Devotional – Psalm 30.4

Devotional:

Psalm 30.4

Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.

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How often are we really thankful for the people God has placed in our lives? Sadly, it usually takes a profound moment of loss or grief before we are able to recognize how fortunate we were to spend time with them. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat with a family while planning a funeral when someone breaks down in tears as they begin to wrestle with how shaped they were by the person now dead. It is a frightening moment when we recognize how blessed we were to have them, and their loss leaves a gaping hole.

On Saturday night I received an email from my home church containing the news that a man by the name of Bud Walker had passed away. As my eyes read over the lines in the email it was impossible to not let my emotions get the better of me as I realized that one of the greatest men I’ve ever been privileged to call my friend is now gone.

I met Bud Walker on a Sunday morning when I was 13 years old. I was responding to a volunteer opportunity from the church bulletin about learning how to run the sound system for Sunday services and Bud was going to teach me how it worked. For a month he stood behind me and looked over my shoulder as I twisted nobs and raised levels so that the whole congregation could hear the choir and the pastors, and for that whole month I was terrified of messing up. And yet, even after I passed my training month, Bud continued to stand with me at the back of the church before and after worship just to talk. I learned about his life and his family, I heard stories from his youth, and I saw what it meant to be faithful. During those incredibly formative years of my youth, I learned about God from the sermons, but I learned what it meant to follow Jesus from Bud Walker.

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At the time, my experience of church was that the adults got to do their thing and the youth got to do their thing. We might all sit in the same sanctuary on Sunday mornings, but there was a clear divide between our activities. Bud never saw that divide. He was one of the first people who pushed me to pursue a calling to the ministry, and he always made me feel like I mattered. And now he’s gone.

Today I sing praises to our Lord for having placed Bud Walker in my life; I am a better person for having spent time with him. As we continue to take steps on the path that leads to following Jesus, let us not take for granted the people God has given to us. Let us find the time this week to reach out to the people who helped to shape us and, if they are no longer living on earth, let us sing praises for the time we had with them.

Devotional – 2 Corinthians 4.16

Devotional:

2 Corinthians 4.16

So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.

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One day I’m going to write a book about all the hilarious, remarkable, frightening, and life-giving things that have taken place during my ministry. Being a pastor is, in my opinion, one of the greatest vocations because it is a privileged responsibility. Pastors are invited in the depth of brokenness, the height of celebration, and everything in between. Some of the stories I have accrued over the last two years who never be appropriate from the pulpit, but one day I’ll get the good ones written down.

Dick Dickerson was a source of great moments. When I received a phone call about his passing away on Saturday, I gave God thanks for putting him in my life and helping me to discover what grace really looks like. But his death did not fully hit me until I announced it from the pulpit yesterday morning and I realized that I would no longer get to see his smiling face, hear his endearing laugh, or listen to one of his great stories.

For instance: When he served during World War 2 as a Quarter-Master he would lie to his superiors when requesting certain supplies saying they were for General Patton just so he could get the equipment necessary to support his troops. Or the story about how he not so subtly attempted to make conservatives out of his friends by offering them whisky only so long as they declared allegiance to the Republican Party. His life was one great story worth telling over and over.

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A few weeks ago we were sitting in his apartment talking about the end. Death was not far away and Dick’s bone cancer was getting worse and worse everyday. Yet, he was completely prepared for it. He kept saying, “I’m ready for the Lord to take me.” While the pain was striking deep in his bones he kept such tremendous faith because he knew the Lord was with him and waiting to take him home.

When we lose the people we love, we are caught in a dilemma. On some level we are thankful that they are finally at peace and have gone to be with God, but at the same time we mourn losing them in our lives. Yet Dick was a witness to the kind of faith we are called to have: His outer nature was wasting away, but his faith was growing each and every day. The last thing Dick ever said to me was this: “I never knew God could love me this much.”

This week, let us reflect on what it means to keep the faith. Not a blind faith without doubt, but a willingness to see how our inner nature is being renewed even while our outer nature wastes away. Let us give thanks to God for all who have gone on before us, and pray that the Lord would give us the strength to be better witnesses for those who will come after us.