Be warned…you are about to read a novella.
My faith sometimes needs a good kick in the pants.
I spent these last 4 days in Indianapolis for Campus Crusade’s Indy Christmas Conference, a gathering of about 2,200 college students from Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Michigan campuses. The theme was “God is Greater Than.” The purpose of the conference was to simply focus on Christ. Here are my top 5 take-aways from this awesome, whirlwind of a conference.
5. Get messy: As explained by the main speaker, pastor and author Mike Erre, “God’s kingdom is built not on those who are self-sufficient, but those who are desperate.” In so many of the bible stories, men who are blind or diseased don’t request healing as casually as ordering off a dinner menu, but they beg and plead Jesus for help. “God does some of His best work when we’re at the end of our ropes,” Mike said. Be desperate to be desperate.
4. God walked through twice: There’s this fantastic story in Genesis 15 that I’ve never understood the significance of until this past weekend. In a nutshell, God wants to assure Abram that he will be blessed and have many descendants. They then held a blood covenant, where animals were lined up across each other and split down the middle so their blood would flow to the center, making somewhat of a path of blood. In the culture, the blood covenant meant that if one of the two parties did not uphold their end of the deal, they were saying, “You could do this to me,” (meaning, you could walk through my blood…harsh). So God makes this covenant with Abram to promise his blessing of land and descendants. But here’s the neat part. While Abram is in a deep sleep, both smoke and fire walk through the animals blood; both smoke and fire represent God. The Lord knew that Abram couldn’t be completely blameless, so He walked through twice, the first promise that a sacrifice would have to be made: Jesus. The first chapter in the Bible tells about a New Testament Savior! Blows my mind. When on the cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.” Not only his life, but the covenant. God fulfilled and upheld his end of the deal.
3. Stay thirsty: Mike made the point that no one would turn to Christ without frustration or difficulty. He discussed how we often have this gap in life due to our expectations–where we are versus where we want to be, the job we have versus the job we want, etc. In experiencing this gap, we have options in how to respond. The first, he says, is to escape. This is the method our culture heavily relies upon, whether it’s changing the way we look or running away (from situations, marriages, whatever). The second option is to pretend, which is what the church sometimes does (with the I’m fine’s and positive reputations). But the third is to stay alive and thirsty for God. Let the gap drive us back to Him.
2. To seek is to be proactive: I have said before to people that God doesn’t back away from us, but it’s us who move away from Him. Spending 4 days devoted to learning more and focusing on God, I obviously made more of an intentional effort in my seeking and “moving toward-ness.” But it becomes so common for me to slip into a mediocre kind of seeking…like if Aiden and I were playing hide and seek, he would be tucked away in a corner across the house and I would be calling for him from the couch. That’s sometimes how I approach God…half-heartedly. This conference was a much-needed reminder that faith isn’t a mediocre, complacent kind of endeavor. If I’ve promised all of me, then I need to give all of me.
1. God is greater than: An Ethiopian speaker named Bekele told how, until he was five, his father participated in demon worship. That changed when his dad had a dream one night where two angels came to him and said that two men would be visiting their house soon, so listen to what they have to say. Two days later, two men came to their home in the remote village and shared about Jesus. Bekele also explained his radical ideas for bringing more people to know Christ, such as the 50-50-50 plan, where the goal was to reach 50,000 people in 50 major African cities in just 50 days. It was successful. Another speaker explained that when he was on a trip to Indonesia, he visited the hut of an old man who had been recently healed of tuberculosis. Upon speaking to him and asking about his healing, the man said, “It was the strangest thing. A man came to me who had a long robe with a gold sash, white hair and a white beard [See Revelation]. He reached down and touched my chest, but it was so odd. He had holes in his hands, but I have no idea who he was.” God moves. And He is HUGE. This God that I pray to, too politely asking for help and the one I sing to on Sunday mornings does not sit idly in heaven, but He makes things happen and still performs miracles and acts of mercy and greatness. My God is so much bigger than I give Him credit for. Good thing too. If He can do all this, then surely I can let go of my fear of risk and this constant safety net that I build around me.
Spiritual “highs” are weird. And short-lived. I hope that by blogging all these thoughts out, I’ll be able to come back to them and be reminded of God’s greatness again and again. I’m also wanting this to be a topic of conversation. The world could use more healthy dialogue anyway.
Thank you for listening…or reading.