Marines.Together We Served

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Train Hard!

Last year I was preaching through the book of First Corinthians. It was great fun! Then in March I took a group of twenty-five on a trip to the Holy Land with a stop in Greece first. Besides visiting the ancient city of Athens, we also toured the ruins of Corinth.

This year I have been preaching through the book of Second Corinthians. This current series will end in the middle of October. In my most recent sermons we have been addressing the topic of “spiritual warfare.” Now, you may be saying, “Hold on, Roots! Spiritual warfare?” Yup. Every day.

If there was ever a man who understood the day-to-day struggles in living the Christian faith, it was Paul. He ran into every type of opposition there is. “I've worked much harder, been jailed more often, beaten up more times than I can count, and at death's door time after time. I've been flogged five times with the Jews' thirty-nine lashes, beaten by Roman rods three times, pummeled with rocks once. I've been shipwrecked three times, and immersed in the open sea for a night and a day. In hard traveling year in and year out, I've had to ford rivers, fend off robbers, struggle with friends, struggle with foes. I've been at risk in the city, at risk in the country, endangered by desert sun and sea storm, and betrayed by those I thought were my brothers. I've known drudgery and hard labor, many a long and lonely night without sleep, many a missed meal, blasted by the cold, naked to the weather. And that's not the half of it, when you throw in the daily pressures and anxieties of all the churches. When someone gets to the end of his rope, I feel the desperation in my bones. When someone is duped into sin, an angry fire burns in my gut.” (II Corinthians 11:23-29)

But it’s spiritual warfare that we are involved in. Before Jesus even began his earthly ministry he was engaged in this spiritual warfare. Immediately following his baptism by John the Baptist in Matthew 3, he was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where he would fast for forty days and nights. Then the enemy, Satan, came to him and began to tempt him. Jesus responded by quoting Scripture. After the third attempt Satan withdrew because he was defeated each time by the power of God’s word.

Here’s an important principle for anyone claiming to walk with Christ: You must know the tactics of the enemy. And you must know how to use the weapons the Lord has made available to you. These weapons enable you to defeat the enemy. To neglect these weapons is to invite disaster.

You see, Jesus knew only too well the tactics that Satan uses. We first see it in the Garden of Eden: Lying and Deception. Jesus said, “There is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” The devil even tried the same tactics on Jesus! He does the same thing today. If he was bold and audacious enough to challenge Jesus, what’s to stop him from spewing his hateful lies at you?

Spiritual Warfare for the Christian is when we are engaged in battle against: lies, deceit, dishonesty, double-dealing, two-facedness, insincerity, and untruthfulness. Add to this: deception, trickery, cheating, shams, frauds, and con-artists. All of this is directed against the person and work of Jesus Christ. The lies and deception of the devil will always call into question a Christian’s faith in what Jesus said and did. This can be very unsettling – at least until the Christian realizes that God has provided two weapons to use in battling these attacks against the faith.

What two weapons would these be? God’s Word, and Prayer. In Ephesians 6:17-18 we read these specific instructions, “Take the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. You must pray at all times as the Holy Spirit leads you to pray.” Let me repeat again: Here are the weapons in your arsenal – God’s Word, and Prayer. How well do you know how to use them? If you are not familiar with God’s Word, the Bible, then you cannot know lies when they come at you. You are like those that Paul describes as going after “other gospels.” You are simply incapable of recognizing a lie from the truth. But when you study God’s Word you become laser-sharp in identifying lies because you know the truth from God’s Word.

By the same token, as you develop a prayer life, that is, learning to speak comfortably with God, hearing when he speaks to you, allows you to develop spiritual discernment. This is when you gain insight from the Lord that would otherwise be unavailable to you. It occurs as you develop a relationship with Jesus. He does not want you to be ignorant or blind to the enemy’s tactics. That’s why he’s placed these two weapons in your hands so that you can learn to use them well, defeating the forces of darkness, pulling down spiritual strongholds. Then you will be able to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

How are you doing in spiritual warfare? A little rusty in the use of your weapons? It’s always the right time to take them up again!

Train hard!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The American Dream

Politicians are particularly given to mentioning the “American Dream.” They intone the term sonorously as if to convey to the masses that it is simply a pipe dream, unattainable to the average person living in America. My reply: Nonsense!

Historian and writer James Truslow Adams coined the phrase, “American Dream,” in his 1931 book The Epic of America; “The American Dream is that of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement. It is a difficult dream for the European upper classes to interpret adequately, and too many of us ourselves have grown weary and mistrustful of it. It is not a dream of motor cars and high wages merely, but a dream of social order in which each man and woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position.”

So then, whether or not a person actually improves their lot in life, they can still be reaching for the stars, in a manner of speaking. The journey of life may well offer a person the opportunity to achieve higher education through scholarships, talent and hard work, or a fabulously wealthy income for services rendered or talents rewarded. Or it may be something as simple, yet profound, as escaping from tyranny and despotism in order to breathe the intoxicating air of freedom. How many immigrants to these shores were gratified in knowing their progeny, their offspring, would have advantages to succeed in life, regardless of race, creed, class, or religious belief.

Consider the fact that anyone in America can rise to the top of the social/political chimera by hard work, grit and determination. They can rub elbows with the rich and famous. They can eat in the finest restaurants; belong to the most exclusive clubs; and drive the sleekest car into the garage of the most elegant of homes.

The American Dream is identified and defined differently by each individual. For many, it is a matter of escaping the oppressiveness of governments that refuse to allow people to worship as they choose. For others it is to have a new start in life because their old country opportunities for bettering oneself are hampered due to class or economic status. The American West of a hundred and thirty years ago was still very wild and untamed. Yet there were men and women who risked everything to have a chance of living in a free land. It was not at all uncommon to encounter men and women from various pedigreed European royal blood lines living as common dirt farmers in the ever expanding west, enduring the hardships and dangers of this new land right along with the displaced Irish potato farmers who left the Emerald Isle because of the devastation of crop failure and famine.

Regardless of what a person considers to be the American Dream, it is almost always associated with life opportunities that are virtually impossible in any other time or place. The Horatio Alger story of rising from rags to riches was popularly referred to by those living in the latter half of the 19th Century and early 20th Century. The companion phrase, “Only in America,” carries with it the sense of achievement through opportunity and hard work. And, of course, the symbol of the American Dream, for immigrants as well as natural born Americans, is the Statue of Liberty. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

One of the beauties of America is the practiced principle that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So, let me ask you – What are you doing with your life? Are you taking advantage of the opportunities available to you by living in America? Life’s uncertainties along with unforeseen circumstances may hinder you from reaching for that next rung on the ladder, but you are free to pick yourself up and try again, to persevere even when the odds are against you, with your efforts seemingly fruitless, futile and wasted.

Remember: You are an American! You do not need the government to rescue you from the ravages of life. “In God we trust” is more than a clever slogan. It is a way of life. My American Dream is realized in the freedom to worship God every day without fear of personal attack or reprisal.

Thank God for our freedoms!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Coming Home with Honor

The phrase, “coming home with honor,” has been bandied about for the past several years by politicos, pundits, military leaders and elected representatives. From conservatives to liberals each has proclaimed the importance of bringing our troops home with honor.

What exactly does “coming home with honor” mean?

Allow me to bypass all the foolish talk from some quarters that suggests we can pack up our troops and bring them home without winning the war against terrorism. Coming home with honor can only mean one thing: Victory!

As a Vietnam vet, I can assure you that coming home safely does not mean coming home with honor. Sure, I was glad to be home. All of us were, despite the death of more than fifty-eight thousand of our fellow warriors. But coming home without a victory is bitterness and gall. We answered the call of our nation, crossing the pond (euphemism for the Pacific Ocean) to fight in a country most Americans couldn’t locate on a map. Over a period of nearly ten years American forces won every battle in Vietnam. To then come home without a victory is beyond exasperating. That is not coming home with honor.

There is no substitute for victory. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines do not join the military to be safe. They join the military to keep the rest of us safe. They have counted the cost, deciding some things in life are more important than their own personal safety. One of the great remarks in the acceptance speech made by the Republican vice presidential nominee, Sarah Palin, was when she said, “There is only one man in this election who has ever really fought for you.” The obvious answer is John McCain. After five and a half years as a POW in the Hanoi Hilton he returned home as a hero, but the nation he had left had dramatically changed.

Recently in a town hall meeting in New York, McCain said, "We will win the war in Iraq. We are winning that war. Our troops will come home with honor and victory." That’s the kind of talk I want to hear. That was music to the ears of Sarah Palin, whose son is heading for Iraq with the Army infantry on September 11. It should also be music to the Democratic vice presidential candidate’s ears, Joe Biden, as well. His son, Beau, a captain in the Delaware Army National Guard, heads for a tour of duty in Iraq next month. John McCain has two sons currently in the military. His oldest son from his first marriage, Doug, previously served as a Navy pilot. Son Jack is scheduled to graduate from the Naval Academy next year, following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather, and great grandfather. His youngest son, Jimmy, has already served a tour in Iraq as a Marine. If you watched the Republican National Convention, you would have seen that Cindy McCain was wearing a bejeweled pin on her lapel that said: NAVY USMC. I loved it!

In Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech, she made this telling comment about John McCain, “He's a man who wore the uniform of this country for 22 years, and refused to break faith with those troops in Iraq who have now brought victory within sight. And as the mother of one of those troops, that is exactly the kind of man I want as commander in chief.”

Let me be clear. During the primaries I was not a fan of John McCain. However, he is a patriot who understands the importance of allowing our military to finish the job. He knows that our nation is under assault by radicals who are determined to destroy us. Denying our troops the opportunity to win the fight is tantamount to emasculating our military. We did this once before with Vietnam. We dare not do so again.

Victory is the only answer. Then, and only then, can we bring the troops home with honor.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

This is Getting Good!

As I write this, Senator McCain is about to announce his vice presidential running mate. Like many of you, I had become bored with the election process and all of its over-blown hype with its accompanying Armageddon-like cloud of dread that seems to be the message of many in political circles.

I just watched Senator McCain introduce his vice presidential running mate, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (Pay-lin). This was great drama! History was made, not because she is a woman running for vice-president (Geraldine Ferraro holds that distinction), but because regardless of which ticket wins, you have an election that will establish history. On the Democratic side you have an African-American presidential candidate in Barak Obama. On the Republican side, you have a woman vice-presidential candidate in Sarah Palin. Thrown into the mix is the fact that, if elected, John McCain would be the oldest first term president in history (Ronald Reagan was sixty-nine when he became president). Interestingly, McCain would not be the first president who had been a prisoner-of-war. That distinction is held by Andrew Jackson, who, at age thirteen, was captured by the British during the American Revolution. Because he refused to polish the boots of a British officer, he was severely beaten, leaving a permanent scar on his cheek.

The next two months leading up to the election on November 4 will be lots of fun! I can’t wait for the debates between Senator Joe Biden and Governor Sarah Palin. This should be good!

It’s fun watching the media try to find out about Governor Palin, a virtual unknown. Here are some things we do know: She is happily married to her husband has been for twenty years. They have five children. Their oldest is currently serving in the Army and is leaving for Iraq on 9-11. Their youngest child was born this April. Even though they were informed before the birth that the baby is Down’s syndrome, they chose to have the baby because every person is precious and valuable. She is a “Hockey Mom.” That’s Alaskan speak for “Soccer Mom.” She was a tenacious point guard for her high school basketball team, earning the moniker: “Sarah Barracuda.” She also was a beauty queen. Coached her children’s hockey team. Is a member of the union. Is married to her high school sweet heart. Her husband is a native Alaskan, a member of the Yup'ik Eskimo tribe. She was an active member of the PTA. Ran for city council, eventually becoming the mayor of her small town, Wasilla. With her conservative values, she ran for governor and won. Her parents were school teachers. Her father used to take her hunting at three o’clock in the morning. She is a life member of the National Rifle Association (NRA). Now, get this: She was appointed to chair an investigation into the ethics in Alaskan politics. It is said of Sarah, that the countryside of Alaska is littered with the bodies of those who have crossed her. DC and the Beltway Crowd have to be nervous.

Concerning her political career, she said, "It's always safer in politics to avoid risk . . . but I didn't get into government to do the safe and easy things." She added: "The people of America expect us to seek public office and to serve for the right reasons. And the right reason is to challenge the status quo and to serve the common good."

So, after a painfully long election, starting in earnest right after the mid-term elections in 2006, this news of Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice-presidential running mate is quite refreshing. The next two months will be a real donnybrook, pitting the two political parties against each other for the most important office in the land. This is going to be fun!

Is this a great country or what?