Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Declining Opportunity

King Saul seeks to kill David.  David hides in a cave with his armed men, and Saul walks in.

And the men of David said to him, “Here is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will give your enemy into your hand, and you shall do to him as it shall seem good to you.’” Then David arose and stealthily cut off a corner of Saul's robe. And afterward David's heart struck him, because he had cut off a corner of Saul's robe. He said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my lord, the Lord's anointed, to put out my hand against him, seeing he is the Lord's anointed.” So David persuaded his men with these words and did not permit them to attack Saul.

A second time, David had the opportunity to strike Saul down:

So David and Abishai went to the army by night. And there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head, and Abner and the army lay around him. Then Abishai said to David, “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice.” But David said to Abishai, “Do not destroy him, for who can put out his hand against the Lord's anointed and be guiltless?” And David said, “As the Lord lives, the Lord will strike him, or his day will come to die, or he will go down into battle and perish. The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord's anointed. But take now the spear that is at his head and the jar of water, and let us go.”

When I was a younger man, God used to lead me more through opening and closing doors.  As I get older, I sense that God is allowing me to use my discernment to decide whether or not to seize an opportunity.

As my sense of mission and purpose becomes clearer, opportunities for jobs, for ministry become increasingly obvious about which will help accomplish the thing to which Christ has sent me.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


"The following night, the Lord stood by him and said, 'Take courage, for as you have testified to the facts about me in Jerusalem, so you must testify also in Rome.'"

(Acts of the Apostles)

Paul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees.  He knew and understood the culture of his homeland.  Yet God intended for the followers of Jesus to be scattered across the face of the earth.  As Paul traveled with the message of the Lordship of Jesus to the principal cities of each Roman province, he begins to realize that the culmination of his ministry will be to help solidify and plant the Good News about Jesus in the capital of most of the world at the time.

Jerusalem to Rome.  What is my Jerusalem?  What is the Rome that Christ leads me to?

For me, my Jerusalem is the U.S. Army.  My Rome is San Antonio.

Servants Lead

"That the leaders took the lead in Israel,
     that the people offered themselves willingly,
     bless the Lord!"

"My heart goes out to the commanders of Israel
     who offered themselves willingly among the people.
     Bless the Lord!"

(Excerpts from the song of Deborah and Barak)

If Christ has commissioned us to go out and do something, we must go, offer ourselves willingly and take the lead.  Christ doesn't talk very much about leadership, but he has a lot to say about servanthood.  We serve others by leading them towards the goal he has set for us.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Delegation of Authority/Empowerment

Stephen Covey gives us the following five guidelines to follow in order to successfully delegate responsibility to those who work for us:

1. Clear Desired Results - a mutual understanding and agreement upon the endstate helps both parties involved focus not on what, not how; on results, not methods.

2. Guidelines - these should be as few as possible and should be drawn from our values, principles and failure points previously experienced; pitfalls to avoid should be shared

3. Resources - time, land, money, personnel required and provided not provided

4. Accountability - the standards by which success is measured, the times a review of progress is made

5. Consequences - the good and the bad ones from success or failure

What is the Node of Failure in Feeding the Masses?

In John 6:1-15, Jesus feeds 5,000 people with one boy's lunch.

Jesus challenges Philip, by asking him, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”  John records that Jesus says this to test Philip, for Jesus already knew what he was going to do.

Keeping in mind that Jesus must have been taking every opportunity to train his men to carry on his mission after his departure, is there some key lesson that Jesus was teaching Philip and the rest of his disciples that is applicable to us today?

The need of the hour is 5,000 people who need food.  There is no way that the 12 were going to find a way to feed them.  They wouldn't have had enough money, and even if they did there was no place to buy it.  

What is the need of the hour today in my life?  In my family, battalion, workplace, school, what remains the significant need of the hour?  

Jesus later in the chapter tells his disciples that he is the bread of life.  The masses miss the spiritual meaning of this teaching, but the disciples seem to understand.  The disciples, having recently seen the feeding of the 5,000 know that not only does Jesus provide enough to meet our physical needs, but that Jesus himself, is sufficient for the spiritual hunger of the whole world.  

But back in the parable, what is the critical point of failure?  It is not Jesus, because he provides all the bread they need.  It is not the hungry masses, because they are all there.  Might it not be the 12 themselves, who Jesus relied upon to take the bread from Jesus to the hungry?  

Inside the circles of influence in which Christ has placed us, the critical node through which Jesus has chosen to feed the masses is me.  You.  All of us who are committed disciples.  Only we can share from the baskets the Bread of Life with those around us who are hungry.

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
(Matthew 9:36-38 ESV)

Monday, July 02, 2012

Jesus' Men

Matthew 10: Jesus called 12 ordinary  men: fishermen, a tax-collector, a zealot, most seemingly average.  What characteristics distinguished these men from their peers?  They all had loyalty to Jesus.  They forsook everything to follow him: family, career, hometowns.  Years before, God told the prophet Samuel, that God looks past men's outward appearance to men's hearts. 

Jesus did not call a member of the priestly cast, a Roman Legionnaire, a scribe or a lawyer.  He completely bypassed the members of Israel's most devout sect.  He chose 12 men, ordinary  men, whose extraordinary devotion to Jesus and the mission he had given to them changed the world within a few generations.

We are all here because of these men.  If these 12 had failed, what other alternative did Christ have?

Jesus did not command us to plant churches.  He did not tell us to start Bible studies.  He told us to make disciples.  By concentrating on the men and women that God brings into our lives who are most loyal to Jesus, can we replicate the actions and methods of Jesus today?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Go Attack! The LORD grants success...

Now they told David, "Behold, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah and are robbing the threshing floors."  Therefore David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I go and attack these Philistines?"  And the LORD said to David, "Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah."  But David's men said to him, "Behold, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?"  Then David inquired of the LORD again.  And the LORD answered him, "Arise, go down to Keilah for I will give the Philistines into  your hand."  And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines and brought away their livestock and struck them with a great blow.  So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah.  (1 Samuel 23:1-5 ESV)

David saw an opportunity to fight on behalf of his people, but asked of God before he went out.  The Lord's response is: Go, attack and save Keilah.

David's men have fear.  So David asks again and the Lord assures him of victory.  So David strikes the Philistines with a great blow, saving Keilah.

What stood out to me from this, is that sometimes God sends us out to attack, but sometimes we aren't for sure if God will grant us success.  We all have friends who are strong Christians, who have been killed of war, or disease, so we do not always know how a mission will end up.  Generally speaking, I have the expectation that God will grant me success on a mission that he has sent me to do, knowing that God may have a different Commander's intent than what I am aware of.

My observations:

1. God sends us on missions; the Great Commission that applies to everyone, and specific missions that he gives each man or woman according to His purpose
2. God can chose to grant success or failure in these missions.  Knowing that God ultimately has His purpose in mind, and our greater good, he may chose the mission success to be defined differently than we would like.  Example 1, in the past, I chose to define success with how many people came to Bible study, but God seems to be worried more about the Laborers being trained than numbers (Matthew 9).  Example 2, I went to Sapper Leader Course, and God gave me the strength to complete the 28 days of training, but chose not to give me a tab.  God's purpose was a little different from mine.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Jesus' Thoughts on Why Things Happen

John 9:1-3, As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth.  And his disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"  Jesus answered, "It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him."

I read this verse the morning that our daughter Grace Elizabeth was born on 14 May 2012.  At the time, I did not realize that she had a lifetime condition resulting in a very restrictive diet.  As I read these verses, I felt that God gave me these verses for Grace.

In light of Jesus' teaching, the reason this happens is so that the works of God might be displayed in our lives.  Whether this means our daughter is healed, or not, Joy and I are confident that good will come of this.

Sapper Leader Course

[Originally posted in 2007]

Well, some of you keep asking what Sapper School was like.

The course emphasizes the following: demolitions, mountaineering, aerial operations, land navigation, waterborne operations, urban breaching, (military operations in urban terrain) MOUT, threat weapons, combatives and troop leading procedures & combat orders.

Demolitions was fun. We constructed cratering charges, door breaching charges, made napalm, used ammonium nitrate to make satchel charges, expedient claymores, and all kinds of interesting explosives. Napalm started some nice little fires, but it burned out.

Mountaineering was fairly rugged. We did all sorts of rappels, including the ordinary hollywood and equipment rappels. I then had to buddy rappel with a 200lb guy strapped my back, and also did the Aussie rappel, where you descend down the ropes face first, which usually means upside down.

For aerial operations, we were limited to using the CH-47 Chinook, which I had not flown on before. The Chinook is the big helicopter with two main blades on the front and back. Anyways, we flew around in them and did helocasting into the water. Helocasting involves jumping out of the aircraft, into the water. It was fun, moving at 10 knots around 15 ft over the water, so it wasn't too far up, but far enough up, that a soldier that was airborne (paratrooper) qualified refused to jump. What a wimp. We jumped a couple of times and had to swim however far you landed in the water back to shore pulling your rucksack (hopefully waterproofed) to the shore so that the Sapper instructors could smoke you some more.

Land navigation was the usual. It is six hours long, with three at night and three during daylight. Me and my partner, West Point '06 classmate, Dennis Hines, did fairly well. We did make a mistake, however, and decided to go for our 6th point with only 50 minutes left. We already had found five points and you needed only four to pass the course. Anyways, we went up the side of one of the worst mountains I have ever climbed. Of course we had our rifles and packs weighing I don't now how much, and the side of the mountain was overgrown with little saplings that snagged on my gear, making forward motion pretty much impossible. After much toil and groaning, we made it to the top, and found we had lost the map. Miraculously, I found it a few minutes later, and as we were running back down a trail, I stepped funny and hear some strange pops and snapping in my leg, and found I had sprained my ankle. I was fairly surprised as I have run in snow and ice on rocks in the hills up in New York with no ill effects, but anyways, we barely made it back in time. My ankle still is not quite fixed 6 weeks later, but I feel God helped me make it through the rest of Sapper school, carrying over 100 lbs of gear sometimes.

The last two weeks, we were out in the field, doing patrols and missions that were normally ambushes, raids or reconnaissance. Of course we were sleep deprived and starved a little. More than a few lost 15-20 lbs in those two weeks. If everything went well, we usually got 1 MRE a day, so I didn't think it was all that bad. The sleep deprivation was kind of funny. Guys would fall asleep marching down the trail, and would tumble into a tree or ditch frequently. I took a nap a couple of times as we were marching. When pulling security in our patrol bases, it got so bad that they let us stand up so that we could stay awake. Didn't help me much, though. I got quite good at sleeping standing up and was always somersaulting over my machine gun, or whatever bushes happened to be around. One time when the patrol leader at the time was briefing the key leaders, I was holding up the map so that he could use it to brief off of. I fell asleep three times and dropped the map in the middle of the briefing. Some guys suffered pretty bad. One guy tried to call in Santa Claus over the radio, people saw buildings and people that didn't exist in the middle of the woods.

One neat thing was they starved us for a couple of days and brought us back into the base camp. At the base camp they had a couple dozen rabbits and chickens. A buddy of mine and I managed to chase down the biggest chicken and killed it promptly. After taking a quick break to watch it run around with no head, we took it apart and ate it. It was kind of tough, and we ended up eating mainly some rice and potatoes they gave us, but never before had a live animal looked so delicious.

I was one of the 28 of the original 45(?) sapper candidates that completed the course. I was thankful to have made it, but frustrated that I hadn't earned the Sapper tab. I had earned all the points I needed to pass the course, but on a dark night towards the end of the course, as I was leading my patrol in a patrol base for the night, one of our guys fell asleep in the woods and my subordinates failed to account for him. Myself and my assistant patrol leader, a Ranger who was going to be the honor graduate, failed our patrol and didn't earn our tabs. The Sapper instructors later told me that it was really not my fault as patrol leader, but even so, since I was in charge, I bore responsibility for my subordinates actions. All in all, it was a great learning experience, and I hope to go back as soon as I can for more excitement.

The last thing that happened was on the morning of graduation. We had to go down to our combatives area around 3 a.m., and do our final combatives drill. Some of our instructors do cage fighting/ultimate fighting competitions, and I got hit pretty hard in the head multiple times by an instructor that I had kicked in the face one night as he tried to tie me up for sleeping standing up. Anyways, he got in quite a few good punches in on me before I managed to get him in a clinch to subdue the rascal. Too bad we couldn't hit back.

Sapper school is a pretty cool school to go to. As the 'engineer ranger school' it is pretty rigorous. Learned a lot, nobody died, starved to death, or went too crazy, so I count it as a success.

Do not be anxious...

Philippians 4:6-7, "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.'

Jerry Bridges, in Respectable Sins, lists anxiety and frustration as one of the respectable sins that Christians are prone to tolerate in their lives.  Anxiety and frustration can be a sign of my failing to trust God to take care of me.

Things like deployments, physical fitness tests, Ranger school, family illness, etc., are times where I have faced the most anxiety.

There are two commands: 1. Do not be anxious, 2. Let your requests be made known to God with a promise: The peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Recently, Ranger School has been causing me a lot of anxiety.  I feel that by applying the principles of this verse, that God has given me peace about it.

 Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.  Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not!  Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God.  He will come and save you."  Isaiah 35:3-4