Gone From My Sight

   I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

   Then someone at my side says, “There, she is gone!”

   “Gone where?”

   Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side, and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to her destined port.

   Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There, she is gone,” there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout, “Here she comes!” —Henry Van Dyke

Poetry Saturday—Abide With Me

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away.
Change and decay in all around I see.
O Lord who changes not, abide with me.

I need Your presence every passing hour.
What but Your grace can foil the tempter’s power?
Who like Yourself my guide and strength can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, O abide with me.

I fear no foe with You at hand to bless,
Though ills have weight, and tears their bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, your victory?
I triumph still, if You abide with me.

Hold now Your Word before my closing eyes.
Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me. —Henry Francis Lyte

Billy Graham’s Humility

BillyGraham

This story was shared by Max Lucado—

I witnessed an example of this humility last October. I partnered with Michael W. Smith for a ministry weekend near Charlotte, NC. The retreat was held at “The Cove,” a beautiful facility that is owned and maintained by the Billy Graham Association.

A few hours before the event, Michael and I met to go over the weekend schedule. But Michael could hardly discuss the retreat. He was so moved by what he had just experienced. He had just met with Billy Graham for the purpose of planning Rev. Graham’s funeral. The famous evangelist was, at the time, 94 years old. He was confined to a wheelchair, on oxygen. His mind was sharp and spirits were high. But his body was seeing its final days. So he called for Michael. And he called for his pastor. He wanted to discuss his funeral. He told them that he had a request.

“Of course,” they said. “Anything you want. What is it?”

“Would you not mention my name?”

“What?”

“Can you not mention my name? Just mention the name of Jesus.”

Pray To Preach Fruitfully

A.W. TozerTo pray successfully is the first lesson the preacher must learn if he is to preach fruitfully; yet prayer is the hardest thing he will ever be called upon to do and, being human, it is the one act he will be tempted to do less frequently than any other. He must set his heart to conquer by prayer, and that will mean that he must first conquer his own flesh, for it is the flesh that hinders prayer always. Almost anything associated with the ministry may be learned with an average amount of intelligent application. It is not hard to preach or manage church affairs or pay a social call; weddings and funerals may be conducted smoothly with a little help from Emily Post and the Minister’s Manual. Sermon making can be learned as easily as shoemaking—introduction, conclusion and all. And so with the whole work of the ministry as it is carried on in the average church today. But prayer—that is another matter. There Mrs. Post is helpless and the Minister’s Manual can offer no assistance. There the lonely man of God must wrestle it out alone, sometimes in fasting and tears and weariness untold. There every man must be an original, for true prayer cannot be imitated nor can it be learned from someone else.” —A.W. Tozer

My dear pastor, are you praying enough?


Poetry Saturday—A Psalm Of Life

LongfellowTell me not, in mournful numbers,
   Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
   And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
   And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
   Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
   Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
   Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
   And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
   Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
   In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
   Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
   Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
   Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
   We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
   Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
   Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
   Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
   With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
   Learn to labor and to wait. —Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Measure Of A Man

An anonymous poem that should make any man or woman ponder the impact of their legacy…

Not “How did he die?”

But “How did he live?”

Not “What did he gain?”

But “What did he give?”

These are the units

To measure the worth

Of a man as a man

Regardless of birth.

Not “What was his station?”

But “Had he a heart?”

And how did he play

His God-given part?

Was he ever ready

With a word of good cheer,

To bring back a smile,

To banish a tear?

  Not “What did the sketch in the newspaper say?”

But “How many were sorry when he passed away?”

A Life Well Lived

Early yesterday morning, a saint went home to be with Jesus. She was known to all of us at Calvary Assembly of God simply as Grandma. And she was the hippest Grandma we ever knew!

So full of Jesus, and radiating love through her smile. She loved to laugh, she loved to live, she loved to love. But as full of life as we thought she was here on this earth, it’s nothing compared to the life she is experiencing now in the presence of her Savior! She’s home now, and more alive than ever.

We will be celebrating her life for a long time, but we will especially focus on the blessing she was to us this week (the details are here). Please be a part of the visitation time and the homegoing celebration service at the end of this week.

We love you, Grandma! Thanks for showing us how to live so well.

Final Words

I’m working on a message for a funeral that I will speak at tomorrow. It’s very humbling to think that a family has chosen me to say the final words about their loved one. How do I accurately sum up someone’s life in just a few minutes?

This process always gets me thinking about what final words I would want to have said about my life. I have three passages in the Bible that I would love to have said about me:

He had no great joy than knowing his family all walks in the truth. (3 John 4)

He always took the spiritual truths that he heard and taught and entrusted them to reliable people who were also qualified to teach others. (2 Timothy 2:2)

He fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith. (2 Timothy 4:7)

What about you? What final words do you want people to say at the end of your life?

Stephen Covey wisely advises us to begin with the end in mind. See your goal—your final words—clearly fixed in your mind now, then live to fulfill it.

Imagine Attending 86 Funerals A Day

Right after the Israelites came out of Egypt, God told Moses to count everyone (not coincidentally, this is recorded in the book of Numbers… get it?).

I’m sure you know the story well of the ten scouts who by their negative report turned everyone against Moses. They all believed that they couldn’t go into the Promised Land because of the big giants. So God said everyone in that generation (except Joshua and Caleb) would die before they entered the Promised Land.

Fast forward 38 years and God has Moses count the people again (can you guess where this is recorded in the Bible?). If you compare the two lists, you will see that 1.2 million Israelites had died.

Let that sink in: 1.2 million dead in 38 years.

That’s 31,579 funerals per year.

Or 86 funerals per day.

Talk about mixed emotions! With every funeral the younger Israelites attended, they were sad for their loss but they also knew they were one step closer to getting out of the desert and into the Promised Land.

Every day they heard about deaths—86 of them every day.

What did these deaths remind them of? Maybe these two thoughts:

  • Sin causes death.
  • I’m just as capable of sinning as they were.

Every death should have been a reminder to them to stay as close to God as possible.

Every day I hear about divorce. This should be my reminder to cherish my wife every day.

Every day I hear about a pastor’s moral failing. This should be my reminder to pursue holiness passionately every day.

Every day I hear about pornography addictions. This should be my reminder to take every precaution I can every day.

When the Israelites heard about 86 deaths every day, they had to do something positive with that.

When I hear about divorce and sin and addiction, I cannot just shake my head and say, ‘Tisk, tisk,” but I must do something positive with it.

I must use every “death” as a reminder to move closer to God.

“And Then He Died…”

That’s the end of his life. All those years living and that’s all his obituary says: “and then he died.”

Genesis 5 is the lineage of Adam. A mind-numbing list of names and years scroll by:

  • Adam lived 930 years, and then he died.
  • His son Seth lived 912 years, and then he died.
  • His son Enosh lived 905 years, and then he died.
  • His son Kenan lived 910 years, and then he died.
  • His son Mahalalel lived 895 years, and then he died.
  • His son Jared lived 962 years, and then he died.
  • And on and on and on….

For each man we hear the name of one of his sons and how long he lived, but nothing more. Like a modern-day tombstone:

Birth Date Death Date

The dash between the dates covers childhood, schooling, marriage, inventions, parenthood, and so many other things. But years later, more and more of the details are forgotten and only the dash remains to represent the sum total of the deceased’s life.

And then comes Enoch.

All of the same details are there. Well, except for the “and then he died epitaph.” But actually, there’s so much more. Instead of a death, there’s a phrase that appears only for him: “Enoch walked with God.” The phrase literally means “to be continually conversant.”

Because Enoch lived this way, he didn’t really die. Instead, “He was no more.” He wasn’t here any longer because he is still walking with God. What an incredible blessing to his future generations! He was a blessing while he was alive, and he continues to be a blessing after he is no more.

Enoch’s tombstone reads differently from everyone else. It’s the way I would want my tombstone to read:

Craig T. Owens

1966  He Walked With God He Is Still Walking With God

In The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey suggests living my life today consistent with what I would like said at my own funeral. It starts with a decision: “Today I will be continually conversant with God.” Then at my funeral, they can say of me, like the Bible says of Enoch: “He didn’t die. He’s just not here any longer. He is walking with God in heaven, just like he walked with Him here on earth.”

What do you want said about your dash?

Do you want your life to simply end with “and then he died”? Do you want something more? Make your dash a continual conversation, a daily walk, with God, and all of your future generations won’t see just a dash, they’ll remember “He is no more. He walked with God, and he is still walking with God!

Start today!

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