Survival Strong

In today’s world, every minute has the potential to turn into a life or death decision for law enforcement officers. A decision made by a cop in a split-second of sheer terror, judges and law makers can ruminate over for months or years. They will take all that time to judge those actions made in the blink of an eye. Thankfully, police officers react in times of threat based on their training and experience. Sometimes, the bad guys win the moment; but, not the day. What you take away from this article may mean the difference between your own or your officer’s survival and not letting the evil, that sought to destroy, win.

Professional police prepare physically to enhance their strength and their endurance to handle the fights which come after the foot chase of someone ten years their junior. They build upper body strength and they diligently work to improve their competence with their firearms, both on and off-duty guns. They are aware of which holster works best in specific circumstances and they jealously watch over their tactical equipment keeping it all in place and ready. I never left the house for a shift without the pat-check by my wife. That’s the tap that comes during the ‘see you later – have a good night’ kiss assuring her that her cop had his protective vest on.

Over 30 years ago, police survival instructors developed the concept of survival role-play. It is a mental exercise where officers on patrol visualize a possible scenario in their jurisdiction of an armed encounter and how they would react. The training stressed the need for positive outcomes. Even in the mental role-play, if the officer visualized themselves as shot in the encounter, they always also visualized themselves as surviving the event.

Being mentally prepared for whatever is coming next is perhaps the most difficult area for being survival strong. How can you be prepared for something when you have no idea what it might be? The possibilities are almost endless. So, how does one figure out which ones are the most likely to be on your horizon? What if you can have no way of knowing what it might be? What do you do? There is only one sure way of being completely prepared for whatever might come your way and to be the one who will be ready to respond no matter what.

In firearms training, for accuracy and consistency it is critical to have a solid shooting foundation. If the shooter is in a standing position, there is a certain way that the feet should be planted, the knees, flexed, the shoulders and forearms aligned, the wrists kept straight. If not able to shoot from a standing position or it is necessary to move while shooting, there are still foundational methods which enable the shooter to keep aim on target and effectively send the shots down range.

When involved in a high-speed pursuit, there are very specific skills the driver must use to keep the car upright, on a solid path and box-in or overtake the offender to affect a safe apprehension. None of those skills can be completely effective, however, if the vehicle the officer is driving is not in good shape, with good tires, solid steering and dozens of other normally minute issues which become incredibly important when speeds scream past 100 miles per hour. If the foundation of the driver’s training and well-cared-for equipment is not solid, the risks spiral upward and the expectations for a safe end to the pursuit dwindle.

Award-winning author and columnist, Regina Brett wrote, “It doesn’t matter what has happened to you, it matters what you do with what has happened to you. Life is like a poker game. You don’t get to choose the cards you are dealt, but it’s entirely up to you how to play the hand.”[i] I’m going to ask her to indulge me when I add a qualification to her quotable-quote. Let’s consider the poker analogy. First, players, must ante up. They put in the chips agreed upon for beginning the pot. Then, once they see what they have been dealt, players can opt to fold or continue to play. A player who folds risks nothing further; but, they lose what they have put in so far. Even though there is nothing left for them to lose, they have no opportunity to gain anything more either.

Those who have not folded are known as active players. When all active players have contributed an equal amount to the pot, the betting round ends. According to the variant being played, further cards may be dealt, or players may have an opportunity to exchange some cards, after which there is another betting round, and so on. When the last betting round has ended there is a showdown. All active players show their cards, and the owner of the best five-card hand takes the contents of the pot. If at any point only one active player remains, that player automatically wins the pot without having to show any cards.

The objective is of course to win money, and there are two ways to do this.

  1. To have the best five-card hand at the showdown.
  2. To persuade all the other players to fold.[ii]

When you decide to sit in this poker game called life and you choose, as many reading this article have, to serve your community in a very hazardous, life-threatening role which few people understand and even fewer appreciate, your ante is in and you have already decided folding, at this point is not an option. You came to play and not to fold. The betting round has begun, and you are all-in, right from the beginning. Every chip you have, your time, your talent, your skills, your family time and yes, even your life is on the table and how you play your cards matters more than anyone can imagine.

Here is where part of the analogy of Ms. Brett’s needs to expand just a little. Technically, she is correct; you don’t get to choose the cards you’re dealt. But, as part of your deciding how to play the hand, you may opt to replace some of the cards you were dealt originally and get new ones. You do not know what they will be; but you do have the option to initially discard those which do nothing to help you, those you believe will hinder your success and keep what you believe are best. It could be staying stuck in bad past experiences – that’s a card to discard. Your tendency to have habits which are detrimental to your health – another set of cards to discard. Being forced to ‘play the hand you’re dealt’ is not completely true.

According to the rules of the game, the objective is to have the best hand at showdown or convince all the other players to fold. Remember what I wrote?  You have all your chips in. Once all your chips are in it includes your family and your life. You have only two options when it’s time for showdown. You must either have the very best hand or force the others to fold. There can be no other options. Everything you do to prepare to play the game will set the foundation for the showdown. It may be the tactical training you have absorbed. It may be your attention to your situational awareness senses. However, it may also be a divine appointment.

There is one given about the poker game we call life. So far, in history, only two persons got out of this life without dying. One was Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and the other Elijah (2 Kings 2). One was simply no longer, and the other God took up in a whirlwind. Very likely, both will be back in what is called the “End Times” and they will be killed and resurrected during that time. Even Jesus died before He rose again and then returned to heaven. Everyone who sits down at life’s poker game will have a divine appointment and then the showdown. The foundation upon which you have built your hand must have one specific card in it – the card of your acceptance of Christ as Savior and Lord. You have prepared to survive every dark evil that comes your way as a strong, gifted, committed, professional law enforcement officer. That foundation is strong. Why would you risk your eternity by not preparing to survive? That one card is foundational.

Then, learn this well. Every game you play in life, for every showdown – before your divine appointment, will only come together if you keep, in every hand, the card of your acceptance of Christ. It will change how you play each hand. You will no longer be looking for what it is to win; but you will know every win you receive is a gift from God. Everything you do will be focused on how that card impacts every other card in your hand. It is your choice to keep that card and not to fold; but, to play each hand with everything you have – all in.

Many years ago, there was a cartoon posted on our bulletin board at work. It showed a stork with a frog in its bill. Reaching out from the beak of the stork, the frog had his hands wrapped around the stork’s neck, trying to choke him. The caption read, Never Give Up! The strength of your faith will be the foundation upon which you survive. Regardless of the rest of the cards in your hand and no matter how the evil of this world throws every jagged barb at you, your foundation will remain strong as you exercise your faith, you nurture it and you sustain it. An interesting thing about faith, it is not something you acquire for yourself or for which you are responsible to obtain, it is a gift. God’s Word tells us that we are saved by grace through faith and that God is the One who gives us that faith. We can nourish it, but God grows it!

In today’s world, if you work your entire career in law enforcement or other similar public service, you may never hear one single of word of thanks or appreciation for what you do. I hope you do. In fact, if you are reading this right now, I am telling you that I, and every member of my family, appreciates you. I can also assure you of two things. First, God sees everything that you do in His Name. Second, He will reward you for it some day in the not too far distant future. Keep building your foundation, keep strengthening to be survival strong, keep training, keep practicing and preparing, and NEVER FOLD.


[i] http://www.reginabrett.com/

[ii] https://www.pagat.com/poker/rules/A

A “Child-like” Faith

Dr. Ross L. Riggs

Few times in my adult life have I been truly afraid. In most every circumstance, I was afraid for someone that I loved. I’m not certain of any specific time when I was afraid of what would happen to me, particularly in a physical way. I might suggest, too, I’m not particularly courageous. It is not because I am a strong man who is never afraid of anything. It is more because, unlike many of my brothers in the emergency services and very much unlike those serving in the front lines of our military in combat zones; I have seldom been placed in a predicament that might cost me my life. Don’t get me wrong, in all my years in police work, I had threats, and guns or knives used against me and more than a few fights; some which, for a time, we weren’t sure who was winning. There was one time, in such a fight, that I awoke from unconsciousness, face down on a brick road and my first thought was, ‘If I don’t get up I am going to die’ Still, I don’t remember being scared, just aware of my circumstances. Once or twice, as a volunteer firefighter, on the end of a hose crawling through black smoke, unable to see, all I could do was feel my way and feel the intense heat around me… that was orifice puckering, without a doubt. Usually, though, it was after the incident, when there was time to contemplate what might have happened, then there was time to be afraid.

John Wayne is quoted as saying, “Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway.” Probably, if I had to stand in the open door of a C130 cargo plane, attached to a line to parachute out the door, I would probably be more afraid of that than anything else I can imagine (unless it involves a pit full of snakes in the dark…)  My son, Daniel, was in the U.S. Army Airborne and he loved the thrill of jumping. I would probably squeal like a little girl all the way out the door! daniel 325 1st brigade red falcons hhcAgain, John Wayne, in the movie, The Green Beret, spoke to a South Vietnamese colonel about parachuting. He said, “The first one is easy. It’s the second one that is hard to get them to make.”

Fear and courage are perhaps two sides of the same coin. In the Bible, there are several references to mighty men of valor. In the Chronicles and the books of First and Second Kings, we read of David’s army and men within those ranks that were such men. There were many who were very highly praised for their valor; but, only a select few attained to the highest rankings of the Mighty Men. At one point, outside the enemy’s camp, David spoke of desiring water from the well that was within the enemy’s headquarters. Unbeknownst to David, three of the ‘Mighty Men’ secreted their way into the enemy camp and obtained the water for their King. Upon their return, David learned of their honoring his request. He refused to drink the water, and said it was now of such value because of the risk the men took, all he could do was to offer it up to God as a sacrifice. The Mighty Men of Valor were more devoted to honoring their King than they were concerned about their own safety. They also, had a pretty strong belief in their ability to pull off the daring deed successfully. Did they experience fear? If they did not feel fear, could they truly have been courageous?

Can one exhibit courage unless it stands over the fear which seeks to overwhelm the man of valor? Courage from faith comes when one has gone through life-threatening scenarios because of one’s profession; even though, at the time, the adrenalin and training was enough to keep a person reacting.  Then, afterwards, to realize how fearful a thing it was through which they have come; to don the uniform again and go back at it, night after night; is what The Duke meant by, ‘saddling up anyway.’ A similar courage is found in the spouse of that person who, night after night, pats their loved one’s chest to make sure the one they love is wearing a vest; and then watches them walk out that door. Saddling up, also, is the soldier’s wife, a thousand miles away, as she says a prayer with her children for their daddy; kisses their foreheads and assures them, “Daddy is just fine, now go to sleep. He’ll be home as soon as he can.” She goes to her room then, and prays herself to sleep.

Perhaps some of the bravest people I have met are children. I have witnessed more courage by children in a hospital setting than anywhere else I have been. I volunteered with my dog, Gunner, at Akron Children’s Hospital. In the burn ward, on the cancer floor, awaiting surgery or overcoming an amputated limb, these are some of the most resilient and most tenacious; some of the strongest yet most fragile people I have ever met. The common ingredient among them… faith. Gunner at ACH.JPG

Many I met had a faith in God and in Jesus Christ. Many more weren’t sure about any theology, they just knew that Jesus loved them. Even though they did not understand why Jesus or God would allow them to be like they were, they just knew that Jesus loved them and was going to make sure they were Okay, even if that meant dying and going to heaven. That was the other thing they were sure of too, their place in heaven. That doesn’t mean there were not questions and doubts; fear and tears. At the end of the day, though, the children taught the adults around them great lessons in faith. Just knowing that Jesus would do what He said He would do; was enough for them! That is what Jesus was talking about when He said we must come to Him in childlike faith.

Childlike faith does not mean we blindly accept whatever comes our way with no depth of understanding. The Old Testament tells of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego; three Jewish young men, taken captive and living as officials to the king in the palace, with faith as strong as a child. Refusing to bow in homage to the king in worship of his likeness, they were sentenced to be thrown alive into a super-heated furnace. Knowing the furnace would be certain death, they boldly told the king how certain they were, even if their God did not save them from the fire, He was still God; and everything would be Okay. They understood death was imminent, still they knew following what they believed to be God’s will for them was more important than what they might endure physically.

I come up against a misapplication of this theology at times when I speak to missionaries and others in similar service about contingency planning. Too often, there is an almost frivolous God will take care of it attitude and I make the case in my thesis: In Times of Risk, Developing Contingency Plans for Missionary Sending Churches and Agencies, which is available through Summit University, Richard J. Murphy Library, Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. The Bible is replete with great examples of God-ordained contingency planning. Nehemiah is probably one of the clearest examples. One man works while another holds a spear and each works nearest their home to protect it also.

One particularly obstinate opponent to contingency planning, a former head of an international missionary sending agency, completely disagreed with my statement on martyrs for the faith. Often, we eulogize men and women who died while serving in a ministry capacity as martyrs when, in fact, they may have also have lived, Lord-willing by simple choices and planning. Sometimes, they could have stayed alive by just learning when to remain quiet. God knows, and I don’t judge; but, I also do not step in front of an on-coming training saying that God will protect me and if I die it must be His will! The Bible does teach, I believe, that God knows, from before we are born, the day that we will die. Because He knows we will die that day, stepping in front of that train, doesn’t necessarily mean it was His will for us to have done it! As a police officer, I always wore a bullet-proof vest and when driving, my seatbelt. Does that mean I did not have enough faith in God to protect me? No! It means I used the tools provided to me and the common-sense God endowed with me to be cautious.

Faith, the faith of a child, knows God will do what He says He will do. Such faith is what moves mountains. I can only echo the statement of the father of the little boy to Jesus.  When Jesus asked him if he believed, Mark 9:24 recounts the father’s desperate cry: “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’”

Man praying

Photo courtesy of How Crying Saved My Life by Marliza Gunter, HubPages

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.

 

Garden Time

This morning I had the pleasure of reading a short devotional by Dave Branon titled, “Come Sit a Spell” in the July 2, 2016 Our Daily Bread. In it, he related arriving as a child with his family at his grandparents’ home in rural West Virginia, something to which I can relate very well! He said that his grandmother would meet them at the door and encourage them to come on in and sit a spell – take time to talk and get re-acquainted or just caught up on what was new in life. David related the story of time Jesus spent with Zacchaeus, over dinner at his home to help them get to know one another and it changed Zacchaeus’ life for an eternity!

Today was our family reunion and there were family there that I have not seen in a very long time! There were members of our family there that I have never met before today; because, some of them were not even born when we had our last reunion! And, for the most part, we all did a lot of sittin’ a spell, getting to re-kindle lost connections and make new ones. My brother Rod was celebrating his 70th birthday. He and I talked some about him being the oldest blood member of the family present. Currently living, but not able to be with us today, is an uncle and an aunt that were not able to attend. That pair, a brother and a sister are the last remaining blood relations of our father’s 3 brothers and 2 sisters. We talked about how so quickly so many of the layers seemed to have peeled away. As we would look out at the young children and families there, we could see how the family would eventually carry-on as others take their turn at the top layer!

I couldn’t help but remember Dave Brannon’s homily about building relationship through time together.  Often times, Jesus would wake early and spend precious time with His Father in prayer and solitude. Other times, Jesus would take His disciples into the garden and there share with them private thoughts and cares or concerns for them and with them.  And then, my mind traveled back about half a century; when I had a chance to spend time with my maternal grandparents. One summer in particular, when I was staying there alone for a few weeks, I got to spend precious time in the garden with my grandfather.Delbarton

It wasn’t at all like the Garden of Gethsemane or the Mount of Olives; rather, with my grandfather – my Papaw, (I never once called him grandfather), our time in the garden was a large patch of ground that held really only three things besides the dirt. The three things were rocks, snakes and potatoes.  I was really enjoying my time, throwing aside the rocks, watching out or the Copperheads, and digging the potatoes. As a boy of probably 8 or 9, I was feeling full grown being out there working alongside this man I loved so very much, who I still do. That summer, I also helped him build a garage – I know now how much real help I was; but, for him to allow me to stand on that scaffolding with him, pounding nails into the boards, I was having the time of my life.  My aunt, who had children my age and lived near-by, seemed like she was hurt that I would rather spend my time digging potatoes with my Papaw then come to her house to play with my cousins. No doubt I loved my cousins – particularly one impish ball of fun – Melanie – but, time with Papaw was too precious to miss even a second! Going to the post office to check his box, riding in that old red Ford sedan of his with the red interior (and I remember having to fasten-up the red seat belts) was incredible because this time, I was in the front seat with him – just me!! Time was so critical. When my brothers or cousins were around, I had to share my papaw and this particular summer, for most of those days, he was all mine and I wasn’t going to miss a second!Elk Creek Bridge

Our Heavenly Father feels that way about us, too, you know. He wants to spend time with us like He spent with Jesus during His time on Earth, in quiet solitude, sharing the cares, joys, concerns and plans for the day. Jesus, too, likes to spend time with us in the garden. Maybe it is time in a quiet place like among the ancient olive trees outside of Jerusalem or a restful spot near our own Jerusalem. It is there where time is spent listening to His Word that He left for us or attending to that still small voice. Maybe its digging potatoes out of the ground, putting them in the coal bucket, that we have to drag along some days, while we watch out for serpents and toss rocks out of our path. No matter the location or even the circumstance, what is important is the precious time we share with Him building our relationship, getting to know each other more. Summertime sometimes allows us some quiet moments just for sittin’ a spell. Don’t ever confuse inactivity with wasting time. There is a mountain range of difference – if you’re truly blessed, somewhere in your youth you traveled such a range – mine was the Alleghany’s, or down home they called them those West Virginia Hills.

Finding Our Place in Heaven

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!

How Many Politicians Does It Take to Destroy a Country? A few thoughts on the untimely crash of Ukraine’s Parliament

A House Divided

A House Divided

Some have referred to Ukraine’s newest President, Petro Poroshenko as a man without a party because ever since his elevation to the position of President of the embattled Ukraine at the end of May; his own political party, the Solidarity Party, has not been represented in the Parliament. If it is difficult for any country’s leader to get legislation passed through a democratic process in which his own party is less represented to some degree, imagine being the president of a country and there is not one single representative in the entire parliament who sides with you! Poroshenko has had to rely on a shaky coalition of pro-Western politicians to prosecute the war.

Lincoln 1858

Lincoln 1858

In 1858, the Republican candidate for the U.S. Presidency, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech that has been given the name, ‘The Nation Divided’ speech in which Lincoln quotes the Bible; Mark 3:25, in which Jesus admonishes the Jewish leaders, “…and if a house against itself be divided, that house cannot be made to stand.” (Young’s Literal Translation) Lincoln went on to say that he did not believe that this government could not any longer endure going on half free and half slave.

When the framers of the U.S. Constitution went about finding the right examples for a model of government, they opted for a republic, that being democratically elected representatives making the laws for the people. They decided on a two house system, an upper and a lower. The upper being the Senate with a set number of two senators from every state. To balance out the legislature based on population, the lower house, the House of Representatives was decided by a formula to determine representation by population.

The United States of America has a population in 2012 of 313.9 million citizens. (Sources include: United States Census Bureau, World Bank) Although there are six (plus an others category) of listed political parties; in the current Congress only three parties are represented and they are the Republican, Democratic and Independent parties. Of the Independent there are only 2 in the Senate and they have come alongside the Democrats to make a majority. In the House of Representatives only the Democratic and Republican parties are represented. (Wikipedia)
For a country as complex as the United States with a citizenry of 313.9 million and an estimated 37.5 million additional non-citizens living legally in the U.S. (2006 figure by migrant information.org) and another 11.7 million illegal immigrants. (Pew Research Center)
For a country as complex as the United States with a citizenry of 313.9 million and an estimated 37.5 million additional non-citizens living legally in the U.S. (2006 figure by migrant information.org) and another 11.7 million illegal immigrants. (Pew Research Center)
To complete this short history, geography, political and mathematics review, keep the figures simple that for a country of roughly 360 million people the federal law making branch of the government consists of 541 law makers. One hundred are Senators, four hundred and thirty-five are voting members of the House of Representatives and six are non-voting representatives include the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico and five delegates, District of Columbia, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Commonwealth of the North Mariana Islands. (ballotpedia.org)
That brings the ratio of citizens to lawmakers to about 673,000 to 1.
Many Americans declare that Congress is broken, it never gets anything done correctly and so on, yet laws do get passed, a great many of them actually and an extremely large amount of business is handled. Also, very cleanly (relatively) and without violence (usually) at regular intervals every so many years, there is a peaceful introduction of those who the voters believe will do the job better than the last set. Then the process continues without skipping a beat.
America’s house may have a great many differences of opinion but we are not divided.
That brings up now the condition of Ukraine, the focus of this short essay. Once again Ukraine is politically in shambles. The country which follows (more or less) the president in Kiev is doing battle with a foreign invader, Russia – one of the most powerful countries in the world. Battling Russian separatists that are armed and aided by Vladimir Putin’s regime in Moscow, the battles go on. Now, in the midst of this crisis, the ruling coalition that is supporting the president is non-functioning and to be dissolved which could lead to early elections and now basically nothing will get done in a bureaucracy that wasn’t succeeding in doing much to begin with. Here is where the numbers and the mathematics become important.

Remember that America has 535 Congressmen (male and female) for 360 million citizens, a ratio of 673,000 to 1 and are divided basically into two parties. Ukraine, on the other hand, has 450 Parliamentarians for a country of 45.6 million citizens. Their ratio is approximately 101,000 to 1 (citizens to representatives).
Those 450 Parliamentarians are divided into 10 political parties
For a country whose population is 1/8 the size of the United States in population which would equate to roughly the populations of California and New Jersey together versus the entire US population, it has about the same number of law makers. However, instead of being more efficient and more personal because of the smaller person to legislature ratio, it is in complete disrepair because ten different political parties are all vying for power! And, the president of the country is trying to wage a war against a life-blood neighbor who is the second most powerful nation in the world, who controls Ukraine’s natural gas flow and must do so with not one single member of his own party in the Parliament. A nation divided against itself, will not stand.

Ukraine Political Parties

Ukraine Political Parties

In conclusion, to answer the question posed in the title of this essay: “How many politicians does it take to destroy a country?” The answer is, one – if the people let him get away with it.

THE WRONG COLOR RED: Radicalism Comes Home

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ON THE HOMEFRONT

ImageGilles de Kerchove,the EU Counterterrorism Coordinator declared before a UK Parliamentary hearing that the return of high risk, highly volatile Islamic extremists from Syria to the United Kingdom is “unprecedented. … All the reports I have seen suggest that it is becoming increasingly acute.” According to the Langley Intelligent Network, the British Home Office warned, “Dealing with terrorism in Syria is a very significant challenge due to the numbers of people fighting with the many Syria based terrorist groups, their proximity to the UK, ease of travel across porous borders and the ready availability of weapons.”[i]

What does this mean for the United States and its foreign policy particularly when it comes to dealing with international issues of terrorism and political unrest?

The current situation in Ukraine unveils the Russian bear, Vladimir Putin again showcasing the vulnerability of the United States and the weakness of this administration. It is a case in point of the inability of national governments to function effectively when leadership fails to adhere to the standards by which a citizenry can live in peace. There is no excuse that the citizens of Ukraine living on the peninsula of Crimea are suffering without water or electricity because their homeland has been invaded by an opposing army and no one has checked the violence brought by criminal elements acting under the direction of Vladimir Putin. A nation’s leadership will set the bar for its vulnerability whether international terrorism, crime or attack by foreign forces.

The same is true now for Great Britain. Parliament failed to act decades ago to stem the tide of Islamic extremists pouring across the borders, overwhelming communities, and degrading the legal and political system to their own advantage. The political correctness police have brought the British society to the point of near annihilation. Several British nationals have shared that they cannot even recognize London as their own any longer.

Feckless has become a term equated with the inability of the current Obama administration to be able to do anything to stand up against those forces that spit in the face of America. Recently, Retired Lt. Colonel Oliver North was quoted as making this very clear statement, “We don’t need a head of state who draws a phony red line with a pink crayon.”

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What will it take for societies – that value freedom, democracy and, (whether they now admit it or not), have a foundation of Judeo-Christian values; to stand-up strong for those values that once made them great?

There has been a lot of blood spilled, not just over the centuries, but in these last two decades all in the name of Islam. If the hardline followers believe it to truly be a religion of peace, then how do they explain its resulting hardship, pain and grief particularly for their own people? Their own leadership has succeeded in embittering their people and reducing their lives to a struggle to survive. Never has there been a generation of harmony and peace between them and their neighbors for they define peace as only the total rule of Islam  with total subjugation to their own rule, where no persons may live under another faith.

The African sub-Saharan is a primary example of the extremist mindset. Thousands of non-Muslim people, men, women and children are murdered in the most brutal of ways, without any shred of human dignity or compassion.

This piece is not, however, primarily a piece on the logic or the fundamentals of Islam. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God of all comfort, the Father of all mercies (as Paul described him); never forced Himself on anyone. But, you say, in the ancient times the God of the Bible ordered entire populations killed in order to preserve His people ‘of the Book’, the Hebrews. I can only reply that in those instances, God, as sovereign with total right to reign over His creation, I believe knew the heart of every individual soul that perished and none were punished eternally that God was not fully aware of what was taking place and it was necessary for righteousness of His creation. Does that mean that children died naturally and were eternally separated from God? I believe that as God is a God of compassion and grace, no one was separated from Him eternally that was not fully capable of choosing to deny His grace.

God, Jehovah, was very clear that His people were not to allow themselves to be drawn away by other religions or gods; nor were they to allow those who taught such religions to take root within their communities. God’s people were (and are) to live among them in peace and if by the lives of the believers that they might win some, (those are Paul’s words). That was a good thing but to allow those who degraded and derided their faith, God would not allow for that. His patience is longsuffering and His grace sufficient but it is not without end. There will be a day when the doors shall be shut and the chances have run out.

To what end does this bring us? Here is a list: National governments who prey on and destroy their own people like Bashar al Assad and his cronies, even to the point of chemical weapons and mass murder. Egomaniacal dictators like Vladimir Putin whose demented mind at the age of a young teen even longed to be a KGB agent to strike fear into the hearts of those who trusted him. Inept novice rulers, like those atop the Ukrainian political rubble. Parliamentarians who have leaned so far left in the desire to be politically correct they have allowed themselves to be blinded to the eroding away of the very fabric of their Kingdom.  Then there is the United States with a socialist president who believes that re-setting buttons with Putin, bowing before Middle Eastern royalty, backing down from countries like Iraq and Syria, turning his back on our only allied democratic nation in the Middle East who also happens to have the divine promise for those who aid Israel and the curse for those who fail to do so. And finally, the people of the United States who have stood back and allowed it to happen.

This is the list of the culpable. It is time to put a stop to the madness. Every citizen of each of the countries named here and, for that matter, every  citizen of each of the countries not named here, should realize the important role – the absolutely critical role – that they have to set and maintain the standard for democracy, independence, and true freedom of religion. That means that each citizen may not only worship, in a house of worship as they choose (these are the limitations the Obama administration seeks for religious “freedom”) but to live out their faith within community. This requires, of course, that the Muslim has as much right to choose to live out his or her faith in peaceful accord with the remainder of society as does the Southern Baptist. I mentioned earlier that God required His people not to syncretize their faith with that of the other religions. But, Christ also modeled the ability to love people where they were and by love, show them the true faith.Strong, yet compassionate. We must never again sacrifice our principles in the name of tolerance and we should never resort to hate because of ignorance. Maintain who we are, strengthen who we will be, develop who we can be and exhibit to the world the foundation of our faith, unapologetically, with grace; the same amount of grace we are thankful God bestowed on us.

 

[i]http://www.lignet.com/ArticleAnalysis/UK-Threat-Radicals-Returning-From-Syria.aspx?ns_mail_uid=4703528&ns_mail_job=175366_04282014#ixzz30WceLmyA

 

JOINING FORCES: SCI Takes a MINUTE with Us

Dr. Ross L. Riggs

We have had the pleasure of sharing through two different outlets – one is a blog that we have titled, The Ministry Minute and the other is our private investigative services (SCI) website. This day we find these two ventures not at cross-purposes certainly but both having something important to share. The messages are complementary.

As most of you, who follow us regularly, know… Doc has just returned from Latvia. The leaders of ABWE/CEEMed were holding their regular bi-annual meeting and considering the contingency options should Russia send troops further into Ukraine and incite a war. While Doc was there, a unit from the U.S. Army’s 82 Airborne arrived in Poland and a short time later another unit from the same battalion arrived in Latvia. Their arrival was a counter-response to Russia’s 40,000 troops on Ukraine’s Eastern border with Russia, who, of course, is maintaining that their presence there is simply for maneuvers. However, some reporters in Ukraine have made the comments that outside the small towns in the East that are occupied, life is pretty much going on as normal. They say that as long as the fighting is not on their doorstep; the locals can ignore it. IGNORE IT?! When they hear the sound of gun fire and explosions, do they understand that there is someone very nearby putting their life on the line for the freedom of those who are ignoring it!

Those comments caused me to reflect on a historical piece that I had read some years back regarding the U.S. Civil War battles that took place just outside the downtown area of Washington D.C. When the battles were about to be fought, the local ‘upper-class’ would come out in their fringed topped surreys with their picnic lunches and make an afternoon of it. The photographers would set up to record the events and painters with easels and pallets were ready to paint both the scenes of the battle and the picnickers; everyone oblivious to the carnage, the human suffering and the purpose for which these brave soldiers were fighting.

In Ukraine, two different sides are both arguing that they are fighting for freedom. One side, however, the ones who call themselves “separatists” are doing so in a criminal fashion with their identity hidden and wearing masks. Just yesterday, they reportedly kidnapped an entire busload of observers and have killed an unarmed politician who, it is reported, showed signs of being tortured before being dumped in the river. I really believe that these men and women who hide their faces in balaclavas and wear uniforms without markings are cowards and have a puppeteer by the name of Putin in Moscow.

NATO has an obligation to the people of Ukraine. The United States has an obligation to the people of Ukraine. Not only them but to the people of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia. I have heard people try to argue some fine point of NATO jurisdiction when none of that matters. First, what matters is that the people who have lived in the sovereign nation of Ukraine deserve to be free from the fear that at any moment troops will storm into their towns and their homes and put them in harm’s way. Whether the troops are wearing the insignia of the Russian Federation, black balaclavas designed to conceal their identity; or, for that matter, the insignia of their own country of Ukraine, the citizens have an inalienable right to be secure in their persons and property. It would be a strong step in the right direction if they also had a constitution that would guarantee this right.

The United States government must offer more than six hundred troops as a ‘show of force.’ Granted they are some of the very best trained infantry units on the face of the earth but, come on, 300 U.S. Troops in Poland, 300 U.S. Troops in Latvia and 40,000 Russian troops on the Russian border…Hello?

Please understand that I do not profess to be an objective reporter of the ‘appropriate truth.’ I will not report or repeat what might be a lie but, I also do not shirk from sharing my opinion through the ministry blog if there is information that is necessary for your safety as we discuss issues of national security. Now is one of those times. I will not try to be politically correct if that equates to skirting around the real truth in order to appease some group. Rather, if it is important to share what is happening with an issue that the media is not saying because of their bias; then, as I have the facts, to the best of my ability I will share them with you. I do it only in the case where I believe that getting such information out there is important to the cause of freedom. I have watched hour’s worth of Putin Propaganda through the Russian Television Network. RTI acts like a news outlet but they are more biased than even the worst that CNN has ever put forward. And people of the world are buying it. America is suffering because of it because we do not have an administration in Washington that says or does anything that would repudiate it. More than anything the actions and words from the administration seem to reinforce the trash that RTI is putting out in e broadcasts. Please note, even as I share these views here in this instance, I will not ‘preempt’ my Bible time for it. The principle point of the ministry blog is ministry.

With that said, it is important to go back to a point I made earlier about the obligation that the U.S. and NATO countries have to protect the people of Ukraine. In 1991 when the U.S. brokered a deal with Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia to turn the nuclear weapons that were within their rights as sovereign nations to keep. These were nuclear weapons that had been deployed on their soil by the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republic. Then, when ‘the wall fell’ and the U.S.S.R. no longer existed as a legal entity, by international law each country had every right to keep or broker whatever deal they chose for the weapons. With the Hungary Accord, the promise of protection was created. The U.S. and NATO nations made a pact with each of these countries that the US and NATO would rise to their defense if Russia broke the accord and either used or threatened to use those weapons against them or if they failed to respect the sovereign borders of those nations. Russia can trump up all the bogus reasons they want about having to come to the defense of Russian speaking people (who are not citizens of Russia) claiming that the Ukrainian government is not protecting them adequately. It means nothing as far as giving any nation the right to invade another without international agreement of crimes against humanity. It would be like Mexican forces invading the U.S. because they alleged we were ill-treating the Spanish speaking population here in the U.S. Witnesses reported that when Russian troops initially entered Crimea they immediately began handing out documentation of Russian citizenship for whoever wanted it. This was to supposedly reinforce Russia’s new found ‘right’ to protect these ‘citizens.’ This argument is so incredulous it hardly bears repeating, in fact, one would worry that by even mentioning it would somehow give it more credence than it has; if any. What is that old blues song of the 70’s “Nothing from Nothing Leaves Nothing”?

The glaring principle here stands like the elephant in the room that no one wants to talk about. So at the risk of offending the elephant, allow me to talk about it. Russian troops have been occupying Crimea now for three weeks plus and where is NATO? The American Air Force General in charge of NATO has made some preliminary comments and indicates that there are options available but nothing further has come out of NATO. A quick visit to Kiev by the Vice President and then one by Secretary of State John Kerry, each with some rhetoric about sanctions and then they left. And the American President, where is he? He is taking a turn in Asia. The primary issue, we are told is that Russia hopes to disrupt the May elections in Ukraine. The interim-president of Ukraine is holding things together by some kind of a thread. The initial actions by the Ukraine military units to try to retake the eastern towns held by separatists was less than stellar. Might I suggest that President Obama allow his egg drop soup to drop and get back to the business of being a President in charge of a country with men and women under arms with an obligation to protect human beings, citizens under siege in a land we have sworn to protect?

When we reflect on the faith aspects of this issue, I can tell you that even as Jesus said we are to render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, to pray for those in power in government and Paul wrote that we were to, as much as possible, live at peace with all men; we must also go to the second greatest commandment according to our Lord; Love thy neighbor as thyself. In this case, Ukrainians are our neighbors and we should be about the task of loving them. But, you argue, are not the Russians our neighbors as well? I would answer that all men are our neighbors and love does not shirk from the responsibility of tough love, of consequences for wrong actions, or protection of one neighbor over the aggression of another who is in the wrong. In our Pledge of Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, the last line is “and to the Republic for which she stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” I understand the context of that being the citizens of America but I also can extrapolate it to the logical conclusion that all of mankind is our brotherhood we must not continue to isolate ourselves from the debate but actively engage, as Christians, as Americans, as human beings tied to every other human being as with were through Adam, the first Ada and Jesus Christ, the last Adam. I have much more to say, another day, about the atrocities against Christians on the African continent. For now, we pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ in Ukraine and in Russia. We pray for our American and NATO forces for their protection and their success and that a peaceful resolution can be obtained for the sake of all; one that respects all of the sovereign territory of Ukraine.

Godspeed.

Reflections

It was another one of those nights. Winter had been a little longer than necessary, even though it was still only February, a month that should be cold; it was as if this February had gone on for about six weeks too many. I could not remember the last time I had enjoyed a full night of sleep, but then again, after spending most of my law enforcement career working the midnight shift, I still feel pretty comfortable among the wee hours of the morning. There is something about the stillness of those hours that can cause one to truly appreciate some of the finer things in life. Often, on long nights like these, if I am not sequestered in my study working on a writing project or reading something I have been wanting to catch the gist of, I would sit in my overstuffed leather chair that reclines and swivels and is made for a king. We have a matching set, one for the king and one for his queen. Sitting in the king chair in the middle of the night, one of the few sounds I can hear is my queen in the master bedroom gently sawing the kindling for tomorrow’s fire! It is then when melancholy can set in if you let it; but this night it was a feeling of great appreciation for the queen whose throne is next to mine. I hope that we can be like friends of ours and quietly pass the 90 year mark together; if our health holds out to be not too much more debilitated from where we are today!

From my throne, I can look out the French doors which are sided on each end by matching panels, all of glass to allow for the greatest amount of view possible. On this night I could look out across the snow-covered deck and have a great view of the night sky. That is when I saw it… one single very bright light, similar to a star but much brighter. It was moving rapidly across the horizon. Obviously a satellite in high orbit moving NE to SW and quite quickly. I sat there and thought about the night-time sky. It was still enough into the middle of the night that there wasn’t any glimpse of  dawn starting to break. The sun was still far beyond the horizon. I considered the satellite, its bright light shining through the night sky. My grandmother would say that I ‘sat and studied on it for awhile.’ Then I remembered something I had learned, I have no idea when. Satellites do not have lights on them to emit light down to the earth. It is not like someone on the space station left the porch light on. Satellites are covered in a very highly polished metal, as if covered in the shiniest aluminum foil ever. That bright light that I was watching was just like the stars that I see or the light of the moon at night, it was not its own. They have no light source of their own making but simply  reflect the sun; a sun that was a very long way away and on the other side of the globe from my perspective. The satellite was obviously high enough in the heavens to have a direct line of sight back to the sun – incredible. I sat there watching that satellite flash across the sky doing whatever else it was designed to do but at that moment, for me, it was principally reflecting the bright light of the sun.

As the satellite was almost out of my view, the analogy hit me dead on. No matter what else I am designed to do as I shoot across the horizon of my lifetime, the most important job I could ever have is to reflect the Light of the Son. In order for the satellite to reflect like it did several things had to be right. First, it had to be in its proper place. If it were out of its orbit, too low  in its orbit so that it was below the horizon, the earth would have blocked the sun. It had to be where its maker had designed for it to be. The same is true for me and my position. I have to be right where my designer set for me to be in order to be lined up and reflecting His Son’s Light. Second, the satellite had to be covered in that bright aluminum or whatever metal that an earth orbiting hunk of electronics is supposed to be made. I cannot be covered in the filthy rags of my sinful nature and reflect Christ. Paul talked about putting off the old and putting on the new nature and it is the new nature that will allow us to reflect Christ’s love and His nature to those around us. Not for our glory but for His. We need to be where we should be and appropriately clothed in His righteousness in order to reflect Christ’s light in a dark world. I realized that night that as starry as the sky had been earlier, when I noticed the satellite, many of the stars had already made their way across the sky and around the satellite the sky was very dark, which made its reflecting light appear even brighter. As dark as this old world is, Christ’s light can shine  brightly reflected by our actions, our words, our thoughts, the kindness we show others, and the heart we have for the lost or the hurting.

Reflections

Reflections

God has designed us for His special purposes. He has placed us where He would have us to be. Just as the satellite had no power source of its own to put out a bright light, neither do we have such a power. Our role is a reflective one. Christ supplies the bright light of His love and holiness. My prayer is that there will be nothing in my life that would prevent that light from shining its brightest and that I would always stay in God’s will so that I am right where I am supposed to be to catch as much of Christ’s light and do what the old campfire song said, ‘pass it on.’

An Inquisitive Look Into Freedom

 

Knowing the Truth:

An inquisitive look into freedom

                  Dad's pocket watch

 True North Ministry logo

Once More from the Top

 I have maintained for some time now that I learn more from teaching than I ever reciprocally provide in the form of knowledge to others; of that I am fairly certain.  Such is the case already in this first week in a study of spiritual disciplines that I am teaching for Baptist Bible Graduate School. 

A Thesis: There is an inordinately strong link between Truth (the capital ‘T’ truth of scripture) and the Spiritual Disciplines.

Understanding Freedom

Donald Whitney, an author on the subject of Spiritual discipline wrote, “There is freedom in embracing the spiritual disciplines.”[i] Whitney follows the writing of Richard Foster to argue that the Spiritual disciplines, rather than being restrictive and binding are the means to spiritual freedom. Foster goes so far as to call them the “Door to Liberation.”[ii] There is a quantum leap between the idea of the spiritual exercises or the acts that Christians do, (not so much as apart from God but as a requirement of God in living out their daily life as a Christian) and Jesus’ own words recorded in John 8:32. In one of the longest interactions that Jesus has with the Pharisees recorded for us by the Disciple John, brother of James; Jesus explains to them that “If you abide in My word then you are truly disciples of Mine and you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”[iii] He goes on to say in a correlated statement; “Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.”[iv] There is, then an apparent relationship between the singular freedom of which Christ speaks in John 8:32 and the escape from death in 8:51. In explaining to the Pharisees who He was; He described Himself as the ‘Son’ and He declares that if the “son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”[v]

It is important at this point to identify and perhaps define the ‘Freedom’ about which Christ refers. Clearly it involves a freedom from death and extrapolating the fact that Christ, Himself, died a physical death not long after this conversation; then it is not from physical death that this new found freedom provides an escape. It most certainly effects then the spiritual death, a death which leads to an eternity separated from God in a place called ‘Hell’  prepared by God for Satan and his angels; an eternal abode for those who do not receive Christ as Savior.

Another Bible teacher, Elisabeth Elliott is quoted by Whitney as saying that “freedom and discipline have come to be regarded as mutually exclusive when in fact freedom is not at all opposite but the final reward of discipline.”[vi] If one is a connoisseur of ‘B’ Westerns then the term ‘final reward’ will strike a familiar chord as often used in conjunction with ‘the last round-up’ which was, of course, a synonym for heaven. Having heard Mrs. Elliot teach on several occasions, I do not believe she is advocating that by keeping the spiritual disciplines, a Christian will receive the freedom from spiritual death that Christ refers to in John 8. That would equate to a works received entrance to heaven. It is more likely that a better turn of phrase would have been that freedom is the end result of discipline rather than final reward. Regardless, though, of Mrs. Elliot’s soteriology, there remains a clear link between spiritual discipline and freedom; whether that is freedom from spiritual death or perhaps another type of freedom such as a freedom to live a fuller Christian life or have the freedom for a closer Christian walk with Christ. These are ideas worth considering! When one recalls that Richard Foster made a link between the disciplines themselves and spiritual freedom, to what specifically was he referring?

Defining Spiritual Disciplines

It is appropriate perhaps to define the ‘spiritual disciplines’ that are referred to here. A short list just to give the reader an idea of them includes, prayer, fasting, quiet time or solitude, intake of God’s Word which is more than simply reading but, reading is one method of intake; memorization, and meditation. The purpose in each is to grow in Christ-likeness and they are not linked in series, as such to one another, that is one need not do every type of discipline in order to gain this closer walk with the Lord but that a focused exercise of some combination of them is required; hence the term discipline. It is a required work, an exercise with an end goal in mind just as Paul described a boxer who trains and does not flail at the air but disciplines himself to be good at what he has chosen to do, or a runner who trains to compete for the prize by keeping his focus on the goal. If the authors quoted earlier are correct then, a part of that goal in becoming more Christ-like is freedom; a release, perhaps from what Paul, again, called the ‘sin that so easily besets us’. By keeping our focus, our thoughts, our attitudes on the things that are above and keeping our whole-selves trained in spiritual growth, we put behind us the preoccupation with sin and its temptation.

As quickly at the concept of completing or exercising the spiritual disciplines can devolve into a ‘works’ mentality – that is –  it is what we do that matters in our relationship with Christ; it is important to stress that the Christian can do nothing apart from Christ. It is the Holy Spirit abiding within the Christian that enables the human part of us to do anything at all that is remotely spiritually inclined. Apart from the power of God, the Christian has no ability to even consider the effective exercise of the disciplines. To attempt such an endeavor without the Holy Spirit would be to flail at the air like Paul’s fighter. The person would become exhausted in the actions but the exercise would have had no effect whatsoever.

The Capital ‘T’ Truth

In what some have labeled America’s ‘Post-Christian Era’ it would be difficult to get a majority consensus that even the Bible holds absolute truth. Many mainline Protestant churches will not be uneasy with the idea that there could be error within the biblical manuscripts. To say that the Bible is authoritative in everyday life, requires a background in Evangelical Christianity. There are some faiths that will hold that Truth can be found in the Bible but not go as far as saying that the Bible is Truth. Jesus, Himself said, in His great Priestly prayer to His Father that, “Thy Word is Truth.” There can be no greater witness to verify that God’s Word is Truth than Christ’s own statement. It is then, as we follow the logical if –then connection: If the Truth Will Set You Free and the Bible, God’s Word, is Truth; then the Word of God will set you free. The Primary role of the spiritual disciplines is to come to a deeper more abiding understanding of God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit through God’s Word. The extrapolation leads to the conclusion that if Spiritual Disciplines lead to a deeper understanding of the Bible, God’s Word, then those Disciplines lead to freedom.

Spiritual Disciplines and Truth

The final analysis brings the investigator back to the primary conclusion that it is not that completing the spiritual disciplines brings one to Freedom by way of a works mentality. Rather, it is that completion of the spiritual disciplines which brings one to a fuller appreciation and comprehension of the Bible. That deep and abiding knowledge of the Scriptures that comes from exercising the spiritual disciplines brings one to Truth, the Truth that sets you free. You are free from the Spiritual Death that is the result of sin because the Grace of God has given you that Freedom through Christ’s sacrifice which the Holy Spirit will bring you to trust through God’s Word. Freedom, too, from the daily onslaught of sin’s temptation. Not that the temptation will not rear its ugly head, but that you will have received the tools by which the Holy Spirit working within you will dismantle those temptations and bring you to victory over them. 

FREE INDEED

A classic song from the ‘Revolution’ days of the sixties by Janis Joplin titled ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ has the standard refrain, “Freedom’s Just another Word for Nothing Left to Lose; Nothin’ don’t mean nothin’ if it ain’t free.” As cynical and discouraging as those ‘blues’ lines are, they pose a dramatic disconnect to what Freedom in God’s Word is speaking about. What does fit is that the Holy Spirit brings to the believer the grace of God which, for the believer, is free… That’s somethin’ that means somethin’

 


[i] Whitney, Donald S. Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, NAVPRESS: Colorado Springs 1991 (p23)

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] John 8:32 (NASB) Ryrie Study Bible MBI: Chicago 1978

[iv] John 8:51 (NASB) Ryrie Study Bible MBI: Chicago 1978

[v] John 8:36 (NASB) Ryrie Study Bible MBI: Chicago 1978