I am pausing my theological reflections to you because yesterday was my 40th Christian birthday and I want to celebrate with you. Now I know not everyone knows when they became a Christian. It’s different for all of us and valid for each one of us. But I am a dates and milestones type of guy. Things like the anniversary of the Watergate break (June 17, 1972) or Patty Hearst’s kidnapping (February 4, 1974) routinely break into my head. So this is normal for me. So, I want to celebrate with you.
Woodleaf weekend. February 7, 1971. I was 16 and told Jesus, “I want to carry my cross and follow you but I need you to do it. I am too weak.” That’s the prayer I prayed on my knees in my bedroom as I leaned over the turquoise bedspread. I felt His peace come after 5 years of despair and emptiness over my dad’s death.
Through the years I have lived out the line from Paul that “we are to share in His sufferings and the power of his resurrection.” I have lived this in countless ways.
God has been faithful in every suffering: my father’s death, my mother’s death, two divorces, finding out, at 24, that I am adopted, my birth father’s death, the deep early struggles with YL Capernaum, the deaths of more than 20 kids, struggles with depression, self-esteem, and anxiety. In all Jesus has been Immanuel – God with us. God with me.
But he has also let me live in the power of His resurrection. He gave me hope. Peace. A confidence I never had. A dream. A vision. He comforted me deeply through multiple deaths and losses. He gave me countless friends. He healed my self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Although I am still vulnerable in these areas, he continues to teach and heal me. He chose a nobody like me to start Capernaum. He chose a nobody as a missionary to nobodies. Great is His name!
He reunited me with my birth family. He let me meet and know my mother. And fall in love with her. He “repaid me for the years the locusts have eaten,” as it says in Joel. He did this by giving me my incomparably amazing, beautiful wife, Susie and as a bonus, three incredible sons. He has fulfilled my dream for Capernaum to go around the world.
Yes, God is faithful. He loves me. I know He loves you but…He…Loves…Me! My life verse is “For He who began the good work in you will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus” Philippians 1:6 and He is doing that.
The past 13 weeks have been about the passing of my beloved big brother, Gene. Never have I felt grief like this. And yet, I have experienced the tenderness, love, and comfort of Jesus like I’ve never experienced it before. Yes, God is good!
So, yesterday I called my Young Life leaders, Johnie and Jane, and said thanks “mom and dad” for adopting a frightened 16 year old hiding behind a mask and introducing him to Jesus. Thank you Johnie for teaching me about Jesus and how to follow Him. Thanks Jane for mothering me and nurturing me and not killing me when I was so loud and obnoxious. Well, I am still loud but hopefully not obnoxious.
I told them I was speaking at club. And last night I did. I told kids my story with Jesus. And I prayed for some frightened 16 year old in club hiding behind a mask to begin a relationship with Jesus. And I prayed for that kid, 40 years from now, to be speaking to his or her club kids about Jesus and the difference Jesus has allowed him or her to make in our world.
So friends, go back and count the times of God’s faithfulness if you possibly can. And then tell the story.
His Unfinished Work,