Leading up to Christmas last year Bro. Randy had wanted to lead the church in singing a combination of the songs O Little Town of Bethlehem and How Deep the Father’s Love.  To our great sorrow he was never able to lead Midway in singing this piece.

This year our worship team led our congregation in singing the arrangement that Randy had envisioned.  We offer it here in the spirit of hope this Christmas – hope that because of what God did in Christ’s righteous life, death on the cross, and victorious resurrection the pain of death and loss won’t be the final chapter to the story of our lives.

You can find a longer version of this video (in HD) where the song is introduced by Randy’s friend and co-laborer Daniel Lowhorn HERE.

One year ago today Midway Baptist unexpectedly lost Randy Wilder, a dear brother and servant leader to our congregation.  You will find below his oldest daughter’s insights into grieving as a Christian.  We are thankful for her willingness and pray it will be helpful to others – MBC

Grief and the Christian

On December 9, 2012 he had a stroke of the major kind. No one wants to have a stroke, but especially not this kind. The kind where you are no longer able to do anything you’d like – things like sit up, eat, and breathe on your own — but the kind that leaves the mental ability to consider what it all means for you, a “kindness” no one asked for. A very long 8 days later Midway was forced to say goodbye to a beloved music minister, and I was forced to say goodbye to a very beloved Dad.

Watching someone die forces you feel several feelings you never wanted to know you could feel. Looking Death in the eyes leaves you with no doubt that he [death] doesn’t belong here, in this life, on this earth. Watching death take someone you love makes you desperately wish you didn’t Believe, because somehow that feels easier than having to deal with the struggle of doubt that the God you believe in and love is still kind and Good. Beyond that, the end of life makes you hope desperately that you haven’t in fact encountered The End, otherwise life hasn’t turned out to be a great story and it certainly doesn’t have a happy ending.

Grief is a tricky monster to wrestle with—we’ve learned this especially in the past year at Midway. He’s a tricky, subtle beast; you might wish he was overt and obvious, but he’s not—he’s sly, and patient, and, if you let him be, destructive.

To the grieving Christian:

1)                  Being sad is okay. We don’t have to pretend to have it all together in the name of Christianity. There’s room for bad days and bad weeks and bad seasons. If the lord you serve cannot handle your bad, he’s no lord at all.

2)                  Mourn, and mourn well. Blessed are those who mourn, comfort is promised. Do not neglect to feel the emotions you were created with, but Christian: do not let your emotions black out Truth. God is still Kind. Take one look into the book of Job, especially chapters 38-42, and know the God who clothes clouds, sends lightning, gives horses their might, and commands eagles to fly sees your emotion, knows your situation and is in command of it—and He loves you.

3)                  Be encouraged when the “Christian things” that people say to you aren’t helpful. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad Christian. It doesn’t mean you don’t believe them to be true. It doesn’t mean you should feel guilty. It DOES mean you’re human, and you’re hurting. BUT:

4)                  Guard your heart from bitterness. Appreciate the well-meaning heart behind words that aren’t helpful. Feel joy with and for others who receive the miracle you didn’t. Remind your hurting heart to submit to Truth and take comfort.

5)                  There is Freedom. There is Grace. Being honest with your feelings to others and to God brings liberty, and you’ll be grateful to know the grace of others and of God. The beauty of our great God is when he aims to do something, he does it. And His aim toward to you is to keep you, whether you feel you want to be kept or not. His grace will bring you through your unwillingness to be kept (that will happen!) to a place of thanksgiving that he kept you still.

6)                  You are not alone in your grief. The body of Christ, the Church, is full of people who have different stories with similar scenes. You aren’t the only one to experience an act or two of grief. Find others and cling to them. Find hope and comfort in their testimonies of God’s Goodness. See the beauty of grace and freedom unfold in their stories, and hold tight until your story takes its turn.

To the Christian ministering to those who grieve:

1)                  Mourn with those who mourn. You don’t have an answer to why this has happened, and its okay (and refreshing) to admit that. Don’t fumble to find an answer, just help bear the burden of your hurting sibling and trust Grace to do its job.

2)                  Be Grace. Your grieving friends will, Lord willing, come to you. They are hurting. They are doubting. They are angry. They are vulnerable. Show grace. Be quick to listen, and slow to speak.

3)                  Know when to “preach”. There will be a time when the Truth of scripture will need to be spoken. Be aware and prayerful about when that time is. To be helpful: it’s not at the hospital, it’s not at the funeral, and it’s probably not even one month later. It will come, though, so be ready, be loving, and be confident in the work of God’s word.

4)                  Guard your brothers and sisters. In such a whirlwind time, those who grieve are probably not those who think well. Watch for destructive behaviors, thoughts, and actions. Treat them with love—and Love does not allow such destruction to continue. Be on guard for the hearts of your siblings in Christ when they don’t want to be. This will do well for those you love who hurt.

Death is not the end of the story. Grief is not your parting emotion. Neither of these will last forever. God, in love, sent his Son, Jesus, to redeem the world through his life—then death—then resurrection. For those who believe in Him, like I do and like my Dad did, we are blessed to take on the righteousness of his life, blessed to not have to face death alone, and as an End to our story we are blessed to join Christ in a resurrection most glorious where all sad things come undone.

And, one day, when he comes back to rule forever, the mountains and trees will dance and sing for joy! The earth will shout out loud! His fame will fill the whole earth—as the waters cover the sea! Everything sad will come untrue. Even death is going to die! And he will wipe away every tear from every eye.

Jesus Storybook Bible
Operation “No More Tears”
Isaiah prophecies

On Dec. 13 Gospel Youth will be hosting a game night where Boys will face the Girls in an epic showdown of point accumulation through many different challenges (trivia, creativity, strategy)!  This is going to be a night of fun competition and a great chance for students to fellowship together! Students are going to be challenged to work as a team and likewise grow closer together as both teammates and competitors—having a great time while doing so will be the added bonus!

            Note for yourself, this night is a Friday night, an extracurricular. We could easily have taken a worship service and turned it into a competition, or taken many consecutive services and had the challenge stretch out—but we didn’t. We want the students in and involved with our student ministry to understand that games are never to replace what is truly important about our ministry: to look deeply into God’s Word.

            Every week all around our country youth groups are gathering to have epic events and games and tons of fun—and they call it “church”. They may preach a little, they probably have awesome music, students might even hear the name of Jesus preached, but it isn’t what they use to “attract” students or keep them attending. There are certainly places for worship nights, fun events, and games; however, on the list of priorities these things should be found low.

            At Gospel Youth, here’s where we’ve landed: Students DESERVE BETTER than what they have received. Students deserve to be challenged by God’s Word. Students deserve to be treated as equal in the body of Christ. Students deserve to be  treated as having the ability to listen to difficult things and then encouraged to proclaim Truth in their community and in the lives of those around them— especially in the lives of peers who want nothing to do with church. We reach them not by games and tricks and looks, but through the only thing that has the power to change a heart and life: the raw unfiltered Gospel of Jesus Christ—born of man to live the God-honoring life we cannot, to be crucified as a spotless lamb for our atonement, all to be raised from the dead to once and for all beat death, break the chains of sin, and set the path to see all sad things come undone! We do so much better by the student offering Scripture alone, and not the fluff they may desire or their peers desire. When we cater to this desire, we set them up to always desire entertainment as an idol above the proclamation of God’s Truth.

            Showmanship is not everything. It can be used as tool, but there should be an emphasis on how great the Gospel is and how knowing God’s word is how we know God.

            As the Youth Pastor at Midway, I want our students to have a blast at this game night on Dec 13. I will enjoy completely the sounds of teenagers competing against and working with one another.  I always desire that a good time be had every time we meet to fellowship together. But in our youth group, when we meet, we meet with the central focus of scripture in mind. We long to see the fruits of the Gospel preached, and we long to see students grow to see the benefits of devotion to the Gospel, and we long to proudly lift high Jesus Christ—both in the times we meet, and in the lives we live!

Our Gospel Youth Game Night is designed to promote fun, group-building fellowship (along with some healthy competition). I love to have a blast with our students and create these great experiences. We always want to hold dear that the Word of God is what changes us and makes us new creations, and it is Christ who is worthy of praise and devotions, not number of students or games and good times. The aim of Gospel Youth and Midway will always be, no matter the event or occasion, to glorify God in everything we do! Check us out more deeply at midwaylife.com under the Gospel Youth tab.

Game Night 

This is taken from Richard Baxter‘s The Saints Everlasting Rest, written in 1650 and abridged for the first time in 1754 by John Wesley.  In it the venerable minister presses on parents to make use of their opportunity to evangelize their children in light of the advantage parents naturally hold.

Parents living 360 years after he first set pen to page will be wise to heed his words in their own day.

I entreat you that are parents to consider what excellent advantages you have, above all others, for the saving of your children.

1. They are under your hands while they are young, and tender, and flexible; but they come to Ministers, when they are grown older, and stiffer, and settled in their ways, and think themselves too good to be catechised. You have a twig to bend, and we an oak; you have the young plants of sin to pluck up, and we the deep-rooted vices. The consciences of children are not so seared with a custom of sinning, and long resisting grace, as others. You have the soft and tender earth to plough in, and we have the hard and stony ways, that have been trodden on by many years’ practice of evil. We have a double task first to unteach them, and then to teach then better; but you have but one. We must unteach them all that the world, and the flesh, and wicked company, and the Devil, have been diligently teaching them in many years. You have them before they are possessed with prejudice against the truth; but we have them to teach, when they have many years lived among those that have taught them to think GOD’s ways to be foolish. Doth not the experience of all the world show you the power of education What else makes all the children of the Jews to be Jews And all the children of the Turks to be Maliometans And of Christians to be in profession Christians And of each sect or party in religion to follow their parents Now what advantage have you to use all this for the furtherance of their happiness!

2. Consider also, that you have the affections of your children more than any others. None in the world has that interest in their hearts as you. You will receive that counsel from an undoubted friend, that you would not do from an enemy, or a stranger. Now, your children know you are their friends, and advise them in love; and they cannot but love them again. Nature has almost necessitated them to love you. O therefore improve this your interest in them for their good.

3. You have also the greatest authority over them. You may command them, and they dare not disobey you, or else it is your own fault, for the most part; for you can, make them obey you in your business; yea, you may correct them to enforce obedience. Your authority also is the most unquestioned authority in the world. The authority of Kings and Parliaments has been disputed, but yours is past dispute. And therefore, if you use it not to bring them to GOD, you are without excuse.

4. Besides, their dependence is on you for their maintenance. They know you can either give them, or deny them what you have, and so punish and reward them at your pleasure. But on Ministers or neighbors they have no such dependence.

5. Moreover, you that are parents know the temper and inclinations of your children; what vices they are most inclined to, and what instruction or reproof they most need. But Ministers cannot so well know this.

6. Above all, you are ever with them, and so have opportunity, as to know their faults, so to apply the remedy. You may be still talking to them of the word or God, and minding them, of their state and duty, and may follow and set home every word of advice, as they are in the house with you, or in the shop, or in the field. O what an excellent advantage is this, if you have hearts to use it. Especially you mothers remember this: you are more with your children while they are little ones than their fathers, be you therefore still teaching them as soon as ever they are capable of learning. You cannot do GOD such eminent service yourselves as men; but you may train up children that may do it, and then you will have part of the comfort and honor, What a deal of pains are you at with the bodies of your children more than the fathers And what do you suffer to bring them into the world And will you not be at as much pains for the saving their souls You are naturally of more tender affections than men; and will it not move you to think that your children should perish for ever Therefore I beseech you, for the sake of the children of your bowels, teach them, admonish them, watch over them, and give them no rest until you have brought them to CHRIST.

If that whets your appetite I would recommend further reading in Baxter’s The Duties of Parents for their Children.  You will be surprised how well his counsel speaks to the modern family.