One Step Forward…
Yes, it’s that ever-popular tradition of reflecting on the past year’s events. What has happened in 2016? This year, 2016 is considered to be so bad that it has become a social media joke, here’s an example:
People felt exhausted by many of the frustrations of 2016 and social media reflected that. One of the more interesting things to me however, is not about what the culture is doing, but how cultural view of the context is reflected in the Scripture we read. In this digital age, a ton of statistics can be pulled by the way people read the Bible. According to the popular app youversion, the verse of the year is Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. This is the verse that has been shared, bookmarked, and highlighted most often this year.
Romans 8:28 is a great verse and very encouraging, it focuses on who God is acting on the context of our lives. Personally I am more encouraged by what comes next in Romans 8:29 – For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. What encourages me is that God is at work within us. That God is conforming us to the image of Jesus. At Christmas dinner this year, I met with two men whose story encouraged me. These two men went through significant personal struggles in 2015 – one almost died and the other lost the business he owned. Coming off that challenging year, they decided to take a pilgrimage trip together. Neither of them knew God so the purpose of the trip was to seek Buddha. So they decided to go to Thailand, a country that is 85% Buddhist. They spent the days at temples and the nights partying. Towards the end of the trip they decided to experience the real Thailand by going deep into the jungle and spend time with people who lived there. They ended up at a small village of a marginalized people in the mountains of Northern Thailand and were invited to church. They were excited, thinking they were going to find Buddha. As they walked up the hill and saw the church building with a bright red cross inside, they realized they were not about to encounter Buddha, but rather Christ. This was their moment to either step into the building or turn around and go back the same way they came. They decided to go in. They didn’t understand a single word of worship or the message, but that didn’t even matter. Someone found an English Bible and pointed them to the Scripture being preached on. They both were overwhelmed by emotion as God drew them in. They said that it was as if they felt every emotion at the same time. They left completely changed. That was a year ago. They have given up their old lifestyles and have centered their lives around God. They went to Thailand to seek Buddha and came away loving the Lord. Even in a place where 85% of the population does not believe in God, He is at work in people. God worked in me just by hearing their story. I love how in spite of their challenging year, God worked in them. All they had to do was take that first step.
It has been three days since I heard the story of what God did, and is doing in their lives, and I cannot stop thinking about it. You all know my story of 2016, my wife and I just took one step towards international missions and God filled in the rest. It’s not just about context either, I don’t think there has been a time in my life where God has done more inside me than 2016. What about you? When you reflect upon this past year, did God work on the context of your lives or in the content of you?
– love to hear about what God is doing in you