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Stop and think . . .

Ron Reese

 What choices are staring you in the face right now?

How do you make choices? Do you make them based on what your parents and family members tell you to do? on what your friends say? or based on God’s answers to your prayers?
 


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To Join or Not?




by Ron Reese

Right after graduation Josh faced a big decision—to join the Army or not.

 Josh, Dan, and their friends had just finished talking to Rick, an Army recruiter. Rick had shared with them that if they wanted, they could all enlist on a buddy plan and take their basic training together.

“Wouldn’t it be great if we could all go to  boot camp together!” Dan exclaimed.
Josh and the others nodded that it would make the ordeal seem a bit more fun. Josh, his friend Dan, and their friends Tom, Rick, and Troy had always done everything together in high school. They’d gone out for the same sports. They took a lot of their classes together. They  even decided to all work on the yearbook staff their senior year.
To Josh it seemed like the second half of his senior year was going by faster than any other time of his life. There were so many choices he needed to make, so many things that needed to be completed by the end of the year. It all seemed a bit overwhelming.
Then, on top of everything else, Josh had recently experienced something that his friends hadn’t. During the past few months he’d decided to take Bible studies at a local church. The church had caught his interest because the people there kept Saturday as a day of worship.
Josh couldn’t understand why any church would want to stick out like that, but after he studied with several of the youth and young adults, he believed that the Seventh-day Adventist believers he had met were right about keeping holy the 24-hour period between sundown Friday night and sundown Saturday night.
He was so impressed with the sincerity and the message of these Christians that he even tried to get his four buddies to come to the Bible studies and to church with him.
Dan told him, “Religion just isn’t a part of me.” His other friends gave him similar responses.
Jesus Christ was becoming most important  in Josh’s life. The whole thing about Christianity really seemed like something he’d always missed. Sure he’d enjoyed sports in high school, but now church was fast becoming something awesome that he hated to miss.
One afternoon Josh thought about what he was learning at the church, and what he had learned during his past four years in school. He realized that soon he’d graduate, and a different phase of his life would begin. In the past he’d thought about going off to college, but his buddies had persuaded him that first he ought to join up with them in the military.
“You can save your money and get your education in the military,” Dan had assured him.
Saving money sounded like a good thing to do. Furthering his education was something he definitely wanted to do, so Josh began accepting the idea that maybe the military would be the best choice for him.
Timely topic
“Coming to Bible study?” asked Darrel, a guy his age from church, one Friday night.
“Wouldn’t miss it,” answered Josh.
Later than evening the two sat in a circle in their leader’s living room.
“Tonight I’m going to share a few things with you regarding Christians and the Ten Commandments,” announced their leader, Mr. Fry.
“Because several of you are approaching the age when you could join the military, I wanted you to think about a couple things before you make a decision that you might not be able to change as quickly as you’d like,” he stated.
“Many years ago during the Vietnam War, I was drafted into the Army. There was no way I could get out of serving a two-year term. I had the hardest time keeping God’s Sabbaths while I was in the Army. My superiors seemed to always try to make it extra hard for me to have time off with God on Saturdays.
“Because I believed in the Ten Commandments, I didn’t believe I should have a part in killing the enemy. So instead I was what they called a conscientious objector. Because of that, I chose to never carry a gun. Instead, I was a medic. That’s like a paramedic, only our ambulance could fly. We evacuated soldiers wounded in battle.”
Mr. Fry went on to talk about the importance of keeping God’s commandments. Josh had to admit that he appreciated being able to enjoy Sabbath services with the worship group on Friday nights and in church on Saturday. And he wasn’t really sure whether or not he could kill another person simply because that person was dressed in an enemy uniform. As Josh left the study that evening,  many questions ran through his head.
Responding to Rick
About a week later, Josh and his friends went in for some preliminary testing to get into the Army at the invitation of their recruiter friend, Rick. At the recruiting station they each told Rick what kind of education they wanted to pursue in the military.
Josh said he wanted to learn more languages. In high school he’d taken three years of French, and he’d had a year of German in middle school. He even had several friends, such as Dan, who spoke Spanish, and he’d learned a bit of that as well.
“Sounds like you could become an interpreter and possibly even a decoder,” suggested the recruiter, a young man with a winning smile.
After Josh, Dan, and the rest of their friends took several of the tests, Rick asked some more questions including, “Are any of you conscientious objectors?”
Slowly Josh raised his hand.
“Now you know what I’m talking about when I say conscientious objector, right?” questioned Rick.
“Well, it means I don’t believe in killing,” the words slowly slipped out of Josh’s mouth.
“Let me ask you a question,” Rick tried to change the direction of the subject. “Suppose someone broke into your house, and they were going to harm your sisters and your mom. Now let’s suppose you had a gun. What would you do?”
“Well, it’s kind of hard to say,” Josh slowly answered as his friends looked on. “I’ve never been in that situation, so I really can’t say what would actually happen. I might not use the gun on the intruder . . . but I’d probably do what I could to protect my family.”
Rick tried several other approaches, yet Josh still didn’t feel right disobeying one of God’s commands. As he left the classroom, Josh was still sweating, even though he was thankful that he’d spoken up and said what he was thinking.
Surreal dream
A few months later the time finally came for Josh and his friends to sign up for the Army. Right after graduation, Josh, Dan, Tom, Rick, and Troy went for a three-day trip to Fort Carson in the Eastern part of Colorado. At the fort the five guys were given rides in tanks, Humvees, and a helicopter. The sergeant showing them around even took them to an area where soldiers dressed like the old U.S. cavalry and rode on horses.
It seemed to Josh like the Army was trying quite hard to convince him and his four friends that they should sign up, which is what he and the others intended to do the next day.
That night, though, Josh had a dream. He dreamed that he and the others did go ahead and sign up for the Army. The dream seemed so real that he awoke in a cold sweat. Not until then had Josh fully thought through the decision he planned to make the next day.
Now he had a little better idea about what it was he was doing. In his dream he realized he was no longer his own person. He understood that he owed the government three years of his life. Suddenly he could see how hard it would be to keep the Sabbath in the military. He could see that down the road it might be hard for him to be a conscientious objector if he were placed in certain situations.
Josh did quite a bit of praying that night. It was as if his life were at stake over the choice he was about to make. While lying on the hotel bed that night, Josh made a decision.
The next day after each of the five guys had gotten their physicals, Josh informed his friends of his decision not to sign up.
“Ah, come on, Josh!” urged Dan. “We’ve always been together in everything!”
But Josh had made up his mind. It was as if  he’d come to a fork in the road. Although not everyone approved of the choice he’d made, it was his choice—the one he felt comfortable making.
True, he and his friends had always stuck by each other, had always been there for each other. But as he took a glimpse at his future, he realized a basic fact that each of them had chosen to deny. Eventually each of his friends would probably get married and raise a family. Eventually their lives would diverge into separate paths.
No one could ever take away all the games he and his buddies had won and lost together. All those experiences they’d shared from the time they’d worked their way through grade school, middle school, and now high school had helped each of them become who they were.
A few weeks later, Josh said goodbye to his friends as they went away for their basic training. He wrote to each one of them and brought their names to his Bible study group for  prayer.
A few months after his friends’ departure, Josh heard that a guy who’d graduated from their school a couple years earlier had been killed in the war. Josh prayed that end would not be his friends’ fate.
That fall Josh went to college. There he realized that life is all about choices. While he respected his friends and their choices to serve in the armed services, he respected himself for the choices he felt God wanted him to make for his life.
 
Ron Reese writes from Canton, North Carolina.
 




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