Absolute Surrender

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

December is here and soon the yuletide will be upon us.  With it comes the day we set aside to celebrate the birth of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. My mind has trouble grasping the full significance of this event. For on this day, in a time long since past, the Son of God set aside His Glory to become a man so that He could save us from our sin.  He gave to us an eternal example of His life given completely to the will of the Father.  The ultimate weapon used to win the ultimate war thus became absolute surrender.

Here then before us is the example of the Nativity—God lying in a stable midst the stench of the animals and the odor of our sin through the centuries. The first question that comes to your mind is, “what does that have to do with the title of this article?”  I thought that it might be fitting as we celebrate Jesus’ first day on earth that we remember our first day with Him.  Do you remember the day you met Jesus Christ? Do you remember the warmth of His sweet salvation as His Spirit swept over your soul like a mighty river. Do you remember with a sense of disappointment how that warmth faded with time?  Often you have wondered why it was that your relationship, instead of deepening, has become lame and produces no fruit in your life.  The answer, though not complicated, is far reaching. You wandered from the Highway of Holiness!  You wandered from Him.

It appears as though it may now be the midnight hour in this age of grace, and all the while the church races headlong toward apostasy.  The newspapers are replete with the witness of holding to a form of godliness yet denying the power thereof.  For the believer still lives in a reality where temptations abound and Satan is active in the deception of the whole world and all its inhabitants.   Within us resides a sinful nature that all too frequently resurrects itself.

So despite salvation we can find ourselves impotent toward sin’s power and our victory absent without leave. There is no repair shop that can fix this old man.  There is no transformation operation that can remake him anew.  He can only be put to death.

Beloved, you are God’s treasure! You are destined for that which is far greater than a temporary sojourn in happiness. Jesus has prepared for us a dwelling place that is Himself where we are to “abide.”  We must see our abiding as an intimate connectedness like that of the branch to the tree. Have you ever seen a branch wander away from the trunk?  If we “come to him” to “abide” we must also “take the yoke” lest we stray and make the ditch alongside the “highway of holiness” our home.  Jesus cannot be Lord if we think we have the right to have our own way in the thousand things of life.  If we say we are our own masters, the captains of our fate, then there can be NO blessedness NOR peace. Jesus said: “A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart.

Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  So why do you call me ‘Lord,’ when you won’t obey me?”  “If you love me, obey my commandments.  And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads you into all truth.” (Luke 6:45-46,  John 14:15-17 NLT)  Jesus’ example was to forsake everything for the Father.  The disciples’ example was to forsake everything to follow Christ.  The Apostle Paul’s example was not only to “count all things to be loss” but he also “suffered the loss of all things.” (Phil 3:8 NASB) Warriors, this is absolute surrender.  Paul declares, “For God is working in you giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him. (Phil 2:13 NLT)  Since the Holy Spirit lives in us and is the provision to keep “my commandments” perhaps we ought to say, “Jesus, I forsake all to follow you.”  This is NOT a passive thing (the ditch on the left of the highway) NOR is it an act of arrogance (the ditch on the other side).  It is in the balance between Grace and Truth wherein we are delivered from sin’s penalty and power.  We can then live in the hope of the day when we shall see Jesus and also be delivered from sin’s presence.

“The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water.” C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

An Army of One — Or — An Army of the One

We sometimes confuse our own culture with spiritual things.  In America there exists within us an innate desire to succeed as an individual.  Why else would we have team sports in order to learn teamwork?  When we join the military we learn a new concept called unit cohesion.  It is a long recognized phenomenon that is essential for successful war fighting.  Unit cohesion goes well beyond the idea of mere teamwork into an arena where men and women place their lives and trust into the hands of those with whom they serve.  General Krulac, Commandant of the Marine Corps (former), described it in this way: “We must do everything we can to enhance the transformation of young men and women into the marines that our corps needs to win battles.  I firmly believe that unit cohesion is an integral part of the transformation process.  Marines must possess and feel the absolute trust, subordination of self, the intuitive understanding of the collective actions of the unit, and the importance of teamwork.”

“I do not ask in behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst send Me” (John 17:20-23 NASB).

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Unity is that gift from God that comes as an answered prayer of the Son so that the world (“Satanic System,” Lewis Sperry Chafer) may know the Father sent the Son.  I have heard unity described in terms of what it is NOT, but sometimes we miss the point because we ask the wrong question.  When unity is described as NOT being uniformity, the question should be, “Did Jesus think like His Father?”  When described as NOT unanimity, the question should be, “Did Jesus and the Father completely agree?”  Those who would make the NOT arguments are those who have NOT experienced this wondrous blessing!  There is only ONE reason for NOT experiencing the Unity of the Holy Spirit — you do not belong to Jesus!  We ARE one just as Jesus and the Father are one for the purpose of the Gospel!  It requires more than teamwork, more than unit cohesion, it requires death to self that the Church may grow with Jesus Christ as the head.  Contrary to our human understanding, Unity exists when I agree with Jesus and You agree with Jesus!

“But they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body. For we are joined together in his body by his strong sinews, and we grow only as we get our nourishment and strength from God” (Colossians 2:19 NLT).
“Instead we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church . Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:15-16 NLT).
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up only one body. So it is with the body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:12 NLT).
“Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of his one body, and each of us has different work to do. And since we are all one body in Christ, we belong to each other, and each of us needs all the others” (Romans 12:3b-5 NLT).
“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13, NLT)

Asking the Right Question

“So Jesus used this Illustration: ‘If you had one hundred sheep, and one of them strayed away and was lost in the wilderness, wouldn't you leave the ninety-nine others to go and search for the lost one until you found it?  And then you would joyfully carry it home on your shoulders.  When you arrived, you would call together your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you because your lost sheep was found.  In the same way, heaven will be happier over one lost sinner who returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!’” (Luke 15:3-7 NLT)
“All of us have strayed away like sheep.  We have left God’s paths to follow our own” (Isaiah 53:6 NLT).

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

A young man called me from northern Iraq in much anguish over the perceived loss of his salvation.  He had been engaged in a firefight and had inflicted casualties and had for the first time taken a human life.  War in the best of circumstances (if there is such a thing) is at best ghastly.  This warrior had experienced something that would change him forever.  He had killed someone created in the image of God and was suffering from the experience.  The reason God gave King David for denying him the privilege of building the temple was that he had blood on his hands.  This is the unseen red badge of courage that the warrior carries with him always (wounded deeply with no visible wound).  I suspect that if the truth be known, there are not many of us who contemplate the possibilities of combat before we enter the military.  I certainly did not.  I suspect that the most horrific experience for a believer would be to kill his brother in Christ in combat.  Those who have the ears to hear the Holy Spirit grieve will confirm that the soul would know if this event would occur.

For this young man the angst was real and the weight upon his heart was great! He thought he had lost his salvation because of his combat experience.  I suppose that in order to lose something one must first possess it. In the case of salvation one must recognize that we, the believers, are not the possessor but the possession!  If the question is, What is my salvation?, then I am looking for something that I had never possessed to lose.  If the question is, Who is my salvation?, then I will soon discover the correct answer.  In the former I am lost.  In the latter I am found.  Our salvation is in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ! He is not lost.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father.  The question then should be, Is He sufficient to keep me?

“As he loved the unsaved enough to give His Son to die for them, even when they were ‘yet without strength’ and ‘enemies’; ‘Much more then, being now justified by his blood’ and ‘reconciled,’ they shall be ‘saved from wrath through him,’ and ‘saved by his life.’ Such is the unchangeable love of God” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Grace).

This young man had not sinned in the taking of life in combat. However, he was surely wounded by his experience.  Just as we are “without strength” when Christ died for us (Romans 5:6 KJV), we are often found “without strength” and bleeding from the wounds of life.  The New Living Translation says, “When we were utterly helpless.”  What has changed?  Are we not “utterly helpless” in Romans 6 when we are a slave to sin?  Are we not “ utterly helpless” in Romans 7 when we are under the law?  We can see the victory only when in Romans 8 we see a new law in effect, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.”

Whenever parables are taught, I have noticed a consistent phenomena; We reach the wrong conclusion because we are asking the wrong question.  The aforementioned parable of the lost sheep is no exception.  When the parable of the good Samaritan is taught, the question always asked is, who is my neighbor?  The question taught by the parable is, whose neighbor am I.  When the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican is taught, the thought that invades the conscience is, “I am glad I am not like that Pharisee.  The lesson taught is, we are the Pharisee.  With the parable of the lost sheep it is easy to focus on our waywardness, “All of us like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6 NASB) and miss the “unchangeable love of God.”

“Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves” (Romans 15:1 NASB).

This young warrior just needed a hug and a reminder that God’s love is unfailing! Jesus said, “ I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.  “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:28-29 NASB).  Eternal life given that is eternally secure in Christ Jesus! We are in good hands!

Blow Up Your T.V.

Back in ancient times (BC — Before Computers) in a land far away in the midst of a horrible war, I was looking through the resident collection of albums (the round plastic platters with a hole in the middle) when I spied one by some guy named John Denver (released before he was famous).  There was a song on the album whose first line lyric caught my ear, “Blow up your TV, try to find Jesus on your own.”  I don’t remember much about the song itself but the lyric has remained with me all of these years.

Having reached the age where my children have become adults, I now look back on the earlier years and see that life had some spots that were a blur of activity.  Being involved, because of my children, in little league, Boy Scouts, soccer, Sunday School, youth group and also being a full-time sailor didn’t leave much time for anything else.  Life seemed pretty full.  There are indeed so many activities in our lives!   Yet how many are profitable?  How many are profitable for the kingdom?  How much time do I devote to those things that are important to my health and wellbeing as a believer?  Sometimes I think that the world does a better job of conforming me into its mold than I do allowing the Holy Spirit to transform me by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2 paraphrase mine).  I think in my case that the blur of activity was motivated more by my flesh (not wanting my children to miss out) than by the Spirit (wanting to draw me into a closer walk with Him).  This doesn’t mean I couldn’t have done both.  It means that my attitude wasn’t right.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

As I was meditating upon Hebrews, chapter twelve, I was struck by the idea of “throwing off everything that hinders.” (NIV)  As I looked up from my easy chair I found myself looking full on at one thing in particular that took up a great deal of my time, the huge one-eyed monster we call Television.  My heart was shaken at its foundations.  The Holy Spirit was showing me in a very clear way that I would rather spend time watching the political talk shows than be with Him.  Busted!  So I got up out of my chair walked across the room and pulled the plug!  I would like to say that the angels of heaven broke out in song (However, what really broke out was beads of sweat upon my brow.  Several times that evening, as I was trying to read, I found my hand reaching for the ol’ remote control.  I thought to myself, how many other things are in my life that have become a hindrance to fellowship with the Father.  Am I really trying to work out my faith with “fear and trembling” or am I just busy?  C.S. Lewis, in “Mere Christianity,” mentions that
one of the “cardinal virtues” is temperance.  The first word that the dictionary (my copy was of course printed in the last century) uses to define this is moderation, “bringing within bounds, avoidance of excesses.”

If you find yourselves breathing hard at the end of the day, might I suggest in all humility (because I promise you that I am NOT the fount of all knowledge and wisdom) that you take stock of your activities and see if there isn’t some time that could be better used in your relationship with the Savior.  “Blow up your TV (hyperbole mine) and try to find Jesus on your own!”

“As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses round us.  So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end.  He did not give up because of the cross!  On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right-hand side of God’s throne.  Hebrews 12:1-2 TEV

Casualties of War — Friendly Fire

Iam grieved in my spirit of late at the breaking news about all of the terrorist activity reported in the news.  Not the television network news, nor even the cable news, but reports from the front lines in the battle for souls.  My ears are still ringing from reports of church splits, pastoral staff resignations, mischief and misbehavior at Christian universities.  What fuels the flame of this seemingly continuous conflagration that destroys lives, churches and makes impotent the work of the Gospel?  It is the sin of anger!  Yes, you heard it here first.  Anger is a sin.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

I did not come to this conclusion by way of thoughtful consideration of my intellectual prowess.  It came instead by incremental illumination by the Holy Spirit as He worked upon my heart during a ten-year long sojourn in the second chapter of the Epistle to the Philippians.  It could not have happened any other way!  It was and is a continuance of the work that God began and will finish on the day when Christ returns (Phil 1:6, paraphrase mine).  For how can mere flesh and blood stand in the midst of Him of whom angels sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy.”  For He who brings everything into conformity with His will had already spoken through the Apostle Paul and said, “Be humble, thinking others as better than yourself…In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing….” (Phil 2:3b, 14)  Instead, our lives should epitomize the “attitude that was in Christ Jesus.”  The only innocent man who lived did not cling to His innocence but rather sacrificed himself on the altar without complaint.  He could have been angry at those who falsely accused and condemned Him.  He could have clung to His excellence and rightly held us in contempt.  Instead He went as a lamb to the slaughter.  How then shall we live?  Shall we continue giving aid and comfort to the Enemy?  Shall we continue inflicting casualties upon each other because our lives are not “blameless,” “clean” and “innocent” “as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people.”? (Phil 2:15)  How then can we be angry with another without thinking too highly of ourselves?

I know that there are those who would argue with me, but C.S. Lewis pretty much covers the basis for this conclusion in his book, Mere Christianity.

“The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not.  In other words, when you are dealing with humans, something else comes in above and beyond the actual facts.  You have the facts (how men do behave) and you also have something else (how they ought to behave).  In the rest of the universe there need not be anything but the facts.  Electrons and molecules behave in a certain way, and certain results follow, and that may be the whole story.  But men behave in a certain way and that is not the whole story, for all the time you know that they ought to behave differently.”

Casualties of War — The Healing

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

John Bunyan (author of the classic Pilgrim's Progress) wrote the following in his book Grace Abounding to the Chief Sinners:

As for my own natural life for the time that I was without God in the world, it was indeed “according to the course of this world,” and “the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” (Eph. 2:2,3) It was my delight to be taken captive by the “devil at his will,” 2 Tim. 2: 26, being filled with all unrighteousness; the which did also so strongly work and put forth itself both in my heart and life, and that from a child, that I had few equals, especially considering my years, which were tender, for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God.  Yea, so settled and rooted was I in these things, that they became as a second nature to me; the which, as I have also with soberness considered since, did so offend the Lord, that even in my childhood he did scare and affrighten me with fearful dreams, and did terrify me with fearful visions.  For often, after I had spent this and the other day in sin, I have in my bed been greatly afflicted, while asleep, with the apprehensions of devils and wicked spirits, who still, as I then thought, labored to draw me away with them, of which I could never be rid.

Observe this vivid and honest confession of a man who has recognized that he is in fact dead in his sin.  Can you hear the excruciating anguish of his words? Can you feel the struggle of his soul against the utter wretchedness of his estate?  For is that not where Christ finds us all adrift and helpless in the misery of our self-made death?  Is it not life that He offers us?  The question He asks each one of us is, “Do you want to be healed?”

The Apostle John preserves for us this wondrous illustration:

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Hebrew called Beth-zatha, which has five porticoes.  In these lay a multitude of invalids, blind, lame, paralyzed.  One man was there, who had been ill for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is troubled, and while I am going another steps down before me.”  Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his pallet and walked. (John 5:2-9 RSV)

We have all kinds of open wounds we call hurts, angers, and fears. We keep them hidden deep within our hearts yet they nevertheless affect the way we live.  These are wounds that must be healed if we are to live our lives for the Savior.  Only He can heal them. The question is, will we let Him?  Jesus says to us, "Do you want to be healed?"  These wounds are fortresses where the enemy of our soul still holds us captive.  They are strongholds of the enemy still because we were the ones who chose to guard the gate with impotence, arrogance and passivity as our weapons: arrogance in our belief that we have, in our own strength, the ability to live a life worthy of our calling; impotence in our perceived, yet hollow, victories against this terrible foe; passivity in our faith experience as we await the holy lightning bolt to set it all straight.

Mother Martyria (1904-1999, the much loved co-founder of the Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary) once said, “It is your constant patience in faith which will decide the struggle against sin, not occasional victories or defeats.”  Perhaps Isaiah said it best, “ Have you never heard or understood?  Don’t you know that the Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth?  He never grows faint or weary.  No one can measure the depths of his understanding.  He gives power to those who are tired and worn out; he offers strength to the weak. Even youths will become exhausted, and young men will give up.  But those who wait on the Lord will find new strength.  They will fly high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.”  (Isaiah 40:28-31 NLT) Get it? “Constant patience in faith which will decide the struggle.” Hebrews calls it entering into the “Sabbath rest.”

Hanna Whitall Smith, in The Christian’s Secret to a Happy Life, described this phenomena as follows:  “You have found Jesus as your Savior from the penalty of sin, but you have not found Him as your Savior from its power.  You have carefully studied the Holy Scriptures and have gathered much precious truth from them.  You have trusted that this would feed and nourish your spiritual life. But in spite of it all, your souls are starving and dying within you.  You cry out in secret, again and again, for that bread and water of life which you see promised in the Scriptures to all believers. In the very depths of your heart, you know that your experience is not a Scriptural experience.  As an old writer said, your religion is ‘merely talk whereas, the early Christians enjoyed, possessed, and lived it.’  Your hearts have weakened within you, as day after day, and year after year, your early visions of triumph have grown dimmer.  You have accepted that the best you can expect from your religion is a life of alternate failure and victory one hour sinning and the next repenting, and then beginning again, only to fail and repent again.”

It is one thing to know of our great need and yet another to know God’s way of deliverance from our sin. We feel that our life is not what it ought to be. We can see in our past, seasons of spiritual highs that did not last that were followed by the slow declension back into the pit from where we once came.  Andrew Murray said in The Spirit of Christ: “There can be little doubt that the answer must be this: they did not know or honor the Indwelling Spirit as the strength of their life, as the power of their faith, to keep them always looking to Jesus and trusting in Him.  They knew not what it was, day by day, to wait in lowly reverence for the Holy Spirit to deliver from the power of the flesh, and to maintain the wonderful presence of the Father and the Son within them.

For John Bunyan, the way of healing began when the Holy Spirit illuminated this passage from Scripture, “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people's sins against them. This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others." 2 Corinthians 5:19 NLT

Are you drowning in the pool of sin of your own making?  Does the victorious life in Christ seem only a distant dream?  Jesus is still asking, “Do you want to be healed?” Romans 9:16 says: “So receiving God's promise is not up to us.  We can't get it by choosing it or working hard for it. God will show mercy to anyone he chooses.”  Beloved we are a vessel of mercy by God’s sovereign choice. We then can learn to rest in His mercy.

“He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.  You have been healed by his wounds! (1 Peter 2:24 NLT)

The Cause of Freedom is a Gospel Opportunity—by Bob Flynn

A Warrior's End

"No foreign power or combination of foreign powers could by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected?  I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up from among us, it cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die of suicide.”  Abraham Lincoln

When Abraham Lincoln spoke these words I doubt that he could have conceived of a day when we would have a Department of Homeland Security.  It is by design that America has NOT YET suffered another twin tower disaster! This success has been wrought at great cost!

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”  Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Destination Assured

“The patriot who feels himself in the service of God, who acknowledges Him in all his ways, has the promise of Almighty direction, and will find His word in his greatest darkness, ‘a lantern to his feet and a lamp unto his path.’  He will therefore seek to establish for his country in the eyes of the world, such a character as shall make her not unworthy of the name of a Christian nation.”  Francis Scott Key (1779-1843) 

“And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.  This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.”  (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NLT)

Destination Assured

We can ponder the significance of “A Warrior’s End” from many perspectives.  There is the look on a mother’s face that can never be forgotten when she is told she will never hug her beloved son again; or the empty side of the bed that grieves the young wife’s heart; the empty chair at the dinner table where Daddy used to sit.

If together we could introduce each one of these young men and women to the Gospel before the crisis, their destination will be changed for an eternity!  For those who return wounded of heart, there is one immutable fact: warriors talk only to warriors about warrior things.

Would you consider partnering with us in this effort to carry the Gospel to those yet unsaved and hug the wounded?

These are the needs:

  • Local Representatives (that’s you) who are willing to facilitate fellowship groups at their location.
  • Prayer warriors (that’s you) willing to pray daily for the concerns of the troops, their families and this ministry.
  • Financial support (that’s you) for the ministry. Our general fund still lags behind the expenses. Please consider becoming a regular giver.

Our Dream:

  • To have an active CMF fellowship group at each and every military installation, Veterans Hospital, and Active Duty or Reserve community in the world.

Christmas Waves a Wand Over This World

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

“Christmas waves a wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.” Norman Vincent Peale

“The people who walk in darkness will see a great light. For those who live in a land of deep darkness, a light will shine.  You will enlarge the nation of Israel, and its people will rejoice. They will rejoice before You as people rejoice at the harvest and like warriors dividing the plunder.  For You will break the yoke of their slavery and lift the heavy burden from their shoulders.  You will break the oppressor’s rod, just as You did when You destroyed the army of Midian. The boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned.  They will be fuel for the fire. For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us.  The government will rest on His shoulders. And He will be called:  Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end.  He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of His ancestor David for all eternity.  The passionate commitment of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” Isaiah 9:2-7 NLT

Christmas is the day each year when we celebrate the arrival of the eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent God in this world.  God come down as a man.  I would have thought that such an arrival would have been witnessed by the priests and kings of the nation to whom this was promised.  Would not all of Israel wish to celebrate with festivals of grandeur at the fulfillment of the promised messiah?

But when the right time came, God sent His Son, to buy freedom for us who were slaves, so that He could adopt us as His very own children (Galatians 4:4 paraphrase mine).

“And you will recognize Him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:12 NLT

Instead, the God in whom, by whom, and through whom everything exists, and from whom the cherubim hide their faces, is born in a cave and is lying in a cattle feeder.  A perfect time and a perfect way of His own choosing!

We could ponder a great many things about this amazing and wonderful demonstration of grace and humility.  However, the one that screams out to me is that preserved for us in the First Epistle to the Church at Corinth:

“This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you.  Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.  And He chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important.  As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:25-29 NLT

By human standards this was a most ill-conceived event!  For what would appear more weak or powerless than a newborn babe?  God, in this apparent folly, did not choose the heralds of an earthly court to announce the arrival of His beloved Son.  Rather he sent the angels (heavenly host—armies of heaven) to give this message to the cultural outcasts of this time ─ the lowly, roughhewn shepherds, lacking even a modicum of culture, men who spoke in terms that would probably make a sailor blush.  This is who announced this glorious arrival of the Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!

Let us then pause and enjoy Christmas knowing that it is the immeasurable, magnificent love of Christ that stooped to save the most vile of sinners—”The people who walk in darkness will see a great light.”  Rejoice, O Sinner! For God’s love “goes beneath the deepest stain that sin could ever leave, redeeming souls to live again who will on Christ believe!”

Yes, He picked the outcasts of society who were despised by the world to announce the arrival of the weakest person of all, a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger, who even at that moment held the world together with His might and caused all things to exist.

“For a Child is born to us, a Son is given to us.”

I certainly was not “wise in the world’s eyes, or powerful or wealthy” when the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see the salvation that is in God’s Son! Oh what joy fills my heart! 
Maranatha!  Oh come, Lord Jesus! Let this Christmas be the last before you return.  The arms of the warriors are heavy from the fighting, and wives and families weep at home because of their long absence.  We look forward to that day when “the boots of the warrior and the uniforms bloodstained by war will all be burned.  They will be fuel for the fire” and war will be no more.

“The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore.” Isaiah 2:4 NLT

May Christ wave a wand over your world, dear brothers and sisters, as you celebrate Christmas. Hugs to all of you, from all of us!

Live Fire Exercise

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

We would never think of sending our troops into combat without first letting them experience a “live fire” exercise.  There is absolutely no substitute for this kind of combat training.  Whether soldier, sailor, marine, airman, or pilot, the culmination of the training includes some form of reality check.  With spiritual combat this is even more crucial because we never leave the war zone.  Yet, if the truth were known, most approach the daily travels through the mine fields of life with a less than attentive mind-set.  I suspect that it is because we are self-centered by nature and think the world revolves around us.  The Lord Jesus Christ, in order to continue the good work He has begun in us, allows these “live fire” exercises to come into our lives to help us become and remain “combat ready.”  As we live and grow in Him, one could expect that the strength of faith would grow in proportion to the size of the bullets (trials) that come our way.  However, we oft times do not stop to even realize that the situations that come our way might be for our edification.  We usually find that we are dismayed, discouraged and even angry with the situation.  Our prayers are not for His Grace to transcend, but for deliverance from the trials.

Hebrews 5:8 makes it very clear that even though Jesus was God’s Son, He learned obedience through His sufferings.  Now I suppose that we could try to dodge around all of the other places in Scripture that tell us how we should approach trials, testing and suffering and even give our motorboat imitation (but, but, but, but).  However, consider that if the Son of God had to learn obedience through suffering that perhaps we who are partakers of His magnificent Grace must likewise be trained to be combat ready.

God’s training then is to make us “perfect” or ready for the future operations that He has planned for us.  The question then becomes are we willing to be trained?

“For you have been given the privilege of serving Christ, not only by believing in him, but also by suffering for him.” Phil 1:29 TEV
“Let us give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the merciful Father, the God from whom all help comes! He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others who have all kinds of troubles, using the same help that we ourselves have received from God.  Just as we have a share in Christ’s many sufferings, so also through Christ we share in God’s great help.  If we suffer, it is for your help and salvation; if we are helped, then you too are helped and given the strength to endure with patience the same sufferings that we also endure.  So our hope in you is never shaken; we know that just as you share in our sufferings, you also share in the help we receive. We want to remind you, brothers and sisters, of the trouble we had in the province of Asia.  The burdens laid upon us were so great and so heavy that we gave up all hope of staying alive.  We felt that the death sentence had been passed on us.  But this happened so that we should rely, not on ourselves, but only on God, who raises the dead. From such terrible dangers of death he saved us, and will save us; and we have placed our hope in him that he will save us again, as you help us by means of your prayers for us.” 2 Cor 1:3-11 TEV
“Yet we who have this spiritual treasure are like common clay pots, in order to show that the supreme power belongs to God, not to us.  We are often troubled, but not crushed; sometimes in doubt, but never in despair; there are many enemies, but we are never without a friend; and though badly hurt at times, we are not destroyed.  At all times we carry in our mortal bodies the death of Jesus, so that his life also may be seen in our bodies.  Throughout our lives we are always in danger of death for Jesus’ sake, in order that his life may be seen in this mortal body of ours.” 2 Cor 4:7-11 TEV
“Instead, in everything we do we show that we are God’s servants by patiently enduring troubles, hardships, and difficulties.  We have been beaten, imprisoned, and mobbed; we have been overworked and have gone without sleep or food.  We are honored and disgraced; we are insulted and praised.  We are treated as liars, yet we speak the truth; as unknown, yet we are known by all; as though we were dead, but, as you see, we live on.  Although punished, we are not killed; although saddened, we are always glad; we seem poor, but we make many people rich; we seem to have nothing, yet we really possess everything.” 2 Cor 6:4-5;8-10 TEV
“I have worked much harder, I have been in prison more times, I have been whipped much more, and I have been near death more often.  Five times I was given the thirty-nine lashes by the Jews; three times I was whipped by the Romans; and once I was stoned. I have been in three shipwrecks, and once I spent twenty-four hours in the water.  In my many travels I have been in danger from floods and from robbers, in danger from fellow-Jews and from Gentiles; there have been dangers in the cities, dangers in the wilds, dangers on the high seas, and dangers from false friends.  There has been work and toil; often I have gone without sleep; I have been hungry and thirsty; I have often been without enough food, shelter, or clothing. And not to mention other things, every day I am under the pressure of my concern for all the churches.” 2 Cor 11:23b-28 TEV


Bob Flynn, President/CEO

It is a grand misconception we harbor when we assume that our life in Christ must be comprised of short sojourns of blessedness enjoyed only at times when we somehow achieve, by earnest endeavor, a state of heightened religious experience.  If this be true then alas, the necessary contrast must be an all too familiar emptiness that returns when, by the necessities of life, we again attend to the obligations that greatly consume our days.

Christ has prepared for us a dwelling place that is Himself where we may spend our whole lives (waking and sleeping; working and resting) in complete and continuous fellowship with Him! In which plan do you reside, the roller coaster of earnest endeavor, or the unsurpassed excellency of selfless abandon?

Had you heard the Savior calling, “Come unto me”1 and did but respond you would have found the tender and compassionate Person who breathed this wondrous invitation.  Did you somehow forget that He who speaks here is the One whose name is “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”?2  Had you inclined your ear to hear, you would have discovered also the boundless love and blessedness that likewise comes when He said, “abide.”3  He has opened His arms that we might rest our head upon his breast and experience the continuous communion and complete oneness with the Savior.

Perhaps you have found comfort from these words.  Unlike the works or words of man that falter under close inspection, the words of Jesus never tarnish!  They never grow cold. Their meaning cannot be lost in time.  On the contrary their fullness can be enriched only by every kind of contemplation. Yet to receive the undeserved blessings that follow, the invitation must first be accepted, “Come.”  And in accepting, then by necessity leaving what is behind for that which lies ahead. Better said, leaving self behind! Included are the burdens of life, self-effort, and all the
kingdoms of this world wherein trust resides.  Then by entering into Christ Himself and finding a new home, “Abide.”

“Our spiritual inhibition concerning God’s truth permits us to see, but not perceive.  The truth lies dormant within, mentally apprehended but not spiritually applied.” Arthur Wallis

1Matthew 11:28  2Revelation 19:16  3John 15:4

Courageous Faith

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

All of the heroes who have served before us have already defined, with the last full measure, what courage means.  One need not venture past the Quarterdeck of the san Diego Naval Hospital to see its cost.  Therein you will find the names of the Hospital Corpsmen who were awarded our country’s highest honor.  If you ask a warrior, he will tell you that courage is NOT the absence of fear, but instead, the substance of one’s convictions.  Even in recent days we see the newspapers full of the accounts of heroes.  Our history is rich with those days where uncommon valor was a common virtue.  So the question is NOT what is courage BUT rather, from whence does it flow?  This is an important question for everyone who wears the uniform of our country!  In light of the fact that “Him who brings everything into conformity with His will” has, by an act of His sovereign will, made you a warrior, it would seem to me that courage would be an important virtue and courageous faith an absolute necessity!

Those of us who live in Colorado have been experiencing a drought for some years now.  This brought to my mind the question:  Where does water come from?  In Colorado, it comes from the rivers.  Question: From where does the river get its water?  Answer: From the snow.  Question: From where does the snow get its water? Answer:  From the sky.  Question:  From where does the sky get its water?  Answer:  From the sea.  Question: From where does the sea get its water?  Answer:  From the river!

“Then the man brought me back to the entrance of the Temple.  There I saw a stream flowing eastward from beneath the Temple threshold.  This stream then passed to the right of the altar on its south side.  The man brought me outside the wall through the north gateway and led me around to the eastern entrance.  There I could see the stream flowing out through the south side of the east gateway.  Measuring as he went, he led me along the stream for 1,750 feet and told me to go across.  At that point the water was up to my ankles.  He measured off another 1,750 feet and told me to go across again.  This time the water was up to my knees.  After another 1,750 feet it was up to my waist.  The he measured another 1,750 feet, and the river was too deep to cross without swimming….All kinds of fruit trees will grow along both sides of the river.  The leave of these trees will never turn brown and fall, and there will always be fruit on their branches.  There will be a new crop every month, without fail! For they are watered by the river flowing from the Temple.  The fruit will be for food and the leaves for healing.” Ezekiel 47:1-5, 12 (NLT)

I was absolutely awestruck the first time I read this passage in the New Living Translation.  Sometimes the changes in the phraseology and the unfamiliarity of the keywords will shock this old mind into seeing what was once hidden.  Here we have this magnificent description of the river of healing.  I believe (and many distinguished and learned minds before me) that this is really an illustration of prayer.  The water that finds its beginnings at the Temple threshold are the prayers of the saints offered in the Spirit.  The threshold of the Temple is where we are encouraged to enter into the throne room of Grace.

“In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are.  For we do not know how we ought to pray; the spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express.  And god, who sees into our hearts, knows what the thought of the Spirit is; because the Spirit pleads with god on behalf of his people and in accordance with his will.” Romans 8:26-27 (TEV)

The prayers transformed by the Holy spirit into something worthy of entering into the presence of the Father are now omnipotent as they flow by the right-hand of the altar (where our Savior is seated) then to continue swift and deep as eternal blessing of provision from the Father through the eastern gate toward us.  We are somehow miraculously included as part of the process.  Our courageous faith then is but one of the wonderful blessing of Christ Jesus that were planned before the foundations of the world.  So then, courageous faith is really God’s omnipotent peace (the substance of our convictions) “like a river that attendeth our way,” provided of course the we are not just involved but led in prayer lest the river be empty.

Crisis at the Constitutional Convention

The contemporary enemies of Christianity and our great nation often lean to a revisionist history in order to promote the endemic gerrymanders that seek to cause the ultimate demise of both.  Why is it that so many should endeavor to bury the foundation stones of our nation beneath the graveyard created in the image of an autonomous mankind?  Perhaps the words of a devout and prominent secular humanist educator, John J. Dunphy will enlighten us:

“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith; a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being.  These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool day care or large state university.  The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of ‘love thy neighbor’ will be finally achieved.”  John J. Dunphy, “A Religion for a New Age,” The Humanist (January/February 1983), 26

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

From this rhetoric, it is not hard to see that a revisionist history is required to distance an unknowing population from the very Providence that gives life and breath to our sinews.  As a product of the public school system, I had come to believe that our forefathers were not Christians but deists.  According to Noah Webster a deist is: “One who believes in the existence of a God, but denies revealed religion, but follows the light of nature and reason as his only guides in doctrine and practice; a freethinker.”

Now let us consider the words of one of these “deists” as he endeavors to help his fellow countrymen find a way around an impasse that was, in a very real sense, about to sink the ship of state before it was launched.  History tells us that in the morning hours of June 28, 1787, Dr. Ben Franklin gave the following address to the Continental Congress:

“Mr. President—The slow progress we have made, after four or five weeks’ close attendance and continual reasoning with each other—our different sentiments on almost every question, several of the last producing as many nays as yeas—is, methinks, a melancholy proof of the imperfection of human understanding.  We indeed seem to feel our own want of political wisdom, since we have been running about in search of it.  We have gone back to ancient history for models of government, and examined the different forms of those republics which, having been formed with the seeds of their own dissolution, now no longer exist.  And we have viewed modern states all round Europe, but find none of their constitutions suitable to our circumstances.

In this situation of this assembly, groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understanding?  In the beginning of the contest with Great Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection.  Our prayers, sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered.  All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor.  To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity.  And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend?  Or do we imagine we no longer need His assistance?

I have lived, sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth—that God governs in the affairs of men.  And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?  We have been assured, sir, in the sacred writings, that ‘Except the Lord build the house they labor in vain that build it.’  I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel.  We shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves become a reproach and byword down to future ages.  And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate circumstance, despair of establishing governments by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.

I therefore beg leave to move that henceforth, prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service.”  (The Christian Life and Character of the Civil Institutions of the United States; Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. and http://www.house.gov/forbes/prayer/prayerincongress.htm)

Dr. Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. is known to have held many unorthodox religious views throughout his life.  However, his quotation of Psalm 127 and overt statement that “God governs in the affairs of men,” and his paraphrase of the Savior’s words from Matthew 10:29, leads me to believe that his faith journey had arrived and his beliefs had matured to the point where he believed in more that some impersonal, far-away God.  Rather, his assertions were to the contrary that the Lord Jesus Christ intervenes in the affairs of men.

Dead Reckoning

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

One of the things that I learned when I studied navigation was that there is no excuse for not having a good “Dead Reckoning!”  This was the process of keeping a continuous estimated position based on time, speed and distance.  When all of the fancy navigational gadgets fail, it is the Dead Reckoning that must answer the question: Where are we?  If you reckon wrong you’re dead!

In Romans Chapter 6 we see another type of Dead Reckoning mentioned. We find it in verse 11, “Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord..” (NKJV)  This is an all important reckoning! The difference in this case is that if you reckon wrong you’re NOT dead to sin!  Both terrestrial navigation and spiritual navigation have one thing in common.  They can be successful only if they are based upon established fact.  No fiction allowed here!

In this example from the Apostle Paul we see Sin described as the Master and us as the Slave.  I have often thought that it would have been easier (for me) if God had chosen to do away with the Master (Sin).  However, His solution was to do away with (me) the sinner.  And this doing away has to occur in His prescribed manner (by faith in union with Christ).

The facts of God in this case, upon which we must rely, are conveyed with three kinds of “knowing.”  Knowing—agnoeo“…that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (v. 3); Knowing—ginosko “that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.” (v. 6); Knowing—oida “…knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more.  Death no longer has dominion over Him.” (v. 9).  Why is this important?  Because as sinners our old man (nature) is beyond repair.  Specifically I am the proud owner of a reprobate or debased mind!  One that was tested and found to defective.  Therefore, my perceptions, intellect, and intuition are faulty as well.  That is why the "Knowing," as illuminated by the Holy Spirit, is the method by which our spiritual compass is calibrated or rather made anew. The FACT is that we are by faith a co-partaker of this death!  Jesus died for us to deliver us from sin’s death penalty.  The FACT is we are by faith a co-partaker in His resurrection. Jesus raised us into a new life with Him that delivered us from sin’s power.  The proof then is in the knowing NOT by a faulty cognitive apprehension, BUT by faith!  If my knowing is in the power of the flesh then there will be no victory over sin’s power in my life.  However, if my knowing is by faith (The Holy Spirit being the provider of this illumination) then the deliverance from sin is possible.  How?  In the reckoning( Again the reckoning is to be done by faith!  Since the old man still has a pulse, this reckoning must be done as an attitude in my soul!  Just as Christ’s death was NOT swift, neither shall my co-death with him be swift.  It shall be an ongoing occurrence as I am enabled in my reckoning by the Holy Spirit to remain dead to sin and alive to Him!  It is not dependent upon the remembrance in my mind but the attitude of my soul.  It is the Cross of Christ that makes Victory over Sin a real possibility!  Does that mean I am some kind of mindless creature.  Absolutely not!  It means buckle my seat belt because I am in for a wondrous ride as Christ reveals His thoughts to my renewing mind.

Death Comes Unexpectedly

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

No matter how much we anticipate the pending loss of a loved one, knowing the result of age, ill health, or injury will have its way in the end, their death still comes unexpectedly.  Our hearts are never ready to say goodbye.  Isaiah says that “we all do fade as a leaf.”  James says that our life is like a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes.  Why is it then that as leaves or vapors we should cling so tightly to our sojourn here?  It is because this is our home.  It is true that, as believers, our citizenship is in heaven.  However, Jesus is returning and even if we are with Him in Heaven, we will be returning also.  It is then not surprising that we have a connectedness with this earthly estate.

Departure from this life into the next is unknown to those of us who remain.  We are torn in our emotions between faith and uncertainty.  In our earthly vessel we stand wavering between the life we know and the one hoped for in Christ.  How can we reconcile our faith with our emotions while standing in the midst of the reality of death?

When faith call us onward and we trust to take another step, Grace supplies all that is required.  At what point does Grace arrive to help us in our need?  When we pray!  Not necessarily a long commiseration upon our knees preceded by “Dear Heavenly Father” and followed by “in Jesus Name, Amen.”  But rather, I think, something more akin to “Jesus help me!”  In the midst of bereavement, Grace is the help we need to give the next beat to our heart.  Will this world step aside for this faith exercised?  Not likely! Will faith exercised change my circumstances?  Not necessarily!  Then what does that faith provide? A change of my heart.

Then what purpose is my prayer?  Prayer doesn't give me what I want from God, rather it helps me want what God gives.  The armor of the faith is the “peace of God.”  This is the very “peace” of which the heavenly host praised God at Jesus’ birth—“on earth peace.”  It was not a sensation of peace but the very person of peace who had been born into this hostile world.  Did the world recognize this peace and step aside?  Not hardly!  Did not peace endure the most meager of beginnings?  Absolutely! Was not peace nailed to a tree?  Yes!  Thus enters in “thanksgiving” (eucharistia − grateful language to God as an act of worship − the highest act of thanksgiving for the greatest gift ever given, Jesus, and His mercies poured out upon us, past and present).  When death comes unexpectedly, pour out your heart to God and then give thanks.  Trust in the armor of peace who is Christ Himself to guard your heart and mind.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NASB)


Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Deception was the tool used by the Enemy that caused our parents to be cast out of the Garden and separated from their innocence.  Deception continues to be Satan’s tool in the current age; however, self-deception is a horse of a different color.  It, like the Nile, has multiple sources, one of which is self!  So complete is this delusion and so rampant is its gain that we can observe its presence on the nightly news.  Perhaps the Puritan John Flavel covered this when he said, “Conceits and whimsies abound most in men of weak reason.” John Flavel, Preparation for Suffering.

Watchman Nee, in The Latent Power of the Soul, describes this self-deception source as follows:  “My hope for today is that you may be helped to know the source and the operations of the latent power of the soul.  May God impress us with the fact that where soul force is, there also is the evil spirit.  We must not use the power which comes from us, rather we must use the power which proceeds from the Holy Spirit.  May we especially deny the latent power of the soul, lest we fall into Satan’s hand.  For the soul’s power has, through Adam’s sin, already fallen under the dominion of Satan and has become the latter’s working instrument.  We therefore need to exercise great caution against Satan’s deception.”

A.W. Tozer, in Man—The Dwelling Place of God, contrasts these deceptions by saying that when a man is deceived, he is being deceived against his will and is the victim of another’s guile.  However when he is self-deceived, he has become his own worst enemy and is perpetrating a fraud upon himself.  As a result of his life’s conditioning, he wants to believe the lie.  He cannot resist the deceit because he has become a collaborator with it against himself.  The battle is over before it starts because he has already surrendered.  “He enjoys being deceived….The further we push into the sanctuary, the greater becomes the danger of self-deception.  The deeply religious man is far more vulnerable than the easygoing fellow who takes his religion lightly.  This latter may be deceived but he is not likely to be self-deceived.” (Tozer)

“Men can do many good things and yet not be holy in heart and righteous in conduct.  They can do many good things and lack that spiritual quality of heart called holiness.  How great the need of hearing the words of Paul guarding us against self-deception in the great work of personal salvation:  ‘Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’” E.M. Bounds - The Essentials of Prayer.

Arthur W. Pink asserts, in Practical Christianity, that there is indeed a faith in Christ which does not save!  Hence, it is very easy to be deceived about faith despite the many pointed warnings from the Holy Spirit written in Scripture!

“A deceived heart has turned him aside” (Isaiah 44:20 NASB).
“The arrogance of your heart has deceived you” (Obadiah 3 NASB).
“See to it that you be not misled” (Luke 21:8 NASB). 
“For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3 NASB).
“At no point does Satan use this cunning and power more tenaciously, and more successfully, than in getting people to believe that they have a saving faith when they have not.  How many a Satan-blinded soul will read this and then say, It does not apply to me; I know that my faith is a saving one!” (A. W. Pink)

Today Lucifer continues to wield this mighty, effective tool because it works!  Even while you are reading this article your soul is already putting up a defense!  All the while, the Devil is turning you away from the sword point of conviction from Holy Scripture, as the concrete hardens around your feet making you a captive of unbelief.

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!” (2 Corinthians 13:5 NASB).
“Oh, my reader, heed that word now. Reader, if there is a reserve in your obedience, you are on the way to hell.” (A. W. Pink)

According to A.W. Tozer, in The Dwelling Place of God, we have created a panacea for all the ills and dubbed it prayer.  We worship it as the secret key that will unlock every prison door.  There is great privilege and every advantage to those who “pray in the Spirit,” but he who prays carelessly will find that this too will become a source of self-deception.

“To escape self-deception, the praying man must come out clean and honest.  He cannot hide in the cross while concealing in his bosom the golden wedge and the goodly Babylonish garment.  Grace will save a man, but it will not save him and his idol.  The blood of Christ will shield the penitent sinner alone, but never the sinner and his idol. Faith will justify the sinner, but it will never justify the sinner and his sin.  How may we remain free from self-deception?  The answer sounds old-fashioned and dull but here it is: Mean what you say and never say what you do not mean, either to God or man.  Think candid thoughts and act forthrightly always, whatever the consequence.  To do this will bring the cross into your life and keep you dead to self and to public opinion.  And it may get you into trouble sometimes, too.  But a guileless mind is a great treasure; it is worth any price.” (Tozer)

Then come “‘the world-rulers of the darkness of this age.’  This name would suggest a ministry of deception, the keeping in darkness of the minds of men, and especially of the leaders of thought” J.A. MacMillan, The Authority of the Believer.

 “So often activity, even Christian service, can be a cloak to hide the truth both from ourselves and from others.  The Holy Spirit is against all such self-deception and sham.  It is truth and not sacrifice which He requires in such a case.” Roy Hession, Be Filled Now.
“The circumspect walk is distinctly the will of the Lord for each and every child of God.  Therefore, the present walk in the flesh is not only a folly of infinite proportion, but is a distinct disobedience and disregard of the revealed will of the One Who has saved us at measureless cost.  The antinomian1 deception is, that exactness of conduct is an indifferent thing so long as there is soundness of doctrine; but such error is most serious.  True piety is not a thoughtless security, but rather a watchful sobriety, which is a daily habit of mind.  There is marvelous advantage to the one who knows the doctrines and stands secure in their glorious fullness; but there is need, as well, that the doctrine shall be adorned.” Lewis Sperry Chafer, Ephesian Letter.
“Satan’s ambition is leading him to make this age of his special opportunity, as near perfect as his wisdom and power will permit.  And in this connection it may be noted that Satan’s ambition was not to become a fiend, but rather to become like the Most High.  He will, therefore, strive for all that is moral and good:  yet at the same time do all in his power to draw men from their natural reverence of God, that, in due time, they may acknowledge himself without fear.  The Satanic ideal of this age is, then, an improved social order, a moral and cultured people, who are devout worshippers of himself, though for the present they may imagine they are worshipping Jehovah through their empty religious forms and ceremonies, while they are really in a state of God-dishonoring unbelief, and all their thoughts are energized by Satan alone.  The Satanic message for this age will be reformation and self-development, while the message of God is regeneration by the power of the Spirit.  The action of Satan may also be detected in that a humble messenger who is loyal to Christ and His Salvation by grace alone, will be almost unheeded at the present time:  while the vast throng will be found supporting that which is religious only in its externals, but which is, in reality, a gospel of morality and subtle denial of the redemption that is in Christ.
Again, the opposing power of Satan may be seen in the matter of Christian giving.  Millions are given without solicitation for education, culture, and humanity’s physical comfort, but real world-wide evangelization must ever drag on with its shameful limitations and debts.” Lewis Sperry Chaffer, Satan.
“Is it not God’s design that men should obtain assurance in any other way than by mortifying corruption, and increasing in grace, and obtaining the lively exercise of it? And although self-examination be a duty of great use and importance, and by no means to be neglected, yet it is not the principal means by which the saints do get satisfaction of their good estate. Assurance is not to be obtained so much by self-examination as by action!” Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections.

1.  Antinomian—One who holds that under the Gospel dispensation of Grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation. (Merriam-Webster Online)

Deviation Check

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

The compass that steers our lives must be reliable.  The magnetic compasses we use to guide us here on earth require corrections for all manner of perturbations.  We can ill afford to allow our lives to be guided by a source that deviates in any manner from the true direction.  Yet, in practice, is that not what we do? So what is a Father to do with an offspring that has a compass that is not aligned aright?

“He cuts off every branch that doesn’t produce fruit, and
he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will
produce even more.” (John 15:2 NLT)

Our hearts are so prone to wander from the course that the Lord has set before us. The love we have for this world somehow deceives us into thinking that we can be satisfied with its prosperity and sensuality. Our spiritual eyes thus lose their ability to focus–the light of our soul grows dim–our fellowship with Christ grows cold.  It is this frigid chill that stems the flow from vine to branch like the arctic blast that turns the trees in fall.  In no time they are naked and lifeless till the sap is made to flow again in God’s revealing light. It is the Father’s tender mercy that sends the storms of adversity our way to shake our world with His chastisement so that when again we find ourselves surrounded by the world’s alluring successes and sensations that our joy in Christ will make them pale and dim.

Effectual Calling — Reluctant Slave

As I gaze at the gorgeous winter scene that blankets the Rocky Mountains, my heart much appreciates this absolutely wondrous portrait that God has painted in creation.  But the beauty that resides in this picturesque mountain setting is only a small part of the scene.  God not only paints mountains into His portrait, He also paints visions into the hearts of His children.  I cannot testify to the canvass that, by His hand, graces your heart but only the one etched deep within my own.  I wish I could say that it was created over a span of years and that I was allowed to admire each brush stroke, contrast and hue—but it was created in an instant.  I was struck to the ground and lay paralyzed and unable to move.  I wept uncontrollably tears that seemed as if they would never end as the Holy Spirit allowed me to experience His grief over sin (mine included) and the lost souls serving in our military.  God, in His tender mercies, had placed His call upon my heart in a way I would not soon forget.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

I believe that God has called each one of us to be His missionaries.  All that remains is our response to His calling.  I remember that Moses was less than enthusiastic when He received his call from God.  In Exodus 3:10 God called Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt.  Moses’ reply, in verse 11, can be paraphrased as I HAVE NO ABILITY! (sound familiar?).  God told Moses that He would be with him (verse 12). But you say, “that's O.K. for Moses, what about me?”  Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” 

That would have been enough for me, but not for Ol’ Moses.  His retort, in verse 13, was basically that I HAVE NO MESSAGE.  But God gave him one. We too have the message that “...Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…” (I Corinthians 15:3-4).

Now right after this, Moses rushed off to do God's bidding, right?  Wrong-o!!!  He complained, I HAVE NO AUTHORITY (Exodus 4:1).  So God reminded Moses that He was his authority.  Jesus told us, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

Now wouldn’t you figure a big league player like Moses would be willing to quit after three strikes?  In Exodus 4:10 he claims NOT TO HAVE ANY ELOQUENCE.  The Apostle Paul shares with us in I Corinthians 2:1-5, “And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.  And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.  And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of man, but in the power of God.”

You would think at this point that Moses would be all squared away.  But, like me, Moses tended to be a little thick between the ears (the texture of case-hardened peanut butter comes to mind).  Finally he looked straight at the burning bush and fired off his last big line, admitting that he had NO INCLINATION to do what God had asked (Exodus 4:13).  I believe I would have been looking for the big mushroom cloud after that one.  But God was gracious.  He worked with Moses and allowed Aaron to accompany him and help with his mission.  God says to us in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”  You see dear brothers and sisters, in Christ, we are without excuse.  “We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain.” (II Corinthians 6:1)

The fact that I share my faith means nothing, for the folks that come by my front door each week with a small magazine share theirs with fervor.  The fact that I DO NOT share my faith says everything!

I pray that all of us in CMF would open up the canvas of our hearts so that God may paint a most wondrous portrait there; worthy of the sacrifices made for us by His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not drag our feet like Moses, but go for the Gold like Paul. We can see that God has provided in every way for our journey. Let us be willing to go forth and spread the good news.

Quotes on Obedience
Various are the pleas and arguments which men of corrupt minds frequently urge against yielding obedience to the just and holy commands of God. But, perhaps, one of the most common objections that they make is this, that our Lord's commands are not practicable, because contrary to flesh and blood; and consequently, that he is ‘an hard master, reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he has not strewed.’ These we find were the sentiments entertained by that wicked and slothful servant mentioned in the 25th of St. Matthew; and are undoubtedly the same with many which are maintained in the present wicked and adulterous generation. (George Whitfield, Walking With God)
Have you noticed how much praying for revival has been going on of late—and how little revival has resulted? I believe the problem is that we have been trying to substitute praying for obeying, and it simply will not work.  To pray for revival while ignoring the plain precept laid down in Scripture is to waste a lot of words and get nothing for our trouble.  Prayer will become effective when we stop using it as a substitute for obedience. (A.W. Tozer)
Faith, as Paul saw it, was a living, flaming thing leading to surrender and obedience to the commandments of Christ. (A.W. Tozer)
He will show us, to begin with, just one thing, and it will be our obedience and brokenness on that one thing that will be the first step into Revival for us. (Roy Hession, Calvary Road)
The principle involved is set forth in other places of the Word of God, in different phraseology it may be, but with equal cogency and clarity.  Our duty is to draw near with the boldness of faith and in the attitude and readiness of full obedience.  Faith will prove a key to unlock every mystery of the truth; obedience will secure our entrance through the door thus opened. (J.A. MacMillan, Authority of the Intercessor)
Many are willing to give up their theatre-going, and card-parties, who refuse to go forth unto Christ outside the camp.  Others are willing to go outside the camp, yet refuse to deny their fleshly and worldly lusts.  Reader, if there is a reserve in your obedience, you are on the way to hell. (Arthur W. Pink, Practical Christianity)
Ah, dear reader, it is far, far easier to speak in the open air than to uproot pride from your soul.  It calls for much less toil to go out and distribute tracts than it does to cast out of your mind unholy thoughts.  One can speak to the unsaved much more readily than he can deny self, take up his cross daily, and follow Christ in the path of obedience.  And one can teach a class in the Sunday School with far less trouble than he can teach himself how to strengthen his own spiritual graces.  To keep the heart with all diligence calls for frequent examination of its frames and dispositions, the observing of its attitude towards God, and the prevailing directions of its affections; and that is something which no empty professor can be brought to do! Give liberally to religious enterprises he may, but give himself unto the searching, purifying and keeping of his heart he will not. (Arthur W. Pink, Practical Christianity)
You shall learn how your great work is to listen, and hear, and believe what He promises; to watch and wait and see what He does; and then, in faith, and worship, and obedience, to yield yourself to His working who works in you mightily. (Andrew Murray, Abide in Christ)


Bob Flynn, President/CEO

The Fruit of the Flesh is: “sexual immorality, impure thoughts, eagerness for lustful pleasure, idolatry, participation in demonic activities, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, divisions, the feeling that everyone is wrong except those in your own little group, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other kinds of sin.” (Galations 5:19b-21 NLT)  Considering the aforementioned scripture, it should come as no surprise that divorce, immorality, dishonesty and greed are running rampant in the church!  The divorce rate among Christians is now 8% higher than among the peoples of the world. Dr. Billy Graham has said that, according to his research, at least 90 percent of all Christians in America are living defeated spiritual lives.

One thing above all else we can know from this is that there are a whole lot of deeply hurting people in our world.  One thing we should know is that our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ gives us inexhaustible resources that can be used to heal the hurt.  What then is the answer to this question?  Grace is always the answer.  God’s wonderful, matchless, empowering, and life changing Grace.

A tool of Grace that can be utilized in these kinds of situations is Encouragement.  What is encouragement anyhow? Encouragement is when the Holy Spirit allows our love to touch the hurting person’s fear.  Encouragement is God’s salve for the wounded spirit.  That is why encouragement is a weapon of war.  We are in a spiritual battle that can cause many kinds of wounds both spiritual and physical.  Satan is our chief enemy, and one of his most used weapons is discouragement.  But we who have “presented ourselves as instruments of righteousness” can be the salve bearers for the Chief encourager, the Lord Jesus Christ.  We are enabled to do this because, “…we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Rom 5:5 NLT)  We want to do this because, “…God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil 2:13 NLT)

The Lord that Isaiah saw, “…seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple.”  The Lord to whom the angels sang, “‘Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.’” (Isa 6:1b, 3 NIV)  This is the same Lord of whom David said, “But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head.” (Psa 3:3 KJV)  I think that I could have never known the meaning of these words of the Psalmist’s unless I had experienced deep discouragement.  The kind of discouragement that makes your chin rest upon your chest.  It was then that I discovered that the Lord Jesus Christ was my encourager!  He is the source of my encouragement and He enables me to be an encourager of others.  The kind of encouragement that allows others to see His “glory” that fills the whole earth.  The “glory” that shakes the foundations of the temple when the angels sing, “Holy, holy, holy.”  This is the encouragement that shakes our world with the joy that is ours in Christ Jesus.

So what?  Look at it this way.  Nine out of every ten of your brothers and sisters in Christ are wounded!  And chances are that they can say the same thing about you!!!  The wonderful thing about being a part of the body of Christ is that you can be a doctor while you are a patient!  Not long ago I was having a little pity party for myself because I hadn’t had an opportunity to share the love of Christ with a nonbeliever.  When you work for a Christian organization the reality is that you spend your time with the brethren (what a great blessing).  With the technology of today I pay for my gasoline at the pump and use the self checkout at the grocery store.  I am thankful that my barber isn’t computerized yet!  Then it happened!  I found myself in the hospital emergency room.  The Holy Spirit said to my heart, “here they are, knock yourself out!”  Here was an opportunity to encourage those who were trying to encourage me!  Only God could make this happen.  Over the course of the next 24 hours I had the opportunity to be with at least 50 different people.  They were doctors, nurses, employees, and patients.  Each one God’s treasure whom He died to save.  Do you want to be encouraged?  Then be an encourager!  Our very life depends on you!

“The tongue has the power of life and death,…” (Prov 18:21 NIV)
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” (Prov 12:25 NIV)
“The tongue that brings healing is a tree of life…” (Prov 15:4 NIV)
“Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Prov 16:24 NIV)
“A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” (Prov 25:11 NIV)


Bob Flynn, President/CEO
“See, he is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous will live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4 NIV)

The most powerful truth you will ever discover is contained in these words from the prophet Habakkuk. The Apostle Paul used these very words as the cornerstone of his Epistle to the Romans.  The trouble lies in their application to our lives. I could say without reservation that all believers have discovered that, as sinners, they have been made righteous (justified) by faith.  However, it is apparent, at every turn, that there are few who have discovered that the “righteous will live by faith.” (Romans 1:17 NIV)

One could say that it is our “duty” to report to the Savior each day and exercise our “belief.”  Believing is the spiritual training of the faith muscle, just as calisthenics is physical training of the human muscle.  This life of grace we have with the blessed Savior is, and always has been, a life of sustained faith. When we forget this wonderful truth we find ourselves in the first part of the sentence, “puffed up” and the desires of our heart are “not upright.”  Likewise, Paul declares (in Romans 1:18) right after revealing this truth of faith, that, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness….” The Greek word here is very ominous indeed, “katecho” meaning to hold down (as if to drown).  Noah Webster adds: “conquer one’s desires; put out of one’s consciousness.”  Paul goes on to say that we know what is right because God has revealed it to us in a way that is readily understood, “plain.”  Yet we choose to drown “the truth in unrighteousness.” (KJV)

Isn’t that what we do when we refuse, by the witness of our life, to live by faith? In doing so we have sinned (yes, the “S-word”) against the Holy Spirit by quenching Him (not doing what He wants us to do) and grieving Him (by doing what He does not want us to do).

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7 NIV)

By faith we came to Christ, and here the Apostle reminds us that it is by faith that we are to be “rooted” (Keep your roots deep in Him [TEV]) and “established” (NKJ) in our union with Him.

“Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  So why do you call me ‘Lord,’ when you won’t obey me?  I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then obeys me.  It is like a person who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock. When the flood waters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built.  But anyone who listens and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without foundation.  When the floods sweep down against that house, it will crumble into a heap of ruins.” (Luke 6:45b-49 NLT)
"I ought to pray before seeing any one. Often when I sleep long, or meet with others early, it is eleven or twelve o'clock before I begin secret prayer.  This is a wretched system.  It is unscriptural. Christ arose before day and went into a solitary place.  David says: ‘Early will I seek thee'; ‘Thou shalt early hear m y voice.' Family prayer loses much of its power and sweetness, and I can do no good to those who come to seek from me.  The conscience feels guilty, the soul unfed, the lamp not trimmed.  Then when in secret prayer the soul is often out of tune, I feel it is far better to begin with God—to see his face first, to get my soul near him before it is near another.”

Frequent, Fervent Prayer: by ADCS Bob Flynn, USN (Ret)

A man may measure himself in many ways.  If he wishes to measure himself as a believer he need go no further than his knees.  “What a man is on his knees before God, that he is—and nothing more” (Robert Murray M’Cheyne)
Robert Murray M'Cheney
Robert Murray M'Cheyne

It is important to find the true and honest weight of our lives.  The problem lies within our human judgment.  The way we see ourselves does not balance with the way God sees us from within His Sanctuary.  Perhaps that is why the Apostle Paul warns us not to think too highly of ourselves (Romans 12:3 paraphrase mine).

If we are Christians, then the reason for this measurement is to determine our readiness for war.  The elite warriors of the ancient Roman Empire were called the triarii.  When these combatants were engaged with the enemy, they had one duty: take the two feet of ground in front of them, clear it, then advance.

Whether we admit it or not, each of us lives in a combat zone.  Around us the war rages unseen as the principalities, powers, and rulers of darkness try to prevent the furtherance of the Gospel.  When we became a member of the family of God we also became combatants in this eternal battle for the souls of men.  The war ensues whether we like it or not.  Our only choice is whether or not we will be vanquishers or victims.  In war there are only the quick and the dead; heroes and cowards; conquerors or casualties.

If we choose vanquishers, heroes and conquerors, then this requires preparation, training, and vigilance.  The price of combat readiness is high!  It will cost you everything!  However, your sacrifice will bring with it the great rewards of perseverance and endurance.

In wartime, communication is the difference between life and death.  As a Combat Christian you will engage in the daily war for the souls of the lost so do not forget that “A man is no bigger than His prayer life” (Arthur Wallis—Prayer Warrior).  Remember, warrior, our lives in Christ Jesus began with a prayer.  Prayer is not a liturgical activity (a prescribed ritual for public worship).  Prayer is not a ritual (a ceremonial or solemn act).  Prayer is a relationship between you and the Father, because of the Son and empowered by the Holy Spirit.  Prayer is the most important weapon of combat in the Christian arsenal.  Yet it languishes for lack of use.  Prayer ought to be the first weapon drawn NOT the tool of last resort.  We cannot be of much use to the King as a warrior if our muscles are atrophied.  The only way to ensure their fitness is to engage in a well planned program of training!

Forgiving Versus Excusing

Bob Flynn, President/CEO
I find that when I think I am asking God to forgive me I am often in reality (unless I watch myself very carefully) asking Him to do something very different.  I am asking Him not to forgive me but to excuse me.  But there is all the difference in the world between forgiving and excusing.  Forgiveness says, “Yes, you have done this thing, but I accept your apology; I will never hold it against you and everything between us two will be exactly as it was before.”  But excusing says “I see that you couldn't help it or didn't mean it; you weren't really to blame.”  If one was not really to blame then there is nothing to forgive.  In that sense forgiveness and excusing are almost opposite. (C. S. Lewis, Virtue and Vice)
One day Jesus said to His disciples, “There will always be temptations to sin, but what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting!  It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin.  So watch yourselves!  If another believer sins, rebuke that person; then if there is G3340repentance, forgive.  Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” (Luke 17:1-4 NLT)
G3340 μετανοέω metan oéo ; contracted metanoo , fut. metanooso , from metá (G3326), denoting change of place or condition, and noéo (G3539), to exercise the mind, think, comprehend.  To repent, change the mind, relent.  Theologically, it involves regret or sorrow, accompanied by a true change of heart toward God.  In a religious sense implying pious sorrow for unbelief and sin and a turning from them unto God and the gospel of Christ.  (The Complete Word Study Dictionary—Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D, General Editor)
Penitence — from poeniteo, from poena, pain, punishment.  Repentance; pain; sorrow or grief of heart for sins or offenses; contrition.  Real penitence springs from a conviction of guilt and ingratitude to God, and is followed by amendment of life. (Noah Webster)

We often needlessly wander through the darkened fortress of discouragement and despair—the high, impenetrable ramparts of our own building.  Brick by brick they did rise from the hardness of our own heart—cemented indestructibly by the piteous mortar of our everbleeding soul.  We are powerless to extricate ourselves from this fallen estate because of our self-deception.  We think we are asking forgiveness for our sins, but without accepting responsibility.  Did the Scriptures say that Christ would “excuse” our sins?  No, He offered forgiveness if we confess them.  If we look to the testimony of the Cross, we can see the Savior offering prayer on our behalf, “Father, forgive them.”  He could not yet forgive us because we had not repented.  Nevertheless, His example was to pray for our forgiveness and not (as we would) harbor ill will in the heart).

We are in darkness when we fail to wrestle with the responsibility of our own sin!  Our honest confession must begin with the attitude of our heart.  Are we really seeking “excusing” when the Scripture clearly teaches us to seek “forgiveness”?  Our journey must begin at the gates of penitence—the work of the Holy Spirit that allows us to grieve over our sin and see its result through His eyes.  Then is our repentance possible and our forgiveness assured.  As we walk this path to forgiveness, the Holy Spirit will bring to light the true gravity of our offenses.  Though clearly we are no longer the objects of the wrath of God, our sin still comes with its own reward.  If we are the conduit through which the offense travels, the gravity looms large.  But if we heed the conviction of the Holy Spirit upon our heart, then the road back into the Light of Christ appears before
us; and what we meant for evil will be transformed by Him who sits upon the throne of the universe.

Consider today the aforementioned words of Clive Staples Lewis and his warning to be careful that forgiveness petitions be not instead desires for excusing!

Grace is the spring of the Christian's walk, and furnishes directions for it.  He cannot with impunity (chapter 17) despise the weak.  He must not be weary of pardoning his brother.  If he have faith but as a grain of mustard seed, the power of God is, so to speak, at his disposal.  Nevertheless, when he has done all, he has but done his duty (Luke 17:5-10).  (Dr. John Darby)
We are here taught, That the giving of offenses is a great sin, and that which we should every one of us avoid and carefully watch against, Luke 17:1-2.  We can expect no other than that offenses will come, considering the perverseness and frowardness that are in the nature of man, and the wise purpose and counsel of God, who will carry on his work even by those offenses, and bring good out of evil.  It is almost impossible but that offenses will come, and therefore we are concerned to provide accordingly; but woe to him through whom they come, his doom will be heavy (Luke 17:2), more terrible than that of the worst of the malefactors who are condemned to be thrown into the sea, for they perish under a load of guilt more ponderous than that of millstones.  This includes a woe, 1. To persecutors, who offer any injury to the least of Christ's little ones, in word or deed, by which they are discouraged in serving Christ, and doing their duty, or in danger of being driven off from it.  2. To seducers, who corrupt the truths of Christ and his ordinances, and so trouble the minds of the disciples; for they are those by whom offenses come.  3. To those who, under the profession of the Christian name, live  scandalously, and thereby weaken the bands and sadden the hearts of God's people; for by them the offense comes, and it is no abatement of their guilt, nor will be any of their punishment, that it is impossible but offenses will come. (Matthew Henry)
Far different is the humiliating language of Christianity.  From it we learn that man is an apostate creature, fallen from his high original, degraded in his nature, and depraved in his faculties; indisposed to good, and disposed to evil; prone to vice, it is natural and easy to him; disinclined to virtue, it is difficult and laborious; that he is tainted with sin, not slightly and superficially, but radically and to the very core.  These are truths which, however mortifying to our pride, one would think (if this very corruption itself did not warp the judgment) none would be hardy enough to attempt to controvert.  I know not any thing which brings them home so forcibly to my own feelings, as the consideration of what still remains to us of our primitive dignity, when contrasted with our present state of moral degradation,
“Into what depth thou seest, From what height fallen.”
(William Wilberforce, The Practical View of the Prevailing)

If I could completely comprehend the full stature of the moral depravity that lives within my flesh, I would be able to speak with authority in directly referencing the depravity of the world in which I live.  But to do so would only display my hypocrisy like a beacon in the night and with due diligence parade my ignorance across the fields of man’s utter folly.  For it is the likeness I see in the mirror each day that ought display the image of Christ in all of His fullness but does not.  The reason it does not is that my heart remains hard and feels not the complete and utter despair of those who remain both called of God and lost in their sin.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO
So I endure all things for the sake of those chosen by God, that they too may obtain salvation in Christ Jesus and its eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10 NET)

Should I thus languish in my frustrations that those yet held in captivity by the blackness of sin that fills their hearts do not live as though they were numbered among the saints?  Would I expect an elephant to fly?  Then why is it that my heart is living in a world of impossible expectation?  Because I think too highly of myself!  Shall I exalt my expectations over those of the Almighty Who knows the end of all things?  The complaints of my heart cannot live in the presence of Him who died for me.  If the grapes of wrath should by their weight extinguish my earthly existence would all of my worry add one second to my life or accomplish an eternal task?  Should not my eyes shed the tears of the Savior’s heart as he grieves for the lost?  By divine decree have I been given life abundant, a life that should no longer be lived for myself but for Him who died for me.  Whatever events life brings my way, will I glory in the Cross or cower in the perceived defeat?  Did Stephen lose when stoned to death while a zealous Saul looked on?  Or was this a divine appointment kept that would in due time break the heart of this very zealous Pharisee on the road to Damascus?  Stephen was called to glory so that the Apostle Paul could become debtor to the whole world for Christ's sake.

For the love of Christ controls us, since we have concluded this, that Christ died for all; therefore all have died.  And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NET)

Oh America, from what height fallen.  Did we not pray for salvation’s song to reverberate through our hearts and minds─only to abandon its Author within a generation?  Did we not choose to stand idly by while one human owned another?  Have we not now created an underclass of peoples here at home and around the world that toil for a menial wage because of our greed.  Have we not mortgaged our future and that of our grandchildren?  Do we not owe the unearned wages of generations yet to be born?  Are we not financially bankrupt as a nation while our leaders keep cold cash in their government office refrigerators?  Is that the American dream we offer from sea to shining sea?

At the very same time our church parking lots portray the true face of our inner heart when one lot is full of Mercedes while yet another is full of Hyundai.  We strut like peacocks with our arrogant and prideful feathers spread wide because our successes are measured by the number of tires touching the fresh bituminous there laid!  Our congregations are separated by the walls of culture, custom, class, color and tongue.  All the while we sing a lie through our graveyard throats, “I’m going back to the heart of worship cause it’s all about you Jesus.  I’m sorry Lord for the thing I’ve made it because it’s all about you.”  What is that incessant and annoying knocking at the narthex doors that disturbs my worship every Sunday?

Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking!  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and share a meal with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 NET)

Notice that this Scripture given to the church is for once used in context! I couldn’t hear the King of Glory knocking because I was blinded by the glow of a pulpit aflame with righteousness (NOT).  But my eyes were diseased and the light I saw was really darkness!

The greatest obstructers of the success of the word are those whose bad lives contradict their good doctrine, who in the pulpit preach so well that it is a pity they should ever come out, and out of the pulpit live so ill that it is a pity they should ever come in. (Matthew Henry)
No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a hidden place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, so that those who come in can see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is diseased, your body is full of darkness. Therefore see to it that the light in you is not darkness. (Luke 11:33-35 NET)
I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors and her ample rivers … ; in her fertile fields and boundless forests … ; in her rich mines and vast world commerce … ; in her public school system and institutions of learning. I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.
Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. (Tocqueville, Charles Alexis Henri Maurice Clèrel de)

We have not only lost the secret but buried it where it cannot be found—in the depths of self-righteousness, willful disobedience and counterfeit worship.  The pinprick of light emanating from the clergy pulpit or the one given to every believer for the sake of his neighbor is piteously small and ineffectual because our bad lives contradict our good doctrine.  We look to each other and compare our chrome and fail to notice the absence of an undergirding steel.  We furiously shout through the hawespipe of our gospel ─ without noticing the ship has no keel!

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone wants to become my follower, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what does it benefit a person if he gains the whole world but forfeits his life?  Or what can a person give in exchange for his life?" (Matthew 16:24-26 NET)

We in this postmodern world are more likely to cruise the river of denial rather than come to terms with the truth here spoken to us by our Lord.  We think of self-denial as an act of giving up something—perhaps doing without certain delicacies or comforts.  However, this is only an infinitesimal part of His greater calling upon the heart.

To deny oneself means in every moment of life to say no to self and yes to God.  To deny oneself means once, finally and for all to dethrone self and to enthrone God.  To deny oneself means to obliterate self as the dominant principle of life, and to make God the ruling principle, more, the ruling passion, of life.  The life of constant self-denial is the life of constant assent to God. (William Barclay)

Brother Lawrence would call this “Practicing the Presence of God.”  Pastor Andrew Murray would call this “Absolute Surrender.”  This is to give up all that would come between us and the Savior and thus prevent us from doing His will; to push self off the throne and let Jesus truly become Lord of our life.

A slumbering faith is an inactive one.  It is not exercised upon its appointed Objects nor performing its assigned tasks.  It is neither drawing upon that fullness of grace which is available in Christ for His people, nor is it acting on the precepts and promises of the Word.  Though there still be a mental assent to the Truth, yet the heart is no longer suitably affected by that which concerns practical godliness.  Where such be the case a Christian will be governed more by tradition, sentiment, and fancy, rather than by gratitude, the fear of the Lord, and care to please Him.  So too when his hope becomes sluggish, he soon lapses into a spiritual torpor.  Hope is a desirous and earnest expectation of blessedness to come.  It looks away from self and this present scene and is enthralled by “the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.”  As it eyes the goal and the prize, it is enabled to run with patience the race set before us.  But when hope slumbers he becomes absorbed with the objects of time and sense, and allured and stupefied with present and perishing things.  Likewise when love to God be not vigorous, there is no living to His glory; self-love and self-pity actuating us.  When the love of Christ ceases to constrain us to self-denial and a following the example He has left us, the soul has gone to sleep. (Arthur W. Pink, Practical Christianity)

Is the scene we see acted out in our lives and in the churches where we worship of the former torpor or the latter earnest hope?  The vision most often cast is one of constant entertainment and incessant complaint—the sermon too long, the music too loud, not enough hymns, and too many choruses.  Perhaps this can be overcome by the continuous gossip we send and receive in our holy intercourse each week at the I don’t care group.  The Lord of the Universe is not amused, and His righteous anger burns white hot because of the dung we offer up in contempt and paint as a holy offering!

He must take up his cross.  That is to say, he must take up the burden of sacrifice.  The Christian life is the life of sacrificial service.  The Christian may have to abandon personal ambition to serve Christ; it may be that he will discover that the place where he can render the greatest service to Jesus Christ is somewhere where the reward will be small and the prestige non-existent.  He will certainly have to sacrifice time and leisure and pleasure in order to serve God through the service of his fellow-men.  The really important thing is not the great moments of sacrifice, but a life lived in the constant hourly awareness of the demands of God and the need of others.  The Christian life is a life which is always concerned with others more than it is concerned with itself. (William Barclay)
But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NET)
Now large crowds were accompanying Jesus, and turning to them he said, "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother, and wife and children, and brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:25-26 NET)

If we reduce this to the simplest of terms, we must push aside the television, video games, and even the O’Reilly Factor for the duties of elder, deacon, teacher, youth leader, or to visit those who are sick, discouraged or lonely.  We perhaps will forgo the possession of certain conveniences that we might give more with hilarity.

He must follow Jesus Christ.  That is to say, he must render to Jesus Christ a perfect obedience.  When we were young we used to play a game called “Follow the Leader.”  Everything the leader did, however difficult, and, in the case of the game, however ridiculous, we had to copy.  The Christian life is a constant following of our Leader, a constant obedience in thought and word and action to Jesus Christ.  The Christian walks in the footsteps of Christ, wherever he may lead. (William Barclay)
For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21 NET)
We have come to know love by this: that Jesus laid down his life for us; thus we ought to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians.  But whoever has the world's possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:16-18 NET)
Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.  If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. (Galatians 5:24-25 NET)

Why is this so important?  What does this have to do with Christian military ministry?  Because the enemy of our soul has chosen a strategy right out of the divine playbook!  He will try to break America’s independence by breaking the military!

In fact, I will bring an end to Israel's independence.  I will break its military power in the Jezreel Valley. (Hosea 1:4b-5 NLT)

We often forget that there is always a battle unseen and because of this there is always more at stake than meets the eye.  Remember that it was on August 7, 1990, that Operation Desert Shield began.  I am not sure how to quantify the prudent limit of endurance for troops, families, and machines.  However, with the ever-increasing unrest in our world, our prayers ought to be more earnest and prolific for our troops and for our nation.  Behold the Jezreel Valley looms large in the horizon!

Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14 NLT)
Temperance is true self-government. It involves the grace of self-denial and the spirit of a sound mind.  It is that poise of spirit that holds us quiet, self-possessed, recollected, deliberate, and subject ever to the voice of God and the conviction of duty in every step we take. Many persons have not that poise and recollected spirit.  They are drifting at the impulse of their own impressions, moods, the influence of others, or the circumstances around them.  No desire should ever control us.  No purpose, however right, should have such mastery over us that we are not perfectly free.  The pure affection may be an inordinate affection.  Our work itself may be a selfish passion.  That thing that we began to do because it was God's will, we may cling to and persist in ultimately, because it is our own will. Lord, give us the spirit ever controlled by Thy Spirit and will, and the eye that looks to Thee every moment as the eyes of a servant to the hands of her mistress.  So shall Thy service be our perfect freedom, and our subjection divinest liberty. (A. B. Simpson, Days of Heaven Upon Earth)

Give Me Death — That I May Have Liberty

Bob Flynn, President/CEO
“Liberty”–from ‘Libarté’–a French word that means freedom from something–oppression, tyranny, slavery, etc.

We ofttimes, here in America, speak of the great freedoms we have in Christ. Perhaps as citizens of this great land we even view certain freedoms as rights.  This is good for it is true in both instances.  However, I think we, more often than not, do not comprehend fully the complete meaning of this freedom.  I would suggest that, because of our culture, the meaning of the word “freedom” has taken on some baggage over time.  When I think of the freedom I enjoy in Christ Jesus, a different word comes to mind – “Liberty.”  The title of this article is the apparent antithesis of a timehonored quote from one of our forefathers, Patrick Henry.  He was saying that he would rather die than live under oppression!

Those of us who have entered into a new life with Christ Jesus our Lord would never wish to return to a life of oppression under sin’s mastery, because we have begun to experience Liberty. We have been liberated by faith in Christ’s death and burial, from the penalty of sin.  Likewise, by faith in His resurrection, we now have lives made brand new and have been liberated from sin’s power.  We are no longer obligated to sin.  “When you come to Christ, you were ‘circumcised,’ but not by a physical procedure. It was a spiritual procedure–the cutting away of your sinful nature.  For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized.  And with him you were raised to a new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.” Colossians 2:11-12 NLT

Liberty by death through faith!  For I cannot die of my own strength to the power of sin.  I can only reckon by faith that Christ’s death paid my penalty and liberated me from sin’s penalty and power.

So why then do we try to make coincidental the freedoms we enjoy as Americans (because of the sacrifice of our forefathers) with the Liberty we enjoy as believers (because of the sacrifice of Christ)?  Because we have been led astray by the “empty philosophy and highsounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the evil powers of this world and not from Christ.” Colossians 2:8 NLT  “We would not even consider adopting the theology of Satan when he comes to sell it.  We do however adopt his hermeneutics and thereby interpret scripture in a way that brings us to the same conclusion.” John MacArthur.

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!

Patrick Henry (March 23, 1775)

No man thinks more highly than I do of the patriotism, as well as abilities, of the very worthy gentlemen who have just addressed the House.  But different men often see the same subject in different lights; and, therefore, I hope it will not be thought disrespectful to those gentlemen if, entertaining as I do opinions of a character very opposite to theirs, I shall speak forth my sentiments freely and without reserve.  This is no time for ceremony.  The questing before the House is one of awful moment to this country. For my own part, I consider it as nothing less than a question of freedom or slavery; and in proportion to the magnitude of the subject ought to be the freedom of the debate. It is only in this way that we can hope to arrive at truth, and fulfill the great responsibility which we hold to God and our country.  Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason towards my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of that siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty?  Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and, having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.

I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.  I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.  And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the House.  Is it that insidious smile with which our petition has been lately received?  Trust it not, sir; it will prove a snare to your feet. Suffer not yourselves to be betrayed with a kiss.  Ask yourselves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with those warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land.  Are fleets and armies necessary to a work of love and reconciliation?  Have we shown ourselves so unwilling to be reconciled that force must be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourselves, sir.  These are the implements of war and subjugation; the last arguments to which kings resort. I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission?  Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it?  Has Great Britain any enemy, in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, sir, she has none.  They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other.  They are sent over to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have been so long forging.  And what have we to oppose to them? Shall we try argument?  Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years.  Have we anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing.  We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain.  Shall we resort to entreaty and humble supplication?  What terms shall we find which have not been already exhausted?  Let us not, I beseech you, sir, deceive ourselves.  Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the storm which is now coming on.  We have petitioned; we have remonstrated; we have supplicated; we have prostrated ourselves before the throne, and have implored its interposition to arrest the tyrannical hands of the ministry and Parliament.  Our petitions have been slighted; our remonstrances have produced additional violence and insult; our supplications have been disregarded; and we have been spurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne! In vain, after these things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation.  There is no longer any room for hope. If we wish to be free--if we mean to preserve inviolate those inestimable privileges for which we have been so long contending--if we mean not basely to abandon the noble struggle in which we have been so long engaged, and which we have pledged ourselves never to abandon until the glorious object of our contest shall be obtained--we must fight!  I repeat it, sir, we must fight!  An appeal to arms and to the God of hosts is all that is left us!

They tell us, sir, that we are weak; unable to cope with so formidable an adversary.  But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year?  Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house?  Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction?  Shall we acquire the means of effectual resistance by lying supinely on our backs and hugging the delusive phantom of hope, until our enemies shall have bound us hand and foot?  Sir, we are not weak if we make a proper use of those means which the God of nature hath placed in our power.  The millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Besides, sir,
we shall not fight our battles alone.  There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.  The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.  Besides, sir, we have no election.  If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery!  Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston!  The war is inevitable—and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come.

It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter.  Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace—but there is no peace.  The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms!  Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?  What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have?  Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery?  Forbid it, Almighty God!  I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!

God Don't Play Second Fiddle — Encouragement From Belonging to Christ

Bob Flynn, President/CEO
“A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart.  Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  So why do you call me ’Lord,’ when you won’t obey me?” (Luke 6:45-46 NLT)

Is Jesus Christ your Lord?  Is he your vocation or your avocation?  Is he your everything or just your hobby?  There are a great many bellwethers in Biblical Christianity to which we must be intimately knowledgeable and exactingly proficient lest we too become deceived and crash upon the rocks of the sea of life.  One of these bellwethers has to do with fruit.  Unfortunately, fruit judging has become, more often than not, one deceived believer judging another’s fruit as unbecoming while their own has bred worms and stank.  In the context of the Scripture cited above we see that the Lord Jesus Christ sets the standard for our deeds as the attitude of our heart and makes the judgment that is loud and clear but mostly unheard—probably because we tend to have our fingers in our ears.

In today’s world full of bigger, better, faster, it is not hard to live above our means.  As gasoline and natural gas prices rise, as an after effect of Hurricane Katrina, our means may live above us.  I remember when my wife and I were first stationed at Naval Air Station Moffett Field, California.  The first thing we noticed was that the cost of living there was higher than our current income.  So much higher, in fact, that though we had zero debt, covering the essentials left us deficit spending by $300 per month.  The savings account was dwindling!  We were both young in the Faith and were much worried that we could not meet the family needs nor give to the Kingdom.  When we went to our Pastor for guidance, he acknowledged our situation and released us from any expectation on his part that we should be giving to the Church under the circumstances.  Then he did one other thing!  He began to pray with us that God would reveal to us what we should do!

During this time I was struggling with my addiction to cigarettes and was being convicted mightily by the Holy Spirit.  I suspect that addiction, in any form, gets in the way of our fellowship with Christ and therefore is SIN, plain and simple.  I was walking from the parking lot to the hanger to report to work one morning and was about to pass by a trash can.  Just then the Holy Spirit spoke these words to my heart, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not what I say?”  Busted!  You see I had purchased a fresh pack of cigarettes.  In an instant I learned that His patience, while it has depth beyond measure, has a time limit (the iniquity of the Ammorites is not yet full).  Needless to say, I threw the cigarettes into the trash can and went, cold turkey, on a journey with my Lord.

“Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?...put into action God’s saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” (Philippians 2:1a, 12b-13 NLT)

I suppose you can guess what happened next.  God answered our prayers with regard to our finances! I received a promotion, a longevity raise, and something called Variable Housing Allowance (to offset high cost-of-living areas) was created.  We went from the red to the black in one fell swoop!  Now we were able to give to the Kingdom with glad hearts by virtue of His provision!!!  Isn’t Grace Amazing?

The answer had been forthcoming all along BUT there was something in the way! ME!  Instead of lowering the river (delivering me from my circumstances) God chose to raise the bridge (make me different).  I think that I would have never discovered this unless I had first gone to see my Pastor.  The problem looked like finances but it was really sin in my life!

“Are there any among you suffering?  They should keep on praying about it.  And those who have reason to be thankful should continually sing praises to the Lord.  Are there any among you sick?  They should call for the elders of the church and have them pray over them, anointing them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And their prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make them well.  And anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.” (James 5:13-15 NLT)

Does Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior love you any less than this old barnacled sailor?  I think not! However, our choice to obey is always demonstrated in our action!
How are you doing, Christian?  Look into your check book and see if you belong to Jesus or to the world!

“Stop loving this evil world and all that it offers you, for when you love the world, you show that you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only the lust for physical pleasure, the lust for everything we see, and pride in our passions.  These are not from the Father. They are from the world. (1 John 2:15-17 NLT)
“You want what you don’t have...You are jealous for what others have…And yet the reason you don’t have what you want is that you don’t ask God for it.  And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.  You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God?  I say it again, that if your aim is to enjoy this world, you can’t be a friend of God.  What do you think the Scriptures mean when they say that the Holy Spirit, whom God has placed within us, jealously longs for us to be faithful?” (James 4:2a, 2c, 3-4 NLT)
“But the Godly will flourish like palm trees and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.  For they are transplanted into the Lord’s own house.  They flourish in the courts of our God.  Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green.  They will declare, ‘The Lord is just! He is my rock!  There is nothing but goodness in him!’” (Psalm 94:12-15 NLT)

God's Unchanging Plan — Where Do I Fit?

How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.  Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.  His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure….God’s secret plan has now been revealed to us; it is a plan centered on Christ, designed long ago according to his good pleasure.  And this is his plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ—everything in heaven and on earth. (Ephesians 1:3-5, 9-10 NLT96)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

We have been designed from before the foundation of the world to be a perfect fit in God’s plan. The problem arises when we do not see or experience this perfect fit.  Generally speaking, in our culture of comfort, we are looking for a prize in the box of Cracker Jack rather than searching for the Pearl of Great Price!  It is this same mindset that perceives prayer as a change agent useful only in effecting alteration in our circumstances.  Thus we miss out on the true character of prayer─ that can transform us for God's glory while at the same time changing us so that we fit His plans.  So when, in our instant societal expectations, we fail to receive an immediate answer, the fire goes out in our boiler, our passion sputters, and we falter in our intercessory perseverance.  Our prayers are ultimately effective because of our intimacy and communion with God─which also enables our success in the completion of the plans He has for us.  Because of this, the enemy of our soul will be resolute in persistently injecting error into our understanding. His goal is to force our commitment to wane in this vital ministry of which we are to be our own first fruit.  King David exhorted his son Solomon to, “learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately” (1 Chronicles 28:9) because “this is the way to have eternal life—to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You sent to earth” (John 17:3 NLT).  David goes on to explain that we should “Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind.”  This is where our failure begins to be seen: in the absence of righteous works that He has ordained for us to perform─because we are not willing of mind.  It is this lack of true intimacy with Christ, our Savior, that leads to our overt rebelliousness and failure!  For how could we truly worship and serve a stranger or mere acquaintance?  When Paul spoke to the Corinthians about the Macedonian churches he said their “first action was to dedicate themselves to the Lord and to us for whatever directions God might give them” (2 Corinthians 8:5b NLT96).

53.48 ἑαυτὸν δίδωμι: (an idiom, literally ‘to give oneself’) to dedicate oneself to some activity in a completely willing manner, usually implying service on behalf of someone or something—‘to give oneself to, to dedicate oneself to.’ (eautous edokan proton to kurio kai emin dia thelematos theos) ‘they gave themselves first to the Lord and to us by God’s will’ 2 Corinthians 8:5. (Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament)
1 Chronicles 28:9-10 And Solomon, my son, learn to know the God of your ancestors intimately.  Worship and serve him with your whole heart and a willing mind.  For the Lord sees every heart and knows every plan and thought.  If you seek him, you will find him.  But if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.  So take this seriously. The Lord has chosen you to build a Temple as his sanctuary.  Be strong, and do the work.

When the Lord Jesus Christ has drawn you into the Holy of Holies by the intimacies of your prayer life, you will begin to understand that He is conforming you to His blessed will.  Then no matter how high the mountain of your trials, or how low the valley of your circumstances, and how impossible life’s travails become, you will begin to see through Christ’s eyes; and the attitude of your heart will have changed.   This is all important because in the flesh, our righteousness is still like filthy rags!  We can no more do the work of the eternal Gospel than fly.  If we look to those who have gone before us in whom God has chosen to accomplish great things, perhaps we will also find time-honored truth that can be applied to our present world. William Wilberforce, who was instrumental in the termination of the vile practice of slavery, would no doubt say that we are hugging our chains!

Sensual gratifications and illicit affections have debased our nobler powers, and indisposed our hearts to the discovery of God, and to the consideration of his perfections; to a constant willing submission to his authority, and obedience to his laws….Left to the consequences of our own folly, the understanding has grown darker, and the heart more obdurate; reason has at length altogether betrayed her trust, and even conscience herself has aided the delusion, till, instead of deploring our miserable slavery, we have too often hugged, and even gloried in our chains. (William Wilberforce)

Now there are some who would with immediate response say that they have no sensual gratifications and illicit affections!  For those dear believers I would respond that deception is so stealth that it does and has caused true partakers of Grace to think that they are serving the Lord─when all the while they are doing the work of the enemy!  It is all too easy for us to assume that it is someone else who is deceived rather than consider that we, like Lot, may be affected by the world in which we live.  With much energy we consider the great beginnings of revival, but we do not consider why their demise comes so swiftly!  I could stand up and stick out my chin and say, “not me.”  But then I would be disagreeing with someone who preached a “Great Awakening” in this land and has the “Jonathan Edwards Center” named after him at Yale University.  It is us to whom he refers when he speaks of piteous Zion weltering in the blood of self-inflicted wounds.

It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ….By this, principally, has he prevailed against revivals of religion in our nation….And, I think, I have had opportunity enough to see plainly, that by this the devil has prevailed against the late great revival of religion in New England, so happy and promising in its beginning. Here, most evidently, has been the main advantage Satan has had against us; by this he has foiled us.  It is by this means that the daughter of Zion in this land now lies on the ground, in such piteous circumstances, with her garments rent, her face disfigured, her nakedness exposed, her limbs broken, and weltering in the blood of her own wounds, and in no wise able to arise; and this, so quickly after her late great joys and hopes: Lamentations 1:17 (Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections)

All too often we make our plans and ask the King of Heaven to rubber stamp them with his blessing.  And if we see successes through our eyes we seem satisfied.  Or we may not be involved in any ministry whatsoever but rather are basking in the warmth of what would appear to be Plato’s celestial plane!  On the one hand we display arrogance and on the other we demonstrate passivity─the sinful ditches on either side of the highway of holiness.  David told Solomon to “Be strong, and do the work.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD.  "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Why do we not engage in this work that is perfectly fit for us?  For Jeremiah records that these plans are to give us “a future and hope!”  Why then to we cling to gold mixed with copper rather than seeking the pure gold of Christ’s eternal Gospel?  Why does the harvest work languish for lack of harvest workers?  We have found comfort in our fallen estate “aided by delusion” with darker understanding “gloried in our chains.”  We neither toil in the fields of harvest nor do we fall to our knees and pray!  Thus the deeds “we have done” in our righteousness remain the manna that bred worms and stank.  The Macedonian churches were up for the task that lay before them because they were fit!  They were a perfect fit (round peg, round hole) for God’s plans because He made them fit (fitness) to do the work designed.

When I think of the wisdom and scope of God's plan, I fall to my knees and pray to the Father, the Creator of everything in heaven and earth.  I pray that from his glorious unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit.  And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him.  May your roots go down deep into the soul of God's marvelous love.  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it.  Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God. (Ephesians 3:14-19 NLT96)

When Paul comprehended the eternal capacity of God’s plan there was but one reaction available—he fell on his knees.  In the midst of that intimacy with the Savior of the world he realized that the whole purpose of the Gospel was that he would no longer live for himself!  Why is it that the harvest fields are white unto harvest?  Because the church is still singing Frank Sinatra’s song, “My Way!” God created the world for himself so that the creatures of this world would give glory to Him!  Then man turned in rebellion and into sin, went his own way, and God sent His son to redeem them.  Why?  To get the world back on track and do what we were supposed to do in the first place.  Our major occupation then is to please God constantly in everything we do.  Not to please ourselves! Not to do our thing!  Not to pursue our happiness!  It may be an American inalienable right to have the pursuit of happiness but it is not a Christian right. Happiness is always a byproduct of pleasing God and giving Him glory!

2Corinthians 5:15 He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves.  Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
Proverbs 16:1-3, 9 We can make our own plans, but the Lord gives the right answer.  People may be pure in their own eyes, but the Lord examines their motives.  Commit your actions to the Lord, and your plans will succeed….We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.

Have you completed the three briefs (Orientation, Developing a Local Ministry, Pray and Plan Process) on the Become a Leader section of our website?  Have your recognized your calling and submitted yourself to God’s plan?  Can you see your perfect fit?

Grace Killers — A Self-inflicted Wound

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

In the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the father of the bride, while welcoming the guests to the reception, mentions that the last name of the bride’s family means orange, and the root of the groom’s family name means apple.  “So there you have it; Apple and Orange.  We are different but in the end we are both fruit.”  We are all the same!  We are social animals.  We spend our time in this world with other people.  No doubt we find that many things these folks say or do irritates us.  The fact that we are irritated stands out as a statement of who we are!!!  This is the seed of death—the great Grace Killer of our day!  For after the irritation comes the complaining and after the complaining comes the gossip and after the gossip comes the bitterness.  By then we are in the ditch alongside the highway of holiness instead of walking thereon.

Complaining: goggusmos {gong-goos-mos’} The early instances yield the sense “to be dissatisfied,” “to grumble because of disappointed hopes.” A murmur, murmuring, muttering; a secret debate; a secret displeasure not openly avowed.
“Who may worship in your sanctuary, Lord?  Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?  Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.  Those who refuse to slander others or harm their neighbors or speak evil of their friends.  Those who despise persistent sinners and honor the faithful followers of the Lord and keep their promises even when it hurts.  Those who do not charge interest on the money they lend, and who refuse to accept bribes to testify against the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever” (Psalm 15 NLT).
“In everything you do, stay away from complaining and arguing, so that no one can speak a word of blame against you.  You are to live clean, innocent lives as children of God in a dark world full of crooked and perverse people.  Let your lives shine brightly before them.  Hold tight to the word of life, so that when Christ returns, I will be proud that I did not lose the race and that my work was not useless” (Philippians 2:14-16 NLT).
How to Be Free From Bitterness

Said another way, “If you want to have joy, don’t complain!”  The book, “How to be Free from Bitterness” is a well-written book that will help you turn away from the other great American pastime.  It is a must-read for every serious believer!  But you decide!  Is the joy of the Lord Jesus Christ bubbling out of your life like a river?  CMF will send a copy ‘free’ to our membership who ask.  You may order this and other materials on the Members Only portion of our website.

Hugging Folks For Jesus — Art Or Mystery

Bob Flynn, President/CEO
“You did not choose me; I chose you and appointed you to go and bear much fruit, the kind of fruit that endures.” John 15:16 TEV

This is a very sobering statement to apprehend!  Perhaps it is difficult because of the hardness of our heart and the arrogance of our spirit that we struggle to truly understand that we could not choose Him.  On the other hand how wondrous to realize that in fact we have been chosen!  How magnificent the love that found us while we were yet dead in our sin and then “appointed us to go and bear much fruit.”

One could argue that we do at some point choose Christ.  But isn’t it really after He has opened our eyes that we might see the truth of the cross and opened our ears to be able to hear His calling of our hearts to salvation?

“I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succored thee…” (2  Corinthians 6:2 KJV).

I was reading a story in the newspaper recently about a young soldier who had suffered grievous wounds to his leg from combat that required its amputation.  In a word, he was wounded! I cannot imagine what kind of shock this must deliver to the mind, soul and body, because I still have all my limbs.  I do know that he will need many hugs to sustain him during the healing and rehabilitation process.

In the midst of the carnage of war it is not always easy to see those who are in need of a hug.  Sometimes the hurt is not clearly visible.  The nature of warfare is that we take America’s sons and daughters into the military, put them in uniform, and turn them into warriors.  They become extremely focused, uniquely stressed and honed to a razor-like sharpness so that they may kill the enemy with absolute precision. We separate them from their families for eighteen months and ship them off to the far-side of the planet in the midst of an unpopular war. If they survive, they probably will have seen, first hand, the carnage of their closest friends, and bear in their soul the effect of the killing.

Unfortunately, beloved, this is just the temporal war that we see with our earthly eyes.

“For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT).

We are engaged in a war where the stakes are not only mere physical death but eternal torment!

“Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and fill up on my part that which is lacking of the afflictions of Christ in my flesh for his body’s sake, which is the church; whereof I was made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which was given me to youward, to fulfill the word of God, even the mystery which hath been hid for ages and generations: but now hath it been manifested to his saints, to whom God was pleased to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: whom we proclaim, admonishing every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ; whereunto I labor also, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.” Colossian 1:24-29 ASV

Hugging folks for Jesus is not an art but a mystery revealed: Jesus in me which worketh mightily to bear much fruit!

As we daily walk with Jesus, it is good to remember that we all are missing a leg!  We are all participants in the unseen battle with the enemy and have been wounded.  We have all lost hope!  We have all been in need of encouragement. Need a hug?  Why not give one away instead! Let the mind of Christ that is within you provide the love, and you can provide the arms.

“It is my earnest hope and indeed the hope of all mankind that from this solemn occasion a better world shall emerge out of the blood and carnage of the past—-a world dedicated to the dignity of man and the fulfillment of his most cherished wish for freedom, tolerance, and justice….We have had our last chance.  If we do not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.  The problem basically is theological, and involves a spiritual recrudescence and improvement of human character that will synchronize with our almost matchless advances in science, art, and literature and all material and cultural development in the past 2,000 years.  It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh.”  General Douglas MacArthur, September 2, 1945, at the surrender of Japan aboard USS Missouri in Tokyo Harbor.
“And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.  This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others” (2 Corinthians 5:18b-19 NLT).
“What is important is faith expressing itself in love” (Galatians 5:6b NLT)
“What counts is whether we really have been changed into new and different people” (Galatians 6:15b NLT)

Hunger for the Word

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

The Apostle Paul left us with this admonition in his letter to the church at Philippi, “Hold on tightly to the word of life…” (Phil 2:16 NLT)  If we took a poll of those of us professing to be followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would find that 90 per cent of us watch four hours of television nightly!  Ten per cent have the habit of regularly spending time in prayer and Bible study.  Billy Graham has said that 90 per cent of Christians are leading spiritually defeated lives.  Notice the parallel?  Just as the nutritionist declares that we are what we eat, the Bible declares we are what we worship.  Unfortunately, one of the inherent problems is that many of us in the church today have made Bible study an idol as well.  We have approached the study of the Bible with the proposition that we are going to master it.  We have shown the real arrogance of our heart with the attitude of “show THYSELF approved.” Satan knows the Bible well enough to debate it with the Lord Jesus Christ, yet Satan remains the Prince of lies! Mere knowledge of the Bible means nothing!

Perhaps, as always, we are asking the wrong question.  It is not to what we are to cling but to whom!  The Apostle John declares that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Word.  He is this living Word, the Son of God, who is written upon our hearts!  Yes, it is His signature that is written across our very chromosomes.  This is why Paul said, “For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil 2:13 NLT)  He said this before he said to “hold tightly to the word of life!”  To what or to whom are you clinging?  Are you clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ?  Or are you clinging to self?  Self-will says, I make the plans, rather that let the Lord initiate. Self-effort says, I try to do what God wants me to do in my own strength using my own schemes.  Selfglory says, I want people to think highly of me for doing the things of God when really I am saying look at me.

If instead we look at Romans 5:6 (NIV) we will discover two things: one, that we are “ungodly” and two, that we are “powerless.”  “You see, at just the right time, when we were still owerless, Christ died for the ungodly.”  This is the place where the living Word meets us!  But we cannot welcome the Word into our lives until we admit to God and to ourselves that this is who we are really (powerless and ungodly).  “Repentance is the sinner’s acknowledgment of that sentence of condemnation under which he lives.  Faith is acceptance of the grace and mercy extended to him through Christ.  Repentance is NOT turning over a new leaf and vowing to mend our ways.  Rather, it is agreeing that what God says is true when He tells me I am ‘powerless,’ and that in myself my case is hopeless, that I am no more able to ‘do better next time’ than I am to create the world.” (Arthur Pink, Gleanings in the Godhead )  “For revival is not a green valley getting greener, but a valley of dry bones being made to live again and stand up an exceeding great army (Ezekiel 37).  It is NOT good Christians becoming better Christians—as God sees us there are not any good Christians—BUT rather, Christians honestly confessing that their Christian life is a valley of dry bones and by that very confession qualifying for the grace that flows from the Cross and makes all things new.” (Roy Hession, Calvary Road)

Hunger for the Word is a thermometer of the Faith! Are you 98.6 degrees?  If not, report to the Great Physician for a selfectomy. Your life depends on this!

I Hear You Knocking But You Can't Come In — Tis Tepid

I once heard an experienced chef describe the best method for baking a turkey.  He explained that the only sure way to determine when the turkey is properly cooked is to insert a cooking thermometer in the thigh.  When the thermometer indicates 175 degrees, it’s done.  He said, "you can cook it longer but it just dries out the meat, which is why we invented gravy."  Jesus Christ is also concerned with the temperature of His Church:

“But because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I am going to spit you out of my mouth!...I rebuke and punish all whom I love. Be in earnest, then, and turn from your sins. Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with them, and they will eat with me” (Revelation 3:16, 19-21 TEV).

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

There are a great many bellwethers in the Christian Faith. Probably the strongest and most ignored is disobedience! According to Arthur W. Pink, in Practical Christianity, disobedience is a result of unbelief and "Scripture depicts unbelief as a virulent and violent principle of opposition to God."  In fact unbelief and disobedience are so closely related (same Greek word) that the translators struggle as to which word to render in English.

"...and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief…" (Hebrews 4:6b KJV).
"...lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief" (Hebrews 4:11b KJV).
"...but to them that believed not?" (Hebrews 3:18b KJV).
"...but to those who were disobedient?" (Hebrews 3:18b NASB).
"...that, if any obey not the word…" (1 Peter 3:1b KJV).
"...if any of them do not believe the word…" (1 Peter 3:1b NIV).
"...them that obey not the gospel of God?" (1 Peter 4:17b KJV).
"...those who do not believe the Good News from God?" (1 Peter 4:17b TEV).

Therefore, in a coarse sense, the fact that I pray is NOT a sign of genuine belief (folks with prayer rugs pray) but the fact that I DO NOT pray is a sign of disobedience.  The fact that I am a cheerful giver is NOT a sign of genuine belief (Bill Gates is a philanthropist) but the fact I DO NOT give is a sign of disobedience.

"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NASB).
"Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.  Let each one do just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver" (2 Corinthians 9:6-7 NASB).
“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him" (John 14:21 NASB).

Satan's plan is to deceive you into thinking you are saved when you are not, to deceive you into thinking you are walking in the light when you are not.  Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer says, in his book Satan, "Satan’s ambition was not to become a fiend, but rather to become like the Most High.  He will, therefore, strive for all that is moral and good:  yet at the same time do all in his power to draw men from their natural reverence of God, that, in due time, they may acknowledge himself without fear."  So stick the thermometer in our thigh.  If it doesn't read "hot," fear not, that is why God extended His Grace!

"Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8 NASB).

In Trust, Being Called, Abraham Obeyed

As we begin a new season of the year, perhaps it would be good to consider our spiritual seasons as well.  This world, filled with the fallenness of man, brings with it a host of uncertainties and insecurities that pervert the intention of the original design.  The only eyes that can see through this perpetual darkness are the eyes of faith.  We must learn to walk by faith lest our lives be swallowed by the darkness.  The learning must never cease, for each step will discover new hazards that require renewed sight to avoid.  Whether we are babes in Christ or ancient saints, the requirement of the faith walk remains.  Faith living is obedient living: we must apply the truths given us by holy writ ─ that are also inscribed upon our innermost parts.  It matters not whether our feelings tend to lead us in an opposite direction, or perhaps circumstances arise that pressure us to alter course.  Maybe we foresee negative consequences which would inundate us with aspersions from the “darkness dwellers” of the day.  The season in which we live is the season in the kingdom where leaves do not wither but rather continue to bear fruit in the continuous season of God’s perfect light.  Recognize that your enemy is also engaged in the salvation of souls (though it be counterfeit) and you will be mightily tested just as was the Patriarch Job.  But when you appear on the other side of the fire, your life will have the purity of fine gold.  For you were called into this faith by the very hand of the Almighty, and it is by this same hand He will lead you if you are obedient to follow.  Hebrews 11:8 says that by faith Abraham obeyed (πιστει καλουμενος αβρααμ υπηκουσεν) — pistei kaloumenos abraam upekousen).  Literally, “In trust being called, Abraham obeyed.”  There is a reason the translators struggle with Ephesians 2:2, whether to render the phrase “the children of unbelief” or “the children of disobedience.”  For unbelief and disobedience are toes on the same foot ─ contrasted with faith and obedience on the other.  Therefore, we must be careful to watch our step!  Will our steps lead to “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” by Whom we have been called?  Will we steer a course of obedience into His glorious light ─ or meander in disobedience to be smashed upon the rocks of the “Prince of the power of the air?”

Bob Flynn, President/CEO
Job 23:10 But He knows where I am going. And when He tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. (NLT2) 
Heb 11:8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. (NLT2) 
ἀπείθεια apeítheia; gen. apeítheias, fem. noun from apeithḗs (G545), disobedient. Disobedience, unwillingness to be persuaded, willful unbelief, obstinacy. In the NT, it corresponds in its use with the verb apistéō (G569), to be unbelieving, opposing the gracious word and purpose of God; a stronger term than the syn. apistía (G570), disbelief, unbelief (Heb 3:12, Heb 3:19); hence we have the sons of apeitheías, disobedience, unbelievers, i.e., heathen, pagans (Rom 11:30, Rom 11:32; Eph 2:2; Eph 5:6; Col 3:6; Heb 4:6, Heb 4:11). (The Complete Word Study, General Editor: Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D)

Disobedience and unbelief have as their center, SELF.  It is our SELF that rises to claim freedom over liberty, seizing the throne of our life from Him who has justly earned all honor and glory ─ as if our shield of arrogance would dare try to reflect the light of His righteousness.

Self lives on the selfishness of others, and uses the same principle in them for the gratification of its ends.  Abimelech appealed to the men of Shechem by ties of race and blood, and by the inducements of their own self-interest.  And so self-aggrandizement becomes a web of countless coils woven and interwoven with the selfishness of others, until hand joins in hand, and a thousand chords of mutual self-interest bind together political parties, commercial monopolies, criminal confederacies, and the baneful associations of evil men which so largely constitute human society.  Each is bound to the other by his own selfishness, and the man who knows best how to play with the selfish passions of others makes them all tributary to his own needs, while the devil sits supreme as king over all.  When you see a man appealing to the selfishness of others you may be very sure that he is selfishness incarnate.
We see self in partnership with Satan.  Abimelech goes to the house of idols and gets the means for his unholy war from the temple of Baal.  The devil is always ready to advance the funds to carry out any scheme of human selfishness.  He is a very liberal investor in selfish trusts and sinful monopolies.  You can always get money for a political campaign and a whiskey trust even when missionary societies are threatened with bankruptcy.  Millions and millions of dollars are being thrown away every day in Satan's investments and sin's cooperative societies, and the cause of Christ is languishing by reason of the selfishness of its followers.  The devil has his providences as well as the Lord, and the man who wants to plunge into the depths of Satan will find plenty of capital waiting his call and wonder often at his own success.
Then let us take another look, and gaze on Calvary.  What is this that lacerates our Savior's brow and wreathes His gentle face with such a rude, tormenting crown?  Ah! it is the old bramble again; it is the crown of thorns.  What are those drops of blood that stain His face, and the tears that mingle with them and flow down His cheeks?  Ah! they are the brambles of my selfishness; they are the thorns of my pride.  It was this selfish "I" that I let not only crush my fellows, but even murder my Lord.  It was not only for our sins He died, but it was for our selfishness, and in that death we die. (A. B. Simpson, Danger Lines in the Deeper Life)

As I look around the our world today I see that we have somehow, through the transition of the years, lost the essence of what it really means to be a Christian.  For we, like the Jew, have been called for a special purpose to praise and glorify God and to exalt His name among the nations.  We are as a people, set apart.  There is a whole host of things whose origin is from this carnal reprobation that must not be part of our lives.  The inhabitants of the satanic system may extol the virtues of the despicable habits they so much enjoy, because they are on the way to hell and are simply living their lives consistent with their character.  But when those in the body of Christ start emulating this same wantonness that through holy wrath was abandoned unto eternal judgment, then contradiction of profession becomes a perversion concert casting aspersion toward Him who sits upon the throne of heaven by those called by His name.

When Paul wrote to Timothy, he said that all who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.  There is no room for compromise for those who are called of Christ.  You bear His name and therefore have no business living as you please and doing what you want.  For when you do, blasphemy will come from the world and rightly so.  They'll say, "if that is Christ, I want nothing to do with Him."  Are you a Christian?  Is your life like a light upon a hill illuminating everything it touches or is it a “dark absorber” drinking in the contents of the cesspool? 

But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people.  You are royal priests, a holy nation, God's very own possession.  As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for He called you out of the darkness into His wonderful light.  "Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God's people.  Once you received no mercy; now you have received God's mercy." (1 Peter 2:9-10 NLT) 
But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription:  “The Lord knows those who are his,” and “All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil. (2 Timothy 2:19 NLT2).
In the Holy Scriptures we have a standard of right and wrong upon which we can always depend for the general principles at least which should direct our actions, and in the voice of the Holy Spirit we shall always have the special guidance which we need in particular circumstances.  But there are certain conditions which we must ever observe.  "The meek will He guide in judgment."  The yielded and willing heart will find His way.  The selfish will, the heart that chooses its way and then comes to God to have Him indorse it, will be very likely to go astray. (A. B. Simpson, Danger Lines in the Deeper Life)


It's the Economy, Stupid!

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

We have heard this title phrase used in all manner and all context by the pundants of our day.  By its very existence in our societal memory a harsh truth is delivered.  We measure all things by our comfort level. The oracles of the past have adjudged that there are seven virtues (four “cardinal” coming from the Latin word that means “hinge of the door”—pivotal) and (three “theological” from God).  The first, “prudence” is not much used of late.  Why would we want to think fully of what we are doing in order to see the likely outcome?  The second, “temperance” has changed its meaning to that of abstinence from alcohol, instead of going the right distance and no further.  The third, “justice” isn’t that which occurs on “Court TV” but rather an attitude of honesty, fairness, truthfulness and keeping promises.  The forth, “fortitude” is a courage that not only faces danger but also stays the course even under pain. The fifth (and first of the “theological virtues”) is “faith.”  Faith is the muscle that calms the emotions and imaginations when circumstances challenge the reason of my belief.  The sixth, “Hope.”  We are looking forward toward eternity with Christ.  Our eyes are affixed (glued, cemented) upon the unseen but promised world to come. The last, “charity.” The definition of charity has narrowed through the centuries. It now is mostly attached to the word “alms” (giving to the poor). Its genuine meaning is that of love in the Christian sense, NOT an emotion but rather a state of will.  Charity is an exercise of the inclinations of our soul. How we exercise determines whether it be virtuous or sinful. The joy of God’s provision in our employment is one way we can give legs to our love. “If you are a thief, stop stealing.  Begin using your hands for honest work, and then give generously to others in need.” (Eph 4:28 NLT) This last part of this last virtue, is the part that forms the undergirding of the Christian morality, that of giving to those in need.  You could postulate that charity is unnecessary since we ought to be producing a society where such needs are nonexistent. However, one ought not to assume that while we wait for this “great society” to arrive that we ought to NOT give as this would mean an abject departure from reality.  One cannot decide with certainty how much to give.  But by the mercies of Christ we ought to give more than we can spare and do so with a wondrous hilarity. If not, then we are surely allowing our comfort, luxury, etc. to dictate our assessment.  If the actions of our charity have no sacrifice then they are probably too small. Why? Because our giving, our charity, our love, should be an outward manifestation of that which the Lord of Glory has already wrought within.

It’s the Economy, Stupid!—NOT—It’s our attitude!

“Then I saw heaven opened, and a white horse was standing there.  And the one sitting on the horse was named Faithful and True.  For he judges fairly and then goes to war.  His eyes were bright like flames of fire, and on his head were  any crowns.  A name was written on him, and only he knew what it meant.  He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and his title was the Word of God. The armies of heaven, dressed in pure white linen, followed him on white horses.  From his mouth came a sharp sword, and with it he struck down the nations.  He ruled them with an iron rod, and he trod the winepress of the fierce wrath of almighty God. On his robe and thigh was written this title: King of kings and Lord of  Lords.”  (Revelation 19:11-16 NLT)

Question: What in the world does this quotation from the book of Revelation have to do with Christmas?  Answer: Everything!

I am sure you all have heard the poem called Footprints, by Margaret Fishback-Powers that describes our life with Christ as a walk together along the beach that leaves two sets of footprints that at times fades to one when we are too weak to continue so the Lord carries us.  I had the same dream but there were only one set of footprints.  The reality was that Jesus had been carrying me from the first day we met!  I am sure that there have been times when, like a toddler, I thought I was walking under my own strength.  But I was really walking in the way He had prepared for me.  This is significantly different from blazing trail through the virgin forest.

It was not a babe in a manger that saved me from my sin!  It was the King of Kings and Lord of Lords in Whom all power and all authority resides.  The world cannot fathom this awesome truth!  The only Christ they know is the little baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and laying in a manger.  This gives a warm fuzzy feeling and requires zero commitment.  But to walk with Jesus requires nothing less than absolute surrender!!!

If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved. (Romans 10:9-10 NLT)

There can be no other Gods before Him, no holdout kingdoms in our hearts.  He is either Lord of all or He is not Lord at all!  There are those who think that they are Christians and yet feel free to do what they want when they want never waiting upon the Lord’s leading in their life.  I know, I used to be one of them!  There is a reason that my favorite book in all the world, apart from the Bible, is John Bunyan’s, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.  Even this arrogant conduct of doing it “my way” doesn’t diminish Christ’s great love for us, may it never be!  But don’t be deluded into thinking that this contentious life-style will bring the abundant blessings from above.  On the contrary, it will bring great chastisement!

“My child, don’t ignore it when the Lord disciplines you, and don’t be discouraged when he corrects you.  For the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes those he accepts as his children” (Hebrews 12:5b-6 NLT).

The verses that precede this are what sets the stage.

“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 hinders our progress.  And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from start to finish.  He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterward.  Now He is seated in the place of highest honor beside God’s throne in heaven.  Think about all He endured when sinful people did such terrible things to Him, so that you don’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin”  (Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT).

Do you believe that the race you are in was set there by Almighty God?  Are  you willing to endure a shameful death on the cross because of the joy that is to come?

December 25th is the day we celebrate Jesus’ birthday.  How many of you are ready to give Him a birthday present? Give Him your life and everything and everyone in it!  Then check yourself out and see if the witness of you prayer life, personal ministry, and tithes and offerings match the profession of your faith.

You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich. (2 Corinthians 8:9 NLT)


Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

The title is a famous quote attributed to Thomas Paine, a voice of the common man and author of the book, Common Sense, a strong defense of American independence from England. Some would say that to quote someone who holds extreme views toward religion, is tantamount to giving aid and comfort to the enemies of all things religious.  However, the wisdom expressed is time-honored and, sadly, much ignored.

We live in an age where technology allows the masses to express an opinion (good, bad, indifferent, true, or untrue) that travels at light-speed literally around the world.  Popular thought would espouse that all opinions are of equal value, especially when expressed by the “epitome of moral turpitude” on “The View.”  Truth is, there are good opinions and bad opinions; there are opinions that hurt others when expressed. For the last several months a zealous attorney has been attacking with great exuberance Christian organizations (ours and one other specifically) that serve the military society.  His rhetoric demeans our existence in every way—complete with comparisons to Hitler and Stalin.  His assertion is that no one should be allowed to share his faith anywhere— no matter how softly—which seems to me to be diametrically opposed to, “nor preventing the free expression thereof.”

I agree with Thomas Paine that:

THESE are the times that try men’s souls.  The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.  Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.  What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.  Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.  Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776

The time in which we live is certainly trying.  Our Nation has been engaged in combat operations for seventeen years in the Iraqi theater of operations.  The price of our democratic freedom has been paid for dearly by the lifeblood our neighbors.  The certain reality for a nation that runs on energy is that 100,000 of our troops will continue to be deployed in support of our national security for years to come!  The cost on marriages and families defies description.  For the returning warrior there is an inexplicable emotional wound that burns like a furnace within the soul, that can only be quenched on Jesus’ breast.

Shall we then cower in the midst of adversity?  Should we not consider with a caring heart the arguments of those who wish to do us harm?

There are reasons why my favorite book is entitled, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners—that is the name emblazoned upon my cheek.  I am grateful daily that it was not the end of the story: for on my forehead is another name, “Belongs to Jesus”—a name that makes a difference for all eternity.  In this book, John Bunyan relates his personal anguish and daily struggle to find a single thought that was not depraved.  If ever there was an extra-biblical articulation of the Apostle Paul’s distress expressed in Romans Chapter Seven, this is it.  It was this very same pit where I lay trapped when Christ’s love lifted me.

I have had people tell me that Romans 7 was written about a time before Paul was a believer.  I believe it was written expressing the day he penned the epistle.  The “peace of God that surpasses all understanding” is not a place absent of struggle.  It is the armor.  This is why Paul said that he buffeted his body daily to bring it into bondage so that the spiritual man feeding daily upon the manna of the Word would thrive.

“Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave…” (1 Cor. 9:27 NET)

How does the Chief of Sinners follow the Lord Jesus Christ? By spending ten years before the mast.  One might think that a sojourn with the Lord that lasts a decade seems rather long. But when you compare it with eternity, it hardly seems long enough. Ten short years soaking and bathing in the vast truths of Philippians Chapter Two.

First impossible truth:

“Be humble, thinking (G2233 –esteem, regard, lit. to lead the way) of others as better than yourselves.” (v 3b NLT)

Before truth can be imparted, it must be communicated.  Receiving eternal truth requires undivided attention.  I am a bond-slave of Christ Jesus—a servitude by choice.  In earthly practice when this choice was made, the master pressed the servant’s ear to the doorpost of the house and pierced it with an awl.  A piece of the ear was permanently made part of the doorpost.  Said another way, Jesus now has my ear.

Bond-servants: (G1401—doulos) A slave, one who is in a permanent relation of servitude to another, his will being altogether consumed in the will of the other.

Paul expresses the Philippians truth another way in Romans 12:3, “Don’t think too highly of yourself”(paraphrase mine).  In considering others, I am following and leading at the same time.  But “I” must get out of the “Way” and let my will be altogether consumed in His.  This consideration of others is in the light of letting the mind of Christ be in me — the mind of Christ that sacrificed Himself to give liberty to the lost.  The question then becomes, does this mind of Christ express itself with a “regard” for those with whom you serve?  Are you leading them in the way everlasting?  Or are you stuck in the “I” chorus of Romans 7, not able to do those things to which you are called?

Look around.  If you don’t see a thriving CMF fellowship where you are standing, look in the mirror and see if you discover the local leader willing to follow Jesus in starting one.  Is the chapel program in need of helping hands willing to serve alongside the chaplain in support of the command religious program?  Look in the mirror and see if there is a servant looking back at you.

Liberty Enlightening the World

Bob Flynn, President/CEO
Thou warden of the western gate, above Manhattan Bay,
The fogs of doubt that hid thy face are driven clean away:
Thine eyes at last look far and clear, thou liftest high thy hand
To spread the light of liberty world-wide for every land.
No more thou dreamest of a peace reserved alone for thee,
While friends are fighting for thy cause beyond the guardian sea:
The battle that they wage is thine; thou fallest if they fall;
The swollen flood of Prussian pride will sweep unchecked o'er all.
O cruel is the conquer-lust in Hohenzollern brains;
The paths they plot to gain their goal are dark with shameful stains:
No faith they keep, no law revere, no god but naked Might;
They are the foemen of mankind. Up, Liberty, and smite!
Britain, and France, and Italy, and Russia newly born,
Have waited for thee in the night. Oh, come as comes the morn.
Serene and strong and full of faith, America, arise,
With steady hope and mighty help to join the brave Allies.
O dearest country of my heart, home of the high desire,
Make clean thy soul for sacrifice on Freedom’s altar-fire:
For thou must suffer, thou must fight, until the warlords cease,
And all the peoples lift their heads in liberty and peace.
Henry van Dyke (April 10, 1917)

God’s greatest gift to our wonderful nation is our liberty—liberty that flows from His matchless Grace.  The liberty we now enjoy is the abundant answer to the prayers of our forefathers.  Our liberty in Christ and our liberty as American citizens are not independent of each other but part of the same providential care. “Christianity is the companion of liberty in all its conflicts—the cradle of its infancy, and the divine source of its claims.” Alexis de Tocqueville

No one who has experienced liberty should be too quick to relinquish it for security’s sake.  “They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security…” Benjamin Franklin  On the contrary, we must remember that the cost of Liberty's light is often born by the warrior upon “freedom’s altar-fire” to quench the “conquer-lust” of the “foemen.”  And while the warrior fights for us, “beyond the guardian sea,” let us consider in earnest that if they fall we fall.  “The nation that makes too great a distinction between its scholars and its warriors will have scholars who are cowards and warriors who are fools.” (Marine Corps Field Manual)  America, to a man, must identify with the troops and the troops with America!

Vigilance is required for freedom to continue to ring—not only watchfulness through earthly eyes but a weather eye in the heavenlies as well.  “It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active.  The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.” John Philpot Currant (1790)
“To meet the situation, the Church of Christ needs a new conception of prayer.  The urgent call is for men and women, wholly yielded to the Lord, whose eyes have been enlightened, to see the ministry in the heavenlies to which they have been called.  Such believers, whether as intercessors, or as workers at home, or missionaries on the foreign fields, may in union with the great Head of the Body, exercise an authority to which the powers of the air must give place wherever challenged.” J. A. MacMillan
“And when once we have learned thus to believe for ourselves, and each day to take out of the treasure we hold in heaven, what liberty and power to pray for the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church of God, on all flesh, on individuals, or on special efforts! He that has once learned to know the Father in prayer for himself, learns to pray most confidently for others too.  The Father gives the Holy Spirit to them that asks Him, not least, but most, when they ask for others.” Andrew Murray

When we have made “clean” our “souls for sacrifice on Freedom’s altar-fire,” then will “liberty enlighten the world!”

Love Is …

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Virtues are not much in our conversation these days.  Perhaps it is because of the current culture of relativism where everybody does what is right in their own eyes and do not recognize any moral absolutes.  The phrase often used is, “what is true for you may not be true for me.”  (I hope that those following that philosophy are not keeping track of the balance in my checkbook!) But the reality is that we are seeing the effect of this kind of thinking in our current economic situation, where those who were responsible for the billions in our economy did unthinkable things for which now everyone will suffer the consequences.

C. S. Lewis, in his book Mere Christianity, describes virtue as residing in two groups (Cardinal and Theological).   Cardinal (a word coming from the Latin for “hinge of the door”) describing those virtues that are “pivotal” —Prudence, Temperance, Justice, and Fortitude) that all civilized people recognize.  Lewis describes “Prudence” as practical common sense; “Temperance” as going the right length and no further; “Justice” being more aptly described today as fairness, honesty, truthfulness, and promise-keeping; and “Fortitude” as courage that faces danger and remains under pain (Guts).

The “Theological” virtues will be more familiar to the ears: “Faith,” “Hope,” and “Charity.”

“Faith” in the common sense is the “art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.” In the higher sense, it is trust that the promises of God are true even though I may not see them except through a darkened glass.

“Hope” is described as looking forward to our heavenly estate and—because of this—changing the world in which we live.

“Charity” in the original definition means more than alms but rather, “Love” in the Christian sense, which is to say love as a state of the will and not an emotion.

Perhaps the mind would see better if in 1 Corinthians 13 we would say, Jesus is patient and kind, Jesus is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude; Jesus does not demand His own way, is not irritable, and keeps no record of being wronged.  Jesus does not rejoice in injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out; Jesus never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.… For when we see Jesus, then faith, hope and charity abide in us because of His presence and not our self-effort.

Love Is Patient

Chrysostom said that it is the word used of the man who is wronged and who has it easily in his power to avenge himself and who yet will not do it.  It describes the man who is slow to anger and it is used of God himself in his relationship with men.  In our dealings with men, however refractory and however unkind and hurting they are, we must exercise the same patience as God exercises with us.  Such patience is not the sign of weakness but the sign of strength; it is not defeatism but rather the only way to victory.  Fosdick points out that no one treated Lincoln with more contempt than did Stanton.  He called him “a low cunning clown”, he nicknamed him “the original gorilla” and said that Du Chaillu was a fool to wander about Africa trying to capture a gorilla when he could have found one so easily at Springfield, Illinois.  Lincoln said nothing. He made Stanton his war minister because he was the best man for the job and he treated him with every courtesy.  The years wore on.  The night came when the assassin's bullet murdered Lincoln in the theatre.  In the little room to which the President's body was taken stood that same Stanton, and, looking down on Lincoln’s silent face, he said through his tears, “There lies the greatest ruler of men the world has ever seen.”  The patience of love had conquered in the end. (William Barclay)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

fter decades of being mentored by men of great faith and in turn encouraging others I find that the more that we are different, much more are we the same.  For those who share with me their failures in this most wonderful virtue of the faith (patience), I remind them that to fail is the nature of those who still have a pulse.  Isn’t that the sad tale conveyed to us by the Apostle Paul in Romans Chapter 7.  He shared that with the “law of his mind” he tries to obey the “law of God” but the “law of sin and death” causes him to fail miserably.  Why else would he say:

Oh, what a miserable person I am!  Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Rom 7:24)

Remember that the premise of the theological treatise conveyed in this epistle is laid upon the foundation from Habakkuk 2:4, “the just shall live by faith.”  If this is the matter then where might we find the anti-matter?  In the last verse of Romans 14, “whatever is not from faith is sin.”  This is important to remember because the first part of Romans 7 reveals to us that we are no longer under the law.  The definition of sin has been changed from an act of commission (by transgression of the law) to an attitude! We then begin to see our higher calling and also our new providential ability to see this calling fulfilled by Him who dwells in us as He works through us.  For there is a new law in effect, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set us free from the law of sin and death (Rom 8:1).

Why then do we fail to exhibit this patience (long suffering)?  Because we are still the proud owners of a reprobate mind (Rom 1) that will endeavor to deceive us into thinking that we can measure up.  As I mentioned last month, it would be better if we understood the beginning of this passage in 1 Corinthians 13 as saying Christ is patient, and Christ is kind.  Only by faith exercised in the power of the Spirit may we be all that we have been called to be.  The flesh will always be at enmity with the Spirit.  This is why Paul exhorts us to "reckon ourselves dead" in Romans 6.  For only as we are dead to self may we be alive unto Christ.  When the reprobate mind strives in the flesh we must confess our sin so that the renewing mind (Rom 12) will bring the victory.  Is this not why Paul exhorts us to let this mind be in us that was in Christ Jesus? (Phil 2)  The mind of Christ in us brings all the power of the universe to bear upon our every situation.  So when your patience draws thin, let your lips be full of a  prayer of confession that will bring Christ's fullness to your heart!  Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. (1Co 13:13)  Jesus Christ is that love that lasts forever.  Amen.

Made in the Shade — Don't Dis the Tan

In our fashion-conscious world, it is amazing how much time and money is devoted to improving the external appearance.  Hours are spent each day trying to make hair softer, shinier, and sexier.  Preparations are offered to protect our skin from the sun and at the same time produce the coveted golden tan.  Some even gain their brown exterior in an artificial way with “space age, state of the art” tanning machines.  A movie star complexion can be attained by investing just minutes each day.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

What if, as a Christian, I spend too much time and energy on my exterior?  I am talking about that part of me that I show to the world.  Christians are expected to look and act a certain way. Even among ourselves, we maintain appearances.  It would be very easy for me to put on my Sunday face and appear to be something that I am not.  Armed with everything I have heard at Sunday service, seen on Christian television, and read in Christian books I could venture forth into this world displaying a face that glows in the dark.  Now I am “looking good!” I really have it “made in the shade,” right?

“If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth” (I John 1:6 NAS).

How does shade fit into this verse?  The darkness mentioned in this verse represents sin.  I believe that anything in my life that gets in the way of my relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ is sin.  Within this definition, sin may not appear as darkness.  It might appear as shade or even light.  But God is not a half-stepper, “...God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all…” (1 John 1:5b NAS).  If I am not walking fully in His light, then I am walking in darkness.

How can I use this in my life each day?  Let me try to explain. Flashlights are familiar objects to all of us.  They're made up of batteries, a bulb, and a switch.  Turn on the switch and light emanates from the bulb.  But what happens if the switch is left on too long?  The light grows dim.  Why? Some would say that the batteries are weak.  I think it is because they are full of darkness.  Batteries, contrary to popular belief, are dark absorbers. I am also an absorber.  The Lord Jesus wants me to be full of light, but I can absorb anything I choose.  Now if the battery in my car goes dead, I may be able to start the engine by getting a “jump start” from another battery.  But this will be only temporary if my car’s charging system is inoperable.  Likewise, if I do not make time each day for fellowship with the Lord Jesus, I am depending on a “jump start” instead of plugging into the Source.

When I became a Christian, I discovered the ministries of the Holy Spirit. First, He came to live inside me (indwelling).  Second, I learned that if I asked, He would fill me with His presence (filling).  However, here is a key problem.  I cannot be full of light if I am already full of shade; “but if I confess my sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9 NAS).  Having been cleansed by God Himself, there is room to be filled with His light, and I can have fellowship with Him, “...and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ” (I John 1:3b NAS).  He speaks to my heart through prayer.  He feeds me through His Holy Word.  If I fellowship with the T.V. instead of the Master, I have in effect chosen the sun lamp instead of the SON LAMP!  The tan may look the same, but we know it was made in the shade.

The Letter to Mrs. Bixby From President Abraham Lincoln

Executive Mansion, Washington, November 21, 1864.

Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Massachusetts:

Dear Madam:  I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.  I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.  But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.  I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully,

Abraham Lincoln.

Memorial Day, Mother's Day, and the National Day of Prayer

What can Memorial Day, Mother’s Day and the National Day of Prayer all have in common?  Grace!  “Charis” quite literally is a love that stoops to bring benevolence to another.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Grace came into this world born of a woman.  Motherhood is perhaps the highest calling of all. Every mother has experienced this most miraculous process where a new life is brought into this world.  This new life is nurtured within the mother’s body at no small sacrifice until the birth day arrives.  Then for years afterward there is continued nurture and care given the child in patient continuance.  Mothers endure unspeakable hardship, with little praise or recognition.  During time of war their pain and loss at the combat death of their child brings anguish no man can understand nor fully appreciate.  President Abraham Lincoln in just a few words captured (as best as any man can) the breadth of this grief in a letter to a bereaved Civil War mother.  Mothers are one of God’s living illustrations of His Grace.

Memorial Day, in times past, was called “Decoration Day” and was a day of remembrance by us who remain alive for those who have died in our nation’s service.  Toward that end there are a great many time-honored traditions that help us to show our appreciation of the fallen and remember their sacrifice.  One such tradition is that the 3rd U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more that 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery.

“This is My commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  (John 15:12-13 NLT)

There is no exclusive arena for the fulfillment of this commandment from Christ.  The battlefield may be one of the extreme examples where temporal fruition is demonstrated.  However, this is not the only example that is available in the war fighting genre. For the many believers in Christ Jesus who also served in our military, the sacrifices started long before their earthly vessels were extinguished.  The Grace of God was made manifest in their daily lives, and their investment in others was day by day ─ this daily giving of themselves to others being eternally significant, and their temporal mission being the opportunity for its conveyance.  I have said before that the love of God and the love our nation are not mutually exclusive.  We are each called to a vocation.  The reformers were cognizant of this.  But somewhere along the way we have allowed this calling to be hidden in the din of neo-modern thought.  Every vocation called of God is “full-time” Christian ministry.  It then would be my assertion that the Christian who serves our nation in its military is twice called.  Thus, Memorial Day becomes for us a time to remember more than the sacrifice of their earthly temple, but rather the investment of their whole lives in the Gospel of His Grace and the protection of this country raised by Christ’s holy providence.

Every year our country sets aside a day for corporate prayer. Since before its beginning, our founding fathers have recognized that no nation can rise without the beneficence of the Creator of the universe.  As you may recall from previous articles, our Constitutional Convention had reached an impasse in their deliberations.  This dispute would have continued were it not for the comments of Dr. Benjamin Franklin who prevailed upon his colleagues to remember the Providence that delivered them from the recent hostilities with England and how they had labored with tears in their prayer closet for His divine blessing.  Why was it then that they had abandoned this earnest seeking of God’s favor in their present ministrations?  Their successes became our present!  The question is, can we learn from this and pray for our future.  Or shall we languish in the answered prayers of our forefathers?

What do Memorial Day, Mother’s Day, and the National Day of Prayer have in common?  The grace and mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Men Are From Mars — Women Are From Venus — Pass The Salt

So therefore, no one of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.  Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?   It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear (Luke 14:33-35 NASB).

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

I often give newlyweds a book entitled “Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Venus.”  I think it is helpful for couples to learn how differently men and women think, act and communicate.  When we begin to understand one another, we begin to appreciate one another, and as a result may find true love.  The two becoming one flesh is not, contrary to popular belief, the woman becoming the female version of the husband, but rather the two becoming more as one than they were as two (God's math).

I once had a the opportunity to view the stereotypical man-woman conversation in progress.  The wife, in exasperation, told her husband, “You never listen to me!”  He replied, “Of course I listen to you, I can repeat back every word you said!”  Was the husband really listening?  I think not!  Ironically, perhaps even providentially, as I have lost much of my hearing, I have learned to become a better listener!  But I must confess that I have been not unlike our stereotypical husband.  Not only so in temporal life but also in the spiritual realm as well.  I am part of the “Bride of Christ” yet I am sure that I have said to “the Most High,” “I hear you Lord, I can repeat back to you everything you say!”  In doing so I was rebelliously and disobediently ignoring His words, “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24 KJV) .  Instead I was hearing only the weeping of the Holy Spirit as He grieved over my sin, because I was forsaking not my sinful will for His most perfect and holy will!  “Jesus help me follow.”  And Grace answers:

“And now that I am away you must be even more careful to put into action God's saving work in your lives, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.  For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him” (Philippians 2:12b-13 NLT).

The words that proceed our quote from Luke speak of counting the cost of following Jesus Christ.  I know you must have counted the cost before you gave up your freedom to join the list of the thousands of American warriors who have gone before you into the battle.  When I was in the Navy and gave someone an order, I expected immediate action and if not observed an act of correction ensued.  Yet when the King of Kings commands (“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” Matthew 28:19 NASB) we find new and clever ways to rationalize our “direct disobedience to a lawful order.”  So it ought not to be a surprise when we are chastised by the Lord.  He does not even have to raise a finger but allows us to fall prostrate upon the threshing room floor under the weight of our own sin.

“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts” (Hebrews 12:5b-6 NRSV).

If we say we love Christ and yet live in disobedience to Him we are deceived!  Then what we see today touted as Christianity begins to make sense.  It is another gospel (Galatians 1:6), or living a “form of godliness but denying the power thereof from such turn away” (2 Timothy 3:5 KJV).  But if we belong to Jesus, He gives us the “desire to obey” and the “power to do what pleases Him.”

Mr. Wheeler: Saved Soul — Lost Life

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Once upon a time there was a High School Drivers Training class that was shown a Walt Disney cartoon.  In it a mild-mannered sort of fellow turned into the aggressive, obnoxious, high-speed and dangerous driver, Mr. Wheeler.  This was probably an attempt at visual hyperbole endeavoring to imprint an important lesson in the minds of the young student drivers (a right attitude is everything).

Today in America we have accomplished the impossible!  We have paved paradise and put in a commuter lane!  If you travel to our large metropolitan cities these days you will find highways that are six lanes wide.  The large majority of the inhabitants travel these concrete behemoths at speeds in excess of 85 mile per hour even though the posted limit is 55.  Some even accomplish this fete while carrying on intense conversations using their cell phones.  I suppose they were practicing for their victory interview after breaking the land speed record.  One could argue that this is not atypical of the current American attitude. Said another way, “hey, you, get out of my lane.”

When these people finally enter into the safety of their castle, they are probably looking for some peace and tranquility.  Toward that end, they drop into their favorite easy-chair and reach for the remote control.  The next several hours are spent paying homage to the flat screen, high-definition, one-eyed monster, complete with home-theater surround-sound, that has become their altar of life.  With frazzled mind focused in a catatonic-like state, the pictures flash by in front of their eyes while cycling through 200 channels seeking some sort of illusive solace.  For thirty hours this week they will seek the fruit of the television-spirit which is love (Desparate Housewives), joy (Dawson's Creek), peace (Everwood), patience (Judging Amy), kindness (Oprah), goodness (Seventh Heaven), faithfulness (Cheaters), and self-control (Dr. Phil).  If you want to see a tsunami, just get between them and Monday night football.  Is this a picture of walking with the Son—-or rather a comet traveling too near the sun?

At Sunday morning worship services these same folks have the widest smile of greeting, the loudest voice in praise, and the largest hole in their heart (that is bleeding copiously).  In short, their life is crying out in pain!  But when you ask, “How are you doing?”  The answer most heard is “fine.” (FINE: Fully Internalized Nuclear Explosion).  They have become one of those “fair shows and glistering appearances”1 masquerading as a follower of Christ.  Not only are they not following, but are totally ignoring Him!  When the calamities of life come their way it becomes clear that they are all chrome and no steel—all hawse pipe and no keel!2  Sound familiar? (1 The Religious Affections—Jonathan Edwards. 2 Hawse pipe: The hole in the side of a ship through which the anchor chain falls.  Keel: The backbone of a ship.)

“Don't be misled.  Remember that you can’t ignore God and get away with it. You will always reap what you sow!  Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful desires will harvest the consequences of decay and death.  But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit.  So don’t get tired of doing what is good.  Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.  Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone, especially to our Christian brothers and sisters.” Galatians 6:7-10 NLT

Ignore:  pay no attention to; take no notice of; close the eyes to; pay no heed to; disregard; do not take into account; overlook; discount; dispense with; turn your back on; flout; snub; look right through vs. Ignorant: unaware; uninformed; badly informed.

“God’s promise of entering his place of rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there.  For this Good News—that God has prepared a place of rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them.  But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them. For only we who believe can enter his place of rest.” Hebrews 4:1-3a NLT
“As the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing, yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations.  It is good to renew ourselves, from time to time, by closely examining the state of our souls, as if we had never done it before; for nothing tends more to the full assurance of faith, than to keep ourselves by this means in humility, and the exercise of all good works.”  A Plain Account of Christian Perfection—John Wesley
“But there is something very strange.  If we ourselves are often irritated, angry, bitter, jealous, untruthful, impulsive, we usually do not get at all excited and do not take offense at ourselves.  Perhaps just because of the fact that we believe in Jesus Christ, we are convinced that we have the assurance of salvation; we are in the ‘boat’ that will lead to heavenly glory.  But we do not sense how Satan is perhaps scornfully laughing at us—and justifiably so.  Without our knowing it, he has taken our boat into his hands, because we are persisting in sin.”  You Will Never Be the Same—Basilea Schlink
“Yes, there is a power, a blessing, an assurance, a rest in the presence of the Holy Ghost.  You can feel His presence and know that He is with you.  You need not spend an hour without this inner knowledge of His holy presence.  With His power upon you there can be no failure.  You are above par all the time.”  Ever Increasing Faith—Smith Wigglesworth
“Repose in the blood of Christ; a firm confidence in God, and persuasion of His favor; the highest tranquility, serenity, and peace of mind; with a deliverance from every fleshly desire, and a cessation of all, even inward sins.” Arvid Gradin

Walking with Jesus in this life is more about the journey NOT just the destination assured.  It is a journey of discovery!  The discovery of fellowship, in the Spirit, with the Father, through the Son.  Don't miss a single day of rest in the Savior!

Natural Law

“The law of gravity tells you what stones do if you drop them; but the Law of Human Nature tells you what human beings ought to do and do not.” C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There is the unwritten law in the mind of humankind that I call the law of “expectation.”  Depending upon the circumstances, our minds will have certain preconceived notions as to how things ought to be.  This is a good thing because it enables us to see.  According to the experts, sight is 90 percent imagination.  If it were not for our experience, our minds would not be able to rightly interpret the images that our eyes deliver to our cerebral cortex.  Our sight and our memory play a harmonic role in allowing us to see both familiar things and those things new to us without becoming disoriented.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

However, when it comes to actions, we have another law in effect that is called prejudice.  It is also based upon experience (whether good or bad, right or wrong).  We see, we judge, and we react accordingly.  This allows us, more often than not, to operate our automobiles alongside those belonging to our neighbors, in rather close proximity without creating a total catastrophe.  But what happens when our expectation leads us to a false prejudice?  We pick up the phone and call our insurance agent to inform him that we have had an accident.  Hopefully it was not beyond the scope of repair for the car and healing for our bodies!

Unfortunately, in our personal relationships with others this law of expectation takes on unrealistic proportions.  We often expect of others what we do not demand of ourselves.  We may have a whole host of societal standards based upon where we live, work, or worship.  These standards may or may not match those held by someone else.  What results is the inevitable collision of standards of conduct where feelings are injured and relationships destroyed.  “But like a good neighbor, State Farm” isn't there to help you pick up the pieces.

Let us now call in the accident investigator to determine the cause of the calamity.  Perhaps we can listen to the cockpit voice recorder and hear what was really said in the minutes that preceded the event.  We could check the flight recorder (black box) in order to ascertain the attitude of the heart.  Perhaps we could check the weather forecast to see if there was an air of deception present that hindered visibility.  The accident investigator looks through all the evidence and then comes to the conclusion that this accident was preventable and assigns fault (oftentimes to both parties).

The world looks upon us believers as though our faces were engraved upon Mount Rushmore.  There is an expectation of absolute perfection in all we say or do.  It is a bit like being an airline pilot whose reputation is only as good as his last landing.  It would not matter if the pilot had made thousands of perfect landings if the last landing resulted in a crash.  When the world holds us to account in response to these crashes, some of us believers would say of our own conduct, “I am not perfect, just forgiven!”  When we are rebuked by the brethren, we counter with, “Judge not, lest ye be not judged” ─ the mantra of those who use Grace to self-justify a careless life.

It was no accident that the Apostle Paul called upon us to, "clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light" (Romans 13:12b NLT1996).  Perhaps said another way, the word used could be “virtue.”  Virtuous living is no accident; it is a volitional choice that is based upon right experience.  Right experience leads to right expectation, and right expectation leads to right prejudice.

But where does the right experience come from?  Answer: “The Light!”  The Light has a Name, “Jesus.”  In Him there is no darkness at all!  Therein lies the whole answer to the whole question.  The near context of the verse quoted is:

“Another reason for right living is that you know how late it is; time is running out.  Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.  The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here.  So don't live in darkness.  Get rid of your evil deeds.  Shed them like dirty clothes.  Clothe yourselves with the armor of right living, as those who live in the light.  We should be decent and true in everything we do, so that everyone can approve of our behavior.  Don't participate in wild parties and getting drunk, or in adultery and immoral living, or in fighting and jealousy.  But let the Lord Jesus Christ take control of you, and don't think of ways to indulge your evil desires” (Romans 13:11-14 NLT1996).

Sound familiar?  It should! Let us render this in a more literal update of this same translation:

“So remove your dark deeds like dirty clothes, and put on the shining armor of right living…Instead, clothe yourself with the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13 NLT2004)

Paul says in Ephesians:

“throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception”
(Ephesians 4:22 NLT2004).

We are tested every day, all day, even while we sleep!  We are only as good as our last landing!  Collisions occur with the world and with the brethren.  They are caused by expectations that are corrupted by lust and deception!  This causes us to trip! And when we trip, we should know that it was Jesus, the “Chief Cornerstone,” over whom we stumbled.  Another landing failed!

“He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that will make them fall” (1 Peter 2:8 NLT1996).

Virtue or vice, the choice is ours, and the fault of our failures lies within.

The final questions (plural) remain.  How are you doing? Even more importantly, how are we (the Body of Christ) doing?  Answer: Abysmally!  Don't believe me, just ask your neighbor!  Read the newspaper.  Jesus changed the world with twelve unaccomplished men.  Yet we live in a time when “mega-churches abound” and sin super-abounds.  If the law of proportion applies, then a mega-church should change the universe.  What was that thing that happened in 1740?  An awakening?  Who was that guy who was preaching then?  What was that phrase we just passed over?  “Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

As it seems to challenge an excellency above all His other perfections, so it is the glory of all the rest; as it is the glory of the Godhead, so it is the glory of every perfection in the Godhead; as His power is the strength of them, so His holiness is the beauty of them; as all would be weak without almightiness to back them, so all would be uncomely without holiness to adorn them.  Should this be sullied, all the rest would lose their honor; as at the same instant the sun should lose its light, it would lose its heat, its strength, its generative and quickening virtue.  As sincerity is the luster of every grace in a Christian, so is purity the splendor of every attribute in the Godhead.  His justice is a holy justice, His wisdom a holy wisdom, His arm of power a “holy arm” (Psalm 98:1), His truth or promise a “holy promise” (Psalm 105:42).  His name, which signifies all His attributes in conjunction, “is holy,” (Psalm 103:1) Stephen Charnock, Existence and Attributes of God,1682.

Navigation 101 — Know Where You Are

Many years ago there was a Navy flight crew that had launched on a very important mission.   Right after takeoff the inertial navigation system experienced a seemingly catastrophic failure.  It looked like all was lost until the gnarly old Master Chief Flight Engineer went back to the Navigator's station to investigate.  After a couple of minutes he made the following comment to the Navigator:  “You know these inertial navigation systems are really smart.  But you have to tell them where they are before you tell them where to go!”  You see the Navigator had aligned the system using the destination coordinates instead of the coordinates for their point of origin.  We too as believers must know where we are before we can know how and where to go.

"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.  He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”  (John 10:9 NIV)

Anytime I see the word "I AM" associated with the words of God the Father or God the Son it thrills my heart.  For it reminds me of how the blessed Creator identified himself to Moses from the midst of the burning bush.

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:14 NIV)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Everyone enters into this wonderful salvation by the same way.  Jesus is the gate.   We all must enter in to His salvation by this gate which is Himself.  There is no other way.  In fact we discover, by reading the beginning of John Chapter 10, that to enter in by any other way would make us thieves and robbers.

So What!

When I was a young man I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be a Sea Explorer.  I was a member of Sea Explorer Ship 225, San Pedro, California.  The organization was led by a Navy Warrant Officer named T.N. “Whitey” Chalman, Jr. and his wife.   It was their custom, before we closed any meeting, to gently admonish us to remember who we were and to whom we  belonged.

Before we can enter into the battles of the day we must first recognize who we are and to whom we belong!  Our salvation is in Jesus Christ.  Get it?  Our salvation is a person and He is the Lord Jesus Christ.  Our salvation is not an it.   It is not some mere thing that we can misplace or lose.  We entered into this salvation through the gate provided by this selfsame Jesus.  On this we can depend.   On this we must depend because Jesus is the “gate.” There is no other way.

Said another way:  How can we journey forth into a new day with a new destination until we first know where we are?  How can we know where we are until we know where we have been and how we got there? We came via a life of sin to the gate of salvation which is the Lord Jesus Christ.

Navigation 102 — Know Where You Are Going

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

A long, long time ago in a far away galaxy there was a Navy flight crew that was heading home after a long deployment to Naval Air Station Home Port from a certain island on the Pacific rim.   They used the very in-vogue computer generated flight plan that was the state of the art for the day, to determine their route of flight and fuel requirements.  The weather along their route was notorious for the ability to change without warning.  I guess the forces of nature have never been really big on following what the forecaster predicts.  Instead we usually find that the weather does pretty much what it pleases.  In this case nature delivered a very healthy thunderstorm about the size of Australia.  Consequently the flight crew, suffering from an extreme case of get-home-itis, attempted to climb the aircraft to the maximum attainable altitude in an effort  to get over the weather rather than make a pit stop.  To accomplish this amazing feat of aviation they turned off the engine and propeller anti-ice systems to squeeze out the last available Bernoulli (pound of thrust).  About twenty minutes later the grand silence befell them as three of the four engines flamed out (quit running).  After losing twenty thousand feet of altitude they were able to stir the languishing horses back to life and finished their journey to Home Port after making an unplanned fuel stop at the island home of the famous Albatross (Gooney Bird).

“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’”  (John 14:6 NIV).

It is quite easy for me to look at the aforementioned horror story and equate it to my spiritual life.  When I first met Jesus Christ as my Savior I was filled with the same kind of exuberance to be on the journey.  I wanted to get on down the road at the best possible speed.  Yes, I to ran into unexpected heavy weather and nearly crashed and burned. Why?  Because I was ignorant of the precepts of spiritual travel and navigation.  I had the brazen audacity to think that I could plan my spiritual life as if it were just another mission.

As you can see in Isaiah 35, the flight plan has already been filed and the right amount of fuel is onboard.  We are destined to travel on the “Way of Holiness.”

“And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness.  The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it.  No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there.  But only the redeemed will walk there…” (Isaiah 35:8-9 NIV).

But where can I find this Way?  You already have!  Perhaps it would be better said if the question were phrased:  Who is this Way?  We see by reading the Key Verse from John that Jesus is the Way.  Jesus is the Highway of Holiness.  He is also the on-ramp (gate).  We enter the Way at the Gate which is Calvary—the Gate where the vilest of sinner may enter into Him who is the Way.

There are many other paths in this world available for us to trod.   However, we are not to stray down these by-paths but are to stay on the “ancient paths.”

“Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths.  They made them walk in bypaths and on roads not built up”  (Jeremiah 18:15 NIV).
So What!

As we continue on our journey we will find that we already know the Way because He is our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ.  We are not lost because the Way of Holiness is always before us and He is Truth.  We need not hurry because the Way is already with us and He is life.

Peace Be Still

We live in a fallen world where terrible things happen.  We are plagued by wars, rumors of wars, sickness, injury, hunger, etc., that add to the tremendous toll of human suffering.  Life is at best fragile.  James was correct when he compared our lives to that of a vapor.  Now that I am old enough to say that I have “become my parents,” I am able to appreciate more fully how precious each day is as God creates it fresh and new.  Yet I am mindful that my presence here will be erased soon enough.

I had opportunity recently to listen to the recorded sermons preached by the pastor of a large church that I was privileged to attend in the formative years of this faith walk.  His observations and insights were crisp and concise, and they provoked my mind to much contemplation.  Yet now that he has been in the grave for twenty plus years, the church he faithfully shepherded has not given even an honorable mention of him in their history.  We are like a vapor; only the things of Christ will last forever.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

How then are we to face the challenges that are set before us?  Simple obedience! Notice that I did not say, “It’s easy, simple obedience!”  Obedience is not complicated, but in my experience it has never been easy.  My sinful nature rebels at the very thought of any kind of obedience.  One could wonder how I thrived in the military for 23 years!  Yet I am called to be yielded fully to the mind of Christ, that His will might be at work in me for His good pleasure (Philippians 2:5,13 paraphrase mine).  For every time my flesh asserts itself, the arrogant "I" must be made to bow low so that it might be bent into a "C" at the foot of Calvary’s Cross (Roy Hession, Calvary Road, paraphrase mine).  For there is only one Lord and it is to Him I now belong. In the simplicity of obedience I will see true liberty unfold.  I need not climb into the heavens (that is, to bring Christ down), nor must I descend into the depths (that is, to raise Christ up).  He is immediately accessible because He has chosen to make His abode in my heart: that place of Sabbath rest where neither wind nor rain disturb; that place where Jesus says, "Peace, be still."

Will the world continue to defile, corrupt, and rail against its rightful authority?  Most certainly! Will the winds of despair blow across our paths?  For sure!  Must we see our loved ones suffer in the midst of many hardships and trials?  Without a doubt! Yet Paul challenges me to be “anxious for nothing” and instead to pray thankfully about everything so that the “peace that surpasses all understanding” might “guard” my heart and mind in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

What choices will I make today?  Will I kick against the goads, not wanting to walk the path set before me?  Shall I cower at the “fellowship of His sufferings,” hoping only for the “power of His resurrection?”  (Philippians 3:10)  Or will I trust that I am truly yoked to the King of Kings and that my place is to walk beside Him in obedience, trusting that whatever the day may bring is by His sovereign hand, while letting my lips be engaged in prayer for all the saints everywhere.

Our prayers are the weapons of warfare aimed at an enemy unseen.  But they cannot seek the target unless they are launched!  We live in a nation founded upon the principles ordained in holy writ.  Yet today we see, even in the church, the Word discarded and abandoned while the children of a counterfeit God pray for wisdom and power.  And all the while the deceiver lulls us into thinking that we are serving a risen savior when we are really serving ourselves with great zeal—and instead doing real harm to the Body (Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections, paraphrase mine).

It should not surprise us then when we see the “best and brightest” of this generation chasing after the “impossible dream” of a cure for a nation—who thought they could defy economic gravity with impunity. Is this not the very thing that the Apostle John warns us against when he said:

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him, because all that is in the world (the desire of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and the arrogance produced by material possessions) is not from the Father, but is from the world.” (1 John 2:15-16 NET.)

The Greek here shouts at us:

G212 αλαζονεία alazoneía; gen. alazoneías, fem. noun from the adj. alazṓn (G213), a boaster.  Ostentation, boasting about what one is not or does not possess. Someone going about with empty and boastful professions of cures and other feats.  An alazṓn shows off that which he thinks or pretends he possesses.  An ostentatious quack. A boast or boasting (James 4:16).  As joined with “bios” (G979), life, it means “the period of extension or duration of life” as contrasted to “zōḗ” (G2222) which means “the breath of life.”  Therefore, alazoneía toú bíou in 1John 2:16 means “showing off to fellow mortals; the pride, pomp, or manner of life; the ambitious or vainglorious pursuit of the honors, glories, and splendors of this life; the luxury of life for the purpose of showing off, whether in dress, house, furniture, servants, food.” (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, General Editor: Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D.)

Can we not hear John asking, “Where is your treasure invested?”  Do we not see our nation and ourselves “alazoneía toú bíou”?  We have thought ourselves wiser than the most wise God and chose to live “high on the hog.”  But now the herd has run full-tilt over the edge of the cliff and is accelerating toward our just reward at 32 feet per second squared!

Numbers 11:4 Now the mixed multitude who were among them craved more desirable foods, and so the Israelites wept again and said, "If only we had meat to eat!
Numbers 11:34 So the name of that place was called Kibroth Hattaavah, because there they buried the people that craved different food.
Psalm 78:18 They willfully challenged God by asking for food to satisfy their appetite.
Psalm 78:30 They were not yet filled up, their food was still in their mouths,
Proverbs 6:25 Do not lust in your heart for her beauty, and do not let her captivate you with her alluring eyes;
Matthew 5:28 But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
Romans 13:14 Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to arouse its desires.
1 Corinthians 10:6 These things happened as examples for us, so that we will not crave evil things as they did.
Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Ephesians 2:3 among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest…
Titus 2:12 It trains us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age,
Titus 3:3 For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled, enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another.
1 Peter 1:14 Like obedient children, do not comply with the evil urges you used to follow in your ignorance,
1 Peter 2:11 Dear friends, I urge you as foreigners and exiles to keep away from fleshly desires that do battle against the soul,
1 Peter 4:2 in that he spends the rest of his time on earth concerned about the will of God and not human desires.
2 Peter 2:10 especially those who indulge their fleshly desires and who despise authority.  Brazen and insolent, they are not afraid to insult the glorious ones,
2 Peter 2:18 For by speaking high-sounding but empty words they are able to entice, with fleshly desires and with debauchery, people who have just escaped from those who reside in error.
Jude 1:16-18 These people are grumblers and fault-finders who go wherever their desires lead them, and they give bombastic speeches, enchanting folks for their own gain.  But you, dear friends — recall the predictions foretold by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. For they said to you, "In the end time there will come scoffers, propelled by their own ungodly desires."
Psalm 119:36-37 Give me a desire for your rules, rather than for wealth gained unjustly.  Turn my eyes away from what is worthless! Revive me with your word!
Ecclesiastes 5:10-11 The one who loves money will never be satisfied with money, he who loves wealth will never be satisfied with his income.  This also is futile.  When someone's prosperity increases, those who consume it also increase; so what does its owner gain, except that he gets to see it with his eyes?
Matthew 4:8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their grandeur.
Psalm 73:6 Arrogance is their necklace, and violence their clothing.
Daniel 4:30 The king uttered these words: "Is this not the great Babylon that I have built for a royal residence by my own mighty strength and for my majestic honor?"
James 3:15 Such wisdom does not come from above but is earthly, natural, demonic.
Revelation 18:11-17 Then the merchants of the earth will weep and mourn for her because no one buys their cargo any longer — cargo such as gold, silver, precious stones, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all sorts of things made of citron wood, all sorts of objects made of ivory, all sorts of things made of expensive wood, bronze, iron and marble, cinnamon, spice, incense, perfumed ointment, frankincense, wine, olive oil and costly flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and four-wheeled carriages, slaves and human lives. (The ripe fruit you greatly desired has gone from you, and all your luxury and splendor have gone from you — they will never ever be found again!)  The merchants who sold these things, who got rich from her, will stand a long way off because they are afraid of her torment.  They will weep and mourn, saying, "Woe, woe, O great city — dressed in fine linen, purple and scarlet clothing, and adorned with gold, precious stones, and pearls — because in a single hour such great wealth has been destroyed!"  And every ship's captain, and all who sail along the coast — seamen, and all who make their living from the sea, stood a long way off
(All quotations from the NET Bible)

Preparing For Combat

The thought of “preparing for combat” invokes a great many visions in my mind—most are temporal but a few are eternal.  After having been in attendance at many goat-ropings (wars that politicians refer to as police actions, peacekeeping missions, etc., if they acknowledge them at all) I can say without reservation that in the eternal sense there were not many occasions when, as a Christian, I was combat ready.  I was ready neither as an individual, nor as a part of God’s army.  The reason I attempt to broach this subject is in hopes that you will catch a vision in your heart about the mission of the Christian Military Fellowship.  Thinking in terms of mortal combat, one would expect an army to know some essential things like the enemy’s identity, strengths and location.  In addition it could be expected that from this intelligence a mission (to defeat the enemy) and a strategy for its successful implementation would be devised. One could also expect that in this army the soldiers would not only know its own members but also their strengths, skills and their vital role in completing the mission.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Having said that, I would like to add that in the Kingdom of God the successful war is totally clandestine (to the extent that this word means behind the scenes or without being seen).  I say that because Christian ministry must be God centered and God initiated if there is to be any eternal success!  Our old buddy Isaiah found this out and wonderfully recorded it for us.  In the first five chapters of the book that bears his name you will discover the tone of his ministry was the pronouncement of woes (Woe to you who do this…).  However, a great change takes place when you turn the page to chapter six.  When Isaiah saw the Lord high and lifted up, he experienced an attitude adjustment, “Woe to me!…I am ruined!  For I am a man of unclean lips…and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.” Isaiah 6:5 NIV).  Here our great God gives Isaiah a new vision of Himself.  What did Isaiah see?  He saw the Glory of the Lord that filled the temple and the seraphim serving before the throne.  The seraphim had six wings but used two wings to cover their faces and two wings to cover their feet.  They flew (or served) with only two of their wings.  Although beautiful themselves, they made it their task to hide their beauty with four of their wings so that only the beauty of the Lord on the throne might be seen!  In the midst of this, Isaiah discovered that his chief ministry had been to display himself rather than the Glory of the Lord.  He had been doing what my old friend (and CMF Board Member) SGM Dan Cartwright,USA (Ret) calls “ODF—‘Out Der Flappin.’”  Isaiah had been ODF on all six wings and hoping people would see it all.  Isaiah said he was a man of unclean lips because our lips (words) are the portals of the heart.  His lips were unclean because his heart was unclean as well.  Isaiah was a preacher and his lips were the tool he used to serve God.  What he had, up to this point, counted as gain—in reality was loss.  “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isa 64:6 NIV)

Now there is only one rank in God’s army, Lord, and that is thankfully already taken!  If we then are his soldiers (bond-slaves [by choice in this all volunteer army]) it would seem to me that we should be about the task of finding out what the Lord wants us to do, and then doing it.  Hopefully what I said earlier about being clandestine, God initiated and God centered starts to make more sense.  We should be praying that God would open our eyes to what He is already doing! This is the vision of the Christian Military Fellowship! We want to continue to build an army, whose members know each other and who together seek (in the prayer closet) what service the Lord would have them to join (His work in progress).  Our desire is this ordained mission be accomplished with only the “wings of service,” so the world will see only the Glory of the Lord.

Are you prepared for combat?  One of my oldest and dearest friends (a now retired Navy Chaplain) once invited me to come join him in serving at the Base Chapel.  He said that I should not bother to come unless I could consider this serving in ministry.  Serving at that Base Chapel was certainly the most rewarding experience I had while wearing the uniform.  But if you choose to enter the combat zone you must enter by the “wicket gate” (Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life) where you will experience a crisis of the faith!  Because God will ask you to do something that is absolutely impossible without Him.


Bob Flynn, President/CEO
“‘But if you are afraid to attack, go down to the camp with your servant Purah. You will hear what they are saying, and then you will have the courage to attack.’”  So Gideon and his servant Purah went down to the edge of the enemy camp.” Judges 7:10-11 TEV

Human warfare has changed through the centuries mostly as a result of technology.  From swords and spears we moved to cannons and then to satellite guided missiles.  Yet now we face, in the temporal sense, a new and frightening foe who dwells among us, “The Terrorist.”  The enemy who looks and acts just like us, yet patiently waits for the day when he can approach the gate unguarded and deliver the fatal stroke unseen because we failed to detect his presence.  Gideon was afraid of the enemy that he could see (an honest reaction).  Our problem is we have no respect for the mightiest of enemies that WE CANNOT see.

“No foreign power or combination of foreign powers could by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.  At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected?  I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up from among us, it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die of suicide.” Abraham Lincoln

When Abraham Lincoln spoke these words I doubt that he could have conceived of a day when we would have a Department of Homeland Security.  Yet within the church we see day after day the result of this kind of terrorist campaign successfully waged against the unknowing brethren!  Those who have been deceived into thinking “too highly of themselves” (Phil 2:3 paraphrase mine) and are deluded so completely that they hold a “strong confidence of their eminent holiness, who are in God’s sight some of the vilest of hypocrites” (Jonathan Edwards).  By means of this deception the church becomes naked and vulnerable as though they were a city without walls, totally defenseless. So much so that the brethren, thinking that they are doing service to the King, sin without restraint by doing harm to the church far greater than any enemy could openly do by frontal attack. “By this means the devil scatters the flock of Christ, and sets them one against another.” (Jonathan Edwards)  Thus the church becomes impotent while languishing midst the self-inflicted wounds–now the victim of “friendly fire.” All the while thinking she is beautiful while in truth she has become the “manna that bred worms and stank.”  All because of failing on the basics of reconnaissance (the act of reconnoitering, especially to gain information about an enemy or potential enemy).  We didn’t scout out the enemy camp because we thought it was far away in some distant land.  While we thought we were defenders of the faith the enemy unseen planted his seeds and wrought in us deception, defection and death! Spiritual radar, like homeland security, is not an accessory but mission essential equipment.

It is by design that America has NOT YET suffered another twin tower disaster! This success has been wrought at great cost! Both temporal and spiritual the gate less traveled is self-denial: “If anyone wants to come with me, he must forget self, carry his cross, and follow me.”  Mat 16:24 TEV  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7 NIV  If the Twin Towers didn’t bring you to your knees, what then?

The Lord of heaven uses the circumstances of our lives to sculpt us and prepare us for the future.  A long time ago a young man flew an airplane from an aircraft carrier in the Pacific in an attack against the communications station on Chichi Jima (120 miles north of Iwo Jima).  During the attack his aircraft received heavy damage from anti-aircraft gun emplacements on the island.  He crashed into the sea nearby and was later rescued by a submarine.  Eight of his shipmates crashed on the Island during the attack and were captured, tortured and then killed by the enemy.  This man wondered for years why he was spared while his shipmates perished.  There is not a day that passes without his thoughts returning to his lost shipmates.  His name is George Herbert Walker Bush.

Is there dust on the floor of our prayer closet?  Do you plan to wait until you crash to see if you are going to be the one or among the eight?  Do you think that you can spot the “The Terrorist” in your church without the Holy Spirit or do you think you have a need to pray?

Reclining in the Grass

Bob Flynn, President/CEO
"Live in such a way that God's love can bless you as you wait for the eternal life that our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy is going to give you." (Jude 21 NLT96)

I have heard it said that life is all mind over matter.  “If you don't mind, it doesn't matter.” (Mark Twain)  In the midst of a universe, that from my humble perspective, whose length, breadth and depth are seemingly immeasurable, how can I matter at all?  And if my plight should bring me to picturesque mountain top or dark and cavernous valley, what matter? 

I had occasion to “recline in the grass” of late for an extended period of time.  Truth be known, I am lying there still.  More thought provoking yet, I will be lying there for all eternity.  If the Lord tarries, then those who come after me may see the end of all matter, yet the "only immortal, invisible, God only wise" will live on and we with Him who have believed in His only begotten Son.

Perhaps the events of life ought to be looked upon as an opportunity for God's love to bless.  I have often found myself saying, "God is good" after seeing a joyous event in the lives of His people.  But wasn't He also good at the memorial service for the dearly departed?  Was His goodness somehow absent as I celebrated my 60th birthday not knowing that a cancer was growing within? Some days later, prostrate in the surgical suite, as well-trained hands deftly removed the “poisoned pill” from my kidney and preserved its function, was goodness lacking?  Yet only an hour before, another sojourner lost this same organ and was put upon a path of longsuffering and uncertainty called chemotherapy.  Was my fate now changed?  Or was it only illuminated?

I cannot testify for others but for me His love surrounded me in ways that defy description.  Though He did make me lie down in green pastures, I was not alone.  Family, friends, elders, and pastor were physically present there with me.  I felt the warmth of the prayers of the thousands of saints who were interceding for me "in light inaccessible hid from our eyes."  Not only these but "most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious," whose great Name I "praise" was also there in our midst.

Where could I choose to go that would be better than to recline in the grass prepared for me in a universe created by Him, for Him and through Him where, because of His "clouds which are fountains of goodness and love," my life matters.  It matters to Him!

Is life better if it is longer?  Or does the child who dies while yet in the womb held less precious by Him who “To all, life thou givest, to both great and small; in all life thou livest, the true life of all.”  When we are allowed to sojourn in green pasture, it is during this reclining that we are able to see Him more fully.  Though our gaze be veiled for now, the light revealed to us is most precious!  It is the hope upon which we cling until that day when we are allowed to gaze fully upon His face — the face of Him who died for us.

When that day comes, would it not be made more blessed because we have remembrance of the blood moon of Calvary?  Will not the first gaze be given greater grandeur because of the travail of tears shed in living sacrifice by the mercies of God?

Peter is right when he reminded us:

So be truly glad!  There is a wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while.  These trials are only to test your faith, to show that it is strong and pure.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold — and your faith is far more precious to God than mere gold.  So if your faith remains strong after being tried by fiery trial, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on that day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.  You love Him even though you have never seen Him.  Though you do not see Him, you trust Him; and even now you are happy with a glorious, inexpressible joy.  Your reward for trusting Him will be the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6-9 NLT96)

Resting or Striving?

Had we duly felt the burden of our sins, that they are a load which our own strength is wholly unable to support, and that the weight of them must finally sink us into perdition, our hearts would have danced at the sound of the gracious invitation, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matthew 11:28).  But in those who have scarcely felt their sins as any encumbrance, it would be mere affectation to pretend to very exalted conceptions of the value and acceptableness of the proffered deliverance.  This pretence accordingly, is seldom now kept up; and the most superficial observer, comparing the sentiments and views of the bulk of the Christian world, with the articles still retained in their creed, and with the strong language of Scripture, must be struck with the amazing disproportion. (William Wilberforce)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

I have been wrestling with a verse in the Epistle to the Hebrews for some time now.  It is one of those questions that itches at the back of your mind and refuses to be soothed until it is answered. In this case the question was provoked by reading a familiar phrase in a different translation.

So we must G4337 listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may G3901 drift away from it.  (Hebrews 2:1 NLT)

My question was, "How does one listen very carefully to what one has already heard?"  The translators necessarily struggle to find the words to transmit this from the original. The modern literalist attempts this conveyance with, “pay closer attention.”  The more time-honored versions render it, “give more earnest heed.” Literally (when you add the word “perissoteros”), it is, “to give heed more abundantly.”  If we look more closely at the word, “prosecho,” we see the idea of holding the mind or ear toward (“listen very carefully”). In the nautical sense it is, “to take up a heading towards" the truth we have heard.

This is an inference from the author’s discourse in the previous chapter where this truth is defined as that which was spoken by the Son, Who is infinitely superior to all of creation.  His Gospel then should be given our undivided attention. It is the hearer’s duty to listen carefully so that the heading will steer clear of the rocks and shoals of pernicious nature and instead, chart a course toward the shores of good and profitable.  If our attention be split, then our observation of the Guide Star is made unsuitable for navigation, and "our striving thus becomes losing."

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing (A Mighty Fortress is Our God, Martin Luther)
G4337 προσέχω prosécho ; pros: toward + echo: to have and hold, implying continued possession.  To have in addition, to hold the mind or the ear toward someone, to pay attention.  As a nautical term, it means to hold a ship in a direction, to sail towards.

This has to be contrasted with the word, “pararreo” that means to drift away, perhaps even imperceptibly.  Why is this important?  Since the beginning, when our Parents were deceived in the garden of Eden, the enemy of our soul has been using the same means to lead us toward destruction.  You would think that after these thousands of years we would wake up to the fact that we are repeatedly led astray by this spiritual sleight of hand.  But church history gives us the real outcome.  We continue to be hoodwinked by the slow drifting away from the pure truth of the Gospel, until half-truths and counterfeit truths become our steady diet.  With our course no longer Christward, we set sail for perdition’s flame.

G3901 παραρρέω pararréo ; contracted paararruo , fut. parareúsomai, from pará (G3844), by, past, beyond, and rhéo (G4483), to flow.  To float by or drift past as a ship, or to flow past as a river.  Figuratively to slip away, suggesting a gradual and almost unnoticed movement past a certain point.  Of a person, to move stealthily as a thief.  It is used figuratively of persons meaning to glide away, to swerve or deviate from something, such as the truth, law, precepts; equivalent to parapípto (G3895), to fall aside.  It occurs only in Hebrews 2:1 where it is used in an absolute sense "lest we drift away from that which we have heard" (a.t.), transgress.

The slow, imperceptible slouching toward Gomorrah has been occurring in our nation since the quenching of the Great Awakening ─ with America's greatness now inversely proportional to the size of the National Debt!

Romans 1:21 "For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened." (NET)

The reason we must “listen very carefully to what we have heard” is that we must refresh our hearing of it each and every day as we enter into Christ’s Sabbath Rest! He has created a new day and called it, “Today” whereby we may enter into this blessed repose and blessed abode (katapausis). But if we fail to do so we will find no rest; our course will not be straight, and we will drift slowly away from His perfect will in our lives.

God's promise of entering His place of rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to get there.  For this Good News—that God has prepared a place of rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t believe what God told them.” (Hebrew 4:1-2 NLT96)

I sought for the key to the greatness and genius of America in her harbors and her ample rivers … ; in her fertile fields and boundless forests … ; in her rich mines and vast world commerce … ; in her public school system and institutions of learning.  I sought for it in her democratic Congress and in her matchless Constitution.  Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power.  America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great. (Alexis de Tocqueville)

Rift in the Bedrock

A good person produces good deeds from a good heart, and an evil person produces evil deeds from an evil heart.  Whatever is in your heart determines what you say.  So why do you call me ‘Lord’ when you won’t obey me?  I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then obeys me.  It is like a person who builds a house on a strong foundation laid upon the underlying rock.  When the flood waters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built.  But anyone who listens and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation.  When the floods sweep down against that house, it will crumble into a heap of ruins. (Luke 6:45-49 NLT96)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

The headline read, “Parish Rift Forms Between Descendants of Prominent Evangelical Leaders.”  The underlying text conveyed that the descendants of two well-known ministers were wrestling for control of “a mega—church that is a bedrock of the religious right.”

How loud must be the moans of the Holy Spirit when He grieves over our sin!  If this were a new phenomenon, then we could all be surprised!  However, this is the result of thousands of years of undetected deception.  It is pretty difficult to be “diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” if “unity” has never been part of your experience! (Ephesians 4:3 NASB)  I suspect that is why unity has been described in terms of what it isn’t.  I have heard it said by well-intentioned believers that unity is not uniformity nor is it unanimity (an undetected deceptive logical argument derived from another world religion).

If we look to the Scripture for insight, we will find the words of Christ as He prayed for us the night before He was crucified.

“My prayer for them is that they will be one, just as you and I are one, Father—that just as you are in me and I am in you, so they will be in us, and the world will believe you sent me.” (John 17:21 NLT96)

If we put forth a couple of questions we will begin to see the danger of accepting logical arguments that are not substantiated in the Word.  Did Jesus Christ think like the Father?  Then there was uniformity!  Did Jesus Christ agree with the Father?  Then there was unanimity!  The last question then should be, “Did the Father answer the Son’s prayer?”

The deception of which I speak is darkness masquerading as light.  Of this we were forewarned by Christ Himself, “Make sure the light you think you have is not really darkness” (Luke 11:35 NLT96).  I believe we should consider that this is an exact description of “counterfeit.”  While it may seem rudimentary that we should be able to tell the difference between darkness and light, the reality is: a pinch of darkness that is mixed with light may not be distinguished.  It is this concept that Jonathan Edwards warned us of at length.

It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ. (Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections)

It was his assertion that until we could distinguish between the true and the counterfeit that the Gospel would not be furthered.  However, we continue to fritter away the years pretending that a thousand rivets flying in close formation is the same as an aircraft. We are in proximity but not unity!

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; (Philippians 1:27 NASB)

I suspect we misunderstand what it truly means to be “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”  We incorrectly think that we must look, think and act like each other for unity to exist.  This could not be further from the truth!  Rather we all should look, think and act like Christ!  That is why Paul goes on to say that the mind of Christ must be in us.  If not, there is no hope of “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2 NASB).

But practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head. From him the whole body grows, fitted and held together through every supporting ligament.  As each one does its part, the body grows in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 NET)

The “one mind” is Christ’s and He is the head to whom we are to be subject.  We are to be yielded to His will just as He yielded Himself to the will of the Father and “took the humble position of a slave” for our sake and “humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7b-8 NLT2ndEd).

Jesus said to the people, “I am the light of the world.  If you follow me you won’t be stumbling through the darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12 NLT96)

Why is it that we fail to see His light?  There are two lights in this world to be seen: Jesus, the light of the world; or Satan, pretending to be the Most High.  Which one we see depends upon our eyes.

“No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket.  Instead, it is put on a lamp stand to give light to all who enter the room.  Your eye is a lamp for your body.  A pure eye lets sunshine into your soul.  But an evil eye shuts out the light and plunges you into darkness.  Make sure that the light you think you have is not really darkness.  If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight is shining on you” (Luke 11:33-36 NLT96).

Here we have a passage that is paralleled in Matthew’s Gospel account (Matthew 6:22), though the context there is generosity and investing treasure in heaven.  In each case there is the presence of a Hebrew idiom and an emphatic warning.  The idiom speaks to the condition of our eyes.  A single eye, pure eye, or generous eye lets sunshine into the soul.  However, a crooked eye, evil eye, or stingy eye shuts out the light—not only so, but plunges us into darkness.  The warning: “Make sure that the light you think you have is not really darkness” (Luke 11:35); “If the light you think you have is really darkness, how deep that darkness will be!” (Matthew 6:23b NLT96).

Why is it that we cannot see the light of Christ?  Because the church in America is full of “dark corners!”  For the two hundred sixty-three years since the death of the great awakening, we have been seeing the fallen light and following a counterfeit gospel and worshipping an Anti-Christ and all the while telling ourselves that we are serving the Lord with great zeal!

However, there is a hope if we are willing to seek it.

“These are evil times, and this evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign.  But the only sign I will give them is the sign of the prophet Jonah.  What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him.  What happens to me will be a sign that God has sent me, the Son of Man, to these people.  The queen of Sheba will rise up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, because she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon.  And now someone greater than Solomon is here—and you refuse to listen to him.  The people of Nineveh, too, will rise up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah.  And now someone greater than Jonah is here—and you refuse to repent (Luke 11:29b-32 NLT96).
“Yet it is evident, there will come a time of much greater purity in the church, than has been in ages past.  And one great reason of it will be, that at that time, God will give much greater light to his people, to distinguish between true religion and counterfeits” (Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections).
Then you will again see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not. (Malachi 3:18)

Root or Fruit


ccording to A. W. Tozer, in The Root of Righteousness, there is a marked difference between the faith of our fathers and that of present-day descendants.  While the earnest endeavor of those who landed upon the shore of this “one nation under God” focused on the root (of Jesse) our present age seems to seek only the fruit! How does this differ from Simon the sorcerer, portrayed in Acts, who sought to buy the power made manifest by the Holy Spirit?

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

A tree that is planted by a river (Psalm 1) must certainly have deep roots if it is to partake of the nourishment that comes from even a nearby river!  Deep roots indicate a maturity in the growth of the tree that should give it the steadfastness necessary to hold firm in the most tumultuous of storms.  But even then this would depend upon the firmness of the soil wherein it is planted.  If we are planted in Christ then the soil is prepared by His sacrifice and is nurtured by His Grace.  Fruit is but a byproduct of being connected to the Root!

Maturity (or perhaps better said, experience) does not occur in a vacuum!  Believers of today would be aptly described as 8 miles wide and a quarter of an inch deep.  Perhaps this is partly due to the modern information-centric lifestyle.  But the stunted spiritual progress of the many gives birth to a lament because being genuinely saved they see the absence of real depth.  If they were not truly converted they wouldn’t care.  I would not try to simplify this complexity.  However, there is one universal deficit!  A failure to give our time to the Lord!  Since He created time and is the Lord of time how could we pretend that growth could occur in anyway except spending time cultivating knowledge of Him Who sits upon the throne of the universe?  Whether we are strong or weak is directly proportional to our relational knowledge of the Holy One. Said another way, intimacy!

What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.  I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.  Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Php 3:8-14 NIV)

Whatever progress we may enjoy in our walk of faith is reflection of our growing in knowledge of Christ in our personal experience!  This requires us to surrender our whole life and devote our time to Him.  In this modern world of instantaneous communication we are distracted at every turn.  We must therefore relinquish our time to Him Who owns time.   That He may “order our steps” in a way that allows us to utilize time in a manner that will allow Him to accomplish His work in us!

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. (Php 2:12-13 NIV)

In the America of late I fear that our conception of the Holy comes not from the Word but from the image we have conjured up from the depths of our reprobate minds! Sadly, the church of our day lies impotent in a pool of blood from self-inflicted wounds unable to extricate herself. (Jonathan Edwards, paraphrase mine).

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us!” (A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy)

Perhaps it is because we have been inoculated with a slight case of Christianity that is preventing us from experiencing the real thing.  Perhaps it is because we wish to create God in our image so as not to interfere with the life we love so much.

“I would like to buy $3 worth of God, please—not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine.  I don’t want enough of him to make me love a foreigner or pick beets with a migrant worker.   I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of a womb, not a new birth.  I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I’d like to buy $3 worth of God, please.” (Pastor Wilbur Rees)

What we really want is to be accepted the way we are not to experience repentance for who we are truly—depraved sinners in need of a savior.  We wish to remain comfortably nestled in the womb exempt from the responsibilities of an obedient faith.  Never mind taking up our cross and following Christ.

We seem to remember well John 3:16 but forever forget 1 John 3:16 or Revelation 3:16!

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (Joh 3:16 NIV)

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.  And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1Jn 3:16 NIV)

So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. (Rev 3:16 NIV)

One thing is for sure: $3 dollars worth of God won’t buy you spirit-to-Spirit intimacy with the Creator of the Universe!  If we want to be one with Christ, we have to abandon the idea that being merely acquainted with Him is enough and that we have all we need in and of ourselves.   We wince at any observation of our lives that reflect that we are self-centered, self-indulgent, and self-serving.   However, when we think of self-sufficiency, we roll our eyes in pious apathy!

Jesus reproved the Laodiceans with regard to their self-sufficiency and didn’t mince words.  He said, “because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.”   You see, the Laodiceans were three-dollar Christians.   They were blinded by their self-sufficiency to their great need for Jesus!   They, like we Americans, did not have many material needs. To the contrary, they were very affluent. And like America, they thought they no longer needed God!  Have we not like the Laodiceans left Christ standing outside the door of our hearts?  We want just enough Jesus to get into heaven.

Jesus didn’t give up on the Laodiceans.   I pray that He doesn’t give up on you and me.


Sabbath Rest

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

WARNING: This article may be beneficial to your faith!

“So there is a special rest still waiting for the people of God.” (Hebrews 4:9 NLT)

Lord Jesus Christ, I pray today that those who might read this article would be able to enter into your Sabbath Rest.  I know that there is nothing I can say that can change their plight, but You can touch their hearts, and I pray let it be so!

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s a light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free!

How fast is the runner who sprints through the race of life.  With each stride there approaches still another chore yet undone.  Rising early to meet this list of challenges, the mind becomes a blur of thought as it tries to contemplate the next move while the hands simultaneously prepare breakfast.  Driving the kids to school, fearing for their safety in this fallen world, the race is halted by the twice daily gridlock.  Daydreams abound in vain that wish for more roads and less crowding while the lips drink in a mocha grande decaf nonfat!  The evening chauffeuring of the troops to little league, piano lessons, soccer, scouts and AWANA is fol lowed by a short meditation in front of the network news.  A song fills the throat that bemoans the rising gasoline prices, curses the war on terror and wishes success upon the latest lowimpact, high-aerobic, low-carb, high-protein, high-fiber diet and exercise program in hopes it will give sufficient strength to make it through another day.  What happened to the spirit-filled, purpose-driven recipe for the successful Christian Life?  After all, I gave my tithe back in 1985—when does that law of reciprocity kick in anyway?  Doesn’t that sound spiritual?  Another frazzled Christian is about to become “road kill!”

“Be careful then, dear friends.  Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God.  You must warn each otherevery day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God.  For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  But never forget the warning…” (Hebrews 3:12-15a NLT)

Effort redoubled, the runner darts all the earlier to Sunday School where with eyes wide open and corneas frosted over with fatigue, attentive osmosis attempts to chew on a steak dinner with teeth made for milk.  The shepherd (bless his heart) is sensitive to the need of the forlorn lamb, but when the question is asked as to the now-deflated countenance, the given reply is “FINE” (fully internalized nuclear explosion!).  The worship service begins with the “choruses not right played by musicians not liked, the sermon ain’t tight don’t drone on cause I don’t want to be here all night!”  Uh, what’s that he just said?  A new diet?  “More of Jesus and Less of me.”  A new exercise? “REST.”

Sabbatismos: “the blessed rest from toils and troubles looked for in the age to come by the true worshipers of God and true Christians.” Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

It should come with no amazement that we should rest.  After all, God rested after creation. Israel was supposed to rest in Canaan.  When Christ cried from the cross of Calvary, “It is finished!,” there began a new rest.  We are to enter into the rest of the finished work of Christ.  Our Sabbath Rest is not in a day but in the person of our Savior.  We have been liberated from the burden of our sin as well as from all the sorrow and difficulties of life. The peace and rest that this world has to offer is a pale imitation of Calvary Rest.

“For all who enter into God’s rest will find rest from their labors, just as God rested after creating the world.” (Hebrews 4:10 NLT)

This rest is not far away but is as near as our prayer closet–that place where we “cling to Him and never stop trusting Him.” The place where we are called to “come boldly to the throne of our gracious God” to “receive his mercy,” and “find grace to help us when we need it.”  It is our duty to rest, but we are the ones who must enter!  We are warned not to “harden our hearts,” “not to turn away from the living God,” but to “be faithful to the very end.”  I believe that we, like Israel, are prone to wander.  We endeavor to live the Christian life in the power of the flesh, and the result is pretty ugly.  This rest is not a cessation ofactivity but the beginning of a labor of love.  It is a call to service, not to bondage.  This rest is not onerous!  This rest is not burdensome!  It is after all, rest in the personage of our Lord Jesus Christ!  The rest of Calvary.  Calvary Rest!  The warning was given to Israel clearly yet they forfeited their rest at Kadesh Barnea.  But “solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.  So let us stop going over the basics of Christianity again and again.  Let us go on instead and become mature in our understanding.”

“Let us do our best to enter that place of rest.” (Hebrews 4:11 NLT)

His Word shall not fail you—He promised;
Believe Him, and all will be well:
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Where is this place of rest? Wherever you are praying!

Sexual Purity—On the Rock Or Under It?

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

“A tree is identified by its fruit.  Figs are never gathered from thorn bushes, and grapes are not picked from bramble bushes.  A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart.  What you say flows from what is in your heart.  So why do you keep calling Me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?  I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to Me, listens to My teaching, and then follows it.  It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock.  When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built.“ Luke 6:45-48 NLT

Why would I start an article about sexual purity with this particular Scripture reference?  It is because in our present world, where atheistic humanism is rampant with all manner of alternative standards, we need an unshakable, unwavering, undeniable, and perfect standard.  Here it is!  Pastor Andrew Murray probably said it best in the title of his book, “Absolute Surrender.”  That is our standard—perfect obedience!

We are surrounded by an environment where standards are mixed.  The byword in the military culture is “Professional Excellence.”  However, if we scrutinize this phrase a little more closely, we shall see that it falls short of perfection.  Excellence by its very nature makes allowance for something less than perfection.

EXCELLENCY, n. [L. excellentia.] The state of possessing good qualities in an unusual or eminent degree; the state of excelling in any thing.

  1. A valuable quality; anything highly laudable, meritorious or virtuous, in persons, or valuable and esteemed, in things.  Purity of heart, uprightness of mind, sincerity, virtue, piety, are excellencies of character; symmetry of parts, strength and beauty are excellencies of body; an accurate knowledge of an art is an excellence in the artisan; soundness and durability are excellencies in timber; fertility, in land; elegance, in writing. In short, whatever contributes to exalt man, or to render him esteemed and happy, or to bless society, is in him an excellence.
In the commercial world we find businesses seeking after excellence.  One could hope that they would also be in search of perfection; however, the reality is that perfection would be too costly and would diminish the bottom line on the financial reports.  Business would rather create the perception of perfection for their customers and instead find an acceptable balance between quality and cost (best practices). (“Every Man’s Battle,” Arterburn & Stoeker)

How does this compare with the Bible’s standard for our sexual purity?

“But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:28 NLT

Here Christ reveals to us that the commandment did not apply only to an external act, but also to the secrets of our hearts, and even the movements of our eyes. “He declares that they who indulge a wanton desire, that they who look on a woman to increase their lust, have already, in the sight of God, violated the commandment, and committed adultery in the heart. Such was the guilt of David, whose deep and awful crime fully shows the danger of indulging in evil desires, and in the roving of a wanton eye. See 2 Samuel 11; Psalm 51. See also 2 Peter 2:14. So exceeding strict and broad is the law of God! And so heinous in his sight are thoughts and feelings which may be forever concealed from the world!” (Dr. Albert Barnes)
“If voluntary and deliberate looks and desires make adulterers and adulteresses, how many persons are there whose whole life is one continued crime?  Whose eyes being full of adultery, they cannot cease from sin, 2 Peter 2:14.  Many would abhor to commit one external act before the eyes of men, in a temple of stone; and yet they are not afraid to commit a multitude of such acts in the temple of their hearts, and in the sight of God!” (Dr. Adam Clarke)

A very short sojourn on television, a walk on the beach, or even driving by a billboard in the world of today will, by this standard, leave you defiled and an adulterer.

“For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.” Mark 7:21-23 NLT

So how are you doing, shipmate?  Is the secret life of your own eyes leaving you the benefactor of the evil that lives within your heart?  Be Encouraged! All the power of the universe is available to separate you from your sin!  The question Jesus asks is, “Do you want to be healed?” Do you want to live on “the Rock” or under it?

So then, where is the victory for those of us who have a pulse, can fog a mirror, and have the tendency to see the world through earthly eyes?  The secret has been revealed, Jesus Christ, the Lord!

The aforementioned quote from Luke 6 is one of the places where we can find the victory.  It speaks of our obedience (or lack thereof) and the condition of our heart!  Faith and obedience are toes on the same foot!

If we wait for God to change us before we act, we are cowering in the ditch of passivity!  If we act apart from the Lord (being yoked together with Him) we are lying in the ditch of arrogance! (Roy Hession, “Calvary Road,” “We Would See Jesus,” paraphrase mine)  But if we claim the promise of Romans Chapter 8:1-2, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.“ (NLT), and put it into practice (take the first step with one foot and two toes) we will find the victory assured with each step!  Because now we will be walking on “the Rock.”

God is not slack in His promise; each day is by His “command.”  The question then, warrior, is can you take an order issued by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords? Do you want to be healed?

What then is the cause of our failure?  Is this not the “lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life” that John warned us about—the following of our “evil, lustful desires” as we “despise authority”? (1 John 2:15-16, 2 Peter 2:10)  God’s forgiveness is not license to make light of our sin! Christ’s death on the Cross exclaims for all time how seriously God takes our sin!  God’s mercy is not an excuse for us to grow lax and live careless lives so that His Grace will super abound. (Romans 6)

Sexual immorality is one of the chief causes of divorce!  That is why I continue to bring up the necessity for living the lives of purity to which we are called.  It is time for the men of this country to take the hint from Job and make a covenant with our eyes! (Job 31:1)

Then we will be following God’s plan for our eyes to be focused on our wives, “forsaking all others, according to God’s holy ordinance I do pledge thee my troth” (fidelity, faith, belief, truth, verity, veracity).

My heart sinks with every e-mail, every phone call that tells me yet another marriage is in crisis.  And as we work together to seek the causes and peel back the layers of a lifetime, the god of this age emerges, (pornea).

Fornication: The incontinence or lewdness of unmarried persons, male or female; also, the criminal conversation of a married man with an unmarried woman. (Noah Webster)

Incontinence: Want of restraint of the passions or appetites; free or uncontrolled indulgence of the passions or appetites, as of anger.  Want of restraint of the sexual appetite; free or illegal indulgence of lust; lewdness; used of either sex, but appropriately of the male sex. Incontinence in men is the same as unchastity in women.

“What are the distinguishing qualifications of those that are in favor with God, and entitled to His eternal rewards?  Or, which come to the same thing, What is the nature of true religion?  And wherein do lie the distinguishing notes of that virtue and holiness that is acceptable in the sight of God?  But though it be of such importance, and though we have clear and abundant light in the word of God to direct us in this matter, yet there is no one point wherein professing Christians do more differ one from another.  It would be endless to reckon up the variety of opinions on this point, that divide the Christian world; making manifest the truth of that declaration of our Savior, “Straight is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and few there be that find it.” Dr. Jonathan Edwards, “The Religious Affections”

“Unless the LORD builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the LORD protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” Psalm 127:1 NLT

The First Rule of War

“No foreign power or combination of foreign powers could by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years.  At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected?  I answer, if it ever reach us it must spring up from among us, it cannot come from abroad.  If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher.  As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die of suicide.” Abraham Lincoln

When Abraham Lincoln spoke these words I doubt that he could have conceived of a day when we would have a Department of Homeland Security.  It is by design that America has NOT YET suffered another Twin Tower disaster!  This success has been wrought at great cost!

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan—to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)
“The patriot who feels himself in the service of God, who acknowledges Him in all his ways, has the promise of Almighty direction, and will find His word in his greatest darkness, ‘a lantern to his feet and a lamp unto his paths.’  He will therefore seek to establish for his country in the eyes of the world, such a character as shall make her not unworthy of the name of a Christian nation.” Francis Scott Key (1779-1843)
“And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.  For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them.  This is the wonderful message he has given us to tell others.” (2 Corinthians 5:18-19 NLT)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

We can ponder the significance of “A Warrior’s End” from many perspectives.  There is the look on a mother’s face that can never be forgotten when she is told she will never hug her beloved son again; or the empty side of the bed that grieves the young wife’s heart; the empty chair at the dinner table where Daddy used to sit.  If we can introduce each one of these young men and women to the Gospel before the crisis, their destination will be changed for an eternity!  For those who are wounded of heart, there is one immutable fact: warriors only talk to warriors about warrior things.

“How well do you reflect the Gospel in the pain-filled eyes of a frightened seven-year-old girl whose grandparents you just helped kill?  This is not merely a rhetorical question.  I had to rip the answer from myself one day in 1965 as I stared into those terrible eyes at a devastated village in Vietnam.  Moral dilemmas are by no means the private territory of men at war.  However, wars do provide acute crises in moral and ethical decision-making” (LtCol Tom Hemingway, Serving God in the Jungles of War: Moral Dilemmas of Combat).

These are the kinds of wounds that never heal but cover over with scar tissue and if not healed by the Savior, become the future cancers that kill the soul.

Yet serving in the military provides an opportunity to live the Gospel and share it with those with whom one is surrounded. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not part of a believer’s life ─ it is his life.  Therefore, to do anything less than share one’s faith with a lost and dying world would be to hide the light under a basket.  The manner in which believers live and their stated convictions must be consistent.  Anything less will have a negative impact on the believer’s credibility.  The act of evangelism itself will carry with it risk with regard to promotion. Sharing one’s faith openly will bring criticism and scorn from those who most need its benefit.  LtGen John Grinalds, USMC (Ret), Evangelism in Command —Paraphrase mine.

This is an impossible dream absent the fullness of the Holy Spirit in the warrior’s life.  The battle is waged in the temporal battlefield, while at the same time there is battle in the heavenlies.  Victory cannot be achieved lest both foes be vanquished.  The same can be said for the wounds of the body and the wounds of the soul.  Neither will heal unless both be salved.

In these stressful times we see the military continuously being made smaller while its role is being changed from war fighting to peace keeping.  This has created increased deployment schedules, lengthier family separations, and greater stresses on the service member and family alike.  If Christ is our vocation and not just a hobby then we should feel the call of a sovereign God upon our lives.  Paul, writing from prison to the Philippians, shared the experience of having been buffeted by life, beaten by foes, forgotten by friends, and rejected by those he loved ─ all for the sake of the Gospel.  This is the message to the Christian in the military today that settles whether or not military service is a calling from God.  Left unconvinced the military believer misses the joy, contentment, and effectiveness also expressed by the Apostle Paul. COL Richard Kail, USA (Ret), What is Your Spiritual Climate? — paraphrase mine).

This is why there is a Christian Military Fellowship ─ the building of character that makes our great Christian nation unashamed.  The Fellowship is here to help.

The Holy War

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

The war in Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, the war against terror, and the war for the souls of men are all one and the same!  The war has been continuous since its beginning.  Each generation manages to add the names of the conflicts of their day, but it is merely a continuation of that which came before.

There was a man who once wrote of this war against “man’s soul.”  It was written in allegory, because this style was his timeless gift.  His name was John Bunyan.  In his autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, he shared vividly of the torment of his soul and his ultimate deliverance by Christ’s wondrous and glorious Grace.  You are probably most familiar with his more famous book, Pilgrim’s Progress.  However, the work to which I now speak is called, The Holy War.  In it Bunyan, who spent 12 years in prison for preaching the Gospel, tells of the assault against the town of Mansoul brought by a mighty enemy named Diabolus.

The town of Mansoul was built within walls and ramparts that were designed to withstand any attack.  Even its five gates (Ear Gate, Eye Gate, Mouth Gate, Nose Gate and Feel Gate) could not be breached or traversed unless permission to enter was given by the townsfolk within.

Diabolus got together with his generals and strategized how they might conquer Mansoul and make it theirs.  They decided not to use an overt frontal attack against the impregnable ramparts.  Instead they decided to take Mansoul by stealth and deception.  They would approach in a form familiar to the townsfolk ─ a form over which they thought they had dominion.

So the bad guys put on their armor and turned on their cloaking device, approached the town of Mansoul and walked right in.

The Battle:

Through deception, Diabolus put the town of Mansoul into bondage and purposed further to corrupt them as well.  He ordered Mr. Filth to proclaim in the streets that the inhabitants were free to do anything their lusts might desire.  There would be no one in authority allowed to hinder them for fear of prosecution from Diabolus.  Thus Mansoul would grow weak to the point that even if the news of their redemption were broadcast from the rooftops, they would not have the ability to believe, or the hope to choose it (John Bunyan, The Holy War—Paraphrase mine).

The inhabitants of Mansoul should have been impervious to this attack, but alas, they had succumbed to the thinking of the day and were living as if they belonged to this world.

The Exhortation:

“Don't be fooled by those who say such things, for ‘bad company corrupts good character.’  Think carefully about what is right, and stop sinning. For to your shame I say that some of you don’t know God at all” (1 Cor 15:33-34 NLT).

The Exhortation:

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you.  For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions.  These are not from the Father, but are from this world” (1 John 2:15-16 NLT).

The Armor:

“Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God's righteousness” (Ephesians 6:14 NLT).

The Counterfeit:

My breastplate is a breastplate of iron….In plain language it is a hard heart, a heart as hard as iron and as unfeeling as a stone. If you wear it you will show no mercy to others. (John Bunyan, The Holy War—Paraphrase mine).

The Armor:

“In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan” Ephesians 6:16 NLT).

The Counterfeit:

My shield is unbelief—the calling into question the truth of the Word and all the sayings that speak of the judgment that Shaddai has appointed for wicked men….But in the record of the wars of Immanuel against my servants, many have testified that he could do no mighty work because of their unbelief. (John Bunyan, The Holy War—Paraphrase mine).

The Armor:

“Put on salvation as your helmet…” (Ephesians 6:17a NLT).

The Counterfeit:

My helmet is the hope of doing well in spite of the circumstances.  Those who wear it say that they will be safe even though they insist on doing things their own way.  This stubbornness of heart if you wear it, will protect you against many blows. (John Bunyan, The Holy War—Paraphrase mine).

The Armor:

“Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion.  Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere" (Ephesians 6:18 NLT).

The Counterfeit:

“Another piece,” said Diabolus, “of my excellent armor is a silent and prayerless spirit, a spirit that despises crying for mercy” (John Bunyan, The Holy War—Paraphrase mine).

The Exhortation:

“A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on all of God's armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:10-12 NLT).

The Exhortation:

“Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything.  Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.  Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.  His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus”
(Philippians 4:6-7 NLT).

The Escape:

“When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.  Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen, for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.  Wash yourselves and be clean! Get your sins out of my sight.  Give up your evil ways.  Learn to do good.  Seek justice. Help the oppressed.  Defend the cause of orphans.  Fight for the rights of widows.  ‘Come now, let’s settle this,’ says the LORD.  ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow.  Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.  If you will only obey me, you will have plenty to eat.  But if you turn away and refuse to listen, you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies. I, the LORD, have spoken.” (Isaiah 1:15-20 NLT).

The Letter to Danbury Baptists from Thomas Jefferson

The affectionate sentiments of esteem and approbation which you are so good as to express towards me, on behalf of the Danbury Baptist Association, give me the highest satisfaction.  My duties dictate a faithful and zealous pursuit of the interests of my constituents, and in proportion as they are persuaded of my fidelity to those duties, the discharge of them becomes more and more pleasing.

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.  Adhering to this expression of the supreme will of the nation in behalf of the rights of conscience, I shall see with sincere satisfaction the progress of those sentiments which tend to restore to man all his natural rights, convinced he has no natural right in opposition to his social duties.

I reciprocate your kind prayers for the protection and blessing of the common Father and Creator of man, and tender you for yourselves and your religious association, assurances of my high respect and esteem.  Thomas Jefferson

The Separation Myth — A Wall by Our Own Design

Amendment I: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment X: The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

I have often wondered that if there were a real separation of church and state articulated in Amendment I of the United States Constitution, why there continues to exist a “White House Press Corps?”  The press is, after all, mentioned in the same sentence.  Considering that the very specific prohibition delineated is against the Congress, how then has this transcended into a time when the United States Government is regulating religion in the many states?  Was this the intention of James Madison, who is the chief principal involved with its authorship?  I think not, for history does record that he subsequently issued at least four Thanksgiving Day proclamations!

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

What has ensued in the intervening years that has so soured the hearts of many ─ that such an upside-down philosophy should have invaded this “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all?”  Simply put, the Gnostics won!  If we are absolutely honest, we must admit that all (every single one) of the churches founded by the Apostles are but a faint memory ─ each one succumbing to the assertions of the flesh.  What has become of the spiritual offspring of the great awakenings preached by Edwards, Whitfield and Sunday?  Was theirs no lasting legacy?

The methodology that quenched every awakening since the beginning, is the same one now being used to subvert and revise the foundation laid by our forefathers ─ deception.  Today the partial truths of those who would see our Nation separated from the God whose blessings the founders in prayer petitioned are transmitted and replicated at light speed from blog to website to blog until the vilest gossip becomes “fact.”  Then the talking heads speculate and analyze ad nauseam—seeking to be heralded as the accomplished purveyors of the latest secret truth.  Instead, because of original unregenerate depravity, they have become the “Typhoid Marys” of an infectious disease that spreads the ever-tolerant political correctness syndrome until the societal patient succumbs, unaware of the arrival of his ultimate demise and eternal fate.

Who then shall we believe?  Shall it be the unanimous Supreme Court of 1892 that ruled in Holy Trinity Church v. U.S., while citing 85 precedents, that this is a Christian nation and others will have to make allowances?  Or shall we believe the later Supreme Court who misquoted the Jeffersonian letter (enclosed), and used his vague metaphor (that had no legal standing), cited no precedents, and erected a wall between our government and its Benefactor?  How does this “wall” protect the “free exercise thereof?”  The history since this latter decision has been one of continued suppression.  Perhaps it would have been better for the later court to have quoted Jefferson’s method of discerning original intent:

“On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed.” (Jefferson in a letter to William Johnson, June 13, 1823, University of Virginia online library).

Justice Joseph Story, of the U.S. Supreme Court, said:

“The real object of the First Amendment was not to countenance, much less to advance Mohammedanism, or Judaism, or infidelity, by prostrating Christianity, but to exclude all rivalry among Christian sects [denominations] and to prevent any national ecclesiastical establishment which would give to an hierarchy the exclusive patronage of the national government.”

He also said:

“Probably, at the time of the adoption of the Constitution, and of the [First] Amendment...the general, if not the universal, sentiment in America was, that Christianity ought to receive encouragement from the State so far as was not incompatible with the private rights of conscience and the freedom of religious worship.  Any attempt to level all religions, and to make it a matter of state policy to hold all in utter indifference, would have created universal disapprobation, if not universal indignation.”

Since this was the original intent, it is not surprising that in 1854 the United States Congress resolved that:

“The great vital and conservative element in our system is the belief of our people in the pure doctrines and divine truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

So why is it that “the freedom for this” and “the freedom from that” organizations go on tilting at the wind?  It isn’t that they don’t get it!  The problem is, they can’t sell it!  All they can do is tell us poor and unenlightened members of the “third estate” citizenry what our problems are and who is to blame for them.  That is how it becomes the vogue for Hollywood celebrities to call the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ the “Christian Taliban” and “Satan’s Whores,” while at the same time encouraging us to come to the theater to see their new movie, or to be sure to tune in for the next episode of the view from the cesspool!  “However, Christian, don’t you dare impose your morality upon me!”

That, my friend, is how you sell newspapers, win elections, and have a hit television show!  The question that remains though is, “how did this happen?”  The Gnostics won! How did they win? Deception!  Will the real Lucifer, son of morning, please stand up!  We fantasize that the god of this world is responsible for all of the evil things that happen, because we have not peered into the vile blackness of our own hearts!  We seem pleased to read John Bunyan’s, Pilgrim’s Progress, with warm pleasure while at the same time ignoring The Holy War and Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.  For therein can be found the cause for this inherent evil ─ it is the face you primp or shave each morning!  The real mission and methodology of the god of this world is to “be like the most high.”  So if you are looking to find his presence in this world, look for the most amazing, beautiful, holy, etc., Christian, who is too good to be true; and you will have found Satan in all his counterfeit glory.  If instead you find a believer struggling each day to find the victory (over sin) that is his in Christ Jesus, then you will have found the genuine believer.  How can I say that?  I didn’t! Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer said it in his book entitled, Satan.

Why is there now a wall of separation between church and state?  Because we built it brick by brick!  We were not pulled off course by turning into a blinding sun.  We were lured off course a half a degree at a time until we were convinced in our own minds that true North was now true South.  The man who became our first President was asked why the Constitution contained no references to the Almighty.  This was his reply:

“I am persuaded you will permit me to observe that the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political direction.  To this consideration we ought to ascribe the absence of any regulation respecting religion from the Magna Charta of our country.  To the guidance of the ministers of the gospel this important object is, perhaps, more properly committed. And in the progress of morality and science, to which our Government will give every furtherance, we may confidently expect the advancement of true religion and the completion of our happiness.”  George Washington

In today’s politically-correct world, even the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University edits away the foundational thoughts of their benefactor and replaces them with the stealth dots of the ellipsis so as not to offend those who might invest in their estate.  You won’t find these words iterated in their copy of “The Religious Affections,” but rather they are preserved for us by the Project Gutenberg.  In the forward to this grand book you will find Dr. Jonathan Edwards’ transcendent words:

“Many will probably be hurt in their spirits, to find so much that appertains to religious affection, here condemned:  and perhaps indignation and contempt will be excited in others by finding so much here justified and approved.  And it may be, some will be ready to charge me with inconsistency with myself, in so much approving some things, and so much condemning others; as I have found this has always been objected to by some, ever since the beginning of our late controversies about religion.  It is a hard thing to be a hearty zealous friend of what has been good and glorious, in the late extraordinary appearances, and to rejoice much in it; and at the same time to see the evil and pernicious tendency of what has been bad, and earnestly to oppose thatBut yet, I am humbly but fully persuaded, we shall never be in the way of truth, nor go on in a way acceptable to God, and tending to the advancement of Christ's kingdom till we do soThere is indeed something very mysterious in it, that so much good, and so much bad, should be mixed together in the church of God; as it is a mysterious thing, and what has puzzled and amazed many a good Christian, that there should be that which is so divine and precious, as the saving grace of God, and the new and divine nature dwelling in the same heart, with so much corruption, hypocrisy, and iniquity, in a particular saint.  Yet neither of these is more mysterious than real.  And neither of them is a new or rare thing.  It is no new thing, that much false religion should prevail, at a time of great reviving of true religion, and that at such a time multitudes of hypocrites should spring up among true saints.  It was so in that great reformation, and revival of religion, that was in Josiah's time; as appears by Jer. 3:10, and 4:3, 4, and also by the great apostasy that there was in the land, so soon after his reign.  So it was in that great outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jews, that was in the days of John the Baptist; as appears by the great apostasy of that people so soon after so general an awakening, and the temporary religious comforts and joys of many:  John 5:35, "Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light."  So it was in those great commotions that were among the multitude, occasioned by the preaching of Jesus Christ; of the many that were then called, but few were chosen; of the multitude that were roused and affected by his preaching, and at one time or other appeared mightily engaged, full of admiration of Christ, and elevated with joy, but few were true disciples, that stood the shock of the great trials that came afterwards, and endured to the end.  Many were like the stony ground, or thorny ground; and but few, comparatively, like the good ground.  Of the whole heap that was gathered, great part was chaff; that the wind afterwards drove away; and the heap of wheat that was left, was comparatively small; as appears abundantly, by the history of the New Testament.  So it was in that great outpouring of the Spirit that was in the apostles' days as appears by Matt. 24:10-13. Gal. 3:1, and 4:11, 15. Phil. 2:21, and 3:18, 19, and the two epistles to the Corinthians, and many other parts of the New Testament.  And so it was in the great reformation from Popery.  It appears plainly to have been in the visible church of God, in times of great reviving of religion, from time to time, as it is with the fruit trees in the spring; there are a multitude of blossoms, all of which appear fair and beautiful, and there is a promising appearance of young fruits; but many of them are but of short continuance; they soon fall off, and never come to maturity.

Not that it is to be supposed that it will always be so; for though there never will, in this world, be an entire purity, either in particular saints, in a perfect freedom from mixtures of corruption; or in the church of God, without any mixture of hypocrites with saints, and counterfeit religion, and false appearances of grace with true religion, and real holiness: yet it is evident, that there will come a time of much greater purity in the church of God, than has been in ages past; it is plain by these texts of Scripture, Isa. 52:1. Ezek. 44:6, 7, Joel 3:17. Zech. 14:21. Psal. 69:32, 35, 36. Isa 35:8, 10, chap. 4:3, 4. Ezek. 20:38. Psal. 37:9, 10, 21, 29.  And one great reason of it will be that at that time God will give much greater light to his people, to distinguish between true religion and its counterfeits.  Mal. 3:3, "And he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness."  With ver. 18, which is a continuation of the prophecy of the same happy times.  "Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God, and him that serveth him not."

It is by the mixture of counterfeit religion with true, not discerned and distinguished, that the devil has had his greatest advantage against the cause and kingdom of Christ, all along hithertoIt is by this means, principally, that he has prevailed against all revivals of religion, that ever have been since the first founding of the Christian church.  By this, he hurt the cause of Christianity, in and after the apostolic age, much more than by all the persecutions of both Jews and Heathens.  The apostles, in all their epistles, show themselves much more concerned at the former mischief, than the latter.  By this, Satan prevailed against the reformation, began by Luther, Zwingli, and company, to put a stop to its progress, and bring it into disgrace; ten times more, than by all those bloody, cruel, and before unheard of persecutions of the church of Rome.  By this, principally, has he prevailed against revivals of religion, that have been in our nation since the reformation.  By this he prevailed against New England, to quench the love and spoil the joy of her espousals, about a hundred years ago.  And I think I have had opportunity enough to see plainly that by this the devil has prevailed against the late great revival of religion in New England, so happy and promising in its beginning.  Here, most evidently has been the main advantage Satan has had against us; by this he has foiled us.  It is by this means, that the daughter of Zion in this land now lies on the ground, in such piteous circumstances as we now behold her; with her garments rent, her face disfigured, her nakedness exposed, her limbs broken, and weltering in the blood of her own wounds, and in no wise able to arise, and this, so quickly after her late great joys and hopes:  Lam. 1:17, "Zion spreadeth forth her hands, and there is none to comfort her: the Lord hath commanded concerning Jacob, that his adversaries shall be roundabout him: Jerusalem is as a menstruous woman among them."  I have seen the devil prevail the same way, against two great revivings of religion in this country.  Satan goes on with mankind, as he began with them.  He prevailed against our first parents, and cast them out of paradise, and suddenly brought all their happiness and glory to an end, by appearing to be a friend to their happy paradisiacal state, and pretending to advance it to higher degrees.  So the same cunning serpent, that beguiled Eve through his subtlety, by perverting us from the simplicity that is in Christ, hath suddenly prevailed to deprive us of that fair prospect, we had a little while ago, of a kind of paradisiacal state of the church of God in New England.

After religion has revived in the church of God, and enemies appear, people who are engaged to defend its cause, are commonly most exposed, where they are sensible of danger.  While they are wholly intent upon the opposition that appears openly before them, to make head against that, and do neglect carefully to look all around them, the devil comes behind them, and gives a fatal stab unseen; and has opportunity to give a more home stroke, and wound the deeper, because he strikes at his leisure, and according to his pleasure, being obstructed by no guard or resistance.

And so it is ever likely to be in the church, whenever religion revives remarkably, till we have learned well to distinguish between true and false religion, between saving affections and experiences, and those manifold fair shows, and glistering appearances, by which they are counterfeited; the consequences of which, when they are not distinguished, are often inexpressibly dreadful.  By this means, the devil gratifies himself, by bringing it to pass, that that should be offered to God, by multitudes, under a notion of a pleasing acceptable service to him, that is indeed above all things abominable to him.  By this means he deceives great multitudes about the state of their souls; making them think they are something, when they are nothing; and so eternally undoes them; and not only so, but establishes many in a strong confidence of their eminent holiness, who are in God's sight some of the vilest of hypocrites.  By this means, he many ways damps and wounds religion in the hearts of the saints, obscures and deforms it by corrupt mixtures, causes their religious affections woefully to degenerate, and sometimes, for a considerable time, to be like the manna that bred worms and stank; and dreadfully ensnares and confounds the minds of others of the saints and brings them into great difficulties and temptation, and entangles them in a wilderness, out of which they can by no means extricate themselves.  By this means, Satan mightily encourages the hearts of open enemies of religion, and strengthens their hands, and fills them with weapons, and makes strong their fortresses; when, at the same time, religion and the church of God lie exposed to them, as a city without walls.  By this means, he brings it to pass, that men work wickedness under a notion of doing God service, and so sin without restraint, yea with earnest forwardness and zeal, many with all their might.  By this means he brings in even the friends of religion, insensibly to themselves, to do the work of enemies, by destroying religion in a far more effectual manner than open enemies can do, under a notion of advancing it.  By this means the devil scatters the flock of Christ, and sets them one against another, and that with great heat of spirit, under a notion of zeal for God; and religion, by degrees degenerates into vain jangling; and during the strife, Satan leads both parties far out of the right way, driving each to great extremes, one on the right hand, and the other on the left, according as he finds they are most inclined, or most easily moved and swayed, till the right path in the middle is almost wholly neglected.  And in the midst of this confusion, the devil has great opportunity to advance his own interest, and make it strong in ways innumerable, and get the government of all into his own hands and work his own will.  And by what is seen of the terrible consequences of this counterfeit religion, when not distinguished from true religion, God's people in general have their minds unhinged and unsettled in things of religion, and know not where to set their foot, or what to think or do; and many are brought into doubts, whether there be anything in religion; and heresy, and infidelity, and atheism greatly prevail.”

The reason a lost and fallen world calls us the “Christian Taliban” is because that is who, in their eyes, we have become!  We no longer are here to “seek and save the lost” but rather to enlighten the masses to the plan that God has for their life—“Gospel-lite.”

In Dr. Edwards’ words is found a great rebuke!  But also there appears an earnest hope!  The lost are not the enemy!  They are the souls for whom Jesus died!  When we are, by Grace, able to see them thus, then will our Savior give blessing again to our Land.  This, not because we deserve such providence, but because the virtues of the people will be that of “faith, hope, and charity” that come from Christ Himself.  Maranatha!

The Way of Love Our Path

(Take a break and read how agape is expressed in the New Testament).

One author defined agape love as:  love for others that’s inclusive of a love for God, nature, strangers, or the less fortunate.  It’s generally an empathetic love toward humanity itself and is sometimes connected to altruism since it involves caring for and loving others without expecting anything in return.  This sort of pay-it-forward love—people helping others selflessly—is the foundation of great societies and communities.  As for our native tongue, I find it lacking in its ability to covey the length, breadth, and depth of Christ’s love to us and through us to a lost and dying world.  For we see before us and in us the outpouring of what is referred to as the total depravity of man!

The contextual pericope for the verse visually displayed might be:  The Way of Love Our Path. However, there are 56 other passages using the word agape that are included below if you dare to read them!  Better yet, pray that Christ would give each of us an eternal appointment to share His agape love today!

If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing. If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing. Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:1–13, NLT)

ἀγάπη in ESV


Matthew 24:12


And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.



John 15:9


As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.



John 15:10


If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.



John 17:26


I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”



Romans 5:5


and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.



Romans 12:9


Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.



Romans 13:10


Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.



1 Corinthians 4:21


What do you wish? Shall I come to you with a rod, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?



1 Corinthians 8:1


Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up.



1 Corinthians 13:4


Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant



1 Corinthians 13:8


Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.



1 Corinthians 13:13


So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.



1 Corinthians 16:14


Let all that you do be done in love.



1 Corinthians 16:24


My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen.



2 Corinthians 5:14


For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died;



2 Corinthians 6:6


by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love;



2 Corinthians 8:7


But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you—see that you excel in this act of grace also.



2 Corinthians 13:14


The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.



Galatians 5:22


But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,



Ephesians 1:4


even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love



Ephesians 3:17


so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love,



Ephesians 4:2


with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,



Ephesians 4:15


Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,



Ephesians 4:16


from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.



Ephesians 5:2


And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.



Ephesians 6:23


Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.



Philippians 1:9


And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,



Colossians 2:2


that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ,



1 Thessalonians 3:12


and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,



1 Thessalonians 5:13


and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.



2 Thessalonians 1:3


We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.



1 Timothy 1:5


The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.



1 Timothy 2:15


Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.



1 Timothy 4:12


Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.



2 Timothy 1:13


Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.



2 Timothy 3:10


You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,



Titus 2:2


Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.



Philemon 7


For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.



1 Peter 4:8


Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.



1 John 2:5


but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him:



1 John 2:15


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.



1 John 3:17


But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?



1 John 4:7


Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.



1 John 4:8


Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.



1 John 4:9


In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.



1 John 4:10


In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.



1 John 4:12


No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.



1 John 4:16


So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.



1 John 4:17


By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world.



1 John 4:18


There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.



1 John 5:3


For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.



2 John 3


Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love.



2 John 6


And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.



3 John 6


who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.



Jude 2


May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.



Jude 21


keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.




Transformed for Service—God's Sharpened Tool

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

There are no unimportant members in the body of Christ! However, the enemy of your soul will try to make you feel as if you are not needed because you perceive that your abilities aren’t as advanced as those of someone else. The truth is that each of us has providential opportunities that no one else has! The reality is that you are God’s sharpened tool prepared in unique ways to accomplish His mission! “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where He wants it” (1 Cor 12:18 NLT2E). But how do I get around the perceived inadequacies? What if my life is not currently victorious?

“And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all He has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind He will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship Him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect” (Romans 12:1-2 NLT2E).

Transform (metamorphoo) means “In theology, to change the natural disposition and temper of man from a state of enmity to God and his law, into the image of God, or into a disposition and temper conformed to the will of God.” Noah Webster

Changing—Renewing (anakainosis) means “The act of renewing; a making new after decay, destruction or depravation; renewal; as the renovation of the heart by grace.” Noah Webster

Renovate means “To renew; to restore to the first state, or to a good state, after decay, destruction or depravation.” Noah Webster

"This transformation, it must be conceded, rather than representing the greatest thing impotent man can do for God, represents the greatest thing the infinite God can do for man; for there is nothing to be conceived of beyond the estate to which this salvation brings one, namely, ‘like Christ’ and ‘conformed to the image of his Son.’” Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, D.D., Litt.D., Th.D., Salvation

Grace is that attribute residing in the heart of God that allows Him to extend to us (who trust in Him) His love, kindness and favor rather than visiting His just wrath upon us according to our sins and inequities. However, experiencing God’s Grace day to day can become an act of futility and endless frustration in our American culture because of our innate obsession with self. The self-determined, self-centered, self-sufficient, self-actualized, lean Six Sigma American Warrior saint says, “I can do this!—I can live the Christian life!” In doing so, we become, like the words from the Grammy award-winning song, “A Man of Constant Sorrow.”

“But we are not godly. We are constant sinners, so your anger is heavy on us. How can people like us be saved? We are all infected and impure with sin. When we proudly display our righteous deeds, we find they are but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall. And our sins like the wind, sweep us away.” (Isaiah 64:5-6 NLT).

Our Access

The Grace of God is not obtained by exercising some “If...Then...Else” statement. Grace is not lavished upon the chosen because we rubbed the Genie in the bottle, said the perfect prayer, or read the right book. The very verses that prohibit our self-striving guarantee our access!

“But the way of getting right with God through faith says, ‘You don’t need to go to heaven’ (to find Christ and bring him down to help you). And it says, ‘You don’t need to go to the place of the dead’ (to bring Christ back to life again). Salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is the message we preach—is already within easy reach. In fact, the scriptures say, ‘The message is close at hand; it is on your lips and in your heart.’” Romans 10:6-8 NLT

Grace comes in the midst of our daily relationship with the Father because Jesus is the door (John 10:7). We have no need to climb into a second story window, or tunnel under the street. Jesus is available at street level—right where we are.

Draw Near to God

Dr. Charles Ryrie, Th.D., Ph.D., outlines James Chapter Four this way:


  1. Its Cause (1-2) “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Isn’t it the whole army of evil desires at war within you?” (v. 1)
  2. Its Consequences (3-6) “And even when you do ask, you don’t get it because your whole motive is wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.” (v. 6)
  3. Its Cure (7-10) “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you.  Draw close to God, and God will draw close to you….” (v. 7-8)
  4. Its Characteristics (11-17). “Remember, it is sin to know what you ought to do and then not do it.” (v. 17)
“The one counsel concerning sin is—bring it daily to the only One who can take it away, God Himself. You should learn that one of the greatest privileges of a child of God is the confession of sin.  It is only the holiness of God that can consume sin. Through confession I must hand over my sin to God, lay it down in God, and get God’s acquittal of it. I must cast it into the fiery oven of God’s holy love which burns against sin like a fire. God, yes, God Himself, and He alone, takes away sin. The Christian does not always understand this.  He has an inborn tendency to want to cover sin, or to make it less, or to root it out only when he desires to draw near to God.  He considers covering the sin with repentance, self-blame, or with contempt for the temptation which caused him to sin. He tries to conceal sin with the fruits of the works he has done or still hopes to do. Christian, if you want to enjoy the peacefulness of a complete forgiveness and a divine cleansing of sin, see to it that you correctly use the confession of sin.  In the true confession of sin, you have one of the most blessed privileges of a child of God, and one of the deepest roots of a powerful spiritual life.” Andrew Murray, The New Life
“It is important that we get still to wait on God. And it is best that we get alone, preferably with our Bible outspread before us. Then if we will, we may draw near to God and begin to hear Him speak to us in our hearts.  I think for the average person the progression will be something like this: First a sound as of a Presence walking in the garden. Then a voice, more intelligible, but still far from clear.  Then the happy moment when the Spirit begins to illuminate the Scriptures, and that which had been only a sound, or at best a voice, now becomes an intelligible word, warm and intimate and clear as the word of a dear friend.  Then will come life and light, and best of all, ability to see and rest in and embrace Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and All.” A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God

Accepting the Transformation

We must allow for His planned renovation of our hearts by using the means owned by the Spirit of God for this purpose (Dr. John Gill, paraphrase mine). “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes.” (Ephesians 4:23) We must accept that the promises of God are true and that His grace is there, in order to be able to receive it. There is absolutely one inescapable condition that must be met if grace is to change a person, and that is, God’s grace must be believed. We have to respond to God with an answering trust. And He will act.

“The overwhelming testimony of the Word of God is that every aspect of salvation, every blessing of divine grace, in time and eternity is conditioned only on what is believed.” Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, D.D., Litt.D., Th.D., Grace

What is sanctification? Answer: Sanctification is a work of God’s grace, whereby they whom God has, before the foundation of the world, chosen to be holy, are in time, through the powerful operation of his Spirit applying the death and resurrection of Christ unto them, renewed in their whole man after the image of God; having the seeds of repentance unto life, and all other saving graces, put into their hearts, and those graces so stirred up, increased, and strengthened, as that they more and more die unto sin, and rise unto newness of life.  Westminster Larger Catechism

Hindrances and Pitfalls

“Faith is manifested by a godly walk. Where there is lack of faith, the outward life may for a time seem to be consistent with the Christian profession, but eventually the old carnal nature will assert itself and there will be a turning back to the world.” H.A. Ironside, Hebrews
“The carnal or fleshly Christian demonstrates his carnality by his inability to receive the deeper truths which are compared to meat in contrast to milk. A carnal Christian, though saved and not needing regeneration, is in need of sanctification to become a suitable person instructed by the Holy Spirit.” Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, D.D., Litt.D., Th.D., Systematic Theology
“More certain than the healthful growth of any tree or animal is the growth and increase of the child of God who surrenders himself to the working of the new life. Two things hinder this power and the reception of the new spiritual life. The one is ignorance of its nature—its laws and workings. Man, even the Christian, cannot conceive of the new life which comes from God.  It surpasses all of his thoughts. His own distorted thoughts of the way to serve and to please God—namely, by what he does and is—are deeply rooted in him. Although he believes that he understands and receives God’s Word, he still thinks humanly and carnally on divine things.
God must give salvation and life. He must also give the Spirit to make us understand what He gives. He must point out the way to the land of Canaan. We must also, like the blind, be led by Him every day. The young Christian must try to cherish a deep conviction of his ignorance concerning the new life, and of his inability to form correct thoughts about it. This will bring him to the meekness and to the childlike spirit of humility, to which the Lord will make His secret known.” Andrew Murray, The New Life
“Shall we not then give place to a pure Christianity?  Christ cannot possess us, and cause the rivers of Living Water which He has promised, to flow forth from our hearts with healing, renovating, transforming, abounding force, unless we are willing to be dispossessed of our own life. Christ will not rear His edifices upon the old foundations of selfishness. It is not a case of simply denying ourselves certain things; but of a complete renunciation of ourselves.” F.J. Huegel, Bone of His Bone


“Satan, in his counterfeit systems of truth, is said to have ‘deep things’ to reveal (Revelation 2:24) and ‘doctrines of devils’ (1 Timothy 4:1, 2) which things, on the other hand, are as certainly not received by the true child of God; for it is said, ‘And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers’ (John 10:5).  Yet the ‘deep things’ of Satan are strangely adapted to the blinded, ‘natural man’ and are, therefore, received by him.  Every modern cult is evidence establishing the truthfulness of this statement.” Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer, D.D., Litt.D., Th.D., He That is Spiritual

A Case for CMF

When I retired from active duty and began this current sojourn on the staff of CMF, I knew full well that I was getting out of the MINISTRY to go into the ministry. Never again would I have the kind of opportunities and access that were available while I wore the uniform and walked the warrior’s path. Combat forever changes its participants! There was a reason that King David was NOT allowed to build the temple—he had blood on his hands. Was he also a man after God’s own heart? Yes! Nevertheless, he was changed forever by combat. The truth still remains that warriors talk only to warriors about warrior things. I must have standing before my words will be heard. God came down to earth as a man (He had standing) and became our kinsman so that He could become our redeemer. Whose kinsman are you?

“In warfare the offensive is the means by which one takes the objective. It is an aggressive advance against an enemy to wrest the objective from his possession.” Jim Wilson, Principles of War

If you think you can win the war all by yourself, then you have lost already. Battles are won when the victor delivers a concentration of force. When a warrior shoots at the enemy, the enemy shoots back! Sometimes warriors get wounded and require care. Fellowship is a concentration of force...salve...etc.  CMF is a fellowship with standing!

Twice Called—Once Answered

Bob Flynn
Bob Flynn, President/CEO

We have many examples from Scripture where God has clearly called people into His service.  On some of these occasions the folks receiving the call resisted and even rebelled.  Perhaps the most well remembered was Jonah, whose rebellion won him a no-frills sea cruise in the belly of a fish and probably made him the first submariner.

One of my dear friends on active duty in the Navy was Chaplain Vic Walker.  He shared with me that he also rebelled against God’s call upon his life.  He was an active duty submariner at the time and actually reenlisted in order to refuse following God.  He thought this would make it impossible to follow his calling.  Needless to say his self-extended tour of duty was not much fun! Every day that he was on patrol and submerged, he thought about his disobedience.  Just like Jonah, he was praying for an early release from his self-inflicted circumstances. But God had him first finish his enlistment and then He reiterated the call.  By the time he graduated seminary he was too old to join the chaplain corps.  But God opened the door by special dispensation and the rest is history.  I promise you that my life and our Navy were very much blessed because of this man’s service!

Sometimes the flesh dies hard!  We can turn away from the very path to which we are called and turn to our own ways.  The result is we reap the whirlwind of our sin and lose the blessing of God’s fellowship in our lives. The lesson I learned from Chaplain Walker’s story was to swallow hard, then follow God’s calling.  I too received the call to go into full-time Christian ministry.  This call was diametrically opposed to my own wants and desires to continue in research and development at the Pacific Missile Test Center as a civil servant.  But in His mercy, God had brought many into my life to affirm the calling.  He also brought Vic Walker into my life to display the cost of disobedience ─ or I too would have been in the belly of a fish!

“So get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.  But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says.  Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves” (James 1:21-22 NLT).

Martin Luther, in his commentary on Galatians, expresses the importance of this calling!

“The call is not to be taken lightly.  For a person to possess knowledge is not enough.  He must be sure that he is properly called.  Those who operate without a proper call seek no good purpose.  God does not bless their labors.  They may be good preachers, but they do not edify.  Many of the fanatics of our day pronounce words of faith, but they bear no good fruit, because their purpose is to turn men to their perverse opinions.  On the other hand, those who have a divine call must suffer a good deal of opposition in order that they may become fortified against the running attacks of the devil and the world.”

So far we have seen examples of those who have a call from God but did not follow Him, and those who went without a call.  I would postulate another possibility as well: those who have a call but have not heard it!  Clearly if God does not build the house we labor in vain! (Psalm 127:1 paraphrase mine).  However, are we studying the architect’s plans to see how the house is to be built? 

 A life in military service to our country is a calling in itself.  We have a long and proud heritage of Americans who have devoted themselves to this most important calling.  Our nation would not be here today if it weren't for the brave men and women who have served us so selflessly throughout our history.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians, there is also a call, a twice call!  We are called to make disciples (Matthew 28:18-20) and to reconcile the world unto Christ (2 Corinthians 5) What does this have to do with me?  I am not a minister!

“I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope He has given to those He called—His holy people who are His rich and glorious inheritance” (Ephesians 1:18 NLT)

Dr. John Gill gives us a good sense of this calling with his commentary on this text. He iterates that this is the “effectual calling of the saints; which is not a call to an office, or a call merely by the external ministry of the word; but which is internal, special, powerful, high, and heavenly: and this is the calling of God, of which He is the author.”

No small wonder that the Apostle Paul later on begs us to lead a worthy life!  Why else are we here?

“Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God” (Ephesians 4:1 NLT).

Every believer has a call! A high and heavenly call from God Himself!  It is the Word God has planted in our hearts. Not only a call to follow Him and to serve, but also a call to remain where you are planted!

“Each of you should continue to live in whatever situation the Lord has placed you, and remain as you were when God first called you.  This is my rule for all the churches.”  (1Corinthians 7:17 NLT)

John Wesley explains it thus:

“But as God hath distributed - The various stations of life, and various relations, to every one, let him take care to discharge his duty therein.  The gospel disannuls none of these.  And thus I ordain in all the churches - As a point of the highest concern.”  John Wesley

How does this affect our military calling?

“‘As the Lord hath allotted to each, as God hath called each, so let him walk’ (so the Greek in the oldest reading); let him walk in the path allotted to him and wherein he was called.  The heavenly calling does not set aside our earthly callings.” (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown)

My observation through the years has been that many do well at serving within their local church but few do well serving at work.  It is as if our “Christian” lives and our “temporal” lives were lived on separate planets.  Are we to be witnesses only at church or are we to bloom where we are planted?  It is this compartmentalization that overshadows this phenomena.  We either belong “all” to God or belong “not at all.”  Many tell me that they are too busy to serve God at work as though the very same God that created time was impotent to order their steps and bless the work of their hands.  Does not this display the real inner person who has yet to set aside self to become the servant of Christ?  What if Christ had clung to His perquisites as the Son of God the way we cling to our careers and possessions?  There are no incremental Christians; we are only incrementally deceived or deluded.  Perhaps Elisha Hoffman said it best:

You have longed for sweet peace,
And for faith to increase,
And have earnestly, fervently prayed;
But you cannot have rest,
Or be perfectly blest,
Until all on the altar is laid.

Is your all on the altar of sacrifice laid?
Your heart does the Spirit control?
You can only be blest,
And have peace and sweet rest,
As you yield Him your body and soul.

Would you walk with the Lord,
In the light of His Word,
And have peace and contentment alway?
You must do His sweet will,
To be free from all ill,
On the altar your all you must lay.

O we never can know
What the Lord will bestow
Of the blessings for which we have prayed,
Till our body and soul
He doth fully control,
And our all on the altar is laid.

Who can tell all the love
He will send from above,
And how happy our hearts will be made,
Of the fellowship sweet
We shall share at His feet,
When our all on the altar is laid.

Paul said that God’s light “is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ...and is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So that everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own...that the life of Jesus will be obvious in our dying bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:7,11 NLT)

We are to be illuminated and powered by God so that the world will see and know the difference!  This is possible because “our spirits are being renewed every day” (2 Corinthians 4:16 NLT)

What legacy will we leave behind when we leave the military or even leave this world?  I do not care whether anyone remembers Bob Flynn.  I very much care that those with whom I served after becoming a Christian know and remember the Lord Jesus Christ.  “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged.  We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 5:10 NLT)

Remember your calling when your body is weak, so that through it you will “be fortified against the running attacks of the devil and the world” as you “suffer a good deal of opposition.”  Without Christ active in our lives it is easy to lose heart and quit.  Don’t let criticism, pain, and fatigue drive you from your sacred ministry. 

Vision 20/20

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:”  (Ecclesiastes 3:1b KJV)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

I would imagine that this verse is more well known to some of us because the words were put to music by Pete Seeger and then later recorded by a folk-rock band known as “The Byrds.”  It is the heartbeat of our Fellowship that every believer serving in the United States military would seize the providentially provided opportunity to share with their fellow service members the most wonderful Gift ever given!  I think we shirk this opportunity for many reasons—possibly because we have preconceived notions as to what this must look like.  But as Dick Price, CMF Camp Lejeune Field Staff, often reminds me (using the words of Saint Francis of Assisi) we are to “Preach the gospel at all times—if necessary, use words.”  This of course presumes that our lives actually reflect the love of our wondrous Savior and Lord.  We serve Him because we are comforted by His love and have continuous fellowship with Him in the Spirit. In turn, we find joy in taking an interest in others, thinking of them more highly than we do ourselves (Phil 2:1-4 paraphrase mine).

For God says, "At just the right time, I heard you. On the day of salvation, I helped you." Indeed, the "right time" is now. Today is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2 NLT)

I cannot quantify how many times I heard the Gospel before (at the “right time”)  I listened, and my life was changed forever!  But the Lord sent many across my path!  So how is your vision?  Is it 20/20? Have you discovered your “purpose under heaven”?

When Marriage SUX

SUX, a Naval Aviation weather term (invented for the Simoom—A strong, hot, sand-laden wind of the Sahara and Arabian deserts) describing a brown cloud with an indefinite ceiling, visibility fully obscured in blowing sand; a bad day to fly)

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

We frequently awake from the bed of our own choosing into the often grim reality of a life full of pain and regret. We think there is no way out from under the weight that holds us there.  We seem destined to be the last one to see that eagles wings await all who would wish to soar!  Were it not for this negative propensity, there would be no need for encouragers.

There continues to be an innate force, perhaps written upon our DNA, that leads us as though we are predestined to look for the fulfillment of life in all the wrong places.  Our culture inculcates in us expectations that climb to unachievable heights!  One glance in any direction within our world and it is plain to see that is exactly who we are ─ self-centered, selfish, and fallen, the proud possessor of a mind deemed reprobate!  A decayed papyrus upon which we wish to write the wonderful stories of life as if we were the masters of our own fate!  The liberal tries to write a decayed story on the decayed paper and succeeds.  The conservative tries to write a righteous story on decayed paper and always fails.  After all we have successfully armed ourselves with all the wisdom of the ages that we have gleaned from the “Christian How-to books” we have read in endless streams.  We suppose that we will change our plight by the numerous cause and effect actions applied in our midst.  However, manipulation is not a fruit of the Spirit but rather a sin of the flesh.  Instead of removing the lumber yard from our own eye, we intend to mold our mate into our own image and of course as a result, the marriage lies in piteous ruin while drowning in the pool of blood coursing from self-inflicted wounds.

We would argue on our behalf whether marriage is a covenant, sacrament, ordinance, or contract, that we might escape its stifling hold upon our dreams of a better life with another not our spouse.  But here is the unvarnished truth announced:  If your marriage SUX so does your faith! “Do not be deceived, you reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7 paraphrase mine).

My oldest and dearest friend, CDR Jerry Bruce, CHC, USN (Ret), oftentimes told me that apart from Christ, people will make the same mistakes over and over ad nauseam.  We will flutter between relationships as a bee between flowers intoxicated by the nectar while dragging along the disease from our past failures and thus dooming our present.  I speak of my friend Jerry, because he has the gift of mercy.  I have been blessed to see firsthand the mercies of Christ flow through him to save more lives than the emergency room at the local hospital.  I have seen a risen Savior and Lord turn the impossible into the possible with such regularity that a reasonable person would conclude that this is the “Normal Christian Life.”  How can this be? Because Christ's Mercy is the perfect blend of His Grace and His Truth!  Were all the other spiritual gifts absent, the body would flourish still because Grace and Truth needs nothing else.

We probably have all heard the exhortation from Ephesians 5:25 that men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.  However, we fail to consider that it is an extension of verse 21, “out of reverence for Christ”!  If you have no genuine reverence for Christ, then the rest becomes the wood, hay, and stubble of life lived in the power of the flesh no matter how sacrificial the actions may look!

Noah Webster gives us cause to ponder this word in our hearts:

Reverence — Fear mingled with respect and esteem; veneration.  The fear acceptable to God, is a filial fear, an awful reverence of the divine nature, proceeding from a just esteem of his perfections, which produces in us an inclination to his service and an unwillingness to offend him.

Respect — That estimation or honor in which men hold the distinguished worth or substantial good qualities of others. It expresses less than reverence and veneration, which regard elders and superiors; whereas respect may regard juniors and inferiors.  Respect regards the qualities of the mind, or the actions which characterize those qualities.

Veneration — The highest degree of respect and reverence; respect mingled with some degree of awe; a feeling or sentiment excited by the dignity and superiority of a person, or by the sacredness of his character, and with regard to place, by its consecration to sacred services.

Esteem — To prize; to set a high value on; to regard with reverence, respect, or friendship.  To hold in opinion; to repute; to think. To compare in value; to estimate by proportion.  High value or estimation; great regard; favorable opinion, founded on supposed worth.

Does this really describe the soil in which today’s believer sows in holy matrimony?  You decide! You reap what you sow! Remember, though, that throughout the passing of each moment of your pain, you are one cubit from victory (the distance from standing in sin to that of kneeling in penitent prayer) and one second from Christ’s amazing and wonderful Sabbath Rest!  That prayer might go something like this: I confess today, dear Jesus Christ, that my heart knows not what it is to truly revere you in the way Paul describes.  My heart is full of me and I do not know what it is to grieve over my sin, let alone repent of it.  Yet I continue on day after day in my own might and see failure in my marriage, the most cherished estate that you created from the beginning for me to live within.  Forgive me because of your great mercy and lead me today into your Sabbath Rest.

“Who will not fear You, Lord, and glorify Your name?  For You alone are holy.” (Revelation 15:4 NLT)
“This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all.” (1 John 1:5 NLT)
“But You are pure and cannot stand the sight of evil.  Will You wink at their treachery?” (Habakkuk 1:13 NLT)

If you desire help in finding the blessings that are yours in knowing the Lord Jesus Christ, give us a call! (800) 798-7875

“Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” (Philippians 2:12-13 NLT)

Why is Daddy Always So Angry?

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Perhaps it would be the most beneficial to start this article by saying that Grace does abound to those who know Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior!  John Bunyan probably said it best in the title of his book, Grace Abounds to the Chief of Sinners.  If there were a volume control on this newsletter I would turn it full up so that this could be heard as if it were being shouted from the rooftops!  Why?  Because those who are least likely to hear it are those who are discouraged and suffering.  There is no sin Jesus cannot forgive.  There is no heart He cannot salve.  Take heart, Jesus is Hope everlasting!

Marriage has always been one of the chief casualties of military service.  In times of war the stresses on this God-ordained institution can only be compounded.  Anxiety mounts both for the loved one, who is afar off, and for those who have remained behind.  Then when the warrior returns home from the battle it is soon discovered that they are not the same person that left in answer to the call of country.

One of the unfortunate facts of war is that the effects of mortal combat do not stop when the warrior leaves the battle field.  We may never fully realize how war forever changes the heart of those who have blood on their hands.  Nor will we know the pains inflicted deep by the many terrors endured.  The surety is that one does not take another human life and remain unaffected.  God denied King David his wish to build the temple because of his warrior past.

Some will heal better than others. Some will be forever broken!  A young woman, speaking of her fiancé who is on his third Iraq deployment, said, “He grows colder and angrier with each tour.”  The Battalion Commander said, “You’ve got to make sure to not let the guys go home without their humanity.”

Military medical officials said, “30% of troops returning from the Iraq war have developed stress-related mental health problems 3 to 4 months after coming home” presenting with “anxiety, depression, nightmares, anger, and an inability to concentrate.”  The headline in the Denver Post read, “Iraq veteran convicted of killing wife.”  An entire family destroyed in a moment.  Why?  Anger!

The divorce rate in the military continues to climb year after year. This is despite a multitude of support programs that were established to help stem the tide: “The new Deployment Cycle Support Program; A family support group system; The Building Strong and Ready Families Program; The Strong Bonds marriage education program; and The Pick a Partner program.  Not to mention the heroic efforts of the frontline chaplain!  Why?  Anger!

Recently I had a close encounter of the third kind!  Yes, your heard me, I met an alien!  Where?  Right in my own bathroom.  I was endeavoring to replace the rusting sink and squealing faucet in our bathroom.  As part of the process I had to disconnect the drain trap.  When I did I was suddenly hit with an all encompassing odor, a most awful smell that mere words could not adequately describe.  It was definitely a close encounter of the first kind.

I pressed on with the removal and then started the installation.  I carefully placed the new sink in the vanity and marked its location after it was properly centered in the opening.  I then applied the silicone sealer and meticulously placed the sink back into place.  After I installed the new faucet and connected the plumbing I felt pleased that the job was accomplished.  When I went to get up off the floor I thoughtlessly grabbed (you guessed it) the sink and pulled it off center smearing the uncured white sealant across the vanity.  It was a close encounter of the second kind.

My favorite cartoon, from my Navy days, was a picture of an old Boatswains Mate (Bos'ns Mate) whose left sleeve betrayed him as long on service and short on rank.  There was an anvil, a large hammer, and his thumb with marks that showed it to be radiating with much pain.  The caption read: “Goodness, I've struck my thumb!”

When I had seen the mess I had made, I had answered in the flesh—”Goodness, I've struck my thumb!”  This was the close encounter of the third kind!  Who was this alien and where did those words come from?  Then it hit me!  The smell I had experienced was like rotten flesh.  After a quarter of a century of walking with the Lord, my flesh still smells of death.  Perhaps the only difference is that I am heavier and much more fermented.  The upside is that I saw once again that Grace is really big—all sufficient for my every need!  In the flesh there is no hope.  In the spirit there is every hope.

“I know I am rotten through and through so far as my old sinful nature is concerned...It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong….Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin?  Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord….So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.  For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death” (Romans 7:18,21,24-25,8:1-2 NLT).

According to the American Psychological Association, “Anger is a natural, adaptive response to threats; it inspires powerful, often aggressive, feelings and behaviors, which allow us to fight and to defend ourselves when we are attacked.”  The problem is the warrior may bring this anger home with him even though the threat is no longer present! Warrior to warrior let me say this: This kind of anger can only be quenched on Jesus’ breast!  The most profound prayer I have ever prayed was, “Jesus help me!”  For more information about anger and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder visit:  The American Psychological Association website at http://www.apa.org/topics/anger/control.aspx and the National Center for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at http://www.ptsd.va.gov/

Chris Adsit, Military Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ, has created some great helps!.  The Combat Trauma Healing Manual, and (with Rahnella Adsit and Marshéle Carter Waddell) When War Comes Home: Christ-centered Healing for Wives of Combat Veterans.  They are being offered free to our members while they last.  You can order it via the resource page on our website.

Why is Daddy always so angry?  Because he has been deeply traumatized in the center of his soul and anger is the way that it leaks out!  If you want to talk with me about the journey home, give me a call on the toll free number!

Marriage and Family — Wives, Submit — Written to Husbands

“Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22 NET).

The greatest problem with this verse─and the concepts there illuminated─is the English language itself!  For this very reason it has been misused, abused and wrongly applied for over 1900 years.  I suppose we could fill a library with what it doesn’t mean.  However, critical thinking would preclude trying to describe something by referencing what it is NOT.

Bob Flynn, President/CEO

Our first observation is that the words “husbands” and “wives” does not appear in the original language ─ and with good reason!  A woman is NOT called to submit to all men but rather, “A woman to A man” – A wife to HER husband!  This is what the text says.  This in itself should dismiss a great deal that has been wrongly inferred through the centuries.

If we look at what I call the Greek “Hupo” words (words that are preceded by the prefix “hupo”), we begin to see the problem with a consistent concept being rightly translated from the original to the English without losing the full flavor of the meaning or adding error in the process.  The word “hupo” means “by” or “under.”  When added to other words it adds to or amplifies the meaning of the word to which it is joined.  Let us use a familiar word as an example. The word “hupomone,” is translated “patience, patient continuance, or long-suffering.”  The question we need to answer then, is what is “mone,” that we should be “by” or “under” it?

Thayer’s Greek Definitions yields the following: “G3438 mon-ay, a staying, abiding, dwelling, abode; to makes one's abode; a metaphor for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer.”  Therefore, G5281 hupomone means literally then to “abide under,” “to bear up courageously under suffering” (Vines) ─ a rather robust definition not fully captured by the word patience!

As we return our focus to Ephesians 5:22, it will help us in our understanding if we look to a list of words that were not chosen to be used here and discover something significant:

  • Hupeiko - under yield, submit
  • hupoballo - suborn
  • hupodeiknumi- admonish
  • hupodeo - to underbind - bind under one's self - bind on
  • hupodema - what is bound under - sandal
  • hupodikos - under sentence, condemned
  • hupozugion - under the yoke - a beast of burden
  • hupozonnumi - under gird
  • hupopodion - under foot, footrest, footstool (definitely not this one)
  • hupostasis - a setting or placing under - foundation - support - the substantial quality or nature of a person or thing
  • hupostello - withhold under - cower or shrink
  • hupotage - subordination - subjection (Listen up men!)

The intent, then, of the word in this passage is NOT to convey suborning, admonishing, binding on or under, condemn, to yoke or burden, footstool, placing under, cower or shrink, subordination or subjection.  Rather the word joined in our verse is: “tasso - to arrange in an orderly manner, that is to assign, addict, appoint, determine, ordain, or set.”

Imagine that!  The God of the universe considers that within the Body of Christ, the Husband and Wife should be arranged in an orderly manner!  When the co-pilot submits or yields to the pilot, is that a bad thing?  They are both capable of guiding the aircraft.  But could you imagine what it would be like if they were fighting each other at the controls?

Since Paul was a linear thinker, we understand that this verse is a logical extension of the previous verse: “And further, submit (same word) to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Ephesians 5:21 NLT.  In fact, in the earlier manuscripts, the verb in question does not appear in verse 22 but is implied from verse 21.  Perhaps it would be good here to introduce the husband and wife to each other as “one another”!  Two persons, created in the image of God, joined into one flesh, in mutual submission or yieldedness to each other out of reverence for Christ ─ who have been arranged in an orderly manner!

In the same way, you husbands must give honor to your wives. Treat your wife with understanding as you live together. She may be weaker than you are, but she is your equal partner in God's gift of new life. Treat her as you should so your prayers will not be hindered. 1 Peter 3:7 NLT

God has made one woman to become a wife to one man, and she is so constituted by God Himself.  But this is not due to her being inferior to her husband, for they are both equal before God. It is a willing, personal subjection demonstrated in Eph 5:21, “submitting yourselves [hupotassómenoi] one to another in the fear of God.”  The word translated “one to another” is “allelois” (G240), in the plural dative, indicating equality of all concerned.  In society all humans, all men and women in various positions of leadership or following and dependence, are equal, yet their functions vary and their responsibilities are diverse.  We are all equal before God and the laws of society, and yet we have varying functions and responsibilities.  If we accept certain functions under a fellow- human, we must subject ourselves to that individual to accomplish a common goal.  So it is with a wife placing herself in the proper and divinely-fitted position under her husband.  Only a wife can bear children, and to do this she must subject (hupotássetai) herself to her husband.  The functions are equally important although different.  And they are different not because we want them to be, but because God made them to be so.  (The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Spiros Zodhiates, Th.D., General Editor)

For us men to fully understand this concept of wives willingly submitting, we must recognize that we ourselves are the bride of Christ!  We have this very same obligation to submit to our husband─who is Christ himself!  In so doing, we may recognize that out of the fullness of that union we will understand that we are created to be givers.  We can give to our wives the love of Christ that is so great it cannot be measured.  Then we will discover that our wives are created to be responders.  When our wives are loved with an unfailing love, they will respond!

What is the aroma of your marriage? Is it honeysuckle covered by a morning dew or something that lies dead in the tomb?

CMF and Me

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret)
Chairman, CMF Board of Directors

Where do I begin?  It’s been a long journey, about 30 years now.  I guess I should start at the point in my life when God snatched me out of ODF status (Out Dere Flappin’) near the end of ’76, a few months before our first son was born.  In terms of this life, I had it pretty well made — I was a young Staff Sergeant on a Special Forces ‘A’ Detachment, had met and married a wonderful woman (just had our 34th anniversary, BTW), and my lonely past seemed over.  However, I had left the Savior of my youth in the dust, so to speak.  About ten years earlier, I had decided that organized religion was a fake and struck out on my own — ODF big time, but happy as a pig in mud with my life at that point.

The story around how God snatched me back from ODF status stands on its own and is too long for this venue.  But snatch me back He did!  We became involved in the Chapel system on Ft. Devens, Massachusetts, including a mid-week lunch time Bible study at the Special Forces chapel, which is how I found out about CMF.  At about the same time, the thought of full-time ministry in the military surfaced, and I considered becoming a chaplain.  That thought was fleeting however, when I discovered it would take about eight years of schooling outside of the military before I could re-enter as a chaplain.  But I could see there was plenty of “service for God” in uniform that needed attention right away!

So there I was, plugged in to chapels and Bible studies, learning and growing, and along came Ernie Miller, who was at that time leader of the CMF ministry.  He visited the Bible study I attended and presented to us the concept of the CMF ministry: a network of believers in uniform, focused mainly on us enlisted types.  Sounded good.  When Ernie talked about this worldwide prayer network, my ears really perked up, considering all the different time zones around the globe and a prayer request being presented before the throne of grace around the clock on a given day! Ernie also talked about the structure of the network of believers: CMF Christian contacts, along with local and area-wide CMF representatives, plugged into the small home office in Denver. I was hooked — this was the ministry for me!

That was then and this is now, thirty years later.  Until I retired in 1996, I had the opportunity to be a Christian contact and CMF Local Representative anywhere I went, on permanent or temporary assignment, a paid “missionary” in uniform, funded by Uncle Sam!  My marching orders in our Lord’s Army? Acts 1:8 — “BE” a witness for Christ — not preach, wear Christian “stuff,” or carry a CMF flag everywhere I went.  I was to be available for whatever specific task God had waiting for me.  I was just supposed to be a well cared for “tool” of the Master, ready, willing, and able for “divine appointments” whenever they presented themselves — which was usually without my knowing that God was setting these appointments.

How often was God “setting something up”?  Probably far more often than I will ever know!  The times I can remember and realize it was God at work could fill a small book of their own.

What part did CMF play all those years?  Well, I already mentioned being plugged into a worldwide network of Christians in uniform, the monthly prayer “Battle Plan,” and the opportunities for service as part of the CMF ministry on the ground.  I didn’t however, mention the training and logistical support CMF provided.  They didn’t just have ministry positions that needed people in place; they also trained and equipped me for service in each position I filled.  Then, on virtually every shelf in my office there’s something I received, without cost, from CMF — books by theologians and giants of the faith, long gone to their eternal reward, books by living pastors and teachers, even good study Bibles.

The most cherished CMF-provided item resides inside a large 3-ring binder — a set of Christian growth lessons called Discipleship Training Objectives (DTOs) — that by themselves need only about a half-inch wide binder!  You see, I have been through those lessons several times now, first with just a Bible and a concordance and small Bible dictionary.  Each successive time through the lessons, as a set in a small group teaching role, or just in whatever has served as a place to study alone, I have added “stuff” I have learned/gleaned from a multitude of sources about each and every lesson.  So, now I have one 3-inch wide binder — that might end up as three binders, one for each major section of lessons.

Well, there you have the “big story” of an old retired soldier and CMF.  Why did I even tell it in the CMF Newsletter?  There’s only one reason — to encourage Christian men and women serving in our Military Forces to take up the challenge of being unashamed of the Gospel, being missionaries in uniform, lights in the darkness, salt of the earth, and taking the Good News of Jesus Christ to places no chaplain will ever be able to go!

Living Behind Enemy Lines—Situational Awareness

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret)
Chairman, Board of Directors

In simple terms, ‘situational awareness’ means nothing more than recognizing your circumstances; knowing what’s going on around you.  For instance, a military commander must be aware of the total situation around him and his unit on the battlefield, as well as the bigger 'strategic' picture.  Total situation awareness is essential for successful military operations against any enemy, on any battlefield, for any warrior. As Christians, and warriors in the Kingdom of God, we need to maintain complete situational awareness as inhabitants of planet earth (the battlefield environment), as well as our Commander's intent (God's strategic picture).

Sadly, we often lose focus of both our battlefield environment and our Commander's intent, for a variety of reasons.  They range from our tendency to focus almost exclusively on 'personal' growth and fulfillment, to applying human wisdom and worldly principles to the operation of the 'postmodern' church as a whole.  At both levels, the result is that the Lord of the harvest, the Holy Spirit, sits in the back of the bus as we arrogantly occupy the driver's seat!

Dear readers and friends, it is past time to regain our 'situational awareness' and overcome our spiritual 'nearsightedness.’  For that task, we need to 'begin at the beginning' of our lives as Christians and go from there. In a familiar and often quoted verse of Scripture, the Apostle Paul tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

What a promise – the greatest makeover of all time! When we place saving faith in Christ, we step out of darkness and into the light, passing from death to life!  We are given a new nature in Christ as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our being, giving us a desire to serve God and the power to live a life of obedience to Him.  This is common knowledge, not rocket science.

Our 'makeover' is so complete that in another of his letters to the early church, Paul presents what is a mystery to limited human logic.

"And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus," Ephesians 2:6 

This is a bit more difficult for human logic to grasp, but notice the past tense verbs in this verse.  Paul is saying that as Christians, although we physically remain here on planet Earth, we have already been 'raised up' and ‘seated with Christ in the heavenly realms.’  Paul partially explains this mystery in more easily understood terms a bit later in the same chapter:

"Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household. . ." Ephesians 2:19

A citizen is a legal resident of a nation, country or state. Paul is saying that, at the moment of salvation, our 'legal citizenship' status changed!  One could say that if before we received Christ, we could have visited the 'heavenly realm,’ we would have been 'illegal aliens.’  We are not like the child born to an American military family overseas, who has dual-citizenship status until he or she is 18 years old and needs to make a decision.  We are NOT dual citizens. Now listen to the Apostle Peter in one of his letters to the early church:

"Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul." 1 Peter 2:11

Do you see the contrast here?  Paul tells us that at one time we were 'aliens and foreigners' to God's household, while Peter tells us that as Christians we are now 'aliens and strangers' in the world in which we live! Why is the world in which we live 'foreign territory,’ why are we 'aliens and strangers in it,’ and how do we apply these truths?

First we need to understand that the world in which we live is not, in the strictest sense, the world that God created for the crown of his creation, human beings molded in His image.  In fact, Scripture tells us that the problem of sin in the world that was brought about by willful disobedience of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (the why), is much bigger than just our little piece of turf.  There is a clear description of the present condition of God's creation in Romans 8:17-24, in which we find the following:

"We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time." Romans 8:22

All of God's creation is somehow tainted, polluted by sin, and in need of redemption.  Furthermore, our present world is not governed by God (although He is in complete control), but by a 'temporary landlord' ruling over the hearts of fallen man.

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." Ephesians 2:1-2

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God." 2 Corinthians 4:4

As believers, we are citizens of the household of God, with a new 'landlord,’ servants of the Most High God, no longer bound by the god of this world.  And as members of God's household, we are now foreigners and strangers to the world we live in and enemies of the 'god of this world.’

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that we are living behind enemy lines! Perhaps this has caused your thought process to pause for a moment of speculation.  Maybe it came to a screeching halt because your first reaction was "No way!"  Then hear what the Apostle James had to say to believers in his day who were becoming a bit too 'friendly' with the fallen culture around them.

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." James 4:4

If you still aren’t convinced that we are living in enemy territory, I encourage you to read the entire chapter in James, followed by Jesus' words to his followers in John, chapters 15 and 16, concerning what to expect from the world.  My friend, your opinion in this matter is between you and the Holy Spirit.  I merely encourage you to prayerfully consider the premise presented in the ramblings of an old soldier.  If you agree with the basic premise, you cannot escape the question: “Why are we still down here?”  Think about it.

Living Behind Enemy Lines—Understanding the Mission

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret),
Chairman, Board of Directors

In the first part of this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness, we presented the premise that we, as Christians, are living ‘behind enemy lines.’  We are no longer citizens of this world, but we are members of God’s household, new creations in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).  We discussed the clear teaching of Scripture that the world in which we live is hostile territory.  We then concluded with the question, “Why are we Still Here?” Where do we go to find the answer?

Well, we can walk into just about any Christian bookstore, listen to any number of teachers, preachers, televangelists, television or radio ministries and get all sorts of answers!  We can come away easily with the impression that the Christian life is mostly about things on an individual/personal level, such as relationships, abundant/victorious living, success in this world, receiving all of God's blessings, etc.

While the above might be ‘benefits’ of being part of the household of God and citizens of His Kingdom, are they to be the primary focus of the Christian life?  If they aren't, what is?

I submit to you that God didn’t send His own Son to die so we could have an abundant life here on earth.  Rather, He came because we are lawbreakers, born on death row, in order to save us from the certain judgment that MUST come if God is true to His word—“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

When we become believers and citizens of the Kingdom of God, we must still live here (behind enemy lines) in a world corrupted by sin, among people trapped in their sin.  We remain here by God’s design, for His purpose, as part of His strategic plan to save others from the certain judgment that is to come.

Chapter 17 of he Gospel of John records our Lord’s prayer to His Father shortly before he went to the cross to fulfill God’ plan for our salvation.  Concerning his disciples and, by extension, all believers to come, Jesus prayed:

“My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.  Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.  For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.  My prayer is not for them alone.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” (vv 16-21a)

Jesus asked for their protection, NOT their removal, because as he had been sent into the world for the salvation of the lost, He (Jesus) was now sending his followers into the world as part of a divine plan!

Furthermore, this ‘sending’ into the world was no secret to the disciples! Earlier, the Lord himself told them:

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit — fruit that will last.  Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.” (John 15:16)

Also, it was no secret to the disciples what they would face from the world during their ‘fruit bearing’ mission.  Read the entire chapter of John 15 for the rest of the story.  They knew they would be operating in hostile territory, but they went anyway!

The remaining piece to the puzzle is to define the ‘fruit.’  We know from the above verse that it is to be ‘fruit that will last’—eternal fruit.  So what is this eternal fruit?  There is a two-part answer here.  The first thing that should come to mind is that we are to show others the only way to escape coming judgment—the path to eternal life.  The second part of the answer is not quite so obvious.  We are to help other believers grow in their faith walk so that they, in turn, will show still others the path to eternal life and help them grow!  If you aren’t convinced, listen to Jesus’ command to his disciples.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.  And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

The ‘Great Commission’ Christ gave to the disciples then and to us now is NOT about all the ‘benefits of belonging to the corporation’ mentioned at the beginning of this article, but ALL about growing the Kingdom of God on earth!  ALL about the Kingdom.

What drives this old soldier to his knees is the fact that God could save anyone he chooses, anytime he chooses, in any circumstance he chooses—and yet he has chosen mortal human beings, with all their ‘sin’ baggage to be his ambassadors! Knowing we would mess up repeatedly, knowing that often we would be poor examples of Christ, God has chosen us—you and me!  That, my friends is God’s master vision—His ‘strategic’ plan!

You might ask, “Isn’t this ambassador thing—preaching the Gospel and helping others grow in Christ the job of people with a special calling to full-time ministry and who have gone to Bible college or seminary?

What sort of training do you need for the task at hand? Let’s look at a couple of guys who did some street preaching a couple thousand years ago.

When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13)

Our Lord chose unschooled, ordinary men, not religious leaders, for the enormous task of spreading the Good News to the rest of their world.  Job qualification—just one— they had been with Jesus.  He chooses us for the same task in our world—in our homes and workplaces, in our barracks and squad rooms, on the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq.

You and I have been ‘sent where we are,’ right now in our lives, on a mission from God!  If we ‘have been with Jesus’ we have a responsibility.  Have you accepted the challenge?

Living Behind Enemy Lines—Lord of the Harvest

In the two previous articles in this series, Behind Enemy Lines: Situational Awareness and Understanding the Mission, we said that, as believers in Christ, we are living “behind enemy lines” and that as followers of Christ, it is our mission to share the Gospel and make disciples for the Kingdom of our Lord. Now we'll see how God provides all we need to accomplish our mission by:

  • Equipping the messenger,
  • Preparing hearts for the message, and
  • Connecting the heart to the message.
Equipping the Messenger.

“When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36).

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret),
Chairman, Board of Directors

Jesus was moved with a deep compassion for people, comparing the multitudes without a savior to helpless sheep without a shepherd (infantry squad without a squad leader).  The Holy Spirit of God, living inside the believer, will give us the same gut-wrenching compassion for our loved ones, friends, co-workers, comrades in battle, and even those who mistreat us.

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

“When they (Jewish religious leaders and the Roman ‘feds’) saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The Holy Spirit, who lives inside the believer, providing assurance, comfort and guidance, also provides power to be an effective witness to the gospel.  Peter and John were common fishermen who hung out with Jesus for a few years, listening to His teaching. When the Holy Spirit came in power on Pentecost, the head knowledge became heart knowledge.  They couldn't help but talk about what they had seen and heard!

Preparing hearts for the message.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

At the same time God is preparing messengers, He is busy preparing hearts to receive the most important message they will ever receive!  It might be a family member, friend or co-worker, or the soldier by your side in a firefight.  Sometimes opportunities to share God's message come knocking loudly at your door, but more often they just “happen.”

I remember a lot of those ─ the medic on the SF “A” team who “happened” to be dating a Christian girl, who “happened” to be talking to him about spiritual stuff, resulting in his “happening” to ask me about the things she was saying!

Connecting the heart to the message.

There's a great story in the New Testament where we see the process at work.  Acts 8:26-40 tells of Phillip, whom God had prepared as the messenger, an Ethiopian man who “happened” to be reading one of the prophets, and, a “divine” appointment.  Phillip ended up sharing the good news about Jesus, and the Ethiopian received the message in his heart, was baptized in a convenient pool of water and went on his way rejoicing.

So What?

Although the story of Philip and the Ethiopian was a bit more spectacular than we see in our normal everyday life as Christians, the process is the same.  There is an equipped messenger, a prepared heart, and a connecting that impacts eternity.  The architect of the process is the Holy Spirit of God.

Jesus Christ is the Lord of the harvest! He told his disciples:

“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field” (Matthew 9:37, 38).

God has a plan and doesn’t need “Super-Christians” to make it work.  All God wants is workers. Look in the mirror and see one of God’s harvest workers.  Now that you are available, the Lord of the Harvest will do the rest.  Remember, harvest workers are always behind enemy lines.

News from the Front—by Dan Cartwright, Chairman, Board of Directors

Sebaste, Cappadocia (now Sivas in Turkey) - March, 320 A.D.

Roman Emperor Valerius Licinius had already ordered that all Christians in Cappadocia abandon their faith and worship pagan gods, including every member of the famous “Thundering” 12th Legion, whose record in combat was unparalleled in the annals of the Imperial Army! Forty soldiers of the Legion however, refused to recant their faith, declaring before a military tribunal (court-martial) that they would devote their love to God and only God!

Agricolas, Captain of the Legion and the local pagan governor, would not humor this obstinacy. When imprisonment of the whole stubborn company could not break them, he decided on a novel sort of pressure.  It was a bitterly cold March and the pond outside the city was frozen over. The governor, therefore, ordered that the 40 be herded out to the center of the lake stark naked and allowed to rethink their decision. Meanwhile, he set up on the shore statues of the gods to be worshipped, a nice fire, and a pleasant warm bath. He hoped that the offer of warmth might change the minds of the freezing men and induce them to apostatize. But the prisoners retained their solidarity. Together they prayed, “Lord, we are 40 who are engaged in this conflict; grant that we may not fall short of that sacred number.”

During the three days of their lethal exposure, only one of the group gave up, stumbled towards the shore and sought the comfort of one of the hot baths provided for any who would recant their faith. The same hot bath that rewarded his apostasy also brought about his death. Ironically, the sudden heat was too much after the long chill, and he died of shock.

Although the soldier-victims were saddened by this defection, their prayer was heard. Aglaios, a jailer watching the horrifying spectacle of the freezing soldiers had heard their shouts of “40 soldiers for Christ!” when they first headed out across the frozen lake, and now heard a fainter shout, ‘Thirty-nine soldiers for Christ!”

What happened in the heart of the jailer Aglaios at that moment, only he and God will ever know. He wrenched off his own armor and girdle, and dashed to the edge of the lake. There, after lifting his right hand and crying, “Forty good soldiers for Christ!” he disappeared over the ice and into the darkness.

Colorado Springs, CO - 1 March 2007

A small group of soldiers from the 10th Special Forces Group gathered at Red Rock Canyon in Colorado Springs for a ‘spiritual fitness’ run and induction of Christian warriors into ‘The Order of the Cappadocian Martyrs,’ led by 10th Group Chaplains Darren Chester and Terry McBride.

It was a cold, windy, and icy morning after a late snowfall from the previous afternoon and evening left a few inches of new snow on the ground and a lot of dangerous ice on streets and roadways. While such conditions sometimes cause outdoor physical fitness training to be cancelled, there would be no change of plans on this morning! The announcement of, and invitation to the event had stated, in part:
“Note: Weather will not affect this run. If you can get there, we will run. Yes, it will be cold. That is the point. The martyrs for whom this order is named froze to death naked on a pond in the course of 3 days. If they can do that for Jesus, surely we can stand an hour or so in the cold.”

The event was scheduled to begin at 0630 sharp. The rendezvous point was a snow-covered public parking lot just off of highway 24, heading west out of the city proper. As soldiers arrived, they remained in their vehicles rather than stand in the biting wind any earlier than necessary. At the appointed time, they gathered around the map of the canyon at the edge of the parking lot for the route briefing given by Chaplain Chester. After the briefing, they headed into the small canyon, along a trail that gradually climbed in altitude for nearly a mile. After winding their way through the canyon for 2-1/2 miles, they gathered at the end of the run at another spot in the canyon, a flat open area near a small frozen pond.

Chaplain Chester spoke to the group, relating the story of the 40 martyrs from Sebaste who died on a frozen lake so long ago, not only refusing to recant their faith, but proclaiming their faith to the cold bitter end! The men were encouraged to stand firm no matter what they faced in this life, especially the persecution that all believers face at times when they live righteously before God and in an unbelieving world.

Each member of the group was given a patch symbolizing the martyrs of the “Thundering” XII Legion, Special Forces warriors of today, and emblazoned with a golden Cross of Christ against the canopy of a deployed parachute, a Green Beret, and the crossed arrows. Each man also received a small card on which was printed the following oath of allegiance:

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret),
Local Representative, Chairman,
CMF Board of Directors

“I am a Soldier for the Lord Jesus Christ. I am prepared to speak any word, do any deed, and go anywhere As He leads Me. His will is my mission. When the enemy attacks I will Stand firm. When tempted I will persevere. When persecuted I will not forsake my Lord. I will do good to those who hate me, I will bless those who curse me, I will pray for those who mistreat me. Though pressured I am not crushed. Though perplexed I am not in despair. Though persecuted I am not abandoned. Though struck down I am not destroyed. I will always carry the death of Jesus in my body, that the life of Jesus may be revealed in my body."

One can only imagine what the response of the mighty host of heaven was when the sound of earthly warriors' voices joined as one in allegiance to the Lord of Hosts and filled the air of a small canyon on a cold windy morning!

The short ceremony concluded with the men in a circle, arms around each other's shoulders and heads bowed as Chaplain McBride closed in prayer. Certainly this was an event to be followed by more similar occasions, as more warriors of the 10th Special Forces Group step forward in faith and join this 'Band of Brothers!’

The Great Privilege

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret)
Chairman, Board of Directors

I don't know about you, but I get tired of always hearing about “process” where I work as a government contractor.  “Process” seems to have taken over everything! It's not like when I was running a communications shop in the Army, or even when I was the Operations Sergeant Major in the Battalion Headquarters.  At least then ”process” was about more effectively getting the job done. Sometimes that meant figuring out how to do more with the same or fewer people.  Sometimes it was learning to accomplish the mission with the resources that were available.  If the “process” worked, it ended up as part of somebody’s SOP (Standard Operating Procedure).  These days it seems the “process” is the mission! I sit next to a “process engineer” and sometimes, when I overhear his side of phone conversations, I feel his pain!

Well, guess what? God is into “process”! Check this out:

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How are they to call on one they have not believed in?  And how are they to believe in one they have not heard of?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching to them?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How timely is the arrival of those who proclaim the good news.’  But not all have obeyed the good news, for Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our report?’  Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.” Romans 10:14-17 (NET)

That looks like a “process” to me! Just in case you missed it, let’s identify the process steps.

  • Call on the Name of the Lord and you will be saved. (The end state.)
  • Before you can call on the Name of the Lord you have to believe.
  • Before you can believe you have to hear.
  • Before you can hear, there needs to be a preacher.
  • Before there's a preacher, there is a “sending.”

If it didn't before, does it look like a process now?

Where I work, my Process Engineer (PE) buddy keeps track of all the written processes we use and helps develop new processes when they are needed.  He also ensures people are actually following the established processes.

The Apostle Paul, who wrote the letter to the Romans, is reminding Christians in Rome of the process, like my buddy at work does.  You might also see Paul as one of the “sent preachers,” since after his conversion he dedicated his life to preaching the gospel, at times while working a regular job (tent making).  Now the process “developer” ─ that’s another story. In fact, you've probably already figured out that God is the originator of the process, the Grand Architect.

The only part of the process not specifically mentioned in the above passage from Romans is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the person who has NOT yet called on the name of the Lord for salvation.  In order for any person to call on the Lord, that person needs to have come to the point of realizing his/her condition of being lost and helpless, without a hope in the world of being saved through human effort.  Some would say that this is the “drawing” by the Father to the Son that Jesus spoke of in John 6:44 and the enabling spoken of in John 6:65.

When that drawing happens in the heart of the one who is needy and the gospel is preached, there is a supernatural combining of the realization of one’s lost condition and the hearing of the Word that results in calling out to the Lord and the saving of a soul for eternity!

This amazing process that brings such sweet relief on the day of our salvation even honors the human will by turning the human heart, which is totally dead and unable to choose anything but sin (Romans 3: 10-18), toward God, so that our decision for Christ is out of our own freed will.  We choose Christ because we desire Him.  We desire Him because God has given us mercy and placed the necessary desire with us.

You could say God “owns” the process (using the terms of the workplace).  All three Persons of the Trinity act in unity to miraculously create the new birth in Christ!  The Father is the Master Architect, the Son suffered, died and was resurrected to make it possible, and the Holy Spirit operates at both ends; preparing the heart of that one lost in sin and prompting someone to share the gospel (“sends the preacher”).

So what does all this process “stuff” have to do with the “The Great Privilege”? Let me answer that with a couple of other questions:

Did God have to develop a process to save anyone?  No!  Isn’t He God?  Yes!  After all, didn’t he confront Paul on the road to Damascus without human intervention?  Yes! God can save ANY ONE, ANY TIME, ANY WAY He wants!  At stake are the eternal souls of men and women, and God decides to use a method to save them that involves using regular, ordinary people as “process agents.”

Consider the original twelve disciples. Among those Jesus chose were some fisherman, an IRS agent and at least one political activist.  None of them had any sort of higher education.  There wasn’t a learned religious leader, popular speaker, or finely dressed rich guy among the lot.  Peter denied him, they argued about who was the greatest, and when he went to the Cross, all but one (John) disappeared from the scene.  Why these guys?

About all I can say to that is that He is GOD and it's HIS choice.  The Apostle Paul, speaking to Christians at Corinth provides a better answer:

“Brothers, think of what you were when you were called.  Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.”

There are probably other reasons why He chooses to use bumbling believers as process agents, but for the moment, it’s enough that He chose the method ─ “designed the process.”

That’s where “Privilege” enters the picture. God doesn’t need people to save anyone—you, me or anyone else.  It’s our Great Privilege to take the Good News to the world around us.  If He prompts me to share that news and I refuse, He’ll send another.  If that one refuses, He’ll send another.  The mission WILL be accomplished, with or without me.  God WILL send a man or woman obedient to the call, and souls WILL be saved according to HIS plan! As one pair of evangelical writers said so well:

“The Spirit of God uses the Word of God through men and women of God to make the message about the Son of God available to all who want to know the truth.  There is no limit to the creative ways God can use to bring about this process.”— from “I’m Glad You Asked” - Ken Boa and Larry Moody

Reader, listen closely.  Do you remember when you first embraced your Savior?  Did not something happen inside you to cause you to desire God? Did you not somehow “hear” the good news of salvation in Christ and then call out to Him for that precious gift?  Are you saved, to your eternal benefit and His everlasting glory?

If so, the One who saved you now “sends” you into the world to share the greatest news mankind will ever know!  (That's not my opinion─hear some of the last words of Jesus as He prayed earnestly to the Father on behalf of his closest disciples, those twelve ordinary men, shortly before He went to the cross of Calvary.

“But now I am coming to you, and I am saying these things in the world, so they may experience my joy completed in themselves.  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them, because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but that you keep them safe from the evil one.  They do not belong to the world just as I do not belong to the world.  Set them apart in the truth; your word is truth.  Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world.” John 17:13-18 (NET)

Do you desire to be called? Are you prepared to go when called? Will you share in the Great Privilege?

I leave you with the question, and pray that the answer is a resounding YES!  That like the prophet of old, you will hear the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And you will say, “Here am I. Send me!”

NOTE: The only reason CMF exists is to support, train and equip believers serving in all branches of military service as they grow in Christ and as the “sent ones” wherever they live and serve God and our country.

The Heart of the Gospel:  Sin And Repentance

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret),
Chairman, Board of Directors

Te Apostle Paul had some harsh words to the church in Galatia for those who would turn away from the Gospel of grace and return to trusting in human works for salvation:

But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8-9 ESV)

Paul clearly defined the message of the gospel to the church in Corinth with these words:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (1 Corinthians 15:1-4 ESV)

Long before Paul was converted and began to preach the gospel and establish churches, John the Baptist laid the groundwork for the coming of Christ:

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 3:1-2 ESV)

Jesus began his earthly ministry with these words:

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 ESV)

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15 ESV)

When Jesus appeared to His disciples after the resurrection, he commissioned them with these words:

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:45-47 ESV)

Well, so what?

Here's “what”:

Who am I, who are we, who name the Name of Christ, to change the message, or omit what Scripture tells us is the core and heart of the gospel message?
How dare we presume that a “changed life” is the Gospel?

How dare we presume that making Jesus “attractive,” as the one who merely solves all of life's little problems, is spreading the gospel that saves a person from Hell?

How dare we presume that love, love, love, without including the issue of sin and repentance, IS even love at all?

Who am I if I presume any of the above?  Who am I if I don't hold as paramount, and address as of “first importance,” that Jesus died for our SIN, and if I don't speak of the need to REPENT from SIN?

I'll tell you who I am — I am a spiritual coward, a disgrace to evangelism, and a traitor to the One who saved me!

And at the end of the day, I am still a sinner — a sinner saved by the amazing grace of a sovereign God!

Truth, Lies and Horseback Riding

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret),
Chairman, Board of Directors

You are probably thinking that’s a rather silly title for an article.  Maybe, maybe not.  If it stimulated your curiosity to the point you are actually reading this, it accomplished the desired goal of the author!  Therefore, it makes at least a little bit of sense. Agreed?  Now on to the point.

Months ago, maybe even years ago in some cases, while studying various aspects of Christianity in light of Scripture (a favorite pastime of mine), I began to see beliefs in Christendom that had little or no Scriptural support, and that some of those questionable beliefs had achieved the status of “doctrine.”  To disagree with them was labeled minimally as growth-hindering misunderstanding of Scripture, and, at the other end of the “error spectrum,” blasphemy deserving of Hell.  I had then, and still have now, a soul-deep conviction that God wrote the Book and therefore what was taught as truth, but didn’t agree with the context of Scripture, was wrong or false in some measure and in some cases, was an outright lie.

The unavoidable question brought to this inquiring mind was, “How did these falsehoods and lies end up so widely believed by professing Christians?”  The answer I arrived at after a considerable amount of Scripture study, researching a range of historical resources, and comparing them both to widely held beliefs of professing believers was and IS, precisely this: The “accepted” lie always rides in on the back of truth.  Without an element of Scriptural truth upon which to hitch a ride, the lie never survives.

A prime example from the early church would be the Pelagian heresy; it denied any adverse effect of Adam’s sin on the rest of mankind that was birthed after the Fall.  That lie didn’t get very far and was condemned as heresy.  The “Semi-Pelagianism” that followed acknowledged that Adam’s sin affected all of us, but said that man is still able in and of himself to cooperate with God in the salvation of his soul.  That was also condemned as heresy (at the Council of Orange), but is in fact alive and well in both major camps of Christianity. No segment of Christianity has ever admitted to being Semi-Pelagian, although a synergistic Gospel is by nature, exactly that.

There you have one man’s explanation of the connection between truth, lies, and horseback riding.  The initial lie, without an element of truth, failed.  The second lie, while admitting “some” truth, made a modified version of the first lie perfectly acceptable, and even pleasing to human sensibilities.

There have been other examples of lies riding in on the back of truth, some with a longer history of acceptance than others.  The two most damaging to both the cause of Christ and the souls of men are 1) that Christ established a single religious organization as the only true church with an “infallible” human as head of that church and 2) that God “accepts” us unconditionally, WITH our sin. (Don’t panic — please read on!)

Both have a segment of truth. Christ did declare he would establish His Church on earth.  God does LOVE unconditionally – it’s His nature and one of His divine attributes.

The Church that Christ established is made up of those persons for whom He died, from every tongue, tribe and nation – those whom He purchased with His own blood. We weren’t put on layaway!

If God could “accept” us into His Kingdom WITH our sin, His Son died in vain. The first point of the Gospel is that Christ DIED for our sin!

What is God Like?

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret)
Chairman, Board of Directors
“And this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3 NIV)

This is an introduction to, and the first in a series of articles offering answers from Scripture to the above question.  To say that this is an important question, that deserves serious consideration, is a huge understatement!

I first learned something about God’s glorious attributes years ago from two main sources: Lutheran Catechism and reading the Bible for an “Advanced” English course as a senior in high school. Catechism provided sound doctrine (and large words) to describe characteristics of God found in the Bible.  In reading the Bible for itself, I found out that what it said about God matched the big words I learned in Catechism.  (As odd as it might sound in today’s scholastic environment, in those days it was permissible to write a paper about The Bible as Literature, my chosen subject.)

In addition to Scripture itself, a source of information for these posts is J. I. Packer’s book, Knowing God.   Scripture references, unless otherwise noted, are from the NIV and linked to their context in an online Bible.  Please read them, read the context around them, and let Scripture speak to you.  There are of course other, more exhaustive treatments of the Attributes of God; one of the most notable is Arthur W. Pink’s work, (http://www.eternallifeministries.org/awp_attrib.htm).

This article can provide only a brief glimpse into the awesome character of God and hopefully will whet your appetite to learn even more about the Creator of the universe and the One who sent His own Son to die so that you might live.  The reason for these posts is two-fold.  First, there seems to exist today, in American Christianity, a deplorable lack of knowledge concerning what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture.  Most of what we hear from pulpits across the country speaks only of God’s love, and even that, for the most part, is described according to our concept/definition of love, not His.

The second reason is from Scripture itself.  John 17:3 tells us that “eternal life is knowing God.”  That can be a bit difficult to get our heads wrapped around, but it speaks of how our eternal life has a “right here, right now” aspect.  How can that be explained in more practical, understandable terms? What effect does knowing God have on a person?  J. I. Packer suggests four great effects:

  1. Those who know God have great energy for God.
  2. Those who know God have great thoughts of God.
  3. Those who know God have great boldness for God.
  4. Those who know God have great contentment in God.

We must ask ourselves, do we desire such knowledge of God?   When you ask yourself this question, remember that it’s not a matter of knowing God so we can “become” great for God, it’s simply that really “knowing” leads to “having.”

And lest I forget, when God sees knowledge of Himself in His children, it gives Him pleasure.

“For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” (Hosea 6:6 KJV)

When you think about it, generally, the most we can know about other people is what they reveal to us.  The extent and quality of our knowledge of them depends more on them than it does on us. Knowing God is no different.  Only what God has chosen to reveal of Himself can be known, and that which God has chosen to reveal to us can be found in Holy Scripture.

Our quest to know God begins by understanding that God is our Creator and that we are a part of His creation (Genesis 1:1, Psalm 24:1).  God said that man is created in His image.  Man is above the rest of creation and was given dominion over it (Genesis 1:26-28).  Creation is marred by the “fall” (Genesis 3:17-18) but still offers a glimpse of His works (Romans1:19-20).  This glimpse of God that we do have is available to all men─we are all born with the knowledge that God IS. By considering creation’s vastness, complexity, beauty, and order, we can have a sense of the awesomeness of God.  However, considering how lightly and how often we use the term “awesome” in today’s culture, I don’t think it’s a nearly “big enough” word to begin describing God.

I remember when I was just a wee lad and we would visit my grandparents’ farm in Wisconsin.  There weren’t any street lights, and I remember looking up at the night sky and all the stars with a feeling of “WOW, God made that!” filling my little heart with wonder at how BIG God is.  That was awesome.

I also remember a church, nestled in tall pine trees across the road from Grandma’s house.  I found an old photo of that church, dated back to around 1955.  As if it were yesterday, I can still hear the hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy” resounding through the pines as we walked to church.  That was awesome.

I can’t describe just how “BIG” God was to this 5-year-old, from just looking at the night sky and hearing a hymn.  As we grow older and begin to read Scripture, our sense of God’s greatness looms even larger, or at least it should.

Face it: we don’t much care for hearing God when He speaks to us about our sin, our guilt, our helplessness, our weakness, our blindness, and our spiritual “deadness.”  We would rather hear just the “good stuff” He might say about us.  Nevertheless, knowing God involves listening to His Word and receiving it, as the Holy Spirit interprets and applies it to us and to the character of God.  When we see our “true selves” in the blinding light of Scripture, we can “know” God more fully, and might even have something to boast about.

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”  Jeremiah 9:23-24

God is the Great I AM - Eternal and Unchangeable

“Moses said to God, ‘Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?’”

“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: “I AM has sent me to you.’” - (Exodus 3:13,14).

God is eternal, meaning He had no beginning and that His existence will never end.  He is immortal, infinite (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17). God is immutable, meaning He is unchangeable; this means that God is absolutely reliable and trustworthy (Malachi 3:6; Numbers 23:19; Psalm 102:26,27).

God’s life does not change.

Created things have a beginning and an end, however their Creator is from everlasting to everlasting.

“In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.  They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.  Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.”   (Psalm 102:25-27)

A small child will often ask, “Who made God?”  Our answer is simple. He was always there. Children accept that answer more easily than adults, with the childlike faith that Jesus reminded His followers we all need.  When Mom told this little 5-year-old that God was always there, that settled it─Moms don’t lie!

God’s character does not change.

The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.  Listening to sermons in many of today’s churches, one might come away with the idea that the God who destroyed His enemies, the enemies of His Chosen people, and those among people who would dishonor His Name, has somehow changed into a kindly grandfather who waits for us to jump into His lap for a hug and a bit of candy.  While God is certainly the giver of all good things to His children, His moral character is changeless, as James reminded dispersed followers undergoing trials and temptations (James 1:12-17 NKJV).

God’s truth does not change.

How many times have we had to eat our words because something that was said was not what was really meant, or something that we thought was truth turned out to be not true.  God’s Word, however, spoken but once, stands as truth for all eternity (Isaiah 40:6-8).

God’s ways do not change.

The wages of sin is death, so Romans 6:23 tells us.  It will always be so. This verse also tells us that God offers eternal life through His Son.  It will always be so.  God discriminates between sinners, causing some to hear the gospel message, while others hear the words but not the message (Acts 16:13-15).  To some he grants the gift of repentance and faith, while others He leaves in their sin, demonstrating that he owes mercy to no one and that it is entirely an act of His grace that any are saved (Romans 9:15).

God’s purposes do not change.

“One of two things causes a man to change his mind and reverse his plans: want of foresight to anticipate everything, or lack of foresight to execute them. But as God is both omnipotent and omnipresent, there is never any need for Him to reverse His decrees.” (A.W. Pink)

The plans of God stand firm forever... (Psalm 33:11). Whatever God does in time, He planned from eternity; and whatever He planned in eternity WILL be carried out in time.

God’s Son does not change.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) Jesus is able to, and will save all who come to Him─all that the Father gives Him (John 6:37-40).

This fact is the strong consolation and assurance for all God’s people.

Why CMF? — by Dan Cartwright, Chariman, CMF Board of Directors

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret)
Chairman, Board of Directors

More than a few years have passed since I enlisted in the ranks of Christian Military Fellowship. I joined CMF after hearing a presentation by a CMF staff member to a small group of soldiers gathered for a Bible study in a chapel at Ft. Devens, MA. This “prodigal son” had returned home not long before, and I was excited about my rediscovered faith and hungry for both the Word and Christian fellowship. As a result of that hunger, I had joined the small group that met once a week over lunch at Independence Chapel. What I heard about CMF that day really caught my attention!

I heard about a fellowship of believers who wore the uniforms of our Armed Forces. They were ordinary people, like this young NCO, with an extraordinary vision! They felt called of God to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with their comrades-in-arms, and further, to help each other grow while serving in our country's military. I learned that the purpose of CMF’s small staff, in Denver, Colorado, was to help us “ordinary folks” accomplish the mission defined in the CMF motto— “To Win…To Disciple…To Equip…To Win.” In other words, CMF wasn't about an organization’s ministry TO the military, but about encouraging and supporting ministry IN the military. The “minister” IN the military was supposed to be the “man in the mirror"!

Through the years, the mission and goals of CMF haven't changed. If you read the CMF Orientation Brief today (available on the CMF website “Resource” page), you will find the following statement: "We are a PEER ministry TO military people BY military people WITHIN the military society."

You might be asking "Why?", and that's certainly a valid question. I found a large part of the answer to that question, already in practice, in a book called "Revolution in World Missions," written by K.P. Yohanan and first published in 1986.

K.P. is the founder and President of Gospel for Asia, an organization dedicated to sending support to native pastors in Asia. "Revolution in World Missions" discusses the shift from “colonial" missionary efforts sponsored by Western nations (foreigners), due in large part to countries in Asia gaining their independence from the rule of colonial governments (foreigners) and the tossing out of colonial missionaries (foreigners) along with their governments. The leadership of remaining Christian missionary efforts fell to the native believers, Christians born and raised in the now free countries and remote areas of much of Asia. The spreading of the Gospel became primarily an “inside job,” accomplished by indigenous believers. Was there still a role for the West? Absolutely!

K.P. Yohanan aptly remarks in his book:, "God still sovereignly calls Western missionaries to do unique and special tasks in Asia. But we must understand that the primary role for Westerners now should be to support efforts of indigenous mission works through finances and intercessory prayer."

What may have begun out of necessity (foreigners tossed out) has actually resulted in evangelization and missionary work in much of Asia that is far more effective than the efforts under the leadership of the westerners (foreigners). There are several reasons for the increased effectiveness of native missionaries, attested to by the many organizations that, like Gospel for Asia, are solely dedicated to supporting native pastors and indigenous mission boards:

“They already know the culture, the customs, the laws, the language. So they encounter fewer barriers in witnessing for Christ. They can go where no “foreigner” ever could.” - World-Wide Missions

“… the most effective work done in many foreign countries was that carried forward by the nationals themselves. There were many arguments in favor of such missionary endeavors. They were already on the field. They knew the language and the customs.…I later discovered there is another sound argument for national programs—the fact that the work cannot be closed down where there is any type of religious freedom at all.” Dr. Basil Miller. Founder, World-Wide Missions

Indigenous means, “native to the land.” A palm tree from Puerto Rico transplanted in Pennsylvania will not survive because it is not indigenous. But fertilizer from Pennsylvania applied to a palm tree in Puerto Rico will make it grow better in its native soil. Indigenous Christianity is not an imported denomination or other foreign organization. A Christian group started by foreigners hardly ever becomes truly indigenous. But an indigenous group can be inspired by visiting speakers from other countries (foreigners) and strengthened by financial help from believers overseas (foreigners), provided it is not used to buy control.” - Christian Aid U.S.A.

Let's summarize. Indigenous ministry would be ministry carried out by those who are:

  • Native to the land,
  • Already in the field,
  • Knowledge of the culture, language, customs, and laws,
  • Cannot be expelled,
  • More effective, and
  • Can go where no foreigner could

“Culture” is emphasized above because there is a distinct culture in the military. If the military can be viewed as a culture, the different branches can be called sub-cultures. Taken one step further, there are even sub-sub-cultures in each of the branches of service. I spent my entire career, aside from training and certain schools, in the Special Forces culture. If you are a current or past member of one of the branches of service, you know exactly what I mean. I need explain it no further. Suffice it to say that every culture or sub-culture has its own language, customs, and laws. Outsiders to the culture are viewed as foreigners in the same sense as the colonialists mentioned earlier in this article.

That last characteristic is strongly emphasized because, years ago, an Army Chaplain invited two young soldiers to a Saturday morning men's breakfast fellowship at a local church of his endorsing denomination. At one point the Chaplain told the assembled group: "These two men go places where I will never be able to set foot."

That Chaplain’s few words said it all then, and they still ring true today. They apply to every man and woman in uniform who, unashamed of the Gospel, live out their faith where no Chaplain will ever set foot.

And that's what CMF is about!

What is Spiritual Death?

SGM Dan Cartwright, USA (Ret)
Chairman, Board of Directors

Death is separation.  A physical death is the separation of the soul from the body.  Spiritual death, which is of greater significance, is the separation of the soul from God. In Genesis 2:17, God tells Adam that in the day he eats of the forbidden fruit he will “surely die.”  Adam does fall, but his physical death does not occur immediately; God must have had another type of death in mind—spiritual death.  This separation from God is exactly what we see in Genesis 3:8. When Adam and Eve heard the voice of the Lord, they hid themselves from God’s presence.  The fellowship had been broken. They were spiritually dead.

“but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:8)

When Jesus was hanging on the cross, He paid the price for us by dying on our behalf.  Even though He is God, He still had to suffer to agony of a temporary separation from the Father due to the sin of world He was carrying on the cross.  After three hours of supernatural darkness, He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34b).

“At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’—which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’” (Mark 15:33-34 NIV)

This spiritual separation from the Father was the result of the Son’s taking our sins upon Himself.  That’s the impact of sin. Sin is the exact opposite of God and God had to turn away from His own Son at that time.

A man without Christ is spiritually dead. Paul describes it as being alienated or separated from the life of God.  (To be separated from life is the same as being dead.)

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. (Ephesians 4:18 NIV)

The natural man, like Adam hiding in the garden, is isolated from God. When we are born again, the spiritual death is reversed.  Before salvation, we are dead (spiritually), but Jesus gives us life.

“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,” (Colossians 2:13 NIV)

To illustrate, think of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  The physically dead Lazarus could do nothing for himself.  He was unresponsive to all stimuli, oblivious to all life around him, beyond all help or hope—except for the help of Christ who is “the Resurrection and the Life.”

“Jesus said to her (Martha), ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’” (John 11:25-26)

At Christ’s call, Lazarus was filled with life, and he responded accordingly.  In the same way, we were spiritually dead, unable to save ourselves, powerless to perceive the life of God—until Jesus called us to Himself.  He “quickened” us; “not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:5).

The book of Revelation speaks of a “second death,” which is a final (and eternal) separation from God.  Only those who have never experienced new life in Christ will partake of the second death (Revelation 2:11; 20:6, 14; 21:8).

“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” (Revelation 2:11)

Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection.  The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Revelation 20:6)

“Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire.  The lake of fire is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14)

“But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur.  This is the second death.” (Revelation 21:8)

This is the first of several short articles about sharing Jesus in a normal and natural manner that is not dependent on a specific ‘method’. As believers, many of us want to share Jesus with others, but hesitate out of nervousness and even fear. On the other hand, some of us aren’t nervous or fearful, so we charge right in using a particular method we found somewhere or were taught by someone. My friends, it doesn’t have to be so hard. How hard is it for us to talk about other exciting things in our lives? Sharing Jesus can and should be as natural as talking about a new house, car, smartphone, or even having just been married to the man/woman of your dreams. Having said all that, let’s begin.

Sharing Jesus Part 1 – Starting a Conversation

Here’s the scenario.

God has placed in your heart a desire to share Jesus and the message of the gospel with a relative, friend, co-worker, or even someone you just met (it happens). You know it’s a real because 1) God has given you a burden to reach the lost around you and 2) you asked God to point you in the right direction. And although you’ve studied various ‘methods’ of personal evangelism, you don’t know which one to use, or how to start. You are afraid of using the wrong method. How do you proceed with this important task?

Well, like the title of this blog post suggests, start a conversation, after having asked God to open a heart to hear a hard message!

Now what that conversation might sound has a lot of possibilities, depending on the specific situation, your relationship with this person, and what you know about his/her level of spiritually. Never mind all that for now, just start the conversation with a few things in mind as you press toward the final goal of the discussion – the point at which it’s time for your conversation partner to consider responding to the message of the gospel you are about to share.

First of all, you need to identify and understand the root problem before you offer a solution. Jesus didn’t come to earth and die on a cross for ‘your best life now’, or any variation of that theme. He came to die for the sins of God’s people (See Matthew 1:21).  Our ultimate goal is to share the Christ who died for our sins, I don’t know anyone who wants to hear they have a sin problem.

Does that sound tough, or what? Yes it does, but remember that you have already prayed that God open a heart to hear.  The problem of sin IS the main issue the message of the gospel addresses. We have all sinned, Christ died for those sins, and that ultimately deserves a response. Never fear, you don’t have to quote Romans 3:23 at the start of the conversation, but you do need to somehow take the topic of the conversation to the main issue..  

Actually, you don’t even need to use the dreaded “S” word, not yet anyway. You can start this most important conversation just like you might start any other conversation. Just choose a hot topic from the news. If you don’t listen to, watch, or read the news it’s time to start. Think of something ‘bad’ that was reported. There’s plenty out there. It could be local crime, dirty politics, another mass shooting or terrorist attack anywhere in the world. Pick one.

You might ask, “Did you hear about what happened at/in ________________?” “Why do you think that guy did that?” Just ask about something specific everyone probably knows about and ask a “Why do you think…..” question. You’re sending the message that you are interested in a thoughtful response, the other person’s opinion.

The answer most likely will be on the lines of “He was nuts…….just plain mean……he hates, etc., a specific possible reason. Take the reason given and ask another “why do you think” question. “Why do you think he’s nuts, mean, hateful, etc. That’s a different level question that goes to the motive for the ‘act’. You might get an answer or you might not.

What you would like to hear is something like “Well, I don’t know for sure, but maybe there’s something inside that caused him to …….” If you get that response, you can take the conversation to a still deeper level by asking another question along the lines of “What do you think that ‘inner’ problem might be?” Or, if you didn’t hear something about an inherent human problem, suggest the possibility of an ‘inner’ issue. The entire goal of the conversation is to agree that there’s an ‘inner’ problem with all of us humans.

At this point it’s time to identify and name the problem. People attribute bad acts to psychological problems, growing up in a bad home, hanging out with the wrong crowd, and even genetics.  The Bible calls our problem ‘sin. This is a the moment in the conversation to bring that up. The conversation has officially begun!

The discussion might continue, or be left for thoughtful consideration. The problem has been identified; the next part of the conversation will be to understand the problem. We’ll address that in the next article.

Do you see where this is going? Some have called this the “Colombo” technique (Think Peter Falk and all his question asking). All you are doing is having a friendly conversation with the goal of taking the conversation to the main problem we all have - sin. You don’t really have to open a Bible until you get to the part where you suggest that “The Bible calls our problem sin.” That’s the time to read directly from its pages (Romans 3:23 for example). Reading text from the pages of scripture leaves little or no room for receiving a “that’s your opinion” response.

So that’s how you start a conversation with an unbeliever. It might only take a single conversation to get to the main issue, or it might take longer.  You asked God to open a heart before you began the conversation and you continued to pray during the conversation. Now pray that God, through the Holy Spirit, would water the seeds you planted.

At the right time, you might hear “Remember what you were telling me about. . .” (The door has just been blown wide open.), or you can ask about the last BIG conversation. Just move at a perfectly natural pace. Remember that the goal of personal evangelism is, as Alistair Begg defines it:

“…to present Christ Jesus to sinful people in order that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, they may come to put their trust in God through Him.”

May God add his blessing to your sharing Jesus with a lost world!

P.S.  It’s quite possible that you might be sharing Jesus with one person, and someone else will stop you one day and share that he/she  overheard you talking and met the Savior because of it. It happens. I know this one. J 

This is the second of several short articles about sharing Jesus in a normal and natural manner that is not dependent on a specific ‘method’.  In Part 1 of this short series of posts, we talked about starting a conversation that can lead to sharing Jesus and the message of salvation with a family member, friend, co-worker, or anyone for that matter.  The goal of the conversation was to arrive at the conclusion that the reason people do bad things is because they have an inner problem that the Bible calls ‘sin’.

The Sin Problem

Before we start talking about ‘sin’ let’s give our conversation partner a name.  We’ll call him/her ‘Pat’ (a good gender neutral name). The next step in the conversation we are having with ‘Pat’  is to define the extent of this ‘sin’ problem.  And just like we asked a lot of questions when we started the conversation (the Colombo technique), we’ll continue our discussion with another question:

“So ‘Pat’, what do you think sin is?”

The first answer you will get will most likely have to do with bad things we do and/or mistakes we make, which is the most immediate and natural response.  You might get the same answer from the vast majority of believers, but that’s for another article.

You might also hear that sin means NOT doing things we ought to do.  We do have a natural sense of what the ‘right’ thing to do would be at certain times, but we fail to do it.

And since we left off the first part of our conversation agreeing that we all have an ‘inner problem’, you might even hear an answer that talks about our natural selfishness and/or inner tendencies.  And that, my friends, is where we want to go now – the sinful human nature, or tendency to sin.  Once you’re there, you can ask the big WHY question:

“So Pat, since you have rightly recognized that we have an inner problem, a natural tendency to do bad stuff, and sometimes to NOT do what we know would be right, WHY do you think we have a natural tendency to sin?”

It’s the natural and logical next question.  Regardless of the response, this is the opportunity to discuss what the Bible has to say about the WHY. We did the same thing earlier in the conversation when we said that the Bible calls man’s inner problem ‘sin’.  And remember that you are sharing the ‘Christian worldview’ and not trying to convince Pat of your personal opinion. Just share what the Bible has to say and let God do the convincing.  It would be good if you have a Bible handy to share straight from scripture.

In sharing what the Bible says about our sin problem, you can take it all the way back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, the story of creation and the fall of man.  After all, that’s where our sin problem started – when the first couple disobeyed God.  The point is that God created everything good, and it went sour because of man’s disobedience.  Adam’s sin impacted the ‘nature’ of every human being born since then.

Regardless of what we think about the fairness of Adam’s sin affecting the rest of the human race, it did.  We are told several things about the ‘natural’ man that describe him in rather ‘dark’ terms.

The entrance of sin into the world rendered the human heart deceitful beyond all things i and desperately sick, the human mind blind to spiritual things, ii hostile to God, iii and unable to please God. iv

It’s really important for us who share Jesus with others and for those listening to our message to grasp just how bad the sin issue is.  It’s in knowing just HOW bad the bad news is that we can most fully understand and appreciate the good news of what God has done in sending his Son to die for OUR sins.  The main point about sin is that it’s more than what we do or don’t do, it’s part of our very nature as sons of Adam.

Sadly, much of today’s ‘evangelism’, both in churches and person to person, minimizes the real issue of our sin problem and in some cases, omits it entirely.  We would rather attract sinners to Jesus with our ‘changed lives’ rather than speak the truth about our bondage to sin, while trusting God to open stone cold hearts and effectually draw men to the cross.  Are our lives irreversibly changed when we have trusted in Christ for forgiveness of our sins and in his death on our behalf?  Of course they are, but as a result of the cross, not as the reason for believing in Jesus.

And once the reality of sin has, with the help of the Holy Spirit, sunk into Pat’s heart, the conversation can move on to the consequences of, and a solution to the problem.  Stay tuned for Part 3.

i. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? “Jer 17:9

ii. “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Cor 4:4

iii. “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot.” Rom 8:7

iv. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Rom 8:8


The Sin Problem – How Bad Is It?

Having realized that the issue of sin is at the center of what’s wrong with the world and that it’s a very human problem, we need to ask “How bad is it?”  If we know the answer, we can offer the best solution.

It’s like having a computer problem.  Do I just have to many ‘toolbars’ trying to all load at the same time, or is there a problem so deep that I need to call the Geek Squad to fix things?

If we have a heart for sharing Jesus with others, what we understand about the inner problem of sin defines ‘how’ we share Jesus with others.  If sin is a problem deep inside of us, where did it come from and again, how bad is it?

Most of us would agree that the problem of sin began when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.  We would also agree that what followed their disobedience was physical death in this life and a separation from God.  What we might not agree on is the nature of the ‘separation’ from God. Assuming that Adam’s sin affected all of mankind, does that mean that all human beings are born basically good with some flaws but are able to help themselves out of a pickle?  Or does it mean that we are so messed up that we are totally unable to dig ourselves out of the ditch?  What does the Bible say?

The Bible tells us that those with carnal minds (the only kind possible for an unbeliever) are actually in active rebellion against God and can do nothing to please God (Rom 8:7).  The Bible also tells us that a person without the Spirit of God (all unbelievers) cannot understand the things of God and thinks they are a bunch of foolishness (1 Cor 2:14).  And the Bible tells us that the ‘natural’ man is completely unable to approach God on his own (John 6:44 & 65).

If just having ‘capability’ issues isn’t bad enough, the Bible tells us that we aren’t just wounded, we are totally and completely ‘dead’ in our trespasses and sin, not that we are basically good and just ‘do’ bad stuff now and again (Eph 2:1 & 5, Col 2:13).

It’s not that we are as bad or evil as we could be, but that we are as bad off as we could possibly be when we live apart from Christ.  After all, how ‘dead’ is dead?  What can a ‘dead’ man do? (If those aren’t rhetorical questions, we have a problem.)

We probably don’t need Ralph Venning’s Sinfulness of Sin, or be able to explain the difference between a ‘trespass’ and a ‘sin’ at this point, but what’s really important is understanding and being able to talk about the depth of the problem of sin.  That understanding will affect ‘how’ we share Christ with those who desperately need him.

So , armed with a biblically understanding of ‘spiritually dead’ and understanding that in essence, unbelievers are ‘dead men walking’, we can now move on to the next part of our short series, providing the solution to the problem of sin in a manner that honors God.

The Solution to the Sin Problem

Armed with a biblical understanding of ’spiritually dead’ and understanding that in essence, unbelievers are ’dead men walking’, and knowing  that our friend ’Pat’ realizes that the issue if sin is the root cause of evil in the world, we can offer Pat the solution to the problem of sin in a manner that honors God.

Since the conversation is reaching ’critical mass’ there are a few important things to remember.

First of all, pray that God would open Pat’s heart to receive this all important part of the message of the gospel.  Secondly, remember that God alone saves and you are just the messenger.  It’s not your job to get a decision or otherwise ’close the deal’ – the Holy Spirit does a fine job of applying the solution to a God opened heart! As one evangelist expressed it:

“Christ is going after His lost sheep, and He wants to use our lips that they may hear His voice today, and our hands that they may feel His touch.  He is the soul-winner.  People are not won by us for Him.  They are won through us by Him.  He can win them without us, just as He can speak to them through the Bible quite apart from anything we might say.  But He has chosen to work through us and with us.”  Leith Samuel

Spend a few moments going over a few things with Pat.  You might want to briefly summarize where the conversation has gone up to this point:

· The world is full of ’bad stuff’ (evil).
· The Bible calls the bad stuff ’sin’.
· Sin is a human problem that began when Adam blew it and disobeyed God.

Once you and Pat are on the same page it’s time to address the solution. You might want to ask Pat what he/she thinks is the answer to the problem. The answers you receive might be good answers even if they are just about temporal things like passing more laws, doing a better job of raising our children, raising the quality of our schools, easier access to higher education, and/or government programs to get rid of poverty.  If so, talk about them, acknowledge that they might solve problems, but that they are only external answers and cannot really address the inner problem of sin that we all have.

This is a good place to introduce, in simple terms and directly from the Bible, (not a 25 lb. Schofield reference Bible, but the small one you tend to carry around with you), God’s plan for dealing with sin.  Be gentle!  This is a conversation, not a used car lot!

Here are some suggested passages of scripture that were all written by the Apostle Paul.  You can even introduce some or all the following scriptures by telling Pat that this guy named ’Paul’ who absolutely loved to kick Christians around all over town wrote them!  Make sure to tell Pat how each passage relates what you have already discussed.

 The problem:

“for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” – Rom 3:23

The natural consequences of the problem:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord..” – Rom 6:23

God’s plan to punish his own Son in our place:

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Rom 5:8

The applications of God’s plan – believe and call on the name off the Lord:

“because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” – Rom 10:9

“For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” – Rom 10:13

The result of believing and calling on the name of the Lord:

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Rom 5:1

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Rom 8:1

The above passages are by no means a set mThe ethod that must be followed.  You might want to use other passages of scripture that also talk about the problem of man’s sin and God’s solution.  John 3:16 is a good example and a passage we probably all know by heart.  It also expresses God’s solution to our problem.

Always anticipate questions, and be ready with an answer or willing to find an answer.  Be able to talk about the Biblical context of passages you use in the conversation.  This communicates that you didn’t just memorize a few passages, but you know and are convinced of the truth of scripture.  That’s huge!

In the next article we’ll talk about the response to God’s offer of salvation through Christ.

The Response

So far we have discussed with our friend ‘Pat’ the problem of evil in the world and the source of that problem in Adam’s sin against God.  We discovered that the root cause of the evil deeds of men is also called sin and that it’s a problem we all have, again thanks to Adam rebelling against God.  We also discovered that God presented a solution to the problem of the human sinful nature, in the person of Jesus Christ, his own Son, whom he sent to die on behalf of those who would repent of their sin and believe the message of the gospel—that Christ died for the sins of men.  The message of the gospel requires a response.

Understand that as you approach the need for responding to the gospel, you and Pat are standing on ‘Holy Ground’.  Approach the moment with much prayer—prayer that the Holy Spirit will let you know when the moment has arrived, and prayer that God will continue his supernatural work of drawing Pat to the foot of the Cross.

Be gentle, and don’t apply any pressure.  Don’t ‘push’ for a response. That means forget emotional appeals. Let God do HIS work.  It’s entirely possible that in the course of your conversation Pat might have privately trusted in Christ for salvation but just not told you.  You might have to part ways before getting to a response. Don’t fret.  God began the work in Pat and will bring it to pass. 

With that in mind, and as one pastor (Allistair Begg) suggests, a couple of simple questions for your friend might be appropriate:

  1. Based on what we’ve been talking about have you personally trusted Christ or are you still on the way?

    If God has already brought Pat to a place of repentance and belief, you will find out and you can rejoice together.  If you hear something like “I guess I’m still on the way.”   You might ask:
  2. How far along the way are you?

    It’s a simple question that will require some thought to answer. Maximum sensitivity is needed here! (Satan hates this and will try and disrupt things.)  Real difficulties in peoples’ lives sometimes surface. Your friend might want to go and think about it.  Don’t push. Say something like “If you must leave, that’s fine.”  Continue the conversation!
  3. If you hear “I’m pretty far along the way, you can something like:

    “Would you like to become a real Christian and be sure of it?  Remember, you are standing on holy ground at that moment.  When the answer is “yes”, you need to add one more thing to the conversation before leading in a prayer of response.

The last part of the conversation before a response should be about cost of becoming a Christian.  Very few ‘methods’ ever talk about this all important subject.  With the goal of obtaining a ‘decision’ for Christ, many of us charge right ahead without even mentioning it.  However, obtaining decisions isn’t our goal. Our only goal is that a lost sinner repents of sin and genuinely trusts in Christ for salvation.

You can say something like “The moment you become a Christian, you MUST become a Christian. Are you ready for a revolution?  To say no to sin, self, and secrecy?”

If God has done His work, the answer will still be ‘yes’.  You might be asked to explain what the ‘revolution’ would look like.  Be ready to lovingly share passages of scripture that talk about some of the ‘challenges’ facing the Christian who is open about his/her faith ((Matt. 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).  Be familiar with , which talks about the attitude of the world system toward Christians.  The one whom God, not your clever speech, has brought to the Cross of Christ will be inwardly readya for the challenge.

It’s then that you can lead in a serious and solemn prayer:

“Dear Lord Jesus, I admit that I’m a helpless sinner before you.  I’ve tried to clean up my act so many times and failed.  I believe that the Bible is true when it says that you are the savior for my sin.  I’ve considered the revolution that will come.  I ask you to come forgive me of my sin and enable me to turn from sin and turn in faith to you. Fill me with your Holy Spirit.  Give me a desire for your Word and to share the good news with others.  Number me among those who are your own.  In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Be mindful that a prayer like the above example is not part of a ‘formula’ for or ‘method’ of evangelism.  Such a prayer is a response to a message that by nature demands a response.  Such a prayer summarizes the conversation that has been going on for days, or weeks, or perhaps months. Therefore the content of the prayer is what’s important. It restates the problem (sin), the solution to the problem (Christ’s substitutionary death), and contains a personal plea for mercy and forgiveness, trusting that God will make good on his offer of salvation.

Also remember that the ‘Amen’ at the end of the prayer is just the beginning for the one who has now cast himself/herself upon the mercy of God and believed in Christ for salvation. There is now new life in a new creation in Christ, for the Bible tells us:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17

And finally, be ready to walk with a new believer and help him/her grow!

At the time of this writing, Joe Biden has been declared by major media outlets to be the 46th President of the United States, well before the Electoral College timeline has run its course, which could be sometime in January. Pontificators, podcasters, and arm chair quarterbacks on both sides of the political aisle are already busy telling us what happened and how it happened, and I expect they will undoubtedly be gracing us with their opinions for some time to come.  Regardless of the outcome, however, we as Christians have another aspect to consider – the role God plays in this, or for that matter, any other election, at any level of civil government.

Who was responsible for the final outcome(s)?  The Christians among us will wonder about God’s role in the whole affair.  Did God just sit back and watch, or did he have a more decisive role in the drama that was the 2020 election? While it’s safe to assume that almost all Christians will say they believe in the sovereignty of God, but what exactly do we mean?  More importantly, what does the Bible tells about God’s sovereignty? Let’s take a closer look.

At a high level, we are told in the Psalms that God does whatever He pleases:

“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.” (Psalm 103:19).

“But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases.” (Psalm 115:3).

“For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Whatever the LORD pleases, He does, In heaven and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps (Psalm 135:5-6).

But does God become involved in the specific affairs of men? Let’s peer into the pages of scripture.

In the Old Testament we have the prophet Daniel, after God revealed to him Nebuchadnezzar’s dream and the interpretation, offering praise to God: 

“Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. Daniel answered and said: Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21 He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding”  (Daniel 2:19-21; 23)

Not only did God use the proud and arrogant Nebuchadnezzar to chasten the Israelites, He also brought the pagan King to his knees, turning him into a grass eating ‘beast’ for seven years, until he would acknowledge God as sovereign. 

“At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth.  No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?”” (Daniel 4:34,35)

There are many other examples of God’s sovereignty in the OT. Throughout the history of the nation of Israel, God controlled the fate of His chosen people, using pagan nations to accomplish His purposes. God used Egypt to for the preservation and growth of the nation Israel for 400 years before they inherited the promised land. God displayed his power and greatness through the hard-hearted Pharaoh. He used surrounding nations to chastise Israel when the nation fell into sin and disobedience. Then he used other pagan nations to destroy the chastisers of His people.

God used Assyria and Babylon to lead the Jews into captivity. The King of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar, was even called God’s “servant” (Jeremiah 25:9; 27:6; 43:10). The sacking of Judah and Jerusalem was no accident of history; it was no mere fate. It was the outworking of the plan and purpose of the sovereign God of Israel to achieve His purposes, to fulfill His promises and prophecies

If we peek into the New Testament, we have this startling declaration by the Apostle Peter that speaks to God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility concerning the crucifixion of Christ:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. (Acts 2:22-23)

Fast forward 2,000 years to the world of the 20th and 21st centuries.  Ours is a time of chaos and change. The USSR completely dissolved before our eyes. The Berlin Wall has been torn down. Civil war rages across the globe, and thousands of innocent lives are being sacrificed as we look on, helplessly it would seem. Christians seem to be shaken when a certain political party goes to unimaginable lengths to try and get elected to the highest office in the land.  In this time of the coronavirus pandemic, some so-called ‘experts’ seem to be running the show as government officials worldwide, at all levels, take control of businesses and citizens to degrees hitherto unheard-of except where socialism/communism rules. IS God sovereign in this mess?

If the answer to that question is “yes”, it must mean that God is sovereign over the decisions of the President of the United States, over the laws passed by Congress, and even over the decisions reached by the Supreme Court. God is even sovereign over the Internal Revenue Service.

God is sovereign over kings and kingdoms. If this is true, then we need to believe that every king, every person in a position of political power, is there by divine appointment (see Romans 13:1-2). This means that we owe such authorities our respect, our obedience, and our taxes, unless any of these specifically require us to disobey God (Romans 13:1-7). It means that the laws, decisions, and decrees they make—even those which punish or persecute the saints—have a divine purpose. We may be required to disobey government, like Daniel and his three friends, but only when obeying that government would require us to disobey God. In the chaos and wickedness of our day, let us not lose sight of the fact that God is sovereign in history, sovereign even over pagan powers, and yes, even sovereign over the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.

Regardless of the outcome, however, we as Christians have another aspect to consider – the role God plays in this, or for that matter, any other election, at any level of civil government.


Portions of the above were adapted from Let Me See Thy Glory – A Study in the Attributes of God by Bob Deffinbaugh,


A Day at the DMV

It seemed like it would be a typical morning with the exception of needing to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  I was there to get my “disabled veteran” license plates.  This was my fifth trip to the DMV. It seemed ludicrous that it would take four previous trips to the DMV for something that was surely accomplished on a routine basis by disabled vets.  However, my license plates had not arrived in the mail.

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret

I was surprised when the lady told me I would have to pay another $7 to get yet another temporary registration while she re-submitted it to the State of Colorado.  After reaching into my pocket, I was crestfallen to find I had only two dollars.  I rushed over to the automatic teller machine (ATM) to get some cash.  Unfortunately, the machine would not accept my card.  Fortunately, my former pastor was there attempting to obtain his license plates as well.  Of course, it is embarrassing to run into your former pastor since that means you left the church he pastors.  However, Bob was gracious and handed me a $100 bill so I could pay the temporary registration fee.  Of course, the lady had to go find change, and to add to my embarrassment, Pastor Bob needed that change (before she came back) to pay for his license plates.

Still feeling embarrassed and flustered, I pulled the car out of the parking lot.  In my haste to get away from where I had just made a fool of myself, I cut a corner too close.  My right rear tire clipped the curb, causing it to flatten immediately.  Breathing a deep sigh, I drove across the street to one of those chain superstores because they all have automotive service centers.  Or do they?  Evidently I found one of the few in our vast Nation that do not have a maintenance garage.  After driving around the entire store I finally drove across the street to a tire store.  As I explained my need to have a flat repaired, the salesman told me that it probably couldn’t be fixed because the sidewall was pinched.  Seeing an opportunity to make a big sale, he tried (unsuccessfully) to convince me that all four tires had to be changed due to the vehicle being all-wheel drive.

By now, I am incredibly late to work.  However, as a corporate employment recruiter I decided to go to a bookstore known for its wireless computer access in their coffee shops.  As I was walking towards the bookseller’s establishment, it occurred to me they weren’t open yet.  Changing my course, I headed towards a national chain restaurant whose sign is recognized by children worldwide.  I knew I could gain access to my computer via their wireless network for the mere price of $2.99 for two hours.  Before I sat down, I went to the counter and ordered some breakfast.  Upon seeing my credit card poised to swipe through the credit card machine, the lady behind the counter informed me that their credit card machine was broken.  A look of exasperation flooded my face as I explained my lack of money and the useless debit card that was in my wallet.  After hearing my “nothing-has-gone-right-today” sad tale, the kind girl took pity on me and gave me my breakfast for free.

What else could go wrong?  It wasn’t even 10:00 a.m. and my morning plans had resulted in mild chaos!  That evening as I prepared for bed, I asked God what it was I should learn from that morning’s adventures.  Three things occurred to me:

  1. The Body of Christ is committed to each other. Pastor Bob’s path crossed mine at that exact moment for a Christian brother to help another who had a need.
  2. At the tire dealer, God gave me an opportunity to demonstrate my faith. I could have exploded in anger at the tire salesman I thought was trying to take advantage of me.
  3. At the fast food restaurant, God put me in a situation where someone blessed me with a free meal.

When everything is falling apart, please don’t think God is absent.  We would all love it if everything in life went smoothly.  But, just as a National League Football player takes the field as an opportunity to demonstrate his athletic prowess…God will give us chances to prove the prowess of our faith.  Watch God in action in your life and you will likely see many opportunities to demonstrate that you are truly a child of the King.  This coming week, the Lord may put you into the “big game” to give you a chance to score a touchdown for His kingdom!

Maze of Acronyms

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

The military can be a maze of acronyms, seemingly made-up phrases and concepts unknown to most civilians. For instance, we go to the “Med Group“ to get our PHAs so we can be worldwide deployable to the AOR. In layman’s terms, we go to the hospital and get our physicals so the military can send us to some desolate location that doesn’t have a Starbucks.  Anyone who has ever been to a party with military members will remember that feeling of being dazed amongst landmines of vocabulary words and acronyms.

In sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, Christians often make the same mistake. After all, what are sanctification, justification, propitiation and eschatology?  Years have been spent by theologians in seclusion studying the deeper points of theology. Personally, I love to delve into literary works that plunge me headlong into the depths of spiritual life.

However, to the average person whom we want to reach for Jesus Christ, these concepts are bizarre. Certainly, we won’t draw them to accepting Jesus Christ’s lordship into their lives with lofty language.  Even the simplest formulas leave people scratching their heads.
Here’s the bottom line: “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.“  It is not a deep theological treatise.  It’s a children’s ditty often quoted in elementary Sunday School classes.  But, the gospel is nothing more than the fact that God created you, God loves you, and because sin separates you from His fellowship He sent Jesus Christ to save you. Do you believe it? Nowhere did I say you have to do anything other than to believe.  There are no sacred pilgrimages, no spiritual hoops to jump through, and certainly no list of requirements.

It’s about you accepting the free gift of Christ’s love for you.  He died for you, He loves you and He has great things in store for you. The only requirement expressed in Romans 10: 9 – 10 is that you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart the Lord Jesus.  Tell someone that you believe God raised Him from the dead in order for you to spend eternity in heaven.  Will you answer His call upon your life today?

In the meantime, I think I will go to the PX to look for ABU’s to wear on the ORI TDY. Ah, the joys of alphabet soup!!!

Editor Notes: Tony Barnes is a longtime CMF member, Local Representative, and member of the Board of Directors. He is currently serving at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

What comes to mind when I mention the word ‘worship’?  Do you think of the way people look upon the Hollywood mega-stars or NFL gridiron giants?  What about the Wall Street investors who seem to worship the stock and commodity markets?  Who can ignore that guy who is always out in the driveway washing and polishing that classic sports car?  Should we use the word worship for those temporal things, or would we be better served to say that people are ‘enamored’ by those things?  Worship is a word that is very overused and cheapened when it’s not reserved for God.

Perhaps when I mention worship, you think of a specific time on Sundays where people assemble in a church building with a hymnbook.  Those hymn collections do not always have the soundest of theology, but they are certainly rich in verbal treasures that grip the heart.  A very famous hymn was penned by a man who had lost his entire family at sea.  Many were written by Fanny Crosby who was blind in sight but, certainly could see levels of spirituality beyond what 20/20 eyesight can bring.

Many battles have been fought over worship.  What a strange thing to say!  We tend to think of worship as an event that starts at 11 am sharp and ends at 12 pm dull.  You might think of holding a tattered hymnal that you pull from the back of the pew so you can try to figure out why only the 1st, 2nd and 5th stanzas are sang in a song.  It makes me feel sorry for the poor chap that wrote the hymn since a couple of the verses he labored over are frequently skipped in the interest of time.

The Duck Dynasty patriarch, Phil Robertson, recently pointed out that 99% of our worship opportunities are between Monday – Saturday.  The hour or two we are at church is our opportunity to worship corporately.  However, a thorough examination of the life and teachings of Jesus demonstrates that our worship of God is not to be a once-a-week event.  For a heart that has accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, worship is the natural expression of a grateful heart.  In fact, the great A.W. Tozer stated, “If you’re not worshiping God on Monday the way you did the day before, perhaps you’re not worshiping him at all.” 

The old Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “What is the chief end of man?  Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  Worshipping God is a way of life.  While many self-improvement gurus will tout the value of yoga, martial arts, meditation and other methods to deal with the stress of hectic lives, the time-tested practice of worshipping the creator of all is a way to take the focus off of our own woes as we praise the King of kings and Lord of lords.  A woman once asked Jesus about the best place to worship.  Jesus responded with a comment about God desiring people that worship in spirit and in truth.  In a world of chaos, find an oasis of worship and as the old hymn states, the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.

Tony “T-Bar” Barnes is a 28 year veteran of the Marine Corps and Air Force.  He also retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs after 10 years.  He can be reached at tbarnugget@yahoo.com

De-icing the Wings

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

As I await a flight in the Colorado Springs airport, I am watching the ice removal crews working feverishly on aircraft wings.  Snow has been falling throughout the night and continues to fall while travelers nervously watch out the windows hoping and praying their flights aren’t cancelled.  Just to be on the safe side, I asked my deputy group commander if I could leave after staff meeting in an attempt to get an earlier flight.  The last thing I want is for my 3-day weekend back in Dallas-Fort Worth to be spoiled by cancelled flights.

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

As I watch the de-icing spray hitting the wings of the airplane, it occurs to me that the reason these crews exist is to remove icy accumulations from the atmosphere that could doom a plane if the ice were left intact.  If I could use some King James Version language for a moment – the ice could easily “beset” the plane.  The Bible speaks of “sins that so easily beset us.”  Often these sins aren’t actually the dramatic ones like murder or adultery.  Instead, they sneak up on us, often when we aren’t paying attention.  These sins creep up in attitudes of the heart, subtle ways we lash back at people who may wrong us, or even sins of omission such as prayerlessness, the Bible gathering dust, and the folks at church wondering, “Hey, what ever happened to ole what's-his-name?”

When it’s about time for an aircraft to depart, the crews will respond to remove the frozen precipitation in order to make the plane perform at maximum effectiveness and safety.  Likewise, we as disciples of the Lord Jesus need to deal with the frozen precipitations that have accumulated on the wings of our lives in order to live in maximum effectiveness for the work of the kingdom of God.

Jeremiah 29:11 speaks of the plans God has for our lives.  When we move God off of His throne and jump on it ourselves, we tend to have regrets over our decisions.  Instead of deciding to think about the decisions of life, we should be committed to praying about what God’s plans are for our lives.  In the military, we have staff meetings (often far too many!) to be able to understand our commanding officer’s mission priorities.  Accordingly, every day we should approach our day asking God what priorities He has for us that particular day.  And, as you approach each activity…ask the Lord what you can do within the confines of that activity to further His kingdom.

It could be as intense as actually sitting with someone to share the gospel and praying with them to accept Jesus Christ.  Or, it could be leaving a very nice tip for a waitress who is having a bad day and may not necessarily deserve the tip.  Possibly it could be answering kindly to the boss who has just stepped on your last nerve.  The influence of Jesus Christ is not restricted to “Bible thumping.”  The influence of Jesus Christ on our lives should be apparent in even the smallest details of our lives.  By eliminating the “ice” that has accumulated on our wings, we are more equipped to see those opportunities for ministry in our everyday lives.


Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

FORE!!! As a golf hacker who once bounced a golf ball off an elderly man’s chest at the Fort Worth links, I tend to yell, “fore” quite frequently when I play golf.  For the non-golf fan, it is a term used to warn everyone that my golf ball could become imbedded in their cranium.  I love to play golf.  However, the odds of my golf ball following the intended trajectory is about the same as that of the Dallas Cowboys, the Texas Rangers and the Dallas Mavericks all winning the championship in the same year.  In other words, I play Army golf…left, right, left, right.

GET OUT!!!  That was a term I yelled as I bloodied my knuckles at an apartment complex in Wichita Falls, TX.  I was driving by the apartments when I saw smoke and flames coming out of a kitchen window.  I frantically ran up and down the sidewalk begging people to get out of their apartments as the fire grew.

REPENT!!!  That was a term that John the Baptist used as he preached throughout the Judean wilderness.  As he preached, I am sure he probably named specific sins that people should repent from.  In fact, we know he took a political leader to task for sleeping with a relative’s wife.  Although individually named sins are things that God would like us to turn from, the main sin that keeps us out of the plan the Lord has for our life is the sin of “self-centeredness.”

We often proclaim with our mouths that Jesus is Lord of our life.  However, we continue to live our lives as though He is the most irrelevant person we know.  For the sake of illustration, please allow me the liberty to compare Jesus Christ to a restaurant manager.  You have been hired to work at the restaurant and the manager has made it very clear that between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. you are to be on the grill cooking hamburgers for the lunch rush.

On Monday, you decide the parking lot needs to be swept and you spend the entire lunch rush with a broom outside the restaurant.  On Tuesday, you decide the windows are smudged and you spend the whole lunch rush washing the glass.  On Wednesday, the lunch rush comes and goes while you clean the bathrooms.  Customers have stormed out the door vowing never to return because of the slow service.  Chaos has erupted in the kitchen because the other workers have to take up the slack.  Yet, every time the restaurant manager walks by you put on a big smile and say, “Hi, boss.”  You call him the boss, while refusing to comply with his job assignments.

Earlier I asserted that the main sin that keeps us from the will of God in our lives is the sin of “self-centeredness.”  In my restaurant illustration, “self-centeredness” had its own way in accomplishing the job rather than following the manager’s priorities.  God has established prayer, Bible study, and fellowship as priorities.  Where do you place those same priorities?

With fellowship, Bible study and prayer, a person can experience great satisfaction and intimacy with God.  Just as I have yelled “FORE” and “GET OUT” to warn people of impending danger, I now yell “REPENT!”  Repent of the practice of setting your own agenda.  God wants you to be a part of a local fellowship.  He wants you to get to know Him through the Bible, and He certainly wants you to get to know Him through prayer.

In other words, it’s not about you…it’s about HIM! Now let me hit this golf ball.  FORE!!!  Oh no! Did I really just break that window?

Editor Notes: Tony Barnes is a longtime CMF member, Local Representative, and member of the Board of Directors.  He is currently serving at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

I Love Trivia

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

I love trivia!  Anyone who knows me can attest that I can spout facts regarding Presidential trivia,  Texas trivia and just about any other kind of trivia you can imagine!  When I worked in Air Force Recruiting Service, I relished my duties that involved roaming around north Texas to visit my recruiters.  I loved going through the small towns on the 2-lane highways off the beaten trail.  Especially I enjoyed noticing the population of each town as I would roll through headed to the next recruiting office.

Now that I live in Colorado, I feel deprived of knowing the population of towns.  Instead of the number of people (which I think sometimes includes dogs), Colorado has placed the altitude elevation of each town on their welcome signage.  While I do find it interesting that Buena Vista is 7,964 feet above sea level, I want to know how many people live in that splendid little town without having to log onto a website!

Having logged onto the website, I now discover that Buena Vista, Colorado has 2,195 people.  That’s 2,195 people who have probably visited K's Dairy Delite.  K’s is known by anyone who has spent time in Buena Vista for its ice cream and shakes.  K’s is also known by how they identify your specific order.  The first time I was there, the lady behind the counter asked Tom Cruise to please step forward for his order.  I craned my neck trying to get a glimpse of Tom Cruise until I glanced down at my ticket and discovered that I was Raymond Burr.  Instead of a ticket order number, you are assigned a celebrity name.  K’s is certainly a delightful place that all 2,195 Buena Vista residents have probably frequented.

I wonder how many of those 2,195 people in Buena Vista have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  I wonder how many of the 22,307 who live in Benbrook, Texas have reached that point of decision of accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  And, what about the 2,672 people in Aledo, Texas?  You can attend a homecoming football game in many of these towns and most of the town folk will show up to see the game.  But, how many have made plans to attend the greatest homecoming event of all?

Do you recall when your schoolteacher would call roll?  Some people would respond by saying “here” and some would respond by saying “present.”  When I get to heaven and my name is called I will be the guy jumping up and down shouting, wanting to make sure there is zero potential to mark me down as “absent.”  I remember fondly singing the old classic hymn “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder.”  What a day that will be!

I know I will be in heaven, for back in 1985, there came a time when I acknowledged my need for a Savior. During that summer day, I confessed that Jesus Christ died for my sins, and I asked him to forgive me of all my sins past, present and future.  I eagerly acknowledged my belief that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead.  I know I will be in heaven…and I hope the 23,507,783 Texas residents will be there with me.  Salvation…now that’s no trivial matter.

Editor Notes: Tony Barnes is a longtime CMF member, Local Representative, and member of the Board of Directors.  He is currently serving at the U.S. Air Force Academy.


Martyrs!  Those are the Christians that were fed to the lions, right?  Or those guys that were burned at the stake a few hundred years ago for their beliefs.  But, surely in these modern times there aren’t any martyrs!  This is the age of tolerance and people are allowed to believe what they want.  If that were only true, it would be a different world.  It almost sounds like it would be paradise, allowing each person to believe as they wish.

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

Recently I was listening to a podcast from the chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  President Paige Patterson related the story of David McDonald.  David and his wife were called by God to go to an area near Mosul, Iraq.  They were engaged in helping the Iraqis to have fresh water and more importantly they were sharing the love of Jesus Christ.  Upon returning to the city after a day’s work, they got caught up in an apparent traffic jam.  Within moments all hell broke loose.  The sound of AK-47 gunfire rang out and David, his wife and the others in the party were badly wounded.  Although David’s wife survived the onslaught, the wounds proved to be fatal for David and the others.

A few days later, David was buried in Colorado near the Sangre de Cristo mountain range.  After the funeral, an old crusty rancher cowboy approached Dr. Patterson.  Looking in the preacher’s eyes, he asked why David’s death had to happen.  Noticing the beautiful red hues of the mountains, Patterson nodded towards the mountains and said, “Because of that.”  The cowboy asked him what he meant.  “What is the name of those mountains?” asked Dr. Patterson.  The cowboy responded with the Sangre de Cristo moniker.  Patterson asked him what that name means in English.

After responding with the anticipated answer that the name was Spanish for “the blood of Christ,’’ the Seminary President related how David McDonald had paid the ultimate sacrifice for the gospel and given his blood for the one who had shed His blood for David 2,000 years ago.  The cowboy nodded and said, “I think I understand now.”

David McDonald had a passion to share Jesus Christ and to be a witness.  As mentioned before, he paid the ultimate sacrifice.  When taking the gospel to the world, he was gunned down by extremists who oppose Christianity.  If it were possible for Dave to come back to life, I believe he would do it all over again.  David’s presence in Iraq wasn’t a miscalculation.  David was there because the God who created Him had laid it upon his heart to be a witness in Iraq.

Many people over the centuries have been martyred for their faith.  They weren’t extraordinary people.  They were obedient people.  Certainly, the way they died was extraordinary.  But, they were merely being faithful to share Christ with a lost and dying world.  David McDonald through his death has been an evangelist.  There are people who have heard the story of that evil day in Mosul who will remember the story forever.  The blood of David McDonald that soaked into the hot desert sand of Iraq will serve as a seed of faith for many who will encounter his story for years to come.  David’s death will be a witness that though a person may perish, the gospel message we proclaim is worth the sacrifice.  The world around us needs to know that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is life changing.  Our community needs to know that we are willing to die if need be for our faith.  It should be evident to our realm of influence that we serve a risen Christ.

Prayer—A Weapon of War

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

Headlines every day scream out news of the last 24 hours of violence in the Middle East.  The relatives of those serving watch newscasts tensely, hoping and praying they won’t see a sudden report of their loved one as a casualty.  Troops are thousands of miles away, but everyone can carry a weapon by being involved in praying for our military.  While more sophisticated weaponry is certainly welcome by any soldier in the field, prayer is the most valuable commodity in the War on Terror.

Many people pray generically for the safety of our military forces.  But here are three specific ways you can pray for the military.

1. Pray for safety – Roadside explosives and ambushes are rampant in the Middle East.  Pray that further plans to plant explosive devices would result in confusion.  Pray that automobile explosives would fail to detonate.  Pray that the local police would have wisdom to discover plots to harm and maim.  Pray that those who plan harm would have their thoughts confounded.

2. Pray for relationships – Recurring deployments take a tremendous toll on military families.  Pray for open communication, loyalty and a strengthening of marriage commitments.  Pray for happy reunions.  Pray for the children to be able to cope with their parent’s absence.

3. Pray for “foxhole evangelism” – that Christians in the military will have the boldness and confidence to share their faith when given the opportunities.  Pray that believers would be willing to work with chaplains to improve the religious climate on the base.  Pray that the Christians in the military would also pray for each other.

The War on Terrorism will be won primarily by people willing to fall on their knees in prayer.  Pray for peace, pray for safety, pray for families, and most importantly pray for our national leaders to have the wisdom to know how to deal with the volatile situations around the world.

Editor Notes: Tony Barnes is a longtime CMF member, Local Representative, and member of the Board of Directors.  He is currently serving at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

Sleep Apnea

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

Sleep apnea?  How can that be?  Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine I would be a candidate for a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) mask.  Yet, there I was at the hospital being hooked up to “jumper cables” that led to a miserable night.  I would have tossed and turned, but instead I lay there frustrated, not able to roll over onto my side.

This kind of sleep study is conducted on people suspected of having problems sleeping peacefully throughout the night.  Those found to have more severe cases of sleep apnea often slumber with a CPAP mask for the rest of their lives.  During episodes of difficult breathing, the mask forces oxygen into the lungs (that Darth Vader sound).  Although it seems sleeping with a mask all night would inhibit quality rest, most report more energy and a feeling of rest.

For folks with sleep apnea, the key to a better quality of life is a correct diagnosis.  In our spiritual lives, the key to a higher quality of life is also a correct diagnosis.  You won’t have to put on dozens of wires and wear a mask for this diagnosis.  The simple diagnosis is answering this question: Have you come to the place in your life where you recognize your need of a Savior?  It is that simple.

God created you because He wants to be your friend.  He also created you to be involved in the “family business.”  But, before you can become that friend and that trusted member of the family you must come to a point of decision.  We must all realize that apart from Jesus Christ our future looks very dim.  In fact, without Jesus Christ your future is actually very frightening.

However, the GREAT news of the gospel message is that God so loved you that He sent Jesus Christ to this earth to pay the fine for your sin.  Christ was able to do what you could not…He lived a sinless life and yet still chose to be punished for sin.

Now for the diagnosis: All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  The cure? Accept Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross for yourself and invite Him to manage your life for eternity.

No one will force you.  There is no salvation mask that we can put on your head for spiritual apnea.  Salvation in Jesus Christ involves a willingness to humble yourself and cry out for the Savior because you have come to the realization that you can’t save yourself.  Once you come to that realization and confess with your mouth that Jesus Christ is Lord and has risen from the grave, you are saved.  Then, buckle your seat belt…because once you experience salvation, you are in for the ride of your life!  Salvation is the gateway to joy, peace and a fulfilled life.

Editor Notes: Tony Barnes is a longtime CMF member, Local Representative, and member of the Board of Directors.  He is currently serving at the U.S. Air Force Academy.


The Passover

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

Ever have one of those weeks where nothing seems to go right?  This week, I celebrated “passover” in mid-November.  No, I am not referring to a Jewish holiday.  Passover in the military context is an unofficial custom that refers to being denied a promotion.  I celebrated this “passover” after learning I had failed to be selected for promotion to the grade of E-9 as I had anticipated.  I think we label it a “celebration” to somehow soothe the pain of rejection.

As a result, I decided to address this month’s column to the issue of failure in a Christian’s life.  Looking for a good illustration of someone else failing, I stumbled across a recent pastor’s article which claimed that General Douglas MacArthur failed twice to gain admission to West Point.  I wanted to verify the pastor’s assertion through research, and I even failed at that.  After hours, I finally admitted I couldn’t find the supporting data to use it as an actual illustration.

It was also a tough week for David when he returned to his home of Ziklag in the Old Testament.  In I Samuel 30, David and his men returned to find the village destroyed by fire and their wives and children taken hostage.  The Bible says David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep.  Not only must David have felt a failure for not protecting his two wives, but after they had wept David’s men grew bitter in spirit and began conspiring to stone him.

Imagine your wife and children being held hostage while all your friends and colleagues conspire to kill you.  Could you respond as the future King David did?  Most of us would either run or seek a weapon to take out many of our sudden adversaries and preempt their first blow.  Yet, the Bible tells us that David encouraged himself in the Lord his God.

The story continues to relate that God assured David that if he pursued the Amalekites, he would be able to rescue his wives.  David could have become discouraged in the face of such adversity.  But, in his intimate relationship with God, he received assurance and courage to not give up.

In the face of my not being promoted, I could give up.  I could submit my retirement papers in frustration.  Or, I can choose to acknowledge the timeless truth in Psalm 75.  For years, I have made it a practice to read this Psalm before my annual trek into the promotion testing room.

Psalm 75: 6 – 7 says, “For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.”

I can choose to believe that promotions are decided at a military headquarters.  Or, I can acknowledge that it’s really God who determines the promotion list.  And, if I truly believe it is Him who decides whether I am promoted or not…then I must understand that He has His sovereign reasons.  I can fight against it and be upset for being passed over, or I can embrace His will for my life and trust that if I am to be an E-9 in the military, He will ensure it happens in His perfect time.  God already knows which rank I will wear at my eventual retirement ceremony.

Titanic Life Boats

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

Recently, I visited the Titanic exhibition in Denver. It was sobering to walk amongst the artifacts on display, realizing that these items were on board a ship that was filled with terror as it began to sink. It was fascinating to view pieces of fine china with the White Star Line logo still intact. Another irony in the tragic Titanic saga, is that the ship had been billed as “unsinkable.”

Many of the lifeboats left carrying far fewer souls than what they were designed to accommodate. For example, lifeboat #1 left with 12 people instead of the 40 it could have held. While it is true the Titanic had lifeboats, there were only enough for half of the passengers. If every lifeboat on board had been maximized, 53% of the passengers could have been saved. But instead, only 32% of the people were saved from a watery grave. The means of salvation was at hand for an additional 379 passengers, yet the boats left with vacancies.

The Titanic is an amazingly true parable illustrating the plight of many people today. The Bible tells us that God does not want anyone to perish. He wants all to get into the lifeboat of a relationship with Jesus Christ. Yet many people consider their lives “unsinkable.” With cars in the garages of fine homes, iPods, vacation condominiums, and premium coffees that cost more than a combo meal ─ many people are comfortable without God.

There was an incredible resurgence of church attendance in the aftermath of 9/11. However, within just a matter of weeks, the huge numbers of folks suddenly attending church began to wane. Life got back to normal, and suddenly there was no time for God or His church anymore.

God provided a lifeboat nearly 2000 years ago in the person of Jesus Christ. With the Titanic, the passengers who were saved were primarily women and children. Therefore, the qualifications to get on board the lifeboats were based on gender and age. However, the only requirement to get on the Jesus Christ lifeboat is that you must still be breathing. There are no squares to fill and no merit marks to earn. Everyone is invited to board, and there is room for all. Sadly, the lifeboats won’t be full because there are many who say they have plenty of time to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. And sadly, their lives may end just as unexpectedly as they did that night in the icy waters of the North Atlantic.

What Did You Do With Jesus Christ?

Tony Barnes
SMSgt Tony Barnes, USAF (Ret)

Some things seem to last (painfully) forever.  Try singing “American Pie” karaoke style with 4 bad singers.  That was the longest 7 minutes of my life.  Or try sitting through a concert or speech with malfunctioning sound equipment.  And, of course, the seemingly never-ending cell phone contract.  You make just one change to that contract and the time starts over.

Then there are the things that you wish could last forever: summers during the growing-up years, a wonderful date with a girl you care a lot about, or visits to grandma's house all come to mind.  But, invariably those "moments to remember" come to an end.

In this life, things are never permanent.  When you drive down old state highways, you can see houses overgrown by foliage.  There are old gas stations with vacant fueling islands and shards of glass still in the window facings.  When passing these "ghost" houses and gas stations, I wonder about the stories behind them.  In days gone by, there was a proud homeowner or an entrepreneur excited about the prospects of being in business for themselves.  Yet, 30, 40 or 50 years later these facilities stand as haunting reminders that life on this earth is transitory.

At Thanksgiving, my fiancé and I, went to visit New Albany, MS.  We drove around Union County, and Sheri pointed out different places she had lived.  She showed me the gravesites of Rev. Ernest and Altha Mae Rakestraw; her “unofficial” foster parents and pastor.  I wondered about his ministry career as I stood there on that cold blustery day.  I mused about what kind of an impact he had on people. I speculated on the different people that are in heaven today because he took the time to invest in their lives and lead them to faith in Christ.  Yet, the gravestone in that cemetery stood in front of us as a stark reminder that this life is not permanent.

There will come a day when someone will open a family Bible or pull open a drawer in a dresser to find a yellowed piece of newsprint.  They will read down through the article to find that a guy named Tony Barnes wrote a column for the NAS News.  They too may stand and wonder about the impact that Tony had on his readers.  Likewise, it will serve as a reminder to them that life is temporary.

Regardless of how fleeting this life is, every human ever born on this earth has eternal life.  There are two destinations.  We typically think of hell as being a place for evil people.  It’s easy to surmise that the Adolph Hitlers and the Joseph Stalins of the world are likely in hell.  But, the truth of the matter is that there are some “good old boys” who are spending eternity separated from God.  There are some sweet little old ladies who did not go to heaven.

Only those that have accepted the free gift of salvation and committed their lives to Jesus Christ's leadership will be in heaven.  There is no list of accomplishments that must be “checked off” to go to heaven.  No ritual exists that is an induction into eternal life.  Entry to heaven is based upon the question, “What did you do with Jesus Christ”?  If you have accepted His gift of salvation and entered into relationship with Him, you are saved and will spend eternity in heaven.  This life will end. But, instead of a sad event for the Christian, it is a graduation into an eternal inheritance. There's nothing sad about that!

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

As I acknowledge that change is the one constant in life, it helps me to accept the inevitable!  Accepting the difficult circumstances in my life with a more positive attitude has helped me to move on.  As I look to the Lord, who mirrored for me how to get on with life in the midst of struggles, I have a better understanding of my circumstances. "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus,…" (Philippians 2:5) — "…and let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:2)

All true and lasting change occurs from the inside out.  Instead of trying to change the situation or the significant people in my life, I allow God to work on me. Change can be sudden, unexpected, and unwelcome.  Whatever my circumstances, I can choose to accept it and move forward or stay in a "prison of stagnation."  As someone once said:  "It is not the strongest of the species that survives nor the most intelligent.  It is those most adaptive to change."

The stresses of unexpected changes in my life have required me to change.  With the sudden loss of my first husband over eleven years ago, my initial reaction was anger! But then I was able to look to God for strength, and the ability to move beyond myself. His strength became my sufficiency.  I had to come to accept my loss, and once I was able to do so, I had the flexibility and freedom to move on.

All change follows a definable sequence of stages, much like the stages of grief.  Once I came to the place where I could accept my loss, God gave me the freedom to look beyond myself and to see new opportunities.  Some of the following principles that I have applied in my life, I hope will be helpful to you with your life's changes:

1) Learn to be flexible and adaptable.

2) Listen to the right voices!

3) Allow time for quiet reflection with the Lord.

4) Become involved with helping other people with their needs.

5) Stay motivated by working in community with positive thinking people.

We have a secure anchor in the midst of changes!  "For I the Lord do not change," (Malachi 3:6)  "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8) 

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

IIn the April article on stress, we saw that King David was often "distressed", the word for stress in the Bible. We all experience stress at certain times, and it is not always harmful. It can strengthen us or alert us to impending danger. However, we tend to put harmful stress on ourselves by excessive worry and fear.

Psalm 4:2-"Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer."
Psalm 18:6-"In my distress, I called to the Lord; I cried to my God for help."

David sought the Lord in his distress, and asked for help. God heard and answered David's prayer, and he was able to praise God even in the midst of his circumstances.

Change is one of the constants in life, but it also creates stress. Learning to adapt to the many changes that our daily life brings is not easy. In addition to change, three other causes of stress are conflicts, criticisms, and crises. As we learn to accept the trials that are inevitable in life, we can with God's help begin to grow through them.

King David is a prime example of one who struggled with stress and anxiety—a common symptom of depression, but recognizing his own inadequacy, sought God's help.

Psalm 38:10-"My heart pounds, my strength fails me; light has gone from my eyes."

But he was able to say:

Psalm 38:15-"I wait for you, O Lord, you will answer, O Lord my God."
Psalm 94:18-"When I said, My foot is slipping, your love, O Lord, supported me."
Psalm 94:18-"When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul."

Thought to ponder:

Do you have the confident expectation that, like David, God will help you through the stresses of life?  You can!

Food for thought:

"In the last resort it is highly improbable that there could ever be a therapy which gets rid of all difficulties.  Man needs difficulties; they are necessary for health." Carl Jung
As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks
The September article was on "Listening Ears", and encouraged us to listen to God's voice.  I do not hear the audible voice of God as did the patriots in the Old Testament, but God speaks to me today through His Word, the Bible.

Reading and hearing about the needs of others, stirs my heart.  As I see the poor and needy on street corners asking for provisions, my heart is stirred.  Am I moved to give to the needs of people in other countries who are under persecution, and live in poverty conditions?

God's admonition in I Peter 1:22 is a reminder of how I can reach out to others with a caring heart:

"Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers/sisters, love one another deeply from the heart."

The Greek word for heart is "Kardia" from which we get the English word, "Cardiac".  It is the chief organ of physical life, standing for man's entire mental and moral activity.  The Word tells us to guard our heart in Proverbs 4:23:

"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life."

Webster's dictionary defines wellspring as "a source of continual supply.

A caring heart is a loving heart, willing to give. God is the only true source of love, and enables me to love.

A thought to ponder:

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19)

Do I love others with God's love?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

As I acknowledge that change is the one constant in life, it helps me to accept the inevitable! Accepting the difficult circumstances in my life with a more positive attitude has helped me to move on.  As I look to the Lord, who mirrored for me how to get on with life in the midst of struggles, I have a better understanding of my circumstances.  "Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ  Jesus…" (Philippians 2:5) "…and let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think." (Romans 12:2)

The stresses of unexpected changes in my life have required me to change.  With the sudden loss of my first husband over eleven years ago, my initial reaction was anger!  But then I was able to look to God for strength, and the ability to move beyond myself.  His strength became my sufficiency.  I had to come to accept my loss, and once I was able to do so, I had the flexibility and freedom to move on.

All change follows a definable sequence of stages, much like the stages of grief.  Once I came to the place where I could accept my loss, God gave me the freedom to look beyond myself and to see new opportunities.  Some of the following principles that I have applied in my life, I hope will be helpful to you with your life's changes:

1) Learn to be flexible and adaptable.

2) Listen to the right voices!

3) Allow time for quiet reflection with the Lord.

4) Become involved with helping other people with their needs.

5) Stay motivated by working in community with positive thinking people.

We have a secure anchor in the midst of changes!

"For I the Lord do not change," (Malachi 3:6)

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 18:8)

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

Change is the one constant in this life, and life involves many changes. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable, but we can face difficult circumstances with a positive attitude.

"The wear and tare of daily living is a force which requires us to change." (Hans Selye)

We have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the past, but we can make the best of the rest of our life. Philippians 3:14 encourages us to concentrate on the positive:

"Forgetting what lies behind and straining toward what lies ahead, I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."

The greatest opportunities for positive change are often found in times of apparent failure and disappointments.   Just remember that there are no failures in God's eternal plan, only "forced growth."

A dear friend, Linda Dunlap, personified one who accepted changes with a great attitude.   She faced many challenges with a positive attitude, and a godly, adventuresome spirit.   Her bouts with cancer never deterred her from always smiling, having positive words for others, and pressing on despite physical pain and handicaps.

Linda will be greatly missed by all of us who knew her.  She is now enjoying perfect health in the presence of the One who loves her supremely.  Her example lives on, reminding us who were blessed by her life of how to live joyfully and victoriously now, anticipating the blessings of heaven to come.

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.


God's Purpose or Mine?

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

In our July issue of "Thoughts to Ponder", we discussed God's ultimate purpose for us--to be conformed to His likeness. In reflecting on God's purpose for me, I have to ask myself two questions--how do I do that, and am I willing to follow God's direction for my life.

God's Son, Jesus Christ, provided a pattern for me to follow, but He is perfect and I am not! Philippians 2:5 tells me that my attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. He was loving, compassionate, tender, humble, obedient, as well as faithful and righteous. He exhibited integrity in every area of His life. The gospels-- Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John give us a complete picture of Christ's life on earth, a beautiful example to us of a selfless life.

Not being perfect, I want to "be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy (whole), useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work"—II Timothy 2:2b. I want to allow God's purposes to prevail in my life on a daily basis, and I should ask Him for His direction every day.

Recognizing what God's ultimate purpose is for me, gives meaning and direction to my life.

"The man without a purpose is like a ship without a rudder—a waif, a nothing, a no man."  Thomas Carlyle

Thought to Ponder: Are you allowing God's ultimate purpose to prevail in your life, and His purposes on a daily basis?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years.  Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks
Thanksgiving is a uniquely American holiday!
"There shall be a day of public Thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God" (1789 Congressional Proclamation)

Whatever country we are living in, may we each remember with thanksgiving our heritage, and also express gratitude to God for His innumerable blessings.

Psalm 31:19 —"How great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear (trust) you—."

We worship God by praising Him, thanking Him for who He is, and for His innumerable blessings.  One of the most popular songs in our hymnals is the Doxology—a hymn of praise and thanksgiving, written in the late 1600's:

"Praise God, from whom all blessings flow; praise Him, all creatures here below: praise Him above, ye heavenly host; praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost."

Am I to thank God for the death of my loved one, sickness, separation from family, financial reverses?

II Thessalonians 5:17—"pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."

As we enjoy being with family over this holiday, and enjoying the bounty God provides, may we do so with thankful hearts.

Psalm 100:4-5—"Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name. For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations."

A thought to ponder:

Thanksgiving is a reminder to give thanks.  Am I able to be thankful in all my circumstances of life?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

The monthly articles, "Thoughts to Ponder" are written primarily to encourage you to know God through His Word, the Bible. As a teenager, I began to read the Bible, and it has become the source of my life. Webster's Dictionary defines source as, "a generative force", and the Word of God has been that force in my life.

The book of Psalms is a delightful book to read and study. Many of David's Psalms as well as other Psalms are written for our benefit--to convict, encourage, strengthen, and to show more of God's unfailing love.

Why then is the Bible so maligned by many people today? Living near the Air Force Academy and knowing many of the people who work there, I am aware of how God's Word has become a source of controversy. In today's local paper (3/16/14), there was an article about the Academy--"Whiteboard Flap Prompts Questions." Air Force Interrogated About Bible Scripture."

The issue at stake was a cadet who posted a Bible verse on a whiteboard outside his dormitory room. Another cadet took exception to the reading and complained to the sergeant that the overt religious display made him uncomfortable. As a result of the accusation and flap, hundreds of cadets began to write on the whiteboards outside their door rooms. They posted quotes from the Bible, Talmud, Quran, and nonreligious sources!

The Word of God brings conviction. It is God's Word, speaking truth to the heart of man.

Romans 6:23— "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Proverbs 30:5— "Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him."
Psalm 119:105— "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path."

Thought to ponder: Is God's Word the soruce of your life?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

As we enter 2014, I do so with some nostalgia. Looking back on the last year, I have some fond memories, but also some difficult reflections. Fire and flood consumed and devastated significant areas of Colorado, and affected many lives adversely.

I am learning to be more positive about what has occurred, not allowing myself to be a prisoner of the past (Psalm 142:7). God continues to teach me how to be more resilient---the capacity to bounce back after difficult events in my life. Allowing God to direct my steps has given me freedom to accept His plan for my life, as well as His purpose in the world.

"In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps." Proverbs 16:9
"Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." Proverbs 19:21

We are already well into 2014, and I'm trusting God for new insights for this year. My top priority continues to be God first, family second, and others third. As I consider all that occurred in 2013, I want to cast a vision for what can be done in 2014.

How am I enabled to do this? Spending time in God's Word is essential for my daily spiritual health. Memorizing verses that have impacted my life, helps me in my walk with God. Meditating and reflecting on who God is gives me ways to praise Him in all circumstances. My regular time with the Lord in prayer is the anchor of my security.

Thought to ponder: How good is your communication with God?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

How many times have I said to my children and grandchildren, "Did you hear what I said?" or "Do you hear me?" It is normal to want to be heard. Little children especially have a difficult time being heard, and they are often ignored. Even in adult conversations, I have had times when I felt like I was not heard.

To be more effective in communicating, I have learned to listen when people are talking.   Proverbs 4:1,2 is an excellent example of true communication:

"Listen, my sons, to a father's instruction; pay attention and gain understanding."

Do I listen to learn from the person I am with, or do I want to inform?  If I am truly listening, my facial expression should show interest in what is being said, giving the person my full attention.  Am I listening to understand what the person is saying?

"He who answers before listening--that is his folly and his shame."

As I give my full attention to the person talking, am I willing to hear their story, experiences, and to know how he or she is feeling? This type of communication is called "empathy".  I am trying to understand their experiences or feelings.

As I have learned to listen to God through His instructions in the Bible, it has helped me to listen to people.

Jesus' words in Luke 10:16:

"He who listens to You listens to Me; he who rejects You rejects Me;"
Proverbs 1:33 —"but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease; without fear of harm."
James 1:22 —"Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves.   Do what it says."

Thought to Ponder: As I listen to God's voice, am I willing to act on what He says? As God speaks to me through His Word, am I then willing to listen to those people God brings into my path?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

As We Think So We Are

If you are like I am, you find your thoughts at times seeming to wander.  We become consumed with a variety of things at one time, finding it difficult to sort out what should be our primary concentration.   As the Psalmist says in Psalm 94:11 — "The Lord knows the thoughts of man; He knows that they are futile."

It is difficult to stay focused when we are bombarded by our surroundings with all its glamour and allure as well as trials in our every day life, causing stress and anxiety.   These trials keep our minds on negative thoughts, rather than on positive ones.

Our thoughts are like seeds planted in the garden of the mind, and they profoundly affect what we think and choose to do.

Learn to minimize destructive thoughts by replacing them with these positive suggestions:

1) I am a child of God! I am not a loser.

2) I do have a future! There is HOPE — Proverbs 23:18 — "There is surely a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off."

3) Replace false thinking with God's truth.

4) Listen to the right voices.

5) Allow God's Word to direct your path as you read and study — Psalm 119:105 — "Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my my path."

6) Memorize God's Word so that it is in your heart — Proverbs 119:11, and hide it in your heart — "I have hidden your Word in my heart; that I might
not sin against you"

God's Word in Philippians 4:8 helps us to focus  — "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

A thought to ponder:

Thoughts lead to words; words to action; actions to habits; habits to character; character to destiny. How are your thoughts directing you?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks
December 11, 2000 is a date that I will long remember.  It is when my world turned upside-down. Bill Waldrop, my husband of forty-five years, and I were enjoying a pleasant evening together when he died unexpectedly.  My initial response was anger at God for taking my beloved partner.  However, a verse from the Bible soon came to mind which helped me to reframe my thinking, Hebrews 13:15:

"Through Him let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name."

Many years before, Bill had shared with me Hebrews 13:15 as he was preparing to go to Viet Nam to fly missions for the Air Force.  We prayed together, thanking God for his orders and for what might be coming.  However, as we praised God in the midst of sorrow, we had a remarkable peace.

A sacrifice is an offering to God, and something we are to freely give.  As I focused on my relationship with God, I began to believe that He had the best plan for me.  Not only do we freely give as we sacrifice, but metaphorically speaking, we are to present ourselves as a living sacrifice to God according to Romans 12:1.  No matter how I felt, I needed to come to the place of offering my life as a living sacrifice to God.

It is difficult to praise God in the midst of personal stress and calamity, but as we offer to God our praise for whatever the difficult circumstances, He will provide His grace to go through them.  God may not remove or change the situation, but He is there to meet our every need. Someone once said, "The Lord gets His best soldiers out of the highlands of affliction."

How are you doing with the changes and losses in your life?  Martin Luther said many years ago, "It is not how well you are doing, but how well are you doing when you are not doing well!"

A thought to ponder:

Thoughts lead to words;
words to action;
actions to habits;
habits to character;
character to destiny.

How are your thoughts directing you?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

Quietness and solitude are essential in developing our inner resources. There is no limit to developing those resources if we tap into God!

Loneliness is very real during times of family separations.  We want to shout with the Psalmist in Psalm 142:7:

"Bring me out of my prison, that I may give thanks to your name!"

That gaping inner emptiness can actually help us if we begin to listen to its message, if we seek that solitary place to listen to God.  "The pain of loneliness is one way God gets our attention," says writer Elizabeth Elliot.  She understood the pain of loneliness as she waited in the jungle, knowing her husband was not going to return.  God's love and the love of family and friends can help to soothe that heart hunger of loneliness that is so difficult to release.

We do experience loneliness in our human condition for various reasons.  Emotional wounding often produces loneliness as we repress painful emotions and feelings.   As you think about it, loneliness can be caused by our concern for ourselves, by how we feel.   But loneliness is the first thing which God names as not being good. (Genesis 2:18).

Billy Graham once said, "Loneliness is the greatest problem facing humanity today."   And Mother Teresa of Calcutta saw loneliness as a heart-hunger, and claimed that it is "easier to relieve material poverty than poverty of the soul."  As someone said, "Loneliness is a game of pretense; for the essential loneliness is an escape from an inescapable God."

Jesus chose to be alone with God, and went to lonely places to pray, but He wasn't alone. What an example to us in our times of loneliness, with or without human companionship. We are never alone when we are with God!

Isaiah 30:15 tells us that, "In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength."

One has to learn to be quiet, reflective and meditative. As a physician once said. "The failure to cultivate the power of peaceful concentration is the greatest single cause of mental breakdowns."

"All man's miseries derive from not being able to sit quietly in a room alone!" H. Blaise Pascal



Solitude and reflection help us physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and is essential for good mental health.  In solitude we become more aware of who we are in our relationship to God, and recognize that our worth does not depend on our usefulness.  We can choose to have times of purposeful solitude and still feel a sense of loneliness.  However, as we take the focus off ourselves and focus on God, we can find solitude to be beneficial.

"Talent develops itself in solitude; character in the stream of life." (Goethe)


We want to partner with you in prayer, thereby encouraging and strengthening one another.

"The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth." (Psalm 145:18)

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

Do I trust God to work out His ultimate purpose for my life? Romans 8:28 talks about how God does work for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

God raised up King Pharaoh for the purpose of displaying His power, that God's name would be proclaimed in all the earth (Romans 9:17). God also did this for Moses.

Exodus 9:16 — "But for this purpose I have raised you up to show you my power, so that My name may be proclaimed in all the earth."

How do you schedule your life?  I tend to program my days, but do I take time to consider what God's primary purpose is for my life?

Proverbs 19:21 — "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails."

Romans 8:29 tells me that God's purpose for my life is to be conformed to His likeness, and I can only do that as I reflect Christ in my life.  Jesus' life, as depicted in Philippians 2:5-11, is the pattern I need to be conformed to His image.

Thought to ponder: Reflecting again on Romans 8:28, am I trusting God to work all things together for my good, and for His ultimate purpose?

Promise to claim:

Psalm 138:8 — "The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever."
As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

This is the day, February 14th, when Americans put forth more of an effort to express love to the ones they profess to love. Florists are busy supplying customers with flowers, especially roses to express special love. Chocolate candy is another gift that is popular among couples.

Love is an action word, and gift giving is a way of showing love. However, with the receiving of these tangible gifts, do I feel loved throughout the year? How can I best express my love to the ones I love?

Apart from God, my love is faulty, but God's love compels me to love with His love!

Psalm 145:8— "The Lord is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love."
I John 4:19— "We love because He first loved us."

There are three Greek words for love: 1) Eros--erotic love; 2) Philos-- friendship or brotherly love; 3) Agape--godly love or self-giving love.

Godly love is about my actions, not my emotions. I can act in a loving, kind way even when I don't feel like it! If I accept God's un- conditional love for me, I am compelled by His love to love others.

Thought to ponder: Am I loving with God's Love?

As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

How much time do I devote each day to working my schedule? Do I give serious thought to what my day should include? What I think determines who I am, and will ultimately affect what I do.

Thoughts are tools that forge and shape my beliefs and will. They are like seeds planted in the garden of my mind. As Galatians 6:7 says: "A man reaps what he sows." I have to ask myself the question, "Am I sowing to please the Spirit of God, or am I sowing to please my sinful nature?"

Am I allowing God's Word to direct my thinking each day? With all the distractions, disappoint- ments, and discouragements of daily life, whose voice do I listen to?

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 — "Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that
you may love the Lord your God, listen to His voice, and hold fast to Him."

God's Word is my instruction manual, and gives me a guideline for daily living:

Philippians 4:8,9 — "Whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me—put into practice.  And the God of peace will be with you."

As I listen to God's voice, He gives me clear direction:

Romans 12:2 — "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will."

We are advised to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ (II Corinthians 10:5).

Philippines 2:5 — "Your attitude(mind) should be the same as Christ Jesus."

Is my attitude the same as Christ Jesus?

Thought to Ponder:

"The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for hat day. We cannot change our past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the string that we have, and that is our attitude." "Shortening Your Grip" by Charles Swindoll
As a military spouse and family counselor, Doris Waldrop Mincks has ministered to military families for many years. Her ministry, Wives of Warriors Worldwide, WOWW, desires to come along side the military community to give encouragement and support to military wives, meeting the life situations unique to them.

Thoughts to Ponder by Doris

Doris Waldrop Mincks
Doris Waldrop Mincks

How often have you been asked, “What are you thinking”? I am certain that is a question that you would usually choose not to answer, unless you are seeking for someone to give you advice or to sympathize with you. Often that question is asked by a person we love or know, so we are more prone to share what is on our mind and heart. 
It is not wise to share our inner thoughts with someone we do not know and trust! God’s Word, the Bible,  gives us excellent help in refocusing our thinking:
Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” 
The Bible gives us wise suggestions on how to focus our thinking, rather than allowing our thoughts to lead us to unwise words and wrong actions. 
Learn to minimize destructive thoughts by replacing them with positive suggestions:  
    1) I am not a loser, I am a child of God!
    2) I do have a future, and there is hope 
    3) Replace false thinking with God’s truth.
    4) Allow God’s Word to direct your path as 
         you read and study it--Psalm 119:105. 
   5) Memorize God’s Word so that it is with 
         you always! Psalm 119:11
   6) Communicate to God through prayer.
Our thoughts are like seeds planted in the garden of our minds, and they profoundly affect our actions and peace of mind. 
Thought To Ponder:
 John 14:27,28:  “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Are You Philip, Andrew or the Boy?

Claire Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?”  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”  Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.”  There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.  Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.  He did the same with the fish. (John 6:5-11, NIV)

When I read this passage I can empathize with Jesus' position . Have you ever hoped to just sit down and relax when all of a sudden a problem of mob proportions comes right at you?  Isn't it always something ladies? The kids have the flu, deployment is coming soon, you need to move and the car breaks down; it seems at times that the demands of life can get the best of us.

In the passage above we see our Lord just sitting down to celebrate the Passover feast with His disciples. He was a hunted man at this time and He would not allow one thing to happen outside of the sequence of events that His Father had ordained.  Jesus had already performed incredible miracles and managed to become #1 on the most wanted list by the authorities for His work on the Sabbath and equating Himself with God.

We see in our passage Jesus sitting with His disciples after delivering the most profound Christological discourse in Scripture (John 5).  He certainly deserved a rest and some peace and quiet after all of that!  He sits down and as he does so he looks and sees a crowd of around 5000 people approaching them.
Watch the Master at work and learn from His response!  If you were to watch me you might see a frustrated woman who does not want to be bothered when she feels she deserves a good rest!

At this point in Jesus' ministry, His disciples had already witnessed many miracles from the "Son of Man" they were following.  He had turned water into wine in front of them, cleaned the temple of money changers, healed the blind, healed from a distance, and reached out to a Samaritan woman and changed her life forever, to name a few! He was not a stranger to them —or was He?

Jesus turns to one of His beloved disciples, Philip, and asks a pretty reasonable question.  Scripture reveals to us that Jesus asked this question in order to test Philip.  Christ simply wanted to know how much it would cost to feed the approaching crowd.  Philip immediately does the math and tells the Lord the grim news. It's impossible.

Later in the book of John (Chapter 14) Jesus asks Philip, "Don't you know me, Philip? Even after I've been with you such a long time?"  Philip was standing in the presence of God Incarnate, but he relied on his own understanding of the problem at hand.  His skills as a mathematician left him a tad short-sighted. 
Suddenly, Andrew chimes in with some resources he had found to help out with the problem.  Sure, it was barely enough for one man, but Andrew must have remembered what Jesus had done in the past. Andrew spoke up in faith.  He knew that five small barley loaves (probably the size of rolls) and two small fish could not satisfy the crowd, but he knew in the hands of Jesus something good would happen.

There is, however, one unsung hero in this story.  Andrew said to Jesus "Here is a boy with ..."  More than likely this little boy did not have much — this may have been his family's lunch or supper that he had been carrying. Regardless, it was rightfully his, but he shared it.  He gave the loaves to Jesus. Jesus could have done the miracle without anything in His hands, but doesn't it say a lot that He took an offering from an unknown child to feed a multitude of seekers?

In Matthew 18:3 the disciples were asking Jesus who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus provides them with an answer they probably were not expecting:

And he said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:3, NIV)

How do you respond when you are facing impossible odds?  What is your answer when you are approached by a mob (or angry groups of tired and hungry children)?  What do you do when you are being asked to do something that seems too big for you to do?

Do you respond like Philip and forget what the Lord has already done for you?  Do you forget that He is able? Do you lack the faith to trust Him — and instead rely on your own skills and understanding?

Do you respond like Andrew and offer the Lord some resources, but maybe you still are a little unsure of how He is going to pull it all off?  Do you hand your life to Christ with reservations?

Do you respond like the child?  Do you give the Lord all you have?  Do you trust that He can take even the smallest amount of what you have to share and use it to build His kingdom?  Are you content being known by your Savior even if your name is left out of the details?

Father in Heaven, We praise you, Lord, as the Bread of Life.  Your Word truly does sustain us, and we have been saved from spiritual starvation because You have so generously given us all that we need.  You have even provided for us above and beyond our needs so that we can share the Bread with those who are dying from spiritual malnourishment and starvation.  Father, help us today to be more like Your child. Help us to trust you with our lives, our decisions, our children, our homes, our husbands, and our resources.  Amen. 


Battling Worry

Claire Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

I am an inherent worrier.  I come from a long line of worriers. We worry that we worry too much.  I have spent the greater half of my middle adulthood fighting back the temptation of worry.  Worry, fret and anxiety can easily become a way of life, and what they leave in their path is usually not productive, helpful or healthy.

I have learned that when I feel the stress butterflies fluttering I need to take a deep breath, pray, and evaluate the situation starting with this question: “ What is the worst possible thing that could happen?”  That question is then followed by “What can I do to change it?”  If there is nothing in my immediate control that I can do to change the situation then I simply have to accept the worst possible scenario and move on.  Prayer is the best solution for all worries — both legitimate concerns and otherwise.

Worriers tend to get a little “hiccup” in their brain.  They constantly think about and dwell on circumstances that are beyond their control — and they don't stop there.  They take it to the next level with worries about what will happen if their initial fears are realized.  They borrow trouble from a future event that will probably never happen.  This becomes very problematic because it often leaves the worrier unable to act in the moment due to a paralysis caused by fear — fear of the unknown, fear of what could happen, fear of what might happen, and just plain old fear.

In Philippians 4:6, 7 we are told “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  Anxiety and worry rob us of this peace that is promised — this peace that surpasses all understanding! I cannot think of a peace that is more fitting for a military member or military family member!

During my son’s first deployment, Bryan (my husband) was also away at Ft. Benning. I had to work hard at not allowing myself to become overwhelmed with fear and worry.  As an inherent worrier, it was tough to avoid dwelling on the possibilities of what my son was facing on the battlefield.  The truth is, all my worrying did not benefit either of us a single iota.
Prayer, on the other hand, has been my mainstay.  In prayer I can reflect on and remember God’s nature, His power and abilities; and I thank Him for all He has done for us already.  I then can ask God to keep my men safe, strong, and healthy, and to protect them from the danger around them.  The burden, for the moment, is lifted.  I have given my concerns to the One who is able to handle them.
After thinking about my worry problem I started developing a “top 10” list in my head of the end results worry actually produces.

Here are my picks:

10.  Worry erodes your faith: When we focus on our own worries and fears instead of walking in faith we become weak.  Our faith is built on trusting the sovereignty of God and His moment-by-moment provision for us.  Worry is damaging ; it is an indulgence where we allow our mind to dwell on immaterial things instead of appreciating what is actually before us.

When we dwell on what is good and before us, we are more mindful to praise the One who gives us our next breath.

9.  Worry can cause medical problems: Worry leads to stress and anxiety, both of which have a negative impact on our bodies.  We are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”  Within our bodies lies a wonderful autonomic system that reacts to situations instantaneously.  When we are in danger we do not have to tell our adrenal glands to produce more adrenaline.  Our brain sends the signal and it happens faster than the blink of an eye.  When we worry we live with a tension, and our brain perceives that tension as a possible threat.  Worriers live under a perpetual “fight or flight” mode.  There are many good articles in medical journals that outline this very response and the detrimental effects that stress has on the human body.

8. Worry is a waste of time:  Worry is a great way to waste your time!  Yes, the majority of things we worry about never come to pass.  Worry accomplishes absolutely nothing.  I have never met anyone who could say, “Gee, I worried myself well!” or “I worried myself out of financial problems!”  Worry captures your mind and imagination and takes you for a wild ride.  Worriers tend to daydream or focus on what may or may not happen, so much so that they neglect to take care of important matters at hand.

7.  Worry can be addictive:  It may seem strange to say that worry is addictive, but it is true.  There are those who feel that the only control they have in their life is this little thing called “worry.”  When I worked in mental health, I had people tell me, “I can’t stop worrying no matter how hard I try!”  Just like any other substance that provides a change in our body’s chemistry, I believe that the feeling of being worried can be addictive.  When we worry we become preoccupied, so much so that some may achieve an altered state of consciousness as they focus on their concerns.  It can be very addictive when the world of worry takes us, mentally, to a place where we feel more in control versus having to face the very real threats within our physical reality. It is a form of escapism.

6.  Worry is paralyzing: We get nothing accomplished when we are worrying.  We worry about possibilities —all the while neglecting the real problems right in front of us.  Worry can induce “analysis paralysis” where someone will sit and analyze so many angles of a particular problem that they DO nothing, whatsoever, about it!

Folks with this particular problem often wind up with a great deal of stress and anxiety because they have a constant backlog of real problems that are waiting for decisions to be made.  They have worried themselves into a genuine mess.

5.  Worry is a master:  Worry and the worrier have a symbiotic relationship.  In this particular set-up we have the worrier who needs to worry, and worry that needs the worrier to need the worry!  The vicious cycle is very hard to break.  Until a worrier gains control over her thinking, and reels in her thoughts, she is captive to that worry.  Our thoughts should not control us.  We are supposed to have command over them, not vice versa.  Until a worrier can stop dwelling on the possibilities, then she is captive to worry.

4.  Worry is a form of debt: Worrying about the future can build up an emotional and mental debt.  We “borrow” from a bank of potential future happenings to pay for an immediate need of feeling in control.  Worry, like financial debt, comes with a lot of added costs.  Worry does not, cannot, and will not, change what may or may not happen in the future.  It will, however, borrow stress and anxiety, and deposit it into your account.  All the while you will be expected to pay service changes and interest with your health and peace of mind!

3.  Worry is a thief: Worry robs us of our daily peace and gratitude for what we have been given.  When we worry, we are being robbed of our current blessings; and we are swindled and hoodwinked into thinking that we are somehow protecting today with tomorrow's concerns.  Worry is a con-artist that often takes advantage of us before we even know we have been had.

2.  Worry is a fantasy life: I have already mentioned that worry is borrowing from possible future events.  How do we accomplish this borrowing? It is done in our minds and in our imaginations.  The worrier tends to think of every possible situation that might be ahead.  I would dare say that most worriers envision even very improbable situations.  They may start with a thought of a possible scenario, but before long they are worrying and being consumed with matters that will most likely never come to pass.

They fantasize about all sorts of the improbable possibilities. Instead of being rooted in reality, worry often winds up being rooted in fantasy.

1.  Worry is a form of defeat: I have a very wise friend who once told me, “If you will just remember that the only control you have in this life is the way you choose to respond to the fact that you live in a crazy, unpredictable and sometimes scary world, you will be fine!”  Worry is a form of defeat because worry means we have given up on what we actually can control, and we have chosen to hide our heads in the sand.  Worry allows us to hide and insulate ourselves — while fooling ourselves into thinking that we are actually dealing with our problems.  Worry accomplishes nothing.  Worry is counterproductive.  Worry keeps us from acting in the moment when we can and how we should, and it keeps us focused on an elusive and uncertain future.

Confessions of a Military Mom

I may not wear combat boots, but I am a combat-boot loving woman.  My husband and son wear them, and so you can keep the designer boots and the cowboy boots … I’ll take the combat boots! I think the happiest moment this year, for me, is yet to come.  That is when I will see all four of those combat boots on the floor in my home.

I can just see the boots empty and waiting for tired soldiers’ feet to fill them again.  One set of boots will have been through the challenges of training, while the other pair may still have sand in them from a very dangerous, distant, and ancient place.

Clarie Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

When the boots are off, the feet get to tend to the family.  In the meantime, I am slowly but surely understanding the permanent structure changes that are happening to our family.  I am finding the wife role to be overwhelming at times due to the massive amount of new information I am learning.  I know it will all sink in eventually, and we will settle into our new structure and expectations as a military family.

But I am still trying to figure out my role as a military mother.  This role is much harder to grapple with, and as I talk with other mothers of deployed soldiers, I am hearing the same thing from them.  How do moms deal with the fear, anxiety and stress of a deployed son or daughter?  We are normally not nested within the supportive environment of a military base — where we are met with empathetic glances while we wait to send those care packages to the one destination where no mother wants her loved one to be.  Instead, we are often left to come to terms with a grief that is like no other we have ever encountered, and we carry this grief in a civilian world that often (though not always) does not understand it.

Grief is a very primitive but complex reaction to change — and the more difficult or tragic that change is, the more intense and complicated the grief becomes.  Most mothers of grown children can relate to the difficulty of having an “empty nest.”  Even if our children are healthy, well-adjusted and successful adults we still grieve when the change in our family occurs.  Our roles change, our identity becomes cloudy, and suddenly women who were once confident in their abilities are doubting everything they do and say.  When your child is deployed to a combat zone like Baghdad for the first time, you are dealt a grief like you have never known before.

I have always tried to avoid taking my family for granted, and I know that none of us have any guarantees.  But it is different when you know that the child you carried, birthed, nurtured and raised could be just an inch away from a bomb.  On one hand I am dealing with a fear unlike any other, and on the other hand I am more proud of my son than I have ever been. Fear and pride combined like that add a strange twist to the mix of emotions that I have gone through over the past year.

Mothers are important to deployed soldiers.  If the soldier is unmarried, often his or her mother becomes the primary source for morale and support.  I know if my son were engaged or married, I would see my role differently.  I would focus on keeping the morale of his fiancée or wife high so that she could in turn give him the support he needs.  As it stands now, for us at least, I am the one who takes the calls, writes the letters, sends the care packages and communicates with family and friends.  I would never complain about holding such a privileged position, but I don’t know if people realize how much soldiers’ moms do to support their solider, the troops and the mission.

A mother will happily send a care package, attend to business, and support her soldier as much as she possibly can.  It is a joy and an honor to serve my son while he is away serving our country.  That part is not a burden.  The burden lies in the bond between mother and son.  The pain comes from the deeply ingrained images of that soldier when he was a child — when he was sick and helpless and you were the one to carry him, hold him and tend to him.  The pain and fear comes from the deep and intense love that you have for him — the love that only grows with time.

So, what’s a mother to do?  Here are a few things that I have discovered along the way:

  • Brace yourself for pre-deployment stress. You will start grieving before your soldier leaves.
  • Stay away from the news when you are in a heightened emotional state.
  • Keep yourself busy, but plan ahead so that you make yourself busy with healthy things instead of succumbing to impulsiveness when you need to distract yourself.
  • Before deployment, you need to work up the courage to talk to your soldier about anything that is troubling you in your relationship with him. You need to have a clear conscience. Do this in a way that is not burdensome to your soldier. He needs to stay focused on the challenge ahead of him.
  • Seek out and find people who can support you. Be sure you tell them you are not looking for a good debate on the war.
  • Acknowledge that you are only human and you have limitations.
  • If you feel that your health is being affected by the stress (high blood pressure, insomnia, etc.), you need to see a doctor. Do not allow your health to suffer. Your family needs you, and your soldier will need you to be healthy and ready for him when he comes home. Knowing you are taking care of yourself is very important to his morale.
  • You are a mother, and guilt comes with that job. Stop it. Stop it now! It is time to sort out the real responsibilities from the imaginary guilt we often carry around. Don’t assume needless burdens. So you didn’t tuck him in one night when he was 5 … let it go!
  • Do not allow your imagination to take over when you haven’t heard from your soldier in a while. When I don’t hear from Mike for a period of time I always remind myself that no news truly is good news. He will contact me as soon as he can. Many things may be keeping him from calling.
  • Journal or blog if you like to write. If you are not a writer, then find another way to keep notes about what you are going through during tough times. Also, make a note of what you found to be the most or the least helpful.
  • When you hug your soldier good-bye, be sure you hold him tight. Then whisper in his ear, “I will pray for you with every breath. I will think of you with every thought. When you come home safe to me, we will celebrate like there is no tomorrow!”

His Providence is Beautiful

Claire Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

He who has faith is better than the stoic.  The stoical philosopher bore it, because he believed it must be; the Christian bears it because he believes it is working for his good (Charles H. Spurgeon).

As I enter into recovery and rehabilitation from back surgery I have contemplated God’s Providence many times lately—more so than ever before.

It started with the decision to allow a surgeon to take a scalpel to my back in order to slow the degenerative process that could have left me debilitated and unable to care for all of those I love dearly.

I waited for fear to hit me, but it never did.  I dreaded the pain I knew I would face, but I had peace and joy through the whole process.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t shed many tears over the pain and the understanding of how wrong and upside down the world can be because of sin; at the same time they were also tears of gratitude and joy.

How can we ever experience gratitude if we are never put in painful places?  How can we ever understand providence if we are not knocked off of our own sinful “high horse” of delusional self-reliance?  God is so gracious to us!

I witnessed this magnificent Providence through the surgical process.  The story was told to me by my surgeon.  I was put to sleep and intubated while on my back. They then took an x-ray (which now comes up immediately on a screen in the O.R.) and prepared to put me into the position for the surgery.

The doctor could see my back was badly misaligned.  One hip was much higher than the other, and he braced himself for the extensive task of realigning my back before he could screw it into place and insert the rods to hold it there.  They proceeded to “flip me over” (like a pancake) onto a special table where the surgeon would begin his work.

Something incredible happened! Through the simple motion of moving me from one gurney to the next my entire back shifted and aligned perfectly.  They could see it happen before their eyes (the misalignment was that obvious!) but confirmed with x-ray and then started the surgery.  This changed what was to be a four-hour procedure down to a two-and-one-half-hour procedure.

It was such a witness to me of the hand of God! Sometimes His hand is awesome and yet subtle. What a wondrous mystery to ponder! We often think of His hand being involved only when things are “mystical” or grand, but what joy to know that He uses such common and simple means to provide for us—relief, sustenance, comfort, even ways to work out our salvation with joyful fear and trembling!

I see His providence through working out my problems—my faith grows!  Working to earn a living—my gratitude grows.  Simply existing in this world with all He has given us makes me marvel at His incredible wisdom and design!  Even the act of laying on of hands and the anointing with oil by God’s leaders is a simple act—but God uses it providentially, mysteriously, beautifully, subtly and yet wondrously!

I pray this year we each find our comfort, joy, and the realization of ourselves fully in God and His incredible Providence with each and every breath He gives us. 

This will be my song for a while. Praise be to God!  He is the everlasting Father and the Giver of all good things!

He who has faith is better than the stoic.  The stoical philosopher bore it, because he believed it must be; the Christian bears it because he believes it is working for his good. Next time trouble comes, disease comes, pestilence comes, smile at it, and say:

“He that has made his refuge God,
Shall find a most secure abode;
Shall walk all day beneath his shade,
And there at night shall rest his head."

Let this be thy shield to keep off the thrusts of distress, let this be thy high rock against all the winds of sorrow. Sing,

 “Though the way may be rough, it cannot be long,
So smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)

Iron Sharpens Iron

Claire Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

This was written in January 2008 when my husband was convalescing and trying to decide what direction he should take after breaking his leg in Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning.  As a wife I knew my job was to love him, help him and encourage him…in fewer words my job was to sharpen his countenance.  I wrote this while figuring out how to put that concept into practice.

Iron sharpens iron; So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Prov. 27:17)

I am carefully walking a narrow beam that will take a lot of wisdom, patience, and love to navigate.  It is not so far off the ground that an error would cause me to plummet to disaster, but it feels that way.  I have no doubt that an error would at least be painful, and it could cause some bruising as well. The trick to walking this beam successfully is to use all of the resources you have at your disposal, and that includes ingenuity and compassion.  You have to take a quick inventory to make sure you neither overestimate nor underestimate your reserve.

As a wife I have a vital role in the encouragement of my husband.  All wives hold this position whether they want to recognize it or not.  I can no more deny my role as my husband’s helper and exhorter than I can deny my very existence.  I am, of course, an individual, but I am also one with my husband. I took vows as such, and I intend to live true to those vows to the best of my ability.  I am facing an impasse right now that challenges me in every way to be a careful exhorter.  Now is not the time for careless words or careless actions.  It’s not like there is ever a great time for carelessness, but there are certainly times when it has the potential to wreak even more havoc than others.  Times when you are dealing with a bruised spirit call for very careful words and expressions.

I have mentioned in update posts that Mr. Hooah! and I are both finally integrating this whole experience, and the dust from it all is beginning to settle.  At this particular point in most life-upheavals, the dust can be a very nice smoke screen or cloud that blocks you from seeing the harder realities set before you.  I think it is akin to the shock and disbelief you go through when you are grieving deeply.  I wouldn’t say we are grieving deeply, but we are finally assimilating all of this new information into our knowledge base.  We are having to look at our hopes and compare them to the backdrop of the realities. Sometimes the two do not match up — this is something the dust was able to hide for a while.

We are not giving up, but my husband has a conundrum.  He simply would never consider for a moment pushing us to the brink of financial ruin and disaster, and he is feeling the crunch now to the degree of feeling trapped between a rock and a hard space.  He has never been one to “float” through things. He feels the need to be established vocationally somewhere — the Army would be his choice, but we don’t know if or when that will work out.  What’s a wife to do? I am in the position to be either a serious thorn of discouragement to him, or to be used like a healing balm.  I also have the double-edged tendency to want to apply healing balm to everything, whether it’s good for the wound or not!

My husband is tough and strong.  He is a lot like iron. I don’t think that most people know that about him because he is not one to put on a show of false bravado.  I am pretty strong, and I may come across as tougher than I really am because I do depend at times on bravado as a means to encourage or bolster my own confidence.  I guess we are probably very good for each another in that regard.

My difficult position is trying to figure out how to encourage and incite a tired and bruised spirit to the point of again believing that it’s not too late.  If I overplay my comfort card, then I run the risk of being patronizing — and patronization is the last thing a wounded soldier needs.  If I overplay in the opposite direction, then I err on the side of impertinence.  It’s not that it’s a “lose-lose” situation, but rather it’s a delicate operation.  If done correctly and well, the outcome is wonderful, but if done with neglect then the outcome is disastrous.

While it’s true that “iron sharpens iron” it is also true that brittle iron can shatter if it is hit too hard or too often!  I have had to explore how I can continue to sharpen the countenance of my friend, and know when and how to offer that strong and tough resolve — and also to possess the wisdom to know when the healing balm is more appropriate.  Do I get tough and push him to prepare himself for more risks?  Or is part of being this instrument include patiently watching the struggle while the elements surrounding us do the actual sharpening? It feels a lot like the letting go.  I have had to work so diligently at this since Mike left for Iraq more than eight months ago.

This is the beam on which I am standing.  Whichever way it goes I will walk away a more seasoned and wiser inciter of determination — not because of what I do or don’t do, but rather because I can witness my own limitations while watching God unfurl the plan set before us.

In His Hands

Clarie Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

We are carefully walking our way through the book of John in BSF (Bible Study Fellowship).  Some weeks ago we studied the 9th Chapter. I love it when I study familiar passages and see things in a different way than I had in the past.  I know the Spirit is at work in us and as He transforms us by the renewing of our minds, the Word’s meaning grows deeper and wider. It truly is a life spring and a well that never runs dry!

The first six verses of Chapter 9 tell the story of the man blind from birth and who was transformed by Jesus’ touch.  I say transformed instead of healed because the notion of “healing” is to return one to a healthy state — this man had never been able to see, and some theologians even believe the man may have been born with no eyes or very deformed eyes.  He was not “returned” to a previous state — he was given something he had never had before!

The story is quite gripping as we watch the destiny of a blind man, just doing his daily living, unfold and a miracle beyond miracles is performed. Jesus took mud He fashioned from nothing more than His own spit and the dirt at His feet.  He put the mud on the man’s eyes and told him to bathe in the pool of Siloam.  The man had a responsibility and had to obey a command to reap the benefit of this miracle that had been freely offered to him by Jesus.

As I read and contemplated this story I was reminded and deeply convicted that my own faith is also a miracle. I was not merely healed from my condition.  I was not “restored” to righteousness! I was dead in my sin and hopeless.  Jesus performed the miracle of redemption for me on the cross.  Through Him I am righteous. Through Him I have hope.  Through Him I have life abundant and life everlasting — just like the blind man!  And I too have a responsibility to obey my Savior and do what He has asked me to do.

It is not always easy though, is it?  One day we feel confident and we have all the faith in the world — or so it seems.  Then on the next day we feel lost; we feel we have nothing to offer.  We are so painfully aware of our own shortcomings and deficits that we are embarrassed to even give what we have to give. We all wrestle through these feelings.  It’s part of our human condition and struggle. We are quick to take our eyes off of our Savior and focus back on “self.”

Brothers and Sisters, let me remind you that in the loving hands of our Lord and Savior miracles can happen!  The Lord took the most primitive materials available to Him and used them in the miracle of the man blind since birth.  The mud didn't perform the miracle. The spit didn’t perform the miracle. Jesus performed the miracle, and He chose to use common materials as His tools.

I know that I often feel about as useful as mud.  It brings me great comfort to remember that in Jesus’ hands nothing is ordinary.  In Jesus' hands what I have to offer can be used because of what He does with it, not because of what I can accomplish.

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,
But sometimes I wonder what He can do through me;
No great success to show, No glory on my own,
Yet in my weakness He is there to let me know …

His strength is perfect when our strength is gone;
He’ll carry us when we can’t carry on.
Raised in His power, the weak become strong;
His strength is perfect, His strength is perfect.

We can only know
The power that He holds
When we truly see how deep our weakness goes;
His strength in us begins
Where ours comes to an end.
He hears our humble cry and proves again…
His Strength is Perfect — Steven Curtis Chapman

No Soul Has Bootstraps!

“... at that time the LORD spoke through Isaiah son of Amoz. He said to him, “Take off the sackcloth from your body and the sandals from your feet.” And he did so, going around stripped and barefoot." Isaiah 20:2

Military wives and military mothers have a reputation for being tough and tenacious. These characteristics come in helpful when we are facing deployments, separations and the demands of life, and provide for us a patchwork robe of dignity in very stressful times.

Claire Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

They can also be to our detriment when we pride ourselves in them instead of remembering Who gave us the tenacity we need when we need it!  We also need to remember Who calls us to minister, sometimes stripped of those outer garments of dignity, to those around us.

Unwillingness to surrender “my” dignity has been a shortcoming for me. I wind up exhausted and overwhelmed because I am too stubborn and prideful to reach out for help or admit my weakness.  The world could be crumbling around me and instead of admitting that it's scary or admitting honestly that I need help, I dig deep and find my inner-stoic.  It's a lie and no amount of prettying it up with words will change that.

The hardest lesson I have learned (and am still learning) is to never arrogantly take credit for God’s gracious offering of strength to me in a time of need.  I am created by God for His purpose.  He uses my valleys as a way to show me and others His faithfulness and goodness.  Taking credit is self-deception and robbery!  It’s spiritual plagiarism!  I am learning to never assume that I got to the other side of trials because my soul came equipped with boots straps.

In Isaiah 20:2-3 the LORD instructs His prophet to strip of his outer garments and shoes as part of the delivery of the prophetic message given to him.  Why would God ever ask a man to strip of his garments?  What about Isaiah’s modesty?  What about his dignity?  What about his position in the community?  Surely this must have been a mistake!  And, yet we see in the passage that for three years Isaiah obediently delivered God’s message in his under garments and barefoot.

Most Bible scholars believe that Isaiah was from an affluent background.  He had access to Kings and was highly educated.  Those factors alone point to a man who had nothing personal to gain by drawing negative attention to himself.  In that day and culture it would have left him as an outcast, at best. So why did Isaiah do it?  What was his motivation?

The answer to my questions came by exploring another very common theme in the book of Isaiah.  Through the entire book the LORD shines a very bright light on idolatry.  In Chapters 40-48 the repeated message is the Holy One of Israel, the One True God, will not share His glory with another.  He will not contend with idols.

God even challenges the absurdity of how a man can burn one part of his wood and carve the other half into an idol of worship (Isaiah 40:16).   In further passages God reminds Israel that He alone can and will deliver them from Babylon, but idols made of wood are a burden.  Idols can not even deliver themselves from a fire, and they have to be carried. God is the One who carries. Idols are what burden men.  Burdensome idols that we carry around, that weigh us down, start out as gifts of providence from the Lord.

For example, wood is a gift.  It is a sturdy material for building and it generates warmth for us when lit on fire.  Gold, silver, bronze and other precious metals are a gift.  They have many uses.  Wealth, beauty, strength, intelligence, and personality are all gifts from God.

These things are not inherently bad, but it's what happens to the gifts in the hands of fallen people that cause them to be idols.   Gifts that turn to idols have lost the meaning of their intended use.  Wood that was meant to warm a man becomes his obsession and his burden when he sinfully turns it to an idol.

James 1:17 says “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”   God gave Isaiah the gift of his dignity, of his modesty and of his station in life. Isaiah must have known these were gifts because what we see in the aforementioned passage is a prophet of God who willingly laid aside his earthly pride and takes up a heavenly humility out of obedience to the LORD, his God!
 Instead of clinging to the gifts and worshipping them, Isaiah clings to the Giver and obeys.  Instead of being burdened by the gifts God gave him, his heart was burdened to deliver the message God had given him.  Isaiah was created by God and for God's intended use. Isaiah was not created for his own dignity, his own modesty or his own station in life.

How grateful I am that God gave Isaiah a heart for Him, and that I know He can do the same for me!

Isaiah's story is a far different picture from the Pharisees in Jesus' day who prided themselves in their dignity and humility.  The ones who Jesus called "white washed tombs filled with dead men's bones!"  They were so burdened with the idolatry of self-righteousness, power, and prestige that they hated Immanuel!  The Very Giver of those gifts.

Ask:  What gifts has God given me that I use for unintended purposes?  What do I hold onto with a closed fist? What has become burdensome to me?  Do I take the credit for my strength, or do I give the Glory to Whom it belongs?

Do I hold on to people or circumstances and try to control them?  My spouse? My children?  My money?  My resources?  My time?  How about entertainment?  Or even ministry work?  Do these things burden me?   Do I love my family with God's love?

Action:  In Exodus 34 God instructs the Israelites to "Break down their altars, smash their sacred stones and cut down their Asherah poles.  Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God."

Pray and ask God to reveal idols in your life.  Then break them down and smash them with confession and repentance.  "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."  1 John 1:9

 The Scent of a Godly Woman

John 12:3 “Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus' feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Mary’s beautiful outpouring of worship at the feet of Jesus happened not too long after He raised her beloved brother, Lazarus, from the dead.  It was also very close to the time that Judas would betray Jesus. It was not long before Jesus would be arrested, crucified, buried and resurrected.

Claire Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

Mary did not understand it all, but Jesus defends her actions to the dissenters around her later in the same chapter, as recorded in verse 8, “Leave her alone,” Jesus replied.  “It was intended that she should save this perfume for the day of my burial.”

Mary did not fully understand the will of God concerning her Lord, but what she did know was she was in the presence of her Savior.  She had a beautiful opportunity to worship at His feet, and He was certainly worthy of her best.  She was moved to worship and she responded.

The perfume that Mary used was made from the root of a rare plant that grows at the foot of the Himalayas.  The plant only produces a small amount of essential oil called nard (also informally “spikenard.”  Nard has to be dug up and extracted from the tiny spindle-like roots.  To this day the essential oil, in its purest form, can run more than a thousand dollars for a pint.  I cannot even imagine the monetary worth of a pint of nard in Biblical times, but to say that it was a costly gift — a gift fit for a King — is an understatement. 

Essential oils make wonderful fragrances.  They do not wear off or smell like acetone or alcohol after time like our modern colognes.  Oils sometimes carry their scent for days.  Mary’s hair was full of that scent for possibly days or longer.  Remember, she poured an entire pint and used her hair as the means to swab the scent on Jesus’ feet.

I learn a lot about worship when I contemplate the actions of Mary that day.  First, I consider how she worshipped at the feet of Jesus.  She did not presume to be worthy to be at His side, but she worshipped at His feet At His feet is where His children feel at home.  Do I sit at His feet daily by reading His words and praying to Him? 

Second, Mary used an item in her home as a method and expression of her love and worship of Jesus.  She did not have to go out and find something, but rather she found a priceless item in her home to give to Him willingly.  What is my precious and priceless thing?  My time?  My reputation?  My work? 

Third, Mary did not know that Jesus’ death was imminent.  She was not told any information that His very disciples did not know.  She was not told exactly what was coming, but she knew that worshipping Jesus was always the right thing to do and no time was wrong for it.

She worshipped Him in the presence of doubters, naysayers and betrayers, and for her reward she was defended by her Lord.  As a matter of fact the one, Judas, who was less than a week away from betraying Jesus, was her most vocal opponent in this act of worship.  Do I stand firm in my worship?  Do I allow the subtle or not so subtle protest of doubters and naysayers distract me from my love for the Lord or influence me away from His feet? 

Last, the scent of Mary’s worship followed her.  It filled her home, it was a scent of beauty to those around her, but between her and her Lord, they knew it was costly for her.  The scent of an oil like that does not change or morph, but it stays true to its origins.  How does the scent of my own worship wear?  Does it fade and morph into something unpleasant to those around me, like self-righteousness or pride?  Does the scent of my worship bless those who come near me?

Today, take a few moments to pray and study His Word.  Pray and ask the Lord to help you to seek after Him more than anything else.  Worship Him in all His splendor and sit in awe at His feet.  When you get up from your time of worship, think about how you can carry that time into the rest of your day.  Will your children benefit from that time?  How about your husband?  Or your neighbor?

Find out what your valuable things are, offer them freely to the Lord and see what wondrous things He performs with nothing more than a willing heart and an open hand.

Wake Me When September Ends

If I get a lit­tle pas­sion­ate at times about the War on Ter­ror it is because I can still remem­ber the feel­ing of sit­ting help­lessly on my hotel bed watch­ing the news that day.  I remem­ber sit­ting and know­ing that we were only yards from the Capi­tol Build­ing as they announced that Fight 93 had been hijacked.

"I can hear the news anchors say­ing it is headed for us. It’s com­ing for the Capi­tol Build­ing, and the only place to hide is under the bed."

It does some­thing to your peace of mind for a while when you know how it feels to have a Boe­ing 757 aimed at you — loaded down with jet fuel, guided by mur­der­ous mad­men, and trav­el­ing fast.

Claire Shackelford, MSW
Christian Military Wives
CMF Board of Directors

I didn’t know until much later that the phrase “Let’s roll!” was being uttered as I was try­ing to fig­ure out if I should stay inside or go out and stand in the street.  What dif­fer­ence would it all make if we were going to be hit?

To this day I can’t even begin to con­tem­plate what could have hap­pened had the brave Amer­i­cans on Flight 93 not fought back that day.  I seri­ously can not. I also can not help but remem­ber and honor them in the same way I would honor a fallen sol­dier.  Their brav­ery and actions stopped that plane, and they stopped it from com­ing toward me that day.  No one will ever know the lives that were spared because of their actions.  They defended me… they defended us!

It was 9 years ago.  I was sit­ting in my office plan­ning a very long and much antic­i­pated busi­ness trip.  I was, at that time, the National Pro­gram Admin­is­tra­tor for one of the largest fund­ing bod­ies of pedi­atric brain tumor research in the world.  The week start­ing Sep­tem­ber 10, 2001 was Child­hood Can­cer Aware­ness week, and we had huge plans. Nei­ther my boss or myself had a clue of the events that were to unfold dur­ing that busi­ness trip.  So, as nor­mal, a few weeks before the event I was con­firm­ing our reser­va­tions, mail­ing off the reams of printed media resources I would need to the hotel where we were stay­ing, and mak­ing sure that I had enough suits, panty­hose, and other uncom­fort­able and stiff things to wear to the var­i­ous events.

"I can’t wait to see the hotel!  It’s just yards from the Capi­tol Build­ing! We def­i­nitely need to take some tours.  This is only my third time being in D.C. and I have a lot of sights to see!"

I remem­ber the morn­ing of Sep­tem­ber 11, 2001 very well. I woke up out of a groggy sleep.  I have always been a very anx­ious flight pas­sen­ger, so in order to deal with hav­ing a job that required me to fly all over the Coun­try I would take a dose of Val­ium before my flights.  I never took it for any other rea­son or at any other time, but it really took the edge off of my intense anx­i­ety.  I would book my flights so that I could just go to my hotel and crash for the night after my flight.  I would wake up a lit­tle groggy, but after a cup of cof­fee and a shower the next day, I would be ready to go!  We flew into Wash­ing­ton DC on Sep­tem­ber 10 so that we could be at the Capi­tol for the kick off of the week’s events.  On the morn­ing of Sep­tem­ber 11, my boss and I woke up early, got ready and headed down to the Senator’s Lounge, which was the restau­rant located in our hotel.  We could see the Capi­tol Build­ing from just out­side the door.

We had a full agenda for the day.  The major child­hood can­cer serv­ing foun­da­tions and agen­cies across the Coun­try had agreed to join together and announce a major coop­er­a­tive coali­tion that would allow us to more ade­quately uti­lize our resources, gain a “gestalt” in our power and influ­ence, and move closer toward our com­mon goal of erad­i­cat­ing var­i­ous types of child­hood can­cers.  It was to be a grand morn­ing!  The good news procla­ma­tion of our con­certed efforts would not hap­pen though.

It hap­pened over cof­fee.  It hap­pened over break­fast.  It hap­pened while we were putting all of the fin­ish­ing details on the speech to be given on the steps of the Capi­tol that morn­ing.  We were sit­ting in the Lounge and enjoy­ing our break­fast when the News Flash of the first plane hit­ting the first Tower came over the screen.  We watched in hor­ror as the big screen tele­vi­sion played the clip over, and over again.  I leaned over a lit­tle to whis­per to my boss.

“I will never fly out of LaGuardia Air­port for that very rea­son.  They fly way too close to the buildings!”

Then the sec­ond plane hit.  Every­one in the Lounge gasped.  I watched it.  I couldn’t believe what I was watch­ing.  It was inten­tional! I grabbed my boss’ hand.

“We shouldn’t even be here!  We can’t go to the Capi­tol Build­ing this morn­ing! We need to leave here now!”

We both sat there, eyes glued to the tele­vi­sion for what felt like hours, when we learned of what hap­pened just across the way at the Pentagon.

"The Pen­ta­gon? Of all of the build­ings in the world!  The Pen­ta­gon is impen­e­tra­ble!  It is filled with Mil­i­tary might! It is filled with the resources we count on to keep us secure! How can this be?"

My heart sank.  My knees grew weak.  The chaos of that morn­ing in our Nation’s Cap­i­tal was pro­found.  I saw well groomed, tightly tai­lored pro­fes­sion­als falling to pieces.  I held the hand of a stranger as she hyper­ven­ti­lated.  I saw a promi­nent brain sur­geon cry, and heard another doc­tor make plans to buy a brand new car on the spot if that is what it would take to get him out of there and back home.  I was tak­ing it all in, and every­thing kind of moved in slow motion.  If I remem­ber cor­rectly at some point a fire truck was try­ing to make it through the street.  He couldn’t.  The traf­fic was grid locked and peo­ple were every where.  He actu­ally gen­tly used his truck to push parked cars out of the way.

"Did I just see that?  I think I did.  There are fig­ures on the rooftops.  They appeared there so quickly.  Did I see that?  Are they snipers or pho­tog­ra­phers?  Both?  Are they here to pro­tect us, or to harm us?  What should I do?  Hide?  Stand?

When I tell my story I have a hard time remem­ber­ing what hap­pened next and how the sequence goes.  I just tell it as I recall it each time.  It is all jum­bled still to a degree.  I remem­ber when it all first hap­pened I tried to call my fam­ily.  I couldn’t get a line out on my cell phone.  I needed to hear that they were safe and that noth­ing was hap­pen­ing where they were.  I wanted to touch the faces of my chil­dren so badly that I ached.  I finally got through to the Foun­da­tion, and they relayed mes­sages from fam­ily to us, and vice versa.

I remem­ber fran­ti­cally call­ing around when we were able to finally get a line.  We had a brain tumor sur­vivor — a young girl, who was fly­ing into D.C. that morn­ing.  She was going to give her tes­ti­mony about her bat­tle with brain can­cer.  We couldn’t find her and we had no idea if she were on any of those flights.  Finally her mother got through to our Foun­da­tion.  She had been delayed that morn­ing.  Her plane was still on the tar­mac.  She was still grounded from the delay.  She was safe.

Thank God!  What about our sup­port­ers who had offices in the Tow­ers in NY?  Did they lose their lives?  Are they injured?  Will we see them again?

It took days for us to find out if they were safe — yes they all made it.  How they made it is beyond us all, but they did.

"What next?  What are they say­ing?  They are telling us to go back to our rooms.  Why?  Another plane?  It’s head­ing here?  Will we see it hit?  Will we feel it?  Are we going to die?"

My boss and I looked at one another, and qui­etly went back up to our hotel room.  At this point the hotel was under some kind of lock down.  The ele­va­tors would only take you to your floor and you had to have a valid room key to oper­ate them.  I don’t even think the stair­wells were open at this point.  Once we were back in our room we watched the news broad­casts.  They were track­ing the plane and the news was “It’s headed for DC and prob­a­bly for the White House or the Capi­tol Building.”

"Gee, you don’t say!  Thanks.  I wish I were igno­rant of it all right now.  What dif­fer­ence does it make if I know?"

Then we heard the plane was down, and that there were no other planes in the sky.  We also learned that D.C. was heav­ily pro­tected and we could breathe a lit­tle easier.

We started to make calls to try and find a way out of there.  No cabs left to hail. No rentals left to rent.  No one can come in to get us because the inbound roads are all closed — and for how long we didn’t know at this point.  We were stuck.

"Could all of this be real?  This had to be a bad dream!  There is no way in hell that all of this just hap­pened!  I could not have lived a lifetime’s worth of ter­ror in such a short morn­ing.  It’s all to surreal."

I don’t remem­ber at what point we watched the Tow­ers col­lapse.  I just remem­ber being in my room and sit­ting on the edge of my bed.  My hand was placed over my mouth.  I may have sat there for min­utes.  I may have sat there for hours.  Who knows?

We actu­ally went out to eat after a period of time.  It was so weird.

"How can I sit in a restau­rant full of peo­ple and eat quiche when lunatic ter­ror­ists just flew a plane into the Pen­ta­gon just across the way from us?  Wait, I remem­ber see­ing peo­ple jump­ing from burn­ing build­ings on TV.  I can’t think about this. I can’t eat.  Are we weird or just crazy to even sit down to eat right now?"

It still feels weird even think­ing about eat­ing that day.  Nei­ther of us were hun­gry, but we just did what you are sup­posed to do at that time of the day.  Maybe it was a means of hold­ing onto our san­ity, or maybe we both craved a lit­tle nor­malcy so that we could have a few moments to pre­tend that what was going on out­side was a huge mistake.

"It didn’t really hap­pen did it?  It did.  There is no deny­ing it.  You saw the chaos, smelled the fuel burn­ing and heard the sirens.  It’s real."

We stayed in D.C. that night, but not of our own voli­tion.  We had no choice.  I don’t remem­ber the rest of that day, other than the phone calls we kept get­ting from col­leagues, friends, fam­ily, and oth­ers want­ing to know if we were OK.  I remem­ber that after sup­per we both decided that a bot­tle of wine and a piece of cheese­cake was needed.  We didn’t touch the cheese­cake, but the wine didn’t stand a chance.

Finally when the next morning’s sun appeared it was time for us to get out of dodge!  We found a limo com­pany that had an avail­able car.  The dri­ver came over from Mary­land, picked us up and took us back over to a sub­urb of Bal­ti­more.  We had a Foun­da­tion related event planned for the week­end.  I was not sched­uled to stay for it, but how would I get home?  No one would even guess at this point as to when the planes would be able to fly again, and to be hon­est, at that point in time they sim­ply did not man­u­fac­ture enough Val­ium for me to step foot on one!  Regard­less of the details on how I was going to make it back to West­ern North Car­olina, I was glad to be away from DC.

At this point in my story I had not shed a tear yet.  I am a very stub­born stoic.  When things are falling in around me I refuse to cave — it isn’t until things get quiet that I fall apart.  We made it to Mary­land, checked into our hotel and ate lunch.  I later went to a small strip mall and bought a cou­ple of pairs of jeans.  All I had was busi­ness attire and sleep­ing clothes.  After that lit­tle excur­sion I went back up to my room.  I had my own room this time.  All alone and to myself.  It was odd.  I walked in, looked around and fell to my knees and cried.

"Sweet relief!  Finally a moment to collapse."

I pulled myself together, but I had no idea that these episodes of intense cry­ing had only just started, and they were not to end for quite some time.

I met my boss and her hus­band, who came up to join us that after­noon, for sup­per.  It was a nice, quiet and nor­mal sup­per.  I said my “good night” to them and headed back up to my room.  I was get­ting sit­u­ated for the night when an alarm went off out­side my door and all of the power for the whole area went out.  I hun­kered down in a cor­ner in my room.  I waited for some­thing to hap­pen.  I waited for the explo­sion that I knew was immi­nent.  I waited.  I cried.  I waited some more.

"Noth­ing.  Silence.  No light, no noise, just silence.  Dear God, what now?  Will I see my kids again?"

I am still not sure what caused the power out­age that night.  The tim­ing could not have been any worse.  I know that I am not the only per­son who was hid­ing in a cor­ner when that hap­pened.  We were all on edge and a lit­tle hyper-vigilant.  The next day came and all of the hours spent on the phone beg­ging my travel agent to do what­ever he could to find me a vehi­cle was about to pay off.  I even told him at one point that if all he could find was a huge mov­ing truck to book it for me!  I didn’t care.  I’d had enough.  I was going home.  One way or another, I was going home to be with my kids! For­tu­nately for me he found a nice lit­tle car instead of huge truck.  I picked it up, went over some maps and started my drive from Mary­land to home in North Carolina.

When I started out on the trip I was fine, but as time went on I had waves of tears over come me.  They often came with such power that I had to pull over or I would wreck.  I would weep until I could stop for a while, and then drive until the next wave.  My trip wound up tak­ing a few hours more than it nor­mally would due to the need to stop a lot.  I do remem­ber at one point when I saw a sign and scoffed.

“Speed mon­i­tored by air­craft!” Ha! Not today boys!

I will admit that I sped.  I wanted to get as far away from it all as I could, and as quickly as that lit­tle car would take me!  I just wanted to get home.  When I finally reached home I was able to peek in on my boys.  They were down for the night. I just stared at them.  Man, were they a sight for sore eyes!

The next few months were filled with more tears, and some very vivid dreams of plane crashes.  One dream in par­tic­u­lar was very dis­turb­ing because as the plane was going down I could feel the force of the descent push­ing me into my mat­tress.  I could barely breath.

"God! We are going down!  I smell smoke!  I can’t breathe!  I can’t move!  What’s happening?"

I sat straight up from a dead sleep, cov­ered in sweat and gasp­ing for breath.  I had never had a dream like that before.

I quit my job a few months later.  I quit for sev­eral rea­sons.  Being a sin­gle mom and try­ing to hold down a job of that mag­ni­tude was wear­ing me out.  I wouldn’t meet Mr. Hooah! until later that year.  The main rea­son I left, though, I just couldn’t take get­ting on another plane.  It would mean a dras­tic cut in pay for me, and let­ting go of what seemed to be that once in a life­time “dream job.”  It all seemed pretty unim­por­tant to me any more.  It still does, and I do not regret that deci­sion in the least.

I will never know how much the events of that week played into my son’s deci­sion to join the Army and fight in the War on Ter­ror.  I know that there are a lot rea­sons he and Mr. Hooah! joined.  Sup­port­ing them is easy.  Not only do I love them both with all that I am, but I am grate­ful, as a wit­ness to ter­ror­ism, for all that they do every­day to try and stop it at all costs.  Every­day our troops gear them­selves up, stand up to the enemy at hand and bravely say “Let’s Roll!”

Christmas Today?

More than 2000 years have passed since the first Christmas. The first Christmas took place in Bethlehem.  The town was crowded due to Caesar’s census requiring everyone to register in their birth town.  Joseph and Mary had no place to stay when they arrived, but found shelter in an obscure stable.

They were a very tired young couple when they delivered their first baby.  They must have wondered, Does anyone know?  Does anyone care?  Is this really the Messiah?

The Heavenly Host knew and came to some lowly shepherds in the middle of the night. They heralded this great news that the Savior was born.

The shepherds were terrified and shocked, but after recovering, they rushed to Bethlehem to see the baby that was God’s promised Savior.

Joseph and Mary were probably awakened from their sleep as the shepherds rushed in.  The shepherds stumbled over one another as they told about the vision the Angel and the Heavenly Host heralding the birth of a long-awaited Savior.

After the shepherds left rejoicing, Joseph and Mary were so tired they probably fell asleep.  Someone does know! Someone does care! – His Heavenly Father cares!

Christmas Today!

It is not at all like the first Christmas.  Some say that it is the fault of commercialism, but commerce only tries to satisfy the demands of the customer.  We as a people are responsible for the emphasis on material things.

Gift-giving has become a requirement to prove our love and appreciation for those to whom we give.  We often forget the gift of salvation and LIFE that Jesus came to bestow upon those who trust him.

Holiday parties, dinners and get-togethers are part of the celebration of Jesus birth.  However, little about Jesus is mentioned or considered during the season.

Church services are filled with special readings and Christmas music. Plays and pageants about the Savior’s life are reenacted. Handel’s great Messiah is heard and revered.  Lots of good activity, but few care about their relationship with Jesus himself!

Relationship With Jesus Christ!

Many Christians and their leaders talk about Jesus topically or doctrinally. They are truly saved and enjoy some of the benefits. However, they have their own ideas of what biblical spirituality is.  Jesus or God are expected to help them to do his work, but few know him intimately.

However Jesus desires to take charge of our lives, with us cooperating with him for his glory and our good!

Jesus came to be our Savior.
Jesus loves to be our life!

“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Cor 9:15)

We trust that you and your loved ones will enjoy Jesus during the special Christmas season!


These two words are often considered as synonyms, but the Scriptures make a distinction between them.

Biblical HAPPINESS is generally dependent upon the circumstances that one experiences. The law of Moses identifies happiness in marriage, “When a man takes his new wife, he shall not go out with the Army nor be charged with any duty; he shall be free at home one year and shall give happiness to his wife whom he has taken” (Deuteronomy 24:5).

Another example, “How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who announces peace and brings good news of happiness, who announces salvation, and says to Zion, “your God reigns”” (Isaiah 52:7).

In general, you are happy when life and things are going well, and you are unhappy when life and things are not going well as you had hoped they would.

Biblical JOY is more of a state of being and not dependent upon your circumstances. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy, he will be quiet in his love, he will rejoice over you with shouts of joy (Zephaniah 3:17).

Jeremiah the prophet discovered that ingesting God’s word brought him great joy. “Your words were found and I ate them, and your words became for me a joy and a delight of my heart; I have been called by your name oh Lord of hosts” (Jeremiah 15:16).

The apostle John gives us a few quotes of Jesus Who is our joy, “These things I have spoken to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:11).

Jesus prays to His Father, “But now I come to you; and these things I speak in the world so that they may have My joy made full in themselves” (John 17:13).

The apostle Paul adds, “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 1:6).

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us… Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1 – 2).

Jesus Christ endured the cross expressly for the joy of bringing you into his eternal kingdom.


“There were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over the flock by night. And the angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord”” (Luke 2:8 – 11).


“When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another; “let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that is happened which the Lord has made known to us. So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as he lay in the manger. When they had seen this, [with great joy] they made known the statement which had been told them about this child” (Luke 2:15 – 17).


“After coming into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they [with great joy] fell to the ground and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matthew 2:1).

“Now when they had gone, behold the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘get up! Take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ So Joseph got up and took the child and his mother while it was still night, and left for Egypt” (Matthew 2:13 – 14).

God’s plan probably did not make Joseph very happy, but he had great joy since God must have provided the Magi’s gifts to finance their trip and time in Egypt.


It is quite possible that the uncertainty of the world’s chaos and current circumstances that you face today may produce in your heart and mind a lack of happiness.

Nevertheless, Jesus who is our everlasting joy, assures us, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

However, let’s remember what the angel said to the shepherds, “Do not be afraid: for behold, I bring you good news of GREAT JOY which will be for all the people” (Luke 2:11).

Our prayer is that this Christmas we together with you will remember and celebrate Jesus’ birth and his many blessings to us with GREAT JOY! Have a joyous Christmas!!!


Many Americans today are very troubled about the current circumstances they are facing now and in the foreseeable future. The Christian knows intellectually that the answer is in Jesus Christ or God, but questions; “What will that look like?” “How do I know that he will see me through?”

When Jesus saved you, He also promised to always be with you, “I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). This promise has not changed.  It is as true as the day that He said it.


There are two kinds of hope. There is a hope that the future will turn out fine. One hopes that what they did or said was acceptable.

Biblical hope is the confident expectation of what God has promised; its strength is in his faithfulness. “… God, desiring even more to demonstrate to the heirs of the promise the fact that his purpose is unchangeable, confirmed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to hold firmly to the hope set before us. This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and reliable” (Hebrews 6:17 – 19). “… And hope does not disappoint” (Romans 5:5).

The Apostle Paul later reiterates the source of our hope, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).


Over the years people have sought ways to protect themselves from disaster.  Bomb shelters were built in the 50s for protection from the atomic bomb attack. Other stocked up on freeze-dried food for when normal food supplies are unavailable.

Currently, the rich are establishing a safe haven to stash their wealth.  Others are buying cyber money for when the US dollars devaluated.

There is a year or more weight to buy generators to power electricity, for when the electric power grids break down and no local electrical power is available.  Solar power is only reliable as long as the batteries last and must be replaced.

All these attempts to find refuge in the list above, plus a myriad of others, provide extremely limited protection from disaster.  However, God himself is the better way of protection. The psalmist said, “The Lord helps them and rescues them; He rescues them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in Him” (Psalms 37:4). “How great is your goodness which you have stored up for those who fear you, which you have performed for those who take refuge in you, before the sons of mankind” (Psalms 31:19)!

Jesus is there for you exclamation “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you may take refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and a wall” (Psalms 91:4).


Jesus promises, Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give you.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful” (John 14:27). This piece is available to all who belong to him by faith without exception.

Biblical peace is relational. It is not dependent upon good or evil circumstances.  Biblical peace is dependent upon the Lord Jesus Christ and His love, care and protection for his people.

Many capable Christians do not experience Jesus piece since they depend upon themselves rather than depending upon Jesus to be their daily source of life and purpose. They want Jesus to help them accomplish their agendas: spiritual, personal, and secular, rather than cooperate with Him in His direction and purpose for their lives.

The writer of Hebrews identifies one’s preoccupation with themselves, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have” (Hebrews 13:5).  However, if you entrust yourself to Jesus control, “He himself has said, ‘I will never desert you, nor I will never abandon you’” (Hebrews 13:5).

As you entrust yourself to Jesus who will never desert you nor abandon you, you will always experience His peace.  If you choose not to entrust yourself to Him you will experience all kinds of fears and anxieties.

Jesus comforts you with this promise, “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

The Apostle Paul, who experience all kinds of adversities and conflicts concludes, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).


“Now may the God of peace who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, that is, Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (Hebrews 13:20 – 21).

A Climate of Safety

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

If you were struggling with a particular sin, would you feel free to admit it, or would you be inclined to pretend that everything was okay?  Your answer to that question may have to do with how you perceive yourself. It may depend on how well we as a church live out our faith — whether we create a climate of fear or a climate of safety.

A Proper Perception of Perfection

Sometimes, in the church, there is an interesting combination of spiritual truths.  On the one hand, we are told to put on the Lord Jesus Christ and to make no provision for the flesh in regards to its desires (Romans 13:14).  On the other, we are told to confess our sins one to another (James 5:16).  To do the latter requires that we have failed in the former, and who likes to admit failure?  The “easier” position is simply to teach and expect what is right and never admit that one has done wrong.  Such a position is often compounded by our own tendency to be prideful, to maintain “image,” and to self-righteously judge those who battle sins with which we have no problem.  Like the “Whack-a-Mole Gopher Bash,” it doesn’t take too many times of sticking one’s head up and having it whacked, if we admin our sin, before we learn to stay in the hole, remaining safely invisible, pretending to be perfect.  Before long, the people who comprise the church become a bunch of pretenders who have it all together, but worse, it creates a climate of fear — fear of judgment, fear of exposure, fear of not measuring up — that inhibits the very love that is to mark us as Jesus’ disciples to begin with. Love never requires people to pretend.  Love takes people where they are, coming along side them in committed community, while, at the same time, calling them to deepen their walk with the Lord, to shed the “old man,” and to put on the newness of life we are to have in Christ.

But what about the sins with which we do have a problem?  Confession of sin requires self-awareness of what sin is and of our failure to conform to God’s righteous standard.  It further requires a godly humility and a certain level of willing transparency.  It also requires a safe set of people who understand that godly living is the standard, that sin is not okay, and that we have to lovingly allow each other to fail in the process of pursuing becoming like Christ, while at the same time, not giving ourselves or our fellow believers permission to become comfortable sinning.  It’s not necessary that we “air our dirty laundry” before everyone, but we all need those in our lives who are committed to holding us accountable and to whom we are willing to submit ourselves out of reverence to God.  As the Apostle Paul wrote,

“Not that I already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:12-14).

The Proper Theology of Judging

Our culture is in many ways counter to creating the safe environment where mutual confession and the pursuit of holiness in loving community can be pursued. The mantra of today is pluralism, diversity, and tolerance — except for any who neglect to conform to those perceived virtues.  The philosophy of “Live and Let Live” is so in vogue that any judging of others is condemned.  Some will even quote the Scripture, “Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Matt 7:1), in support of this viewpoint.  However, a careful study of the context reveals that “not judging” is not the point at all.  The emphasis is that we are liable to be held by others to the same standard that we place upon them, so that a proper self-examination must precede an appropriate judgment of others:

“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matt 7:5)

In fact, to fail to judge both ourselves and others in this way would be contrary to Scripture. We are called to restore others caught in trespass after looking at ourselves (Gal. 6:1), to seek to “win” a brother who has sinned by following a process of disciplined restoration (Matt. 18:15-17), and to turn back a brother who has strayed from the truth, from the error of his ways (James 5:19-20).  In fact, we are cautioned against judging the unbelieving community, yet chastised for the arrogance of tolerating sin among the believing community (1 Cor. 5:1-13).  All of these require a certain willingness to lovingly judge other believers and to be lovingly judged by that same community as they seek to restore us when we have veered off course.

A Proper Climate for Progress

When Jesus said that our loving one another as He had loved us would be the identifying characteristic of His disciples (John 13:34-35), He was not defining love as is often understood by our culture.  For many today, love means the late John Lennon’s words, “let it be.”  This type of love would never confront another.  It would never tell someone they are wrong.  It would never hold them to a higher standard.  In fact, it would be perceived by those with such an understanding of love to be unloving to break those very standards.

In the Scriptures, however, such a “love” would be anything but loving.  Love of the brethren, as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:1-4 includes not rejoicing in unrighteousness, but rejoicing with the truth — not just a body of doctrine, but a doctrine revealed from God that comes with the accompanying expectation that it be lived out (c.f., John 17:17).  This kind of love patiently calls people to the Lord and to His standards.  It is kind.  It does not act unbecomingly.  It does not seek its own.  It is not provoked. It does not take into account a wrong suffered.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things, and never fails.  In other words, it calls fellow believers to holiness, but it doesn’t walk away when a believer is caught in sin.  It says, “I’m not going anywhere.  I’m here with you.  I’ll help you, and I need you to help me, too!”  The only exception is when a believer willfully refuses to repent and to separate sin from their lives even when so confronted.  Then, for the protection of the Body, just as we amputate a gangrenous infection, we separate ourselves from the persistently sinful believer, even then with the hope that he or she will repentantly come back to the Lord and to the church family (1 Cor. 5:11-13; Matt. 18:17; 2 Thess. 3:6,14, 15).  The thought in so doing, if we are loving each other properly, is that the pain of such separation would bring the errant brother or sister back (2 Cor. 2:5-8).

In order to reach this goal, there must be such a climate of love in the church that the issue is not fear of punishment and rejection, but a fear of disappointing the Lord and each other as we progress in our pursuit of holiness.  The Apostle John wrote of such an environment in this way in 1 John:

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.  We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.  By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world.  There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. (1 John 4:15-18 NASU)

Let us not fall prey to the temptation of pretending to be perfect or to the self-righteousness which condemns others for their struggles with sin.  Rather, let us come alongside each other, confessing our sins, with a Christ-like love, creating a climate of safety as we walk together in the process of growing into the perfection to which we are called in Christ Jesus.

A Process for Forgiveness

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors


y wife, Janet, and I recently shared with the congregation that I shepherd some of the lessons we learned at a 5-day marriage intensive.  I described a “room” in my heart that I did not visit very often, except to put more pain in there.  I had thought the room held only hurt, but I discovered that the room held related matters that should not have been in there.  There was held within bitterness, resentment, and an unforgiving spirit.  Sometimes, I would visit that room to see if I had gained any more insight into the situation. I thought I had, but while that may have been the case at the beginning, it was also a place where I could rehearse the wrongs done against me.  It was a place where, rather than thinking what is good and noble (Phil 4:8), I could remember the wrongs done to me and practice negative thinking about people or revisit the hurt itself, calling it back to mind.  It was a destructive habit, and it was wrong Instead of seeking how I could love someone who had hurt me, like Christ did when He was on the cross as He prayed, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they don,” I would instead remember wrongs along with the pain and injustice, sometimes feeling the pain over again, and sometimes negatively labeling the offending party with words such as “self-absorbed,” “hard-master,” or the like—words that were counter to the loving relationship God wanted me to have towards them, and words that also interfered in some way with my relationship with God.

Forgiveness is a multi-dimensional word.  On one hand, it has to do with oru relationship with God on a vertical plane.  Sometimes, when we are hurt, we want the offending party to know how deeply he or she has hurt us, and sometimes, sinfully, we may even want to hurt them back like they hurt us.  In doing these types of things, we are taking into our hands a responsibility that we, instead, should turn over to God.  It is His to carry.  When we insist on carrying it ourselves, when we wrest from God His right to vengeance we sin against Him, and we place on ourselves a burden God never wanted us to shoulder.  God says, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.”  God will always make things right in the end, and sometimes He chooses to make things right on earth.  He also says, “Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”  We may want to exact our “pound of flesh,” but God tells us to do just the opposite!

God, the just, all-knowing, all-powerful, ever-present, and loving god, is so incredibly able to handle that burden.   In His hands, the outcome is as it should be; in our own, what should be a righteous outcome from God can be tainted by our lack of complete knowledge and by our sinful desires for our own destructive, unloving outcomes against those who have hurt us.  We need to forgive and leave the outcomes to the Righteous Judge. Remember that on this plane, God is the constant, and we are the variable.  God is unchanging, it is we who change here and our fellowship with Him, as His child, is restored by the choices that we make.

On the other hand, forgiveness has to do with our relationship with the offending party on a horizontal plane.  I am talking less about this issue in this article, as this may include other issues that cannot always be remedied, because there are two parties involved here—the offending party and us. We can address our relationship with God, and give Him back the burden (or the garbage bag for perhaps a better analogy) that we have wrongly carried, but what does forgiveness look like on the horizontal level?  When we get our heart right with God on the vertical level, we can seek to truly love the person I the biblical manner, as defined in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a.  Perfect love casts out fear.  We can become safe, in the sense that we can seek God’s favor and blessing on them, just as Christ prayed on the cross, but it does mean we enable sin or its negative consequences to come into play unnoticed.  This latter fact complicates our relationships with others, because the offending party is not always safe.  Such forgiveness is not the same as trust, which has to be earned over time, nor is it the same as reconciliation, which happens when the offending party repents of his or her sin and truly changes. Reconciliation on the horizontal plane is what I believe Jesus had in mind when He said, “If he repents, forgive him,” (Luke 17:3).  Ultimately, it is God alone who forgives sin, because sin is an offense against His holy character.  But when we forgive another for his of her offense against us, because he or she has repented (changed his heart and mind and behaviors back towards righteousness), we are mutually restored in our relationship with him or her.

So what is a process of forgiveness?  Practically, how can we give back to God the garbage we have been carrying against another in our heart, and how can we respond to others with God’s love and seeking His favor on another?  I am indebted to Shepherd’s Heart Ministry for what I am about to write, but I pass this along from them to you for your benefit.  Much of this process is written in a book, Before Love Dies, by Larry J. Russell, pages 19-21.

Step 1: Honestly Face the Past

You will need to begin by asking God to help you discern those against whom you have been holding an unforgiving spirit in your heart.  Write down their names.  The person may be dead.  You may not know where the person is.  It may be a parent, a friend, a co-worker, or even a childhood friend.  You may even have to write a letter to yourself for things you have carried that you have not released to God.  Surprisingly, you may even need to write a letter to God for bitterness or resentment that you have held against him.  You will need to write a letter to each person.  However, please understand that this letter is for your eyes only. You will never send it.  The writing of the letter is going into your own “room” of hurt and of bitterness and of resentment, putting it into a garbage bag, and preparing to give it back to it s rightful Owner—the Lord, the Righteous Judge.

In a recent sermon, I compared those hurts to an infected wound.  If it still hurts to touch it, it is not yet healed.  But once the pus is cleaned out, and the infection is gone, and the wound is healed, truly healed, then there may still be a scar, but you can touch it without it hurting.  So it is with those things, the hurtful wounds of our past, we need to forgive.

For this step, write an accusatory letter stating all the incidents and your feelings about them that have happended from the time you met them until today, “Dear [put in the person’s name], (and list his or her offenses out in detail).” do not let either time or fatigue stop you form listing each incident until you are finished. In other words, write down all the “pus.”  Do not worry about how your are saying it.  The letter is for you.  You do not have to be diplomatic or tactful. You are cleaning our the infection.  Be true. Be honest. Be real.  I suggest getting alone in a quiet place, asking God to help you recall what you have been carrying that you were supposed to have been letting Him carry all along.

Step 2: Make a Decision to Forgive.

Continue to write, “And now, [his or her name], I forgive you.  I forgive you for this and this (i.e., listing each category of offenses).”  In your mind’s eye, you are grouping those incidents that have been in that room full of pain, and placing them, collectively, into the garbage bag that you are going to hand over to the God to dispose of, so that you can keep that pain room empty.  You do not have to feel this part, you only have to mean it.  This is a decision that requires faith in God, that He is working in your heart and mind to do the release of those incidences.

Step 3: Forgive Yourself

Continue to write, “[Your name], I forgive you.  I forgive you for carrying all these things around in your heart and mind and for “garbaging” up my life.”  Write down whatever it takes to forgive yourself.  As you have followed each step, you may have some insight into what you have carried for so long.  You may be surprised at how much you have carried, or at other feelings and incidents that come to mind. You can even go back and write more in Steps 1 and 2, as you have such insight.  You may see how these things have become a barrier to your truly loving that person as god intended (1 Cor 13:4-8a).  You may see how these things have come between you and God. You may feel shame, guilt, remorse, sadness at what you have done. God does not want you to carry these either.  Put them in the garbage bag to give to Him, and release them too!

Step 4: Ask God for Forgiveness

Continue to write, “Lord Jesus, I ask your forgiveness.  You instructed me to forgive in your Word, and I have not.”  (Maybe you didn’t know you were supposed to forgive, but now you do.)  State as clearly as you need to that you do not want to carry these bags anymore, that you want to give Him these bags in a final way, an that you do not want to come back and take them to yourself or back to that “pain” room.  You may want to write a prayer such as, “Please restore your grace in my life.  I want to forgive them. God, here is the garbage bag, and now, it is Yours!”

NOTE: Step 5 and Step 6 need to be on separate paper than Steps 1, 2, 3 and 4 (I’ll explain why later).

Step 5: Write How You Will Now Be Different

Continue to write, “Now that I have forgiven and been forgiven, my life will be different in the following ways…” this is an important part of thinking through the implications of our decision to forgive.  You are repenting of holding on to these things, and your are turning away from old patterns to a new way of life—to God’s way! Ask Him to help you answer the question, “what do I have to give up in order to truly forgive the other person?”  Look to Him to show you what and how you nee to change.  You may have to give up rehearsing, in your own mind, the wrongs that he or she has done to you.  You may have to throw away old letters or e-mails or other reminders of the hurt.  You may have to work to re-establish the relationship (this is not true of an abuser or of someone who is to safe and who has not repented of destructive behaviors).  You may have to give up the right to prove that you were right.  You may have to accept as fact that he or she may never know or understand how deeply he or she hurt you.  You may have to give up the desire that he or she know the same.  Additionally, I encourage you to look at 1 Cor 13:4-8a and to write down specific ways that you will work to love them as god wants us to love them, as He, in fact, loves us.

Step 6: Bless the Offender

Continue to write, “Now, [write his or her name], I want to bless you in the following ways.  Write your blessing. You may want to write the words of a prayer for God to bless the offender.  You may want to write what you hope and pray that God will do for him or her to show them His favor.  It is practically impossible to hold on to pain, to bitterness, and to resentment when you are praying God’s favor on someone.  You are seeking God’s best for the offender.

Step 7: The Empty Chair

What do I do with my letters?  I suggest that you go into a quite, private room, and place an empty chair opposite you.  Now imagine, in you mind’s eye, the person who has hurt you sitting in that empty chair.  It may be helpful to have with you a mature, godly person who can kneel in the room and pray for you as you take this next step.  It would be better if he or she does not know the offenders and that he or she is spiritually mature enough not to take up offense at what you are about to read about the offenders.  If you think it wiser not to have that person there, God is still there with you.  Then, facing the empty chair, read each letter aloud before your witness.  There’s a benefit to speaking the words that you have written.  Read them the letter, slowly, thoughtfully and intently.  Think about what you are reading.  You may again feel the pain surfacing, but you are actually cleaning out, scraping out the infection, so that you can heal.  Some even describe this process as surgery.

Step 8: Destroy Steps 1, 2, 3, & 4

If you have a fireplace, or a fire pit, a charcoal grill or some safe place, burn your letters from Steps 1 through 4 (a paper shredder will work as well). Keep separate the pages from Steps 5 and 6 to remind you of your commitments to change.  If your mind brings up the past, revisit these pages.

You have now listed the offenses You have forgiven the offenders.  You have forgiven yourself. You have sought God’s forgiveness.  Now you are doing as God does—removing the transgressions as far as the east is from the west, so you can never revisit them again (Psalm 103:12).  As they burn watch them turn to ash, ask God to honor this moment and to heal you form all this garbage that you have been carrying, and thank Him for the peace He is giving you and that He has taken the garbage bags so that you will never have to carry them again.

Jesus said, “By this will all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another, even as I have loved you.”  Forgiveness is a huge part of that process. I hop you will take to heart what I have shared with you.  You may find more healing than you know.  You will find the peace of God that surpasses all understanding.  You might even begin to understand better how god has forgiven you, in Christ Jesus.  You will find a greater capacity to love, even those who have hurt you!

Enemy at the Gates—You Are Not Alone

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

“Don't go there,” the missionary warned.  I was a youth pastor with several colleagues on reconnaissance for a potential youth missions trip to a London suburb.  Our missionary host was giving us a guided tour, and we were ambling by an ornate Hindu temple within a short distance of his home. Walking past the temple's gilded doors, he looked at me earnestly and asked, “Are you dabbling in the occult in any way?”  “No,” I replied. “If you are,” he continued, “don't go in there.”  The man was not given to sensationalism, but the seriousness in his eyes and in the tone of his voice gave me a sense of foreboding.  The evil one lurked there, and while I never learned the details of the missionary’s experience that led to such caution, it was clear that Satan was alive and well.  Well over twenty years later, I see his face and his words still ring in my ear.

The Apostle Peter described the devil as our “adversary.” The Greek word means someone who has taken us to court and who is against us in a lawsuit.  Sometimes it is a synonym for an enemy.  In the West, we are less aware of the spiritual battle in which we are engaged.  We deal in “immutable facts” and “scientific proofs” and “rational arguments,” but our adversary does not so easily fit into such categories.  We are so used to “natural laws” and “hard figures” and “individual accomplishment” that we rarely venture into the more elusive arena of the unseen spirit-being and his minions. Yet the fact that we rarely venture into that mental landscape does not mean that he is any less there.

Before 9/11, terrorists had long before tried to take down the World Trade Center. American technology prevailed against that sinister attack, and we could sit smugly with a certain air of superiority, enjoying their failure.  Caution gave way to complacency which yielded to the casual comfort of everyday normalcy.  Life went on.  It seemed the enemy was gone.

But the enemy did not roll over and die.  No, he had the same goal of bringing down those gigantic towers.  He chose a different tactic.  He blended in, patiently, for years.  He held a job, paid his bills and looked like your average American. Eventually, he went to flight training classes, bought a ticket to a destination, and boarded a plane like any other passenger.  Only he was not any other passenger, and he had others, equally “normal,” with him to accomplish the same sinister plot.  This time, his plan succeeded, most victims were caught unaware, and his menacing ideologues who survived him danced in the streets.  In the careful study afterwards, clues of their larger deception evidenced years of planning.  He was our adversary, and he had many names and faces.

Our Adversary has many names and faces—the evil one, the accuser of the brethren, the god of this world, the one who disguises himself as an angel of light, and the serpent of old—to name a few.  Years ago, he raised a question in the heavenlies as to who had the right to rule—God or him!  Lucifer was so magnificent that one-third of the angels in heaven, having seen both, opted for Satan.  And so the stage was set on earth to answer the question:  Whom will the human race follow?  When Christ was crucified, demonically inspired hoards danced in the streets at the success of their plot. Years earlier, a satanically-inspired king was moved to kill babies in Bethlehem, and like the terrorists, that first attempt failed.  But this time, success!  Or so they thought.  But the veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom.  The ground trembled, the stone rolled away, and the resurrected Messiah appeared.  The dancers, drop-jawed, stood still.  The enemy's days were numbered.  The embers are glowing in the lake of fire, and a certain judgment awaited.

Still, today, the enemy lurks in the darkness, and much like Germany near the end of  World War II, though his final defeat awaits him, he is still very much alive, and even more dangerous.

When I was little, I used to sing a song: “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart!”   “Where?” “Down in my heart.”  “I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart.  Down in my heart to stay.”  But a light-hearted, cavalier verse followed: “And if the devil doesn't like, it, he can sit on a tack!”  “Where?” “Sit on a tack!”  “Where?”  “Sit on a tack.”  “And if the devil doesn't like it he can sit on a tack!  Sit on a tack to stay.”  As my mother learned more of God's Word, she cautioned me against singing that verse.  “Why?”  I asked.  My godly mentor pointed me to few verses in the oft-overlooked book of Jude.   It speaks of false teachers who “revile angelic majesties” (verse 8) and whose actions are sharply contrasted with those of another angel in the next verse. “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’”  Michael had a tremendous respect for his enemy—but a recognition of his own limitations, coupled with a trust and admiration for the greater power of God.  He did not treat his nemesis lightly, nor did he engage him on his own, but rather asked God to fight his battle for him.  Dare we fight him on our own?

Sometimes we have conflicts with our family, our friends, our neighbors, our coworkers, and even with those in our church.  It can be incredibly painful, and often it feels deeply personal.  But remember the question of, “who has the right to rule?”  We, or those closest to us, are just as susceptible to the terrorist's attacks as were the passengers of the airplanes and the mighty Twin Towers!  He may not have succeeded the first time, but he keeps trying.  If those conflicts wear my face or the face of a friend, we have to remember that ultimately, we are not each other’s enemies.  Our real enemy is not those closest to us.  Our enemy is at the gates, covertly vying for our allegiance, but he is unseen and consequently, often ill-considered.  That is why we so desperately need God's power and protection:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His mightPut on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.  Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.  Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the [spoken] word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:10-18 NASB)

May God grant us the grace to not succumb to the enemy in the gates, but to stand—by His strength, fully armed in His truth, in faithfulness, in right living by His power.

Editor Notes:  Larry Hoskins is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the Senior Pastor of Grace Church Aurora for sixteen years.  He also serves on the CMF Board of Directors.

Face the Truth or Believe a Lie

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

The Fox News website (2/18/10) recently featured an audio recording by Rosie O’Donnell on a radio program in which she interviewed Janeane Garofalo who ranted against Elisabeth Hasselbeck — a talk show host who is recognized as being politically conservative and a Christian.  Janeane accused Elisabeth of being “anti-intellectual” and “not compassionate.”  She noted Elisabeth’s “ridiculous take on religion” because she was “not about being inclusive” or “not about giving of oneself.”  Instead, Janeane noted that Elisabeth “prefers a punishing God” and that “she is not a Christ-like person.”

It is not uncommon, when someone has a difference of opinion or belief with another, for that person to attack the other person rather than to discuss the belief on its own merits.  This type of argument is called an “ad hominem” argument, which is a Latin phrase that can be translated “toward the man” or “against the man.”  Wikipedia discusses the basic form of the “ad hominem” arguments as follows:

Person 1 makes claim X.

There is something objectionable about Person 1.

Therefore claim X is false.

Simply put, if one can discredit “the arguer,” then the ideas he argues for must also be discredited.  On first appearance, it seems to make sense. But a closer examination may surprise you. Let’s consider the following example:

Jack says the bank is on fire.

Jack is a liar.

Therefore, the bank is not on fire.

The statement may be true that Jack is a liar (and that he has been proven to be so many times in the past).  But the statement does not say that Jack is always a liar, so while it is possible that the bank is on not on fire, it is also possible that The Liar Jack could have told the truth and that, in fact, the bank is on fire.  To know for sure, one would have to look not at Jack, but at the bank!  Truth stands outside of those who accept or deny it.

Today an entirely different concept is widely embraced — the view that truth is within oneself; it’s in the eye of the beholder.  It is often said, “That’s your interpretation,” or “That’s true for you.”  But do we really live in that world?  If a woman’s husband is literally and tragically killed in a car wreck, and she says to the doctor who informed her, “That’s your interpretation,” or “That’s true for you, but it’s not true for me.”  Does her saying so, no matter how sincere or earnest she may be, make her husband any more alive?  Is the literal reality any less true because of claims or beliefs or wishes to the contrary?  If beliefs made something true, there would be no more disease or death; poverty and famine would be a thing of the past, beauty contestants would have to come up with a different answer than “world peace,” and everybody would live happily ever after.

Janeane prefers a non-punishing god and inclusiveness (except, of course, including “exclusive” religions).  Elisabeth believes in a punishing God and an exclusive religion (meaning all will go to hell who do not receive Christ as their Savior).  So Janeane can attack Elisabeth and vice versa all day, and at the end of the day, neither is any closer to the truth because of ad hominem arguments.  Society would tell us that each has one’s own truth, yet if this is not true in the realm of objective physical reality (i.e., the bank is either burning or it isn’t), then why does belief in relativism, diversity, and inclusiveness make those views any more true than those who reject them, in the realm of objective ideological reality?  The mantra goes, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Logically, truth requires submissive response.  If the bank is not burning, one can relax, submitting to fact.  If the bank is burning, the responsible person takes action to extinguish the fire and to save lives, submitting to the truth and the corresponding needs of the moment.  Such a submissive response may be easy regarding a bank — especially one’s own bank. In either case, the proper submissive response benefits the responder.

What about when an individual or group does not want to give a submissive response, especially when it comes to objective ideological reality?  If there is no God, no external authority, then there is no inherent right or wrong, so an individual or group defaults to anarchy, just as the Israelites did in the days of the judges: every man did what was right in his own eyes (Judges 17:6; 21:25).

But if there is a sovereign, all-knowing, all-powerful, and everywhere-present God, and if He reveals Himself in various means, past and present (e.g., creation, dreams, visions, theophanies, prophetic messages, the person of Jesus Christ, and in the pages of the 66 books of the Bible), then a submissive response is not optional.  It may appear to be “optional” for a time in the permitted exercise of one’s free will.  However, a submissive response is essential and ultimately will be mandatory:  “Every knee will bow ... and ... every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

There’s the rub! If all beliefs are equally “true,” then no submissive response is required, not even a change of opinion or belief; “live and let live!”  But if one embraces a belief that is contrary to what is absolutely true, then to persist in believing that which is false is lunacy or a delusion.  To insist that those who believe the truth need to be inclusive of beliefs that are absolutely false is foolishness.  If there is a punishing God as the Bible most certainly asserts — then to fail to seek how to remove oneself from such punishment and how one finds favor with that God — is a calamity of the greatest proportions!  To castigate those (who know that answer) for trying to convince others of imminent danger is at least short-sighted and ultimately eternally detrimental to the well-being of all who ignore their message.

Dr. Del Tackett in the Focus on the Family video series entitled, “The Truth Project,” notes that we came either from God or from “goo” – the primordial ooze from which we supposedly evolved.  So why do I believe in God? First, life has always come from someone living.  Each of us came from our parents who came from theirs, and so on Eventually, a first Cause that is self-existent and living must exist.  The alternative suggests that non-living “goo” became alive and evolved.  I’ve never seen something non-living come to life.  Second, personality has always come from something personal. “Goo” does not have personality.  Third, every culture, educated or primitive, has a sense of morality.  It may vary, but where does the common sense of right and wrong come from?  The Bible says that humans are created in the image of God and that God decides what is right or wrong. How does “goo” have any morality?  Fourth, the universe reflects design — look at an eyeball with an eyelid for protection, tear ducts to wash away impurities and to keep the surface of the eye moistened, a lens that focuses light, a pupil that widens and narrows to let in light, and rods and cones that translate light waves into a neurological signal that the brain can re-translate into an image — sight.  Look at our many systems: digestive, skeletal, immune, circulatory — to name a few.  “Goo” has no design and no intelligence.  When I begin to see that the universe requires a self-existent, living, personal, moral, and intelligent being, I begin to see God (with a leap of faith to be sure) but a far less leap than I would have to make for self-existent, impersonal, amoral, unintelligent “goo” to explain the universe.  As the Scripture says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Ps. 19:1).

When I begin to look at the Bible, it claims to be God’s Word (but that could be argued to be simply circular reasoning).  However, when I consider that 40 different authors, all of different backgrounds, education, social standing, and cultures, wrote over a period of 1500 years without contradiction, it is significant.  (I grant that some apparent contradictions exist, but reasonable explanations that do justice to both texts and that resolve the apparent conflict can be provided.)  Fulfilled prophecies also stand unique among other religious texts. For example, crucifixion was described in Isaiah 53 almost 700 years before the Romans even invented it.

Add to the text the impact of Jesus’ life throughout history, the empty tomb, the changed lives of His disciples who ran when He was arrested yet 50 days later, in the same city, argued before the same crowd that had crucified Christ that He had been raised from the dead — and I begin to conclude that our God and His Word have to have merit. God exists.  He reveals Himself, and He does so in the Scripture. We see the beginning of Creation, of family, of marriage, of the 7-day week, of Israel, of Messiah — all in the opening book of its pages. It’s what society has practiced for millennia.  Why would I then reject the Bible’s teachings regarding a day of accountability — the punishing God?

The next time you hear similar claims such as those brought against Elisabeth Hasselbeck, be assured that your faith is not a blind faith.  It has a reasonable basis.  It can be defended, and defended well, even to those who refuse to believe.  Some simply do not want to face the truth and prefer to believe a lie. (II Peter 3:5) 

Editor Notes:  Larry Hoskins is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the Senior Pastor of Grace Church Aurora for sixteen years.  He also serves on the CMF Board of Directors.

Feeling Inadequate?—You Are Not Alon

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

He did not feel up to the task, and he is not alone!

Have you ever felt that way?  Some time ago, I was visiting a men’s group at another church.  Knowing the church needed teachers (and that is not what this article is about), one of the men commented that he did not feel ready to teach because he did not know enough.  As I heard him, I reflected on my own past.  I had begun teaching when I was in the eighth grade with no formal training.  Now, as a pastor, understanding a church’s need for more men who would lead, I asked him how long he had been attending the church.  “Five years,” he responded.  Trying to spur him forward past his reluctance, I smiled and said, “Couldn’t you teach some of what you have learned in the past five years to some of those who are just starting to come?  You’re five years ahead of them!”  The meeting ended, and I do not know what he chose to do.  I do know that he felt inadequate and under-prepared.

Others have felt that same way. One good and godly man said to me recently when asked why he did not consider becoming an Elder, “I’m not sure I know the Word well enough to be an Elder.”  He has been around the church and under the instruction of God’s Word for some time, yet he still feels inadequate.  I think most of us have felt that way at one time or another.

In Exodus 3, after God appeared to Moses in the burning bush, He told him He wanted him to go to Pharaoh to bring the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt.  It was a monumental task, as later the nation was numbered at over two million people.  Even though he had been raised in Pharaoh’s court and had been groomed by the Lord for the position, after being a shepherd for the past forty years, Moses repeatedly argued with God:

But Moses said to God, “Who am 1, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt?” (Ex. 3:11)
Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’ Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” (Ex. 3:13)
Then Moses said, “What if they will not believe me or listen to what 1 say? For they may say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” (Ex. 4:1)
Then Moses said to the LORD, “Please, Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither recently nor in time past, nor since You have spo­ken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” (Ex. 4:10)
But he said, “Please, Lord, now send the message by whomever You will.” (Ex 4:13) [What he meant was, “Send the message by whomever you will besides me.”]

Repeatedly, Moses brought up to God his apprehensions about himself and his concerns about how the people of Israel might respond to him.  He was not considering that it was the Lord God of Israel who was speaking to him and directing him into a very specific ministry.

After all of these responses to the Lord (and in between each question, the Lord gave an answer to Moses to disarm his concerns), how did God re­spond to Moses’ continuing sense of inadequacy and to his refusal to do what the Lord had clearly instructed him?

Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, … (Exodus 4:14)

Moses taxed the patience of the Lord who became offended at his repeated refusals to bow to the command of the Lord.

Another great man, Jeremiah, likewise argued with God’s calling upon him to be a prophet:

Now the word of the LORD came to me saying, 5Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.”  6Then I said, “Alas Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, because I am a youth.” 7But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ Because everywhere I send you, you shall go, And all that I command you, you shall speak. (Jer. 1:4-7)

Why is it that we are so prone to see our own shortcomings rather than the nature and wisdom of God who calls us to be ministers?  It was God who spoke to Jeremiah.  It was God who created him in his mother’s womb.  It was God who had an omniscient, timeless awareness of him before he was even created.  It was God who set him apart for this ministry.  It was God who sent him to the people of Judah.  It was God who directed Jeremiah to speak a very specific message to his nation.  Who was Jeremiah to argue with him?  Who are we?  Does not He know our limitations before He draws us or commands us to minister?  Why risk His anger by refusing to comply?

In a sense, we are right to consider ourselves inadequate.  Humanly speaking, we do not have the resources to do the things God asks us to do.  We can say with the Apostle Paul:

“Such confidence we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves,…” (2 Cor. 3:4-5a)

God’s work had to be done God’s way with God’s resources and in God’s timing. All of this requires a divine empowerment. We are not adequate in ourselves to do what God asks of us, but we are made adequate by Him, as Paul discusses when he continues the above passage:

“…but our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor. 3:5b-6)

The central figure in our adequacy is the Spirit of God. Where He is actively at work, and where we are responsive to Him, there is life!  That is why Jesus spoke of divine empowerment when He spoke of sending the Spirit just before He ascended to heaven:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you….” (Acts 1:8a).

Has God been tugging on your heart to start or to become involved in a specific ministry?  Have you been arguing with Him because you see your own inadequacies — however real they may be?  It is okay to be aware of your own inadequacies.  We need to recognize our own weaknesses, and we need to have humble hearts.  But it is not okay to be dismissive of the Power of God present in you through the Holy Spirit as if He has the same limitations that we do. He shares none of them.  In fact, He makes us adequate when we ourselves are inadequate, and to quote the great poet Robert Frost, in “The Road Not Taken,” “that has made all the difference.” 

Editor Notes:  Larry Hoskins is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the Senior Pastor of Grace Church Aurora for sixteen years.  He also serves on the CMF Board of Directors.

Finishing What We Started

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

What does it mean to be a “member” of something?  The word itself, member, seems almost an antiquated term.  One pastor recently told me that few people become members of churches any more.  His comment makes an interesting observation, and it is deeply rooted in our Western culture.  I am told that in the East or in the Asian part of the world a much greater sense of “community” is emphasized while in the West we emphasize a much greater sense of “the individual.”  The former value puts aside individual interest in favor of the common good, while the latter discounts the common good for the good of self. These two focal points could hardly be more divergent. There’s the rub.

Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines “member” as:

  1. a body part or organ . . .
  2. one of the individuals composing a group
  3. a person baptized or enrolled in a church
  4. a constituent part of a whole . . .

Intrinsic to every one of these definitions is a connection to something greater than the member—be it the physical body, the group, the people of the church, or the whole.  One of the key questions is how vitally integrated is the member to that to which it is connected?  It is obvious that all parts of my body are vitally connected, but not all are equally vital to the body.  My little finger is as vitally connected to my body—as is heart.  Take either part out of the body, and both will cease to live and function.  But take my little finger off of my body:  it will hurt and I’ll miss it, but I probably won’t die.  On the other hand, take my heart out of my body, and I will die along with my heart!  In short, my heart is way more vital to my existence than is my little finger.  Which kind of member would you rather be, and which are you?

Allow me to tell you my story as a member of CMF, but if you read it, don’t stop in the middle; go all the way to the end.  When I was asked to join the Board of Directors of CMF, I was asked to come along in the role of a consultant.  I am a pastor by vocation.  My total direct involvement with the military was taking an initial test given by a recruiter at my college for me to be considered for a fighter pilot, being picked up by the Marine Corps and put up in a hotel overnight, going through a physical exam, and then being told that my eyes were not good enough to qualify for the job.  I had enjoyed indirect association with the military.  I had met many quality military personnel, had spoken on marriage to military families at a Cadence International Hospitality House near Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, visited the Camp Hansen Marine Base there, and had been invited to an Anniversary Ball for the Marine Corps by one of the retired Marines in my church.  But that hardly qualifies as military experience, so I was wary of being on the Board of a Mission whose primary focus was equipping those in the military to reach and disciple others within the military and encourage them to do the same.  Still, they solicited my advice. I was a pastor, seminary-trained with many years of experience in ministry; and that, I was told, was what they wanted.  So I joined the Board of CMF. I would say that my involvement was more of a “toe in the water” than that of “jumping in.”

My first impression of CMF was that it is a small mission.  At the time it had a handful of office staff along with a few Field Staff (i.e., missionaries) and a group of “local reps” who were those who had agreed to actively minister within the military as a representative of CMF.  Not a lot seemed to be happening that I could readily tell bore fruit, so I was reluctant to give financially to a ministry that I didn’t immediately see produced “results.”  In fact, I initially told our now President/CEO, Bob Flynn, to take my name off the “member” rolls on which he had kindly placed me as a Board member, because CMF asks their members to make certain commitments that I was not yet ready to make—specifically, “. . .to participate actively and prayerfully in the ministry of the Christian Military Fellowship with my time, talents, spiritual gifts and financial resources.”

The Bible says to “let your yes be yes,” and I believe in spiritual integrity. I was willing to make the first three commitments, but I needed to see that investing some of the limited financial resources God had entrusted to my family was warranted by the ministry I was seeing.  To be honest, I wasn’t so sure that was the case, and uncertainty was why I asked Bob to remove my name from the member rolls.  In fact, at one point I submitted a lengthy letter of resignation to the Board that stated my concerns as well as my sense that what the Board needed and what I could provide were not the same.

Thankfully to God, the Board reaffirmed the value of what I brought to the table and they strongly asked me to reconsider my resignation, so I continued on in that role.  Over time, I began to see much more in CMF.  I had the opportunity to meet our Field Staff and see their heart for ministry to the military, to see the significant global prayer ministry, to see the resources and books made available to the membership, and to see the Board’s efforts as well as those of our Office Staff.  Over time, other ministries became evident as well—conference ministries for those in the military and also for churches trying to minister to military families, people encouraged by the monthly newsletters, financial aid as funds have been made available to help families heavily impacted by deployments, a growing number of local reps working with chaplains and with others in the military, care packages being sent to deployed troops, and more. My reservations were eventually replaced by an earnest enthusiasm for this ministry and by the confirmed belief that God is working in a significant way through CMF and that people of integrity at every level were doing the work of the ministry.

Why did I tell my story?  I needed to gain a greater ownership of the commitments I made a few years ago, and God did a work in my heart.  I have given more of my time, talents, spiritual gifts, and yes, more of my financial resources.  I am happy to continue to do so. Last year, the CMF Board spent two-and-a-half days at a Pray and Plan retreat.  Two major goals came out of that as a consensus of our meeting – 1) that we needed to find another Board member to replace one who had moved away and 2) that we needed to help our members gain a greater ownership of their commitment as members of CMF. God gave us our Board member.  So the first goal was accomplished to His glory.  And what about the second?

Many of you, our readers, have made the voluntary commitment to be members of Christian Military Fellowship.  That membership came with commitments that are detailed on the link to CMF’s Home Page on the Web (www.cmfhq.org).  Most of you who are members of CMF are also members or have been members of the military.  All in the latter group have made commitments.  When those commitments are met, it does not guarantee the success of the mission, but the likelihood of success in the mission is significantly increased.  When the commitments are just partially met, the opposite is the case.  The same is true of CMF.  We believe that God wants to use CMF to “encourage men and women in the United States Armed Forces, and their families, to love and serve the Lord Jesus Christ.”  We ask you to do so in many different ways.  First, we ask you to pray for CMF.  Second, as primarily an indigenous ministry (i.e., one in which those within the military minister to those in the military), we ask you to become local reps who establish local ministry fellowships where you seek to reach, to disciple, and to equip those in the military to do the same.  You don’t have to know everything in the Bible, and you don’t have to have a seminary degree.  Just learn, live and teach what has been taught to you from God’s Word.  If you cannot teach in a formal setting, do it sitting across the table from someone with a cup of coffee or find someone who can, and come along side them.  (Many resources to help you may be ordered or downloaded from CMF’s website to help you to that end!)  Thirdly, we ask for your consistent financial gifts.  Did you know that if 100% of our members gave just $10 per month, CMF would fully funded to meet its current ministry need?  All of us can afford two less Starbucks per month or one less fast food meal.  In fact, I think most of us could afford more.

I am pleased to say that, even in the current struggling economy, it looks like CMF will “break even” for the current year.  But “breaking even” simply means that we have not spent more than we took in; it does not mean that our entire ministry budget was met.  Imagine what would happen if each of us gave, not just $10 per month but even more sacrificially!  How many more lives would be reached for Christ?  How many more would grow in their relationship with Christ?  How many more resources would be made available?  How many Field Staff could be hired and how many more military establishments would have a CMF presence?  I can assure you that CMF is focused on ministry and that its leadership works to maximize every dollar spent.

The Apostle Paul charged us to let our “yes” be yes! If you are a member of CMF, I also urge you, as he urged Archippus, “Fulfill your ministry!” I can’t wait to see what God is going to do!

The Forger's Fire

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

Have you ever wondered why some of the things you want most in life are so difficult to attain?  The Scripture speaks of iron sharpening iron, and the imagery of the metaphor is difficult to grasp in our modern world.  Today, we think of electric grinders or a file that would sharpen a piece of iron such as a lawnmower blade.  It takes only a few minutes, and that is what we often expect in terms of human growth.  If I can just say the right word or give the right word picture, then genuine life transformation can occur — whether it be in ourselves or in someone we are trying to influence. In this “fast food” or instant society, why would we expect anything less?

Such thinking, however, runs contrary to the analogy and to life itself.  In the days when this proverb was written, they did not enjoy the luxuries of electric grinders or metal files; they had blacksmiths.  A blacksmith would heat a forge with coal, select the proper metal, and then, using a bellows, heat a portion of the metal until it was red hot, bringing it to a malleable state.  The hot metal would then be hammered on an anvil, usually 6 to 8 inches at a time, working the metal to the right thickness, length, and strength. From time to time the metal would have to be reheated to get it back to the right temperature; and it would be allowed to cool naturally while doing nothing to it, simply to help the consistency of the grain of the metal.  Somewhere along the way, it would be reheated and allowed to cool while insulated, so the cooling would be slower.  Many of these steps would be repeated several times. In short, iron sharpening iron is not an instantaneous occurrence; it is a long, slow, tedious process that requires a lot of hard, exhausting work from beginning to end, when the final product, a sword for example, is completed.

Sometimes we have difficulty making changes in our own lives, let alone the lives of those to whom we minister.  It takes time and a lot of it to develop the right thinking and the right behaviors — all impacted by the right value system as God has revealed for us in His Word.  That is why Paul described love, in 1 Corinthians 13, as being patient, and why Jesus said that all men will know that we are His disciples when we have that kind of patient love towards one another.  The Scripture says that love covers a multitude of sins.  We have to allow one another to be “in process.”
Even Jesus experienced frustration with His disciples in the iron sharpening iron process.  In Matthew 16, the Pharisees and Sadducees had come to Jesus to test Him; and He warned the disciples to beware of the “leaven” of those religious leaders.  Throughout Scripture leaven had been used as a picture of sin, but the disciples didn’t get what Jesus was talking about; they started talking about how none of them had brought any bread.  Jesus chastised them — they were able to tell the weather from common indicators in the natural realm, but they did not have the same ability from the common indicators in the spiritual realm. He says,

“You men of little faith, why do you discuss among yourselves that you have no bread?  Do you not yet understand or remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets full you picked up?  Or the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many large baskets full you picked up?  How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread?  But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” (Matthew 16:8-11 NASB)

What was Jesus’ point?  On an earlier occasion, when a crowd of between 5,000 men and possibly as many as 10,000 more women and children were following Jesus to listen to his teaching, as the lunch hour approached, Jesus told his disciples to feed the crowd.  The disciples looked at their meager resources and said they didn’t have enough food.  After a search, they found a boy with a paltry five loaves and two fish.  But the disciples had another resource they did not see: Jesus.  He multiplied that boy’s lunch and fed the whole crowd, with twelve baskets left over.  A similar story followed an encounter with a crowd of 4,000.  Two major events provided ample opportunity for the disciples to see that they had Jesus as the most significant resource of all. Still they needed further instruction.  They had to be put back into the forge, reheated, and hammered again.

It was only after Jesus’ remarks that Matthew comments in the next verse:

Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:12 NASB)

How many of us as parents have experienced a multitude of disappointments along the way as we have raised our children?  But we did not quit and let the “bellows stop heating the metal in the forge.”  No, we kept heating the metal, hammering it again and again because we were working towards the final product: our child becoming a mature adult.  That is the same kind of love and patience that we are to have with one another — iron sharpening iron.

My congregation has shown great patience with me as their pastor.  I came to Grace Church Aurora eighteen years ago, as a young married man with a wife and a few children — a man who had never been a senior pastor. I  was only thirty-five years old; and I had a lot to learn about people, about life, about preaching, about ministry, and about myself.  I still have much more to learn.  They didn’t stop and throw me in the scrap heap.  They kept putting me in the fire, heating me up, shaping me with the hammer, letting me cool, and doing it all over as God has been working in my life through them. I hope I have done the same for them.

God has placed us here in each other’s lives for a purpose.  The Scripture tells us that the Spirit composes the Body just as He wills, so our presence together is no accident.  May He continually see in us the exacting process, person to person, that it takes for iron to sharpen iron as in the forger’s fire.

God's Purposes for Allowing Adversity in Our Lives

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

any of us have watched with interest, if not had first-hand experience with, the difficulties our nation is going through both as a whole and as individuals. We have seen the banking industry and auto manufacturers collapse and be bailed out by our government.  The Denver Post recently reported that one in seven people in our nation is living below the poverty level.  That means that a family of four is trying to live on an annual income of roughly $22,000 or less. Foreclosures are up as is unemployment.  Healthcare costs are rising, suggesting there are many more who are needing such care, as well as increased costs to insure us all.  The nation is divided along ideological grounds on topics such as the size of government, immigration, taxation, sexual orientation, the definition of marriage, and so much more.  We are constantly bombarded with the debate, and the acrimony between political parties is possibly at an all-time high.

While such issues create a certain amount of stress that we all experience, some issues hit us much more up close and personal.  Often, when that happens, the generic issues mentioned above become specific for us.  Our health is jeopardized. Our finances are depleted. Our homes are lost. Our job is looking for a job.  Our child is pregnant or got someone pregnant out of wedlock.  Our marriage is being impacted by divorce. Our children are rejecting their faith and deeply wounding us in the process.  Our spouse is in prison.  Our child or grandchild was still-born.  These types of things and many more equally or more severe have all happened in our church during my tenure.

During such times, we may question God and His goodness, we may grumble and complain, we may seek release and personal comfort, or we may seek God’s sovereign purposes in lovingly allowing us to go through these adversities or difficulties.  It is precisely at such times that we need to remind ourselves of the propositional truths from God’s Word that will renew our thinking and anchor our hearts and minds while we are in the raging sea of disappointment, hurt, and anger that would take us elsewhere.

I thought of at least six purposes found in God’s Word.  I have discovered that they help me to center my thoughts in His goodness, to be strengthened to face what He sends or allows to come my way, and to think outside of God’s dealings with just me — to what He may be doing in the lives of others or for purposes on a much larger scale.  So what does God’s Word say about His purposes for allowing adversity into our lives?

To Prepare Us for Future Ministry

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Cor. 1:3-4, NASU).

What a marvelous gift we receive in the midst of hardship — God’s comfort.  Often, in the throes of our most difficult moment, we seek God the most, we pray more earnestly, and we listen intently to His Word and to other godly counselors for the insight we so desperately crave.  We are introspective and examine our lives and our hearts and our motives, and using all of the above, God gives us insight — insight that is not only good for us (and it certainly is), but also insight that is beneficial to others traveling the same trying road. I once knew a family who lost a two-year-old daughter in a tragic swimming pool accident.  God used their experience to help them become engaged in a ministry to other bereaved parents who benefitted from His comfort passed on through that family.

To Increase Our Reliance upon God

Americans tend to be self-reliant.  It is a virtue that is often espoused: the independent spirit.  It is what enabled our great heroes to conquer the West, survive the Great Depression, and win world wars.  While a “can do” attitude has its place, it can also run counter to a mature faith.  So God sometimes sees fit to remind us of our great need for Him.  At one time, circumstances were so distressing for the Apostle Paul that he despaired even of living, and in describing this moment in his life, Paul wrote,

“Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor. 1:9, NASU).

Even if our life is taken, at some point we have to come to rest in God’s good and sovereign purposes in our lives. The misleading alternative is to “trust in ourselves.”  We do not know what He knows.  We do not think as He thinks. At some point we must surrender to Him all of those things beyond our control and power to change or to influence.

To Move Others Along with Us to Prayer and Thanksgiving

Paul did not die in those circumstances as he suspected he might.  God delivered him! Yet Paul and God were not the only players in that moment in his life, and Paul’s optimism was revived, for he wrote of the God,

“…who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope.  And He will yet deliver us, you also joining in helping us through your prayers, so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.” (2 Cor. 1:10-11, NASU).

How many of us have seen God respond to our prayers for the deliverance of others, and as a result we have offered thanks to Him?  How many of us have been the recipients of such prayers and have thanked God for their support and encouragement and for His answers to prayer?  Those who think God is not engaged at a personal level have not seen this truth revealed in His Word.

To Mature Us

It seems counter-intuitive, but adversity can be our friend.  That same self-examination and introspection described earlier in this article can help us to grow spiritually and as people. That is why Jesus’ half-brother James wrote in his Epistle, to “count it all joy” when we encounter various trials (James 1:2). Why should we do that? James continues,

“…knowing that the testing of our faith [that’s what a trial does] produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:3-4, NASU).

If we do not have the wisdom necessary to count it all joy and to see how we grow, God says to ask Him in faith, without any doubting, and that God gives it generously and does not rebuke us for it.  Think about it for a minute.  Where have you grown through the adversity in your life?  Do you see God’s goodness to you in the process of growing spiritually?

To Move Us to Repentance through Discipline

I hesitate to include this purpose, because for some it can contribute to the false notion that God has a hammer just waiting to nail us when we are wrong.  Romans 8:1 tells us that there is no condemnation from God for those of us who are in Christ Jesus (meaning, having trusted in His death and resurrection to save us from our sin).  We have been made righteous in Christ, and we have an Advocate, Jesus Christ, the Righteous, who pleads our case before the Father.  That same Father is involved in a total transformation in which He is actively at work to increasingly shape us into the image of His Son while we live our sin-impacted lives on this planet.  That fact requires God to discipline us — to train us — along the way.  Comparing God’s training of us to that of our earthly fathers, the writer of Hebrews wrote,

“For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:10-11, NASU).

Sometimes, when the offense is greater, the discipline is more severe, but when God does it, it is always done with loving, yet firm, restoration at heart, never with eternal condemnation. He never gives up on you!

To Give Us Opportunity to Express Community

Lastly, believers are told to

“rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15, NASU).

A key word in that text is “with.”  We are to be in the company of those going through hard times to love and support them, to pray for them, and to encourage them.  We feel their pain, and we celebrate with them when resolution comes.  Some of my best memories are of when my closest friends stood by me in my greatest moments of pain.  How good of our God to give us visible, present reminders of His love.

Whatever trial you are facing, know that God has good purposes in mind — good for you, good for those with you, good for those watching you, and good for His eternal purposes in you, in your family, in your church, and even in your country and globally.  His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts.  But one thing we can be assured of — that they are good and that they have a divinely-wrought purpose.

The Certain in God's Uncertain Plans

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

Someone once said, “What you see is what you get.”  We talk about people seeing the world as a glass “half empty” or “half full.”  The Bible is full of stories that demonstrate over and over the difference one’s perspective makes.

When Job and his wife lost their ten children and all they possessed, Job’s wife questioned why he held fast to his spiritual integrity, and urged him to curse God and die.  Job, on the other hand, asked, “Shall we accept good from God and not adversity?”  He fell on his face and blessed the name of the Lord.

On another occasion, the Israelites had turned their backs on the Lord, and God had placed them under His loving, but firm, hand of discipline, yet He was about to restore them back into His good graces.  Deborah, a judge God had raised up for that moment, summoned a man named Barak and told him to take 10,000 men from two of the tribes of Israel to gain the victory.  Barak didn’t see the word of the Lord as reason enough; he wanted Deborah by his side.  As a result, God removed the honor of victory from him and gave it to a woman named Jael who drove a tent peg through the enemy’s temple.

Do you remember the story of David and Goliath?  The enemy Philistine army was on one side of a great valley, and the Israelite army was on the opposite side.  In those days, rather than fighting a whole war, sometimes a champion from each side would fight as representatives of both armies.  Goliath, that great champion of the Philistines had been taunting the Israelites for days. He was literally a giant of a man, and his weapons were huge.  Not one seasoned Israelite soldier took up the gauntlet.  No, it was a youthful shepherd who rose to the challenge. Here are his words to the “tall tree”:

"You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have taunted.  "This day the LORD will deliver you up into my hands, and I will strike you down and remove your head from you.  And I will give the dead bodies of the army of the Philistines this day to the birds of the sky and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not deliver by sword or by spear; for the battle is the LORD'S and He will give you into our hands." (1 Sam 17:45-47 )

The rest of the story is history.  This rookie recruit without even a suit of armor took five small stones and slung one deep into the forehead of the giant oak.  How great was its fall! How great was God’s victory!  What would have happened if any of the other Israelite soldiers had seen what David saw?  What blessings and honor they missed.

Many of us are having difficulties right now.  Some are going through job searches.  Others have lost spouses through death or divorce.  Others are going through bankruptcy.  Some of our children have made choices that deeply disappointed us; some parents have done the same.  Some of you have your own Goliaths to face—giants that none of us even know about.

In all of these circumstances, what do we see?  Do we see the circumstances and conclude that God is evil and want to curse Him like Job’s wife?  Do we desire the securing of someone else besides the Lord alongside of us, like Barak did?  Do we see the power of the enemy and of our own inability, like the Israelite army?

Or...like Job, do we see that God deserves our worship and blessing whether He gives or takes away?  Do we see that God provides opportunities for victory, like Jael?  Do we see that God is bigger than hugely opposing circumstances, like David, such that our greatest concern is for Him to get the glory and recognition that He deserves?

Whatever the darkness, be certain of this: God’s plans for His children are good and not evil.  He sees the past, the present, and the future with equal clarity, so He is not surprised by whatever we encounter—the circumstances or the emotional, spiritual, and mental struggles that may come with them.  He is present everywhere. He knows all things.  His power is limitless for His righteous purposes.

There is nothing, no circumstance, no trouble, no testing, that can ever touch me until, first of all, it has gone past God and past Christ, right through to me.  If it has come that far, it has come with a great purpose, which I may not understand at the moment, but as I refuse to become panicky, as I lift up my eyes to Him and accept it as coming from the throne of God for some great purpose of blessing to my own heart, no sorrow will ever disturb me, no trial will ever disarm me, no circumstance will cause me to fret, for I shall rest in the joy of what my Lord is. That rest is the rest of victory. ─Alan Redpath

You see, we have such limited knowledge and perspective, and God’s plans, to us, have the ring of uncertainty.  That uncertainty results from our not knowing, but imagining the outcome.  It comes from not understanding God’s purposes and from the dissonance of what we are experiencing that does not coincide with our preferences or plans.  So often we want out of the trouble and back into the world of comfort rather than the growth that is part of God’s design through trials and heartache.

Whatever you are experiencing in God’s “uncertain” plans for you, may we all come to see our experiences with the right perspective, to enjoy His peace which passes all understanding, and to life in Redpath’s “rest of victory”!

“For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. “ Jeremiah 29:11 NLT

Editor Notes:  Larry Hoskins is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the Senior Pastor of Grace Church Aurora for sixteen years. He also serves on the CMF Board of Directors.


Judas Was A Hero?

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

Treachery is a virtue.  That was a tribal worldview of certain tribes in New Guinea described by Don Richardson in his book, Peace Child.  Cannibalistic tribesmen would unwittingly visit a neighboring tribe who would, as they called it, “fatten the pig for the kill.”  The hosting tribe would repeatedly invite the tribesmen to eat with them, and it would happen so frequently that the visitor would think that he was developing good friends.  Then, after a while on one of those visits when he had become sufficiently portly, the hosting tribe would spear their guest to death and eat him.  They actually enjoyed the whole operation of making their neighbor a patsy for their betrayal.

When missionaries came to these tribes, and told them the story of Jesus, the tribesman whistled with approval as Judas betrayed Jesus.  Judas was their hero, and Jesus was a clueless mark whom Judas had played like an old violin.  When treachery is a virtue and when Judas is the champion, how does a missionary communicate that Judas was the villain and that Jesus was the hero?  God had prepared the New Guinea tribesmen for just such a reversal.

When two warring tribes wanted peace between themselves, a tribe would give one of their children to a family of the other tribe.  That child was called the “Peace Child,” and if a member of the recipient tribe killed the Peace Child, even though the tribes valued treachery, such a killing was culturally defined to be a reprehensible and ignoble act.  After a period of constant retaliatory killings had occurred between the tribes, a missionary learned that the Peace Child was the way to at least bring a temporary cease fire. And then it clicked!  Humankind was at war with God, and God sent His Peace Child to earth to bring peace between God and man, and Judas had betrayed the Peace Child and was responsible for His death.  Judas became the scoundrel, and Jesus the protagonist.  As a result of this missionary’s faithfulness, many of those New Guinea tribal peoples came to a saving faith in Christ.

The only reason so many of those individuals are now our brothers and sisters in Christ is because Don Richardson followed a principle of ministry that the Apostle Paul outlined in Romans 15:20-21 where he wrote:

And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man's foundation; but as it is written, “THEY WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND.”

Through Paul’s missionary efforts and that of others like him, many all around the globe have heard the gospel and believed.  It didn’t always happen right away. In fact, Paul makes it clear that it is a process in which God is causing the ultimate outcome.

Today, we live next door to neighbors and we work in cubicles where there are many who “have not heard.”  Recently, I was at a Board meeting for a missionary organization where another Board member lamented, “The church is all talk and no action.”  He was referring to the importance of evangelism, but few actually get around to sharing their faith with another person.  How are we doing at actually sharing the good News of Jesus with others?  How are you doing at it?  Our youth just gave us a glowing report of how they were sharing Christ with others around them.  We listened to their stories and saw the joy in their faces.  We also heard of a change of heart from one of our adult leaders.  Who would deny them that privilege?  Who would deny you that blessing.

So many around us live within a stone’s throw of the gospel at a Bible-teaching church, on the airwaves, on TV, or right next door.  Yet for all the proximity to the Good News, many have “no news” and many “have not heard.” The Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

“...we had the boldness in our God to speak to you the gospel of God amid much opposition. For our exhortation does not come from error or impurity or by way of deceit; but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not as pleasing men, but God who examines our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:2-4 NASB)

May we put into practice the same boldness that God gave to Paul in such a way that God, who examines our hearts, is delighted.

Editor Notes:  Larry Hoskins is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the Senior Pastor of Grace Church Aurora for sixteen years.  He also serves on the CMF Board of Directors.

Keeping Others' Interests in Mind

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

Have you ever noticed how God never asks us to do something that He has not modeled for us?  We are told to pray without ceasing, and Jesus prayed so much that His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray.  We are told to assemble together, and we see Jesus with others in the Temple and in their homes.  We are told to be gracious and merciful, and anyone familiar with the Gospel would know of God’s grace and mercy to us.  We are told to give, and God gave us His Son and spiritual gifts through which we can serve Him.

In fact, God’s dealings with us form a model for how we are to deal with each other.  We clearly see this fact in Paul’s letter, from prison, to the church in Philippi:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, (Philippians 2:1-5 NASB)

Christ comes alongside us in our life situations.  In love and through His Word, He whispers words of comfort and encouragement to us.  He sent His Holy Spirit who indwells our very bodies.  He could have just looked in the mirror and told Himself how great He was, but He was always ministering to others.  He made water into wine at the wedding in Cana when it had run out.  He fed the 5,000 men (some estimate that if women and children were included, that it may have been as many as 15,000) when they needed food.  He visited the unpopular tax collectors.  He raised a widow’s son from the dead, touched a leper, and wept with two grieving sisters who had lost their brother a few days earlier.  It’s almost impossible to find Jesus alone, and even then, in most cases we find Him praying for others.  The awesome God of all creation stoops to become a baby to show us, in terms that we mere mortals can grasp, what God is like.  Even as He fulfilled His mission, He prays for those who had placed a crown of thorns on His head, who had beaten Him, who had scourged and spit upon Him, and who had crucified Him, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Paul’s words to us are, in short, “Do the same thing. Be like Christ.”

It’s a fairly straightforward concept to be like Christ.  If we are not this way, the causes listed in the above passage are characteristics that we all are familiar with.  We can see them in others, and if we are honest, we can see them in ourselves: selfishness, empty conceit, and a lack of humility.  We saw them in Satan when he imagined himself to be like God.  We saw them in Eve and in Adam when they imagined that God was not good and that He was holding out on them and when they acted, independent of Him, in taking and eating of the forbidden fruit.  We saw them in David’s sin with Bathsheba and in Peter’s bold claims (along with that of all the other disciples) that he would never deny Christ.  They are behind our desire to hold positions of leadership to lord it over others rather than to serve. They are imbedded in every lack of consideration for the cure seen in Christ’s example.

What is that cure? Paul said, “With humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves. Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  In short, we are to have the attitude of Christ — the one He most graphically exemplified when He submitted to the Father to the ignominious death on the cross.

Many of you have given and labored so sacrificially — looking out for the interests of others.  You have taught, administrated, mowed lawns, cleaned, visited people in the hospital, cooked meals, led mission trips and Vacation Bible Schools, hosted a small group, ushered, and a whole host of other ministries with others in mind.

How else can we look out for the interest s of others?  First, we can let our yes be yes.  If we say we will do something, make sure we do it or take responsibility to get someone to do it for us if we cannot. Others counting on us will be encouraged rather than disappointed that we did not show up and then scrambling to fill the void.  Let us keep our commitments.  Second, show up on time.  We show up on time for work or for movies.  Let’s not shortchange the praise we give to God or offend those who have prepared to lead us in worship by showing up late for worship.  Let us not keep parents and children waiting for teachers to show up. Get up a little earlier. Plan for interruptions or “disasters” so when they come we can still be where we have said we would be when we said we would be or when we are suppose to be.  Third, volunteer.  When someone or some ministry is in need of help, whether it is mowing, cleaning, teaching, childcare or cooking a meal, think what it is like for someone trying to recruit others for a ministry.  How many calls would you like to make, and how many times would you like to be told no?  Say yes when you can, and the recruiter’s job will be a lot more enjoyable.  Fourth, share your faith?  You may be a sower, or one who waters, or one who reaps the harvest, but imagine what it will be like in heaven when someone thanks you for introducing them to our Savior.

The list could go on, but do not miss the point. Christ has done so much almost always with others in mind.  Let’s make sure that we are not looking out for our own interests, but also for the interests of others, too. May God get the glory when we do!

Editor Notes:  Larry Hoskins is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the Senior Pastor of Grace Church Aurora for sixteen years. He also serves on the CMF Board of Directors.


One Key to Fruitfulness

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

Paul wrote to his protégé, in Titus 3:14,

“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.”

Guaranteed fruitfulness — now that’s a concept!  We need to reflect on several key ideas about this verse.  First, “our people” refers to the church.  It is especially the responsibility of the church to seek those we can help.  So often, people think of helping as being the “government’s job.”  After all, one might think, they tax our income, and have all this money (or at least they used to), so let them handle it.  Such a thought is further accentuated by the declining numbers and donations to churches all across the country.  While we would prefer that the government allow us to keep those tax funds and to choose where to spend them, and while we own the responsibility and privilege of helping support our local church, does that relieve us of the charge to “our people” that we must be of help?  It’s not somebody else’s responsibility, it is yours and mine!

Second, Paul says that it is something we must “learn” to do.  When we think of learning, we tend to think of classroom learning — but there is more to it than just that.  Paul wants us to appropriate for ourselves the necessary concepts both through instruction and then the ongoing experience of doing good deeds.  Over time, less and less instruction is needed, and more and more good deeds are actually accomplished.  Apparently, we either need others to set the example and to instruct us so we can learn from them and model them, or we ourselves need to learn by trial and error.  Paul’s stated need for us to learn implies that the doing of good deeds in the right way and the best way does not come naturally.

Third, Paul instructed Titus of the need for us to “engage” in these good deeds.  The Greek word for “engage” literally means “to stand before” as in “lead.”  It then came to have the metaphorical sense of showing an interest or concern for something (as a good leader would be expected to do in the arena in which he or she is leading).  One Greek dictionary mentioned the concept of “to champion.”  The picture I get is that we are not to be passive observers or disengaged participants, giving half-hearted efforts, but we are to be enthusiastically engaged in the high purpose of meeting needs.  This engagement is not a one-time event, but a way of life.

Fourth, Paul says that the church must learn to engage “in good deeds.”  Today, “good” is almost always perceived as what pleases us or society.  Ultimately, however, good is not rooted in personal opinions of an individual or group, it is rooted in God’s character and what pleases Him.  Some would say that if a man Is hungry, he needs to be fed, so feeding him would be “good.”  But sometimes a man is hungry because he will not work, and God’s Word tells us that if a man will not work, then he is not to eat.  It is implied that hunger eventually becomes an incentive to do as he ought — to work.  In that case, feeding a hungry man delays the onset of learning a critical lesson, and it would not be “good” as God defines it.  The question we must always consider is this, “What actions can I take that will best reflect God’s character and His concerns?”  The answer to that question will help us to properly engage in genuinely good deeds!

Fifth, one way that Paul defines engaging in good deeds is “to meet pressing needs.”  Pressing needs are physical and spiritual necessities, not necessarily wants or desires.  Meeting the basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, and transportation are examples of physical needs, illustrated by the Parable of the good Samaritan.  If someone is in financial need, their greatest need may not be cash but instruction and accountability in good financial principles.  Just as pain medications do not address the root issue of a broken bone, so it takes discernment to identify the difference between a symptom and the root spiritual cause.  It also takes courage and conviction to patiently and persistently address spiritual needs in this manner.  Sometimes, the felt pressing need is what the person wants to have addressed.  But while the real pressing need is valued by the discerning individual, those less spiritually mature may not even see the real need or see any value in addressing it.

Lastly, there is a larger purpose for learning to engage in good deeds that meet pressing needs — “so that they (our People, the church, we) will not be unfruitful.”  In the days of the disciples, Jesus cursed a fig tree that was not bearing fruit, and it withered.  We have been called to bear much fruit and fruit of such quality that it will remain.  When pressing needs are met, it does something to the individual whose life is so touched.  Gratitude, spiritual growth, and a sense of God’s working through His children opens the door for them to receive the Gospel message.  That openness, coupled with God’s Word, the working of the Holy Spirit, and the visible love of the church allows seeds to be planted in fertile soil, to have that seed watered, and see it germinate, mature, and bear its own fruit.  Ultimately, this brings great glory to God as Jesus taught in His Sermon on the Mount:

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 NASU)

We were created to engage in good works. (Ephesians 1:10).  It takes our time, talents, and treasures.  Meeting pressing needs does not always come when we feel like it or when we feel like sharing some of our abilities or treasures.  Often, a need presents itself when we have other plans for our time, other planned uses for our money, and when we want to rest.  Then, the challenge of our goals, juxtaposed against a God-provided opportunity, forces us to decide whether we will be self-focused or other-focused. John challenges us to look at and to follow the example that Jesus set for us in just such a case:

We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth. (1 John 3:16-18)

What we choose to do in that moment says something about our love for God.  God loves the person in need, and He is dedicated to using His children to meet the needs of people.  If we love Him, we will choose to meet those needs as we are able, because we choose to love whom He loves.  If not, then we will not.
 Sometimes, we personally meet needs.  Other times, we meet needs collectively, as a church.  I have been asking myself lately, what are pressing needs that we as a church can meet?

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper has suggested helping the homeless.  Habitat For Humanity works to build homes for struggling families.  The Denver Rescue Mission helps many who are on the streets.  Students may need help at local elementary or middle schools.  I have a friend who is out of prison on parole who needs help in ways that are more than my personal resources can meet.  Maybe you are aware of someone’s pressing needs and feel a God-placed burden to try to meet them.  The needs are greater than our own resources, but they are totally within the scope of our Provider.  What a great opportunity to touch others in their moment of need!

I get excited about the prospect of “guaranteed fruitfulness.”  Please pray with me about what pressing needs God wants to meet through us as individuals and corporately.  Whose lives does He want us to touch?  The more we do what we were created to do, the more lives will be touched, the more fruit we will bear, and the more God will be glorified.  That, my brothers and sisters, is what the church is all about!

Our Passions—What God Has Put on Our Hearts to Do

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

From a mere human perspective, I fell into investing my life into others quite by accident.  When I was in 8th grade, I was involved in a program our church held for young boys called Christian Service Brigade, a sort of Christian version of the Boy Scouts.  Different “military” ranks were given to each of us who participated, and my rank carried with it the responsibility of leading the squad devotions.  I found that I liked the responsibility and that I liked teaching. But I was only beginning.  Additionally, for a number of years, my parents had me going to a Christian camp, Miracle Camp it was called, that required Bible memorization.  The first year, they compelled me to go.  I did not know what camp was, but I knew that it involved leaving home, and I liked being at home.  They made me go anyway, and I discovered that I liked it.  I went back for years.  The camp staffers were called Whitefeet, and again I had the privilege of teaching a cabin full of boys a devotional each night of the four weeks that I worked as a Whitefoot.  They seemed to enjoy learning God’s Word, and I found that I enjoyed teaching and seeing them learn.

Trying to integrate my faith with my belief system, I found that I struggled with certain issues.  For example, I knew that Christians were supposed to look forward to the return of Christ, but I discovered that I didn’t want Him to return too quickly.  I wanted to get married and have children and be a grandparent.  I remember talking with a counselor at camp about it.  I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I imagine that it was something like how heaven would be so wonderful that the things we value on earth won’t matter nearly so much then.  I was beginning to get my head around how one could resolve apparent conflicts.

As I began to increasingly own my faith as my faith, not just that of my parents, I realized that I needed to explore the realm of ideas, to think through issues and their ramifications and to seek to develop an integrated faith that looked at origins, science, history, and facts to develop the questions, answers, and implications of my faith so that I could articulate it and defend it to the best of my ability.  During my college days, even though I knew much of the Scripture by then, some of the high school students in my Young Life ministry began asking me questions in my small group Bible studies for which I did not know the answer or even where to look to find it.  Even having been raised in the church and having gone to a Christian college, I knew that I needed to be better equipped.  My lack of knowledge motivated me to spend four more years in seminary. It was also during this time of high school and college that I began to share my faith more boldly.  God’s Word said that it was my responsibility and it was commanded, so I took it to heart and did it.  I don’t think I have ever felt more alive than when I am sharing my faith with someone.

Originally, I had planned on going into Christian camping as my vocation.  However, as I learned about the role of a camp director, I realized that I would be fundraising for the camp and constantly recruiting summer staff.  Additionally, the relationships would be shorter—one week for the campers, a summer for the summer staff, and some kind of annual revisit for returning campers.  I realized that I preferred long-term relationships.  Then, as I began to see seniors from my Young Life group graduating, I began to realize that they were floundering a bit after high school.  My Young Life ministry had connected some of them to Christ, but not to His church. It was then that Christ’s words to Peter rang in my ear, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church.”  The church was God’s plan for continued connection and for continued growth.  It ministered to every age group and to every level of spiritual maturity.  It had a built-in organizational structure and leadership responsible to resolve conflict and to protect from error.  I began to develop a new appreciation for the church and for what it offered.

Over time, I began to discover a love for God and His Word, a love for people, a heart to pass along what I was learning, a vision for evangelism and discipleship, and a passion for God’s church.  All the while, God had been moving in my heart and through my life circumstances to bring me to a place of surrendered and passionate service to Him.  At first I began working with youth, and I thought I would grow into an old man while continuing to work with students.  But as I grew older, had three children, and grew tired of the busyness of youth ministry, I also began to teach more substantively.  God created a restlessness in my heart that did not cease until I decided to leave the youth pastorate and pursue the solo pastorate that focused more on adult ministry.

When Nehemiah was nearing the end of the 70-year Babylonian Captivity, he heard about how Jerusalem, the capital city of Israel, was in ruins and how its gates were burned.  He loved his homeland and was so distraught that he sat and mourned for days (Neh. 1:4).  He then prayed to the Lord about it, confessing his own sins and those of his nation and asking God to bless his plan.  As the cupbearer, Nehemiah made a plan to go to the reigning Persian king, Artaxerxes, and ask his permission to return to Jerusalem to rebuild it.  The King granted Nehemiah permission, safe passage, and supplies to make the necessary repairs.  Once there, Nehemiah went out to survey the damage and all that needed to be done. His account reads, “And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me.  I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem…” (Neh. 2:12).  Later he commissioned the people in Israel to rebuild. He wrote, “So we built the wall and the whole wall was joined together to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. (Neh. 4:6) when opposition arose from their enemies, they not only prayed, but they had people stand guard, “I stationed men in the lowest parts of the space behind the wall, the exposed places, and I stationed the people in families with their swords, spears and bows.” (Neh. 4:13).  Eventually the wall was completed, and Jerusalem was restored. The people of Israel repented of their sin, and they reiterated and renewed their covenant relationship with God.

Why did I tell you my story and that of Nehemiah?  In a word, they are stories about passion.  God put into Nehemiah’s heart a passion; consequently, he led the people of Israel, who themselves became passionate about rebuilding Jerusalem.  The builders were most passionate about rebuilding Jerusalem. The builders were most passionate about protecting their families whom they stood ready to defend as they rebuilt the walls.  I became passionate about investing my life in others through teaching.  It’s a passion that has directed my life, my career, and the lives of many whom I have had the privilege to teach.

One of the great things about passion is that it directs us to make important decisions and to distinguish between lesser things and even to separate from sinful things.  After the Israelites had finished taking the Promised land after well over a decade of war, the “general” who led the campaign, Joshua, laid out his passion and challenged the Israelites to follow him in it.  After recounting God’s faithfulness from the call of Abraham to the Egyptian plagues and exodus and through the taking of the land, he said, “Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.  And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)

Likewise, the Apostle Paul had a clear passion. He had been educated in the most prestigious school of his day, and mentored by one of the most well-known teachers of his day.  He had become so zealous to follow the Lord that he became a strict separatist, a Pharisee, and a strict adherent to the Law. He had all the credentials and lifestyle credibility to become a exceedingly influential religious leader. But after the Lord Jesus confronted him on the road to Damascus, Paul totally changed the direction of his life.  His passions were two that I can find in Scripture:

“But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.  Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.  Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:7-14)

“For I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles by word and deed, in the power of signs and wonders, in the power of the Spirit; so that from Jerusalem and round about as far as Illyricum I have fully preached the gospel of Christ. And thus I aspired to preach the gospel, not where Christ was already named, so that I would not build on another man's foundation; but as it is written, ‘THEY WHO HAD NO NEWS OF HIM SHALL SEE, AND THEY WHO HAVE NOT HEARD SHALL UNDERSTAND.’" (Romans 15:18-21)

Those passions eventually cost Paul his life, but what a legacy he left behind, and what a reward awaits him in heaven!

Today, so many things call for our time and attention.  In such an environment, if we are not careful, our passions, no matter how well-intentioned, may become misplaced.  For those whose passions are focused on the things of God, it becomes clear that He impassions us with the very concerns that are on His heart for each of us to accomplish.  Sometimes we are content to live an unimpassioned life—letting life just happen to us— while we ebb and flow with the currents around us. I would like to hear of your passions.  What is it that God has put into your heart to do?  You know deep inside that you must do it and are willing to sacrifice lesser things to make it happen.  Let those of us in CMF know so that we may pray and encourage you. Perhaps you’ll find others to join with you, and together, we can leave behind our own legacy, looking forward to our reward, as we live our time on this earth in the center of the abundant life our great God has laid out for us.

Perception and Reality

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

John Maxwell, a former pastor and trainer of business and church leaders has said,

“He that thinketh he leadeth and hath no one following him, only taketh a walk.”

Whenever he says it, the crowd he is addressing always laughs because of the obvious disparity between perception and reality. It reminds me of a plaque that a father of one of my students gave me once when I was a youth pastor which read,

“Which way did they go?  How many of them were there?  What did they look like?  Quick!  Tell me! I must find them.  I am their leader!!!”

Sometimes what we think is real and what is real are not remotely similar.  This is especially true when it comes to the spiritual realm.  We are born into a physical universe as people who have a physical body that the Bible describes as mortal and corruptible.  It further says of us as believers that though our “outer man” (our physical body) is decaying, yet our “inner man” (the eternal, spiritual person who is rightly related to God through Christ that resides in his or her physical body) is being renewed day by day.  Changes in our outer man are readily apparent.  If we eat a wholesome diet and exercise properly, our bodies are usually fit and look great.  If we become ill, we become weaker and often lose weight and color.  On the other hand, changes in our inner man are harder to see.  How does one see a “sinner” from physical birth become transformed into a “saint” with imputed righteousness at one’s spiritual birth?  At one minute, the person was a child of the evil one, under the wrath of God, but after trusting Christ for the forgiveness of one’s sin, that person is now a child of God for whom God has no condemnation.  Sometimes that change becomes evident in changed character or changed priorities, but often such changes are not readily apparent.

Because the physical world is so real to us and because it is our most obvious environment, many come to perceive that it is the only reality.  It is what we see when we open our eyes at the beginning of the day.  It is what clothes us. It gives us food and shelter.  It’s where we work.  We see the money that comes with working and what it buys; and the next thing we know, we are on the hamster wheel, eating to live, to work, to make money, to eat, to live, to work . . . and the cycle continues.

Many people put up with long commutes, long hours, difficult bosses, limited vacation, plus financial bondage to debtors — purchasing expensive clothes, cars, and houses to attain the American dream in the physical world. Such a life is summed up in the words, “He who dies with the most toys wins!”

Others see the excesses of such a materialistic world and retreat to a simpler lifestyle. T he Denver Post recently highlighted a man who rejected money altogether.  He lives in a cave and resorts to dumpster diving for food and clothing.  He bathes and washes his clothes in a nearby river.  If someone gives him money, he gives it away. Regardless of which way we live, we all have to live in a real physical world.

But what about the spiritual world?  The Bible tells us that we did not even begin to perceive certain things from the spiritual world until God revealed them, as Paul wrote to the church at Corinth:

But we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; but just as it is written, “Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, And which have not entered the heart of man, All that God has prepared for those who love Him.”  For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. (1 Corinthians 2:7-10 NASU)

Do you see how the lack of spiritual perception led a group of people to crucify the Lord? But if they had seen the greater spiritual reality, Paul notes that they would have never done so. Their spiritual perception of reality would have changed what they did in their physical world. What they did “made sense,” given their perception of reality, but it didn’t — if that perception were adjusted to a different set of spiritual truths.

Think about that for a moment. The Bible says a number of truths about our presently unseen future:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:19-21 NASU)
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18 NASU)
According to the grace of God which was given to me, like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building on it.  But each man must be careful how he builds on it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.  Now if any man builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it because it is to be revealed with fire, and the fire itself will test the quality of each man’s work.  If any man’s work which he has built on it remains, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NASU)

These verses tell us that our physical world is not the only reality.  One day, we will receive new resurrection bodies — immortal and incorruptible. We will be freed from death and from the presence of sin.  We will enjoy the presence of God in a new heaven and a new earth.  It is then that our physical reality and our spiritual reality will be most fully realized.  However, what we do now, in our mortal bodies in this fallen world, determines the quality of our inheritance in that ultimate reality.  What does that say about where and with whom we invest our time, talents, and treasures?

As we begin 2010, may each of us make the proper distinction between what is perceived and what is truly real.  May we invest ourselves in a life’s work for that which remains and for that which God rewards!

Only one life, ‘twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.

Purposing to Live Rightly in a Sin-Impacted World

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

It is with a bit of fear and trepidation that I write this month’s article.  I cannot begin to truly imagine the thoughts and emotions of those who have been so greatly affected by the losses experienced during the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School and its aftermath.   The classmates, teachers, and administrators, the first responders, the parents and siblings, and the community who knew any of the victims experienced the darkness of a sin-impacted world in such marked relief that they will be undoubtedly changed in such profound ways that their psyche and the world around them will never quite be the same.  What was once a common experience will be re-written on their souls so that sounds, scents, and sirens will take them back to a day and its events they wish would never have happened, and while they try to forget and move on and have a life that was “normal,” they will have forever been changed.  Their sense of safety and security will have been eroded.  Their trust of those around them will be marked by a questioning sense of suspicion and a greater alertness to the possible dangers around them.  For many, fear will haunt them and move them to be withdrawn or over-protective of themselves and of those they love.  The sound of church bells will ring a different memory.  Funerals will take them back to the many they attended and the deep grief they felt or observed.  Many will be the reflections on the happenings on that day and on the days that followed. 

According to StopTheShootings.org, 386 school shootings have occurred since 1992.  Children, ages 5-14, in America are thirteen times more likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries.  Rightly so, questions have been raised as to what we can do to stop the violence and the murder of children.  Some have called for the elimination of assault weapons and of the magazines that feed so many bullets into them.  Others have called for better treatment of mental health patients and better sharing of pertinent information so that it would surface in background checks and, hopefully, to eliminate the sale of arms to those whose judgment is or might be impaired and who could possibly lack the discernment necessary to not bring harm to themselves or to others.  By the time you read this article, perhaps other proposed solutions will be offered.  The NRA has offered to contribute to help prevent the violence, and gun enthusiasts are saying that guns are not the problem but that the people who use them are.  Some are clamoring for the right to defend themselves and to have whatever guns at their disposal they so choose in order to do so.  They argue that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution preserved the right to bear arms without restraint.  Others claim that the safety rights of a free society preclude the right of its citizens to bear such “weapons of mass destruction,” and so they are calling for a ban on the sale of such weapons, and some go so far as to call for their confiscation.  The issues and the solutions to them, from a human perspective are difficult to solve, and the ramifications for all concerned are much more complex than they are simple.  We must be in prayer that our great God will move our legislators to His just and fair solutions.  They will be the recipients of a myriad of voices.  Many will be self-serving and obstinate, intolerant of any views but their own.  Others will be guided by God’s voice and the tempered voice of reason, seeing the pro’s and con’s of each point and the broader implications of each proposal.  Our legislators will need the wisdom of Solomon to arrive at reasonable answer, and even that answer will not make everyone happy, nor will it stop the shootings or the murdering and maiming of undeserving and unsuspecting victims.

The problem in our society that such shootings surface is not something that pertains directly to mental health, to multi-cartridge-loaded magazines, or to assault weapons and pistols.  At its core, the problem is rooted in a condition we brought upon ourselves when our first parents took it upon themselves to disobey the sovereign rule of God in their lives, namely, sin entered into the world, and not only spiritual death (separation from God) along with it, but also physical death to manifest in the visible world its hidden, immaterial reality in the unseen spiritual world.  Shortly after sin brought about the knowledge of good and evil, evil manifested itself.  At first, it seemed innocuous enough.  While God had created a world in which a man and a woman could be naked and not ashamed, after sin came, they were conscious of themselves in a different light and made coverings for themselves.  We don’t know what thoughts filled their minds as they had these realizations and offered their solution, but a sin-impacted world brought changes.  It was not long before one of their sons, a farmer named Cain, rose up against his brother, a shepherd named Abel, and the first vicious murder took place.  A careful study of the Scriptures will show brutal acts that subsequently occurred, even dismemberment and distribution of those body parts throughout Israel.  Sin brought with it a change in our nature such that our unseen nature that was sinfully manifested through acts that our body did brought about constant displays called the deeds of the flesh delineated in summary fashion as immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissentions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these [which would include unnamed things like murder] (Galatians 5:19-21).  Sin also impacted our human condition such that disease (physical and mental) entered our world along with birth defects.  Demonic influence brought about “doctrines of demons” where satanic lies were substituted in our minds for the truth of God and where the worship of the created things replaced the worship of the one true God.  Wars between tribes and nations arose in a world where once, in God’s perfect design, peace reigned. 

The solution to the sin problem is found in turning to God in broken repentance for our sin, individually and as a nation.  One day, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord (i.e., Master and God) to the glory of the Father.  One by one, each person must come to God and respond to Christ, and he or she will in faith or in disbelief.  We do not have control over what each person will do, but we do have control over whether or not we come to the place where we trust Christ’s death in our place and His resurrection as the basis for our forgiveness for our sin and the removal of our sin penalty by receiving His payment for our sin, and we do have control over whether or not we live lives that lend credibility by both our love for the lost – for those caught in sin’s tentacles – such that our attitudes, words, and actions lend credibility to Christ’s claims and validating work as we offer the ultimate solution – the Good News of Jesus Christ – to all who will listen and who will, hopefully, believe sooner rather than later.  Then, the possibility of a real solution takes place to the violence in our society, and Christ changes each person one by one.

When a person accepts Christ as his or her Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his or her life to empower that person to live, no longer in sin or for their own sin-impacted purposes, but as a voluntary slave to His righteousness, doing so as an act of worship for His glory.  The Spirit bears His own fruit in that person’s lives markedly different from the deeds of the flesh, and that fruit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).  I suspect this list is not complete but is representative of even more good that He produces in our lives.  What a difference the Holy Spirit makes in a life compared to the flesh manifesting itself in a murderous rampage. 

To be sure, as we make our best effort to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit, there will always be those motivated by fleshly impulses who have bought into demonically-inspired lies in contradiction to God’s revealed truth who will seek to harm us.  They will seek to malign us, to intimidate us, to press us into conformity with their twisted frame of reference.  The Apostle Peter reminds us that they will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (1 Pet. 4:6). 

So what is our task?  Peter says that we are to view ourselves as aliens and strangers (i.e., as someone whose allegiance is to another nation, God’s kingdom with its Divine Ruler and its Divine laws, and as someone who is a temporary visitor here on earth.  He admonishes us to keep our behavior excellent (by God’s definition of excellent) among the unbelieving population so that “in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may, because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (i.e., when Christ returns to take us to be with Him) (1 Peter 2:11-12). 

Being good, however is not just a behavioral performance.  Being good is the natural outflow of the quality of one’s relationship with Christ who gave us a tremendous model and example of righteous behavior in the midst of great persecution and suffering.  Peter wrote about this natural outflow in this manner:

Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame. 17 For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. 18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; … 1 Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2 so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God. 3 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries.  – 1 Peter 3:13-18; 4:1-3 (NASB95)

One day (and I believe that it will be very soon), there will be no more death and no more sickness and no more tears.  We will live in a world where there is no curse, where God and the Lamb are its light, where memories of this world as we have known it will be no more, and where we will enjoy the sweet fellowship with God and with each other that is that “abundant life” Jesus came that we might enjoy so very long ago.  Until then, let us exercise the control we have in the power of the Holy Spirit to live rightly in a sin-impacted world.  We know the God who is the world’s best hope for change and for the solution to the evil in our world, and we are His ambassadors whom He has sent to tell them.  Any other solution, while possibly very important, pales in significance to The Solution we have in Christ!

Relationships:  Face Time

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

Some time ago, I came home to find my two college-age kids another college-age friend, all sitting in the same room of the house.  All three were engaged, not with each other, but with their keyboards and computer screens. Nothing was wrong with what they were doing, yet I found it surprising, even odd, that all three were “connecting” with someone or something outside of the room rather than connecting with each other.

Today, if we are a technical initiate at all, we will become acquainted with words or phrases like Facebook — “Friends” and the “Wall,” Twitter Updates (Tweets), a Blog, a Forum, e-mail, IM’s (Instant Messages), Chat Rooms, Blackberrys, and Text Messages.  These tools or types of communications have several benefits.  They keep us a little more in touch with each other and our daily comings and goings.  They allow many people to exchange ideas.  They save time and postage, allowing rapid and immediate delivery.  Large groups can be contacted all at once.  Others can contact us or we can contact them whether we are on the road, at work, in the house or at our children’s practice field.  What a day we live in!

Without intending to minimize these benefits, there are also certain drawbacks to this age of electronic communication.  Besides the issues of distraction and personal safety, electronic communication can keep people at arm’s length.  Whatever the communication is that takes place “at a distance,” it is not the same as seeing someone or a group face to face.  Non-verbal communication is missed, as is tone of voice.  “I love you, too” can be said earnestly or sarcastically and have totally different meanings in electronic fashion, yet be readily understood person to person.  There’s less privacy, and unless we turn off our cell phones, there are more interruptions and distractions.  There’s less “alone time” and “down time” at a personal level, so our “batteries” become drained rather than recharged.  Sometimes, even the environment of face-to-face conversation and relationships, is more conducive to a more intimate level of communication.  Loving accountability, which we all need from others (and which we all need to give from time to time) can have more of an edge when done by text message rather than in the context of face-to-face relationships.  Work is required to rightly relate.

Christianity at its core is relational.  Think about it.  Terms or phrases like Father and Son, brother and sister, and “my little children” are all relational.  “God so loved the world” is relational.  In fact, the Scriptures say that it is antithetical to say we love God — but that we do not love our brother or sister.  Our horizontal relationship with each other is always a reflection of our vertical relationship with God.

Relationships have, at their core, a certain level of association.  The Bible uses terms like sheep in a flock, branches on a vine, members of a body, and people in a family to say we are individuals yet always part of a group.  These dynamics are part of God’s design.  The degree of commitment and closeness with those we relate to is supposed to mark us as incredibly distinct from the rest of the world: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples,” Jesus said, “if you have love for one another.”

Such a biblical love is not instant; it is cultivated. It’s not immediate; it is developed over time.  It’s not built in short, rapid communication, but in longer, transparent vulnerabilities conveyed in an environment of mutual trust and acceptance.  This kind of trust and acceptance shares numbing pain and difficulties with personal sin — and that receives hard, often unwanted, words because we know we need them.  Even if we don’t know we need them we trust a friend when he or she says that we do.  This kind of love is mutual, because those same levels of communication are received and given in both directions.

Such love is also patient.  This unique kind of love is not necessarily the “feel good” love that the world sells.  It’s a “do the right thing, and relate rightly” kind of love — even if it is hard and painful.  The Scriptures tell us that systemically, we are of “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”  Yet if this is the case (and it is), why are believers so quick to point out our differences.  When conflict arises, why are we so quick to backbite, gossip, grumble, complain, or even break off a relationship, leaving a friend or group — rather than gently working through the conflict, no matter how long it takes, to complete resolution?  The former kind of response is not the kind of love that marks us as Jesus’ disciples.  The latter can be exhilarating or painful for all involved, but it yields a stronger bond conveying that our relationship with each other is more important than getting our way.  That particular kind of love is distinct from that of the world.

When Jesus first selected His disciples, He appointed them “so that they would be with Him” (Mark 3:14 – italics mine).  It’s not surprising that in being with Him, they noticed that He would often go off by Himself to pray and that He would pray with them.  Soon they asked Him, “Lord, teach us to pray.”  Electronic communication doesn’t teach us what we’ll gain naturally by osmosis just by being with each other — the gradual, often unconscious process of assimilation or absorption of lifestyle, character, and wisdom.  It’s hard to see tender affection, gracious hospitality, and selfless serving of one another without spending time together.  Discipleship is intensely relational in more ways than mere expression.  It is life impacting life in a more total, comprehensive way.

Biblical community is being vitally connected with “one another,” too.  We are to pray for one another (I know of a military couple who has done this via e-mail, because it was the only way they could pray together while one of them was deployed).  We are to love one another, to be devoted to one another, to give preference to one another, to be of the same mind towards one another, to accept one another, and to be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other as God in Christ has forgiven us.  In fact there are almost forty “one another’s” in the New Testament.  It is impossible to connect at the level the Scriptures call for us to connect without significant and quality face-to-face time.

In the early church, Acts 2 tells us that Christians met day by day in the temple and from house to house.  The picture I get is that they worshipped together and they were constantly in each other’s houses.  It seems more spontaneous than planned.  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to sharing their lives, to eating together and celebrating communion together, and to prayer.  These types of relationships invite others into our lives and welcome the “intrusion” of the unplanned into the planned or better, of the friends and family into our sphere of relationship where iron truly sharpens iron, where the wounds of a friend are discovered to be faithful, and where we find encouragement and are stimulated to love and good deeds.  In short, we grow into Christ-likeness.

In an age of electronic communication that so often is “at a distance,” let us make sure that we do not have only surface-level relationships that trend towards detachment and isolation.  Real relationships move from acquaintance, to the discussion of facts, to the sharing of opinions, and to the exchange of feelings.  At the deepest levels we explore the spiritual aspects of our relationship with God and where He and His Word are making an impact on our lives, and where He helps us discover that we are falling short and need to change and to grow.  We explore serving Him together and enjoying fellowship with His people in church, in small group, and one on one.  Having “face time” with people — both with those who don’t know the Lord and with those who do — and lots of it, is the best way I know to take our relationships and our ministry with people (and theirs to and with us) to the next level.

So how are your relationships?  How is your ministry to others?  Is it “at a distance” or “face-to-face”?

What is your Primary Indentity— Sinner or Saint?

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors


re you being mastered, or are you mastering? At the beginning of human history, two brothers presented their offerings to the Lord.  Cain was a farmer, and he offered fruit from the ground.  Abel was a keeper of the flocks, and he offered from the firstlings of his flock.  The Scripture tells us that God had regard only for Abel’s offering, and the author of Hebrews tells us why: “By faith, Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain,” (Hebrews11:4 – emphasis mine).  No law had been given that required a sacrifice. For some reason, however, Cain’s offering fell short.  The implication of the text is that Cain’s act of worship was merely an act that was never connected to faith in the living God.  He was just going through ritual observance without any connection from his heart and mind to that of God.  Such a fact warrants our consideration.  How connected are our hearts and minds to the heart and mind of God?

The story continues by noting that when God did not value Cain’s offering, Cain became very angry and his countenance fell.  I can just imagine his hanging head, furrowed brows, and drooping shoulders.  Sin was spreading its ugly tentacles, and God gives Cain the opportunity to turn in the direction of faith.  God asks him why he was angry and why his countenance had fallen.  God was giving Cain the opportunity to do some reflective introspection. An opportunity for insight and re-direction was at hand.

How do we know this? God continued by saying, “If you do well (i.e., to turn from anger and to the Lord in faith), will not your countenance be lifted up (due to a totally different perspective and relationship with God)? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

The picture of sin crouching is like that of a cat dropping its belly as it stealthily draws near to pounce upon its prey. Sin wanted to dominate Cain’s thinking and actions.  The next thing we see is Cain murdering his brother ─ a kind of sin that had never been done before.  Sin has mastered him, when God had told Cain that he must master sin.  What a tragedy!

Why did Cain find himself under the dominion of sin?  The fact is that he really did not want to “do well,” as God had described it. Cain’s actions led us to the inevitable conclusion that he liked sin and that he was more interested in pleasing himself than he was in pleasing God.  He was a sinner who liked to sin, so he presented himself to sin as his master. I sometimes wonder what it was like for Cain to have to spend the rest of his life with the knowledge that he had killed his brother.  Did he really enjoy the “benefits” of being mastered by sin?

When we trusted Christ to save us from our sin, God gave us a new identity. I call it a “primary” identity.  Throughout the Scriptures, believers are called saints. The moment we placed our faith in Christ, our former primary identity of sinner was changed.

Now do not misunderstand me. In the generic sense of the term in which a “sinner” is “one who sins,” yes, we are all sinners.  The Apostle John tells us that to think otherwise is to deceive oneself.  I am not talking, though, about the “generic” sense of the word.  I am talking about the specific, life-directing sense of the word sinner – our being “in Adam,” under God’s wrath, spiritually dead, without hope, without God, even being his enemies.  If being a “sinner” is our identity, then is it any wonder that we would find ourselves constantly giving in to sin and allowing it to master us?

A new and better identity has been provided for us.  Rather than being “in Adam,” we are now “in Christ.”  We have been given His righteousness, and thus we can truly be called “saints.”  A saint is one who has God-imputed holiness.  The righteousness we have is not of our own making.  The Scriptures clearly say that if we keep the whole law but break it only in just one point, that we are guilty of all. They also teach that all of our righteous deeds are as filthy rags.  Whether we have done one sin or a million, we fall equally short of God’s standard of holy perfection.  The only way a “sinner” becomes a “saint” is for God to give the righteousness of Christ to the sinner, and that is done only when a sinner turns to Christ in faith – trusting Christ’s death and resurrection to save him or her from his or her sin.

So how does a “saint” master sin? Romans 6 tells us that we master sin by “considering ourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”  Galatians 5 tells us that we do that, not by trying harder, but by walking or living by the power of the Holy Spirit.  We do not master sin by mere human effort, by simply trying harder.  As Christians, we must make a clear distinction between our former manner of life (being “in Adam”) and our new manner of life (being “in Christ.”)  When sin tries to master us by tempting us to sin (even those we have battled with for a long time) we must claim, in the power of the Spirit:

“I’m not ‘in Adam’ any more. I’m dead to that life. My primary identity is not that I am a ‘sinner’ any longer. My primary identity is that I am a ‘saint’ who is now ‘in Christ.’ So by the Spirit’s power, I choose to live in my new identity, and I cannot do that and sin. By God’s strength, I will live in righteousness.”

When we remember these principles and when we live them out in our thoughts, words, and actions, sin does not master us anymore; by God’s grace and power, we master it.

Which seems to be truer of you these days? Does sin master you, or do you master it?  Yes, we all fall from time to time, failing to live in our new identity and in the power of the Spirit.  We fall prey to those three enemies of the believer ─ the devil, to the world system, and to our own fleshly desires. In that sense, we are all sinners.  But is that our primary identity? As was the case with Cain, sin is crouching at our door, too. It wants to master us, but we must master it.

Romans 12:2 says, “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Has your mind been renewed? If so, which is your primary identity? Sinner? Or Saint? Our actions may speak louder than our words.

Editor Notes:  Larry Hoskins is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the Senior Pastor of Grace Church Aurora for sixteen years.  He also serves on the CMF Board of Directors.

Would She Save Her Arm, or Lose It?

Pastor Larry Hoskins
Pastor Larry Hoskins, Th. M.
CMF Board of Directors

Get a fix?  Or go to the hospital?  A mother of two children, she stood on the patio in her dazed stupor, trying to decide whether to go home and get a fix or to go to the hospital to lance a life-threatening infection.  Her name was Mariesol, and she was a heroin addict.

I met her on the street outside the church in Ensenada.  Her hair was disheveled; her clothes, dirty.  The top of her left arm was twice its normal size due to a growing infection, discoloring her skin with splotches of black and blue. Some in our group wondered if she was being beaten.  Her boyfriend was also a heroin addict. In the center of her arm was a large boil-like inflammation, swollen and oozing pus.  She needed to see a doctor, she told us, but she didn’t have the $10 to pay for her visit.  Our team had those funds, so she climbed into our van with me and with our translator, Teresa.  She hit her infected arm on the mirror as she tried to get to the van, and she was in obvious pain.  The church members nearby urged us to take another man, as they were aware of Mariesol’s drug connections.  They warned us that we could find ourselves in danger.

As we drove her to the Red Cross clinic, I told her that I was safe, but that I needed her to tell us the truth.  She told us that she was a heroin addict, using about four times per day.  A worker in a Christian rehab center at our base camp told me that her addiction would cost her about $20 per day.  It almost cost this dear woman her life; it may still.

Continuing to the clinic, she said that she had fallen off a bus and injured her shoulder, which had become infected.  She denied being beaten, though that is common for those in abusive situations to protect themselves from further pain being inflicted upon them by their perpetrators.  When we arrived at the clinic, she closed her eyes as her body drifted gently in different directions due to the influence of the drug.

All the Red Cross could to was give her a pain shot.  They didn’t have the equipment or personnel to do what she needed, and they told us she needed to go to the hospital.

So there we stood, on the patio outside the Red Cross, with Mariesol trying to make up her mind.  She finally allowed us to persuade her to go to the hospital.  Outside in the parking lot where I had to stay with the van, I prayed with her for her healing.  She was moved to tears.  Her infection was so severe that the doctors said she might lose her arm and possibly her life.  We had to leave her there and return to our base camp.

Teresa and I tried to visit her the next day.  The doctors had lanced her arm and cleaned out the infection.  They wanted to keep her in the hospital for observation for 48 more hours, but she checked herself out before we got to see her.

What makes a woman unable to see that her children need her to be their mother?  What makes her unable to see that an infection could end up costing her an arm or her life?  Whatever her reason for going down the path to addiction, she had let heroin become her master.  She had bought into the deceptive lie that it could salve her pain.  Instead, it compounded it by her allowing it to enslave her.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12 NASU).  Apparently, the Corinthians were using the phrase, “all things are lawful for me,” to justify their immorality.  At issue was their liberty.  In a sense, their emphasis on personal liberty was true, but they were mixing truth with falsehood.  Personal liberty was not the freedom to do whatever they wanted, but it was to limit the exercise of their freedom to what served God’s ultimate purposes for their lives.  What serves God’s purposes is “profitable” or beneficial. It is what God honors and rewards.  It has ultimate eternal significance.  Paul warned the Corinthians that personal liberty apart from that singular direction leads to slavery, or as he called it, being “mastered by” the very things they thought would set them free.  This was where Mariesol found herself. If we are not careful, this is where we will find ourselves.

Being “mastered by” something does not always come in the form of addictions.  To be sure, many in our church, over my years of service here, have found themselves in the clutches of drugs, alcohol, pornography, sex, and the pursuit of money to the point where they were mastered by them.  I’ve come to see some great stories of redemption—of brothers and sisters being brought out of such slavery to a newfound freedom in obedience to Christ.

But being mastered by something can happen with seemingly harmless things that can take God’s rightful place in our lives.  When that occurs, on the outside, it can look noble and pristine, while on the inside it is corrupt and decaying as a white-washed tomb.

Standing on that patio outside the Red Cross, Mariesol’s indecision has moved me to ask myself a question.  Perhaps it may move you to ask yourself the same: Is there anything in my life that is so mastering me?  Are we being dominated by some passion that exceeds our own passion for God and for His purposes for our own life?

Get a fix?  Or go to the hospital?  Mariesol’s answer was obvious to those of us with her, but she couldn’t see it.  She needed someone who would help her make the right decision.

I said to Mariesol, “Let us take you to the hospital.”  Sometimes those of us who are blinded by what we have allowed to master us need someone to give us the honest feedback and move us in the right direction, even when we are reluctant to go there.

Just like we were able to be in Ensenada for Mariesol, God has placed us in Aurora for the community around us.  Grace Church Aurora is a hospital. God is the Great Physician.  If you find yourself mastered by something, if you find yourself addicted, go to the hospital.  If you find a friend or family member or co-worker so enslaved, ask them to let you take them to the hospital.  Sometimes, they’ll go back their old habits.  But sometimes, someone will stay and find healing and true freedom in the Lord and through the work of His children.  I’ve seen it lots of times at Grace Church Aurora.  Hopefully , by God’s doing, you will see it too!

Editor Notes:  Larry Hoskins is a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary and has been the Senior Pastor of Grace Church Aurora for sixteen years. He also serves on the CMF Board of Directors.

In early 2009 I was in training with the Navy and in charge of a team of over a hundred Sailors.  Our mission was to conduct detainee operations in a Theater Internment Facility.  This particular mission is highly scrutinized and regulated due to previous transgressions in professionalism and displayed in the media.  The atrocities of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay detainee facilities are images that will reside in my memory for many years to come.

With the unit getting ready to conduct the detainee operations mission for the last time as we would be involved with training Iraqi Corrections Officers to take over the responsibilities, I had many trepidations.  This was my first time conducting this type of work in this type of harsh environment.  I relied on the Lord to carry us through the challenging nature of our assignment.


Lord, my God
Almighty Lord
Savior and healer
You reign
Entirely over the world.
All Holy is
Your name.
I take refuge in you.

I implore you!
Oh, Lord
Provide me with strength
To embody steadfast
Presence and leadership
To lead your children
Into battle
And harm’s way.

I am just one man
With heavy shoulders
Burdening the lives of many
And responsible for their safety.
Save and deliver me!
Allow me the presence of mind
And of situation.

Provide me with resources
The wherewithal
The training
And commitment.

Shield me from my enemies
Who are trained to harm me.

Don’t let me waiver
In strength
And leadership.
Do not let me
Compromise integrity
So that those in my charge
Benefit from unity
And solidarity
Of nature.

Hear my plea oh Lord!
I implore you!
Receive my cry!
Shroud me in your glory
Provide promise
And perseverance.

I rely on your grace
Every day
Every hour
Every minute
Every second
In foreign
And domestic lands
So that no harm
Shall fall on me
Or my men.

Let us conduct ourselves
Professionally and ethically
Train our counterparts
To the best of our abilities
Complete the mission
Turn over responsibilities
Return with honor.

I humbly implore you.
Shine your grace
On my mission.
Provide peace
And solace
To a troubled nation
And provide structure
And persevreence
To their efforts.

Provide for
Our safe return
Our safe passage
Weary and forlorn
To our families
With a sense
Of steadfast accomplishment.

In your hands
I place my mission
I relinquish our future
To carry out
Your wishes.
I am encouraged
By your love
And goodness!
I am emboldened
By your glory!
Ready and willing
To carry out your mission
For me and my men!
I bask in your grace
And thank you
For your love
As all things
Are your Creation.
We move
In your glory.

5 Ways God Compels Us to Lead

Coming up through the ranks as a military leader there were, on many occasions, times that I was able to learn from my leaders, my peers, and my subordinates alike.  From each subset of the populous with whom I interacted on a daily basis, I began to formulate my own leadership styles at a very young age.  You see, I learned from all of my leaders, which you would think to be a good thing.  However, there were also occasions where I learned how not to lead.

Marine Drill InstrictorAs a young Sailor I learned a lot about myself.  As subordinate, I learned which traits and mannerisms of my leaders to which I best responded.  There were days that they had to be creative in order to appeal to my motivators in order to obtain the best levels of my work.  My best leaders knew what my motivators were, and managed accordingly.  There were also other leaders who didn’t seem to know or care what motivated me.  As a result my attitude, my morale and of course my quality of work waned.

SEAL TrainingIt was important to me that I was able to see a realistic path to ascend through the ranks.  I held in high regard the office of those appointed over me and endeavored to show the proper respect to those persons who held the office.  So with that, a natural tendency for me at that young age was to emulate the leader(s) that I felt had the best leadership attributes.  These attributes contributed to my daily habits as a sailor, and through my habits, my leadership character was formed.  Along the way, I learned the elements of those attributes and how to apply them in specific situations.

Through my journey up through the ranks, I began to understand and assimilate into my leadership style, those characteristics that were displayed to me not only by men and women in uniform, but by our almighty God.  In fact, when I began to “take it to the book” (the Holy Bible) did I first begin to realize how I was created, for what I was created, and the character that God displayed befor me every step of the way.  God truly leads by example!

1.  Lead by Example

Colossians 3:17 says:  “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

Jesus shows us many ways where He presents the theme of leading by example as being at the forefront of His actions!  If you haven’t heard it before, you should hear it now: as a leader, in any capacity, where you have the ability to teach and mentor protégés, they are watching and learning from your every move!  Make no mistake, like little children they are learning from your mannerisms, your speech, your ethics and your values and at each step, they are internally assessing your ability to lead them, in any capacity.  We do it all the time.  How many Pastors have you “sized up” when investigating a new home church?

Paul writes to Timothy: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  1 Timothy 4:12 ESV

The Gospel of John says that we’re to be an example in service to each other.

“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”   John 13:12-15 ESV

2.  Be a Servant Leader

“But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.  It shall not be so among you.  But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Matthew 20:25-28 ESV

Chief among the attributes of servant leadership, Jesus compels us to put down our pride, and serve each other with grace and empathy.  We have to remember that not only are we in the business of completing well-orchestrated (most of the time) strategic missions, that we’re also in the business of shaping and molding people.  Jesus compels us to serve our brothers and sisters and that through that service, we are providing those within our charge with the best attributes of leadership possible, both morally and ethically.

3.  Lead with Wisdom

Wisdom and discernment come with time, age and experience.  As a young leader, don’t be afraid to plant your flagpole and make a decision.  Subordinates and protégés don’t always benefit from indecision.  However, be deliberate in your decision making methodology, otherwise the ripple effects of your decisions can be impactful in other potentially unforeseen areas.  Take as many factors into consideration as possible before leading the charge in any one direction.  The benefits of your deliberate decision making process will be many.

Proverbs 8:1-36 ESV states, “Does not wisdom call?  Does not understanding raise her voice? On the heights beside the way, at the crossroads she takes her stand; beside the gates in front of the town, at the entrance of the portals she cries aloud:  “To you, O men, I call, and my cry is to the children of man. O simple ones, learn prudence; O fools, learn sense.”

4.  Have Trust

Have trust in those around you, as the camaraderie and bonds that you have formed through your traditions and training will be displayed during the most stressful of times.  In leading young service members individually or collectively, there must be trust among those you empower, to be able to carry out the orders with precision, as they have been trained to do.  Trust in each other, and trust in the Lord.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.  Honor the Lord with your wealth and with the firstfruits of all your produce”  Proverbs 3:5-10 ESV

As Paul again writes to Timothy:

“The saying is trustworthy:  If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?”  1 Timothy 3:1-7 ESV

5.  Lead with Love

As leaders, whether we’re leading in a military capacity, or as teachers of education, or trainers for our business or our church, or as stay at home parents; the greatest of attributes that we could ever adorn in leadership or other capacities is on distinct display by our Lord and Savior.  Of the many attributes that Jesus teaches us for how to behave and what is most consistent with the expectations that God has for us on this earth, he sums up with two very specific commandments.  They are found within the Gospels, and Matthew tells us this is how the conversation occurred:

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 ESV

The apostle Paul also gives us, in his letter to the Romans:

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.  Outdo one another in showing honor.  Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.  Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”  Romans 12:9-13 ESV


Band of Brothers in Battle

Eccles. 4:9-12 (NIV) Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!  Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.  But how can one keep warm alone?  Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves.  A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

COL Mark Kehrer, USAR

With our nation at war, around the world, the Military's young men and women are rediscovering the importance of teams and teamwork.  As Military men and women go "outside the wire" in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, dependence on their teams is an absolute for survivability and combat action. They are trusting and relying on what Shakespeare's "Henry V" called a Band of Brothers, "From this day to the ending of the world, but we in it shall be remembered—we few, we happy few, we band of brothers; for he to-day that sheds his blood with me shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition;..."

Henry's battered band of men were cut off from England deep in France facing overwhelming odds, and yet they prevailed at the culminating Battle of Agincourt, 1415 A.D.  Our deployed Christian men and women are often "cut off" far from home and far from their homes and churches, frequently on remote forward operating bases. Clearly, they are far outside the "spiritual wire."  Anyone ever deployed on land or at sea understands what a pagan environment it can be.  Therefore, this same requirement for being part of a team, a band of brothers, is absolutely critical.

Military believers, especially when deployed, need to be part of a team of believers to whom they can entrust themselves and rely upon for their spiritual well-being.  When deep in the enemy's territory, doctrinal differences must be put aside in order to link arms as one under the headship of Christ.  A simple analogy is a lit piece of coal.  When left by itself, it quickly burns out and grows cold.  Yet, when placed in a pile of other lit pieces of coal, it will burn far longer and stronger.

Having a team around you performs many functions, but let me focus on two key functions: Protection and Encouragement/Stimulation. In terms of protection, consider the following;

Hebrews 3:13 (NIV) "But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness."
Eccles. 4:9-10 (NIV) "Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up.  But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!"
Galatians 6:1-2 (NIV) "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently.  But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.  Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ."
These passages clearly point out the Scriptural admonishment to protect and restore our brothers and sisters in Christ.  We must "watch each others' backs."  We are admonished to place ourselves in a dependence position of relying on a "band of brothers."  This requires transparency and vulnerability.
The other aspect of being part of a team is Encouragement and Stimulation. Consider the following:
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV) "And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching."
1 Thes. 5:11-14 (NIV) "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.  Now we ask you, brothers, to respect those who work hard among you, who are over you in the Lord and who admonish you.  Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work.  Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone."
Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) "As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another."

Being part of a team is critical for our continued conformity to Christlikeness.  Our brother and sister warriors in Christ will sharpen us for the Battle, as we will sharpen them.  Additionally, we will be mutual sources of encouragement and restoration.

Practically speaking, there are three venues for teaming and banding together: Bible study, prayer, and personal sharing.  Bible study keeps us anchored to our Foundation and keeps our weapons sharp (Heb 4:12) and at the ready (Song of Solomon 3:8); it helps us be workmen approved who correctly hand the Word of Truth (2 Tim 2:15).

Prayer is the most uniting activity believers can do together.  It breaks down all doctrinal barriers and puts the focus on the Redeeming Cross.  For those deployed with many concerns, it yields to us a peace in the Battle that surpasses all human understanding (Phil 4:6-7).  It allows us to corporately and individually bring our requests to the Father with a confidence that He hears us and will answer us (1 John 5:14-15).

Lastly, personal sharing allows us to share our hearts with another believer for the critical restoration, encouragement, and stimulation we require (Heb 10:24-25; Eccl 4:9-12; Prov 27:17).  When living amongst the Lost, especially when deployed, it is difficult to bear our souls and let our guard down with those who do not know Christ.  But within the safety of our brothers and sisters in Christ we can be transparent and vulnerable, thus allowing them to be a conduit for Christ's grace to our souls.

The end result of all of this is to change our posture for the Battle.  Instead of being on the defensive spiritually, we (our valiant band of brothers) will be on the offensive, ready to be used by our Captain of the Heavenly Host to take the Battle to the Evil One, to rob the enemy of his fruit, and to bring glory to the Throne of Grace; together we can storm the gates of hell.

1 Samuel 10:26 (NIV) "Saul also went to his home in Gibeah, accompanied by valiant men whose hearts God had touched."

Excessive Grief at the Death of Friends

John Chrysostom (347-407)

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not.—1 Thess. 4:13.

WE have occupied four days in explaining to you the parable of Lazarus, bringing out the treasure that we found in a body covered with sores; a treasure, not of gold and silver and precious stones, but of wisdom and fortitude, of patience and endurance. For as in regard to visible treasures, while the surface of the ground shows only thorns and briers, and rough earth, yet, let a person dig deep into it, abundant wealth discovers itself; so it has proved in respect to Lazarus. Outwardly, wounds; but underneath these, unspeakable wealth; a body pining away, but a spirit noble and wakeful. We have also seen an illustration of that remark of the apostle’s—in proportion as the outward man perishes, the inward man is renewed.

It would, indeed, be proper to address you to-day, also, on this same parable, and to enter the lists with those heretics who censure the Old Testament, bringing accusations against the patriarchs, and whetting their tongues against God, the Creator of the universe. But to avoid wearying you and reserving this controversy for another time, let us direct the discourse to another subject; for a table with only one sort of food produces satiety, while variety provokes the appetite. That it may be so in regard to our preaching, let us now, after a long period, turn to the blest Paul; for very opportunely has a passage from the apostle been read to-day, and the things which are to be spoken concerning it are in harmony with those that have lately been presented. Hear, then, Paul this day proclaiming—“I would not have you to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others which have no hope.” The parable of Lazarus is the evangelical chord; this passage is the apostolic note. And there is concord between them; for we have, on that parable, said much concerning the resurrection and the future judgment, and our discourse now recurs to that theme; so that, tho it is on apostolic ground we are now toiling, we shall here find the same treasure. For in treating the parable, our aim was to teach the hearers this lesson, that they should regard all the splendors of the present life as nothing, but should look forward in their hopes, and daily reflect on the decisions which will be hereafter pronounced, and on that fearful judgment, and that Judge who can not be deceived. On these things Paul has counseled us to-day in the passages which have been read to us. Attend, however, to his own words—“I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him.”—1 Thess. 4:13, 14.

We ought here, at the outset, to inquire why, when he is speaking concerning Christ, he employs the word death; but when he is speaking of our decease he calls it sleep, and not death. For he did not say, Concerning them that are dead: but what did he say? “Concerning them that are asleep.” And again—“Even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him.” He did not say, Them that have died. Still again—“We who are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them that sleep.” Here, too, he did not say—Them that are dead; but a third time, bringing the subject to their remembrance, for the third time called death a sleep. Concerning Christ, however, he did not speak thus; but how? “For if we believe that Jesus died.” He did not say, Jesus slept, but He died. Why now did he use the term death in reference to Christ, but in reference to us the term sleep? For it was not casually, or negligently, that he employed this expression, but he had a wise and great purpose in so doing. In speaking of Christ, he said death, so as to confirm the fact that Christ had actually suffered death; in speaking of us, he said sleep, in order to impart consolation. For where resurrection had already taken place, he mentions death with plainness; but where the resurrection is still a matter of hope, he says sleep, consoling us by this very expression, and cherishing our valuable hopes. For he who is only asleep will surely awake; and death is no more than a long sleep.

Say not a dead man hears not, nor speaks, nor sees, nor is conscious. It is just so with a sleeping person. If I may speak somewhat paradoxically, even the soul of a sleeping person is in some sort asleep; but not so the soul of a dead man; that is awake.

But, you say, a dead man experiences corruption, and becomes dust and ashes. And what then, beloved hearers? For this very reason we ought to rejoice. For when a man is about to rebuild an old and tottering house, he first sends out its occupants, then tears it down, and rebuilds anew a more splendid one. This occasions no grief to the occupants, but rather joy; for they do not think of the demolition which they see, but of the house which is to come, tho not yet seen. When God is about to do a similar work, he destroys our body, and removes the soul which was dwelling in it as from some house, that he may build it anew and more splendidly, and again bring the soul into it with greater glory. Let us not, therefore, regard the tearing down, but the splendor which is to succeed.

If, again, a man has a statue decayed by rust and age, and mutilated in many of its parts, he breaks it up and casts it into a furnace, and after the melting he receives it again in a more beautiful form. As then the dissolving in the furnace was not a destruction but a renewing of the statue, so the death of our bodies is not a destruction but a renovation. When, therefore, you see as in a furnace our flesh flowing away to corruption, dwell not on that sight, but wait for the recasting. And be not satisfied with the extent of this illustration, but advance in your thoughts to a still higher point; for the statuary, casting into the furnace a brazen image, does not furnish you in its place a golden and undecaying statue, but again makes a brazen one. God does not thus; but casting in a mortal body formed of clay, he returns to you a golden and immortal statue; for the earth, receiving a corruptible and decaying body gives back the same, incorruptible and undecaying. Look not, therefore, on the corpse, lying with closed eyes and speechless lips, but on the man that is risen, that has received glory unspeakable and amazing, and direct your thoughts from the present sight to the future hope.

But do you miss his society, and therefore lament and mourn? Now is it not unreasonable, that, if you should have given your daughter in marriage, and her husband should take her to a distant country and should there enjoy prosperity, you would not think the circumstance a calamity, but the intelligence of their prosperity would console the sorrow occasioned by her absence; and yet here, while it is not a man, nor a fellow servant, but the Lord Himself who has taken your relative, that you should grieve and lament?

And how is it possible, you ask, not to grieve, since I am only a man? Nor do I say that you should not grieve: I do not condemn dejection, but the intensity of it. To be dejected is natural; but to be overcome by dejection is madness, and folly, and unmanly weakness. You may grieve and weep; but give not way to despondency, nor indulge in complaints. Give thanks to God, who has taken your friend, that you have the opportunity of honoring the departed one, and of dismissing him with becoming obsequies. If you sink under depression, you withhold honor from the departed, you displease God who has taken him, and you injure yourself; but if you are grateful, you pay respect to him, you glorify God, and you benefit yourself. Weep, as wept your Master over Lazarus, observing the just limits of sorrow, which it is not proper to pass. Thus also said Paul—“I would not have you to be ignorant concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not as others who have no hope. Grieve,” says he; “but not as the Greek, who has no hope of a resurrection, who despairs of a future life.”

Believe me, I am ashamed and blush to see unbecoming groups of women pass along the mart, tearing their hair, cutting their arms and cheeks—and all this under the eyes of the Greeks. For what will they not say? What will they not declare concerning us? Are these the men who reason about a resurrection? Indeed! How poorly their actions agree with their opinions! In words, they reason about a resurrection: but they act just like those who do not acknowledge a resurrection. If they fully believed in a resurrection, they would not act thus; if they had really persuaded themselves that a deceased friend had departed to a better state, they would not thus mourn. These things, and more than these, the unbelievers say when they hear those lamentations. Let us then be ashamed, and be more moderate, and not occasion so much harm to ourselves and to those who are looking on us.

For on what account, tell me, do you thus weep for one departed? Because he was a bad man? You ought on that very account to be thankful, since the occasions of wickedness are now cut off. Because he was good and kind? If so, you ought to rejoice; since he has been soon removed, before wickedness had corrupted him, and he has gone away to a world where he stands even secure, and there is no reason even to mistrust a change. Because he was a youth? For that, too, praise Him that has taken him, because he has speedily called him to a better lot. Because he was an aged man? On this account, also, give thanks and glorify Him that has taken him. Be ashamed of your behavior at a burial. The singing of psalms, the prayers, the assembling of the (spiritual) fathers and brethren—all this is not that you may weep, and lament, and afflict yourselves, but that you may render thanks to Him who has taken the departed. For as when men are called to some high office, multitudes with praises on their lips assemble to escort them at their departure to their stations, so do all with abundant praise join to send forward, as to greater honor, those of the pious who have departed. Death is rest, a deliverance from the exhausting labors and cares of this world. When, then, thou seest a relative departing, yield not to despondency; give thyself to reflection; examine thy conscience; cherish the thought that after a little while this end awaits thee also. Be more considerate; let another’s death excite thee to salutary fear; shake off all indolence; examine your past deeds; quit your sins, and commence a happy change.

We differ from unbelievers in our estimate of things. The unbeliever surveys the heavens and worships them, because he thinks them a divinity; he looks to the earth and makes himself a servant to it, and longs for the things of sense. But not so with us. We survey the heavens and admire Him that made them; for we do not believe them to be a god, but a work of God. I look on the whole creation, and am led by it to the Creator. He looks on wealth, and longs for it with earnest desire; I look on wealth, and contemn it. He sees poverty, and laments; I see poverty, and rejoice. I see things in one light; he in another. Just so in regard to death. He sees a corpse, and thinks of it as a corpse; I see a corpse, and behold sleep rather than death. And as in regard to books, both learned persons and unlearned see them with the same eyes, but not with the same understanding—for to the unlearned the mere shapes of letters appear, while the learned discover the sense that lies within those letters—so in respect to affairs in general, we all see what takes place with the same eyes, but not with the same understanding and judgment. Since, therefore, in all other things we differ from them, shall we agree with them in our sentiments respecting death?

Consider to whom the departed has gone, and take comfort. He has gone where Paul is, and Peter, and the whole company of the saints. Consider how he shall arise, with what glory and splendor. Consider that by mourning and lamenting thou canst not alter the event which has occurred, and thou wilt in the end injure thyself. Consider whom you imitate by so doing, and shun this companionship in sin. For whom do you imitate and emulate? The unbelieving, those who have no hope; as Paul has said—“That ye sorrow not, even as others who have no hope.” And observe how carefully he expresses himself; for he does not say, Those who have not the hope of a resurrection, but simply, Those who have no hope. He that has no hope of a future retribution has no hope at all, nor does he know that there is a God, nor that God exercises a providential care over present occurrences, nor that divine justice looks on all things. But he that is thus ignorant and inconsiderate is more unwise than a beast, and separates his soul from all good; for he that does not expect to render an account of his deeds cuts himself loose from all virtue, and attaches himself to all vice. Considering these things, therefore, and reflection on the folly and stupidity of the heathen, whose associates we become by our lamentations for the dead, let us avoid this conformity to them. For the apostle mentions them for this very purpose, that by considering the dishonor into which thou fallest, thou mightest recover thyself from this conformity, and return to thy proper dignity.

And not only here, but everywhere and frequently, the blest Paul does the same. For when he would dissuade from sin, he shows with whom we become associated by our sins, that, being touched by the character of the persons, thou shouldest avoid such companionship. To the Thessalonians, accordingly, he says, Let every one “possess his vessel in sanctification and honor, not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God.” And again—“Walk not as the other Gentiles in the vanity of their mind.” Thus also here—“I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not even as others who have no hope.” For it is not the nature of things, but our own disposition, which makes us grieve; not the death of the departed, but the weakness of those who mourn.

We ought, therefore, to thank God not only for the resurrection, but also for the hope of it; which can comfort the afflicted soul, and bid us be of good cheer concerning the departed, for they will again rise and be with us. If we must have anguish, we should mourn and lament over those who are living in sin, not over those who have died righteously. Thus did Paul; for he says to the Corinthians—“Lest when I come to you God shall humble me among you and that I shall bewail many.” He was not speaking of those who had died, but of those who had sinned and had not repented of the lasciviousness and uncleanness which they had committed; over these it was proper to mourn. So likewise another writer admonishes, saying—“Weep over the dead, for the light has failed; and weep over the fool, for understanding has failed” (Eccles. 22:10). Weep a little for the dead; for he has gone to his rest; but the fool’s life is a greater calamity than death. And surely if one devoid of understanding is always a proper object of lamentation, much more he that is devoid of righteousness and that has fallen from hope toward God. These, then, let us bewail; for such bewailing may be useful. For often while lamenting these, we amend our own faults; but to bewail the departed is senseless and hurtful. Let us not, then, reverse the order, but bewail only sin; and all other things, whether poverty, or sickness, or untimely death, or calumny, or false accusation, or whatever human evil befalls us, let us resolutely bear them all. For these calamities, if we are watchful, will be the occasions of adding to our crowns.

But how is it possible, you ask, that a bereaved person, being a man, should not grieve? On the contrary, I ask, how is it that being a man he should grieve, since he is honored with reason and with hopes of future good? Who is there, you ask again, that has not been subdued by this weakness? Many, I reply, and in many places, both among us and among those who have died before us. Job, for instance; the whole circle of his children being taken away, hear what he says—“The Lord gave; the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” A wonderful saying, even when merely heard; but if you examine it closely, your wonder will greatly increase.

For consider; Satan did not take merely half and leave half, or take the larger number and leave the rest; but he gathered all the fruit, and yet did not prevail in uprooting the tree; he covered the whole sea with waves, and yet did not overwhelm the bark; he despoiled the tower of its strength, and yet could not batter it down. Job stood firm, tho assailed from every quarter; showers of arrows fell, but they did not wound him. Consider how great a thing it was, to see so many children perish. Was it not enough to pierce him to the quick that they should all be snatched away?—altogether and in one day; in the flower of life; having shown so much virtue; expiring as by a stroke of vengeance; that after so many sorrows this last should be inflicted; that the father was fond of them, and that the deceased were worthy of his affection. When a man loses vicious children, he does indeed suffer grief, but not intense grief; for the wickedness of the departed does not allow the sorrow to be poignant. But when children are virtuous, an abiding wound is inflicted, the remembrance is indelible, the calamity is inconsolable; there is a double sting, from nature, and from the virtuous character of the departed.

That Job’s children were virtuous, appears from the fact that their father was particularly solicitous in regard to them, and rising up offered sacrifices in their behalf, fearing lest they might have committed secret sins; and no consideration was more important in his esteem than this. Not only the virtue of the children is thus shown, but also the affectionate spirit of the father. Since, therefore, the father was so affectionate, showing not only a love for them which proceeded from nature, but that also which came from their piety, and since the departed were thus virtuous, the anguish had a threefold intensity. Still further; when children are torn away separately, the suffering has some consolation; for those that are left alleviate the sorrow over the departed; but when the whole circle is gone, to what one of all his numerous children can the childless man now look?

Besides these causes of sorrow, there was a fifth stroke. What was that? That they were all snatched away at once. For if in the case of those who die after three or five days of sickness, the women and all the relatives bewail this most of all, that the deceased was taken away from their sight speedily and suddenly, much more might he have been distrest, when thus deprived of all, not in three days, or two, or one, but in one hour! For a calamity long contemplated, even if it be hard to bear, may fall more lightly through this anticipation; but that which happens contrary to expectation and suddenly is intolerable.

Would you hear of a sixth stroke? He lost them all in the very flower of their age. You know how very overwhelming are untimely bereavements, and productive of grief on many scores. The instance we are contemplating was not only untimely, but also violent; so that here was a seventh stroke. For their father did not see them expire on a bed, but they are all overwhelmed by the falling habitation. Consider then; a man was digging in that pile of ruins, and now he drew up a stone, and now a limb of a deceased one; he saw a hand still holding a cup, and another right hand placed on the table, and the mutilated form of a body, the nose torn away, the head crusht, the eyes put out, the brain scattered, the whole frame marred, and the variety of wounds not permitting the father to recognize the beloved countenances. You suffer emotions and shed tears at merely hearing of these things: what must he have endured at the sight of them? For if we, so long after the event, can not bear to hear of this tragedy, tho it was another man’s calamity, what an adamant was he to look on these things, and contemplate them, not as another’s, but his own afflictions! He did not give way to dejection, nor ask, “What does this mean? Is this the recompense for my kindness? Was it for this that I opened my house, that I might see it made the grave of my children? Did I for this exhibit every parental virtue, that they should endure such a death?” No such things did he speak, or even think; but steadily bore all, tho bereaved of them after bestowing on them so much care. For as an accomplished statuary framing golden images adorns them with great care, so he sought properly to mold and adorn their souls. And as a husbandman assiduously waters his palm-trees, or olives, inclosing them and cultivating them in every suitable way; so he perpetually sought to enrich each one’s soul, as a fruitful olive, with increasing virtue. But he saw the trees overthrown by the assault of the evil spirit, and exposed on the earth, and enduring that miserable kind of death; yet he uttered no reviling word, but rather blest God, thus giving a deadly blow to the devil.

Should you say that Job had many sons, but that others have frequently lost their only sons, and that his cause of sorrow was not equal to theirs, you say well; but I reply, that Job’s cause of sorrow was not only equal, but far greater. For of what advantage was it to him that he had many children? It was a severer calamity and a more bitter grief to receive the wound in many bodies.

Still, if you wish to see another holy man having an only son, and showing the same and even greater fortitude, call to mind the patriarch Abraham, who did not indeed see Isaac die, but, what was much more painful, was himself commanded to slay him, and did not question the command, nor repine at it, nor say, “Is it for this thou hast made me a father, that thou shouldest make me the slayer of my son? Better it would have been not to give him at all, than having given him thus to take him away. And if thou choosest to take him, why dost thou command me to slay him and to pollute my right hand? Didst thou not promise me that from this son thou wouldst fill the earth with my descendants? How wilt thou give the fruits, then, if thou pluck up the root? How dost thou promise me a posterity, and yet order me to slay my son? Who ever saw such things, or heard of the like? I am deceived; I have been deluded.” No such thing did he say, or even think; he said nothing against the command, he did not ask the reasons; but hearing the Word—“Take thy son, thine only son whom thou lovest, and carry him up to one of the mountains which I shall show thee,” he complied so readily as even to do more than was commanded. For he concealed the matter from his wife, and he left the servants at the foot of the Mount in ignorance of what was to be done, and ascended, taking only the victim. Thus not unwillingly, but with promptness, he obeyed the command. Think now what it was, to be conversing alone with his son, apart from all others, when the affections are the more fervently excited, and attachment becomes stronger; and this not for one, or two, but for several days. To obey the command speedily would have been wonderful; but not so wonderful as, while his heart was burdened and agitated for many days, to avoid indulging in human tenderness toward his son. On this account God appointed for him a more extended arena, and a longer racecourse, that thou mightest the more carefully observe his combatant. A combatant he was indeed, contending not against a man, but against the force of nature. What language can describe his fortitude? He brought forward his son, bound him, placed him on the wood, seized the sacrificial knife, was just on the point of dealing the stroke. In what manner to express myself properly, I know not; he only would know, who did these things. For no language can describe how it happened that his hand did not become torpid, that the strength of his nerves did not relax, that the affecting sight of his son did not overpower him.

It is proper here, too, to admire Isaac. For as the one obeyed God, so did the other obey his father; and as the one, at God’s bidding him to sacrifice, did not demand an account of the matter, so the other, when his father was binding him and leading him to the altar, did not say, “Why art thou doing this?”—but surrendered himself to his father’s hand. And then was to be seen a man uniting in his own person the father and the sacrificing priest; and a sacrifice offered without blood, a whole burnt offering without fire, an altar representing a type of death and the resurrection. For he both sacrificed his son and he did not sacrifice him. He did not sacrifice him with his hand, but in his purpose. For God gave the command, not through desire to see the flowing of the blood, but to give you a specimen of steady purpose, to make known throughout the world this worthy man, and to instruct all in coming time that it is necessary to prefer the command of God before children and nature, before all things, and even life itself. And so Abraham descended from the Mount, bringing alive the martyr Isaac. How can we be pardoned then, tell me, or what apology can we have, if we see that noble man obeying God with so much promptness and submitting to Him in all things, and yet we murmur at His dispensations? Tell me not of grief, nor of the intolerable nature of your calamity; rather consider how in the midst of bitter sorrow you may yet rise superior to it. That which was commanded to Abraham was enough to stagger his reason, to throw him into perplexity, and to undermine his faith in the past. For who would not have then thought that the promise which had been made him of a numerous posterity was all a deception? But not so Abraham. And not less ought we to admire Job’s wisdom in calamity; and particularly, that after so much virtue, after his alms and various acts of kindness to men, and tho aware of no wrong either in himself or his children, yet experiencing so much affliction, affliction so singular, such as had never happened even to the most desperately wicked, still he was not affected by it as most men would have been, nor did he regard his virtue as profitless, nor form any ill-advised opinion concerning the past.

By these two examples, then, we ought not only to admire virtue, but to emulate and imitate it. And let no one say these were wonderful men. True, they were wonderful and great men. But we are now required to have more wisdom than they, and than all who lived under the Old Testament. For “except your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Gathering wisdom, then, from all quarters, and considering what we are told concerning a resurrection and concerning these holy men, let us frequently recite it to our souls, not only when we are actually in sorrow, but also while we are free from distress. For I have now addrest you on this subject, tho no one is in particular affliction, that when we shall fall into any such calamity, we may, from the remembrance of what has been said, obtain requisite consolation. As soldiers, even in peace, perform warlike exercises, so that when actually called to battle and the occasion makes a demand for skill, they may avail themselves of the art which they have cultivated in peace; so let us, in time of peace, furnish ourselves with weapons and remedies, that whenever there shall burst on us a war of unreasonable passions, or grief, or pain, or any such thing, we may, well armed and secure on all sides, repel the assaults of the evil one with all skill, and wall ourselves round with right contemplations, with the declarations of God, with the examples of good men, and with every possible defense. For so shall we be able to pass the present life with happiness, and to attain to the kingdom of heaven, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and dominion, together with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.

Chrysostom. (1908). Excessive Grief at the Death of Friends. In G. Kleiser (Ed.), The World’s Great Sermons: Basil to Calvin (Vol. 1, pp. 44–46). New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls. (Public Domain

Fighting a Good Fight—by SGT Juan Lugo, USA

“Abraham never wavered in believing God's promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God” (Romans 4:20 NLT).

Writing about the subject of Faith is always intriguing. Let me start off with a couple of questions: Have you ever doubted your faith? How strong is your faith?

Doubts are always lurking around in our minds, especially when we are faced with tough times. It is very difficult not to be influenced by our surroundings. Our human emotions may play with us as well. We may experience anger, grief, or even feelings of hopelessness. Perhaps this is indicative of how we really are. Maybe our own sinful nature has led us to a place where things appear dark, because in going, we have fallen away from God for a time.

The insurmountable and unsolvable are opportunities for trust or distrust. Unfortunately, we often fall into unbelief. There are times when I have found myself in this state of mind and have to remind myself who I am and to whom I belong.

Strong faith comes by mixing up several spiritual ingredients, one of which is knowing. We must know that what God says is absolutely true. Real knowing doesn’t come from “intestinal fortitude.” Knowing comes from the illumination of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. This supernatural knowing is what makes our faith strong.

Let’s start building a faith that is up for the good fight! Faith is one of the virtues that C.S. Lewis talks about in his book, “Mere Christianity.” The Greek word translated into our language as faith is “pistis”—a persuasion; credence; moral conviction of religious truth, especially reliance upon Christ for salvation (Strong’s G4102) from “peitho”—to convince (Strong’s G3982). The history of the English word takes us to the Latin word “fides”; to unite; to bind (as with a rope or cable, to make fast). It is good for us to recall this ancient suggestion of the spiritual work of faith that unites us to God.

Noah Webster says that faith is the assent of the mind to the truth of what is declared by another, resting on his authority and veracity, without other evidence; the judgment that what another states or testifies is the truth.

You may admire Abraham and wish that you could have the faith that stands when hope is lost and probabilities cease. Isn’t it time you quit wishing and started exercising?

It is common these days for people to talk about how their “faith” will get them through a difficult and trying experience. Unfortunately, this is said without revealing the object of this faith.  It seems as though “faith” is usually treated as a quality which, in and of itself, has the power to give strength, endurance, and hope.  I have heard it said that all that matters is that a person has “faith,” as though it is some universal key that fits every spiritual or emotional lock. However, a key can only open the lock for which it was designed. A metal key is of no use to an electronic cipher lock, any more than speaking would be to a padlock. Our faith is in Christ, and in union with Him we have the key that unlocks the floodgates of heaven. Our faith is not separate from, but rather enabled by this relationship. We stand in the midst of each day whether tranquil or terrifying because of Christ in us.

“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting Him, He endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now He is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT)

But there is something else that is a part of this faith. There is a reason that Romans 1:5 refers to the “obedience of faith.” It is not working ourselves up to a certain emotional fervor that moves us onward, but rather the settled “confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith and obedience translates into motion and gives birth to fruit in our lives.

“In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil” (Ephesians 6:16 NLT).

Faith is also our shield! A diamond is the strongest mineral in the earth. Coal and the lead in your pencil are made out of essentially the same elements. What makes a diamond different is the greater strength of its bonds. The carbon was subjected to extreme heat and pressure that transformed it into the “pure” stern stuff that is not only beautiful to look upon, but hard enough to cut though rock and steel. The word “diamond” comes from the Greek word “Adamas,” which means indestructible.

“Be on guard. Stand firm in the faith. Be courageous. Be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT).

God wants your faith to be pure and strong like a diamond. Pure faith is strong faith! Pure faith come from a heart that has been made pure by the workmanship of the Holy Spirit. Sometimes that means enduring high temperatures and much pressure.

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing” (James 1:2-4 NLT).

Just as physical training, for those of us in the Army, is essential to ensure we have the strength and endurance to complete the mission, spiritual training brings the same benefit, not only in this life but the one to come.

“Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come” (1Timothy 4:8 NLT).

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13 NLT).

This spiritual training requires that we put our faith into action to make it grow strong! For faith to move mountains, it must be unleashed. Faith is not like water impounded behind a dam waiting for a drought. Faith is the water rushing through the penstocks that moves the turbines to make electricity.

“In the morning, as Jesus was returning to Jerusalem, He was hungry, and He noticed a fig tree beside the road. He went over to see if there were any figs, but there were only leaves. Then He said to it, ‘May you never bear fruit again!’ And immediately the fig tree withered up. The disciples were amazed when they saw this and asked, ‘How did the fig tree wither so quickly?’ Then Jesus told them, ‘I tell you the truth, if you have faith and don't doubt, you can do things like this and much more. You can even say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. You can pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it’” (Matthew 21:18-22 NLT).

Jesus cursed the fig tree because it was like religion without substance. The tree looked good from far off, but up close it bore no fruit. If we appear to have faith in our lives but it is never put to the test, how can it be genuine? The rebuke here is for the absence of faith. What are the mountains God has placed in front of you? How strong is your faith? Is it strong enough to do the work of the kingdom? Is it strong enough to overcome?

Frontlines:  Earning the Right to Speak

"Who is this King of glory?  The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle." (Psalm 24:8, NIV )

God has a special place in His heart for Warriors. God is a Warrior and many of the men most used of God in the Scriptures are Warriors (Abraham, David, Joshua, Joab, etc.).  As Jesus came across soldiers during His ministry (Matt 8:5-13, Luke 3:14, 7:1-10), He was very positive with them, even to the point of commending a Roman centurion as the man of greatest faith in all of Israel (Matt 8:10).  Furthermore, Romans 13:1-7 shows the military to be God's arm of justice for His ordained governing authorities.  Thus, a soldiers' selfless service brings glory and honor to God.

COL Mark Kehrer, USAR

With our nation fully at war, this is a critical season for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coastguardsmen.  Military men and women are under tremendous stress and need godly men and women around them to bring them God's love and God's context for the death and destruction surrounding them.  They are God's missionaries on the frontlines to "reconcile men to God" (2 Cor 5:18-20).  
Yet, how are we to perform our military duties within this high stress and often violent context?  And why is it so important, especially today?

I believe there is great insight in both the lives of Daniel and King David. Even among Daniel's enemies, they could find no corruption or negligence in him (Daniel 6:4).  Additionally, the Warrior King David led his nation with integrity of heart and with skillful hands (Psalm 78:72). From these passages, I conclude: military men and women need to walk in integrity and competence, free of corruption and negligence in obedience to Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit.

I have often heard and long believed that we need to earn the right to share the Gospel. We do this through our personal witness. Two sayings I believe:

  • "Share your faith—use words if necessary."
  • "The Gospel is meant to be communicated primarily on the LIFE, not the LIPS."

When military men and women walk in integrity and competence, they honor God and prompt in others the desire to know what drives and motivates them (Matt 5:16).  These godly men and women are postured to be used by God.  Sadly, too often outspoken Christians perform incompetently or in an unethical manner.  In my 22 years of duty, especially on deployments, I have seen this phenomenon far too often.

We must be deliberate in our conduct.  Here are some good passages concerning what we do as Warriors:

"Do everything without complaining or arguing," (Phil. 2:14, NIV)
"Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to win their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men," (Col. 3:22-23, NIV)
"So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (1 Cor. 10:31, NIV)
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." (Col. 3:17, NIV)

The military presents a unique environment within which to bear Christ’s witness. For those of us in the military, here are some specific areas to examine:

  • Being tactically and technically proficient 
  • Military bearing (appearance and fitness) and professionalism 
  • Conduct (on and off the job) 
  • Leadership skills (if in a leadership position)
  • Overall attitude

I realize many people in the military are concerned and sometimes fearful about their careers and about being promoted.  We must trust God with our careers. Do your duty, walk in complete integrity, and be competent at your tasks.  Trust God for the results:

"No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt a man. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another." (Psalm 75:6-7, NIV)
"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (Romans 8:28, NIV)

Let me end with 2 quotations; one from a famous godly Civil War general, the other from a great missionary.

  • "Duty is man's, results are God’s.” (General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson)
  • "A man is no fool who gives up what he cannot hope to keep to obtain that which he cannot possibly lose." (Jim Elliot)

Filling Our Spiritual Reservoir

COL Mark Kehrer, USAR
“As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’ These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng” (Psalm 42:1-4 NIV).

Do you often find yourself spiritually “thirsty,” feeling depleted and feeling about as spiritual as a rock?  Surprisingly, many Christians feel this way everyday.  What frequently occurs is that we begin our Christian lives with great zeal and zip for Christ.  Yet, the heaviness of life begins to deplete us, draining our spiritual reservoir.  Our communion with Christ ebbs away as the busyness and complexity of life competes for our spiritual energy.

Yet Satan capitalizes on this busyness and complexity, again attacking our spiritual reservoir.  Satan weighs us down steadily and depletes our reservoir with things like:

  • Stress
  • School or Work
  • Conflict with others
  • Overloaded schedules
  • Deployments
  • Financial worries
  • Our own sinfulness
  • Ministry to others (when it is done “out of the flesh,” and not out of the Power of God)

Look at it this way.  This image represents your Spiritual Reservoir.  Yet, our lives living in the “trenches” can frequently drain us spiritually.  Eventually, we are no longer living out of the overflow of God's Grace in our lives.  We begin to live out of the flesh. 

Yet, God's Grace and Love for us is ours in abundance, so how do we appropriate the Grace and Love in our lives?  Simply put, we must fill our spiritual tanks.  How do we do this?  Let me suggest three activities we can do to open our hearts to God and allow Him to fill us:

1.  We must be in the Word through personal Bible study and devotional times; this sustains us and makes us spiritually prosperous.

“The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.  He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught” (Isaiah 50:4 NIV).
“Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it.  Then you will be prosperous and successful” (Joshua 1:8 NIV).

2.  We must commune with God through prayer, dialoguing daily with our King; this yields a peace in our lives and a confidence that we are walking in His will.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philip. 4:6-7 NIV).
“This is the confidence we have in approaching