Photo by Chad Runge / Creation Swap

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Meaning of Christmas

Christmas is such a special and memorable time. I know most people will be out buying presents and getting ready for some festive celebration. Shelby and I decided years ago that we didn’t want to participate in the commercialization of Christmas, so we didn’t buy presents.

However, the more I think about what Jesus did on the cross and by giving His life for mine, I realize how significant His gift was to me. The thing is is that gifts are a great thing. But it’s the kind of gift that makes the difference. Shelby and I have everything we need. But to give our time to someone, to help someone who is sick or in need, or to share the greatest gift of all, which is Jesus, is far better than anything we could buy at Walmart or Target.

I am deeply grateful for Jesus and all that He has done for me. He has given me a beautiful and supportive wife who even helps me write these blogs. I often don’t give her enough credit because these blog posts are so much better because of her. And that goes for every area of my life. Thank you Shelby.

This post is actually meant for everyone. But as Christmas draws near, I think of my family and friends. I don’t know each person’s heart or where they stand with God. It’s my prayer that they all know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. But I know from the Bible that I can’t assume that.

I would like to be bold and ask each person what they believe. I’m just not as adept at speaking as I am at writing. These are questions that I so desperately want to ask everyone that I know. Do you know Jesus? How do you know Jesus? What does Christmas mean to you? Do you know for sure that you belong to Him?

I can’t stress the significance of these issues enough. Eternity apart from God is such a horrible thought that it’s like knowing someone is heading toward a cliff and knowing about it but doing nothing about it. No warning, no empathy, no nothing.

But to share God with someone is like caring enough for them to know of the joy, the love, and the blessings that I also know and experience. Since God loved me, He expects me to love Him and to love others. I often fall short of these goals.

It convicts me that I’m not as bold as I should be about my faith. But I do hope that many of my family and friends will read this. Because it’s that important to me and to Shelby. Thank you.


The Meaning of Christmas

Every year around this time it seems that this phrase, “the meaning of Christmas,” keeps popping up in conversations. You also hear, “Let’s keep Christ in Christmas." There’s little question the reason behind these phrases is due to certain people, such as atheists deeply opposed to Christianity, trying to remove God from our culture.

It’s understandable, considering the atheists point of view, why they are opposed to God. The definition of atheism, according to Merriam-Webster, is “a disbelief in the existence of deity.” It could be argued that disbelief is a belief in itself. For example, John Doe chooses to believe there is no God versus believing there is a God. The Free Dictionary says that disbelief is, “the inability or refusal to believe or to accept something as true.” Point being is that atheists, in the same vein as evolutionists, are choosing to base their argument on faith. The sad reality is that they’re betting their lives and that is going to end very badly.

What my concern is is that people are adamantly protesting taking Christ out of Christmas without understanding what Christmas means themselves. What do I mean by this? For many, my concern is that they are like those in Isaiah 29:13. Please read this very carefully.

The Lord says:
“These people come near to me with their mouth
    and honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
Their worship of me
    is based on merely human rules they have been taught.

Why does this concern me? Perhaps because this rang true in my life for many years. I considered myself a Christian when I wasn’t. I had convinced myself that because I prayed for God to save me that I had essentially been saved. But there was something missing and I didn’t know it. Or maybe I did but I didn’t want to admit it.

I had stopped going to church. I continued to live my life as if it were my own. I was pursuing a sinful lifestyle and wasn’t concerned about what God thought. But I had been brought up in a family that went to church every week, was baptized as a child, confirmed as a young adult, and followed many of the traditions of Christianity.

The issue is what God says in Isaiah. I honored him with my mouth, like many do when they cry foul when someone says Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas. I followed human rules such as going to church on Sunday mornings. I acknowledged that there was a God but so does the Devil and his minions. James 2:19 says, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.”
What was missing? What do so many people miss? The problem is that many people miss a very important truth. It’s not difficult to see. Consider the Pharisees. You may think that the Pharisees were bad people and that you’re nothing like them. Think again. The Pharisees were even more religious than you. They “were very zealous for the law of Moses,” according to Thorn Crown Journal, and they “had a great zeal for God.” The problem is that just as in Isaiah 29:13, they were also strict adherents to oral traditions. These were traditions of men, even very intelligent men.

Why were the traditions of men so wrong? In many ways, the traditions became more important than God’s Word. The Pharisees were rebuked by Jesus because they treated their traditions as having equal authority as God’s laws. Like Got Questions Ministries state, “we are not to allow our relationship with God to be reduced to a legalistic list of rules and rituals.”

So what is everyone missing? Why does it seem that there is a world with their hearts far from God, despite the fact they profess Him with their lips? Ironically, there are so many people who say “Lord, Lord,” but are going down the path to destruction and don’t even know it. Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

What many people are missing and what I was missing is “surrendering.” Think about it. What good is it when a person asks God to save them and continues about his or her lifestyle without any consideration of changing? But it’s not just that, it’s also a recognition that God is King, He is Lord, and He is Sovereign over our lives. So am I saying that it takes some effort on our part to get right with God? No. Surrendering is just that…surrender. Our sin caused us to be enemies of God. Just as in war, there is a supreme power that wins. When we surrender to God’s ways and lifestyle, we surrender to the Supreme Power and His authority over our lives. Isaiah 55:9 says, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

We all need to understand that we have sinned against God by living contrary to His ways. The law, otherwise known as the Mosaic laws, helps us to see what are God’s ways. Do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, and so on. Have you ever told a white lie? Have you ever taken a penny that didn’t belong to you? Have you ever in your anger say that you hated someone? If you have, then you’re a lying, thieving murderer. And by God’s standard, we all have sinned against God and have come short of His glory.

Though most everyone believes that God is love, and He is, God is also just. He cannot tolerate sin or for sin to go unpunished. That would be like having a judge in court say to a lying, thieving murderer deserving of the death sentence to say, “I love you and forgive you. I’ll give you a pass. You are free to go.” Would that be a just judge? Wouldn’t every person who witnessed such a judgment realize how wrong and inequitable that is to a civilized society? How much less would that be to a just God who is the ultimate Judge over our souls?

Many of these things were not explained to me early in my life. I thought all I needed was to pray some prayer, confess Jesus in front of others, and try to live a good life. Though that is what I believed, I didn’t even do that well. Suffice it to say, I missed it by a mile. I didn’t realize that to truly belong to God, or be considered one of His children, that I needed to surrender. I needed to make him Lord of my life. Even that statement isn’t completely accurate. Got Questions Ministries helps explain that Jesus is already Lord. It’s for us to submit to His Lordship.

Why is all of this so important to understand? It’s because too many people live a life of religion. It’s just like in Memphis or throughout the Deep South. This area is commonly referred to as the Bible Belt. However, like in the days of the Pharisees, there appears to be traditions of men that are viewed with higher priority. People are judged harshly and legalism becomes a common occurrence. As a result, there are church pews filled with people going through the motions, becoming Sunday Christians, and for the rest of the week blending in with the world.

True Christians would not want to blend in with the world. The world is antagonistic against God. 1 John 2:15-17 says that we should not love the world but love God. And to love God is to do the will of God.

15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

If we truly know Jesus, we would know that His desire is relationship, not religion. God doesn’t just want us to know about Him. He wants us to know Him personally. Think of your own parents. Don’t they want you to identify with them as part of the family? Don’t they want you to know them as Mom and Dad and not just know about them as some distant parental unit? Don’t they long for you to want to be with them and love them? Doesn’t God want many of the same things from His children? Hosea 6:6 says, “I want you to show love, not offer sacrifices. I want you to know me more than I want burnt offerings.”

So what does Christmas truly mean for the Christian? Is it about being offended by those who prefer Happy Holidays or Season’s Greetings to Merry Christmas? No. We should care about our neighbor and more importantly, their eternal destination. Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus, of course, but the miracle of the virgin birth is only the prelude to the greater event, Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice on the cross for the sins of all the world.

What Jesus did was satisfy the righteous requirements of the law and justify us before the Judge of all mankind for our sins. He took our place and bore our sins and nailed them to the cross. But while Jesus died for the sins of the world, it is still our individual responsibility to ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) We need to receive God’s gift. We need to surrender to His will.

Christmas means everything. Christmas is where Jesus humbled Himself and became like one of us. It was such a glorious event that even Linus of the cartoon strip Peanuts recognized the significance. Watch this video and see for yourself.

It is every true Christian’s prayer that all people come to know Jesus. What is the meaning of Christmas to you? I hope that for you that it means you invited Jesus into your heart and surrendered your will for His. That is the only way Christmas can be truly celebrated.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Cultural Divide

Everywhere you turn, you can get a sense of the world becoming more divided and hostile. It happens locally, nationally, and globally. Memphis is plagued by violence as demonstrated by its rank as one of the ten most dangerous U.S. cities. Even over the Thanksgiving holiday, a time when people generally stop and reflect on their blessings, Memphis still deals with violent crime as a dozen shootings are reported over the weekend.

There’s the kind of violence that occurs among civilians and then there’s the kind of violence that comes from the police force that is supposedly there to protect and serve. That’s what happened recently in New York City. In trying to arrest a man for selling illegal cigarettes, the police take him down by force where later the man was declared dead at a nearby hospital. Was the takedown by a chokehold responsible for his death? It seems unclear through some reports but it certainly could have been a contributing factor.

Then there’s the much publicized fatal shooting of a man in Ferguson, Missouri by a police officer. By some accounts, which later turned out to be false statements, the man was turning away from the police officer when he held up his hands and yelled, “Don’t shoot.” However, the officer involved was not indicted and was cleared of all charges. That hasn’t changed the overall mood of the country, however, as evidenced by several protests taking place in major cities throughout the U.S.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Wisdom of the World

By dierregi @

The world has gone crazy. It’s no surprise to anyone, or least anyone that isn’t living in a cave or has their head buried in the sand, to see how bad things are all around us. In Iraq, news reports tell us about the horrors of beheadings by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Though, apparently ISIS is small potatoes compared to the governments of Saudi Arabia, Iran, North Korea, and Somalia with regards to torture, persecution, beheadings, and other forms of execution.

Then there’s another Islamic terrorist group called Boko Haram. This militant group is so radical that to say they kill, steal, and destroy doesn’t touch how extreme they are. According to CNN, “(they have) bombed schools, churches and mosques; kidnapped women and children; and assassinated politicians and religious leaders alike.” They’re widely known, however, for recently kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls. In a more despicable move, the group forced these Christian girls to convert to Islam and to be sold as slave brides, and thus revealing their complete disregard toward the value of human life.

The atmosphere isn’t any better in Israel either. They’re under constant attack by Hamas, another Islamic terrorist organization. It’s not that the rocket attacks are infrequent, either. It seems like Israel is constantly under threat considering 11,000 rockets have been fired since 2005. And for Israel to protect themselves, they use air strikes to target the terrorists. But Hamas is depraved enough to use human shields and then cry foul when civilians are hurt or killed. And to show that nothing is sacred in their attacks toward Israel, Hamas even uses their own mosques as terrorist facilities.

Violence is everywhere. Even in the United States there are problems with anger and the use of violence. Use Ferguson, Missouri as an example. Because a white police officer defended himself against a black man that appeared to have been attacking him, the entire community and a large portion of the country is experiencing civil unrest. Did the officer shoot the young, black man unprovoked? Answering questions to get to the truth doesn’t seem to matter much, it seems. CNN, an international cable news network forgets that people are innocent until proven guilty. But in their eyes, prior to knowing the truth through a trial by jury, they declare the officer to be guilty by saying he “shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen.” Is that the truth? Does the truth even matter? As it is, major cities throughout the U.S. are bracing for protests that could potentially turn very ugly very fast.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Live Contrary to the World

Pic by Balazs Toth

Today we live in a culture saturated with self-serving, self-indulging, and self-gratifying people. It doesn’t take much to see how true this really is. We could point to the level of violent crime in the US, which indicates on some level a selfish desire to inflict pain on others in order to gain some demented level of gratification. Don’t believe that statement? Consider this comment from one Memphis teenager regarding a teen mob attack at a Kroger grocery store, “It’s fun…That’s just what kids do.”

Violence, though, is just one of many behaviors that reflect the reality of a selfish culture. What about a city that votes unanimously about criminalizing homelessness? Yes, it’s true. The city council in Columbia, SC voted to criminalize homelessness. Why? The motive isn’t completely clear as one council member said it was a temporary measure toward “a more sound resolution.” But like most decisions similar to these, it usually revolves around money. Apparently some businesses are voicing concerns on how the homeless crisis is affecting the city. (Read: Affecting sales and the bottom line.) Instead of addressing the issues in a more humanitarian way, it’s apparent that incarcerating, or moving the homeless to “a remote emergency shelter” on the outskirts of the city limits and where they’re out of sight, is a more acceptable alternative.

Another example of a selfish society can be found in Daytona Beach, CA and Ft. Lauderdale, FL. The law enforcement in these cities are told to enforce ordinances that make it illegal to feed the homeless. According to the laws of these cities, it’s up to the government to use taxpayer money to meet these needs in the community. The penalty to feed the homeless on your own? Large fines and even jail time. These laws seemingly run contrary in showing compassion to those less fortunate. 

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

To Hallow or Not to Hallow Een

This October 31, many Memphians will be out celebrating what is today referred to as Halloween. In many regards, Halloween is considered a major holiday in the US, perhaps surpassing Thanksgiving and coming in behind Christmas, which is the number one celebrated holiday. But is Halloween a holiday that should be celebrated, particularly among Christians? According to one website, Wiccans see this as one of their eight major holidays, so how should Christians respond?

According to, the name Halloween is derived from All Saint’s Day even though the Christian holiday doesn’t have any resemblance to the holiday celebrated today. In fact, it is more likely based on the Celtic New Year, which at that time celebrated the dead arising for one night, among other things.

There are several aspects regarding Halloween that should raise “red flags” among Christian believers. However, it is a matter of disagreement even within the Christian community about whether Christians in general should be involved in the holiday or not. While some arguments “for” participation may have merit, there is one aspect of the argument that is completely left out and will be discussed later.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

What may be good for the goose may not be good for the gander

It appears that in the era of political correctness the error of believing “everything should be equal” is creating a breakdown in society and creating a lot of confusion. While being treated the same on some level is a noble thought, the reality is that we’re not all the same. On that premise, Matt Walsh wrote a very good blog post explaining why there is no such thing as marriage equality. And there is a lot of truth to that.

There are a lot of reasons why we’re not the same or should be treated the same. In society’s twisted logic, equality seems to trump every rational reason for the order of nature and nature’s law. Physically, emotionally, and psychologically men and women are different. Yet society would stipulate that equality must exist in order to promote fairness in every facet of life. While there are many things that men and women can do that are the same and can be considered equal, there are significant differences in the dynamics of the genders that can be and should be appreciated. Men, if they take on their proper roles as fathers in the family, impact their children in their psychological well-being and social behavior that cannot be substituted by only having a mother present. They are also vitally important in how they eventually relate to God the Father. Moreover, women are extremely important in the influence of their children’s lives as they promote stability, academic success, and emotional and psychological health, to name a few. Again, these are attributes and benefits that cannot be substituted if only a father were present in the children’s lives.

Certainly there are many other examples that can be given to illustrate the point that equality, or fairness, is not always the wisest course of action. Yet governments often use this tactic of equality to advance their agenda. In this day and age, people are increasingly falling prey to the idea that wealth ought to be equal. For example, there is a class of people who get an education, work hard, take risks, and are ultimately successful. They are thereby rewarded with wealth and a higher standard of living. However, there is a different class of people who don’t work as hard or put in nearly enough effort; but, because of envy toward the rich, they feel slighted somehow. So, in order to bring about this idea of equality, society pushes the government to create laws and policies that effectively force wealth redistribution. Some may see this idea, which is termed Socialism, as a good thing; many others do not.

Equality sounds like a good idea on the surface. In many ways, equality works if it’s appropriate. If a woman works at the same job and does the same work at the same level as a man, she should receive equal pay. There are applications in life that this principle can be proven fair and effective. However, life isn’t always fair and is usually beyond our control. Consider how a young man who is healthy, exercises, and eats right. This person is then diagnosed with cancer. The cancer is so extreme, such as stage IV type cancer, this guy only has six months to live. Within three or four months, he is given in to the disease and dies. Now, another person comes along who does nothing to take care of herself. She sits around all day eating junk food and is physically non-active. She is soon discovered to have stage IV type cancer as well. However, because of aggressive treatments her cancer is caught in time and it goes into remission. If life were fair and everyone were treated equal, it would stand to reason that the woman should have died as well. That would be fair.

To be certain, differences exist in nature, and by association in the affairs of man, that we should not only accept but appreciate. It’s a world in which God created. And if the world is viewed through a Biblical perspective, it’s much easier to appreciate and understand. To further illustrate this point, we could examine fairness from God’s perspective. Take, for example, our rebellious nature and how we have sinned against God. Do we really want God to give us exactly what we deserve, what is fair and equitable? In Scripture, Romans 3:10-18 tell us that there is no one righteous; in fact, we’re all worthless because there is no one who does good. This is significant because following these verses is another passage, Romans 3:23, that tells us that we all have sinned. Now follow this thought over to Romans 6:23, where Scripture tells us that the wages of sin is death. Fairness dictates that we all should die.

Ponder the previous point that we have all sinned and should die. Understand that there is nothing inherently good about any one of us. We sin and we do things that are abhorrent to God, our Creator. God, being the Creator, is also Judge over heaven and earth. He decides our beginning and our end. And it is His judgment that to sin is to deserve death. This death is not just physical death but spiritual death. Since being with God is eternal life, being separated from God is eternal death. That’s what is at stake. The Bible talks about how this kind of death, or in other words going to hell, is what we deserve. So while we’re contemplating this idea of equality, let’s face the fact that with all things being fair or equal, what we deserve is God’s wrath.

Now consider the notion that instead of dooming mankind to eternal hell and separation from Him, which the Bible describes as torment, God instead formulates a plan to save us. As Judge, He determines that mankind is guilty. But in the process of penalizing us for our sins, as a merciful and gracious Redeemer, He determines there is a way for us to be justified and reconciled back to Him. From the beginning of time, blood has had significance regarding life; as in life giving. In the Old Testament, to offer pure, unblemished sacrifices with bulls and goats and such was a symbolic way to show that blood was a substantial aspect in atoning for sins. What God did was go above and beyond to show His love for us by offering as a sacrifice His one, and only Son. Jesus was the ultimate, perfect, spotless Lamb of God. Jesus’s blood that was shed on the cross effectively washed away our sin once and for all. So, in referencing the other part of Romans 6:23, God’s Word tells us that the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Interestingly, Jesus who was perfect and sinless was offered up as a sacrifice for our sins. We sinned and Jesus paid the price. Do you see the irony here? Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What exactly is fair about that? Do we demand equality and fair treatment in regards to our sin? Do we want to demand fairness in order to receive what we deserve, God’s wrath? Or do we dare believe that we can cry out for mercy and receive His forgiveness, thus avoid our “due wages.”

The unfair treatment of Jesus is an example of why this post is titled, “What’s good for the goose may not be good for the gander.” Who would volunteer to say that they want to receive the same torture, punishment, ridicule, and execution on the cross that Jesus endured that led to His death? Who would want to experience the most horrific death imaginable, and then have the weight of their sins placed on their shoulders and die a spiritual death? Jesus endured spiritual death and, as a result, was separated from God the Father for a period of time; who would want to experience that for even a millisecond?

There’s another reason why we shouldn't think that since something works for one person that it should be the same for everybody. In the book of Romans, the Apostle Paul writes something about this regarding the treatment of believers within the church. He tells us that among believers we shouldn’t assume that we’re all the same in terms of maturity and spiritual development. Instead of arguing that we should act as if we’re all equal, Paul assumes that the more mature Christian should take the responsibility of caring for and being sensitive to the less mature believer.

Maybe what Paul is talking about in Romans is not necessarily only about maturity. It’s more about caring for our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what spiritual path we’re on. Consider what Paul has to say in these passages:

13 Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister. 14 I am convinced, being fully persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean. 15 If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. 16 Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. 17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, 18 because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.

19 Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. 20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. 21 It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

22 So whatever you believe about these things keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves. 23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if they eat, because their eating is not from faith; and everything that does not come from faith is sin.

What Paul tells us in these passages is that the Lord God has provided everything to us for our enjoyment. Don’t misunderstand this statement. What God has provided for us to enjoy, man has taken and perverted it in many ways. So, for example, drinking a beverage from the fruit of the vine is something considered good initially. However, man found a way to take something good and use it in excess and therefore become drunk and influenced by wine. That is not good and is not an example of what Paul would say is acceptable behavior.

What, then, is Paul talking about? Let’s take the example of wine as an illustration. As Christians, is it wrong for us to consume alcoholic beverages, such as wine? One could argue that it perfectly acceptable, according to Paul’s statement. But what if there’s another believer that takes issue with it? That believer may have experiences in his or her family history that the thought of consuming alcohol causes problems spiritually and may cause him or her to stumble. Paul would exhort the Christian that finds alcohol acceptable to refrain from drinking if it causes division or other problems within the church. What Paul says is that we should make every effort to be at peace with each other and do what is edifying for the church’s spiritual growth and development.

As Christians, let’s not get caught up in the world’s ways of doing things. Political correctness seems to be the driving, and dividing mechanism that governs how the culture conducts itself. But instead of thinking what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, let’s think instead of what we can do or say that will benefit others and bring about their edification. It’s far better to be deprived of something, and even endure unfairness for a while, if in the end love wins out and promotes healthy relationships among the brethren. Hopefully, this kind of attitude and approach will help someone along their spiritual journey and draw them closer to Christ.

Equality is not everything. Unless, of course, you’re one of those who wants to be fair and get what you deserve. Who out there is standing in line for God’s wrath?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Response to the Culture and Suicide

                Recently a popular comedian was found dead in his home.  He had committed suicide.  For reasons we may not fully comprehend, he was a man who was troubled to the point of ending his own life.  It is not a subject I take lightly so I want to be careful not to sensationalize what has gripped the attention of the world.  I also don’t want to minimize how deeply this has impacted survivors of this unfortunate tragedy.

                Despite all the soul searching, I honestly cannot say I understand suicide.  Nor do I pretend to.  I’m not saying I don’t know what events that often lead to the thoughts of suicide.  Most people can give typical reasons for why a person loses hope and eventually surrenders their life.  The reasons can range from depression, terminal illness, chronic pain, alcohol and drug abuse, loneliness, failed marriages, loss of a job, and so on.  It’s typically the missing piece of the puzzle that is the “one thing” that pushes a person over the edge.

                It’s in times like this that people search for answers.  Anything to explain how something like this can happen.  However some deal with their problems, they often don’t let on to those who really know them how close they are to the edge.

                This is also a time when Christians often try to offer words of encouragement.  Pastors, leaders, and Christian counselors typically point people to Scripture and offer theological advice.  Words, though, seem so inadequate.  Sometimes they can come across as cold and distant.  I am certain that is not the intention of any Christian.  It’s only that Christians understand a truth that is relevant to these discussions and that is Jesus is the Answer.

                As a Christian, I understand that suicide is not the answer.  Let me say this again because it’s worth repeating.  Suicide is not the answer.  I don’t say this to belittle anyone who has had thoughts toward this end.  It’s not something that can be easily explained away.  Anything that can drive a person to the point of reaching the end is something that needs serious attention.  The point is that in whatever situation a person finds himself or herself, Jesus is the only One who can turn that person’s life around.

                In writing this post, I’m not trying to give the impression that I know more than Christian Scholars and Theologians.  In fact, I think there are several posts and articles written by others on this subject that are more noteworthy.  This blog found at Bible Gateway gives a scripturally based response to depression.  It’s worth noting that God doesn't condemn anyone for his/her feelings, even depression.  Can certain attitudes and behaviors, like anxiety, be wrong in God’s eyes?  Sure.  We may be self-absorbed or focused only on selfish wants and desires.  But true feelings of sadness, loneliness, or depression seems different.  Certainly this is a multifaceted subject.  There’s no one right answer because we’re all unique and we all have problems that are specific to our situations.  One thing that I do see as a source of hope is God.  He is the constant that we can rely on and He can be the anchor for our lives and our souls.  One of the greatest needs in the life of someone who is contemplating his/her end is relationship.  Human relationships may help in a temporal way.  However, when God offers Himself to us we have access to a relationship that is much deeper, significant, and eternal.

                In the same way, at Patheos there’s an article that backs up this idea of a relationship with God being the answer to man’s greatest need.  Or as the author puts it, the Ultimate Christian Gift.  The author emphasizes on what a relationship with God brings, and that’s unconditional love. 

                I agree with these writers that a relationship with God is a key element in combating these deep emotional issues.  I say this in regards to those who are able to rationally think about the choices they are making.  For the most part, that’s me.  Though I can be an emotional wreck and believe that suicide would be a quick way out, I am also still able to rationally think about the choices before me.  And I do.  I think about God and what He would think about the choice I am about to make.  Since God is my Creator, would He be okay with me circumventing His authority over my life by taking it myself?

                The question, then, is what about those that do take their own life?  Have they made the ultimate error and committed the unforgivable sin?  This is a complex issue and I’m probably not qualified to answer this.  But in my limited understanding about God and Scripture, there’s a time when we become accountable for our choices and lives.  For example, a baby is born into this world with a sin nature.  If a baby dies without being able to accept Jesus as his/her Lord and Savior, does that mean the baby doesn't go to heaven?  There is a debate on this but I tend to follow John MacArthur’s logic on this issue.  You’ll have to read it yourself to understand.

Now take this same argument and apply it to mental and emotional disabilities.  My point being is that it’s possible that those who are not able to consciously make proper choices may not be held to the same level of accountability as someone with a sound mind and body.  Let’s say a Christian develops Alzheimer’s.  Obviously, this is a debilitating disease that leaves little doubt as to the ability of rational reason or thought.  If this Christian commits suicide, is he/she then in sin and unable to reconcile with God?  Or should we say a Christian can’t take their own life because of Alzheimer’s?

Again, I point to the fact that this is a complex issue.  We’re not always talking about people making rational decisions.  Often, there are those that are going through deeply emotional and psychological issues.  It would be naive to think that these issues pertained only to nonbelievers.  For certain, pain and sorrow and even illness are a part of life for the Christian as well.

                People are sometimes diagnosed as clinically depressed.  It’s a more severe form of depression.  People are also diagnosed as having a wide range of mental and emotional disorders.  With that being said, I’m not as certain to say that when a person is sick that he/she has the full mental capacity and clarity of choice.  It’s possible this person could commit suicide.  Believers and non-believers suffer alike, go through pain, and sometimes are not aware of the choices they are making.  Can we say that one person was more fully aware of choice than another if there’s suicide?  Maybe not.  Does that somehow point to an obscure fact that this couldn't have been a Christian?  I don’t think so.  In my estimation, only God is able to determine that.

                What is clear to me is that suicide is a problem the church and the community must deal with together.  Anyone who is fully aware of his/her choice, it needs to be crystal clear that suicide is not the answer.  For a person struggling with this on a conscious level needs to realize that there is a God who loves him/her.  For the Christian, the relationship with God and knowing His Holy Spirit resides in us ought to give us hope and strength.  Relationship is such a strong, emotional anchor that grounds us to reality.  How much more impactful is a relationship with the Creator of the universe? 

For the unbeliever, hope may be fleeting.  Where can one go?  You may be able to muster the strength to make it through the drudgery of life.  However, a greater bet is to place your security in the One who holds the balance of your life, body and soul, in His hands.  What a great tragedy it is for anyone to go through life without knowing how much God loves and the extent to what He will go through for us.  And for someone to end their life without that hope and the knowledge of that truth is what is truly tragic.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

We Are All Hypocrites

Meme by

                I admit I do get frustrated more and more these days.  I really must temper my feelings toward the world.  Read the newspapers, Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or whatever news source you read and you can see how the world is becoming more corrupt by the day.  Evil is running amok.

                No matter what position you hold toward Israel or Palestine, you probably have very strong opinions regarding either side.  If you side with Israel, you probably think that the government there and its citizens are completely innocent of any bloodshed or any wrongdoing.  If you side with Palestine, you surely are incensed at the lives lost, many of them children.

                What is your position on the world’s religions?  Be it Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or even atheist you likely have a strong opinion on what you believe.  Throughout history, as I understand it, most wars have been waged because of religion.  Let me expand on that thought.  I googled this question about wars being caused by religion and one website states that is not the case.  They explain that wars are waged primarily because of sin.  So let me just argue my opinion that religion is still a factor because man is waging war in his heart against God.  Is it religion or not?  If you’re someone who’s raising his fist against God and say you’re atheist, agnostic, or whatever, it’s a conscious decision to follow and be loyal to that belief.  I argue that in itself this kind of belief system is religion.  But I digress.  Right or wrong, these are beliefs and traditions that run deep throughout our culture.

                And of course there’s all the political games being played out in Washington and throughout the country.  I might as well say throughout the world.  You may be one of the few who still believe in any of the promises that President Obama makes.  You may actually like the Affordable Care Act, want the IRS to harass citizens for political motives, and have the EPA radically change business and the economy.  However, even if you disagree with the president and his policies, what are your options?  Are you trusting in the Grand Ole Party?  (I know, it’s supposed to be Grand Old Party but I don’t care.)  This party is resembling the Democratic Party more and more.  Can any politician put the country and its citizens before his or her own self-interests?  One can become increasingly cynical as to believe anything positive can come out of any government.

                These are only a handful of examples to get across a point.  We all have strong beliefs.  But while we maintain them, do we betray those beliefs?  Are we hypocrites?  Let me explain.  Let’s say that you feel extremely strong about the United States being exceptional, that it’s a Christian nation and that it defends weaker nations and so on and so forth.  You’re likely to point out all the positive aspects of the US and avoid any of the negative parts of its history.  You can be very loyal, even to a fault.  I consider myself to be part of that camp.  However, we should be totally honest in that the US is not perfect.  It has skeletons in its closet.  There are the obvious moral lapses such as slavery, the slaughter of American Indians, the civil war, the discrimination against race, the oppression of women, etc.  But what about today?  My beliefs on abortion, immigration, and homosexuality run deep.  While I maintain those beliefs, though, how are my attitudes toward those with opposing views?  I have to admit that in my anger my behavior often is rude and antagonistic against the opposition.  Obviously, these are subjects that evoke strong emotions on both sides.

                One of the definitions of hypocrite is a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, principles, etc., that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie stated beliefs.  The key here is “does not actually possess.”  I believe I have higher virtues and moral beliefs.  And you may think you have higher virtues and moral beliefs, even though our views are in complete contrast with each other.  In pursuit of our stated beliefs, I think all of us at one point pretend to take some higher moral ground.  We think our position is superior.  In while I love to argue and debate, there will always be someone who thinks differently and will point out obvious flaws in my positions.  And in debating, I tend to ignore the gray areas or the parts where there is some bad truth that can be exposed.  At that point, it certainly is hypocritical to carry on as actually possessing a higher moral ground when I’m aware of its flaws.  Perhaps we can state there is no position that is absolutely perfect.  That’s why we’re all hypocrites.  No one or no idea is without flaw.  That is the human condition.


There is One who is perfect and without flaws.  There is One who can say that He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He is forever consistent in His actions, promises, and behavior.  Jesus is the only One who can say that He stands on high moral ground that is superior to anyone else’s.  By saying this I realize that there are many who don’t believe in Jesus as the Son of God.  Their opinion of Jesus is going to be far different.  However, this is the one position I would argue to the death.  There is no one else that can compare to Jesus.  He is the central focus in all of history.  He is the God and Creator of heaven and earth.  He is the author and perfecter of our faith.  I may be a hypocrite in many ways and in following Jesus I may do and say things hypocritical.  But that does not change who Jesus is and He is in every way perfect, without spot or blemish.  The Bible says in 1 Peter 1 that it was by His blood that He shed on the cross that saves a person.  Peter says Jesus was a sacrificed lamb, without blemish or spot.

                It is because of this fact that Jesus is perfect, and was perfect when He was sacrificed on the cross, that He stands alone as Judge.  Jesus pointed out our hypocritical natures.  But despite our sin, God loved us.  Romans 5:8 says “ …God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  This is why we can have hope for our hypocritical nature.  We don’t have to be perfect because Jesus was and is.  Since Jesus fulfilled the law of God, He did what we couldn't do.  He died for our sins, the penalty for sinning against a holy God.  He acted as a substitute and bore our sins.  He was the Judge and then became the defendant accepting our conviction of death.  So what then?  He in exchange offered His righteousness so that we can be made holy before God, justifying us who deserved death.  Again, in 1 Peter 1, Peter points out how we live foolishly.  But because of Jesus we can live differently.  We will not be perfect, or glorified, until we reach heaven, but we can become more like Jesus if we put our faith in Him alone.  As Acts 4:12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  The only thing is is that the choice must be a conscious decision.  You can choose life and you can choose death.  In choosing life, you must be born again.  That is, “… to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)  I pray you choose life.

(NOTE:  I want to thank my wife, Shelby Spencer, for being co-author with me on this blog.  If it weren't for her meticulous attention to detail and being editor of these posts, my writing would indeed be often incoherent and difficult to read.  Thank you Shelby for all that you do.  I love you!) 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Don't Judge

Who are you to judge?  That’s an interesting statement.  I think it’s an overly used statement, but interesting nonetheless.  I think it’s said too many times haphazardly and often isn't understood in its proper context.

In the same token, we often hear people say “Who am I to judge?” in response to some sort of action or behavior that some would say is wrong or inappropriate.  I think there needs to be a distinction between an action or behavior that is merely a matter of preference or something that obviously crosses a moral or ethical line.

But even when something crosses the line, the matter should be considered in view of context.  This is probably why the area of judging is often confusing and can create a lot of resentment and/or hostility.  The question for all of us is when is judging appropriate and when isn't it?

In truth, judging shouldn't be so confusing.  I think it’s only confusing due to the changes in our culture and the blurring of lines.  In the case of stealing, it seems obvious to most that what the person has done is wrong.  Or how about when someone takes a gun and begins shooting other people?  Nearly all of us would agree that this is wrong (I hope).  In both these cases, we’re judging.  If we didn't have some basis, or some moral standard, how could we possibly judge these people for their actions?  As it is we do have some standard(s) that we agree on.  On other issues, that is where it becomes a matter of contention.

There was a day and age when same-sex marriage would never have been an area of disagreement, albeit for a handful of people.  The majority would have said it’s wrong and shouldn't be socially accepted.  Today, however, it’s a different story.  The issue seems evenly divided, if not more for than against.  This type of “marriage” is hardly the only issue currently being debated.  Homosexuality and same-sex marriage is only the latest in a string of behaviors that our society has wrestled with.  Unfortunately, other areas as significantly important have been overlooked as of late due to the increasing, intense nature of immorality in our culture.

Think about it.  In our current climate, society pretty much glosses over the heterosexual issues that used to be hot button debates only a few years ago.  There was a time when pornography and prostitution stirred heated conversations.  A few years before that, divorce seemed to raise eyebrows.  Before even that, the issue of fornication (sex outside the parameters of marriage) would have received widespread backlash.  These weren't just issues of debate where one person merely scoffed and suggested on how unhealthy it was.  These were issues that people fought or died over because of how passionate they were in their points of view.  Now?  Barely a mention is given to them because it seems that society has deemed these issues passe and barely worth mentioning.  Or, in other words, immorality has become so widespread and people have become so desensitized that only greater immorality garnishes our attention.

In man’s viewpoint, it seems that what passes as something worthy of our attention wanes over time.  Like the Scriptures say, there is a way that seems right to man.  The sad truth is that what seems right one day has a completely different set of standards the next.  The moral compass of man is not grounded in anything permanent but what seems “politically correct” for that day, as it is currently expressed.

A true moral grounding is on something that doesn't change.  That something would be, and should be, God’s Word.  If we were to take this subject of judging, what would the Scriptures say?  In regards to the body of Christ, 1 Corinthians would tell us that there is a time and place for believers to judge another in the church.  In that context, however, I believe there’s a warning that in the same measure we judge others, we too can be judged.  We shouldn't judge hypocritically nor should we take it lightly.

There are certain issues, major issues that some would call non-negotiables, that were a Christian to do them or behave in a certain way, he or she would be judged by the church.  I believe that in the areas of sexual immorality, the Scriptures give us what God’s standards are and if one were to step outside those standards, he or she would be guilty of sin.  That is when a church leader or another believer should really pray about the situation and ask for God’s guidance in confronting the sin issue in the motive of restoring that believer into a right relationship with Christ.

There are other situations, though, that are more likely to be matters of preference.  That’s what I believe Romans 14:1-12 is referring to:

Do Not Pass Judgment on One Another

Romans Chapter 14:1-12

1 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's. 9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.

10 Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
    and every tongue shall confess to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.

                I believe Paul’s main purpose in this text deals with matters of Christians relating to one another.  Prior to this passage, Paul was pointing us to a lifestyle that is reflective of the amazing gift that Jesus gave us when He exchanged His righteousness for our sin and nailed it to the cross.  What kind of lives ought Christians to live in light of this gift?  In Romans 12 Paul said it was a life of sacrifice.  Paul then gave a description of a true Christian whose life had been changed by Christ.  He pointed to characteristics and behaviors that went against cultural norms.  For example, instead of seeking retribution, Paul called the Christian to forgive.  Instead of being haughty or thinking of oneself as being morally superior, Paul told the Christian not to think too highly of him or her self but to associate with the lowly and the less fortunate.

Paul’s concern, and ultimately God’s concern, is for believers to relate to one another in a way that honors God.  That’s why in Romans 13 Paul went into detail as to how the believer is to love other believers and by doing so fulfill the law of God.  So, with this in mind Paul added another dimension of the kind of love God is seeking from believers. 

In the passage above, Paul tells us not to pass judgment on one another.  If that was the only thing Paul ever said in regards to this subject, we might be able to conclude that as many say, “Live and let live.  Who are we to judge?”  But on the contrary, Paul spoke on the subject on other occasions but conversely spoke about how we ought to judge.  In 1 Timothy 5:20, Paul said that we should rebuke sin.  That’s judging.  Again, in another letter in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 Paul said judging should occur but appropriately within the realm of the church.  So, if taken in proper context, the judging that Paul is referring to in Romans 14 speaks to the way the believer worships God, not a sin issue that needs to be addressed. 

So how do we understand judging correctly?  The issues that Paul spoke on dealt with issues that had to do with the Jewish and Gentile cultures of that day.  But some of what Paul said can be applied to issues of our day.  For example, a few Christians think that others should dress up to the nines when going to church.  Others might think that only traditional music should be played in regards to hymns and praise and worship.  It’s these kind of issues that believers should allow grace.  If someone thinks differently about worship and it doesn't break God’s laws and precepts, then that Christian shouldn't be judged.  As Paul says, we live as if unto the Lord and how we live and worship is to honor the Lord.

It’s clearly evident that most people don’t understand this issue of judging.  People either don’t care or don’t take the time to understand.  If they’re not Christians, they probably don’t care to understand but wouldn't want anyone to judge them anyway.  They certainly wouldn't want to be held to God’s standards.  But for Christians, we ought to pray that God gives us wisdom and that if judging is appropriate in a situation that God’s principles are applied correctly.  And if judging isn't appropriate, pray to have the wisdom to know the difference and show God’s grace and love instead.

So, is it judge or not to judge?  Perhaps if this question nags you then you should take it to the Lord in prayer.  We will all be judged by God one day.  Pray that it’s in light of the sacrifice that Jesus paid on yours and my behalf.  

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Heaven Welcomes Tom Lamb Home

Picture by Jesse Weiler

As the title suggests, the Lord Jesus brought my brother and friend, Tom Lamb, home recently.  Tom was ready to go home and I’m not sure any of us can be any happier for Tom knowing that he’s with Jesus now.  That’s not to say we’re all happy not having him here with us.  It’s difficult to accept that we won’t be able to see his warm smile around anymore.

My cousin Tammy, Tom’s wife, now has to go on with life without her loving husband at her side.  It’s going to seem strange for her trying to assimilate to her daily routine with Tom’s absence.  The comfort she can take with her is knowing that Tom is waiting for her to join him one day.  And that will be a reunion that will be celebrated in Heaven.

In a way, some would say morbid, I actually envy Tom.  I’m not saying I’m suicidal or anything like that, but I do believe that Tom is in a place far more wonderful than we can imagine.  In Heaven, there is no pain or suffering.  There’s no sin either.  It’s a perfect place.

Some describe Heaven with no sense of imagination.  They picture Heaven as being some boring place with nothing to do but play harps.  Or something similarly.  I don’t believe Heaven is remotely like that.  With Heaven, I don’t think we can use our minds enough to imagine what Heaven is like.  It’s a place where Jesus said there’d be many rooms.  And if Jesus is in the design of the new Heaven and the new earth, then there’s no doubt it will be perfect.

I think we can get a sense of what Heaven will be like through the Bible’s description of the Garden of Eden.  It was a place where God walked with man.  There was everything there that man needed to sustain him.  When people think about paradise with clear, blue waters and sandy beaches and palm trees, that’s nothing compared to Heaven.  I heard someone say that if you were to take everything that paradise is described like such as perfect weather, beaches, trees, and so on along with no worries, cares, or fear, it wouldn’t even scratch the surface.  Take all these things, add in perfect relationships, perfect health, and perfect mind, body, and soul, you still wouldn’t get close.  In fact, take everything that you ever thought of what Heaven would be like and magnify it a hundred fold, you might then get close to describing Heaven.

And Heaven is where Tom is.  So where does that leave us?  For one, we’re left with the memories of Tom.  Tom actually did a little more than that by leaving a legacy.  He began his life like many of us do such as living contrary to God’s plan and purpose for his life.  He went through rebellious and destructive behavior.  He hurt those close to him. 

However, all of that changed when he surrendered to Jesus.  His life went through an overhaul as God began to work and soften his heart.  Tom became more concerned for others.  He wanted to make amends and ask for forgiveness for how he hurt those he loved.  After Tom was diagnosed with cancer, he sat down and wrote a letter with Tammy to be read at his funeral.  In the letter he made mention of a desire to be forgiven from those he hadn’t had the chance to reconcile.  Despite facing his own mortality, Tom was still concerned for others.

There’s probably a lot more that could be said regarding Tom’s conversion.  Trying to put it in words, however, doesn’t seem to be adequate for how Tom impacted all of us.  I didn’t know Tom before Christ.  But I got to know the man that God was working on and what I witnessed was impressive enough.  People were always coming up to Tom, whether it was at a restaurant, at work, at the store, or walking down the street.  Tom made people feel special and he had a gift of being able to draw them out and show a genuine interest in them.  He asked questions and made them feel like he truly cared about who they were, what they were going through, and how he could help.

For me, I’m going to miss one of my best friends.  It would be naïve of me to think that I was Tom’s best friend because he had so many close friends, people who loved him very much.  But I didn’t, and still don’t, have that many close friends.  That’s one of the reasons Tom’s friendship meant the world to me.  We talked many times about our struggles.  We confided in each other and we both knew we could trust each other.  He was a true brother in every sense of the word.

It pains me to think about the future.  Not that the future is something to fear.  No, I only realize that over time my memory of Tom will begin to fade.  Not that I want to forget.  I just know how it is with me.  My dad died when I was 16 years old.  I’m 44 now and I have only faint memories of my dad apart from stories other people tell me.  The same will happen with my memories of Tom.  I suppose one thing I can take from this is knowing I’ll see him one day again.  I imagine all the good memories will be there when we do meet up and we’ll get to talk and laugh again just like we used to.

I feel bad for Tammy.  I know this is hard on her.  She sometimes shares her memories using the Caring Bridge website I believe as a means to help her through the healing process.  Already she has shared with her friends that each day and each event brings about a set of “firsts” without Tom.  She recognizes all the things that Tom did for her and around the house that she took for granted.  Tom didn’t let the dust settle as he was one to get things done.  But now Tammy has to take on the responsibility of making sure the work gets done herself.  It saddens me to think about how alone she might be feeling.  However, I know she’s not truly alone.

The amazing thing about Tammy is not that she’s strong.  It’s that she’s willing to show her weaknesses and her vulnerability.  It’s in her weakness that God shows Himself to be strong.  She shares her sorrow and her tears.  She allows herself to feel, to mourn, and to grieve.  Often she goes back to Scripture and shares with all of us the verses that are speaking the loudest and have the most meaning to her in her life currently.  To some, that may not sound like much.  But in reality, it’s the one thing that is going to help keep her going.  She’s leaning heavily upon Jesus and that’s where she’s the safest and that’s where she’s going to find the greatest comfort.  I don’t have any reason to be concerned for Tammy.  She’s in God’s hands and there’s no better place to be.

My wife, Shelby, and I are definitely going to miss all the fun times we had with Tom and Tammy.  Tom was still making plans with Shelby the last time we visited Iowa to see him.  He talked about riding four wheelers (ATVs) out in east Tennessee.  We had talked many times in the past how we would get together at the Creation Museum and even go snowmobiling up in Wisconsin.  Now I suppose the next time we see Tom there are going to be far more exciting adventures than the plans we dreamed up here in this life.  And, I know, that is yet in the future.

But Tom’s home right now.  And all of us have to continue the journey.  If there’s something to take from this that stands out is that life is short.  We’re not guaranteed a tomorrow.  Not to make a cliché out of this but it’s true, we need to make the most out of the life we’ve been given.  The trick is to know what that means.  Tom figured it out.  I believe he knew it was “Love God and love people.”  That simple.  Well, the message is simple.  I have a hard time living it out myself.  But that’s the goal.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.  And love your neighbor as yourself.  All the laws and the prophets hang on these two commands. (Mark 12:30)

I hope we all can live out our lives with that grand purpose.  Maybe, like Tom, we can finish the race knowing that we’ve done everything we could to love God and love people.  Then maybe the memories of Tom will not fade away so much as it will spur us on as we live purpose-filled lives, like Tom, for Jesus.