‘True’ Sacrifice [v98]

APRIL 2007

THE TRUE MEANING OF SACRIFICE: I’ve got to believe that most of us have some kind of ‘personal’ connection with the troops in Iraq—whether family, friend or acquaintance—and the tumult of this present crisis has produced many responses: debate, protest, fear, anxiety, and even anger. But, even in troubled times like these, I believe we can gain a deeper understanding of the TRUE MEANING of sacrifice.

Hopefully we can all consider the price paid now by the lonely families separated for many months and many miles, and the young soldiers who are bravely fighting for their country—as well as by those we never knew in the past who died defending our and other countries’ freedom. Though I try, having never been closely involved or even ‘related’ to the terrible destruction war brings, it is very hard to truly understand the deep emotional conviction and demands of their sacrifice.

War shakes a nation to its very core. In 1879, General William T. Sherman spoke out against glorifying war at Michigan Military Academy. He said, “War is at best barbarism. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation. War is hell!”

Most veterans emphatically agree with this sentiment, but recognize the power of evil. Many of our wars have been rooted in this struggle between good and evil. For example, we can certainly see a difference in objectives between Allied forces and Axis powers during World War II. The Axis countries sought world dominance, practiced racial discrimination, and murdered millions of their own “unwanted” people. This is not to say Allied soldiers did no evil, nor does it suppose every soldier in the Axis armies was wicked. The overall characterization of the two forces, however, was one of good and evil.

I submit that the God of the Bible uses a ‘selected’ group(s) to defeat the evil caused by others—and He has charged governments with the responsibility to bring His justice upon wrongdoers through the exercise of police, judicial, and military powers—to bring true LIBERATION.

The Bible records certain occasions that God appeared to men and instructed them to fight battles. God trained, directed, and helped them, thereby ensuring victory. Many examples are presented which God used combat to accomplish His purposes. Joshua, Gideon, Saul, and David. were all soldiers from Israel that were “God’s warriors.” But God also commanded and helped soldiers from other nations, including Nebuchadnezzar and Cyrus. God has trained warriors and assisted them in accomplishing His purpose.

The blessings of an orderly and peaceful society are proportional to the degree to which governments properly wield this power. Governments that refuse the power—or that abuse it—will eventually be the recipient of God’s wrath. Either they become the means by which evil is visited upon His children or they fail to prevent the visitation of evil as perpetrated by others. In the Bible, God has clearly commanded governments to act as His agents in the earth to punish wrongdoers—even with death—and thwart the military objectives of evil rulers. Failing to do so is a sure way to bring down God’s judgment upon a nation.

There is a passage in the Bible that unequivocally establishes the requirement that human governments exercise the death penalty: “It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” [Deuteronomy 9:5].

It seems to me that there are two major areas which we humans have a difficult time reconciling —God’s love vs. God’s righteousness. God is loving, but love requires justice. Just as I discipline my children when they disobey, God disciplines me if I don’t meet His requirements. The problem for us is that we cannot keep all of God’s laws because of our pride and self-centeredness. The way I read it, God would have been completely just and loving in destroying all of us for our disobedience to Him. It is only through His extraordinary love, grace and mercy that we are allowed to choose to obey Him or not.

In order to maintain His righteousness, God must judge sin—everything that goes against His character. If God let everyone into Heaven, then He would have to allow in people such as Stalin and Hitler. Obviously, heaven would not be a good place to be with the likes of those people there. Therefore, God’s righteousness requires the judgment of all sin. Only those people who agree with God and are willing to allow themselves to be changed into sinless beings can enter into Heaven.

From a human point of view, the development of the “just war theory” to exclude retribution, strikes me as sound from a Biblical viewpoint. An appropriate regard for the sanctity of human life and the inherent dignity of the human person excludes killing or injuring even wrongdoers—not to mention noncombatants who always suffer as a consequence of war—except where it is necessary to defend potential victims of aggression. Sometimes going to war is the ‘charitable’ thing to do.

I can’t believe that anyone doubts that Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant who engaged in aggression against his neighbors and even used chemical and biological weapons against his political opponents and innocent people within his own country. He had a consistent record of defying U.N. mandates and the history of weapons inspections in Iraq was horrendous. I believe that had Saddam not been removed from power, he would have obtained nuclear weapons and used them, or threaten to use them as a part of a strategy of extorting concessions from his victims.

I believe that, from a Christian point of view, we have a totally different understanding of this issue. We don’t see war with Iraq as aggression or even as primarily a military action. We don’t see it as conquering or defending territory. Rather it is, as Thomas Aquinas put it, an act of “Christian love.” Out of love of neighbor, we are even willing to use arms to protect the innocent. Christian charity will not look the other way when innocent people are being put in grave danger.

We need to be clear that terrorism, whether religiously, politically, or ideologically motivated, begins as a mindset—what the Bible calls a “thought of the heart.” In this case, alienated persons are driven by bitterness at real or fancied wrongs, by some form of racial or class hatred, and by utopian dreams of better things after the present order has been smashed. This is an explosive mix.

Adrian Rodgers said it well: “The heart of the human problem is the problem of the human heart.”

In my view, America’s war aim is not just retributive justice (though it certainly is that, as far as the terrorists are concerned). It is primarily to prevent such attacks in the future by eliminating their source. War is always evil, but in our nightmare scenario, where more terrorism as a follow-up is confidently promised, a war of suppression appears to most as the lesser evil. However burdensome, it is surely the best and only rational course.

Even Jesus, during His life and ministry here on Earth, had opportunities to declare military action ‘off-limits’. To the woman caught in adultery, He said, “Go and sin no more.” He could have given these same instructions to the Roman centurion, cited in chapter eight the Gospel of Matthew, but He didn’t. If Jesus wanted to condemn the profession of arms, this encounter provided an ideal opportunity. Instead, He commended the Roman soldier for his faith—and if you believe Jesus is God incarnate, then I’ve got to believe that He was trying to instruct us on how to properly handle these situations.

I have heard of stories of soldiers that, with compete disregard for their own security, assisted several others, despite heavy fire, to safety—with some being wounded and unable to continue—and others actually losing their own life while saving another.

I am deeply moved by such sacrifice—saving one’s life—just as many soldiers have done in the past, and I’m sure will do for their buddies during the Iraq conflict. Even how much this would mean to me personally—to have been saved from certain death—it makes me wonder about the depth of love I should feel toward Jesus, who paid a far greater price to save my, and your soul. NO ONE HAS EVER SACRIFICED SO MUCH!

The implications of this sacrifice must be considered honestly. The Bible says that everything depends on it. Here is what the Apostle Paul said:

[God] “commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” [Acts 17:30-31].

According to the Bible, the eternal destiny of every human is at stake. Because of what Jesus did, each of us has two choices. We can live forever under God’s blessing in Heaven, or we can be separated from Him eternally in the torment of hell. It all depends on our response to Jesus’ resurrection.

Our destiny is in God’s hands. He alone must be satisfied. Not scientists. Not philosophers. Not educators. Not even our commanding officer. That’s why what you believe about the resurrection is a matter of eternal life or eternal death!

A story is told about a renowned preacher who lost his young wife. In grief, his little daughter came to him and asked a question that completely silenced him. She wanted to know why her mommy had to die if Jesus had already died for her. Her father asked if he could have some time to think of an answer that would help her. On the day of the funeral, they were driving to the cemetery when a large tractor trailer drove beside them casting a massive shadow on the sidewalk. The father looked at his daughter and asked, “Honey, if you had to be run over today, would you rather be run over by that truck or its shadow?” She responded thoughtfully, “The shadow would be better because it wouldn’t hurt as much.” He paused and answered her gently, “That is what Jesus did for us when he died on the Cross. The truck of God’s judgment went over Him. Only the shadow of death goes over us now.”

The forgiveness of God is free but is not cheap. It cost Jesus everything, and yet he freely offered His life to purchase our salvation. He took our place on the Cross and bridged the chasm between God and humanity. Faith in Him means not only believing the truth of His message, His death, and resurrection, but also putting our whole trust in Him—throwing ourselves upon His UNSHAKABLE SACRIFICE. Faith means putting all our confidence in Christ himself and recognizing that when we trust Him, He can bear all our weight—for indeed, He bore the weight of death. Jesus never shrank back from disgrace or humiliation for you and for me. He bore the heavy burden of our sin and death so that we did not have to. As Peter put it, “For Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God” [1 Peter 3:18].

The good news about the Cross of Christ is that it was designed by God to impact us and draw us back to Him. Jesus promised that His death would draw people to himself. The moral power of the Cross is overwhelming when truly understood–that the amazing kindness of God toward undeserving people would lead us to repentance, the love of God would move and humble us, the unspeakable sacrifice of Christ would lead us to obey Him, and we would find joy and peace beyond imagination in relationship to God. Because Christ came as OUR SUBSTITUTE, we can be ‘liberated’ from the fear of death or judgment, and can experience life in every way that God intended [John 10:10].

God’s love, generosity, and mercy are the basis of His atonement because mercy has always been the great principle of His government. Blaise Pascal puts it beautifully: “Jesus is a God we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” When we have humbled ourselves before Him, the inner transformation that Christ wants to work in our lives can begin. True spiritual hope is now available.

Jesus points us to our true need, bringing us to see the great gulf between God and ourselves, leading us to an awareness of the problem and the devastating cost of sin. And then He leads us to the Cross and shows us He has done what we cannot. As it is written, “[H]e became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” [Hebrews 5:9].

The only question that remains is: Will we throw down our arms? After all Christ has done for us through His agony on the cross, will we accept the peace ‘terms’? Our ‘substitute’ wants to be our ‘liberator’!

Especially during this ‘celebration’ of Easter, I encourage you to pray for Jesus to ‘liberate’ your heart—because if there is ever going to be peace in this world, it will only come when peace has made a ‘home’ inside each one of us.

Jesus is willing to come and live in your ‘heart’ if you are willing to repent of your sins and place your trust in Him. He died as the PERFECT SACRIFICE FOR YOU and all the sins of the world.

So, take this to heart—“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” [John 3:16].

[Excerpts from: Charles Colson; Robert P. George; Rev. Kit Carlson ; Col. Rick Bereit; Joe Boot]

Blessings….
Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v98) for APRIL 2007

If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@ameritech.net

Thanks to:

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THE SACRIFICE

The soldier slides his sword into its sheath
Having completed the missions given to him
Grateful to be one of the few men to leave
After hanging his life on war’s proverbial limb

He has done his duty…he has given his all
Then to country, home and hearth he returns
But he can not read the writing on the wall
That the heat of battle eternally burns

He can put his trust in no one
For the enemy still eats at his soul
Caught in a hell with nowhere to run
Believing nothing will make him whole

This sacrificed soldier will always bleed
Whipped and tortured by the thorns of war
Rejected and scorned by those he freed
Stoned for his deeds on a foreign shore

The blood on his hands refuses to dry
A constant reminder of where he has been
His will to survive fights with his wish to die
In this carnal world of throw-away men

He has seen too much…killed too many
Propelling his god just beyond his reach
Searching for life’s true meaning, if any
Soul swaying, fore’er standing in the breach

Time proves only the war still remains
Its hands stirring the grains of orange dust
An endless tune resounding in horrific strains
Its death knell extolling the demise of the just

A prisoner of war is this sacrificed man
Dwelling in a camp of suffering and pain
His soul at the mercy of the great I Am
Caught in a world where nightmares reign

Will he ever find peace here on this earth
Before death’s fingers encircle his throat
Or will peace remain just beyond his girth
Abandoning him eternally to a land remote

Will no one heed the gutteral cries
Of this bleeding soldier swaying in the wind
Seeing his own soul burning in demonic eyes
Fighting eternal battles which refuse to end

No greater love has any man
Than to offer his life for a friend
Some do not fully understand
The sacrifice made in the end
[Nancy L. Meek]

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Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction…The chain reaction of evil—hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars —must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
[Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.]

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THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LENT
Frankly, there cannot be a better emphasis than for all of us to focus on our relationship with Jesus. Lent is a time to get in touch with that part of us that is broken and needs healing. It is a season to be able to openly acknowledge our deep desire for transformation and Christlikeness—a desire to be more like Jesus.

Lighter of lights — illumine us
Fire of fires — thaw us
Power of powers — strengthen us
Lover of lovers — warm us
Teller of tales — encourage us
Destroyer of darkness — save us
Touchstone of truth — examine us
Summoner of stars — amaze us
Wellspring of wisdom — weather us
Water of life — refresh us
Dancer of days — delight in us
Breath of the universe — bless us
[Ruth Burgess]

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When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.  [Jimi Hendrix (Yes, the rock star!)]

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BILBO’S LAST POEM

Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.

Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.

Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!
[J. R. R. Tolkien]

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DEEP THOUGHT:
Kites rise highest against the wind—not with it.  [Sir Winston Churchill]

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Hope you enjoyed some of these insights—share them with your friends and colleagues—so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from, and more to share with!

Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet”  [Matthew 24:6].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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