Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Blessing of Christian Funerals

We observed a funeral for one of our greatest servants over the weekend, Juanita Gaines. Bro. Don Reed and I were sharing together about how beautiful it is to reflect on the life of a dear Christian. Bro. Mike Lee, a pastor friend of mine from Tennessee, writes about why he likes Christian funerals. I believe he expresses well our feelings about those who die in the Lord:

Psalm 116:15 (ESV)
15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.

While there is a sense that death isn’t the way things are supposed to be, there is also a preciousness to the death of a saint of our Lord Jesus Christ.  One of the occupational requirements of a pastor is to be acquainted with sickness and death.  From hospital visits to funeral home visits, pastors know sickness and death up close and personal.

Every time I have the privilege of preaching a funeral for a man or woman who has lived for the Savior, I feel incredibly close to the Lord.  There are 
several reasons I like Christian funerals:

1. Christian funerals make much of Jesus.  While I want to comfort the family and remember the one who has died, I get the joy of focusing on the Savior for whom he/she lived.
2. Christian funerals share the gospel.  What has Jesus accomplished that allows us to be comforted even in the face of death?  He has taken away death’s sting and victory!  How?  Through His atoning death and victorious resurrection!

3. Christian funerals give feet to the expression “grieving with hope.”  I’ve officiated funerals for those who were probably unsaved.  I’ve seen the unsaved friends and family.  They either sit with blank faces, make a mockery of death, or weep uncontrollably.  These people have no hope.
Christian funerals show the beauty of hope in the midst of sadness.  Are Christians sad at funerals? Yes they are.  Are they hopeless?  No they aren’t!  At every Christian funeral I focus on the hope of the resurrection by saying, “For Christians we never have to say ‘good-bye,’ we just say see you later!”

4. Christian funerals remind us that should the Lord tarry, we will face death.  How will we die? My great hope is that if I die suddenly, the previous 24 hours, days, and weeks will show that Jesus was my treasure.  If I should die after an extended illness, my hope is that those around me will see and hear of my love for the Savior.  I want my death to bring glory to God.

5. Selfishly, Christian funerals make my job easier.  From time to time I say to the folks at church, “Live your life in such a manner that I won’t have to lie about you at your funeral!”  Christian funerals allow me to focus on who’s really important, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
I thank the Lord for Christian funerals.  So, may I ask you…how will you die?

Let’s live for Jesus and share Him with everyone!
-         -  Bro. Dave

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

John Harper - Hero of the Titanic

I am thankful for the hard work of Rudy and April Burgess and the whole kitchen crew and youth group who helped to raise more than $1,800 this past Sunday for the Backpack Program. Praise God! The challenge awaits! Let’s continue to work and pray and help to feed the hungry stomachs and souls of Mercer County. 

With all the attention in the media focusing on the Titanic – the following story comes from Baptist Press:

It has been 100 years since Titanic, the greatest ship of its time, sank on its maiden voyage, killing more than 1,500 passengers. The "unsinkable ship" had done just that, and on the tragedy's centennial we stand captivated by the story. Many movies, documentaries and books have familiarized us with some of the passengers, such as entrepreneur John Jacob Astor IV or the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown. Yet one of the supreme stories of the Titanic involves a heroic pastor and his passion to save lives and souls.
When pastor and preacher John Harper and six year old daughter boarded the Titanic it was for the privilege of preaching at one of the greatest churches in America, Moody Church in Chicago, named for its famous founder Dwight L. Moody. The church was anxiously awaiting his arrival not only because of the pending services, but to meet their next pastor, as Harper planned to accept their invitation. Harper was known as an engaging preacher and had pastored two churches in Glasgow and London. His preaching style was suited for an evangelist as testified by the words of another local pastor. "He was a great open-air preacher and could always command large and appreciative audiences. ... He could deal with all kinds of interrupters, his great and intelligent grasp of Bible truths enabling him to successfully combat all assailants."

When the Titanic hit the iceberg, Harper successfully led his daughter to a lifeboat. Being a widower he may have been allowed to join her but instead forsook his own rescue, choosing to provide the masses with one more chance to know Christ. Harper ran person to person, passionately telling others about Christ. As the water began to submerge the "unsinkable" ship, Harper was heard shouting, "women, children, and the unsaved into the lifeboats." Rebuffed by a certain man at the offer of salvation Harper gave him his own life vest, saying, "you need this more than I do." Up until the last moment on the ship Harper pleaded with people to give their lives to Jesus.
The ship disappeared beneath the deep frigid waters leaving hundreds floundering in its wake with no realistic chance for rescue. Harper struggled through hyperthermia to swim to as many people as he could, still sharing the Gospel. Harper evidentially would lose his battle with hypothermia but not before giving many people one last glorious Gospel witness.

Four years after the tragedy at a Titanic survivor's meeting in Ontario, Canada, one survivor recounted his interaction with Harper in the middle of the icy waters of the Atlantic. He testified he was clinging to ship debris when Harper swam up to him, twice challenging him with a biblical invitation to "believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." He rejected the offer once. Yet given the second chance and with miles of water beneath his feet, the man gave his life to Christ. Then as Harper succumbed to his watery grave, this new believer was rescued by a returning lifeboat. As he concluded his remarks at the Ontario meeting of survivors he simply stated, "I am the last convert of John Harper."

When the Titanic set sail there were delineations of three classes of passengers. Yet immediately after the tragedy, the White Star Line in Liverpool, England placed a board outside its office with only two classes of passengers reading, KNOWN TO BE SAVED and KNOWN TO BE LOST. The owners of the Titanic had simply reaffirmed what John Harper already knew. There are people who know Christ and will spend eternity with God in heaven and many others who will not.

For us, 100 years after the Titanic, may we be as zealous as Harper was with every opportunity to share Christ with the perishing.
- Bro. Dave

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Last Enemy

This Easter Sunday we looked at the fact of the resurrection and how Jesus handles our fears and reigns as king. 1 Corinthians 15:26 mentioned the last enemy that Christ will conquer at his return – death itself. In my research for the sermon, I came across this devotional written by Charles Spurgeon more than 120 years ago:

1 Corinthians 15:26 (ESV) The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Those who have stood by a fresh grave and buried half their hearts in it can tell you what an enemy death is. Death takes the friend from our side, the child from our arms, the pillar of our homes, and the brightness of our hearth. Death has no pity for the young and no mercy for the old. Death has no regard for the good or the beautiful. The scythe of death cuts both sweet flowers and noxious weeds with equal readiness. Death comes into our garden, tramples our lilies, and scatters our roses. Death finds even the most modest flowers that are hiding under the leaves, and it withers them with its burning breath. Death is our enemy. “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (1 Cor. 15:26).
 Why do saints die? Because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption” (1 Cor. 15:50). A divine change must take place in our bodies before we can enter heaven. Death and the grave are the refining pot, the furnace that makes the body  ready for its future bliss. Death cuts the ropes, that the boat may freely sail to the fair haven. Death is the fiery chariot that ascends to God. Death is the gentle voice of our Great King.
We fly on eagles’ wings, far from this land of mist and cloud, into the eternal serenity and brilliance of God’s house above. It is not death to die.
-      May God bless us with hope in life and no fear in death through our faith in Jesus His son. 
-      Bro. Dave

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Proofs of Easter

Easter is our greatest celebration as Christians, because it focuses our minds on the highlight of the Christian faith—the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, His rising physically, visibly, bodily from the tomb, His remarkable return to life following His torturous death. This isn’t just another wonderful gospel story or another in a series of amazing miracles. This is the story and the miracle of Christianity. It ties together all the other strands of our faith. As scientist Henry Morris put it, “The bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the crowning proof of Christianity. If the resurrection did not take place, then Christianity is a false religion. If it did take place, then Christ is God and the Christian faith is absolute truth.” According to Acts 1:3, Jesus presented Himself alive by “many infallible proofs.” Notice those three words: Many—not just one or two indications.Infallible—this means irrefutable, certain, convincing. Proofs—these are solid evidence, admissible in a court of law. In the first part of 1 Corinthians 15 (the Bible’s Resurrection chapter), Paul lists some of these proofs:
1.   Fulfilled Prophecy (v. 4). The Resurrection of Christ was predicted in advance. Verse 4 says, “He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”
A.  Old Testament Predictions: See Isaiah 53:9–11 (niv), Psalm 16:9–11, and Zechariah 12:10. See also Psalm 2:7–9; Psalm 30; Psalm 40:1–3; Psalm 110:1; Psalm 118:21–24; Hosea 5:15–6:3. There’s also the example of Jonah, whose departure from his “grave” in the fish foreshadowed our Lord’s emergence from the tomb.
B.  Jesus’ Own Predictions: His enemies did us the favor of pulling out His resurrection predictions and reinforcing them for all history. How? They used them in His trial and afterward (Matt. 26:61, 27:63). See also John 2:19, Matt. 12:40, and Matt. 17:22, 23.
2.   The Eyewitnesses (vv. 5–8). Following his Resurrection, Jesus remained on earth for forty days, appearing at least ten times to various individuals and groups. The genuineness and historical reliability of these accounts are well attested. Some people assume that Christ only appeared to His hardcore believers. That isn’t true. First, all the disciples were skeptics; none imagined that He would rise from the dead (Matt. 16:21, 22). Second, Thomas was a vocal and determined doubter (John 20:24–29). Third, James, the Lord’s half-brother, had ridiculed and rejected Christ (John 7:1–5). And fourth, Saul of Tarsus was the greatest enemy to His movement (Acts 8:1; 9:3–5).
3.   The Power of the Resurrection to Change Lives (vv. 9–11). How else can the transformation of Saul of Tarsus be explained? What about the change among the disciples? John Stott wrote: “Perhaps the transformation of the disciples of Jesus is the greatest evidence of all for the resurrection. It was the resurrection that transformed Peter’s fear into courage and James’ doubt into faith. It was the resurrection that changed the Sabbath into Sunday and the Jewish remnant into the Christian Church. It was the resurrection that changed Saul the Pharisee into Paul the apostle and turned his persecuting into preaching.”

Praise God for the resurrection of His Son, and may we share the Good News to all this Easter season!
-          Bro. Dave