Billboard makes whimsy of eternity

Every Wednesday, I must drive into downtown Rochester for a “career transition” training class. A couple of weeks ago, I was driving along Interstate 490 West into the city when I noticed the new billboard pictured above near the intersection of Winton Road and East Avenue.

Yikes!

I’m sure this advertisement evokes a chuckle from the tens of thousands of unbelieving commuters who pass by every day. But salvation is no joking matter. Your life could end today.

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.” – Proverbs 27:1

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” – 2 Corinthians 6:2

Before I accepted Christ, I struggled with the idea of all of the things that I would have to “give up” in order to be a Christian. Boy, did I have a misconception. Jesus Christ came to save sinners, not the morally self-righteous. Acknowledge your helplessness and inability to live a moral life, turn from your rebellion against God, and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone. The Lord will then help you to live a life that’s pleasing to Him.

What can compare to eternal salvation in Jesus Christ? Treasuring the temporal pleasures of this world over eternal life in Jesus Christ is irrational insanity. Who would choose a single, discarded, maggot-infested corn husk for their meal over a thirty-day, sumptuous banquet feast? Does not compute.

Friends, I don’t get all flustered and outraged over a billboard such as this. Unbelievers do what unbelievers do. Perhaps this billboard is valuable because at least it will get people thinking about their souls and eternal judgement. However, your salvation is nothing to joke about. Every soul is either going to Heaven or Hell and only those who have trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior by faith alone are going to Heaven. What’s going to happen to you after you die? Accept Jesus Christ as your Savior!

Dead man walking?

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Dead man walking?” The expression was made famous by Hollywood, but was based on fact. Evidently, a couple of generations ago, when a death row prisoner was led from his cell to the electric chair, the prison guards would call out, “Dead man walking,” to warn fellow prison staffers that a very dangerous man with nothing to lose was approaching. Perhaps there also may have been an element of malicious taunting in the warning?

A couple of weeks ago, I had my yearly checkup with my cardiologist, reminding me that I had a bit of a “dead man walking” experience myself.

I had walked away from the Lord in 1991 after some problems with our church. Not to go into great detail, but our marriage subsequently fell apart, we divorced, sold the house, and moved out on our own in 2001. I then fell in with a group of friends who were younger than my 45-year-old self. They were big into team sports and I tried to keep up. One particular Friday, we were slated to play a softball game. I had a very bad cold, but I wasn’t about to let my friends down. During the game I felt very strange, as if I was going to blackout. I took myself out of the game and sat on the bench, hoping the feeling would pass, but my heart felt like it was going beat right through my chest. I reluctantly asked a friend to take me to the ER. When I got to the hospital, I described my symptoms to the admitting nurse and she rushed me right in. They immediately hooked me up to a monitor and I could see my heart was beating wildly and rapidly, up to 300 beats per minute. One of the nurses grabbed the heart paddles (manual defibrillators) and stood there anxiously watching the monitor and me. It was a surreal moment. I was wide awake, fully conscious, and watching this nurse standing in front of me waiting for me to die. Meanwhile, I was injected with a drug that eventually slowed my heart down. I was later told that I had a bad case of Ventricular Tachycardia (VT), a heart arrhythmia that’s often fatal. My doctor later told me that extremely few people have a case of VT as bad as I did and live to tell about it.

I was prescribed a blood pressure medication to keep my heart from racing, and that worked for several years. Praise God, my wife and I remarried in 2003. However, in 2010 I started to feel palpitations and dizziness again. I then had a cardiac ablation operation in which a surgeon used a laser to destroy the heart tissue that was “misfiring” and causing the arrhythmia.

My heart’s been doing well since then, and no prescriptions, although I have yearly visits to the cardiologist including electrocardiograms just to make sure nothing’s changed. In this last visit, the doc was pleased to see I had lost 30 pounds and was walking 4-5 miles every day. But I’ll never forget that moment laying on an ER bed watching that nurse observe me very nervously with paddles in her hands. Yup, I was a dead man walking. Praise God for giving me more time to reunite with my wife and, FINALLY, to return back to Him in 2014.

The Bible says that everyone is spiritually dead and must be reborn in Jesus Christ. If you have not repented of your sin and trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone you are a “dead man walking.”

“And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” – Colossians 2:13-14

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday sermon series, #3

It’s Tuesday, which means two new sermons from the brethren down in Arkansas. First, we have have Pastor Roger Copeland at Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, preaching about our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ. And what a GREAT High Priest He is!

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15

Next is a sermon by Pastor Cody Andrews at Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City that examines what it means to be a Christian.

Roger Copeland – Our Great High Priest

 

Cody Andrews – What does it mean to be a Christian?

Truth from Arkansas! Sunday sermon series, #1

Many of you are aware that brother Wally over at Truth in Palmyra has opted to take a sabbatical from blogging because of his very busy schedule at this time. I’m surely missing Wally’s daily posts, but I realize a brother needs to prioritize and get at least a little rest during the day.

As a part of his weekly blogging schedule, Wally regularly posted the Sunday sermon videos from Pastor Roger Copeland at Northern Hills Baptist Church in Texarkana, Arkansas and from Pastor Cody Andrews at Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Star City, Arkansas.

I really enjoyed and was blessed by both sermons each week, which I listened to while I entered long lists of data into my computer at work. After I was laid off, I enjoyed listening to the sermons while taking long walks with my iPhone and wireless earpods. Right after my wife and I were saved, we attended an independent Baptist church where we regularly sat under some lively Baptist preaching from the pastor who was from southern Ohio, so listening to brothers Roger and Cody each week brought back fond memories.

Since Wally won’t be posting the sermons for awhile, I told him I would be retrieving the sermons for myself each week. It then occurred to me that I could post both sermons for the benefit of others as well until Wally returns to the blogosphere.

So grab your ear buds and enjoy this week’s edition of some good ol’ Baptist preaching from Arkansas!

Roger Copeland – Let It Rain

 

Cody Andrews – The Three Glorious Promises

Argh! One of those Major Life Events

I had one of those “major life events” a short time ago, but haven’t posted about it to this point. I guess I needed several weeks for the dust to settle.

In early-July, my boss informed me that one of our company’s major corporate customers was not renewing their contract for 2020. That was definitely NOT good news. That particular customer accounts for about 40% of our sales. My boss advised me to prepare for the inevitable. For the next couple of months, I read the daily reports as the customer in question began methodically pulling our equipment out of their stores and returning it to our warehouse. Arriving back to work on the Tuesday after Labor Day Weekend, my boss called me into his office the first thing in the morning, usually not a good sign. As I suspected, I was being laid off at the end of the month.

I began working at K* in 1976 when I was nineteen-years-old. At that time there were 60,000 people working at K’s massive manufacturing, research, logistics, and administrative facilities in Rochester. But foreign competition and the subsequent switch from analog to digital technology began impacting K in the mid-1980s. The layoffs started in earnest in 1985 and have continued non-stop for thirty-four years. From what I can gather, there’s now probably less than 2000 Rochesterians working at K and KA (the company that was spun off from K and where I ended up).

My boss asked that I continue doing my job in the interim while simultaneously training my replacement. Needless to say, September was a difficult month.

So, here I am, 63-years-old and unemployed, with twenty-two more months until I’m eligible for Medicare. To complicate things further, my wife was forced to discontinue working in early-August because of health issues and was placed on short-term disability. There’s a very high probability that she will eventually be switched to long-term disability.

But this is not a self-pity party. The Lord is Lord of the valleys as well as the mountain tops. I was blessed with 43 years of employment at K and I’m not all that far from retirement. As part of its limited severance package, KA has provided three months’ worth of assistance from a “career transition” company. I’m currently using those services and creating a resume in preparation for some job hunting.

I have many brothers and sisters in the Lord who are dealing with challenges much more serious than losing a job at age 63, so I didn’t write this as a whine fest. But I was still a bit angry and bitter. All I needed was two more years, Lord! Well, the Lord has been teaching me many things in the last six weeks. When everything seems to be going fine and we’re living in our “it’s all good” bubble and familiar routine, our faith can tend to become lackadaisical, but it’s in trials and tribulations when we truly lean on and lean into the Lord. This is a fallen world and if you haven’t experienced any “major life events” yet, you surely will. This world doesn’t offer much in the way of safety nets, but our Sovereign God, who knows all of our circumstances, is our immovable Rock and High Tower!

Postscript 1: One day I was feeling particularly stressed because of all of the red tape issues I had to take care of due to my pending unemployment, mostly signing up for various types of insurance. To make matters worse, I had let my reading material queue run dry. Oy vey! In “desperation,” I went back to my half-finished and neglected copy of Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ “Studies on the Sermon on the Mount.” The next chapter just so happened to be “Be Not Anxious,” followed by “Birds and Flowers,” “Little Faith,” “Increasing Faith,” and “Worry: Its Causes and Cure,” all sermons on Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus’ teaching on worry and anxiety. Praise God for His care and encouragement!

Postscript 2: My 24/7 full-time job and joy is following Jesus Christ. Everything else is secondary.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” – Matthew 6:25-27

*Due to legalities, I’m being purposely circumspect about the name of my former company, especially in regards to their current troubles.

We love our super-heroes! But why?

I recently completed a lengthy series of thirty-five posts written over a span of eighteen months that was comprised of reviews of Legion of Super-Heroes comic books from DC Comics’ Silver Age (see here). This blog is mainly devoted to theological issues and many readers were undoubtedly scratching their heads wondering why I allotted thirty-five posts to such “frivolous” subject material. Throughout the long series, I had this concluding post in mind and now we’re finally here. Phew!

For millennia, human beings have been absolutely enthralled with tales of heroes versus villains, good guys versus bad guys. Think of the notable fictional heroes of literature in the past: Odysseus, King Arthur, Beowulf. In the last one-hundred years, as entertainment forms have expanded with new technology, audiences have continued to gravitate to tales of heroes triumphing over evil via radio, movies, television, and even video games. The release of a new movie featuring a comic book super-hero has become a shared, must-see event for society-at-large. These hero movie and comic franchises have even become a quasi-religion for some people. Skeptical? Just visit a Comic Con convention.

Why do people crave these stories of heroes triumphing over evil? As human beings, we’ve all experienced injustice and unfairness to some degree. We all know what it’s like to be bullied or mistreated and we innately crave justice and even revenge. Fictional heroes right the wrongs that we never could.

At movie theaters, we thrill at the hero’s bravery, resolve, and commitment to what’s “good” and “right,” because such qualities are in short supply in the real world, even within ourselves. While we all would like to flatter ourselves and think we are “good” people and lovers of justice, we’re mainly concerned with our own personal circumstances and we ourselves have often mistreated others as we selfishly prioritized our own welfare. Yes, we have and we still do. There is a God and He is Holy and Just. The Bible states that we are all sinners and that we all deserve eternal punishment. We don’t like to admit it, but we are the unjust ones. We are the villains. Yes, us! Argh! That’s not a popular message, but that’s our reality as we stand before a Holy and Just God. But God, in His love, provided a Hero for us.

A real man, Jesus of Nazareth, walked the streets and trails of Palestine two-thousand years ago and He was on a mission. Jesus was the only person who was ever truly good. He was/is God the Son and He lived a life of perfect goodness. He didn’t deserve the cruelty and punishment that He received, but He willingly died on the cross as the atonement for your sins and mine. But He rose from the grave, defeating sin and death, and offers the free gift of eternal life and fellowship with God to all those who repent of their sin and receive Him as Savior by faith alone. Now, THAT is a HERO! He is my Rescuer, my Defender, my Solid Rock amidst turmoil! Thank you, Jesus!!!

Postscript: Many fictional characters have been based on persons mentioned in Scripture. As just one example, much has been written about how the “Star Wars” movie franchise draws heavily upon the Bible. See “5 Biblical Themes from Star Wars.”

Secondaries?

We’re all adults here, so I’m hoping no one is offended if I broach a semi-sensitive topic, but one that we must all deal with on a daily basis.

After my wife and I were married back in 1974, we happily moved into our first home together at the massive Rustic Village apartment complex in Brighton, New York. We quickly discovered that we had several differences stemming from how we were raised. My wife and her family were much more formal and observant of proper etiquette (napkin on the lap at dinner, etc., etc.), while I had a much more casual upbringing. Here’s another one. My wife was HUGE into seasonal decorating, while I came from a family that hardly ever decorated. However, perhaps the biggest difference was….

[drumroll]

…how we hung the toilet paper on the toilet paper dispenser!

My wife hung the toilet paper “under” (behind) the roll (photo right). I hung the paper correctly, “over” (in front of) the roll (photo left). I was absolutely amazed that she chose to hang the paper the way that she did. She explained that her mother had taught her to hang the paper “under” the roll because it encouraged guests to use more paper if they chose to. She was told that if you hang the paper “over” the roll, it would leave guests with the impression that you were stingy and wanted them to limit their paper consumption. Well, I don’t think I had ever heard anything more nonsensical. All I knew was that her favored method was demonstrably more difficult for the user because a person had to reach farther for a sheet/s and the increased distance and decreased visibility made it much more cumbersome to remove the desired number of sheets from the roll. I used to routinely switch the roll to the correct configuration and my wife would subsequently switch it back to “under.” The battle continued for decades.

I did some research recently and I’m happy to report to all of my fellow “over” comrades that the facts completely support our side. Here’s two reasons why everyone needs to hang their toilet paper correctly, “over” the roll:

  1. Not only is the paper less accessible in the “under” configuration, but researchers have found that hanging toilet paper “under” the roll is MUCH less sanitary. In the “under” configuration, it was found that users’ germ-covered hands regularly come in contact with the same area on the lavatory wall and E. coli bacteria are spread dramatically. See one of many supporting articles here.
  2. When inventor Seth Wheeler designed and patented the “roll-and-handles” toilet paper dispenser in 1891, the configuration he used was “over” the roll. See the article, which includes the original patent illustration, here.

Researchers report that 70% of consumers correctly hang their toilet paper “over” the roll, and it’s now up to the “under” advocates to accept the indisputable facts and conform.

Okay, okay, the above was written (somewhat) tongue-in-cheek. Which way the toilet paper hangs is definitely not the hill I would choose to die on at this point in my life. I don’t automatically change the roll like I did 45 years ago.

I continue to learn to be more patient with my spouse and with others. There are some beliefs, especially in spiritual matters, that we should NEVER compromise on, like the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone. But with other beliefs, the non-essential secondaries, we sometimes need to overlook our differences with other believers rather than start a nasty fight (even when we know we are right). That’s NOT to say that secondaries are unimportant. I couldn’t fellowship at the majority of churches in Rochester that call themselves evangelical because I could not support their particular teachings on certain secondaries. But in our personal encounters with our brothers and sisters in Christ who believe differently than we do on certain secondary issues, we need to show some charity rather than be constantly looking to start a fight.

“Therefore let us not pass judgment on one another any longer, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother. I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean. For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died. So do not let what you regard as good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Whoever thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” – Romans 14:13-19

Postscript: The paper towel roll in the kitchen is sometimes a point of contention as well. 🙂

Watch out for the proverbial “rebound”!

Rebound

That word has some negative connotations as well as some positive ones. Here’s a few negative examples:

After a failed relationship, an “emotionally needy” person who immediately jumps into another relationship without much, if any, careful consideration is said to be “on the rebound.” Also, after dropping some pounds, many dieters “rebound” and put all the weight back on, plus more!

A couple of months ago, I completed a 16-week-long diet campaign in which I lost 30 lbs. I was pretty happy about that and tooted my horn a bit with three posts about the experience as a potential motivator for others. But, from past diet experiences, I also knew exactly what was coming down the road. It’s a given. The body, a wondrous, God-designed and God-created “biomachine” is always seeking equilibrium. Lose thirty pounds and the body will fight “tooth and nail” to get those highly desirable, fuel-source fat cells right back on.

Losing all that weight took some discipline and effort. During my diet, I avoided many of my favorite high-calorie snacks and meals. But once I reached my goal, I rationalized that I could relax the discipline, treat myself “here and there,” and still maintain my new weight. Well, you know the story. A little ice cream and a few chips “here and there” was slowly morphing back again into a regular habit. Thankfully, I continued to weigh myself daily after I had achieved my goal and a trend showing the consequences of my relaxed eating habits began to emerge on my iPhone’s health app’s weight graph (see photo above). Fluctuating a few pounds up and down around a target/maintenance weight is fine, but I was on a steep trajectory to Yo-Yo Diet Land. OK. No need to panic. I caught it early. I ramped up my exercise regimen and ramped down my increasingly careless and undisciplined eating habits.

Spiritual application

Christians are spiritually reborn in Jesus Christ and we have the Holy Spirit indwelling us, BUT we also still have our old sin natures and still live in a fallen world. There’s a spiritual battle going on around us every day and we can easily become neutralized and sidelined by the enemy. We’re always being tempted to “rebound” back to sin.

Just as a dieter (and former dieter) needs to hop on the scale each morning to gauge the stark truth about their physical weight, we need to get into God’s Word daily, which the Holy Spirit will use as a mirror to show us our true spiritual condition. Then there’s communing with the Lord throughout the day in prayer. There’s also worship with fellow believers at church on Sunday and admonition and exhortation from God’s Word from the pastor. I’m also grateful for my fellow believers here at WordPress for their exhortations and encouragement. In addition, my wife and I have a daily devotion time and we also provide “loving” (well, most of the time) feedback to each other about the reality of our spiritual condition.

Argh! Just like the unflattering data from the scale, that’s not always information that I enjoy, but I do need honesty regarding my walk with the Lord. Is there a fellow Christian in your life who encourages you and provides honest feedback? I could not stay on track with my health regimen without the honest feedback of our bathroom scale and I could not follow the Lord faithfully without daily Bible reading and communing with the Lord in prayer, and fellowshipping with other believers.

Postscript: Having discipline in our Christian walk is a good and necessary thing, but always keep in mind that our walk with the Lord is a relationship rather than a check-list.

“Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” – Hebrews 4:11-13

The Top Ten Christians of All Time!

Yes, it’s time to rank the Top Ten Christians of all time. So without any further ado, let’s get started:

#10

#9

#8

#7

#6

#5

#4

#3

#2

#1

What? A blank list of the “Top Ten Christians of All Time”? Yup, and you probably already know where this post is going.

A couple of Sundays ago, I was walking out of one of our local grocery supermarkets and a headline on the front of the local Sunday newspaper caught my eye; “Buffalo Bills: Who are the Top 100 players in franchise history?” We’re headed toward the start of the NFL football season and Rochester is in the middle of Bills country, so a headline like that is a good ploy to sell newspapers.

Unbelieving culture always tends to think in terms of Top Ten or Top 100 lists and who or what is the best at some particular occupation or function. It’s a competitive world out there and people are always trying to be at the head of the pack because that translates into prestige and $$$.

But Christians know that Jesus Christ was quite counter-cultural in His teachings.

“So the last will be first, and the first last.” – Matthew 20:16

Jesus came to save and to serve and exhorts those He has saved to also serve others in many ways, but most importantly, by giving out the Gospel to the lost. There are none who are righteous, according to the Bible, and saved souls do not have a single plea of their own except for the imputed, perfect righteousness of their Savior, Jesus Christ. A list of “Top Ten Christians” is really a contradiction in terms.

The world’s Top Ten and Top 100 lists can be interesting and even helpful in a practical way when it comes to the most effective, reliable, and pleasing consumer products, but the rankings of people according to some scale of greatness should ring hollow to a believer. All talents and capabilities are gifts from the Lord.

“Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” – 1 Corinthians 1:31

“For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” – Luke 16:15

Now, there are some religious groups that do boldly lift certain people up as “great.” Roman Catholicism, for example, canonizes certain people as “saints,” meaning they allegedly achieved an extraordinarily high level of sanctity in their lifetime. There are unofficial lists of the church’s greatest saints and greatest popes, but that type of thinking follows worldly models rather than the humble example of Jesus Christ.

Regrettably, there are times when genuine believers ape the world’s thinking and exalt certain pastors or para-church leaders in the same way the world exalts its movie star celebrities. We should avoid puffing up others and ourselves with pride.

The battle of the signs!

Last week, I took a trip to the Tops grocery store at the Panorama Plaza shopping center that’s near us and I happened to glance over at the Alpha and Omega Christian bookstore, also located at the plaza and right next to a GNC (General Nutrition Center) store, and the notion popped into my head to add a little something below the A&O sign in response to the GNC sign.

Many people nowadays are absolutely consumed with diet and fitness, as if they’re trying to stave off their inevitable demise. I mean, there’s people who spend a fortune at GNC every week on vitamins, protein powders, etc. Gyms are popping up everywhere and have become the temples of this new religion of staving off mortality. A healthy diet and some exercise are great, but if you haven’t trusted in Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and walk with Him daily, you’re just NOT “living well” and you have no real hope. The ol’ body’s gonna peter out eventually; it’s a forgone conclusion no matter how many reps you do or how many alfalfa sprout smoothies you drink.

“For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come.” – 1 Timothy 4:8

Postscript One: Please, no irate letters! I’m not a huge fan of quasi-(c)hristian bookstores, which peddle a LOT of heterodoxy. This particular store stocks quite a few books from TBN prosperity gospel types and also has a Catholic section. But at least they do sell Bibles and “some” books from solid evangelical writers.

Postscript Two: Yup, my version of photoshop is pretty basic!