Deli Sandwiches

Recently, I had a student text me and ask if we could meet up.  He had been struggling with negative thoughts and an overwhelming/crippling bout of anxiety.  I could tell he needed a touch from Jesus and someone to just listen.  We grabbed a deli sandwich at the closest grocery store and proceeded to the limited number of outside tables adjacent to the sidewalk.  Every table was taken.  There was plenty of room because the tables were all big enough to seat four people, but only one or two people were at each table.  It felt very similar to that feeling we all had in the lunch room back in the day… “uh, where do I sit?  What spot will be the least awkward?”

I had a mini-battle in my head.  Do I seek out a solitary place to eat lunch so my student and I can “go deep”?… or do I get bold and ask to share a table with someone sitting alone?  Something made me choose getting bold, so we asked a man sitting alone if we could join him.  The man said yes.  We sat down and began to chit chat a little.  It was beautiful–my student was hesitant at first, but opened up to conversation in no time.  We talked with our new friend over the course of lunch.  His name was Steve.  He was from Belize and lost his right arm in a car accident, he had been in the States for a long time, but still had a heavy “island” accent.  I was getting the impression that he might be homeless, or in some kind of insecure housing situation.  We learned so much from Steve.  He told us about the long and arduous process of rehabilitation, the post-traumatic stress, learning to live with only one arm, and how he used to be right handed.  Our new friend Steve opened up and I could tell it was healing.  We were all ears and didn’t say much, but I believe that was exactly what Steve and my student needed.  I could tell that my student thought it was quite refreshing and possibly eye opening to hear the plight of a man that might be struggling even more than he; his eyes lit up, and his heart broke.  When I asked Steve if we could pray together, my student gave me the nod and put his hand on Steve’s shoulder while he closed his eyes.

The prayer wasn’t groundbreaking, in fact I really didn’t know what to say… my student didn’t make a sound.  With that said, I spoke peace over Steve’s mind and bound the spirit of confusion.  Also asked God to bathe him in warmth and the unmistakable love that only comes from HIM, and cast out anything that might be tormenting him with the post traumatic stress.  We all opened our eyes and looked at each other to see tears cresting on our lower eyelids.  The rest of the lunch crew gazed from their tables and wondered who we were and what the heck we were doing.

Steve couldn’t stop saying thank you and continued to smile from ear to ear.  We hugged it out and walked away.  My student quietly whispered that everyone was staring at us, and I replied that they were seeing the love of Jesus and probably wanted some too.

Once we had a chance to debrief and talk a little about our time with Steve, he told me that he felt great!  No anxiety!  Everything he wanted to talk to me about had been washed away.  I asked him if he felt more alive than before lunch, and he quickly said “yeah, totally!”  He said he wanted to pray for more people because it made him feel powerfully used by God.  I affirmed him, and said he could pray for anyone at any time, but he interrupted by making it clear he’d never have the guts to do so without me.  I smiled and said he could pray for people without me, but the conversation kind of ended.

What was it?  Why did my student think there wasn’t a real possibility of him praying for people alone?  Maybe he didn’t feel ready.  Maybe he didn’t feel like God would show up.  Maybe he didn’t want people to think he was weird.  Whatever the case, all the reasons I could think of pointed to fear.

It says in 1 John 4:18 that “…perfect love drives out fear…” and Jesus was/is perfect and his love is in us.  So that means we should have no fear… right?

I have been struggling with a question ever since: Can God use us if we are afraid?  Can he?  I know that in the times we feel fear, but ultimately trust and rely on him… God moves and works.  What about the times when we feel fear and don’t trust God?  What about the times we just live our lives and try to avoid awkward moments? …is God in that?

This past EQUIP (a church conference) at the Anaheim Vineyard, Phil Strout asked all the youth to pray for the adults.  A powerful presence filled the room.  We saw many miracles that night.  I was so proud of my youth group.  They were bold and confident, filled with the Holy Spirit.  I truly felt like they got it!  A new platoon in the army of God was ready to go back to L.A. and get crackin’.  They did too!  The first Sunday returning from summer camp, the same thing broke out in the main service.  The youth prayed for anyone and everyone.  There was an excitement that was contagious.  I had parents and adults congratulating me saying I was the best youth pastor ever!  I quickly told them “I didn’t make it happen… If I were able to make this kind of thing happen, I would have done it years ago! It’s God!”  Mid-week Youth Group was amazing too!  Students were praying for each other and falling over crying on the floor.  I know that sounds like a bad thing, but crying on the floor is a good thing!  The power of God felt so tangible and electric, we needed to get more people plugged in.  Some of us had visions of who we were supposed to pray for and a special word or two.  So, we jumped in the church van and went to Third Street Promenade (outdoor mall) to pray for people!  When we arrived, we broke off into groups of three and said we’d all meet up for lunch in two hours.

What happened was shocking!  Most of the youth clammed up and lost that electric, God-powered boldness.  Again, I found myself trying to figure out “what gives?”  Was it easier to pray for people in a church?  Maybe there is a potential of less rejection if there is an announced “prayer time” in a church meeting.  Who am I kidding?  Of course there is less rejection!  So, was that it?  Were my student afraid of rejection?  Were they embarrassed by Jesus?

 

High Fives

In hopes of sniffing out the issue, I announced a game.  The object was to get as many high fives from perfect strangers as any student could.  This took Jesus out of the equation–now it was just an experiment on boldness and rejection.  What I found out was amazing!  The students that were least likely to pray for a stranger were also the ones that would not play the game.  Very encouraging!  I took that as a result of rejection issues and not necessarily a lack of love for Christ!

Fear of rejection is powerful and, if we let it, could imprison us for life!  Rejection can render us useless, not only in the Kingdom, but in all aspects of life.  When we base our identity on what others think, our parents’ approval, our peers’ approval, our students’ approval, our youth pastors’ approval… you name it… we feel pointless, discouraged, and destined for the trash heap.  We are enslaved to the fear of rejection.  Likewise, a hammer would definitely feel useless in the cooking process–but a hammer is not useless!  In fact, a hammer is very useful!  A hammer only becomes useless when it looks for its purpose from a chef rather than a construction worker.  Until the hammer finds its identity and purpose in the context it was made for, it’s going to feel unsatisfied, pointless, insufficient… you get where I’m going with this.

I did a Google search on “the antonym of fear” and these are some of the words that popped up:

faith – joy – trust – love – confidence – ease – bravery – courage

Remember how it says in 1 John 4:18 that “perfect love drives out fear”?

As we look for identity in the context we were made for–in Jesus’ perfect love–he will give us a new identity.  An identity that is not dependent on others.  An identity that gives us an unshakable faith, joy, trust, love, confidence, ease, bravery, courage.  An identity that is ultimately secure because it is rooted in what HE did by coming to earth as a man and dying as the perfect payment for our wretched, unthinkable sin, only to rise again so that we too could be raised from our own death in which we were hopelessly lost.  Now that is something to be secure in.  Proverbs says, “the righteous are as bold as lions.”  A life empowered by the Spirit because we are rooted in the truth changes our focus to the true identity we have in Jesus.

There is no valid “7 Step Process to Overcoming Your Insecurities and Realizing Your Identity in Christ”; it takes a move of God for us to come to grips with his truth about us (Philippians 2:13).  As we open our hearts to who he is and what he’s done for us more and more, let us be ever mindful of the importance of this kind of mature identity in those we are discipling.

Personally, I love the verse that describes God’s people as being bold lions.  It is thrilling and exciting!  That verse has inspired me to write a poem / spoken word (I’m not sure what to call it yet).  One thing I do know is that when I read it out loud, the words come alive and really sit my heart.  Enjoy and Godspeed!

“The righteous are as bold as a lion” – Proverbs 28:1, expanded by Willie Herath
.
I struggle with being bold.
Sometimes I feel more defined by sold…
Sold a lie…
Sold down the river…
Sold into slavery…
Bound by chains…
Chains that keep me imprisoned to fear…
Chains of doubt…
Chained to second guessing…
.
But if I’m a follower of Christ…
A wild shoot grafted into the vine…
The Bible says I am righteous…
And if the Scriptures are true… then I too…
Am BOLD.
.
Jesus said, “Birds have nests and foxes have holes, but I have no place to lay his head.”
So, what was said?  He had no bed?
Our King was on the street, but wherever he went and whoever he’d meet…
A bold Spirit he would keep.
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Now, you know and I know that a lion is fierce…
A lion is bold…
Not feeling told or sold…
Living free and “one” with identity.
When defending their home, lions are fearless before danger…
“This is my house!  Who are you, a stranger?”
.
So, if we are to be perfected in Christ…
And live a life… like his…
Maybe, just maybe when it is said he is the King of kings…
The Lion of Judah…
He is bold because he is at Home.
When he said he has no bed to lay his head…
Was he homeless?
Or maybe everywhere he went was home-esque.
.
So, as Christ lives in you and me…
May his righteous love be what “they” see.
Like a lion who’s never been sold or told…
May we be perfectly bold!
.
So, this is my house!  If you love Christ, this is our house!
And for everyone else… join the pride, leave everything aside!
For the righteous are as bold as lions. – Proverbs 28:1

 

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