On Tuesday, March 27th Ed Bergdorff passed from this life to the next one. He was 65 years old. The last time we saw him was less than a month ago and we had our usual Bible study. The last devotional was about the throne room of Heaven (Revelation 4). Rebekah and I went to visit him as often as possible, even though he spent his last days in a nursing home nearly an hour away. Ed meant so much to us. He became a friend, someone we cried over and cried with.

It is our sincere prayer that Ed has entered glory, He is in the majestic and radiant presence of Jesus, and is waiting on us to come and stay with him for all of eternity, and not just an hour or 2. Although unsure who might feel this same way, we love and miss Ed, and we long to see him again. Over the last 2 years, since the post below was written, we have seen a real change in Ed. He loved to hear the Bible read and explained, he longed for our visits and prayers, he confessed his sin when he did wrong, he was kinder to those who waited on him, he seemed to have a sense of peace despite his very troubled life. We believe this was evidence that Ed had met Jesus and the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification was under way.

This post is over 2 years old. Suffice it to say, the Ted in this story is Ed Bergdorff. This is in memory of him:

It’s Not Too Late for Ted (3/20/10)

“One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ” Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:39-43).

Ted is a drug addict. Due to multiple back surgeries and other debilitating illnesses he is hooked on numerous prescription drugs. I watched Ted groan and writhe in pain and nausea as he suffered from unintended morphine withdrawal. After a trip to the ER and the healing power of an IV bag dripping the necessary medications back into his desperate body, he was back to “normal” within 24 hours. The hospital visit precluded what I thought was the perfect day to share the Gospel with Ted. But God, in His divine orchestration, had determined that this Saturday was not His perfect time for an explanation of His unfathomable free offer of grace and forgiveness. That was ordained to take place 72 hours later.

Ted was forthright on that overcast Wednesday, “I’ve committed every kind of sin. I’ve even killed a man…not because I wanted to but because I had to. My life has been a mess since I turned my back on God.  I got saved and baptized as a teenager but chose other things over Him.”

He described the day that defined his life: “I was 18 and standing outside of a pool hall. The preacher was on the other side of the street. He told me to leave the joint, cross the street, and do the right thing. You know, to come over to that side. I wanted to. I knew I should. But I turned around and went back into the bar and never looked back. My life has been a mess ever since”.

Now in his mid-60’s, Ted has been homeless, sick, hurt, medicated, fighting, alone, and just surviving for most of his life. He is also illiterate. There is no family and but one friend to care for him. Ted now sits in a government furnished apartment for the indigent having nothing more than the bare necessities. He worries constantly about his Medicaid coverage and Social Security check and whether his pain and panic medicines will be available and affordable. He has a dark past, a dreary present, and, seemingly, a hopeless future. Ted is the type that most folks, including our society in general, have given up on. But, in His infinite love, Jesus (and Ted’s one friend) hadn’t.

Ted started listening to some tapes he had been given that shared “The Gospel Made Simple.” As much as I was suspicious of that tagline, I found the tapes to be an accurate representation of the true message of salvation. Not forgetting the faith of his youth, these tapes reminded Ted of the essentials of being born again; our sin, God’s holiness, the necessity of righteousness, the rightful judgment of God against our rebellion, and, most of all, how Jesus has made a way for sinners to be redeemed, forgiven, and receive eternal life (see John 3:14-18). Ted understood the Gospel and knew it was all wrapped up in Jesus and the cross of Calvary. He knew he had to know Christ as his only hope and believe and receive Him through the power of God (see John 1:12-13).

Ted said on that providential weekday,“But how can this be? I’ve been too bad for that. It’s too late for me.” Quoting Romans 10:9-10, I told him there were a few simple things necessary to experience God’s mercy and unmerited favor, receive forgiveness for all his sins, and inherit eternal life in the presence of Jesus; sincerely believe (“if you believe in your heart”), have a life so transformed that it confesses Jesus as your Savior (“and confess with your mouth”), and surrender your life to the dominion and lordship of Christ (“that Jesus is Lord”).  To ease Ted’s concern his sin was too great, I shared that Jesus said, “Whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). “What you have to do,” I explained to Ted as clearly as I could, “is to cry out with genuine desire the prayer of the wretched tax collector; ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner’” (see Luke 18:9-14).  Then I waited in deafening silence.

With his eyes fixed on mine, Ted paused. Finally, his emphysema filled lungs gasped and he carefully, tearfully, and emphatically said, “That is what I need.” An interminable, stunning silence ensued. “And that is what I want…I want to live the rest of my life for Jesus. Will you pray with me?” And we did.

Do I know with certainty the state of Ted’s soul? I do not. That is in our Lord’s hands. I do know, however, this opportunity came about because one devoted, sacrificial woman, a true follower of Jesus, took Christ’s words to heart: “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40). She came often to visit Ted and brought food, love, and prayer. She took her Saturdays to make sure his meds and refrigerator were stocked. She came with warm, caring words and a comforting presence. She also introduced me to Ted. And, just maybe, by God’s grace and through her demonstration of Christ-like love, reintroduced Ted to Jesus.

And, by the way, I’m so blessed to have married this woman –  Ed’s friend and my Rebekah.

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