Posted by: pastormikemcdowell | July 13, 2015

July 13, 2015 “The Deacon”

“The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)

Good Morning Family of Faith!

I have watched with some interest as the debate over the displaying of the Confederate flag has been passionately argued throughout the land since the terrible massacre in Charleston, South Carolina. I am in agreement with those who have seen it as a divisive symbol, but dismayed that some have resorted to defacing some of our national monuments that bring that bloody conflagration known as the “War Between the States” to our collective memory. Having been blessed with a mother who was born in Gettysburg, PA, the site of what was the single bloodiest battle of that war, I have always held an interest in the history of that deadly battle, and to a larger degree, the history of the Civil war in “general” (no pun intended…but it does fit today’s theme). As I considered today’s text, it reminded me of one of the true warrior heroes of days gone by…and he was from the vanquished South! His name was  Thomas Johnson “Stonewall” Jackson, also known as “The Deacon”  elected to the office at the Presbyterian Church he attended in Lexington, Kentucky.  Jackson has a documented ministry to area blacks through the Sunday schools he established for them He was one of the ablest generals to ever serve in the military, and a most valuable asset to the Confederate army, who was, tragically, mistakenly shot and mortally wounded by one of his own troops near Chancellorsville, Virginia. I am not sharing this today to focus on his considerable military prowess, but upon his unwavering faith and devotion to God and to prayer. There is little doubt that he was a man of courage…a courage fortified by prayer. No doubt he steeled himself for battle through conversation with the Almighty. Perhaps this Psalm served as a great inspiration for him as he went into the fray, as it did for its author, David.“The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid?” On that very day he was shot, one of his troops reported to the chaplain William Bennett:

” I saw something today which affected me more than anything I ever saw or read on religion. While the battle was raging and the bullets were flying, Jackson rode by, calm as if he were at home, but his head was raised toward heaven, and his lips were moving evidently in prayer” 

Jackson could face his fears through the power of prayer, and did so. After he was wounded and his arm amputated, this was reported by witnesses: “On his death bed, though he became weaker, he remained spiritually strong, saying towards the end “It is the Lord’s Day; my wish is fulfilled. I have always desired to die on Sunday.”   As this great man was breathing his last, “a smile of ineffable sweetness spread itself over his pale face, and he said quietly, and with an expression, as if of relief, “Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees.”

The great Civil war ended with the defeat of the Confederate Forces, partly due to the loss of this brilliant military strategist, but the personal spiritual battle waged by Stonewall Jackson concluded victoriously, crossing over the river into the arms of his Lord and Savior.  Peace at last! Let us pray!

God of grace; Though we may not win every battle in this world…though we may not defeat every earthly foe we encounter…though we may fall even by the hands of those we regard as our friends, we know that the ultimate prize awaits those who run the race to its conclusion and say, as did Paul,  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” The prize awaits. Glory to You O Lord, now and forevermore. Amen!

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