Tonight I met a man named Peter while doing bible study in a Starbucks. He was standing a few inches away from me looking at the newspaper stand to my left when he looked over and saw my bible open. He said “Oh I see you are doing something with scripture”. I replied with a smile “yes, I am. I’m just doing some devotions and studying”. I got nervous for a second because his eyes widened and I thought maybe I didn’t say the right thing, but to my surprise he started telling me about his experiences with God and his faith. Peter is a catholic, and he mentioned that early on in the conversation. I must say that, being a non-denominational Christian, I was a little nervous that he would start judging my faith. I think that fear came from a very stereotypical place in my heart, and I must say that I don’t think I’ll ever go into another conversation with that sort of judgement on my heart.
Peter was very open with me. He is 63 years old, but the way we connected had nothing to do with age, and everything to do with the Lord. That sort of open conversation about the Lord with a complete stranger brought me a lot of hope. Sitting in that Starbucks I felt isolated and like maybe I was the only believer around. Needless to say, I actually had a few different interactions with people who noticed my studying and it was pleasant. I realized how important it is to open yourself and to give a listening ear. It really gives you the chance to speak into people and build that sort of open and honest communication.
A lot of the things Peter said and believed were things that I say and believe, and I began to wonder…what makes us so different?
I have to admit that I do not know a lot about Catholicism, but this conversation tonight made me want to learn about and understand different denominations of Christianity…..after all we are one body of Christ, right?
We talked about God opening and closing doors of opportunity, the Holy Spirit, Jesus and His disciples & more. What really stood out to me was how devoted Peter is to God. He mentioned going to mass and prayer almost four times on Sundays. I can relate because I go to three different church services on most Sundays on top of many other things at my church throughout the week. Peter also said that he left everything he had and traveled across the world to join a Catholic monastery just to see if that is where he was supposed to be. It turns out that it wasn’t something he felt God was calling him to, so he came back. Peter said that one of the best things that came from that situation was that he lost the attachment to his things and it made him more willing to give things up and not hold on so tightly to the things of this life, which of course translated into his spiritual life as well.
In one of my plans that I was studying on the Bible App, maybe twenty minutes before Peter and I began having this conversation, I was learning about being selfless and being Jesus’ disciple. In Luke 9:23 Jesus says that if anyone desires to be His disciple they must deny themselves and take up their cross. Denying ourselves is a hard thing to do because essentially we are giving up our “right” to ourselves to the One who made us. It is obedience. We struggle so much with obedience to God because, as humans, we tend to put ourselves first in everything. It is always about our feelings, our thoughts and opinions, or what we think is right. Having this sort of mind-set is the reason it is so hard to just say YES to God. Here is an excerpt from the Bible plan:
“The Lord does not give me rules, but He makes His standard very clear. If my relationship to Him is that of love, I will do what He says without hesitation. If I hesitate, it is because I love someone I have placed in competition with Him, namely, myself. Jesus Christ will not force me to obey Him, but I must. And as soon as I obey Him, I fulfill my spiritual destiny.”
It was really inspiring to hear about Peter’s obedience to God even to something he only thought God wanted him to do because his heart was in the right place. After all, God is more concerned about our hearts condition than anything. 1 John 5:21 warns us to not let anything take Gods place in our hearts. There are many scriptures in the bible about the content of our hearts and their overall condition. It is important to guard our hearts and ensure that God stays at the center because that is how obedience will take place and we will produce fruit. Peter is a great example of the sort of selflessness that it requires to say yes to God, and I hope this inspires you as well.
I want to encourage you to walk boldly in your faith, and be open enough to have conversations about the Lord with complete strangers. It will bless you. Be the light in this world of darkness. Stay positive.