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

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!

Thoughts on Faith

Rev. R. L. Riggs, D Min.      July 14, 2012

Seldom do I take a Minute for a theological doctrine issue; only because they usually take more than a minute. I’m not against a good theological debate. The Bible (and particularly one professor I had) says that iron sharpens iron. My reason for taking up this topic, even briefly, is that sometimes we hear things from the pulpit that, if our ear is trained – it twings a bit at the theology behind a statement. Many though, have ears that might twing a bit, but they aren’t sure why. Folks either walk away confused or worse, misled. I shall say here and now, I do not believe this young pastor meant to mislead or confuse. I believe it is more that, sometimes we use a phrase in our ‘Christian-speak’ so often it takes on a life of its own that will not really clear the hurdle of a theologically thought-out truth.

Here is the phrase: saving faith. If you have been in Christian circles, I know you have heard it. What is it? For the sake of our ‘Minute’ let’s take it logically.

Answer: faith that saves. Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “By grace you are saved… through faith…” So it isn’t faith that saves, it grace.

‘Okay’, you say, that is splitting hairs. Is it? Let’s follow the thought. If faith saves, whose faith is it that saves? You answer logically, ‘the person being saved, it is their faith in God.’

I respond: How can a dead person have faith? Romans 3:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death…” Ephesians 2:1 reads, “And you He has quickened (raised to life) who were dead in your trespasses and sins.” The Holy Spirit had to come to you and open your eyes so you could see your sin and repent. Then, by grace, God gives you the gift of life. Remember Ephesians 2? It is a gift. If you must have enough faith to be saved, then is it a gift?

You reply: ‘Yes, but I must respond in faith to take the gift. I must stop putting my trust for my eternity in me and put it in God.”  Ok, then will you take the faith that God is giving you and put it fully in His grace to save you? This is our act of submission to Him.

The Bible tells us that we are ‘justified by faith’ but let’s see the context: Romans 3:24 reads: “Being justified freely by his grace through redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood…”  verse 28  “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” As Hebrews outlines the ‘heroes of the faith’, verse 12:2 reads “Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” ‘Justified’ is referring to the legal position in which the believer is found. The argument the author was making was to stop the Judaizers from forcing law as and rules down on believers, including circumcision, to be truly saved. Paul argues, ‘NO!’ It is by the faithfulness of God in His promise that His grace is sufficient that places the believer ‘legally justified’ in the eyes of a Holy God. If God has given that faith to a person, his life will show evidence of it.

But, how does a person get this faith? (Romans 12:3) God gives faith. Verse 22 of Romans 3 reads, “Even the righteousness of God ­which is by faith of Jesus Christ.” Follow the logic:

Either I garner up enough faith, myself, to believe in God to get the gift or

                God gives me the faith I need because of His grace at my repentant heart so I can receive the gift. Even my repentant heart comes because the Holy Spirit allowed me to see my true condition. I take the faith God gives me and put it solely on His grace to save me. This is the act of free will.

I believe the faith spoken of in Ephesians 2 is the faith of Christ that God gives to us. Galatians 2:22 reads… “Even though I am dead, yet I live. Yet not I but Christ lives within me. This life I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God…” (Not faith in the Son…). I agree that in speaking to the fallen woman in Luke 7:50 when Jesus said, “Thy faith hath saved thee.” I also believe that scripture is clear; she could not have had that faith had she not received it from God because of her repentant heart. There is not time nor space to go into all of the intricacies of this but it comes down to God’s grace. Yes, we need faith to believe and to act but without His grace we can neither receive the faith nor act on it.

Author and theologian John Piper’s words are instructive:

 

According to Romans 12:3, God gives varying measures of faith to his people.

Paul says that we ought “to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted

 to each a measure of faith” (emphasis added). In the context, this is not a limited

reference to the unique spiritual gift of faith which only some believers have

(1 Corinthians 12:9). For Paul says, “I say to everyone among you not to think more

highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment,

as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. (emphasis added).[i]

 

‘So, what is the big deal you?’ You ask. The argument I heard from the pulpit went like this…  (Remember, this is what I heard, it may not have been what was intended, and again I believe there was no intent to confuse)…

There is a kind of faith that saves and a kind of faith that doesn’t. Your assurance of faith is actually a tool of the devil. We put our faith in a prayer instead of a person… Jesus is my genie.  I should double-check to make sure I really am saved, that I really experienced ‘saving faith’ which produces the fruit of the Spirit.

My problem (and yours) is that neither I nor you can ever have enough faith to save us on our own. God gives us faith Jesus cried over his disciples, “Oh, ye of little faith.” Were they not saved men? When by their lack of faith they fell, did they lose their salvation?

For those of who understand the clarity of so many verses where scripture shows that salvation is once for all time, our sanctification (our growing more like Christ) keeps ebbing flowing but hopefully growing daily. And 1 John 5:­13   “These things are written… so you may know you have eternal life.”

Here is why this struck that twing-twangy chord with me. If there is anything Satan has used more in my life trying to rob me of my joy in my salvation, it has been doubt. He loves to point at my past and say ‘You see what you’ve done? You called yourself a Christian! ‘How can you be one of His?’ Or sometimes he uses the present, ‘I see what you just thought, heard what you said, felt that anger inside you… you call yourself a pastor? How can you…?’

Yes, yes a thousand times yes… we need to be sure of our salvation. Certainly if there are no fruits of the Spirit we must look to be certain of our salvation. Are we saved but grieving the Spirit, as the Scripture says we, as believers can do by our actions? (Eph. 4:30)

We all need to be assured and reassured of our salvation to keep our joy high, our spirits up, our movement forward, and our face to the fight. We are in a war and in the midst of a deep dark battle we have to be able to look about and remind ourselves we are already victors on the side that has won. To regard my assurance of my salvation as a tool of the devil is to rob me of any possible joy and rest in such assurance.

I will share this with my pastor friend and he may clarify for me how I misunderstood. But even if that is the case; let us make sure we all know going out to the deployment for the war rages on; that we are carrying the cross of Christ, the Holy Spirit in our hearts and the full armor of God.

Big Enough

Riggs Ministry Minute: When there is only a minute for ministry

Rev. Ross L. Riggs, DMin ~ “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you the reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” 1 Peter 3:15

BIG ENOUGH

The precept, “there are no atheists in foxholes” may have been said by celebrated war correspondent Ernie Pyle, Chaplain William Cummings with a sermonette at the Battle of the Bulge or other possible war-time philosophers. Whoever it was, we owe them our thanks. It states aphoristically what perhaps escaped us by its simplicity that: When everything around us is totally out of our control, we long for someone or something that is bigger than us, able to restore order to the chaos! It is not until we come to grips with the truth of our own vulnerability to any number of external (and even internal) forces that we realize our neediness.

I was reminded of this by a letter I received from my son during his first week at Army basic training. During their first chapel service after an intensely grueling week, the platoon found they were unable to even get into the chapel. It was filled to overflowing; so… being the good, though neophyte, soldiers that they were, they adapted and had a Bible study instead. Two soldiers were saved by the grace of God. This first week had taught them that they needed something or someone bigger than themselves. Daniel, too, has found solace in scripture reading that he had not known before. By alluding to the statement by Mr. Pyle, or whomever; I do not doubt the sincerity or the efficacy of these soldiers’ prayers for salvation. My observation is simply that, an observation.  I believe the Lord gave Paul a thorn in the flesh for two reasons, the first to remind him that he needed someone greater than himself to get through the days and the second, because he had not given Paul a wife!

Now, wait, before you throw rocks my way… (You know you smiled at that right?) But that is not exactly what I meant. The realization came to me just before I was to get married that suddenly I had the responsibility to care for this human being that I loved for the rest of my life and that I would be held responsible for how well I did that, by God! The feeling of inadequacy was matched four more times in such a strong epiphany; each time that I held a brand new baby for whom I was responsible. In the early years, that feeling was so overwhelming that I did a Jonah and ran from the responsibility. I tried to not think about that day when YHWH would demand of me an accounting for how well I had or had not fulfilled my responsibilities as husband and father. I am ashamed of my initial failures and I praise God for His grace and mercy.

Each and every human being on this earth must believe in something. If they claim to be atheists then they believe more in the non-theology of Karl Marx than the Word of God. The god of this world has blinded their eyes to the truth, but still they believe in something.

 

Atheists shoving nothing in your face

 

 

“Father Mulcahy” of MASH played by William Christopher was once counseling a young man who was afraid that since he had survived his wounds, God would require him to take the vow and become a priest as he promised he would while in his foxhole begging God to get him through the ordeal. The good “Father” assured him that God understood and that “If everyone took the vow as they had promised in a moment of danger, it would be as if the priesthood had a population explosion!” He regretted his analogy shortly thereafter.

Peter required of us that we be always ready to respond when asked why we have hope; when all around us seems hopeless. That is a wonderful command. But I cannot help but wonder, for me and for Christians I know, in a time of crisis would someone who doesn’t know Christ look at us and see that we have hope? Would we be wringing our hands and ‘oh woe is me-ing’ along with everyone else? If we were in that foxhole, would the non-believer next to us be able to turn to us and ask, “Why are you so calm? What do you know that I don’t? What do you believe in?” God has given us an instinct of fear when we are in danger. That is a tool He gave us to help us stay alive. But to fear and fret uncontrollably without seeking the peace God offers, that is sin.

Everybody believes in something. What do you believe?

Would you pray with me between now and mid-September that as Daniel faces this time of stress and testing that he would find strength in God’s Word and that he would be ready to give a reason for the hope within him should he be asked?