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August 2015

July 2015 entries

My Prayer for the Families of the Victims of 7/16 in Chattanooga

It's been one week since the tragic shootings in Chattanooga. One day Chattanooga is known as the best mid-sized town in America and the next we are known for a horrible violent event. One week later we know a little more about what transpired last Thursday, but we still don't know for certain why. There is one thing for sure, it has left a lot of hurting people in it's wake.

I struggled Sunday how much of the service to dedicate to the news. Should we scrap the planned service and dedicate it to the tragedy? Should I hold a prayer service only and then dismiss? I knew it would not be right to dismiss it altogether. I decided on making it the  priority of the morning but not to dedicate the entirety of the message or the service. Not everyone agreed with the decision I made and I am good with that. I decided to make it a priority by dedicating the first part of my message in the first two services and beginning the third and final service with prayer and Scripture reading.

Our media assistant excerpted those seven minutes of the third service and placed it on our church Facebook page. The video has been viewed over 2,100 times. Rather than me write my thoughts again one week later I am linking to those seven minutes here. I wouldn't say it any different if I were to have the opportunity again.

The Ultimate Deliverance from Evil

Today I have the privilege of participating in a memorial service for a young man who was a member of our fellowship. While I am 20 years his senior he was one of those guys I regret I didn't make an effort to get to know better. It would have been an honor to call him my friend.

Just over a year ago he was diagnosed with a disease that would eventually take his life. I kept up with his situation through members of his small group and prayer requests that gave a regular update as to his condition. On a couple of occasions I was able to pray with him and his wife personally. Every time I was so impressed with his courage and positive spirit. Last week my wife and I visited  him and his wife in the hospital. Once again I left  his room with my spirits lifted. I rejoiced when I heard was doing better over the next couple of days. I even commented to someone Sunday at church how much better he was doing. Then just after getting home from church I received word that this courageous young man had died.

I was taken back by my immediate gut reaction: anger. I felt angry toward God. This guy was a good husband and father. He loved God and was faithful to His church. Why? Why did God not spare this guy and allow him many more years with his family? Especially since there are so many men out there who don't care about God or doing what is right; they don't cherish their wives or their kids; yet they seem almost indestructible. If God can heal and deliver, and I've seen Him do both, why wasn't this guy a candidate?Then I met with his wife.

She sat in my office and described the positive attitude her husband kept during the whole ordeal. He did not believe in giving up or giving in. She described how his prayers were for God's will to be done and how even in his dying moments there was a smile on his face. While she spoke the Spirit brought a scripture back to my mind. I had heard Zig Ziglar quote this verse many times and tell how it brought peace to his heart at the death of his daughter. Here it is:

"The righteous perish, and no one ponders in his heart, devout men are taken away and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death." Isaiah 57: 1 - 2 (NIV) 

God, who as Creator is not confined by space or time, sees what lies ahead. We cannot. He knows what waits for His children tomorrow, and the next day, and the next. God, who loves His children so much that He died for them, mercifully calls them home from evil that we cannot see. Death becomes the ultimate rescue from pain. It is impossible for us to see that with finite eyes. We have to accept it by faith.      

 I have a new task to add to my long to-do list when I get to heaven. I want to thank this young man for teaching his pastor about faith and courage. I want to let him know what a blessing he was to me in his suffering and even more the way he faced life's final battle. It's the least I can do.