Late Tuesday afternoon, we received word that a dear friend of ours, the kids' adopted grandpa, had gone Home. Juan "Papa" Hernandez had been ill for a long time, indeed had survived a heart operation many years ago that was experimental even then and had been in and out of the hospital for some time. About six or seven years ago, doctors had given Papa less than a year to live, but he refused to kick the bucket! This last year had seen his health decline rapidly; a few months back, doctors and surgeons met and agreed that no further surgery could be done. So Papa and Oma (Helen, his wife) went home to continue doing what they had been doing all along........praising God for each day He gave them.
The girls had just finished volleyball practice yesterday afternoon when their coach came in with her phone. She showed me the text she had received about Papa's home going, knowing we would want to know. The girls saw the look on my face and knew instantly that he was gone. There followed a torrent of tears from all of us---Amanda, Katie, Ashley, Emily, Dale, and myself---not because we wanted him back, necessarily, but because we don't know how long it will be before we see Papa again. Amanda slipped out to call Oma, who promptly told us to come on over as there was already a gathering of family and friends taking place.
When we arrived, the small house was packed. Many of the family members had been there already for some time while more folks were arriving. There were hugs and tears and much praising of our Heavenly Father for easing Papa's pain and trouble. All I could think was, "Thank You, Lord, for Heaven! Thank You for giving us the certainty that we will see him again." Papa no longer has trouble breathing; he has no pain in his shoulder or his heart; he can walk---no, RUN!---now. He gets to see loved ones and friends who have gone on before. And, even better, he gets to see Jesus face to face!!!
What a wonderful God we have Who has offered us the privilege of living forever with Him in His home. Do you realize God didn't just provide us Heaven as an alternative to hell? He didn't just provide Heaven so that we could live with Him for eternity. He provided the surety of Heaven so that we would know we could see our loved ones again. Heaven would be wonderful enough with just Jesus there, but God in His lovingkindness gave us the promise of Heaven so that we would not feel as if we had lost Papa forever. Papa trusted Jesus as his Saviour, and, the moment he took his last breath on Earth, he stepped through the pearly gates onto streets of gold. Anyone who chooses to accept Jesus' offer of salvation not only is given new life here on Earth but is also guaranteed eternal life in Heaven. All we have to do is admit that we are sinners bound for an eternal death in hell because of our sin. We couldn't possibly do enough good works to earn our way to Heaven. God knew this and formulated a plan whereby we might be saved from our sin and spend forever in Heaven with Him. He sent His Son Jesus to be born as a babe, live here on Earth for thirty-some years, and die a horrible death on the cross........just so that we could have to opportunity to be saved. Oh, we still have the choice; we can choose to accept God's free gift of salvation or we can reject it. Who in their right mind would spurn so great an offer? If you have never accepted Jesus as your Saviour, please do not hesitate any longer. The Bible describes our life here as "but a vapor", here one instant and gone the next. Papa had been sick a long time, and we knew his death was imminent; but accidents happen all the time, and people do not necessarily have the chance at the last minute to say, "Now I accept your offer, Jesus." Don't put off this important decision one moment more. Pray---just talk to God and tell Him, "Lord, I know I'm a sinner, and I can't get to Heaven on my own. I trust You, Jesus, and Your death for me on the cross to save me from my sins. Thank You, Lord." It's as simple as that.....nothing flowery or complicated, just asking and receiving. Please don't let pride or family religion or the devil's doubts and questions keep you from settling this matter today.
Please pray for this dear family as they go through the next few days and weeks, adjusting to life without Papa. Those of you who have experienced a loss of this nature know that grief hits at the most unexpected times. A memory, a snippet of song, a picture will trigger tears and heartache afresh. Our God is good; His Holy Spirit comforts us each time we need it, but human contact and prayer are essential as well.
God bless each of you today. Hug your loved ones; don't let arguments or harsh words keep you apart. Tell folks about Christ and what He's done for you. Heaven is big enough for all of us; why should we be selfish and keep it to ourselves? :-)
I Thessalonians 4: 13 - 18 But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words."