Friday, August 30, 2019

What Are You Fighting For?

     If you asked a Northern Congressman why he believed the Civil War should be fought, he would surely answer, "to restore and uphold the Union."  If you asked any Abolitionist why the war was being fought, they would loudly answer, "to free the slaves of course!"  And I am sure that a few unscrupulous business men would cynically respond with their stilted logic, "because wars are good for business and spark the economy."
   The South would have their own versions of why they were fighting the War.  The Confederate Government would undoubtedly say the war was being fought to preserve individual States Rights.  If you asked a Plantation owner, his reply would be, "to protect our economy from ruin."  If you asked General Robert E. Lee, why he resigned from the Federal Army to fight for the Confederate Cause, with misplaced loyalty he would nobly say, "I am honor bound to defend the sacred soil of Virginia."  Lastly, among the common folk of the South, the reason was as simple as this, to keep their culture and way of life without Yankee interference.
    In 1862, a young, undernourished rebel soldier was captured in the wilderness of Tennessee.  Most of the fighting men of the Confederate Army at that time were young, poor and probably did not even own slaves. Like most soldiers of the Civil War, there was a good chance it was this young man's first time to be away from home as well.  Most people of early America had not even ventured more than fifty miles from home their entire lives.  But here, in the woods of Tennessee, was found a young hungry soldier, fighting for a cause he probably did not fully understand.  When asked by his inquiring Northern captors of why he was fighting this war anyhow? He calmly replied, "I am fighting because you are down here." It was a perfect reply i'm sure by his reckoning.
   Why do we fight for the cause of Christ?  Why do we enter the spiritual battle to proclaim and live out the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Surely our lives would be less complicated if we did not choose sides, and quietly kept our Christian message and convictions to ourselves.  Does not the Scriptures warn us, that to make a stand for Christ can mean ridicule, hardships and even death?  Did not Jesus tell us, " I send you out as sheep among wolves."  Matt. 10:16
Did not Paul say the same? " Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution,...or peril, or sword... For thy sake we are killed all day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter."  Ro. 8:35,36
Just as the Civil War separated North from South, and brother from brother, to choose for Christ may require the same. Some of the saddest words of Jesus are these, "And a man's foe shall be they of his own household."   Matt. 10:36
   So why do we battle for the Lord?  Actually, our reasons are not that much different from those who fought in the Civil war.  Like the North, we fight so lost men and women can be set free, and back in Union with their Creator again.  We boldly speak out, to hopefully inspire to action in others, and rekindle a spark in our timid brothers again.  And like the South, we fearlessly proclaim the Gospel, because it is our right to do so. We speak, because we will not let the Forces of Darkness keep us quiet, or interfere in what His Word has said is the right way to live. We battle, because we see it as our sacred duty to honor the Lord.
 And lastly, we have joined the fight, a journey that has taken many of us to places far from home, because the lost are right here in my country, my town, my world.  That's why Christ came here, and that's good enough reason for me.  "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save those who are lost."  Lk. 19:10
   

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Was It Worth It?

 Throughout the Civil War there were constant outcries against continuing the war, from both Democrats and Republicans.  The voices to bring an immediate end to the hostilities became louder as the casualty lists grew longer.  During the four year conflict, over 620,000 men were killed, which amounted to 2.5 percent of the entire population of the country.  Another 500,000 were wounded in battle, many never to fully recover.  By 1861, the first year of the war, the North was spending 1.5 million dollars every day on the war.  Heading into 1865, the last year of the war, the Federal government was expending 3.5 million dollars a day.  It is estimated that the war cost the country well over 6 billion dollars, an astronomical sum for its time.  The economy of the South was in ruins.  The North, to pay for the war,was in terrible national debt.  But the toll the war took on the lives of men with broken bodies, along with the nation's orphaned and widowed households was incalculable.  As these ghastly numbers multiplied throughout 1861-1865, the same question was asked from Statehouse to farmhouse,  "Was it worth it?"  Was all the shed blood, the sweat, the countless tears, and the lost future generations, really worth it?
   The best answer to that question would be to ask it of  those who the war had the most profound effect. Ask the slaves.  Ask the men or women, who were taken from their homeland, who were sold like cattle, and treated no better than property, ask them if the war was worth it.   Ask the black children of the South, who were denied the right to learn to read or write.  Ask those same children, who faced the real probability of being sold to another slave owner, and never seeing their parents again.  Ask them if they feel the war was worth it.  Ask all the slaves of the Confederate States, whose life expectancy, because of their horrendous living conditions and diet, who only lived half as long as the white population, ask them if they think the war was worth it.  I think we know the answer.
  Or maybe we should ask the Founding Fathers, who fought and died to create the United Sates of America.  Ask them if the cost of keeping the Union together was worth the price?  Was not their core passion for a United States, not separate colonies?  Was not their heart felt goal expressed in the motto, 'E Pluribus Unum', which in Latin means, Out of the many one'?  Ask those patriots what their choice would be, to dissolve the Union, or fight to preserve it?  No matter what the cost.  I think we know the answer.
  When the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit looked down upon this lost, broken and rebellious world, they counted the cost to save it.  Before the world was created, before the first rebellious sin of Adam, before you and were born, God had already decided you and I were worth it.  " He was the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world."  Rev. 13:8
God the Father, had calculated the tremendous cost to win the war for our sinful souls, the sacrifice of His Son, and He decided you and I are worth it. "For while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son."  Ro. 5:10
Jesus counted the cost of saving this broken world, and He decided it was worth it. "Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross, for the joy He knew awaited Him."  Heb. 12:2
   Somethings in life are worth fighting for, not matter what the cost.  Giving our life to Jesus Christ and living it to honor and please Him, is one of those things worth the price.  Moses taught us that.  "By faith, when Moses was grown up, he refused to be called the son of pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God then enjoy the passing pleasures of sin.  Heb. 11:24,25
Ask us Christians if we think the sacrifices we have endured for Christ were worth it.  I think you know the answer.

 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The Sound of Victory

    In January 1863, Brigadier General Daniel Ullman was sent by Lincoln to Louisiana to enlist African Americans as soldiers for the Union Army.  In his general order to the officers tasked with enlisting ex-slaves he included this memorable statement,  "The first gun that was fired at Fort Sumter sounded the death-knell of slavery.  They who fired it were the greatest practical Abolitionists this nation has produced.  The decree went forth from that hour, that slavery should quickly cease to exist on this North American Continent." Quickly afterward he raised five regiments of colored soldiers.
    For decades Abolitionists in the North and South has fought by voice, pen, and sometimes the sword for slavery to be abolished.  The cannonballs that fell on Fort Sumter did more to further the anti-slavery cause than the most eloquent arguments of any orator of that day.  The Confederate states believed that military force would secure their right to own slaves. They were mistaken.  The exact opposite happened.  Those cannon blasts did as General Ullman predicted, "Sounded the death-knell of slavery".
    How ironic it is that the same miscalculations were also in the hearts of the enemies of Christ.  When they arrested Jesus, tried and condemned Him to death on the cross, they must have believed they had, by force, rid themselves of that troublemaker.  They were mistaken.  The exact opposite happened.
 The Scriptures reveal their folly, "This plan was hidden in former times, though it was made for our benefit before the world began.  But the great men of the world have not understood it; if they had, they never would have crucified the Lord of Glory." 1 Cor. 2:7,8
Wicked men sought to stop the message of Jesus.  The spiritual forces of darkness thought they had foiled God' plan. They were mistaken.  The sound of clanging metal, hammer against iron nails in Christs hands and feet, sounded the death-knell of the power of sin and death.
"O Death where is your victory? O Death where is your sting?  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our lord Jesus Christ." 1 Cor. 15:55,57
    I am sure there was a great celebration by the Southern troops when the white flag was raised by the Federal troops within the fort.  I am also sure there was that same sense of satisfaction among the Roman guards who gambled for Christ clothing and heard Him say, "It is finished."
History tells us, that the same hand that raised the flag of surrender at Fort Sumter, Major Robert Anderson, four years later, again at Sumter, raised the flag of a United States of America.
   The Word of God declares something even more powerful than that. That the same Jesus, who had His clothing ripped from Him, and had His Hands wounded by cruel nails, would someday come again, this time
dressed in new garments and armed with a sword and rod of iron.
"And on His robe and thigh was written this title: King of Kings and Lord of Lords... and from His mouth came forth a sword and He shall rule the nations." Rev. 19:15,16

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Better Angels of Our Nature

    In Lincoln's First Inaugural Address he makes an impassioned appeal to the Southern States, which had already seceded from the Union.  At its heart, the speech was a call for reconciliation.  The tender emotions of a father figure can be felt in his words.   "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection... all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely as they will be, by the better angels of our nature."
    What a beautiful, poetic phrase, "the better angels of our nature". What did Lincoln mean by those words?  I feel he is saying, that if they looked deep inside, they, both North and South would find the path that would lead back to unity and righteous freedom for every American, both slave and free.  His appeal was for the South to look beyond their familiar culture, beyond their prejudice, beyond their fears, and see something bigger, something greater, something more noble, freedom and unity and common good for all men.  Lincoln believed it was there, in the heart, if they would just but be willing to search for it,  the better angels of our nature.  Lincoln had a vision of an America united.  He saw the enormous potential of an America with its immense resources, when coupled with a people undivided by race or region.  Lincoln saw a bright future for the Nation, if it would let go of the things that weakened it, slavery and disunity.
    Sam Houston, Governor of Texas gave his opinion on how the North would respond to the South's secession. "They are not a fiery impulsive people as you are, for they live in colder climates.  But when they begin to move in a given direction, they move with the steady momentum and perseverance of a mighty avalanche."
    The Bible has the same sentiment when it speaks of the power and influence of the Church.  The Church is a mighty spiritual avalanche, when its people are unified, and choose to move in the same direction.  However, this mighty Church is divided over such things as: worship style, building architecture, types of church government, Bible version choices, and even still, the color of one's skin.  How I long for the fulfillment of this passage in the Psalms, "How good and pleasant it is when brethren dwell together in unity." Ps. 133:1
    Of course, we need to unite around the major uncompromising truths such as: The Trinity, Deity of Christ, Inerrancy and moral guidance of the Bible, the Atoning death of Jesus, Salvation through Christ alone, and a final judgement for all mankind.  There will always be differences among believers, but can you imagine the Body of Christ united under the banner of those truths?  What a powerful force we could be in this world, instead of a weak, divided Church. This is not the Church God intended, nor the Church the World needs.
    The Word of God exhorts us, "Now I beseech you, brethren, by the Name our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and the same judgement." 1 Cor. 1:10
    The Apostle Paul believed that if we are willing to search deep within our hearts, and look with the right attitude, the Church can discover those, 'better angels of our nature'. "In whatever you do, don't let selfishness or pride be your guide.  Be humble, and honor others more than yourselves." Phil. 2:3
    To paraphrase the words of Sam Houston for us today, "When we (The Church) begin to move in the same given direction (Making Christ and His Gospel the centerpiece), we will move with the steady momentum and perseverance of an avalanche."  When that happens, then we will truly experience the reality of these words, "If God be for us, who can stand against us... Yes, we are more than conquerors through Christ who died for us." Ro. 8:31,37
 

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Bless the Lord

   President Abraham Lincoln issued his Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, as the nation approached it's third year of Civil War.  The proclamation declared, "that all persons held as slaves, within the rebellious states are, and henceforward, shall be free."  At a Washington D.C. contraband slave camp, former slaves testified of what this monumental moment meant to them.  One former slave remembered the sale of his daughter, "Now, no more of that he said. They can't sell my wife and children anymore. Bless the Lord."
   The most moving part of that ex slave's testimony were his last three words, "Bless the Lord."  What makes them so moving, so powerful, were the words spoken beforehand. His slave-owner master had sold his daughter.  Imagine that for a moment, if you can.   He had experienced his own child ripped out of his life.  Quite possibly he had seen his wife taken from him, as many male slaves had seen happen.  And also quite possibly, if the war had not been won by the North, he would have seen his other children sold away.  Like other slaves, he had probably been whipped for some infraction, overworked, underfed, disrespected, and treated no better than a piece of property.  Yet, amazingly he still could say, "Bless the Lord."
   Even after suffering all those terrible things, he had kept his faith.  Even after experiencing such horrible, humiliating offences, he still had loving words of praise toward his God.  How was he able to do that?  Obviously he believed in the God of the Bible.  The story of the hardships of the Children of Israel in Egypt  were very familiar to the oppressed of the American South.  I'm sure he also believed in a God who can see all things, and a God who was keenly aware of his, and his fellow slave's suffering, just as God had been of Israel.  "The Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of My people who are in Egypt, and have given heed to their cry because of their taskmasters, for I am aware of their sufferings. So I have come down to deliver them"  Ex. 3:7,8
   So again, the question remains. How was this ex slave able to keep his faith, and beyond that, still have a heart of praise even after such a long wait for deliverance?  The answer is reflected in the lives of some prominent  Biblical figures, who also endured unfair and harsh treatment.  Like this man, they were able to separate who God is, and God's Character, from the evil actions of sinful man.  An unjustly enslaved Joseph proclaimed to his brothers, "You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, in order to bring about His purposes." Gen. 50:19,20
 Suffering Job expressed the same sentiment, " The Lord giveth, the Lord taketh away, Blessed be the Name of the Lord." Job 1:21
   Like those Bible personages this former slave was able to patiently trust, and wait on the Lord, for God's: strength, provision, and His ultimate intervention.  He knew, and believed that God was a good and gracious Father, no matter how the World or man treated him.  He waited patiently for God to answer his prayers, and would not let evil rob him of his praise back to God.  The gospel of Luke records a similar story.  A righteous man named Simeon sat daily at the entrance of the temple in Jerusalem, waiting for God to deliver Israel from the oppression of Rome.  Did you catch that?  He waited patiently, daily, for God's deliverance in a repressive situation.  And when the baby Jesus finally is brought to the temple by His parents, "He takes the child in his arms and begins to praise God." Luke 2:25-28
Did you notice Simeon does not complain to God  concerning all his past hurts, nor for the long wait, but he is moved to praise God instead.
   I think is is safe to say, that in this day and age, our children are not being sold away from us to become slaves in some far away household.  That type of pain i'm sure far exceeds any of the everyday minor complains we argue with God about.  Where is your faith today?  Where is your Trust in Him?  When was the last time, in your times of trouble, that these words came forth from your mouth, "Bless the Lord!"?

Monday, August 19, 2019

The Rebel Yell

   If the blasts of cannon shells and a hailstorm of bullets fired by the thousands, was not enough to make a battle terrifying, there was the added banshee cry of advancing Southern infantry.  The battle cry of the Confederate Army as they charged the Union lines was given the legendary name, 'The Rebel Yell'.  Since there were no audio recordings during the Civil War, we only have I witness descriptions of what it may have sounded like. Some accounts describe it like a Scottish Highlander battle cry. This seems plausible since many Celtic people made up the Southern Army.  Others said it sounded more like an imitation Native American war cry, which also seems logical from the time period.  Still others believed it was more like the sound of a pack of hunting hounds chasing their prey.  What ever the exact sound was, those who hear it said it caused a, 'tingling sensation to go up one's spine'.  In Ken Burn's documentary The Civil War, historian Shelby Foote recounts the story of an old Confederate veteran invited to speak before a ladies' society dinner. They asked him for a demonstration of the rebel yell, but he refused on the grounds that it could only be done "at a run", and couldn't be done anyway with "a mouth full of false teeth and a stomach full of food". 
   After reading that quote from that Southern veteran, I could not help but see a parallel  between his reasoning and the Christian believer.  He found it difficult to pull up the true battle cry, when not in battle.  He found it impossible to give a true rendition of something that takes a real hunger to replicate. There is a passion that wells up in a person that can only come in the heat and pressure of battle.  Have we lost that sense of desperation in our pursue of God?  The Psalmist describes that kind of desperation, "As the deer pants after the water brook, so my soul pants for you, O Lord."  Ps. 42:1
When all is well and quiet in our life.  When we are in a place of comfort and ease.  When we find ourselves needing nothing, there is no need to desperately press into God.  Jesus spoke a parable of a person in that condition, "A rich man had such a good harvest that he decided to stop working, build bigger barns to store his produce and from that day forward to just eat, drink and make merry.  Not knowing that his life would soon come to an end, and his laziness would not be looked on fondly by his maker."  Lk. 12:16-21
   I suppose that old Rebel veteran could have given a halfhearted attempt to please the gathered group of admirers, but his heart would not have been in it.  For the true rebel yell he needed to be running, passionately toward the enemy and victory.  It was difficult to do that at a sedate women's luncheon.  Have we lost our way?  Do we wander away from the Battle lines instead of toward them.  It is hard to pull up a passionate cry for God when we no longer hunger and thirst?
"They that hunger and thirst after righteousness shall be satisfied."  Matt. 5:6
Are you still excited about your Savior? Are you still looking for new ways to serve Him, or have you already emotionally retired from the labor of the Kingdom?  One way to judge is by your Battle Cry.  Fervent prayer and exuberant praise is our 'Rebel Yell'.  Are you still able to bring it forth?

Friday, August 16, 2019

The Devil's Den

    Twenty five years before the fighting took place at a spot called the Devil's Den at the Battle of Gettysburg, there was a different spot Lincoln referred to as a devil's den.  Before Abraham Lincoln held any elected office, he was already making a name for himself in political circles.  In a speech made on December 20, 1839 to the House of Representatives, you can see the beginning embers that would eventually grow into a blaze during his Presidency.  He viewed the infighting, compromises, and weaknesses of Washington politics as spiritual corruption at its roots.  In that speech he says, "I know that the great volcano at Washington, aroused and directed by that evil spirit that reigns there.  Like demons on the waves of hell, the imps of that evil spirit fiendishly taunt all those who dare resist its destroying course."  Sounds a lot like the political climate of today.
    At the beginning, and throughout, till even the last year of the Civil War, powerful men continued to pressure Lincoln to give into the South's demands on slavery.  Lincoln saw Slavery not just as a flawed economic system, but as an inherently wicked system.  He believed there was no way to compromise, and let it remain as an institution of the United States.  It had to be abolished, once and for all.  Even when the war was going badly for the North, and there was a real possibility Lincoln might lose the war, he would not waver.  When the press, public opinion, and even his own party turned against him, still he would not give in.
    His words ring as truth now as they did then, "The probability that we may fail in the struggle ought not to deter us from the support of a cause we believe to be just; it shall not deter me... Here without contemplating consequences, before heaven and in the face of the world, I swear eternal fidelity to the just cause."
    We the Church, one hundred and fifty years after those words were penned, must be as dedicated.  Has anything really changed when it comes to challenges and choices?  It does not take much spiritual insight to see that it's a spiritual battle we are in.  Lincoln understood the deeper root of the conflict was spiritual in nature.  The same can be said of what is currently taking place in America.  Sadly, many of the laws of the Land conflict with our long held and cherished Biblical truths.  Many of today's accepted cultural trends stand in harsh contrast to our Christian worldview.  The temptations for us today are the same that confronted Lincoln:  abandon the cause, give into the majority, and accept their point of view as right.  This we cannot do.  This we will not do.
    Peer pressure is a powerful force to be sure, but the Holy Spirit within us is more than up to the task.  "Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but those who put their trust in the Lord will be kept safe."  Pro.29:25
    "You shall not follow the masses in doing evil, don't be swayed by the mood of the majority that surrounds you."   Ex. 23:2
    "Do not be conformed to the image of this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, so you can prove what the good and perfect Will of God is."  Ro. 12:2

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

A Name as a Weapon

    During the Battle of Gettysburg, the Federal troops shouted the name, "Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg" over and over as the Confederate Brigades marched forward to their doom on July 3rd, 1863.  Clearly, what the Northern soldiers were referring to was the Battle Of Fredericksburg, which had taken place six months earlier.  It was at that battle that the North had suffered a devastating defeat, suffering over 13,000 causalities.  Now the Union troops shouted the name, "Fredericksburg" like it was cannon blast, to remind the Rebels it was now payback time.  A similar series of events took place one month after Gettysburg.  At the the Battle of Chickamauga, on September 18-20, the Union Army suffered another crippling defeat by the Confederates when the Federal troops were forced to retreat  back into the town of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Only a few weeks later, the same Northern Army defeated the same Rebels who had just the month before beaten them so badly.  As the Union soldiers assaulted the Rebel positions on Lookout Mountain they shouted again a name, Chickamauga, Chickamauga!"  Just like what happened at Gettysburg, they again shouted, as if the very word itself was a weapon to assure victory.  The Union won that day too.
    God's People shouting, speaking, and declaring the Name of the Lord is recorded throughout the Scriptures.  "The Name of the Lord is a strong tower, the righteous run in to it and are safe."  Prov. 18:10
    In the Book of Acts 19:12,13, demons are cast out of the afflicted by, 'The Name of Jesus'.
Paul writes to the Philippian church, "That at the Name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, in heaven and on earth, that Jesus is Lord." Phil. 2:9,10.  The Book of Isaiah proclaims that some day even the mountains, the hills, and the trees themselves will rejoice at the Name of the Lord.  Isa. 55:12,13
    We Christians, speak, shout, proclaim, and lift of the Name of Jesus.  Which when spoken, truly becomes a weapon.  The devil, the fallen angels, and the gates of Hell hate when Believers use His Name as a weapon in prayer, and a weapon in worship.
    It has been said that the devil likes to remind us of our defeats.  By shouting the Name of Jesus in our dark times, we remind the devil of his defeat.  As the old gospel song says, "in the Name of Jesus, in the Name of Jesus we have the victory.  In the Name of Jesus, In the Name of Jesus, demons will have to flee..."  Amen

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Well Done!

    There were no medals given out by the Confederate Army, not in the whole course of the Civil War.  The Union Army on the other hand awarded many medals for such things as: bravery, campaigns, individual battles, service, and, of course, the highest award was the Congressional Medal of Honor.  The Confederate reason for this was their soldiers were all considered heroes, and it would not be right to single any one man out.  There was, however, a suggestion made to General Robert E. Lee that there could,at least, be a Roll of Honor for the Army of Northern Virginia, but Lee disallowed it.  Therefore, the highest honor you could receive in the Confederate Army was to be mentioned in one of General Lee's dispatches.  If your name was referred to in one of the General's battlefield communiques it was considered a high honor.  Another way that Lee did bestow recognition on his exemplary commanders was by the complimentary titles he gave them.  Lee called General Longstreet his, 'Old War Horse' and referred to General Jackson as, 'My Right Arm'.  To these men, General Lee's kind titles were worth more than any chest of medals.
    The same goes true for the soldiers in the Army of the Living God.  The Apostle Paul bestows such a compliment on a most unlikely candidate.  In writing a letter to Timothy from his prison cell, Paul instructs him with these words, "Pick up Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for service." 2 Tim. 4:11
    This is the same Mark, who just a few years earlier had abandoned and angered Paul on his first missionary journey.  This is also the same Mark that caused a division between Paul and Barnabas resulting in the break up of the first mission team. Acts 15: 36-40
    Could there be any sweeter words to Mark's ears from Paul than these, "Pick up Mark.  For he is useful to me for service."  If Paul had awarded a real medal to pin on Mark's chest, the inscription would have read, Forgiveness, Reconciliation, and Brotherhood.  But, I believe Mark would have no doubt chosen those words from Paul's mouth over any ribboned decorations.
    The Scriptures speak of rewards and crowns, that one day in heaven will be given to the saints in God's Army.  If you are like me, I'm sure the only reward you are looking forward to is our eternal reward; Eternal Life in the Presence of our God.  My desire is not for any applauds from man on earth, nor for a reward or crown in heaven.  My deepest heartfelt longing is to hear these words from my Savior. "Well done, My good and faithful servant... enter into the Joy of Your Lord." Matt. 25:23  Well Done!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Hornet's Nest

    The Battle of Shiloh was fought on April 6-7, 1862, on the western bank of the Tennessee River.  The battle was named after a nearby church called Shiloh, which ironically in Hebrew means 'Peace'.  Forty-two thousand Union troops under General Ulysses S.Grant camped near a place called Pittsburg Landing.  Opposing Grant stood a Confederate Army numbering thirty thousand men.  General Grant decided to wait for another Union army to arrive with an additional seventy thousand men before he would attack.  The rebel army commanded by General Albert Sidney Johnston saw no reason to wait.  The odds seemed even, so he attacked.  The battle extended along a three mile front, but fighting was fiercest in the center.  The rebels came on  like demons a Union soldier said.  By late morning the center of the Union line was in  retreat, relentlessly being pushed back into a small area on the river bank.  There the battered Northern soldiers made a stand, since they could retreat no further.  Twelve times the Confederates stormed the pocket of huddled Federal soldiers.  As many as sixty-two cannons rained fire on the surrounded Union position.  The dead and dying soon covered the field.  It was said a man could cross the battlefield on the corpses alone, and his feet would not so much as touch the ground.  The Union center numbering 2200 finally surrendered.  Today that area of the battlefield is forever remembered as 'The Hornet's Nest'.
    Nightfall brought an end to the day's fighting.  The cries of the dying could be heard calling out for help.  Flashes of lightning revealed feral hogs moving among the dead. Wounded, helpless men cried out for a drink of water.  One soldier said God must have heard them, for the heavens opened and it began to rain.  That night Grant was found by General Sherman sitting under a distant tree, away from the horrible moans of the dying.  Sherman remarked, "Well Grant, we've had the devil's own day haven't we?"  "Yes," said Grant. "Lick em tomorrow though."
    The next day Major General Buell arrived by steamboat with his army of seventy thousand, and eventually drove the rebel army from the field.  It was a costly, bloody Northern victory.
   What amazes me about this event is the response and attitude of General Grant.  He had just suffered a horrible defeat on the first day of the battle.  He had no idea that General Buell's army would arrive in the morning to rescue him from further death and defeat.  He was surrounded in the darkness by the agonizing groans of his crushed troops. Yet, his response was, "Lick em tomorrow though."
    The Apostle Paul had that same confidence.  Even when Paul was faced with disappointment, danger, and discouragement, he held on to his unshakable trust in God.  At times problems can seem like the attack of an angry swarm of hornets.  Paul believed that God always has a way to turn things that look impossible around for victory.  Paul understood that God has the final say in any spiritual battle. "You can trust God that He will not allow any temptation from becoming so strong that you can't stand up against it, for He does what He promised, and will do what He says. He will show you how to escape temptations power, so you will be able to endure." 1 Cor. 10:13
    Every day is a new day.  "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."  Ps. 30:5

Friday, August 2, 2019

The World Will Not Forget

     A year and a half after the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter, the prospect of the Union defeating the South looked grim.  It was during this time of uncertainty that Abraham Lincoln made his annual address to Congress on why freedom for the slaves must be central to the War.  In one month Lincoln planned to sign his Emancipation Proclamation. He knew it was an extremely controversial idea, not only in the South, but among his own Administration.  Lincoln knew what needed to be done, and he exhorted the North to stand united behind this history altering decision.  He believed the existence of the Nation hung in the balance.  With these words he earnestly plead, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present.  As our case is new, we must think anew, and act anew.  We must dis-enthrall ourselves, and then we will save our country... Fellow citizens we cannot escape history... We will be remembered in-spite of ourselves... We say we are for union.  The world will not forget we say this... In giving freedom to the slave, we give freedom to the free... The way is plain, peaceful and generous, a way which if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless."
     Lincoln's words did not fall on deaf ears.  The Proclamation was signed.  The slaves in the Rebel states rejoiced, and thousands joined the fight.  Over 170,000 free slaves enlisted in the Union army, therefore insuring victory.  The back of slavery was broken, the war was won, and the world did not forget.
     This same plea is just as relevant for today as it was back then, but to a different audience.  My Fellow Christians, we cannot escape history.  We will be remembered not so much for our words, but for our deeds.  We say we are for Christ.  We say He is the only Way.  We say Christ lives within us.  The World will not forget we say this.  The Bible echoes the same cry of Lincoln,  "Little children, let us not love with word or tongue alone, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18
     In speaking the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those enslaved by sin, all men and women can find freedom.  An even more powerful testimony is this.  If we live out the Words of Christ before the world, they will not forget His words.   "If  the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed." John 8:36

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Battle Above the Clouds

    Overlooking the Tennessee River and the City of Chattanooga, Tennessee, stands a 1800 foot plateau called Lookout Mountain.  In the late Autumn of 1863, two great armies faced each other. The Federal Army, under the command of Major General Joseph Hooker, stood at the base of the mountain preparing to assault the heights. On top of the steep ridge were over 8000 Confederate soldiers commanded by General Braxton Bragg.  The Rebels had cannons ringing the top of the heights and thousands of muskets in well protected positions.  The defense was a simple one, pour lead and death down on the exhausted, vulnerable, climbing Union troops.  The Union's strategy was simple as well, just keep sending more and more men up the hill no matter how many are being slaughtered.   General Hooker could not think of any other alternative, but victory by attrition.
    The weather that day had another plan it seemed   At 8:30 am on the day of the attack, a heavy fog rolled into the river valley, totally obscuring the Union troops who had begun to ascend the mountain.  The movements of the men were so screened by the clouds that some Confederate units were captured without even a shot being fired.  When the Federal infantry emerged out of the mist, the Rebel defenders had lost the advantage of their high ground positions.  The Confederate forces on the summit were overrun and had no choice but to retreat.  The battle was a resounding Union victory.  The Battle of Look Out Mountain was over.  A conflict that is now poetically referred to as, 'The Battle above the Clouds.'
     It is important to remind the Church that most of our battles are fought and won 'Above the Clouds.'   In the Book of Daniel Chapter 10, verses 10-21 the angel Gabriel reveals to Daniel that he and the angel Michael have been battling in the heavenlies to bring him answered prayer.  Angels war on behalf of God's people, and those spiritual battles take place, 'Above the Clouds.'  "Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to assist those who will inherit eternal life."  Heb. 1:14
     It is not only angels that do battle above the clouds, but we, the Church, are warring in the heavens as well.  Scripture says that our very prayers are heard in the glorious smoke of God's throne room.   "And the twenty- four elders fell down before the Lamb...each holding golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."  Rev.5:8  "The prayers of all the saints are placed on the golden altar before the throne... and the smoke of the incense, which are the prayers of the saints went up before God from the hand of the angel."  Rev. 8:3,4
    The Enemy of our souls may have a strategy.   It may at times seems like he has the advantage, and we cannot see how we can prevail, but our God fights for us, 'ABOVE THE CLOUDS'.
He even controls the clouds!
    "That all this assembly may know that the Lord does not deliver by sword or by spear, but the battle is the Lord's, for he will give you into our hands."  1 Sam 17:47