Dickens said it quite poignantly in Tale of Two Cities: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
The past week was both. God opened doors we never dreamed possible. We have managed to have a blessed reception in a new settlement of three thousand families. No church exists there. A few believers can be found there. Those with whom we spoke were excited at the thought of having a church in this brand new community. Two men are headed there at this very moment. They hope to begin inviting men and women to a Bible study, where they will be introduced to the greatest news in the world.
As the week melted into the weekend, I found myself on a plane headed to the southern part of this country. My role was to ordain a new man into the gospel ministry. I also intended to visit a struggling church and try to encourage them.
On Saturday night I looked into the eyes of a group of men of different ages. Most were hurting. They hurt because their church hurt. They needed healing. The ordination of a new pastor was a new prayer of hopeful healing for this group.
On Sunday morning those hurting eyes were multiplied by ten. The building was full. The atmosphere was electric. These were my friends. I had worked alongside many of them for almost ten years. Now I was there as a guest to try to help them overcome some devastating moments in their church's history. The day was a blessed one.
On Sunday night I stood before yet another group of believers. It was so distinct from the morning. Instead of pain, I saw indifference. Instead of hope, I felt heaviness. I preached a full hour here. This was no time for a wimpy, 3 points and a poem kind of message. It was time to try to wake up a sleeping church.
Unknown to me, back in my own city a tragedy had unfolded. It began Saturday night. A young man, one of our helpers in our city, had gone home after a day with the youth from the small church he helps us with. The group included two of our missionaries. The man told the two ladies that he hoped his friends would let him sleep; he was so tired from a hard day. They did not.
His friends showed up sometime that night. Some told us they had been drinking. Drugs may also have entered that picture. Some were flirting with girls that had ties to a local gang. So they brought a gun into the house. Our Christian brother, the only Christian in his family, was concerned over that. He asked if it was unloaded. They said it was. Someone pulled the trigger and our Christian brother was swept into the presence of Jesus.
Monday morning greeted me with that terrible news. The man is now buried. But the feelings his death evoked are clawing on the surface of the hearts of too many people. The tragedy has plunged its talons deep into hearts of believers and unbelievers alike. This man was a promising young preacher. None of us can make sense of it. The young men who woke him and insisted he sit with them during their party are hiding in shame.
This is what I know: the same Holy Spirit that was moving in the southern part of this country, blessing me, guiding me, and encouraging both me and the believers I was with--that same Spirit was here, consoling and calling to the men and women affected by this terrible, sensesless tragedy. He seeks to glorify Jesus in this, just as he sought to glorify Jesus where I was ministering.
I know that booze impairs judgment. Even one small shot impairs judgment. Even one glass of wine. Even one beer. Booze is bad news. God said give to those who are perishing. It is not for kings and princes. It is for dead men. It is not for believers; it is for the lost.
I know that bullets don't kill, in and of themselves. Neither do guns. But foolish young (or old) men, whose judgment is impaired by booze and drugs, tend to make stupid decisions. By the way, angry young men (or women) can have impaired judgment and make stupid decisions. But booze makes it easier than anger to make stupid decisions.
And I know that now is the time to reach those young men. It may not yet be the time to reach the parents and brother of this believer. But I believe it is time to reach the young men involved in this thing that has ransacked a small church and stolen one of its workers. They will listen now. So we will go. We will try to share the one hope for all mankind. That would be Jesus, by the way.
Somehow, someway, God will be glorified in this. Let it be so!