It was a bittersweet holiday for three families as their loved ones were unexpectedly called home shortly before Christmas. While differing in ages and places in life, all three were believers whose lives reflected Christ. I didn’t know all of them personally, but they or their families had a nexus to my life so I have been thinking a lot about them.
Frank Pastore, a former pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, was a radio talk show host on KKLA in Los Angeles. A vibrant and outspoken believer, Frank was a great communicator, apologist and Christian theologian. Many years ago I attended one of his apologetics courses when it was offered at my church, Grace Baptist. Last year, I was happy to hear Frank interview a pastor from my church and a Deputy Sheriff from my Department who coordinate a prison ministry in the local jails. More recently, I met Frank at a prophecy conference, which I wrote about here, and just a few months ago, watched him open in prayer the Los Angeles Harvest Crusade for Greg Laurie.
Lenya Lusko was the five-year-old daughter of Pastor Levi Lusko, who is frequently a guest speaker at Harvest Christian Fellowship where my sister attends. He is also involved in the annual Harvest Crusades with Greg Laurie. At Harvest America last summer, which I wrote about here and here, Pastor Lusko coordinated a crusade-wide tweeting event, by asking everyone to tweet a picture of their feet in the foreground of their view of the stage. It was nutty and zany and great fun, and during the crusade #HarvestAmerica trended on Twitter. Pastor of Fresh Life Church in Montana, Lusko and his family have been bold witnesses in the face of overwhelming grief, and have released a YouTube video sharing their thoughts about Lenya’s home-going and legacy, which can be viewed here. They report that little Lenya while young, was always eager to invite people to church. God wastes nothing of our pain. After the Lusko family extended a similar invitation to the hospital and emergency staff who attended Lenya, a nurse and two paramedics made professions of faith during the Christmas Eve service.
Lastly, Gerrie was my friend from church and Bible study, whose pecan melt recipe I shared here. She, along with her daughter Susan and daughter-in-law Jana coordinated special Christmas events for the ladies at Grace. Preparing Your Heart and Home for the Holidays focused on simple recipes and craft ideas that would help ladies make their homes more festive. I was a volunteer who helped make the finished display crafts for the event, all of which were afterwards packed up and sent to missionaries around the world who were sponsored by my church. While we were crafting, Gerrie would try out new recipes on us, and the most popular would be prepared for the event. She warmly welcomed me like family during a very difficult time in my life, and the heartfelt inclusion was much appreciated. Gerrie certainly had the gift of hospitality and the gift of encouragement, both of which she exercised frequently, much to the benefit of those around her.
Besides being an influence in my life in some way, what did these three people have in common? All were followers of Christ, all had the hope of heaven and all were welcomed into the presence of God when he called them home shortly before Christmas.
Therefore we are always confident, knowing that, whilst we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord: (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8, KJV
At some point in their lives, each confessed a need to be forgiven of their sins, and each accepted the free gift of salvation which is offered by Jesus. He has paid the price for all of our sins so that any of us who accept his sacrifice are declared righteous and can be welcomed into the presence of God.
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him. 2 Samuel 14:14, NIV
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45, NIV
Being a good person doesn’t earn us salvation—God doesn’t grade on a curve, and nothing in our power to accomplish can make us righteous in the sight of a Holy God. Even baptism doesn’t grant us salvation—we must confess that we need Christ to forgive us, and ask him to do so. Jesus is the only way of salvation, as he clearly stated.
Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. John 14:6, KJV
I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness. John 12:46, NIV
The promise of eternal life awaits those who follow Jesus. For those who reject the free offer of Christ however, a very different promise is made.
“If anyone hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge that person. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world. There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.” John 12:47-48, NIV
Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake: some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt. Daniel 12:2, NIV
Each of us must choose for ourselves, where we will spend eternity once our brief lives are over, and despite what society tells us, there are only two choices to be made—only two paths we can follow. We can choose to follow Christ and spend eternity with him, or we can choose to deny him and spend eternity separated from him.
Our lives on this earth are finite. The home-goings of Frank, Gerrie and Lenya might seem untimely to us, but none were untimely to God. Not one of them left this planet one moment earlier than they were supposed to. And while God knows exactly how much time we all have here, he doesn’t share that information with us. Gerrie had more time than Frank, and the both of them had much more time than Lenya. However, each one of them chose to follow Christ in the time God had given them. And regardless of how many years we are granted, it is the most important choice that we will ever make. Once our time here is over, the opportunity for choosing is also at an end.
Frank, Lenya and Gerrie chose to accept his free gift of salvation, and are now in the presence of Jesus. Faith in Christ changes a person’s life, to be sure. But more importantly, it changes their death.
On the journey toward Home,