Your dead shall live; Together with my dead body, they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust; For your dew is like the dew of the dawn, and the earth shall cast out her dead—Isaiah 26:19.This past Thursday, I awoke early in the morning to the phone ringing beside my bed. I answered to find that one of my dearest, most precious friends in the world, my grandmother, had passed away that night in her sleep. I have spent a considerable amount of time in prayer this week talking to the one to whom my grandmother always referred as “sweet Jesus.” He is sweet, especially in moments like these. I thank Him this week, for He has brought “life and immortality to light through the gospel.” I thank Him because He “died and rose again,” and thus, we have the same hope that “those who sleep in Jesus” will be blessed with the same fate. I thank Him, for “as in Adam all die, in Christ all shall be made alive.” I thank Him because “the hour is coming when all who are in the graves will hear His voice, and come forth.”
My grandmother deserves a large portion of the credit for the life I have chosen to live. She was my first introduction to Jesus. At age six, she would tell me stories of Jesus as I went to bed each night. Each time, when she was finished, she would whisper in my ear as she tucked me into bed, “Jesus has special plans for you, Herbie. He’s going to use you. One day, you’re going to be a preacher.” I do not know whether her words were a self-fulfilling prophecy or she just knew, but what I do know is that I have never met a more giving, more selfless, more forgiving person than my grandmother. I never learned much theology from my grandmother. What she taught me was far more valuable. What she showed me was what it means to live a life dedicated to revealing God’s love to this world through our treatment of others. In the way she treated her fellow man, she was the most Godlike woman I have ever met. In the last few months, I would spend time each week with her, sharing with her testimonies of the many lives God was touching through the work of Renewed Heart Ministries. She would well up with tears each time and say, “I knew it, I just knew God had a special plan for you, Herbie.” (She was one of the few who still got away with putting the “ie” at the end of my name.)
I was privileged to speak at her funeral this week. It is by far, the greatest honor I have received in my twelve years of preaching.
This next week, especially during the holiday season, take time to single out a family member who means something special to you and tell him or her about it. Thank that person for the blessing he or she is to you in your life. For it is in our expressions of love for one another, remember, that we most greatly reveal the character of our God.
I will miss you Nanny, but I know we will see one other again. Death is not a period, but a comma. And so I lay you in the arms of your sweet Jesus, rest well, and I’ll see you on that resurrection morn.
“Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on. Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors and their works follow them”—Revelation 14:13.
Happy Holidays to you all,