I don’t really believe in Jesus…

I don’t really believe in Jesus. I wonder sometimes if anyone does.

I have the privilege of teaching third grade boys’ Sunday school at my church in Birmingham. It is more often than not the highlight of my week. I love the ridiculousness of a little boy. I love fart jokes and stories about getting to the 11th level of Super Mario Brothers and how “one time, my little brother swallowed a Quarter…”

And I love to hear the heart of an 8-year old when he prays.

I love to share the gospel with kids who don’t judge me for not knowing all the words to the Lord’s Prayer: Our Father, Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day, our daily bread, and forgive our temptations… um… and let us forgive… the people who trespass on our… HEY! Who wants some Goldfish crackers?

Fact is, I feel closest to my beliefs and most sure of my own understanding of God in my life when I am reminding 8-year olds about how real He is in theirs. Our class motto is: God is in control, and He loves us… so, chill out. They might not learn the Lord’s Prayer on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am, but every last one of them can recite this essential truth on demand.  It’s a beautiful thing. So simple and yet so very powerful… if we believe.

As much as I love cutting up and laughing and playing hangman and throwing balled-up paper cups at the trashcan for “bonus points,” it can be pretty frustrating when it’s time to get serious. When it’s time to “meet with Jesus.”

A couple of weeks ago,  I got particularly frustrated during worship time. The boys were out of control; giving each other wet-willies and wedgies… chasing the 4th grade girls… chasing the 1st grade boys… jumping up and down and doing EVERYTHING but worship. They were just acting like third-graders, but still… For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them… right?

When we got back to the classroom, I let ’em have it. I laid into them about how they just missed out on a “unique and legitimate meeting with Jesus.” After spending the next three and a half minutes explaining what “legitimate” means, I got back to my tongue-lashing:

“The Bible tells us that ‘where two or three come together in Jesus’ name, He’ll show up…’ do you guys believe that? Do you, really?”

I asked each of the boys to call out the name of a celebrity or athlete they wanted to meet. I heard names like Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, J.K. Rowling and “the guy who invented paintball guns…” I asked them if they’d be excited if I could get Michael Jordan to come to class the next week. They got wide-eyed and squealy at the thought of actually getting to sit next to the lady who created Harry Potter.

“What if the Bible promised, ‘where two of more gather to talk about basketball, Michael Jordan will be there, also’?” After a few laughs, it started to make sense… We’re missing out on a chance to meet with our Savior!

I came clean very quickly that I am guilty of unbelief, too. I mean, if I really believed that I was going to meet with Jesus on Sundays, would I ever be late to church? Would I ever dwell on anything but that next “unique and legitimate meeting with Jesus”? No way. None of us would… if we really believed. Think about it: if it was announced on the radio or television or on Twitter or Facebook that Bono or Nick Saban or even the guy who invented paintball guns was going to be at (insert place of worship here) on (insert date here) at (insert time here), would any of us be late? Would any of us NOT pay attention to what they had to share? Would any of us decide to stand at the coffee bar at church instead of RUNNING with all our might to get a good seat?

Some “rabid fans” would probably be waiting at the church doors hours before they even opened just to make extra-certain-sure they didn’t miss a single second of what was about to happen.

With tears in my eyes, I shared with my class that instead of anticipating my unique and legitimate meeting with Christ, that morning I had yelled at my kids, been angry with my wife and spent at least 10 times as long thinking about what shirt I was going to wear than the fact that I was about to experience Jesus.

Of course I believe in Jesus. I believe He lived for me, died for me and rose again to go prepare my place with Him in heaven. I believe that. But how often do I forget that I can be with Him here, too. I can go to Him in prayer. I can look to Him throughout His Word. I can reflect on Him through meditation and song… and I can meet with Him… uniquely and legitimately through corporate worship “where two or three are gathered in His name…”

I can’t wait to meet with Him and celebrate with Him this week…  Easter.

Gosh, that’s just 108 hours, 7 minutes and 29 seconds from right now!

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7 Comments

  1. Excellent, Excellent and Excellent…and some bad/ good news…I think I gave them that same tongue lashing 2 years ago, that is the bad news. In fact, God, in a much more loving way, gives me that tongue lashing everyday so I guess more bad news…then what is the good news? Jesus loves us, made us, gave us ideas for wet willies and running around and chasing things and he still speaks to us even in those crazy times and he loves us no less. What an amazing God we serve, even when we sometimes are not serving at all.

    I hope that all makes sense. In short, you are giving your 3rd graders, and yourself, life lessons that they, and you, will keep forever! Thank you for sharing yourself that way.

  2. Billy Ivey, I love your sweet heart. That made me cry.
    Happy Easter to you and your gang. : )

  3. Hey Billy. I stumbled upon you and your blog via Twitter. I hope you haven’t quit Twitter because this kind of reading encourages me. Definitely some wisdom in your words. Seems you have come a long way since SU. Happy Easter.

  4. @billy I had virtually the same experience two weeks ago with the “youth” at the church plant. I was very annoyed that I had been pouring into them for 8 weeks, missing worship to hang out with them on Sunday nights and they were behaving like goons in the presence of God. I am learning how hard it is to constantly and repetitively be forgiving, how difficult it is to be broken with kids, and that true repentance is like heart surgery while awake.

    @john right on.

  5. uhm, billy what is cindy saying? i mean, geographically you may be been a long way since su, but now you are back in the hood.

    i’m supposed to teach this sunday. come take it, please.

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