Sunday, October 9, 2016

One State, Two State, Red State, Blue State

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are two of our choices to be President of the United States. In the course of presidential candidates, I can't remember in my lifetime two more polarizing candidates. It seems like a vast majority of folks are voting against a candidate rather than being for a candidate. To me, that is a sad situation in which many Americans find themselves in. So what should we do? How should Christians respond?

At the time of this writing, Donald Trump has said some vulgar disgusting comments about women. The comments don't need to be repeated, a quick google search will reveal what he said if you're interested. Trump's comments bother me and trouble me. But what has me more troubled is the response of some Christians. Some Christians still endorse Trump. Their response goes something along the lines of "Donald said things but..." Why is there a "but" This man has said it was ok to sexually assault women. What Christian can stand behind a leader like this? What Christian can prop him up as a replacement for evil? A Christian that attempts to relegate Trump's comments to locker room banter does nothing but promote a sexual assault culture from which EVERY single Christian should run.

Al Mohler said, "Far too many evangelicals have set themselves up for a humiliating embarrassment by serving as apologists for Donald Trump...The moral credibility of evangelical Christians is on the line, and it is of far greater value than any election.”

In spite of Trump's behavior, I don't think Hillary Clinton is any better than Trump. Blogs have been written about the things she has done. As far as her treatment of women goes, she is complicit in her husband's treatment of women. She has systematically sought out to destroy women who have tried to bring down her husband after he was accused repeatedly of rape.

As of now, I have no idea who I will vote for. To me it seems like I get to choose between wanting a bullet in the head or a bullet in the heart. Both are terrible choices. On November 8, I personally believe that no matter which candidate wins we will be lead by an evil individual. In light of that, here is how I believe Christians should respond

1. Christians are called to spread the Gospel, not reform the political system.

Christ never brought about revolution even though his disciples desperately wanted him to. He realized there was a greater purpose. Christians, the Great Commission is that we "Go and Preach" not "Go and Reform"

Christian, will you continue to complain about the political system while squandering the freedoms you do have to share the Gospel?

2. Understand that God still works in the lives of people, regardless of political leadership.

The nation of Israel had flawed Kings. Israel had maniacal evil kings. Even the kings like David and Solomon who we would consider "good kings" had some serious sin problems and by today's political standard would never make it in political office.

Imagine this headline:

Giant Slayer says "SORRY" After Plotting Murder of his Lover's Husband. 

It sounds like it is ripped from the National Enquirer.

Regardless of Israel's political leadership, theology abounded. God worked miracles. Prophets were exalted, Scripture was written. And most importantly, people still worshiped the One True God.

In the New Testament, the Gospel flourished under intense persecution and "evil leadership" Neither Trump nor Hillary are even close to the wickedness of the Roman emperors of Paul's day.

This point serves to prove that Christians should be busy sharing the Gospel and redeeming the time "because the days are evil."

3. We are to render honor and obedience to our political leaders

In context, I Peter was written to exiles dispersed throughout the world. The world is the region where Christianity had spread during the times of great persecution. By extension there is great application for the modern exile, the Christian.

"Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God." 

Christians are not asked, but are commanded to submit to every ordinance. Romans states,  that whoever resists the power, resists the ordinance of God: and those that resist shall receive to themselves damnation...Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom is due; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor. (Paraphrase)

Newell says, "Remember your Savior suffered under Pontius Pilate, one of the worst Roman governors Judea ever had; and Paul under Nero, the worst Roman Emperor. And neither our Lord nor His Apostle denied or reviled the ‘authority!"

4. Don't shout down or drag a political leader through the mud. Paul never yelled about or shouted down a political leader. In fact, he attempted to lead them to Christ. I highly doubt he inked a meme on parchment.

This is kind of a restatement of number three. But I'm sure most of us are guilty of this. I know I am. In a world of internet memes and pithy phrases and jokes about political leaders why should Christians be the ones to stoop to the levels of night time comedians?

Clearly we can be critical about policy without name calling and showing disrespect.

In Conclusion: In November approximately 50% of people will dislike the current occupant of the White House. One could probably gather that a good majority of Christians might not like the occupant of the White House. So let's focus on the things that matter. The things that are heavenly and not temporal. Let's redeem the time and remember that Romans 12:18 states, "If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men."

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Chaplain, A Police Officer and a Civilian Went To....

A chaplain, a police officer and a civilian went to a crime scene. While this sounds the like start of a horrible joke, it will be an analogy that will be discussed in just a minute. For the last several days ever since the attack on Paris occurred my Facebook and social media accounts have been inundated with several things. First is the profile picture of solidary from nearly all my friends. Second, there are very heated arguments, opinions, commentary and news articles that usually take one of two sides. The individual either thinks we should open our doors to refugees of any sort, or they believe we should lock our nations gates and protect our great nation. I believe both opinions are equally correct and equally wrong at the same time.
One may wonder how this can be possible, but lets return to the analogy. Imagine if you will, that a horrible crime took place. After a few moments people arrived on scene. First, you have the police officer. He arrives on scene and goes about his job. He protects, he investigates, he takes charge of the situation and analyzes if there is further danger. Eventually the chaplain arrives, probably called because of a distraught parishioner, and begins his job. He offers aid, comfort, counsel and spiritual advice about the situation. The civilian has conflicting emotions. He seeks out help, searches for answers and wrestles with the meaning of life.
Those who have taken the position of closing our borders are ones that identify with the police mentality. They take charge to protect and make sense of a horrible situation. Those who have taken the position of opening our borders are ones that identify with the chaplain. They try to help the hurting, they seek to render aid and offer comfort. As you can see there is not necessarily anything wrong with either of these positions. So let us take a minute to analyze whose job is whose.
Primarily, the government is the police officer. They are to protect.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." (Preamble, US Constitution)
Thomas Jefferson said this, "A government regulating itself by what is wise and just for the
many, uninfluenced by the local and selfish views of the few who direct their affairs, has not been seen, perhaps, on earth." If you research this quote, Jefferson believed that the United States Government viewed its position that regulates itself for the good of the many irrespective of the views of the individuals who run the country.
Stephen J. Heyman in his law article entitled, "The First Duty of Government" states that the government's first duty to its citizens is to protect them and this protection is rooted in constitutional law.

Our country ought to protect its citizens. We ought to do whatever it takes to ensure that each and every citizen is safe and sound. That when we pillow our heads at night we can sleep knowing that we will be free from harm. We ought to take every single precaution out there to ensure that people coming into this country are vetted. Here's a closer look at that process.
Secondly, the Christian is the chaplain.
They are to offer aid, comfort and the simple plan of the Gospel. The chaplain is the one who has a ministry of presence and goes to where the need is and shares his faith and the Source of his faith with others. 
Scripture is very clear on a Christ-follower's role to other people.
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in...Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me." (Matthew 25:35, 45b)
"Love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you." (Matthew 5:44)
"Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him." (Acts 10:34)
"Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality." (Romans 12:13)
"Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body." (Hebrews 13:1-3)
Our country has seen its worst when bigotry, racism and fear abound. Ask the Japanese who were stuck in internment camps during World War II. ( Ask the African American who suffered through the Jim Crow laws. (Black Like Me, Griffin)
Our country has for the most part, risen above those blights on our history. Let's not go backwards.
Finally, we are all civilians
We each wrestle with our conflicting emotions, seeking out help and searching for answers. When all three positions arrive at our crime scene, each person should stick to their role. There is no greater problem on a crime scene then when no one works together and everyone does their own thing. In the same token there is no greater success then when every person does his own vital part. Results happen.
So how should we respond? Christian, let the government do the governing. Let them decide how best to do that. Let them determine if we should shut our borders, or keep them open. Let them decide how to react. I encourage Christians to take part in the democratic process our Republic affords its citizens. Please participate and be vocal, but remember first and foremost we "are citizens of heaven" and we eagerly await the return of our Savior (Philippians 3:20).
When we are vocal we should remember to make sure that our speech is full of grace and seasoned with salt. (Colossians 4:6) Sailors and Marines this is not an invitation to let your conversation be "salty." As we eagerly await the return of our King Jesus, let us be busy being Christians. Let us be busy following the tenets of the Scriptures we each hold so dear. Let us not give into bigotry as the Priest did when ignoring the stranger. Let us not give into selfishness as the Levite did. Let's stop by the roadside and help. The Good Samaritan at great personal cost to himself was willing to lay it all on the line and help those in need. The Christian should be willing to do the same.
The Gospel we preach is not an easy one. It is not a Republican one or a Democrat one. The Gospel we preach is sometimes one that is a tough pill to swallow. So Christian, it's time to take your medicine and help.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

NCSC Week 6--The Kinder Gentler RMTEX

For those of you who don't know. RMTEX is the Religious Ministry Team Exercise. It is designed to simulate life in the field in case the chaplain is stationed with the Marines. Normally, RMTEX is designed for chaplains and RP's and consists of 40-50 people. But due to program changes, our RMTEX consisted of us 19 chaplains, Gunny, our class officer, and some corpsmen.


At 0500 we loaded up our gear into the vehicles and drove out to the camp site. We set up camp which took a couple hours and then headed to our first evolution. Team building! This would turn out to be a lot of fun, but our team wasn't too good. We completed one of the five exercises. Well sorta. We blew up one of the team members right at the end of the one we completed so I guess it means we failed all of them. Oh well, it was still fun!

After that we did combat field medic training. We were ushered into a building that looked like a town and saw a body leaking blood and filled with bullet holes and wounds. It was almost like a day in Lillian, AL on the fire department.

That night, we camped out, but it was interupted by a severe electrical storm. We evacuated the tents and went into one of the buildings and slept the night there. It was nice and warm, but the floor was hard, and the light stayed on. Not too much sleep happened that night.


Tuesday we woke up early, but since it had rained the previous night, we were told that a lot of the height evolutions would be dropped today. Much of the time at RMTEX we were up against the clock, since the Army was going to be using the course right after we finished.

The evolutions were challenging and I hurt my wrist trying to climb a rolling log that was nearly as tall as I was. After I successfully got over, I was hoping I was not going to have to do it again. But since we weren't doing some of the other evolutions we would do the same set again. So here we go, I had to do it again. This time my wrist hurt really bad. I took me three times at least to get over the log, but I made it. Short people should not do some of these evolutions....

One of the benefits of this kinder gentler RMTEX and our lack of RP's probably allowed some time to be built into the schedule. For a few hours, we took the vans back and were able to get showers and clean up a bit. That was wonderful!

My memory is a bit foggy about what else we did that day, but I think we had some briefs and some practicing of land navigation.


Here was the day I was dreading, but it turned out to be a blast. We began the day with Victory Tower. This involved a lot of things! See the picture below (It's not me). I'm scared of heights and rapelling down a 40FT complete vertical wall is not my idea of fun. However, I was not going to give Gunny the satisfaction of seeing me scared of heights. I leaned back (trusted the equipment) and gave a big jump. It was so much fun!

We did more of the parts of the tower and went on to the next thing...PT!

Gunny called this modified PT. I was thinking it wouldn't be too hard. I didn't realize it would be a modified Marine Combat Fitness test. This meant I would have to do some ammo can lifts, low crawl, body drag, fireman's carry and some pushups. This was going to be challenging. I didn't think my body would be able to lift many of the guys in class. Thankfully I ended up lifting a guy that was 170 lbs. What's more amazing, is that as a firefighter, I had never done the fireman's carry....Now I have.

The next evolution would be interesting. This was the gas chamber. For those of you who are not familiar with CS gas. Read up on it. It involves tablets and fans. Most marines go in with a concentration of 30 tablets. Most chaplain classes have about 9 tablets. Our class had 3. We chalked up the lack of tablets to sequestration.

I had this plan to go into the gas chamber and conquer it without any adverse side affects. After going through the simulation, I figured I could take my mask off, say my number and clear my mask all in one breath. I get in the chamber. Did that and was thankful! I had made it. No problems...until Gunny said. Now take off your mask. I'm thinking to myself that this is completeling insane. He never mentioned this in the simulation! After taking the mask off we were to recite the Sailor's Creed. That was all she wrote...I was coughing and my eyes were burning like crazy. We exited the chamber and I was so glad to be done with that. My worst fears were done for RMTEX. I had conqured more than I had ever thought possible. It was great!

After this, we did some hiking and more land navigation practice. We also had some incidents that led to some other trying moments in the class, but each class should keep things within the team and they don't need to be shared among others.


Land Navigation day and camp tear down! We were going to do some land navigation and see Ft. Jackson! It promised to be great. Our team had come together really well and we had found the points. Some stupid mistakes through us off, but we were excited. After eating our lovely MRE for breakfast, we were told no MRE for the rest of the day. Instead we'd have one MRE for our four people to share. Ugh.

I also decided to paint my face with camo paint. Gunny said I looked like Lou Ferrigno. I didn't recognize the name. But many people said the same thing.

We started off heading off in the right direction and quickly found our first point. The second point, we plotted in the middle of the swamp. We found it...well we found where we thought it should be, but it wasn't there. We spent two hours trying to find the point. We couldn't find it. By the grace of God we did manage to find three of our other points. By the end of the daytime land navigation my feet had it! I put some moleskin on my toe to keep from rubbing against my NWU boots. We had covered a ton of ground (Probably 10K or so during the daytime navigation). I was also starving.

I had been doing a carb free diet for 3 weeks, but at that point. We tore into our MRE. I had two bites of garlic mashed potatoes, some bites of stew and a sip of cappuccino.

Next we did some night time navigation. We hiked in full MOLLE pack to the course (Probably a half mile) This time we were told no lights at all were to be used after we plotted our points. So now, we had to memorize our Azmuth and distance. Our team was the last one out...This was not bodding well for the team. As we took off, we headed for our first point. We ended up finding...Starting Point 4...Another strike.

But we eventually found our first point...and then from there we sailed through the rest of them. We actually beat everyone back! Woo hoo! Go us! It was nice to be on top!


Friday we spent the day cleaning equipment and doing Admin stuff. So that was my week! It was physically challenging and I really learned alot about teamwork, and about myself. I also more importantly learned that God truly is in control. He had answered many prayer requests and revealed himself to me in many ways!

NCSC Week 5

I am making up for lost time. I forgot to blog Week 5. So here it is!

Monday and Tuesday were finishing up Phase I of Chaplains school. Since we had taken our exam the friday before, there really wasn't a whole lot to do. We had some lectures and our three departing chaplains (those only staying for Phase I) would do some short five minute briefs to the class. After Tuesday's class, we would then begin our week and a half of REMTEX.

Much of the rest of the week was prep work for being in the field. We had a brief on Marine Corps history given by our Gunny. He really didn't want to do four hours of Marine Corps history so he gave us the highlights and then opened the floor to questions from the class.

This was really one of the best things to happen. Gunny was happy to answer our questions and really shared a lot of his life in the Corps. He has been through a ton of things in his life, and his story is really inspirational and motivating. It has motivated me to push myself more than I ever thought I would. (I didn't know that at the time though)

Near the end of the week we went out to our future campsite and grabbed our MOLLE Pack and Assault Packs. These packs would contain everything we would need for the week. We also received our gas masks and reviewed how to put them on and use them properly.

After Friday's class we took our equipment back to the room, and packed. Monday at 5:00, we would be headed to the field.

Each chaplain was told, no phones, no communication equipment. If we needed to be contacted, the Gunny said we could have Red Cross messages sent to us.

Wow, the next week would be interesting.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

NCSC Week 4

Wow, it's hard to believe that I finished week four already and Phase I of Chaplain's school is now complete. The time has gone by pretty quickly, but I'm eager to be done with the training. I have learned quite a bit, and I want to put my knowledge into practice in my own way, with my own personality.

This last week we took a trip to NAS Mayport to experience the naval chaplaincy. You would think that is what I have been doing the last few weeks, but you'd be mistaken. A few years ago, the DOD decided in their infinite wisdom to move the Naval Chaplaincy School from Newport, RI to Ft. Jackson, SC. For this reason, there are not too many things "Navy" around here. It's odd to be wearing our NWU's (Naval Working Uniform/Digital Camo) and get stopped by people who say, "What branch of service are you from?" We would reply that we are with the Navy and they would smile, and say, "THANK YOU. I feel like I'm the only Navy person around here.

Yet, suffice it to say, we don't see too many things Navy. Colors in the morning, include Reville, not the national anthem. There are bugles sounding all the time, I see Army uniforms here, there and everywhere. So the Navy takes a back seat here at Ft. Jackson. We have our little building and that's it.

So to give the chaplains a taste of Naval ministry, we went to Mayport. This was a fantastic trip. It was wonderful to interact with many chaplains in the Navy. They all loved their jobs, loved their sailors and really got along well with other chaplains. The chaplains were super friendly and informative and very relaxed. It put us at ease, and made a lot of us feel compelled to be a Navy chaplain again.

We first toured a guided missile destroyer, and then spent the night aboard a cruiser. The ship was nice and clean (The galley, food was terrible) and the bunk where I stayed wasn't too bad. We stayed in enlisted berthing so we had 3 bunks in one compartment. Imagine if you will, three coffins on top of one another. Then you'd get the idea of how you slept on ship.

The comfort wasn't bad, the NOISE was. I didn't sleep hardly at all. I kept waking up to every little sound. Oh well, it was a great experience!

We ended the week with a couple papers and our second test. I did much better and got a 91% on it. So praise the Lord.

This coming week, we begin RMTEX. It involves lots of of which is a gas chamber.

Friday, March 1, 2013

NCSC Week 3

Here I am sitting listening to music on my iPod and staring out at the rapidly flowing waters of Westen Lake. It's a bit on the chilly side as I write this during our self-care day. But the cool breeze keeps me from sleeping and let's me reflect a lot on the last week of class and events.

Monday was a depressing day for nearly half our class. We had our first knowledge test and nearly half the class failed the test. Passing in the navy is an 80% but my stellar score was 67%. Seminary wasn't that long ago and I did fairly well, but for some reason the class struggled.
These last few weeks have been a blessing, yet as a class we've struggled. People have struggled with situations and our teambuilding has needed a bit of work. I had been fairly isolated from many struggles until Monday. That morning, I had received the wrath of the gunny because I walked for about 10 seconds during PT after an unexpected incline.
Normally the words people say don't affect me, but it really got to me, because I felt I had let myself down. In addition, that day I heard Bethany had a bad day as well, being up half the night with sickness. So those things were weighing on me Monday. When I found out I had let myself down again with the test it was just another nail in the coffin emotionally.
Thankfully the Navy has remediation and myself and teammates buckled down that night and studied for our retake. But that day I resolved not to quit.There may be trials struggles and afflictions but those are just temporary in nature. (See verse at end)

Tuesday was uneventful other than studying for our test.

Wednesday, was where i would be put to the test again. 0500 was PT time and we had a running day. It was the same course as before and this time after the big hill i pushed through the pain and never quit even when it hurt. During the day I kept thinking about the test and slogged through another series of PowerPoints. These powerpoints are filled with ministry information and really are helpful but they do get tedious after a time.
Wednesday afternoon I felt good about the test and determined to ace it. Thankfully I did get 100% but since it was a retake the most I could get was an 80%. I didn't care about the grade I cared I had accomplished the goal.

Thursday was the time the we got to go to Parris Island. This is where we were able to observe the marines and experience a small taste of being a Marine. We got yelled at and we screamed back "yes ma'am" we got yelled at some more and marched from the van to he yellow footprints several times. It was disorienting and it's designed to help the recruit be disoriented and help strip the individuality away and begin the team building process.

It was amazing to see what Marines go through for our country. They are willing to lay down their lives for their countrymen. And they go through a lot of pain to have the honor of doing so.
The other blessing is the fact that Marine commanders acknowledge the need for chaplains in the military. Marine's love their chaplains tremendously. They are used to counsel regularly and I heard stories of recruits doing a complete 180 in direction and mind after speaking with the chaplain. The colonel we spoke with even said that he relies on his chaplain for advice and counsel routinely and trusts the chaplain completely. He encouraged us to GET OUT OF OUR OFFICE and see Sailors and Marines we serve. Ministry of presence is everything.

On the way back from our trip I heard the story of another one of our chaplains. He has gone through a whole lot already. His family has suffered through 2 PCS moves and his family has to go through another one and his wife and kids may have to do it alone.

Last night I was writing my second paper for our class and came across a passage of Scripture that I have been mediating on. It is found in II Corinithans 4:16-18 and states:

For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
No matter the trials or afflictions, they are temporal. God will renew us daily and wants us to focus on the eternal not the temporal.
On to week 4! Our final week of Phase I.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

NCSC Week 2

It's hard to believe how fast time flies. This week was a great week at Chaplain School. For most of the week we had a guest lecture series on Ethics by Captain Rick Rubel. He was very thought provoking in many of our lectures and caused quite a bit of discussion amongst the class.

It was so enjoyable to be able to contemplate things that would never cross one's mind. When it comes to ethics, most people think the world is just black and white. Right is right and wrong is wrong.

But how do you decide between a good thing or a better thing? How do you decide between two equally horrible choices? Those are the types of questions that the great minds of 19 students at NCSC tried to answer. And to be completely honest, I don't think we came up with anything substantial.

The only conclusion I managed to come up with is: I hope God will speak audibly to me, when I have a tough choice to make.

Apart from class, there hasn't been a whole lot going on. The PT sessions are strenuous. Ammo can lifts, suicides, sprints, pushups, situps, pullups. All that normal good stuff. Thankfully I have survived.

On another note, the devotions the other chaplains have delivered have been fantastic. The sweet spirit that is present among all is a sight to behold.

I was sick earlier this week and I think it might be spreading through the class.

This upcoming week should be great! We have a trip to Paris Island to look forward to.