you really believe that

Below is an excerpt from a book I’m working on about my struggle with doubt during the search for truth and a reasonable defense of the Christian faith. One single question changed the course of my life, and all for the better. 

“What do you think happens when we die?” Karry asked.

It was 10 years since our first kiss on the seawall in Iwakuni, and we would celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary in June. This was one of our first serious conversations about death. When she asked this question one night in our one-bedroom condo, I was politely dismissive.

“I don’t know. Nothing? Blackness?”

I don’t remember what magazine I put aside to ponder her question. It may have been a copy of Scientific American. I liked the precision and discovery of science—the rationality of it all. It may have been a study guide for my upcoming carrier qualification. Something was different that night. Her approach combining concern and patience was by the Book.

“You really believe that?” she gently responded.

Her eyes longed for a husband who would take her Christian faith seriously. I sensed disappointment—even a bit of pity—as she shifted back onto her pillow. She was raised in a Christian family, but I didn’t grow up going to church. With those four words, she made me feel something unusual. It was a feeling she would never intentionally arouse but resulted from my unpreparedness to answer her simple question. I felt…stupid.

I could not tell her what I believed because I had never given it any serious consideration. I thought religion was the opiate of the masses and the cause of most world conflicts. Religion was for little old ladies with their hymnals and people too dumb to realize Darwin killed God, virgins don’t have babies, and dead people stay dead.

That night, I realized that I had no justification for my presuppositions other than “someone once said” or “that’s what I was taught in school.” Surely, our country’s public school system must afford equal time and instruction to all possible models for understanding the creation of the universe and the appearance of first life, right? If this God stuff is not even allowed to be taught in public school, doesn’t that mean it is heinously flawed and ridiculously naive? That is how I thought back then.

For some reason, instead of the obligatory thirty seconds normally given to these seemingly unanswerable questions, I pondered the fate of my soul. Up to that point, my views were passively atheistic and naturalistic, and the word “soul” would have meant some unknowable thing mostly religious people talk about. I thought of our first-born son, then 15-months-old, and his baby sister who was due in the summer. What would I teach them when they ask what happens after death? “Blackness” was an unsatisfying answer resulting from twenty-six years of spiritual apathy.

I came to a disconcerting realization: I was unprepared to give my children meaningful answers to life’s important questions. This was not my first suspicion of being a father somewhat unprepared. There was already a gnawing notion that although I was already a dad, I lacked something fathers should have. I could not nail it down but thought about it often. Maybe I haven’t read enough books. My intuition was eventually validated, but the problem was not the quantity of reading, it was the subject.

This book includes sections on making a Marine, Christian mores and cultural issues, and seeking peace, waging war, and defending the faith. The draft is done, but I’m looking for help to see it through to completion. If you would like to be involved in this writing project, contact me here. Would you like to see more? Let me know. 

Photo credit: Ansel Edwards Photography / Foter / CC BY

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e-book far better men

Click the image above to receive your free e-book!

I am excited to inform you of the release of my new e-book Far Better Men. Men today are struggling.  We want to be better men, but it’s not always easy. How do we become the men we are supposed to be?

I answer this question with help from legendary Marine Corps Commandant and Major General General John A. Lejeune who wrote about the proper relations between officers and men in 1920:

e-book far better men“These men are in the formative period of their lives and officers owe it to them, to their parents, and to the Nation, that when discharged from the service they should be far better men physically, mentally, and morally than they were when they enlisted.

Based on this excerpt from an old Marine Corps order, this short book provides four crucial requirements for men to grow and fulfill their obligations as leaders, husbands, and fathers. If you want to know how to be a man, what better guidance can you receive than from a legendary leader of Marines?

But Far Better Men is not just for men. While the illustrations are addressed to men, the principles apply to women as well. General Lejeune is taking about more than being a better man; he’s talking about being a better person.

General Lejeune uses a familiar framework on which to build his guidance for making better men:

Body, mind, and spirit.

From the General’s guidance, I’ve extracted four crucial requirements for becoming better men, better Marines, and better people.

I am offering this e-book as a free gift for becoming an e-mail subscriber to FIGHTER FAITH, where you can choose to receive e-mails as little as once a month. In addition to receiving this free digital content, you’ll be sure to receive all the latest briefs on leadership, parenthood, and worldview development.

e-book far better men

Click to subscribe and receive your free e-book!

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from the Marines and share the General’s wisdom with others.

Click here to sign up and receive your free digital download of Far Better Men.

new age

Spiritual seekers never imagine they are embracing darkness while chasing the light of the New Age movement. The seeds of New Age thought, carried from Russia to America by trickster Madame Helena P. Blavatsky in the late 19th century, blossomed in the ’70s, grew out of control in the ’90s, and continues to permeate Western culture today.

For many Americans, the month of October conjures images of falling leaves, pumpkin patches, and hoards of trick-or-treaters. Many celebrate Halloween as nothing more than a tradition of costume and candy, but it is worth considering if there is anything behind the forces mocked on All Hallows’ Eve.

A more detailed discussion on whether or not Christians should celebrate Halloween can be found here.

Halloween is a time when the occult is thrust into the spotlight of mainstream America. In Kingdom of the Occult, Walter Martin provides a few facts about the occult:

  • The word occult comes form the Latin word occultus, meaning hidden or secret things
  • God defines the occult as having its origin with Satan
  • Occultism often denies the deity of Christ, but it may also promote a blend of Christian and occult beliefs¹

Young children will wonder whether the ghoulish garb worn by neighborhood strangers reflects something real–something more sinister than a handful of candy corn. Older kids will consult Ouija boards and pretend not to be scared when a message appears. Others may dabble in spells, magic, or channeling.

It may be true that these activities are not what they seem, that the participants are being deceived, and that engaging in these activities should be avoided.

But it may also be true that there is something real behind the phenomena. The spirit world may not exist as you have seen it caricatured, but that does not make it unreal. In fact, if spirits exists, and evil exists, then there is every reason to believe that evil spirits exist. And what greater joy can fill an evil spirit than to convince humanity they are a force working for good? On a night full of treats, it is the ultimate trick.

But adults trade treats for tricks as often as children.

In Embraced by the Darkness: Exposing New Age Theology from the Inside Out, author Brad Scott describes his journey from Yogi to disciple after weathering the storms of an unsustainable worldview. Martin describes the beginning of the New Age movement by explaining it as:

“A strange blend of nineteenth century Spiritism, mysticism, and humanism…with an ancient goal: the penetration of all areas of culture–political, educational, and religious–with man at the center of the universe.”²

In his chapter titled One God to Fit All Sizes, Scott describes the psychology behind the New Ager’s adherence to Edgar Cayce’s philosophy that we are all co-creators with God:

“New Agers may often wax eloquent about the Higher Self, but they almost always return to qualified monism [the philosophy that "all is one"], and for good reason. They want to remain separate from God, not because they are devotees intent on worshiping God as the yoga-Vedantins seems to be, but because they literally want to be co-creators with God. They want, above all else, occult power, success, fame, wealth–in short, the good life. By remaining separate from God, they can follow and fulfill their own desires and disregard the commandments of God.”³ (brackets mine)

Scott explains further in the paragraphs titled “God the limitless, All-powerful Mind-Substance:”

They are more likely to identify with Shirley MacLaine, L. Ron Hubbard, or Anthony Robbins. They are more likely to want new clothes or cars, personal magnetism, psychic abilities, perfect health, or simple peace of mind. As a rule, then, they leave the theologizing to someone else. They want results.”4

Scott concludes the chapter with a concise description of the worldview as one which welcomes inconsistencies and exalts Self above all objective authority.

In New Age Politics: Healing Self and Society, author Mark Satin describes the movement as an escape from society’s six-sided prison whose boundaries were formed by:

  1. Patriarchal attitudes
  2. Egocentricity
  3. Scientific single-vision
  4. The bureaucratic mentality
  5. Nationalism
  6. The big city outlook 5

The intentions of most New Agers are good, but the implications of their worldview, and hence the prospect of their promises fulfilled, is bad.

Despite their self-awareness and power purchased from Reiki Masters, despite the openness to experience and intuition and esoteric phenomena–one thing keeps the New Age worldview in tension with its own proclamations: its prejudice against orthodox Christianity. In New Age circles, dogma is a dirty word, and while they fail to see their own, they are quick to condemn that of orthodox Christianity.

Christianity also promotes self-awareness. But when the New Ager becomes aware of their sin, the guilt is too much to bear. There are several ways to deal with guilt:

  • Admit your wrongdoing and seek forgiveness from the one whom you have violated.
  • Deny your wrongdoing and live a life of deceit.
  • Find a worldview which says there are no wrong actions and denounce guilt as the byproduct of ignorance.

Door number three is irresistibly accepted by the New Age worldview. Scott unpacks more about New Age thought:

 “New Agers refuse to reason inductively (from a specific examples to general principles) or deductively (from general principles to specific examples). If something feels right, they embrace it. Hence, they are anti-rational and subjectivistic. In fact, in the worst sense of the term, they are dogmatic–that is, stubbornly closed-minded. They insist on the reality and absolute authority of their own private insights and visions, even when these contradict reason, common sense, and reality. When confronted with well-reasoned arguments and proofs, they smile benignly yet condescendingly.”6

In 1 Timothy 4:2, the apostle Paul tell us that it is possible for the conscience to be seared. Scott explains how the New Age mind can become unreceptive to God’s truth in his chapter “Snapshots of the Sun: The Relativity of Truth:”

“In his quest for self-fulfillment, then armed with glib rationalizations, he will violate hitherto inviolable moral laws and excuse the sins of others. In so doing, he will sear his conscience and lose the capacity to examine himself in light of God’s laws and repent of his moral lapses, all in the name of ‘spiritual evolution’ and ‘social progress.’ And all the while he will exult in his independence and inconsistency.”7

Be assured: New Age thought is more than crystals and tarot cards. It is a worldview fueled with power. It has the power to deceive well-meaning people, to destroy relationships, and to divide homes. Its power does not come from God, or the All-That-Is, or the Christ-Consciousness.

In the Book of Leviticus, God warned his people not to prostitute themselves with mediums or spirits. Instead, he called them to be holy, or set apart from those enslaved to evil enticements. God condemned occult practices including divination, fortune-telling, sorcery, and spell casting in Deuteronomy 18:10-11. And in 1 Chronicles 10:13, God explains that “Saul died for his unfaithfulness to the Lord because he did not keep the Lord’s word. He even consulted a medium for guidance, but he did not inquire of the Lord” (HCSB).

It is best to remember the wisdom contained in Proverbs 14:12:

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

New Age thought promises light, power, and healing; it promises a better you.

New Age philosophy can seem right, but its end is the way of death–first of reason, then of conscience, and, eventually, the soul.

Have you been ensnared by the lures of New Age thought? Does the sunk cost make you feel it’s impossible to escape? It’s never too late to search for the truth, and you can never be a Christ-like healer if you will not hear the words of Christ.

If you are reading this, he is speaking to you. Are you listening?

1 Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Occult (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), Kindle ed., 175.
2 Ibid., 189.
3 Brad Scott, Embraced by the Darkness: Exposing New Age Theology from the Inside Out (Wheaton: Crossway, 1996), 60.
4 Ibid.
5 Mark Satin, New Age Politics: Healing Self and Society (New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1979), 23.
Scott, Embraced by the Darkness, 100.
7 Ibid., 20.

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Photo credit: CarbonNYC / Foter / CC BY

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

chesty puller

For Marines, the Crucible is both a test and a way of life. This test of courage and strength begins at basic training, extends into combat, and often continues after their service is complete. This ballad describes one small part of the Crucible and is dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces who have strengthened the bonds of brotherhood through suffering at the Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ) at Marine Corps Air Station, Yuma. 

Well they’re sendin’ me down to Yuma
They gonna train me up for war
I ain’t sure what to bring to that Jarhead base
I ain’t never been before

So I called on down to the housin’ place to find out
Where I’d lay my head
And a sweet little thing named Betty picked up
And a this is what she said

“Well I’m glad you called, young man,” she said
“I’d love to tell ya what I’ve got
It’s called a BOQ and I’m tellin’ you
You’re gonna like this place a lot

“It’s got wall-to-wall nice carpet
And beds made for a king
Uncle Sam didn’t pinch no pennies on the lowest bidder
When he built this thing

“We can’t have ya’ll gettin’ lonely
When your home’s so far away
So we double ya up and let ya share a head
For the duration of your stay

“You’re gonna like our toilet paper
It’s the best you’re gonna find
It’s got five ply holdin’ her together just to keep it from a
Tearin’ on yer behind

“Now there ain’t no need to check this crackin’ paint
I’m sure it’s lead
If it gets too much, just give it a lick
In three days you’re surely dead”

I thanked Ms. Betty for all her help
Not sure what quite to think
Of her point of view that this BOQ’s
Like armor w’thout a chink

Well I went on into that barracks room
Expectin’ a real fine stay
But when I opened the door my jaw hit the floor
At the state of disarray

That king-size bed went AWOL
And left a kid-sized in its place
And the broke AC left sweat dripping off
My flabbergasted face

The carpet looked a hundred years
And dirtier than sin
And that 5-ply paper was a missin’ 4
I never seen somethin’ so thin

I was just about to call Ms. Betty back
When a lump formed in my throat
‘Cause near a chest of drawers, hidden on the floor
Was a note that Chesty wrote

It said, “Betty, you’re a sweetheart
And this place could be a ten
With a couple a tweaks and a few short weeks
She’ll be ready for my men

“First take out all this carpet
And put in somethin’ rough
And a nice thick layer a dirt beneath
The beds will keep ‘em tough

“You can take out all these king-size beds
We’ll trade ‘em for a cot
Or at least a bed smaller than the average Joe
And as comfortable as rocks

“You’ll need to stop blowin’ in this cold air
It’s gonna make ‘em sick
And the heads just keep on a cloggin’ up
‘Cause the TP’s way too thick

“We ain’t got much time to watch TV
You can trash all these remotes
Between you and me, it’s just more PT
When they get up to change the show

“And take down all these fancy lamps
All I need is some flickerin’ white
I don’t need no light in the closet space
We’re gonna execute at night

“But I love whatchya done with this place, ‘ol girl
The Marines should have it rough
And when they start to whine, tell ‘em ’bout the time
Chesty Puller said it’s enough.

“Well I’m rackin’ out
I gotta hit the training’ field at zero-five
You’re a real swell girl, Ms. Betty
God bless this place, and Semper Fi”

I put down Chesty’s letter
With eyes amazed at what they’d seen
I knew there had to be a reason for the
Way that things have been

But now I know better and beyond a doubt
About the Yuma BOQ
Why it’s always been hell for me to stay
And it’s gonna be hell for you

In The Gift of Valor, author Michael M. Phillips describes how Marines are “weaned on the Corps’ theology in which glory derives from suffering…” Thank you, Chesty, for teaching us this from an early age, and every time we are TAD to Yuma.

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IMG_1090.JPG
The one remarkable thing about fighter jets has nothing to do with its capabilities. For the most part, fighter jets are unremarkable.

Fighter jets go incredibly fast and fly extremely high. They fly at supersonic airspeeds in three dimensions while detecting, tracking, and guiding weapons toward other aircraft miles away. They withstand G forces several times the force of gravity while maneuvering via digital control systems and redundant flight control computers. But that is not what’s remarkable about a fighter jets.

Fighter jets process vast amounts of information. They carry a host of sensors designed to be fully integrated with displays, targeting systems, and communications suites. Fighter jets conduct airborne refueling, maneuver at high speeds at low altitude in the dark of night, and land on the pitching decks of an aircraft carriers on the high seas. But we have yet to reach remarkable.

Fighter jet software is filled with code. Thousands and thousands (and thousands) of lines of code. And it works (usually). Still, that is not what makes fighter jets remarkable.

The one remarkable thing about fighter jets are the minds behind the machines.

Unharnessed internal combustion is a waste of energy, an airfoil cannot lift without the proper placement and design, and airspeed is useless without direction and intention.

Radars do not spontaneously pop into existence out of nothing from nothing because gravity exists (sorry Dr. Hawking). A missile cannot be fired without a human decision to launch. And even if unmanned aerial vehicles contained software to make launch decisions, the software requires design by: the human mind.

Sensors are useless without human interpretation. The code in a fighter jet’s mission computers is nothing but random ones and zeroes if not sequenced properly. Artisans, engineers, and mechanics integrate rivet, wire, and steel to form a weapons platform from which pilots pit their mind against another’s. The only thing remarkable about a fighter jet are the minds behind the manufacturing.

What could possibly be more remarkable than the human mind?

  • the mind from whom humanity sprang forth out of nothing
  • the mind owning all the necessary attributes required to be the creator of all thing material existing in time (immaterial, timeless, powerful)
  • the mind with the intelligence required for the apparent design in the universe

Your plan may be to deconstruct the miracle of the mind to nothing more than random fortune, but as they say in the Marines, no plan survives first contact.

When your plan falls apart, you may look up to find contact not with an enemy, but a friend. And what a friend we have in Jesus. He’s not wearing sandals and petting a lamb–he’s shouting into your life with authority and truth. He’s calling you out to take a single step in the direction of faith. He’s asking you to put him on and try him out. The psalmist encourages us:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed is the man who takes refuge in him” (NIV, Psalm 38:4).

The deeper we delve into the human body, the more it resembles a machine brimming with design. The human machine is impressive and filled with potential. But like a mind is required to pilot a fighter jet, our bodies can do nothing apart from Jesus Christ, the one in whom “all things hold together” (NIV, Col 1:17).

The human mind is worth more than the machines it can build, but the worth-ship of the mind of God–the uncaused cause and creator of all things–is immeasurable.

Photo Credit: Michael Thorn, PD / http://www.marines.mil/Photos.aspx?igphoto=2000761963

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willing to believe

When I was child, my father found a clever way to make me comb my hair. He told me that if I didn’t, it would turn green.

I believed him.

I worried about my hair, wondering if my furious combing was keeping the green strands at bay. Eventually, I questioned my belief in neglect-based hair coloration. It turns out the claim was false.

I was willing to believe in green hair because I failed to consider whether or not the claim was true. My misguided belief was caused by my father’s humorous method to handle my stubbornness, and in the end it cost me very little. A child’s willingness to believe their parents is a virtue, and the parent’s job is to keep the child safe and teach them what is true.

Children are willing to believe because they embrace the wonder of the world. The glimmer in their eye reflects a knowledge that the world they have mostly undiscovered is extraordinary.

Becoming more childlike is beneficial in many ways.

When Jesus’s disciples asked who will be the greatest in Heaven, Jesus responded: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (NIV, Matthew 18:3-4). We are supposed to retain the humility we had as children–when we knew enough to know we didn’t know everything.

Questioning truth claims is essential for developing a healthy worldview, but it should not begin at age two! I have seen this happen, and it makes for difficult times.

A child’s belief involves a humbling dependency, a pure heart, and a trusting way. Children believe because they love their father, and they know of their father’s love for them.

As some grow older, the glimmer fades. The universe and everything in it is given a rational, natural explanation. Nothing is amazing, and the wonder is gone. The once-bewildered child bemoans the death of his dreams and the source of his hope. He is willing to believe what he is taught because he fails to give it further thought. But it does not have to end this way.

We cannot help but to believe in something. Even those who believe there are no beliefs cannot avoid their own contradiction–belief is an inescapable part of our humanity.

Many are familiar with doubting apostle Thomas, to whom Jesus responded, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed” (NIV, John 20:29).

Are you willing to believe in something you have not seen?

Jesus taught us about our father in Heaven and what it truly means to love. It is because of his word that we love our Father, and we know of the Father’s love for us. His truth has stood the test of time, and his word can never broken. The world has been restored. Man has been redeemed. Those who don’t believe do so not because they can’t, but because they won’t.

The universe can be filled with wonder once again. That is, if you are willing to believe.

Photo credit: Hubble Heritage / Foter / CC BY-SA

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cannot be unseen

Some things cannot be unseen. Some of the best advice you can receive about the internet is not to click. This is especially wise when faced with the lure of sensational videos surrounding tragic events.

    • Warning! Graphic video

We are curious beings, and it’s tempting to click and see.

But some things cannot be unseen.

That Which Cannot Be Unseen

      • This media contains disturbing images

Read the article. Formulate a passionate response. Take action. But before you click and watch, ask yourself whether you really want to share a moment of barbarism with the figure on the film.

I have clicked before, and I have seen. And I wish I could un-see.

Life presents us with enough opportunities to witness human depravity. Media with shock-value is released for click-value. Horrific acts intended to terrorize leave us sick and burning with desire for justice. Some images demand a response, and after seeing some things you will never be the same.

He Who Cannot Be Unseen

Cowardly expressions of hatred certainly make lasting impressions, but they are not the only things which cannot be unseen.

In the age where no one has legitimacy and everyone claims authority, where facts are challenged and history is re-written, people are starving for the one thing an app cannot provide: truth.

We are bombarded with commentary colored by the experiences and presuppositions of the speakers. Without a filter to screen bad information, you could soon find yourself in front of a camera committing atrocities in the name of bad religion while encouraging others to join your unholy crusade.

Just as a moment of shock follows the witness of atrocity, it also follows the realization that truth is found not in a thing, but in a person.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the light.” Jesus knew his revelation would be seen as blasphemous, and he knew the consequences.

The life of Jesus of Nazareth demands a response. When you study his word, you not only see his life, you begin to know a person, and his truth becomes increasingly harder to un-see. Those who have seen the truth in Jesus Christ are changed forever.

Photo credit: John Steven Fernandez / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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honor clean

Photo by LCpl Dan Hoasck

First to fight for rights and freedom / And to keep our honor clean…

These two phrases precede the final line of one of America’s most cherished anthems: the Marine Corps Hymn. Marines have earned their title, and they are proud to claim it.

Winning Our Nation’s Battles

Young men and women in the prime of their lives raise their hands to swear an oath of allegiance to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.

Marines are officers and gentlemen. They are the nation’s finest. They are the few, and the proud. They strive daily to uphold the Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment, so help them God.

But it’s not easy staying clean in a dirty world. The uniforms are clean, but the mind is sometimes mired in Quigley-esque mud while ducking obstacles and avoiding snags on the obstacle course of life.

Marine are experts at fighting wars and winning battles. But the battles in the head and in the home can be as difficult as the fight overseas.

How do you maintain absolute honor in a world so heavily influenced by relativism?

Battling Relativism

Relativism is a concept with great utility. Einstein proved that matter, space, and time are co-relative, which has led to a lot of good. But relativism is not a universal truism. Relativism should not be a meta-narrative with which to explain everything that exists. Hitler’s application of social Darwinism was an outworking of moral relativism, which has led to a lot of evil.

How do you–and the Marines–navigate the murky waters of situational ethics, philosophical pluralism (the position that contradictory beliefs can be equally true), and political correctness?

In other words, how can Marines keep their honor absolutely clean in a world which denies absolutes?

The answer is to teach them that the rightness of their acts comes not only from their instant and willful obedience to orders, but exists intrinsically in the act itself. In other words, something is not right because someone says its right, or a culture decides it’s right. Rightness can only exist when there is an absolute standard of moral good from which to measure it. Take away the absolute moral standard, and you are back in Nazi Germany in 1944.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

These words from the Book of John reveal to us the absolute standard which has been in place from the beginning: the Word. The Word is the person of Jesus Christ, who was with God in the beginning. Through Jesus Christ was everything made.  In him is life, and he is the light of all mankind.

Keeping Our Honor Clean

There is no doubt: Marines will charge the gun position. Marines will storm the compound. Marines will complete the mission.

Marines should be responsible with alcohol. Marines should never compromise another’s moral purity. Marines should think of others before themselves. Failure in these areas releases a speck of dust to settle upon our honor, and we have sworn an oath to keep our honor clean.

Is it time to clean house?

Photo Credit: LCpl Dan Hoasck, PD, http://www.marines.com/photos/-/photo-library/detail/browse/973543

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growing in exit strategy

If we have learned anything about entering a conflict in the Middle East, it is the importance of having a sound exit strategy. But exit strategies have broad application and should not be confined to military studies. Planning an exit strategy is an important life skill.

Everyone understands what it means to grow up. From birth to adulthood, you are in a state of transition. Every part of your body grows. We see the physical changes, and we recognize developmental progress via language and behavior.

But eventually you stop growing up.

This is where you begin growing in.

Growing In

When you are in a transitory phase of life, you should develop an exit strategy. Let’s use the “irresponsible phase” for example. This phase begins at the age when you are expected to act responsibly, but don’t (18 months), and continues indefinitely (or until your parents stop enabling you).

Developing an exit strategy for the irresponsible phase requires two conditions be satisfied:

  • The irresponsible phase must be recognized
  • The next target phase must be identified

For this example, you may identify the “responsible phase” as your target. You can hope to remain in this phase until death, at which point either your meaningless life will cease, or your meaningful life will continue in eternity (depending on your worldview).

Three States

When you’re growing in, you are in one of three states:

  1. Stagnation
  2. Sliding backward
  3. Moving forward

Stagnation is where many people end up after they’ve stopped growing up. It’s coasting on life without thought or introspection. It’s going with what you’ve always known. It’s apathy. It’s a lack of vision and life without a plan.

Sliding backward is the state you fear. It’s giving in to temptation. It’s doing that thing one more time when you swore you’d never do again. It’s giving in and giving up.

When you recognize being in one of these two states, you must begin planning your exit strategy. Your goal is to begin moving forward. A catalyst can help with the transition. Maybe you’re newly married, or perhaps you’ve celebrated the birth of a child. Your life may be evolving into something even more wonderful than before.

But old habits and rituals may be weighing you down and stunting your growth. Your vices might be part of a phase of life meant to be outgrown. This is where it’s time to ask:

What am I growing in?

Growing In Christ

Christians have a peculiar phrase to describe spiritual growth: to be growing in Christ. To be in Christ means to be accepted into his family by accepting what he has done for you. He paid the price for the laws you have broken, for the evil in your mind, and the impurity in your heart.

Your actions deserve judgment. The verdict is guilty, and the sentence is death. But Christ paid the price in your place. To be in Christ is to know this, accept this, and to live a life of thanksgiving and praise. To be growing in Christ is to reap the rewards of a life infused with humility, where the ever-increasing light of God chases demons from the shadows of your heart.

To be growing in Christ is to move forward towards an ending with unparalleled significance, ultimate justice, and unending love.

What are you growing in?

Photo credit: Toffee Maky / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Military religious freedom

WARNING! Sarcasm ahead.

Military religious freedom is being threatened by a book. In the drawer of hotel room at an undisclosed military installation, something sinister lurks in the darkness under a film of dust. This abomination, frequently referenced by Dominionist fundamentalist Christian supremacy religious extremist predators, has been placed in countless hotel rooms on hundreds of military bases and is violating the rights of service members.

This unconscionable artifact, which stands in blatant violation of the magnificent Establishment Clause of our beloved Constitution, lay deceptively dormant in dresser drawers waiting to be referenced by hate-filled militant crusaders on the barbaric Religious Right in times of need. This voluminous collection of biased and slanted text is placed in each drawer by an organization with an unmatched reputation for advertising their product and thereby threatening military religious freedom.

Monstrous, coercive commanders direct their subordinates to this book when they’re looking for something more and need help, and the tormented soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, have no choice but to accept the radical personal violation of their military religious freedom forced upon them by their abusive prosyletizing warrior activist bigoted seniors. This cancerous witnessing by coercive spiritual terrorists in positions of power has a unified message of intolerance and is nothing short of spiritual rape: call upon these names and all your questions will be answered. What an incredible violation of military religious freedom.

It’s perfectly obvious which book I’m talking about. It’s a wonder it has remained on military bases for this long. The military must remain neutral on all things religious, all the way, all the time, all the deal.

All the deal? Whatever.

The existence of anything have anything having to do with anything religious must not–legally cannot–be allowed to exist in temporary lodging facility rooms on a military installation, base Chapel premises, the possession of military service members on or off base, or in the mind of any person who is currently or has ever been a member of the armed forces.

Or knows someone like that.

We must be unified to protect our precious service members’ military religious freedom from the unrelenting Bible-thumping orders-violating liberty-crushing hate-mongers who refuse to remove this un-neutral religious text from our Constitutionally mandated secular military facilities.

This text must be removed.

How long will these phone books be allowed to violate the Constitution?

There’s an entire section on churches in there. My fellow Americans, this is an outrage. The existence of a church, a Christian church–a religious organization–listed in these phonebooks constitutes government endorsement of Christianity. Where’s the endorsement of all the non-churches? Friends, that is not neutral. That’s bigoted fundamentalist Dominionist Christian supremacy terrorism. And it’s hurting your service members.

I represent ten people who are outraged and emotionally traumatized by the continued existence of this defiant religious evangelism. But with your help, we can beat it.

Let’s get some signatures or something. Then we can tell someone about this important issue affecting our troops. This is my war. Hear me roar.

Those other wars can wait.

The above post is riduculous, but others are writing columns with a similar tone in earnest. Pray these activist hearts would be softened and their eyes would be opened to the goodness which comes from the other book in the dresser drawer. 

Inspired by “U.S. Navy Removes Bibles from All Hotel Rooms after Atheist Group Filed Complaint”

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