Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.
- 2 Peter 3;3-13
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules. The hardworking farmer should be the first to receive a share of the crops. Reflect on what I am saying, for the Lord will give you insight into all this.
- 2 Timothy 2:3-7
“Entertainment is everything today. So important, in fact, that we have television programs and magazines devoted solely to the subject. All of which makes it real difficult to be committed to substance rather than superficial. This includes reading widely, probing deeply, seeing with discernment, rejecting the false, learning the facts. In short, thinking!
“Television doesn’t help at all. To twist Isaac Watt’s words to the limit: ‘Is this wide-screen a friend of grace to help me on to God?’ …”
- Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch
And there I sunk into a rabbit hole, not to return. The real words to that line of Isaac Watts’ hymn, Am I a Soldier of the Cross?, is “Is this vile world a friend to grace, To help me on to God?” Note that the good Rev. Swindoll placed his apostrophe in the wrong place, but I try to keep the quotes accurate to the source. Then again, it may have been changed at the publishing house.
At the point of wondering what hymn Rev. Swindoll was misquoting, I was chasing dust bunnies down a rabbit hole. Wow! Talk about mixing metaphors!
But has the television created a world of non-thinking people that have such short attention spans that they constantly chase dust bunnies down rabbit holes instead of staying on topic? The television commercials that I hate the most are those that flash picture after picture on the screen seeing, and not seeing simultaneously, several pictures each second. I am sure that they are doing these advertisements for those of younger generations who have grown up in this type of world, but I have to close my eyes to keep from getting sick to my stomach or getting a headache. Could it be that these types of subliminal message carriers are the cause of the “migraine generation?”
I think my reaction in the middle of a short devotion proved Rev. Swindoll’s point. One of the biggest industries to change in the past 100 years is the Entertainment industry. I have a son that spews venom and disgust when I say something like “You know, the guy that plays so-n-so on that TV show, you know the show, the cop show…” When that particular son calms down enough to make a sentence, it is usually, “The actor has a name, DAD!!!!”
May I confess something? I really don’t care!!!! Yes, I know that Tom Harmon’s kid, what’s his name? Oh, the same as mine, Mark, right Mark Harmon… He plays Leroy Jethro Gibbs on NCIS. Being a football fan, I wanted him to go to the NFL, but he was smart enough to take a different route. He was a good college quarterback, but he’s a better actor portraying an NCIS agent. And from what those entertainment things about the entertainment industry tell me, the carpentry in his basement is him using his own tools, not that I would ever need to know that.
I just mention him, because there are few television shows that I watch anymore, but that is one of them. And I mention Mark Harmon, because he is the only actor that I could name on that show. That is other than Illya Kuryakin. Oh, sorry, that was his character on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. His real name is David McCallum. I think I have that straight.
But, there were a few shows about the entertainment industry when Rev. Swindoll wrote this devotion. There are now networks devoted to precisely nothing, oh, the Entertainment Industry. Do we need to know the actor’s private life? I am sure the actor, most of them, would prefer a little privacy.
But, getting back to the devotion that I was sidetracked in, Rev. Swindoll was echoing, in an odd way, the words to the Isaac Watts hymn. We have our lives far too soft. How can we call ourselves soldiers of the cross? Are we not like Isaac Watts asking whether we are soldiers of the cross, because our Savior’s foes are not trying to kill us?
Let’s look at the lyrics.
1. Am I a soldier of the cross,
a follower of the Lamb,
and shall I fear to own his cause,
or blush to speak his name?
2. Must I be carried to the skies
on flowery beds of ease,
while others fought to win the prize,
and sailed through bloody seas?
3. Are there no foes for me to face?
Must I not stem the flood?
Is this vile world a friend to grace,
to help me on to God?
4. Sure I must fight, if I would reign;
increase my courage, Lord.
I’ll bear the toil, endure the pain,
supported by thy word.
5. Thy saints in all this glorious war
shall conquer though they die;
they see the triumph from afar,
by faith they bring it nigh.
6. When that illustrious day shall rise,
and all thy armies shine
in robes of victory through the skies,
the glory shall be thine.
- Isaac Watts, Am I a Soldier of the Cross
The hymn that I grew up with was to a tune written by Thomas A. Arne in 1762.
Yes, there are places in this world that we can go to become martyrs for Christianity. There are martyrs for Christianity closer to home than that.
But, let’s do what Rev. Swindoll suggested that we are having an increasingly harder time in doing, because the entertainment industry has softened our brains. Let’s think about it.
Can we serve the Lord with just as much gusto in a place where the bullets are not flying? Where we do not risk losing our heads, literally? Yes, yes, we can. But are we not like the one in Watts’ first verse who blush to say His name, Jesus?
“Oh, no! You would offend someone!!!” But Jesus was not afraid to offend the religious leaders and teachers, the Pharisees and Sadducees. We use the excuse of not wanting to offend someone in not really wanting to ever say anything. Saying nothing forever is safer.
Yes, it is good to show love to your neighbor and in doing so they will know that you are ‘different.’ What is the difference? Do they know why you are different? Relationship evangelism only works if you go beyond the relationship to explain that you do not live by the fallen world’s standards, because Jesus Christ is in your heart. Otherwise, you are just like your neighbor, but nicer.
Thus, we must live our lives as the Apostle Peter suggests above in the first Scripture. We do not know the hour upon which Christ will return, but if He returns in our lifetime, what will He find us doing? Hiding our faith so that we do not offend our neighbors or shouting that Jesus is not offensive, unless you consider a loving God, the Creator of the universe, who wants to be your best friend, offensive. If you find that offensive, I will shake the dust from my shoes and move on.
So, Isaac Watts raised a question. Let me rephrase the question for you. Are you a soldier of the cross?
In searching for a good recording of the Watts hymn, I found three different tunes. One was to an old traditional Irish tune. Now, my mind has fallen into another rabbit hole. Not looking for dusty bunnies, but if anyone can tell me the Irish song that the Clancy Brothers used to sing to the following tune, please add your comment. The tune is so familiar, but the words of the Irish song escape me.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.