This past week our nation has witnessed the death and funeral of our 41st President, George H. W. Bush. Whether you agreed with his politics or not, it is always a sad experience to see a family in mourning for a loved one. Most of us have also lost those we cared for deeply, and it hurts, so we know how the Bush family and friends feel.
It is a fact, that we will all one day leave this earth in death if the Lord doesn’t return first. So, is there a lesson we can benefit from when we are confronted with the passing of those we love?
One of the benefits of death is it reminds us that we are all headed that way. The writer of Hebrews tells us in Hebrews 9:27: “…it is appointed for men to die once.” It should not be a surprise to us that at the end of this life, whenever it is, we are going to die. We don’t usually like to linger on this thought, but it is a fact we must acknowledge. The positive side of this benefit is we have time to make ourselves right with the Lord. We live life in a time frame. All that we do must be accomplished within those boundaries, whether “good or evil”.
A second benefit of facing the reality of our death is knowing God has graciously warned us to prepare for our final scene on earth. Judgment is not a “pop quiz” for which we cannot prepare. Romans 14:10 says; “For we must all stand before the judgment seat of God.” This is a sober thought for non Christian and Christians alike. To stand before the creator of the universe who knows not only our deeds but our thoughts and intents as well, makes the most righteous among us shudder. II Peter 3:9 assures that our loving God wants no one to “perish, but for all to come to repentance.” We also know that God loved us so much that He sent His precious Son to die for us (John 3:16) so that we could live with him eternally. What a beautiful thought!
To me a most beautiful benefit of contemplating death is knowing that we have a reward coming. Revelation 2:10 says, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” What a glorious hope faithful Christians have. This life is a place of preparation. Don’t miss this opportunity to be right with God and let death take you unprepared. Let’s all take advantage of our “death benefits” while we can and dedicate ourselves to being ready. Are you ready?
As some of you may know, I recently had surgery on my wrist and elbow. It was supposed to be a simple routine procedure. However, things don't always turn out the way we expect and that was certainly true in my case. I had quite a few complications which greatly prolonged my recovery. All at once, I became acutely aware of all the activities I normally take for granted. I was unable to bend my arm, tie my shoes, button my shirt, or sign my name. Many of the chores I normally do became the responsibility of my wife, including waiting on me hand and foot. Thankfully, I am now starting on the road to recovery.
I am sure many of you have had a similar experience when a part of your body was hurt or ailing. All at once you realize how much you depend on that injured toe, thumb, or back. If possible, when this occurs, other parts of your body have to take up the slack that was once the responsibility of the injured member. When we are finally well again, it is such a welcome relief.
The Bible teaches this is also true in a spiritual sense. In 1 Corinthians 12:20-27: But now there are many members, but one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, " I have no need of you." On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; and the members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, where as our seemly members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked that there should be no divisions in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it."
Each and every member of this congregation is VITAL. For us to progress and grow, we need each and every one. No one is more important or less important than anyone else. We all must do our part for the church to be successful in the work of the Lord. As we go forward, let's all make a conscious effort to do what we can to be acceptable in His sight and grow the body of Lord in this place.
As I ponder over things in this life and the things I should have done, it does make me aware of the fact that I still can do the things I should have done long ago. The thing that comes to my mind first is that I should have been much more thankful for what I was blessed with. When the inspired writer of Malachi writes in 1:2 is say this, “I have loved you,” says the Lord, But you say, “How have you loved us?” The Jews of the Book of Malachi were not very thankful for what God had done for them. Even through this is written to the Jews, it still can apply to us today. Are we thankful for all that God has done for us? Or do we say I am not very blessed, just look at my situation in this life. We all just need a calculator to start numbering all that our God has blessed us with and be so thankful. I understand it today but as I was growing up I should have been more thankful for my family. I was very blessed to have parents who really loved me and gave their all to make me the person that I am. Not only my parents but my whole family, grandparents, uncles and aunt and cousins. As I look back in time when all these members were here, I should have been even more thankful. You really don't understand these great blessings until you don't have them any longer. Most of us could relate to this and understand how we have been blessed, be thankful.
In my youth I was blessed by a great church family. Elders and preachers who were great examples but I should have been more aware of how much they loved me and taught me about God. And the little old lady who told me the story from the Bible that I still remember, Alice was her name. I wish I could tell them all thank you for helping to form this person called Jack.
The things that should never come from me at this point in life is that I am ungrateful for all the blessings that come from our God. Our God has given His Son to me. God has given us the hope that carries us thru every day, He will bless us with the hope of heaven if we are true and obedient to Him.
I am thankful.
I believe we know that to create something you need a pattern to follow. When this building was being built, they followed a pattern, it is called a blue print. Can you just imagine the results of this building if there were no plans? The building might go up in a fashion but it is also true that it would fail to stand. We would be asking each other what went wrong. We told them to just build with no idea where the light switches were to be put, or where the water heater would go. I think we can all see it would just be a mess and unusable and a complete waste of time and money.
God does understand that we needed a pattern to follow. He did not fail to let us know that there is a pattern to follow. Surely, we remember that God gave Noah a pattern to build the ark. Noah knew he had to follow the plan as God laid it out or he and his family would be lost with all the other people of the earth.
God gave the people of Israel a plan to follow, that is found in Exodus chapter 20. “Then God spoke these words.” They were to follow that pattern. The building of the tabernacle had a precise pattern. What was in each part and who could go where. The pattern is found in Exodus in chapter 25 and the chapter that follows.
In the New Covenant, God has also given us a pattern to follow and it is precise. It tells us how to treat others, it tells us how to love, it tells us who to put first in our lives and it tells us how we might get to heaven. There is a pattern to follow, there is only one pattern and that pattern comes from God and not the thoughts of man.
To understand what the pattern is, we need to read the blue print. There are no change orders in God’s pattern. It is to be followed as written by the inspiration coming from God. This pattern was given to the first century Christians and it the same one we have today. That pattern was given to the Jews who had come to Jerusalem to worship. That pattern is given to us starting in the Book of Acts in chapter two. When the apostle John comes to the end of the Book of Revelation in 22:18-19. He warns the people not to add to or take away. Remember John was there in Jerusalem with Peter and the rest of the apostles in Act chapter two. Follow the whole pattern God has given to us.
I heard of a story about a rich man who would go to his banker the first of the year and ask this question. “I died last night, now tell me how my estate stands,” When I think about this illustration, I wonder if each Christian should take an account of his life each morning and ask the same question, “I died last night, now where do I stand?” Don't we all want to be like Stephen who, when he was being stoned to death, could be sure enough of his life to say; “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Acts 7:60. Stephen knew where he would be the next morning. Let’s look at a few questions we might ask about our own lives.
Did I obey the Gospel?
This question is first because we have heard so many stories of people who were going to obey the Gospel. If we could only ask those people who put it off what they would do if they had another chance, I am sure their answer would be different, don’t you? We heard of happenings like this, but it seems we always think it will happen to the other person. Remember... You died last night.
Was I faithful to the Lord?
Two men met on the street one day and, as was customary to do, one greeted the other man with a question, “How is the Lord treating you?” The reply was, “The Lord is treating me great!” The next question really made the man think, “How are you treating the Lord?” Sometimes we think in our own mind, I have been baptized and now I’m on my way to heaven. I am not trying to take away God’s grace or one’s assurance of salvation, but James tells us that our faith apart from works is dead, James spends half of a chapter on this subject. James 2: 14-26.
Have you ever thought you were dying? Most of us have been in situations where we thought this is it. And if we had time to think, would we be saying I will change my life, just get me out of this mess and I will be a faithful Christian. Just remember you died last night and cannot change a thing. You are still living if you are reading this. Now is the time to serve the Lord while you still can… Amen
13397 West Ripon Road, Ripon CA 95366