In the past several decades, respect for the Lord, our Christ, Messiah, and Savior, has greatly diminished. Where once it was common to pray, it has now become taboo. This past homecoming season, a picture was circulated online: a large group of high schoolers had went out to eat before the dance. The picture was of them joining hands in prayer. It was posted in celebration that there are still those among us, and young ones!, who remember to offer grace for the food they were about to eat. And the comments? Some, like the poster, found the image heartwarming. But many others could do nothing but deride these individuals for their choice to pray.
As Christians in America, we are fortunate. We have the guaranteed right to worship freely, however we choose. We may be ridiculed, we may be fewer than we once were - or perhaps the opposition has just grown louder. Organized prayer may have been removed from schools, sporting events, and other places - but our right to worship cannot and will not be encroached. We are fortunate, for not all individuals have that guaranteed right. Some face persecution, like Daniel in Babylon, for simply opening a window and praying.
Have you stopped to think about why and how we have that right? The right was and is secured for us in the Constitution of the United States, via the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” But it doesn’t stop there. In order for our rights to remain, the United States of America must remain a free nation. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of the United States Armed Forces.
Throughout the last 200+ years, the Armed Forces has evolved from a loosely regulated, rag-tag militia who secured this nation’s freedom, to a well-oiled fighting machine. Individuals who have joined the military and serve this country by protecting it, are willing to sacrifice everything to ensure that you and I are able to continue to enjoy our freedoms and rights.
On Monday, May 28, 2018, we celebrate Memorial Day - one of several holidays throughout the year that honor our armed forces. On Memorial Day, we specifically honor those who have fallen, those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for this nation - their life. Husbands and fathers. Wives and mothers. Sons and daughters. Nieces, nephews, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, cousins, and friends. Everyone who has fallen is someone!
Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:7, ESV)
These men and women who have offered up their lives so that we may continue to live and worship freely, are owed our respect and our honor. This Memorial Day, thank the Lord for those who are willing to make such sacrifices. Also remember their families in prayer, for the pain of losing a loved one is always there.
Sixteen years ago, this country united. It lived up to its name - the United States of America. Sixteen years. For a kid just starting school, its seems forever, For a high schooler learning to drive, it is a lifetime. For a recent college grad, it means change, from the past and for the future. For a middle-aged person, it is memories of a simpler time and a wonder of what is to come. For the elderly, it seems so short. Sixteen years can mean different things to different people at different stages of life. But for everyone, on this day, sixteen years ago is a day this country united.
On September 11, 2001, the United States of America was attacked by a foreign land. Their goal was to destroy this great nation, to strike fear into the heart of every American. It was the first major attack on United States soil since the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, 60 years earlier. The loss of life in both events was comparable - 2,300 in Hawaii and 2,966 in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Pennsylvania, already beginning the fight back. They did not succeed. The United States of America rose up, united, and fought back; remembering those who died in that attack.
Sixteen years later, we are no longer united. It has been less than a year since the most divisive and ugliest election in recent history. Since the election, marches, protests, and rallies have occurred throughout America, often ending in violent conflict between opposing groups. Friends and families have divided and are no longer on speaking terms due to differing political and religious beliefs. We are no longer willing to listen to opposing views, to talk, discuss difference, and work together for the best outcome for all. I’m right and your wrong and need to be silenced has become the norm.
But hope is not lost. Earlier this year, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. Two weeks later, as flooding was still rampant is Houston, Hurricane Irma is poised to demolish Florida. And what was this nation’s response? For the most part, unity. The United States came together, united, to help those who had suffered and lost. Volunteers from all over the nation went to Texas and are planning for Florida, donating their time, energy, and resources, much as we did sixteen years ago, to help those who needed it. It happened without thought. It proved that when the worst came, this nation could still unite!
When remembering September 11, 2001, we are often somber, remembering those who were lost that day and those who lost their lives because of what happened that day. But in that devastation, we also saw the best of people, just as we have earlier this year. We do not know what the future may hold. We do not know what will happen 16 years from now. If we want a better United States of America, one that honors its name, then we have to start changing now!
Change has to begin somewhere, sometime, with someone! Why not you? And now! Wherever you are! “Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:32b-33, ESV)
Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:14-15, ESV) Begin where all Christians should begin addressing their problems - the Lord. Pray, as Jesus did at Gethsemane. Seek His guidance for your next move.
So put down the tiki torches and baseball bats. Take off the hoods and the masks. Put down your shields and weapons. It’s time to come together. Sixteen years is a lifetime away. Sixteen years is just around the corner. What will your legacy be in 16 years?
Happy Veteran’s Day!
Thank you to all the brave
men and women who have
served in the
United States Armed Forces!
Where Where You (When the World Stopped Turning)
Performed Live by Alan Jackson
at the Grand Ole Opry
Where were you? Do you remember?
A mother and her two young daughters were getting ready to spend the day shopping. Her husband, their father, was preparing to leave for work. A newlywed couple was enjoying a late breakfast on their honeymoon. A freshman college student was walking to the first class of the day, laughing with a friend. A sophomore high school student was in a heated debate in a US History class. A husband was on a plane, thinking about his wife, who was taking the subway to meet a friend for breakfast. They had only had time for a quick kiss before going their separate ways that morning, never thinking it may be their last. A son was hard at work, having arrived early to prepare for an important presentation that morning. A daughter was joking with a co-worker, while preparing to go live with her scheduled news broadcast. Where were you? Where were you when the news broke at 8:45 am EDT, on Tuesday, September 11, 2001?
Do you remember the confusion of not knowing what had happened? Do you remember the dismay, confirming suspicions, when the second plane hit? Do you remember the fear of not knowing the next target, if there was a next target? Do you remember the terror of not being able to reach your family? Do you remember the chaos of organizing the immense rescue? Do you remember the shock of realizing nothing would ever be the same? Do you remember the struggle to understand? Do you remember? Do you remember?!
I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me;
the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.
(Psalm 18:1-6 ESV)
David knew confusion. He knew dismay. He knew fear, terror, chaos, shock and struggle. David experienced these emotions while running for his life from Saul and, later, from his own son, yet he also expressed a faith in the steadfastness of the Lord. Many of David’s psalm cry out to the Lord for help. It is a cry many echoed in the days, weeks, months, and years since Tuesday, September 11, 2001.
My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me.
But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:20-23, ESV)
Jeremiah certainly knew what it was like to be attacked in your home by a foreign nation. He knew what it was like to lose an iconic building in an iconic city; to look at an iconic skyline and see it altered forever. It is not something he forgot. It is not something we can forget. It is not something to be forgotten. Jeremiah weeped over what had been lost and what was yet to come, yet he still praised the steadfastness of the Lord.
Tuesday, September 11, 2001, shocked this nation and the world. For the first time since World War II, we were attacked on our home soil, an experience shared by David and Jeremiah in their time. We cried out to God for help and for healing, just as David and Jeremiah did. But did we remember the rest?
Throughout all the suffering and all the questions, David and Jeremiah always remembered to turn to the Lord. They remembered to praise the Lord for His steadfastness. David frequently, in the midst of his turmoil, praised the Lord for getting him through. You see, David knew that although he may not see or understand, the Lord had a plan!
It has been 15 years since two planes crashed into the World Trade Center towers. Fifteen years since a plane crashed into the Pentagon. Fifteen years since a group of people, knowing the only outcome for them was death, chose to fight back and crash their plane in a field instead of its intended destination. Do you still remember?
We are no longer in the same place we once were, feeling desperate and scared. Church attendance, which spiked significantly after the attacks on September 11, 2001, has nearly returned to what it was before the attacks. Many no longer feel the pressing need to turn to the Lord, yet it is now that we need Him. Israel thought that because they were experiencing a time of prosperity and peace that they did not need the Lord. They fell because they turned away from the Lord, returning to Him only in times of need. Will we fall the same way? We must remember to focus on the Lord, to place Him at the front of our lives, to turn to Him in times of tragedy and in times of joy and peace.
Do you remember?