Tag Archives: life and death

Thoughts On A Renewed Lease

I don’t want to dwell on the subject too much, but I’m still experiencing new insights and emotions stemming from my recent heart attack and surgery.

Today, I sat through the funeral service for the father of some childhood friends of ours. Thankfully, he was a follower of Christ, and his homegoing was more of a celebration than a time of mourning.

But it was when I walked up to the casket a little while ago that the cold reality of my own mortality chilled me. It’s one thing to say you know that death will come to us all, that one day we all will breath our last breath and meet God, but had it not been for a shift change and a doctor who did one more blood test, I would have been in a casket last week!

It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). I could have been in the presence of God at this moment, but I’m not. I could have been lying there, stiff, cold, dressed in my best suit. I could have been dead, but I wasn’t.

Yet, it will happen, eventually.

You, me, all of us…it will happen.

But here’s the disturbing thing: no matter how much I’d like to boast to the contrary, I’m not ready, at least not nearly enough.

Sure, my salvation is secure; that’s not the issue. I will be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and my works will have nothing to do with whether or not I will enter into the presence of my Father and King; by grace I am saved through faith.

But I wasn’t ready last week, and I’m barely more ready, today. What am I talking about?

I wasn’t living with the immediate expectation that at any moment my number would be called, that my appointment was near. Maybe this is why I did not have a real sense of urgency. I was living like tomorrow was a given.

But it’s not.

Some have asked, “I bet you feel like you’ve been given a new lease on life, don’t you?” Well, yeah! But it’s only a “lease,” and one day what I’ve been given must be returned.

Did you know there are penalties for returning a leased car in poor condition?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been acting more like I own this ride, but in reality I should be cleaning out the cup holders and doing a little vacuuming.

I don’t know when my lease is up.

Do you?

(Expect more thoughts on this subject as reality continues to sink in.)

 

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Filed under Life/Death

When I Die, Will They Come?

If you’re looking for an inspirational blog post to start off your day, this one might not be for you. It’s dark and rainy as I write this, so don’t expect a lot of literary sunshine.

You see, I went to a funeral, yesterday, which is nothing new… I go to them all the time as a preacher and chaplain. Heck, it’s a common thing to go to more funerals as one gets older, and I’m certainly getting older. After a while everybody you know starts dying off.

But a common worry – yes, a worry – struck me as I sat in the funeral home chapel. It’s a low rumble of a fear that is noticeable only to me, but one that seems to be growing in intensity with every funeral I attend.

It’s the fear that no one will come to my funeral.

Take it however you want, but every time I go to a funeral and see empty seats in the chapel or church sanctuary, I wonder what it will be like when I die. Will I have affected the lives of enough people to warrant my life being memorialized or celebrated?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a King Herod who wishes people to mourn when I die. No, all I’m afraid of is that I will not have made a big enough difference to be missed.

A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. – Ecclesiastes 7:1

I’m not afraid of dying, per se; I’m afraid of dying having not done enough to be missed when I’m gone.

Do any of you ever feel this way?

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Yes, I’m Still At It

“You Still Preaching?”

I don’t hear it too much anymore, but I used to hear it rather frequently. Family members, old friends, former acquaintances, and the average person I never wanted to see again would come up to me and ask, “Hey, you still preaching?”

Maybe it’s the thing to do. Maybe it is customary to ask a person if they are still doing what they were doing the last time you saw them. It makes sense. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve thought of asking:

  • “Are you still unemployed?”
  • “You still sick with that sickness thing?”
  • “You still married?”
  • “You still running off at the mouth about things you know nothing about?”
  • “You still planning to party with Hitler for eternity?”
  • Are you still as stupid as you used to be?

I just don’t get why people ask if I am still preaching. It’s like they think I’ll change my mind or walk away from the ministry, or something.

Some Statistics

In reality, it’s not that unreasonable to ask someone who once accepted the call to ministry if he is still preaching. Even though it sorta feels like an insult, I shouldn’t be surprised by other people’s shock. I mean, it has been 34 years since I made my calling public. I’ve known more than one who has walked away the first year.

If more people knew the statistics, few would ever enter the ministry. Stop and think about it, would you enter a career with the highest rate of heart attacks? Would you take out student loans for a degree that demands you work multiple jobs? Consider these sad facts…

  • 70% felt God called them to pastoral ministry before their ministry began, but after three years of ministry, only fifty percent still felt called.
  • 80% of pastors’ spouses wish their spouse would choose another profession.
  • 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • 80% of adult children of pastors surveyed have had to seek professional help for depression.
  • 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor.
  • 80% of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.

Still Preaching

Yet, I’m still preaching. It may surprise people who haven’t seen me in a while, but I’m still doing the Lord’s work and still following the call I first heard when I was 16. It may sound strange, but I can’t help it.

“But if I say I’ll never mention the LORD or speak in his name, his word burns in my heart like a fire. It’s like a fire in my bones! I am worn out trying to hold it in! I can’t do it!” – Jeremiah 20:9 NLT

“For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” – 1 Corinthians 9:16 KJV

photo (16)June 11 was the anniversary of my father’s death. He died the week before Father’s day (just like my wife’s father did last week). Not long ago I went to his grave and placed my Bible on his tombstone. There, glistening in the sun, were the gilded words “Rev. Anthony C. Baker.”

“Daddy,” I said, “I’m still at it.”

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Life/Death, ministry, Preaching, Relationships and Family