Have you seen the movie Sliding Doors? You know, the one starring Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah in the late 90’s? If you haven’t, let me give you guys a refresher (although you can always read the detailed plot on Wikpedia!). There’s a woman, and she makes a decision to board a train. After a few minutes of plot, the film ‘rewinds’ back to the point where she is about the board the train, and then she misses the train. The basic premise of the movie, is that we are shown two ‘lives’ of the woman, and we are glimpsed into how very different the outcome can be had different choices were made. Now while I won’t get into detail about nature v nurture, and whether the person you are right now is a product of your genes or your choices or your environment you live in or what you believe, or a combination of any one of what I mentioned; what I will say is this. While Sliding Doors does teach us, that yes certain choices have different ramifications; I believe that even if you make certain choices which are dumb, silly, stupid, or insane; you can still turn around and make better ones. There is a choice to change for the better. There are life changing choices and there are choices we make every day without even thinking (what to eat, what to say or not say in front of friends etc)- and one such choice was confronted to me last week, with its decision maybe having far reaching ramifications for the future.
See I was in the middle of writing my review of Matthew West’s All In deluxe edition last week (‘of which you can read right here!) when it hit me. Why did I even bother with this? I mean, Jon had already written a 5-star review for the album way back in October- was my viewpoint really necessary? Then it dawned on me later, after the review was published. It was the reason I love this album so much. And the reason is that the crux of the message of Matthew going all in for Jesus, and whole-heartedly declaring Jesus as His Lord and Saviour, in such a public forum; was almost unheard of. Sure, artists who are Christian ply their trade and minister to the spaces and places God has called them to; but to public say to the masses, and everyone who buys and listens to their CD ‘I’m going all in, head first to the deep end, I hear you calling, this time fear won’t win’, is a very scary notion, and a notion that isn’t seen often enough, and when it is, it’s not that overt. In truth, we’re all like this. Proud to be a Christian, but too afraid to voice it aloud, too afraid to show our friends and family the truth of Jesus Christ, especially if they do not share the same beliefs as us.
What if people see me differently when I say I’m a Christian, when I say I’m an active Christian, when I say that I’m totally on fire for Jesus, and that He is my Lord, my Saviour, my Redeemer and my Refuge? While I have said in previous blogs here and here that the road called the Christian life is hard, but one that is ultimately promising of eternity with Jesus; I for one haven’t been practicing what I have been preaching- there have been numerous times when God has shown me miracles, but I haven’t gone on and shared these testimonies with others, haven’t told people about the good news. Sure, I am a Christian, and even though growing up in a Christian family, I made the decision for myself in the mid 90’s- and I will keep saying it and proclaiming it to the day that I die; but previously I haven’t been as active as I should have been, I haven’t been on fire for God as I should have been, and I haven’t been as ‘all in’ as I should have been.
Matthew West is a brilliant singer, songwriter and a storyteller, but more than that- on All In, and practically his entire discography, he encourages us all to be more active in our faith. Talk about Jesus with our friends more, do bible study at home with the family, learn more about the bible in our life groups; but I believe most importantly Matthew encourages us- and has encourage me- to find and identify my ‘all in’ story, and share it with whomever I want to who I reckon would be inspired by my story. The day that I became ‘all in’ for Jesus, my salvation day, isn’t really a day per se. But for me, rather it was a gradual process, of unpacking gems and treasures in the bible, learning more and more about my Creator, discovering more about what Jesus means to me, and overall making decisions and living life that glorifies Him. Miracles along the way helped me see that God has been and still is moving in my life though, as Jon and I were born 3 months premature, and spent multiple months in hospital, while Jesus also saved me from brain haemorrhaging when I was a baby as well. When I was 2 years old, I apparently crawled out onto the road with many cars about- and because I’m still breathing, I know that I’m alive right now, because God has a purpose for me. I could go on and on about all the miracles and signs and wonders God has shown me, that has led me to now proclaim that I am ‘all in’ for Him- although I will leave that to another post- but instead let me say that if you really want to pinpoint a date for me, of the day I decided to really follow Jesus, to really live for Him no matter what- it would only be this year. It would only be really…last week Sunday. Sunday 30th June 2018.
So…was I not even a Christian before then? Nope, I was a Christian, I was definitely on fire for Jesus. But something inside me shifted last week Sunday when I watched the 2015 film Do You Believe, and that totally turned my life upside down- made me want to be more of an active Christian- a Christian that participated in life rather than just sat and watched from the sidelines. It’s a movie that I reckon everyone should watch. And I mean everyone, because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you will be changed by this. That’s how profound I believe the film is (it’s one of the best Christian films I have ever seen!)- and as the film progresses, and we are invited in the lives of 12 strangers, who responded to a very direct question in many different ways; it was the question that threw me a bit off guard.
The question presented by the pastor was ‘Do you believe in the cross of Jesus Christ?’, a simple enough question, but a question that has far reaching implications. Naturally, most of us Christians would say ‘yes’ (including myself), but what then? Is our lifestyle and our actions channelling the change we say has occurred? On Sunday night and all throughout Monday I felt God asking me a whole host of questions afterwards, but I ignored them, until a couple of days later. God seemed to be saying ‘You say you believe, but do you really?’. And then I thought, and I thought. If I really believe in Jesus Christ then is there change in me? If we think the good news is actually good news that the whole wide world needs to hear, why aren’t we telling anyone about it? Why aren’t we being Jesus to the local and wider community, for those who really need it? Are we saying one thing, and then doing another, like humans are so prone to doing? Are we telling our friends our ‘all in’ story and being the light in the world of darkness? And I opening up to customers, employees, friends, those around me in the shopping centre where the café is- ministering to the people there and being Jesus to even the least of these, where the situation allows it? I’d like to think so, but maybe I haven’t been as much as I should.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty, and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’
There’s an album (apart from All In) that I have been totally impacted by recently- and for similar reasons. King Of Fools by Delirious? was released just over 20 years ago, and I reckon the music, and especially the lyrics, hold up today, in terms of enjoyability, relevance and relatability as well. Lead singer Martin Smith had a severe car accident in 1995, and it was that time in his hospital bed, where Martin made the ‘all in’ decision of being serious with the band- so he called up the remaining four members, started recording the band’s debut album on a label; and the rest is history. Now when you read and analyse the lyrics of many of the songs from King Of Fools, especially the title track, “History Maker”, “Deeper”, “All The Way”, “Sanctify” and “August 30th”; these songs are very focused, and speak profoundly about Martin’s desire and longing to be on fire for Jesus, and to be a vessel for everything He is doing. Even on a Christian album, for a debut album to read the lyrics of ‘…and the wonder of it all, is that I’m living just to fall more in love with You…’ (“Deeper”) as well as ‘…I’m gonna be a history maker in this land, I’m gonna be a speaker of truth to all mankind, I’m gonna stand, I’m gonna run, into Your arms, into Your arms again…’ (“History Maker”), was probably almost unheard of back in the day. Even now though, while a Christian album most of the time says ‘Yes I believe in God’, I reckon the problem with quite a lot of Christian songs right now, is that is stops there. Yes there is faith, but where is the action that naturally pours out and flows from the faith? James 2: 14-26 summarises that faith without works is dead- and this is I reckon the basis for quite a lot of songs on Delirious? album, and Matthew West’s for that matter. ‘Thank you Jesus for ___, and now because of ___, I can do ___ to show the world Your love!’ For that reason alone, and the fact that Delirious? were bold as a Christian band, and ahead of their time- and this is why King Of Fools forever will be my favourite album from Delirious? ever!
After watching Do You Believe last Sunday and then making an active choice to follow Jesus more whole heartedly than ever before; I am not sure what will happen in the future in terms of my career and generally everything else. There are a few questions I still think about though. If I was more on fire for Jesus back then as I am now, would I have lived a different life aka like Sliding Doors? It’s something I try not to think about though, and instead I am looking to the future. With everything God has given me and the things He is leading me towards; I am hopeful, and I pray that I can build His kingdom everywhere I go- showing His love to all I meet and loving those around me even when it’s hard. With my strength alone, it’s impossible to love the least of these. But with God- with me going ‘all in’, I am 100% certain that by going deeper and by going all the way, I will be a history maker in the future. A life as fearless as Martin Smith and as Matthew West have both lived it so far is admirable, and one that I am striving for, and I know that if I stay true to what God has called me to, He will ensure that His plans will prosper, and they will be for His glory and my good.
Are you ‘all in’ for Jesus? I mean, really ‘all in’? If not, why don’t you watch Do You Believe? And then listen to All In and also King Of Fools! All these three things will change your life. Go on!
Now…do you believe me? Are you changed yet?
See you all next time! I pray you all have a blessed week!