June 2016 Newsletter


So what are you afraid of? I’ve been asking that question of people lately, even some of my fellow pastors in the Salem Ministerial Alliance, and I’ve been hearing some of the usual and some not-so-usual answers. Snakes seem to be at the top of the list. As many of you know, I used to have a fascination with these scaly creatures and even had a few pet snakes, including a boa constrictor, a ball python, and a Burmese python. It was that last one that brought an end to my having any snakes under our roof anymore. It was just downright mean and would strike at you if you just walked by its aquarium. So Marilyn finally put her pretty little foot down and said, “It’s me or the snake!” I asked for some time to think about it (NOT REALLY!). Instead I began an immediate search for one who would take it off my hands and provide a loving and caring home for it and I found someone pretty quickly.

But getting back to our fears, one pastor at our Ministerial Alliance meeting this week offered a different type of fear that we have all probably had whether we want to admit it or not, and that is the fear of failure. I think that’s a huge one, especially among pastors.

Personally, I have a terrible fear of heights, which may come as a surprise to you since Marilyn and I typically spend our vacations hiking in the mountains as we did just recently in the Smokies. But even there I have and know my limitations. For example, last year there was a trail we wanted to hike in Glacier National Park in northern Montana. It was called the Highline Trail. The book we had said it was one of the most popular trails in the park, but then it also had a brief reference to a part of the trail toward the beginning where you would have to navigate your way along a cliff and there would be cables anchored to the wall of that cliff that you could hold onto if you felt the need. Well, when I looked at that cliff and how high up it was and how narrow the trail was at that point, I turned to Marilyn and said, “Ain’t no way I can do that!” She agreed, so we turned around and gave up on even attempting that trail.

I have another fear, though, that I recently had to confront. It’s a fear that I dread anytime it rears its ugly head and that is the fear of technology. Before you laugh, let me explain. The world of technology is advancing at such an unbelievable pace that it’s just getting harder and harder for us “older” folks to keep up with it all. From computers to laptops to tablets to Kindles to I-pads and I-pods and I-phones and I-clouds and Bluetooth, it just gets a bit overwhelming at times. So when something goes wrong with one of these devices, I kind of panic.

And that’s what happened recently when I had something go wrong with my cell phone. I would look at it and see that it was 80% charged and the next thing I’d know, it had completely lost its charge and had shut itself off. In fact, it was doing this so much that I could no longer rely on it. So one Friday morning when it was really misbehaving I took it to Verizon and, believe it or not, it actually did it for them. So they called their tech support and after asking lots of questions, they determined that the battery was bad, so they would send me a replacement.

The replacement arrived a few days later and it had all these instructions of what I needed to do to transfer all the information from my old phone over to the new one. It also told me what I needed to do with my old phone before I sent it back to them and how I was supposed to package it and what I needed to do with the SIM card it contained. Well, as I was looking over all of that, I could feel that fear of technology creeping in, so guess what I did? I took it to Verizon to see if they could help me. There was a young man standing behind the counter who warmly welcomed me and asked how he could help me. When I told him what I needed help with, he said that he could take care of all of it for me. Almost instantly I felt that fear begin to lift from my shoulders. Then I asked him if he’d be able to transfer everything on my old phone to my new phone. He checked my back-up (which I didn’t even know I had) and saw that it had been backed up the day before, so he said we were good to go. Then he started the process. And while I thought it would take several hours to get the job done, it showed that it would take only 5 minutes. While it was transferring from the old phone to the new phone I asked him about pairing my new phone to my car’s Bluetooth and he said that he could take care of that too. What a great guy…and what a pleasant experience it turned out to be! Whatever fears I had were no longer fears when I left because that young man took them all away.

And so it is with God! In fact, He has taken care of most people’s greatest fear in life which is the fear of death. Over the past week I’ve had the privilege of visiting with two people – one a man and the other a woman – who demonstrated that to me. Both are dealing with cancer, but the man is about to lose his battle. He knows it. I know it. His family knows it. But as we visited, he made it very clear to me that he’s not afraid to die. I think one reason for that is because he and I have had some pretty major discussions recently about how to prepare for death and how when it finally happens to a believer in Jesus Christ it becomes a launching pad, if you will, a promotion, a graduation. In fact, when I left him that day I told him he reminded me a lot of the Apostle Paul who in 1 Corinthians 15:55-57 looks death square in the eye and basically mocks it. He sneers at is as he says: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And when you look at what that victory will mean for us in eternity – no more sin, no more sickness, no more suffering, no more sorrow, no more pain, no more death – not to mention a perfect body, perfect mind, perfect peace, perfect joy, perfect health, perfect surroundings, perfect relationships, it’s no wonder Paul could be so positive and upbeat about death. Elsewhere in Philippians 1:21-23 he writes:” For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”

So I hope you’ve seen that while this sin-cursed world is full of lots of things we can be afraid of – snakes, spiders, cancer, rejection, speaking in public, and even fear of the unknown – the one fear we don’t have to have as long as we are believers in Christ is the fear of death. And when that fear is gone, that pretty well takes care of most any others we might have.

Hoping you have a fearless month,