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Pleasure Dome Thunder BW

The Funeral

Friday, 15 April 2016 — We attended the funeral service of a family member. His untimely death at age sixty-four was a shock to everyone. He was shot in the abdomen during an armed robbery, then hospitalized.

The night after the news of this incident, I prayed for his eternal life. God spoke to me and said: “If he dies now, he will not come home to Me.”

Days passed with him in critical condition while a message group kept the family updated. Nearly every day my wife and I prayed for God to minister to him and give him one more chance to choose Jesus Christ as savior. My wife went to visit him in hospital. A week after the shooting, we were up until the early-morning hours, when the text message came through. He had passed away.

What awful news.

One family member texted on the chat group: “May God and the angels be with you. You are blessed with heavenly peace and love.”

Another texted: “Good bye, see you again my brother.”

I got into bed thinking about this man when the Lord spoke: “He did not choose Me.”

If only they knew the eternal reality resulting from his final choice.

On the day of the funeral, as I dressed to attend the service, thoughts and questions raced through my mind. It really is harsh to imagine a deceased loved one in any place other than in heaven with with God. Isn’t it far better to consider such a dire end early on? Shouldn’t we rather get our own lives in order rather than spending years knitting together false beliefs to pull over our spiritual senses? Once muffled, most of us are spiritually blind and deaf or, at best, poor-sighted and hard of hearing. What good is short-lived false comfort if it costs us our eternal life?

Turning my thoughts to the funeral service, I wondered if anyone there would be giving some account of his life that involved God. After many people arrived, we sat in the church listening to the tributes of his life. A member of a brotherhood he had joined gave a speech. A family member recounted the good times, jolly drinking, and some memorable quotes. I got the impression that a clubhouse with adjoining bar might’ve been a more fitting venue for the funeral service.

His brotherhood fellows filed out of the service, pausing at a table to perform a ritual with an acacia twig. Did they know where their “brother” was now? Did they help him get there? Perhaps they all knowingly denied God.

It reminds me of what someone once said: “Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” Which echoes what Solomon wrote in Proverbs.

He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.

Proverbs 13:20 — Webster’s 1833 Revision

Afterward, at a private family gathering, old photographs and handwritten notes belonging to the fondly remembered man were passed around. As I read some of his personal writings, one page was headlined with the words “I choose life,” followed by numerous positive thoughts but nothing about God.

Someone at the gathering quipped that he’s probably now retelling his many stories in heaven. They consoled themselves with that imaginary scenario while I stood there glum, knowing his true fate. They were celebrating this much-adored man’s earthly life, yet I was silently mourning his eternal death.

Would you be offended if you heard that your loved one didn’t choose God? Although the implications are beyond imagination, that was their final choice.

Perhaps it’s the implication that heaven and hell are real that’s so disturbing. Perhaps fantasy is more agreeable than believing in the real thing. However, instead of brushing aside the whole concept of hell and heaven, satan and God, damnation and salvation, let’s rather deal with it head-on in our living years.

Preferring not to deal with it doesn’t mean it won’t affect you. If you don’t believe in gravity, will you go through life weightless?

You may have lived, but that doesn’t mean you lived for God. You may have been someone’s child, but were you a child of God? You may have served, but did you serve God? You may have been in a brotherhood, but were you a brother or sister in Christ? You may have sacrificed and loved and given of yourself, but it doesn’t mean your heart belonged to God. You may have been good in your own sight and in the sight of others, but were you good in God’s sight?

I believe it’s crucial to know where a person is really going after this life ends—especially with regards to yourself. Death from old age may be far off, but that doesn’t make anyone immune to an untimely demise. This particular funeral is yet another reminder of that.

One morning after the funeral, while grinding coffee beans for some espresso, some thoughts struck me.

Why do some people speak of their deceased loved ones being “in a better place” or “with God and the angels,” when they themselves don’t believe in heaven, God, or angels?

If people so desperately want to imagine their loved ones in heaven, why don’t they make a serious approach and appeal to the God of heaven? After all, unlike the deceased, we still have time left on this earthly proving ground.

It’s sobering to reflect on matters of life and death, especially during a funeral, perhaps with our own mortality thrown into focus. A person seeking success, happiness, and meaning in life, may still only find eternal death. Positive thinking may help us succeed in the material world, but a private cry to God from the heart—nothing more than sincere personal thoughts directed from ourselves to Him—is how we find eternal life and Godly wisdom.

Does this testimony dishonor the memory of the dead? I also enjoy good memories of this family member. Months before his funeral, right after he enjoyed a meal at our table, his last words to me were: “Paul, I have a great respect for you.” Sadly, on top of the several good memories of him, now sits perched the divine knowledge of his final choice—an undeniable part of my memory of him. It reminds me of the amazing but sobering fact that God indeed grants us all the freedom to choose life or death.