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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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The US Army Birthday 2018

Army birthday

It is humbling to consider that there are people who are willing to serve in uniform. Before there was an America, there was an Army. In 1775, the Continental Congress put out a call to arms. People arose and answered the call. They left factories, fields, and the comforts of life to protect people around them. There was a desire to defend home, neighbors, and eventually a new nation.

That spirit of service is still alive today. It is seen every time a young man or woman raises their hand to take the oath of enlistment. It is seen in the dedication and sacrifice of our Army.  It can be seen here and in foreign lands across the sea.

Today, we celebrate the Army’s birthday. It is not a memorial for those who have gone, but a celebration that there are people who are still willing to answer the call. . . the call of service.

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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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Dunkirk

In the summer of 1940, everything went wrong. The British Expeditionary Forces landed in France and began to take up fighting positions at the start of World War II. The French heavily relied on the Maginot Line. A line of armed fortifications built to prevent any kind of invasion along the Switzerland, Germany, and Luxembourg borders. German forces unexpectedly went through the “impenetrable Ardennes Forest” an area that was only lightly fortified. In five days, the Germans captured the city of Sedan and headed west. This flanking maneuver cut off the entire Allied Army. More than 350,000 soldiers were surrounded with their backs to the sea at a port town called Dunkirk.

German forces were now on their way and had the ability to wipe out the entire British Army.  When it seemed certain that the Allied forces at Dunkirk would be encircled and annihilated, a British naval officer only had time to send a quick cable.  He sent three words to London, “But if not.”

These poignant words were immediately recognized as the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Book of Daniel. These men were given a choice:  they could worship the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar made or be thrown into the fiery furnace.

Daniel 3:17-18 shares their response:  “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

They bravely chose the furnace, rather than disobeying God. The message of these three words told in Daniel 3:18 were clear.  Even though the situation was desperate and the Army was trapped, they would not give in.

One Bible verse and three tiny words communicated a giant message. It also brought about the most unorthodox and successful rescue campaign known in the modern era. The British Navy ordered fishing vessels, yachts, and any civilian watercraft longer than 30 feet in length to report and join the naval rescue effort. The flotilla consisted of over 850 civilian and military vessels with owners and crews, ready to launch across the channel.

Just as the German General was ready to attack the surrounded city, Hitler ordered him to stop at the outskirts of Dunkirk. The German command wanted forces to continue south with their invasion of France, instead of pushing into Dunkirk. This coincidence and several days of cloudy weather gave the “Little ships of Dunkirk” and regular military boats 9 full days to rescue over 338,000 men.

Today, we call this naval rescue mission “The Miracle of Dunkirk” and it began with three simple words from Daniel 3:18.

 

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Memorial Day 2017

arlington

While many consider this weekend to be the official start of summer, it has a very different purpose. Memorial Day is set aside to honor those who died in service to our nation.

An estimated 7,000 American service members have died in combat since 2001. That huge number represents the greatest sacrifice that one can make. They counted others greater than themselves. They stood up to fight for a cause. They died so that someone else could live.

In John 15, Jesus teaches his disciples to, “love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Selfless service and sacrifice are not words to idly throw around. They demonstrate the love of Christ, the one who was crucified for the entire world. His example shows the tremendous love of heaven. His example shows how much he values us. His example shows how deeply he cares for you and me.

When someone dies in our place, as a substitute, we should take note. It is humbling. It is loving. It is the ultimate sacrifice that one can offer.

As conflicts continue across the globe, let us remember those who have died so that we may live. Take time to remember those who protect our freedoms. Remember to pray for our service members, their families, and our nation.

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4-chaplains

On the morning of February 3, 1943, the U.S.A.T. Dorchester, a converted cruise ship, was crowded to capacity with 903 service members, including four chaplains. The Dorchester, was moving steadily across the icy waters from Newfoundland toward an American base in Greenland.  It was struck by a torpedo and began to rapidly sink. Panic and chaos had set in on the ship. The blast had killed scores of men, and many more were seriously wounded.

Quickly and quietly, the four chaplains spread out among the soldiers. There they tried to calm the frightened, tend to the wounded, and guide the disoriented toward safety. By this time, most of the men were topside, and the chaplains opened a storage locker and began distributing life jackets. When there were no more life jackets in the storage room, the chaplains removed theirs and gave them to four frightened young men.

As the ship went down, survivors on nearby rafts could see the four chaplains–arms linked and braced against the slanting deck. All four voices were heard offering prayers until their last moments of life.

Today, a grateful nation remembers Chaplain George L. Fox, Chaplain Alexander D. Goode, Chaplain Clark V. Poling, and Chaplain John P. Washington for their heroic deeds as soldiers and spiritual leaders.

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soldier-praying

My first deployment was to Iraq in 2006. It made several things clear. Before Iraq, my faith was comfortable. It had been tried, tested, and proven, but in a very clean and simple way. My faith was comfortable in seminary, at home, at work, and in the church. But that all changed in Iraq. I saw what it was like to constantly be under attack and understood what it was like to be under the threat of death. Iraq gave me something that most Americans do not experience. Iraq also gave me something that most Christians in the western world do not experience. Iraq changed me, but it also changed my faith for the better.

One of the major discoveries from my time in Iraq was truly learning the power and importance of prayer. While seminary gave me the tools and the knowledge regarding a solid prayer life, Iraq was the furnace that forged my prayer life into a solid existence.

Here are four lessons on prayer that helped me down range.

Share your heart. Be transparent with God. Big or small, lift your prayers to the Lord. The night before flying into the combat zone, I spent two and a half hours in prayer. This was the longest span of time I had ever spoken to God in one setting. I had a lot of ground to cover if this was potentially my last night on earth. Cry out no matter what the concern may be. Philippians 4:6 reminds each of us “. . . in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Pray now, not later. Be immediate with prayer. Time is precious, especially in a war zone. If someone shared a prayer request, my new practice was to stop and immediately pray with the person. The location may be on the sidewalk, in the parking lot, at the chow hall, or in the office. There was no reason to wait and the soldier had a need that deserved to be addressed. Hebrews 4:16 shares, “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Keep it simple. There is no need to be fancy. Wordsmiths have their place, but not on the battlefield. I felt God calling me to pray for aircraft, well the crews and passengers on board. I crafted a simple three point prayer to say every time I heard a helicopter or aircraft departing the base. Jesus reminds us not to have babbling prayers in Matthew 6:7. Prayers are not heard for the sake of many words.

Have a consistent pattern. My routine was very disjointed in Iraq. The start and end of every day lacked consistency. Unit operations had to happen 24 hours a day and the war didn’t stop. The best time to pray was right before I went to sleep. I could make time to pray once my boots came off. It took a while to find that right recipe, but once I found it the routine stuck. Find a time or habit that can help you make space for prayer. Colossians 4:2 encourages us to, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.”

There are many lessons a veteran will find down range. Theses lessons can benefit our Christian walk. The trials of yesterday make us stronger for tomorrow. May God grant us the calling of Romans 12:12, to “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in prayer.”

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