Are You Willing to Risk Everything?
As an author, Lisa Harper sees it: the time period during the Book of Acts in the Bible is very similar to present-day society. So much so that she was compelled to write her newest book, Believing Jesus: A Journey through the Book of Acts. “It was very difficult being a person of faith and a follower of Christ during that time. They were persecuted and even martyred for their faith. There was a huge pressure to fly below the radar so that they wouldn’t be persecuted,” Harper said. “To me, our time is incredibly relevant to discuss issues like this because our culture is very similar to the culture back then.”
“It’s uncomfortable. Simply praying in public isn’t as common as it was 20 years ago. Using the name Jesus isn’t as comfortable as it used to be. People are relatively comfortable using God because it doesn’t speak of which God. But Philippians says it’s at the name of Jesus that every knee will bow and every tongue confess. I still speak the name Jesus,” she said.
The book takes a strong look at the persistent, consistent, inexcusable and unrestrained obedience of the Apostles and their willingness to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ at all costs. Ultimately, it studies the actions they took for God.
The Apostles were fully convinced of Jesus and took Him at His Word. They recognized that it wasn’t time to shrink back and be timid, rather they risked everything because they believed Jesus and knew He was worth it.
In an era in which belief systems, especially Christianity, are scrutinized, Harper and Believing Jesus forces readers to examine their own lives and answer one fundamental question: Do I believe Jesus or do I believe in Jesus?
“It’s two different things to believe in Jesus and believe Jesus. To believe in something is just to have a cognitive awareness that it’s there. It’s easy to have a cognitive awareness of Jesus. The Bible says even demons believe and tremble,” Harper said. “It’s an altogether different thing to order your life and the way you live based on everything that [Jesus said].
“It’s a totally different thing to have an intimate relationship with someone or something. It’s a shifting in to a more radical faith and sacrificial way to live. It’s not easy to believe Jesus. It’s easy to believe in Him. To believe Him, I’ve got to do what He says. He says take up your cross daily. He says lay your life down as a sacrifice for others. To believe Jesus is to actually order your life after these things.”
Throughout the book, Harper shares her own personal stories of growth and her journey of believing Jesus and fully following Him. Ten years ago, she says she would have said she believed in Jesus. But as God has spoken to her heart, she said, “I can’t say I’m risking everything for the sake of the Gospel, but I’m learning to do more every day.”
Four years ago, Harper believed God when He gave her the peace in her heart to adopt a little girl from Haiti. The risks and unknowns associated with adopting a child from a foreign country with HIV were significant, to say the least. The pressure she received from others to reconsider was nearly as great. But Harper thought, isn’t this what believing Jesus is all about?
“In James, we are told to help widows and orphans. So I thought, ‘Okay, Lord. If you keep opening doors, I’m going to walk through.’ Even though this is scary and comes with many questions, I felt the Lord say, ‘If you believe Me and I’ve given you peace in your heart to do this and my Word, go ahead and take the next step and trust Me.’”
While the Bible points out that the Apostles “turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6), Believing Jesus challenges readers to do virtually the same thing and become thermostats rather than thermometers. Harper questioned within herself, “Am I changing the temperature around me? Am I turning the world upside down? Am I risking enough?”
“I want even my Christian friends to think I’m a bit crazy. I want to be accused of turning the world upside down [for Jesus],” she said.
Harper says believing Jesus isn’t a linear adventure. Like a diamond, there is a new aspect of God around every corner. Nonetheless, there’s a certain living hope found in running toward Him, no matter the path.