Has God ever called you to go back home?
My parents had just spent five years of their lives serving in the inner city of Philadelphia when they heard God tell them to go back home.
Five years earlier they obeyed God when He told them to push pause on their lives, hold off retirement awhile longer and go to the inner city of Philly to serve there.
And now here they were just five years later being told to go back home…. It would have been easy for them to question God but they didn’t instead they graciously grabbed hold of God’s directing in their lives and headed home.
They felt God was leading them to their family.
Most of their kids and Grand kids lived in Maine and they felt a clear calling to make their family their ministry.
Just a couple of years earlier my Dad had suffered sudden death and spent 7 days in a coma.
When he woke up from being unconscious his brain had to relearn how to do some of the simplest tasks and yet Dad woke up with a distinct message from God, which he communicated, to all of us.
He said that while he was in his coma he heard God tell him that all 10 of his children would be walking with the Lord before he died.
I remember when Dad shared this with me I have to admit I was a tad bit skeptical of his encounter. I reassured him God would continue pursuing all of his children but it was up to them to follow God and have a relationship with Him. But Dad unswervingly held close this word from God and even spoke of it to his death.
I was raised in a strong Catholic family and although I grew up knowing about God it wasn’t until my Dad’s first heart attack when he was 39 that I heard of the idea of having a relationship with God and how much God loved me.
It was sixteen years later that Dad had his encounter with God. At this time very few of my brothers and sisters were walking in the Lord, I prayed for all of them to find God but I couldn’t imagine God would be so gracious to pass out such a promise to my Dad. I mean I’ve read that kind of stuff in the Bible where entire families came to the Lord but surely God couldn’t do that with mine! There were 10 of us kids, could God really work in all 10 of our lives?
I was recently reading a story in Mark 5 about a man Jesus encountered who had a legion of demons wreaking havoc on him and how Jesus set him free. Following the man’s healing he had a seemingly simple request of Jesus he asked him,
‘can I go with you?’
And to the man’s surprise Jesus replied
and told him,
‘Go back to your home and to your family and tell them what the Lord has done for you. Tell them how He had mercy on you.’
Like this man Jesus also told my parents their ministry was back home.
Many of us struggle with this kind of mission. We want the exotic, adventurous assignments. The one where we evangelize to strangers and the lost yet not our families! We often neglect the sharing of our stories with the ones God has placed inside our family circle.
Yet that wasn’t so with my parents, it was so refreshing to see the fire in their hearts for their new ministry.
They returned back home after serving a five-year commitment in Philly and immediately began investing in my family’s lives.
They babysat grandchildren, extended love to the broken and began the ministry of reconciliation where it was needed.
Dad and Mom got involved in their church even traveling an hour and half to be part of a church.
My parents never claimed to be perfect they just gratefully embraced God’s amazing grace and love.
They served God even in their own brokenness this was where the beauty of their lives laid. They chose to set aside the lies the enemy often tells us that we can’t lead and serve in ministry unless we are healed and walking in perfection. Dad and Mom continued their ministry to our family until their deaths…Mom’s in 2015 and Dad’s recently in March of 2018.
Can you imagine if the once demon possessed man chose to keep quiet?
If he had returned back home and chose not to embrace the ministry God had given him?
Who would have missed the message of the gospel?
And just like him my parents had a story to live out back home, the gospel to be told through their lives.
As I mentioned my Dad recently passed away. Before he died I had the treasure of having him at my house for five weeks, it was a beautiful time of watching him live his ministry out all the way back home to Jesus.
Come in a little closer friends…. because the story I have to share is a very personal and tender one but I know it has the power to minister to some of you who are praying for your love ones to know God.
Until recently my Dad had been receiving treatments for his bone cancer back home and had decided to come and see us in the south for a few months to enjoy the warmer weather and a change of scenery. I was ecstatic; to have him closer and glean from his hope filled perspective.
A few days before my Dad came to Texas I sent him a copy of John Piper’s writing titled ‘Don’t waste your cancer’. https://www.desiringgod.org/books/dont-waste-your-cancer
I had shared it with my sister years ago when she had Cancer and thought Dad would be blessed by it now.
He read the article the night before he came to my house and the following morning as my younger brother was driving him to the airport my Dad told him of his renewed purpose for his life. He told my brother about the writing and how it gave him a new perspective for his life.
John Piper writes….“Cancer does not win if you die.
It wins if you fail to cherish Christ.”
So that is just what Dad chose to do!
‘So it is with cancer.
This will be an opportunity to bear witness.
Christ is infinitely worthy.
Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life.
Don’t waste it.’
“If you don’t believe God designed your cancer for you, you will waste it.”
When Dad arrived he and I had a lot of conversations,
I loved talking with my Dad.
During one of our conversations I asked him if he realized everyone all of my siblings were seeking a relationship with the Lord except for one.
We both were kind of stunned…we hadn’t thought of it recently and were reminded of God’s promise to my Dad’s heart. You see my Dad wasn’t counting our faith like that, although he desired for all of us to follow Christ he just faithfully prayed for us all to truly know Christ. We rejoiced in this realization as a declaration of how God was fulfilling what He had told my Dad 26 years earlier. As we talked that day I told Dad maybe my sibling would find God through my Dad’s death and not his life…. that perhaps God would use my Dad’s absence to fill my their life with Him. Dad found comfort in this but didn’t stop living out his ministry to our family, which God had on his heart.
Just five days after arriving at my house my Dad went into kidney failure. We didn’t expect him to be dying so soon. He thought he had more time and more of his ministry to do. He was always looking ahead to what God was asking of him. One day in the hospital as he was really suffering I asked Dad why he thought God was having him wait to die, I wondered what was getting him through the hard of each day. He confidently told me ‘God has more ministry for me to do.’
Dad didn’t make our family his only ministry he served everywhere he was. He told countless people of God’s love from his sheets of his suffering, never missing an opportunity to credit God and pass out his love and grace. As his days grew shorter and nearer to his death my Dad asked for this sibling to come and see him he wanted to speak to them about God one more time. My brother came the following week and stayed for a couple of days. As my brother was leaving he gave my Dad a hug and as he hugged him my Dad whispered in his ear ‘Trust in the Lord so we can be in Heaven together.’
It was a message God had given Dad, he loved my brother dearly and couldn’t imagine Heaven without him!
Dad died two days later and just 5 days after that I got a text from my brother that read,
‘I wanted you to know I decided to trust the Lord.’
I still can’t write these words without getting teary…without joy bubbling in my soul. You see my sweet brother knows the grace and love of Jesus and is walking with Him. We all miss Dad but together we have Jesus. We may lose everything on this earth but we have Jesus together.
What ministry has God laid on your heart that you keep putting off until a later day? Who has He been nudging you to talk to?
No matter what our circumstances are… we have a purpose, a ministry here and just like Dad resolved to not waste even the very thing that was wasting his physical body away, we too have hard & holy things to live out.
Sometimes I can get so caught up in the here & now, the busyness and hard days that I forget people, I forget to love on those around me and I forget why God has placed me here.
What is God asking you to put in this space?
‘Don’t waste your______________!’
I know there’s a lot I could fill in the blank with right now…. my time, my hurt, my unforgiveness, my losses, my pride, my selfishness…. whatever it is that He’s calling you to not waste resolve today to live through it…a recent diagnosis, a recent layoff, an addiction that’s ruining your life, a broken marriage, betrayal…whatever it is I challenge you to resolve it within your heart
-to make every moment,
every conversation count and matter.
Because when we make all things count we make Jesus’ sacrifice count too!