Sharp as a New Recruit
                                By Rev Ron Thayer

Exodus 20:10-20:11

I want you to think about the challenges we all faced that first day at boot camp.  Physically we were all extremely challenged by the new activity our bodies were about to experience.  And of course the mental challenge, well those who went through the doors of the receiving barracks know exactly what I am saying.  What I find now to be so interesting is the fact the Marine Corps new very well how to get each of us to peak performance and in doing so, it required that time at the end of the day preparing and sharpening our skills.  It may not have been much time but it was to be used to sharpen up.  Mentally, we spent a few moments each evening writing down in letter form what we had accomplished, letters to the family.  Now it took quite a few days to write one letter, but it was a time to put down mentally where my mind was and that is always a good thing.  Sharpen our skills, studying our general orders, reading the little red book, cleaning our rifle, and preparing our utilities, and finally rest, it may have been at the posture of attention, but it was physical rest.  This kept us sharp and as we went through each day we became even sharper.  And on that day of graduation, can you remember how you looked compared to the first day you stepped on those yellow footprints.  We won the challenge of Marine Corps Boot Camp at Parris Island South Carolina or San Diego California.

We can win the challenge of life if we remember how the Marine Corps took us from our weakest moments to our strongest moments. They have without question given the daily therapy of staying sharp as we go through life. 

I want to look at some common causes of stress and consider ways we can overcome the anxiety producers, what can be called stress busters.  We are all looking to experience a higher quality of living.
I believe with the simple reminder of what the Marine Corps did to make us Marines can help us daily to live a better quality life.  There is a great motivational speaker who says this phrase often, “we often need to be only reminded of the things we already know.” 

Also, just to give you some time to prepare, at the end of this message there will be an opportunity for you to cross the line of faith and say "yes" to Jesus Christ. For some of you this will be the day everything changes as you hand it all over to God. You’re going to find forgiveness and a new direction.

Ok, lets look at the basic principles of staying sharp like a new recruit.


This is probably the most overlooked but the most obvious.  I find it is here where the Marine Corps has an edge.  They immediately took us to our physical limits.  And in taking us to those limits it truly prepared us for the future events we would face.  However with that said, they did realize that the body does require proper maintenance and care.  It was often not what we wanted but it was what we needed.

1. We must make time for rest.

During his time here on earth, Jesus Christ, God in human flesh made time for rest. You would think that with only three years to get everything done He would push and push and push, but that wasn’t the case. He worked hard, but He also took time to rest and called his followers to do the same.

Then Jesus said, "Let’s get away from the crowds for a while and rest." There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. They left by boat for a quieter spot. Mark 6:31-32 (NLT)

One stress buster is rest for the body.

If you constantly keep going with the challenges we face today in life without proper rest the body will become weak and eventually it will break.  Schedule times of rest, when you can get away from the daily grind. 

2. We must monitor our intake.

You may not see food as a stress producer, and it may not be for you now. What we take into our bodies can come back to haunt us years later. I am a perfect example of what this is saying.  What I took in for years was not always good, and at the young age of 38, I was forced due to the 3 main arteries in my heart becoming 90 and 80 percent blocked, requiring emergency openheart surgery.  That diseased heart continues to follow me to this day.  15 years of challenges, 2 additional open heart surgeries and 3 stents.  And the Doctors said my intake was part of my problem.  So our food intake can bring on physical stress.  As far as eating goes, the Bible doesn’t really give us advice except this: moderation. Eat only when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Select a wide variety of foods and eat the stuff with high nutritional value.

Whatever you eat or drink or whatever you do, you must do all for the glory of God. 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NLT) this is a great stress buster.

3. We need to get physical.

These physical bodies need physical activity for optimal health. This is another area that the Bible does not address. It never really speaks about exercise because it was written during a time when people had enough physical activity going on in their daily labor. Today we have the luxury of the sedentary life. We can actually sit at a computer desk for eight hours and still call it work. Studies indicate that exercise keeps us sharp. I believe this is why the Marine Corps immediately and consistently pushed physical conditioning.  There are physical conditions that prevent us from physical activity, but we need to find something within our individual limits and do it.  And sometimes it will hurt.

I know that many of you despise exercise. Our attitude toward it is like Robert Hutchins’ who said, "Whenever I feel like exercising, I lie down until the feeling passes." One survey found that 87% of Americans own running shoes, but do not use them.

Exercise is a stress buster.


1.  GIGO.

What is GIGO? Some of you computer geeks may know. It means garbage in, garbage out. If you put garbage into the system, you’ll get garbage out.

Our minds function somewhat like a computer. What we put into it is what we tend to think about. What we think about influences our behavior. If you find that you’re stressed about things that don’t really matter maybe your putting the wrong kind of stuff into your mind.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Philippians 4:8-9 (NLT)

Curb the junk food for the mind and put stuff in that’s healthy. There is a connection between what you take into your mind and your attitude and your actions. 

2. Give the Bible a try.  A Great Stress Buster.

The Bible has the power to transform. If you’ll commit yourself to it, it will challenge and change you for the better.

The story is told of a college professor who visited the Fiji Islands. Being agnostic, he critically remarked to an elderly chief, "You’re a great leader, but it’s a pity you’ve been taken in by those foreign missionaries. They only want to get rich through you. No one believes the Bible anymore. People are tired of the threadbare story of Christ dying on a cross for the sins of mankind. They know better now. I’m sorry you’ve been so foolish as to accept their story."
The old chief’s eyes flashed as he answered, "See that great rock over there? On it we smashed the heads of our victims. Notice the furnace next to it? In that oven we formerly roasted the bodies of our enemies. If it hadn’t been for those good missionaries and the love of Jesus that changed us from cannibals into Christians, you’d never leave this place alive! You’d better thank the Lord for the Bible; otherwise we’d already be feasting on you. If it weren’t for the Bible, you’d now be our supper!


Never neglect this aspect of your being. You are a spiritual creature above and beyond all else. Your spiritual edge needs sharpening.

1. Commit to daily prayer.

This isn’t a call to get on your knees for hours and compose long wordy requests with a bunch of "thees" and "thous" thrown in for good measure. I’m talking about taking 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes or whatever, each day to connect with the Creator.

Most of my anxiety is nipped in the bud by beginning my day with prayer. You know there is no prescribed way to do it.  There’s even variation in what I do. Sometimes I ask for lots of stuff. Sometimes it is big and sometimes it is the little things.  Sometimes I just listen. Sometimes I sing. Whatever happens I seek God and without fail he strengthens me.

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

Try consistently taking sometime everyday. Settle down and get quiet. Bring a problem to him. Ask him to give you strength. Maybe the most you can say is, "God I don’t know if you’re there or not, but if you are please show me." Try it and see how he answers you.

2. Take time to renew your focus.

Get quiet each day and re-evaluate your life. Ask these questions: Stress busters for sure.

• what’s my God-given purpose?
• Am I fulfilling my God-given potential?
• what can I do today to move toward God’s goal for me? 


Find something that allows you to connect with others socially.  There is true joy in life when we find something that takes our mind off the challenges of life, those things that bring on stress.  Church is the best thing for all of us.  I also find it in riding my Harley Davidson; it heals my heart physically, helps me focus mentally and truly puts me in touch spiritually.  I find myself not hurting, not complaining and without question I find myself praying and seeking God.

Jesus said this.

"If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give it up for me, you will find it." Matthew 10:39 (NLT)

Connect with His cause and you’ll find life at its fullest.

2. Allow others to help ease your burdens.

Develop deep relationships of love and trust, then when it all comes apart at the seams you’ll have people help you through. This is one of the main purposes of the church.

Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ. Galatians 6:2 (NLT)

JESUS first Others next and then Yourself = JOY

You can have peace too. Your life can be a stress free haven in the midst of life’s onslaught. Commit to keeping yourself sharp as a new recruit.

Join me in service to Him, Jesus Christ, as a new recruit, you like I will never be the same.

Dear Lord Jesus, I now understand the Cross of Forgiveness and come to you and ask you to forgive me of my sins, take my picture and put it in the Heavenly photo album, write my name in the Lambs book of Life take me to Heaven when I die.  Thank you for dying on that Cross of Forgiveness for me.  I pray in Jesus name amen.

Now if you have prayed this simple prayer please notify me by e-mail allowing me to pray for you and give thanks to the Lord for all that He has done for you.
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Rev.  James C. Bliss
Battery Chaplain
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"O Lord, we have long known that prayer should include confession. Therefore on behalf of the Marines and their guests here gathered, I confess their sins:

Lord, they're just not in step with today's society. They are unreasonable in clinging to old-fashioned ideas like patriotism, duty, honor and country. They hold radical ideas believing that they are their brother's keeper and responsible for the Marine on their flank. They have been seen standing when colors pass, singing the National Anthem at ball games, and drinking toasts to fallen comrades.

Not only that, they have been observed standing tall; taking charge and wearing their hair unfashionably short. They have taken Teddy R's and JFK's words too seriously and are overly concerned with what they can do for their service and country instead of what the country can do for them.

They take the Pledge of Allegiance to heart and believe that their oath is to be honored. Forgive them, Lord, for being stubborn men and women who hold these values as genuine. They are aware of the price for honor and with total command of their spirit, they have been willing to pay that price.

After all, what more can you expect? They're Marines!

O Lord our God, bless these men and women of ideals, continue to raise up in this nation strong leaders and deliver us from "me first" managers and "don't ask me" followers.

Be our honored guest this day, Oh Lord, and join with us in laughter, good food, good drink, and the telling of tall tales and legends that occasionally exceed the truth.

We bow our heads to those who were lost in places that had names meaningless until the mud-Marines landed, and in that mud reaffirmed the one legacy that brings all Marines together, the blood and tears shed for service and each other. Watch over and keep safe all those who wear this nation's uniform with special attention to their families and loved ones everywhere.

With brandy and cigar in hand, I salute you all for through this day and all the following nights and days ahead, God bless you, God Bless this great nation and God bless the Corps.
Author unknown

                          THE LIVING BIBLE

His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans, and no shoes. This literally was his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He is brilliant, with a potential to go far. He also became a Christian while attending college.

Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. They want to develop a ministry to the students but are not sure how to go about it.

One Sunday Bill decided to go across the street to attend church. He walks in with wild hair, no shoes, jeans and one of his T-shirts on.

The service had already started, so Bill quietly starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church is completely packed and he can't find a seat. By now, people are really getting a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. Bill gets closer and closer and closer to the pulpit.  When he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet next to a row.

By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick.

Trying hard to concentrate on his sermon, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Bill. Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and a three-piece suit. A well dressed man, very elegant, very dignified, and walks with a cane. As he starts walking toward Bill, everyone is saying to themselves that you can't blame him for what he's going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?

It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy. The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man's cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can't even hear anyone breathing. The minister hasn't been able continue with his sermon until the deacon does what he has to do.

As all eyes watched, they saw this elderly man drop his cane on the floor, and with great difficulty, lower himself down and sit  next to Bill.

Everyone is struck with emotion. And as the minister regains control, he starts by saying...

"What I'm about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget.

Reach out a welcoming hand.

Be careful how you live.

You may be the only Bible, some people will ever read".
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             Why Clergy Should Wear Clericals
                                 Copyright ©1995-2008 by the Rev. Kenneth W. Collins.
                                                 Reprinted with permission.

There are situations in which clothing is very important. I found this out by accident once, when I walked into a furniture store, coincidentally wearing the same sort of shirt as the employees. I had to leave because the other customers expected me to wait on them.

Clothing conveys a message. A business suit says, “Money!” A police uniform says, “Law!” A tuxedo says, “Wedding!” Casual clothing says, “Me!” Clericals say, “Church!” Any of those messages might be valid in different contexts, so you have to make sure you are wearing the right clothes for the occasion. If you wear a business suit in a department store, people will mistake you for the manager. If you wear a tuxedo to a ball game, they won’t ask you to play. If you wear a jogging outfit to a fancy restaurant, your clothing says, “I wandered in here by mistake,” and the staff will treat you accordingly.

The word clericals refers to the special clothing that clergy wear outside of worship services, usually consisting of a white collar on a black shirt (for male clergy) or on a black blouse (for female clergy), combined with other clothing that is either black or grey.

If you are a pastor and you think you are aggrandizing yourself when you wear clericals, you’ll be disappointed. The congregation quickly gets used to the clericals and they see them as badges of service, not honor. Clericals put you in the same functional category as bellhops, waiters, police officers, airline pilots, and so on. We do not dress to please ourselves, or anyone else for that matter; our manner of dress facilitates our service. It makes our function obvious to strangers. It makes our duties inescapable, and it constrains our personal conduct, because we can’t disappear into the crowd when we are wearing clericals. Clericals mean that visitors don’t have to ask, “Where is the pastor?” They know just by looking.

Clericals also have other advantages. They communicate to the congregation that you are not a proxy child, a potential date, a worldly expert, or a bosom buddy. It allows you to focus on the job of pastoring, without slipping and sliding into those role conflicts and boundary issues your denomination keeps warning you about.
A friend of mine, who was ordained in the United Church of Christ, was required by his ministerial association to wear a clergy shirt with a tab collar while he was traveling. He thought it was a huge imposition on his personal liberty, until he obeyed. On the airplane, he heard a confession, reassured a frightened traveler, and calmed a terrified child.

He was delighted that a routine air flight had turned into pastoral ministry. If you are clergy and you’ve never worn a clergy shirt to visit people in the hospital, you should try it. The clergy shirt means you don’t have to explain what you are or why you are there. The staff extends you all necessary courtesies, and even delirious patients know right off what you are. You can get in after visiting hours and quite often you don’t have to pay for parking, even if you’ve never been to that particular hospital before. Of course the catch is, you have to be on your best ministerial behavior the entire time you are there, so this is not something you should try if your self-discipline is weak.

If I called the police because of a burglary in my house, I would not be reassured if the police showed up driving a sports car with his kids in the back, and wearing jeans and loafers. If I am in distress because of a crime, I want the police to arrive in a police car and I want them to be wearing freshly pressed uniforms. If I have just been through a burglary, I don’t need a buddy, I don’t need a narcissist expressing himself in his clothing, I need a policeman. I need a policeman who will carry out the law, not his self-expression. I couldn’t care less about who he is personally; I called him as a representative of a greater force. Similarly, if I am on my deathbed, facing the greatest spiritual crisis in my life, I don’t want a buddy to come express himself. I want a properly uniformed and equipped minister of God who subordinates himself to his ministry, and who confidently and authoritatively represents God.
Our parishioners deserve nothing less.

When you visit people in the hospital or in jail, for example, what sort of message do you convey with your clothing? If you show up in casual clothes, you are trying to say, “I’m just one of the gang,” but they hear the message, “I’m not taking this seriously.” If you show up in a business suit, you are trying to say, “I’m a well-dressed capable person,” but they hear the message, “I’m a man of the world.”

When you are watching television, you can tell right off what sort of character has just appeared on the screen, because script writers take advantage of our cultural stereotypes to dress the characters to give us the right first impression. For example, if the character is supposed to be an inhibited secretary, they pull her hair back in a bun, put glasses on her face, and give her plain make up. When she loses her inhibitions, they signal the change by removing the glasses, letting her hair down, and improving her make up. Very few actresses play romantic scenes with their hair up in a bun.

So have you been paying attention to the way they dress the characters who are supposed to be clergy? Because women are relatively new to ministry, they almost invariably appear in tab-collar blouses. However, the men tell us what sort of ministers they are by the way they are dressed:
If the minister is a shyster who is fleecing his flock for their money, he is most often wearing a sports coat and tie.
If the minister is the manipulative type who is gradually transforming his congregation into a mind-control cult, he is most often wearing a well-tailored business suit.
If the minister is an activist who is crusading against the establishment, he is most often wearing casual clothing, with a tab-collar shirt under his sweater or leather jacket.
If the minister is competent and respectable, and if he is performing a valuable spiritual service (such as a wedding, funeral, or exorcism) in a dignified setting, he is most often wearing clericals on the street and vestments in church.
Objection: But Jesus Didn’t Wear Clericals!

Now of course there is the objection that Jesus allegedly wore the clothing of the working man, not special clothes of the clergy. The assertion doesn’t stand up to close scrutiny in Scripture. In many places, people walked up to Jesus out of the blue, addressed Him as “teacher,” which the New Testament informs us is the translation of the word “rabbi.” Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”
—John 1:38, NIV

Without knowing who He was (that is, Jesus), they knew what He was (that is, a rabbi), because they asked him to do rabbinical things: to heal the sick, cast out demons, settle disputes, probate wills, and decide religious issues:
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
—Mark 10:17, NIV

If they thought He was a rabbi, these were reasonable expectations, because those were the duties of rabbis. However, in John 7, Jesus attends a festival at the Temple and even though everyone is talking about Him, they are unaware that He is among them in the crowd. Since there was no photography in those days, we can understand that strangers would not recognize Him by His face. There was no television newscaster to say, “Galilean rabbi draws large crowds with His controversial miracles—film at eleven.”

However, after his brothers had left for the Feast, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.” Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the Jews. Not until halfway through the Feast did Jesus go up to the Temple courts and begin to teach. The Jews were amazed and asked, “How did this man get such learning without having studied?”
John 7:10-15, NIV

So we have to ask: how could they know He was a rabbi in one circumstance, but not in another? Why were people surprised by His expertise at the Feast in John 7:10-15, when they took it for granted in situations such as Mark 10:17? The only explanation is that they knew by the way He was dressed. When they addressed Him as a rabbi, He must have been dressed like a rabbi; the surprise was not that He was a rabbi, but how He handled their requests. In John 7, they did not recognize Him as a rabbi, so they were surprised that He knew rabbinical things. He must not have been dressed as a rabbi. The only way He could attend the Feast “in secret” was to go without wearing rabbinical clothes.

While Jesus definitely did not wear a black shirt with a white collar, He obviously wore the first-century equivalent. So clergy who wear clericals are imitating Christ. I think the clergy who do not wear clericals have the more difficult position to defend.
Objection: Some People Have an Adverse Reaction to Clericals!

Conflict-avoidant people raise this objection, but there are two problems with letting other people’s phobias dictate your wardrobe. The first is that you are not solving their problem by changing your clothes, you are only letting it fester unresolved. The second is that if you are driven by your own fears of what other people will think of you, you’re on a slippery slope to second-guessing yourself into total ineffectiveness as the Rev. Milquetoast. If someone has a problem with clerical dress, at least this exposes it so you can help them overcome it. I observe, however, that this problem is more apprehension than substance.

Recently, a colleague of mine visited my church. I knew he had a chasuble and that he liked it, so I invited him to bring it and wear it—which he did. One of my parishioners admired the chasuble. When I told her that he doesn’t wear it in his own church because he’s afraid his congregation won’t like it, she looked very frustrated and said, “Sometimes you just have to assert yourself!”
A person who is assertive without being authoritarian or bossy is said to have a strong character.

Objection: But a Collar Would Make Me Look Catholic (or whatever)!
Don’t bet on this one, either. One Sunday I went to lunch with some of my parishioners. The restaurant was so crowded that you couldn’t exhale without saying “excuse me” to someone. As we got up to leave, we walked past a booth with a well-dressed family. Their son was sitting on a chair at the end of the table. The young man grabbed me by the hand and said, “Pastor!” Then he saw my face and was confused that I wasn’t who he thought I was. He said, “You are a pastor, aren’t you?” and I said, “Yes, I’m pastor of Garfield Memorial Christian Church,” and gave his father my card. The father explained that they were members of a Lutheran megachurch that is nearby. The young man asked me, “Is Garfield a Lutheran church?” and I said, “No,” and turning to his mother who was looking at me, I said, “However, if you sat in our church blindfolded, I bet you couldn’t tell the difference.” And the father nodded, saying we are all alike.

The reason this happened is that for the young man, the collar made me look Lutheran. To an Episcopalian, it would make me look Episcopalian. In some areas, it would make me look Methodist. Orthodox clergy have taken to wearing black shirts with white collars. Recently someone wrote to me to say that in his country, rabbis wear black shirts with white collars.

My parishioners who witnessed this exchange were very proud of their church. In their minds, it made our little church just as important as the Lutheran megachurch, because I received the same treatment as the Lutheran pastor for whom I had been initially mistaken. This is not a bad thing.
And by the way, the inventor of the clergy shirt, the Rev. Dr. Donald McLeod, was not Catholic.

Objection: None of This Applies to my Congregation!
You may be surprised on this one, too.
Some time ago, I attended the installation of a pastor. Her church was a startup, so the installation service took place in another church’s building. She had worked out all the arrangements with the host pastor over the phone, so she had never seen him before. The startup church was Disciples of Christ and the host church was one of those independent community megachurches. Neither congregation had ever experienced clergy wearing clericals before; I was the only one there in a collar, so this was definitely the acid test.

I severely overestimated my travel time, so I arrived at the church much too early. As I was standing in the narthex in my clergy shirt, the guest of honor walked in the door. She walked right up to me and began thanking me profusely for everything I had done. She had mistaken me for the pastor of the host church—whom she had never seen before—even though she had no reason to expect the pastor of an independent community church to wear a collar.
About a half hour later, someone else mistook me for the host pastor, which was very embarrassing for him, because he was standing right next to me at the time. Later, I was mistaken for the host pastor a third time! Now all the other clergy were beginning to feel a little out of uniform, because I was the only one whom lay people perceived as clergy.

After the service was over, someone complimented me on my lovely wife, which was strange, because I’m not married. Then I realized that the person had met the pastor’s wife and presumed I was her husband—after all, I was the one wearing the collar.
All this happened in an environment where it was not customary for clergy to wear collars.

The lesson is that if you dress like a minister, everyone will think you are one.

Full Circle
So we come full circle. Maybe if you are ordained clergy, and you wear a black shirt with a white collar, someone will come up to you and ask, “Pastor, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The day is done

The day is done;
O God the Son,
Look down upon,
Thy little one!

Oh Light of Light,
Keep me this night,
And shed round me
Thy presence bright.

I need not fear
If Thou art near;
Thou art my Savior
Kind and dear. Amen.

                                        The day is done

This page was last updated: October 15, 2011
Rev.  James C. Bliss
Battery Chaplain
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