by Dale Reeves

Story Pastor


Just the other night I ran to Arby’s to grab a Classic Beef ’N Cheddar. As I was sitting down to enjoy my meal, while watching a Little League baseball game on ESPN, I had a brief encounter with the manager trainee whose name was DeRon. As he brought my meal out to me, he sat down for a quick chat. He started telling me some of his story, how he had been homeless, living in Kentucky, and how he had gotten this job, and how he had to drive to Mason every day, but how he was thankful that his brother had given him a car to drive. He spoke about his workers in this place, how the restaurant had just been cleaned, and how they sliced the beef just fresh for me that night, then he shared a few complaints from drive-thru customers, and a few thoughts about his “big boss lady.” And, then he said, “If I don’t treat others with respect, I’ve got nothing.”


DeRon went on to tell me that he was a Christian and likes reading the Bible, and how his favorite story is about Noah. It was then that I told him I love the Bible too, and how I was a pastor at a local church. I then pulled out a brown Arby’s napkin and wrote down the three phrases in our church’s mission statement: Following Jesus, Loving People, Making a Difference. Then I said, “It’s pretty simple, isn’t it? That’s what we’re supposed to be about. And, you’re making a difference in this place, DeRon!”


He came back one more time to give me a free cookie for dessert, and I prayed for him before I headed back home. That morning before I left my house, I had prayed this prayer:


“God, thank you for waking me up today. I want this to be your day. Send people my way today that I need to speak words of encouragement to. Show me how I can be a difference maker today.”


Whether it’s an encounter with someone like DeRon, or a divine disruption in my office at church or in my neighborhood, it’s amazing what can happen in my day when I pray that prayer in the morning.


At our church we have recently pivoted from using the term “volunteer” to “difference maker,” because we believe that this more accurately reflects how we should view the service opportunities God has given us to be involved in others’ lives. Last Sunday at Christ’s Church our senior minister, Brad Wilson, began a new sermon series called “Difference Makers.” If we are serious about following Jesus as his disciples it will be manifested in the way in which we love others. Jesus calls us to deny our own desires in exchange for his greater will and purpose in our lives and the lives of other people. We will actively seek to make a difference in others’ lives as we live boldly for God. If you missed that teaching, you can check it out here.


Not of This World

In the recent series The Chosen, there is a conversation that takes place between Jesus and Simon Peter. Peter is shocked that Jesus would choose Matthew, a hated tax collector, to join his group of disciples. “This is different,” Simon says, and Jesus’ reply is: “Get used to different.” When we choose to follow after Jesus as his disciples, we need to be aware that things as we once knew them might drastically change. When Jesus came on the scene, he blew away all the previous misconceptions that Peter and the other disciples had about the awaited Messiah coming to destroy Rome’s domination of God’s chosen people. His kingdom and power would not be of this world, just as he explained to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, several years later (see John 18:36, 37). He would do things that were unexpected, unconventional, and unparalleled.


Jesus tells us in John 15:19, “The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you” (NLT).


When I was growing up in the church, I heard the phrase, “We are to be in the world, but not of the world.” I never completely understood that. Now that I know a bit more about what that means, it’s hard, isn’t it, to live differently—to think differently—every day? If you claim to be a Christian, which means a “follower after Christ,” whether you know it or not, God has called you to be different, to be set apart, what the Bible calls being holy. That’s a word you don’t hear much about in our culture today. We shouldn’t be blending in. We should be going against the grain, against the current, in living our lives for Christ rather than just going with the flow. But we can’t possibly be holy on our own. We can only be more like Christ as we allow his presence, his Holy Spirit, to give direction and guidance in our lives.


In the opening credits of each episode of The Chosen, while vocalist Ruby Amanfu invites us to “walk on the water,” we see two-dimensional colorless fish swimming across the screen. As Amanfu’s voice grows persuasively, some things begin to look “different.” One fish turns into an aqua blue color while it turns around and begins to swim alone against the current. Slowly, as the music picks up in beat and volume, another once-gray fish does a complete one-eighty and decides to follow the first, taking on the aqua color as well. Then, another, and another turn to follow until thirteen vibrant fish (Jesus and his disciples) can be seen swimming in the opposite direction from the rest of the colorless school of fish.


What do these fish know that the others do not? Why have they chosen to go against the flow and swim against the current? Are they lost, misguided, or brave?


There’s No Going Back

These fish know what Lebanese actor Nick Shakoour has discovered. He plays the role of Zebedee, the father of Jesus’ apostles’ James and John in The Chosen. Nick grew up Greek Orthodox, but before he landed this role he was in a place where he wasn’t even sure that God existed. At the invite of several construction designers on the set, Nick attended a conference where he encountered God in a very dramatic way. He ended up asking God to remove the burden he had carried his whole life due to the war-torn situation in Beirut he had grown up with. Nick confessed the idols he had in his life to God: “My acting career, my voiceover, my mom, dad, brother-in-law, sisters, bank accounts, my Jeep Commander. . . . For the first time in my life, I genuinely gave them all to God. I gave him everything.”


As Nick continued sharing his dramatic encounter in an interview, several times he fought through the tears to share about his newfound relationship with God. You can see the full interview here.


At the conclusion of the interview, Nick shared these words that are so relevant for us as we seek to be difference makers:


“I was about to sweep God under the rug. . . . I used to poke fun at people that were so into Jesus, but he still came after me in this way. Once this happens to you, there’s no going back. No going back.”


Jesus said it this way:

“No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62, NASB).