Have you ever prayed that God would enlighten you about something, then are completely surprised when he does? Why are we really that surprised? We asked for it, right?
Well, that’s how the lock-in chapel time started out. For the last 2 years, I had been called out of the country and followed God internationally. Simple, right? That obviously chapel time would be able that trip, how God busted open my worldview even more and what I took home from that mission trip. This year…I was on some amazing mission trips, Cleveland with our Senior High and to Joplin 4 times, but what God did this summer wasn’t so much centered around a ‘trip.’ It centralized much more around what he calls each one of us to do in our lives every single day. Which was where I found my prayer answered about, ‘God what do I talk about at the lock-in?’
Acts 1:6-8… ‘Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
It actually made me laugh out loud when the disciples asked Jesus if he was going to restore the Kingdom to Israel. It had been approximately 3 days. What happened to all of the ‘sent’ language Jesus had used with them? What happened to the loving your enemies? What happened to making disciples of all nations? They were tired of war. They wanted peace. They wanted relief, who doesn’t want that…but had they been listening to Jesus?
When Jesus says, ‘It is not for you to know the times of dates the Father has set by his own authority…’ The twisted part of my brain goes, was that sarcastic? Did he say it in a tone that conveyed ‘Really, guys? Seriously? You think it’s that easy, that you don’t have to do anything?’
Then we get to the part where God has been speaking to me the most, “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Did you catch that? Jesus talks so much in the Gospels about how to treat people, how to be compassionate, how to love others with extreme, sacrificial love…then backtrack to Isaiah 58 where God is telling us exactly what he expects of us: love the poor, welcome people into your home, satisfy the needs of the oppressed, fight for justice, clothe those that go without…it’s all there.
But Acts 1:8 tells you exactly where to do it and that they will do it by the power of the Holy Spirit! Jesus breaks it down into terms the disciples would understand: Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Jerusalem was their city, their neighbors, the people they would not have to travel far to bear witness to all they had seen while following Jesus. Their everyday lives would reflect the peace and joy of being a follower of Jesus, and those around them would notice.
Judea…that was their country. Where in the US do you feel the biggest pull to? Is it the east coast right now? Or maybe Joplin that’s only 2 ½ hours away to serve those who have survive a horrendous tragedy. Maybe it’s somewhere else: Native Americas, Urban areas, Appalachia…so many places within our borders that we can be hope, love and life through Jesus. Whatever it is, commit at least to praying for that place or situation every day.
Samaria…now this one is fun! Remember the Good Samaritan story? How about the woman at the well? Samaritans were well known as ‘dirty’ people because they were not ‘pure’ Jews. They were mixed race, and unclean. So you find many places in the Bible where they wouldn’t even walk through Samaria, only walk around it, even when it was closer to walk through. Samaria was the place that made them uncomfortable, and disgusted them. What is that place for you? What makes you uncomfortable? What is it that you beg God to not make you do, even though there is a whisper of something in your soul that you probably should do it? Jesus tells the disciples that they will be his witnesses in that place. We are called to be witnesses for Jesus’ unconditional, grace filled love in every single place that makes us uncomfortable.
‘To the ends of the earth…’ Do you realize how unrealistic this sounded to the disciples? They walked everywhere, maybe took a boat, but transportation that we have now to everywhere on the earth was unfathomable then. But it happened. Acts happened. Paul and other disciples literally traveled farther than they thought possible, all because God called them to those places. They crossed cultures, came across different languages, and were empowered by the Holy Spirit to be witnesses. God does things that we had no faith in thinking he would actually pull off, what is that for you right now? How does God want to use you to the ends of the earth?
Maybe the last one is easier for me because I am called to the ends of the earth. Does that sound weird to you? It’s not…it’s real, and if you want to know more about that I’d be more than willing to ta
lk about it. But what I feel God wants you to hear is that he is not done moving. He is not done empowering. He is not silent. He is present. He is extreme love. He is truth. He is Almighty. He has called you to be a witness for Him. If you have chosen to follow Jesus, you are called to be in these places. But are you silent enough to hear him speak? Do you want to hear? Are you afraid that He will speak, and you won’t find the courage to act?
There is nothing to fear. God is with you, and when you reach those places…your words will not be your own. Your passion and love for Jesus will overflow. And you will find yourself in the most amazing adventure…whether it is in your neighborhood, a few hours away, in a place that makes you uncomfortable…or even to the ends of the earth.
Endnote: If you had a student at the lock-in, they probably came home with a lime green bracelet/anklet/necklace…the 4 beads on that represent our four places God calls us to, feel free to have a conversation with them about it! They will keep hearing it at Club 56, ’cause that’s just who I am.