I gave my testimony the other night to a group of fifty or so high school kids at a church on the Southside of Chicago. I told them about how I grew up like them, in a neighborhood not unlike theirs, with a routine and patterned life about the same as the likelihood of most of theirs. I talked about this nagging feeling that Jesus sometimes uses in the early stages of getting our attention, during the season when we’re trying desperately to fill our empty hearts with a buncha junk instead of the Savior of the world; when we’re worshiping anything but God, making idols out of whatever we can find.
Even though the fifteen minutes I stood on the platform were mostly a blur, I still found myself wondering, truthfully, if something like that nagging feeling was making its way around the room. When dozens of hands shot up late in the night, in a dark room with a bunch of closed eyes, my wonderings ceased. The nagging feeling had been creeping around the room; the Holy Spirit was maybe drawing some of these kids to Himself, or closer to the heart of God, or drawing somebody somewhere and maybe possibly, something I said had a chance to be a part of it all. Whoah.
When I stood up on the platform, I wasn’t nervous. But it did feel different that, you know, regular. My water bottle was right there on the music stand, but I didn’t have enough command over the platform to pause and drink from it. I didn’t have the freedom from my notes to roam a few steps any direction from where I stood. I even looked at the floor a few times and put my hands in my pockets. Dr. Green (my preaching professor at Moody) would have died if he’d seen that.
I do remember two moments. One was when I got to the part about Chandler and David and Caleb waiting in the Great Room of Niemeyer in the middle of the night while Kelly and I stumbled through the door. They could have done anything, but they asked us, in all of our messiness, in all of our sin, to play euchre and this conveyed love to me. Chandler was right there at the church, in the first pew, sitting in front of me. Six years and so much stuff later. Does he know what that means to me? Arguing with me and my biology book, drawing pictures of the End Times chronology in the Kleiner food court, playing cards, going to Steak and Shake at 4am. Does he have any idea how these simple acts of obedience gave me a brand new nature by the grace of God? I should probably make sure he knows.
The other moment I remember was right after that. I looked at Chandler when I told the kids, “Hey listen, this part is important…” about Chan and David and I felt so deeply grateful that even though my mouth was moving, I was praising and thanking the Lord simultaneously. Even while I was doing both things, I was also thinking – to be doing this all at once, this is impossible. I was having something like three levels of self-awareness. Whack.
And in response to my gratitude, or something, it seemed as if God gave me a buncha words that weren’t in my notes. I was really, for about 4 or 5 sentences, talking straight to the kids. The house lights were down, so I could only see the ones in the front row, a bunch of girls. They were attentive and I looked at them and scanned my eyes around. And I asked them if they had ever had a fleeting thought about Jesus, about making a choice for Him, but had pushed it away and thought they could deal with it later. Well, maybe tonight is the night to deal with it, I challenged them. None of this was in my notes; I truly believe it was God’s provision of boldness.
Something was very right about all of that the other night. Take THAT, Satan. Chandler led me to the Father of Lights, showed me how to have a personal relationship with the King of Kings, and today I was able to share my slice of that with the kids under his shepherding. There is something precious and just-about magical in all of that, as small as it is. I thrill in the knowledge that it angers and frustrates the plan of Satan. No match for my God.
Straight praise to my King, the King of Kings.