Who or What Do You Fear?

From the Back Porch

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matthew 10:28)

There is so much fear controlling our thoughts, actions, and relationships. And perhaps the greatest nexus of that fear is the corona virus. People run from one pundit to another, from one politician to another, and from one fact-checker to another hoping to find something that will put their minds at ease. Then, when people arrive at a perceived solution, they respond in fear to those who have arrived at a different solution. For example, consider the vaxxers and the anti-vaxxers. One group is fearful that the other group will help sustain the pandemic causing more people to die while one group is fearful that the other group will kill them with masks full of germs or the vaccines themselves. However, it doesn’t ultimately matter what the talking points of each group may be, because the ultimate issue is death.

The central focus of the COVID-19 story has been death. Death rates and daily death counts have been on every news station and the totals of cases and hospitalizations are given as precursors to death. Haven’t you heard the reports that death statistics lag behind case and hospitalization statistics? The only reason for making such a statement is to say, “Death is coming and coming soon.” Well, here’s some news – if you don’t die from COVID, you’re going to die from something else. Ain’t none of us getting out of this thing alive.

Taking precautions against the things that can sicken us or even kill us are good – no one wants to get sick, much less get sick and then die. No argument there. Even God instituted many laws for the Israelites that pertained only to their health and physical well being. We should be mindful to care for the bodies God has given us so that we can serve Him and honor Him more completely. My thoughts here are not about health practices, but perspective.

So whether you choose to vax or not vax, mask or not mask, distance yourself or crowd up at a sporting event, you need to consider this. How you die is not nearly as important as what happens after you die. God has established hell as a place for Satan and his followers. (Matthew 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4) It’s real. Jesus talked about hell (yes, He believed in hell) in Matthew 10:28. Often we like to refer to “fear” in the Bible as reverence or respect, but here Jesus is saying, “Be afraid – be very afraid.” He goes on to talk about God’s love and care, but the point is made. We need to be afraid of what is truly fearful and trust God for our very lives both now and when we die. God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. And for those who would say that He hasn’t done anything yet, I would encourage you to consider 2 Peter 3:9 – “The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (NLT) Failure to trust Him should fill us with a sense of impending doom because that is what our future holds without Christ.

I respect your decisions concerning how you will respond to the corona virus. Furthermore, I understand your desire to convince those you love of what you have found to be the best response. But while we’re at it, we should wake up to the real life or death question that we all face. There is a point in time when each of us will die. (Hebrews 9:27) We should take this opportunity to look honestly at that which we fear – death – in order to find peace. And peace can only be found in Jesus. “While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.” (2 Corinthians 5:4 NLT) “ For our dying bodies must be transformed into bodies that will never die; our mortal bodies must be transformed into immortal bodies.Then, when our dying bodies have been transformed into bodies that will never die, this Scripture will be fulfilled: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory.O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?’” (2 Corinthians 15:53-55 NLT) As excited as we were when the hope of a vaccine was declared on the news, how much more should we be excited when the scripture declares that Jesus offers the hope of eternal life? Jesus Himself said, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16 HCS)

Is death a reality? Yes. Can we experience victory over death? Yes – in Jesus.

“My flesh and my heart may fail, But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26 NAS)

Happiness & Joy


It was the summer of 1977. Pam and I were newlyweds. I had just graduated and Pam was still in school at Baylor. I was working in a plant called Mosley Machinery. We built the machines which were used to flatten cars. All was right for this young couple beginning their lives together.

Every morning Pam sent me off to work with my packed lunch pail. I thoroughly enjoyed working there. I especially loved test days (always a Thursday) when a new car-crushing behemoth came off of the line for its first trial run. A crane with a giant claw would pick up an old, unsuspecting car and drop it into the belly of the beast. Slowly the great metal plates enveloped the doomed vehicle and closed in, flattening the car to the cheers of the 300+ employees who watched the car’s fateful end with great delight. Good days indeed. (Thursday was also the day we had “church” but that’s a story for another day.)

I returned home at the end of the day usually covered in dirt, oil, and debris as my job primarily consisted of tearing down buildings to make room for expansion at the plant. The old buildings had been in use for decades and had not been cleaned except for a daily sweeping. I brought home the filth of the decades. Pam made me remove most of my clothes before coming into our apartment. I was never indecent, but I was barefoot and shirtless before entering – just the way Pam wanted me. I went straight to the shower and, after cleaning up and getting dressed, I would relax a while and then we would eat supper. Pam was trying out all of her newlywed recipes which were usually designed to feed 8 people. After swinging a sledgehammer all day I was famished so I would consume my 7 portions while Pam ate her one. (After a few days of this routine she told me that if I didn’t eat all of it, I could have some in my lunch the next day, so I reigned in my appetite.) The rest of the evening was spent watching TV, Pam’s studying and/or rehearsing, and visits with a dear friend, Tony, who lived in the same apartment complex. Life was simple. We were happy.

However, within a span of a little over a year, our happiness would be crushed like those hapless cars on test day. Pam would have to undergo emergency gallbladder surgery, we would move to another town where I would begin a new job, and “Pappa B,” Pam’s Dad, passed away along with my uncle and grandmother. Even though my new job seemed exciting, it was also stressful as was the move, so that dealt happiness a blow as well.

“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4) It was in the midst of those stressful times that the seeds of joy began to grow and supersede the happiness which I had regarded as joy. It has been a slow growing plant – this joy in the Lord – but it has endured through many storms and droughts; through many harsh winters and scorching summers; for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health. In fact it has grown so much – this joy in the Lord – that it bloomed beautifully not too long ago when I was to undergo a biopsy procedure in which I would be placed under anesthesia.

For some reason, the day before my trip to the hospital, I had a sense that I might not come out of the procedure alive. It is very rare for someone to die in this procedure, but the thought was there nonetheless. I prayed and asked the Lord to give me peace and this absolute flood of joy came over me. I knew that all was well with my soul. I actually understood and experienced the peace, hope, confidence – and yes, joy – that I had often read about in Daniel 3:16-18. I knew that God would deliver me, but even if He didn’t, I would not bow my knee to the spirit of fear. Many times I have discussed the concept of “dying grace” in which the Lord gives you peace as you are about to leave this world, but I had never experienced it. Granted, it was just a little bit disconcerting when I pondered that this might be “dying grace,” but even that was fleeting in the face of God’s peace and joy. Even as I was going under in the operating room I was full of joy talking about the Isle of Skye and remembering the wonderful time Pam and I had spent there. When I awoke in the recovery room I glanced around and realized pretty quickly that I was not in Heaven. I smiled and even chuckled a bit – not because I was still alive, but because my Joy was with me.

The biopsy did reveal that I have prostate cancer. The Gleason score is 9 (out of 10) which they tell me indicates an aggressive, high risk form of cancer. And yet, my Joy remains. My doctor believes it can be cured, but even before he said that I knew that all is and will be well with my soul. I’m going to MD Anderson for surgery and treatment. It’s regarded as one of the best (if not The Best) cancer centers in the world. Even so, my hope is not in them, but in the One Who gave them the wisdom and knowledge that they use on a daily basis. My doctor there is a preeminent prostate cancer expert, but I know that God will direct him as He sees fit with no regard for his outstanding qualifications. I can even see how God has orchestrated all of the events in the past few weeks to put me in the care of such capable doctors and surgeons. Still, through all that I will face I know that it is my God Who will deliver me, but even if He doesn’t, I will not bow my knee to the spirit of fear for the Joy of the Lord is my Strength. It truly is well with my soul. Hallelujah!