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Memorial Day Thoughts

Memorial Day is always celebrated on the last Monday in May and for many, it is the official start of summer which often cannot get here soon enough. More importantly, it is a day to honor the men and women who have died in while serving their country in the military.  The visual that really sets this up for me is Arlington National Cemetery. On Monday there will be over 260,000 flags placed next to each grave. Such a sight to behold! Remembering these brave men and women and their families is so important, but I believe there is more.  Hebrews 12:1 speaks about the cloud of witnesses around us and the race marked out for us. Let us also continue to do something worth remembering by sharing the freedom that comes from knowing Jesus Christ.  

I pray as Memorial Day comes and goes you will not only remember those who paid the ultimate price for our freedom but take the freedom we cherish as believers and share it no matter what the cost.  

 

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How God works through tragedy

Like many, I watched the fire that raged through the 850-year-old Notre Dame Cathedral last Monday with shock and sadness. When you think of the wars and revolutionary history the cathedral has survived it is sadly ironic that it accidentally caught fire. As I am writing this close to one billion dollars has poured in for the restoration. Among the significant structures lost were the spire, the roof, and the high altar. One thing that struck me, not a coincidence and so God, was the crown of thorns and the cross at the altar were saved. The fact this occurred leading up to Good Friday leaves me thanking the Lord for such an excellent opportunity to remind people of what they both mean. Think of it as two things that cannot be rebuilt and are impossible to replace. Could there be a more poignant representation of salvation? If you get a chance to see the picture of the cross rising above the ashes as we have just remembered Good Friday it is very powerful!     

Scary Stuff!

I am always amazed when I read reports from countries where Christians are persecuted for their faith. The names of the countries on the Open Doors World Watch List which tracks 50 countries where Christians face the worst persecution, is really quite alarming. I sadly read a recent report from Pakistan, number five on the list, where four Christians were falsely accused of blasphemy by a Muslim couple. The result was an Islamic mob attack on the neighborhood where the couple lived. They displaced 200 Christian families from their homes and killed all of their pets and livestock. After a lengthy investigation the couple was arrested but not before many lives were turned upside down.

 

The fact that many Christians face extreme persecution around the world should not surprise us. Many of the missionaries we support are in these countries. The reports they share are often equally alarming. We praise God for the religious freedom we have as a country, however, we must never forget the tension that can come against the Gospel, and how quickly it can spread. Please pray and remain engaged regarding the persecution that many face.      

 

Why Bold Prayers Matter

Recently I was reading a devotional from author and pastor Mark Batterson. In his book, “Bold Prayers Honor God and God Honors Bold Prayers” he asked, “What is the boldest prayer you have ever prayed?” I had to stop and think because there really have been so many.

 

Mark 11:24 says, “Therefore I tell you whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Jesus does not define the “whatever” in this Scripture because it’s impossible to define what God can do.  I honestly feel the deeper I go opening up my life to all that God has for me, the bolder my prayers get. As I worked through the question in the devotional, I concluded that maybe some of my prayers even go beyond bold. They are certainly stretching me to a place of enormous faith and vision. If bold prayers take us out of our comfort zone, then that is definitely a box that I can check for sure. I have not been comfortable in this area for years!  How about you? Are your prayers giving God the opportunity to show up in a huge way in your life? Do you know what the boldest thing you could pray for right now in your life would be? In fact, I  actually do have a few. My prayer for you is that you will join me and give God the opportunity to reveal Himself in a very big way!

Scandal

You may have heard this week about the huge college admissions scandal. If not, you definitely will. Basically, fifty celebrities and business leaders were caught paying large amounts of money to get their kids into a university that they could not get into on their own. The scam had two basic schemes. First was to pay others to take the exams necessary to get into the university. The second was even crazier. They would pretend to play sports and get scholarships. The parents would send in pictures and videos of people playing sports that were not even their own kids. The minimum cost for even the simple scam was over $500,000.  Many who were caught are famous celebrities. They are looking at some serious jail time. This is the largest college admissions scam federal prosecutors have ever seen and wrong on so many levels. For those of us who have gone through the college admissions process or still are, you know how stressful and challenging it can be. To see such blatant fraudulent action is horrible. Proverbs 19:9 says, “A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who tells lies will perish.” I pray all who have been charged will not get off the hook. This is the type of appalling behavior that needed to be brought to the forefront and exposed, finally it has been. 

Powerful Truth

I am sure many of us have read writings from A. W. Tozer at some point in time. He made it his life’s goal to help others know God as Creator and Redeemer. One of His most powerful quotes sums up his heart: “Christ is the Center of all things. He is Creator, Sustainer, and Benefactor, the One who made us for His glory and to receive the bounty of His love.” This is a simple yet powerful description of who Christ is for us and in us. Can I ask you to stop and read this quote a second time and really take a moment to let it sink in? When we grasp the full meaning, it should open up His glory to us in a whole new way.

 

Tozer would also align this teaching with what separates us from such glory. Sin separates us from such glory. He would say the soul that sins shall die, but the blood of Jesus Christ is of indescribable value to us. Our acts of sin are pardoned because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ. This critical spiritual truth means everything to us, and it is the reason behind everything we do. This assurance is not optional. Please make sure you have it, and if not, we would love to help you understand. Also, this week make it your goal to share this truth with one other person. It will provide an eternal reward!

DNA Matters

I am fascinated by the DNA searches people can now do to find out the heritage that makes up their family history. I half-joked in a message a few weeks ago, “Let me save you some money with Ancestory.com. Most of us are either Jew or Gentile.” I really do find it very interesting. I would jump at the chance to get on a TV show like “Finding Your Roots.” I would love to know exactly what the breakdown of my ancestry would be. I know some people are publicly getting themselves into trouble when their DNA does not match their expectations or what they have lived by most of their life. Many years ago, I had an uncle who completed a search on my Dad’s side of our family the old-fashioned way. Honestly, some of the history back in the mid-19th century was not something to be proud of, to say the least. Maybe the best DNA history would be an equal percentage of every available heritage. That way, who could not like you? If my maternal and paternal lines were 10% of every nationality, I could be a part of every heritage. Just call me “Global Steve.”

 

In all seriousness, I think the most critical DNA or bloodline I can have is through the Blood of Jesus Christ! I praise God that I am a part of His heritage. At the end of the day, nothing else really matters.