My grandfather died a few weeks ago, and those who are connected with me on Mewe.com, Facebook, and other social media know that I went to the funeral in Virginia two weekends ago. What most do NOT know is the divine encounter God set me up with a few days prior, and what it showed me about the health level of the Church from a spiritual perspective.
Two days before the funeral, I borrowed my dad’s truck and drove up to Pennsylvania to look at the contents of a storage facility we will be clearing out later this year. I had brought a few books with me on the flight to Virginia, and I brought one book up north, “How To Raise The Dead” by Tyler Johnson. I spent the drive up listening to messages on Immortality and Abundant Life from WOW Ministries in Sri Lanka, and my faith was flying high–a fantastic drive for me!
I was blessed to have a 3+ hour lunch with my good friend Will, much like the old days when we lived nearby (I love you man!). I enjoyed the time with him thoroughly, but what I didn’t know is that God was keeping me from driving 3.5 hours back to my parents’ place in Virginia until much later that evening
I ended lunch around dinnertime and started the drive back to VA when my wife called from Portland to tell me that our friend “Jenna” called her. Jenna lives in Myerstown, PA, right down the road from where we used to live before moving to Portland, Oregon. Jenna is a mighty woman of God who has been a wonderful support to my wife and me over the years, and she has a heart of gold.
When Jenna called she had just found out her son’s friend had died the day before from either a clot or hemorrhage in the brain; she was 25 and engaged to be married. My wife called and instructed me to call Jenna back. She was blown away to discover I was less than an hour away from her instead of on the other side of the USA where she thought I was. She wanted to raise this woman from the dead, but needed some help and encouragement. I plugged her address into the GPS and met her an hour later at her house to pray, talk, and walk her through the process.
My philosophy on resurrection (and actually most Kingdom-related things) is this: If I do nothing, nothing will change and there is no hope. If I do something, there is the chance nothing may still happen, but there is now hope where before there was none. After all, let’s face it: how many people do YOU know who will plan to resurrect you if you die? If you can count more than one person, you are a minority. If more than five, consider yourself both extremely rare AND blessed.
My advice to Jenna was in keeping with my philosophy, and as she was nervous I had her sit down and write a script of what she wanted to say before making that phone call. We started with condolences, but quickly moved to the part where we tell them we want to pray for resurrection, what we want from them (access to the body), and then ask for their assistance. Mind you, this was done very respectfully and not at all as callous as this might sound on paper, but words on the page don’t convey the same heart as if one was there in person.
Jenna called, and asked in the most kind, heartfelt, and loving way possible, and the family was even looking at pictures of their daughter and Jenna’s son, so there was favor at the time of the phone call. What the family said was that they “felt peace” about the whole thing and felt that was God telling them to let her go. And that was that–resurrection over.
While blessed that God was releasing measure upon measure of His grace in the midst of this life-shattering event, I was deeply grieved in my heart. Hosea 4:6a says “my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge” (NIV), and in this case it could not have been more true. This woman, only 25 years old, had a man who was preparing to marry her, a career, life, possibly children and grandchildren in her future, and a family of parents and siblings who loved her dearly, but in a freak moment, her life ended. Yet when the only people they knew who had any hope at all extended a hand to offer that hope, it was graciously-yet-firmly refused.
As I think about it now, as I write this, I am in tears. I have been accused before of lacking compassion for the dead and the dying in regards to my beliefs about death and resurrection, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. I may at times have difficulty putting myself in others’ shoes, but it pains me even now to know that this woman could be alive right now, today, if her family knew what Jenna and I know. Jesus said it best to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4:10: “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”
If only they had known the gift of God that was available to them. If only they understood that God’s resurrection power is alive and well today, and that Jesus still raises the dead even today, even now, they might have reached out their hands to take hold of the hope Jenna offered them. If only they had known that God sent me across the USA, then three hours north of my destination, to meet with Jenna, complete with a book on the very subject of need sitting with me, full of faith and ready to go, and who kept me from driving home for hours after I had originally planned to leave, they might have relented and she probably would have been raised. People truly do perish for a lack of knowledge.
When I say that God revealed to me the state of the health of the Church, I am sad to say that it was bittersweet. I am encouraged that God is moving and at work among His people, but it does upset me at times to know that many are living with grief and problems that simply don’t need to be there. I am reminded, through this event, that part of my job, our job, as believers, is to extend the Abundant Life that Jesus promised us in John 10:10 to all who are in need, and that the first place it must start is the Church. We as the Body of Christ must reach a place of health in our mindsets and beliefs where we understand that when God says in Revelation 20:4 that “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away,” that God meant what He said.
This isn’t a far-off heaven-when-you-die reality for a day yet to come. We are called NOW to burn as bright flaming beacons of light amidst a world that is filled with broken, hurting, and even dying people, and to destroy the power of death in action, placing it under Christ’s feet. The Old Order of things passed away over 2000 years ago on a splintery wooden cross on a hill in Israel when the Savior of this world gave up his spirit and died in his body so that we might never have to, and that the power and authority to extend the life he purchased us would flow in us and through us to dry the tears of this world. I will not stop proclaiming the Gospel of Life and Immortality that Jesus purchased for us, so that the Church may be revived into fullness, and through it the world might live again.