It took me a little while to warm up to this story but I am glad I stayed with it. Redemption is such a big word… and we often feel we are beyond it. What character Brock Matthews finds out is that putting the ‘code’ in place poses a remarkable power to set things right. But getting to that code….well, it’s quite an adventure.
The relationship between Brock Matthews and his brother, father, wife, son and even himself all are impacted in this story. If you have ever felt that you wish there was something you could change about your past that would impact your future, I think you will get a lot out of this book.
This book is Christian Fiction. The ‘Christian’ element is not so heavy handed that it sounds like a sermon. Well written in my opinion. I look forward to reading more from James L. Rubart.
Below are the notes for the eulogy I delivered at the funeral of my dear friend and church elder Mike Riley on March 2, 2017 at Forsythe Church of Christ. There was standing room only and an overflow crowd to honor Mike and support his family. Kevin Riley offered the first eulogy and there’s never been a more fitting one. Every dad would love to have his son speak about him in the way Kevin did. An audio recording of the entire service is available HERE. jd
NO GREATER HOPE
It has been a few days since we said goodbye to Mike Riley, but the reminders of what he meant to us will continue to persist throughout our lives. I am grateful that we are having this assembly today to honor him and I’m grateful that you are here to honor our friend and his beautiful family.
I have no doubt that for the rest of our days members of the Forsythe Church of Christ will hear the laughter, wisdom, and joy of Mike Riley throughout these halls and in this pulpit. I am sure that when we pass by a certain pew or sit down in a specific room we will have flashbacks of a time when Mike was right there beside us urging us on in our faith, encouraging us when we were low, sharing a story from his arsenal of interesting experiences. He paid attention to us, all the while he was battling cancer and other illnesses, but you wouldn’t really know that.
I know that many of you know him outside of these walls. Lifelong friends, Rotarians, Real Estate professionals, medical professionals, and many others connect his presence with the times of your lives that you loved the most. Family members and friends alike have a nearly inexhaustible supply of stories and experiences with Mike Riley. He had a way of bringing life to every moment. We will miss that.
Surely Mike had a natural disposition that drew people to him. There is no question that the foundation of Mike’s joy and spirit was his faith. Mike had a way of being a devoted Christian that didn’t make anyone uncomfortable. He loved the Lord and he loved his family and he loved people. He loved his church and the doors were never open that he and Mignon didn’t come inside. They came early enough to visit with anyone who was here. They participated openly. They served devotedly. Mike Riley, like his father Max, loved and served this church for decades as an excellent leader.
Friends, family, church, community – they all were made better by Mike Riley’s presence.
I believe this is because Mike found his hope in the Lord Jesus Christ. How else can one explain the joyous demeanor of one who has lived for so long under the threat of cancer. He did not succumb to self pity (that any of us could witness), but even made sure to visit friends and associates who had cancer, often giving them a copy of Dr. Amy Givler’s book about surviving cancer. He took the most painful element of his life and used it to bless others. No wonder we loved him. He was a great example of the Lord in whom he trusted and followed.
Yes, it was hope in the life-giving power of Jesus Christ that kept Mike smiling in the face of giants all of his days. He had hope. Hope in the Lord can carry us through the most difficult days. There is no greater hope than what is expressed in Luke 24.
On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. 2 They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, 3 but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. 5 In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? 6 He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 7 ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” 8 Then they remembered his words.
There is no greater hope than that which arises from the empty tomb. Jesus is alive. No amount of philosophical reflection can overcome that one historical fact. Mike had no greater hope than the hope that he received by following after Jesus Christ in his life, with hope for eternal life given by a Risen Savior.
I pray that all of us would pursue a life of hope on this basis.
In 1939 a preacher from another generation published a book of sermons. In one of them Clovis Chappell tells of the experience of the passing of his father.
“Years ago, I watched my father pass … He had a good voice. He used to lead the singing in our village church. As the end drew near, he stretched out those once strong hands, that were very weak now, and sang, “Jesus, Lover of my soul, let me to thy bosom fly.” He was joyously confident that the Everlasting Arms, upon which he was leaning as he pushed his tired feet into the waters of death, would sustain him through those waters, and on into the eternal yonder. …Therefore, we join our voices with that of Saint Paul, and shout, “the victory is ours, thank God!” (Clovis Chappell, Values That Last, 1939)
I have no doubt that Mike is shouting today, “The victory is mine, thank God!”
I offer to you one of Mike’s favorite blessings:
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”
Because of hope, it is well with our souls.
(At this point in the service Tommy Inman beautifully led us all in singing It Is Well With My Soul.)
The Lord’s Prayer together to end our service.
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
An amazing book. I regret I did not read this as a younger man. The insights into the lives of the ‘disinherited’ and the life of Jesus were eye opening and challenging. The final chapter presented hope and a path. I wish it were required reading for every college freshman or even high school seniors.
As I look back through it I highlighted much of the book. I especially appreciated the viewpoint of Jesus as someone who could be viewed as one of the ‘disinherited’ … living an impoverished life under the rule of a foreign power that did not identify with his race. Sometimes in exalting the Son of God perspective we can lose sight of the man Jesus of Nazareth who lived in a particular setting and time with challenges that were enhanced by the powerful Roman establishment.
As I read this and considered what Mr. Thurman was presenting I wondered how this book could have been written today with the refugee crisis in mind? A lot to think about. The answer, as Thurman rests his case, is love as taught and demonstrated by Jesus Christ. But he doesn’t suggest it is easy or uncomplicated.
Very grateful to have spent time with this book and Im sure I will return to it.
After reading Philip Gulley’s Harmony series I was interested in knowing more about the Quaker approach to life and God. I found this entirely refreshing and enjoyable. The subjects are interesting and offer insight into a people in world who are committed to peace and spreading the joy of being good neighbors to all.
If for nothing else, I think the simple philosophy of this book provides a good outline for Christian living, even if one doesn’t agree with all of the particulars. The writing style is warm and leaves one thinking that spending an hour with Robert Lawrence Smith would be like spending an hour with an old friend.
Worthless things. I wonder if we had an inventory of everything we looked at today whether it was online or in our non-digital world … how much of our vision was held captive by worthless things?
Oh I know you’re thinking about pornography or the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition (which is pornography, in case you haven’t figured that out) or some other lust-fueled imagery. Yes, those are worthless things from which we need to turn our eyes.
But there’s more.
What things are you looking at that make your blood boil? Is that steam coming from your ears because you didn’t like someone’s latest political comment or you were offended by an inappropriate joke?
What things are you looking at that are merely gossip fodder? Stalking someone’s Facebook page to find out what they’ve been up to so you can talk about it with your friends? Worthless.
Maybe some things are ‘worthless’ because they are not helpful or because they betray a prejudice or because they expose a hateful attitude.
Worthless things would include the things that take our attention away from God and experiencing his presence.
The world is full of beautiful things and beautiful people to observe and enjoy. Why do museums and art galleries exist? Because there are things that are not worthless but enriching to look at and gain from. Why is it when we enter a restaurant or coffee shop the chairs at the table face one another? So that we can look at people we like and learn from and encourage. Why can we set our vision on a sunset or a campfire or a waterfall and contemplate the greatness of God? Or maybe just remember our blessings? Those are not worthless things.
Turn my eyes away from vanity [all those worldly, meaningless things that distract—let Your priorities be mine], And restore me [with renewed energy] in Your ways. ~ Psalm 119:37, AMP
Each of us will have to think about and identify the worthless things that capture our vision, the things that appeal to our vanity and self-focus.
I was thinking about some of the healings in the Bible, particularly blind Bartimaeus.
And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.”And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. ~ Mark 10:51-52 (ESV)
If you had been born blind and Jesus chose to heal you, I wonder what you might consider the Psalmist to mean when he appeals to God to “Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;and give me life in your ways.” Maybe you would just look at everything you could see, or maybe you would search out the things of God. I don’t know if we can imagine seeing for the first time, but we start each new day in the renewed mercies of God. If you ask God the same request to be found in this Psalm for tomorrow, what would be different about what you decide to look at?
“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything that is beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting — a wayside sacrament. Welcome it in every fair face, in every fair sky, in every flower, and thank God for it as a cup of blessing.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Search out the valuable things of God, and turn away from the worthless things. Then we can find the life that God promises.