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A Change in Call Signals (published in The Tribune 9/01/12)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:17 PM by Fccea Webmaster
Trivia time! We all know "Air Force One" is the call sign for any plane carrying the US president. Question: Has that sign ever been changed in mid-flight.

Answer: One time. On August 9, 1974, as President Nixon flew over Missouri on his way to California from DC, Gerald Ford was sworn in as president. At that moment, the call sign for the Boeing VC-137C (a modified 707) was changed to SAM 27000, its normal Air Force designation.

It takes a powerful person to influence a change in an airplane's call sign. It takes an even more powerful authority to effect a change in identity in a human life.

Take the identity "Christian." Depending on who's counting, there are somewhere between 2.3 and 2.6 billion people on earth who claim that title. I would love to think that every one is legitimate. But, of course, there is a wide variety of reasons that people claim that identity.

For some, it is about being born in a certain location. For others, it is inherited from parents. For others, it is belonging to a certain church. For others, it is the product of having gone through a certain ritual. For still others it is about good works, or at least "doing their best."

But what would Christ Himself say about such claims? His words give little credence to the reasons given above for claiming His name.

Jesus said things like, "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life" (John 5:24). It is not birth location, but placing one's faith in Him that makes one a Christian.

Jesus said, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). It is not an inheritance, but a matter of personal belief in His death and resurrection in one's place that makes one a Christian.

There is a telling interchange in John 6:28-29: "Then they said to him, 'What must we do, to be doing the works of God?'" Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." The only "work" God accepts is belief in the Son He sent to be the satisfaction for the sin of the world (I John 2:2).

Jesus once said, "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me" (Luke 9:23). Jesus must be in charge of any life that claims to be "Christian".

The Apostle John summarizes all this by saying, "He [Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:11-12). "Christian" are those who have invited Him "on board."

Remember the movie Air Force One? Harrison Ford is President James Marshall whose plane is attacked by terrorists. Being a former soldier the president fights back until there is only one terrorist and the president left on board. In an attempt to rescue the president a zip-line is connected between Air Force One and a smaller plane providing a possible means of escape (it's a movie, folks!).

Radio contact is lost. Officials are horrified as radar shows the presidential 747 go down. Agonizing moments of silence ensue, but then the small plane radios in, "Liberty 2-4 requests a change in call signals to Air Force One." The president was safely on board.

Only Jesus is big enough to reverse the devastation and rebellion that sin wrecks in a human life. But the call sign has to go from "Me" to "He." To be Christian is to have Christ on-board. He comes by invitation.

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton/Ault