We had a wonderful time with the saints at Forest Park Bible Church this morning. It is always great to see the Lange’s (I know I keep saying that, but its true!). Brother Lange told us, “I’m no longer pastor of the church—the doctor said so.” They are planning a special day on February 1 to honor his 53 years of service and to place him officially into Pastor Emeritus status. I made a short video to be played along with the many other tributes that day.
We had a delightful lunch with the whole Lange family and spent the afternoon and evening visiting with my brother, Travis.
Everyone knows that my preaching is very extemporaneous. I teach men to preach that way, too. There are, however, two parts of a message that I always try to write out in detail. First is the introduction—that way I’m sure to get started on the right track. Then, the conclusion—that way I have a clear destination and way to conclude at the station. I don’t always deliver these two paragraphs verbatim—I seldom simply read them—but do spend a good deal of time preparing them so they are there to guide my mind in the right direction and to bring it to the desired focal point.
Thus when asked if I could reproduce the concluding comment and prayer at Mr. Howell’s funeral, I can rather easily comply! Although not delivered word for word, I had written in my notes:
At a moment like this we all realize our own mortality and if we are honest, we realize our total dependence on the Lord. “What is your life? You are a vapour that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” The Bible says that the Lord is full of grace and abounding in compassion and His mercies are new every morning. We are told that God is the “Father of Mercies,” which to me means that because of Jesus Christ, we are invited to come, not to an angry God, but to a loving Father who waits for us to call out to Him. Romans 5:8 tells us that “God commendeth his love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” It is with great certainty that I say this: The Lord who loved Mr. Howell also loves us too. Jesus Christ has opened the door to heaven, not only for Pearlie, but for all who believe in Him—and that’s very good news on a day like this. Death will not win in the end. The Lord Jesus Christ has defeated death, and everyone who trusts in Him will share in His victory eternally.
So, look to the Cross! Place your faith in the Son of God who loved you and died for you. For “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The gift is for you, and it’s yours free for the asking. Reach out and take it. Turn your heart to Jesus and trust him as your Lord and Savior. Then no matter what happens today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, you’ll be ready when your time on earth is finally over. For those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, death is not the end of life, it’s the doorway that leads directly to heaven.
“We thank thee, Lord, for the death of the saints of God. Some go before and some after, but one by one your children pass from this life directly into your presence.
And now our dear loved one is gone from us, but he is not gone from you. We thank you that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. We thank you that we have not lost him, but you have eternally found him. He is in your presence, where there is fullness of joy forever.
We rejoice that for Mr. Howell, the best has already begun. Help us to rest securely in your grace until that day when you call us home too. In Jesus’ name, Amen."