Category Archives: Life/Death

Have You Done a Self-Examination?

A Doctor’s Instructions

I don’t want to get too TMI-ish, but as we get older the doctors say we should do more self-examinations. Have you ever been told this?

Doctor visits can be depressing 😉

You ladies are regularly told by your physicians to check for unusual or suspicious lumps in certain places. We men are told the same thing, just not as often (it’s not a subject we’re comfortable with).

But despite the awkwardness, all of us need to be reminded that it’s our responsibility to examine ourselves in between doctor visits. Fact is, embarrassing as it may be to discuss, a self-examination can mean the difference between life and death.

An Apostle’s Instructions

But as awkward as it is to discuss our bodies, the spiritual lives of people tend to be much more private and less likely to be examined. Yet, what does the Apostle Paul (a true Doctor of the Faith) recommend?

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? – 2 Corinthians 13:5 (KJV)

Or, as another translation interprets it…

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. (NLT)

Believe it or not, there are many, many people who think they are in perfect spiritual health, but in reality, they are terminal. Consider the following examples.

  • Bob goes to church every day the doors are open, including cleaning day.
  • Henry gives 20% of his income and 10% of his time to the church. If there’s a need, ask Henry.
  • Margaret goes to a fundamental church, uses the “right” translation of the Bible, and never wears anything but a long dress (except when she wears culottes to the beach).
  • Mary would never say a dirty word, tell an off-color joke, or even permit foul language in her presence.
  • Sharon put aside marriage and gave her life to helping orphans in the streets of Mumbai.
  • Frank and Karen have Bible studies in their home, take the kids to Sunday School, have gold crosses in every room, not to mention on their necks.
  • A rich young ruler has kept ALL the commandments (not just the big 10), even since he was a boy.

Are you like Bob or Mary? What about Sharon or Frank and Karen? Are the above people spiritually healthy, or could there be hidden cancer not yet removed?

Remember Ephesians 2:8-9? Works don’t save people; faith in Christ does. It’s not about the life you live; it’s Who’s life is in you.

My Advice

Look, I’m not an M.D. or an apostle, but if you’d like my advice, here’s what I have to offer.

  • Listen to your doctor and do what you need to – check for those lumps and things. Your life could depend on it.
  • Listen to the words of Paul and do a spiritual self-examination. Is your faith genuine?
  • Go to the top of this blog and click on the “Eternal Life” tab and consider what is written.

Don’t neglect the health of your body… or your soul.




Filed under Christianity, fitness, Life/Death, salvation

HELL…It’s Not Just a Curse Word

Believe me, it’s not an easy subject to discuss, even though millions of people every day use it as a curse word. However, if Jesus spoke more about Hell than He did about Heaven, don’t you think we should, too?

Some people accuse us preachers of making this stuff up in order to scare people. Others, like Bertrand Russell, reject Christianity because of Christ’s teaching on the subject. Nevertheless, it’s clearly biblical, and it’s clearly horrible, so how can we say we love people if we don’t warn them?

If you can spare the time, I invite you to listen to the sermon I preached this past Sunday morning. Should you become concerned about the fate of your soul, I would encourage you to go to the “Eternal Life” page on this blog for further information.

If you find the attached sermon helpful, please share it with someone who needs to hear.

Click on the picture for link to the audio.



Filed under Bible Study, Life/Death, Preaching

In Response to Another School Shooting

Our hearts break when we think of the students and parents and staff, but now that the dust is settling, and the political forces have already spoken out, I’d like to say something about the most recent school shooting.

It’s not a gun problem; it’s a heart problem.

I’ve heard all the gun control arguments, but regardless the Constitution or the right to defend oneself, the root of the problem is what should be addressed. The question should be “why?”, not “how?”

Why did this teenager want to kill his fellow students? Why did the other murderers, maniacs, and monsters want to kill people? We’ve had guns in this country long before Columbine. Heck, we used to have shooting clubs in the schools! But what changed in society? What changed in the heart of our culture?

You can take away all the guns, but you’ll still have a disease that’s going to find a way to steal, kill, and destroy. No law, no matter how strict, is going to turn a lawbreaker into a law-abiding citizen.

Until you address the heart and soul issues, your only solution will end up being totalitarian control.

When the law of God is written on the hearts of men, there’s no need for external restraints; the constraints are internal. But when the only law written on the heart is the law of Self, there’s no restraint sufficient to make a man love his neighbor.


Filed under America, community, current events, General Observations, legalism, Life/Death, politics, Struggles and Trials

The Depth and Breadth of Suicide

I’ve written about depression and suicide in the past, as many of you know. I’ve written based on personal experience with depression and brushes with suicidal thoughts. Hopefully, some of what I’ve written in the past has made an impact and caused you to think about the issue a little more deeply.

But for what it’s worth, my experience is shallow compared to the depth of pain and sorrow an actual suicide can bring. And when you come face-to-face with what suicide can do to those who are left behind, there’s no plumb to measure how deep the wounds will go.

This morning one of my daughters (Katie) called me on the phone, hardly understandable for the convulsive weeping. A young man with whom she went to college, a young man whom she considered to be a best friend, took his own life last night, and Katie had just received the news as she was driving to work.

The question kept repeating from her lips…”Why?”

Christopher Nitzband (photo by Katie Baker)

There were no discernible warning signs. He was loved by all. I even enjoyed talking with him over lunch last week. He was about to graduate college and had already been accepted to the graduate program at George Mason University. He had everything to live for, yet he chose not to.

Why? Indeed.

The wounds will go deep, and the pain will sink deep into the crevices of many hearts. And the many? How will we know? Already there are hundreds weeping. What other ripple effects will there be from a severed relationship and a wasted life?

I want to leave you with the words from my daughter’s Instagram post. She says it better than me.

“…It’s hard to believe I won’t see him walking around campus anymore. No more walks. No more talks. No more random trips off campus. The horizon of possibilities is gone.

I’ll see you later, bud.”

The “horizon of possibilities is gone.” That’s a wide, wide loss.

My daughter’s updated Facebook cover photo.

I’m sorry for your loss, dear Katie. I’m truly sorry.


Filed under Depression, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

Body Exhibit One


We couldn’t take pictures inside the exhibition.

This morning we Honda’d down to Atlanta to visit the “Bodies” exhibit, a display of actual human bodies in various states of dissection. Yes, we saw dead people.

It wasn’t exactly Christmas, but our trip was a gift to the family by our middle daughter, Katie. She was so excited. It was something she’d first heard about when in Germany last year, and couldn’t wait to see.

So, what was it like? Well, it wasn’t as disturbing as I thought it would be, but it was a little. Honestly, it was hard to convince myself that what I was observing was actual human remains, not props from a horror movie. I had expected to see plain human cadavers, I guess; what I saw, instead, were skinned bodies, sliced bodies, and parts of bodies I still have no idea how they extracted. I guess my sensibilities weren’t prepared to offer an adequate response.

Everything in the exhibit was real, all except for the eyes (except for one man who was reading – his eyes were real).

Imagine a whole human body sliced from head to toe as if put headfirst into a roast beef slicer… yeah. Horror movie stuff, right?

But what I saw was incredibly impressive. I was able to see actual tendons, muscles, organs, bone – you name it – up close and in context. And most impressive was a whole body gone – except for blood vessels! Seriously! They had different glass cases with various limbs and organs on display, but they actually had one case with nothing but the entire blood vessel system of one male human! Looked like a human-shaped red brillo pad (or steel wool). How did they do that???

Oh, my daughters just informed me how they did that. They took bodies and replaced their blood with a polymer hardening agent died red. Next, they placed the bodies in a solution that completely dissolved the human remains, leaving nothing but the polymer in the shape of the entire blood vessel system. No, there’s nothing sick about that, is there?

And, then, what was the biggest question of the day? My daughters, my mother (who spent 46 years in the blood and pathology fields), and I all asked, “How could all of this complexity been an accident?”

The antagonist-type of atheists who have tried to argue with me over creation have often begged me to show them “the evidence!” in the case for a Designer. Seriously, after going to Atlanta to see what I saw, I can now simply point to ourselves and reply,

“Exhibit one: Bodies.”


Filed under Apologetics, Life/Death, places

Hide In the Rock, or Be Wolf Poop…Your Choice

“There be four things which are little upon the earth, but they are exceeding wise: … The conies are but a feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks” – Proverbs 30:24, 36


The conies are second in the list  “four (little) things” that are exceedingly wise. But what is a coney? Is it a hot dog found on Long Island, New York? Possibly, but only if a legless wiener is capable of wisdom. These conies in this proverb seem to have a defense against being eaten with mustard – they hide in the rocks.

HyraxThe animal described here is the hyrax, or rock badger (no relation to the kind that can chew off your arm). Found in Africa and the Middle East, these cute little critters, weighing an average of 8 lbs., are scavengers which live in groups of 8 to 10 and find refuge in the cracks and crevices of rocky terrain. Though scientists say the hyrax is a close relative to the elephant (it even has tiny little tusks – how cute!), this furry little animal is practically defenseless…at least on its own.

Their Defense System

Even though hyraxes are small, weak, and incapable of fighting off a predator, they are not on the endangered species list. Why is that? The answer lies in where they make their homes – in the rocks – and how they look out for each other.

Being small and rather slow, the hyraxes in Africa are preyed upon by other animals such as wild dogs, leopards, and Egyptian cobras. However, it seems that the conies in Israel, like the ones of which Solomon spoke, have learned how to use the rocks to their advantage, along with a “system of sentries.”

 “In Israel, the rock hyrax is reportedly rarely preyed upon by terrestrial predators, as their system of sentries and their reliable refuges provide considerable protection. Hyrax remains are almost absent from the droppings of wolves in the Judean Desert.” (Wickipedia)

Is it any wonder why Solomon called the conies (hyraxes) “exceeding wise?” Knowing the danger posed by wolves and the like, the defenseless animals band together, watch over each other, and run to the rocks any time there is a threat.

Our Defense

One would have to be blind to miss the parallels here. Why do so many fools fall victim to the ravenous wolves of the world? Their bones are found scattered across the sands of time because they ventured out alone, without the watchful eyes of others, and without the defense available in the true Rock of Ages, Jesus Christ.

Why won’t more people heed the wisdom of Proverbs? Why do so many of us continue to be eaten alive by the enemy when there is a Rock in which to run and hide?

“OH! Rock of Ages, hide thou me!”


Filed under animals, Bible Study, Christian Unity, community, God, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

The Danger of Being Prepared

A Horrible Day

Last Sunday, as you’re aware, a horrible, horrible tragedy befell the little town of Sutherland Springs, Texas. A man possessed by demonic hatred, bent on murder, blasted his way into the small First Baptist Church and slaughtered nearly half the congregation, wounding most of the rest.

To be sure, it was not simply an act of rage against his mother-in-law, but an evil attack on the very institution she was supposed to be attending. The killer could have chosen any other place to commit murder, but he chose a church…during Sunday services…and came prepared to kill them all. He hated more than just his estranged relatives.

Last Sunday was a horrible day for Texas, but it was also a horrible day for the whole country; we all died a little that day; we changed.

The Aftermath of Debate

Immediately following the carnage – I dare say before the bodies of the slain were even cold – accusations began flying from every direction. One could even say that your’s truly got a little caught up in the accusatory stream. However, two main camps were, and still continue to be, the loudest: the gun control activists and those who are fighting to maintain gun owner’s rights. Now, I have my own thoughts regarding that debate, but even though it’s going to be the most reported, there are others worth noting, and one has to do with guns in churches.

Even before the murder of eight congregants, including the pastor, at Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., I had been warning of larger-scale attacks on defenseless congregations. You see, it’s an under-reported fact that more people have been killed in churches throughout America since the 1990’s than all the school shootings combined.

Incredibly, even before last Sunday’s death toll, it was reported that over 690 people have died a violent death while on church or faith-based property since 1999.* And not counting the 27 at FBC Sutherton Springs, by “August 31 of THIS YEAR, we had already surpassed the number of VIOLENT DEATHS on Church and Faith-Based Property for ALL of last year (2016).”** Needless to say, getting killed at church is nothing new.

So, based on the statistics, increased hatred aimed at Christians (the most persecuted and martyred people in the world), and the typical soft-target demographic of churches, American congregations have thankfully now begun to prepare for the possibility of violence, and one of those ways is by facing the grim fact that stopping an armed killer may involve armed church members. What some view as sacrilegious, others are seeing as a God-given right and mandate to defend the innocent, as shepherds defend their sheep.

In my opinion, as the violence and threat of terrorism continue to rise, the debate over being armed for survival will narrow, and more churches will become harder targets, better prepared to defend themselves.

The Danger of Preparedness

But as we prepare our churches and faith organizations for the threat of violence; as we turn ushers and deacons into S.W.A.T.-like security teams; as we replace the “turn the other cheek” mentality with one of “go ahead, make my day,” there’s literally an even greater danger we may be bringing upon ourselves – PRIDE.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for every church becoming a place where active shooters fear to dread. However, in all our preparing we must not go so far as to forget our Rock, our Fortress, our Shield, and our Deliverer. It is one thing to foolishly walk up to Goliath with nothing in hand, not even a sling and stone; but it’s a different thing altogether to assume, because of our training and marksmanship, our projectile will hit its mark without the grace of God.

In the 24th chapter of 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles 21, King David sinned a great sin against God and did a seemingly innocuous thing – he numbered the people. In other words, he ordered a census of all the able-bodied fighting men so he could know how big of an army he had. But why was this so wrong? Why would that be a bad thing? Well, normally there would be nothing wrong with it, but David’s sin was that he thought power and protection could be calculated, even though Israel’s real Defender was God.

But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.” – 2 Samuel 24:10 ESV

My fear is that in an attempt to protect ourselves, our churches may go from being fearful to faithless. When we get to that point, no amount of guns in our churches could replace the protective hand of God, and no amount of firepower could hold back His judgment.

Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.” – 2 Samuel 24:14 ESV

Better to “prepare to meet thy God,” than be so “prepared” we forget Him.




Filed under Church, current events, Life/Death, politics