(Part 3) The Line in the Sand - Chapter 14. - The Final Chapter
Wow! If I had only known that I would be given the concept for the final chapter of this book last week, I would have prepared myself for a deeply awakening shock! My father passed away last week on July 2, 2005. I was awakened at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning to a familiar voice on the answering machine (we always call-screen at 6:00 a.m.). It was one of my stepsisters, who never calls me, leaving a message to call back as soon as possible. My precious bride was awakened, and listening, too. "That's not a good call," she said. It wasn't.
I called as immediately as possible, and was told that at 1:30 a.m. my stepmother was awakened to something even more shocking than my phone call was. My dad was having seizures in his sleep. I don't think he ever woke up.
I have been digesting the reality that my father is now dead. It is very difficult at times, like now as I write this... My emotions are stretched to what seems like a breaking point, and yet, I know I will survive the pain of my personal loss. As I reflect on how our relationship was, all the things I have written about in previous chapters, I realize that his life still has a significant positive impact on the lives of others, especially mine.
I also realize that God loved my dad, His son, so much that He wouldn't wait any longer to bring him home. Our loss. Or is it? My dad lives on through Christ, because he accepted Christ's gift. His life was completely changed as a result of giving over the control to Christ. I have witnessed this change over the past twenty or so years. He was truly on fire for the Lord. He made a great big fuss over his new life with Jesus. You could say he was a Jesus freak!
I'll miss his deep booming voice on the phone, gently saying, "I love you son." Those were his last words to me on Father's Day, two weeks earlier. We wished each other "Happy Father's Day," like a couple of brothers. It seems like yesterday, and feels like a lifetime since I heard his voice for the last time...
I'll miss the fishing trips we took when he visited us a couple of years ago. My memory is of a vibrant, loving, and deeply devoted man, not of a lifeless human form. My memory is of a caring man, who genuinely desired the best for others. My memory will be placed on solid rock, never to be shattered, because it is my memory.
The last time I saw him he wept. He was leaving our area to travel back toward home. His tears were of sadness because I know he loved me and he would miss me. They were also tears of joy, because he knew he did all right in raising me. Not that I'm anything special, but that I'm special to him.
You see ... we connected. We spoke of all the things I have written about, and more. We took the time to listen to each other and genuinely feel sadness because of the things we had each done in our relationship. We had let the sun go down on our problems in the past. However, we had not let his final chapter end before resolving all of our issues. So, dad, this is for you. You have finally crossed the ultimate line in the sand, the final chapter of life.
In an effort to find some solace and understanding in my sadness, I asked my dad's precious bride what their last devotion was. I thought that I might find a key to my father's final chapter in this life. What I found is more profound, at least to me, than I could ever have hoped for.
On July 1, 2005, they read their daily devotions, which were from the Daily Guidepost - 2000 edition. The scripture verse was Lamentations 3:22-23. (La 3:22-23) "It is of Yahweh's loving kindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassion doesn't fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness."
I read further:
(La 3:21-26) "This I recall to my mind; therefore have I hope. It is of Yahweh's loving kindnesses that we are not consumed, because his compassion doesn't fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Yahweh is my portion, says my soul; therefore will I hope in him. Yahweh is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him. It is good that a man should hope and quietly wait for the salvation of Yahweh."
I realize now that my dad continually expressed his hope in God. He embraced the reality of our Creator and with a humble gratitude experienced God's Grace and Mercy every day. He received Godís awesome love and was filled to overflowing. He realized that every day was just what it seems like: a brand new day. He accepted that what God would provide and what He would do was plenty for one day. My dad hoped in Him.
Now, I look back tenderly toward the final day he had on this earth. He sought after God. Dad waited for God to do His will and His good work through him. He would wait quietly filled with hope because of the promise of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ.
I asked about his last day. What I learned was interesting. His last day was like most any other normal day he had ever lived. In the morning, he and his bride went fishing. He did routine maintenance on their home. He washed the car. He ate. Watched some sports on TV. He did his devotions, went to sleep and never woke up. Well, he didn't wake up here on earth.
I learned, with some astonishment, that the next day's devotion from the same source was:
(Re 3:21) "He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne."
Again, I read further:
(Re 3:20-21) "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, then I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with me. He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne."
What I learned from this passage reveals something of the character of our Savior. He is telling us, with complete certainty, that He is calling us. He is making Himself available to each one of us, individually, and He is making the effort to knock on the door of our heart. All we need to do is hear His voice, open the door, and get out of His way! Once we get our "self" out of God's way, we can become a part of His Will. God Himself will then come in and dine with us, and we will dine with Him. What an awesome thought, to sit down and share dinner with the Creator.
I know that my father heard the voice of the Savior and he opened the door. Both he and his bride answered the knock on the door at the same time, as they accepted the Lord's gift together. Neither knew what the other was feeling, and yet they both stood up and walked (more like ran) to the altar. There, at that one moment in time, they began their new life with Christ together.
They sought the wisdom of His Word, they confessed their sins to one another and prayed for each other. They began to change the things they thought, said, and did as the Holy Spirit worked in and through them. Dad accepted his responsibility to lead his family to Christ. He worked on his moral character and I even witnessed the tenderizing of his heart. The world became a place for my dad to seek ways to do the Lord's work, at His prompting, for His purposes, and for His glory.
Now that I realize what Christ offered to my dad, and he willingly accepted, and how dramatically it changed his life, I reflect on the actual devotion verse scheduled for the day he died: (Re 3:21) "He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne."
I am beginning to understand that the joy I have in my heart comes from the hope we all can have in this promise. My dad overcame several things in his lifetime. The greatest thing he did was to accept the gift of eternal life provided by the death of Jesus on the cross.
I was talking with a friend about the choice to open the door. The verse says, "If anyone hears my voice..." This indicates to me that He is knocking and speaking. Also, I believe this verse is the only paradox regarding the line in the sand. It represents the only line we can actually cross and truly be on the other side. It is the line between this life and life everlasting. How do we cross it?
We have to be listening. We have to be willing. We have to make a choice. We have to answer the knock with action. We have to reach out ... and open the door. What happens the moment we open the door is simple, and yet the most life-changing event we will ever endure.
When we make the decision for Christ, we are accepted and allowed to cross the line in the sand. This happens in our inner being, in our soul. There may, or may not, be a deeply emotional experience. I've given my testimony, and I've heard my dad's. He was on fire with emotion, and couldn't wait any longer to open that door! He and his bride almost hurried to the altar to overcome the most significant obstacle we all face. And, they crossed over the line in the sand together. I pray that many others will be so fortunate!
Then, because he had the cleansing forgiveness of his Creator, he was also able to conquer, or gain victory over, the following: 1. His own easily-besetting sins; 2. The world and its temptations; 3. Prevalent or repeated error; 4. The ills and trials of this life.
He lived out the result of this process on a daily basis. Not that he was perfect, but that he was being perfected by the close presence of God. From the time he was saved, I witnessed his Christian principles remaining basically unchanged, firm and unshaken. I believe his life, better yet his Christian Life, could be considered like warfare against sin, temptation, repeated errors, and the trials of life. He overcame because he has a Savior who loves him unconditionally - and it truly shows!
It is true that just overcoming the trials we all face in this life is not enough to get us over the line. And yet, because he overcame that one decision to hear and open the door, it is assured that my dad has been granted the awesome privilege to sit with the Messiah on His throne, where He sits with His Father. What an overpowering thought as we consider what that would look like...
Consider the relationship between my dad and Jesus, as it exists now. The only thing he had to do to overcome was to acknowledge and then embrace the gift of the Savior. Now he is completely acceptable in the eyes of the Father, cleansed from all sin, washed white as snow, and loved beyond all measure, he is singing praises to the Father with a choir of angels, "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God almighty!"
For each of us the final chapter may not yet be written. For some, the end of this life is truly near. For the rest, there may be "plenty" of time left. Wherever we are in our lives, there is absolutely no assurance that we will have tomorrow. I may not be able to begin reconciling tomorrow because I might not live past today. Remember when we talked about today being a present in the here and now?
For you the final chapter will be written according to the choices you make in this life. Not that what you do will get you across the line in the sand to live with Jesus forever, but that your choices will live on in the hearts of others. Yes, what you say and do in the presence of other people, regardless of who they are, will make a positive or negative deposit in their heart. Your words and actions will cross the line. Sometimes it will seem like a soft pillow and other times it will seem like the explosion from a mortar shell.
Your one choice to accept the Savior will get you across the line, but it won't erase everything you've said and done. That's what James 5:16 is teaching you, to confess your sins to one another. That represents every hurtful word and deed, especially to the significant people in your life. How can you go wrong by speaking the words they need to hear before you're gone from this life? What are they going to do, reject you? They are most likely angry with you right now anyway.
What do you have to lose? Is it worth the cost of their pain for you to choose to ignore those things you've done to hurt the most precious people in your life? What do they have to gain? Consider for a moment the possibilities. Confess. Pray. Be healed. What do you have to lose?
Your final chapter could be today. You will never know the exact moment of your passing. First, are you ready? Have you cleaned up the muck in your heart yet? Have you worked through your issues yet? Next, are your fences mended yet? Have you confessed your bad behavior to the people you've hurt yet? Remember this - NOW is a very precious gift God gives you to open in the present. Open it and embrace the day as though it IS your final chapter.
In the end we are all going to cross that inevitable line in the sand between our life here on earth and life everlasting. Will you be reaching out, separated from the Creator for eternity, wishing you had made the choice to accept His most precious gift? Or, will you spend eternity singing praises with the angels to your Creator?
Your final chapter is approaching. There is a line in the sand. Your choice is before you now.
My hope is to be singing with you on God's side of that line ... in his hand.
8/25/05 - 9:00 a.m.
...In the beginning...