This is the weekend in America that has been set aside to honor those who have given their lives while serving in the armed forces so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today. We are removed from the "great generation" of the World War II era, and I fear that many Americans don't really take the time to reflect on the great sacrifices that have been made since the foundation of this great nation.
One would think, with all of the war and bloodshed since the terrorists attacks of 9-11-01 that we would be mindful and appreciative of the brave men and women who have served so valiantly for us. It appears that the wars associated with the terror attacks have gone on so long that we have grown numb to the war and many take little time to reflect on the thousands who have given the ultimate sacrifice over the past decade.
Those who have come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, for the most part, have not received the heroes welcome that former generations enjoyed. I am not one who seeks to place men upon pedestals. There is far too much of that in today's society, but we do need to be thankful and appreciative for those who willingly joined the armed forces and fought for us on foreign soil. Their commitment and bravery are unmatched by any in the world. Not as often as I should, but on occasion I am reminded while attending a church service, that we have that opportunity due to the freedom we have in America. Freedom is available to all within our borders, but it is certainly not cheap.
Many will view this weekend as simply the start of the summer season with an extra day off from work. I pray that we will sincerely take a moment to reflect on the true meaning of the holiday. Let us take the time to thank the Lord for all that we enjoy in America. Take a moment to pray for the thousands of families who will spend this Memorial Day weekend grieving the loss of a loved one that was killed for our freedom in a foreign land. Take the time to thank a veteran who served us proudly. They too stood in harm's way, but by the grace of God they were spared and brought home.
America is facing some challenging days ahead. There is much that concerns me regarding the direction that we are heading, but it is still the greatest nation on earth and I am proud to be an American! I am aware that my blog is not read by the masses of humanity, but it is a public forum that the world can access via the internet. I would like to take this forum to publicly thank each and every one who has served this great land of ours. I would like to assure those who have lost loved ones in the fight that I am praying for the peace and provision of God in their lives.
I can never celebrate Memorial Day without thinking of the One who paid the supreme sacrifice. Our blessed Lord and Savior gave His life upon the cross of Calvary for all humanity. He offered Himself so that we might be reconciled to God. If you don't know Christ as your personal Savior, I pray that you will come to know Him, believing upon Him in salvation.
I have spent some time this morning preparing for our Wednesday services and I was deeply moved by a portion of our next in Nehemiah this week. We will begin to consider Chapter 5 this afternoon. This is a tragic account in many ways, although there is encouragement at the end. Nehemiah and those who sought to restore the city walls had faced relentless opposition from Sanballat and those who followed him. The tribe of Judah even presented an obstacle with their pessimism in chapter 4, but here we find an issue that has the potential to derail the rebuilding efforts all together. This was an issue that had arisen from within.
To sum it up quickly, the rich and powerful were taking advantage of the poor and needy. Drought had affected the food supply, driving prices up; the people faced a mountain of debt, and were forced to further mortgage their homes and land just to pay the taxes. Sadly this came, for the most part, from the hands of their own countrymen.
The verse that really challenged me is verse 5. Take a moment to read it, and then read it again.
Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brethren, our children as their children: and, lo, we bring into bondage our sons and our daughters to be servants, and some of our daughters are brought unto bondage already: neither is it in our power to redeem them; for other men have our lands and vineyards.
The people were astounded by the treatment of fellow Jews toward them. They were of the same flesh; they had endured the same struggles; looking at their children there would have been little difference from the others. They felt betrayed by their own, sold out to the greed and selfishness of the prosperous.
Isn’t that tragic? We look on this account and wonder how these things could be, but I fear that many times we are guilty of the same. We have preconceived notions of whom God would save. We have a mold that we expect others to fit into; otherwise we don’t pay much attention to their needs. I pray that God will move us from our prejudices. Christ died for all, not just those of a particular skin color, social class, or intelligence. I pray that we will see others as God sees them, souls in need of salvation!
As I considered this, I wondered how God views our efforts. Who are we really trying to reach? We all have differences, with a unique appearance, but in reality we are all of the human race. Our precious Lord died for all, not just those who look or think like we do. I pray that God will move among us so that we will see others as He sees them. All are in need of salvation. Christ doesn't look upon the outward appearance or judge according to intellect or ability. He looks upon the heart. If we are to be what God has called us to be, we must seek to reach all people, not just those who fit our mold.
Just a few thoughts, but I genuinely pray that we will take them to heart. I rejoice that someone loved me enough to share the Gospel with me and there are many around us today that are waiting for someone to love them enough to share Jesus with them!
I think you would have to agree that we live in a very materialistic society. Men are no longer judged by their character, but rather by their wealth and social status. Particularly in America, we are a pleasure driven society. And, at the very heart of that pleasure, is material possessions and wealth. I suppose we could also add success to the list as well. Many today believe if they could only earn enough money to purchase everything they desire, then happiness would surely follow. (I have never been wealthy and doubt I ever will become wealthy, so I guess I'll never know.) However it is apparent by the rate of divorce among wealthy couples, the depression that many of them face, and even the rate of suicide among those who appear to have it all, that wealth and possessions do not necessarily bring happiness and contentment.
Far too many place great emphasis on the material things in life. Many others focus far too much on their "standing" within society. The average American is always seeking a better job, a newer car, a larger house, more recognition, etc... Sadly this is even prevalent among preachers. Many pastors today are unhappy with their current situation. They want a larger church that has more in attendance; they are seeking a larger salary; many are consumed with becoming well known in "preaching circles" so that their phone will ring with more opportunities to preach revivals and other meetings. The fact is, many in America are unhappy with their current situation. For those who are happy, it appears that many are happy for all the wrong reasons.
What if we could achieve all that we believe would bring real joy to our lives? Do you honestly think you would really be happy then? I fear that our focus has become blurred and our emphasis is placed on all the wrong things. Jesus dealt with a group that had achieved great success and were happy with that, but He challenged their reasoning. Consider these few verses.
And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name.
Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
Many of us, particularly preachers, can relate to this passage. Jesus had sent out the seventy, two by two, to prepare the way for His coming and to share His message. They returned rejoicing because of the power they had experienced along the way. I don't think Jesus was rebuking them for being thankful for the power of God in their lives, but it is apparent that they had lost their focus. They were more concerned with what they had accomplished than the fact they were serving the Lord and belonged to Him. Jesus admonished them to be thankful and rejoice for the right reasons. All they had accomplished was great, but that wasn't the greatest. If they had anything to rejoice about, it was the fact that their names were recorded in heaven.
Much of what we rejoice in or look to for happiness will fade away. Even in our service to the Lord we are guilty of loosing our focus and placing the emphasis on the wrong things. I am thankful that the Lord has called me to preach. I am thankful for the opportunities I have each week to preach at Fellowship. I am thankful that I have the privilege of being their pastor. I rejoice for the growth that we are experiencing. However, I need to be thankful most of all that my name is written in heaven. Now, I know that many of you are more spiritual than I am, and your salvation is the focus of your attention. I will admit that often I need to be reminded of the Lord's goodness in my life and offer Him the praise that He is due.
I am thankful for the reminder that I received through this passage. Wealth and status in this life are temporal, but salvation is eternal. What is it that brings joy to you today? I pray that you know Christ as your personal Savior and that your joy is in Him and Him alone. Just some thoughts to ponder as we consider the source of our joy.
I am Chris Benfield, pastor of Shady Grove Baptist Church in Boonville, NC. Here you will find some of my thoughts, particularly relating to the church and serving our Lord.
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