In my previous blog I shared some of my personal reflections on the sad passing away of my friend and co-Europe church planter Ray Shiels, who together with his wife Claudine founded and pastored our great church in Dublin, Ireland. Over 4000 people have viewed that tribute I wrote, which is an obvious testimony to the many people whose lives Ray deeply touched.
Allow me for a moment to put on my preachers hat, and share with you some thoughts from my message at Ray’s funeral service in Dublin last week:
ANSWERS & ANCHORS…
I start with acknowledging that I do not understand at all why Ray died. If I were God, from my perspective, I would not have let him die. I know that “ to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” but right now heaven’s gain seems certainly to be our loss. As we try to make sense of the why? of this tragic loss of a friend/husband/father/pastor/ musician, I am aware that there are no easy answers. At the same time I know that life is not simple, and cannot be understood looked at from just one perspective. It is like a ship with one anchor which starts to drag, but then we throw out a few more anchors and these hold the ship steady in the storm. Just so, while I can’t make sense of it from one perspective, I do find that there are other strong anchors of hope and promise which can hold us all in this storm of life. Here are 3 of these relevant to us in this sad time:
1. The promise of comfort to those who mourn:
In Matthew 5:4 Jesus said: “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” – Mourning begins with weeping, and helps us in time to a place of being able to “live without.” “Jesus wept”, and He still heals the broken hearted.
2. The promise of a better resurrection when there is no resurrection in this life:
In John 11:25 Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies….Do you believe this?” I remind you about what Ray believed: That God loved him. That his sin separated him from God. That Christ died for the penalty of his sin. That because he repented and received Christ as his Lord and Saviour, he was forgiven and born again and right with God. That he had received the gift of eternal life through faith in Christ, and that “though he died, he will live.” My friends, do you believe this? If not, would you consider this, and like Ray repent and turn in faith towards a God who loves you? We may be separated now, but we can all join Ray in his “better resurrection” for eternity.
3. The promise of the church’s future:
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said: “…I will build my church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it.” Every Nation Dublin was not Rays church, but Jesus’ church. God’s plans and purposes continue and we know that we will be amazed at what will grow out of this seed that has “fallen to the ground and died.”
Hebrews 6:19 says that “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…” – Ray has gone “behind the curtain” – may our anchors hold us firm and secure to continue living for Christ in this life, until we join him there. God bless you.
Details of the Ray Shiels memorial fund will be posted here next week and will include account options in Ireland, UK, South Africa, and the USA. We appreciate your patience with this while we try to set this up as efficiently as possible. Thank you in advance for any support that you can give to the family.