Thursday, May 30, 2019

Onward Christian Soldiers

  One of the more humorous comments recorded of a soldier during the American Civil War was this one.
"You can tell a person's rank in the Union Army by looking at the seat of his pants. If he has no holes in his pants bottom, he is probably a Captain. If he has one hole he is a Lieutenant, and if he has two holes on his backside you can be sure he is a Private."

What was that enlisted man, (who was probably a private himself) trying to say? I believe the meaning was obvious.  What he was so eloquently insinuating was that it is the Enlisted Men that were doing most of the fighting. The common foot soldiers were the ones taking the brunt of the hardships in many most of the campaigns and on the endless battlefields. It was not the President, nor Congressmen, or even the high ranking Generals out on the front lines. It was the former farmers, store clerks, butchers, bakers, fishermen, blacksmiths, and a thousand other professions, young and old, plodding down muddy, deadly roads, in hopes of victory.

A Confederate soldier once wrote in a letter to his folks back home these words, " I never shoot at an Officer. I only shoot at Privates. I figure it's the Privates that are the ones I have to worry about. They're the only ones doing the fighting." Even President Abraham Lincoln had some fun joking about the importance of his generals. On hearing a report from the battlefield that one of his generals had been captured along with a hundred horses, he remarked, "I am sorry for the horses. I can make a Brigadier General in five minutes, but its not easy replacing a hundred horses."

Now I am not saying that high ranking leadership is not important in a conflict. Planners and Decision makers are a strategic element for any battle and they are men of courage too. But I am in agreement with those voices from both sides of the Civil War on this simple point.  It is the common, everyday warrior, no matter what his station or education in life that make the difference in the battle.

That powerful fact is clearly proclaimed over and over in the Scriptures.  Paul writing to the Church in Ephesus states, "God gave the Church Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers." These are the leadership of the Body of Christ, the generals, the officers (so to speak) for the churches. However, what do they exist for?  They are there to equip the foot soldiers and the front line troops, for the battles ahead.  Paul continues by saying, " they are for the perfecting, equipping of the saints for the work of service."  Ephesians 4:11, 12
To the Church at Corinth he wrote, "God has chosen the foolish things to confound the wise, the weak things of the world to confound the things the world calls mighty." 1 Corinthians 1:27

The spiritual battles in this world will not be won solely from the pulpits of grand cathedrals, or from the pens of skilled Christian writers, nor from golden throated gospel singers, or even from the most celebrated television evangelists.  The strongholds of the enemy will be brought low by spirit equipped, fearless, uncompromising and determined Christian foot soldiers. The PRIVATES of Christ's Victorious Army.

Monday, May 27, 2019

The Unfinished Dash

     Every Memorial Day in the United States, you can drive past any cemetery and observe a common sight.  There upon the manicured landscape, stand teary-eyed visitors, come to honor the fallen.  The names on the headstones are all different, but each one shares the same simple message. On the granite surface is carved for generations to read, are a date of birth, and the date of the loved one's death. There is also another chisel mark to acknowledge, there in a simple straight line between the two dates, is a dash. The date of our birth is important to be sure, as is the date of our departure from this life.  But the dash represents a person's life, from first breath to the last gasp. It is a silent mystery known partially to a few souls, but of course known completely by God.

It cannot be emphasized strongly enough to say that the dash is the most important part of our existence. It's not the country of our birth, or the length of our days on Earth, not even the place of our death that really matter.  Here is the main question we all must answer.  What did we do with our life?  What noble, unselfish, merciful, loving, and sacrificial acts are going to be recorded silently within the Workman's stroke called, the Dash?  One of Abraham Lincoln's famous quotes was this, "In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years."

For you and me, we need to take an honest inventory of our lives. The Bible cautions us with this truth, "Tomorrow belongs to no man."  How long is our DASH? No one knows, but God.  The wisdom of the Book of Psalms says it like this, "Lord, teach us to number our days that we may present to you a heart of wisdom." Psalms 90:12

It is never too late to start changing what is going to be written unseen by future generations within our dash.  We need to start today, now, this moment. The writer of the Book of Ecclesiastes said, "The person who keeps looking at the clouds will never sow, and never harvest." Ecclesiastes 11:4 
If you are reading this book, you still have a dash to fill up with a good life that blesses others and pleases God.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Make Sure To Read Inside The Covers

     While growing up many of us have heard the expression, "You can’t tell a book just by its cover." How often have we been too quick to make a judgement without knowing all the facts, or made general statements about an individual without really knowing the person? There is a wonderful nugget of wisdom found in 
Proverbs 18:13 "He who answers a matter before he hears the facts--it is folly and shame to him." A current more common way to say it is like this, "There are two sides to every story." Abraham Lincoln fell into this mindset early in his life.

The religious views of Abraham Lincoln are a matter of interest among scholars and the public. Lincoln grew up in a highly religious Baptist family. He never joined any organized Church, and was a skeptic as a young man. Lincoln was turned against organized Christianity by his experiences as a young man, witnessing how excessive emotion and bitter sectarian quarrels marked yearly camp meetings and the ministry of traveling preachers. It was the inconsistencies in some church people and with certain church leaders that turned him off to the Church in general. It was the young Lincoln who stopped at the "Cover", and in my opinion, he did not take a closer look inside the book.

How many people in the world have become disillusioned at the flawed examples of God's people, and therefore labeled the whole thing called "Christianity" as unworthy of further inquiry? How many of us like Lincoln, have become personally disillusioned. Paul speaks on this matter in his Epistle to the Romans saying, "You are so proud of knowing God's laws, but you dishonor him by breaking them. No wonder the Scriptures say that the world speaks evil of God because of you." Roman 2:23, 24

True, Christians at times have been a poor advertisement of the Gospel, or for the Person of Jesus Christ; but not all have been. I encourage you to look beyond the shabby soiled cover, and take a sincere look by prayer at the real story. You will find that Jesus will reveal Himself, and He will not disappoint you. It is in those times of deep need and genuine searching, that the Lord will also make His wonderful presence and story known.

Lincoln frequently referred to God and had a deep knowledge of the Bible, often quoting it. Lincoln attended Protestant church services with his wife and children, and after two of them died, he became more intensely concerned with his Faith.  Although Lincoln never made a public profession of Christian belief, several people who knew him personally claimed that he was a believer in Christ.
During his 1846 run for the House of Representatives, in order to dispel accusations concerning his Christian beliefs, Lincoln issued a handbill stating that he had "never denied the truth of the Scriptures". He confessed to believing in an all-powerful God who shaped events and, by 1865, was expressing those beliefs in major speeches.   "HE TOOK TIME TO LOOK INSIDE THE COVER!"