A Breath Away

A friend of mine died yesterday.  I met him at one of the hospitals where I volunteer.  He was a resident there.  I first met him when I was visiting with another resident who has also become a friend.  Before I sang to the larger group at this particular facility I would come and sing and read the Bible to this individual and sometimes one or two others.  One day while singing to two residents in a smaller room I thought I heard a man’s voice singing along with me.  I looked up and noticed that he had joined us.  I continued on with the other hymns and he continued to sing along.  It was beautiful.  He would agree and bless the Lord after each song.  I knew without a doubt that we shared a genuine love for God.

After the little time together with the tiny group I introduced myself as he did.  But the first thing I said to him was, “So you’re obviously a believer.”  He tearfully confirmed and then began to tell me how much the previous half hour had touched him.  In those few minutes that we shared I felt like I had glimpsed the kind of fellowship and adoration of God that we will have in Heaven.  We both cried as we talked of God’s goodness and faithfulness.  We had never met before that day, yet it was as if we knew each other.  It felt like we were surrounded and even covered or immersed in a small capsule of eternity as God allowed us that short time of joining together in worship and communion with Him.  I had never been more aware of the whole family of God dynamic.  He was suffering with physical difficulties and had lived and loved and lost in his long life.  Yet only gratitude remained in his heart.  What an encouragement for me that day.  His heart soared with encouragement as well.  Just a chance meeting, some might say, but I knew it was a gift of fellowship from God.

It was soon after that meeting that I started to minister to a larger group in a larger room.  He would never miss our gathering if it was up to him.  He was one of my biggest encouragers as he would affirm the gifts of music I brought and their value to him and to others.  He would sing along when he could and then agree in prayer.  He was a light in our midst and a good friend to the others.

Today I heard the news of his passing from the pain of this life to the freedom and beauty of eternity.  I missed his tears, his encouraging words, and his beautiful singing voice as we carried on.  It feels strange that he won’t be there with us in those gatherings anymore.  I feel sad about that.  He was already missed by me and his friends.  I can’t help but to imagine him in Heaven.  How happy he must be!  I could cry again just thinking about it.  He is laughing and dancing and weeping with overwhelmed tears in the presence of His beloved Savior.  I’m happy for you, friend.  I am rejoicing with you.  You will be missed.  We will see you.  Because of God’s great love and provision through Jesus’ great sacrifice, His redemption and resurrected life, we will see you again, brother.  Until then, receive your reward, as you hear those longed for words, well done, good and faithful servant.

That Name

I was deeply moved by the all-consuming power and presence of God this past weekend at church.  Yes, church is a place I often feel the presence of God, but this week was something entirely unique.  The hushed gentle breeze that blew through our midst was full of impact in an extraordinary way.  Simply because of the name of Jesus, the Name that is unlike any other and has no equal.

Our pastor courageously placed a panel of leaders representing various faiths on the stage for a Q & A.  Risky?  Yes.  Would I have thought this a good idea?  Probably not.  Will some hear about it and criticize?  Maybe.  You see, the entire service was centered on Jesus.  Our pastor had given the religious leaders (personal friends of his) questions ahead of time so that they could come prepared to accurately answer according to the beliefs of their faith.  Those present on the panel were a Muslim, a Rabbi, a Hindu, a Baha’i Faith representative, and a Christian.  They were asked one by one to answer who Jesus was according to their faith.  They were also asked if Jesus was still relevant today.  Their answers varied, of course, but every last one of them believed that Jesus lived.  None disputed His fame or His reputation as good.  They each made their own beliefs about Jesus known, but when some chose to quote verses from the Bible in an effort to explain who He was, I couldn’t help but to beam at what we know to be true – that the word of God will never return void.

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The name of Jesus was spoken over and over and I had the sense that God was having His way in a most unorthodox way that evening.  Here were all these faiths represented and Jesus was given the spotlight.  I could not stop the tears from flowing at various points of the service.  I just kept thinking, Jesus, You are Lord of all and you love those precious souls up there on that stage who are so genuine in their beliefs.  Save them, Lord.  Show them who You really are.  May they know and believe that You are the way, the truth, and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through You.  I was overcome with the love that God has for all mankind.  For me, this exercise didn’t confuse or diminish the truth, it distinguished it somehow.  It’s as if He was whispering to every heart there.  That was what I hoped.  He is the Light that was shining.

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It was remarkably impressive how much love and the welcome our congregation showed to these precious souls who willingly stepped into an uncertain situation to spend their own time to come to our church.  I felt the love and grace we all (us for them and they for us) showed each other.  What a timely reminder that we can generously love those who believe differently than we do.  We should never let fear lead the way.  Our interaction and relation to every other human being should mirror Jesus’ approach to truth and love.  The Holy Spirit is the one who will lead to salvation through the only name that can save – Jesus.  May we be led by His love for the lost in our endeavors to share the gospel of Christ.  May we never waver or veer away from the Word of God.

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.  John 1:1

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  John 3:16