Yesterday, I was honored to speak for my Dad’s funeral. As he would have prayed for God was worshipped by his people and there were several people who committed their lives to Christ.
After the service I was told that were several people who prayed with others as they committed their lives to Christ.
My Dad was my hero, our family loved him intensely. However it was God who in His grace shaped Him into the man he became. As much as we miss him, we would not want him to return to his suffering to be with us, we are thankful that God prepared my Dad for a place with Himself in Heaven.
To God be the Glory!
These are unedited notes that follow closely to what I preached yesterday.
Funeral Sermon for Bufourd Clanton
Parkway Assembly of God
December 1, 2014
Last night we were encouraged, strengthened by your prayers and visits at Fairhaven Funeral Home. I was so proud to hear the stories about my Dad. To hear from men he had served with on church boards that he was a man of principle. A lady from his credit union told of his integrity. Another man came up and said your Dad was an inspiration to me. Another man said, he reminded me of my Dad and I loved talking with him. Family members who visited with us and told us about their love and memories of my Dad. Thank-you.
A Godly Man
It is important that you know that Dad was more than a good man, he was a godly man. He was a man after God’s heart, a man of convictions, prayer, who also loved the church and lost people. He led more people to Christ when those he worked with, who like him, had aged and came with questions about Dad’s faith in Christ.
Dad was fun. We loved to hear him, yodel. Especially on trips we would beg him, “Daddy, yodel for us.” He would throw his head back and it went something like, “yodel le he, yodel le he, yodel le hoo!” in a high voice.
“Do it again!” we’d cry.
Dad, loved Christmas, I remember his pride in giving me my first bb gun. We walked out on to the side porch and he had me aim at the pecan tree on the left hand side of the front yard. I hit it, on the first shot!
Don’t let that fool you, though. I was never a very good shot. Uncle Albert and Daddy tried. They had me aiming at a “swingle tree” on the fence around the cow pasture at the farm in Nashville. I could hit everything on the fence row except for what they wanted me to.
He was so proud when I shot a squirrel nest as a boy with a 410 shotgun. I never hit a squirrel but I got a nest, and he bragged on me for that.
I once told Daddy how badly I missed shooting a raccoon on a hunting trip. I emptied two sleeves (magazines) and still missed the raccoon. Daddy didn’t want me to tell anyone that story. He thought they’d think that is why we lost the Civil War.
Dad, could fix anything. We were visiting Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan. On the Firestone Farm was a barn filled with some equipment that wasn’t in use because there wasn’t an employee who knew how to work with it. Dad, hopped on the equipment and showed them how to operate it. Today, they use the equipment to work that farm. He was so happy that they pulled the equipment out of the barn to work the fields with.
Dad, also loved to drive fast, real fast! Once he took my little sports car and off we sped. In a little bit on the Lakeland Highway, I begged him at 115 mph to please slow down, you’re scaring me. He laughed and said, “that’s why you buy a car like this.”
He loved to wrestle and play. At my Uncle Ed’s funeral, we were standing at the grave site after his casket had been lowered into the grave. Christopher, had been wanting to go to Papa, so I let him. He ran straight to Dad and punched him hard and said, “Papa lets “wassle!” Dad almost fell into the grave with Uncle Ed, but wouldn’t allow me to scold Chris, since he always wrestled with him.
Once Rich Hammer and I were talking about wrestling with our children. Rich, said it was one of the healthiest things we could do with our children. Then Dad, had a healthy relationship with his son, sons in laws, and grandchildren.
Yes, he was fun, a good man, but more importantly he was a godly man.
Dad’s Struggle with Faith
He didn’t grow up with the spiritual advantages we had. Faith was a challenge for him. He believed in God. Without a church that met weekly and Sunday School, Royal Rangers, Bible Quiz and Fine Arts, or a Youth Ministry he lacked the spiritual formation that children and teens receive in a strong church.
The church in their “settlement” met once a month. It was a “Hardshell” Baptist Church. You never could really know if you were saved in that church, he explained to me day.
(He helped me a few years ago by explaining how to talk with the mother of a young woman in our congregation so that she could understand God’s grace. She had grew up in the same religious tradition as Dad. She gave her heart to Christ and went to be with Christ just a little over a year later.)
Once a new church came to their community and a relative of my grandmother’s persuaded her to attend with her. Grandmother took her children in mule and wagon to a Sunday evening meeting at this new church. “When we walked in, some woman waved a snake in front of Mama and said, “if you don’t handle this snake you’re going to hell.” Daddy told me “Mama said, “If you don’t get that snake out of my face, I’m going to beat the hell out of you.””
Needless to say they remained a part of a small Baptist community that met monthly. As a matter of fact, he thought perhaps that he should go into the ministry. My grandmother wanted him to go to Bob Jones University in South Carolina. Someone in Nashville offered to pay for him to go but he would not leave my grandmother without the help she needed for the farm.
God was working in Dad’s life, without the advantages that we and our children have had.
I’m not a very mystical person, but Dad, had a wonderful experience with God that he needed. He walked into church one Sunday night and Brother Bailus told him tonight is your night. He came to the altar hungry for God, when the altar call was given and for about 90 minutes all he was conscious of was the love of God. I asked him to describe it for me. He said, “It was like I was overwhelmed and lost in God’s love.”
That moment changed Daddy’s life. Although, he still had some faith struggles. We talked about some of them at their dinette table in our home. However, he grew in his commitment to become a strong man of faith in God.
One of his pastors told me “I never had a better friend or had someone stand closer to me than your Dad.”
He always would pray for our children and bless them when he visited us or we would visit with Mom and Dad. We would gather around his lap and kneel down while he laid hands on their hands and prayed over them.
I can see him in the altars at church or at home, he would take his right hand, trembling and lay it just above his eyes on his eyebrows and begin to pray.
If you ever heard him pray he would always begin the same way, “Lord, you know we love you.” He would thank God for his Son and his family.
He loved my Mom! Once we called home from Wyoming to check on mother. They were at the Mayo Clinic, he again declared his love for Mom and how he wouldn’t leave her side until they got through this. They got through it after a long and prayerful struggle. Years later, Mother would stay by Dad’s side until he breathed his last breath.
Once when Mother had gone to visit with my grandmother, for a couple of weeks. Dad decided to go get her.
“Why?” I asked.
“Ain’t no sense doing without something you can have!” he said.
My memories are filled with them calling each other by terms of endearment, embracing and kissing one another.
Their love for one another was a happy and healthy model for us.
“He loved his grandchildren and would tell me all about their successes and challenges. He would ask me to pray for certain ones like you Joshua. He’d say pray for Joshua and look how wonderfully God answered our prayers. He’d tell me how Heather would get on to him and he loved it. He loved going to Chase’s ball games and having him over to the house. He would talk about Justin’s job as CPA, especially a chair that Justin had in his office. He loved Jennifer’s music. Jordan is rambling all over the world. He thought Aimee was a hard worker, helpful, pretty and sweet. Where is Andrew? What is he doing? Haven’t they sent him overseas enough? Christopher is going to be a missionary? He even told Benjamin that his long hair and beard looked good on him. What is he going to do with his degree when he graduates.
I was stunned when I heard that! If you only knew the arguments we had about hair when I was a teenager.
Some of my earliest memories involve funerals. Dad would be shaving and I would ask him questions about what happens when you die. We would go to the funeral homes or sometimes in South Georgia we would go to the home that the deceased lived in for the family wake.
I was never frightened because my Mother and Dad would talk to us about heaven. It was a good thing. Whether they knew it or not they were heeding the wisdom of Ecclesiastes 7:4, “A wise person thinks a lot about death”
In this chapter Solomon tackles one of the most interesting questions in life. It’s one we should think about often. One author asks, “Who will cry at your funeral?” It’s an appropriate question. In May 2014, according to Newsweek Magazine, every month a quarter of a million Americans will turn 65.
Solomon writes in verse three “Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.”
In other words a day like this will make you sharper if you let it.
The Lord, my Dad and I would want you to discover the real value of thinking about the day you will come to the end of your life.
1. Death is inevitable, it comes to visit everyone.
2. The body of the man we love has died, but Dad is not dead.
3. Jesus said, you make a serious error if you think that way. “So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error.”” (Mark 12:27, NLT)
4. There will be a resurrection, but in the meantime there are some things we know because …
5. Jesus rose from the dead and he reliably tells us about what lies beyond the grave.
6. The moment Dad died he experienced the rewards of one who had committed his life to Christ. “Whoever gives any of my humble followers a cup of cold water because that person is my disciple will certainly never lose his reward” (Luke 10:42, GW)
7. He began to celebrate life in heaven.
Hell is a very real place too.
“They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power.” (2 Thessalonians 1:7–9, NLT)
God doesn’t want anybody to go to hell.
“The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9, NLT)
People go to hell because they choose to.
The question is why hell there?
It was prepared for the devil and his angels.
““Then the King will turn to those on the left and say, ‘Away with you, you cursed ones, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his demons.” (Matthew 25:41, NLT)
We were prepared for a person and a place!
But for all of those who place their faith in God, we have been made for a person and a place!
When our children were born, we prepared their nurseries and our home. God had prepared us for them and them for us. God gave us a home and His love to give to them.
In just the same way, God has made you for Himself and prepared a place for you!
Jesus said, “There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.” (John 14:2–3, NLT)
So what is heaven like?
1 Corinthians 2 it hasn’t even begin to enter our minds what God has prepared for us.
“First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever.” (1 Thessalonians 4:16c-17, NLT)
How did God do this?
John the Baptist teaches us.
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29, NLT)
Look, he is not just any lamb, He is the lamb of God.
Imagine how many lambs a man of a priestly line like John saw. The daily sacrifice of a lamb at the Temple, the annual Passover Lamb. But this man Jesus was the Lamb of God.
It took a miracle of grace for John to discern this, because the lambs that were sacrificed were for the Jews and not for the world.
Did God open his eyes to the prophetic truth of Isaiah 53? The message certainly lines up with the prophecy!
“Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.” (Isaiah 53:1–7, NLT)
Jesus took our sins away at the cross for all who trust and believe in Him. He went as the sacrificial lamb for you and me!
John the Beloved Apostle, not John the Baptist writes of the worship that takes place in heaven!
“Then I saw a Lamb that looked as if it had been slaughtered… And when he took the scroll, the four living beings and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. …“You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For you were slaughtered, and your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slaughtered— to receive power and riches and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and blessing.” And then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea. They sang: “Blessing and honor and glory and power belong to the one sitting on the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever.” And the four living beings said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped the Lamb.” (Revelation 5:6–14, NLT)
Today, while we worship God and thank Him for the grace that He gave to my Dad and to all who will receive Christ, perhaps you are ready to commit your life to Christ or recommit your life to Christ if you have been struggling with your faith in God.
“He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14, NLT)