Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Cap

He who was seated on the throne said, " I am making everything new! "   Rev. 21: 5

It was a spur of the moment thing, a thought that seemed like a good idea at the time. You know how those go but what the heck. So I called him and and asked. He was a Viet Nam veteran and one of those traveling Viet Nam Wall memorial walls was only about twenty miles from us. "You wanna go? I'll take you." He said "Yeah." Surprised me. I picked him up.

He never talked about the war much, at least not to me. No reason he should but I don't think he talked much about it to anyone. The Viet Nam vet's weren't treated like the veterans of WWII, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. At best they were ignored, at worst they were spat upon, heckled, and ridiculed. Most just hoped when they came home to slip in, greet the family, get in the car and quietly go home. It was a war everyone just wanted to forget for a number of reasons politically, militarily, and morally. News was dominated by racial hatred and riots, dirty politics, Watergate, drug abuse putting more soldiers in hospitals than bullets and death tolls from the war that eventually topped 58,000..(not to mention 3 million Vietnamese), it was a bad time in America. A soldier home from Viet Nam wasn't honored much as honor was scare in America back then. If Korea was the "forgotten war," then Viet Nam was the lost and buried war. The young men who made it home were lost in the turmoil and their rightful place of honor beside America's fighting men was buried along with the bad memories of a bad time.

As we walked along the length of the wall he began to tell stories. Maybe he had told those stories to his wife and kids, his dad, I don't know. I heard names, episodes, Army lingo I'd never heard him use before. He was not infantry and never went out on patrol but his base was regularly rocketed and mortared. He told of how close the mortars came, picking up hot shrapnel for a souvenir, sliding into a bunker like sliding into a base to get to safety, standing on picket with an M-14 when intel told of a coming attack. He told of  sorry human beings and noble ones he met along the way. He just walked and talked and then we were at the end of the wall. We wandered over to a trailer selling memorabilia to finance the wall's travels. I was a little surprised. He studied the caps, the pins, the flags. He talked about coming home and the Army rushing them through so quickly that his group never got their campaign pins. He lingered for a good ten or fifteen minutes. I was a little surprised. He went to the attendant and ordered a cap that said Viet Nam Veteran. I was getting to be less surprised. I paid for the cap. I was shocked. Then he bought a pin. I think I finally get it.

He can wear the cap now. For all that was wrong about Viet Nam, it's finally right and good to recognized that these guys served and sacrificed like maybe no one else. Little thanks, little recognition, little honor was given after that war from nearly forty years ago. But the truth eventually comes out and no truth, nobility, sacrifice, no selflessness goes unnoticed forever. If it escapes our notice, it never escapes God's. He will make all things new; He will heal; He will remember; He will bring justice; He will bring peace.

They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nations will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.  Isaiah 2:4

Thank-you for your service. Wear the cap proudly. Be at peace.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Prayer

                                                           A Prayer

Hear my prayer, O Lord.
We need You. If there has ever been a time when You were needed more I can't remember it, nor can I even imagine needing You more than now. We need You in our hearts, in our homes, in our financial institutions, in our industries, in our entertainment, in our nation and in Your church. As a warrior nation we remember this Memorial Day weekend our fallen soldiers.Thank-you for their sacrifice. We were born fighting and have kept fighting for nearly 240 years. We like to believe we stood for justice and right and mostly we can honesty say that. But now, we also need a different kind of warrior,God; one that wages battle for truth, Your truth. We need warriors that battle with prayer, and who's lives are marked with grace, peace and love. Where are Your warriors who engage the enemy with nobility born of courage, courage born of conviction, conviction born of character, character shaped by righteousness, and righteousness birthed by faith in Christ? Our adversary has turned our gaze to greed, our joy to seeking pleasure, our hope for help to politics and politicians. Forgive us, O God, for looking everywhere but to You in sweet surrender of our wills to Yours.

We need You, Lord. Our greatest enemies are from within now. There are fightings within and fears without because You are not within and we are without You in so many of our dealings with families, friends, issues, and nations. Help us seek a higher good than the American dream. Help us seek a Heavenly Kingdom and grant us a vision for that raises our lives and our nation to that higher plane. I pray these things happen without force or coercion but only by an outpouring of your Spirit in response to a humbled church in a stumbling nation seeking Your blessing in prayer and obedience. I would ask this awakening before we go the way of ancient Israel into captivity. Indeed, much of our nation is already in captivity to death, license, and the pursuit of self.  Grant that we might lose ourselves in the pursuit of Your glory and in that glory may we see true life, eternal and abundant.

Awaken us O Lord. Awaken each son and daughter of Yours born of Your Spirit to the joy, the hope, the freedom and justice that is ours in Your Kingdom. Awaken a longing for fellowship with You in every thought, movement and moment of our days. Pursue us with Your love and may we stop in repentance long enough to be caught by Your grace. We are in trouble and our nation, our world needs You. Thank-you for the good news that You may be found even as You have sought us; that You may be known even as You have known our sin and deceptions; that You may be trusted and obeyed even as You grant us the ability to trust and the strength to obey. Sweep away our apathy to the Person of Christ and the things of Your Spirit and fill our spirits with the riches of Your Presence and the glory of Your cause.

Thank-you for never surrendering our souls to disregard and our hearts to unfinished work. Thank-you that You will not stop until Christ is formed in the lives of Your sons and daughters. Now I ask that you raise an Army of warriors for this nation, her homes, her institutions, her future to wage war by prayer. May they see Your hand act in the salvation of the lost  and in a righteousness that exalts this nation even as she exalts Your Son, even Jesus, Our Lord and Savior....


PS: An Invitation: Please join me in prayer, wherever you do your devotions, each Wednesday, at a time between 7 and 9 AM to pray for a Spiritual Awakening in our nation. Join me from your home, car, cart, or wherever you may find yourself in this commitment of prayer. It's your choice if you tell me or not, but please pray.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Who Tells You "No?"

President Obama has announced that he is now in favor of gay marriage. His views have changed through the years as have the American public's views on the subject. More folks, according to some polls, are in favor of same sex marriage. I don't know if that is why President Obama changed his mind, evolved as he called it, or not but it is curious timing in an election year. In an interview with ABC, the president did say that his daughters, Malia and Sasha had an influence on his decision. With many of his daughter's friends having gay parents and their thinking that this was normal their acceptance influenced his acceptance.

So now the experience, understanding, and morals of teenagers are teaching and shaping the views of the American President and his nation. Does anyone see something backward here? Maybe I'm just remembering wrongly but I seem to recall a day when the parents helped shaped the view, morals, and understandings of the kids. Silly notion I guess.

When it comes to sexual issues, racial issues, financial issues, family issues and morality we find ourselves greatly divided in this nation. Even Christians have radically divergent views on the issues and interpretations of the bible to "back them up."  Who is right? I'd like to suggest a little backing up or at least some background work before you "evolve" to your own standing on this or any issue. Please consider the following:

The Right-- Who has the right to decide what is right or wrong? Who has that kind of authority? My belief, and we all start with a belief (apriori assumption),  is that God as He has revealed Himself through the bible has the authority to make those decisions and declare right from wrong, good from bad, just from evil.  On a personal basis I must ask myself who has the right to tell me "no" or tell me what I need to do, other than my wife, of course? The simple answer is God has that authority. Then one begins to grapple with what exactly has God said to do or not to do, to be or not to be. Here many interpretations are still available but God has the right to say about His creation what is right, proper, good, just, loving, and in accordance with his will and purpose.

The Reason--If  (and I mean since) God has the right, does He have, and does He reveal the reasons behind His declarations of right, wrong, good, evil, sin and righteousness along with His purpose for mankind? In most cases God does reveal the reason behind  His purposes and declarations of right and wrong. The First Reason, one definition of God, is that He is God and can say and decide what He wants to. But the Bible reveals beyond the first reason is that God's character is actually what determines what is good, right, just, merciful, kind and loving. God has total fidelity to His character. This brings constancy, not mere consistency, to questions of morality and justice and God is constantly, totally, always true to His character which is revealed most clearly in Jesus as kind, loving, merciful, forgiving, generous, sacrificial and right. Another word the Bible uses to say this is "holy." Therefore, the reason God would declare something right, wrong, false, true, hopeful, helpful, and loving is that it was true to His holy character. It therefore would mean that in questions I have about issues I should seek to know the character of God to help me determine what is right or wrong.

Reason II also falls in with the definition of God as revealed in the Bible. God is all-knowing. He knows more about sin and wrong than I do. If He says "no" I may not like it, it may feel wrong, it may oppose my will. But if He is all knowing then I must humbly admit that I am not and trust Him. Let me give you an example. If I seem my toddler who has just learned to walk reach up and start to pull a pot of boiling water off the stove and on to his head, I don't consider if the toddler has friends whose parents let them pull pots on to their heads or search the latest ABCMSNBCCNNFOX poll to see if the American public think its okay. I yell NO and scare the kid away from the stove, not because I'm mean but because I know what the effects could be. That is disciplining love. We learn to trust that since God knows and if he says "no," we need to heed.

Responsibility--- Now I am better equipped to tackle some issues. I may not have total clarity but knowing that God has the right to declare what is right and wrong, good and evil, then I can look at what He has actually said in His word. I can also see the reasons revealed that are accord with His revealed character and purposes. I then have the responsibility to make a decision based on revealed truth (reason) and humble myself, my opinions, my desires, my will, my pride to his right (authority) to tell me what is best for His kingdom and for me.

Applied to this issue of same sex marriage, the answer comes to me that it is wrong. The bible speaks to the issue for periods over 3000 years and in half a dozen cultures. In all that time and in all those cultures it is always declared wrong. The reason has to do with the purpose of mankind in creation. God made mankind both male a female after his image (Gen 1:26-28). To achieve the oneness in which the nature of God is enjoyed and displayed in the relationship,it requires male and female. To be true to the fullest revelation of God in the union both male and female are necessary. In our culture we have tended to take God out of nearly everything that didn't make us feel good or cozy or sweet or give me what I wanted when I wanted it. That goes back to the garden of Eden. In God's image, there is both male and female, and He intended marriage to reflect that. Yes, the world is mesed up, fallen, sinful but even when it goes against public opinion, personal wants or desires, we are still responsible for choosing God's revealed will over ours. It's a matter of trust and obedience but not just in homosexual issues, but in heterosexual unions, marriages, race, finance, law and justice. God has the right to tell us "no" and He always shows us His better "yes" when we have committed our lives to Him in a trusting relationship. We are called to be true to Him above all else as he is to His own character.

Mr President, your kids got this one wrong.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

What Do You See Number 5?

What do you see number five? What can you see, your number is bigger than your age. Do you know what's going on with the opening ceremonies of baseball season? You heard something about pizza later and suffer through all that grown ups put you through just to play a game. So you stand in center field and take it all in. What do you see? Can you see your mom and baby sister? Have you spotted Grammy and Boppy yet? Maybe you are too far away and the scene is too chaotic and you can't single out the ones you love just yet. Not to worry, they are there. In one way or another they always will be.

What do you see number five? Could be you don't know where to look or what to look for. Could I help you a bit? Look, see all the people. There are all kinds of people out there. There is your dad behind you, there are teammates to your left and right. There are people who know you and many who don't. There are people who would have good and kind intentions toward you out there and there are some who would do you harm. You will do well if you can learn to tell the difference. Be careful 'till you know which are which. The ones you know who love you will help you here. Keep listening to them. That will be hard in about ten years. That's okay, do some hard things. Remember, most of those people in the stands are spectators. They are there to watch. They will yell "Yeah!" when you do well and groan and even boo when you get a little older when you mess up. Don't pay much attention, spectators are there to watch. Look a little closer to you. See the field? That's why you are there.You are there to engage, strive, try, fail, try again, fail again, succeed,  win, lose and enjoy participating in something that was before you, is bigger than you, and will be around after you. Keep looking for those things. Stay on the field of engagement.  Enjoy the moment, the teammates, the coaches, the game itself,  but don't worry about the spectators, they just watch.

What do you see number five? Mind if I show you something else? Beyond the field, beyond the stands of spectators, look again. Do you see them? There are mountains back there. They loom in the distance. You live with them everyday but they are there in your distance now. One day you will face them from a different perspective. They will be up close. Some of those mountains in your future you will climb. Some of them will prove too steep, too formidable to climb, so you find a way  to go around them. Some you can't climb, some you can't go around so you learn to live in their shadow. That seems sad at first glance, like you are giving up and quitting. Only your heart can tell you if that is the case. But those mountains you never quit on or never gave up on but you still couldn't put behind you needn't cause you to despair. There you can learn to live in the shadows and valleys of mountains too tall to climb or too wide to cross. In their shadows there is shelter, there is coolness when the rest of life seems too hot. In the valleys there is fertile soil to grow wonderful things to feed your soul. So don't fear those mountains, face them.  In time you will know what to do with each mountain.

So how will you know number five which spectators will encourage and which will harm you? How will you know when to strive and when to relax? How will you know which hard things to do and which mountains to climb and which live with?  I can't give a definite answer, but this I know. Keep doing what you are doing right now. And what is it you are doing right now? Why number five, you are looking toward home. Always keep looking there and learning how to get there. That's the clue, always head toward home.

Philippians 3:20; Hebrews 12:22-24
Can you see that number 5?