One was a young Jewish lady who is training to become a nurse. She said, “Africa is calling my name.” The other was a mother of a six-year old daughter who told me, with tears in her eyes, “No, I cannot picture myself in God’s lap hearing him say, ‘I am proud of you!'”
I traveled to Dallas two days ago to hear news of great things God is doing in Asia. While there I led a devotional for the group. We looked at Ephesians 1:15-23 and Ephesians 3:14-21. Both texts model great intercession and discuss the fact that being on mission with God requires divine power. Paul prayed that the churches planted through the Multiplying Ministry he launched from Ephesus, throughout Asia, would experience God’s “incomparably great power for us who believe” (1:19).
Paul also prayed they would grasp the vastness of Christ’s love so they would “be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (3:19). Imagine that! Jesus’s love can produce the fullness of God in us. Then, Paul states a mind-blowing promise–God is “able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (3:20). I am claiming that promise!
Claiming his promise brings me back to those two ladies I mentioned earlier. The first one was in her twenties and had a bubbly personality. She quickly said, “This is only my second flight! Are you a frequent flyer?” I briefly mentioned some of my international flights. She really perked up when I mentioned Africa. “Africa has my name!” she said excitedly. After finding out she was in nursing school, I told her she could do much good in Africa.
Eventually the conversation died down and she pulled out her book. I got out my Kindle and returned to Neil Cole’s book, Church 3.0. After a while I noticed she had fallen asleep. Later she woke from her nap as drinks were being served.
When we returned to our earlier conversation I said, “My first international flight was to Israel.” She really became animated. She told me she was a practicing Jew and was excited she would be able to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land next year. She started asking questions about my trip. I was able to describe some of the remarkably unique characteristics of the tiny strip of land we call Israel.
Before traveling there I did not realize you can stand on a high point in Jerusalem and see the borders to the north, south, east and west. I pointed out to her that this narrow land bridge connects Eur-Asia to Africa. Because of the desert to the east, all the land routes passed through this region. God had called Abraham and his people to this hallway between the largest landmasses of the world. “What an awesome way to put his people on display for the nations!” I praised him. She said, “I never thought about it like that.”
Then she turned to tell me that her parents were divorced and her mom had recently converted to Christianity. Her mom was baptized in Israel on a trip last year. Now she said that her mom wanted her to read the New Testament to be “well-rounded.”
I said, “Well, with the exception of Luke and Acts which were written by a Gentile, the rest of the New Testament is the largest block of Jewish writings from the first century.” I proceeded to tell her that the first four books tell the story of Jesus for the sake of communicating it well to four different people groups. Matthew writes for a more Jewish audience. Mark tells the story of Jesus for Romans. Of course, Luke writes for Gentiles. Then John seems to tell it for a more Eastern mind-set. She asked, “Now which one was for Jewish readers?” I told her it was Matthew, the first one and gave a few illustrations. She seemed intrigued. We were taxing into DFW airport, so our conversation ended.
On the return flight I noticed that the lady sitting next to me had on a jacket with a Belmont University logo. I said, “Oh, are you a student at Belmont?”
She said, “No, I have worked there for seventeen years!” So I asked if she was on the faculty and she said, “I am an adjunct faculty member, but I work full-time in the recreation department.”
She asked about my work and I told her that I had gone to a conference in Dallas because of my work training indigenous church planters in Africa. She seemed interested so I shared the four questions we train them to use when they facilitate Discovery Bible Studies. After she asked a question I told her that the third question about obedience is where inner transformation takes hold. When she showed and openness to hearing more I shared the S.P.E.C.K. questions that can help us discover how to obey any passage. As I got to the third “P”–“Is there a Promise here that I can claim?” I mentioned the promise in Ephesians 3:20 of God’s willingness and ability to give us more.
A question popped into my mind, right at this point. I asked it–“Can’t you just picture yourself crawling up in God’s lap to ask him for something and hearing him say, ‘You make me so proud!”?
As she fought back the tears she said, “No. I know he exists, and I know he is able, but I am not worthy of that. He is Sovereign and he can do what he wants. I don’t want to risk asking for something he does not want to give me and getting a ‘No.'”
My heart just ached. But I had solid confirmation that she is churched. Sovereign is a word you only hear from church people. It turns out she is a pastor’s wife for a church that has been shrinking from 70 to 50 since they have been working with them.
I reminded her of Jesus’ story about the Prodigal Son, pointing out that the younger boy was not worthy of Papa’s extravagant grace. While he’s practicing his “I’m unworthy” speech his dad is running to receive him back as his son.
I returned to finish the letters “E.C.K.” Then I asked, “Does that make sense? Can you think of somewhere you might do that kind of study?”
“Well, I was actually thinking about that and had begun to think maybe I could do it in a Bible study with some of the girls who work for me. We employ over 100 of our students. Up until two years ago I always did a Bible study with some of them. Maybe I can start one using this approach this fall.”
Our flight landed and we started to de-plane. Since I had an aisle seat, I stepped out and back to allow her and the lady across from my seat out. We walked through the plane, out to the concourse. She stepped aside to let the other lady go by saying, “I will wait on my co-worker.” As I passed, she said, “Thank you.”
I said, “I will pray that you find a Lady of Peace–one of those girls who works for you who will be willing to invite her friends for the study. That way you can harvest grapes and bananas, rather than apples and oranges.”
Wow, I have never had one conversation like those, let alone two. Isn’t it just like “The Impossibility Specialist” to give me these two interactions? I praise Papa for the Holy Spirit leading me through these conversations! I do pray the first lady reads Matthew and finds her heart burning in her. I pray the second one finds a Person of Peace and experiences the joy of God’s pleasure as she uses this awesome group harvesting strategy!