My Retirement Ceremony

I can’t believe it is over, 20 years of service WOW. Tonight, April 25th, 2007 the cadre and cadets put together a very professional retirement ceremony for MSG Ramos and myself. We assembled as the Chippewa Battalion in Warner Hall on the campus of Central Michigan University, Mt. Pleasant, MI at 6pm. The ceremony began with the National Anthem and an opening prayer. The master of ceremony was Cadet Vulcan, the cadet battalion commander. Cadet Vulcan was articulate and professional, setting a tone that made for an impressive ceremony. The brigade commander, COL Jimmy Coates, flew in from Chicago and expressed his heartfelt appreciation in a way that only COL Coates can talk.

Lead by Cadet Hardy, the cadets unfolded and folded the Nation’s flag while the cadet command sergeant major read the 12 folds of the flag and what they represent by Denny Knutson. This was especially appropriate and done well. I hope the cadets listened to the degree to which God, whose Son is Jesus Christ, is a part of our Nation’s history and foundation. A flag was presented to each of us and I know it will take a prominent spot in my office. Coins and plagues were presented and the cadets really surprised me with a donation of $50.00 for the church—I will designate the funds for our DVD ministry.

Then Cadet Suzanne Albert, representing the MSII class from this year and last year, entertained the cadets with a monologue of comments and thoughts of my years as a teacher. She did a great job and I appreciate all the kind things that were said.

Major Gregg Mays was gracious in his description of my two year contribution to the battalion, and I am forever grateful for his support during the past ten months of transition. Without his permission and support I would not be the pastor of Berean—Praise God—for God’s use of men yielded to His will.

After a retirement award was presented and Major Mays spoke, I had a chance to address the cadets one final time. I first expressed my gratitude to God for His divine intervention in pointing me towards the Army and Fort Sill’s drill sergeants that helped me grow up. Then I attempted to communicate the degree to which I am indebted to Pam for her unbelievable support for me during 18 years of marriage. She is and has always been awesome. Words to the cadets, or on this blog, cannot express how much I love Pamela. She is a precious gift from God and I am often guilty of not thanking her enough. Often she was raising Austin by herself and that is an incredible task. Army wives are a special breed of women. Then I thanked Major Mays and failed to properly thank Denise, Mary and Larry for their support. MSG Ramos has been awesome this year doing so much of the NCO work in the battalion so I could pastor on the weekends. If Ramos wasn’t in the battalion I couldn’t have done what I did each week in NC. Finally, I reminded the cadets why the Army exists and again attempted to emphasize the importance of keeping foremost in their mind the reality that the Nation does have an enemy. Radical Islamic Fundamentalist wake up each morning fully committed to killing Americans and changing our way of life. I tried to help the cadets understand that unless they keep this foremost in the thinking they will not be focused on what is important as a leader of warriors. I reminded them that they will be the Army’s captains when boys like Austin will be entering the Army.

Then an equal time was devoted to properly recognizing the contributions of Ramos’ three years of service in the Chippewa Battalion.

The ceremony concluded with the Army song and a closing prayer by Jeff Scott. Outside a 75mm cannon fired blanks as a tribute—that was touching—and a great touch especially for Ramos who served tirelessly as the Cannon Club advisor.

Then we assembled for a wonderful reception prepared by Denise. Cake decorated in red, white and blue, meatballs, sodas, chips and fruit and vegetable trays—thanks Denise. We cut the cake under the guiding hand of Denise, the Chippewa’s Battalion ‘mom’ for 29 years. Then the cannon club presented me with a very nice Columbia fleece embroidered with CMU ROTC and my name. I reminded them that in NC we don’t have to wear jackets because we have this thing called the sun.

During the reception Jeff Scott played a video montage of pictures of each of us since the earliest days of our careers. I watched for a few minutes until I couldn’t hold it together anymore. The pictures brought back many memories and reminded me that I was done. Bitter-sweet, and yes, I know that it is God’s will, but we are still humans who get sad. I will definitely miss soldiering—pictures of the men I have served with bring back memories and memories that only those who have served understand.

The saddest part to the entire night was that Pam and Austin could not be present. I should have invited my father-in-law as well—he has been such an incredible supporter of my career. I just didn’t think about how nice of a ceremony the Chips put together.

I invited and invite each of the cadets to look me up in Fayetteville as they graduate and spend time at Bragg.

At 10.02pm I signed out, activated the alarm, turned out the lights and walked down the hallway of the field house for the last time as the senior military instructor of the Chippewa Battalion of the Central Michigan University ROTC program.

And now I embark upon a complete focus an entirely different kind of warfare—spiritual warfare and intellectual combat for the Eternal King and His Kingdom for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

A Biblical Reaction to Tragedy

The Virginia Tech tragedy took the entire nation through a roller coaster of emotions early last week. The roller coaster ride definitely doesn’t end when the shooting stops or the news cameras turn off or the daily papers return to other headlines. Senseless violence shakes us. It shakes us as parents and children. It shakes us as husbands and wives. It shakes us as brothers, sisters and friends. No one in my readership that I know of was directly affected by this outpouring of hate and bloodshed, but that doesn’t stop it from making us pause and wonder about the fragility of our own lives, and the fragility of the lives of our loved ones. As Christians, we need to be prepared for tragedy. We need to be primed to fight Satan on any level, and that especially includes when he levels us and our families with tragedy. Here are 15 principles that I have gleaned from Scripture that will guide us when sorrow is knocking at our door.

1. RESPOND with grief, sadness and mourning. Weep with those who weep. All this is most appropriate. We are emotional beings and a massacre is certainly something worthy of our tears. The fact that we are grieving has nothing to do with our trust in God, or the lack thereof. It simply communicates sadness. Jesus wept over the death of his friend (John 10). We shouldn’t be afraid to do the same.

2. RESIST the temptation to blame God. No act of sin is ever God’s fault. He has no faults. God is never to be blamed for the evil that men do.

James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

Claim Romans 8.28 as a promise.

3. RECOGNIZE the true cause of tragedy, heart attacks, cancer, diseases, premature death and other disasters--SIN.

Genesis 3:17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Every heartbreaking circumstance in our lives is a direct result of man’s rebellion against God in the Garden of Eden.

4. REALIZE or REEMPHASIZE that Satan is REAL. Evil is a part of this life—there is no getting around it. Satan is constantly tempting our sinful flesh and fallen mind to act on our desire to hurt other people. Satan is powerful and seductive, yet God is still in control.

The book of Job reveals that Satan is a real being who operates within the bounds that God permits until such time as God decides. The Bible describes him as a roaring lion. He is our enemy.

Ephesians 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

This tragedy is the work of Satan and his demons. This does not absolve any one individual of personal responsibility but it does help understand how something like this could happen.

5. REACH out to Jesus. He knows what you are experiencing. There is no other alternative. Only God can comfort. Pray. Only God can heal. Pray. Only God can mend a broken heart. Only God has the answers we desperately are seeking for. REACH out to Jesus. Jesus is our High Priest who was tempted and tested in all points yet without sin. Paul describes the kind of friend our Lord is—He stands by us when no one will stand with us (see verse 16).

2 Timothy 4:17 Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.

6. REJECT a desire for REVENGE. When the party that afflicted the crime is still alive, let God be the one who executes justice. God has ordained that governments will be His instrument of vengeance,and even when the shooter is dead, he is not beyond the scope of God’s judgment.

Romans 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.

Let God’s wrath avenge.

7. READ scripture. Search out the promises of God’s Word and let the words comfort you. Read the 23rd Psalm over and over again. Pray that God will use his Word to comfort you. Do NOT refuse to be comforted—let yourself enjoy the comfort that the word of God provides.

8. REJOICE in the hope and knowledge of a brighter future. Review over and over again the reality that life on this planet is only a very small part of eternity. The Bible is clear that we are citizens of an eternal kingdom whose King is Jesus.

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

Without a hope and knowledge of an eternal life, we are most miserable when life ends prematurely. A rejection of the afterlife puts an incredible premium on this life.

9. RESPOND with love or RECEIVE love from others. If you are not directly affected by the tragedy, respond to others with an outpouring of love. RESPOND with compassion toward those in need. RESPOND with touch when appropriate. RESPOND to others with the love of God and His plan of salvation.

Matthew 5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

If we say people need the Lord and God is love then we can surely say people need love. They need the love that comes from the one true God, whose Son is Jesus Christ, who is love. See 1 John 4:8.

Matthew 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

These good works are actions that show the love of God and therefore glorify God. In this manner God can take a tragedy and turn it into good—in so much as glorifying God is good.

“If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a number of experiences that are not meant for you personally at all. They are designed to make you useful in His hands, and to enable you to understand what takes place in the lives of others” Oswald Chambers.

10. REFUSE to be bitter. Instead, pray that God will give you the strength to forgive. Bitterness is animosity toward someone—or God. We must refuse to allow seeds of bitterness to interfere with our relationship with God.

Ephesians 4:31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

The Bible is very clear that those who are born again will forgive others; the idea of me refusing to forgive others who have sinned against me while expecting God to forgive my sins is unscriptural.

Matthew 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

11. REST in the fact that the secret things belong to the Lord (Deut 29.29).

Accept the idea that you may never be able to answer the question why. Trust in the Lord. Sometimes God ordains and allows events of which he disapproves. Often, things happen with which God is not pleased. These events occur in order to accomplish His will. This part of God’s nature will always be mysterious to us. (see Deut 29.29).

Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.

12. REMEMBER that events like this remind us of the brevity of life and the need for a relationship with God.

James 4:14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

Let us not think, for even a moment, that we control our own destiny with regard to how long we live or what our future holds. Here James compares my life to the steam that is generated from my morning tea pot.

13. RENOUNCE any suggestion or thought that God is not in Control. REST in His Divine Sovereignty. The entire book of Esther communicates that God ordains the affairs of men to achieve His divine purpose.

The Most High God rules in the kingdom of men (see Daniel 4).

14. RELY upon the grace of God. The enabling grace is what I must rely upon. The same grace that saved my soul is now available to refuse bitterness, show love, rest in God, think right, and obey God’s plan for my life.

2 Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

My struggling at the idea of glorying God in my infirmities could be a tragedy like the VA Tech massacre on a personal level.

15. REPENT and confess sin to remain in a position to receive His grace.

There can be no doubt that I will sin during my reaction to a “VA Tech” incident that affects me or my family directly. When this happens I must turn from this sin and ask for forgiveness. This may happen several times as I go through the grieving and questioning period of time that is typical of any human suffering through tragedy and its aftermath. I am very thankful for 1 John 1.9. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Abstain from Alchohol and Adultery: Because More than Your Job may be on the Line

Yesterday, I had the unfortunate task of cleaning out the office of someone who was relieved of his duties as an instructor. In twenty years of military service I have never had to do that. In my final month in the Army, I again experienced something new. As I was cleaning through drawers and cabinets and packing and moving this former instructor’s personal property, I couldn’t help but think of how unfortunate, unnecessary, and ridiculous it was and how easily it could have been prevented.

Alleged sexual misconduct was the reason for the removal from teaching responsibilities. Lust had driven this instructor to touch the body parts of the opposite sex. Lust is the desire to partake in something that God has ordained should only be partaken of between two individuals that are married This is God’s Holy standard. God knows best. All sexual conduct outside the bounds of marriage is unlawful. We as a church must never forget that. Adultery cannot be occurring in the body of Christ. Every effort must be made to keep the church pure. Men and woman must minimize the physical contact between each other. Too much (perhaps any) hugging is problematic—it leads to the desire for more than hugs.

Couples must be very careful about the amount of time they spend with other couples. Do not allow yourselves to spend abnormal amounts of time with one particular couple weekend after weekend. Rotate your contact and fellowship with other couples throughout the church. Keep the conversations in mixed groups pure and uplifting—two married couples have NO business discussing sexual matters. We must preserve the holiness of what happens between husbands and wives. Do not allow a man or woman to live in your house—avoid the appearance and the temptation to sin at all costs. Never put yourself in a situation where something could happen or where your actions could be questioned—guard yourself and your reputation as an ambassador of Christ.

In the process of investigating the instructor’s misconduct another sin was discovered. Can you guess what it was? Are you ahead of me? For two years I served as a 105mm firing battery commander’s right hand man, a first sergeant, and during those two years I had the unfortunate responsibility of assisting in the non-judicial punishment our paratroopers received for their misconduct. May I tell you about two things that the majority of the incidents had in common?

First, I cannot think of a single incident of punished misconduct where excessive consumption of alcohol was not directly or indirectly involved. Over and over again Solomon’s words of wisdom came ringing true—wine is a mocker; strong drink is raging. Fools are routinely led into foolish behavior because of the reduction or total elimination of God-given inhibitions.

The aforementioned instructor was intoxicated when the misconduct occurred—his conscience, that was designed by God, was no longer functioning properly. The high level of alcohol interfered with the functioning of the conscience and this person’s ability to resist acting upon sexual impulses.

Second, (not in this case) but in the young men I had the privilege of leading in the 82d Airborne Division, when there was a pattern of serious misconduct there was normally an absence of a father—a dad!

The Bible also addresses the importance of the father in the life of a son or daughter. A parent must be there for a child to obey. Without a doubt the best soldiers I worked with grew up in a two parent household where both the mother and father were an important part of the child’s development.

Psalm 119.9 tells it like it is: A young man can keep his life clean by obeying the word of God.

The commandments in the Bible are just as applicable today as they were when Moses received them and they are just that—commandments.

Commandment VII: Thou (that’s me and you) shall not commit adultery (Exodus 20.14).

That’s pretty clear isn’t it? And from Paul: “Be not drunk.” Yes another commandment (Eph 5.18).

And what are the benefits to obeying these commandments? Well in this case—you won’t have to experience the humiliation of having someone else clean your office out for you. And you won’t have to try and fabricate a story about why you are no longer working there (see Commandment X). And your good reputation (see Prov. 22.1) will not be tarnished.

Let me leave you with the Apostle Peter’s instruction for us: God, who called and saved you [and I] is a HOLY God; therefore, He expects us to be Holy in every aspect of our lives (see 1 Peter 1.15). Paul calls this our reasonable service in Romans 12.2. Obeying God’s commandments is the least I can do.

The Way of the Master

The Way of the Master by Ray Comfort is an outstanding book that needs to be read by every believer. At Berean we will have more copies of this book available for sale at a discount price. I would like as many members of Berean to read this book as possible over the summer. Ray Comfort does an awesome job explaining the role of the law in the conversion of an unbeliever. Anyone who is committed to sharing the good news with a lost son, daughter, relative, co-worker or friend needs to read this book. Ray ties together Bible verses and ideas that you may not have previously considered. He is faithful to the Bible. He is not a salesmen and isn't interested in leading someone to Christ if the Father isn't drawing them. He explains the relationship between repentance and faith. He addresses the reasons millions profess faith in Christ yet there is little to no fruit. What more could I say to encourage you to read this book. If you are teacher, deacon, or committed disciple of Christ, this book needs to be high on your list. This is an iron sharpens iron kind of book for the church in the 21st Century.

Easter 2007 at Berean

Easter 2007 was an incredible Sunday for Berean. We hosted two morning services and will definitely do it again next year. The combined attendance between both services exceeded the seating capacity of the auditorium. The choir and orchestra did an awesome job leading the congregation in worship of the Lion of Judah. We began the service with a responsive reading from Revelation chapter 5 which set the tone for the entire service. Then each song reminded us that Christ our Lord is Risen indeed and now reigns as the Lion of Judah and the Lamb of God. The soloists are gifted singers and I delighted in hearing them worship the Lord with their voices. Deaf interpretation was provided during the music reminding us of how much we take our hearing for granted.

Before and in between each service, members and visitors intermingled over coffee and snacks. The hospitality tables were marvelously decorated, adding an excellent touch in the narthex. I surely believe each visitor (and there were plenty) felt the welcome of members who love Jesus and love people. The parking detail did a good job ensuring that there was plenty of a parking available by utilizing the two school parking lots.

The nurseries, pre-school and Power Hour child care responsibilities were shared between adults and teenagers in both services. This allowed as many as possible to enjoy a worship service and serve. To everyone who provided our children great care, led them in worship and Bible instruction—thank you!

Special commemorative mugs with goodies were given to all our visitors. Members who served will receive the same mug as a small thanks for serving on Easter. The mugs celebrated our 40th anniversary and the “Reality of the Resurrection.”

Several visitors inquired about church membership and I informed them about 1st C.L.A.S.S. as a membership prerequisite; so I am sure we will see families joining our family over the next several months.

Next year Easter falls on March 23rd. I believe with the combined effort of God’s people next year can be even more God honoring and glorying—don’t you? The pastoral staff will be compiling thoughts for next year. If you have any thoughts please send me a note. I so appreciate your patience and maturity on Friday night as we worked through the bugs of an enhanced worship service—I trust you saw a difference on Sunday morning.

DVDs and CDs are available for those who missed the service and sermon because of the bus ministry or other reasons and, of course, we will be mailing our typical 100 or so out to the soldiers, air men and sailors serving overseas. As always if you know someone who would enjoy getting a copy of our DVDs each week please let us know at 910.868.5156.

The Lion and the Lamb

Revelation 5:5-6 And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Juda, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth.

On Easter Sunday, I shall do my very best, in God’s power, to do justice to the metaphoric presentation of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, as the Lamb slain and the Lion of Judah in Revelation 5. Jonathan Edwards calls this a diverse congruence of excellencies. In the animal kingdom, most would agree that the lamb and lion are as diverse as it gets, yet in our text they are congruent or presented in agreement as descriptions of Jesus. And they are excellent. When we see the lamb, we think of tenderness, gentleness, meekness and humility. Pam would say, “it just makes you want to squeeze it!” Jesus Christ is the Lamb without spot or blemish which was slain so that I, and all those who continue in the faith, might not have to experience the wrath of God. Yet the lion is just as excellent—the majesty and power of the lion is impressive. The lion is the King! The lion commands our attention, he rules and reigns. The lion is the Sovereign who rules in the kingdom of men.

Listen to what Edwards said concerning Christ on the cross: “Christ appeared at the same time, and in the same act, as both a lion and lamb. He appeared as a lamb in the hands of his cruel enemies; as a lamb in the paws, and between the devouring jaws, of a roaring lion; yes, he was a lamb actually slain by this lion: yet at the same time, as the Lion of the tribe of Judah, he conquers and triumphs over Satan; destroying his own destroyer; as Samson did the lion that roared upon him, when he rent him as he would a kid. And in nothing has Christ appeared so much as a lion, in glorious strength destroying his enemies, as when he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter. In his greatest weakness he was strong; and when he suffered most from his enemies, he brought the greatest confusion on his enemies.”

Did you get that? When it appeared the roaring lion was going to have the victory—Christ the Lion of Judah rose from the grave as the victor! Up from the grave He arose, With a mighty triumph o’er His foes, He arose a Victor from the dark domain, And He lives forever, with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah! Christ arose! (Robert Lowery).

What appeared impossible to man, surely the Messiah was dead, all was lost, in fear the disciples abandoned their Lord (all had forgotten the promise of the resurrection) was easy for God. What then shall we say? And how shall we respond? Let us, the redeemed, bow the knee and cry “You and You alone are worthy!” And in doing so, God the Father and God the Spirit are most glorified when God the Son is exalted.