“Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; be to me a rock of strength, a stronghold to save me.”Psalm 31:2
From an early age, I struggled with an undiagnosed learning difference that altered how I viewed myself and my intelligence. Jumping from the public school system in Dallas to First Baptist Academy in the middle of my third grade year because of extreme bullying only exacerbated my struggle, as the Academy was at least a year ahead of the public school.
What has become clear to me is that God allows trials of many kinds in our lives for a purpose. The academic struggles became a part of shaping me into the man I am today. God has used my story in a powerful way both to teach me and to encourage others. I know my struggles aren’t ultimate.
I remember singing the song “Because He Lives” in the pew at Calvary Baptist Church in Bangkok, Thailand as a child on the mission field.I would listen to my mom sing the alto part, and still today I find myself singing the alto part when that song comes on or we sing it in church.
Since joining the staff at First Dallas 10 years ago, the song has taken on a whole new meaning as I have had the privilege of walking with members of our church family through some of their most difficult times and seasons of life. Whether it’s because they are having surgery, dealing with an illness in the hospital, grieving the loss of a loved one and planning that celebration of life service, or perhaps it’s a family or couple in crisis, or a man needing direction in life—this song gives courage to me and direction to help in each of those circumstances. It reminds me that our purpose in life is to love and worship God, even in the hard times or trials of life.
This may sound a bit morbid, but shortly after joining the staff and planning a number of funerals, I let Debe know that I had selected the songs for my own funeral. I told her that there was “funeral playlist” that she could find on my phone. As you can imagine, that didn’t go over well with my sweet wife. I have no plans to go to heaven anytime soon, but when I do, the last song I want played at my funeral is “Because He Lives” as performed by George Beverly Shea and Michael Tate at a Gaither homecoming concert. I chose it because I’ve seen people leave funerals discouraged, but this rendition is upbeat. I want my family to be reminded that because He lives they can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because they know HE holds the future, life IS worth the living, just because HE lives.