I dedicate this article to the loving memory of my father John E. Stahl Sr. who died 3 Jan 2010. Dad I love and miss you so very much and know I will see you again. You have impacted my life is so many ways. In ways as a guide-on to model my life after; in being a Godly man, husband, father, grandfather, and even a great grandfather. In ways I am sure I will only learn about in time, as a life takes its heavy toll on me as it did on you, oh may I be found to be brave and faithful in God to endure to the very end without complaining or asking for pity like you did. Dad I am so proud of you and so proud to be called your son.

While I was at the viewing and sitting during the funeral I thought, all of these many people came today to see my father because he has died. Today in our society we use terms like passing, crossing over, set free, etc. to express what the Bible calls death. We do not like the term death, but did you know the word “death” appears 342 in the KJV of the Bible? Now do not feel bad if you use these terms even Jesus tried sugar coating death with the disciples. In the powerful story of Lazarus in the Book of John we read,

“These things said he: and after that he saith unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleepeth; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. 12Then said his disciples, Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. 13Howbeit Jesus spake of his death: but they thought that he had spoken of taking of rest in sleep. 14Then said Jesus unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead.” (John 11:11-14) Jesus had much to say about death in the Gospels. As a matter of fact the number one topic Jesus spoke about was sin and the second most discussed topic by Jesus was life and death. When you really think about it life is all summed up into these three topics. Paul too often spoke of death. In 1 Corinthians Paul asked the questions, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.” (1 Corinthians 15:55-56) Death is our last fear to conquer and this is why we all must allow God to change us, to change our character, our thoughts, and heart condition so that we will have the inward strength to endure the conflicts and battles that war within our spirit, heart and mind. I also believe God wants us to feel the sting of death in our lives. A funeral is one time appointed by God for us to feel the sting of sin (death) in our lives and reflect on it. Today we make funerals a happy and joyous time, let us celebrate the crossing over of our dear departed, well in doing so we turn away from the prick of the Holy Spirit gouging into our spirit and soul. We (mankind) do not like to be unhappy or know grief we even make up songs instructing ourselves we are to live our entire life in total happiness, but Jesus was called a man of sorrows. Speaking of Jesus Isaiah said, “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.’ (Isaiah 53:3) Well who wants to be acquainted with “a man of sorrow” when they can be happy? And something as noble yet mysterious as death, it is easy to turn our heart and spirit away from the sting, the pain and overwhelming ache in our heart that comes with the loss of losing our father, mother, brother or sister. In doing so we are rejecting God and His plan to draw us unto Himself. You see when we embrace the sting of death (our sin that could separate us eternally from God) we expose our weaknesses, our need, and our infirmities, all of those things within us that can only be satisfied by God whereby allowing God (and God alone) to minister to us and bring us into the truth and the life of God in the next verse, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:57) It is only as we allow God to work in our lives can we ever hope to come into “the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” At the same measure we can embrace the sting of death, at that same measure we will be able to walk in the ultimate victory God has purposed and planned for our lives. I often wonder why some people start walking with the Lord then turn away? Well I am coming to the conclusion they (those who walk away from God) have never really understood the depth of what sin has wrought in their lives. I am convinced the more we understand the damage and destruction sin does in our lives the more we will be able to correctly understand the message of grace. My friend we are to be devastated (oh blessed devastation) when we come to the realization of who we are and how much we need Jesus to save us from our sin. I am afraid the sinner’s prayer (which is found no where in the Bible) lightens the sting of death and has watered down the true conversion process. Oh Lord have mercy on us for our waywardness here.

I would like share some outstanding words Cathy McHenry, (a wonderful lady friend of our family) penned to Karen and I and then passed them along at the funeral, now she knows what she is talking about because she lost her son only two years ago and still to this day knows the sting of death all to well. “God’s peace is not escape from reality. We are not mentally removed from feeling pain or struggling. Peace is not a stupor that that dulls our senses. It is not an elimination of responsibility for addressing hard issues and difficult circumstances. Rather, peace is an undergirding rock-solid foundation so that no matter the tears we cry or the sorrow we feel, deep down inside we know with an abiding assurance that God is with us. God is in control and joy of the Lord is going to emerge far greater than any depth of agony we may be experiencing.”

Now my father has the victory Paul was talking about in verse 57. I feel my father was ready to meet the Lord. When Mrs. Gertrude Ellis (and her daughter Jenny) would bring her white guitar by his home and sing old the hymns of the church he would sit there and big crocodile tears would come streaming down his face as my Mom’s (who now has Alzheimer’s) feet would bounce in-time, in the Spirit, with the music. Thank you very much Mrs. Ellis for loving them enough to ease their pain and bring to them once again the joy of timeless truths. But before my father’s eyes closed in death the Lord prepared me months ago so I would know I was to go to the ICU and make sure it was well with his soul. What a joy it was as big crocodile tears now streamed down my face as I prayed with my father as the ventilator pushed life into his body. Now for sure my father has the victory over sin, hell, death, and the grave.

Most of you all did not know my father was retired, after over 30 years of service to God and Country, from the United States Marine Corps serving in World War II, Korea, and Viet-Nam with great distinction and valor in all three wars. And in 2008 the United Marine Corps honored him as the 64th recipient of the Hard Core Warrior Award. In the Marine Hymn the last verse goes like this, “Here’s health to you and to our Corps which we are proud to serve; in many a strife we’ve fought for life and never lost our nerve. If the Army and the Navy ever look on heaven’s scenes, they will find the street are guarded by United States Marines.” I am sure when my father stood before God (as we all shall do some day) God said, “well done Gunny thou good and faithful servant” and my father standing at attention with a hand salute said, “thank you sir, reporting for duty.” I love you Dad! Karen says, she will see you later you ole fox and from me, Semper Fi.