A pilot always looked down intently on a certain valley in the Appalachians. "What’s so interesting about that spot?" Asked a fellow pilot. "See that stream? Well, when I was a kid I used to sit down there on a log and fish. Every time an airplane flew over, I would look up and wish I were flying... Now I look down and wish I were fishing."
That is pretty well the way it is, isn’t it? - sometimes even though we do get what we want - we still can’t be satisfied. Everyone wants more. A little child wants more toys and more TV time; A teenager wants more clothes, more freedom, more popularity. Most adults want more also; a nicer house, a newer car a better job, more prestige.
And often we do get more – we get a new car and we are content...for a while. We buy a new home - it’s the home of our dreams and we are content...for a while. The job we always wanted comes knocking at our door - great pay, incredible benefits - and we are content...for a while. One of God’s prophets wrote the following words to God’s people about 2,500 years ago:
"You have planted much but have harvested little. You eat, but you do not become full. You drink, but you are still thirsty. You put on clothes but you are not warm enough. You earn money, but then you lose it all as if you had put it into a purse full of holes...You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little."
- Haggai 1:2-6
"All I Need To Know About Life I Learned From Trees"
* It's important to have roots.
* In today's complex world, it pays to branch out.
* If you really believe in something, don't be afraid to go out on a limb.
* Be flexible so you don't break when a harsh wind blows.
* Sometimes you have to shed your old bark in order to grow.
* Grow where you're planted.
* It's perfectly okay to be a late bloomer.
* Avoid people who would like to cut you down.
* Get all spruced up when you have a hot date.
* If the party gets boring, just leaf.
* You can't hide your true colors as you approach the autumn of your life.
* It's more important to be honest than poplar.
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.