Monday, November 08, 2010

This Is A God I Want To Worship

Tonight afforded one of those honors that are so special that you feel required to call them "Holy." A 92 year old gentleman named Ray, a long time member of Towerview Baptist Church, stepped out of his body of flesh, blood, and all of its DNA trappings and into the presence of the King of Glory, Jesus Christ.

I did not know Ray as well as most of the people in our church. Having only been the pastor of Towerview for twenty-one months placed me at a disadvantage. Ray spent all of those months living in a very nice "assisted living" center several blocks from my home. He was at church most Sunday mornings. I have had multiple opportunities to visit him in his home. I honestly do not think he remembered me from one visit to the next. Oh, I am quite certain that he always knew when he answered my knock on his door that I was his pastor. But I was never quite certain that he remembered that I had visited him before. He delighted in talking about his children and grandchildren. Seldom did he mention his life before assisted living became a needed part of it.

And then the weekend came. Ray went to climb out of bed and wound up on the floor with a broken hip. He was taken to the hospital and by the time I got the call the next day he was quite medicated and very unaware of his surroundings. Truth is, he never spoke again.

It became evident last night that life on this planet was winding down for Ray. Still, life begins on God's timetable and it ends on God's timetable. We often forget that. But God doesn't. Psalm 139:16 says it quite succinctly, "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." Doctors do what they can but God makes the final call. God writes down the number of our days before we are even born. Humbling, huh?

And then tonight. Family and friends abounded. The hallways of the hospital buzzed with talk but Rays room was a quiet haven. The mood was nearly worshipful. I met with the three brothers and one sister in a conference room and, as we discussed options, they decided that it was time to remove the oxygen mask. Nobody really knew if it was doing any good. Nobody could really say if it was making him more comfortable. The decision was made to remove the mask, allow him to breath on his own, and let God do what God wanted to do. (As if we could stop Him.)

The entire family gathered around his bed. A prayer was prayed. I asked a granddaughter if she knew what his favorite hymn was. Through tear filled eyes she replied, 'The Old Rugged Cross.' And I sing that to my kids every night before they go to sleep." I asked if she thought she could manage to lead us through it one time. Sometimes it is just evident that God is calling a child home. Holiness is in the air. Tonight was one of those times. Hands were clasped, tears ran down cheeks, and Amanda began, "On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross, the emblem of suffering and shame. And I love that old cross, where the dearest and best, for a world of lost sinners was slain. So I'll cherish the old rugged cross, till my trophies at last I lay down. I will cling to the old rugged cross, and exchange it someday for a crown." The words which began slowly and worshipfully suddenly built to a mild crescendo toward the end. A nurse stood just out of our circle, between the foot of Rays bed and the doorway, tears streaming down her cheeks. As the singing subsided she approached Ray, stethoscope in hand. She checked him twice and quietly said two simple words. "He's gone." She told me later, "You guys did it right. I've seen it both ways and this is the way to go." High praise coming from someone in her profession.

So tonight we sang a saint of God through the gates of heaven. When the song began he was trapped in a body of decay and pain. When the song ended he was gazing into the eyes of the one who defeated death on his behalf. The Man ... Jesus Christ.

How does it work that God performs miracles like this? Before Psalm 139: 16 was penned ... when Rays days were yet to be formed for him ... the King of Glory determined to bring his earthly life to an quiet conclusion as his entire family sang a song of victory beside his nearly lifeless body. How does it work that God chooses to orchestrate our life so that even our death brings Him glory? How does it work that though we may live to be 92 years of age, the same song that sings our great grandchildren to sleep each night is sufficient to sing us through gates of splendor and leave us gazing upon the beauty of the one who hung on that old rugged cross. I have no idea how many death beds I have stood by in my 36 years of being a pastor but I do know this. There is somebody behind it all. There is no chance. There is no "probable cause." There is sovereignty.

This ... this is a God I want to worship.


Stephanie said...

this is beautiful. and this is a God that I want to worship, too. thank you for this today.

Unknown said...

I can't help but be in awe that I'm so priveledged to call this my God-- that He would have me. Thanks for sharing this sweet story that is such a reminder of His profound love.

Anonymous said...

I could not have described the experience any better. While painful, what an awesome testament to a fathers faithfullness. I felt like we were blessed by being ever so close to his glory. I can only hope that it is written in my days that I would be rewarded with such a beautiful exit. I will see you again Grandpa.

Anonymous said...

You are so good with words! This is God I worship!

Anonymous said...

So eloquently described!Looking forward to walking through the gates of splendor to see Jesus in all his glory.


Anonymous said...

As a nurse, I've seen it both ways. When you know the one passing is a child of God, there is such a peace that surronds all who are present. When, on the other hand, there is no assurance or certainty that loved one who just, there is no peace, it is quiet and just sad to not know. This happened with a patient of mine and with my own brother.