A Greater Love; a Sacrifice for Peace

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13

In 2016 I had the pleasure of a 10 day holiday in North France near a town called Soissons. When you drive around the area, you cannot miss that a war had been fought there; war graves are evident everywhere you go. Not far away, in Compiegne, was the train carriage where the Armistice was signed at 11am, on the 11th November 1918, that ended all hostilities in the war that was supposed to end all wars. But, what struck me most during my visit were the caves, carved into chalky hills that served as barracks for the allied troops, into which I descended to explore.

In these caves were hand-carved insignia of the military units barracked there, but most astonishingly too was the carving out of chapels, replete with cross and altar. The most poignant thing about one of the chapels was the stairway at the side of the altar which lead to the trenches where, it was said, the soldiers went to die after making their peace with God……

Every year we remember those soldiers for the sacrifice they made for the freedoms we enjoy today. No less significant of course, are the wars fought since then – Europe, Northern Ireland, The Falklands, The Middle East, to name but a few – to the same end.

Sacrifice is a fundamental human characteristic. It is the very thing that enables us to thrive as a race, as breadwinners sacrifice themselves to keep their families out of poverty; as parents sacrifice themselves to raise children; as we all give of ourselves to the betterment of our friends and for society, but, it is also at the very heart of the Good News of God (What the Bible calls the Gospel).

Jesus, God’s Son, was Himself sacrificed, 2000 years ago, on a Cross for the freedom of all mankind. In the battle for our souls, He put the human race before Himself as He died to make an end of Death and to bring peace; peace in our hearts before God. He died: that we might live – if only we would surrender to the call of Jesus, to:

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Matthew 11:29

The person who sacrifices his or her life calls you a ‘friend’ because they laid down their lives for you to live. Likewise, Jesus calls YOU ‘friend’ because He laid down His life that you might live forever – If only you would believe.

Friends, peace IS possible; even while wars continue to rage, and even while fighting one yourself – battles come in many forms – because, it is possible to attain peace on the inside.

God came in His Son for this very reason.

As you one day ascend those steps, like the ones in the cave, will you have made your peace with God first – are you able to call yourself a God’s friend?

“Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”

John 15:13

“The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:5-7

Final Bugle Call (Real Hope)

Buglers were used on the battlefields of old before the advent of other means of communication – like radios. The British Military has a long tradition of their use and one of the most significant carriers of that tradition are the Rifles whose cap-badge is a bugle and whose histories can be traced to the late 18th Century.

They were not, however, the first to come up with the idea of communicating in this way. Other earlier civilisations like the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans and also the Hebrew armies, used them as a means of communicating the Commanders intent, in the control of troops in the field, and to regulate daily routine in camp. The bugle was very effective at cutting through the din of battle, especially following the development of more mobile troops, particularly the Rifles element of the Light Infantry, like the 60th and the 95th Regiments. Now these traditions remain only ceremonially.

In the popular fiction, ‘The Lord of the Rings’ much use is made of horns, which act as a rallying call and stirs up hope among the different people groups that make up Middle Earth, each knows intimately the sound of their own horn. Likewise with Christians, as Jesus says:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”

John 10:27

In many historic accounts in the Bible we see trumpets used often, for example: by Joshua’s army against the walls of Jericho; we see the Hebrews of the Exodus commanded not to come up the mountain until they heard the trumpet; we see Gideon signalling the attack with a trumpet call against the Midianite Camp; we see Nehemiah at the walls of Jerusalem using trumpets to rally aid when and where needed, and there are many other examples.

“When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.”

Exodus 19:13

Perhaps the most significant use is for the return of the Lord Jesus, announced,

“…from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16

This will be the ultimate bugle call of all time and while life often feels like a battleground, we are actually able to live through it with real hope. We can live with this hope because we know that one day, we will be with the Lord Jesus, if we believe in and follow Him. When the final call of heaven comes, the consummation of all our hopes, dreams and longing will all be satisfied.

“This is real hope: to live today knowing a better day is coming!”

The next time you hear a bugle on the parade ground or watch Lord of the Rings, remember that God is calling all of us to Himself – will you obey the call? Because:

“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.”

Romans 10:13


A LOE (Limit of Exploitation) is an essential component in the field of battle. It will ensure that the commanders at Brigade HQ can know where all their troops are at any one time and call upon other units to assist when necessary. For those on the ground, it is important to know the scope of your own operations, in order to avoid a blue on blue incident and it also guards against the over zealous local commander who might take advantage, exploiting their success, pushing too far ahead and perhaps isolate themselves. Each LOE feeds in to the overall bigger command picture.

Humans need boundaries and limits placed upon us as we have a tendency to stray off track easily. It has been proven, for example, that school children feel much safer in a playground with a fence around. In an open field, however, they will naturally cluster in small groups as a natural defence mechanism for a sense of security. We all know how much more difficult it is to keep a handle on unruly children that have no boundaries. Us humans don’t handle freedom very well, and yet we all desperately crave it. The Bible likens us to sheep:

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.”

Isaiah 53:6

From the very beginning, we have craved our own way. As a result, God gave it to us, despite the fact that it was not good for us. This is the consequence of us being made with free will (without free will, we wouldn’t be able choose to do what’s wrong or right).

But, even though we have strayed, done our own thing and pleased ourselves, God has made a way for us to get right with Him again. The very thing which keeps us from God, is the wrong that we do against Him – the Bible calls this ‘sin’. The Good news is that this ‘sin’ was taken away by what Jesus accomplished on the Cross, whereby he took the punishment we deserved for it upon Himself, so that we wouldn’t have to. It’s like getting a get-out-of-jail-free card (although it cost Jesus a visit to the prison of death). By giving up our own way and trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins, we get a free pass on our sin.

“He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.

Psalm 103:10-12

The most amazing thing about all of this is that there is no LOE to His forgiveness! There is no sin that He won’t forgive, no depths to which you can sink where he can’t pull you out and no distance you can stray that He can’t reach you. And to top it all off, the sin is removed from you as if you had never done it in the first place – it simply cannot be counted against you in God’s eyes any more – you are legally free. The sin is removed, as far as the east is from the west – try to imagine how far that is…

“Surrender your will to Jesus and He will help you to deal with all the rubbish in your life and also take away for good, the sin which made it that way in the first place”

Forlorn Hope?

During the Napoleonic Wars, in particular, the Peninsula Wars, whenever storming a breach was necessary, volunteers would be sought to carry out the action as the first wave ‘into the breach’ to take a fortress (The siege of Badajoz in Spain 1812 – for example). This was called the Forlorn Hope – it’s a forlorn Hope, because you weren’t expected to survive. Those who did survive, however, would be guaranteed promotion and even wore a patch on their uniform as a badge of honour.

Living in this world is a little bit like living with a forlorn hope. We storm the breech of life hoping to win at life. We grow up wanting to do something amazing with our lives; we go through an education system which teaches us to reach for the sky – that we can be anything we put our minds to; we set off with grand plans, imagining that we will always be fit, capable and rich enough to do it all. But the reality is that very few, if any, achieve all or any of these things – and if someone does, does it turn out to be everything it was cracked up to be?

“We have eternity in our hearts – but have only one lifetime to live it.”

The reality of the world we live in is that it’s broken – that it’s not all it should or could be: we suffer disappointment, frustration, discontent, toil, pain, sickness, disease, depression, distress, burnout, broken relationships, loss, sorrow, fear, uncertainty, growing old and eventually the inevitable end that comes to us all. If we started out in life knowing all these set backs were possible and many probable, we would want to stop the world and get off – and who could blame you!

The person who knows God, who’s hope is in-Christ, has every reason to have their living hope. I have found this to be true, even though I have gone through life struggles like everyone else does, they are put into a perspective which causes me to see them as temporary trials which teach me something and makes me stronger. Whatever trials one goes through, the inheritance is always secure, it never depends on how we perform. We get to look forward to living with God, in a perfect place made for us to live, with a perfect and renewed body, free of sadness, sickness, pain, suffering and tears.

“He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”

Revelation 21:4

We make the best of things as we storm the breach of life, but unlike the soldiers who stormed the fortress with the hope of receiving their promotion and glory, but with a forlorn hope of surviving, there is a way that is not so forlorn. Because Jesus rose from the grave, thereby defeating death itself, we too can hope for the same, if we believe. This provides a living hope that carries you through life and on into a rich inheritance for all eternity. This hope is available to all who trust and hope in Christ.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation [a living hope], and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”

1 Peter 1:3-4

Op Barma – Valley of the Shadow of Death

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:3-4

We might think that when the Bible refers to walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death that it is talking about those incidents in life whereby we are in acute mortal danger; like on patrol in Iraq or Afghanistan for example. And it does, very much so, but it also has a much bigger perspective for us to consider. First read this account, then we will consider these thoughts:

Bruce, former B Flight, 51 Sqn, RAF Regiment, writes:

“One of the luckiest incidents of the tour (Telic 5 January 2005) was on a dawn patrol along a prominent road, in Iraq, carrying out regular route clearance and checking for possible Improvised Explosive Device (IED) threats:

On checking a particular culvert, Harry, one of the Corporals, found something very suspicious, as if something had been freshly dug in across the road. On closer inspection and with carefully searching, Harry found it. Very well positioned, and hidden in the culvert under the road, was a huge IED. Harry liaised with the patrol Team Commanders and briefed them on what he found.

Standard drills were then put into place for situations such as this. B Flight moved to safe distances and dismounted from our vehicles, getting into all round defence in case this was an attempt to draw us into an ambush. I was driving the middle vehicle at the time and my Team Commander was Jim.

We stayed in position and gave cover while the EOD boys arrived and defused the IED. I wasn’t thinking about the chances of what could have happened, but kept my focus on the job in hand. Later, when we were being debriefed, we were to hear the full report on this IED. The size of the device and the amount of explosives used would have completely wiped out the three vehicle patrol I was in if it had managed to detonate. It was also later reported by Intelligence that the device had failed to detonate and that it was almost certainly intended for our patrol, especially as we had been patrolling regularly in that area and on that particular road in the past few days.

When I was on my cot later on that day, with a few hours rest before the next patrol, I had time to think and reflect. I started to question that maybe there is a God who is watching out for me. I also thought that I’m fortunate to still be alive; had that device gone off as intended I would be DEAD. That certainly got me to sit up and think about life and what I was doing with mine…”

To explain the Bibles’ bigger picture on the shadow of death, we have to go back to the beginning:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth……Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good!”

Genesis 1:1-31

Basically, the world was perfect, there was no such thing as death and there was only one rule to obey:

“You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden— except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

Genesis 2:16

We all know what human nature is like, tell us not to ‘push that button’ and guess what…!? Perfect or not as we were back then, we were made to have minds of our own. And so, tricked by the Devil, we disobeyed the only rule there was to break. Consequently Death entered into the world, just like God said it would, and this is where we find ourselves living – in the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

We live under this shadow our whole lives and in some ways it gives life meaning and value as we make the most of the time we have been given. This reality casts a shadow over everything in life, and ultimately we all face at sometime, the pain of grief over the loss of a loved one or a friend. It hurts and confuses us because it was never meant to be that way – we were not made to suffer death. As it is though, we do.

At this point we find ourselves in the midst of the Easter story. The Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Son of God is the event that paves the way for us to come out from under the shadow of death – if we believe that He died for the forgiveness of our sins.

“The thief [Satan] comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I [Jesus] came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10

Although we live in the Valley of the Shadow of Death our whole lives, being on patrol in enemy territory strongly brings home the reality of our mortality to us. With this in mind, perhaps its time to ‘sit up and think‘, as when Bruce said:

“That certainly got me to sit up and think about life and what I was doing with mine.”

Bruce Mcewen, The forgotton soldier

If you want to talk about anything this post might have caused you to think about, please don’t hesitate to hit me up at: spiritualkevlar@gmail.com

I.E.D. – ‘Booby Trap’

By far the worst kind of enemy is the one you don’t see coming. As unpleasant as straight down the line war-fighting is, at least you know what you are up against. Those that have patrolled in Iraq or Afghanistan will tell you that the fear of being caught by an IED is the worst kind of fear, which eats at you constantly. Indeed, many have suffered at the hands of these insidious devices, and even though some haven’t been injured by them, they have suffered long term trauma, perhaps PTSD, because of the fear and destruction that IED’s generate.

Life can be like that too. Unlike on patrol, we don’t necessarily go through life constantly on the look out for those ‘booby-traps’, sent to try us, but nonetheless they come anyway: from the disappointment of not getting that job or promotion, to getting a bad annual report; from falling ill, to losing a family member or a friend; from receiving a sports injury, to losing a limb in a serious traffic accident, there are always unexpected life-changing things that happen which take us by surprise. Remember, this world is not as it should be; therefore, bad things happen in a broken world.

“You are my rock and my fortress. Lead me out of this danger. Pull me from the trap my enemies set for me, for I find protection in you alone. I entrust myself into your hand. Rescue me, LORD, for you are a faithful God.”

Psalm 31:4

The world is broken because evil exists. The evil in this world has infected and affects all of us, and we are likewise not all we should be – because we are broken too. If we are honest with ourselves, we know this to be true. We are never quite as able as we would like to be, we get old, weak and wrinkly, and eventually 10 out of 10 of us will die – this was never meant to be the case, but it is a fact. Not only this but this evil keeps us from a right relationship with our Maker-God. But, there is some good news though…

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

John 3:16-17

Jesus made a way for us to be able to make it all the way back to God, by clearing a path through the ‘booby-trap’ of evil that prevents us from making it there – in the same way that a safe path is made through an area well known for IED’s, so that you can make it back safely to the patrol base. Not only does Jesus provide safe passage home, but He helps us through the trauma that the ‘booby-traps’ of life, which catch us off-guard, cause as we make our way along the path of life.

The Kings Shilling

In the 18th/19th centuries, it was by receiving the Kings/Queens shilling that you were signed up to become a soldier. Many, who were poor, uneducated and even criminal, were made promises, made drunk and press-ganged into service. When they sobered up the next morning, they found the shilling that had been dropped into their beer jugs and thus found themselves ‘volunteering’ for military service.

This wasn’t always true of Riflemen, as they were ‘chosen men’, sometimes poached from among the other regiments – often in large numbers from a single militia – on the promise of real soldiering, good pay and adventure on foreign shores. For many, this was far more appealing than the square bashing, pointless discipline and boredom they were used to and not enjoying very much.

When receiving the Kings Shilling, you are purchased for service, but you are not yet a fully trained and experienced soldier. When buying a house, you pay a deposit as a guarantee that the house will become yours, even though you haven’t moved in yet. When a person becomes a Christian, they likewise receive a ‘down payment’ or a ‘deposit’ whereby we have been guaranteed to become all that we will become. The Bible uses purchasing language to describe this transaction:

“When you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago. The Spirit is God’s guarantee that he will give us the inheritance he promised and that he has purchased us to be his own people.”

Ephesians 1:13-14

The deposit received is the Holy Spirit. He lives in us. This helps and guides us in the new life we have entered into and acts as our ‘guarantee’. The important and most exciting part, however, is that there is more to come: when we are finished in this life, we will receive a full ‘inheritance’. This gives us a new body, in a renewed world, without evil and we become the sum of all our inner longing (that in this life is that thing which motivates almost all our ambitions). This is a real source of hope to the Christian, that however difficult life becomes, we have the hope of a very bright tomorrow. All this was ‘purchased’ for us by what Jesus achieved on the Cross and we get all of it by believing in Him for the forgiveness of our sins.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Romans 6:23

When a person received the Kings Shilling, he was destined to become a soldier. When a person receives Christ, he receives The King’s Spirit (The Holy Spirit), is able to enjoy a close relationship with God and is destined to receive an eternal inheritance, when this life is finished.

“For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.”

Philippians 1:21

* Inheritance – this is what the Christian gets at the end of life. It’s exactly the same idea as when someone receives an inheritance from their parents. Only, in this case, the parent is God and the inheritance is when we get to live forever in a place God has prepared for us.

Kit Exchange

There’s nothing worse than trying to soldier on with kit that’s in clip. I remember the dread of going to exchange stuff when it was worn out or broken because, generally speaking the storeman acted as though the kit was his own private stuff and it often felt like you were asking for one of his arms instead of a new shirt or a pair of boots – trying to get blood out of a stone comes quite close as an analogy! Nevertheless, there are times when parts of your kit become unfit for service and they need to be exchanged.

Despite how skilled and brilliant we are as soldiers, or as humans, in many ways we are also broken and in ill-repair. Hear me out: Humans are incredible creatures; we are capable of such amazing things: we are ingenious, we are creative, we can be kind, compassionate and forgiving, we are capable of incredible feats of endurance and suffering of hardships, and can make huge leaps of progress towards a better world, for example. But, according to the Bible, we are in fact not currently all we are meant to be, we are in a sense unfit for service; as incredible as we are now, we were actually made to be even more so once upon a time – we were made perfect and lived in a perfect world in harmony with God.

But then something broke: evil entered the equation and spoiled everything – but, God has a plan to make it right again. This plan is in motion and the solution is available to all that want it. God want’s to do this and He has provided the way too.

“The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach eternal life.”

2 Peter 3:9

Imagine for a moment that God was like a Storeman in heaven – well, not like the grumpy human Storeman, who begrudgingly gives you new kit, but one who’s desire is to give us what we need in order to be made right with Him again.

  • The thing that needs exchanging is our heart – for he can give us a new one.
  • The thing which is broken is our relationship with our Heavenly Father – and Jesus is the only way by which this can be fixed.

To get a new heart, mend our broken relationship and get a heads up on eternity, you must seek out God’s rich storehouse of grace and mercy and do the exchange and become a brand new, fit and restored creation.

“Unlike the storemen of old, God is very much approachable and willingly in the business of making you fit for heaven and fit for life on Earth until then. We as humans are in clip – but we can be made fit again!”

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When Night Vision Goggles came into use it revolutionised the way we carry out night ops and work in the dark. Some NVG’s are so effective that you can almost see like it’s light out. We have them on our helmets and can drive vehicles at night without the aid of headlights. It’s still precarious though, because you can only see so far ahead of you, so proceeding with caution is still a wise move.

In many ways we live in an often dark world in which we need soldiers willing to go on our behalf to stand and fight evil where it lurks. Closer to home we have our own inner struggles with darkness and we would often give anything for some light to be shed upon our problems to see our way ahead more clearly. I think sometimes it’s a mercy that we can only see so far ahead, because if we knew what lay ahead, we would crumble in fear at the thought. Hence we are given one moment at a time to live and operate in. For this we need some illumination.

“The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overcome it.”

John 1:4-5

In the Bible, Jesus is often referred to with many different names according to His natural characteristics: The Word, The Way, The Truth and The Light of the World among many others. If you join these characteristics together you get the Word which brings light and truth and shows us the way. The Bible was given by God to reveal Himself to us: it shows us who we are; where we come from; why we behave like we do; why the world is broken; what the solution is to fix it. It ultimately reveals Jesus, Gods son, The light of the world who brings His light into our dark world.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to light my pathway.”

Psalm 119:105

The expression above, from the psalms, “a lamp to my feet and a light to my pathway” is not only metaphorical, but practical too. At the time this was written, nighttime in the wilderness would have been extremely dark. The only way to ensure safe footing in the dark is to hold the lamp down by your feet. If you were to hold it up, it would not do your night vision much good as it blinds you, and you certainly wouldn’t be able to see the ground where your feet have to tread. By lighting the pathway by your feet, you can see just enough light to walk by without stumbling, but not too much that you can see danger beyond the scope of light and therefore be unnecessarily afraid (this is why we live in time and space, as seeing things as they really are in all their incompressible dimensions would blow our minds). We therefore, must walk in the light shed before us, in order to find our way in the dark.

It’s important to grasp in life that however much we plan for the future, we can only ever see what’s right in front of us and no further. The future is always in Gods hands; our pathway to life is the Word, Jesus who brings light and truth and shows us the way home.

To navigate our way through dark times – seek Jesus, the Word who is the source of light to find your way along the sometimes dark paths of life.

A Good Recce Patrol

“Three days later, I slipped out during the night, taking only a few others with me. I had not told anyone about the plans”

Nehemiah 2:11-12

Every frontline branch of the military will have its own Recce sections. The Engineers need highly trained Recce Sergeants to ensure that when the Combat Engineers arrive to build a bridge, the bridge won’t sink; the Artillery need to ensure good ground for guns and ammo dumps; the SF will be able to reconstruct buildings, whole villages and rehearse complex plans to ensure the best outcome and mission success based on good recon.

“The city officials did not know I had been out there or what I was doing, for I had not yet said anything to anyone about my plans. I had not yet spoken to the Jewish leaders—the priests, the nobles, the officials, or anyone else in the administration.”

Nehemiah 2:16

In the post, Enemy Tactics, I spoke about the importance of knowing your enemy, as this will help you in your decision making process and in the drawing up of plans. When it comes to specific taskings, more specific intel is required. That’s where the recce patrol comes in, where secrecy and stealth and the cover of darkness is vital – as we defo don’t want our plans discovered. If this all goes well, the information gathered will give you a good chance of success.

In the post Prior Planning and Preparation, we learned that Nehemiah had diligently done his homework and was able to make the most of opportunity when it came. Now, he has arrived in Jerusalem and is reconing the walls before going to the city officials with his plans – at this stage they have no idea why he was there. Armed with good intel, he was then able to persuade them that they should go ahead and rebuild the walls and gates around the city. Having a good situational awareness, before going forward, is a great leadership principle, if you are to succeed.

Around 450 years later, God Himself, does a sort of Recce patrol, when He comes in the flesh, in the person of Jesus, and lives like any other ordinary human being. In this way He has been able to understand exactly what it is like to be a man – He grew up in an ordinary family, with brothers and sisters and had an ordinary trade as a carpenter – He knew what it was to live in a frail human body, and so, He had done His own recon and this has uniquely qualified Him to fulfil and succeed in His ultimate mission.

Before dismissing out of hand the claims that Jesus made: that He is God; that He came in the flesh to rescue us from ourselves and sin; that He paid our debt on the cross and rose again, defeating death, to bring us new life. Do your own reconnaissance work and check Jesus out. Before dismissing God as an angry, egotistical, ogre-god who takes pleasure in, or ignores our suffering – look at Jesus, who in every aspect was the very character and nature of God.

“The LORD is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.”

Psalm 148:8

Jesus really would have been the most amazing person to spend time with, but, being so perfectly good in a corrupt world:

“He was despised and rejected – a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down… he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him in the sins of us all.”

Isaiah 53

Pick up a New Testament and begin reading about Jesus in one of the gospels. You will find in Him a lot of powerful love and compassion; you’ll find the ultimate example of goodness in all He does in the way he treats all sorts of people; you’ll find the ultimate friend in one who was willing to lay down His life for His friends.

Check Jesus out!


“Be my rock of protection, a fortress where I will be safe.”

Psalm 31:2

A bastion is a place of relative safety, a defensible, protected forward position (PB/FOB) in a theatre of war. It’s the place you return to after a patrol for a replen of food, water and rest – a place where you can, in Camp Bastion at least, order a pizza, go to the gym or call home, relax a little and let your guard down while others stand sentry.

If you’ve been out on patrol, you will know how it feels to be exposed to the elements, vulnerable to enemy fire and on constant high alert; it’s exhausting, and there’s nothing better than the relief you feel when you arrive back at the PB/FOB. In a previous post ‘Enemy Tactics’ I suggested that we are all taking part in a spiritual war – life can be a constant internal battle. We know this to be true, because life is full of stresses, challenges, insecurities and difficulties that seem to try and bring us down all the time. Seeking respite in a bastion of safety and rest is essential if we are going to be fit and able to fight another day.

Most of us have these ‘bastions’ to retreat to, and they will be different for each of us: perhaps to the family home and leaning on those close to us; perhaps to a club or a hobby, reading, binge watching our favourite box-set or some Call of Duty to escape in for a while; perhaps to the gym, to the hills or a good night out; perhaps to religion, meditation or a quiet smoke and space to get things straight in your head. There are many types of coping strategies, and also some negative and destructive ones, like drink, drugs, fighting or even sexual liaisons. Some struggle to find a way of decompressing at all and for those it’s very hard indeed and they are often in serious need of help and sometimes become unable to get back in the fight at all (see Buddy-Buddy).

As for the Christian, we have a place of refuge like no other – we have the very presence of God. The Bible describes it as a fortress, a strong tower, a refuge, a secret place – a place of safety, refreshment and recuperation.

“How great is the goodness you have stored up for those who fear you. You lavish it on those who come to you for protection, blessing them before the watching world. You hide them in the [secret place] of your presence, safe from those who conspire against them. You shelter them in your presence [besieged city], far from accusing tongues.”

Psalm 31:19-20

When we know and hope in the Lord, and see the world from a Biblical point of view, we are able to put all of life’s woes, and it’s joys, in perspective. Without a ‘pit stop’ into Gods presence, time in His ‘bastion’, and in His comforting Word (the Bible), I wouldn’t know how to deal with all of life’s challenges (in a strange way, it’s like returning to the womb, where, briefly, you can feel safe and protected from the outside world).

Another name, appropriately, is a ‘besieged city’ (think Al Amarah and Sangin), which describes very well how it can feel to be protected and safe for a bit, while under constant bombardment from the stresses and strains which can make life hard. By all means turn to the people and coping strategies with which we are gifted in this life (avoiding the destructive kinds), but also consider turning to the very source of all life Himself and shelter in the protection of His presence* and there receive refreshing and recuperation and the strength to fight on another day.

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress, and my savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety. I called on the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and he saved me from my enemies.”

Psalm 18:2-3

“Even under constant attack there has to be a place of respite behind the parapet.”

If you want to know more about how to find refuge in God, or just maybe want to chat about things you are finding difficult to cope with, please hit me up at:


* Gods presence, in the biblical sense, is not a disembodied meditative state where one empties the mind – but actually the opposite where we draw upon God, through His word, to fill ourselves with knowledge, wisdom and understanding which becomes practically, spiritually and emotionally helpful in some way.

Prior Planning and Preparation…

When we are given a tasking, either a challenging one or a routine one, we don’t just turn up on the day and wing it – prior planning and preparation is absolutely vital if you are going to do a decent job. The ability to think through what’s required, recruit help, get advice and do your homework, is what sets leaders apart from the pack.

Nehemiah’s historical journal has a lot to teach us about leadership. Right at the outset, we see that he is presented with disturbing news about his home city, Jerusalem, and he immediately starts to think about how to remedy the situation:

“Things are not going well for those who returned to the province of Judah. They are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem has been torn down, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.”

Nehemiah 1:3

It is 446BC (only 34 years after the Persians attempted to overrun Greece, but were thwarted by the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae). The Jewish people were being held captive by the Persians under King Artaxerses, and Nehemiah, being a man of noble birth, had an important position within the Kings household. This means he had direct access to the king, but not the authority to blunder in with his requests of help. So, what he does is sets about planning what was needed so that when the opportunity came, he was prepared – and his diligence paid off.

Some of the people had already been sent back to Jerusalem to resettle, but those who had backfilled the void when they had originally left, did not want them to return and therefore continually harassed them. It was evident that the wall around the city needed to be rebuilt if this was going to stop, and Nehemiah was determined to do something about it and after a few months his opportunity came.

“So the king asked me, “Why are you looking so sad? You don’t look sick to me. You must be deeply troubled.” Then I was terrified, but I replied, “Long live the king! How can I not be sad? For the city where my ancestors are buried is in ruins, and the gates have been destroyed by fire.” The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?”

Nehemiah 2:2-4

Even though he was terrified of the King (and who wouldn’t be), he made his requests in great detail: he asked to be sent back to rebuild the walls, as this seemed to him the best solution; he asked if he could have letters of authority for safe passage, as he understood the problems he might face if he didn’t have official proof of his authority to go; he asked for permission to obtain materials for the job in hand, having thought about what was needed and also knew who was the best person to get them from. By the grace of God, the king also sent troops to accompany them on their way.

“I also said to the king, “If it please the king, let me have letters addressed to the governors of the province west of the Euphrates River, instructing them to let me travel safely through their territories on my way to Judah. And please give me a letter addressed to Asaph, the manager of the king’s forest, instructing him to give me timber. I will need it to make beams for the gates of the Temple fortress, for the city walls, and for a house for myself.” And the king granted these requests, because the gracious hand of God was on me.”

Nehemiah 2:7-8

Nehemiah was about to have many challenging adventures in carrying out this tasking, but his prior planning and preparation served him well and gave him a good head start. The outcome was mission success and he was eventually made the governor of Jerusalem for his efforts.

If you plan and prepare with diligence, you too, when given opportunity, could do very well. It is however, worth noting that in Nehemiah’s case, he had the favour of God upon him. You can see from the story that he had prayed about everything, putting it all into Gods care and God then caused the circumstances to come about by which all these events became a success.

Even still, there is some truth to the paradoxical:

“You make your own luck!”

Ernest Hemingway
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