Friday, February 26, 2010

#60 Dots and Circles

Acts 10:34, 35 Peter said: "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him."

It is estimated that nearly 7% of the American male population is colorblind. Growing up I never knew this. It was not until I went to enlist in the military and took a test for "normal color perception" (NCP) and almost failed it that I began to learn about this fact.

I think the test would hurt most people's eyes to tell the truth. They show you a series of circles with varying colored backgrounds. Inside those circles are numbers made up of dots in different colors. They simply ask you to read the number that you see in the circle. Sounds easy enough right? I suppose it is for the other 97% of men out there, but I really had to take my time and focus intently to see the numbers and even at that they did not always jump right out for me. Had I missed two more when I took the test they would have failed me.

To fail the NCP test does not mean the military won't take you. It just means that they will limit the jobs you can do. My job as a chaplain assistant happened to one of those jobs you can be color blind and still do. I think being a cook was one of the other ones. As I look back on the fact that chaplains and chaplain assistants do not have to have normal color perception I find it to be pretty cool.

Think about it for a minute with me. A chaplain and their assistant form a Unit Ministry Team (UMT). Their jobs are to provide spiritual support for all Soldiers, their families, and any other Department of Defense (DOD) personnel that may have needs. In order to do that you cannot judge people or refuse to help them. It does not matter what their rank, religion, skin color, or gender is; all people are to get equal treatment. Yes, UMT members are able to practice their particular religious beliefs but others can not be denied help if they happen to have a different belief system.

I am out of the Army now and of course I do not believe all religions or so-called religious practices lead to God. The Bible is very specific about God's will for our lives. I am a Christian and more specifically a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, and I fully believe that I am following God's will to be such. However, I believe that God allows and wants people of all backgrounds, races, and creeds to come to Him and seek His will for their lives too. God does not favor one group or race over another. He used a vision about unclean meats to teach Peter this lesson in Acts 10. In essence, I think we could say that God is spiritually color blind. He loves all people equally. He sent His Son to die that all humanity might be redeemed if they choose to follow Christ.

My mind has been going over these thoughts these past few weeks as I have thought about Black History Month. Our nation has a sad history of slavery and human injustice. Perhaps equally sad is that even though we have an African-American president, this country is still not over racism. Yes, racism exists on all sides of the color spectrum. How I wish that we were all colorblind when it comes to seeing skin color.

As Christians I think we must decide to become colorblind. I have a hard time believing that heaven or the new earth will be segregated by color. We should start living like we're ready for heaven now. I am glad that our country takes the time to celebrate the achievements of Black Americans. We should applaud all who who overcome hardship and injustice, but I also hope that sooner rather than later we as Christians and Americans will let go of the issue of race. Why? Because Jesus is coming soon and when we are gathered to Him in the clouds of glory we will go as a rainbow of mixed skin tones.

My challenge to each of you today is to live your life without the boundaries of skin color. Christ died for all so we should strive to love all. This is not always easy but the Lord will give us help in this and all other aspects of our spiritual walk.

Dear Lord,
We thank You for making us so diverse. We thank You for sending Jesus to die for all people. Please forgive us if there have been racially divisive thoughts in our hearts. Please teach us to see people as You see them. Please teach us to be colorblind when it comes to sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ just like you did for Peter long ago. Please come soon Lord that we might be in heaven with You. These things we pray in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Friday, February 12, 2010

#59 Crush

Matthew 11:29-30 "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me...For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."

The other day I was reading about how to survive an earthquake. The expert being interviewed shared some insights about how to survive an earthquake if you happen to be inside a structure of some sort when a quake strikes. He noted that traditionally people have been taught to get underneath something near them such as a desk or bed. Other suggestions have been to stand in a doorway or get beneath stairs. He then told about the hundreds of people he had seen killed because they got under something that the weight of the collapsing building crushed. Both children and adults alike were lost from having followed these traditional "survival" techniques.

The expert said he would recommend that people not get underneath heavy objects, but that they should lie down beside those heavy strong objects in the fetal position. When the building falls in, the heavier objects only allow the debris to fall so far and that creates spaces directly beside the large objects and that space may very well be the amount you need until you can be rescued. Beds, large desks, filing cabinets, or any other heavy thick object can prove helpful.

Although not all of us have experienced an earthquake, each of us has definitely been at a place in our life where we felt burdened or perhaps even crushed by the weight of life. Financial, medical, and relationship troubles can cause us to feel like the world is coming down around us. They can make us feel like we are going to be crushed to death. I have personally felt heaviness in my chest before when life's burdens became too heavy.

Just like when an earthquake strikes, we need protection when our personal world begins to shake uncontrollably. Where do we turn: to drugs, alcohol, immoral sexual behavior, gambling? None of these things offer solutions to our troubles, they simply allow us to forget for a while. But when the high wears off, the alcohol clears out of our minds, our partner goes on with their life, or the money we might win is spent what are we left with? Guilt and shame. That's why a relationship with Christ is the only real solution to life's troubles.

When we feel burdened He cares. When we feel lost He can lead us home. When we feel lonely He will comfort us. When life comes tumbling down around us He is more than strong enough to provide shelter and safety. We must simply choose to follow Him and allow Him to have full reign in our lives. Jesus cannot be crushed friends and if we are "yoked" or bound up with Him neither shall we be crushed.

There may be some who read this and wish they had the bond with Jesus that gives that life-saving protection. There is no need to wish. All you have to do is ask Christ to come into your heart and to take away the stains of sin in your life. He is willing to forgive you for your sins if you will ask. If we confess our sins He is faithful and just to forgive them and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Perhaps you once walked with the Lord but strayed away. Today is the day to come back and let Jesus lead you afresh. Decide just now to re-commit your life to Christ and walk with Him now and forever more. You will never regret having let Christ have full control of your life. I haven't.

Dear Father in Heaven,
As we come before You just now we desire to no longer be crushed by the weight of this world's problems. We recognize that faith in You and a relationship with Jesus are our only hopes. Please forgive us for where we have failed You and yoke us up with Christ that He might bear our burdens. These things we pray in the holy name of Christ, Amen.

Friday, February 5, 2010

#58 M.O.S.

1 Corinthians 10:31 Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

One thing I loved about the military was the overuse of acronyms. There seams to be one for everything and nearly everyone. Those Soliders that are part of an infantry unit refer to those who are not infantry as P.O.G.s (pronounced with a long "o" sound and meaning: Person Other than Grunts). "Grunt" is a nickname for anyone in the infantry. It is amazing how after a period of time the acronyms just seem normal and you really do not think about them too much.

One acronym that everyone in the military thinks about though is their M.O.S. or "Military Occupational Specialty". My M.O.S. was 56M (referred to as a 56Mike). "Mike" of course comes from the international phonetic alphabet where each letter is given a word instead of just saying the name of the letter when spelling something. A 56M is a chaplain assistant. It was my job to take care of all security and administrative duties relating to the unit's spiritual needs. It was a great opportunity to minister to Soldiers and civilians that were contracted to the U.S. government.

The other day I was thinking about the duty of each Christian and my mind went to the acronym M.O.S. However, since we as Christians are not all physical warriors, but all are called to be spiritual warriors (Ephesians 6:12) M.O.S. stands for Ministry Occupational Specialty. Stay with me for a minute on this. The Bible is very clear that each one has natural or cultivated talents (Matt 25:16). God then gives us spiritual gifts to work in harmony with our "wiring", so to speak. Once we choose to be partners with the Lord we are equipped to do service for Him and the world He died to save.

What is your spiritual M.O.S.? Have you taken the time to attempt to discover your spiritual gift set? If you have it is imperative to attempt to be plugged into your local church where those gifts can be put to use for edification of God's church and kingdom. When I first felt called to ministry I was very unsure about where exactly God wanted me to serve. It took lots of prayer, study, and counsel to determine exactly what God wanted me to do for Him. But what a joy to finally know for sure where I was supposed to be! What a joy to discover God's purpose for my life! Since I gave into God and allowed Him to use me as He sees fit I have never been happier. Regardless of what your talents and spiritual gifts are that make up your M.O.S., I assure you God wants you to be faithful to His calling and He wants you to partner with Him in reaching souls for His kingdom.

I realize that each of us have jobs we must work in order to provide for our families and take care of our financial obligations. And after a hard day's work it is very tempting to spend our free time simply relaxing and soaking up time with our families. These things are necessary too but should they dominate all of our free time? How much of our free time is dedicated to eternal things?

We as Christians talk a lot about stewardship and too often that topic is relegated to only refer to money. Biblically though stewardship refers to our money, time, and talents. What if we were to give tithe and offerings of our time in a systematic way? Each day has 24 hours. If we were to give systematically of our time using the percentages of 10% tithe and 5% offering then 2.4 hours of each day belong to God right off the top of each day by way of a time tithe . When you apply your daily time offering that gives the Lord another 1.2 hours of each day for a total of at least 3.6 hours that should be given to God to each day of the six leading up to the Sabbath. Granted, many of you give much more than 3.6 hours a day to God, but many others give little or no time to God.

I want you to think back over your life and consider how much of what you have done will have eternal consequences? How much of what we have accomplished up to this point in our lives can really be said to have brought others closer to Christ? How many of us have been in the church for years and have never brought one other person to Jesus? Yes, these are tough questions, but they are questions that deserve our attention and consideration today.

It is far past time when we should be about our Father's business. It is time to get real with our Christian experience and begin to focus our time on the truly important areas of life. It is time to work within our spiritual M.O.S. and partner with Christ to win souls for the kingdom. Let's decide today to let nothing stand in the way of sharing Christ with a world that is in desperate need of a Savior.

Dear Father God,
Please forgive us for not being more prepared to work for You. Please give us victory over sin and selfishness, and please empower us to be agents of grace for the spreading of the Gospel. We cannot do this without the Holy Spirit so we pray that today You might infill us and equip us for service. It is in Jesus' name we pray, Amen.