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Posts Tagged ‘faith’

I was driving on the interstate when a white Nissan Maxima passed me.  The car was moving pretty fast, so it had my attention.  As the car zoomed by, I could see the outline where an ichthus once resided on the trunk lid.  Ichthus is the fancy word for a “Jesus fish” logo.

Clearly, one of two things could have happened to the vehicle.  First, someone took the fish off the car.  Second, the fish fell off the car.  I wanted to think that a Christian sold his or her car to this speed crazy maniac and then he pried it off the Maxima.  But I digress.  Regardless of how it left, the result would be the same.  It was a marked car.  Jesus used to be there and He left a distinguishable mark.

Scripture tells us that those who follow Jesus are marked men and women.  Ephesians 1:13 reads, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”

In that era a seal denoted ownership.  That unique mark, stamp, or seal was legally recognized for the land owner or businessman to identify the possession.  It would also be used to show that a transaction took place.

As followers of Jesus, we should be like the marked car.  Our lives should look like, sound like, and operate like Christ, regardless of the location.  Our behavior and actions should stand out as a way to glorify the Son of God.  We are marked men and women who have been sealed with the Holy Spirit.  This is why we smile.  This is why we share the hope that is in us.  This is why we demonstrate kindness and service to others.  We are a redeemed people who have been changed.

So let us remember who made the distinguishable mark on our lives and may that compel us to reflect the love of Christ.

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The Senate confirmed Army Lt. Gen. Frank J. Grass as the next chief of the National Guard Bureau and Air Force Maj. Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel as the bureau’s vice chief during a late evening session July 26.

Grass, who also will be a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will be promoted to the rank of general. Lengyel will earn his third star.

The Senate’s action followed Grass’ July 19 hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“To the men and women and families of the Army and the Air National Guard … you can know that I will be your strongest advocate,” Grass said during the hearing.

Asked about the his role on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Grass said, “As a member of the Joint Chiefs, I [will] definitely have to bring forward the adjutants generals’ and governors’ thoughts, concerns, on the homeland mission. … I also need to be able to balance that with the federal mission and deployable forces and be able to give my best military advice to the secretary of defense as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.”

Grass will succeed Air Force Gen. Craig R. McKinley, the National Guard’s first four-star general and first to be appointed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

1 Timothy 2 is a call to prayer.  It reminds us to offer prayers and petitions for all who are in authority.  Take time to remember the new leadership at NGB and the important roles they have.

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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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Chaplains are pretty busy during Annual Training season in the National Guard.  Tuesday I gave another suicide prevention class.  It’s a requirement that Soldiers get the presentation at least once a year.  The training focuses on the magnitude of the problem, how common issues can drive anyone to the point of despair, and that everyone can watch out for your battle buddy.

While many try to pin the Army suicide issue on multiple deployments, the majority of issues that drive people to suicide are common issues:  failed relationships, financial difficulty, and legal woes.  These are typical factors that we see in the civilian population, at schools, in factories, and even in the church.  PTSD is a factor in military suicide, but it is not the top issue that Time magazine or other media outlets want you to believe.

The fundamental issue to remember is that everyone can save a life.  You probably survived a breakup, be it in high school, college, or at work.  You probably understand what it is like to bounce a check or have a tough time making your paycheck last the entire month.  We are all in the same boat.  We all have the life experience necessary to help people at risk of suicide.

Remember and apply ACE: Ask, Care, Escort.

If you believe that someone is at risk of suicide, ask him/her about the problem.  Find out what is going on in the person’s life.  Directly ask if he/she is thinking about suicide.  Care by listening to the issue.  Find out what is causing the pain and suffering.  Why is the Soldier upset?  Finally, escort the Soldier to a resource.  That can be a chaplain, a medic, a counselor, an NCO, a friend, or a family member.

Don’t leave the person alone.  Make sure that he or she gets help.  It is okay to call a suicide hotline or wake up a supervisor, just don’t ignore the warning signs.

You don’t have to be a mental health counselor to apply ACE.  You don’t have to be an expert.  But you can practice these basic steps in suicide first aid.  Do your part to reduce suicide and help your friends.

If you need immediate assistance these suicide hot lines are always available:

Military One Source – 1.877.995.5247 or National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

 

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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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Military funerals are difficult.  The age of the veteran doesn’t really matter.  Each time family members gather to mourn the loss of a loved one there is incredible sorrow.  Battle buddies, friends, and military leaders show up to share stories and give comfort.  At the conclusion, rifles fire, taps play, Soldiers salute, and a family member receives a flag to remember the sacrifice and devotion of the departed veteran.  These military customs and ceremonies honor the life and service of people in the armed forces, but they can also remind us of a difficult loss.

For many who attend a military funeral, death seems cruel, harsh, and final.  That is how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus hanging on the cross.  They were devastated.  Death crushed them.  There was nothing left for them.  The last three years of following Jesus seemed to be for nothing.  They huddled together in darkness, but then came the morning.

An empty tomb was discovered.  The rock had been rolled away.  Even the death shroud and linen wrappings were laying perfectly in place.  Something miraculous had happened – Jesus was no longer there.  He had risen from the grave!

In John 11:25 Jesus shares, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”

Jesus not only is life, but conveys life to the believer so that death will never triumph over him or her.  What once seemed final and devastating is now transformed into new life.  Death is no longer the end.  Death should instead be viewed as the gateway to our heavenly home.  Since Jesus rose on the third day, we have the promise of life beyond the grave.  The promise of eternal life through Jesus, the Son of God.

If you are hurting and suffering from a recent loss, allow the words of Jesus to strengthen and comfort you.  A cemetery is where we remember lives lost, but it is not our final home.  For those who have put their faith in Christ, Easter means that we will live in the presence of God forever.

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