Shepherding/Discipleship Movement Survivor's Blog

The present-day impact of the Shepherding/Discipleship movement from the perspective of a former member of Morning Star International (now Every Nation Churches and Ministries).

Sunday, March 05, 2006

"He taught us how to live... then he taught us how to die."

One of the primary reasons why I haven't been consistently blogging over the last several weeks is because my father-in-law recently passed away. He knew, loved and served the Lord faithfully, and our family is comforted knowing that he now sees Jesus face to face. Even though we rejoice in that, it's still been a bittersweet time. I personally will miss him a great deal.

My father-in-law was a (classical) Pentecostal pastor who spent most of his adult life serving his flock as to the Lord. In this day and age when it seems many religious leaders are found to be involved in one scandal or another, it's easy to forget that there are many like my father-in-law, ones you may otherwise never hear of, who really do live out what they profess.

He didn't get rich off his pulpit, he didn't demand that his flock serve him as if he Jesus by proxy, and until the last months of his life when he was physically unable to, would drive the hour or more to local hospitals in East Tennessee on pretty much a daily basis to visit sick members of his congregation or even sick family members who had never set foot in his church or dropped an offering in the basket.

My father-in-law was pretty much the only person for a while who supported my decision to leave Morning Star International/Every Nation, and up until nearly the very end of his life kept reminding me of how proud he was that I took such a strong stand for the truth in Christ. I had confided in him soon after even my own husband started saying things like perhaps I was hearing from Satan, or that I was "driving" the decision to leave our church (comments that didn't initially come from him but from our church btw). He assured me that we were doing the right thing in leaving, and that he and my mother-in-law had been praying for months that we leave, which was a big surprise because I had initially been told (not by him) that he really liked our church. While I unequivocably knew that I was hearing from the Holy Spirit and certainly not Satan, my father-in-law's unwavering support and commitment to Scriptural truth helped keep me going in those very trying times as we were leaving MSI/EN.

The most amazing thing about my father-in-law and his faith was how it was tested in his illness, and how he continued to be such an example to those around him even when he was taking his last breaths. He continued to praise God to the very end, even when he was in such excruciating pain and discomfort.

Ten years ago, I lost my mother to cancer - this was before I became a Christian. My mother was also considered a pillar of her community; she had been active in 12 Step programs for nearly twenty years and was kind of considered an icon in local 12 Step circles. However, as she deteriorated, so did her faith - what 12 steppers used to call her "spirituality." One of my last coherent conversations with my mother centered on how angry she was at my biological father and pretty much everyone else who had wronged her in her life. What a contrast to my father-in-law. While I don't want to pass judgment on the state of anyone's soul, I can say that I don't have the same assurance that I will meet my mother again in heaven as I do my father-in-law.

Four weeks ago, my husband, my father-in-law's associate pastor, and I were with him in Houston, where the cancer experts at MD Anderson (a world-class cancer center) gave him 3-6 months to live and basically said there was nothing else they could do for them. Day and night he praised God anyway. He continued to have faith that God would and could heal him; his faith was in Him, not the doctors. I started having misgivings, hoping that any Word-Faith stuff that might have crept into their church wouldn't derail anyone's faith in a sovereign Lord. I wisely said nothing when I saw a Charles Capps book among the associate pastor's things. I didn't say this to anyone except to my husband, afraid it would be interpreted as lack of faith on my part, but in my heart I knew that God wouldn't heal my father-in-law this time.

He's been miraculously healed before. When he was eight years old, he had a fever/virus that attacked his optic nerve and he lost his sight. His doctor said it was permanent. His Baptist grandfather showed up at his house one day and told his mother that he had come to pray that his sight be restored, and would not leave until it happened; seven days later his sight came back as my father-in-law was groping around the house toward the bathroom. When they took him back to the doctor, the doctor broke down in tears saying that it had to have been a miracle of God because there was medically no other explanation. A few years ago, my father-in-law had a heart attack that caused some heart muscle damage, but several weeks later follow up tests confirmed there was no discernible damage to his heart (and pre-op exams in Houston a few months ago confirmed again that his heart was healthy).

But I knew in my spirit that there would be no miraculous physical healing this time, other than the ultimate healing that awaits believers in the Lord Jesus. I continued to pray for that if it were God's will, but I also prayed that God give us all the strength and faith to accept whatever His sovereign will was in the situation.

Last week, when his assistant pastor spoke at what we called a celebration of his homegoing, he commented on how my father-in-law continued to praise God and call out to Him no matter what; "He taught us how to live... and then he taught us how to die."

The lesson that God made clear through him is that yes, He is a God who heals, but He is also a God who has sovereign plans for us, for those who fight the good fight and run the race of faith to the end. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger and greater and better than anything we can fully conceive in our earthly existence... we can see Him through a glass darkly, but then we will see Him face to face. That was my father-in-law's blessed hope, one that was realized at 12:30 AM, February 24, 2006 when he went home to be with the Lord.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a testimony. Thank you for sharing his life.

6:08 PM  

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