Fall weather finally decided to show up to work today. I’m not saying I haven’t appreciated the last three weeks of sunshine, but I’m one of those weird people who want it to rain and thunder all the time, until winter….then I want a blizzard 🙂 and snowpants….and hot chocolate…but I digress.
The sky remained in a sad but refreshing state of overcast and rain drizzled in and out of every hour. My walk to church was cool this morning, the subway ride uneventful. I arrived at church fifteen minutes early, a fact of which I was extremely proud. I hung around and said hello to people, then I headed into the College and Career room to wait until everyone else got there. Do any of you remember David? I met him on my first day at church. Blond hair, crazed look in his eye? Something about David bothers me….he just makes me spiritually and emotionally and even physically uncomfortable. It’s nothing he’s said or any move he’s made; it’s just him, which makes me feel bad since he hasn’t done anything for me to think of him that way.
Because I’m a natural researcher, I posted the question of modern-day prophets on the College and Career Class page on Facebook, just to see what perspectives people had on this topic. At the beginning of Sunday school this morning, while we were all getting coffee (except for me, of course), Sam came up to me and began to tell me his answer to my question. Before he could finish, he was called off to do some pastoral work (I’m pretty sure it was to set up an “obstacle course” for the event taking place that afternoon), so I was left thinking about the bits and pieces of a reply he had given me. David stepped into my line of vision and asked what we had been talking about.
I explained to him (overcoming my discomfort and trying not to voice my observation of his new haircut) that we were discussing modern day prophets. He nodded his head and sipped the carton of orange juice he was holding. Before I could say anything else, he launched into this passionate explanation of how he had talked to a number of “prophets” who had told him about his future and about his past. I tilted my head to the side and didn’t bother to hide my disbelief.
“David, modern day prophets aren’t biblical.” I said.
“Yes they are.” He then proceeded to use the same points Zappora used in her argument. I brought up the same points I had used to refute her argument. He continued on and on about random stories about his past experiences with drugs and alcohol (I’m not judging him for his stories, they just didn’t have anything to do with what we were talking about) and claimed that what was the Holy Spirit’s leading (since I was wishfully assuming he was saved) was actually divine prophecy. I pointed this out to him.
“Well, we actually don’t get the Holy Spirit until we’re baptized.”
I wanted to throw a temper tantrum. I don’t know why I was so passionate about this argument; maybe it was because I just didn’t want to debate today. I’ve been debating too much in a one-week time period; I just wanted to talk to my church people and be comfortable in my little doctrine bubble. Now, every time I come to church, David comes up to me and asks me to go to Times Square Baptist Church with him and hangout with some of his friends. The first day I attended church, he handed me a flyer for this church. Everything about this congregation screamed “the occult,” so I politely refused him every Sunday.
“You know, you should come to Times Square Baptist Church and meet some of my friends.” He said. Then, impulsively, a sass-packed sentence came out of my mouth.
“Yeah, I that’s not gonna happen.” The moment I spoke I felt absolutely defeated. But then I realized that no matter what argument I made, no matter how sassy or passionate I was in my proposals, David would not listen to me. This was not a debate; this was me, trying to convert a brick wall.
I moved up three rows of seats to sit with my friends, but David still continued speaking.
“There are modern day prophets, I promise.”
“You probably shouldn’t promise that.” I replied obviously not knowing when to stop answering back. He got in the last word and I lost a few more strands of hair. I tried not to think about how embarrassed and frustrated and uncomfortable I was for the rest of the day, which wasn’t too difficult considering I was surrounded by wonderful people. When I was telling my mom about this later, she pointed out that at least he was in church. This is true, mother; thank you so much.
The first service was all about running the race of the Christian life for God, about life not actually being about the race but about Jesus Christ. One of the points was that we needed to lay aside any weights (Hebrews 12:1). All I could think about was a bag of bricks slung over my shoulder with the word “Having to Get in the Last Word” written in sharpie marker on the sturdy burlap.
After the first service, everyone went outside to enjoy the Fall Festival. The sky was still overcast but the rain had stopped and the ground was relatively dry. There was pumpkin pie and lemonade and the “obstacle course” was a blow-up, bouncy house, type deal. Everyone was laughing and mingling, talking about the service, about Pinterest, about theology, and myriad other things. I walked around and ended up talking to Charlene’s father. He is a pleasant man 🙂 I found out where Charlene was and made my way over to the face painting area of the lawn. I saw Charlene and tried to get close enough so she could hear me, but there was someone extremely tall leaning over her and the child whose face on which she was presently painting a Batman symbol. I leaned around the tall gentleman to see the painting, and before I could react, the gentleman turned around and I nearly fell down. It was Ray, the pastor’s son.
Now, and this is the only time I’ll say anything like this, Ray is very handsome. The fact that he’s a skyscraper with feet emphasizes the fact that he’s attractive. I was not only nearly falling over but I was intimidated.
“Hey Hunter. How are you doing?”
I stood there for a few seconds trying to remember the letter that follows the letter ‘h’ in the alphabet.
“Nothing much…I mean, I’m-I’m good yeah. How are you?” We talked for a little while, me laughing obnoxiously and him asking me questions. Eventually we ended up walking over to someone else to ask them a question about some nonsense and then we separated. I went through the next hour or two feeling embarrassed about that. I guess going to college in the oh-so-glamorous land of New York City doesn’t matter; I’m still just as awkward and clumsy as I was in high school.
Pastor came and found me to tell me a story. He had been talking to a Japanese missionary who gave her testimony, and he wanted to share that testimony with me. Apparently, this girl had been brought up in Japan (where Christianity is forbidden) and gone to London to attend art school. She met three Christians at that school, and it was because of their testimonies she was saved. When she returned to Japan, she felt led to become a missionary after meeting her future husband, who was an American missionary in Japan at the time. Pastor told me he thought of me immediately upon hearing her testimony. He encouraged me with this: “You never know how your testimony is effecting the people around you. Keep going.” And keep going I shall.
Things began to wind down and the line at the obstacle course was dwindling down. Since I had made a fool of myself for the majority of the morning, I jumped right in line. Sam’s daughter, Abby, and I raced through the obstacle course in our church clothes, sliding down the squishy mountain at the end of the course. It was so much fun! And Sam was sure to video tape the entire thing.
The second service was the highlight of the day. Thomas Styles, a man from a New York State government ministry, was there to tell us, as Christians, what exactly was going on in our government and what we could do about it. As he spoke, I was very harshly reminded of how real the possibility of Christians being persecuted is. The prevention of this persecution is a very real battle being fought not only in our state government but also in our national government.
People wouldn’t actually persecute Christians….would they? I mean, why would they do that? I thought to myself. Then Mr. Styles said this:
“The Christian life is a serious thing; this isn’t a playground, it’s a battleground folks. We are in Enemy territory, and our Enemy (Satan) wants to knock us down, tear apart our families; your enemy wants to kill you. You need to start taking this seriously.”
Fear and realization took a hold of my heart, and I remembered that I am a soldier in God’s army, that I’m part of an ongoing invisible war. I know some may think “wow, no need to take religion so seriously.” But there is a need; 1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) says “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Maybe it’s just me, but knowing that Satan is poking around the spiritual world looking for someone to rip to shreds (and knowing that I am that someone) makes me afraid. There is a great need to take this seriously. I’m not saying all Christians should grab some medieval swords (preferably ones like the sword Narsil, the sword that was broken and reforged by Elvish smiths of Rivendell, called Anduril, weilded by Aragon, son of Arathorn, heir of Isildur, rightful king of Gondor) and start cutting at the air trying to defeat Satan. That won’t work. Paul, in his letter to the people of Ephesus, tells us how to fight this war. “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand the evil day, and having done all to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13.
Sometimes, with all of the petty things I worry about and mull over in my tiny human brain, I forget Who I’m fighting for, Who I belong to, Who keeps me safe, Who holds my heart. I forget Who gave me His armor so I would be protected, Who has given me the capability to win this battle with Him at my side.
Yes, a lot of the world thinks we, as Christians, are absolutely insane. Honestly, considering how differently we’re meant to act and think, we kind of are insane. But the other parts of the world are searching for answers, answers that we have. They desperately want to join God’s army but can’t seem to get a hold of the divine pen used to sign up. This is where we come in. Imagine the world being a person sitting at a table. There is nothing on the table. Our job is to take this divine pen (the gospel) and the army sign up sheet (prayer) and put it on the table. The rest is up to the world.
Whatever trouble you’re fighting right now, whether it be work, relationships, finances, or college, the only thing that’s changed is the battlefield; the Enemy and the battle are still the same. Satan is going to run out of breath eventually, considering he’s fighting against the thing that never runs out (i.e. the love and endurance of Christ). Your job is to outlast the Devil. God is fighting this battle already and He’s aiming to win…the only question is, will you fight with Him?
“For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ..” —2 Corinthians 10:4,5 (ESV)