And Then He Died

Many years ago, there was a merchant in London named Henry Goodyear who was a religious sceptic. He was very much inclined to scoff at the Bible and its teachings. Goodyear had a niece who was a follower of Jesus Christ, and she was constantly trying to get her uncle to seriously consider the claims of the Bible.

One day his niece finally persuaded Goodyear to go to church with her—“just to please her”. She was so discouraged to find that the main Scripture for that day was from the fifth chapter of Genesis—a list of genealogy. As these verses were read, she thought to herself, “Why, on this of all days, did God permit such an uninteresting passage of Scripture to be read?”

Mr. Goodyear made no comment as they walked home from the church service. The only difference that his niece noticed was that he was a little quieter than usual, as if he had something on his mind.

There was indeed something on Mr. Goodyear’s mind. With every footstep, indeed with every beat of his heart, he heard the words of the Scripture over and over again—“and then he died.” In his bedroom later that night, he still heard the words echo in his mind—“and then he died.”

The next morning, busy at his ledger as usual, Mr. Goodyear’s pen seemed to have a mind of its own, wanting to write the words, “and then he died.” Finally, he could stand it no longer, and he reached for his dusty Bible and read the words from the fifth chapter of Genesis. It listed the names of men and how long they lived. And there was that phrase—that phrase that would allow him no peace of mind—over and over again, “and then he died.”

This seemingly boring passage of Scripture entirely changed Mr. Goodyear’s life. He was alive, but someday he would have to die. Then what?

The sobering truth for every human being is that we will someday die. The only hope we have is to believe that death can somehow be defeated.

Those of us who follow Jesus know that he has defeated death. After he willingly laid down his life on the cross to pay for the sins of all mankind, God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus thus conquered death, not only for himself, but for everyone who would trust him for their salvation.

“Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”—Hebrews 9:27-28.

 

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Not Anxious

Heard somewhere—“I am not anxious. I am just extremely well-educated about all the things that can go catastrophically wrong.”

There are indeed plenty of things that can go wrong. Sickness, accidents, family problems, difficulties at work…the list goes on and on. Someone once said that you are always either coming out of a crisis or heading into one! I am not sure if I want to subscribe to that statement as a philosophy of life, but there is some truth to it.

Jesus says that we will not be exempt from bad things happening to us. In fact, he says, “…In this world you will have trouble…” (John 16:33). We will not be spared from unfortunate events and circumstances simply because we are followers of Jesus. But the next part of that verse says, “…But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Because Jesus has overcome the world, we have nothing to fear. Jesus says we should not worry (Matthew 6:25-34), yet many Christians are just as fretful as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs! Someone once said that worry is enjoying a crisis before it occurs!

Seriously, worry never made any situation better. As a matter of fact, worry leads to stress, and excessive stress has been proven to have a significantly negative impact on a person’s physical and mental well-being.

Martha was a worrier. Do you remember reading about the time when Jesus was a guest at Mary and Martha’s house? Martha was concerned about all the preparations that had to be made. She wanted to be a good hostess, especially for Jesus! But her sister Mary showed no such concerns for the household chores. Instead, she chose to sit near Jesus and listen to what he said. This bothered Martha so much that she came to Jesus and said, “…Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:40-42).

There certainly seem to be a lot of “Marthas” in the kingdom today. Some of them even seem to take pride in the fact that they worry so much, as if it shows that they are more caring and compassionate than others. In truth, worry betrays a lack of faith in the savior who tells us not to worry. Let’s show more trust in Jesus and spend less time being worried and anxious. The time we waste worrying could be better spent in prayer. If we choose not to be anxious, we will be better off, and so will the people around us.

 

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Learning from the Past

Mark Story, a sports writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader, referred to 2020 as “…the year no time traveler will ever visit.”

It certainly has been a year filled with negative events, headlined by the COVID-19 pandemic and all the sickness, death and economic woes that it has brought with it. I just saw a cartoon that pictured 2020 as a huge dumpster fire raging out of control!

There have been many times in the past that would not have been pleasant to visit. However, history has its important lessons to teach. It has been said that those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

The Bible says that we should take careful note of what has happened in the past. In 1 Corinthians 10, the apostle Paul says that we can learn from the mistakes that the nation of Israel made in the past. In v.11 he says, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.”

Let us always be learning from the past so that we can have a better future.

 

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Weeds

I have spent more time than usual tending our flower bed this year. I have fertilized, watered and weeded more than ever before. The results have been quite positive. Our flowers are very healthy—big and bright and colorful.

Much to my surprise, a couple of days ago I found a huge weed growing right next to a flower. With all the frequent times I have gone through the flower bed eliminating weeds, I was shocked that this one had escaped my attention long enough to grow so big!

In the parable of the weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) Jesus says that good seeds are sown in the kingdom. This represents Christian people. But the enemy (Satan) sows weeds that grow up with the good plants. This represents non-believers. Just as it is sometimes hard to distinguish a weed among the flowers, some sinners seem to blend in with everyone else. They don’t stand out so much, yet they are very different in the eyes of God.

In the parable, Jesus says that the weeds and the good plants will grow together until the harvest. Then they will be separated—one group collected but the other group destroyed.

Don’t for a moment think that any unrepentant sinners will slip into heaven unnoticed. God will recognize them for who they are and they will be dealt with accordingly. Just as I pulled up that weed and tossed it away, God will remove those who refuse to turn to him for the salvation that he has graciously provided us through Jesus.

 

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Plenty of Energy

Years ago I worked with teenagers for a week each summer at a Christian camp. I remember how much energy the kids had when they were playing games and participating in organized activities. Even in the scorching heat and high humidity, there was no slowing them down. Their competitive nature really came to the surface. They desperately wanted to win any and all competitions, whether as individuals or as a team. I remember one boy slamming into a picnic table while running at full speed! I was sure that he was badly hurt, but he shook it off and continued playing as if nothing had happened.

I also remember the lack of energy that many of them showed when it was time to head to a class or a worship service. These same kids who were flying around in a blur just a little while ago now had barely enough energy to move! They appeared to be wearing shoes made out of concrete, barely able to take one slow, small step after another. It was like they were moving in slow motion.

People tend to do the same thing when they grow older. They have plenty of enthusiasm for sports, hobbies and recreation. However, the energy level for many seems to diminish greatly when it’s time to pray, read the Bible or go to a worship service.

Some people have trouble getting up early enough on Sunday morning to make it to an 11 o’clock worship service, but have no trouble making it to the river to fish by 7:00am. Others find it difficult to make it to church on Sunday morning, but they do have enough energy to make it to the golf course or ball field or whatever other place or activity they deem more exciting than worshiping God in the house of the Lord.

Many people have no time for Bible reading and prayer, but plenty of time for television, movies, video games, and browsing social media. Some have good intentions. They mean to get around to reading the Bible and praying. But their other activities drain them of all their energy, and they fall into bed at night, too exhausted to give the Lord the attention he deserves.

I have a theory about this. I think we have enough time and energy to do the things we really want to do. It’s just a matter of having a heart for it.

“To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”—Colossians 1:29.

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Welcome Sight

A few weeks ago I stopped at a convenience store/gas station in a large town. I am sometimes a bit apprehensive going into such places of business in large towns because they seem to be a frequent target of criminals.

My concerns were eased when I noticed a police car parked at the pumps. I felt that any would-be robber would be deterred from perpetrating any crime, and that I could safely enter the store and make a purchase.

There is a lot of anti-police sentiment in our nation today. The criminal actions of some officers have been well-publicized, and rightly so. There is no place in our society for the police brutality that happens far too frequently.

However, let us recognize that the vast majority of law enforcement officers are good men and women who are trying to do their jobs well and are striviing to protect the citizens of their communities. Let’s work for social justice, but let’s also show our appreciation for those good officers who risk so much to keep so many safe.

“Blessed are the peacemakers…”—Matthew 5:9.

 

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Lessons from History

The church at Corinth in the first century seemed to have the impression that because they had been baptized and participated in the Lord’s Supper that they could live any sinful way they desired and never face any consequences for their evil behavior. The apostle Paul wanted them to know that this was simply not true!

In 1 Corinthians 10:1-13, Paul points out that the Israelites had the same privileges as the Christians in Corinth. They had in a sense been baptized when they passed through the sea in the exodus. They had their own form of communion with the manna and the water that was provided by the Lord. Yet many of them died in the wilderness as a direct result of their sinful behavior.

V.11 says, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

Christians today have to understand that the consequences of rebellion against God are real, and they are severe. Baptism and regular participation in communion does not give anyone a license to lead a sinful lifestyle. God’s grace is free, but it is not cheap!

This is a truth that Christian parents must impart to their children and church leaders must emphasize to their people. If we don’t learn the lessons from history, we are doomed to repeat them. And, in this case, failure is simply not an option!

 

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What America Needs

We certainly live in some trying times. As you look around, it’s hard to tell if people are using sanitizer or wringing their hands over COVID-19! At this writing, the death toll from the virus is over 130,000 in the U.S. and the governor of Kentucky has just issued a mandate that we must now wear masks when out in public.

Along with the health concerns, the nation’s economy has taken a huge hit because of the virus. Many have lost their jobs, some permanently, and we all know people who have lost income because of this pandemic.

We can usually turn to sports for a much-needed diversion during times of crisis, but most spectator sports have seen their seasons postponed or cancelled. The proposed restart of the NBA and major league baseball seasons are both in jeopardy, as is the start of college football, due to an increasing number of people testing positive for the virus.

Add to this the public unrest that has sprung up in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and you have a nation that is in turmoil and people who are looking for answers.

Many people are offering their advice about what America needs. Allow me to weigh in on that subject. What America needs most is the church at its best. We are witnesses to the world about the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. God has given us the power to succeed in our mission to spread the word about Jesus. Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” It is time for every man, woman and young person who follows Jesus to rise up and use the power given us to boldly speak the truth!

The early church continued the healing ministry of Jesus. For example, Peter healed a lame beggar in Acts 3:1-10, and this action gave the apostles an opportunity to preach the gospel.

There are many today who are sick. Some are physically sick; others have mental, emotional or spiritual illnesses. We may not be able to perform the miraculous healings that Jesus and the apostles did, but we must show our concern for the sick. We must be willing to pray for them and with them. We must be willing to minister to their needs. And as we do this, we must constantly be taking advantage of the opportunities that open up to preach the good news about salvation through Jesus! Colossians 4:5 says, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

Concerning the racial tension in America, again it is the church that must lead the way. The early church combined Jews and Gentiles in the same congregations. These two groups had their own share of serious conflicts, but they all considered themselves brothers and sisters in Christ once they were saved. The church must set the example for racial reconciliation and social justice.

I said it once and I’ll say it again—what America needs most is the church at its best!

 

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Nothing but the Best

My wife and I once spent a couple of nights at a motel that provided a complimentary breakfast. I remember that the lady who was in charge of the breakfast buffet was quite picky about the food that was served. She was quick to make any changes necessary to provide a quality breakfast for the guests. One morning she wasn’t pleased with the gravy. I am not sure why it didn’t live up to her lofty expectations, but that pot of gravy was quickly replaced by one that was more acceptable. The next day it was the biscuits that didn’t make the grade. They were too hard, and she threw them out and had fresh ones brought in to take their place.

I appreciate those who take quality seriously in their work or their ministry. Too many people are far too easily satisfied with mediocre efforts. We honor the Lord and show respect for other people when we strive to do our best.

“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”—Ecclesiastes 9:10.

 

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Never Give Up!

Ray Caldwell

On August 24, 1919, Cleveland Indians pitcher Ray Caldwell was pitching against the Philadelphia Athletics. His team was ahead by a score of 2-1 with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. Just one more out to go and Caldwell would have pitched his team to a victory.

Just then, lightning struck. I mean literally! Ray Caldwell was struck by lightning and knocked unconscious. After a while he was revived, and, remarkably, he stayed in the game! Caldwell retired Joe Dugan on a ground ball to end the game and seal the victory for Cleveland.

Rarely do we see such amazing examples of perseverance, but when we do we are encouraged to hang in there when we face adversity ourselves. The next time you feel like you’ve been knocked out of the game, remember Ray Caldwell!

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”—Hebrews 12:1-3.

 

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