. . . at this point in our journey, and after reading our CHRISTMas card yesterday, some of you may be wondering, how did Rick KNOW he was going to Heaven? You might be asking us, how can you rest assured that he IS in Heaven?
I would be failing my Lord and Rick’s legacy if I didn’t take a minute or two here to let you know how Rick (and we) have the assurance of eternity in Heaven after our time on earth is done (and how you can know the same if you aren’t sure)!
Simply put: “For God so loved the world that He gave His ONLY BEGOTTEN Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life”. John 3:16
However, we can’t just end there, because I think there are some things that may be “assumed” if I just use this verse alone to point you to Jesus.
First of all, if I were able to talk to most (if not all) of you reading my blog, I’m thinking that the majority would say that they “believe” in Jesus, God, Heaven and Hell. There-in lies a problem because, James 2:19 says, “even the demons believe – and shudder”. So, "belief" alone, obviously isn't enough, if even the demons believe - and SHUDDER!
I also think that most of us would say that we are “good” people (and Rick surely was a GOOD man - as his brother in law said once, Rick is so nice - you could stand on his tongue and he wouldn't get mad - and that was a very accurate assessment of Rick's mellow personality!), but, the Bible says “ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. Romans 3:23
…. But, I’m not a murder or a thief, I'm not addicted to pornography, I'm not an alcoholic, don't do drugs (or any one of the MANY excuses we can make to help us feel better about ourselves). . . . , LOTS of people do MUCH worse things than I do - you may be thinking . . .But, wait, Romans 6:23 says, “For the WAGES of sin is DEATH, but the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
So, if ALL have sinned and the wages of sin is DEATH (which in this sense means ETERNAL separation from God for all eternity), that pretty much covers every one of us. All is a word that leaves NO doubt, it doesn’t say “some” have sinned, or “most” have sinned, it says ALL have sinned – ALL, EVERYONE, EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING WHO HAS EVER LIVED . . . that’s you, that’s me, that’s Rick.
Now that we’ve established that we ALL are sinners, what is the penalty for that sin? According to Romans 6:23, the wages, the PAYMENT for sin is DEATH – eternal separation from God. But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. GIFT as defined by dictionary.com is “something given voluntarily without payment in return,”
Romans 5:8 tells us that, “God showed his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This verse ties in with John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He GAVE . . . “ He gave (“gave”, FREELY, a “GIFT”), His ONLY son that WHILE WE (all) were still sinners, “CHRIST DIED FOR US”. He (God) GAVE the ULITMATE gift, He gave His ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, while we were sinners, and that ultimate gift, His only SON DIED for us . . . while we were yet sinners. WOW! I LOVE giving gifts as much as I enjoy receiving them. I LOVE to show the kids my LOVE by giving them gifts, but to give a gift to someone who doesn’t love me in return, who in fact hates me? That puts it into a whole new perspective. Yet, that is exactly what happened when CHRIST DIED FOR us. He did that WHILE WE WERE YET SINNERS (while we still “hated” Him, while we were still His enemies).
At this point in the story, we all have a choice to make. We can believe and embrace this truth and ACCEPT this FREE gift, or we can deny it and turn our backs on God and the promises He makes to us – the choice is up to you. The Bible says, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." That’s another one of those “all” words! EVERYONE who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
Rick and I had several conversations about the moment when we each “called upon the name of the Lord”. He very vividly remembered watching a Billy Graham crusade as a child and making the conscious decision that he WAS a sinner and he needed the saving grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. He, at that point called upon the name of the Lord and invited Christ to live in his heart and reign over his life. He put his old sin nature to death at that moment, and was brought forever into God’s glorious kingdom! That is the REASON we as his family have HOPE for the future. I remember the day that I prayed that same prayer at VBS one summer and the girls all remember the moment they asked the Lord into their hearts, Tessa at home in the living room with me, and Taya & Kajsa with their Daddy – what precious memories, and a GLORIOUS hope for the future! We WILL all some day be reunited – it is a PROMISE.
We are also told in the Bible that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Romans 10:9-10. Rick and I had the privilege of “confessing” with our mouth before our church family that we were saved and were baptized along with our best friends, Jim & Donna, and several others on Superbowl Sunday several years ago. We do NOT believe that the baptism is what “saved” us, it was our trust in the Lord, the asking Him to be our Savior and rule over our hearts and minds that gave us that free gift of eternal life, the baptism was the just “outward” confessing, the professing to others that we were children of God. It is the symbolism of being “buried with Him” (when you go under the water) and being “raised up again with Him in newness of life”) as you are brought back up from the water). Rick and I also had the honor of attending the baptism of all 3 girls out at Lake Lundgren Bible Camp on Labor Day 2010. Tessa was baptized by one of the leaders, Sponz, who mentored her during LDC (Leadership Development Camp) that summer, and Taya & Kajsa were baptized Mama Ruth's husband, Mike. It was a beautiful day and one that I will not forget, and I'm so thankful that it is a day we got to celebrate together as a family!
So, that in a somewhat abbreviated form is the WHY we have HOPE in the future, WHY the night we welcomed 600+ people at the funeral home, we were CELEBRATING Rick's life. This is it . . . we were celebrating his life here on earth - the 55 years that the Lord blessed him with, and blessed us with for having had such a wonderful person in our lives! But, we were also (and more importantly) celebrating the fact that Rick was more alive than ever that day - safe in his FOREVER home with Jesus in Heaven . . . the place that have the assurance that some day, we will be reunited, when the Lord calls us home.♥
And, if I still have questions, Pastor Dave read from Psalm 146 for the scripture reading on Sunday - verse 9 contains this promise "The Lord . . . upholds the widow and the fatherless". As much as Rickey loved us, and took care of us (and he WAS my BEST FRIEND, an awesome husband and such a tender, loving Daddy), THE LORD TAKES EVEN BETTER CARE OF US, AND LOVES US EVEN MORE!!! ♥ That is something to give thanks for, and to REST in as we lay our heads to rest each night and to wake up to each morning to face a new day, in this our journey to find our "new normal"
Please, also understand that I am not saying I fully "accept" this "new normal" that I am living with the "flippant" saying, "he is in a better place". I CHOOSE daily to accept that the Lord loves us, infinitely more than I can imagine. I CHOOSE daily to accept that God did not BLINK on November 5 as Rick was falling. I CHOOSE daily to look to the Lord to be my strength and my shield. I CHOOSE daily to believe Psalm 139:16 "16 "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 (IN YOUR BOOK WERE WRITTEN EVERY ONE OF THEM THE DAYS THAT WERE FORMED FOR ME - that tells me that God planned Rick's life, from 1st breath to last). I CHOOSE daily to embrace what I have been given - to love just a little bit better, forgive more quickly and make each moment count. I daily pray that I will honor Rick's memory, serve the Lord, be both mama & daddy to my girls, love the big kids, love the grandbabies . . . . It is a daily (moment by moment) CHOICE and a daily (moment by moment) prayer to serve the Lord in all things.
Yesterday & today I went on the "ladies shopping trip" with some dear ladies from my church, I wasn't going to go, but the girls told me I HAD TO GO, so they and Bobbi & Donna ganged up on me!! :) And, I went, and, I had FUN. Yes, I had fun - just the way Rick would have wanted me to (which is one of the questions the girls asked me when I said I wasn't going, "What would Daddy tell you to do?") . . . coming home, I must admit though, was weird. I was excited about the fun things I had found for the girls for Christmas, but nobody was waiting to share my excitement with. As I drove home, I should have been calling Rick to tell him about my day . . . and on and on . . . yes, it is a "new normal". But, with the love of our awesome families and friends and the prayers being said for us, we will survive this season of our lives. We will continue to grieve (but NOT without hope), we will find "new normals" in each day, we will laugh, we will cry, we will have fun, and we will miss Rick - terribly - but not without HOPE, because, WE KNOW WHO HOLDS THE FUTURE AND WE KNOW WHO HOLDS OUR HANDS! ♥