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February 23, 2024

Marked!


“Then the sons of Judah approached Joshua in Gilgal, and Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite said to him, “You know the word which the Lord spoke to Moses the man of God on account of you and me in Kadesh-barnea. And now behold, the Lord has let me live, just as He spoke, these forty-five years, from the time that the Lord spoke this word to Moses, when Israel walked in the wilderness; and now behold, I am eighty-five years old today. I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought word back to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless, my brothers who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the Lord my God fully. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘The land on which your foot has walked shall certainly be an inheritance to you and to your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God fully.’ I am still as strong today as I was on the day Moses sent me; as my strength was then, so my strength is now, for war and for going out and coming in. Now then, give me this hill country about which the Lord spoke on that day, for you heard on that day that Anakim was there, with great fortified cities; perhaps the Lord will be with me, and I will drive them out just as the Lord has spoken.” (Joshua 14:6-12 NASB)


In the above passage, the great warrior Caleb, said he was just as strong at 85 as he was at 40. “Now,” he stated, “give me my mountain!” Then he proceeded to conquer the city in the Promised Land ruled by the biggest giant! Caleb had a “different spirit” than most, and “followed God fully”(Numbers 14:24).


My spiritual father, Jim Hodges, turned 85 this week. Like Caleb, he has a different spirit and has followed God fully. He has also conquered his share of spiritual giants, starting with the “religious spirit” back in the 60s. Jim walks in more revelation than the average spy agency, and has more knowledge stored in his cranium than the local library. Yet he’s humble! Those of us privileged to run with him have often joked that “he doesn’t know how much he knows.” Jim’s wisdom and/or revelation has “marked” me often - he was one of Ceci’s and my professors in Bible School, and has been our spiritual father and mentor for almost 40 years.


While the wisdom that sometimes (not always) comes with age is frequently spoken of, a word often overlooked when describing this wisdom is “perspective.” The higher you climb, the further you see. Eighty-five years is pretty high up the mountain of life. I sometimes laugh when I hear arrogant and dogmatic young leaders trying to correct or enlighten the body of Christ. Then I remember some of my younger days and blush. The problem with our youthfulness is often not knowing what we DON’T know. Oh well, at least I was zealous.


I’m always moved when I read the passage in Ezra when the Temple in Jerusalem was rebuilt after decades of desolation. The Lord moved on the heart of Cyrus, king of Persia, to allow those who so desired to relocate back to Jerusalem and rebuild this place of worship (Ezra 1). After the foundation was laid, a celebration occurred:


“And they sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, ‘For He is good, for His favor is upon Israel forever.’ And all the people shouted with a great shout of joy when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, because the people were shouting with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.” (Ezra 3:11-13 NASB)


Different perspectives.


We’re left to wonder why the old timers were weeping. Were they remembering the glory in the previous Temple? Did they realize more clearly just how far they were from completion? Were they remembering the horrible devastation of the cruel Babylonians, perhaps thinking of family members they had lost? Were they mourning the sin that caused their captivity? We don’t know. But we do know they had a different perspective, and were seeing much more than the younger ones.


I was on a Zoom call last week with Jim and 6 or 7 leaders in his ministerial network, hashing out some future plans. As we finished and were about to end the call, he said, “Wait a minute; I want to bless you all with something.” Jim held his phone up to his iPad, and I thought he was going to play something humorous - Jim has a great sense of humor. Then the song, America the Beautiful, sung by Lee Greenwood, began to play.


We could see Jim clearly behind his phone. No one spoke; we just watched and listened intently, and the moment became holy. After a minute or so, Jim’s hand went up in worship. Then he began to weep…so did I. And Jim Hodges marked me, once again. I’ll never forget watching as he worshiped and wept over our nation. No one asked why he cried; no one needed to. Jim loves America, especially her calling to partner with God. He is aware of her failures, remembers her greatness, sees her current devastation, and has hope for her restoration.


I stayed up until 2:30 AM that night listening to the song over and over. And yes, I cried again. It took me back to 25 years ago when the Lord visited me and imparted His heart for America. He told me then that He needed this nation in order to reap the great harvest He was planning to gather throughout the world. I felt His love for the nations, and for America. Then He and I wept together over her for 3 1/2 hours. That night, Christ marked me.


Those who tell me it’s wrong to love America as I do are too late. The propagandists who call me a “Christian Nationalist” because I believe America has a distinct calling to SERVE all other nations by partnering with Christ, taking His gospel to them, can babble on. I am unmoved. I’ll continue kneeling with “misguided” Hunt on the beach at Cape Henry and reading the Mayflower Compact with the “deceived” Pilgrims. Of course I know that God loves all nations as much as America - don’t insult me with such uninformed and ridiculous accusations to the contrary.


Those who tell me to stop speaking from the pulpit about our nation, government, schools, etc., lost that battle when God encountered and overcame me as I stood at my pulpit that night 25 years ago. The issue was settled as He wept with me on the floor next to said pulpit. Those who hate the flag, and those who believe it is heresy to connect it with delivering the gospel, lost the argument the night I wrapped myself in Old Glory, while the Lord and I wept over it for three hours. And don’t insult me with your weak arguments and heretical statements about the subject of government being evil and off-limits in church services, when God IS government and began discussing it with us in the FIRST chapter of the Bible!


And by the way, yes, I know what makes America truly great. It isn’t military power, wealth, size, or natural resources. It is serving God and His purposes. And, no, Donald Trump is not my messiah, as disingenuous liars suggest. But he did give us Supreme Court Justices that overturned Roe vs Wade, brought law and order to our borders, is patriotic, kept tyrants around the world in check, honors God and the church, and is hated by crooks and God-haters. I prefer him over an open border, the dishonoring of God, child mutilation, and a trans White House.


Don’t waste your time telling me not to love, talk about, and pray for America so much - you’re too late. You arrived AFTER the encounter with my weeping Heavenly Father, and AFTER the 40 years I’ve walked with my “Calebesque” spiritual father. Your lower perspective will never unmark me.


To all of you who are marked by love for America and God’s plans for her, do yourself a favor: use the link I’ve provided and listen to “America the Beautiful.” Make that today’s prayer.


And thank Jim Hodges.


“America the Beautiful” sung by Lee Greenwood via YouTube: click here.

“America the Beautiful” sung by Lee Greenwood via Spotify: click here.

You may be able to find this on other music outlets, as well.


Click on the link below to watch the full video.


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