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AMERICA - MEMORIAL DAY: REMEMBERING OUR VETERANS

MEMORIAL DAY: REMEMBERING OUR VETERANS

Scripture
Romans 1:21-22, 25, 28, 32; Romans 3:23; James 3:13-17

America sets aside two days to honor its military.
•    November 11 was originally called Armistice Day to commemorate the end of World War I. In 1954, President Eisenhower signed legislation to change the name to Veterans Day, a day to honor all who have served in the military.
•    On Memorial Day, we remember military personnel who died while defending America during wartime.

Memorial Day is much more than a three-day weekend. It has no religious basis, but it promotes a value elevated throughout Scripture, the importance of remembrance.
•    Memory failure is not just something that leads to personal inconvenience or social embarrassment.
•    Memory failure is a spiritual danger that can result in a failure of faith. Forgetfulness erodes the foundation of our relationship with God.

The Bible emphasizes the importance of remembering. God gave His chosen people various methods of remembering what He had done.
•    Monuments, altars, memorial feasts, and ritually repeated narratives reinforce the sacred memory of God’s great saving acts.
•    The call to remember is repeated throughout Scripture, reminding people that their existence and progress were in the hands of the living God (Exodus 12:11; Deuteronomy 5:15; Numbers 15:38-39; Joshua 8:30-32; Joshua 23:4; Psalm 105:5; Ecclesiastes 12:1; Malachi 4:4).

Remembering was not a self-indulgent diversion. Israelites were not called upon to remember the past for its own sake. They were to remember the wonders of the past so that their lives would be open to even greater wonders God would do for them in the future. Often the Israelites built a well, a pillar, or an altar, and named it in memory of the event.
            Genesis 28:18-19        Jacob’s dream of a stairway/ladder to Heaven
            Genesis 21:31              Abraham’s Treaty
            Genesis 26:19-22        Isaac’s three wells
            Genesis 33:20            Jacob’s safe arrival at Shechem in Canaan
            Exodus 17:8-16           Joshua and the Israelites overcome the Amalekites at  Rephidim
            1 Samuel 7:12              Samuel’s victory over the Philistines
It is interesting how God records that two memorials “to this day are still standing (Genesis 35:19-20; Judges 6:24).

Poppies are one of today’s memorials around the dates of military holidays. Why poppies? In 1915, the whole Western front in France and Belgium consisted of poppy fields. Seeds may stay in the ground for years. The poppy is the only flower that sprouts in rooted-up soil. Battles and burials had churned up the soil where Major John McCrae performed the funeral service for a friend and watched the poppies sprout and bloom. He poured his sorrow into a poem that now represents the Great War.  
            “In Flanders Field the poppies blow between the crosses,
                    row on row, that mark our place.
            And in the sky the larks, still bravely singing, fly,
                    scarce heard amid the guns below.

            “We are the dead.
            Short days ago we lived, felt dawn, saw sunset’s glow,
                    loved and were loved, and now we live in Flanders Fields.

            Take up our quarrel with the foe.
            To you, from failing hands, we throw the torch,
                    yours to hold it high.
            If you break faith with us who die,
                    we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields.”

Moina Mitchel was a schoolteacher in Georgia who read McCrae’s poem in 1918. She pledged to KEEP THE FAITH and always to wear a red poppy as a sign of remembrance. The American Legion Auxiliary adopted the poppy as its memorial flower in 1921. Every Auxiliary poppy is made by a disabled or hospitalized veteran. Each year, American Legion Auxiliary volunteers distribute more than 25 million red crepe paper poppies in exchange for contributions to help disabled and hospitalized veterans. The VFW also uses the poppy in this way.

Memorial Day is unique to our nation.
•    The first “day of memory” was celebrated with a parade of freed slaves and Union soldiers marching through Charleston, South Carolina, in 1865.
•    In 1866, ladies from Columbus, Mississippi, laid flowers on both Union and Confederate graves in the Friendship Cemetery, burial ground for Shiloh battle dead. The New York Tribune printed a story on the unprejudiced acts of these women seen as a "healing touch for the nation."
•    In 1868, General John A. Logan, head of the Grand Army of the Republic veteran’s group, issued a proclamation that "Decoration Day" be observed nationwide. The date chosen was May 30, specifically because it was not on the anniversary of a battle.
•    The alternative name, "Memorial Day" was commonly used after World War II. Federal law recognized the holiday as "Memorial Day" in 1967.

It's important to remember not only the price paid by veterans to maintain our freedom but also the price paid by their families. Part of the sacrifice too often includes unemployment or underemployment when military service ends.
•    Companies should understand that it’s smart business to hire veterans.
•    When members of the Guard and Reserves deploy, it is America's business to ensure that their civilian careers do not suffer.

It is tragic that men and women who allow us to be safe in our homes are often without homes themselves.
•    One-in-four of America's homeless population are veterans.
•    Nine-in-ten were honorably discharged, and nearly half served during the Vietnam War.
Too often today's tattered citizen of the street was yesterday's toast-of-the-town hero in a crisp uniform with rows of shining medals. This is hardly the "thanks of a grateful nation." We must remember the unique needs of the 1.2 million women veterans many of whom are among the homeless.

While fewer than 10 percent of Americans can claim the honorable title "U.S. military veteran," this special group often provides the vital services that enable our communities to function. Chances are that if you surveyed the local police or fire department, you would find that a disproportionately high amount of its members are veterans. When an emergency hits, there is a good chance that it is a veteran that is first to respond. Whether it's a school teacher, construction worker, or first responder, military veterans take their missions seriously. They also take their responsibilities as citizens seriously. During the 2008 presidential election, 71% of U.S. veterans cast ballots compared with only 63% of nonveterans.

On December 7, 1941, our nation was thrown into World War II by the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, which also exposed us to Nazi Germany. Aside from wanting to take over the world, Hitler
•    outlawed school prayer,
•    eliminated Christian holidays,
•    took Easter out of schools,
•    controlled the churches,
•    was an Earth-worshiping environmentalist and vegetarian,
•    was fascinated by Eastern mysticism,
•    believed in reincarnation,
•    abolished private schools,
•    prevented people from challenging his worldview,
•    frequently imprisoned pastors,
•    outlawed the cross and replaced it with the swastika,
•    believed that God is dead,
•    exploited the economic collapse of Germany to create a dictator-led brand of Socialism,
•    and called upon Darwinian evolution to prove that creation of a so-called pure race by killing people is acceptable practice.

Pagan spirituality centers on worship of nature like Hitler did. This can be compared to false environmental beliefs, putting their so-called “Mother Earth” and worldly things before God.

Hitler killed about 11 million Jews and non-Jews and 270,000 handicapped people. Stalin killed over 20 million people. Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini demonstrate the destruction  that results when a leader doesn't believe in God, life after death, Heaven, Hell, or Judgment Day when he will be held accountable by the Righteous Judge. Let us remember the sacrifices made by our military fighting against such views. Let us be thankful that we live in United States of America as we continue to fight against injustice in the world in order to protect our country.

It is of the utmost importance that we stay focused on God. King Solomon in the Old Testament understood this. His wisdom is described in 1 Kings 4:29, 34. Wise Solomon always made sure the nation of Israel took time to honor God. Unfortunately, we don't always show the wisdom to remember God as a nation, sometimes becoming complacent. We need to wake up and realize that God is the only One with the real solutions.

Wise people believe God needs to be in the religious, social, economic, and political life of our nation. Without God, there is no true Americanism. We should remember that lawlessness and disorder have their roots in continually snubbing the God of the Bible and Biblical morality.

The Bible is very specific about what a nation will reap when it rejects God. The book of Romans tells the specific national consequence for continually rejecting God (Romans 1:21-32).
•    According to verse 21, people become futile, vain, and useless. Their hearts become darkened, which allows them to be seduced into accepting spiritual lies.
•    Verse 22 says that even though they profess to be wise, they actually become fools trying to justify their sin and false belief.
•    The nation that continually rejects God can become debased and violent according to verses 25 and 28.
•    The nation that continually rejects God can produce judicial, legislative, and executive branches of government that approve of and encourage immorality and corruption (Romans 1:32).

Biblical teaching about the nature of man is essential to our understanding of government (Romans 3:23). We should not be naïve about the danger of an all-powerful state. We need to remember how in history believers have been treated badly in all-powerful places as Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, pagan Rome, Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Communist Russia, China, Vietnam, and Moslem-led countries. We must realize that Christ is Lord of our spiritual souls and He is Lord over politics, the White House, House of Representatives, Senate, and Supreme Court.

The threat of terrorism, rising unemployment, and lingering financial crises weigh heavily on hearts and minds. They are evidence that we need to pray that God-given wisdom will prevail. But, let us keep having confidence in the future of our country with faith in God.

James 3:13-17 tells about God-given wisdom. Our founding fathers were dedicated to wise  beliefs which produced extraordinary accomplishments. For those accomplishments and for their dedication, we must always be grateful. We must heed the words of our first Commander-in-Chief, General George Washington who said in 1798,
        "The willingness with which our young people will fight in any war, no matter how justified, shall directly proportional as to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their country."

Let us remember and honor all veterans, past and present, who have fought to maintain the freedom we now enjoy. Maybe our flags should not fly at half staff on Memorial Day but at their peak because that is what our fallen soldiers died for. They contributed to something they considered priceless, the defense of America. These heroes did not burn their draft cards or flee the country to avoid serving. They would not be proud of celebrities protesting injustices done to the enemy.

Those who are guilty of defacing the flag, criticizing rather than contributing, taking rather than giving must be reminded of the price paid to ensure their freedoms:
•    the right to keep and bear arms,
•    the right to own property,
•    the right to come and goes as we please,
•    the right to speak our mind without fear of being arrested
All privileges and rights we enjoy today have been made possible by those we remember.

For some, Memorial Day is a shocking reminder of how close we all are to death and what death has taken from us. This is the perfect time to remind people of Christ's work on the cross and what that work accomplished. Freedom has always been bought with blood. For the child of God, Every Day Is Memorial Day. We need to remember the sacrifice of Heaven’s Greatest Soldier, Jesus Christ, who died to give us eternal freedom from the penalty, power, and presence of sin.

Let's hope and pray our country remains as it was created, One Nation Under God. God bless our veterans, and God bless America.

PRAYER
Heavenly Father, grant to us, the living, a feeling of responsibility for carrying on the great works of beloved ones who have given their lives for freedom's sake. We thank You for these United States in which we live; for those ideals of freedom, and justice. Please strengthen our resolve to stand fast in the face of tyranny. Grant that in all things, we may be ready to serve for the preservation of human freedoms. And above all, help us to honor You in everything.

THE INVITATION
★    You can't depend on your own goodness to get to Heaven. We've all sinned  (Romans 3:23). Jesus paid the penalty for your sins with His death on the cross and His resurrection (John 3:16).
★    To be forgiven and be guaranteed a place in Heaven, you need to repent of sin, confess that you are a sinner, and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ in your heart (Acts 2:21).
★    You can use the following prayer or your own words, but you must actually believe in your heart that your prayer is real:
             Lord Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God. I confess that I have sinned against You in thought, word, and deed. Please forgive all my wrongdoing and let me live in relationship with You from now on.
             I receive You as my Savior and recognize that the work You accomplished once and for all on the cross was done on my behalf.
             Thank You for saving me. Help me to live a life that is pleasing to You.
                In Your name I pray, Amen.


    Rev. Dr. Nicholas J. Gray, Pastor   Broadway Baptist Church   Sedalia, Missouri   2015