Grace in the Trenches: Chaplains on the Front Lines of the Repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

The senior chaplain came to me for counseling, struggling with how he would face the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). I put my hand on his shoulder and looked him square in the eyes, “Chaplain, this nation needs you to stand strong for your convictions now more than ever. It is not time to retreat, but to minister as the pastor to our military that God has called you to be.”
While budget battles rage in DC, radiation leaks in Japan, and the Middle East rumbles with uncertainty, the U.S. military has quietly but dutifully began following orders to train for the probable repeal of DADT, the policy which disallows military service to avowed homosexuals. 
The repeal of DADT (which cannot be initiated until 60 days after the President, Defense Secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs certify that lifting the ban won’t hurt the military’s ability to fight) remains a decisive story. But the 24-hour news cycle on this one is up. Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and guardsmen are on their own. Yet this story is not over. At the center of the story are now chaplains.

Chaplains are the unheralded heroes of the military. They are, to use Army language, “force multipliers.” Providing religious services is only one important task they do. Chaplains are there to counsel all military members, guide the commander about world religions, and ensure that all have the opportunity to follow their religion, even when it is different from their own.

Asking chaplains to minister biblical truth to what the Bible condemns is nothing new. Asking chaplains to keep quiet about what the Bible condemns is. So far no agency is trying to stop chaplains from preaching the doctrines their denominations ordained them to teach, or obstructing them from counseling homosexuals (or adulterous heterosexuals, for that matter) according to their confessions. Yet will there be pressure applied tomorrow by militant homosexual activists to change that?

If challenged, evangelical chaplains I know will not capitulate. They will preach the truth in love. They will minister to homosexuals in the same way they minister to all, in the love and grace of Jesus Christ whose commands are life. However they will call sin a sin, and offer forgiveness and salvation. Let’s pray that the chaplains’ freedoms continue, for our freedoms rest on the moral foundations they seek to build.

Let’s pray they stand strong. For if ever we needed our chaplains, it is now.

Posted in chaplain, Chaplaincy, Chaplains, Christian, Dr. Michael A. Milton, Homosexuality and the Church, Michael Milton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Public Face of Ministry and the Private Heart of the Pastor: Are they the same?

The semester is winding down. The calls are being processed for our seniors. The first year is coming to a close to our beginning students and self-assessment is need. Our middlers face the reality that they are now stepping up to the plate as the senior class. The old long season is coming to an end and spring has arrived. It is, yet, another time of change that is here and that is on its way again.

Yet the constancy of God is our stronghold throughout all of life. This is what the Psalmist prayed:

“But the LORD has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge” (Psalms 94.22).

If we join in this Psalm, we are refreshed to see how David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, reflected on how the  LORD, the covenant God,

“has become my stronghold (misgab) and my God the rock of my refuge.”

Such language reveals this man’s life, his hidden life, and we might understand also his public life, being formed, against all of the prevailing winds blown by the devil, the flesh and the world, as he secures himself in the storm on the truths of God. He does this, over and over throughout all of life,  to the degree that God “has become,” his stronghold, that is, God, through the process of sanctification, has now formed in him. He may now write his Psalm to others. For God has written His covenant love in him. His private life is shaping his public face.

It is easy to begin to have a personality or self-identity as “seminary student” or “clergyman” so that our identities are formed through our public persona. We preach, we teach, we minister to others, and their response further shapes that public person. But is that how we should be formed? The man or woman who depends on the world’s approval will meet with sorrow. Calvin thus wrote of this text:

“The world’s comforts give little delight to the soul, when hurried with melancholy thoughts; but God’s comforts bring that peace and pleasure which the smiles of the world cannot give, and which the frowns of the world cannot take away” (Commentary on the Psalms, Psalm 94).

Depending on the world’s accolades and approval (or supposing, like the little donkey on Palm Sunday might have mistakenly thought, that the genuine “Hosannas!” of the saints are for you, and not for their Lord) will lead to spiritual malignancies in the man or woman of God, and particularly the pastor of God’s flock. The results of this malignancy of the soul are many and are destructive. We need to be shaped (for the text says that the LORD “has become”) over time, even over a lifetime, of walking with God in private devotions. I pray that you know that covenant love of Christ, implanted in God’s very name, as you seek God in secret, adoring Him, confessing your sins, thanking Him, and lifting up the Church and the World of sinners before Him. In this way, our Savior and our Lord becomes our stronghold and rock of refuge in every season, in every change. Then, through this sanctifying process, are we able to stand and say, “thus sayeth the Lord.” And our lives will be formed by the Cross; and our public and private face of ministry will be the same.

May the Lord bless you and keep you now and throughout all of the days of your life and may you know God as your stronghold and the rock of your refuge.


Posted in Christian, Dr. Michael A. Milton, Jesus Christ, Mike Milton, PCA, Presbyterian, Reformed, seminary life | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Are You Called to be a Military Chaplain?

Frequently I am asked to share my experience of the call to the chaplain ministry. In my case, I have served and continue to serve as a US Army Reserve chaplain, not an active duty chaplain. Yet the call to give one’s life to the work of the Lord in this specialized mission field called the military is, I believe, the same, whether active or reserve. So I offer a recent letter I wrote to a young man. His identity is not shared, but my words to him are, with a prayer that this will be of help to another. May Christ Jesus raise up a new generation of godly, cross-clinging, Christ-centered, Bible-loving, and soul-winning chaplain-shepherds to serve God and Country.

My Dearest Friend in the Gospel Ministry of Jesus:

What a blessing to hear from you! I remember well how the Lord led you to go to seminary—through earnest struggle about an inward and outward calling of the Lord—; and now you are in the pastorate of a great congregation! Oh how good the Lord is. We, back at your seminary, are rightfully proud of you in the Lord, as I am sure your wife and parents are as well. I also remember speaking at your graduation from seminary! I recall with great joy the sight of you crossing that chancel platform to receive your degree from me! Even though those were great times, along with your years of ministry preparation and study here at Reformed Theological Seminary, which will remain and even grow as cherished memories, yet the best is yet to come!

Well, now. You have written me about another possible “call within a call” brewing in your heart: “Am I being called to the military chaplaincy?” It is always good in inquire into the ways of God but especially necessary to inquire into His ways in one’s own heart! How well I recall my own thinking through that very question. I would say, first of all, that you are, my dear friend, thinking towards a good thing. I am truly honored that you have written to me about this for I consider this particular call one of the greatest acts of Christ-like service in all of the ministry. You have asked me to give some of my thoughts on discerning the call to the chaplaincy ministry and so I shall.

My beloved friend, I have always found that there are two great divinely placed motivators or sources of inspiration present in a minister who has been called to military chaplaincy:

I.  The one who is called to military chaplaincy has a sense of, what I have come to call, the “heroic.”

This can be an internal calling that comes from love of country born out of one’s uniquely patriotic values learned in one’s own family. Perhaps the dinner table was a place where one’s mother or father or both placed the love of country deep in the child’s heart. This sense of the heroic—this deeply ingrained gallantry or chivalry—may emerge in the soul from even the presence of a venerable photograph of a father or grandfather in uniform from World War Two. As a child you would pass this black and white image each day as you bounded down the stairs for school and it always caused you to pause and look at it. Such images can be most powerful and even used of the Lord to arrest the attention of one He is calling to serve. This sense of patriotic valor and love of the military could, also, be the happy result of one’s positive experience in The Boy Scouts or in Junior ROTC or ROTC at university. Such a commitment in the soul could come from readings in the Pilgrims, or the Founders, or even reading a modern patriot like William F. Buckley, Jr. or reading the speeches of a great American statesman-hero like President Ronald Reagan or Theodore Roosevelt. However this chivalrous instinct is cultivated by the Lord, it at length emerges and then it comes upon a man, like Francis Thompson’s Hound of Heaven. This sense of the heroic won’t let you go. It grabs him in his heart; it grabs him and presses him to confess, “I love this nation with my life. I love her so much that I would give my years, my life, my all to this ‘City on a Hill’ shine for a generation yet born.” In the case of a man called to preach this undeniable sense of the heroic is then injected into that call and shapes the call that becomes a holy burden on the soul to declare, “I must preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to my own nation and for my own nation. I must declare the faith of our fathers, the guiding light of our Pilgrim founders, and the Good News that has shaped generations of Americans—not just to a congregation of those who will come through the doors of the church—but to soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, or guardsmen who cannot pass through the doors of the Church. I want to be where they are. I want to bring Christ to them. I want to pass through the doors of their experiences—the gates of their military posts, the hatches of their ship’s compartments—and speak Jesus Christ into their lives and into the lives of their families.”

That, dear friend, is the growing conviction of one who is called to be a chaplain: one who takes the Gospel to those who cannot come to a civilian ministry. You take the Church to them. In that regard, you are a missionary, but because of your love of this country, your love of the military institution, and your love of service to men and women and their families, you choose to be a missionary to the military.

I chose to answer that call through the United States Army Reserve. I have loved my ministry so much with the military, and I love soldiers and military personnel, as individuals and as a group, that I would not only do the balancing act of civilian ministry and “drills” and “AT” all over again (I still have a few years left and look forward to serving as long as they will let me), but would ask that God would have given me a better medical profile (I had a debilitating physical condition that prevented me from going into “the box” to serve), so that I could have shepherded soldiers or Marines or guardsmen or airmen or sailors on the battle field or the air strip or the destroyer. Yet I bless God for my humble role in the Army Reserves, whether in the continental United States or in Europe (where I was privileged to serve on several occasions), to support the Army and Army families (and other services as well) so that better and more able soldiers could serve in the harder places. They are heroes to me and my gift of service cannot compare to theirs.

For me, I am certain that the sense of the heroic came from my Naval officer father, who died when I was just a little boy, leaving me an orphan. Though I did not get to know him, of course, yet I grew up looking at a photograph of this young pre World War Two Merchant Marine officer who was brought into the U.S. Navy when the war with Germany commenced. His sisters, my aunts who reared me, told me the stories of his experiences with German U Boats around Greenland, his adventurous and yet compassionate wires back home to them, and how he served with not only distinction but with joy. To command troop carriers through the North Atlantic, through a thicket of enemies who sunk many of our Merchant Marine ships, was heroic indeed. I am proud of my father. He made many of these voyages from America to Great Britain during the War, and who stayed and made the sea services a career. Through that picture and those stories, I always knew that I wanted to serve this nation in uniform in some way if God would allow me. That is my own story of how God planted a love of this nation, and a love of the military who defends her, deep into my heart.

Son, the other great thing I see in one who is called to military chaplaincy is this:

II.  The one who is called to military chaplaincy has been given a burden for souls to be saved and lives transformed by the Gospel in the military.

There are many people who have the sense of the heroic. They join the military and serve with distinction and honor. The question before us is not just that we might posses acsense of the heroic, though I believe that must be present, but how that fits with a calling as a minister of Christ Jesusl. I would say, without hesitation, that the one who is serving as a chaplain successfully and with great vocational satisfaction is the one who wants to minister Christ in the military environment. In a similar way that Amy Carmichael had a love for India or David Livingstone had a passion for Africa, the man called to the chaplaincy should have a desire for the armed forces of our nation. The missionary to Kenya loves Kenya and the missionary to the military loves soldiers or Marines or or airmen or guardsmen. It is that simple. It is that profound. Thus, just like any other missionary, there is a compelling charge from God Himself that burns like a undying fire inside of the chaplain’s bones—Jeremiah-like—to lead lost souls in that mission field to Jesus Christ and to shepherd His flock there. The sense of the heroic and the burden for souls in the military is a powerful combination and together it equals an undeniable call to the military chaplaincy. This blessed burden to share Christ with members of the Armed Services can be addressed from the pulpit of an Air Force base chapel in Germany, or on the dangerous flight deck of an air craft carrier out to the China sea, or with a Marine unit about to go on midnight patrol in Kandahar, or with an Army battalion on exercises in the desert. This hallowed open door to speak forth the Word of the Lord often happens when the chaplain is exercising what we call “a ministry of presence;” just being there where the troops are. In the military, chaplains not only go to soldiers, but also soldiers (and sailors, Marines, and guardsmen) come to the chaplain. It is, in many ways, more refreshing and satisfying than civilian ministry (to me) in that they have no built in social networks or inward (false) expectations that would hinder them from coming to their own minister (e.g., “If I go to the pastor with this problem, I may not become deacon or he may think ill of me from here on out”). The military as an institution advocates for the serviceman or woman—enlisted or officer— to come to their chaplain. “Take it to the chaplain, son!” says the crusty old Navy chief to the young seaman. And they do! I was once the “Chaplain of the Day” while on annual training, at an active duty Army installation. When I relieved the previous chaplain I learned that I had inherited a full day’s worth (and more) of soldiers and family members who wanted to see me about their needs. And then there the emergencies on top of those! I shared Jesus Christ to everyone of those divine appointments and God allowed me to lead many of those who came that day to the Lord. That was an unforgettable annual training! I will always remember how I called home to Mae to say, “Honey, you know how we prayed that I would get to share the Gospel while on duty? Well, I have never been ‘tired’ of sharing the Gospel, but I must say, I feel tied right now!” Indeed, my first day on that particular duty time ended with reuniting a military couple in counseling by having them recommit to their marriage vows, right there in the chaplain’s office. They stood next to each other, in their work day Army uniforms, and looked into each other’s eyes. I pronounced them “Man and wife—STILL!” and even said, “You may kiss the bride!” He did. Even more wonderful, though, is that they invited me to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them . Thus, as the Holy Spirit moved in them to repent and believe, I prayed with them to follow the Lord. I could not sleep that night! To do what God has called you to do is an awesome thing: whether it is stepping into the pulpit of First Presbyterian Church to unburden my soul of the message God had given me for that week, or preaching today to a congregation to encourage them in the Word of the Lord as a servant of Reformed Theological Seminary, or, always for me, sharing Christ with a soldier or a family member in need.

Dear friend, I will let you in on a little secret: I am a chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserves to reach a seventeen-year-old sailor boy who was lost and had joined the Navy to “find his way.” The Navy gave him his start in education and did indeed help to give him direction. And I am here as a chaplain for an aging Naval officer, who had sailed the seven seas from the time he left home as a boy, and who could navigate his way across the earth by the stars, but who had lost his way with God. You see, I am that young man who joined the Navy. And that alcoholic Naval officer? He was my father. Both were claimed by Christ, thank God. Since I was saved and called to preach the unsearchable riches of Christ, I have always wanted to give my life to finding them, for they are always out there, lost and in need, and leading them to the Savior.

So to answer your question about a calling to the military chaplaincy, I have always seen a sense of the heroic, and a burden for souls present in the finest chaplains I have known. I can honestly say that the finest professional men and women I have ever known have been those who wore, and who wear today, the uniforms of our nation’s military. I can also say that some of the finest and most dedicated ministers of the Gospel that I have ever known were and are chaplains in the Armed Services. I am humbled and moved each time I get to put that uniform on myself. It has been and is today my honor to serve with them as a minister of the Gospel.

The founding president of Reformed Theological Seminary, The Reverend Sam Patterson, was a Navy chaplain in the Second World War. The first president of Covenant College and Seminary, Robert Rayburn, was a Chaplain in the Army in that same war. Since then there have been many to follow them as chaplains in our Presbyterian and Reformed faith.  We need many more. But I would guess that if you read my words about the sense of the heroic, and the burden to reach the lost and shephe rd the flock of Jesus who are serving in the millitary, and your heart began beating faster and you said, “I am that man!” then you will soon be pinning on the cross. If not, then remember that God gave you an insight into the calling of a military chaplain; and therefore pray for them.

 

Posted in Dr. Michael A. Milton, Jesus Christ, Mike Milton, PCA, Preaching, Presbyterian, Reformed faith | Tagged , , , ,

Death and Taxes

Tax time is upon us. Opinions concerning taxation range from Coolidge’s estimation that “Collecting more taxes than is absolutely necessary is legalized robbery;” to FDR’s remark that “Taxes, after all, are dues that we pay for the privileges of membership in an organized society.” Will Rogers said, “The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.”
Yale historian, Dr. Harry S. Stout, wrote that the American system of government was enormously influenced by biblical sermons on political thought, including taxes. Stout wrote inThe New England Soul: Preaching and Religious Culture in Colonial New England:
    “The seventeenth-century founders of New England set out to create a unique and self-perpetuating ‘people of the Word,’ and by extending the sermon to all significant facts of life — social and political, as well as religious…”
Jesus paid taxes, albeit in a most miraculous way, out of the mouth of a fish! Christ told his disciples that we should render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God’s what is God’s. St. Paul urged believers in the very capital of a tax-burdened empire,
    “For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.”
The Mosaic Law legislated taxes to support the Levitical priesthood. There were abuses and the prophets denounced them. In New Testament cases tax collectors were converted. Matthew not only became a disciple but also wrote the first book of the New Testament. Undergirding all of this is the fact that a representative government is the ideal that is urged, whether in Israel with elected elders, or in the early Church with deacons and elders. “No taxation without representation” is a biblical concept that like all biblical precepts creates freedom and blessing.
In taxes as in every other area of life, following God’s Word brings a new way of life that doesn’t make liars out of people, but better citizens, freer people, and a more honest government. In every season, the Church must declare the truth of God into the arena of human government.
For the Bible does speak about death…and taxes.
Posted in Bible and Government, God and Government, Jesus and Government, Reformed faith, Taxes | Tagged , , , ,

This Truly is…March MADNESS! A Theological Reflection after KU’s Disappointing Loss

First I saw Duke fold. Then I watched Ohio State fall. We witnessed Pitt pierced. Now, oh how it hurts to write it, I have looked upon the sight of my KU Jayhawks downed by a feisty little powerhouse called VCU (no more “VC-Who” for this brave bunch!).

Oh brother, are my brackets broken or what? It seems like only yesterday that I sneered in my heart as a colleague picked Butler to make the Final Four. Now I envy him for his courage.

This is madness. And this is March when unexpected cold winds blow in and dreams are dashed.

I look at my son and seek and figure this is a teaching moment.

“What have we learned?” I whisper through my pain.

  1. PERSPECTIVE. This is just a game. This is just a game. This is just a game (continue saying this until sleep, then repeat upon waking up tomorrow and going forward until the pain diminishes).
  2. PERSPECTIVE. A KU championship is not really my ticket to personal contentment and existential fulfillment. My faith, my family and my hope for a really good recruiting season sustain me.
  3. PERSPECTIVE. Losing is necessary to find reflective moments that lead to greater growth. I just wish I could have done it vicariously through another losing team.

All of this, quite seriously, provides good entertainment. That is good. That is what it is for. It doesn’t matter that KU lost.

Right.

But it does allow me, for just a moment, to remember that there are things in life that don’t always work out the way we planned it. As I come down, even now, from the stunning loss of a favorite basketball team, I recall that I must go into a week in which I will get to preach three times, and teach two hours of lectures to pastoral students at RTS. I will have the joy, privilege and yes the burden of servant-leadership, of equipping the saints for the work of ministry, laboring for the Kingdom that will advance forward even in apparent defeat, and also for facing decisions that will again drive me to my knees.  The March Madness of college basketball is a lot of fun, but March Ministry (and every other season of life) is infinitely more important, more painful, more fulfilling, and often even more mysterious than anything sports or entertainment could throw at me. For that I give thanks and for that I cling to the cross.

So March Madness is earning its name this year. That gives me something to think about. And my own team is a by-word in this whole affair. We have experienced defeat by a courageous team who outplayed us. And it hurts. Well, at any rate, I have now done due diligence theological reflection and am ready to “move on.”

And anyway, the first pitch of baseball season is next week, right?

Posted in Basketball, Final Four | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Facing the Fire and Living with Lions (Part 2)

Daniel 3.8-12; 16-26; 6.3-10; 14-24

This is the second of a three part devotional series on standing Strong in the Midst of Your Trials

Have you read chapters 3 and 6 of the Book of Daniel?  In those chapters, you see God’s picture of true faith. The attitudes of Biblical faithfulness are evidenced by the “Three Men in the Furnace” and in “Daniel in the Lion’s Den.”  Those attitudes lead you to discover four facets of true faith that will give you the spiritual strength to stand in the trials of our lives.

Let’s unpack four facts of true faith found in Daniel 3 and 6.

1. True faith is established not just in the encouragement of friends but in the accusations of the Enemy (3.8-12; 6.3-9)

In the first story, three young Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego are targeted by “certain Chaldeans” who accuse these men of not bowing down to the golden statue of King Neb. Clearly, this is a plot to destroy these good men. An identical scenario occurs to Daniel, now under the lordship of Darius of the Medes and Persians, who have succeeded the Babylonian empire. So-called “presidents” and “satraps” are jealous of Daniel, who has become a governor and is well on his way to becoming the prime minister of the whole kingdom (6.3). They looked for a way to trip him up could “not find a ground for complaint.” We read in verse 5, that they figure that the only way to get him is through his faith in the One True God. Thus, the plot begins to destroy him. They conspire to get an injunction against any who would pray to any god or man thirty days, except for praying to Darius, will be thrown to a den of lions. The king signs it and it seems the enemy has gotten rid of Daniel.

Names change but the plot stays the same. This is what happened with the accusations against Joseph in the case of Potiphar’s wife. Remember Queen Esther? There a jealous and maniacal underling named Hamaan plots to kill all the Jews. And on and on it goes throughout the Old Testament. Then we read in the New Testament how the unbelieving Jewish religious leaders conspire to undo the Savior.  In Mark 3:6, you read that the Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, plotting how to destroy him.

Judas, too, becomes one who conspires with them, out of his own evil heart, to destroy Jesus.

After Jesus, the same motif continues in the New Testament records as we see how Paul spoke about “the plots of the Jews” (Acts 20.19). The Book of Revelation teaches us that after the Dragon, representing Satan could not destroy the Child of the Woman, speaking of Jesus; this serpent went after Jesus’ people.

The second Psalm speaks to this when it says:

“Psalms 2.1  Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 2  The kings of the earth set themselves,   and the rulers take counsel together,   against the LORD and against his anointed, saying, 3  “Let us burst their bonds apart   and cast away their cords from us.”

Jesus identified those who opposed him and sought to kill him when he said:

John 8.44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

You see what’s going? The Bible teaches that faith does not exist in a vacuum. There is real spiritual warfare going on in the lives of believers. Being a Christian is not tip toeing through the tulips of life. It is life lived in the presence of the Enemy. The Bible is teaching us several things about this:

1.   Those who are Christ’s people and who live for Christ can anticipate their faith to be targeted for attack. The servant is no greater than the Master, Jesus told us.

2.   Those who do such things, unwittingly or not, are playing into the hand of the enemy. This is why Jesus told those Jewish leaders who opposed Him, in John 8.44, “You are of your father the devil.”

3.   Because Jesus was and remains victorious, every thing that comes against you comes against Jesus and therefore cannot be ultimately victorious. I say ultimately out of 12 apostles, 11 went to be with the Lord because of martyrdom. And our own times have witnessed unspeakable atrocities against Christians because of true faith. But I say there will be ultimate victory because God says so. Paul speaks a litany of crimes against Christians, and then says we are more than conquers through these very things because of Christ who loves us. And the Book of Revelation speaks of martyrs gathered under the very throne of Christ. And they cry out for vindication and it shall come in the judgment of a Savior who stands for His people.

So, where does that leave us? It leaves us where it left Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. And where it left Daniel. Our faith does not depend on good times. Our faith is actually strengthened in such time. We see this in church history too.

Once I stood in a great amphitheater that had been unearthed in Durrës, Albania. As I toured the facility, I saw the cages that held those wild animals that would literally devour Christian prisioners as entertainment. Looking closer, I noticed beautiful mosaics embedded into the walls of the cells. When asked about these mosaics, I was told that those cells  – cells that once held wild beasts unleashed to destroy believers –  became the catalyst that unleashed true revival in the Roman provinces and built the faith of Christ’s people.

Beloved, don’t fret over the presence of accusers. What God did for Joseph, for the three Hebrew children, for Daniel, for Esther and Mordecai and the Jews of that day, for Paul and for Peter, He will do for you. For if you have trusted Jesus, you now have the King of Kings and Lord of Lords as your defense. He has taken accusers on and through the paradox of the cross, where the Enemy thought he had won, Christ became the victor once and for all. Thus,

A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but [the Enemy] will not come near you.  Psalms 91.7

2. True faith is confirmed NOT in the fiery furnace or in the lion’s den, but in the decisions that bring us there (Dan. 3.16)

The Lord has blessed my pastoral ministry with numerous lawyers in my congregations. And yes I said blessed! Just try being accused of something in a court and not having a lawyer with you! Or think of the prosecutors who also stand up for us! Or the judges who ensure that our constitutional rights are preserved in the judicial system. Well, I am told that much goes on between the defense and the prosecution before the trial ever begins. There are pre-trial motions and negotiations between attorneys and so forth.

And it is certainly true in matters of our faith. Before the actual trial begins there are pre-trial motions. In fact, for the believer, it is because of his decision to follow God that he even ends up in the Fire or in the Lion’s Dens of life!

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego simply cannot bow to another god. And Daniel could not yield to the edict to not pray to the Lord. Peter was told to not preach Christ but he said, “Shall I obey God or man?” Paul was repeatedly beaten for preaching Christ but what choice did he have as a follower of Christ?

True faith did not happen for the three Hebrews in the fiery furnace. That was when God came and stood beside them. True faith did not happen for Daniel in the Lion’s Den for that was God’s part to stop the mouths of lions He had made. It was not Peter’s faith that released him from prison but the power of God.

And, beloved, the great faith that we are called to return to the Lord is not during the crisis, but in that moment when a decision is made: will you follow God or not.

I have been told by mature believers, “I don’t think I could stand for Christ in times of affliction.” My beloved, do not worry about the fire. Do not worry about the Lion’s Den. When the hour of decision comes to you, the One who called you to that hour will not forsake you. And the very words, the very decision, the very act of courage is found not in yourself but in the Spirit of Jesus Christ inside of you.

Posted in Affliction, Daniel, Dr. Michael A. Milton, Dr. Michael Milton | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Prince of Peace at the U.S. Army War College

Did you know that the United States Army War College has an ambassador? Ambassador Carol van Voorst lives on post and represents our nation to the numerous high level international students who come to the War College, from the United Kingdom to Kenya. That was just one thing I learned about this amazing installation.

For eternally more significant reasons, and perhaps surprising to some, there are ambassadors at the War College for the Lord Jesus Christ. Indeed, Jesus Christ is an undeniable resident at the US Army War College. I observed His presence as I recently went on behalf of Reformed Theological Seminary to the War College and led a men’s retreat preached at Memorial Chapel on the Lord’s Day. I found Christ to be quite at work in this wonderful place.

Christ is not forgotten on the installation. He is known by His anointing of the Holy Spirit on the services in Memorial chapel. He is witnessed to in the community by the students, faculty, and staff of the War College; and Christ Jesus is experienced, fully in Word and Spirit, in the lives of the saints at Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Does this surprise you that the Prince of Peace would be here at the War College? Christ, who is, indeed, the “Prince of Peace,”[1] taught that we should render unto Caesar, what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s. St. Paul taught, in Romans 13, that human government, representatives of the people in a nation, are in fact “ministers” of God,[2] ordained by God to use the sword to protect and to punish, for the good[3] of all, and for the ongoing work of the Gospel. Indeed, the US Army War College studies how best to do this. Their stated goal is:

“The U.S. Army War College prepares selected military, civilian, and international leaders for the responsibilities of strategic leadership in a joint, interagency, intergovernmental and multinational environment.”[4]

Christ at the Installation

The life of the college is centered on strategic studies, to prepare selected, senior level officers, certain other government officials, including the State Department and other critical agencies of national security, and civilians which are nominated to take part in a course on integrating national defense strategy into every area of life, including religion. With a Southern Baptist minister, an Army chaplain, teaching ethics, Christ is present in the classroom. He is not forgotten or left out of discussions. Whether dealing with responses to the recent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,  or the “Just War” theory, His teachings are not neglected in the make up of the faculty.

Christ at Memorial Chapel

I shall never forget the humbling privilege to freely preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ at Memorial Chapel and to give an invitation for people to repent and turn in faith to Him. Wherever such freedom in the Word exists, and it exists without the slightest hinderance, wherever such glorious worship is conducted (as it was conducted so very well by Chaplain [Colonel] James Carter, the Protestant chaplain at the US Army War College, and given expression by an unforgettable choir, and robust singing of a great and diverse congregation), there the Lord is. In fact, I kept thinking of that old stanza, “There’s a sweet, sweet spirit in this place, and I know that it’s the spirit of the Lord.”

Christ in the Community

It was my honor to sing and play selections from my albums, as well as preach on Daniel and standing strong for Christ in tough times. While there, with the Men’s Ministry Retreat, I got to hear stories of God’s grace in the lives of pastors in the community, retirees, and others who look to the War College in many ways for support and encouragement. Carlisle, Pennsylvania is blessed by great churches and strong believers who are unafraid to witness to the Lord in their lives.

Christ in the People

Of all the places I experienced Jesus Christ, I experienced Him most in the lives of the students and families, in the stories of faith, the stories of trial and yet of heavenly succor and personal ministry by Jesus of Nazareth. I saw Christ in the eyes of an officer’s wife, who walks with Christ as her husband walks among enemies. I knew the presence of Jesus in a man who told me of his love of Christ in studies, and how has boldly witnessed to Jesus amidst those who did not believe, and,  in the mercy of Christ, prevailed in his defense of the Gospel. I saw my Savior in the life of the Installation chaplain who was preparing for Lenten services. I saw my Savior in the life of James Carter, my friend, who told of how God has been at work healing, saving, transforming, and empowering.

“A National Treasure”

As I stood in the historic pulpit of the US Army War College’s famous Memorial Chapel, and allowed my eyes to scan the beautiful stained glass windows of heroes of the faith, of the famous “Four Chaplains,”[5] and then turned to look at the love-produced beauty on the faces of children, young people, men and women, looking up and desiring to be fed on the Word of God, I knew Christ was there.

In a time of fellowship afterwards, I heard faculty and staff refer to the War College as a “national treasure” more than once. Having witnessed it, spent time with those who live and study here, and seen the Lord present at the US Army War College, I believe it.

[1] For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9.6

[2] For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Romans 13.4 King James Version.

[3] for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Romans 13.4

[4] “About the US Army War College,” US Army War College website (http://www.carlisle.army.mil/usawc/about/aboutUs.cfm, accessed on March 17, 2011).

[5] Dan Kurzman, No Greater Glory : The Four Immortal Chaplains and the Sinking of the Dorchester in World War Ii, 1st ed. (New York: Random House, 2004).

Bibliography

Kurzman, Dan. No Greater Glory : The Four Immortal Chaplains and the Sinking of the Dorchester in World War II. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 2004.

Posted in Army, Army Reserves, Army War College, Christ and Culture | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Facing the Fire and Living with Lions (Part 1)

Daniel 3.8-12; 16-26; 6.3-10; 14-24

Note: This is part one of a three part devotional series on “Standing Strong in the Midst of Your Trials”

If asked, “What do you know about the book of Daniel?” most likely you would recount the fiery trial of three boys who would not bow down to the golden image of King Nebuchadnezzar. Or, you might recall the bravery and miracle of Daniel in the lion’s den. While these two stories made Daniel a household name to this day, don’t miss the greater message: we find not just heroes in the book of Daniel, but Scripture reveals a living hope.

There are patterns in these stories and I call these patterns “movements in the life of a believer.” Patterns are important to recognize and study so that you too may stand strong when under fire. From the stories mentioned above, notice the following movements:

  • There is an accusation. Unwitting agents of Satan were seeking to kill God’s people. The Devil is an accuser. He accuses the saints, we are told. So we start there. But we see another movement.
  • There is conundrum. The leaders in both stories receive the accusations from the malicious prefects and presidents in their kingdom. Yet in both cases, the conundrum is there because the faithful Hebrew boys as well as Daniel had become model citizens and servants of the King. It is possible, then, to serve God by serving even pagan kings while you are in captivity.
  • There is a moment when true faith is tested. This is the time when a decision is made in prayer: “I will serve God rather than Man.” Everything that happens after that decision is simply the fall out of this decision.
  • There is persecution.
  • There is divine deliverance.
  • There is testimony.
  • There is conversion.
  • There is praise.

I want to focus on the moment of truth when decisions are made and true faith is revealed. Simply put: when faced with tests in this life, you will either stand strong or give in.

Introduction to Trials: What’s your Reaction?

The great G.K. Chesterton wrote in his wonderful book, Orthodoxy,

“As long as you have mystery you have health.”

Is that true? Is that Biblically “orthodox?”

Is true faith knowing, precisely, which way to go? Or is true faith taking the hand of God and walking forward though you really have no idea where you will end up?
In North America today, we’ve reduced Christianity to a faith wrapped up in a nice package with a bow on it. In the most bizarre and plainly unbiblical form, faith has been equated with health and wealth. This of course flies in the face off a suffering Savior who had no place to lay his head. Even in more mainstream Christianity, pastors are pressured to preach sermons that are “relevant.” Usually that translates to, “Seven Ways to Avoid Burnout in Your Life” or “Nine Ways to Make Sure Your Kids Turn Out OK.” There is nothing wrong with “How To” Sermons. But there is a problem with selectively using the Bible so as to fit God into a neat box or to reduce the mysteries of life to four steps that resolve all problems. “Do this, pray that and God will answer”…really?
The problem with such an approach, like the problem with a snake-oil-salesman advertising a happy marriage for whoever buys love potion number 9, is that life doesn’t always conform to philosophical syllogisms or 9-point happy-life sermons or potions. Our faith is best lived out in mystery. So I think Chesterton was right.

Now I do not mean by mystery (nor did Chesterton) that we can’t know God or His Word. We most certainly can and must. But the faith that comes and is built up in that Word is lived out in the unpredictable, transient, paradoxical places called life. It is a place where the beauty of nature, say a magnificent mountain, becomes a merciless killer to a mountain climber. It is a place, kids, where if you get caught cheating on your exam, you are expelled; yet if a journalist fakes a story, he doesn’t lose his job. He may in fact, become famous. It’s a place where innocent people are murdered by brutal terrorists, and yet it’s a place where God lives and reigns and where, in the midst of it all, we are promised peace by the One called the “Prince of Peace.” Admitting that mystery, as Chesterton suggests, leads to health (and I would emphasize, spiritual health).
We could put it another way:

I don’t know the future, but I know the One who holds the future.

Faith is uncertainty. Or like a former assistant pastor of mine would learn to put it, I do not know why the accident happened that took the life of my brother, but I know that God is there.

This is a faith that trusts in a God who is there in fiery furnaces and lion’s dens. More on this topic to come!

Posted in Reformed faith | Tagged , , , , , ,

A Season to Remember: An Ash Wednesday Message to the Anglican Communities of Charlotte

Joel 2:1-2,12-17; 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

Many of us instinctively feel the need for seasons. We can look at my own state of North Carolina as an example.  Sociologists call this the “J Curve” effect. New Yorkers head straight down 95 to Fort Lauderdale for early retirement. Then after so many years—or months—of “no seasons,” they make the curve and head back up, but not all the way. They end up making a “J” and land in North Carolina. Why? They feel the need for seasons. They may not miss scraping ice off of their windshields, so they don’t make the full loop back up to New York, but they miss the starkness of winter that gives way to the vibrant colors and budding new life of spring. They miss the summers of fireflies at night, and blue hydrangea, that changes to the foliage of autumn, with its quilt work colors of orange and reds yellows and browns, and that first northern wind that signals winter. They miss the rhythms of time, the cycles of life. With all due respect to Florida, I think that’s why North Carolina is growing in population! Seasons.

A lot of Christians feel the need for seasons also—seasons of the Christian year. Many of us have traveled down the I-95s of life, leaving behind frigid ceremonialism, to which we never want to return, and discover the perennial sunshine of evangelical preaching and worship. Yet after a while, we intuitively miss the rhythms of Scripture, the life of Jesus forming the community of the redeemed, the changing of Advent to Epiphany, Epiphany to Lent.

We are creatures made by God to live in cycles; if we fall out of the Christian cycle, we will invariably fall into the rhythm of the world, which is fast and can be harmful, leaving many of us feeling detached and empty. Some, indeed many, have left their homes for more seasonal climate churches. Others are recovering the liturgical seasons in their home churches.

We must remember the seasons of life and faith. There must be a season in our lives, not just to celebrate, but to think, to mediate, to recount our failings and Christ’s perfection, to acknowledge our sinfulness and the Lord’s forgiveness, to remember our need of Jesus Christ. If you don’t pause to observe the seasons of life, God will “pause” you Himself! This day of ashes is a day to remember and to reflect, something that is sadly forgotten in our fast-paced digital lives.  But Ash Wednesday, if it is a sincere day of remembrance, is stark, bare, unplugged, analog, vintage, ancient, different, anachronistic, and desperately needed in order to move on to the next season.

This is what God had called for in what appears from the text to be the Southern Kingdom with the prophet Joel. We don’t know much about Joel from the text, but as Peter quotes him on Pentecost and says that his words were being fulfilled on that day of divine visitation, we can say Joel was surely “a man for all seasons:” a Word from God for the season of ancient Israel, for the Day of Pentecost in AD 33, and for our day. In the reading from Joel we learn that the elders were to

“Blow the trumpet is Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation…” (Joel 2.15-16a).

Coming together in sacred assembly, in 2 Corinthians we are called to remember:

For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Because of the sins that so easily beset us, the propensity to get caught up in the rhythms of the world rather than the rhythms of God, and because we must never forget the pressing demands of Jesus Christ to live life before Him, to respond to Him as His people and not to leave Him behind in a our fast-moving world, we need a time to remember.

As we consider this Scripture, let me share three things I encourage you to remember in this Lenten season.

1.  In this season, let us remember God’s call.

A sacred assembly had to be called by the elders to gather the people—young and old, we are told—to hear not just the judgments of God, but also the promises of God. In 2 Corinthians, Paul has had to write a very difficult letter to a church in conflict and an assembly led by antagonistic ministers, infested with false teachers and undisciplined immorality. His word to the Corinthians was a Word from God to stop them in their tracks, as it were. They had received the grace of God, he says in 6.1, but lest they receive it in vain, they must stop and remember that this grace needed to be recovered to deliver them from themselves.

“Behold now is the favorable time; behold now is the day of salvation.”

The context for this familiar quote of St. Paul is not an evangelistic rally at Mars Hill, but a message of warning to the Church.

They needed what we need and what we seek: to remember to remember. And that takes a trumpet; a call.

We need to remember who we are, who we were, and how God saved us. To do so is to stir the up the love of Christ within us.

Through the years, as a pastor, I had a peculiar marriage counseling methodology for couples facing a loss of love. I often found there needed to be a trumpet sounding and a call for sacred assembly, a word to remember that today is the day of renewal. The way I did it was to ask the couple, “What was your song when you were courting?” Sometimes the befuddled husband would look at me as if I had asked him a great existential, philosophical question. “Song? What song?” The wife might poke her benumbed husband in the ribs at that point. “You know! Our song!” “Oh, yes,” the husband would say, as he recovered from the stunning elbow of his wife. But he really had no idea. “Well, go on, tell the minister what our song was!” I finally asked a series of diagnostic questions until I got it out of him. “Oh, yes, I remember now,” he would say (sometimes they say this even if they don’t know, but it is safer than not knowing; it is also, in part, the reason that they are in martial conflict). Well, I would respond. “Sing it.” The husband would look at me like I am crazy. “You mean…?” “Right,” I would complete his sentence. “Sing your song, the song of your romance, when at first you fell in love with her. With some hesitation, and understandable awkwardness, the poor fellow would begin to sing, usually off-key, and barely audible except when the next elbow came from the “director of music” wife:

“Longer than…

“No, I don’t want to do this!”

His wife looked at him and would begin to sing again.

“Longer than there’ve been fishes in the ocean; Higher than any bird ever flew; Longer than there’ve been stars up in the heavens; I’ve been in love with you.”

Many times this song, this time to remember the season of God’s grace in their marriage, was enough to recover the joy of their marriage. I have seen broken marriages healed by the Lord, using the music of old songs. It all starts with a call to come home.

We all need to remember God’s call: the song of salvation in our lives. Do you remember the music of the Holy Spirit that swept over you as child when at first you heard of Jesus’ forgiveness and love? Do you remember the time of the lifting of burden, the sense of new life and hope that was given to you when your life was falling apart? Do you recall gripping that pew, perhaps when in your little country church, you were asked to step out and come kneel and commit your life to Christ? Do you remember Confirmation and the “renouncing of the devil” and public embracing of Jesus as Lord and Savior? Do you remember, with tender gratitude, walking into a bedroom to see your father on his knees praying your name before God? We need to remember. But more than remember, the remembering is a call to sing the songs of repentance of sin and faith in the life and death of Jesus our Savior once again.

Blow the trumpet. Call for a sacred assembly. Today is the day to sing the romance of the Gospel again in your life. Remember the call.

2.  In this season, let us remember God’s Grace.

The Sacred Assembly in Joel is to come and repent and to enjoy the healing of the Lord.

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, ‘return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster” (Joel 2.12-13).

The centerpiece of this entire passage is a wonderful Hebrew word, hesed, or “steadfast love.” This is the unconditional, covenant love of God who would do for Israel what Israel could not do for herself: provide a life lived, commandments kept, and an atonement to take away sin. Theologically, in the New Testament, this covenant love is called grace.

Jesus Christ is the fullness of this passage.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1.14

Jesus Christ is the One, also, that Paul commends to the Corinthian church, as they are languishing in sin and bitterness and even moral impurity. Likewise, the urgent message of Paul to the Corinthian church is to remember,

“Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6.2).

It was only possible for Israel to return to God in penitence and true faith because of his grace. To know the grace of God, the steadfast love of God, is to be moved to return to Him and to love Him and to keep His commandments.

I was orphaned when I was a boy. My Aunt Eva reared me. The way she disciplined me was two fold: peach switches was one. I feared the peach switch that she would break off (or worse, would force me to break it off and give it to her) and strike on the back of my leg when I disobeyed her. Looking back I know that her discipline in that way would keep me from harm, even eternal harm. But the other way, the most powerful way she disciplined me, was with her love. She loved me unconditionally. When I did wrong, as a little boy, I just wanted to get up in her lap and tell her I am sorry for breaking her heart. She always received me back again. She was full of grace.

But as tender as the grace of our mothers or fathers may be, it cannot equal the grace and love of Jesus. This is why we hear his call and return to Him.

This is why we confess in our hearts and turn from our sins and come to Christ; the world has never known such love. It is a steadfast love, and oh what good news: the favorable time for you to know that love is today. Now is the day of salvation.

3.  In this season, let us remember God’s Justice.

The great force behind all of the events in our readings, behind the call to hear God’s grace in Locust ravaged Israel was God’s love; the call to stop, listen and learn that the day of salvation long hoped for, that “favorable day,” had come is, also, God’s love. But for God to show His love God had to show His justice. Thus we read in 2 Corinthians 5 those words that stretch the imagination of the most studied theologian and which defies everything we know of justice:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5.21).

Israel would not work to gain God’s favorable day. Nor could the Corinthians do anything to right the wrong of their sin. Nor can we. It takes love: a love like no other; a love that requires divine justice.

This justice was arranged before the world ever began when the Father made a covenant with Son attested by the Spirit that, in love, God would send the Second Person of the Trinity to become man without ever ceasing to be God. And this Christ would not only come in an ignoble and mean and low estate, He would be born amidst talk of shame. His own family would call him crazy. He would have no place to lay his head. Not only would this One be rejected by His own, but would be betrayed by His own, and God would not only be crucified by His own Creation, but Paul goes beyond that to say that in order for us to be saved Christ not only took our sin but became sin! Is there anyone here who can explain this? For the earth shook and the sky darkened at the sight of this inexplicable scene!

The question is: what must you do as you enter this sacred season?

The answer:  simply rest.

There is a story in Kathleen Norris’ The Cloister Walk, where the author, on a spiritual pilgrimage in a Benedictine monastery, immersed herself in the liturgy of the hours and of the cycle of prayer, work, study and play. She wrote about how at the end of a day, she went to Vespers. After a full day of work, she discovered that she was tired. She confessed that after dinner, as she worshipped, in the silence between the Psalms, she would often begin to fade and get nod towards sleep. She confided, with a troubled heart, about her fatigue at the end of the day to a monk, who responded with wisdom,

“For my part, when I see a brother who is dozing, I put his head on my knee and let him rest.”

That, my friends, is what the Lenten season is really all about: remembering that in the gracious cycles of God’s grace, there is a time to lay our burdens down, to turn from our sins, to remember that we are but sinners saved by grace. Called. Pardoned. Justified.

Rest.

“The Party Has Only Begun”

(1) God’s call, (2) God’s grace, and (3) God’s justice, that sets us free to rest forever in Jesus Christ.

As a young man, I worked as a salesman in New Orleans. I remember the day after Mardi Gras, walking down Canal Street on my way to the office. Often I would see disheveled men and women wearing mismatching clothes squinting in the bright morning sun through bloodshot eyes.  These otherwise well-to-do businessmen and women would sometimes catch my eye. Do you know what I would see? Amidst dark circles below, there were smudges of fresh ash in the shape of a cross on their foreheads. Though I knew all about Ash Wednesday—you can hardly grow up in Louisiana and not know—I asked a young man, who looked exactly as I described, what those ashes meant to him. He smiled through the pain of his hangover and said, “Well, I guess it means the party’s over, man.”

What I have learned in the intervening years, is that when we honestly rend our hearts and not our garments, when the ashes or the Communion or hymn-singing means more than just going through the motions,  but is the heartfelt response to a personal call—I have learned that the party is not over. Far be it, for in Christ, it is just a beginning—the old season of sin is over. The real party has only begun.

This is what C.S. Lewis was getting at in The Last Battle

When Peter, Edmund, Lucy, Eustace, and Jill walked through the grim door that led them to discover that they were to stay in Aslan’s country, the new Narnia for all time. It is then that Aslan told them, “The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

As it was for Israel and Corinth, it is the morning; a time in our lives to remember that the Gospel of Jesus is leading us to a place we could only dream of. It starts with repentance. It leads to new life. And in Jesus Christ, this season is a season to remember.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Posted in Ash Wednesday, Ash Wednesday message, Ash Wednesday sermon, Lent, Lenten preaching, Lenten sermon, Michael Milton, Pastoral Theology, PCA, PCA Ministers, PCA pastors, PCA preachers, PCA sermons, Prayer, Preach, Preacher, Preachers, Preaching, Presbyterian, Presbyterian and Reformed, Presbyterian preachers, Presbyterian seminary, Presbyterian sermons, Reformed, Reformed and Presbyterian worship, Reformed Ash Wednesday sermon, Reformed Christianity, Reformed Church of England, Reformed churches, Reformed faith, Reformed liturgy, Reformed Seminary, Reformed Seminary Charlotte, Reformed Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary Charlotte | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Can There Ever Really be Democracy in the Middle East?

The World Turned Upside Down was the title of Sir Christopher Hill’s history of the English Civil War. Today, as then, our world is being turned upside down. From Tunisia to Libya, the Middle East is quaking. Not since the fall of the Berlin Wall has the world witnessed such far-reaching geo-political reconfiguration, human tragedy and hope mixed together. The question on the minds of world leaders is “What’s next?”

There is great uncertainty among many that the people in the Middle East cannot govern themselves, having become so dependent upon despots and rogue dictators. I have even heard reasonable people opine that the ability to govern democratically is a uniquely Western European concept thus beyond tribal, autocratically-ruled Peoples of the Middle East.

I reject that idea. History demonstrates that there is only one reason why Western nations have been endowed with democracy: because such expressions of liberty are built on the bedrock of the Bible. Before Jesus taught that you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free (John 8:32), Barbaric tribes roaming across Europe would have given the worst Middle Eastern dictators a run for their money.

Ronald Reagan displayed firm resolve when he looked at the situation of people living behind the iron curtain. According to Dr. Paul Kengor, in The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, “Reagan not only hoped for Communism’s demise; he often predicted it. More so, his administration went beyond hoping for the end, and…went so far as to design and implement action, policies and even formal directives intended to reverse the Soviet empire and win the Cold War.” Reagan believed that people could “attain the unattainable,” through the power of truth.

The Church’s call today is to speak prophetically, respectfully, to all nations that liberty comes from the Lord. Reagan said, “It is time for the world to know our intellectual and spiritual values are rooted in the source of all strength, a belief in a Supreme Being, and a law higher than our own.” It is the love of Jesus Christ that sets people free and liberates human beings to discover their potential in every area of life. Only such faith can “attain the unattainable,” set human beings free, bring democracy, and turn the world right-side up.

Posted in Christian, Democracy, Dr. Michael A. Milton, Jesus Christ, Middle East, Mike Milton, Paul Kengor, PCA, Presbyterian, Reformed | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,