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vet day 18

Hero is a word that our society uses too easily. It is often used to describe sports figures or actors from Hollywood. It should instead be used to describe a person who performed courageous acts. Acts of service. Honorable deeds that inspire us.

I believe that Veterans Day is the best time for us to talk about heroes. The Armed Forces is full of volunteers. Folks who believe in our nation and our ideals. These people are not tricked into military service, they sign up knowing full well what is required of them. Every man and woman takes an oath to support and defend the Constitution. Every enlistment represents a person willing to sacrifice for the sake of others. Every warrior understands how donning the uniform will require time away from those they love.

This calling is unique. Their service is demanding. These people never waver. This is why we call the American veteran a hero. They represent the best in us and the ardent desire to protect our nation. They are willing to stand and fight for people who cannot fight on their own.  They are willing to go and sacrifice so that others don’t have to.

Pray for our heroes. Remember the service that they give our country. Honor the calling and the path that they have chosen. Remember the families that are separated during times of conflict and strife. They bear the burden of hurt just like the hero who is absent from home.

 

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prayer-invite

Today, well over a hundred thousand military personnel are deployed overseas. Members of the US Armed Forces are on seven continents and in 170 countries. These warriors are away from their loved ones and families because threats do not take holidays.

Pray for the 28,000 service members in South Korea, the 13,000 in Afghanistan, the 5,000 in Iraq and the 20,000 National Guard personnel who are activated alongside. They stand guard this weekend so that others can have security and know peace.

May God richly bless our troops, strengthen their families, and sustain their efforts across the globe.

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boy and girl

I read a story on parenting a few years ago.  It was eye opening to say the least.

A mom and a dad wanted to start a family.  They wanted to raise their child in a better way than they had experienced.  The parents wanted to raise their child to have better choices free from social norms that they considered harmful in our world.  This all sounded fine and dandy until I read their plan.

You see, they believe that society imposes certain gender norms on people.  And these norms make us who we are.  Biology has nothing to do with it.  Boys are wrapped in blue blankets and girls are wrapped in pink blankets at the hospital.  We are all hapless victims of circumstance and society after that.  Boys play with toy guns and girls play with dolls.  This forms us.  Boys take wood shop in school while girls take home economics.  This determines who you are.  All of these social constructs are then forced down on the individual child and that is what makes us a guy or a gal.  We become products of our environment and mirror the social norms around us.

The couple has a child and launch out on their parenting plan.  From this point on, the story reads more like a strange sociology experiment.  They give their child a gender neutral name.  They dress their child in neutral clothes, so that it could decide if it wanted to be a boy or girl.  They give their child a neutral haircut or hair style, so that it can have the freedom to choose its own gender.  You see the parents are just waiting for the child to tell the parents how it wants to be raised, known, and identified.  Will the child play with boys or girls on the playground at school?  They will stay out of the way until the individual child makes a decision.

This libertine parenting method struck me as very odd.  Why would these parents purposefully keep truth from their own child?  If there is no truth from mom and dad, what kind of life will this kid endure?  What other choices are they leaving up to their child?  Why wouldn’t they try to help, protect, and actually raise their kid?

A laissez-faire approach to life can only get you so far without dramatic consequences.  I am personally grateful that my parents taught me that fire is hot, some snakes are poisonous, and to come in from the rain.  That sounds ridiculous, but so is laissez-faire parenting.  Perhaps it is best to share the truth with those that we love.  Living in the example of Jesus, wouldn’t that be a better way?

Part of that truth is that we are made in the image of God.  Psalm 139:14 declares, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . . .”  Each life is a wonderful masterpiece made by our Creator, the Living God.  God does not make garbage.  While people may question who they are or why they are here, they always bear the fingerprint of the Master.

God made us male and female.  Pointing to Genesis 1:27 is not bigotry, but science.  Our DNA is unique from our parents.  Gender is determined immediately upon fertilization or when life begins. The 23rd pair of chromosomes will establish the sex of a baby.  Biology, not feelings or childhood toys, determines our gender.

We are all called to honor God with our body.  This means living in purity.  This is accomplished by upholding fidelity in marriage and upholding chastity outside of marriage.  We need to be aware of potential temptations and be transparent with those who hold us accountable.  This is also where parents need to speak truth to their children.  A laissez-faire parenting plan in this arena is reckless and harmful.  Teach your kids what is right, don’t ignore the truth.  Scripture calls us to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” and to be “transformed by the renewing of your minds” Romans 12:1-2.  Heaven help us all to live by this standard.

As the bathroom wars of 2016 go on, let us remember to speak the truth to those we love.  Let us also remember that parenting is a ministry of the heart that deserves our very best and sharing what we know is never the wrong answer.

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dv month

Silence regarding domestic violence only makes the problem worse.  Christianity should not be silent, nor should it struggle on how to address domestic violence. We cannot afford to be silent when sisters and brothers live under the threat of violence in their own homes and communities.

Christianity can serve as a valuable resource in a variety of ways to those suffering domestic violence.  The key is demonstrating the love of Christ. Here are some ways that Christians, churches, and ministry organizations can make a difference.

Understand the problem.  Violence, inside or outside the home, is never justified. Violence in any form—physical, sexual, psychological or verbal—is sinful; often it is also a crime.  Knowledge on the issue is important.  If we know what right relationships look like and how the love of Christ should operate in families, we can practice and teach these examples to our children.

Make safety your priority.  Allowing a person to find safety can be a matter of life or death.  Spiritual leaders should work with a team of community service providers to help the victim-survivor establish a safety plan, should the abuse continue or escalate.  If the home is no longer a safe place, then encourage the victim to leave or stay somewhere else. Groups and organizations may want to create safety kits for temporary assistance.  Safety kits should include: cash, gift cards, a change of clothing, toiletries, emergency phone numbers and places of shelter.  Once physical safety is established, then it is time for spiritual care. Offer to pray with the victim, share a relevant Bible verse, give support, and provide wise counsel during this traumatic time.

Wait on marriage counseling.  The timing must be right for this to succeed.  Too often church leaders rush the situation in order to “save the marriage” or “keep the family together” when these goals should be contingent on the offender’s willingness to undergo treatment.  These are certainly worthy goals, but only after the abusive behavior has stopped, should the focus shift to repairing the relationship.  Domestic violence is not a relationship issue that needs to be resolved.  It is mostly about a person’s conscious decision to violently control the will of another to maintain power and dominance.  There are times when couples’ or marriage counseling is inappropriate and risky.  If people push the envelope on immediate counseling it could lead to further abuse or even the death of the victimized.

Minister to the offender.  This may not be popular or pretty, but it is the right thing to do.  Pick the right person to mentor and coach the offender.  Bathe this mentor in prayer.  Redemption work is tough and dirty, so make sure that he or she receives the prayer support necessary for the task ahead.  When Christians focus on the offender, we are performing restoration work.  We are working on the root cause of the problem, not symptoms.  The abuse should be dealt with directly, however the root hurt or trauma should be sought after as well.  Encourage the one inflicting violence to also seek professional counseling during this process.

Teach mutual submission to couples.  The biblical topic of submission is not grounds for abuse or violence in the home. Christians must understand that submission is not a license to control and dominate another human being. Christians should also work to breakdown a deception that the Bible supports abusive behavior.  In Ephesians 5, Paul tells husbands and wives to yield to one another in mutual submission out of reverence and love for Christ – abusive behavior violates this Scripture and is not a God-given right.

As followers of Jesus, we are called to love one another.  May God grant us the patience, strength, and ability to combat domestic violence where ever it may exist.

 

 

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Army seal

Today, in 1775, the Continental Congress voted to raise an Army and truly make ourselves free.

Celebrate that freedom by praying for the men, women, and families who serve our nation so well.

May God protect our Soldiers, strengthen their relationships, and sustain them as they return from war.  Amen.

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Male-and-Female

Christians need to understand a biblical theology of the body.

I share this because of several recent events.  First, the Supreme Court struck down the federal definition of marriage being between one man and one woman.  Second, California recently passed a law allowing transgender students to choose which restroom and locker room they use.  The law, which will take effect Jan. 1, gives students the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on the gender they identify with as opposed to their birth gender. Those programs also include sports teams.  Third, a day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison, Army Private First Class Bradley Manning announced that he self identifies as a female and wants to be known as Chelsea Manning.

These events are more than news stories.  They are a reflection of our nation, our culture, and our society as a whole.  They also reflect what currently passes as acceptable behavior.

Here are a few reminders to share from the National Association of Evangelicals and its Generation Forum.

People are created in the image of God.  God made us.  We are not descendants of another mammal.  God created human beings in His image, looked at all He made, and pronounced it “very good” in Genesis 1:31.  We are included in this decree.  This makes every human a holy reflection of God and a unique work of art.  God bestows us with some of His divine attributes setting us apart from the beasts of the field.  Created in His image, we are relational and embodied beings, whose very nature bear the fingerprints of God.

God created us male and female.  The genders announced in Genesis 1 are different.  God’s design is for man and woman to be together in the covenant of marriage.  This bond is blessed so that people can find greater relationship, happiness, intimacy, and know the joy of children.  Jesus confirms this creation paradigm in Matthew 19.  Competing models to the marital covenant are found in current and ancient cultures, including polygamy, same-sex unions, serial monogamy, polyamory, and “open marriages.”  These constructs lack the essential ingredients that fully express God’s plan.  They are flawed imitations of what God intended.

We should also embrace our gender as a gift from God.  The contemporary dance with changing gender identity represents a rebellious rejection of our Creator’s biological design.  We should not change or exchange our humanity.  It would only distort God’s canvass.  This rejection also demonstrates a rebellious desire to exchange “the truth of God for a lie” and make ourselves in our own image, Romans 1:25.

Honor God with your body.  The Biblical mandate is clear, we are to pursue purity.  This is accomplished by upholding fidelity in marriage and upholding chastity outside of marriage.  We need to be aware of potential temptations and be transparent with those who hold us accountable.  Sanctification is both an event and a process.  We are incapable of eliminating ourselves from the problem of sin.  Only Jesus Christ can and will set us free, Romans 8:1-4.  But all are called to “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God” and to be “transformed by the renewing of your minds” Romans 12:1-2.

As Christians, we are called to honestly share the standard God has given through Scripture.  Many will reject it, but the church must be steadfast and faithful to biblical teaching.  Another challenge in speaking God’s truth is being compassionate like Christ.  Hate and anger will only hurt our Christian witness.  Instead, let us continue to advance God’s kingdom by speaking the truth in love.

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buffalo

Now is a great time for military members and families to start planning your 2013 vacation.  If you want to see the great outdoors, consider visiting a National Park, National Forest, or Fish and Wildlife area this summer for free.

The National Park Service is offering free park passes at more than 2,000 federal recreation sites.  The park pass is available to US military members and their dependents in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard.  Members of the National Guard and US Reserves and their dependents are also eligible.

The park pass is good for a full twelve months across the country and is non-transferable.  It covers entrance to National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service sites that charge entrance fees. It also covers standard amenity fees at Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Bureau of Reclamation sites. The pass admits the pass owner and accompanying passengers in a private, non-commercial vehicle, at “per vehicle” fee areas; or the pass owner, and up to three additional adults, at sites that charge per person. Children of age 15 or under are admitted free.

Annual park passes must be obtained in person at a Federal recreation site.  They are available to service members and dependents by showing a Common Access Card (CAC) or Military ID (Form 1173).  The Pass does not cover expanded amenity fees such as camping, boat launching, parking, special tours, special permits, or ferries.

This is another great way for America to say “thank you” to its defenders.  It is also a great way for service members to get out, relax, and enjoy some of the benefits of freedom that they preserve so well.

Grab a park pass this year and enjoy it to the fullest in 2013.

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