Christian Military Fellowship

About the Christian Report

The Christian Report is a  newsletter published monthly and transmitted in print form and via E-Mail.  It contains news of the fellowship, articles on Christian living, and Bible study.

Newsletter Articles

Bob Flynn

ADCS (NAC) Robert W. Flynn, USN (Ret)

Bob has been with the Christian Military Fellowship since 1981. He has served as a Local Leader, Coordinator of Ministries, Chief Operating Officer, President/CEO, and Chairman of the Board of Directors. After a short retirement he returned as Chief Information Officer. His ministry area has been one-on-one mentoring and discipleship. He now also leads the the Remote Access Discipleship Program creating opportunities for our members to engage in Bible study where ever they happen to be standing.
Bob enlisted in the United States Navy in 1968 and served on active duty until 1991 when he joined the CMF Staff. He and his wife, Nancy, live near Buckley Space Force Base, Aurora, Colorado.
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
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).

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)
“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).

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!
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.

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
I am 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.

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.”
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)

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
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)

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.

“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!
Bob Flynn

SGM Daniel Cartwright, USA (Ret)

Dan has been with CMF since 1982.  He has served as a Local Leader, Regional Representative, and Chairman of the Board of Directors.  Dan served 28 years with the United States Army Special Forces.  He and his wife, Dee, live near Fort Carson, Colorado.
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.
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.

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?
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).

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.

XII Legion

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.

Group of Soldiers

t 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:

“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!’

Bob Flynn

Pastor Bob Bingham

In 1962 Bob and his wife Dorothy were appointed as missionaries with the Overseas Christian Servicemen's Centers (now Cadence International), and served with them for 21 years, 17 of those years serving at three different military bases in the Philippines. Hospitality and discipleship training became the focus of those years with hundreds of lives being touched for eternity.

A change of ministry came in September of 1982 when he joined Scope Ministries (a biblical counseling ministry headquartered in Oklahoma City). This led to Bob's present ministry, CUPbearers, a discipleship ministry centered on the Lord Jesus Christ located in Englewood, Colorado.

For more than 25 years Bob has pastored the Rocky Mountain Evangelical Free Church in Black Hawk, Colorado, in tandem with his discipling ministry.

Bob has ministered in the Philippines (1962-1979, 1995, 1998) and a number of other countries in Asia and Europe with OCSC (1962-82), Panama (1996) and in Trinidad (1998). His additional ministry opportunities have been to Singapore, Thailand, and Hong Kong (2001), and Nepal (2001), China (2006).

Bob also served as Chairman on the CMF Board of Directors for many years.
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.

THE ANGELIC ANNOUNCEMENT TO SHEPHERDS

“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).

THE SHEPHERDS TERROR CHANGED TO GREAT JOY

“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).

THE MAGI’S LONG JOURNEY BROUGHT THEM GREAT JOY

“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.

CHRISTMAS TODAY

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.
JESUS IS YOUR HOPE
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).
JESUS IS YOUR REFUGE
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 IS YOUR PEACE
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).
JESUS IS YOUR HOPE, REFUGE AND PEACE TODAY AND FOREVER!
“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).
One of the basic teaching of Christians throughout the ages is that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, meaning that He was God manifested in a human body. In other words Jesus was born with two sources of life: divine and human.

Luke in his gospel reveals Jesus’ two sources of life as the Angel Gabriel tells Mary of Jesus’ miraculous birth. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son [human]...and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High [divine]...Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31-35)

One of the passages where Jesus’ deity is recorded is in the Gospel of John 1:1-5. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of Men. The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.”

The Apostle John also records Jesus’ humanity in John 1:14-18. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John [the Baptist] testified about Him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me has a higher rank than I’...For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth was realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”

Jesus Never Used His Deity on His Own Initiative

Jesus said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10)

“I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.” (John 8:28)

Jesus “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself [of exercising His deity] taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Phil 2:6-8)

Jesus lived a human life on earth that was totally dependent upon God the Father’s indwelling life and leading never upon Himself!

Christians Are Encouraged to Live as Jesus Christ Did

“When He, the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative. (John 16:13) Jesus Christ, in His humanity was filled with God, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” (Col 2:9)

The Apostle Paul encourages, “Be imitators [followers] of me, just as I also am of Christ.” (1 Cor 11:1) Also, “and in Him [His indwelling] you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority.” (Col 2:10) “now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind...according to Christ Jesus” (Rom 15:5)

The writer of Hebrews says, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted [tested] in all things as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15)

Jesus reveals that He Himself is the Christian’s source of daily spiritual life, “I am the vine, you are the branches: he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5)

Peter also weighs in, “For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.” (2 Pe 1:4)

Summary

“Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” (2 Cor 13:11)

The Apostle Paul continues in his letter to the Philippians, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name who is above every name. So that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on the earth and under the earth.” (Phil 2:9-10)

“Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Phil 4:20)
“The thief comes only to steal, and kill, and destroy; I came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.” (John 10:10, NASB)

“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, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27, NASB)

In spite of Jesus’ promises, great unrest exists among people around the world. In the marketplace, coffee shops, bars, clubs, schools, offices and homes, men and women are searching for peace. There is no individual peace, no peace in the home, community, nationally nor worldwide. Instead we find unrest, uncertainty, fear, terror, turbulence, revolutions and chaos everywhere.

I seems that the majority of us find ourselves fretting about the future and what is going to happen next, or we are bemoaning things that have occurred in the past. Because of these practices there is little peace or comfort. Historians remind us of the past glories and failures of nations, philosophies, leaders and those that they lead. They remind us to pay attention and not repeat the failures of the past.

Psychologists and counselors claim that understanding one’s past, learning to deal with the pain of hurts and developing relational skills is the pathway to finding peace and self-confidence.

Energetic motivational speakers challenge their hearers that there is a great future for the stout-hearted. Rarely do these bring true success and peace.

Educators are confident that with the proper education one will be prepared for whatever happens in the present and future. However, fewer and fewer people are living healthy lives and enjoying peace.

The media bombards us with all kinds of news: atrocities, violence, murders, including natural and manmade disasters.

Advertisers assure us that by using their products one will enjoy life more fully now and in the future, but neither of these produce corporate nor individual peace.

The film industry focuses more and more upon violence with explicit sexual content. Television portrays very little reality and when it does, it is negative and depressing. Video games tend to be violent and sexually explicit. Modern art often displays disillusionment, surreality and emptiness. Again there is no abundance of true life nor peace.

The church does a great job presenting God’s grace for salvation and God’s grace for our future glorification with God in heaven. Most, however, fail in presenting God’s grace for today!

Consequently, Christians often bemoan the past and hope for the future, but enjoy very little abundance or peace in their daily lives.

Is this promise of a life full of abundant life and peace just a cruel joke?

No! The answer is not about the past failures nor the glories of the future life—it is today! The writer of Hebrews encourages us by referring to the Israelites in the wilderness. He quotes God saying,

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end; while it is said, “Today if you hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”” (Hebrews 3:13-15, NASB)

The Israelites in the wilderness were unsure of God’s faithfulness for their future deliverance. They yearned to return to the security of their Egyptian captivity. God kept reminding them that He was providing all of their needs today.

God provided fresh manna for them each day. If they tried to save it for another day, except for the Sabbath, it spoiled. When they complained, He gave them so much quail that they got so sick that they never wanted to see another quail again!

Their clothes and shoes never wore out for forty years. He sheltered them daily from the sun’s heat with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night to warm them and give them light. He led them through Moses and protected them from their enemies. However, they neglected to enjoy the today that god graciously gave them.

Too often we fail to enjoy the today that God has provided for us. Our tendency is to live either in the past or in the future.

Before the Second World War a barber shop was built next to the wall of the old walled city of Manila, Philippines. On the window of the barber shop was a sign that read, FREE HAIRCUTS TOMORROW.

It was not uncommon for a customer to come and ask for his free haircut. The barber would take the customer outside and show him the sign and would say, “Sir, as you see, the free haircut is tomorrow, and not today. Sorry!”

The past is gone forever an the future (tomorrow) never comes. We only have today in which to enjoy life and peace.

Our daily experience is always today! When we wake up, it is today. We eat, plan, labor and play today. We sleep and wake up, and again it is today. In this sense tomorrow never comes because it is always today. We only live in the present; it is always today.

The Apostle Paul states,

And working together with Him, we also urge you not to receive the grace of God in vain—for He says, “At the acceptable time (today) I listened to you, And on the day (today) of salvation I helped you”; behold, now is “the acceptable time,” (today) behold, (today) now is “the day of salvation” 2 Corinthians 6:1–2 (NASB)

Paul continues

“I can do all things (today) through Him who strengthens me.” And “And my God shall supply (today) all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:13, 19 NASB)

Jesus’ gracious promise of an abundant life and peace and the Apostle Paul’s confidence of God’s continual supply for al of our needs holds true for today.
“Today, If you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrews 4:7, NASB)

The writer of Hebrews encourages,

See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God… (Hebrews 12:15, NASB)

In conclusion let us enjoy God’s grace for today.

For we are His workmanship, [by grace] created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them [today]. (Ephesians 2:10, NASB)

There was a time when Christians in the United States thought little of martyrdom. There were not many believers in America killed for their faith. If some were, most often the news media failed to report it.

However, our world has now changed greatly. ISIS, fellow citizens and other anti-Christian groups are attempting to destroy Christianity and take over the world including the United States.

You know through television, social media and the internet that thousands of Christians around the world are being killed each year because of their faith in Jesus Christ and their refusal to deny their allegiance to Him for the sake of saving their own life or the lives of their loved ones.

This anti-God movement began in the Garden of Eden when the serpent [Satan] said to Adam and Eve that they did not need God any more, but could be like Him knowing the difference of good and evil.

“For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

To be like god or to be your own god and in control of your life and the lives of others continues to be attractive to most people even today.

When non-Christian leaders are in positions of power they often perceive that Christians are a threat to the advancement of their ideology, goals and godless agendas because they follow Jesus Christ the perfect leader of all creation. Consequently Christians must be silenced or eliminated.

Jesus warned His disciples regarding powerful godless leaders:

“But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them...Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and the children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name...” (Mark 13:9, 12-13a)

In the midst of Jesus’ warning He promises the presence and aid of His Holy Spirit to those persecuted.

“When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.” (Mark 13:11)

Stephen, the first Christian Martyr

This writer believes that Stephen was a prototype of all Christian martyrs.

“Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and signs among the people. But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen. But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking [according to Jesus’ promise, the Holy Spirit spoke through him].

“Then they secretly induced men to say, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.” And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came up to him and dragged him away and brought him before the Council. They put forward false witnesses who said, “This man incessantly speaks against this holy place and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.” And fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the Council saw his face like the face of an angel.” (Acts 6:8–15)

“But they [The council] cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7:57–60)

Christian Martyrs Today face the same anger and violence against them as did Stephen. The persecution maybe different, but the reality of hatred is the same.

Anti-Christian rhetoric is now commonly heard in the political arena. Many have all made terroristic statements against Christians.

Alex Newman in The New American Magazine, April 8, 2013 writes ...the “Department of Defense was caught training U.S. troops that Catholics, orthodox Jews, and evangelical Christians are to be considered “religious extremists,” even equating the major religions (representing more than half of Americans) with truly violent groups such as al-Qaeda, the Ku Klux Klan, and Hamas.”

Had the President declared martial law to combat terrorism you could be, as a Christian declared an enemy of the state and subject to arrest, jail time or even death.

Until Supreme Court Justices who support the Constitution are appointed, this negative sentiment against you and your Christian beliefs will continue and grow. Where and to whom may you turn for help?

Jesus Christ speaking to His disciples says that persecution of His followers is normative.

““But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. “But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.” (Matthew 10:17–19)

The often tested King David confidently declares:

“God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.” (Psalm 46:1)

Remember, “He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13)

The Apostle Paul adds:

“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1–2)

Jesus is Your Comfort and Peace in times of testing and trials. You need not fear regarding future persecution and martyrdom because the Lord Jesus Christ,

“…Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,”” (Hebrews 13:5b)

Praise the Lord!
This writer is often asked “Why are there so many church divisions and denominations?” there is no easy answer to this honest question.

The lack of unity is based upon the diversity of mankind and the desire to be independent and in control as Adam and Eve chose.

The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:4-5 NASB)

Additional confusion has developed when Christian leaders fail to look to Jesus Christ, the Head of the church for His will and direction as in Israel and the time of the Judges.

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25 NASB)

Christian leaders and their followers tend to be prideful over their unique and “true” interpretation of the Scripture, traditions, lifestyle and goals. Because of these distinctives they look down on those who do not hold them and separate from associating with them. They warn their followers not to associate with others who do not hold to the same teaching for fear of losing them.

Attempts for Organizational Unity

Over the years some denominations and church organizations have sought to join together, but were unable to reconcile practices regarding the Lord’s Supper (Communion) and the meaning, time and mode of Baptism. Differences of church government (Pastor led, elder rule or congregational) at times were also divisive. Jesus said regarding Biblical salvation:

I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me. (John 14:6 NASB)

Most Christian churches and organizations believe that there is only one way to gain salvation and that is through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ. However, even understanding the biblical nature of salvation divides. Must a Christian be a member of a certain church to be saved? Can one loose their salvation and then regain it by repentance? Or is a Christian’s salvation secure in Christ and cannot be lost? Jesus prayed:

The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (John 17:22-23 NASB)

Even in the early church there were divisions regarding leaders.

For I have been informed concerning you, my brethren, by Chloe's people, that there are quarrels among you. Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? (1Corinthians 1:11-13 NASB)

The Apostle Paul expresses his understanding of Christian unity.

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6 NASB)

Examples of Unity Among Individual Christians

This writer was a missionary to the US military stationed in the Philippines. We ministered to men and women from about 50 different church backgrounds plus many who were unchurched or unsaved. Our focus was upon Jesus Christ, salvation, bible study and the Christian’s daily life in Christ Jesus.

Rarely were the various church differences brought up or condemned because of our oneness and focus on Christ.

Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. (Rom 14:4 NASB)

Daily Life and Christian Unity

Jesus promised that wherever you go He will always be with you.

For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5b NASB)

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. (John 16:24 NASB)

Since the Lord Jesus Christ dwells within you by His Holy Spirit, it is fitting while talking with other Christians indwelt with Him, to give credit and praise to Jesus for all of the factors of your life and whatever your circumstances may be.

It is always appropriate to pray with other believers. You may pray for Christ’s provision for whatever their needs may be. You can praise Him for His grace, provision and protection. You can thank Him for His love and care.

“Making” a Disciple Takes Time

To make a disciple-making disciple requires that someone pours their life with Jesus into another person, until that person looks only to Jesus.

Modern life in the developed world has changed much from the first century but the principle that Jesus illustrates is still the same. Those who are called to love and serve God must be disciples by others who have gone before them. New believers must see what it looks like when someone puts God first. They must watch others as they strive to put God first in all things. They must observe what it ooks like when another man lives by and obeys the Holy Scriptures. And they must be in a relationship of trust such that they can ask honest questions.

My first real encounter with this discipling pattern of Jesus, in an intentional way, came when I was taken under the wing of a wise old pastor who lives thousands of miles away form me. He suggested we talk each week for an hour by phone. At first we just got to know one another, and he answered some of my pressing questions. But as time went on I realized that he and I were in a different relationship than any I had had before. He wanted me to only seek for Jesus’ affirmation. He only wanted for me what God wanted for me.

My life in the institutional church had not been like that. Though many in authority would have said otherwise, the general relationship I had with my ecclesiastical superiors was all about organizational accountability and performance. ...In my forty-four years of ordained ministry, I was never called to talk for an hour about my life and ministry as a disciple of Jesus.

A disciple-making disciple cares about those he is discipling. He prays for them, and loves them, and gives himself to them. All he knows of the Lord he shares with them. And perhaps the most important thing he gives them is time.  Jon Shuler, NAMS Network, September 27, 2016 (excerpted) Used by permission.

The Apostle Paul likens marriage as similar to Christ’s relationship with His church in Ephesians 5:21-23. Prior to this he encourages unity between all believers. “Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise [not the wisdom of this world, but the wisdom of Christ] making the most of your time, because the days are evil [do not waste your life on foolish pursuits].” “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will [pleasure] of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15-17). The apostle John adds that your testimony should be is Jesus’, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (John 8:29).

Paul’s initial instruction to both husband and wife also encourages unity, “… The subject [in intimate relationship] to one another in the fear [reverence and respect] of Christ” (vs 21).

To the wife:

The wife’s responsibility to her husband is referred to three times in this passage: First, “Wives, be subject [love and unity of purpose] to your own husbands, as to the Lord (vs 22). Paul has in mind that her husband is a shepherding husband, leader and protector as Jesus is to his church.

Second, she should follow the example set by her church “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (vs 24). However, very few churches present a good example because they do not look to Jesus to be the shepherding and leading head of their church. Rather than looking to Christ, most often the church leaders depend upon their combined creative fleshly intellects for the churches vision, direction and purpose.

Consequently, the husband also does not have a biblical model to follow as a shepherding and leading husband because of the failure of the church to allow Jesus Christ to Shepherd and had the church.

Third, “…The wife must see to it that she respects her husband” (vs 33). It is easy for a wife to respect her husband if he is prepared to lay down his life for her while loving and cherishing her as Christ loves and cherishes his church.

To the husband:

The apostle Paul spends the rest of this passage [Ephesians 5:23-33] focusing upon the husband’s responsibility for caring for his wife as her shepherding husband.

First, “…The husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, he himself being the Savior of the body” (vs 23). Jesus is never a controlling despot demanding his own way, but always gives of himself to protect, encourage and lift up each of the precious members of his church.

Second, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Jesus gives of himself to us and does not require a payback. Husbands tend to be takers rather than givers. His expectation is that his wife will be responsible for the household by caring for the children, preparing meals, laundry, shopping, etc. plus being there to meet his needs. He sees his job as being a good financial provider. Because of his giving he expects her to reciprocate with a payback. After a while some wives feel that they are unloved and or just their husbands slave.

Third, Jesus loved his church “so that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless” (vs 26-28).

You husbands recognize how difficult it is to do what only Jesus can do, but he dwells within believing husbands and is prepared to be in, through and with you all that he designed you to be. So confess your inability and ask him to take over and show you how to cooperate with him.

As you and Jesus Shepherd your wife she will respond and become more and more beautiful to you as you both age together.

Fourth, likewise, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of his body” (vs 29-30).

You and your wife are “one flesh”. You, with love, take great care of your own body by nourishing and cherishing it. Since God has made you one with your wife, you lovingly will nourish and cherish her also. This is a privilege for you and not a burden.

Fifth, marriage is designed to be an exclusive relationship worked the two function as one. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (vs 31).

Sixth, marriage designed by God is spiritually made up of three persons. Jesus Christ is the godly husband and the union of husband and wife functions spiritually together as Jesus’ bride. “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church” (vs 32).

Jesus Christ is the only male in his church and Christians function as his bride. “Therefore, my brother and [husband and wife], you also were made to die… Through the body of Christ, so that you might be joined to another [as in marriage], to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).

True spiritual fruit can only come from this union. Jesus said, “for apart from me you can do nothing” (Romans 15:5).

Seventh, husbands love your wife as you love yourself because you are one flesh, “nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even has himself” (vs 33).

Loving your wife as you love yourself is so important in God’s design for marriage that the apostle Paul emphatically concludes his understanding of God’s marriage design — loving your wife as you love your own self.

If the church, as our biblical model, would submit to and enjoy Jesus Christ’s shepherding care, so a wife will also be able to submit to and enjoy her husband shepherding care.

Now the apostle Paul’s initial instruction to both husband and wife makes sense, “…Be subject [in intimate relationship] to one another in fear of Christ” (vs 21).

Note:

The structure of this passage of Scripture is often missed and/or misrepresented by focusing the weight of the passage upon the wife’s submission to her husband.

The wife’s submission is addressed only three times in this passage. The husband’s responsibility is addressed seven times in conjunction with the shepherding care of Jesus for his church. As Jesus is to his church, the husband is to be to his wife.

This is truly God’s design for relationship and marriage.

Bob Flynn

Dr. Douglas Sullivan

 Doctor Sullivan served in the United States Air Force from 1983 to 2006.  He began his career as an enlisted man and rose through the ranks and eventually became commissioned serving as a Missile Combat Crew Commander and Instructor.  After 15 years of military service and rising to the rank of Captain, he became a Chaplain in 1998.  He retired from the Air Force in 1998.  He lives on a small farm in Waxahachie, Texas, with his wife Debbie, who is an elementary school teacher.  They stay busy raising horses, llamas, goats, chickens, and other farm animals. His two children, Daniel and Catherine, live in Waxahachie, Texas, as well. Daniel is a Dallas Police Officer, and Catherine teaches Kindergarten at Felty Elementary School. Doug and Debbie Sullivan have been blessed with three grandchildren, two by Daniel and his wife Brandi and one by Catherine and her husband Tyler.  Chaplain Sullivan, now Doctor Sullivan after earning his Doctor of ministry from Evangel University, continues to serve today as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Texas Civil Defense in Red Oak, Texas, as the Command Staff Chaplain. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy/religion at Navarro College in Waxahachie, Texas. Dr. Sullivan enjoys restoring antique cars in his free time and provides spiritual guidance as a Hospice Chaplain for those who are terminal, helping them find peace in their last stage of life.   He also serves as Chairman off the Christian Military Fellowship Board of Directors.
God’s true warriors must fight the good fight of faith. Our Commander in Chief isn’t asking us to represent His Command by wounding allies or abusing the lost. Paul uses this example of fighting, waging war, and soldiering, to call young Timothy and every Soldier of the Cross to exercise the qualities of a warrior who is fighting against the enemy.

Paul ordered Timothy to “fight the good fight” in 1 Timothy 1. He called Archippus, who hosted a church in his home, a “fellow soldier” in Philemon 2. He called Epaphroditus, the messenger to the church at Philippi, a “fellow soldier” in Philippians 2. Paul used each part of a warrior’s armament to demonstrate a lesson for spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6.

This picture of a soldier paints a passionate portrait for each believer to pursue. What does your Commander want from you, soldier? Instant obedience to His orders, deep loyalty, rigid self-discipline, bold in speaking out and valor in defense of the truth. These qualities should characterize each one of Christ’s warriors–reminding you that the path of devotion to Christ is not easy or instant, it is a long and difficult road to follow.

Maturity and effective service requires steadfast endurance and abiding faith. To effectively flee sin and pursue Christlike character, to minister greatly, serve diligently, disciple aggressively, teach clearly–then we must have a warrior’s mentality. A French general in World War I, Marshall Foch commanded, “You must not retire, you must hold at all costs.” “Then,” said the officer, “that means we must die.” Foch answered, “Precisely!”

Warfare demands courage, commitment, and sacrifice. Paul orders Timothy “Suffer hardship with me as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” (2 Tim 2: 3a) Timothy, join in suffering with me. Join me in obedience. Join me in unfaltering loyalty. Join me in sacrifice and discipline.

The main predicate phrase, “suffer hardship,” doesn’t sound fun or easy, and it isn’t. It’s a compound verb translated in other places “as share my pain,” “take your part in suffering,” “accept your share of unjust evil,” “take your part of rough treatment,” or “endure harshness.” “Suffer hardship” literally means “to suffer evil, to suffer trouble, and to endure injustice.”

This is the reverse of what is being taught today. Listen Army of the Lord. The Commander in Chief isn’t handing out brochures, offering fringe benefits to those who become Christians. God enlists us as soldiers and calls us to engage as warriors in a battle that will not end until death or until the Lord returns. As Paul wrote these words, he was an embattled warrior, a POW who was sentenced to death. He would remain faithful to the end, and he wanted Timothy to show the same endurance as he did.

Truly being a soldier involves suffering. Warriors exercise until they think they might die. Privates eat whatever’s served them, they sleep in foxholes, they remain in the dirt until they’re told they can leave. The lot of every Marine is to endure hardships and privations–which might include persecution, imprisonment, and even death.

Thankfully, Paul added “Suffer hardship with me.” Paul would never ask anything of Timothy he himself wasn’t willing to endure. Paul is suffering for his faith in Christ, and he orders Timothy to suffer for his faith in Christ. Not a system, not a religion–but suffer for the Commander who already suffered and died for you.

Both Paul and Timothy were facing beatings, imprisonment, and even death. However, Christians today, might be facing embarrassment, the removal of benefits, and the loss of freedoms. The more faithful we are to sound doctrine and intense training; the more our Commander will bless our labor. Thus, making us a target for the enemy!

Satan, the enemy, will place landmines, put up roadblocks, and initiate rejections that result in hurtful difficulties. Spiritual warfare will intensify, and greater hardships will fall on you. Paul commands, “Take it like a good soldier. Endure! Don’t run from battle, don’t start living like a civilian. But fight the good fight as you continue to trust in God’s control, love, and wisdom.” Will you continue to have faith that everything He does is for His glory and your ultimate good?

Every Christian is a warrior in the Army of Christ. The Lord is your Commander.  As a soldier, we fight on God’s side, serve under His Command, stay focused on His mission, obey His orders instantly, and seek to please Him in all things. Like a good soldier, live with endurance under hardship. To Win… To Disciple… To Equip… To Win !!!

This series will continue next month by examining the entanglements the enemy uses to divert our purpose.
"You, therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that you have heard from me among many 
witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.” (2 Tim 2: 1-4)

Onward Christians Soldiers! We are at war and need to be tough. Roman soldiers of Paul’s time were the toughest, most disciplined, and most resourceful fighting force in the world. They marched some 20 miles a day with over 50 pounds of gear. When they weren’t fighting, they practiced for battle, and they 
constructed roads and public buildings.

Roman soldiers under Centurion command were multi-gifted: they threw javelins, used short swords in battle, most could also swim across rivers and moats to get to an enemy, climb walls, shoot arrows, ride horses, and operate Roman war machines. In addition, Roman soldiers were the national police force–Federal Marshals for Rome. They maintained the peace by 
enforcing Roman law. Soldiers and their Centurions were found everywhere in the empire.

Jesus and Paul both knew soldiers personally. Jesus was very impressed with a Roman Centurion who came to Him for assistance.

“The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” (Matt 8:8-10)

Now, operating as a Roman citizen, Saul who became Paul writes: "You, Tim, are to be a ‘soldier of Christ.’” [paraphrased] (2 Timothy 2:3-4) A good soldier doesn’t quit because he faces difficult tasks or dangerous situations. He knows life is expendable, and he must be prepared to lay it down when required. This is what Paul is ordering 
Timothy to understand–stay in the battle regardless. Keep fighting the good fight of faith !!!

God calls each of us to become warriors. We must respond as good soldiers, “Yes sir, Lord”—not, “Whatever,” or “I’ll get to it.” Young couples need to develop more soldierly discipline raising children and managing their money. Warriors in their forties need to reject life choices which distract them from soldiering for Christ.

Older commanders must embrace assignments of investing in the lower ranks and not merely looking for the next weekend pass or opportunity to hang out at the BX or Commissary.  Single Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines need to make a big impact for their Commander during this undistracted season of life. Why? Effective soldiers willingly disentangle their lives to please our Commander in Chief. This is how we accomplish our mission: To win, to disciple, to equip, to win !!!

Next month we will be examining the two major points Paul makes in the Greek text which involve endurance and entanglements.

For many years I told Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines that “Normal” is nothing more than a setting on my dryer. But we like what is consistent. We take solace in things that don’t change. We draw much comfort from tradition and ritual, but I found as I matured that “The only constant in this world is change.”
Many wonder if things will ever return to the way they were before COVID 19 erupted over 2 years ago. They feel like they are just barely treading water right now. Can we ever go back to life before Y2K? Or how about the way the world was before 9-11? Time marches on and the world around us is so different as things grow darker and much more perverse as the Paul told us to expect.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)
Soldiers of God, these times are upon us! But take heart, even if “normal” isn’t coming back, we who believe, should take comfort in the fact that JESUS IS !!! In His final week before His death and crucifixion, Jesus taught His followers:
“Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered and said to them: “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matt 24:3-14)
For over three decades now, the byline for the signature on all my emails has been:
“The shortest distance between a problem & solution is the distance between your knees and the floor. The one who kneels to the Lord can stand up to anything !!!”
We who kneel before God, will be given strength to stand! Paul told the Church in Ephesus where Timothy was pastor, “Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (Ephesians 6:13)
Indeed, there will come a time when Christ reigns and will put all enemies under His feet (1 Cor 15:25) Paul wrote to the Church at Rome and reminded them of what the Prophet Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 45:23, “For it is written: “As I live, says the LORD, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” (Romans 14:11)Take courage, soldiers of the Cross! Normal isn’t coming back, but Jesus is… and you are a child of the king!
A pastor of a small rural church in Texas would occasionally call on an old farmer in his congregation to pray, and every time this brother would pray, he would end his prayer with the strangest phrase, “And, oh Lord, prop us up on our leaning side.”

Finally, the pastor pulled him aside, and he said, “I love how you pray, but I don’t understand how you end your prayer. What are you talking about – prop us up on our leaning side?”

The old man responded, “Well, Pastor, I’m a just a farmer. I live out on my farm in the country. I’ve got a real old barn. It’s been there a long time. It’s been through a lot of weather, and a lot of storms, and a lot of bugs and termites have eaten at it.”

He said, “I got to looking at it one day when I was plowing on my tractor, and I noticed that it was leaning to one side. So, I thought to myself, oh no! The barn is leaning, and it’s just a matter of time before the whole thing falls. He continued, “So, you know what I did? I went and got some big beams, and I propped it up on its leaning side.” He said, “It still leans bad, and probably always will. But I propped it up on its leaning side. And it’s not going to fall now, because I propped it up on its leaning side. It’s leaning against something stronger than itself!

And I also got to thinking some more later when I was riding on my tractor again, about the kind of year I’ve had, and some of the storms I’ve been through, and some of the people that are bugging me, and eating away at my joy and eating away at my spirit. And I just started to think, you know, I’m still here! I’m still standing after all that stuff I’ve been through. The storms, and the howling winds – they couldn’t topple me because I’ve been leaning on Jesus! I’m still standing by the grace of God.”

He concluded, “From time to time, I still find myself leaning… toward old desires, leaning toward anger, leaning toward becoming bitter or hateful at the people who are bugging me, or leaning toward going back to the old habits and the old life I used to have. And when I feel myself start to lean toward those things, I just remember that I’m supposed to lean on Jesus! Then I think about my old barn, and I pray out loud - "Lord, thank you for propping me up on my leaning side."

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