Monday, August 6, 2012

Open Your Eyes

We ended our "At the Movies" series at church last Sunday. We are currently in between series, so yesterday we had a guest pastor preach at our church. We had the pleasure of listening to Pastor Chris Hodges from Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Alabama.  While I have heard him preach once online, I had not ever had the opportunity to hear him live and in person.  What an amazing message!  He took a story that was quite familiar and talked about it in a way I hadn't considered before.  While Pastor Hodges has quite the sense of humor, he did leave us with some very good food for thought.

The story in question is the story of the woman at the well.  If you go to John 4:27-35 you will find it:

27 Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked to find him talking to a woman, but none of them had the nerve to ask, “What do you want with her?” or “Why are you talking to her?” 28 The woman left her water jar beside the well and ran back to the village, telling everyone, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I ever did! Could he possibly be the Messiah?” 30 So the people came streaming from the village to see him. 
31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” 
32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” 
33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. 
34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.35 You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest.

The story was put in context.  Imagine back in the day - how were women in society treated?  Here we have Jesus, the Messiah, speaking to a woman at a local well.  Pastor Hodges spoke about the situation and what the typical questions that may have been spinning around some peoples' minds as they looked on.  People may have been shocked that he would lower himself to speak to a woman.  But there he was as his disciples looked on.  The woman gets it.  She understands what Jesus is all about and she runs back to her town to tell everyone who she encountered and they come running back to see for themselves.  With some humor thrown in, Pastor Hodges commented on how the disciples reacted - the didn't ask Jesus who this woman was or why he was talking to her.  They weren't even questioning why she ran off and brought the whole town back with her.  Read the story.  They seem more preoccupied with food than with the events as they were unfolding!  Jesus responds with "I have a kind of food you know nothing about." and they are thinking someone must have brought him food while they weren't looking!

The point of all of this was that the disciples had a great lack of understanding of the situation.  All they saw was what was right in front of them.  It's dinner time and they're hungry so let's eat!  Yes, that may have been part of it.  Obtaining food at that particular point in the day was surely on their minds.  But they were missing the big picture.  They seem to have completely missed the opportunity that was at hand - an opportunity to share the Good News with a town that was hungry for more than the food the disciples were seeking.

Pastor Chris Hodges preaching at Seacoast church 8/05/12

Pastor Hodges cited the fact that there are approximately 7 billion people in the world.  2.1 billion are self-proclaimed Christians.  He shared that assuming there are that many, that leaves 4.9
billion people in the world who are not Christian.  He shared with us how it's so difficult to visualize what that many people could even look like, so we can't possibly become passionate about something we can't even comprehend.  He started small.  Being from Birmingham, he mentioned the terrible devastation that occurred not too long ago - the tornadoes that hit the Birmingham/Tuscaloosa area.  I don't recall the exact number, but I'll round to 300 just to give you an approximation.  He said put those people heel to toe, back to chest in one single line and that many people would span about 80 yards - the length of a football field.  Then he increased the numbers - starting with the nearly 3,000 victims of 9/11 and then the couple hundred thousand people killed in the Tsunami.  He used local references to demonstrate how long that single line would then be with an increase in number of deceased.  The tsunami victims, heel to toe, back to chest in one single line, would span approximately 45 miles.  So can you even begin to imagine what that 4.9 billion non-Christian population would be??  Pastor Hodges went on and ultimately wound up with a single line of people heel to toe, back to chest that circled the globe at the widest point 37.3 times!!

Isn't that unbelievable??  This is why I felt I wanted to share this message with you.  The points I'm making here aren't my own.  I'm simply bringing you the message that he shared with us because that number is absolutely staggering!  If we are to bring the unchurched or non-Christian population to the Lord, we have an enormous amount of work to do!

Pastor Hodges gave four very important tips on how we can start reaching out to people {I am paraphrasing what he shared with us yesterday}:

  1. Accept personal responsibility for ourselves.  God doesn't have a Plan B.
  2. Reaching people is no more difficult than building a relationship with someone {just start by talking to them over coffee!}
  3. Share your personal story.  Evangelism isn't about pointing out people's problems!  Be a light!
  4. Give a personal invitation.

Here's what I take from all of this {these are my own thoughts}.  When you consider how many people need to be reached and how many Christians there are in this world, all of a sudden, is it really that absurd to think that 4.9 billion people can be reached??  If each professed Christian took it upon themselves to reach out to 2 or 3 people, we'd get the Word to everyone!  As shared in point #3 above, being an evangelist doesn't have to mean banging on doors and pointing out that someone is condemned to an eternity of fire and brimstone if they don't turn to the Gospel immediately.  That's not what it is.  It's sharing the story of Christ.  It's sharing a story of the hope that can be found in a relationship with Christ.  It is simply being a light to shine in the darkness of someone else's life and their circumstances.

I keep seeing it over and over again in the blog world lately that as bloggers we have some degree of influence.  If we have followers who actually read our blogs, we have influence.  Do we want that influence to be used for good or bad?  Do we want that influence to be a source of light in people's lives or something that casts more darkness into an already too-dark world?

I sometimes feel that my sphere of influence is pretty small here in the blog world.  I don't get thousands of hits a day.  But I believe that God will bring people hear who He believes need to hear what I have to share.  More than ever, now I really feel like this is a time when I can do more to be a light in this blog world.  

I wanted to share this message with you because it is so encouraging to me.  We have it within ourselves to be that light and, whether we know it or not, have influence on those who we reach through our blogs.  I look at stats and see that I have readers coming from every corner of the globe {which absolutely amazes me, by the way}.  You just don't know who is stopping by.  You don't know their background or believes or whether they have any beliefs in God or a god at all.  You don't know their stories.  You don't know what darkness they might find themselves walking through right. this. minute.  You have an opportunity to shine a light into their lives.

As Pastor Hodges shared - It's not just about lunch {the food that the disciples were so concerned about in the story of the woman at the well}.  It's about the food that God can provide that cannot be found elsewhere.  We can't be so consumed by what's immediately in front of us that we forget the larger vision.

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