It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green

The initial video training is just enough information to be dangerous, at least in this author’s opinion.

kermit-3 In about 1972, Jim Raposo wrote a song made popular by Jim Henson singing as Kermit the Frog, ‘It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green’ and such words were never more true than in the world today for some who consult with international organizations and are painting whole countries green! Kermit, apparently has begun to understand the dangerous times in which we live. It is a shame that some of these consultants are not as kermit-2well aware. When I say it’s a shame, I mean shame in the most Asian culture seriousness of the word. Perhaps an allusion to another time in our country when being green was a euphemism for being a novice, inexperienced and in capable of functioning on their own, particularly in dangerous situations, is the best way to understand the color.  

I enjoy allusions to cinema and when those illustrations also include John Wayne, so much the better! In El Dorado, John Wayne plays Cole Thornton, a gun hand who refuses to go against his old friend who is the sheriff in the middle of a range war. Instead, he comes to his aid. The sheriff, J.P. Harrah, gets very irritated at a new friend of Wayne’s character, named Mississippi (James Caan) and turns toward him, gun drawn. Thornton (Wayne) says, “Now wait a minute J.P., he’s a little green…” el-dorado-1

Like an unripe fruit, he was not ready. In this case, he was not ready to be on his own in a dangerous situation.    

What does this have to do with this consultant advising this international agency on security and using the color green? The plan, apparently, was to review the security needs of every country in the international organization’s wheel house. They would then color code them as to the level of security training necessary. There were four categories, red being the highest risk and requiring the most training, orange, yellow and then green. Thirty-four out of sixty-five areas of responsibility worldwide, 52.3% were rated as GREEN and were considered LOW RISK. The most heinous part is that the LOW RISK countries required NO TRAINING. Some extremely basic 3 hour introductory videos are shown to everyone but beyond that – No Training!

Low risk countries included all of Europe; including Germany, France, and Spain and we all know how safe those places are today. Ukraine, recently invaded by Russia with war still prevalent in the eastern cities only rates a YELLOW – two days of training!

Although Eastern and Western Mindanao were considered separately, the Philippines was listed as GREEN, no training needed. Western Mindanao is RED and Eastern Mindanao is only YELLOW – requiring just 2 days of training! I could continue; but, you can imagine that if over 50 percent of an organization’s countries, or areas of responsibility, require no supplemental training at all, what is the level of situational awareness of the people working in those countries?

Let’s take a further look at Mindanao. The company divides it into Western and Eastern as we described earlier. Those were the names used before the emancipation. The correct name for Western Mindanao is the Zamboanga Peninsula. Remember, it is shown as RED and the remainder of Mindanao or what was labeled as Eastern is YELLOW – requiring only two  days of training so near to one of the most hateful bunch of Al Qaeda factions out there. Now, realize that all of Mindanao is only 37, 654 square miles. That is less than the State of Ohio which is 44, 825 and can be traversed easily in a few hours. The Zamboanga Peninsula is only 572.74 square miles, which is comparable in size to New York CITY which is 468.90 without its suburbs! So, here I am in Ohio saying that in NE Ohio I’m okay, only a yellow; but, if I travel a few hours to near Cincinnati, bang- I’m in red territory.

Let’s jump off the island of Mindanao and consider the rest of the Philippines which is GREEN – no additional training needed. Manila, the capital city is about as far away from Mindanao as you can get and still be on the archipelago.  By air it is only 561 miles to Manila from Mindanao and 1040 miles by land and boat. Forty two hours travel in the latter and only 59 minutes in the former. Plus, the airfare currently is only $91 one way. Employees of this company living in Manila are GREEN and require no additional training while they are only $91 and 59 minutes from some of the worst Al Qaeda terrorists in the world.

The United States is listed as GREEN yet shootings, stabbings, kidnappings are on the news almost every night. Should not every American have some understanding of how to be situationally aware enough to protect themselves? Apparently the employees of this organization do not require it. The initial video training is just enough information to be dangerous, at least in this author’s opinion.

No doubt, those involved in this organization went about their task in good faith and put a great deal of stock into what they were being told. I would really like to know what kind of a grid was used to determine the levels of risk.  I would also like to know how, any group responsible for the lives of their employees, and, due to their diverse spread across the world, their employees’ spouses and their children, can consider any of them to not require any real training.

Sadly, if I were to hazard a guess… a deciding factor was cost. To the organization’s credit, they weren’t specifically trying to save themselves money because the brunt of the cost of the training would be born by the employees themselves. That is the way this company is structured. You could say, that a company that was bearing its responsibility correctly, (or  I believe the argument could be made to carry their responsibility morally), should be providing the training at no cost to the employee; but that is not the way it is currently for most of these contract-type employees. 

Over fifty percent of this organization’s area (and probably an even much higher percentage of their actual employees and families) are living in GREEN areas. Very seldom in writing is there an opportunity to use this word, so here goes, I am flabbergasted!

If you could see me right now you might think you were intoxicated or had a head injury because you might just see two of me… because I am simply beside myself on this one!

I truly believe that the organization involved here is attempting to do their very best; but, internally they have almost no expertise by which to filter what they are being told by outside consultants. I have no idea the credentialing of these consultants. Maybe, in many areas they are considered experts. However, it is this one person’s seasoned opinion that they are very wrong in the way they are directing this organization.  I urge any group that decides to depend solely on the opinions of someone or some group from outside their own agency on how best to protect their own people to use the very utmost of caution.

One last movie analogy, in the Indiana Jones movie, The Last Crusade, the malefactor must decide which chalice he believes to be the cup of Christ. If he picks the right one, he receives immortality, the wrong one brings death. As the Nazis villain decays into a pile of dust, the ancient crusader left to guard the cup says very simply, “He chose poorly.”crusader

 

 

Ascension to Royalty

“I have a diagnosis: You’ve come down with a case of Ascension to Royalty – osis!”

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min. True North Ministry

From the days of the earliest kingdoms, in lands far across the globe, intrigue, the lust for power, the plotting of unscrupulous persons and often the murder of those who stood in the way of an elevation to the throne were the hallmarks of the ascension to royalty. When Joseph’s brothers, all sons of Jacob, patriarch of Israel, learned of God’s plan to anoint Joseph as ruler, they plotted to kill him; eventually selling him into slavery and telling their aging father that Joseph was dead, mauled by wild animals. Entire families have been decimated to clear the way for a rival to take over the throne.

 

In 2 Chronicles chapter 22 is the story of Ahaziah, Athaliah, Jehosheba and Joash. Ahaziah had been an evil king following in the idol worship by his predecessor, King Ahab. Ahaziah’s kingship was jealously guarded by his mother, Athaliah. When she learned that her son had been killed “…she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah… But Jehosheba took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes who were about to be murdered and put him and his nurse in a bedroom… He remained hidden with them at the Temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.”[i]

 

The Roman Empire fared no better. The evil among the ruling class was known across the Roman world. The famous line from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, when the ego maniacal Caesar looks into Brutus’ eyes, even as his lifeblood flows from the stab wound inflicted by Brutus; he says,
“Et tu Brute?”[ii] 

 

“Good” King Henry IV of France around 1600 survived at least 12 assassination attempts until finally succumbing to a stab wound by a fanatical Catholic who believed that Henry was too much a ‘Calvinist’ to hold the throne of France. Even so, Henry’s son succeeded him.

 

In the early period of the Turkish Ottoman Empire (from the 14th through the late 16th centuries), the Ottomans practiced open succession, or what historian Donald Quataert has described as “survival of the fittest” not eldest, son.”[iii] The Turks, though not the only group to use violence as the path to the throne, were certainly known for their brotherly approach to it. The practice of fratricide, first employed by Mehmed II, soon became widespread. Both Murad III and his son Mehmed III had their half-brothers murdered. The killing of all the new sultan’s brothers and half-brothers (which were usually quite numerous) was traditionally done by manual strangling with a silk cord. As the centuries passed, the ritual killing was gradually replaced by lifetime solitary confinement in the kafes (“Golden Cage”) from which escape was impossible.

 

In November of 2008, modern science unraveled the mystery of the murder of one of the last emperors of China. The murder, over one hundred years old in its setting, was ready for a resolution. Mystery writers have been ahead of the curve for some time realizing that if the method of doing the dastardly deed is that of poison, one might expect that it will been orchestrated by a femme fatale. And that appears to be the case in the murder of Guangxu who ascended to the Chinese throne in 1875, around age 4. Because of his youth he was under the watchful eye of his biological aunt, the Empress Dowager Cixi who arranged to adopt him just before he became emperor. Even when Guangxu was in his twenties he remained, to a degree, under the thumb of his driven aunt. As he sought to modernize China, she found a way to have him placed under house-arrest in 1898 where he remained the rest of his life and she, Empress Cixi maintained the throne. In 1908 Cixi knew she was soon to die. Investigators believe that she feared Guangxu would retake the throne on her death, so, it appears; she poisoned him! Former Emperor Guangxu was dead at the age of 36. Empress Cixi, however, committed the murder for naught for within 22 hours, she died at the age of 74. Upon her death, a new emperor was named, and Puyi ascended the throne at the age of 2. Within a very short time the Peoples’ Revolution took place and Communism fell to be the lot of the Chinese people. “The revolution ended with the abdication of the ‘Last Emperor Puyi (who was only six years old) on February 12, 1912, that marked the end of 2,000 years of imperial rule…”[iv] (Note on Puyi’s age added by author)

 

In the United States of America, shortly after the Revolutionary War, a Constitutional Convention worked diligently to lay the foundation for the new Republic. There was pressure for George Washington to become the first king or some other fashion of ruling monarch, which he thankfully turned away. The Office of President of the United States remains, however as close to royalty as can be held in the U.S. with the amount of prestige, honor and standing that is given the person who holds that office. Whether it is the total access of the motorcade or a right to supersede any event in the country by executive privilege, the perks of the position are many. According to a NY Times article in 2011 “some analysts believe that President Obama, who raised and spent about $750 million in the 2008 campaign, will come close to $1 billion in the 2012 campaign…”[v] A November 2012 article reported that Romney and Obama combined to spend $2 billion on the campaign.[vi]

 

Every position of royalty that has ever been filled by some personality, whether obsessed with themselves or serving gallantly on behalf of the people they represent, has commonalities. Each is temporary, finite and restricted by the ruler’s own mortality. There is but one, and only one, who has ever deserved all of the honor and glory of the highest of all royals, ever in time. And it was that one, the single highest of all royalty, the King of kings and the Lord of lords who loved and cared for his people so much that he was willing to give it all up so that he might save them. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi explaining that of Christ Jesus, “Who being in the very nature of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in the appearance as a man, humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross. Therefore God exalted him to the highest place, and gave him the name that is above every name.”[vii] The Apostle Paul used the example of Christ to encourage his readers that they should consider Christ’s example and “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.”[viii]

 

Can you imagine, if just for a moment, what our world, our nation, even our cities would be like if those who hold powerful offices took on the humility of Christ? He loves His people so very much that He was willing to turn His back on every great joy of being the exalted God, Creator and Master of the universe and beyond so that He could reach out to the lowliest of the low and give them His righteousness, to impute upon them His holiness. And He did it all so that each person who accepted His gift could live throughout eternity with Him, enjoying all the abundance of every spiritual blessing!

 

As citizens of our country, our local cities or states, we cannot even get an appointment to speak to most of those in public office much less to have them seek us out, in our home, at our employment (unless they are campaigning en masse for our votes) to learn how they can be of service to us. That brings to mind a term that one does not hear much any longer, public service. There are accounts as to how, as recently as President Lincoln in the 1860’s, the Chief Executive of our nation would hold sessions each week, if not sometimes daily, where his office door was open and, though still in an orderly fashion, citizens could come and present their concerns or questions directly to the president. It was expected that this public servant was there to help them and, more often than not, each received a response if not immediately, within an appropriate amount of time.

 

Sadly, some of our mega-churches in the U.S. and abroad have become so large that it is difficult, if not impossible, to gain time to speak to the senior pastor. Mission organizations have become so modeled after the hierarchy of the world business model that you cannot get an audience with the president or CEO without jumping through several hurdles. Even some in the mission who have some responsibility of supervision or administration have elevated themselves in such a way that even getting a reply to a letter or e-mail is difficult. When Christians have done that in such a way within their organizations, how can it ever be expected that those same folks will do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit and focus on reaching out to the most humble of the lost? Hopefully, the percentages of these folks in organizations are smaller than those who are still there with a desire to help.

There is a child’s television program that features a young cartoon girl whose mother is a doctor.  The child imagines herself a doctor to her stuffed animals that seem to come to life and talk to her as she plays make-believe. In the  process, this young ‘Doc’ will usually come up with an interesting diagnosis for whatever is ailing a given stuffed animal or toy. The diagnosis is then recorded, with the help of her stuffed hippopotamus nurse, into the Big Book of Booboos. Well, when it comes to many in the church today and for some mission agencies, as the cartoon ‘Doc’ would say, “I have a diagnosis: 

            You’ve come down with a case of Ascension to Royalty – osis!”

 

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS

A quick view across history, as we have taken here, has shown that selfishness, ambition, malice, ego and just plain ol’ pride has led to the most horrific of results in the worlds wherein the ‘royals’ reside. How awful to consider that rather than living out the example that Christ gave us, some in Christianity have fallen into the trap of what the world sees as power and authority. It comes to light as avarice and a loss of vision for service above self. We must follow the admonition of the Apostle Peter to “Humble yourself under the mighty hand of God so that He may exalt you in due time.”[ix]


[i] II Chronicles 22:10-12 The Life Application Bible (NIV) Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton IL 1991

[vii] Philippians 2:6-9 The Life Application Bible (NIV) Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton IL 1991

[viii] Philippians 2:3-5 The Life Application Bible (NIV) Tyndale House Publishers, Wheaton IL 1991

[ix] http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Peter+5%3A6-9&version=NASB

 

 

NEVER RETREAT!

RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE: When there is only a minute for ministry

8 June 2012     www.docriggs.com

 

The story is told of a general arriving on a battlefield only to see his troops beating a hasty retreat. From astride his horse he stopped a young soldier who was quickly retreating and demanded to know why his men were running from the battle. The young soldier looked up into the eyes of the quite irate general and said, “Sir we are not retreating! We are rapidly advancing to the rear!” Sometimes we can think of ourselves as advancing in the work we are striving to do for the Lord but we could be advancing in the wrong direction!

Early this morning I was reading my devotions using a book I have just acquired titled: Streams in the Desert from L. B. Cowman, edited by Jim Reimann. As I write Daniel, our son who is with the U.S. Army, I include some devotional thoughts or an insight on something I have read. Just this morning, I came across a quote by Marshal Ferdinand Foch that captured my attention. The Marshal was quite the war hero of the French during the First World War.[i] His quote that I sent to Daniel is:

When you have faith, you need never retreat. You can stop the Enemy wherever you encounter him.”[ii]   

WWI was dubbed the ‘war to end all wars’ and obviously that was a serious misnomer! WWI was also trench warfare where the armies each dug in deep long trenches and this was, for the most part, where the front lines would be. Sometimes with a short advance, the opposing forces could over run a trench and occupy it for a time until the troops could reclaim it. Venturing out of the trench, though, for any reason was nearly always a death sentence. Everywhere you needed to go you could do so in the trench except for one direction, forward. The key to battlefield victory was stopping the enemy’s advance movement.  It was not necessary to neither annihilate the enemy nor even just overpower them. Once forward movement was halted, without any resurgence of momentum, all hope was lost; and defeat is imminent.

Satan uses a very similar attack on Christians and he has many ways he tries to stop any advancement of the gospel. Perhaps the most effective way to stop a Christian ministry’s forward advance is to keep them busy in their trenches. Lots of activity can take place along a trench line. Once well dug in, a trench can provide a safe place to do everything a Christian ministry is expected to do in society, perhaps even obtain a grant or two as long as the ministry does not attempt to advance the gospel of Christ. Someone once defined a trench as ‘a grave with the ends kicked out.’ No better picture of a ministry without the advancement of the gospel is a church sitting in the middle of a graveyard and such  ministry is a  death sentence to the unsaved that might have been reached.

Aerial view trench lines British on left; German lines right and bottom July 1917

The question that stirred in my mind was: “Am I, as a minister, reaching souls for Christ or busily working away in the safety of my trench?”

Allied lines trench “50 yards from German lines”

The second part of Marshal Foch’s statement is that the enemy can be stopped wherever he is found. Immediately, we know that it is the Lord God that stops Satan and not us; but, we can be God’s tools that He uses in ways He chooses. The Lord has given orders to us, however, that are clear. We are not to allow Satan to have a foothold. He is to have no opportunity in our lives to sow seeds of discord. We are to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. ‘An Army of One’ used to be a slogan for the U.S Army Recruiting forces. I did not care for that concept when it was part of the Army’s advertising campaign. One of the key foci of basic training is to tear down the individual and build up the team. So to have team building as a goal and proclaim, at the same time, that you are an Army of One is self-defeating. Churches, however, do it all the time. They meet together on Sunday for the big build up so that on Monday everyone goes their separate ways, often not even speaking with one another, even by phone, until the next Sunday.  Christ said that we are all members of one body and His analogy makes it clear, one part cannot function without the others.

Are you busy inside your trench or are you advancing the gospel? Do you prefer to be safe in the trench or out there where Satan is attacking; building up your fellow soldiers, out there where you can hear someone holler, “Medic!”?


[ii] Cowman, L.B. Streams in the Desert, Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI:1997