The following is an excerpt from my friend Jen Hatmaker's latest book, Ms. Understood. I have already read it twice (and it hasn't been out a month) and highlighted the tar out of it! There are so many words of wisdom that have impacted me from this book that I couldn't begin to write them all. (Bottom line, you all need to go buy it and read it! http://www.amazon.com/Ms-Understood-Rebuilding-Feminine-Equation/dp/1600062164/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1215385726&sr=8-1) But for now, here is one passage that particular grabbed my attention. I am not quite sure how God intends to have me process and flesh this out yet, but needless to say, I'm listening God...
I'll never forget the day that Christ walked me through His conversation with Peter (see John 21), asking me the same questions.
"Jen, do you love Me?"
This seemed aggravating, and I responded a little like Peter did: "Of course I do! Come on, Jesus! This is ME you're talking to! If I don't love You, then I should quit this ministry thing and get a job that makes real money. Let's move on to a real topic."
"Feed My lambs."
Hmmm. "I do feed them. I feed them spiritually," I said a little woundedly.
"Jen, do you love Me?"
What WAS this? Was He possibly saying the zillions of hours I ministered weren't enough? What was going on here? What was happening? What was this conversation? I expected it to end after my first answer. I said, "Jesus, I DO love You! Isn't it obvious? Do You honestly not think I love You? Why are you asking this?"
"Take care of My sheep."
"Don't I?! Do I not care for their souls and nourish them with Your Word? Has my whole life not been spent on Your church?" Now I'm bawling, because I was scared. I sensed that Jesus was about to rock my life. He and I hadn't spoken like this before.
"Jen, do you love Me?"
At this point, I freaked out. I was handling the gospel exactly like I thought I should. I studied it, taught it, wrote about it, breathed it. I constantly counseled, hugged, challenged, and loved women. We'd made so many sacrifices for ministry that I could not wrap my head around this conversation. If these didn't indicate my love for Christ, then I had no idea what to do.
"You're scaring me, Lord. If I am not Your disciple, then nothing is true in the whole world. I love You, and I serve Your people seven days a week. I cannot understand this! What is going on?"
"Feed My sheep."
"I feed their souls."
"Yes, but twenty-four thousand of My sheep will die today because no one fed their hungry bellies. Eighteen thousand of My littlest lambs will die in their mothers' arms today, starved in a world of plenty. My true disciples engage the suffering world."
My life changed in that moment. Jesus interrupted my comfortable world of pop-Christianity and enlisted me in the cause of my generation, the mission of His true church. Hunger, poverty, orphans, widows, oppression, war-- these are not metaphors in Scripture. As Jesus' brother told us, "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such a faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?' (James 2:14-16).
Jesus said that His gospel was good news for the poor, sick, orphaned, and oppressed because His people would be His hands and feet.
... How will we answer one day if we fail to intercede? "God, we didn't know"? "We didn't have any resources"? "We were overwhelmed"? "We didn't think You were serious"?
- pg. 179-180, Ms. Understood by Jen Hatmaker
The crazy part is (and of course God works this way), I had just finished studying that passage from James (towards the end of the excerpt from her book) and had recognized for the first time that the "good deeds" or "good works" that he is referring to are acts of benevolence-- not just fleshing out your spiritual gifts within the church.
So, for me, if I serve in the teaching ministry at our church because that is one of my gifts, that is NOT what James is talking about. He gives us a very real example right there in the passage-- food and clothes to those in need... meeting physical needs. Faith without those kinds of "deeds" is no faith at all.
Oh Lord, I tremble as I pray this, but would you grow Andy and I in this area of faith-in-action, outside of the church, to the hungry, thirsty, sick, stranger, oppressed, poor... whatever you desire. Just like Jen, I too am scared. The whole idea is stretching and intimidating. Just help us find what You have set aside for us to walk in (outside the church) and then strengthen us to pursue it, even as we continue to serve you within your church.