The Victor’s Grace Rides On!
The iPhone rang. We were in the car with our tour guide in Israel’s Golan Heights. This is the land where “Shalom” (I wish you God’s best!) is the greeting. It was 29 May 2015. My sister who lived in the States shared with me the news. Dad had crossed on over to his shalom home. On a November day in 1951 he came to new life in Christ. From this point forward he would rejoice at a whole new level in His presence.
Sharon and I were returning to the States from a term of missionary service in West Africa. This time we had opportunity to take vacation days in Israel. Our tour was almost at its end. We returned to the States. The family and the mortuary graciously delayed Dad’s memorial service a couple of days to accommodate our travel schedule.
Lots of them! Besides the Lionel train, the baseball with bat and glove, the Farm-all tractor (I drove!) pulling the little red wagon, the many hearty joke and ‘fun things’ laughs, there were other memories. A favorite for we kids was this game. Dad would lie on his back on the floor. One of us kids would pin down one of his arms, another one the other of his arms, and one of us on his legs. Then, per this line he gave us, one of us would shout, “The Philistines are upon thee!” And ‘Samson’ would rouse himself with a roar and we kids would scramble as he rose in his mighty strength! In those our early years, we could never quite seem to discover ‘the secret of his strength.’
Dad was a bi-vocational pastor. For many years he worked at interior decorating, along with his twin brother, to pay the bills. In the small town where we lived, following Wednesday evening service, Dad sometimes said, “OK, let’s go to the Dairy Bar!” That meant ice cream! That cone with the ice cream swirled high was one kid thriller! Someway as a little guy, though, I could never quite manage all sides of that thing. Something was forever running down somewhere! Fun times!
A couple years before his death when I was home from Africa, my sister and I were in the room at the rest home one evening when his identical twin, Uncle Carl, and Dad began to recount again the experience of that November 1951 Sunday night. After the last revival sermon in that series of special services in that evangelical church in New Albany, Indiana, Uncle Carl tapped Dad on the shoulder. The twins rose together from their seats, made their way down the aisle to the altar in the front of the sanctuary, confessed their sins to their Savior, and became new creatures in Christ Jesus.
Uncle Carl, a 96-year old veteran, overwhelmed with emotion, shared that he could not know where life may have taken him had he not said ‘Yes!’ to the Master’s invitation. He spoke of the total change, the all-new direction that night’s very right decision brought to their lives. I had heard that story from Dad’s perspective numbers of times.
His Grace Rides On!
Sixty-three plus years after that life-changing night, I listened during the visitation at the mortuary to what this small-town ‘country parson’s’ life had meant to various people. And I reflected on the grace of God—transforming and spiritually forming—including its influence. Grace through a life reaches, it’s contagious! As I reflected, it came to me. Dad’s responding to God’s grace that 1951 night directly influenced those immediately around him.
Our home was not perfect. My parents would acknowledge that. But there was something about the real-life relationship; the ‘warmed heart’ love for God; the deep respect for the wisdom and holiness of God in the holy Scriptures; the display of the benefits of a life lived right vs. the real-life and end-of-life consequences of sin and evil. Something about all of that spoke a love for God and His Word into my life.
All four of we kids entered the Kingdom at an early age, and have continued in the Kingdom way. Beyond the direct influence of God’s grace to those around Dad, it occurred to me that in an indirect way, that grace had reached those down the years also through the influence of the four of us kids. Two of us with our spouses had also served Christ’s Kingdom cause in other countries—Brazil, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, and Ghana.
My story, of course, grows out of the grace that flowed into the lives of my parents.
In this post-Easter season, I contemplate that this same grace—another story, same theme—can be recounted in my wife’s home as well (segments of that legacy in future posts). Multiplied stories out of this BIG grace theme are recounted in myriads of families.
This prayer of the Apostle Paul resonates post-Easter. I pray it for you too:
I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come (Eph 1:18-21, NIV).
My heart bows again in worship to the mighty Conqueror—the shalom grace Grantor!
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