True for soldiers, true for the church. I always imagine that this is what we really look like on Sunday morning when we gather for worship.
Sometimes the everyday hustle and bustle of life rubs and rubs until you become blind, deaf, and dumb with the wear. You stop seeing magic. You stop seeing joy. You stop seeing life.
But, what has truly happened is you’ve stopped seeing by faith and started seeing with fallen, old-man eyes. Faith no longer clouds your view. Only deep dark shadows fill your world. You fall before the boredom and monotony of eating, sleeping, cleaning, chores, bills, needs, election cycles, loads of laundry, care for the young and old, wars and the rumors of war, birth and death. The repetitiveness of the world weighs down on you until you forget.
This malaise seeps into our churches. The preaching becomes only so many words falling together, powerless as autumn leaves. The saints are no longer a glorious army of the Lord riding forth on white steeds under Christ’s mighty banner. They’re dull, ordinary, offensive people you no longer wish to be with. Sunday isn’t our day of rest, or the Lord’s Day. It is an interruption, taking away hours that could be spent trying to maintain control of everything else in life, or actually resting.
Believers see with eyes of the world. Our old, dead eyes. We get lazy. We stop being Vigilant. Our Christian-colored glasses slip off our nose and aren’t pushed back up. We haven’t stayed in the fight. We haven’t kept the hope.
The regularity and rhythm of life bows us down.
Awake! Awake! Awake, my soul!
Renew. Refresh. Push your glasses tight against your nose and SEE by FAITH!
The Kings of the earth rage and God laughs.
His hand isn’t weak. His kingdom isn’t failing or even losing the battle.
Put back on your armor and fight! Fight, by God’s grace and in His might, the temptation to see life with dead, old, rotten eyes. They lie.
See with truth!
The preached word is our mighty King speaking to us. The church is the body of Christ and our true family. Do not let the world push you down in the rut of life and cover your eyes with the muck at the bottom. See the world around you with the light of the Word! Christ has already won the war. He is King over-all and He is saving His people!
This is our true reality, our true eternity.
(Inspired by Dr. Robert Oliver’s preaching on Psalm 2)
“We can never fathom the soldier’s grief if we do not know the human attachment which battle nourishes and then amputates. – Achilles in Vietnam By Jonathan Shay
(So true and so very sad.)
I just wanted to share some thoughts about this monumental week. I, along with so many others, have prayed and prayed for this General Assembly for the weeks, months and the year leading up to it. I prayed for unity, yes, but more than that, I prayed for our men to stand. I prayed they would stand for the truth and for God. I prayed that they would have the boldness and courage to face their brothers and, lovingly but firmly, stand for the truth.
That prayer was answered.
There are moments when you get to see history and you get to see heroes: 9/11, Pearl Harbor, VE-Day. This week I got to see church history. Real history. History that will last for eternity long after the broken history of this world is forgotten. I got to witness the heroes of my generation stand for the truth about God and not cave to the spirit of the age: Brandon Smith, Steve Garrick, Stefan Lindblad, Ron Baines, Rich Barcellos, Jim Renihan, Mike Renihan, and Jim Butler. These men served on the Theological Committee and spent two grueling days defending the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility. They were joined by John Giarrizzo and Doug VanderMeulen as men who did not cave. These men, and many more like them, are the heroes of my day. How blessed am I to have enjoyed a front row set to watch them and pray for them.
It’s funny to me to watch this church history unfold, because many of these men are not just names on a computer screen, but men I know. Some I have had in my home, some I have treasured silly stories about, and some are more like extra dads—looking at you Steve Garrick and Ron Baines—than they are mighty heroes. And yet, I find great beauty in the everydayness of these men. I imagine the counsels and synods of the past where Christ and the Trinity were defended were also filled with everyday men just doing what they were supposed to do.
But isn’t it always that way with war and battle. Are there any real superheroes? Usually there are just men doing what men needed to do. The ordinary forced to do the extraordinary because they were there, because this happened in their time.
I’m thankful God graced us with such men.
I’m thankful for the care and time our elders and teachers have taken to train and guide our church in the doctrines of God, simplicity, and church history. Who would have thought doctrine would be so important? 😉 I’m thankful they never gave up on the mundane teaching of their flock. I’m astounded and speechless, almost unable to describe, the joy and thankfulness in my heart for God’s gift of pastors and teachers. He has been so kind to us.
After a day and a half of deliberation, The Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America voted. It voted to stand. It voted to cling to the Doctrine of Divine Impassibility.
Thank the good Lord for answered prayer.
Thank the good Lord for men who stood.
The praying hasn’t stopped. There is much left to do, many men going home to their churches who don’t hold to Impassibility with tough days ahead, and the Devil is always at work to divide us and destroy us. We still need men in this war and we still need them to be bold, courageous, and to stand.
Last month I posted Part 1 of Rhonda Joyner’s interview. Rhonda is the wife of Patrick, ARBCA’s Chaplain to the Navy. In part 2 we get learn more specifics about the life of a Chaplain wife, tours, future plans, persecution, and how ARBCA works to support them. Again, if you have any questions you’d like to ask Rhonda please comment below or on my FaceBook page. I will be finishing up with her in one more short interview probably after Christmas.
3) You use the term tour a lot, can you explain what that means for us civilians and how long a tour is?
Well, the term ‘tour’ is an old military term. It means several things. When someone says they served 3 tours in Iraq, that means they deployed there 3 times. When I say our next tour is in Texas, that means that’s our next duty station, and our whole family will move there.
For the Navy, you usually rotate back and forth between ‘sea duty’ and ‘shore duty’. This means the Marine or Sailor changes jobs every 2-3 years. This will involve moving to a different base, usually. Some bases are large enough to change jobs (billets or duty station) and stay at the same base. Sea duty is typically 2 years long (2 ½ years with marines) and means that the sailor is operational and can or will deploy (with Marines or on a ship/submarine). Shore duty is typically 3 years long and you would be in a non-operational billet. You might volunteer to deploy, but you would not expect to deploy on shore duty.
In Patrick’s case, he has had only 1 shore duty in his career, as most of the Marine billets are operational. (The Navy provides chaplains for the Navy, Marines and Coast Guard.) A non-operational chaplain billet would often involve preaching at the base chapel or serving at the hospital or a training command like boot camp. When a Navy chaplain is in an operational billet, he goes where his unit goes. So a chaplain to the Marines, like Patrick, deploys with ‘his’ Marines, trains with ‘his’ Marines, stands duty, goes where they go and physically trains the same way. (65 pushups, 85 sit-ups, each event under 2 minutes, and a 1.5 mile run under 9 ½ min.) When we began this interview, he was serving with 2nd Marine Infantry Regiment here at Camp Lejuene. Patrick was promoted in September to Navy Commander, which is the equivalent to Lt. Colonel in the Marines. At that time he moved to 10th Marine Artillery Regiment here at Camp Lejeune. This was an example of changing billets (jobs) while still at the same base. This regiment has 2 battalions of about 1200 Marines. Patrick supervises, mentors, and provides support for the battalion chaplains, while counseling and ministering to his own regimental headquarters ‘flock’ of about 500 Marines and Sailors of all ranks. He just returned from 2 weeks out in the field on artillery and training exercises, in tents with MREs. (Meals Ready to Eat…yum…not)
4) How do you manage while Patrick is on tours that take him away from the family for extended periods of time?
By God’s grace and power! There would be no other way. God gives me His strength and I am so thankful. The times that I struggle, are the times when I have not made myself available to access His strength and power. I try daily to ask for wisdom and ask to be wrapped in His righteousness. God has apparently gifted me with a personality or attitude in life that allows me to help our family thrive in this expeditionary lifestyle. Like Paul in Philippians 4, I claim those verses and try always to practice being content and teach my children to choose contentment, realizing God puts us in a place or position for a reason and we should be about his Kingdom living while we are there. I have loved our lifestyle and expect to miss it!
Practically, some of the management while Patrick is away looks like holding him up in our family as still parenting, by asking, “What would Papa do or say?” Or with encouragement, “Papa will be so proud of you!” I talk of him constantly to our children to keep him daily ‘with us’. I pray and read scripture even more when he is gone. We continue with our evening family worship. Email has been helpful to stay in daily contact. The children and I can still ‘talk’ to him, ask questions or even play chess by email. He calls when he can, and he tries to time those calls to be able to pray with us over the speaker phone to start our day or end our day. He sends updates that include the sermons he preaches so we can hear them too. (He offers worship services at different times and days when deployed, to help as many men be able to attend as possible.) Especially when we had toddlers we kept his picture scrolling on the computer screen and we also have tapes he made of himself reading all the Psalms and Proverbs so that we still have his voice reading us these daily scriptures. He also recorded himself reading books and would strum his guitar for us to turn the pages.
We have other deployed wives and children over during deployments and continue to practice hospitality regularly. I usually offer a time of fellowship and study for the Marine wives whose husbands are also deployed. We have more child/teenage hospitality during this time as well. We travel to see Grandparents. We carry on, and we embrace our family motto: HOLD FAST! (Phil 2:16, Rom 12:9, 1 Thess 5:21)
5) Was it difficult having him deployed during the 1st Gulf War? Did that change you and your relationship in any way when he came home? (If this is too personal a question, no problem.)
The most difficult part of Patrick’s deployment to the 1st Gulf War (as a nuclear submarine officer), was the strong, constant ‘out of the loop’ feeling he experienced and to deal with the desire he had to be physically present and caring for his family as our protector, yet not being able to. It was very hard on him to hear on the phone (when we got to talk on the phone) about life going on back home without him. Phone calls, while encouraging to me, where less so for him for that reason. No personal computers back then!
For the deployed, there are no days off and no opportunity to be intimately involved in the lives of those loved ones closest to you. While often, for the wife or family left at home more opportunities open up for them to have fellowship with friends, family, church, or military unit as a way to make the time pass quickly and keep their spirits up. If a wife doesn’t think about it (which I didn’t the first time), it could unintentionally sound to the deployed husband like they are missing out, and that their absence has not made much impact. Of course, this is far from the truth. But, it remains a difficult balance to communicate with the husband that on the one hand, their family is safe, healthy, strong and doing well, while on the other hand making sure they understand how much they are missed and loved, that nothing is ‘just right’ with them gone, and that they are loved more than ever.
One issue to deal with is during deployments the wife necessarily is the family leader and decision maker, and so in the days after the husband’s return, it is very important for her to hand that responsibility back to her husband and for him to accept it. With that said, the biggest development in mine and Patrick’s relationship through deployments and long work hours has been to make us very jealous of our time together, both as husband and wife back during those first deployments, and now as a family. Patrick was originally a submarine officer and was gone more than he was home during our first 4-5 years of marriage. This caused us to consider very carefully any invitation or activity and weigh it against time spent together.
Another benefit of deployments and this expeditionary lifestyle has been to strengthen our marriage and family relationships. It can also break your marriage, but for us, clinging to God to use these times to grow us in him and with each other, we are definitely stronger. We’ve had many more homecomings and honeymoons than most people! For which I am most thankful! Our relationship stays more vibrant. We learn quickly not to take each other for granted, because we may only have today. Of course that is a lesson for everyone. We have passed this on to our children and they have mostly depended on each other for their best friendships. We do everything together as a family. We are the Joyner Crew and we move and act as a team, in ministry, in fun and in work. You will most often see us together. We enjoy each other immensely and cherish our time together.
6) Does Patrick plan to retire from the military? What are your plans after Patrick retires?
Yes, Patrick plans to retire from the military. Patrick’s heart is a pastor’s heart, and he wants to pastor a church again. This would be a good place to correct a possible misconception. Pastor friends or others have periodically responded to Patrick’s desire to pastor after the military, as, “so you will be getting back into ministry”. No. He has never left the ministry so how could he ‘get back into it’. He has spent 17 years of his life in ministry to the military and their families, counseling, sharing the gospel, planning and executing charitable humanitarian work of the ship’s crew along the west coast of Africa to orphans and schools, spoken and preached at countless memorial services and national day of prayer services, doing marriage counseling, funerals, doing casualty assistance calls to tell families their husband, son or father has been killed, prison visits, suicide prevention, preaching, leading countless bible studies and book studies, all as the parish pastor to the command with which he serves. He prayerfully hopes to continue this work in a local church and community of the Lord’s choosing.
7) Is it helpful to be an ARBCA Chaplain?
We have much more prayer support and are closer to congregations than many mission sending organizations and than we ever experienced before our ARBCA endorsement. We greatly appreciate the emphasis on church-sent missionaries and the personal relationship, accountability and prayer support that connection has fostered. ARBCA represents us theologically and also provides protection and representation ecclesiastically concerning issues that arise in the chaplain ministry.
Follow Up Question: Is there anything we as the churches can do to help you more?
We have been very pleased with the encouraging support we have received from churches. There is not typically much emphasis or interest in Chaplain ministry, but we have some very faithful ARBCA women’s missionary groups that are faithful prayer warriors for us, faithful to send us cards and care packages to our college students and we feel their love. Churches sometimes donate money to purchase books for the studies and for Patrick to give away. Patrick has preached and shared about his ministry periodically when churches have invited him to speak. Our family enjoys developing these relationships face to face and are thankful for these opportunities to thank congregations for their prayers and to include them in what Patrick and our family are doing. We have heard from many churches that they pray regularly for us through the prayer guides ARBCA provides, and we are very thankful for this support. Prayer is the work!
8) Do you deal with or face any persecution?
Patrick says, “It is professionally unpopular to be exclusive with the gospel, just like any pastor, particularly as regards trinitarian religion. All chaplains can still preach without restriction. Praying in Christ’s name sometimes bothers chaplains more than others. They believe it is a sign of immaturity to pray in the name of Christ. This has not been an issue in the Marines, like it sometimes is on the Navy side. Only about twice has someone voiced their offense at my prayers in Christ’s name. How it affects your career professionally depends on who is present and what they decide to do about it. Much more often, people have said they appreciated that I actually prayed in the name of Christ.”
Follow Up Question: How receptive is the typical Marine/Sailor to the Gospel?
Again from Patrick, “In the Marines, where I have spent all but one Chaplain tour, pride, machismo, and a pay check often make them less receptive to the gospel as they don’t perceive a need. Most have never heard the gospel. Most have had events in their lives that harden them, but there are certainly those who are receptive. I am there for them, and also invest much time and discipleship mentoring young men as well as younger chaplains. It is very rewarding to work in the trenches.”
9) Are any of your children planning on following in Patrick’s footsteps by joining the military?
Our oldest son, William, did look a bit into the military and our commanding general offered to nominate him for the Naval Academy but he really felt God calling him into missions, particularly in Mongolia.
So, “Yes” some of our children do expect to follow in their father’s footsteps, but in ministry rather than the military!
…For by my God I can leap over a wall… Ps 18:29
I appreciate Rhonda’s willingness to be open about her life, both the struggles and the beauties, in this interview. Getting to know both Rhonda and Sharon has helped me be better equipped to pray for them and their husbands. It has helped me to see that godly women are godly women in any setting the Lord puts them in. I’m encouraged to keep my own hand to the plow in my life by seeing them busy about their own.
I’m going to do a four part series on the Rambo movies. This may seem like an odd thing for a blogger who titles herself a gentle and quiet spirit, but I think women play a significant role as memory holders. I think it’s important for all of us to remember. And, I think it’s important for women to have a heart for warriors because we’re the ones who raise them. Women can make or break the children they have. Many of our best officers will tell you their mothers influenced them the most, and serial killers will say the same thing. Thus, I think it’s important to study these things. Even though I don’t have sons, I do have nephews. On the other side of my love for warriors is the Bible’s teaching about spiritual warfare. We’re at war, as Christians, and it doesn’t do to forget that—whether we’re pastors on the front line or housewives. These are purely the thoughts of an amateur theologian and amateur modern military historian. If any pastors or soldiers would like to weigh in, please feel free.
I found a love for action flicks in the mid-to late ’90s as a teen. I regularly watched Terminator 2 and Predator. For years I disregarded anything and everything Stallone ever made. I constantly thought of him as the Arnold wannabe. For a few years in my early-married life, I moved away from action flicks thinking I should watch deeper and more artistic films. Jason Stathem’s Transporter movies reignited my love of cheesy action flicks, and warrior stories. There’s been no going back since. Once my husband and I started watching action flicks again, he suggested we watch Rambo. I made my usual snide remarks about Stallone being an Arnold wannabe and dismissed the idea. He kept pressing, sighting it as a necessary point of Action Flick Education. Finally, I caved and we got our hands on First Blood.
I was in for a big surprise.
First Blood is not a cheesy action flick.
First Blood is a true and real drama.
It has real people with confused and mixed up morals. It raises interesting questions. It tracks the life of a man abandoned by his country and pushed to the breaking point. First Blood isn’t about big explosions, big guns, or body count. It’s about a part of our society which wasn’t popular than and isn’t popular now.
I’m not talking about soldiers.
We live, thankfully, in a day and age when it’s very in vogue to support the troops. It only took Vietnam for us to realize how much these men and women need civilian support. It only took that war to make us realize how sick a country is that spits on its soldiers. To this day, it nauseates me to think about what our boys—and I say boys because most soldiers are boys—went through in Vietnam and what they went through when they came home. I’m very thankful we live in a society that goes out of its way to show support for our troops.
But I’m not talking about our everyday soldiers.
I’m talking about warriors.
I’m talking about the men who give up everything that seems normal and safe to do all the hard things none of the rest of us want to do. Many of the everyday citizens must appreciate these people or shows like 24, Vince Flynn’s Mitch Rapp novels, and action flicks wouldn’t be popular. I think it’s our media and our elite academia who don’t appreciate these people. How can I say this?
Try reading a novel called Lone Survivor and you’ll see why we lost four of our warriors due to their fear of the liberal media. There I said it. Done soap boxing. Back to Rambo.
So, what happens to a society that pats itself on the back for supporting its troops, but doesn’t understand the blood and guts on its warriors’ hands? What happens when a man is trained to do one thing, wired to excel at that one thing, used to do that one thing, and then told what he did and what he does and what he’s good at is wrong?
What happens to a society when we start doing this at the earliest stages of boyhood? When we teach boys to be gentle to the point of emasculating them? I’m all for teaching boys to control their strength, but I still want boys to be boys. Instead of understanding that boys are uniquely different from girls in the area of physical and mental strength in a way that allows them to go and fight wars, evil, and meet violence with violence, we teach boys that they need to be medicated. We teach them that they need to be safe. Oh safety, you dangerous dangerous thing.
Do we do this only to our men? Nope. We do this to women too. Women are taught that the one thing we do in an amazing and only female way is valueless, or just not that important. Hello! Women have children. We create life in our bodies. We nurture. We sacrifice the ‘best’ years of our lives to raise up the next generation. Could we have a higher calling? Even I, a woman without children, count herself blessed to aid and help women who do. I still believe I’m strongest in my ability to support my husband, cherish life, nurture, and instruct. Just because I haven’t created a life in my own body yet, doesn’t mean I don’t have intrinsic female uniqueness. Same for a man, you may not get called to creep through jungles or fight in the sands of the Middle East, but you are still called to defend. You are still called to use your strength for truth and justice.
Now, back to Rambo First Blood.
John Rambo comes home after fighting in Vietnam. The movie opens with him finding out that the last man in his elite unit has died. Vietnam killed him too. He may have made it home, but he couldn’t escape the long dark reach of war. This information demoralizes Rambo. He hoped to find one of his brothers. Instead, he found he was truly and finally alone.
The sheriff picks Rambo up on the side of the road and encourages him to stay out of his town. Sheriff Will Tease is not a completely evil character. Imagine the whirlwind of emotion he struggles with as he does what he thinks is right for his quiet little town only to have it blow up in his face. Repeatedly, he gives into his own pride even at the cost of his men, but he does try to do the right thing. He tries to keep his men under control so Rambo isn’t killed. He tries to patch things up with Colonel Trautman. The Sheriff tries multiple times to do the right thing. He’s not a flat character. This movie could easily be told from his POV with him as the underdog hero instead of Rambo.
Rambo gets pushed by Sheriff Tease and he pushes back, but it’s the moment he’s arrested that clicks Rambo’s training into high gear. In a way, Rambo looks for this fight. He could have avoided it. He could have kept walking and just shrugged the Sheriff off. But without hope, he goes back to the only thing he knows: fighting. Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s men don’t realize who they’re dealing until they’ve already shed first blood. They’ve already fired the first shot. If the Sheriff had kept his men in control, done a little research on the drifter they picked up, and had a little less pride on the line, Rambo could have been defused easily. Blinded by their arrogance, and the spirit of the day and age that hated both hippies and soldiers, Rambo’s training is switched on. The treatment Rambo experiences in the county jail makes him flash on his time as a POW. Escape becomes paramount in his mind.
The situation escalates. Rambo tries at one point to diffuse it after the first civilian dies. The Sheriff’s men open fire on him settling in his mind that he is at war.
The tension continues to build with the civilians bumbling around, Trautman trying to explain that it is the Sheriff and his men who are in danger not Rambo, and Rambo doing exactly what he was trained to do: fight.
Then you reach the end. This is the moment you realize this movie isn’t an action flick but a real drama. When Rambo’s about to kill the Sheriff, Trautman finally stops him. Rambo yells at him, “It’s never over.” And then, surprise of surprises, this great warrior breaks down in tears.
He’s alone. Rambo’s terribly and horribly alone. None of his friends made it out of the war. The nation he sacrificed so much of his humanity for does things like throw him in jail, rough him up, deny him food and work, shoot at him, and tries to kill him. They don’t honor, respect, or even care what he did. (Christian-colored Glasses: Many pastors face the same thing. They battle. They fight. They seek to defend their churches. And many times they aren’t respected, loved, or supported.)
I think this is why we see so many soldiers in our special forces go back. They go back to where they’re respected. It may be hell on earth, but for them it’s where their families are. It’s where their skills are used. It’s where they can do what they were made to do.
The question posed by Rambo, that I think we’re still asking ourselves today, is what do you do with the warriors when the war is over? Where do you put them? How do you utilize their skills so that they’re respected and honored?
What do we do with our warriors?
I found this video very interesting. Every mother, especially if you have sons, should watch this: Why do Veterans Miss War? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TGZMSmcuiXM
This video asks a similar question to Rambo First Blood. I don’t believe, as a Christian, that by understanding war can we eradicate it. War is a result of sin. We can help our warriors, or soldiers, return to civilian life in a healthy way, giving them a chance to use their skills instead of telling them that what they do is unimportant or downright bad, if we understand that they were made to do this and that part of them loves doing it.
Watch First Blood. It is a well-done and amazing movie.
It made me finally place Stallone over Arnold. I’ll take a Stallone movie any day! Join me tomorrow for my thoughts on Rambo 2.
Trautman: Company leader to identify Baker Team – Rambo, Messner, Ortega, Coletta, Jurgensen, Berry, Krakauer confirm! This is Colonel Trautman. Talk to me, Johnny.
Rambo: They’re all gone Sir.
Trautman: Rambo! Are you all right?
Rambo: Baker Team. They’re all dead, sir.
Trautman: Not Delmar Berry, he made it.
Rambo: Berry’s gone too Sir.
Rambo: Got himself killed in ‘Nam, didn’t even know it. Cancer ate him down to the bone.
Trautman: I’m sorry, I didn’t know.
Rambo: I’m the last one Sir.
Rambo: We were in this bar in Saigon and this kid comes up, this kid carrying a shoe-shine box. And he says “Shine, please, shine!” I said no. He kept askin’, yeah, and Joey said “Yeah.” And I went to get a couple of beers, and the box was wired, and he opened up the box, f–king blew his body all over the place. And he’s laying there, he’s f–king screaming. There’s pieces of him all over me, just…
[Takes off his bandolier]
Rambo: like this, and I’m tryin’ to pull him off, you know, my friend that’s all over me! I’ve got blood and everything and I’m tryin’ to hold him together! I’m puttin’… the guy’s f–kin’ insides keep coming out! And nobody would help! Nobody would help! He’s saying, sayin’ “I wanna go home! I wanna go home!” He keeps calling my name! “I wanna go home, Johnny! I wanna drive my Chevy!” I said “With what? I can’t find your f–kin’ legs! I can’t find your legs!”
Dear New Believer,
It’s hard to imagine as a young believer how much you face. A baby can’t know the heartache of growing up. You can’t know the heartache this choice to follow Christ will bring you. In some ways—and please don’t misunderstand me or read this with any bitterness, but only with a tender longing—I want to tell you not to do this. You have no idea how hard and dark your path will be, and how much of that hardness and darkness will be based on your ‘choice’ to be a Christian.
You will be forced to choose, almost daily, between the things you love and Christ . . . not in big ‘martyr’ type ways, but in private, little ways which will seem insignificant to the world, but might mean the world to you. You may have to decide to leave a group of friends you love because one of them is living in open sin and by hanging out with them you lend credence and support to their life decision. You may face setting aside what is good for what is better, but only in the eyes of a handful of people. You may have to stand up to your friends facing life alone and in the dark. You will have to choose Christ over what and who you love. You will have to choose between what you can’t see and what you can.
Count the cost.
You will have to decide not to watch a TV Show you’re interested in. (See how un-glamorous the Christian life can be?) More so, you will have to spend the rest of your life thinking about everything constantly. You will have to judge your heart at every moment never resting. The fun part? Things change. A TV show which didn’t go against your conscience last year, may prick it the next time you watch it. You must practice Constant Vigilance, but not against enemies sneaking in, but the enemy within. In choosing to become a Christian and follow Christ, you have made an enemy out of your very heart, mind, and body. Do you want to do the hard work of living with an enemy all the time?
Count the cost.
As you get older, the choices get harder.
Count the cost of choosing things the world doesn’t understand and deal with being called a fool.
It gets harder.
Saved at a young age, growing up in a home-schooled, conservative, Christian home doesn’t give someone much of an opportunity or desire for blatant sinning. Let me warn you. You think that being mean to your siblings, getting upset with your parents, or skipping out on chores is bad, wait until you get older and wrestle with your own sin nature a little more. It doesn’t get better. You don’t sin less. If you stick with this whole Christian thing, you will go from thinking you’ve got it all together to realizing just what a sick, selfish, God-hating, relationship destroying monster you really are. It’s not fun. It’s more fun, it’s easier, to think you have it all together and that you’ll just have it together more as you get older.
Count the cost.
The road you have chosen promises you a difficult marriage, a life of constant guarding of your heart and mind, working for others and thinking little to none of yourself, being on the outside of culture, being thought of as strange, in a cult, belittled, labeled as wasting your life, never well-known for your creativity, and living a life of insignificance. And that’s the easy Christian life, the ‘first-world’ Christian life. Some believers face lost jobs, rejection by this world AND by fellow believers, the suffering of their children, and loss of their own life.
Count the cost!
This isn’t a fun life. It’s hard, toilsome, sweaty, uncomfortable, and ugly.
Count the cost, but also, start now. If I could instill one thing in your mind, it would be Start Now. Forgo waiting around to do all the ‘normal’ things and busy yourself with your church. You were just baptized and you took a vow of membership. Many of us looked to the day we would say our marriage vows, but did you pay attention to the vows you just made to the people sitting around you? Are you taking them seriously? If so, you need to spend less time thinking about Friday night, who’s cute, who’s annoying, that TV show you love, and what degree you want to get in college, and start thinking about serving your church family.
Help the older members. Do you have a driver’s license? Go to the elderly in your church and mow their lawn, clean their house, water their plants. Forgo your parties and serve your church.
Study theology. It’s not for stuffy old men who never had adventures. It’s the very truth of God to whom you just promised your life. Make church a priority. I can’t stress that enough. This will make you different in a weird way and possibly poor, but put your church before your schooling and your job. Don’t sacrifice your youth to establish your career at the detriment of your church. Put church first and the rest below that. It won’t win you any fame or many friends. It may lose you a high-paying job and really cool friends who are going places. It may mean you have to pass up on dreams because the people who are successful work on Sunday.
Sit down at the feet of Christians who are older than you, not at the feet of other teens. Your life seems ahead of you with so much time to be and do. It may or may not be.
Count the cost.
I didn’t do this. Most of my young single years were spent on me. Yes, I was growing and learning, but I applied myself to this world and little to my eternity. How I wish that I’d spent more time loving my church and less time seeking this world.
I wish I ‘d spent more time using my energy being helpful to my church family, being engaged there, memorizing Scripture and applying my mind humbly to theology, and less time at the mall, concerts, hanging out, or watching movies. I would have seemed strange to the world. I would have probably looked strange, but I still wish I’d been wiser with my time.
Count the cost.
In all this, I’m thankful for each horrendous trial the Lord brought in my life, for while I feel so much of my youth was wasted, the Lord used all of it. I’m humbly thankful for all He’s done in my life. But, they were hard-won and hard-fought lessons. They weren’t a walk through fields of flowers.
Count the cost.
Are you ready to learn what a sinner you are? Are you ready to be rejected by fellow ‘believers’ and labeled a cultist and possibly dangerous? Are you ready to lose your grip on this world? Are you ready to give up on your dreams of houses, children, a spouse, education, artistic expression, career, and more for Christ? Are you ready to be an old maid instead of living in this world if the Lord calls you to that? Are you willing to give up what makes you feel alive if it’s not serving your church? Are you willing to put your church before your family? Are you ready to stick with and love people who may annoy you? Are you ready to give the best that you are for something the world sees as a waste of time?
Being a Christian will not guarantee you get married or that your marriage will be happy. It won’t guarantee you have kids or that you get to keep them. It won’t guarantee your safety, health, or wealth.
Count the cost.
Being a Christian will guarantee you a hard life, filled with sin, surrounded by the least and weakest of people.
Count the cost. It is great though often unseen.
So, why do we do it, us older Christians? Because Christ saves sinners. It is all of grace and none of ourselves.
(Our church just baptized several of our young people. What a blessing to see them take communion for the first time, become members with us, and do this first act of public obedience. Yet, as a now older Christian, there is a part of me that wonders if we would take these first steps if we knew what was coming? I hope the spirit of this letter is understood. I in no way regret my walk with the Lord. It is my life. But, I do wish I had had the capacity to dedicate my life more fully to the Lord at a younger age. I wish I had loved my church then as I do now. He is sovereign over that and I trust Him with my rate of sanctification.)