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Obviously, the question in the title of this post will not apply to a large number of people. Many either were not born or were too young to remember. Even so, today all of us will experience reminders of November 22, 1963, when President John Kennedy was assassinated. For those of us who do remember, that day was at least equivalent to 911, perhaps even more so, because of everything that happened that weekend, as well as during the years that followed.

I was a senior in high school, living in Atlanta, GA. I first heard that something had happened sometime after lunch. My next class was (of all things) American Government. Our teacher was Rose Bush (yes that was her name). By the time class started, it had been confirmed that President Kennedy had been shot, but that was all we knew. Mrs. Bush turned on the radio, and we simply listened. Sometime during the class the announcement was made that President Kennedy had died.

It was more than simply the assassination of a president. On that day the relative peace and innocence of the 1950s had been shattered, and we would never get it back. On Sunday, Lee Harvey Oswald was shot, and conspiracy theories were born. Just five years later, in 1968, America would be rocked by two additional significant assassinations—Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. By that time, the country was embroiled in the Vietnam War, and I still had not accepted that in a little over a year I would be part of Vietnam was well.

There are so many memories today—stability gone, innocence lost. I don’t have any great morals to present or lessons to teach, although perhaps there is one lesson we can learn. When I went to school that morning, I had no inkling that our world would be different by the end of the day. So it is with life. The changes are not as clearly seen looking forward, as they are when we look back. One thing is certain as I think about that day fifty years ago. My life changed dramatically even though at the time I did not yet know it. Today I simply remember with so many others where I was that day and all that has come from it.

C. S. Lewis

While it is natural that the world today is focused on remembering John Kennedy, it is worth noting that someone else died that same day, but because of the death of President Kennedy, his death went virtually unnoticed. Clive Staples Lewis was professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at both Oxford and Cambridge. But he is more commonly remembered as a Christian apologist, who argued for the reasonableness of the Christian faith. That may seem insignificant to a postmodern world, but I believe Lewis is still worth remembering.

On a personal note, I can state without exaggeration that Lewis influenced both my faith and my beliefs (two somewhat different things) more than any other non-Biblical writer. Quite simply, I would not be the person I am without his writings. I am not certain I would even be a Christian. So, if Lewis does not speak as forcefully to this generation, let us at least acknowledge that he did to my generation. And I choose to believe that the time may yet come when his ideas may once again provide both reason and inspiration to those searching for meaning in this world.

Goodnight, Professor Lewis. I hope to meet you one day, perhaps in Narnia, or at least in that undiscovered country to which Narnia points us.

In my weaker moments, I like to think that I am an insightful critic, with a keen intellect and powerful discernment skills. Fortunately, something usually happens to wake me up and reason soon prevails. The truth is that virtually everything I believe, even the principles by which I decide what I believe, are second-hand, received from someone else. This post is a good example of that. The idea came from another blog I read. If you want to read the article that inspired me, you can find it here. I highly recommend it.

http://www.alanknox.net/2013/07/so-what-am-i-against/

How often do we read or hear an idea presented and find ourselves reacting against it? It could be a political idea, a religious doctrine, or just a proposal for widening the street. When I was a young adult I remember a Christian leader who published a magazine whose sole purpose was to expose religious error. Admittedly, I usually disagreed with his arguments, but that’s not the point I wish to make. What struck me even then was the intense negativity of virtually every article he wrote. If you read his magazine, you had no doubt as to the myriad of ideas and doctrines he opposed. I could tell you virtually everything he was against. What was not as apparent, were the doctrines and beliefs he was for.

The next time you hear or read something with which you disagree, try resisting the temptation to frame that disagreement in negative terms, even in your own mind. Instead, turn it around. If you disagree with a certain position, is it just because you disagree, or is it perhaps because you are “for” something else, a different vision which you believe is healthier or more beneficial. Why do you react negatively to the point of theology or doctrine that was presented? Is it just a matter of tradition (“that wasn’t what I was raised to believe”)? If so, perhaps we would do well to consider if the alternative might have merit.

Maybe you are genuinely convinced that there is error in a particular belief. It has been my experience that if this is so, we should normally be able to find a good reason for our opposition, more specifically a positive belief, even a vision for a better, more fulfilling alternative. If we cannot frame the issue in a more positive direction, perhaps we should consider if the intensity of our opposition is justified.

It is perhaps human nature that as we get older, we begin thinking about what kind of legacy we will leave when we are gone. I have determined that I do not want to be remembered for what I was against. I would rather stand for positive beliefs and constructive principles. No, I will never convince everyone, but I would rather spend my remaining time on this earth telling people what I am “for” rather than fighting what I am “against.”

“What are you against?” I would much rather ask, “What are you for?”

Integrity

I’m not sure just why I’m writing about this or even what to say. My appreciation for history has reminded me that 150 years ago today the battle for Little Round Top took place, on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. I have been watching the DVD of Gettysburg produced by Turner Broadcasting. As with most movies, this one leaves out an important element of the battle for Little Round Top, but in most essentials the portrayal appears to be fairly accurate.

Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain commanded the 20th Maine at the very edge (or flank) of the Union forces. Despite several intense assaults by Confederate forces, Colonel Chamberlain and his men continued to prevent the Confederates from flanking the Union army.  At approximately 7:00 p.m., with ammunition virtually gone, Chamberlain ordered a bayonet charge down the hill, along with an almost never used textbook maneuver that finally succeeded in forcing the Confederates back, preserving the Union army and perhaps even determining the outcome of the war itself.

Chamberlain was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions at Little Round Top and ended the war as a major-general. He had suffered a wound which never quite healed, and he died as a result of his old wound in 1914, becoming perhaps the last casualty of the Civil War.

I’m not sure why I felt the desire to share this. I never want to glorify war, and I hope no one reading this thinks that is what I am doing. Actually, some old memories have been reopened which I had just as soon forget. I think I am really trying to talk about how integrity and honor are best seen during times of crisis. Sometimes we hear a person described as a “good, moral person.” I have come to believe those words have no meaning until they have been tested in the crucible of hardship and adversity. Character can only be known when it is displayed even when doing so may cost us greatly. What would you have done on Little Round Top? What would I have done? Perhaps the significance of the answer lies not just with the individual actions you or I might have taken, but with the motivation behind them. Would I have taken the easy way out, and then tried to justify my actions? Or would I have followed my conscience without hesitation, regardless of the consequences?

I guess what I am talking about is an old-fashioned word—integrity. Integrity is like morality. We can never be sure we possess it until we are face-to-face with a situation in which acting with integrity may cost us everything. There are so many areas of life in which integrity is called for. I would suggest each of us ask ourselves whether or not we are men and women of integrity. Is there anything that is important enough for me to be willing to sacrifice my life? Does anything mean that much to me?

Integrity—an old-fashioned word to be sure. But it’s still a word our world could use in almost every avenue of life.

Sacrifice was pervasive in the ancient world. In Israel sacrifices were always animals (with the possible exception of Jephthah’s daughter in Judges 11). In other cultures human sacrifice became a common practice. Often those sacrificed were prisoners of war or slaves. Sometimes, however, parents would even sacrifice one of their own children.

The common thread in all this has to do with the purpose of sacrifice. In every instance someone sacrificed an animal or another person in order to either appease the gods or to receive a blessing from the gods. Sacrifice was at its heart a selfish act. I will sacrifice someone or something else for my own benefit.

One essential message of the New Testament is that God has turned sacrifice on its head. It begins with Jesus, because the heart of the gospel message tells us that Jesus sacrificed Himself for our benefit. I understand that there are a variety of interpretations of the meaning of atonement, but I do not believe any of them change this principle. In some form or another, Jesus sacrificed Himself for us.

But it doesn’t stop there. Paul tells us that we are called to imitate Christ’s sacrificial nature.  In Romans 12:1 he says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God— this is your true and proper worship.” Ephesians 5 and 6 apply this principle to the various social rankings that existed in the ancient world. Yes, wives, children, and slaves are told to submit. [I most certainly do not condone slavery, but that’s a subject for another post.] But go back and read the passage more closely. The thesis sentence begins in Ephesians 5:21 where we read, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” And that principled is applied to all of the various roles. So, wives, children, and slaves are to submit. But wait, Paul gives the same instructions to husbands, parents, and masters. The message is that whatever role in which we find ourselves, we should live our lives in a manner that places the other person’s needs ahead of our own.

Have you ever considered that perhaps God does in fact call for human sacrifice? But how different from the way the peoples of the ancient world understood sacrifice. In fact, how different from how our culture understands it now. Isn’t it routine in the corporate world to advance oneself at the expense of someone else? We have all known husbands or wives who were more than willing to force their spouse to give up their own desires and dreams, so that the other party could get what they wanted.

You see, God’s view of sacrifice is just the opposite of how human beings have typically seen it. Sacrifice is first of all a sacrifice of ourselves. It means giving up what we want for someone else’s good. It also includes a recognition that our very lives are meant to be one continuing sacrifice that we offer in order to advance God’s kingdom on this earth.

Perhaps we think of extreme examples such as Mother Teresa. It would be easy to say that we don’t feel called to that kind of life. But do we have the courage to look at our lives right now? What about that wife I profess to love? Do I see her as being there to serve me, or do I truly try to understand her desires and her needs? Am I willing to give up what I want to make her life more fulfilling?

What about our children? Are they the objects of my ego, or do I really see myself as God’s instrument to raise them to be godly children, who reflect His love because they have seen it demonstrated in me?

God still calls us to human sacrifice. Have you answered that call? Are you willing to start today?

In 1998 I wrote my memoirs, describing my experiences with the U. S. Army in Vietnam during 1969-1970. The title of the book is In the Shadow of  Dragon Mountain. This book is available for download free of charge in a pdf format which has been sized appropriately for the IPad or a similar size tablet. Go to the “My Books” tab at the top of this blog to see the description and instructions for downloading.

Experiencing CHRIST Cover

First of all, my apologies that some of you will get this more than once. It is being sent to several sites, so there is some repetition.

I have neglected both of my blogs recently. I did so primarily because I was finishing up a new book that is now out in paperback and electronically for the Kindle. Right now, I am trying to get the word out.

I am part of a religious tradition in which we celebrate the Lord’s Supper weekly, and normally a lay person presides. To help people who may lack training, I have published a book that includes 52 devotionals for the Lord’s Supper. It also contains an introductory chapter designed to teach the elements that go into making an effective presentation. While the chapters can be read simply as devotionals, they are specifically meant for presenting to a church just before taking the Lord’s Supper. They might also be effectively used in a house church setting.

The electronic version for the Kindle also includes an interactive Table of Contents.

If you know of any individuals or churches that might benefit from such a book, I would appreciate your providing them with this information. The book is:

Experiencing CHRIST In Communion: 52 Devotionals for the Lord’s Supper

Below are links to my book.

Order paperback from the website ($7.95) — https://www.createspace.com/4210030

Order Paperback from Amazon ($7.95)— http://www.amazon.com/Experiencing-CHRIST-In-Communion-Devotionals/dp/0615790933/

Order Kindle from Amazon ($2.99) —  http://www.amazon.com/Experiencing-CHRIST-In-Communion-ebook/dp/B00C54BKXK/

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