When you bury your brother

I buried a brother yesterday.  His name was Chris.

He was just 41 years old.

Chris wasn’t my biological brother- but a spiritual one. 

He was a member of my small group Bible study over the past several years.  Each Friday, a small group of us gathered in our neighborhood.  We read the Bible, discussed the meaning of God’s word and prayed for one another.  We shared our successes, our failures and our fears. 

Chris started coming soon after his initial diagnosis. We often talked about his treatment schedule and his numerous trips to the doctor. We often prayed for his treatments and family.

Through it all, Chris was a rock.  He wanted to be a good example to his three sons…when life gets tough, you keep going. He kept his job and worked as much as he could.  He attended family events and games even when he didn’t feel like it.  Once, Chris got home from an extended stay in the hospital- and left for a week at Disneyworld with his family the next day.  Chris didn’t miss anything, even when cancer had knocked him down.  He just kept punching. He just kept living. 

Chris was an example of being fearless even when staring uncertainty and death in the face. He wasn’t afraid. 

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

What are you afraid of?  I’m afraid of failing. Failing my family…my wife, my kids. 

What’s it for you? Business? A relationship? Perhaps a fear of being exposed in some aspect of your life?

Chris taught me many lessons, but the biggest was how to face fear.  Even in the final days of his life, he had no fear. He was confident in his faith.  He had trust in his Heavenly Father. Chris was at peace- and it was incredible to witness. 

Please keep the family of Chris Williams in your prayers this week. Pray for his wonderful wife and three young sons. 

And pray that those touched by his life can honor Chris by emulating his courage and faith- even in the worst of circumstances. 

And as always, let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.  

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Fear

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“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” Henry Ford

My youngest son, Britton, faced his own fears this past month. It’s his first year of “big boy” football…full pads. 

His fifth grade group didn’t have enough players to make a team- so he was asked by his coach to join the seventh and eighth grade team. 

He worried about his ability to play with boys much bigger, stronger and faster…more experienced. But with the encouragement of his coach- he decided to try. 

It’s been four weeks and he’s loving it. His coach has eased him into the action and Britton is getting better with every practice. His confidence level has increased with every practice.

I can learn a lot from my 11 year old. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... Hebrews 12:1
We are called to cast aside all the obstacles that are keeping us from living lives of hope and honor. 

We need to run unincumbered toward Jesus. 

So, what’s holding you back?

Whatever it is…pride, envy, greed, addiction or fear…we need to pray for the strength-the endurance- to give it over to God. 

Please pray for me to face my own fears- fears that distract me from a closer walk with Jesus. 

And let me know how I may pray for you. 

God bless. 

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Regret

Have you ever uttered words that you wish you could take back?

I often find myself saying hurtful things to the people I love the most.  Maybe it’s been a long day at the office.  Perhaps I’ve had a bad night of sleep.  Maybe I’m just frustrated with the kids.  Whatever the reason- I can be pretty insensitive.

Oh…it’s not yelling.  It’s much more subtle.  It can be a snippy, sarcastic remark. I excel at those, I’m afraid.

And later- I always regret those occasions.

I studied about regret this week.

Then one of the twelve, whose name was Judas Iscariot, when to the chief priests and said “What will you give me if I deliver him over to you?”  And they paid him thirty pieces of silver.  And from that moment he sought an opportunity to betray him.  Matthew 26:14-16

Judas was one of the original disciples.  He had traveled with Jesus.  He had witnessed the miracles and heard the teachings.  He loved Jesus.

But greed overcame him.  Judas delivered Jesus to the men that would eventually kill him.  All over thirty pieces of silver.

Judas soon experienced remorse over his decision.

And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.  Matthew 27:5

It was too late.  He let greed, jealously or any number of emotions overcome him…and delivered Jesus over to an angry crowd.

I can’t imagine how he felt.  I know I never want to experience regret like that.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

My personal prayer this week is to be more tenderhearted- and live with less regret. Jesus wants it that way.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

 

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What’s under the surface

JT swimming 2015

JT, our thirteen year old son, has spent a considerable amount of time in the water lately.  He’s training for his first sprint triathalon…a 1/4 mile swim in Kentucky Lake, then a 16 mile bike ride and culminating with a 3 mile run.  It’s an ambitious goal, but he’s enjoyed the training.

To prepare for this event JT is swimming in the Tennessee River near our home.  It’s a different experience for him…as he’s had to get out of his comfort zone.  The scenery is beautiful, but the dark water of the river is a bit intimidating.  While the surface is peaceful and calm, there can be dangerous things lurking underneath.

It’s what you can’t see that bothers you during the training.  There are logs, hidden currents, and submerged trash.  It’s a constant reminder that things aren’t always what they seem.

It’s a great analogy for my own life.  My office is filled with photos of a smiling wife and happy children.  Facebook and Twitter illustrate fun experiences with family and friends.  We attend church as a family every Sunday.  I talk about my rewarding job and interesting co-workers.  Life is good right?

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  1 Samuel 16:7

There are many flaws right under the surface of my life.  While I try my hardest to put on a big smile, if I’m honest I’ll admit that I’m scarred and broken just underneath.

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.  2 Timothy 2:15

Jesus is concerned with the depth of love I have for my wife and children.  He wants me to invest in the lives of others.  He cares about my thoughts, my purpose and my intentions.

My prayer this weekend will be that we focus more on the matters of the heart- and not the superficial.

Please pray for me.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Afraid

Back to school

Several years ago one of my son’s favorite questions was:

“What are you afraid of?”

JT was thinking about the sorts of things that most kids fret over. Storms. Godzilla. Bigfoot. The dark space under your bed. I would assure him that he would outgrow these fears as he got older.

I wish that were completely true.

The truth is that maturity and age only present a new set of items to fear. Tornados and monsters in the closet are replaced by concerns about career, health and relationships.

There are at least three situations that make us afraid as adults.

  • Rejection
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Past experiences

Rejection is the scariest for me, as the fear of being embarrassed or viewed as incompetent can be paralyzing. Even the slightest chance of being rejected can keep us from acting on an opportunity.

The fear of the unknown is equally difficult to overcome, as it can keep us in the realm of “what if something bad happens” instead of the better state of “what can the possibilities be.”

And the pain of past experiences might be the worst of all. We’ve all experienced prior hurt and disappointment. Since experience is the greatest teacher- these hard lessons can be hard to overcome.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10

I need help remembering that I have a big brother…a loving Father that can give me strength when I am stricken with fear and doubt.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6

Our futures are safe and secure. Our worries and cares can be offered up to a compassionate and loving God.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

No matter the size of our fears, we need to remember that we’ve got an even bigger God.

Please pray for me to release my fears this week, and let me know how I may pray for you. God bless you.

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Stuck on the sideline…

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The Carver family loves a good ballgame.  This week we’ve watched the kids play basketball and soccer.  Within the next month we’ll add in baseball into the mix…and see an increase in the number of basketball and soccer games.  Weekends are wild…as Hollianne and I divide and conquer the schedule to transport our kids all over East Tennessee (and beyond).  And we love it.

While none of our children will ever be accused of being the next sports prodigy, they have learned valuable life lessons from their involvement in sports.  Traits such as being active and making things happen.  The competition has taught them not be afraid of a challenge and being bold in pursuit of a goal.

As much as I admire these traits, I often find myself in a struggle to adhere to these principles in my spiritual life.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

It’s one thing to have the spiritual maturity to recognize sin- but another thing to have the courage to do something about it.

Sin separates us from a relationship with Jesus. With sin there is fear that keeps us standing on the sidleine…out of the action…and keeps us from being spiritually effective.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

God calls for us to be active.  Active in our stance for what is right and just.  Active in advancing the good news of Jesus while on this earth.

Pray for me to be bold when fear encourages me to stay on the sideline.  And let me know if I can pray for you.

God bless.

“Our days begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

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