Today I read a heartfelt Facebook appeal from my daughter Jenna that she wrote while witnessing a fellow student sharing their faith with another. It was a genuine, heartfelt appeal to all of us who name the name of Jesus simply to love Him and then love others. His way, not our way.
Two things happened to me as I read her appeal:
1) I was so proud that this person who expressed such heartfelt compassion was my daughter. I am proud of all four of my children. No one more than the other. Each of them have their gifts and special qualities. But something else happened here.
2) The Lord spoke to my heart and said, lovingly, not condescendingly, "Remember when you were like that?" I did. I remembered. I was like that. I was just like that. I gave up hours of my youth encouraging others around me. Sometimes I still do, but not nearly as much, and not with the same genuine compassion that Jenna showed today.
When I was in Bible college, Dr. Tom Elliff, a man I respect very much, told of an older gentleman who, with a faraway look in his eyes, reflected on the greatest days of his ministry as a thing of the past. "There was a time..." he said.
Am I that guy now? Is it possible that somehow my usefulness in God's kingdom is over? Have I crossed the threshold of viable faith to "has-been" faith?
God, I hope not.
I hope that there is still fire in these bones of mine. Not to raise up the next big ministry, but to just be so in love with Jesus again that I can't contain it. Below is a sample of my reply to what Jenna said:
"My friend and mentor, Pastor Bob Shearer tells a "fish" story of how all the fisherman gathered at the bait and tackle shop, bragging about their lures and gear. They pontificate about how they are going to catch the most fish. Everyone of them boasts of becoming a great angler. There was only one problem: no one ever went fishing. They never left the bait and tackle shop. This is what general Christendom looks like today. We talk about reaching and helping others find their way. Yet we never leave the church, or the campus, or our very homes to share the hope that is within us. Instead, we boycott anyone and everyone who doesn't love our Jesus the same way we do. We wear our "I HeartMy Church" t-shirts and listen to Joel Osteen. We shop at Lifeway or Family Christian while we ignore the people around us. We meet in coffee shops to have Bible studies, and complain when our coffee is too cold. We don't tip or even acknowledge our servers. We leave tracts. We vote for Trump. We go to "faith-based" movies. We hide behind our PCs and devices, telling the world how it needs to be in order to live up to what we want. We are narcissistic, hedonist political windbags. We are resounding brass and clanging symbols. We will have much to answer for when the Lord returns. "
I used the word, "we," a lot, didn't I? Maybe I should have said "I." Let's face it, I am nothing. Without Jesus, that is. Like everyone else, I struggle to understand and live out my faith on a daily basis. I am quick to point out the things that bother me, but slow to look in the mirror. I am inconsistent. I am up, I am down. My breath stinks. My hair is thinning. I live from paycheck to paycheck. I am impatient and judgmental. I hate my clothes.
And yet, Jesus spoke to me today like I speak to my children when I hold up an old photo and say, "Remember that day?" "You were so adorable." "I was so proud of you that time." I don't do that to say, "And look at you now...barely a shadow of that." No, no, NO! I am celebrating moments of old and looking forward to new ones all at once. Stop being a proud Dad? Forget it!
Back to where we started. No, I am not the long-haired rebel for Jesus I was back then, I am the overweight, balding rebel for Jesus that I am now. The mission hasn't changed. Love God, love others. That is the same privilege we all enjoy as Christians.
Sometimes I lose my way, but He always finds me.