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Friday, February 23, 2018

Remembering the Vietnam War (Part 1)

We are thankful for Ed's service to God and Country.

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
Army Chaplain, Retired

Few people understand the Vietnam war. Most veterans lament the suffering and say with many others: “Why? It was useless!” They find fault with both the leadership and the way the war was fought. Over a million people either died or suffered physically and emotionally.

To understand the Vietnam war the wider picture must be considered. It was as much a conflict with China and Russia as with the Viet Con. The Vietnamese enemy received substantial supplies from China and Russia. Very few weapons were made in Vietnam.

One of the driving emotional forces that made the Vietnamese fight was their resistance to occupying foreigners. Before the French, the Chinese. The Chinese occupation is seen in the remnant Chinese population living in the Cholon area near Saigon. The Vietnamese resisted the Chinese attempts to take the northern portions of Vietnam.

Communism was a tool of those who wanted to dominate and rule. In a sense, the conflict in Vietnam shows that self government won the day in Vietnam. Communism can't be sustained unless it controls the whole world and most nations and peoples seek to have control of their own lives and futures. So the war in Vietnam was a conflict of ideologies, a clash of national self interests, the global ambitions of Communism, and the ideal of democracy.

The Vietnamese have their own language, religion, and national identity. They sought to preserve it during the occupations. Today the economic culture of free enterprise dominates in Vietnam as “market centered” economy.

Even during the war the French rubber company still operated freely. I remember a visit from their company representatives. The came to ask us not to harm their rubber trees with artillery fire.

Related reading: Mercy in the MidstMilitary Service in Vietnam; The Lieutenant’s Godly Prayer

Sunday, January 21, 2018

What is Righteousness?

God is eternal love and perfect righteousness. Righteousness is one of the chief attributes of God and of His Son, Jesus Messiah. Those baptized and walking in faith display the attribute also. For the righteous ones of God in Christ are humble, compassionate, faithful, truthful, and confident of God's love for them.

Here are some Bible verses that help us to reflect on the nature of righteousness.

The Apostle Paul told Timothy to "pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness." (1 Timothy 6:11)

Paul urged Timothy to forsake the things of this world and to pursue the things of the eternal kingdom. This message is found in Matthew 6:33: "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."

This is expressed also in 2 Corinthians 5:16-19: "So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation."

Psalm 34:15 speaks of God's attentiveness to the righteous. "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry..."

"For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish." (Psalm 1:6)

Psalm 112:6-8 says, "Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered forever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes."

The security of the righteous reflects the fixed and unchanging nature of God and His promises. James speaks of this as the "wisdom from above."

"But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap the fruit of righteousness." (James 3: 17, 18)

We are blessed when we seek the wisdom from above. God promises to give wisdom to those who seek it. Likewise, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled." (Matthew 5:6)

"Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun." (Psalm 37:5, 6)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Blessed Christmas to Readers of Distinctive Discipleship



When the first Christmas presents came, the straw where Christ was rolled
Smelt sweeter than their frankincense, burnt brighter than their gold,
And a wise man said, "We will not give; the thanks would be but cold."

"Nay," said the next, "To all new gifts, to this gift or another,
Bends the high gratitude of God; even as He now, my brother,
Who had a Father for all time, yet thanks Him for a Mother.

"Yet scarce for Him this yellow stone or prickly-smells and sparse.
Who holds the gold heart of the sun that fed these timber bars,
Nor any scentless lily lives for One that smells the stars."

Then spake the third of the Wise Men; the wisest of the three:
"We may not with the widest lives enlarge His liberty,
Whose wings are wider than the world. It is not He, but we.

"We say not He has more to gain, but we have more to lose.
Less gold shall go astray, we say, less gold, if thus we choose,
Go to make harlots of the Greeks and hucksters of the Jews.

"Less clouds before colossal feet redden in the under-light,
To the blind gods from Babylon less incense burn to-night,
To the high beasts of Babylon, whose mouths make mock of right."

Babe of the thousand birthdays, we that are young yet grey,
White with the centuries, still can find no better thing to say,
We that with sects and whims and wars have wasted Christmas Day.

Light Thou Thy censer to Thyself, for all our fires are dim,
Stamp Thou Thine image on our coin, for Caesar's face grows dim,
And a dumb devil of pride and greed has taken hold of him.

We bring Thee back great Christendom, churches and towns and towers.
And if our hands are glad, O God, to cast them down like flowers,
'Tis not that they enrich Thine hands, but they are saved from ours.

G.K. Chesterton

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Marks of a True Disciple

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Jesus said “to those Jews which believed on him, . . . then are ye my disciples indeed.” (John 8:31)

What are the marks of a “disciple indeed” according to the New Testament?

1. A “disciple indeed” believes that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah, the Son of God, who came into the world to save sinners. (John 8:31–36)

2. A “disciple indeed” takes up a disciple’s cross to to follow Jesus in His suffering, death and resurrection. (Luke 9:23–25)

3. A “disciple indeed” remains faithful even when others fall away from following Christ. (John 6:66–69)

4. A “disciple indeed” has adopted a disciple’s self concept. This involves profession of faith as a disciple of Jesus and an attitude of humility and repentance. (John 9:27, 28; Matthew 10:32, 42; Acts 9:26) This entails obedience, not admiration. Soren Kierkegaard wrote:
“It is well known that Christ consistently uses the expression 'follower.' He never asks for admirers, worshippers, or adherents. No, he calls disciples. It is not adherents of a teaching, but followers of a life Christ is looking for…Christ came into the world with the purpose of saving, not instructing it. At the same time---as is implied to his saving work---he came to be the pattern, to leave footprints for the person who would join him, who would become a follower…What then is the difference between an admirer and a follower? A follower is or strives to be what he admires. An admirer, however, keeps himself personally detached. He fails to see that what is admired involves a claim upon him, and thus he fails to be or strive to be what he admires…Judas was and admirer of Christ!"

5. A “disciple indeed” is eager to learn and practice what God directs and teaches through the Bible and the Church. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Matthew 13:11, 12, 23; 28:19, 20; Hebrews 13:7, 17)

6. A “disciple indeed” is discerning. He or she only has eyes for Jesus and ears that refuse to be tickled by unsound teaching and falsehoods.

7. A "disciple indeed" is dedicated to faithfully reproducing the Lord’s message and mirroring His character in daily life.  (Luke 6:40 NKJV; Romans 8:28, 29; John 20:21). Thomas Merton wrote: 
“To know the cross is to know that we are saved by the sufferings of Christ; more, it is to know the love of Christ who underwent suffering and death in order to save us. It is, then to know Christ. For to know his love is not merely to know the story of his love, but to experience in our spirit that we are loved by him, and that in his love the Father manifests his own love for us, through his Spirit poured forth into our hearts…”

8. A “disciple indeed” maintains an abiding relationship with the Lord Jesus by faith (John 15:1–16) and the power of the in-dwelling Holy Spirit (John 16:13, 14). Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote:
“Self-denial means knowing only Christ, and no longer oneself. It means seeing only Christ, who goes ahead of us, and no longer the path that is too difficult for us. Again, self-denial is saying only: He goes ahead of us; hold fast to him.”

9. A truly committed disciple looks to serve others, doing those good works to which God calls each disciple. True discipleship is participatory. He or she is involved in the local church, in Bible study, in the community, and in the world. (Acts 11:26; 13:1–3)

Related reading: I am Persuaded: Testimony of Hope Ellen Rapson; John Stott on Discipleship; Dwight L. Moody on Discipleship; Charles H. Spurgeon on Discipleship; Billy Graham on Discipleship; Oswald Chambers on Discipleship; Evelyn Underhill on Discipleship; A.W. Tozer on Discipleship; C.S. Lewis on Discipleship; Archbishop Michael Ramsey on Discipleship

Monday, November 6, 2017

Are You in the Fold?

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27, 28)

Stone sheep cote in Zanuta, West Bank
Photo: Emil Salman

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

As with all things in creation, things function properly according to the creator’s design. Each is to function according to the Creator's design. Each has its being because of the Creator.

The faithful disciple is one whose life expresses the nature of the Creator-teacher. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40)

The true nature of all created things exists and functions properly when there is a connection to God or a relationship with God. This is no less true for bugs than for angels.

The human situation is unique in that we have a choice to function according to God's design or not. Many blessings follow the right choice. Correction and potentially final judgement follow the wrong choice.

Human beings need to be reconciled to their Creator before they can live according to the Creator's plan. Reconciliation to God does not come on our terms, but on the terms God sets. It is easy to deceive ourselves into thinking that we have it together spiritually.

Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!'” (Matthew 7:21-23)

It is extremely important that we accept the relationship to our Creator that He offers. That relationship is in, by, and through the work of Jesus, the Son of God. Jesus commanded: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." (Matthew 4:17)

Repentance is necessary to begin a Kingdom relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Only then can we be His sheep and live under his divine protection for eternity.

The time to repent and receive eternal life in the name of Jesus Christ is now. Are you in the fold?

Related reading: Sheep Cotes as Sacred Spaces

Monday, October 9, 2017

My Muslim Acquaintance

Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.

Part II - A Case Study (Part I is here.)

I have often exhorted myself, and those who would listen to me, to ask the Lord to lead me to the people He wanted me to minister the Word. There have been striking answers to this prayer, especially when traveling. A personal encounter with an Iranian man illustrates the basic principles found in Part I of “Partnering with God.”
Iranian man with traditional
bread called naan.

After praying and trusting the Lord for Him to place me where He wanted, I asked this man if I could sit in the airplane seat next to him. In asking him, I established a friendly contact, even though he had no authority over the seat. As we waited for the Southwest airliner to takeoff, I talked to another man who was on the other side of me. He was talkative, but from his appearance was a part of the youth culture that usually argues about everything traditional. At this stage, I just left the circumstances to the Lord’s management. As the plane’s departure drew near, the young man noticed that the plane was not full and moved to seating more to his liking.

The Iranian man was quiet and generally withdrawn, but I made myself friendly by asking where he was coming from. He said he was traveling from Iowa and to Southern California where he was employed. I sympathized with him that the state’s football team had been defeated in a bowl game in the last week. He had informed me that he had graduated from that University. I then asked where he was employed since he had a college degree. He said that he was working for an airline. At this point, I felt familiar enough to introduce myself since we were going to be spending a considerable time together on this flight. I gave him my first name and he gave me an ordinary American type name that didn’t fit his physical profile.

I asked him more about his job. We talked about the unsettled conditions of the country and world, especially about airlines. After that, I observed that much of the unsettled conditions affecting the airlines concerned religious affairs, adding all religions had moral standards, although they differed in ceremonial practices. He agreed and volunteered that he personally did not practice any religion although he did believe in God.

Then, I observed that most all religions believed in some kind of life after death and some kind of blessedness or judgment. However, that only one world religion professed to have a savior who did something to save those less than perfect. All but one left their people with an uncertain eternal future. The man acknowledged this reasoning that no one could be certain if he had done enough good things to compensate for his bad acts. This was especially so since their god might not give the same value to what they had done that they would.

I agreed that all religions, except biblical Christianity, did not profess to have a savior in their religions, and, that without a savior, a person’s eternal future was in doubt or that perhaps the religion did not have a firm standard of right and wrong if a savior was not thought to be necessary. After all, punishments in this life were not equal to the terrible things some have done. Therefore, a just god would have to give punishment in the life after death if justice was to be done. Failing this, that kind of god didn’t even have a sense of justice that men have and that whatever good after death (salvation) people might expect must come from a god who would be one’s savior. With an earned or merited salvation, sinful man would be his own savior. Further, this would not honor his god, but man making inadequate man to be an inadequate savior giving a doubtful salvation.

The suspicion logically comes that this religion comes from man and not the Creator since man must be his own savior. My seatmate acknowledged that my logic had some merit.

I continued by observing since the Creator God is the sovereign over his creation, in the final analysis, He was the judge of it all also. Furthermore, only the Creator Judge could in some way be the Savior, especially since when humankind sins, it is ultimately against Him. For as Creator, He determines what is compatible within his creation. Therefore, He must also determine what is necessary to reconcile an offender. The problem is that violating what is acceptable to Him is violating Him. Since He is infinite, the forgiveness must have a corresponding worth. Since man is finite, he cannot make a restitution of infinite worth. Therefore, the Creator must somehow do the saving of the offender, since only He is infinite.

I observed that no world religion offered any savior, let alone one of infinite power to compensate for one sin let alone that of all mankind. The ONLY EXCEPTION is the Savior revealed in the Bible, that is, Jesus Christ. I further observed that Islam honored Jesus as a genuine prophet, but that their leaders alleged that Jesus’ teachings were unreliably preserved. I went on to assert that this didn’t present a good picture of the Islamic God that sent Jesus with a revelation if he couldn’t preserve the message given the prophet Jesus.

I reminded him that all human beings that have lived long enough, know they do things contrary to the innate moral standards that the Creator instills in them. My Iranian acquaintance assented to this agreeing that men need a savior, because the best men can do to atone for personal sin is at best uncertain. All men have the inbuilt need for certainty, especially when the issue is an eternal state in Hell or Heaven.

Creator God, on the basis of responsible love, has provided all that man needs. These are man’s stewardship to use in the world in harmony with God’s design. In making man in the image of God, He not only gave man the responsibility of choice, but decreed Himself to be the payment for man’s redemption from before the foundation of the World, as God’s sacrificial lamb. This, Jesus did in His death, burial and resurrection. Even non-Christian literature testifies that early believers preached this message from the very beginning. These provisions come from love, but each man must receive them by faith.

On the other hand, Islam requires meritorious works without certain promise of eternal life except through violent Jihad. The slightest violation by an Islamic, whether in act or attitude will endanger or destine the individual to death or Hell, and the only sure way to Heaven is to die in a violent Jihad. Redemption by faithfully observing the requirements of the Qur’an and the Five Pillars gives no certainty or promise. Allah performs no act of redemption for his people’s or other’s sin. It offers no savior.

In contrast, the God of the Bible asks the opposite of meritorious works, i.e., faith. The mindset from which saving faith grows is: “He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:33 KJV). And, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son. And this is the record that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (I John 5:10–12 KJV).

Jesus’ assertion to be a part of the Creator God cannot logically be rejected because since man was created in the image of God, all men are more than just material. Even Islam speaks of the real identity of man is to go to Heaven or Hell when his body dies. This means that there are at least two parts to all men, physical and spiritual. Further, since angels who are spiritual beings can have physical appearances, how can Islamic teachers assert that a part of God cannot assume a physical existence? Also, if God is all powerful and sovereign, why can’t He take on a human expression? All this is what the reliable Bible portrays Jesus to be. The Old Testament prophecies in the Bible, confirm what the New Testament says about Jesus. I pointed out a study I made of the Old Testament prophecies about the person, work and even the timing of Messiah’s coming, all of which has been fulfilled in the Lord Jesus.

As the airliner was landing in Los Angeles, I asked him if he wanted me to lead him in calling upon the Lord Jesus to be his personal Savior. He consented and I prayed. I gave him my name and address so that he could write me for answers to any questions that he had. I warned him that family members would oppose him, but that God would be with him.


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Reflections on the Church #3

The Church is unlike any other institution or body in society. That is why the Church must retain its special mission to present Jesus Christ to the world in a clear manner. Many think this is the pastor's job and they are willing to let him do all the work.

Yet it is clear in Scripture that God gives each Christian work to do. The job descriptions are listed in 1 Corinthians 12:27-30. Here Paul explains, “Now Christ’s body is yourselves, each of you with a part in the whole. And those whom God has appointed in the Church are…

First – apostles
Second – prophets
Third – teachers
Fourth – workers of miracles, and so on...

The qualifications for clergy are given in 1 Tim 3:1-13. Here we note that only those who are "in Christ" are to be added to the Church and only those who are mature in faith and stable in their relationships are to lead others.

In 1 Corinthians 3:1-17, Paul warns against bad conduct. Christian leaders to fail to adhere to the high moral standard of the Apostles harm the Church and give Christ haters occasion to speak evil of the Lord and his Church. Those who serve faithfully will be rewarded at Christ’s Judgment Seat.

The pastor is to follow the example of the Apostles. He is to instruct, correct, discern the spirits, rebuke, commend, and proclaim the Gospel. He is to gather the people for worship, for the study of God's Word, and for fellowship that builds the local congregation.

All Christians are to regularly participate in the life of the Church. “. . let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

All Christians are to seek the truth by searching the Scriptures, as did the noble Bereans who "received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” Acts 17:11

Related reading: All Christians are Ministers; Few are Priests; Reflections on the Church #1; Reflections on the Church #2