Giving a commitment to follow Jesus involves turning away from one’s past and embracing the promise of redemption through Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross. You pursue holiness and conformity to the message and lifestyle he demonstrated for us. You understand that it is through His pardoning of our sins that we are able to stand blameless before a Holy God. We have no ability to cleanse ourselves from the ugliness and corrosion of this world on our own. He cleanses and then empowers us to overcome as we rely on Him and the power of the Holy Spirit to transform and renew us day by day.
Yesterday, we returned to visit the congregation that we met in when I was a GI and Renée was a high school student. It was a bit of a time warp and also a bit of a reckoning on how far we have traveled on this journey of faith. The message was one we had heard 30 years ago and the cultural influence was also dated. Although our faith sprang from that soil, it could not grow there now. There were political statements made that we didn’t agree with and mocking of Covid19 that was troubling as well. Add to that a pistol packing pastor and we all knew that we were making our only and possibly final visit amongst them.
An Indian missionary penned the hymn “I have decided to follow Jesus” which concludes with the line “no turning back.” I don’t think we can return to where we once were after committing to follow Jesus. We aren’t who we once were and cannot turn back the clock to do what we once did. Growth involves shedding of old ways and conforming to the image of the Savior.
“And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].” Romans 12:2 AMP
When it comes to military service to this country, there is a significant heritage in our family. I was told growing up that on my mother’s side, I descended from John Paul Jones, father of America’s navy. Closer to my generation was my father and siblings service to our country.
My Uncle Jim served in the US Coast Guard while my Uncle Bill, Harry, Ray and Ed all served in the US Navy. My father chose to join the US Marines straight out of high school. He met my mother while stationed in San Diego and spent a year of my early life in Vietnam at Khe San during the Tet Offensive. He was reassigned to Barstow, CA where he exited the service and raised my brothers and I.
I chose to enlist in the US Army at 19 years of age to escape Barstow only to return twice to train at nearby Ft Irwin National Training Center. I also participated in the Cold War exercise REFORGER(Return of Forces to Germany) in 1987 to keep East Germany and the Warsaw Pact at bay. My younger brother would follow Uncle Jim into the Coast Guard and served 10 years while I left the Army after only 4 years to pursue ministry. Later in life, he joined the Oregon Air Guard as well.
Additionally, I would meet and marry an Army brat whose father retired from the Army and was a member of rival unit where I was stationed at Ft Hood, TX. My best friend Jim enlisted in the Navy serving 30 years and retiring as a Command Master Chief.
Many of us have taken the oath pledging our lives to the defense and protection of our countrymen. Serving the United States of America is our heritage!
On November 7th, the election of Joe Biden as the next president of the United States was called by all major news outlets after it became clear he would secure the electoral votes necessary to be declared President-Elect. This signaled an end to the term of one of the biggest bullies to ever hold the office. This person denigrated so many people and mocked those that opposed him. He attacked anyone who dare to question his lack of leadership and even used the military to gas peaceful protesters to stage a photo op where he awkwardly held a Bible in front of a church he did not attend to pander to people of faith.
I have never liked bullies and have taken a stand against them many times in my life. I took on the biggest kid in my elementary school when he knocked my friend’s mouth into a water fountain. I cornered a kid who had been stealing my younger brother’s lunch money and ensured that stopped. Later as a teacher, I called out students who caused a boy with a learning disability to break into tears when they placed a lock on his locker. I also walked my son to the house of a neighborhood kid that threatened him with a knife to confront him in front of his parents.
The Bible is clear on how we are to treat others. The golden rule in Matthew 7:12 says “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (NKJV) The defeat of someone who in no way exhibited concern and kindness toward others has been a reason to rejoice for many. Sadly, there are many in the church that are mourning it. The character of our nation’s leader matters as many said during the term of his predecessor who committed infidelity while in office.
I have been a Republican since I began voting yet I have not voted for their candidate in several elections. That doesn’t mean I have voted for the Democrat candidate either. My faith informs who I vote for or who I don’t vote for. We are in the world, but not of the world. Christ said as much before Pilate after his arrest. People of faith should participate in elections, but never compromise on the standards heaven calls us to hold.
I hope and pray the incoming President will restore civility and kindness to the highest office that have been sorely lacking the last four years. I may not agree with every policy he implements, but I will welcome a change in tone and a departure from bullying.
I am a walking oxymoron. I don’t fit into others’ preconceived idea of what it means to be a Christian in the United States of America. Allow me to provide some background before addressing the crux of this post.
I came to faith in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour while serving in the US Army at Fort Greely, Alaska. After leaving the service and marrying my Army-brat bride, we attended a multi-denominational Charismatic Bible school in a predominantly African-American neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. We graduated with a Diploma of Practical Theology which later converted to an Associates degree. As a couple, we served as youth pastors in a non-Denominational church in a small white community outside of Ft. Worth, Texas. That church was highly involved in local and state politics.
Departing there with some GI bill money expiring soon, I returned to school at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a private Charismatic school with a great degree of cultural and racial diversity compared to the small town we had just left. I graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelors of Arts. My major was Church Ministries: Pastoral and minors in Church History & Systematic Theology.
I decided to pursue a Masters of Divinity degree at Ashbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. It was a Methodist school that aligned itself with the conservative wing of that denomination. While attending, we joined a church plant out of World Harvest Church. We began helping in Children’s church at Bethel Harvest Church in Lexington, Kentucky. I dropped out of seminary after a family illness and the financial stress seminary placed on my family. Eventually, we would lead two kid’s church services as well as my being the TV/Radio editor for the church.
We relocated back to my home state of California eventually attending the local Assembly of God congregation. While my wife worked in the nursery, I began teaching the Adult Sunday School class and taught an occasional Sunday or Wednesday night service. My wife would eventually become the Children’s church director and supervisor of the food pantry outreach on Fridays.
All of this is shared, not to inflate myself over others, but rather to demonstrate our participation in the body of Christ. We have been in the trenches and have taught believers from the cradle to the grave. I have gone to school for theology and have done practical ministry as well.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the Roman church, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” I see many believers in America ascribing allegiance to things of this world over the precepts of Christ. Some of the things which have contaminated the Christian faith in America and are cultural residue are guns, Republican devotion, personal rights over community concerns, and neglect of those suffering injustices.
The arming of Christians and their vapid defense of having firearms is in direct contradiction to the gospel. Jesus came to give hope and admonished Peter for taking up a sword at his arrest. A painting of our savior brandishing a firearm or assault weapon has no place in our places of worship yet many do bring firearms to worship regularly. We are to reflect His image to a hurting world, but what do we show them when we carry weapons of execution instead of extending arms open for embrace.
Devotion to the Republican party has weakened Christian impact on those around them. I am Pro-Life, but I am also Pro-Love, and Pro-Character. The current leadership of the Republican party lacks the compassion/character of our Savior and denigrates people regularly. They mock and instill fear as a way of securing votes. The current resident of the White House smiled while awkwardly holding a Bible after gassing protesters calling for an end to racial inequality.
The pandemic of Covid 19 has brought out a level of selfishness among Christians in America that is also astonishing. The Golden rule given by our Savior states “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Wearing a mask has become too much to ask for many believers. We want it our way instead of being selfless and sacrificing for the well being of others.
Finally, the continued disregard for the ongoing, neverending suffering of injustices by those whose skin color is not white is not a cause of concern for far too many American Christians. They get upset when someone says “Black Lives Matter” and respond with “All Lives Matter.” Jesus told of the shepherd who left the 99, to go and save the one. Nobody says all don’t matter, but people of color are hurting and affirming they matter should not offend. He gave all for all. Their pain is His pain and thereby, my pain too.
Lord, break the church in America free from the cultural bondage it has so willingly embraced. Help it to be a place of love, acceptance and caring for a hurting and needy world. May we once again be a beacon in the darkness. Amen.
Well the holidays came and went at our home pretty quietly. Renee and I spent the holiday as a couple minus our son for the first time in his life. He stayed at the LA Dream Center to allow many of the other interns a chance to visit their families. We missed him, but did call him later in the day. It is always good to talk to him on the phone as we are usually exchanging brief e-mails. He still loves what he is doing there. So much so that he applied for and was accepted into the one year internship program which will start at the end of his 4 month internship the last week of January. He was granted a $600 scholarship, but still needs to raise the remaining $900 to cover his room and board for the year. Several family members and friends have already donated to help him. If you want to help, just contact us and we can make sure he gets any donations.
On New Year’s Eve, my truck refused to start when we were headed to church. We had it taken to the shop the next day to have a fuse and relay replaced. The following Friday, it refused to start again and had it taken back to the shop. They determined that the PCM(Power Control Module) had a short and needed to be replaced. Due to it being a special order part, it is still in the shop as of this writing. Monday morning there was some seepage coming out of the trap in the back yard. I ran a snake up into the house and down into the septic tank to no avail. My next thought was to check to see if the line had disconnected from the tank as this occurred when we first moved in due to settling of the dirt around the tank. After digging down to the line and following it to the tank, I discovered no leakage or disconnection. So I set to digging up the tank. I found the first of two covers immediately as it was just past the junction. I unearthed it and called for a truck to come pump the tank. While waiting for the truck, Renee and I attempted to unearth the second cover. Three hours and a twelve foot trench later we gave up finding it. We decided to let the septic guys dig it up and pay the extra charge. They used a probe and found that the tank was installed at a 15 degree angle meaning we missed finding it by a mere 3 feet. The guys took care of the tank and we proceeded to fill in the hole/trench we had dug since they filled in the one they dug.
I hope your year hasn’t had as interesting a start as ours has. If so, don’t lose heart. The greater the opposition, the greater the victory. Challenges may come, but they don’t determine the final outcome. Hope each of you have a great 2012 and that you overcome any and every challenge that comes your way.
Several years ago, Jesse related to his mom that he dreamed of openning a rescue mission and soup kitchen in the big city. This morning, we dropped him and two pieces of luggage off at the LA Dream Center where he will begin chasing that dream. He will begin a four month internship with the option of extending his stay after the four months are completed. We were introduced to his supervisor and learned a little bit about his initial responsibilities. He will be working for the kitchen and will be making runs to local grocery stores to retrieve food that will be used on site or redistributed to families that have no food for their children. He will also be working with feeding the homeless on skid row.
We helped him take his luggage to the room he will be sharing with another intern arriving today. They will both go through orientation before beginning work as part of the Dream Center. We exchanged a few hugs and left him to do the work that the Lord has laid on his heart. It is odd to come home and know that he isn’t living under our roof for at least the next four months and possibly more. You pray your child finds something that will ignite their heart and inspire them to greatness. We have done our part for now and we will see where his destiny carries him going forward. My lovely wife dedicated 18 years of raising him, training him and even homeschooling him as he grew. We shed a few tears upon returning home, not because we don’t want him to chase his dream, but because a chapter in his life and ours has closed. He launches out to let down his nets for a catch and we find ourselves with an empty nest.
If you would like to support him in his ministry, he has put together a sponsorship letter explaining how you may contribute to the great work he will be doing with the LA Dream Center. We will update you on his many exploits going forward and ask your prayers for him and us as we go through this transitional time in our lives.
Unlike most the world, I wasn’t impacted by the events of 9/11/2001 immediately upon hearing and seeing the events taking place in New York, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. A few days prior, I received a call from my mom that my father was in dire health after suffering a stroke. I withdrew from seminary in Kentucky and on the night of 9/10/2001, I loaded my family into the car and we headed for Florida not knowing when or if I would return to school. We drove through the night arriving around 4 am in Lakeland, FL.
We awoke a few hours later to see the horrible scenes of the Twin Towers unfolding on TV. My mind, however, was on racing to hospital to see my father. We arrived to find him completely paralyzed on the left side and unable to do much as he was left handed. His mind was sharp, but his body wasn’t cooperating. I watched with him on the hospital TV as the towers fell and I had to explain to him it wasn’t a movie. My brother was across the country unable to come because of flights everywhere being grounded. I spent the next couple days at the hospital helping dad to eat and trying to get him transferred to an agressive stroke rehabilitation facility. The doctor was concerned about blood on his brain and recommended surgery to relieve the pressure, but offered no hope the paralysis would end. Dad agreed and underwent surgery as we and our church family in Kentucky prayed. Miraculously, dad began moving his left arm in the recovery room and would walk out of the hospital on his own power a few days later.
That horrible day will always remind me of my father as my emotions were so wrapped up in caring for him at the hospital. I didn’t feel the impact of the tragedy that befell our nation until months later when watching a TV special about what took place. Today, as I listen to names being read, I remember my father who left us on 9/17/2009 and the loss of so many that fateful day when horrible men with horrible thoughts took so many from their families. Time does heal wounds, but scars remind us of pain once incurred. Tears fill my eyes and the memory of that morning will always endure in my mind. Condolences to all who lost loved ones that day or in the military service as a result of their commitment to protect our land from men of evil intent.
Yesterday afternoon, we dropped our son Jesse off at his school to join his classmates, history teacher and a number of parents on a two week trip across Europe. They will be visiting Rome, Paris, Normandy and London during their time overseas. It was the culmination of 6 months of asking for help from family and friends, selling off his childhood (his words), and doing odd jobs. We told him he would have to raise the money himself if he was to go. It was a test of his faith and the Lord came through for him. It is a wonderful experience for him and it will broaden his worldview.
Though I joke about when he moves out, I found myself pondering what lay ahead for us. He will be graduating in a few more months and has plans to begin a 4 month internship in Los Angeles. Jesse and I sat outside the church building Sunday afternoon while Renee attended a meeting and joked and laughed together. The realization is setting in that the boy we raised is soon to be off on another adventure, life. Our time with him in our home is dwindling despite Renee’s wish that he stay until he is older. I left home two weeks after graduating high school and returned 5 months later for a year before leaving home for good at 19. Renee married me at 18 while she was still in high school and moved out.
Now it seems, we will have an empty nest as Jesse spreads his wings and embraces his destiny. It is an accomplishment that we are glad he has achieved, but also one that is bittersweet. We are now entering the post-parenting part of our lives. We will always be there for him, but he won’t need us as much or be around our home as frequently. As he graduates high school, we graduate as well. There will be grandkids at some point, but we aren’t in a hurry for them to arrive. Enjoy your great adventure son, we are so very proud of you and will await what lay ahead on your journey and ours.
On the first day of 2011, I felt impressed to express my thankfulness each day via Twitter. I am going to say what I am thankful for each and every day of this coming year. In this life, I have so much I take for granted and so much to be thankful for that goes unexpressed. I think I could stand to be more thankful so I intend to do just that. 2011 – a year to be thankful! If you want to read each of these tweets, follow me at www.twitter.com/Hairy_Baldman.