"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." – Jesus (John 11:25-26 NIV)
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners--of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
(1 Timothy 1:15-16 NIV)
I’ve been thinking a lot about death lately - not in a fearful way, but in a hopeful way. Perhaps that’s because I’ve been at arm’s length and not locked in death’s grip. Between just before Advent and just after Ash Wednesday, I have taken part in half a dozen memorial services. We Baptists merge the before and afterlife, calling them a combination, “Celebration of Life and Home-going” service. Fortunately, each I have participated in, have been just that, celebrations, reflections and remembrances of good people and the wonderful memories left behind, but more importantly the joyful belief that each has been called home to something far greater.
As I reflect on my journey thus far, I can’t help believe that I’m undeserving of many of the accolades that might parallel those I’ve offered and heard at each of these services. I want to set the record straight before anyone stands up at my memorial and gushes when I’m gone. I want to say, “Don’t be persuaded by the position. Don’t admire the achievements. Don’t be conned by my contribution to conversions I just happened to be at when the Jesus-light clicked on. Don’t be fooled by the fake news that might suggest mine is a fearless faith.” No! I’m as the Apostle Paul proclaimed, "the worst" of sinners. I'm in the lowest position, a jester in King Jesus’ court. If there are toilets in Heaven, I’ll happily clean those saint johns. Whatever the most humble job is in Heaven, I’ll consider it a joy a blessing to be there to do it.
Christianity Today reported that evangelical icon Billy Graham personalized a quote from another famous evangelist, who Graham admired, D.L. Moody. Graham’s version notes, “Someday you will read or hear that Billy Graham is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it. I shall be more alive than I am now. I will just have changed my address. I will have gone into the presence of God.” Graham’s simple tombstone epitaph reads,
November 7, 1918 – February 21, 2018
Preacher of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ
In comparison, my demise’s summary should be patterned after those tombstones at Disney World’s Haunted Mansion with epitaphs such as Here Lies Good Old Fred. A Great Big Rock Fell On His Head. My tombstone should read,
Here lies Win, such an imperfect friend, husband and dad.
But don't be sad, he ain't here. His new life's just beginning
Simply because, Jesus died for all his sinning
1 Timothy 1:15-16
I want to encourage you to prepare your hearts and minds for Easter. I want you to imagine in your mind’s eye how great the divide is between our impeccably perfect God and our imperfectly sinful selves. Then, just imagine how far Jesus had to stretch out His arms on the cross to cover that divide. Hopefully, like me, you might come to realize how blessed and how undeserving we are and how amazing God’s grace is.