For Lord’s Day, January 29, 2017
On the occasion of my daughter, Olivia Rose, taking her communicant membership vows before you this morning to be received into full communion and begin taking the Lord’s Supper this evening, wherein I will be charging her to Keep Picking Up and Passing on the Faith and to Keep Raising Up the Cup, I thought it fitting to share with you something personal in our family.
Recently, I took the children with me to attend a meeting with my lawyer’s team in Escondido where I signed my updated last will and testament and my new trust and advance health directive and choice of guardianship with other related forms. Due to our loss of Jennifer, I needed to update these forms and create a trust for the children, should anything happen to me. I intended for it to be a solemn occasion that they would always remember for how they live in the honor of their Mother’s name and for their father but most importantly for their Heavenly Father’s good name.
Before we began the meeting, I opened us in prayer and then charged the children to take this seriously. I told them they should feel safe and that this was taking care of them as minors and they should be thankful. Further, if when they come of age they were to deny Christ and abandon His Church by their word or works (Titus 1:16), I would update my will and take them out of it because I could not then trust them to be good stewards of Christ’s resources entrusted to me. I later told them that if they defected from the faith later on as adults literally or practically by neglect that I would consider myself a failure as a father and I wanted them to know that nothing else they may accomplish in their lives would matter to me at all if they were not doing all in and for Jesus Christ and His Church.
At the end of the meeting, the lawyer came in (an elder in a conservative Presbyterian church) and charged the children to take this seriously and live out their Christian heritage in honor of their father and mother and to trust only in the Lord Jesus Christ and live only for Him. Then he prayed for us.
Afterward, we were late for Abraham’s basketball practice nearby (another reason I took the children with me to this meeting). I apologized and asked if they thought this was worth attending. Abraham exclaimed, “That’s OK, I would way more want this meeting than basketball practice!” You see, when we take our children seriously for Christ and expect them to take Christ seriously, they will respond in kind in the context of the covenant family and be honored to do so. God will honor them that honor Him and He will bless them that seek to bless His name with Himself, and this promise is also for our children.
By taking this all very seriously I had hoped it would help the children take their lives very seriously from an early age and not consider what I might leave to them later as a right to claim but a privilege of which to be good stewards or have it revoked. By so doing, I found myself even more impressed with my own duty to leave them a good and meaningful spiritual legacy by my own life and how I go about passing it on to them. I let the children know that I had remembered the church and another ministry in my will for a percentage of it if all other things were first taken care of for them, and that if I lived to their adulthood and they didn’t really need it I would adjust the will to give them only a percentage of my assets and upfront include the church and another charity for a percentage as other beneficiaries much in need of support to carry on (probably more than they would need it): they thought this made perfect sense. I want them to now be thinking of using their time, talents, and treasures as stewards for Christ, not themselves, unto and through their deaths.
I prepared a Christian preamble for my will that I then read to them at home. I said I did not want them to only be comforted and convicted by it at my death, but at the beginning of their lives to live for and up to it as I so will endeavor to do for Christ and His Kingdom, with this memory as a meaningful reference to look back on at the time they will gather again to review it later on. They said it was lovely and they were very thankful to have heard it now from me alive, not just later after my death, and that it did give meaning to their lives. I share this preamble with you here and encourage you to think about whether you are taking your lives for Christ seriously enough and whether you are challenging your children to do the same in such tangible, sobering, proactive ways. And whether you are willing to put it into writing.
I, Grant E. Van Leuven, a resident of the city of Chula Vista in San Diego County, California, do hereby testify that I am a Christian who serves the only and true Triune God. I want to remind especially my children, whom I here mainly address, that I have placed all my hope of life hereafter in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Way, Truth, Life, and Resurrection. His life, death, and resurrection have given my life meaning and make my death a purposeful passage into a greater degree of glory where Christ has prepared a place for me in His Father’s house and where He will stand and greet me as He did Stephen in Acts 7 and as we trust He so brought your Mother through the valley of the shadow of death while we sang her into heaven with Psalm 23. I am now more intimately and immediately experiencing my chief and final end to glorify God and fully to enjoy Him forever.
I want my children to know that for me to live was Christ, and to die is now my gain, and to be absent in the body is now to be present with my Lord and Good Shepherd along with the cloud of witnesses, including your Mother, who went before us.
I want my friends and family to rejoice with me as I declare my completed faith in Jesus Christ my Savior. I am assured by faith in His Sovereign Grace that after my life of joy and sorrow, accomplishments and failures, I will live eternally in the presence of our Heavenly Father where there is fulness of joy—and at His right hand with Jesus, where there are pleasures forevermore. This is possible not because I have earned or deserved it, but because Jesus, the God-man, lived and died in my place and rose and ascended to the right hand of God in the true Holy of Holies to intercede for me as my only mediatorial prophet, priest, and king. Having enjoyed the first resurrection and endured the first death by the Holy Spirit’s comfort and empowering and enlightening guidance, I now live with Christ face-to-face looking forward to the second resurrection with the peace of being spared the second death.
I borrow these last words of David Dickson, co-author of The Sum of Saving Knowledge, on his death bed: “I have taken all my good deeds, and all my bad deeds, and cast them in a heap before the Lord, and fled from both to the Lord Jesus Christ, and in him I have sweet peace.” Further, I adopt the words that Dr. J. Gresham Machen sent in a telegram to Professor John Murray shortly before he died: “I’m so thankful for the active obedience of Christ. No hope without it.”
I encourage my children to go back and listen to my sermon series through Psalm 23 to be comforted and encouraged and to hold fast and overcome. As well, as could have been said by your Mother in our presence had she been able to speak in her last moments with us, hear Paul’s words as hers and mine and as my grateful resolve having faith’s fruit (especially your fruit) to look back on, knowing that my labor was not in vain and that I shall receive my reward of the inheritance for serving the Lord Christ: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” May these also be your sincere dying words and thoughts.
I ask my children, whom I dearly love, never to forget the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations, including bringing up your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. May God bless you and yours through the same means as He did Abraham in Genesis 18:19. Be good stewards of your time, talents, and treasures so that you leave your own covenant family legacy and heritage, material and and especially spiritual, to your seed. And love and serve Christ’s Church, which is His Body, Bride, House, and Family, and the Pillar and Ground of the Truth—and out of which there is no ordinary possibility of salvation. May God grant you peace, love, and strength as he guides you through this life. Then at the end of time, we and your Mother and your three unborn siblings who went before her will be reunited in the New Heaven and Earth as a happy family with our new spiritual bodies.
I commit myself to God’s care, secure in his love for me and trusting in the salvation purchased for me through Christ’s suffering and death. I leave those who survive me the comfort of knowing that I have died in this faith and have now joined my Lord in eternal glory. I commend my loved ones to the protecting arms of God, knowing that He will continue to provide for you despite my absence; and I encourage you to place your faith and trust in Him alone and never in the world for your daily bread, comfort, and peace. I look forward to seeing you all who are truly in and with Christ again in our life hereafter, where we will all live with our Lord Jesus.
Do not sorrow without hope. Remember what the Westminster Larger Catechism question and answer number 86 teaches. Question: What is the communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death? Answer: The communion in glory with Christ, which the members of the invisible church enjoy immediately after death, is, in that their souls are then made perfect in holiness, and received into the highest heavens, where they behold the face of God in light and glory, waiting for the full redemption of their bodies, which even in death continue united to Christ, and rest in their graves as in their beds, till at the last day they be again united to their souls …
Also, may all who read this be keeping sober guard of your lives and souls, watching for King Jesus’ return on a white horse and on the clouds of heaven, by the closing words of the above answer: … Whereas the souls of the wicked are at their death cast into hell, where they remain in torments and utter darkness, and their bodies kept in their graves, as in their prisons, till the resurrection and judgment of the great day.
Further, I refer my heirs to Deuteronomy, the eighth chapter, and charge you not to “… say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth …” Remember how your Mother and I baptized and raised you as and to be Christians and peculiar people, and be no covenant breakers but covenant keepers. “But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day. And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.”
I request that my heirs remember that everything they have is a trust from the Father of Heavenly Lights. Take heed never to forget that you are merely stewards of what the Lord has given me and you, and that you will give an account of your stewardship of your Master’s things when Emmanuel returns at the Last Great Day. Be good servants and stewards of the faith and life legacy I now pass on to you in full by the gracious hand and in the mighty name of my faithful and true Master, Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Behold, He comes quickly. Prepare and endeavor to hear, “Well done good and faithful servant,” when He does.
I being of sound and disposing mind, memory, and understanding, do hereby declare this document to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking any and all my prior Wills and Codicils.
PS: I borrowed much of the language for this preamble from free sources online. Anyone who may find this preamble helpful and want to adopt it for updating (or beginning) their own wills are welcome to use it.