The Colonel

“You ever notice, chaplain, people don’t know their Bibles anymore?” the colonel asked.

The chaplain studied the colonel to see if he was asking with the desire to listen to the chaplain answer, or to hear himself. As the chaplain was about to answer, the colonel continued.

“You know, chaplain, I used to think it was just Millennials–the guys who can’t do fifty push-ups because their man-buns might come undone . . .”

The chaplain nodded his head slowly at the colonel to let him know he understood. The chaplain knew he would not have to say much because the colonel wanted to impress him.

“And what’s with women who now dress and act like men, but then get offended if we treat them like they are men? I mean, which is it?” Suddenly the colonel realized he’d left his original topic.

“What was I saying, chaplain?”

“You began with how few people know the Bible, sir.”

“Exactly, chaplain! But it’s even the older generation, too. You know that?”

“That’s been my experience, sir.”

“How old are you, chappy?”

“Forty-eight, sir.”

“Me, too, chaplain. But when I was coming up in the Midwest, at least my family taught us the Bible, and we even went to church. But people nowadays, chaplain—I just don’t know anymore.”

“Not much of a shared foundation anymore, sir. I’ve noticed.”

“You know, chaplain. I have an eleven-year-old son named Luke. Every night before I put him to bed, I read the Bible aloud with him for thirty minutes.”

“That’s great, sir,” the chaplain said. “He will remember that time with him and probably much of what you read with him.”

“You know what really gets me, though, chappy? It’s how he’ll hit me with a question a day or so later about something we read—something I didn’t think he was really tracking,” the colonel said.

“He may be beyond much of the West, sir,” the chaplain said, smiling a sad smile.

“Say again.”

“Firsthand knowledge of Scripture, sir, like you were saying,” the chaplain said.

“Exactly. He’ll up and ask me something about people loving darkness rather than light. Ain’t that something, chappy?”

“Yes, sir.”

“But what do we do, chaplain? With the world going the way it is, and all? I mean, I know the Bible, and my wife and I, we teach it to Luke. But this generation, and even our parents’ generation . . . I just don’t know, chaplain.”

“Sounds like you’re doing well, sir. Open the Scripture, read it, and share it with those who’ll listen.”

He watched the colonel listen to his own thoughts, and pictured the colonel with Luke beside his dad, perhaps under his boyish covers on his bed, listening to his father read of David and mighty men of valor, who surely resembled his dad the colonel, and his staff officers or non-commissioned officers; and a flaming sword that blazed amidst a ruined garden; and of Jewish boys perhaps his own age, cast into a furnace deep in the desert sands near the Tigris and Euphrates where his dad had battled and returned; and of trees cursed by Jesus as symbols of people not using their time the way God wanted, and . . .

Thus ran the chaplain’s thoughts as he watched the colonel listen to himself.

“You’re a good listener, chappy. Appreciate you.”

“Thanks, sir. Likewise.”

“Hey, sir?”

“What you got, chappy?”

“Tell Luke to keep reading, and that the chaplain says hello.”

“Good copy, chaplain.”


Whose Way?

If I asked you to list a few current events that are splashed across our headlines, you could probably do it with ease. How about presidential politics? How about BLM? How about Blue Lives Matter, or is it just black lives? If black lives matter, why are blacks assassinating fellothw blacks who serve as our police? How about the 60 million abortions in the U.S. since 1973’s Roe v. Wade? Do their lives matter? 29,000 babies, just in America, will be aborted this year, after 16 weeks of gestation. Do their lives matter? And let us not forget illegal immigration. Should a nation not have borders? If not, why not? Can you name a nation that has lasted that doesn’t have borders? What does the word nationhood even mean if it’s denuded of its written laws and borders? Or how about the tone of our country’s public discourse? What does it reveal about current American public discourse? Current discussions resemble MTV’s pubescent crassness more than substantive debate.

This morning after coffee, I checked the headlines from my computer at work for just some of our current events:

  1. When nonstop terror bleeds into our media and political culture
  2. Baton Rouge killer carefully plotted attack against police, brought 3 guns, investigators say
  3. Erdogan’s appeal to Islamists in wake of failed coup spurs fear for Turkey’s future
  4. Terror strikes again: ISIS claims responsibility for German train attack
  5. White House won’t be lit in blue

Is there a unifying theme through all of these headlines? Some might say the theme is unraveling. Others might say the theme is lack of courageous leadership. Others might say we’re witnessing the triumph of evil. Others might say we’re seeing that the enemy is inside the wire–that is, that current events are being orchestrated by folks who are ostensibly on America’s side, but who, in reality, are vehemently opposed to America, our freedoms, our constitution, and our other founding documents. I don’t speak as one with no view. Presumably like you, I’m a legal citizen, and am concerned, but I speak from a biblical worldview.

Is this the first time that world events have seemed out of control? Is this the first time that culture seems to be unraveling? Is this the first time that people have rejected God, Christ, the Bible, Christian input, etc? Did Noah’s generation repent when he was called to pronounce judgment and warn of a worldwide flood? Did vast numbers of folks repent and turn to hear the preaching of the word? Did the masses repent and turn to God? Listen to Gen 6:11-12:

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.

Sound familiar? Yet God did not leave Noah with just a diagnosis of disaster. He made a way: “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.” (v.18) God made the way, but it was just that—God’s way, not man’s way.

Or think of another OT prophet, Jeremiah, in the 600s B.C. in Israel, a man called by God to warn the people to repent and turn to God. But did the culture listen to the word of the Lord through his servant Jeremiah?

Listen to Jeremiah’s word of the Lord: “violence and destruction are heard within her; sickness and wounds are ever before me. Be warned, O Jerusalem, lest I turn from you in disgust, lest I make you a desolation, an uninhabited land.” (Jer 6:7b-8)

That was in the 600s B.C. Was that the first time the nation was unraveling? Was that the first time that God spoke through one of his prophets, pleading with people to listen and obey the word from the Lord? Was that even the first time that God’s people were persecuted for telling the truth?

But did God leave Jeremiah there, in the pit (later in his ministry), suffering alone? Israel and Judah both fell, of course, as judgments. And many were deported to Babylon (present day Iraq) in 597, 586, and 582 B.C.

But did God just diagnose the people’s situation and leave them there? No. But deliverance was to be God’s way, not man’s way. Listen to Jer 31:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their heart. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (vv.31-33)

It had to be, then as now, God’s way, not man’s way. The greatest example in history of God speaking is found in God’s incarnation in Jesus–his supernatural birth, life, death as substitutionary atonement, and his resurrection. Christ requires an either/or ultimatum.

Will we turn to him in repentance and faith, or remain in our evil deeds and darkness? As another writer phrased it, it’s Christ or chaos. And what do our headlines indicate most people choose?

Did Jesus not warn the people to repent and turn to the one true and living God? And what sort of reception did Jesus receive? “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” (Jn 1:11)

Why did his own people not receive him? The Scripture says that their works, like ours, are evil: “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (Jn 3:19)

But did God leave them/us there? Did he only condemn us and abandon us? Are we like the characters in Beckett’s Waiting for Godot? Or is man, as Sartre wrote, a useless passion? Is there no hope?

Probably you’ve heard, “If only God would show up, then I would believe.” May I say this as kindly as possible? He has, and his name is Jesus. God in the flesh not only showed up, but he lived the only life worthy of God’s requirements. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:17) He was born of Mary who’d been overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. He lived a sinless life. Yet he became sin for us, for those who’d believe upon him: “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 Cor 5:21).

What’s more, God raised him from the dead (Mt 28; Mk 15; Lk 24; Jn 20; 1 Cor 15). The theme remains the same: deliverance only comes God’s way, not man’s way.

If you want to witness the bloody contrast between the two ways, witness our daily headlines. What will it take? Will we look, in repentance and faith, to God incarnate who came for sinners? Whose way? There is only one way, but there is, in fact, a way, and his name is Jesus.