Philippians 1:6 – being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus

We’re back from the funeral for Mike’s dad who died after a yearlong journey with cancer.  He was a retired Episcopal bishop living in Seattle, an Episcopalian all his life.  We, too, were brought up in the Episcopal Church.  But once my husband, I and our two sons started to grow in the knowledge of the Word about 10 years ago, (being transformed by the renewing of our minds à la Romans 12:2), we left the Episcopal church at different rates. Graham (age 27) & Wes (age 22) exited with no regrets once they moved on to college. Mike and I took a slower route, transferring first to a more orthodox-believing Episcopal Church and then finally altogether out of TEC (the Episcopal Church) in April 2009.  We now worship with all our minds and hearts, at home in a Reformed PCA community (Presbyterian Church of America). Our boys are not affiliated with any denomination, their only criterion being – does the church preach the Bible?

When Dad died we all hoped he was a believer.  He was the kind of man who didn’t seem to want to talk about his faith beyond the superficial.  Knowing that he was dying, I flew out in April during my spring break.  I prayed that I would have an opportunity to share about the Hope that awaits us.  He had to go the hospital during my 4–day visit, so we didn’t get to talk much.  I did ask my mother-in-law if she and Dad shared much about heaven.  Sadly to me, she said that they had talked only about funeral details and that she wasn’t going to bring up weightier issues if he didn’t.

When I left Dad in the hospital, parting for what I knew would be the last time on this earth, he seemed sweetly serious.  I told him I would see him again, either here in Seattle or in heaven.  He understood and affirmed the same.

Graham and his family were the next to fly out to Seattle. I thought, if ANYone can share the Gospel and be sure they were saved or at least sure that they heard the Word of God in all its fullness, then Graham could.  He is a worship leader with a student ministry down at the University of South Florida in Tampa.  But he, too, encountered pushback from his grandparents, the reaction of a couple who didn’t want to engage in something out of their comfort zone.

Then Mike flew out the first week of May to visit his dad, arriving about 10 hours before Dad actually died.  Mike took his Bible and read a few chapters out loud from Romans and from the Gospel of Mark.  Dad was mostly in and out of consciousness, but Mike’s mom was beside his bed and alertly engaged in a discussion about the Gospel.  She apparently doesn’t believe in a God of wrath – only the God of love in the New Testament.  At least we know where she stands.

The funeral was delayed 3 weeks to give us time to celebrate with Wes the end of his four years at West Point.  Mike, Wes, Graham & I flew back out to Seattle over Memorial Day weekend.  We had a lot of time to pray and to seek closure about where Dad actually is – in the presence of God or not.

The service, in its typical Episcopal liturgical style, was full of words that were very biblically sounding.  Unfortunately, many Episcopalians are ignorant of their original meaning due to the pernicious liberal movement in church scholarship, dating back to the end of the 19th century.  The church is focused NOT on the good news of God’s provision for our most serious problem- that we are saved from His justifiable wrath by Jesus dying for our sins.  Instead today’s Episcopal Church preaches the gospel of social justice. Furthermore, political peace and environmentalism are seen as pressing problems for the Church to address.

Yet, I came away from the funeral with hope for the man who had been my father-in-law for 30 years. Although we never had a serious discussion about the Bible or about God, I do think he was a believer.  But the state of his eternal soul was NOT helped by a church which continually re-interpreted its own doctrine, a set of beliefs that he had pledged to support first as a young deacon in 1951, then as a fully-ordained  priest,  and finally as a consecrated bishop in 1976.  Yet almost despite the Episcopal Church, he had sucked out basic truths from the Bible.  I saw this in the detailed instructions he left for his funeral, setting the tone with a theme that was centered on the Resurrection.  The scripture readings in particular were chosen to point all of us to the truth of life with Jesus after death.

I thank the Lord for His assurance that my father-in-law is in heaven.  Since our God is one who does more than we can ask or imagine (Eph 3:20) I am praying that not only does my mother-in-law come to a saving faith, but my brother-in-law too and many who were in that gathering of 500 in Seattle.  The words my brother-in-law delivered in the eulogy were Gospel truth.  He labored over them as an act of love, a gift to his father.  Since God’s word is alive and full of power, I am hopeful that these words of truth will not return void to the Lord, but will actually convert Steve.  After all, faith comes from hearing the word of Christ.  I’ve read of an English preacher who became converted while delivering one of his own sermons he was preaching.  I am counting on God to do the same for Steve.  May many others present in that service also come to a saving faith in the Lord.