Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sacred Valor

For months the world watched and prayed as 33 Chilean miners remained
trapped nearly 2 kilometers in the heart of the earth. News updates
came from around the globe on the welfare of the men and the heroic
men and women that assisted recovery.

The rescue effort brought experts from every major county to assist
and advise the crews. No costs was spared as the eyes of the
world were upon them.

When the men were lifted out, one by one, the cheers and applause were universally
heard and seen in studios, living rooms, lobby's, restaurants,
and lecture halls.

In a sociology class, a professor asked his students this question. "What
is the most valuable thing to come out of a mine." Some of the students
shouted gold, some said silver, others shouted diamonds. The professor
rejected every answer. "The most valuable thing to come from a mine,"
he said,  "is a Miner!"

A physician said to me just days ago that he felt it important to
recognize the intrinsic value of every person.

The sanctity of human life is divine. In a cynical and cruel world,
this universal care for others at times seems to be the only dignity
we have left.

Jesus reminded us, "...inasmuch as you've done it unto the very least
of these my brethren, you've done it unto me."

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Friday, October 29, 2010

Anyway



 People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered.  Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.  Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.  Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.  Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.  Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.  Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten.  Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.  Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway.

It's between you and God...! Mother Teresa had it right. If God is for us, who can be against us?

Serving God in the trenches can be disheartening when your good is evil spoken of. 
You may think to yourself...
"I'm down here in the blood, sweat, and tears with these folks and this is the thanks I get? Don't these people know I can find better things to do with my time than slave it out down here in the muck and mire of their junk. Who do they think they are saying stuff like that? Well I ought to..."

Feel better?  Now that you've got that off your chest, remember "In the final analysis it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."

Keep serving ANYWAY !

God...has your back


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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Thank God for the Lighthouse


The story is told of a WWII infantry unit that was scheduled to lead a decisive push in the famed battle of the bulge. The night before the fight, soldiers were gathered around the fire in a somber, reflective, and intense atmosphere.

The Colonel instructed the chaplain to assemble the men and conduct some form of  chapel service. It was apparent for most of the men that the battle for freedom and liberty would soon require the ultimate sacrifice of their lives.
Needless to say the air was thick with death and fear.

Cautiously the chaplain approached the men and spoke of their call to duty and the value of their sacrifice. The men were silent and downcast as he spoke. The chaplain then asked if any had a favorite hymn,  if any had a poem,  or perhaps a letter from home. He asked if anyone had a word.

One soldier broke the silence and said…
”Chap., maybe you need to tell all these men how to meet God!”

What a moment of clarity.
Sometimes the obvious…is not so obvious to some!

Mortality has a way of 
peeling back the facade and 
revealing what matters most
in life and death.

Spiritual blindness is no respecter of persons.  You would be surprised by those affected. At times, even clergy. This makes the message and passion for the gospel ever so urgent. Today's blindness to the basic message of reconciliation and redemption is mostly the sad result of political correctness, elitism, and intellectualism.

2 Corinthians 4 talks about… “the enemy blinding the eyes of some, lest the light of the glorious gospel should shine on them.”

I encounter more and more people everyday who are searching for hope, hungry for the bread of life, and thirsty for everlasting water. Let us remember not only in whom we trust but may we share in gentleness the testimony of our hope.

“This is the testimony in essence: God gave us eternal life; the life is in his Son. So, whoever has the Son, has life; “  1 John 5:11  (Message)




Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What is the Plan...?

There's a saying that if you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans
Whenever you work on the international mission field there is a
consistent word of advice you hear over and again: be flexible, plans change!
The healthy perspective for you and me is to approach every day with
this:
         God, I don't know where you're going today
         but I'm going with you.

Abraham and His brother Lot parted company because their traveling
families had become too large to coexist.

Abraham said to Lot, "We need to split up. If you go left I'll go
right, if you go right I'll go left."

To the left were the plains of Sodom and Gommorah. Consequently,
Lot chose left and his life was ruined!

What if Lot had chosen right? That would have placed Abraham in the
cesspool of Sodom. Would Abraham have experienced the same fate as his
brother?
Not likely.
Why?
Because Abraham, as a child of God, had surrendered his to life
to following GODS plan. Wherever and whatever life threw at him!

The decision on which way to go is not one you make at that time....its one you make NOW!

This had to be tough.
Following God isn't for cowards.
There's not a one of us that doesn't stutter step when the unplanned
and unexpected happens.

God doesn't take your plans and make them come true, He takes your
heart and willingness to follow Him...promising that He will provide
for you at every turn.

Jeremiah 29:11 (The Message)
I know what I'm doing. I have it all planned out—plans to take care
of you, not abandon you, plans to give you the future you hope for.

God is not impressed with our plans, goals, or accomplishments. He
wants your faith in this: He is working all things for you...and His
good purpose.


Like Abraham, be determined that wherever you are, you are HIS and HE is yours.
What God ask of you is, Trust....Believe...Surrender.

1 Peter 4:12 (The Message)
Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion
that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very
thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining
process, with glory just around the corner.


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Saturday, October 23, 2010

Through The FIRE

"Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, did not hesitate. The fiery furnace
was in their future. They didn't presume to understand why or how
God could use this experience for His purposes but they were determined to be faithful. Their response to the king was, "Our God will save us from the fire, if not here, then in glory."

It wasn't until they were cast into the blazing furnace that the image of the fourth man appeared, the presence of Christ was there!

God may have the fiery furnace set before you, but take courage. It
is when you are in the fire that the 4th man appears. God will use this for good!"


I knew God wanted me to share this Old Testament story. The soldier for whom
God had chosen this message was a patient of mine. After speaking
to him about these things I wasn't sure how much of it he would
remember. His medical situation had left him discouraged and hollow.

The following day I stopped in to check on his condition  and
see if he remembered our little talk the day before.

He leaped to his feet when I entered. He wanted us to go out and sit in
the activity room. Observing his stride and demeanor it was evident something had
changed.

We sat down and he quickly began to tell me about how God spoke to
him in the night.

"...you know Shadrach , Meshach, and Abednego? They were thrown into the
fiery furnace...." He retold the OT account to the last detail.

"Chaplain, it was not until they were thrown in the fire that you
could see the 4th man. God has a purpose for me in all this. Nothing is lost".

WOW, another God moment. I listened to him with affirmation and
approval. It took all my strength to not reveal the broad internal
grin I was wearing.

On a scale of 1-10, he was about a 12. His enthusiasm for his future
was...zealous. Not only was he confident that God was able to use this
adversity, he welcomed it.

The goal of a child of God is for Gods word to be gladly received in
the hearts of hearers. You and I must decrease and HE must increase.
My assurance from this young man was that he remembered the message from the Holy Spirit.

God spoke to him through His living word.

A seed was sown. The wind blew it. Not knowing from whence it came.
Healing rain watered it. The sun of righteousness fed it...it took
root... and began to grow.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hello Mr. K

"Hello Mr. K, I'm chaplain Thomas. Your doctor asked me to come by.
You asked for communion and anointing oil?"

"Yes. Come in. Come in.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise him all creatures here
below. Praise him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son, and Holy
Ghost."

"Oh my," I thought to myself. "I've caught me a live one here."

I shook Mr. K's hand and pulled up a chair to chat with him for a few
minutes. After his opening invocation, my interest was peaked.

He asked about my ministry as a chaplain and I shared a brief outline
of the work. I asked him to share about his life, work, family, and
service. Mr. K. was warm and delightful. With every detail of his life
history he would quote some applicable verse.

The joy of the lord was radiant in his life. As he moved from his
boyhood to marriage and so forth he spoke of Gods intervention at
every turn.

"My wife of 65 years went home to be with the lord last year. But
chaplain, we are not like those who have no hope! She cannot come to
me, but praise God I can go to her!"

His voice and smile were infectious. Mr. K drew me into his stories.
As he quoted scripture, I would to cite the reference. We began to
feed off each others spiritual walk with Christ.

Slowly it seemed like the spirit was catching up with me, or I with
Him.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

DAILY Victory

1 Corinthians 15:57 (Message)
But now in a single victorious stroke of Life, all three—sin, guilt, death—are gone, the gift of our Master, Jesus Christ. Thank God!

In NCAA football, Alabama reigned number one for weeks until  they met number 12 Carolina. As a friend put it, they didn't just win, they beat them!
Consequently, when the South Carolina Gamecocks rolled into UK Wildcats territory Saturday I'm sure that most were thinking it would be a walk in the park. But it wasn't. It was a huge upset.
Past victory doesn't insure you any victory today.

In our spiritual lives its much the same way.  It doesn't matter what we did yesterday, last week, or last year. What matters is what were doing now.   Today.   Right this moment.
Victorious living is a daily achievement. Sin, defeat, and failure lurk in every crevice of our lives. Our Lord conquered our defeat and through Him, triumph awaits us. 

For a child of God our victory is found in Christ daily. It's the same principle applied by those recovering from addictions. Their daily refrain is "not today", "dear God help me to stay clean...today". Day by day their victory is realized. Not by their own strength is it achieved but in relying daily on a ...helper. That help for the believer is in our Savior Jesus Christ.

1 John 5:4
Every God-begotten person conquers the world's ways. The conquering
power that brings the world to its knees is our faith. The person who
wins out over the world's ways is simply the one who believes Jesus is
the Son of God.

Prayer:   Dear heavenly father, help me find victory TODAY through
Jesus Christ my Lord. Show me your grace and strengthen me by your
power. In Christ name, Amen

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Distance Between Heaven and Hell

There were two other men crucified with Jesus on that day.

Both were sinners
Neither were baptized
Both were condemned
Neither had good works

One of them cursed Jesus. The other cried for mercy.

One said remember me when you come into your kingdom. The other made
fun and mocked Him.

One believed in Him as the Christ. The other denied Him.

One feared God. The other said He saved others let Him save himself
and us.

The difference...?

One went to heaven for all eternity. The other spent an eternity
separated from God in hell.

Which one are you?

Isaiah 45:22
Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am
God, and there is none else.

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Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Man in 214

Cursing... bellowing out expletives... objecting to the very notion that he needed a chaplain.

"I don't want to talk to you, I just want to lay here and rest."  I'm fine, just leave me alone".

Cursing as I left the room.

I was irritated by his rejection but not too much. It wasn't the first time I've been asked to leave. Thoughts of him didn't enter my mind again until early the next day

The following morning I met with Dr. D and we were discussing several patients.

"I'd like for you to go by and visit Mr. C. in room 214.  He has a psa of over 200. Normal is 4. A psa that elevated indicates a rapid growing cancer of the pancreas.  The medical team met with him this morning. He doesn't have very long."

The moment he mentioned the name I new it was the patient that practically threw me out the day before. I left the doctors office and headed toward the room. When I arrived, I found myself hesitating before going in. Next thing I new I was walking in circles in the hallway plotting my course of action. When my heart and mind finally linked together I headed toward room 214.

What do you say to someone who is dying with only days left.  An alcoholic wracked with cancer and an anger toward life, God, and anyone that represents either.

I entered his room and gently spoke rousing him from sleep. The moment he saw me, he started again with his irritation.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

What are we waiting for ?

James 4:14 (NASB)
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are
just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Touring across the state on a road bicycle allows you to see plenty of
amazing sights.

I was pushing my pedals trying to make it up a 12% grade when I passed
a road marker that I'll never forget.
The road name was "life road". My mind raced with all the symbolism and metaphors of "traveling down life's road".
No sooner than when I had that processed in my head and thinking of who gave the road such an interesting name, I rode past the next country lane.
The name of that road was..."life cut off".

Some county road engineer was really enjoying themselves. The idea of
naming two county roads, life road, and life cut off, is genius. Those two street signs in east TN are still making people think!

It's difficult to imagine our lives like a mist or vapor. The fog that rolled off the Cumberland this morning around 6:30 am was thick and looked permanent, but when I made my way home this afternoon....it was all gone.

In the big picture, the sum of our days are brief.

The book of Job says "...teach us to number our days." Our lives can quickly become wasted on meaningless and trivial things. I say quickly because before you realize it anger, bitterness, stress, partying, and so on can be what defines us rather than a full and meaningful life.

In Christ we can know abundant life, joy unspeakable, and a peace that
passes understanding.

Life's short, quickly cut off, spend every moment in the fullness of Gods favor!

Knowing your place in eternity helps us to redeem the time and know
the purpose God has for us here.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Burning Fire In My Bones (msg)

2 Corinthians 5 (Message)
1-5 For instance, we know that when these bodies of ours are taken
down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection
bodies in heaven—God-made, not handmade—and we'll never have to
relocate our "tents" again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move—and
so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what's coming, living
conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack,
and we're tired of it! We've been given a glimpse of the real thing,
our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our
appetite by giving us a taste of what's ahead. He puts a little of
heaven in our hearts so that we'll never settle for less.

I'm falling in love with the message translation. It tackles this rather muddled KJV scripture and
puts it in beautiful language. However, when a patient of mine passed
today, In prayer, I quoted the old text to the best of my recollection and it
rang clear in the hearts of the family.

..."Heavenly Father, as long as we're at home in this body, we long to
be clothed in our heavenly garments. We live in our earthly tent but
today Mr. S has come into his heavenly home. Home... is the place we
sometimes get to go, or have to go, or want to go. Today Mr. S gets to
go...and we rejoice with him... and the heavenly host....today, he is home."


There aren't enough words to express when a loved one dies. But when
we look to his word, we find the perfect expression and timely response to equal the
feelings that are present.

I make no apology for applying God's word in my counsel.

Monday, October 4, 2010

...I got this !

Can you imagine the LORD saying that ? I can. It has a familiar ring
to it. Sounds like something a close friend might say or a co-worker.
My brother says this to me all the time.

We had our first annual Thomas reunion a couple of weeks ago. My
doting brother said to me a few times, "...I got this".
I can see his little smirk, "...go on John Mark, I got this".
He likes to push me out of the way and take charge.
He's always been a brute. :)

When it comes to serving the Lord, it's nice to have a big brother.
Scripture says that Christ sticks closer than a brother. Cast your
cares upon the Lord for he cares for you as it says in 1 Peter.
I can fancy my heavenly Father saying to me "I got this..."

Isn't it wonderful to know that he wants to carry our burdens? He
wants to lift our load. He has the power to handle it all.

When he says I got this...
there's no doubt...HE'S GOT IT!

My goal for this week...quit trying to carry it all ! Learn to ask
for Gods help. Expect Him to take charge, nudge me aside and say with
a grin "hey John Mark, I got this"

Psalm 55:22 (The Message)
Pile your troubles on God's shoulders—
he'll carry your load, he'll help you out.
He'll never let good people
topple into ruin.


Now that's good stuff !!!
Set goals for yourself. Learn to call upon the one that takes delight
in doting over you. See if he doesn't lift your load, lighten your
day, and brighten the path.

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Friday, October 1, 2010

Universal Language

Colossians 3:12 (The Message)
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God
picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength,
discipline.

Kindness can be the most precious gift you can bestow on others. It's free...but
priceless. It's easy...but dynamic.

Kindness shouldn't be rare or seldom seen. It's like a smile, how
difficult is that? This simple fruit of the spirit has been underrated.
Kindness can do more for the kingdom of God than 10 thousand sermons.
Simple acts of goodness.

Cruelty, harassment, and
rudeness are facts of life for so many.
Kindness can take many shapes.
A smile, a warm hello, gestures of
goodness, listening with patience,
opening a door, the opportunities
are endless.

It takes very little effort but the benefits are huge. One of them is
the deep sense of pleasure and satisfaction that you get in return
from knowing that you did not fail your neighbor in offering to them a
small piece of yourself. The piece they received was warm,
thoughtful, considerate, and delightful.

As we ramble through the streets and lanes of life remember that
kindness can be the light that guides wanderers through the smoke of
everyday living. They may never know your name or remember your face,
but they will never forget how you made them feel...special.

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