The Denver West Point Society hosted its first Leadership and Ethics Conference for high school juniors in Colorado. It was entitled “Living an Honorable Life.” General (ret) George Casey served as the keynote speaker. I had the privilege of hosting at my table six juniors—Amaya, Grace, Elias, Sandra, Caleb and Haley representing three different high schools and towns. We studied vignettes that featured moral/ethical dilemmas with the students working through ethical decision-making models to reach wise solutions.
Have you ever been frustrated by something that should work and doesn’t? For the last several months I’ve had a rotten time trying to charge my phone. I purchased several charging cords but the connection always seemed to be an issue to the point where many times I would have to hold the phone and firmly push the cord to get a steady charge. I was just about to take the phone into the store and replace it when I had an idea. Taking a pin I probed the cavity where the cord connected and immediately all kinds of dirt and matted hair began to come loose. Honestly, I felt pretty foolish—no wonder the phone was not properly charging—it was plugged up with debris.
Job 7:19,20—Will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow? If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of mankind? Why have You made me Your target, so that I have become a burden to You?
One of the things I love about the Bible is the raw honesty that it contains as people interact with God. You undoubtedly heard the story of Job and how God allowed Satan to sorely test him. Job was exasperated. The man who lived in wealth and privilege suddenly felt like a big target was drawn on his back. Nothing he could say or do would eliminate his suffering. Perhaps most discouraging was the fact that even his friends turned against him. Yet there is much we can learn from his questioning God.
Ammon was a nation located east of the Israelite tribes of Gad and Rueben who were also both situated east of the Jordan River and Dead Sea. We know from Genesis 19:38 that the Ammonites were descended from Lot’s youngest daughter’s son Ben-ammi. From Deuteronomy 2:19 we learn that God did not allow Israel to attack or take any of the Ammonites land because He had given it to Lot’s descendants. Remember Lot was Abraham’s nephew. We also know from Deu. 23:3,4 that because the Ammonites and Moabites refused to help the Israelites during their journey out of Egypt that God excluded them from ever entering “the Lord’s assembly.”
Dr. Myles Munroe wr0te in his book The Burden of Freedom, “When a lifestyle of irresponsibility is allowed to increase, the voice of conscience is progressively silenced . . . Conscience has died throughout much of the world’s society because we have inherited a spirit of irresponsibility.” Irresponsibility thrives when we fail to punish wrong behavior. But we also spur its existence by too quickly applying mercy without permitting disgrace. This may seem odd since the word disgrace carries such a negative connotation. This is why Scripture is profoundly important. Notice how God used disgrace to teach us a lesson.
Lamentations 3:39—Why should any living person complain, any man, because of the punishment for his sins?
One of the aspects of leadership that I find most taxing is taking disciplinary action against employees for immoral, illegal, or unethical behavior. If people were honest and simply confessed wrongdoing it would not be so hard. Yet rarely does that seem to be the case. Excessive time and emotional energy is spent in separating truth from fiction.
Sometimes we can do what God asks of us and suffer disastrous consequences. When this happens we can do one of two things, we can turn away from God and blame Him for our misfortunes, or we can humble ourselves and continue to do exactly what He asks. To see a clear example of this we need only turn back in history to a dark time in the land of Israel.
When I read my Bible I look forward each day to hearing from the Lord. I look forward to learning something that will help me live more effectively or that will enable me to help others. I don’t know about you but I find the book of Leviticus to be hard reading. For the first nine chapters, God instructs Moses in how the Israelites are to bring offerings and the priests are to conduct themselves and I’m struggling to see anything even remotely interesting. Then chapter ten comes along and I read the shocking verses below.
The telephone rang and it was Effron. Unfortunately, my suspicions were correct. He called to cancel what should have been our second meeting. He was exceedingly polite. I hoped to discuss his hang-ups concerning Jesus but he stated that he did not want me to be disappointed and that at this point in his life he really was not concerned with examining who Jesus is. “Effron, when you are ready to tackle tough issues, please call me.” “I will,” he said and parted with a final comment, “I love you.” That took me by surprise.
Most likely Effron and Ramona* will find a Justice of the Peace to seal their illicit union. Some day, Effron will face Jesus. I pray it will be from a position of faith. Will Ramona confess compromising truth to marry him? I pray she will turn back to the Lord and repent lest her walk be shelved on the altar of pleasure.
Brian came over and sprayed Crossbow on the Rubus fruticosuson the field behind my house. About two thirds of the plants died. So I sprayed the remaining plants three weeks later, waited a few more weeks, then rented a brush beater to cut the dried stalks at their base. Later I raked the dead plants off the hill. Incredibly, there are new shoots growing and it is apparent my work is not done! Because of their thorns, deep root system and amazing rate of growth, I have to destroy those blackberry plants or they will take over the hill.
Did you know that God was once so displeased with the complaining Israelites that He sent venomous vipers to bite them during their trek through the desert? When they cried out to Him for help He provided an unusual solution. Everyone bitten who looked upon the bronze snake He told Moses to make, recovered. You can read about this in Numbers 21:4-9.
Sam and I ate lunch recently with my Aunt B.J. in a Chinese restaurant. Prominently displayed on a counter was a large brass Buddha. That obese figure reminded me of the hundreds of millions of people who still worship inanimate man-made objects and live constantly in fear of offending evil spirits. Imagine how God must feel! He created us to fellowship with Him. He made us with a spectacular relationship in mind and what happens—people reject Him for their own creations.
To this day I remember a painting that hung in our home when we lived in Korea. It was a graphic depiction of a lake of fire filled with people grotesquely suffering. It was an attention-getter which brought curious people into a conversation with my dad that for some led to salvation. I wish I had that painting today—I’d hang it in my office. Sure, it would offend people. But I would rather upset someone with the reality of God’s upcoming judgment than withhold information that could result in their eternal suffering.
Ancient Jews referred to a place that followed death as the pit (shachath). David wrote in Psalm 55:23, “God, You will bring them down to the Pit of destruction . . .”
Sometimes for relaxation, I will sit down and watch the fish in our aquarium. Their territorial battles, peculiar habits, and beautiful coloring make for interesting (albeit slow) entertainment. We purchased our 60-gallon tank in San Diego and had it for over 12 years. Then one morning I awoke to find the water level had dropped. Horror of horrors, the glass zoo had sprung a leak. Now it sits in our backyard and holds plants and the occasional frog we happen to catch.
I don’t know about you, but I personally find it a challenge to submit my reputation, rights and responsibility to God’s authority. When wronged by someone else, my instinct is to seek retribution. For most of my life I’ve possessed a fierce need to defend myself. If my family, friends or teachers pointed out flaws in my conduct or character I was adept at making excuses. Of course all of this posturing can be explained by one word—PRIDE.
How many of us are uncomfortable with God’s Old Testament track record? The fact that He commanded Israel to completely annihilate those who lived in the Promised Land disturbs our sense of decency and contorts our view of His love and mercy. So we glob on to Jesus as the remake of God’s image and in so doing miss His message that He did not come to bring peace but a sword. God did not change, His method changed. The perfect grace-bestowing Son fulfilled the Law man could not keep.
Climbing the staircase to LTC Mark Armstrong’s office one cannot help but notice the words painted between steps: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless service, Honor, Integrity and Personal courage. These are seven key values the Army seeks to instill in all its soldiers. They are values that Mark takes seriously as the Battalion Commander of the 1st Battalion of the 46th Infantry.
Agony is the struggle that precedes death. We so often think of this state as prolonged, gruesome and slow—a patient fighting to beat some dreaded disease. Yet, agony may also be camouflaged beneath a happy exterior. While appearance suggests that life is good, underneath a desperate struggle to find meaning takes place.