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?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A GRIEF OBTAINED



Years ago, the great Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis, wrote a book entitled, “A Grief Observed.”  In this brief, but poignant volume, he describes his struggle after his wife dies.  The pious platitudes and Christian clich├ęs so often employed in the midst of sorrow were found to be hollow.  Lewis wavered in maintaining a faith that had seemed so rock-solid.  Once he spoke with such conviction about the things of God, as if he had all the answers.  Suddenly, he was thrust into an abyss where answers could not be found.
The reality of a loved one’s death was brutal…and it still is.  Have you ever watched a seven-year old granddaughter who had been so full of life a year ago be consumed with cancer?  Have you ever sat down with your son-in-law and your daughter to plan a funeral service that you will conduct?  I hope not—and pray you never do!  The pain is excruciating. I know that many of you who read this have been in similar times—a spouse, a sibling, a son—someone so dear and near and now all that remains are tombstones and memories.
I recall as a young pastor, visiting the hospital, seeking to minister by encouragement, Scripture, and prayer—and maybe somewhat effectively.  Nothing helped me be more helpful than when I was hospitalized for a week with a major operation, requiring a month to recuperate.  My sympathy factor increased exponentially and I believe my ministry was enhanced.  It was no longer theory, but experience that gave me a platform of compassion.
I believe that is what Paul was saying in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7,

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.   If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort. (ESV)
I have no idea how many hundreds of funerals I have officiated, and can truly say I have sought to weep with those that wept and bring them comfort.  People have told me that they have been helped by my ministry.  Yet, I know now what I have never known before.  In the space of a week I have spoken at my father and granddaughter’s funerals, and felt a heartache from which I will never recover until the great Resurrection Day.  That hope seems more precious than ever to me!  I can testify that God’s grace is enough—that His comfort is real—and He will do the same for you, no matter what trial may come.  “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21 ESV)

Saturday, July 02, 2016

THE WAY OF ESCAPE


“No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”
‭‭I Corinthians‬ ‭10:13‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

Every temptation questions the goodness of God.  We are at a crossroad of decision--to trust or doubt the character of God, to believe in His wisdom or our own, to rely on His gracious hand to provide or take matters into our own hands.  Adam and Eve were persuaded by the Tempter to distrust God's character and disobey His command, and we suffer the horrible consequences of that choice still.  We repeat the same folly far too often.

Understand that the temptation does not always come in the form of some heinous crime or vile debauchery--it may be as subtle as when facing disappointment, disease, or death that we become bitter toward God.  A financial bankruptcy, chronic pain, the death of a child--these and other things will test our faith, and tempt us to doubt God.

Now, the temptation is not a sin.  Jesus was tempted at all points as we are--yet without sin.  The wrestling with the temptation is spiritual warfare, but it is not sin.  Sin is when we surrender--when we embrace Satan's accusation against God.  "You can't trust God.  Why don't you curse Him and die!"

Temptation will often overtake us like that.  We don't have to look for it--it finds us.  Sometimes we think that no one else has ever faced such a trial, but there is nothing new under the sun.  Others have grappled with this and withstood the strain.  The same God who made a way of escape for them, will do so for us.

The truth we rely on is this: "God is faithful."  No matter what the circumstance screams, despite what the Devil or his minions say, even if we cannot understand and the pain pierces our soul, this truth is unchanging.

Grace is given in that moment to endure the test.  A way of escape is given to escape the temptation.  Run to His arms, trust in His Word, believe in His love, even when everything calls for you to doubt Him, run from Him, and become bitter toward Him.  You can have God or follow the Serpent's counsel to be your own god--that you know better than Him.

I did not say that you will never question.  I cannot promise you will not hurt.  I am not assuring you that all makes sense.  My father and mother sung many times, "I don't need to understand; I just need to hold His hand."

Every temptation questions the goodness of God.  We are at a crossroad of decision--to trust or doubt the character of God, to believe in His wisdom or our own, to rely on His gracious hand to provide or take matters into our own hands.  Adam and Eve were persuaded by the Tempter to distrust God's character and disobey His command, and we suffer the horrible consequences of that choice still.  We repeat the same folly far too often.

Understand that the temptation does not always come in the form of some heinous crime or vile debauchery--it may be as subtle as when facing disappointment, disease, or death that we become bitter toward God.  A financial bankruptcy, chronic pain, the death of a child--these and other things will test our faith, and tempt us to doubt God.

Now, the temptation is not a sin.  Jesus was tempted at all points as we are--yet without sin.  The wrestling with the temptation is spiritual warfare, but it is not sin.  Sin is when we surrender--when we embrace Satan's accusation against God.  "You can't trust God.  Why don't you curse Him and die!"

Temptation will often overtake us like that.  We don't have to look for it--it finds us.  Sometimes we think that no one else has ever faced such a trial, but there is nothing new under the sun.  Others have grappled with this and withstood the strain.  The same God who made a way of escape for them, will do so for us.

The truth we rely on is this: "God is faithful."  No matter what the circumstance screams, despite what the Devil or his minions say, even if we cannot understand and the pain pierces our soul, this truth is unchanging.

Grace is given in that moment to endure the test.  A way of escape is given to escape the temptation.  Run to His arms, trust in His Word, believe in His love, even when everything calls for you to doubt Him, run from Him, and become bitter toward Him.  You can have God or follow the Serpent's counsel to be your own god--that you know better than Him.

I did not say that you will never question.  I cannot promise you will not hurt.  I am not assuring you that all makes sense.  My father and mother sung many times, "I don't need to understand; I just need to hold His hand."  

Monday, May 16, 2016

TEMPERATURE RISING?



For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.  Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.  (Rom.1:20-25)

As the physical temperature rises in summer, it often corresponds that our spiritual temperature cools.  The creation that emerges in full glory and splendor—as birds sing, flowers bloom, grass and leaves green and grow, waves roll onto white sand, rivers ramble across rocks, children run and play, and more—sometimes we move from focusing on the Creator this points to and become fixated on the creation itself—and that is idolatry.

Should you think I am some church curmudgeon trying to spoil your summer vacation, you are wrong.  Sabbaths are part of God’s design.  They should be observed on a regular basis for the good of our mind, body, and soul—don’t forget that last part.  How can we take a vacation from God?  I am thankful He doesn’t take a vacation from us!

The danger is that we neglect our Bible reading and prayer time because we are pursuing leisure.  Our gathering for worship with the saints lessens as a priority because we may be away from home.  I mean—who will know if I don’t show up for church?  It is a subtle temptation to take the dollars meant to fund the mission and ministries of the kingdom of God and spend them at the Magic Kingdom.  Fishing is a wonderful diversion, but fishing for souls must be an ongoing passion.  Taking a swim in the pool can be refreshing, but diving into God’s presence is the ultimate.

So, enjoy your trip and thank God for the blessing of being able to do so.  Take a hike into the woods or lounge in a beach chair at the ocean.  Look at the splendor of summer.  Smell the smoke and hear the crackle of a campfire.  Don’t feel guilty about it at all.  We need a break from the daily grind.  Just be cautious and don’t take a break from God.  Fall will come next—and it might mark a spiritual fall.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

JUSTICE



God is just: He will pay back trouble to those who trouble you and give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well. This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8 NIV)
Because wickedness is not punished immediately, we may foolishly think it will not be punished eventually.  Paul reminds us that since God is just, sin must be punished.  Yet, God is also merciful, and has made a way of forgiveness through the Gospel, having visited the justice sinners deserve upon His Son.  If we do not obey the Gospel of Christ, and spurn that offer of salvation, then the full fury of God will descend upon sinners.  That it does not happen instantly is another indicator of God/s mercy—His forbearance that affords the wicked occasion to repent.  Payday, however, comes someday for, “the wages of sin is death,” (Rom.6:23a).  Those who are anti-God and assail the people of God will experience God’s wrath.  This will bring the deliverance of God’s children.  That day is the end of the age at the return of Christ—a day of “blazing fire.”  Oh, sinner, obey the Gospel today!  Come to Christ without delay, for tomorrow may be too late!











                                                                                                          

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

DO-GOODERS



See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone.  (1 Thessalonians 5:15 ESV)
Vengeance is God’s prerogative.  Jesus wants His followers to return cursing with blessing, attacks with endurance, hate with love, and evil with good.  It is what Jesus did.  The cross is the greatest exhibition of that, and He has called us to take up our cross in following His example.  Being a “do-gooder,” is often a term of scorn employed by those who wish to bully their way through life, yet the people of God embrace it fully.  Irrespective of the conduct of others toward us, our goal is to do good to others.  We are to aggressively seek occasions for service to our fellowmen.  Let us take the initiative to spread God’s love in this hate-filled world.