From week to week it is my privilege to write some words for the Family Focus magazine. Pam Newman does such an amazing job in producing this wonderful gift each week; I hope you see it as just that, a gift. It is our story, our scrapbook of sorts, that is preserving, week in and week out, our wonderful congregational history.
With every coming issue I start my “Chords From The Harp” section with a clean document with no words on a page. Sometimes I have in mind where I am going to go with a subject. Most of the time, I begin with a verse in mind, a teaching of Scripture, or just a thought, and I let the subject take me where it wants to go. If you read my articles regularly, you may have even asked, “Where is he going with this?” Hopefully, not too often!
This week my verse of thought is found in the book of Revelation. “And I heard a voice from heaven saying, ‘Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Blessed indeed,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!’” (Revelation 14:13 ESV) The reason this verse keeps flowing through my mind is because I heard last Sunday afternoon of the passing of my father’s sister, Martha Holt. Aunt Martha had died earlier that morning, and was a few weeks shy of her 74th birthday. She had been sick for quite sometime with complications from diabetes, and finally cancer took her as it ravaged her body. When I heard the words of her passing, there was an instant pain of sorry, but about the same moment I found myself breathing a sigh of relief for her. For, you see, she was a faithful child of God for over 50 years.
There comes a time in a person’s life when death is better than living. For the Christian, it is always better to be with the Lord, as this is the purpose we all have in Christ. While we love life, especially when quality of life is present, we know we have a home of the soul with God. This is God’s plan for us, as Paul so aptly expressed in the long ago, “For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. "He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (2 Corinthians 5:4–5 ESV) Of course, His Spirit has guaranteed this in the Scriptures. How blessed we truly are in Christ.
I wish you could have known my Aunt Martha. In many ways, she was similar to the Martha of the Bible—only different. The Martha of the Bible was a hard working woman who seemed to be high-functioned in the background, as she sought to accommodate the needs of all those who visited her home. My Aunt Martha was a lot like that. She helped everyone she could as well. The way they were different was that the Lord’s friend, and she was one of His closest friends, was said to be “distracted with much serving,” Luke 10:40. Later, He told her she was “anxious and troubled about many things.” My Aunt Martha never seemed to be troubled or anxious about anything at all. Her life was hard. She kept up a family, and worked in blue-collar type jobs all her working life. But, she never complained. She never seemed to veer from her life’s purpose to serve her family and her God.
You hear about these people from time to time, but I can say without even the slightest bit of reserve, that I never once heard her say an unkind word about anybody in all my life. In fact, she was a woman of few words. For certain, whenever she did speak, you knew the words were carefully thought through and spoken. She fulfilled completely the teaching of James, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” (James 1:19 ESV)
Our family is going to miss Aunt Martha. We did not get to see her very often in the last several years, as this is what happens when we get older, moving away from family, and getting busy with life. But, there was something about her presence that seemed to make our very fragile world a little more secure. As the sands of time pass, the foundation of all things worldly are failing, causing us to depend greater and greater on all things spiritual. This may sound like an admission of weakness, but it is true none-the-less.
Some of my favorite words, again come from the pen of brother Paul, “But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13–18 ESV) I am encouraged. How about you?