Memorial Day: Lest we Forget

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. (John 15:13 NKJV)

First celebrated on May 30, 1868, Memorial Day has changed dramatically in its appearance over the past 144 years. Originally set aside as a date following the Civil War on which each side could remember their fallen it was changed again following World War I as national day to remember all of our nation’s fallen and a day on which all of the graves of those who died supporting freedom would be cared for.

Traditionally celebrated on May 30 since its initial proclamation, Congress decided in 1971 to move the observance of Memorial Day to the last Monday in May so as to insure everyone got a three-day weekend. And therein lies what may be the biggest downfall of Memorial Day. Don’t get me wrong, I love a three-day weekend but what used to a single day set aside to for the singular purpose of remembering sacrifice has instead become an excuse for an extra long weekend of parties, cookouts, trips to the beach, and yard work. I am thankful for the 1200 or so soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry, the “Old Guard” who place small flags at the graves of the more than 260,000 men and women buried at Arlington National Cemetery and spend their holiday weekend, Thursday through Monday, patrolling the grounds 24-hours a day to make sure each of those flags remain upright. I am thankful too for the Boy and Girl Scouts who each year spend their holiday weekends tending the graves of veterans at national cemeteries around this nation. Were it not for these soldiers and scouts, and of course those friends and family members who have been personally touched by death’s sting, many of the those who died for freedom and are buried in our U.S. soil would be forgotten on account of this three day weekend originally set aside to make sure we didn’t. Neither should we forget those who have served and death has spared but who have still given so much of themselves for our freedoms.  And just as important, do not forget the families of those who have served and fallen; for them, every day is Memorial Day. Families serve too.

Just as many of you would not think twice about letting Christmas pass without reading the Christmas story from scripture and sharing with your children the true meaning of holiday, and the same of Easter, I challenge you also to take time today to share with your children and reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day. Don’t let the American flag you hang outside your home today take on the same shallow meaning the Christmas Tree has become for most; its not merely a symbol of celebration but one of freedom and sacrifice. Celebrate your freedom today, but also remember the fallen. At 3pm today, stop along with the rest of the nation for the National Moment of Remembrance; “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to ‘Taps.”  How I wish more Americans truly knew or understood the heart wrenching emotion felt during the playing of Taps that comes only with knowing personally the sacrifice which it represents.  

What happens Tuesday when the holiday is over? Remember, the meaning of Memorial Day then as well. When you go to work, you are working at job or in a career of your own choosing, and earning a wage greater than 90% of others living here on earth while likely only working five days each week. Going to school and receiving your education is a privilege. Going to church or your midweek small group Bible study is right you have protected under the Constitution.  Driving, shopping, watching TV, and playing are other activities we often take for granted. Each of these rights and privileges we have today, however, have been bought and paid for by the sacrifice of others; from the bloodied sands of Iwo Jima and Normandy to the streets of Fallujah and the mountains of Afghanistan.

With everything else you have planned in your busy lives, please don’t forget today, and each day, is a Memorial Day, and most importantly, don’t forget why. 

Categories: Daily Devotions, Military Monday, Military, Veterans, and Patriotism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Using What You Have, Doing All You Can

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What are you lacking? In what ways do you feel insignificant and unusable? To whom do you compare yourself and say, “If only I had what they had,” or “If only I could be more like them I could do so much more.” We have all done this. Many of us still do. We look around and then look at ourselves and wonder how God could ever use someone as void of talent, knowledge, skill, or ability as us. We believe because we are lacking, we have little to offer.

If this is how you honestly feel let me give you some good news, God is not concerned with what you don’t have. He’s more concerned with what you do with what you have.

Let’s look at Moses for example. In Exodus chapters three and four, God calls him to be the one who frees his people from captivity. He tells Moses to go before Pharaoh and demand the release of Israelites, and then lead them out of Egypt. This is no small task! It is a far cry from being asked to lead a small group, help with the youth group, go on a short-term mission trip, help in the church nursery, or even, be a greeter. Our reaction to being asked to help in these roles, however, is much like the response of Moses when God called him to free his people, “Who am I…?” (Exodus 3:11).

Moses made excuse after excuse as to why he couldn’t do what God asked him to do. At this stage in life, he was a shepherd, tending flocks of sheep in the wilderness. He had no status, nothing of significance to offer, and he was admittedly a poor speaker. But God reassured Moses, “I will be with you.” (Exodus 3:12)

In the beginning of Exodus chapter four, God looks at Moses and told him to take the one thing he did have, perhaps the only thing he had, his shepherd’s staff, and throw it on the ground. Moses obeyed. When the stick hit the ground it turned into a snake. God told Moses, “Now pick it up.” When Moses grabbed the tail it turned back into his staff. The one thing Moses possessed, totally insignificant up until this point, God used and it wouldn’t be the last time Moses and this insignificant staff show up in hugely significant ways later in scripture.

As the chapter continues God provides Moses with all the tools he needs to do what it is he has called him to do. More importantly, God tells Moses he will teach him and what he does he will do with God’s help. At the end, God tells Moses not to forget the one thing he possess, the insignificant shepherd staff; God is going to use it.

God informs the inferior feeling Moses of three crucial facts:

1. I will be with you

2. I will equip you

3. I will use what you have

We can make all the excuses we want in an attempt to rationalize ourselves out of doing what God wants us to do but God has an answer which trumps even the best we can come up with. Quite literally, when God says, “I will be with you, I will equip you, and I will use whatever you have, as insignificant as you might think it is,” we are without excuse.

Are you tired of making excuses? Are you tired of feeling defeated and unworthy to serve God in the way you know you should? The antidote is trusting God’s promises and being willing to allow God to use you, as you are, with what you have, in very unusual and remarkable ways.

Remember, God doesn’t care about what you don’t have, he wants you to use what you do. Believe his promise, trust his word, and be willing to the throw down whatever you have, as insignificant as it might seem, and watch God work.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24

 

Categories: Christian Living, Daily Devotions | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Awesome God!

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“…and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:19 NASB)

Do you remember as a kid wanting something so bad you told your parents if you could somehow get this one thing you wouldn’t ask for anything for your birthday or Christmas? In your mind you just knew if you could get whatever it is you had your mind on you would somehow be completed. Did you ever get it? Were you truly completed? Did you still have a wish list of things  maybe you “forgot about” when your birthday or Christmas rolled around?

What about outdoors? How many of us have ever hiked the entire Appalachian Trail, caught a nine-pound bass, or shot a 150” whitetail and then said to ourselves, “I am now complete,”  and hung up our gear content to never step foot on the trail, water, or in the woods again? None of these accomplishments fulfill us completely.

Ephesians 3:19 tells us of one of the most amazing qualities of God you and I can share in, his love. So incredible is his love the verse tells us it surpasses knowledge, meaning, it exceeds human comprehension. His love for us is so immense we cannot possibly even begin to understand it. But not only that, this same incomprehensible love is waiting to fill you completely. The verse literally means to be “crammed completely full”.  What do you think the implications would be in our lives if the world would ever fully understand the fact it is the love of God, and His love alone, which can complete us? Greed and selfishness would end. There would be no substance abuse. Relationships would last and divorce would be a thing of the past. There would be no room left in our lives for anything else to “complete” us because every void would be fully satisfied by the love of Christ.

As impossible as it seems, the reality is, it is possible. It starts with you and I realizing just how amazing God’s love toward us truly is and by opening our hearts, allowing them to be crammed full of this love until we are completely filled with it. As we allow more and more of God’s love to fill us, it will eventually push anything else out that might be holding us back from experiencing the full extent of His love. Remember, it was God’s love for us that allowed Jesus to be crucified, to die, for us as a ransom for our sin. It was His love for us that held Jesus on the cross until this work could be completed. It is this same amazing, powerful, unconditional, love that can fill your life to its absolute fullest.

How awesome is that? What are you waiting for?

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