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Mourning with Rick and Kay Warren and Family

Brandon Cox and Rick Warren

Pastor Rick and I in his study behind his stage at Saddleback on the night he gave me his blessing and many words of wisdom for planting Grace Hills Church.

I’ve started to write this post quite a few times, and each time, I’ve deleted it. It’s hard to know what to say when someone you admire and love goes through something as tragic as what Rick and Kay Warren have endured the last few days. Their son, Matthew, ended his own life at the age of 27 after battling severe mental illness for many years. I have heard Rick speak of this behind closed office doors, asking for prayer and pouring his heart out concerning his love for his son and his trust in his God in spite of not understanding all the reasons why Matthew suffered so terribly.

I believe that Rick and Kay, their other two children, and all of their loved ones will battle an array of emotions for quite some time. But I also believe that the message of hope that Pastor Rick has shared for the last three decades has come from the deep conviction of his heart. Rick believes that “God never wastes a hurt,” and Matthew’s life and death will prove this, perhaps in ways we cannot fully see just yet.

I love the Warren’s and believe that now is a time when God’s people should pray for them fervently. It isn’t that they somehow deserve prayer more than others because of their success and popularity. Rather it is that Rick is a man who has surrendered himself and all that he possesses completely to God, and God has blessed him by using his life to change the world. And because God has given him such a public platform, his private pain is perhaps amplified. Not only do the Warren’s have to suffer through the loss of their son, but they must do so somewhat publicly by virtue of their influence.

There is little that I can personally do to alleviate their pain. In managing the pastors.com website and community, I’ve sought out some voices that deserve to be heard, such as Beth Moore, Geoff Surratt, and Greg Laurie. I’ve received and answered dozens of emails to Pastor Rick sent via pastors.com, all of which have been positive and encouraging. And I’ve also read some of the most cold and heartless comments on the web from people who have decided to use this moment of pain to pounce on the Warren’s.

What I can do is pray, and I believe that prayer is powerful, effective, and meaningful. And I’m inviting you to pray with me as you read this. As we pray for Pastor Rick Warren, for Kay, and for their family…

  • Let us pray that God gives them a peace that passes all understanding – that is a peace that is present when it doesn’t seem possible.
  • Let us pray for the heart of a Dad, a Mom who lost a son as well as a brother and a sister who lost a brother.
  • Let us pray that others who struggle with mental illness in the shadows would seek help in the light and find churches that will look beyond the stigma of mental illness to offer real compassion and healing.
  • Let us pray for gospel-empowered change in the hearts of accusers and cold, calloused critics who would use a moment like this to spit venom on the devastated and broken.
  • Let us pray for a church that hurts for her shepherd and a global community of church leaders that hurts for its mentor.
  • Let us pray that all that Pastor Warren has taught about the trustworthiness of God and the hope we have in Jesus be all the more believable to a watching world as the Warren’s continue to boldly proclaim their faith.
  • Let us pray that in their understandable weakness, God’s grace would be sufficient and God’s glory would be spread.

I can’t imagine their pain. I was in Pastor Rick’s office one day a couple of years ago when he was asking a few of us to pray for Matthew who was at that time hospitalized because of a severe bout with depression. As Rick became transparent and asked a few trusted friends to guard Matthew’s privacy and to lift him before the Father, he also taught a powerful lesson. He explained that life is not a roller coaster with up’s and down’s, but rather a set of railroad tracks where we endure suffering and blessing simultaneously. Pastor Rick never claimed to fully understand the reason for the existence of mental illness. But he did testify to the faithfulness of God in spite of it. Even through tears of hurt for his son, he was teaching powerful truths.

There are only a small handful of men on the planet that I consider to be my pastors, and Rick Warren is at the top of the list. So I’m praying for my Pastor and his family today, and I’m inviting you to pray with me.

My Friend, Scott Attebery, and His Family

You hear about the “next things” happening in the lives of friends from college – graduation, marriage, children. Today I learned that my friend, Scott Attebery, lost his wife to an auto accident in Pine Bluff. She passed away earlier this morning. His experience was documented here, and you can see who Scott is here.

Our hearts break for him and his family. We didn’t know Jill, but Scott was a leader among students at CBC and has been a great Pastor to his church in El Dorado. They are new parents – I cannot imagine it. Please pray for Scott and Bryce and their larger family as well.

What A Wonderful World

At our wedding, Angie and I chose to have Louie Armstrong’s song played… What a Wonderful World. In light of yesterday’s shootings, and so many other monumental tragedies in recent years, is it really a wonderful world? We were driving to Fort Smith yesterday for the annual meeting of the BMA of America and were reflecting on some of the tragedies that have taken place at this same time of the year such as the Oklahoma City bombing (April, 1995), the Waco compound burning (April, 1993), and Columbine (April, 1999). Each of these tragedies evoked emotions of fear and trepidation about living in this present world.

Our daughter begins kindergarten this fall. She’s nearly five years old and we’re already speculating about the nature of the world in which she will grow up and go through school. The news media tackles subjects like campus security and the psychological reasons behind such an awful rampage. But the secular media can never fully comprehend the nature of human depravity. Evil men will do evil things, no matter our level of security. If not on a campus, then in a restaurant, an airport, or a World Trade Center. Is this really a wonderful world?

There are natural and supernatural factors that can only be seen through a God-centered world view. The depravity of man runs deep in the heart. Evil abounds in humankind and murder, war, and bloodshed will continue as long as lost mankind has some dominion over this present realm. Further, Satan is labeled in Scripture as the “prince of the power of the air… the god of this world.” We who live on earth, live in a time and place where darkness has dominion. Is it really a wonderful world?

My answer, surprisingly, is yes. Why? Because it is in this present realm that God is actively working to extend His saving and healing grace to a lost and depraved people. It is here that God moves. It was into this humanity that Jesus, the light, came into the world. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. God’s glory was put on display through the life of Jesus Christ, through His atoning death, and through His miraculous resurrection. Do we live in a wonderful world? Only insomuch as Jesus makes the difference.

Last night, we were ministered to by a wonderful gospel singer who performed the old song Beulah Land. I love the lines… “Beulah land, I’m longing for thee, and someday on thee I’ll stand…” Our world, inundated with pain and loss and suffering, is merely a waiting room, a practice run, an incubation chamber for eternity. For those who believe in Jesus Christ as Savior, heaven is our real home. Hell awaits those who reject His free offer of grace.

Amazingly, we cannot forget that it is this world which will someday be renovated by fire. This world will be redeemed. It currently groans with birth pains, waiting to be delivered from its depraved lostness. It’s a wonderful world, plagued by the inherent sinfulness of humankind. It’s wracked with pain and evil. Yet everything on God’s time line is moving toward a great and triumphant finality. Jesus will rule and reign.

Our hearts are gripped, in times like this, with uncertainty and fear. Then Scripture speaks on behalf of its divine author… “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7) “Casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) “Be careful (anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Is this world your home, or do you seek a city to come, a home not made with human hands preserved in the eternities for you? Jesus Christ came to be the light and hope of a lost and dark world. He came to offer you peace, pardon, and eternal life if you’ll only trust fully in Him, even in the world’s darkest moments. More is to come. Scripture foretells that times will wax worse and worse. Yet Jesus’ hand is always extended toward you. Embrace Him who is ready to embrace you, and enjoy the unspeakable peace and confidence of God.

Weeping For the Hurting

“Jesus wept…” -John 11:35

I found out this morning that a couple who belong to my church lost their son in an untimely death. I can’t imagine their pain or their loss and what they will be facing in the coming days. I only pray God’s Spirit will remind them moment-by-moment of God’s steadfast love for them and for their son who is now safe in His arms in heaven.

When I received the call, I was over three hundred miles away on a weekend vacation. On the drive home, my mind was overwhelmed with a sense of helplessness. I so wanted to be there for this family, but circumstances did not allow it. Jesus waited until Lazarus had died and arrived on the scene to find his dear loved ones weeping. Jesus’ reaction? He hung His head and wept with them. Then He showed them that He really is the resurrection and the life.

In my absence, some dear members of the Bethel family surrounded this hurting couple and I’m so thankful to belong to a church like that! But I’m even more thankful that in their time of hurting, Jesus is there. He is there as the resurrection and the life with a promise that their son will rise again and they will live together with Him in heaven for all of eternity.

The harsh truth of life is that we cannot always be in all of the places we’d like to be at all times. Unfortunately, we won’t be available everytime a loved one is hurting, as much as we’d like to be. But Jesus is there in our stead. His presence is overwhelming. This truth does not make loss easy to deal with for loss will always be difficult for human beings. Rather, His presence unveils the light at the end of the darkness of death.

It was Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life who rose again from the grave as a demonstration of the power of God to do the same for everyone who ever repents and believes on His precious name. Thank Jesus for His presence with the hurting today!

True Patriotic Heroism

“Zebulun and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field.” -Judges 5:18

There are a lot of great songs in the Bible. The book of Psalms reads like a hymnbook without notes. There is the song of Moses and the song of Miriam. Judges, chapter five, contains the song of Deborah after she and Barak fought with Jabin and Sisera. The fight must have been hard fought and though God gave them victory, much loss must have been incurred.

At the end of the day’s fighting, Deborah composed a song in which she recounted the day’s battle. In the midst of the song, she points out that some of the tribes wanted to approach the situation with diplomacy, in writing. Others remained at home to mind their own business. Still others fought from ships or from stationary bunkers on the beach, but two tribes – Zebulun and Naphtali – put their very lives on the line. They fought in the high places of the fields, hand to hand.

The Hebrew word for “jeoparded” means that they exposed themselves to the elements of battle, risked reproach and even death for the cause of Israel. For the rest of the tribes, the bleakness of their plight was unconcerning. For Zebulun and Naphtali, however, Israel’s safety and future were at stake. Issachar was the third tribe involved directly in the battle. It is apparent that Issachar covered the main front while the other two tribes provided reinforcements.

When it comes to fighting spiritual battles today, many of us are like Benjamin and Ephraim. We’d like to make an agreement with evil that says, “You don’t bother me, and I won’t bother you.” Obviously evil forces don’t honor peace treaties! Others of us are willing to fight, but only from a safe spot such as a ship or a bunker. It’s much easier to look the part of a hero when your uniform doesn’t get messy. But how many of us will be like Zebulun and Naphtali who were willing to engage the enemy and risk everything believing that the Kingdom of God was worth it? The spiritual climate enjoyed by future generations hinges on our decisiveness in putting our lives on the line to prove that God is still on His throne!

What’s the spiritual battle from which you want to retreat today? Stand up and risk all to fight on the open plain, and God will be your greatest Defender! Whether we live or die, God’s name will be honored in the fight!