Saturday, May 30, 2015

Body of Christ working to heal wounded warriors

I have just returned from a five day experience that profoundly impacted me. I was recruited to spend five days at the Wind River Ranch, a 110 acre guest ranch a few miles outside of Estes Park to serve wounded warriors and their families. Wind River Ranch gives three weeks of the year to the Wounded Warrior Project hosting wounded warrior families so that they may come and experience rest and healing in God's beautiful country. 

I expected to see soldiers with missing limbs and major physical injuries but was surprised that almost all had psychological injuries instead of physical. There were also families with autistic and emotionally challenged children and wives of soldiers who had to take care of their children as well as a wounded husband.  

One soldier with PTSD could not take loud noises or be confined in areas with a lot of children. Our volunteer team ate our meals with him in a cabin away from the crowd. The first morning he was irritated, very much on edge, and spoke about his frustrations using a lot of expletives. By the third day his language had changed. He was calmer and began to eat in the main dining hall but wore headphones and listened to his music to avoid the crowd noise.  

Friday morning wrangler breakfast
On each Friday morning, the camp holds a breakfast in an open meadow surrounded by trees away from the main buildings. The families ride horseback to the site where the staff serves up a breakfast cooked over an open fire. As I mingled with the families waiting for the breakfast to be served on this Friday morning, I looked up surprised to see our wounded warrior there in the crowd without his headphones!  He seemed to be at peace and amazingly calm. What a transformation in just a few days!  

One of the fathers, a wounded warrior there with his family, stood up and spoke out as we finished our breakfast. He tearfully thanked the staff and talked about how much the week meant to him and his family. He said that he couldn't put into words the healing that had taken place and what his family had experienced.  I looked around and saw many of the wives and some of the wounded warrior dads in tears.

Fun and games with the kids
From the horseback riding, the morning devotions, the wonderful family meals, the hootenanny at night, to the games in the afternoon, all had worked together to bring incredible healing to the soldiers and their families. 
I found that the power of the incredibly beautiful mountains and landscape was surpassed only by the power of God's presence among the staff and volunteers at the camp. 
Hitting the trail

I was informed Sunday that after we left the ranch Friday that our soldier with PTSD spent most of Friday afternoon at the barn and was very relaxed and positive (no headphones on).  That night after dinner, he and another wounded warrior broke down and wept and shared with the staff things they had never told anyone since their return home.  There was lots of pent up anger towards God but both had realized that God was definitely moving during the week through all the beautiful people loving on them.  Our soldier was the last man out Saturday, spending a lot of time with "his horse" and the wranglers, toting a Bible and looking forward to returning next week to visit, serve, ride and play his horn for the next group.  God had certainly started the healing process in his life through the wonderful staff and volunteers and the beautiful setting.  

What is amazing about the ranch is that it was first inhabited and developed by an itinerant preacher in the 1880's named E.J.Lamb.  His prayer was that the land be used by God to bring people to Christ.  Over one hundred years later the property is doing just that, using what God has blessed the new owners with  to bring the healing power of the Gospel to families in need of restoration.  

To read more about Wind River Ranch or donate go to

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Church We Have A Problem According To Pew Study

The latest Pew Research Survey on religion in America does not paint a rosy picture for the Christian church, reporting a decline of "Christians" of almost 8% from 2007.  The percentage of adults (ages 18 and older) who describe themselves as Christians has dropped by nearly eight percentage points in just seven years, from 78.4% in an equally massive Pew Research survey in 2007 to 70.6% in 2014. Over the same period, the percentage of Americans who are religiously unaffiliated – describing themselves as atheist, agnostic or “nothing in particular” – has jumped more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%. And the share of Americans who identify with non-Christian faiths also has inched up, rising 1.2 percentage points, from 4.7% in 2007 to 5.9% in 2014. 

Mainline protestant denominations took the brunt of the decline while evangelical churches actually increased in number, as much a 5 million.  Yet the future does not look promising for either because there is a failure to reproduce generationally both in mainline and evangelical churches. The millennial generation, especially many of the young millennials, are not continuing the faith of their parents. More than 85% of American adults were raised Christian, but nearly a quarter of those who were raised Christian no longer identify with Christianity. 

In the evangelical church, there has always been a high value of making new disciples, to evangelize the lost, hence the term evangelical church.  In my coaching of pastors, much of our energy is spent on developing strategies to reach those who do not believe. Perhaps we should also examine how we are raising up our children to love God and pursue truth.  Somewhere along the line we are losing that battle and if those closest to us fail to carry on with our faith, then how can we expect to convince those outside our family to believe in Christ? How do we leave a legacy of faith without pushing it upon our children or turning them away from the church? How do we best disciple them? They are after all, the future of the church.

I've written about the issue in a recent blog; The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Child and also the root of the problem; Survey Indicates Religious Faith Not A High Value For Many Christians.

I'd love to hear your thoughts, suggestions and answers.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Greatest Gift You Can Give Your Child

I attended a dynamic worship service this past Sunday at Austin Christian Fellowship where pastor Will Davis Jr. and his wife Susie talked about raising children. They shared some powerful words of instruction and encouragement to parents about raising children in today's culture and landed on what I believe is our greatest gift to children from 3 John 1:4 where John says "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth". 

So the great question to ask yourself is what would bring me the greatest joy in my children when they become adults?  Susie makes this significant statement, "If your goal for your children is to get into a good college, marry a wonderful spouse or a live happy life, this tells a lot about you as a parent."  As followers of Christ, shouldn't our greatest joy be to see our children walking in truth, loving God and serving Him and others. If that is true, shouldn't leaving a legacy of faith be our greatest gift to our children?

Will and Susie gave some great advice on how to leave a legacy of faith in a culture that so wants to take you and your children in a totally different direction?  They explained that the the key is to impress the word of God into your child by making the word of God the backdrop for everything you do.
An important first step is to establish a mission statement for your family. Then talk about it, memorize it, post it around the house, stencil it on your wall or stick it on the fridge so that you children will see it, know it and learn to live from it. This mission statement, should be about what is most important to you and your family. It should be a summary of what would bring you the most joy in your children, your end goal as a parent. So when your child acts up or wanders off, you can remind them that their actions do not match their purpose.    

Do you have a family mission statement? If so, I'd love for you to share it.  
If not, Here is an exercise that will help your family create a mission statement.

Powerful quotes from the message:
  • Make the whole template of God's word your end goal.
  • Our long term goal for our children, the end goal of parenting is to have a faith that carries them through life, not a fear that cripples them.
  • You shouldn't be the one who pushes your children into the dark because you can't handle their darkness. 
  • Leave a legacy of belief and faith, not a legacy of fear. 
  • What leaks out to your children? When you leak, you want to leak the word of God. If it's not in you, it will not leak out. 
  • If you focus only on helping your child to be culturally relevant, to give them the best that culture has to offer, you'll grow a child to be culturally relevant but biblically irrelevant.
  • We parent from a worldly mindset. Because we pursue, worry about, and fight about worldly things. 
  • Help your children love the right things by you loving the right things.  1 John 2:15-17
  • Our children need to see us loving the things of God. When was the last time your children caught you, praying, loving God, serving others? 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Family and Faith, Slipping Away But Still Our Best Hope

From ART.Com
If you are like me, you find yourself shaking your head daily, wondering what in the world is going on in our society today. I was shocked early on, but I've almost become numb to the disturbing news and shocking events that I hear about almost every day.  Perhaps more than anything, I'm most troubled by the redefinition of morals and values in our culture today. 

We seem to have lost our heart and soul as a nation. And because of that, our people must be governed more and more from the outside in, instead of living from the inside out.

For 2,000 years, our values and standards of right and wrong have been fairly consistent.  And the primary method of instilling those values has been through the church and the family. Our Christian faith teaches that we must be transformed from within to live out these principles which our society is built upon. These values of honesty, selflessness, love, self control, and freedom have been replaced with deception and cover up, saying whatever to make you look good, selfishness, hatred, irresponsibility, and control.  

As our society moves away from the Judeo-Christian ethic and Christianity in general, those in charge of regulating behavior must manage from the outside in. Think about it.  The two ways we maintain a society of law and order is to either instill a morality from within or manage with a set of rules and regulations from the outside.  So a person will either act in a civil manner because of what they have been taught or because of the fear of punishment if they are caught violating the law.  

When we rely upon the latter exclusively, imposing our standards and values from the outside, more control becomes necessary, more laws and more policing. We see it throughout our society, evidenced by our overcrowded prisons to sports leagues having to define their own codes of conduct. The more irresponsible we are as a society, the more control is needed and the less freedom we have.

As the family disintegrates and the church becomes less of an influence, (the two main engines for the development of character and values) the government must step into the void and find alternative ways to teach their values. So not only have our values changed but so also have the means by which we instill those values.

The media and our education system now have become the training ground for the new morality replacing the church and family.  So now the values are defined by those who have the most influence either in the media or government. And those values that have been such a foundation of our society for hundreds of years can now change from year to year depending on who has the power. 

The simple answer to the the problems we now face is to return to the two pillars of our country, family and faith.  I'm not sure whether we will ever be able to restore our families to where they once were. Will the church ever have the influence it once had to cultivate biblical values in our country? These are still our best hope and for Christians will remain to be our way of spiritual growth and character development, but I fear that both of these have lost most of their influence on our society in general.  It's a sad day and yet through it all, we know and trust that God is in control. 

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