Saturday, February 23, 2008
Our Sovereign Lord's Impeccable Timing
Greetings from the frozen tundra of Eagan, Minnesota! I tell you, I cannot figure out how the native Americans ever survived up here. There aren't enough buffalo skins in the world to keep a person warm in this cold. I guess there was a heap of snuggling going on in the ol' tee pee, if you know what I mean!
I'm stealing a moment to share with you my joy and continued amazement at the boundless grace of our God. Yesterday (2/22) marked the promotion of my uncle, Andrew Stoney, from a world of sin and death to the beatific vision and eternal presence of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. I can say this both confidently and joyfully because God allowed me to witness "Bip"'s conversion.
For years now, it has been a constant part of my prayers that our LORD would save all of my family members. "Bip" (that's what we call him) was in the top three of that group. Let's just say that he was not a faithful churchgoer. Matter of fact, I can only recall being in church with him on one occasion: a Christmas Sunday back when I was about 14 years old (I'm 44 now)! The reason that that occasion stands out is because his reaction to receiving communion was so comical (o.k. it was really disrespectful, but when you're 14 it's funny!) that it has left an indelible mark on my memory. My grandmother's church in Augusta, GA wasn't exactly financially well off. I distinctly remember finding out that they had been using "Thunderbird" for the communion wine. For those of you who don't know what "Thunderbird" is; it's known for being one of the wine's of choice for winos along with "Mad Dog 20/20" and "Boone's Farm" because it's very cheap. Well after drinking his small cup of communion "wine", my uncle "Bip" smacked his lips and let out a deep and loud sigh signaling his satisfaction with the church's fine selection! My dad and I laughed hysterically (we were all "heathens" then)!
After years of pleading with God for "Bip"'s salvation the LORD made it clear to me that He was pleased with my persistence; but He chided me that I had not put any "feet" to my prayers. It was as if He had said, "Your prayers are all real nice and everything; but how about you get off your knees and go share the Gospel with your uncle". So, a couple days later I drove to Augusta and visited him. "Bip" was a bit surprised to see me as it was the middle of the week and I wasn't just seeing him as part of a larger visit to my grandmother. We sat down in his living room and I asked him, "Bip, have you come to the point in your spiritual life that you are certain that if you were to die today that you would go to heaven; or is that something you are still working on"? He kind of looked at me as though he was actually considering this for the first time. I went on, "If you were to die today and stand before God; and He were to ask you, 'Why should I allow you into my heaven' what would you say"?
Bip then listed several of his good qualities and good works that he had done. I explained to him that these were dreadfully insufficient to earn the approval of God and that the only way he would get into heaven was to receive it as a gift. I explained that we can't earn heaven and that we certainly don't deserve heaven. We are both sinners by birth and in deeds and that we are the just recipients of God's holy wrath should He not mercifully withhold that wrath. The problem is: God just can't arbitrarily withhold His wrath. "The wages of sin is death" and that sentence cannot be commuted. I explained that God is loving and merciful, but He is also Holy and just. He simply must punish sin. I told "Bip" that that's exactly where Jesus comes in. Jesus, the infinite God-man, provided the solution to "Bip"'s problem. Jesus, by living a sinless life and perfectly fulfilling God's Holy law, qualified as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of His people. Jesus took sinful man's place and endured the unabated wrath of God on the cross. And I told "Bip" that everyone who places their trust in the person and finished work of Jesus Christ, ALONE, has the promise of God that he will live forever in the bliss of God's presence.
I asked "Bip" if he thought this was good news. He said that it was. I asked him was there any reason that he would not accept this gift of eternal life that very day. For the first time in my life, I saw my uncle cry. He said to me, "I know that God sent you here to me today. I needed to hear this". I told him that I was glad he recognized God's moving in his life, "are you willing to place you trust in Jesus, alone, for salvation"? My uncle "Bip" said, "Yes".
I've only seen "Bip" one additional time since that December afternoon. He died yesterday. But due to our glorious God's impeccable timing, I can rejoice that my uncle "Bip" is reveling in His presence. Thank you, Father!
It was a difference of only two months or so before "Bip" would be facing his creator. He was just two months away from spending eternity in hell. Wrap youy mind around that. On the one hand, we can say that as long as we have breath there is time to come to Jesus. On the other hand, "TODAY is the day of salvation" don't presume upon His grace. My uncle was 65 years old, the bulk of those years were not spent glorifying God. But God is, without a doubt, most merciful. It may be a cliche', but tomorrow is not promised to you. Trust Jesus, alone . . . NOW!
I love you, uncle "Bip" . . . welcome to the family!
Be Like the Bereans, Baby!!!