Stylish bomb shelters

CNN reporter Elizabeth Stamp did a feature on billionaire bunkers in April. She discovered a developer who had turned two abandoned U.S. Army Corps of Engineers missile silos into condominiums. For the prosperous survivalist, one can choose a 900 square foot half-floor residence or 2-level penthouse with 3600 square feet. The latter starts at $4.5 million. There are other available comforts in the complex – like a pool, general store, theater, bar, and library.

If you want to get away from it all, why not do it in style?

Talk of apocalypse is on the rise. Volatile and divisive politics, increasing and worsening violence, erratic and deadly weather events … the list of factors that create a pall over the future grows by the day. Are we on the brink of nuclear war? Are there strains of bacteria we cannot fight off? Will terrorism become the irresistible force? Will an asteroid collide with the earth? Does humanity have a realistic chance for survival?

I don’t remember when I heard it first, but I’m glad I did hear it: “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know Who holds the future.”

There are indeed many reasons for concern. I am not naïve about the myriad dangers that lurk nearby. But I refuse to live in fear. You won’t find this exact quote in Scripture, but there is truth is these three words I can hear the Father saying: “I’ve got this.”

The Value of Inheritance

There is an interesting story in 1 Kings 21 about a man named Naboth. He lived in ancient Jezreel and was a subject of King Ahab of Samaria. He owned a vineyard that was adjacent to a palace of the king. Ahab wanted the vineyard for himself and tried to convince Naboth to either exchange the land for another parcel or sell it to the monarch. Naboth refused: “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.”

Ahab returned to his palace and sulked: “So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat!”

Really?  He didn’t get his way so he threw himself a pity party? You may remember his wife, Jezebel. She was vain, ruthless, power hungry, and vengeful. After scorning her husband, she told him she would take care of things. She had Naboth stoned to death and seized the vineyard from his heirs. That wasn’t the end of the story.

God sent the prophet Elijah with a chilling warning and prediction. Eventually, Jezebel would suffer a horrible death on the very spot where Naboth’s vineyard was located. In 2012, archaeologists discovered the large winery complex that was at the center of Naboth’s vineyard.

In a day like ours, it seems that everything and everyone has a price. Naboth paid dearly for refusing to surrender his inheritance but his murder did not go unpunished. There are things in our lives that should not be for sale … convictions that we will not compromise … principles that will not be forfeited.

We claim to be people of the Book. Today more than ever, we need to stand on the truth of God’s Word. Truth is not for sale.

NFL

Controversy continues to swell over the protests at pro football games. Will they stand? Will they kneel? Do they have the right? Why do politics and sports have to mix with such volatility? According to ratings and attendance, people are paying attention or they are flat ignoring what is happening. “I’ll never watch another game, not because I care about multi-millionaires pouting, but because I can’t stand the pro game,” said one 60 year-old guy.

Ah, the NFL. The National Football League or …

The No Fun League … The No Future League … The Not For Long League

The last one strikes a chord. We know that is true for all of us.

  • “It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.” William Shakespeare
  • “Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about those who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.” Harvey Mackay
  • “The greatest surprise in life to me is the brevity of life.” Billy Graham
  • “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog – it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.” (James 4:14)

We can do a great deal with the time we have been given, but wasting it shouldn’t be an option. I hope your day is full of challenge, surprise, joy, and fulfillment … because we all live in the Not For Long League.

What we leave out

On a hospital medical chart, a doctor wrote: “I saw your patient today, who is still under our car for physical therapy.” What a strange place to have therapy! Obviously, the ‘e’ was missing.

We are guilty of leaving things out from time to time. Perhaps that’s why our mothers continually reminded us to say “please” and “thank you.” We can miss the moment and not notice that something is missing. A word of encouragement that is never spoken … an act of kindness that never happened … an expression of gratitude that remained unsaid.

We are busy people, too busy. We can be overcome with the press and pressure of our schedules and not notice the moment that just slipped by.

C.S. Lewis was addressing students at Oxford University in the fall of 1939. Nazi Germany had just invaded Poland. The young men in the audience were beginning to feel tremendous anxiety as the storms of war threatened.

In part, Lewis said: “Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment as to the Lord. It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present time is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”

We cannot change yesterday and we have little to say about what the future may bring. We can live this day. We can practice His presence this day. We can open our eyes and hearts to the divine appointments on our daily calendar.

Regret comes when we could have or should have, and we didn’t. “Lord, thank You for this day. Help me to live in this moment in time with anticipation of great possibilities!”

Whoops!

The guys were pretty young. Big brother decided to give little brother a haircut. For some reason little brother agreed. Do you have an idea how this turned out? We had a pair of clippers that big brother thought he could use. Little brother was sitting still, listening to the buzz until he heard from behind one word: “Whoops!”

There was no blood, just less hair … in one spot. It was like you could peer into his brain. Not really. You would have thought so for a moment. Another crisis at the Wilbanks house.

Things worked out. They usually do. Little brother’s hair grew back … by the time he graduated from high school. If you look closely, you can still tell. Not really.

Families go through “whoops” times. Friendships go through “whoops” times. None of us is perfect. We make mistakes with words and actions. We hurt each other and sometimes the hurt lasts and lasts.

There is a reason that Jesus wanted us to understand the essential nature of forgiveness. We know that God is a loving, forgiving God but Jesus made it clear. To fully experience God’s forgiveness we have to be willing to forgive.

A good way to look at God’s forgiveness is to realize that God chooses not to remember all our stumbles. The Bible says He casts our sin as far as the east is from the west. Could He call up all our wrongs if He wanted to? Certainly. But He chooses to not remember, to cleanse us, to give us a fresh start.

Forgiving is not always easy, but the cross reminds us that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. The next time we hear “whoops” we should remember that.

And Jesus had compassion

Over and over, the New Testament bears witness to how Jesus viewed those He came to save. In Matthew 9, we are told: “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” In Mark 8, Jesus spoke to His disciples: “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with Me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat.” In Matthew 25, we are given a picture of judgment when Jesus acknowledged those who had compassion on the “least of these.”

When the Lord gazes over our world today, He sees this poor, the despairing, the grieving, the confused, and the misguided. These past weeks have been horrific. The ravages of fierce storms have wrecked so many lives. The senseless violence in Las Vegas has taken a devastating toll among so many. We are staggered by the disruption and discouragement.

And Jesus had compassion.

A man was complaining to his pastor, listing all the events and circumstances that caused pain and loss. “Why doesn’t God do something?” The minister thought for a moment and then said, “I don’t believe God needs me to defend Him, but I think He is doing something. He is sending you and me into those moments when we can show the compassion of Christ.”

We don’t have all the answers, perhaps very few of them. But we can impact our world with our attention and care. An elderly man, affectionately known as Mr. Ben, who lived on their street had recently been widowed. A mother was explaining to her six year-old what had happened. He sat silently for a while and then left the room. The woman got busy with some chores and realized that she hadn’t heard anything from him for a few minutes. She went looking for him. When she couldn’t find him in the house, she stepped out her front door. He was walking up the sidewalk toward her. “Where have you been, honey?” The boy’s face was streaked with tears. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” she asked. “I’m okay. I just went over to Mr. Ben’s so I could cry with him.”

And the followers of Jesus had compassion.

Maybe, maybe not

Do you ever have trouble making up your mind? You don’t? How about the guy in front of you at the doughnut shop … or the fast food store … or the perpetual lane-changer on the highway? Sometimes it’s not easy to come to a decision. Jimmy Buffett once said: “Indecision may or may not be my problem.” Another guy admitted: “I used to be indecisive, but now I am not quite sure.”

We were visiting friends in the North Georgia mountains recently. They had a neighbor who had a family wedding. The woman’s nephew was the groom. The ceremony was on Saturday. As of late Friday night, the groom wasn’t sure if he was going to go through with it. Makes you understand what a shotgun wedding might be.

Some things don’t matter much. I was standing in my closet trying to decide what shirt to wear. After staring at the rack for way too long, I gave myself a mental kick in the rear – “Pick a shirt for crying out loud!”

There are much more serious issues that confront us that require careful thought and consideration. We know that life is full of challenges when the way forward isn’t always clear. The apostle Paul gave this advice: “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).

Another sage recommended that we should reflect on questions like these when we try to make a decision:

  • Who will it help?
  • Will it hurt anyone?
  • Are there acceptable risks involved?
  • What do I hope to learn from my decision?
  • Will my decision honor God?

Ultimately for people of faith, it always helps to turn to God’s Word: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Do not depend on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5,6).