Funeral Service for Judy, Brent, and Hope BELDNER

Funeral Service for Judy, Brent, and Hope BELDNER

Funeral Service for Judy, Brent, and Hope Beldner

November 27, 1996 (died November 23, 24)

Note:  Dennis Beldner and his whole family, members of First Free in St. Louis, were on a trip to Florida.  Just a couple of hours out of St. Louis they were in a terrible accident near Marion, Illinois and three members of the family—mother Judy, son Brent, and baby Hope—lost their lives.  Dr. Saba Khalil and I left St. Louis as soon as we heard about the accident and met Dennis in the hospital in southern Illinois.  At the funeral four days later there were three caskets in the front of the church—one full-size, one medium, and one small.  It was one of the most difficult funerals I have ever officiated.

Welcome:  We are gathered here this afternoon in loving memory of Judy Beldner, Brent Beldner, and Hope Beldner, dear loved ones of Dennis, Brian, Timothy, Daniel, and Bethany.  They are also dear loved ones of Judy’s family, Dennis’ family, our church family, the home school community, the Westminster Christian Academy community, neighbors, and virtually everyone who knew them.  We grieve together today at the tremendous loss of their presence with us.  Your thoughtfulness and love in being present here is greatly appreciated by this family.

Scripture readings:  There is no comfort in a time of sorrow like the comfort available from the Scriptures, the Word of God.  Please listen to the Scriptures as we read first a Psalm that is the favorite of the Beldner family:

Psalm 103, a favorite of the whole family

A passage with Judy in mind: Proverbs 31

A passage with Brent in mind: Ecclesiastes 12:1,7,13-14

A passage with Hope in mind: Mark 10:13-15 

A passage with the extended family in mind: Jeremiah 29:11-13

A passage with all of us in mind: I Peter 1:3-9

Prayer by Pastor DeJong:  A local evangelical pastor near Marion, Illinois was called when the accident occurred on Saturday morning.  He came to the hospital and ministered to the Beldner family for many hours until some of us arrived from St. Louis, and he remained there until we returned with Dennis, Brian, Daniel, and Bethany late that day.  He has continued to minister to Timothy during his time in the hospital in Marion.  Brian DeJong, pastor of Providence Presbyterian Church, has come to the service today and I want to ask him to come and lead us to the throne of grace.

MessageHeaven Is Out of This World

If your dearest friend suddenly moved away, without notice, to a far-away country, you would undoubtedly grieve because of your loss.  But if, in addition, you did not have a phone number or an address for your friend and did not know how to get in touch in any way, your grief would be compounded and you would wonder constantly about his or her welfare.  

Further suppose that a traveler arrived from that country.  You would immediately ask the traveler if he knew of your friend, and barring that eventuality, you would eagerly seek details about the country to which your friend had gone.  What is the weather like?  Is it safe?  What is the topography?  Are conditions healthy? The more questions you could get answered and the more concerns you could have alleviated, the more secure you would feel about your friend’s being there, even though you couldn’t actually communicate with him or her.

It is for this reason that I want to talk to you this afternoon about Heaven.  Judy and Brent and Hope are no longer here with us and we are unable to communicate with them.  But Someone has come to us from where they are and has provided us with a sizable amount of information about the place where they are.  I believe that if we will give consideration to the kind of place it is, any concern we might have for their welfare will be alleviated and we will find the comfort we need.

I recognize, of course, that not everyone believes in a place called Heaven.  There are those who think that all the Heaven you will ever see is the one you make for yourself here and now.  I happen to believe that the Bible is the revealed Word of God, and if words mean anything at all, the Bible makes it clear that Heaven is neither a figment of one’s imagination nor a metaphor for exhilarating experiences in this life: it is a place where some human beings spend eternity worshiping and serving and enjoying the Living God.

What is Heaven like?  Well, friends, it is out of this world, and I want to share with you seven great facts about Heaven.  First of all, in Heaven there is a total transformation of all that is earthly.  The bodies of its inhabitants are transformed bodies, according to I Cor. 15: “So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.  The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.”  I for one am getting to the age where the resurrection body is looking better all the time.

The minds of its inhabitants are also transformed minds, according to I Cor. 13:12: “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”  When we are faced with enigmas that are beyond comprehension, like why such a beautiful family should be shattered, we long for the promise of a transformed mind that will know fully the plan and purpose of God.

Heaven’s society is also a transformed society, according to Matt. 6:20: “Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  Further, in Rev. 21:27 we read of the New Jerusalem: “Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life.”  I don’t know about you, but as I see crime and immorality being flaunted today in a more brazen way than ever before, this aspect of Heaven looks more and more inviting.

Second, not only will there be a total transformation of all that is earthly, but in Heaven there will also be total justice and righteousness.  The Apostle Peter writes (2 Peter 3:13), “In keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”  We see a lot of unrighteousness and injustice today.  We see it in the court system—innocent people being convicted, guilty people being exonerated, and lawsuits for every imaginable insult or inconvenience.  We see injustice in the corporate world.  We see it in personal relationships.  But Heaven will be devoid of any injustice because its inhabitants will all be righteous.  

Third, in Heaven there is total joy—the absence of all tears.  We have all shed many tears these past few days.  The sorrow and grief seem overwhelming at times, but friends, the tears belong to this earth only.  In His Upper Room Discourse Jesus spoke to His confused disciples who were devastated by Jesus’ prediction of His own impending death, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”  

Revelation 7:16-17 speaks of the inhabitants of Heaven and says, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst.  The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.  For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water.  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”  That same truth is repeated in Rev. 21:4, and the following is added: “There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” 

Fourth, in Heaven there is total beauty and infinite value.  The description we are given of the Heavenly city, the New Jerusalem, in Rev. 21:9-22:5 is almost more than we can assimilate.  Its gates, is foundation, its size, its materials are all painted in the most amazing terms possible.  It says that the New Jerusalem

“…shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. {12} It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. {13} There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. {14} The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb …. 

         {18} The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. {19} The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone ….  {21} The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of pure gold, like transparent glass. 

         {22} I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. {23} The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp …. {25} On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there….”

         (Rev 22:1-5 NIV)  Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb {2} down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. {3} No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. {4} They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. {5} There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

No doubt this is a somewhat symbolic rather than entirely literal description of Heaven, but the symbols mean something—they mean at the very least that Heaven has beauty and value beyond anything we have ever experienced.

Fifth, in Heaven there is perfect rest.  In the Book of Hebrews we are exhorted to enter into that rest.  Listen to Heb. 4:9-11: “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God; for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from his.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest.”  In Rev. 14:13 we read these words: “Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord…. They will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’”  

Judy Beldner worked hard.  She worked at being a good wife and mother; she worked at being a teacher to her six children; she worked at helping other mothers become all that God intended them to be; she worked at making her house into a home.  But now it’s time for rest, perfect rest—for her and for Brent and for Hope.

Sixth, in Heaven there is no death, no destruction, no decay, and no deprivation.  The curse that has been upon mankind and upon the earth ever since those days in the Garden of Eden when the first man and first woman sinned, is removed in Heaven.  Many of the passages we have already looked at reiterate the absence of all that is evil from Heaven.  Its inhabitants never have to live in fear that some terrible tragedy will devastate their lives.

But finally, the most important thing about Heaven is that Jesus is there.   In fact, Heaven and the person of Christ are tied together at every point in the Scriptures.  Christ was an inhabitant of Heaven before His incarnation.  At the time of His advent He came down from Heaven, according to John 3:13.  He ascended into Heaven after His death and resurrection.  He presently resides in Heaven at His Father’s right hand, serving as our advocate and intercessor.  One of the most comforting words Jesus ever spoke focuses on His presence in Heaven:  

“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in me.  In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going there to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me, that you also may be where I am.”  

In fact, I find that while the Bible does tell us some valuable information about the dwelling places of heaven and the streets of heaven and the gates of heaven, it gives much more attention to the fact that Jesus is there than it does to Heaven’s topography and the other matters about which we have a good deal of curiosity.  That implies to me that the most important thing I can tell you about the place where Judy and Brent and Hope are today is that they are with Jesus. 

How can I be so sure?  I would answer simply that God has told us that He “so loved the world that He gave His One and Only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16). And Judy and Brent, and even Hope in her childlike way, believed in the Lord Jesus Christ.  They believed Jesus to be the Son of God; they believed that He died in their place and thereby forgave all their sin; and they believed that He rose from the dead.  They didn’t simply believe these things as historical facts; they entrusted their very lives to Jesus; they entrusted their eternal destiny to Him. Yes, I am absolutely certain that these dear friends are in Heaven this very moment enjoying the presence of the One who gave His life for them.  

Nevertheless, I’m also sure that “everybody talkin’ ’bout Heaven ain’t goin’ there,” to quote the old spiritual.  Heaven is a rather exclusive place, reserved not, as commonly thought, for all church members or moral people or tithers or those who have been properly baptized or even those who have been kind to the poor.  Rather it is reserved for those who have renounced all such religious ego symbols as insufficient and who rely upon Jesus alone for the forgiveness of their sins.

In the 16th chapter of Luke Jesus told the story of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus, who ate crumbs from the rich man’s table.  Both died; the rich man went to hell and the beggar when to Heaven, referred to in the story as “Abraham’s bosom.”  That in itself would have been pretty astounding to Jesus’ listeners, for they assumed that wealth was always a sign of God’s approval.  Obviously, it is not.  

As the story unfolds it says of the rich man: “In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side.  So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’”  But Abraham pointed out to him that there was a great gulf or chasm fixed between heaven and hell, and it was impossible for Lazarus to cross over.  

But the rich man continued his entreaties, “Then I beg you, father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father’s house, for I have five brothers.  Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.”  But Abraham replied, “They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.”  In other words, the Hebrew Scriptures tell the truth about life and death and heaven and hell.  All the rich man’s relatives need to do is to read and heed Moses and the Prophets.

“No, father Abraham,” he said, “they’re too busy to read the Scriptures ….” (That’s my interpretive comment!) “But,” he continues, “if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”  And Jesus answered, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”  And sure enough, a short time later Jesus Himself rose from the dead, but did the thousands to whom he had preached and before whom He had performed great miracles immediately repent and seek God’s forgiveness?  No, the vast majority continued right on ignoring God and ignoring the warnings about the tragedy of an eternity without Christ.  

This great chasm mentioned in the story of the rich man and Lazarus is the chasm that has always stood between a holy God and sinful man.  The whole history of human religion is the story of how various prophets and preachers and gurus and holy books have suggested bridging that gap.  Some have suggested good works; others have suggested pilgrimages; still others have suggested rites and rituals.  

Well, I’ve got some bad news—God says there is no way for us to bridge the gap.  But I’ve also got some good news.  God has already bridged it for us.  But the bridge is narrow.  Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate.  For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”  The bridge across the chasm, friends, is as narrow as a cross.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.”  The only One who had no sin of His own gave His life, so that through faith in Him, our sins might be forgiven.  

Perhaps you are one to whom God is speaking about your attitude toward Jesus Christ.  Is He just an historical figure to you, is He just a great moral teacher, or is He your Lord and Savior?  He can become that right now in the quiet of this moment as you acknowledge your sin and invite Jesus into your life?  

I can tell you for sure that if Judy Beldner were asked what she would want to happen at her memorial service more than anything else, it would not be that people say nice things about her or her family; it would not be that people would mourn deeply her death or even the deaths of her two beloved children; it would be that some of her friends, neighbors, or relatives before whom she lived her faith in Jesus Christ, would come to know the Savior personally.  

Prayer:  Father, thank you for the confidence we have that Judy and Brent and Hope belong to you and are right now enjoying the splendor of Heaven in the presence of their Savior. Thank you for precious memories—of looks given, of words spoken, of kindnesses done.  Thank you for the special promises in your Word that the separation of death is not permanent for believers because our Savior rose from the dead and will in like manner raise us up that we might spend all of eternity together in Thy presence.  Father, minister your grace and comfort to this dear family.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Hymn: Amazing Grace

Benediction: Charles Brazeal