Sunday, November 22, 2015

What I am thankful I likely will not have for Thanksgiving:

What are you pleased to say you will miss out on this Thanksgiving?   

·       Cousin Merle’s grape hull pie?

·       Aunt C’s spinach dip that gets browner as it moves faithfully from party to party?

·       Mama Hazel’s special boiled chicken delight?

·       Ms. Civi’s cabbage pizza appetizer bites?

·       Ms. Myrtle’s boxed lemon cake with canned chocolate icing? 
  • That dip that everybody is raving over but you know what went into it?     

 Every holiday has its inherent plusses and minuses…especially when “we the people” are involved.  

We are all duly asked to list off things we are thankful for this time of year. It’s easy to be cavalier and off hand about it. We have so much.


I decided to think about what I am thankful I likely will not have for this Thanksgiving season, through no merit of my own. Here’s my list so far …

What I am thankful I likely will not have for Thanksgiving
in 2015:
Nothing to eat
“Some 795 million people in the world do not have enough food to lead a healthy active life.”
No place to sleep
“More than 100 million people worldwide are homeless. About one in four people live in conditions that harm their health, safety, prosperity and opportunities.”
No money/possessions
Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.”
No family

It is estimated that 153 million children worldwide, ranging from infants to teenagers, have lost one or both parents… Over 7 million children are in institutional care worldwide”
No friends
“there is a friend [Christ Jesus] who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)
No love

Jesus loves me! This I know, For the Bible tells me so. (WB Bradbury, 1862)
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
No purpose

Sing to the LORD a new song … Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples.” (Psalm 96:1, 3)
“in humility value others above yourselves,  not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:304)
No paralyzing fear
The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1)
“When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)
No hope

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3)
What I deserve
“It's your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” (Isaiah 59:2)
“For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 6:23)

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Facing Our Fears


Generations before us knew and understood what it meant to live in fearful times. We certainly aren’t the first. But earth has become so small through our technology that each horrendous occurrence around the world comes to us quickly, sometimes while it’s still happening. It feels as if we are there, that it’s happening to us.  The events of 911 reminded us again that Americans aren’t bullet proof, either. It’s easy…even normal…to fear.
Fear is not all bad. It’s actually a God-given reaction to danger. According to the University of Minnesota (,

Fear is a human emotion that is triggered by a perceived threat.
It is a basic survival mechanism that signals our bodies to respond
to danger with a fight or flight response. As such, it is an essential
part of keeping us safe.
Fear is not all good, either. According to this same website:

people who live in constant fear, whether from physical
dangers in their environment or threats they perceive, can become

Incapacitated means “prevented from performing in a normal way” … immobilized … paralyzed.  Believers are not called by God to be paralyzed by constant fear of persons or things or events or what could happen in our lives. The Bible does speak a lot about fearing God: But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. (I Samuel 12:24)

Nowhere does scripture advise believers (Christ followers) to be immobilized or paralyzed with fear.

Without question, the world we experience is often a frightening place. The news tells us that. Happenings in our own lives tell us that. If we are believers, what should our reactions be in the face of our fears?

Surely we can be watchful and vigilant. Clearly we should use common sense and exercise caution. God gifted us with the ability to do those skills and expects us to use them to protect those we love and those around us.

But to allow our fears to incapacitate us is simply not supported by scripture. The advice it does give us for facing fear is this:

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  (II Timothy 1:7)

The Lord is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?  (Psalm 27:1)
Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. (Psalm 27:3)
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4)

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, (Psalm 46:2)

Why should I fear when evil days come, when wicked deceivers surround me
(Psalm 49:5)

They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting
in the Lord. 
(Psalm 112:7)
For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.  (Isaiah 41:13)

But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened.”  (I Peter 3:14)

Calm assurance in the face of fearful situations isn’t a natural reaction for most of us.  Panic, hysteria, and paralysis often are.  How then can we face real threats and credible fears in the unnatural way of ones who trust Christ for all things?  Scripture addresses the how as well: I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4);

You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.” (Lamentations 3:57)

but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.  (Proverbs 1:33)

We don’t have to search far to find examples of believers who trusted these promises but were allowed to go through remarkable hardships (e.g., Job) or were what we might call “prematurely” taken to Heaven in spite of that trust (e.g., Nate Saint, Tom & June Jackson). Does that negate the promises? Do they serve only as platitudes to repeat and “feel better” in times of trouble?

Not according to the life of the Apostle Paul, who faced more adversity than most of us have ever seen, yet said with bold assurance, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21).

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Is That Heaven?

A 2014 Harris Poll reported that 74% of adults in the US believe in God and 68% believe in Heaven. The confidence appears to be stronger for teens, as 80% report a belief in God and 78% a belief in Heaven.
Where do you stand on these topics?

The reality of Heaven as a dwelling place for life after death is no secret to believers who read and know the Bible. Granted, the idea that there is an actual place where we can live forever without end in the presence of God. Jesus, the angels and a host of fellow believers in an existence without pain, worry, conflict and other earthy concerns seems the stuff of fantasy. Our earthly minds are not equipped to comprehend a timeless eternity in a place of incomprehensible beauty, such as described by John in Revelation 21:
 11 It shone with the glory of God and sparkled like a precious stone—like jasper as clear as crystal. 12 The city wall was broad and high, with twelve gates guarded by twelve angels. And the names of the twelve tribes of Israel were written on the gates. 13 There were three gates on each side—east, north, south, and west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city was pure gold, as clear as glass. 19 The wall of the city was built on foundation stones inlaid with twelve precious stones: the first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst.21 The twelve gates were made of pearls—each gate from a single pearl! And the main street was pure gold, as clear as glass.22 I saw no temple in the city, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 And the city has no need of sun or moon, for the glory of God illuminates the city, and the Lamb is its light.

Accepting Heaven as a true and real hope for believers may take the kind of childlike faith, trust and simplicity Jesus was talking about when he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matthew 18:3) and "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children” (Matthew 19:14).

When my Rachael was about two, our beloved great Aunt Myrtle (who lived downstairs from us at the time) died. We explained to her that Aunt Myrtle had gone to Heaven.   

That was good. But what we failed to do was tell her something more about Heaven that she could understand. Before the funeral, Rachael and Martha were with us as we drove by the funeral home holding the earthly remains of our children’s great great aunt. We must have said something like, “That’s where Aunt Myrtle is.”
Rachael, taking our earlier conversation literally, responded with “Is that Heaven?”

Well…no…Sugg Funeral Home in Fuquay-Varina, NC in August of 1982 was not Heaven.

But the lessons learned from our child’s innocent statement are:
1   #1. We need to be very clear and descriptive when we tell children (or anyone) about Heaven.
2   #2. In order to do #1, we have to study what the Bible says about Heaven.
3   #3. In order to do #2, we have to set aside our fears of thinking or dealing with anything about death and let God teach us about the incredible possibilities of an eternity with Him.