“Every day I will bless You, and I will praise Your name forever and ever. Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall praise Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts.” (Psa 145:2-4 NASB)
Nathan began his July 4th sermon with reflections on the American Revolution. As I listened to an awe-inspiring sermon by my son, my mind traveled back to our family archives. Later at lunch I reminded Nathan of his direct connection with the War of Independence. The first Martin of our line to come to Louisiana was a Revolutionary soldier. He came with his Indian wife. That was 1803 thereabouts.
Billy Martin and his Indian wife, Elizabeth, are buried at Mitchell Cemetery in Anacoco, Louisiana. There is a large double stone with genealogical information on the reverse side. It reads:
Martin, Elizabeth – ca 1790/ca 1849
Martin, William (Billy) – 1766/ca 1840, American Revolutionary Soldier
Came to LA in 1803 from VA-KY area, [married] 1805 – Their children
1. John (Jack) [married] 1831 Rachel Miers;
2. Thomas [married] 1833 Elizabeth;
3. David [married] 1833 Catherine;
4. Wm. (Billy) Jr. [married] 1834 Mary Ann Miers;
5. Charles [married] 1842 Sarah Ann Miers;
6. Isaac [married] 1854 Mary Bass;
7. Benjamin [married] 1845 Evelina Miers
9. Levi (1830) [married] 1850 Jane Wingate
It is interesting how I descend from two of Billy Martin’s sons; William (Billy) Jr., and Charles Seth. My grandfather and grandmother were from the two lines and were cousins. In those days it wasn’t altogether uncommon for cousins to marry.
To take it a step further I have to bring you to our community/family cemetery. Buried at Campbell Creek Cemetery in Sharp, Louisiana are my forebearers all the way back to Charles Seth Martin. Laid out in a line are the graves of our son, David Lynn, my father, Lawrence Bert, my grandparents, John Allen and Frances Ella, my great grand-parents, James Erwin and Mary, and my great, great grandfather, Charles Seth Martin, the son of the revolutionary soldier.
Of course I realize that all of this has little interest for most readers. So let me get to my point. When my great grandfather, James Erwin Martin, died in 1905, my grandfather prepared a homemade headstone for him. On the front of the head stone he encased behind glass a paper which read,
“Remember friend, as you pass by,
As you are now, so once was I.
As I am now, you soon shall be.
Prepare my friend to follow me.”
Due to a broken edge of the glass and the weathering over the years, the paper is now barely readable. I’m one of the few people to know what it says. Very often when I do a funeral, I’ll call attention to those words. And more often than not, someone will want me to show them my great grandfather’s grave. Of course I’m always happy to do that. It gives me a chance to share the gospel from his headstone.
Did you get the message?
The message is that one generation replaces another.
So it might be said of my great grandfather, ‘Though he is dead, he still speaks.’ And if nothing else he is still speaking through his great grandson, yours truly, and his great-great grandson, Nathan Eric Martin.
But it wasn’t simply my great grandfather who speaks to future generations. His father, and his father’s father were believers. According to family sources, Billy Martin was a Methodist.
Their faith in God’s Christ was passed on to their children. And I have passed their faith in Jesus Christ on to my children and they to their children. That’s how it is to the be with God’s people.
In the Bible record of the righteous, we often simply read, “And he died.”
“So all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years, and he died.”
“So all the days of Enosh were nine hundred and five years, and he died.”
“So all the days of Noah were nine hundred and fifty years, and he died.”
But they died in faith.
The Bible says elsewhere,
“All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.” (Heb11:13)
God’s people have always known that greater things await them in the future. It is this hope that undergirds our faith walk.
The apostolic writer went on to include this statement;
“Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Vs16)
One of the promises God gave the righteous in ages gone by, was the promise of a heavenly and holy city. Part of Abraham’s travels included looking for that city.
What had God promised the righteous in generations gone by? He promised them a Redeemer. He promised them that one day the righteous would inherit a transformed earth. He promised them a holy and heavenly city.
It is these promises and many more that have rested in the hearts of God’s holy people from ancient time. We as new covenant believers have the same promises resting in us. We anxiously await the wonders that are reserved in heaven for us.
And this is why God’s people look at death through a different set of glasses. When the Spirit of Jesus enters the heart of a believing one, the atmosphere of heaven makes its home in the deepest part of our spiritual make-up. Jesus said that was how it would be. He said,
“If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word [instructions]; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)
The Spirit of Jesus
What does the Spirit of Jesus do in a believer? The Spirit goes to work casting out fear. Not just some fear, but all fear. Once God’s perfect love has completed its work, the only fear that remains is that wondrous fear called ‘the fear of the Lord.’ This fear is holy. It connects is to a holy God. The fear of the Lord becomes our treasure. It is filled with love, respect, and reverence for our heavenly Father.
Probably the greatest fear that the Holy Spirit dispels is the fear of death. I’ve known people who are so afraid of death that they will not attend a funeral, including the funeral of a loved one. Perhaps it is because looking at the body of the deceased leaves them with too many questions. They are bewildered. To them it represents the end. It may also remind them of a judgment to come. And for those who do attend a funeral, the wailing is heart rending. This is why at every funeral I try to minister the gospel with the love of God.
Death has lost its power
You see, the fear of death actually loses its power over a child of God. In fact in the heart of every believer is an upward longing for those things that lie ahead. Paul said it best,
“Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil3:13,14)
For many years I’ve had a habit of visiting cemeteries, especially those where some of my forebearers have been laid to rest. Don’t think it strange. When you do as many funerals as I do, cemeteries have much to say. Sometimes I get my children to accompany me. When I talk with them about their ancestors, I try to point out something of their Christian nature. I’ve done this since my now grown children were quite small.
It has been my deepest desire to instill in my children eternal values. Some of my sweetest memories have been those of talking with my children about Jesus, the heavenly Father, and all that belong to him.
“You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deu 6:7 NASB)
Some year ago when my daughter was very young, I was in my study and heard a small knock on my door. There she was. Shana looked at me, and said,
“Daddy, I don’t have anybody to hold me.”
Quickly I scooped her up, sat her in my lap, and the two of us looked out my French doors. Then I began talking with her about God’s birds, and His creation, and of His love for us.
But I did the same with my sons. We would be out raking the yard, when I’d have all three of my children sit down with me under a tree. Usually the boys would get quiet. There we would let the heavenly Father love us in His quietness. Once again I’d hear my youngest say,
“Daddy, everybody needs a hug, huh? Even God.” “Yes, baby, everybody needs a hug, even God.“
Isn’t it amazing how a child can speak such wonderful things.
Does God need a hug? I think so. Does God love to hold us? I believe He does. How much does God love us? We are unable to measure of even fathom such a love. But He loved us enough to give His own Son as a sacrifice for our sins. As the writer said,
“One sacrifice for all sins for all time.” (Heb10:12)
God doesn’t want his children to be afraid. I think this is what my grandfather wanted to say when he wrote the inscription for my great grandfather’s head stone. It wasn’t written to cause fear, but to cause those who walked by to think a bit on the eternal.
I don’t remember that much about my grandfather Martin. I do remember him playing his guitar and singing in the old country church that we attended. Wish I had more memories of him but I’ll just have to cherish the very few.
And so the apostolic writer said,
“And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to died once and after this comes judgment….”
But isn’t it interesting when folk quote that verse, they forget to look at the rest of the sentence. The rest of the sentence says,
“…so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him.” (Heb9:27,28)
Notice it says “without reference to sin.” The sin problem has been settled for eternity for all who receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. These are the believers who eagerly await Him. Only those who refuse to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior will appear for judgment.
In the meantime we walk in our testimony to the Lord. We are His living proof (witnesses) of the reality of Jesus Christ.
And thank you granddaddy for writing those words. They sure have done well for my preaching.
Please take time to listen to this song. The Lord may have something to speak in your heart.
Think about it,
Much love in Jesus,