Check Yes or No (Prayer Devotional for the week of June 7, 2015)

The year was 1986. His name was Danny. He was funny, cute, never once called me “four eyes” like some other mean boys who shall remain nameless, and I had it bad. I mustered up the courage to write Danny a “check yes or no” note to see if he LIKED me liked me, or if he just, you know, plain ol’ liked me. Days and eons passed with no reply, and my self-esteem plummeted. Finally, one day on the way to P.E., he passed me in the hallway, smiled and handed me a folded note. He’d drawn a heart on the front of it.

 

This story isn’t about a sappy, romantic outcome, because Danny moved away shortly thereafter, and we lost touch. (Back then, there was a per-minute, long-distance fee to phone another town, and we had to use these things called stamps to correspond in writing.) What it boils down to is a question that we all need to know the answer to: Do you LIKE me like me, or do you just like me? The question goes beyond tweenage crushes and cuts to the core of our hearts, because it’s something that Christ asks each of us.

 

Jesus once put Peter on the spot and asked him a similar question in John 21. You may remember Peter from the crucifixion story—he’s the one who denied knowing Jesus three times over the course of one night. Our story picks up after Jesus was raised from the dead, and he appeared on the shore where Peter and others were [unsuccessfully] fishing. They realized who he was and had a meal together—after Jesus helped them haul in a miraculous catch. During the course of their conversation, Jesus posed the question three times to Peter: “Do you love me?” It was his way of reinstating Peter for denying him.

Jesus isn’t going to force us to love him or drag us along as mindless followers, without a will of our own. He offers us a choice to love him passionately and to follow him wholeheartedly. The Bible is his love letter to us, filled with grace, mercy and an eternal promise. Will you check yes or no?

(Originally posted January 22, 2012)

 

Office Hours (Prayer Devotional for the week of January 11, 2015)

Last semester, I was in my office a minimum of six hours each week outside of class time (though usually much more than that) for my designated office hours. Out of the dozens of students in my classes, only a handful ever came to see me during office hours. They were all invited, but very few ever showed.

 

A couple of those who came were my best students, and sometimes they popped in just to say hello, not because they needed anything. A few times, students would stop by with a question about an assignment. One student was at risk of failing my course and came by three times to talk to me about his challenges and progress, as the semester went on. Unfortunately, two other students who did end up failing never came to see me at all. They never answered emails or responded to my attempts to contact them.

 

I invited them, waited for them, reached out to them, and pursued them as best I could, but ultimately, the choice not to come was theirs.

 

At the risk of making students everywhere roll their eyes by comparing professors to God, doesn’t it sound a lot like the way he invites us to come to him … but we don’t?

 

On one occasion (among countless other times when the religious leaders of the day got their knickers in a wad over something Jesus said or did), the Pharisees and Sadducees started griping about Jesus sharing a meal with “notorious sinners” like a tax collector (Luke 5:30, TLB). He answered them bluntly by saying that sick people need a doctor, not those who are well. In the same way, sinners need a savior. He explained, “My purpose is to invite sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think themselves already good enough” (v. 32).

 

Several English translations use the word “called” in this verse, but I like the way some other translations insert the word “invited.” When I hear or read the word “called,” it sounds obligatory – like when a parent calls a child, and they are expected to come immediately. “Invited,” on the other hand, is an offer – a gift, you might say. Jesus invites us to come to him. Have you RSVPed?