Thursday, October 15, 2009

Two of God's Greatest Miracles

Two of God’s Greatest Miracles
Birth and Death

Three weeks ago, I officiated at the funeral for my sister and then this last weekend did the same at the funeral for my wife’s youngest sister.

While It has been a hard time for our family and two very emotionally difficult times for us, I want to share what I have realized, personally.

I have come to realize that there are two of God’s miracles He allows us to participate in. The first is the miracle of birth and the second is the miracle of death. The two are part of the very fabric of life and part of God’s whole plan for us.

I am sharing my sermon notes from my wife’s sister Debbie’s memorial service so that we may look at death from God’s eyes, rather than from our grief.


'I am the resurrection and the life,' says the Lord. 'Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. John 11.

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8.

Since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. So we will be with the Lord for ever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4.

Jesus was with his disciples, making his way across the Jordan River and back to Bethany in Judea when he spoke to his disciples, saying,
"Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I am going there to wake him up."
12His disciples replied, "Lord, if he sleeps, he will get better." 13Jesus had been speaking of his death, but his disciples thought he meant natural sleep. So then he told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead, 15and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him."

Of course we all know what happened when Jesus went to the tomb, had the stone rolled back and called Lazarus, now dead 4 days, to come forth. That lesson even Thomas learned that even the dead are alive in Christ. The apostle, Paul said “to be out of my body is to be with Christ” Even so, dear Debbie.

On Thursday morning, our sister, mother, friend and loving wife, Debbie quietly fell asleep in the arms of her Father in Heaven. Debbie’s sleep, though, has not been long. God reached down and picked her up from her broken, tired body and gave her not only eternal peace and rest, but eternal pleasures at his Savior's right hand.

Today, as we mourn her loss, she is perhaps spending these minutes running around with strong legs and hugging all her loved ones who have gone ahead.

Or perhaps, as we mourn, she is making up for all the desserts that her sickness and pain had robbed her of. Maybe she is enjoying the feast that God has prepared for her.

Or, maybe as we mourn, she is at God's side at last, talking to her Savior as we talk among ourselves. Jesus loves her, and how glad he is to have Debbie at his side for eternity. Debbie’s vision has been make perfect, enabling her to see with her eyes what his heart has always known -- the love of her Father in heaven.

One thing is sure.
In Christ, mortality always leads to immortality

The only certainty to life is death. Ps.116:15 proclaims Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His saints

There are three ways
in which for the Christian death
is precious to God.

Death is going to sleep.

The New Testament writers often describe death as sleep, and they get it from Jesus in Mark 5.
21 Now when Jesus had crossed over again by boat to the other side, a great multitude gathered to Him; and He was by the sea. 22 And behold, one of the rulers of the synagogue came, Jairus by name. And when he saw Him, he fell at His feet 23 and begged Him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter lies at the point of death. Come and lay Your hands on her, that she may be healed, and she will live.”35
While He was still speaking, some came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly. 39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”
He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age

Jesus described the little girl’s death as sleep.
Sleep is temporary.
Deb fell asleep and heard those words, “Talitha, cumi,”
and awoke to see her Savior. Little Debbie, I say to you, arise.

Death is a journey.

Paul talks about his death as a “departure” in 2 Timothy 4:6. For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.

The word departure is used of striking a tent, or untying a boat from its mooring.

Paul talks about life as the good fight.

Paul talks about life as a race and the need to finish well.

Paul also talks about life as keeping the faith.

Deb fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith.
She was an example of cheerfulness in the face of terrible illness

Deb has already arrived at the celestial city.

Death is going home.

Jesus teaches in John 14 that our destination has been determined.

1 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”

First, he has prepared a place for us, complete and perfect.

It’s impossible to describe this place, because we’re trying to describe an infinite idea to finite minds; we’ll just have to experience it.

Second, in heaven Jesus awaits those who are His.

Heaven is going home, and who is afraid of that?

The song, “Finally Home” says it well, with a little editing from Pastor Ed

Finally Home lyrics
I'm gonna wrap my arms around my Daddy's neck
And tell Him that I've missed him
And tell him all about the person I became
And hope that it will please Him
There's so much I want to sayThere's so much I want him to know.
When I finally make it home when I finally make it home.
Then I'll gaze upon the throne of the King
And I’ll be Frozen in my steps
And all the questions that I swore I would ask
Those Words that just won't come out yet
So amazed at what I've seen so much more
Than this mind can ever behold.
And the sweetest sound my ears have yet to hear
The voices of the angels.
When I finally make it home when I finally make it home.


At her death, though Deb’s body had wasted away, she became more alive than ever.

For the Christian, the most exciting experience of life lies in the future.
A future tied to Jesus and His Gift of life to us.
Debbie now knows the fullness of that Life in Christ.
On Thursday morning, Debbie laid down mortality and picked up her immortality
and joined that chorus of Saints above.
Closing prayer

Into thy hands, O Lord, we commend thy servant Debbie.,
dear sister, as into the hands of a faithful Creator and most
merciful Savior, beseeching thee that she may be precious in
thy sight. Wash her, we pray thee, in the blood of that
immaculate Lamb that was slain to take away the sins of the
world; that she may be presented pure and without spot before thee;
through the merits of Jesus Christ thine only Son our Lord..
Almighty God, Father of mercies and giver of comfort:
Deal graciously, we pray, with all those here who mourn, that
casting every care on thee, they may know the consolation of
thy love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God be with you all,
In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, I pray Amen.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Getting Old Is Not For Sissies

Getting Old Isn’t For Sissies

The older I get, the more I realize that getting old is not easy. The golden years are more like molding years, more rust than gold. Many of the activities that I used to do, I judge now on how far I have to walk, how many stairs are involved and where the closest bathroom is. One of my sons stopped by this morning to tell me that the steelhead run is the best in over 30 years and we should go out my favorite hole and pick up a few.

My mind didn’t focus on the great fishing I have experienced in years past, but on the long climb down a steep hill and the aching that would go along with standing in the river for a few hours and the pain of climbing back up that rocky hillside.

I find that we seniors make a lot of decisions based on what we can’t do rather than what we can do. I can’t ski like I used to ski and I can’t run the way I ran as a youth. I can’t hear or see the way I did 50 years ago. I can’t hike up the mountain trails the way I did a few years ago and I can’t go out for a late meal any more. My dining out now seems to revolve around early bird specials or two for one dinner deals.

But, my mouth works and I can smile at everyone I run into. I can find something nice to say about everyone I see. I can listen with an intent ear and even when a hurting friend talks so low I can’t hear the words, I can nod and share the hurt I see.

I know that we may often be in too much of a hurry to get back to the comfort of our home and favorite chair to make eye contact with the clerk at the grocery store or the waitress at the restaurant but I promise you that if you do that one simple thing, your life will change for the good and the gold will begin to shine through the rust.

As Christians, we need to call upon the Lord to give us an abundance of His spiritual gifts so that we may use them in loving all our neighbors as ourselves. In our conversations with the Father, we need to ask Him to place us where He could use us as His hand, extended. Place us where we can pass his gift of love through us to the ones who need it.

The Bible calls us to be 18Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, 20For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Eph 6, KJV

Try it the next time you run those errands that take you around the neighborhood. It will bless you and those whose paths you cross. Then watch out. God will begin to use you as his local office and when you walk into a place, the people will already be smiling.