November 28, 2008

A Divine Promise from God

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:5, KJV

In the Apostle Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he points out a very important quality that is necessary for the minister of God. He tells Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV).

Every Christian should be able to understand what the Scripture says through personal study and making sure the text that is preached from the pulpit on Sundays is used in a correct exegetical and hermeneutical manner. Those who sit and listen to the preacher on Sundays should not assume every word that comes forth from their mouths is 100% correct, though it should be, but too often, a verse can be misinterpreted to make a text of Scripture say something that it does not.

The second chapter of the Apostle Peter’s second epistle provides a clear description of the destructive doctrines, doom, depravity and deception of false teachers of the gospel. Those who abuse a text of Scripture, not just once but also over a period of time, for any particular purpose that is not directly related to a more in depth biblical understanding of the Bible is subject to the consequences described in that chapter and should be forewarned and corrected.

Exegesis and hermeneutics are taught more thoroughly in seminary but even at a very basic level, one can use a bible software like e-Sword and it is a tremendous blessing to any layperson who is a student of the Word of God, becoming like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.

This is why the Scripture encourages every Christian to be diligent in their study of the Bible, rightly dividing the word of truth from what is false, or incorrect.

A misinterpretation of any text of Scripture opens the minister up to further scrutiny by the congregation, to discern if the minister’s motives for using a particular text from Scripture is biblical or not. Too often, the first thing an unbeliever will criticize about the church, is how often the minister talks about how much God wants to bless you if you give your money to this or that particular ministry, or church.

When a person gives their money to the work of ministry for the LORD Jesus Christ, their hearts need to be right, in the manner in which their giving is directed.

If our finances are given solely for expecting any multiplied amount returned to us, our motive for giving is all wrong and becomes more like a lottery ticket, “you gotta give in order to get blessed!”, and that is just the wrong motive to give to the work of ministry for the LORD Jesus Christ.

But if our motive is to see the work of the ministry blessed by our giving, to further the work of the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ throughout the world, then our motives for our giving is right and if God blesses us with some financial return on that, well then PRAISE GOD!!! However, if nothing is ever returned financially that is even better.

I would not want to see someone have a greater expectation on a financial return from God because of their giving over one soul that has been won to Christ, or to support missionaries with the financial ability to go into the world and preach the Gospel. What is more important, seeing God multiply my money back to me or supporting people who desire to see souls won to Christ and added daily to the church? I think it is obvious, well, to me it is.

Before I begin, I would like to introduce a few words that are mentioned in the opening verse of this post and present a clearer understanding of them related to Scripture.

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:5, KJV

First, in this verse, the word wrought that is used here, in Greek, is the word katergazomai, which means to work fully, that is, accomplish; by implication to finish, or fashion.

Next is the word earnest and the Greek word for this is arrhabōn and it has a Hebrew word too, which is similar in Greek, which is ‛ărâbôn.

Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries indicate that the Greek definition is a pledge, that is, part of the purchase money or property given in advance as security for the rest.

The Hebrew definition for the word ‛ărâbôn states (in the sense of exchange); a pawn (given as security): - pledge.

The New Living Translation offers a pretty good interpretation of this verse, “God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.”

The NIV does a good job also of interpreting this verse correctly, “Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.”

Now let’s read again 2 Corinthians 5:5 from the King James Version, for a better understanding of this verse and the words that are used.

Now he that hath wrought us for the selfsame thing is God, who also hath given unto us the earnest of the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 5:5, KJV.

Reading this verse alone, questions arise asking, what is it that God accomplished, by implication to finish and what is this earnest, pledge or purchase money that was used to give us His Spirit? Did God write some sort of check as a deposit for one’s redemption and salvation? What is to come because of the earnest deposit God made?

In order to gain a more complete understanding of this verse, one must read the entire passage of verses from 1-8 and what these eight verses are talking about is the assurance of the eternal life in heaven, for the born again believer in Jesus Christ. Each verse will be presented through this exegesis of text.

Exegesis and Hermeneutics

In verse 1, we first take notice that Paul is speaking to Christians in Corinth and his letter reminds them that they have an expectation of eternal life in heaven to look forward to as Christians, after their mortal life has ended. Yet in heaven, the body will have a new home that is not the result of any manufacture, because God has created this new body for every believer and is eternal in heaven.

For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1.

Next, in verses 2 and 3 we read there is a deep desire to be clothed with the garments that await us in heaven and such clothing will prove the repentance, forgiveness and salvation of every man and woman who has been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.

For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven, if indeed, having been clothed, we shall not be found naked. 2 Corinthians 5:2-3.

Isaiah 61:10 (NKJV) says, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”
On the Day of Judgment, a person will either stand naked before God with nothing to prove their salvation or faith in Jesus Christ or they will stand before God wearing the garment of salvation, the robe of righteousness that is found only in Jesus Christ.

Verse 4 describes the inner desire to be clothed in the robe of righteousness, to be in heaven now, yet burdened to have to patiently wait for the life of this mortal body to end and for an eternal life in heaven to begin.

For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5:4.

Now, verse 5. This is what God has done, what He has accomplished and finished for us. He has given us the Holy Spirit as a guarantee, to be a witness regarding the eternal inheritance for the Christian believer.

Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:5.

God has given the Holy Spirit as the guarantee, the pledge of the new body we will have in the glories of heaven. This verse does not refer to a financial principle that God requires a down payment to release His best to those who give to Him.

In John MacArthur’s sermon referencing arrhabōn, he says in his sermon, “For example, Jeremiah was a faithful prophet who did what God asked. One of the things God asked him to do was buy a piece of property (Jeremiah 32:7). After Jeremiah bought the field, he sealed the transaction (v. 14). Similarly, when a person puts their faith in Jesus Christ God gives to them the Holy Spirit and that finishes the transaction.

“When God gave us the Holy Spirit, we were enabled to speak from God's Word with authority (John 16:23).

“When God gave you the Holy Spirit, He gave you the only guarantee you will ever need.

"In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory." (Ephesians 1:13-14, NKJV, emphasis mine).

John MacArthur said, “How do we know that Christ is our inheritance? What is the guarantee that once we jump into Christianity with both feet that we won't discover that it's a dead end? The Holy Spirit. God has provided a guarantee because He knows we need to have confidence in our salvation.

“We have not yet been totally redeemed. We have been redeemed spiritually, but we await the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:23). We haven't received our full inheritance because we're not in heaven yet. But we know it will happen because we "were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the earnest of our inheritance" (Ephesians 1:13-14). The Spirit is the guarantee that "the redemption of the purchased possession" will indeed happen.”

Verse 6 then states that while we remain in our physical bodies we are not in the presence of the LORD, though that is what and where we desire to be.

So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6.

Verse 7 is a verse that many Christians quote often saying, “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” However, what does this really mean in light of this passage of Scripture? Our walk in this world is one of faith, complete dependence and trust upon God, in His will and not ours.

Finally, verse 8 for the Christian believer is that they can have the confidence that one day they will no longer be absent from God, but will be in His presence forever.

We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:8.

Therefore, the true indication of what is to come, the promise of eternal life, is the Holy Spirit. It is He that lives and dwells within the Christian as they anticipate the day they will live with the LORD Jesus Christ for all of eternity.

God redeems the sinner from His wrath and judgment of their sin by their repentance and faith in His Son Jesus Christ. God then gave the man or woman who has become a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), His Spirit to dwell within them for the remainder of their earthly lives until the time of death where in heaven, they will live spiritually until their bodies are resurrected from the grave at the end of the world.

What Was the Cost?

It certainly was not cheap by any means and the closer one grows to Christ and understands the great price that God paid for their redemption, causes them to fall more deeply in love with Jesus Christ and thankful for what God did to save a wretched sinner as they were, as I was.

I think Hebrews 9:11-15 (NKJV) really sums this up quite well, what the cost was to purchase us, to redeem us to God for the salvation of our souls and the forgiveness of our sins.

“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.” (emphasis mine).

Conclusion

God has accomplished for the repentant sinner who through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, he or she has received the blessed gift of God’s Holy Spirit to dwell within them, as the assurance of the eternal inheritance that belongs to them as born again believers.

The passage 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 (NKJV) is exclusively about the assurance of the resurrection, expectation of eternal life and the promise of God’s Holy Spirit that has been given to those who have been born again by the Spirit of God.

2 Corinthians 5:5 has a metaphorical tone with reference to value using a term like deposit with the understanding that it means a pledge in advance or security for the rest as was introduced in this post.

In terms of contextualization of this verse and passage, would be similar to homeowners who have a mortgage on their home. The homeowners agree with a lender, to number of monthly mortgage payments (pledge), because part of the purchase money (deposit) has been given in advance as security for the rest,” the full ownership of the property at the conclusion of the established number of mortgage payments.

Therefore, if we use these Hebrew and Greek words in a correct exegetical and hermeneutical manner for contextual understanding and application of the text, God has given us His Holy Spirit to dwell within us as a pledge, or an advance of what we will receive in heaven one day, living eternally in the presence and the fullness of God. The presence of God’s Holy Spirit is a promise, to the born again believer, of the assurance of the eternal life that awaits them upon the moment of death.

To interpret this text, 2 Corinthians 5:5, to mean that one can give God any pledged amount of money in anticipation of what will come from Him is a gross misinterpretation of this text. God cannot be bought and there is no way anyone could get God to perform anything for them because they have committed to a monthly pledge of money, to a ministry, a church or a building fundraiser campaign and expect God to do something great in their lives.

For example, when a minister, such Faith Church senior pastor Frank Santora in New Milford, CT, teaches that God will do something great because of one's financial pledge to a building fundraiser campaign named Arrabon, he has misrepresented the text from the Bible and grossly misinterpreted what the text actually means.

This is why I introduced this post with 2 Timothy 2:15, to say that every Christian must perform their own due diligence of study and research of the biblical text and not just take for granted what any preacher is saying from the pulpit.

The text Pastor Frank Santora has used as a basis for his fundraiser campaign has been misinterpreted greatly, in an attempt to persuade people into giving their money to the church, with the expectation of those who give that God will somehow do something great in their lives because of their pledge to this campaign.

Read the entire passage and see for yourself if this is referring to anything at all, regarding finances or financial blessing bestowed upon the giver. You will find that it does not.

The apostle Paul's charge to Timothy in his second letter said, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15, NKJV) and that is exactly what I have strived for regarding the interpretation of this passage of Scripture.

God has prepared an eternal body and home for the born again believer. He understands our desire to be with Him for all of eternity and He wants to see His children clothed in the righteous robe of salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. He has given His Holy Spirit to live within us, until we can live fully with Him in heaven for eternity. For a time, we will live in this physical body patiently waiting to live in the presence of God for eternity. Our view of that time will be one of faith that will be indescribable with words today, yet when that day comes, there will be a pleasantness and joyful experience that will be no longer be held back by our natural bodies. One day, our eternal lives will be full, complete and eternal in the presence of the King of kings and LORD of lords, the LORD God Almighty.

Now He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. 2 Corinthians 5:5.

If the reader were to now take some time to read 2 Corinthians 5:1-8 slowly, the reader should be able to clearly see that the focus of this passage is not about giving money to God for the release of His best blessing upon those who give to Him, but the promise of the Holy Spirit as an assurance of their salvation.


Reference

MacArthur, J. (n.d.). The Believer’s Life in Christ, Divine promises guaranteed. Retrieved from http://www.biblebb.com/files/mac/sg1905.htm on November 28, 2008.

Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

November 5, 2008

My First Funeral


On Sunday, November 2, 2008, I had the distinct privilege and honor to minister to family and friends of a member of our Marine Corps League - Westchester Detachment, of which I am the Chaplain.

Irwin Howard died of prostate cancer and I was fortunate to have spoken to him a few times over the phone, letting him know that he was missed by members of the league detachment and was asked for at each of our meetings.

I had visited him at his home on Saturday October 18th and on the following Monday he moved into a hospice facility in Hawthorne, New York.

On Wednesday the 22nd I visited him briefly while I was on my way to a wake for another member of our detachment, whose wife was tragically killed when she was struck by a car along side the road she was walking on.

A week later, on the 29th, I visited him again and had the fortunate opportunity to meet two of his children. I spent about an hour with them, learning about their father, their mother and the rest of their families.

Then on Friday morning, October 31st, a family member called me to inform me of Irwin's passing and had asked me if I would be available to perform a funeral service for them, to which I was humbled to have been asked and honored to do for them.

This would be my first funeral too.

Just like when I had preached in July, I knew that I would need to depend on God to help me formulate the sermon that would minister to the family and guests, but also to make sure that nothing of what was said was of my agenda.

I just wanted to remain faithful to the preaching of God's Word.

I had prayed Friday evening, beginning to write my sermon. Saturday I spent some more time in prayer and writing, took care of a few errands here at school for one of our missionaries in residence and then returned for some more prayer and preparation of my sermon.

Saturday evening began a time of fasting for the next day. All I wanted was to feed my spirit in worship, prayer and continued study of the Word so that I would not misrepresent God in my sermon.

I woke up around 7:30 a.m., to spend some more time in prayer, review my sermon and to be able to meet the family at the funeral home by 10:30 a.m., to go over anything before the service began at 11:00 a.m.

Here are a few facts that developed before and during the service:
  • I learned that Irwin was Jewish but not a religious man.
  • Some of his children were also Jewish but married spouses who were Roman Catholic.
  • One family member stated in their eulogy that although Irwin was an atheist and did not believe in God, he lived a godly life.
  • There was a menorah placed behind the casket that was draped with the American flag.
  • One other family member said that while they knew Irwin did not believe in God, they believed that because he lived a godly life, he walked right through the pearly gates of heaven where God welcomed him.

The following is an edited version of what was spoken at the funeral service.

Good morning to everyone and on behalf of the family and the Marine Corps League, thank you for coming.

My name is Kurt Michaelson and I am the Chaplain for the Marine Corps League in Westchester and I had the distinct privilege to spend a very brief amount of time with Irwin who died a few days ago.

A few members of the family have informed me that they would like to offer a eulogy this morning and when they have conculded, I will then return to deliver the message.

Let us pray as today's service begins.

Invocation
"Our Loving Eternal and Heavenly Father, as we meet this morning to remember our dear friend and loved one, I ask you to be to us, the God of all comfort, and the God of all grace. Give us perspective as we face the reality of death and eternity and to grow in the proper understanding of Your truths of life found in Your Holy Word. I ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, AMEN."

Eulogy from family members.

Message - John 11:17-27, Isaiah 53:3-4, 61:1-3

(Note to the reader: Before I began to preach, I hesitated for a few seconds as I looked down to my Bible at Isaiah 61:1-3, where I was only going to read verse three, but I felt a strong conviction in my heart by God, to read all three verses so that it would be understood in its full context and not just a portion of it.)

I read the following verses from Isaiah 61:1-3 that says:

1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn,

(I read this next verse slowly and deliberately, pausing briefly at each coma and looking out to the family and friends.)

3 To console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

Today, I want to point out two verses of Scripture from the book of Psalms that reflect this man's life, whom we are mourning.


Would the children please stand?

First, in Psalm 127:3 says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is a reward.” The Psalmist was referring to the blessing that children are in building a family, specifically the ability to keep the family name alive on earth.

Thank you. You may be seated.

Next, I would like to ask for the grandchildren to stand.

The second is from Psalm 128:6, which says, “Yes, may you see your children’s children. Peace be upon Israel!” This is evident in his life, as a promise fulfilled by God that saw the joy of an offspring continued beyond his days.

Thank you. You may be seated.

There is a passage from the New Testament that I would like to share with you, concerning two sisters and the death of their brother.

In John chapter 11:1-16, we read that Mary, Martha and Lazarus were all very close to Jesus during His earthly life and ministry. When Lazarus became severely ill, a message was sent to Jesus to inform Him so that He may come and comfort His dear friend. I am sure that Mary and Martha had possibly thought that the LORD would come and heal their beloved brother too, having heard of His many miracles that He had done.

After waiting a few days, the LORD travelled then to Bethany, to meet Mary and Martha as they were in mourning over the death of their brother Lazarus.

Upon hearing news that the LORD was nearing Bethany, Martha got up and rushed out to meet the LORD and she said to Him, “LORD, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” And Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha replied saying, “Yes, LORD, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

When Martha had said that she believed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God, this was not an intellectual acknowledgement of who Jesus said He was, but where the Greek language has translated the word pistueo which means, by implication to entrust, especially one’s spiritual well being to Christ.

The LORD still had not arrived yet into town and now Mary had rushed out to meet the LORD, when her sister had returned and told her that Jesus was asking for her. Falling down at his feet Mary said to Jesus while weeping, “LORD, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Read out loud John 11:33-37.

And later we learn that Lazarus was indeed raised from the dead and that many of the Jews who were there believed the things which Jesus did and believed on him (v. 45).

In this entire passage, we find five very important things in Jesus as He met with Martha and Mary concerning their brother Lazarus.
  • He loved Martha, Mary and Lazarus (11:5). This type of love is described in Greek as a fondness or a love that is dear to a person, often seen among cousins, uncles and aunts in a family, even among friends who are like family. In the Marine Corps that certainly exists.
  • He comforted and showed compassion to Martha and Mary in their time of mourning and despair. Though their brother was dead, He said that through Him there was eternal life beyond the grave.
  • Martha and Mary found consolation in the LORD more than they did in those that surrounded them in mourning. They both rushed out to meet Jesus who was coming to see them.
  • He showed his human side of emotion, weeping when Lazarus died.
  • He brought hope to them regarding eternal life, where He would soon face His death on the cross, where He gave Himself for our sins (Gal 1:4) defeating death, hell and the grave through His resurrection.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah says of the sin-bearing servant, he would be a man of many sorrows, familiar with bearing the burden our griefs and carry our sorrows (Isaiah 53:3-4). Jesus had carried the burden of anguish and sorrow of Lazarus’ death and He carries your burden of griefs today too.

Notice that the word griefs is plural meaning many and there are many who are grieving here today.

When we mourn over the loss of a loved one, it is my hope and prayer that those who are grieving will see Christ in those who are mourning with them.

It is my hope, prayer and sincere desire for the friends and family of Irwin, that all of those who mourn, would be comforted and consoled by the Holy Spirit of God, where beauty would be given for their ashes, the oil of joy for their mourning and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness which they now feel.

Today, through Irwin's death, God has given us an opportunity to confront our own mortality, to personally reevaluate our lives and turn to Him while there is still time.

Some of you feel that God could never forgive you of the sins you have committed and you would be right. You and I are sinners by nature and we deserve a physical death and a spiritual death. We deserve an eternal death as a just punishment for our sins.

In God’s infinite love for you, He reconciled you to Himself. He was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself not counting your sins against you, rather they were charged against His Son, for you. But God demonstrated His love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (2 Corinthians 5:18-19, Romans 5:8) that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17, NKJV).

The psalmist wrote (Psalm 90:12, NKJV), “So teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

The apostle James wrote saying, “whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14, NKJV).

Today, if you have heard God’s voice, please do not harden your hearts. The writer of the book of Hebrews says that we can boldly come to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:16).

May the LORD give us grace to properly consider how few the number of our days are and to quickly reconcile our sins against God, through His Son, through repentance and faith in His Son.

I then called for members of the Marine Corps League and Korean War Veterans Association, to come forward to render a last salute to their departed brother Marine.

Then, turning to the casket I said, "Shalom chavarim, shalom chavarim. Shalom le’hitra’ot. Shalom chavarim."

And translated in English this means, "Good-bye my friend, good-bye my friend. Good-bye, until the next time. Good-bye my friend."

The funeral director then informed everyone regarding the procession route and what would take place next.

When everyone had arrived at the cemetery, the Marines had been patiently waiting at the cemetery too since 0800, standing guard over the burial plot waiting for one of their own.

Family pallbearers then brought the body to the grave and placed it on the support frame, for the final portion of the funeral service.

Prayer at the cemetery
"Almighty God, our Father in Heaven, in your sovereign love you created this man in Your image and likeness, our loved one and friend. From the dust of the ground you created man and there we return at the end of our days.

We thank You for the privilege of knowing Irwin and the friendship we have had with him before his death. We thank You for the way he influenced the lives of many, and for Your grace through difficult times his family and friends have endured during the last days of his life. We are grateful for Your Love and amazing Grace; You, who sent us the Great Shepherd of the Sheep. You who have prepared a place for all who trust in You, and who alone are worthy of all Glory, Honor and Praise.

Almighty God and Heavenly Father may we turn to You for strength to sustain us in our weakness, may we turn to You for comfort in our affliction and pain, may we turn to You for grace and mercy in our sin against You and may You walk with us this day and forevermore. I ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus Christ, AMEN."

In closing, I would like to read the following verses to the family and friends gathered here today:

"The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace." Numbers 6:24-26.

One Marine bugler played Taps and then the other two proceeded to fold the American flag and present it to one of Irwin's sons. It was a very emotional time as the flag was presented and the rest of the family watched.

This concluded the service.



Epilogue

This was extremely difficult to do since it was my very first funeral and had such a mix of things that developed up to and including the service.

I knew that I would not be deterred from preaching the Gospel to approximately 50-60 people who were in attendance that morning. My sermon lasted no longer than 15-minutes too, by God's grace.

I asked of the LORD to calm me and to give me strength, to remove myself from what would be seen and heard where they would only hear the Lord Jesus Christ. I asked for grace to speak in love to all in attendance and I am grateful to God that those requests were answered.

In the apostle Paul's letter to the Romans he said, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel (of Christ), for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek." (Romans 1:16, NKJV, emphasis mine) and this verse was my encouragement regarding my sermon.

I knew that by standing behind the pulpit to minister to the family and friends who were there that day, I would be held accountable and responsible to God, with the task of presenting the message of salvation, hope and grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I could not waiver on that at all and betray the LORD.

As Taps was playing, I had closed my eyes and turned my head up towards the sun, still hoping that I was faithful to preach God's Word to the people this morning.

With my focus on the LORD at that moment, as the notes to the song were playing I heard within me, "You were faithful," and I cried when I heard this.

I just wanted to be faithful to the preaching of the Gospel and I am humbled by God's acknowledgement that I was.

The rest would be up to God and those who heard the Gospel. I could do nothing more than preach the truth in love, in meekness and fear, giving people the hope that is within me (Ephesians 4:15, 1 Peter 3:15).

I could not have done any of this on my own at all and I am grateful for God's strength and grace to faithfully preach His Word, to all who needed to hear.

When I was asked to perform the funeral, I had called Kristi shortly thereafter and asked her to come with me, to support me and without hesitation, she did. Once again, her prayer for me before the service was heart-felt, spirit led and filled with the Word of God, to encourage me and give me strength.

I thank God for her that she came with me.

Yesterday, I received this email from our league detachment Commandant:

Kurt,
I wanted to thank you for the special attention and comforting words you provided at the service for Win Howard on Sunday.

Your efforts as Detachment Chaplain are greatly appreciated by all the members. You showed the true spirit of "Semper Fidelis" and made the Detachment proud in honoring one of our own.

Gratefully,
Mickey Winston
Commandant
MCL Westchester County


"But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear." 2 Timothy 4:17, NKJV.


Reference

Meyers, R. (2006). e-Sword. The sword of the Lord with an electronic edge (Verson 7.8) [Computer software].

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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