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Posts Tagged ‘Christianity’

Enduring Freedom

Most service members think about spiritual matters during deployment.  We take stock of our lives while in the face of death and danger.  This time of examination and spiritual questioning is important.  Rarely do we stay the same afterward.  This time of spiritual searching will frequently send service members in one of two distinct directions.  Many gain a stronger relationship with God.  Others may question their beliefs and feel spiritually empty.

For those who may be in the later category, I want you to know that it is normal to ask questions about our faith.  Spiritual matters are important downrange, when we have returned home, and as we reintegrate into our communities.  Everyone is impacted differently by war.  We have endured different levels of strife and conflict. We also have different levels of spiritual understanding when we enter the combat zone and when we leave.  Regardless of your location or when you served, your faith will be different when you come home.

No matter if your faith has grown or shrunk, it is important that you continue moving forward in your Christian walk.  Do not stand still in your faith.  1 Timothy 4:7b-8 shares, “rather, train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.”

Every believer, civilian or veteran, needs a spiritual fitness routine.  Like physical fitness, spiritual fitness must be practiced.  While it is different from going to the gym and lifting weights, the concept is the same.   We need to exercise our spiritual muscles in order to grow our faith.

Spiritual fitness can take place in many different ways:

  • prayer
  • reading scripture
  • attending worship services
  • seeking spiritual counsel
  • fellowship
  • meditation
  • journaling

This is a small, but important sample of spiritual exercises that you can try.  Feel free to try one and gradually combine others to your list.   You can also participate in these activities with your family, friends, and a Christian community of believers, adding a greater dimension to your spiritual fitness by increasing your connection to other people.

Spiritual fitness is important to everyone.  It draws us closer to God, forms us in the image of Jesus Christ, and allows us to strengthen our faith.  Your spiritual fitness also affects your ability to deal with stress and times of crisis.  Multiple studies determined that veterans who have an active spiritual practice report fewer and less severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.  Those who struggled with their faith or felt alienated from God had more severe PTSD symptoms.

Spiritual fitness also reduces anxiety, loneliness, and depression.  Studies have also documented how people with a weekly pattern of attending worship services live longer, are healthier, and recover from illness more quickly.

Veterans and service members can take comfort in the transforming power of God. No matter where or when you were deployed, God still cares about you.  No matter what you saw downrange or what you did, you can have a redeemed life.

When life seems full of despair, the Lord shares purpose, meaning, forgiveness, and acceptance.  Continue to move forward in your faith.  Train yourself to be the godly and righteous person you were called to become.

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Bible

Hollywood can say what it wants, but The Bible is the top-rated cable program on Sunday nights.

The History Channel’s mini-series The Bible drew an impressive 14.1 million viewers on its first night.  Horizon media, meanwhile, said some 50 million viewers tuned in to at least some portion of the program over the first three weekends of the five part series.

The show is an outright success.  The latest installment pulled in 11 million viewers and audience retention rates are just as remarkable. To put the numbers into perspective, the premier had better ratings than The Walking Dead and every episode beat Fox’s American Idol.  If the ratings don’t impress you, they certainly confound Hollywood’s entertainment experts.

This Judeo-Christian-themed show reveals an appetite for religious programming that is consistently overlooked in Hollywood.  Did they forget that The Passion of the Christ made over $600 million to become the highest grossing R rated film in history?  Did they also miss The Chronicles of Narnia, Courageous, and Fireproof?

Some critics claim that the calendar is artificially inflating interest around the series.  I don’t see how this argument holds water.  Sure the mini-series airs during Lent and will end on Easter Sunday, but that does not speak to the desire for clean stories and religious programming every day of the year.  The content is drawing the audience, not the calendar.  Content is what drew people to the show and developed a loyal following.

The series is truly unique in that the creators wanted to honor the integrity and accuracy of Scripture.  Nancy Dubuc, president of the History Channel, told MovieGuide.com that a group of theologians and scholars were regularly consulted on the accuracy of the project. “This is probably the most important book in mankind, regardless of your beliefs or religious affiliation,” Dubuc says. “We spend a lot of time talking about this book, and probably not enough time knowing what’s in it.”

Again, that is the entire point.  People are curious about the Old Testament, the New Testament, and how the Bible impacts us.  While Hollywood has not cracked the code, people want to connect with the story of God.

Thanks to the History Channel and The Bible leadership team, people are watching the series, having conversations about the text, and finding out what the story of God holds for them.  That is the ultimate success no matter how the ratings turn out next week.

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Bible Series

If you have seen the ads, there will soon be something worth watching on television.

The History Channel will present, “The Bible” as a five-week mini-series.  The premier is March 3, 2013 from Emmy Award winning husband and wife team, Mark Burnett and Roma Downey.  The final episode of the series will air on Easter Sunday and will feature the death and resurrection of Jesus.

This television series is a great and simple way for people to explore the message of God.  While the Bible is one the best-selling books of all time, many have not read the text.  The mini-series will give Christians, spiritual seekers, and curious souls an opportunity to discover the Holy Bible in a new and exciting way.  Hopefully, it will serve as a reason for folks to open the text, connect with Christ, and continue their discovery of God’s plan for humanity.

Below are a couple of reviews for the series.  Feel free to share the news and catch the show.

“To help insure the accuracy of the miniseries, many Christian scholars served as advisors and hundreds of Christian leaders have given their endorsement.” – Outreach Magazine

“It is also a project close to Mr. Burnett’s heart. In the past couple of years the 52-year-old former paratrooper says he has become deeply religious, a transition he credits to Roma Downey, his wife since 2007. ‘It wasn’t until I met Roma that I truly understood my faith and it’s been a dynamic shift for me,’ Mr. Burnett said.” – Wall Street Journal

“Famed television producer Mark Burnett tackles his projects with passion, but The Bible is a special labor of love.  The 10-hour, five-part docudrama, which premieres March 3 on the History Channel, will span the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, presenting some of its best- known stories, including Noah’s Ark, the Exodus, Daniel in the lions’ den and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

‘In terms of importance, nothing we’ve ever done, not Touched By an Angel, not Survivor, not The Voice, not The Apprentice, none of this could possibly compare to The Bible,’ Burnett says. ‘To us, as a family, we love the Bible.
This is not a TV show to us. It’s images and sound and sacred text that people will still watch, way after our grandchildren are old people.’

Since the entire Bible can’t be covered in 10 hours, the miniseries, which was filmed in Morocco, focuses on a select group of stories and features such compelling figures as Abraham, Moses and David. Some stories had to be compressed for artistic purposes. ‘In the end, what we’ve done is a meta-narrative, a grand narrative of emotionally connected stories. We know we’re not qualified to teach the Bible. We’re qualified to be good television producers and storytellers. By telling these emotionally connected, big stories, hopefully millions of people will reopen their Bibles,’ Burnett says. Downey came up with the idea for the miniseries a few years ago. ‘It is our obligation to tell the stories as written,’ he says. ‘The stories are so brilliant and compelling.’ The project will have broad appeal, he says. ‘If you know the Bible, you’ll enjoy seeing the stories come to life. If you’ve never read the Bible, I think you’ll love the stories,’ he says.  ‘There’s a reason the Bible is the most widely read book in the world.'”USA Today

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Everyone loves being called a “single digit midget” in the military.  It means that you have entered the end of your deployment cycle and you are under 10 days from being home.  Your freedom flight is ready to carry you across the ocean and onto American soil.  A homecoming is just around the corner.

Homecomings also mean that a military family is giddy with excitement.  They are preparing to circle a date on the calendar and pick up their hero at the airport or attend a welcome home ceremony.  Either way, it will be a day to remember; a day that soldier, spouse, and family have been praying for.

Once the military family is reunited, challenges can easily surface.  This transition will take time for everyone involved, so here are some tips once the deployment is finished.

Give your hero time to adjust at home.  Don’t tightly schedule activities or gatherings.  He or she may require additional rest adjusting to a new time zone, a change of food, and a change of climate.  Yes, while it may be hard to believe, but the weather in some parts of the world is much worse than the heat we’ve experienced this summer.

Plan some together time for the immediate family.  Do something special where all the kids can be involved.  This will help your hero get back into the rhythm of family life.  It’s often best to re-connect as a family first and then have a romantic getaway.

Discuss roles and responsibilities.  Roles typically change during the deployment.  Will everything return to the pre-deployment routine?  Who will balance the checkbook?  Who will pick up the kids after school?  Who will mow the yard?  Perhaps the kids have been fixing dinner on Friday night for the last 5 months and they enjoy the challenge.  What will normal family life look like now that your soldier is home?  Now is the time to discuss what is best for the family.

Be patient and tolerant with your spouse.  New experiences during a deployment may bring changes to your hero’s attitude and outlook.  The parent who stayed home may also have a short fuse from being the “only adult” at home.  Remember Ephesians 5:1-2, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you . . . .”  Challenges will arise, but continue to show grace and compassion toward each other.

You just spent a year apart, now is the time to enjoy togetherness.  Get off the computer.  Put down your phone.  Go out.  Talk.  Make time for each other.  Celebrate the gift God has given you.

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Each year Gallup releases a “Confidence in Institutions” survey.  This year it reveals that only 44% of Americans have a “great deal or quite a lot of confidence in ‘the church or organized religion.'”

Organized religion has ranked at the top of the list from 1973-1985, but now it is tied with the medical system.  Bean counters will quickly point out that religion still ranks fourth out of sixteen institutions tested, but that can hardly be viewed as a prize.  Bronze medal?  Sorry church, you missed it by that much.

After I let the survey results simmer, my thoughts went to people who have been hurt, wounded, and injured by the church.  When I hear stories of people searching for a different church home it is always for a reason.  Too often families leave a congregation because of strife, bitterness, and conflict.  They leave due to splits and infighting.  They leave because of hurtful comments and negative attitudes.  Unfortunately, the pain can be so intense that many won’t even bother to look for a new church home.  Many stop looking or worse yet, stop going.  When that is the legacy, why would people express confidence?

I like it when people describe the church as a hospital for sinners.  It is the emergency room where we find comfort and peace through Jesus Christ.  But this spiritual hospital will have people who are coughing, fever-ridden, and sick.  There are varying levels of sickness due to sin.  Cross-bearing is a requirement for ministry to occur in this setting.  There will be unpleasant people in every congregation, but then again what emergency room doesn’t have someone in need of a physician?

If you are looking for a church home or stopped looking for a solid body of believers, remember that Jesus died for you and all who suffer from the pain of sin.  He died for everybody.  Congregations are made up of imperfect people who are in need of the Great Physician.  Place your confidence in the Son of God and you will never be disappointed.

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Each Fourth of July we celebrate the birth of America.  We celebrate freedom, independence, and the precious rights that guarantee the blessings of liberty.  But it is important to remember how religious freedom was the original goal of living in our land.  And by that, I mean prior to signing the Declaration of Independence.

Christianity operated in a very different environment from what we know today.  Prior to the Pilgrims leaving England, there was no separation of church and state.  There was one official church for people to attend and the King was the head of the church.  During the 1600s, British law required citizens to attend worship services.  Those who did not attend would be fined one shilling for each Sunday and holy day missed.  People who conducted unofficial church services could be fined, jailed, or executed.

As persecution and arrests grew, the Pilgrims left England for Amsterdam.  By 1617 the congregation was stable enough for another, more permanent move.  They wanted an enduring place where opportunity and religious freedom could be secured for their families.  They turned their eyes to the new America, braved a sixty-five day voyage across the Atlantic, and started Plymouth Colony.

Days after sighting land, The Mayflower Compact was established as a way to honor God, guarantee just and equal laws in the colony, and create a free form of government.  The Pilgrims decided to establish a system where every member of the colony could enjoy guaranteed rights and freedoms under majority rule.  Freedoms that they were unable to enjoy until that very moment when the ink was dry.

Their voyage and vision created the first written constitution on our continent.  It became the seed of American freedom and democracy.

We often forget the past difficulties that Christians have faced trying to worship God.  We also forget the difficulties in our present age.  We have been so blessed with liberty in our nation, that we forget the inequalities that exist elsewhere.  While we are not fined, jailed, or executed for practicing our faith in America many others suffer across the globe.  We have brothers and sisters in Christ who live with the same fears, torment, and punishments of seventeenth century Pilgrims.

Recognize the incredible gift we have as Americans and utilize your religious freedom.  Glorify our risen Savior in song.  Strengthen your faith in a worship service.  Read your Bible in public.  But also take time to pray for the persecuted Church beyond our borders.  Their current plight was ours not so long ago.

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I love lemonade.  There is nothing like a glass of lemonade during the summertime.  It’s the best you could ask for.  A cold glass of lemonade hits the spot after mowing the yard, walking the dog, or just relaxing on the porch.  This amazing drink will immediately satisfy me, draw a thirst quenching “aaahhh” from my mouth, and deliver a toothy smile to my face.

Sure there are different kinds of lemonade out there.  You can get lemonade in an Army mess hall or even a Navy galley.  But I’m talking about the good stuff.  The lemonade recipe that your grandmother used.  You know what I’m talking about.  A recipe with real lemons, sugar, and plenty of kick.

My wife and I recently went to a Chick-fil-A and ordered lemonade with our meal.  We didn’t know what to expect of the drink.  Would the lemonade be a watered down version or something that tastes too syrupy sweet?  The sign said it was made-from-scratch daily, so we decided to take a chance on their lemonade.  We were both amazed.  It was absolutely fantastic!  It had to be one of the finest lemonades out there.  Where had this been all of my life?  Why didn’t anyone tell me that Chick-fil-A lemonade tasted so good?

To say that I was surprised by their lemonade would be an understatement.  I had been settling for something less, when this recipe was clearly better.  This discovery became our new gold standard when it comes to lemonade.  No longer will we settle for something less.

God understands good lemonade.  He gave humanity a recipe to follow regarding life.  He knew that this recipe would satisfy us, quench us, and make us smile.  This recipe is the finest out there.  In fact, it is the perfect recipe.  It is the gold standard of recipes.  But some folks wanted to make their own recipe.  They wanted different ingredients and proportions in the mixture.  They were willing to settle for a recipe with less because it was something that they had made.

Romans 1:25 shares that people exchange the truth about God for a lie or “the” lie depending on your translation.  This passage tells how people “worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator . . .”  This lie is about self.  I know better.  I am more important.  I will do whatever I want.  The rules don’t apply to me.  In essence, I will follow my own recipe.

Folks have the choice to follow their own recipe in life.  Perhaps they didn’t know just how satisfying God’s recipe is for us.  But when you taste and discover how incredibly satisfying it is, you won’t settle for less.  May God bless you and your pursuit of His righteousness, His recipe for your life.

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Memorial Day allows us to remember the meaning of sacrifice.  Veterans, soldiers, and veteran groups frequently celebrate Audie Murphy and his sacrificial efforts during World War II.

As a soldier, Murphy was credited with destroying six tanks, killing over 240 German soldiers, and capturing many others.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle of Holtzwihr, France.  In this campaign, Murphy’s unit was reduced to 19 out of 128.  As they continued to take losses, Murphy ordered his men to fall back while he provided rifle fire to protect their escape.  When he ran out of ammunition, he climbed on top of a burning M10 tank destroyer and used its .50 caliber machine gun to fight the enemy.  He also called in artillery fire to slow the German advance.  Murphy continued to shoot and call in artillery for an hour until he was wounded in the leg.

When asked after the war why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied simply, “They were killing my friends.”  His selfless service and sacrifice is celebrated every year.

Each Memorial Day we celebrate the suffering and sacrifice of veterans.  But to understand sacrifice we must  look past the holiday weekend.  To understand sacrifice we must look to God.

John 3:16 shares that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  A sacrifice was made for us.  Christ was wounded for our wrongs.  Isaiah 53 is titled the Suffering Servant.  This chapter in the Old Testament shares how the Son of God would be “pierced for our transgressions” and suffer on our behalf.  His actions would bear our iniquities and justify us before a Holy God.

As Christians, we understand that Jesus went to the cross for our sins.  His substitution on the cross ultimately atoned for the sins of the world.  He interceded to save us.

While stories of sacrifice, war wounds, medals, and heroism will take center stage this holiday weekend, remember that we understand sacrifice through the love and devotion of Jesus Christ.  He is truly our Savior.

 

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Moms play a critical role in every family.  They raise us, nurture us, love us, demonstrate the right way to live, and make gigantic sacrifices for us.  We owe them an incredible debt.  Now consider the additional responsibilities of being a military mom.

Military moms act as a single parent during deployments.  Their work load doubles when duty calls a Soldier, Sailor, Airman, or Marine overseas.  They endure hardship, long hours, little rest, and loneliness.  They sacrifice time and comforts to make life better at home.  A military mom keeps the family together while times are tough and a loved one is deployed.

The Bible shows us a great example of motherly love and action in Acts 16:1-2.  “Paul came to Derbe and to Lystra.  A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer; but his father was a Greek. He was well spoken of by the brethern at Lystra and Iconium.”

Timothy was a remarkable and talented young man.  He was highly recommended by the local church leaders.  His mom, Eunice, had done such a good job raising and teaching her son that Paul wanted to take him on his missionary journey.  Think about this accomplishment.  Her work at home made this young man ready to enter the ministry of the early church and reach the world for Jesus Christ.

She was a strong woman of faith as was her mother (2 Timothy 1:5).  But Eunice was unique in that she was able to pass this faith along to her son.  This was no small feat since Timothy’s father was not a believer.  It also required extra work since it was usually the father’s job to teach the sons and the mother’s job to teach the daughters.  Perhaps there were times when she felt too exhausted from all the work of the day to spend time with her son.  But she would not give up in her responsibilities.  She was faithful and willing to do the extra work.  Praise God that Eunice made time to teach her son Timothy!

Be mindful of Eunice and her tremendous example from scripture.  Think about her loving sacrifice of time and how it changed her family and ultimately the world.  Consider how moms have made time for us and how we should respond with our own families.  May God give you the faith, the vision, and the strength of Eunice as we celebrate mothers across America.

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May 3, 2012 is the National Day of Prayer.  Events will be held across the county where people are encouraged to pray for our nation, our elected leaders, the military, and each other.  The National Day of Prayer is an annual observance held on the first Thursday of May, inviting people of all faiths to pray.  It was created in 1952 by a joint resolution of the United States Congress, and signed into law by President Harry S. Truman.

While the day may be used to focus on government functions and civic purposes, feel free to make space for personal issues.  Allow a time for repentance.  Make time to renew your relationship with the Lord.  Share the inner concerns of your heart and take them to the Throne of our Creator.

It is easy to get wrapped up in the events of work, school, and family, but share some of tomorrow’s valuable time with our Heavenly Father.

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