Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Panera Bread Jesus Party

My kids dread dental appointments; as most kids do. However, the one thing that they look forward to is going to Panera Bread for lunch. It's become sort of a tradition. It doesn't even matter that the place is packed and insanely busy. The food is awesome and the staff and atmosphere is exceptionally terrific; which is why I'm composing this post. 

Contrary to what the media likes for you to believe, there is an abundance of Christian believers living their faith out loud (and unashamedly in the public). The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was a man, wearing a Christian t-shirt, sitting at a table with another man having lunch. Ironically, my kids picked a tiny table close to these men and sat down. I told them shortly after we got our food that we probably should have sat at a bigger table for the three of us, but we decided to stay there anyways. I'm glad we did! 

It wasn't long before I noticed just how thick the place was with fellow believers in Christ. All around me, I heard mentions of God, faith, and a guy who was even mentioning the well-known Christian financial advisor Dave Ramsey. The Spirit was very strong in the room because the kids soon started having faith conversations with me too. 

As we were talking, I could hear the man in the Christian t-shirt talking about the Republican candidates for president. He mentioned that he liked Ben Carson and Scott Walker. I also heard him correctly identify the fact that Trump is getting all the publicity and the hype because he just tells it like it is and is resonating with some people because of their own frustration with the government. I agree. Who doesn't just want to run their mouth sometimes like Trump does no matter what comes out? 

I felt stirred by the Spirit to say something to this man as he went to leave. I barely had time to tell him how much I appreciated and agreed with his remarks because my kids immediately started telling him that they liked his shirt and the "More Jesus" words on the front. We learned that we both had recently married and were on the same journey of being blended families. He also shared that he is the proud father of a ten month old son and that his heart and desire for his son is for him to grow to know Christ. Amen! I couldn't agree more! I showed him the photo of Casey's baptism and Casey shared one of the verses he has memorized:  

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. - James 1:19-20 (NIV)

Gianna also shared a verse she knows (because she's had to write often when she disobeys and gets in trouble):

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother" --which is the first commandment with a promise --"so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth." - Ephesians 6:1-3 (NIV)

I was very delighted to learn that this man is Doug from the WFRN morning show. In fact, a Panera Bread employee recognized him as she was collecting dishes and heard our conversation. She had the brightest smile on her face and the light of Jesus in her eyes as she told him how excited she was to hear people talking about Christ and that she listened to his show every morning coming into work. I told her we were having a Jesus party at Panera Bread. ;) It's always an encouragement to me to encounter other strong and passionate believers like her (especially younger people her age which makes me feel hopeful about God's gospel continuing for many more generations). His love and His Word endures FOREVER! 

Taking time for a photo with Casey & Gianna
Before Doug left, he knelt down and put his hands on us to pray. I felt incredibly blessed because public boldness is something that I love to witness as well as be a part of. It is uplifting to me because even though I'm not a shy person when it comes to faith and prayer in public, some people are (I've had people say to me, at times, when I've offered them prayer: "Right now?! HERE?"). 

I know that every single one of us was blessed by this God ordained encounter. I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit touched and blessed many hearts; and in a mighty and public way! God's Spirit is STILL alive and at work, everyone! My hope is that every believer was encouraged and that every non-believer was stirred with the kind of curiosity that will compel them to start seeking Jesus. The more we live out loud and share our God stories, the more we will witness the life-changing power of God in our lives, in others, and in the world around us. It is absolutely essential that we do this so love doesn't grow cold (Matthew 24:12-13) and our brothers and sisters in the faith are especially encouraged in these last days (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I am incredibly proud of my bold, enthusiastic, and loud children who don't know how to use their indoor voices no matter how often I remind them lol. Their testimonies about God (as well as random comments about Transformers and My Little Pony lol) was likely overheard by many who were blessed by it as a result. Maybe that's another reason why that verse from James is so important. When we take more time to listen, we have more time to learn and be blessed by what we may hear. When we are quick to speak, we can sometimes be less self-controlled and our emotions can burst like a dam (not just anger, but other things as well). It can often lead to uttering words we later regret. It makes me think of Mr. Trump because even though it feels great to speak our mind, it's not always very kind or wise (Proverbs 12:18). Doug and I agreed that a good-hearted, wise, and faith driven Christian man like Mike Huckabee would be a GREAT president. He's another guy that is bold and unashamed of his faith. Just like we've witnessed today, that's something that this world needs more of! I think it MIGHT have been in a Beth Moore Bible study that I once did where she said that God won't just change your life, He'll change your day (I found this old post in the process of looking for it and wow...do I need to re-read and apply this right now! This was no accident!). Yes, Lord, please! Change our lives, change America, but also change our days! Abundant, joyful, encouraging, and blessed days are for TODAY as well as tomorrow and every day after! 

Grace and peace to you, my friends! I encourage you to pass this story along to others, as well as your own God stories too (some of Casey's is in the video below if you want to watch his testimony from church!). Please, feel free to share this post on social media for others to read. Perhaps it may refresh a fellow brother or sister who feels that there's nothing good happening in the world and they feel weakened in their faith. Share your own stories in the comments below and/or post a link to your own God story from your blog! Maybe we can compile them into a future post or start a new blog where we're all sharing what God is doing! Giving praise and glory to God is POWERFUL, my friends! Spreading the truth of His power and goodness strikes mighty blows to the kingdom of darkness, so let's do some damage! Comment with an "Amen" if you agree and let's keep the Jesus party going! God bless you!

Ignite: Children's Sunday from Vineyard Community Church on Vimeo.

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