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Posts Tagged ‘chaplain’

lent 2014

Lenten practices take time, practice, devotion, and patience.  We are often tempted to ignore our spiritual practice and rush into Holy Week.  Many will ask, “shouldn’t we celebrate and rejoice on Palm Sunday?  Shouldn’t we rush to the empty tomb just like the disciples?”  Yes, but within context of the entire story. There is joy at the end of the story, but it is important that we take time to focus on the total ministry of Jesus and the joy that can bring.

In Luke 10: 1-24, Jesus appoints additional disciples to go ahead of him and visit every city and place he intends to go.  They are to travel in pairs.  They are instructed not to carry a wallet, a traveling bag, or sandals.  Take what you have.  Hurry.  Don’t stop to greet anyone on the way.  Stay where you are welcome.  Be courteous, kind, and eat what people serve you.  Heal the sick and tell people, “The kingdom of God is near to you.”

These disciples go, obediently perform mission work, and return.  The disciples come back very happy.  They were not promised lush accommodations.  They were not promised lavish meals.  They were not promised a living wage.  They were told to go and perform the work of a missionary on the charity of others and they returned full of joy.

The disciples performed great miracles on the authority of Christ.  The sick were healed, demons were cast out, and people found salvation through the message of Jesus.  The disciples are full of joy because they were instruments in God’s plan.  Performing the work of God gave them joy.  In short, they have joy because they were used by God in a mighty way.

The work that we are given may not be glamorous, glorious, or even miraculous.  The challenge is to be faithful and obedient, no matter what task we are given.

When we are busy doing the work of Christ, let there be joy in our hearts. When the work seems tedious and complicated, let us focus on the harvest. Apply these lessons to your spiritual practice for Lent.  May God give us a holy perspective on the tasks we have in front of us and the ability to rejoice through the entire journey.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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lent cross

Lent can be a great time of discovery.  It is often viewed as a time to focus on what is truly important in life.  We also need to examine what is truly important in our Christian walk.

Jesus performs a miracle at the Bethesda pool in John 5:1-15.  Scripture records that a man was healed after being ill for thirty-eight years.  Jesus asks the man if he would like to get well and then commands him to, “Get up, pick up your cot, and walk.”

All these events were done on the Sabbath, a day set aside for worship.  Many people saw this previously crippled man walking through their streets. While there should be shouts of joy, exclamations of praise, hand shakes, back slapping, and chaotic rejoicing people instead focus on our recently healed walker carrying a cot.

Tradition did not allow people to “perform work” on the Sabbath.  Carrying a cot would fall into that category.  It was not the law of Moses but their interpretation of it that prohibited carrying loads of any kind on the Sabbath. Folks were so fearful of ever breaking the Law that they built an artificial “hedge” around it, comprising volumes of extra rules and stipulations. In fact, this hedge created an additional 613 provisions so that people could avoid breaking a commandment. While this was done to avoid offending God, it only drove a wedge between the people and God.  It created an atmosphere where the people focus on works and wrongs instead of the message and ministry of Jesus their Savior.  In short, they missed the miracle.

Jesus was present.  He was in their midst.  The Messiah was alive, active, and at work in Jerusalem.  Jesus was just footsteps from their door.  The Lord performed an incredible miracle where a man’s life was transformed and physically healed.  A crippled man was able to walk, perhaps for the very first time in his life.  But people could only see a Sabbath infraction instead of the Savior.

Let us rejoice when a family shows up to worship instead of snickering that they are fifteen minutes late.  Let us be joyful when a man arrives in the sanctuary instead of judging the clothes on his back.  Let us celebrate the future when a criminal accepts Christ instead of focusing on the past.  Let us see the miracle.  Let us see the Savior.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

 

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lent-give more

Today was exhausting.  After a full day of counseling, visiting Soldiers, and spending four hours in the car, I finally made it home.  I shut the door and breathed a sigh of relief.  There was just enough energy left to go upstairs, kick off my boots and take a nap.  That way I could salvage part of the evening at home. In order to give quality time at home and offer something significant, I needed to take a break and re-engage at a later time.

We often face this dilemma with our families.  We also face the same dilemma with God.  What kind of offering do we give God?  Does God get our first fruits or the leftovers from our day?

As we focus on the season of Lent and strive to maintain our spiritual practice, it is important to examine the offering we bring to God.  Exodus 23:19 shares, “Bring the best of the first fruits of your soil to the house of the Lord your God….”  Not only should God get what is currently available, but the best of what we have to offer.

Giving our best to God is a daunting challenge.  It requires time, energy, and devotion.  Allow this Lenten time of self-examination and sacrifice to strengthen your spiritual commitment and resolve.

The Lord has given grace, healing, and redemption to an afflicted world through Jesus Christ.  God has given His Son as the atonement for the sins of humanity. While there is no way to repay this perfect and holy gift, it cries out for a response.  Christ’s crucifixion should call us to tears, shame, seeking forgiveness, acknowledging our need for a Savior, and ultimately changing our lives so that we pursue Him.  It should create a spark in us that never dies or wavers because of God’s great love for us.

As we mark another week in the season of Lent, examine your gift.  What offering did you bring?  Will God see the first fruits or the leftovers of your day?  Do not “call in” this season of sacrifice and commitment.  God deserves our very best from start to finish.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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lent

Yes, it has been a week since Ash Wednesday, but the season of Lent is still with us.  Lent is an important time where Christians focus on personal sacrifice and ready themselves for the celebration of Easter.  On the liturgical calendar, Lent runs six weeks from Ash Wednesday to Easter.  It is a religious observance where Christians focus on fasting, sacrifice, and abstaining from different foods, acts, or luxuries.

I have to admit that observing Lent is new to me.  It is more common among liturgical or “high church” faith groups.  I was not raised in that tradition, but I have an appreciation for the concept of subtracting something in your life to grow closer to God.  While many will give up meat, sweets, soda, chocolate, or doughnuts during Lent, I like the idea of adding a spiritual practice in your life to grow closer to God.  These practices can include daily devotions, a focused prayer time, creating a spiritual journal, volunteering at a charity, or performing community service projects.

This year I added a practice to help me grow closer to God.  Many Bibles highlight the words of Christ with red letters to separate them from the black lettered text. I am reading through the “red letters” or words of Jesus during the season of Lent. The plan is to eventually arrive at the triumphant entry on Palm Sunday and follow Jesus to the cross throughout Holy Week.

While this approach may not be for everyone, the key is to find a spiritual practice that appeals to you.  It is also helpful to find a practice that will test or stretch your faith.  Don’t fall into a rut and do the same spiritual discipline year after year. That would deny you the growth and opportunity God wants from us.

Yes, the first week of Lent is gone.  If there was a lapse in your daily routine, get back on the horse.  Schedule a time and place to help you focus and maintain your practice.  Whether you are subtracting or adding a practice continue the daily journey toward the cross of Christ.

God bless you on your Lenten walk this year.

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couple

Everyone wants a good, strong, happy marriage.  Our marriages often start out well.  They are full of enthusiasm, joy, love, compassion, and devotion.  But as time goes by, couples often find it difficult to carve out time, space, and energy for their one true love.

It seems so odd and sad, but it is a common story line with a majority of married couples.  The things of life get in their way and dampen the romance that once burned bright.  A few years prior, nothing could separate this pair of love birds. Now priorities have changed.  Distractions are everywhere.  Demands must be met. Children must be fed. Bills must be paid.  Somehow couples seem to lose the fire and energy that brought them to the altar.

We all need a wake up call when it come to marriage.  Everyone!  We husbands need a reminder to date our wives and make her a priority.  Wives need a reminder to love and cherish husbands.

February 7-14 is National Marriage Week.  It serves as the national alarm clock for couples to remember why they got married in the first place.  It also allows groups, organizations, and churches to join the fight in saving marriages across America.

If you are planning a marriage enrichment event, a workshop, or presentation, join the campaign by sharing it on the national website.  Let your community know what resources are available in their own backyard.  This simple act can go a long way to encourage or even salvage a couple on the brink of divorce.

National Marriage Week USA, offers several marriage resources, date night suggestions, event guides, reading lists, and videos on how to build a satisfying marriage.  Check out the website to find a tip, idea, or suggestion that can improve your marriage in 2014.

This can be the year that you turn things around.  Stop allowing distractions and insignificant events to suck the life out of your relationship.  Take time to strengthen your marriage.  Reconnect with your spouse.  Focus on the romance that brought you together.  Use National Marriage Week as a way to strengthen your marriage and focus on the one you love.

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prayer invite

Combat forces are expected to leave Afghanistan sometime this year.  Today about 42,700 troops remain in country; about 30,000 of them are soldiers.  The total number is expected to drop to 34,000 by February.

It is often shared that the most dangerous time on any deployment is the first and last month of your tour.  The first month is dangerous as you learn the ropes and discover how everything needs to work properly.  The last month is dangerous as many folks are in a hurry, tempted to take short cuts, and focus more on going home than the immediate tasks at hand.

Please keep all of our service members in your prayers this year as combat forces continue to return home.

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Bible open

It is that time of year when everyone starts to think about new year resolutions. Do something different this year. Instead of focusing on your diet or exercise plan, take time to consider your spiritual condition and how it can improve.

Here is a list of challenging ways to strengthen your faith in 2014.

First, read your Bible on a daily basis.  This may seem daunting to many, but it is a worthy practice.  Take an honest look at your schedule to determine the best time and place to read scripture.  It is okay to block out the time on your calendar.  You can even set an appointment reminder on your computer or phone.  Try to eliminate potential distractions and interruptions on the front end.  Once you find the right time and place, stick to your plan.  Feed your faith.  Make time to hear the message of Jesus.  Allow it to sustain and encourage you in all things. Remember that reading the Bible is a valuable practice.  Every time you do so, you are making time to meet with God.  That is no trivial event.  Each meeting changes us, develops strength in tough times, and allows believers to grow in the example of Christ.

Second, keep a prayer journal.  As you pray for people, life events, and direction, write what you pray for.  How many prayer lists did you throw in the trash this year?  Too often we turn prayer lists into a “one and done” event with no follow through.  Carry these prayer needs over into the next week or next month.  We need to provide greater support to our brothers and sisters by praying them through the tough times of life.  Prayer needs to be more consistent in our lives.  A prayer journal helps us make the practice more constant and genuine.  It is okay to track prayer requests and organize them as you see fit.  This allows us to be more intentional in our petitions to God.  A prayer journal also allows you to see the progress and changes that take place over time.  Odds are that you will discover being transformed as well.

Third, discover your spiritual gifts.  We all have different gifts and abilities.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 shares, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”  God has made us all unique, but we are called to use our talents and abilities to glorify God. Discover how God has gifted you.  Take a spiritual gift inventory.  There are plenty of surveys, tests, assessments, and analysis guides online or at your local Christian bookstore.  Remember that there are no wrong answers.  Each survey is a way to discover what characteristics and traits God has implanted in you for service. Once you have completed the survey, pray for God to reveal the best way to use your gifts and talents for the body of Christ.  Seek wisdom and opportunities to use the gifts that you have received from God.

As we prepare for 2014, remember to include God in your personal improvement plan.  These simple steps can strengthen your faith and build the spiritual muscle God wants you to have for the year ahead.

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Christmas music

I heard something as I walked in the store.  I could not believe it.  The door shut behind me and I just stood there listening to the music.  It was the third of November in Salina, Kansas.  The lady at the counter looked at me, smiled and asked if I needed anything.  “How long have you been playing Christmas music in the store?” I asked. “Since the first of the month,” she shared.  “Isn’t it beautiful! Christmas is just around the corner now.”  We both smiled and nodded in agreement.

While one might expect retailers and restaurants to play the typical songs about snowmen, reindeer, bells jingling, shiny wrapping paper, or enjoying a snow laden landscape this music was different.  This music was even different from most radio stations. This music described a holy night when our Savior was born.  A night when angels proclaimed the birth of our King.  A night when the thrill of hope arrives and a weary world rejoices.  A new and glorious night that transformed the world because He has finally arrived.  The night that delivered Jesus, the Christ, the promised redeemer of the world.

The music itself didn’t stop me in my tracks.  It was the message of the music.  It seemed to transform the entire store into a happy and joyful place.  People couldn’t help but smile at each other, customers and employees alike. The store was transformed into a glorious place where people were happy and at peace. Each person reminded of God’s gift to us.

In my state of surprise or perhaps shock, I also took in what was not happening in the store.  No one was complaining about “religious” music being played on a store sound system.  No one was offended with the message.  No one organized a sit in or demonstration.  No one organized a letter writing campaign to the head office as a protest.  Instead, you saw people everywhere who expected to hear Christmas music.  People heard the music and the message.  We were in turn blessed, renewed, and changed.  The music was a gift.

Christmas music matters.  It is more than an assortment of notes and chords.  It is a tremendous reminder of truth.  It shares and teaches the promise of Scripture. It is a form of worship in that we can use music to offer prayer and praise to God.  It transforms people.  It allows heavenly changes to take place in our hearts, minds, and souls when the gift is received.

Joy and singing do not always come easily.  Many can only focus on dark days and personal struggles.  As we enter the Advent season, let us hear the songs of promise and respond to the heavenly gift of Jesus.  Since God has faithfully delivered the Messiah, we too have reason to sing and rejoice.  May we continue to lift up our voices and share in the heavenly chorus that proclaimed the birth of our Savior.

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Pray for Syria

prayer invite

Christians of all stripes can join together this Saturday and pray for Syria.  From the Catholics to the Quakers, everyone should be able to set aside their differences and unite in a time of prayer.

This long civil war has taken over 100,000 lives, created over 2 million refugees, and unleashed the use of chemical weapons.  No matter where you stand on the current political issue.  Make time to pray for the people, the victims, the homeless, the starving, and for a solution to the conflict.

It is good for us to remember that there is an authority higher than the military.  Let us petition the Lord and ask for his mercy and peace to surround Syria.

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2 mochas

It is amazing what a handful of people can do with purpose and direction.

In 2004, a group of college students went to Africa to help people in need.  As work projects moved forward, many of the young adults expressed frustration with a perceived inability to make an impact in Africa.  The size and scope of work projects seemed unending.  And with only a few dollars – rather than thousands – to spare, many people felt like their efforts equated to dropping a pebble into the Grand Canyon.

This compelled several people to create a new model of giving.  They asked, “what could be done if we gave up one or two premium coffees and used that money for Africa?”  The group realized that they did not have thousands or millions of dollars, but that they could be faithful with money already in their pockets. This concept of making a difference with faithful giving quickly launched the Mocha Club.

Today, people can sign up, pick a service project and donate the cost of two coffees to impact the people of Africa. This allows people across the globe to pool their resources and make a huge impact in the lives of needy families. Donors can select clean water, education, orphan care, or several other projects to support.  The success of Mocha Club has grown to have a massive impact both in Africa, and beyond.

7 dollars

You can learn more about the organization and see how to make a difference in Africa by clicking on https://www.themochaclub.org/ and join the fight to help people in need.

Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25, that those who are faithful with small things will be entrusted with great things. They will also hear our Savior say, “well done good and faithful servant.”  Let us continue the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  No matter how great or small the work may be.  May we be faithful in all that we do.

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