I have written on this subject before, but it bears repeating. I was watching the O’Reilly Factor this week when Mr. O’Reilly had some guests on discussing the Bible. Although O’Reilly is normally very balanced in his discussions of most issues, there are a few issues in which he seems to have blinders on, acting as if he already knows it all and not being open minded to the truth. In discussing the Bible, he was very snarky and sarcastic, much like that atheistic jackass Bill Maher on Comedy Central. Everyone has a right to their opinions, but it does get under my skin a little when people are willingly ignorant of truth, twist the facts to fit their opinion, then pass it off as if it is the unvarnished truth. In this show, O’Reilly mocked several Biblical stories, including the story of creation as if only fools would believe it.
What is so deliciously ironic about people like O’Reilly is that, while they mock the Bible’s version of events without serious research and reflection, they swallow other ridiculous, unsupported, unscientific, and ignorant ideas hook, line, and sinker. Evolution is one of those ridiculous ideas. I long ago abandoned any belief in evolution because all the evolutionists I have debated cannot answer one simple question: what is the force that is driving evolution? Random mutations is not a force. Think about it. If you took a box of letter tiles from a game of Scrabble and tossed them up in the air, what are the chances that any letters would land precisely side by side to form a word. The probability against a word resulting from this is too high to calculate. In fact, I can confidently say it would NEVER happen. A disorderly process does NOT create order, and it never will. This is simple logic that is easy to prove in any number of experiments such as the aforementioned one.
The random mutations that are essentially required for evolution to be true are a disorderly process. Mutations as they occur in nature do not result in higher order species or in better capabilities. This is observable fact. Whenever there is change to DNA in any living creature, it always results in some sort of handicap that takes away some complete feature or some capability that the creature would normally have had. But somehow, in evolution, we are told that these mutations miraculously result in better capabilities against all known reality. Additionally, in their fairy tales, the evolutionists have told us about the “primordial soup” of chemicals that somehow forced themselves to produce higher order amino acids that resulted in DNA and RNA and eventually simple cells. This is ludicrous, and their experiments that tried to replicate the process have all failed or been discredited.
The only way the 1953 experiments worked to produce the necessary compounds was by cooking the books, by intervening in the experiment at certain stages with a “little help” to ensure that the experiment would turn out the way they wanted. This is, of course, intellectually dishonest, and the scientist that did those experiments admitted later that there was no validity to his experiment. Others have tried to replicate the primordial soup experiment and failed. The latest experiment has allegedly succeeded, but only by moving the bar and re-imagining the chemicals present in the soup. This is intellectually dishonest. Every time that evolutionists fail to come up with proof of their fairy tale, they simply change the tale and create new conditions. When someone keeps changing their story, most people would rightfully suspect them of a lie.
For evolution to be true, there would have to be an orderly force somewhere in nature that intervenes in nature to continually push the mutations and primordial soup toward a more favorable end. It simply cannot happen on its own with the laws of nature that we currently observe. In the absence of intervention by some creature, nature typically produces lower order states and decays to lower order structure. Why is this? Because of entropy. The second law of thermodynamics states that all things move to a lower state of energy. Matter and energy are interchangeable (remember Einstein and E=MC2 – the interchangeability of matter and energy permits production of atom bombs and nuclear power plants). Since they are interchangeable, both matter and energy are affected by the law of entropy. All matter is subject to this gradual decline to a lower state as the energy that is inherent in the molecules and compounds of all things breaks down and decays. That is why you constantly have to repair things that you own. ALL things are subject to the gradual descent to lower energy and lower order, UNLESS something or someone intervenes to keep it in a higher state of energy and order.
This is causation, one of the most basic principles in science. If you see a statue or house, you would not automatically assume that it just accidentally happened. You would know by instinct and experience that something caused it. Yet for some reason, evolution does not require causation or force. It is the only scientific principle in all the history of human knowledge that “just happens.” This is the scientific equivalent of the bumper sticker “sh*t happens.” Now, the causation problem is just one of the many major flaws with evolution. There are gaping holes in genetics, anthropology (remember the “missing link” – actually there are millions of missing links). The fossil record has yet to produce a convincing example of the gradual transition, so evolutionists have even taken to fraudulent manipulation of fossils they produced as evidence or they have proposed crazy theories such as aliens bringing life to this planet (I kid you not – no one but a bunch of intellectually dishonest or self-interested academicians could cook up this kind of hogwash).
This alien theory is the intellectual equivalent of kicking the can down the road because then you have the problem of explaining where the aliens came from and how they developed. Evolutionists have even resorted to explaining the huge gaps between species by claiming that evolution must happen really, really fast at some times, so fast that it didn’t leave evidence of its occurrence. Goldschmidt’s “hopeful monster” theory is the best example of this ridiculous idea. Of course, there is no proof or support of this theory. They are just flinging things at the wall of discourse to see what will stick – what people are gullible enough to believe. Most of the people I have met who believe in evolution either had a motivation not to believe in God or they had a self-interest in promoting the fairy tale for professional/monetary gain.
I pray that you would be continually filled with God’s Truth bit by bit and that, when you do not understand anything in the Bible, you would not automatically assume error or make up something in your human experience to explain it. This is where error always begins, in pride or in false assumptions.
Probably everyone has heard the Charlie Daniels song, “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which was released in 1979 on his album Million Mile Reflections. You’ll remember the story line of Satan confronting a boy in Georgia for a skill competition on their fiddles. The prize for the boy, if he beats Satan in the contest, is a fiddle made of gold. If he loses, however, the devil will get his soul. The boy wins the contest and the Devil goes off in a huff. It’s an amusing song which highlights great violin-playing skills by Charlie Daniels. The story line is an old one, though. For centuries, stories have been circulated about people making bargains with the Devil or one of his demons over their souls. Probably the earliest such story is about Theophilus of Adana from the 6th century. In this story, an archdeacon was denied a promotion to bishop which he desired and, thus, made a deal with the Devil to get that position in exchange for his soul. Although the Devil carried out his part of the bargain in this story, Theophilus repented later of the pact and through a combination of intercession to the Virgin Mary and confession to the legitimate bishop, he was released from the bargain and died. This legend was then the foundation for the German legends of a Doctor Faust who sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for unlimited knowledge and worldly pleasure. The most famous renditions of the legend were a play published in 1604 by English writer Christopher Marlowe, who was a contemporary of William Shakespeare, and a play by famed German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe published in 1808. There have been, however, many other uses of the “deal with the devil” motif. If you have watched the excellent comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? from 2000, you will remember that the three fugitives met up with a blind guitar player who was black, played by actor Chris Thomas King. The guitar player told them his name was Tommy Johnson. Much of the movie uses real names or incorporates real events from that era of U.S. history, especially with regard to early American music. Tommy Johnson was a real person, a well-known blues guitar player during that Depression era in the South. In the movie the character tells the three fugitives his story, claiming that he had sold his soul to the Devil in exchange for guitar playing skills. This was taken from real life as the real Tommy Johnson also claimed to have sold his soul to the devil in order to promote a “bad boy” image for his stage persona. In real life, such stories became widespread about black blues players as people imagined all sorts of wild things about these rebels who were living on the edge and playing a seemingly new type of music that was extraordinary. There have been many other movies using the "pact with the devil" motif including the 1958 classic, Damn Yankees, in which a baseball player sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for winning the league pennant. So, as you can see, this is a motif very deeply ingrained in our literary and film heritage. The problem is that there is absolutely no truth to it. I don’t doubt that one can make a bargain with the Devil, but until the moment of salvation, your soul already belongs to him. Everyone that is born into sin (and that includes every single human being brought into this world after Adam and Eve) is destined for Hell automatically unless they accept God’s offer of redemption through Jesus. The Bible tells us that ABSOLUTELY NO ONE is righteous enough or good enough to earn their way to Heaven. That being the case, I can’t imagine why anyone would turn down God’s generous offer of redemption, but I know that many will. Many in their ignorance and sin will believe the lies of Satan or will be so enamored of their sin that they will reject God’s offer. But eternity in torment is just too unimaginable to flippantly dismiss the decision to give your heart to Jesus. Regardless, God always gives us choices. It is only the Devil who uses force and violence. God almost always uses enticement and love to get us to walk the right path or do right by others. He does sometimes have to resort to more forceful tactics when we are stubborn or deeply entrenched in our ignorance, but He loves us too much to leave us in that condition, even if we don’t recognize His constant loving intervention. I pray that you will be saved today if you are not already, and that if you are saved by Jesus, that you will be filled with His Sweet Love and Joy in these last days.
On March 13, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pope, taking on the name of St. Francis of Assisi as his papal name. By taking on this saint’s name, the new Pope is orienting his term of office toward humble service for the poorest and lowliest of people, following the example of Francis of Assisi who lived humbly and devoted his life to service of those who were poor and suffering. He has already proven to be very popular among rank and file Catholics, reminding some of the widely beloved Pope John Paul II (1978-2005). Liturgical traditionalists initially embraced his election, but many are now shocked at his rejection of extravagant vestments and high-church rituals that were continued by his predecessor, Benedict XVI, for the last eight years. As I read about Francis’ actions, attitude, and example, I see more and more of Jesus in the man. He looks to be an inspiring leader who will direct Catholics back toward the Christian service that Jesus taught in Matthew 25 (those actions that distinguish the “sheep,” or Christ’s true followers, from the goats, those merely pretending to be His followers).
He is following in the servant-leader tradition which Jesus taught and lived, and which I made the model for my life during my military career. But just like our Savior, Jesus, Francis’ service and humility should not be mistaken for weakness. Among the stories that are now being told about the earlier life of Francis is one of a very heated exchange he had with a man over moving Jesuit museum artifacts. Francis, a young priest at the time, had been sent by superiors to the museum to move certain artifacts to a chapel some distance away. The museum curator resisted, resulting in a brief intense verbal struggle between the two men. "We didn't actually have a fist fight," he admits, laughing again at the idea, but strong words were exchanged and Bergoglio would not budge. "Now, at least, I can say I've seen him at his toughest and I know he's no pushover."
That said, Francis most definitely practices what he preaches. Yesterday, on Holy Thursday, he continued a tradition of other popes in a foot washing ritual, but in a dramatic exemplification of his devotion to the poor and to social outcasts, instead of washing the feet of priests, he washed the feet of a dozen young inmates at a juvenile detention center. The 12 who had their feet washed were from different nationalities and religious backgrounds. Their ages ranged between 16 and 21, and the group included 2 young women and 2 Muslims. After washing the feet of each person, Francis then kissed their feet, in a very poignant gesture of love. This foot washing ritual follows the actions of Jesus as he washed the feet of the disciples in John 13:16, in order to show them that leaders should serve the needs of those they lead. I don’t know about you, but I thought this act was awesome, setting an example of service for leaders everywhere, both in the church and in the world at large.
I pray that God will fill each of you with His Spirit and lead you to opportunities of love and service to those around you, no matter how mundane or humble.
This week, I was watching a Bruce Lee movie and was surprised to see Chuck Norris in the film. I had forgotten that Norris had worked with the martial arts legend in the early 70’s. Both men have been personal heroes of mine since I was a teenager. Lee unfortunately had his life cut short in 1973 at the age of 32. But Norris is alive and well and is active in politics and media. Norris has had an incredible career. He served in the Air Force from 1958 until his honorable discharge in 1962. While in the service, he was stationed in Korea where he learned Tang Soo Do, a martial arts style that incorporates techniques from several other styles, including Kung Fu and Shotokan . Upon his discharge, Norris opened a martial arts school which grew into a franchise of several schools. By 1967, he was fighting in martial arts tournaments with mixed success at first. Starting in 1968, however, he had developed his martial arts prowess to a high level and began a string of spectacular major tournament and title victories.
His accolades continued to accumulate. According to Wikipedia, “Norris made history in 1990 when he was the first Westerner in the documented history of Tae Kwon Do to be given the rank of 8th Degree Black Belt Grand Master. On July 1, 2000, Norris was presented the Golden Lifetime Achievement Award by the World Karate Union Hall of Fame. In 1999, Norris was inducted into the Martial Arts History Museum's Hall of Fame.” Norris met Bruce Lee in 1968 in New York City at the the World Middle Weight Karate Championship at Madison Square Garden. Their friendship led to Norris’ first film role later that year in a Dean Martin film, The Wrecking Crew, which was released to theaters in 1969. Lee was stunt coordinator for the film and offered Norris a debut role. Four years later, Norris would be offered another role by his friend, this time a major role, in a film that starred Lee, Way of the Dragon, also titled Return of the Dragon in some markets.
In 1974, Norris began acting classes at the urging of his friend, film star Steve McQueen. His improved acting skills led to his first starring role in 1977 in the movie Breaker! Breaker! He would make a string of successful action films, including the Missing in Action series in the 1980s which he dedicated to his brother who died in Vietnam in June 1970 while serving with the vaunted 101st Airborne Division. And of course, he developed and acted in the highly successful Walker, Texas Ranger television series which began filming in 1993 and ran for eight years on CBS and has been very successful in syndication and has been shown in over 100 countries around the world. Currently, he is active in politics and is a regular writer for World Net Daily. But of all the accolades and successes Norris has, the most important fact about him is his relationship with Christ. He is very outspoken concerning his faith and has written several books focused on Christianity. In the end, that is all that matters. Although he has certainly been well blessed with worldly success by anyone’s measure, he would be the first to tell you that none of that compares to the riches of walking in fellowship with God. None of those successes could buy the incredible peace and satisfaction of being in the center of His Will.
I pray that, if you do not have a relationship with Christ, you would set that right today. If you are already walking in fellowship with Him, I pray you would take heart, being filled with His Joy and knowing that, no matter the circumstances of your life, you have the greatest treasure possible and have riches beyond your imagination waiting for you in Heaven.
The discipline of children is a very serious task that must always be done with a sober attitude and complete control of the emotions. Once we let emotions drive us, it is far too easy to step over the line separating discipline from abuse. This is why I never disciplined my children in anger. I had seen my own father come after me and my siblings when he would be in a rage, so I know first-hand how easily such situations can escalate beyond reasonable bounds. But God has taken those bad memories and used them to great effect in training me to be a good father. Before I even reached the first disciplinary situation with my children, I already knew the importance of being calm and reasonable and only applying exactly enough force to communicate the necessary lesson. Additionally, the moral lessons I was trying to teach my children were always carefully explained, not just in the disciplinary situations, but in every possible teaching moment during the day as I interacted with my children or as I watched them interact with each other or with their friends.
Most Christians know Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Once you have lived several decades as I have, you will know first-hand how true this verse is. Those early lessons, when the world seems so big and we are just beginning to form our understanding of the many important lessons about life, always loom large in our memory. We tend to remember for the rest of our life the really good and bad memories and the basic moral lessons of those tender years. Because children are so fragile in those years, it is of the utmost importance that they be taught gently. In addition, those most important lessons must be reinforced over and over again until they are burned deep into the psyche of our children. Deuteronomy 6:7 admonishes us to teach those lessons diligently in every conceivable activity throughout the day, every chance you can possibly fit in. Such moral lessons are too important to be left to chance, so such moral training must be done deliberately, looking for and taking advantage of every opportunity.
Of course, such training requires that you have a real relationship with your children. Despite what most parents in our modern society think, children are not a hobby. They are not something you do when you have time, squeezed in between the “more important” events of your day. And they are not a nuisance that keeps you from your life of self indulgence and selfishness. Children are the main thing. Your responsibility to your children is more important than anything you are doing at work. God will judge us more harshly for what we do with our children than He will for any great accomplishment we think we achieved at work. I have written before about the parental failure of many Christians in my parents’ generation (or at least, people who claimed to be Christians). There was a Satanic lie that apparently was widely believed, perhaps even taught from pulpits judging by how widespread it was. This lie was that the work at church or in the various mission fields was more important than what happened at home. Consequently, people believed in this lie and comforted themselves with it, using it as an excuse for being bad parents. But the Bible is very clear that we are to make sure that we get things right in our home first before we even attempt to work outside the home in the community. In fact, if we neglect our duties at home, the Bible tells us that we are worse than infidels (non-believers).
I pray that you will know God’s will for your life and that, if you are a parent, you will get your duties in the home right before you attempt to minister outside the home. Remember that God will judge us more strongly for what we do wrong or right in the home than he will for our works outside the home.
I was watching the Bible series on the History Channel when one of my favorite passages from Scripture was portrayed. It was the passage in which Jesus walked on the water. This story is from Matthew 14:22-33. What an incredibly amazing event whether you are experiencing it through the digital images of film such as this production or whether you are simply imagining the scene in your mind. This was a very important passage because Jesus showed by this act His complete control over all of nature and revealed His power to make the laws of nature conform to His will. Thus, He proved by this act that He was and is God. Upon seeing Jesus on the waves, the disciples initially thought that Jesus was a ghost, but Jesus corrected their perception when He confirmed to the disciples that they were indeed seeing Him. Peter, in his typically emotionally effusive manner blurted out that, if He truly was Jesus, then He should command Peter to come to Him. We all know the resulting story of Peter walking toward Jesus on the water, then losing his nerve when he looked away from Jesus and down at the terrifying waves upon which he walked, thus sinking into the waves until Jesus reached out to him and pulled him back up.
There are so many lessons to be taken from this passage. Besides the lesson that Jesus is, truly, God, there are also many lessons of how we should see Jesus and the Godhead in general. By revealing that He is God through such events, Jesus shows us that He is fully God and is, therefore, fully capable of taking care of all our needs and capable of saving our souls. In the event with Peter walking on the water, then sinking, then being saved by Jesus, we learn that, no matter what happens in the storms of life, that we will remain safe and secure if we only keep our eyes on Jesus and trust in His complete and total power over all things. If we are saved by Jesus and are walking in the center of God’s will, we have absolutely nothing to fear in life since we realize that He loves us more than He loved His own life and since we know He wants only the best for us. And we will fear nothing once we have a complete grasp of the incredible understanding of who God is, the incredible understanding that Jesus IS the promised manifestation of God on earth in Human Form come down to save us, and the incredible understanding that God holds all things in the palm of His Hand.
When you know you are walking in the pleasure of God’s will and when you completely comprehend Who God Is, What He Can Do, and What He Controls, you find the end of all fears. There is absolutely nothing to fear because you will finally understand that He controls all the most minute details and processes of the entire universe and that He controls the most fearsome forces that guide all processes in the universe and which make the events of your daily life possible. He is in control of ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING. Although Satan and his demons are allowed to move about the earth among people causing all sorts of mischief, they can only do so within tightly controlled boundaries because God allows this for His Good Pleasure, His Loving Will, and His Greater Plan for humanity. Satan only operates within the permissive will of God and can do nothing that God does not permit, nor can he do anything that God does not already know about before it happens. Moreover, although God does allow trials and tribulations to come into our lives, each one is tightly controlled by His will to a predetermined end. Nothing can touch you that does not come through the permissive will of God.
I pray that you will fully comprehend the tremendous power and love of God and that you will find complete peace in knowing that He is completely in control of all things and that He only wants what is best for you.
While we were on our short vacation to Gulf Shores, Alabama, one of the children had a mishap that shattered a bottle of nail polish. It was one of those teaching moments to reinforce many important lessons. One of the most important lessons is that we all make mistakes. Many parents would have immediately scolded the child, asking, “How could you allow this to happen.” That was one thing that neither I nor my wife did. It is so easy to wound the spirits of your children by responding that way when they make mistakes and send them the message that they must life in legalistic perfection, that mistakes are not allowed. I must admit, however, that I might have responded that way in the past when the children were much younger. Thankfully, God has trained me out of that period of unkind ignorance, largely by opening my eyes to my own faults and showing me how patient He is toward me in my own errors. Knowing how patient He is toward me, I could do no less toward my own children. I know that I want desperately to follow in the footsteps of my Lord and to be as loving to those around me as He is to me, especially to my children and my wife.
Another important lesson that we taught in this moment of accidental error with the broken bottle of nail polish is that people are always more important than things. I could care less about the loss of various things. This includes the bigger possessions such as the vehicles. Our children have had a couple of minor mishaps with vehicles, including scraping the side of the van against the garage door frame when entering the garage. Since I had done the same thing when we first moved into the house and I was getting used to driving into the garage, I could do no less than laugh off this error, and use the opportunity of their error to patiently react and show them that it is okay to make mistakes and that their spirits are more important that the material object. I would rather laughingly accept the error than to get angry and risk wounding their spirits in a way that might last much longer than it would take to fix the error and perhaps permanently damage the relationship between us.
Another important lesson that we were able to reinforce with the shattered nail polish is that we are all a team. When there is a problem, we do not abandon the child to deal with it on their own. To our credit, we all jumped right in to help without saying a word. Our actions in jumping in to help immediately showed that we were concerned about the damage to the property which we were temporarily using, wanting to respect someone else’s possessions as much as our own. But more importantly, we showed that we love the person who made the error and wanted to help bear her burdens, just as we try to bear each other’s burdens in our family every day, no matter how difficult or inconvenient. True love does not worry about the cost to self. We simply follow without hesitation in the footsteps of our Savior who loved us all above His own comfort and even above the greatest treasure He had to give, His own life. If He would lay down absolutely everything He had to give, including His own life, how could we do anything less for those around us, especially those we love in our family.
If you are already saved, having asked Jesus into your heart, I pray that you will have the power and fullness of His Spirit in loving those around you unselfishly and sacrificially. If you do not already know His Sacrificial love personally, I pray that you would set that right today, asking Him into your heart.
I have written previously about parenting and will probably write about it again. It is a subject that touches virtually everyone as most of us will become parents or, at the very least, have been the benefactors or victims of parenting ourselves. Unfortunately, it is a subject that far too many people don’t have a good grasp on despite its critical importance. One anecdote that best captures the irony of people’s ignorance on this supposedly important subject is a scene from the 1989 movie Parenthood. This movie with several well-known veteran actors is about the trials and tribulations of parenting. In one scene, Helen Buckman, a divorced mother of two played by Dianne Wiest, is concerned about problems she is having with her son and is discussing the situation with her daughter’s boyfriend, Tod Higgins, played by Keanu Reeves. Ostensibly, she seems to be trying to understand the actions of her son and realizes that, as a woman, she doesn’t fully comprehend the experience of being a young male growing up in a modern society. So, she turns to Tod, who is an older male teen, in hopes that he can enlighten her and perhaps give her some tips on how to approach the situation.
In the ensuing discussion, Tod reveals that he had been abused by his father. He tells Helen, “He used to wake me up in the morning by flicking lit cigarettes at my head, [saying] ''Hey, asshole, get up and make me breakfast.'' After a pause to let that scenario sink in, he continues, “You know, Miss Buckman, you need a license to buy a dog or drive a car. Hell, you need a license to catch a fish. But they´ll let any butt-reamin´ asshole be your father.” In his own crude way, he captures one of the profound ironies of life. We put so much effort into monitoring so many aspects of modern life, yet we often neglect the weightier matters such as parenting. This is not to advocate government getting involved in some kind of bureaucratic licensing scheme to determine who should parent and who should not. That would be a fiasco. But it is certainly ironic that this critical process for the well-being of civilization receives so little focus and is so seldom discussed.
I don’t need to tell you that many do not handle the responsibility of parenting very well. The aforementioned scene from the movie is so poignant because we all probably know people that were raised in abusive homes or we were, ourselves, raised in such homes. In our sinful world, far too many fail in this area by lapsing into the worst of sinful tendencies. Without God, it is a virtual certainty that we will fail in this area, but there are, unfortunately, too many supposedly Christian homes that fail as well. When I was growing up, I knew many kids that came from such homes where the Bible was allegedly the guide for all things, but there was very little of the love of Christ in those homes. The “faith” that their parents were practicing was a strain of legalism that they had arbitrarily cobbled together from the Biblical rules that they did not mind yielding to. But their hearts were far from God, judging by how harshly and legalistically they treated their children.
I pray that, if you came from such a home, you would realize that your parents were not following the true morality of love as taught by our Savior and that you would allow God to heal you of that pain. If you came from a loving Christian home, I pray that you would remember your parents thankfully, knowing that, even if they were not perfect, they did their best as they understood the law of love taught by Jesus.
Some of you may know that I had a minor heart attack last year. When the cardiologist put in the catheter to get a look at my heart, they found that my body had already developed a pathway of blood vessels around the vessels that were blocked. I didn’t even know that I had the heart attack because it was so minor and because I have had angina for several years due to the extreme stress of the last few jobs I held in the Army, including my deployment, and due to the subsequent PTSD that I developed. The doctor can never understand why I am not more worried about these issues. Part of this is just the horror of PTSD that I have lived through. Ever since I went through the most difficult years immediately after Iraq, I have feared nothing. After going through those dark valleys, the very worst that a troubled mind and spirit can conjure up, everything else in life just seems small in comparison. Now, I feel like, if I can face up to that monster, there is absolutely nothing else that I need to fear.
I truly understand the part in Psalm 23 about walking “in the valley of the shadow of death.” That’s where I was the first few years after I returned from Iraq. During those years when I faced the worst of my PTSD, I was taking the full brunt of those terrifying emotions that completely controlled me, jerking me along like a puppet on a string. In the overwhelming horror of the moment, I did some very stupid things. I know that God must have been with me, and His angels stayed quite busy to keep me from doing anything that might harm myself in my reckless abandon. I simply did not know what I was doing. The feelings were so strong that they were all I could think of. I was able to get through the day well enough, but I would always need that time at night where I could get off by myself and “self medicate” with alcohol until I felt safe, and only when I felt safe could I let any of those feelings out or think about them. But I had to negotiate my way through them somehow because, to me, they felt like a powder-keg during the day, just waiting for the right spark to set off the explosion.
I lived in those days with a constant death wish and thought of suicide very often. The one thing that kept me from acting on any of the suicidal thoughts was that I knew I would leave pain behind, and I could not do that to my children. No matter how bad the pain got, and no matter how dark my thoughts and feelings, I knew that was a line I could never step across. I’m sure God was with me all those years, too, although I was too distraught to feel Him and too angry at Him for allowing these things to happen to me, so I never, ever prayed in those days. But now that I’ve gotten beyond the worst of the pain and have gotten back into my prayer life in spades, I have learned so much more about God and can look back on those years and see His hand in so many things. Moreover, the suffering has opened so many windows into God’s wisdom. There is something supernaturally powerful about suffering greatly in His name, following in the footsteps of our Savior’s Suffering. Some may question whether I suffered in His name given my military career, but the path I followed was a path that He laid out for me. For all of my adult years, I have always yielded to Him and have always kept my heart humble, so I know that the suffering that I endured was by His design, working into His plan of sanctification for me.
I pray that you will all know God’s plan for your lives and that, if you are going through suffering or spiritual darkness (“the valley of the shadow of death”), you will be filled with His peace that passes all understanding and with His courage and wisdom to endure this time of your life.
It is amazing to me sometimes how many lies and hoaxes are perpetrated upon the public throughout our history. In 1968, Erich von Daniken published his book Chariots of the Gods. The book was a worldwide bestseller, subsequently being translated into thirty-two languages and even being brought to the screen as a documentary in 1970. The gist of the book is that he supposedly explained ancient mysteries, proving that many of our ancient accomplishments and major events were brought about by aliens that visited this planet. The problem with the book is that it is full of inaccuracies and distortions, common tools of Satan whenever he or his followers want to deceive people into believing something absurd and to keep them from believing in and following God. I guess the foundational assumption of the book is that things like the pyramids are too incredible to have been accomplished by mere humans. But if you have read and studied very much ancient history, you would realize that humans have always been pushing the envelope and doing amazing things ever since God first put them on this earth.
God has made us “a little lower than the angels,” giving us incredible intellectual and physical abilities. We don’t need aliens to show us how to accomplish amazing feats. All we need is a strong will, the willingness to do hard work, and perhaps a little inspiration from God when we hit the obstacles, but otherwise, we can accomplish incredible things. Our history is a non-stop verification of humanity’s amazing abilities, as we have constantly done the very things that people told us “you just can’t do.” I know that I have been told several times in my life that “you can’t do that,” whenever I have charted a course in my life that was unlike anyone else’s. When I wanted to teach at West Point, I was warned by two of my leaders that it would ruin my career. Their reasoning in warning me was that this assignment would take me out of the mainstream or common jobs that people would be working in my career field. But teaching at West Point was a dream of mine, and I was determined to make it happen with God’s help.
As it turns out, my leaders were wrong about this ruining my career. I taught at West Point for a total of five years over two stints, 1998-2001 and 2006-2008. And despite what the naysayers told me, I still had a successful career, reaching the rank of lieutenant colonel. But God has put a bulldog-strong will in me from the beginning. This willpower has served me well in many of the obstacles I have had to overcome. But this, along with my single-minded focus on the truth, has taken me to incredible places and allowed me to do incredible things that I never thought I would be able to do. I learned early on in my life, though, not to worry about what other people thought of me. So long as God was on my side, so long as I lived a life that was in keeping with His Word and His Principles, and so long as I was in the center of His Will, I knew that anything was possible. Abraham Lincoln was once asked whether he thought God was on his side. He answered wisely, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right.”
I pray that each of you will seek and have revealed to you God’s Will for your life. When you are walking in the center of His Will, you can do all things.