REVEALING God’s Glory Aug-Sept 2021

Read Time:12 Minute

“If anyone DESIRES to come after me, let him DENY himself and TAKE UP his cross DAILY and FOLLOW Me.”  

Luke 9:23 NKJV

Images: ©Alan Tucker

Last time, I wrote about conversion. You might remember I capitalized the word each time I used it.  I did that to try to emphasize that salvation is about conversion, about becoming a new creation, (“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.” 2 Corinthians 5:17) where you take up your cross and follow Him for your entire life.  I shared examples of how discipleship is a lifetime commitment, i.e., there are no retirement plans here on earth for Christ’s disciples.  This time I want to focus on COMMITMENT as it is something that I think about and pray on quite a bit.

Read His command carefully, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” It is the essence of Christian living and must be obeyed. Do you remember some of your parents’ commands when you were younger: “Wash your hands before dinner;” “Finish your homework before you can go outside to play;” or “Be home with the car by ten o’clock, understand?” Most of us remember those commands. Those were not suggestions our parents gave us.  Failure to obey our parents came with a price, such as no dessert, being grounded for the weekend, time alone in your bedroom, better known as time-out, or worse, “no wheels” for a month.  While at times we thought mom, dad, or both were mean or unfair, those commands were acts of love that nurtured our growing up. 

Jesus gives us many commands to obey, such as “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” (Romans 12:2 NKJV) to help us become the person He calls us to be. These, too, are not mere suggestions for us to consider but rather decrees to be obeyed. Being a retired military man, I understand all about commands.  They were orders, not proposals or recommendations to consider.  They came from a higher authority who expected you to salute smartly and do as directed. Failure to obey was not an option and came with a penalty.  God also expects us to obey His commands. The Bible is replete with stories of disobedience, which is called sin. Esau lost his inheritance, Moses didn’t get to cross into the Promise Land, David didn’t get to build God’s Temple, the Jewish people were thrown into captivity in Babylon, etc., because they all disobeyed God.  The Bible says the “wages of sin is death.” If we stay conformed to this world, we will be cut off from God for eternity just like the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah.  That is the harsh reality that comes from living for self. 

I see many other parallels with my military career that help me in my walk with Jesus.  First, there is the need for TOTAL COMMITMENT.  

To join the Air Force, I had to make an oath:

I, Alan E. M. Tucker, having been appointed a (rank) in the United States Air Force, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter. So help me, God.

I made it proudly, and with it, my life was no longer my own. It was the United States Air Force’s and ultimately my country’s.  In a sense, I became a new creation.  I put on a uniform, and from that time on, I was required to follow the rules, regulations, and orders for the duties I was assigned.  That decision was freely made, but it came with a cost. The cost of being away from home and your parents, family, and friends.  You missed so much that you longed to be a part of and experience.  I made that oath at the age of 25 when I was commissioned as a second lieutenant and was totally committed to it until my retirement twenty-three years later.   

During one of my assignments, I had the honor and privilege to serve as the squadron commander of an engineering squadron at Bitburg Air Base in Germany.  It was our job to operate and maintain the airbase in both peace and wartime.  I had 650 men and women assigned to me.  In a sense, the entire mission of our base, air superiority over Europe, was dependent on how well we performed our job.  In assuming command, I informed my troops that I had certain expectations that I would not compromise on, and there were consequences for not meeting them. 

Visit the PDF version of Glory Magazine to view more of Al’s wonderful pictures.

My first expectation dealt with TOTAL COMMITMENT. I didn’t use those words, though. I expected my people to be “all the way in,” or they would be “all the way out.” There was no room for slackers in my outfit.  I expected my troops to know their job and perform it to the best of their ability.  The importance of our mission required nothing less.  Laziness, sloppiness, and lack of team focus are all contagious and are harmful to any organization. The squadron soon learned I was serious as it didn’t take long for me to realize that my electrical section was woefully under performing.   My electrical superintendent, a senior master sergeant, had been there for six years and was already on a two-year extension.  He was a kingpin, a bully, and a poor manager.  Within a month or two, the paperwork came across my desk where he was requesting another two-year extension.  I called him into my office and explained that I was denying his request and why.  It was a joy to see that operation improve once his oppressive approach had been replaced by good leadership.  One day I was walking through one of the shops, and a younger troop said something to the extent, “Thank you, Colonel, it is fun to come to work again.” He didn’t have to elaborate.  I knew what he was talking about. We had to weed out a few other malcontents before our squadron turned the corner and created an atmosphere for people to excel.

My second expectation was the concept of being an AMBASSADOR, and again I didn’t use that term.  Ambassadors represent someone or something, such as a government.  They are not free to carry out their own wishes or policies, but rather, those of the authority they represent.  In this case, my troops represented me, the squadron commander.  There are a couple of parts to this.  It begins with being a person of your word.  If you give your word, keep your word.  In our business, we often made commitments when we could accomplish work.  Before I went to Bitburg, too many people told customers what they wanted to hear and didn’t do what they communicated.  The work backlog was staggering, and our squadron’s reputation was poor.  That soon stopped as I let them know when you give a commitment on behalf of the squadron, you are giving Colonel Tucker’s commitment.  It took some time to dig out of the backlog and to regain our integrity regarding commitments. The second part of the ambassadorship concept involved how people performed their work.  I told my troops that each individual signs their work in some fashion, they put their signature on how well they performed their work.  One is known by what they do and how they do it.  They soon learned that when they performed an assignment, they were signing our squadron’s signature, and in essence, mine to their work.  With those concepts in mind, we turned the squadron’s reputation around by creating an environment for excellence.  We did what we committed to, and we did it to the best of our ability.

My final expectation was aimed at my squadron’s leaders, i.e., officers, senior non-commission officers, and civilian managers, and it involved the concept of “Failing to prepare is preparing for failure.” This one took a little longer for the staff to grasp and required some hands-on coaching on my part to convey the concepts. Some came to it easily, others not so.  My point was excellence just doesn’t happen.  It requires understanding your mission, your people’s strengths and weaknesses, and other organizational needs.  Then it involves goal setting, communicating, getting all people on board, execution, evaluation, adjusting, etc.  This is an oversimplification, but it does illustrate what goes into the process.  Once understood, we were able to accomplish so many things that had been thought too difficult to do at one point.

Well, those were my expectations.  They served me well in all my assignments.  I believe that these principles are just as applicable to my Christian walk.  It began when I went to the cross and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins, and I accepted that “He rose from the dead so I could walk in newness of life.” (Acts 2:38) I had been a man of the world up until that point eight years ago.  I wasn’t worthy, but as that wonderful old song, “Victory in Jesus” goes, “He sought me and bought me, with His redeeming blood.” I didn’t deserve it! I didn’t earn it!  It was all His grace!  But I claim it, and I can boldly state, “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord His trust.” (Psalm 40:4 NIV)

Rural WV, © Alan Tucker

Looking back on when I was saved, I wondered how I could have changed so markedly.  At that point, I was very immature, and I didn’t understand most of it.  But something was different, and I realized it was the Holy Spirit in me that began “the renewing of my mind.” (Romans 12:2)  Without that renewal, I would have never thought so much about His command “to take up my cross daily and follow Him.” He is saying the same thing as I told my troops “You must be all the way in!” As a Christian, you can’t have one foot in the world and the other in God’s kingdom.  

Ultimately, it is a heart thing. I had to confront my COMMITMENT.  Am I sold out for Jesus or not?  Do I have a consuming passion for pleasing Christ?  I boldly say yes, and as I have matured, that passion grows.  I have a pastor friend who often says, “We should listen to what the Holy Spirit tells us.” About a year ago, I started to think I needed to get baptized.  Like many people, I was baptized as an infant and thought that was good enough.  Although saved, for some reason, I didn’t feel whole, and I realized I needed to please Him by getting baptized. I believe the Holy Spirit was speaking to me.  At the time, I wasn’t feeling well and thought I would wait until I was.  Then triple bypass came along.  Lying in ICU, I said to myself when I get well, I must get baptized.  That had to be the Holy Spirit.  When in so much pain and discomfort, who thinks about baptism. I did, and it was a comforting feeling.  A few weeks ago, I realized that blessing, and I now have that sense of wholeness that I had been longing for.   

Just as my “all the way in” work approach parallels TOTAL COMMITMENT, so do my ambassador concepts. (Be a man of your word and do it to the best of your ability!) Both apply to being a servant of God.  

Paul wrote, “We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.” (2 Corinthians 5:20 NIV) 

At Bitburg, my troops represented me. As a TOTALLY COMMITTED Christian, I accept that I must live under the authority of God as spelled out in the scriptures.

Interestingly, in the Air Force, we would reference our manuals that we often referred to as bibles.  Each career field had its own bible that you had to follow and obey.  For mankind, there is only one authoritative Word, The Holy Bible.  To be a practicing “Ambassador for God,” you must be His disciple.  How do you do that?  Jesus says: “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.” Wow, it could not be any clearer than that: Read His word; Obey His Word; Daily. If I can do that, I will not only please Him, but I also know I can become the person He called me to be.

The final point I stressed to my troops was “failing to prepare is preparing for failure,” no matter what goal you have in mind.  As Christians, our ultimate goal should be for Jesus to say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant…” (Matthew 25:23 KJV )

How do you and I get there? Here’s a good start:

Do as Jesus commanded, “Do not be conformed to this world”

Have a consuming passion for pleasing Christ

Be the person God called you to be by:
Reading His Word
Prayer and worship
Fellowship with other believers, and Ensuring your daily actions are consistent with being an Ambassador for Christ

Finally, be vigilant against the enemy, including your stubborn will to live for self and prideful desire to be seen over Jesus; and

Remember, you must be “all the way in,” i.e., TOTALLY COMMITTED, and the good news is “With God, everything is possible!”

Until next time, I leave you with this thought to consider and pray upon: “Are you a faithful “Ambassador for Christ?”  

Social profiles

Let’s Keep In Touch

Click HERE to join our email list.