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The Gospel in the Trenches

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 31, 2021 12:01 am

The Gospel in the Trenches

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 31, 2021 12:01 am

Military chaplains bring the gospel to those who are literally on the front lines. Today, Ligonier President Chris Larson is joined by retired chaplain and Brigadier General Douglas Lee to discuss how your support provides a spiritual supply line for those on active duty around the world.

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I had four months with me.

The soldiers, camels, the whole 9 yards.

And I said, Lord, what can I do you will hear how the Lord answered the chaplain's prayer. Next, likely would have been welcome to Renewing Your Mind. Jesus told his disciples, behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of rules will be wise as serpents and innocent as the few people today understand that interpretation better than the chaplains who serve in the military and answer the call to minister to those in uniform, but they have to be careful about how they do it. That's because there are those who want to limit what chaplains can teach lead our prayerful support and encouragement within your ministries is privileged to serve the chaplains with the resources reproducing publishing.

We want to let you know how you can join us in that effort. First note we'd like for you to hear a conversation that your president Chris Larson might have been a retired Army chaplain Douglas Lee chaplain leaser for more than 30 years in uniform and rose to the rank of Brig. Gen. after retirement as Executive Director position and oversees the selection, placement and care of chaplains several reformed denominations.

I began by asking them how and why chaplains play such a vital will. There are several answers that question.

But just begin with.

Same as a constitutional First Amendment requirement here in America which is wonderful and allows liberty to have freedom to be able to speak about the gospel there. So when it soldier airmen sailor guardian as is across the sea. They can't go to their normal place of worship and so chaplains are allowed their constitution to provide religious support for them. But of course wartime is a time when there's an intense and tremendous amount of thinking going on in our troops mind about where he is what he or she is doing and what might happen to them. And so the chaplain is there by God's grace to his way, say bring God to man and man to God in that process we nurture the living we care for the wounded and we take care of the following honor the fallen and so those things altogether in a time of war become very, very significant, and the stories are just legion of the number of troops have been influenced by chaplains in the field as they are together and is very unusual, intense environment, and I'm sure you are daily receiving reports of God's grace in the field are Jim Daly are from multiple baptisms to overflowing worship services, but also those little tiny moments when chaplains out there with a tiny unit with four or five people in a Sunday morning or Saturday night and are just enjoying the good things of the word that I've seen pictures in the field that these baptisms that take place to help her out in the desert anywhere they can find water writing about like a eyeliner and for a Baptist friends occurs after a little more water sometimes they might put water in a helmet during glass and use that. The good news is the matter what amount of water is necessarily but people come to new life in Christ.

Yet what were getting her some more of those reports in just a moment, but also joining us is the president and chief operating officer of leader ministries Chris Larson Chris, what was the impetus for beginners involvement with chaplain Lee and the other chaplains were serving on active duty, much like Doug just mentioned, the reality is the timeworn statement is true. There are no atheists in foxholes, and that these are souls that need to be cared for and in a crisis period of time. It's the obligation of the ministers of the gospel to be able to go forth with the comfort of the gospel and to be able to present the claims of Christ to these souls as they are tender and very receptive to hearing the truth of the gospel.

Dr. Spruill started this effort.

Decades ago, being able to get the league in years teaching series and it was really just the church carrying it out.

Carrying out the great commission.

Being able to to move these teaching resources that leaders been producing for decades now into the hands of servicemen and women. I remember maybe 20 years ago. Dr. Spruill mentioned that there was a highly placed Navy personnel who ensured that beginners teaching series were on every ship throughout the entire U.S. Navy fleet and it was a remarkable testimony, and ever since that started several decades ago. The look in your ministry support family those ministry partners that come alongside of us as we carry out the work of this mission. They believe in what you're doing Doug they believe in what these chaplains are doing. They want to come alongside and strengthen your arms for service. House leaders involvement made a difference to the chaplains in the field all my we have some testimonies. As you know you'll be sharing some of those but but I want to add something to Chris's comments here. You know wartime. There are intense moments of activity in adrenaline flowing and then intense times of boredom and troops are always looking for ways to fill that time, they can sell them negatively, but licking your literature over all these years has been among the major things troops asked for once they find them because there's such a variety of things to read. There are deeper theological tomes but also deep theological things. Put in simple terms for these troops to read and see it optically to understand that when somebody's away in a faraway place from home there. There is time to be reading and reflecting and to know this literature is been available for all this time is pretty amazing. I remember just a few years ago when the Afghanistan conflict was really heating up. It was in one of these periods of respite that a picture came to looking here and there was an infantry man sitting in the desert reading table talk magazine just sitting down leaning against his backpack and enjoying a daily devotion with table talk is just so encouraging to us classic picture. Now I can testify personally that my son who was an Army artillery officer in Iraq some years ago as a subscription of table talk magazine that he relied on daily in his walk with the Lord during the time he also asked about influencing chaplains course chaplains are always looking for good things to give people they don't want to give stuff that's not helpful and not encouraging. 20. Ask about the influence of licking your literature on chaplains you'll see in all testimonies we hear are if you could see them all. You would say number one the personal input to their lives through the incredible variety is been absolutely so encouraging licking your might be the premier place in chaplains in my world go to for comes to spiritual growth over all the years I've been a chaplain table talk was a key part of this because I knew every day. I was going to get some vignette, some biblical truth that I could expand on think about and the extra articles in table talk in particular were part of my routine and so the personal growth that literature is provided is been incredible. But then when the chaplains can then share that with wonderful books that just makes their job easier and we can go on talking that affects what we mentioned that we have submitted testimonials from the chaplains who served in the field in combat situations. Let's hear from one of those chaplains right now. My name is Jim Carter, the pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Pompano Beach, Florida. I served in the military for about 23 years on active duty and roughly about two years in the reserves right on the border between Saudi Arabia and Iraq. I had four months with me. The soldiers, camels, the whole 9 yards. And I said, Lord, what can I do one day in the middle of the desert. There was mail call an issue of heard stories about the military mail call is a big deal.

And so I showed up and they gave me this huge box and I opened it up and there was holiness of God. I was deeply appreciative and indebted to Dr. Spruill as my seminary professor, but also as a person who is impacting my life and hundreds of others out in the middle of the desert in 1991 and has done that ever sense. Chaplain Lee. That's one of your chaplaincy is retired now but I should point out that chaplain Carter served not only during operation Desert Shield and that's what he was referring to their male goal situation, but he also served two years in Iraq retired as a chaplain, Col. This is something that meant a lot to him.

Oh my, that the others of our almost 300 chaplains are sitting in a room. They were just say amen and amen to what he just said because they will have expenses like this are in some moment when Ligon years boxes would come to them or some church sent a box full of stuff and happened include all kinds of linear literature both stories to start all over the place. There are times when I've come to some of these chaplain meetings with you Doug and have been able to meet some of these men and they've begun sharing some of the strains that have entered into the chaplaincy. We understand that this is probably a time where the chaplaincy's been stretched more and more, almost to the point of breaking, both with long deployments as well as with some of the other pressures about what they can and cannot say where you touched on important subjects, reminding us that there is all the more need now for good literature to be sent out among the chaplains and their trips we are living in a changing American culture. The chaplains are on the front edges of that cultural change because the military is a cross-section of America and they have to do with some of those changes in very unique ways but again I did I just say we don't need to despair. Faith comes the hearing hearing by the word of God and we get literature out, that proclaims the good news is varieties of ways in Scripture that gives hope to our chaplains and encouragement and enables them to be bold, while related to that don't ask don't tell was repealed in 2012.

Since then homosexuals have been allowed to serve openly in the military and chaplain Lee you were quoted in 2011 that you are concerned that the new policy might force chaplains to compromise their beliefs. Has that been the case. The danger is out there. Definitely for compromise. I never really worried about our chaplains compromise their faith, but I had to do with a culture of fear that was laid on over the military where commanders and other senior leaders.

Now don't quite know what the religious lines are what can they do what can they not do when it comes to proclaiming religious things.

How will the issue of homosexual serve in the military will that affect religious liberty. Somehow if they don't like what pastor preaches or says I'm happy to say today that 99% of our chaplains and evangelical chaplains in the military have not had direct attacks on them, partly because we have this wonderful First Amendment protection. However, there are issues and examples I can give you from the enlisted and line officer world in which there some people had to make some serious decisions about this and the culture of fear which of course is promoted by the evil one can affect chaplains to and it can affect their boldness all going back to our discussion today about the need for good strong literature to be out there and for chaplains to have resources in which they can be emboldened and reminded of God's grace. They just want Ligon or to be a spiritual supply line for these men is that in these challenges that we've been talking about. Provide your chaplains chaplain Lee with great opportunities for all. Absolutely, absolutely. I just came from a wonderful event at one of our major army posts and you can have various kinds of events to support religion in the military from ecumenical events, which can also have faith specific events and this was a Christian prayer breakfast that I was asked to come in and down share and course.

It's a voluntary event for the soldiers account but there hundred and 5200. I came into our young West Point graduate, Lieut. sing praise songs with the Sgt. next to him standing that commander came in and talk about his his strong faith and how excited he was just to be a soldier and to in these times. The event was very, very positive and open and that liberty still exists, but never let it not her, but has the same feelings and thoughts, and there are still those across America who just assume you're not be chaplains in the military, and they are they want to dumb down chaplaincy or they wanted generic chaplaincy and so those forces are very much at work. Another chaplain who appreciates this partnership with Wagoner ministries is retired chaplain Col. Andrew Zeller, and here's what chaplain Zeller had to say about the Ligon are resources that meant the most to him as he ministered to the troops there very valuable having something that you can leave with soldiers and encourage them to read it to study it to have devotion times like table talk there very valuable. I think probably one of the most significant studies from RC that helped me in my ministry was a rather older study surprised by suffering and I went through that many times and understanding God's role as our sovereign Lord in times of suffering was extremely valuable. Understanding that there is a plan and because God is sovereign and there is a divine plan. There is purpose in their suffering and purpose in even the violence and the trauma that's going on around them that if God is not suffer and this is something RC presents. In that study, God is not sovereign, then there is a good chance there is no purpose in our suffering because he is there is not just a chance. But there is the absolute hope that what we go through here on earth that are difficult situations has perfect goes back to what we were talking about earlier recruits that believe you mentioned there are no atheists in foxholes but surprised by suffering as a resource that really can help chaplains minister to those troops who work trying to find meaning to what's going on around them, absolutely it at that. Just one kind of book that there are many other books and booklets that have been out there to encourage our men thinking about those big questions but their own personal suffering and about suffering of a nation the suffering of a unit that might be having difficulties are losing a lot of people that that's a big subject, and these books are incredible to help jump only what about the emotional toll that this is taken, we focused on on the soldiers and the chaplains there to support them but I would imagine that the multiple deployments the horrors of war of had an impact on the chaplains themselves. How are they dealing with this emotion will thankfully we have seen strong faith makes for strong response and strong chaplains and so I think overall we seen our chaplains handle some of the stress as well, but we have chaplains to that affected by PTSD. While we are chaplains who posttraumatic stress syndrome. We have chaplains who are specially ministering to those that are struggling with those issues and they become affected by the struggles of their trims out there so chaplain has to be worked very hard to balance life and and frankly I I have to go back to literature. Literature, like they've been getting helps them to have a balanced life. I'm reminded of one of Dr. Sproles heroes Thomas Stonewall Jackson, a devout Calvinist and presbyterian and that he had a remarkable courage in battle and I just remember that one quote where his men saw him going into battle with really unflinching confidence that he knew what he had to do and had purpose about what he was doing. Someone asked him about this and he said my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that. But to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me, and then he added that if all men lived with this kind of faith, they would be equally brave and we might add, then that there are no equal faith. There is only the Christian faith that can provide this kind of confidence for our troops and we see what the chaplaincy is providing to even the troops is giving them the basis for bravery absolutely alike. I could, we could go on with that discussion topic because we find the military struggling so hard to address issues like sexual harassment, but also posttraumatic stress issues that their experience and the moral injury of men and at the root of all the issues that our troops are facing postwar is a spiritual issue is not a strong faith in this postmodern age they don't know what they believe, then, then it changes from day to day and so Stonewall. That comment is a, that any of our chaplains would concur with because it's their belief of a sovereign God and their belief that God is all things well and there belief of God's understanding of sin and what needs to be done about it. That gives them encouragement and hope there's a lot more to say about that subject would appreciate your bringing that quota share with us if you will dog and act out from under chaplains of phone call and email a face-to-face conversation with one year chaplains that really moved you about why you do what you do cowboy but I get a call from a chaplain, and he's been working with a particular person that God has brought him and he tells me that he's had quite a bit of time with this person and then wouldn't you know he decided to give his life to Christ. Now I get that's kind of a generic answer to your question, but that's the kind of comment that I get frequently but then some of the comments I got recently. For example, one of our chaplains, John Sackett Air Force in New Mexico says one of his military members was heading out the door to go on a trip.

He said hey chaplain give me something to read for my two weeks of school coming up. I gave him quote how to develop Christian conscience and what is the church for millionaire. He returned a week later came to my office asking if we could meet regularly showing that he had never really taken his Christian faith seriously. He explained that those booklets showed his need for discipleship and further study and what is reformed theology and how they can lead his family as a spiritual head that is enjoyable, pastoral counseling, that's just a sample of the calls and emails that I get as they reflect on this and at our annual conference were licking your gums and they share some of the new books maybe your booklets. That's when the chaplains just rise up and say yes these books have been so incredible to me all this last year and thank you for the new books and may I just those are common comments.

I remember Chris seeing you make a presentation to the chaplains and on each and every one of their faces. I could see the gratitude that they had for for what you are providing portly and was providing for them at these gatherings of your chaplains Only. I want you to come to clear up a misconception that many folks have never served in the military may have about chaplains that they may serve as they say in the rear with the gear. But when you go to one of these gatherings of these chaplains, you can tell a lot by their uniforms uniform in the ribbons in the other things that are encroachments on the uniform tell a lot about were soldiers been and what he does. These chaplains are on the front lines.

Many of them are airborne qualified. They've gone to Fort Benning, Georgia to become parachute qualified. Many of them have served on the front lines. Many of them are. Prior service is all the above I was just talking to one of our senior chaplains and Marine chaplain, the Navy provides chaplains from rain, the Coast Guard and Navy.

He's been arranged for most of his life and he doesn't say much about this, but I believe the ribbons on his chest. He has the most of any other officer in the Marines because of worries been what is I know he hasn't shot a rifle but he's been where the action is with the Marines.

And you're right.

The ribbons do tell quite a story. But even if they don't have many ribbons. The fact that commanders say look at this chaplain is a combat multiplier that sounds odd to say for a guy was a noncombatant but commanders that he's a combat multiplier because he helps take care of my troops answers the big questions helps me sort through the religious issues of the day and I wish the audience could come to one of her annual conferences and sit in a room with our chaplains gathered to hear their stories and listen to them talk there.

It would they reward them. Just be flabbergasted. I'm sure many of our listeners could not imagine the military without the medical Corps right there to be able to help the injured. Can you imagine a military without the chaplaincy. I can't know, that's for sure. And George Washington could neither for even before he became a general in the Revolutionary war. He was pining and seeking chaplains for his Virginia troops and the French and Indian wars.

Knowing that the soul of that soldier is critical to encourage and help them sort through the big issues of life Tripoli. How can we pray for our military chaplains number one. Pray for boldness for them, for Satan does go around like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.

We are told to be alert were told to put on the armor of God, because of flaming darts of the evil one are flying around today.

We need chaplains who are not afraid for their career. Not afraid for what others might think of them but that they will simply be bold in all their personal efforts and their group efforts that are critical in pray for their families.

The deployments are going down were not sending as many people back to faraway places these days. A lot of our families have sacrificed as their husbands have been away their family still need prayer for the dramatic things happening in the military and the changes in the lifestyle that is to pray for those wives and those children and then I think churches individuals are simply out to pray.

Generally, a God might just raise up a mighty host of folk from the military to become Christians that they would just pray for the troops that that they be sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives and hearts Chris Larson thank you for being with us, ensuring that what the millionaire is doing to help these chaplains in the field and chaplain Doug Lee, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate your service to many many thanks to their help today on Renewing Your Mind. We have been talking about the vital role of military chaplains and about the way we can support them on a number of levels. Chaplains are always looking for teaching resources to meet the needs of those they serve.

So as they serve.

We want to serve them.

Sometimes they lack the funds to purchase these teaching materials so we asked that you consider a generous financial donation to offset the cost of not just producing and publishing these materials but getting them into the hands of these chaplains here and abroad, so that they can minister to the troops.

Would you help us help them. We encourage you to visit. Renewing Your to give your gift right now there are nearly 200 chaplains were enrolled to receive packages containing books and other teaching resources from doctors role our teaching fellows and other trusted pastors and teachers, and we would love to see that number grow. We are quite frequently from these chaplains who receive these Bible study tools. One chaplain wrote to us and said, licking her provides tremendous resources not only for our soldiers but to fetus shepherds as well. The audio and video resources along with publications like table talk are especially helpful in our work. Your gift of any amount today will provide much needed resources to the front lines just like you herded today's conversation with chaplain Douglas Lee, so help support the troops around the world by giving a gift to Renewing Your and thank you in advance for your generosity. Perhaps that you have a friend or loved one you think would benefit from hearing the interview that that we featured today and they can listen to it at any time on our website which is Renewing Your I hope you make plans to be with us tomorrow as we feature a lesson from Dr. Robert Godfrey series on the book of Revelation.

There's a premium we have this glorious scene in heaven. God with redeem humanity. God with his purpose fulfilled gathering same side of the Old Testament and out of the new you will learn about God's heavenly throne Tuesday on Renewing Your Mind

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