Standing In Faith

Barbara ParkerAs we approach Christmas, many of us reach out to others a bit more than usual, perhaps re-connecting with people we haven’t been in touch with lately; perhaps finding ways to help those who are less fortunate; perhaps greeting total strangers with a, “Merry Christmas.” Also, as one year concludes and a new one approaches, we often find ourselves in a self-evaluation mode. We examine what have we accomplished as well as what should we do differently next year, and such a process is scriptural:

Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified. 2 Corinthians 13:5

I’d like to do a bit of both in this post that doubles as an announcement to the Standing In Faith group on LinkedIn and an invitation to join us, offering first a quick review of our group, and then sharing with old friends and new, the message of hope the Lord has given me.

The Standing In Faith discussion group began as a leap of faith on my part in March 2011. New to LinkedIn and not a big fan of social media, it was quite a surprise when the Lord impressed me to form the group, and from the very beginning He has had full ownership. This is not my group—it is His, and I’m simply His group manager. There have been several times that I’ve wanted to shut it down because it seemed as if it was going nowhere and accomplishing nothing, but His permission for that to happen was never given. Now, in retrospect, I am in awe of what He is doing, and I’m well aware that He is accomplishing His work through the group in ways that I will never be aware of this side of eternity, which is very exciting. Our growth during 2015 has been astounding, and there are new members every day from nations around the world. This is an international outreach such as I never could’ve imagined, and I welcome all of our new members and pray that the fellowship we have here will bless and encourage you in your Christian walk.

From the beginning, the Lord designed Standing In Faith around the passion He has given me for the Body of Christ to live by faith and to operate in unity, and our stated purpose is, “To encourage Christians to live by faith and not by sight, building each another up in the unity of faith that we share in Christ Jesus.”

With that purpose in mind, there are a couple of things about this group that may differ from other groups; things that don’t make us any better or worse, but just different. First is that the Lord has led me to accept everyone who requests membership without any pre-screening, just as He is willing to accept all who come to Him. Second, while we often discuss our differences of opinion, we do not enter into divisive debates or arguments, and no comments are allowed that denigrate the person or faith of another. This can pose a huge dilemma for me as the “referee”, and I must rely strictly on the Lord’s leadership regarding which discussions and comments to allow and which ones to deny, so I would appreciate your prayers for His wisdom in this regard, as well as your understanding and forgiveness if I make a mistake in judgment. I do not agree with everything that is posted here, nor will you, but instead of taking offense and arguing with every statement, please respond from a spirit of love that displays the grace and mercy of the Lord. We are not all “on the same page” doctrinally, but instead of allowing the enemy to separate us as has been done for centuries, we consciously choose to set our differences aside and focus on Jesus in the unity of the Holy Spirit.

As you may be aware, LinkedIn has recently re-designed much in regard to groups, and both the appearance and the function has been affected. Visually, it is easier to quickly scan through discussions, but it is also harder to get the full impact of a discussion without choosing the option for “more” in order to read the entire text of the comments. I would encourage everyone to dig deeper into the “more” of our discussions to get the full benefit of what each person has to say. Also, the space allotted for text has been diminished, so it is more important than ever to try to make a point succinctly.

Previously, the group was open and a request to join received automatic approval, but now every membership request comes to me first. As mentioned before, none are turned away, but any member’s contributions may still be designated for pre-approval if they are deemed to be divisive or off the topic of faith in Jesus; and any individual may be completely banned from the group at my discretion (this has only happened with 3 people whose obvious intent was disruption and destruction). Also, please be aware that with this new system, for reasons I certainly do not understand, LinkedIn is flagging as inappropriate many entries that are fully acceptable, so please be patient if your submission doesn’t appear immediately. I try to turn everything around within 24 hours or sooner, but occasionally that isn’t possible.

Please review the group rules since there have been a few changes to remain in alignment with LinkedIn’s way of doing things. Also, please remember that we do not focus on personal agendas, make political statements, or doctrinal positions; but we discuss the traditional Christian values of the majority. That said, it is difficult to completely avoid the political arena since it has such a huge impact on our lives, but our goal is to approach any such discussions with the intent of illuminating God’s truth and not man’s opinion.

Enough review, and on to our Hope! This morning, the Lord highlighted some phrases to me from Hebrews 3 that are relevant to Standing In Faith.

Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession…[who] is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope…Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

Our “today” is a day in which hearts have become hard throughout the world. Jesus warnings of end times events are occurring right before our eyes. His words (Matthew 24:4-14) resonate with what we see and hear daily:

“See that no one leads you astray.  For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.  And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet.  For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places.  All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake.  And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

We are not to despair! Buried in a passage where many accentuate the negative, is one of the most promising phrases in scripture. “See that you are not alarmed,” isn’t just an impossible suggestion, for Jesus would never have advised something we cannot accomplish. In Him we have hope, He is our strength and our refuge, and we need not fear:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:3-7

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Psalms 46:1

At Christmas we often hear people saying that Jesus is the reason for the season, and that’s true; but I’d take it a bit farther to declare that Jesus is the reason for every season in our lives. Our very existence here on earth is designed to bring honor and glory to Him, and the fact that we are here “today” is by His design, and He has a purpose for each of our lives.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them. Psalms 139:16

So what does this have to do with Standing In Faith? Go back to the Hebrews passage from which the Lord spoke to me today, for this is the re-affirmation of our purpose:

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.

May our Lord be with you all, may He bless and keep you throughout this and every season, and may He make you a blessing to others as you all are to me. Merry Christmas to all, along with my prayers and best wishes that in the year to come each person will find their strength in Him and will learn to stand in faith as never before. My prayer for each of us is from Hebrews 4:

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest…Let us hold fast our confession…Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

 

 

The Fall Season of Life

IMG_2528It’s an unusual day for me! I’m up early and out on my patio at the crack of dawn with my Bible, journal and, of course, my morning latte. This is not my normal mode of operation because I’m much more of a night owl than an early bird, and to get my head on straight before 10 AM is a challenge. But this morning I was wide awake an hour before dawn with lucid thoughts of things I need to write chasing themselves around in my head.

So here I sit, enjoying the break of day, as many others do regularly (I must admit to occasional jealousy of their internal clocks). For me, this is a special treat as my senses soak up the sights, sounds and feel of another new beginning. And what a treat to wrap up in my long, soft, warm robe for the first time in months, a favorite garment that has hung unused and seemingly abandoned throughout a seemingly endless Southern California summer. Today though, there’s finally a cool, brisk feeling of Fall, a gentle breeze and a freshness in the air.

As I contemplate Fall, I think not so much of the seasons of the year but of the ever-changing seasons of life, and I reflect on my own. I look at the first preschool pictures of my adorable twin grand-daughters; can it really be only 2 ½ years since they were tiny preemies in the NICU? I think of my son taking his son to kindergarten; can it really be 30 years since I was dropping him off? Or even more astounding (or painful!), can it really be 60 years since my own first day of kindergarten, a memory so fresh it could’ve just happened. And my parents, part of my life for so long; can it really be over a year since Mom died, and 5 ½ years since we lost Dad? It is certain that God’s word is true, and life is brief.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. (James 4:14)

It is also certain that there are many seasons in life, and each has its appointed place.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

So here I sit on my patio, enjoying a wonderful Fall day while contemplating the Fall of my life, and I know that it’s a season full of promise. When I was just twelve years old, I knew that there was a ministry call on my life, but other seasons intervened and forty years of seasons passed before I began to even have a glimpse of what my ‘calling’ might look like. But then there was a long season of struggle; it was my own, personal dark night of the soul; the season in which God took all that had come before and placed me in His furnace to be refined for His purposes. So now, having gone on Medicare, I guess I’m officially a senior citizen, though I don’t really feel like one inside. It’s a time when many retire to play golf, take extended vacations, and relax; and yet I’m busier than ever, for the Lord has given me a task and there is still much left to be accomplished. It actually seems rather humorous that as a grandmother with two completely separate careers behind me, I’m finally stepping into assignments He planned for me before I was even born.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them. (Psalm 139:16)

Though I have surely entered the Fall of my life, it is a season that feels as new and fresh as this wonderful Fall morning. Yes, my body is aging, a fact quickly proven by a quick glance in a mirror, but it seems that my spirit is just beginning; and there is still much to do.  Psalm 92:12-14 has been a prayer of mine for some time, but my logical focus has been on physical endurance. Today, my sense is that this promise is as much about spiritual strength and productivity as it is physical.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God.
They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green, to declare that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

As I face my Fall season, I have another prayer as well:

O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come. (Psalm 71:17-18)

And also a declaration:

That is why we are not discouraged. Though outwardly we are wearing out, inwardly we are renewed day by day. Our suffering is light and temporary and is producing for us an eternal glory that is greater than anything we can imagine. (2 Corinthians 4:16-17)

How Shall We Pray?

BibleWhen Jesus walked the earth, his disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray, and He responded by giving them the Lord’s Prayer.

Today, God still shows us how to pray, and such direction may occur in many ways; it may be a still small voice, an impression, a thought, a dream or vision–whatever way He chooses to speak to us.

This morning, I got up pondering a dream I’d just had in which it was obvious that someone was plotting against me.  As I prayed about what it meant, the Lord quickly showed me who it is and what is happening.  I asked Him how I should pray because He is the only one who could possibly intervene in the situation, and I remembered that in my dream there had been a reference to Psalms.  I knew then, that I was to pray as David prayed, and was led to Psalm 35 and 59. I wrote the prayer in my journal:

Lord, I choose to bless this person who is coming against me, for You have told us to bless our enemies.  But Lord, I now pray your scriptures:

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me! Psalm 35:1

Kill them not, lest my people forget;
make them totter by your power and bring them down,
O Lord, our shield!
For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips,
let them be trapped in their pride.
For the cursing and lies that they utter,
consume them in wrath;
consume them till they are no more,
that they may know that God rules over Jacob
to the ends of the earth.  Psalm 59:11-13

As soon as I finished writing, The Lord impressed me to go back and pray out loud the entire text of the two chapters.  I did, and almost immediately I heard these slightly re-arranged words from Psalm 23 :

Your rod and your staff,
they comfort me in the presence of my enemies
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

As I pondered what had just happened, the Lord also impressed me that these are the prayers I am to offer for our country tomorrow, the National Day of Prayer.  It is a welcome instruction, because to say that our nation needs God’s intervention ranks right up there with the biggest understatements ever made, and I’ve about run out of the words to pray.

Please consider how the Lord wants you to pray, and join with others across the nation and around the world to pray for the USA.  We need Him desperately!

Honoring My Mom on Her First Mother’s Day in Heaven

Mom's Final Slide

My mother went home to Heaven on August 18, 2014.  In her honor, as we approach Mother’s Day 2015, I’d like to share one of the last things she experienced while still here with us.

About a week before Mom died she saw a party going on.  It was a heavenly celebration, and she described everyone there as being very excited and happy. As we questioned her about the details, she described decorations—like banners or balloons—and recognized faces of loved ones who had gone before.  I asked what the party was for, thinking she would say it was a welcome-home celebration for her, but her answer was quite a surprise!

“It’s a big party for all of the people who were saved today, and I’m going!”

Well, she didn’t get to go for about another week, but her vision of the spiritual reality confirmed the scriptural truth that:photo 4.10.53 PM

…there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:7

A Picture of Forgiveness

 

page15colorHe was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.  Isaiah 53:7a

Walking barefoot through my bedroom, my foot touched on a wet spot and I reacted quickly in anger toward Sheba.  There she was, as usual, staring up at me with those big, beautiful, innocent-looking brown eyes—but this was no time for me to be forgiving or nice!  I grabbed her and sternly put her outside and closed the door, paying no attention to the confused, “what-did-I-do?” look on her face.  I yelled too—even though she was completely deaf at this stage in her life and couldn’t hear a word I said, I was sure she got the message.

Next, I hurried to grab some towels and dry up the spot on the carpet.  Wait—this spot wasn’t yellow—it didn’t have a bad odor—in fact it smelled nice—what was going on?  Further investigation revealed that a few moments before I had carried a plastic container of wet cleaning wipes through the bedroom—the lid was loose, and some of the scented water sloshed out on the floor.

So, did I feel bad, or what?  I immediately let Sheba back inside, held her and petted her, and apologized profusely (you’d think she could hear me).  And she was so happy to see me—immediately right back at my feet—her curly little pug-tail wriggling with delight—her beautiful big brown eyes sparkling with joy—no grudges or resentment—just pure, unadulterated love; as always.

God is like Sheba—we may hurt him, we may accuse him unjustly; we may shut him out; but when we re-open the door to our life there he is, happily waiting to come back inside, not holding the slightest grudge, for “…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1)

A New Day is Dawning

023 copy

Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.        Isaiah 43:18-19 ESV

Never has the fulfillment of these words felt as imminent to me as it does now.  My sense that our God is on the move was enhanced a few nights ago when, after confronting evil all night both while awake and in my dreams, I finally fell into a restful sleep and dreamed of righteous change. When I awoke, I knew deeply within my spirit that whatever is on the horizon is a move of God that cannot be claimed or labeled by any ministry, denomination or other group.  He simply cannot be contained!

Much that I see in the physical realm is confirming my sense of the spiritual, as indicated in God is On the Move in Southern California and I Had a Dream of the Triumphant Church.  In my own life and ministry, change is in the air, with new opportunities beginning to appear on my horizon after several years of pulling back and waiting on the Lord.

So, with only 3 weeks until 2015 arrives, I’ve begun preparing for whatever the Lord choses to bring during the new year.  The first change I’ve made is to make my first three books, Pug Parables, I’m Still Standing and Richard’s Story available as free downloads.  Secondly, I’ve updated my blog site to become my ministry website as well, and it has a whole new look.  Within the first few weeks of January my old domain of http://www.standinginfaith.org will be directed to this site, http://standinginfaithministries.com

Certainly, we live in a time that confirms the truth of Jesus’ words in Luke 21.  Men’s hearts are failing them for fear because of all we see occurring in our tumultuous world with wars, commotions, hatred, persecution, and natural disasters surrounding us.  Yet His encouragement to seek Him first stands.

And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Luke 21:28 KJV

Ultimate Worth

IMG_1422Out of curiosity, I googled self esteem, and in 0.38 seconds had 46,000,000 results. More articles, books, conferences, classes, and multi-media presentations advising us how to build positive esteem in ourselves and our children than one person could ever digest. I skimmed through the offerings of the first 10 pages of hits, and not one of them was biblically based, so I’d like to recommend an alternative and recommend the best book I’ve ever read about building self esteem from God’s perspective, Ultimate Worth, by my friend Russ Llewellyn, an amazing Christian who is also a clinical psychologist. In his words…

“God allows but one path to permanent worth: love through humility. We build our self-esteem only on the things which God values. We recognize that apart from God, any esteem we give ourselves will crumble and scatter like dust swept away by the winds of time.

Our ultimate worth, our self-esteem, comes through humility. In humility, we learn to receive all of our personal worth from God. We learn to love and worship God, as well as love and respect ourselves and others the way God does.

God made you out of spirit, the same essence as He is. He made you for a noble purpose, to be and live on earth as sons and daughters of the Most High. You have a birthright, a kingly inheritance from God alone—ultimate worth.”

Russ can be contacted for further information and/or to place an order at DrRussLlewellyn@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

He Is My Destiny

227062-20140710

Waiting to meet a friend for lunch, I enjoyed a blast from the past; all the way back to about 1960, as Vince Gill’s voice crooned throughout the restaurant, “I’ve been cheated, been mistreated.  When will I be loved?  I’ve been put down, I’ve been pushed ’round.  When will I be loved?”

In those days I was just a child, glued to a black and white TV screen as the Everly Brothers performed their big hit on American Bandstand.  How could I know the sad truth that echoes behind those lyrics?  The sad truth that has probably been one reason the song has endured over the years; recorded and/or performed not only by Vince Gill, but also by Linda Ronstadt and a host of other artists.  The sad truth that life is hard had not yet become a reality to me.  Little did I know that I would soon grow to understand all too well the feeling of being cheated or mistreated; a feeling with which almost everyone can relate.  How could I know that the burning question in the broken hearts of mankind is indeed, “When will I be loved?”

King David certainly understood such pain. In Psalm 55 he moaned…

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.

Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me…

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—then I could bear it; 
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—then I could hide from him.

But it is you, a man, my equal, my companion, my familiar friend.

Pondering the significance of the song while driving home from lunch, I was talking to the Lord about how we usually handle such things.  Immediately I heard the lyrics of another familiar song in my spirit; “You’re looking for love in all the wrong places.”  Another sad truth!  Books could be written—and have been, I’m sure—chronicling the mistakes people have made while searching for a love to fill the void of hurt and despair that was left behind by violations of trust and broken confidences.

Once again, we can look to King David…

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved…You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle.
 Are they not in your book?Then my enemies will turn back
 in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me.In God, whose word I praise, in the Lord, whose word I praise,in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can man do to me…For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.  Psalm 55:22, 56:8-11, 57:10

When we encounter the love of God, the same love that David experienced, we too will praise Him, and we can then sing another enduring song from the 60s…

I will follow him, follow him wherever he may go

There isn’t an ocean too deep

A mountain so high it can keep me away

I must follow him

Ever since he touched my hand I knew

That near him I always must be

And nothing can keep him from me

He is my destiny

 

The Wonder of Our God

 

Cousins Barbara Eva Leonard Eddie etc 1955 corrected

 

Growing up, we lived near the families of two of my dad’s brothers and I was close to a couple of cousins who were about my age. As my younger siblings began arriving, so did younger cousins—all of whom we considered the “little kids.” It’s amazing how distant five or six years seem during our formative years, and how such age differences shrink into insignificance as adults.

Crystal was one of the little kids, so after my family moved away when I was seventeen we lost touch for many years. About five years ago Crystal started calling occasionally and we’d talk awhile, but still didn’t know one another well. Eventually though, we discovered that we are both passionate about God in a way that many others in our extended family are not; and a spiritual bond began to form.

The last few years have been very difficult for Crystal, with catastrophic illnesses plaguing her husband that have left him permanently disabled; a multitude of other cascading problems; and, in just the last year, she lost both parents as well as two of other close family members. Sinking into a place of deep despair, she continued crying out to God and, as always, He has been faithful. I share the background of Crystal’s difficulties to illustrate the wonder of the sufficiency of our Lord, even in the midst of our most desperate times. In her words…

Super close up of delicate blue wildflower blank Ava - Copy

I was walking the puppies, and out near the edge of our mowed lawn is the wilder part where the more natural grasses grow up to a height of about 18 inches.

It’s early spring and the wildflowers have just started to bloom here and there. Over the years, as I’ve taken photos of our flowers, I’ve found that some of my very favorites are the tiny wild flowers. At first glance, looking down at them from about five feet above, they don’t look all that impressive. But when I bend down and focus on the tiny blooms, some not more than an inch across, I am amazed to see the glorious details of the little petals and stamens, complete with pollen.

This day, walking near the edge of the lawn, I noticed a lone grouping of three fronds of one of these little Missouri wildflowers. It was white and delicate with little yellow stamens.

I wondered, “Will this little flower survive without anyone but the good Lord up above watering it and caring for it?” I also pondered the question, “What good will this little flower be?  If I hadn’t just happened to walk out here, nobody would even have enjoyed its beauty.”

Just then, a huge black-and-yellow-striped bumblebee, about an inch long and a half-inch wide, buzzed in and landed on the tiny wildflower. This is the kind of bumblebee I used to see growing up in Northern California where we used to love to catch them in the lupine bushes in quart glass Mason jars because we always liked to hear them “sing” as they buzzed.

It was always fun to find one that had lots of pollen dots on its back legs, gathered and distributed along its travels. I’ve since learned that many flowers don’t pollinate unless a bee comes along to do it for them.

So, here was this little lone wildflower and I watched, mesmerized, as the big bumblebee adeptly and carefully visited each and every little open petal.

I felt ashamed that I had so quickly judged the seemingly insignificant wildflower. I wasn’t the only one to enjoy its beauty—I was but one of many, including the Good Lord up above, the angels, and all the other birds and bees flying about.

Suddenly I didn’t feel like such a lone wildflower living out in the wilderness. The Spirit spoke to me and said that I am never alone, but that God Himself always makes plans to visit me and deposit within me bits of Himself, where they can stay forever, producing His life. Then, as I am filled with Him, I can be like the bumblebee and spread the beauty of His love to other flowers (people) I come in contact with.

May we all decide now to be like industrious little bumblebees, pollinating with His life all the wildflowers and cultivated flowers with whom the LORD allows us to interact.  We do this by sharing His light; by walking in His light. We do this by not reacting badly, even when others do so. We do this when we shine with His glory because we have been swimming in it ourselves, and it just exudes out of us effortlessly.

What wonderful details and symmetry God has placed on our little blue planet!

So today, praise Him, especially if you identify with being a lone little wildflower living out in the wilderness because…

He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. Job 23:10

 

Faith of our Fathers

Cruising 263

With Father’s Day approaching, my thoughts turned to my dad and words from an old hymn echoed in my mind, “Faith of our fathers, living still…” My dad’s faith definitely lives on, so in his honor I’d like to share the eulogy I presented at his memorial celebration on March 9, 2009.

Richard R. Kain (1925-2009)

Dad left us a week ago and, as we’ve planned for this memorial service, I’ve not once thought of him as being in this casket—every thought has had more to do with the joy he’s experiencing in heaven—indeed, he’s more alive right now than we are because each of us is still in the process of growing old and dying.  He’s been there and done that, and death can no longer touch him.

So we gather here to celebrate his life—a godly man who was a husband, father, grandfather and friend; a man who loved peanut butter, followed closely by cornbread and fish, a man that we will never forget.

Several days before Dad went home I sat beside his bed in the early morning hours and asked the Lord what He would want me to say at the memorial service and, with Dad sleeping peacefully beside me, I wrote these words:

I sit with my dad in the darkness, but the dark is not really dark for the glory of God is here.  I’m certain angels are here too, and the time is coming soon when he steps into eternity and they escort him home.  Moments, hours or days—it’s very close.  This is a godly man, completing his last assignment on earth—dying.

I’ve observed death many times but its strange watching it happen in my dad.  I’m sure it seems like yesterday to him that he was a child—that he met Mom—that I was born.  Yet, it’s almost done.  The truth of God is evident—life, like the grass of the field; springing up, blossoming, flourishing and then dying in a brief moment in time.  Oh, but it doesn’t end here.  Dad has just begun to live—he’s run his race within the limitations of time and space and I sense that, even now, Jesus is pointing to him and telling all those around to watch the death of a saint—instructing the angels, who long to look into the things of redemption, mercy and the grace that is available to man.  He must be saying, “Look at Richard—this is how it’s done.  All of his human frailties are as nothing—this one loves me—no, even more, he adores and worships me.  And I adore him.”

Perhaps Dad tarries here for a bit as Jesus puts the final touches on his mansion—a beautiful dwelling in God’s city of golden glory—a home where there are no weeds to pull or sprinklers to fix—the perfect place for him to luxuriate in his Lord forever.

And surely, within that cloud of witnesses in heaven there must be such excitement—his mother just dancing at the prospect of hugging her son again—his brothers and sisters joyously anticipating his arrival; ready to show him around and introduce him to the joys of heaven that they’ve already come to know.

Oh, and there’s more.   My dad didn’t see himself as much—he didn’t have a clue about his value and the impact of his life.  But he was—no, he is—an evangelist and an encourager—and a singer.  Can’t you just hear him shouting and singing praises to God, as one after another the many people who are in heaven because he lived and was faithful are introduced?  A child from the days spent in the church nursery for whom he prayed, as he loved on him.  A friend or co-worker that was so impacted by his testimony that they gave their life to God, but Dad never knew it.  And then, there are those he never met because they were halfway around the world—lives that were changed by his faithful giving and his prayers.

We’re told that the believer will receive crowns of righteousness and life.  Can’t you just see Dad with his crowns standing before the throne and joining with the 24 elders to lay them at the feet of his Father in joyful adoration and worship?  And can’t you imagine God saying, “Richard, get up.  You are a joint heir with my son, Jesus—you are also my son and I want you to just get out there and enjoy the treasures that have been laid up for you!”

We see the shell of the man—Richard Kain, this saint of God who the Lord once told me was a pillar of the Church.  We see a body that lived 83 years and 8 months—a body that remained remarkably strong right up to the end and certainly didn’t look its age.  But that body, as dear as it is, is not my dad.  My dad is alive and he can see with vision as sharp as an eagle; he can hear with ears that comprehend frequencies far beyond human understanding.  He can sing with a powerful voice—not just the very nice and pleasant voice we’ve heard, but with the voice of a master singer.  Oh, and he can not only walk, but he can run—I can imagine him running and jumping and dancing around from the sheer joy of being able to do so without any pain in his feet, legs or knees—walking all over heaven and meeting all of his neighbors, and nobody telling him he can’t go out because he might get lost.

As he joins with that great cloud of witnesses, I’m sure there’s one more thing he’s doing—he is loving us.  He’s praying for his “sweet, beautiful, pretty-thing wife.”  He’s praying for his sons and daughters.  He’s praying for his grandchildren.  And he’s joyfully anticipating that moment when each of us, in our own turn, joins him in Glory.

Dad’s life is not over—it’s just beginning.

One final thing; Dad no longer needs our prayers, but my prayer on his behalf is that every one of his descendants will make the choice to develop a relationship with God—that Dad will ultimately receive one of the greatest desires of his heart—to be able to spend eternity with his family—including great, great-great, and great-great-great grandchildren yet to be born.  My prayer is that not one will be lost, even down to a thousand generations, but that all will enter into the fullness of Christ Jesus.  Because there are two certain truths that can be spoken of my Dad—and I speak in the present tense—he loves God with all of his heart, and he loves his family with a boundless love that cannot be measured.

…the time has come for my departure.   I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.   Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.  2 Timothy 4:6b-8