Ezekial Ndikumana is pastor of the Light Mission Pentecostal Church in Nashville. As a pastor, he is called to be the spiritual shepherd of his flock (Acts 20:28). This job involves teaching (Ephesians 4:11), leading (1 Timothy 5:17), and protecting his “sheep” spiritually (Hebrews 13:17).
Last Sunday, his third responsibility became literal.
According to police, a man named Dezire Baganda, who was seated toward the front of the church, took out a firearm and told members to get out of their seats. The pastor was at the altar praying with congregants, but he turned and quickly tackled the suspect. Other church members then helped him hold the suspect in place until police arrived. No shots were fired.
Pastor Ndikumana credits God with enabling his response: “God gave me the strength to do that, because if someone’s already pointing a gun on you like that, probably there’s nothing else to do.” Baganda is now facing fifty-seven felony counts.
"They've suffered the scars of war"
I wanted to begin today’s Daily Article with this story because it illustrates my Veterans Day theme: what the pastor did, every member of America’s military is willing to do every day.
On Memorial Day, we remember the 1.2 million women and men who have died in defense of our nation. Today, we give thanks for the 1.4 million active duty military who are willing to do so and the nineteen million veterans who have previously served our country.
Speaking of this day, President Ronald Reagan said: “It is right that we should meditate upon the principles for which so many Americans have fought—peace, freedom, the sacred and inviolable dignity of all men—principles that still give hope to the nation. But let us above all consider the veterans themselves, the millions of men and women who have given of themselves, even of their lives.”
In another address on our subject, President Reagan observed: “Veterans know better than anyone else the price of freedom, for they’ve suffered the scars of war. We can offer them no better tribute than to protect what they have won for us.”
Why my grandfather displayed a flag
There are three ways we come to appreciate and even to venerate one aspect of our lives above others.
First, we learn more about it and thus come to appreciate its uniqueness and significance. For example, lawyers understand and appreciate the law more than the rest of us. The same is true for physicians with our bodies, botanists with trees, ornithologists with birds, archaeologists with archaeology, and meteorologists with weather.
Second, we experience the lack of it. We don’t think much about gas stations unless we cannot find one and our car’s gauge is on empty. Or restaurants unless we are unusually hungry. Or air unless we are underwater. Or water unless we are parched.
Third, we pay a price on its behalf or in its defense. My grandfather fought in World War I and displayed a flag outside his home every day thereafter for the rest of his life. A neighbor in my community displays an American flag on a tall flagpole and beneath it the Marine Corp flag. The second explains his veneration for the first.
My father, a veteran of World War II, understood our nation through the prism of that conflict in ways those who did not serve could not. During his service, he experienced the deprivation of the freedom and prosperity he fought to defend on our behalf. The horrors he witnessed and the suffering he faced only heightened his love for his nation.
I am confident that the last paragraph describes millions of America’s veterans today.
Watchmen on the wall
Yesterday we looked at our nation through the prism of Hosea 4, identifying ways the sins of ancient Israel are being practiced and even celebrated in our secularized culture today. As a result, I noted, the divine judgment Israel experienced is one we are presumptuous not to fear for our country.
America’s Christians therefore have a vital and urgent task. We are watchmen on the wall, warning those inside the city of impending danger (Ezekiel 3:17-21). We are intercessors called to represent our people before God (1 Timothy 2:1-2) and ambassadors called to represent God before our people (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are the only salt and light in a world decaying in the dark (Matthew 5:13-16). We are the body of Christ, the visible manifestation of Jesus’ continuing ministry in our day (1 Corinthians 12:27).
To fulfill our calling, we must make the three commitments I described above.
First, know God more.
The more we know him, the more we love him. And the more we love him, the more we will want to know him. We must love him with our heart, soul, mind, and strength before we can fully love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31).
Second, see the critical urgency of the moment.
Life, from conception to natural death, is under assault today. The so-called Equality Act is just one way religious liberties are under unprecedented attack. Biblical morality is widely dismissed as irrelevant if not rejected as dangerous. A rising ideology seeks to replace religion with secularism.
Third, pay the price to respond.
Jesus was blunt: “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19). He added: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you” (v. 20). In this light, Christ followers should be more surprised when we do not face opposition for our faith than when we do.
"Tell the storm how big God is"
We’ll close with an optimistic word of hope.
At a time when God’s people faced not just cultural opposition but the threat of genocidal extermination, Mordecai told Queen Esther, “If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place” (Esther 4:13). In his new book You Were Made for This Moment (excerpted on our website), Max Lucado writes: “Relief will come! This was Mordecai’s message for Esther. And this is God’s message for you.”
Max encourages us: “Don’t measure the height of the mountain. Ponder the power of the One who made it. Don’t tell God how big your storm is. Tell the storm how big God is. Your problem is not that your problem is so big, but that your view of God is too small.”
So, “the next time you feel the weight of the world, talk to the One who made the world. As your perception of God grows greater, the size of your challenge grows smaller ... Relief will come. Your Father will give you strength to meet the day.”
Why is this promise relevant for you today?
NOTE: I have begun writing a personal blog and book reviews, posting videos, and responding to readers’ questions on my personal website, www.drjimdenison.com. I invite you to visit me there to find my latest reflections and encouragement for faithful living in a challenging day.
Publication date: November 11, 2021
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/SDI Productions
The views expressed in this commentary do not necessarily reflect those of Christian Headlines.
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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