TRUST ME

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. (Psalm 19:1) (1)

Can anyone look upon such a morning sky and not utter a simple exclamation at its beauty?  The photo was taken by a friend of mine at his fishing cabin in up-state New York on 22 June 2020.

 God’s word tells us how He loves his creation and takes great joy in sharing it with we who are also part of His creation.

Recently my grandchildren, accompanied by their mother and others were marveling at the vast number of toads and frogs which had inundated our pond. The first, the toads who remain in the woods come to the pond one time a year for the frenzy of procreation. Just about a week later the frogs who spend most of their lives on or in the pond have their turn to invade the shallow areas of the pond and take their turn at the creation cavalcade! Thousands of tiny amphibious critters were everywhere! I couldn’t help but think of what it must have been like in Egypt so many years ago! During the week, I removed the cushion off an outside chair before the rain came and found a tiny toad sleeping peacefully between the two sections of fabric. A few days later, after the rain, I unrolled my hammock planning for a mid-day nap. Rolled up inside was an adult size toad, also enjoying a mid-day nap! I’ll be the first to admit that the beauty of the sky pictured here is thousands of times more beautiful than either of those toads or any of the hundreds my grandchildren found!

However, the complexity of their instinct: when to leave the woods, where to go, what to do and then the ‘babies’ left to fend for themselves are to find their way back to the woods at the right time and at the right place. Intelligent design? A better descriptor is Divine Creator God.

The disciples were under a great deal of pressure and Jesus was working on preparing them for their ministry. He said to them in a passage recorded by Matthew, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.”(2) Jesus went on to say, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.”(3) For some of us that is a more daunting task than others, especially given the ravages of time!

Two sparrows sold for a cent

What Jesus was trying to get them to understand was how very deeply God, the divine Creator of the universe, loves us so much. He counts every star. He has named each one of them. (4) Can we even begin to grasp how many stars there are?

Hubble Telescope view of stars

Is it likely or is it even possible that all of the stress and the hard times you may be going through now, have gone through in the past, or are yet to go through are outside God’s caring reach and His love for you?

I know what some may be thinking. If He loves me so much or cares about my need for a job, my heartache over a failed relationship, my struggle with money that runs out before the month does, my children who are struggling so hard with life or about those little ones fighting cancer and seem to be all alone, why doesn’t He just fix it?

I’m in my sixties. I’ve had a full life with lots of experiences and I’ve seen things both in police work and in ministry that I simply cannot explain outside the divine nature, the miracles of God. I hold both a Master of Ministry degree and a Doctor of Ministry degree, that’s a lot of study and, with all that, I can now share with you the best theological answer I can offer. I don’t know.

That wasn’t a lot of help, was it?

Let me share with you what God said to Job when he asked God a similar question. Job was, I suspect, dealing with more bovine bullion than probably any person in history. Not only that, according to God’s Word, Job was a righteous man. He did what God expected of him and still everything, and I mean everything, came crashing down around him. Job’s wife was so hurt, she came at Job one day and here is what the Bible reports she said. “Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!” (5) That is a bit intense. But finally, it all got the best of Job and he let fly with his questions.

Here is what God said to Job. Let me set the stage because, I don’t know about all of you but, having God, the all-powerful, all knowing, eternal Master of the Universe speak to me one on one would be, on the average day, more than a little bit of tense! This was in what we call the Old Testament days, or the days before the Holy Spirit indwelt believers. We have much more the ability to confer with God daily as we talk to Him in prayer. No one I know, however, has had God answer back in a voice to be heard. So, what is the first thing that Job hears from God?

“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?“Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me! (6)

If Job was not previously fearful in hearing directly from God, these first two sentences should have put Job in, uh-oh mode! The question and statement by God in these verses put me in mind of being in military basic training and you mess up very badly! Suddenly the DI who strangely looks exactly like R. Lee Ermey is standing over you about to do the things to you he promised he would do on Day 1 if you messed up this bad.

R. Lee Ermey – http://www.theguardian.com

“Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you [a]have understanding, “Or who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; “Have you [c]ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place, “Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion?” (7)

All of these are designed to get Job to realize he really did not understand or have any power to control anything in his life and God is the only one in control. It was not to put it in Job’s face how small he was or how little control he had. God was trying to convince Job to trust Him. Job would eventually have so many wonderful things in his life. Those new things would not replace the family he lost or erase the pain of their deaths, but still God was in control and had great things in store for Job.

God tells us in one of my favorite verses, Jeremiah 29:11

“For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.”(8)

The next time you see something truly amazing in God’s creation, know that it is God whispering to you, Trust Me.

(1) Psalm 119:1 (NASB)

[2] Matthew 12:29 (NASB)

[3] Matthew 12:30 (NASB)

[4] Psalm 147:4 (NASB)

(5) Job 2:9 (NASB)

[6] Job 38:2 (NASB)

(7) Job 38:31 (NASB)

[8] Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

FAITH FAMILY LEGACY

FAITH FAMILY LEGACY

Not long ago, I came across photos of my son Daniel’s swearing-in ceremony as a police officer for the City of Louisville, Ohio, the same department from which I retired in 1998. Among the photos was one with my elder brother, Rodney who also spent decades working as a law enforcement officer. It was through spending time with Rod I knew I would love to spend my life, if God would allow, as a cop. Such choices are the things from which legacies are born. However, there are legacies beyond those of career paths. Such legacies are much deeper, stronger, and more life anchoring for when the harsh winds of reality blow and seek to crush your spirit.

Officer Daniel and Chief Ross Riggs

Before we venture to those which best sustain us, let’s first look at another major legacy for many, military service. Daniel is creating a 501c3. It began with his vision to help other veterans who, either through service-related injuries or the ravages of time, can no longer completely do for themselves. As a veteran with a service disability, he knows what it means to work through the therapy and be able to pursue your life’s work regardless of the injuries. Permanently scarred and with partial hearing loss, he was still able to qualify for his law enforcement officer commission. Though serving his community through the police department, he felt called to serve outside law enforcement in ways he could continue to serve others. He chose to specifically serve veterans which expanded into serving any first responders. Eventually the vision included anyone no longer capable of doing some of the basic things in life for themselves whether it is cleaning gutters, building a wheelchair ramp, installing furnace filters or just being with them during tough times. Daniel named the company Legacy of Honor stemming from the service of my father in the U.S. Navy in WWII, my USAFR service beginning in the Vietnam era and extending toward the ‘end’ of the Cold War and then his own service with the U.S. Army 82nd Airborne. Each was marked by a specific event.

My father’s ship, PC1261, was the first ship sunk on D-Day during the Normandy landings. Not, typically the kind of distinction any shipmate wanted to have. A third of the ship’s crew was lost to the cold water of the English Channel. The day I took the oath of enlistment was the day Saigon fell, again not the most auspicious of occasions. The day Daniel was taking the oath, the entire recruiting center stopped mid-ceremony to listen to the news that Osama Bin Laden had been taken out by U.S. special forces. The place erupted in cheers. Such events are a part of legacies. But still there is something much deeper and certainly less commonly noted, on the other side of the coin with family legacies.

There was a poem about a father handing his son his family name, unsoiled from the previous generations now his to carry and keep for his own son someday. It makes for a great poem but anyone who believes there are perfect families, unspoiled legacies, and fairytale endings of happily ever after either ignores reality or seeks to rewrite it. The title of this piece is Faith Family Legacy and it is written with a specific order in mind.

My father shared his faith in Christ with his sons the only way he knew how. Not open for heartfelt talks, my dad shared things by his actions. His love of Christ was evident and even stories I heard as a kid when we would attend a PC1261 survivors’ reunions reinforced the Christian walk our dad professed.

As a dad, I shared my faith in Christ with my children and even though they saw first-hand an imperfect man who failed them at times, leaving each their own scars; they saw someone who was carried by God’s grace many more times than once. Each of our children have professed faith in Christ and the glory in such a wondrous chain of events affirms the Holy Spirit acting in their lives and I praise God for His work in them. Now our prayers are for the Holy Spirit to continue to work in the lives of the next generation. Already three of our twelve grandchildren have committed to ask Christ to save them and to lead them throughout their life journey. Passing along faith, as in accepting Christ as Savior and depending on God for every day, knowing that nothing is out of His control is a faith legacy.

It has taken decades, over six of them to be exact, to begin to learn that family legacies are not about perfect families, noble deeds done in view of the world or what your job title is. The more families I get to know deeply, the more obvious it is there is no perfect family. Every individual has their own warts and every family has struggles and victories, painful times, and joy. Life is a mixed bag. Forest Gump is quoted as saying, ‘Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.’ Some families’ boxes have more nuts in them than others!

Courtesy RSNhope.org, Amanda Ratz

A movie my wife and I watched the other day reminded me that life is never guaranteed. One day we will exit it, that is the one certain thing. What legacy will any of us leave behind? As much as I appreciate what Daniel is doing for veterans and the military and police legacies, each of my children are creating legacies of their own in the professional world. Allow me to list them. The work Heidi is doing as a nurse and in the medical management world, all that Sarah is doing in helping individuals prepare for their financial futures,  the career Suzanne has in traffic safety and more, and Cyd as an amazing care-giver, teacher and advocate where her love shines through in everything she does, each is a legacy of its own. Every opportunity through which we help someone else can make an impact for Christ’s kingdom. I am so proud of each of them. Every job or role we have in life can be, and should be, a ministry for Christ.

The legacy which begins with a gift to every parent is the one we have for our children and grandchildren in helping them develop their own faith in Christ. The Bible makes it clear that each child belongs to God. They are His and He has entrusted them to us for a season to raise them ‘in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.’ The Bible records Christ’s own childhood as He grew in wisdom and stature and favor with God and man.  

Faith is what God also gifts to us and He will provide it in as much an abundance as we need. Perhaps you may remember the story of the widow who came to Elisha because she had only a little oil left and was about to starve. (2 Kings 4) He instructed her to get as many pots as she could find, borrow pots from other and just bring every pot she could. Then, she was to begin pouring what oil she had left into one of the posts. She kept pouring and pouring and the oil just kept flowing. When her last pot was full, the oil stopped. Had she gotten more pots; she would have received more. We can have as much faith as we will take. God is willing to give us faith with which we can move mountains, but we must believe! Belief is also a gift from God. In fact, there is nothing we can possibly have in this world which is not gifted to us by God. Your next breath would not come if God said, ‘No more.’

Paul wrote, “These three remain, Faith, Hope and Love, the greatest of these is love.” Faith without love is not faith. Hope without faith and love is hopeless.

Recently, I walked past a young man, probably in his twenties. He was wearing a leather jacket emblazoned on the back were these words encircling a satanic star. “I pledge allegiance to me” “I am the master of my fate” “I am god” and several more. At this point, my best option is to pray for that young man, though I do not know his name, God does. This man would tell you he has faith; but that faith is in himself. If he has a family, this man is creating a legacy which leads to destruction. What a horrific thought and how it compels me to pray not just for him but for his children, if he has any.  

The legacy we leave when it is our turn to slip the surly bonds of earth, as John G. Magee Jr. wrote, what remains behind whether for good or bad, will be our legacy. Having worked many funerals as part of a previous employment, it was easy to see through the service and those who attended, and even the feel of the service what kind of legacy was left behind.

Take the time today to consider your legacy. It isn’t about having the perfect family, the best job, the most money. It is about those around you having been shown through your life, the love of Christ. No, we aren’t perfect. and we will screw things up. Yes, we all have baggage from the past we really need to shed before moving on. We do not know when our ability to keep writing on our legacy will come to an end. Let us commit to making sure the draft copy is worth publishing when we can revise it no more.

WHOSE FAITH?

Have you been a Christian for a long time and yet, it seems the hard times of the world still weigh you down? Do you begin to think, ‘What kind of a Christian am I?’ ‘Why can’t I just sing through the tough times and trust?’ ‘Maybe my faith isn’t strong enough.’

Guess what! You’re right!  Your faith isn’t strong enough. Neither is mine or, as far as I know, anyone else’s! How’s that for ‘good news’?

I just watched a live broadcast where Pastor Brannon and Ryan Ervin of the North Canton Chapel (Ohio) taught a Bible study on Galatians chapter 2 that talks about salvation by faith alone. That is a great bit of news for anyone who needs to come to know Christ as Savior.

But you, you’ve been a growing Christian for a bunch of years and you have been to Bible studies and retreats, you’re sure of your salvation but that nagging question of the strength of your faith when the storms really hit won’t let you sleep at night. When cancer comes to call on someone close to you or, God forbid, to you, how’s faith fit in? You’ve prayed for that small child in Romania for months as he has endured surgery after surgery and his parents buried him last week. Faith? Your job is gone. The virus panic and the quarantine has dropped the bottom out of the market and your retirement is down to about where you started with it. How’s faith deal with that? Your marriage seems to get harder every year rather than easier like you expected and your kids are grown but their problems are now adult size and you long to help but you stare at the sky wondering if God hears. Whose faith is strong enough for this reality we call life?

It all comes down to a two-letter word. A small preposition, in the Greek, the original language of the New Testament, it is ev. It can be translated several ways and is used in the New Testament 2801 times. Most times it is translated ‘in’ but it is also properly translated ‘of’. Why does that matter to you? To me? Let me explain.

A couple of verses are critical to understanding why we need not beat ourselves up because we have weak faith. We want to strengthen it, sure; but God knows and there’s more to the story of faith. Take a look at the passage in Galatians 2:21 Here’s the NIV translation: “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” The ev I want you to look at is bolded and underlined. “In” is an appropriate translation but look how it is also correctly translated in the King James text.  20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Again, I bolded and underlined the ev.

What’s the difference and why is it important to you in your struggle? Remember, both can be correct. Since we only know what the Greek word used was but we don’t know exactly the inference Paul meant, ‘of’ or ‘in’ we have to look elsewhere for clarity.

First though, notice the difference. In the first translation the reader is living his life in the flesh “by faith in the Son of God” – PLEASE don’t misread me. That is not a bad thing, that is exactly where our faith should be focused. But, in the second translation, the reader is living his life in the flesh by the faith of the Son of God. That is, he is living it by Christ’s faith which is never weak. It is never not enough. It never fails. So,  you don’t need to fret that your faith is too weak. Even though it is, you can take hope in the fact that you can live your life in the strength of Christ’s faith not yours!

How can I be dogmatic about that since very few translations read it that way? First, it is an acceptable translation of ev. Second, remember I wrote that we would look at other evidence. That is where Ephesians 2:8 comes in to play. “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,” If you diagram that sentence like we did in seminary, you find that the ‘gift of God’ is faith. The faith we depend on is not ours it is God’s unrelenting, unfailing faith. When we run low, we can recharge. The Bible is replete with passages underscoring God’s gracious giving to those who ask according to His will. He wants you to have faith in Him. He wants your faith to grow! He gives faith, He gives grace.

May these few words encourage you and help to strengthen your daily walk.

The Uncomfortable Truth

Anyone, under the age of 50 and not raised in a home where dad worked regularly but finances weren’t good enough for the family to refuse government butter, will likely not appreciate this analogy. Socks, basic cotton socks, when worn regularly for at least eight hours at a time, lose any sense of comfort after they have been darned more than three or four times. When the thread is tied it gathers, irritatingly, right where the toes bend. After enough darning, the socks are shortened so much they can only be worn if you scrintch your toes up. I suspect that the heavier dark line most socks have across the toe was first meant as a failsafe line for darning socks no further so as not to risk permanent deformity of the feet! There is no doubt. The truth about darned socks is darn uncomfortable!

Most Americans no longer darn socks. Most probably have no idea what the term means. Discarding what is used and lightly worn, replacing it with something new is the theme of our society. Few things are irreplaceable or so it seems. One of the casualties of our penchant for pitching out the old for something new is our ability to discard the uncomfortable truths of our day. When there is something particularly invasive to our individual sense of privilege, we simply discard it and replace it with a new truth. Many people have found a way to make their opinions sacrosanct and inviolate. They proclaim tolerance as long as no one ever dare claim there is an absolute truth. Christians have become the target for all those who avow tolerance as their moniker, refusing, of course, to be tolerant of those who follow Christ.

A white horse in front of a building

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In a recent book review published in National Review (Nov. 2019), Madeline Kearns makes a most authentic argument. “But where telling the truth becomes impractical for the many, it becomes moral duty for the few – those who are not answerable to compromised hierarchies.”[i] The moral duty of the few is to hold to the truth, no matter the consequences. Absolute truth does not change regardless of the centuries which have passed. In the very first century, Christians saw it as their moral duty to hold to the truth and they knew the consequences would not be pleasant. Whether the compromised hierarchies were a Roman senate, a medieval feudal king, an 18th Century privileged class, Russian czars of the 19th century, 20th century national socialists or the current days’ public demands for political correctness, adherence to truth remains our moral duty.

General Robert E. Lee, a graduate of West Point and commander of all Confederate forces during the American Civil War believed duty to be the most precious word in the English language. He is quoted, “Duty then is the sublimest (sic) word in the English language. You should do your duty in all things. You can never do more…”[ii] Ellen Sturgess Hooper, a poet and contemporary of Lee’s, though she lived only to the age of 36 wrote, “I slept and dreamed that life was beauty. I woke and found that life was duty.”[iii]

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Charles Haddon Spurgeon, a 19th century English theologian wrote, “But, then, let me remark further, while there is this temptation not to declare all the counsel of God, the true minister of Christ feels impelled to preach the whole truth, because it and it alone can meet the wants of man… I cannot imagine a more ready instrument in the hands of Satan for the ruin of souls than a minister who tells sinners that it is not their duty to repent of their sins or to believe in Christ, and who has the arrogance to call himself a gospel minister, while he teaches that God hates some men infinitely and unchangeably for no reason whatever but simply because he chooses to do so.”[iv] Spurgeon saw the threat associated with teaching only the parts of the Bible that were practical or comfortable under the current pressures of the culture. It was the duty of pastors to preach the whole counsel of God, not just what seemed practical or comfortable.

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In our world today, political correctness is all the rage and those who enforce it the strongest rage vehemently against any who claim to know truth.  Jesus posited “The truth shall set you free” as recorded in the book of John, chapter 8. Jesus was making a point to the religious leaders about their own slavery to sin and to know Him was to know truth and to be set free. The freedom Jesus spoke of was the freedom from sin’s grasp. We choose instead to be subject to and owned by the one who loves us infinitely and will only provide for our good. The one is Jesus Christ. His word is inviolate and immutable. That is, it is unaltered and unchanging. It proclaims certain actions to be sinful. However, those who   proclaim what God’s Word teaches, the public of today says they and the church are unloving or uncaring. Like a set of darned socks, parts of God’s Word are just plain uncomfortable. It remains the duty of Christians then to learn how to hate the sin as God hates it and at the same time love the sinner.

One place where Christians often falter is that we believe it is up to us to perfect or clean up our fellow sinner when that is not our role.  Ours is to love our fellow humans with a love which shows Christ and trust that God is big enough to do whatever work is needed in that person’s life as well as our own.

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NATIONAL TREASURE, Nicolas Cage, 2004, (c) Touchstone/courtesy Everett Collection

I’ve gone this far without any movie reference. Well, here it is. The movie is National Treasure starring Nicolas Cage as Benjamin Franklin Gates. He paraphrases a section of the Declaration of Independence. “If there’s something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.” Christians living in today’s world, just like Christians living in every century since the 1st one, have the responsibility, the duty to take action when there is something wrong. Life is not a spectator sport.

Life as a Christian is not just one of active participation, it is one of being all in, with every part of your life. It does not mean we stomp through our culture damning all that is wrong and expounding why we are the only ones who have the truth. If anyone had the right to do that, it was Christ. We must live within our culture as Christ did within His. I believe it is one of the reasons God came to us incarnate, to provide an example of living life and loving others while going about the work of the ministry.

Few things are as uncomfortable as walking around in darned socks. In the first century they simply wore sandals, maybe that is the answer… except for those of us who live near or in the snow belt! Living life as a subject of the one who is Truth can sometimes be very uncomfortable. Maybe that is why Jesus gave a special blessing for those who are persecuted for His sake and when you are persecuted but have done no wrong. Still, we are not to be bulls in china shops with our faith, banging people over the heads with our Bibles. On the same token, we don’t just sit by quietly like a whipped puppy. We do have something to say in our society and as uncomfortable as the truth may be, when we speak it in love, God blesses. Those of us who have the ability to take action, have the duty to take action…Darn it!


[i] Madeline Kearns (National Review Nov.  11,2019) Book review: The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity by Douglas Murray

[ii]  https://www.bing.com/search?q=robert+e+lee+duty+quote&form

[iii]  https://www.poetrynook.com/poem/duty-3

iii https://theologicalmeditations.blogspot.com/search?q=Spurgeon+duty+truth

   Spurgeon, Charles Haddon on Whole Truth and Man’s Duty

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.