Category Archives: Life/Death

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Hope In Death

Let’s get right to the point –

Today, I watched a man die, and I’m happy.

At this point you’re thinking: “Who in his right mind would admit to being happy he saw a man die?” Well, without the proper context, only a sick man, that’s for sure!

But here’s the context: I was with a family from my church as a 51 year-old son, father, brother, and grandfather breathed his last breath, and I was able to rejoice with them in the hope of Jesus Christ.

Meeting Joey: the 1st Time

Joey and his dog, Willie

Several months ago, I was able to talk with Joey Armor for the first time. He was sitting on the tailgate of his truck, taking a break from welding. As we got to talking, he apologized for not coming to church more often, but he appreciated that I was the new pastor, and he hoped to become more regular. He also told me how sick he was.

Joey had battled with a lot of health issues over the last few years, and at that point he was not doing bad enough to keep him in bed. As a matter of fact, he was the type of person that not only avoided pain medication as long as possible; he never wanted to stop being active doing something, even if only a little welding here and there. The day I first talked with him, he was having a hard time breathing, but he was happy to be doing something he enjoyed.

Faith, Assurance, and Hope

The next few times I saw Joey Armor was in the hospital. It seemed that his body all of a sudden decided to give up, even though he was not willing to. The doctors had hope that he would recover, and for a little while it looked like he would, but it wasn’t long before things began to look dire.

The last few times I saw Brother Joey was when he was at home, a couple of times sitting in his recliner, a couple of times in his bed. On one occasion, I felt compelled to lead Joey through the plan of salvation. Because I had never seen him make a profession of faith, and since I could tell he was nervous about dying, I had to make sure he had an opportunity to accept Christ as his Savior.

Come to find out, Joey had indeed put his faith in Jesus, but he had come to the point where he was scared of what was to come. He had made some mistakes, not been perfect, and now he was facing death head-on. He needed to be reassured God did indeed love him and was faithful, as He always is, even when we are not.

Another time I took a communion kit, and with a deacon from our church I shared with him the elements and together rejoiced in the goodness of our Savior! We talked about Christ’s body and His blood, how each was given for us, and how by taking part in communion we proclaim his death until he comes (1 Cor. 11:24). Even though he could barely swallow anything (he even had a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen), he took the little piece of matzoh and the tiny cup of grape juice and consumed them both. It was a special moment, indeed.

Talking About Home

The last time I saw him before today, the Holy Spirit had placed in my heart the urgent desire to go talk with him about Heaven. Joey new he was going, and he knew it wouldn’t be that long. So, I wanted to go by and encourage him with the facts about the place he was about to see. He asked for his large-print Bible so he could read along with me.

First, I turned to John chapter fourteen:

“Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. 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.” – John 14:1-3

These verses deserved a little amplification, and I knew Joey would appreciate it. I focused on the words “mansions” and “place.” Jesus wasn’t telling Peter he would have a four-story house of gold in Heaven; Jesus was telling him not to worry, for even though he’d mess up by soon denying Him, there was already a place in His Father’s house prepared – a room of his own! Compared to here, that room might be a mansion. But how much more wonderful is the promise that God wants us to live in HIS house with HIM forever??

And when it came to the word “place” (τόπος tópos), heaven is more than spirits floating on clouds; it is more than a feeling; it is more than being absorbed into the infinite: Jesus said it is a PLACE! I said, “Just like Chicago or Atlanta, Heaven is a place just like any place on a map down here. It is a place, and you are going there!” 

Next, I turned – we turned – to Revelation 21 and 22. There, within the verses of those chapters we read of a holy city, a heavenly city, that God has prepared for those whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Joey listen as I read, awake, but with his eyes closed, resting.

I said, “Well, Joey, I guess it’s about time we get out of here and let you rest.” He nodded.

Then, with weak voice and a slight smile, Joey said,

“I’m looking forward to seeing what my Father has for me.”

Today, around 12 p.m., my brother in Christ, Joey Armor, exhaled one last time, only to inhale for the very first time the celestial air of his new home.

I am glad his family was able to be there. I’m glad I got to see him off.

He’s seeing what his Father has prepared for him, and even more importantly, he’s hugging Jesus.

I’m happy for him!

“O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Family, General Observations, Life/Death, salvation

Bedtime Prayer of the Saved by Grace

“Now I lay me down to sleep.

I KNOW the Lord my soul will keep.

And if I should die before I wake,

Then, HALLELUJAH! That would take the cake!

Thank you Jesus! Amen! Praise God!”

 

“Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen.” – Romans 15:33

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, grace, iPosts, Life/Death, salvation

The Fatherly Voice Has Lung Cancer

1991, UTC

I can still see that green Datsun station wagon my dad used to drive. It was a beat up, light-metallic green B210, I believe. I don’t remember what year model. But it had tan cloth seat covers and a 5-speed, and you couldn’t kill it.

One day, when for whatever reason my own car wasn’t running, my dad got up early (or stayed up late – he worked 3rd shift) and waited in a gravel parking lot just outside of the building where I was attending a class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. It was 1991.

I walked up to the car, opened the passenger-side door, and there was my dad … blue work pants, a light-colored shirt, jacket, and ball cap … sitting with the seat leaned slightly back, bill of his cap resting over his eyes, listening to someone on the radio (WGOW, 1150AM).

That person was Rush Limbaugh.

June, 1991

In June of 1991 my dad died of a heart attack at age 46. There were no goodbyes, see-you-laters, or even warnings; he was just gone. It’s a whole other story, but the last words I ever heard him speak to me, or anyone, were, “Boy! I don’t EVER want to see you do that again! (slight pause) But that was a good burnout.” I then pulled away in my blue ’77 280z and never saw him alive again.

Wow, this is painful to write.

Sometime later, maybe in June, maybe a little after, I was scrolling through stations on the radio (why on AM radio, I don’t know), and heard the voice of Rush Limbaugh once again. I wasn’t much into politics at that time, so the subject matter didn’t catch my attention. It was just the voice, the one my dad was listening to, that made me stop turning the dial.

From that day until now, some 29 years later, I’ve been a faithful listener (whenever I could) to Rush Limbaugh, the most influential conservative radio personality in history. What’s more, with my father no longer in my life, tuning in to Rush each week day from noon till 3 was like having my dad in the car beside me. In a way, Rush Limbaugh (flaws and all) became a surrogate father figure to me.

Feb. 3, 2020

Here I am, sitting in my office at the church, struggling with some deep-seated emotions. My chest is heavy. I sorta feel a burning in my eyes, but no tears have swelled to cool them. A little while ago my wife called my on my cell phone and started off with the following words: “I don’t want to ruin your day, but…”

I have lived long enough to know that when my wife says something like that it usually has something to do with the kids or a bill that didn’t get paid. I literally had no way to be prepared for what she said next.

“Rush Limbaugh just announced that he has advanced lung cancer.”

That loneliness when my daddy died … that feeling that sucker punched me in the gut when my mother, tears in her eyes, greeted me at the hospital with a clear plastic baggie full of my father’s final effects and said, “This is all I have left” …  yeah, that kind of feeling hit me all over again, except this time I’m a little more calloused, so it doesn’t hurt as bad.

The Announcement

I don’t know what you think about the man, but he needs your prayers. I’ve prayed for him for years, actually, hoping that one day there would be proof, some evidence of him becoming a follower of Christ. His brother, David Limbaugh, after all, is a solid and out-spoken Christian lawyer, apologist, and author. Maybe my prayers were answered, today.

This afternoon, in the last segment of the Rush Limbaugh Radio Program, Rush let everyone know what was going on. Thankfully, since I am not a premium subscriber to his website and not able to watch the video of the show, the video of the last hour of the show was made available on YouTube.

If you’ve never listened to Rush, take advantage of this and listen to the whole hour – you might be surprised at what you hear. But if you want to get straight to the announcement (including a cryptic admission of his personal faith), go to the 45:46 mark and start watching there.

God speed, Rush. I’m praying for you.

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Filed under current events, Life/Death, politics, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

Hell, Fire, and Damnation?

Preaching

Have you ever heard of “hell, fire, and damnation preaching”? Or, maybe it should be spelled hell-fire and damnation.” I don’t know. Either way, the meaning is pretty much the same: it’s hardcore, old-fashioned, pulpit-whacking, snot-slinging, hankey-waving, chandelier-swinging preaching that unleashes the fear of righteous judgment. Haaaymen!

Well, that’s really not my style, for the most part. Believe me, I can do my fair share of pulpit banging, but I’m not the type to jump across the stage like the legendary evangelist Billy Sunday. I’m more like the picture of me in the sidebar of this blog; I usually keep both feet on the ground … usually.

That being said, what most people expect out of a Baptist preacher like me when preaching on the subject of Hell is the yelling, spitting, and pulpit banging associated with “hell, fire, and damnation,” not a heartfelt plea with a reasoned argument.

On the other hand, when pleading for the souls of those facing eternal damnation, shouldn’t a man have a right to get emotional?

Jesus Believed

Today (Sunday, 02/02/2020), I preached a sermon on Hell. The title of the sermon was “If Jesus Believed In Hell, So Should We.”

Many people refuse to accept Christianity because of the doctrine of hell. Just the thought of a place of eternal judgment has led some to walk away from the faith, even to judge God as immoral or evil. The thought of a literal Hell was so repugnant to Charles Darwin that he wrote the following:

“Beautiful as is the morality of the New Testament, it can be hardly denied that its perfection depends in part on the interpretation which we now put on metaphors and allegories.

But I was very unwilling to give up my belief… Thus disbelief crept over me at a very slow rate, but was at last complete. The rate was so slow that I felt no distress, and have never since doubted even for a single second that my conclusion was correct. I can indeed hardly see how anyone ought to wish Christianity to be true; for if so the plain language of the text seems to show that the men who do not believe, and this would include my Father, Brother and almost all of my friends, will be everlastingly punished.

And this is a damnable doctrine.”― Charles Darwin, The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, 1809–82

Then there was Bertrand Russell, the philosopher who could not accept Christianity, believe it or not, because of Jesus!

“There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching…” – Bertrand Russell, Why I am not a Christian, 1927

Yes, Jesus DID believe in a literal place where the condemned spend an eternity in torment. Shocking, isn’t it?

So Should We

So, it only stands to reason that if Jesus – the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Word of God made flesh, the Way, the Truth, and the Life – believed and taught that there was a place called Hell, we should believe Him. Are you with me?

Therefore, even though I was in pain and taking meds for a broken and infected molar, and even though my tongue was hurting because I had severely bitten it on the same broken tooth, with all the passion and energy I could muster – but without jumping over anything – I preached what Jesus preached.

Hell is real, and you don’t want to go there.

Click on the picture for a link to the sermon.

Feel free to share your thoughts. 

 

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Filed under Christianity, Future, Life/Death, Preaching, Theology

You Believe WHAT About God? Tuesday Thoughts 21 January 2020

Just the other day I shared a post from Pastor Randy which generated a lot of response, some not so positive. Well, I guess I’m a sucker for punishment because I’m going to do it again.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I, too, have heard some seriously stupid answers to the question of “why?” when it comes to the death of children (I worked in a funeral home for several years). The “angel” and “He needed them” reasons were also sickening to me. Yet, some of my Calvinist friends have also attempted to give some pretty sad excuses (ask John Piper), but that’s another argument for another day.

Anyway, “be still and know that I am God” is in vinyl lettering (from Hobby Lobby) above the mantle in our dining room.

Kingdom Pastor

I thought this Tuesday Thoughts edition was going to take a while to figure out what to write. I was wrong. It comes out of something that happened last week: 4 year old Wyatt Spann died from cancer. And this reminded me of something that happened a few years ago–the death of another young child, Noah Crowe, from cancer. It’s not “MY” feelings about these tragedies, but the things “some” people say. To be more specific: What some who call themselves ‘Christians’ say to broken and grieving hearts. It’s not only at funeral homes where they speak these abominations, but being active in disaster response, I’ve heard some of the same poor, DEPLORABLE theology.

Below are some of the DESPICABLE, VILE, LOATHSOME AND WRETCHED things some people believe, and Dear Lord In Heaven, say to people in the worst moment of their lives:

  • God needed them more than you. Really?…

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1917: My Thoughts On a Brilliant Movie

3 men & a movie

Yesterday (Friday) was the opening night (aside from select showings on Christmas day) for the movie 1917. I had wanted to go see it Christmas evening, but it wasn’t showing any place near me.

So, I sent out a text invite to a bunch of guys, and two ended up going with me last night: a deacon from my church and a fellow preacher and combat veteran. We left the wives behind and had a guys’ night out.

On a side note, when men go to a movie together, it is not good for them to sit side-by-side if it’s only 2 of them. If you have more in the group, there’s no requirement to leave an empty seat between you.

A Brilliant Movie

Related imageLet me just skip ahead to what you really want to know – it was a great movie. You should go see it, especially in a theater.

But what made the movie so good was not the acting, the action, the realistic combat scenes, or the plot; it was all of that mixed together with the most brilliant cinematography I’ve ever seen. From the very first scene, all the way to the last, it’s one continuous camera shot! I’d almost guarantee you’ve never seen anything like it.

The visuals, however, were as important as the story, in my opinion. In reality, the scenes from the silent, cratered fields over which the two main characters must bravely traverse in order to deliver a life-or-death message are a story in themselves. WW1 was a stupid, bloody, pointless massacre; yet, full credit should be given to the average soldier who heroically walked into the monster’s mouth whenever he heard the sound of a whistle.

Metaphor On the Flip Side

1917 was a work of art. It wasn’t meant to be realistic in every detail, especially the size of the set on which the film was made; it was meant to tell a story, and that it did.

This morning, as I was drinking a cup of coffee and thinking about last night’s movie, it struck me that 1917 could be a metaphor for life. And just as soon as I thought that, something else crossed my mind: Is life a metaphor for war?

On the one side, life imitates war. The first moment of the movie opens up with a reluctant hero resting against a tree. The last scene mirrors the last: a worn-out hero finally resting against a tree. Is that not how life is? One battle after the next, brief rests, and then more struggles in which we’ve got little say and no choice but to fight?

But on the flip side, war evidently imitates life.

Or is it that life is a war on many fronts, and war is a part of life? That is, until the battle is won and the war is over.

And what, then, is more valuable and worth the valor? A piece of tin attached to a ribbon, or a crown of life and the words “Well done, my good and faithful servant”?

Final Thoughts

I know I’m a little different. Aren’t we all? But one thing that got me about this film is something that I have started feeling more often the more action films I see: the death of individuals.

Let us never forget that every dead soldier, our side or theirs, was somebody’s child. When I saw the decaying bodies half-buried in muddy craters, an image of a mother never knowing where here son went came to mind. Each one was a soul that went out into eternity. Each one lost was a tragedy.

Because I’ve been a police chaplain, it’s hard for me to watch movies where bad guys plow through town shooting cop after cop. If it were real life, each one of those who died would have been a dad, a son, or a brother who was just trying to make an honest living while serving his community. And yet, Hollywood shows that stuff all the time without any feeling for the widows and orphans of real-life heroes in blue.

So, whether war is a metaphor for life, or the other way around, or both, the fact is that whether it be 1,600 soldiers about to walk into an ambush, or a single private blown to bits in an artillery barrage, life is precious, and each one matters.

World War 1 should never be forgotten. Unfortunately, too many know nothing about it.

Hopefully, 1917 will help change that.

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Filed under General Observations, Life/Death, Movie review

The Table Was Broken – Something WILL Happen!

This morning I was looking on YouTube to find some background music to play while I studied. I usually select Christian piano instrumentals by Dan Mussleman (click here for his channel)

However, this time I saw a 5-hour video with background music; it was a Chronicles of Narnia snow-covered wood theme.

Now, I eventually went back to the piano music; the Narnia music got a little repetitive after an hour. But before I did, I read a comment in the comment section. It was a quote from the 15th chapter of “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

“I hope no one who reads this book has been quite as miserable as Susan and Lucy were that night; but if you have been – if you’ve been up all night and cried till you have no more tears left in you – you will know that there comes in the end a sort of quietness. You feel as if nothing was ever going to happen again.” (15.8) – C. S. Lewis

When I read that quote and thought of what I was going to be doing in a little while, I realized it was a “God moment.”

I had been praying about what to share with a grieving widow. I know the Bible gives us hope and assures us that we will see our loved ones again, at least those who have put their faith in Christ. Yet, I wanted something that could specifically address the time in between…the time after the funeral…the time of adjusting…the time when things feel like they’re over, like nothing wonderful will ever happen again.

This was it! This was what I was looking for! 

Susan and Lucy had just watched as Aslan has been humiliated, bound, and then stabbed to death by the White Witch. They had to listen to the rejoicing of their enemies as the beloved Lion breathed his last breath. Then, alone, they cried as time meaninglessly ticked by.

A loved one was dead. Was this the end of story? The end?

NO! 

The stone table cracked! He broke the curse! Aslan was alive!

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. – Romans 6:8-9

Something WILL happen!

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Filed under Christianity, Faith, Future, Life/Death, music