surreal

Surreal moments. Those places in time and space where you can honestly not believe you are where you are and observing what you are observing.

Acts 1:8…come on, quote it with me, you should know by now…

My obsession with this verse is old news. Very old news. I remember a couple years ago when I had the random God thought that the verse got complete turned on its head when you heard it while living in a different area of the world. That thought busted open a new worldview for me. What was my Judea as the United States would be Europe for someone living in Europe, while Europe was actually my ‘ends of the earth.’

Imagine my utter astonishment to find myself sitting in church on Sunday as a Haitian Pastor preached Acts 1:8 to a congregation filled with Americans, Canadians, Haitians, Europeans…all living in Haiti.

It was such a surreal moment for me that I am certain I chuckled under my breath.

As his comments unfolded, it became very apparent that God has worked this verse over on this Pastor in very similar ways that he merged it into my vernacular.

I sat in awe as he asked the congregation, ‘Where is your Jerusalem?’ Your city, he stressed.

‘Where is your Judea? In all the departments of Haiti!’

‘Where is your Samaria? Friends, how do you feel about Dominican Republic? God is calling us to be witnesses even in Dominican Republic.’

His reference to Samaria’s place that makes Haitians uncomfortable should enlighten you on how Haitians feel about Dominicans.

And then…then he spread both hands wide and shared with the congregation that he knows ‘God is calling Haitians to the end of the earth. For hundreds of years, Haiti has been receiving missionaries. It has become normal for us to believe that someone will help us and that people will come. We have become too ready to receive help from others. Who here is God calling out of Haiti and into the world to be a witness for Jesus?’

I got goose bumps at those words. I have said them myself in a post I wrote last summer called ‘dare.’ As the pastor continued, I heard my own words ironically echoing in my head, ‘Americans will not save Haiti. Instead, I firmly believe that Haiti will save America. And if the world chooses to pay attention…God will use Haiti to change the world.’

Friends, God is doing something spectacular in Haiti and he is intentionally placing Haitians where he needs them to be his witness.

I hear Haitian pastors preach on excellent topics quite often. In most recent months it has been a lot of calling people out on their sin, imploring couples to get married after years of living together, confronting voodoo social practices and church planting around Haiti. It was inspiring to hear a Haitian pastor preaching for his people to seek God’s calling on their life, and to be open to the possibilities that it may be beyond Haiti.

Haitians are typically not dreamers. Americans are raised to dream big, the sky is the limit. However, when most Haitians are concerned daily about how to pay for school or where food will come from tomorrow, dreaming is not a reality.

Inspiring Haitians to seek their calling from God is monumental. It’s exciting, and it opens a new Kingdom door to Haitians that has previously been unrealistic. I am honored to join Haitians in prayer to seek their calling. In order to join then, are you willing to set aside any preconceived notions that Haiti is just a country seeped in poverty and dangerous? Are you willing to see differently? Are you willing to see Haiti as a hopeful nation? Are you willing to see how God is working in the lives of Haitians?

I cannot wait to see how God will be speaking to not only individual believers here, but how he will continue to use the Pastors to speak into the lives of the congregations. And a large piece of me breathes a sigh of relief that others are hearing the same thing from God when it comes to scripture.

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witness

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” [Acts 1:8]

Beyond the fact that this is one of my absolute favorite verses, and there are plenty of people that are tired of hearing about it, God tends to reveal different focuses through the words at different times. Being a witness and having a witness are two totally different things. One is what Jesus calls us to be. The other is how our actions are perceived by others.

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he hung out with prostitutes?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he went to dinner with a tax collector?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he touched lepers?

How were Jesus’ actions perceived when he told a murderer he would see him in Paradise?

This is why the Pharisees had such a problem with Jesus. His actions went against their ‘rules,’ but what they didn’t understand is that the rules were his to break since the Pharisees had morphed them into something that was never intended.

Christians get held to a higher standard, and that frustrates me, simply because we are the ones that know the cost of our sin and live as forgiven believers of the God who reigns over the universe. Just because I choose to be a believer, does not make me less human. It means I am acknowledging who I am as a human, and struggling through the sin that comes so naturally. I cannot stop sinning. That is unrealistic. It also does not make me a hypocrite. It makes me real, and not a believer who feels they have to hide what non-believers would term as questionable behavior for a righteous person. I am not righteous, unless you are saying I respond to injustice…then yes, yes I am. I answer to God alone, which means I rest in his mercy and grace.

Believers should be the most real people living in this world.

We should be the ones that are an outward example of real grace. In our own lives, as well as giving that grace to others in radical ways.

We should be what others look at and say, ‘Maybe there is something to the whole God thing. Maybe he is real. Maybe life could be freeing with God.’ So that God can have that conversation with them, because their salvation is not dependent on us. It is dependent on the truth of the Gospel. I pray you hear that, because we need to get out of the way of God doing what God does. Takes the pressure off, right? Credit for salvation never belongs in the hands of a human. God gets the glory…every time.

I was once heading out with a mission team that was a mix of people who find themselves in a pew on Sunday morning, people who would never set foot in church and others who used to but don’t anymore. I love it when God throws those mixes together, because you never know what God is going to do among those people and what transformation will happen while serving.

As we were preparing to leave, I was carrying a heavy box and dropped it on my toe and said, ‘Ah, shit!’

One of the other team members was right next to me, and looked over startled. I apologized, shrugged and said, ‘Sometimes things fly out of my mouth.’

The team member looked at me and replied, ‘I was nervous about hanging out with church people this weekend. We are going to get along just fine.’

It started a great friendship. It also started a new commitment to church in that team members’ life.

All because I am comfortable in the grace I received from a Savior that paid the ultimate price for me, and God breaks through walls that have been built for years in those moments. As well as using the realness we are comfortable with in our relationship with God.

I saw a physical wall fall down between that team member and the rest of the team that day. This example has come up a lot through story telling in my missional community. So much so that most of us like the idea of an ‘F-Bomb Ministry.’ I know. Scandalous. Take a breath for a second, and realize this is a solid idea to reach out to people who believe that ‘Christians’ are too good to associate with ‘sinners.’ We are ALL sinners, folks. When we all step back and realized this, God’s glory is going to burst through a redeemed people.

I have a filter, and sometimes it is looser than other times. But the reality is there are a plethora of people in this world that hold Christians to a higher standard, because Christians have chosen to fake righteousness. Their righteousness isn’t real. It’s just hiding what they think showing others will tarnish how Jesus is revealed. But consider how Jesus lived. His reputation was awful based on the people he hung out with…but while he was with them the Kingdom of God was evident and a Savior was revealed. The Holy Spirit flowed not only on them, but THROUGH them.

The Pharisees were righteous…and look what their beliefs did to not only the believers at the time in martyring them, but in hanging Jesus to a tree.

I’m not interested in being fake, and I’m certainly not interested in tarnishing Jesus. Some would argue my inability to filter all cuss words out of my vocabulary is an awful habit for a believer. Others would argue that since I have a penchant for vodka I cannot possibly be able to serve as a witness for Jesus.

To that I call bullshit.

I respect what God is saying in the lives of others, and I adapt my behavior to show respect to those believers. We are all on a journey with God, and for all I know what he is telling them is what God could be convicting me of tomorrow. However, my journey with God has led me to be comfortable with who he has created me to be and that comfort manifests in all areas of my life. What defines me is his love for me, my love for him and how he has called me to be a witness to what he has done in my life throughout the world.

I mess up. I make mistakes. I hurt people I don’t intend to hurt. But at the end of the day, I am embraced by the loving God who unconditionally covers me with love and grace. The God who loves my quirks. The God who, I imagine, laughs when I do stupid things. The God who smiles when I am holding a kid who needs to be held. The God who knows I will go where he sends me. The God who knows when my filter will be slammed in place…and when it won’t.

Don’t take this post as reinforcement to sin blatantly and outlandishly, I fully recognize there are boundaries. But do take this post as a reminder to talk with God about the parts of you that are hidden and the parts of you that are not. Jesus has put a calling on your life to be his witness, and he is revealed through all of you, because he has redeemed you wholly…not in pieces. And that is good news for a sinful world that needs a lot more witnesses to what Jesus has done in the lives of his people ‘in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.’