grieving the loss of one of Jesus’s loved servants

Precious in the sight of the Lord
    is the death of his faithful servants.

Psalm 116:15; NIV

The church we’ve been attending, and are in the process of joining lost a faithful servant who I never had the pleasure of meeting myself. But a young woman, married with a daughter, who was in love with her family, in love with life, and most of all in love with the Lord. In a tragic car accident. She was a faithful servant with a heart for children’s ministry. I want to say that this church, mega though it is, with a number of campuses, does everything so thoughtfully and well. Most of all bathed in love and prayers, prayers and love. The church has a big place and heart for children, and for children’s ministry, as it should be. And this young (to me) lady had what she considered her dream job in being in children’s ministry, coordinating that ministry on the main campus.

We are deeply grieving, but how much more those who knew her, especially her loved ones? And those who were her friends, and served with her in the work of the Lord? So our prayers along with our hearts go out to her loved ones, and to the church at this time.

I couldn’t understand how this could be. I have been so grateful for the ministry of this church in so many ways, for so many reasons. We can never be the same after this, I’m sure. We need God’s grace to carry on. How much more those who knew and loved her, and served with her. You get so close to the Lord and then to others through the Lord through a ministry like this. Little does one realize what they have sometimes, until it’s taken away. Or sometimes, sadly, we may not appreciate someone enough until they’re gone.

In the context of Psalm 116, God had rescued the psalmist from death in answer to prayer, and the psalmist was praising God for that. I’m sure that psalm alone can be one for meditation and prayer in the coming days, although there are so many passages in scripture in which we can find some help, comfort and solace.

Note the differences in how Psalm 116:15 is translated:

The Lord cares deeply
    when his loved ones die.

NLT

The death of the Lord’s faithful
    is a costly loss in his eyes.

CEB

The Lord values
the lives of his faithful followers.

NET Bible

I think the footnote of the NET Bible is helpful:

Heb “precious in the eyes of the Lord [is] the death of his godly ones.” The point is not that God delights in or finds satisfaction in the death of his followers! The psalmist, who has been delivered from death, affirms that the life-threatening experiences of God’s followers get God’s attention, just as a precious or rare object would attract someone’s eye. See Ps 72:14 for a similar expression of this belief.

We have to let this sit, while we sit before the Lord in silence. And while we reach out in love to those whose lives intersected closely with hers.

She is with the Lord she loved now, and I’m sure is full of complete joy and peace. I am not sure about whether or just how she might be interceding for those left behind, if departed ones do that. That could well be; it’s a tradition of the church, though I don’t think there’s any proof for it from scripture. But I’m sure she would want those left behind to continue on in the work of the Lord. And do well in it. In God’s love.

But some things can leave the heart numb for a time, especially in this case for those left behind. We want to ask the question, “Why Lord?” And we can. But we have to trust, as well. Even when it makes no sense at all. And when we say, we don’t care what good might come out of it. We don’t care at all. We don’t understand. But in the end, we have to entrust and leave it in God’s hands. And let it go at that. In silence. And in faith.

At the very end, when it’s all said and done, our lives are only a blink of time here. These awful happenings will be remembered no more. And we’ll all be together again. Let’s continue on with the same love, passion and ardent devotion this young lady showed to all by her life and service to Jesus. In and through him.

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the Lord’s faithfulness to his servants

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

2 Timothy 4:16-18

To be a servant of Christ truly, is such a high and holy calling. Nothing should get in the way of that call, although a servant will want to do well by their family, if they’re wise. We have at least one biblical examples of a good servant who evidently may not have been as good when it came to his family. I’m thinking of Samuel in the Old Testament. Not that the children of all such servants might not lose their way for a time. But too often such servants can be neglectful of their families in their busy schedule of serving others. We need to try to be really present, both in terms of quality and quantity time with our children, and spouses. Yet there is little doubt that there will be some price they have to pay, as well as ourselves, to fulfill what God has called us to do.

Paul had the advantage of having no such ties, evidently having no immediate family of his own. Perhaps as a Pharisee he had a wife, but she evidently had died, because it is clear from the New Testament that he was not married when he wrote his letters (see 1 Corinthians 7). But Paul still had friends who served with him, and he needed companionship. And this was probably especially the case during trying and difficult times.

Paul was on trial because of his proclamation of the gospel, and had been abandoned by everyone, evidently because of their fear of being identified with him with their lives possibly at stake. Most of us today can’t really identify with that. But what we can understand is the sense of being alone, of others not in the work with us, maybe having a hard time finding anyone to serve where needed at all. And yet we can press on time and time again, often not really feeling like it, but still wanting to do it. And we find over and over again, that the Lord is faithful and stands with us. That somehow he is present, and through us he blesses others. That is what Paul experienced, and it is for all of us who endeavor to faithfully serve Christ, even when oftentimes, it’s not convenient. The Lord is faithful. And he will be with us to the very end, as in our weakness, we endeavor to be a faithful servant of his to others, come what may. All in and through him.

 

 

Billy Graham’s funeral

I watched/listened to Billy Graham’s funeral yesterday. Like with countless others, God had a profound impact on my life through the ministry of Billy Graham. And his life, though peculiarly gifted, is an example for us all.

I thought the funeral was fitting, but also squirmed some when I kept hearing accolades and praise heaped on Billy himself. I was thinking that to simply hear him preach a message as in one of his mission (previously called crusade) programs would have been better. His life was all about pointing people to Jesus and the gospel/good news of God in Jesus through his death on the cross. And yet he was a man deserving of special honor, to be sure.

Songs/hymns which Billy chose, and well done. Good words from his children, and a good closing word from Franklin Graham, echoing his father, and what his father would have wanted and appreciated.

I will forever appreciate and be thankful to God for the life and ministry of Billy Graham along with myriads of others. To God be the glory. In and through Jesus.

comparing one’s self with others

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise.

2 Corinthians 10

2 Corinthians 10-13 was an expose by the Apostle Paul, of false teachers, false apostles. Paul himself did not measure up to their standards. For one thing, he was weak, when they were strong. Paul’s refute of them is classic, and more than memorable words. We must take them to heart.

I don’t have enough patience with those who put down this or that servant of God as not measuring up to their standard. Usually such people have a propensity to look down on others, as if they themselves are above them. They need to humble themselves.

Paul went right after them, not mincing words. The gospel was surely at stake, since these false apostles were attacking the messenger, Paul. But also what was at stake is what it means to follow Christ, and be a true servant of Christ.

A true servant of Christ helps others to focus on Christ and the gospel, and not on themselves, or how great they are. We are servants of Christ, and of God’s word, and through that, of others (2 Corinthians 4).

The right focus is to celebrate the Lord’s working in everyone who belongs to him in whatever form that might take. The most ordinary may be more imbued with the Lord’s voice and power, than the one who has a celebrity status. Our focus needs to be on Christ and the gospel, and on God’s word. And out of that, be thankful for the many gifts God gives. Real spiritual, Spirit-directed discernment will often find the Lord’s voice, presence and power in people who don’t measure up according to worldly standards.

In so doing, we seek to be true followers of Christ Jesus. In and through him, and the gospel.

 

thanks to Jack and Sharon

Last week I shared the new commitment which Deb and I are embarked on. Today I want to thank Pastor Jack and Pastor Sharon Brown for their ministry to us during the years.

Because of the destructive criticism I’ve seen that is all too often endemic even among Christians, I tend to want to go extreme the other way. But I invoke a Biblical argument for that, namely Barnabas whose name meant son of encouragement. He was a man of God who preached the word and was a companion for a time with the Apostle Paul. And I knew a great pastor, Bill Hesse, whose life and ministry reminded me of Barnabas. I have called Pastor Bill “Barnabas risen from the dead.” Also I’ve often thought of Psalm 16:3:

“I say of the holy people who are in the land,
“They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

That out of the way, I want to thank Jack and Sharon Brown, the pastors at Redeemer Covenant Church for their ministry to us over the years. Jack and Sharon complement each other quite well in their ministry at Redeemer. Jack is the extrovert, and Sharon tells us she’s an introvert. Jack gives good, thoughtful, dynamic sermons, not to mention his leading us in worship on the grand piano with the mix of instruments up front. Sharon, an award winning author and seminary professor doing pastoral care (not that Jack doesn’t) is especially gifted in praying with us both during the service and afterward. And her sermons are just as dynamic but in a quieter way as she works us through a text usually with a mix of sound exegesis and lectio divina. We will miss them, and we do.

We are enjoying getting to know Father Michael at Prince of Peace Anglican Church. He is also a servant of Christ who loves to teach during his sermons, as he calls us to faith and faithfulness through Jesus and the gospel. I’m enjoying getting to know him and the folks there.

Never will I compare servants of Christ. That is all we are at best. Any good that may come out is completely a gift from God no matter how hard we may work at it. Even our effort is a gift from God. We want it to be of the Spirit, and not of the flesh. And the best we can say for any church leader is that they are servants of Christ.

I believe the last service we attended was a rather chilly late summer Sunday. For some reason I simply stayed in summer clothes and I felt cool in the service as we took our regular seats in the back. With that coolness, which uncharacteristically for me I didn’t mind (at least much to speak of) it seemed that the cool breeze of the Spirit was manifest in an unusual way during that service. Yes, the Spirit is on that church and on Jack and Sharon. True also of Mike and Prince of Peace. And true whether we feel that to be the case or not.

When we met after our departure, Jack and Sharon epitomized what their ministry at Redeemer is. It was all love and encouragement, even though it had to hurt as well. You wouldn’t have known it. We miss and love these folks who we are also privileged to know as friends. And Redeemer is indeed a special church. Thanks, Jack and Sharon.