Pearl Harbor

I’ll never forget what he said, or the look on his face as he relived the hell of battle. Dad’s words were bathed in emotion. Hardened by the intense heat of battle, he still choked up at times as he remembered Guadalcanal, Gilbert Islands, Coral Sea, and Midway. He repeated “Coral Sea,” hesitated, breathed deeply and said, “Midway.”

Did I detect anger? Or was it sorrow?

Dad won the Texas State High School Championship as a clarinetist in the school band, then joined the navy in 1938 as a musician. In peace time he played the clarinet in the USS Yorktown Band, and the saxophone in the jazz band. But in battle he was an intra-ship radioman, assigned to the aircraft carrier, USS Yorktown CV-5.

Dad was a Texan, as was Admiral Chester Nimitz, and often told me of battles in Texas history. Sentences we read without emotion in history books became commands bathed in blood and tears when Dad said them. If you’re not a Texan, Remember the Alamo! and Remember Goliad! could mean almost nothing to you. But it sometimes brings tears to my eyes and raises goose bumps on my arms because my Dad was a Texan! No, he didn’t fight at the Alamo in 1836 or at Goliad in 1835, but he made sure that I, his oldest son, knew about them.

Dad didn’t join the navy to kill people. He didn’t even want to go to war. As a nine-year-old boy, when he had the privilege of seeing John Philip Souza on Souza’s last tour with the United States Marine Band, he was inspired and dedicated himself to music. Becoming an award-winning musician, he wanted to join the United States Navy Band. Fighting a war was not on his radar screen. However, personal plans and goals don’t always develop to our liking. In this case, Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

The above is an excerpt from the introduction to the book Dead in the Water. The book was written by Captain Stanford E. Linzey, Jr., CHC, USN, Retired. The introduction was added by my brother, Stanford E. Linzey III. I plan to post several excerpts leading up to December 7, Also known as National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.

A Divine Call to Ministry

The call of God is one of the most important points in your thinking about becoming a military chaplain, and this call has professional, personal, and spiritual dimensions.

The professional side of the call has a lot to do with how the military looks at you and your work as a chaplain. When a minister goes to an accessioning board to apply for for Active Duty, Reserve, or National Guard for the Army, Air Force, or Navy, one of the topics each candidate will have to respond to is “Tell us about your call.” An applicant should be able to communicate a definite experience when the Lord called him or her to become a military chaplain.

There is also a personal side to the call to military ministry. Fulfilling the call of God on your life isn’t easy. There will be tough days. There may be times you feel like quitting or throwing in the towel. You have to do physical training when you’d rather be relaxing with your family or spending time with friends.

There is also a spiritual side to the call. In 1994, Christian musician Steven Curtis Chapman wrote a song titled “Burn the Ships.” The song tells the legendary story of Hernán Cortés, the Spanish conquistador who sailed from Spain with a fleet of ships to conquer the Aztecs in Mexico. After arriving, some of the men were homesick, fed up with being away from family and the life they knew, and threatened to return to Spain. Cortés responded by ordering the ships to be destroyed so his men had no way to leave. The lyrics include the devotional application that when we make a decision to follow Christ, there’s no going back. In essence, sometimes we have to “burn the ships” in order to remain faithful to the Lord and his call on our lives.

The point is this: if you obey the call of God to minister as a military chaplain, the Lord will strengthen you. God called you to the work, God will prepare you for the work, and God will sustain you in the work.

A specific divine call to any ministry will change the direction of your life. It will motivate you and lead to new behaviors and habits. It will give you the strength, stamina, and tenacity that you’re going to need if you’re to run the race and finish the course. And just as important, the call will come with a divine anointing, and the promise that the lord will be with you every step of the way.

The call of God, therefore, is undoubtedly one of the most important points in thinking about becoming a military chaplain, and this call includes the professional, personal, and spiritual dimensions of your life. If you aren’t sure, then take more time to pray and seek God until he confirms his call for your life’s work. There must be no doubt. There’s no room for wondering whether this is where you are called to serve. You don’t have the luxury to guess or assume. You have to be certain.

This is an excerpt from the book Military Ministry: Chaplains in the Twenty-First Century.

The Little Door

The exterior of a butterfly egg has at least one tiny opening called a micropyle, while the egg of a different species may have an entire “system of tiny canals.” These microscopic openings permit the entrance of the sperm, so that the egg may be fertilized shortly before it is deposited by the female. Interestingly, micropyle is the transliteration of a Greek compound word meaning “little doors” or “little gates.” Plant and insect eggs have these miniature openings. Otherwise, there would be no fertilization.

Jesus mentioned moths and gnats in his teaching, but I don’t know whether he ever talked about their eggs. But he did talk about doors and gates. In fact, he specifically mentioned a small gate in the Sermon on the Mount:

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it (Mat 7:13-14).

Later on, he said, I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved (John 10:9).

There’s another scripture that ought to be included in this discussion. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if anyone hears my voice, opens the door, and welcomes me in, I will come in and fellowship (Revelation 3:20, paraphrased). This is a specific invitation for Butterfly Believers who are looking for spiritual direction and fulfillment.

A friend of mine has a saying: “Christianity isn’t a religion; it’s a relationship.” I like that emphasis because it captures the essence of what Jesus is all about. Living for Christ is not about liturgy, ritual, traditions, or rules, even though many of those might be good and helpful. I’ve discovered that genuine Christianity involves growing a deep relationship with the Savior who calls himself our friend.

Room for Individuality

I used to assume that all butterfly eggs were identical regardless of the species. Maybe some were slightly smaller and some a bit bigger, but otherwise, one butterfly egg would be just like every other butterfly egg. Oh, how wrong I was! When I started investigating, I discovered that the eggs of different types of butterflies are sometimes quite different from every other kind.

Some are round and others hemispherical. Some are conical, cylindrical, or shaped like a barrel. Some resemble a cheese wheel, while others actually look like a turban. Many butterfly eggs are angular, and many appear to be flattened at the ends. There’s a wide variety of textures, sizes, designs, and colors. There are blues, reds, greens, yellows, purples, oranges, whites, and browns. Oh, my goodness, there are some fascinating differences among them!

The same is true among human beings, and even among Christians of similar theology or the same denomination. We have different personalities, talents, and preferences. We don’t have the same spiritual gifts, callings, or interests. We definitely don’t look alike. We don’t agree on every doctrine, type of music, or choice of liturgy. In addition, there are many different relationship styles among us. Who we are and what we are like depends so much on our genetics, our upbringing, our experiences, our health, and so much more.

The Apostle Paul takes this into account when he discusses the Gifts of the Spirit.

Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. There are many parts, but one body. 1st Corinthians 12:12, 20.

Another take on the differences among the people of God can be seen in Galatians 3:28. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

It’s important to understand that the differences among us are good. We shouldn’t try to be like one another, nor should we try to force others to be like us. In fact, there is greater health in our fellowship and friendship circles when we invite diversity into the mix.

A Butterfly Believer in the egg or embryo stage might want to keep in mind that even though there may be some important changes ahead, you don’t have to become just like everyone else. There’s plenty of room for individuality. You can still be you. A better aim for all of us would be to give each other space to grow into the likeness and the image of the Lord. That’s what we were created for.

An excerpt from the book Butterfly Believers, a set of devotional readings based on Romans 12:2 and the butterfly metamorphosis.

Jesus, Peter, and a Centurion

Jesus was not in the military and did not routinely go out of his way to minister to soldiers. Yet a Roman centurion who needed help came to Jesus.

Jon Bloom, a staff writer for an organization called Desiring God, makes the following observation: Luke 7:9 and Matthew 8:10 use the Greek word thaumazo (thou-mad’-zo) which is translated as “marveled” or “amazed” to describe Jesus’s response to the centurion’s faith. The only other time this word is used to describe the Lord’s response to other people’s faith is in Mark 6:6, when he marvels at the lack of faith in the people of Nazareth, his hometown.

Bloom calls this centurion a “firstfruit and a foreshadow of what Jesus had come to bring about.” It may be that Jesus Himself was the first in the New Testament to minister to people in the military, and the “firstfruit and foreshadow” refers to thousands of Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who will come to faith in Christ through the message of the Gospel.

Peter also had an encounter with a centurion. Acts chapter ten tells of Peter’s vision about eating unclean food. In the dream, the Lord told him to stop calling something unclean if the Lord Himself declared it clean. Peter woke up and was thinking about the experience when Cornelius’s representatives arrived. The Lord told Peter to go with the men, so he went to the home of the centurion and proclaimed the Good News of Jesus Christ. Acts 10:44 says everyone who heard Peter’s message received the Holy Spirit and became believers in Jesus.

In this account, the representative of Christ went to where the soldier was in order to minister to him. This is exactly what a chaplain does: after praying, going to where the people are, spending time with them, and paying attention to the leading of the Holy Spirit, who opens a door for sharing the message of the Savior.

The significance that Peter attributes to his experience is that the Lord has opened the door for Gentiles to come into the Kingdom of God. But there’s another, more subtle significance that we can’t afford to miss. In the same way that the Church must no longer think of the gentiles as bad people who are outsiders, the Church must not think about people in the military as being unclean or bad. It’s not an accident that the gentile who Peter visited was a military man.

Peter understood that Christians should accept, love, and serve all people, all demographics, and all ethnicities. Nobody is to be considered inferior, less valuable, or unworthy. The same is true for those serving in the military. They are people who need God, need to be loved and accepted, need someone to tell them about Jesus, need someone who’ll be an example of Christian faith and lifestyle.

Military chaplains have an opportunity almost every day to speak about faith, hope, love, and the grace of God. They develop relationships and friendships with the people in the command, and let their light shine. And the fact that chaplains come from all backgrounds and all walks of life allows for a wide variety of methods and opportunities to teach, disciple, and represent the Lord.

This is an excerpt from Military Ministry: Chaplains in the Twenty-First Century by Paul Linzey and Keith Travis.

Veterans Day Books

If anyone is interested in a good read for Veterans Day, or perhaps getting a gift for a friend in the military, here are several books worth considering.

This book focuses on the role of the chaplain, but also takes a good look at religion in the Armed Forces. It answers a lot of questions about the rights and restrictions applicable to people of faith, and presents an accurate picture of what it’s like to be a Christian in today’s military. Containing a lot of anecdotes and real life examples, it also shows that there is an open door for genuine sharing of faith when done correctly and respectfully. Click on the book to see it on Amazon.

Being in Iraq in 2007 was scary and dangerous. Yet, the Lord was doing some fantastic things in the lives of the men and women I served, loved, and ministered to. Written as a combination memoir and testimony, it tells stories of answered prayer, overcoming fear and temptation, and experiencing the presence of God.

My dad wrote this book about what it was like to be on the USS Yorktown in World War II. He survived the Battles of Midway and Coral Sea, experienced the amazing presence of the Lord during the toughest days of his life, and shares what it was really like. Originally published with the title God Was at Midway and then as USS Yorktown at Midway, last year my brother wrote a new introduction and I added an epilogue.

These books may be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the images of the books. You may also click on the Books tab in the menu above. And if you’d like to listen to my podcast conversations with Richard Blackaby (Blackaby Ministries International) or with Randy Zachary (Family Radio) scroll down to the bottom right and you can play them.

Embryonic Faith

When a female butterfly places an egg on the leaf, it contains the yolk: a thick liquid that has the “germ” of the future caterpillar, plus the food it will need until it hatches. This is crucial because even though the critter might be in the egg for only a week or two, it requires immediate nourishment or it will die. It is fascinating that in every step of the metamorphic process, there is a marvelous combination of beauty and function.

I think this is also true for human beings, especially in the context of the quest for spiritual growth. When we start our journey as a disciple, everything we need to sustain our new life of faith is in place. We have the Holy Spirit living inside of us. We have a sense of faith, even if it’s at the embryonic level. These two will sustainment us and carry us to the next level.

According to 2 Peter 1:3-4, His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

In the passage above, do you notice the goal of participating in the divine nature? That will be the focal point when we discuss the adult butterfly. The creature still in the egg isn’t even close to looking like or behaving like the mature insect, though. It’s not even a crawling bug yet. There are many changes that will have to happen before it gets to the finish line.

Similarly, there are many changes and much growth a believer has to experience before getting to where the Lord wants him or her to be. So, we take it one day at a time until we see the Lord’s handiwork manifesting in our life and character.

There’s nothing wrong with being in the egg if you’re brand new to the life of faith or haven’t even started yet. It’s totally fine to be where you are at this stage of your spiritual life. Take nourishment from what’s around you, learn from others, and ask the Lord for his help. I guarantee that his divine power will give you everything you need for a godly life, and if you hang in there, you are well on your way to participating in the divine nature. That’s God’s promise . . . even for those who are still in the egg.

Legal Basis of Military Chaplaincy

Before he became our first president, General George Washington was keenly aware of our need for military chaplains. He understood that chaplains, through their life, influence, and preaching, could help his men morally and ethically. He knew the impact chaplains would make by instilling courage and discipline. And he wanted chaplains to counsel the soldiers, visit them when they were sick or wounded, honor the dead, and write letters home for those who could not write.

Apparently, the Founding Fathers didn’t question whether a military chaplaincy was needed. It seems they merely adopted the British practice without debate. On July 29, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized a chaplaincy for the Continental Army and decided that the chaplains would be paid. In 1777, they authorized a chaplain for each Army brigade. By 1791, the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was ratified, guaranteeing freedom of speech and freedom of religion for every citizen, including people serving in our military.

These early actions by the United States Congress in the late 1700s served as the legal foundation and paved the way for further refinements as we shaped the military chaplaincies. When he was a congressman, James Monroe had voted in favor of a military chaplaincy on several occasions. Then as president, in 1814, he signed the explicit authorization for military chaplains. In 1818, a chaplain was authorized for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. In 1838, congress passed more sweeping legislation providing military chaplains at frontier forts, military hospitals, and other military schools. Also included were chaplains for the Navy and for Congress itself. By that point, the legal grounds for a military chaplaincy were firmly in place, and they endure to this day.

In 1861, Congress directed military commanders to weed out undesirable or unqualified chaplains because not everyone serving as a chaplain was qualified or was behaving properly.

It wasn’t until 1917 that Congress authorized minority faith groups to have military chaplains. Previously, all chaplains were Christians, the vast majority being Protestant. This new legislation, however, allowed Jewish rabbis to serve as military chaplains, and eventually let representatives of other minority religious groups serve as well, such as Buddhists and Muslims.

Following WWII, the Geneva Convention established the Law of Armed Conflict, which designated chaplains as noncombatants who are not allowed to fight, and who should be protected during battle. The United States was one of the first to sign the agreement to the Geneva Convention guidelines.

By 1956, Title 10 of the United States Code had been approved. This important legislation significantly expands and identifies the roles and functions of military chaplains. Because of the scope of this legislation, anyone interested in the military chaplaincy should read it thoroughly. According to Title 10, the military will fund and maintain a military chaplain corps and retain chaplains.

There have been some significant policies, instructions, manuals, pamphlets, memos, and regulations prepared by the Department of Defense and the various military departments that shed light on the role, function, and tasks of military chaplains.

Chaplains have to know the law. They’ve got to understand current policy, and must build a good working relationship with the commander and command staff, as well as with officers, enlisteds, and NCOs. All commanders are well trained and knowledgeable when it comes to issues related to religion. However, some of them are “anti-religion,” while some go overboard promoting religion. Others don’t care at all about religion, and want to take funds earmarked for religious programs and use the money for other priorities. Therefore, chaplains have to be well informed and strong enough to tell commanders what is right or wrong when it comes to implementing their religious programs.

If we do our homework and maintain proper relationships, we have an open door for an incredible ministry and an opportunity to impact countless lives on behalf of the Kingdom of God.

The Butterfly Lays an Egg

When discussing plants and animals, a fundamental principle of modern science is that every living thing comes from an egg, and this is where the story about Butterfly Believers begins. After mating, a female butterfly deposits her eggs on or under a leaf, gluing it on so that it cannot be blown off or removed. In many species, the caterpillar hatches in just a few days.

Every one of us begins the spiritual journey somewhere. We might have grown up in a Christian family. Some are invited to a church or a small group that meets in a home. Others come to faith in Christ later in life. Whoever we are and wherever we find ourselves spiritually, the Lord reaches out to us and provides the spark of faith, fans it into flame, and our relationship with Christ begins.

This can be seen in my own family. My grandfather converted to Christ at about age seventy-five, living the last twenty-four years of his life as a dedicated Christian who read the scriptures every day and became a deacon in the little Baptist church near his farm. My father was a sailor in the Navy when he met a young lady who invited him to church. He became a Christian and they eventually married. I grew up in a Christian home.

I know people who turned to God during a crisis and found that the Lord provided the help they needed. I’ve talked with others who just felt there was something missing in their life and discovered a God who filled the emptiness inside. A few have told me they had a friend who changed so much after experiencing Christ that they were drawn to the Lord. There are others who came to faith because of a miraculous experience.

In 1st Corinthians 3:5-7, the writer uses a different metaphor.

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

In these verses, the Corinthian believers are likened to a plant or a crop. Their faith journey began when someone planted the seed. The Lord sent someone else to provide the water. The seeds sprouted, took root, began to grow, and then flourished.

The point is that we all have to start somewhere. In the same way that every plant or animal comes from an egg, each of us begins the spiritual journey like that butterfly egg. We are alive. We have potential. The Lord wants to take us step by step on a path that will help us develop emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

Freedom of Religion in the Military

Throughout most of the twentieth century, understanding the Constitution and how it affected the work of chaplains didn’t seem all that important. Today, however, it is imperative for every chaplain in the Armed Services to fully understand the Constitution, the Establishment Clause, and the Free Exercise Clause because there is so much at stake.

The Establishment Clause prohibits the government from creating an official state religion. Although the precise definition of “establishment” is unclear, historically it referred to government-sponsored churches or religions, such as the Church of England, or any of the other officially recognized national religions throughout the world.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.

The Free Exercise Clause, on the other hand, extended religious protection to individuals, giving them the right to practice the religion of their choice without fear of punishment or negative consequences.

Although the Constitution deals with religious freedoms for all citizens, it doesn’t specify or authorize a military chaplaincy. Our government and military leaders have decided that having military chaplains is the best way for the constitutional rights and privileges of military personnel to be guaranteed, implemented, and supervised.

In essence, citizens of the United States don’t lose their constitutional rights when they enlist or become an officer in the military.

There have been many challenges to having chaplains in the military and there will be more, but each case inevitably comes back to the Constitution’s Establishment Clause and Free Exercise Clause. In a nation where people of many faiths live side-by-side, the First Amendment’s free exercise clause protects individuals from government interference in the practice and expression of their faith. The government cannot target laws at specific religious practices or place undue burdens on its citizens who want to worship.

Constitutional authority travels in a direct chain of command: from the Constitution, to the President, to the Secretary of Defense, to the Pentagon, to the Branches of Service, on down to the unit Commanders. The chaplain is the commander’s personal staff officer who is delegated the task of implementing and supervising the constitutional religious freedoms, restrictions, and opportunities. In essence, the religious program in the military belongs to the commander, and the chaplain works for the commander to make sure it is done properly and legally. That’s why every chaplain must understand the constitutional issues.

An important consideration to keep in mind here is that it’s the government that is specifically limited by the constitutional amendment. Because religious freedom is an important part of our national values, the government isn’t allowed to restrict those rights or to infringe on the individual’s free exercise of religion. Nor can the government impose religion onto the individual. This is particularly relevant to commanders and chaplains in the military.

The commander has legal and constitutional authority; the chaplain is the subject matter expert who provides ministry for those of his or her faith group, facilitates meeting the religious needs for those of other faith groups, and ensures that all personnel have the opportunity to practice their constitutional freedoms. And because of the Establishment Clause, the chaplain also makes sure nobody is coerced or forced to worship, and that nobody is subjected to presentations of religion against his or her will.

It’s important to note that the Constitution is the authority that gives chaplains the right to express their faith in a secular and pluralistic environment. But it also provides limitations that chaplains must respect. Otherwise, it is possible for chaplains to find themselves caught between the Establishment Clause and the Free Exercise Clause.

These clauses were written into the constitution to protect churches from government, and also to protect individuals from religion, because freedom to worship also includes freedom not to worship.

Christians have freedoms, yet so does everyone else in the Armed Forces, and those freedoms are guaranteed. Chaplains have a crucial role in how religious rights play out in the military, and we need to know our role.

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