2Co 1:3 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; 4 Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted of God. 5 For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds by Christ.
1Th 4:13 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. 15 For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain to the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. 16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. 18 Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
On Tuesday of this week, when Marney and I were driving home from Houston after enjoying Memorial Day with our kids and grandkids, I received a phone call from my brother John that our older brother Paul had died. He had just turned 72 years old.
It was a bit of a surprise. I knew he’d battled cancer for over a year. But I had just learned on Sunday that He had become very ill in the last few weeks. And within 48 hours of learning that, He passed on.
All of us here have lost loved ones. And I know you didn’t know my brother Paul, but I just want to say a few things about Him and about death and the believer.
We just celebrated Memorial day, and my brother, both actually, were Navy veterans. They served during the Viet Nam conflict. And I’m glad they both came home safely.
My brother was also a master electrician, and late in life an interstate truckdriver.
He was also a graduate of Southwestern Seminary here in Fort Worth. His undergrad was in History from Old Dominion University in Va. And for close to 20 years he served in several churches in south and central Texas; including First Baptist Canyon Lake, Tx. It was his pastor from those days who preached his funeral. And I was glad also that I got to play a role in that.
My brother was a little over 12 years older than me. So I spent all my childhood years looking up to him. I was 7 when I saw him going off to college. I was about 12 when after coming home from the Navy he lived at home for a little while and left early every morning for work.
Then, he went to Seminary a little later in life, and I was going to Bible College in the late 70s while he was in Seminary so we had something in common in those days despite the difference of years
Paul Dunlap left behind a wife of 45 years, Ruth, who was a preacher’s daughter. Also two sons and a daughter, each of whom have children of their own, all of whom loved their dad and grandfather.
|Paul and Me|
When I look at his life, it wasn’t one of great material wealth. He never won the Nobel Prize or earned a PhD. He never was famous or rubbed shoulders with the famous. But who wouldn’t call 45 years of a good marriage a great success? Who wouldn’t call three children, who all are born again believers, a great prize? Who wouldn’t call a man with nine grandkids, all of whom love him and look up to him, wealthy with the things that matter?
And yet we are saddened when they get to go on to their reward and hear Jesus say “Well Done, good and faithful servant!”
Why do we cry when the reality of their death strikes home?
His wife Ruth insisted that we have a memorial service that was a celebration of his life! And it was! I never saw her cry, but I’m sure she did. In fact, it may have been after all her family finally left and she was all alone Friday evening that she had a real good cry! I don’t know.
But I know this. Would any of us want or loved ones who have gone on to heaven, to leave the glory of God’s presence and come back? I don’t think so!
Sure we hope to see them again! And we can!
Sure we would like to hear their voices again. And we can!
Sure we would like to feel their embrace.
But we serve the God of all Comfort!
Marney was sharing with me Friday as we drove home from New Braunfels, the lesson she learned so many years ago, when we were newlyweds and our best friends lost a little baby. We were devastated. We were grieving and hurting. But we saw in this young couple the comforting grace of the Holy Spirit. Yes they were hurting and sad, but they were comforting us and telling us, the Lord had given them His grace and He was comforting them.
|Paul with my Grandson Phillip|
Marney knew at that time, that when the time comes for us to grieve the loss of a loved one, that the God of all comfort can even comfort us.
One of the ways He comforts us is to remind us of two things.
1) For the Believer, death is not forever! 1Ths 4:14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.
Death is not nothingness! Death is not being swallowed up like a drop of water in some cosmic ocean of existence. It is real, we will be aware of what is going on, and we will have personal relationships. Not the least of which will be with our Lord and Savior the Man – Jesus Christ!
2) And secondly God has a plan for the life after we leave this world! He will come get us. He will make a New Heaven and a New Earth. I think we will have work to do. Did you know that Adam and Eve had responsibilities before the Fall? Having a job to do was not part of God’s curse. Having to earn bread by the sweat of the brow, maybe, but not the idea of being engaged in a worthwhile task! That is a good thing?
I don’t know what the future holds for all of us, but I know who holds the future!
And here’s the bottom line. You know how we can best honor our loved ones who have gone on to be with Jesus Christ. I can let others know how my brother came to be with Christ forever.
Because at some point in his life, when he was just a youth, he realized He needed a Savior. Why? Because he was a sinner and sin separates us from God. Until a person understands that sin has offended a holy God and has brought God’s judgment on them, they will not understand they need a Savior.
But \knowing we are sinners, and who can deny that? We find out we can have peace with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus volunteered to come and take our punishment!
God had people sacrifice bulls and goats in the Old Testament times as a sacrifice for sins. But it really didn’t pay the price. The Blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin!
But in the fullness of time, Jesus came. Jesus said, I will be the perfect Lamb of God. I will fulfill the law and therefor qualify to be the Lamb who CAN take away your sins.
So Jesus gave the first Gospel Invitation. He said: Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, And I will give you rest!
What kind of labor was he talking about? Having a job? Earning a living? No. He was talking about the labor of trying to get into God’s heaven by doing good works!
Jesus just said, “Come to me.”
Have you come to Christ? Do you KNOW that you know that you know that your sins are forgiven? How can you go on another minute without knowing?
Come to Christ Now!