God Still Needs Older People

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

 

And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 NLT

Several years ago now, my friend Jean passed away at the age of 94. She lost her husband a couple years earlier and then became ill with cancer. She was telling her daughter she did not even know why she was still living. She felt old and useless. But one day her

young health care nurse came for a routine visit. She told Jean about her own mother who had Alzheimer’s and would cry and shake constantly. Jean suggested buying a doll for her to hold. The young nurse did so and came back to tell Jean that it worked! No more shaking and crying. Jean was still helping people even though she was widowed, old and sick.

When Daniel was young he purposed in his heart to be true to God. Daniel 1:8 specifically mentions being true to God regarding his diet and health. We are not only stewards of God’s money but also time. The longer we can hold onto our health and strength, the longer we can serve God with all of our heart and strength. Daniel served God faithfully in his younger years, but as Daniel became old God was not finished using him. In Daniel 5 Daniel appears to have been overlooked by the current king, but just as God reminded the butler about Joseph at just the right moment, the queen remembered Daniel at just the right time. Daniel may have been brought out of retirement, so to speak, for that one night. Even so, God was not finished with Daniel even then. Daniel had a future with the next empire. A future in which the king who overlooked him had no share. Just like He used my friend Jean and just like He used Daniel, God will continue using us as long as we keep serving him with whatever heart and strength we have.

Remember Psalms 23:6, God’s goodness and mercy shall be with me all the days of my life! And that was definitely true in Daniel’s case..

David also has a promise for the elderly who remain godly.

But the godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God.  Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. Psalm 92:12-14 NLT

A few years ago I was visiting an elderly shut-in from my church one morning. As I got ready to go I asked him to pray with me. He prayed that God would use both of us to share the Gospel that day. I thought to myself, he must be talking about me, because he will be here in his home alone all day. There is nothing he can do. I was so wrong! That evening when I got home from my last Bible study he called. He was so happy and excited. The cable repairman had come by the house, and while working on his TV he saw some Christian literature my elderly friend had on an end table. The repairman started asking questions about God, and my friend invited him to church. As I hung up I was reminded about his prayer and how I thought there was nothing he could do. God sure showed me! God showed me He will always use whatever health and strength we have to bear fruit even in our older years. When we love God with all of our health and strength He increases our health and strength even in old age.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

The Last Prayer of Woodrow Hill

I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.

I am writing from the Beautiful Tampa bay area which was home to Jean and Woodrow Hill.

This last Thanksgiving my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church family lost a dear patriarch and friend, when Woodrow Hill passed away at 95. I had been friends with Woodrow and his wife Jean, ever since I moved to Tampa ten years ago, but I still learned some intriguing things about him, after his death, that I never knew before. Do you find like me, that you always seem to learn something you never knew about someone after they died?  Oh, I knew Woodrow was a man of God. Always a cheerful smile on his face, even when I would go see him at the hospital, or when he would be delivering bread to the church’s community service center. Woodrow and his wife Jean would always tell me they were praying for me and my ministry. That means so much to me. It also means a lot to me when people comment on my blog posts and tell me they are praying for me or even leave a prayer as a comment. It helps to know I am not alone in this spiritual warfare. However, it wasn’t until he died, and I came over to his home, to visit with the family, that I learned some amazing things.

Woody’s stepdaughter said he became her daddy when she was 12. He was the best dad a girl could ever have, and she does not have one unpleasant memory after her mom married. The daughter (she never felt like a stepdaughter) went on to talk about Woodrow’s prayer life. As she sat in her daddy’s chair, she told me “he would be up all night praying and, by listening to the way he prayed you would think Jesus must be sitting in that chair right there that you are in.” The mother and daughter then both told me that the night before he died he was up all night praying for all of his church family, blood family, and neighbors until 6 in the morning! They told me he mentioned my name in his prayer, and it sent chills down my spine to know that this godly Patriarch had prayed for me in his last prayer.  At first I thought to myself, “Wow! He really appreciated my ministry!” Later as I recalled the incident, I thought, “All they said was that he prayed for me. They didn’t say how. He may have been praying for me to repent and be saved!”

I look back, and I wonder, why did he pray all night the night before he died? Why was he mentioning every soul he ever met?  Did he have a premonition that he was about to die, and wanted to say one last, long prayer, not for himself, but for everyone else before he died? This reminds me of only one other person-Jesus! As He hung on the cross, He told John to care for His mother. He prayed for His Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him. Woodrow and Jesus were alike, as while they both faced death, their thoughts and prayers were only for those around them. Woody, like Jesus, did not waste his last breath on himself, but used those last few precious breaths to bless others one last time.

I believe Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, and was able to live the selfless life that Jesus lived because He prayed the selfless prayers that Jesus prayed. I don’t think we can expect to live the way Jesus lived in the multitude, until we pray the way Jesus prayed when He was all alone. In Matthew 14:1-32 we read about Jesus walking on the water, while Peter at first walked on the water and then stumbled and fell. Earlier, in that chapter we saw Jesus spending all night in prayer. I wonder, if Peter had prayed the way Jesus had prayed the night before, could he have walked the way Jesus walked on the water? Would His prayer life kept his eyes focused on Jesus instead of the waves, and those watching him? While walking on the water, Jesus was using no special powers that were not also available to Peter.  Later, in Acts 9:36-41 Peter does something remarkable that people thought only Jesus could do. Peter raises a community services leader back to life! Dorcas, the Christian Church’s first community services leader had died. Peter went over and raised her back to life! Remember me mentioning, how Woodrow delivered bread to the community services center? One day he will be raised back to life as well. This story tells me how precious community services leaders and workers are to God! I don’t read anywhere in my New Testament about a conference president, pastor or Bible Worker being raised back to life, but God raised a community services leader back to life! They must be very special to Him. Now look with me at what Peter did before he raised her to life. (Of course it was the Father, not Peter doing the work, just as Jesus said He did nothing of Himself, but it was the Father doing the works. See John 5:19-21)

But Peter asked them all to leave the room; then he knelt and prayed. Turning to the body he said, “Get up, Tabitha.” And she opened her eyes! When she saw Peter, she sat up! Acts 9:40 NLT

When Peter fell in the waves, no record of Peter praying first is mentioned. Of course when he cried out for Jesus to save him, that was a prayer which Jesus immediately answered! But here we see Peter praying the way Jesus prayed before He worked the miracles that Jesus worked. Peter could do the works that Jesus did, once He prayed the prayers that Jesus prayed.

The night before Jesus died He was up all night praying, and asked His disciples to pray with him, but when His disciples fell asleep He quickly excused their humanity, saying the Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. While men in their prime of life fell asleep trying to pray, 2,000 years later, Woodrow, a  95 year -old man prayed through the night. Woodrow was a true disciple of Jesus, doing something Jesus asked His disciple to do 2,000 years ago, which they did not. Oh how precious Woodrow’s prayer must have been to Jesus!

It’s no mystery how Woodrow was able to leave such a legacy behind for his family. Woodrow was able to live the way Jesus lived, because he prayed the way Jesus prayed.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson on prayer and Discipleship here.

Christmas in Light of the Cross, Day 15, (As far as the Curse is Found)

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my home church. Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area. This is my home church. Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church.

But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more. Romans 5:20 NKJV

On Thanksgiving Day, this year my Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church Family lost a dear patriarch, when 95 year old Woody Hill passed away. Strangers would stop Woody and his wife in public and tell them they had a special beauty and glow. His children say it was Jesus in Him. Woody was always busy helping his family, his church and his neighbors. At age 85, when he heard a prowler was near a neighbor’s home, he grabbed his pistol and went out into the night to scare the prowler away, which he did!

Last night as I was visiting the family, I was awed by the time they told me he spent in prayer. Entire nights. That sounds like only One other Person I know. The only Person who gets a capital letter when only calling Them a Person. His family told me the week that he died, he was praying in his chair until 6 in the morning, and the way he prayed you would think Jesus was sitting right next to him. They told me how Woody prayed for the church and neighbors and everyone he knew including me! How humbling!

Having labored from Connecticut to Chiclayo Peru, I have met many people, who when I see them or hear their name, I quickly remember them and associate them with church. But Woody will always remind me  of Jesus!

After Woody’s passing on Thanksgiving Day, another dear elderly friend, Julian passed away just yesterday morning. Julian was my golf buddy as well going with me on my group Bible studies with his wife, and also traveling with me when I would preach out of town.

Instead of ruining my Christmas this has made it even more meaningful to me.  A song keeps echoing in my heart and mind.“Joy to the World!” One verse especially keeps repeating itself over and over. The third verse, which proclaims the complete power of the gospel. Because of sin we have so many sorrows climaxing with death. But a little baby, lying in a manger about 2,000 years ago came to make His blessings flow as far as the curse is found! Because of Him we will live again! Joy to the world!

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found. –Joy to the World, Issac Watts, 1719.