3 John 4 – “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
I hope you will forgive my adopting that verse somewhat out of context for the purposes of this article. This week finds us in the midst of year 18 of MOV WorkCamp, conceived and begun in 1999 by a small group of local youth workers, myself included. This week will find the kids (including two of mine – all 3 of my daughters have now been a part of this great service project – when we began in 1999, my oldest was just 5 years old, the middle one was 2, and my last daughter, now 14, was just a twinkle in her parents’ eyes!) painting their 600th house – or their 599th – there are conflicting reports.
I had witnessed the wonder of Work Camp in Memphis, TN when I lived there in the early 1990’s. After moving to Vienna in 1993, me and some other local ministers were looking for ways to get teens together and involved in serving Jesus by serving the community. Mission accomplished, I guess! Others have long since taken leadership and gotten involved, and they have done a great job continuing the legacy and fulfilling the vision.
It is a commonplace that when brothers and sisters in our area talk to people and tell them they are from the church of Christ, the people say something like: “Oh, you’re the people who paint houses for people!” Isn’t that better than what they used to say? Mission accomplished.
I am a proud papa (not only I, of course, several others were involved!). But it does a soul good to see a plan come together for the glory of God. Congratulations MOV WorkCamp on your 18th birthday! I hope you get what you want!
Today. 73 years ago. Thousands of young boys less than half my age hit the coast of Normandy with the goal of liberating a continent and rescuing freedom. A horrific number of them, by this time of day (2:00 pm), lay face-down in the surf or the sand, their lifeblood washing out into the English Channel, having given their all.
I think of those young soldiers, men of my grandfathers’ generation, who never got to enjoy the blessings and pleasures I have since my 20’s – a wife, wonderful children, a career, the pursuit of happiness – because in their 20’s they gave their last full measure of devotion. Greater love has no man than this: to give his life for his friends. If you could ask most of those young guys, they weren’t thinking of their grandkids or future generations – they were thinking of their buddy next to them. And they gave all for them.
In the bigger scheme, they sacrificed for people like you and me so maybe we would not have to. I can’t help but be reminded of the much greater sacrifice of Jesus for all mankind – doing something for us we could not do for ourselves. Shedding His blood, for our good.
I have just always been deeply moved by what happened on the 6th of June, 1944. The stories of those brave young boys who hurled themselves against the darkest forces of our world at the time, and changed the fate of untold millions for many many decades to come. I owe them a debt of gratitude I cannot fully pay. So I try to never forget.
Thank you, boys, for what you did for me.
It is always fascinating, and sometimes quite perplexing, to see where true loyalties lie. I recently learned of an incident in our history in the church that illustrates this quite well. It takes us back well over 100 years, to the late 1800’s. The nation was still nursing the incredible wounds of the Civil War. The South was destroyed. The North was trying to figure out how to put things back together again. The nation as a whole remained shell-shocked from the assassination of the great Abraham Lincoln.
One of the most successful of the Northern generals was a brother in Christ, in fact, an evangelist and an elder in the church in Northeastern Ohio – James A. Garfield. After the War, it was said that those who had fought successfully in it would lead the nation for the next half-century, and this proved largely true.
One of the most influential voices in the Church in America was David Lipscomb, a Southerner, and editor of the famed Gospel Advocate magazine. Lipscomb was an ardent pacifist. He believed and taught vociferously that Christians had no business serving in government, taking up arms, and even voting in elections. He believed that to do these things was to neglect the Kingdom of God by getting involved in the kingdom of this world. We may or may not agree with his view, but he believed in fiercely. Fresh from the carnage of the War between the States, he had a bloody illustration to argue his viewpoint.
Quite unexpectedly, brother Garfield was nominated for President by the Republican party at a divided and chaotic convention in 1880. Suddenly, Christians had a choice for President they had not had before: a faithful member of the church, in fact, an elder and preacher. However, he was a Republican.
Meanwhile, down South, Lipscomb continued to promote his understandings in the editorial column of the GA. Many brethren appealed to brother Lipscomb to amend his views, suggesting that the nation needed good moral leaders and that the church ought to promote members to be involved in government. Of course, considering the times, most in the South were as fiercely loyal Democrats as Lipscomb was a pacifist!
Brother Lipscomb knew well of brother Garfield. He had no plans to vote for him, however, because he had no plans to vote at all or be involved in the “worldly kingdom” in any way. However, Lipscomb took to the pages of his periodical and asked his loyal readers if Garfield qualified as a good, moral, Christian man worthy of the vote of fellow disciples of Christ, even though he was one of those hated Republicans.
The answer came in many cancelled subscriptions and several pointed letters to the Editor. Lipscomb’s point was well-made. People are often more loyal to the kingdoms of this world then they are to the Kingdom of God.
Garfield was nonetheless elected, but sadly served less than a year as he was assassinated by Charles Guiteau. One wonders what might have been had this brother lived out his term.
We have some people in the congregation who love horses and regularly spend time with them. I admire that passion! I have not had many interactions with equines – only rode a couple of times. All the horses I have been on have been well-trained and long broken in. I recall on our honeymoon Tracey and I took a horse ride with a group. They struggled to find a steed sturdy enough to hold me. The one they brought out looked like one of those you see in the funny movies, with a big bow in its back. But it held me!
I have never broken a horse, and I never will. I have watched enough Westerns though to gather that a horse that has never been ridden must first be “broken,” or there could be trouble. This takes skill and experience to do correctly. I leave that to the experts.
Perhaps you are like me and never noticed this detail in a story in the gospel of John Mark. It is the story of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Mark chapter 11. Jesus tells 2 disciples to go into the city and find a colt tied up and bring it back to him right away. The detail I left out was what kind of colt Jesus asked for – it is in verse 2 – “on which no one has ever sat.”
A colt on which no one has ever sat? Does that not mean one which has never been ridden? And does that not mean one which has never been broken? It must! So, how did Jesus ride a horse that had never been broken seemingly peacefully through a raging crowd that greeted him as he entered Jerusalem? Ever think about that?
How did Jesus calm a storm on Lake Galilee? How did Jesus not return fire when punched and spat upon and insulted? How does Jesus manage to accomplish anything in me and you and the chaos of our lives?
He is the Prince of Peace.
Prince of peace, control my will;
Bid this struggling heart be still:
Bid my fears and doubtings cease:
Hush my spirit into peace.
Thou hast bought me with Thy blood,
Opened wide the gate to God;
Peace I ask, but peace must be,
Lord, in being one with Thee.
May Thy will, not mine be done;
May Thy will and mine be one;
Chase these doubtings from my heart,
Now Thy perfect peace impart.
Savior, at Thy feet I fall,
Thou, my life, my God, my all;
Let Thy happy servant be
One forevermore with Thee.
Herb Miller told this story in Leadership is the Key…
A tourist in Switzerland took note of the fact that the signs at major intersections give the street names little emphasis. (Street names often appear in small letters on the corners of buildings at intersections.) The Swiss instead place their major emphasis on large, arrow-shaped signs that give the names of towns and point in their direction. The traveler concluded that the Swiss are interested less in knowing where they are than in knowing where they are headed.
Which are we more interested in? Both are important, of course. Knowing where we are is vital, because not knowing where we are will certainly never help us get to where we need to go, but just increase confusion. But assuming we have a good idea of where we are, are we focused any on where we are going?
This is a round-about way of asking: are we more interested in being a monument or a mission? Which does God call for from His people? “Go into all the world” or “Erect a building and sit there until I return”? Which do we find in the Word of God?
I think we know the answer.