Devotionals

Sitting in his wheelchair at a senior citizens home in Belize, a man joyfully listened as a group of American high school teenagers sang about Jesus. Later, as some of the teens tried to communicate with him, they discovered he couldn’t talk. A stroke had robbed him of his ability to speak.

Since they couldn’t carry on a conversation with the man, the teens decided to sing to him. As they began to sing, something amazing happened. The man who couldn’t talk began to sing. With enthusiasm, he belted out “How Great Thou Art” right along with his new friends.

It was a remarkable moment for everyone. This man’s love for God broke through the barriers and poured out in audible worship—heartfelt, joyous worship.

We all have worship barriers from time to time. Maybe it’s a relationship conflict or a money problem. Or it could be a heart that’s grown a bit cold in its relationship to God.

Our non-talking friend reminds us that the greatness and majesty of our almighty God can overcome any barrier. “O Lord, my God—when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made!”

Struggling in your worship? Reflect on how great our God is by reading a passage such as Psalm 96, and you too may find your obstacles and objections replaced by praise.

By:  Dave Branon

 

“Great faith is the product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.” – Smith Wigglesworth

Each evening, I read my thought for the day to my wife. Last night, as I was reading her my thought on ATTITUDE, I could not help but notice the number 40 that I had highlighted in bold. As I said yesterday, 40 is the number of days that USACE has been responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each time I looked at my thought the “Today, marks day 40” stood out to me. My original intent was solely to highlight the fact that we have been rowing hard for 40 days now. As I looked at my thought for the last night time last night, I believe God reminded me of the significance of the number of 40 in the Bible.

Did you know that the number 40 appears in the Bible approximately 146-159 times, depending on the translation you use? Any time the Bible mentions a number that many times, it is not a coincidence. God uses that number intentionally. On many occasions throughout the Bible, the number 40 is associated with testing, hardships, and judgments one must endure to become more spiritually aware. Let’s look at some of the major events it is used.

  • God destroyed every living thing on earth by flooding it for 40 days (Genesis 7-8).
  • The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years (Exodus 16:35).
  • Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights, on two different occasions, receiving God’s laws (Exodus 24:18, 34:1-28).
  • The spies returned after 40 days of spying on the promise land (Numbers 13:25; 14:34).
  • Ezekiel laid on his right side for 40 days to “bear the iniquity” of Judea’s sins (Ezekiel 4:6).
  • Goliath taunted Israel for 40 days before David defeated him (1 Samuel 17:16).
  • Three kings reigned for 40 years each: Saul, David and Solomon.
  • Moses, Elijah and Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days each. *The examples above are only a few of the number 40 listed in the Bible. So, what’s your point, Chaplain? Are you saying that USACE and our Nation is being tested, and now that we are now at day 41 that we are done with the test? No, this is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that tests, trials, and temptations come into our lives, and when they do come, they more often than not come into our lives for a reason. This is a fact. James, writing to the early church, said, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2-4). Paul, writing to the church in Corinth in response to these tests, trials, and temptations, said that “

No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

USACE, in conclusion, we know that tests, trials, and temptations will come. That is a given. We also know that these test, trials, and temptations are nothing new to humankind. Others have faced/are facing much more difficult situations than we are today. Despite our present circumstances, we still live in a free country. Please be encouraged that despite our circumstances, we have the perfect example in Jesus Christ.

Tomorrow, we will continue this thought by looking at Jesus’ temptation after He had fasted for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1-11).

Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude… I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our attitudes. – Chuck Swindoll

USACE, let me begin by saying that I am guilty as charged. Each day, we publish an infographic that gives us a pictorial fact sheeting highlighting the progress we have made across the USACE enterprise during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is quite impressive. In the upper left-hand corner of the graphic, there is a calendar with the response day number. Today, marks day 40. So, what is the infraction I am charged with today? I am guilty of not always having the best attitude. To be 100% honest, I am ready to get back to life as normal.

So, let’s talk about attitude. Simply defined, attitude is “the complex mental state involving beliefs, feelings, values and dispositions to act in certain ways.” If you accept this definition, it is very easy to accept Chuck Swindoll’s above quote. Another quote I like is from the concentration camp survivor, Victor Frankl. He said that “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way” (Man’s Search for Meaning).

If we are in fact in charge of our attitudes, this leaves us with an important question, “How do we obtain a positive attitude?” Before I answer that question, I want to look at two men in the Bible and what they did with their attitudes. On the one side, we have Moses. And on the other side, we have Joseph.

Let’s look at Moses first. Moses was born Hebrew and raised by Pharaoh’s daughter in comfort. He chose through what he believed to be his moral obligation to defend a mistreated Hebrew, which forced him to flee to Midian. He became a shepherd under his father-in-law Jethro. At the burning bush, God called Him to deliver the Israelites from the tyranny of the Egyptians (we talked about that this past week). He saw the miraculous power of God – 10 plagues, Red Sea, Manna & Quall, Cloud by Day and Pillar of Fire by Night. The list of miracles goes on and on, which give us the reason to believe that Moses had every reason to have tremendous faith in God, and a positive attitude. Unfortunately, he did not have the appropriate attitude when it counted the most – read Number 20:7-12. As a result of his “bad attitude” episode, God barred him from ever entering the Promise Land.

Let’s now look at Joseph second. He was the son of Jacob, by Rachel. He was highly favored by his father. As a result, he was hated by his brothers. They were jealous, and they sold him into slavery. He excelled in Potiphar’s house, and he promoted him to a position of authority.

Because Joseph rejected Potiphar’s wife’s propositions, and she falsely accused him. As a result, Potiphar sentenced him to prison. While Joseph was in prison, he obeyed God and interpreted Pharaoh’s dream. As a result, Pharaoh elevated him to second in charge of the then most powerful nation in the world at that time. As a result, God used the position to save Israel from certain famine.

So, what was the difference between Moses and Joseph? Moses had EVERY REASON to believe God was on his side! And Joseph had EVERY REASON to believe God was against him. The difference is the answer the above question, “How do we obtain a positive attitude?” We obtain a good attitude by choosing to have a positive, faith filled attitude each day regardless of our circumstances.

I end with this illustration: The noted English architect Sir Christopher Wren was supervising the construction of a magnificent cathedral in London. A journalist thought it would be interesting to interview some of the workers, so he chose three and asked them this question, “What are you doing?” The first replied, “I’m cutting stone for 10 shillings a day.” The next answered, “I’m putting in 10 hours a day on this job.” But the third said, “I’m helping Sir Christopher Wren construct one of London’s greatest cathedrals.”

USACE, as difficult as things are now, I challenge you to choose a positive attitude…This too shall pass!!

Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

“The Samaritan who road down from Jericho had nothing to do in the morning but follow the highway, and take care that his beast did not stumble of hurt itself, or get tired so that it could not finish the journey…But when he came to the place where that unknown pilgrim lay senseless and bleeding beside the road, then, in a moment, the Samaritan’s duty changed, and it compelled him to become a rescuer, a nurse, a helper of the wounded. (Source Unknown)

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, I have been doing a lot of thinking about what is the appropriate level of care to others my family and I should be applying during this time of need. To say there are a lot of people in need of care is an understatement. The “Go Fund Me” and “donation” opportunities are too vast for me to even list out here. They are everywhere. So, what is my responsibility?

Today, I would like to look at the very familiar biblical parable (an earthly story with a spiritual meaning) about the Good Samaritan, and see if we can find any answers. Please take a minute to either read, or open your Bible to Luke 10:29-37.

As a starting point, we know that Jesus was responding to the second question from a lawyer (see vs. 25). In the second question, the lawyer asks “And who is my neighbor” (vs. 29)? Jesus begins the parable by telling about a man who was walking on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. He chose this road because He knew the audience would be familiar with the infamous route. It was the stretch of road, approximately 17 miles, that was very dangerous. The rocky terrain that lined the road gave robbers a good hiding place, and many reports of nefarious activity came from it.

Verse 30 tells us that a man traveling on that road fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and left him there for dead. His condition was dire, and if no one gave him medical treatment, he would likely die.

It is at this point that Jesus introduces the three main characters of the story – The Priest, Levite, and Samaritan. Jesus says, “Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side” (vs. 34-35).

The actions of the Priest and Levite were both important and interesting. Important because everyone of Jesus’ audience knew the potential cost to the Priest and Levite if they stopped. Levitical Law presented both men with the same problem – to stop meant ritual cleansing because they came in contact with human blood. This left them with two choices: 1) Either they could stop, help the man in need, and face the uncomfortable process of ritual cleansing, or 2) they could continue toward their destination by using religious reasons to justify their actions. The parable tells us what they did, and this is interesting because they were appointed care givers that should have stopped.

Now enters the third man, the Samaritan (vs. 33-37). In summation, we know that when the main character came upon the wounded man, “it compelled the Samaritan to become a rescuer, a

nurse, a helper of the wounded.” This is significant because the Jews and the Samaritans did not like one another, and Jesus’ Jewish audience would NOT have liked the fact that the hero of the story was a Samaritan. Because the Samaritan had every reason to keep moving past the wounded man, Jesus’ knew these words would have a deep impact. This was His intent.

So, why did Jesus do this, and what was He saying? First, He did this because it was His mission – “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Second, Jesus did this because he deeply loved those He was speaking to that day. Third, Jesus deeply loved and cared for those who are hurting (Matthew 9:12). Nothing has changed, and this is still true today.

This leads us to the “so what” of the parable. The heavenly meaning is that there is no room for prejudice within God’s Kingdom. God has always expected us to view people the same way Jesus viewed the people he taught that day – with COMPASSION and LOVE!!! The Samaritan’s actions were not driven by his tradition, historic dislikes, or selfishness. They were driven by compassion and love. In the end, this is the filter God expects us to run everything through when we are deciding how to care for people.

USACE, in conclusion, I cannot tell you what to do. I cannot tell you where you should give your time, talent, or treasure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. What I can tell you is that regardless of what you chose to do, let the driving force be compassion and love!

Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

Nuclear fission is the breakup of the nucleus of an atom into two lighter nuclei. Occurring primarily in heavy nuclei, this process may take place spontaneously in some cases or may be induced by the excitation of the nucleus with a variety of particles (e.g., neutrons, protons, deuterons, or alpha particles) or with electromagnetic radiation in the form of gamma rays. In the fission process, a large quantity of energy is released, radioactive products are formed, and several neutrons are emitted. These neutrons can induce fission in a nearby nucleus of fissionable material and release more neutrons that can repeat the sequence, causing a chain reaction in which a large number of nuclei undergo fission and an enormous amount of energy is released. If controlled in a nuclear reactor, such a chain reaction can provide power for society’s benefit. If uncontrolled, as in the case of the atomic bomb, it can lead to an explosion of awesome destructive force(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fission)

USACE, let me begin by saying that I know NOTHING about nuclear technology. Neutrons, protons, deuterons, and alpha particles are not topics that keep me awake at night. I do, however, like this illustration because I know a little bit about “controlled” and “uncontrolled” behavior, and I believe there is a comparison between the two to be made here.

Although there are numerous behaviors addressed in the Bible, the one I want to focus on today is the tongue. An anonymous writer once said, “If you mean to guard your heart, first learn to befriend your tongue.” Let me say upfront that this is an area in which I struggle.

As a starting point, I would ask that you take a minute to read James 3:1-13. In these verses, James goes into a very detailed teaching on the topic of the tongue, and he clearly states that none of us are exempt here – “All stumble in many ways” (vs 2). He also gives us three sets of illustrations that are easily identifiable and understandable: Horse Bit and Ship Rudder; Fire and Wild Animals; Water and Fruit. Out of these illustrations, James makes three points about the tongue:

  1. The Power of the Tongue
  2. The Potential Danger of the Tongue
  3. The Poisonous Nature of the Tongue

First, let’s look at the power of the tongue. James begins by using the example of the horse’s bit and the ship’s rudder, which both are very small; however, albeit small, they both have the power to control large objects. Never underestimate the power of your words. The Psalmist said, “My tongue shall speak of thy word: for all thy commandments are righteousness” (Psalm 119:172). Also, never forget that you can use your tongue to teach your family the Word of God. You can use your tongue to share God’s plan of salvation with a family member, a friend, or co- worker that may not yet know Him. You can use your tongue to deliver an encouraging word to somebody who is hurting. Remember that “The soothing tongue is a tree of life, but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit” (Proverbs 15:4).

Second, let’s look at the potential danger of the tongue. The second example James uses here is that of fire. James says “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.” Do you believe that you could burn your entire house to the ground with one single match? Think how much damage only a few angry words can cause in a person’s life. Please meditate on these verses. The Psalmist David said, “I will guard my ways, that I may not sin with my tongue; I will guard my mouth with a muzzle” (Psalm 39:1). The writer of Proverbs said, “An

ungodly man digs up evil, and it is on his lips like a burning fire. A perverse man sows strife, and a whisperer separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:27). And finally, Jesus said, “Hear Me, everyone, and understand: There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear,’” and “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Mark 7:14- 15; Matthew 12:34).

Third, let’s look at the poisonous nature of the tongue. In verses 7-10 James says, “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.” In verse 8, James says the tongue is an “unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” The idea of “unruly evil” shows the tongue is always liable to break out into evil. It forms the picture of a caged animal pacing back and forth and seeking an opportunity to escape. And this “unruly evil” points to the instability and the double-mindedness of the tongue. Although you may think that you have control of your tongue one minute, always remember the potential harm that is always present. In verse 9 James demonstrates this by saying, “With the tongue we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.” Always remember that this is the sin that all of us are ALL susceptible to, and we must guard ourselves against.

USACE, in conclusion, our speech is like a barometer. Most of us know that high barometric pressure often means good weather. Low barometric pressure often means bad weather. Controlled, positive, uplifting speech means a higher level of spirituality. Out of control, negative, abusive speech means a lower level of spirituality. Jesus said that we can know one another by the fruit our lives produce, and He expects us to judge one another based off that fruit. James ends this passage with two rhetorical questions: 1) “Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?” 2) “Can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?” Your speech is either under control, or out of control. What do our personal “barometers” read today?

-Brad Baumann

“Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat – for he grants sleep to those he loves. Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them. They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.” Psalm 127:1-5

I would like to begin today’s thought by saying that I love my family. I thank God that He has blessed me with a help mate that I still passionately love. We will celebrate 28 years of marriage this summer, and to this day she remains my confidant and best friend. In addition to this, God has blessed us with four competent, capable, and healthy children (ages 19, 20, 21, 22). As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, all six of us are here at home.

The other night, my wife and I were talking about life and family. My wife said that this likely will be the last time in our lives that we are all together for this amount of time again. Our youngest graduates high school next month, and soon we will be “empty nesters.” For now, we will enjoy our time together as a family.

As I thought about our conversation this morning, it led me to ask a question, “How can I, as a father, best continue to take care of my family?” Like you, I want to see my kids successful, happily married, and having children of their own. As I read the above Psalm this morning, I believe three words quickly emerged – Humility, Prayer and Love.

First, I must continue to humble myself and acknowledge that my family is not my own. This is so important. It is important because as verse 1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain.” And verse 3 says, “Children too are a gift from the Lord, the fruit of the womb, a reward.” There is tremendous power in acknowledging that God has blessed us with our families. There is tremendous strength in knowing that when we give back our families to God that we have committed them into the hands of an all-powerful God! And there is tremendous peace knowing that God is watching over our and protecting our families when we are not physically present to do it ourselves.

Second, I must pray for my family. Although the Psalmist does not specify the task of praying for our families here, please assume it is an implied task in our overall care plan. For me personally, the greatest prayer I pray is that I do not get in their way. I pray that God protects, prospers, and provides them with His peace and wisdom. I also pray that God leads, guides, and directs their footsteps. Finally, I pray that God continually reminds me that I provide indirect support. He provides the direct support. As I have said in previous thoughts, remember that “Whatever you ask for in prayer, with faith, you will receive” (Matthew 21:22), and that “The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). A common saying is “The best offense is a good defense!!” Defend your family by daily praying for them, and remember that god “grants sleep (rest/peace) to those he loves.”

Third, and finally, love your family. If asked, “What is the most powerful tool you have to defend your family?” I would answer you that it is love. Why? Because if I love God, I will love my family. A family member that knows he/she is loved can deal with a lot. Always remember the words of the Apostle Paul, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:1-4; also read 1 Corinthians 13). I also encourage you to head the words of Theodore Hesburgh, “The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” The words “father” and “mother” can easily be reversed here too. Finally, “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

In conclusion, the answer to the above question, “How can I, as a father/husband, best continue to take care of my family?” I answer it with three words: Humility, Prayer and Love!

Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

“Father, I am seeking: I am hesitant and uncertain, but will you, O God, watch over each step of mine and guide me.” – Saint Augustine

As a Christian, there is great joy in knowing that we do not have to fumble through life trying to find our own way. A passage that I use often in both counseling and formal prayers is, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way” (Psalm 37:23). For each of, we can rest assured that God has a blue print for each one our lives. Outside of knowing God as my Savior and Sanctifier, knowing Him as my Guide is the most important knowledge of my life.

Now that said, I am not naïve when it comes to the subject of God’s will. It is not always super easy and clear cut. A frequent question that I get is, “How do we know what the will of God is for us specifically?”

I know that I have come to many crossroads where I have wondered what God’s will was for my family and me. In one experience, I thought that was pursuing the will of God, which as it turned out, I was not. And in the other, I thought I had missed the place God wanted me, and saw later that I was in the center of God’s will. The strange thing was that although both situations were very difficult to go through, they both yielded great lessons. Therefore, I personally know the complexity of this subject.

Life is a lot like driving in a city prior to GPS, it is not always so easy to find your way around – especially in Washington, D.C. One wrong turn can cost you an hour of your life just trying to get back on course – especially during rush hour traffic! So, how do we successfully navigate our way through life?

I truly believe that on this journey through life, God has put distinctive road signs out there to help us find our way. I also believe that if we use these signs, God will order and guide our steps in the direction He wants them to go.

  1. Road Sign #1 is God’s Word. Without a doubt, God’s Word is our greatest guide to knowing what He wants for us. God’s Word is our moral compass. According to the writer of Hebrews, “It is living and powerful,” and is “a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (4:12). God’s Word stands like the road sign marked “Divided Highway/Keep Right!” Anything to the “left” of the sign contradicts the Bible’s commands, and God’s will is never found in that direction. As a starting point, we can read the Bible, God’s moral law, and apply it to any decision and immediately know if we are right or wrong. A life decision that contradicts God’s Word is ALWAYS wrong – PERIOD!
  2. Road Sign #2 is Circumstances. We know as believers that no circumstance develops by chance. I believe in neither happenstance, blind luck, nor karma. We serve a sovereign ruler. Deuteronomy 10:14, says “Indeed heaven and the highest heavens belong to the LORD your God, also the earth with all that is in it.” As Christians, we read God’s Word because He is the author. We should read God’s “providence” because He controls it. God often will use open and shut doors to reveal His will to us. I remember my mother telling me early on in my Christian walk to go ahead as if there was an open door. God will shut that door if it is not His will. I have found those wise words to be consistently true in my life.
  1. Road Sign #3 is God’s Still Small Voice. For me personally, this is the most difficult road sign to see. I know that there have been many times I have sped right by this sign, only to meet a state trooper waiting for me. I was speeding along trying to make it happen in my own strength and wisdom. When it comes to voice of God, He usually does not speak in a dramatic, “Damascus Road” type of way. He more often comes like He came to Elijah when he was hiding in the cave. He often comes to us in that moment where we have finally stopped trying to do it on our own.
  2. Road Sign #4 is Mature Counsel. Proverbs 24:6, says “For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, And in a multitude of counselors there is safety.” I know personally that this has been a place of safety for me. I give all praise to God for the mature counsel I have received over the years in discovering God’s will for my life.
  3. Road Sign #5 is Prayer. “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13). Never underestimate the power of prayer!

Mature counsel, God’s Still Small Voice, Circumstances, the Word of God, and Prayer can all help you in finding God’s will for your life.

Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

“One act of obedience is better than one hundred sermons.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Over the past several weeks, we have been hearing and reading a lot of opinions about what our reaction should be in light of the COVID-19 virus. We know that it is essential that we to our part in “social distancing” and helping to “flatten the curve.” To say the least, this has become very inconvenient. Our normal daily routines, planned activities, and leisurely hobbies have been disrupted in so many different ways. One of the greatest ways this has been disrupted is in our ability to practice corporate worship. As I wrote this past Saturday in my Easter message, my family and I have always attended Easter service together as a family. For many of those years and services, I preached the Resurrection sermon.

As we have been following the news, most of us know that thousands of people have begun to speak out. The clearest case of this “speaking out” came in Michigan yesterday. One news source headline reads, “Drivers swarm Michigan capital to protest coronavirus lockdown measures.” The article goes on to say that the coordinated effort was dubbed “Operation Gridlock” https://www.foxnews.com/politics/drivers-swarm-michigan-capital-to-protest- coronavirus-lockdown-measures. This leads me to ask a question, “So, who is right in all of this?” Is the Michigan Governor right? Are the people “speaking out” right? Or does it even really matter?

For those who profess Christianity this does matter, and the Bible does address how we should act in our respective society. First, we have a neighborly responsibility. The Bible teaches the Christian’s greatest responsibility is the duty to love. Everything within God’s plan must begin with love, be filtered through the biblical ethic of love, and ultimately end against the backdrop of love. Jesus states this clearly in Matthew 22:37-40 when he said the Christian’s responsibility is twofold: 1) love God, 2) and love your fellow man.

Second, we have a civil responsibility. Please read Romans 13:1-7. In this passage, three biblical principles emerge: 1) rulers are established by God (13:1); 2) those rulers legitimately function to protect the innocent, promote the good, and punish the evil (13:3-4); and 3) those who desire a well-ordered society ought to render the authorities the appropriate taxes and honor (13:5-7). This gives the clear idea that God’s rule frames “honor” within the civil and state realms.

Peter also emphasizes the importance of the Christians’ civil responsibilities when it comes to submission to authority. Read 1 Peter 2:13-17. Both Paul and Peter make the same point: It is impossible to be a good Christian and a bad citizen at the same time. It is important, however, to note here that this does not mean that obedience is always mandated when a law is anti- scriptural. In those circumstances, the Christian must obey God rather than man and then be prepared for the potential consequences. Jesus admonished his followers to “not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both the soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

USACE, in conclusion, I acknowledge this is a challenging issue. I do not like my routine being disrupted. I do not like the fact that my parents were unable to visit us two weeks ago during

Spring Break. We planned for months, lost money, and we did not get to enjoy time together as a family. Now that said, nothing I have either observed, been told, or ordered to do during the COVID-19 pandemic violates God’s laws. And because this is true, I have the responsibility to follow the rules of my appointed leaders. Do we have to agree with and like everything our leaders tell us to do? No! We live in a free country. Do we have to submit to the rules set by those appointed authorities? Yes! We are citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom, and He clearly tells us that we must follow the rules set by our appointed leaders.

Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Below is part two of the thought I started yesterday – to win battles we must know the enemy, and we must know ourselves. Quickly recapping what I talked about in yesterday’s thought, we know that we have a real enemy to our Christian faith, and that enemy has a real and organized plan to: 1) To Defend his own Kingdom, 2) To Distress the people of God, and 3) To Dishonor the Name of Jesus. When the enemy attacks Christians, he consistently uses the following three tactics to keep us off our guard: 1) Temptation, 2) Guilt, and 3) Spiritual Immaturity/Ignorance. For us to be successful as Christians, we must counter the tactics of the enemy by: 1) Avoiding Idleness, 2) Resisting Temptation, and 3) Knowing Our Place in Christ. It is here that we begin with today’s thought.

So, let me begin by asking you a question, “Have you ever lost your Military or DoD CAC card? All of us have them, and all of know how important they are. All of us shudder at even the thought of forgetting our ID cards at home or work. If we are retired or still in the Military, we need them to gain access (without pain that is) to Military Installations, Commissaries or Post/Base Exchanges. For all of us within USACE, we need them to get into our respective Federal buildings (again, without pain). And all of us need them to log onto our government computers. No ID, No Access!! Our ID cards officially mark our place inside the Department of Defense.

In many respects, the same is true within God’s Kingdom. Who we are, our Christian identity, marks our place in God’s Kingdom. Understanding our Christian identity is paramount to either success or disappointment within God’s Kingdom. And it is absolutely 100% important in the fight against our enemy.

Today, I want to draw our attention to Exodus 3. Contained within this chapter is the familiar story of Moses and the burning bush. Here we also find a very important biblical principle at work. This is what I like to refer to as the “I am” because “He is” principle. In this chapter, we know that God miraculously appears to Moses at the burning bush. At the burning bush, God calls Moses, now a simple shepherd, to lead His people out of slavery in Egypt. God says to Moses, “I have seen the oppression of my people, I have heard their cries, and I have chosen you to deliver My people” (vs. 7). It is also here that a significant problem arises.

The problem was that Moses was having an identity crisis! In response to this miraculous encounter, Moses says to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” Moses immediately begins making excuses in verse 13, where he says, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘the God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name’ what shall I say to them?” Moses, like we too often do ourselves, made a declaration of doubt. To which God responds by saying, “‘I AM WHO I AM,’ And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, I AM has

sent me to you!’” In short, God was saying, “It does not matter who YOU ARE, it matters who I AM!” This is powerful and paramount in understanding our place in His Kingdom!

USACE, please hear me today when I say that as long as the great “I AM” is here for us, there is nothing that can come against us. The Apostle Paul wrote, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul neither wrote these words, nor the following, because of the levels he had reached. No, these are the words of someone who understood his place in God’s Kingdom, and he had given his live over to the Great I AM: “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31; 37-39). Paul knew that he was nothing without the Great I AM!!

Our identity does not rest in the external power and position that we have gained here on this earth. Our identity rests in the internal power that exists within us through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. There is tremendous eternal security in knowing the Great I AM!!

Jesus said in:

  • John 6:35: “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.”
  • John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
  • John 8:23: “I am from above… I am not of this world.”
  • John 8:58: “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
  • John 10:9: “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.”
  • John 10:11: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.”
  • John 11:25: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.”
  • John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”
  • Revelation 1:8: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” And because He is:
    • I am fed by the bread of life.
    • I am led by the light of the world.
    • I am waiting for my mansion, which is not of this world. • I am guided by the good shepherd.
    • I am going to receive a new body at the resurrection.
    • I am following the way, the truth, and the life.
    • I am “more than a conqueror!”
    • I am “saved by the blood of Jesus!”
    • I am awaiting His return for me.

In conclusion, yes, we have an enemy. That enemy would like nothing more than to tempt you to doubt God’s power during this pandemic. Our enemy would love to grip your heart with fear that something bad is going to happen to your family or you. Our enemy’s primary goal is to steal, kill, and destroy the joy and success of your Christian life. He wants to see your Christian life dormant, constantly struggling with temptations, and ignorant of your place in God’s Kingdom. That is not God’s plan for your life. USACE, God wants us to hear the message that He is in control, and this present battle belongs to him!

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

In the jungle, a strange plant can be found. It is called the strangler fig. This plant starts as a tiny seed dropped by a bird on to a tree trunk. The seed puts out threadlike roots through which it gets nourishment from the air. At first the strangler fig is small and looks harmless, but it grows very quickly. Soon it has shoots going both up into the air and down into the soil. Large leaves develop which keep light from the tree. Its roots entwine themselves around the tree trunk, stealing nourishment from it. The strangler fig gets bigger and bigger. It becomes stronger and stronger. Gradually it strangles the tree to death. (https://www.abeka.com – extracted from a part of a 3rd grade lesson given to our sons many years ago)

Have you ever been tempted to either doubt yourself, or the circumstances that life has placed you into? I know that I have more often than I wish to recount. Doubt is very powerful and can be equally destructive if not tempered by faith in God. When unchecked, doubt is a lot like the strangler fig.

In today’s thought, I would like to talk about one of the Bible’s greatest prophets, Elijah, who also dealt with the battle between faith and doubt in a challenging set of circumstances. In yesterday’s thought about “anxiety” and the need for “prayer” in order to gain God “peace,” I concluded by quoting James 5:16 – “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous person produces results.”

Providentially (I did not know what today’s topic was yet), that verse is referencing the prophet Elijah. We know this because in the next two verses James goes on to say that “Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. Again he prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops” (vs. 16-17).

An interesting note is that Elijah is not someone we readily associate with doubt. More often, we associate his fiery biblical character with the powerful miracles in which God used him (google miracles and Elijah). However, if you take a minute and read 1 Kings 19:9-18, you will quickly see that Elijah struggled with doubt, and he was very much a “human being, even as we are.”

In vs. 9, we find Elijah alone, hiding in a cave, and racked with feelings of self-doubt and fear. Why? Because he had a contract out on his life! After the great victory at Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18 – multiple miracles performed), Queen Jezebel was not impressed and had issued a death warrant against Elijah. In a time when Elijah should have had faith because of God’s power, he had doubt.

It is here, in vs. 9, that we find God meeting Elijah at his place of need. We know that God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” We know that Elijah then enthusiastically responds by giving God a laundry list of excuses why he is there. And we know that God spoke to Elijah in a “gentle whisper” – not the way Elijah expected after all the great miracles he had witnessed (vs. 11-12).

If we carefully read I Kings 17-19, there are three relevant and pertinent faith lessons I believe we can extract from these chapters:

  • First, evil will always loose to that which is Good and Holy. No, it may not happen when or how we think, but that which is from God will always win. On Friday, we will celebrate Good Friday. This is the day that Jesus declared, “It is Finished!” Because of Jesus’ blood, we share in the ultimate victory over evil!
  • Second, always keep the faith and do not let doubt rule the day. Because Elijah doubted, he forgot God’s power and he ran away scared and full of doubt. God did not forget him and met him in his place of need despite his doubt. God sees us where we are at right now. He knows all of our doubts, fears, and frustrations. I believe He is reminding us to “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His loving kindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9). For us today, also know that, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He will meet you at the place of your need.
  • Third, and finally, God will always speak to you, but it may not be in the way you think it should be. Elijah looked for God in the wind, the earthquake, and the fire. God came to him, however, in the form of a gentle whisper. The bottom line is that in the same way Elijah was battling against the power of evil, so are we. Doubt is like the strangler fig…it comes like a seed dropped into our lives, it grows, and, if allowed, it destroys. Pray and trust that God will speak to you in His time and His way. In opening scene of the movie, The Gladiator, Maximus turned to the Cavalry and told them to “Hold the Line!” The Apostle Paul admonished the Ephesians when he said, “Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then…” (Ephesians 6:13-14). USACE, hold the line! Blessings,

    -Chaplain Brad Baumann

“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” — Arthur Somers Roche

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is more often than not a healthy and normal reaction to stress. God created His people to primarily experience good, healthy, and natural stress (eustress). This is the stress we feel when excited, exhilarated, or energized (e.g. word of a promotion, seeing a loved one after a long period of separation, or safely landing after jumping out of a perfectly good airplane). God’s stress is one that causes our heart rates to quicken and hormones to be released, leading to feelings of euphoria. God’s stress is good, healthy, and natural stress!

Unfortunately, not all stress is good. There are two types of bad stress – acute and chronic stress. Acute stress is not bad by itself, and God did create us with the ability to experience acute stress for our own good. This is the stress that produces a quick response (a “start”) that then creates the need for an immediate response. Acute stress is good in that it can keep us safe from danger – fight or flight. Please hear me when I say, “What God did not create us for is that stress/anxiety to stay in place for prolonged periods of time. Why? Because that “bad” stress can then become chronic and destructive.

One of my favorite passages that addresses the topic of stress/anxiety is Philippians 4:6-8. Why? Because there is an easy application of the passage? Absolutely not! It is my favorite because the Apostle Paul gives what I believe is the antidote to chronic and destructive stress.

This passage is formulaic in nature, and it can easily be broken into three primary parts: 1) God’s Challenging Expectations; 2) God’s Eternal Promise; 3) God’s Ongoing Encouragement.

First, what does God expect from us? In verse 6, Paul says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God;” In this verse alone, God expects three things from us: 1) God expects us not to be stressed/anxious over things we have NO control over in this life. Please hear me when I say, “Paul knew what he was talking about here.” At the time of the writing of this letter (approximately 60 AD), Paul was under house arrest in Rome. He was facing an impending trial that could end in acquittal or death. And Paul knew the Church was facing persecution under the Emperor Nero (google Nero and the early church – not a pleasant picture). Every one of these were “anxiety causing” situations; 2) God expects us to pray. Not only does He expect us to pray, but He expects us to pray repeatedly (supplication means repeated prayers); 3) He expects us to maintain a “thankful” and “humble” heart regardless of the situation. USACE, as I said above, THIS IS A CHALLENGING FORMULA!!

Second, what is God’s promise to us? In verse 7, Paul says: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” God’s promise to you is that if you remain calm, and pray with a thankful/humble heart, that He will provide his peace through the power of Jesus Christ (Resurrection Power). There are two important points here: 1) The origin of this peace is supernatural. “Super”natural mean it goes

beyond the standard laws and rules of nature. This peace is neither of this world, nor can it be attained by anything in this world. The power of this peace comes from our faith in God (for further study read Hebrews 11 – Faith’s Hall of Heroes); 2) The power of this supernatural peace is that it has the ability to defeat the negative effects of stress. Always remember that our God is greater (1 John 4:4), and God has foreordained us for eternal victory, regardless of our present circumstances (Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 2:19 – we are citizens of an eternal kingdom).

Third, what is God’s ongoing encouragement to us? It is all about mindset. In verse 8, Paul says: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” In one of my previous thoughts, I used Isaiah 26:3 – God keeps His children in perfect peace when their minds are meditating on Him.

USACE, we are living in challenging times. I have said it repeatedly, and I will say it again, I have read your emails. I know that the COVID-19 virus is producing high rates of chronic stress (negative anxiety) within our ranks and our families. Please know that God both sees us and hears our prayers. Always remember that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous person produces results” (James 5:16). He cares for you, does not want to see you stressed, and He will provide you with His peace. Please pray for me, and I will be praying for you!!

Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

“Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” — Arthur Somers Roche

According to the American Psychological Association, anxiety is more often than not a healthy and normal reaction to stress. God created His people to primarily experience good, healthy, and natural stress (eustress). This is the stress we feel when excited, exhilarated, or energized (e.g. word of a promotion, seeing a loved one after a long period of separation, or safely landing after jumping out of a perfectly good airplane). God’s stress is one that causes our heart rates to quicken and hormones to be released, leading to feelings of euphoria. God’s stress is good, healthy, and natural stress!

Unfortunately, not all stress is good. There are two types of bad stress – acute and chronic stress. Acute stress is not bad by itself, and God did create us with the ability to experience acute stress for our own good. This is the stress that produces a quick response (a “start”) that then creates the need for an immediate response. Acute stress is good in that it can keep us safe from danger – fight or flight. Please hear me when I say, “What God did not create us for is that stress/anxiety to stay in place for prolonged periods of time. Why? Because that “bad” stress can then become chronic and destructive.

One of my favorite passages that addresses the topic of stress/anxiety is Philippians 4:6-8. Why? Because there is an easy application of the passage? Absolutely not! It is my favorite because the Apostle Paul gives what I believe is the antidote to chronic and destructive stress.

This passage is formulaic in nature, and it can easily be broken into three primary parts: 1) God’s Challenging Expectations; 2) God’s Eternal Promise; 3) God’s Ongoing Encouragement.

First, what does God expect from us? In verse 6, Paul says: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God;” In this verse alone, God expects three things from us: 1) God expects us not to be stressed/anxious over things we have NO control over in this life. Please hear me when I say, “Paul knew what he was talking about here.” At the time of the writing of this letter (approximately 60 AD), Paul was under house arrest in Rome. He was facing an impending trial that could end in acquittal or death. And Paul knew the Church was facing persecution under the Emperor Nero (google Nero and the early church – not a pleasant picture). Every one of these were “anxiety causing” situations; 2) God expects us to pray. Not only does He expect us to pray, but He expects us to pray repeatedly (supplication means repeated prayers); 3) He expects us to maintain a “thankful” and “humble” heart regardless of the situation. USACE, as I said above, THIS IS A CHALLENGING FORMULA!!

Second, what is God’s promise to us? In verse 7, Paul says: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” God’s promise to you is that if you remain calm, and pray with a thankful/humble heart, that He will provide his peace through the power of Jesus Christ (Resurrection Power). There are two important points here: 1) The origin of this peace is supernatural. “Super”natural mean it goes

beyond the standard laws and rules of nature. This peace is neither of this world, nor can it be attained by anything in this world. The power of this peace comes from our faith in God (for further study read Hebrews 11 – Faith’s Hall of Heroes); 2) The power of this supernatural peace is that it has the ability to defeat the negative effects of stress. Always remember that our God is greater (1 John 4:4), and God has foreordained us for eternal victory, regardless of our present circumstances (Philippians 3:20; Ephesians 2:19 – we are citizens of an eternal kingdom).

Third, what is God’s ongoing encouragement to us? It is all about mindset. In verse 8, Paul says: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” In one of my previous thoughts, I used Isaiah 26:3 – God keeps His children in perfect peace when their minds are meditating on Him.

“When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” —Corrie ten Boom

Sports are great! My entire life, I have enjoyed both playing and watching a wide variety of sports (football, baseball, hockey, wrestling, boxing, etc.). By the grace of God, my wife also enjoys sports, and we pretty much enjoy watching anything with a competitive element – especially football. We can spend a lot of time together watching, talking about, and dissecting the game. In our dissection, the one thing we always come back to is those that emerge as champions (individual/team) are masters of discipline. They are disciplined in their determination, sacrifice, and training.

In many ways, our Christian faith can be compared to that of sports. The Apostle Paul clearly was a sports fan (likely attended the ancient Isthmian Games), and he compared the attributes of athletes to the attributes that should be present in the lives of Christians. Paul said, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever” (1 Corinthians 9:24-25).

To be a champion in the Christian faith, as in sports, discipline is a must. It is not easy, and it too requires determination, sacrifice, and training. I have been a pastor and chaplain for almost 25 years. During those years, both in the church and the Army, I have seen and experienced a lot – some easy and some difficult. What we are experiencing right now is difficult, and it requires discipline.

Something I know to be 100% true is one of the greatest disciplines available to all Christians is the invitation to pray. USACE, I encourage all Christians to apply this discipline during these challenging times. Why? Because God sees, He knows, and He invites you to do exactly that – PRAY!

In chapter 4, the writer of Hebrews said three things about “Sabbath-Rest” that I often use in counseling:

  1. God sees you! “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (v13).
  2. God knows what we are experiencing! “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (v14-15).
  3. God invites you to speak with Him! “Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (v16).

USACE, know that I have read, in detail, every email you have sent me, and please hear these three things: First, I will continue praying for you. Second, hundreds of your fellow USACE teammates have committed to join me in prayer. And, third, I am asking all of us to join one another in prayer. I attaching a prayer sent to me from one of our co-workers that I believe covers all the requests I have received. Please join me in praying that prayer at least once every day for one another – insert names where appropriate.

Blessings,

Chaplain (Colonel) Brad Baumann

Blessings,
Chaplain Brad Baumann

The other night, my college age son approached my wife and me and said, “Reference COVID- 19, we should all adopt C.S. Lewis’ mindset concerning the atomic bomb.” Both of us were unfamiliar what C.S. Lewis said in reference to the atomic bomb, and we asked him to please explain. He sent us to the following quote.

C. S. Lewis wrote the following in 1948 after the dawn of the atomic age:

“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (a microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

— “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays

USACE, we are living in challenging times. This we know for sure, and we do not need others to constantly remind us of this fact. We cannot turn on the TV, radio, or look at our smart devices without this constantly being thrown in our faces. Because I know this is true, please receive these two encouragements.

First, know that “God will keep you in perfect peace” when your MIND is focused on Him,

“because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). This is a promise! Regardless of what happens, as long

as our mindset remains correct, God is in charge, and His peace is an available resource.

Second, I borrow a quote from LTG Semonite: “Remain Steady in the Saddle!” This sums up nicely what C.S. Lewis wrote in 1948. We know challenges will come. We are facing a challenge now. We also know that HOW we meet those challenges is so important. Although we are being asked to do difficult tasks during difficult times, please remember you that you are the BEST! I have served with a lot of superb organizations. Very few of those organizations are as exceptional as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. I am praying for you, available to you, and fully ready to support your teams and you. Essayons!!

Blessings,
Chaplain (Colonel) Brad Baumann

The season of Lent is here!  Why is that exciting?  Allow me to explain.  This is the time of year that we prepare for the sacrifice (Mark 15:33-40) and resurrection (Mark 16:1-8) of Jesus Christ.  It begins today, Ash Wednesday, and concludes on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter (if your math brain alerts you that I just described 46 days, you’re right, but the tradition excludes the six Sundays).

40 days derives from the same amount of time Jesus spent fasting in the wilderness and where he resisted Satan’s temptation (Matthew 4:1-11).  Today, we put ashes on our forehead to humble ourselves before God as part of God’s creation.  Additionally, we focus more on our faith and consider what we can do to be more like Christ.  Often, that leads some people to fast during the lenten season (learn more about fasting).

How Can I Participate in Lent?

We offer numerous opportunities for you to grow and sacrifice in the name of Jesus Christ.  Keep in mind: this is a church tradition.  There is no objective, biblical standard for how to celebrate Lent.  The beauty therefore is that we can make it personal to our own walk with God.  If you find that you aren’t praying as much as you’d like, commit to praying more.  If you find that you spend too much time on social media, fast from it.  Even little sacrifices like choosing not to eat sugar during Lent allows you to experience a similar sacrifice to the one Jesus made.

Lent is much more than fasting, though.  It’s also about learning, serving and sharing our faith.  To learn, I encourage you to open your Bible.  The book of Matthew, or one of the other Gospels–Mark, Luke or John–is a good place to start.  Currently, I’m taking a course on the book of Matthew, so feel free to ask any questions!  If you’re looking for a little more inspiration, here are some daily devotionals by laity of our conference titled, Walk with Jesus.  Additionally, anyone is welcome to join us on Wednesday evenings for Bible studies available for all ages.

Though our church is not offering any specific service events this lenten season, there are still plenty of opportunities for service.  Serve food at Ronald McDonald House; contact ECCHO Food & Clothing Pantry to help or donate; or simply visit someone, to name a few.  Lastly, it’s essential that we share our faith, especially this time of year.  Tonight and Sunday, you’ll find nails with purple ribbon on the back table.  As part of a cooperative outreach with Milton United Methodist Church, we encourage you to carry that nail with you and pass it on to someone else.  This nail represents the sacrifice Christ made and serves as a great conversation-starter to invite a friend or stranger to church.