Monthly Archives: October 2011

When Clarence Odbody Teaches Theology

One of my favorite movies of all time is Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s a Wonderful Life. Though I’ve watched parts of it dozens of times, I could sit down today, enjoy it again, and yes, need a Kleenex for the tears that would undoubtedly roll down my cheeks when George Bailey kisses that stairwell knob, rediscovers Zuzu’s petals, and greets all his friends who bring money to help repay his $8000 “debt” to Potter.

Unfortunately, some people have gotten some of their theology from the movie, and specifically from Clarence Odbody, George Bailey’s guardian angel. He is presented in the film as an Angel Second Class who, if he is able to save George’s life and convince him of the good he’s done for others, he just might earn his wings after 200 years of being unsuccessful. At the end of the movie, with the Bailey family and friends all singing around the Christmas tree, a bell sounds supposedly indicating that Clarence had indeed earned his wings.

It’s a Wonderful Life may be a wonderfully heart-warming movie, but it’s definitely not the source for developing our angelology! Why do I say that? Because of what I’ve read and heard lately by loving, well-meaning people with regard to the death and heavenly promotion of Lydia Byrd last Wednesday. You can read more that her story here and here and her funeral service here. And her mom’s blog can be read here.

Lydia, a few months short of her eighth birthday, did not become an angel when she went to Heaven. Nowhere in the Bible is this even suggested. Angels are angels. People are people. True angels do not earn their wings; they’re created with them to begin with and some have up to six wings (Isa. 6.2).

Yes, lovely Lydia had angelic beauty, but again, she did not become an angel when she went to Heaven. She’s still Lydia. Lydia without pain and suffering. Lydia without anymore tumors. But when her parents one day see her again in glory, she will not have angelic wings or a halo; she will be Lydia.

Do we have any similarities with angels? Yes…

Angels are “persons” in that they have personality and names (though Michael and Gabriel are the only ones we know), they worship God (Heb. 1.6), they rejoice (Rev. 5.11-12), they communicate (Rev. 19.9-10), etc.

Angels are servants of God as are believers (Heb. 1.14; Mt. 4.11).

God’s angels are “elect” (1 Tim. 5.21) as are Christians (2 Tim. 2.10), but only believers are elect with regard to redemption. In fact, salvation history is something that angels find intriguing and want to explore further (1 Pet. 1.12).

Angels even take on human likeness at times and give us an opportunity to show hospitality toward them without being aware of it (see Heb.13.2)! But, that does not mean that we ever become one of them.

Misunderstanding of a few verses has probably contributed to this mistaken notion that people, especially children, become angels after death. For example, Matthew 20.30 states that “in the resurrection [people] neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” Notice it doesn’t say that people become angels, but that they are like them in that believers in their glorified bodies living in the eternal heaven will no longer marry. Angels have never married. Believers in heaven will no longer have spouses either. There is a similarity there, but not equality.

When believers get to heaven they will not mistake some angel for their loved ones. They will see and recognize angels as angels and their saved friends and family as part of redeemed humanity. Let the Bible be your source of authority, not Clarence Odbody.


Posted by on October 31, 2011 in Angels, Bible Study, Heaven, Theology


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Funeral Service for Lydia Byrd

Earlier posts (here and here) focused on Lydia Byrd, a precious 7-year-old young lady who, two years ago, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She went to Heaven about 6:25 am on Wednesday, October 26. Her funeral service was today, October 28. While hundreds attended her funeral, many others wanted to attend but couldn’t. For their benefit in particular, and anyone else who would like to read what was said at the funeral, I’ve posted my comments below.

Funeral Service for Lydia Byrd

October 28, 2011

The following scriptures are some that have been especially meaningful to Willie and Stacey over the past two years…

Isaiah 26:3–4 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

Matthew 11:28–30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Lamentations 3:22–24 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

Psalm 139:16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.


Over 8 years ago, life forever changed for Willie and Stacey Byrd in particular and their family members in general. They got the news that Stacey was pregnant! Growing inside of her was a precious gift from God, a precious little baby girl whose name would be Lydia.

Like all parents they’re hearts were overwhelmed with the joys and yes, the responsibilities, that come with raising a child. Stacey sprung into action planning out how Lydia’s room would be decorated. What would be the theme colors? What pictures would hang on the walls? What kind of baby toys would adorn her room?

Then the day came for Lydia to be welcomed into the world. Stacey wrote about it recently…

As we were traveling down the road at 4 am, my sweet man at the wheel, I was reminded of another middle-of-the-night trip to the hospital. January 30th, 2004 ~ Willie driving and me having labor pains, knowing that soon our precious God-gift, wrapped in the flesh of a baby girl, would be ushered into this world…into our arms.

Holding Lydia in their arms would make them more aware than ever before of just how much their parents loved them. And for the next five years the Byrd house would be a place of joy and peace and love and worship and praise to the Lord for His precious gifts. Yes, gifts because God would a few months later bless Stacey’s womb with another treasure in the form of Luke and then a few years later ole Sam. Five Byrds enjoying life in their “nest.”

Then the Byrds’ Nest would be disturbed in a way that was unforeseen and certainly unplanned by Willie and Stacey. Unknown to them, a tumor was slowing growing that, for the first time, back in September 2009, began to manifest itself in Lydia’s eyes. A battery of tests would confirm what no parent ever wants to hear…your child may very well not survive this.

What? Not survive? What’s going on? While unforeseen and unplanned by Willie and Stacey, this diagnosis was foreseen and yes, even planned by God. Planned by God? For those of you who may bristle at such a statement, I know for a fact that Willie and Stacey do not bristle at it. They believe in the sovereign God of the Scriptures. They believe that He is sovereign over all; otherwise, He is not sovereign at all. They agree with this assessment of God found in Daniel 4.35 [God] does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth…. And this statement written in Psalm 115:3 — Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.

Listen to the written testimony of Willie and Stacey:

He knew even before He made her His plan for her. His perfect plan.

Not 87 years on this earth.

Not 47.

Not 17.


7½ she’d say more precisely. I feel that her 7½ years have not been wasted, but have been used for His glory.  I pray her story will continue to etch His story deep into some hearts.

He doesn’t want us clinging to His gifts, He wants us clinging tightly to Him.

On another occasion, Stacey writes…

Trusting in Him and accepting His perfect will for Lydia frees me from clinging to her, allowing my hand to be held tightly in His as I walk this path.

And on yet another…

I so wish I could pan out from our circumstances at this time to see His story. His perspective. Knowing He has written every day before time even began and that NOTHING takes Him by surprise brings indescribable peace to my soul. Knowing He has purpose in all of this hard stuff gives me strength. When I take my eyes off of Jesus I get anxious and fearful. When I mediate on His promises I am quieted by His love.

And so here we are. God’s plan for Lydia’s earthly life was a 7-year plan…a 7½-year plan. But oh, what a wonderful creation of God was “little Lydia.” Let’s reflect on her for a few moments.

LYDIA…a name purposely chosen by Willie and Stacey, a name that means noble and kind, a person who is friendly, kind and generous, wanting to do what’s right.

LYDIA…I’d like to take her name and use it as an acrostic to reflect further on Lydia’s life.

Lovely – Even a blind person could look at Lydia Byrd and notice her loveliness, her beauty, her innocence. I can’t tell you how often, when thinking about or talking about Lydia, I’ve thought of her with having two first names…Lovely Lydia. Lovely inside and out.

Yearning – Over the past several weeks and even months, if you would have asked Lydia, “If you could go anywhere, where would you most want to go?” her answer would have been, “Heaven.” Now, Disneyworld would have been her second choice, but Heaven was option #1. She developed a yearning for Heaven.

Devoted – Lydia was devoted to the Lord Jesus by her parents. They wanted, more than anything else, the Lord to use Lydia for His glory and honor. No, they had no idea her life would come to a close so soon, but had they known this day would come 7+ years ago, they still would have devoted her to Him.

Interested – Lydia was interested in others. Even at an early age she often was a little evangelist, telling people that they needed Jesus in their life, that they needed to know Him as their Savior. Even as a sick child she was so interested in her brothers and others, often finding incredible delight in going shopping to buy stuff for them. She loved to give things away to others. Sometimes she give expensive stuff away to kids that she didn’t even know that well!

She was quite interested in helping mom and dad teach their sons about the ways of the Lord! She would entice with candy and thereby bribe them to come to her room to teach them the Bible.

Artsy – Lydia had her mom’s artistic flare. She loved bright colors. Painting. Drawing. Making crafts. Scrapbooks. Picture albums. As an artsy person, she loved to collect “treasures”. Rocks, mulch, assorted pieces of mangled plastic, old hair bows, probably thinking, I can use this one day for a neat art project.

LYDIAwhat a lovely girl who yearned for Heaven, having been devoted to the Lord by her parents, who was so interested in others and had such an artsy personality.

Lydia is in Heaven right now. She’s been there since about 6:25 am this past Wednesday. She’s with the Lord Jesus. And one day her body will be resurrected. Her soul will be reunited with a glorified body and she will rise!

Message of comfort…

An ABC News poll a few years ago revealed that 9 out of 10 people in the US say they believe in Heaven. But those who do hold to a belief in Heaven would be quite varied in what they believe Heaven is like and even more so on what is required to get there. For the next few minutes, we’re going to let the Bible be our authoritative source to tell us a few things about Heaven.

The text of Scripture I’m going to focus on will be Revelation 21.1-4 where we are told about a “new Heaven and a new earth.”

1 – The Need for a New Heaven and Earth

This current earth and universe has been corrupted by sin. God’s corresponding curse on sin has made this earth a place where work in tiring, where life is often difficult, where things die, where there is devastation at times. But even though marred by sin, this world is a marvelous place, filled with exquisite beauty. A sunrise at the beach can be captivating. As can a snow-capped mountain range and the underwater marvels on the floor of the ocean.

2 – The Beauty of the New Heaven and Earth (vv.1-2)

When Lydia died this past Wednesday, she went to the “heavenly Jerusalem,” the place where Jesus told His disciples He was preparing for them (John 14.1-3). One day, when God creates the new heaven and the new earth, this “heavenly Jerusalem” will descend and rest on the new earth. It will serve as the dwelling place for all the redeemed for all eternity.

Notice the analogy used to describe the New Jerusalem: as a bride adorned for her husband. There are differences of opinion as to whether the bridal analogy refers to the city, the New Jerusalem, or the people in the city, the bride of Christ. I think it’s safe to say it refers to both. In Isaiah 61.10 God clothes Israel “with garments of salvation…as a bride adorns herself with jewels.” And in Isaiah 62.1-5 we are told that Yahweh will rejoice “as a bridegroom over his bride.”

A young lady’s wedding day is typically the day above all others that she adorns herself with a beautiful dress, appropriate make-up, and her hair perfectly prepared. When her husband sees her he is blown away with her beauty and loveliness.

Though the Lydia we all loved is in heaven, her body is in this casket, and she’s dressed in white…just like a bride typically dresses in white on her wedding day. And while Willie will not have the privilege to walk her down a wedding aisle, Jesus, Lydia’s bridegroom, already has! He came and took her to himself on Wednesday. And one day, she, along will all of the redeemed, will descend in the New Jerusalem to the New Earth and there we will live forever.

3 – The Occupants of the New Heaven and Earth (v.3, “them…His people”)

The New Heaven and Earth will be occupied only by those who know Christ Jesus as their Savior and Lord.

Could it be that one of God’s sovereign purposes in taking Lydia to Heaven at such a young age was to use her life and death to draw you unto Himself and help you recognize your need of salvation? Could it be that Willie and Stacey’s incredible stewardship of God’s grace is being used and will be used to help people realize I need Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord?

Oh, folks, if we could peer into Heaven even now and see lovely Lydia, she would, with even greater interest in your well being, plead with you to trust Jesus like she did and like her parents do!

Lydia will be reunited with her mom and dad, with all of her loved ones who know the Savior!

I beg you on the Byrds’ behalf, repent of your sin, humble yourself and cry out in desperation for forgiveness of your sin. Trust in Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior.

4 – The Benefits of the New Heaven and Earth (v.4)

Think about all the reasons we cry…

  • When we’re hungry and/or thirsty
  • When we want attention
  • When we’re heartbroken
  • When we’re mistreated
  • When we’re in pain
  • When we’re suffering
  • When we’re in sorrow
  • When we’re sick
  • When we’re disappointed
  • When we’ve lost the big game
  • When we’ve lost our possessions due to a flood, tornado, or hurricane
  • When we’re desperate for help
  • When we’re lost
  • When we’re sympathizing or empathizing with others who are hurting
  • When we sin…because we’ve broken God’s heart
  • When we’re not going to see someone for a long time…like soldiers leaving for the battlefield or our children going off to college
  • When our loved ones and friends DIE…

All these reasons for crying are because we live in a sin-sick, sin-cursed world. One day that is all going to change! One day the Sovereign God of Heaven and earth will forever remove the debilitating effects of sin and suffering! Death will be no more! One day there will be everlasting, uninterrupted joy and bliss! One day heaven and earth finally will be united! One day Willie and Stacey will be reunited with Lydia! One day her family and friends who know Jesus will be reunited with Lydia. And so shall we ever be with the Lord!

Personal words of commendation…

Willie and Stacey, your parental love and care of Lydia was outstanding, exemplary is every way. Ms. Brenda, Mr. and Mrs. Byrd, thank you for your “grand-parenting comfort”. Greg and Shelly, you guys, and especially you Shelly, as Stacey’s only sibling, you were fantastic. You were there when they needed you.

On behalf of Willie and Stacey, “Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who helped in so many ways on so many occasions. Their debt of gratitude will ever be repaid, nor should it be attempted, but, again, thank you from the bottom of their collective hearts.”

Willie and Stacey, on behalf of the body of Christ, I would like to publicly commend you for being good stewards of God’s grace. It has been an incredibly hard two years, but you have faithfully tapped into God’s grace, you have consistently gone to the Word of God and found solace there, you have so often allowed the Holy Spirit to shape and mold you further into the image of your Savior. And I just want to thank you for setting a good example of how Christians go through the valley of the shadow of death and still cling to their Lord and seek to glorify Him in everything.

Closing prayer


Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Children, Death, Family, Heaven, Parenting Children


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The Princess Bride and the Bible

If you could get away with it…

  • Would you rob a bank?

  • Would you steal from your favorite department store?

  • Would you commit adultery?

  • Would you steal your friend’s boyfriend/girlfriend?

  • Would you punch your enemy in the face?

  • Would you at least do bodily harm to that person who hurt you recently or back when you were in college?

  • Would you kill someone?

If you answered “No” to any or all of these scenarios, then why do you mistreat those you love the most? Your spouse, your children, your parents, your friends, your church family members… Because you’ve sinfully assumed you can get away with it.

Familiarity breeds contempt…

“Familiarity breeds contempt.” What exactly does that mean? One online dictionary says, “People do not respect someone they know well enough to know his or her faults.”

Obviously, familiarity does not breed contempt in the early stages of a budding relationship. In my relationship with my wife the more I got to know her — faults, weaknesses and all (which weren’t very many; I had FAR more!) — the more I grew to love her. My familiarity with her did not breed contempt; it bred a desire to spend the rest of my life with her!

How tragic that familiarity, which can initially breed passion and deep love, later becomes the presumed basis upon which we think we can mistreat someone and get away with it.

How sad when we subconsciously (or worse, consciously) think, I can treat my spouse however I want to cause at the end of the day, they’ve not going anywhere. Or, I can treat my parents with contempt and they’ll still be my parents when the sun comes up tomorrow. Or, I can mistreat my best friend and they’ll get over it simply cause that’s what best friends do.

Jesus’ invitation to play by a different rule…

For believers, we must operate by a different standard! I’m afraid we too often take biblical truth and fail to apply closest to home or even in our home. We let it stay in some sterile, generic form. Take, for example, the “Golden Rule” as found in Matthew 7.12: Jesus said, “Whatever you wish that others would to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” For a moment, let the “others” and the “them” represent your family members, your spouse and/or children. Apply it to those closest to you.

As you wish…

I’m a big fan of “The Princess Bride,” the story of a beautiful young woman named Buttercup who lives on a farm in the fictional country of Florin. Whenever she gives her farmhand Westley an order, he always answers, “As you wish”. Eventually they fall in love and…well, you’ll have to watch the movie for yourself. Now, let’s escape reality. Let’s do what? That’s right “escape reality” and think like Buttercup’s Westley. Jesus did not say to treat others according to how they treat you. He said to treat others as you wish they would treat you! So ask yourself, “How do I want my spouse to treat me? How do I want my parents to treat me?” Then…treat them that way! You’ll put a smile on the Lord’s face, guaranteed.


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Giving to Make a Difference – Part 2

In my last post (you can read it here), I shared three ways to give in order to make a difference in the lives of others. In this post I will simply state the first three main points by way of review and then share the other four ways believers should give.

In order to make a difference in the financial advancement of God’s kingdom…

1 – Give Responsively (in response to God’s grace, vv.1-2)

2 – Give Generously (“overflowed…in generosity,” v.2)

3 – Give Proportionately (“they gave according to their means,” v.3a)

4 – Give Sacrificially (“they gave beyond their means,” v.3b)

So they gave what they had but they gave it in proportions that were sacrificial. Their giving was beyond what could or would be expected of such poor Christians. Evidently they trusted God to supply their needs while they did their best to be used of God to help meet others’ needs (Phil. 4.19).

Sacrifice. I wonder how many of us even know what that word means? By definition, sacrifice is “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.”

How many of us are willing to give up a valuable piece of property for the more important cause of Christ?

How many of us are willing to forgo that planned new car purchase for the more important advancement of God’s kingdom?

How many of us are willing to take some of that valuable inheritance and give it to the more worthy cause of getting the gospel to the regions beyond?

Bob Russell, retired pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, tells of Jackie Nelson giving a moving testimony several years ago:

Jackie said, “I am a single mother of three teenagers. My ex-husband does not help. I barely get by. We really want to do our part in this three-year campaign so our new building can be built. But when we discussed it as a family, we realized that we can’t give any more than a tithe. So we decided that our gift would be to pray every day for the success of this program.

“But in the middle of our discussion my oldest son said, ‘Mom, we’ve got cable television. We don’t have to have that.’ So we’ve decided to give up our cable TV for three years so we can do our part.”

The congregation realized, “If she can make that kind of sacrifice to give a little, we who are so blessed can do even more.” Like the five loaves and two fish that Jesus used to feed a multitude, God took Jackie’s small gift and multiplied it many times over.

5 – Give Voluntarily (“of their own accord,” v.3c)

No one forced them to give. They weren’t strong armed into giving. Paul didn’t put them on some emotional guilt trip. He didn’t try to manipulate them. He simply shared the realities behind the need. He told the truth about the condition of their fellow believers. And they responded! Paul didn’t bribe anyone. He didn’t promise, “If you’ll plant a seed…” (I could very easily vent here!).

God has always desired free will giving. Giving that is done because we choose to give and (hopefully) want to give (see Exodus 25.1-2; 35.21-22).

6 – Give Eagerly (“begging us earnestly…,” v.4)

Remember Arnold Horshack on the TV sitcom “Welcome Back, Kotter”? He’s the one who got so excited when he thought he knew an answer to one of Mr. Kotter’s questions. With his hand raised, he would say, “Ooh-ooh-ooooh!”

I see the Macedonians responding similarly. “Ooh-ooh-oooo! We want to help! “Ooh-ooh-ooooh! We want to give!” Do you ever feel that way when the offering plate in passed at your church? Or do you grumble under your breath, “There they go passing the plate AGAIN!”

7 – Give Worshipfully (vv.5-7)

Notice especially verse 5 where Paul says that they “they gave themselves first to the Lord.” They gave themselves (again) to the Lord in total consecration. Their surprising generosity is a direct result of their dedicating themselves to their Savior.

Motivation is where the money is…

One of Paul’s goals in stirring up the Corinthians to give is to verify the genuine nature of their love as Christians: “I say this… to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine” (2 Cor. 8:8).

In other words, “talk is cheap!” “Put your money where your mouth is!” But don’t forget, the amount of money you give is not nearly as important as the motivation for giving. This becomes abundantly clear when we read 1 Cor. 13.3, “If I give away all I have…but have not love, I gain nothing.”

Giving to others may or may not be an act of love, depending on whether it is motivated by the overflowing joy that flows from being made “rich” by Christ and His amazing grace!

The Macedonians learned what Jim Elliot, the great missionary martyr in Ecuador would later say, “He is no fool who gives away what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

Treasures stored in Heaven need no insurance coverage; they’re untouchable by thieves and exempt from depreciation (Mt 6.19-21).


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Giving to Make a Difference

When you go to a doctor for your annual check-up, he or she will often begin to poke, prod, and press various places, all the while asking, “Does this hurt? How about this?” If you cry out in pain, one of two things has happened. Either the doctor has pushed too hard, without the right sensitivity. Or, more likely, there’s something wrong, and the doctor will say, “We’d better do some more tests. It’s not supposed to hurt there.”

Similarly, when we hear preaching on money and giving, we may cry out in discomfort because either the pastor “pushed” inappropriately, or because there’s an issue in our lives that needs to be addressed. If the Great Physician started doing some “poking and prodding” into your finances and how you manage your money, would it be a painful experience for you?

In 2 Corinthians 8-9 Paul focuses on the money that was being raised to help poor Christians in Jerusalem. While we can’t say for certain, they were probably poverty stricken because of famine, persecution, and the harsh taxation policies of the Roman government. Paul is now challenging the Corinthians to “pull their weight” and excel in this act of grace giving as well.

Paul uses the Macedonian Christians (at Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea) as his model for giving. These believers were giving to make a difference! They set an example for the Corinthians, and they set an example for us today. In this post I will focus on 2 Cor. 8.1-7 and share three of the seven ways to give in order to make a difference.

In order to make a difference in the financial advancement of God’s kingdom…

1 – Give Responsively (in response to God’s grace, vv.1-2)

These Macedonian believers did not give simply because they were nice people, or because they felt sorry for the Jerusalem believers. They didn’t give just to silence a guilty conscience. No, they gave because God gave (John 3.16)! They gave because of their experience of God’s amazing grace.

What a difference grace makes! By it we are saved. By it we are sustained. By it and because of it we serve, witness, sing, pray, and GIVE!

“But…!” There are no “buts” allowed. People who know Christ and have experienced His salvific grace, are to be people who give. Period.

Two non-factors that basically eliminate the “Buts!”

(1) Difficult circumstances (“in a great trial of affliction,” 2a)

These believers were tried and tested by affliction in ways that probably none of us ever will. The “fire of their furnace” burned hot. Their suffering was severe.

Like the crushing of grapes in a wine press or the pressure exerted in a heavy-duty vice, they were going through the hardest times of their lives. But, even in the midst of the “great trial of affliction” there was also “the abundance of their joy.” They counted it an honor and a joy to be so identified with Jesus that they were treated not unlike He was…with hatred and contempt.

Their joy ran so deep it was not being negated by their perilous circumstances. They took spiritual antibodies that kept them immune from the “poor me syndrome,” and they still gave!

(2) Limited resources (“and their deep poverty,” 2b)

There’s a huge difference between their true poverty and our potential debt-related poverty. Their poverty appears to be due to no fault of their own. Yours may be because of covetousness, greed, and financially-foolish decisions. It’s a shame when believers get themselves in such financial binds that their ability to give is greatly hindered.

Limited resources may affect the amount Christians give, but it should never affect the act of giving (see Luke 21.1-4).

2 – Give Generously (“overflowed…in generosity,” v.2)

In 1999 eastern NC experienced “the flood of the century” as a result of Hurricanes Dennis and Floyd (the saying was “Dennis was a menace but Floyd destroyed!”). Stretches of the Tar River, which runs through several counties, crested at 24 feet above flood stage! Water was everywhere! That’s the exact imagery Paul has in mind when he says that the Macedonians’ giving overflowed! Their “overflow” was a good thing, however, not a destructive one.

No matter how much money you actually own, you can be a generous giver. Generosity is not directly tied to the amount of the gift. A person can give a huge amount of money and be stingy at the exact same time.

By the way, my daughter Jena has been a waitress for nearly five years, working in four different restaurants. Guess which shift she least wants to work? Sunday lunch. You know why? Because so many of the “church crowd” are horrible tippers! Generally speaking, Christians should be the most generous people around because they are the beneficiaries of God’s phenomenal and eternal generosity.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

3 – Give Proportionately (“they gave according to their means,” v.3a)

It doesn’t say they all gave a certain percentage. There’s no percentage mentioned at all. They simply did the best they could with what they had. Even while struggling financially themselves, they still gave as they were able (see this same principle in 1 Cor. 16.1-2).

There are four other ways to give to make a difference that are learned from this passage. My next post will deal with numbers 4-7.


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Don’t Die Twice!!

Biographer: Jobs refused early and potentially life-saving surgery:

Apple CEO Steve Jobs refused to allow surgeons to perform what could have been life-saving surgery on his pancreatic cancer, says his biographer Walter Isaacson. In one of his deepest discussions with him, Isaacson says Jobs told him he regretted his decision to try alternative therapies and said he put off the operation because it was too invasive.

Isaacson reveals these and many other inner thoughts of the man who entrusted him with the writing of his life story in the upcoming book, “Steve Jobs.” The author talks to Steve Kroft in his first interview about Jobs, the late technology visionary whose innovative products like the Macintosh, iPhone and iPad changed the world. The interview will be broadcast on “60 Minutes,” Sunday, Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

“I’ve asked [Jobs why he didn’t get an operation then] and he said, ‘I didn’t want my body to be opened…I didn’t want to be violated in that way,'” Isaacson recalls. So he waited nine months, while his wife and others urged him to do it, before getting the operation, reveals Isaacson. Asked by Kroft how such an intelligent man could make such a seemingly stupid decision, Isaacson replies, “I think that he kind of felt that if you ignore something, if you don’t want something to exist, you can have magical thinking…we talked about this a lot,” he tells Kroft. “He wanted to talk about it, how he regretted it…. I think he felt he should have been operated on sooner.”

He finally had the surgery and told his employees about it, but played down the seriousness of his condition. Isaacson says he was receiving cancer treatments in secret even though he was telling everyone he was cured.

Steve Jobs “waited too late” for a potentially life-saving surgery. Consequently, he died.

Those who wait too late for soul-saving “surgery” will also die…twice. Twice?! Yes…

First death:

Lungs stop breathing. Heart stops beating. Kidneys and liver stop filtering. Brain stops executing. Body dies and decomposes. The soul is separated from the body. This “first death” is the common lot of all humanity.

For believers in Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord, the first death is actually a blessing. Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” and “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better” (Phil. 1.21, 23) and “…we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8).

When Christians die, their soul immediately goes to Heaven to be with Christ. Jesus told the dying thief, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23.43). When Jesus Christ returns, all believers will receive resurrection bodies that will never again be subject to sickness, weakness, death, or even aging (1 Cor. 15.50-57; Rev. 21.4)!

Second death:

The soul is separated from God forever. The soul of an unbeliever goes to Hades immediately upon that person’s “first death”. At the Great White Throne Judgment (Rev. 20.11-15), the souls of all unbelievers will be reunited with their resurrection bodies, judged according to their works, and then cast into the lake of fire, and experience the “second death.”

Steve Jobs died once. That’s a fact that captured the world’s attention. I cannot speak authoritatively about whether or not he was prepared for death. What I do know is this: Only those who know Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord are prepared for death. Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).

When a person puts their faith and trust in Jesus, their name is written in Book of Life. “And if anyone’s name [is] not found written in the book of life, he [is] thrown into the lake of fire (Rev. 20:15). Is it any wonder then why Paul wrote, “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation (2 Cor. 6:2). Repent while you can. Trust Christ while you can. Please don’t “wait too late”!

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Posted by on October 21, 2011 in Death, Heaven, Hell, Jesus Christ, Salvation


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When you’re 7-year-old is dying…continued

A few days ago I shared part of a blog post written by a dear friend whose 7-year-old daughter is dying from brain tumors (read that post here). Each day brings new challenges for Willie and Stacey as they lovingly care for their daughter, Lydia, and tenaciously cling to their faith in the sovereign God of the universe. Here is another excerpt written on Tuesday, October 18 (read the Byrds’ Nest blog here). Read it and cry with them. Read it and pray for them. Read it and marvel at God’s sustaining grace…


I think yesterday ranks as the hardest day of my life. September 11th, 2009, diagnosis day, was a day of shock, but yesterday was just plain hard. Witnessing her in pain is too much to bear. As we were traveling down the road at 4 am, my sweet man at the wheel, I was reminded of another middle-of-the-night trip to the hospital.

January 30th, 2004 ~ Willie driving and me having labor pains, knowing that soon our precious God-gift, wrapped in the flesh of a baby girl, would be ushered into this world…into our arms. Yesterday morning ~ Willie at the wheel, me hovering over her ~ me, with pains of my heart and her, with pains in her precious head, wondering if we would soon be giving her back to Him…into His arms.

I hovered over her, kissing her head and whisper-praying to our Father, “Lord, please take away her pain.  Take her if you want. She’s yours anyway, but thank you for letting us have her for a little bit. You can take so much better care of her than I can.” Don’t get me wrong, I love her with ever fiber of my being, but trying to make her stay on this broken earth just doesn’t seem right. Not when we know she wants to go Home. She’s expressed to us in many sweet, precious ways that she longs to be in heaven. To be free from these tumors. To be free from this painful world.

He knew even before He made her His plan for her.
His perfect plan.
Not 87 years on this earth.
Not 47.
Not 17.
7½ she’d say more precisely. I feel that her 7½ years have not been wasted, but have been used for His glory. I pray her story will continue to etch His story deep into some hearts.

He doesn’t want us clinging to His gifts,

He wants us clinging tightly to Him.

My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me. –Psalm 63:8


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Posted by on October 20, 2011 in Children, Death, Parenting Children


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