Letter from Pastor Jon
Dearest Christ Church Family,
As many of you know, Saturday morning Marla’s dear father took his final breath and entered into his everlasting rest. Dad’s death has touched us deeply. Just a month ago mom and dad were fine. Like the rest of us they were hunkered down in their home, trying to steer clear of the virus. We were FaceTiming them every couple of days. Then dad began to show signs of pneumonia. His condition worsened over the next few days, and he was admitted to Baptist Hospital in Columbia.
Due to hospital restrictions, no one could accompany dad during his time in ICU— heartbreaking. The doctors and nurses did everything they could to help dad. In God’s sweet providence, Ellie Williamson, a former member of Christ Church during her student days at Charleston Southern and a member of our N. Ireland mission team, was dad’s nurse for a couple of days. She prayed with dad when none of us could be with him. That meant a lot. As the days passed it was a gut-wrenching rollercoaster of bad news and small encouragements, but in the end the virus inflicted too much strain on dad’s vital organs. It was his time. His heart stopped. The Lord called him home. In Psalm ninety Moses penned those memorable words, “The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty.” Dad was seventy nine. He lived a full life, and left a wonderful legacy for his family, church family, and community.
When David was in Gath, captured by the wicked Philistines, he wrote a lament— Psalm 56. In verse six he prayed, “You have kept count of my tossing; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” What a comfort to know that God knows, counts, and remembers our tears as we walk through this thorny wilderness to the celestial city. We added many tears to his bottle this week, and our heavenly Father has overwhelmed us with grace and peace through his gospel promises and his loving people.
Our family has experienced everyone’s greatest fear during the COVID-19 crisis. I suppose that’s, in part, why we’ve received such an outpouring of love and encouragement. But the Lord, in his divine wisdom and providence, has taken us on this journey to show himself strong in the midst of our weakness. He has taken us through this valley of death to show us his glory, to remind us of what matters most, and to sharpen our faith on the anvil of affliction. He has taken us on this journey to remind us of our indissoluble union with the crucified and risen Christ, and to deepen our sweet communion with him.
Many of you have been walking with us through this valley, and we are profoundly grateful. The apostle Paul exhorts God’s people to “rejoice with those who rejoice, [and to] weep with those who weep” (Rom. 12:15). You have wept with us, and it means more than you know. In addition, several of you sent flowers, meals, cards, and expressions of condolence. Thank you. We have been profoundly humbled and moved by your loving prayers and encouragement. My dear mother-in-law has been blessed by you as well, and by the ministry of Christ Church. We love you, Christ Church.
We, of course, are not the only ones going through a challenging time. Many of you are hurting too. Various members of the Christ Church family are going through any number of difficulties — sickness, unemployment, bereavement, loneliness, depression, etc. Those in healthcare are under great pressure. As this quarantine extends into May, it’s very important that we continue to love one another well. How can we do that?
The most obvious thing is to be present; yes, to be present during our online ministries. Be an active member of Christ Church by committing to “attend” both livestream Lord’s Day services, the mid-week pastor’s devotional, the Wednesday evening congregational prayer meeting, and the Thursday men’s or women’s Bible study. Families with young children can join me for kids’ story time on Tuesday afternoons. Making these ministries a fixture in your weekly schedule not only means that your soul will be encouraged, but also the souls of your fellow church members who see you active and involved. Of course, I realize for some of you that there are providential hindrances to attending some of these meetings.
Another way to “love one another” during this time is to reach out to a fellow church member with a phone call, a video chat, an email, a letter, or a text. People are lonely. Let them know that you are thinking about them, and that you’d like to know how you can pray for them or serve them. The gospel compels us to love one another. The more we know and love the gospel, the more we want to know and love God’s people. “Beloved, if God so loved us [through the sacrificial and propitiatory work of his Son], we also ought to love one another” (I Jn. 4:11). “We love because he first loved us” (I Jn. 4:19). The gospel also compels us to remember our unbelieving friends and neighbors — to pray for them, serve them, and boldly reach out to them with the good news.
Congregational Prayer Meeting | Tonight at 8:00 p.m.
Tonight we will host our second online congregational prayer meeting via Zoom. You should have received an email invitation from the church. Last week’s meeting was wonderful! About seventy members of Christ Church were in attendance. Dr. Joel Beeke led us in a powerful devotional from Hebrews 12:1-3. This evening, another dear friend, Dr. Robert Godfrey, President Emeritus of Westminster Seminary California and Chairman of Ligonier Ministries, will lead us in a devotion from Psalm 62. After a brief time in the word, we will spend about 45 minutes in prayer. Like last week, I will choose specific people to pray in a specific order. Unless hindered, let me warmly encourage you to make this prayer meeting a priority. We need to pray with and for one another as a church.
Yesterday, through many tears, we watched dad’s body lowered into the grave at Fort Jackson National Cemetery. In his beautiful steel blue casket, he was wearing his Navy dress blues. More importantly, his soul was wearing the invisible righteousness of Jesus Christ. Those are the most important clothes of all — an unspeakable gift purchased for us by the blood of Christ. As the dirt was poured over his casket and the grave filled, I couldn’t help but think of the brevity of life. I couldn’t help but think of the rich and godly legacy dad was leaving behind. I couldn’t help but grieve for my dear mother-in-law, losing her beloved husband after almost 58 years. I couldn’t help but feel the deep pain and loss for my wife. She adored her father. I couldn’t help but weep when David, a General in the Marine Corps, approached the grave and saluted his beloved veteran father. Most of all, however, I couldn’t help but think of what matters most in life — not money, possessions, power, or status, but the glory of God, salvation by grace, communion with God and his church, marriage and family, and the Great Commission. May these things be our treasure. May the gospel stir our hearts afresh.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son,
that whoever believes in him should not perish
but have eternal life.” — Jn. 3:16