From the Foxhole to the Pulpit: Oath of Enlistment

From the Foxhole to the Pulpit
In my earlier blogs, I reiterated what I had already written in our church newsletter. This newsletter, Footsteps of the Flock, will now be available on our website. It is for this reason that I decided to change my blog title and direction. My goal in this blog is to demonstrate the sovereignty of God by sharing some lessons learned during my military career. These lessons do have spiritual applications and were used of God to shape and to mold me, preparing me for the pulpit. Throughout these blog posts, it is my intention to draw connections between my time in the Foxhole and what God has shown me from the Pulpit. With these connections come the challenges of life and the answer, which is always found in Christ.
Oath of Enlistment

In August of 1983, after enjoying the summer following my High School graduation, I began my journey towards enlistment. I took the mandatory test given to all who hope to join the armed forces, the Armed Service Vocational Aptitude Battery or ASVAB for short. Once my results were in and my career choice was made it was now time for the physical, followed by the official Oath of Enlistment. My career path had been decided years before, no matter what was offered, I was destined for the infantry. I wanted to be a ground-pounder that would eventually jump out of planes. Of course, some may be thinking, especially those who know me well, that infantry was probably the only career field my ASVAB scores qualified me for. Regardless, I would be heading for my first stint at Ft. Benning, Georgia, the Home of the Infantry.

In September of 1983 my entrance packet for the Army was completed, approved and I stood before the commander of the Military Entrance Processing Station and took the Oath of Enlistment for the first of what would be many times. I entered a waiting period known as the Delayed Entrance Program, and on January 3, 1983 I took the Oath of Enlistment for the second time and headed off to Basic Training. Ready to fulfill the task, Be All That You Can Be.    

There are a couple of thoughts I would share with you about the Oath of Enlistment. First, for me it was an exciting time. I was starting a new chapter in my life and I was getting ready to be a part of an entity that was much bigger than I was and together, could accomplish much more than I could. Yet, it did include me. Secondly, enlistment was a big step but only the first step. I still needed to be trained as to what it meant to be a soldier.

Now, let me recall another Oath of Enlistment that occurred in my life a few years earlier. At the age of fourteen, a new friend began to encourage me to go with him on Wednesday evenings to some youth events with his church. David was sixteen, had a car and went out of his way not only to invite me, but to pick me up and get me to the youth group meetings. It was through these series of youth group events and Bible studies that I began to hear more about the gospel of Jesus and realize my need for such a Savior. Wednesday evening began to spill over to Sunday morning and evening worship. In June of 1980, on a Sunday evening, kneeling at the church altar, I recognized my sinfulness and received the only eternal answer for my sin. Forgiveness, by the blood of Jesus and reconciliation with God for He tore the veil and invited me into the Holy of Holies. On that day I enlisted into the Lord’s Army, an eternal enlistment that I have never forgotten.

I felt it necessary to begin this blog with the testimony of my conversion for a number of reasons. First, apart from conversion, nothing else in this blog would really matter. Secondly, the obvious connection with the Oath of Enlistment into the military. A connection which includes becoming a part of something that is much bigger than oneself as well as the need to make a decision. Salvation is not by accident and it is not automatic. I do believe in the sovereignty of God and that it is not incompatible with the freedom of human choice. Throughout Scripture, human choice for right and wrong, holy and unholy, moral and immoral, righteous and unrighteous, curses and blessings, saved and unsaved is pitted against each other. God, through His Word and by His Spirit has drawn us to Him, and by His grace placed within us the matter of faith and choice. The choice to repent of our sin and to place our faith in Jesus, His Son who died for the sins of the world.

Another reason for beginning with my testimony of conversion is to offer a reminder. All of us need to take a periodic pause and reflect upon our salvation experience. It sharpens our testimony by bringing to the forefront of our minds the circumstances that surrounded this eternal event. In doing so, it not only refreshes our memory, it may also reveal a detail that solicits a response. For example, my friend David and I, like many childhood friendships, did not maintain contact with each other. We lived quite a distance apart, went to different schools, had different sets of friends, and the list goes on. Almost forty years later while our church was participating in the evangelistic focus, “Who’s Your One?” I asked a different church member each week to give a testimony during the morning worship service of their conversion, focusing upon that one person in their life that had an impact upon them. Leading them towards their salvation experience. It was during this time of focus on my own salvation that I recalled my relationship with David. Forty years had passed and to my shame, I do not recall thinking about the impact that he had on my life. Through the use of modern technology, in this case Facebook, I was able to reconnect with him and eventually thank him for the impact that he had on my life. For taking the time and the care to share with me what was important to him. A relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

My use of an Oath of Enlistment may not be a perfect illustration of our conversion experience; however, the first connection has been established and some of the challenges readily observed. It is at this point we can begin to gain clarity as to what it means to Be All That You Can Be.    

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