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The Pastor’s Piece – January 8, 2023

The Pastor’s Piece


January 8, 2023

On Thursday, January 5, 2023 my dad woke up in the Land of Glory! This is from my journal from last week … 

My dad is in the last hours of his earthly life. We got him home from the hospital on Monday evening. Since then, we’ve been gathering around his bedside day and night. One or more of us is with him 24/7. The Hospice nurses believe he has a few hours to as many as a couple of days to live. But Dad’s a tough old guy and he may surprise them. Regardless, God has given us this time with him and has given us time to prepare ourselves for His angels to come and take Dad to his eternal reward. God is good.

These are difficult days, yet they are days full of joy. Dad was a pillar. He stood on his conviction that the Bible was the Word of God and that is how he lived his life and taught us to live ours. Dad gave his life to Christ one Sunday night at a church service when he was 16 years old. When the altar call came, he and his dad went down the aisle together. He married my mom three years later and together they raised us 8 children – 7 boys and one girl. He has spent his whole life with his focus clearly and unmistakably on heaven. I want to say, God gave me the best dad ever. I took hold of his hand today as he lay there waiting for the angels to come and I said: “Dad, you were a great dad. Thank you for teaching me what it means to love the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. I’m proud to be the son of Paul Dean Cernek. You were the best dad a child could ever ask for – and I didn’t even have to ask – God just gave you to me.” What made dad so great was that he loved the Lord in uncompromising conviction. He was a pretty special guy, but all that matters is that he lived with heaven in full view straight ahead.

Dad lived well and Dad died well. Dying well is something of a lost art today. We don’t talk about it or preach about it or think about it, and we certainly don’t train our people in how to do it. We have “grief recovery” classes that help those who have lost loved ones. But when was the last time you attended a class on how to die well? By this I don’t mean how to plan your own death, but what I mean is to live with a conscious, abiding faith in Jesus Christ to the very end of life, and give a joyful testimony to the watching world left behind.

If you do not believe in another, higher world, if you believe only in the flat material world around you, if you believe that this is your only chance at happiness – if that is what you believe, then you are disappointed when the world does not give you a good measure of its riches. In earlier generations people believed in two worlds, and they knew that the next world was the “real” world, the one that would last forever. And so they lived in this world (the solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short one) with one eye looking forward to the next one. They understood that this world could not, cannot, and does not bring you ultimate happiness.

Christians are destined to live and die feeling slightly (and maybe more than slightly) out of place. A famous Southern gospel song called This World Is Not My Home says it this way:

“This world is not my home I’m just-a- passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore. O Lord, I know, I have no friend like you. If heaven’s not my home O lord what can I do? The angel’s beckon me from heaven’s open door. And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.”

What a difference that makes – this vision of a world beyond this world. That vision of heaven keeps us moving forward when it would be easier to give up and go back. We can never go back! 

We live by a different standard and we die with a different hope. Death for the believer is not what it is for the unbeliever. For those who know Jesus, death is going home, to our real home, our eternal home, to the place where when we get there, we will say, “This is where I belong.” 

Kevin Cernek is Lead Pastor of Martintown Community Church in Martintown, Wisconsin)