A dear friend died and was buried yesterday. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I was unable to attend. So her husband, a schoolmate, and one of my closest friends, sent me a very touching pictorial tribute, with beautiful music in the background, which was shown at the funeral. Including a video of her giving thanks to, and praising, the Lord Jesus.
I know she is gone to heaven to be with the Lord. And so does my friend and their two wonderful Christian daughter’s and their family.
I enjoy a great privilege to attend a National event in my country each year. An event when National Honors are given out by the Constitutional head of our nation, The Governor General. Very distinguished and deserving persons receive awards. And families rightfully celebrate. My cameras, cell phone this year, or professional, help to capture these moments. But, often, and this year, attending right there with me, has been this thought: ” What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and yet lose his soul”.
For the only certainty in life, ironically, is death. No, paying taxes, at least in my country, as the Minister of Finance is well aware, is not inescapable!
So whether ” Sugar Shane” losing, and by a wide margin, is a ” Dunn Deal “, or a figment of someone’s imagination, is interesting, but ultimately, not a critical issue.
So too, whether or not President Trump’s conversation with the widow of a ‘ fallen soildier’, was filled compassion or marked by the absence of such emotions, may be newsworthy for a while. But ultimately not critical, in the grand scheme of things as ordered by a Sovereign God.
Whether Man U, or City, or Chelsea, (no my team The Gunners will not….but a fan for life….not a wagonist) will win the Premier League in the UK, this year, may trigger lots of passionate debates. But at the end of the day? Hardly an issue to be mentioned at one’s funeral.
Then last night, #bedtimedevotions, I came upon one of the most important stories in the Bible – a Book which is always read at funerals, regardless of whether or not the dead person loved the Lord Jesus. Interesting isn’t it!
“There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.
So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’
“But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’
“He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’
“Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’ “ ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’ “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ”
Luke 16:19-31 NIV
A story about poor man, whose sores were licked by dogs. So destitute was he. And a rich man, who had everything going for him. Lacked nothing. On earth!
They both died. Inevitably. One went to be with ” Father Abraham”, and was at peace. The once poor man!
The other went to another place. And was in torment.
A number of existentiallly important messages are contained in the one story, told by Jesus. Including:
1. That there is a great chasm between heaven and hell. Those in hell cannot receive any help from those in heaven. There is no road between the two places.
2. A plea for a warning to be sent to the rich man’s brothers, was met by an assertion that there is sufficient warning in the Bible; specifically the Old Testament.
3. A final desperate plea, that if someone from the dead, were to be sent to issue a warning, his brothers would repent. ( O Jesus have mercy! Isn’t that why you came from heaven, died and was raised from the dead). This was met by a very intriguing response. That if one does not read and believe God, in the Old Testament, people will not be convinced even by the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It raises the issue, which has been well ventilated by theologians, and by the Lord Jesus Himself, on The Way to Emmaus, that Jesus Himself was very active during the Old Testament times. And therefore, a thorough understanding of Moses and the Prophets, is key to believing in the Lord Jesus.
All of this is to state the following truth. A good education is critical to personal and national development. But at the end of the day, a deep appreciation of God’s love for mankind, as manifested in the Birth, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus Christ, born of David, is critical for our understanding of life.
That the reason for the great injustice of poverty in a world of plenty, has its roots in Sin. That the reason why some reject the teachings of both the Old Testament and the New Testament, until it’s too late, despite the many and various warnings, including the cruel death of Jesus on Calvary, has to do with Sin. And that the reason why men and women, prefer the accolades of man, rather than the blessings in Christ Jesus, offered by a compassionate and Sovereign God has to do with Sin.
Our role then, as redeemed children of God, is to present the undiluted Word of God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, to family, friends, colleagues, and all whom we meet on this journey of life. That ‘ all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. And that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus. So that, at the end of the day, there may be no regrets. No desperate pleas for help. No cries from beyond to warn loved ones.
For politics is not forever. Nor sports and entertainment. There is no Netflix or CNN. No Twitter, no Facebook where we go when we die. National honors cannot get you there. We need a different kind of passport to allow us to be where my friend now resides – in the bosom of Abraham. And Isaac. And Jacob. And our Lord Jesus Christ!
And the process of changing our citizenship ( and whether you are Canadian, Jamaican or a US citizen is of little moment) starts with Repentance and acceptance of the free gift of the Atonement for Sin, wrought by Jesus on Calvary. And ends with us ‘ wearing wedding clothes ‘; putting on Christ Himself!
So yes, #ZOSO is important. So too poverty reduction measures, growth in the economy, public sector transformation, pumping money into the Justice system, improving the educational system, providing more housing solutions.
But at the end of this short life, where we spend eternity is the critical issue. And we cannot say we have not be given sufficient warning.
And so the Lord placed this song firmly in my soul all of this week.
O Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
Be Thou forever near me,
My Master and my Friend;
I shall not fear the battle
If Thou art by my side,
Nor wander from the pathway
If Thou wilt be my Guide.
Oh, let me feel Thee near me;
The world is ever near;
I see the sights that dazzle,
The tempting sounds I hear;
My foes are ever near me,
Around me and within;
But, Jesus, draw Thou nearer,
And shield my soul from sin.
Oh, let me hear Thee speaking,
In accents clear and still,
Above the storms of passion,
The murmurs of self-will;
Oh, speak to reassure me,
To hasten, or control;
Oh, speak, and make me listen,
Thou Guardian of my soul.
O Jesus, Thou hast promised
To all who follow Thee
That where Thou art in glory
There shall Thy servant be;
And Jesus, I have promised
To serve Thee to the end;
Oh, give me grace to follow,
My Master and my Friend.
Oh, let me see Thy footmarks,
And in them plant mine own;
My hope to follow duly
Is in Thy strength alone.
Oh, guide me, call me, draw me,
Uphold me to the end;
And then to rest receive me,
My Savior and my Friend.