Here is a recent article that my hubby wrote for our church's Family Discipleship Department.
I may never forget what I saw on Thursday morning, September 16, 2010. It appeared to be a “typical” morning in the Turner home, full of new mercies and fresh grace in Christ Jesus! I remember kissing my bride and saying good-bye to my little ones while I walked into the garage, closing the house door behind me.
As I opened my car door to throw my book bag in before heading off to the church office, I was abruptly met in my garage by a police officer. “Are you the pastor who lives here?” he asked quietly.
“Yes, I am” I responded.
“Your next-door neighbor is requesting you...her husband is dead,” he stated.
“DEAD!?” I thought. I had just seen Paul watering his flowers earlier that week.
So, I immediately threw my book bag into the car, slammed the door, and began to follow the police officer about 25 paces to my neighbor’s house, praying step-by-step for the Spirit to prepare me for what I might see and how I might serve in the midst of this early morning tragedy.
As I walked into the house, I was greeted by the uncontrollable sobbing of Patricia, my neighbor’s wife. Patricia was waiting on the coroner to come and take away Paul’s body because emergency officials had just left the house and had pronounced him dead. As she wept on my shoulder, out of the corner of my eye I saw Paul’s dead body covered by a black sheet, still sitting upright in his recliner, facing the TV. After a while, I went over to the recliner, lifted up the sheet and put my right hand on his cold, lifeless forehead. I saw the face of death. It was both shocking and surreal.
Patricia muttered to me through her tears, “We were supposed to go to our cabin in Detroit Lakes this weekend.”
These sobering events, along with Patricia’s statement regarding her and Paul’s presumed weekend plans, pointed my heart towards the Holy Spirit’s rebuke [to me] through the words of James,
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit,’ yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? 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..’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4.13-16, italics mine)
The Lord has used this tragedy and this text to pierce through the “pride of presumption” in my sinful heart.
There are times when I think ahead to the future and make personal, family or ministry plans with no conscious thoughts that worshipfully consider what “the Lord wills” above all. This is a kind of practical atheism, as I seek to determine the plans and even the outcome of my everyday life according to my own will, as though the only True, Sovereign, All-controlling God did not exist. God forbid!
There are 3 sharp truths regarding my not-Godness in this text that humble me and serve to puncture the presumptuous pride in my life:
I am utterly ignorant regarding the matrix of events that will occur on any given day in my life. “You do not know what tomorrow will bring.” (14a)
I am a mist that will not be alive for long on planet earth. “You are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (14b)
I am a sinful man with “arrogant” and “evil” tendencies. “You boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (16)
The good news is that King Jesus came into the world to rescue ignorant, sinful mists like me by bearing my “sin in His body on the tree, that I might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds I have been healed.” (I Pet. 2.24)
Through Christ’s glorious substitutionary death on my behalf, my presumptuous pride has been nailed to the tree and I have been healed of my self-boasting! I am forgiven because of Jesus’ blood! Thus, I can receive James’ rebuke with joy! This mighty gospel enables me to humble myself under the sovereign and good hand of my God, who lovingly rules over every detail of my mist-like life.
I thank our faithful Father for using my neighbor’s sobering death and James’ stabbing words to remind me that only if the Lord wills, will I even live.....to play basketball tomorrow morning or take my family to the zoo on Saturday or preach at the Awaken retreat next weekend or go on a missions trip to Haiti next year.
May the Lord continue to overcome all of my (and your) practical-atheistic-prideful-presumption by the power of the cross and grace us to gladly acknowledge His sovereign and good will over every moment of our fleeting lives.
O Lord, teach us and our children to joyfully say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”