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Posts Tagged ‘god squad’

passover

As a military chaplain, I operate in a plural environment.  There are people without faith, people of different faiths, and a wide variety of Christians in uniform.  A great part of the job is meeting fellow believers.  They range from new Christians to stalwarts of faith.  Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, everyone needs a solid understanding of Passover because it shares so much about the nature of God.

In Exodus 11, God shares there will be one final plague in the land of Egypt.  Every family will experience death.  All the firstborn of Egypt will die.  Everyone from Pharaoh, to prisoners, even the cattle of the field, will feel the pain of loss.  While this sounds absolutely horrible, it is the only way that the Hebrews can escape slavery and eventually know the freedom of the Promised Land.

God provides a way of escape for His people so that they will not experience the coming curse.  They must select an unblemished lamb, sacrifice it, and put the blood of that lamb on the doorway.  The blood of this perfect lamb will be a sign for death to pass over the family.

Moses tells the people of Israel that all these things will happen quickly.  They must roast the lamb, eat it with unleavened bread, and bitter herbs.   They must also eat it with their clothing fastened, their sandals on, and walking sticks in hand as they prepare for a quick departure out of Egypt.

Today, Passover is remembered by holding a seder.  It is a ritual meal that remembers the night God delivered His people from slavery.  The Israelites had to eat the Passover meal in haste, but as a memorial meal people can recline and freely enjoy the meal as they remember and celebrate the mighty works of a faithful God.

During the seder, unleavened bread is eaten as a reminder the Hebrews left Egypt in such a hurry that they didn’t have time to let their bread dough rise.  Next they serve parsley and salt water.  Parsley is a green vegetable that represents life which is created by God.  It is usually dipped in salt water to remind people of the tears shed during captivity.  People also eat bitter herbs such as horseradish, radish, or onion as a reminder of the bitterness the Israelites suffered while they were slaves.  Next the story of Passover is retold and the youngest child at the table is asked four traditional questions from Exodus 12.

Since the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, lamb is not consumed at Passover.  Instead, a roasted shank bone is on the table.  It represents the lamb whose blood marked the houses of the children of Israel.  Wine is shared during the meal.  It is a symbol of joy and the four-fold expression of the LORD’s promised deliverance.  Four cups are served throughout the seder: the Cup of Sanctification, the Cup of Judgment, the Cup of Redemption, and the Cup of Praise.  At the end of the meal, everyone sings or recites a Psalm from the Old Testament.  Traditionally, Psalms 115-118 are used.

The story of Passover and the deliverance of Israel, foreshadow a greater deliverance yet to come.  God sent Jesus to deliver mankind from the slavery of sin.  Jesus fulfilled the Law as the final sacrificial Lamb of God and provided redemption once and for all.  Death will pass over us because of the blood He shed on the cross.  Passover is important for everyone because it is a reminder of how God redeemed the Israelites from Egypt and how Jesus provided the ultimate redemption at Calvary.  As Christians, we continue to celebrate what has been accomplished.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, took away the sins of the world.

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marriage dance

You can ask anyone about marriage and the answer will almost always be the same.  I want a good, strong, happy marriage.  No one stands at the altar and says, “I’ll give you the best five years of my life.”

Polls and surveys share the same information on marriage.  The vast majority of people desire happy, lasting marriages, whether rich or poor, male or female, and regardless of cultural background.

The big secret about marriage is that it works.  Yes, I said it, marriage works.  While out-of-wedlock birth rates are high and divorce rates are higher, marriage works.  Look at the last thirty years of research; married couples are happier, live longer, and build greater financial security.  Children with married parents perform better in school, have better physical health, have lower rates of suicide, and experience fewer cases of child abuse.  Click here for new research on “Why Marriage Matters: Thirty Conclusions from Social Science.”

Deep down, everyone wishes they could have a rewarding lifelong commitment with their spouse.  But in the midst of challenges, we forget how marriage can benefit our personal lives.  We are losing our determination and the skills to keep marriages healthy and strong.

February 7-14, 2013 is National Marriage Week.  This time is set aside to focus on the institution of marriage and strengthen it at a national level.  This is a collaborative effort that encourages groups to strengthen individual marriages, reduce the divorce rate, and build a stronger marriage culture.  The website offers several marriage resources, event guides, reading lists, and videos on how to build a satisfying marriage.

As we approach Valentine’s Day, let us focus on the skills that can strengthen our relationships and keep our marriages intact.  Here are a couple of goals or reminders for a healthy marriage:

  • make time for each other (fun, friendship, romance)
  • work as a team (instead of me vs. you)
  • talk without fighting

Remember why you fell in love and think how hard you worked to maintain your romance.  After marriage, we normally encounter a period of time when couples spend less time on their relationship due to kids, careers, and other factors.  Take time to reconnect, go on a date, and rekindle the romance in your marriage.  Use National Marriage Week as a way to strengthen your marriage and focus on the one you love.

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Gambling is a problem in America.  But gambling addiction issues with veterans are twice as high.

The Veterans Administration funded a study to determine the prevalence of problems and pathological gambling addictions within the U.S. military.  The findings deserve our attention:

  • One in 10 veterans have a problem or pathological gambling addiction (2 percent pathological addictions and 8 percent problem addictions to gambling)
  • Unemployment plays a major role in whether the veteran had gambling addictions, and married veterans were more likely to have gambling addictions (not what psychologists and researchers expected to see)
  • Veterans have about twice the rate of problems/pathological gambling addictions compared to the general, non-military population
  • Both male and female veterans have almost identical problem and pathological gambling addiction rates (again, this is unusual – not what psychologists and researchers expected to see)
  • Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety tend to have more gambling addiction problems
  • Younger veterans (20s) were more likely to be diagnosed as pathological gamblers (from previous data, most veterans with pathological gambling addictions are 35 and older, so this change in age for addiction was unexpected)

Veterans are immediately submitted to unhealthy methods of emotional escape when they return from combat.  There is a strong temptation to find unhealthy coping mechanisms because you are trying to develop a new normal at home or deal with combat stress reactions.  Many WWII veterans turned to alcohol, isolated themselves from family, and became workaholics when they returned from combat.  While this was a way to cope with problems, it was not the best way.

Gambling easily lends itself to a destructive path.  In short order, people quickly become compulsive gamblers, grow financially unstable, throw away friends and family, end marriages, abandon children, risk loosing a security clearance, jeopardize his/her military career, and even contemplate suicide.

Know the signs that point to a gambling addiction.  If you have a battle buddy or know a veteran who needs help, don’t wait.  Tell him/her what you see.  Encourage that person to get help.  State agencies and military posts offer free gambling addiction resources.  It is important that we act quickly when someone is at risk.  The loss of family and financial security may be enough for someone to consider suicide.  Your actions can help to save a life.

The National Council on Problem Gambling has a 24/7 confidential hotline:  1-800-522-4700.

Gamblers Anonymous offers a link with state hotlines at http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/hotlines

Military One Source offers free and confidential counseling for service members and military family members:  1-800-342-9647.

Focus on the Family offers faith-based counseling:  1-855-771-HELP (4357).

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Military Hands

Every marriage is precious in the sight of God.  It is an institution that began in Eden and continues with us as a gift from our Creator.  We often forget that marriage was meant to be a blessing for humanity.  When Jesus was asked about divorce in Matthew 19, he pointed back to the creation story in Genesis. Perhaps the people needed a lesson on the original intent of matrimony.  Here Jesus reminds the crowd that the marriage of a man and woman was meant to be permanent, a bond of eternal love and devotion.  It is a lesson that we still need today.

No marriage is easy.  They all take work.  They all require sacrifice and commitment.  Military marriages require all the above plus an extra dose of patience, a heap of faithfulness, a double batch of kindness, and a strong shot of self-control.

This week served as a reminder that military marriages are especially difficult.  A recent investigation by the Associated Press showed that 30 percent of military commanders who were fired since 2005 lost their jobs because of sexually related offenses.  The list includes sexual harassment, adultery, and improper relationships.  These 78 commanders lost more than their rank.  They lost more than their position on a military post.  They lost their families.

We all have distractions in our marriage, but military couples truly have an extra burden.  They endure deployments, reuniting as a couple and a family once the deployment is finished, frequent separations for training missions, plus a litany of long days and late nights for regular work to get done.  It is tough to make a marriage like this succeed.

When I completed the chaplain officer basic course at Fort Jackson, drill instructors had the highest divorce rate on post.  Soldiers with this job had an 85% divorce rate.  That number shocked me back then and it still does today.  When you get past the initial surprise, the percentage made sense.  These drill sergeants arrive at work before 5 am, wake up the recruits, train hard all day, get home around 7 or 8 pm, and repeat this kind of schedule until graduation day.  Where is the time for your spouse?  When can you enjoy your family?  With schedules like this, who would be surprised with such a high divorce rate?

Don’t focus on the headlines.  Don’t focus on the gloom and doom.  Military marriages can and do work.  Part of the solution is making time for each other.  Stay current with your spouse.  Attorneys, doctors, social workers, and yes, even chaplains, are required to get a set number of continuing education hours each year.  This is encouraged to keep professionals current on the latest ways of helping those they serve.  We should show the same devotion to stay current in our marriages.  Don’t allow your relationship to wither on the vine.

Remember the gift that God has given you.  Your marriage is meant to be a blessing.  Also remember how God intends us to use the gift of marriage.  May Christ continue to strengthen your eternal bond of love and devotion.

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trafficking

Human trafficking is the third largest crime in the world.  It is also one of the fastest growing crimes across the globe.  Trafficking consists of kidnapping, slavery, child abuse, prostitution and is a problem right here in America.

Child sex trafficking is a terrible type of abuse that no one should ever encounter.  The average age at which a girl enters prostitution in this country is fourteen and in some states it is as low as twelve.  The stories of survivors are depressing and horrific.

January 11-13 has been designated as the weekend of prayer to end slavery and trafficking.  This is the second annual national prayer initiative where people can join together and pray for the end of this terrible injustice.  Make time to lift up the victims, survivors, traffickers, and customers who are creating the demand for this crime.

Please mark your calendars, mobilize your prayer warriors, and devote time to this worthy prayer initiative.

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If you are looking for a cause that needs your prayer and support in 2013, look no further than the American Soldier.

Even though the surge ended this year, there are 68,000 service members who are still fighting in Afghanistan.  While the headlines talk about budget cuts, college football games, and Hollywood celebrities, their stories are often untold and forgotten.

These are America’s warriors who have left their homes and families to defend our nation.  These are the college students who cancelled classes when their nation called.  These are the fathers and mothers who missed a child’s first steps at home.  These are the veterans who have dodged bullets and bombs to stay alive.

Remember them in 2013.  Remember those who are fighting and sacrificing for you.  Remember military spouses.  Remember military families.  Remember them in your prayers and your efforts.    Remember the 68,000.

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Technology is trying to make the world better, but it often makes me feel like a dinosaur.

One of the latest marvels out there is a soft, flexible, wristband that you wear 24 hours a day.  It is combined with an app that tracks how you sleep, move, and eat.  The “UP” by Jawbone then helps you use that information to “be your best.”  The concept is extremely impressive, especially to me, a guy who frequently falters in his exercise routine and does not get enough sleep.

Gadgets are often used as mirrors to show people the good, the bad, and the ugly things we do each day.  The “UP” is ultimately trying to improve the physical health of people by showing them a better way and giving daily reminders on what to change.  After learning about this new item, I immediately began to wonder, what technology or gadget is out there to improve spiritual health?  What electrical device could show people a better way and give daily reminders on how to improve their spiritual lives?  What technology, gadget, or electronic doodad would strengthen my walk with Christ?

I am a dinosaur, so responses were slow.  I instead turned to some familiar items that currently help people strengthen their faith.  I distinctly remembered a Marine I met at Camp Lemonnier.  He downloaded the entire Bible to a handheld device and used that for our Wednesday night study of Matthew’s gospel.  During this year’s annual training exercise, Soldiers were constantly asking for a “Military BibleStick.”  It is a digital audio player that is pre-loaded with a dramatized recording of the entire New Testament.  I handed out more sticks than Bibles this summer.  There was another Soldier who wanted to read the entire Bible in a year, so I showed him a website where he could tailor a reading plan to his schedule.

As people begin to use their new gadgets and electronic Christmas gifts in the new year, utilize technology so that you can improve your spiritual health.  Download your favorite translation of the Bible, add a prayer appointment to your electronic calendar, use Pandora and listen to your favorite Christian artist, find a website and sign up for a daily or weekly devotion.  Don’t worry.  Dinosaurs can jump into the mix as well.  It does not matter if you keep a journal on a note pad or an iPad, the focus should be on building your spiritual muscles in 2013.  Use technology in a way that will strengthen your faith and devotion in Christ.

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