Bittersweet, A Farewell

Posted: January 12, 2020 in Meditations


An old friend passed from life to life this past week. His last years did him no favors. Disease, the devolution to death, can be so cruel. My heart aches for his family. Virtually all of us have travailed intimately the death of loved ones. But my heart seeks out the first day I met this man, the conversations, the seasons of prayer, the possibilities of a life dedicated to the service of God. We were young, single, and optimistic. And why not? We served the Great God, the author of the universe, the creator of us.

My friend had it all, or so I thought. A great athlete in high school, he was the marble Adonis in flesh. His voice, sweet and pure, led us in worship. His preaching brought us to the prayer rail. He sought God early in the morning. Praying with him in the darkness of an empty church is something I’ll never forget. We welcomed the man from California. We loved him and he loved us. He never left. Today we bury his body in the earth of Wisconsin.

I called my dad in Florida to break the news. Silence, then Dad spoke, “He was an enigma. I know he loved the Lord.” Dad was right. My friend mirrors a statement from the movie Green Book. “Life can get complicated” My friend did great work for the cause of Christ. I’m sure he inspired thousands to pursue Christ. Sadly, terrible personal decisions shipwrecked his ministry and the well being of his immediate family. Personal demons won too many battles.

Life separated two young men. Years passed but we remained connected. I dismissed rumors about my friend. I lived 600 miles away and I was not going to get involved. Then a distraught call changed everything. It involved family and my friend. Heartsick, I drove all day praying, I was about to confront a friend with sin. The event was painful, thick with angst, filled with love. My friend denied any sin. I begged him never to cross the line again. Two years later, he was removed from ministry for a similar offense. I never stopped loving him.

“They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind.” Hosea 8:7  The devastation of personal sin often wrecks those around us, those we love the most. We call this generational sin, “punishing the children for the sins of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me.” Exodus 20:5  When none of your children serve the God you love? I cannot imagine the pain and regret. But I can pray and hope. I added his wife and the names of his children to my prayer list. Satan doesn’t have to have the last word on sin. My friend is a cautionary tale to all of us. Sin has taken all of us down, we know its effects. But we also have a savior in Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit is our advocate, our difference maker. “The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace.” Romans 8:6

I read a powerful essay by Rod Dreyer this week. He said, “Every time we fail to muster the courage to do what is right, what God is calling us to do, there is behind that failure a still deeper failure, a failure to love.” Friends, pursue God with a whole heart. Be bold, do what is right, no regrets. In the end, Christ is all that matters.


  1. John Mayer says:

    Thanks for sharing this testimony Phil. It is sad when a friend or powerful minister caves i. To sin to the point of destroying his own life and personal ministry and family. A good warning to us all to continue to fight the good fight and stay loyal to our calling. Staying the course for the rest of our lives!

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