Digging Deeper

Unearthing the surpassing riches of Christ

Sermon Remembering My Father-in-Law Greg Rait

This is  a copy of the sermon I preached for my Greg Rait, my father-in-law, at his funeral on November 22, 2016

Titus 3:4–7 (ESV)

4But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

 

My most vivid memory of my time with my Father-in-law, Greg Rait, who died on November 15, 2016, is the time that I asked Julie to marry me. It was a phone call from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction Colorado and it didn’t last particularly long, but it was significant. It was significant because I was declaring my love for someone who he loved more than I did, I was promising to care for her as a husband, and I was asking him to trust me.

 

That he said yes was a either a miracle, a big step of faith, or a decision against better judgement. You see, I had already tried to drown his dog. The summer before, Greg took me canoeing down the Colorado River Julie and their dog Cory. As canoeing (naturally) is not that exciting, I thought I would spice things up by splashing the people at the back of the canoe. Well, it’s all fun and games until the canoe rocks and dumps everybody off the boat.

 

As I came out from under the water, I saw Julie and Greg taking care of the canoe and the dog trying to swim from the middle of this giant river. Figuring the canoe was already under control, I went to rescue the dog, taking him under my arm and swimming to shore. While the story left us laughing for years, I always remember how I almost killed his dog, but he let me marry his daughter. I’m happy to report that I’ve been a bit more careful with her.

 

I told this story as part of Greg’s funeral sermon, and I wanted to share the rest of it online. At the funeral we heard from two of his cousins and then from Julie who had a stirring remembrance of her dad. I was the only one who got to relate with him as a son-in-law, and that gives me a few perspectives I wanted to share, as well as a pastor.

 

How do I remember a man like Greg? While there are many things to remember, I chose to remember him in light of God’s grace. Grace us unmerited favor, the giving of something that has not been earned or worked for.

 

The life of Greg shows me the bigness of God’s grace. As the Bible says about God, “His mercies are new every morning, great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23-24)

 

How has God shown me this through Greg’s life?

 

First, God’s grace is generous. Greg showed me grace as a father-in-law. He gave me permission and even blessing marry his daughter. Besides his approval, when I asked him about marrying Julie, he said, “I don’t think her mother would be too comfortable if you brought her overseas as a missionary.” (I had been serving in international missions work the previous year and had intended to return). Over time, I think he was talking as much about himself as Julie’s mom. I know that he loved Julie and valued he security and safety. Yet, he was supportive and helpful to us in our calling to pastoral ministry.

 

Julie is God’s gift to me, but she was also Greg’s gift to me. I knew I was receiving something wonderful when he agreed to have her marry me. I guess I didn’t know how good. Julie is secure, trusting, self-confident, fun, enjoyable. She is the perfect partner for me. A lot goes into making that happen. Many people played a big role in that development including a very supportive extended family, her church, and many childhood friends.

 

In making Julie into the person He created her to be, I can never forget that God used a father who was willing to protect, provide and care for her. Greg’s 27-year marriage to Pam provided a stability for the family that my own family has the opportunity to experience.

 

When I married Julie I also received a father-in-law, a man who could build seemingly anything. He was generous with his time. He installed kitchen cabinets in two houses, a playground in one, and kitchen countertop and shelves in another. I can’t even begin to count the number of small projects he did. I am not good with my hands. I must have driven him crazy with my ineptitude in those areas. He was fantastic. He was generous with time with our whole family.

 

Greg reminds me of God grace, a grace that is generous and gives far more than we can imagine.
Secondly, God’s grace is kind. I learn something about God’s grace through the way he related to my children as a grandfather. Greg loved making my kids smile. He knew how to do it in very simple ways. For starters, he knew he could bribe a smile out of my kids through gifts as small as a simple pack of gum.

Over the last few years Greg would visit us over the Thanksgiving holiday. One of our great family memories was visiting the local historic site and finishing the day by going to the Chinese buffet for dinner. They remember all the meals we ate at the House of Teppanyaki.

 

Probably the biggest highlight of our memories was the camping trips he planned trips to Grand Mesa, Colorado where we would go fishing (our best year was an amazing catch of 21 Rainbow Trout) and horseback riding.

 

As I reflect on his passing, it is a great reminder to me that one of the greatest blessings we can give others is to share the things we love with the people we love. I didn’t know Greg through his work, mostly through his relationships with my family and the things we did together as a family. Those things will remain with us forever.
Third, God’s grace is free. My interactions with Greg remind me of God’s kindness to everyday sinners.

 

I don’t know how you related to Greg. To me, Greg was family. With family you work through issues together. Sometimes he would drive me crazy, maybe even making me upset. But I loved him. We shared two things together: we both loved Julie and we both though that our faith in Jesus Christ was the most significant part of our lives. In fact, the faith Greg had spread to every member of his family: his wife and his two children.

 

The faith we shared reminds us that:

  • We are created in God’s image … with inherent dignity, creativity, and curiosity.
  • We are sinful and separated from God and as a result we experience a brokenness within and a brokenness in our relationships.
  • That God offers forgiveness and restoration through faith in Jesus Christ. This is our greatest need: reconciliation with God. When we could not live perfectly, Jesus did. When we could not atone for our sins, Jesus did in his death on the cross. When we could not restore a relationship with God, Jesus did through his resurrection from the dead.

This one historic event changed everything in history, and it grounded Greg’s life as well. I saw it’s power in his life, especially in the way he served God and others. I enjoy seeing the towering cross he helped design for his church, in seeing how he met regularly with an aging and sick man as a Stephen’s Minister, and how he served as elder and deacon.

 

Greg’s faith wasn’t flashy, he had a settled faith in Jesus Christ. God brought him into the world in a Christian home, leading him to commit himself to the church, and through a Promise Keepers rally and a Koinenia Retreat, God led him to renew his commitment to Christ.

 

I am reminded that salvation is by God’s grace, never by our good deeds outweighing our bad. Greg didn’t get himself to heaven. Jesus got him there. In order to see the grace of God, we need only faith to believe, trust, and act upon his great promises.

 

Finally, I am reminded that God’s grace is powerful to help us in time of need. Greg had to deal with a lot of suffering over the last 20 years of his life. On top of medical concerns, death has been a stark reality for our family over our 20 year marriage. Over the last 20 years I saw Greg lose both of his parents, his wife Pam of 27 years, and his son Danny.

 

Outwardly, Greg carried himself well. But we know how these things leave a scar, never leaving us the same, especially with the death of Danny. I didn’t see it directly as there are some things a father-in-law does not share with his daughters husband. But I saw it in the way he valued relationships with Julie and engaged his grand children. Despite his losses, he stayed positive and optimistic. How did he do this? Personality is some of it, for sure. But he also had a faith that sustained him, and did the grace of God.

 

In our conversations, he said he found help in the hope of the gospel. It was Pam’s hope, it was Danny’s hop, and it was Greg’s hope. One of our last conversations last summer, Greg told me he was ready to go to the Lord whenever God called him, that he had lived a good life, that he didn’t need any of his stuff any more, and that he was hopeful for our future. We didn’t know death was so close in that conversation. Sometimes it comes quicker than we anticipate. Even though it was unexpected Greg was ready.

 

Jesus said to a dying man, “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Greg enjoys the fulfillment of God’s promises even now. And he awaits and even greater promise, the promise of the resurrection. Just as Jesus Christ rose from the dead, every follower of Jesus Christ has the hope of resurrection and the promise of joining into a new heaven and a new earth. Revelation 21:3–4 gives us a picture of our future hope “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 

It is a hope that our family has learned to cling to… that death has been defeated through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It seems like death extinguishes life, but the promise of the Bible is that life extinguishes death.

 

“Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. “ (1 Corinthians 15:51–57)

 

Because Jesus Christ defeated the grave, there is resurrection power through Jesus Christ. And so while we grieve we do not need to grieve as those without hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Yes, we grieve, because we know God did not create the world with death, we know that death is unnatural. We know that we will miss great tremendously.

 

Yet, we know death is the final enemy of God to be done away with. The pain for the sleeping has gone, even if the pain for the remaining continues.

 

Death is a time for us to remember, to mourn, to consider our own eternity, and to give thanks for what we had with Greg, And it is a time for us to look to God.

 

He has the power to defeat death.

He has the power to raise the dead.

He has the power to forgive.

He has the power to give a new life.

 

God’s grace that comes to us through faith, he meets us in normal life; he gives help that we might make a difference in the life of others, as husbands and wives, as parents, church members, grandparents, and children, and in-laws; he meets us in our sin, offering grace, forgiveness, and peace; and he meets us in our suffering, offering strength to meet them with hope.

 

And he meets us in our death. Greg has met the Lord. He waits with us for the final resurrection of the dead when death shall be finally defeated. We grieve but we have great hope. Take hope and look to God to meet you in all these ways.

 

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December 2, 2016 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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