Two Kinds of Soldiers

I recently received a no-doubt broadly sent email that shared some interesting facts about the soldiers who guard the tomb of the Unknowns. Even if you’ve seen it, please let me share them now again.

The soldiers who guard the tomb must meet specific physical requirements, and commit two years of life to guard the tomb. They must live in a barracks under the tomb, and cannot drink any alcohol on or off duty for the rest of their lives. They cannot swear in public for the rest of their lives and cannot disgrace the uniform or the tomb in any way. After two years, the guard is given a wreath pin that is worn on their lapel signifying they served as guards of the tomb. There are only 400 presently worn. The guard must obey these rules for the rest of their lives or give up the wreath pin.

During the first six months of duty a guard cannot talk to anyone or watch TV. All off duty time is spent studying the 175 notable people laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery. A guard must memorize who they are and where they are interred. Every guard spends five hours a day getting his uniforms ready for guard duty, making sure there are no wrinkles, folds or lint on the uniform. In 2003 as Hurricane Isabelle was approaching they were given permission to suspend the assignment, but respectfully declined the offer. Soaked to the skin, marching in the pelting rain of a tropical storm, they said guarding the tomb was not just an assignment, it was the highest honor that can be afforded to a service person.

Now, contrast that with the soldiers who guarded the tomb of Christ.

“Behold, a severe earthquake had occurred, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it. And his appearance was like lightning, and his garment as white as snow; and the guards shook for fear of him, and became like dead men.”

“Behold, some of the guard came into the city and reported to the chief priests all that had happened. And when they had assembled with the elders and counseled together, they gave a large sum of money to the soldiers, and said, ‘You are to say, “His disciples came by night and stole Him away while we were asleep.’ And they took the money and did as they had been instructed;”

When standing guard over the reputation of the risen Christ, which guard do you most resemble?

God Bless, Rick

Something More

If ever promises, threats and warnings could make a difference in people’s lives, surely those found in Deuteronomy would do it.

In our daily Bible reading many of us have just finished Deuteronomy, where Moses goes over the laws a second time before the Israelites enter the Promised Land. And the promises found in the Law were truly amazing. God promised to establish the Israelites as a holy people, and to bless them in every way possible if they would just obey Him. And after they had seen Him free them from bondage and miraculously care for them for forty years in the wilderness, you’d think that would have been enough.

But then He also warned them what would happen if they didn’t obey Him. He even listed a host of specific horrible curses He would send upon them if they turned away from Him. And Moses told the people to take to heart all the words of warning and to teach their children to carefully observe the Law, because their life depended on it.

The people swore they would, but Moses knew they wouldn’t. He even told them he knew they would turn away from God and do evil after his death.

The Law had been carved on stone, God’s promises were put to song, and the warnings would be shouted from Mt. Ebal after defeat in battle due to disobedience. But hearts couldn’t be changed by the Law. God knew it would take something more, and we even find hints of what it would be in Deuteronomy itself.

Moses told the people that God would raise up another prophet like himself, and the Law ordained that a man hanged on a tree is accursed of God. Whether these were specific prophecies concerning the Messiah or not has been debated for centuries, but we do know that Philip told Nathanael that they had found Him of whom Moses in the Law wrote. And after quoting what Moses said about the Lord raising up a prophet like him, Peter said that God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless us. And Paul said Christ was able to redeem us from the curse of the Law because cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.

Indeed, what the Law couldn’t do, Christ did. He took away our sin, and gave us a grateful heart that changes everything.

God Bless, Rick

It’s What Bring Us Together Today

I have to admit that I had fun using Scott’s misunderstood announcement of his and Renee’s 20th anniversary as an intro to last Sunday’s sermon. I do, however, also have to admit that my sermon on Paul’s analogy of our relationship with Christ as our second marriage was probably preaching to the choir.

Sadly, many in today’s world do not understand marriage as we do, and our Sunday night study is giving us insight into what has happened. I am here quoting some of what we will be looking at this Sunday night as we begin the last chapter of Love Thy Body.

“In marriage, too, we see the deadly fruit of the atomistic, contractual view of society. To be sure marriage begins in consent—but it is consent to enter into a covenant, not a contract. In a covenant, we do not merely agree to perform specified services for a limited period of time. Instead we pledge our very selves, ‘for better or for worse, until death do us part.’ We promise to sacrificially care for any children that result from the marital union. When we enter into marriage, we accept a set of rights and obligations that pre-exist our personal choices.

By contrast, a contractual view of marriage turns each person into an independent transacting party seeking his or her own enlightened self-interest. Some pundits are even starting to express outright hostility toward marriage. An article in the New Republic says, ‘The current model of life- long, co-habiting, monogamous partnership has never been such an outdated ideal…I would rather retain my single status with a few rewarding lovers to fulfill different needs at different times of my life.’

Because marriage is being painted in such negative hues, not surprisingly, fewer people are getting married. A study from the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University found that many of today’s young adults are deciding that saying ‘I do’ has become too risky—that it’s not worth the trade-off involved in giving up their autonomy. ‘Today’s singles mating culture is not oriented to marriage,’ the study says. ‘Instead it is best described as a low- commitment culture of “sex without strings, relationships without rings.”’”

All the more reason for Christians to model their committed relationship with Christ in their marriages.

God Bless, Rick

A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small

Until last week’s reading in Galatians, I would have answered the question, “Where was Saul called to be the Apostle Paul ?” with, “On the road to Damascus.” I would have been wrong!

The Message paraphrases Paul’s statement in Galatians 1:15 as, “when I was still in my mother’s womb he chose me and called me”, and I think it’s right. My go to verse about being called while still in the womb has always been Jeremiah 1:5, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you:” It would appear that the same can be said about Paul.

I bring this up because those still in the womb are not even considered to be persons by the Supreme Court or many legislators today. In the Roe v Wade decision Justice Blackmun actually said, “The word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn. If the suggestion of personhood is established,…the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed.”

I’m sure we were all encouraged by the thousands who filled to overflowing the state capitol last week to protest the pro- abortion bills that go under the euphemism of “reproductive health.” I wish I could be optimistic about their changing the minds of those who are intent on making our state into the most “progressive” in the nation with regards to abortion, but I’m not.

The Declaration of Independence held that all men were created equal and endowed by their Creator with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Fifth Amendment made it clear that no person could be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process of law. Still, it wasn’t until the Thirteenth Amendment that slaves were given the rights of persons.

It’s my prayer the either the court will change it’s mind and declare that babies in the womb are indeed persons with the right to life, or the Constitution will be amended to make it clear. But whether that happens or not, we know that those in the womb are fully persons whom God has called into being, just as were the prophet Jeremiah and the Apostle Paul.

God Bless, Rick

Tassel Beats Rock

We’ve been thinking a lot about the Law lately. On Sunday mornings our study of Romans has focused on the role the Law played in bringing us to grace. On Wednesday nights James has pointed out the connection between faith and works, and how breaking one point of law makes us guilty of all. On Sunday nights we’ve explored the difference between ceremonial law, civil law, and moral law. And in our daily reading we’ve been reading, or skimming, through laws of all kinds that were given to Israel. Last week I discovered a connection between a couple of laws I had never noticed before.

In the 15th chapter of Numbers we read about a man who was caught gathering firewood on the Sabbath. The people weren’t sure what to do with him, so they kept him in custody until Moses could get word from God on what his penalty should be. They were no doubt shocked by what God told them to do. The people were ordered to stone him to death.

When I read that I assumed God had discerned an unrepentant spirit of rebellion in the man, and thus the harsh judgment. But in the very next paragraph He tells Moses to tell an obviously forgetful people to put tassels of blue on the corners of their garments to remind them of the commandments, and the need to be holy.

Tying tassels on a shirt might seem like a silly law, if that’s what it was. And maybe the people simply regarded it as good advice, or a helpful suggestion. But however it may have been viewed, God’s intent was clear. He didn’t want His people doing things that would require Him to take drastic action. He therefore ordained a helpful reminder to keep them from forgetting they had been set apart as holy.

We no longer wear tassels as a reminder, but Christ did ordain something for us to do on a regular basis. I don’t know if we ought to think of “This do in remembrance of Me” as a command or not, but if we call Him Lord, it is something we must do.

I’ll see you Sunday, around His table.

God Bless, Rick