Opportunities: In the Dark

 
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Both Hope campuses started a three-week series today, “Opportunities.” Part 1 of this series was entitled In the Dark. Pastor Jeff in Voorhees opened with the question, “How receptive are you when an opportunity presents itself?” Whether in a personal, business or spiritual setting, some folks embrace it while others shy away. In the dark represents those folks who either hide in the shadows or don’t want to be seen participating when an opportunity becomes available.

In the Bible, Peter tells us to Be Ready (1 Peter 3;15-16) when someone asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. Speak gently and respectfully. Pastor Jeff advised that part of being ready is being active in your faith and prayer life. When the opportunity arises, speak with clarity and confidence.

Some tend to think of sharing your faith as some Bible-toting evangelism or something that only folks biblically trained should do. We may also shy away fearing the current cultural trend of aggression and hostility during religious conversations.

We assume that only the down-trodden need our sharing. Pastor Jeff assured us that the “darkness” that we all feel about sensitive things affects everyone regardless of their status in life. People need the Word of God in their lives but may not get it because they fear to be seen in church. Hence our need to address faith wherever the opportunity arises; whether that be in a pub, diner, on the beach or on your back deck. Remember when two or more are gathered in His name, good things occur.

Just last Friday, I was having a conversation with my best friend whom I have known for over 40 years. He shared the story below which was a revelation to me after all these years. It’s so amazing how this just coincided with today’s sermon. I used to think happenings like this was sheer coincidence. I tend to see the Holy Spirit’s Hand in these “coincidences” more often these days.

The long-term power of one invitation

Emanuel's parents dutifully had him baptized just like they took care of all his medical immunizations. Unfortunately, they didn't see a need for corporate worship. They made sure that he had the best public education possible, but they dismissed the need for weekly religious education.

One day an elementary school aged buddy of Emanuel’s, Paul, asked him why he was never seen in church. Emanuel didn't have a good answer, but he did say yes when invited not only to attend church with Paul but participate in youth activities. That invite led to after school classes, activities and eventually to first communion and confirmation.

When Emanuel was entering high school, his family moved to a developing suburb. One of those spacious areas where a car was necessary. Emanuel's father passed away soon after moving. Since his dad was the only driver in the family, Emanuel and his mom were dependent on others for rides. Emanuel's desire to attend church made him seek and find rides to church each week. That commitment extended through high school, college and all his adult life.

We often wonder about turning points in our lives. We often underplay the influence we have on others. Knowing Emanuel for decades, I know that he has maintained his commitment to his faith. That commitment allowed him to connect to a woman who was strongly faith based. Their union raised three children and six grandchildren. Emanuel was a teacher and coach. I'm positive his Christian background played a role in how he treated children and accepted the worth of everyone.

So, what if his friend Paul didn't ask or invite? What if that seed wasn't planted and bloomed while Emanuel was still within walking distance of his original church? Every Christian should realize that every good act, no matter how small, every invite no matter how simple may be the one event that leads a life towards Christ. When one heart is turned towards heaven, everyone he/she influences benefits.

Who can you influence this week? Don't underestimate your power.

Jim Randazzo

 
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