Thursday, October 2, 2008

In The Presence Of Death - New Life!

I first became acquainted with them about 12 years ago. The two young ladies were sisters who, along with their brother, attended the church where I served as Pastor. They were pleasant young adults, unmarried, quiet, and only spoke when spoken to. The older sister was a Veterinarian who had a clinic in a nearby town in the next county, and the younger sister was her assistant in the clinic. The brother worked as a mechanic and body man in the shop owned by their uncle, who, along with his wife, had been bringing them to church since they were teenagers. Their mother and father were Christians who attended another church - but not on a regular basis. Something had happened in that church years ago that hurt the parents, and while they were good, godly people, their church attendance was sporadic.

The girls lives revolved around their work - seven days a week. Even though the clinic didn't have regular hours on Sunday, there were emergencies from time to time, and just like a hospital for humans, the Vet clinic had patients that needed to be cared for daily. As soon as church was over on Sunday morning, the two sisters were off for the next county, where they would faithfully care for the animals in their charge.

The kids had come from a Pentecostal background in the same small town church where singer and actor Billy Ray Cyrus had grown up. The brother had accepted Christ as a boy, but his two sisters had never made professions of faith in Jesus. Although they were good folks and had high moral standards, much like the Rich Young Ruler in the Bible, they only lacked one thing - a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. There are a lot of people out there like that. Good moral folks. Often more circumspect in their lives than some professing Christians. Unable to comprehend why, when they do their best to be a good person and upright citizen, that they need a Savior. Such folks often feel that their good works are enough. Yet the Bible tells us that "there is none good but God". "All of us have sinned and missed the mark" and even at the best we can do, "our righteousness is like filthy rags" (literally in the Hebrew, menstural cloths) in the sight of a Holy God. We all need a Savior.

I had lost track of the young ladies several years ago, when I accepted a pastorate in another city across the river in a neighboring state. I saw their brother on occasion, when I would have reason to bring my car by his uncle's shop from time to time. I always asked about the girls and his reply was always, "They're fine - still living at home with mom and dad and staying busy at the clinic". These girls were devoted to their work and their family. In fact, their 68 year old mother regularly helped them in the clinic every day and they were very close. Their mother had recently given them Bibles and had been encouraging them to give their lives to Christ, but - they were very busy helping people with their pets and farm animals. There just wasn't much time to think about things like that at the present.

This past Sunday morning, I got the call from their Uncle.

On the previous morning, the mother and both daughters had been on their way to the clinic for the usual Saturday work. Mom was driving the Jeep at about 65 miles per hour on the interstate highway when she announced, "I feel faint" and immediately slumped over the steering wheel. As the Jeep headed for the median, the daughter in the back seat tried to lift her mother back off the wheel while her sister in the front seat attempted to steer the vehicle from the passenger side. As a result of the over correction of their course, the car veered off the right side of the highway, rolled up an embankment, and landed on its roof. The girls sustained minor injuries but miraculously survived the accident. Sadly, however, their mother was gone. She had suffered a massive fatal heart attack.

The Uncle who called me said the girls had asked him to see if I would be able to officiate at their mother's funeral. They knew of my battle with cancer and since they had not seen me in some time, were unsure of my physical condition. I assured him that I would certainly do what I could to help.

I was at the funeral home yesterday afternoon when the family arrived about 5:15. There were only the three of them - the father, son, and two sisters, broken and grieving. After the initial hugs and words of consolation we stepped into the parlor for them to have private time at their loved one's casket before the general public would begin arriving at 6:00. After several minutes of quiet time, I mentioned to the family that their loved one had kept an appointment that God has made for each of us. The most important thing we can do in this life is to be ready for that appointment, and the only way to be prepared is through a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus. "If your mom could speak to you right now" I told the girls, "I believe she would uge you to come to Jesus."

The older daughter looked at me through her tears and said, "You know, we have been talking about that a lot lately. Could we be saved right now?"

My heart lept with joy. "You surely can" I said.

Very simply explaining the plan of salvation to them (which they had heard many times before), I asked them if they understood. They did. I asked them if they acknowledged their sin and if they were willing to turn from their way to God's way, and accept Jesus and His sacrifice for their sins. They did.

While the four of us stood there arm in arm in front of their mother's casket, Kim and Aimee prayed to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Jesus said that there is rejoicing in the presence of the Angels when a lost soul is found. At 5:30 yesterday evening there was a double reason for having a rejoicing party in Heaven!

New life had begun in the very presence of death.

I'm actually looking forward to this afternoon's funeral service!

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