Tuesday, September 05, 2017

IMPROVE YOUR SERVE



But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner.  For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  (Hebrews 6:9-12 NKJV)

What Paul means by “things that accompany salvation,” points in the context to the Christian’s “work and labor of love” demonstrated “in that you have ministered to the saints….”  Our “full assurance of hope” is reinforced by our service to Christ.  Note—we are not saved because we serve, but we serve because we are saved.  The question then is not will I serve God or not—that is not an option—but how effective am I in service?

That vital matter leads me to share a series of messages in October entitled, “Improve Your Serve.”  No matter where we are on the scale of faithfulness to serve and fruitfulness in service, there is always room for improvement.  So, we will share from Scripture how we can be more effective in our work for the Lord.

I don’t know if you play tennis or have at some point, but if you do then you understand how crucial the serve is to winning the match.  Where you serve—there is a specific area where the ball must land—and the way you serve—the greater the speed and spin you put on the ball the better—cannot be overstated as to its significance.  One of the keys to improving your serve in tennis is follow through.  It isn’t just focusing on the immediate impact at the point of striking the ball—certainly crucial—but how we follow through the point of impact which determines direction and velocity.

As a spiritual illustration, the point of impact is the commitment to follow Christ which calls us to salvation and with salvation a commission to service.  The impact on us is the receiving of grace gifts that equip us with the resources we need to get the job done.  The impact on the world is measured by the degree of follow through.  This is what gives our service force and leads us to victory—victorious Christian service!


So, what has God called you to do?  How has He wired you up?  What are your spiritual gifts?  Are you following through on serving Him?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

THE HOME FOR DISCIPLESHIP



Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus, To Timothy, a beloved son: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also.  (2 Timothy 1:1-5 NKJV)
The home base for discipleship is the Christian home.  While the church can offer resources and reinforcement for discipling our children, we cannot replace what God can do through a father and mother.  Here we see a young man, Timothy, who would make a difference in the world because he was discipled in the home.  A spiritual legacy was transmitted from his mother and grandmother.  Paul had become as a father to him in mentoring him for ministry.  Here is hope for the single parent or for a child whose parents have no spiritual interest.  The church's involvement must extend beyond a couple of hours of teaching during the week and have individual members who invest time and attention on that child which is lacking in the home.  Bottom line: the church has been hemorrhaging youth for years and this must be reversed!  This will not change until authentic faith is modeled and taught consistently in the family unit.  Gone are the days (if there ever were such) that you could drop your kids off at church and expect that will get the job done.  At best that approach is creating spiritual mediocrity and at worst, shoving our sons and daughters toward the abyss.  Dads and Moms, the church will seek to support you more intentionally and effectively, but you must own the responsibility.  God gave you those kids.  What will you do with them?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

THE RAREST OF JEWELS


It as been said, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  Since I don’t have room in this newsletter for a thousand words—and you might not take the time to read them—I will paint a picture of this Biblical principle: a virtuous woman is a rare jewel; a godly mother is of exquisite worth.  I found one in 1973—a treasure called Marilyn Crayton—who on August 24, 1974 became Marilyn Thurman.  Then in 1978, she became a mother with the arrival of the first of five children.  Her portrait in words will be framed by an acrostic of her name.

M—is for model.  She will be embarrassed to read this, of course—and she will quickly deny it, giving you all kinds of reasons why she is not that great a mother.  She isn’t perfect, but Marilyn is a model which every young woman would be wise to emulate.  Her daughters are following her pattern, and by my admittedly prejudiced opinion, are virtuous women as well.

A—is for Alert.  Marilyn has radar—a remarkable intuitive ability.  The kids will tell you she has eyes in the back of her head.  She is ever aware of dangers to the family and opportunities for good.  She has been an invaluable source of help in decision-making to me due to this quality. Her diligent study of the Word of God and sensitivity to the Spirit of God are the root of this.

R—is for Real.  I don’t know a person more real than Marilyn.  She is what she is and you know where she stands.  There is not a shred of pretense.  She hates subterfuge.  Marilyn is so transparent.  You don’t have to wonder what she’s thinking.  You can read her like a book.

I—is for Intercessor.  There is no telling where I would be if not for the faithful, fervent prayers of my wife.  She regularly cries out to God on behalf of our family and flock.  There have been times I have awakened in the night to hear her whispering passionate prayers.  When the “spiritual” preacher may want to collapse in slumber, she will often say, “Let’s pray.”

L—is for Loving.  Since Marilyn pledge her love to me, I have never doubted it for a moment.  She declares it and demonstrates it in a myriad of ways on a daily basis.  Her love for her children and grandchildren is so intense that you had rather try to rob a mama bear of her cubs than do something to her family.  All this flows from her love for the Lord. She loves people.

Y—is for Yielded. She follows the Biblical command to yield to my leadership.  She doesn’t hesitate to express her opinion, but when the final call must be made she defers to me.  Only one exception would be possible—her final allegiance is to Christ.  She is surrendered to Him.

N—is for Near.  She is not omnipresent as the Lord, but she stands by her man.  I know that some of you reading this are single or single again—and this partnership is something you crave or now miss.  If the Lord tarries His coming, one of us will likely slip away first and what a sorrowful thought!  For now, I just want to squeeze out every minute with her in this frantic life.

To all the women out there—let me challenge you to be virtuous.  For each wife, may I urge you to be godly.  To each mother who models holiness, I say, “Happy Mother’s Day!”  Men and children, heed the Biblical injunction:

Her children rise up and call her blessed;
Her husband also, and he praises her:

 “Many daughters have done well,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. 
(Proverbs 31:28-30 NKJV)

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Image result for no pain no gain

POWER FROM OUR PAIN

We have likely heard the expression, “No pain; no gain.”  That is true in getting physically fit.  Working out is exactly that—work!  If muscles are to be built they are first made sore.  It is the exertion that produces the stamina and strength.  There is no easy way.  This is a spiritual axiom as well.  Faith muscle can only develop through resistance.  Pain produces power.  It is for our profit if received as such.  We have the notable example of the Apostle Paul as he shared it in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10:

It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord:  I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven.  And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows—how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.  Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities.  For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.  Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.  And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul is speaking of an experience he had—unsure whether it was a vision or transported physically into God’s presence.  The occasion is uncertain, but the destination is said to be, “the third heaven.”  The first heaven is our sky—the atmosphere where clouds form and birds fly; the second heaven is space—where the stars shine and planets pursue their courses; the third heaven is Paradise where God sits on His throne—the object of worship by angels and departed saints.

It is of note that Paul refused to give details of his trip to Heaven, unlike many who have found great profit in writing books and making movies about “near death” experiences.  If Paul was forbidden to speak of what he heard, then why are people free today to describe such?  I am making no judgment, just asking the question.

Be that as it may, what is known is that God put a governor on the Apostle, lest he run away with pride and wreck his ministry.  Conceit over his experience would potentially prove his downfall, so God moved to preserve his servant—and in a most unusual manner.  God sent Paul “a thorn in the flesh…a messenger of Satan to buffet me….” 

We do not know the nature of Paul’s affliction—a myriad of ideas have been proposed—and we simply cannot say with confidence.  Perhaps this is God’s intent, so that whatever affliction we may face enables us to identify with the Apostle, and it would prevent pride from those who had the same problem were it defined, perhaps prompting the boast, “I’ve got Paul’s disease!”  That is how sinister pride can be, and that is why God would afflict his choice servant with pain so he would not fall.

Notice the source of Paul’s pain—God!  It was, “a messenger of Satan,” to be sure, but dispensed by a sovereign God as a gift!  He says this was “given” to him.  Strange gift!  Not exactly what you would want to find under your Christmas tree!  Yet, the omniscient and omnibenevolent God gave Paul precisely what was needed when he gave permission for this demonic buffeting to occur.  This is reminiscent of Job’s experience, where God initiated the waves of disaster that would sweep over him as a result of the Lord’s challenge to Satan and subsequent permission to attack him.  Always remember that God is in charge.  Satan and his imps have no power but what God permits, and if he permits them to bring problems then it is to fulfill His purpose with that very evil generating good (Rom.8:28).  The Old Testament story of Joseph is a perfect illustration.  All the harm that was meant for him would become the very vehicle that would carry him to power!

Paul described this as a “thorn,” literally, a sharp stake driven into him.  That is most suggestive.  It recalls the sharp spikes hammered into the flesh of Christ and the spear thrust into His side.  What an awful evil was done; what agonizing pain He felt!  Yet, this is how God wrought His most wondrous work as the satanic act of killing Jesus would be the very means of crushing the Serpent (Gen.3:15).  This is God’s mysterious and glorious way.

Still, Paul was human and not a masochist who found pleasure in the pain itself.  Normal folk would not.  They would do what he did—pray for deliverance!  Jesus prayed that if there would be any other way to accomplish His mission than to drink that bitter cup, then that would be His desire.  There was not, and He submitted after praying three times.  In this, Paul followed the Lord’s example.

Beware those who claim that if you have enough faith then all your problems will vanish.  Faith often creates more pain than it removes!  It was true for Jesus.  It was true for Paul.  It was true for Job.  It was true for Joseph.  It will be true for us.

God had something better in mind for His servant.  He promised something superior to physical deliverance.  God gave him abundant, amazing grace.  The Apostle’s pain that drove him to his knees in submission would enable him to rise clothed in power!  The affliction would not limit him, but enable him to tap into God’s limitless might.  So, instead of expressing grief, he exuded gladness.  Paul’s contentment in his circumstances was found in being in the will of the Lord.  There is no better place to be!

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

LITTLE IS MUCH





And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’” (Judges 7:2)

Bigger is better.  Go big or go home.  Build it and they will come.  That’s the American way of thinking isn’t it?  The evangelical church has adopted that philosophy too, it seems.  Well-intended, in many cases—an effort to reach as many people as possible—and who could fault that?  The difficulty comes when the mission to men becomes a movement of men that leads to a monument for men.

Large is nothing if God isn’t in it.  Little is much when He is.  Gideon is a case in point.  God chose the least likely leader to field the tiniest army in battle against a great foe.  You can read the whole story in Judges 6-8.  Let me summarize:

Israel started as underdogs—beaten down and dominated by foreign powers.  God heard their desperate cries and tapped Gideon to bring about the deliverance.  His response to God’s call was, “Who me?”  Then God started whittling down the already small army.  There were 32,000 and when God commanded that everyone who was afraid to go home—22,000 turned tail and ran.  God said there were still too many and tested them with the result being Gideon was left with 300—not 3000—300!  Their secret weapon was a bunch of trumpets, torches, and water pitchers!  They would ride down the valley in the dark, blowing trumpets, breaking pitchers, waving torches, screaming, “The sword of the LORD and of Gideon!”  Yeah, right.

But, it worked!  Why?  God was on their side, and that makes a majority.  He got the glory by the way because only God could bring this about.  This story underscores that little is much when God is in it!

I will be candid with you—as a pastor when church members head down the road to the bigger, better, shinier, newer church, it is natural to take it personal, and feel like a failure.  Keeping the morale of the troops up when we look around and see the vacant spots is hard. Making up for the missing in leadership vacancies and financial voids is challenging.

God hasn’t left the building.  He is with us.  Little is much when God is in it.  Maybe we should remember this: “It isn’t the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog.”  We are Pole Creek.  We have a job to do.  So long as I am here, I intend to press forward, and when I am gone someday, you will keep on track because it isn’t about the pastor, it’s about Jesus Christ.

Monday, August 22, 2016

A CENTURY OF IMPACT




In a matter of days, Pole Creek will be celebrating a birthday—a big one!  It is hard to believe, but for 100 years this church has been a beacon of light in the Candler community—whose impact reaches around the world.  That is what a missionary church does—and that is what Pole Creek has been, and by the help of God will remain until Jesus comes!
Pole Creek was birthed in the red-hot fires of revival, and we pray the fire will keep burning as we have a revival scheduled for Homecoming weekend.  Young Derrick McCarson, who grew up in Pole Creek—shaped by its ministry—will preach on Friday night, September 9 at 6:45 PM.  Along with our choir, special music will be provided by his wife, Caitlin.  Derrick now serves our sister church, Liberty, just down the road.  God has his hand on that young man.  Dr. Doug Ferguson will preach on Saturday, September 10 at 6 PM with his wife, Joan, singing for us.  When I came to Pole Creek’s staff twenty-one years ago, Doug was the Senior Pastor.  How I was blessed by the ministry in sermon and song from this godly couple!  They now serve Heritage Hills in Conyers, Georgia and are doing a great work.  Sunday morning starts early, 10:30 AM worship (no Sunday School) with Dr. Johnnie Tiller preaching.  Dr. Tiller will have just turned 90, and we are praying the Lord will give him great stamina to share with us that day!  He has made a huge impact on many for the kingdom in a lifetime of Christian service.  Of course, we will eat all the delicious food you bring when Homecoming concludes with fellowship around the table.
It is a good thing to remember what God has done and give Him thanks.  That is what the children of Israel did when God parted the Jordan River miraculously and brought them into the Promised Land.
And those twelve stones which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up in Gilgal. Then he spoke to the children of Israel, saying: “When your children ask their fathers in time to come, saying, ‘What are these stones?’ then you shall let your children know, saying, ‘Israel crossed over this Jordan on dry land’; for the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which He dried up before us until we had crossed over, that all the peoples of the earth may know the hand of the Lord, that it is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” (Joshua 4:20-24)
Remembering the past would give them a foundation for the future.  There was much to celebrate, but much more to do!  Let us be inspired by the past, but recognize that these “stones” have been put to place to give a platform for future ministry.  I refuse to accept the premise that Pole Creek’s best days are behind us—wonderful as they have been—but, that God is going to do incredible things in the years to come!  Let us pray, trust, and obey so if time lasts another 100 years, Pole Creek will still be shining—a light of hope for the world!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

MIGHTY MYA FUNERAL MESSAGE




We have had women in our church whose husbands have passed away.  We call them widows.  When men lose their wives, we describe them as widowers.  Children whose parents die are called orphans.  When a child dies, there is no name for the parents left behind.  We have no word to describe that because it isn’t supposed to happen.  It is against the natural order of things.  What should happen is that Mya would attend my funeral in a decade or two, not that I would officiate at her funeral.  We are trapped in a nightmare from which we cannot awaken.

If you’ve come here today looking for some explanation for why a sweet little girl would suffer and die, then you will be disappointed—I’m fresh out of answers.

Perhaps you recall the movie, Rudy.  Rudy wanted nothing more in life than to play football for Notre Dame.  Being undersized, he cast himself upon divine intervention and went into the chapel to pray. When the kind priest asked Rudy how he could help, Rudy expressed his desire to play for Notre Dame.  The priest answered, “Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I've come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I'm not Him.”  I want you to know I believe there is a God who has the answers, but I’m not Him.

But, even if we had answers would they be sufficient to take away our pain?  If you broke your leg—a compound fracture—for the doctor to explain the density of bones, and how they fracture, a detailed discussion of how to set one, and so forth—would that make your leg hurt any less?  So, if God explained all that He knows would our hearts ache any less?  I think not.

Instead, God directs us to Himself—to trust Him, to lean on Him and each other in love, to anchor our souls in hope in the midst of this storm.  He is with us in the eye of the storm.

When Corey was small he broke his arm.  I accompanied him to the X-Ray are. Of course, I had to wait outside while a heavy wooden door separated me from my son.  They stretched out his broken arm and I heard him scream.  He kept calling, “Daddy!  Daddy! Help me!”  I was there even though he couldn’t see me, and I knew this was necessary although you could never have convinced him.  I knew things he did not.  I knew this had to be and I wept with him.  So, when someone asks, where is God in all this—I want you to know that even though you might not have seen him and He didn’t come to the rescue as we begged, He was there and grieved with us.

So, I’m not here to defend God.  He can handle Himself.  I am here to encourage you and pray the Holy Spirit would bring comfort through this message.  As Peter said, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Pet.3:15). I am here to give a defense for hope.

Mighty Mya—they did not call her that because of her height, but because of her heart.

I want you to know where that strength came from.  First, it came from Jesus.  She loved Him—sang His praises, and called on His name—and now has seen Him face to face.  The promise of Phil.4:13 was a reality in her, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  That power also flowed to her from her father and mother.  If you have ever been around her Dad, you have seen a man with an unfailing desire to succeed—whether it was the effort he put in on the ballfield and gym floor, or his sales efforts.  I have told people that Logan could sell ice to an Eskimo.  He took that same commitment and courage to help give his daughter every possibility of getting well.  Then, I think of my sweet Kelly.  Christians should be marked by three supreme virtues—faith, hope, and love.  I have been amazed at how these have been seen in my baby daughter.  Her faith in God has been tested in the fire but emerged as pure gold.  Her hope has been buffeted by a typhoon of trouble yet the anchor holds.  Her love for the Lord and her Mya are beyond dispute—clearly seen through it all.
God placed that little baby in your womb, Kelly—the precious product of your and Logan’s love.  Then at Mission Hospital, she entered this world to be placed in your arms on May 11, 2009.  It could have been your death—you lost so much blood.  Now, from that same hospital, on the same G Wing, just a floor below, Mya was again in your arms, when Jesus entered the room and took her into His on July 14, 2016.  And again, you felt like you would die.

Some races are a sprint while others are a marathon.  Mya was a sprinter.  Her speed was exceptional.  She was a winner.  Cancer didn’t win.  It slowed her down, it put up hurdles for her to clear—but, she did, and has crossed the finish line in heaven!

On Father’s Day, my granddaughter Josie gave me a perfect gift—a Tar Heel cup, stuffed with a big Habanero Slim Jim and a bunch of Cow Tales.  I love Cow Tales; it is my candy of choice for two reasons—they are sweet and cheap.  I quickly consumed most of them.  But, only a few days later, Mya’s condition declined and the doctors gave her minimal chance of survival.  I decided to fast and pray until she got well one way or another.  Mya was soon so sick and unable to eat.  I remember kneeling by her hospital bed and whispering in her ear, “Papa is not going to eat again until you get well and can eat.”  Returning home, I put the one remaining Cow Tale in my desk drawer—and forgot it.  Thursday morning, as I was reading, I reached in that drawer for a highlighter and saw that Cow Tale.  I always loved to buy them and share them with the grandkids at the ballfield, football stadium, or gym which we frequented a lot.  I took it out, opened the wrapper and remembered Mya—and thought, “This is for you, Mya,” and ate it in her honor.  Now all that remains is the wrapper—the sweetness inside is gone.  Bear in mind, as we do what seems the unbearable today, and take this casket to be encased in the earth, that all it contains is the wrapper, Mya used to live in.  The sweetness inside is gone—who she really is has left (Ref.2 Cor.4-5)

Let us embrace our tears, and accept permission to grieve.  This is a brutal business we are facing, and I cannot think of a worse thing than to stifle the expression of sorrow.  That is physically harmful.  It is why you hurt and feel like you are choking when you try to hold back the tears.  Tears contain toxins that need to be released.  Think of it as God’s pressure valve that He designed to vent the sorrow that rises up within us.  As we said, “Jesus wept,” and we may follow His example.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  If you want the solace of God, then you must be willing to express sorrow to God.  It is a humbling acknowledgment of our desperation, but the Bible says, “God gives grace to the humble.”  We need that!  We cannot stand if He does not hold us up!  But, “underneath are the everlasting arms.”  God takes our tears and treasures them, placing them into His bottle (Ps.56:8)

It is a known fact that in Bible lands and other middle eastern countries there was a tradition that when someone died, tears of those present were collected and placed in a bottle. This bottle was considered sacred for it represented all the sorrow of the family and was buried with the deceased. Many of these bottles have been found in ancient tombs. In ancient Rome, mourners filled small glass vials or cups with tears and placed them in burial tombs as symbols of love and respect. Sometimes people were even paid to cry into cups, as they walked along the mourning procession. Those crying the loudest and producing the most tears received the most compensation. The more anguish and tears produced, the more important and valued the deceased person was perceived to be. In some war stories, women were said to have cried into tear bottles and saved them until their husbands returned. Their collected tears would show the men how much they were loved and missed.  http://www.jlfoundation.net/tears-in-a-bottle.html

We prayed for a miracle—and God did perform miracles in Mya’s life.

He extended her time.
The healing we receive in this world is never “perfect healing,” as I saw some express in prayer for her across the months.  I appreciate the sentiment and know they meant restored fully to health and vitality.  But all healing is an extension of time—and at some point to face sickness and death again.  Perhaps this is one reason Jesus wept for Lazarus.  He was calling him back to a world of suffering and sorrow—having been four days in paradise and now reentering a world of woe, to have to die again.  He was healed—raised from the dead—but it was only an extension of time.

He used her to inspire and encourage.
I cannot begin to tell you the number of Facebook posts, emails, texts, cards, calls, and personal conversations where thousands have told me how Mya has inspired them.  Her smiling face was all over the internet—and it was particularly heartening to hear from those who had children who also died, or those who were currently dealing with cancer themselves to say that Mya’s story was such a blessing to them.

He refined our faith in the fire.
Peter wrote to suffering saints who were facing persecution for their faith.  He said this, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet.1:6-7).  A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted.

He strengthened our hope.
The believer’s hope is anchored in eternity.  This world is never our home.  We are reminded of that in times like this—called to look beyond this vale of tears to the place where God will wipe all tears from our eyes.

He deepened our love.
The outpouring of love has been amazing.  Total strangers have prayed for Mya to get well and wept for her passing—having never met her, they loved her.  The Enka-Candler community has been reminded of the importance of love—loving your family, loving each other, and loving God.  Have we not held our children and grandchildren just a little tighter since these events?

He renewed our commitment.
It is not an exaggeration for me to tell you of scores of people who said they had strayed from God—had gotten cold and apathetic in their relationship with Him.  Mya provided the spark that rekindled a flame in them.

He brought souls to salvation.
One mother told me about her young son hearing of Mya’s death and realizing that it could be him—and that he was not ready to meet Jesus.  With weeping he bowed his head and received Christ.  There may be others today that will make the same commitment—whether young or old.  I’m so thankful at last year’s VBS, Mya prayed to receive Christ and that this spring I could baptize her.

He summoned forth goodness in others.
There is so much evil in our world.  You can’t turn on the TV without seeing the hate and the badness.  We forget that there is also a lot of goodness—and Mya brought that out.  People took time to pray, to make a blanket, to buy a stuffed animal, to fix a casserole, to send a card, to raise thousands of dollars—and on and on I could go.

He reminded us of the value of time and the significance of living for eternity.
“Only one life; ‘Twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  This sifted our priorities.  Mya’s story is a reminder of the brevity of life and gravity of eternity—and that much of what we think is important is actual trivial, and the spiritual and relational—family and church—are vital.

He prepared for her an eternal weight of glory.
Paul tells us that the sufferings of this time serve a purpose—that they are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory—that heaven will be more enjoyable for the heartache we have endured here.  Why would God have given Mya such gifts—so athletically inclined—if she would not be able to use them?  She will!  The Word of God declares, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  (Rom.11:29)

I was reading a post from Derrick McCarson the other day, quoting from Randy Alcorn’s book entitled, “Heaven.”

Are you living with the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams? In heaven you’ll find their fulfillment. Did poverty, poor health, war or lack of time prevent you from pursuing an adventure or dream? Did you never get to finish building that boat or painting that picture or writing that book—or reading that pile of books? Good news. On the New Earth you will have a second chance to do what you dreamed of doing—and far more besides . . . The smartest person God ever created in this world may have never learned to read because he or she had no opportunity. The most musically gifted person may never have touched an instrument. The greatest athlete may never have competed in a game. The sport your best at may be a sport you’ve never tried, because your favorite hobby is one that you’ve thought of. The reversing of the Curse, and the resurrection of our bodies and our Earth, mean we’ll regain lost opportunities and inherit many more.  (Alcorn, Heaven, pp.433-434)

As much as we will miss Mya, we would not call her back from that incredible place.  We cannot, but we can go to her.  I’m planning on seeing her again soon.

If life is really about giving God glory, then in seven years Mya has glorified her God.  We may ask, “Would God not have been glorified more if she had risen and walked—giving her a long life?  Not necessarily.

I have a number of Bible commentaries by the late James Montgomery Boice, who pastored Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for 32 years.  He was diagnosed with liver cancer in May 2000.  Here is what he said to his congregation:

Should you pray for a miracle?  Well, you’re free to do that, of course.  My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles—and He certainly can—is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition….  Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God.  If you think of God glorifying Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified Himself?  He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though He could have….
God is in charge.  When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental.  It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by….  God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good.  Everything He does is good….  If God does something in your life, would you change it?  If you’d change it, you’d make it worse.  It wouldn’t be as good.”  (Boice quote, “If God is Good” Alcorn, pp.14-15)

“God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.” (Joni Earkeson Tada)

The devil whispers in our ear the words of Job’s wife, “Why don’t you curse God and die?”  Let us answer with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  (Job 1:21)  Scripture tells us that Job lost almost everything—his wealth, his health, and his children.  At the end of the book God restored double everything Job lost.  You can read and calculate it—except in one case: Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters who all died in a violent storm, so we would expect to read that in the end he had 14 sons and 6 daughters.  Yet, it says God gave him 7 sons and 3 daughters!  What? I thought God doubled all he lost; He did—something isn’t lost if you know where it is!  Job knew his first set of children were in heaven!  I still have 12 grandchildren!

If you died today, would you go to heaven?

MIGHTY MYA FUNERAL MESSAGE




We have had women in our church whose husbands have passed away.  We call them widows.  When men lose their wives, we describe them as widowers.  Children whose parents die are called orphans.  When a child dies, there is no name for the parents left behind.  We have no word to describe that because it isn’t supposed to happen.  It is against the natural order of things.  What should happen is that Mya would attend my funeral in a decade or two, not that I would officiate at her funeral.  We are trapped in a nightmare from which we cannot awaken.

If you’ve come here today looking for some explanation for why a sweet little girl would suffer and die, then you will be disappointed—I’m fresh out of answers.

Perhaps you recall the movie, Rudy.  Rudy wanted nothing more in life than to play football for Notre Dame.  Being undersized, he cast himself upon divine intervention and went into the chapel to pray. When the kind priest asked Rudy how he could help, Rudy expressed his desire to play for Notre Dame.  The priest answered, “Son, in thirty-five years of religious study, I've come up with only two hard, incontrovertible facts; there is a God, and, I'm not Him.”  I want you to know I believe there is a God who has the answers, but I’m not Him.

But, even if we had answers would they be sufficient to take away our pain?  If you broke your leg—a compound fracture—for the doctor to explain the density of bones, and how they fracture, a detailed discussion of how to set one, and so forth—would that make your leg hurt any less?  So, if God explained all that He knows would our hearts ache any less?  I think not.

Instead, God directs us to Himself—to trust Him, to lean on Him and each other in love, to anchor our souls in hope in the midst of this storm.  He is with us in the eye of the storm.

When Corey was small he broke his arm.  I accompanied him to the X-Ray are. Of course, I had to wait outside while a heavy wooden door separated me from my son.  They stretched out his broken arm and I heard him scream.  He kept calling, “Daddy!  Daddy! Help me!”  I was there even though he couldn’t see me, and I knew this was necessary although you could never have convinced him.  I knew things he did not.  I knew this had to be and I wept with him.  So, when someone asks, where is God in all this—I want you to know that even though you might not have seen him and He didn’t come to the rescue as we begged, He was there and grieved with us.

So, I’m not here to defend God.  He can handle Himself.  I am here to encourage you and pray the Holy Spirit would bring comfort through this message.  As Peter said, “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you…” (1 Pet.3:15). I am here to give a defense for hope.

Mighty Mya—they did not call her that because of her height, but because of her heart.

I want you to know where that strength came from.  First, it came from Jesus.  She loved Him—sang His praises, and called on His name—and now has seen Him face to face.  The promise of Phil.4:13 was a reality in her, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  That power also flowed to her from her father and mother.  If you have ever been around her Dad, you have seen a man with an unfailing desire to succeed—whether it was the effort he put in on the ballfield and gym floor, or his sales efforts.  I have told people that Logan could sell ice to an Eskimo.  He took that same commitment and courage to help give his daughter every possibility of getting well.  Then, I think of my sweet Kelly.  Christians should be marked by three supreme virtues—faith, hope, and love.  I have been amazed at how these have been seen in my baby daughter.  Her faith in God has been tested in the fire but emerged as pure gold.  Her hope has been buffeted by a typhoon of trouble yet the anchor holds.  Her love for the Lord and her Mya are beyond dispute—clearly seen through it all.
God placed that little baby in your womb, Kelly—the precious product of your and Logan’s love.  Then at Mission Hospital, she entered this world to be placed in your arms on May 11, 2009.  It could have been your death—you lost so much blood.  Now, from that same hospital, on the same G Wing, just a floor below, Mya was again in your arms, when Jesus entered the room and took her into His on July 14, 2016.  And again, you felt like you would die.

Some races are a sprint while others are a marathon.  Mya was a sprinter.  Her speed was exceptional.  She was a winner.  Cancer didn’t win.  It slowed her down, it put up hurdles for her to clear—but, she did, and has crossed the finish line in heaven!

On Father’s Day, my granddaughter Josie gave me a perfect gift—a Tar Heel cup, stuffed with a big Habanero Slim Jim and a bunch of Cow Tales.  I love Cow Tales; it is my candy of choice for two reasons—they are sweet and cheap.  I quickly consumed most of them.  But, only a few days later, Mya’s condition declined and the doctors gave her minimal chance of survival.  I decided to fast and pray until she got well one way or another.  Mya was soon so sick and unable to eat.  I remember kneeling by her hospital bed and whispering in her ear, “Papa is not going to eat again until you get well and can eat.”  Returning home, I put the one remaining Cow Tale in my desk drawer—and forgot it.  Thursday morning, as I was reading, I reached in that drawer for a highlighter and saw that Cow Tale.  I always loved to buy them and share them with the grandkids at the ballfield, football stadium, or gym which we frequented a lot.  I took it out, opened the wrapper and remembered Mya—and thought, “This is for you, Mya,” and ate it in her honor.  Now all that remains is the wrapper—the sweetness inside is gone.  Bear in mind, as we do what seems the unbearable today, and take this casket to be encased in the earth, that all it contains is the wrapper, Mya used to live in.  The sweetness inside is gone—who she really is has left (Ref.2 Cor.4-5)

Let us embrace our tears, and accept permission to grieve.  This is a brutal business we are facing, and I cannot think of a worse thing than to stifle the expression of sorrow.  That is physically harmful.  It is why you hurt and feel like you are choking when you try to hold back the tears.  Tears contain toxins that need to be released.  Think of it as God’s pressure valve that He designed to vent the sorrow that rises up within us.  As we said, “Jesus wept,” and we may follow His example.  Jesus said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”  If you want the solace of God, then you must be willing to express sorrow to God.  It is a humbling acknowledgment of our desperation, but the Bible says, “God gives grace to the humble.”  We need that!  We cannot stand if He does not hold us up!  But, “underneath are the everlasting arms.”  God takes our tears and treasures them, placing them into His bottle (Ps.56:8)

It is a known fact that in Bible lands and other middle eastern countries there was a tradition that when someone died, tears of those present were collected and placed in a bottle. This bottle was considered sacred for it represented all the sorrow of the family and was buried with the deceased. Many of these bottles have been found in ancient tombs. In ancient Rome, mourners filled small glass vials or cups with tears and placed them in burial tombs as symbols of love and respect. Sometimes people were even paid to cry into cups, as they walked along the mourning procession. Those crying the loudest and producing the most tears received the most compensation. The more anguish and tears produced, the more important and valued the deceased person was perceived to be. In some war stories, women were said to have cried into tear bottles and saved them until their husbands returned. Their collected tears would show the men how much they were loved and missed.  http://www.jlfoundation.net/tears-in-a-bottle.html

We prayed for a miracle—and God did perform miracles in Mya’s life.

He extended her time.
The healing we receive in this world is never “perfect healing,” as I saw some express in prayer for her across the months.  I appreciate the sentiment and know they meant restored fully to health and vitality.  But all healing is an extension of time—and at some point to face sickness and death again.  Perhaps this is one reason Jesus wept for Lazarus.  He was calling him back to a world of suffering and sorrow—having been four days in paradise and now reentering a world of woe, to have to die again.  He was healed—raised from the dead—but it was only an extension of time.

He used her to inspire and encourage.
I cannot begin to tell you the number of Facebook posts, emails, texts, cards, calls, and personal conversations where thousands have told me how Mya has inspired them.  Her smiling face was all over the internet—and it was particularly heartening to hear from those who had children who also died, or those who were currently dealing with cancer themselves to say that Mya’s story was such a blessing to them.

He refined our faith in the fire.
Peter wrote to suffering saints who were facing persecution for their faith.  He said this, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ,” (1 Pet.1:6-7).  A faith that cannot be tested is a faith that cannot be trusted.

He strengthened our hope.
The believer’s hope is anchored in eternity.  This world is never our home.  We are reminded of that in times like this—called to look beyond this vale of tears to the place where God will wipe all tears from our eyes.

He deepened our love.
The outpouring of love has been amazing.  Total strangers have prayed for Mya to get well and wept for her passing—having never met her, they loved her.  The Enka-Candler community has been reminded of the importance of love—loving your family, loving each other, and loving God.  Have we not held our children and grandchildren just a little tighter since these events?

He renewed our commitment.
It is not an exaggeration for me to tell you of scores of people who said they had strayed from God—had gotten cold and apathetic in their relationship with Him.  Mya provided the spark that rekindled a flame in them.

He brought souls to salvation.
One mother told me about her young son hearing of Mya’s death and realizing that it could be him—and that he was not ready to meet Jesus.  With weeping he bowed his head and received Christ.  There may be others today that will make the same commitment—whether young or old.  I’m so thankful at last year’s VBS, Mya prayed to receive Christ and that this spring I could baptize her.

He summoned forth goodness in others.
There is so much evil in our world.  You can’t turn on the TV without seeing the hate and the badness.  We forget that there is also a lot of goodness—and Mya brought that out.  People took time to pray, to make a blanket, to buy a stuffed animal, to fix a casserole, to send a card, to raise thousands of dollars—and on and on I could go.

He reminded us of the value of time and the significance of living for eternity.
“Only one life; ‘Twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.”  This sifted our priorities.  Mya’s story is a reminder of the brevity of life and gravity of eternity—and that much of what we think is important is actual trivial, and the spiritual and relational—family and church—are vital.

He prepared for her an eternal weight of glory.
Paul tells us that the sufferings of this time serve a purpose—that they are preparing for us an eternal weight of glory—that heaven will be more enjoyable for the heartache we have endured here.  Why would God have given Mya such gifts—so athletically inclined—if she would not be able to use them?  She will!  The Word of God declares, “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”  (Rom.11:29)

I was reading a post from Derrick McCarson the other day, quoting from Randy Alcorn’s book entitled, “Heaven.”

Are you living with the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams? In heaven you’ll find their fulfillment. Did poverty, poor health, war or lack of time prevent you from pursuing an adventure or dream? Did you never get to finish building that boat or painting that picture or writing that book—or reading that pile of books? Good news. On the New Earth you will have a second chance to do what you dreamed of doing—and far more besides . . . The smartest person God ever created in this world may have never learned to read because he or she had no opportunity. The most musically gifted person may never have touched an instrument. The greatest athlete may never have competed in a game. The sport your best at may be a sport you’ve never tried, because your favorite hobby is one that you’ve thought of. The reversing of the Curse, and the resurrection of our bodies and our Earth, mean we’ll regain lost opportunities and inherit many more.  (Alcorn, Heaven, pp.433-434)

As much as we will miss Mya, we would not call her back from that incredible place.  We cannot, but we can go to her.  I’m planning on seeing her again soon.

If life is really about giving God glory, then in seven years Mya has glorified her God.  We may ask, “Would God not have been glorified more if she had risen and walked—giving her a long life?  Not necessarily.

I have a number of Bible commentaries by the late James Montgomery Boice, who pastored Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia for 32 years.  He was diagnosed with liver cancer in May 2000.  Here is what he said to his congregation:

Should you pray for a miracle?  Well, you’re free to do that, of course.  My general impression is that the God who is able to do miracles—and He certainly can—is also able to keep you from getting the problem in the first place. So although miracles do happen, they’re rare by definition….  Above all, I would say pray for the glory of God.  If you think of God glorifying Himself in history and you say, where in all of history has God most glorified Himself?  He did it at the cross of Jesus Christ, and it wasn’t by delivering Jesus from the cross, though He could have….
God is in charge.  When things like this come into our lives, they are not accidental.  It’s not as if God somehow forgot what was going on, and something bad slipped by….  God is not only the one who is in charge; God is also good.  Everything He does is good….  If God does something in your life, would you change it?  If you’d change it, you’d make it worse.  It wouldn’t be as good.”  (Boice quote, “If God is Good” Alcorn, pp.14-15)

“God permits what He hates to accomplish that which He loves.” (Joni Earkeson Tada)

The devil whispers in our ear the words of Job’s wife, “Why don’t you curse God and die?”  Let us answer with Job, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  (Job 1:21)  Scripture tells us that Job lost almost everything—his wealth, his health, and his children.  At the end of the book God restored double everything Job lost.  You can read and calculate it—except in one case: Job had 7 sons and 3 daughters who all died in a violent storm, so we would expect to read that in the end he had 14 sons and 6 daughters.  Yet, it says God gave him 7 sons and 3 daughters!  What? I thought God doubled all he lost; He did—something isn’t lost if you know where it is!  Job knew his first set of children were in heaven!  I still have 12 grandchildren!

If you died today, would you go to heaven?