Do you love someone who isn’t “walking with the Lord” like you think they should? Maybe they haven’t even “asked Jesus into their heart” and it saddens you because they’re not living the life that’s possible for them? I think we ALL have people in our lives we love that can fall into these two categories.
When we think about these loved ones we have legitimate concerns and then we have our opinions. I used equations in the phrases above because they fall into the vocabulary of Christianeze, (words we use in the Church that don’t necessarily translate the same outside of it.) For the sake of the people who fall in these categories I need to recognize that those words may not express their heart and can be offensive if our hearts behind them are expressed in any judgment at all. I have lived on both sides of those phrases and I love people in my life on both sides. I identify with the distaste of those phrases and yet they are now life to me, as I desire to live my life completely in partnership with the Holy Spirit because of what Jesus has done for us all. Bear with me as I challenge some words we can unintentionally use that can cause the very ones we want to love to Jesus to run from us. I want to build your faith in prayer and the power of the Holy Spirit to bring about miracles in peoples hearts that may not be seen immediately. I want to encourage you that the more you build your house next to someone and let them watch you live, and authentically love them with no spiritual strings attached, I believe we will earn the voice to speak into their lives when they ask for it. We need to understand how we run and how we fall is equally an example. People need to see Christian people fall/mess up, then get up and not try to hide it! And they need to see us do this with as little preaching as possible. Let me share some stories with you that I hope will bring what I’m talking about to life.
PRAYER CHANGES CIRCUMSTANCES. PRAYER CHANGES THE ENVIROMENT. PRAYER CHANGES HEARTS. PRAYER CHANGES US.
This is my testimony on the “sinner’s side” of a relentlessly praying woman’s prayers. That woman is my Grandmother, also preferably known by her grandchildren as Nana. I don’t know how many desperate calls my Grandma probably received from my Mother crying as she realized the innocent little girl she raised was slipping away into a world of drugs and rebellion. Now that I’m a mother I can’t imagine what I put her through and what it felt like to have her heart broken as she saw her daughter make horrible and dangerous choices. But I am forever grateful my grandma took all those bad reports and laid them at the Savior’s feet in prayer. That woman prayed, she cried, she declared, she travailed and she held onto the promises God gave her for my life. There was a particular Sunday evening when I was seventeen when I physically felt those prayers. A traveling preacher-man came to our church, he had preached at the Sunday morning service and he was going to speak again at the evening service (which we never went too). I was already irritated he had ran over thirty minutes in the morning service messing with my plans to meet up with my friends. I decided to wait in the car steaming the whole time, how dare this man interrupt my life with his long-windedness! What I didn’t know is why it took so long for my family to come out to the car. This preacher was operating in the prophetic (Well, heck I didn’t even know what that was), but now I know he was speaking words from God’s heart straight to the people giving them hope, bringing healing and deeply encouraging the people inside. My Mom came out so excited! She said we were going back that night. Steam turned into fire, I was so angry. I didn’t ever want to see that man who talked too much again! I remember my Mother telling me if I didn’t go she was going to ground me and I thought, “Seriously? No Way!” That night came and she wasn’t kidding. When we got there, the man spoke for just a few minutes and then went straight into ministry time. After he had encouraging words for some of the people he did something that really irked me as I sat there with my arms crossed drawing stick figures on the church bulletin, he said, “There is a young woman in here addicted to drugs and if you will let Him, God wants to set you free tonight.” I knew it was me. It made me so angry I stood up and walked out of there. I B-lined it straight to the restroom to escape his voice and the spiritual tension I was feeling inside. To my surprise they installed speakers so you could hear the sermon in the restroom for the people that didn’t want to skip a beat (that wasn’t me). That set me over the edge, there was no escaping the confrontation of this spiritual battle. I remember the intense anger I felt, I tried to put lip liner on in the mirror and my hand wouldn’t stop shaking. Then I punched the bathroom stall door and started yelling at God, “I’m not ready to give up control! I’m not ready to live for you! Whatever that means! I’M NOT READY!” It felt like my skin was crawling and I was starting to freak out. There was a battle for my life in spiritual realms I couldn’t see but that night I could feel it. I knew my grandma was praying and she needed to stop. I ran to the payphone (that just dated this story) on the side of the church and called my grandma’s house to tell her she needed to stop praying. I was crying hysterically when my Grandpa answered the phone, he asked me if I was all right and I just told him I needed to talk to Nana now! He told me she wasn’t there; she was at her weekly woman’s prayer meeting. It was a group of woman calling down heaven until it touched earth, they weren’t concerned with what they saw today because they spoke to my future and declared it good in Jesus name!
I didn’t give my heart to Jesus that night but I did learn that prayer is powerful. That prayer can create a crisis of faith and spiritual tension that makes God very real to the person regardless if they yield to Him. I am constantly reminded of this moment when I’m crying out for people to come to know Him and His incredible love for them that can change their lives. I declare this scripture over them:
“Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But God does not take away life; instead, he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.” 2 Samuel 14:14
Because God had devised a plan that I would not remain estranged from Him, my experience in that church bathroom and the call that followed were a part of that plan. That night He made Himself and the power of prayer known to me, but lacking truth and revelation I didn’t understand it … yet.
PREACH THE GOSPEL. USE WORDS IF NECESSARY.
My husband and I each have our own story of how a family took us in and loved us just like they found us. When you truly take someone in as family you allow them to see the real you. It’s risky, because they quickly learn you’re not perfect, it may be a surprise to many but it’s simply the human condition. Real love takes risks. Like in my case, the risk my Aunt made when she came to see me graduate high school, she saw a misdirected young woman throwing her life away and invited me to come stay with them for the summer. She could have judged me while feeling sorry for my Mom but instead she drew near to me with kindness. My Aunt and Uncle took the risk of bringing in a rebellious young lady who recently (like in the previous 24 hours) had made bad choices into their home and around their small children. Loving like Jesus loves is risky. I look at my husband and small children and with gratefulness in my heart I praise God they took that risk. I went on to spill my heart out to Jesus and confess all my sin to God in their bathroom while they were at work (you can read that testimony here.). They never lead me in the sinner’s prayer or walked me down the Roman’s road (I’m not saying those are bad), they just opened up their lives to me and let me watch them live for God. I watched them get frustrated with each other and walk out of the room and I watched them make up (butt grabbing was usually involved!) I wasn’t sold a Christian walk without troubles and like the poem they had framed in their house called “footsteps” I realized we will have troubles, but it He (Jesus) is the one who carries us through them all.
My husband’s story is one of a hippie pot-smokin’ surfer guy in Hawaii who showed up at church the morning after he had contemplated not wanting to live anymore. The Youth Pastor at that church asked him if he could play the guitar, which he could, and then asked him to play the guitar for worship. After church the Worship Pastor invited him to lunch. That lunch turned into years of being invited to their house and being with his family and watching it grow. The stories he shares with me of how this Worship Pastor befriended him and taught him how to be a man with out ever telling him how to be one still makes me cry. The more he saw this man live for the Lord, love his wife and children the more he wanted to be like him. Look like him, play music like him, love God like him. I praise God that Pastor took the risk to love this longhaired surfer-guy and make critical investments of time and friendship in his life that ultimately shaped my husband’s future and now mine.
These people lives lived out God’s heart to love the wandering and recover them through kindness. Because God clearly show us, it is not His judgment but His kindness that lead us all to repentance.
“Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?” Romans 2:4
IT’S TIME TO PAY IT FORWARD. IT’S TIME TO PAY IT IN PRAYER. IT’S TIME TO PAY IT IN LOVE.
At the core of all of us, we all want to be loved. We want to be known and understood. Not categorized. Not judged. LOVED.
What Jesus did and provided for us on the cross was the ultimate gift of love. He paid full price for our sin and us. He bought me and He owns my sin. He actually wants it, what He did for me demands it. That He would love me like that makes me want to love others the same.
There are times the Holy Spirit asks us to open up our mouths and share with people, so please hear me I’m not saying not to do that, that is not the message of this article. I am saying there is power in genuine love; He has equipped us with this powerful tool to change lives. Awhile back my brother had told me a young girl crossed the street to where he was on a street corner and asked him if he knew Jesus. He didn’t know who she was, it was completely random, she wasn’t with a church group, she simply was following the Holy Spirit’s lead. He was telling me about how he kept thinking about it. All the while I’m thinking, “Do you know how hard it was for her to do that? That young girl obeyed God! I know grown ups that might not of crossed the street. I don’t know that girl but I love her! I want to obey God like her.” As the Holy Spirit leads us let’s be the love of Jesus. Let’s walk across the street. Let’s take risks. We can be apart of partnering with God to change someone’s future.
Today I don’t know where my brother is, but this is what I’d say to him: I love how crazy talented and creative you are! Man, I love how hilarious you are! What a loyal friend you are. How you love and take care of the ones you love. I’ve never stopped believing in the great purpose for your life we’ve talked about since you were eight. Wherever you are, I love you to infinity and beyond!!! To the moon and back again! You are so incredibly special and valuable to me and my family!
Life is too short not to tell the ones in our lives how much we love them! We don’t have to agree with what we see, because we have the amazing opportunity to partner with God in prayer and change the future. It’s time to be Jesus with skin on to the people that are in our lives, they stand in front of us, not wanting to hear another “do you want to ask Jesus in your heart?” sermon from us, but asking the heart question … “Can you just LOVE me?”
Now, let’s pray for the ones the Holy Spirit has put on your heart!
I believe you are devising a plan for _________ not to remain estranged from you. Show me Holy Spirit how to pray when I don’t know how to pray. Show me how to love the way you’ve loved me. I want to dress myself up in You and be the difference I want to see in __________ life. Empower me with strategic wisdom to show love in practical ways that will bless them without my words. Let who I am and how I love you be the light that pushes darkness back. Help me to be quick to repent when I offend or fall so even in my weakness I declare your strength. I want my life to be a witness of true life in You! I thank you for the gift of _________ to the world, surprise them with your love and then conquer every part of their heart with it!!!! In JESUS name! AMEN! So be it!