Epicenter 3 - We Seek Others

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My beloved son in whom I am well pleased. He loves to light up a room, make everybody laugh, sing and dance and do flips. He can also be a little dramatic sometimes, though.

One time he waited until the last minute to do some homework thing, some paper or something, and he was trying to print it before he left for school. I heard him in my office yelling at the printer—and by the time I got in there he had taken the cover off, removed the print cartridges, unplugged the USB cable and was getting ready to use a screwdriver to punch a hole in the black ink tank. I’m like, Angel, what on earth are you doing?

He’s all upset and starts telling me the printer’s not working, and the assignment is worth a test grade, and he doesn’t know what’s wrong with the stupid machine but he had to do something. If he doesn’t turn the paper in, then he’s gonna fail the class, if he fails the class he won’t get in a good school, so he’ll probably have to get a job delivering turnips to homeless people—because that’s a thing, then he’ll probably get so tired of delivering turnips that he gives up and becomes homeless himself. He’s like, “Dad, is that what you want, do you want me to fail this assignment and become homeless?”

[Frank on screen: “None of that really happened. Don’t be lying to these kids and making Angel look like a crazy person. What’s wrong with you?]

Well, he has freaked out a few times when the printer didn’t work and he needed to print something.

[Frank on screen: “There was never a screwdriver or turnips or homeless people involved, you idiot.”]

Fine. I’m just trying to illustrate a point—go away!

In 1st Peter 3:15 it says, “Honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.”

God picked you, He saw you living your life on planet earth, and He chose you to be His. To love you and save you and give you a beautiful life—to live an amazing story. He asked you to trust Him, to trust His Word, trust His promises that He wants good things for you—even when things are hard—to trust that it’s gonna be okay. That if it’s not okay then you know you’re not at the end of the story, because God promises that things are gonna turn out okay. That the difference between a happy ending and a tragedy is just where you stop telling the story. This story that you’re living is gonna turn out great.

And when you believe that, people are gonna notice. You’re still gonna get sad, but not so sad that you lose hope. Bad things are still gonna happen, there’s gonna be trouble in the world, but you know that Jesus has overcome the world—you know it’s all going somewhere good. And sometimes when they notice that about you, they’re gonna ask you what the deal is.

That’s what God’s saying to us in that Scripture: Honor the Lord, trust in Him—and always be ready to answer anyone’s questions about what makes you different—about what gives you hope.

It’s usually pretty easy to talk about something we’re excited about. If you found out you were gonna get to skip school next week and go to Disney World, you’d probably tell someone about it. If I said that everyone here was gonna get a thousand dollars and your choice between a pony and a motorcycle—you’d probably tell someone about it, right?

[Frank on screen: That was stupid. Why would you get their hopes up like that? No one’s gonna give them $1,000 or a pony…]

Or a motorcycle. Of course not, I didn’t it say was going to happen, I just said it would be exciting if it did happen and they’d want to tell someone about it.

[Frank on screen: I think it was stupid. And mean. I think you’re stupid.]

Well, I think you’re mean. Go away!

I’m just saying that if we’re really hoping for something, it’s pretty easy to talk about. So, if we say our hope is in Jesus, what does that mean? Does it just mean we hope we’ll go to heaven someday? I mean, sure, we have that hope but we also kinda hope it’s not today, right—very different from our feelings about Disney World. Don’t really want to go to heaven today.

So what is our hope for today? Do the things you believe about Jesus do anything for you right now? Does the fact that He found you and chose you make any difference in your day to day life? At school? With your friends? At home? With your mom and dad and brother and sisters?

It sure does for me. When God found me in my backyard, and I started reading His Word, trusting His promises, finding out about Jesus and how He came to earth and died for me on the cross and rose from the dead on the third day so I could be connected to Him forever. That He would never leave me or forsake me, no matter what. That because I’m a baptized child of God, I have a heavenly Father. That made a really big difference to me when I found out that I didn’t know who my biological father was—it didn’t wreck me like it might have wrecked other people because I know who I am—because of Jesus, I’m a beloved child of God.

When I started reading God’s Word and trusting the things He’s told us—when I learned about Jesus—man, I really liked Jesus. The way He doesn’t take any nonsense from anyone, always knows exactly what to say, exactly what to do. The way He healed people and told them what they needed to hear to get back on the right track. Jesus is awesome—if you haven’t sat down and really read the four Gospels for yourself, you should, you’ll love it. Better than any superhero.

You have hope that other people don’t have. That God is with you. That everything in your life has purpose and meaning. That you’re living a wonderful story that’s going somewhere good. When you’re scared or lonely or sad—you have the hope that God says it’s gonna be okay. Your faith is like a shield and a weapon that people without faith in Jesus don’t have.

People without faith in Jesus have no real hope. That’s a depressing and really hard fact to deal with. You probably know a lot of people who don’t have faith in Jesus. Friends, family members, people at school—even people at church sometimes. Probably some people here today. It’s a terrible thing to be without hope.

There was a squirrel that chewed a hole in the side of my house and made a nest in the little space over the ceiling in my office. All day long I’d hear that stupid thing chewing the boards over my head, scratching around—drove me crazy. So we put a trap on the roof by the hole and put some nuts in there—we wanted to catch it and then drive somewhere and let it live it’s happy little squirrel life somewhere else. It took a few days but eventually we got it—man, it was freaking out in that cage, trying to find a way out. Well, we were gonna go release it somewhere the next day but do you know what happened? It’s kinda sad. When we went out to get the squirrel in the morning—it was dead. I don’t know what happened for sure but I think he just lost hope. I think he gave up and died. I know, it’s sad. I wanted to say, “Hey little squirrel, I know things look really bad right now—being stuck in this cage and all—and you’ve probably heard all kinds of bad things about what happens to squirrels who get trapped after they chew holes in people’s houses—but you had a bright future. It wasn’t gonna be so bad. We were gonna let you go.” I wish I could’ve let it know he had hope.

People need to know they have hope, too. Otherwise they’re gonna feel like a squirrel in a cage—they won’t see that their life is going somewhere good.

So whenever someone asks you about the hope you have—they might not know that you only have hope because of Jesus, but when they ask how you’re able to deal with all the things that are so hard for them—that’s when we gotta be ready to tell them where our hope comes from.

But it’s not easy. First, because people think they already know everything about God—even though they don’t. Second, because it can feel really awkward to talk about Jesus sometimes.

But our words are really important—even the awkward ones. We gotta be willing to speak up and say things to people. Always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is within you, but do it with gentleness and respect.

Sometimes people think sharing the Gospel is like: Hey! You need to hear the good news! This is the good news—you’re going to hell! That doesn’t sound like good news.

Or sometimes people think sharing their faith means getting in arguments with people who don’t believe the same things they believe. But all that does is make people mad. Nobody gets argued into believing in Jesus—that’s not how it works.

The stakes are high, people really do need to hear about God’s love and about Jesus and the cross—but sometimes we can do more damage than good. It’s like when you need to print something and the printer won’t work—tearing it part, yelling at it, hitting it with a hammer isn’t gonna help. We gotta be patient. These conversations need to happen at the right time—it’s usually best if we have a relationship with the person, if we wait until they’re actually interested in what we have to say. Nobody wants an answer to a question they haven’t asked.

[Frank on screen starts mocking Frank on stage] People tend to remember how we make them feel more than what we actually say to them. There’s a famous quote that says “preach the Gospel at all times, use words when necessary—which means our actions speak louder than our words—but we have to remember that when it comes to the Gospel, words are always necessary. But we need to live a life that begs the question.

He’s back again isn’t he? What are you doing?

{Frank on screen: I’m mocking you because I don’t like you.]

That’s not nice at all—besides, you are me!

[Frank on screen: Exactly. I know everything about you, and I don’t like you. Plus, you’re ugly.]

I was just telling everyone here that we should be kind and gentle with our words, that people tend to remember how we make them feel more than the words we say.

[Frank on screen: Do you feel fat? Or bald? Because that’s how I’m trying to make you feel.]

I think I feel like taking this remote and turning you off. [Frank on screen turns off] That guy can be kind of a turkey.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: We shouldn’t leave people thinking their lives are hopeless. We need to share what we’re excited about with them. Making that connection between what we love and who we love—that’s all evangelism is—that’s what sharing our faith is all about.

Just try to use your words to be kind to people. To make them feel better instead of worse. People are gonna remember how we make them feel. Make the most of every conversation—it may be the only opportunity you ever have to tell them how much you care about them and how much God loves them. Words are powerful, when you get the chance to have a real conversation about Jesus—take it.

You know, you don’t have to do it on your own. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just be excited about events like this. Wasn’t this a fantastic time? Epicenter is awesome. Sometimes we can feel like we’re one of the only Christians in the world, but then we come to something like this and we realize that we’re not alone—there are a lot of other Jesus followers out there. What if you tried to never come to something like this without inviting someone ever again? What if you went home and told your friends and your cousins and the kids at school all about how much fun you had here? The games, the dance party, even learning about Jesus and all the awesome music. Invite them to come with you next time. Or invite them to your youth group, or your Sunday school class, or to church or a church event. The point is to invite them somewhere that a conversation about hope and Jesus can happen. Invite people into the joy.

I’m sure glad you guys invited me to come share this time with you—I’ve had a blast. I’ll never forget it.

I’ve been talking about how God has a wonderful story for all of us and I told you a little about my story and my brother—but I’ve gotten to do a lot of really great things in my life. I went to school to be a pastor but I started having success with a rock band and did that for the next thirty years. I toured all over the world with a band called Atomic Opera—was in magazines and on MTV, the whole deal. I have an awesome wife that I adore and who adores me, I have two wonderful kids who are teenagers now—they love Jesus as much as I do. I was a worship leader for a while and now I’m a Pastor of a new church in Katy. I’ve written a bunch of songs, recorded several albums, published a book—God has been very kind to me.

He has great things for you, too. Seek Him. Trust Him. Put your hope in Him and tell people about it. God is calling you to a life that is hopeful, positive, brave—to stand up for Jesus wherever life leads you. Remember that this is all going someplace good. Thanks for having me, guys.

I’m gonna end with a song about a couple of squirrels trapped in a cage of their own making.

donna schulzComment