Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Servant Suffers: Finding victory in the pain of suffering

“Abram believed the LORD, and He credited it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). We know this to be true from these writings in the Old Testament / Torah but Paul confirmed it again in Romans 4 of the New Testament. For Jews and Christians alike, Abraham was a man of righteousness.

He was also a man of blessing. It was to him that God spoke, “Go out from your land, your relatives, and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, I will bless you, I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3).

I doubt Abraham had any idea the persecution and trials that would befall the Jewish people – his descendants through Isaac and Jacob – over the next several millennia. From the Egyptian enslavement, through countless attempts at extermination, and culminating in a final attack prophesied by Ezekiel which is still yet to happen, the Jewish people have suffered. They have known pain unlike any other ethnic group.

Many people of compassion look at Jewish history and ask, “Why?”

The Hebrew prophet Isaiah offers a hint of explanation in one of his most well-known prophecies. Yet, we often overlook it.

Join us as we consider Isaiah 52:13-53:12 – the fourth of Isaiah’s songs of the suffering servant. In this five-part study, we’ll consider the role Jewish persecution had to play in the coming of the Messiah, the significance of Jesus’ humanity, the purpose for Jesus’ life and death on earth, and the outcome for all humanity, including the Jewish people.
Click on picture to view a downloadable, printable pdf file of the study.

What do I do with it?

Several people have asked for copies of various blog series over the years. We're thrilled to make them available to you in a free downloadable, printable format. We've even added questions at the end for personal reflection or group discussion.

Click here to view the full selection of available Bible study downloads.

As hard as this is to believe, not everyone in the world has an internet connection. Not everyone has access to online study resources or neighborhood Christian book stores. Some of those who do have access don't know where to start when it comes to Bible study. So here are some suggestions on what you can do with these free downloads...
  • Use them as a guide for your own personal Bible study time on a daily or weekly basis.
  • Send them to a friend, relative, or missionary living in a remote location.
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  • Be creative! Let us know in the comment section how you may utilize these resources!

Click on the above picture to open a .pdf file. From there, you may either download it to your computer or print the file.

May God bless your time in the study of His Word!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Netanyahu: A man called for such a time as this

History does indeed repeat itself.

I toured the Jewish concentration camp Dachau while on a mission trip in 1992. I read a sign on a particular display that I’ve never forgotten. Even in the moment, it impacted me enough that I took a picture of it.

It’s a well-known expression but I find it appropriate that I first learned it in a concentration camp. In English it reads, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it” (George Santayana).

I took a picture of another sign that day 23 years ago. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reminded me of it today when he addressed holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel during a speech to the US Congress. He reminded all of us that the horror experienced by Mr. Wiesel and the powerful life he has lived since those atrocities is a testimony to why we must all proclaim, “Never Again.”

Approximately 2,500 years ago, a man named Mordecai refused to bow to Haman, the chief minister under King Ahasuerus in Persia. Rage enflamed Haman; when he discovered Mordecai was a Jew, he decided to destroy the entire Jewish race rather than execute only Mordecai. Haman manipulated King Ahasuerus to bring about the Jewish people’s annihilation. He wrote a decree “to destroy, kill, and annihilate all the Jewish people – young and old, women and children – and plunder their possessions on a single day” (Esther 3:13, emphasis mine).

Queen Esther, a Jew who had until that point concealed her ethnicity, stepped up in a phenomenal act of bravery. At the urging of her cousin and guardian, Mordecai, she approached King Ahasuerus to plead the case of the Jewish people. Esther’s life was in danger the moment she stepped into the king’s presence unannounced as he could have had her executed for doing so. After a series of acts which displayed her humility, the King asked her to reveal the desire of her heart. She boldly yet humbly petitioned, “If I have obtained your approval, my king, and if the king is pleased, spare my life – this is my request; and spare my people – this is my desire. For I and my people have been sold out to destruction, death, and extermination” (Esther 7:3-4).

In the end, the king ordered Haman executed on the gallows Haman had built to execute Mordecai. The king gave the Jewish people the freedom to defend themselves, sparing the genocide of their race.

Despite the passing of 25 centuries since Esther’s act of bravery, the Jewish people still celebrate her every year on Purim. This year, Purim falls on March 4-5 on our calendar.

25 centuries later, Persian leadership once again threatens Israel’s existence in the form of Iranian nuclear capabilities. They likewise could destroy the Jewish people in a single day once their weapons are complete. The leader of the Jewish state of Israel, PM Netanyahu, spoke to the US Congress on March 3rd, the eve of Purim. Similar to Queen Esther in the past, his petition went against all established protocol of the time. Similar to Queen Esther, he made the request to stop the promised annihilation of the Jewish people. And like Queen Esther, I believe PM Netanyahu came forward in humility but also knowing that if he didn’t speak, massive death would come upon his nation and his people.

The timing of this event reminds me of one more correlation with the ancient Queen Esther. God has promised an eternal destiny for His chosen people, Israel. They will survive and indeed have done so through multiple persecutions throughout history. But for PM Netanyahu, as was the case with Queen Esther, “If you keep silent at this time, liberation and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s house will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14).

PM Netanyahu submitted to his call for such a time as this as he declared to the world, “The days when the Jewish people remain passive in the face of genocidal enemies – those days are over.”

I’ll leave all the political ramifications of this speech to the political pundits.

Here’s what I see, though. The Obama administration has deteriorated our relationship with Israel – a country of freedom and democracy. They also have validated relationships with terrorist regimes such as Iran – a country of “death, tyranny, and the pursuit of jihad,” as PM Netanyahu shared.

Lines are being drawn in the sands of the Middle East; on which side of the line will we stand?

I think now is the time for us to individually consider this question. We tend to think all of this is over there – thousands of miles away – and doesn’t matter to us. Our jobs and activities keep us from taking time to educate ourselves as to the multiple crises occurring throughout the Middle East.

But here’s the deal. A time is coming when the world’s attention will focus quite intently on the Middle East. The Bible prophesies many earth changing events still to happen in that region of the world. We need to know what’s going on, how situations might fit in with prophesied events, and discern which side of the line we will choose.

We have different priorities by which we choose which side of the line we prefer. Democracy, freedom, rights for different races, religions, and genders, economic resources, and social standards are among the criteria we naturally consider. However, biased reporting and dishonest leadership can make those areas very difficult to accurately assess.

Let me give you one key criteria that’s very simple and won’t let you down – side with Israel. As events occur, deals are negotiated, and wars and rumors of wars come – side with Israel.

God made it very simple when He said thousands of years ago to the Jewish patriarch Abraham, “Go out from your land, … to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation, … I will bless those who bless you, I will curse those who treat you with contempt, and all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:1-3).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

What's the Point: Living hope in a violent world

Stories of horror at the hands of ISIS’ members continue to pour out of the Middle East. In fact, what began as a trickle of atrocities has grown into a raging river as incidents increase in frequency and barbarity. This week, they reportedly kidnapped approximately 150 Christians from a region in northeast Syria. Early reports put this number at about 90; subsequent reports have increased it to 150. I say with a prayerful sorrow the future is bleak for those followers of Jesus. News reports have also surfaced that ISIS funds their operation in part through harvesting organs, such as kidneys, from prisoners. An alternate source of their income is selling young girls and women into sex trafficking.

My older two daughters asked me the same question at different times last week. “Is this it? Is our world falling apart? Is this the end?”

My daughters were two and newborn when Al-Qaeda flew airplanes into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania. I realized the world they grew up in would look very different than did my childhood environment. I realized that was their reality – better to help them deal with it than sugar coat their exposures. I answered, “We don’t know for sure. ISIS’ behavior is consistent with biblical prophecies of the end times. Many Christians are sensing that this will lead to that time soon.”

They both responded in similar ways; basically, “Then what’s the point?”

What is the point?

Our purpose doesn’t change
God gave us signs to watch for which indicate the end is drawing near. However, He chose to withhold exactly when those events would begin. I believe one reason why is because our job doesn’t change whether we know the exact time or not.
  • Love God with all your heart, soul, and strength (Deuteronomy 6:5).
  • Love other people as much as you love yourself (Matthew 22:39).
  • Love faithfulness, act justly, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
It doesn’t matter if Jesus returns today, in a decade, or in a century, our call as Jesus’ followers is the same. We are to know, love, and serve God. We are to love and encourage a hurting world. We are to behave in a way that honors God and glorifies His name.

We have a message of hope
Current events in the Middle East may or may not lead to the fulfillment of biblical end-time prophecies. Either way, we have a message of hope for the world. I don’t know about you, but the number of hurting people in my life is increasing. Economic problems, family relationships, drugs, unemployment, and many others are all surface indicators of hard times. Below the surface, though, much bigger problems arise under names such as fear, depression, rejection, bitterness, insecurity, disbelief, and deception. Followers of Jesus, we have a message of unconditional love, strengthening joy, unsurpassable peace and gentleness, limitless patience, sacrificial kindness and goodness, unwavering faith, and supernatural self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). We have everything we need to accomplish the task to which He calls us – the task of reaching the world with His gospel of grace (2 Peter 1:3, Philippians 1:6, Matthew 28:19-20).

We have hope even in midst of persecution
I can’t speak for the hundreds of Christians held captive in Syria right now. But I can speak for countless others throughout history who’ve faced persecution for following Jesus. I can speak the words of Paul who endured a lifetime of persecution, “For me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (Philippians 1:21).

In studying Paul’s testimony, along with others in the New Testament, I discovered seven aspects of persecution that seem contradictory to human thinking…
  • Serves to advance the Gospel
  • Encourages others and reduces fear
  • Causes rejoicing
  • Promotes patient endurance
  • Teaches us to trust God and about the power of prayer
  • Is a source of comfort
  • Brings us to maturity
You may read more in depth on this area in Everything We Need: God’s Path to Know Him Better.

The point is Jesus, the Messiah

I’d like to give you rose-colored glasses through which to view the world. I’d like to give solutions for defeating ISIS and promises that bloody religious persecution will never reach America’s shores. Just like I realized when my daughters were babies, that isn’t the world in which we live anymore. We can ignore it or deny it; reality doesn’t change.

But I can give you a point – a reason – to endure it. I can give you a message of hope. Our hope and reason are both in the name of Jesus. One day, after seven years of tribulation, He will return and reign peacefully over the entire earth. Until then, we have a purpose that doesn’t change. We are to love and serve God, love and encourage others to believe in Him, and live in a way that glorifies His name. In the midst of all the turmoil, only Jesus’ followers have a message of hope found in salvation through faith in Jesus. He alone has the power to bring comfort, encouragement, patience, rejoicing, and more out of barbaric persecution.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Religious Extremism: Why it's a good thing

Religious extremism.

This term has bounced around social media and news outlets a lot over the last couple of months.

Most people use it to refer to ISIS – a militant, radical Islamic group who established a caliphate in regions of what you and I call Syria and Iraq. The leaders of ISIS embrace a form of Sunni Islam called Salafism. From what I understand, this classification level would be comparable to a particular denomination in Christianity, such as Methodist or Presbyterian.

President Obama and many others have referred to ISIS as not representative of true Islam. Perhaps the problem is that ISIS doesn’t ascribe to the same branch of moderate Islam that many in western culture would prefer.

Our western culture prefers to keep religion moderate. It’s OK to believe in God as long as you don’t actually talk to Him or think He speaks to you as well. Then you’re a fanatic. Helping the poor and less fortunate is a good thing… unless you give them too much of your time and resources. Then you’re obsessive. Reading a Bible is valuable literary understanding, but don’t let it affect how you live or view the world. Then you might be an extremist. You may believe whatever you want – just keep it to yourself and don’t try to impose it on anyone else.

Members of ISIS, however, are doing those things. They are studying the Koran and other ancient writings. They are letting it transform how they think, view others, and live their lives. They are praying to Allah daily – several times a day. They are sharing their message with others on a massive global scale as thousands of young people from all over the world pour into the region to join ISIS. They’re religious extremists; whether you like their form of Islam or not doesn’t change that.

When Islam is taken to extreme measures, ISIS is what it looks like. And it is massively changing our world.

But any religion may contain extremists. Christianity does… and should.

Balance is critical to so many areas of our lives. Wise financial sense balances income with expenses. It spends an appropriate amount on charity, bills, savings, and a little entertainment. A balanced diet includes mainly fruits and vegetables, some dairy, meat, and grains but also knows a little chocolate now and then is a good thing. Peaceful time management utilizes available blocks of time to accomplish tasks but also realizes we need a little rest every now and then. Moderation and balance is good in life.

Except in one area… Religious extremism is a good thing.

Shocked to hear me say that as the blood of 21 Christian martyrs soaks into the sands of Tripoli? Or, as the ashes of 45 Iraqis blow through the streets of al-Baghdadi, Iraq?

Religious extremism shows us the true nature of the religion.

What does Christian extremism look like?

As I walked through my journey to learn balance in most areas of life, I found two areas where balance isn’t acceptable. They are all or nothing kind of deals.

First the “All”
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

We can’t love God moderately. No balanced approach exists for loving God. You are a three-part being. You have a heart or mind that relates to others. You have a soul or spirit that links with God. You have a body (“strength”) that connects to the physical world. We love God with all three parts. We love others unconditionally and sacrificially. We tenderly love our world – His creation. We love Him unashamedly.

Then the “Nothing”
“Do not love the world or the things that belong to the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For everything that belongs to the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s lifestyle – is not from the Father, but is from the world” (1 John 2:15-16).

We can’t avoid sin moderately. No balanced approach exists for dabbling in sin. The world likes to pull us away from God physically, mentally, and spiritually. It does so through desires that feel good to our body and our mind. It does so through the prideful self-exaltation of our own spirit over God’s.

But we mess up
I get it. I’m right there with you. We can’t love as unconditionally, sacrificially, tenderly, and unashamedly as God loves. We can’t avoid sin’s pull on our mind, body, and spirit completely on our own.

They aren’t going to happen.

That’s the beauty of God’s grace and forgiveness – two concepts unique to Christianity among religions. I’ve written about them before and I’ll write about them again. Today, they’re not my point though.

Christian Extremism

ISIS takes the practices of Islam to extremes; the world is rapidly becoming a different place because of it.

As Christians, now is not the time for moderation. Now is the time for our own version of religious extremism. Now is the time to take the teachings of Christianity to extremes and show the world what it looks like.

Extreme Christianity loves sacrificially. We follow Jesus’ example of love that gives until the last breath and extends to every soul on the face of His creation. We love even when it means we deny our prideful rights. We love even when loved one’s actions tear our hearts into pieces. We love because He loves us.

When Christianity is taken to extreme measures, it looks like Jesus. And it can massively change our world.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Love and Serve God: Learning to pray for our children

I guess I’m a bad mom. I don’t know but it seems that’s what the world would have me believe.

I’ve encountered a few situations lately where people have expressed surprise verging on disapproval with my parenting style. I need to make more of my daughters’ decisions for them. I need to control every aspect of each situation they enter. I need to manipulate outcomes to guarantee my girls’ success. I need to map out every moment of their time and their future so they’ll have an amazingly successful career.

I think this is the problem – when Jimmy and I left the hospital after the birth of our first child, I forgot to pick up my pair of hovering helicopter wings on the way out.

Here’s what did happen in my life around that time, though. In early 1998, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. At that time, I read the Bible and prayed at our kitchen table each morning. From the time of that first positive pregnancy test, my prayer life added a new dimension.

I began to pray for each of my children to love and serve God. That was it. I wanted God to be real in their lives and I wanted help for Jimmy and me to raise them that way. God was real to each of us; the only way we could fail as parents was if we neglected to pass that along to them.

I’ve learned some things about what it means to love and serve God in the past 17 years since that first prayer. If we’re all still around 17 years from now, I’ll have some more things to share because I’m still learning. Also, I think these things apply to all of our relationships – not just how we relate to our children.

To love and serve God

God made you special and He loves you very much

This line actually came from Veggietales, a children’s video series who enjoyed their highest popularity in my daughters’ younger years.

The point for us, however, wasn’t only to teach the girls that God feels this way about them. Even more, we wanted them to learn God feels this way about everyone. Every person has a unique, inherent value because God made them. We don’t classify by race, age, gender, or any of the other categorizations where people like to set one group apart as superior to another group.

Some of the stories I remember that weren’t an issue because of the way my girls’ thought… A fourth grader can play with a third grader even though they aren’t the same age. It’s ok if you’re white but you want to pick out a black baby doll or if you think a black boy is cute. A new kid on the softball team needs help learning how to play – why would someone make fun of them?

We can’t love and serve God – as adults or children – if we don’t recognize this. We put people down because of how much money they have, how hard they work, where they live, how their family behaves, and other nonsense. As long as we do this, we’ll fail to see that God loves and serves each and every human on the planet and calls us to do the same.

Learn to learn

This is my primary goal in choosing to homeschool our daughters but it applies in all aspects of life.

God created an amazing environment for us to live in – it abounds in artistic creation and scientific discovery. It’s full of ideas, truth, art, and logic that all weave together to make the human experience. If our life’s goal is to learn information to pass a test to make a grade to get into a school to get a certain job, then I can almost guarantee we’ll miss out on the beauty of the artistry and the wonder of the science.

At some point we decide we can stop learning; for some, it’s after high school or college graduation. Others wait until they have a graduate or doctoral degree before they stop learning.

Loving and serving God, however, is to realize that we can never stop learning. As children, we can learn to learn so our life may become a pursuit of God’s truth, a discussion of ideas to implement it into the world, an ability to create as He created, and a capacity to research and discover all of it.

Grown up in a grown up body

Children are born with three parts – a body that interacts with its environment, a mind that interacts with other people, and a soul that interacts with God. As parents, we need to raise all three parts to adulthood.

Decent nutrition and shelter will help the physical body grow to adulthood all on its own. The mental functions of the mind aren’t so easy though. The spiritual soul is even more difficult but for now, I’m going to focus on the mind.

We had a 9 year old friend of my daughters over recently. We were going to buy Subway sandwiches for lunch so I asked her what she liked. She didn’t know; she said her mom always orders for her. I asked, “What kinds of meat do you like – ham, turkey, beef, or salami?” She didn’t know what any of the meats were because she’d never had to make a decision for her own sandwich.

Many adults are children in grown up bodies. It’s important for children to make their own decisions. They start young in deciding which clothes to wear or which lunchbox to buy. They learn skills that help them as they grow and their decisions become more complicated… Should I cheat on this test? Should I go out with this guy? Which car should I buy? What classes should I take? Where should I go to college? Should I marry this girl? Should I serve God on the mission field?

This isn’t only about decision making though.

My daughter wanted banana cut up on her Rice Krispies this morning. I’ve been teaching her how to use the knife and cut it herself but she told me she doesn’t like to get her hands slimy from cutting it. My answer was simple, “Yes, but when you’re 35, I’m not going to come over every morning to cut up your banana so your hands don’t get slimy.” She smiled and proceeded to cut her own banana.

We can’t make all their decisions for them; likewise, we can’t do everything for them. We often do because we do it better, faster, or safer. From cutting bananas to balancing their own checking account, they’ll never learn if we don’t allow them to try. Yes, they’ll mess up along the way. Sometimes we learn more from our failures and mistakes than we do our successes!

Part of loving and serving God is to function as responsible members of society. We make decisions and accept the responsibility for the outcome of those decisions as we also seek God’s guidance in the process. We accept our failures as learning opportunities for greater success in the future.

So what’s my point?

I don’t know; goodness knows I don’t have all the answers when it comes to parenting. I guess I’m only wanting to explain my lack of hovering helicopter wings. I want to raise children who recognize the value in all people. I want my children to try and serve those people rather than expect to be served. I want them to learn how to learn about what fascinates them and praise the God who created whatever interests them most. I want them to be responsible adults who can help society rather than drain it. I want them to love and serve God.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Reason to Laugh: Sometimes the biggest service is small

Grow Barefoot had the privilege of helping a young woman take her first short-term mission trip recently. Elizabeth’s parents wanted to give her a special gift for her college graduation gift, as most parents do. For this family, a special gift meant a trip to serve in an orphanage in rural Haiti. It may be tropical but it’s a far cry from Cancun, Nassau, or even South Padre Island, Texas.

I caught up with Elizabeth after her trip and asked her to share some thoughts about her trip, life in Haiti, and how the trip impacted her.

The following is her response…

Haiti was my first mission trip. I’d had a desire to go serve at Haiti Home of Hope for several years but the timing never worked out until this year. I was excited to find a wonderful group of people at the last minute. Though I’d never met any of them before this trip, I felt very welcomed into their group. I loved talking and getting to know them over our time together.

I’m a very hands-on person and like to work on projects when I’m with a group. It can be anything ranging from building something to organizing stuff in a room. When we left for Haiti, we had no idea what we were going to be doing and that made me a little bit apprehensive. I like to have a plan and know what is going to happen. When we arrived, Bill and Jennifer told us there weren’t any big projects that needed done at the moment so our main job was to entertain the kids while they were on break from school. We had Bible lessons and craft projects for the kids which they used as decorations for their Christmas party and in their rooms. While to some this may not seem as important as providing people with filtered water or a roof over their heads, it was the need that needed met at this time. I hear parents at home talk about having their kids home on break – usually only 2-3 kids per house. Imagine having 40 kids hanging around, all wanting attention. The real needs may not be the most newsworthy or glorious but we were there to serve others, not ourselves. What good is planning to do all kinds of monstrous projects if that is not where the need lies?

Many people come back from a mission trip with some new insight or this awesome lesson that they’ve learned. I didn’t come back with either of these. What I did come home with was the joy of having served Bill and Jennifer, the kids, and some of the local people. I experienced a different culture and saw the happiness the people receive from a simpler lifestyle. The kids at the orphanage were smiling, laughing, and so excited we were there. The girls asked all day long if we were going to sing and dance with them in the evenings. They loved to do so and no other group had done that with them.

People in America get so caught up that we lose sight of the importance of little things. I loved my trip to Haiti and definitely would like to go back or do something similar in the future.

Elizabeth’s words remind me of the verse, “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me’” (Matthew 25:40). We so often think our service has to be big…and amazing…and professional…and beautiful.

Sometimes service in God’s kingdom is helping a friend take care of her kids. Sometimes it’s singing a song with a lonely child. If we do what God calls us to do, then it’s all big, amazing, and beautiful.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

American Sniper: What would Jesus do?

If a man burst into our home or approached me on the street with a loaded weapon intent on killing me, I would be ok with Jimmy shooting him. In fact, I would expect him to do everything within his power to protect me. It’s his job.

It was Chris Kyle’s job to do so as well.

Chris is the hero of the blockbuster movie “American Sniper,” a true story based on his military career as a Navy SEAL. Chris’s accuracy with a sniper rifle saved the lives of countless Americans throughout four tours of duty in Iraq. His accomplishments earned him the nickname “Legend” among his military brothers. The movie isn’t only Chris’s struggle on the battlefield, however, just as Chris Kyle’s life wasn’t only as a military hero. Chris was also a husband and dad; balancing the aggression of the battlefield with the compassion of the home may have been his greatest battle just as it is for many who return home from war.

Despite his heroic actions, the movie has met with strong criticism in social media. One tweet has caught my attention more than others. I saw the movie Saturday night; the movie was still fresh in my pondering mind when I read this tweet,

I admit it – the expression “What would Jesus do?” is kind of worn out. I can’t remember the last time I saw someone wearing a WWJD bracelet. Besides, the question of what Jesus would do is pointless as He doesn’t need a sniper’s rifle to strike down his enemy. The power of His spoken word will be adequate when the time comes. Don’t believe me? Read Revelation 19:11-21. But that’s another battle for another day and time.

All joking aside, I think we understand the point of the tweeter’s question, “What would Jesus do?” The question really asks “How should I – as a follower of Jesus – respond to this situation?” Or, sometimes people use the question to indicate, “What is Jesus’ teaching on this issue?” To that end, I’ve come up with six areas where Chris Kyle is a good example for us as followers of Christ as we engage in the battle.

He enlisted.

It seems basic but we all have to start somewhere, don’t we? Yet, some of us never enlist in the battle. We assume life can be all happy thoughts, peaceful moments, and kumbaya campfires. That’s not reality, though. We may find personal peace in Christ but neither the spiritual nor physical worlds will experience complete peace until eternity begins. Only then will God “wipe away every tear from [our] eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4). Until then, we better come to grips with reality; wars and rumors of wars will continue until the end (Matthew 24:6) and “we will have suffering in this world” (John 16:33).

He developed his skill.

Chris Kyle appears to have had some natural talent with a rifle. Natural talent doesn’t make you the most successful sniper in American history, however. The movie doesn’t go in to much detail in this area but common sense tells me that Chris spent hours practicing and developing his skill so he would be ready when deployment came.

As followers of Christ, we have a gift as well – a special area where God has given us the capacity to serve Him. The capacity to serve is only as effective as natural talent, however. It will get some work done but serving at a higher level requires the development of that capacity. Then we can step into the battle ready to do some damage against the enemy.

He knew his purpose.

Chris Kyle’s job was to protect his fellow soldiers. Period. He didn’t spend time cooking in the mess hall or analyzing intelligence in the offices. His duty – his purpose – was to spend hours staring down the scope of a rifle watching for those who might harm his brothers. That’s what he did and it made him a legend.

We have a purpose as well; we have to know what it is. We can waste a lot of hours doing good things that keep us from the best thing, however. In fact, I believe this is one of Satan’s primary methods of attack for those who follow Christ. He can keep us so busy doing good things that we aren’t effective in our true area of purpose, whatever that might be. The more our relationship with Jesus grows, the more we will know our true purpose. Then, we will be the one striking down the enemy on the battlefield.

He did his job.

He developed his skill. He knew his purpose. All of that is worthless if we don’t step up and do the job. Hours of practice and tons of head knowledge didn’t make Chris a legend. He was a legend because he put it into practice on the battlefield.

When the enemy entered his view on the cross hairs of his rifle scope, Chris pulled the trigger. He didn’t enjoy it but he didn’t regret it either. It was his job to protect the lives of his fellow servicemen. Pulling the trigger accomplished that mission.

Chris also recognized the ripple effects of his job performance. Yes, he took the lives of Iraqis, but doing so saved the lives of countless others. In the immediate sense, it saved the lives of those at the other end of the Iraqi’s gun. It also rippled out into the future as each Iraqi he killed couldn’t kill American soldiers in the weeks, months, and years ahead. The ripples didn’t even stop there. Each time Chris successfully fired his rifle, he took one more step toward keeping the battle off American soil and away from his wife and kids.

Chris served faithfully.

His service was hard. His family suffered as did his health. Sometimes he was unable to save his military brothers. He lived in humble conditions while deployed. No one ever said it was easy to be a Navy SEAL. Likewise, no one ever said it will be easy to follow Christ. If it was, God could have called bunnies and kittens to fight the forces of evil. Instead, He called us – those He created in His image and in whom His Spirit dwells – because through Him He knew we could win the battle.

His service was met with criticism. Obviously, not everyone agrees with what Chris Kyle did. Yet Chris knew his purpose, did his job, and would do so again if he could as he knew it was the right thing to do. Similarly, not everyone is going to agree with or understand when we step up to the spiritual battle. That doesn’t matter; we do it because God called us to do it and it’s the right thing to do.

So in the end

War will continue on this planet. Even more, war will continue in the spiritual realm. Our enemy isn’t a person lined up in our crosshairs; our battle is against forces of evil and powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). Some of us would like to sit in our pews, following a Christianity that denies hell and demonic forces where everyone lives pretty, peaceful lives. Recognition of Jesus’ teaching realizes, however, that following Christ sometimes means war. We have to enlist in the battle, develop our skill, study to know our purpose, do our job, and serve faithfully until the end.