Posts Tagged ‘security’

Birthday_candlesToday is my birthday. Not a big deal—I’ve had a lot of them—but still, a birthday is a good day for reflection.

As far as I know, there is only one reference to a birthday in Scripture and that is a mention of Pharaoh’s birthday in the story of Joseph found in Genesis 40:20. It must have been hard for people to even know the day of their birth before access to calendars was common.  Calendars have been around since the beginnings of history. God gave the Jews a calendar in order to celebrate feast days remembering their exodus from Egypt, but apparently the average person didn’t really know the exact day of their birth.

In medieval times, I’ve read that people celebrated the saint’s day for which they were named—which probably was the same as the day of their birth. So, for instance, St. Mark’s feast day is April 25, so that would be my day of celebration each year instead of October 23. If my parents had followed medieval traditions, I’d be named Hilarion after St. Hilarion (291-371), one of the earliest monastics. I think I like Mark better!

I was actually named after a very saintly man named Mark Armstrong, who was one of my dad’s best friends. I met him several times as a boy, but have always known that he was a good man and a devoted Christian.

One of the lists that people like to make on their birthdays is of all the things that have changed since they were born. The frequency of change in our times is almost more than we can keep up with, so one of my thoughts this morning has been to make a list of things that have not changed since I was born. Here are a few of my thoughts:

People are still frantically trying to find security. One of my earliest memories is of the people next door who had built a bomb shelter and stockpiled it with canned goods in case of atomic war. And, yes, I do remember the notorious school drills of hiding under our desks to protect us from bombs. I used to wonder if we had enough aluminum foil to cover all our windows. Today, we are more afraid of economic destruction, but I suspect our sheltering strategies are about as flimsy as those bomb shelters would have been.

People still need to be loved. Today the hot issue is same-sex marriage. As a child the big issue was divorce first, then the question of remarriage. Modern Family is quite different from The Partridge Family or Leave It To Beaver but then not so much in each family members need to belong to others and to love and be loved within that relationship.

Our lives are still framed by birth and death. I was the oldest of five children, so I remember the excitement of the day each of my siblings was born. I remember the birth of younger cousins, and, of course, you never forget the births of your own children—and then our nine grandchildren!!  As you get older, your calendar of special birthdays can really fill up!  But then, it starts to empty as well.

My first real experience with death was a boy in my class in elementary school named Guy who drowned in a municipal swimming pool.  Then my grandparents started dying while I was in high school and college. A very close college friend died in a light plane crash when I was in my twenties. Older aunts and uncles died during my 30’s. My dad died when I was 41. Sherrylee’s mother died eight years later. It was hard to lose them.

In just the last couple of years we have lost some close friends of our own age—that’s a real shock. Sherrylee’s sister Linda died of early-onset Altzeimer’s. I have watched my Mom who is now 90 lose almost all of her friends at church, so I start thinking, yes, that time of life has begun.  We may live a little longer now than centuries before—sometimes a blessings, sometimes I wonder—but our lives are still framed by birth and death.

God is still God. Jesus loves me, this I know! Security, love, and eternal life,  everything that we long for, that we work for, that we fight for—everything is found in Him.  I’m so thankful today for parents who taught me about God, for Sister Tew—the first Sunday school teacher I remember at the Riverside Church, for Beryl Hooten, who asked me one Sunday if I was ready to follow Jesus, for Alex Humphrey, my first Bible teacher at Fort Worth Christian,  for great teachers at Harding, for Owen Olbright who invited me to do mission work in the Northeast, for Joe Hacker who encouraged us to become missionaries, and for the many Christians who have continued to teach and encourage and walk with us right up to today.

And I’m unspeakably—deeply thankful for my wife Sherrylee, who has not only been my soulmate—the one I love more than my own life—but my teacher, my confessor, the one who has kept me honest before God. Her love is the most physical expression of God’s love in my life.

Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God My Father!


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Boston Marathon bombingThis weekend at least 25 major marathons will be run across the United States. Some have funny names like “Hurt the Dirt” marathon in Rockford, Michigan, or “Jailbreak” marathon in Wautoma, Wisconsin. Other marathons remind of us terrible times: Gettysburg North-South Marathon or Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.

On April 15, the Boston Marathon moved from being one of the most prestigious marathons to one of the most terrifying.  At 2:49pm, two bombs killed two women and a little boy and injured 260+ people—physically!  The bombings also wounded the souls of all of us!

Random acts of violence are among the most heinous because they almost always target people who woke up on any given morning, got dressed, brushed their teeth, kissed their loved ones goodbye, and walked out their doors into Normalcy—whatever that is.

They were not the President who is reminded of the target on his back on a daily basis by the team of Secret Service agents who surround him. They were not the CEO in some South American country who signed the check for Kidnapping insurance or rides in a bulletproof limousine. They threatened no one, they were just . . . you and me.

What makes the wounds of random violence penetrate to our souls—whether it is the work of organized terrorists or of a single mentally-ill person with a backseat full of guns—is fear!

Almost twelve years after 9/11, two million people each day empty their pockets and walk through metal detectors and are reminded of that day of terror. Richard Reid tries to detonate his shoe full of explosives, so now we take our shoes off to be screened. Our belts come off because of the underwear bomber in 2009. Our laptops come out because of the Lockerbie bombings in 1988.  You cannot enter any federal building without walking through a metal detector because of the Oklahoma City bombing.

In fact, just the potential threat against any event has meant screening and major security tactics at major league baseball games, music concerts, at museums, and certainly any political events.

Unless you are almost 60, you can’t remember when the president rode in an open limousine!

So in the Nashville Country Music Marathon, the police have announced  “the deployment of hundreds of law enforcement and security personnel” who will be “very visible” along the 26.2 mile route.  More elementary school teachers will have guns, more movie theaters will guard their rear doors.

More mothers will not let their kids play in the front yard. More kids will carry mobile phones, mostly because their parents want to know where they are. And more preachers will be watched by bodyguards while their congregants sing and pray.

Random violence—the fear of dying–makes us afraid! As a boy, I slept in an unlocked house just seven minutes from where I live today. Now we not only lock the house, but we also set the alarm. Our cars have alarms, our keys chains have panic buttons

—and still random violence can kill our children on the streets of Boston, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, Aurora, and the list goes on much too long!

No amount of fear can protect you from deadly random violence.  Just like no amount of exercise or healthy eating can keep you from getting cancer or having a heart attack or getting hit by a bus!

Sure, we look both ways before we cross the street and we put on our seat belts in the car and we eat less red meat and  . . . .the list goes on, growing daily, of what we do to be safe and secure.

—and still we are afraid.  And still we are willing to spend more money and endure greater restriction in the hope of being safe and secure.

and still we are afraid of those who can kill us anyway!

Here’s the word from God today for you and me:

Because God’s children are human beings—made of flesh and blood—the Son also became flesh and blood. For only as a human being could he die, and only by dying could he break the power of the devil, who had the power of death.

 Only in this way could he set free all who have lived their lives as slaves to the fear of dying.(Hebrews 2:14-15 NLT)

“Slaves to the fear of dying,” that’s the phrase that convicts me.

If you want security and safety so that you will never die and no one you love will ever die—then you will always be afraid! And you will still die.

If you want to live free from the slavery of the fear of dying, then you can have that freedom through the One who promised: “Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die” (John 11:25-26).

Then you can run your race without fear.

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