And two-thirds

Stella Rogers died at age 99…and…two-thirds. At 99, that “two-thirds” part is important, you know!
Physical death did not come easy for Stella. She often asked others why Jesus had not yet taken her home to heaven. The answer we are given in the Bible is that God has a purpose and a time for everything and each of us. His work in Stella and His work through her was not yet complete until June 12th. With Stella’s earthly life complete, eternal life with her Savior and Lord Jesus Christ began the same moment. Stella’s soul was set free from a physical body that began decaying 100 years ago. We don’t often think, or even like to think, of death beginning at our physical birth, but it does.

In the last weeks, Stella asked her granddaughter Sherry to bring her favorite Bible, which was an interesting request since Stella couldn’t see. Although, she could see enough to know that Sherry brought the wrong Bible. What was in that Book that was so important to Stella, that even though she couldn’t see the words to read it, she wanted it nearby?

That Book tells us about death—it is an ugly picture—repeated on nearly every page of the sacred text. The Bible also tells us about life which lasts forever beyond this earthly life. This eternal life is only available from Jesus Christ. What does this precious Book say that led Stella to hold these truths so dearly? Below is my growing collection of “end of earthly life truths necessary to believe before the end of life in order that eternal life with Jesus Christ begins.” I reviewed these truths at Stella’s memorial service for the encouragement of other believers and for examination by those who do not yet believe.

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, that at the moment of physical death her soul and spirit would immediately be welcomed into the presence of Jesus Christ.

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, she would not be in His presence because of luck or because of the kind of woman she was in this life but simply because she believed what Jesus said is true. Jesus said, “I am the Way, and the Truth, and Life, no one comes to the Father except by Me.”

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, that “Salvation is all of God.” Stella believed the only thing of her very own which she contributed to her redemption is the sin from which she needed to be redeemed.

Stella believed,as the Bible teaches us, that anyone who trusts Jesus Christ and nothing else, no one else, not even one’s self to save from our sin will also be forgiven and redeemed.

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, that anyone who has been forgiven and redeemed by Jesus Christ will at their earthly death immediately begin to enjoy the same eternal life she is now experiencing.

Stella believed, as the Bible teaches us, that anyone who has not been forgiven and redeemed by Jesus Christ will at their earthly death immediately begin to endure eternal life apart from the presence God.

Stella believed and continues to believe, as the Bible teaches us, that one day Jesus Christ will resurrect a perfect and sinless and eternal body to reunite with her soul and spirit.

Stella believed these truths taught in the Bible. Do you believe them, and subsequently, believe Jesus Christ? What additional truths would you include?

The Last Stitch

Early 1980s. Among the many endeavors of the Women’s Missionary Fellowship was making quilts (mostly for Youth Haven Bible Camp in Kentucky and sometimes for others). L-R: Ina Orsburn, Monnie Dailey, Wanda Long, Nellie Rasmussen, Syble Hester, Mildred Moore.

In preparing for Monnie Dailey’s memorial service, I was looking through photos taken around the church. There is a photo of six ladies standing around a quilting frame. They were tying together a quilt that would go to Youth Haven Bible Camp in Eastern Kentucky, where children and youth could hear about Jesus Christ. What made that photo meaningful? Each of those ladies in turn laid down their scissors, needles, and thread in physical death after a life well lived. Until last week that circle was incomplete. In a figurative way, Monnie Dailey was the final stitch on their masterpiece.

A favorite verse of Scripture came to mind. If you grew up in Sunday School, you know it, too. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

As I looked at those ladies and that quilt in the picture, the phrase “for we are his workmanship” took on new meaning. We are God’s handiwork. He has made us what we are. We are like that quilt, a masterpiece not just to show but to be useful for Him.

Today, God is adding another stitch in who He is fashioning us to become with His final stitch from His handiwork we know as Monnie. You may not know that Monnie was the tenth of twelve children born to Marion and Ollie Shaw in Urbana, Missouri. Like the photo of ladies, Monnie is the last of her siblings to leave this earthly life.

You may know that Monnie has always loved people and especially her family. She has six children, eleven grandchildren, and seventeen great-grandchildren. Monnie expressed her love for many years by sending birthday cards to many of the people that brought her delight. I often wondered if each of those cards was also sealed with a prayer for the recipient.

You may know that Monnie loved serving the Lord in ways that was helpful to others, like preparing food, serving, and cleaning up after others in the kitchen. She not only took delight in this behind the scenes ministry with those at the church but also worked eighteen years as the manager of the kitchen for the high school.

Does that make you wonder, “how could anyone find joy in serving ungrateful teenagers or scrubbing someone else’s dirty dishes?” The next phrase in Ephesians 2:10 explains how, “we are created in Christ Jesus for good works.” Don’t skip over to the phrase “for good works” without first stopping at the phrase “created in Christ Jesus.” That’s Monnie—she was created in Christ Jesus. What does that phrase mean? Anyone “created in Jesus” is trusting their whole life, both earthly and eternal, on the sacrificial work of Jesus Christ.

Monnie knew for certain long ago that the day she was to die physically she would go to heaven. Do you have that same assurance that you will go to heaven when you die or would you say you’re still working on knowing for sure? It is fair to be unsure because, as long as we are in this life, God is still making us what we are to fully become. While you are searching He is adding a stitch here and there to the fabric of your life, to lead you to Him.

How did Monnie become so confident of where she would go when she died? Monnie knew the answer to a very important question. Suppose that you were to die today and stand before God and He were to say to you, “Why should I let you into My heaven?” What would you say?

Monnie believed that Jesus is God and the only sufficient sacrifice to cover, remove, and forgive her sin. Monnie was only trusting who Jesus Christ is and what He has done in order to be in a right relationship with God. He is the only acceptable answer to the question “why should I let you into my heaven?” Jesus is asking us—He is asking you that same question. Are you trusting Jesus Christ as Monnie did, as the Bible explains?” Come to Jesus.

Finishing well

Saturday, May 30, was a day for remembering the life God gave Mark Sheets. As the pastor prayed near the beginning of the service, he asked that our worship would glorify Jesus Christ. I believe his prayer was divinely answered. Each fond memory of Mark pointed back to his Savior and Lord.

It was hearing Psalm 46 read on the radio just after Mark and Nidia learned he had cancer that brought him comfort. Pastor Peter VanDyke (of Canyon Lake Community Church) read the psalm.

My ears heard all the words but my mind seemed to linger on the phrase in verse 3 and did not fully engage again until the final verse.

“God is our refuge and strength,

A very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear,

Even though the earth be removed, — The LORD of hosts is with us

The God of Jacob is our refuge.”

From our perspective, at the death of someone we know and love, “the earth (seems to) be removed.” But from God’s point of view, He has only removed one speck from His creation. God knows the trauma that comes to our lives as He acts. As He works His will, we have the assurance of His presence with us.

The pastor’s meditation centered on “knowing Christ” from Philippians 3:7-11, especially verse 10.

“That I may know him [Christ],

and the power of his resurrection,

and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to His death,

if, by any means,

I may attain to the resurrection of the dead.”

In a couple of vignettes from a video recording of his testimony, Mark expressed how much more clearly he understood Christ’s suffering in order to provide for his salvation (and our’s). Maybe Mark’s perception of our hope that results from Christ’s resurrection was heightened in my own thoughts because of our current study of the resurrection doctrine in 1 Corinthians 15.

I was pleasantly surprised that the final note of the service was a favorite song. Many of you could probably sing “Victory in Jesus” without a copy of the words. Even in the familiar, one truth had new meaning. The last line of the refrain goes like this, “He (Jesus) plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.”

Among Mark’s favorite recreations was surfing. Surfers know the thrill of riding with the force of the waves. Those who do (and especially those who have tried) also know the feeling of peril that can come when a wave breaks over you and buries you under the water. If it is even just for a moment, surfers are at the mercy of the water surrounding them. Surfers do not score points in competitions by falling off their boards or drowning. That’s not victory. Similarly, the best any of us can do to earn points with God for eternal life is to fall and drown. However, those who believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to eternal life are awarded the “victory” which He has already obtained.

What about that “plunging” part? Why is it necessary that Jesus “plunge” me to victory? Maybe Jesus knows something about surfing the cold (-cold) Pacific Ocean. If you try to tip-toe into the water, more often than not, you will back out. By suddenly and completely bringing us into a new condition when Christ begins His work of grace we realize how greatly we are at His mercy and know there’s no turning back now.