so i'm crazy in love with this Man

"And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." -Mark 12:30-31 (NKJV)

Last week I launched out on yet another trip. This time we took part of our youth group for 2 days of the 5 day long Founders Week at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago.

This was a new thing for me, but it's been an annual event for more than a few years. Every year they bring in some pretty big name speakers and artists for the free, week long conference. The theme for this year's conference was "Rooted in Truth, Abounding in Love." On the bill, two of my "heroes of the faith," Francis Chan and Franklin Graham.

Understand, I'm always reluctant to use the word "hero" for anyone but the One who saved me, Jesus Christ alone. But I understand the value of learning from others who have known Him longer or are in a stronger place in their relationship with Him and model Him well, though imperfectly, on this Earth. There are only a handful of people I know personally who I feel this way about (and, as is my custom, I won't name names online). But this was one of those rare times to go hear in person what the Lord would have these guys say—guys I don't know personally but feel a bond with in the body of Christ.

So why do these two get a special label? For two very different reasons.

I've followed Franklin Graham's ministry for years. He's the founder of Samaritan's Purse, a global disaster assistance organization that goes out primarily when natural disasters strike to help clean up and meet physical needs, sharing Christ with those they assist. I visited the ministry's table and learned they currently have teams not so far from us, down in southern Missouri helping clean up from the ice storms which still have so many in the dark.

They also run Operation Christmas Child, one of the simplest to take part in yet most brilliant ministries I know of in which you just pack a shoebox full of small items such as toys, candy, toiletries, etc. and Samaritan's Purse takes them to children around the world, primarily in impoverished areas. This gift helps share who Jesus is with these kids, many of whom have never received a gift in their lives. This also parallels to them the gift God gave us in giving His Son to die for sin.

Over years of participating in this project we have heard back from two children, a young boy from Burkina Faso, Africa and a teen girl from Tadjikistan. The boy was only 4 years old when we started correspondence, and we've written and traded gifts a few times a year ever since. This puts faces to the shoe box recipients for us. A reality that's "out there" is now in our hearts.

The Lord has been developing in me a philanthropist's heart, and though I don't at this point have the ability to go start something big like this, I love being involved with this organization when I can in the ways I can.

And Franklin Graham is the guy who started all that.

Unfortunately, I was about two people away from getting to tell him this when they had to leave. I was, admittedly, a bit disappointed, but I always consider the likelihood of getting to meet him and many others some day—and wonder what words we might share in the presence of the Lord.

He gave a brief talk, which started with a video about one of their projects in a country where they helped rebuild churches after intense persecution. Exhorting us to never back up, surrender, give in or dilute the Gospel, he used the letters "CEO" to make his points, those standing for:

Cost - (Luke 14:25-33) The cost of following Christ is giving up everyone and everything. We should spend ourselves for His glory.

Excuses - (Luke 9:57-62) Despite the cost, a true believer won't make excuses when it comes to following the Lord. What is God calling you to do and will you do it?

Obedience - (Luke 5:1-11) Because He says so, I will do it.

Again he asked if we will let God use our life and spend us 'til the ends of this Earth. Just let Him use you, and He will teach you to catch men for Christ.

I would have liked to hear more from him, but he insisted on being brief since this was the last talk of the week. However, we are thinking about seeing him again in our neck of the woods later this year for Rock the River.

Francis Chan wrote the book "Crazy Love," which I was introduced to a few months ago by our youth pastor when some of the students were going through it. The book compares the lukewarm with the obsessed. It discusses a person who does just the minimum (if that) of what they think is expected by God or the church or other people versus the person who is so completely and utterly in love with their Creator, the God of the universe, that it changes everything they do and say and think and how they relate with other people.

I was immediately hooked and asked to borrow a copy until I got my own. We are currently going through the book in Sunday school with the entire senior high, and using the supplement DVD (which I now own as well). So going to see Francis live at least once this year was really on my radar.

The cool thing was we got to hear him at three different sessions over the 2 days. Much of what he said reiterated points in the book, so I won't repeat all that. But the Q & A session to a completely packed room took us in some different directions.

I won't even try to type all the notes I took, but one thing that really struck me was when someone asked about instilling sincerity in the church. He quoted 1 Corinthians 11:1 and asked when was the last time someone asked you this or you asked someone else this, to follow you as you follow Christ? We don't need more teaching, we need more models. We need to be sincere in our own pursuit of God.

When asked about the most important lesson he ever learned, he launched into a lengthy and riveting story of some relationships he really messed up. The point was that through it all he experienced depression and because of that was finally able to relate to and sympathize with others who felt depressed. Though he loved God, the pain affected him and taught him about the weakness of his own faith. God wasn't his first love. Pain does pass, but it should strengthen you. It also shows you the brevity of this life and should focus you on the life to come. I was keyed in to all this because I realized how true it all was for me just 7 months ago.

In an answer to a man who seemed frustrated with the Church in dealing with a specific topic, Francis responded, "At the end of my life I'm going to be judged. I don't have time to be frustrated with the whole Church." The question is, how can we use our gifts now to build others up? Again he emphasized seeking God first. He stated, "I really, really believe in the sovereignty of God," and that we need to understand His control as reality. He did point out that it's easier to see these things in hindsight when we're not in pain. James 1:5 is usually taken out of the context of pain and trials. We need to seek God's wisdom in those times because we don't think straight when we're in pain.

So that's just a little of what I gleaned from what the Lord had him share. Great stuff.

I finally got brave enough to march most of my posse over to meet him, so it was cool we got to say hi and talk very briefly. I mentioned that this book came at an incredible time in my life, just as things were really starting to take off for me spiritually in new ways. He signed our books with 1 Timothy 3-4.

Not to be neglected, we heard from some other good speakers too, including Crawford Loritz, Gary Haugen (preach it lawyer!), Erwin Lutzer and Chuck Colson, though he basically gave a book report on his latest. Here are a few quotes I picked up:

"I don't go to church. I belong to Church." -Chuck Colson

"We don't do good theology by over correcting bad theology." -Crawford Loritz

"It is not before us, it is before the cross that the world trembles." -Dietrich Bonhoffer (as quoted by Erwin Lutzer who taught on characteristics of false teachers and the need to actually share the actual Gospel. This seemed to be a common statement from many.)

Additionally, the worship was phenomenal. Some 4,000 people gathered in this old church, the front side of which was a pipe organ, just singing praises to God. As cool as that setting was, you could close your eyes and imagine, or at least wish, we were all already standing before the Lord.

I also purchased a copy of the new ESV Study Bible and picked up another Chris Tomlin CD on sale, so I'm really excited about those too.

So, I've got to say, in case you're wondering, I really like Francis Chan. I continue to learn a lot from him about loving God and loving people. I really like Franklin Graham as an example of how to show Christ to a hurting world. And I really like all the other guys who help me learn more about knowing God and becoming more like Him.

But the Man I'm crazy in love with is my Lord and my God, Jesus Christ, for all He has done and will do for me. And that love is growing exponentially, with room for limitless increase. I praise Him for experiences like this when I can grow in Him, and times in which He causes this love to increase that much more.

"We love Him because He first loved us." -1 John 4:19 (NKJV)

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