Tag Archives: Hope

What happened to you? Facebook After Thirty

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Since joining Facebook, I discovered something unanticipated.  When I left high school and college, I unconsciously retained mental snapshots of my old friends and classmates.  In short, I thought I knew what they looked like.

Friending “old” friends on Facebook demonstrated—sometimes very starkly—something I knew in theory but never fully grasped in reality: somewhere over the past thirty-plus years, we all became genuinely old.  Looking at the profile pictures, I sometimes found myself silently asking, “What happened to you?”  Even more telling was the next logical query: “What happened to me?”

Sure, some of the guys still had most of their hair and others managed to keep most of the weight off, but thirty-plus years had taken a tremendous toll on us all.  It’s a helpful reminder, really, of something too easily forgotten or ignored.  When you are young and strong and beautiful, every new day seems a lot like the day before. You may have made some stupid and immoral decisions yesterday, but youth often enables you to bounce back rather quickly and with minimal effort.  However, after more than three decades, all that bouncing has left behind an increasingly weighty list of aches, pains, scars, wrinkles, and regrets.

While contemplating this, I came across Isaiah 56:12 which says, “Come, . . . let me get wine; let us fill ourselves with strong drink; and tomorrow will be like this day, great beyond measure.”  The attitude is essentially this: we can fill each day with drunkenness and strong drink because tomorrow will be just like today—another day to party and have a good time.  It will always be like this.  Life will never catch up to us.

Thirty years and the Facebook time-warp has rather unceremoniously ripped off the illusory mask. Tomorrow keeps on coming.  Sooner or later, tomorrow is no longer just “like this day.”  Today’s tomorrows become weeks, months, years, and decades.  The daily choices we make—good, bad, and neutral—exact a small but growing (and ultimately measurable) price.  It’s more obvious than ever: none of us will live forever.  Each today is decidedly not the same as yesterday.

In light of our increasingly evident mortality, I thank God that each tomorrow will not be “like this day.”  No matter how wonderful or awful any given day is, some undisclosed future “today” will bring it all to a blessed end.  Death will finally find me.  And on that glorious day, I will finally see my Savior, Jesus, face-to-face.  That’s when, for all eternity, every tomorrow will not be like this day, but ever and always an even better day than the one before.  I can hardly wait!

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Thirty Years in Ministry: A Reflection

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When I joined Cru in July of 1987, I intended to be a “lifer” with the organization.  Looking back, I had no clue what that might actually look like over the long haul.  In many ways, it was little more than a romantic dream, a well-intentioned but poorly-understood commitment to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth and back, no matter what the cost.

More than thirty years later, reality looks a lot different than the dream.  I wanted to do great things for God, be known for exceptional devotion to and love for Him, give my all for the sake of the gospel.  In retrospect, my heart for and obedience to the Lord has often wavered, sometimes reaching embarrassingly low levels of commitment.

Back then, I thought that being in ministry for thirty years would have forged in me a more Christ-like character and provided me with some wonderful words of wisdom to share with those coming behind.  Truth be told, I do not feel especially righteous, sagacious, or qualified to offer others a stellar example or share anything truly compelling or profound.  The milestone came and went without much fanfare or notice.  Before and after, the mundane tasks of everyday life in ministry remain strangely familiar.  Nothing stands out as fundamentally different than before.

What is most noticeable is not my extraordinary commitment or growing resemblance (or lack thereof) to Jesus over the past thirty years.  Rather, it is the immense and inexorable faithfulness of God.  As 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.”  Above all else, God has been faithful, and His faithfulness continues to evoke gratitude and hope.

Gratitude comes from reflecting on the ongoing opportunities and graces, all undeserved, which God has granted and continues to give.  I’ve had the privilege of serving Him all over the world, of journeying through life with a beautiful, godly, loving, and loyal wife, of enjoying the joys and trials of parenting three wonderful children, of seeing God continually supply our every need, of being used to bring about eternal life change in numerous Christian leaders, and of experiencing the profound presence of God in ways I never dreamed possible.

Hope comes from knowing that no matter how far and repeatedly I fall short of His ideal, no matter much earthly time God grants me, He remains ever faithful, patient, and kind.  I am secure in His love and in the riches poured out upon me through the goodness of Christ, and will enjoy these unmerited benefits for all eternity.

I am reminded of some words from a beautiful hymn written by Keith and Kristyn Getty, “My Worth Is Not in What I Own.”

As summer flowers, we fade and die

Fame, youth and beauty hurry by

But life eternal calls to us at the cross

I will not boast in wealth or might

Or human wisdom’s fleeting light

But I will boast in knowing Christ at the cross

Two wonders here that I confess

My worth and my unworthiness

My value fixed, my ransom paid at the cross

I rejoice in my Redeemer

Greatest treasure

Wellspring of my soul

I will trust in Him, no other

My soul is satisfied in Him alone

Thank You, Lord, for the immense privilege of serving with You for more than thirty years, and for continually demonstrating Your faithful lovingkindness.

Home Forevermore

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I said goodbye yesterday to some friends we met on sabbatical.  Sometimes it feels like my life is one continuous goodbye.  Of course there are constants for which I am profoundly grateful.  God is always with me and Barbara has been my ever-faithful life companion through these past 26 years of marriage, but in some seasons of life, the goodbyes seem to engulf the greetings.  As we prepare for our return to Singapore, it feels like this is one of those seasons.

We are saying goodbye to our children, a new son and daughter-in-law, extended family, friends old and new, and so much more.  Of course, new beginnings bring new hellos and new opportunities, but the pain of saying goodbye is still very real and takes time to work through and move beyond.  If I’m honest, there is sadness in excitement and sorrow in anticipation.

In reflecting on these feelings, part of the longing to never again have to say goodbye is rooted in the great hope of heaven where we will finally find ourselves face-to-face with God and join in the sweet communion of the saints in a way we have never known before.  It will never be goodbye again.  It will only be an exultant, spectacular, and unending reunion.

I am reminded of the words from an old Degarmo and Key song:

“It’s gonna be a family reunion when we see the Lord

At the family reunion we’ll be home forevermore . . . home forevermore”

Whenever God calls, I’m ready to be home forevermore and never have to say goodbye again.