Sam Daniels (not his real name) was a diehard Muslim born in Damascus, Syria to a devoted and committed Muslim middle-class family. Sam in his youth memorized the entire Quran. He graduated from a university in England as a civil engineer in 1987, and eventually found work in the United States, yet, despite every achievement he accomplished, he never had any lasting satisfaction.
Genesis 12:10-13—There was a famine in the land, so Abram went down to Egypt to live there for a while because the famine in the land was severe. When he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai, “Look, I know what a beautiful woman you are. When the Egyptians see you, they will say, ‘This is his wife.’ They will kill me but let you live. Please say you’re my sister so it will go well for me because of you, and my life will be spared on your account.”
The story of Abraham would make a great movie. Knowing how attractive his wife was and what the Egyptians were like, he was correct in being concerned. Pharaoh’s
Operation Guardian is an exercise designed for selected Army units to practice search and rescue, decontamination, life-saving skills, convoy movement and set up and tear down of portable equipment. I had the opportunity to watch my soldiers train in Florida and Georgia. When I arrived in Ocala my staff briefed me that there were civilians seeking admittance to our training who were spreading reports that the exercise was a staging operation to bring in foreign occupation troops and remove American freedoms.
The most pain I have suffered (in terms of damage inflicted by a person) was caused by the lying of someone I trusted. We opened up our home to be used as a rental managed by a friend. His vision was to help get men who were homeless off the streets. But instead of following the guidelines we established he began lying about what was happening with the residents as well as telling people that we had given him the home. Ultimately we had to go to court just to get possession of the house. His betrayal, lies, and the financial and emotional cost to my wife and me generated much suffering. I realize that compared to what many others throughout the world have suffered this was not so bad. Even so, it gave me a lasting memory of the harmful impact of lies.
Imagine if a few influential leaders suggested that traffic lights are too restrictive. They offend a percentage of drivers who feel trapped and forced to conform to other motorists. Three-way lights are insensitive to the needs of the color blind and old fashioned. Either do away with them or give each driver leeway to determine whether to brake or accelerate. Of course, if this really happened there would be an outcry by safety-minded drivers for the ruckus and accidents that would ensue.
In Judah, around 622 B.C. during the reign of King Josiah, the book of the law was discovered in the temple. When the king’s court secretary, Shaphan read the law to Josiah, he tore his clothes. He knew God’s anger was stirred against them because their ancestors had disobeyed God’s instructions. So he sent Hilkiah the high priest (who found the scripture) with some of his court officials to “Go and inquire of the LORD for me, the people, and all Judah about the instruction in this book”(2 Kings 22:13a). So five men went to the prophetess Huldah in order to hear from the Lord. She told them of God’s plans for them. But why couldn’t Hilkiah the high priest explain the message it contained to King Josiah? Why did he have to go to Huldah? If my answer is correct it is pretty disturbing.
Deception is a technique employed by the military on occasion to help win campaigns or to influence the battlefield so that the enemy is confused as to our real intent. In the battle of Normandy in World War II, a large deception campaign was orchestrated which utilized fake machinery, misleading radio traffic and a mock buildup of troops to confuse the Germans as to the real landing sites where the allied forces would land in France. Throughout many wars, psychological operations have played a key role in helping influence the enemy and the population of a country where forces operate. For four years I served in a Psychological Operations Company—part of the Army Reserves that works tactically and operationally.
When we navigate with a compass if we don’t keep on line with the precise azimuth, we get off course. Just walking across uneven land, over hills and through brush will change our direction and can easily cause us to get lost. I remember as a child in Japan, descending from the top of Mt. Fuji with two other boys. We left the sure circular path to take a short cut. But coming down the steep slope, we walked at an angle and ended up far away from our intended destination, lost and separated from the rest of our group.
The doorbell rang and I answered it to find two young men well dressed and eager to speak with me. They wanted to see if they could visit with us. So I invited them in and Kathleen provided them something to drink.
Andre flew from Benin to join our First Cause team in Kenya. He is wonderful man who served for many years as a pastor before obeying God’s call to venture out in evangelism and a more open-ended ministry. Andre serves as the spiritual advisor to his nation’s president, a God-fearing leader. As such, God is using him to influence many important officials in his country. We were very blessed by Andre’s humility, contagious love for God, and the enthusiasm with which he embraced our disciple maker training.
Kathleen called me on my cell phone. “Dan, I think Mel was run over . . .” Mel, short for Melbourne, is our Siamese mix cat well-beloved in the York household. So on my way home I deviated from the normal route and sure enough, found him lying beside the sidewalk just a block from our home. I walked down to where he lay and noticed the blood trail running from the center of the road. I was surprised because Mel is rather skittish and I’d never known him to cross the busy road in front of our home. I figured something spooked him and he ran out into the road and was hit.
The top supervisor position in a Brigade I will be commanding opens at the end of the month. A team of four of us conducted interviews with three job applicants. One of the individuals on the hiring team, Jack,* clearly favored one of the applicants and pressured the rest of us to hire her. His choice did the best job fielding questions and technically seemed the most competent for the job. By the end of the interviews the team leaned towards hiring her. Inwardly I did not feel comfortable selecting her. It felt like we were rushing to make a hire—squeezed by time and loyalty to select a woman who had served in our organization a long time. I silently asked God for His help that we would do the right thing. Instead of immediately offering her the position I gained approval from the other three leaders to conduct a more thorough background check.
“There is no sun,” the people cried. “Don’t talk to us about sun. Every day it is the same. We can see only so far in front, so far above and that’s the way it is. Life is a mist, soak it up. What we see is far more important than what we don’t see. What we believe is beyond us is of no consequence to what we experience. We do what we want to do and we want to be left alone. When we die we die and so it is better to live for whatever makes us happy.
David Sarasohn, a local writer, slammed President Bush for falsely portraying events in Iraq, in an editorial in The Oregonian. He mocked the President for ignoring the reality of life in Iraq as the media portrays it. Shame on the Commander-in-Chief for believing the direct eyewitness account of soldiers and statesmen instead of the six o’clock news! Because I am privy to inside information to a wide array of events in that land, I am increasingly dismayed by the biased and distorted view David and most of the media portray. It is bad journalism to daily report the number of casualties and castigate the Bush administration for every misstep while selectively ignoring every positive development that occurs in the rebuilding of Iraq’s broken infrastructure. If loss of life is truly the media’s concern, why don’t they tally and print the number of Americans killed each day in traffic accidents in the United States? If morality is so important as to fester for weeks over prisoner abuses, why is there no outrage over drunk drivers or the daily despotic practices of lawless terrorists? Could it be that deeper principles are at work? I’m convinced the media is not about reporting information it is about selling philosophy—truly bad news for everyone.
My parents were missionaries which meant that we didn’t often see members of our extended family. One year we took a trip to Washington and stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Erickson. My cousins happened also to be there and we spent great time playing together and competing. Loren and I, as the oldest, got to stay in Grandpa’s Winnebago parked just outside their home. One night Loren decided to teach me a game I’d never played—strip poker.
You’ve no doubt heard someone say “All roads lead to God.” While the statement may be sincere and reflect a desire to be nonjudgmental, it reveals a great lack of judgment. To understand this one needs only to visit India where the prevailing religion is Hinduism and the overwhelming sensation is one of hopelessness. A country gifted with incredibly smart people remains mired in poverty, disease, and a resigned acceptance of chaos as normative.
There is a tendency among those who call themselves Christians to belittle or make light of the convictions of people devoted to animate and inanimate objects. It is as if those who consecrate themselves to Mother Earth or who view themselves as gods are less genuine somehow in their convictions. It is in devaluing their convictions that we lose any right to be heard.
Highway 58 in Virginia is a beautiful four lane road that eventually ends in the Norfolk, Virginia Beach area for those who are traveling east. Tiny towns like Edgerton and Capron straddle the road. We have crossed through a great number of small communities in our adventure across America. It’s absolutely amazing how many First Baptist Churches exist! But another most surprising pattern emerged—in town after town our eyes were drawn to the neon beckon of the local palm reader.
The trail to heaven is littered with casualties—victims of misguided priorities or the worship of need-driven agendas. These wounded souls once burned bright in their zeal to serve God. They played clarion songs for the poor and engaged in rescuing the oppressed with fervor capable of melting granite skeptics into milky wax. They gave sacrificially with glad hearts. So what happened that they should be reduced to bitter herbs and poured out ashes?