“Hey Jim, someone is on the phone for you. I cannot tell if they know you or if it is another solicitor,” My wife yelled to me downstairs while I was riding my exercise bike in our basement. I begrudgingly got off my exercise bike thinking I was receiving another unsolicited phone call while I climbed the steps. “Hello, this is Jim,” I said while I waited for another rehearsed sales pitch. “Hey Pastor, my family and I attended your church fifteen years ago when you pastored at Alliance Community Church.” As Mike introduced himself to me on the phone, I was able to remember him and his family. I responded, “Mike, it is so nice to hear from you. How is your wife Jen doing?” Mike began to share and update me on his family and how that they had moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida several years ago because of work.
Mike then began to share why he was calling. “I wish I was calling with good news, but I felt I was led by the Lord last night to find you and ask you if you would be able visit my Uncle Ken who is dying of cancer." He continued, "He has been moved to a hospice wing in a Fort Wayne hospital and I am pretty sure he is not a Christian.” As Mike continued to share with me, I learned that his Uncle Ken and Aunt Traci had never attended church nor had they shown much interest in Jesus. Mike was concerned for his uncle’s salvation and shared with me that he had never explained the gospel of Christ to his uncle. As Mike was praying that night for his Uncle Ken’s salvation, the Lord had led him to find me and ask if I would be able to make a visit and share the gospel with Ken.
After hearing Mike’s story, I looked at my clock and realized it was getting late on a Saturday night. I asked Mike if it would be okay if I visited Ken Sunday after our Sunday morning worship service. Mike responded, “Pastor thank you so much!” “I don’t know if Ken will be awake (he was in a coma) or able to speak but I wanted him to hear the gospel and God’s love for him before he died.” After Mike and I prayed on the phone for Ken’s salvation, I knew that I would have to share this story with my church on Sunday morning. I asked our church family to pray for the Lord to bless this divine appointment by having Ken awake and alert and for the Lord to open his heart to respond to the gospel of Jesus.
As I walked into Ken’s hospital room, I saw his wife Traci on the phone and Ken watching the Green Bay Packers football game with his Packers blanket covering him. Traci got off the phone and I introduced myself: “Hi Ken and Traci. I am Pastor Jim and your nephew Mike from Florida called me to request that I come and visit with you.” They shared how they have not seen Mike for several years; however, they were thankful to have a visit with me. As I was trying to get a conversation started, I commented on Ken being a Packers fan and how I have been a Bears fan for many years. Once I said that, I thought that was probably not the best way to get a die-hard Packers fan to be open to the gospel; however, Ken responded with a broken voice, “The...bears...are playing well…this year.” He gave me the remote to turn off the Packers game so we could visit and talk about why I had come…to prepare him for death and eternity.
I asked Traci how long they have been married and she said proudly (with a tear in her eye), “We have been married 17 years and we lived together for two years before that.” As we talked about life, family, and work, I also heard from them that they did not attend church. I looked at Ken and said, “May I ask you a spiritual question?” He replied affirmatively and I said, “If you were to stand before God and He asked you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ what would you say?” Ken and Traci both told me they had no idea what they would say to that question. I informed Ken that was why his nephew Mike asked me to come see him, “because he wanted you to know how to get to heaven and be prepared to meet God.”
I told Ken and Traci that most people think they get to heaven by having more good deeds than bad deeds. . .would they agree? They agreed, so I asked them if I could ask them a few questions in regards to God’s Law (The Ten Commandments) to see how they measured up. As Ken nodded his head towards me, I asked him several questions: “Have you ever told a lie (breaking the 9th commandment)? What would you call someone who lied? (He said yes, and responded a liar.) Have you ever stolen anything? What do you call someone who has stolen something (He said yes, and a thief)? Have you ever coveted for someone’s else things? (He said yes). I looked at Ken and Traci and said compassionately, “By your own admission, you are a lying covetous thief at heart and we only looked at a few of the commandments. Would you say that you were innocent or guilty before God for breaking His Law?” Ken responded with a laugh and said “You...got me…I would be guilty.” I responded, “Ken, I am not trying to ‘get you,’ but I have another big question for you. Since you admit you are guilty before God for breaking His law, would you go to heaven or hell when you die?” There was a silent hush in the room when Ken admitted that he should go to hell when he dies.
I looked into Ken’s eyes and I asked him if knew what God has done for him so he would not have to go to Hell and could begin a relationship with God? He quietly responded no with a quivering lip. I gently told Ken and Traci that is why their nephew sent me to them. I asked them if I could share with them the good news of Jesus Christ. Ken looked at me with such a desperation in his eyes and a longing of hope to hear this good news.
I shared with Ken that in a few weeks we will celebrate Christmas…the birth of this baby in a manger and they gave Him the name of Jesus “because He will save His people from their sins.” I shared how Jesus was born. “He died on the cross and He rose from the dead to provide forgiveness of our sins and to restore our relationship with God.” I shared that the only way for Jesus to restore us to God is for us to repent of our sins and receive Jesus as our Lord (John1:12) to become a child of God.” I asked them if they understood that Jesus died for them and they needed to profess in His death and resurrection to receive the forgiveness of their sins. They both looked at each other and said, “yes.”
As I looked at Ken and Traci, I could see that they were convicted and were ready to profess faith in Jesus. I looked at Ken and told him I would lead him in a prayer of salvation and that he could either repeat after me or if unable to speak just pray in his spirit to Jesus. As I shared the prayer of salvation with them, they both responded through tears and Ken’s broken voice: “Dear God…I understand that ..I have broken Your law and sinned against You…Please forgive me of my sins…Thank You that Jesus suffered on the cross…and rose from the dead…I now place my trust…in Him as my Savior and Lord…Amen.”
I looked at Ken and reminded him that he is now a child of God not on what he has done, but for what God has done for him through Jesus. Throughout the visit Ken constantly held my hand and squeezed it to show his thankfulness for my visit and the glorious hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. After I prayed a blessing over their salvation and prayed for the Lord to hold Ken’s hand as he faces death in the coming days they cried and thanked me for my visit. I asked him once again “Ken, if you were to stand before God and He would ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?’ What would you say?” Ken looked at me and said confidently “Jesus.” I responded to him, “Ken now you know the meaning of Christmas and why they called Him Jesus…to save us from our sins.”
As I drove home from the hospital, I called Mike and thanked him for calling me and I shared how Ken and Traci professed faith in Jesus. He thanked me and I humbly shared that we need to thank Jesus for moving Mike to call me to go visit Ken and Traci, and how the Lord opened their heart to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Yes, that is why they named Him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins. Mike called me within to thirty-six hours after to tell me that Ken had died and that now he will spend Christmas in Heaven.