2013-08-16 - Three Conversations
Author's note: This devotional is based on the words I spoke at my father's funeral a couple days ago. My prayer is that these words will offer hope and comfort to some and perhaps even convict others to turn their lives around. Please pray for my family as we continue to seek God's peace in this time and glorify him.
Over the last few months I have thought about my dad dying a lot and thought of lots I wanted to say about him. The things I wanted to say to him I am fortunate to have said to him in the days before he passed. I've done a lot of thinking about the things I'd say at his funeral as well as things others have said to me but three conversations stick out in my mind and so I want to share those.
Before Dad's colon surgery in May, I was in the room with him. Mom went out to get him clothes and other things. While she was gone Dad and I had the first conversation. I know I had an uneasy feeling about his surgery and whether he would come home or not and I suspect Dad did as well. Neither of us expressed it in words. Instead, we chit chatted a little small talk type stuff about TV (police shows that he liked or maybe NASCAR - I don't really remember) and then he turned the conversation a little more serious. I don't remember the exact words but basically Dad said, "Take care of your mom and show her you love her."
I said, "I will."
He repeated that a few more times that night before mom got back and almost every time my mom left the room that same conversation was repeated between us.
As I processed the conversation and played it back in my mind over and over, I was drawn to a conversation Jesus had with his disciple John. With Jesus' imminent death before him, John's gospel tells the conversation.
John 19:27 Then He said to the disciple, 'Behold, your mother!' From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.
Dad loved mom. Dad loved us. Rut shared with me the other day that he felt Dad taught him everything he knows. I feel the same way about him regarding being a father and husband. Too many times people have told me I am turning into my dad. I am my father's disciple. Dad knew he was dying and he wanted to make sure the woman he loved above all else was taken care of. Dad was a good loving man for that. Dad was a good man for so much more and that brings me to a second conversation.
As my father was transferred from one area of the hospital to the next, we met a lot of nurses. I don't remember which floor or wing of the hospital it was in but my mom and I stood outside his room one night and a nurse spoke with us. She was trying to provide comfort and began talking about how my father seemed to be a good man. Then she said, "He's a good man and I don't understand why bad things happen to good people." I simply replied, "I don't know either."
And that bothered me that I didn't have a good answer. I'm a Christian and a preacher; I'm kind of expected to have those answers. Right? I had an hour long ride home and so I wrestled with that. Why do bad things happen to good people? I talked with God. I've heard other people's answers but never really bought them. I wanted God to tell me why. I prayed it over and he drew my mind to a passage of scripture.
2 Peter 3:9-13
I know in Revelation that all sin and its ugly consequences like disease and death will be removed but so too will all those that have not committed their lives to him as both Savior and King. So God allowed Dad to suffer with strokes, cancer and other things because he waits to remove the consequences of the fall from all humanity so that more may come to experience the life changing relationship with him. God knows one day that all the effects of the fall will be wiped away but with that wipe, the chance anyone else has of being saved and joining him in the new heaven and new earth is also removed.
And that thought leads me to the third conversation.
Back in the September of 1967, four years before I was born. My dad had a kidney stone. They tried to remove it with one procedure but couldn't get it so he was sent home to hopefully pass it. At home he continued to be in pain and he eventually developed a fever that climbed to 104. When my dad could take it no longer, my mother called an ambulance. Dad thought he was dying and he didn't want to be separated from my mom who had been a Christian since before they got married. So he cried out to Jesus.
I don't know the exact words of the conversation that Dad had with God that day but I think it may have been a little like the tax collector's prayer that said simply, "God, be merciful to me a sinner."
Dad's conversation with God that day was genuine. It wasn't just fire insurance. He was changed. Mom told me that after a two week hospital stay where he had to have his kidney cut into, that dad got into church and lived following God. It wasn't just an emotional experience because it stuck. People who know my dad may know of his temper or some other flaw but I believe everyone knew he was not just a good man but a Godly man because his life showed more in his actions. I remember family prayers around the dinner table. I remember him and mom reading to us from the Bible.
He got disenchanted occasionally with the humans within church congregations but was always drawn back to God and his bride - the universal church. And he served God as long as he was physically able. I know he served as a maintenance man, janitor, treasurer and lots of other things. I found out recently that he even taught Sunday School for awhile. Even in the times he was out of church buildings he lived like the church ought to live. The conversation caused a conversion in my dad that was evident to everyone.
Like my father, I have had a similar conversation and life-changing conversion as a result. And I know I will one day see my dad in heaven again. But even better I will see my God and King at whose feet my father now worships; I will see my Jesus who even in difficult times like today is still an awesome, loving God and worthy of our adoration and praise. So I thank God that he has taken my dad home to heaven where he is healed and will never again suffer the consequences of this fallen, sinful world we live in.
I pray that you have had a conversation like the one my dad and I have each had with Jesus and that it has changed your life as well. If not, please contact me and let me share with you about the conversation that will change your life forever.
All scripture references from KJV unless otherwise noted