Memorial Day

Memorial Day is when we honor the men and women of our Armed Services who have made “the supreme sacrifice;” who gave their lives for their country.

Especially these days, when Memorial Day seems nothing more than a time for cookouts and swim parties, we cannot be reminded often enough about how great a debt we owe our war dead.

They gave up their hopes and dreams, families and friends. They submitted themselves to rigorous discipline and placed their lives in great peril. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Their sacrifice should inspire in us a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the freedoms we enjoy, bought with a price. And that gratitude should compel us to lives of service as well. Serving Christ, our neighbor, and yes, our nation.

I can’t help but recall the brilliant film Saving Private Ryan. James Ryan, now in his seventies, has returned with his family to the military cemetery in Normandy. He visits the grave of Captain John Miller, the man who, a half a century before, led the mission to retrieve — to save — Private Ryan. At the end of the mission, Miller was fatally wounded. As he lay dying, his final words to Private Ryan were, “James. Earn this … earn it.”

We then see Ryan kneeling at Captain Miller’s grave, marked by a cross. Ryan, his voice trembling with emotion, says: “Every day I think about what you said to me that day on the bridge. I tried to live my life the best that I could. I hope that was enough. I hope that, at least in your eyes, I’ve earned what all of you have done for me.”

Red-eyed, Ryan turns to his wife and says, “Tell me I’ve led a good life … tell me I am a good man.”

With great dignity, she says, “You are.”

With that, James Ryan salutes the grave of Captain Miller. You see, Private Ryan, out of gratitude for Captain Miller’s sacrifice, did all in his power to live a good life.

And Memorial Day is a great time for each of us to look into the mirror … to examine our own lives. Are we living good lives in gratitude for all those who have sacrificed for us — including our men and women in the military, our families, our friends, and most of all Christ?

Are we, like Ryan, kneeling before the cross? Are we, out of gratitude, doing our duty for Christ, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, ministering to those in prison, in whatever harvest field to which the Lord has called us?

This Memorial Day, at the very least, thank those who have sacrificed for you and those you know who have served in our nation’s armed forces. Wherever you may see a man or woman in uniform, walk up to them and thank them for their service.

And then go and remember Whom it is you serve and thank Him for His great sacrifice.

Strength through Giving

Providing for the ministry of the Word and caring for the poor. Paul is particular about the principle of regular giving; he asks the Corinthians to set aside a certain amount every week in proportion to each person’s prosperity, so that the money will be ready and available when he arrives. This principle is still valid today. Christian stewardship and fundraising professional Wesley K. Willmer explains why this discipline is important.

Once we establish the importance of giving to God first, we need to set up practical ways to ensure that we are faithful in our resolve. Often we have good intentions, but are tripped up by a lack of discipline in our method of giving!We can order our lives to set aside a portion of our money for God, a portion for our savings, and a portion for spending. In fact, some people open additional bank accounts in order to separate money to be given to God from household expenses. Others have established automatic withdrawals from their checking account to ensure that a portion of their income goes directly, and faithfully, to God’s work.

Giving systematically is the key to faithful giving. Pastor Albert C. Winn elaborates on the principle.

Deeply embedded in the idea of giving is the principle of regularity. To give is to give regularly, preferable once a week, week in and week out. This takes giving out of the realm of mood. We don’t give just when we feel like it, or just when our heartstrings have been plucked by some dramatic and sentimental appeal. We give when the time comes, regardless of our mood. Regularity takes a lot of the pain out of giving.

I think we have to be honest about people’s pain in giving, about our pain in giving. People who do counseling tell us that we ought to deal with grief. Money is a part of your life. Money represents days and hours of sweat and tears. Money is a very part of you, and to part with it is a grief process. It’s pain. But a decision to give regularly takes a lot of that pain away!You don’t have to make a number of painful decisions during the year. As the saying goes, you don’t have to cut the dog’s tail off an inch at a time. You can make one basic decision, and then it’s simply a matter of carrying out that decision regularly and systematically.

Regularity also saves us from self-deception. If we give nothing for a time, and then for a heartstring appeal we give a hundred dollars, we deceive ourselves that we are very generous. But if that’s divided into two dollars a week, not many of us can claim great generosity from such a gift.

Spiritual Discipline of Worship

The past few posts are geared towards activities aimed at increasing our connection with God, ourselves, and friends/family.

Thank God for who He is and for all He’s done for you. Ask Him to help you learn to worship Him with every part of your life.

Have everyone collect a couple of common objects used during the day, such as a cellphone, a pen, a purse or a clothing item. Place the objects on a table and hold up one item at a time. As a family, try to come up with ways that each item could be used to glorify (worship) God. Take turns offering suggestions.

People often think of worship as singing songs during church services, but it’s so much more. Worship means to bring or give God glory. There are many different ways we can worship God. You can also worship God with your mind by not thinking evil or sinful thoughts (Philippians 4:8). When you give generously, speak words of encouragement and serve others, you’re also worshipping God. And, of course, praising Him through prayer and song is a great way to worship. God wants you to worship Him with every part of your life.

Questions
– What is one of your favorite worship songs?
– What are other ways you can worship God?
– What’s one form of worship you will practice this week?