Saturday, January 20, 2018

Day 21 of 40 Days of Prayer: Believe in the God Who Revives!

In Joel 2:25, the Lord comforts His people by assuring them that He insects will restore what appears to be impossible to revive.  He says,
I will restore to you the years that the locusts have eaten.
Locusts are a relentless, marauding band of heartless devouring insects that devastate all vegetation within their path.  One visit from a locust colony upon a field of grain and one’s livelihood could be set back for years.  Yet, God promises that he has the power to restore what seems eternally ruined.

This is especially true with our spiritual condition.  The Lord tells Ezekiel that not only can He restore what is ruined, He can revive what is dead! You may feel that your life is in ruins and that spiritually, you are as good as dead.  Trust in the one who can not only lift you out of the ruins, He can breathe new life into your soul!  Believe in the One Who revives!  

Tales of The Magical Ranger School Trees

Joyce Kilmer expressed a sense of awe for the beauty and wonder of trees when he penned,
I think that I shall never seeA poem lovely as a tree.
Since posting a Blog entry regarding the rigors of the U.S. Army Ranger School, I have been fascinated by the encounters Ranger School Graduates report they had with trees during their training. It seems these special interactions are brought on as the severe result of extreme sleep deprivation (4 hours daily, or less, for over 2 months.) During Ranger School, trees sometimes seem to have a function similar to the "Holodeck" on Star Trek.

My friend and brother, Brett Lewis, shared how he faced a significant challenge trying to convince his Ranger Buddy not to put coins into a tree his buddy was certain was a soft drink machine.While he stopped his buddy from wasting his money, the Buddy was never quite convinced about the tree's identity as merely being a tree.  Upon reading that story, another Ranger Graduate reported having the same delusion, except he actually did put coins into the tree, and began beating the tree with his entrenching tool when it didn't dispense a refreshing beverage after he had inserted his change!

Yet another friend told of how in the middle of the night, his wife suddenly appeared next to him and an argument ensued with him telling her she had to leave because she wasn't authorized to be at Ranger School.  The argument continued for some time, until he was shaken by his bewildered Ranger Buddy, only to discover he had actually been arguing with a tree for the entire episode!  Spouses, soda machines and little green men have all made appearances to Ranger School Students thanks to the magical Ranger Trees!

If you'd like to hear more fascinating Ranger Tree tales, just ask a Ranger! They'll have stories, both scary and funny, to take your breath away from either terror or laughter! I leave you with a slightly edited line from Kilmer's poem, that just may explain the mystical properties of those Ranger School trees,

[Blogs] are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Day 20 of 40 Days of Prayer: Rely on God’s Power!

We are half-way through our 40-Day prayer journey!  More than anything, prayer is a humble admission that ultimately, the power of life and the power to navigate life does not come from us, but from God. This truth is most clearly seen in times of hardship and challenge.  As the Apostle Paul states in 2 Corinthians 4:7-10,
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
In the humility of prayer, we bow down to One greater than ourselves – greater than anyone or anything – acknowledging our dependence on Him and His ability to show Himself ultimately powerful in all things. We therefore proclaim, along with the Psalmist that,
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Day 19 of 40 Days of Prayer: Be Salt! Be Light!

Jesus expected those who follow Him to have impact on the society around them.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus informed His disciples that they weren’t just taking up space or occupying hours in some random, meaningless existence but they were created with purpose to carry out God’s will among those who are lost in the confusion of sin and death.

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.  You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

We are expected to illuminate our interactions with the truth and season the lives of those around us with the love of Jesus.  This mixture of salt and light, grace and truth, characterizes the very nature of Jesus who is “filled with grace and truth” and allows those of us who follow Him to best represent Him and bless others in this harsh and demanding world.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Day 18 of 40 Days of Prayer: Begin with Brokenness

We resist being broken.  While it is understandable and right to desire strength, resilience and endurance, there is a natural recoiling from being stretched past the point of one’s limitations until one breaks.  Yet, is in the place of encountering one’s limitations that one is most likely to have a heart prepared to experience true fellowship with God. It is also from that place, that the power of prayer is effectively launched.

The Psalmist understood this truth and wrote of it when he penned, “My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”  The Scripture also promises that while God is “opposed to the proud” He “gives grace to the humble.”  It takes humility to meet brokenness head-on and then to turn to the One Who can restore us to wholeness so that we can minister to others in their brokenness as well.

When you find yourself in a hard place that breaks you, don’t deny it  or hide because of it. Instead, turn to the Lord.  Allow Him to use your brokenness as the beginning point of powerful transformation that will not only restore and bless you, but lead you reach out to bless others so that they can be restored too.

Remembering Those Who Serve In Every Season: Even the Bitter Cold!

When you step out into the briskness today and bristle against howling winds and biting cold, consider those who are facing these punishing conditions in training.
There is a discussion in a closed group to which I belong, reminding everyone to pray for those soldiers in the midst of meeting the requirements of the US Army Ranger School at this very moment in one of the harshest winters in years. While we fight the cold on our own terms, these amazing volunteers fight it on the unrelenting terms of the US Army Ranger School, outdoors, 24/7.
Some members of the group reflecting on their own similar experiences in the mid 1980's, recall the mission objective literally becoming survival. I recall receiving news during that era of 2 Ranger students and an instructor dying of hypothermia when caught in a particularly sudden and wicked winter storm. Many other soldiers and military personnel from all branches of service similarly continue to train as the demands do not relent in inclement weather for anyone on mission.
Do not fail to pray and give thanks for those who eagerly give of themselves for the rest of us. Consider this as you snap your coat and bundle up for today's frigid temperatures!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Day 17 of 40 Days of Prayer: Be A Servant - The Sledgehammer School of Learning

I met Mr. Tom Petty the 1st semester of my first year in seminary.  He needed help unloading an old Toyota pickup he called “Doulos II” that was loaded with fresh vegetables for the cafeteria.  After I finished helping me, he asked me if I was interested in coming alongside him for ministry training.  I was delighted, as Mr. Petty was known far and wide as someone deeply committed to ministry and an excellent disciple-maker.  He seemed satisfied and told me to meet him at his home where my instruction would begin early Saturday morning.  He told me to dress very casually.  “Definitely my type of guy!” I thought to myself.

I arrived at Mr. Petty’s house bright and early that Saturday morning.  He was waiting for me and greeted me warmly with a friendly handshake.  He handed me a pair of work gloves and pointed me to a sledgehammer laying at the end of a very long and uneven concrete path. “Sam.” He began with his soft-spoken Southern gentlemanly drawl, “I want you to bust up this concrete for me.  It will probably take all day.”

It took all day.  I stopped only for lunch and a few water breaks, and by the end of the day, had busted up all the concrete, and was soaked with sweat from the late summer South Carolina sun.  I was also furious.  “I came here to minister!” I thought to myself. “And this joker has me doing his manual labor for him!”  As if he had read my mind, Mr. Petty put his hand on my shoulder and said, “If you want to minister, you must learn how to serve!” “Wax on, wax off!”  I thought. “I’m training with a Southern, Christian version of Mr. Miyagi!” 

I wasn’t far off target! For the next 5 years I spent in Columbia, Mr. Petty taught me how to serve, assigning me countless tasks, great and small, all focused on serving others.  Many of them were extremely physically challenging and time consuming.  Being ready to serve anytime, anywhere also made me available to rub elbows with some fantastic leaders and allowed me have some very visible moments of ministry with the Governor of South Carolina, leaders in Washington, D.C. and opened the door for me to take part in a special mission to the Philippines that was a truly life-changing experience!

A great classic from the 60’s was titled, “If I had a Hammer” citing the great changes the singer would make with his world changing instrument of justice and freedom.   Well, I had a hammer, and it enabled me to begin a journey of learning through the school of sweat and elbow-grease, teaching me what serving truly means.  Jesus said, “The one who wishes to be greatest among you, must be servant of all.”  I am still learning lessons in service, but know that the Heavenly Father calls His children not to Lord over others, but to kneel and serve.  Help me, Lord, to keep carrying my hammer, continuing to serve and to be a blessing for others!