3 Things You Need To Know About Celebration Church (And Criticizing Your Brother)

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As a pastor of a small church, I held another pastor in my city in contempt. The small fault I found in the ministry of this man was actually there (at the time). But a few years later, the Lord showed this man the same revelation He showed me (and much, much more).

When I was leading my church, the Lord showed me two important truths that I was to lift up and make the center of ministry. One was Water Baptism and the other was Communion. I felt like as a whole the church had lost sight of these two simple things that God said were important. While the modern church was enamored with good things like loud preaching and worship music, I felt like Baptism and Communion had been relegated to an afterthought. In some ways, Baptism had been replaced by “asking Jesus into your heart” and Communion with “three worship songs and a prayer”. 

We held meetings every Sunday evening. While we had good music (my wife is a phenomenal musician) and Bible preaching, Communion was held up as the pinnacle of every service. Some members of a local megachurch, Celebration Church, started coming to our small meetings. They began to lament to me about how their church wasn’t even doing communion on a monthly basis anymore. In my foolishness and pride, I quickly seized the opportunity to lift myself up against my brother. Of course I feigned a love towards this “misguided church”. I’m sure I spun my words in a way that made me sound wise. But my jealous heart rejoiced that I was doing something better than someone else.

The issue wasn’t with the revelation God had shown me. The issue was with my heart. For a time, I was in the right. But here’s something very important:

You can be right but go about it in all the wrong ways. 

And when you behave like this, you will get no reward for being right, but only face judgement for the wrong you have done.

To make a long story short: the Lord eventually led me into a divine detour into the business world. This sounds strange to some people. Why would God do this? Because God knew it was the best way to strip me of my “pharisee complex”, my love of being a pastor (not serving as a pastor, but being seen by men as a pastor). Read Matthew 23:5-7.

After a year into my divine detour, the Lord spoke to my wife that we were supposed to go to Celebration Church, the same church I had held in contempt. I didn’t really like the news, but somehow I knew she was right. So I swallowed my pride and resolved to go with a good attitude. I quickly saw that the Lord was there, as much or more, as anything my wife and I had ever done. The Lord quickly showed me this man, Stovall Weems, was anointed as an apostle. See Ephesians 4.

But then it happened, the Lord gave Pastor Stovall a vision on Good Friday/Passover of 2018. The Lord showed this man everything He showed me (and much, much more). That afternoon, after Easter service, the Lord spoke to me almost audibly:

“You see, this man, Stovall, is my servant. When I speak to him, he will listen. And when I choose to reveal a thing to him, then I will do it. But who are you? Who were you to judge my servant?”

Three things that you need to know about criticism:

  1. You’re likely tearing down a person better than you.

When you judge and criticize, you always run the risk of tearing down a person who is a far better person than you. You may be better at this one small fault. But that could just mean they are a far nobler person with one small spec in their eye (as was the case with me and Pastor Stovall). That’s why the Apostle Paul advised us to take the safer route, “prefer your brother above yourself”.

2. You are foolish when you arbitrarily pick your own standard, and then boast about it.

Criticism is really silly if you think about it. In your pride and blindness, you are basing all your assumptions about being better than another person on a standard you picked out yourself. That’s not really a level playing field, is it? 

3. You may be right, but going about it in all the wrong ways.

Here’s the thing: the fault you are finding with your brother may actually be there! But that doesn’t mean you’re seeing everything in the right perspective. You are merely a man and have a severely limited view on things. Scripture says, “Man looks at the things on the outside, while God looks at the heart”. God sees the whole picture. 

What is more wise? When you find a fault in your brother, keep it to yourself and commit to prayer for that person. Pray to the God who sees all things. You will find at least two things will happen. One, you will grow more love and compassion for that person as you talk about them in His presence. Two, you will see all the areas of pride and jealousy lurking in your own heart. Heartfelt prayer will enable you to deal with that log in your own eye, and truly help with the spec in your brother’s eye.

May God help us to be a people of love and wisdom, not judgement and criticism.

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What You Need To Know About Paul and His Letter To The Galatians

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With popular Evangelical leaders floating around a neo-replacement theology, and ideas of “unhitching” from the Old Testament Scriptures, we could all benefit from a fresh look at Paul’s angriest letter, The Book of Galatians.

“Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised (if you undergo b’rit-milah), Christ will be of no value to you at all.” Galatians 5:2

The Letter of Galatians can seem harsh in places, and if misunderstood can leave you with the notion that Paul was opposed to being Jewish, being circumcised, rejoicing in the Torah, or following the traditions of Moses. In fact, an early false teaching, known as Antinomianism (literally anti-law), was a misinterpretation of Paul’s teaching. The Apostle Peter, whom interestingly enough was brought up in Paul’s Galatians, references antinomianism when writing his own letter to the church. Peter, with a tone of love and respect, even comments in that “his brother, Paul,” was, at times, hard to understand. That’s 2 Peter 3:15-16.

So, we know Paul was sometimes hard to understand; even the Apostles who walked with Jesus had to take time to chew on what he said. Beyond this, most scholars agree that Galatians was Paul’s angriest epistle. So we have Paul, who is already hard to understand, and now he is hot! But why is Paul so angry? What is happening in the church communities of Galatia that made him furious? Here’s why I believe Paul is so angry:

Under peer pressure, Gentiles were attempting to become Jewish. Why is this a big deal? It was out of order. This was not God’s plan. In fact, Gentiles trying to make themselves Jewish was an insult to God’s gracious gift to the nations, Jesus. God’s plan for the gentiles (Goyim or literally “nations”) was Jesus. For a Gentile to go back to Mt. Sinai and attempt to receive a covenant that was never intended for him was out of order and silly. When God wanted to swing wide the door of salvation to the nations, He did so through His Son, Jesus, and not through His covenant with Israel.

God made a special and eternal covenant with Israel and the Jewish people. His calling is irrevocable and not subject to cancelation. That’s Romans 11:29. If you take issue with the fact that God still has a relationship with the Jewish people/Israel, re-read Romans 9-11. Paul warned us Gentiles about becoming arrogant against disobedient Jewish people. Unfortunately, church history shows us that the Gentile church did the exact opposite. By 350 AD, seeing the horrific judgment that fell on Israel through the Jewish-Roman wars, and the fall of the Temple, the Gentile Church, lifted up in hubris by her new found favor with Emperor Constantine, wrongly concluded that God’s covenant with the Jewish people must be over. Early church fathers started to despise non believing Jews, and they boasted against Israel. Some even foolishly declared that the church was Israel. This idea came to be known as Replacement Theology. This theory was finally shown to be the silliness that it is, when God resurrected the nation of Israel in one day, in 1948 (Isaiah 66:8).

So God has given the people of Israel a special calling. But that doesn’t make the Jew any better than someone else. Much like when a follower of Jesus is called to be a great preacher. This person was simply called by God to do a task. In other words, this person was chosen by God to do something for Him and His purposes. While there is a certain honor in this calling, it does not make that person better than any other believer called to something else. In a similar fashion, Israel was called by God to bring forth both the Scripture, and the Messiah. But just like the great preacher from our example, this does not make Israel better than any other nation.

So a Gentile striving to become a Jew is an affront to the mercies of God. The Jews were given one honor. “Israel is my special possession”. That’s Deuteronomy 32:9. But to the Gentiles another honor was given. “Jesus, the Messiah, is to be a light for revelation to the Gentiles”. That’s Luke 2:32. God also said, “to those I called “Not my people”, I will say, ‘Now, you are my people.’ That’s Hosea 2:23. 

Just like Paul preached in everyplace, God has shown the nations a great honor when He sent His Son to bring them back and to redeem them. For the Gentiles to despise this offer was offensive! Both to God, and to Paul.

I also believe Paul was doing one other thing with his letter to the Galatians. While speaking to the Gentiles, Paul was also simultaneously striking at the prideful attitude of some Jewish believers in this church. Paul’s rebuke is in the same spirit of John the Baptists’, when John warned the crowds of Jewish people coming to hear him preach; John said, “Don’t assume just because you are Jewish by blood that you are so great. Reject that entitled and arrogant attitude, because God could easily take these rocks right here and turn them into children of Abraham.” That’s Matthew 3:9.

Now it’s important to note: no where in the New Testament is a Jewish believer encouraged to forsake his/her traditions, or become a Gentile (Read Acts 21:17-26). But having an arrogant attitude, whether Jew or Gentile, is a stench to God!

At the end of the day, God ordained the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Galatians as a reminder, for all people, in every generation, whether Jew or Gentile, that true righteousness comes from Him, and Him alone. We didn’t earn it. We didn’t deserve it. And we must receive it as a gracious gift through faith in His Salvation, Jesus.

Why To Obey Is Better Than Sacrifice

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Photo by Jaymantri

Many times, I see young Christians feel this pressure to do big things for God. They find out about the Great Commission, they read the book of Acts, and they hear about people in other parts of the world doing great things for God, and think, “To be a real Christian, I need to move to Africa and become an evangelist” or “I should be doing BIG exploits for God… and be doing them NOW!This youthful zeal oftentimes comes from a good heart, but it can drive us to get ahead of God, attempt to do things we don’t have grace to do, or (maybe the most unfortunate of all) steal our joy and peace from the present moment.

What’s the best way to honor God? I’ve found it to be this: learn to quiet yourself, hear His voice, and then do exactly what He tells you to do. In other words, build your relationship with the Living God and obey Him. That simple. The only “burden” on your life is doing what God tells you to do, when He tells you to do it, how He tells you to do it. Nothing more. Nothing less.  

The weight of the world is not on your shoulders, its on God’s shoulders. Like the old song says, He’s got the whole world (and you) in His hands. Our job is simply to obey His voice and leading. Remember, on the great Day of His Judgement, we Christians, will be held accountable not for what we did, but what we were called to do. In other words, you are not called to run someone else’s race, you are called to run YOUR race.

That’s why learning to hear God’s voice is so important. What has He called you to do? Or even better, what has He called you to do now? Are you sensitive enough to discern the times? Are you willing to see the “writing on the wall”? Are you willing to submit yourself to seasons of waiting? Or will you try to beat down doors that God has closed? Will you try to flash fry what God has ordained to boil?

Let’s use my story as an example, God made it clear to me my calling was to preach and display Him to the world in 2005. Well… it’s been 13 years and counting.

I was called by God as a preacher, but I am currently in a DIFFERENT season. I call it “my season of business”. It’s a place I never thought I would be. From 23 to 31, I was in full-time ministry, and the gift to preach and pastor was evident. But around 31 years old I saw the “waters of His grace” start to recede. I saw the writing on the wall and sensed God might be doing something different. So I followed Him along this divine detour. He led me to a place I never thought I would be (nor did I ever want to be)— the business world. Every year or so, I’ve tested the waters, so to speak, to enter back to full-time preaching, but it’s been made clear to me the door is not yet open. At the same time, I’ve been given grace to be in the place I never thought I’d be—sales and the business world.

Some say to me, “Oh, you found your true calling. It’s in business.” No, I have simply been asked to be obedient to God. I’ve been asked to accept the truth that God’s ways are above my ways and that He knows the best way to get me to where I need to be.

The call on my life has not changed—the Lord has been sure to confirm this countless times—but I have been asked—like He has asked all of us—to lean not on my own understanding, but to trust in God with the process. To trust that He alone holds all wisdom, that He loves me, and that He knows the right way for me to go.

When we learn to hear His voice and develop the faith to obey Him “in season and out of season” (1 Tim 4:2), Jesus’ words in John 11:28-29 will start to make a lot more sense:

“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” (KJV)

Rest in your God. Be patient in Him, and you’ll come to understand the meaning of this Scripture, “to obey is better than sacrifice“.

The 3 “R”s Of Receiving From God

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God has prepared an unique process to mold you in His love. Here’s 3 “R”s to receive more from Him, as you walk upon this path.

Last week, I shared a little from my journey into facing my issues and learning to receive love from God. (Click here to read it.) My behaviors were extreme, but I’m not alone. Many of us live as prisoners to our emotional wounds. We’ve become “functional” in our prison. Much like a “functional alcoholic”, we sort of get by, but we’re not free. And the reason we stay bound? Well, facing the pain is just that… PAINFUL! It requires courage to face the proverbial man-in-the-mirror. But as Christians, God has called to spiritual growth and freedom.

Here’s the reality: God will test our hearts. It’s what He does. If you walk with God long enough, He’s gonna to get there. Proverbs 17:3 says it like this, “Fire tests the purity of silver and gold, but the Lord tests the heart.”

So we might as well go ahead and be like David, and say, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). As we make this our prayer, I believe God sets us on a path into wholeness and love.

Last week, I mentioned at one point God led me to see a clinical psychologist and how she confirmed somethings for me. I don’t think everybody has to go to therapy, but I do believe if you set your heart after God, pray like David prayed, and obey His leading, He’ll direct your steps—ordering appointed seasons and “divine set-ups” to craft you and mold you in His love. Before you were born, He designed a “you-specific” process to build you on His love, victory, and freedom.

Along my thirteen-year journey with God, here are three things He has shown me about learning to receive from Him:

  1. Realize Everybody is messed up

When we start to face the proverbial man-in-the-mirror, it’s tempting to be overwhelmed. Shame whispers in our ear, “Oh man, there’s something so wrong with you!”. But shame is twisting the truth. Yes, there’s something wrong with you, but there’s something wrong with everybody: it’s called sin! You see, the enemy wants us to think there’s something ESPECIALLY wrong with us. In other words, he wants us to believe we’re beyond God’s love. But true faith says, “I’m no better than anybody… but I’m also not worse than anybody either. I am what I am. My value and worth come from God.”

2. Remove the Mask

We wear masks because we don’t practice Number 1. For some strange reason, we secretly think other people don’t struggle like us, or have problems. It’s the “grass-is-greener” syndrome. In our modern times, one main reason we fall into this “stinking thinking” is that compare our messy lives with other people’s Instagram and Facebook posts. So we put up a front. We pretend and hide. But God has called us to let down the mask. Especially with Him! We need to get real and allow Him to look upon the real us. That’s the only way we can receive His love.

3. Receive Revelation from the Word

We need to go to His Word. This is where decision and willpower come into play. No one can study the Bible for me, I must dig into the Word for myself. I must find out what He says about me. I must confess what He says about me. I must begin to speak the right words—His Word—over my life. And as I pray, and seek, and confess, and meditate on what He has said, I start to receive revelation from the Word. The Bible goes from information to revelation, and gets down into my heart.

The NEED to be loved

We love, because He first loved us.

-1 John 4:19 

I’m convinced that on the inside of every one of us is a need to be loved.

I believe it’s a basic human need. As real as our need for food or water or anything else. We humans crave acceptance,  affirmation, and a sense of security for our souls. God created us this way. He designed us with a drive to be valued, cared for, and esteemed. We want something or someone to tell us we’re good enough. That we are validated. It’s like we’re desperate to hear, “This person is valuable; this person is worthy of love”.

It’s why we all want to achieve some level of significance and purpose for our lives: we want to ascribe value to ourselves by belonging to someone or something great.

If you look at the world today, I think it’s a lot like the old country song says:

We’re “looking for love in all the wrong places”.

We run after affirmation in the form of money, success, alcohol, food, romantic relationships, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. As crazy as it sounds, we can even run to religion, without running to God. I would define being “religious” as “about God without God”. Driven by shame, religion performs for God. But it never receives from God.

We’re running to dry, empty wells—things that cannot ultimately satisfy.

I have seen this in my own life. I was enslaved to people’s opinions—and terrified by their disapproval. If enough people could like me—if enough people could validate me, then I would be something. I would have significance.

My identity was so tightly locked into what other people thought of me because my self-image was shattered. Like, I am talking it was extreme. I was violently tossed to and fro by the waves of human opinion. One harsh word. One weird look. Even the thought of someone possibly not liking me could totally ruin my day. I even cared about the opinions of people I didn’t even like! (Have you ever been there? How silly is this, huh?)

I was terrified of what people thought about me. I may have seemed like a confident club DJ on the outside, but on the inside I was desperate for love and affirmation. Like many people, I carried around a broken record player in my head,

“There’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you…”

The inner critic, my constant companion. This self-loathing and embarrassment would fade if I experienced some success, or my “approval tank” was full. It was like a high! But a public failure, a single slight, or a disapproving look would cause the voice to flare up again:

“Ah, you see, AJ! You were right! There’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you. There’s something wrong with you…”

I was running to empty wells. People and their opinions make for a poor god.

But let me ask you: what are you running to?

Romans 5:8 says this,

God demonstrates and clearly proves His own love for us in this, that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us”.

Jesus is God’s overwhelming affirmation towards us! The Cross is God’s invitation to you. Receive His love for you today.

His opinion of you will become louder than any other voice in your life! His great and surpassing love will become a tangible reality in your life! If you will seek Him, and open up your heart to Him, He will show you His powerful love. It’s a love that never fails. And it becomes an unstoppable force in your life and overflows as grace and strength for successful living.

I’ve seen this in my own life. I share about what I’ve seen and what I know. I am not where I need to be… but thank God I am not where I used to be! I can still slide into manpleasing, but I’ve come to know one thing:

the love displayed at the Cross is real. And it’s for YOU!

PRAYER:

Father, thank You that you love me. Thank you that you affirm me in Christ.

Father, I entrust my heart to You. I turn away from any fake gods in my life.

I want to know Your love for myself.

Lead me deeper into Your great and surpassing love.

Allow Your love to become a tangible reality in my life.

Let me receive mercy, so that I can show mercy.

Father, I believe God loves _______(your name).

 

A Tribute to the Father

A TRIBUTE TO THE FATHER

As Father’s Day approaches, we take time to remember the fathers in our life. We take a day to honor the role that fathers play in our society, and we celebrate the men who work so hard to provide and love us.

But for many, all this father talk can be hard to bear. It only brings up painful memories we’d rather keep buried. Some of us have lost fathers. Others have had ugly falling outs with their dads. Some fathers, we never knew. And some we wish we never had known. For a wide range of reasons, many of us will not be buying a father’s day card this year.

I’m in this boat: I lost my father at 19 years old. I thank God I was saved through watching my dad’s powerful conversion, but I never had a chance to build a real relationship with him before he died. He was a very closed-off man. I don’t hold this against him—my dad never had a father himself. Growing up near the famous 8-mile road in Detroit, Michigan, he learned to rely on himself. The man worked hard to give a better life to his sons; but he never learned how to show love.

Looking back, I can see a handful of times where my dad made attempts to build a relationship with me, but I too had become severely closed off. Eventually he gave up on me all together—he was very vocal about this, and made it a joke (everybody knew my dad for his biting sense of humor), saying I was too “artsy” for him.

Why are we so easily hurt by fathers?

Even people who grew up in a loving home can carry wounds from fathers who fell short to provide the care and affirmation we needed.

How can unintentional neglect or one harsh word cause such pain?

I think it’s because human beings have an intense need for love, affirmation, attention, and care. It’s a need—a bonafide, legitimate need—just as real as our need for food or water or air.

Both Psychology and Neuroscience have identified the importance of this basic need in human beings. Studying brain development from babyhood into adulthood, scientists have built an entire theory around it called the “Attachment Theory”. You should check out the research—it’s fascinating—but I’ll boil it down for you in one sentence: the human psyche is literally built on love and care.

I’m talking LITERALLY. Not in some far off spiritual sense. I am talking neurons and physiology and brain stems and stuff like that. Our brains physically grow strong and healthy through love and affirmation from others. Even a picture of a smiling face will light up a baby’s brain on a brain scan. And our brains stay willing to respond to love; adult brains well into their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s who suffered neglect and abuse as children—called “attachment trauma”—have been shown to resume healthy brain growth in response to love and affirmation.

We all need love!

And this leads me back to fathers. Can you see the importance of fathers in society? Can you see the potential for a father to meet this need? The sheer power a father has to bless or curse a child? The importance of a father cannot be over emphasized. There is nothing like the care and attention of a father.

If you’re a father, let me encourage you: there could be no higher purpose—no more noble of a call—then to showcase the love of a father to those around you. To shower your kids (and your wife) with love! There is no role like yours on planet earth! You cannot be replaced! Your words cannot be replaced! You’ve been given a supreme honor—a great privilege and responsibility—to stand and represent the Heavenly Father to your kids. Any words of encouragement you give will sink deep down into their hearts, and become cement for their souls, creating a strong foundation for them to stand on for the rest of their lives.

But how do we father someone when we never had a father ourselves? Or maybe you’re a single-mother—is all hope lost for you?

No! God takes your situation personal! He rises up and declares,

“And I will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Cor 6:18 ESV

So now we can say,

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.” Psalm 27:10 ESV

My life is a testament of this. My father died, and a few years later I was cursed and cut off by my mother. I felt like I had nothing. Just pain and brokenness and fear. I still remember lying in my studio apartment in Gainesville months before graduating college frozen in fear—terrified of the future, overwhelmed by the feeling of being alone and powerless.

But in my suffering, I was found by the One who suffered for us all!

Tweet: But in my suffering, I was found by the One who suffered for us all!

Like a nobleman beckoning an orphan off the street, He called my name. Smiling and wavering a nail-pierced hand, He said,

“Weary one, come! Do you not know My Father is a father to the fatherless? Take heart; He will surely receive you. Come to me, and I will give you rest.”

So on this Father’s Day, I want to speak on behalf of Heaven and say to you:

If you’ve never had a good father—if you’re an orphan-at-heart—you are blessed!

Why? Because God takes your situation personally. He will not stand for it. He has pronounced Himself a defender of orphans and widows. He will come, and make Himself real to you. He’ll pour out an extra measure of grace, blessing and revelation onto you for all your troubles. You will come to know for yourself how great His love is.

When God comforts you—when God steps in to love you— it becomes a witness for all to see! Yes, you will be blessed! Because if God fixes something, don’t you know it’s ends up better than if it had never been broken at all?

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

The Man on the Bus

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by AJ Hall

The people were amazed at His teaching, because He [Jesus] taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

Mark 1:22 


I sat down on the bus after a long day of classes. It was my first semester at the University of Florida and I hadn’t been sleeping well. My father was dying. And this harsh reality did not make adjusting to freshman year any easier. Drugs and alcohol whisked me away at night. But grief visited me again each day. I was really hurting. I think I might have smoked my weight in cigarettes that day, as I attempted to be a good student and stay for all my classes.

I had always been a hardcore partier, and extremely compulsive, but my current state of depression caused me to be over the top with my addictions.

The bus was crowded. People kept pouring in. I noticed a young African-American man sit down in the row in front of me. Psychologists say you size-up and form an opinion about someone within seconds of meeting them. For this guy, I thought he looked fairly cool—sort of a successful type dude, maybe somebody I could relate too. I don’t know why I remember thinking this. But he struck me as cool.

My initial impression of the man made what happened next all the more unbelievable. Moments into our bus ride, this guy turns around and looks at me. He looked a little nervous. He said,

“Hey man, I don’t normally do this. I am not trying to be weird or anything. But I feel like I need to tell you: ‘God loves you'”

Now, let me stop right here and say something: if you’re a Christian, you’ve probably heard that statement a thousand times. To you, “God loves you” might even seem played out. But these words were anything but cliche to me. I hadn’t grown up around Evangelical Christianity. I had never heard anything like that before. Nor had I ever heard somebody use “God talk” with such conviction.

There was something about this young man. Something genuine. More than his words, it was the way he said it—this intangible, yet very felt, dynamic behind his words. Like a power of some kind.

I imagine this is what the Bible is speaking about when it says…


The people were amazed at His teaching, because He [Jesus] taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.”

Mark 1:22 


 

I was deeply impacted by the kindness shown to me by this young man. I’ve always been a pretty open book, so I quickly went into my dad’s situation. I told him all about the religious stuff my dad was experiencing. I told him how my family had been telling me all about it. And how I believed in God too. Then for some strange reason I blurted out:

“I know God loves me. And that’s why I think it’s no big deal to sin, you know? I mean God loves me, so I don’t think sin is that big of a deal.”

No joke. That’s what I said.

This young man was so gentle with me. He just smiled. And without skipping a beat, he said:

“Yea, God still loves you. But He doesn’t want you to sin, because sin keeps you apart from Him. And He wants you close.”

Mind-blown. I sat there speechless. What a revolutionary concept! I had never thought about it like that before: sin had a practical impact on my life. This was life-altering revelation!

My self-justification had fallen flat. Love had prevailed. I didn’t say another word.

Then the young man asked if he could pray for my dad and proceeded to pray—I had never heard anyone pray like this. He actually sounded like he was talking to somebody. It sounded like music to me—I was struck by the rhythm, and the way he referred to God as “Father God”.

Then it dawned on me: he was praying on a public bus. Not only that! A public bus packed with high-minded college students! This dude went from the unbelievable to the unthinkable.

I started to feel the looks. I could just imagine the other students sitting there rolling their eyes at this archaic display of mysticism, their “Da Vinci Code” books open in their laps.

As soon as he finished praying, the bus reached his stop. As he stood up to leave, I seriously considered whether or not this guy was an angel. I had seen enough movies to know that’s what angels do: when they’re done doing their thing, they stand up and leave all smooth like. And this guy sort of had a Denzel Washington thing going on…

Okay, so upon later consideration I’ve decided this guy most likely wasn’t an angel. He was probably just a fellow college student being obedient to God’s leading.

And that brings me to my point: This guy probably has no clue the level of impact his one act of kindness had on me. I mean I had quite an arrogant vibe back then! To him, I could of came off like I didn’t receive what he said! Little does he know he faithfully demonstrated the reality of God to me. He showed the care of Heaven for my dad. He probably doesn’t know days later I took that message to my dying father—it was my first sermon, as I shared about how God showed Himself through this boy on a bus. He doesn’t know my father’s awe and gleeful shock that a random person would ask to pray for him.

How could he know? Just one small act of kindness—just a little concern for a stranger, just a small act of obedience—could impact me so deeply that eventually one day I would leave my life of drugs, alcohol, and wild living. That this hard and haggard guy—the one reeking of cigarettes—would go on to give his life seeking to demonstrate and display the same love demonstrated to him.

So let me encourage you today: you have no idea what one act of kindness can do for somebody! And to the young man who spoke with me on a bus in Gainesville in 2003, if you ever happen to come across this article. I want you to know your act of kindness towards me was not in vain. God has used it more than you could ever know.


Now to Him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us.

Ephesians 3:20