Sixteen thousand attendees flood into a stadium, rushing to grab the best seat possible. Enormous monitors and hundreds of lights illuminate the seats. The band begins to play as the thousands sing along. This is not a music concert. This is not for us. This is all for an audience of One. Let Urbana begin.
The focus of tonight's evening session was on the first chapters of Matthew. We learned from three parts about some fundamental questions we need to challenge ourselves with as we come to Urbana.
From the Magi, who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the one who was born King, we learned to bring out best in worship. What gift will we bring to worship our king?
From King Herod, who was troubled at the news of Jesus and ruthlessly murdered children, we learned to reflect on what drives us. What are we driven by today? Will it be ambition? Or rather, will it be obedience, surrendering our wills to God? Will we learn to let go of our life's agenda?
From Joseph, who fathered Jesus, we learned the assurance of God. What do we expect from our walks with Christ? Because God did not promise us a risk free journey. He simply promises Emmanuel: God with us.
A Personal Reflection.
The one story that stuck out to me on my first night here at Urbana, however, was no Biblical character as far as the old book goes.
The story that stuck out to me was about a man named Josh.
Josh was a missionary to the Chinese province of Guangzhou around the time that Hudson Taylor stirred up the Eastern missional movement. Josh was a one legged man who went about much of his life that way. He applied to go on China's mission three times, and three times he was denied on account of his physical inability. He applied one more time, begging them that he had to meet Hudson Taylor and at least try to go.
When Josh met Hudson Taylor, he was met with the same response. Hudson Taylor encouraged him to stay in London and pray for China, because his physical condition would make it hard for him to serve. Hudson Taylor asked, "why do you want to go?"
Josh responded, "The two legged people aren't going - therefore I must!"
Moved by his response, Hudson Taylor permitted him to serve and sent him to the Guangzhou province. At the time, there was not one church in all the area. Now, with a population of more than seven million, 10% are now Christian.
What story will you tell?
Josh brought his best gift before God - one leg. Compelled by a burning passion for God and the Gospel, he was used by the Lord to bring a sweeping movement of salvation to millions.
What is impairing us from following the Lord? Let me ask that differently. What is OUR best gift we can bring before God? A broken family? A deep-rooted insecurity? A crippling complacency? A terrifying hold on you by a very secure major?
The theme of Urbana 2015 is "What Story Will You Tell?" That's the challenge. What will your life speak about the God of all creation? Let it not be a story that ends with us being too comfortable, too safe, too unwilling to step beyond the four walls of the church. Let it be a story that begins with us saying that in spite of our greatest fears and brokenness, we declare God's strength is made perfect in our weakness.
That's what this week is about. Sessions. Speakers. Seminars. God is shaping our story, and He is inviting us to take up the invitation to go to the ends of the earth and tell it. To make Him known. To bring the Good News to the lost. And He's wants to use you, in all your glorious imperfection, to do it.
Because the two legged people aren't going - therefore we must.