Daniel 1:1-8 “Counter-culture Faith”

Four Lessons I Learned From the Army, Outdoors, and My Faith. Pt.1

Recently a friend asked me, “What did you learn from your time in the Army and the outdoors and how does it apply to your Christian life?”  So, after thinking about it, I have come up with four lessons.

Mentoring/Discipleship/Shared Life

I celebrated my 18th birthday at the US Army Rotary Wing Aviation Course and my 20th birthday after returning from Viet Nam with over 1,000 hours of combat flying. I served as an Army helicopter pilot in the 101st Airborne. Our company call sign was Ghost Riders. I was/am Ghost Rider 54. Our company was a highly decorated unit. We flew in I Corps, which was in the mountains along the Demilitarized Zone and Laos. During its time in Viet Nam the company earned two Presidential Unit Citations (for Ripcord and Lam Son 719). At last year’s reunion in D.C. a Pentagon representative said there were only 14 given during the war. Off hand, I can think of four or five men who earned or were recommended for Silver Stars. Most of the pilots earned Distinguished Flying Crosses. The  unit flew in support of troops at Hamburger Hill, the A Shau Valley, Ripcord, and Lam Son 719. All of the major combat events in I Corps during the units time in country.  Through all of these actions we had a low casualty rate. This was not by accident. Helicopter pilots arrived in Viet Nam with about 200 hours. We could fly the aircraft but we were a long way from being real pilots.  The first 350-500 hours of flying in-country were spent as a Peter Pilot. Sitting in the right seat we had to learn the skills to hover with one skid on a ridge line while heavily loaded troops would climb on or off the aircraft. We were expected to hover down 150 feet into jungle landing zones with just a few feet clearance on each side. The pilot would focus on the trees a few feet from the rotor blades while moving the tailboom a foot or two left or right depending on the directions of the crewchief and doorgunner.  We were expected to be able to operate in the mountains with maximum loads under all sorts of conditions. All of this was to be done while taking enemy fire.  An aircraft commander could drop through an opening in the clouds and know where he was by looking at a river valley or hillside.  That did not happen by accident. Aircraft commanders were expected to pass on all of their skills and knowledge to the new guys. Some pilots never made AC because of lack of skills or mental toughness. We all knew that one day we would go home and we would turn our aircraft and crew over to one of the new guys. I wanted my crewchief and gunner to come home safe. That meant I needed to make sure my replacement was well trained. We understood the difference between a guy with wings and a real combat pilot required mentoring. Pilots would enter the company and spend months flying with the experienced AC’s. When the old guys DEROSed (went home) the new “old guys” would pass on the unit traditions, knowledge, and skills to the new “new guys”.  I knew the names of the aircraft commanders who had taught my aircraft commanders. It was an unbroken chain of mentoring. It was more than a transference of information. Ghost Riders believed in a shared live. We did everything together. That is why we are still a part of each others’ lives forty plus years later.

I also learned the importance of this when I was commercial fishing in SE Alaska. I was a good sport fisherman, but then I began long-lining for halibut and trolling for salmon. I had an Oregon dory with a small cabin and I would go out for three to five days at a time. I was OK, but knew I did not know all I needed. One of the top handtrollers in Southeast Alaska was a guy named Mick. I don’t know why Mick took pity on me. I think it was because I was a hard worker. I was usually right in front or behind him pulling out of the anchorage each morning and was one of the last boats to come in to anchor at night. I usually put in 20 hour days. One night Mick invited me over to his boat to mug up. (You grab your coffee, or hot chocolate, mug and sit around the galley stove.) From that night on, I would anchor up, clean my gear, and then sit with Mick as he taught me to rig gear, how to fish, when to fish, everything I needed to know as a fisherman. This was unusual because commercial fishermen are secretive. Mentoring was not a commonly used word at that time, but that was what Mick did.

Jesus’ ministry was one of mentoring. The Bible calls this discipleship. Everyday Peter, James, John, and the others watched Jesus minister and teach. They asked him questions. They watched him serve people. So many of the passages in the Gospels could be described as  serendipitous. A great example was when Jesus was walking through the wheat field on a Sabbath (Matthew 12). He “harvested” and milled the wheat causing the Pharisees to accuse Jesus and the disciples of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus then taught about the purpose of the Sabbath. When you share life, the teacher does not present a canned lesson, he answers the student’s questions as they arise from day to day life.  After Jesus ascended into heaven his enemies commented that it was clear His disciples were just like Jesus. I have been blessed over the years since Viet Nam to be discipled/mentored by older Christians. I learned about being a father, husband, and man through them. In turn I like to think my three sons are better Christian men, husbands and fathers because of their time with me.

I have long said after Viet Nam I knew more about how to be a “real helicopter pilot” than living the Christian life. On one hand I was mentored; on the other I was not. In truth, both settings are war zones. Survival and victory depend on each generation passing on the knowledge and skills to the next.

Dr. Paige Patterson on 2016 Election

April 30, 1945 and November 8, 2016

 

I would highly recommend reading the article at this link. Dr. Patterson has always had a gift for using examples from history to shed light on present situations.

CW4 Duane “Muddy” Watters

“In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger, to consecrate ground for the vision-place of souls…” General Joshua Chamberlain, Congressional Medal of Honor. He held the Union left flank at Little Round Top, Gettysburg.

Last night I

I am proud to wear this patch, not because of my "accomplishments", but because of the honor of calling these men my brothers.

I am proud to wear this patch, not because of my “accomplishments”, but because of the honor of calling these men my brothers.

was called and informed that Duane “Muddy” Watters had recently died from complications related to lung cancer. Two of the most important days of my flying career (March 19 & 20) were spent flying right seat for Muddy. Muddy was one of the old guys (24). He was an excellent pilot, calm under fire, and committed to his fellow Ghost Riders. He would not leave a man behind, no matter what. He retired a CW4. Muddy said he wanted to be remembered by the words: “Duty, honor and country.” He lived it. Muddy, Itty Bitty, and others “consecrated” the air and landing zones in the action known as Lam Son 719. I was hoping to see him at the October reunion. He is survived by his wife, Candice and family in Fairbanks, AK. He is missed. He is remembered. And, we are growing old.

The Intellectual And Spiritual Wanderings Of American, Conservative, Evangelical Christians: Or, Why I Do Not Listen To Glenn Beck.

To begin, I have several confessions to make. First of all, I listen to talk radio. Not every day, but several times a week. I like Rush Limbaugh. Maybe because I understand his humor. I do not hang on every word, but I appreciate another perspective than network news. I listen to several other radio talk show hosts depending on when I am driving in the truck. That said, I do not listen to Glenn Beck. I use to, but not now.

I think Glenn Beck is an expert on American history, and insightful in American politics. I agree with many things Beck says. I also think he and his radio show crew have a great time. Sometimes they are hilarious. But, except for occasional short segments transitioning to or from other shows, I do not listen. My problem is a problem of Christology and eschatology.

First the Christology; on Glenn Beck’s Facebook page he states:

I am a born again LDS Christian who teaches Gospel Doctrine in my church, speaks about God and Jesus more than any other main stream radio or television host in the last 70 years, who also studies the Torah with rabbis on a regular basis and met today with the Dalai Lama. [smile emoticon.]

Glenn Beck does sound more like a televangelist than a radio talk show host. And, the times I have listened to his program he is constantly calling for prayer, revival, and for Christian unity. In the above quote he is obviously proud of his ecumenical spirit. He often invokes Christ’s name in his pleas. He is quiet passionate about God and Jesus.

The conundrum is his adherence to the “Gospel Doctrine in my church.” The LDS Christ was once a man, just a man, not the 100% God/100% man of the Bible and the historic creeds of the Christian faith. The gospel according to Glenn Beck’s LDS teachings is not the redemptive work of God through Christ and the cross. The LDS gospel teaches salvation through obedience to the teachings of the LDS church. The LDS Jesus was a man as we are; and if we avail ourselves of baptism in a Mormon Temple, marry in a Mormon Temple, spend two years as a self-supporting LDS missionary, earn and maintain a “Temple Recommend”, and in general work your way through life you will experience exaltation. Your eternity will consist of becoming a god, like Jesus is now, and becoming a god, along with your wife (wives) to another world. I am sure some Mormons may say I don’t have it exactly right, but I am correct in the fact the LDS does not use the word “gospel” as the Christian Church does. The Christ of the LDS is not the Christ I worship and serve. Therefore, to hear Glenn Beck evoke Christ and claim a unity on spiritual grounds is unacceptable.

Glenn Beck is well informed concerning Shiite eschatology. This branch of Islam contents the twelfth and final Imam will come for the final reckoning. As Beck has made clear, the danger of a nuclear Iran is the fact that Iran’s leadership believes they can hasten the twelfth Imam’s return by starting a nuclear war. Just as the hijackers did not hesitate to fly planes into buildings on 9/11, Iran’s leadership will not hesitate to start Armageddon. Their eschatology (doctrine of end times) drives their thinking. Securing the return of the twelfth Imam and earning their place in Paradise is worth it all.

In the same way we need to understand LDS eschatology. The LDS church is similar to historical Christianity in regards to the return of Christ. However, Mormons place a greater emphasis on the end times, the cataclysmic events preceding His return, and the need to prepare for those preliminary events. You might say, Christians believe the same. I am basically a Pre-Tribulation supporter. I am not rigid and can even go for a Mid-Tribulation Rapture. However, if I am wrong, that is OK. I do not spend a lot of time preaching about the events of Revelation. I think it is largely written to the people who will experience it. I do not stockpile large supplies of food as LDS encourages.

It might be wise to stockpile food supplies and doing so is not a bad thing. However, that eschatology is apparent in the Glenn Beck Show’s tone. I get depressed when I listen to Beck for any length of time. Beck expects the worse. Every show I have heard is a litany of coming disasters. I do believe America will be judged and receive the consequences as we continue to move farther from our Founder’s moral base. However, I am also a student of revivals and believe God will have another great harvest before He shuts this all down. Therefore, in the midst of all the crazy (and sick) things occurring in our world, God is still in control.

Can I, as a conservative Christian, work with people of like morals and values? Yes. I will be happy to work with people of all faiths to stop abortion, sex trafficking, and other societal sins. I have had, and still have, friends of various beliefs, including LDS. However, there is a line that cannot be crossed. After 9/11 there was a ecumenical “worship” service in New York led by Oprah Winfrey. I would not have participate in that service if invited. Would I attend a community gathering honoring the victims? Yes. Actually, I have less problems with Oprah because she doesn’t present herself as a Christian, and that is the rub. Beck thinks he is.

In the last year Glenn Beck has promoted various events with a spiritual emphasis. He is calling “Christians” to unite. He has spoken from the podiums of various Christian churches. He presents himself as a “Born-again Mormon.” Unfortunately, many Christians now see Glenn Beck as a prophetic voice like a modern day Dwight L. Moody. They are not only trusting him for political advice, but spiritual direction. When I invite anyone to speak in the church I pastor, or attend a spiritually focused event, I best consider who is leading the movement.

Can I accept Glenn Beck, or any other Born-again Mormon as a brother in Christ? Yes, on one condition. To accept Christ as Lord and Savior requires me to reject all other ways of salvation. I pray for the day Glenn Beck denounces the “Gospel Doctrine [ of the LDS] church” as a false gospel and Jesus Christ and His substitutionary, propitiatory sacrifice as the only means of salvation. No one can accept the gospel piecemeal. What it means to be a Christian is not determined by other religious groups or someone desiring to adapt elements of Christian doctrine within his own religious framework.

       I am in agreement, we probably are in “the last days”. Therefore, I need to remember 2 Corinthians 11:13-15, 2 Peter 2:1, and other passages in which I am warned of the danger of false teachers. Do not expect them to identify themselves as anything other than Christians. I also consider the warning of Matthew 7:21-23 (NKJV)
Matthew 7:15-20 (NKJV)
15  “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16  You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17  Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19  Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20  Therefore by their fruits you will know them. 21  “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

The people of this passage will be stunned when they are cast out. They thought they were Christians. I am sure others also thought the religious workers were Christians.

In closing I might as well kick the dog on my way out. I would have made some comments about the way Christians are jumping on the political bandwagon of people like Donald Trump because they like his bluntness, but I have said enough for now.

 

 

The Cross and Political Correctness

In the last few weeks the national news has been focusing on the legislation in Indiana and Arkansas dealing with protecting religious liberty. We are in the midst of a collision of biblical and non-biblical values. Before dealing with the contemporary events I would like to go back to the Roman Empire and its use of crucifixion.

The Romans were not inventive. They were innovative. They had the practice of using other cultures’ ideas and improving them. Crucifixion was used by the Persians and the Macedonians, but the Romans took the practice to a new level. Crucifixion was not about killing the victim. There were much more efficient means of execution, and the Romans loved efficiency. The main purpose of crucifixion was silencing opposition. If a non-citizen was determined a threat to Roman rule he was crucified. You may have been unhappy under Roman rule, but you kept your thoughts to yourself, because the cross was always looming. Crassus crucified 6,000 slaves after crushing their uprising. That was the last revolt by the slaves. Crucifixion silenced the opposition.

We do not literally crucify people today. We are more civilized in silencing opposition than that. The Indiana Freedom of Religion bill was in line with federal legislation signed by President Bill Clinton. The purpose was to support the First Amendment protections for Indiana residents. The news media “carried the water” for the homosexual community portraying the law as promoting businesses who wish to discriminate against homosexuals. Like numerous other recent events, the facts of the case were never presented. America has become a society that does not desire truth. Our culture does not want an exchange of ideas. Instead of presenting the various positions in the public arena and trusting that the truth and the superior position will win the day, divergent positions are silenced by “crucifixion”, that horrible death.

Crucifixion was designed to humiliate and intimidate. The victim was scourged with lashes tipped with metal and bone. They were disfigured with pieces of flesh hanging from the open wounds exposing bones. They were stripped of their clothes. They were hung along the public roadways. They were made less than human. American “crucifixion” involves a social media blitz bombarding the enemy with hate mail and threats. The guilty party’s livelihood or business is threatened. The person’s integrity, character, and morals are maligned. In some cases the federal government becomes involved with threats of IRS audits or justice department investigations. The message to the observing masses is clear, do not express your views, especially do not take a stand for a biblical worldview, go with the flow. It is not surprising that our politicians run for cover, who wants that kind of attention. But, we are not politicians. We are followers of Christ.

As His followers, we are to love all people while standing on His word. As Americans we have a unique place in history. As an army officer, I took an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution. We have been given a priceless gift of the First Amendment. The freedom of religion is the foundational right. When it falls, all others will follow. As a Christian, I am a bondservant of Christ. I am to be faithful to my Lord even if it conflicts with the government. We have a moral obligation to protect our constitutional rights for future generations. In the recent collisions of values there is a clearly stated constitutional right, the freedom of religion, versus a lifestyle choice. Christianity is not a religion of coercion. You must come to Christ of your own free will. Whether you come or not, you are to be loved as a human being. The sanctity of human life is true for all. I reject all lifestyles that do not conform to God’s word, but respect the person’s right to choose their own life. In turn, I expect others to respect my choice. Do not try to force me affirm yours. The homosexual social agenda is the affirmation of their worldview while stripping all others of theirs, and one of their most powerful tools is “crucifying” anyone brave, or foolish, enough to speak in opposition. Christians and others can hold their private views, but cannot express those views as others do. We are being forced out of the public arena. Christian businesses daily serve people of other faiths and lifestyles, but that is not enough. Now those businesses must participate in practices contrary to Christian beliefs. There is a difference between others practicing their lifestyles (i.e., homosexual marriages) and being required to approve of the practice by catering the event, or providing flowers. You know it is political correctness when a Muslim business does not have to serve me pork barbeque, or the equivalent for businesses of a liberal viewpoint.

The Jewish religious leaders and the Roman government thought they had silenced the teacher from Nazareth. By all appearances they had won. The followers of Jesus were scattered, in hiding, and terrified. That was the usual effect of crucifixion. But, they were wrong. The Resurrection changed everything. The world was “turned right side up” by His followers. (Remember, it was the lost who said the disciples were turning the world upside down.) The Holy Spirit transformed the disciples into men who were more in awe of God than afraid of the cross. Tradition tells us that the disciples died for the faith. Thousands of Christians died under Roman persecution and the Church’s response to the hate was love.

Political correctness is effective as long as people are intimidated. As American Christians we have the right to hold our moral positions and exercise them in the political process. That said, our greatest concern is not the political ramifications of our silence. Our faith is not lived out in isolation.  We cannot be not salt and light in selected arenas. If we are followers of Christ, He is Lord of all the arenas of our lives.  We must speak truth in love and with boldness. Where would we be if the first century disciples were silenced by the political correctness of their time? Where will our grandchildren be if we are not faithful? No one wants to be vilified, but Jesus was not excited about his looming crucifixion.

 

Spring and preparing for the harvest.

I love this time of year. This past winter has been cool and wet enough that it was hard to get enthused about riding my bike enough to stay in shape. Winter is a time of tarped boats and occasional rides. When I lived in Alaska it was a time to ski and ice climb. This part of North Carolina is too cold for summer sports and too warm for winter sports. So, winter is a time to rest a bit and recharge. Then comes spring. When I commercial fished in Alaska spring was filled with cleaning and rigging the boat, checking and tying new gear, and counting down the days until the king salmon showed up in numbers. Spring was a time of anticipation, and preparation.

We need times of refreshing. Ecclesiastes 3 declares there is a season for everything. There are times for sabbaticals, but a never ending sabbatical is called laziness. I have found it hard to shift from resting  to activity. After sitting in neutral it is just hard for me to shift back into high gear. You may have the same problem. If so, then perhaps, the following motivational tools I use could benefit you.

Set a goal with a “price”. During the winter I ride a couple of times a week if the weather is good. It is hard to shift into a daily ride mode,  which I desperately need to shed my winter weight gain. In January I register (and pay) to participate in a major ride. Usually I ride a century (100 miles in one day) at the end of April. This year I am riding a 75 mile ride from Emerald Isle to Harker’s Island and back. These rides are fun, but require preparation. I know it will be agony to ride the mileage if I have not prepared, and I won’t back out because I paid to enter. I have a ten week training program which adds mileage each week. At the end of February my lazy side does not want to go for a ride, but I know the “price” of not going. I have a goal with a timeline that will not change. On May 5 I will either enjoy a great ride with a friend, or I will suffer for five hours, or forfeit the fee.

Find a partner. Last spring my middle son committed to riding a century with me the end of April. He was living in Macon so we could not train together, but we would often compare training rides using a smartphone app. This year a former colleague, John, approached me about “Ride the Bank.” John and I were professors together a few years ago. At that time neither of us rode. Since then John began doing triathlons and I started riding centuries. John wanted to try his hand at longer rides (he is used to 18-20 milers), and had heard I was riding. So John and I meet two or three times a week to train together. We have busy schedules so we can’t ride everyday at the same time. We are riding on our own, but the common training sessions help us stay accountable. For a couple of old guys we are doing pretty good.

Related to both of the above is the motivation of making it public. Before my first long ride I made sure my family knew, so I could not back out. (It was nice to hear the grand-kids express their pride when I completed it.) Recently, I used this tool in my small group. For several years I have done little scripture memorization work. In the past I memorized Colossians and Titus, but then stopped. I took a sabbatical from memorizing new material. It was comfortable just repeating those books on a regular basis. Some days I would not quote any scriptures. Last month, two of our small group members talked about the book of James. Their comments were not about memorization, just about how James blessed them. I was convicted that I could have memorized the book if I had not taken a “sabbatical” from memorization. Actually, sabbatical is just a term to make me feel better. I had become lazy in regards to committing God’s word to memory. I was satisfied with maintaining the status quo. That night I made a public commitment to memorize James. Now, I am making a commitment to  not stop with James. The days I start to skip my memory work I think of my small group members and my commitment to them.

I enjoy cycling. There is a sense of accomplishment when I finish a hard ride. I started riding as a means of exercising. I cannot stand working out in a gym or running. Riding a bike is like being a kid again. I determined that I want to be active when I am in my eighties. I also realized for that to happen, I could not wait until I am eighty to begin exercising. I am investing now for a goal years away. In the same fashion, I want to be a godly man who knows God’s word. I have always admired those elderly saints that exude God’s love and have His word hidden in their hearts. That will not take place unless I prepare now.

God rested on the seventh day to demonstrate our need for rest. God did not create everything in one day, though He could have, and then take six days of rest. We will have times that we need to take a break, but then we need to return to work. Jesus looked upon the multitude and encouraged his disciples to pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest. (Matt 9:37-38)  Winter is over. Spring is here. Summer is coming, and then the harvest. Will we be ready? Set the goal. Pay a price. Make it public. Find that yoke fellow who will challenge you and hold you accountable. Everything we invest now will come back as a blessing when we stand before the Lord of the Harvest. The fields are white unto harvest.

Speaking Schedule – Spring 2015

January 22– Burlington, NC    First Wesleyan   Game dinner

February 7– North Augusta, SC   Sweetwater Baptist Church,  God’s Great Outdoors, Training conference for equipping churches for outdoor ministry.  8 a.m.- 4 p.m.

Javalina with bow, South Texas, 2007

Javalina with bow, South Texas, 2007

February 26– Florence, SC    Ebenezer Baptist Church   Game dinner   6 p.m.

February 28– Wilson, NC   New Hope Baptist Church   Game dinner  6 p.m.

April 10– Welcome, NC     Center United Methodist Church      Game dinner   6 p.m.

April 18–Talbott, TN       Magna View Baptist Church   Wild game festival 12-8 p.m.