Owatonna, Minn. (BNc) by Dan Mayfield — A longtime Christian friend, John Brookins, died Feb. 23. I met John when he was doing a house inspection more than 20 years ago. We were standing in my basement, and he noticed the shirt I was wearing said “Church of Christ”. Having grown up in the church, this was good news to him. He was a recent transplant from California and he was only getting settled into the community. His wife Susie wasn’t moved here yet as she was tidying up final things at their old home.
That was many years ago and I have grown to love and appreciate John very much. I think he liked my wife Hazel more than me. Then again, Hazel IS more likable than me, so who could blame him!
We shared many meals and, right to the end, many prayers and Bible studies. He was helpful to me more than once in finding support for my ministry in Owatonna and he, with his wife Susie, supported my family personally.
We were like two men who sharpened one another. I’m glad I had a chance to thank him for doing so. John loved the church.
He wanted to live the Christian life until death because he looked forward to seeing his dad again.
John was a stickler about things like his job in house and building inspection. I remember he made a builder pull up the foundations of a new construction for not following regulations. He wouldn’t let me put sheets on the bed in the basement until I installed an egress window. He didn’t compromise.
When Randy Martin and I built a deck on a fellow Christian’s home, John was there making sure we did it right. You have to understand how onerous some of the codes are, especially in our Minnesota town, that would even put the apostle Paul to the test, but John would allow no shortcuts.
I don’t mean to suggest I was looking to cheat, but I learned along the way from John that he would not show favorites.
He loved song-leading. It was part of his ministry. He loved his brothers like Randy Martin, Jerrod Hovey, Bill Wood, and others, and he had many friends outside of the church.
John loved his dogs. He loved hunting deer and elk, and catching fish. He shared his delicious walleye and crappie because he knew Hazel loved fish. John was the candy man on special holidays and had something special for everyone. He was a big man with big hands and a big voice. When I would call him, “Johnny boy”, he would just look at me real funny, but he got used to it.
I haven’t yet met a perfect Christian, but I have met many who have trusted in the grace of God and lived their lives to the end, walking with and confessing Jesus. John was one of these.
John passed away a little over 12 hours ago and I’m sitting here tonight thinking about my own life. At 55, I’ve walked with Jesus for many years. And I would like to walk with him a few more years on this beautiful earth. Maybe I will live the remaining years of my life more meaningfully, purposefully, and more fruitfully for his Kingdom. Knowing John has passed away and gone to his reward, I think I want even more so to live this life without regret.
I wish to be found by Jesus Christ, blameless, washed, and dressed in him. I want my conscience to excuse me on that day. When I meet him face to face, I pray it will be more like seeing a good friend and less like meeting a stranger. On that day, I want to be found blameless by him and to have no regrets.
Now we all may think we have secrets but there will be no secrets on that day. Paul says that even our own conscience can accuse us. It will be better if I listen to it now instead of waiting and to hear what it then has to say. And why shouldn’t we all give heed and stop the doing the deeds because God’s grace is only trying to lead us to repent, Rm 2:4?
God himself offers me the chance to live life without regret. Now it’s true that even the best saint has had his faults. Because none are perfect, I find even greater comfort and solace in knowing that God is full of grace and forgiveness for whoever will seek him daily. The Spirit himself says, “Whosoever will may come.” That’s comforting to me in this time of solace.
Knowing God and living by faith, Paul could say with confidence, “I am blameless” and “I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day”, and “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved his appearing”, Ac 20:26; 2Tm 1:12; 2Tm 4:7,8.
In the end, although he did some vile things in the first part of his life, Paul had no regrets. The Christian life erases the shame and guilt of the past, it fills the present with righteousness and fulness, and it lays up for the future rewards that endure for an eternity.
You too can know that your soul is secure with God. The Almighty God who made heaven and earth made us all to be his children. God has sent his only begotten Son that he might destroy the power of sin and the grave so that men who repent and are baptized might spend eternity with him, because God has fixed a day in the future where we will all stand before his judgment seat, Ac 2:38; 22:16; Gl 3:26,27; Cl 2:12,13; 1Pt 3:21.
Thank you, Father, in heaven for this life you have given. Thank you for making every life important. Thank you for bringing John here so many years ago. His life is etched upon us all and has left an indelible mark. Father, if you can, pass on all of our love to our friend John.