Friend’s son killed. Hope?

Mark Rodriguez, the 17-year old son of a friend, was killed in a random shooting last night in Norfolk VA. Carlos Rodriguez, Mark’s dad, is a church planter I coach. It’s surreal. Too impossible to consider!

(Update: Sunday Carlos and Leigh Ellen spoke at Mark’s memorial service. Local TV coverage here. Funeral services this Wednesday at 1pm at Tabernacle Church in Norfolk.)

Mark was coming home from a graduation event at his school and a guy taking pot shots with a high-powered rifle killed Mark. The police tracked him down. He took the life of an officer and then was killed in the arrest struggle. News account here and here.

My wife Elizabeth and I were discussing, “Could there be any worse news?” I’m dull with shock. Can’t imagine what Carlos and Leigh Ellen are feeling. Mark was the oldest of four. What do his younger brothers Will and Daniel and his little sister Maria feel? Their church family at Redeemer Presbyterian in Virginia Beach? The kids at Mark’s school? The whole community? The grieving police officer’s family and the Norfolk PDt? What in the world do you do but weep? Writing this all out is my way of processing what has happened and what hope we should believe in light of it

Life is short. And it is wise to stop and ask, ‘What hope do you have? Are you ready for eternity?’

Here’s what I know. Based on his dad’s testimony, I know Mark was ready.

In our many coaching calls, Carlos talked about his son Mark quite a lot. And I enjoyed listening. This young man sounded like the kid every parent would hope for. Carlos said Mark loved the Lord. He was very challenged by the call to be a ‘radical Christian.’ Last summer he went on a long mission trip to serve at an orphanage in Nicarauga last summer. Not a week with his buddies but a summer. Because he was outwardly focused on others. His dad said he had a super high IQ, loved sports, school, was applying for scholarships – could do anything he wanted. He wanted to be a radical Christian. From what I can tell by listening to his dad, he was.

But God decided to take him home suddenly. Crushingly sudden and seemingly random to us. Causes me to wonder about God’s wisdom sometimes…

Trusting that the Church in Virginia Beach and surrounding areas – which in Carlos’ case includes the PCA and two other churches where he had served – will be the hands and feet of Jesus. That they will weep and mourn together knowing that Mark is happier than we can imagine with Jesus.

Can we know for sure? Yes. In Mark’s case it was clear he trusted in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross in his place and that because Jesus paid the penalty for his sins, God who raised Jesus from the dead, will one day raise Him from the dead too.

Carlos just texted me:

Thank you so much for your prayers and thoughts. I don’t often understand God’s ways but I trust His character.

This man Carlos and his son Mark – and their whole family and church – inspire me. May you dear reader consider this amazing hope and receive what Christ Jesus has done for sinners who will simply trust in him.

Mark was blogging last month. “God is super-good. Can’t wait to be with him forever.”

I’ve been meditating on heaven a lot lately, and I must say, it wells my eyes with tears of joy every now and then. What a beautiful thought that one day, I will be completely in the presence of God and will actually be able to feel the magnitude of all his love and peace with no earthly fears or worries to distract me. The joy that I feel now, the serenity I feel now, will finally be made perfect.

The presence of God here on earth is enough to make me shudder in wonder. I’ve had some incredible moments in life that can only be explained as miracles where I see my Abba, my Father move in love for me so powerfully; it brings me to my knees in amazement. To think that one day I will be perfectly and totally in his presence….I’m definitely going to need a heavenly body because the joy he fills me with now sometimes makes me feel like I’m about to explode!

I love the image of Heaven because it is perfect, perfect peace. Every quarrel, every hurt, it’s all gonna be resolved. All of God’s children will be together and we won’t hurt each other anymore; we’ll finally understand how to love perfectly. And the fact that we’ll all be worshiping the Lord together in one place, forever….that amazes me.

It makes me so excited to think of the wedding feast awaiting us when we go to be with the Lord. I imagine streets filled with rejoicing, loud trumpets, wedding bells….I’m sure it’ll be far more incredible than I can comprehend now, and I love that.

God is super good. I can’t wait to be with him forever:)

(Kudos to ABC13 for posting this on their website in it’s entirety.)

Are you sure you will go to heaven if you were you to die today?

You can know for sure. God explains it in the Bible. If you want to talk about it more, I’m more than happy to chat with you about it.


Pray for this dear family and the many traumatized by this tragedy.

Our Son is Getting Married!

Jake and Cat

Cat (Catherine) is truly an answer to prayer. She’s from a great and godly family. She’s just finishing up her sixth year at UGA with a Masters of Social Work and plans to serve and counsel families in crisis. She and Jake met at a campus ministry where they had lots of common friends. She told me she fell in love observing him at several mutual friends’ weddings. Apparently my son is a good dancer. Who knew?

Jake graduated with a BBA in Finance from the Terry School of Business at UGA and works doing something his father doesn’t understand but is very glad people pay him to do it. He’s vibrant young man, full of ideas, plans and energy. I couldn’t be more proud.

The bride and groom will live in Atlanta near a bunch of friends and attend Atlanta Westside Presbyterian Church. It’s a sweet joy to us that they’ve chosen to follow Jesus as husband and wife. And it’s a special joy that they’d go to AWPC. Pastor Walter is the first church planter who ever asked me to coach him. 

The Wedding
They will be married at First Pres in Macon where her dad is an elder and her mom is super involved. I think they know everyone in the county because her dad is a pediatrician. I’ll be co-officiating, Erica and Elysia are bridesmaids and Elizabeth will be joyfully crying in the front row. Most are betting I won’t make it through without choking up. We’ll see…

All of Jake’s grandparents, three of his great-grandparents and dozens of aunts, uncles and cousins will be attending along with Cat’s large extended south Georgia family and most of Macon. It’ll be quite the celebration. There’s even a live 8-piece band at the reception. Going to be a great party! Cat’s parents have been so gracious about this being a preview of the Heavenly Marriage Feast all believers will experience with our Bridegroom King Jesus! Something special!!

Prayer Requests and Thanks
I don’t usually ask for prayer on my blog, but I feel like it’s a good idea. Would you please pray for this new part of the Moon family? Jake is our only son and he’s named after me – James Ray Moon III – and with all my heart I want him and Cat to love Christ and faithfully serve Him long after I’m gone.

Since this blog is mostly about things I’ve learned in ministry, I want to point out how this ties in with CMM, church planting and gospel coaching.

My church planter coach Tom Wood, Wesley Horne and my supervisor Bob Cargo at Perimeter Church all reminded me during the intensity of the battle to keep focused on my kids and my wife, made me spend money on two-week vacations and asked me about taking Sabbath days and family days. Without their input, I would have done far less with my family, run myself and them into a ditch by working too much and not trusting God enough to rest.

If you are a planter, know a planter or supervise a planter, I can’t recommend enough that they get a skilled, certified gospel coach for their journey.

This is my personal favorite of the happy couple.