With My Soldiers

(Guest contributor – Chaplain Scott Foust)

Matthew 20:28 “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”

In 2015, while serving at Ramstein, Germany, I received an assignment notification, indicating I would be reporting to … drumroll … the 11th Operations Group at Arlington.  I wondered two things: 1) Why am I being downgraded from a Wing to a Group?  2) What Air Force base is in Arlington, TX?  Come to find out, it was not Arlington, TX; it was Arlington, VA.  Furthermore, it was definitely not a downgrade; it was a special opportunity to serve at Arlington National Cemetery.  I was not even aware that we had Air Force chaplains at Arlington, but we do!  The Arlington mission is basically all about conducting funerals for Air Force members and their dependents.  It may sound depressing, but I spent three of my favorite years at Arlington, and I would be open to returning, should the United States Air Force ever decide to send me back!

Whenever an officer is buried at Arlington, he/she is eligible for a “Full Honors Funeral,” which includes not only a team of pall bears, a rifle team, and a bugler to play “Taps,” but also something like a “parade,” which involves a military formation—to include the Air Force Honor Guard, the Air Force Band, and a caisson (a spectacular-looking horse-drawn carriage)–marching approximately one mile from what’s called a “transfer point” somewhere in the cemetery to the burial site.  Our marches often took us past Section 1 of the cemetery, where you catch a glimpse of how officers from early on practiced a version of one-upmanship, when it came to choosing their headstone.  The headstones were getting bigger and gaudier until the government stepped in and began regulating them.

One of the heroes buried at Arlington is General John “Black Jack” Pershing.   You know why he’s called “Black Jack”?  Because in 1898, during the Spanish-American War, he led a cavalry of black troops, who took San Juan Hill.  This helped propel Pershing to notoriety.  Eventually, General Pershing was promoted to Commander of the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I, and then to General of the Armies.  Until that time, the only other person with that rank had been George Washington!

Pershing died in 1948, at the age of 87.  Before his passing, he picked out his headstone.  If anyone could have gone big and gaudy, it was General Pershing.  But, that wasn’t his style.  Instead, he asked for a standard government-issue headstone, the same as any private.  Moreover, he could have had been buried at any of the prime locations within the Cemetery.  Yet, he pointed to the section where his enlisted troops had been buried and made the following request: “Here let me rest among the World War veterans.  When the last bugle call is sounded, I want to stand up with my soldiers.”

My prayer is that those of us who’ve been called to lead God’s children will never view ourselves as being “above” them or “beyond” them, but that we will live and lead—and even be willing to die—”with” them!  PLEASE PRAY TO BE A MINISTER TO THOSE AROUND US.  Always be willing to proudly stand up with our life’s fellow soldiers.

The Great Fault

Hebrews 4:16 “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Matthew 7:7-8 “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:  For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.”

Luke 18:1 “And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint”

George Müller, the Nineteenth Century British evangelist stated the following: “The great fault of the children of God is, they do not continue in prayer; they do not go on praying; they do not persevere.  If they desire anything for God’s glory, they should pray until they get it.  Oh, how good, and kind, and gracious, and condescending is the One with Whom we have to do!  He has given me, unworthy as I am, immeasurably above all I had asked or thought!”

It is easy to get dismayed and discouraged by the environment around us.  In Twenty-first Century America, there are plenty of things that should rightfully raise our concern.  There is divisiveness and discord, strife and sin, meanness and maliciousness, and contentiousness and corruptness all around us.  It is easy to throw up our hands and throw in the towel. The situation seems hopeless.

Yet, are we praying for revival in this land as we should?  Are we coming boldly unto the throne of grace?  Are we knocking with importunity?  Are we faintlessly praying?  Are we seeking God with a continuing spirit of perseverance? 

Until we do, there is more for us to do to reverse the errant direction of this land.  PLEASE PRAY FOR AN AMERICAN REVIVAL WITH PERSEVERANCE AND IMPORTUNITY.  If we fall prey to the great fault of passiveness and prayerlessness, then the dire situation in this land is actually our fault.

Piercing Through the Uncertainty of Transition

Joshua 1:6-9 “Be strong and of a good courage:  for unto this people shalt thou divide for an inheritance the land, which I sware unto their fathers to give them.  Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee:  turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper whithersoever thou goest.  This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that though mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein:  for then thou shalt have good success.  Have not I commanded thee?  Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed:  for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

Moses had just died, and Joshua had been named the leader.  This new young leader had been given clear direction, to bring the people into the promised land.  The entire situation was characterized by the uncertainty of transition.  Yet, God had very clear assurance to punctuate His calling. He repeated it multiple times in four short verses – be strong and courageous in Him!  This clarity was divinely designed to pierce through the concerns of uncertain transition.

Life is filled with uncertain transition: birth and death, success and failure, stagnation and acceleration, regression and progression, health and sickness barriers and opportunities. It includes new relationships, new jobs, new burdens, new homes, new struggles, new skills, and new expectations. Uncertainty and transition are the only aspects of life that stay the same.  God’s calling may be thrusting you into a new role or prodding you across your own Jordan River.  It will sometimes take you across town or around the world.  Regardless of the type of uncertain transition you are facing, God repeats again-and-again a clear assurance to punctuate His calling – be strong and courageous in Him!  This clarity is divinely designed to pierce through the concerns of uncertain transition. 

PLEASE PRAY FOR STRENGTH AND COURAGE TO HANDLE THE UNCERTAIN TRANSITIONS OF LIFE.  God-given clarity is divinely designed to pierce through any of your concerns.

Jump In

I John 3:18 “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

James 1:22 “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”

James 4:17 “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

There was another hero in the midst of the Air Florida 90 crash in January 1982 (see previous two posts for other thoughts on this event).  Priscilla Tirado, a surviving passenger of the crash, was too weak to hold on to the helicopter line passed to her by Arland D. Williams.  Her eyes had been blinded by jet fuel that had accumulated on the surface of the water, and the cold water and crash trauma had zapped her strength.  She was stranded in the midst of a large patch of open water, and couldn’t hold on to any of the life saving devices that had been sent her way.

It was then that Lenny Skutnik jumped in to the icy cold water.  Skutnik was a Congressional Budget Office employee on his way home from work that afternoon.  Among the hundreds of onlookers, he was the only one who left the safety of the river bank to save a life.  As a result, Priscilla Tirado was one of a few who survived this tragedy, and Skutnik was invited as a special guest of President Reagan to the January 26, 1982 State of the Union address.  All because he jumped in!

There are situations throughout our society where Christians need to jump in, acting as doers in deed and in truth.  How is our witness?  How is our community engagement?  How is our voting record?  How is our commitment to our prayer list?  How is our political participation?  How is our voice on the issues of the day? 

Are we just standing on the safety of the river bank with the rest of the onlookers, or are we jumping in?

PLEASE PRAY FOR THE COURAGE AND COMMITMENT TO FULLY ENGAGE ON THE URGENT ISSUES OF THE DAY.  Lives can be saved, eternities altered, policies shifted, communities renewed, and societies revived if we take the simple act of faithfulness and jump in!

Better Than A Standoff

John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”

I John 4:4 “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them:  because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ:  for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:  Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.  Amen.”

After the Air Florida Flight 90 crash in Washington DC in 1982, and before anyone knew the name of Arland D. Williams Jr, the newspapers and the magazines of the day were abuzz with thoughts about the unknown hero (see prior post at http://prayatlunch.us/dragged-to-safety/).  The Washington Post published the following:

“He was about 50 years old, one of half a dozen survivors clinging to twisted wreckage bobbing in the icy Potomac when the first helicopter arrived. To the copter’s two-man Park Police crew he seemed the most alert. Life vests were dropped, then a flotation ball. The man passed them to the others. On two occasions, the crew recalled last night, he handed away a life line from the hovering machine that could have dragged him to safety. The helicopter crew – who rescued five people, the only persons who survived from the jetliner – lifted a woman to the riverbank, then dragged three more persons across the ice to safety. Then the life line saved a woman who was trying to swim away from the sinking wreckage, and the helicopter pilot, Donald W. Usher, returned to the scene, but the man was gone.”

Time Magazine included the following thoughts:

“So the man in the water had his own natural powers. He could not make ice storms, or freeze the water until it froze the blood. But he could hand life over to a stranger, and that is a power of nature too. The man in the water pitted himself against an implacable, impersonal enemy; he fought it with charity; and he held it to a standoff. He was the best we can do.”

It is often easy to see ourselves as helpless against the powerful forces around us.  We see ourselves as weak and sometimes worthless. Yet, the truth is far different than understood through this perspective.  We serve a God who gave His life for His friends.  Our God is greater than he that is in the world.  We carry with us the life and eternity changing potency of the gospel armed with His supernatural power.  

PLEASE PRAY FOR THE ENCOURGEMENT AND THE CONVICTION TO SERVE GOD FULLY AND FAITHFULLY IN SPITE OF OUR SURROUNDING CHALLENGES.  We may never be in a situation to physically pass a survival rope to those around us, but we have the opportunity to do so metaphorically every day.  In the spiritual world, we can do far better than a standoff with our adversary.

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