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Joshua 24:15 But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. 

Loyalty is the big thing, the greatest battle asset of all. But no man ever wins the loyalty of troops by preaching loyalty.” (Brigadier General S. L. A. Marshall, Men Against Fire 1947) 

The old saying is, “a picture can say a thousand words.”  But that depends on who is narrating.  

As I looked at this picture it spoke to me of my life.  Church has been a part of me ever since my birth; and so the flag of the United States of America.  Both have played a huge role in my life.  This image spoke deep into who and what I am; a disciple of Christ – first.  The first thing that seemed to leap out at me was the church building standing taller than the flag.  And at the same time the flag seemed to be bowing in its presence. 

I come from a long line of very patriotic people; people who love freedom.  I’ve had family in almost every war this country has been engaged in, minus Viet Nam.  They wouldn’t let flat-footed men like my father be grunts, even though he volunteered.  I’ve also had family refuse to fight and one lost his life for it; he wouldn’t join the Texas secession forces during the Civil War.  There is also a funny story of the resistance his wife gave his killers after they captured her and held her in a makeshift jail for several days.  But that will have to wait for another day. 

My earliest memories are of church pews.  You know, the old wooden ones that had the thin crushed velvet cushion thrown on top of them.  To a young kid that was like covering a rock in a wind storm with a piece of paper.  It never stayed in place.  It was good dad didn’t go to Nam; maybe he was a better preacher than he would have been a soldier.  His being a preacher meant that not only were we at church three times a week, but that we unlocked the doors three times a week.  It goes without saying that the church building was not what it was all about but you get my meaning. 

Loyalty was, and is, the big thing. 

It has always been instilled in me that Christ was over all.  That everything came second to Christ.  Things such as unlocking the doors to the building three times a week, praying before every meal, being a good neighbor and steward, studying the Word of God continuously, and making a joyful noise were more than just preached to me; they were demonstrated through a life that lived it.  A life that had a change of heart.  A heart that changed to be like Christ and to be led by Christ. 

This loyalty was earned through promises kept and a sacrifice made.  It was fostered by the truth and by the great need of a Savior.  Loyalty rose up out of a deep desire to please the maker of all and bear His image in all its glory. 

I noticed during my Army career that soldiers tended to take on the traits of the leaders that had earned their trust and loyalty.  They began to walk like him, talk like him, even make decisions like him.  Subordinates wanted to emulate good leaders.  And so what I have done with my family is first show them Christ’s traits that not only foster loyalty but also demand our loyalty to Him.  Christ’s compassion was like no other.  To a woman about to be stoned after being caught in a compromising position, He pointed out that no one who was ready to kill her was perfect and then gave her some great words of comfort and advice (John 8.11).  His patience was tireless as time after time His disciples show a lack of faith and understanding.  His willingness to sacrifice, even His life, for the good of others was to save them and to obey the will of His Father. 

But these things can’t be just preached; they must manifest themselves in all my action as I strive to remain loyal to Christ in all I do. 

As I interact with those that may be less fortunate than I, I do my best to make sure that my voice and deeds are full of compassion and forgiveness.  My kids didn’t see this, but I shared the story and pictures with them of one particular event that took place in downtown Baghdad.  My squad was tasked with escorting some Corp of Engineer personnel to a meeting.  When we got to the meeting place half of us went upstairs to ensure security inside the building and the other half stayed outside to guard the vehicles; I was one of those chosen to stay outside this time.  While we stood our post a young girl (about 8 years old) approached me speaking pretty good English with her little brother in tow.  She asked me one question: “will you marry me?”  Immediately I knew why.  She wanted a chance at a better life, she wanted out of there, and she had found someone who could possibly offer her more that what reality had given her.  A tear ran down my cheek as my heart broke knowing all I could offer her was a hug and a hand full of Jolly Ranchers.  I spent more attention on her than I should have out there in the open, but someone in need needed my time and attention that day on the side-walk in downtown Baghdad, Iraq.  I remember that girl every time I meet someone who is down on their luck or living out of a backpack or hurting because of their past.  And I take time to show them and my family that it takes compassion to kneel down and write in the sand for a while. 

A good leader does his best to do what is right every chance he gets.  My kids know full well that I am not perfect, but they also know that I will give every effort to do what is right on every occasion.  No one will follow a leader that takes the easy road every time or wrongs others; at least they won’t follow him for very long.  And those that do follow will not catch him when he falls.  As Christians we follow a leader that, though he was tempted in every way, he never faltered and he never sinned.  Through a life lived with the best of my abilities to follow that example it gives my kids the opportunity to see that goodness can be done.  That living right can be accomplished. 

But most importantly, when they fail to do what is right or when they hurt me, I show them that forgiveness is waiting with outstretched arms.  They must see me forgiving them and others.  And they must see me seeking forgiveness.  When I pull a boneheaded stunt and disappoint their mother.  I make sure that they see me apologize to her and ask her forgiveness.  When they hear my say things I shouldn’t, I make sure they hear my pleas to God for forgiveness.  When they see that I have been wronged, I try my best to let them see me forgive that person. 

Non-Commissioned Officers (NCO) are taught to lead by example.  Christ did that for me, it’s the least I could do for them.  

The loyalty we have toward Christ places Him in front of everything.  It doesn’t take us out of everything (John 17.15), but it carries us through everything.  With loyalty to a great leader we can do all things through Him.  We begin to walk like Him, talk like Him, and make decisions like Him. 

Loyalty is the big thing, the greatest battle asset of all!