Todd Wagner

About Todd Wagner

In 1999, a group of friends and I desired to be the same awe-inspiring community that we saw in the Scriptures and to connect God's people with opportunities to know... Read more

Message Transcript
My name is Todd, and I am not here because I'm pastor of a church called Watermark. I'm here because I'm Jennifer Lewis Clouse's friend. One of the greatest kindnesses that she ever offered me was a chance to speak now at her funeral. People ask me sometimes about this place and what makes it what it is to so many of us, what it is to me. The answer is people like Jen. I will tell you that this place is filled with people like Jennifer. She's not even that unusual. She is like an alien to a lot of you. This place is filled with people who, because of Jesus, their lives are remembered the way that we just, in an amazing way… You may not have friends who can write and speak as well as Jen did, but if you're here at Watermark, you can have friends like Jen. The reason is that there are a lot of people here who know Jesus. Because these people know Jesus, I just want you to come and see. I want you to come and get to know not them but people like that. I just thought to myself, "This is the funeral that people should come to if they didn't know Jennifer Lewis just so they can have a hole in their heart that they didn't know Jennifer Lewis. I hope you were listening, and I hope you were thinking, "One day, I'm going to end up with my picture on a stage, maybe in flowers, and folks are going to listen for a few minutes to people talk about my life." Wouldn't you love to hear them talk about your life the way they just talked about Jen? That's exactly what each of us should do. There's a verse in a book called Ecclesiastes, which is just a collection of wisdom sayings by a guy who, when he was told by God he could have anything, said, "I'll just take wisdom." He sat down toward the end of his life. He didn't even always follow all of the wisdom that he had, but he had a moment of clarity toward the end where he just said, "Here's some wisdom. Maybe you'll live by it better than I did." This is what it says in Ecclesiastes 7. It says, **"A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth."** I take a pause and a break there because… I told the family before we came out here, "Welcome to this celebration. We're going to grieve on both sides of this thing, maybe for a long time, but we are going to celebrate today. We're going to celebrate what we know is true and what we truly experienced." We don't have to make it up. We're not reaching for a story or a nice anecdote that we can say something nice about the departed. We are celebrating God's grace in our lives called Jennifer Lewis Clouse. D.L. Moody is a guy who lived for a while and loved Jesus, and as he moved toward his day when he was going to be with the King, he said, "Soon, you will read in the newspaper that I am dead, but do not believe it for a moment. I will never be more alive." That's why Solomon wrote, "The day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth." As Jen did a great job of explaining as she taught recently at one of our equipping days about heaven, heaven doesn't have any of the stuff that is here. This world has been tainted by sin, and what happens is people who have been tainted by sin run into Jesus and have a genuine relationship with him, and as a result of that, they bring a little bit of light back into the darkness, so this place gets fairly tolerable, but there is still plenty of darkness in us, and there was still plenty of darkness in Jen, and there is certainly plenty of darkness in this world. If you know Jesus, and the darkness has been dealt with, then the day of your death is better than the day of your birth. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, **"It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting, because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart."** It is good that we're here. If you're supposed to feed a dog every day, you ought to go to a funeral every day. You ought to just find one and show up. There is no greater certainty in life than death. Every one of us is marching toward the grave. Good health is only the slowest possible path to death. That's all it is. Jen was not dealt the hand of good health for the last six years. Her march had a little faster pace to it than we think most of ours do. I don't know the answer to this. I remember at the heaven equipping time that she did, one of the things she said was, "There are people reading my blog who are going to die before I am, and they don't have cancer." Did we every hear from anybody who lost their life in that little window when she was writing that blog? She was exactly right. You don't know. This girl's days were 44 years and 6 months. I don't know what yours are, but God does. Your days are fixed. One of the things about going to a house of mourning is you are confronted by what is going to be said of you when you die. Look. There are some people even this room who know Jesus. I'll tell you what's going to be said about you when you die. "I think they knew Jesus, but they were unfaithful, unwise, selfish, largely didn't make much of a difference. God taught us a lot about forgiveness because they were our friend. If they knew Jesus, they're fine." That would be true. I have to tell you that's not what God wants for you. What God wants for you is what you just heard. What God wants for you is what Jen said to Hite, right? It's like when Chris said, "Why don't I have cancer, and you do? Why aren't I marching to the grave at a faster pace than you?" I quote, "Oh, Hite. You should be. It's going to be glorious." Jen knew that. One of the things that was so consistent for her, frankly before she knew how fast she was marching to the grave, is she was really zealous for you to know the life she was already living. See, too many of us have this weird idea about Christianity, that it's fire insurance, that it's something you need for when you end up at this moment. No, it's not. He has come that you might have life and have it abundantly now, that you might be full of life and a blessing to other people to where we grieve when you're gone. A little bit of Christ is gone. Still the fullness of him is here, but a little bit of it, and the grace that came shining through this little blonde is gone. It's gone, but there is still plenty of Jesus, all that we need, that is here. What Christ wants for you is to start to have that life now, that incredible boldness that she had, because she knows something. This is what it says in Philippians, and Jen said this so much. I really think Philippians 1 was written by a guy who was a lot like Jen. He was a leader, which means he was probably a little bossy at times. He was talking about some of the stuff he was going through. It wasn't cancer, but it was being hated and persecuted. He says in verse 18, **"What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ…"** That was Jen, not talking about a beating he received by people who were intimidated by his message. That was Jen as she spoke about the beating that was cancer. She said, "What then? Cancer? You're not the boss of me. I'm going to keep living. Let my friends think I should rest. I'm going to live." Verse 20: **"…according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now** [in my cancer] **, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."** Was Jesus exalted in her life? Oh, yes, like very few people you will ever meet. Is he going to be exalted in her death? I hope you're listening. I just want to insert this right here. One of the things that is happening… What a gift. Gigi, despite the fact that Jen apparently wrote an incredibly online dating profile, is still single, and CC is still single. We have an amazing number of women (and Jen was one of them) who for decades have lived chaste, pure, satisfied, open to God changing their marital status, but completely at peace because he is enough, lives. The world doesn't know many people like that. I mean, this was just a woman who was full of love for God and didn't need a man to validate her. She didn't pursue pleasure in fleeting moments. She never had that moment until she met Scott. This is a girl who… I don't know. I asked Scott, "Did you ever see Jen drunk?" He goes, "I don't know. I always passed out first." No, he didn't say that. I don't know that Jen ever tried to find life in a bottle. I don't know that Jen ever did anything but talk about Jesus wherever she was. This chaste, sober, evangelistic gal was a sinner, who, as great as she lived her life and as amazing as she was at teaching God's Word, fell short of God's intended glory, and she had no hope if she showed up with a well-written resume. She had no hope if she showed up with a well-written resume. Unless she had stamped on her heart what your Son did for me, his CV, his goings on. That's all I've trusted in, because you told me that if I knew my need and understood who you were and that you provided for me, that would be enough to make a wretch like me acceptable in your sight. Jen would be really discouraged if you thought that what her life was about was a process of earning God's love. What you're seeing and hearing today is the story of a person who understood the love of God. See, this is what people of faith are like. They're like Jen. They're a blast. They're bold. They're at peace. They don't care what you think or what cancer thinks. "Bring it. You and this world are not the boss of me. Jesus is. The parts of me you don't like are because I'm not enough like Jesus yet, but I'm getting there. He's enough for me, and I'm going to love you through all my imperfection meanwhile." It says in verse 20, **"…according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."** This is true. Jen should say, **"But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake."** You know what? It was, in God's economy, for 44 years and 6 months. It was necessary for you and me to run into someone like Jennifer Lewis, and our lives have been affected so you would hear about the grace of Christ, but her days are done. All that Jen would want you to know is that what is really necessary is for you to have heard a little bit or a lot of bit about Jesus and his sufficiency for you. If you saw anything in her that was at all curious and beautiful and mysterious and wonderful and almost other-worldly, alien-like, she would tell you it was the divine work of God in her life. She would just want you to know him and quit trying to build your own resume and quit confusing religion with what the Bible teaches. Quit confusing that Jesus is a propositional idea that you must say, "True," or, "False," to and be generally okay with. God is very holy, you are a sinner, there is a gap between you, so God laid down the life of his Son that you could trust in him, and through faith in that, be brought into a relationship with him and go, "I think that's true." Well, God doesn't want you just to think it's true; he wants you to bank your life on it and make a decision. It's not a propositional statement, and it's not a process that you earn over a period of time, good enough life work that God would say, "Okay, I think that'll get you in." The gospel, the good news, the story of the Scripture, is that life and love and truth and rescue is a person. His name is Jesus. He is the beginning and the end. Nothing came into being except by him and through him and for him. Your life is existing for the same reason that Jennifer Lewis' life existed, that other people would know Christ, and that you would enjoy him. If you're living for anything else, you are living wrongly. So all I will tell you is that part of Jen's life was God's grace in your life, that you would be here today and hear what I say. You can scoff if you want, but you've heard it. Now that she's gone, it's our job and privilege to get to say it and to keep doing it and to love you however you think and whatever you do, to call you out of your dead works or your profession and your disobedience into a life that can get you to where you are, where this dear woman has been. Her friends will be here all afternoon, and all you have to do… If you want to honor their friend, walk up and go, "Would you help me be and learn what Jen knew and was?" Nothing would delight us more. That's all we want to do, is talk to you about that. "Every good thing," Jen said when she taught on heaven, "and every perfect gift is from above." It's James 1:17. She was wise, so she quoted wise men. Everything on earth that is good is a foreshadow of everything good in heaven. Look, man. This is not a perfect place. We're not perfect people. Jen was not a perfect wife, a perfect mom, a perfect daughter, but she knew a perfect God who loved her perfectly and gave a perfect provision so his perfect wrath could be perfectly satisfied that you might be holy and blameless in his eyes, and you have to decide what to do with that. Having decided what you're going to do with that, then live in it. Come on. We'll admonish you, and we'll encourage you. We'll live authentically. We'll talk about how we don't do it very well. We'll say, "Let's do it again. Let's go. Let's try. Let's walk to Starbucks and grieve together over our sin. Let's go to 7-Eleven, and let's rejoice at some good that is happening in our lives." We just invite you to come and know our Jesus. The more you get to know him, the more you'll see Jen, and the more you won't miss her. I would be crazy if I didn't let Jen speak for herself. She knew this was going to be here. Take the back of your little program right there. I love it. Let's just read it, and I'm done. Hang with me. Are you ready? "Jennifer Lewis Clouse loved God, loved his Word, and loved people. She loved because he first loved her. Let there be no mystery here. Whether you just met her or knew Jen for years, she always made you feel known and loved. She shared her life with you and invited you to share yours with her. Above all, Jen wanted you to know her Savior and grow to trust in him. Jen would have never chosen a journey with cancer, but she walked faithfully, continually, trusting her life to the Lord's plan. She would want you to be encouraged that God chose you to be a part of his plan as you faithfully prayed and ministered to her and her family. Jen will be remembered for her teaching of God's Word. Most recently, as Jen prepared her heart for eternity, she studied what the Word says about heaven. Her excitement overflowed into a desire to share of the hope that awaits through the Word of God. Jen's thoughts are on her blog. We pray you will share in that blessed hope." That story we started with, with the kids, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, when they are being taunted by Nebuchadnezzar that they have to live and worship golden, shiny things in this world, and that they were going to suffer if they didn't… He said, "I'm going to get after you, and I'm going to make your life miserable if you don't." I love what they say. "O king. We do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter of what we're going to do. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us out of the hand of cancer or whatever else he wants, O king." Watch this. "Even if he does not…" See, that's the faith. If you have a faith or have come to a perverted understanding of Christianity that is like, "If, God, you do this, then I will serve you," you don't know who God is. We don't have an if-then faith. We didn't need Jen to be healed of cancer in our lifetime for us to know the goodness of God, and Jen didn't either. This is not an if-then girl. This is an, "Even if the world is not as I want it, I can tell you who this God is." You have to make a decision today what to do with Jennifer Lewis Clouse's God. If you are wise, you're wise for yourself, and if you scoff, you alone must bear it. We're not going to like you more, and God is not going to love you more if you accept this, but you will experience more of the love of God in a way that he intends if you will personally act on this. Because Jen is a great teacher, I'm just going to close with just about as clear a picture as I can give and tell you what I'm talking about. We love this illustration. We've used it. We would commonly call this… Linc, what would we call this? A chair. I would call it a chair. That's a good answer. We know that. That's called knowledge. Knowledge is that I know what something is. What does this chair exist for, Linc? What do you think? To sit on. That is exactly right. Linc, do you think if I brought you up and you sat in this chair, it would hold you? Do you think so? Yes, it would. It sure would. We've seen people bigger than you sit on it. This chair is sufficient to give you rest. Linc, is this chair giving you rest right now? No. Why not? Because you're not sitting in it. Let me just tell you guys that some of you guys know that Jesus Christ… You believe he's the creator God. You believe that he was the beginning and the end. You believe that his cross happened. You believe the grave is empty because the resurrection power of God affirmed him for who he was. You have knowledge, and you have assent, but there has never been a moment when you have done what Jennifer did. You have never said, "That's _my_ King. That's _my_ rest. That's _my_ God." There has to be a time when you make a decision to just go, "This is my Jesus. This isn't just a story about him. It's not just an idea I agree with. It is a God I know. The Lord is _my_ shepherd." I'm just going to ask you… If you've never had that faith transaction where you came into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Jen has been praying for you. We've been praying for you as her friends that you would move beyond knowledge and assent and you would begin to trust. Because you trust, it begins to change everything. You stop chasing golden, shiny things. You stop asking yourself how you should live your life. You go, "Hey, you're the boss of me because you're my Savior and you're good." I'm going to just tell you that when you live that life, you have people speak of your life that you lived this way, and it is awesome, and it is good, and it is full, and it is rich. You can be a blessing every day you're alive to your son, and you can be a blessing every day you're alive to your husband. We love you enough to tell you that. I'm glad you loved Jen, so you were here. I'm going to pray, and I'm going to give you a chance to sit in that chair. Father, I thank you for the incredible privilege of knowing your servant, this daughter of the King, this ambassador of your message, this daughter to Jane, wife of Scott, mother to Lincoln, this friend to us all. Father, we thank you for that incredible gift. We thank you that we don't need to pray for Jen. Whatever we need to do right now, we do not need to pray for Jen. We come to you prayerfully, and we just say, "Okay. We've seen and heard evidence of the resurrection, evidence of your power, evidence of your love, so we are at a place where we want to move more than just having knowledge and agreement that there is a God who lives and changes people. I want to start to live in it." Lord, I pray right now. Maybe somebody in this room wants to say, "I've been around what I thought was what you wanted me to be around for a long time." Maybe some people here are even in the process of trying to appease you and do what they think you want them to do, but today, they realize that what you want them to do is just come and rest, rest in Jesus. Lord, I pray that people would understand that Jesus is Lord. I pray they would believe in their hearts that he was crucified and dead and resurrected by your power, and they would come and find rest in him, that they would say, "Lord, would you forgive me? I'm really distracted by shiny things, and I've gone my own way and not followed you. I've hurt people. I've sinned. I've been destruction to myself and not a source of light to this world. Lord, I need forgiveness, and I believe you want to forgive me because I've heard the story of love, and I accept. I trust. I believe that Jesus is my Savior. Lord, I give myself right now. He's my Savior. I trust in him." Lord, would you help me now to, in the rest of the finished work of the perfect Savior Jesus Christ, walk in it and to become what Jen was, a teacher of the Word of God, a lover of people, a faithful ambassador of this message, a person who knows that you're the boss of us and a good one, a benevolent one. Help me, Lord, to be with your people, to seek those who aren't, and to live as if I am. Thank you for your grace. May it continually be washed over on the Clouse family, Grandma Vonie, Mama Jane. Father, I thank you for your church and the way they have been an ever-present source of grace and goodness to this family. I am so humbled and proud to be a part of your people and the way they have loved. Thank you for doctors and nurses who have loved our friends, some of them who need to know who the divine Physician is, but thank you for them, Father. Would you pour out blessing on them as they war to bring healing to the physical body? Would you, Father, go to war and bring healing to their spiritual soul? May they know you. May we love them. And may we run well in the days we have before us until we see how really glorious you are. We thank you that you are our Redeemer and you live.