A TRIBUTE TO AARON CARL TORIAN

 

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While I only met him once, Aaron Carl Torian grew up in the church, Heartland Worship Center (AKA Bible Baptist Church) in Paducah, Kentucky, where I am one of the pastors. I never knew him except for a quick hello here and there but I heard about him often. I heard how he had immense passion for his country and that many of his tours in Iraq and Afghanistan were due to his volunteering. Aaron understood that freedom had a price. He was willing to sacrifice it all to protect that freedom for you and me.

While I’ll never know exactly all that he did, I know that he was a sniper and that his rank was a Master Sergeant. I read how he was named 2005 2nd Marine Division’s Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for his actions during Operation Phantom Fury in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004.  I know that he was well respected by all who spoke of him and that he received great honors over his career. The word is on the street that he saved several lives of other soldiers and civilians. That he risked his life for their benefit.

There is a lot I don’t know about Aaron but I do know this… He is a Hero. A hero is someone who gives his or her life to something greater than themselves. That was Aaron. He was adored by his mom and step-dad. Adored by his children. Adored by his church. He is not just a hero because he died doing what he loved, defending our country. He was a hero before that. My guess is all his brothers who served with him would tell you that we in the states only know a small fraction of all the reasons Aaron is a hero. The sacrifices he made. The courage it must have taken to go where he went and to do what he was called to. The brotherhood he shared that very few will ever experience.

I wish I had known him better. I wish I could have spent time with him to see what motivated him. I wish I could have been inspired personally by his passion. To be challenged by his discipline. To be a better person because I spent time with him. When I heard he was killed in service my heart broke as if he were someone very close to me. When heroes die we all feel the weight of it. We know that we have lost someone significant to the very world we know.

Most of all I am thankful for Aaron’s faith. That he put his ultimate trust in Jesus Christ. There is nothing that brings more joy to my heart and to the heart of those who knew Aaron than to know he is now in Heaven. A place where there is no more suffering, no more tears, no more pain. A place that Aaron will be able to rest and enjoy His Lord for all eternity. I will see you one day Aaron and I will be honored to call you a brother and to enjoy the presence of the Lord with you for all eternity. For now I honor you and remember your sacrifice for me and my family. Thanks for reminding me what constitutes being a hero.

To his wife, Jurley, and his children, Elijah, 9, Laura Bella, 4, and Avery, 2, we will do our part to remember well the man you called Husband and Father. Thank you for your sacrifice and know that his memory will live on in the hearts of a nation.

PARENTING MYTH

Happy family together, parents with their little child at sunset.

 

The way of the parent is often the way of the Cross: the glory and grace and joy in it come at significant cost.

                                                                                                                                                                             ~ Rachel Stone 

What’s easy about parenting?  Nothing.  In all the things I have tried to do in my life, nothing highlights my feelings of inadequacy like parenting.  All I can say is WOW!  Parenting is a constant dispenser of humility.

I have such high expectations for my children.  I want my children to be perfect (just keeping it real), and I want to be the perfect parent.  Not going to happen.  This should not be my expectation.  Reality is, I have sinful children being raised by sinful parents.  Recipe for at least some disaster.

Here is the truth:  parenting is not always fun.  If our goal in parenting is to be happy, then we have the wrong goal.  A better approach is to understand our responsibility as a parent to love them enough to always be honest with them.  They will not always respond this way to our training: ”Oh Daddy Dearest, your compassionate rebuke of me lights my way like stars to the heavens.  What would I do without your constant guidance?”  After I got up off the floor from fainting, I would ask my child what they want and how much is it going to cost me!

Children push our buttons.  Even if they know we are right in what we are teaching them, they are not going to make it easy on us.  Did you make it easy on your parents?  They are going to resist being less selfish just like we do.

There is no such thing as pain-free child rearing.  It involves cost, sacrifice, and pain.  Now by this time you might misunderstand me to be saying I loathe being a parent.  Quite the contrary.  The result of my persevering through feelings of inadequacy, sacrifice, and frustration is not misery.  It actually produces joy.  That’s how it is like the cross.  Parenting comes at significant cost when it’s done right, but the result is joy.  Joy when you see your child responding to another adult with manners.  Joy when you see them put their brother or sister first.  Joy when they remind you how much they really need your support.  Joy when they get excited about God and following Him.

Parenting is not always fun, but it produces great joy in my life.  I love my children fiercely.  I love them too much to let them stay self-centered, defensive, and deceitful.  It’s going to be painful to call it out in them because they are not going to like it.  They will try and make me regret it even if they don’t mean to.  But in the end, I trust God to work and the things I suffered to teach them to leave an imprint. And watching them grow up in a healthy, God-honoring way will bring more joy to my heart than all the gold in Alaska ever could.

You cannot be the type of parent I am talking about without God.  He is crucial for finding joy in parenting.  It is God who teaches us that loving our children means teaching them to live holy.  Just like us, our children are desperate for Christ and His formation in their lives.  That is why our most important purpose in parenting is to help our children see their desperate need for Christ.

Parenting is not easy, but it is an incredible journey of joy when you approach it the right way.

 

Power of Persecution

Read Acts 8:1-8 today. It starts with, “On that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem.” It ends with, “So there was much joy in that city.”

It hit me, how could there be joy where such great persecution existed? I think it is all about perspective. If you see persecution as personal suffering without a greater end then you will avoid it like the plague. You will do anything, including giving up your faith, to make it stop. But what if you saw persecution as a way God uses to spread the truth of Christ. What if you saw persecution as a way that God displayed his power in the church and in the world. God is Sovereign and he makes persecution serve his greater purpose. Persecution advances the kingdom, it does not thwart it. Persecution opposes complacency in our life. It forces us to take serious our faith and to not take for granted the blessings God has given.

John Piper said about persecution:

  1. God makes persecution serve the unstoppable mission of the church—your mission, your ministry.
  2. If your faithfulness brings trouble to the church (like Stephen’s did), you will be honored and not blamed—at least by the godly.
  3. Your worst critics can become your precious comrades by the power of Christ’s converting grace.
  4. And the very Word—the gospel—that brings persecution sometimes, brings joy always and forever.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not praying for persecution but I do see the benefits of it and I want God to do whatever it takes to be honored in my life. That is a scary prayer but one that I pray.