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Outfitting Soldiers for the Fight of Faith

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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May 27, 2022 12:01 am

Outfitting Soldiers for the Fight of Faith

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 27, 2022 12:01 am

Military chaplains who partner with Ligonier Ministries receive discipleship materials to serve men and women around the world. In this special edition, hear from members of the armed forces and military families to discover the impact of this outreach--and ways you can help.

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Renewing Your Mind
R.C. Sproul

Today on Renewing Your Mind, the challenges military families face. I think the first thing that comes to everyone's mind is the obvious deployment challenge.

I was just counting through how many moves we've had in 23 years and 14. You're looking at new schools, new churches, new dentists, like all of these challenges without the constant necessarily of a good strong church support. Serving those who serve. That's how we like to think of Ligonier's strategic outreach to those in the armed forces around the world. Hello and welcome to a special edition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb. To let you know more about this initiative and how you can play a key role, I am pleased to be joined by two special guests. Here with me is Ligonier Ministries Senior Advisor for Chaplain Outreach, Pete Sniffen. Pete served 30 years as a U.S. Army chaplain, retiring as a full colonel in 2021. He held high level positions in the chaplain corps, including chief of religious support operations for the nearly 100,000 U.S. personnel who at the time were deployed to Afghanistan.

He also served as college chaplain and professor of strategic leadership at the U.S. Army War College. Also with us today is Kristen. She is the wife of a military chaplain. Kristen has earned multiple awards for her volunteer service to the military community, and her husband has been on active duty for more than 20 years. Welcome to you both. Thank you.

Thank you, Lee. Pete, you and others on your team here at Ligonier Ministries are providing Ligonier resources to 446 military chaplains who care for military men and women around the world. Tell us a little bit about our outreach to these chaplains. Yes, we support chaplains and then through supporting chaplains support service members. Our support to chaplains consists of providing, you know, usually about once or twice a year, a resource credit for chaplains to order Ligonier materials. So if they determine that a particular subject, whether it be worldview or they want to do a particular course on a particular book of the Bible or a particular theological subject, they have complete freedom to go through our resource catalog and select all the resources they need to facilitate their ministry during that period of time. That also includes resources that they can distribute. And Pete, when you talk about that credit, I think it's important to share that when we made that credit available, many fathers serving in the military requested copies of Dr. Sproul's children's books to send back to their families to help them grow in their faith while dad was out of the country serving.

Yeah, that is true. And we have gotten those books to those families. And, you know, with the technology today where you can be deployed and connected through products like FaceTime and Zoom, they have been able to read those resources together. As a matter of fact, the USO, certain places downrange, often will set up a camera where a service member can go in and create a video of them reading a book for their kids.

This is another use of those materials. One of the other great new resources is Ligonier Connect. So we give every chaplain that requests a free Ligonier Connect account and, you know, that's interactive. So now a chaplain can be leading a Bible study with his own family from a deployed location, or he can be leading a Bible study that includes multiple families in the unit from a deployed location. So all of this technology, whether it just be a book, a printed book, or the digital resources that Ligonier is providing, are absolutely incredible in sustaining these families. Well, the service and sacrifice of those in the armed forces, of course, is not limited to the one who is in uniform. Their spouses and their children serve as well in their own ways. They face unique challenges on the home front, and Pete and Kristen, I know that you and your families have known one another for years, and I thought that the two of you could talk about that. Pete, maybe you have some questions for Kristen, and Kristen, I know that you have a unique perspective on the challenges that spouses face.

Thank you for the opportunity, Lee. I think the first thing that comes to everyone's mind is the obvious deployment challenge, or challenges. But the bigger challenge for us has to do more, I think, with the multiple moves that we have. I was just counting through how many moves we've had in 23 years, and 14.

Fourteen moves around the country, around the world even, three of those being international moves. When you think about a mom with children moving internationally, or even just across the United States, you're looking at new schools, new churches, new dentists, friends, teens moving during teen years. All of these challenges without the constant, necessarily, of a good, strong church support. Wherever you are in the world, you may not have a strong church support.

So having the ability to build a ministry and having the solid foundation to give your family, from a Reformed perspective, having those resources is powerful. In the midst of all those challenges, how has your faith supported you as a mother and a wife to a service member? The first immediate answer that comes to mind is I can't even imagine living this life without faith, without a rock-solid understanding that my life is wrapped up in Christ.

That it's unimaginable. But on a practical, daily basis, being able to look at all of the little, and not so little, challenges of medical care and school and all of those things. Even in the moment, going, God's got this. He is sovereign, and it's in His hands. Was that especially true, Kristin, when your husband was twice deployed to the war zone in Iraq?

Absolutely. And I don't want to say that it wasn't a very difficult time, but I can tell you that from my experience, whenever my husband deployed, we were in Germany. And so we didn't have a local church in our denomination that I was attending. So our church family was a general Protestant group.

And primarily it was women, because most of the men were deployed. So during those deployments, I was with a group of women from all different Protestant backgrounds. And I'm so thankful because I could see a difference in how I was able to process what was going on through the faith of a sovereign God.

Through faith that this is not going to be out of the hands of God who knows and sees everything. And the comfort that that gave me, that made a foundation that I was able to then minister to others out of that comfort that I had received. Kristin, you've had some foundational and very shaping experiences with Ligonier Ministries.

Tell us a little bit about that influence. Well, I married into Ligonier Ministries, I think. Whenever I married my husband, he was already ordained in the PCA and already on active duty. Well, even before I came into our marriage, I did not come from a Reformed background. And whenever I was first confronted with the truth of God's sovereignty, it was jarring to me. I think it is jarring to a lot of people.

But through R.C. Sproul's book, Chosen by God, well, and through discussions with my husband and most importantly, the word of God. God showed and revealed his sovereignty in such an amazing and beautiful way. And from that moment on, my husband has often joked that it's been unshakable because once you grasp that, you can take on the world. You can do dangerous and scary things because God is in control and you don't have to live in fear. So those resources early on in our marriage and even before we were married really helped shape and become foundational for the life of a military wife that I was going to lead. But I didn't even know what challenges I was going to face.

But clearly, God knew. I am right now leading a women's Bible study, and the resource that they chose for this is not from a Reformed perspective. But you know what commentary I'm using?

I'm using R.C. Sproul's First and Second Peter commentary like it's next to me. And so even if you're not using the exact resources for this specific Bible study because you're in a non-denominational general Protestant setting, to have the resources to be able to put the truth of God's word in there to go deeper is so helpful. Well, we recently heard from Rich, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps for more than 20 years. His story was so encouraging. I thought that you'd both appreciate hearing it.

I heard R.C. Sproul on the radio at the time talking about the Roman Catholic Church. And so I asked for the tape series on Roman Catholicism and then the book Faith Alone, which is part of that. You know, the nature of the military is that you're often not able to be around local churches, so chaplaincy was really important in connecting me to some of those resources as well.

I didn't have a chance to listen to the tape series, but I ended up bringing the book with me on a flight over to Okinawa as part of some work I was doing. And it really opened up my eyes to the gospel. I had been raised Roman Catholic. I was in a Roman Catholic church that was part of the kind of the charismatic renewal that swept Roman Catholicism. And so at the time I was attending a charismatic church, I had never really understood what the Protestant Reformation was about, and it really just blew my mind.

I mean, I still credit to this day R.C. Sproul's book in the fact that he cared enough, I think, even to risk friendships at the time to point out the importance of this doctrine. If he hadn't written this book and it hadn't been provided in God's providence, it's the thing that really helped me understand what the importance of justification by faith alone was. So many things fell into place at that point because, you know, you're acquainted with the Scriptures and you hear the Scriptures regularly, and often the way it's presented is important. And I remember just distinctly just being enthralled and just emotional as R.C. Sproul unpacked these truths that had been there all along, but he helped to open up my eyes and gave me passion for these things, not for their own sake, but for the clarity and the importance of this doctrine and how much prior to that I had been kind of caught in charismatic experience almost as a way to kind of get excited to be able to feel like I had a connection with Christ. But at this point, my passion was on what Christ had done for me and what the clarity of the gospel had provided. I became a then called tape of the month supporter thereafter just because of how important that was to me. And it really just changed the entire trajectory of my life from that point on.

So to me, Ligonier and R.C. Sproul's ministry has always been something that I've appreciated since, gosh, this has been 1997, so 25 years, a quarter of a century ago. Ligonier had reached out to its message of the month partners on the occasion of R.C. Sproul's 75th birthday, and they asked for contributions for what has his ministry meant to you, and so I wrote a heartfelt note about it was his book that really helped me understand the gospel for the first time. So I'm a regular listener to the podcast, and so they did a special on that celebration, and he and Vesta were on that, and mine was the first letter read, and so it was just really exciting to hear that. And so for me, it was kind of nice because he reacted warmly to that, and so it was kind of like a small way of knowing that R.C. knew that his ministry had at least changed one life.

Well, we appreciate Rich's service in the Marine Corps, and we're grateful for him sharing those thoughts with us. And Chaplain Sniffen, having served for more than 30 years yourself and the fact that you interact with so many of the chaplains who remain on active duty, what are some of the challenges that they face, those chaplains who hold fast to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture and who want to maintain biblical fidelity? What are the challenges they face in the military today?

Well, I would say that they don't have regular access to their ministerial bodies that support them. So they're out there around the world, and they are often isolated. Even in the Book of Proverbs, it says that those that are isolated, it's not a good thing to isolate yourself. And so we have to work to overcome that and to avoid spiritual isolation. And so these products, although we think of them primarily for the chaplains to use them in the ministry, these products are a ministry to the chaplain. Every once in a while, when you've been away from seminary and outside the reach of resources like Ligonier National Conference, when you get the lectures or DVD series, I just recently started listening to Steve Lawson's new series on Philippians. I mean, that's very encouraging. They don't have that teaching on a regular basis out there in Afghanistan, Iraq, Eastern Europe today.

When you have that arrive in your mailbox, when you get something fresh, like a new series from Ligonier, whether it be Dr. Thomas on Galatians, or as I said, Dr. Lawson on Philippians, that's very rejuvenating. Of course, the combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have all but wound down. But Kristen, do military families still face challenges on the home front?

Oh, absolutely. We have five children. And being in the military as a mother of five children, the challenges that we face on a daily basis are the multiple moves and the strain on relationships, the lack of continuous support from a specific church body with whom you have strong relationships for yourself and for your children.

We have children with multiple medical needs and just like organizing and navigating, you know, where do you get your teeth cleaned from, you know, where are you going to have your next major surgery? Those challenges are what we face on a regular, daily, constant basis, whereas the deployments may be winding down. But this is not going to go away. This is the military life.

Yeah, I want to reiterate what Kristen has said there. These families have gone through multiple deployments over that period of time. And when the service members were home, they were training for redeployment. So family life, marital life can become frayed during those times.

Relationships with extended family and friends becomes distant. Now they're home and rebuilding sometimes even the wounds that have developed over that time of enduring conflict. And yet there is always the potential of more conflict. We see look at the news on the rise.

And so while they're rebuilding, they're hesitant because they know something else can come up. Well, it's been so encouraging to hear from these chaplains that we are privileged to serve. One military chaplain is named Joshua. He wrote this to us. He said, I want to thank you, Ligonier, for your continued support to us.

I had heard of your support for years, but when I went to Germany last May, a friend helped me finally make the connection and I have been so richly blessed. I lead one of two small groups in our chapel and we are going through the gospel according to Matthew. Through Ligonier's chaplain credit program, you provided a copy of Dr. Sproul's commentary for each family that attends our group. We have a couple who are new believers and they faithfully read this commentary weekly before attending. We have seen them grow so deeply in their faith.

The other couples enjoy this as well. And I just wanted to thank you again. In obedience to the Great Commission, Ligonier Ministries shares discipleship resources globally. Our desire is to build up growing Christians around the world with trustworthy teaching. We have translated or dubbed many of our books, articles, and video teaching series into 45 languages. We're working in some of the most spoken languages in the world and responding to requests from churches and publishers in many other languages.

What impact is all of this having? Well, I wanted you to hear from one military chaplain who is on active duty. He sent us this testimony.

We're not able to identify him or give you his location, but here's what he had to say. During this deployment on a peacekeeping mission under the auspices of the United Nations, I have served in a biblically significant geographical area. In this place, it has been a true privilege and blessing to receive and distribute the sound biblical resources provided by Ligonier Ministries. They've had a significant spiritual and ministerial impact on members of the task force across our multinational formation.

The fact that Ligonier has translated these resources into several strategic languages has facilitated the reach of my ministry tremendously and has enabled chaplains of partner nations to use the resources with great effect. Recently, we had the opportunity to speak with Tracy, the wife of an active duty service member and the mother of four who expressed that military life has given her children a very clear perspective on the sovereignty of God and their eternal destiny. She said they know they were made for eternity, that our citizenship is in heaven, as it says in Philippians 3 20. When we asked Tracy what she would say to those who are listening today, she said, pray for the endurance of military families.

Be welcoming of them into your communities and don't write them off knowing they might be there just for a short time. So, Kristen, given your appreciation for Ligonier Ministries and the impact on you and your family and the people that God has called you and your husband to serve with, how can the Ligonier community best support and pray for military families? I think we need to pray. Well, first of all, I thank you over and over again for the ministry, the ministry that's here. And thank you for all who have given and the prayers right now from where I'm standing. We need prayers for marriages in the military.

It is a hard life to live out this relationship. And I see the impacts of this all across the military. So if we can be in prayer for families and for marriages in particular of military families. Pete, if you will, would you let our listeners know how they can become involved in the strategic outreach to military chaplains?

Sure, Lee. Well, the first thing I would say, of course, is I'd ask them to pray for military families in light of the challenges that Kristen and Rich have articulated so well today. We worship a God who can answer and does answer our prayers above beyond what we can think or even dare to imagine. And so your investment in prayers for a military family are going to be a great source of strength for them.

And God will use them. And so I ask you to invest your prayers. And I'd also ask you to invest in this outreach and to continue to give everything that we've mentioned that we're doing for chaplains is donor based. And we have an immensely generous group of ministry partners and donors to Ligonier. We are eternally thankful for you and for the generosity that is so robust. And so I just ask that Ligonier donors and our members of our Ligonier family just continue to give according to the generosity that they have shown for so many years to this outreach.

And this outreach will continue to grow through that generosity. If you would like to join us with a donation to this military chaplain outreach, you can reach us by phone at 800-435-4343. Or if you prefer, you can go online to Ligonier dot org slash military.

That's Ligonier dot org slash military. Before we go, I want to share with you how much this outreach means to me personally. I had the privilege of serving eight years in a reserve capacity in the Army National Guard. One of my sons was an Army officer who served in combat in Iraq. The military has been a significant part of my extended family. So I have a passion for this ministry, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be part of this outreach. So if you will, allow us to close our time together in prayer. Our God and our Father, we are grateful for the service and sacrifice of those who are in the military, some serving right now in remote places on this earth. We think first and foremost of those who are in harm's way.

Would you provide safety and protection for them? Would you give them a sense of comfort and peace that David experienced when he said, You hem me in and lay your hand upon me. Where can I go from your spirit?

Where can I flee from your presence? We ask too that their family members, like Kristen, who face unique challenges on the home front, that you would be with them as well and comfort them. Father, we lift up the chaplains who are serving those who serve. We realize that they're not immune from the challenges and hardships of their fellow service members. Would you equip them, we pray, to be strong and courageous as they wage a different kind of warfare, that they would feel free to share the truth of your word, sometimes the hard truth of your word? We're grateful for the privilege we have at Ligonier Ministries to provide these resources. Would you use them, Father, to strengthen the faith of service members as well as their families? And we ask that you would increase and multiply this outreach so that many more are awakened to your holiness. It's in Jesus' name we pray. Amen.

Amen. Well, as we close, Kristen, I want to thank you for being with us today and sharing your perspective of a military wife. Oh, thank you. It has been a great joy. And Chaplain Sniffen, we are honored that you're part of the Ligonier team. Thank you for your many years of service in the military. We're grateful for you. It's my great privilege. And to you, our listeners, on behalf of all of my colleagues here at Ligonier Ministries, thank you for joining us. We hope to see you next time. Amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-13 17:46:27 / 2023-04-13 17:55:32 / 9

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