Memorial Day

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What good is a memorial if we’ve forgotten its purpose?

In the United States, we set aside the last Monday in May as an official memorial to honor the fallen.

Since most people are given the day off, it’s usually used to kick off summer, have a barbecue, and hit the beach.

For others, it’s a trip to the military cemetery to sit with the remains of a husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, or friend.

Today is a time to reflect on those who died to make us a free country, to end slavery, to deliver the oppressed, and to make the world a better place.

Take time today to remember. Tell your children what today is for so that it’s purpose will not be lost.

 

Short-term memory loss.

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The feeding of the 5,000 is an oft-discussed miracle, but have you read the one in which he feeds the 4,000?

What struck me in this account was not the greatness of the miracle, but the  severe memory loss of Jesus’ disciples.

Here is the account:

In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him and said to them, “I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from far away.”

And his disciples answered him, “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

And he asked them, “How many loaves do you have?”

They said, “Seven.”

And he directed the crowd to sit down on the ground. And he took the seven loaves, and having given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and they set them before the crowd. And they had a few small fish. And having blessed them, he said that these also should be set before them. And they ate and were satisfied.

And they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. And there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away.

Mark‬ ‭8:1-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Every time I read this passage, I get a sense of deja-vu. This reads a lot like the Feeding of the 5,000 in Mark 6. The only thing missing is a generous little boy.

Desolate place? Check!

Colossal crowd of hungry people? Check!

A small amount of Bread and fish? Check!

A ridiculous amount of leftovers? Check!

Notice what the disciples say in verse 4: “How can one feed these people with bread here in this desolate place?”

Shouldn’t they be saying, “Hey, remember how we fed 5,000 men (plus women and children) with only 5 loaves and 2 fish? Are you willing to do that again, Lord? We have seven loaves and a few small fish!”

The disciples seemed to suffer from either amnesia or short-term memory loss. If Jesus had the urge to cover His face with His hands and sigh, it would’ve been here! Jesus had performed an inconceivable miracle when He fed the people the first time. They had seen Him do many other signs and wonders. At this point, they should be thinking to themselves, “there’s nothing He can’t do!”

And yet, they doubted. They forgot the amazing power of the Lord.

Do you suffer from short-term memory loss?

How often has God done amazing things in your life? How often do you forget those things at the first sign of a challenge?

I’d like to think I wouldn’t be as dense as the disciples, but I know that there have been many times when I have done exactly the same thing. We need to make it a point to regularly give thanks for the things God has done for us in the past.

Why do you think God commanded the Israelites of the Old Testament to set up memorials? He knew how forgetful we humans can be. He knows we need help.

If you are faced with insurmountable challenges, take time to make a list of the amazing things God has done. Lay out your list before the Lord, give thanks to Him in prayer. Then, ask Him to help you climb this mountain just like He’s done before for you and the countless other faithful who have come before.

Our God is powerful. Trust Him to help you!

4 things to do before age 60

Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”

~ Ecclesiastes 12.1, ESV

 

youth

When we are young, we think we have an abundance of time. After all, our parents and teachers tell us, “there’ll be time for that later,” or “not until your older.” We spend the first 18-20 years of our lives waiting until we are “older” to “do” things.

There is one thing we should never put off: serving God.

I remember asking my father if his hospice patients (those who were not Christians) tried turning to God near the end. They had lived their lives the way they had wanted—perhaps profligately—and now, with death staring them in the face, surely they’d want to make a change. He looked rather sadly at me and replied, “Once people get to that age, they’ve resisted God for so long that they have lost all desire for Him. Deathbed conversions occur once in great awhile, but it’s far more rare than it is common.”

It was an eye-opening statement, and one that has remained planted in my mind. We need to fix our desires, mindsets and habits now, before we do not have strength.

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth. 

By youth I mean anyone who is under the age of 60 not plagued by dementia or alzheimer’s. Even 70, if you’re still in great shape. Just because a child is 1 or 2, doesn’t mean you can’t start teaching them about God. Today is all we’ve got—make the most of it. I have sadly heard too many parents put off “church-going” because they think their kids won’t remember or “they’re too young.” They are more aware than you realize.

So, while we are still “young” we need to work on the following:

#1: Practice Forgiveness.

This should be a top priority. As I mention in this post on forgiveness, failure to forgive results in firmly rooted bitterness. We need to emulate Christ who forgave even his torturers. He also forgave us.

#2: Meditate on the Word.

Daily.

Don’t rely on Sunday sermons to fill you for an entire week. Even reading once a day isn’t meditation.

Meditating is not simply reading the Bible—it’s reading and pondering.

Here are three different ways to meditate on the Word:

  1. writing: keep a journal.
  2. walking alone: Some of the best thoughts come to me on my walks when I have time to think about passages I’ve read and sermons I’ve heard.
  3. talking with Christians: I love those kindred spirits who happily discuss biblical topics with me and allow me to think things through with them out loud.

#3: Pray Daily.

Again—daily. Multiple times per day.

If you are not in the habit of praying, start with meal-time prayers. After you get that set in place, set your alarm 10 minutes earlier get out of bed (this is important so you don’t fall back asleep) set the timer for 10 minutes and pray. After awhile, you may discover that 10 minutes isn’t enough!

Having regular communication with God while young will give us a stronger connection with him when we are old.

#4: Cultivate Joy.

This is one of my biggest challenges, especially as someone who is inclined to be a “brooding Irish” type. Joy does not equal happiness. Happiness is a momentary feeling swayed by circumstance; joy is a determined attitude.

There’s a few things involved in getting a joyful attitude:

  1. Know your home.
    This life overflows with uncontrollable circumstance. All that waffle about being the “captain of your destiny” is absolute rubbish. Most concentration camp survivors will tell you they couldn’t get out by their own power. A few succeeded in escaping, but most were stuck, plagued by illness or simply too helpless. The only thing you can control is your own mind. Knowing that there is an eternal home beyond the vicissitudes of earth is a source of joy for the Christian. We look to what Shakespeare calls, “The Undiscovered Country.” I long for that country which has been discovered by my brothers and sisters in the Lord who have gone on before me.
  2. Refocus the mind.
    If you are a long-time reader, you know that I have dealt with depression for many years (you can read more here). I still do. It is a daily fight to stay upbeat. I’m not always strong enough to keep my head above water, but God is! When this mess called life begins to weigh on my heart I have to recenter myself and focus my thoughts on what I know to be true.

    This is my constant aim:

    Finally, brethren,
    whatever is true,
    whatever is honorable,
    whatever is right,
    whatever is pure,
    whatever is lovely,
    whatever is of good repute,
    if there is any excellence
    and if anything worthy of praise,
    dwell on these things.

    The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

    ~Phillipians 4.8-9, NASB

    Bring the mind back into focus. Let it dwell on the things listed above. For more on this, read here.

  3. Pray.
    As I mentioned in the previous point, I know I’m not strong enough to fight the weight of the world. I need help. Only God is powerful enough to pull me out of the stormy ocean of emotion and circumstance. Fix your eyes on Him. I have always treasured the account of Peter stepping out on the water toward Jesus. He walked on the water (which is physically impossible) as He looked toward Jesus. As soon as He took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the raging waters he sank like a lead weight. What did he do? He cried out to the one who could save him—and Jesus reached out and pulled him to safety. You can read the full account here in Matthew 14.

    When life threatens to crush your joy, cry out to God. He will lift you up.

Serve God today while you still have breath and mental clarity. For while there is life, there is hope.