Walking Dead Man

I was a teenager before I had to face the death of someone close to me.

The first death I recall in our family was when my great-grandmother Porter died at the  tender age of 101. I was 16 at the time.

Before that the toughest childhood encounters I had with the Grim Reaper were when favorite pets died. Like Pete the parakeet. This guy was special. Mama used to let him out of his cage to flitter around the room. He could talk a bit, and if you clapped you hands he would fly to your shoulder and even put birdseed in your ear.

Once when my little brother was getting a spanking, Pete dive-bombed mama. We should have outfitted him with little bombs to protect us.

But one day I was going outside and I didn’t see him when he tried to follow me. As the door was opening he crashed into it, knocking his bird brains out.

Boy, that one was tough and I even prayed for a resurrection, but death is a part of life and little boys begin to learn that.

Death precedes life

Since those days, death has visited several people I loved very much. And honestly, I can’t say that I’ve made peace with the idea. It still hurts. It ends relationships that you treasure until you meet the person again in heaven. Memories are powerful and important but they can’t fully fill the void.

I’ve discovered a powerful principle in my spiritual life, though—I can’t really live until I die. Generally I do everything I can to avoid “death” because it hurts and it puts an end to my own strength and sufficiency. But death followed by resurrection brings me into another dimension, the dimension of God’s power. As long as I can operate without God, I’ll do the best I can do. But faith is one step beyond what I can do.

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, ‘It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.’ Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”( Heb. 11:17, NIV)

Isaac was the most important thing in Abraham’s life, after God. God had promised to bless the whole world through Isaac. Then one day the Lord rocked Abraham’s world by calling for Isaac’s life.

The old man didn’t understand, but he knew he had God’s promise for this child, so he laid him on the altar of sacrifice. Just before he plunged the knife into the boy’s chest God stopped him. But in Abraham’s heart the act was already done. Isaac was dead and God had given him life again.

Don’t ever forget this: When Isaac is on the throne of our life, he’s an idol, even if he came to us by a miracle of God. When Isaac is on the altar of sacrifice, he’s a blessing for us and the whole world.

I remember when the Lord asked me for my children. We had served four years in Luxembourg and were getting ready to return from the USA to Luxembourg for four more years.

In my heart I thought that those next four years would finish my missionary service because our children would begin to leave home after that and I couldn’t imagine being in Europe while my kids were in the States.

Then one night God challenged me in a soul-shaking way to put Him first in my life. In a moment of “death” I told him, “Lord, I can’t do it. I’m not strong enough but if you’ll give me strength (life) I’ll stay as long as you ask me to. But the minute your strength finishes I’m out of here.”

I’ve been running in the life that the Lord gave me that night for 22 years now. And those kids? God has blessed them abundantly and they’ve given me more joy than I could imagine, probably even more than if I could see them every day, like I wish I could.

When we die to our way, trusting God to keep His word, we live again in his strength. So many times we think that our dreams and hopes are finished but they’re just going through the death/life process.

It seems that at some point nearly every worthwhile thing I’ve ever done had a moment when it seemed dead. Then I looked to the Lord and he gave it his life.

It’s the principle of the Cross. The most hopeless day in history seemed to be when the Son of Life breathed his last breath on the Cross. Friday … but as someone aptly noted … Sunday is coming!

God’s way is death, followed by his life. The principle of the Cross pervades everything He does.

Maybe you’re mourning a “death.” Don’t be too quick to pronounce the affair finished. There may be something germinating under the soil.

“Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” (John 12:24-25, The Message)


“One great hindrance is lack of need.  If God blesses you with need He will bless you with faith, and faith works best in really desperate need.” — Watchman Nee

Walking Dead Men

Check out our podcast at the bottom of this article: “Five Faith Keys”

The young Belgian conscript probably licked his lips nervously. Just across the border hundreds of thousands of German soldiers and tanks prepared to ram against Fernand and his overmatched companions that memorable day of May in 1940. Who knew if he would still be living at days end?

He may have exchanged last-minute thoughts with his partner as they readied their machine gun for the coming onslaught. How do you prepare yourself for a day like this?

Finally hundreds of thousand of young men marched into action. Feelings of awe and foreboding swirled in Fernand as the German soldiers began to sing and lift their battle cry. It’s something when one voice cries confidently, but as the wave washed forward hundreds and thousands picked up the cry.

Fernand was taken prisoner but eventually escaped and spent most of the war working on trains, which became one of the loves of his life.

He never forgot the horrible fascination of those singing, yelling soldiers, though, and that was one of his “old man” stories that he repeated over and over.

Attacking Army

It struck me that the Church is similar to an attacking army. We sing about the victory the Lord won for us at the Cross. We talk strategy against the devil. I wonder if the demons don’t tremble as Christians loudly bind them in their prayers and proclaim to one another that Satan is a defeated foe.

That’s where the analogy breaks down though. Because after singing and celebrating the victory they are going to win, most Christians say the benediction and go home—way behind the front lines. “See you next week, Joe.” “Okay, Frank. It was great this morning wasn’t it?

And the next week, they show up (most of the time) and do what you do before an attack.

Hey guys. The battlefield isn’t in the church building! It’s out in the world where the devil holds his captives. Sadly, the only fights many Christians have are in the church against other Christians. The enemy waits out there!

So where do we go to actually get in a war?

–You know any widows and orphans that need help?
–How about people who are lost without the Lord Jesus. We have two ladies in our church about 75 years of age who go out on the streets with our evangelism teams. They seem to really believe the lost are lost eternally and are trying to do something about it.
–Are there any needs in your community that you can meet? Volunteer!
–Do you love your family and make yourself available for them? Can your teen talk to you about that problem without being blown out of the water with judgment?
–Any hospitals, nursing homes, or people who need help close to where you live?
–Would you be willing to represent Jesus anywhere He puts a need into your heart to respond?

Somewhere I heard that the best soldier is one who is already dead–in his mind he accepts the fact of his death–so he worries about carrying out orders during the battle and not about preserving his own life. A walking, running, dead man if you will.

That’s the kind of soldier the Lord Jesus looks for.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Mark 8:34-37)

That last phrase haunts me. In one sense you become like the thing you give your life for. You become like the God … or gods … you serve. I once read that one of Elvis’ entourage gave his life to the Lord. He felt he should resign and do something else. According to him Elvis seemed to be pleased but added, “I’ll just stay here and keep on being Elvis.” The poor boy from Tupelo, Mississippi had become something else… Elvis.

Maybe the question we should ask is, “What have we received in exchange for our soul?” Many have sold out to have something—a person, security, wealth, recognition and glory. They are walking dead men and they belong to those things.

If those things come, they come, but that’s not our priority. We belong to the Lord. We’re “walking dead men.” Our lives are no longer ours. What matters is not our comfort and security or even our life, but the Lord Jesus and His will. He’s the Commander, not us. His will is what matters, not ours.

People like that follow up their Sunday morning battle cries with attacks against the enemy everywhere the Lord sends them during the week. Walking, talking, praising dead men and women made alive in their relationship to Jesus.


“There may be only 2 or 3 vocal critics and we can let those 2 or 3 change the flavor of our ministry and all of a sudden we start preaching out of a defensive, angry stance rather than out of a real Christlike, loving, positive stance.
” Pastor Craig Groeschel, (author of Confessions of a Pastor)

Tangled Tongue

One of the wild things about living in another country is learning, then working, in a new language. Quite frankly, sometimes what starts out in your brain seems to get sidetracked and comes out of your mouth as something else.

One I was teasing a French lady who worked in our Christian coffee house in Luxembourg. She seemed a bit irritated, which was the goal. Irritating is one of my gifts. I wanted to say to her, “Look at Francoise. She’s got smoke (la fumée) coming out of her ears.”

But what I said was, “Look at Francoise. She’s got “fumier” (barnyard fertilizer) coming out of her ears.” “I hope not!” she a laughed.

Something else challenges you even more than the language though. After you’ve been in another culture for years, you change and you begin to wonder exactly what you are. In France I reflected, “I’m not really French, even though my friends are French and I work constantly in the language. I’ve got a different history, and I grew up with a different way of looking at the world.” It’s a long way from a village in the South to Paris.

But the problem is that I’m no longer what I was either. When I go back to the States I feel out of place, especially at first. My family and my first culture are in the USA, and many of my friends and my work are in Europe. Like a caterpillar which “metamorphed” halfway into a butterfly and stopped, I don’t feel completely American or completely European. There are good parts to both but you sometimes have the uneasy feeling that you’re neither one nor the other.

Neither a caterpillar nor a butterfly, you’re more a “caterfly” or maybe it’s a “butterpillar.” You’re a strange fellow, at any rate.

One day as I thought about the life of Joseph something hit me full force. Joseph had a similar problem. You know the story. His jealous siblings had sold him into slavery and he had lived in Egypt many years. Through a process, God made him the second ruler of the land.

Do you remember when his brothers came to Egypt looking for food and didn’t recognize him? He invited them to eat and then we see a strange dining situation—three different tables in the same room. Though Joseph was their master, the Egyptians wouldn’t eat with him because of their prejudice against other races. His Hebrew brothers thought he was an Egyptian, I suppose, and the two don’t mix at the table, so they’re in another part of the room.

And there’s old lonely Joseph—neither fully Egyptian nor fully Hebrew in the same way as before–all by himself. Kind of sad isn’t it? No, not really, because God used this “outsider” to save both the Egyptians and the Hebrews in the famine which had begun to sink it’s claws into the land.

Fact is, someone had to sacrifice so that others could be saved. Joseph became like the Lord Jesus when he became a stranger in a foreign land to save his family. Jesus left the familiar glories of heaven to walk the dusty roads of Galilee and Judea. He did it to save us.

God asks us to do the same thing. If you want to be full of yourself, you’re probably not going to be comfortable as a Christian. We’re full of Him and His will for our lives. I see people like Joseph all the time. They give up the easy way to reach out to hurting kids, spend time with lonely old-agers, share the good news with neighbors who don’t look like them, invest a ton of time in the thing they feel God has called them to do, and, and, and …

And it’s true that they don’t get to reap all the goodies that this world offers. They’re not from here anyway.

“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:13-16, NIV)

Sure Joseph gave some things up to obey the Lord, but he received so much in return. He saved his family; God promoted him in his adopted land; he saw his daddy again; and he received the double part of his father’s inheritance as the descendants of his sons, Ephraim and Manesseh, became full-fledged tribes in Israel.

It’s scary to be different—but it’s worth it!

Grenade Jumpers

I watched a part of a ceremony on the television news the other evening that caused tears to spring to my eyes. The President was awarding the Congressional Medal of Honor posthumously to a 22-year old soldier, Jason Dunham.

In an atmosphere heavy with sorrow but also laced with pride, the family listened as the President told of their son’s heroics in saving some of his men. “”He was the guy who signed on for an extra two months in Iraq so he could stay with his squad. As he explained it, he wanted to `make sure that everyone makes it home alive,’ ” the president said. “Corporal Dunham took that promise seriously and would give his own life to make it good.”

During a battle with insurgents, the young man covered a grenade with his helmet and his body to save some of his men from the explosion.

We talk about selfishness among today’s youth and shake our heads wondering if they would make the sacrifices required to defend the country. If this 22-year old was any indication of what the young are like, maybe we should worry more about ourselves than them.

Jumping on grenades.

I’ve seen it occasionally in life. That mom who protected her kids from the knowledge of how their father was, to spare them the hurt. Sometimes the criticisms rained unfairly on her but she took it for them.

Once I watched a mother bird flopping along the ground to draw a predator away from her nest, where her young waited, unaware of the danger. She risked her life to save them from the claws of the hungry prowler.

Jumping on grenades.

I’ve seen pastors take blows that should have rained on the church. I’ve seen fathers work like slaves so that their children could have the necessities in life.

Recently I heard the story of a lady who had worked incessantly to raise her son alone. It wasn’t easy but she nearly burst with pride to see him walk across the stage to receive his college diploma. She watched as he returned to his classmates…no, actually he didn’t go sit with them immediately.

He marched over to where his mother sat in the crowd and handed her the diploma! She had earned it as much or more than he had, and the son knew it. She could have had a much easier life if she hadn’t insisted on helping finance his studies but …

Jumping on grenades.

Most grenade-jumpers don’t get a Medal of Honor. Some of them are reviled and most all of them are under appreciated, at least in the short term. They are willing to take pain that belongs to someone else. All of them give us a glimpse of the most wonderful “Grenade Jumper” of all.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13, NIV)

For sure the greatest example of this was at the Cross, but Jesus had lived a “grenade-jumping” life his whole time on earth.

When He told His disciples that he didn’t come to be served, but to serve and give His life a ransom for many, not one of them flinched. It was true. They saw His way of living every day.

Later, when the mob came to drag Him away in the garden his mind was on his brothers’ need and not his own.

“If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.” (John 18:8, 9, NIV)

At the Cross, He thought to make sure His mother was taken care of. After the Cross, He went looking for those who denied Him. And at the Cross—at the Cross He took the full explosion of divine judgment that should have fallen on our sins. It fell on Him.

Grenade jumpers. It’s a way of life for those who know the Greatest “grenade-jumper” and imitate Him by sacrificing their lives for others.