On a Scale

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

UNPINNED REVISITED

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Who Knows?

Central & Eastern Europe I have been wanting to write this particular story for quite some time. This is an amazing story, to which I cannot do full justice because it began a lustrum, at least, before I met this amazing man and will probably carry on long after I have the ability to write intelligently. (Yes, I know some argue that even now my faculties are slipping just a bit! I appreciate the reminder!) I have my first book due to be published by year’s end and in it I quote, Brad Collins. I list him as a Canadian Hockey Coach but that is just the tip of the ice (hockey ice that is). The quote I use in the book is very short and I have used it here as the title of this piece. Whenever confronted by one of life’s major questions, Brad would turn to look at me, usually as he was driving the van…  because while in Bosnia we seldom slowed down for more than a chance for coffee and then it was ‘on the road again’ and Brad would simply shrug his shoulders and say, “Who knows?”

Brad was not being flippant  as if the question was not worth pondering; but more that he had become resigned to the fact that for most of the major issues in the world, he had not been consulted by God as to how he, Brad, might handle them. Therefore,  Brad was more than content to allow God to take care of whatever it was.  Also, it was less of a question than it was a reminder as to Who it was that really KNOWS!

Brad first entered Bosnia during the war between the Serbians and the Bosniacs in the 1990’s. The plight of the refugees, particularly the children, touched him deeply and he knew then that God would return him to Bosnia to work with these children. And work he did! Beginning with a few used hockey sticks and even less money; he began putting up flyers around Ilizda and soon some boys began to watch this odd game that involved knocking a puck around with a stick and slamming it hard into the net to score a goal. That was something they had never seen and a sport they had not yet mastered. The growth was slow but over the years the Lord blessed the ministry and the Bosnia Herzegovina Sports Foundation sent young men to play in the International Floor Hockey Championships and Brad and his senior players were hosted on Hockey Night in Canada The teams were visited by John Vanbiesbruck in Sarajevo, and the NHL Players Association provided them with equipment and training the likes of which they had never seen. Tough love was what welded the hearts of these mostly Muslim, but some Serbian, boys to Brad’s and over the years through tough times and good; the boys became men and they taught a new generation of young players and not just in one city but in three. I would guess that easily a thousand kids have been touched by ‘Coach’ and he was touched by every one of them.

Not very long ago, God provided an amazing help-mate for Brad. Bethany, his wife came alongside and has been an inspiration and  breath of fresh air to the musty old locker rooms normally the site of much of Brad’s life lessons! Bethany  can now work with the girls and those who like music, love to sing and play musical instruments. It took a host who just kept inviting and a blizzard that kept her from fleeing; but it truly was God that brought she and Brad together.

Some tough days are ahead for Coach as he is back in Canada now, waiting in a hospital in St. John’s New Brunswick for a triple by-pass involving the major vessels of his heart. He has another serious blockage in his carotid artery as well. I expect to be with Brad and Bethany in a few days and I know, without a doubt, if I would look at Brad and ask him what he thinks the outcome will be, he would say, “Who knows?” He really is saying that he knows Who knows and that is quite alright with him. As long as God has charge of every detail, there will not be a single detail missed.

I’m going to challenge Brad with a video I saw just recently. It is a hockey goal I want Brad to master while he is recovering from his cardiac surgery. A young boy standing on the far side of a pond with a hockey stick and a puck… the pond is not frozen, in fact it is the middle of summer. He slaps that puck and it goes skimming across the pond, up the bank on the far side and striaght into the net that he has set up! I know Brad will have to practice it quite a bit so, just to make it tougher, I’m only going to give him one puck. If it sinks while he’s practicing, he’ll just have to go get it!

There are few men on this earth that I consider very dear friends and brothers. Brad is one of those I cherish the most. Join me in saying some prayers for Coach and for his bride, Bethany as they go through this week together. How quickly will Brad be able to send that puck across the pond and into the net after this tough surgery… Who knows?

Brad and Bethany

Brad & Bethany

When Your Elephant Drops

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come… I knew when my elephant dropped it was time to get back to work.

 

 

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. That is a wise piece of sage advice that I made up just a few hours ago. I have no doubt it will last for centuries and grace the finest of Chinese cookie emporiums the world over, especially those whose home base is somewhere in upper New Jersey.

“What brought me to this amazing revelation? You ask. Okay, so you didn’t ask; but you are curious enough to keep reading. Perhaps you know my legendary wit; well, half-wit. Maybe, you are hoping that if you read this all the way through you can help my family get the evidence they need for a permanent commitment. Whatever your reasons, I encourage you to read on. I believe it will be worth it.

When your elephant drops the time has come to change what you were doing and move on to what you should be doing. A very simple piece of logic really. All of us need a cue to know when it is time to move on in life. Maybe we need to move on to a new job, a new home, or perhaps, a new fiancé’ (I’d be careful on that one). It might not be something nearly as earth shattering as that. You may need to move on from one normal, everyday task to another in order to try to accomplish as much as possible before the day winds down unto its coming night. No matter the size of the task, it is important to know that when the elephant drops, that is your cue to move on.

Wisdom, the Bible tells us can be found with many counselors. It can be found with age and experience. Sometimes wisdom is born of trial and error, with the emphasis on the error. I have found, over time that I learn much deeper lessons from my mistakes than from my successes. Success seldom requires a review, a debriefing to understand the why of it. Although it is a good idea to do such an evaluation, normally, we accept the fact that if we were successful it is because we were right or good and as long as we are our amazing self then we will continue to be successful. At least that is the reason I don’t re-evaluate a great many of my successes, at least not like I evaluate my failures. The failures I prefer to limit from happening again; so, I evaluate my process to learn how to avoid the same mistakes a third or fourth time. (I did not say, ‘second’ because I usually don’t decide to re-evaluate until I have failed at least twice. My first failures are always accounted to ‘the wrong part’, ‘the wrong instructions’, ‘the wrong day of the week’ – certainly not anything I could have done! After the second failure I grant, begrudgingly, that perhaps it might be something I am doing incorrectly.

Yes, wisdom comes from a multitude of sources. I have found, as a grandfather now for nearly eight years, that wisdom comes to me through the eyes, the insight, the lives of my grandchildren. I don’t think I learned nearly as much from my children for two reasons. First, I still thought I knew a lot about life and things. Second, I was just trying to keep up with them most of the time. The song, “It’s a Wonderful World” sung best, I think, by Louis Armstrong; allows us to see life through the eyes of the song writer and looking at the children, he says, “They’ll learn much more, than I’ll ever know…” and that is so true. So, our grandchildren can teach us once we have reached an age where we realize we don’t know nearly as much as we thought we did. They can teach us, too, when life has slowed enough for times of introspection and taking stock of where one is in life’s journey.  Sometimes such lessons are prompted by a statement, bluntly spoken by our grandchildren. Recently, my eldest told me that I can really take on the role of Santa now that my belly has gotten as big as it has. Good, honest, tongue-biting truth. It’s great!

By now, the number of surgeries I have had in the past fade in memory, overtaken by the pain that arthritis can bring to those same areas that surgeons fixed so effectively decades ago. A police service related shoulder repair, now needing to be a shoulder replacement has enough arthritis to keep Bayer in production; except that a previous perforated ulcer make aspirin a no-no. My spinal fusions from police related injuries and the bone taken from my hips for those repairs now provide plenty of opportunity for creaking and popping as I try to move stealthily through the night on my way to the bathroom for the fourth time, trying not to wake my wife or the dogs. To interrupt either is not good. If I wake the dogs I have to take them outside in the cold and wait for them. If I wake my lovely wife, she doesn’t get enough rest with as hard as she works now without me waking her; so I try to let her sleep whenever she can. Then there is the arthritic knee that the ‘Doc’ recently told me has to be replaced. I tell you that to say that if I could find a way to do all of my work and social engagements, business meetings, phone calls and meals within the confines of my Jacuzzi, I would.

Warm (to boiling) hot water is the only real relief. I am very thankful for the medications and all the other things that are done to keep me functional; but it is the escape in the warm water where my brain is freed up to think. Our thirty year old Jacuzzi hot-tub downstairs gave up the ghost some time back so I am relegated to our garden tub Jacuzzi in our bathroom; for which I am eternally grateful. It is, however, garden sized. As my grandson will tell you, I am built something more like a “Horse pasture –long in the inseam, wide across the shoulders (and belly) with the pasture taken in just a little around the hay feeder” – I will use the garden tub as long as I can fit in it and get out of it. Silly us to allow the design of our bathroom to include steps up to the Jacuzzi tub. When we built it no one needed hand rails or maybe a floor level entrance to step in and out of without trying to go over it like a high hurdler at the Moscow Olympics. Still, if there was a Nobel Prize for pain relief, Jacuzzi get s my vote and that is where the elephant comes into the story.

I share my Jacuzzi with an elephant. I know that sounds a little crazy but, I also share it with two ducks, one rubber one plastic. The elephant, too, I should clarify is a one piece plastic mold elephant about the same size as the rubber duck. I don’t get much time to play with them but from time to time one of my grandchildren will ‘visit’ with me while I am catching up on my Weekly Standard, National Review or NewsMax. I also do many of my Bible devotional readings there, too. As I said, if I could, I would work throughout the day there. Electronics however do not fare well in warm water. Even my revered Weekly Standard et al., have succumbed to the water on more than one occasion.

When my grandchildren pay me a visit and it becomes ‘grab a bathing suit and sit with Papaw in the Jacuzzi,’ invariably along with the rubber duck, out comes the plastic elephant. Known best for his ability to spring to the surface after being held at the bottom, he is an all-around favorite. If we had a large swimming pool, I fear they would want a real elephant to see if he, too, would spring up from the bottom of the pool! When the grandchildren are not around, the elephant stands guard at the edge of the Jacuzzi as if looking forward to the time that the children play with him again.

Elephant

It would be too easy to escape my on-going pain by keeping myself as long as possible in the Jacuzzi guarded by my trusted elephant. However, there comes a time when all of us have to step out of our comfort and be about the business to which God has intended us.

The disciples and others loved to listen to Christ teach. His sermon on the mount as recorded in Matthew was a time of great spiritual learning, encouragement and challenge. Eventually, though, they all had to come down from the mountain and be about the ministry set before them. It is a true joy, at times, to remove ourselves from the hectic world of ministry or other life challenges that come before us; work, family turmoil or illness, difficulties with finances, friends, even schooling and preparation for future ministry. All of these things take a toll on us. They can, too, take a toll on our relationships; particularly those involving close family members. Retreating from the daily stressors is sometimes absolutely essential for us to be able to carry on and to prepare to meet the next challenge. The temptation to not re-enter the fray is high. Some of us have the option to completely step away from some of the areas that cause us the most difficulty. Sometimes that is what God intends for us to do but, most of the time, God intends for us to recharge, regroup, and regain our hold on the reins and be about our Father’s business.

Take the time you need to refresh and revive yourself and your teammates, particularly your life-mate and then, when the time is right, your signal to rejoin the forces on the field will come. For me, today I knew it was time because, my elephant dropped. I never saw him move on his own, but somehow, that little gray plastic elephant worked his way to the edge of the Jacuzzi and plunged trunk first into the water. I knew that when my elephant dropped, it was time to get back to work.

Drinking Deeply from the Well

In those tough times, Christ’s followers should be those who come alongside, provide the refreshing water, explain the new way that is open to those who are hurting, and help them to get strong and to help lift them up when they fall.

 

True North Ministry logo

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, D Min

 An introduction to True North Ministry ~ strengthening the hands that hang down and feeble knees and helping to make paths straight ~ (Hebrews 12)

When Christ taught lessons that became some of His dearest and most treasured, He took the listener, the learner, right to their own dry spot. He knew their hearts and where they most needed the refreshing truths of His Word. His talk with the Samaritan woman, who had come to the ancient well that Jacob had dug centuries before, came directly to the dryness of her heart. He told her that if she drank from the water of life that He offered, she would never thirst again. Although she thought of her physical thirst, Jesus had so much more to offer. (John 4:1-26)

Jesus planned the encounter with this Samaritan woman. He knew that she would arrive at the hottest hour of the day to draw water because of her position of shame. Even in the Samaritan community, she could not draw when the other women came to draw. She was too shamed by those around her to be permitted to draw water with the other women of the town.

How surprised she was when Jesus spoke to her. After all, she knew Him to be a Jew and no self-respecting Jewish woman would talk to a Samaritan woman; they were mixed-breeds, having been subjected to Assyrian slavery and inter-marriage. For a Jewish man and a teacher, a rabbi, to not only speak to her, but ask a favor of her was more than her mind could absorb.

Jesus knew all these thoughts were spinning through her mind. Still, Jesus understood the depth of the well from which He was able to draw and the depth of her need. When Jesus asked the woman to provide for him a drink of water, He opened the way for dialogue that would shine a straight ray of light directly to the darkest parts of her hurt. She was to find not only the refreshing coolness of the water of life that Christ could bring to her dry parched soul. Christ’s light banished the darkness from her life to provide her a direction for the future paths she could never find alone.

One of my favorite stories that I recall from my teen years, when I would stay up late at night to catch the A.M. radio station, WWL, New Orleans Louisiana. (I can still hear how they would say that call-sign!) It took just the right atmospheric conditions for their signal to reach NE Ohio; but I often was able to listen to the story tellers that came on late nights. One in particular was of a navy ship out at sea in a dark stillness. The captain of the ship radioed to the vessel he believed to be about to come on a collision course with his ship.

“Unidentified vessel, this is the USS Franklin, change your course ten degrees to starboard.”  Much to his surprise, the reply came:

“Negative. Advise that you alter your heading ten degrees to port.”

Furious, the Captain responded, “Sir, this is the USS Franklin, an armed vessel of the United States Navy. I order you to alter your course ten degrees to starboard!”

Once again came back the calm reply, “Negative, sir. Alter your course ten degrees to port.”

Fearing now that a crash was imminent, the still fuming Captain would not be swayed. His voice boomed over the radio waves, “I am a Captain of senior rank aboard a United States destroyer. What is your rank and vessel that you refuse to alter course under a direct order? I demand a reply.”

Calmly, the voice replied, “I am a Seaman, Second Class, sir.  I am the lighthouse.”

So often, just as pride made the Captain risk wrecking his ship rather than take the course of safety to which the lighthouse directed him, how often do we ignore the directions the Lord has given in His Word as a light to our path? The book of Proverbs has a verse that reads, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”[i]

True North Ministry is based on that simple proverb. The earliest explorers, whether on land or sea, sought the brightest star, the North Star. They knew that single light would direct them home. That star would always appear in the same place in the night sky. Its light was true. A single beam of light, the North Star never veered from its post, always there to direct sailors home from the sea and adventuring explorers home back from their excursions. A fancy star with all kinds of lights shining from it and around it would be useless as a guiding star. If the lighthouse would have cast out dozens of beams in different directions, it too would be useless for keeping ships from going aground on the rocky shores.

An author known for his entrepreneurial work in local business, Steve Adams, said this about a focus for anyone’s life work. He explained that it must be like a laser beam, not a disco ball. The same is true for a ministry. Our goals must align with those of Christ. When He told His disciples that they must follow Him where He was about to go, one replied that if they did not know where it was that Jesus was going, ‘How could they know the way?’ “Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”[ii] If that is not an exclusive statement, then such a statement doesn’t exist!

One of the key problems in the post-modern world is its lack of belief that a single truth exists. Everyone’s truth is as credible s everyone else’s. That is just wrong and there is no other way to say it. The world is full of men and women just like the Samaritan woman at the well who found Jesus there. Their souls are as dry as an Iraqi sandstorm. They need the refreshing water of life that comes from the throne of grace. Millions of people are lost in that very same sandstorm and they cannot find their way. They need Jesus to direct their paths. There are those whose lives are adrift at sea, being tossed about by every wind of doctrine or ‘new’ thinking that comes along and they need the creator of the North Star to guide them safely home. Their pride may keep them trying to sail in another direction but eventually, they run out of headings to take as each one fails, and there is just one heading left to take; that is Christ’s. God’s Word informs us that those who seek to follow Christ are to: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”[iii] (The ‘Therefore’ refers back to the fact that God will discipline His children when they need it. So, the writer says… before, during and after that disciplining; do these things which will strengthen and help you and others.)

Tough times come sometimes because God disciplines. Sometimes they come simply because we live in a fallen world and bad stuff happens, even too good people. Then, too, there are also consequences for our actions. In those tough times, Christ’s followers should be those who come alongside, provide the refreshing water, explain the new way that is open to those who are hurting, and help them to get strong and to help lift them up when they fall. That is the essence of True North Ministry. Will you join us in prayer daily as we seek God’s blessing on this new and growing ministry?

 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.”[iv]

QSL?

When the message is crucially important to the sender it is not received by the listener – the sender is left with frustration and disappointment.

“QSL? Can you confirm receipt of my message?”… “I say again, did you copy my last transmission? Did you receive my message? Can you QSL? – WB8KMP, clear.”

Have you ever reached a point when there was just nothing left to say? Those who really know me would be hard pressed to imagine it! Sometimes there is nothing left to say because there is no one to whom to say it. So many folks I have visited in hospitals, nursing homes and folks who are shut-in at home  have no one to listen and when that happens, there might as well be nothing left to say. If there is a message, even if it is extremely important particularly to the sender, and there is no one who will hear – will it ever get sent?

Sometimes, however,  there are people who hear but still, do not listen.

Amateur Radio QSL Card
Amateur Radio QSL Card

The sender may decide it is no longer worth attempting to get their message across.

In radio communication, the signals are rated as to their readability, strength and tone, on scales of 1-5, 1-9 and 1-9 respectively. A good clear signal is reported as a 5 by 9. The tone rating is used when the communication is  continuous wave (CW) or what is commonly known as Morse Code. It is possible to be  sending a message to those around you at a 5 by 9 rating and still it is not received. In the old days, a radio station had one radio which was the receiver and another one that was the transmitter. It was possible that if one was not careful  he could be sending (or transmitting) on one frequency and  the persons who should be ‘receiving’ the message could be on another frequency. No matter how clear the signal no message will be received. The sender might as well have nothing left to say.

The Apostle Paul wrote about such a situation. In his letter to the church in Rome, Paul explained that only by believing and confessing that belief in Christ can one be saved. But he goes on to ask, ‘How can they believe on someone they have not heard and how can they hear without a preacher?’ How they can have a preacher unless the preacher is sent? When we came to candidate class for missionary service, we were often asked how we knew that God had called us to this field or this or that group. When we approached our church initially, the question was how we knew God had called us to missionary service. Often in testimonies to churches, they want to know how we  know that what we are doing is the work the Holy Spirit would have us to do. Those whom we have taught, ask for their own lives how they can know that God has called them or that the Holy Spirit is directing them to a particular ministry. Is it a mystical, middle of the night, voice in the dark or hand writing on the wall kind of experience?

It seems odd, at times, to listen as folks say that they are assured of God’s call to a place or a group, perhaps a certain ministry and then suddenly the role has changed, the ministry is different, and for whatever reason the message they were sent to deliver, or at least they believed they were sent, became second to some other calling. Certainly there cannot be any judgment as to how it was or was not received. The interaction between the Holy Spirit and born again believers is only between the two of them. There can be no second guessing of the  call it is only between the two. The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion and there is no tester that lets one know whether the call was properly received at a 5-9 or if it was a misdirection by the enemy. There are substantiating methodologies but for now, just know that God will make it clear in your head, your heart and in the hearts of others.

What happens when the call is strong, the sense is sure and yet those to whom you completely believe to have been sent turn a deaf ear? They may be declining the message, messenger or both. There were Old Testament prophets who were killed because the people did not want them. Some were killed because of their message. In both instances, the message was not received, at least not initially. Do you continue to transmit the message when the frequency band has gone dead? What about when the ‘listener’ has turned off the radio receiver?

There is nothing as rewarding as truly knowing the call that God has for your ministry. There is nothing as heartbreaking  as having those to whom you are certain you have been sent decline to listen. It can even be in good faith that those folks believe their radio receiver is working just fine and is on the correct frequency. It is then that one must simply trust that the Holy Spirit who has begun a good work in you will continue it until its completion. He is invested in the future of the ministries and in the hearts and lives of all those involved. He will see it through. The prophets understood well this issue. Each individual is responsible to God for how he received the message and what he did with it once he had it.

What about you? Is your receiver on the correct frequency? How about your antenna. Without it, you will pick up only static; sometimes not even that much. Either your external speakers or your headset must have the correct connection in order to pick up the signal carrying the message so you can hear it. If you can have all of those things in place which includes a preparation to act upon the message once received; you have begun the path toward fulfilling Christ’s plan for your life. If you are facing the disappointment and heartbreak of having a call, having the message, having prepared yourself to deliver it and then those to whom you were sent have declined it; know simply this – it is God’s ministry. It is God’s message. He will finish what He has begun.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

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