Wise, Discerning Discipline

SchwarzkopfFor the Lord’s Day, August 2, 2015

Dear Saints,

A blunt but discerning leadership and parenting nugget is mined from General H. Norman Schwarzkopf’s autobiography, It Doesn’t Take a HeroHe shares the following story during his time as second lieutenant in the United States Army with the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky:

In the summer of 1957 we had a huge influx of draftees, and we were working fifteen-hour days to get them properly trained and assimilated into the unit.  The worst soldier in the bunch was a guy from upstate New York.  He insisted that he’d been in a motorcycle accident and had sustained brain damage that caused him occasionally to become catatonic.  Given that he’d passed his draft physical, this seemed improbable, and we soon noticed a close correlation between this private’s catatonic fits and the prospect of hard work.  We’d be camped fifteen miles from the base, getting ready to march home, and the private would pass out.  Each time we’d carry him to the dispensary, but he always revived just before the doctor examined him.

The doctor was mystified; he couldn’t say what the problem was, but he also couldn’t say there was no problem.  Sergeants Montoya and Gonzales, Korean War veterans who supervised the recruits, did not think very much of this at all.  “Sir, that [guy] is getting over on us!”

I was concerned that if he did have a medical condition, the man could die: “Look, Sarge, he may be or he may not be.  We just don’t know and we can’t take a chance.”

So the sergeants improvised their own cure.  The troops lived on the second floor of the barracks, and every Friday night they had what was called a GI party–which entailed scrubbing the floor, waxing it, and buffing it to a high shine.  One Friday I heard screaming and raced upstairs and burst into the squad bay.  Montoya and Gonzales had the private hanging out the window upside down by his ankles.  He was in a panic, and Gonzales was yelling, “… It didn’t take you long to wake up this time!”  After that the private had no more catatonic fits, although the Army discharged him anyway, a few months later, as unfit for duty.

Sometimes you just have to get terribly and creatively direct to ferret out lazy, destructive, undermining, varmint-like tendencies.  Does this illustration seem extreme, non-pastoral, non-parental, and unscriptural?  Well passing over Hebrews 12:5-11 and Nehemiah 13:23-28, let us venture back in the Bible to consider King Solomon’s first wise and disciplinary tactic as a tough act to follow:

Then came there two women, that were harlots, unto the king, and stood before him. And the one woman said, O my lord, I and this woman dwell in one house; and I was delivered of a child with her in the house. And it came to pass the third day after that I was delivered, that this woman was delivered also: and we were together; there was no stranger with us in the house, save we two in the house. And this woman’s child died in the night; because she overlaid it. And she arose at midnight, and took my son from beside me, while thine handmaid slept, and laid it in her bosom, and laid her dead child in my bosom. And when I rose in the morning to give my child suck, behold, it was dead: but when I had considered it in the morning, behold, it was not my son, which I did bear. And the other woman said, Nay; but the living is my son, and the dead is thy son. And this said, No; but the dead is thy son, and the living is my son. Thus they spake before the king.

Then said the king, The one saith, This is my son that liveth, and thy son is the dead: and the other saith, Nay; but thy son is the dead, and my son is the living. And the king said, Bring me a sword. And they brought a sword before the king. And the king said, Divide the living child in two, and give half to the one, and half to the other. Then spake the woman whose the living child was unto the king, for her bowels yearned upon her son, and she said, O my lord, give her the living child, and in no wise slay it. But the other said, Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it. Then the king answered and said, Give her the living child, and in no wise slay it: she is the mother thereof. And all Israel heard of the judgment which the king had judged; and they feared the king: for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him, to do judgment. (1 Kings 3:16-28)

Notice that this extremely shrewd yet incredibly bold getting at the truth was King Solomon’s first wise judgment after God granted him the gift of wisdom for which he asked earlier in the chapter.

Am I saying to dangle disrespectful, deceitful, defiant deviants over balconies or to threaten to slice someone’s infant down the middle?  Of course not.  But the illustrated principle remains: sometimes moronic, incompetent, inferior nonsense must be squelched by morally responsible and effectual superiors.

Discerning when such daring measures are called for by similarly deplorable times takes great insight, so let us ask God for wisdom in leadership and parenting noting that there is a time for everything under heaven (including breaking down, as Solomon wrote elsewhere).

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant

The Need for Strong Church Leaders

For Lord’s Day, February 8, 2015

Dear Saints,

It’s another tough Scripture to look at tomorrow as we continue hearing about the terrible Golden Calf incident at the foot of Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:15-25).  We will see the need for “tough love” by strong men like Moses if the Church will survive God’s judgment for such things and avoid them in the future. And we will see how the church gets herself into such times of severe discipline and loss under “nice” but weak leaders such as Aaron.  Following are some thoughts from three different sources that together should help us prepare for the message, “You Need Strong Leaders”.

“Armed for the Fight Against Grave and Serious Error”, a sermon by John Calvin printed in The Trinity Review, October 2014:

… we all know how important it is to feel at peace with the world. (This is why many of us are blind to our faults, because the world flatters us.)

Too many people are continually on the prowl to see whether there is anything they can attack; their holiness amounts to nothing more than mocking one person or chiding another.

We must not fear anyone, for the zeal of God must rise up within us and overwhelm us. Even if it means that we acquire a bad reputation and become the object of all kinds of calumny and slander, nevertheless, we must enter into combat.

… even the greatest amongst us must bend his neck, realizing the devilish confusion that results when a man believes himself to be above reproof.

… when a sin is deepening and spreading because of silent acquiescence in it, we must deal with it. If we only respond when the illness is deep-rooted, we will be too late.

… if sin reigns we must deal with it at the appropriate time, for if we tolerate it, or make it a laughing matter, and then subsequently try to deal with it, we will be surprised to find that God has shut the door on us and that Satan has won. This is a just reward for our cowardice and coldness, if we are not prepared to heal the sicknesses which corrupt and infect the body of the church the moment we see them arise within her.

Little by little, the devil’s ways will become the order of the day and he will drag us along with him if he once takes hold of our loose reigns. If we see evil growing to this degree, each of us has a duty to stop its spread by showing that we prefer to go to war in the service of God than to have all the friends in the world and to please and gratify mortal creatures. Let us even make ourselves blind or remove an eye rather than offend God. May his truth and his glory be so precious to us that everything else is as nought in comparison.

“As Spiritual Mediator, [Pope] Francis Moves His Geopolotical Agenda Forward”, by Richard Bennett and Robert Nicholson, in The Trinity Review, September, 2014:

… any country’s civil order is based on the dominant religion of its people.

“The Line in the Sand”, in Solid Ground newsletter, Nov/Dec 2014, by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason ministries:

As followers of Christ here in the West, our lives are not at risk . Far from it. We’re not faced with the ultimatum, ‘Recant or die.’ But sometimes in many small ways, I’m afraid we implicitly recant with much less incentive. We deny our Savior in the little things—the petty offense, the silent condescension, the hidden envy, the small bit of bitterness, the modest moment of pride.

The most important measure of our success as Christians is not our numbers or even our immediate impact, but our moment-by-moment faithfulness.

When ‘alien principles’ rule the church … ‘the church ceases to be the church.’ (Barmen Declaration)

My fear is that any Christian crossing the first line will cross the second for the same reasons: to be ‘tolerant,’ to be lauded as loving, to escape the brand, ‘bigot.’ Though not a fool, Paul was willing to be called one for fidelity’s sake, since the so-called ‘foolishness’ of the Gospel had the power to save those who believed (1 Cor. 1:18-24). Are you willing to wear the label ‘bigot’ for the same reason, even if it be libel?”

Let us ask God to expose the Golden Calves in our hearts tomorrow with such challenging words, that we would get rid of them and have no need to drink them and die by them.

Semper Reformanda,

Pastor Grant