There is natural reason for Ukrainians to dread Russia taking over their country again—oppression under communism was intense and costly. Ukrainian Kostyantyn spent many years in a Soviet labor camp. The authorities disliked his actions as an elder in his church so they sent him to be re-educated. Over 200 pastors were also sent to the same camp.
We sat around the table and talked for hours on the peaceful boardwalk in front of Angry Nates, a restaurant that served tasty dishes. We were quite the interesting bunch, a Mormon, a Catholic, two men of unknown conviction and me. While discussing politics and Army life, swapping stories and enjoying the balmy weather of St. Croix, we discovered many shared values.
February 6, 2011 the Green Bay Packers will compete against the Pittsburgh Steelers in what some think will be the most watched Super Bowl ever. I have to admit I’m pretty excited because since my childhood I’ve always been a diehard Packer fan. Pregame hype is huge because of a compelling matchup between two legacy teams who will line up against each other for the Lombardi trophy for the first time. Pittsburgh already has the most Super Bowl wins in the National Football League with six. Green Bay won the first two Super bowls and added a third win behind quarterback Brett Favre.
If ever there was a need for prayer, it will be for a man named Obama. He inherits a nation at war with a stressed out economy. He will pilot a land divided in opinion in the midst of a world looking for a messiah. He will render senior leadership in a most complicated government with junior experience and little room for failure. He will face a press that is woeful in gathering all the facts and enemies that would love to see this nation destroyed. He will need wisdom from above in a culture that increasingly follows an ethical theory and practice “that emphasizes reason, scientific inquiry, and human fulfillment in the natural world and often rejects the importance of belief in God.”*
A nonfiction book that I highly recommend is Hard Faith. You can buy it off Amazon.com or purchase it directly from us. I love Hard Faith because I know the author Dan Berg and I’ve seen firsthand how he successfully overcame incredible pain and adversity with his wife. The only reason Dan is walking well today aside from the ever-present grace of God, is that he stuck to his values. He wore the robe of faith when the world suggested other attire.
Recently I sat on a plane next to a man named John. Several months ago, John’s wife of 15 years left him for another man. She was his second wife. His first wife left him after 10 years of marriage for similar reasons. When I looked in his eyes, I saw a kind, confused man. I shared with John that the reasons his wives left him were not really about or because of him, they were about the emptiness in their hearts that marriage was not filling. After interacting with his ex-wives, John hears that neither of them is happy. As he described his current journey to see his girlfriend, it was obvious that he also is unfulfilled.
I wish you could see what I see. Outside my study window, a squirrel sits in our tire swing. He bends his head beneath the black rubber but only for a moment. Quickly he pops back up and surveys the yard. This process repeats for several minutes until a small Voice reminds me of a vital truth. The squirrel knows he has natural enemies he must avoid to live; whether it is Bear, our good-natured Rottweiler, Mel, our stalking cat, or some dive-bombing hawk. There are no old, careless squirrels in our neighborhood.
Luke 6:47,48-- I will show you what someone is like who comes to Me, hears My words, and acts on them: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. When the flood came, the river crashed against that house and couldn’t shake it, because it was well built.
Veteran’s Day is an American holiday that commemorates those brave men and women who have served and defended their nation in the Armed Forces. Currently there are 25 million vets in the United States. According to the most recent census taken in 2000, the United States’ population was 281,421,906. This means that only about 8.8% of our population experienced the patriotic dictums of duty, honor and country through the sacrificial and often thankless task of defending liberty.
Our neighbors have a new puppy, Sadie. She is a lovable Pit Bull full of energy and eager for attention. To keep her from getting lost or running away, it was necessary to finish fencing in their yard. So, with help from family members, holes were dug, cement was poured, and metal posts for a chain-link fence were sealed into the ground. That fence is not going anywhere; Sadie is quite secure.
I love to spend time with people who are searching for meaning in life. I find that often many of them grapple with tough questions. They sincerely yearn to know God. Repeatedly I find that most of these folks will not go to church. They’ve tried. They have attended different fellowships but left in frustration. Three themes regarding their disappointment emerge.
Julie* smiled at me but her radiant ivories could not hide eyes that hurt. In five years with Curt he had yet to give her flowers. She would drop hints. Once,she shared why her dad gave her mother special plants. But practical Curt mentally pictured shriveled bouquets and concluded why waste money on something that won’t last. Curt did not understand that flowers were not the real issue.
Professor Howard Hendricks once related a story of how as a student he often walked by the home of one of his college professors. It seemed at all hours day or night the light would be on in the man’s study. One day he had the opportunity to ask him what kept him studying so much. The teacher replied, “Son, I would rather have my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pool.”
“Strength as One” is a great class motto. Attending my 20th West Point reunion was a fresh reminder of a unique gathering of unpretentious classmates who are a joy to be around and a blessing in so many ways. By measured statistics, the class of ’81 is special both in service to our country and in generosity. I found myself again humbled that God would allow me, a scrawny missionary kid from the Philippines, the privilege of spending four years of my life with such outstanding people.
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.
There is a long stretch of freeway between Fayetteville, North Carolina and Atlanta, Georgia, that is mostly flat and lined by lush green pine trees. It’s the kind of drive where hundreds of miles can all look pretty much the same.
Why is our civilization morally crumbling? Why is our country trapped in the quicksand of evil? Why is our society torn by the passions of selfishness? Why is our culture enamored with what is wicked? Could it be that we are adorned in the clothing of excuses to mask our responsibility for sin? Paul Harvey, the famous radio commentator shared a prayer, Pastor Joe Wright of the Wichita Central Christian Church gave at an invocation for the Kansas state legislature. Joe’s prayer was immediately denounced by the governor of Kansas and several legislators stormed out in anger. This prayer has much to say. I hope it will stir your heart as it stirred mine.