I’ve always been fascinated by stories of men who not only lived well, but also died long before their time. One of my earliest blog posts was about Commander Ernest Evans, a WW2 Navy Captain whose heroic self-sacrifice saved thousands of American lives and earned him a posthumous Medal of Honor. More recently, I’ve been studying men such as the Reverend Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and many other noble men who all died fighting for a cause which they believed in their hearts was right. The most important martyr of all, however, is of course our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, whose humble and utterly willful sacrifice of his life led to the freedom that we all now enjoy to boldly approach the throne of Grace. Sometimes you can live your life one hundred percent correctly, and still be killed.
I find it interesting that just a few weeks ago, I wrote that how we die might be equally as important, if not more important, than how we live as Christians. It's unfortunate that I had to be proved right in such a short time, and in such a horrific manner.
My goal here is not to sound like an alarmist, end-of-the-world doomsday watcher (God knows we have enough of those hilarious people polluting our air waves as it is). There have always been parts of the world where it is a dangerous gamble to identify yourself as a Christian. The simple fact is though, persecution and genocide have found their way into our midst as a body of believers.
Whereas in the past you might have heard that certain countries are hostile towards the gospel, now for the first time in our modern age we're witnessing first-hand the systematic eradication of believers. While governments of the world have been quick to condemn these acts of brutality, and even recently we've begun to see the ponderously slow arrival of material aid, it remains sadly true that, by and large, the world is still sitting on its hands.
Again, if I alarmed you in my previous post with the assertion that it might be a good idea to buy a gun, please understand my intentions clearly: I know that Jesus did not call us to be a people of violence, but to be fair he did also warn us that it would be prudent to have a means of self-defense.
If that seems too militant for your liking, I can only ask you this: If a band of armed men came to your house one night intending to rape and murder your family, would you let them?
“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”
Stability is a foreign and frightening concept to most of us. While we desperately crave it, we also secretly distrust it. We spend our lives searching for a place where we feel comfortable and safe, and once we find that fortress of comfort, we think we’ll be happy for the rest of our lives. Yet deep in our hearts, I think we all at times suspect that regardless of what we’ve placed our trust in, we’ll one day find ourselves betrayed. Whether we’re talking about a house or car which you fear may be destroyed, or a blissful relationship which you secretly suspect may come crashing to the ground at any moment, the fact is that it’s often a natural human tendency to secretly plan for the worst, even in situations when we believe that we’re genuinely happy.
If you’ve ever lost your home to a natural disaster, or even been threatened by that possibility, it quickly puts into perspective just how fragile our places of refuge can be. When I was in high school, my family’s home was threatened by a massive wildfire which caused unprecedented destruction across Southern California. I distinctly remember school being closed for a week, and the sun being blotted out in the middle of the day by the enormous clouds of ash which filled the sky. At night, my brother and I sat on the roof of our house and watched ominously as the hillsides all around our community were engulfed with giant gashes of brightly-blazing flame. The entire concept of homeowners insurance exists because people realized long ago that your “castle” won’t be much of a castle after a raging fire, earthquake, or hurricane rips through your neighborhood. Planning for failure is a smart way to live your life, as far as our society is concerned.
I’ve met a lot of people lately, myself included, who have numerous and recurring problems which they can’t seem to overcome without encountering five more unexpected setbacks. Obviously everyone has issues, and I don’t intend to make light of anyone’s struggles, but I think sometimes we’re all guilty of tolerating and feeling discouraged by our problems, when instead we should be chasing after them with a sledgehammer. Jesus promised every one of us that we would have problems in this life, but as John 16:33 clearly states, we shouldn’t be focusing on those problems at all, but rather on the Savior who overcame ALL the troubles of this world.
As far back as I can remember I’ve always loved performing on stage or giving speeches in front of a crowd. Most people list public speaking as their number one fear, far ahead of the fear of death or bodily injury. For me, the knowledge that every eye in an auditorium was hanging on my every word and gesture brought with it an intoxicating sense of power. To be able to evoke thoughts and emotions in a group of watching people, in my mind, put me in the same category as gifted orators, writers, and actors from centuries past, who have coined phrases which now exist eternally in the English lexicon. The blinding glare of the limelight terrifies some people. To me, it provides a warmth that kindles the fire of all the deepest ambitions of my soul.
I'm J.R., a US Navy veteran and Linguist. This blog is devoted to insights and experiences I've gained over the years.