Luke 9:51-56--When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determinedto journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.
Two words in the English language frequently reveal obstinacy—“I can’t.” Whenever I say “I can’t” in the context of not doing what should be done, I profess to know myself and my limitations and therefore to pronounce what Iwill not do. Of course, I have the right to state what I am unwilling to do. But it is not a question of rights when rebellion is exposed, rather it is a question of will. God sees me for who and what I really am. All the cleverest observations I utter about myself, the most thoughtful pronouncements fall infinitely short of God’s understanding of who I am.
Have you ever been in a situation where no matter what action you took nothing good was likely to happen? We call this “stuck between a rock and a hard place.” In 1917 a lack of funding caused by an earlier banking crisis led to a dispute between copper mining companies and mineworkers in Bisbee, Arizona. The workers, some of whom had organized in labor unions, gave their company management a list of demands for better pay and conditions. Management refused their request and many workers at the Bisbee mines were forcibly deported to New Mexico. “Given that the mineworkers were faced with a choice between harsh and underpaid work at the rock-face on the one hand and unemployment and poverty on the other” this is probably the source of the phrase.
I heard an excellent message from a pastor recently about not defending ourselves when we are betrayed or attacked. His point was that no matter what we say in defense we cannot undo the damage and we may actually make things worse. If we have done what is right and are slandered, lied about, or smeared unfairly, the best course of action is to continue to live our lives righteously and trust God for the results. If close friends ask what is happening, we may share with them . . . The point is: don’t retaliate, defend, or excuse ourselves.
This is not easy. To hold our peace when warred against is like watching mosquitoes take blood and not swatting them. Why would we do that?
Stephen and I signed up to run the Run to the Ascent 5k, a race our church sponsored to raise funds to help prevent suicides in the local schools. Even though he had just moved to Colorado, Stephen was able to place fifth overall in the race—a remarkable achievement given the high elevation of Monument, Colorado against 360 other competitors.
Sebastian Junger wrote a book entitled Tribe. It is a great work about homecoming and belonging particularly effective in explaining why our nation’s veterans tend to suffer so much as they return to a land that itself is messed up. One of Junger’s observations was that when our nation was first colonized the American Indians virtually never left their tribes to become part of the colonists. Conversely, history records that numbers of settlers freely left their towns and cities to join surrounding tribes. Evidently, the tribal egalitarian way of life, the common sharing of possessions, and loyalty to each other attracted people disenchanted with overly-strict rules and the independent-spirit so prevalent among European settlers. Junger admits that tribes were not perfect and were often marked by cruelty and depravity in the manner in which they attacked other tribes. Yet, there was
Jesus in the final hours before getting arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane asked eight of the disciples to sit while he prayed. Then He took Peter, James and John with him further into the garden. Disclosing His anguish to His three closest friends, He asked them to stay awake with Him. Then He went a little further and fell face down on the ground to pray. When He returned to the three he found them sleeping. He confronted Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake one hour?” (vs. 37)
Jackie called her friend Sandy and informed her that she was going to quit her job. When asked why, she said that her company changed management and the new boss was unfriendly towards her and very critical of her work. Rather than try and figure out the profile of her new boss and how she might modify her behavior, it was easier for Jackie to leave. Jackie does not like conflict. Not many people do.
The Army requires every company to conduct what is called a Command Climate Survey. The purpose of this survey is to let leaders know the health of their organization by giving soldiers the opportunity to anonymously write positive or negative observations about a wide range of issues within their unit. In the headquarters company for the division I commanded, several people wrote that I had favorites. The inference was that I spent a disproportionate amount of time with certain people—some of whom were directly named. The criticism was petty and, probably fueled to some extent by jealousy, but I could not ignore it or it would just continue to fester and cause deeper problems.
Deuteronomy 1:30,31—The Lord your God who goes before you will fight for you, just as you saw Him do for you in Egypt. And you saw in the wilderness how the Lord your God carried you as a man carries his son all along the way you traveled until you reached this place.
Genesis 26:21,22—Then they dug another well and quarreled over that one also, so he named it Hostility. He moved from there and dug another, and they did not quarrel over it. He named it Open Spaces and said, “For now the LORD has made room for us, and we will be fruitful in the land.”
The Philistines inhabited the land of Canaan and because water was precious in that arid region there was competition over who controlled it. In the passage above, Isaac, the son of Abraham could not escape quarreling with Philistine herdsmen who, envious of his wealth, claimed any wells Isaac’s servants dug up as their own. They should have been thankful for more sources of water. Instead, by their hostile actions, they were sending a message to Isaac—“Get out of our land.”
1 Peter 1:14,15—As obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires of your former ignorance. But as the One who called you is holy, you also are to be holy in all your conduct; for it is written, Be holy, because I am holy.
Do you ever wonder why is it so hard to be holy? Why is it so difficult to abstain from sin? The Holy Spirit brought to mind something that was instantly convicting. I sin because I am not focused on honoring God’s will and reputation.
Jude 20,21—But you, dear friends, as you build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, expecting the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life.
Lamentations 3:37—Who is there who speaks and it happens, unless the Lord has ordained it?
Dr. Sebastian Gorka gave a fascinating presentation to a gathering of Army Reserve command teams in Alexandria, Virginia. His speech was entitled, “Understanding the Rise of ISIS and the Role of Religion in the Commander’s Area of Responsibility (AOR).” In the last 200 years, 460 wars were fought with 80% of them classified as unconventional. Dr. Gorka shared this fact to establish that we are badly mistaken if we think that conventional armies arrayed to do battle are the norm. Then he went on to explain why ISIS is so dangerous.
2 Chronicles 32:1—After these faithful deeds, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah. He laid siege to the fortified cities and intended to break into them.
Dashrath Manjhi by his own hands carved a road through a 300-foot mountain to provide his town access to doctors, education and opportunities. After his wife fell down and got hurt while trying to cross the mountain that separated two villages, Manjhi sold three goats to buy a hammer and chisel. He decided to do something to make it safer for his family and those in their village. So from 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to evening each day he attacked the mountain—pounding his way through massive rock. From 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. he plowed the fields of his neighbors to earn enough money to sustain his family.
On my way to Kuwait, Kathleen dropped me off at the Colorado Springs airport. As I prepared to go through security I realized I forgot to pack my laptop. Quickly I calculated how long it would take Kathleen to get home and retrieve it. I then checked with security and the United ticket counter to see how much time I actually had before the plane departed. Fortunately, despite heavy traffic, my wife was able to get my computer to me and I arrived at the gate seven minutes before it was supposed to close. Ironically, the flight was delayed.
Mike’s wife left him. She was having an affair and had no further desire to remain married. Her bizarre behavior shook the very foundation of Mike’s life and the lives of their three children. Yet, despite the intense pain of betrayal, the long hours of soul-searching and the challenge of holding his family together, now years later, I watch Mike thrive. He leads his company with deeper passion and a higher compassion. His walk with God is on fire—the holy, can’t-get- enough-of-Jesus flame that melts the hardest skeptic.
Mark 8:38—For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will also be ashamed of him when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.
Paulownia kawakamiis are the fastest growing hardwood trees in the world. Mine grew over 15 feet in one year. Their roots extend deep into the soil. Their green leaves are like elephant ears and aside from providing excellent shade, make superb fertilizer. Kawakamiis produce flowers that are sapphire blue with yellow centers and for this reason are sometimes called sapphire dragons. When our tree bloomed people would park their cars just to get pictures. The tree also produced pods with sticky seeds but this became a problem. In a heavy wind, the overburdened limbs snapped causing all kinds of havoc. After years of enduring falling branches I had to have our tree cut down for fear that someone might be injured.