One Long Day

At 11:27 p.m. on September 13th, I laid my forehead against my Dad’s, said a prayer, then kissed his forehead and told him I loved him.

At 11:30 p.m. I laid my head on the pillow in the bedroom just adjacent to where my Dad was lying.  I said, “Jesus, please let it be tonight.”  I must have been so exhausted I went into a deep sleep almost immediately, because at 11:40 p.m. my youngest brother Kenan shook me awake (and I am a notoriously light sleeper) and said:

“Keith, get up.  He’s gone.  He just stopped breathing.”

I threw on a t-shirt and walked back into the room where my Dad had been laying on his deathbed for three weeks, battling cancer.  As I entered the room, I knew instantly that indeed Dad was “gone.”  My sister was already weeping deeply.  My cousin who was the world’s best caretaker to my Dad over these last nine months was crying softly at the foot of his bed.  My wife was crying at the head of the bed.  I walked toward Dad’s body, my wife shuffled to let me get to him.  I took a moment to console my sister and tell her “It’s alright.  Everything is alright now.”  I laid my right hand on his forehead and my left hand on his neck.  I had the honor and privilege of feeling Dad’s final “pulse,” those final few beats, as they weakened, then stopped.

“I praise You O God!  I praise You O God!  I thank You for the gift of my Dad.  What a gift.  What a gift!”

I am sure I said more through tears, but I distinctly remember saying these words, as my youngest brother said “amens” and “hallelujahs.”  Jesus had answered my prayer that night swiftly!

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).

My sister, one of my brothers, my wife and cousin and I then gathered around my Dad’s body and sang two stanza’s of the hymn “There’s a Land That is Fairer Than Day.”  We were so sad, but so full of joy.  Fighting in the power of the Holy Spirit to see things with God’s eyes.

That was two weeks ago.  It has seemed like one long day.  My wife and girls and I have had moments of deep sadness and moments of laughter at good memories.  My church family has been nothing short of amazing.  And we are finding God really is “near to the brokenhearted.”

I am not sure why I am compelled to write this today.  It’s cathartic for me, I suppose.  I have nothing profound to offer my few readers in this post.  Only to say that Dad was my hero.  Of all humans on this planet, he was at the top of my respect and admiration hierarchy.  My love for him was as pure as love can be in this fallen world.  I was and am so blessed to be chosen by God to be the son of Don W. McWhorter.

But greater still the sheer joy that fills my heart at knowing Dad, and I, are chosen of God to be His adopted sons in Christ Jesus our Lord!  For the last few months of his life, I started a little ritual with Dad.  When I left him, whether for a few days or a few hours, I would say, “Dad, I will see you again.”  His eyes would light up with that fire only those closest to him knew, as he looked at me and said, “That’s right!  That’s right!”

It bolstered both our spirits.  No goodbyes.  No sir!  Jesus made that a thing of the past for His redeemed!

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth . . . and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man.  He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God.  He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.’ (Rev 21:1-4).

O, what a Savior!  What a day that will be when my Jesus I shall see!  And, I will see Dad again too!  And though I am so sad I cannot pick up the phone and hear his voice right now, I know there is coming a day when Dad and I will visit in immortal bodies.  Our minds no longer cluttered by sin.  Our hearts pure in love for God and one another.  Our vocal chords tuned perfectly to sing to our Lord Christ.

And we shall sing, “Worthy is the Lamb!”  Together.  With all the saints from all the ages.

O death, where is your sting?

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Eyes to the Sky

Much of the nation had their eyes to the sky yesterday during the solar eclipse.  Hundreds of thousands converged in various “totality zones” from Oregon to South Carolina to experience a total eclipse of the sun.

Schools let out.  And frankly I do not understand why any school within sight of the eclipse would not have let students freely enjoy the sight with their family and friends.  At bare minimum it should have been an excused absence!  We wonder why interest in science is failing, and then we have schools that will not even embrace one of the most magnificent astrological events most students will ever have an opportunity to witness.

Personally, I set out on an hour drive from my home yesterday morning to the town of Scottsburg, IN.  Discovered the Ace Hardware there had glasses.  That place was packed out!  The business manager there was thinking ahead, because as far as anyone of us in line could tell, he had the only available glasses in all of Southeastern Indiana! It was a unique social event – waiting in line at the hardware store.  I chatted with a gentlemen behind me.  We joked with a woman further back in the line.  And two Mennonite women made their purchase just in front of me.  It was eclectic fun!

And my wife, daughters and I enjoyed popping in and out of the house as we watched the total eclipse live on TV while also enjoying the 95% eclipse in our front yard.  We noticed our neighbors in their yard with no glasses, and several times during the event, we walked over to share the glasses with them.  And we commented to them on the creation glorifying the Creator!  And they agreed.  It was nice sharing that moment with them.

So, just a few observations:

  • The way so many TV scientists referred to this amazing creative act of God was infuriating.  Perhaps even demonic.  I heard noted scientists call this a “cosmic coincidence.”  Yep.  Makes perfect sense that the moon just “happens” to be 400 times closer and 400 times smaller than the sun.  And that’s why we even know of such a thing as a total solar eclipse.  And makes perfect sense that we can predict the exact dates of these events years in advance.  Give me a break!  This thing was no accident or coincidence.  Our cosmos is ordered to reflect the Perfect Orderliness of our Creator.  No wonder kids hate science when we have stripped God’s glory from it and made everything magnificent a mere coincidence of “mother nature.”  But I guess if our kids think they too are just cosmic accidents, then why bother getting excited about just another accident?
  • To gaze at the eclipse yesterday and somehow be able to shut out the radiance of the Creator is a sure sign of spiritual deadness.  And if scientists and teachers and parents and children do not repent of it and cry out to the Creator God in Christ for forgiveness and mercy, there will be hell to pay (Romans 1:18-32).  Christian parents, please tell me you did not miss this opportunity to speak of God and the glory of His salvation in His Son and our Savior?!  So many spiritual analogies could have and should have been made as we stared upward yesterday.
  • Our word “eclipse” derives from a Greek / Latin word meaning “abandoned.”  The ancient Greeks thought the sun was abandoning the earth during such an event.  Now think about this in relation to what God did while His Son, Jesus, hung on the cross for the sins of the world.

“Now from the sixth hour to the ninth hour (noon to 3) darkness fell upon the land.  About the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?’ which means ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?'”  Matthew 27:45-46

  • Wow!  Another cosmic coincidence?  No way!  God dimmed the light of the sun for 3 hours as He poured out His wrath against the sins of His people on the body of Christ.  It was my darkness that enveloped my Savior that day.  It was the darkness in our hearts that eclipsed the Light of the World that day.  He was shrouded in our evil, and eclipsed, abandoned.  So that all who trust in Christ alone for salvation might bask in His light and life forever and ever.  Hallelujah!
  • Where I live, we had only about 95% eclipse.  I was actually shocked that it didn’t get any darker than it did.  I expected more wow factor regarding the dimness.  But goodness is that fire ball in the sky powerful.  It was lighting up my world with just a sliver of its rays.  And if you think the sun is powerful, just wait until you turn your eyes to the sky one day to be blinded by the brilliance of the King of Kings who is the Light of Heaven.

“Behold He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him.  So it is to be.  Amen.”  Revelation 1:7

  • Darkness always loses.  Light always wins.  The moon lost the epic battle yesterday.  It looked victorious for a few short minutes or hours.  But nothing can stop the Son!

“He is not here.  He has risen, just as He said.”  Matthew 28:6

“And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war.”  Revelation 19:11

“And there will no longer be any night; and they will not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God will illumine them; and they will reign forever and ever.” Revelation 22:5

Keep your eyes to the sky brothers and sisters!  

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Bitter Women Make Bitter Enemies

By Lori Beard

I have seen bitterness run rampant and destroy marriages and relationships with children in horrible ways.  I have sat with women who are harboring bitterness like a treasure.  They have stored it away in their hearts in a safe place.  They say things like, “It does not affect my life.  I am just not ready to lay it down.  I control my emotions well enough that it does not affect me.”

And these same women admit that they are angry.  But they somehow think it’s not affecting them.

I also sit with women who are there because of countless broken relationships.  Issues in marriage.  Issues with children.  Issues with other women.  These women have not been able to maintain a female friendship ever in their lives.  And when I suggest anger or bitterness as the reason, they deny it.  They are not angry.  They have forgiven and let it go.

I have sometimes responded: “Friend your life does not bear fruit of forgiveness and letting it go.  Bitterness is a seed.  It grows and grows.  It consumes everything in its path.  Often I can see it in a face.  Tight lips.  Furrowed brows.  I can hear it in a voice.  Sharp commanding edges.  Short clipped tones.  I can see it in an attitude.  Short, unhappy, impatient responses.  Attitudes that are ‘superior’ or ‘know it all.’  These repeated behaviors are telling signs of what is happening in a calloused, angry heart.  Bitterness is wicked.  It leaves a mess in its wake.”

I have had occasion to discuss bitterness and anger often over the last few months with my sweet daughter, Becca. She has suffered some tragic hurt in her life and it has left her confused and searching for justice.  The answers she has found, while biblical, have not always been easy to swallow.  She found out that even when treated unjustly, she is not to revile.  Even when insulted she is not to threaten.  Even when cast aside and abandoned she is not to hate.

Oh my word!  How hard the biblical truth of the love of God has been for her to read this last year.  I have watcher her lay down her anger over and over again.  And then find out something new and pick it up again.  Heartbreaking.

The words of God through the Apostle Peter have done her much good.  They have been her anchor in a world gone crazy.

When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats.  Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly.  1 Peter 2:23

If the Bible is true, and I know it is, and Becca knows it is, then we are able by sanctifying grace to lay down every hurt or wrong done against us and entrust ourselves to the One who judges justly.  God is just.  He is right.  He makes only right decisions.  He never goes against His nature.  He never does anything unjust.

What truth!  What a beautiful, life-changing truth!  I can trust Him.  Becca can trust Him.  When she is reviled against she can not only not revile back, but also not be angry back.  She can simply say to her just God, “I leave that in Your capable, just hands.”

When she is abandoned and forsaken and left alone, she can recall the precious words of Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”  She can count on her capable, just God.

When we live like this, there is no room for anger or bitterness.  There is no place for offense to take foothold because God is in charge and He is just.  He is working every single wound to our good to make us like Christ (Rom 8:28-29). Peace that surpasses understanding is the result of trusting Him more than we trust our own “rights” and above our felt need for vengeance.  God never gets anything wrong.  He is at work on behalf of believers all the time.  Christ and the Holy Spirit are justly interceding on our behalf to make all things right.

This is our anchor and hope.  Praise God for never failing at anything!  He is perfectly right and just.  He is trustworthy!

Lay down your bitterness.  Lay down your anger.  Pray and ask for help.  God is able to bear it for you.  Bitter women make bitter enemies because bitterness is enmity with God.  It has no place in the kingdom of God.  Praise the Lord for real freedom from anger through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Back to School, Parents Beware!

Most students start the new school year within the next week or so.  Even we home-schoolers are gearing up and warning our kids they are going to have to start getting up a bit earlier!  A few private schools around here are already cranking.  Boy, summers seem to get shorter each year.

Anyone who knows me knows I have not been a fan of the public school system for a long, long time.  It gets me in some hot water as a Pastor when I address the obvious flaws in the state run system, but I care about children and families too much not to at least issue a caution.  It appears painfully obvious to me that parenting God’s way is made more difficult when children are not even with parents for most of the day, five days a week.  I am not saying it’s impossible to be a godly parent if your children are in private or public schools.  I am merely saying you are making it more challenging on yourself.  And yes, I also know home-schooling families who do not seem to be taking their task nearly as seriously as they should and they should repent and get help from others who can equip them for the high-calling of gospel-centered home life and a thorough educational curriculum.  So, nobody perfect here except Jesus! But it seems that given the bent of the state run schools, those parents in particular are taking quite a parenting risk.

Paul told the Church at Ephesus, “Fathers [parents] do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Nearly every Christian parent I know has found this task far more time-consuming and energy-demanding than we anticipated at our very first “gender reveal” parties.  As the Lord made plain to His Old Covenant people, parenting is an all-consuming, non-stop calling (Deuteronomy 6).  So, it does pain me a bit to see Christian parents send off their children to be taught, trained, dare I say raised, by others each day.  Their hearts, which are “deceitful above all else” (Jer 17:9) are being entrusted to others and to a system of education that would not remotely recognize “taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” as the goal. While public teachers are often amazing at their craft, they are not even allowed to do any public gospel heart work on students.  Our Christian teachers’ hands are tied!  It pains me.  I cannot help it and I make no apologies for it.

That said, I realize many Christians really need the public education system.  I hope and expect these parents also find their church families coming alongside them to bolster them in their parental calling.  I thank God for every parent in the church I pastor.  We have public school families, private school families, a throng of home-schooling families, and many teachers of all stripes!  I love pastoring them all and am proud of the efforts I see all our families making to raise children who hate sin and adore Jesus Christ.  And I love when I see our families helping one another to be the best they can be, by the gracious power of God.  Our church family is precious!  The love of Christ in us unifies us regardless of educational choices.  And I pray each of us buckles down this year to seek to be even more gospel-driven and Bible-saturated in our public and private lives.

I dream of our public school teachers starting Bible studies at their schools in “off hours.”  I dream of our parents of private Christian school students finding ways to invest in those students’ hearts.  I dream of our home-school parents getting a heart for public school students and families and finding creative ways to serve them, such as after hours tutoring or donating school supplies to less privileged families.  The gospel trumps all our preferences!  May the Name of Jesus Christ go forth from us, Corydon Baptist Church.  In all our schools.  In all our communities.  In all our workplaces.  In all our recreational spots.  May God push back darkness through us!

Every school is a mission field.  May God give us His eyes to see and His heart to love.

For those interested in hearing a solid challenge from Focus on the Family, here are two radio broadcasts worth your time:  http://www.drjamesdobson.org/popupplayer?broadcastId=d990a98f-39d1-4848-b678-6f5b1f838251

 

 

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Remembering a Good Man

Thurman Mitchell Lucas.

He was a Deacon who served in the church my Dad pastored.  He was my high school Sunday School Teacher.  And he was my wife’s Dad.

Thurman was called to his eternal home to behold the glory of God in the face of Christ more years ago than I can remember.  The exact year escapes me, but I think it was my junior year of college (’94).  And if memory serves me, I think he passed from death unto life on July 2oth.  He was preceded in death by a decade or more by his wife, Linda, my wife’s Mom.  Michele, my wife, has lived most of her life now without her Mom or Dad.

I loved Thurman.  He was the best Bible teacher I had growing up (with the exception of my Dad’s weekly sermons).  He used a curriculum that had us in the Bible passage, studying before we came to class and answering questions directly from the text.  What a concept!  He loved his students.  He invested in us.  Planned fun hang out times for us and grilled us steaks.  He was the first teacher to urge and encourage me to seriously memorize Scripture.  I remember memorizing about ten verses during VBS one summer and Thurman gave me $25.  Now I realize knowing God through His Word is its own reward.  Thurman knew it too.  But it was just his way to encourage me and care for me.  I appreciated it.

I was devastated when he got cancer.  I hurt for my future wife (we married perhaps a little over a year after his death).  I hurt for my Dad, who considered Thurman a friend and key leader for gospel truth in the church.  But honestly, I hurt mostly for me.

Yeah, I know.  Selfish.  But true.  I still miss him so much.  He was truly a joy to be around.  I remember the first time he had me over for a cookout after I started dating his daughter.  His baby girl he raised from the age of ten all on his own!  He really put me to the test.  He asked if I liked rare steaks.  Well, what was I to say?  My manhood was clearly on the line.  “Yes sir,” I barked.  So he proceeded to put my steak to at most 1 minute of flame per side, and then serve it to me.  Now I might be exaggerating a bit, but that steak was definitely still mooing!  And I ate it all.  With a smile.  And I’m still smiling with Thurman’s daughter by my side some 25 years later.

From time to time my wife and I have visited his grave.  He literally was laid to rest “high on that mountain” in Pike County, KY.  I have stood on that steep slope and wept more than once.  I have often marveled at the strength of my wife who gave up both of her parents before the age of 25.  Her perspective has always inspired me.  She grieves.  Sure.  But she looks ahead.  She rejoices that her Mom and Dad gained the victory in Jesus that she longs for herself.  Her faith shines in the way she has lived after Thurman’s death.  I am so proud to be her husband.  And so proud to be Thurman’s son (technically in-law but somehow I don’t think he would have viewed me that way).

He was a good man.  Not because he thought he was good.  And not even because he did good things.  But because he knew his goodness was but filthy rags before a Holy God.  And because he trusted only in the goodness of the Risen and Reigning Lord Jesus.  Christ was his goodness.  Christ made him good.  To know Thurman was to know a man in whom Jesus lived.  I am so thankful God graced me to know him and to be family (physically and spiritually) with him.  I hope to be a “good” man like Thurman.

So help me God.  Be glorified in me, as You were in the life of Thurman.  And help my wife and her brother, Alan, and her sister, Marcia, to rejoice in the goodness of their Savior God who blessed them with such an humble, loving, joyful, funny Dad.  I praise You God for his legacy.  In Christ alone, amen.  

You do not grieve as the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14).  

 

 

 

 

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