by Howard and Jeanne Tomlinson


EPILOGUE

by Jeanne’s brother and sister


Finding Peace With God

How can I know the confidence and peace that Jeanne and Howie have had, facing trials and even death without losing heart?  How can I have peace with God?  Does heaven really exist?  Can I know I will go to heaven when I die?


Important questions.  Questions that must be faced, sooner or later.  We spend so much of our short lives in idle follies, passing obligations, and vain pursuits after fleeting pleasures that God sometimes yanks our chain with trials as if to say “Wake up!  There’s more to life than this!”  Jesus once said, to a group of people obsessed like us with temporal things, “Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25).  To another group overconfident with their earthly plans, Scripture challenged, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow, we shall go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.’  Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.  You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away” (James 4:13-14).
    In these few months since Jeanne’s passing, it has been sobering to look back over her life and see it as a unit.  All those years and experiences that seemed so varied and endless have now been packaged up into a single bundle with a summarized legacy.  It all looks so brief in retrospect.  Yet even the greatest historical figures – Lincoln, Einstein, Florence Nightingale, Alexander the Great – are seldom given more notice than occasional brief, single-sentence eulogies as we, the living, go about our busy little lives.  In jest, someone teased, “Think of it; a hundred years from now you will be just a fond memory to a special few.”  Maybe not even that much.  Something in us yearns for more meaning than fifteen minutes of fame and a decaying monument.  Was Solomon right, when he lamented, “Vanity of vanities!  All is vanity” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)?
    “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only,” the Apostle Paul said, “we are of all men most to be pitied” (I Corinthians 15:19).  This statement assumes that if there is no eternity, no rest in heaven, no accounting for sin or reward for righteousness, then all men are to be pitied; Christians just the more so if they had willingly suffered for something that was false.  As Solomon, Paul, and all who have looked to God in faith have recognized, life appears unfair without the eternal perspective.  In the short term, Jesus frankly acknowledged that God “causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matthew 5:45).  Who among us has not, like the writer of Psalm 73, puzzled over the prosperity of the wicked and the struggles of the righteous?  The rewards and punishments don’t appear to be fairly distributed in the earthly chapters of the human saga.  It’s only from the long view of eternity that the climax and resolution of the plot are abundantly clear.  Jesus encouraged his disciples before His own suffering with these words: “In the world you have tribulation; but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
    Christ is implying that we have a preview of the end of the story, and there is a resolution!  He said, “Let not your heart be troubled ... I go to prepare a place for you, and ... I will come again, and receive you to Myself” (John 14:1-3).  Someone may ask if we can rely on his testimony.  Well, for any skeptic for whom His miracles, fulfilled prophecies, teachings and example were not enough, He proved His trustworthiness beyond any shadow of doubt – He rose from the dead!  You can hang your eternal destiny on two irrefutable facts from science and history: creation demands a Creator, and Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  There is a God, and Jesus Christ has revealed Him.  Peter said he and the other disciples did not follow “cleverly devised tales” when they made known to us the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty (II Peter 1:16).
    Paul (another eyewitness), therefore, doesn’t leave us in a pitiable state.  His next sentence triumphantly declares, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (i.e., died, I Corinthians 15:20).  Jeanne’s story doesn’t end in a casket six feet down in a New York cemetery, because, Paul explains, Christ’s resurrection is a foretaste of ours: “the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality ... then will come about the saying that is written, ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (I Corinthians 15:52-54).  When Christ returns with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, “the dead in Christ shall rise first, then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words” (I Thessalonians 4:16-18).
    Jeanne used to sing these words to one of her own melodies.  In this comfort she gained her courage, and in this comfort we, her family and Christian friends, know we shall meet again.
    In this comfort Howie, despite his ongoing physical challenges, has continued witnessing his faith to the nurses who care for him.  As word got around the nursing home about the Tomlinsons, and how Jeanne had died so peacefully holding on to her husband’s hand, nurses would walk by and whisper, “That’s the room!”  Often they would find Howie sitting with his Bible opened, memorizing Scripture, ready and eager to share his faith or a word of encouragement.  Copies of Hope For Those Who Hurt began circulating among the doctors and nurses, finding searching hearts needing this example of faith, and opening doors for Howie to tell them about Christ.  This book has already been spreading beyond their own circle of friends and acquaintances, to whom Jeanne and Howie would often give free copies.  Friends donated money to make copies available to charitable ministries.  A planetary scientist for NASA recently requested a copy for a family member dying from a similar cancer.  Total strangers are finding and reading the book on the World Wide Web.  How many others will be brought to faith in Christ as a result of the Tomlinson’s life message?  “The rest of the story” will be told at heaven’s grand reunion.  Will you be there?
    When Jeanne passed the baton for writing the end of this book to her brother and sister, she specifically asked that we share with you, dear reader, God’s plan of salvation, and the hope of heaven.  It is our joy and privilege to fulfill her wish, because it is also our desire; we love to share the good news of the grace of God – it promises that no matter what you may be suffering now, you can know that you are safe in God’s hand (John 10:28).  You can have peace with God (Romans 5:1).  You can have God’s Spirit living inside you, to help you grow strong in faith the way you have read about in this book.  Even if you are facing death, you can look forward to living forever with the Creator of the universe, who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think (Ephesians 3:20), in a place called heaven, where “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him” (I Corinthians 2:9).

For Those Who Need Hope

The plan of salvation is simple, because our problem is simple: “All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way; but the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him” (Isaiah 53:6).  Can you admit that you are a guilty member of this flock that has gone astray?  That you have sinned by not honoring and submitting to your Creator, and “fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)?
    Humbling yourself before God, admitting your lostness, turning away from your sin and toward Him – this acknowledgment, this act of your will, this repentance, is the prelude to good news!  Yes, the penalty of sin is death, (Romans 6:23a), but Jesus paid it all!  God provided a substitute, His only Son Jesus Christ, to take your death and hell for you.
    “It is finished!”  Jesus cried out from the cross (John 19:30).  With His own blood, He purchased a pardon for you, and offers it free of charge.  Reach out with your empty hands in faith, and receive the free gift of God, which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23b).  In your own words, as best you can, talk to God right now:

Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner, and I’m sorry for my sins.  I now choose to turn from my sins to you.  I believe you are the Son of God and that your death on the cross paid the penalty for my sins.  You said you would come into my heart if I would open the door.  So I invite you into my heart, to be first in my life.  I believe you do come in right now like you promised.  Thank you for being my Savior.  Now I belong to you!  Help me to live for you in all I do.  Amen.
    Did you pray just now?  You can be sure Christ will keep His promises to you.  You don’t have to do penance or go through religious rituals, because “by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
    Regardless of your feelings, your good days and bad days, you can be confident Christ is with you: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (I John 5:13).

    Once you have begun your new life in Christ, He will stay with you to guide and comfort you through his Holy Spirit.  Some day this world with its woes will pass and vanish like a dream, but there will be an eternity in heaven, to rejoice with multitudes of saved sinners worshiping at the throne of God.  There, we will see our Savior face to face in all His glory!
    Would you like a sneak preview of heaven?  Pick up a Bible and read Revelation chapters 21 and 22.  Here the Apostle John was given a vision of our heavenly home, with gates of pearl, streets of gold, and the river and the tree of life – a place where:
“Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away ... These words are faithful and true ... It is done!  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost” (Revelation 21:3-6).
This, friend, is our blessed hope.
This is true hope – for those who hurt.

 


 

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Chapter 31: A Most Bizarre Situation Table of Contents The Rest of the Story: Reunited Again