Tag Archives: army

The surprising weapon followers of Jesus arm themselves with

27 Aug

Photo by Cmdr Shane on Unsplash

One of the biggest questions followers of Jesus ask is: how much should we be in the world, exposing ourselves to the world, participating in activities or behaviors that are considered normative in the world?

And by contrast, how much should we remove ourselves from the world? Which behaviors should we stop?

How much should we play video games, watch movies and TV, and which ones?  Should we trust the ratings systems?  Is it okay for 13 year olds to watch PG13 movies, for example?

And what about the many varieties of food, drink and drugs available to us, for our pleasure?  How much of that should we partake of?  As substances like marijuana become legal, should we partake?

What clothing should we wear?  How much skin should we show?  What is modest?

This was as big a deal for the earliest Christians 2000 years ago as it is now.  How do we be in the world, but not of it?

Where it really gets tricky is in the area of friendships.  If you are a follower of Jesus, and you have friends who are not followers of Jesus, how much should you do what they do?

As we continue in 1 Peter, we have arrived at chapter 4, and Peter addresses these issues.

In verse 1, the NIV’s “arm yourselves” is a great translation of the word Peter used.  It truly has military overtones!  Think of soldiers preparing for battle.  Strapping on bullet proof vests, helmets.  Lacing up boots, attaching a knife, grenades, ammunition and of course their gun.  A backpack with all kinds of equipment.  They are ready for battle.  No doubt Peter is talking to those early Christians this way because he sees that they, too, are in a battle, but it is not a military battle.

So how should followers of Jesus arm ourselves?  How should we get ready?  What equipment do we strap on?  The attitude of Jesus.

What was his attitude?  It is most clearly described in a place called the Garden of Gethsemene, just a short walk outside the city of Jerusalem.  Jesus was there on the night of his arrest, praying with his disciples.  Remember his prayer?  It was intense.  He knew that his arrest, beating and death were right around the corner.

How would you feel if you knew that within hours you would be severely beaten, falsely tried, and killed?  I would be freaking out.  While Jesus was definitely emotional, he wasn’t losing control.  The anxiety was massive.  And yet what did he pray?  “Father, not my will, but yours be done.”

In the face of severe bodily harm, Jesus remained 100% committed to do the will of God.  That is the attitude Peter says we should arm ourselves with.

Why?  Because, Peter says, “he who has suffered in his body is done with sin.”  But what does Peter mean when he says suffering in the body will lead to being “done with sin”?

Peter’s flow of thought from 3:18 all the way through 4:6 has Christians in mind, and how Christians can handle suffering.  In other words, he is saying, “Christians, when you suffer, it puts things in perspective.”  You’ve maybe experienced that yourself.  When you go through a hard time, you realize so quickly and clearly what really matters in life.

When you are suffering, you’ll realize that your previous sinful choices were so wrong.  We might even call this the process of sanctification.  Sanctification is a big long Christian theological word that refers to the process of being set apart for God.  During that process of being set apart, we are being shaped and changed, so that gradually we act more and more like Jesus would.  All disciples of Jesus are undergoing this process, where the Spirit of God, if we allow him, is at work in us.  What we find is that suffering, as painful and difficult as it is, actually grows us faster and more deeply, when we allow it.

Unfortunately, some people do not allow suffering to shape us to become more of what God wants us to be. Some people wallow in their suffering.  You know the Eeyore syndrome?  That’s when, instead of sitting in the suffering and listening to what God might want to teach us, we have a pity party.  Poor me.  We followers of Jesus should not approach suffering like Eeyore.  Instead, Peter says, we should have the attitude of Jesus, to follow God’s will no matter the difficulty.

Can we experience Jesus’ victory now…or do we have to wait till we get to heaven?

24 Aug

What is heaven like?  There is much speculation.  I wish the Bible was much more clear than it is.  Sometimes it talks about a supernatural dwelling place of God.  In the New Testament the word for “heaven” can also mean “sky”.  Is heaven up there somewhere?  But then other times the Bible talks about heaven as a new earth or new Jerusalem.

As we conclude 1 Peter 3:18-22, Peter tells us that Jesus is in heaven, at God’s right hand, with all other beings in submission to him.  Why is Peter bringing up this heavenly image?  Once again, as we have seen all week, Peter wants to encourage people who are feeling defeated that Jesus is clearly the victor, and in him they, too, can have victory.

At the time when Peter wrote, it is likely that they were not feeling all that victorious, considering the persecution they were enduring.

How about you?  You might not be feeling all that victorious either, but Peter wanted those Christians then to know, and by extension we can know, that there is victory in Jesus.

But note that Peter is not just talking about ultimate victory in heaven.  No doubt, he is referring to that.  Jesus wins.  In the end, Jesus wins.  There he is in heaven, the victor over all!

But Peter is writing to Christians feeling defeated and discouraged in their actual lives. He wanted to encourage them in a way that mattered not only in a distant future, but also so that they could experience victory right then and there.  They were not alone.  They had power in Jesus.  Jesus had suffered too.  They were not forgotten.  They were remembered.  And they had access to the same strength Jesus did.

Our oldest son is in the National Guard.  For his extended drill this summer, his unit went to an intense training center in California.  It’s been 118 degrees most days.  He is in full battle gear, there are long, exhausting days and hot nights.  For the past 2 weeks he and many others were out in the desert.  So no access to phones (meaning…no connection to home), faced with rough terrain, practicing difficult intense drills and so much more.  After that two weeks in the desert, they returned to base for at least another week and they got their phones back.  Our son texted us saying those weeks out in training were the toughest things he’s ever done in his life.  Tougher than basic training.  And then he went on to tell us how much he’d grown and how much God had taught him.

That’s victory in Jesus.  That is finding God in the midst of difficult discouraging times.  That is what we have access to, a living God who is making things new in us and in our world.  We get to be a part of that.  A part of His living and breathing victory.  That is what Peter is talking about.

So we need to see that Peter is talking to people about how to live life now.  We can experience victory in Jesus now.  Remember that a major emphasis of Jesus’ death and resurrection is God setting things right.  The power of God that raised Christ from the dead that is available to us, as Paul teaches in Ephesians 1:15-19. Take a moment and read that.  Did you read how God’s power that raised Jesus from the dead is available to us?  Amazing!

The big question, then, is how do we access that power?  For our son in the desert, he accessed that power a couple ways.  Prayer and reading about Christians who he looks up to.  He took a couple biographies of Christian athletes and read and was greatly encouraged.  Part of what made prayer and those stories of Christian faith so powerful was that Tyler was right in the middle of something extremely difficult.  And right there found victory in Jesus.

If you are going through a hard time, and even if things are good, how will you reach out to God to access the victorious power of God?  I highly recommend prayer as a starting point.  But also read the truth of God in his word, seek out stories of other Christians and how they placed their faith in God.  Then consider bringing other Christians into your own story.  Share your struggles, allow others to speak truth to you, and practice living out victory in Jesus.

That time a military recruiter called me with an amazing proposal

31 Dec

A couple years ago, I got one of those out-of-the blue calls that sounded legit, but also made me very suspicious.  It was from a military recruiter, the Army Reserves to be precise.

At the time I was 39 years old.  Not quite the age anymore to be considered for military service.  He explained that he was recruiting for the military chaplaincy, and at 39 I had a couple more years before I would be too old to start a career in the military.  He told me I didn’t need to worry…I wouldn’t have to go through basic training!

I would, however, have to go through a chaplaincy training program, but the Army Reserves realizes that its chaplains are usually already in full-time ministry, so they try to fit the training around a pastor’s schedule.

As a chaplain in the reserves, after my training was complete, my responsibilities would be just like any other Reservist, spending one weekend per month on base, and two weeks each summer.  Of course, if my unit got called up to active duty, I would go with them.  The recruiter assured me that many of their chaplains are full-time pastors, and their churches work around their Reserves schedule.

Additionally, and this piqued my interest, I would be qualified for a military pension if I served 20 years, and because I already had my master’s degree, I would start my military career as an officer!

I couldn’t believe it.  I had not sought this out.  I had not had a conversation with the chaplains in my denomination.  It came completely as a surprise.  How did he find out about me?

Maybe he just looked on my denomination’s website?  I don’t know.  And it doesn’t really matter how he found out.  What mattered was that this was a serious offer, and I needed to evaluate it.

I have to admit that there was an inkling of interest deep within me.  I liked the idea of a military pension.  I liked the idea of being an officer is the US Army.  And I’ve heard from my military chaplain colleagues how many wonderful ministry opportunities there are for chaplains.  I like all of that, and it excited me.

So Michelle and I needed to talk about it.  We needed to pray about it.  If I became a military chaplain, it could deeply impact my family.  Would my wife and kids be okay with having me gone so much?  And what if my unit got called up, and I went to serve in a war zone?

I also needed to talk with my church, or at least the group of leaders in my church that could give me honest feedback about this decision.  It was an opportunity that could also deeply impact our church.  My church already graciously and wisely allows me one Sunday off preaching every month.  It doesn’t always happen, but I’m very thankful for it.  This chaplaincy opportunity would go well beyond the once/month off though.  Would the church be okay with me being gone so much?  And what would happen to this full-time ministry that I committed to before the Lord and before the church if my unit did get called up and I would be gone for months?

Simply put, for an opportunity like this, I would have to count the cost.  And I would have to get others to join the evaluation process with me.  It was an amazing opportunity.  Very enticing.  But it came with a cost.

This coming Sunday at Faith Church we will study Luke 14:25-35, a passage about counting the cost.  Check it out before worship on Sunday.  Like that recruiter, God is offering you an amazing opportunity, as we’ll see in this teaching by Jesus, but we need to count the cost.

So we invite you to join us to learn more.