For Christmas, my wife and I spent a full week in my hometown of Billings, Montana. It would have been her first white Christmas had the climate not been its usual self: predictably unpredictable. Just a week before we flew in, Billings was experiencing record snow and kitchen freezer-like temperatures. When we arrived, it was 55° F and dry.
During our time in Billings, my favorite place to visit was Westside Baptist Church. Westside is where my faith was nurtured after coming to Christ in the winter of 1999 and where my parents have attended for approximately 8 years. I have very fond memories of this place; especially of the fellowship I experienced.
When I think of Westside Baptist, the people that usually come to mind first are my Pastor, Lynn Howe, and his three sons: Lance, Josh and Jeremy. I was looking forward to seeing Pastor Howe, talking to him about ministry and simply enjoying his warm and God-filled demeanor. I was also excited to converse with his sons as well. This Christmas, however, only Lance was in town with his wife as his other two brothers were in other parts of the country with their brides for the holidays.
So I was blessed to share conversation with Pastor Howe and Lance for about 20 minutes. But that was all the time we had because my wife and I had to be off to my parent’s house to help prepare for the Christmas feast. As we drove away from Westside, I could feel that I was both sad and happy. I was sad because I knew that it could be several years until I saw either one of these two great men again. But I was happy because I found myself being encouraged by a bit of practical wisdom I learned from another good friend of mine, Devin Smith.
Devin is another one of those people that I simply love to be around. He loves the glory of God, he is gracious and kind and hilarious in a delightfully subtle sort of way. Not to mention that he is wise beyond his years. He is only 28 and yet he lives and talks as though he has walked with Christ for many, many years.
One bit of wisdom that Devin imparted to me during our friendship and that upheld my heavy heart this Christmas, is his intensely practical vision of the reality of the kingdom of God. Given the difference in our respective locations, Devin and I don’t often get to see each other. But whenever I grieve about this situation, Devin, in all sincerity, reminds me, “We always have the kingdom.”
In other words, even though our fellowship is usually cut very short despite my intense desire for us to talk and see each other more, I can look forward to eternal fellowship with this good brother in God’s kingdom. I think we can apply Paul’s words in 1 Thessalonians 4:13 here, although the context of I Thessalonians 4:13 is referring to the death of believers. We grieve that our conversations are short, not to mention few and far between, but we don’t grieve like those who don’t have any hope, since we will soon see and have perfect fellowship with our brothers and sisters in God’s glorious kingdom.