Tuesday, October 19, 2021

I Surrender All

 

present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2

I served in Vietnam with the Military Assistance Command – Vietnam (MAC-V) as a radio operator. Soldiers assigned to MAC-V were military advisors to the Vietnamese Regular Army and Popular Forces (think Guard and Reserve).  The Viet Cong were what was known as insurgents or communist guerilla fighters. A repatriation program called “Chieu Hoi” or open arms was started, simply, in an effort to encourage these local fighters to surrender, turn in their weapons and return to their homes. Raising their hands in surrender and turning away from their life or resistance.  (I might add that all of that was to no avail since in 1975 the war ended and the communists took over South Vietnam.) At any rate, when I think of Romans 12, the picture of hands raised comes to mind. And I say to the Lord – Chieu Hoi. 

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” – 1 John 2:15-17

To offer myself as a living sacrifice means to give up your devotion to what you were formally devoted to – the things of the world. That is an act of the will. It is not a “one and done” act. Certainly our salvation is …. Born again … (John 3) Jesus did not say you must be born again and again and again .. or you must be born again but you can become unborn. (that is all I will say about eternal security this morning!)  But we must be alert to the constant temptation to embrace that which we had once abandoned. The temptation is not so much “in your face” but is more insidious, “frog in the pot” temptation. It is more, as they would say in Haiti – “ti pa tipa” (literally –  small footed) it is an idiom for “step by step”.

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way, walk in it,’ Whenever you turn to the right hand Or whenever you turn to the left.” – Isaiah 30:21

You must be on the alert which means you must train your mind – you must be spiritually alert so you will recognize the dangers.  Some of the Viet Cong that were repatriated through the Chieu Hoi program became what were known as “Kit Carson Scouts” and would lead patrols to alert friendly forces to dangers along the way.  As we would walk along a trail in the jungles, the Scout would point to a place on the ground and tell us to walk around it – it was a booby trap – like an IED today. That is, in a way, what the Spirit does for us. If we are willing to pay attention to the warning and not think that we are capable of moving our new life on our own without any help. Suffice it to say that the trails of this life are littered with wounded Christians who stepped where they shouldn’t.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, And strength to your bones.’” – Proverbs 3:5-8

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Monday, October 18, 2021

Life The Way God Intended

Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” – Mark 1:14-55

I heard someone say that “the kingdom of God is life the way that God intended it to be.” If I insert that phrase in the scripture from Mark it would read, “The time is fulfilled, and t life the way that God intended it to be is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” So what is life the way God intended it to be? I suppose we would have to go back to the Garden. Mankind in harmony with the Creator God and with each other. That sounds a little like the 2 greatest commandment doesn’t it? (Matthew 22:37-39)  And if we have indeed repented and believed in the Gospel. And what is the Gospel?

For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-5

And what must you believe?

if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” ….. For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?” – Romans 10:9-11, 13

How can anyone believe it?

When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.’” – Matthew 16:13-17

The truth of the Gospel is a spiritual revelation.  I cannot convince anyone into heaven – salvation is by faith and the seed of faith is spiritual not natural.  There are a number of very large religions that will acknowledge that Jesus was a great teacher – even a profit – but stop short of saying that He is the Son of God.  That would unhinge their faith – what they and generations before them have believed.  It is only the revelation of God by His Spirit and the Gospel that some might believe and be saved.

And what is our role in the Gospel? We are ministers of reconciliation – man to God – ambassadors for Christ. Representatives in a foreign land making known who Jesus is and what He has done. Not just with words but by the way we live our lives.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

We live in a dark time in the history of our nation and the world.  We don’t need louder voices – we need louder lives. Lives that shout out our faith and God’s love for mankind.  Some religions’ solution is to have a theocracy – and be ruthless in its administration.  Man’s solution for establishing the kingdom of God on earth. Purifying the nation so that no other practice will be tolerated. But the kingdom of God emanates from a changed heart and is a witness to a world that has but one destination – eternal separation from its Creator.

To be faithful to our calling, we must live our message.  Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song called, “The Change”. I thought I would share a couple of verses.

Well I got myself a T-shirt that says what I believe. I got letters on my bracelet to serve as my ID. I got the necklace and the key chain And almost everything a good Christian needs, yeah

I got the little Bible magnets on my refrigerator door. And a welcome mat to bless you before you walk across my floor. I got a Jesus bumper sticker And the outline of a fish stuck on my car

And even though this stuff's all well and good, yeah I cannot help but ask myself--

What about the change What about the difference What about the grace What about forgiveness What about a life that's showing I'm undergoing the change.”

It is not about what we say or look like – but how we live and treat other people – and that reflects what we believe and our love for God. Living our lives the way God intended. Giving people a little glimpse of heaven.

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Friday, October 15, 2021

Holding Court In Our Hearts

 

they said to Him [Jesus], ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?’ … So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, ‘He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.’… Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, ‘Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?’ She said, ‘No one, Lord.’ And Jesus said to her, ‘Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.’” – John 8:4-5,7,9-11

I am certain that you are familiar with this story about the woman caught in adultery. Putting it in context – why did God, the Father, send God, the Son?

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” – John 3:16-20

Do you see what was happening in the case of the woman? The men were asking Jesus to condemn her when Jesus had come to save her (and them). They didn’t believe He was the Son of God, the Messiah. They were guilty themselves and their deeds were exposed.  They wanted grace and mercy but were not willing to give it.  Jesus called the woman to repentance and faith where she found forgiveness and reconciliation.  And that is what we, as Christians, have been called to do.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

We have not been given the ministry of condemnation but of reconciliation – calling sinners to repentance – pointing them to Jesus. Knowing that “all have sinned” and there are “none righteous, no not one” When asked to cast the first stone, we all would have to walk away – there but for the grace of God go I. It is in our old nature to be quick to condemn others – the speck and the beam (Matthew 7:3-5). There is a worldly system for the judgement and punishment of law breakers. But what I am speaking to is our holding court in our hearts and condemning others when it is not our place to judge. We have not been given a seat on the Bench – there is only one Judge – but, rather, we are called to be advocates for Jesus – the call the world to repentance – to go and sin no more.

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Deciding On And Choosing What Is Important

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:16-17

How we spend our time. What we decide what we will and will not do in our lifetime.  We only have so many minutes, hours, days and years don’t we.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower used a method of categorizing events or demands on his time that we now call the Eisenhower Matrix. Stephen Covey has mentioned the framework, in his book “The 7 habits of highly effective people”, as The Time Management Matrix. My point is that everything we do or don’t do has two factors associated with them, its importance and its urgency. For example you are standing in the road and a semi-truck is rapidly approaching when you receive a text message. Do you get off the road or do you answer the text message first? The text message says it is important.

So where is the Spiritual application? We must first decide what is important and then decide what is urgent – what must be acted upon now – without delay. What is not important can wait. So how do I know what is important? As a Christian – God has made it clear.

Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.’” – Matthew 22:35-40

This is the context for what we put in each of those squares. The framework if you will. That same idea was given to Moses as the 10 commandments – the first 4 have to do with God’s place in our lives and decisions – the last 6 have to do with how we treat others.  Here is another hint about how we are to prioritize what we do – what we give preference to – what influences our choices every day.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”– 1 John 2:15-17

Giving preference to the things in the world is much like wanting to answer the text message. Choosing what seems urgent but is not important. For many people – many Christians – the urgent not important dominates their lives.  They have no perspective to distinguish between the important and not important – that requires spiritual perspective – spiritual awareness – but their spiritual sensitivity has been dulled because of their love for the things of the world and its dominance over their love for the important things.  How about you?

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

An Attitude of Gratitude

O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.” – Romans 7:24-25, 8:1-2

The context of these verses is Paul reflecting on his struggle with the old and new nature and the realization that by faith in Jesus he is and we are free from condemnation for our sin. If you are anything like me, you don’t think about that very often if at all. If you are like me, you continue to struggle with temptation – with sin. It is at that very point of struggle that I should be mindful of the fact that I have been saved but grace through faith and not works.  That is not to say that I should therefore be content and not worry about sin – but be thankful that I do not have to face the temptation alone.  That God has made a way to escape – if I will only take it.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” – 1 Corinthians 10:13

We are supernaturally equipped to live our new lives. Something to be thankful for and to live rightly. With respect to knowing sin when you see it or perhaps feel it approaching – the answer is simple.

Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.”– James 4:17

How do I know what is good? We have the Word of God and the Spirit of God – our Helper – the Spirit of Truth – in us, to remind us of what is “good” and what is not. For that we should be thankful. Yet, it is up to us yield to His leading.  People have told me that I have wisdom and some seek my advice. The thing is, my advice means nothing if they are not willing to follow it.  I have quoted John Newton a number of times, but it bears repeating. 

I am not what I ought to be. I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be. But still, I am not what I used to be. And by the grace of God, I am what I am..” – John Newton

That is the understanding that I want to embrace for my life. Thinking about John Newton’s life and, in turn, my own causes me to well up with gratitude and to want to live a life faithful to God’s calling and my salvation.

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Rooted and Grounded In Our Faith

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” – Colossians 2:6-7

My wife was given three pieces – cuttings – from a plant some time back. They look like something that you would rake up and throw away after using a weed trimmer.  But she planted them in the ground, just as they were. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous.  Instead of withering to nothing – they grew roots and from the roots began to grow and multiply. That would have never happened had they not been planted in the soil.  So it is with us. We must be planted – rooted in the Word and faith.  There is a supernatural – miraculous transformation that can and will take place. Reading the Word – hearing the Word and living in obedience to what we read and hear is like being planted in rich soil. The result is miraculous. We become something glorious – growing and multiplying – like that plant.

Some Christians are satisfied with “making the team” and then content to sit on the bench. Never getting in the game – just watching from the bench. Making the team was enough for them – but the Lord has intended so much more for those of us who are called by His name.

“Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”– Matthew 13:3-9

I know that you have read or at least heard that parable, perhaps many times.  We are the seed. We need to be careful that we are not content with the stony or thorny ground. Choose the good ground. Making that choice is something we must make every day.

Blessed is the man [person] who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” – Psalm 1:1-3

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Monday, October 11, 2021

Making An Eternal Difference

As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.” – Colossians 2:6-7

Have you ever thought of yourself as someone who can make an eternal difference? Most of us tend to live lives managing our sin and don’t look much beyond that. But the way we live – how we behave – treat others – reflect the image of Christ wherever we happen to be and any point in time – it has an eternal consequence.  We were watching a sermon yesterday morning and the preacher was using Colossians for his scriptural reference. He talked about Epaphras.  Epaphras is one of about 3200 people named in the Bible. We don’t know much about him except that he loved the people in the church of Colossae (Co-loss-eye) and sought Paul out to help encourage them in their faith.  Aside from that he is just a name referenced.

God has a plan for each of us. Do find that hard to imagine? I have been a part of a number of Christian ventures – even led some of them – been recognized for my contribution – but most often it was not me that actually did what was done. It was other – unnamed – people. People who loved God and loved people.  People who were willing to set their lives aside for the good of others. People who, perhaps, did not understand their eternal contribution in the lives of others. Years ago, a friend said to me, “Charley, I finally figured you out. You get things started and then walk away.” My place has been to lead, to inspire, to organize other Christians for the benefit of those in need and for the glory of God. 

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all ….. one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ.” – 1 Corinthians 12:7,11

We all have a role in God’s plan for mankind.  If you read on in chapter 12 you will see that one roll is not more important than another.  It doesn’t do anything to help people for me to be gifted in the way God has gifted me, if there are not others willing to exercise their gifts in response to the exercising of mine.  And all of us are dependent upon the Spirit of God to accomplish our parts in God’s plan and purposes.  Notoriety is not, or should not be, the goal. Even to get an honorable mention like Paul gave Epaphras. Like the unknown soldiers – serving to the point of sacrificing their lives.  Our sacrifices are for the glory of God and the good of others.  Our lives should not be wasted because we have chosen to hide our light under a bushel basket – to clutch our salvation close to our breasts, unwilling to share it with the world.  We have been saved for much more than spending eternity with God in heaven.  Each of us has a purpose – a role to play – in this life that has eternal consequences for others.  I don’t pretend to understand why God would choose to use us – but He does. 

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Friday, October 8, 2021

Part 4 - The Rest Of The Story

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;” – Luke 4:18

Our family believes that Chaplain Austin planted an eternal seed in our dad’s heart on that summer day in Korea. The seed that took nearly 20 years to germinate.  The Bible our dad received from Chaplain Austin has held a place of prominence in our family’s home from the day our parents received Christ until today.  Some time after our dad went to be with the Lord, my mom asked if I could find some information about the Chaplain who had signed the Bible. She wanted to thank him for his ministry and to tell him about our family.  Unfortunately our attempts to contact Chaplain Austin or his family have been unsuccessful.  My wife’s uncle, retired Navy, was able to get an excerpt from Chaplain Austin’s service record and two citations Chaplain Austin received for heroism during WWII and Korea. Chaplain Austin received the Navy Commendation Medal with combat “V” for actions on Iwo Jima.  He received the Bronze Star with combat “V” for actions in Korea.  The “V” is for valor or exceptional bravery in battle.  This is an excerpt from his medal citation for service on Iwo Jima.

Navy Commendation Medal w/ Combat (V), Iwo Jima Chaplain with Marine Amphibious corps landing force Iwo Jima 19 Feb thru 23 March, 1945.Unceasing endeavor to help and comfort wounded and dying men regardless of creed or color.  Constant source of inspiration.  Visited men at their duty stations day and night regardless of the hazards.  Actions in keeping with the highest standards.”

He also received the Bronze Star with combat “V” for actions in Korea. This is an excerpt from his medal citation.

Bronze Star with Combat (V), 1st MAR Div, Korea. For meritorious achievement with Marine Infantry Battalion in Korea From 10 March 1951 to 4 April 1951 displayed outstanding courage and devotion to duty ministering to the spiritual needs of the men.  Frequently exposing himself to intense mortar, artillery, automatic weapons and small arms fire without regard for his personal safety.  Moved fearlessly. Gave aid and comfort to the wounded and dying.”

His Navy records indicate that he conducted the first Protestant service on Mt Suribachi at Iwo Jima the day the flag was raised, 23 Feb 1945.  Hank Austin was what I call a “warrior priest” willing to put himself, un-armed, in harms’ way in obedience to God’s call on his life and the pursuit of ministry to lay his life down for his calling.   

He served in the Navy for 26 years and retired as a Navy Captain or Full Colonel (Air Force, Army, Marines) As an ordained Baptist minister he had an incredible opportunity to bring comfort and encouragement to men and women who look death in the face every day.

No greater love has one man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13 

The calling you and I have received from God may not find us on a battlefield but we are in no less of a conflict. We are in a spiritual battle – every day.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” – Ephesians 6:12

As such – we are to “walk the line of life’s foxholes” encouraging the saints and sharing the Gospel with the lost – planting and watering knowing that it is God who will bring the increase.

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Part 3 - The Seed Watered And The Increase Brought

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed;” – Luke 4:18

Soon after dad and mom decided to seek God together, they started attending a church just down the road from their house.  And one Sunday morning in April 1969, through the prompting of the words of the pastor and the conviction of the Holy Spirit, they prayed to receive Jesus as Lord. They were no longer blind to the Truth.

Dad passed in November 1999.  The very nature of his memorial service was a testimony to his faithfulness in his walk with the Lord.  Jesus was praised and God was glorified.  More than two hundred people came to honor him and more importantly his ministry that had made a permanent mark on their lives.  He and mom led Bible studies for teenagers in their home and in church. They shared the Gospel with anyone who would listen.  They showed great compassion for others - even strangers. Don Pierson, the Marine and man of God was laid to rest with full military honors.  As the rifle volleys echoed across the field and the lonely sound of TAPs was played by the Marine bugler, our family was reminded of his service and dedication to his country and to his Lord.  All seven of Don and Arlene’s children and five of their children’s spouses have accepted Christ as a direct result of their conversion and ministry. Rick, the youngest son, has been a pastor in Chicago area for about 40 years.  He received his Master in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary and received his Doctorate from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  Rick’s oldest son is also a pastor in the Chicago area and had served as a missionary in Venezuela. Don’s middle son, Don Jr., served as director of Child Evangelism Fellowship in Peoria for a number of years and is now, after retiring as a vice-president of  an major orthotics company is serving as a church administrator.  Don’s wife is a Christian counselor. The oldest son, Charley, attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army, served as a Promise Keepers State Manager for Alabama and Mississippi in the mid 1990’s. He is an ordained as a minister of the Gospel. He and wife his founded a disaster relief ministry (Pathfinder Mission)– serving in Mississippi, Haiti, and Texas since 2005.  Charley’s wife is a Bible Study Fellowship group leader.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” – John 1:12

To be continued – tomorrow – Part 4: The Rest of the Story

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Part 2 - The Sower Casts The Seed

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase..” – 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

Chaplain Austin moved from one fox hole to another fox hole. Crouching as he moved to keep a low profile.  He spoke words of encouragement to the battle weary men. As he looked into the weary eyes of these young Marines, he thought, “they are too young to have seen so much death.”  His mind took him back to a small island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean called Iwo Jima,  remembering that he had seen that same look in the eyes of other young Marines as they had fought their way across that island.  This was not Hank’s first rodeo! Then, as now, Hank knew most of the men would be having thoughts about God and wondering about heaven (something called foxhole religion when death is all around you) and perhaps wishing for home.  As he approached the next foxhole on the line, I can imagine that the words of the Apostle Paul were on his mind.  Like Paul, he was planting seeds and watering where the seed had already been sown in the hearts of some of these young men.  He knew that for some, this might be the last dawn they would ever see and the last chance they would ever have.

The young Marine had just finished cleaning and re-assembling his M-1 rifle.  I imagine the conversation went something like this. Hank asked, “What’s your name son?”  “PFC Pierson, Chaplain.”  “Where you from?” “Peoria, IL, Chaplain.  Ever been there?”  Hank was from Philadelphia, PA, although the Navy had taken him all over the world, but Peoria was a place where he had never been and didn’t think it was likely he would ever go there.  Hank and PFC Pierson chatted for a few more minutes about the chow, about news from home, and about the past few days they had spent on that mountain.  Looking intently into the young Marine’s eyes, Hank asked him if he had thought much about heaven and if he were to die on this mountain, did he think he would be going there.  PFC Pierson stared at the bottom of his fox hole for what seemed like minutes, then he looked up at the Chaplain and said, “I hope so.”  Hank reached into his ruck sack and pulled out a small Bible, opened it up to the Gospel of John, 1st Chapter.  Showing the words to the PFC, he read verse 12 (But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.)  He said, “There is a way you can know for sure, son. That’s by placing your faith in Jesus Christ.”

Taking his pen, Hank wrote an inscription in the front of the Bible and handed it to him.  Hank said, “Keep this Bible with you.  I encourage you to read it.  I will be praying for you.”  And with that, Hank moved on to the next fox hole. As he walked away, he prayed, “Lord your word does not return to you void, let it do its work in that Marine.”  Dad watched the Chaplain move off, he read the inscription in the Bible and put it in the left pocket of his blouse (a Marine’s shirt).  Perhaps he thought, “Maybe this will bring me some luck.”  What Dad didn’t know was that his encounter with Hank Austin would bring him more than luck. More than all his other experiences in Korea combined it would shape his life, the lives of his children and of those in future generations for eternity.

Dad carried the Bible in his left breast pocket, right under the Marine Corps Globe and Anchor, for the rest of the time he was in Korea.  Then the day finally came – the fighting was done and dad was going home. He carefully packed his gear in his sea bag, placing the Bible under the top flap.  As he placed the Bible in his sea bag, his mind went back to that day at the Hwach’on Reservoir and Chaplain Hank Austin.  He read the inscription in the front flap, secured the clasp on his sea bag and left Korea. Arriving in California, he was released from active duty and returned to Peoria to get on with his life. Not too long after he met my mom.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” – John 1:12

To be continued – tomorrow – Part 3: The Seed Watered

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Part 1 Planting A Seed

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase..” – 1 Corinthians 3:6-7

The previous two devotional posts were about (1) those who were confronted with the Gospel but rejected it and (2) the transformation that takes place in a person’s life when they yield their heart in faith to the Gospel. I am going to share a story with you over the next two or three days about the seed of the Gospel planted and taking root in a person’s life.  Some of you may know that my parents divorced when I was 2 years old. That is a story that can be saved for another time. But both parents remarried. My three sisters and I lived with my mom and our step-dad, Don Pierson.  The story I am about to share is about my step-dad. I wrote this story in 2004 when Martie and I were helping a ministry called the Military Missions Network get off the ground. I was traveling with the director, Pastor Gary Sanders, to Norfolk, Virginia to meet with a group of Navy Chaplains to talk about that ministry.  As the story progresses you will see how that is relevant.

Would it be too confusing if I just take the word “step” off of the reference to Don Pierson? He was more than a person that was pinned on to my life like you might pin a note on a bulletin board. He was a dominant influence on my life – my character – my work ethic – the way I lived my new life. He was more like a father than my biological father was. That is another story as well. So I will refer to Don as dad from here forward. 

The real start to the story begins with this Bible.  The picture is of a young Marine, Don Pierson, holding a communist sub machine gun while in Korea. My mom contacted me and asked if I could find Chaplain Austin so she could thank him.  This was after Don had passed in November 1999.  They had been married for 45 years at that point. Unfortunately Chaplain Austin had since passed away, however I was able to obtain some information about him which I will share with you on another day. That bible rested on top of Dad’s chest of drawers for as long as I could remember, but I never knew the story behind it until after his passing.

Prelude. It’s the nature of the ministry in the military that most times, Christian chaplains are able to plant seeds of faith, but not see that seed take root and grow.  Not all chaplains are Christian – they are religious men and women who represent a myriad of faiths held by  service members.  How many  chaplains there are for a particular faith is dependent upon the number of service members in that Branch of Service that represent a particular belief system. This is a story of how a Christian chaplain planted a seed in a young Marine’s life, and how after nearly 20 years that seed grew into a mighty tree. DISCLAIMER: Since the exact words and thoughts between the young Marine and the chaplain were not documented I have taken some writer's liberty. The conversations between Chaplain Austin and my dad in this story are based upon true events and encounters and are consistent with conversations I, personally, have had with chaplains while serving in the military during peacetime as well as my experiences in Vietnam and Desert Storm.  The conversations between our family members are factual and accurate.

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” – John 1:12

Planting the Seed.  It was June 1951. As part of the X (tenth) Corps offensive, the 1st Marine Division with the 7th Republic Of Korea (ROK) Division on their left flank and the 5th ROK Division on their right, drove northward past the eastern tip of the Hwach’on Reservoir against the 5th and 2nd North Korean Corps (communists).  By 20 June 1951, the 1st Marines had taken its portion of the X Corps’ objective; a ridgeline overlooking a deep circular valley in the Korean mountains nicknamed the "Punchbowl." Truce negotiations began after the battle ended, and the UN forces settled down into a defensive line. The following is an excerpt I found that described the battle.

June 10-16, 1951. Battle for the Punchbowl (vicinity Hwach'on Reservoir). The 1st Marine Division encounters heavy North Korean resistance,  but succeeds in taking its objective. Participating in the Eighth Army drive northward past the eastern tip of the Hwachon Reservoir. By 20 June 1951, the division had taken its portion of the X Corps objective, a ridgeline overlooking a deep circular valley in the Korean mountains nicknamed the Punchbowl. Truce negotiations now began, and the UN forces settled down into a defensive line.

Three days prior, on June 17, a 22 year old Marine, PFC Donald Pierson, was resting after a fierce battle with the North Koreans. Don had joined the Marine reserve after high school.  His unit had been mobilized and deployed as were so many others during the escalation in Korea.  Looking down the line, he could see someone approaching, the figure was taking a few minutes at each fighting position before moving to the next.  At first, Don thought it was Gunny, his platoon sergeant, but as the figure drew nearer, he could see that it was the Chaplain.  Like medics, there are no chaplains wearing a Marine uniform, they are naval officers, but these Marines considered him to be one of their own.  He was always there, right in the thick of it.    Encouraging them to stand fast in the midst of the roar of the battle. It was as if he didn’t know there was a battle raging.  He had their respect.

To be continued – tomorrow – Part 2: The Sower Casts The Seed

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Monday, October 4, 2021

Then I Met Jesus

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Paul had just described the behavior of lost people to the Corinthian Church. People who were dominated by their sinful nature – without hope – defiant toward their Creator God. Doing what they pleased – the way they pleased.  Thinking all the while that the way they lived was normal and right.  He pointed out that even though the people who comprised the church in Corinth were born again, they, themselves, had once lived the same way – until they met Jesus along the way. I am certain Paul could see himself in his own words – even as he penned them. It is what I thought about as I read those verses about myself.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

When I describe what my life was like before my salvation,  my children cannot imagine it.  Since they were either born after or were too young to remember, they have never seen the “old me”. But I know it all too well.  I would drink until I was stupefied – cussed freely and often – but careful to not use some words around women and children – smoked two packs of cigarettes a day and lived for the day and my pleasure. No my children would not believe it – I can hardly believe it.  But then I met Jesus along the way and my life changed forever. I don’t even want to image what my life would have been like if I had remained the same.

I am sharing this because I want to encourage you to look back on your life. Some of you met Jesus – were born again and had lived very little of your old nature – but many of you, like me were adults or new adults when you were saved by faith. You know what your sin nature is capable of – and perhaps live with regrets for some of the things you did and said and thought during those days. And, like me, today you rejoice in knowing that what you could not do – God did do and redeemed you from your sin – adopted you – and began to make all things new in you by the power of His Spirit and your obedience to the Spirit.

So why did Paul write those words to the Corinthians? He had to remind them of the hazards of living in a place where the predominate number of people were not born again. To warn them that they would be tempted to embrace a sinful lifestyle and exchange the Truth of God for a lie.  The lie being that sin was not sin. Nothing has really changed has it.  Oh, what man has been able to create out of what was already created changed with innovation and technological advances, but the heart of man and how that is manifested has not changed. To quote King Solomon.

“That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us. There is no remembrance of former things, Nor will there be any remembrance of things that are to come By those who will come after.” – Ecclesiastes 1:9-11

To say that someone is a Progressive is actually to say that their thinking and doing is regressive.  “There is nothing new under the sun.” A rose is still a rose under any other name and sin is still sin no matter how you package it and try to sell it.  

Take some time today to think about how your life has changed “Since Jesus Came Into Your Heart”. Rejoice in your salvation and the hope that is in you. 

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone

Friday, October 1, 2021

Almost Persuaded - Almost But Lost

Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian.’” – Acts 26:28

This week we have had two family members pass – a sister and sister-in-law. (In know the first was a Christian and suspect the second might have been) As tragic as their deaths are, there is something that is more tragic than their mortal death – a mortal death with no hope for life. As a Christian you are very aware that your faith has value during your mortal life. But there is also a life beyond that lies beyond the grave. I have heard pastors say that the most difficult funeral service is for families who have lost a loved one with no hope for life with the Creator God. You are very familiar with John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God ” – John 3:16-18

Saved to what? Everlasting life. Saved from what? Not having everlasting life. I will avoid a discussion of what being condemned to apart from God for eternity means.  Suffice it to say – it is not a good thing. Perhaps the understatement of all time – but a spiritual truth that will not be fully understood until we face that day – that moment – when our heart beats its last beat – when our brain thinks its last thought – when our mortal body is but a lump of clay with no life in it.

Have you ever felt desperation for someone that was lost – most likely a family member – but perhaps others you may or may not know? Do you feel helpless to do anything about it.  What you be surprised to know that your responsibility is not to save them? You can’t you know – save them that is. You can’t argue them into heaven.  Salvation is a spiritual transaction that takes place between the individual and the Creator God.  So, when I share the Gospel with someone – I have fulfilled my responsibility toward them – spiritually speaking. Well mostly – I also have the responsibility to live the Christian life as a testimony to the transforming power of faith in Jesus and the power of the Spirit in me. When I pray for that the person it is that the Spirit will bring conviction and they will yield their life to the Spirit? And so the reference to Paul speaking to King Agrippa. Agrippa was almost persuaded. I think Paul did what Paul was asked by God to do – share the Gospel. Perhaps Agrippa felt the conviction of the Spirit but then rejected it – quenched the Spirit like putting out the light of a candle. 

When I was in Vietnam in 1969, I started receiving letters from home – from my mom – and she was sharing about faith in Jesus.  I had my doubts because I knew my mom and being mom a Christian was hard to imagine.  When I returned home from Vietnam, I found a home that was strange to me – it was not the home I had left. My folks shared their lives and the Gospel with me for 7 more years – to no avail – but then one day I heard the Gospel one more time and my heart was convicted by the Spirit and I surrendered by faith. My point is that you should not give up – even while knowing that some and not all will be saved. It is a particularly difficult thing when the person that is almost persuaded is a loved on. Be faithful to your part – speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15)

There was a popular singer by the name of Tennessee Ernie Ford who sang a song – “Almost Persuaded”.

Almost persuaded now to believe; Almost persuaded Christ to receive; Seems now some soul to say, Go, Spirit, go Thy way, Some more convenient day On Thee I’ll call.

Almost persuaded, come, come today; Almost persuaded, turn not away; Jesus invites you here, Angels are ling’ring near, Prayers rise from hearts so dear; O wand’rer, come!

Almost persuaded, harvest is past! Almost persuaded, doom comes at last! Almost cannot avail; Almost is but to fail! Sad, sad, that bitter wail— Almost, but lost! – Philip P. Bass Public Domain

Do not bear the burden of someone else rejecting faith in Jesus – but let that thought be your motivation to be found faithful in what you do, say, and pray.

“…. by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9

Think about it – Pray about it – Believe it – Walk in it. Let your light shine and give God the glory.

By Faith Alone By His Grace Alone And For His Glory Alone