"..In all these things we are more than conquerers through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of
God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The past few weeks have been a painful reminder that this world is not our home. I have wanted and needed to write this post for the past week, but it's been difficult to know how to write down everything God has laid on my heart. So today I'm pouring it out. All of it. Two weeks ago tomorrow, Matt D., a dear brother in Christ who led worship at our church, suddenly and tragically passed away from a post surgery pulmonary embolism after a scary car accident that had occurred 4 days prior. He had been expected to make a full recovery, and we were all praising the Lord for sparing his life. Kevin worked on staff with him at the multisite campus of our church for the past 3 years. He and his wife of 13 years have an 11 yr old, 5 yr old, and 2 yr. old. He was only 36.
I, like many others in our church family, will never forget that terrible moment Saturday morning, hearing that he went to be with Jesus. That, and the hours that followed, were some of the most painfully shocking moments of my life. I witnessed my husband on his knees and crying out to God, asking why. Everyone was, and still is to some degree, in shock over this loss. We were instantly reminded that this world is not our home; this is not at all how it's meant to be.
Matt loved Jesus with all his heart and his impact was incredible, as evidenced by the endless stories about him that have been shared. Anytime we saw Matt at church whether in the hallway, the sanctuary, or the parking lot he always seemed happy to see us. He made everyone feel like that. And he was so excited for us when we had Selah. I always thought it was so sweet when we saw him and he wanted to get a glimpse of her, especially when she was new. Anytime we had staff get togethers he was always making others laugh and filled with laughter himself. He was so full of joy and kindness. He had an amazing musical gift, and was a wonderful and humble worship leader.
We have shed countless tears trying to grasp life here without him present. Hearing and reading the stories of so many lives he has touched has been amazing. I know we've all been humbled by how passionately he was living out his faith and reaching others. About 2,000 people, from all over the country were at his funeral, which was an incredibly tough, but beautiful celebration of his life. So many tears, but the Holy Spirit was so present and powerful. One person said they have never experienced such authentic worship as they did that day. I would have to agree. We even baptized someone after it was over. It seems like each time we've been together to worship since that horrible Saturday, we have definitely longed to have Matt walk out on stage and lead us again, but we have also praised the Lord and sang our hearts out more desperately than ever before...because we believe more than ever that what we are singing is true. And we need it to be so. So many are missing Matt now, our longing for heaven having only been increased.
While our church family's faith has been tested and we continue to grieve the loss of Matt's presence here on earth, we have all been raised up to invest more deeply and fully in the only thing that really matters. And that is to know our Savior Jesus Christ, surrender our lives to him, and introduce as many as possible to him, so that we will celebrate and worship together for eternity. Seriously friends, it's time for action over apathy, service over selfishness, and committment over complaining. I have been so convicted over how we live so many days for ourselves, the created, while we should be focused only on the Creator. We are kidding ourselves as Christians when we think we can look so much like the world but say we want a revival in the hearts and minds of God's people at the same time. If we pattern our lives in much the same way as those who remain lost, how in the world will they ever know there's a life giving difference? How will they want what we have? Jesus is coming back, and we've got to start preparing as though we believe that is true. Life on earth is just so short...and not what we should be living for anyway.
That's what's awesome. Never have I been so drawn to thoughts of heaven, of longing to really truly know what dwelling in the presence of Jesus is like. I am seeking the truth like I never have, reading my Bible with more intensity and longing than ever before. Because I want to know. I want to know everything about my Savior and why God sacrificed for us the way he did. I want to experience the depth of this love now, not only so I can share it with others, but so that when I stand before my Father in heaven, I will know him more fully becaused I savored and sought him during my life on earth. I want to run to his presence now, so that the depth of our relationship will be that much sweeter later. I want to be so close to Christ that my life is naturally a light that leads the way for others. What a gift we have been given...this world is not our home; it's merely a flicker, a glimpse in the span of all eternity. We can't comprehend it because we weren't created to! We struggle to embrace this truth often because we can't fully understand. Though I am convinced more than ever that trying to understand is a waste of time. Because our finite little minds can't possibly comprehend an ever-present, almighty, all-knowing and fully just Creator. The one who has covered us completely and fully with the powerful gift of grace...so we never have to truly face death, and so we have the absolute gift of being fully in his presence one day.
That alone is what comforts us now in the midst of losing Matt from this life. We rejoice that he is worshipping with his Creator. That he has stepped into the beauty of eternity, the place we were actually created to be...with the One who made us, knows us, and loves us. The only one not shocked by what has happened here is God. He was sovereign before, and He is sovereign now. He will work all things together for his good, and for the good of those who love him.
Please pray for his wife Ashley, and his 3 children, who now grieve through a pain like many of us cannot imagine. The pit in my stomach aching for her loss has not gone away. I have tears for her throughout the day, praying through different moments that she is carried step by step through this unimaginably hard time. I join with so many others who are calling on God on her family's behalf. Her faith has remained unwavered through it all, as she clings to her Savior and prays for his quick return for the rest of us. Recently she said, "There is one thing that has become apparent to me through this unimaginable trial, the ONLY thing that matters is knowing Him & making Him known...He IS coming back, I desperately want you to be ready."
This broken, fallen world offers up pain in so many different ways...we often feel struck down, but we must remember that we will not be destroyed. We have been made victorious through Christ, and in the end, He will overcome. Most of the people who read my blog are friends or family, many believe and have repented and confessed Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But if you are reading this and have no clue how or why to take that step, please ask. God created us in order to have relationship with us, and be known by us...his love is everlasting and the eternal life we will get to share will far surpass the short time we spent on this fallen earth. We all struggle and are the worst of sinners, yet we are all invited and welcomed.
Please also pray for Matt's parents, his brother and sister in law, his in laws, nieces and nephews, etc. They have an amazing family who is shining a bright light through their pain, and who have been a witness to us all. Yet the pain of losing his physical presence in their daily lives remains. Please pray also for Kevin and the staff, as they are grieving, missing him at work and in daily life as well. We have all been changed by this. It has been hard for me to not keep saying, "This is so awful. So awful." I have hated it so many times, and wished I could change it so many more. I have to cling to the truth that we serve a trustworthy and good God. He alone has a truly eternal perspective, and holds us close to his heart. He sees the whole picture and will be faithful to provide and heal. He reminds us that this world is not our home. Matt is victorious. He is free from the pain of this broken world. To us death feels awful, it's so hard to take. But that's because it's not the way it was meant to be. Jesus came so that we would have life, and have it to the full. Death is part of the brokeness on earth, the fall out from sin. I will admit I've struggled with the fear of losing loved ones for a long time. Yet I am drawn to Paul's words in Philippians and convicted to decide if it's true for me as well:
"For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far..."
Later in 2 Timothy he says, "This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel...."
Also he says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will awared to me on that day - and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing."
It doesn't take but a second to look around and witness a fallen world, living for nothing, in desperate need of a relationship with a life-giving Savior. Turn on the t.v., the internet, whatever, and it seems like people just don't care anymore...like it's not worth standing for anything, so everything goes. A spiritual battle is taking place. Made obvious by the tragic, horribly sad and senseless shooting in Colorado, whose families desperately need our prayers as well. This world is a mess...we are broken. There is only One who can overcome it all...and we have got to run to him, while fearlessly bringing others to him as well. Please join with me on a mission to stop wasting time...to get on our knees and cry out for redemption and deliverance. To storm the gates of heaven on behalf of others. To instinctively open our bibles and seek after God's heart, savoring his instruction and encouragement over turning on the t.v. or getting online. If we aren't desperate for him now, I shudder to think what it will take to get us there. Let's prepare the way for the Lord, so he will come quickly and reveal his glory. We have to get over our fears and instead speak the truth boldly and live in a way that might just get us called crazy. That pales in comparison to what Jesus endured on our behalf. It's time to get serious and live like him. Because this world is not our home. And our true home is going to be absolutely amazing.
We sang this song at Matt's funeral:
Here is the video of the Sunday after Matt went to be with Jesus, and the sermon that followed. Such a difficult day.
Southeast Christian Church from Southeast Christian Church on Vimeo.
July 8th Service