Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Temporary Home

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause; there's the respect that makes calamity of so long life
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. William Shakespeare

I can’t remember what year it was, but back in the late 80’s or early 90’s, Clemson University’s entertainment for their homecoming was George Burns. Burns was a great comedian who charmed audiences for over 90 years. He began working full time in show business when he quit school in the fourth grade. His career survived vaudeville, radio, television, movies and stand-up comedy tours.

That homecoming, George Burns had been on the football field at halftime, and did a short routine. He was going to be appearing later that night at Littlejohn Coliseum. After halftime, As I was leaving the game, I stepped out onto the street and was almost hit by a golf cart. As I yelled at the driver, I saw George Burns on the passenger side laughing at me. He raised his cigar as if to say, “Sorry!”

George Burns died in 1996 at 100 years old. He once said about living a long life, “If you ask what the single most important key to longevity is, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it.” That’s a great philosophy, and indeed he did live a long life, but even George Burns eventually died.

I read that Jack Lalanne died this past Sunday at 96. Lalanne was a man who, unlike George Burns, embodied fitness. In fact, his agent said that right up until his death, he was exercising. Not only did he believe in a longer, healthier life through exercising, but he also encouraged and inspired many others to do the same.

Why am I telling you about these two men? Because they are very different, yet share two major things in common. How were they different? George Burns drank scotch and puffed cigars, while Jack Lalanne ate healthily and exercised daily. However, what they shared in common is what I want to point out.

The first thing to notice is that both of these men lived past the age of 95. One of them ascribes that feat to a healthy lifestyle, and the other to simply avoiding stress, tension and worry. The second thing they have in common is that they are both dead. It seems that a healthy lifestyle and avoiding worry and stress may help you live longer, but not forever. Death eventually comes to all of us, no matter who we are or what we try to do to avoid it.

The great Roman historian and biographer, Plutarch, wrote of Alexander the Great, in his work entitled Parallel Lives. He recounted a story of Alexander the Great, noticing the Greek philosopher, Diogenes, looking attentively at a parcel of human bones. Alexander asked the philosopher what he was looking for. Diogenes' replied, “That which I cannot find…the difference between your father's bones and those of his slaves." Death is the great equalizer.

The bodies that we have on this Earth were not created to last forever. Our soul does live forever, but there is nothing we can do to cheat the demise of our physical body in this world. Because of sin, death will come to all of us, no matter who we are. The thing we must remember is to give our life to Christ. If we are redeemed by His blood, then when we die, we will be given new bodies that will never perish.

The good news is that we have hope of life eternal with Christ Jesus in Heaven. For the believer, the issue is not how long we live on this earth, but where we will spend eternity after we, as Shakespeare put it, “have shuffled off this mortal coil.” If you have never experienced the love of Jesus Christ and the assurance of life eternal, please ask a Christian friend, family member or minister to share with you, how you can know and accept Jesus into your life. 

Our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies. Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this scripture will be fulfilled: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” For sin is the sting that results in death, and the law gives sin its power. But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:53-57 NLT)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I Always Feel Like, Somebodys Watching Me!

Since we had been snowed in for almost a week, my family decided last Thursday night it was time to go out to eat in Augusta. I had been craving some good wings, so we decided to go to Wild Wings on Washington Rd. We went early, before the “bar crowd” got there.

My kids love the place. They enjoy the fact that they can watch all those TVs at one time. They also really like the food.

While we were eating, I noticed two people coming by our table with what looked to be a television camera. When they passed, I saw that it was from WJBF news. I wondered what in the world they were doing in Wild Wings.

I didn’t think much about it until Friday morning. I always check out the news on my computer every morning, and seeing WJBF as a bookmarked page reminded me of the camera I saw the night before. I clicked on the website, and looked for a story that might include something about eating wings. I saw a line that read, “Falcon’s Fever Rising in Augusta.” I thought it might be a story that would be covered in a place like Wild Wings. I was right.

With the online story, there was a video from Thursday night’s broadcast. I clicked on it to watch it. In the introduction to the story, the anchor talked about the bars in Augusta getting ready for the big game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers. The next thing I see is a brief statement from the manager of Wild Wings and then a shot of me and my family at a table.

Now, I don’t go to bars, but I do love some good wings. However, the video seemed to put me in a “bar” that was getting ready for all the customers they will have for the Falcons game. I laughed out loud when I saw it.

I thought it was funny because I was there with my family, simply eating supper and I was doing nothing I wouldn’t want anyone to know about. But what if I had been? What if I had been sitting there with someone other than my wife? What if I had decided to sneak down to Augusta to drink adult beverages, thinking no one would know? I would still have been on television for everyone to see.

I had no idea the camera had even captured that moment. I was just being myself, with my family. I was not posing or posturing to make sure I put forth the proper persona. I was just relaxing and having supper.

Who are you when no one is looking? If a television camera followed you throughout a typical day, what would the world see? Would you want everyone to see your actions and hear your words?

It has been said that character is who you are when there’s no one around. As believers in Christ, we must realize that there is always someone who is around. Christ never leaves us. He knows our every word, action, motivation, and thought. Pretty scary huh? Not really. You see, He loves us. He wants us to do the right things, but still loves us just as much when we fail. Have you failed today? There is good news. God loves you and forgives you.

So, the next time you think no one is watching, remember that God is always there, and there also just might also be a news crew lurking around the corner!!

(BTW...Hello to my friends at WJBF. I sent an email about what happened to them. The whole newsroom got a pretty good laugh at my expense. Thank you for all you do guys!)

O LORD, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it altogether…Where shall I go from Your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, You are there! (Psalm 139:1-4, 7-8 ESV)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Pandora Bible

Last year, I was at a conference in Columbia, where I sat beside a pastor from Mauldin, SC. He had his laptop computer opened and it was paying music. I was enjoying listening to the songs with him before the session started, because I recognized some that I had not heard in years. I asked him if he was playing a CD, and he told me he was listening to Pandora internet radio.

I had no idea what Pandora was at the time, so I asked. He told me that it only plays the songs you like. Of course, I couldn’t wait to get home to try it out. I was not disappointed. 

For those of you who are familiar with it, you already know how wonderful it is. However, I want to tell you a bit about what Pandora does. Their website describes it this way. “A new kind of radio, where the stations only play music you like. Just tell us one of your favorite songs or artists and we’ll create a station that explores just that part of the music universe.” When they say that, they mean it.

When you create your free account, you are asked to type in an artist or song you would like to hear. Pandora will play the song and you see a small “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” icon next to the player. If you click on the “thumbs up” Pandora will line up songs that are similar to the one playing. If you click the “thumbs down” Pandora remembers the song and never plays it again.

I have often wished I had the power to make a certain song never be played again. Now I do. I thoroughly enjoy Pandora because it only plays what I like. It’s a great feeling to know that I am in control and that I get to pick what I hear.

Many people try to treat the Bible that way. We love reading and hearing verses like John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. We are comforted by the words of Psalm 23:4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. We are excited by the statement of Jesus in John 14:1-3 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. 

However, when it comes to certain passages in the Bible, we want to give it a “thumbs down,” and never hear it again. For example, we bristle at the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:14-15 For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. This is actually at the end of the Lord’s Prayer, but we seldom read this part. Why? Because it makes us uncomfortable.

There are many other passages in scripture, both in the Old and New Testaments, that we would rather discard. We cannot simply pick and choose what we will adhere to and obey, although many try. In fact, when Thomas Jefferson wrote his version of the Gospels, he removed all of the miracles of Christ and anything that could be construed as supernatural, because he believed they had been added by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

The Bible is ours as a whole. God intends for us to use it to hear His voice through His inspired Word, as a guide for righteous living, and a comfort in times of need. There is no Pandora radio version of the Bible. We either accept it as God’s Word, or we do not. Read it as a whole, and I’m sure you will find it to be all God intended for it to be in your life.

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV)