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Posts Tagged ‘love’

foot washing

Maundy Thursday is celebrated many different ways in the Christian church. Tonight people will gather this evening to remember Jesus going into the Upper Room, washing the feet of His disciples, sharing the Passover feast, and instituting the Lord’s Supper. After singing Psalms and celebrating the faithfulness of God in delivering the Jewish people from bondage, Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane. Here Jesus prays for strength and is arrested as a common criminal. Ultimately, Jesus journeys to the cross. The story of deliverance changes. This time He will deliver the world from sin.

God didn’t just say that He loves you, He demonstrated it. Romans 5:8 shares, “God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”

As we enter a time of worship this day, do so remembering that we are loved.

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closet

I had the privilege of officiating a wedding on Saturday. Everyone dresses up for a wedding. The bride and groom look sharp. The wedding party put on fancy outfits and fix up their hair. Even guests get into the act. They dress up, no matter how hot the weather may be. People always want to look their best for a wedding. We clothe ourselves differently from day to day attire, because a wedding is a special occasion.

Paul writes in Colossians 3:12-14, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”

As Christians, we should clothe ourselves in love each day. We should “look sharp” all the time, no matter the event or the location. Love is not a unique garment that should be worn on special occasions, but an item to wear every single day.

Before you put on your socks or lace up your shoes, remember that there is one more item to wear before you head out the door. Clothe yourself in love.

 

 

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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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As a pastor and a military chaplain I am asked to perform a flurry of weddings each year.  It is absolutely wonderful when a couple wants to tie the knot.  I want them to have a strong and beneficial marriage.  That is why I require a minimum of four marriage counseling sessions before the big day.

Some couples fall into the trap of spending more time planning the wedding than their married life together.  A wedding ceremony can last 20-45 minutes, but the marriage is intended to last for the rest of their lives.  In an age when 50% of marriages end in divorce, couples need to build a solid foundation for their marriage to succeed.  Making time to strengthen your relationship before you tie the knot, will help it stay tied.

Pre-marital counseling has some distinct benefits for couples.  Here are a few reasons you should get marriage counseling before the wedding bells chime:

1.  Strengthen communication skills

You can learn how to listen to your spouse and speak effectively with each other.  This does not happen by accident.  It will take time, effort, and practice.  While better communication skills may seem like a catch phrase, couples who learn the skills can resolve issues more quickly and avoid serious fights.

2.  Discuss roles and expectations

What will married life look like after the ceremony?  Don’t expect this to take care of itself down the road.  Now is the best time to discuss expectations.  Topics should cover a wide range of issues to give transparency and depth.  Who will make the morning coffee?  Will you have a joint checking account?  Will you be a one or two income household?  Does your spouse plan to go back to school?  Where will you worship?  Marriage counseling is a great place to start or continue the conversation.

3.  Identify past relationship problems

We can learn from our past.  Discussing past relationships can allow a couple to eliminate destructive behaviors.    This time of discovery can show why a past relationship failed and help you build strategies on staying together.  It is also important to discuss the role of your family.  How and what did you learn about marriage from your parents?  There are likely good and bad examples, but this is the time and place to share those lessons.  No one is doomed to repeat past mistakes if we identify what went wrong and make a plan for success.

4.  Learn how to fight fair

Couples get into arguments.  That is a given fact of life.  We live in an imperfect world with imperfect people.  Verbal fights, arguments, and conflict will happen.  I can’t prevent you from fighting, but you can learn to fight fair with each other.  Take the time to educate yourself on these skills.  Learn what to avoid, how to cool down, and move toward solving the problem as a team.

5.  Strengthen your faith

Ecclesiastes 4:12 shares, “a rope of three strands is not quickly broken.”  There is incredible wisdom in having God as the third strand in your marriage.  Allow His love to surround you, teach you, and draw you closer to your mate.  Learn to follow God’s plan for yourself and your marriage.  Live within the covenant of marriage.  Make faith a priority in your marriage.  Worship together and reach new highs through Christ.

6.  Build a marriage map

Marriage is a life long commitment.  So it is important to discuss where you are going and where you want to be as husband and wife.  What should your marriage look like?  Marriage counseling allows you to discuss a plan for now and much later in life.  Do you want to have children?  How many children seem like the right fit for your family?  Will someone stay home during that time?  Will you continue to have a date night after the baby arrives?  Make time to discuss your goals and plans.  This is an exciting time to chart out a direction for your future together.

Books and Manuals

While no one likes to talk about homework, I encourage couples to read a book after our first session.  It will be the topic of discussion for our second session.  My personal favorite is Gary Chapman’s, The Five Love Languages.  There are several different marriage workbooks and programs out there.  Pastors and counselors may use another device, but take the time to strengthen your faith and your relationship before you say, “I do.”

What homework did you have for marriage counseling?  Are there additional books that have helped your military marriage?  What books would you recommend to a couple before they tie the knot?  Feel free to list your books and suggestions in the comment section.

May God continue to bless you and your marriage.

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I am often reminded of my mother in the spring.  She loves to be outdoors gardening and tending to the fruit trees on our family farm.  Each March she would take the kids out to the orchard as she pruned the apple trees.  Our job was to pick up the fallen branches and move them to the burn pile.

As a child, part of this was concerning.  Doesn’t this process hurt the tree?  Why would you snip off branches if you want to get more apples?  Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?  Surely more branches would equal more apples.  It turns out that mother did know best, at least when it comes to apple trees.

Wild trees have strange branch angles that cause limb breaks.  This in turn reduces the number of apples and ultimately reduces the life of the tree.  If apple trees are left fallow, you may only get a bushel of apples every ten years.  And that is bad news if you enjoy apple pie like my family.  If you prune apple trees, they yield more apples, provide apples at an earlier age, and live longer.  It turns out that pruning allows the tree to develop a strong branch framework that will support fruit production.

I fell into the same trap of wrong thinking after my deployment to Iraq.  It was difficult to find the off button and relax.  More time with my friends would help my transition home.  More time at work would help my military career.  More hobbies would help me relax.  More somehow looked better than taking time to prune away the unnecessary distractions in my life and in turn be more fruitful.

Many people fall into the same way of thinking.  “I need to have more.”  “More is better.”  “Bigger is better.”  Perhaps a little pruning will do the trick.  Just make sure that God has the pruning shears.

John 15 reminds us that, Jesus is “the true vine” and His followers are the branches.  These branches are already productive, but God occasionally prunes them back so that they can “bear more fruit.”  While pruning may seem wrong to our earthly eyes, it is the best thing that could ever happen.

Remember that more branches will not equal more apples.  Allow God to shape you into a better fruit producing machine.  Continue to abide in Christ and enjoy the season of life that He brings.

 

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My last deployment was very unique.  The mission was conducted by a combined joint task force.  That title may seem complicated on the surface, but it’s easy to explain.  Everyone worked together.  And when I say everyone, I mean everyone.  Every Army Soldier.  Every Navy Sailor.  Every Air Force Airman.  And every Marine.  Everyone also included multiple armies from across the globe.  Allies like the British, the French, the Germans, the Japanese, the South Koreans, and several others comprised the task force.

There were several ways to tell that the task force was different.  You could walk into the mess hall for lunch and see a rainbow of different uniforms.  You could separate the green Army uniforms from the blue Navy uniforms pretty easily.  You could also separate the white dress uniforms of the Japanese Navy from the green French Navy uniforms.  Conversations were another way to show our differences.  The Navy chief from Alabama or the Army Sergeant from Missouri, they each spoke in a different way.  So did our allies.

The book of Revelation shares an interesting phrase when it refers to heaven.  The phrase is repeated in several areas like 5:9, 7:9-10, 11:9, 13:7, and 14:6.  We hear that the assembly is comprised of “every tribe, tongue, people, and nation.”  A message like this is repeated several times to get our attention, but also for the simple fact that it is true.

Anyone and everyone can be saved.  That was the radical message of Old Testament prophets like Isaiah.  It was also the loving message of Jesus Christ.  The promise is found in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”  That is an incredible promise.  It says that no one is beyond redemption in Christ.  It says that God cares for me and the African orphan.  It says that everyone is welcome through Jesus.

A mess hall full of people who wear different uniforms and speak different languages can be a great reminder of heaven.  But the real take away is that God loves everyone and they are all invited to make heaven their home.

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No one can deny that Valentine’s Day is almost here.  You can glance at the calendar, hear a commercial on the radio, or you could just walk through any store for a reminder.  The chocolates, Valentine Day cards, cupid figurines, plush animals, and fragrances are everywhere.

I am often conflicted by Valentine’s Day and the message that it sends.  Perhaps you are in the same boat.

A part of me wants to believe that it is a great reminder for couples to show love and affection toward each other.  Husbands and wives will separate themselves from busy schedules and spend time to reconnect as a couple.  Soldiers and spouses will find a way to share their love and devotion even though they are several time zones apart.  Or that our society will look at the calendar and try to improve the day by practicing compassion to family, friends, and neighbors.

The other part of me feels that love is much more than flowers and a box of chocolates.  Unfortunately, the commercial nature of February 14th does more to cheapen true love than to enhance it.  Do our actions and expectations say that mandatory gifts equal affection?  If so, then we turn love into some kind of transaction or mathematical formula.

Love is certainly bigger than Valentine’s Day.  Love is larger than one day on the calendar.  In fact, it is best found in the Bible.

Jesus loved the rich young ruler even though he walked away in disappointment.  Jesus loved the woman at the well.  A lady so ostracized, she wasn’t allowed to gather water in the cool of the day.  Jesus loved tax collectors, cheats, and swindlers.  He loved children, lepers, and blind men.  In short, Jesus loved the unlovable.  He showed compassion to people who didn’t “deserve” His attention.  He demonstrated a perfect love where no gifts or dinners were required.  This love cannot be bought, only accepted as a free gift of grace.

No matter how you view Valentine’s Day, let us remember that love is much more than flowers and a box of chocolates.  Let us also remember how perfect love has been demonstrated by our Lord Jesus.  May His example guide us to show the perfect love of heaven here on earth.

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