My 11 year-old son had noticed the tears running down my face last night as I sat on the couch with my laptop, watching a live stream of what's called Passion 2013, a conference for 18-25 year-olds being held at the Georgia Dome this week.
I struggled to find the words to answer his question. There were so many reasons all at once. First, there were tears from the joy of seeing the Dome filled with college students from all over the country, worshipping and celebrating Jesus and what He has accomplished through His death and resurrection. Knowing my oldest son, Joshua, was there among the worshippers, and that my wife and many friends were there volunteering, praying for, and serving the students, deepened that joy and connection to what was happening there.
There were tears of happiness. Having been a part of the Passion Conference the past couple of years, I knew how much had gone into the preparation for this event and how many thousands of volunteers had come together to make it happen. I put myself in the place of Louie and Shelley Giglio who lead the movement, and thought about how it must feel to stand in the middle of that many people who had come together because of a vision God has placed on their hearts, a vision to see Jesus's name made famous.
There was certainly some sadness about not being there as I had planned to be all year long.
But there was something else going on in my heart at the same time, something even deeper. There was a longing for my life to count, to be a part of what Jesus is doing to redeem the world and to make all things new. Even though I'm in ministry, I still feel like so much of my life is about survival. So many of us are struggling to make ends meet, and even if we are trusting God to provide, we still have a tendency to worry about how he's going to do it! There was something about last night that woke up my heart's desire to run this race of life and be about something besides myself.
You see, the focus of the Passion Conference is not only the freedom that Jesus has given us from our sins and the eternal condemnation we deserved, but it is also about the freedom He wants to give through us to 27 million people in the world who are being trafficked as slaves. The reality of the numbers of women and children forced to be a part of the sex industry alone is overwhelmingly heart breaking.
As Jesus addressed the worries of this world, and the concerns we have regarding food, clothing, and shelter, he said not to toil over these concerns, "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well." (Matthew 6:33 NIV). Jesus did more than admonish us for worrying with this statement, he freed us to experience the joy of pursuing God's will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. He wants all of his children to be treated with love and dignity and in a way that reflects the great value He has place on us. Yes, Father paid for us, ransomed us, all of us, with the life of His only begotten son!
There is much to celebrate today, and there is much to do in the name of, or as a re-presentation of, Jesus. If you would like to have your heart stirred, take in some of the Passion Conference linked here, today and tomorrow while you have the chance. If you don't hit it during a live feed, you can see some of the earlier recorded sessions.
I thought it was funny that my son later said, "Daddy, why are you smiling?" I guess the short answer to both questions would be, I just couldn't help it.