Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lest We Forget

There is an increasing effort in our nation to remove all vestiges of the Christian faith and its influence over the affairs of America and her world view. Examples of this effort are legion, among which are the flagrant attempt to intimidate ministers and preachers to not hold Bible studies in homes to the removal of a cross in the desert dedicated in the honor of fallen soldiers.

Let me remind you of our Christian heritage and the statements by some of those who were responsible for its early formation. They struggled against enormous odds to preserve for all of us “a more perfect union.”

Dr. Tim LaHaye wrote a book some twenty years ago or so, entitled Faith of Our Founding Fathers,” which my wife and daughters presented to me as a Father’s Day gift in 1989. I was thumbing through it the other day and was once again intrigued with the manner in which God was at work in the establishment of the United States. LaHaye writes, “Christianity is not a passive faith that occupies only a person’s theological speculations. It involves everything he does. The early Christians were called 'followers of the Way' before they were ever called Christians, because Christianity is a way of life. And that way of life had so permeated this nation by 1787 that it extended its influence to every area, including the fields of law, government, morality, marriage, and business.”

A couple of years ago, Pastor Bill Schuler of the Capital Life Church in Arlington, Virginia wrote a piece for Fox News concerning the role of the Bible in America. The following are mostly quotes from well-known Americans who shared their thoughts about the importance and relevance of the Bible to American life.

“The Bible is worth more than all other books which have ever been printed.” – Patrick Henry.

“I believe the Bible is the best gift God has given to man.” – Abraham Lincoln.

“The Bible is the best book in the world.” – John Adams.

“We cannot read the history of our rise as a nation, without reckoning with the place the Bible has occupied in shaping the advances of the republic.” – Franklin Roosevelt.

“A thorough knowledge of the Bible is worth more than a college education.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or the press; or the right of people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” – The Bill of Rights.

Are you aware, for instance, that the first act of Congress was to have 20,000 Bibles printed for distribution among the Indians? It was determined at that time that everyone should have direct access to the Word of God, the Bible. I suspect if such a decision was made by today’s Congress that the ACLU and various other groups would absolutely blow a gasket.

Some in recent times have called to question whether George Washington was a Christian. Here are the words of those who knew him well and gave ample testimony to this man’s devotion to God. Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, had this to say about Washington. “Without making ostentatious professions of religion, he was a sincere believer in the Christian faith, and a truly devout man.”

The Reverend J. T. Kirkland spoke these words following Washington’s death, “The virtues of our departed friend were crowned by piety. He is known to have been habitually devout. To Christian institutions he gave the countenance of his example; and no one could express, more fully, his sense of the Providence of God, and the dependence of man.”

I will close with this prayer of Washington’s which is proof enough of his very clear belief in the Christian faith. “Almighty and Eternal Lord God, the Great Creator of heaven and earth, and the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; look down from heaven, in pity and compassion upon me Thy servant, who humbly prostrate myself before Thee, sensible of Thy mercy and my own misery. . . . Help all in affliction or adversity – give them patience and a sanctified use of their affliction, and in Thy good time, deliverance from them; forgive my enemies, take me unto Thy protection this day, keep me in perfect peace, which I ask in the name and for the sake of Jesus. Amen.”

The United States has been a Christian nation from its inception. Whether it remains so is up to you and me, lest we forget.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nobody's Kids

Several years ago I wrote an article about foster parents because May is “Foster Parents Appreciation Month.” My wife, Isaura, has worked for Agape Villages Foster Family Agency for eleven and a half years and absolutely loves her job. She is responsible for the certification process which authorizes adults who meet the criteria to become foster parents. She also provides the training of these newly certified foster parents. The folks who make up Agape have a great heart for these foster children, children who typically find themselves wrenched from their homes through no fault of their own.

The term I hear most often from my wife is that foster kids are “Nobody’s Kids.” Why are they Nobody’s Kids? The answer to that is simply that these are children who belong to a family that is no longer able to properly care for them, thus finding themselves thrust into a system called “foster care,” which attempts to place them in loving homes where they can experience what has been previously denied them.

Foster children are often broken because the biological parents who were supposed to love and care for them were more often than not strung out on drugs and booze, leaving their children to fend for themselves. Damage occurs because the natural loving touch of parents is missing in those most formative years, leaving the child starved for the basics of family connectedness. Since they often do not make the necessary connection with a significant adult in those first five years, they are likely to grow up incapable of having significant relationships later in life.

The following is a brief description of the phases of one boy’s venture into foster care, ultimately ending up in an Agape Villages foster home.

“My name is Devon. I’m 4 years old. I’m homeless. My mother is a drug addict. We live on the streets of San Francisco. I’m cold. I’m hungry. I’m scared.”

“My name is Devon. I’m 6 years old. My mother is in jail. I’ve never been to school. I’ve never had a cozy warm bed to call my own. I live in a receiving home for homeless children. I’m scared. I’m angry.”

“My name is Devon. I’m 9 years old. I live in a foster home. I’ve lived in 5 foster homes. I keep running away! I don’t need anyone to take care of me! I’m mad at everybody! I’m going to run away again!”

“My name is Devon. I’m 12 years old. I live in Sacramento. I live in an Agape Villages foster home. I like to skateboard. I like to go to school. I play football at school. I’m good at making friends. I have three friends on my block. I have a warm cozy bed. I’m part of a family. They love me. We go to church every Sunday. I don’t want to run away anymore.”

Foster parents take in children from infant to 18 or until they complete high school, kids who have often been neglected, abused, or otherwise not properly cared for. These foster parents become the surrogate family the child never had. Is the adjustment a smooth one? Hardly! Occasionally a child will come into a foster home and make the adjustments without a hitch, but this is a rare occurrence. Because of the past neglect and inability to connect, these children often find it very difficult to become a part of the family. A great deal of patience is required on the part of the foster parents, hopeful that at some point in the child’s experience in their home they will realize that they are loved and valued for who they are.

Imagine, if you will, a foster child enters the home of a family who are total strangers to them. The child might ask himself: Who are these people? Can I trust them? Why are they nice to me? What if I screw up and they don’t want me any longer? Will I have to go back to juvenile hall? Will they love me? Will I be allowed to sit at the dinner table with this family? Will I be treated the same as the natural born kids in this family? Will I ever see my parents again?

Foster parents know that despite their best efforts these young children struggle with being accepted. In fact, they normally expect to be rejected. This cycle repeats itself, not only in foster homes, but often throughout their lives.

The action of these foster parents taking damaged and hurting children into their homes demonstrates godly character. They willingly accept these foster children into their homes to become part of the warp and woof of their family experience, fully realizing that these children are “damaged goods.” They pour their hearts and lives into these children, praying they will know they are loved and valued, just as God in Christ has loved us and accepted us into his eternal family.

God bless our foster parents! Because of them, Nobody’s Kids become Somebody’s Kids!

P.S. If you would like to help Agape, there is a golf tournament May 26 at Spring Creek Golf & Country Club in Ripon. For more information, or to sign up to play, or simply to make a donation, go to: agapevillages.com and click on Events in the left hand column. Thank you!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

UBL Celebration?

The headlines read, “Usama bin Laden is dead!” My initial thought was, “Well, good. It’s about time.” Did I want to shout in celebratory glee, or run around and scream my head off, or pump my fist in the air while puffing my chest in a taunting manner? No.

This all began late on Sunday evening after a very long day of church services and meetings. I was settling in with a good book in the living room, listening to some light classical music when my state of reverie was interrupted with a text message from my sister, Joy, which read, “Got bin Laden.” I thought, “Does she mean we’ve finally tracked down this murdering thug?” I was really unwilling to give up my quiet evening, but I decided to turn on the TV just to make sure.

Just like many of you, I sat and watched the news for the next three hours or so, before calling it a night. Split-screen camera shots showed steadily growing crowds outside the White House and in downtown Manhattan at Ground Zero and New York City’s Madison Square Garden. Periodically there would be other shots of military academy students running around waving American flags in jubilation to the extreme.

As I watched this display of joyous celebration over the death of an arch enemy of the United States, a man who had declared war on our nation and its people not once, but twice, I can certainly sympathize with those who choose to express their exuberance in so demonstrable a manner. But I must sound a word of caution at this point.

For those who may not know my background, I spent 34 years in the military: nine years as a Marine (Vietnam Vet), and 25 in the Navy as a chaplain (Iraq War Vet). I have never lost a night’s sleep over the death of any person who wishes to do me and my family harm. It is because I love my country that I willingly spent those years in its service. If I could jump back forty years, I’d do it all over again. So please, do not even think I’m a bleeding heart. That is one thing I am not!

So, as I watched the TV celebrants the other night, I reflected back on 9-11 when we were subjected to similarly distasteful TV images. Only then it was Muslims in the Middle East dancing and shouting in the streets over the militants’ success in toppling the Twin Towers and striking a blow at the Pentagon. We were appalled as even children were gleefully jumping up and down before the cameras. Collectively we wondered, “What sort of people are these who would celebrate at such a horrific act of carnage? And is this what their religion encourages?”

Some will be quick to point out differences between the two events, and I admit there are some. However, this does not justify such a celebratory atmosphere. A passage of Scripture came to my mind as I watched the endless news stream. Proverbs 24:17-18, says, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him.” Those, my friends, are words to seriously consider.

In my study of the Bible, I cannot escape the fact that there is a very real hell for those who do evil, despite the recent cover story to the contrary in Time Magazine, “What If There’s No Hell?” April 25, 2011. Jesus, in one of his parables, tells about a man who died and found himself in hell “in torment.” The tormented man described his own condition as being “in agony in this fire.” There is no doubt according to the Scriptures that Usama bin Laden is right there, having taken up permanent residence as of last Sunday. However, I cannot escape thinking of the horror of such a place where there is no relief for all of eternity.

We do well to remember that God made us to enjoy an eternal relationship with him; not separated from him. We were not lovingly created by the Lord and designed in his image and likeness only to be idly and unceremoniously dispatched into the crackling fires of hell. What potential resides in each one of us that sadly goes unfulfilled when we are not living in that relationship? What good might Usama bin Laden have been able to accomplish to the glory of God had his heart been changed through an encounter with Jesus? We’ll never know because this reprehensible man chose a life of evil, ultimately, permanently securing his fate.

Though we are rid of this man’s nefariously wicked life and deeds, allowing us all to breathe a sigh of relief, Usama is a sad testament to the evil which men can do, emphatically emphasizing the need we all have for the Savior.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Islam - Muhammad Struggles

            In this article I wish to reveal the manner in which Muhammad transitioned from a married businessman with a growing family, to an uncertain prophet of Allah, and then next week we’ll look at the militant warrior who would ultimately force conversion on those who were not of the faith. A number of the quotes in this article are taken from the writings of Muhammad, including many other reports during the 8th and 9th centuries called the Hadith. “In Islamic terminology, the term hadith refers to reports of statements or actions of Muhammad, or of his tacit approval of something said or done in his presence.”

During the years he lived in Mecca, Muhammad was at peace with those of differing faiths, including the tribal beliefs which his father had espoused. This tribe had even been tasked with guarding the icon, Kaaba, a stone used for the worship of various pagan deities. Muhammad had married his wife, Khadija when he was twenty-five. When he was fifty his wife passed away. For twenty-five years he was married only to this one woman. Later he would have as many as eleven wives, including a nine-year-old.

About the time Muhammad was forty he had an encounter with the Angel Gabriel, who proceeded to inform him that he was to be the last and most authoritative prophet of Allah. Strangely, Muhammad at first believed that the visitation from Allah through the Angel Gabriel was not genuine. In point of fact, he thought he might well have been possessed by an evil spirit, or jinn. He even expressed these fears to Khadija. This is the account of that turning point in his life when he returned home to his wife: “Then Allah’s Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, ‘Cover me! Cover me!’ They covered him until his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened, and said, ‘I fear that something may happen to me.’ Khadija replied, ‘Never! By Allah, Allah will never disgrace you’” (Hadith 1.1.3).

For the next three years Muhammad heard nothing from Allah, fearing that he had displeased his god. He decided to go to his favorite place for refuge, Mount Hira, and see if he couldn’t force the issue once and for all. Was he Allah’s last and greatest prophet or not? He was so despondent that he even contemplated suicide by jumping from one of the mountain’s high cliffs. One Muslim biographer records that peace came to the prophet through the words of Allah. “By the forenoon, and by the night as it spreads its wings over the world in peace, your Lord has not forsaken you; nor is He displeased with you. Surely, the end shall be better for you than the beginning. Your Lord will soon give you of His bounty and you will be well pleased. Did he not find you an orphan and give you shelter? Did he not find you erring and guide you to the truth? . . . . The bounty of your Lord, always proclaim.”

Over the next several years Muhammad’s behavior became worrisome to many of his followers. At one point he claimed to speak to the dead, stating that they could hear him just as easily as his own disciples did. He even went to a cemetery in Baqi al Ghargad and prayed for the dead. Some Muslim scholars suggest that this is easily explained because Muhammad was psychic. An additional troubling event had to do with conflicting revelations from both Allah and Satan. Another peculiarity was when he authorized intercession to certain idols. This truly shocked his followers! The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was when he actually changed some of the words he had received from Allah. Such abnormal actions caused many to stop following him.

Muhammad’s egregious behavior of changing the word of Allah is recorded by his scribe, “On a number of occasions [his scribe] had, with the prophet’s consent, changed the closing words of verses . . .  Having observed a succession of changes of this type, Abdollah renounced Islam on the ground that the revelations, if from God, could not be changed at the prompting of a scribe such as himself." (Unveiling Islam: An Insider’s Look at Muslim Life and Beliefs, by Ergun Mahmet Caner, Emir Fethi Caner, and Richard Land).

Trouble was brewing for Muhammad when he attempted to argue against the residents of Mecca that Allah alone was God and not their idols that they worshipped. At first he was verbally assaulted for such outlandish views. Then Khadija died, which left him feeling vulnerable. Before he left Mecca out of fear for his life, he told the people he had been translated to heaven and had actually sat and talked with Moses and Jesus. This so upset the Meccans that they plotted to assassinate Muhammad.

Next week we will look at the events that cause Muhammad to become militant.

Psalm for the Day