Sunday, February 22, 2015

Just Do It


What if Nike’s slogan was more than just a call to be an incredible athlete, but a call to ultimate victory? After all, the word “nike” is Greek meaning “victory”.

The following are notes from a sermon I preached today in southern Afghanistan. I find the story of the first marathon interesting. You will too!  Especially since had everything to do with Nike.  Check it out....
 
As Christians, we know that we are called to run the Christian race with endurance.  We are to keep our eyes on the prize and finish strong!  However, in order to do that it’s helpful to be reminded of what our motivation is and what it takes to get there and finish strong.
 
We could very simply say, “JUST DO IT”.  However, why would we just do it and what would we just do?
 
As Paul testifies to in 1 Corinthians 9, the heart of a believer should be to “just do it” for the sake of the gospel.
 

"I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.  So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.  But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified."

1 Corinthians 9:23-27


So why should the gospel be our motivation?
Think about what the gospel is:
-It is Good News
      - It is Life Changing
       -It is Powerful
       -It Brings Peace
       -It Brings Joy
       -It is the Most Important Fact of Life 
       -It is Eternal Blessings
Our love for others, should be motivation to not sleep on getting the word of the Gospel out!!  Paul is saying that he will JUST DO IT (everything) to get the news of the gospel blasted out…everywhere.
 
Well, how does he “just do it”?  I believe this passage in 1 Corinthians shows us how.  First of all, Paul says to run in such a way to receive the prize.  Don’t lay down on the race.  A successful athlete gives 100 percent….all the time.
 
Secondly, we exercise self-control.  We do this by training ourselves spiritually through prayer, time in the Word, and time with other believers in corporate worship.
 
We also must stay focused and energized.  Paul asked why in the world would someone fight if they are just going to swing at the air? What is the point of shadow boxing if you are never going to fight?  We have to focus on the big picture.  What are we running towards?  As Christians, we’re running toward eternity in paradise.
 
Lastly, we must maintain discipline.  Without discipline, one is sure to fail. An athlete’s strength comes from discipline.  Please continue reading as I share this story about the strength of the first marathon runners, which is where the NIKE company gets is name.

The battle of Marathon was fought around 490 B.C. when King Darius launched an attack on Athens. Since the surrounding city-states would offer little support to the Athenians, the Athenians were outnumbered by the Persians. 
 
Although the Athenians were outnumbered, they caught the Persians by surprise by running the full length of the plain and catching the Persians unorganized. 

The Athenians were able to defeat the Persians by not only striking from the front, but they also flanked the Persian army from the sides. 

Because of this sudden attack the Persian troops broke ranks and fled back to their ships. 

Since the Athenians won they wanted to send word back to Athens to tell of victory so the city could prepare for the Persian fleet attack from the sea. 

So Miltiades sent his best runner Pheidippides to take word to Athens. He ran the whole distance, about 26 miles, and when he arrived he was able to say one word . . . and then he died. 

What was the one word that Pheidippides was able to say before he died? It was “Nike!” He cried “victory!”
 
The Athenians ran the whole distance of the plain of Marathon, which is some 26 miles. This could not have been accomplished without hard training and discipline.
 
 
The simple truth is, we can cry victory as Christians.  We have victory through Christ.  We are running toward a legit prize.  The gospel is too good to sleep on.  Instead it requires our full enthusiasm and endurance.
 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Not Feeling Too Loved


Anyone else tired of seeing Christians post about how horrible it is for people to watch 50 Shades of Grey or how women wearing yoga pants are sinful?  I know I am! If love is what we're to be about, why aren't we promoting it?  We do know that biblical, agape love is worth talking about, right?  There's no sense in wasting breath talking about the world's cheap "dollar store" imitation love and how people are wasting away in pursuit of it, and not taking any time to talk about actual, legit, fulfilling, life changing LOVE!

I like Valentine's Day because the focus is  on love.  Granted, it's often on wrong types of love, but at least we're trying to move in the right direction.

I hear a lot of people complain about Valentine's Day. "It's stupid!" "It's all about businesses trying to extort you to buy expensive crap!" "It's lonely. I don't feel loved!"

I guarantee a lot of people aren't feeling love this Valentine's Day.  Reason why. You're experiencing the wrong kind of love.

Let's break down what life-changing love looks like:

Love is about waiting for the right time to express it and even expressing it when you get nothing in return. Love is sacrifice, giving everything you have to someone. Love is about promoting others, not yourself.  It's encouraging others and building them up. Love always stays optimistic, calm, and finds the good in people.  Love is forgiveness, giving someone a pass even if they've screwed it up.  Love is respect of someone regardless of their gender, class, race, job, or choices. Love is being honest, not hiding things away. Love looks out for others. It's about protecting the welfare of those around you. Love hopes and never quits.  This is why love is work.  Love should never fail and it takes work for it not to fail.

I don't believe you can truly love someone and then fall out of love!  Love never quits! It perseveres.  If you truly love, you will work to maintain it.

Love is not sex. Sex and love are 2 different things.  A real man will not rush to have sex with a woman or cheat on his woman.  A real man will not take another man's wife to bed....ever! These types of men are worthless garbage. They aren't expressing real love. They will cheat every chance they get to satisfy themselves.

Real love is not having a man want to sleep with you. That's not that impressive ladies....it's not difficult to get a man to have sex. Men are dogs!

Love is so much more than romance, flowers, candy, dinners, fine wine, and hotel rooms.  Real love trumps even the most expensive date.  Why?  Because real love is eternal, not a few hours.

Don't just take my word for it. I only share truths I've learned from God's Word....

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says,

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

What God is Still doing in Afghanistan


“I'm stuck in Afghanistan and I can't get out.”  That's the thought many Soldiers have right now.  Month 8 into the deployment and the desire to go home is lingering around more than ever.  
 
It's been a while since I've posted an update on the work God is doing here, so let me fill you in on some things.
 
  1. Your prayers are valued and a necessary part of the success I've been granted.  I've had more people tell me from back home that they have been praying for me and I have no doubt that you are all telling the truth.  I cannot humanly explain the success I've had. Why? Because I think I suck as a Chaplain. Yes, you read that right. I am no good. I get easily annoyed by people. I can only tolerate long conversations with certain folks. I am many times, way too selfish.  And I constantly struggle with the distraction of sadness that comes from being away from my family.  A Chaplain can't be those things.  No doubt God provides me with the ability to be the good things that I am not in the flesh.  Prayer helps this! God has granted me with the ability to minister to thousands of people (Soldiers and Civilians). I've counseled over 150 people. I've preached over 60 sermons, led over 30 bible studies, and shared the gospel countless times.  The beautiful part is the missional impact that God has allowed me to have. My current location is filled with people from Africa, India, Philippines, Afghanistan, the United States, and many other places.  I've had opportunity to minister and pour into people of all these countries.
 
That, by itself, is a description of wonderful God-given success.  However, in addition to these things, I have been blessed to receive recognition for my work here.  Even though I don’t believe I deserve it in any way, I was put in to receive a Bronze Star.  Who knows if I will get it or not?  Just the fact that I was put in for one is an honor.  I received a few other awards during my time here too.  Why?  All I can say is “I don’t know.  Ask God.”  Like I said, I don’t feel like I do anything special or even exceptional.  The only thing I do well is PT.  God blessed me with the ability to score a perfect 300 on my most recent test.  I believe God wants to grant me success at this point in my life….not for my own glory, but for me to use it for His.  So that’s what I’ll keep doing.  Again, no doubt, your prayers have a lot to do with this.
 
The most meaningful successes are the eternal ones.  I’ve had opportunity to lead 3 Soldiers to Christ, and baptize one of my Soldiers (my very own Battle Buddy).  Praise God!
 
  1. God Has Given Me an Exceptional Battle Buddy.  I love the idea of having a Unit Ministry Team in the Army.  However, I’m not a fan of the name “Chaplain Assistant”.  I think a 56M is more than a secretary for the Chaplain.  The 56M is an equally valuable and integral part of the team, and that’s the way we should treat them as Chaplains.  I’m fortunate that my 56M lives up to being a worthy member of the Unit Ministry Team.  
 
Before the deployment, I knew that I got along well with my 56M, SGT Calah White.  However, I never would have dreamed the opportunities and blessings God would give me through working with her.  First of all, what an opportunity to invest in someone!  Being deployed with a 56M by your side gives you a chance to either invest in their lives spiritually or disgust them to the life of a Christ-follower.  I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but God has impressed on me greatly the ideas and allowed me to seize constant opportunities to invest in my battle buddy.  In turn, she has invested in me as a friend and a squared-away NCO. 
Every morning, we do a devotional in the office and pray.  We start each day focusing our minds on the ministry God has entrusted us with.  I am so thankful for that.  Each week, we take time out to talk about what God is doing in our lives, what we’re reading in scripture, and we pray for each other’s families.
 
God has allowed us to have unflinching teamwork, fun, and comradery.  I believe our enthusiasm and joy has rubbed off on many Soldiers!  There are Soldiers who just want to come by the chapel to be around us.  Joy is contagious!  What a beautiful opportunity to show them the love of Christ through our joy.  I’m thankful for my 56M and honestly dread the day that we don’t work together anymore!
 
  1. Ministry Has Shifted from Danger to Questioning of Purpose.  The first few months of the deployment, we faced daily danger.  We had rockets being shot at us.  One hit not far outside my office one morning.  Some of our men faced IEDs and firefights.  We had some close calls and a few serious injuries.  Luckily, no one was killed from our unit.  During these months, I dealt with a lot of anxiety, stress, and worry from our Soldiers.  There was fear in their hearts.  There wasn’t as much time to think about home and what they were missing.  Life was busy and more tense.  
 
For the past few months, life has slowed down greatly.  We don’t face the same constant dangers.  Now, Soldiers have more time to think.  Many are ready to go home.  They have this feeling of being stuck.  Some question their purpose on why they are still here.  The challenge has been helping to keep them motivated!  I find that same challenge in my heart too!
 
  1. Deployments are Tough on Marriages, and I Realize Even More How Awesome of a Wife that I Have.  Out of the 150+ counselings that I have had, 1 out of every 3 has been a marriage/relationship issue.  Every week I deal with issues of unfaithfulness, distrust, communication, and financial hardships.  I’m constantly blown away by the spouses back home that have taken their partners absence as an opportunity to sew wild oats or try out experiences with other lovers.  It’s horrendous.  Some men and women here aren’t doing their part either.  It’s sad to hear the stories of couples who just give up.  Their marriage can’t take a 9 month separation.  A temporary situation is treated with a permanent solution.   
 
Guys especially struggle with pornography.  Not having sex for several months is difficult.  Trust me, I know!  I’ve had to experience this too.  It sucks!  It’s doubly difficult in the Army too, because we’re not a hug-it-out, touchy-feely organization or workplace.  Not having physical human contact can be taxing.  However, the wrong answer is to turn to pornography and self-pleasure.  I’ve tried to stress this during Marriage workshops and redeployment trainings that pornography use will just lead to unrealistic expectations and poor sexual experiences when Soldiers return home.  Just hope some of them have listened.  
 
I am thankful God gave me an amazing woman.  My wife has been the exact opposite of what many of the horror stories I hear about are.  My wife has worked tirelessly, devoting herself to our family and raising our precious children.  Instead of “shopping around” for physical pleasure in my absence, she’s been reading books on how to be a stronger wife and supporter to me.  She’s been praying constantly for me.  She’s been encouraging me, even from a distance.  
 
It is so awesome and peaceful having a wife that I can trust and count on.  I know redeployment will come with challenges, but I have no doubt our marriage will continue to be strong because of God’s presence in it.  She is my rock and my number one fan!  (probably my only fan).  I am so undeserving.  Hopefully she knows that I am her biggest fan!  Without her, I couldn’t make it through the deployment.  I’m thankful God has given me such an wonderful partner.   
 
 
  1. Despite the Environment and Being Away from My Family, I’ve Managed to Have Fun.  Deployments aren’t made to be fun vacations, and it hasn’t been that.  However, I am a fun person at heart and I can’t just sit back and let duldrums become my existence or the existence of the people around me.  I can spend all day on here talking about the fun I’ve had between the game nights, karaoke nights, movie nights, smoothie nights, watching different television series, traveling to locations all over Afghanistan, riding in a Blackhawk with the doors open, doing burpees, office accent weeks, eating local cuisine, or having friendly bets with my battle buddy and enforcing outrageous pay-ups.  Fortunately, there’s too much that I have to write about here.  Let’s just say, God has blessed me with joy!  I praise Him for that!
 
  1. It Has Been a Joy to Give.  Many donors and some of you have given care packages to us.  We’ve been able for the last 8 months to provide food, toiletries, magazines, and gifts to our Soldiers.  It means a lot to them.  It has been a lot of work, collecting and downloading boxes.  However, its been worth it.  When our Soldiers go outside the wire on missions all night long, its awesome to see them stop by the chapel to grab snacks that help them refuel and keep going.  Its awesome to know that meeting simple needs is helping not only accomplish the mission here, but its accomplishing the mission of making Christ’s love known.
 
If I could ask for anything from those who may read this, it would be first and foremost to pray.  Pray for our continued safety.  Pray for God’s word to transform hearts.  Pray that I can be an agent of Christ’s love to all I come in contact with.  Pray for continued strong teamwork for me and SGT White.  Pray for the marriages of our Soldiers!  Pray for my wife and children back home.  Pray that Stephanie will have strength and that our reunion will be joyous.
 
Not that I am asking for you to blow smoke up my butt or pat me on the back….However, let me just say that I do appreciation encouragement.  Honestly, I don’t get much of it.  I especially don’t get encouraged much by people here.  Stephanie is my most constant encourager!  Again, I’m thankful for that!  So please know, that when you send the FB messages, e-mails, or write comments, I am very appreciative.
 
The deployment is nearing end, but I’d also ask that you’d pray for me to finish strong.  2 Timothy 4:7 says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  My goal is to say this truthfully at the end of this deployment.  Finishing strong can be hard, especially after working every day for 8 straight months with no break.  However, its not impossible.  Pray for strength!
 
 

200 Burpees

 
We hit the 200 burpee mark over the past week, and we are closing in on 40,000 total burpees this deployment.  To catch you up to speed, we started doing one burpee a day since the start of the deployment, adding an additional burpee every day.
 
You are probably asking "why?"
 
If I'm being honest, I can't exactly tell you why, but let me tell you what it has been good for....
 
1. It has helped foster stronger teamwork between me and my Chaplain Assistant.  We are a strong team.  I would argue one of the strongest in the Army.  A strong Unit Ministry Team means stronger help for our Soldiers.
 
2. It has helped us lead the way physically.  In a corps that isn't always known for physical ability and serving in a Combat Arms environment, it gives more credibility to our ministry when we not only hang with our Troopers, but also when we outperform them!  Most recently, we led the way with the highest section PT average in the unit.  Granted, we are only 2 people, but I still think its a worthy accomplishment.  God allowed me another 300 on the test.  Just another way I can point glory to Him!
 
3.  Its opened the door for conversations with Soldiers.  They know we do burpees.  They see us do them.  They wonder why we do them.  Its been a great open door to talk teamwork, exercise, and God's blessings.
 
 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

This is Only Temporary


So often in life, we treat temporary circumstances as permanent.  We can’t see past the moment in front of us.  That’s how we get ourselves into trouble.  Some of the worst decisions in our lives are made because we aren’t thinking about tomorrow.  Scripturally, some might argue that we are supposed to focus on each moment and not worry about tomorrow.  I agree with that.  However, just because scripture commands us not to worry about tomorrow doesn’t mean that we should forget it or not consider it at all.
In fact, I believe we should always operate with the more permanent in mind, especially as it relates to eternity.  

Being deployed in the U.S. military, it’s especially easy to get caught up in the temporary.  There are many days that I have to almost pinch and remind myself that this is only temporary.  Its difficult.  Being deployed is somewhat unnatural.  You leave everything behind, knowing its only temporary.  However, this temporary can last several months to years.  Its hard not to think that its permanent.

Treating the temporary as permanent can be dangerous.  Again, some of the worst decisions in life are made in that mindset.  Also, when we view the temporary as permanent, we can lose hope easier, get depressed quicker, and worry more because we don’t see a way out.  We forget that the bad times are not forever.  In the same vein, we also forget that the good times aren’t forever.  We fall deeper into sin when we seek temporary pleasures to try and fulfill ourselves.  The simple pleasures of sin are a lie.  The pleasure is cheap and it wears off quick.  Worse yet, the consequences of those temporary pleasure fixes run deep and can impact life for a long time in a negative way.  The more permanent has to be considered.

Most importantly, when we operate in light of eternity, we realize what is more important in life.  We realize how important it is to care for and love others to show them Jesus.  We find true happiness and fulfillment in the one who will eternally give us riches in heaven.  Why settle for less?

I wish each one of my Soldiers would remember that today is only temporary.  At home, are families that love them.  At home, are problems that haven’t been solved.  At home, is the real financial state they’ve created for themselves.  The battle buddy next to you is worth investing in.  There won’t be many opportunities to love the crap out of and care for another human being outside your family like there is during a deployment.  What an opportunity to show them Christ! Seize the day in light of eternity!

James 4:14 says our lives are “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes”.  This life is temporary.  Don’t waste it.  Think of eternity!   
 

Monday, December 22, 2014

Don't Expect Anything Back


The hardest thing about being a caregiver is having no one to take care of you back.  That may seem like a selfish, almost anti-caregiver thing to say, but I think everyone needs others to take care of them.  Everyone needs encouragement. Everyone needs to be thanked.

Ever since I've been in ministry I've been in thankless positions.  Sure, ever so often there are encouragers and sweet old ladies that love on you, but it seems like the people you really invest in are the quickest ones to not show appreciation.

And you know what?  That's perfectly okay.  Jesus doesn't call us to follow Him for the accolades and pats on the back.  He calls us to deny ourselves.  Denying ourselves can be very taxing on our human nature.  

During a long deployment, it's especially hard.  It's even harder when you're the Chaplain.  I'm the one who is supposed to listen, encourage, take care of, and thank others.  It's great!  I love doing that.

At the same time, when you get little to nothing in return, it's difficult.  It will wear on you.  The enemy will use it to frustrate.  

Again, I'm not saying that you must receive something in return for your spiritual investments.  However, it is nice to know if they're paying off every once in a while.  This is where prayer and complete reliance upon God come in.  God is sufficient and we have to be reminded of that!  

I encourage all of God's people to take extra measures to encourage people.  Take extra measures to take care of one another.  Show your pastors appreciation, and let them know when they've made an impact on you!


  


Monday, November 17, 2014

This is Who I Love



Why are we so quick to hate sin?  Because God hates it, right?  We often utter the phrase, "hate the sin, love the sinner".  However at the same time, the sins of others bother us.  They bother us so badly that we move to anger and a desire to unleash our own punishment or judgment.  If you are being truthful, how often do you catch yourself allowing the sin of others leading you to hate them?

The more I study scripture and work daily with individuals who are at war with sin, the more I have grown to love them.  No, I do not support sin or endorse it, but rather I am burdened for those who seek its toxic pleasures rather than God's sweet goodness.  That burden doesn't lead me to anger, it leads me to feel sorry for them.  If only they could see true joy and find real fulfillment!

However, I too am at war with sin.  Thankfully Christ covers my sin, but I still am in need of the Spirit daily to combat sinful desires and temptation that arises in me.  But with myself, I hate the sin so much that it leads me to hate the things I do because of it and get angry with myself for allowing it to take over!

I had this backwards for many years growing up in the church. I got angry at others and felt sorry for myself.  I felt sorry for myself by justifying my sin.  Young adults are fed up.  The current generation of 20 somethings are tired of being treated like dirt by Christians.  They want no part of church because they don't feel loved at church, they feel hatred and glaring judgmental eyes looking at their mistakes.

Sure, sinners need to recognize their sin, but let God point it out to them.  He's the judge.

Romans 15:1-2 says, "We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves.  Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up".

Our job is to build people up, not tear them down.  Christ's love will tear down walls of sin, not our judgmental ways.  We are to partner with Christ in overwhelming people with His love.  We are to give them something they've never had before, unconditional love and hope.

I'm convinced that through Christ we can love the sinner so much that they feel satisfaction greater than sex, a high much sweeter than drunkeness, a contentment way more secure than money, and a warmth much more comforting than any person or possession can give.

What are we waiting for?  What's holding us back?






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