Psalm 32:1-2, 5-7, 11
A Psalm of David. A Contemplation.
1 Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered.
2 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit.
5 I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I have not hidden.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
And You forgave the iniquity of my sin.
6 For this cause everyone who is godly shall pray to You
In a time when You may be found; . . .
7 You are my hiding place;
You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.
11 Be glad in the Lord and rejoice, you righteous;
And shout for joy, all you upright in heart!
Proverbs 10:22 (NKJV)
22 The blessing of the Lord makes one rich,
And He adds no sorrow with it.
Proverbs 11:25 (NKJV)
25 The generous soul will be made rich,
And he who waters will also be watered himself.
Proverbs 13:4 (NKJV)
4 The soul of a lazy man desires, and has nothing;
But the soul of the diligent shall be made rich.
Matthew 16:24–26 (NKJV)
24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?
Matthew 5:4 (NKJV)
Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
1 Thessalonians 4:13 (NKJV)
13 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.
I can only imagine the exclamations of wonder that Michael must have uttered upon his transition from this life into the presence of his Lord. I can hear him say, "Wowwwww!" And I know the moment he stepped into heaven that he instantly would feel that it was worth it all; nothing in this this world, no pain or suffering compares with the glory of his new existence. And that existence is eternal.
Michael and I liked to spend time together. We’d go out to eat. But we especially enjoyed going on long car rides after we ate. We’d just take in the scenery of Long Island and shoot the breeze. We went to Israel together on a number of occasions and that was fantastic. But there was something special about our conversation rides. We'd discuss everything. We'd debate things and walk around them considering various alternate views.
Michael enjoyed playing “devil’s advocate,” in a good sort of way. He loved to just poke you to think outside the box. The debate would be on, the banter back and forth. Then we’d come to an end and he'd cock his head, smile with his impish smile and say, "We're not that far apart." It was great fun.
On a number of our rides we discussed what he wanted me to say about him at his memorial service. He made sure to exhort me to give all glory to God. And I do; when I think of Michael I give glory to God for so many blessings.
As we talked it through he boiled his life-summary down to these words:
"I was blessed all my life. All my blessings came from God. And I tried to share them to bless others. I know I was touched by God. I felt if I was loyal to God He'd be loyal to me."
Michael was a rich, wealthy man. He was very blessed.
Michael was blessed intellectually.
Michael was cerebral. He was one of the smartest most intelligent men I've ever known. He loved to talk about history and learning from it. He could break down complicated information to bite size and digestible pieces so for us to understand. He was a wealth of knowledge.
Michael used to laugh about how when at Hofstra he would enroll in a degree area and learn it, but just before he’d graduate he’d change majors so he could learn some more. Michael loved to learn. To him learning was like a Thanksgiving Feast and he was always ready to dig in.
There wasn't a subject Michael didn't know something about. And there wasn't a subject he didn't have an opinion on. (And he didn’t shy away from letting you know his opinion.) It was intellectually invigorating to talk with Michael. He loved to banter. He loved to discuss; to be asked questions and to ask questions. Michael had fun learning and he made learning fun for others.
Michael was blessed materially.
Michael was never married and lived single his entire life. He was blessed in his occupations. He was a good steward of his material gains. He invested well over the years. He became wealthy. But Michael was an extremely generous man. He didn’t hoard his wealth. Quite the contrary. I remember him telling me early on that his ambition was to give all his wealth away.
Michael blessed countless people paying for their education, general practical needs, trips to Israel, computers, cars, clothes, just about anything you can imagine. If ever he found someone in need he wanted to help them. He was on a mission to spend all his money before he died. I know I was blessed by him. I think everyone who knew Michael was in some way blessed by him.
Michael wasn't afraid of being taken advantage of. He knew it was part of the risk of helping others. Don't get me wrong, he didn't like being taken advantage of, but I don't think he lost too much sleep over it either. He preferred, I think, to enjoy the great amount of doing good that he did. He loved to help people to have things they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to have. He enjoyed blessing people in a way they could go places and see things that otherwise they wouldn’t have been able to experience.
Giving was Michael’s joy and purpose in life - he was really big on living with purpose; eternal purpose. He embodied and lived, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts. 20:35b). That was his reward in this life. He'd deflect credit or compliments giving glory to God. But you could see helping others was where he got the most if his satisfaction in life. He was blessed and was such a blessing.
Michael was blessed socially.
Michael met many famous people in his life:
"Just a sample" he said:
· Charlton Heston – he said he was tall
· Zsa Zsa Gabor – he said she was a wonderful woman.
· Eleanor Roosevelt – he said she was smart
· Clifton Webb
· William Shatner – he said he was Captain Kirk
· Leonard Nimoy – He said he was Spock
· Picard - Patrick Stewart – He said he was the new Captain of the Enterprise
· Francis Nugent
· Carey grant
· Presidents - Jimmy Carter; Ronald Reagan; both Bushes; Bill Clinton
Michael was a very discerning man. He was able to accurately assess people. And there were times when he’d voice his opinion of people whether they wanted to hear it or not. And then there were times when he’d just let it go. Relationally he knew how to press the envelope, how to press buttons, but also how to respect boundaries.
Michael had a great sense of humor. He would tease and goad you into a "discussion" and then impishly smile at you. Michael was great fun to be around.
Michael loved people. He lived interacting with people. He would strike up a conversation and talk with anybody and everybody. He’d ask young people about their goals in life. Michael had a tremendous heart for young people. Michael genuinely cared for people. That’s just the way he was. His heart to help overcame differences.
Michael had a great compassion for people. He had a redemptive spirit that reached out to help people in need. He was always looking to redeem those the world discarded.
Michael believed in investing in people. He believed in the importance of education. He paid for a lot of people’s education. He encouraged people to do their best and become their best. He was repulsed by laziness and just wouldn’t accept that some people, as far as he could see, were wasting their lives. Michael loved life itself and he loved to live it.
Michael hated conflict between those he loved. He was reconciler in that regard. He would defend people against accusation. He wanted there to be peace and acceptance between people. He loved and wanted others to learn to love too. In one sense Michael loved to argue. But in another sense, he hated arguments.
Michael was a great, great friend.
On our last ride together I asked Michael, “Michael, do you need anything?” He paused and said, “No.” Then he reached over and put his hand on my arm and said, “I have you.” That’s my favorite memory of Michael. That will stick with me for the rest of my life. Michael had a way of making you feel special. Michael was a great, great friend.
Michael was blessed spiritually. To him this was the most important part.
Michael was "touched by God." I believe that. He told me of encounters he had with God. He had a real personal relationship with God. He could relate to the experience of the Apostle Paul (Acts 9). He had a passion for others to experience that too. If you talked with Michael you know it wasn't long before he would swing the discussion to the things of God and salvation. That was true wherever he went: in a diner; in a store; in the hospital; to a waitress, a nurse, an intern or doctor. He didn't care how uncomfortable it made you feel, he was going to tell you about His Lord and how important it was for you to know Him too. Michael was fantastically consistent in that way.
Michael had a strong sense of what God wanted him to do.
The Lord used Michael to speak to me about certain things. I learned to take his suggestions seriously. Michael was a wealth of wisdom. He was very perceptive. I’m going to miss his input. He made me a better pastor. He respected me as a pastor. He respected me as a brother, as a friend. He made me a better person; a better human being.
Michael was always asking about how the church was going and what he could do to help. He was always ready to meet a need. He had a servant’s heart; he was always interested in helping. He loved to teach and was a great teacher. He taught in our school of ministry and we often spoke about him teaching a class on the major and minor prophets. (He's probably got their ear right now). He loved to help open people's eyes about the importance of the Old Testament and how the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed, the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.
I asked Michael what his favorite parts of the Bible were. He said:
· Genesis 12
· Exodus 19
· Matthew 5-7 (Beatitudes)
He told me: "I like the entire Bible. You have to read the whole Bible to get the whole story. I like it all."
I met Michael when he began attending a Tuesday night men's group at our church. We read through books in the group and had open discussions about their contents. And let me tell you, when Michael joined that group, the fervor and fire, depth and detail, the challenge and honest considerations of all sides of a matter were turned up more than a notch. Trying to facilitate and oversee those "discussions" felt a lot like a rodeo at times; even a three-ring circus! But we had a lot of fun. It was such a blessing. We saw Michael transformed right before our eyes. We saw Michael's thought process. We saw Michaels heart process. We saw the Lord work in Michael. Michael added so much to those groups. And as we spent more time with Michael, the Lord used him in our lives too.
I would be delinquent in my friendship to Michael and duties as his pastor if I did not clearly share that Michael accepted Jesus as his Savior-Messiah (his Yeshua Hamashiach). Michael did not make this decision lightly or without research and personal study and prayer. He became a student again. He weighed the facts. He enrolled at Dallas Theological Seminary and took classes, (which he especially loved), by Robert Chisolm. Many, many times we discussed the issue in my office. He had many, many questions (you can only imagine.) Michael never left his Jewish identity. He felt knowing Jesus enhanced not diminished his Jewishness. He loved the Lord with all his heart. There was nothing he wouldn't do for the Lord. The Lord greatly enlarged his sense of mission in life.
As Michael grew in his faith the time came when I asked him to fill in for me and deliver the message at a Sunday morning service. That’s no small responsibility and I don’t take such a responsibility lightly. But I knew Michael had a message to share. And I knew what he had to share, what the Lord put on his heart, was something we needed to hear. When I gave Michael the opportunity to fill in for me one Sunday, the title of his message was, “We serve a Holy, Holy, Holy God.”
Michael had a great passion for the holiness of God and being reverent toward God. Michael had a very serious side to him.
A concept that had impressed him even from his youth via Cecille B. Demille’s production of The Ten Commandments with actor Charlton Heston, and then more accurately and thoroughly when he learned more was the holiness of God. In his message he cites a favorite verse, “Who is like You, O LORD, among the gods? Who is like you, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11). He further cited the inspired words, “They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying: Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways, O King of the saints! Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested’” (Revelation 15:3-4). Those verses are a testimony of Michael’s view of God. Indeed, the name “Michael” means who is like God? Michael loved that about his name.
Michael had a great passion for the holiness of God and being reverent toward God. Michael had a very serious side to him. He used to get really riled up about people wearing hats in church or acting irreverently. The sanctuary was holy ground to him. He came to understand grace toward others in that area, but you could tell it still irked him. He was a defender of God but would never mean to imply God in some way needed defending. He was a proponent of the things of God. Michael had a real sense of the presence of God and what holiness entailed.
Michael lived to glorify God. He would never accept credit or a compliment without deflecting the glory to God. He believed anonymous works in this life became accumulated dividends in the next. Michael was rich in this life, but he is far wealthier in the next because of the way he lived.
Michael is with the Lord now. I'm sure when he met the Lord he was welcomed with the words, "well done good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord." Michael loved much and was loved much. We can learn a lot about living from Michael's life. Maybe that's his greatest contribution. Michael, we will miss you. But as we look at your life we learn a way to help us not grieve as those who have no hope. We grieve, but our hope in Christ is to one day be reunited in the joy of the Lord. I pray it's soon.
Revelation 14:13 (NKJV)
13 Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them.”