Archive | January, 2013
Turning Trials Into Triumphs

Turning Trials Into Triumphs

man-praying1I recently shared a quote in a sermon on the storms of life by George Matheson, a 19th century Scottish theologian and preacher.  He was born with eyesight problems and by the time he was 18 was practically blind.  He was renown in his time for his preaching and lecturing skills.  He was also an accomplished hymn writer.  One of his hymns, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go,” is a classic in many modern day hymn books.  Matheson couldn’t physically see, but recognized spiritual truths with great clarity.  He never thought the trial of his blindness was unfair and embraced it as a principal way he would bring glory to God through obedience to the lessons God would teach him through it.  The quote below is from one of his writings and is a powerful, majestically written reminder that our greatest trials can indeed be our greatest triumphs.

“There is a time coming in which your glory shall consist in the very thing which now constitutes your pain.  Nothing could be more sad to Jacob than the ground on which he was lying, a stone for his pillow.  It was the hour of his poverty.  It was the season of his night.  It was the seeming absence of his God.  The Lord was in the place and he knew it not.  Awakened from his sleep he found that the day of his trial was the dawn of his triumph.

Ask the great ones of the past what has been the spot of their prosperity and they will say, ‘It was the cold ground on which I was lying.’  Ask Abraham; he will point to the sacrifice on Mount Moriah.  Ask Joseph; he will direct you to this dungeon.  Ask Moses; he will date his fortune from his danger in the Nile.  Ask Ruth; she will bid you build her monument in the field of her toil.  Ask David; he will tell you that his songs came in the night.  Ask Job; he will remind you that God answered him out of the whirlwind.  Ask Peter; he will extol his submersion in the sea.  Ask John; he will give the path to Patmos.  Ask Paul; he will attribute his inspiration to the light which struck him blind.

Ask one more! – the Son of God.  Ask Him whence has come His rule over the world; he will answer, ‘From the cold ground on which I was lying – the Gethsemane ground – I received my scepter there.’  Thou too, my soul, shall be garlanded by Gethsemane.  The cup thou fain wouldst pass from thee will be thy coronet in the world by and by.”

May we all see the trials we experience in life as opportunities to be taught and molded by our loving God who desires to fashion us into the likeness of His Son.


Should Women Be on the Front Lines of Combat?

Should Women Be on the Front Lines of Combat?

combatThere has been a lot of buzz about the recent decision to allow women to serve in the front lines of combat.  According to the Associated Press:

Leon Panetta is removing the military’s ban on women serving in combat, opening hundreds of thousands of front-line positions and potentially elite commando jobs after more than a decade at war.

The groundbreaking move recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff overturns a 1994 rule banning women from being assigned to smaller ground combat units. Panetta’s decision gives the military services until January 2016 to seek special exceptions if they believe any positions must remain closed to women.

As I have thought through this issue and listened to/read the opinions of others, here are some key issues that arise in connection with this decision:

First, we need to understand that women are already serving in forward areas in combat zones.  I have a friend who is a veteran of multiple tours in Iraq explain to me that the soldiers who are more often killed/injured are actually those serving in support roles rather than the front line.  These are soldiers operating the vehicles to equip those on the front line that hit IEDs.  It is in this support role that many of the women in the military serve.

Second, and for me probably the biggest issue in this debate, is what this decision signals in terms of a shift in morality.  Are there some women capable of fighting in combat?  Undoubtedly so.  But the bigger issue seems not to be can a woman be in combat, but should she be?  The long established norm of our society is to protect women and children from harm.  We see this manifested in many ways.  For example, the men who got on the lifeboats ahead of the women/children on the Titanic were excoriated (and in my opinion rightfully so).  Traditionally, when war comes, we don’t send women to the front, but seek to protect them.  In fact, when the horrors of war come to the homes of civilians (many of whom are women/children/elderly), we see that as an especially egregious consequence of war.

Denny Burk wrote a post on this subject and states: (access his blog post here)

Are the fortunes of women in our country really enhanced by sending them to be ground up in the discipline of a combat unit and possibly to be killed or maimed in war? Is there a father in America who would under any circumstance risk having his daughter shot or killed in battle? Is there a single husband in this country who thinks it okay for his wife to risk being captured by our enemies? To risk becoming a prisoner of war? Is this the kind of people we want to be? 

Burk goes on to quote John Piper‘s 2007 article for World magazine in which Piper writes:

If I were the last man on the planet to think so, I would want the honor of saying no woman should go before me into combat to defend my country. A man who endorses women in combat is not pro-woman; he’s a wimp. He should be ashamed. For most of history, in most cultures, he would have been utterly scorned as a coward to promote such an idea. Part of the meaning of manhood as God created us is the sense of responsibility for the safety and welfare of women.

Another problem with women in combat is that this same sense of morality will undoubtedly pervade the thinking/reactions of men in combat with women.  As my veteran friend noted, in a firefight one of the first things you do is check to see if everyone is OK.  If two soldiers are wounded and need to be dragged to safety and one is a man and the other a woman, the decision process is most likely going to be affected.  Could some decisions be possibly made by men in the combat unit to instinctively protect the women that might put the whole unit in greater jeopardy?

Regardless of your opinion about women in combat, this decision certainly signals a shift in the cultural norms of our nation.

Third, this decision is almost certainly going to have massive legal repercussions if a draft lottery is ever reinstituted in this country.  It is very possible that men will sue the government on grounds of some form of discrimination if they are drafted instead of a woman.  In addition, it’s one thing to ask a woman to volunteer for the front lines.  It’s another thing to force them there through conscription.  Morally, do we want to force women to fight in combat?  Legally, will women have expanded grounds to resist a draft?

Fourth, I have noticed a number people saying this issue is about equality.  I disagree.  In terms of physical structure, men and women are not created equally.  A friend of mine posted on her wall on Facebook:

For my size and my age, I am strong and in good shape. But … I AM NOT A MAN. And that’s okay. I cannot EVER keep up with the guys, no matter how hard I try. I am different … we are not equal. And I am good with that.

Nothing here says that men are “better” than women.  That’s ridiculous.  Yes, I understand that women have served in combat roles in countries such as Israel, but in general men are capable of doing many things in terms of physical strength that a woman simply cannot do.  And in combat that is important.  Again, this doesn’t mean men are better than women.  It just means they are different.  There are many things women can do better than men.  God created men and women this way and we should celebrate this reality, not try to blur the lines of gender roles, responsibilities, and capabilities.

We are living in times of fast, sweeping societal change and the issue of women in combat is one among many.  This is a controversial topic.  I am eager to hear your opinion.

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-20-12

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-20-12

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from January 20th, 2013.

Growing in the Word Podcast: 1-13-13

Growing in the Word Podcast: 1-13-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from January 13th, 2013.  “What are Trials?” Hebrews 12:5-11.

Growing in the Word podcast: 1-6-13

Morning service from Immanuel Baptist Church in Shawnee, OK from January 6th, 2013.  “Thriving Through the Storms.” Selected texts from Job.

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: A Great Start to 2013

The Resolutions of Jonathan Edwards: A Great Start to 2013


Below is a portion of the many Resolutions written by Jonathan Edwards on how he would live his life.  They were written from the years 1722-23.  Read through these and I believe you will find them to be an excellent prescription for charting the direction of your life in 2013.

Resolved, that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God’s glory, and my own good, profit and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriad’s of ages hence.

Resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great soever.

Resolved, if ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again.

Resolved, never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God; nor be, nor suffer it, if I can avoid it.

Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live.

Resolved, always to do that, which I shall wish I had done when I see others do it.

Resolved, never to lose one moment of time; but improve it the most profitable way I possibly can.

Resolved, never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.

Resolved, that I will live so as I shall wish I had done when I come to die.

Resolved, to inquire every night, as I am going to bed, wherein I have been negligent, what sin I have committed, and wherein I have denied myself: also at the end of every week, month and year.

Resolved, to inquire every night, before I go to bed, whether I have acted in the best way I possibly could, with respect to eating and drinking.

Resolved, to ask myself at the end of every day, week, month and year, wherein I could possibly in any respect have done better.

Resolved, I will act so as I think I shall judge would have been best, and most prudent, when I come into the future world.

Resolved, never to do anything out of revenge.

Resolved, never to suffer the least motions of anger to irrational beings.

Resolved, never to speak evil of anyone, so that it shall tend to his dishonor, more or less, upon no account except for some real good.

Resolved, let there be something of benevolence, in all that I speak.

Resolved, after afflictions, to inquire, what I am the better for them, what good I have got by them, and what I might have got by them.

Resolved, if I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by.

Resolved, never to do anything, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him.

Resolved, to study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive myself to grow in the knowledge of the same.

Resolved, never henceforward, till I die, to act as if I were any way my own, but entirely and altogether God’s.

Resolved, to improve every opportunity, when I am in the best and happiest frame of mind, to cast and venture my soul on the Lord Jesus Christ, to trust and confide in him, and consecrate myself wholly to him; that from this I may have assurance of my safety, knowing that I confide in my Redeemer.

Resolved, very much to exercise myself in this all my life long, viz. with the greatest openness I am capable of, to declare my ways to God, and lay open my soul to him: all my sins, temptations, difficulties, sorrows, fears, hopes, desires, and every thing, and every circumstance.