My Daughter is a Better Evangelist Than Me.

My two year old is a better evangelist than I am.  No…  I mean it.

I was walking through Wal-Mart bopping along with my two-year old in the cart playing “go-see-sop” (Grocery Shop) with daddy.  For those that don’t know, I live in the middle of nowhere South  Texas.  As a result, there is a large population of Mexican immigrants.  Contrary to the political opinions that many give, most Mexican immigrants are legal, and shop where I do, Wal-Mart.  When an area is friendly to one ethnic minority, more come.  So my little tow-head daughter and myself go bopping along saying “Hi, hi, hi, hi, hi,…” to several Latino friends and often run accross a variety of ethnic groups.   Of course, when those addressed acknowledge the tender little child, she sheepishly grins and hides behind daddy. 

Well, this day we just so happen to walk next to some people who were clearly of Islamic Religious persuasion.  I am usually incredibly excited to meet and talk to Muslims about faith, because, stereotypically, they are deep thinkers.  But this evening I was just hoping to keep my head down, avoid conversation, settle for a nod, and get out of Wal-Mart without talking to anyone.  The family was half way down the aisle, just past the apple juice.  I needed to get some white grape juice… which was just past the apple juice…  Darn!  So I planed my approach, cut past the wife, turn my cart perpendicular to the shelf, and dive behind it as a shield to retrieve the coveted grape juice.  This way I would only have to make eye contact with the father and he looked less inclined to talk than I did.  I went for it! 

I executed my plan perfectly!  I nodded and the father nodded back and smiled a little, clearly wanting no more than I did from our encounter.  Awkwardly, I ducked behind my cart and grabbed a juice (he was preoccupied with his own cart and two kids.).  I turned back to my cart and noticed Julia was trying to get the man’s attention, “Hi, Hi, HI, HI!”  Who could blame her, I parked her one foot from the kind looking man.  Embarrassed I turned and shrugged.  The man laughed and said, “hello.” 

Julia then broke into spontaneous song:

 “JESUS LOVES ME THIS I KNOW,

FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO,

LITTLE ONES TO HIM BELONG,

THEY ARE WEAK,

they are fun….

YEEEEESSSSS JESUS LOVES ME ! 

They are weak, they are fun”  (she has trouble with that last line.)

 She proudly proclaimed what she knew to be a great song.  She was unconcerned with other’s opinion, and she simply wanted to share what she knows.   I looked to the man, giggled awkwardly, and said, “well she’s got that one down, eh?”  He laughed at my awkwardness and said, “have a nice night.”  I thought several things I could have said to get into a great conversation that could lead to a great friendship that could lead to fantastic pursuit of truth…  but what came out was, “haha…  you too.” 

 This troubled me. 

You see, I have a degree in Religion from Baylor University and I am almost finished with my master’s degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).  As a part of my degree I am forced to take “Evangelism 101.”  (I think it’s funny that we have to take this class.  It clearly means that we don’t think of evangelism as something that is natural, but is something that must be trained into us.)  Evangelism is important, so we work at it. 

 If class grades are any indication, I am better prepared than any other student in my class.  I made an A+ and contributed a paper that will be given to every other student that takes the course. 

 I have 8 different methods of evangelism memorized.  All of which I can seamlessly tie into the majority of conversations I am in.  Though, I often avoid these methods because they feel so formulaic and forced. 

 I’ve done door to door evangelism, relational evangelism, tract evangelism, street preaching, and pretty much every other type of evangelism you can imagine.  Some are funny, some are troubling, some are goofy and dumb, and some work. 

 I have personally led dozens of people to Christ.

 And yet, my two-year old daughter understands something I don’t (though I am trying).  That is: what is real is a joy to share.  To her, it didn’t matter what the man believed, she was simply sharing what she knew.  The man’s response was not the motive.  She wanted to share.  There was no end goal in mind.  She just wanted the joy of sharing what she learned with everyone.  This, I think is true evangelism.  Sharing joyfully what is real. 

 My little girl’s strategy of evangelism is much more consistent with Paul in Acts than mine is.  Paul seems to be this way.  Share, cause it’s true…  that’s it.

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The Feeling of Family

I don’t know how to describe the feeling I get welling up in my soul when I think about the brothers and sisters whom I have never met, but feel as though I know.  It is as if my soul is somehow intertwined with theirs in such a way that it rocks me to my very core.  My heart breaks when I hear stories of their trials and rejoices when I hear stories of their victories.  And when I see them, it is as if I see a family member for the first time in years! 

 You know that feeling right?  The feeling that you have been so far away and you see them and all that is within you wants to just hold them close and weep for joy of seeing them.  That feeling you get when you have been gone for a week working somewhere and you step off the plane, buss, or whatever to see your family waiting with joy for you to join them once again.  That feeling when you are so overcome with joy, it seems as if you can barely walk. 

 I get the same feeling when I go home toBaltimoreand see my family laboring in the field there.  My heart bursts for the joy of seeing them and breaks for the knowledge of their struggle in the gospel.  I had the rare opportunity this summer to let my students know how this feels when I took them with me toBaltimore.  It was a wonderful experience in worship and joining the mission.

 I have been spending time every Thursday praying for my brothers and sisters who work for Gospel forAsia and Voice of the Martyrs.  (You can learn more about them here: GFA and VOM).  There are a great many of the brothers and sisters who are living their lives out, serving our King in the most dangerous of places.  When I see their stories and hear their messages, I weep for joy at the Gospel.  It is difficult to explain, but it is true. 

 You see, God has given us a family beyond our eyes ability to see it.  He has granted us love across the continents.  When we meet like minded brothers and sisters who serve the King, we meet family!  There is no deep moral, or application to this.  I just wanted to share what I have been feeling.  I miss my family (that is: the Christians who serve the King, both in Baltimore and around the world).  But I know one day we will all gather in our Home, after what sometimes feels like eons of toil and labor on this earth, what a wonderful day that will be.

Dad taught me Christ’s love.

I was a freshman in High School at Edna Karr in New Orleans, Louisiana, I played basketball and like all 15 year old boys, I was going to play in the NBA! (HA) Well, my family didn’t have the heart to tell me 5’10” uncoordinated white boys don’t make it to the NBA. So they sent me to basketball camp at Baylor University. No doubt hoping it would give me a dose of reality. So, for a week I played with some of the best in the country… and some of the worst. There were 8 young men there who were prospective recruits for Baylor. (I thought there were 9) You could tell because they got special treatment and they were better than everyone else. I was not one of those. (I thought I was one)

When my Dad dropped me off he said, “work hard, have fun.” So I did. Now, for those of you who are unfamiliar: at basketball camp, the first day there are try-outs and you are divided into evenly matched teams (well, as much as you can be). Throughout the week your team plays all the others and at the end of the week there is a tournament.

My team made it to the championship, which meant that Dad would be there to see the game.

As Dad walked in, I saw him take a seat in the stands and adjust his large frame to a comfortable position, then he waved. Not a big sissy wave like moms do… a manly wave… You know… the type of wave that is almost a salute… the type of wave that says, “carry on soldier.” I nodded in a very professional manor, in recognition of my commission to carry on, and returned to my focused stance as a point guard. On the inside I was a nervous wreck! My Dad had been a great athlete when he was young, and I only wanted to make him proud. My brothers were great athletes and I was a bit of a runt comparatively (they liked to lift weights and I liked art… enough said). In my mind, this one game could validate my entire existence. The great man in the stands was watching and my entire joy was wrapped up in his approval. The game didn’t matter. All that mattered to me was the man in the stands. I wanted so desperately to prove myself to him and I was convinced that I could do this best by obliterating my opponents!

I played amazingly! I made every shot, hit miraculous assists, and out hustled everyone! Yet, with all my efforts, we lost. I was crushed. It seemed, even on my best day, I would not be able to prove myself to the great man I so admired. I slumped off the court, hiding the tears that so naturally came in great defeat, and walked to meet Dad in the hallway of the stadium. I don’t even remember looking up, I just remember him putting his arm around my shoulder and guiding me out to the car.

We drove to a Mexican restaurant, Dad loved food and when it was just he and I we ate more unhealthy than usual. We sat down and the chips were served. Dad began, “that was GREAT playing John. You obviously learned a lot at camp!” I shyly responded, “yeah, I guess it was ok. I worked hard.” At this point was when I looked up. The first thing I saw was my Dad’s face. He was looking at me with such joy. He reached for a chip and dipped it in the queso he had ordered. (Whenever mom was not there we got queso!) His smile was huge and his eyes seemed to glow. It was at that moment I realized, he loved me. He didn’t love my abilities or the potential of who I could become… no, he loved ME.  On my BEST DAY I could not measure up to the ideal. And to think, he loved me on my worst days, which far out numbered my best. When I looked into my Dad’s eyes, all the failures in the world melted away. All my successes became nothing. And I knew… He loved me.  We had a great ride back to New Orleans!  We ate great food and had wonderful conversation.

In this Dad showed me Christ. On my best day I don’t measure up and my worst days always overpower my best days. And yet, he loves me on my worst days. This is the love of Christ, all our successes are nothing, never mind the failures! And yet… His love remains.  We are caught up in a joyous relationship that is simply marvelous! 

Thanks Dad.