Monday, April 30, 2007

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

Two of my co-workers who do not regularly attend church came with me to Christ Covenant last night. These times always excite me as a) having company is usually more fun than flying solo and b) church is a great place to encounter God which I think is a good thing for me, my friends, and everybody.

At some point during these times however, dread consumes me. In my brief life experience, this happens without fail.

You see, I hate awkwardness. I had hoped to grow out of this as I got older, but it still has not gone anywhere. Aside from bad dates (not that I know anything about this), nothing creates more awkwardness than talking about Jesus around people who usually do not talk about Jesus - which, incidentally, is precisely what happens at church. If you watched the first Democratic debate last week, could you feel the awkardness when John Edwards talked about "his Lord"? Just imagine if he had talked about "Jesus." Yikes!

This fear attack hit me during the opening song and came upon me in wave upon wave of questions. What if my friends are bored? What if my pastor says something culturally unpopular? What do I do if one of them gets up and leaves? Should we have gone to a more contemporary church? Did I join the right church? Why did I invite them to come in the first place? What if my friends get offended? What if they tell everyone at work and they all begin to hate me?

My thoughts even drifted so far as to wish it were I who spoke from the pulpit that night so that I could ensure my friends remained comfortable. Nevermind the 30 years ministry experience and the numerous postgraduate degrees which differentiated me from the guy at the front.

I know the Bible says that as Christians we live as foreigners in a strange land, but when the rubber hits the road, I usually would prefer to be a native, thank you very much.

Fortunately, last night's service provided some intentional personal time for God to bring our sins to the front and for us to repent of them. Given the situation, it did not take me long to know exactly what I needed to confess to the Giver of Grace. As repentance is wont to do, it brought a peace over me and reminded me that my friends' encounter with the Lord does not rest on me. God is in control. Be free.

As it turned out, my friends had a wonderful experience. They seemed visibly engaged and moved during the service, and we had good discussion during the car ride home concerning our response to what we had heard. I believe they encountered Christ last night.

But I do not write here to bring out party hats and confetti because God made everything ok.

Yesterday I talked with my buddy Jeff, a frequent commentor on Redeeming Prufrock, about how we can find something in any bit of Scripture we read by asking the simple question, "What do I learn about God's character from this?". The same principle applies here. My joy in last night does not lie in the fact that we all left happy. If you live long enough, you know that this usually is not the case with life, so joy must be rooted in something besides circumstance. What's more, leaving happy is oftentimes not what is best for us. My joy last night was in God's revelation of his character:

God loves my friends more than I ever will. God knows exactly what's best for my friends. God is always working for what is best for them.

Releasing my friends from the figment of my hand reminds me that they sit in hands far more loving, far more powerful, far more adequate than I can ever imagine. This must drive me to praise, worship, and hope because it is always a good and hopeful thing when I must become less and He must become more. I have to learn to let go because freedom exists in the person of Jesus Christ. Herein lies the joy of last night and the joy that will be for all eternity.


Bradley said...

That comment about searching first and foremost for God's character in Scripture sounds awfully familiar to me. It never ceases to amaze me how much easier reading the Bible is when I focus on God instead of myself...

Ben said...

Ah, yes, Mr. Phillis, familiar indeed. I am very grateful the Lord revealed this to me in his sovereing time, of course, by his own good will so that none may boast that this was a work of men. . . or a man.


Providentially yours,