Monday, December 30, 2013

What A Way To End The Year

Just recently my dad and I went on a road trip together. The circumstances that prompted this trip were not the best, as my cousin (whom I never really got the opportunity to know) passed away and I was asked by our family to say something at his memorial service.

Currently, my aunt is not affiliated with any particular church or denomination, but she knows that I am a pastor, and so I was tasked with this. One thing I learned early on in ministry is whenever you are given the opportunity to minister, you do it. Even though I didn't know my cousin too well, outside of just meeting him a couple of times at most, this was my solemn and sacred calling.

I have been asked to do funeral services and memorial services for people I have hardly known or not known at all. With family though it is much different, even if the family member is not too well known to you.

So my dad and I started off on this trip together to Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where my aunt lives. One way it's roughly 14 hours, so that gave my dad and I some time to talk. We talked about a number of different things, maybe even solved most of the world's problems. As we got closer to my aunt's house though he asked me if I knew what I was going to say, considering the circumstances.

The thing that kept running through my mind was how precious the gift of time is, and what we do with it has an eternal impact. There are certain shared experiences we as humans all have, there is a time, a season, and a purpose to all those things as Ecclesiastes 3 tells us. When we know that we are given the choice to either fill that time in pursuit of God's plan and purpose for it, or pursue our own purpose and miss out on what He wants to do.

What made things a little more difficult from my perspective is that much of my family believes in God, but they would think of themselves perhaps as more spiritual rather than specifically Christian. I am a minister of the gospel of Jesus, and I cannot proclaim anything other than that. As I was getting ready, I prayed that the Holy Spirit would give me the words to say that would not do any harm to the gospel but also give my family the comfort they needed. There can be no better guide.

In getting to the message I shared that I am not the one who knows why my cousin died when he did, or what the Lord's purpose in taking him was, but that I was going to take the opportunity to tell them that time is a wonderful gift, and none of us knows how much or how little of it we actually have. Is the time we are given filled with love for God and wanting to fill our lives with His purpose for them, love for others and love for ourselves as we are created in His image? Or do we allow our own selfishness to determine how we are going to experience and live time, ignoring that God has a plan and a purpose for the time He has given us and the experiences that fill that time?

While we may not understand what my cousin was going through, or the circumstances that lead to his death, we have the choice to make use of our time and all the experiences that go with it to God's glory, or to continue pursuing what we want without understanding that time is very precious.

My family appreciated what I had to say, and I hope that they heard the gospel message in it. All I can really do is proclaim the gospel, the Holy Spirit does the rest. Yet, I started thinking about how even those of us who are Christian, believe the gospel and do our part to proclaim it through our lives, will even sometimes use the time we have been given unwisely. Time is something that is given a lot of attention when the old year is coming to an end and the new year is about to begin. Time is given a lot of attention during celebrations, or when life-changing events take place. We however are creatures who are surrounded by time. We can't think of anything, on our own, without time being involved somehow. Are each of the moments we live in praise to the One who has given us time in the first place?

As we enter the new year, please give that question some consideration.


  1. As Chris' dad, I'd like to add just a few thoughts of my own to what he's already posted. The cousin he referred to (I'll call him "Sam") was just shy of 50 years old (born in 1964). He was the second of my sister's four children - and now the third one to die prematurely. After all, aren't we as parents supposed to outlive our children? Isn't that an unwritten rule of life?

    Chris stated he didn't know Sam very well, and that is true. But - and it shames me somewhat to admit it - I didn't know Sam very well, either. Oh, I can remember when he was born, and I can remember seeing him at various times and at various stages though his life. I remember his as a baby, and as about a 5 year old. The last time I saw Sam was maybe 2 or 3 years ago. I just sensed an aura of sadness about him.

    Sam was battling many things throughout his life. I won't go into specifics here. Most, however, involved poor choices. Not only poor choices HE made, but poor choices that were made for him. And one poor choice leads to another; then another; then another. It becomes a spiral, and the only direction is downward. Sadly, in Sam's case, his poor choices not only hurt him, but others around him.

    Many people come into the world under terrible, horrible conditions. We see, hear, and read about them every day. Sam's upbringing and early life were far from ideal. We - as Christians - KNOW that the power of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can help us overcome whatever tragic situation we have come from. Did Sam know this? Probably - since his Grandpa (my dad) was a good, solid Christian who did have some positive influence in Sam's early life. His Grandpa would have - and most likely did - share the Gospel with Sam. But I cannot say for sure - and the reason I cannot is because I never shared the Good News with Sam.

    And that is something now that I cannot change.

    One of the few good things that came out of this tragic situation is that I got to meet two of Sam's teenage children - a girl and a boy. Although Sam apparently had not been involved in their lives for the last several years (their mom has re-married), his death hit them hard.

    Again - we see choices. Poor choices. But through the power of Christ, perhaps here and now that cycle can be finally broken.

    Thank you, Chris, for being obedient and planting the seed. Let's pray for these two young people, and that the cycle of poor choices can finally be broken.

  2. It's interesting that you wrote on time. My sister, who I went to visit this past weekend, was saying how she really dislikes the constraints time puts on us and won't it be wonderful to be free of that some day! It is so true that the use of time is so important. If my first husband had died quickly he may not have had the time to make the eternal decision to believe in Jesus as his Lord and Savior. But God, in His mercy, gave him the time he needed to make that important choice. I have become more obedient to share this good news that we have, but I know I could be even bolder. May 2014 give us all the time we need to become even more the people God sees! I would be honored to lift up the cousin's children, that they may find the plans God has for them and live their lives to the full in however much time God has for them. And isn't that a good prayer for all of us?