A Watering Trough or Mountain Spring?

Reflections on John Piper’s devotion,

Serve God with Your Thirst

Please take a few minutes to read John Pipers, Serve God with Your Thirst, before enjoying this reflection.

At a recent gathering of Christian men; a dear brother read to us John Piper’s Serve God with Your Thirst. I was hit square on by the passage  and want to share some of my own reflections from that first view  of this work. In his devotional titled, Solid Joys, Piper has penned this short piece and he makes the analogy between a watering trough and a mountain spring. Having been the keeper of horses, (I’m not certain anyone truly owns a horse, but they allow themselves to be kept, fed, cared for and, upon occasion, will acquiesce to a rider), I found the analogy striking. Piper writes, “God is a mountain spring, not a watering trough. A mountain spring is self-replenishing. It constantly overflows and supplies others. But a watering trough needs to be filled with a pump or bucket.”

Something Piper did not report was that a watering trough is a breeding ground for all types of yuck. Without a good power washing or scrubbing, before long there are more things living in the trough than are supplied by it. Mosquitos, fly larvae, and some bacteria without nice names will soon make the trough not just unusable, but unsafe. A mountain spring, however, is forever new, refreshed, clean, crisp and clear. Piper’s analogy, of course, is succinct. Our indwelling in Christ is not of our work, but His.

He goes on to write,” If you want to glorify the worth of a watering trough, you work hard to keep it full and useful. But if you want to glorify the worth of a spring, you do it by getting down on your hands and knees and drinking to your heart’s satisfaction, until you have the refreshment and strength to go back down in the valley and tell the people what you’ve found.”

Recently, my wife and I sat on the patio of a restaurant along the bank of a river. As we watched, the river run past. The cool breeze of the afternoon was a welcome relief from the hot summer sun over us, shaded just enough by the grape arbor and magnificent oak that grew along the water’s edge. I remarked how the water pushing past us just then, rushing toward the Ohio River then working its way south to the Gulf of Mexico, would not come past us again. It was gone. But, even before it was out of reach, new water arrived to replace it. And so, it is with God’s grace. A mountain spring whose waters are fresh every second invite you to drink deeply, even wade in and allow the water to cover you. That the grace of God could be felt like that cool, mountain spring, pouring over us, new every minute.

https://desiringgod.org/articles/serve-god-with-your-thirst
trough photos courtesy of West Fork Ranch – Western Country Realty and Current Events in Historical Perspective The Ohio State – Dry Days Downunder
Smokey Mountain Spring Photograph courtesy Don F. Bradford

 

On a Scale

We have all been asked that question in some form or another… On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate…? In 1978, I received my first collegiate ring. With a stone of deep blue, it was crested on its center with the scales of justice, reflective of my degree in criminal justice. The scale of justice is held high in the one hand of Lady Justice, who is blindfolded and carrying a sword in her other hand. Blind to preference, to position, status, race or creed, wealth or poverty; she remains in our history as a noble representative of what our system of justice should be. I know many noble minded persons who have dedicated their lives to being certain that the scales of justice are, in fact, balanced before the weight of true and tested evidence can be brought before determiners of guilt or innocence. Her shelforiginal name in the Latin is Justitia, the Roman goddess of justice and she is often accompanied by Prudentia the goddess whose name is contracted from providentia the ability to see the future as a sage might discern how best to proceed.  Representing the ideal of governing and disciplining oneself by reason, Prudentia’s accoutrements of a mirror and a snake allude to careful reflection and caution in moving forward. The Greek’s, whose gods and goddesses aligned with most of the Roman’s, called Prudentia ϕρονησιϛ (https://fellowshipoftheminds.com/tag/prudence-latin-prudentia) which is now usually translated as practical wisdom or rational choice. Together the pair would call for a careful weighing of all evidence upon the merits of each, alone and then choosing the best course for discipline.

What brought me to consider Lady Justice was a set of the scales of justice which I own. I was looking over a few items that adorn the library area of my study when it caught my eye. There sits, front and center the scales of justice and above it is the American and Christian flags, two symbols of my heritage, my faith, and my loyalty. Immediately to the left of the American flag is a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Immediately to the right of the Christian flag is a Bible from my father, which was given to him by a military chaplain, as he was recovering from wounds received when his ship was sunk off the coast of Normandy, June 6, 1944. Also there, among a few of the memories of my police and military service, stand three American Eagles from a larger set. These three are titled, “Courage Honor Sacrifice”, “Never Surrender” and “Never Forget”. The trio set the tone for what this small display means to me.

Among the books visible in the photograph are ones from the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs’ Association, a book from my time at the FBI National Academy and a book from my basic training days with the United States Air Force. More than my article or the information about me inside these books, each reminds me of people that reflect the titles carried by the three eagle sculptures.

Two retired chiefs, one who was gone before the Ohio Retired Police Chiefs Association was born and another who has been the heartbeat of the organization and the motivation behind many of my writings on honor within our ranks. They represent well Courage, Honor, Sacrifice. One was Chief George Ziga of the Alliance, Ohio Police Department and the other Chief Marion Taylor of the North Olmsted, Ohio Police Department. Near death, Chief Ziga admonished me, a young chief then, to stay true to my God, my values, my family and my profession. Anyone who ever knew Chief Ziga would tell you he represented the model for each of those objectives. Knowing Chief Taylor, his professionalism is informed by his Christian faith.

From the NA came a man, an FBI Special Agent, that I got to know while he was an instructor at Quantico. Now, a plaque and an annual service award commemorate his service which ended while on special assignment in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the war in the mid-1990’s; less than ten years since I first met Livio A. Beccaccio. He is the epitome of Never Surrender. The award named for him is inscribed as follows: “The Livio A. Beccaccio Award is a living memorial presented to a FBI National Academy Associate member who has demonstrated exemplary character through an act of heroism, outstanding community service, innovation in law enforcement, or leadership reflective of that by which FBI Special Agent Livio A. Beccaccio lived.”

(http://www.fbinaa.org/FBINAA/About_Us/Awards___Scholarships/FBINAA/Members_Only/Awards_and_Scholarships.aspx?hkey=0346bbf8-a0ce-4a5b-87cc-65f5ffb87148)

Finally, from my days at Lackland AFB, San Antonio, Texas, at the tail-end of the Vietnam War, a SSgt who took on a rag-tag flight of trainees, who had been to hell and back with our first TI who suffered severely with PTSD in the days of Vietnam when such a diagnosis was unknown. He was likely tagged as ‘shell shocked sergeant’ who probably never received any help. Our second TI, SSgt Gillam was a man of character and morals who knew his own true north. He took us from not knowing which end of the rifle the bullets exited to men prepared to move on in training and ready to head into harm’s way, if so ordered. He had seen and understood the cost of Vietnam and he stands strong as a model airman to never forget our POWs & MIAs, all our veterans, but particularly those from Vietnam; nor would SSgt. Gillam ever expect us to forget 9-11. Four men who represent the strength of the U.S.A.’s justice.

The bedrock of our criminal justice system, here in America, rests upon the scales of Lady Justice. Our honor is passed as a torch from those chiefs who took their oath with their hand upon the Bible and their hearts indwelt by the God of that Bible. Our freedom comes from the sacrifices like Livio Beccaccio, thousands of other fallen officers and even more men and women who don the shield every day and stand that thin blue line. Our heritage is passed to our next generations when we remember those who fought valiantly on foreign shores and here at home to keep the flag of America flying high.

Just as the banner of red and white stripes and shining white stars on a field of blue continue to fly and represent the most blessed nation on the face of the Earth, so too must our faith in the One Lord God who made us One in Him, compel us to live by faith and not by sight. We will always know times of trouble in our land and often they come from our own actions or our failure to act. But we, as citizens of America and saints of the Kingdom of God can know that Christ has already won the final victory. He calls us to remain faithful to our calling and to take up our cross and follow Him!

I know that there isn’t some fantasy goddess who holds the scales of justice in her hands. God’s Word informs me that it is Christ who brings justice. Isaiah prophesied and Matthew recorded Jesus quoting the prophet, ““Behold! My Servant whom I have chosen, My Beloved in whom My soul is well pleased! I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He will declare justice to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 12:18 NKJV) Speaking of the role of police officers, Jesus also said, “For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.” (Romans 13:4 NKJV)

It should be no wonder to us that, as I thought about those items on my shelf, those men came to mind in such a context. Each one of them were men of faith. They lived out remarkable witnesses because of that faith. Not one would claim any greatness on his own and certainly none would lay any claim to being anything apart from what they are within the Lord.

Law enforcement today is much maligned by the liberal media. Christians are too. Both are in good company since Christ, Himself, was counted among the criminals, scoffed at, beaten and abused. In America, the system may not be perfect, still though, the admonition of John Adams, a founding father and president concerning our legal system is upheld. “Better that ten guilty men go free than one innocent man convicted.” The scales of justice balance out pretty well. Compared to other places I have seen firsthand, I’m proud to live and have served in America’s criminal justice system where restoration is possible for those who choose wisely. Likewise, for those who choose unwisely, there are consequences. On a scale of 1 to 10… I’ll score a ten that I’d rather be tried for something I’ve been alleged to do here in the United States than anywhere else in the world. I praise God that my life and my family are under the protection of American police officers and I thank Him daily for every single one of them and pray for their safety.

 

UNPINNED REVISITED

Sometime back I began a post that I titled, ‘Unpinned’. It was a reference to those of us who have retired from law enforcement. I realized this evening that I never finished that post. Allow me to begin again. Here are the first lines from the long ago post that never posted…

I have been connected, as most of you that have been following my writing for any period of time know, for several decades with law enforcement. It has been very difficult to ever see myself as ever truly separated from it. I have written, in times past, under the blog title of “Unpinned” which carried the picture of a badge with the pin open. My argument is that for those of us who are retired, the badge may be unpinned but it is never gone. You hear, at times, that there is no such thing as an ex-Marine and I think, for those who truly bleed blue as a life-long law enforcement officer, it is as true. That can have positive and negative consequences and it remains always for those who have such a dedication to their given profession, (many of us would use the term calling), to keep in a healthy balance family life and the job.

Even as I write this, my son is on patrol on midnight shift for the department from which I retired as Chief. I see, in him and in the comradery he has with the other cops (as well as some of the frustrations that come) quite a bit of myself so many years ago. However, he is going into the crucible of public police work in a much different era than I. When I began, America was just post-Vietnam. I was one of the last to enter the military during the time designated, the Vietnam Era. There was plenty of social unrest; but, it was mostly name calling and rock throwing. Today, it is assassinations from snipers at multiple locations without mercy.

Most of the retired – unpinned – cops I know still carry their credentials and with thanks to the H.W. Bush Administration, their firearms under the Law Enforcement Officer Safety Act. We maintain our regular qualification at the same standards of officers working the streets. The retirees I know would stop to help an officer in trouble without a second thought for their own safety. Some might say that such retirees are not just unpinned, they’re unhinged! That may be more true than we want to admit! The inexplicable bond that comes from such a shared experience of law enforcement cannot be severed by time, age or distance. Many retirees may have angst toward the system which they left; but, never would they permit a brother officer to stand alone if they were in any way capable of standing with them… and when I use the term brother that is neutral to sex and determined only by the blue blood that courses through the veins.

This is a time when such a brotherhood must band together. At the same time, it must not erect a fortress wall against every citizen because there are armies of citizens who support that for which cops stand and are prepared to link arm-in-arm with them to keep the thin blue line resilient and strong. In my upcoming book, I use the term stretching the thin blue line for the way in which supportive citizens and the blue officers can stand as a force against evil and defy those who would seek to terrorize our homes.

Our local church now has a hired off-duty law enforcement officer at each service. Men of the church have dedicated themselves to meet with whichever officer happens to have the duty and before the day begins to pray with him. They pray for his safety, for the church, for his family and the community. Not once has the offer to pray been declined; but, every time it has been appreciated.

A local Christian university has just begun a four-year degree program in criminal justice. There is no better time for men and women studying to enter law enforcement or to improve their knowledge while in the career to receive such training from a faith-based, biblical standpoint. If you have never questioned and studied why you believe what you believe, you will believe anything. A bumper sticker bit of wisdom says that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything! An unexamined faith will never grow and the days in which police officers are now doing battle with the forces of evil requires a vibrant and burgeoning faith. Such a faith does not recoil for political correctness and as the Apostle Paul admonished, it does not grow weary in doing good.

If ever there was a time of vibrant opportunity for seasoned and retired law enforcement officers, who are men and women of faith, to take a hand in helping to nurture and challenge these current officers, it is now. America needs law enforcement officers who understand their work to be more than a calling. It is a ministry, God-given and God-blessed. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 NKJV) Law enforcement officers walk every day and night along the thin line that touches evil on every point yet also touches goodness at corresponding points. To live within such a tension requires a strong faith in something. Most, who do know have a personal relationship with Christ Jesus, would struggle to define what it is that founds their faith except that they know there is something greater than themselves which is holding that line taut. It is little wonder, though, that when Jesus met a Gentile man of whom He declared had greater faith than any of the nation of Israel, that man was a 1st Century Roman police officer, a Centurion. (Matthew 8:10) Today is a day when America needs New Centurions of Faith. Thankfully, there are multitudes of them on the streets this very night holding strong in the battle against evil. If you have not prayed for them lately, please pray for them now. If you have not spoken to one lately and told them you support them, commit to doing so today and, if you have never asked a police officer if you can pray for him or her, I challenge you to do so. You will be overwhelmed by the response you receive.

On the back of my motorcycle helmet is a shield with a blue line through a field of black. It says, ‘to some this is just a thin blue line… to others it is a family crest.’ I may be unpinned. My family may even tell you that I’m unhinged. One thing I’m certain of and that is my Christ is who saw me through my career, even when I did not acknowledge Him and He stands ready to carry the next generation of cops to the end of their tours of duty, in whatever way that may come. I would ask every retired cop, who has faith in Christ, to join me in a strong commitment to do whatever it takes to uphold these new centurions in prayer each and every day.

 

I Could Spit

When I was a boy, a few decades back, I was often intrigued by some of my father’s sayings. Many of them still make no sense to me even this many years after I have become full-grown. One of those sayings meant little to me until today. On this particular day, the day following the horrific terrorist attack at a nightclub in Florida by a self-proclaimed supporter of ISIS, a day full of liberal pandering and political bovine excrement deep enough to cover the White House lawn three feet in all directions, and the reports of the cataclysmic failure of the FBI to identify one individual terrorist who literally shouted at the world his intentions, I finally understand my father’s homespun descriptive. When I add to the volcanic angst I already have for the total failure of America to bring to the fore not even one truly qualified candidate for the office of President; my father’s quote makes even more sense.

What is this statement that has found its fruition in today’s events? “I’m so mad I could spit!” It helps to describe a feeling of such intense anger at the events of the day and a total frustration with the seemingly impossible actions anyone might take to fix the situation. There is such pent-up ire that it approaches a completely overwhelming anger at the ineptitude of those in whom we have placed our trust that they will do their best, under sacred vow, to keep this from happening; and, if it does happen, the people expect that rather than using it as an opportunity to push a worn-out political agenda, those in positions of authority might actually vow to combat the source of such evil and conquer it in order to prevent like events from happening in the future.

I am sick and tired (another great colloquialism) of hearing how such events wouldn’t happen if there was gun control –which is translated, American citizens cannot own guns privately and that only strict government control will fix it!  They mean the same kind of control that the government has now over who can get their hands on C-4 or on a stick of dynamite; which, by the way, were the initial weapons used by this crazy ISIS terrorist!

Allow me to state this plainly. Without second-guessing any individual’s actions in that club that night; if one person in that crowd would have been carrying a legally concealed firearm, the death toll may have been substantially less. I am so angry about politicians using every single violent crime as a soapbox for taking guns out of the hands of law-abiding American citizens instead of crusading to find and eliminate this evil that lurks in the shadows of our civilization.

I posted a quote by Noah Webster on my Facebook yesterday before this entire event began. Allow me to share it with you here:

Noah Webster

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”

In case you are interested, NoahWebsterHouse.org gives this summary statement about Mr. Webster: “Noah Webster accomplished many things in his life. Not only did he fight for an American language, he also fought for copyright laws, a strong federal government, universal education, and the abolition of slavery. In between fighting for these causes, he wrote textbooks, edited magazines, corresponded with men like George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, helped found Amherst College, created his own version of an “American” Bible, raised eight children, and celebrated 54 anniversaries with his beloved wife. When Noah Webster died in 1843, he was an American hero.”

Wouldn’t it be great if some two hundred years after our lives to have written for you and me that we were ‘American heroes’? Perhaps the time is short coming when we will have to take a stand for what we truly believe to be right in America. History will be our judge.

I am also completely appalled that the FBI could have interviewed this radical not once but twice and have given him a clear pass to continue to go about his Islamic terrorist plans. As an American citizen, as a retired Chief of Police, and as a member of the FBI National Academy Associates, I want to demand that a complete and above-board investigation be made of those interviews, the agents that performed them, the supervisors that approved them and to learn whether a fear of labelling someone and not being politically correct under the microscope of the Obama administration was the root cause for these interviews to go nowhere. I suspect that unless the agents and their supervisors are not complete morons, then some political cleansing of those interviews was required due to his ethnicity. Americans deserve answers to these questions.

Who are we supposed to be able to trust? I have an answer for you. In the movie RED, John Malkovich played Marvin Boggs, a somewhat psychotic, paranoid-schizophrenic former intelligence operative. His explanation is simple, here it is as portrayed to ‘Frank’ (Bruce Willis). “Frank, what have I always told you? You cannot trust the system…” There you go, straight from the lips of a psychotic, paranoid-schizophrenic who was given “daily doses of LSD for eleven years.” There is no better authority nor is it more succinctly phrased!

I have written articles for professional magazines dealing with responses to physical attacks and crime prevention. I also have a book at the publisher on a detailed plan for America’s law enforcement for combatting terrorists at the community level. In every article or chapter of the book which deals with who it is you can ultimately depend on to stop an attack, the answer is only you. You are the only one guaranteed to be present when you are being attacked. You cannot count on your spouse, your sibling or parent. When that psychotic Islāmic terrorist is about to blow up you and a hundred of your closest friends, if you do not have the capability to draw your legally concealed and carried firearm and immediately dispatch him to his mistaken idea of a heavenly reward; no one else will. The Orlando police and safety services did an amazing job and I take nothing away from them. What they faced and what they were able to accomplish, as well as what the hospital staffs were required to face, is absolutely overwhelming. They all deserve our admiration, respect and our prayers. As much as they will always be ready to go into the line of fire on behalf of the citizens they serve, their response time will always prevent them from being able to stop the carnage once it has begun.

By the same token, if you allow the sleazy politicians parading around Washington to divest you of your Second Amendment right, you have no one to blame but yourself. It is up to you. It is up to me. It is up to the millions of Americans who truly believe that the Constitution means what it says. But it remains an individual battle. I cannot assume that the NRA will fix it. I cannot assume that some Congressman who pledged something over a rubbery Rotarian chicken dinner will actually be able to do something. I have to take responsibility for my own rights and so do you. We must not allow ourselves to go silently into the night.

I have always said that there are very few things for which I am willing to go to jail. Standing strong for my faith in Jesus Christ, protecting my family and upholding the Constitution. That’s it. Everything else can get checked at the door. But on those three, I must vow to remain inviolate.

Do I believe that America is reaping the God-given consequences for our sins? God is completely holy and He is completely gracious. When Abraham bartered with the pre-Incarnate Christ about saving Sodom, God was willing to forego the annihilation of the city if only ten righteous people remained. (Gen. 18:19) As we know, there were not ten. There are many more God-fearing, born-again believers, followers of Jesus Christ in America than ten. The Bible does make it clear that governments cannot stand without God’s blessing so perhaps we are in a time of a lesson that we must learn. Who can we trust? We can trust God to be who He is – the Holy, Omnipotent, Gracious God who was and is and is to come. His plan for you and I and for America will not be subverted regardless of who sits in the Oval Office. As Christians first, Americans second, we must seek God’s mercy and “Humble (ourselves) under the mighty hand of God so that He might exalt (us) in due time. (1 Peter 5:6)

I am so mad I could spit and yes, I am sick and tired. I may not be able to change the actions and attitudes of the people who are in Washington D.C. However, I can recommit myself to being as physically, mentally and spiritually ready to face whatever might happen within my sphere of influence. I can be involved by keeping my voice heard in the public arena and I can vote intelligently. I can pray, every day, for my country, its leaders, and for Christ’s church that God will guide and direct; protect and preserve this great Republic.

May God bless America and may America bless God.

Through the Keyhole

Every moment is but a wisp of smoke through a keyhole and cannot be grasped and held so that it might stay longer than the brief time it is allotted.

Earlier this evening as I opened my FACEBOOK page, over on the left column it asked me to add a public ‘bio’ so I sat and penned what I thought should be said. Well, after a few minutes when I went to save it, it said that I was 2844 characters over what is permitted. So… since I cannot say it there, I will say it here! If you have a desire to read this short ‘bio’ – I hope you enjoy it. If you choose not to – I will not be offended in the least. For me it was an exercise in thinking about my priorities, so here it is my “short bio”!

First and foremost, I am a sinner saved by grace, a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. Without Him in my life I am nothing and I have no hope for the future. I make no boast but in Him alone. He did not save me because I deserved it but because He loved me even though I could never deserve or earn it!

After that, I am the husband of Karin for almost forty years. I have been far from a perfect husband; but, she remains my life partner whom I love with all that I have to love. I am blessed to have her in my life and blessed with four great children, all of whom are grown and married and so far we have eight grandchildren, two boys and six girls ranging in age right now from 8 years to about 1 month. yogiOur newest is the daughter of our “adopted” daughter (child number five if you are counting, who came to us not by birth but by 747 as an exchange student back in 1996.) We tried to keep her but the best we could do was share her with her own parents in the Philippines and now we share her with our ‘adopted’ son-in-law Andy!

Our not so regular kids are: Heidi with her husband Nick, Suzanne with her hubby Dave, Sarah with her husband Mike and Daniel with his wife Sarah. We have another little child who went to be with her (his?) Heavenly Father before he or she was able to be with us. We look forward to meeting him or her someday.

My work and life’s passion since my teen years has been law enforcement as well as time as a firefighter and EMT, too. I retired as a Chief of Police and now own a private investigations and security consulting agency.

After I retired, I attended seminary and for almost fifteen years Karin and I have had the joy of serving as missionaries to help care for missionaries all across Central and Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean. I have worked a great deal with them in the area of security and contingency planning. We enjoy our service in a local church with whom I will begin serving as a Deacon in January. I love to teach and do so whenever I have an opportunity.

I enjoy fishing and hunting, horseback riding and I’m a ‘ham’ radio operator since 1971! (WB8KMP)

Most of all I love to be with family whether it is babysitting grandchildren or travel.

Every moment is but a wisp of smoke through a keyhole and cannot be grasped and held so that it might stay longer than the brief time it is allotted. So I inhale deeply, as the moments go past and drink as deeply with each precious memory that is so fragile it can be lost in an instant.

I love to read and study the Bible and I enjoy reading mysteries the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle. I have authored a book on policing in a new century during times of great threat. It is due to be published this winter. yogi-bear-n-boo-boo

Rather than an epitaph engraved on a cold stone over an empty grave; I much prefer to have a message written on the hearts of those I love and leave behind that says simply: Ross, He loves the Lord, his wife and his family. He tried his best and is a trophy to God’s grace.

FULFILLING PROPHECY

Refugees are pouring into the surrounding countries as fast as time and space will allow.

“As regional and global powers search for a solution to the Syrian civil war, fighting on the ground appears to be on the verge of worsening. Both loyalist and rebel forces are preparing for two new offensives within the coming months that will greatly influence the trajectory of the conflict ahead.” (STRATFOR)

syria-russia-us-airstrikes_0

(Stratfor.com)

The fighting rages on with ISIS in the Middle East.

Vladimir Putin has placed his military in the region, a move seen as an overt attempt to make Russia the premier ally.

The U.S. continues some ham-handed airstrikes and half-hearted strategies. (It is not, I assure you that our military personnel there are half-hearted or incompetent but rather they are hobbled by a non-involvement type of involvement that only Washington could produce.)

Throughout Syria persons of nearly every faith are losing either their lives or their homes. Refugees are pouring into the surrounding countries as fast as time and space will allow. ISIS has made it clear that they intend to take over the entire region and only Sharia Law will be permitted. Those of Christian faith will have two choices, capitulate or die. Russia, that great ‘bear from the north’ is becoming the premier presence in the region, as if setting the stage for some future conflict.

Listen as your mind reads the next few lines, written by the Prophet Isaiah over 700 years before Christ was born. At the time he wrote, the nation of Israel had been divided into two nations; Israel (North) and Judah (South). The Northern Kingdoms had been taken captive by the Assyrians and it had, for all intents, ceased to exist. Isaiah speaks of a future time when peace would reign on the earth but before that would come. He wrote that there would be only one place left for those who worship the One True God to do so. Right now, in the Middle East, the only relatively SAFE place for Christians, Jews and even Muslims to worship freely is – believe it or not – Jerusalem.

So it shall be in that day:
The great trumpet will be blown;
They will come, who are about to perish in the land of Assyria,
And they who are outcasts in the land of Egypt,
And shall worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem. (Isaiah 27:13 NKJV)

Perhaps it is time that our world leaders should take a page out of President Obama’s book. Better still, they should take all of the pages out of President Obama’s book and start focusing on what is real and true instead of socialist, atheistic, amoral doctrine repackaged and inspired from somewhere other than heaven.

Author’s note: It is understood that not every piece of socialist doctrine is necessarily atheistic or amoral. This is a description of the three characteristics of Obama’s new foundation for America. They are sometimes intertwined and, at other times, mutually exclusive.

Finding Our Place in Heaven

We can live each day, joyously, victoriously, in grateful appreciation of the heavenly home that has already got our name on the mailbox!

Recently we treated the topic of having only about ten minutes left in your life and knowing that it was soon to be over. The topic was spurred on by the recent crash of a Lufthansa flight into the side of the Alps, apparently on purpose. Those on the flight would have known for about ten minutes that they were about to crash. Today we want to take that a step further and consider finding our place in heaven. As we mentioned in the previous offering  there is no biblical support for St. Peter standing at the pearly gates of heaven deciding who should or should not enter.  The GOOD news is that for those who have accepted Christ as Savior, they are already in heaven! You ask how that could possibly be since every morning you wake up and you are still living and working on the mortal plain. If we read what the Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus, the Lord has already given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places and predestined us to adoption. What Paul is helping the Ephesians to understand is that if they had accepted Christ’s forgiveness for their sins, then they were already citizens of the heavenly kingdom. Perhaps an analogy will help us to understand it a little bit better. God had already created a way for us to be adopted us as His children.

Imagine, if you will, that you are a child whose father was in the US Air Force stationed in Germany. When you were born you were born on the U.S. Air base but within the country of Germany. Because you are the child of a U.S. airman you are automatically a citizen of the United States even though you have never set foot in the U.S. Someday you will travel with your parents back to the U.S. and when you arrive you will have credentials that show you are a U.S. citizen even though you have never been in the U.S. and you are immediately admitted. You were, positionally, a U.S. citizen though you had never been in the U.S. That is what Paul meant when he said that God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. Just as the child of an American has all the freedoms and rights of every other citizen positionally without ever having been in the country or, for the believer who is positionally a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, never yet having been in the heavenly places.

Paul writes that we were preordained to adoption as sons. Let us use the same example only with an adoption. The U.S. airman and his wife are living in Germany. Both are U.S. citizens. They have an opportunity to adopt an infant who is of German descent. He is, in fact, a German citizen. Once they adopt the little German infant the boy becomes a citizen of the United States positionally because he has never been in the U.S. and was not born there. In this scenario we will make it so that as he gets older, to have his American citizenship he must renounce his German citizenship. He may still have not been inside the United States physically, in fact he may still live in Germany; but his position is one of a full U.S. citizen; adopted as a son of a citizen and given full rights as a citizen. No one will dare deny him access because he is already a citizen. Imagine if when he got to the entry point and they learned that he was the son of the president! The welcome home mat would certainly be rolled out!

When we accept our position as a child of God we will walk up to those gates as a Child of the King; a royal heir to all that is God’s! Talk about a red carpet arrival! The Bible tells us that the angels marvel at us because of what God has done for us. They have been with God since He created them, yet they can never experience being the recipient of the full love we have received and can never be adopted as God’s children. As a Christ-follower, we are children of the King with full citizenship in heaven, instilled with all the rights and responsibilities that are part of our citizenship in heaven.

That is the meaning of Paul’s words in Ephesians chapter 1. I trust it will provide you with comfort knowing that you, if you have accepted Christ as Savior, have already attained your position in heaven. Jesus said, I go to prepare a place for you and if I go, I will come again and receive you unto myself. What a spiritual blessing in the heavens we have already received that our place has been secured, Paul writes, that it is sealed by the Holy Spirit. For those who argue then that we can somehow lose our place there is to believe that we, as failed human beings, Jesus said He understood that we were dust, could take something away from God who has sealed us with the Holy Spirit! Those who live in such a way that one would say they would be in danger of losing their salvation should examine themselves to see if they ever had salvation to begin with. Like the seed that fell on shallow ground and never took root; many need to return to the cross and seek that original forgiveness and then their lives will be eternally changed. The outcome of their human life will be radically different.  Praise God for that!

We have covered a great deal of theology in one lesson but perhaps a reminder for us all. We can live each day joyously, victoriously and in grateful appreciation of the heavenly home that has already got our name on the mailbox!