I just returned from my 60th class reunion for the United States Naval Academy. When I graduated 60 years ago, that was a statement second to none. It was a big deal to graduate from the Naval Academy or West Point back then. We were young, and we all had our futures booming out before us. We had taken oaths to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, and we were ready to go out and serve our country.
Sixty years later, we’re now in our twilight years. As I talked to people at the reunion, I noticed that most of my peers had stopped looking forward. When we graduated, we had our lives before us, but many of the guys now spend their time only looking back at the past. Some of my peers had remained in the military until they retired, and all the ones I mixed with admitted an emptiness. They had put in their time, and they had retired. They’d appreciated retirement, but there’s just so much golf one can enjoy.
Only one group didn’t seem to be looking back, feeling empty. The one group that seemed to be looking forward were the born again Christians. Those of us who know Jesus Christ have something to look forward to. We have our callings in Him, and we have confidence that He continues working in our twilight hours. We have all eternity ahead of us, and we know the work we do for the Lord has eternal consequences. It gives us perspective.
Looking backward has its points. I look back, and I recognize that I had a very successful life even from a secular viewpoint. After I graduated from the Naval Academy, I served in the Air Force. I then served in the intelligence community and went into corporate development and the business world. I had a tremendously interesting life building companies, and I participated in more than 100 deals in mergers and acquisitions. God then allowed me to take my once-hobby of teaching the Bible and build Koinonia House.
People often ask me about the secret to my success. Why did I succeed in my professional life? As I look back, I realize that, by the grace of God, I was surrounded by some phenomenal people. I believe the secret of success is to surround yourself with winners, with strong people.
As I look back in life, there is only one area where I have regrets. My life was exciting for many reasons, but there is a place where I have deep regrets to this day. I took my wife for granted. I didn’t abuse her physically or anything, but I took her for granted. It’s a grief that I have. I didn’t appreciate the preciousness of what I had in her. For so many years I was too busy climbing the next hill, and I abused her by not really taking care of her. Now, I’ve lost Nan, and not a day goes by that I don’t wish I could just pick up the phone and call her. If my looking back can help anything, it would be to encourage all you young guys not to make the same mistake I made. Be wise. Pay attention. Discern which are the truly important things in your lives while you still have the time to invest yourself in them and to enjoy them in return.
A Distress Signal
I can also look forward, and I know that every day that passes draws us closer to the Return of Jesus Christ. However, I also know that between now and then some terrible things will take place, and what I see on the immediate horizon concerns me.
People often comment on the American flag I wear on my lapel. They’ll come up to me and try to correct it, telling me, “Your flag is upside down.” I have to explain to them that it’s upside down on purpose; flying one’s ensign upside down is a distress signal. I’m flying the ensign of the United States upside down because the county is in distress. It’s not an error or a sign of disrespect. It’s a signal. I’m very concerned about the country that I signed up to protect.
My 60th class reunion was a painful blessing. There comes a day when a child has to learn there is no Santa Claus, and it’s a painful blessing because it’s the puncture of a delusion. When I attended the reunion, there was a similar painful puncturing of a delusion.
We took oaths of office in Memorial Hall at the Naval Academy, and there we vowed to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. The signed oaths are still there in glass, and the midshipmen still swear it that way every year. However, we learned 20 years ago from a young man named Michael New that even though our soldiers might swear an oath to defend the Constitution, they might also be ordered to swear an oath to defend the United Nations. Michael New refused to take the oath to serve under the United Nations, potentially taking orders from the leaders of other countries, some of which might hate America. He refused to swear an oath to obey the Secretary General of the U.N. over the President of the United States. He refused, but many of our young people do not — and they put aside their oath to the Constitution.
It hasn’t gotten better during the past 20 years; it’s gotten worse. Our military has been gutted in spirit, in purpose, in integrity. Under the recent administration, a flood of our faithful generals retired in ignominy. Our military has become a social experiment. It’s a place to climb a ladder and to make a better pay grade — rather than a place focused on serving and defending the country. Our soldiers once regularly prayed together, and we can find one story after another of God’s miraculous protection of our military. Now the poisonous doctrine of political correctness has crept in and eaten at the very core of what makes our military great; our trust in God. Military teachers are disciplined for mentioning Jesus on Easter. Soldiers who once readily prayed together do so less and less. The focus has turned to globalism, endangering our nation and ultimately freedom around the world.
The current leadership doesn’t understand — globalism is the opposite of what we signed up for. We signed up to lay down our lives protecting the Constitution from its enemies, foreign and domestic. We signed up to defend the United States against tyranny. The United States is now committed to globalism — which is a commitment to tyranny. I would not give my life to support that form of globalism.
It doesn’t take a genius to realize that America is in some uncertain times. I subscribe to a variety of investment magazines, and all of them agree we are on the cusp of a major implosion. As I watch all of this, I see the decay of values in the United States. It shocks me to realize that the typical American is unaware of what’s coming, even though the experts have been hollering at us about this for years. They don’t know what the timing will be, but they believe we’re on the edge of a cliff of some kind.
We’ve moved our Koinonia House home base to New Zealand. We still have an office in the U.S., but it was Nan’s idea to move our ministry offshore. We’ve planted ourselves there for a number of reasons. It’s interesting to watch America from an offshore vantage point, and many of the things I’ve been seeing are shocking. Members of U.S. legislature sign documents they haven’t read. We see the head of the FBI refusing to enforce the law. When James Comey initially declined to follow through the investigation of possible crimes by Hillary Clinton, he demonstrated a lack of interest in the rule of law. Here’s a woman who should be in prison for a variety of crimes, and instead she’s running for president. What’s even worse, it seems that nobody cares. It’s not a political thing. The issue is the corruption of America.
As we look forward, we know this planet is in for some rough times. We know that Jesus Christ will return to rule this world. He is the Son of David, the King of kings. Before that happens, however, the Antichrist will have years to run his reign of terror.
I watch as we slide deeper into what I call the Age of Deceit. There is false news being circulated — not just by kids in Europe for fun — but by our own professional news agencies. People don’t know how to discern truth from lies. Too many people, even Christians, make emotional decisions rather than exercising and developing their critical thinking skills. One of the most overlooked commands Jesus made is also one of the most important. He said, “Do not be deceived.” The question is, “How?” How do we avoid being deceived?
Of course, the best way to recognize a lie is to already know the truth. We start by studying and knowing the Word of God. We start by knowing how to defend the Bible against those who cast doubts and make attacks on it. We behave like the Bereans in Acts 17:11; we seek out the truth with all readiness of mind.
People are constantly interested in signs of the times. As I look ahead, one of the things that fascinates me is that the Rapture is coming. The Rapture is a prerequisite for the arrival of the Antichrist. We don’t know when the Rapture will take place, but we can see on the horizon the gathering of events that will take place post-Rapture. In other words, the things we know will happen after the Rapture already seem to be lining up at the gate. The AntiChrist will lead the world in a great deception, and already we are watching the Age of Deceit pull its shadow over the world. Once the Christians are gone, the lies will flood across the earth. God will raise up Israel, but there will also be a terrible time of Tribulation such as the world has never seen.
As we watch the gathering darkness, you and I ask, “What do we do?”
First, applaud the lack of ambiguity. The closer to the time of the Antichrist, the closer the Rapture. Second, ask the Lord of the Harvest to send workers to reap His harvest. We know from 2 Peter 3:9 that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. In Luke 10:2, Jesus told His disciples, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into his harvest.” We have plenty of work to do in the time we have left.
The Yearnings of God
Did you know that God has yearnings? It surprised me to discover that God not only has yearnings, but some are unfulfilled. He yearns for us to trust Him. It disturbed me to realize that God has passion for us to trust Him, and yet many of us don’t. We each need to take that step of complete faith in His faithfulness, praising Him daily for His love and mercy and His perfect guidance. He longs for us to trust Him in everything. We must practice staying open to Him. No matter what He has next for us, remember, He’ll enable that which He calls.
One of my favorite sayings in recent years is a quote by Mark Twain. I love this. He said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” If you are reading this, you still have a life ahead of you. It’s worth your while to find out why. What does God have for you? Whatever it is, it might not be easy — but I guarantee it will have future results more valuable than you can ever imagine.
As we walk into our future, everything we do needs to be measured by our commitment to a person, the person of Jesus Christ. As we look ahead at the ever-darkening horizon, we can know that our King is coming. We see the pieces moving into place. In the meanwhile, we commit ourselves to serving Him with all our hearts, minds and strength for whatever time we have left before He takes us home.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
— 1 Thessalonians 4:16–17
Even so, come Lord Jesus. Amen.