Devon Kauflin: So even for us, there is a sense in which, in order to understand something of the glory of the redemption that has been accomplished for us, we are people with scars. We are people who bear the marks of suffering for God’s glory. And so it’s not something to get away from, and to hide in a back closet somewhere, whatever trials that we faced. No, it becomes a part of who we are.
David Zimmer: Welcome to Sound Plus Doctrine, the podcast of Sovereign Grace Music, where we explore what the Bible has to say about music and worship in the church, and encourage those who plan, lead and participate in their Sunday gatherings each week.
DZ: Hello and welcome to the Sound Plus Doctrine Podcast. My name is David Zimmer.
Bob Kauflin: My name’s Bob Kauflin.
DZ: And we have Devon Kauflin returning to the Sound Plus Doctrine podcast.
DK: Glad to be here.
BK: Now those of you who are familiar with Sound Plus Doctrine podcast know that Devon is not just a guest, he’s my son. It’s one thing. But also he plays a major role in Sovereign Grace’s Music. And that’s, I think probably how most people would know you, at least who…
DK: Listening to this podcast.
BK: Listen to this podcast.
DZ: Yeah. They’ve seen your face singing our songs.
BK: Yeah. So…
DK: Maybe heard my voice singing…
DK: The songs as well.
BK: We try to include both at the same time.
DZ: Your deep low voice.
BK: Some people watch it silently though. You’re a leader in Sovereign Grace Music, a teacher, a musician, songwriter at times. Although you need to write more songs.
DK: It’s been a little while.
BK: It’s been a little while, I know. We thought it would be helpful to take a podcast and just talk about how you got here. And what is going on in your life, what you do outside of Sovereign Grace Music. ‘Cause this is not your primary job.
DK: This is not my day job.
BK: So also, God has been doing some major things in the last year. And we thought it would really serve our listeners, especially those of you who are finding things, finding that life isn’t going quite like you expected. So that’s been your story. So let’s start with, how did you end up doing this? I mean, yeah. How did you… Tell us your story, Devon.
DK: Oh, I’m going to go through a period of time pretty fast, to get to the more recent past.
BK: Yeah, yeah.
DK: But growing up as your son, growing up as a pastor’s kid…
BK: A blessed life indeed.
DK: I also have an older brother who has desired to be in ministry from a younger age. Ministry was all I knew, and as the Lord saved me in high school, I really didn’t have a desire to be in ministry. Happy to serve the church, but looked around and saw that the church is really built on faithful men living out the call of God on their lives by providing for their families, supporting the church, serving. I was like, I’m okay being that guy. So I went to business school, I went into sales and had a business career lined up that I was moving forward in and…
BK: Doing very well in.
DK: The Lord was very kind during those years. And unexpectedly the Lord, in 2012, I was on a business trip just gave me a very clear sense that you’re supposed to be serving the church in a more purposeful way than you are right now.
BK: The details of that I think are significant. You’re in Dubai…
BK: On a business trip.
DK: And yeah. So I was there for eight days and I spent one day with Redeemer Dubai, a church that’s planted there and spent some time with their worship team and did a little bit of teaching, interacting with them. And business-wise, the trip was fine, it was great, but it was on that flight home just sitting there thinking, that’s what God made me to do.
BK: That’s so great.
DK: And so came back and within a couple months the Lord had very clearly opened doors for me and my wife, and at that time our three kids to move to Louisville, Kentucky, to go to Southern Seminary and pursue my MDiv. And then serve as well by leading at chapel. And they had me start a band called the Norton Hall Band. And it was a sweet season, but brief season, and one that I knew was going to be a transitional season preparing me for whatever the Lord had next. The Lord in, again, I mean, just unusual ways led us to return to Maryland in 2015 to be a part of Grace Church, which was a church, a Sovereign Grace Church that was planted at the beginning of 2014. And was meeting in elementary school, planted by a guy, Larry Malament, who is a day older than you are.
BK: He is.
DK: Go ahead.
BK: I was just going to say, for those of you who are in the process of trying to figure out what the Lord’s doing, I remember that season you’re about to graduate from seminary. We had no idea what you’re going to do.
DK: Yeah. Well, and I would say, coming back from Dubai, it was a very similar, wow, the Lord is doing something and I have no idea what’s next. And then two and a half years later, I’m facing a similar circumstance, no idea what’s next, and…
BK: Interviewing different churches, maybe this day…
DK: Yeah. And just rustling the leaves, let’s say, just…
BK: Never heard that.
DK: Seeing what the Lord might have. And so we would, me and my wife would sit down and we would be praying and we’d be talking and thinking about, alright, what could be next? And if option A could be a possibility, what would be the next step we should take to explore if that’s what the Lord has, if that’s God’s will for us. So we’d take one step and we took some of those steps and it was very clear right away, that’s not what the Lord has. And so a door closed was an answered prayer.
DZ: For sure.
DK: And, I mean, in those circumstances you really, you’re just looking for one open door.
BK: You only need one.
DK: And… But we can lose sight of that in the moment, where it can seem like, man, am I even doing what God wants me to do when it’s just all I encounter are closed doors everywhere? But that’s just oftentimes the Lord’s way of making our steps clear.
BK: And making us dependent on him.
DK: And making us dependent on him, absolutely.
BK: And you were… Both you and Kristine had faith that God was going to show you something, but you were being faithful to pursue possibilities, but you knew God was going to open a door. And that door he opened was Larry Malament emailing.
DK: Yeah. And so through both from 2012 through 2015, what the Lord was, I think, continuing to solidify in me was a desire to serve the local church. And so I had this opportunity to serve in Sovereign Grace Music, and I had been doing that in different ways for several years. But what I wanted to do was see the Word of God dwell in people richly as God builds his people into a dwelling place for himself by the Spirit. And wanted to participate in that, wanted to proclaim the gospel in that context, wanted to see God’s Word and his gospel make a difference in the lives of people as they’re transformed into his image. And so that was my heart and desire. And so there were opportunities to pursue, let’s say, a more music-centered path of ministry.
DZ: You could have been a worship leader at a church.
DK: Right. I wanted to… There was just not the peace with that that I had with, I just want to learn to be a pastor and serve as a pastor somewhere. And I love the music side of it, and that’s great, but that’s not what I’m in it for. And I remember you asked me at one point if… I’m trying to remember how you framed the question, but it was something like, if the music went away, would you still want to be in ministry? And it was like, yeah, absolutely. I’m not in it for the music, but the music is a wonderful gift, but that’s not the end-all be-all.
BK: I’ll often ask guys, which can you do without? If you only had one, and this is a question I asked you, if you only had one, you’re going to do all music, would you be okay with that? Or you’re going to do all preaching, counseling, caring for, shepherding people’s souls, would you be okay with that? No music? That tends to bring some clarity, and I think you were saying…
DK: It definitely brought clarity for me. It was an easy answer. So the Lord led me to Grace Church. Larry Malament planted this church at the time, probably around 60 or 70 members, and he was serving as a solo pastor in his early 60s, and/or right around 60. And as my wife and I took a trip out to Maryland, having no intention of landing in Maryland, this was Easter weekend of 2015, and went to Grace Church on Easter Sunday. And on our way, my wife Kristine asked, “Are you going to talk to Larry about maybe coming out here?” And I said, “No, no, I’m not going to. I’m happy not to be in Maryland.” And so then after…
BK: ‘Cause that’s where we had been for the last 15…
DK: That’s where I had essentially grown up. And after the service, I’m talking to Larry afterwards, he came over, asking me what’s next. He knew I finished up my master’s, and then he got awkward, and do you think maybe you’d consider… And I said, we can talk about me coming out here, which was surprising to me to say it, and I think surprising to him that I said it. And so we had lunch, I think it was that Tuesday, two days later. And as we sat together, and he just talked about his heart for ministering God’s Word to God’s people in simple and radically ordinary ways as God does his work through his Spirit. The Lord really knit our hearts together, and we were driving home to Louisville that afternoon, and I remember telling Kristine, I remember we were just getting on to 79 South and going through West Virginia and just saying, I mean, driving out, I could not imagine being in Maryland. Driving back, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. And it was really wild.
DK: And so there were still steps that we needed to go through in order to see that come to fruition, but the Lord had just given us such peace and faith for that. The opportunity to serve alongside and be mentored by someone who’d been in ministry as long as I’d been alive. The opportunity to serve a small context, to have opportunities to preach, lead the singing and disciple people. It was just, why would we not want to be here?
BK: And one of the cool things about that was that Larry and I started serving together the year you were born.
DK: Yeah, yeah, you served at the same church.
BK: 1985, yeah, in Virginia.
DK: Which is wild.
BK: We were pastors together for six years.
DK: So the Lord, a couple months later, we made the move to Maryland and served at Grace Church, and people would ask me what my role was, and I would just say, I was the other pastor. And they’re like, no, what do you do? Well, I’m just the other pastor. Larry’s the senior pastor, and I’m the other pastor. So that’s what I do. I do the other things.
BK: That’s great. Yeah, and that’s what you did.
DK: So in my role as the other pastor, I plan Sundays, and I’ve done pastoral care, and I preached about once a month or so, and often led the singing, and just cared for God’s people and reached out to my neighbors. And so that’s how things were from 2015. And from the get-go, Larry had a desire, he was thinking about the future, and had a desire to, at some point in the future, transition leadership in the church to a younger man, and he was hoping that would be me. And he told me that from the get-go, probably that first lunch on that Tuesday in April of ’15, that this is what I’m looking for. And that idea was a little bit… It didn’t really do anything to me. It wasn’t like, oh, yeah, that’s what I want to do, lead the church, but it was a category, a seed that was planted then. Every couple of years or so, Larry would bring it back up and as maybe… It became every couple of months he’d bring it up and, hey, we should start talking and thinking about transition and what that might look like, the timing of that. And he would say things like, and when we make this transition, I just want it to be so seamless for everybody in the church. And it’s like, of course Devon’s leading now. And we had this desire to serve together after that transition of leadership. And you see the value of multi-generational ministry.
DK: We cared a great deal about that for both of us. It took a ton of humility on his part…
DK: As he brought me into leading the church. And as time went on, I would tell people that I love our current setup, because I have all the benefits of leading the church without any of the responsibility of leading the church.
DK: And so when some punch had to be taken or some hard decision had to be made, “Hey, Larry, you’re the lead pastor.”
DK: “So this is on you, man.”
DZ: It’s an incredible, it shows his heart, like you said, his humility, but just that he wouldn’t white-knuckle that…
DK: Oh, it was remarkable.
DZ: Role at the end of his ministry.
DK: Remarkable humility. Remarkable grace and kindness to me. It’s just what he showed consistently and support, and a willingness to, in a sense take punches on my behalf. If we made a decision or we’re leading through something that… When you’re a pastor, there are some times where you do make decisions or lead people in a direction that they don’t realize that they should go. That can be hard, and he was all about letting me lead through those and then taking all of the flack for it if there was any, which is so generous in his leadership. So as time went on, I had been working on my PhD, that was one of the things that I did when I came and finished in 2020, and so we got to a point… Oh, and then COVID came around, and so that brought things to a little bit more of a stagnant point, let’s say, as far as what are we doing in the future, we just want to serve these people well as we lead through this unusual circumstance, unusual season. [chuckle]
DK: We had begun to shift towards really preaching wise, 50/50. So he’d preached a couple of Sundays, I’d preach a couple of Sundays. And in the summer, this past summer, summer of ’22, the Lord began to put on my heart, maybe it is getting close to that time, which is something I hadn’t felt before. I was very content to just keep pushing it off but realizing, no, maybe this is what the Lord has for me. And maybe that time is sooner rather than later. Another thing that happened during that time is the Lord brought another older man to come and serve as an elder at our church, John Loftness, and he became an elder at our church in, I want to say it was July of ’21. July of ’21, yeah. And so serving Larry and John were best friends. It was great serving with them and they were like the… I can’t remember the guys in the Muppets, the old guys. That would be our kind of our elders meetings. And…
DZ: That sit in the high tower and criticize.
BK: Oh man.
DK: Going back and forth. And I’d just be sitting there I’m like, “I’m here too, guys.”
DK: But it was great, great serving with them. So it was just a sweet season. But then the Lord’s putting on my heart, maybe now is the time. So I was able to bring John into that, in I think August, September of ’22. And how do I walk this out? And when we sat down to talk about it, he said, “You know what? I was going to bring this up to you ’cause I think I’ve been feeling the same way. I think now’s probably the time that we start to talk about this.” And so Larry had just gone, his dad had died in August. So he’d spent time in Charlotte with family, and then him and his wife, Marilyn took a trip to the UK together in September. So there was an extended period where he wasn’t as present. And then towards the end of that time, so in September, he came back and I was asking, we had lunch together, just Larry and I, and asking about his trip to England. And he talked about getting together with a friend and saying, yeah, this guy had asked him about, what are you thinking as far as transition?
DK: And he knew the situation at Grace Church. And Larry had told this guy, Larry’s telling me this. He said, yeah. I told him, I’m just waiting on Devon to tell me he’s ready. And I was like, okay, so that happened. And then the next week shockingly a member of our church died at work, a 45-year-old guy, three kids and dear member of our church. And Larry’s dad’s funeral had been that week. It had been pushed back. And so it was, I had this opportunity to lead through the funeral and care for this family. And the Lord was showing us a lot as a church as we grieved together, as we trusted that, gave a defense for the hope that we had.
DK: In the midst of suffering. And so that, yeah, that first Sunday after my friend Brian had died, I had the opportunity to preach and I preached from Lamentations 3. And how “even in the midst of our anguish, the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end. They’re new every morning. Great is his faithfulness.”
BK: It’s remarkable. I just read Lamentations not too long ago, how it’s just surrounded by pain, anguish, mothers eating their children. It’s just the worst scene possible. But those verses in Lamentations 3, they shine with such power and force. And it’s just so helpful to realize that they come in the midst of Jerusalem being ransacked, and that’s…
DK: Yeah, right at the heart of lamentations, there’s this shining light of hope in the midst of grief and torment. So those were heavy heavy days, Brian died on September 26th. It was on a Monday, and about a week and a half later, Larry and I had gotten together again for lunch, and it was a Tuesday we got together at a place I enjoy going to Blackhawk Barbecue, [laughter], and…
BK: Thanks for that detail.
DK: Yeah. It was an important detail.
BK: Is that in Urbana?
DK: It was in Urbana. Yeah.
BK: Okay. If you’re there, check that out.
DZ: We eat there.
DK: Larry and I ate there often., we’re there, sitting down together, and till end of lunch, I told him, you had said, I’m just waiting on Devon to be ready. You had told your friend that. And I think that’s where the Lord’s put me and talked about what I’d walked through this past summer and just what the Lord had been doing in my heart, giving me faith to make this transition. And and we had a good conversation.
BK: Was he ready at that time?
DK: This is what was interesting in that conversation, I was aware one of his love for me and his faith in God but also aware… And having the front row seat to someone aging in ministry, let’s say, and as you get older, there can be this struggle with, I think, identity and kind of like, who am I? And what does it mean to be a Christian, a husband, a pastor, as seasons change. And so just in talking to him at that lunch, and I knew it going into this conversation, could feel the turmoil with that, and it was one, full of faith for “Yes, this probably is the time,” but then also I just knew I wanna care for him. Well, and it’s a hard thing.
BK: Maybe I wanna let go of the reins, but maybe not just yet.
DK: Yeah, yeah but it’s still a leaning in, not a resistance. This is the direction he’d been leading since he planted the church, and so I told my wife that night I just said, we had a great conversation, and even as Larry and I left lunch that day, just communicating our love for one another, affection for one another, joy to serve together, and that was a regular pastor’s meeting, just how kind of the Lord that we get to serve together, what a gift it is. And…
BK: And may that be true of any pastors who are listening.
DZ: That’s great.
BK: I can say that, about my pastoral team, and it is a joy to work with people you love.
DK: Yeah. We are just surrounded by gifts, gifts of grace. And and one of those is those relationships that we have with co-laborers. And that night I told Kristine, I said, it was great, but I do think that it might be a longer and harder transition than I would want it to be, but I’m at peace with that. I’m in faith for that, and so that was on Tuesday. Saturday, we’re getting ready to go to Saturday, October 15th, 2022. We’re getting ready to go to a wedding of the daughter of a member of our church and get in the car, head out. Larry lived about a third of a mile away from me, and there’s a roundabout between my house and his house. And we stopped at the roundabout. An ambulance goes by and we keep going. Five minutes later, I get a call from John’s wife, Nancy, saying that we’re on our way to Larry’s house, seems like Larry’s had a heart attack. And I just wanna let you know, so we had our two daughters with us. We dropped them off with some friends and turned right around and headed to the hospital where they were taking Larry. And Larry died that afternoon. And I had the opportunity to be with Marilyn, his wife, and John and Nancy and my wife Kristine, and prayed together and to be with Larry, and it was certainly a moment I will never forget. And there was such a weight of grief and sorrow.
BK: On top of what you had already experienced the last couple weeks.
DK: Yeah. Week and a half ago. And then, and what a gift for me, just be serving with John and just God’s providence in bringing John, here’s someone who… He’s been through hardship in ministry. And in the midst of seeing his best friend die, able to lead me in thinking about we also have a church to care for in this. And starting to think through how are we gonna do that? So as we are personally grieving, beginning to think about that, this is on a Saturday afternoon and we’ve got a service planned, and we’re ready to go for Sunday. And all of that’s… We’re holding it all with an open hand, so as you can imagine, an emotionally draining afternoon, evening we went to Larry and Marilyn’s house with a small group of us, and prayed with her and read scripture together and shared memories and cried together. And John and I went down to Larry’s study at his house, and Larry had been preparing to preach, that he was gonna be preaching the following week in Matthew. And his Bible was open though to 1st Timothy. And… Was it 1 Timothy? I’m gonna, yeah. No, it was 1st. His Bible was open to 1 Timothy 3 and 4. And so had just, is it 1 Timothy 3 and 4? I’m totally botching this ’cause it’s so good. [chuckle]
BK: What does it say?
DK: It’s about the crown. Is it 2 Timothy?
BK: Crown reserved for me. 4.
DK: Yes. 2 Timothy 3 and 4. Yeah. Thank you. Yeah. His Bible was open, 2 Timothy, 3 and 4. And so as I was in his study, a place that I’d spent many hours. His Bible was open on his desk. And my eyes were drawn to 2 Timothy 4:6 for I’m already being poured out as a drink offering. And the time of my departure has come. I fought the good fight. I’ve finished the race. I’ve kept the faith, hence forth there is laid up for me, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will award to me on that day. And not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing. And so, I…
DK: You perhaps Larry read that that day. Perhaps he didn’t, in preparing for Matthew, he was probably in 2 Timothy 3. But just the encouragement that that was to see that on his desk in this moment of just heavy grief. Such an encouragement and sitting there with John and just, how do we lead God’s people tomorrow?
DK: And what do we communicate to them? And so we, I planned the planned the service, and I started with call of Worship from Lamentations 3.
BK: And had you preached that the previous week or two weeks before?
DK: A week, you actually, you came out and preached the Sunday before.
BK: Oh, that’s right. We were there.
DK: The Sunday between these. And, so it was a week before, it was two weeks before that I preached Lamentations 3. And so, Sunday morning, we gathered together and it’s just, it’s a church that’s grieving. And we had let everybody know in the church that Larry had died. But I mean there was such a desire to grieve together.
DK: And people falling into each other’s arms in tears. And this is a church that’s closely knit together and Larry’s invested much in, and we were just. Yeah. Tear stained. And just before 10:30am when our service begins, Marilyn, Larry’s wife walks in and just, a hush, amidst the tears just a hush comes over the entire congregation. And she not only comes in, but she makes her way up to the front row where her and Larry always sat together.
DK: And I am at the pulpit, leading call to worship.
DK: And I’m still shocked. I was certainly emotional, but still shocked. I got through it. God gave me grace to get through that. But opened up the service by reminding people. I said, two weeks ago, this, I stood here and this is how I began my sermon. And I read the first couple paragraphs of my sermon where we are people who are beaten down. We are perplexed, we are heavy hearted, burdened by grief, weighed down by sorrow. But we stand here as people with hope in the midst of our grief.
DK: And so then read from Lamentations 3, but this I call to mine and therefore I have hope. And Marilyn is there.
DK: Whose husband has died, 16 hours before. And I’ve talked to her since then, and she would just articulate, there was nowhere else I wanted to be. There was nowhere else I could be than with God’s people. In the midst of unimaginable sorrow. In the midst of the sharpest grief that you could experience. It’s, I need to be built into the hope and reminded of the hope that I have in God and the unfailing promises of God. And so by God’s grace, I think we might’ve talked about this in the podcast before, but we had songs to sing.
DK: And they weren’t songs that we’d never sung before. [laughter]
DK: We had truth to proclaim.
BK: You’re not coming up with a whole bank of songs you’ve never sung to finally help you deal with grief now that you’re experiencing it.
BK: You were singing those songs already.
DZ: Yeah. Well said.
BK: Because there are always people in your congregation who are grieving.
BK: And if we are not grieving, we can empathize, sympathize with those who are grieving, and know that one day we too will be grieving. So these are good songs to have.
DK: Yeah. And so we want this truth, just resonating with us all the time because we don’t know, that Saturday afternoon in October, I’m not thinking that the next, however long you wanna say, that next 24 hours next month, next two months are gonna be some of the most shocking and difficult days I’m ever gonna walk through. I’m not thinking that, but…
BK: Rarely do any of us think that. [laughter]
DK: Yeah. We shouldn’t, and we shouldn’t walk around thinking that. No, absolutely. But we want our minds filled with truth.
DK: That’s gonna sustain us in those moments. And the experience being with a congregation who was just hanging on every single word that we sung and prayed and was preached, it was was remarkable. But it was just, everything, we sing, what is our hope in life and death?
BK: Christ alone.
DK: Christ alone. And we mean it.
DK: Because we’re staring death in the face.
DK: And… It was again, a grief-filled, but such a precious morning and we continue to experience just that grace. And so a week or two later, I shared with the church just kinda the story of Larry bringing me there and the conversations that we’d been having ’cause a lot of people are wondering, all right, where do we go from here? I was wondering, where do we go from here?
BK: Yeah, good question.
DK: I remember sitting there, I remember sitting in my family room on Sunday night and, the Sunday after Larry dies. And just realizing like, what do I do? I mean, like, do I just change the website and make myself the senior pastor? Like, what do, like what do you, what do you do in these moments?
DK: And I also had, our administrator, Nora, she sent me a list of just kind of all the things that needed to be done. And so Larry planted the church, and so the church address and articles of incorporation, like all this legal stuff, like all are wrapped up in him. And so this is overwhelming. I sit down with John, Monday morning and he says, “Hey, gimme all that stuff.” And he is like, “God has brought me here to support you in this season and help you through this season.” And I mean, just again, what a gift.
DK: And amidst heavy, heavy sorrow.
DK: What a kindness of the Lord and so, yeah. So you see that the Lord orchestrated those things. The Lord brought John there for this season, and, so kind of Lord. So you see his merciful hand just all over the place so all that to say, the last, I guess it’s now been about nine months as we sit here in July of ’23, they’ve been some of the most heavy and grief-filled days of my life so far, but they’ve also been some of the most joy-filled days of my life. And it is such a, it’s hard to explain and kind of put into words what that’s been like, but I would never ever choose these circumstances and Larry was one of, not only was he a co-laborer, he was one of my closest friends.
DK: And we’d never choose those circumstances. Yet I’m so grateful to God for these circumstances because I was just reading in Joshua the other day. And as they’re heading into the Promised Land, Joshua tells the people, “not one word of all the good promises that the Lord has made to the house of Israel had failed. All came to pass”. And amidst sorrow and amidst the unexpected trials of life, I’ve seen that to be true.
DK: Not one word that God has spoken, has failed, all have come to pass.
BK: And it can feel like in that moment, “Oh no, Lord, a lot of your promises have failed.”
DK: The wheels have come off.
DK: Lord, where are you?
BK: My world’s upside down. You don’t seem to be anywhere involved at all. It’s all up to me and those thoughts will drive us to despair. They’ll drive us to grief that is inconsolable. But what I so appreciate about what you’re sharing, Devon, is just the specific way, the intentional way you ran to God as your refuge.
BK: I mean, in the day, you’re just talking about you lost your best friend or one of your best friends. You lost your co-pastor. You lost your mentor, your schedule was blown out of the water, yeah. Just everything changes in a moment. And where you run to in those moments determines what you’ve been putting your hope in all the time.
DZ: Yeah. Well said.
BK: So just the way and also with the church, the way you train the church, and I love that, as you’ve said so many times, we are not just singing songs, we’re preparing people to live and to die and you have been training your church to live well, to die well to experience success well, to experience grief well, and God used all that in that moment to not only serve the church, but to bring glory to his name.
BK: It makes me think of that verse Proverbs 16:9, “The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps.” And a lot of what we do in ministry is think about how can we avoid failing? How can we avoid being stupid? How can we avoid sinning? How can we serve people well? And so we put all these efforts into planning, which is right. The noble man makes noble plans and we’re supposed to be faithful, but we cannot predict or know what God’s purposes are.
BK: And your story is just such a great example of that. Everything’s going great. We’re talking about the planning. Maybe you’ll get this done in a couple years. And the Lord says, “No, this Saturday I’m changing everything, and I’m doing what I wanna do.”
DK: Well, and it’s changing everything the way I see it. But the way God sees it, he’s doing the things that he’s promised to do and continuing to do them.
BK: From the beginning.
DK: And I mean, that’s one of the things that just as I get more distance from October 15th, is just, you see every promise of God proves true. And his word never fails. And so he says he’s gonna build his church and he continues to build his church and I mean, and so that’s what really this is about. And so God has redeemed this people who he’s brought together in Maryland as Grace Church, and he purposes to build them together. And these are the circumstances that he’s chosen to do that. And he’s going to continue to do that until he returns. I mean, not necessarily Grace Church is gonna be preserved, Lord willing it will be, but his people will be.
DK: And that’s what he’s about and that’s what he does. You had mentioned earlier just as for me in those times of transition where it’s like, what the Lord wants is your heart. He wants you to depend on him.
DK: And it’s the same with every circumstances of our life, every circumstance of our life. He wants us to find our hope and our joy, all our reliance on him not in ourselves, in our abilities and what we might do and what we might plan, doesn’t mean we don’t plan.
DK: But that’s not our hope.
DK: Our hope is in him and what he has promised to do. And he is the undefeated Savior.
BK: Yes. Yes.
DK: And undefeated King.
BK: Eternal Savior.
DK: And what a privilege it is to be able to participate in that.
DK: As we find our life in him.
BK: What are some of the things, I know this, we’re going long on this, but I think it’s worth it. What are, as you look back, well, first let me say, finding that God’s purposes are bigger than ours in every circumstance, doesn’t mean that death is good, or that we don’t grieve, that death is still evil. Death is still a result of the fall, it’s a curse, it’s not… Now God uses it, he redeems it. I mean, that’s what Jesus came to do. And I love the passage in Acts 4, (28-29) where it talks about, they’re praying and they say, “in this holy city, we’re gathered together against your holy servant, Jesus, whom you anointed both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” That just blows my mind. So, God uses our fallenness, the evil in the world, but it is still evil. It’s not, we don’t pray for people to die unexpectedly, we pray for them to get healed, pray for God to protect them. But in the midst of it all, as you were just saying, God wants our hearts. He wants our affections, he wants our dependence, he wants our trust and faith. So I wanted to ask you, how have you seen your faith grow in the last nine months? How have you seen God’s good hand in the last nine months? What ways have you seen God work through this tragedy?
DK: Yeah. I think one of the things that’s always struck me about this is as I go back and think about the story, you see God going before us. And so in the, and so when, in whatever I go through in life, God, he goes before me and is sovereignly over the circumstances of his people, working them, or for all people, working them for his glory. And so I see that. But not only does he go before us, he goes with us. And so it’s not a… Yeah. I mean, not an abandonment to the circumstances of our lives, but he’s present with us in these things, and he is the God of all comfort, who comforts us in our affliction. And so seeing that and experiencing that, been such a joy. Seeing and experiencing, and this I think sounds weird, but the joy of grieving together, and the joy of suffering together and which is, I mean, seems like such an oxymoron.
DK: Where it’s like really, I mean, joy and grief. But God has, he saves individuals to be a part of a people, to be joined together into a body. And that body is meant to be joints of supply to one another, means of grace to one another.
DK: And so seeing that and experiencing that…
BK: Don’t isolate yourself in your grief.
DK: Yes. Yes.
DZ: Yeah. Absolutely.
BK: If you’re listening to this and you are grieving, don’t isolate yourself. What Devon’s saying is God intends us to grief together.
DK: Yeah. That’s the church, that’s what we’re called to do. And which is why I think you see the church that’s persecuted often flourish, because when people are driven to one another like persecution comes and it’s meant to drive people apart, but within the body of Christ, it doesn’t drive them apart.
DK: And that’s because of the power of Christ in us. So those are a couple of lessons that jump right out. I mean, and I think, another thing, I guess another area that I’ve just been struck by through this season is not shying away from history and story. When the Sunday that I was installed as the lead pastor, I preached from 1 Corinthians 15 and talked to the church about we want be people who were remembers. And so we remember both what we’ve heard in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and we remember who we are, and who God has saved us to be. And so being a people who remembers means that we are people with a story, and that story is rooted and anchored in Jesus Christ.
DK: And his life and death and resurrection and ascension. But God has also been at work from the beginning of the church, saving and redeeming of the people for his glory and we are a part of that.
DK: And that also means though, that I don’t need to shy away from even our history as a church or the scars that we have, and you see this in even in the ascended Christ, he bears the marks of the cross. And in his glorified body, he bears those marks. And so even for us, there is a sense in which in order to, I think, understand something of the glory of the redemption that had been accomplished for us, we are people with scars, we are a people who bear the marks of suffering for God’s glory. And so it’s not something to get away from and to hide in a back closet somewhere, whatever trials that we faced, no it becomes a part of who we are, and it becomes a part of who we are so that we might depend more fully on God, that we might see his promises to be more sure, and then we might glory in the salvation that’s been won for us, to be more astonished to the grace of God.
BK: Amen, his strength is perfected in our weakness.
BK: We don’t like to be weak, we don’t like to be grieving, we don’t like to be inadequate, but that’s how Jesus is shown to be a great savior, if we can’t look great and have Jesus look great at the same time, and I just wanna thank you Devon.
BK: I respect you so much. And one of the things this, losing Larry, has shown many things, but just shown what God has done in your life and that you were prepared for that. And for those who are wondering, Marilyn’s doing well.
DK: Oh by God’s grace, yes.
BK: She’s been actually quite… She was prepared as well, she was prepared for the unprepared, she was expecting the unexpected. Yeah, the grace and love for the Lord in her life has just been so, so evident in the midst of deep grief.
DK: And I think it bears worth stating if you are in a place of heavy grief and sorrow, you have a God-given opportunity to serve those around you as you hope in the promises of God in the midst of that sorrow, and so even as you might feel like your world has fallen apart, which it probably has.
BK: May not be an over statement.
DK: God still wants to use you. He still has things for you to do, and I’ve told Marilyn this, her response to Larry’s death that Sunday morning and in the months after that, has I think taught our church more than any sermon that I will ever preach, probably every sermon that I will ever preach. Because she has shown the faithfulness of God through the way she’s responded. So as a pastor, what a gift that is, there’s not a… I tell her this whenever I see her, but that’s just… It’s the greatest gift that someone could ever give me as a pastor, for her to so clearly and confidently be very honest about her grief and her tears, but place her faith in the hope that we have in Jesus Christ.
DK: And so I’ve seen God do that in Marilyn and I think if you are in the place of suffering and grief, God wants to do that through you, he can do that through you.
BK: Amen. Maybe we should end there.
DZ: Yes, thank you, Dev.
BK: Respect you, love you. And we pray this has been an encouragement for those of you who have listened or watched, and we have a great Savior.
DK: Yes we do. Yeah, amen.
BK: And one day we will see him face-to-face.
BK: I can’t wait for that day.
BK: Thanks for listening.