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Pastor's Column

Two men and their military manuals

  I was twenty something when I found myself seated beside a weapons expert on a plane; he appeared to be fortyish.  We were both flying to the Moline-Rock Island, Illinois area: he to do business with an arms supplier and I to preach sixteen sermons in a two week evangelistic conference at a country church, a common feat then but one that is almost unknown in this period of vanishing Sunday night and midweek services. 

  After getting acquainted, this authority on weaponry asked if I would like to see his military weapons manual and upon my answer of interest he produced a large catalogue of war equipment.  The Korean conflict was just behind us and his knowledge of arms so captivating that I listened intently as my adjoining-seat teacher took me on a fascinating photo journey of war lore. Then I asked if he𠆝 ever seen a minister’s manual.

  “No,” he replied, apparently surprised that one existed.

  “Here it is!” I said, showing him my Bible and sharing a few verses from it.

  Explaining then my mission for the next few weeks, I opened my briefcase and produced the sixteen sermon outlines I intended to use during the upcoming meetings.

  Now it was my fellow flyer’s turn to be fascinated, being especially impressed with the amount of work these outlines and their coming use represented.  Sensing his surprise and immediate interest, I seized the moment and explained the content of the sermons for the remainder of our flight, seeing him as the first attendee of the evangelistic conference, which, in my mind, had already begun.

 What could an authority on war have in common with a minister?  Actually, I learned, a great deal.

  We both carried manuals intended to bring victory in battle and produce peace.

  Some think beginning a life of faith ends all spiritual conflict, but often the opposite is true.  What then are the benefits of believing?  People of faith have the believer’s military manual that enables them to win over faith’s foes.  “Put on the whole armor of God,” wrote Paul, describing then the importance of growing faith, consistent living,

prayer and sharing the good news of God’s love (Ephesians 6:10-18).

  Peace flows from knowing the manual and grows through church attendance.

  What church do you attend? I asked some people we met at a park on the shore of Lake Michigan.   “We don’t!” said one, adding: “This is my church!” And red flags began waving in my mind. Nature’s beauty can be inspiring, but worshipping creation rather than the Creator is sure to bring defeat when in the heat of life’s battles.

  Embarking from the plane, the military man and I went our separate ways.  I’ve wondered about his life after our meeting.  Perhaps he’s helped keep peace and protect us all. His expertise may have brought freedom to some in political bondage.

  I’ve written many sermon outlines over the years.  Over eight hundred of them are included in the eight volumes of my “Preach for a Year” books, hopefully helping pastors build faith and bring peace to the hearts of the members of their congregations.

  A minister and an arms expert working for similar goals?  How strange is that?

  Maybe not so strange after all.

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(c) 2006 Frankenmuth News