Who's in the basket
By Dr. Robert Owens
Saul of Tarsus was the first great persecutor of the church. In a blaze of glory, he met the resurrected Jesus while on his way to Damascus to attack the church there. Then, instead of attacking the Church Paul started preaching fearlessly about this Jesus who rose from the grave. The Jews sought to kill Paul because he was preaching Jesus as the Messiah who bore our sins on the cross, died in our place, and rose from the dead to bring us life. As the enraged Jews looked everywhere in Damascus for Paul, he was lowered in a basket from the walls to make his escape. When we share the Gospel with even just one person, and they receive the message and are born again we never know who might've just climbed in the basket.
Long long ago and far far away back in the dream time before Facebook, Amazon, and streaming, my wife and I felt the call to hold church services on the campus of a state university. Everyone told us that would be impossible what with the judiciously manufactured liberal imposed mythical Constitutional separation of church and state doctrine. I questioned God, "Are you sure?" My wife and I questioned each other, "Are you sure?" Though we tried to resist as much as we could the calling wouldn't leave us alone.
I traipsed from office to office asking one bureaucrat after another for permission to hold church services in a public building on the campus of a state university. Discouragement stalked me as I scuttled from "No," to "No," to "No way!" In the natural I was skeptical when I started and after a month or two of pushing that big rock up that steep hill all I could do was encourage myself in the Lord to keep plodding on. All we had was prayer. Happily, that was all we needed.
I finally located the right bureaucrat. He was the one in charge of renting space to outside groups. After a diligent search and several misdirected wrong turns, I located his office buried deep beneath a massive pile of bricks and steel. Then I learned he was never in his office. Whenever I showed up his secretary would tell me, 'He just left," "He's off for the day," or "You just missed him." I tried coming at every hour of the day on every day of the week. After a month or so it got to be a running joke between me and the secretary. I'd pop in and she'd laugh, "He just left," or one of her other variations of "You're wasting your time."
Then one day I walked in and there was the invisible bureaucrat standing in the middle of the room. Before the Secretary could laugh or say anything I blurted out, "I want to rent a room to hold church services."
To my surprise he said, "No problem." Then as he vanished into his inner sanctum he tossed, "Becky draw up a contract for the second-floor meeting room in the Student Union at the regular rate." Within a week we were singing praises to God and preaching the Gospel on the campus of that state university. Everyone said it couldn't be done. We didn't think it was possible. But God did it.
For the next six months every Sunday we carried our keyboard, guitar, and a box of Bibles into the upper room. Every Wednesday, as part of our rental agreement, we had an informational booth in the Student Union inviting people to the service.
The response was underwhelming but as church planters and domestic missionaries we were used to empty seats. We had some students who came. We had a few who came more than once. And we had one who came faithfully time after time. This one student eventually confessed Jesus as his personal Lord and confessed that God had raised Jesus from the dead. He stepped from the darkness into the light, from death into life and now more than twenty-five years later he's still praising God and trying his best to share the life, the light, and the joy he found with others.
As a couple of believers who've devoted most of our lives to preaching the Gospel, if this one born again believer is the totality of all we've done and all we will do before the curtain comes down … that's more than enough. Thank you, Father, for allowing us to see the fruit from Your vine.
As slim as the attendance was, we praised God every day for the opportunity and gave him glory for opening a door everyone thought could not be opened. Then they shut us down. They cancelled our contract and slammed the door shut.
I went to see the long elusive bureaucrat to find out why. He told me a delegation of local pastors came to the school to complain because we were holding services on campus and they weren't. The religious spirit did its best to stop the Spirit. But we know He opens doors, and no one can shut what He's opened until the appointed time. The anointing moved on and we knew God had accomplished what he'd sent us there to do. Someone had climbed into the basket.
This reminds me of another time God called me to do something. He called me to stand in front of an abortion mill. I am the ever-remorseful father of four aborted babies. Forgiven but ashamed of what I did, but not too ashamed to confess my sin publicly if there's even the slightest chance doing so might save a life and save someone else from living with the pain and emptiness I feel. For about six months several days a week I stood a lonely vigil in all types of weather with a handmade sign reading, "I repent for aborting my children" on one side and "God Forgave me" on the other.
People would drive by and honk. Some would give me the thumbs up. Others would use another digit to send a different message. The police came and told me I had to leave. But I was on public property, and I refused. The people from the abortion mill tried several tactics to chase me away. Some people on their way in to end the lives of their children stopped to berate me and call me everything except a child of God.
No matter what the weather, no matter how vile the abuse I stayed there because I felt God called me to bear witness, so I stood my ground. Then one day a couple stopped by on their way into the abortion mill and read me the riot act. They told me what a terrible person I was. They told me it was their choice. They yelled and gestured as loudly as anyone ever did. Then about a half hour later they came back and in tears told me God had convicted them and they'd changed their mind. They were going to keep their baby.
Immediately I felt released from that call. Someone had climbed into the basket.
You might not know who's in the basket. You may never know. All we need to know is that when God says stand there and hold the rope, we need to do our part and leave the results up to Him because it's not about who we are and what we do. It's all about who He is and what He's done.