A Day of Remembrance

 15 Minute Memorial Day Message

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of “Memorial Day.” There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.  A hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920).
I would propose to you that it is not important who was the very first to celebrate “Memorial Day”.  What is important is that Memorial Day was established. “Memorial Day” is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.
What do we know about “Memorial Day?”  Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11.  It was first observed on May 30, 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery.  The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states.  It is now celebrated in almost every state on the last Monday of May.

In 1915, Moina Michael wrote a poem “In Flanders Fields,”  “We Cherish too, the Poppy Red…  That grows on fields where valor led…    It seems to signal to the skies…  that blood of heroes never die. She then conceived the idea to wear red poppies on “Memorial Day” in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. Later a Madam Guerin from France was visiting the United States and learned of this new custom started by Ms. Michael. When she returned to France, she made artificial red poppies to raise money for war orphaned children and widowed women. This tradition spread to other countries. In 1921, the Franco-American Children’s League sold poppies nationally to benefit war orphans of France and Belgium. The League disbanded a year later and Madam Guerin approached the VFW for help. Shortly before “Memorial Day” in 1922 the VFW became the first veterans’ organization to nationally sell poppies. Two years later their “Buddy” Poppy program was selling artificial poppies made by disabled veterans. In 1948 the US Post Office honored Ms. Michael for her role in founding the National Poppy movement by issuing a red 3 cent postage stamp with her likeness on it.

Traditional observance of Memorial Day has diminished over the years. Many Americans today have forgotten the meaning and traditions of “Memorial Day.”  At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. There are a few notable exceptions. Since the late 50’s on the Thursday before Memorial Day, the 1,200 soldiers of the 3d U.S. Infantry place small American flags at each of the more than 260,000 gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. They then patrol 24 hours a day during the weekend to ensure that each flag remains standing.

We are blessed to have a President who knows the value observing “Memorial Day.”   From the heart he shared these words at Arlington National Cemetery at the “Memorial Day Commemoration” on May 31, 2004:”Through our history, America has gone to war reluctantly, because we have known the costs of war.  And the war on terror we’re fighting today has brought great costs of its own. Since the hour this nation was attacked, we have seen the character of the men and women who wear our country’s uniform as they fought battles to achieve victories.  These veterans of battle will carry with them for all their days the memory of the ones who did not live to be called veterans.”
“They will remember young soldiers like Captain Joshua Byers, a West Point man born in South Carolina who died in Iraq.  When this son of missionaries was given command of a 120-man combat unit, he wrote this to his parents: ‘I will give the men everything I have to give. I love them already, just because they’re mine. I pray, with all my heart, that I will be able to take every single one of them home safe when we finish our mission here.'”

Those who risked their lives on our behalf are often very clear about what matters most in their own lives, and they tell it to those they love.  Listen to these words written by Master Sergeant Kelly Hornbeck, of the Special Forces, who was killed in action last January, south of Samarra.  He wrote this to his parents back in Fort Worth, Texas: “I am not afraid, and neither should either of you be — For I trust in my God and my training, two powerful forces that cannot be fully measured.” Although the burden of grief cannot not be easily done away with and the sadness over an unfinished life easily laid aside, it must be understood that completeness of a life is not measured in length only. It is measured in the deeds and commitments that give a life its purpose. And the commitment of these lives was clear to all: They defended our nation, they liberated the oppressed, they served the cause of peace.  All Americans who have known the loss and sadness of war, whether recently or long ago, can know this: The person they love and miss is honored and remembered by the United States of America.

On May 26, 2003 the president of the of the United States of America closed his address to those listening in Arlington, Virginia with the true story of a Army Ranger, Captain Russell Rippetoe who was laid to rest.  He shared how valiantly he gave his life and served with distinction of purpose in “Operation Iraqi Freedom.”  He had earned the “Bronze Star” and the “Purple Heart.” At Russell’s funeral, his father Lieutenant Colonel Joe Rippetoe gave the farewell salute at the grave of his only son.  During that farewell he read what was engraved on his son’s dog tags, words from the Book of Joshua that gave this grieving father comfort, “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed, for the Lord thy God is with thee.” Captain Russell Rippetoe joined a noble company of service and sacrifice of men and women who were strong and courageous and did not back off of their call and duty to the United States of America.

The Presidential Prayer team is asking that all in America take time to remember those who not only have served their country with their lives, but take time this day to remember those who are in harms way.  Listen to the Word of the Lord found 1 Samuel 12:23-24 “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the LORD and serve Him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things He has done for you.”

Let us Pray!!!!!

Becoming a Soldier’s Shield

 Praying for Those in Harm’s Way  “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord for failing to pray for you.”  (1 Samuel 12:23)

Christians can take their rightful place among such giants of intercession

Our key text today is set in the time when the prophet Samuel is giving his farewell speech.  In this speech Samuel confronts the people with evidence of the righteous acts performed by the Lord for the people of God. (1 Samuel 12:7)  Samuel tells the people, “If you fear the Lord and serve and obey Him and do not rebel against His commands and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God – Good!  But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against His commands, His hand will be against you…” (1 Samuel 12:14-15)

It was harvest time and Samuel called upon the Lord to send thunder and rain so they would know what a great evil they had done in the eyes of the Lord when they asked for a king to rule over them as the other nations had kings. (1 Samuel 12:17)  The same day Samuel prayed the “…Lord sent thunder and rain and all the people stood in awe of the Lord…” (1 Samuel 12:18)  Listen to the response of the people to Samuel, “…Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to our sins the evil of asking for a king.” (1 Samuel 12:19) After a few more instructions, Samuel tells the people, “For the sake of His great name the Lord will not reject His people, because the Lord was pleased to make you His own.” (1 Samuel 12:22) These words of promise lead us to our key text: “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord for failing to pray for you.”  (1 Samuel 12:23)

I would propose to you that when those whose lives are in danger ask for prayer, it would be a sin to fail to pray for them.  Born again Christians can take their rightful place among such giants of intercession such as Moses, (Exodus 32;30-32) Daniel, (Daniel 9:4-20) The Apostle Paul (Romans 1:9-10) And Jesus. (Romans 8:34) Are Christians called to pray for each other and for those who risk their lives for their country?  Just what are the benefits in praying for those in our armed forces?

God who called us to Christ sent His Holy Spirit to have the Apostle Paul write

God who called us to Christ sent His Holy Spirit to have the Apostle Paul write, “I urge, then first of all, that request, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone…” (1 Timothy 2:1)  Ephesians 6:18 tells us that Christians are to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers…”  Samuel could had said, “Now that you Israelite’s have the king you wanted and sinned against God, go to Saul and have him pray for you.  God knew that Saul’s heart would not remain faithful to Him and His prayers would be superficial and self-centered.  Therefore, The Lord would call forth a true man of God who knew Him and would pray so as not to be found in sin.

The Christian’s call is to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17) and they sin when they restrain prayer in general, and in particular when they cease to pray for those who ask for it. Even though Samuel would no longer have political leadership, he still had spiritual influence in teaching God’s Word and through prayer.  Christians do not need to have authority over those who serve in the armed forces and who are in harms way, but they most certainly can have an spiritual influence through heartfelt prayer. As the prophets of God interceded in prayer for those they had spiritual responsibility over, Christians are to set the example before all leaders and service men in regards to prayer which is God’s way of overcoming anxiety in times of war.  Samuel followed the example of Moses who interceded for the Jewish nation, and Christians are to follow the example of Samuel, the Apostle Paul and Jesus.

Dr. Jay Vernon McGee knew of many sick, bedridden Christians of whose heart the Lord had laid the responsibility to pray for those in harm’s way.  He found them to be very much used of God just as Samuel was. All Christians who come to understand and respond to their call to pray for others have the great opportunity to go before the “Throne of Grace” (Hebrews 4:16) and intercede for their fellowman.  They have on many occasions seen the truth of what James wrote, “…The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)

Christians cannot forget the nation the Lord has led them into or called them to serve Him in.  Nor should they fail to intercede for the men and women God rises up to protect the freedoms He has given them. Christians must resist that temptation of omission in prayer because they become weary of the nation’s continued descent into sin.  The prophet Samuel saw the sins of the people, yet committed to pray for them because he did not want to sin against the Lord.  The most influential work done for the Hebrews was the teaching of God’s Word and the prayers that came from great intercessors such as Moses, Samuel, Elijah, Elisha, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, King David and Solomon.  These powerful intercessors did not just leave the people of God to their own course – to sow as they pleased and reap as they had sown.  They did not withdraw from their responsibility, but interceded with all their hearts before a merciful God who could bring a people to repentance, protect them from their enemies and empower them to accomplish His perfect will.

Prayer is mightier than a king’s power of authority and more effective than a warrior’s sword.  Wars are going to come and it is the responsibility of Christians to hold up their generation of soldiers in prayer which the Apostle Paul understood to be a weapon that has divine power to demolish strongholds.  (2 Corinthians 10:4) The Holy Spirit moved the church to pray for Peter when he was in harms way before King Herod. (Acts 12:5)  The Bible records the Apostle Paul’s intercession in prayer for Timothy night and day, for Timothy was to face godlessness (2 Timothy 3)  and false teachers (2 Timothy 1:3;  1 Timothy 4 and 6) The Christians in Colosse were in great danger of heretical teaching and the Bible says Paul never stopped praying for them. (Colossians 1:9)

The goal for every Christian should be to say as the Apostle Paul who wrote, “God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of His Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you in my prayers at all times…” (Romans 1:9-10)

As Christians prayerfully examine the whole of Scripture they are led of the Holy Spirit to intercession.  There is a knowing in their hearts that failing to pray for those who are in harms way, whether in fighting the spiritual or earthly battles of the Lord, is to be found in sin.  Pleasing God involves interceding for all of His works and for the people He is using to get His will done. Christians are to pray for those in harms way because those who are sacrificing their lives for this nation’s freedom have asked for it.  The Lord has raised up a ministry called the Presidential Prayer Team and many have joined forces with them to pray each week for the important decisions to be made by the president and for our troops. The most recent request is that prayer be made for the president as he was to give the commencement address to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  The hope is that the words he spoke will inspire them to serve there nation well and give their lives to protect this nation if need be.  Our president has on many occasions requested prayer from the people of the United States of America for guidance and protection of our troops.

On May 4th this request was sent out by the Presidential Prayer Team ministry on the very day the Chaplains of each branch of the military met on the National Day of Prayer, “Pray for the U.S.S. Enterprise and its entire strike force group as they deploy to the Middle East, asking God to protect each sailor and their families as they work to protect the cause of freedom around the world.  Pray for all the members of our military whether they serve on board ship, in aircraft or on the ground, that they will be protected by God and will have His guidance and wisdom as they serve.”

The Holy Spirit is moving throughout America in these last days to raise up intercessors for those who are in harms way.  One such man is Christopher Lucey.  As he surrendered to the Holy Spirit’s leading to focus his studies on prayer, he came under the conviction that the Lord wants to see a revival of prayer across this nation.  His ministry now is to train Christians to pray for America, the president and for those who serve in our armed forces.  This testimony was written about Christopher from a person who has the opportunity to observe his life. “Christopher brings a refreshing and Spirit-filled approach to all he does and seeks to align those he trains in prayer to find God’s agenda and get a passion for prayer only as it is rooted in and [directed by] the Word of God.” (Presidential Prayer Team Website)

Praying to a mighty God causes great and mighty things to happen

Christians are to be faithful in praying for those who are in harms way.  Praying to a mighty God causes great and mighty things to happen.

Samuel was married and had a family. (1 Samuel 12:2)  He had served as priest (1 Samuel 7) and Judge (1 Samuel 7:16; Acts 13:20) and prophet. (Acts 3:24) He also got involved in directly praying for military situations, in calling a nation to repentance and giving them directions on how to live. In order for the soldiers of a nation to enjoy the full power of God’s protection or intervention there must be a person who has the Christ apportion gift of prophet (Ephesians 4:11-13) working in that nation.  Not only must there be a prophet speaking the Word of the Lord among them, people in that nation must heed to the prophets exhortations.

If the church of Jesus Christ is going to be the source of praying God’s shield around its armed forces, it must have knowledge of God’s Word and the courage to give the Lord’s exhortation or instructions.  1 Samuel 7:3 says, Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve Him only, and He will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.”

1 Samuel chapter 7 records the work of God in His people to purify them from the sin of idolatry.  Idolatry is a departure from true religion: the worship of false gods, whether by means of images or otherwise; and the worship of the Lord by means of images.  An idol is whatever claims the loyalty which belongs to God alone.  The Lord speaks to us through Isaiah 42:8,  “I am the Lord; that is My Name!  I will not give My glory to another or my praise to idols.” The Prophet Samuel sees something in the people of God that indicates that they are repentant and they are disgusted with their foreign servitude and wanting a restoration of liberty and independence.  They are evidently coming to Samuel asking what can be done so they can be rescued from their bondage.  They want freedom and they must have become convinced of their errors.

The truths that Samuel brought forth to the Israelite’s must be grasped by the church who desires to pray prayers that enable their armed forces to enjoy God’s shield of protection.  Samuel tells them to produce the fruit of repentance by ridding themselves of foreign gods, the Baals and Ashtoreths.” “Baal’s” (baal) means that the Israelite’s were guilty of worshiping many pagan gods along with serving the Lord. They included the worship of the gods of the country they lived in with the worship of the one true God.  This is happening in America today, many claim to believe in God, yet by the expressions of their lives they are serving the worldly gods made up by mankind today.  “Ashtoreths,” (astarot) refers to a false goddess, who was considered to be the goddess of love and fertility.  It is also used as a plural word, denoting all the female divinities, whose rites were celebrated by the most gross and revolting impurities.  Quite often she is worshiped in connection with Baal and she is depicted as being nude with horns on her head.

Jesus warned that to make possessions central in life is also idolatry. (Matthew 6:24)  Paul in Romans 1:18-25 teaches that idolatry is not the first stage of religion, but it is the result of deliberate religious apostasy.  When man sins against the light of God’s Word and refuses to worship the Lord in Spirit and truth, God brings major chastisements.  Idolatry is that which leads to the dethronement of God from the heart. The Apostle Paul warns us in Ephesians 5:5, “For this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of God.”  In giving rules for holy living the Apostle Paul writes, “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature, sexual immortality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Colossians 3:5)

This nation uses sensuality to sell her man made gods.  Nearly everything uses women dressing and using sensual looks to draw people to their product in order to take man’s mind off of the Lord to satisfy the flesh.    Pornography is rampant in this nation even among church attendees.  Many who claim to believe in God have their Baals and Ashtoreths today as much as the Israelite’s did in Samuel’s time. The first step to becoming a church that prays prayers that cause our nation and her armed forces to enjoy God as their shield must be petitioning the Lord to bring America to repentance for her many sins.

Christians are God chosen people, a modern day kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:5,9)  and they have the privilege of preparing a nation to enjoy God’s intervention.  This is first done by asking God to make Americans sick of their sins and make them hungry for the Lord.  Christians can pray that the Lord would make our Armed Forces aware of their need to have God’s protection, blessings and intervention as they fight this war on terrorism. The people of Israel listened to the exhortation of the prophet Samuel and they “…fasted and confessed [saying], ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’” (1 Samuel 7:6)  The Bible says, “Israel mourned and sought after the Lord.” (1 Samuel 7:2)  The Bible records the mighty hand of God that came about from the repentance of the Hebrews and because a righteous man of God intervened in prayer.

In 1 Samuel 7 we read of this great man of prayer fulfilling his position as judge, prophet and priest.  He tells the Israelite’s to meet in Mizpah.  He gives them the great news that he is going to intercede for them. (1 Samuel 7:5)  The Bible says Samuel cried out to God on Israel’s behalf. (1 Samuel 7:9) When the Philistines heard that the Hebrews gathered at Mizpah, the Philistine leaders decided to attack the Israelite’s.  The Israelite’s became frightened and they went to the man of God and requested prayer saying, “Samuel, Do not stop crying out to God for us, [pray] that [God] may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.” (1 Samuel 7:8)

Listen to what the Bible says about God’s deliverance, in answer to Israel’s seeking after the Lord and Samuel’s prayer.  “[When] the Philistines drew near to engage Israel in battle. …that day the Lord thundered with a loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelite’s.  The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them…” (1 Samuel 7:10-11) The Bible says that God is the same today as He was yesterday.  I believe that if America would truly repent of her sins, and begin to fully seek after the Lord, they can see Him do some great things in battle for her troops.

1 Samuel chapter 7 says, “Throughout Samuel’s lifetime, the hand of the Lord was against the Philistines.”  (1 Samuel 7:13)  The Israelite’s had their land restored back to them, and they delivered their neighboring territory from the power of the Philistines and there was peace between the Israelite’s and the Amorites. (1 Samuel 7:14)  In the lifetime of Samuel, the great prophet, priest, judge and prayer intercessor, the Philistines never invaded Israel territory again. Only God knows what He is going to do for America in regard to protecting her borders from those who would put her people in harm’s way.  The church needs only to fulfill her calling to pray and teach Christians to obey what the Lord Jesus commands. (Matthew 28:20)

History records powerful truths of God’s intervention for armed forces

History records powerful truths of God’s intervention for armed forces as people take time to prayer for those in harm’s way.

In May of 1940, Germany was on the move and it was unbelievable how much control Hitler got over Europe in just a few short weeks.  Hitler had backed up nearly all the remaining Allied troops to the beach at Dunkirk, France.  Our Allied troops were surrounded.  Ten miles to their rear was the German army.  In front of them the English channel. An evacuation by water was their only hope however, it would not be easy.  The English Channel was known for her terrible tides and treacherous winds.  She was full of German mines and down the beach was Nazi artillery.  The only other direction to go held German U-boats. 400,000 Allied troops were at Dunkirk and one English General said, “Nothing but a miracle could save them.” It was at this time the Holy Spirit of God moved upon Reece Howell and a group of 100 students in a Welsh Bible College to become intercessors for those who were in harm’s way of Hitler’s armed forces.  For some time they prayed from 7:00 P.M. to 12:00 Midnight.  While those Welsh Bible students prayed, the British Royal Navy rounded up practically everything that floated in England to go and rescue the troops.

During the rescue attempt there were several miracles.  First, Hitler, for some mysterious reason stopped the Panzer tanks just 10 miles away.  If he had kept moving he could have done great damage to our Allied Forces or destroyed them completely.  Second, for an unheard of 9 days, the English Channel was perfectly calm, smooth as glass. Old-timers said, “We have never seen it like this before.” Heavy fog sometimes moved in and at other times smoke from burning oil fields drifted calmly towards the beach, thus, keeping the German air-force from seeing anything from the air during the evacuation.  When the evacuation off the beach was finished, 338,000 Allied troops were rescued. The other 62,000 soldiers gave their lives so their fellow soldiers could get off the beach.  They fought the oncoming Nazi Armed Forces when they finally made their move to attack again. It is because of that kind of sacrifice that we take time to observe Memorial Day.  It should be on the heart of everyone to spend some time this Memorial Day remembering the lives of those who stayed in harm’s way so we can enjoy the freedoms we have today.

Great Christian leaders have known the necessity of

Great Christian leaders have known the necessity of coming to repentance and spending some time in intercession for those in harm’s way.

President Abraham Lincoln, in a National Proclamation of Prayer and Repentance in 1863 wrote, “We have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” He also wrote, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.  My own wisdom, and all that is about me, seemed insufficient… One stormy night I tossed on my bed, unable to sleep as I thought of the terrible sufferings of our soldiers…  I spent an hour in agonizing prayer.”

Tomorrow is “Memorial Day,” a national holiday set aside to honor American servicemen and women who gave their lives in our country’s defense.  They allowed themselves to be in harm’s way. The losses in World War 1 numbered 116, 500 brave sons, in World War ll a total of 405,400 and the number of boys lost in our bloodiest war, the Civil War far exceeded that.

The most moving story about the observance of remembering those who gave their lives in war is about a woman in the south who was putting some flowers on the grave of a soldier from the North.  This young soldier lost his life in the Civil War.  When the other southern ladies saw her putting flowers on a Union Soldier’s grave they got after her.  She politely told them, some mother from the north grieves this very day for the lost of her son, just as we grieve the lost of our sons. Everyone should let “Memorial Day” be a time of uniting and remembering those who gave their lives, comfort those who grieve the lost of a family member and especially let it be a time to remember those who are in harm’s way right now, for only God can protect those who are not in this land of freedom nor even a safe land to live in.  Christians must take time to become a soldier’s shield through intercessory prayer.

Let us Pray!