There’s so much to share about the weekend at the Realm Makers writer’s conference, but the most important, brothers and sisters, may be a moment of clarity and revelation that was given early on in the conference to me, and one that the Lord compels me to pass along to you this morning.
A lot of what I’ve discovered this last year or so that pushed me along in my journey of seeking Christ, whether I wanted to or not, was tied into a sermon I listened to. Two things have gone on the last hundred years or so in the church that hasn’t happened before in history: 1. The church went out into the world and 2. The world came into the church.
The first started, as most things do, with good intentions. The church didn’t just keep to its elements along Mediterranean Europe, which most of Christendom has taken place through its history. With the expansion into the Americas, and then to Africa and Asia, the church pushed an outward focus. Which is a good thing, as the message has always been to go out and make disciples of all nations. The struggles came when there was a church established in nearly every nation on Earth, that we were spread to the corners of the globe. What happened was we wanted to reach outward still, and so we reached for the world in a different way – in that we changed ourselves to be like them, in order to fit in with the world. We lost our confidence because we were so used to growth, that the only way to maintain that growth seemed to be to “update” Christianity, to make it palatable, so that we wouldn’t be criticized by academics or entertainers as being too strange.
This resulted in part two. The world flooded into the church. What we saw as a result is more and more of a talk about the church – less and less of a talk about Christ. We became hyper focused on “how do we look cool to bring more in”, which is not biblical in the least. Christ said it in John 15: 18 – “if the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first.” I warn Christians all the time that if the world applauds what you’re doing, be very careful and reflect on that, what you’re doing is probably is wrong.
But why did we lose this confidence? What changed in our hearts that made us want to conform rather than want to be a separate beacon of light that shines as brightly as possible? That beacon that brought civilization to this Earth like had never been seen before, that made kings bow before the Lord?
We’ve been duped in a way, in our conforming to the world, that we’re not supposed to seek or see the supernatural influences of our world. We’ve been taught by the secular institutions that science, what we can observe and catalog, is the only truth. That there’s nothing else out there. So while we held onto the most basic messages of “love your neighbor as yourself” nodding to each other saying “that sounds sensible, no one can disagree with that,” we turned our backs on the Spirit.
There was a parable taught to me and others on Thursday, one which I’ll do my best to relay to you now. There’s no reason to lose that confidence. We shouldn’t fear. There is no fear in love, there is no fear in the Word. There is no fear in God. We can be bold, we can proclaim the Spirit, and God will do the rest.
I’m not sure if I’m supposed to attribute it, so I won’t, and this isn’t verbatim, but my four-day-later-recollection, so I’ve had to make my own changes to the story, but the message rings true:
The story goes about a boy in the jungle who’s following one of his village leaders. They go out into the jungle and come across a hyena, and the boy panics. The older, wiser man stills him, and they walk along carefully until they pass the beast.
The boy asks, “were you not afraid?”
The man said, “no, I know who my Father is.”
The boy, confused, asks again, “but what if the hyena hurts you?’
The man stops, reflects on the situation, and turns the the boy. “Suppose there’s a lion sleeping in the forest, do you think the hyena can prey upon such a great beast and hurt it?”
The boy says “yes, the hyena has a ferocious bite.”
The man frowns. He didn’t get the message across, but his Father is the Father of creation. He could do anything, and he needed a way to bring that point to the boy. “Think of this, what if the Lion were grown to be twice as large?”
The boy shrugged. “It can still hurt the lion. If it came upon it when it wasn’t paying attention, it can still rip into its hide and bring it down.”
The man motioned to the forest. “What if the Lion grew to be as big as this tree, as this forest?”
The boy thought about it a moment. “The Hyena can still nip at its Achilles heel and if it struck the right place, it could bring the lion down.”
Undeterred, the man made a great sweeping motion to the sky. “So what if the Lion grew so large as to be the size of this world? The size of the galaxy and the stars above, and the hyena was but a speck so small that the Lion couldn’t even see it. Would the hyena be able to bother it then?”
The boy looked up to the cosmos, seeing the blue sky beyond. “No, I suppose not.”
“Then why would I be afraid? My Father is infinite. He is bigger than this world, bigger than the galaxy, he stretches to eternity, and he will protect me.”
It’s such a simple message. God is Infinite. God is so much bigger than anything else, beyond space and time, beyond anything we can possibly imagine. The world, evil, are such small specks to him that they can never bother Him, they can never influence Him, they can never chip away at Him. He is so vast and so great that we have nothing to worry about.
It means we can live bold as Christians. It means that we can proclaim Christ as loudly as we can, and we should. We don’t need to conform to the world in order to get fake butts in seats for pews. We have a higher purpose, and are worshipping a glory that goes so much more beyond the here and now, that it’s awe-inspiring just to think about.
When I heard this message, I felt the Spirit move. The Spirit is everywhere, of course, but in moments when we draw His attention, I’ve noticed in my life that there’s a change in the room. It’s almost like an air pressure change, but something vast, not-physical. A heavy burst, full of light and joy rushes over the room like a tidal wave. It’s hard to put into words, but I know when I feel it. I know when we’re in His presence and His focus is on us.
We need more of those moments. We need to make our entire lives their moments to be able to proclaim His kingdom. And that means we cannot live in fear of the hyena, or what someone thinks, or the insults that will get flung at us. It’s all something to laugh off, because our Father is infinite.
I hope that brings inspiration to your day like it has to mine. It is written much more succinctly:
“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4