AN EXHORTATION AT THE FUNERAL OF HERB THE HORRIBLE

Sarasota, FL. Oct. 27, 2014. Thank you all for coming today, to share with us in the celebration of Herb Anderson’s life, and to share in our grief, and to worship together the living God who made us all, and numbered our days before the first one came to pass (Psalm 139:16). Let us seek comfort in the only place true comfort exists, in the innerant Word of God our Father and Jesus Christ His son, whom He sent to die on the cross for us, an act of incomprehensible love for sinners like us, so undeserving. And believing in Him and who He was and what He did for us, we might spend eternity with Him in the Mansions of our LORD. But my voice can only convey God’s eternal truth to the ear, the Holy Spirit must convey it from the ear to the heart. Please pray with me that He will do that very thing here in the next few minutes.

Holy Spirit, convey your truth to our hearts this day. Fall afresh on us. Work in our sad and grieving hearts that peace that passes all understanding. As we see up close and so painfully personally the reality of death that awaits us all, please open our eyes to your truth and our hearts to your infinite love beyond our deserving. Holy Spirit of the living God, fill our lives with love and gratitude…make us one in heart and mind, make us one in love; humble, caring, selfless, sharing. In Christ our Savior’s name we pray, Amen.

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord (Job 1:21). The Lord gave us Herb, and the Lord has taken him away; blessed be the name of the Lord.

My earliest recollection of Herb was at age 12 at the Henderson Country Fair in western Illinois. The fair was the height of the summer social season for Midwestern farm boys—the sap-filled boys of summer. Herb often went home with the Grand Champion Trophy for his Hereford Steers. We got into a lot of mischief at the county fair. In fact we got into a lot of mischief throughout our teenage years, and were walking proof that God is indeed merciful—we both survived adolescence without incarceration. We went to different schools but were in the same conference and played football against one another. Herb also had an extensive collection of water skiing trophies and ribbons—a multi-talented jock. And to top it off he was an excellent ballroom dancer, taught by his Mom. He was the only country boy I ever knew who did such a thing, and none of his contemporaries dared tease him about it—the advantage of being the biggest, orneriest kid in the county. And of course, as a result he got all the girls. We lost track of one another after we grew up and moved away from rural Illinois, but reconnected about 18 years later, in 1979, when we both found ourselves here in Sarasota, FL, a lovely, quiet little beach town in those days, accept for a few months in the winter season. We became close friends then, fishing and sailing and tent camping and canoeing Florida’s rivers. One summer I talked him into joining me on a men’s retreat called Walk to Emmaus, an intense spiritual experience, as it turned out—an encounter with the Living God and Jesus Christ, his Son whom He sent to save lost sinners like Herb and me. Half way thru the weekend Herb whispered to me during a break in the program: “I’m going over the fence tonight. I can’t stand this. Are you coming with me?” By God’s grace I talked him out of that, and by the time the weekend was over Herb was a changed man, as his wife can attest. He then sat under the teaching of Pastor Larry Edison at Covenant Life Presbyterian Church for many years, and we had the most lively discussions of God’s eternal truths during our sailing and camping trips. Then he met a lovely southern belle named Barb, and she was all he could talk about. There was only one problem, in his view. “JD, he says, “she’s high maintenance.” Well, he decided she was worth it and they were married in our living room overlooking Robert’s Bay on Siesta Key. And I can stand here today, having known Herb most of my 71 years, and tell you she was the best thing that ever happened to him, the greatest blessing that I ever saw God bestow on him. And then, in his illness he became the highest maintenance imaginable for an unimaginable length of time (7 years) for his beloved bride, and through it all she was a Proverbs 31 wife if there ever was one in this darkening, degenerate age in which we live. God bless you and keep you, dear Barb.

Now let me share with you all some of those eternal truths Herb and I gloried in under sail on sunny days in the Gulf off Siesta Key, and around campfires throughout the state.

Hear and meditate on these words on the unchanging character of God as he has revealed himself to us in the Holy Bible, from Psalm 145:17-21:

The Lord is righteous in all his ways and kind in all his works.The Lord is near to all who call on him,to all who call on him in truth.He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;he also hears their cry and saves them.The Lord preserves all who love him,but all the wicked he will destroy.My mouth will speak the praise of the Lord,and let all flesh bless his holy name forever and ever.

The Hebrew word here translated LORD in all capital letters emphasizes our covenant keeping God, that is, our promise-keeping God. He makes some wonderful promises in the Bible, promises that will not, cannot be broken. God does not change his mind or break his promises. As we are gathered here today, confronted with the hard, overwhelming reality of death, let us look to some of these promises as the only true comfort we have in life and death. I speak to you as a dying man speaking to dying men and women, offering you, begging you to receive these promises in your heart and cling to them, trust in them, as absolute truth, the only hope we have in life and death.

From John 3:16, Jesus’ own words: For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Here is God himself, the Son of God, promising us that believing in Him, believing he is who he said he was, believing his promises, gains us eternal life with him. Doesn’t that strike you as an amazing reward for the simple act of believing? It’s a radical promise indeed from a promise-keeping, Almighty God. He does not promise that whoever believes in Him and keeps his nose clean and works hard enough in his life and scores well enough on the judgment day exam will have eternal life. He says whoever believes in him, period, as he has revealed himself to us in the Bible, should not perish but have eternal life. No caveats, no ifs, no buts, no divine loopholes. Martin Luther called this the gospel in a nutshell. Gospel means good news. Now tell me, can you think of news that could be better than that. It is as good as good news can get. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. Pastor/author Tim Keller said, “If I believe that Jesus Christ died and was resurrected in my place, then I don’t have to have great faith, I don’t have to have a surrendered heart, I don’t have to have a perfect life, I just have to believe and I am saved!”

One day soon, perhaps very soon, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10-11).

Hear another promise, the Holy Spirit speaking through the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:9: …if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Same promise, different words. That God raised Jesus from the dead, an extraordinary miracle, the first of many as the Bible says in another place, is the basis for our knowing that believers will rise from the dead to eternal life with Him. But note Paul says believe in your heart. You may profess belief, but it must be sincere, from the depths of your heart. God will not be mocked, and he knows your words before you speak them. And if you believe with your heart you will joyfully confess with your mouth, that Jesus is Lord of heaven and earth. And you will be saved. That’s as good as the good news can get.

A third and final promise—there are many more in the Bible—a third and final promise for your comfort this day. From John 14:6, Jesus’ own words again: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. Not a fashionable promise in this culture that celebrates religious diversity, all the quaint little customs of a thousand religions. But Jesus said he is the only way: No one comes to the Father except through me. Again…radical. And Jesus gives you two choices. You can either believe He is who He says He is or you can write Him off as a lying crackpot. He offers or accepts no middle ground, such as “a nice guy who offered a lot of good advice but not the son of God…” or “a nice guy but surely not the only way to heaven.” Neither is an option. In Jesus’ own plain and simple words: I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Dear ones, please give these promises of God very serious consideration. Where you spend eternity depends on it. In the privacy of your bedroom ask God to open your eyes to His truth, to work in your heart this amazing gift of faith, of belief in his promises. Let us pray.

Dear Father, you have promised that because you so loved the world you sent your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal with live with you. O God, you have promised that if we confess with our mouth that Jesus Christ is our LORD, who died for our sins, who miraculously rose from the dead and if we believe it with all our hearts we shall be saved. Saved from eternal damnation in the outer darkness where there is never-ending weeping and gnashing of teeth to an everlasting life of incomprehensible joy that no eye has seen, no ear heard nor mind conceived that you have prepared for those who love you and trust in your unbreakable promises. By your Amazing Grace, Holy God, fill us to overflowing with that gift of faith, that faith that we cannot conjure up on our own, that faith that must be bestowed upon us by your Holy Spirit. O Lord we plead with you as unworthy beggars on our knees, forgive us for our shameful ingratitude, our indifference to the grace you shower upon us minute by minute, that grace that we inhale with every breath we take, that grace that we are so painfully made aware of when the life of a beloved friend, husband, father, grandfather, and uncle ends. Thank you for bringing Herb Anderson into our lives. We pray Lord, that at this very moment he is weeping in joy beyond words in your presence, as we weep in grief at his absence. Soothe our aching hearts with that peace that passes all understanding that comes from You alone, and in whom we give all the praise and glory. In Christ our Savior’s name we pray, Amen.

A reminiscence of Herb’s life: The Sad, Sad, Story of Herb the Horrible

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2 Responses to “AN EXHORTATION AT THE FUNERAL OF HERB THE HORRIBLE”

  1. Eric France Says:

    Dear JD,
    Thanks SO much for sharing!!! Thoroughly enjoyed each installment…each in their own unique way…especially your reconnecting with your former fighter pilot friend…and your review of Keller’s latest offering on prayer. Love you…miss you!
    Agape,
    Eric

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jdwetterling Says:

    Thanks, Erik.

    Like

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