This coming Memorial Day, thousands of churches will pay tribute to our country’s fallen heroes, recognizing the liberties and freedoms we enjoy, and remembering the brave men and women who have given their lives for our country. Memorial Day is focused upon those who have fallen in the service of our country, but at the same time it is an opportunity to focus on Christ. Here are five ways to observe Memorial Day, and bring honor to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

1.  Explain the peace that will one day be ours.

Those who have given their life for our country have experienced the tragic bloodshed that conflict brings. Our world is rocked by strife and division. But one day there will be peace. The author of that peace is Jesus himself, who is described in Scripture as the Prince of peace. Memorial Day recognizes the valor of those in military combat, but a day is coming when we will live in a time of unparalleled peace, brought about by King Jesus.

2.  Draw attention to the ultimate glory that believers will one day receive.

It is only right that we remember our nation’s military heroes, both past and present. During your Memorial Day observance, it is a wonderful idea to publicly recognize and thank those men and women who are involved in the service of country. Give them honor. In doing so, remind people that one day all believers will receive honor for their service. Although not all of us will enlist in the armed forces of our country, we will nonetheless hear the “well done,” from Jesus. This is another opportunity to glorify Christ during Memorial Day.

3.  Explore the parallels between physical military involvement and spiritual combat.

Ephesians 6 reminds us that our ultimate conflict on earth is not between flesh and blood; we engage in spiritual warfare. As we remember this world’s conflict and the bravery of those who have defended our freedom, let us also remember the spiritual battles that every believers must fight. As we engage in spiritual warfare, we have our commander in chief with us. “The armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev 19:14-18). Let us praise this King of kings, in whose army we fight.

4.  Show true gratitude.

Memorial Day is at its core about expressing gratitude for those who have fallen in the service of our country. After the death of thousands of soldiers following the Civil War, our country’s leaders instituted this as day to remember, in solemnity and heartfelt gratitude, the ultimate price that was paid. As you commemorate this day, be thankful. Show true gratitude. As believers, true gratitude ultimately directs to God. As you remember those who have fallen, praise Jesus for how he has shown us true love and sacrifice, and taught us what real freedom is.

5.  Exalt the one who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

We hold the deepest gratitude for the hundreds of thousands of soldiers who have given their lives over the ages, defending our freedoms and families. As we remember them, let us also remain aware that Jesus, too, gave the ultimate sacrifice. He laid down his life to secure a freedom which transcends any earthly freedom. Jesus gave his life to gain spiritual victory over sin, death, and hell. Memorial Day gives us a chance to praise our Lord for the price he paid, and the triumph he secured.

As you commemorate our fallen heroes this year, take the opportunity to remember the day’s significance while also honoring Christ.

“…but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14 NIV)

Picture a large meadow of yellow flowers bowing to a gentle breeze. This golden pond of beauty is densely populated on the outer edges by trees that stand stoic throughout the course of time. The summer sun hangs lazily alone in the afternoon sky against a canvass of aqua blue. The air is punctuated periodically by God’s curious creatures that fly about on cue — assuring the casual observer that life is more than worrying about the next event.

But that’s not all.

The sound of a rushing river nearby captures the essence of energy as it follows its familiar path toward the open sea. All marvel at its ability to remain constant. Nothing stops its flow. Its strength is undeniable. Its will, undeterred. The river beckons those who are thirsty to partake of its power to quench. For the filthy, it calls them to bathe in its capacity to cleanse. For everyone who seeks healing, it invites them to take a leap of faith and jump in.

Similarly, Father thank you for being the ever-present river of life in our lives. May the richness of your presence flow from us to others so that they may see your mercy and grace. May those who feel discouraged or depressed find supernatural strength in your heavenly reservoir of love.

Pastor Mike Says

Lord God, I thank you for the wonderful day you have given to us. The trials, the triumphs, the glory and the blessings. We thank you for all of them. As we get ready to put our heads to the pillow Lord, may we clear our heads of any unGodly thoughts and issues. Father we give You all our worries and our cares, for YOu alone can deal with them.

AS we sleep, may we feel your peace and wake up refreshed and renewed in Your Spirit. Ready to go through another day and be a witness of Your love to others.

I pray this in Your Almight Name…AMEN

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Daily Obsessions

Posted: May 28, 2016 in Thoughts on God

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:18-20, ESV)

Take a minute and think about these questions:
-Where is your cell phone?
-How many times have you looked at it today?
-How much time did you spend on it?

Now, think about this:
-Where is your Bible?
-How many times have you read it today?
-How much time did you spend reading it?

In our world today, life is full of distractions, like our phones. I would go so far to say that technology is an obsession. What would happen if Christians today were just as obsessed with the Bible and their relationship with the Lord? I find that many people who are not Christians are more well-read in the Bible than a lot of Christians. How are we supposed to be effective and educated disciples without knowing the Bible? The Bible is our own personal armor and arsenal in weapons of truth, faith, hope, and love. We cannot put God’s gift to us to good use without knowing what it says.

The world is obsessed with technology and other distractions. I am going to challenge you today to become focused. Become just as obsessed with with the Bible and with God. Wouldn’t it be awesome if Christians were as familiar with the Bible as the world is with their phones? What kind of boldness in ministering would that produce?

What obsessions are taking up your time today?

A new command to love

Posted: May 26, 2016 in Thoughts on God

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35 ESV)

Jesus spoke these words after he had finished washing the disciples’ feet. Firstly, he made it quite clear that our loving one another was not a suggestion, but a “new commandment” to men from God. This love we are to have for one another is not optional, but a required mark of the Christian.

Secondly, this love is to be of the same quality as Christ’s. He implied that we would judge the quality of our love by his, “just as I have loved you”. This sentiment should be deeply rooted in every Christian then: I don’t judge my spirituality by comparing myself with others, but with Christ. When we do this there is only one possible response, repentance and humility.

Thirdly, Jesus gave the world the authority to judge our Christianity by the love we have for one another. Regarding this verse Francis Schaeffer aptly commented, “Upon His authority He gives the world the right to judge whether you and I are born-again Christians on the basis of our observable love toward all Christians. That’s pretty frightening.” This is a high calling, but it will be to the world’s good and our joy to pursue it in Christian community.

What is the quality of your love toward other believers? Read John 13 and ask yourself these questions:

  1. Have I treated my love toward other believers as a commandment, or a suggestion?
  2. How do I “wash the feet” (practically serve) of the Christians I am in relationship with?
  3. Do I judge my spiritual strength by comparing myself against others, or by comparing myself to Jesus?

Knowledge vs. experience

Posted: May 25, 2016 in Thoughts on God

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. (Luke 10:1-2 ESV)

Knowledge does not always mean action. We know that eating junk food isn’t good for us, but we still do it. We know that exercising regularly helps our bodies and we still don’t do it. We tell our kids to not touch the hot pan on the stove and they still do it. Just because we know something, that doesn’t mean we will live it out or experience it.

We tend to give people a lot of Bible based theology, thoughtful philosophy, even helpful strategies for life, but this great wealth of information does not necessarily translate to a long-haul-life-change.   We all know plenty of Christians who know what the Bible says but who struggle to connect these truths to their daily lives and even more importantly, to what God wants to do in and through them in the context of the real world. We can see from this passage that Jesus wasn’t just about knowing the right things, he was about experiencing them as well.

After teaching the disciples he sends them out to apply the knowledge they have learned of Jesus and his mission. We even see Jesus applying his teachings to specific experiences his disciples went through (Luke 5:1-11, Luke 5:27-31). We must continually examine our motives for reading our Bibles, listening to sermons, reading bible devotions, or even discussing spiritual matters with friends. The things we learn from our Bible and the Holy Spirit should spur us to action and not just lay dormant in our minds.

The ideas of knowing Jesus, following Jesus, and being sent out by Jesus are indivisible- they are all part of the same stream.

Dependency and victory

Posted: May 24, 2016 in Thoughts on God

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones. (Proverbs 3:5-8 ESV)

As Christians we must realize a simple, yet significant truth: through complete dependence upon Jesus, we do not fight for victory, but from it (1 Corinthians 15:56-58). This is a profound distinction with an intensely practical application for every facet of our lives. The unfortunate habit of so many Christians is to view the Biblical narrative as little more than law; filled with lists, rules and principles that must be followed in order for spiritual victory to be achieved. This, however, is not the message of the Gospel.

Look closely at 1 Corinthians 15:56, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” Sin’s power is in the law, or that which condemns by charging those under it with wrong doing punishable by eternal death (Romans 6:23). But what happened the moment you were saved by that “free gift of God…in Christ Jesus”? A transaction Martin Luther called the “Great Exchange” took place: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Literally, Jesus took our sin and bore it on the cross, presenting his perfect rightness before God in exchange. This means that in Jesus, no matter the evil we’ve committed or that’s been committed against us, when the Father looks at us, he sees Jesus. We are perfect in his sight, blameless, victorious. Jesus won us eternal victory, and in doing so, made dependence one of the most beautiful words in our language.

Rest in Jesus’ victory over sin, Satan and the grave. Treasure your need for him and follow his kindness to ever greater affection for the One who withholds “no good thing…from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11) through Christ.