Unrefined Evangelism

Before they came to be known as the Twelve Apostles, they were just some men who dropped what they were doing and said yes to the invitation to follow Jesus. They weren’t seminary students, temple dwellers, priests, or skilled with anything other than the tools they used to make a secular living. They had rough edges and obvious flaws—issues to be worked out. One of this team would even become His betrayer. And in a critical time when He needed them most, they fell asleep instead of watching and praying, or fled when He was arrested. In other words, they were ordinary, very imperfect people who were blessed to become part of something way bigger than the scope of their lifetimes.

And yet, when among all the followers, Christ hand-picked his core, The Twelve (and even an inner core of three of those), He “deputized” 😉 them to do something great. It was on-the-job training like the world had never seen. He was continually having to work on them, cultivate them, correct their attitudes, even referee when they disagreed with one another. They sounded a little bit like…us, don’t you think? We’re in on-the-job training, too.

So when you see an unlikely someone whose testimony attracts a whole crowd and compels them to follow Jesus Christ, don’t be so quick to write it off as counterproductive, not genuine, a ploy for attention, or even “another gospel.” Don’t pick apart his or her fledgling faith and the untrained tongue that simply tells what God has done in that person’s own life. If you or I or these excited new witnesses wait until we are all “qualified,” there will never be carriers of the Good News. We are the unqualified called—all whom Christ has rescued!

Yes, there’s always that risk that the person won’t get everything just right. We ourselves don’t always get everything just right, either. If God has called him or her to a higher place of ministry, He will groom that new disciple with time, experience, and correction.

Inexperienced and untrained as he was, one of the most powerful “witnesses” in all the Bible was a man who didn’t even know Jesus was the Christ, in the moment he was asked to give account for the unusual miracle which been done to him. The Pharisees were hoping he would give evidence to support that the miracle didn’t really come from God, because they were already accusing Jesus of being a sinner. The man, when asked, simply told the people what had been done for him: “Whether he (Jesus) be a sinner or not, I know not. One thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25). Isn’t it interesting that the Lord healed people who didn’t have a clue who He really was? What love for a humanity who were so unprepared to host such a Guest among them!

I believe that the last days will see more non-“preachers” leading souls to Christ than suit-and-tie clergy behind podiums in ornate buildings with stained glass windows. In moments when people are desperate for hope, they won’t be asking the witness for a copy of his/her ordination certificate; they will instead be wanting honest answers as to why we actually believe in this God we call our Heavenly Father, with whom we embrace a relationship. A hundred bullet points of theology won’t resonate to a troubled, unchurched soul like the simple words, “This is what He did for me. He will do it for you, too, if you put your trust in Him.”

The theology will come. Spiritual maturity will take place all in good time. But let the Good News run through the streets like floodwaters, spilling out of those who don’t even know the fullness of the gospel…but they DO know that, once they were blind but now they see. Don’t beat down their zeal or crush their spirit just because they’re not as schooled in the Word as you, yet. Let the babes in Christ wave their palm branches and cry, “Hosannah!” who aren’t even old enough in their spiritual birth to know why He is who they proclaim Him to be. God will use for His glory and purpose those whose gifts may have been used elsewhere. He will pull His most grateful out of crack houses, gutters, jail cells, and nightclubs. He will turn the once foul-mouthed fisherman into a follower, then a disciple, and then perhaps even an apostle—and a fisher of men!

And never hesitate to be one of those inexperienced, uneducated carriers of the gospel yourself. While many argue who can be a “preacher” and who can’t, remember: the moment you tell someone else what Jesus has done for you, you have just, in a roundabout way, done the work of an evangelist! Do it and allow the Holy Spirit to inspire someone else to put his/her faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, too! There is no advertisement more powerful than word-of-mouth from someone who has, firsthand, tasted and seen that the Lord is good!

Proclaimed—in spite of the fact that I am one of the “unqualified” —with love!

His Name is “Faithful” – El Hanne’eman

el-amanKnow therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.  Deut. 7:9

This is a hard one to articulate correctly, so I pray that I can with great grace. When a #believer says #God never lets us down, never fails us, it can appear to #nonbelievers that we’re delusional or just saying things to justify our #faith. He has never failed me…but to be sure, God has not always met my human expectations; neither has He said ‘yes’ to certain prayers I’ve prayed. He has not always diverted my feet from walking into hard places, or spared me from having to wait; or from having to believe for what I could not already see in the natural. He hasn’t always let me get the promotion, let my team win, or shielded me from false accusation. Some of the not-so-bad things I’ve asked for, I didn’t get. So on the litmus test of the world, my testimony that He never fails seems to not make sense–those who expect that we always get a trophy for participation, that we are never denied, never discriminated against, never left standing alone.

But I am firm in my conviction when I reiterate that my God has most certainly never failed me! I don’t have to make excuses for the times He has said no…for it’s what He’s said YES to that proves that all things work together for good for me and for every believer who’s called according to His purpose. Jesus didn’t come and live a shielded life. He wasn’t some celebrity’s son who served in a safe zone and was then hailed a hero for wearing the uniform of flesh away from the field of front-line combat. He was tested, tested, tested. He was the prototype who was subjected to more hardship than I would ever be, pushed to the point of death, so that I would never have to bear up under more temptation than I could handle without an escape route.

Salvation isn’t a Kevlar jumpsuit that keeps us from getting scraped, burned, uncomfortable here on earth. We were never designed to be so fragile that we couldn’t take being ordinary, frail earthen vessels holding the treasures of a holy God inside of us. It’s not what He spares us FROM that makes us remarkable. It’s how He holds us together in spite of what we encounter. Some of us are cracked and broken and glued back together and His light is shining not out of the top of the vessel, but through all the wounds we’ve encountered. And if I believe anything in the whole 66-book volume called the Bible, I believe Romans 8:28 when it shows that no matter what we encounter, He will not let us go. He will not allow us to not recover. He will somehow make up to us our deficiencies and losses and disappointments. He will give us peace on the worst day of our lives that the world cannot explain, and neither can we. It just IS. His children going through their bitter seasons will have friends coming to bring encouragement, only to go away themselves encouraged by the very ones going through the fire.

And He does all of this for His glory. He will take His children and place them in assignments far beyond their credentials. Oh, they’ll have to plead with Him for wisdom and strength and divine guidance just to pull it off…and He’ll give all of the above. And people will marvel that the worst possible appointee to that assignment just did the best possible job of it, because God was with him or her. He will bring His children through to the other side of inconsolable sorrow. What would destroy anyone else seems to build a resolve in them that contradicts every reason for them to still be able to dredge up a remnant of joy and hope and optimism. And there really is joy. There are abundant blessings and abundant life to be had. There are better outcomes to situations where believers obey a now-word from God on a matter and miss the heartaches that come from wallowing in sin and rebellion. It’s an infinitely better life with Him than without Him here on earth. We’re not even talking eternity yet…life’s better HERE, now, because He lives. His Word is full of truth that causes us to make better decisions that invite honor, favor, blessing…certain advantages we don’t have outside of relationship with Him.

I’ll be honest: I’m a path-of-least-resistance kind of gal. I would be thrilled if the path God chose for me had no speed bumps on it. I don’t like confrontation, or dealing with people or circumstances that vex me and get on my nerves. I don’t like failure and I certainly don’t like burying my loved ones. Truth is, I’m going to encounter every type of situation that a nonbeliever encounters (aside from some circumstantial consequences, like getting shot while robbing a bank of course). I’ll have bad days and wake up grouchy or depressed. I’ll have to confront what makes me scared. I’ll be the one not chosen. I’ll be misunderstood. Someone will be prejudiced toward me or just not like the way I fix my hair. I’ll have the choice every day of my life to either push through or give up. And when I make bad decisions, I’ll have to live with what comes of them.

However, what I have that a nonbeliever doesn’t is HELP. I’ll face those exact same life encounters as anyone else, but I will not be alone. He will whisper to me when I have negative feelings. He will bring to my remembrance His promises, and reward my faith for embracing and believing them. He will supernaturally stretch my finances when I put Him first, so that not only am I able to meet my own needs, I’ll be able to do something to bless someone else, too. He will heal my body if I’m sick or injured. Sometimes He’ll just bless me for no good reason, too! And when I ask something and put full faith on what His Word has said in that matter, He really does say yes! At a time when I’ve been my worst, expecting a rightfully disapproving hand of judgment, He will extend mercy and just lavish me with love and totally unexpected favor. Though it appears to some that I’m an underachiever (and occasionally an undeserving winner), He will never let me ultimately be a loser. He will mix my tears, my losses, my disappointments, my frailties together with my praise and my prayers on His altar of incense and will ultimately cause me to emerge whole and shining–His trophy. His trophies aren’t flawless, by the way. You can see every scar on our bark where we’ve lived to fight another day. That’s what makes us trophies.

So, half a century into this journey of life, I’m still here. If you’re reading this, so are you. Every fracture in my framework has grown back stronger for having trusted in the God who fails me not. So I am not basing my joy on whether today and tomorrow rack up nothing but wins for me. He’s got the scorecard…and though I look to be irrecoverably down, He has a plan to emerge me a champion; a survivor. He won’t let go of me. He won’t wad me up in the wastebasket of life. My life is so much richer for having put my trust in Him for most of that life. I doubtless would have been destroyed long ago if He hadn’t had good plans for hope and a future for me.

The Old Testament passage above calls God (in Hebrew) “El Hanne’eman” or “El Aman”–Faithful God.  (Sound a little like Immanuel, God with Us?)  For a life that has no ups and downs, there’s little need for faith and faithfulness.  Speaks clearly to me, then, that in good times and bad, God is with us.  Will you consider allowing Him into your life as well? I can’t promise you’ll never have another bad, sick, or lonely day again, but I can promise you that if you put your hand in His, He will never let go.

Lord, our El Hanne’eman, reveal to us what it really means to be in relationship with You. There are a million flowery prayers out there that use Christian-ese words which mean little to someone who’s never darkened a church door. I am asking You to reveal Yourself to those who don’t have a concept of what a “personal Savior” is. Reveal Yourself to the ones who’d just be grateful to have a helper and a friend. Meet them where they are. Put someone in their path who can help them know You better. Reveal Yourself to them so they can say yes to a relationship with You. Extend some sign of Your mercy in their lives today that causes a light to come on where they say, “Hey, maybe there really IS a God after all.” In times when they acknowledge You, cause them to be flooded with such a noticeable peace that, whenever there’s an absence of that peace, they know that they truly need You in order to maintain it. Help their desperation. Hear their cries even when they’re throbbing with addictions from which they aren’t sure they want to be delivered. And while knowing You will never whisk them away from having to sometimes wait and believe for answers to prayer, let them know that You will hear every single one they pray; and that You will hold onto them while You work a solution that will be for their ultimate good.

All the times aren’t always good, but all the time You are always good. Thank You that, through the good, the bad, and the ugly, I’m still here and I’m still Yours.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.