Monthly Archives: March 2015

THE DEATH ZONE

MT CLIMBER

INTO THE DEATH ZONE

Luke 9:23

INTRODUCTION:

“Then he said to them all: If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself
and take up his cross daily and follow me”

Mount Everest, the highest mountain in the world, attracts many climbers from around the world to try and reach her lofty summit. Safety on a mountain like Mount Everest is paramount, one mistake and it could be the last thing you do. The climber will probably experience avalanches, hidden crevasses and extreme weather conditions while on the slopes of Mount Everest, all of which are beyond the climber’s control. One thing that climbers can have control over is human errors brought on by the affects of high altitude.
The region above 25,000 feet (7,600 meters) is called the death zone. The reason for this name is because nothing lives at that altitude or above and no human can survive long there due to the lack of oxygen in the thin air.

One famous climber, David Breashens from the U.S.A. stated that even using bottled oxygen, “standing on the summit feels like running on a treadmill and breathing through a straw.”

People who die during their climb on Mt. Everest are usually left behind. About 150 bodies have never been recovered. It is not uncommon to find corpses near the main climbing routes, mainly because it’s impossible for others to help stricken climbers. If you cannot make it out on your own…you are in serious trouble.

Climbers who have gained the summit and arrived safely back home have written and shared the experiences. They have said that climbing Everest is not just an ordinary experience; it’s a life or death experience. No matter how good a climber you are, there will always be dangers up in the death zone that are out of your control. I do not believe Mt. Everest is the most difficult mountain to climb, I believe that Mt. Calvary is. No one climbs Mt. Everest knowing they are going to die for sure. Your hopes are always “I’ll be alive after this journey.”

Mt. Calvary is different when Jesus invites us to follow him up that hill into the unknown. He makes it plain, “you’re gonna die”. The life you had, the one you cherish will no longer exist if you follow me up Mt. Calvary into the Death Zone.

Dietrich Bonnhoeffer, the German theologian, knew this truth. During the Nazi regime he chose to minister to his people and was part of the resistance. His friends got him out of Germany in 1939, but he could not stay in safety as so many perished. So he returned and was imprisoned in Schoenberg where he ministered to his fellow prisoners.

Bonnhoeffer said, “To endure the cross is not tragedy; it is the suffering which is the fruit of an exclusive allegiance to Jesus Christ”. On April 8, 1945 Bonnhoeffer held a last morning service for his fellow prisoners and then early in the morning of April 9th he was hanged. Bonnhoeffer’s final words to his fellow prisoners, “This is the end–for me the beginning of life…there is no greater privilege than answering Jesus’ call to come and die.”

Most of us will not face that kind of martyrdom. It amazes us when we hear stories of such faith and such courage. But the truth still remains for anyone who chooses to follow after Jesus. It’s an invitation to “come and die”.

For real discipleship to take place in our lives….

WE CAN’T PLAY DEAD

When Jesus says we’re to “take up our cross” daily there is no doubt about the implication. If you saw anyone in first century Rome, or Jerusalem (which was under Roman rule) carrying a cross, they were headed to their death. Crucifixion was purely a Roman invention and it was used, not just for execution, but for effect. The crucified body hung on the cross. Sometimes until it was completely destroyed by birds and time. It was a gruesome object lesson. Disobey Rome, here’s where you end up. Nobody played dead on the cross, despite what some would claim about Jesus.

He was scourged, punched, mocked. He carried his cross up the via Delarosa (the sorrowful way). They drove nails into his hands and feet, a spear pierced his heart. “He committed his spirit into His father’s hands…and he breathed his last.” Joseph of Arimetha and Nicodemus handled his body for burial. Death is unmistakable when you’re that close.

So the invitation for anyone who would follow after Jesus to take the next step and follow him into the unknown is “Follow me and die to self.” Not play dead, not act like you’re dead, but die and according to Dr. Luke,”daily.”

I was watching golf awhile back.  It was the AT & T celebrity thing at Pebble Beach. And after one of the holes they were interviewing Kevin Costner and one of the commentators, Nick Faldo, said, “Man, can you put me in one of your movies? and Costner said, “Every time I put one of my friends in a movie it’s a death scene and they always take too long to die.” Faldo said, “Is there a right way to die?” And Costner said “Yeah, my way.”

We’ve all played dead as kids when we played army or cops and robbers or cowboys and Indians. It was dramatic, over the top, stretched out. (Act it out!) But far too many people seem to think they can play dead when it comes to their Christianity. I’ll play dead in Church, but self is alive on Saturday night, baby! I’ll play dead when I want to impress my Christian friends, but self lives when I want to live with my girlfriend, drink with my buddies. Basically I’ll play dead for appearance sake, but I still live for me in real life.
That’s exactly why Jesus said, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the Kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62)

Jesus made that statement to individuals who said “I will follow you wherever you go. But immediately after our text in Luke 9:23 Jesus presses home the point of real death verses playing dead, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it but whoever loses his life for me will save it” (v 24).

You cannot act like you’re dying to self and be a genuine follower of Christ. Dying to self for the sake of Jesus is never easy; remember we are selfish by nature. Pleasing self comes oh so naturally, denying self is supernatural thing. And you can tell plainly if someone is acting out a role or dead and reborn. You see, Jesus’ footsteps did not end at the tomb.

He died, but rose to walk again. He conquered sin, our sin, by paying for its penalty on the cross. But not only did he conquer sin, he defeated our greatest enemy, DEATH by rising again. We are not only called to die, but Jesus calls us to follow him in new life. Let’s look at our footsteps from the tomb. We are….

NEW PEOPLE WITH NEW LIFE

The resurrection is the cornerstone of our faith. It’s why the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians, Here’s the message of first importance “Christ died for our sins according to scripture. He was buried and he was raised on the third day according to scripture. He appeared to Peter, the 12, more than 500 of the brothers at the same time (most of them are still living as I write this) He appeared to James and then all the apostles and last of all he appeared to me. This is what we preach, this is what you believed” (1 Cor 15: 3-8).
He goes on to say, “If there is no resurrection then not even Christ has been raised and if Christ has not been raised your faith is futile. You are still in your sins and those who
have fallen asleep for Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ we are to
be pitied more than all men. But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep”…. (1 Cor 15: 12, 17-20)

If there is no new life after death then we are lost, we are hopeless, we should be pitied more than anyone else. The resurrection is the proof that sin was defeated. When we’re baptized (immersed, buried) into Christ we are making a pledge to die, to have our sins buried. And we are rising to be new people with this new life.

Peter says, “This baptism which now saves you is not the washing of dirt from the body but the pledge to God of a good conscience. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 3:21)

When we choose to give our lives to Jesus we are making a pledge to God. I give you my old life, I give you my sin, wash it away in His blood. Now let me live in the power of the resurrection.

How can that happen? How can I be a new man or woman with a new life? It’s only possible through a spiritual change, a rebirth if you will. God does for you what he did for Jesus, with the same spirit. Listen to Romans 8:10-11 (page 800).

The same spirit that raised Jesus from that physical death raises us from our spiritual death. He is the new life given. And He is given to us by God. Here’s what Paul told the Romans concerning this new life and new walk: Romans 6:3-8 (page 799)

It’s important we understand this doesn’t mean we will never sin again or battle with self. God’s spirit is housed in a body of flesh. But what it does mean without a doubt is people who have really died are now new. People who are losing their lives for Christ are radically different than they once were.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old is gone, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)

Zacheus met Jesus and this money grubbing, tiny man became a generous giant of repentance. Saul met Jesus and this violent, arrogant Pharisee became a mission minded humble servant of God. Mary Magdalene had been possessed by demons that destroyed her life and she became a brand new, clean conscious follower of Jesus.

I could go on to mention Nicodemus the skeptic, Thomas the doubter, Peter the loud mouth, James and John the angry and self seeking. They were not just repaired. They were made brand new. Their lives were not just patched up, their lives were transformed…”In Christ.”

Carl Brand says something about this truth, “Though no one can go back and make a new beginning—anyone can start from now and make a new end.”

The Freedom To Worship

Man with arms raised in worship

THE FREEDOM TO WORSHIP

2 Samuel 6:14-23

INTRODUCTION:

I have to tell you I’ve done some embarrassing things in my life, like when Wilma from Anderson Christian Church came up to me after a sermon and said, “I’ve got to tell you something” I thought it might be “Amazing Sermon. It was as if Peter the Apostle were preaching today.” But NO….Wilma whispered “Did you know your fly has been down all day?”

Or when I was carrying groceries in Kroger’s parking lot a couple of years ago in January. It was icy and I did a double axle with a half twist before landing next to my car. The teenage couple walking in thought it was absolutely hilarious.

During one of my first sermons I was at Broadway Christian Church in Lexington. I was 20 years old and Mike Breaux had invited me to share on their youth Sunday. My mom had bought me this new pair of shoes “Bass Weejuns” penny loafers and “Man, the soles were slick…so slick that when I got to the invitation time I fell off the stage into the Baby grand piano. It’s hard to accept Jesus when you’re laughing so hard at the speaker you cannot get up.

I have had some seriously “undignified” moments in my life…some from stupidity, some from clumsiness, and occasionally a few because of worship.

If you had walked into the sanctuary during the night of our V.B.S. opening program…I sure wouldn’t have looked very dignified. I was doing this dance that involved acting like a rock, a tree, and my favorite “A bird.” What made it even better was that along with the one leading the singing were some amazing teenagers, tons of kids and other church leaders who were acting at least as undignified as I was. Their rock, tree and Bird were o.k. but mine were much more spiritual, NOT!

It was just a really fun time of celebration and joy. It was a time to do the motions and dance before the Lord. It was a time to be undignified. But I genuinely believe it was a time of worship.

But what would have happened if Gloria Grump has walked in during that time, she sees me in my camo shorts, work boots and in the middle of my “Gospel Chicken” imitation…after its through she says…”Rick, I’m really disappointed in the way you behaved…Preachers don’t dance…especially like deranged chickens…it was undignified and embarrassing to see you act that way before the Lord” “You looked like some drunk at a NIGHTCLUB; not the Senior Minister of our Church”

“David wearing a linen ephod danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the Ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michel, daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.” Gloria Grump and Michel, Saul’s daughter, were cut from the same unhappy cloth. And can not understand the passionate undignified joy of worship. Worship which…..

CELEBRATES THE RETURN OF THE LORD’S PRESENCE.

I think II Samuel 6 is a microcosm. It’s one isolated incident, but it reveals why David was a “Man after God’s heart.” A man filled with “the spirit of the Lord,” and why God used David in such powerful ways. David has been crowned the King of Israel (In Saul’s place). He has defeated not just Goliath, but now the Philistine Nation. He has recaptured the fortress of Zion. And he’s bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem.

All of that is to say…this is one of the greatest days of his life!

II Samuel 6: 5 says “David and the whole house of Israel are celebrating with all their might before the Lord, with songs and with harps, lyres, tambourines, sistrums (A shaken metal instrument) and cymbals.

During Saul’s reign the Philistines were conquering the Israelites. In fact they had stolen the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark represented God’s presence among his people. It was a lot more than just a gold box with cherubims on top. It had no power in and of itself, but it was housed in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle…when God resided on the mercy-seat during worship and sacrifice it represented His presence on earth.

The Philistines had kept it in their possession for 7 months…and it caused them all kinds of problems, so they sent it back on an ox cart. It was brought to the home of Abinadab, where it stayed for almost 50 years, just inside the border of Israel. David wants God’s presence brought back to Jerusalem. He wanted God to be in the heart of the nation, not just inside its border.

This is what’s taking place on the streets of Jerusalem. The Ark of the Lord, the visible presence of God is being returned to its rightful place of worship.

“And David and the whole house of Israel are celebrating this event with all their might.”

The priests carry the ark upon their shoulders, they carry the ark 6 paces and then sit it down and offer sacrifices to the Lord.

Finally they near the city of Jerusalem and the weight of the occasion suddenly strikes the heart of King David.

“I see him look into the eyes of the people who line the street, the emotion on their faces penetrates his heart…some are weeping, some are laughing, some are singing, some are dancing with joy…and suddenly David is enveloped and overcome with thanksgiving and praise…the ark is back, the presence of God is where it should be and David forgets his dignity as King…His feet say “Its shouting time” Its time to DANCE for joy.

But it’s also important to understand for this to happen it requires understanding and preparing for who God is…

TOUCHING THE CART CAN BE DANGEROUS

One of the most troubling stories in the Old Testament is found in II Samuel 6. It occurs when they go to retrieve the ark from Abinadab’s house…remember it’s been there 50 years…and they set the ark of God on a new cart. As they bring it back we read in verses 6-8

II Samuel 6: 6-8

In their haste to get the ark back they put in on a cart pulled by animals. They’re moving along, singing dancing…playing music.

And they come to a threshing floor, suddenly the ark hits a rock…it tilts and Uzziah one the men in charge of steadying the ark reaches out to secure it… He places his hand on the ark and drops dead. It doesn’t seem fair does it. David even gets angry at the Lord and leaves the ark at the home of Obed-edom for 3 months. And the presence of God blesses this home in amazing ways.

Here’s the problem… whenever you attempt to carry God around on your terms…there’s a big problem…when you forget whose presence you’re in and think worship is a gold box your spirituality can be contained in.  You’re in trouble.  God cannot be contained in your box!!!

The Ark was to be carried by God’s priests. It was a visible symbol of His Holy presence. Worship becomes irreverent when we forget who God is and reach out to sturdy the box…thinking our way of bringing his presence Home in worship is better than His WAY…God is one hundred percent HOLY and being one hundred percent Holy means you cannot let one of your perfect commands just slide…”Don’t touch the ark” means….don’t touch it one hundred percent of the time.

Worship isn’t about ox carts or priests with poles. It isn’t about 2 worship songs and 2 hymns. It’s about the holy presence of an Almighty God…and it’s dangerous to our souls when we forget this truth. God would never be contained with the Ark of the Covenant… and He will never be contained in my little box of preferences.

Let me end this morning with a return to the street s of Jerusalem and David’s wife Michal as a warning.

THE HEART OF WORSHIP IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN OUTWARD APPEARANCE.

When David returns home after the joyful celebration to bless his household….Michal, Saul’s daughter…who watched the celebration from a window…blasts him.

“How the King of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow world.”

Sarcasm oozes like poison from her mouth.

I want to end today with 3 quick warnings from Michal.

1). First of all she’s watching from a window instead of participating.

There will always be folks who watch from the window with an idea of what worship is. They will always look at worship through their glasses of what is dignified and presentable. And many time the freedom they see others enjoying with God causes them to dispose those who enjoy it.

2). She doesn’t like that David’s disrobed himself.
David’s taken off the royal robes. She doesn’t think that’s proper. But isn’t that the picture of worship. Worship is disrobing. It baring our souls to God…It’s an intimate examination of your self in His presence. It’s also a recognition that it’s not about my “royal robes”. It’s not about me proving I’m the King of Israel. Davis was embracing who God is…King of Kings

Unhealthy and unholy people are trapped by a fear of looking foolish or undignified. So the exterior covers a heart that will not relinquish the throne… or disrobe to dance. May God help us “Be humiliated in our own eyes.”The

3). Jealously creates a barren soul.

When David reminds Michal that God chose him rather than her father or any of her family to rule over the people of Israel you have to know this comes from a discerning heart which saw that jealousy bring hatred and sarcasm instead of blessing to this household.

Michal was living in the past instead of worshiping in the present…and it caused not only barrenness in her soul, but no children in her marriage to the day of her death, jealousy always causes barrenness spiritually, physically, emotionally and mentally. It destroys worship.

Here’s what impresses me about David. He wasn’t afraid of looking foolish. He wasn’t afraid of taking off his royal robes and dancing without hindrance and without inhibition before the Lord.

Think about the circumstances. David was the newly crowned king of Israel. The significance of that is this: I think there was added pressure to act like a King. He had a reputation to protect. He had a crown to represent. Kings don’t disrobe and dance! Shepherd boys do!

And no one knew than better than Michal. Why? She was a KK- a King’s Kid. She grew up in the palace. She knew the protocol. And I’m guessing that Saul was very kingly. In fact, I think Saul woke up with scratches on his face because he slept with his crown on his head. Saul was all about pomp and circumstance!

Saul looked like a King…David looked like a worshipper. Michal longed for the Kingly appearance…David longed for the King.

By the way it doesn’t say why Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death, but its seems to me that common sense dictates there was no intimacy between her and King David…jealousy always creates barrenness in our relationships and in our worship…because worship will never ever be about appearance…worship will always be about loving someone so much we don’t care what we look like when we celebrate it.

THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED

ROAD LESS TRAVELED

The Road Less Traveled by Rick Burdette

The Road Less Traveled
Matthew 7:13, 14
Introduction:
I’m not sure how many funerals I’ve done in 35 years of ministry, but it would be in the hundreds. I’ve done biker’s funerals, golfer’s funerals, hunter’s funerals, policemen’s funerals, veteran’s funerals, and the hardest of all, children’s funerals. I’ve dealt with sudden death and long illnesses.
I had a funeral last year where the family wanted two songs played: Brad Paisley’s “When I get Where I’m Goin’” and then right before I shared the sermon, Garth Brooks’ “I’ve Got Friends in Low Places.” I’m serious; I kid you not. But there is one thing I’ve noticed about every single funeral I’ve ever done…no matter who the person was or the life they’ve lived, someone will always say, “They’re in a much better place.”
I know that’s a comforting thought. I know death is painful. The separation hurts, and it’s easier to deal with if we can tell ourselves, “They’re in a much better place.”
The struggle I have with this is I can’t preach anyone into heaven at their funeral. The road they’ve chosen to walk here on earth has come to an end. For some the walk was long, for others much shorter, and I’m thankful God is the righteous judge of our lives and not me or you. But Jesus says something powerful about our steps here on earth and the road we’ve chosen to walk.
“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13, 14).
Let’s look today at two very different roads and how essential it is to choose the one less traveled. As with any journey we start with the entrance.
1.What’s behind door number 2?
There are some very famous and easily recognizable entrances in the world. The gate in front of Buckingham Palace, the entrance to Disney World, the Gate in front of the White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. You see those entrances and you immediately know where you’re headed. You know what’s behind those doors.
Jesus describes two entrances, two gates that we face as we enter life. One is wide and the other is narrow.
These are not entrances we will face at birth. Some of us will be born with a silver spoon, others a plastic spork. We do not get to choose our parents, our gender, our race, or our personalities. God has designed those in the womb. Psalm 139 says, “You created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Each of us was created by God and for God.
The entrances to life that Jesus is speaking of come with a choice, regardless of our differences. Each and every one of us will choose the purpose and direction of our lives. And it begins with the gate we choose to open and walk through. Jesus makes it clear most people choose the wide gate.
The wide gate is easy to recognize and even easier to walk through. It’s natural, it’s well lit, there’s no real difficulty in opening this one.
I remember being in line with thousands of people at Disney World early one morning. The entrances were well marked and the crowd surged easily toward them. They almost pushed you along. It didn’t take any real effort. Just go with the flow and pretty soon I was at the ticket window handing the smiling girl my Visa so she could charge 8 billion dollars on it. Then our crew walked on into the Magic Kingdom.
Jesus lets us know the first gate is much like the one at Disney World. It’s easy to recognize, it’s huge, the flow will push you toward it, and behind that gate is the promised Magic Kingdom.
But what if you looked to your left and there was a second gate? It was tiny in comparison and only one or two people were squeezing through it. And on the other side instead of “E” ticket rides were a cross and a basin of water and a towel. Pretty simple choice for most people, huh?
The narrow gate is shaped like a cross. If I walk through this gate I walk to my death. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” In fact, Jesus says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved.” (John 10:9) He states unashamedly, “I am the way, and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except by me.” (John 14:6)
Behind the wide gate I can be my own boss, go where I want, when I want. I care about me first and I make my choices in life accordingly. But behind the narrow gate lies a Savior who demands hardship. I have to lose my life in Him to find it. I have to die to self to live in Him. My feet are supposed to follow His. I’m called to take the next step: following Jesus into the unknown.
That’s exactly what Jesus says.
II. Choose carefully your traveling companions.
The way to heaven is not determined by majority vote. It is determined by whether you’ve entered by the small gate or not. And that’s a choice every single one of us will make with our lives. C.S. Lewis in “Mere Christianity” writes, “Every time you are making a choice, you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different than it was before. And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life you are slowly turning this central thing either into a heavenly creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself…Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”
That’s exactly what Jesus meant when he said (John 15:9-14).
There aren’t as many people on that narrow road because it’s very narrow in its focus. In fact there is an absolute that people who travel this road have accepted…Jesus is the only way to heaven.
Folks, that is not a popular statement or belief in this world’s current philosophy of salvation. It’s extremely narrow to say Jesus is the only Savior of mankind. Without Him you are headed to destruction.
Because most people believe you can work your way to heaven. “If I do more good things than bad I’m in.” Like a great heavenly scale we pray the good outweighs the bad. Then we can be “in a much better place” or if we believe in God then that belief gets us into heaven. “I know he never went to church or was really all that religious, but I know he believed in God.” Folks, works save none of us. Salvation is a gift from God by grace that we accept through faith. And believing? “Even the demons believe there is a God, and they shudder.” (James 2:19)
So most of the world is pushing along in the flow believing it can save itself or that simply believing is enough. All the while God says the narrow road and small gate require a new birth. If you want to see my kingdom, to enter my kingdom, it requires that you be born again. It is the spirit of Christ living in us that changes our hearts, refocuses our vision, adjusts our priorities and makes us long for home more than here. It’s that Holy Spirit who creates a new person as we die to self, are buried in Christ and rise to walk in new life.
You will not follow Jesus in the first step or the next step into the unknown without the influence of His Spirit. You can quench the Spirit, resist the Spirit, lie to the Spirit, or walk in the Spirit.
Romans 8:5-11
You can live your life influenced by your nature or God’s Spirit. Most will choose to be their own master. Choices will be made through that filter. Tip your hat at God, but the fruit of your life bears out where you are, and where you’re going. It’s really crowded on this road, too. So it must be right. Folks, if God is your co-pilot, you’re in the wrong seat!
Or you belong to Christ. His Spirit lives and works in you. It’s a growing relationship on the narrow road home, but the transformation of you becoming like Jesus is clear, to you and to others who share the same spirit and the same road.
Let me end by saying…
III.Both roads don’t lead to the same place.
“The narrow road leads to life. Only a few find it. The broad road leads to destruction and many enter through it.”
Choices become habits, habits become character, character becomes destiny.
Life is a vapor. It’s gone before we know it. We put our kids in the crib and the next day we hand them the car keys.
Satan’s most effective lie isn’t “there is no God” or “there is no heaven or hell” or “sin doesn’t matter.” Satan’s greatest lie is “there is a God, there is a heaven and hell, and sin matters, but I’ll wait until tomorrow to do anything about it.”
I’ll become God’s man tomorrow. I’ll start my walk with Jesus soon. But before we know it our choices have become habits, our habits have become our character and our character has determined our destiny.
Today, right now there’s still time to change the road you’re on. Jesus is still the gate; life on the narrow road is abundant and full of joy. And it leads to heaven. Most people will not choose it. But today you don’t have to be most people. You can be one of the few who find it.
Frances Chan tells the story of Stan Gerlach in his book, “Crazy Love.” Stan was a successful business man asked to give the eulogy at a memorial service for a friend. Stan said he decided to share the gospel at the end of the message. Stan told the mourners “You never know when God is going to take your life. At that moment there’s nothing you can do about it. Are you ready?” Then Stan sat down, fell over and died. His wife and sons tried to resuscitate him, but there was nothing they could do—just as Stan had said a few moments earlier.
Frances Chan said he’d never forget receiving that call and heading over to the Gerlach’s home. “Stan’s wife, Suzy was just arriving home. She hugged me and cried. One of the sons, John, stepped out of the car weeping. He asked me “Did you hear the story? Did you hear about dad? I’m so proud of him for doing what he loved the most, telling people about Jesus.”
Matthew 10:32, 33 say “Whoever acknowledged me before men I will also acknowledge him before my father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men I will disown him before my father in heaven.”
Can you imagine what if felt like for Stan Gerlach? One moment he’s at a memorial service saying, “This is who Jesus is.” The next he is before God hearing Jesus say, “This is who Stan Gerlach is.” One second he was confessing Jesus; a second later Jesus was confessing him. It happens that quickly. And it can happen to any of us. In the words of Stan Gerlach, “Are you ready?”