Jim Wilson is the retired director of Community Christian Ministries in Moscow, Idaho. He will be posting regularly, so check back in soon!

Friday, January 11, 2019

Crying for Deliverance

This is an excerpt from Dynamic of Service by Paget Wilkes.

Confession involves self-judgment. It is much easier to ask for pardon in a general way than to confess our sins in all their naked shame. If a child has done wrong, it is much less difficult to ask to be forgiven than openly and ingenuously to confess the wrong.

I came across an instance of this while on my recent furlough. I had been taking a series of meetings on Scriptural holiness. At the close, a lady came to me saying that one sentence I had spoken had set her soul at liberty from a bondage of some years’ standing. On my making inquiry as to what it might be, she replied, “You said if God has been convicting you and revealing your inward sin and need, whatever you do, don’t cry for deliverance! I was so astonished at this amazing statement that I looked up, wondering whatever you would say next, when you proceeded thus: The Word of God does not say, ‘If we cry for deliverance, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness,’ but it does say, ‘If we confess our sins.’ I saw at once the difference and my mistake. I hastened home to my room, and getting down before God, told Him that, though I had long been crying for deliverance, it had never come. From that hour, I ceased my cry, and instead poured out my heart in honest confession of my sin. That very night, the Lord fulfilled His promise and set me free.”

Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Set Our Hearts At Rest

This was written by my wife Bessie for The Hammer magazine.
This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:19-20)
What is it that helps us set our hearts at rest in His presence? The preceding verse (verse 18) establishes the context: “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” The immediate context is that if we see a brother in need and we have no pity, the question is, “How can the love of God be in us?”

Years ago, just after Mother’s Day, a friend (the wife of a pastor) told me that her young daughter had defied her and gone to a public park. She was wondering how to handle this when the child returned. My friend had been folding clean laundry and was about to take it to her daughter’s room when she remembered the loving card received on Mother’s Day. She put it on top of the laundry, took it to the room and handed the card to the daughter with some remark to the effect that the card was not true, and she was returning it. It was an object lesson that words of love should be followed by action. I believe that it spoke to the child’s heart for her to see that her disobedience contradicted her words of love. (Is this why we have difficulty finding a card to express our love on special occasions, birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, etc? We know our performance has not come up to our words.)

Rereading the phrase, “whenever our hearts condemn us,” we see the necessity of examining our own hearts. When, during such self-examination, we find that our heart condemns us, two things must be considered. Does my heart condemn me because I have sinned? If so, sin must be confessed and forgiven on the basis of 1 John 1:9, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” This means real guilt for a specific sin of thought, attitude or deed.

Does my heart still condemn me? Here we need to evaluate with the Lord’s help whether we are experiencing false guilt, a sort of confused, uncomfortable feeling of not making the grade and not knowing why. Perhaps verse 18 will provide some clue. Am I loving with words or tongue but failing in my actions and in truth? If my walk does not correspond to my talk, then I need to get back to evaluating by the Lord’s standard. He says we can set our hearts at rest in His presence if we check ourselves by His standard. For example, do I say I respect my husband but by my actions and words go against his wishes, denigrate him before the children or friends, act independently of his desires and undermine his authority in the family? Many of us would have to confess real guilt in this matter.

If, however, my respect for my husband is obvious to children and friends, I do not act independently, and I reinforce his authority, then my heart can be at rest in His presence. Remember God is greater than our hearts and He knows everything, so He is to be consulted as to whether, in His sight, I am loving in actions and truth.

Let’s use the same example in light of the husband’s responsibility. Husbands, do you say you love your wife but stand by idly when you see her struggle with the children, the laundry and the meals (and sometimes no money)? Do you discipline the children and teach them to honor their mother? Do you express your love and appreciations for her willingness to do without by telling her what her skills are worth in the present-day market and how much you would like to give her things of value? It does not mean giving her a gift you cannot afford, but she will find that the thought itself is a gift. The television or newspaper should not be a barricade behind which a man can hide while the “little woman” words herself into a resentment. “Cherishing your wife” as Ephesians 5:25 (KJV) says is to hold her dear by taking great care of her as a loved possession.

Try this self-evaluation in His presence. It is a humbling experience but rich in benefits.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Bondage to Passion

This is an excerpt from The Dynamic of Service by Paget Wilkes.
…you do not do the things that you wish. (Gal. 5:17)

No one comes to the Father except through Me. (John 14:6)
If prejudice and ignorance are the prison-houses of the soul, evil passions are its chains. Everywhere we find men fettered by evil appetites. At first willing captives, imagining that silken cords are easily broken, young men and women gladly give themselves to their lust, only to discover before long that when they would be free, their slavery is complete.

In dealing with such, it is important to distinguish this form of bondage from other and more hopeless cases. In reality the slavery to evil passions is more easily removed than any other, if only we know how to bring them to Christ just as they are. A striking instance will illustrate. While recently in England and staying at one of the military centers, I sought to help in one of the huts erected for the soldiers. One Sunday evening I had the privilege of listening to the story of its leader. His case so exactly illustrates my point both as to the bondage of sin and also as to the way of deliverance, that I here relate it.

Born of drunken parents, himself a drunkard in his early teens, often in jail, unable to read or write, a hopeless bit of flotsam on the wave of London life, he was one day, through the kind offices of his poor wife, skillfully piloted outside the zone of public houses and found himself listening to an open-air service. One of the speakers, coming up from behind, lovingly put his hand on his shoulder and urged him to seek the Savior.

Half in despair, half in anger, he retorted, “What is the good of asking me to do that when I am nearly always drunk? While the whisky is pouring down my throat I hate myself and know what a fool I am, but I cannot help it. How can I be a Christian?”

Opening his Bible at Romans 5:6, the preacher read to this poor, unlettered slave, “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” He bade him observe the connection, “without strength” and “ungodly.” “The reason,” said he, “you have no strength and are a slave of the drink is that you are without God. If you can get back to Him, He will see to the drink craving for you. You have not to break off your sins and then come to Christ, but come just as you are. Christ has died for you just as you are.”

The poor fellow, utterly amazed, could scarce take in news so good; but hastening home, far into the night he cried to God just as he was, pleading Romans 5:6, which he had succeeded in memorizing. To him it proved the talisman to victory, a very passport to heaven. His chains fell off; he was freed from that hour; and many is the poor drunkard that God has allowed him to point to Christ since then.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The Fullness of Joy

This is a transcript of a talk given earlier this year by my granddaughter, Brooke Newman, who is a pastor's wife in the United Kingdom.
"Those things didn’t cause us to lose our joy the presence of God. We lost it before that, and we replaced it with a fake, a joy that is really only moderate happiness in circumstances being how we want them, which of course is rare."

Joy. Joy is my topic for this morning and a good thing to dwell on at this time of year. Today I want to talk about Christian joy. We will look at some of the things the Bible says about joy, some of the reasons we lose it, and how to regain it.

I wanted to talk about this because in my life I can honestly say that the impact of just a few people really living lives of deep joy in all circumstances has changed my entire family. It started with my grandfather, who learned these lessons after he became a Christian. His joy had a profound impact on all of his children, and the trickle went from there to all of his descendants, even down to the multitude of great-grandkids.

Joy is powerful. I came to faith at the ripe old age of four, and I was never tempted to walk away, because I knew the reality of true joy. I saw it in my family, the joy of being right with God, the joy of forgiveness. I have lost my joy plenty of times, but it’s been restored again and again. I have tested what my grandpa taught me from the Bible so many times and found it true. Today I am reminding myself of things I need to hear on a daily basis!

So what is this joy? When we talk about joy in normal life, it is usually accompanying something more special than just a walk on a nice day. We experience joy at a wedding or a birth, something that was lost being restored, or a long-desired healing for a person or a relationship miraculously taking place. Joy is wonderful. If you think about it, joy is most often talked about in the context of relationships, either new ones gained with birth and marriage, or restoration, healing for those we love, or a reconciliation.

Christian joy is about all of those things combined. In fact, salvation is described in the Bible as a birth, a marriage, a healing, a restoration, and a reconciliation all together! There are not enough ways to describe the amazing nature of what truly happens to us when we believe in Jesus Christ and trust Him to save us. God is telling us to look, look, see what is happening, be overjoyed. When we trust in Jesus, God says to us, just as he said to Jesus, “You are my beloved child; in you I am well pleased.”

This, from the God of the universe, the God who made every atom and designed every living thing. He says this of you if you believe and trust in Jesus’ death and resurrection on your behalf. Can you even fathom what an honor that is? This the personal love of a God who is eternal, who always has been and who always will be, and in comparison to whom the universe is small. This is the God whom we were made to love and enjoy forever. It is this lasting, personal, ever-filling relationship that we as humans were designed for, and the restoration of this relationship is the basis of deep abiding joy.

I hope you remember a time or times in your life when this kind of joy has been present, perhaps overwhelming? Many of you remember when you first believed, and the weight of guilt fell off, and all you knew was complete acceptance and joy in God’s presence. That kind of moment is a wonderful reminder of the reality of God’s work in our lives. It is a testimony of God’s work.

What else can we learn from the Bible about joy? Psalm 16 says, “In your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” In Galatians we learn that joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit. Joy is a mark of being in God’s presence, and joy is a mark of having the Holy Spirit dwelling in you. This is the God we serve, the God who brings joy. Not only that, but the joy He brings should be deep-abiding, and it should not change because of our circumstances, because God does not change, and He never leaves us.

In Romans it says that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. If nothing can separate us from the love of God, then nothing can separate us from the joy of His presence. He is with us even in the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23). In fact, joy should be a motivator in the midst of terrible times. Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus Himself endured death on the cross, for what? For the joy. The joy at doing the will of His Father and the joy of what that would accomplish; the joy of His relationship with His people. We can be a part of His joy. Joy doesn’t depart during hard times.

It is really important here to distinguish joy from happiness. We know that Jesus wasn’t happy in the Garden of Gethsemene waiting for His arrest. He was in anguish on the cross. As Christians, we can experience agonizing pain, heartbreak, and loss, and we don’t need to deny the existence of these things or put on a plastic smile. But in all of these trials we have access to God Himself. Often we think of God as having given us things like forgiveness and the hope of heaven. These are wonderful things, but God is not content with this—He wants to give us Himself. I heard a story once of a poverty-stricken old woman on her death bed whose words were, “All this and Christ, too.” “In Your presence is the fullness of joy.”

Christian joy is brought about by a restored relationship to God, being forgiven and brought into God’s presence where there is fullness of joy. You can’t get a fuller joy that this. It is a joy that runs deep. It will stay with you through thick and thin. But does it? We see examples of this miraculous joy in the apostles who rejoiced and sang while they were in prison. We see it in people like Corrie and Betsie ten Boom, the Dutch women who protected Jews and who thanked God for everything and were able to praise him even in a Nazi concentration camp.

But do we have this kind of joy? Slowly, without realizing it, we often lose that initial joy. We might get it back at intervals when God gets our attention with His love for us during a hard time, when He answers a prayer or something like that, but often the months or years in between are a slog with little joy. We notice the lack of joy and are quick to look for ways to fix it. If you are like me, you might look for a change in circumstances. You think it must be problems getting in the way. We might start feeling as though nothing would be wrong if weren’t for all the dumb things other people do, so we start to resent them as the cause of our joylessness.

Often it goes this way at church. We have lost our joy in God’s presence, so we start to focus on all the little things that bug us in a service or a church get-together. I have done this. I start noticing things I don’t like in worship songs or other mishaps in a service. If I am joyful, I usually forget it as fast as I notice it, or, if not, I at least can have a laugh. But if I am not joyful, I can begin to resent those things as messing things up my time, ruining my joy, making time with God difficult. But we know that nothing can make our time with God impossible, nothing can separate us from His love—future, past, angels, demons, death, danger, whatever—the Bible says so. Can a service with mishaps or your least favorite songs, or even, heaven forbid, poorly made tea at fellowship hour separate us from His love? Clearly not. But if little things that other people do fill us with angst and aggravation and we lose our joy, something has gone wrong. Those things didn’t cause us to lose our joy the presence of God. We lost it before that, and we replaced it with a fake, a "joy" that is really only moderate happiness in circumstances being just how we want them, which of course is rare.

The best marriage advice I have ever been given was this: If you do something wrong, if you have an argument or are unkind or unthoughtful or do anything that has upset your relationship with your spouse, make it right, right away, period. Don’t go to bed, don’t go to work, don’t let people into the house, until your relationship is restored and you can honestly say you are in good fellowship. This builds trust. You don’t have to worry that your spouse is going to work to vent about you. There is no doghouse. If you do this, then your spouse can trust that having a good relationship all the time is of first importance to you, and vice versa. The joy you experienced being with your spouse at the beginning will not continue if either of you start harboring resentment about little things that were never made right. This is how you keep a good marriage good, and this how you make it better. There are usually two categories of reasons for not enjoying being in the presence of your spouse: either he has wronged you, or you have wronged him, and his presence brings that guilt to mind, and you would rather it didn’t. Often it is both.

How does this connect to Christian joy? Deep-lasting joy is found in our relationship with God. If we lose the joy, that means something has gone wrong in that relationship. Just like in marriage, there are two ways to lose the joyful fellowship in God’s presence you had when you first believed. Believing that God has let you down in some way is the first option, and being uncomfortable in His presence because actually there are wrong things in your life is the second. In the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve disobeyed, the first thing they did when they heard God coming was hide. They lost their joy in His presence.

What does it look like to believe that God has wronged you or that He is unreliable? I think it is easy to not realize we are doing this. As Christians, we aren’t allowed to say God is wrong, except for in in our worst moments when nobody is looking! I grew up in a Christian home and knew all the right answers: of course God is good, of course He is powerful and knows everything, but I don’t like what is happening to me. Discontent raises its hackles in my soul. I don’t like my lot, the day is wet, I am behind on laundry, and I just spilled my coffee all over the only pair of clean trousers I had, and probably a small child will step in the puddle and start spreading it all over the house. I don’t feel like I am blaming God; I am just being human, right? Just feeling put upon and resenting my little world being jostled around.

In the Bible, it says that trials help us become mature and complete, not lacking anything. Often we forget God’s good purposes in our petty first-world trials the most, because with agonizing trials (illness, tragedy), we feel our helplessness more acutely and are more likely to cling to our loving God just like a child will cling to her parents when she is suffering pain. But with petty things, we often struggle to accept God’s place in it all. Urrg, my washing machine is leaking! (You know, that expensive thing that I can afford to use to wash our gazzilions of clothes with.) All those things that bother and annoy are opportunities, opportunities to grow, opportunities to believe God because He says He is using these things (it’s all part of the “all things” that He is working together for your good) for your maturity, and when you get the eternal perspective on your botherations, they are actually amazing opportunities to laugh! When we don’t trust that God is using our problems for our good, we are in a sense leveling an accusation at God of either neglect or incompetence.

Not long ago, I think it was the week before Christmas last year, we went for a family walk on Black Down, which we had never been to before. It was freezing and muddy, but we badly wanted air and to get out of the Christmas mayhem. It went pretty well at first, and we jollied the kids along to get them to quit complaining of the cold. Eventually they started to take an interest in the ice shards around the puddles, collecting them and running with ice in their pockets through clumps of gorse and heather.

There are lots of paths, and Daniel chose a loop. Up to a certain point I was perfectly confident, but then we started getting colder. I was certain the car park should be just over the next rise. It wasn’t. Then Anastasia went in a puddle and got her socks wet. She began to melt down. Reuben, my 3-year-old, starts to wail. ARE YOU SURE we are going in the right direction? We walk for another half mile carrying howling children. ARE YOU REALLY SURE? Yes. My husband is sure. I gritted my teeth and disbelieved my husband the rest of the way while carrying howling children. It turns out he was right. We got to the car park in the almost dark. I was totally fine while it was light and the kids were having fun, but I didn’t trust my husband’s sense of direction as the kids started up with miseries, the temperature dropped, and the walk got harder. As it happens, I had purchased him a compass for Christmas, for my own reassurance entirely. He probably doesn’t need it.

You can sympathize, I imagine, with my fears. If you are going to walk a mile in the cold carrying heavy children, you don’t want to discover that actually you have a forty-minute walk back in the other direction. If you doubt that a car is at the end of the trail, it will lead to a lot of worry and mental turmoil. It is really important for your state of mind that this path goes somewhere, that you are going to get to the car, and that beyond is home and hot chocolate! That knowledge makes the effort worth it.

The reason we often lose our joy because of our trials is that we don’t believe we are going in the right direction. We think because it’s hard we must have taken a wrong turning. We point out to God that we didn’t sign up for the icy winds part, and Lord where is the car? I need it to be here now! The solution to this doubt is remembering first that you are in the presence of God, He is the navigator, and then to plead like the man said to Jesus in the gospels, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”

Thankfully, our quavering doubtfulness and complaints do not affect God's reliability. It is not the quality of our faith that makes a difference to our destination. It is the quality of the One we trust. Just like my doubt of Daniel didn’t change the location of the car, thankfully! Being doubtful of God’s purposes doesn’t mean that we lose our glorious destination, but it does make the journey worse. It is possible for the journey to be a joyful one, even in the trouble and the hardship, yes, and even in the deepest pain, because God is with you, and your future is certain. Joy in hardship is a testimony to the reality of our certain hope and our present fullness now. In Romans it says, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” This kind of joy comes from faith, and this kind of faith is the evidence to a watching world of the things we don’t yet see.

So one way we lose our joy is not believing God in our circumstances. And now for the more uncomfortable reason - guilt. It is possible to be like a guilty child avoiding God’s presence. One of my sons always makes his guilt quite clear to me because he is the one hiding under the table. He knows that my presence is going to be uncomfortable after he has scribbled on the wall or hit his sister. He also knows that I won’t let him get away with it. In the same way, the Bible says that God disciplines those He loves, which means that when there is something in the life of His child that needs to change, God will not allow that child to experience joy in His presence until it does.

Now we can be joyful and imperfect, and God deals with things in our lives little by little. We don’t need to worry and dig around in our own hearts in the dark with a candle, feeling nebulously guilty. When God is shows us something that needs to change, it is like those moments when all of a sudden the sun glares through your window without warning and shows you, without any doubt whatsoever, all the smeary hand prints your children made. You know what to do. There are only two options: shut the curtains or clean the windows. (Actually, there is a third: sit there feeling depressed by the dirt and doing nothing.)

The key to keeping joy as a Christian when God shines His light on some area of life that you haven’t seen before is to say right away, “Yes, Lord, that’s a mess. Forgive me, and please clean it up!” That is what it means to confess our sins. It is simply saying, “Yes, Lord, it is what you call it; please take it away.” Confessing like this right away means your joy and fellowship with God is back all the way right away! Just like the marriage advice I was given. Restore the relationship now before anything else happens. (Sins don't travel in singles.) Don't sit staring at the dirt and feeling miserable, and don’t shut the curtains. God will clean it up, but you have to let Him.

I remember my grandfather speaking about this to students, and my father preaching about it. I knew the concept well, and I thought that knowing it somehow meant I was doing it. I was so wrong. I remember as a teenager the time when I first experienced the need to make things right really powerfully. My sister and I were very different, and she bothered me. I didn’t want to do stuff with her, her presence annoyed me all the time through no real fault of her own, but of course I was sure it must be her problem. This went on for a few years. I remember the time when God showed me with complete certainty that I was the problem, that I was unloving, unkind, selfish, and rude. The picture of myself that I hadn’t seen before was so overwhelming that I cried my eyes out and asked God and my sister to forgive me. I remember the feeling right after of the joy almost indescribable. I wasn’t stuck being like that horrible thing I just saw. It was all gone, and in its place was joy. I wanted to run around and make everyone see how wonderful it was.

I would like to say I learned my lesson perfectly, but of course I didn’t. So many times God has shone His light into some cupboard of my life, and it goes something like this:

“Look at that cupboard.”
“Lord, everyone has a cupboard like that.”
“It’s filthy and full of dirty rags and spiders.”
“I am sure it is not that bad.”
“It is.”
“They were my grandmother’s rags.”
Penetrating silence.
“I might need them later.”
“They need to go.”
(Loud whistling, plug ears, avoid going near cupboard.)

Really it’s all pride, pride getting in the way of joy. God doesn’t show us our faults to condemn us; He shows us because He loves us and wants us grow more and more like Him. We don’t have to do anything. He does it for us. Psalm 51 says, “Create it me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” It is God that does the cleaning and the renewing. Again it says, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation.” David wrote this prayer after he committed adultery and murder. He had lost his joy because he had damaged his relationship with God. He wants to be clean and to be restored to the joyful relationship he had before. When we know in our hearts that we have done something wrong, the temptation is to feel bad and try to forget about it, or to sort of acknowledge it but with plenty of excuses, but the road back to joy is to call it what God calls it, whatever it is, without excuse, first to God and then if necessary to others involved.

Don’t think that general confession at church is all that’s needed. Acknowledging you are generally not perfect doesn’t tell God whether you agree with Him about any specific wrong in your life. Let God wash you, and you will be restored to joy.

Christian joy is the wonderful result of a restored relationship, new birth, being in God’s presence, and having the Holy Spirit in you. Those who belong to God have access to this no matter what they are going through. You can lose it through doubting God’s good purposes in your circumstances and also through letting your wrongs pile up and not acknowledging them to God right away and asking His forgiveness specifically. Prioritize your relationship with God, trust Him, remind yourself of His kindness, and make things right.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Glory to God in the Highest

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father.” (Gal. 4:4-6)
The first Christmas happened so that we might receive the full right of sons. Thank God.

We talk about the shepherds and the wise men. They were the first human witnesses of this event “when the time had fully come.” There were other witnesses of this birth on Earth of the Son of God. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests’” (Luke 2:13-14). This was not a select choral group of twenty-four angels singing four-part harmony. This was a great company of the Heavenly Host. My guess is, ten thousand times ten thousand, or one hundred million. They were not singing; they were saying.

One angel announced His conception to Mary. One angel announced to Joseph. A few angels came to Him in His temptation. One angel came to Him in the garden, two angels showed up at His resurrection, and two angels at His ascension. No angels at His crucifixion. In Revelation 5:11-12, “thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand” angels were singing about Christ’s crucifixion.

The big events from the angels’ viewpoint were the birth of Christ and the death of Christ. Those two events drew the crowd. They were the miracles.
Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2)

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. (Col. 3:1-2)
Glory to God in the Highest.

Monday, December 10, 2018

The Guarded Heart

This is an article written by my wife Bessie for The Hammer magazine.

Most of my articles on the heart were written to stress the importance of keeping a right heart before God, because this is what our God is concerned about. We could continue this indefinitely because the Scriptures abound with such references. However, this month we shall consider His gracious provision for the “guarded” heart. He can make our heart a garrison.

This is found in a very familiar portion, Philippians 4:4-7: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

In this passage we are told to do several things: 1) rejoice, 2) be gentle, 3) reject all anxiety, and 4) present our prayers, petitions, and requests to God with thanksgiving.

Although it is our responsibility to do all these things, it does not mean it is our work. Rejoicing, gentleness, and thankfulness are all evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. It should be natural for us as Christians to produce such fruit. Anxiety, however, is the antithesis of thanksgiving. It can best be described as a fear, an uneasiness of mind, usually over an impending or anticipated ill. Anxiety can only be displaced by faith. The writer of Hebrews in 3:12 calls it a “sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” Faith is a fruit of the Spirit. It is our response to a faithful God. Romans 10:17 tells us, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”

When we respond in obedience and, by the grace of God, choose to rejoice, choose to be gentle, choose to reject all anxiety, and present our prayers to God with thanksgiving, then the “guarded” heart is promised. It is His gracious provision to keep us from the attacks of the enemy.

In the final analysis, the indwelling Christ produces in us, by His Spirit, all the spiritual benefits which are also required of us for the “guarded” heart.

Isn’t that just like our God? He only requires of us what He enables us to be by His Spirit. Someone has said, “God’s commands are His enabling.”

In very simple terms He tells us not to be anxious about anything, as He will enable us not to be anxious. He tells us to pray with thanksgiving, and He promises His peace as our garrison. Having the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds in our turbulent world will be a great witness to attract others to the Savior we love.

Friday, December 07, 2018

Morality in the Military: The Solution

We do not want to lower the moral standards just because the high moral standards are not being lived out. Neither do we wish to court-martial every violator. Therefore we must find a way to raise the practice of moral living. This will be doubly difficult when much of American society is living immorally and our people come out of that society. It used to be that the society was more moral, and the Navy was the place to take a moral man and make him unmoral. Now it is the other way around. We must take immoral men and try to make them moral. As a fighting unit, we do not care how they become moral, but the ways to do it are limited.

There are five basic ways to accomplish this:

1. Example of the officer and petty officer corps
2. Teaching
3. Requirement by force of moral leadership
4. Peer pressure
5. Religion

The military has been weak on all five of these. We should consider each in turn.

1. Example. All of us are examples. We have no choice. We are good ones or bad ones. It is easier to be a good professional example than it is to be a good moral example. We would like to think that if we knew the difference between right and wrong, of course we would choose the right and be able to perform it. In reality this is not true. We do know the difference between right and wrong. Even so, the majority will choose the wrong. A minority will choose the right, but still perform the wrong anyway. A smaller minority will choose the right and perform the right. There are three aspects of this.
• Knowing the difference between right and wrong. This can be inherent or taught.
• Choosing the right. This can be the result of a requirement, positive peer pressure, or religion.
• Being able to obey our own choice. After we know the difference and make the right choice, we need much support to perform the choice we make. This is where we need God's help. Before we can provide positive examples for the men, we need leaders who have mastered all three.
2. Teaching. The small minority who choose and perform the right should be selected as teachers of morality at professional schools for all rates and ranks. Preferably, these men should not be chaplains. The content of what is taught can be taken from our present regulations. We should not object to moral law like the Ten Commandments being taught. Jews, Christians, Muslims, and many others accept the moral standard even if they are not religious.

3. Requirement by force of moral leadership. I know of a young Army officer who took his unit from Korea (during the war) to Japan for R & R. When he returned with his men, none of them had gotten into trouble. I know of another young naval officer who had a detachment of twenty men for four months. He informed the chief (at the beginning of the four months) that he had been in the Navy for nine years and he had heard four-letter words every day for nine years. He told the chief to inform the men that there would be no profanity during the next four months. The officer heard no profanity during those months. These are examples of moral requirements by strong moral leaders. This was not accomplished by threatening.

Officers should therefore be graded by their moral fitness just as stringently as by their professional fitness.

4. Peer Pressure. As the first three begin to take effect, there will be an increasing number of men who will place pressure on the men who are speaking and acting in a profane way for the approval of their shipmates. When they do not get approval, their language will improve.

In recent years, peer pressure has been considered very negative and dangerous. When we think of teen-age street gangs or young kids starting to smoke or do drugs, it is mostly the result of peer pressure. However, there is a peer pressure that works in the opposite direction. "Without peer pressure, there would be no teams” (Lt. Col. Tom Hemingway USMC (Ret.), Spring Canyon Lodge, Colorado, November 15, 1993). We have thousands of sports teams that are held together by nothing more than positive peer pressure.

As a result of peer pressure and for the sake of "reputation" for years fighter pilots had to be "tigers" in the air and "tigers" on the beach. The latter included hard drinking, hard talking, and hard women, and ended up with the scandal at Tailhook. However, other nations do not all follow this pattern. Below is an example of a Japanese Navy fighter pilot ace, Sabero Sakai. This is a paragraph from his autobiography Samurai. "During my stay in China I had sent the better part of my salary home to the family. There was little use for money in that country. I never drank, or indeed, entertained any girls. Both were considered vices for fighter pilots, and I wished no criticism leveled at me" (Sabero Sakai, with Martin Cardin and Fred Saito, Samurai, 1957).

This was peer pressure, only it worked in a positive direction. The same thing can be done in the U.S. Navy. The immoral officer or petty officer should not be assigned to training billets, regardless of how proficient he is professionally. If we think that we cannot afford to do this, then we should test it for two years. We will find that it is well worth the trade. We will end up with moral professionals.

5. Religion. In many commands, chaplains are, 1) in the way, 2) a necessary evil, 3) an object of comic wit, 4) there to do unpleasant duties that line officers do not want to do, and 5) loaded down with dumb administrative duties. In most cases, chaplains are moral men. They are moral because of their religion. They are capable of communicating that religion (not just at church call). If they are given the opportunity to teach, one of the results will be a moral change (for the better) in the crew. This will be a change in what they are, as well as a change in what they do.

There is a difference between what a person is and what he does. What he is affects what he does. On November 15, 1993, Stephen Covey spoke as part of the Forrestal Lecture Series. Mr. Covey is the author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This text is used in the Naval Academy's Leadership and Law Department. At the end of the lecture Mr. Covey offered to field two questions. One of the two questions was offered by a midshipman. This midshipman had been trying to live by these seven habits for four years, as had a lot of other midshipmen. In his opinion, things were getting worse, not better. Morale was terrible and leadership was poor because people were discouraged after trying so hard. There was a murmur of agreement in the Brigade. The fifth point, religion, will make the difference in the people who "cannot” do what they know they should. Their being will change, and consequently, their morality will change also.

The midshipmen in this example were trying. At least some of the “triers” were not succeeding. Leadership is not like mathematics; giving the right answers on the exam does not mean that the person has the habits of leadership. In other words, teaching is not enough. We must also seek to change what the person is. Imposing habits from the outside only works with some people.

Chaplains should therefore be given a free hand. They should be given encouragement, and not just tolerated. In particular, chaplains who are serious about their religious beliefs should be actively encouraged. They represent life-changing, activist religion. We all know that the 1% to 10% of the crew who are serious religious officers and men are usually, 1. good officers and men, and, 2. moral leaders. I know of a situation on a submarine where the percentage of practicing Christians went from about one to ten percent of the crew within a period of two years. When one of the sailors involved in this finished his enlistment and was honorably discharged from the Navy, the CO (who was not a Christian), told the sailor that the moral tone of the entire crew had been transformed. In this regard, it would not be a mistake for us to study Cromwell's New Model Army.

Before we draw a conclusion, I would like to bring in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States and an interpretation that is seldom mentioned.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…

1. Congress is the only one that can violate the First Amendment. Congress is the only one that make laws. They are not allowed to make a State church as in European countries.

2. Congress is not allowed to prohibit the "free exercise" of religion. A major free exercise of religion is evangelism or making converts or proselytizing. It is the right of every citizen to proselyte or be proselytized. If he is a Christian, he is under God's commandment to "make disciples."

Not only should chaplains be given a free hand but every other religious person should also be given a free hand. If he is a Christian he has been morally changed. We find this moral change described in the New Testament.
The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:19-23)

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6:9-11)
There is a moral change in a person when he becomes a Christian, the kind of moral change that we want in the military establishment. This change only happens "in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." The Christian should be given freedom to pass this on. Ministries like The Navigators, Campus Crusade for Christ, Overseas Christian Service Men's Centers, Christian Military Fellowship, The Officers' Christian Fellowship and Missions to Military Inc. should be encouraged. This "free hand" should not be allowed if it interferes with the good order and discipline and operation of any military unit. Some of these "Christians" may not be good examples; they may take advantage of the freedom to the detriment of the operational readiness of the unit.

Conclusion

We would be better off with a relatively small Naval Force that is moral than a large Naval Force that is immoral. In time of war, the expansion would come under the influence of the moral men already in uniform. In such a time of crisis we would learn that morality is, indeed, a military necessity.

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Morality in the Military: Whose Problem?

Consider the moral responsibility of the captain. The higher the moral character of a society, whether it be shipboard, or a city, or a nation, the lower the crime rate will be in that society. The lower the moral state, the higher the crime rate will be, along with a greater difficulty in enforcing the criminal code.

This responsibility of the captain is not my opinion; it is the current position of the Navy. Of first importance is the article in the U.S. Navy Regulations which places the commanding officer as the chief inspector of virtue or the lack of it.
1102. Requirement of Exemplary Conduct.
All commanding officers and others in authority in the naval service are required to show in themselves a good example of virtue, honor, patriotism, and subordination; to be vigilant in inspecting the conduct of all persons who are placed under their command; to guard against and suppress all dissolute and immoral practices and to correct, according to the laws and regulations of the Navy, all persons who are guilty of them, and to take all necessary and proper measures, under the laws, regulation, and customs of the naval service, to promote and safeguard the morals, the physical well-being, and the general welfare of the officers and enlisted persons under their command or charge (IOUSC5947) [italics are mine].
The commanding officer has in this a great challenge to his leadership. But the task is important, as one training manual recognizes:
The moral of this chapter is that when people are moral, the moral power that binds them together and fits them for action is given its main chance for success.

There should, therefore, be no confusion about how the word is being used. We are speaking both of training morals for everyday living and of moral training that will harden the will of a fighting body. One moment's reflection will show why they need not be considered separately. American Armed Force's doctrine states that when people conduct lives built on high moral standards and physical fitness, they tend to develop qualities that produce inspired leadership and discipline. It is not a new notion; it can be found in any great military force in the past. It was not developed to gratify clergy or reassure parents. That is important, but the fundamental idea is that it works!

The doctrine comes from the nation's experiences in war and what the Armed Forces learned by measuring their own services. Happily, the facts are consistent with a common-sense evaluation of the case.

Let's figure it out. The hedonist cry of "All things in excess! Moderation is for monks!" may work for pleasure chasers, but not for the Armed Forces. To be temperate in all things, to be content and to refrain from loose living of any sort are acts of will. They require self-denial and forgoing what may be more momentarily attractive in favor of things that should be done. Some individuals are never tempted to digress morally, but the rest of us are all too human. What we renounce in the name of self-discipline, sometimes at the cost of considerable inner stress, we endeavor to compensate for by the gain in personal character. It isn't easy, but only the most cynical observers deny its worth.

The strength of will that enables a person to lead a clean life is no different from the strength of purpose that equips that person to follow a hard line of duty. They go hand in hand, and both are necessary. When strength of purpose or will fails, it is possible still to find first-class fighters, but not officers. Vices or weaknesses are not things to be proud of, but to be overcome. The nature of the beast is that we all have weaknesses or vices. It's called being human. As Seneca said about Hannibal, "He conquered by weapons, but was conquered by his vices.” (The Armed Forces Officer, pages 61-62)

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Morality in the Military: The Problem of Inconsistency

In OPNAVINST3120.32B, we see a few other, clear prohibitions.
Article 510.46 Profane language. No person will use profane, obscene, or vulgar words or gestures on board a naval unit.
Article 510.9 Card Games and Gambling. No person will: Gamble for money with playing cards, dice, or other apparatus or methods on board naval units.
If you have been been aboard U.S. Navy ships, you have probably encountered profanity, much of it in excess, by both the officers and enlisted men. We have been aboard ships which have had penny-ante gambling in the wardroom and high-stakes gambling on the mess decks. We have been aboard ships where officers and men frequented houses of prostitution (though attending separate houses).

I was once in the presence of a QM3 (who was on a fast attack submarine) and an admiral. The admiral asked the quartermaster how things were on the boat. The sailor responded that things were okay except for the drugs. The admiral got very upset and said firmly, very strongly, that there were no drugs on his submarines.

I mention these things to illustrate the disparity between regulations and practice. Are the regulations for show - as in many administrative inspections, where the logs are gundecked?

If we have no intention or no ability to bring the conduct of the crew into line with the requirements of OPNAV3120.32B, U.S. Navy Regulations, and the UCMJ, then we should change the rules to fit the situation. Refusal to do so merely encourages contempt for the regulations.

Two more specific laws, and one general law from the UCMJ, make the same point.
920 Art. 120 Rape and Carnal Knowledge
a. Any person subject to this chapter who commits an act of sexual intercourse with a female not his wife, by force and not her consent, is guilty of rape and shall be punished by death or such other punishment as a court-martial may direct.
925. Art. 125 Sodomy a. Any person subject to this chapter who engages in unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy. Penetration, however slight, is sufficient to complete the offence.
b. Any person found guilty of sodomy shall be punished as a court martial may direct.
933. Art. Conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman. Any commissioned officer, cadet, or midshipman who is convicted of conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
With regard to this last regulation, the reason for the honor concept at the Naval Academy (begun in 1950-51) was to increase the moral character of the Brigade and cut down playing "cops and robbers" with the midshipmen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Morality and Morale

There is a common saying that "you cannot legislate morality." And yet we do legislate morality all the time. We should legislate it, and when we do, it works. We have laws against stealing, all kinds, and murder, all kinds. We have laws against drunk drivers, but not against drunks. In that case, we are selective, distinguishing between a sin and a crime. We have laws against perjury, but not against other forms of lying. Again, we are selective. However, we are legislating morality.

Such legislation does not determine morality; the legislation just makes a civil law out of an intrinsic moral law that we should already know and recognize. I am speaking in legal terms, not religious terms.

The Navy has some truisms, one of them being "a taut ship is a happy ship." A taut ship, of course, does not mean an over-trained, workaholic ship. Nor does it mean a "chicken" ship. It simply means a ship with laws, the infractions of which are justly and quickly punished.

What are these laws? In written law, there is the Constitution of the United States, and its interpretation by Federal Courts. Then there are the laws of the United States and of the respective states and cities. After that (for the Navy), there is the UCMJ, Navy Regulations, and finally the laws and regulations of any single unit, ship, squadron, or station.

Within this hierarchy of governments, there are always two types of laws.

1. Malum in se - behavior which is evil in itself.
2. Malum prohibitum - something which is "evil" simply because it has been prohibited.

An example of the first is murder. All states have laws against murder. Making the law did not make murder evil. Murder was already evil; that's why the law was made.

An example of the second is the 55-mph speed limit. Exceeding 55 miles per hour is not intrinsically evil. It is only "evil" because the law declares it so.

In our home, we also had two kinds of rules for our children - God's rules and house rules. Lying was a violation of God's rules. Jumping on the couch was a violation of house rules.

With this distinction in mind, we in the armed forces should approach the problem three ways:

1. Law is concerned with malum in se and malum prohibitum.
2. Moral teaching and example are concerned with malum in se.
3. Morale is concerned with malum prohibitum.

The law that prohibited homosexuals in the Armed Forces was malum prohibitum. It was wrong because we said so. That is different from the practice of homosexuality, which is malum in se. Both kinds of law are legitimate. We should, however, recognize the differences between them.

To illustrate, the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution introduced the prohibition of alcohol. The Volstead Act was passed in 1919 to help enforce this amendment. As a result of this new national law, the Secretary of the Navy, Josephus Daniels, put the word out to remove all alcoholic beverages from ships at sea. This was a clear case of malum prohibitum. It was wrong to drink at sea because we said so.

When the twenty-first amendment was passed in 1933, repealing the eighteenth amendment and making alcohol legal again, the Navy decided to keep prohibition at sea. We'd had thirteen years with no liquor aboard ship and had found out that we had a better-operating Navy. This prohibition is still found in U.S. Navy Regulations, Article 1150.

[to be continued]