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The Prince of Peace

The word PEACE is often used in our vocabulary as the absence of conflict but in the context of scripture it means complete or whole, a state of completeness.  To make complete or to restore.  The Jewish people thought Jesus was born to bring them political restoration.  Jesus’ plan was much bigger, His purpose was to restore mankind to Him.

Unfortunately, I try to find peace in this troubled world in my own wisdom and strength. Instead of just trusting in the fullness of Christ, I want Him to fix my earthly problems, much like the Jewish people in their hopes that He would overthrow their government.  I’m so busy focusing on the here and now that I don’t see the bigger purpose, the eternal plan.

Last Christmas our family was clinging to the last few excruciating weeks of my dad’s life on earth.  Only then, almost a year ago, as we gathered each day in my parent’s bedroom around my dad’s hospital bed, did I finally learn what true peace was.   Even in our struggle and trauma that life can bring to us….Jesus is enough.  As we watched my dad slowly slip away day by day, there was nothing we could do.  In those moments, we only had Jesus, and that was all we needed.  Somehow in the sadness and desperation of our situation, Jesus gifted us with His powerful peace.  I don’t understand it, I struggle to articulate it but the restoration and wholeness of Christ brought miraculous peace into an otherwise devastating circumstance.  As terrible as those last couple of months were, I  am humbled and thankful for God teaching me the true meaning of peace and the shift from an earthly perspective, to a heavenly one.

The following two paragraphs are my mom’s words about our time as we, as a family, had the privilege and holy experience of watching God usher my dad into His presence and the peace that we felt in such an unexpected place…

Somewhere along the line of our journey with ALS, our bedroom became transformed into a hospital room.  All the equipment needed to care for Gary took over the room more than we liked but it was all part of the process.  Our master bedroom (turned in-home hospital room) became our place to live, read God’s Word, pray, sing,  greet friends, laugh, cry, worship and fall more in love with each other and Jesus.  We also learned to be more eternally minded rather than focused on earthly things.  Learning to cherish every moment given and doing the best to make the most of each minute of every day.  Our bedroom became a sacred place where we lived out those last precious months with Gary.  It was where we held hands and remember our lives together.  We shared our love for one another and our hopes and dreams for our children and grandchildren.  It was in that room that we said our goodbyes and shed many tears as God ushered Gary into His eternal presence.

It was strange after Gary was gone how quickly our bedroom was transformed back to it’s original purpose.  The hectic daily routine of nurses visits, aids giving showers, medications being administered, tube feedings prepared, and visitors ceased and it was as if my life stopped along with it.  Now our home is quiet and feels so very empty.  No more hectic daily “care routines” or the sounds of the struggle for life.  Only stillness and loneliness fill the void.  Life will never be the same again in that sacred room.  Neither will the battle for life there be forgotten.  Yet in that room I still meet with God and cry and rejoice over life and it’s challenges.  God has given us a promise of hope.  He tells us we will be together again for all eternity.  So you see, our trials here on earth are but a vapor…  Here one moment and gone the next.  Our promise is for “eternal life” with our God and King.  It’s like Gary said when he was given his diagnosis…”We are all terminal”.

orange star bokeh light
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“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace”

(Isaiah 9:6).

As Christmas approaches, let God in His eternal completeness bring you miraculous peace.

Jesus is enough.

 

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Let It Be…Mary’s Assignment from God

Obedience when it doesn’t make sense

Luke 1:26-38:

Christ’s Birth Announced to Mary

26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”

35 And the angel answered and said to her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”

38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

nativity scene table decor
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What could have possibly been going through Mary’s mind during such an unplanned interruption by an angel with a very non conventional holy birth announcement? First off, the Bible tells us she was “troubled”. As we read the text, it also goes on to tell us that Mary’s final response in verse 38 is: “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your ‘word’”.

This story is amazing to me, how can in just 12 short verses we see Mary go from “troubled” to being seemingly fine with this whole scenario. Who was Mary? This very young lady was ready to jump into this new adventure with both feet, with complete obedience and trust. The Bible doesn’t tell us much about Mary. The Angel Gabriel uses phrases like “Highly favored one,” “the Lord is with you” and “Blessed are you among women”. But why? What is special about Mary? What it does tell us is that she is a virgin betrothed to marry Joseph and she lived in Nazareth. That is really not much information. It doesn’t say anything of her coming from a wealthy family, being of royal decent, wise beyond her years, beautiful in appearance…what we do know of her is relatively underwhelming. But God, in His divine wisdom, met this precious young girl right where she was and had a plan for her life.

This is encouraging.

It is encouraging because I don’t have earthly riches, as far as I know there is no royalty in my family heritage, I went to Bible College for a bit but I’m certainly no theologian. It encourages me because Jesus died on a cross to meet me right where I am, no strings attached. He not only died for me and granted me access to the Father and Eternal life in Heaven but has entrusted me to do His will while here on earth.

I have to pause when I think of this virgin teenage Mary and her willingness to be obedient to her God that sent His angel with, in my opinion, an overwhelming calling. A calling to give birth to the Son of God. A calling to love and to nurture Him, to kiss his boo boos, to patiently instruct and correct Him at times. To watch Him grow into a man and perform miracles, to spread a message of hope and forgiveness to all people. And finally to watch her beautiful baby boy be tortured then nailed to a cross while bearing the sin of all mankind as he slowly slipped into eternity in front of her eyes. I don’t know that there is anyone worthy or could have ever been ready for such a task. There wasn’t anything extravagant about Mary’s background, but she was willing and obedient to trust that God knew what He was doing.

If our young ordinary friend Mary can say, “Yes” to this Heavenly calling in 12 short verses, I can certainly say, “Yes” to the calling Christ has set before me in my journey. I can certainly trust that He knows what He is doing and absolutely have confidence that my future is secure in Him. I feel certain that Mary wept many tears and faced unimaginable obstacles along her journey that only she could traverse, yet she was still obedient and stayed the course. Are we willing to be servants of the Most High and just as Mary declared: “Let it be,” as we start this new year?

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One Day at a Time…Part 2 (Living with ALS)

TERMINAL

The following is part 2 of “One Day at a Time”. It is one of my dad’s letters upon getting the confirmation that he was indeed diagnosed with ALS. Although he wasn’t speaking well at this point (he would later lose his speech altogether), he was able to write. As his journey with ALS was just beginning, these were his thoughts. He would go on to endure 6 more years of agony but still never wavered from an attitude of thankfulness. These are all his words, they bring me such comfort even now as I can rejoice that he will be celebrating his first Christmas with Jesus in heaven. This is what he wanted all of us, his family and friends, to understand and I am so grateful to have these precious words from him…

On July 2012 my wife received a call from the Hampton VA Medial Center with some words that no one wants to hear. The health official said, “I am sorry to inform you that your husband has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease).”

It was really not a total shock to us because for eighteen months they had been testing me and the handwriting was on the wall. I am the fifth person in my family to have ALS. When it comes to treating ALS, all the doctors can say is “I’m sorry,” and they informed us that there is no further treatment and no cure…this disease is terminal.

As a Christian, I thought about the word terminal and began to think about what that means here on earth. Yes, we will all die someday a physical death. But for the Christian, the word “terminal” does not apply.

Jesus said to Martha in John 11:25-27, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

Martha answered Jesus, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

This is good news for all of us! You may be a picture of health but no one can live forever in our earthly bodies. So those who are in Christ will live forever and the word “terminal” has no affect. In 1972 I received Christ as my Savior and was taken from darkness into His marvelous light. Be of good cheer! Death has lost its sting and we will live forever with Him!

Vickie and I again say thanks for all the support, encouraging words and prayers for our family. We find strength in God to live each day and live it to the fullest.

Gary Tingwald

Just a Note: What is the definition of a good day? Here is my definition: Knowing that God is there every moment and I can breathe. That is a good day.

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One Day at a Time… Part 1 (Living with ALS)

The following is a short letter my dad wrote right after he was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a motor neurone disease, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).  This letter was published in the SCM News (Southeastern Correctional Ministry) in June of 2014, a ministry where he served as Senior Chaplain until his disease took away his ability to speak.  He passed away in February of this year and we miss him terribly but treasure the words he left behind as an encouragement for all of us.

Joyce Everett, current Senior Chaplain of SCM wrote:

“In life we meet so many good people that love the Lord Jesus and serve him with all their heart. The former Senior Chaplain of SCM, Chaplain Gary Tingwald, is one of those people. He is such a blessing. Once you meet him your life is never the same.

I have been senior Chaplain a little over a year and I have received so many calls asking about Chaplain Gary, I felt led by God to ask him to address the SCM family in this months news letter edition and this is what he wanted to say to all of you:”

A NOTE FROM CHAPLAIN GARY:

I wanted to give all of you an update on what has been happening. Some one asked me, “how are you doing”?  This is my answer: “I’m doing fine but my body has a problem.”

I am no longer able to talk or eat.  All of my nourishment comes by way of a stomach tube and I have devices that help m15235664_10211303763934484_3329934996245866820_oe communicate.

It is not as bad as you might think because God’s presence is always with us.  We are traveling to visit family in many different states and God uses Vickie and I to minister to them.  God has blessed me with a wonderful wife and supportive family.

I really miss the jail ministry and seeing all of you.  Our prayers are with you as you continue to bring the good news to the jails.  God Bless.

“So we do not loose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light monetary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison…”  2 Corinthians 4:16-17a

Chaplain Gary

It is not as bad as you might think because God’s presence is always with us.

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Prayer and Repentance

2 Chronicles 7:14 English Standard Version (ESV) 
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.If my people would humble themselves and pray.

Sometimes God speaks to us in ways that are undeniable. Not in a spooky audible way, but through Scripture and by interrupting our daily “flow” by putting something on our hearts and mind during our usual routine or in times of prayer and intercession. Lately I feel like every scripture I read, every book I pick up, and every podcast I listen to leads me to desire a more simplistic and holy lifestyle or prayer and repentance.

If I’m honest with myself, I’m a mess constantly trying to solve my problems and difficult circumstances of life on my own, leaving me tired and insecure. I scheme and worry, I desire my own comfort over care for others and living the lifestyle Jesus calls us to in His Word. I’m thinking of my self most of time and neglect to focus on what matters most and what matters eternally.

I do desire a closer walk with God, but oftentimes I don’t desire it enough to actually put the work into it. As I read scripture and spend more time with God, I’m reminded that it’s really a simple solution. More time spent in PRAYER and STUDYING GOD’S WORD. I think we all know this, it’s no big surprise or mind blowing lightbulb moment.

If it’s so simple, why don’t we do it?

We heard a well known pastor and author speak last night and his message was a call for prayer and repentance. Not for unbelievers or people trapped in a terrible life of sin. This was a call for God’s people to pray and repent… church leaders, pastors and those that have put their faith in Christ and have been serving Him for years.

I think for those of us that have put our trust in God and have been serving Him for a long time, I think we get complacent in our faith. It’s easy to fall into the snares of this world and place all of our energy and time into things that don’t matter one bit or have eternal value. There are so many activities (even church activities), and distractions that are constantly coming at us from every direction. If we’re not careful, those things become our god and what’s even worse is that we don’t even realize it.

It’s hard to pray and read the Bible because sometimes God’s instruction through his Word can be hard to process and even more difficult to do!

Luke 9:23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Mark 8:35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
John 12:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Matthew 10:38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
Philippians 2:1-30 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …
1 Corinthians 15:31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!

God calls us to die to sin and that’s just not always popular or fun, actually it’s probably never popular or fun. But it is essential to live the life that Christ has called us to live if we put our trust in Him.

Here are a few notes from last night’s speaker that are so valuable and timely as we try and live out our faith each day:

  • If we want to live as Christ, we must die to sin
  • Recognize the fact that we are prone to sin, but to hate that. We have to run from sin and not toy with it.
  • Our western church culture does not have a hatred for sin. We show up for church week after week just going through the motions.
  • We need a prayerful desperation for God
  • Prayer is death to self, lack of prayer is pride, thinking we can do it ourselves.

I know these are heavy concepts but God has set us up as Christians with all the tools we need to succeed in this life. Yes, we will fail and sin, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Romans 3:23. But for us, the good news is that Christ took on our sin and died for us, He’s already won the battle, we just have to stay focused on him. We have an eternal paradise with Him to look forward to. It’s a daily discipline to pray and stay in God’s Word, but it is so essential for our spiritual health and to stay focused, not wasting the time God has blessed us with here on this earth.