To all Dan’s brothers… to his brothers, my brothers, his brothers in the military, our brothers in Christ—
I understand you might be in the process of choosing:
What will Dan’s death mean for you?
No sense in pretending everything is ok. You’ve probably already been trying to think this through. You basically have some variant of the following two main options.
1.) Will you let his death cause you to throw your life away?
Will you throw your life away in to the bottle or work or keeping busy or the spending or those other things you don’t want to confess that you turn to numb the loss?
(Loaded question. I know. But listen… It’s ok if you’ve had those thoughts. It’s ok if you’ve wondered. It’s ok to feel tempted. And honestly, it’s ok if you’ve already started down any of those paths. Because tomorrow is another day, you know. Those mercies and the forgiveness Jesus offers you… it’s always available to you, dear brother.)
2.) Will you let his death lead you to follow after him in life?
Will you step it up and protect your wife? Will you dance with her even though you feel like an idiot trying? Will you lay down your pride, and say I’m sorry to those you’ve hurt? Will you take the hand of your children and throw them in the air? Will you take the hand of your children and lead them in prayer?
My gut tells me you might be wrestling with that decision.
You can turn your back from your very own life and drown yourself because of this death (and mercy, you wouldn’t be the first person who ever chose that option…)—
You can follow after Dan’s example as you follow after God’s own heart.
Something Dan knew better than anyone was that if you lose your life, you will gain it. Meaning, Dan didn’t live for himself. He lived serving others. He spent his time and energy and thoughts loving others. (And yes, sadly that sometimes drove me crazy. I’d get upset that he’d spend time serving someone other than yours truly. Sadly, it’s true. …I’m definitely not perfect!)
Something else Dan did is something I’m just figuring out. It seems to me that Dan spoke most about the people he loved most when he wasn’t with them. His coworkers have shared how he often talked about his love for me and the girls. I wish I had some of those stories written down… how others observed him loving me and the girls. I had no idea he talked about us like that when he was apart from us! And when he was apart from you and with me, he shared how much he loved you, dear brother:
At home with me, only in those quiet safe moments, he shared the deep passions in his heart to see men be men. I saw him to the point of tears over you, dear brother. He wept over you actually. He interceded for you and cried out to God that you’d rise up to be God-loving, God-honoring men. He longed for you to have so much more. To know your place in God. To see you grow in faith and prayer and authority in Christ. To become alive again and step into adventure with God. He wanted to see you grow strong and honorable. He wanted you to become a valiant warrior. A man after God’s own heart.
But let’s be real. If you just read that and you’re thinking, “Oh. Well. I’m just a jerk. I messed it up too much. It’s too late for me. The stuff I’ve done is unspeakable,” then hear me out. That’s not the voice of God. That’s the voice of condemnation. And Jesus has a lot to say about condemnation. Jesus says, “I did not come to condemn the world but to save it,” (John 3:17). Jesus’s word also says, “There is now, therefore, NO CONDEMNATION for those who are in Christ Jesus,” (Romans 8:1). That’s where this crazy freedom comes… we have freedom to love and serve shame-free, not because we never did anything shameful, but because Jesus forgave it, cleaned it off of us, set us free and saved us from the power those things used to have in our lives. That’s how my friends who used to live in sexual sin or alcoholism or perversity or murder or greed or pride or lying or fear or spirits of suicide or… you name it… they’re no longer bound by those things. They’re set free! “It is for freedom that Christ set you free!” (Galatians 5:1). What you need to know is Dan, and me, and all the people we love, including you… all of us have messed it up, and we’ve messed it up bad. We’ve been selfish and hurt those we love the most. We’ve made the wrong choices and pursued broken things. There’s only One Guy who lived a blameless, shameless life and that One Guy gave up his life so he could save ours. His name is Jesus.
If you’re thinking, “Yes, yes, and yes!”…then I guess you can just sign off now and have sweet dreams. Keep pursuing the love and grace of our God and King.
If you’re wondering what that looks like or you’re wondering how do you even get started following in those footsteps, then, read on:
If you too have chosen to follow Dan in life, then here’s the invitation… It’s a strange invitation to die to yourself and live for Christ. To follow Christ is an invitation to lay your life down and trust God to raise you up in a new life.
Dan’s heart was for you. He’s on your side. He wanted the best for you. He was like Jesus in that way. So I know he would want me to share this with you—
Dear friend, if this is where you’re at today, then let me walk you through some of the foundational truths here. This simple prayer is where it all began for any of us following Christ…
Lord, I think I want to do this. I want to die to myself and die to my old ways. And I want to be raised up in a new life with you, Jesus:
“If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” -Colossians 3:1-4
And so even now, out loud here by myself, I declare that you Jesus are now the Boss and the Rescuer of my life. I confess that you are now the Lord of my life:
“…If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” -Romans 10:9
By the way, you’re not saved by doing a bunch of good deeds like Dan. You’re saved by putting your faith in God like Dan. You’re saved by faith through grace.
Lord, as I read your word, help me understand you’re after my heart and my faith, not my perfection or productivity. Teach my heart that it’s about your grace, not my ability to be good:
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:4-10
If people were saved by doing good deeds and being a good person, then we’d have no need to trust in God. We’d just check out boxes and do our good things, with no real relationship with God. And worse… you and I both know you can definitely do good deeds and still have no love in your heart. You and I have both done that. Even children can clean the bedroom while fuming hatred out of their mouths, right? God’s not after box-checking and religion and laws. God’s after your heart, your love, your faith. And so he gives us a credit. He takes our faith in him and he credits that to us as righteousness. It’s not a clean slate that we earned, therefore. It’s a clean slate just gifted to us through His grace and loving kindness towards us.
Lord, as I read this next passage, please help me understand grace and faith and your desire to know me and love me and be in relationship with me:
“Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)
So the promise is received by faith. It is given as a free gift. And we are all certain to receive it, whether or not we live according to the law of Moses, if we have faith like Abraham’s. For Abraham is the father of all who believe. That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!” And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.
Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous. And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”
Thank you, Jesus. Increase my faith in you. Help me learn to hear your voice. I want to give you my life so I can really live fully alive, forgiven and free.
If you walked that journey of grace for the first time or if you’re still seriously considering, please talk to someone in your life who knows Christ and lives humbly. Let them know you are ready to learn how to pray and how to engage in a relationship with Jesus. You were designed for community and to love and be loved. You aren’t meant to go this alone. Dan wanted so much to build relationships between other men. So my prayer is that his prayers for you continue being answered in that way. So please be brave and seek out that someone in your life or your local church.
Word to the wise— Just make sure you find a church that focuses on a relationship with a loving Savior and Redeemer. If you find yourself in a church that focuses on rules and behavior modification, then run! Run far far away! That’s not the Good News. The Good News is getting to know Jesus (not jumping through hoops of religion or box-checking.) So Lord, give discernment and guide them to people who truly know and love you and will love to help them follow after Jesus.
Things in your life and heart are going to start shifting. So don’t be surprised. And if you need help navigating any of it, I’m sure I can connect you with a solid guy to guide you along. So don’t hesitate to reach out to me either.
I love you with all my heart. And I know Dan does too.
a small post script… I know I didn’t ask your permission to share your photo… so if you need me to take something down, I will honor that in a heartbeat. Just let me know. : ) and if you’re not pictured, trust me. You’re still loved and thought of. I just couldn’t keep searching. It’s bedtime. : )