A New Battle, An Ancient Battlefield

The citizenry had never known peace.

The soldiers didn’t remember who they were fighting for.

The commanders lived for the battle.

The enemy demanded the king step down, and daily more of his own people agreed. He knew abdicating would condemn them all to slavery. But he would never deny his throne. He was the king and could be nothing else.

—–

Joshua arrived at the front, hidden amid the day’s reinforcements. He received a half our demonstration of how to use a sword, an hour of lecture on the importance of obeying your superior officers, without question. Then the drill sergeant asked if anyone had any questions.

Joshua raised his hand. He asked why the training had never mentioned the king. The veteran soldier bellowed out that it had been a rhetorical question. Good soldiers didn’t ask questions, they just obeyed.

His commanders assigned him to defend a stronghold. He refused, even though they repeatedly reminded him of obedience. Joshua explained, the tower had not been built at the king’s command, it required massive resources, and had no strategic value in the battle.

The angry commanders ordered him to the front, to the location of the fiercest fighting. The commanders hoped he would die there. He didn’t.

When Joshua’s group returned from that assignment, he had been given a field promotion to squad leader. He was followed by many men, including several who had deserted and fought with the enemy. The commanders were livid, asserting those soldiers were traitors worthy of death.

Joshua defended those men, declaring the king rejoiced at their return. This caused the commanders to assert they were the only ones capable of passing on the king’s wishes. Joshua answered these men they rejected were more pleasing to the king than the commanders.

Joshua was charged with treason. The trial was an unholy spectacle, and both sides quit fighting to watch. Joshua was condemned to death, and at the execution the enemy lines celebrated. The commanders couldn’t understand why.

—–

After a few days two weary armies prepared to resume an endless war. Troops on each side of the battlefield waited for the command to charge. They were interrupted by a solitary soldier riding between them.

It was Joshua. He called together all who were loyal to the king, no matter which side they were from. He had paid the price for their treason, those who loved the king could return to serving him.

In the hours that followed, the lines were redrawn. Commanders who had served the battle

instead of the king, were now with the enemy. Joshua, the king’s son, took command of the king’s armies.

The battle was still eternal, but now they knew who they fought for.

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Love and Free Will

One of the truisms I use every now and then is that love only means something when it is freely given.

If I were talking about how a man won his wife’s heart you would be relatively easy to convince. It might be true that a young man wants to believe he won his wife, that he found a way to make her love him. But as a man ages he will quickly admit, happily admit, that it is more important that she chooses to love him. In fact, a man who wants to force his wife to love him, regardless of her will, would be considered manipulative at best or more likely downright dangerous.

But since I am talking theology instead of romance I expect a little more resistance, especially from those who embrace Calvinism or reformed theology. This perspective believes that men can play no role in their own salvation, that men cannot make any choice whether they will love God.

For these individuals, God’s sovereignty answers every question. He has absolute authority and therefore he can choose in advance who will be saved apart from their personal choices or activities. His Sovereignty allows Him to have it all: He can choose for men to sin, He can condemn them for this same sin, and He can choose to redeem others. Under this system He would have it all, except He would not have anyone who willingly, freely chose to love Him. Love only means something when it is freely given.

This choice is what I believe we were made for. We were created to give us the opportunity to freely choose a relationship with God. In order to allow this possibility, to allow for this greatest good to be a potentiality, He gave us free will. He knew we would uniformly choose sin, but He allowed the rebellion of sin because it became the path to the greater good. This greater good, or even greatest good, I speak of is the freely given love of those who would also choose His gift of redemption from sin.

 

The Preseason

I watched a little bit of a football game in the first round of the preseason last week. I only watched a few minutes because it was boring. I am not enough of a fan to watch a game where no one in the game cares who wins.

The preseason is like that. No one cares who wins. Instead they are taking the important steps of trying out players, testing out strategies, and also very importantly, making sure they don’t risk any injuries that will take them out in the actual season. The preseason is not about winning, it’s about preparing to win when it matters.

At the right time the coaches will shift their efforts into a new gear. They will choose a plan based on the results of all this testing the waters, and then work that plan hoping it will end in victory. For me, the games won’t really hold my interest until the players begin caring about the outcome, when they begin playing to win.

Now some of you will wonder why I am putting this into my column on Monday. Monday is the day that I talk about politics, not sports. So why did I put it in my column now, at the earliest portion of the primary for a presidential campaign?

King David Chambers Anchor Point

King David Chamber’s Anchor to Faithfulness

David Chambers was the youngest son of a powerful family. His father, Jesse Chambers, was known all over the quadrant, and his brothers were all well respected. None of this mattered to David because he felt disrespected in his own household. His brothers ran his father’s business ventures, but he was left to run errands and tend to the farms on their home world.

His family never knew that in the process he had fought back pirates, driven off rustlers and tamed numerous labor disputes. David never realized God was preparing him for more, much more. David used this time and his loneliness to draw near to God. He sang praises and wrote many new songs.

His quadrant was guided by a religious leader named Samuel Masters. Even though the Chambers family was well known, they didn’t expect a visit from this powerful leader. Neither did they expect the news that someone in the family was chosen by God. Each of the boys from the oldest to the youngest was brought before Samuel, who rejected them one by one.

Finally someone thought to send for David, whom Samuel anointed. He told David he would be the next king, but that he should be patient, because God was not done preparing him yet. Samuel went about his duties, David returned to the fields, and David’s family assumed Samuel had taken leave of his senses. After all, they already had a king, Saul Longfellow.

Shortly after this, the Chambers family was surprised again. A representative from the king came for David. He asked for the young man to come and assist in the court. Somehow the king had learned about David’s music.

The Chambers family thought it was a lucky break. They didn’t see God at work in the details. The King was so taken with David’s abilities that he used him in the court for music, but also acquired his help as a cabin boy on the defensive fleet’s flagship, The Covenantia. David remembered Samuel’s words and trusted God’s promise.

During this time David was always moving. He would run home and maintain his family responsibilities, then he would run to the king’s court to play, and then still other times he would run out to the battlefields where aliens from the Philistine Sector would invade their space. It was on one of these trips to the battlefield that David found the king’s fleet being held at bay by one massive Battleship named The Goliath.

This ship was the largest ever recorded in human history. It’s weapons were sophisticated, powerful, and numerous. It was twice the size of The Covenantia. This ship stood in the void between the two armies daring any captain to come forward and challenge him, but no one dared. Even King Saul Longfellow failed to answer the challenge.

David approached the king and asked permission to go fight. At first he was rebuffed, but eventually Saul offered him the Flagship to take into battle. David had another plan. He took is normal travel ship.

The captain of The Goliath mocked him severely, but David didn’t care. He just taunted back and flew up to within the range of his main weapon. It was tiny by comparison to the guns on The Goliath. David used it to get off a single shot. The crew ignored it expecting it to bounce harmlessly off the shielding.

One of the many gunners near The Goliath’s bridge, thought he would become a hero by destroying David’s ship. So he opened a portal in the shield to allow himself a shot. David’s round slipped through the opening and connected with the tactical missile on its way out. The missile was detonated inside the shielding bouncing the full force of the explosion back on The Goliath.

God had been faithful to deliver David and the colonies once again. After the battle the king was rightly impressed with the young man’s courage, but he was also rightly scared of the young man’s potential. Soon David was an exile, although loved by his own people, he ran from the king to avoid killing the monarch who had been anointed before him. He made a choice to wait for God’s timing, meanwhile David’s father and brothers were beginning to find a new respect for him.

Many powerful captains chose to join him in this exile rather than to fight with Saul’s fleet. Yet David would still not allow them to overthrow the king, and together they continued to fight for the good of the colonies.

This resolve was tested when he came across The Covenantia, without escort and unshielded, while lading in an out of the way port. David’s men thought he should destroy it and take the throne, but he refused believing God would give him the throne in His own timing. That is exactly what happened when King Saul Longfellow was killed in battle. The people wanted David as their next king. God had kept his promise.

Over the course of his reign long King David Chambers often looked back at how he had become king. God had been with him at every turn. His faith and faithfulness were always rewarded. These memories convinced him to retain his integrity, and carried him through many challenges.

Mud Nests

Mud Nest

This is a mud nest. It was made by a barn swallow, and in this picture you can see the round head of the bird on the right side of the nest and the thin tail sticking over the left side. This nest was on an arched entryway of a hotel in Tucson.

These birds will make their nests by gathering mud, one mouthful at a time, which are then carried back home and applied to the structure. The nest will start off relatively small and grow throughout the season, as the parents continue to bring home more and more mud from their daily travels.

Aren’t you glad people don’t do this? It would be horrible if every day we brought into our homes the gunk we accumulate during our day, spewing it out in our homes and building higher and higher walls.

Come to think of it, that is exactly what most of us do. The only difference is the gunk of our lives is not mud but the anxieties of the day. “My boss yelled at me.” “Everyone else drives like idiots.” “They are laying off more people at the factory.” “The new guy is outselling me.”

We pour this gunk over the people in our households and yes, as we do we quite often build higher and higher walls. It wouldn’t be so bad if we actually discussed each of the issues above and discussed them calmly, but most of the time we would rather not admit directly what is bothering us and calm is not the order of the day.

It doesn’t take long before the decorating scheme of your home becomes Modern American Anxiety. The kids retreat to their rooms, or to friend’s houses and discussions with your spouse begin to feel like congressional debates.

The solution to this is to not carry your worries home. Paul gave some advice about the right ways to deal with these anxieties in Philippians 4:6-7

Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Obama’s Legacy

I often see events, moments, and actions, which serve to define the times and persons involved. An individual choice can serve as an illustration of the overall pattern of a lifetime or career.

President Obama’s deal with Iran is one of those events. He is following a pattern we have seen already in trying to deal with both the economy and healthcare. That pattern in a nutshell is, for the sake of striking a deal now, we will push off the pain of the situation for later.

I am writing this blogpost after watching a press conference where President Obama tried to convince the nation to accept the Iran Nuclear Deal. This is the capper that I believe will be seen by historians as the defining moment of Obama’s presidency. It might be true that he will keep his promise, “Iran will not obtain a nuclear weapon on my watch.” But his actions open the door for Iran to have that weapon later. Iran will be able to reintroduce many of the tools for building a weapon in 10 or 15 years, according to this plan.

There are three ingredients to all of President Obama’s bad deals.

  • Believing that the world has to come alongside us and agree with our choices.
  • Believing that when his administration does something it will work, even if previous administration did the same things and it failed for them.
  • Tunnel vision to complete a deal, so that the devil in the details is overlooked.

In his speech he pointedly stated, “With the world now unified beside us.” This is nice. But I remember a time when we lead the world. We did not wait for them to come alongside us before acting, but instead we lead out. We did what we knew was right, and yes, the world often followed. They did so because they saw us, even trusted us, to do right.

The president assures us this deal is “Ensuring that all pathways to a bomb are shut off.” He lists reasons that he believes this. Part of it is the bomb making tools and facilities they are temporarily not allowed to use. But the majority of this is because he is assuming the inspections set up under his deal will do what all the previous inspections failed to do. He believes this even though the kind of stalling tactics Iran has consistently used against us, are worked into this agreement. Everyone, including the Obama Administration, expects Iran to cheat on the deal. So why allow them to work the framework for cheating into the arrangements?

Finally, the Iran deal is a case of being so intent on reaching a deal that they overlooked how all the compromises added up to empowering the worst disaster the world has seen thus far. This tunnel vision is the only valid reason why they would continue blindly extending the deadlines to complete the deal. A nasty component of this tunnel vision is that prior to narrowing our field of view we would have stood up to Iran as an enemy because of its terrorist activities, and should be opposed for this reason regardless of whether they are trying to build a bomb.

President Obama says we have two choices, take the deal or go to war. I think it’s somewhat predictable we will have to go to war sooner or later. First because Iran will not give up their goals. They will continue to try and get a nuclear weapon. But also because they will continue to be a state sponsor of terrorism against us and our allies. And also because they will continue to desire the absolute destruction of Israel. President Obama is just putting off the pain of this battle until later.

Danny and Kallie

It’s been a long time since I posted anything for Fun Fridays. So here is a short story. The bones of it was turned in last weekend for a writing contest that allows for stories up to 360 words. That wasn’t enough for this story to be told right. So here is the longer version. Feel free to tell me what you think. My own opinion is that the ending is still a little soft.

Danny and Kallie

Danny lives on the second floor. Most mornings he rides the waves before leaving for work.

His surfboard doesn’t fit in the elevator. So he risks dropping it from the balcony onto the sidewalk below. So far it hasn’t been damaged. Then he’ll run downstairs, hoping to get there before it walks away. So far it hasn’t been stolen. If it was he would be at a loss. The surfboard had his heart.

Kallie lives in the next building over. Her morning exercise is rollerblading. One day she heard something fall and timidly spied around a corner to see the surfboard, followed by the young man who gathered it up. She didn’t know why the sight of him made her catch her breath, yet she checked on him every day after that.

She continued to catch her breath at the sight of him, and she missed him when he wasn’t there. Still she did her best to blend in, hidden by the fog, or watching around a corner.

Then came a morning with strong winds, high waves, and a receding tide. Kallie had never surfed, but had researched a little and knew these were the most dangerous conditions. They are also what surfers like best.

She didn’t skate. She stood frozen, praying for his safety. She didn’t know why she worried about this stranger, but she did.

He struggled to get out to position. Twice the waves tossed him off before he could even attempt a ride. When he dumped a third time, Kallie counted seconds, waiting for him to surface. Thirty seconds and she was frantic. Forty-five and she hated herself for not knowing what to do. Fifty-three and he was spit out by the undertow, thirty yards behind his board.

She prayed harder as he swam for it. He struggled to climb on and then rode straight in, completely exhausted.

She watched him drag the board to the building. He tried to toss the board up, but couldn’t this time. Her hand on his shoulder, stopped him. When he turned to see her, he felt his breath catch. For a moment neither of them could talk. Kallie found her voice first, so she volunteered to lift the board to him. The board suddenly was less important than it had been a moment earlier.

That was how Danny met Kallie, and they got to know each other better over the next several days. Now she watched him openly. She would sit on the beach and enjoyed her heart racing at the sight. She felt guilty at taking such pleasure in the young man. Yet when he invited to date, she declined. By way of explanation she described how she prayed for him. He didn’t understand what that had to do with it.

When he persisted she said there was one place she would go with him, if he was willing. He would have done anything at that point. So he met her on Sunday morning in front of a local store front church. Only about thirty people, mostly young adults, gathered there. The music was hokey. The people were awkward. The message was life-changing. When the gospel came clear to Danny’s heart, it took his breath away.

That was how Danny met Jesus, and he got to know Him better over the coming weeks.

The surfboard was almost completely meaningless now. He almost never used it anymore. But one day when the waves were high he thought it was a good chance to impress Kallie. Dropping the board over the balcony as he had done hundreds of times, he heard it shatter apart.

Kallie and he stood over the remains a few minutes later. Both were silent for a long time. Kallie almost cried for him, until she looked up and saw him smiling at her, almost laughing. He told her it would be fine, they could go out to breakfast instead.

Kallie was impressed. So much had changed in Danny’s life. So much had changed in hers.