“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words.” I Thessalonians 4:16-18 (NIV)
Rick and Shelby are some friends of mine and Jase’s, whom we have known most of our lives. They own a cemetery just a few miles from our house. Before building a new home a couple of blocks away, they lived directly on the cemetery grounds for many years. Along the front of their cemetery home was one long wall of windows that faced these large and quite beautiful grounds, which included a pretty pond and rolling hills. It also faced the majority of the hundreds and hundreds of headstones and graves. We visited them quite often through the years, and each time I would imagine Jesus coming back while they were home and what an awesome sight that would be! Of course, I just visited every so often. They had to actually tuck their children in and go to sleep themselves every night in that quiet creepy little spot of the earth. However, I always told them if we are all alive when Jesus makes his return, they would have a front row seat to an amazing and miraculous show! Can you imagine?
I usually try to stay somewhat light-hearted with an encouragement or simple challenge each week. However, this week has marked a milestone in my life as I lost a dearly loved mentor to old age and the failing of the human body. His name was Bill Smith, and he made a huge impact on my life ever since I was a baby. He has been an anchor to my life as well as my family’s life and my church family’s life. I’ve actually never known my life without him. Not only was he a mentor to me, but he was a mentor to my dad, my husband and recently to my son Cole. He was also the one who shared Jesus with Phil when Jase was only 6 years old.
I’ve heard many times in my life that you learn most about the character of God through your parents, whether good or bad. It is said that children get a sense of God by watching how their own parents or caregivers treat them starting at a young age. While this may be true, I believe I also learned about the image of God through Mr. Bill. You see, when my parents moved to West Monroe with me when I was just a few months old, Mr. Bill was our preacher. He continued to be our preacher until I was in the 7th grade. During those early childhood years, when someone would talk about God or I would pray to God, I would picture an older man with a very round face and sideburns. I pictured that man with a kind smile and a patient demeanor. Later in life, I realized I was picturing Mr. Bill when my mind pictured God the Father! Not only was his character in line with the character of Jesus, he was wise in the fact that he was always open to learning new things the Bible was teaching him. If he wasn’t clear on something Biblical, he would spend weeks, months and even sometimes years studying it out until he was confident of it. He and Jase debated a certain subject for 25 years! Both of these godly men would study, commentate, discuss, argue, laugh and keep on loving each other. We thought we were going to lose him about 5 years ago, but he surprised all of us! He has been very weak and has walked with a cane ever since. And you’d better watch out, because if he didn’t poke you with it last Sunday, you were on his list. Despite his body failing, he never lost his spunk, wit, or positive spirit. He was actually teaching class the Wednesday before he passed away. He challenged me and our entire church family consistently to walk closer and closer to our Father and to never stop learning. He absolutely adored his Father in heaven. He also loved to share the message of Jesus with everyone he knew.
He created this drawing to show the simple message of the gospel of Jesus which is engraved on the podium at our church. I Corinthians 15:1-4 states, “Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed onto you as of first importance, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”
Today, as I post this devotional, I will be singing at Mr. Bill’s funeral while Jase helps carry his casket down the aisle. We all knew this day was coming for quite some time, and even though we mourn the absence of his physical presence (it’s unimaginable at this time how our church family will be without him), we will celebrate the incredible life he lived. No, it was not one of great riches or worldly fame. But it was one of great value to me and the thousands of people he directly touched.
Is heaven awaiting you? The Bible clearly says that not all of us will be there. Only God’s children, those who have put on Jesus as their Lord, will inherit eternal life. Death is real. As much as we don’t want to think about it, we must acknowledge that it is imminent for each of us. Don’t go to bed tonight without getting your life right with God. He’s waiting for you. If you want to know more, please visit https://wfrchurch.org/contact-us/. Someone will be happy to talk to you, pray with you or study the Bible with you.
Heaven is even sweeter because I know Mr. Bill will be waiting on me. And I still secretly hope I’m at Rick and Shelby’s house when those skies bust open.