Denison Forum – Finding faith, hope, and love in a very personal loss

Many of our longtime readers know that Rev. Jeff Byrd has been my ministry partner for thirty years. He and I served three churches together before co-founding the Denison Forum nearly ten years ago.

Jeff and his wife, Billie, have two sons and a daughter named Morgan. Janet and I have known her since she was born. We rejoiced with their family when she married a fantastic young man named Caleb Scott nearly two years ago (I was privileged to conduct their wedding ceremony). Caleb was a firefighter with a true servant heart and deep love for Jesus.

Tuesday morning, Caleb was found unresponsive in his North Richland Hills fire station. Paramedics were able to revive his heart and rushed him to the hospital, but he died around 5:30 that afternoon. We have no idea what caused Caleb’s death and are in shock over this tragedy. He and Morgan both turned twenty-nine last month.

Please pray for Morgan and her wonderful family, and for our ministry team, as we grieve this sudden and tragic loss.

Tomorrow is promised to no one

Caleb’s death brings home the fact that tomorrow is promised to none of us. Our ministry team had no idea Tuesday morning that we would be grieving his death that evening.

Paradoxically, our culture makes death more imminent but more remote than ever before.

The 24/7 news cycle reports tragedies from all over the world in real time. There is more violence in movies and on television than ever. Video games and virtual reality technology make violence more realistic than ever.

But this accessibility to suffering inoculates us against its reality. When you learned about the YouTube shooting last Tuesday, was your first response something like, “Here we go again”? Violence and death are so present in our world that they have lost much of their impact on us.

It’s therefore easy to ignore the fact of our mortality. Satan would like nothing more.

He wants us to overlook the reality that we will live forever, either with God in heaven or separated from him in hell. He wants us to focus our attention on this life to the exclusion of the life to come.

If Jesus is our Lord, our enemy wants us to live for the temporal rather than working for the eternal, hoping we will have as little spiritual impact in this life as possible. Meanwhile, he wants non-Christians to ignore eternity and the imminent peril of their souls.

As C. S. Lewis noted, the devil believes that “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

Three ways to live for heaven on earth

One way our Father wants to redeem tragedy is by using it to remind us of the brevity of life and the importance of eternity.

God asks, “What is your life?” Then he answers his question: “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'” (James 4:14–15).

Our Father wants us to remember that heaven and hell are forever. Imagine a hummingbird that made a trip from the moon to the earth once every thousand years, bringing back in its beak a tiny piece of our planet. When the bird has moved the earth to the moon, eternity will have only begun.

What does it mean for us to live for heaven on earth?

One: We serve Jesus with bold courage.

I wrote yesterday on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s amazing courage in the face of imminent peril. He could serve his cause so bravely because he knew that his physical death would lead to his eternal reward in heaven. Can you say the same?

Two: We live a life God can bless today and reward forever.

It was announced yesterday that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress on April 11. By contrast, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Corinthians 5:10). Are you ready?

Three: We do all we can to help everyone we know to know Jesus.

A retired missionary once lamented to me, “We spend more time praying saints out of heaven than sinners out of hell.” Are his words true of you?

Faith, hope, and love

Scripture teaches, “Now faith, hope, and love abide, these three” (1 Corinthians 13:13). To make sense of this fleeting life, we need faith in God, hope in his future, and love from our Father and his children.

In The Irony of American History, Reinhold Niebuhr noted: “Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore we must be saved by hope. Nothing which is true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore we must be saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love.”

Caleb Scott embraced hope, faith, and love. Let’s join him.

 

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