Memorial Day – John 8:34-36

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

According to Wikipedia, Memorial Day commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service. Memorial Day is a time for Americans to solemnly remember that the freedom they enjoy came at a price. Memorial Day is meant to prevent us from taking our security and safety for granted.

In the above passage, Jesus’ words tell us that we were, at one time, slaves to sin. We were held captive. In 1 Peter 3:18 we’re told that Christ died for sins. We have been set free from our bondage to sin by the sacrifice of Christ and are free indeed! Our spiritual freedom was paid for at the greatest of costs. We must never, ever take this freedom for granted.

The freedom that Americans enjoy was paid with the blood of young men on battlefields around the world. The freedom that Christians enjoy was paid for with the blood of Christ on the cross. Today I invite you to take a moment to remember the cost of freedom. Remember that U.S. service members have died for your freedom and, more importantly, remember that Christ died to see you free. “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

…hearts that want more

My wife recently bought me the new Toby Mac album called Tonight. As I opened it and removed the cd, I read the text behind the disc:

“…under a sky full of stars with hearts that want more”

How profound…isn’t there both a sense of wonder and a longing for home as you gaze at a sky full of stars? Psalm 19:1-4 tells us that the stars declare the glory of God in all languages at all places at all times. One need only look up to see God’s glory. It makes me feel small to look at the stars and at the same time makes me homesick. It amazes me that, despite the fact that I’m just a tiny speck in the universe, God loves me.

This quote makes me think that nothing in the universe can fill the void that God can. Only a relationship with our Creator can fulfill us. As Augustine puts it, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee, O Lord.” 1 John 2:17 reminds us that this world is temporary; God is eternal. Looking at the stars reminds me that my home is found not in this life, but in the life to come.

Tonight

Redeemable

The Chaplain currently deployed here is one of the best I’ve worked with during my time in the military. Ch. Mansberger does a “Word of the Day” email that he sends out to people all across the base and I’ve really enjoyed them but the one he posted today was my favorite thus far:

“Quote of the day: “The longest journey is the journey inward.” – Dag Hammerskjold

Scripture for the day: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart his mouth speaks.” – Luke 6:45

As we look at ourselves in the light of God we easily realize we fall short of all we can be. But as we look into our hearts, inward, we see that the truth of God’s word changes us for good. Start that journey inward with God and begin to let your heart overflow with goodness.

On a light note: “A young boy is in the doctor’s office. The doctor says to the child. “I want to see if ‘Barney” is in your heart! “Oh, no”, the boy said. “I have Jesus in my heart. Barney is on my underwear” – Father Rick Boyd

You Are Valuable!

A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $20 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, “Who would like this $20 bill?” Hands started going up. He said, “I am going to give this $20 to one of you but first, let me do this.” He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, “Who still wants it?” Still the hands were up in the air.
“Well,” he replied, “What if I do this?” And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. “Now who still wants it?” Still the hands went into the air. “My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $20. Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God’s eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.

I (daniel) think we all want to believe at some point or another that, despite what we’ve been through, we are not beyond redemption. I’ve met people who don’t feel like they’re lovable and it breaks my heart because they are loved more than they will ever know by the Creator of the universe. We have value because God says so, and He proves it by sending Jesus to die for us, so that we can have a reconciled relationship with Him.

Jars of Clay, in their song “Boys (Lesson One),” puts it this way: “Not to undermine the consequences, but you are not what you do.”

Another great band, Tenth Avenue North, in their song “You Are More,” sing,
“You are more than the choices that you’ve made,
You are more than the sum of your past mistakes,
You are more than the problems you create,
You’ve been remade.”

The simple truth is that, through the power and blood of Jesus Christ, we have been separated from what we’ve done. We’ve been forgiven and made clean. We’ve been given new life.

1 Timothy 4:16

Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Some friends and I are going through the Mars Hill Doctrine sermon series. Thus far it’s been really great and we’re all learning a lot about the finer points of Christian belief. But do any of those finer points matter? Some people, even inside the Church likely think such things as the Trinity, Revelation, Creation, etc. are a waste of time. Why not spend our time doing more important things? It seems as though I’ve had a lot of conversations recently that center around what the Bible says about certain doctrinal issues (the source of morals, the virgin birth, etc). Is all that a waste of time? Are those finer points of Christianity important?

I think so. In his letter to Timothy, Paul tells him to watch his life and his doctrine. He is essentially putting them on equal footing. He’s telling us that what we believe is just as important as what we do. After all, don’t our beliefs guide our actions?

In 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, God through Paul says, “Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil.” How are we to do this if we do not first know what is good and what is evil? I realize some things are obviously evil and some things are obviously good, but there are other issues that must be thought through carefully and critically.

In John 8:44, Jesus teaches that Satan is the father of lies and that lies are Satan’s native language. If we do know not know what the truth is–that is, if our doctrine is not grounded in Scripture–Satan can easily guide us off track. He’s been doing it for a while now, ya know? That’s why it’s important for Christians to read the Bible, connect with other Christians, and pray (pray especially for wisdom). It’s hard to watch your doctrine closely if you don’t know what your doctrine is, right? If a compass does not know which way is North, it will not serve as a very reliable guide.

The next part is to take this knowledge and use it to guide our lives. Just as a working compass is useless if you do not use it, head knowledge is pointless if it is not put into practice. That’s why Paul says to watch your life and doctrine closely. The two complete one another because doctrine is proven right by being put into practice. Jesus himself said, in Matthew 11:19, that “wisdom is proved right by her actions.” This means that as we incorporate wise doctrine into our lives, it will demonstrate itself to be true.

Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” Perhaps I’m going out on a limb here, but I think this can also apply to our doctrine. If we do not examine our doctrine, it’s likely we will not find it worth living. We must take ownership of our beliefs, make them our own, and then put them into practice.

Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe (RE: Lit)

Acts 17:26-27

From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

It was March 23rd and we were having our fourth meeting of the Forgotten God study series. A friend of mine named Kat was sharing that she had never, ever seen a miraculous work of God in her life. She seemed pretty bummed and discouraged about it. Kat’s very hard on herself…perhaps too hard. Three weeks later, we had our final study session. There was a new guy there named Andrew. It was a little weird for us to have a new guy at the last session, but the Spirit was telling me to just let him be part of the group. To be honest, I wanted to kindly ask Andrew to leave, because I was afraid that a new person would throw off the group dynamics the group has spent the last two months developing. It did. A few people didn’t even talk during the discussion time and I knew it was because of the “new guy.”

Afterwards, I talked to Andrew for a little bit. We had another study, Rob Bell’s Nooma Study Series, that a buddy of mine named Kalob was leading. Andrew showed up at Nooma a time or two. I didn’t really notice when he stopped going and he quietly slipped off the radar.

Fast forward about a month and a half. During that time, the chapel ordered several copies of The Naked Gospel and I am excited to be starting that small group in a few days. I think The Naked Gospel is a book that ALL Christians should read. It has helped me immensely and deepened my walk with Christ. I’m not sure what happened, but Andrew had a conversation with the local wing chaplain last Tuesday. The chaplain gave Andrew a copy of the book and said he should read it. Andrew didn’t get a chance to read it Wednesday, but he read almost 100 pages of the book that Thursday. That night, he went to the chaplain and accepted Christ as his savior!

I find it amazing that, through a simple conversation, Kat invited Andrew to the Bible study and opened the door for him to get involved at the chapel. A few weeks later, my books came in and the Chaplain gave him a copy. The Holy Spirit used the book to put a need on Andrew’s heart to get saved. Andrew accepted Christ.

The part that was truly amazing is that Kat was supposed to leave Wednesday, but her flight got delayed and delayed so that she wound up leaving on Friday night/Saturday morning. I literally found out about Andrew minutes before praying with her and then she left. God kept her here just long enough for her to find out that she had helped lead someone to Christ, and then within the same our, she was on her way home!

God chose to bring Kat to this place just so she could invite Andrew to the chapel so that he could get saved. God chooses who goes where and when so that His master plan of salvation can be worked out.

God put me in Alaska in 2005 so that I would meet the right people and get saved. God sent me to Afghanistan in 2008 to teach me how to rely on Him and to re-affirm my calling to ministry. God brought me here to meet some great people and to help lead a dear friend to Christ. God has put you where you are at right now for a reason. Seek to honor and glorify Him, and He will use you for his purposes and for His glory.

Kat left that night with tears in her eyes, because her prayers to see God work a miracle through her had been answered. All to God’s glory.

The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in ChurchForgotten God: Reversing Our Tragic Neglect of the Holy Spirit

Hebrews 12:1-3

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

It was a Saturday during the summer of 2006. Some friends and I were stretching before a run and I was feeling really good. It was a gorgeous Alaska morning and we were about to do our long run for the week; I think I was going to run 5 miles. This run served as a decompression for me from the stress of the week. It was the perfect way to start a weekend. We said a prayer and then started. I took off at a quick pace and was thankful for my health. Once I got about 3/4 of a mile out, I decided that I wanted to pray a little bit while I ran. So I took a side-trail that went up a hill to better see the mountains and sunrise. As I topped the hill, I said the words, “Thank you for this beautiful view, God.” It was at that moment, while I was fixated on the mountain and the far-off scenery that I stepped on a rock. I blew my ankle out (my 4th sprain for the season) and fell to the ground. Hard.

My run was over. I limped back to the car and waited for my friends to finish their runs.

During runs, and in life, I think it’s important to remember what awaits us at the finish line. I think we need to visualize our ultimate goal. We must look to Jesus. He waits for us at our finish line. However, Jesus also said that we must take up our cross daily (Luke 9:23). There is a daily, moment by moment element to our walk with Christ that must not be ignored either. If we look too far ahead, we will not pay attention to the path right in front of us.

When I’m running, I keep the finish line in my head, but I keep my eyes focused on the path directly before me. As you’ve read, I learned this lesson the hard way. I took my eyes off the path and looked at something far off in the distance. I paid for my carelessness by spraining my ankle.

In life, we must constantly keep Christ in the back of our mind as our ultimate goal. He is the author and perfecter of our faith, the beginning and the end, the starting line and the finish line. However, we must keep our focus on the daily opportunities we have to serve God.

Jesus endured the temporary pain of the cross for the joy set before Him. He kept His eyes on the finish line, but also completed the task immediately in front of Him. I hope to imitate Jesus by keeping in step with the Spirit (Gal 5:25) daily, but also always remembering the eternal promise of life everlasting.

Romans 12:4-5

Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned over the past few years is that, no matter where I go, there is always a Body. God has taken me lots of places, and I always run across fellow Christians. I remember deploying to Afghanistan two years ago and feeling sad because I was leaving my church. As it turns out, after being there a few months, I had some of the best fellowship I had ever experienced until then. My only regret was that I had waited three months to get involved.

This deployment, I knew better. I got plugged in as soon as possible. I’ve learned how important and necessary it is to intentionally seek out fellowship. This deployment has given me some of the deepest, most meaningful fellowship I have ever experienced. I’ve made friendships that I will never forget. I hope they last for a lifetime and I know I will see these Saints in Heaven. It’s been great and prevented me from feeling lonely and isolated. It’s helped the time go by. And it’s helped keep me spiritually strong. I only hope I have been a blessing to my brothers and sisters here.

After doing a lot of studying on the subject, Communion has become very, very special to me. Communion is symbolic of everything Christ accomplished. We break the bread and drink the wine to remember that our relationship with God has been restored. We do it together as a Body to remember that, because of what Christ has done, our relationships with one another are also restored. Communion is symbolic of both the vertical and horizontal restoration of relationships.

This morning I had the chance to help with Communion. I passed out the bread. It’s part of the custom to say, “This is the body of Christ, broken for you” as the person takes a piece of bread. Today, as I said it I looked each person in the eye and reminded myself that Christ died for that person. I meant it every time I said it and was flooded with love for everyone in the room. Romans 12:4-5 reminds me that, in Christ, we all share redemption. During Communion we all remember the sacrifice Christ made for us. We all celebrate the fact that we can now have a restored relationship with our Heavenly Father…and with each other. Communion is the point where we break one bread into many pieces and eat it. It reminds us in that moment that we are all mystically connected by Christ.

We are one Body.