I have The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook on my bookshelf. From parenting slip-ups to surviving the holidays with your ex and from dealing with those first awkward conversations about sex to figuring out how to level up your golf game - authors Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht have helped millions of people casually (and seriously) prepare for life’s very real and unexpected events.
I mean, there’s a lot that can change our ideas of what life is going to be like, right? We’d be devastated if we unexpectedly lost a loved one. Our anxiety would shoot through the roof if we’d lose a job or other source of income. At any age, a health diagnosis can change the entire trajectory of your life. Worst things are often bad things. Scary things. Painful things.
What do you think is the worst thing that could happen to you?
Jesus has a response: you can lose your soul.
At one point, Jesus asks, “What will you gain, if you own the whole world but destroy yourself? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Mark 8:36, CEV/NIV).
Jesus asks this question in the context of helping his disciples understand the cost of following Him to the cross and eventually to the empty tomb. Bad things will happen. Bullies will come. Beatings will be given. Breath will be withheld. Yes - and you may even be abandoned (like an eternal quarantine).
But that isn’t the worst… at least for Jesus and His disciples. The worst is to lose their spirit. Their soul. The breath of God that lives in them.
Even Jesus - on the worst day of His life when He died on the cross as an innocent man sentenced to a criminal’s death - wasn’t the worst day for Him because He knew who held his spirit.
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46, NIV).
Author and Pastor Tim Keller wrote a book titled, Counterfeit Gods. In it he defines an idol or “little-g” god as anything that we fear losing… the worst thing to happen. For some of us it might be losing a partner, spouse, or child. It might be losing income or retirement plans. It might be you being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
Those are all really, really, really bad things and would cause pain, heartache, anger, and all those things rational human fears, for sure.
Jesus says that the worst thing that could happen is to lose the hope we have in Him.
As I think about all the things that would be “the worst” things to happen… compared to losing sight that Jesus loves me and trusts me to use with everything He has given me to love Him back and others as I’ve been loved - they aren’t so bad.
Let’s continue to fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2, NIV).
In 2007, Beth and I were perusing the Compassion website searching for our first sponsor child. I'll admit it. I agreed to begin sponsoring a child through Compassion International because I thought I was doing something great for a child in a developing country.
I didn't expect it to change me.
Beth spent a semester in college studying in France. She majored in French and was endorsed to teach K-8 French and Music. (Fun fact: a few years later, she actually was about to commit to teaching in a French immersion school when we found out she was expecting our oldest son.) Beth being a Francophone lover, she was drawn to that specific area of the world. And, we both share an interest in Africana (she's still insanely jealous that I have travelled to Africa three times now).
Adissa. She's the one. Adissa lives in Burkina Faso (a Francophone country). Burkina is in West Africa - check. Done.
While Beth chose who to sponsor, I committed myself to praying for our sponsor child.
As you may know, one of the fun parts of the sponsor child program is that you can write letters back and forth. Over the years, we enjoyed receiving letters from Adissa. "Watching" her grow up from a young girl to a young woman made our hearts overflow with joy. I loved reading about what she was learning and about her family. One Christmas she shared what she received from Pere Noel (Santa Claus). I remember helping Adissa receive her first Bible. I recall the letter she sent and the feeling I had when I read that she gave her life to Jesus.
Beth wrote to Adissa. I regret not writing more than a few times.
I remember the day we were informed that Adissa "aged out" of the program.
Weird feeling flowed through my body from my head to my toes. I had never met Adissa. I knew her through Air Mail and the occasional photograph. We never celebrated any holidays together. Beth loves French. I can hardly say, "parele ou français?". But, I felt super connected to her.
I wondered if she felt the same kind of grief and change I did in that moment.
Grief and change leads us to reflect on not just why we feel what we feel, but what we're learning from what led up to those feelings.
You see, I thought I was helping a "poor girl get out of poverty" - which I may or may not have since we didn't stay connected. I started sponsoring her because I could afford giving $30 once a month to feel good and hey - Compassion was a Christian organization, so bonus!
As I think about Adissa today, I can say that God used her - our sponsor child, to change me. As I got to know Adissa, she became less of "the poor Burkina girl we're helping" and she became a part of my life. In a way that is difficult to explain, Adissa became part of our family. She is like the child we've never met. An equal. She wasn't a number of a pamphet. She was deeply loved. She had a mom and brothers whom she loved. She had a community that she loved and who loved her. And she had a sponsor who she loved - and we loved her.
Jesus said it best, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3). I like how Pastor/Author Tim Keller explains this verse in one of his sermons that I heard many years ago. He says something to the effect that while Jesus invites us to be poor in spirit, we want to be and are all too often, middle class in spirit. Middle class in spirit is the spirit of independence and self-sufficiency that led me to a self-righteous attitude that I as a "middle class Christian" can "help this poor Burkina girl". And, to a degree, in a material way, I can. Perhaps, I did.
But, what I learned is that God wanted to help her and me, together. I could give Adissa a few material things, but only God could give her what she really needed. And God could only give me what I needed. I needed to become poor in spirit.
Here's the point: God knew we both needed the same things... love. Grace. Community. Compassion. Acceptance. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Gentleness. Faithfulness. Self-Control. These are things $30 a month cannot buy here in America or in Burkina.
To sum it up - both Adissa and I needed more of Jesus and less of ourselves. And only by God's grace were we both able to receive what we needed. Truly, blessed are the poor in spirit... for we experience the kingdom of God, together.
Fast forward a decade.... Beth and I continue to sponsor children all over the world, including Pilar in Indonesia through Compassion. We love it.
Here's what I've learned: There are children right here in our own neighborhoods and communities who need the same love and care that I was praying for Adissa to experience over 5,600 miles away.
There are thousands of Adissa's walking the streets in my neighborhood. In my son's classroom. Hanging out in the mall. Strolling through the grocery store with their adults.
God is already at work in the hearts of the Adissa's everywhere. Rich and poor. Burkina's and Americans. So as much as we love continuing to sponsor children (and it's a very good thing!), I have learned the greatest things in this world can not be purchased or sponsored - but they're only given when one life changes another life through the bond of Jesus Christ.
Adissa - if you by chance ever read this... thank you for being the hands and feet of Jesus to teach me a part of what it means to be poor in spirit.
In case you missed it, here is my conversation with Bob Goff. It has inspired me to just go love people. Not always easy... but, simple. Practical. It's a transformational experience for me and other people. And let's be honest... looking at our own lives along with people in our neighborhoods, communities, and world - we all need it.
Jesus says it best: love one another as I have loved you (John 15:12).
What did our conversation with Bob inspire you to do? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or text me at 253.260.5753 and let me know.
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Epiphany is the ongoing experience of becoming aware of Jesus.
We often times think of how the Magi are made aware of King Jesus and chose to not return to King Herod and go a different way.
The Gospels tell us that as Jesus grows up, people have "epiphanies" all the time as they see and experience Jesus as He…
Jesus is always with you (Emmanuel!)... caring for you... loving you... So, stand up and shine, because your Light has come and the presence of God is being made known by surrounding you, everywhere! (Isaiah 60:1, My Translation).
How can you help others have an “epiphany experience”, today? Check out this video to find out.
So, why spend time with Bob?
See you Sunday! Love you!
Meet Pastor Tim
Tim Bayer has served as Our Savior's Lead Pastor since September 2019. He also serves as an Adjunct Instructor at Concordia University - Irvine, a National Leadership Facilitator and Resource, and a Community Mental Health First Aid Instructor.