Thirteen years of actively walking with Jesus has exposed me to a wide variety of experiences, ministries and leaders. I have rubbed elbows with incredible men and women of God, and I have butted heads with my fair share of questionable characters. With each new relationship, I learn something about God, about myself and about what it means to love people. However, very few people have impacted my view of ministry, itself, more than Bishop Moody. So today, I just want to take some time to talk about him, and maybe impact you in a similar way.
One year ago today, my morning writing was interrupted by a text message from my wife, letting me know that she had received the call we had been expecting, but were still not ready for. Bishop Moody, her Grandfather - the first man to ever demonstrate the unconditional love of God in her life - had traded in the almost perfect (and I doubt anyone would challenge me on that) and embraced his King for the very first time.
I still remember the flood of emotions. Obviously, grief was chief among them. Not just grief at having lost this figure in my own life, but grief over how deeply his loss would be felt later. By my wife, who found the face of Jesus in his booming voice and uncompromising integrity. By my children, who would never know the example he had set for the rest of us. For his church, who knew him as a father, and not just a Pastor. But also by myself... knowing that despite how intimately he had impacted my life already, our dinner table bible talks and his whispered advise whenever I came to town was over. I remember thinking, "I should have taken this opportunity to learn from him more seriously."
But it wasn't all grief. In fact, the very first thought I had when I heard the news, after making sure my wife was OK, was, "Oh man... he's seen Jesus."
Now, it's been a year, and there are three memories specifically that I hold onto, and I can't let go of. I'd like to take a moment to share them with you.
1. He believed in obeying God
The first time I met Bishop, we were sitting in a restaurant, and he was interrogating me. I was the mystery man in Elizabeth's life and he had come to town to unravel me. I remember her Grandmother greeting me with a hug and a kiss, laughing frequently in that welcoming way she does. She was the picture of warmth. Not Bishop. He was stone faced and filled with questions. But there was a moment where the conversation shifted and I fell in love with the man.
Still stone faced, he asked me why I wanted to marry his granddaughter. To which I replied, "Because God told me she was the one." Immediately, his shell broke, and with a shrug he said, "Well, I can't argue with that. Obey God, young man." Since that moment, I knew Bishop was the kind of man I wanted to be.
And it turned out that I was right. He was the best grandfather-in-law a man could ask for. Despite the fact that I only knew him for the last five-or-so years of his life, I can't think of a man who expressed more pride in me, or love for me. Every time we were in the same room, he took the time to ask me what God was doing in my life. And once I had told him, he always smiled and raised one fist in the air, declaring in his sing-song way, "Yes, sir! Yes, sir! God is good!"
He didn't have to do that... but he always did. And I'll never forget it. While so many in my life were standing by, waiting for me to prove myself, Bishop never asked me to. He only asked me to obey God.
2. He called me his princess
In the same conversation I referenced above, Bishop said something to me that I have recalled frequently as I have tried to be a good father and a good man. While grilling me over my engagement to Elizabeth, he gave me a stern glare and said, "This is my princess."
I've never forgotten that. For him, our conversation wasn't about deciding whether or not he liked me. It wasn't a vet to make sure I followed the right sports teams and served in the right kind of church. No, for him, it was about making sure that this man sitting before him would look at his princess and treasure her as much as he did. And although I can't say that I have never failed to do so, I have never forgotten what I learned about being a father that day.
Not that he made it easy to forget. I've joked many times with my wife over the last year about how often Bishop would accidentally text me, "Hello, Princess" when he got our numbers mixed up. I can't tell you how many times I told him that wasn't her number, but he never stopped. A part of me wonders if it wasn't intentional. Either way, it always brought me joy, and to this day, getting called his princess is probably the thing I miss most about our relationship.
3. He believed God
I have been to my fair share of funerals over the years, but Bishop's stood out in an unexpected way. Instead of stories of grief or regret or sadness, person after person took the stage to share how uncompromising his faith was.
There was one story that stood out in particular. It was shared by a man who was raised in the faith under Bishop's teaching. He shared about one of his first mission trips, and how the entire team was experiencing unbelievable spiritual warfare. I can't quite remember the details, but we're not talking about run of the mill "i'm having a bad week and blaming demons" spiritual warfare. I mean that they were bringing the gospel to new regions and the enemy was pushing back hard. He shared how panicked so many of them were, but when Bishop Moody arrived, they told him what was going on, and he just calmly told them it was done. And it was.
There are two types of examples when it comes to faith.
There are those who contend and fight for freedom. Men who labor to understand the theological nature of spiritual warfare and implement strategic plans for overcoming the enemy.
And then there are the Bishop Moodys... who just believe God.
Over the last year, dozens of articles have been written in memory of Bishop Carlis Moody Sr. Tribute videos have been made, sermons have been preached, honors have been given. The man changed the face of mission work. He pioneered global missions for the C.O.G.I.C. church and raised a generation to believe in the power of the gospel. He was, without question, the greatest man of faith I have ever met. And as I sit at my computer, minutes before the clock strikes 12, thinking about him, I am challenged.
I am challenged to be a better man. To be a man who believes God. To be a man who loves my Princesses without reservation. The kind of man who takes joy in raising men and women to take my place one day, without any need to compete with them or hold them back. The kind of man who pretends to accidentally call my grandson-in-law a princess (just kidding). The kind of man who laughs when a two year old calls him a weirdo. The kind of man who doesn't choose between obeying God and loving people. The kind of man that no one can find fault in.
Bishop's was an mantel that shouldn't be left on a cozy pedestal to wait for someone worthy to wear it. No... it is mantel that every single one of us should swing around our shoulders and wear with pride.
Whatever your yesterday looked like, I hope that you will join me in deciding that tomorrow will look like uncompromising love, cherishing the people in your life who matter and living a lifestyle of believing God.
That is how I remember Bishop Moody. And one day, I pray it is how my family remembers me.