Thursday, October 17, 2013

The World is on Fire

The other night I had a dream.  For most people that isn't a big deal, but I don't dream often.  When I do, someone usually is dying violently or some other nightmarish thing happens.  This dream was different, though.

It started with me outside playing basketball with some of my Impacters (the students at Impact).  After a really sweet shot (dream-me has skills) I noticed that the building we were next to was on fire.  It was just a small billow of smoke, but I knew I had to get people out before the fire grew.  I left the game and ran into the building.  I stepped into a room that looked like a lecture hall.  I started telling everyone in the room that the building was on fire and they had to get out and save themselves.  Some people immediately got up and left the same way I came in.  Others remained seated.  I started singling people out; "I need you to understand.  If you don't leave now you're going to die!"  Their responses varied.  Some listened and left.  Others argued, "I don't see a fire, so why should I leave?"  Still others complained, "But I'm comfortable where I am.  I don't want to leave."  Each time someone ignored my warnings I became more and more upset.  I wasn't angry, I was distraught.  "But if you don't come with me, you will die!  How can you just sit there?"  I just didn't understand.  There was an immediate danger and I was warning them.  Why didn't they listen?

At this point I woke up for work.  But I couldn't get the dream out of my head.  When a dream sticks with me like that I tend to ask God if there is something I should be learning from it.  What did that dream mean? When I asked this time, God reminded me of what we had discussed this week at the Gathering (our High School youth group).  We were talking about loving the lost (aka people who don't know Jesus).  One of the students said that he worried he doesn't really love his friends because he doesn't tell them about Jesus.  That struck me.  How many people do I know and not really love because I don't warn them?  At the same time, I don't want people to "convert" out of fear.  I'm not a turn-or-burn Christian.  I believe we were created for so much more than a faith from fear.

I have never considered myself much of an evangelist.  It makes me uncomfortable to just randomly talk to people about Jesus.  If someone asks me about him I am more than happy to answer questions or give them the run down.  But I have a hard time just putting myself out there.  Maybe that's the point of the dream.  I'm going to be rejected sometimes.  That's not the point.  Instead of letting my fear of failure stop me from trying I should remember those who left the first time I warned them.

Plus, in the end I'm only responsible for being obedient and faithful.  I can't change anyone's heart, only God can do that.  I can just tell them about him and live in a way that makes his existence undeniable.  I can love the people around me out of his love instead of my own.  And I can pray.

So that's what I will do.  I'm going to love people and pray that God open their hearts to him.

"Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well." -1 Thessalonians 2:8

Sunday, October 13, 2013

I'll Sleep When I Am Dead

“I’ll sleep when I am dead.”

How many times have I heard myself say that recently?  I am so tired, and yet I don’t feel like I am getting anywhere near enough rest.  I am exhausted.  Even when I finally do sleep, I am plagued by dreams of my responsibilities and nightmares that wake me up in a cold sweat. 

“I’ll sleep when I am dead.”

This is what I tell myself when I am so tired I feel physically ill.  It is usually around then that ‘something comes up’ and I don’t have time to get some rest.

“I’ll sleep when I am dead.”

I have been saying this for years, but today the meaning changed for me.  I listened to one of the Jesus Culture Leadership Podcasts called Leading from Rest.  The speaker, Banning Liebscher, focused on the story of Jesus calming the storm which is found in Mark 4:35-40.  

As I was listening, it struck me that Jesus was asleep.  I mean, that really isn’t new information, but as a kid that didn’t mean as much to me as I does now.  Now, I am sleep deprived.  I am working a job that isn’t really what I want to do forever, while I am volunteering in a position I feel called to.  I sacrifice sleep (and other forms of rest) so that I can do what God is calling me to do. 

Jesus’ calling was even higher than mine, and his was probably quite a bit more stress inducing than mine.  His was going to end in an excruciatingly painful death; mine involves doing life with middle school and high school students.  Mine is difficult, but it doesn’t even compare to what Jesus did.  With that said, Jesus slept in a boat with a storm raging around him.  I can’t seem to sleep in my warm bed under my parents’ roof.  What is the difference between us?  (Other than the fact that he is God-incarnate, that is.)

It hit me today, as I listened to the podcast, that Jesus knew his whole ministry only existed because of the work of the Father.  Banning kept saying that it was God who builds the house, not us.  I was convicted of holding the hammer and telling God that I’ve got it.  It’s no wonder I am so tired.  I have been trying to build a ministry, and inviting God to come along with me.  It’s totally the other way around.  God called me to join him in HIS work in my students’ lives; I didn’t call God to come with me.  I’m trying to wield tools that don’t belong to me.

When the success of the ministry isn’t on my shoulders, it is much easier to rest.  When I remember that God builds the house, I just get to help where he calls me the weight falls on God, who it more than big enough to carry it.  I can actually rest for a change.  I can sleep without worrying about my kids and leaders.  When I remember who really does the work, I am not burdened by the pain and challenges of loving my kids.  I can just celebrate what God is doing in their lives, and comfort them when they are hurting.  I don’t have to fix them.

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

I think I have been looking at that all wrong.  It is more like ‘I will rest when I am dead.’  I will be able to breathe when the burden isn’t all on my shoulders, crushing my lungs.  When I die to myself, and come back to life in Christ I am finally able to rest.  I can rest in my identity as a daughter of the King of Kings.  I can rest in the assurance that God really is looking after ‘my’ kids, and that he does in fact love them more than I can even fathom.  I can rest because I know that ultimately God asked me to join his story, so the spotlight isn’t on me but on him.  I can rest because I belong to Jesus and nothing anyone says or does will ever change that.  He loves me enough that he died for me; of course he will see me through a little storm. 

“I’ll sleep when I’m dead.”

Tonight I pray that God reminds me of who is really building the house.  I don’t have to save the world, Jesus already did that.  I just need to love those God brings into my life, and respond in obedience and faithfulness to the promptings of the Spirit.  So tonight, I will finally sleep knowing the pressure isn’t on me.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” –Galatians 2:20