The World Itself Could Not Contain
One of my all-time favorite Bible verses is John 21:25. It closes out the last and perhaps most poetic Gospel:
Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
The first thing that comes to mind is an abundance of beautifully-bound books. I picture a library – the largest library anyone has ever seen, complete with tall windows and a lot of spiral staircases. I see rolling ladders at various heights and worn-in, well-loved green couches drowning in eclectic pillows and throws. The aroma of tea and coffee is almost obnoxious and the place just crawling with kittens, which is weird because I’m indifferent to cats.
As much as I am a visual person with the utmost appreciation for atmospheres, the beauty of where these books reside is not nearly as important or as beautiful as the content inside. And I love that God allows the beauty to exist in both realms: the physical and the spiritual. The stories oozing with spiritual beauty are about his physically and spiritually beautiful humans and Himself - a physically and spiritually beautiful God. And these spiritually beautiful stories live inside physically beautiful books, in physically beautiful spaces, in any and every part this physically beautiful world that is inhabited by aforementioned physically beautiful people.
Perhaps the most beautiful thing about it all is our invitation to participate. What an honor - what an honor to be blessed with both physical and spiritual gifts. Gifts that allow us to participate and play in and for such remarkable beauty. What a pleasure that we are given these gifts with the purpose to create and tell stories, and how beautiful it is that we delight in this as well. What freedom it is to know there is not just one way to tell stories. That’s the thing about the arts and being creative: art can morph to take up many different forms. The media available to us exceeds far beyond what it used to – it exceeds far beyond written documentation, spoken word and song. Those forms of storytelling are still popular and successful even today and are (obviously) noted in the Bible. However, when we get to the library previously described (I’m convinced the library will be in Heaven), there will be more than literature, music and places to talk and listen to one another. The library will overflow with stories of God seen in books, paintings, illustrations, films, photographs, sculptures, drawing, fibers, tapestries, music, posters and more. Our creative endeavors are attempts to explain physically, what is happening spiritually. Our stories of God’s character and actions are attempts to praise and glorify Him.
If God is always doing something, and the platforms of storytelling that exist are endless, we have no excuse to not tell every part of every story God writes on us every minute of every day.
The following are stories from a Sunday in December we felt God call us to go to the Huntington Beach Pier and pray for those passing-by. We had an abundance of hot chocolate, coffee, Christmas cards, candy canes, and love to give freely. We had a guitar and voices that couldn’t not sing about God’s character. We went in pairs. We met people that desperately needed to hear that Jesus is alive and loves them, and some people who couldn’t bear to listen. We met people confused as to why we would decide to spend a Sunday afternoon handing out free coffee and hot chocolate, no catch. We met up with old friends and we were introduced to new ones. We hugged, we cried, and we exchanged information. We laid hands on the sick and the injured and declared healing in Jesus’ name. We cared for our neighbors without a roof over their head. We sat with people and met them where they were at. We declared anxiety, loneliness, fear, depression, chaos and anything less than what God has for us, gone in Jesus’ name. We celebrated with those excited about life and we mourned with those struggling with death. We prayed short and sweet prayers and we prayed big and impossible prayers. We operated as a family unit and as the Body.
But the things we did was just participation. It was just a physical response to what God was telling and showing us spiritually. We were physically obedient and were met with an overflow of His Spirit. The stories of what happened, physically and spiritually, on this day are abundant.
These are just a few:
“As far as love in action goes, God has been teaching me immeasurable amounts on putting the convictions on my heart, and the perspective He’s given me into action. A vision He gave me moving to Southern California involved myself as well as a few others praying for people everywhere. On the pier, on the shore of the ocean, on sidewalks and streets and it was some of the most beautiful fellowship I’d seen. I hadn’t stepped out much in boldness yet, it’s almost as if my humanity needed a bit of a push. He’d trusted me with dreams and visions, but I was a tad reluctant at first, because I thought I had to “be” ____ enough to step out. But He kept reminding me over and over again, I didn’t need to “be” anything, to do anything for Him. He’d use me right where I was at. I had just gotten back from leading some girls at a retreat when Jessi texted me to meet the Body at HB pier and I knew immediately this is what I’d been asking for. I got into town from San Diego and headed right over.
Honestly, there was nothing crazy profound about what we did, by praying for people and worshipping on the pier. It should be a normal thing. To pull people together relentless in prayer and step out in boldness when it comes to encouraging one another, loving one another, and just being a force that disrupts the flow of peoples every day. It was simple. The simple gospel. Singing over those walking by, that the Spirit fall afresh upon His people. It was shifting the atmosphere, and it was nothing us humans could’ve done. We just showed up to be a part of what He wanted to do that day, and we may never see the fruit, but it was something we should want to do every day, is exist in the way Jesus did. Regardless of schedules and work and school and homework, He lives in the routine as well as the spontaneity of our lives, as long as we let Him in both worlds.”
“Jesus says ‘…the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.’ Matt. 11:12. This verse disturbs me. It disturbs be because in a lot of ways I want to see Jesus bring the Kingdom here on earth in a way that makes everyone comfortable. I don’t want to stir up the pot. But deep in me I know there is no other way. For us to receive new life the journey to receive it has to be disruptive. Shake us from our old thought patterns and lies we have been deceived thinking are true. What happened on the pier for me was violent.
It all started with a simple gesture of asking two massive burley looking biker guys if they wanted coffee or hot chocolate. Before I could even finish, they said no. Still, I was interested in them, I introduced myself and then asked them their names.
One responded simply with “John.” I asked the other “And what about you?”
He had sunglasses on and avoided looking my direction and said nothing. Uncomfortable with making others uncomfortable, and feeling that they wanted me to leave, I left them alone. I quickly said ,“Nice to meet you both, enjoy your evening.”
As I turned away I heard the no-name man, barely mumble, “I know what you are.” I almost did a double take because I was so taken back by what I thought I heard. I was shocked. I thought I must have been hearing things. But again, already being uncomfortable with the whole situation I didn’t want to bug them anymore.
After that encounter, I couldn’t shake it. I kept thinking about what just happened. It distracted me so much it was hard to even be present with my Salt family. So, I just began to pray. “Jesus I am so distracted with what just happened. What should I do?” I felt him say “Start walking and pray to the end of the pier.” Boom. Ok, let’s go!
So, I took Josh with me and we just started to walk the pier looking out for people that God might highlight. We stopped somewhere in the middle. No one was really sticking out and I began to question why God had us walking out there all the more; still consumed by the thought of those two guys. As we watched the sun go down, I turned around to search the sea of people for anyone that seemed to stick out, and of course, guess who is less than ten yards away, right in my face. Yep, the good ol’ burley biker guys. I could feel within me the desire to avoid them at all cost. I didn’t want them to think I was following them. But really, they were behind us so were they following me? No matter, my mind racing with all the thoughts. I still didn’t want to interact with them - especially based off the way our last conversation went. So we moved right along as I tried to keep a distance between us and them. Every time we walked, they walked. But every time we stopped, they stopped.
Finally, at the end of the pier we watched the surf as the final light left the horizon. And as I paused, I heard the Father say “You need to talk to them again…”
My heart started to race. Everything in me started to tingle. Within me, my response was “What?! No way - did you see what happened last time? What do I say? I’m just going to antagonize them if I just try and hang around them. I’ll just piss them off.” I tried to ignore the voice of God, but knowing what He was asking felt like a magnetic force pulling me to what needed to happen. And I felt the more I resisted, the stronger it got.
I resisted so hard that I began to walk the opposite direction of them and all of sudden I felt the Lord say “STOP! Listen to me.”
Then it was so simple: He said, “I love him so much.”
I knew I needed to tell him. So, I turned around and made a b-line straight for them.
I said “Guys, I just can’t shake it and the Lord continues to bring you to my mind. Jesus wants you to know how much He loves you. He is crazy about you. Can I pray for you guys?”
The no-name guy started to back away as I came up to them and said “Get away from me, I know what you are” again under his breath. John, his friend, just laughed.
I abruptly responded with, "What did you just say? What is your guys’ deal?”
John responded by saying, “We don’t want to talk to you or receive prayer from you.”
I asked again, “Ok but why does your friend not want to even look at me? Have I offended you guys in some way?”
“Not me but yes, him.” John said. No-name had his back turned away from me.
“Ok, what have I done?”
“He just doesn’t like your kind of people?”
“What does that mean?”
He said, “Religious people.” I had a quick response about not being religious, and that I just follow Jesus.
I ended with “...but I am sorry for anything that has happened to you by people that call themselves Christian.”
John finally said, “Dude, you should just go. You’re pissing him off.”
I backed off and we parted ways. After it was all said and done, I was shocked, I’ve never been so confrontational. But, I also have never felt such a fierce passion for someone. I felt like I needed to get to the no-name man. I didn’t care how uncomfortable it made me feel or them feel. I could feel the Fathers’ violent heart for ‘the one’. He needed to know that the Father is coming after him. I have never experienced anything like that before. It wasn’t a mushy-gushy ending, but it was real and raw. It was God pushing back enemy lines to take back His children. It was also God pushing me outside myself, I asked myself “Do I truly want to see Kingdom come? Is my love for others worth dying to your people pleasing issues?”
Only God could orchestrate such a real and raw story. Only with God, could there be such a righteous disturbance. Jesus violently loves us, and He will do whatever it takes. Though we don’t know what happened to John and the no-name man, I believe and hope that God is stirring something up in them. That this encounter was only the beginning…”
Orange County, CA
***stories contributed by Dasia Olivares and Joe Ferguson