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Posts Tagged ‘religion’

harriet

It was recently announced that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill. Harriet Tubman is remembered as an abolitionist who risked her own life to rescue others, but it is the story of her living faith that truly made her famous.

She was born into slavery around 1820 and was raised as an illiterate child. Harriet’s mother often shared Bible stories and helped to develop a passionate faith in her child.

Tubman escaped to freedom in 1849. She made use of a network known as the Underground Railroad to find her freedom. This informal, but well-organized system was composed of free and enslaved African Americans, white abolitionists and other religious activists. Most prominent among the latter in Maryland at the time were members of the Friends Church, also known as Quakers.

Even after securing her own freedom, Tubman later made more than 13 missions to rescue enslaved families and friends. Her notoriety and wide ranging success with the Underground Railroad grew. Tubman was nicknamed “Moses” after the biblical rescuer who delivered the Jews from slavery in Egypt.

Tubman ultimately led hundreds of slaves to freedom. The groups would travel at night and always in secrecy. All of her rescue missions were successful. She “never lost a passenger” and attributed all of her strength and success to God.

Today, even as Christians are being persecuted for their faith, we should look to the story of Harriet Tubman and be reminded how important it is demonstrate a living faith. Harriet’s mother could not teach her daughter to read, but she could share Bible stories to develop a lasting faith. Christians could be fined and arrested for harboring fugitive slaves, but they carved out time and space to help people in need. They shared food, shelter, and protection with fellow believers so that they could find freedom. Harriet also practiced a living faith by crossing the Mason-Dixon Line, risking her own arrest to save others who had no way to escape the cruel grasp of slavery.

Just as God has richly provided for us in 2016, may we boldly live out our Christian faith in a way that benefits others and guides them to a newfound freedom.

 

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I think many people struggle with faith because of how they view God.  Some view God as a rule giver issuing edicts from on high.  Others view God as a divine Santa Claus bestowing gifts and answering prayers.  And many will fall in between the two.

Some resist seeing God as an authority figure altogether.  It may conjure harsh images from their past.  Others resist this view of God for the simple reason of maintaining control.

I believe that it is okay to view God as an authority figure.  There are plenty of times when I gladly submit to authority.  If my computer goes haywire, I call tech support and carefully follow the technician’s guidance.  Sometimes it is a slow, step-by-step process where I need assistance due to unfamiliar territory and a lack of knowledge.  Other times I call for a reminder, receive an update, or get a tune up on my machine and I am quickly back on track.

People also submit to authority when they want to master a difficult sport like golf, tennis, or rowing.  They hire a coach, pay for lessons, or join a club so that practice can yield a great swing, an ace shot, or a straight course on the water. Practice and instruction will yield better performance no matter what the sport.

People also visit the doctor when they are sick and in need of care.  Philip Yancey, the Christian author, shares that, “a doctor is probably the most helpful image for me to keep in mind while thinking about God and sin.”  His view of God speaks to our human condition.  The doctor wants to deliver physical health.  The doctor shares wisdom and expertise that I lack.  The doctor also knows what habits, issues, and conditions are likely to cause injury.   I often receive his opinion on things to avoid and a prescription that will improve my life.  We should seek out God’s advice and opinion for living just like we seek care from a doctor.

It is important how we view God.  Often we do not realize our view of God is skewed, but there is a plumb line to show us what is straight and true.  God has given us His Word as the clearest description of who He is.  In the Old Testament, God reveals His character – His love, righteousness, wrath, justice and promises. In the New Testament, God reveals Jesus – His character in flesh.

Take time to visit with our Great Physician who is always on call.  He knows what can heal, cure, restore, and redeem.

 

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Bible open

It is that time of year when everyone starts to think about new year resolutions. Do something different this year. Instead of focusing on your diet or exercise plan, take time to consider your spiritual condition and how it can improve.

Here is a list of challenging ways to strengthen your faith in 2014.

First, read your Bible on a daily basis.  This may seem daunting to many, but it is a worthy practice.  Take an honest look at your schedule to determine the best time and place to read scripture.  It is okay to block out the time on your calendar.  You can even set an appointment reminder on your computer or phone.  Try to eliminate potential distractions and interruptions on the front end.  Once you find the right time and place, stick to your plan.  Feed your faith.  Make time to hear the message of Jesus.  Allow it to sustain and encourage you in all things. Remember that reading the Bible is a valuable practice.  Every time you do so, you are making time to meet with God.  That is no trivial event.  Each meeting changes us, develops strength in tough times, and allows believers to grow in the example of Christ.

Second, keep a prayer journal.  As you pray for people, life events, and direction, write what you pray for.  How many prayer lists did you throw in the trash this year?  Too often we turn prayer lists into a “one and done” event with no follow through.  Carry these prayer needs over into the next week or next month.  We need to provide greater support to our brothers and sisters by praying them through the tough times of life.  Prayer needs to be more consistent in our lives.  A prayer journal helps us make the practice more constant and genuine.  It is okay to track prayer requests and organize them as you see fit.  This allows us to be more intentional in our petitions to God.  A prayer journal also allows you to see the progress and changes that take place over time.  Odds are that you will discover being transformed as well.

Third, discover your spiritual gifts.  We all have different gifts and abilities.  1 Corinthians 12:4-6 shares, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone.”  God has made us all unique, but we are called to use our talents and abilities to glorify God. Discover how God has gifted you.  Take a spiritual gift inventory.  There are plenty of surveys, tests, assessments, and analysis guides online or at your local Christian bookstore.  Remember that there are no wrong answers.  Each survey is a way to discover what characteristics and traits God has implanted in you for service. Once you have completed the survey, pray for God to reveal the best way to use your gifts and talents for the body of Christ.  Seek wisdom and opportunities to use the gifts that you have received from God.

As we prepare for 2014, remember to include God in your personal improvement plan.  These simple steps can strengthen your faith and build the spiritual muscle God wants you to have for the year ahead.

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Seven hundred years before Jesus was born the Prophet Isaiah recorded a message for all of humanity.  “For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Isaiah gives us a description of the Messiah that bears repeating.

First, “the government will be on his shoulders.”  This affirms the lordship of our Messiah.  We will no longer be disappointed in the judges, leaders, and kings of this earth, instead we will have the perfect, holy, and righteous Son of God to lead us. We anticipate that reign, a day when Christ is Lord over all of creation.

Second, Jesus has become our “Wonderful Counselor”.  In Hebrew, the idea is that His counsel is a thing of wonder and awe.  He is the perfect ruler, a King with no flaws.  As God incarnate, Jesus is the source of all truth.  There is no corrupt judge or lying politician to rule.  Instead we will have the absolute best, a loving Savior who teaches us how to live and find eternity.

Third, Jesus is our “Mighty God”.  The word for “mighty” also means hero.  This conveys how Jesus saves us from death.  Because Christ is God, He can forgive sin, defeat Satan, liberate us from the power of evil, redeem us, answer our prayers, restore our broken souls, and reign as Lord—“Mighty God”—over our newly ordered lives.  He is not only the Holy Son of God, but his actions rescue and deliver us.  In this way, he is the greatest hero of all time.

Fourth, Jesus is our “Eternal Father”.  Jesus, the Messiah, gives us “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12-13).  We are no longer orphans out on our own, but members of God’s family.  A family and kingdom that has no end.

Finally, Jesus is the “Prince of Peace”.  While many see this title as an end to war on earth, another battle is in mind.  Jesus brings about reconciliation between God and humanity.  He offers peace from God (Romans 1:7) to all who are the recipients of His grace.  He brings peace with God (Romans 5:1) to those who surrender to Him in faith.  He brings the peace of God (Philippians 4:7) to those who walk with Him.

This one verse continues to shine brightly among Scripture.  It delivers the promise of our Messiah.  It highlights the reign of our future and glorious King.  It also shares how we can ultimately be reconciled and redeemed by the blood of Jesus.

When George F. Handel composed his Messiah in 1741, Isaiah 9:6 was one of the Scriptural texts used.  He saw in this simple verse the profound message of a Savior arriving on earth and decided to set it to music.  May we never cease to praise and glorify God for the beautiful gift of Jesus, our newborn King!

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weddingRingsBible

There is an ever growing list of people who want nothing to do with marriage.  You can now add Lindsey Vonn to the list.  Vonn recently announced she has no plans to walk down the aisle again.

Vonn, the 2010 gold medal Olympian and girl friend to Tiger Woods, shared, “I’m done with that.  The box is checked.  I don’t really believe that you need to be married to someone to be their life partner.”

Her attitude on marriage is increasingly common.  Many couples prefer to live together or in a word cohabit, instead of getting married.  I’ve heard the arguments for the practice.  Folks want to save money, spend more time with the person they love, or test the compatibility of their relationship without all the messy legal problems if it should fail.

Some view the practice as a strong commitment while dating.  Others see it as a prelude to marriage.  But contemporary opinions now view cohabitation as a substitute for conventional marriage.

While attitudes and opinions support cohabitation, the facts do not.  In a piece entitled “The Downside of Cohabitating Before Marriage,” psychologist Meg Jay of the University of Virginia describes what is known as the “cohabitation effect”: “Couples who cohabit before marriage . . . tend to be less satisfied with their marriages-and more likely to divorce-than couples who do not.”  67% of cohabiting couples divorce compared to 45% of all first marriages.  Additional studies show that women who cohabit are more likely to be abused and to be depressed than women in a marriage.  And if that wasn’t enough bad news, researchers also found that couples who cohabit are more likely to cheat on one another.

This entire notion that you can test drive marriage hurts people and creates unnecessary heartache.  The biblical warnings against cohabitation are affirmed by statistics and the burgeoning trail of wounded people.  Couples often try cohabitation because they have not seen a successful marriage up close.

Pastors can help to reverse the trend by requiring premarital counseling before couples tie the knot.  Churches can also make a difference by mentoring engaged couples.  This is a great way to teach the biblical examples of marriage and build strong relationships.  When couples receive mentoring by their church, 76% stay together, 19% break up before marrying, and only 5% divorce or separate.

We can no longer accept a laissez faire approach to marriage in our community. God has designed the covenant of marriage and we need to continue teaching a biblical approach for couples.  They also deserve quality mentoring from pastors and church leaders who are willing to help the next generation.  May God raise up quality couples who are willing to mentor others and increase successful marriages throughout our community.

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world-trade-center-9-11-cross

Precious Lord, we seek you out on a day remembered for tragedy, heartache, and loss.  We are a grieving people who lost loved ones and friends.  We are a hurting people who were wounded, injured, battered, and bruised.  Across our land and in our faces, we still carry the horrible scars of that September day.

We are a nation who has lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, neighbors and friends.  The pursuit of freedom has come with a price at home and abroad. There is pain and suffering from our time of conflict and war.

Redeem us Lord.  We cry out for your presence.  We cry out for your tender mercy. Comfort our grief.  Heal our brokenness.  Restore us anew.  Grant us your perfect peace through Jesus Christ, the Risen Savior.  Amen.

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2 mochas

It is amazing what a handful of people can do with purpose and direction.

In 2004, a group of college students went to Africa to help people in need.  As work projects moved forward, many of the young adults expressed frustration with a perceived inability to make an impact in Africa.  The size and scope of work projects seemed unending.  And with only a few dollars – rather than thousands – to spare, many people felt like their efforts equated to dropping a pebble into the Grand Canyon.

This compelled several people to create a new model of giving.  They asked, “what could be done if we gave up one or two premium coffees and used that money for Africa?”  The group realized that they did not have thousands or millions of dollars, but that they could be faithful with money already in their pockets. This concept of making a difference with faithful giving quickly launched the Mocha Club.

Today, people can sign up, pick a service project and donate the cost of two coffees to impact the people of Africa. This allows people across the globe to pool their resources and make a huge impact in the lives of needy families. Donors can select clean water, education, orphan care, or several other projects to support.  The success of Mocha Club has grown to have a massive impact both in Africa, and beyond.

7 dollars

You can learn more about the organization and see how to make a difference in Africa by clicking on https://www.themochaclub.org/ and join the fight to help people in need.

Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25, that those who are faithful with small things will be entrusted with great things. They will also hear our Savior say, “well done good and faithful servant.”  Let us continue the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  No matter how great or small the work may be.  May we be faithful in all that we do.

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chaplain crest

The Army Chaplain Corps was born on July 29, 1775.  The start of the Chaplain Corps came six short weeks after the Continental Congress established the Army. General George Washington formed the infantry as the first branch of the Army. Soon after this, he saw the need for ministers to care for Soldiers and go into battle directly with units during the American Revolution. General Washington’s concern for the care of his troops quickly brought creation of the second branch, the US Army Chaplain Corps.

The Continental Congress officially recognized chaplains in the national army with the rank of Captain.  Congress later passed the “Chaplaincy Act” on January 16, 1776, authorizing one chaplain for every two regiments. Pay was set at thirty-three dollars and thirty-three cents a month.  While the pay scale and uniform has certainly changed, the need for military ministry has not.

Since the start in 1775, approximately 25,000 Army Chaplains have served as religious and spiritual leaders for 25 million Soldiers and their Families. From military installations to deployed combat units and from service schools to military hospitals, Army Chaplains and Chaplain Assistants have performed their ministries in the most religiously diverse organization in the world.

Always present with their Soldiers in war and in peace, Army Chaplains have served in more than 270 major wars and combat engagements. Nearly 300 Army Chaplains have laid down their lives in battle. Seven have been awarded the Medal of Honor. Currently, over 2,900 Chaplains are serving the Total Army representing over 130 different religious organizations.

Pray for the men and women who bring God to Soldiers and Soldiers to God.  They are the servants who nurture the living, care for the wounded, and honor the fallen. May their actions, words, deeds, and ministry efforts continue to live up to the Chaplain Corps motto, “Pro Deo et Patria,” which means, “For God and Country.”

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Can you teach an Army chaplain new tricks?

That seemed to be the question for our class at the brigade chaplain course.  The last couple of weeks at Fort Jackson were a strange odyssey to say the least. Everything was new and I felt old.  Perhaps ancient would be a better word after seeing some of the newly commissioned lieutenants.  For someone who entered the Army in 2000, little looks the same.

Religious support training and staff officer work before 9/11 consisted of battle books with three-ring binders stuffed full of paper with colored tabs.  The war years changed resources to compact disks, thumb drives, and websites.  It seems like nearly everything has changed since I learned to wear a set of battle dress uniforms, BDUs, and shine my boots.  Heck, even the chaplain school changed.  It is now a joint facility shared with the Navy and the Air Force chaplain corps.  And let me tell you, I don’t even know how to speak Navy!  Water talk is not in my vocabulary.

2013 and the post war years will ultimately usher in another round of change. Today, battle books exist in the cloud.  Field Manuals are now boiled down to fifty documents.  Digital references and documents will be downloaded and viewed on portable electronic devices.  We now conduct Soldier Leader Engagements instead of Key Leader Engagements.  And yes, no one wears BDUs any longer or shines boots. It has all changed.

That was a major take away from the course.  Chaplains, and the Army, must learn how to prepare for, balance, and conduct operations among change.  In an age of satellites, drones, and cyber commands, change is inevitable.  President Woodrow Wilson once exclaimed, “We won the war to end all wars!”  The comment seemed valid at the time, but today it is used in a disparaging way to highlight people being short-sighted.  When you hear the statement now, it just reinforces the idea that change is heading your way.

While all of this change can seem overwhelming, ministry has not changed, nor the need to give religious support to Soldiers and military families.  Sure services, tools, resources, and items may have changed, but the concept of ministry has not. People need the Lord.

Apps, mp3 players, and Skype are great new ministry tools, but ministers, pastors, and priests are still needed to share the life changing message of Christ.  Military chaplains will continue to use new ministry tools and resources, but the mission of our calling has not changed.  Sharing the gospel with a dark and sometimes unwelcoming world is the Great Commission work that we are called to perform.  It is our duty to remain faithful and true to Christ in all we do and say.

While the Army has certainly changed since 2000, a few things will not change.  God reigns.  His love is unfailing.  Christ provides redemption and salvation.  Thank God these things will never change.

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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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