It seems like such a cliche' to utter those words, but in the wake of the latest terrorist attack in Afghanistan, I thought this would be a good time to talk about it.
Folks who have never served in the armed forces, been front line responders, or served on the mission field, have a difficult time understanding how deeply those words mean to those who do serve. Let me take a stab at it. First, you would die honoring God for your faith, so if they die being persecuted that is the highest honor one could achieve. Those Marines knew the risks of their service, some will look at it as a needless loss of life, others will see that it was their most honorable death.
Honor is a word that has been less frequently used lately, but to me it means that if you are in a cause, you pursue it with as much passion that you have, defend it with your life, and act courageous in the process. You may also use the words "act like it". If you are a Marine, act like the absolute best fighting man in the world, you ae a defender of freedom. If you are a preacher or evangelist, be sure that everyone is watching how you act. Be honorable, even in conflict or defeat. Live like you mean what you do.
And if you are serving this country then you remember the price that was paid for our freedom, so we do the same, putting it all on the line at every moment. Cops who are at risk, firefighters who face impossible odds, hospital staff that are dealing with this pandemic, all heroes who know they may die for their cause. Do we hope they die, absolutely not, but when they do, as painful as it is for family and friends, we need to remember as a society these are the ones who laid it on the line for virtually each one of us. Always honor them.
Honors to my fallen Marine comrades who died yesterday, and when I heard the news I nearly cried. It reminded me of our motto Semper Fi, which means always faithful. I remind myself of that every day doing this addiction recovery ministry. Doesn't matter how everyone else around us acts, this is our cause, this is where we serve, this is where God led us, helping other fallen people is the most honorable profession we know.
Those Marines died for our country, Christ died for the world, they were faithful, He is always faithful, and we are just here at ATB, regardless of the odds of recovery, regardless of any dangers we may face, to remain faithful every day to those we serve, including one amazing God and a sometimes less amazing country!.
God, Honor, Country words we never want to take lightly.
The two oldest Bibles I have are taped up at the seams from many years of use. One is a Life Recovery Bible and the other is mentioned in the next paragraph. Often I wish I had read them more but the absolute truth is, when I have read them, meditated on the words within, they have become The Difference in my life.
One is 31 years old given to me at Christmas by my ex-wife Paula who was with me when we came to the Lord and quit using drugs and alcohol. She wrote an inscription within that I will disclose here unedited:
"It seems so appropriate to buy the "Book of Life" for you, as we celebrate the beginning of life - the birth of Christ. And I know without a doubt that you will continue to give your life for Him, thru the words of this book."
Through heartaches, divorce, death of a child, personal failures and a tough love ministry, these books have given me light when it seemed darkness was falling. Truly we give our lives to Christ, and we pray and speak with him daily, and we love good sermons, but reading the words of this Book of Life produce strength, courage and character necessary to fight through life's most difficult moments. Thank you for reminding me Paula!
And just like there is a reminder to you through my words here, the reminders of those who know us most intimately resonate loud and clear even after many years, that's why we keep their cards, letters and inscriptions, they also make a huge difference.
In that same Bible is a card that I taped inside from the Elders at Campus Church with an inscription by one of them: You are a light that attracts people to God. Yes, but only because the words of these books made the difference between turning that light on and off. And, these men took the time to shepherd me, teach me and help me to become a different man than I used to be.
What is your difference? Here's a great scripture to close with and ask you to consider: Your word is a lamp unto my feet, a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105
That light is truly The Difference!
This is a scary word. Who is in control? Is it God, me, the devil, my addiction, the government, just who the heck is running things? Or better yet, what is controlling me?
There is of course free will, the ability to make our own choices, go our own way, be our own person. But what is steering our compass to those directions? If it is me, I am limited to what I know and see. If it is the government, then I am relying on them for the sustenance of my life, and for the way they vote on my rights. If it is my addiction, then it controls every decision I make including irrational compass readings that point to instant everything. It makes me a walking microwave.
Then there is that old Flip Wilson saying, "The Devil made me do it". Really? Or was it me listening to his promptings rather than the voice of reason. Truth is, no one can force us to do anything unless we decide to do it. Three young Jewish boys were asked to bow down to a god they didn't believe in, they didn't. Stephen was asked to deny his faith, he did not. Peter did deny Christ, but that was before he was filled with the power to resist.
And, that's where God comes in, more specifically, Jesus. What makes the difference of my compass pointing in the right or wrong direction is the right voice within me to guide my choice. If I'm not taught the difference between right and wrong, then wrong looks a lot right. In fact for many years, wrong guided my choices. It felt good, until it didn't.
What changed for me was receiving the power to do right, the power to not control my life, but to guide it away from danger and to lead it into right thinking. Took awhile because I was very stubborn, but now that I understand that God contends for me, he fights for me, and he loves me unconditionally, I want to know what he wants me to do.
That's a decision, not control. That is receiving the Holy Spirit through salvation, not running away from God. That my friends is a tremendous burden lifted from my shoulders. It's in a prayer we have been talking about all week: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
He's where that wisdom to know the difference comes from, not me. His spirit, not mine!
Glenn is an ex-Marine Viet Nam vet who is also a recovering alcoholic, clean and sober for 30 years. He has been involved in start up and ongoing recovery ministry at North Atlanta Church and Campus for the last two decades. He has a passion for outreach and to spread the message that the answer to lasting and fulfilling recovery from addiction is in a relationship with Jesus Christ. He and the ATB team are available to assist in your questions or needs on an individual basis and will do so maintaining complete confidentiality. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.