Nevertheless, he is flying to Norway this Friday -- to a country he's never visited, many thousands of miles away. Why? To help out a much younger man, Norwegian by birth, whom my Dad met while preaching at a church in this area a couple of years ago. The Norwegian (we'll call him Magne, since I'm an a-ha fan and kinda goofy that way) came to Canada originally to prepare for tribal missionary work, but eventually became convinced that the Lord wanted him back in his home country, so he and his wife and children returned to Norway in hopes of starting some home Bible studies among their friends and neighbours there. And ever since Magne left Canada, my father has been exchanging encouraging e-mails, letters, and phone calls with him, and making sure the churches in our area are aware of the younger man's situation and needs.
Magne is thrilled at the prospect of having my Dad and his travelling companion (another older man, a good friend of my father's) visit him in Norway, and has promised that when they arrive there will be many things for them to do -- by which he means preaching and teaching, not sight-seeing. It'll probably be quite a challenging, possibly exhausting, couple of weeks for my Dad, and yet he's positively excited about it and looking forward to seeing what the Lord may do.
80 years old.
And yet at the same time, my father is very much aware of his increasing weakness, his impending mortality. He has one living brother, an upstanding citizen with a distinguished career as an educator, who considers himself a good churchgoer and would be most affronted if anyone dared suggest he was not a Christian. And yet -- my uncle doesn't believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, or that His death on the cross was necessary for our salvation, and every time he's come to visit my parents (or vice versa) he's tried to pick an argument with my Dad about theology.
For the most part my father hasn't taken the bait, not only because he's a gentle man by nature but because he didn't want to quarrel with his brother and felt it wasn't the right time or place for such a discussion. But last night he sat down and wrote a letter to my uncle that moved me to tears. This, with his permission and with the names removed, is the text of what he wrote:
I have no premonitions as to your sudden demise or mine but it is obvious to us both that our time is short even if we are generous in estimating our life-span. It isn't so long since we came screaming into the world and here we are at the exit.
I love you more than you can possibly know and it is time to say so. It is out of that love and at the risk of giving offense that I am opening up the question of where we are going.
If we listen to those who dismiss the Scriptures and their teaching there is no future for us or, at the best, we cannot know for sure what the future holds. Unfortunately these intellectuals have a good many friends in pulpits and they, even when they seek to comfort the dying by speaking about the Father's house and the Saviour of mankind having gone to prepare a place for us, have no genuine confidence themselves. How can they when they work from the premise that God has not spoken?
It all boils down to that. Has God spoken? If heaven has not taken the initiative in this matter then earth can have no certain answers. Science cannot speak with authority as to what awaits us beyond the grave. Science works with things as they may be seen, experienced and demonstrated on our level. If we are to know anything about the yonder we have to look elsewhere. The door of knowledge is firmly shut to those who are limited in their sources.
The phenomenon of one miraculous event in human history (I am thinking of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ) is enough to set us on the right track. No one can seriously deny the uniqueness of His person. The impact He has had on human history is enormous. If someone invented Him, embellished the history of an idol of their own making or in some way was able to fashion Him from their own imagination, then lead me to that person! He deserves my worship.
I am absolutely convinced that Jesus of Nazareth is none other than God come down to earth to rescue a fallen creation. What other explanation is there? Can anyone speak as He did, do as He did or die and rise as He did? His faithful followers spoke of Him as "The Word made flesh...God manifest in the flesh...the true God" and so on. He spoke of Himself in exclusive terms. "I am the way, the truth and the life,no one comes to the Father except through Me." He spoke of Himself not only as the Son of Man but as the Son of God. When Peter confessed Him in those terms he did not deny or try to modify that claim. I'm with Peter.
So I face the future with a confidence born, not of my own goodness, but His. I am saved by grace and looking for the fulfillment of the promises He has given. The ony thing I can do is to urge you in love to turn to Him and put your full confidence in His person.
Much love... [my father's name]
I love my father.