Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
This past week has been a tough week. No, didn’t deal with any health issues, breakdowns (car or otherwise J) work stress, family fights—nothing like that. No, I lost a dear friend on Monday.
My first thoughts of Randy are similar to those I have of people who are quite the extrovert to my introvert—“my goodness gracious is he loud and kind of overbearing!” As I’ve come to know over the years, though, my gut isn’t always right about folks (sometimes for the better, in Randy’s case; sometimes for the worse), and I got used to Randy’s gregariousness, especially when we became managers of sister teams. Because we worked evenings, weekends, and holidays, Randy, a few other managers and I bonded in a shared sense making the best of the challenging schedule we had and because we were there for our frontline member service representatives who were there for our members. Randy’s outgoing personality and easy laugh made work bearable.
Randy’s dimpled smile was a source of constancy for us back then, and a source of warmth, light, and nostalgia when we would run into him years later when we left that shift and that department. Though life threw him challenges, as it is wont to do, he handled them all with dignity and poise. He was always genuinely glad to see me (and others from the old work crew), and we always left feeling more upbeat and positive than when we first ran into him.
So when I got the email Monday morning, forwarded to me from one of the former managers from our old team, telling of Randy’s passing in his sleep at age 59, I burst into tears at my desk. I shared the horrific news with my boss whom Randy and I had actually interviewed for the weekend shift, and the anguished sound of grief that he made has been forever burned into my mind.
I immediately went to see if my friend Cathy had read the email, and I cried a little in her office. We asked ourselves if Randy was a believer, and we racked our brains to recall if we had ever talked to him about Christ. When we found out the plans for the visitation and funeral services, it still was not 100% clear, as you know that those services often times reflect the belief system of the family and friends, not necessarily that of the departed. We found out, however, during the eulogy that his brother-in-law gave that Randy was indeed a believer. He may not have been active in his church, but his brother-in-law did witness and talk to him about Christ.
It’s what we need to do, friends, to our family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, strangers—everyone. We need to talk to folks about Christ--not because if we don’t, they won’t be saved and will spend eternity in Hell. That’s not how that works. We need to talk to people about Christ because it’s what Jesus commanded us to do and it is an opportunity for us to partner with the Lord to do His work of salvation. Only God can turn a man’s heart to Himself, but we are blessed to be able to share our testimony with others. The quote “Evangelism (or Christianity) is simply one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread” is attributed to mid-20th century pastor and theologian D.T. Niles, and it rings true yet today. We have received the bread of life; why wouldn’t we want others to do the same?
Know that as I write this, I’m using the proverbial pastor’s pointing—one fingers pointing out at y’all, and three pointing back at me. I know that I don’t witness like I am supposed to. It’s easy for me to talk to believers about the greatness of my God and King, and what He means to me; I just haven’t disciplined or challenged myself to talk to others. Some of y’all do, and I am in awe. I crave your prayers for me to be emboldened to do this. Please.
Dear ones, we don’t know when the Lord is going to call us home. We don’t know when He will call our loved ones home. What we do know is that we don’t have gobs and gobs of time; we do know that God is glorified when we are obedient; we do know that people need to know about Jesus and the ramifications of what will happen to them when they die if they don’t know Jesus. We have an important message that we need to share, and we don’t know when it might be too late to share it with someone.
A secondary, and fairly obvious lesson and message from Randy’s passing: hug your loved ones…tell them you love them…forgive those who have hurt you, more for your sake than for theirs…let go of grudges…be Jesus to people.
“Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” --Max Lucado
“Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.”
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.
Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.
Ephesians 2:1-5; 13-16
Before he read the devotional in our Sunday School class this past Sunday, my brother-in-Christ Juan shared a comment that his father had said to him about Juan’s salvation. He said something to the effect of that only the Lord could have brought about the change he saw in Juan, because he was such a changed man.
Now mind you, I don’t know Juan all that well, but I can tell you that he is one of the most humble men I have ever met. His humility and his words bring glory the Lord Almighty, and his gentle demeanor belies the strength of his love for Jesus Christ. It is odd to me to hear that his father references another Juan—one so opposite of the little bit I know of him.
But that’s pretty much our story, too, right? We each have different backgrounds and experiences, but I’m sure that we each have things in our past that make us shake our heads with embarrassment, shame, or regret. I, for one, have committed sins in my past that I am certain few would believe (please understand that the statement is not coming from a place of pretentiousness—I don’t mean to come across as holier than thou. I just know the things that I’ve done, in what seems like a hundred lifetimes ago). I know I’ll never run for public office, for fear that my past would be dredged up for all to see.
I couldn’t keep my past from Him, though. Yet despite my past, and because of His eternal love, the Lord decided that He wanted me to be His daughter. The only way that relationship could occur was for someone to take the punishment for my sins—MY SINS…the ones I committed, the ones I take fully accountability and responsibility for. My Lord, my King, the second Person of the Godhead, willingly gave up His life to redeem me, so that I could be reconciled to my loving heavenly Father, the creator and sustainer of life. Grace—that totally unmerited favor—was poured out on me from on high. There isn’t anything I could have done to receive it; there isn’t anything I can do to lose it. It is mine—He is mine, and I am His. Nothing will ever change that.
And so it is with you, dear reader. If you’ve been feeling the prompting of the Holy Spirit inviting you to explore the possibility of adoption as a child of God, but you feel as if your past would disqualify you from said adoption, I don’t mind telling you that you are so very wrong. God knows all of your faults, and loves you anyway. He wants a relationship with you, and is faithful to finish the good work He has begun in you. If you want to know more about that good work, or how you can accept His grace, or how you can let said grace transform you on your spiritual journey, I invite you to reach out to Pastor Ray or Wayne, or any elder, as they are charged with the spiritual health of the church body.
There’s a saying I’ve found on Pinterest, and I do believe I’ve even included it in the Quotes section of a previous devotional. It just is quite apropos here: “Satan calls you by your sin and reminds you of your past. God calls you by your name and reminds you of the future He longs to give you.”
“When you finally learn that a person’s behavior has more to do with their internal struggle than it ever did with you… you learn grace.”
“My entire theology can be condensed into four words: “Jesus died for me.” Charles Spurgeon