These days it seems that everyone has a strategy, opinion, plan, or formula for how the church should look and operate. However, only one voice really matters, the voice of the one who gave His life for the church, Jesus Christ. The book of Revelation contains 7 letters to 7 churches in which God tells us what His church should look like in order to reflect His image. He shares what to avoid and what to embrace as we reveal the image or our glorious Groom, Jesus Christ. The church at Philadelphia had a unique opportunity to be a gateway to the gospel for the city and surrounding cities. From this church we learn that God will open doors of opportunity for us to spread the gospel and we must be zealous about taking full advantage of those opportunities.
I came across an inspiring story of a young woman who took a stand for her faith in Jesus Christ. This story did not originate from some foreign country in which individuals must hide their relationship with Jesus Christ behind closed doors and it is not a story from centuries past. This story took place just a few years ago right here in the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, and let me say that in my opinion the story of this young lady epitomizes both of the these values. Megan Chapman was a graduating high school senior at Russell County High School in Kentucky. At the outset of her senior year she had been elected to the chaplaincy of her class. This position had traditionally had the privilege of delivering a prayer at graduation but this year things looked as if they were going to turn out somewhat different. The Wednesday before the graduation proceedings the ACLU filed suit to stop the prayer, and on Friday morning a federal judge issued an order barring the high school from conducting prayer in conjunction with the graduation ceremonies. In this order Megan was actually specifically named as being barred from praying during the graduation. With graduation taking place on Friday night it appeared as though prayer had effectively been removed from yet another part of the fabric of America. Yet, while all these official court proceedings were taking place the senior class officers of the high school had met on Thursday and decided that Megan should not only deliver the prayer at graduation but she should also be the one to deliver a message to the graduating class and everyone present. This group of seniors was determined to have prayer as a part of their graduation so throughout the day on Thursday they had passed out bookmarks containing the Lord’s Prayer, not fully aware of what would take place on Friday. With the realization that her name was specifically sited in a federal lawsuit I can only imagine the incredible pressure that Megan must have been facing. With just hours until graduation she had a critical decision to make, would she stand for Christ in spite of these circumstances and possibly face federal charges or would she comply with the court order and keep silent about her faith in Christ? I’ve asked myself multiple times since reading of Megan’s account what I would have done, though I can’t be one hundred percent certain my prayer is that I would have done the same thing she did. Just three hours before the graduation ceremonies were to take place Megan was contacted by a group of evangelical lawyers who informed her that the court order could only prevent her from praying and not from sharing her personal testimony or a religious message. So Megan prepared to take her stand. With 3,000 in attendance the senior class of nearly 200 students opened up the ceremonies by all standing together and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Before the students could even conclude the prayer the entire high school gymnasium was enveloped in applause. This was followed up by Megan stepping up to the podium. She had brought a poem with her to the podium but felt as though God was leading her to share a message instead. The message included her personal testimony of her faith in Jesus Christ, her confidence in the peace and guidance of Christ and a desire that everyone present would know Christ as she knows him. There were several instances during Megan’s message in which she was interrupted by applause and cheering as the crowd displayed their support of her decision. I thank God that most of us have not had to face such adversity as followers of Christ, but I also know that God’s Word tells those of us who are followers of Christ that we should be ready for such adversity and expect it. If you were faced with a similar choice with similar severe consequences potentially facing you how do you think you would respond? Would you respond as Megan did and stand boldly for your faith in the midst of adversity or would you quietly give in to the pressure and remain silent about the one who gave everything that you might have life? My prayer is the Megan’s story encourages each of us to have faith in God that there is no adversity too severe that He cannot carry us through and turn such situations into opportunities to proclaim His great message of salvation.
One of the greatest means of cultivating souls for spiritual planting is giving the kindness of God, which has been implanted in our own hearts, into the lives of others resulting in healing for humans and glory to God.
I have been spending a lot of time for the last several weeks thinking about sharing Jesus with individuals who have yet to enter into a relationship with him. My focus has primarily been in two place within Jesus’ own teaching; his admonition to love our neighbor as ourself and the parable of the sower found in the gospel of Mark. I’ve been allowing these to just marinade in my mind along with my own life experiences and it has been quite a journey.
In the parable of the sower Jesus uses the metaphor of seed for the good news of new life through him. As one of his followers I am to scatter and scatter and scatter seed and like the farmer in his parable I need to be prepared that a large percentage of the seed is not going to find good soil and produce a crop. Any follower of Jesus who has ever done any measure of scattering knows this percentage to be true and also knows the heartache and discouragement that accompanies the process of being a scatterer of the seed of the good news that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life.
Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him. Psalm 126:5-6
That is why my reading of Psalm 126 was so encouraging this morning. It was a reminder that weeping often accompanies being a sower of seed. I don’t know how it couldn’t for a person who realizes what is at stake in this process. Few things break my heart like having someone who I have grown to care about dearly let me know that they don’t have any time for or interest in the God who has radically transformed my life for the better. As I think about that I can connect with the words of the psalmist when he writes there are those who sow in tears and there are those who go out weeping bearing seed for sowing. Jesus himself can been seen in this state when he looked out over the multitudes following him and said to his disciples that the fields (meaning people) were ready to be harvested and were filled with people who were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd they were wandering aimlessly.
But I was encouraged and inspired this morning as I read Psalm 126 because the psalmist says those who sow in tears will reap with shouts of joy. Lots of seed may be scattered and only a small percentage may actually reap a harvest, but when that harvest comes and someone actually recognizes and embraces their need for Jesus Christ it is beyond amazing, it’s indescribable! In a simple kind of way it’s like playing a horrible round of golf but having your best hole on number 18. That makes you long to come back for more. It’s not a perfect analogy but the motivation is very similar.
Bottom line, let’s not become overwhelmed and discouraged over all the tears we shed and seemingly pointless scatter of spiritual seed that we spread but encourage one another to keep our eyes on the joy that comes with the harvest. I can resolve myself to nothing less because the harvest is far to valuable and the stakes just way to high. I pray the same for you.