“Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.” Mark 9:35
My parents provided a wonderful spiritual foundation for my life. Mom and Dad were selfless servants of others and great examples of faith. Mom made sure my sister Amy and I understood the importance of the Bible and how to apply it to our lives. Amy influenced my spiritual life, too, by teaching me how to pray and comforting me when I was afraid or going through a hard time. But it was a long time before my family’s faith became my own.
I didn’t have a personal passion for God when I was young. I went to church because it was what we did. To me, Christianity was just a tedious routine. You went to church on Sunday, prayed before meals and bedtime, and if you were a Super Christian, you went to church Wednesday night too. And that was it.
All that wasn’t important to me, so I focused on becoming a competitive water skier, writing and performing music, getting my education, and simply enjoying life. Of course, those things weren’t wrong in and of themselves, but I was doing them without God in mind. Eventually, I got off course and made some decisions that could have easily landed me behind bars.
One day, as I thought about the things I’d done, I was overcome with guilt and shame. I was disappointed in my life choices. I was far from the person I had been raised to be, and I knew I wasn’t who God wanted me to be. But as I wrestled with these emotions, I felt God telling me, “It’s okay. I forgive you.” Overwhelming peace flooded my being. God’s love completely wrecked me. I finally understood that God loved me. He knew me intimately—knew every mistake—and yet He had forgiven me.
That encounter changed my life. With a fresh understanding of His love, I was able to turn my life around and make better choices. I became passionate about this God whom I had previously known only from a distance. I yearned to know more about Him, to worship Him, and to share Him with others so they could know Christ’s love and forgiveness too.
I wanted to be real, to tell others about God as honestly as I could, to be fully authentic—as a friend, husband, teacher, athlete, son, brother, and even a stranger. I set out to create these relationships with others by learning to serve them. People are hungry for authenticity. They need to know that somebody really cares. It’s hard to tell others about a God who loves unconditionally if we don’t take the time to show them His love ourselves. We have to love people to Christ.
I looked for tangible needs that I could meet, so I could demonstrate the humility and love of Christ. For example, I learned that inmates are often released from jail in the middle of the night, and many have nowhere to go. Some have no shoes or shirt; they’re hungry. So my friend and I decided to meet those needs. We purchased shirts and sandals, filled coolers with bottled water and hot dogs, fired up a grill, and began to feed and clothe those newly released people on the street outside the jail. We were there most weekends from 8:30 Saturday night until 3:00 Sunday morning.
Some people avoided us, but most came right over. They were thankful for this act of kindness. We didn’t even have to bring Christ into our conversations, because somehow they knew His love was the reason we were there. “You must be a Christian or something to be doing this,” they’d say. And then we’d share what Christ had done for us.
From there, we began looking for more opportunities to serve, and that’s how we got involved with Kairos Prison Ministry. I’ve been so blessed by the relationships I’ve made through Kairos. Being the worship leader for the last five years has been an amazing experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Life provides endless opportunities to demonstrate God’s love. Hurting people are all around us, waiting to know that God sees them, hears them, loves them, and forgives them. We can demonstrate this love through service, just like Jesus did. He went to the hurting, the lonely, the discouraged—those seeking to hide their pain. He loved them and met their needs. He met them right where they were, without judgment. The only people He criticized were the religious ones who proclaimed to love God but denied Him—both by what they did and what they didn’t do.
We don’t run blindly into dangerous places or situations, but we do remain open to new ways God might have for us to demonstrate His love. This requires us to move out of our comfort zones. As Christians, we’re often afraid to go to those dark places, but when we don’t, we miss the blessing of being there to serve when God touches others with His grace.
Christianity is about humility, about learning how to serve others. It’s about putting others ahead of ourselves. My wife and I presented this concept at our wedding through a foot-washing ceremony. Our guests were surprised at that part of the ceremony, and some even cried as my wife Kathryn and I symbolically humbled ourselves as servants toward each other. It was an effective picture of what Jesus did for us.
Many people don’t follow Christ because they are afraid of Him. But if they’re afraid, then they don’t know who God is. They don’t understand how much He loves them. We need to model that love, to demonstrate Jesus’ selfless, overwhelming love through our service.
Make it your goal to find ways every day to serve others and love them to Christ. It’s not difficult—just open your eyes. Opportunities are all around you. It’s such a rich way to live.
Does this story strike a chord for you? Read the entire May 2018 issue here.
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