All posts by mainstcoc


Irish boxer Steven Donnelly defeated Mongolian boxer Tuvshinbat Byamba, in a split decision at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but lost at the same time. Lacking confidence before the match, Donnelly made a bet with a bookmaker that he would lose. So he won the match but lost his bet. Punishment from the International Olympic Committee was only a reprimand, because he was unaware of Olympic rules against sports betting and had “no intent to manipulate any event” (WORLD, October 29, 2016, p. 13).

Seems pretty dumb to bet against yourself, unless you are planning to lose. Why would anyone work at cross purposes to himself, betting against himself, and then trying to win the fight?

But before dismissing Steven Donnelly too quickly, we might ask ourselves why we also work at cross purposes to ourselves. The most important thing we could hope for our families is that every member would go to heaven. Yet Christians will neglect worship, roast the elders and preacher, and demonstrate that Christ and His church are surely not the most important thing in their lives, and then be surprised when their children have less faith than they have.

The lure of sin is so powerful that we must be constantly on guard to make sure that our lives are consistent with God’s will, and that we do not lose our priorities. Even Paul had to fight against the evil he found within.  

For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:  But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. (Romans 7:19-23). 

It was enough to make him want to give up: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Like Paul, we can rejoice:  “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin” (Romans 7:24-25). With every sin, every missed opportunity to serve God, I am betting against myself. Paul says, “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:27).


Travel, especially air travel gets very expensive very fast. Your airplane ticket pays for you, your luggage, and the plane itself to be flown through the air. Fortunately, today’s jets can carry the same size load the same distance as forty years ago on half the fuel, due to lighter hulls, more fuel-efficient engines, and improved aerodynamics. But even little things still matter. National Geographic, in 2015, said that a Boeing 737-800 carrying just one extra fifty pound suitcase on every flight would cost $3,627 more to operate over the course of a year. One extra fifteen pound carry-on would cost $980 for the year. Even one extra magazine, weighing just .7 pound would add $46 a year to the cost of operating the plane. And those are 2015 figures! No wonder it is so expensive to fly! (“Explore: Science,” National Geographic, April 2015).

Just living is costly today. Inflation, greater demand for products, and technological innovations contribute to increasing costs. Most things are more costly, as prices have inflated over the years. In my first job, I had to use a crammed-full shopping cart to carry twenty dollars worth of groceries. Today, I can carry twenty dollars worth of groceries in one hand, and the difference is not that I have gotten stronger!

The sacrificial system under the Mosaic law was costly. The animal to be sacrificed was not just any animal, but one that was valuable, perfect, without blemish. In the KJV Old Testament, the phrase “without blemish” is used thirty-eight times in relation to the sacrifice. The high cost helped God’s people to understand the enormity of sin.

Peter, in calling for us to be holy, as the Father is holy, tells us “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19). The precious blood of Christ was the most costly gift ever given to man, so much more costly than gold or silver. 

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him (Romans 5:6-9).

The cost of living is high, but the cost of dying without benefit of the blood of Christ is much worse!


“Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.’” (Matthew 19:13-14)

Before this, Jesus “…called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one little child like this in My name receives Me.'” (Matthew 18:2-5). 

I recently quoted these verses at my son’s funeral, and they have been in my heart ever since. They remind me how bright a little light can shine.

Like the disciples, our perception of greatness often needs to be checked. The context of these passages reveals that the disciples were privately jockeying for position and debating who would be the greatest among them. When Jesus challenged them, they became silent because they were ashamed (Mark 9:33-34).

Jesus also knows our secret discussions. He knows that we often believe that we must impress others with our vast knowledge or great skill or employ grand gestures and mighty works, like those mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3. Yet Paul reminded the Corinthian church that such great works were nothing compared to true love. His description of love begins with these words, “love is patient, love is kind…”. But that sounds too simple, naive, and little. Right? Wrong! We forget that God does His best work through the little things. A life consistently demonstrating the “little things” like kindness and patience can make a big difference.

To help His disciples understand this, He showed them a child. He has also helped me understand this through a child, through the example of my son. Although he was just a 7-year-old boy, his impact on others has been evident to me in the last couple of weeks.

His impact was evident in the hundreds of people who came to pay their respects at the visitation. The line at the calling hours extended into the parking lot. Around 800 people waited patiently for hours in that line. 

His impact was evident in the packed auditorium at the funeral. People filled every pew, and chairs had to be set up for everyone to have a seat. The local schools closed so students and teachers could attend. Even more surprising is that the funeral service now has 4,676 views online! 

His impact was evident among those who chose to “Wear Blue for Andrew,” which included many nearby schools. It was also apparent on Fist-Bump Friday at Pikeville Elementary when the UPike Football team showed up in custom T-shirts with his name on them. They also honored him on game day with stickers on their helmets and named him an honorary Captain. 

His impact was evident through the countless posts online where people shared their special memories. Parents hope and pray that their children listen to the lessons they are trying to teach them. While my heart remains broken, it also soars as I hear story after story about my son’s kindness to others and willingness to help those around him. 

One day in the lunchroom at school, Andrew quietly and discretely got the principal’s attention. When he walked over, Andrew asked, in a whisper, if he could give his lunch to a little boy at another table who wasn’t eating. He was worried that the boy didn’t have food for lunch. It turned out that the little boy had gotten in trouble before lunch and was pouting about it, but the story illustrates the kind and thoughtful person Andrew was. 

His classmates shared how Andrew would help them whenever they needed help with their schoolwork and how he was a friend to everyone. Many of the children told their teachers that Andrew was their best friend. One teacher said she had never heard so many kids say that about one child. A local TV station ran a story about Andrew and his school with the headline, “Better because of Andrew.” Superintendent David Trimble said, “He made a difference in this world. I think about our family here–our family was better because of Andrew… I think Andrew was really good at the things that we sometimes call ‘little’ that are just so giant.”. Principal Glenda Adkins added, ”He was just such a great kid and brought a lot of light to our hallways and to our classrooms.” 

I never imagined one little life could impact so many. A bulletin board in the hallway of our church building now reads, “If you see someone without a smile, give them yours.” As I read that, I realized that is what Andrew did. So many people have mentioned his smile. In a letter to the district, Mr. Trimble said, “This young man had a smile that truly brightened our classrooms, hallways, cafeteria, school buses, and playground, and he had as kind of a heart that you will find anywhere.” It seems like such a small thing, but the world needs more smiles, kindness, and love. When you think about it, that’s not such a little thing, is it?

We chose the name Andrew for our son because the Apostle Andrew was known for bringing people to Jesus (see John 1:40-41, 6:8-9, 12:21). We envisioned that he would follow me into the ministry one day. Never for a moment did we imagine that the greatest sermon he would ever preach would be his short, beautiful life. His life, not his death, has touched thousands of hearts! And it reminds me that the so-called “little things” matter. 

“Better because of Andrew” is not just a cute slogan; I know it to be true. He made a difference and continues to make a difference. 




A popular old hymn stresses our longing for our heavenly rest, but also our commitment to keep working until Jesus comes. It begins, “O land of rest, for thee I sigh! When will the moment come, When I shall lay my armor by, And dwell in peace at home?” The refrain repeats “We’ll work till Jesus comes, We’ll work till Jesus comes, We’ll work till Jesus comes, And we’ll be gathered home.” The words, by Elizabeth K. Mills, who died at 24 or 25, were first published in 1837. The tune, attributed to William Miller, was added in 1859.

I have been unable to verify if this is the same William Miller who twice set a date for the return of the Lord, but if it is the same man, it is ironic. William Miller (1742-1849), was a Baptist preacher who through his study of the book of Daniel determined that the return of the Lord was very near, and he traveled throughout the United States preaching a message of the need to be prepared for the Lord’s return. As his followers, known as Millerites, pressed him for a date, he announced in January 1843, that the date would be March 21, 1844. When that date passed, he and his followers recalculated, and set the date for October 22, 1844.

Despite the words of the hymn, many of Miller’s followers did not “work till Jesus comes.” They left farms untended, debts unpaid and took it easy. When the second date failed, these people were very upset with Miller, and he died disillusioned and forgotten in 1849, still thinking the Lord would return in his lifetime. Some of his followers pressed on, organizing the Seventh Day Adventist church. In their history they refer to the Miller failure as the “Great Disappointment.”

The hymn is consistent with the warnings of the Lord. He likened the kingdom of heaven to ten virgins waiting for the bridegroom to come. Five were wise, but five were foolish, and “took their lamps, and took no oil with them: But the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps.” All were in the same situation waiting for the bridegroom, but the foolish were not ready to serve when the cry came, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh; go ye out to meet him.” They all arose, but the foolish were unprepared, and missed their chance. “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matthew 25:1-13).

Disappointment awaits those who are not working until Jesus comes. “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them” (Revelation 14:13).


I enjoy the comics, not only because they allow me to have a chuckle in the midst of an evil and frightening world, but because they often suggest profound thoughts. A “Frank and Ernest” cartoon (9/8/2017) has Ernest speaking to Frank as a loan officer, telling him, “In order to invest in my future, I need to refinance my past.”

It is often prudent to refinance a loan, getting a better interest rate or a more affordable payment. There is usually a cost, but that cost is offset by future savings (if the borrower is acting wisely).

Your future is affected by your past, not only in terms of finances, but in terms of how your life has been invested. Whether you have used your time wisely, been diligent in pursuing an education, or lived above the norms of the world have a tremendous impact. Mistakes of the past, even long past, have a tendency to hurt us when we least expect it, like the “Marlboro Man” who quit many years ago but then faced cancer, or the crisis we face today because we did not plan for the “rainy day.”

When it comes to spiritual matters, even the best of us need to have our past refinanced so that we can have a future. From the time Adam and Eve chose to rebel against God, each of us has followed the same path. “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). And that sin has a significant cost: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23a). In fact, the cost was so high, that the only remedy for this great sin debt was “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:19).

In the financial world, it is possible to dig such a serious hole of debt that no refinancing is possible. All that is left is to declare bankruptcy. That is where we find ourselves concerning our sins. We are bankrupt without Christ. Paul acknowledged his bankrupt state: “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” But Christ saved him, and gave him a future. “Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting” (1 Timothy 1:15-16). We have followed Paul’s pattern in sin, and we can follow his pattern in obeying the Lord to receive his gracious promise for our future!


The apostles taught that Jesus is the Christian’s example in all things. To Paul, He is the pattern to imitate (1 Cor 11:1); to Peter, He is the Shepherd in whose footsteps Christians are to follow (1 Peter 2:21,25); to John, He is the Servant who led by example (John 13:13-17). Today, let us consider, He is our pattern in prayer.  

A survey of His life reveals Jesus was a prayerful person:

  • He prayed alone before His day began (Mark 1:35).
  • He prayed alone in the afternoon (Matthew 14:23; Luke 9:18, Lk 5:16).
  • He prayed with His disciples in the afternoon (Luke 9:28-29).
  • He prayed alone at night, all night (Luke 6:12).
  • He prayed in public (Matthew 11:25-27; John 11:41-42, 12:27-28).
  • He prayed before important decisions (Luke 6:12-13).
  • He prayed at pivotal moments in His life (e.g., after His baptism, Luke 3:21-22).
  • He prayed in moments of deep agony (Lk 22:42; Matthew 27:46).
  • He prayed before meals (Mk 8:6; Mt 26:26; Luke 24:30).
  • He prayed to teach others (Matthew 6:9-13).
  • He prayed for others (Lk 22:31-32).
  • He prayed for His disciples (John 17:6-19).
  • He prayed for His future disciples (John 17:20-26).
  • He prayed for children (Matthew 19:13-15).
  • He prayed for His enemies (Luke 23:34).
  • He prayed to heal (Mark 7:34-35).
  • He prayed with thanksgiving (John 11:41-42; Luke 10:21-22).
  • He prayed with loud cries and tears (Hebrews 5:7).
  • He prayed the same prayer multiple times (Matthew 26:39,42,44).
  • He prayed short prayers (John 12:27-28).
  • He prayed long prayers (John 17:1-26; Lk 6:12).
  • He prayed while standing (John 17:1).
  • He prayed while kneeling (Lk 22:41).
  • He prayed while prostrate on the ground with His face in the dirt (Matthew 26:39).
  • He prayed according to the Father’s will (Mt 26:36-44).
  • He prayed with His dying breath (Lk 23:46).
  • He prayed before He ascended back to Heaven (Luke 24:50-53).

The prayer life of Jesus illustrates the command to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Jesus was continually prayerful. He placed a priority on prayer in His life. Do we?


Bev Ellis, an Australian book store owner was understandably upset when a customer told her a strange man had been defacing many of the store’s Stephen King books by writing in them. She was surprised to catch up with the man in a nearby Woolworth’s and find out that it was Stephen King himself, who had autographed the books (World, September 18, 2007).

Having bought many used books over the years, I am always irritated to find that a previous owner has underlined or highlighted the book, but I am glad to find a book that has been autographed by the author. I realize that defacing the book by underlining lowers the value, but the autograph of the author increases the value.

It would be marvelous if “Original autographs” [the original manuscripts] of some of our Bible books could be found among the thousands of extant manuscripts, but apparently none have ever surfaced. Verification of an original autograph would be a sensation in the archaeological world, no doubt.

Paul apparently used a scribe to write down most of his epistles, although he indicates several times that he personally wrote down a part. “Ye see how large a letter I have written unto you with mine own hand” (Galatians 6:21). “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17).

Moses told Israel, “the LORD delivered unto me two tables of stone written with the finger of God; and on them was written according to all the words, which the LORD spake with you in the mount out of the midst of the fire in the day of the assembly” (Deuteronomy 9:10).

Every page of the Bible demonstrates the autograph of God. It is more than coincidence that the longest chapter in the Bible, Psalm 119, is devoted to praise for the written word of God. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).


As God prepared His people to enter the Promised Land, He assigned the tribe of Levi to be in charge of all things related to worship. That meant that the Levites provided all of the priests, as well as those who would care for the tabernacle/temple, play instruments in worship, and any other possible assignment relating to the worship of God.

Among the various families of the Levites, each family received a particular assignment. The family of Kohath was assigned to carry the tabernacle furnishings as they traveled, but even though they were Levites, they could not serve as priests. Korah, the head of the family, felt slighted, and led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron. “And Moses said unto Korah, Hear, I pray you, ye sons of Levi: Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them? And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?” (Numbers 16:10). The wrath of God fell on Korah and the other rebels, and the earth opened up and swallowed them.

God was merciful to Korah’s family, however. “And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign. Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not” (Numbers 26:10-11).

Several generations later, the family of Korah was still serving faithfully in the temple, not as priests, but as gatekeepers and singers. Perhaps this prompted them to write in Psalm 84:10, “For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.” In other words, they had more joy from one day in the service of the Lord, than for a thousand days in the service of evil. There is joy in simple service to God, in whatever humble capacity we find ourselves. Aren’t we grateful for the many who serve the cause of Christ in those unsung positions that we could never do without!


When states first started letting people put messages on their license plates, it became a challenge to decipher the meaning of a tag. There was even a TV game show based on figuring out personalized tags. Often the messages are “cute,” like BOB4UA, meaning Bob is for the University of Alabama. Or ATCHR, suggesting perhaps the person is a teacher. I saw a tag the other day that was not hard to decipher, but it was hard to understand why someone would choose that message. The tag said SINNER. It made me wonder, what is the theology of the person who chose to proclaim this message on the vehicle?-

Was this person feeling guilty for being an employee of the IRS? Jesus compared the prayers of the Pharisee who prayed “with himself,” and “the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The Jews hated publicans, but it was not necessarily his work as a tax collector that made him a sinner.

Perhaps this person is on the run. Solomon advises, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. Evil pursueth sinners: but to the righteous good shall be repaid” (Proverbs 13:20-21).

Perhaps this person just wants to call attention to the common plight of mankind: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Fortunately, this verse is not the end of the story, however. The next two verses remind us, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” (Romans 3:24-25). 

An encounter with Jesus, obedience to Him, changes everything. When Jesus told Zacchaeus He was going to his house that day, “they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner” (Luke 19:7). The end result of the visit was repentance and restitution by Zacchaeus, and the declaration of Jesus,  “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:-10). Yes, we have sinned, but I thank God that Jesus gave himself so that we do not have to bear the consequences of our sins. FORGVN!


Out to lunch at an upscale restaurant, I saw the most beautiful bar display I have ever seen. The clear glass shelves were lighted from below to showcase beautiful bottles of liquor in every hue of the rainbow. They sparkled in the light, and every eye that passed by was drawn to the stunning display. Beautiful, yes, but so dangerous!

Solomon warned, “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.” The beautiful color is deceptive. He asks, “Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?” The answer, of course, is “They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine” (Proverbs 23:31, 29-30).

The beautiful bottles conceal hidden danger. “At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.” The effect is to muddle the mind and cloud the judgment.

Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again (Proverbs 23:32-35).

Satan knows too well the power of persuasion, and how enticing sin can look. Who would think that just one drink, just one fling, just one “little” sin could lead to so much trouble? Yet hell will be filled with people who followed Satan’s enticing lead. 

Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (James 1:13-15).

Don’t be dazzled by the beauty of sin.


The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown (Penguin, 2013) is the inspiring story of the University of Washington eight man crew team that won the Olympic gold medal at Berlin in 1936. Crew is the ultimate team sport. With a coxswain calling or beating time, the boat only moves swiftly and smoothly if the eight rowers work in perfect unison. The rowers were all of of different sizes, strengths, and temperaments, but they learned to dip their oars in the water and pull the boat forward as one man, in perfect precision, and were able to bring home the gold medal.

This working in unison is what God plans for His church. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul compares the church, the body of Christ, to the human body, stressing each member of the body must do its part to build up the whole body. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many.” Just as every member of our physical bodies, from foot and eye to inner organs, is important, so is each member of the spiritual body, the church. “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:13-14, 25-27).

A unique challenge of six-man crew is that only the coxswain, guiding the rowers, can see the finish line. The rowers, the “boys in the boat” must trust him to guide and control them, never knowing for sure how close they are to the finish line. We understand that the “heavenly finish line” awaits us, but we cannot see it, and we never know exactly how close we are to reaching it. That is why, as we “run with patience the race set before us,” we look unto “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2). He has prepared the way, and He will guide us to the finish line. And the ride is so much smoother when we listen to His counsel and row as one man.


Southern philosopher and humorist Lewis Grizzard said, “Ever notice the first thing you see at an airport is a big sign that says ‘TERMINAL’? Have a nice flight.” There are many who fear air travel, and either refuse to fly, or when forced to fly, they must tranquilize themselves to prevent all-out panic. Experts say that flying is the safest way to travel, but when a plane crashes, there are few if any survivors.

“Terminal” is an interesting word. If you are in the academic world, a “terminal degree” is the pathway to a good job, and there are many fields where the lack of that master’s degree or doctorate guarantees you will never go very far. A terminal is very important in electrical connections, and a faulty terminal can mean disaster. A computer terminal is a needed fixture in libraries and many businesses. 

The first definition of terminal in the dictionary is: “of, at, relating to, or forming a limit, boundary, extremity, or end.” The definition that may most concern us is the one that says, “Causing, ending in, or approaching death: fatal.” That’s why Grizzard’s comment may hit close to home. “Terminal” should remind us that we all are … terminal.

As the writer of Hebrews discussed Christ’s sacrifice for us as our great High Priest and also the sacrificial Lamb, he asserts, “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Regular appointments with the doctor may postpone that appointment with death, but we must realize that it is only a temporary postponement. We all are terminal, all set to die at some time.

When it comes to “flying through life,” we can let that knowledge that we all are terminal paralyze us with fear, or we can boldly proceed in the knowledge that this life is not all that there is. Jesus promised,  “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”  I don’t claim to know all that this means. Even the disciples didn’t fully understand this. “Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” But I do know and trust the One who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:2-3, 5, 6).

Yes, we are terminal. But God is in control. Have a nice flight.


I had the opportunity to proofread some Bible camp class material. I checked for punctuation, spelling errors, typos, and anything that I could find to make the material clear and correct. Proofreading is somewhat demanding, because you can’t just read and enjoy the material. You have to examine it critically, which is what the author of the material wanted. He wanted it to be the best it could be so that it could effectively teach the kids at camp.

Not everyone wants what they write, say, or do to be examined critically. A criticism, even if it is correct, is often not received with joy. In fact, criticism is often met with outright anger. This is especially true when the critic is thought to be unfair. When the Lord warned, “Judge not that ye be not judged,” He was not warning against all judging, but giving guidelines for judging. “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Matthew 7:1-2).

Jesus understood something about us. We can so much more easily see the wrong in others than we can in ourselves. That is why I was asked to proofread the material. When I write something, I know how it is supposed to sound to the reader. I know how words are spelled and how sentences are structured. So when I make a mistake, I often can’t see it, because I know what it is supposed to say, even if it doesn’t actually say it. This also applies to how I live. “And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:3). The problem is that sometimes I just can’t see my own faults as clearly as I can see the faults of others.

As a proofreader, I was invited to be critical. In life, I am not free to have a critical spirit. “Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4-5). But how can I see my own errors? “Whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” When I look into the mirror of God’s word, I need to be a “doer of God’s word,” and not just a hearer (James 1:22-25). I need to look at my own life critically, seeing how it reflects God’s will. What do you see when you proofread your life?


In the Kingdom of Ice by Hampton Sides (Anchor Books, 2014) is the story of “the grand and terrible voyage of the USS Jeannette.” A monument on the grounds of the U. S. Naval Academy honors the exploits of the Jeannette and its crew, who sought to be the first explorers to reach the north pole for the honor of the United States and its navy. In the preflight days of the 1880’s, the best received scientific theory was that there was a vast “open polar sea” at the north pole, which could be reached by sea.

Lieutenant George Washington Delong, captain, and his crew of thirty-two discovered that there is no open polar sea, and ultimately two-thirds of the crew died from frostbite and starvation as they tried to survive in a desolate arctic environment. They made new scientific discoveries, but the cost was high. It was a noble endeavor, but the maps of the day which showed that open polar sea were sadly mistaken. Delong’s journals survived, and his widow led the way in publishing his findings, but the knowledge he gained came at a heavy cost.

When we think of the many great endeavors undertaken in our world, we find that most are begun with the best intentions, and frequently with the hope that God will bless the efforts. Noble efforts to ease suffering, bring about justice, and improve our world bring our applause. The sad truth, however, is that too often men assume that they have God’s blessing–but they are mistaken. As Jesus neared the end of the sermon on the mount, He warned:

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7:21-23).

I am sure that many that Jesus warned were sincere, but the test will always be whether or not men do the will of the Father. It is truly sad that some will enter noble causes, but based on mistaken information. The crew of the Jeannette gave their lives to learn the truth that science was mistaken. Sadly others may do the same.


According to WORLD Magazine (July 9, 2016, p. 12), Citigroup filed a lawsuit against AT&T over its use of the words “AT&T Thanks” in its customer loyalty program. Citigroup filed a trademark, “Citi Thanks You” in 2004, and said that AT&T’s use of the word “Thanks” violated its trademark. Last word from AT&T was that it would fight the lawsuit, saying that Citigroup can’t “own the word thanks.”

I don’t know the ins and outs of this legal battle, but I do know that  anything that keeps people from showing appreciation is not good. Many businesses and employees already have a hard time saying thanks. One of the fast-food chicken restaurants has a very firm policy of its employees saying thanks, and responding to any customer with “It was my pleasure.” But for many, it seems the employees don’t like to be inconvenienced by having to serve the customers.

Jesus was the Master of giving thanks. After His resurrection, He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, but “their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” Even as Jesus explained to Cleopas and his companion the significance of the recent events of His crucifixion and resurrection, they still did not recognize Him. But “as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him” (Luke 24: 16, 30-31). It was when He prayed and gave thanks that they knew who He was.

Jesus always thanked the Father for hearing Him and revealing truth through Him (Matthew 11:25; John 11:41). Jesus also showed that service and kindness to others would mark His followers, even if they did not receive the proper words of thanks.

For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them. And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful (Luke 6:32-36).

I have no choice but to be merciful and thankful. I belong to Him!


One Sunday, during the Lord’s Supper, the plate of unleavened bread was being passed down our pew when my then 3-year-old son loudly announced, “Dad, I want some!” Now, this was nothing new. He had been doing it for almost as long as he had been able to speak. But that day, my usual response of, “Son, this is just for Christians”, did not suffice. He fixed me with a very knowing and confident look for a toddler and declared, “Dad, I know it is just a cracker!”

Even though I later tried to explain these things to my little boy, he continued to believe we were trying to trick him and keep this little snack for ourselves. My son, in his innocence, could not grasp that the cup and the cracker represented something far more. He is not the only one who has struggled with this distinction. Adults can also lose sight of what the wafer and the cup signify.

It is not just a cracker, it is an emblem. While the bread and fruit of the vine do not become the body and blood of our Lord, as some falsely teach, we must never look at them as “common” things (Hebrews 10:29). They serve as powerful symbols that call to mind the death of the Lord. 

Christians partake of these emblems with these words in mind “this do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). “With just a morsel of bread and a few drops of grape juice, we draw our hearts back to Him who died for us.” (Christopher Stinnett). The Corinthian church once lost sight of this purpose and made a mockery of this act of worship. They failed to observe it as a memorial but instead turned it into a common feast, thus earning the Apostle’s rebuke, “For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.” (1 Corinthians 11:29).

It is not just a cracker, it is an examination. Paul taught, “…whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1 Corinthians 11:27-29). The Lord designed it to be a time, at the beginning of every week (Acts 20:7), for one to examine his or her life in relation to the Cross (James 4:8).  

It is not just a cracker, it is communion (1 Corinthians 10:16). Communion means fellowship or joint participation. Jesus indeed promised, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:29. Cf. Lk 22:28-29). The church is His kingdom (Mark 9:1, Acts 2:47, Colossians 1:12-13). We must never forget that as we come together on the Lord’s day to partake of this memorial meal, Jesus is our unseen guest.

It is not just a cracker, it is a proclamationIn our observation of this memorial, we proclaim our faith in the saving power of Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and His future coming. Paul said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26). 

No, it is not just a cracker and a bit of juice. It is so much more! It is a meal shared with our Lord, which looks backward to His death, inward in self-examination, and forward toward His future return.


Tommy Lasorda, manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers was extremely successful. In his first 12 seasons the Dodgers won six division titles, four pennants, and two World Series victories. Lasorda credited his success at motivating people to a can of evaporated milk he spotted on the kitchen table when he was 15. It said, “Contented cows give better milk.” Lasorda said, “I am of the belief that contented people give better performances. I try to make it fun for them. I try to make them proud of the organization they represent” (Bill Fromm, The Ten Commandments of Business and How to Break Them).

Paul reminds us “godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment let us be therewith content” (1 Timothy 6:6-8). He modeled contentment in his own life:

But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me (Philippians 4:10-13).

A Quaker farmer ran an ad in the local paper saying that he would give his farm to any man who was truly content. A successful nearby farmer thought to himself, “I have a successful farm. I am making good money. I do not have to work that hard. I must be truly content.” He went to his Quaker neighbor and said that he was truly content. The Quaker replied, “If thee art truly content, why dost thee want my farm?”

“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me” (Hebrews 13:5). Are you content? Why not? Are you on the Lord’s team?


I enjoy movies and TV shows where time travel allows people to go back and change the past. The idea of going back in time to change or correct the past has always appealed to me, because when the past is changed it also changes the future. History is changed: some never live who would have lived otherwise, and others who before met untimely early deaths, now live. The changes are not always predictable. 

Think how our world might be different if an Adolph Hitler never lived—or for that matter, a Winston Churchill never lived. What if Jonas Salk had never lived to create his polio vaccine?

The song, “What was I meant to be?” deals with this issue. In the song, aborted children around the throne of God ask Him, “What was I meant to be?” before they were killed by abortion. Perhaps there was another Marshall Keeble to share the gospel, or another Jonas Salk to cure cancer. Surely those millions of children were meant to be something. God told Jeremiah,  “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations” (Jeremiah 1:5). How the world would have been different, for the worse, if Jeremiah’s mother had aborted him!

Although the only time we have is the present, we must realize that our present is quickly becoming the past, and our past/present changes the future, for good or bad. 

John 4 describes Jesus’ encounter with a Samaritan woman at the well outside the Samaritan village of Sychar. His discussion of the living water He wanted to give her, led to faith not only in her heart, but practically the whole village. They were so excited by what He taught that they begged Jesus to tarry, and he stayed two days with them. Think how different the future was for the people of that village. Luke tells of an incident at another Samaritan village, “And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.” James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume them, but Jesus rebuked them,  “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village” (Luke 9:53, 56). Think how the future of that village did not change.

My choices today of what I do, and what I do not do, has a tremendous effect on my future.  “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ…So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (2 Corinthians 5:10, 12).


The headline for the million holiday leaflets printed by Russian charity Mercy Capital Foundation had a simple message: “Do good!”  Or at least that is what it was supposed to say. The printer made a typographical error, and the headline, in Russian, said not “Do good!” but “Exterminate Beavers!” The print shop refused to reprint the leaflets with the correct wording, because as they said, no one would notice the typo. Maybe “Exterminate Beavers!” and “Do Good!” are similarly spelled in Russian, but you could hardly get a more opposite idea, unless of course, it is your trees that the beavers are destroying (WORLD, October 29, 2016, p. 13).

You can’t go wrong with the admonition to “Do Good!” Surely that would please the Master. As Peter summarized the ministry of Christ to the household of Cornelius, he said that God was preaching peace by Jesus Christ, “who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him” (Acts 10:36-38).

Would Peter describe your life as one of preaching peace and going about doing good?  Are you bringing people closer to the Lord and His church? Are you walking with Him or against Him?

After Zacchaeus demonstrated his repentance, Jesus said, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). In the temple at 12, Jesus said, “Wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business” (Luke 2:49). And the Father’s business meant that He was going about doing good.

We must be doing good, even if the world does not appreciate us.

“If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.  Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf” (1 Peter 4:14-16).

Ultimately, as we go about doing good, the purpose is not so that we may be glorified, but that God will be glorified. “Ye are the light of the world. … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14, 16).

Do good, and leave the beavers alone!


An innovative treatment for traumatic brain injury and psychological health concerns at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence, part of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, involves the injured service members creating masks, allowing them to illustrate hidden feelings. Common themes chosen include “death (often represented by skulls), inabililty to express themselves (mouths stitched, gagged, or locked shut), physical pain (facial wounds), and patriotic  feelings (American flags).” Some are resistant to the therapy, but several have found significant help. 

“I thought it was a joke,” recalled Sergeant Hopman. “I wanted no part of it because, number one, I’m a man, and I don’t like holding a dainty little paint brush. Number two, I’m not an artist. And number three, I’m not in kindergarten. Well, I was ignorant, and I was wrong, because it’s great. I think it’s great. I think this is what started me kind of opening up and talking about stuff and actually trying to get better.” (“Behind the Mask,” National Geographic, February 2015, p. 44).

The masks created in this program help injured service members reveal their pain within. I think, in conrast to them, that most of us create masks to hide what is within. We would hardly ever reveal the pain within our hearts to others.

But that is not how it should be in the family of God. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; …  Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate” (Romans 12:10, 15-16).

Paul also urges, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Corinthians 12:25b-27).

Part of the glory of the New Jerusalem is that “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4). While we are in this life, however, we have our brothers and sisters in Christ to lift us up and care for us, to rejoice with us and to weep with us.