Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Jesus Tomb

I suppose by now you've heard that James Cameron has made the claim that he has found the grave of Jesus and his family. Think about the implications for a minute. Paul said in 1 Cor 15 that if Jesus is not raised then we above all men are to be most pitied. He's right! If Jesus did not ovecome the grave everything I base my life on is gone, my worldview, my vocation, how I approach my family, my dreams, and my eternal destiny. It also means that Jesus is a liar and a fraud. It means that whatever good things He said are no good, because its all built on a lie. So with that in mind think about it for a second before you dismiss this claim. What would it mean to you, to the world if Jesus was just a really good dead man?

Before you lose all faith, this claim by James Cameron can be answered. I've compiled a couple of webistes for your viewing pleasure that could point you in the right direction. Be a critical thinker, examine the evidence. Truth has a funny way of coming out. More to follow I'm sure
www.garyhabermas.com
http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Dashing!


How does one place value on a life lived. At our end lies a 2 foot high piece of granite with a name, two dates and a few words scribbled on it. Between the dates lies a most profound symbol….a dash. It’s a small black line that spans the time between our birth and our death. Contained on that dash are our first steps, our first words, our first bicycle ride, our first day at school, our first recognition of beauty. It will contain our loves and our jobs. It’ll hold our weddings and the birth our kids. It’ll bear the pain of separations and wars. That little black line will represent all we did in life for passers by. Every person we ever had an impact on will ride that line. Our recognition of God is there. Our hurts our failures our achievements all sit right on that little line, that dash. Today a dear friend lost her grandfather. As she shared stories of him, his smile, his hard work, his profound impact on her life, I thought “How could a little dash hold a life like that?” Well it can’t. Through her grief I saw a life of a grandfather well lived. Just on Valentines day marked the 20th year since my own grandfather passed away. I cannot explain his impact on me. I am a product of him in many ways. When I get back home I’ll cruise by Oakwood Cemetery and sit by his grave. Buried there with my grandmother I look at those dashes and think how much I appreciate that life lived. Time is a respecter of no man and that dash seems so insignificant as we look at those grave stones, but that dash is so much more. I’ll never look at a grave stone the same way again. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words from the Gospels. For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's shall save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul? For what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8:35-38) There’s something lost in translation there. Jesus says don’t lose your life. The funny thing is that the word soul and life in the original language are the same word! What will we give in exchange for our life? It’s basically this; we don’t get our lives back. There are no do overs. And we can give them over to whatever we want to. We can give our lives to self or we can sing the doxology with it. It’s our dash to live. And when it’s all said and done we’ll have how people remembered us and how God sees us. That is what it boils down to. My prayer is that one day, my children or even should I be blessed with grandchildren, that they sit by my gravestone and say, “My daddy’s dash was so much more than a little black line!”
Hope yours will be too!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

PVT E

Bill Hybels in one of his books says that after two years of becoming a Christian most church going folks have no friends outside the church. None! That is so contradictory to what the Bible says for believers to do. I'm not sure what it is that drives Christians within the confines of the church. Maybe its that we came from lives that were not pleasing to God and we don't want to go back to that. Maybe its that get comfortable with our Christian friends. Maybe as my friend Alvin Reid used to say, "We got saved and we got over it". I think its probably a combination of all. As a Chaplain in the Army I am surrounded every day by people that believe differently from me. Its kind of like reverse missionary work. The world comes to me. One such example I'll tell you is for your encouragement today. PVT E from one of my companies requested to see me one day a few weeks ago. Many of my counseling requests are whiny soldiers who just want out of the Army. This one was different. As soon as I met him he started spilling his guts. He grew in a Celtic Pagan household. I had never heard of someone being raised that way. Most young people who embrace Wicca and Paganism do so in response to pain or being and outcast. People have a spiritual void and they are looking. looking for relief. But this kid was raised in a home where everyone was a Pagan. He was well versed in his beliefs, a trait I find lacking in most with alternative belief systems.
I asked him why he wanted to see me. He went on to tell me of some difficulty he'd been going through, a broken relationship and a death in the family. Then he said a remarkable thing...it went something like this, "Chaplain, my pagan beliefs are not meeting my needs, it doesn't answer the questions I have, it doesn't fill me" (that's the best I can remember it). SO I asked him again, "Why do you want to see me?" He said that he was looking for something but he didn't know what it was. Amazing! I asked his permission to share what I believed, he agreed and we spoke in the cold wind at a picnic table for about an hour. I shared about my former atheistic beliefs, my encounter with the risen Jesus. We talked of resurrection and life and if Jesus really did rise from the dead, what would that mean. It truly was God orientated and God arranged. I gave him a short book called, "More than a Carpenter" and prayed that God would open his eyes and show him the truth. Last week God did. He came to me prior to our service and said, "Chaplain, I'd like to convert today" I love it. And convert he did, he received Christ as his savior and two more came along with him. He prayed a real prayer to a real God for the first time in his life. I saw him this morning. He said, "My heart is filled with joy Chaplain!" My heart is filled with joy too. I hope by reading this yours will be as well. Remember, there are people out there that want to know. What are we doing to put ourselves in proximity to them? Don't hide out in the pews, get out there and mingle with them, get to know them, shine the light!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Don't Drive Angry!


A couple of weeks ago at a prayer breakfast for my Battalion I used a trailer from the movie Groundhog Day. It is indeed one of my favorite movies. I love anything with Bill Murray. In fact I laugh thinking about him sometimes. The story line is that Bill Murray is a weatherman, he hates his job and he hates winter. He goes to Punxsutawney PA, home of the groundhog for Groundhog Day to see if the big rat is predicting another 6 weeks of winter. When he gets snowed in that night, he wakes up to the sound of Sonny and Cher singing “Babe, I got you Babe”. He finds that he is stuck in the same day with the exact same events happening over and over again. Every day its Sonny and Cher and its Groundhog Day. I nearly drives him nuts! Well, in Basic Combat Training after going to the same ranges, day after day. The same privates with the same names, the Johnsons, the Smiths, the Jones, keep showing up. They all look alike too. They all have the same haircut. They all wear the same thing. It can be like déjà vu all over again. So my Drill SGTs and Cadre constantly say now, “Its Groundhog Day!” On Feb 2nd which actually was Groundhog Day, I got a call at 0450 in the morning. Now I hate mornings. I think I might actually lose my total faith in God just as my alarm clock is going off. Well this morning my phone rings 10 minutes before my alarm goes off and I am in deep REM sleep mode, dreaming of mountains and a fly rod in my hand and a trout ona wet line. I answer the phone expecting an emergency, to hear the off key wailing of 1SG Frank Lauer singing a really bad rendition of “Babe, I got you Babe” in my ear piece. The he screams, “Its Groundhog Day!” It was horrible. If I didn’t think so much of him I probably would have called down a good smiting from the Lord on his area of operation. Frank is a great guy, a combat veteran, big and loud and funny. We quote movie lines when we see each other. He has a nasty Ducati bike that is sick fast. He keeps me laughing and that’s a good thing in the Army. So much of what we do is deadly serious, its good to be able to laugh. I have my revenge planned, but it will come after much plotting and conniving. I might even wait for a few years to catch him on Groundhog day at 0330 with my worst Sonny and Cher, “Babe, I got you Babe!” Just when he least expects it. Have a great day Frank!

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Getting by!



I get by with a little help from friends. That was a line from an old Beatles song, but there’s a lot of truth contained therein. As of today I have been mobilized away from my family for 23 months. Its hard to fathom that it has been that long. I’m tired of being away. I love my job, but I love my family even more. I miss them and they miss me. One of the problems being mobilized brings is the normal household stuff that men like to do. I love to fix stuff and work with tools. My wife does not. Its not her lane, its mine. Imagine your home after the man of the house has not been there for more than 23 months. Weeds spring up, stuff gets worn out, repairs need to made and there’s no one there to do all that man stuff. We can’t just hire a man to hang around and do my husbandly duties(Amen to that!). So the house has suffered. Imagine that you want to simplify your life and sell your house that’s too big. But you have a problem, the house needs work to get presentable to sell. There are stumps in the yard, there’s junk to clean up, 20 years worth of junk. The landscaping has been reclaimed by the wild. The paint is chipping. And I can’t get to it. That’s where the hunting buddies come onto the scene like a quick reaction force. In the Bible Paul talks about the body of Christ as a literal body, with different parts. (See 1 Corinthians 12). The body is a miracle. It is so complex and its members function together. When we get injured the rest of the body overcompensates for the part that is wounded till healing occurs. It’s the same in the body of Christ. Right now, my family is wounded by this period of military separation, but today at my house other parts of the body came in to fill the void. I am grateful. They brought tools, a bobcat tractor and a servant's heart. They got a load of mulch to make things look tidy. The work they did in a few hours would have taken me days to accomplish and I just don’t have them. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my friends today. They do it with no reservations. They expect nothing in return, just the honor of service. Jesus modeled this attitude in his own life, by refusing to be served, but to serve and give his life for many. Its true, I do get by with a little help from my friends. Thanks guys!

Friday, February 02, 2007

Funerals, Friends and Old Milwaukee


Part of my duties as a Chaplain is to be in the shoot for funerals and death notifications. Death notifications are brutal. You’re there at the front door of a home of unsuspecting folks that have sent their child off to the Army. You are in your green uniform and as soon as they see you, its over, their world is ruined. It’s a difficult task. Then we have the honor of officiating funerals for retirees. I have done 5 or 6 since becoming a Chaplain. One which I’ll eventually write down was hilarious, some are short and somber. This week was a profound event for me however. It spoke to my soul about the value of friendship, lifelong friendship. It spoke about the bond of “drinking buddies”. I learned about the value of a life that gave more than it took. I also learned that God has His timetable with people, and He isn’t much concerned with how I’d like things to be done. I got called to take the Chaplain role for this funeral on Thursday. It couldn’t have happened at a worse time, right in the middle of a new cycle, whiny soldiers everywhere, my cell phone refusing to be quiet. My family was coming to visit this weekend for a dance competition that my daughter was in. She always wants her daddy there. This funeral just wasn’t convenient. But, soldiers drive on and do their duty no matter what.

I cruised out to Elgin near Columbia to meet with the family representative. It was surprising to me that the family didn’t have anything to do with the funeral. I found out why later on. What I did find was a very kind southern gentleman that had just lost his neighbor and best friend. He and I sat and spoke over files of old Army documents that told a sketchy story of a man who had served his country for 26 years. What really gave me a clearer image of the man was his friend’s face and how it lit up when he told stories of long front porch conversations and repair jobs around their houses. Everyone in the neighborhood new this man. He was a good and descent man. His buddy shared of the one spiritual conversation they had. It was the only one in 30 years of knowing each other. Oh, but how important that one was. It was just days before the surgery that would eventually take his life. As the best friend approached his buddy’s front porch, he noticed that his friend had a serious look on his face. His buddy looked him in the eye and said, “Brother, I know I’m a sinner and today I asked God to forgive me!” The two friends then prayed together and that 78 year old man gained new life in Jesus that day. What a blessing for Chaplain to hear that story prior to a funeral. My new friend and I (Tracy is his name) then sat and talked for another 2 hours about life, family, God, Heaven, moonshine, mountains, and motorcycles. It was awesome! I left with open ended visiting rights to his back porch, How cool is that!

All of his other friends he met at a local watering hole. It’s a corner bar on a lonely SC highway. Most people would call it a dump, but I’d say it was more like a family. At the funeral the whole bar came, to include about 40 veterans of Viet Nam, bikers and other assorted and interesting people. They smoked during the service. I could not help but think that this is exactly where Jesus would have been. And they all wanted to talk to the Chaplain. I spoke with a crusty old Marine Corps Sergeant Major who told countless tales about the man we just honored. As we spoke it was cold up on that little hill where the service took place. The wind was brisk, it was like a scene out of a movie. I learned that he loved Old Milwaukee beer and working in his garden. I learned that his family had disowned him after retiring from the Army and then only attempted a reconciliation when they found out he was dying and that he had saved lots of money over the years. It was pitiful and shameful. That was why his best friend had to make all the arrangements. I found out through the testimony of his friends that he did more for his country than his country did for him. He led a rifle company as a 1SGT at the ripe old age of 41 (my age) in Viet Nam. He came close to death there many times, but the thing that took him was hospital born pneumonia. I looked at all those people that loved this man, not one of them related by blood. I heard their precious stories and once again thought, “Jesus would be right here.” As I left the cemetery Jack and I drove by that bar. It was 2:30 in the afternoon. Every car from the funeral was there. Jack was the one who noticed it. I couldn't help but think that Jesus would go in there with them. I’ve made up my mind. When I go back to visit my new friend, I’m gonna stop in on that 1SGT’s family and listen to a few more stories. I hope I can bring Jesus with me too.

The songs of life- Thanks to mom

My home was filled with music and people growing up. Mom loved music and can play an assortment of instruments but her favorites are th...