Services for a War Hero, National Day of Mourning on Wednesday

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Man tries to rescue Christmas decoration
December 4, 2018  |  READ TIME: 4 minutes
A veteran named Alfred Norwood, Jr. was walking past a home in Austin, Texas, when he saw a man dangling from a second-story roof. He immediately stopped to help, trying unsuccessfully to use a ladder that was leaning against the home. He then called to people who were passing by, but no one stopped to help. So he called 911.

It turned out, the “man” in danger was a mannequin meant to look like Clark Griswold in the movie National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. It’s so realistic that it’s easy to see how Mr. Norwood was fooled.

The homeowners tracked the veteran down and thanked him. One pointed out that hundreds of cars go past their house every day, but he was the only person to stop and help. A reporter commented: “It’s nice to know there are still good people in this world who care.”

Let’s consider Mr. Norwood’s experience as a parable for our day.

Services for a war hero

President George H. W. Bush’s body is lying in state today in the US Capitol. It will remain there until tomorrow morning, when it will be taken to Washington National Cathedral for a state funeral. Tomorrow afternoon, the body will be transported to President Bush’s church in Houston for a service Thursday morning, followed by burial that afternoon.

His services are being conducted as a military operation befitting a war hero. They involve military units coordinating movements in at least three states and the District of Columbia.

The procedures are detailed in a 133-page manual titled “State, Official and Special Military Funerals.” As many as four thousand military and Defense Department civilian personnel will be involved in some capacity.

Mr. Bush was prepared to die. He knew that life is uncertain and death is coming for us all (unless Jesus returns first).

Good Samaritan stabbed to death

Unlike the former president, our culture does all it can to avoid the subject of mortality.

Like those who passed by the mannequin in Austin, we drive by dying people every moment of every day. But we evade the issue of death as if such denial could prevent its reality. We’re like people who find a lump but refuse to see a doctor because we’re afraid of what he or she might tell us.

It wasn’t always this way. People in the biblical era faced death as a daily reality. The Old Testament is filled with regulations for responding to a dead body; the Scriptures warn us repeatedly that death is coming for us all (cf. Hebrews 9:27).

I’m old enough to remember the Cold War and practice sessions in school where we were shown how to hide under our desks in the event of a bombing attack. The threat of nuclear war was more real than many of us knew. You could make the case that ours is the first generation in human history that can live with a reasonable expectation of not dying in a war, famine, or epidemic.

But unless Jesus returns first, we’ll all die of something.

A Baltimore woman rolled down her car window to give money to a woman holding a sign stating, “Please Help me feed my Baby.” A man then approached the vehicle, reached in to grab the driver’s wallet, and stabbed her to death.

A bus carrying a youth football team crashed in Arkansas yesterday, killing one child and injuring forty-five other passengers. The elementary-school age children were returning home to Memphis after playing in a tournament in the Dallas area.

God’s word is clear: “You do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (James 4:14).

Leaning against the wrong wall

But there’s a “but.” In the back of your mind, is there a feeling that this doesn’t really apply to you, at least not today? You’d never claim to be immune to death, of course. But if you’re like most of us, you’d rather ignore the subject than respond to it now.

This is one of Satan’s most subtle strategies. He wants us to live for this world with little thought for the next. He knows that the only safe way to die is to be prepared for eternity. But he doesn’t want us to know that.

Our consumptionistic culture cooperates, of course. Businesses are in business to make a profit. The more they can convince us that we need what they sell, the more they sell.

By the time we discover that the materialistic ladder we climbed was leaning against the wrong wall, it’s too late.

“There is only one relationship that really matters”

I was impacted recently by David’s description of God: “He is my steadfast love” (Psalm 144:2). “Steadfast love” translates the Hebrew chesed, meaning “unconditional grace” (the word is the Old Testament equivalent of agape in the New Testament). David’s words could be translated, “He is the one and only source of unchanging and unconditional love in my life.”

No one you know has the ability to love you unconditionally. To look to anyone or anything but God for the love our souls need in this life and the next is to commit idolatry.

This is why Oswald Chambers’s observation is so profound: “There is only one relationship that really matters, and that is your personal relationship to your personal Redeemer and Lord. If you maintain that at all costs, letting everything else go, God will fulfill His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes, and yours may be that life.”

What relationship matters most to you today?

FGGAM NEWS just received this news release from the office of NM Governor Susana Martinez: 

ANNOUNCING THE DEATH OF GEORGE HERBERT WALKER BUSH

TO THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES:

It is my sorrowful duty to announce officially the death of George Herbert Walker Bush, the forty-first President of the United States, on November 30, 2018.

President Bush led a great American life, one that combined and personified two of our Nation’s greatest virtues:  an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to public service.  Our country will greatly miss his inspiring example.

On the day he turned 18, 6 months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, George H.W. Bush volunteered for combat duty in the Second World War.  The youngest aviator in United States naval history at the time, he flew 58 combat missions, including one in which, after taking enemy fire, he parachuted from his burning plane into the Pacific Ocean.  After the war, he returned home and started a business.  In his words, “the big thing” he learned from this endeavor was “the satisfaction of creating jobs.”

The same unselfish spirit that motivated his business pursuits later inspired him to resume the public service he began as a young man.  First, as a member of Congress, then as Ambassador to the United Nations, Chief of the United States Liaison Office in China, Director of Central Intelligence, Vice President, and finally President of the United States, George H.W. Bush guided our Nation through the Cold War, to its peaceful and victorious end, and into the decades of prosperity that have followed.  Through sound judgment, practical wisdom, and steady leadership, President Bush made safer the second half of a tumultuous and dangerous century.

Even with all he accomplished in service to our Nation, President Bush remained humble.  He never believed that government — even when under his own leadership — could be the source of our Nation’s strength or its greatness.  America, he rightly told us, is illuminated by “a thousand points of light,” “ethnic, religious, social, business, labor union, neighborhood, regional and other organizations, all of them varied, voluntary and unique” in which Americans serve Americans to build and maintain the greatest Nation on the face of the Earth.  President Bush recognized that these communities of people are the true source of America’s strength and vitality.

It is with great sadness that we mark the passing of one of America’s greatest points of light, the death of President George H.W. Bush.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, in honor and tribute to the memory of President George H.W. Bush, and as an expression of public sorrow, do hereby direct that the flag of the United States be displayed at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout the United States and its Territories and possessions for a period of 30 days from the day of his death.  I also direct that, for the same length of time, the representatives of the United States in foreign countries shall make similar arrangements for the display of the flag at half‑staff over their embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval vessels and stations.

I hereby order that suitable honors be rendered by units of the Armed Forces under orders of the Secretary of Defense.

I do further appoint December 5, 2018, as a National Day of Mourning throughout the United States.  I call on the American people to assemble on that day in their respective places of worship, there to pay homage to the memory of President George H.W. Bush.  I invite the people of the world who share our grief to join us in this solemn observance.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of December, in the year of our Lord two thousand eighteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-third.

DONALD J. TRUMP

George H. W. Bush’s last words
December 3, 2018  |  READ TIME: 4 minutes
This is the end of an amazing life.” So said Neil Bush when his father, President George H. W. Bush, passed away Friday night at his home in Houston.Mr. Bush had been dealing with numerous health issues over recent years. In his last hours, he was asked if he wanted to go to the hospital. He declined, saying that he was ready to go and be with Barbara, his wife of seventy-three years, and their late daughter Robin, who died of leukemia in 1953 at the age of three.

Mr. Bush had rallied Friday morning but declined quickly that evening. His children around the country were notified. George W. Bush called from Dallas, telling him he had been a “wonderful dad” and that he loved him.

I love you, too,” Mr. Bush told his son.

The New York Times reports that they were his last words. I disagree.

The youngest pilot in the Navy

George Herbert Walker Bush was the last US president to have served in combat. He and his wife hold the record for the longest marriage in presidential history.

He enlisted in the armed forces on his eighteenth birthday. The youngest pilot in the Navy when he got his wings, he flew fifty-eight combat missions during the Second World War. On one mission over the Pacific, he was shot down and rescued by a US submarine.

After a successful career in the oil industry, he turned to public service. He was elected to two terms in the House of Representatives, then served as Ambassador to the United Nations, Chairman of the Republican National Committee, Chief of the US Liaison office in the People’s Republic of China, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, vice president, and president.

As president, he helped navigate the end of the Cold War, supported Germany’s reunification, and signed into law the Americans with Disabilities Act. Under his command, US forces liberated Kuwait and blocked the aggression of Saddam Hussein.

Since his passing, however, President Bush has been remembered most for his personal character.

“The greatest human being that I will ever know”

President Trump celebrated Mr. Bush’s “essential authenticity, disarming wit, and unwavering commitment to faith, family, and country.” President Obama called him “a patriot and humble servant.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said of him, “George H. W. Bush was an American hero and icon, he was a friend to all he met, he embodied class and dignity.” NATO Ambassador Kay Bailey Hutchison added, “He represented the best of our country with generosity, dignity, humility and kindness.”

His son, Jeb, called him simply “the greatest human being that I will ever know.”

Two commitments explain Mr. Bush’s legacy: his desire to live with integrity, and his love for the One whose Spirit produces such “goodness,” “faithfulness,” and “self-control” in his followers (Galatians 5:22-23).

“I hope I’m seen as steady, prudent and able”

Consider his passion for integrity.

In his Inaugural Address, President Bush pledged to use American strength as “a force for good.” He stated: “The old ideas are new again because they are not old, they are timeless: duty, sacrifice, commitment, and a patriotism that finds its expression in taking part and pitching in.”

At the end of his first year as president, he wrote in his diary: “I’m certainly not seen as visionary. But I hope I’m seen as steady, prudent and able.”

Mr. Bush’s faith in Christ was the abiding force that produced such a legacy of character. His pastor in Houston spoke to his deep faith in Jesus and its power in “inspiring us all to great unity, humility, and service.”

I experienced Mr. Bush’s commitment to humility and service when visiting his presidential library at College Station, Texas. My wife and I have visited many such libraries around the country. Understandably, most are primarily a tribute to the person and his presidency.

Mr. Bush’s library is a tribute to the values for which he lived and was willing to die and to the country he loved and served.

“When the time comes to die”

A life of such character does not end when its days on earth are over. The Bible says of the righteous Abel, “Through his faith, though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4).

Now you and I have a choice. We can pause to remember the life of George H. W. Bush and then move on with our own lives. Or we can learn from his legacy and resolve to emulate his life of character and commitment to Jesus.

If we make the latter choice, our lives will speak on earth long after we are in heaven.

Yesterday, Janet and I attended worship with our older son and his family at their church. His pastor delivered a brilliant sermon in which he quoted this statement from the martyred missionary Jim Elliot: “When the time comes to die, make sure that all you have to do is to die.”

What if it were today for you?

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Jim Denison, Ph.D., speaks and writes on cultural and contemporary issues. He is a trusted author and subject matter expert in areas where faith and current events intersect. His Daily Article provides leading insight for discerning today’s news from a biblical perspective.
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