Combat Christian: Day One
Mission Training: Unit One
Know Where You Are!
Many years ago there was a Navy flight crew that had launched on a very important mission. Right after takeoff the inertial navigation system experienced a seemingly catastrophic failure. It looked like all was lost until the gnarly old Master Chief Flight Engineer went back to the Navigator's station to investigate. After a couple of minutes he made the following comment to the Navigator: " You know these inertial navigation systems are really smart. But you have to tell them where they are before you tell them where to go!" You see the Navigator had aligned the system using the destination coordinates instead of the coordinates for their point of origin. We too as believers must know where we are before we can know how and where to go.
"I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture." (John 10:9 NIV)
Anytime I see the word "I am" associated with the words of God the Father or God the Son it thrills my heart. For it reminds me of how the blessed Creator identified himself to Moses from the midst of the burning bush.
"God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you." (Exo 3:14 NIV)
It was subsequent to this experience that the name Jehovah, which means "I AM" came into use. And in the Old Testament we see it often joined with other words in order to describe God as he reveals himself to his people. An example would be, Jehovah-Shalom, which means I am your peace.
In our key verse we have the words of the Lord Jesus Christ declaring that He is the gate to salvation. Interestingly enough His very name declares this. The name Jesus is a contraction of the name Joshua. Joshua is short for Jehovah-heshua. Thus the name Jesus declares "I AM your salvation." Moreover we can see from Scripture that Jesus make reference to this relationship with the "I AM" when He says:
"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!" (John 8:58 NIV)
Everyone enters into this wonderful salvation by the same way. Jesus is the gate. We all must enter in to His salvation by this gate which is himself. There is no other way. In fact we discover, by reading the beginning of John Chapter 10, that to enter in by any other way would make us thieves and robbers.
When I was a young man I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to be a Sea Explorer. I was a member of Sea Explorer Ship 225, San Pedro, California. The organization was led by a Navy Warrant Officer named T.N. "Whitey" Chalman, Jr. and his wife. It was their custom, before we closed any meeting, to gently admonish us to remember who we were and to whom we belonged.
Before we can enter into the battles of the day we must first recognize who we are and to whom we belong! Our salvation is in Jesus Christ. Get it? Our salvation is a person and He is the Lord Jesus Christ. Our salvation is not an it. It is not some mere thing that we can misplace or loose. We entered into this salvation through the gate provided by this selfsame Jesus. On this we can depend. On this we must depend because Jesus is the "gate." There is no other way.
Said another way: How can we journey forth into a new day with a new destination until we first know where we are? How can we know where we are until we know where we have been and how we got there? We came via a life of sin to the gate of salvation which is the Lord Jesus Christ.
Combat Christian: Day Two
Mission Training: Unit One
Know Where You Are Going!
A long, long time ago in a far away galaxy there was a Navy flight crew that was heading home after a long deployment to Naval Air Station Home Port from a certain island on the Pacific Rim. They used the very in-vogue computer generated flight plan, that was the state of the art for the day, to determine their route of flight and fuel requirements. The weather along their route of flight was notorious for the ability to change without warning. I guess the forces of nature have never been really big on following what the forecaster predicts. Instead we usually find that the weather does pretty much what it pleases. In this case nature delivered a very healthy thunderstorm about the size of Australia. Consequently the flight crew, suffering from an extreme case of get-home-itis, attempted to climb the aircraft to the maximum attainable altitude in an effort to get over the weather rather than make a pit stop. To accomplish this amazing feat of aviation they turned off the engine and propeller anti-ice systems to squeeze out the last available Bernoulli (pound of thrust). About twenty minutes later the grand silence befell them as three of the four engines flamed out (quit running). After loosing twenty thousand feet of altitude they were able to stir the languishing horses back to life and finished their journey to Home Port after making an unplanned fuel stop at the island home of the famous Albatross (Gooney Bird).
"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.'" (John 14:6 NIV)
It is quite easy for me to look at the aforementioned horror story and equate it to my spiritual life. When I first met Jesus Christ as my savior I was filled with the same kind of exuberance to be on the journey. I wanted to get on down the road at the best possible speed. Yes, I to ran into unexpected heavy weather and nearly crashed and burned. Why? Because I was ignorant of the precepts of spiritual travel and navigation. I had the brazen audacity to think that I could plan my spiritual life as if it were just another mission.
As you can see in Isaiah 35 the flight plan has already been filed and the right amount of fuel is onboard. We are destined to travel on the "Way of Holiness."
"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not journey on it; it will be for those who walk in that Way; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor will any ferocious beast get up on it; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there..." (Isa 35:8-9 NIV)
But where can I find this Way? You already have! Perhaps it would be better said if the question were phrased: Who is this Way? We see by reading the Key Verse from John that Jesus is the Way. Jesus is the Highway of Holiness. As we discovered yesterday He is also the on-ramp (gate). We enter the Way at the Gate which is Calvary. The Gate where the vilest of sinner may enter into Him who is the Way.
There are many other paths in this world that are available for us to trod. However, we are not to stray down these bi-paths but are to stay on the "ancient paths."
"Yet my people have forgotten me; they burn incense to worthless idols, which made them stumble in their ways and in the ancient paths. They made them walk in bypaths and on roads not built up." (Jer 18:15 NIV)
As we continue on our journey we will find that we already know the Way because He is our blessed Savior, Jesus Christ. We are not lost because the Way of Holiness is always before us and He is Truth. We need not hurry because the Way is already with us and He is life.
Combat Christian: Day Three
Mission Training: Unit One
This old and barnacled sailor, perhaps like many of you, has spent many years being evaluated from almost every conceivable aspect. I have experienced personnel inspections, operational readiness inspections, promotion exams, in-flight check rides, etc. The reason for all of these was to determine how I measured up to a given standard. In each case it was fairly easy for me to see what was expected and how I would be able to meet those expectations.
For the Combat Christian the "highway of holiness" stretches ahead beckoning, "follow me." In the midst of this journey we must then learn to recognize the bellwethers of the faith. Our first question of the day should be: How am I really doing? The second should be: Am I allowing Christ to empower me to be all that He wants me to be or am I striving to live the Christian life in the power of the flesh? The last question: How can I tell the difference?
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires." (Gal 5:22-24 NIV)
When I am looking at my face in the mirror each morning I have made it a habit to ask the first question in light of this passage from Galatians. Is my life characterized by the "fruit of the Spirit"? If not, why not? If I find it hard to discern the contrast I remember the description of the fruit of the flesh in the previous paragraph.
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." (Gal 5:19-21 NIV)
It would be easy for me to kid myself and think I was doing pretty well if it weren't for the warning Paul gives to us in the next chapter,
"Do not deceive yourselves; no one make a fool of God, A man will reap exactly what he plants." (Gal 6:7 TEV)
Since Paul issues a warning it must be pretty obvious that our natural response is to do exactly that, deceive ourselves!
The answer to the last question: How can I tell the difference? will depend upon to whom you pose the question. If you pose the question to yourself you will be deceived. If on the other hand you pose the question to God you will find the correct answer and thus will know the answer to question one and two.
"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting." (Psa 139:23 NIV)
Combat Christian: Day Four
Mission Training: Unit One
Many years ago, when I possessed the bravery of my youth, I was an aircraft navigator on the Douglas A-3D Skywarrior. It was a monster of an aircraft that weighed in at around 78,000 pounds—pretty big to be crashing (making arrested landings) aboard aircraft carriers. Perhaps that is why it eventually was referred to by its nickname, "Whale." The Whale was large because one of the original design considerations was that it would be capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. In those days the weapons were still quite rotund.
Navigation on long over-water flights was also a bit more cumbersome than it is today. Today even automobiles are equipped with global positioning systems (GPS). But back then we navigated by the stars. At the beginning of a flight it was necessary to perform a "deviation check" in order to determine the accuracy of all the onboard compass systems. If this was not performed properly it would be possible to end up off course without even knowing it. Well, low and behold, along came a flight crew that was on a celestial navigation training flight with a student navigator. The Instructor Pilot, being a steely-eyed naval aviator of some renown, decided to slew the compass system (induce an error into the system) in an attempt to fool the would-be Navigator. You guessed it! The crafty pilot forgot how much he slewed the system and they eventually became lost and had to bailout over open ocean.
"...and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem." (Acts 9:2 NIV)
"But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus." (Acts 19:9 NIV)
"About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way." (Acts 19:23 NIV)
"I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison..." (Acts 22:4 NIV)
"However, I admit that I worship the God of our fathers as a follower of the Way, which they call a sect. I believe everything that agrees with the Law and that is written in the Prophets..." (Acts 24:14 NIV)
"Then Felix, who was well acquainted with the Way, adjourned the proceedings. "When Lysias the commander comes," he said, "I will decide your case." (Acts 24:22 NIV)
At that time Jesus said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Mat 11:25-30 NIV)
We learned on "Day One" that Jesus is the Door and on "Day Two" that Jesus is the Way. The reality of the situation is that a great many of us have entered in by the "Door" and have managed to miss the "Highway of Holiness" altogether. We lay in the ditch wondering how we got there. What happened? We forgot to do a deviation check. We thought we were on course but were actually lost. This happens because we make other things in life the way (deviation). Prayer, Bible study, worship, the Church and fellowship are all part of the actions of the believer but they are not the Way! None of these things will cleanse my sinners heart or give me peace!!! In fact the mere doing of these things, apart from the Way, becomes an arduous burden and life crushing weight.
Many years ago a new believer asked me why the excitement and fervor had gone out of his Christian experience. He said it was as if he had been sitting in a tub of hot water that had slowly become cool to the senses. DEV CHECK!!!! The actions of the Christian experience are NOT the way to Christ!!! Jesus Christ is the Way to the actions of the Christian experience. The Spirit of Christ empowers the Christian life. When Christ is near the Scriptures sing an unforgettable chorus. When Christ is near worship lifts the heart to flight. When Christ is near we are drawn to prayer. When Christ is near the Church abounds in perfect unity. When I am in the ditch I look for my compass!! Jesus is the Way (Highway of Holiness) and the on-ramp is at the foot of the Calvary Cross.
"There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel's veins;
and sinners plunge beneath that flood, loose all their guilty stains."
Combat Christian: Day Five
Mission Training: Unit One
Fitness Training 101
ave you ever met a new believer who had such energy and exuberance that you would swear they must be plugged into an electrical outlet? Then a few weeks or months down the road you begin to observe the energy begin to fade and their daily life no longer seems to shine as it once did. In the Navy we would say that person is all hawse pipe and no keel or all chrome and no steel.
What if, as a Christian, I spend too much time and energy on my exterior? I am talking about that part of me that I show to the world. Christians are expected to look and act a certain way. Even among ourselves we maintain appearances. It would be very easy for me to put on my Sunday face and appear to be something that I'm not. Armed with everything I have heard at Sunday service, seen on Christian television, and read in Christian books I could venture forth into this world displaying a face that glows in the dark. Now I'm "looking good." I really have it "made in the shade," right?
"If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth." (I John 1:6 NAS)
How does shade fit into this verse? The darkness mentioned in this verse represents sin. I believe that anything in my life that prevents fellowship with God is sin. Within this definition, sin may not appear as darkness. It might appear as shade or even light. But God is not a half-stepper,
"...God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all." (1 John 1:5b NAS)
If I am not walking fully in His light, then I am walking in darkness.
How can I use this in my life each day? Let me try to explain. Flashlights are familiar objects to all of us. They're made up of batteries, a bulb, and a switch. Turn on the switch and light emanates from the bulb. But what happens, if the switch is left on too long? The light grows dim. Why? Some would say that the batteries are weak. I think it is because they are full of darkness. Batteries, contrary to popular belief, are dark absorbers. I am also an absorber. God wants me to be full of light, but I can absorb anything I choose. Now if the battery in my car goes dead, I may be able to start the engine by getting a "jump start" from another battery. But this will be only temporary if my car's charging system is inoperable. Likewise, if I do not make time each day for fellowship with the Lord Jesus, I am depending on a "jump start" instead of plugging into the Source.
When I became a Christian, I discovered the ministries of the Holy Spirit. First, He came to live inside me (indwelling). Second, I learned that if I asked, He would fill me with His presence (filling). However, here is a key problem. I can't be full of light if I am, already full of shade;
"but if I confess my sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive my sins and to cleanse me from all unrighteousness." (I John 1:9).
Having been cleansed by God Himself, there is room to be filled with His light, and I can have fellowship with Him,
"...and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ." (I John 1:3b)
He speaks to my heart through prayer. He feeds me through His Holy Word. If I fellowship with the Television instead of the Master, I have in effect chosen the sun lamp instead of the SON LAMP. The tan may look the same, but we know it was made in the shade.
Combat Christian: Day Six
Mission Training: Unit One
Pre-flight Inspection 101
Survival Equipment Check
remember, in the early days of my naval career, learning a very valuable lesson at someone else's expense. A combat aircrew returned to Naval Air Station Home Port from a routine training flight. As soon as they had shut down the engines and exited the aircraft they were swiftly captured by a security team and whisked away for a little impromptu survival training. For two days they would have to survive in the wilderness with only the equipment contained in the survival vest they were wearing. By the time they finished they fully comprehended the importance of each item and the potential effect if absent or damaged.
As believers, we must be conscience of the fact that we are in a battle. Going into combat without a helmet or flack jacket is a great way to become a casualty. Yet, how often do we enter into a new day sans armor (without armor)? Hence, we find that the Apostle Paul had good reason to exhort us to put on God's armor.
"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Eph 6:10 NIV)
I have heard a great many sermons on the need to put on the armor of God. However, not one of these teachings ever broached the subject as to how to accomplish this feat. I found the answer while driving back to a conference facility after dropping off some of our membership at the airport. One of my longtime friends and brother in the faith had given me a tape to listen to on the trip. There was a particular song by the group "Harvest" that really struck me when I heard it. The first verse went:
"Are we walking into the enemy's camp laying our weapons down, shedding our armor as we go leaving it on the ground, we've got to be strong in the power of His might to prove to the enemy, we are the army of the Lord and we've won the victory."
Can you imagine going into battle and removing your armor and dropping your weapons? This is contrary to everything a warrior has been taught. Then the light came on! In order to put on the armor of God I must first take of my own!!!! I must be naked of all of my own defenses in order to wear the armor of light. I must trust Christ to be my defense! How do I take off my own armor? As always Paul has answered the question ahead of time in chapter 4.
"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." (Eph 4:22-23 NIV)
Combat Christian: Day Seven
Mission Training: Unit One
Fitness Training 102
here once was a revelation from nature that slapped me up beside the head one Autumn day while looking at the trees in my back yard. The leaves that were once on the trees were now on the ground! Perhaps that is why the other name for Autumn is Fall (Duh!). This was my first experience at watching the seasons come and go. I had spent my life on the West Coast where the seasons are but two. I noticed that in the span of a few days the Apple tree in my back yard had gone from robust and full of greenery to something stark and bare. The leaves, that were once a blessing of shade to me, were now withered and lie motionless on the lawn. Where once they soared to and fro in the cool mountain breeze they were now strewn about in heaps as if huddled in helplessness.
"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." (Psalms 1:1-3 NIV)
If there is anything from this key verse that has gripped me, it would be the phrase "whose leaf does not wither." You guessed it! Another bellwether of the Christian faith! Can I characterize my life as being full of health and vigor? As those who are charged by our duty to be constantly in a state of combat readiness, we already know the value of regular physical training. However, as believers, do we engage in the same kind of tenacious activity that will allow us to be spiritually combat ready?
It would appear to me that I should be "delighting in the law of the Lord." Why, because I love to meditate there day and night. As a result I look like a tree that has been planted by a river yielding fruit. If not, then I should be on my knees asking to be pruned by the master arborist confessing that my leaves are withered. Share this struggle with another believer so that they can pray for you!
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. (James 5:16 NIV)
Combat Christian: Day Eight
Pre-flight Inspection 102
n times gone past I do recall an occasion when what my eyes beheld as something solid in fact was not. It probably would not have been as shocking had I discovered this lack of rigidity in another place and time. However, I had discovered it on the wing of the airplane I was about to use to leap into the sky. I had been inspecting the top of the wing and had found my boot sticking through a hole where I had just stepped on what I thought was solid aluminum. Right there in the here and now was an example of, what was later to be identified as, inter-granular corrosion. It occurs because the aluminum alloy itself is, by its nature, unstable and starts the corrosion process as soon as it is manufactured. You could say that it possesses an inherent defect. Fortunately an x-ray of the spot in question revealed that the defect was localized and could be repaired.
"And just as many men were made sinners as the result of the disobedience of one man, in the same way many will be put right with God as the result of the obedience of the one man." Romans 5:19 (TEV)
As Christians we begin our lives worried more about doing than being. We gauge our lives by what we have done rather than by who we are. When we think of ourselves in light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we discover that we are sinners. We are not sinners because we commit sins! However, on the contrary, we sin because we are sinners. We have an inherent defect! We are sinners at the chromosome level rather than by mere action. As we go about our day trying to please the Lord, we find that something in us does not want to cooperate. When we try to be loving we find that inside us we actually feel very unloving. This reveals to us very clearly the way we really are! What are we to do? Paul says,
"What shall we say, then? That we should continue to live in sin so that God's grace will increase? Certainly not! We have died to sin-how then can we go on living in it?" Romans 6:1 (TEV)
Since we entered into this state (of being sinners) by our very birth the only way we can be delivered is by our death. We cannot do this by trying to kill ourselves, although our actions seem to say that we believe this is possible. But God has already prepared the way!!! We want to find a way to get rid of our sin. However, God's way is to get rid of the sinner ! In our case the x-ray (God's light) reveals that the corrosion is not local but endemic!
"For surely you know this: when we were baptized into union with Christ Jesus, we were baptized into union with his death. By our baptism, then, we were buried with him and shared his death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from death by the glorious power of the Father, so also we might live a new life." Romans 6:3-4 (TEV)
We cannot do for ourselves that which has already been done for us in Christ Jesus.
"For if we became one with him in dying as he did, in the same way we shall be one with him by being raised to life as he was. And we know this: our old being has been put to death with Christ on his cross, in order that the power of the sinful self might be destroyed, so that we should no longer be the slaves of sin." Romans 6:5-6 (TEV)
There is nothing I can do to rid myself of this sinful nature! The first step of my journey is in the "knowing!" "For surely you know this...", not because Bob said so, or because you read it in the Bible, but because the Holy Spirit revealed it to you in the center of your being!
Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission once said:
"I have not got to make myself a branch. The Lord Jesus tells me I am a branch. I am part of him and I have just to believe it and act upon it. I have seen it long enough in the Bible, but I believe it now as a living reality."
Do you know this? Or are you trying to make your way into a room in which you already are? If you know not, confess your lack of knowing to the God who knows already! He is waiting with open arms for you who are "in union with Christ Jesus."