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Trust Issues
Trust Issues

G. Scott Patterson • August 28, 2019

As I write this (8/28/19), we at Gaston Christian Church are finishing up the Trust Issues series while Reidsville is just starting it. (I was supposed to introduce it to you when I preached there, but I forgot.)

 

For me, trust is an easy thing to talk about, even do, when there is no “threat” right in front of me. Let me share one of my recent reminders that I am not at all different from those scared, “ye-of-little-faith” disciples in a storm-tossed boat on the Sea of Galilee (see Matthew 8:26 and Matt. 14:31)

 

My wife is a Pediatric Home Care Nurse. She works regular shifts with a single patient (although she has many different patients), as opposed to making many short visits during her day. She works for two different nursing agencies to ensure that she has steady work.    She is also a Mary Kay consultant (this is not a shameless plug; it is part of the story).

 

Most of the time, my wife works a day shift. Her hours vary depending on the needs and hours available for her clients. She has some “regular” clients and hours, but not too long ago, she committed to full time with one of her agencies because we needed the benefits that come with being full time. Because many of the other nurses also have steady clients, she has been filling in and picking up hours whenever she can. A couple of weeks ago, that meant covering for two night nurses who were going to be on vacation. Although she occasionally works a night shift, she was scheduled for five nights in a row, at two different homes, and the hours varied each night. Wednesday night was 11-7, Thursday was 10-7, Friday was 10-8 … Friday night is the night in question.

 

Although I try to keep track, I often forget what her hours are or where she is going (how long it will take her to get there/get home).

 

It is Friday night (into Saturday morning), third night of the five-day night shift stretch. 

 

6:00am (oh, by the way, although the times vary by a few minutes +/- and although I am prone to embellishment and exaggeration for the sake of emphasis, this IS what happened and how it happened).

 

6:00am … in my “dreams” I hear my phone bling with a new message … it is just enough to wake me and a minute or two later I think, “Maybe that wasn’t a dream; maybe I need to check it?” So I rouse myself awake enough to check my phone – yes, the blue message light is blinking. “Who is texting me at 6:00am on a Saturday morning? (Could be Shannon ... if it is, we need to have a talk!)” It was an alert from an Identity Protection service I had recently signed up for; it wasn’t even a real alert, it was some information message about something … I lay there for 15 minutes reminding myself to turn off alerts for that service … finally, I drift back to sleep.

 

6:30am … in my “dreams” again, I hear a crash, bang or thud (as if something hit or slapped the side of the house). This time I get up more quickly – if it was not a dream, I need to investigate. No bad guys in the house. Nothing fallen or broken that I can tell. Probably a bird flying into a window or my son’s arm hitting the wall in his sleep, or it was just in my dreams.

 

I go back to bed … maybe I can catch a few more Zzz’s …

 

7:00am (again, I am NOT exaggerating!), I hear an alarm go off (wake-up alarm). “Why did my son set his alarm?” I get up. It is not coming from his room. I walk down the hall to the bonus room from where the sound is coming from. There, in a drawer of one of those plastic storage things, was a small travel alarm clock going off. My son had been home since the end of June.  It is now the middle of August. We had never heard this alarm go off before and it was sitting in this drawer. Weird! (I turned it off.)

 

As I returned to bed, I wondered, “Is God trying to wake me up?” I asked God. I thought. I pondered. I waited. Nothing landed heavy on my heart or mind. Maybe just a string of coincidences …

 

I went back to bed … not expecting to fall asleep, but I think I dozed off … because …

 

7:30am, my phone alarm rings.  Now I know many people use their phones as their alarm clock. I do not. When I travel, yes. But never (almost never) at home. I turned it off. (Before I forget, the previous Sunday I had set it as a back-up and I guess I had set it for Saturday and Sunday without knowing it, but that morning, I could not remember the last time I had used my phone alarm).

 

By now, I was awake and was going to stay awake … but I just laid in bed. Meribeth would be home soon, in fact, it was almost 7:45, when she was normally expected to be home. I didn’t want to yell; I didn’t want to get out of bed for no good reason (again!), so I texted her, “(are you) Home?” No reply.

 

No biggie. She’s not supposed to text and drive. 

 

By the way, if you are waiting for some big reveal, some “goose bump” moment, it isn’t coming. All that was just to let you know my frame of mind; that the day had begun with multiple, unexplained disruptions, for which I was mildly looking for some added, perhaps even supernatural, reason.

 

8:00am, she is still not home; still has not answered my “Home?” text. But it is Saturday morning and most of the time when she works a Friday night shift, she stops and picks up breakfast for us all. That MUST be what she is doing. But if she stopped, she should have seen – and responded to - my text …

 

I decided to go downstairs to feed the cats and wait on Meribeth. I checked the calendar; she was working until 8, not 7. That’s why she wasn’t home yet; that’s why she hadn’t texted yet. Relief! (but only temporarily).

 

I did a few morning chores; it was now 8:15. Safe for me to call her; she should have left work; besides, this is her “regular” patient; the parents know her, like her; if I call after her shift is over and she is still there, they won’t be upset. I called. No answer. I did not leave a voicemail. No need; I’ve texted. She will see the missed call. She will call me. Sometimes she stays and chats with the mom for a few. That must be what’s going on.

 

8:30 – I call again. No answer.

 

Well, if she forgot to take her phone off of silent, and it’s in her purse, that would explain it. I’ll wait a few more minutes. I don’t want to call every 15 minutes … I’ll wait 17.

 

8:54 … no answer. Well, if phone is on silent, then … wait a minute! She’s in her car! She has Bluetooth, it will ring in her car even if on silent! Besides, if she left at 8, she should be home now, or at least soon!

 

9:06 – no answer, no text … this is getting disconcerting …

 

9:17 – by now, she SHOULD be home, even with breakfast, if not, there is a boatload of “missed calls” on her phone for her to see and KNOW that I am concerned!

 

 

Although I haven’t mentioned it yet, though my “play-by-play” should have tipped you off that I am getting anxious, nervous, worried, etc., I AM getting anxious, nervous, worried, upset …

 

What could be wrong?

 

1)     She’s been in a car accident. This is the MOST likely scenario! What else could it be? In fact, it had to be such a terrible accident that she cannot use her phone! No, no, no … don’t think like that … what ELSE could it be?


2)     Her patient got sick and had to go to the hospital or she is busy with both hands keeping him alive! (Although her patient is very stable, he has gotten sick before and while this is more likely than option #1, I quickly dispatched it out of mind …)


3)     Nope. It MUST be the accident. She’s dead. How will I tell the boys? How will I tell her mom? What do I need to do first?


4)     WAIT!!! I don’t need to jump to that conclusion … perhaps call the Highway Patrol? Or the area Hospitals. I should start with the one where LifeFlight lands and has the best trauma unit …


5)     No, Scott, that’s silly. You are letting your imagination run wild. She will roll her eyes at my crazy thoughts! 

 

9:23 – I call again … but this time, I prepare myself for a police officer or EMT to answer her phone. No answer. Surely THEY have seen my name appear on her screen and someone can call me back and tell me the location of the accident or which hospital they have transported her to!

 

Should I wake up Bryan now – so he can get dressed? Because if I wait until they call me, it will take him 10 minutes or so to get dressed … wait, I need to get ready too!

 

I make the call – no answer; Got in the shower, but with my phone just outside, just in case.

 

I had worked myself into a real lather by this point (and I’m not talking about the Ocean Breeze Shower Gel kind!). I was CERTAIN nothing but bad news was awaiting me and my sons regarding my wife, their mother.

 

Then, it hit me. “Why haven’t I PRAYED about this?” (In my defense, I did offer a quick prayer for my wife’s patient when I thought that maybe he had gotten sick causing her extended delay.)  But other than wondering, “Is God waking me up for some purpose?” as I walked bleary-eyed to the bonus room to turn off the rogue alarm clock, I hadn’t really at all talked to God about my morning, about my fears, about my anxiety. Not even a prayer for my wife’s (unfounded, unneeded) recovery from the coma she was obviously in by this point! 

 

I prayed. I confessed. Mostly, I confessed.

 

9:33 I call again. Still no answer.


Yes, I was still worried and wondering why my 7:45 text had yet to be unanswered or my 11 or so missed calls, but at the root of it all, I was guilty of not turning to God and trusting that, no matter what the reason – innocent or not, trauma-caused or not – I had failed to take it to the One who said, “Come to Me … and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)

 

Why is trust so hard? Why is trust so hard FOR ME?

 

What is trust anyway? Was I, are we, just supposed to whistle while we feed the cats and not even wonder why our wife (or husband or child) is an hour late from work after their third all-nighter in a row?  I do not think (1) God calls us to “ignore” those fears or feelings of anxiety. A young child lost in a department store or a teenager hour’s late for his or her curfew ought to raise our parental alarms. Mary and Joseph did not say, “Oh well” when they discovered Jesus missing (Luke 2:41-52). They went and searched for Him. The father of the prodigal son regularly searched the horizon for the return of his son (Luke 15:20). The trust we are to have is not in conflict when someone we love is in trouble or goes missing.

 

However, our fears, our anxiety should not overtake us or control us. Nor should it cause us to question the goodness of God. Instead, when those moments arise (and they will!), we need to remember to pray and to trust.

 

“God, no matter what the outcome, even if it is as bad as my runaway, crazy imagination, you are still God, MY God and Father, and You will be by my side; You will be faithful. Now, please help me to find peace; please resolve this situation in my favor.”

 

I still think it is hard to define – or make tangible – what trust is. For me, it is easier to see when I am not trusting.

 

·  When I fail to remember that God is with me.

·  When I fail to pray about it.

·  When I allow my anxiety to beat out of my chest, let my thought run uncontrollable wild.

·  When all I think of is the worst-case scenario, or better still, when I think the worst-case scenario is all about stuff here on earth rather than eternity, then I know my trust is lacking

 

I need constant reminding that “He will never leave me nor forsake me.” (Hebrews 13:5) I need to be in constant contact with my Father through prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). I need to look for, and expect to “see” Jesus in the middle of my storm, in the middle of the night, in the middle of my fears and anxiety instead of being surprised when He says, “It is I!” (Matthew 14:27)

 

At 9:38, almost an hour after her expected arrival time, almost 2 hours after my first attempt to contact her that morning, Meribeth called. The signal was bad – we got cut off and had to call back and forth several times, but I heard enough to know she was ok.

 

On her way home, my wife needed to drop off some Mary Kay at a friend’s house. Normally they have a pre-arranged drop box for this (which is why I told you it was Mary Kay so you wouldn’t think it was a drug drop or money laundering!), but instead her friend, her VERY CHATTY friend, met her at the door. Then her husband came out … and for AN HOUR, she talked to my wife. Meribeth had left her phone in the car, thinking she was just going to walk to the front door and back. She said she had been walking (or trying to walk) to her car for more than thirty minutes! (I know this friend and I know how chatty she can be – I know that’s how it played out.)  

 

I never did ask her why she didn’t reply to my first text or answer the phone while she was en route to her friend’s house, assuming I had called during that time – which given the frequency of my calls, I should have! I was just relieved that 1) she was safe and 2) it wasn’t because she was deliberately ignoring me or mad at me or any of those things.

 

 

 _______________________________________________________________

 

(1) I am cautious to ever say, “I think _______ ” because what I think doesn’t really matter. I want to give you solid, Biblical truth without opinion, but sometimes the Bible is silent on certain nuances. Please take what “I think” as, perhaps, wisdom gained over the years, but in no way equal to God’s revealed truth. I am very aware of what Jesus clearly says in Matthew 6:31 and Matt. 6:34 and do not want to run afoul of His teaching. But there must also be a, “How do you do that?” answer.

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Big Finish!
Big Finish!

Shannon L. Newsome • August 17, 2019

For the record: I hate to run.


No matter what you might surmise from anything that you read me write, hear me say, or see me do... and despite what my wife might naively tell you, the truth is, I hate to run.


Maybe hate is too strong a word, since a lot of my family runs. Both of my sisters run, participating in 5Ks, marathons, and Ironman triathlons, while my nephew has competed in at least two Spartan races this year.


However, until a year ago, the only two times I had ever set out to just run - once in Georgia during my first ministry and once in Reidsville when I was new in town... so, both over 30 years ago - ended with me bent over on the side of the road, losing weight in a way that most doctors simply would not recommend.


In fact, while the header image looks much "cooler," this image is definitely more accurate:



I hate to run.


This past Thursday morning, after moving my son into his college dorm the day before, facilitating a small group that evening, and visiting in the hospital that night, when my wife's alarm went off at 4:15 AM (Yes Virginia, there is a 4:15 in the morning, and it just so happens to be one of the few times in both of our schedules that is free!) ...


I digress. When the cruel alarm sounded, I can't tell you how much I hated the thought of getting up to run, as well as how much I wanted to "run over" the sick, demented individual who first came up with the idea of running for leisure/sport/exercise.


But we ran. Or rather, we walked/ran (and for the purposes of this post, run and walk/run are synonymous).


Have I mentioned that I hate to run?


And yet, I run, not because I love to run, and certainly not because I am a fast runner (although I did finish second in my age division in my last 5K. A cynic would, at this point, mention that there were only two runners in that division, but hey, second is still second!).


No, I run because I love the benefits of running, including the (hopefully) healthier lifestyle, the 5K t-shirts, spending together-time with my wife doing our "thing" (which this summer has included our son), praying for certain people as I pass their house, and of course, the numbers.


I absolutely love the numbers. And when it comes to running, there are all kinds of numbers - distance, pace, and time, just to name a few.


Now, I understand that it's simply not realistic for each run to be better, time-wise, than the previous run, but there is still that push from my competitive side to try and make it so. Which means that at some point in the last minute or two of our runs, I usually shout out to my wife, "Don't give up. Big finish!"


I tell you all that to tell you the same thing: Don't give up. Big finish!


wrote back in January that to get the change I want for my life, I need to do something. It's not just going to happen on its own. To that end, I listed seven measurable "goals" to help get me to where I want to be.


Sadly, of my seven, I am probably only on-pace with two (numbers 2 and 4, for those keeping score).


It's almost September. Almost two-thirds of 2019 is gone, and yet I am encouraging me (and you, if you have any plans or goals for the year that are still unfinished) ... I am encouraging all of us to finish big. Rather than get lazy, or quit, or simply wait until 2020 to rehash my unrealized "goals" from this year, I need to pursue all seven as much as possible over the last four months of this year!


Don't give up. Big finish!


Speaking of 2019, Reidsville Christian and Gaston Christian have been about Just Jesus all year as we've studied through the gospel of Matthew. Our churches' goal has been to know Jesus better than we know ourselves. With four months left, but almost half of Matthew remaining, there is still plenty left for each of us to learn about Jesus.


So, if you haven't read Matthew's gospel, it's not too late to start. If you've already read it a time or two this year, read it again. Using this schedule, you've still got time to read it twice.


And now that the summer is over, vacations are done, and school is starting back, we hope to see you as many Sunday mornings as possible.


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us." (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).


Don't give up. Big finish!

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Judged by a T, Saved by a ♰
Judged by a T, Saved by a ♰

Shannon L. Newsome • June 25, 2019

"That road you're on is crowded, boy. Do you know where you're going? You're going to Hell, son!"


It was the summer of '79 (not '69, no matter what Bryan Adams says). I was 15 years old, and I was on the beach in Charleston, S.C.


"You're going to Hell, son!"


Never mind that I was there with my church youth group, in town to attend the Southern Christian Youth Convention. I had been singled out for a verbal assault about my eternal destination.


"You're going to Hell, son!"


Now, to be completely transparent, I was wearing a black, three-quarter-length sleeve baseball t-shirt with some rock-and-roll slogan on it (sorry - it's been too long to remember. I do know that it looked a whole lot less lame than the picture above). I had seen the shirt in a bar on the boardwalk the day before and, because I wasn't old enough to go into the bar myself, had asked one of my sponsors to buy it for me.


Okay, that was pretty transparent.


But the shirt was pretty tame. I mean, I know for a fact there was nothing on it about sex and drugs. I could never have brought that home and hoped to have it washed, much less wear it again, even to mow the backyard!


And yet, the rebuke was pretty public, and pretty loud:


"You're going to Hell, son!"


Maybe you've had a similar experience. Maybe, like me, it was a street-corner (or boardwalk-corner) preacher with fire in his eyes and anger in his voice. Or maybe it was some well-intentioned (or not so well-intentioned) friend or co-worker.


Whatever your experience, it's possible that it is all brought back to the surface when you read Jesus' words in Matthew 7:


"You can enter God's Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose that way." (Matthew 7:13 NLT)


It certainly sounds like Jesus is talking about an eternal destination, doesn't it? But what if that wasn't His only intent?


You know, when I first had the idea for our JustJesus blog, my thoughts were that it would be a good outlet for Scott and I to dig deeper into Matthew in a way that we couldn't on Sunday mornings, or to address any text that we didn't get the chance to deal with.


It's the latter in this post, because somehow, at RCC, we completely missed teaching Matthew 7:13-14, not because it is controversial, and not for fear of offending anyone. No, we just missed it. just missed it.


So, if you will, join me for a few moments in a study of this powerful (and maybe misunderstood) text.


I grew up hearing Jesus' words from the NIV:


"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destructions, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14 NIV84)


Before we go any further, here's a quick original language lesson from somebody who only had one semester of Greek (and made the "Delta" Society, not in a good way).


The word Jesus uses for broad can also be translated "easy." The word narrow can also be translated "hard" or "difficult." And the word road comes from the Greek word ὁδός (hŏdŏs), which can be translated as "way."


All three of those choices were used in the English Standard Version's translation:


"Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)


That Greek word hŏdŏs, or way, appears exactly 100 times in the ESV. While Matthew uses it more than any other writer, the word is used in thirteen different New Testament books by at least nine different writers. In addition, for many early Christians, Jesus' teachings, including the Sermon on the Mount, were simply known as the way.


The imagery is that Jesus, as our Rabbi, is out in front on the road of life, while we, His disciples, His followers, are behind Him, staying close to Him by following His teachings. In fact, long before the church was ever called the church, Christians were called "followers of the Way." (Acts 9:2)


So, for the early Christian community, Matthew chapters 5, 6, and 7 - the Sermon on the Mount - was an important road map for them to navigate the road of life. And at the end of His sermon, Jesus says, "Okay, listen up! Don't go through the wide gate. And don't take the broad, easy way."


In Jesus' world, towns were built with walls, and in those walls were gates. Some gates were really wide... I mean hundreds-of-men-women-children-donkeys-camels-oxen-carts-wagons-all-going-through-at-once wide.


But other gates were small, and narrow, and sharp. You could only go through those gates one at a time.


Like with all of His teachings, Jesus was using imagery that made perfect sense to first-century ears.


But what was He saying?


I believe that Jesus' point was, "Don't follow the crowd. I know that everybody is going through the wide, easy gate, but there's another way to live - My way - that goes against the flow of traffic. You go through the small gate. And you walk down the narrowhard way."


What exactly is the small gate? Or, put another way, Who is the small gate?


For those of you who aren't tracking, I'll go ahead and give you the answer (and, by the way, it's usually a good answer to give to most Bible questions):


The answer is Jesus. Jesus is the small gate.


Later, in John 10:9, Jesus flat out says, "I am the gate," meaning, "I am the entrance to life."


So, if Jesus is the small gate, what is the hard, narrow way or road? (By the way, Jesus is not a good answer to give here.)


Well, if you remember from like two minutes ago, way can mean "teaching." The narrow, hard way is Jesus' teachings, including everything that He had just taught in Matthew 5-7.


"Love your enemies."


Is that the easy way or the hard way?


Are you kidding me? There's nothing easy about it.


"Live with generosity... with open hearts, open palms, and open pocketbooks."


Is that easy?


Absolutely not.


"Put your treasure in God, not in stuff on Earth, and in doing so, be set free from your worry and anxiety."


Is that easy?


Not even on a good day!


So, Jesus says, "Every day, you have a choice. There are two roads. You can go down one, and it's really easy. I mean, it's downhill. It's paved. Everybody's on the road - just follow the crowd. But here's the problem with that: It leads to destruction."


And now, we're back to my t-shirt.


Notice how ambiguous and elastic that word destruction is. There are no time-tables. Jesus doesn't say when. He doesn't say how. Jesus simply says, "Destruction."


In the age to come? In eternity? Absolutely, I mean, I do think that's in there, but also here and now, in this life.


There are ways of living that the crowds go after that are destructive in nature. Would you agree? At first, they feel like life and freedom and fun, but at some point, you wake up and you're in chains. The next thing you know, your life is marked by pain, and regret, and shame, and consequences, and brokenness. It leads to destruction. It is destructive here and now, and into eternity.


But Jesus says, "There's another way to live... My way... My teachings... and it's really hard."


Don't you love Jesus' honesty? He would have made a lousy salesman! I mean, there's no sales pitch or gimmick - "It's a small gate, but it's cozy. It's a narrow road, but it's level. And there's air conditioning... and free iced-tea!"


There's none of that.


It's narrow. It's hard. It's difficult.


But it leads to life!


If you have followed Jesus for any length of time, you know that is spot-on! Obedience to Jesus is difficult. It takes energy. It takes time. It can be costly.


But it leads to life!


Life in the future? Absolutely! But life today as well. Joy, peace, freedom from anxiety, freedom from fear...


Jesus' way... obedience to Jesus' teachings leads to life.


Put that on a t-shirt!

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You Are Worth More Than Many Sparrows
You Are Worth More Than Many Sparrows

G. Scott Patterson • June 06, 2019


June 6, 2019. Today is the 75th anniversary of D-Day. The allied invasion of Europe to defeat the Nazis, liberate those who were captured, and secure the future and freedom for Western Culture and most of the world. My dad’s uncle, Don Patterson, among other things, took part in liberating people from Nazi camps as the war was winding down.


WARNING! The pictures and descriptions below are graphic and disturbing, but also important.


A couple of years ago, my youngest son, Bryan, studied abroad for a semester in Ireland. While there, he took several opportunities to travel. One trip took him to several cities in Europe including Paris, Budapest, Berlin, Krakow and Auschwitz.


Bryan, who had just turned 19 at the time, was utterly moved by the solemnness of Auschwitz. He was ill-prepared, however, for the absolute inhuman treatment of the Jews and others the Nazis decided to exterminate. He walked past piles of shoes, piles of human hair, eyeglasses, luggage, prayer shawls, personal effects (1), and through one of the gas-chambers – a non-descript room except for canisters of zyklon b, cyanide gas used to kill thousands upon thousands of people.






He saw the “dorm” where the women, subjected to sterilization experimentation, were housed with windows boarded up so they could not see the wall were some prisoners faced the firing squad.





He saw plaques detailing how the Nazis “collected” and experimented on twins and other children.



There was a memorial honoring the place where Jews were buried, piles upon piles, by bulldozers in mass graves. Incinerators where countless bodies were reduced to ash.



In Budapest, along the bank of the Danube River, there is a memorial



… it is a bronze sculpture of shoes showing where the Nazis would line up Jews along the bank and then machine gun them, letting their bodies fall into the river to float away. It is unconscionable for me.


If you are having a hard time reading this, I apologize, well, only slightly. I do believe it is important for us to know and somewhat understand the depth of depravity sinful, godless humans are capable of.


I cannot express to you his feelings about all this. I do know they were deep, profound and extremely sad and emotional. How could one group of people be so cruel, heartless, immoral, (there are not enough adjectives) to treat others like yesterday’s trash? 


As his semester abroad was winding down, he took a solo trip to France to visit Normandy. He missed the “tourist season” by one day but was able to secure a private guide who drove him to all the sites and shared with him some of the history. He of course toured Omaha Beach (and brought me back some sand!), and the American Cemetery at Normandy. All of these places were solemn and profound, but none “hit” him as profound as his first stop. His guide took him to the German Cemetery in Normandy. 



There, in rows reminiscent of what you see at the American Cemetery, are the graves, individual graves, of the Germans who died there. [There is a large grave in the center containing the bodies of Germans who could not be identified, but it is also done with dignity.] Unlike the callous, heartless way the Jews were treated in life and in death, the Americans and our allies took the time and care to bury the Germans and mark their graves. We did this for our enemies.


What a stark contrast between the mass graves the Nazis dug and this place where, even 75 years later, German families can visit the graves of their loved-ones who fought and died for an evil empire. 


Without trying to make a political statement, this illustrates the difference between “American values” and Nazi values. Although we have our well-documented faults, at our core, we value human life, even the lives of our enemies. No human ever deserves to be treated the way Hitler and his underlings treated the Jews.


We, every human being, including the Jews and including Nazis, were created in His image. That fact alone should end any debate.


But a few weeks ago, as I was reading Matthew 10, these familiar words of Jesus made me think of Bryan’s contrasting observation between Auschwitz and Normandy:


28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:28–31 (ESV)


The American and Allied soldiers did their best to treat the dead with dignity. Jesus said, “Not even something as ‘worthless’ as a sparrow dies without our Heavenly Father taking notice.” He even knows the number of hairs on our head! (I cannot fathom the tears He must have shed over the tons of hair taken from the Jews.(2)) 


We remember and honor those brave soldiers who gave their life 75 years ago, setting in motion the eventual liberation of tens of thousands of prisoners. It is right and good that we remember. 


We put a high value on life, on sacrifice, on protecting the weak because we are made in the image of the Great God of the universe who gave breath to each and every life, no matter how small, insignificant, weak or of “little worth.” Those graves in Normandy remind us of the truth Jesus spoke: we are worth more!




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(1) Many of these rooms/memorials were so solemn, pictures were not permitted to be taken of them. There are similar memorials at the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC and other places. They leave you speechless.


(2) When the Russians liberated Auschwitz, they found a five-ton pile of hair the Nazis had stockpiled for textile purposes. 

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Thank You, Jimmy
Thank You, Jimmy

Shannon L. Newsome • May 26, 2019

It was the first time in my life that I knew there was such a thing as death. 


My first encounter with death was not because of the loss of a grandparent, a parent, or a sibling, although I have experienced all of those losses in years since. It was, instead, as I remember it, because of the left-hand bottom corner of the front page of the Winston-Salem Journal, the newspaper that was delivered daily to my home when I was growing up.


I don't really know exactly when I first noticed, but at some point, almost fifty years ago, I read a list of names in that small section (that unfortunately grew over time) and asked my parents about it.


"Those are the names of local boys who recently died in Vietnam."


I honestly believe that was my first introduction to the reality of death.


Over the years, I have visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, or as it is sometimes referred to, "The Wall," on several occasions. Each time was moving, but I will never forget the emotions of my very first time. 


It was the summer of 1986, less than two years after the memorial was completed and maybe a month after the death of my sister. My parents believed it was important that they take my other two sisters and me out of town on a trip. Not the best of ideas, but it's hard to fault them... and this really isn't about my family.


I can still remember arriving at "The Wall" with my parents, and my father almost immediately going to the book to try to find the particular panel of a certain name. I almost asked who he was looking for, but then I remembered. 


Jimmy Westmoreland.


I never knew Jimmy. I'm not even sure my father ever knew Jimmy, but we began going to church with his mother and father and brother not too long after Jimmy's death. 


As I browsed the internet earlier this afternoon, I discovered that Jimmy... rather, PFC Jimmy Roger Westmoreland with the 101st Airborne Division of the U.S. Army died on April 8, 1969, less than three months after his tour began.


Some fellow soldiers who served with him have left personal comments on the "virtual wall" through the years. One described him as a "quiet, baby-faced kid." Another wrote, "I remember the first time I saw you, I thought to myself, 'This guy should be in Junior High instead of Vietnam, but I see we were both about the same age."


Jimmy was 20 years old.


On that day with my parents, seventeen years later, as they found Jimmy's name on the wall, they wept... not because of their relationship with him, because again, I'm not sure they even knew him. Looking back all these years later, I believe that their tears flowed out of an unsolicited bond with his parents and a common grief for a lost child.


I read a statistic recently that really struck me. During World War II, 12% of our population served in the Armed Forces. However today, less than 1% of our current population is serving or has ever served in our military. 


Gala True, of the Department of Veteran Affairs says, "That small figure influences the way the general public thinks about the cost of conflict."


To be clear, this is not a pro-war post. That issue can be debated in other circles at other times by people far more qualified to do so than me.


But it is a pro-honor post.


The Apostle Paul wrote... 


"Give everyone what you owe him... if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." (Romans 13:7 NIV84)


Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the most solemn of American holidays... a day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice while defending our nation.


It is a day to remember Jimmy, and the more than 1.1 million other men and women who have given their lives for those who, in most-part, they didn't know either... for those who are still giving their lives for you and me.


Join me in giving to each of them what we owe them - our respect and honor. The reality is, we owe them so much more than we could ever repay.


Since that summer with my parents, with every subsequent visit that I have made to D.C., if I find myself near the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, I stop and look for Jimmy's name myself.


I never knew him, but I never want to forget him.


Thank you, Jimmy.

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Who Will Unpack Your Lunch?
Who Will Unpack Your Lunch?

G. Scott Patterson • May 16, 2019

The week before Mother’s Day, I took several ladies from our church to see the limited release Chonda Pierce movie, “Unashamed.” Chonda is a Christian Comedian and if you’ve never heard her, brace yourself for some unexpected comedy! And, men, it’s really not for you. I was able to go with our ladies because we had an extra ticket and I drove the van. 

 

As part of the movie, Chonda interviewed several Christian “in-the-news” people; former Arkansas governor and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, American Idol finalist and singer Danny Gokey, Michael Tait (lead singer for the Christian band Newsboys), fellow comedian Jeff Allen and the Benham brothers. Each had a story to tell of how their faith cost them something and how to live “unashamed” as Christians in an increasingly hostile world.

 

David and Jason Benham are successful real-estate brokers in the Charlotte area. They were all set to have a show on HGTV titled, “Flip It Forward” where they would remodel homes for people who could not afford to do so. They have never been shy about their Christian faith and HGTV knew all about it when they approached the brothers about a reality show. However, before the show even aired, protests arose about their “anti-gay” stance and pressure was put on HGTV and they pulled the plug. You can read the story from CNN if interested, but I just wanted to give you some background on who they were … that’s not what this blog is about.

 

As Chonda interviewed them, one of the brothers made an observation that really made an impact on me. They were talking about how faithful their mom had been, packing their lunch each day … and not just with PBJs, but she would make whole meals (Salisbury Steak, mashed potatoes, etc.) for them! 

 

And then he transitioned to the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000. He said (and that’s why I gave you all that background – I wanted the Benham brothers to get the credit), “So out of those 5,000+ people, don’t you think there were other children there? But this boy’s mom packed him a lunch!”

 

[To be fair and honest, we don’t know anything more about the story than what is in the Gospels – Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:1-15.  John uses the generic word for child/boy, and so we don’t know how young or old he was, though presumably younger than 13, the traditional age of Jewish manhood.  I’ve heard people assert that the one boy could not possibly have been the only one in that crowd with food, “just the only one willing to share.” We just don’t know, and I don’t care for any “guessing” that detracts from the miracle, which is clearly the point of all four Gospels. And, we don’t know that it was his mom who actually packed him a lunch that day, but someone did!]

 

David (or Jason) made two very good points:

 

1.     Be faithful, always, especially with the small stuff. “Moms,” he said, “don’t discount the small, everyday things you do. They are important; they matter.”

 

Because …

 

2.     You never know who might unpack that lunch. In the case of that little boy, it was Jesus. 

 

Again, (see above), we don’t know what truly happened, but imagine some Jewish mother sending little Johnny, er, Judah off for the day, “Don’t forget your lunch!” and little Judah saying, “Awww mom, do I have to?” “Yes!” Little did she know …  later that day, as the disciples scavenged for food, lo and behold, this boy had two fish and five loaves of bread because his mother packed him a lunch.

 

What small, seemingly mundane, routine, un-important thing might you do that God will, one day, unpack for someone else? 

 

It was a huge eye-opener for me. 

 

·  What word of encouragement might you give to someone at their most needed or impressionable time?

·  What phone call or card might you send to someone who is in desperate need at that moment for someone, anyone to care?

·  What if while simply doing your “job” (whether that is packing lunches for your family, flying an airplane from NYC when a birdstrike knocks out both engines over the Hudson, or tending sheep at night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago), what if God needed you there, in that place, doing "that" job, for something big? What if that day you decided you were not important or the “job” wasn’t important? What a loss that would be.

 

I know Mother’s Day 2019 has passed (I don’t know why I/we write these blogs after the fact, but I didn’t have this idea before Mother’s Day, so here it is), but I just want to say “Thank You!” to all the “mother’s” (or single dads, primary care dad’s, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) who do the small things … regularly … well … with love and attention. Maybe you don’t get the thanks you would like to get as often as you deserve it, but keep doing it. You just never know who might unpack the lunch you make.

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