Superheroes Aren’t Supposed To Die
The mystique and allure of superheroes is their seeming immortality. No matter what evil villain appears and no matter the level of their insidious attack, there’s always a miraculous victory that ensures there will be another comic book issue, another blockbuster movie. The good guys always win.
Superman and Spiderman are assured of many centuries of battle after victorious battle. Shoot, even Indiana Jones keeps coming back for more!
Why is this? Superheroes aren’t supposed to die. A defining attribute of a superhero is their bulletproof exterior that covers a tender heart for mankind.
Countless people have contacted me with their testimonies of my dad’s soft, compassionate heart. I have been so blessed to watch my superhero in action for the last forty years. His passion for people was second to none.
My dad was my superhero—and, on Good Friday, 2010, my superhero died.
Robert Burton absolutely had superpowers. He used them all the time, and many people have been saved because of them. What were they? Mercy. Compassion. Love. Faithfulness. A continual sense of humor.
Here’s a testimony from someone about one of my dad’s many victorious battles against the forces of darkness:
"All I can tell you about Bob Burton boils down to this: In two short years of knowing him, he accomplished what an army of people, including my wife, attempted for decades, and failed: he brought me to Jesus. All of the others pushed, but Bob led. He led with love, and understanding, and tolerance and with patience. Lots of patience! He was a kind, kind man, who gave of himself so that others could have a piece of him to hold onto through this sometimes difficult life. And he did that with love, and gladness in his heart.”
The reason this testimony was possible, the reason why we all can be free, why we can also win battle after battle against life’s villains, is because my dad also had a Superhero. His Superhero also died on Good Friday.
The result? We all have the opportunity to be endued with Superpower, with the Holy Spirit. We all can love and heal and touch terrified, desperate people who have been abused by a very evil enemy.
Jesus also rose from the grave. He is now alive and active. Extremely active. And, because of that resurrection, my dad is also alive and active right now with Jesus in Heaven. Many people who are still on the Earth are alive and active because of my dad’s willingness to carry Jesus and walk in resurrection power everywhere he went.
A Very Special Part of the Story
As I mentioned above, a key superpower my dad wielded was his sense of humor. He had joy and expressed it continually.
I was sitting in a Starbucks here in Grosse Pointe, Michigan connecting with a young, emerging leader in our church. As we were concluding our meeting I received a text message from a friend of the family in Branson:
Praying for you, your mom, Mike and all the family… Bob was an awesome demonstration of God’s grace and love…
Was? Bob ‘was’?
I felt the color leave my face and chills instantly flooded every part of me. I knew Dad was having some struggles with his health, but I wasn’t expecting a text message like this.
I called Mom and she immediately asked, “Are you coming?”
I said, “What do you mean?”
What? How could this be? I drove home and parked in the driveway as Mom and I talked about what happened, what needed to happen, when we should drive down to Branson.
Then, suddenly, God did something very special for me—something I’ll never forget. He disconnected the call with my mom, it dropped in the middle of our conversation, and a moment later my phone rang and I saw my dad’s picture pop up on my phone. My dad’s cell phone was calling me.
I answered and the nurse was on the line. She said my dad wanted her to get me on the phone. “Ummm… OK.” I said.
The next voice was indeed my dad’s. His superpowers of joy and sense of humor touched me yet again. “I’m calling from Heaven.”
What? Dad? What’s going on?
He said, “I’m still among the living. There was a miscommunication regarding my condition, but it won’t be long.”
I said, “Dad, this is like the Twilight Zone! Wow. Should I come on out to see you?”
In his normal, selfless manner he said, “Nah, just pray.”
I told him I loved him and that was it. It was the end of a brief but precious phone call with the man who impacted my life more dramatically than I could ever explain.
We immediately packed and drove to Springfield to see him in the hospital.
By then he was not communicating very well, but he did say, “I love you.” He also said, several times, “Mom.” His tender heart, his superpowers of mercy and love, were still shining through. He wanted to ensure the love of his life here on the Earth, my mom, who had been mostly bed-ridden for over 30 years, would be very well taken care of.
I learned that his last phone call with my mom was filled with tears and he told her how sorry he was that he was leaving her. He was so sorry that he wouldn’t be there to care for her any more.
That was on April 1, 2010. April Fool’s day. It would have been an appropriate send off if this master of the superpower of humor departed on that day. However, I believe God wanted to make a larger statement about his life of consecration and surrender to the Lover of his soul, Jesus.
He held on and passed away the next morning—Good Friday.
Yes, superheroes do die. But the greatest heroes actually die well before they leave the Earth. As we take up our cross, die daily, surrender all and follow Jesus, many villains will be defeated and many special people will find the abundant life they so desperately desire.
Thanks Dad for your life. I can’t wait to see you again.
You can view a special website in honor of Bob Burton at www.johnburton.net/bobburton. Please submit any stories, testimonies, photos or other information about him by filling out a form on the site. You can also donate toward the care of Bob’s wife Barbara.
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After wrestling with the emotions that invaded my life after my Dad’s death on Good Friday, and dealing with the extreme shortness of time for all of us to fulfill our missions on the Earth, and also considering the reality of eternity, I’m finding myself freshly challenged.
(By the way, check out a new site under development in honor of my Dad at www.johnburton.net/bobburton.)
I was scheduled to minister on Good Friday at my friend’s church in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada on this topic that’s stirred me more since my own Dad went home that very day. The topic? The church and the cross.
That seems to be a likely subject matter to minister on the day set aside to remember the death of our Lord Jesus. However, the message is different than what you might expect. It’s a message of concern for the church. A message that calls for deep personal analysis. It’s a message that clearly reveals the necessity for radical reformation in the church.
Matthew 21:8-11 (ESV) 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
The masses, upwards of 1/2 million people, were crying out for a better life. They were desperate for salvation. They cried out to their only hope, SAVE US!
So far, so good! We have the same cry resounding now in our nation and around the world. Desperate people are seeking relief, peace, abundant life.
We know that Jesus offers all of that and much more! I’m a huge believer in the grace of God, in extreme joy, in freedom. It’s a significant mark of my ministry. My mission statement is, “Making it easy for people to thoroughly enjoy God.”
It’s very good to seek the blessing of God. We are commanded to be blessed—to be a blessing! Life in Jesus should be phenomenal!
Jesus heard the prayers, the requests, the cries of the people on what has become to be known as Palm Sunday. He was very much intent on “saving them.” He was in agreement with their need to cry “Hosanna.”
In the modern church it has become quite acceptable to appeal to the Palm Sunday masses with promises of excellent programs, wonderful teaching and an edifying and comfortable environment of worship. For many, Palm Sunday is the goal. People crave an exciting atmosphere full of committed and desperate people.
The problem? Jesus knew that 1/2 million worshipers in a Sunday worship ‘service’ was not the goal. There was no way their desire for freedom and salvation could be realized without another radical element. The cross.
On Good Friday the 1/2 million group diminished to only 2. It couldn’t even be considered a cell group.
The call to the cross was not what the masses wanted. Their demands were unmet. They rebelled against Jesus because they weren’t willing to embrace the cross.
If people are “Palm Sunday Christians” we have a very serious problem. Without the cross, we cannot be Christians at all. There are many who have been appeased and affirmed in their participation with other worshipers… all while they may not be saved at all! Without the cross, the masses on Palm Sunday were absolutely hopeless. The same is true today.
I’m wrecked. How often do people choose their church based on how good the children’s program is, or how friendly the pastor is or what the church can do for them and their family? How often do churches actually maximize this “Palm Sunday” scenario by offering everything the people are looking for?
It’s time the cross returns to the church, and the church returns to the cross. It’s time to raise the bar. It’s time to leave our demands behind and take up our cross and die—daily.
The revival and refreshing and abundant life that our cities and nation needs can’t come through big ideas, amazing programs or by meeting the needs of the people—as great as all of this sounds.
Revival comes through a death and resurrection. It’s through a baptism. It will arrive through zealous people who leave their desires behind and serve with passion. It will come through gutsy leaders who are willing to leave the large crowd behind and lead the few to the stinging, painful, demanding cross of Christ.
You see, it’s that cross that will turn us from death to life, from fear to faith, from apathy to revival that will rock this planet.
Time is short. We’re all almost done here on the Earth. We have to see reformation come if we hope to see abundant life flood our churches.
Let’s leave our Palm Sunday dreams behind, dismiss our plans for the huge crowds and lead whoever is willing to the cross.
Leaders, that means much will be at risk. Our salaries, our positions, our freedom of time. We may have to get a second job. We may make a lot of enemies. People will talk. People will leave. But, if we do it, many, many, many will be saved.
Others, this means that much will be required. You may not get to choose the ‘perfect church’. Your children may not have the best programs. It may be a challenge to respond to the extreme call. Your time may be treaded upon as the call to ministry increases. But, believe me, it will be worth it.
We must set a precedent for the next generation. We have to embrace God’s desire to bring reformation and restoration to his beloved church.
What do you think?
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Tomorrow evening, Tuesday, March 9th at 8pm I’ll be ministering in downtown Detroit.
I’d love to have all of my revivalist friends with me to cover the night in prayer.
The address is 2535 Michigan Avenue, Detroit, MI 48210. It’s a prayer group that moved their regular meeting from their house to a church building. (though, they didn’t tell me the name!!)
ALSO, get your passport ready and join me for another road trip to Sarnia, Ontario, Canada at 10:30am on Good Friday. I’ll be ministering at Revival Nation Church.
Let me know if you plan on going to either of these events!