“Remember me, O my God, concerning this, and do not wipe out my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services” (Nehemiah 13:14). “Remember me, O God, for good” (Nehemiah 13:30).
In the 18 months since I moved back to Mississippi, twice I have had men approach me, introduce themselves, and thank me for something I did over three decades ago.
After graduating from seminary in New Orleans in 1967, my young family and I moved to the Mississippi Delta region where I pastored a church for three years. Then, we moved to the capital city of Jackson where for another three years, I served on staff of the great First Baptist Church. Following that, we lived in Columbus, Mississippi for nearly thirteen years as I pastored the First Baptist Church. Then, we moved away.
That was thirty-two years ago, 1986.
In October of 2016 I moved back to the Jackson area and the following January married Bertha Fagan, the widow of a seminary classmate Dr. Gary Fagan. We joined the FBC of Jackson, while I travel far and wide–as the invitations come in–to preach and minister as the Lord leads. My retirement ministry is far more rewarding than I could ever have anticipated.
Twice this has happened.
A man comes up and calls my name. “I’ve been wanting to meet you for years,” he says.
And the story from both men is almost the same.
“Over thirty years ago, you counseled a college girl not to have an abortion. Because of what you said to her, she kept the baby. I was the father of the child. She and I later married. And she gave birth to a daughter.”
One said, “The child was born handicapped. She lived eleven years and was the joy of our lives.”
The other said, “That daughter is now over 30 years old and I do not have words to say how much she means to me.”
They each seemed to struggle to find words to thank me enough.
I told them the same thing. “You know that I don’t have any memory of this.”
“I understand,” they said.
“But,” I said, “I sure hope I did that! I sure hope you’ve got the right minister! I want this on my record!”
They laughed, we shook hands, and they left.
I’ve been grateful ever since for this little foretaste of Heaven. In glory, we believe, people will be coming up thanking others for a witness, a prayer, a gift, a sermon, a word of counsel that made an eternity of difference.
So the Lord just gave me a little advance taste of it. I am forever humbled and grateful.
What else I want on my record….
–I want the Lord to say of me that I loved Him with all my heart and backed it up by my deeds, my obedience. After all, the Lord Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
–I want it on my record that I grew in Christ and was a far better man toward the end than I was early on. After all, Scripture says, “We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Wouldn’t it be something if the final space between what I am here and what I am about to become there was small? “We shall be like Him,” we read, “for we shall see Him as He is” (I John 3:2). “We shall be changed” (I Corinthians 15:51).
–I want it on my record that I loved the unlovely and stood up for the oppressed and was kind to the undeserving.
–I’d love for the Lord to note that I was kind to those who were unkind to me, that I did a few loving things to the neighbor who cursed me out because my tree was shedding in his yard, that I blessed the elderly church member who was so critical and wrote such a scathing letter to me. When we do loving things to our enemies, Jesus said, we “will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil” (Luke 6:35).
And something not on my record…
I want my record to have a few blank places where something was there, something I did but which I’m ashamed of, where “the blood of Jesus Christ” has “cleansed me of my sin” (I John 1:7). After all, when He cleanses the sin, it is gone. “Buried in the depths of the sea” (Micah 7:19). “Separated from us as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12).
I have sat in the back of a funeral home while ministers were eulogizing someone who had devoted himself to opposing everything I tried to do. And I prayed, “Father, I forgive him. Would you forgive him too? Please take him to yourself for eternity. May I meet him in heaven someday, please?”
I figure that when I stand before the Lord, I’m going to need all the mercy I can get. Since “blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy,” I want to show mercy.
May that be on my record. Amen.