Saturday, June 12, 2010

A lesson from death

People experience death every day. It is never easy. The loss of a loved one, whether expected or not, hits the gut of people close to the person in a way that varies from person to person. We miss the people who have gone. We are reminded of our own frailties. We ponder in our minds how our own passing will effect people and what the reactions of people will be when we are gone.

The reward of heaven is so easy to talk about and brings about much comfort to those left behind. Heaven is indeed the only place where all pain and sorrow are gone. But in this understanding is also found the fact that our grieving still hurts and little really helps.

There is one aspect that I have clung to since hearing it put so plainly many years ago. My mentor loss his mother in law and father within a twenty four hour period years ago. I traveled with several from our church to attend and support him as he led in both services. As one heading into the ministry at the time I could not even imagine all that was racing through his head and heart. I never dreamed that I would learn from him what I did during that trip.

Though I have misplaced the verses that he used, I remember this one thing from his fathers funeral. It has transformed my approach to death and my ministry to those who have lost loved ones. It has carried me through preaching both of my grandmothers funerals and doing more than 526 funerals beyond in 22 years of ministry.

As salvation is a gift from God that we share with people, so also is death. When we join in giving the gift of death as we do the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we find the peace and comfort that is promised.

Until that particular service I had never heard it put that way. As my mentor stood and preached his fathers service and imparted this truth - it stuck! We who are left behind should desire and thus participate in the giving of the gift of death. It is our letting go. It takes our thoughts away from our own selfishness and focuses us on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It maintains our understanding that God is working in drawing ALL people to Himself and so should we. Just as we are commanded to share Jesus with everyone - we are also included in the final gift - giving the gift of death.

Key point: It only works when one knows Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Today I join many in giving this gift to a man saved from drugs and more. Johnny Ray went home to His Lord early Saturday morning. His salvation had freed him from a life of disaster. He had been used by God to minister to so many teenagers and adults alike. His smile and his love for everyone will be missed. but as we will celebrate come Wednesday his life, we are reminded in our sorrow that we can join in the giving of this gift. Stomach cancer is a horrible thing. Leaving earth at 51 seems to be too soon. But now Johnny Ray is experiencing the reality of what God worked in his life.

How could we not want to join in the giving of this great gift. It is a lesson from death, for death.

Have a great time Johnny Ray! I will see you in due time! Thank you for all you did! I now give you this last precious gift.

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