God is the God of the universe, so why do we not have what we need?

I was reading “The Call” by Dr. Ben Guitierez today for one of my classes.  Dr. Guitierez was talking about times just like I was describing here.  Times where catastrophe or tragic circumstances happen that shake a person’s foundation.  He makes the point that it is easy to trust God when things are going well and when it is easy to identify the hand of God.  The real test, he says, is when you can’t see what God is doing and where He is.  When you just can’t understand how to get through what you are facing.  You don’t see how even God could “fix” the situation.  When his voice seems silent and you feel like you are drowning.  Do we still trust God then?

That is not such an easy thought.  I want to know the answers.  I want to see what God is doing.  I want to know that the thing that threatens my security is not really a danger to worry about.  I want to know ahead of time that God has an answer that will drive away any threat to me and mine.  I want evidence.  And I want the problem fixed.

But what if God doesn’t give me these things.  Do I still trust him?  I think about the story in Daniel 3 about Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego.  When they were facing punishment for not worshiping the king, these young men said that God would deliver them from the threat that they faced.  But then they said, “But even if he does not….”  Wow.  They  declared their faith in their God even in the face of dying instead of being rescued.  Their trust in their God exceeded any situation that faced them.

Where does that leave me?  When I say I am a believer, do I have that same kind of trust that can’t be shaken?   When others look at me and the circumstances that I face, do they see someone scared and defeated, or do they see someone who trusts in God no matter what?  Someone who can stand because they know that God is faithful.  I have been struggling a lot with that thought.  I am human and I get scared.  When things come up that I didn’t anticipate having to deal with I tend to worry.  That is in my nature.  But starting right now I refuse to look at the circumstances as overwhelming.  I am a believer in the most High God and He is able to handle any situation.  Whether my faith is strong, like it is some days, or whether it is faltering, like other days, God is faithful and He is able.

No matter what.