Dear Marketplace Friend,
Four years ago, on a Tuesday morning that would have been deemed "typical," our world changed. The last generation remembered where they were when they heard about the shooting of John F. Kennedy; our generation will - forever - remember their personal impressions as the unfolding story took on wide screen reality: we were at war, initiated by a cowardly enemy who refused to show himself ... except when his suicidal acts included us.
Terrorism: calculated acts of violence carried out on civilians for political, religious or ideological purposes. The dictionary doesn't capture the emotional impact of a worldwide scourge that has robbed civilization of its intended order and peace. Barbarians - in the name of their religion - who have reminded us about the potential for evil that resides in the unredeemed heart.
For 2000 years, the Evil One (the real force behind people like Hussein and bin Laden) has been engaged in a terrorist-styled assault on the Kingdom of God, and the earthly citizens of His heavenly realm. The writer of Hebrews knew that, and issued wartime directives that would form a battle strategy for the plainclothes soldiers of God's army. What in the world are we supposed to do ... to win the War on Terror?
1. Keep your eye on the ball. Sometimes, it's easy to get distracted and to lose focus on the essentials found at the core. For the spiritual combat of the age, the power source is worship. "...let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Hebrews 12:28-29). The armory where we gain our most effective weaponry is ... our worship.
2. Stay connected to a Band of Brothers. Rambo makes for good shoot-'em-up movies, but it's a bad model for war. God has deployed us as a community; how are we to interact? "Keep on loving each other as brothers..." (Hebrews 13:1). Petty rivalries and conflicts have no place among colleagues in life-and-death battlefield settings.
3. Resist the temptation to withdraw. In Iraq right now, the troops can't tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys. Their guard is up constantly. For God's army, community relations are nonnegotiable: "Do not forget to entertain strangers ..." (Hebrews 13:2). Our mission is to engage the lost, and to engage them in relationship to win them to faith. Retreat is not an option.
4. Engage the enemy in the trenches. It would be nice to "fight" through technology, but the real action is down in the ditches of life. "Remember those in prison ... and those who are mistreated." (Hebrews 13:3). The action is not always in the most desirable neighborhoods; spiritual war is dirty business. It was cause for the Creator to move out of heaven for 33 years to go to the front ...
5. Keep yourself fit for battle. Two weeks ago, a four-star general was removed from his leadership in the United States Army for adultery; he was dismissed after failing to obey a direct order to break off all contact with his paramour. "Marriage should be honored by all ... God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral." (Hebrews 13:4). Spiritual fitness is not an option; it is imperative.
6. Accept the rigors of wartime. You don't enlist in military service for the money; there are sacrifices made by soldiers that are understood and embraced. "Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have ..." (Hebrews 13:5). "Your best life now" sounds tempting ... but, God's promise is "your best life later," after the enemy has been defeated and God's Kingdom has been secured. Are you willing to be disadvantaged in the short-term, to be rewarded in Eternity?
7. Operate with great respect for the chain of command. "Remember your leaders... Obey your leaders and submit to their authority ..." (Hebrews 13:7, 17). The ranks have been established by God; his church has a hierarchy that He expects us to salute. Is your "submitter" in good working order, or do you have problems saluting?
God has not left us to "wing it;" He is a Commander-in-Chief with a strategy for his forces. Are you engaging the enemy, today, in accordance with His orders?