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The Sudden Loss of a Good Friend
In memory of Michele Foss Bartholomew

When I heard the telephone ring on Sunday morning, I said a quick prayer before answering.  We never receive calls on Sunday mornings so I was concerned with the nature of the call.  It was my sister, Paula.  We chatted briefly as I tried to get ready for church.  I told her that it may be best to talk a little later.  She then said she needed to share some bad news with me.  She told me of the sudden death of a good friend, Michele. 

Michele Foss Bartholomew
2/21/76 - 2/12/05.
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My first reaction was complete shock.  Michele was a healthy, young, attractive lady, under 30 years old.  Evidently her life was taken in a car accident.  I got off the phone and proceeded to get our 7 month old son ready for church when I received another call from my brother Paul.  When I heard Paul’s voice cracking on the other side, my eyes welled up with tears and I began to sob.  Our conversation was brief.  He told me to pray. 

I went to church with my wife and son.  I was still in quite a bit of shock.  The pastor’s sermon was on one scripture in the Beatitudes.  “Blessed are those who mourn” Jesus said, “for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4)  As the pastor preached it was as if the message had been custom fit and sent down by God Himself.  After the service I was comforted by a member of the church as I wept and prayed for Michele’s husband Joe, her mother, father and sister.  The scripture that came to my mind was, “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” (Romans 8:26) At that moment, I felt the pain of the bereaved loved ones. 

“You know” I told my wife, “it’s times like this when you really realize what’s most important in life.”   We often take for granted the life we have been given.  As young people we feel like we’ll never meet death.  It feels too distant, too far removed.  Then something like this happens and you realize the brevity and uncertainty of life itself.  It’s in times like these where we really need to evaluate our lives, our lifestyles our livelihood. 

“For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God.  “Therefore repent and live!” (Ezekiel 18:32)  God speaks to us soberly.  He speaks to us honestly.  He tells us that death was not His design, it was never His will.  He takes no delight in it. 

God gives us hope.  “Repent and live!”  The key to new life and life eternal is first found in this directive.  God instructs us to turn from the way that we are currently living; that’s what it means to repent.  We must turn from our own ways and be willing to follow God and His ways.  The Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:6) 

The second instruction from God comes from His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.” (John 11:25)  Jesus offers us new life.  After His death on the cross, He rose again to prove that God has power over death.  Those who believe in Him, He promises, will never perish, but have eternal life.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world may be saved.”  (John 3:16, 17) 

Finally, God asks that we bring our repentance and belief in Jesus to prayer.  The Bible says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9, 10) 

In 1998, my life made a dramatic change.  It was in that year that God came into my life in a very real and personal way.  Before that time I went to church and completed all the sacraments.  Yet the truth is that I lived in a way that contradicted and failed God’s standards.  In the Ten Commandments, God says, “Thou shall not lie”, but I’d told many lies over the years.  He says, “Thou shall not steal”, but I couldn’t say that I never took anything that didn’t belong to me.  Jesus said, “If you look upon a woman to lust after her, you’ve committed adultery in your heart.”  Again, I stood condemned.  I never killed anyone, but Jesus said that it’s wrong even to hate someone in our hearts.  As a matter of fact, if you looked at all the commandments there probably isn’t one I hadn’t broken, if not in action, in thought, in motive, or by my words.  I recognized my own sinful nature. 

But God, who is rich in mercy, saved my life from the penalty it deserved.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)  If you have never repented of your sins and turned toward God through Christ, the Bible says, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” (2 Corinthians 6:2)  Do not wait another day; pray this prayer along with me: 

Dear God of Heaven and earth, I come before You now.  I desire to know You.  I desire to walk with You and live to please You.  Please come now and forgive my sins.  I accept Your Son Jesus' death on the cross as the payment for my sins.  I turn from my sins and turn to You.  Give me the hope of eternal life; I desire to live with you forever. Amen.
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