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Archive for the ‘Spiritual Warfare’ Category

Praying Hands

One of my most treasured possessions was given to me many years ago as a confirmation gift. It’s a wooden hand carving of the Praying Hands. Those praying hands not only remind of the carpenter of Nazareth’s praying hands but also the following story of “The Praying Hands” from an unknown author.

In 1490 two young friends, Albrecht Durer and Franz Knigstein, were struggling young artists. Since both were poor, they worked to support themselves while they studied art. Work took so much of their time and advancement was slow in coming. Finally, they reached an agreement that they would draw lots; one would work to support them while the other would study art. Albrecht won and began to study while Franz worked at hard labor to support them. They agreed that when Albrecht was successful he would support Franz while he studied art.

Albrecht went off to the cities of Europe to study. As the world now knows, he had not only talent but was a genius as well. When he had attained success, he went back to keep his promise with his friend, Franz. But Albrecht soon discovered the enormous price that his friend had paid. For as Franz worked hard at manual labor to support his friend, his fingers had become stiff and twisted. His slender, sensitive hands had been ruined for life. He could no longer execute the delicate brush strokes necessary to produce a fine painting. Though his artistic dreams could never be realized, he was not embittered but rather rejoiced in his friend’s success.

One day Albrecht Durer came upon Franz unexpectedly and found him keeling with his gnarled hands intertwined in prayer, quietly praying for the success of his friend, although he himself could no longer be an artist. Albrecht Durer, the great genius, hurriedly sketched the folded hands of his faithful friend and later completed a truly great masterpiece known as “The Praying Hands”. Today art galleries everywhere feature Albrecht Durer’s works.

But as inspiring as this story of love and sacrifice is, there is an even more inspiring and amazing story of sacrifice that will be remembered and rejoiced over through the corridors of eternity. About two thousand years ago, after partaking of “The Last Supper” with His disciples (Luke 22:7-23), Jesus led them one last time into the Garden of Gethsemane (the place of the olive press). He asked them to remain with him and pray. He went a little further and prayed. He began to be in agony as He prayed. Luke, the physician, tells us that He prayed more earnestly and that “His sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44). Those hands of the carpenter of Nazareth, the creator of the universe, would soon be nailed to an old rugged cross for the sins of the world. But the battle for the souls of mankind was really won in the garden of prayer. In Gethsemane Jesus was pressed beyond measure. Three times He prayed that, if possible, the Heavenly Father would take the cup of suffering from Him. “O, my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26: 36-46).

What was that cup that Christ agonized in prayer over? It was the “He who knew no sin”, the spotless, sinless, Son of God would lay down His life as a sin offering for the world. (See Isaiah 53). In prayer He surrendered to the Father’s will, plan, and purpose. What amazing love!

Have you lifted your hands in prayer? The greatest prayer that we can pray is “God be merciful to me a sinner” (Luke 18:13). The next greatest prayer that we can pray is “Father, not my will be done but your will be done in my life” (Matthew 26:39). In the garden Jesus told His disciples to “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Only with bended knees and praying hands and heart will you have power over temptation and the tempter.

Jesus arose victorious over death, hell, and the grave. Those nailed scarred hands are still folded in prayer for you and me. “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).

I urge you, come in prayer to Christ today. “Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Follow Him in the school of prayer.

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orchard

The Garden of Gethsemane is not really a garden but an orchard. Olive trees still grow there today. During Jesus’ day it was a place of business, an olive press producing the local areas supply of oil. This is where the word Gethsemane comes in. A gat (Hebrew) is a press, a large five-foot high square stone pillar, and a semane, or seman, is oil. So on the evening before his crucifixion he went to the orchard of the Olive Press with Peter, James, and John, to pray.

If you lived in the first century and worked with a gethsemane your day would be spent gathering olives, placing them in a woven fishnet like bag, and putting them on top of a stone table. This specially designed table is round with beveled edges that curve down to a trough. The trough is angled and funnels into a pot which holds the oil. The top is designed to receive the gethsemane. The tall square stone is lifted up and set on top of the basket and for several hours its tremendous weight is left there to crush the liquid from the olive.

olivepress

It is no mistake that Jesus spent his last evening in the Garden of Gethsemane. From there he would leave to go to the cross and receive the weight of the world, the gethsemane of our sins, blood crushed from his body running down the cross to the world below. Luke describes the pressure Jesus suffered that evening: “Being in anguish his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” It is an image of the gathsemane crushing the oil from the olive fruit.

olive press ooze
Gethsemane ever since has come to symbolize suffering. And my friends the world is crowded with gethsemanes, Herods slaughtering the innocent. Look around the United States: Oklahoma City, Heath High School, Columbine, New York City. And around the world: Dunblane in Scotland, Halabja in Iraq (i.e., the gassing of the Kurds), Srebrenica in Bosnia, and the town of Beslan, Russia.  The world is full of gethsemanes, times when and towns where the innocent have suffered.

In the face of such unspeakable horror we ask ourselves these questions:

I

First who do we turn to? It is safe to say that all of us here mourned with those mothers and fathers in Russia who lost over 300 of their children, just as the world suffered with us on September 11, 2001. In a small town the loss of 300 children turned that village into a mausoleum. A thousand years from now people will say, “Beslan, the place where all those children died.” So who do we turn too? Can anybody help in the face of such a dreadful thing? It doesn’t seem like it does it? The sorrow is so deep God seems absent.

Psalm 77, written in the Iron Age more than 2,500 years ago, stares straight in the face of some unspeakable horror that occurred to Israel. “Will the Lord cast off for ever?” the Psalmist asks. “And will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail forever more? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, this is my infirmity.”

Who do we turn to when things are unexplainably painful? God? How can we when even he seems to be absent? My friends. I am not asking this question the Bible is. The Psalmist in essence is saying that there is no consolation, not even in God, when your soul has been torn from you. But even in great despair something faithful is happening. Even when we cry out “God is not there” we reveal our deep desire for God.

John Donne experienced his own Gethsemane. Donne was a 17th century poet, who experienced great pain. Because he married the daughter of a disapproving lord, he was fired from his job as assistant to the Lord Chancellor, yanked from his wife, and locked in a dungeon. (This is when he wrote that succinct line of despair, “John Donne/ Anne Donne/ Undone.”) Later, he endured a long illness, which sapped his strength almost to the point of death. In the midst of this illness, Donne wrote a series of devotions on suffering which rank among the most poignant meditations on the subject. In one of these, he considers a parallel: The sickness, which keeps him in bed, forces him to think about his spiritual condition. Suffering gets our attention; it forces us to look to God, when otherwise we would just as well ignore Him.

That’s it. Suffering gets our attention. Suffering forces us to look toward one another; forces us to ask the deeper questions about life; forces us to turn toward God. Even if it is to express our displeasure and despair, we turn to Him and in those pleas we display our faith in Him.

II

The first question is: Who do we turn to? The second is: What are we to do? The answer here is obvious. We are to pray. When Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane he went there for one reason, to pray. Why are you sleeping, Jesus asked his disciples. Get up and pray! Prayer prepares the soul for suffering. Jesus understood what lie ahead and he knew that prayer was the only way to prepare them.

Prayer does two things for us. It helps us cope with hardship. There is a story about a missionary family in Pakistan who lost their 6-month-old baby. A wise man in the area heard of their grief and came to comfort them. He said, “A tragedy like this is similar to being plunged into boiling water. If you are an egg, your affliction will make you hard-boiled and unresponsive. If you are a potato, you will emerge soft and pliable, resilient and adaptable.” It may sound funny to God, but there have been times when I have prayed, “O Lord, let me be a potato.”

Prayer helps us cope with hardship and then, here’s the second thing, it guides away from temptation. Notice that Jesus told his disciples to pray so “you will not fall into temptation.” Now that’s odd. You would expect Jesus to say, pray that you are able to endure the hardship to come. But hardship brings temptation: Temptation to compromise our principles, temptation to pursue pleasure over adversity, temptation to renounce our faith in God. Peter, James and John quickly learned this lesson as they denied that they knew Jesus. They left the scene of his betrayal afraid for their own lives. They did not pray so they did not stay.

Prayer helps us cope with life’s hardships and it keeps us from temptation. But here is one more thing you can do. Pray for the families of all those who have suffered at the hands of terrorist these past few years. Today, September 11, 2009, we remember the horrible events of 911. We shall never forget that day. And, I don’t think there is a parent today who doesn’t grieve for those Russian parents either. Both tragedies are horribly linked in our psyche. Terrorism continues to tear at our world. I would like to see the church in every country rise up an army of prayer soldiers to pray for the defeat of this evil. Those who suffer need our prayer but Christians must also go on the offensive and pray God’s kingdom come His will be done. The world is dealing with a cult of death the church must offer a culture of life.

III

First question: Who do we turn to? Answer: God, even in our despair. Second question: What do we do? Answer: Pray to cope. Pray against temptation. Pray for one another. And pray for the Kingdom to come. Third question: Where do we go from here? Answer? Well this one is a little more complicated. The answer isn’t easy because life isn’t. When Jesus left Gethsemane he went to Golgotha. At times we all seem to be running from the garden of despair to the hill of suffering.

Look at the stories of the bible. At some time or another there has been a Gethsemane for all God’s people. For Abraham it was when he was asked to sacrifice his only son. For Joseph it was those unjust years in jail. Paul had any number of Gethsemanes in his experience; he once listed the number of times he had been stoned, whipped, robbed and shipwrecked. The following is from the poem by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, entitled “Gethsemane”:

Down shadowy lanes, across strange streams
Bridged over by our broken dreams;
Behind the misty caps of years,
Beyond the great salt fount of tears,
The garden lies. Strive as you may,
You cannot miss it in your way.
All paths that have been, or shall be,
Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.
All those who journey, soon or late,
Must pass within the garden’s gate;
Must kneel alone in darkness there,
And battle with some fierce despair.
God pity those who cannot say,
‘Not mine but thine,’ who only pray,
‘Let this cup pass,’ and cannot see
The purpose in Gethsemane.

It would be dishonest to say that God makes everything all right in this world. The death of 3000 innocent souls who were simply going to work on September 11, eight years ago, tells me the world is crowded with Gethsemanes. The death of 4500+ soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan tells me that peace has an enormous price. The burial of 350 children in Beslan tells me that evil still wins in this world. Don’t get me wrong. I as much as any man find hope in the resurrection. I am simply cannot deny the picture painted by the Psalmist when he asks, “Will the Lord cast off for ever?” And will he be favorable no more? Is his mercy clean gone forever? Doth his promise fail forever more? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? And I said, this is my infirmity.”

So the answer to the third question? Where do we go from here? Perhaps Wilcox’s poem has it right: All paths that have been, or shall be, pass somewhere through Gethsemane. Amen.

sunset

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Father is perfect. ”

Like many of you, I have done a lot of driving in my life. And in all this driving I have learned the importance of a good map. For me a “GOOD MAP” is one that contains as much detail as possible. I want to know what roads are best, where I can stop to find food or a motel or gas or a rest area. I want to know which roads are fastest, shortest, newest, straightest, most scenic. I want to know where there are tolls, where traffic congestion is likely to occur. For this reason I am a firm believer in AAA. Their trip tiks fulfill all these requirements and they are easy to read and custom made for my trip. All this is to say that I have found that a good map is a necessity on any road trip if I want to get where I am going.

The Bible speaks of life as if it were a journey or “road trip” in which each decision we make takes us down a different road. Many times within its pages scripture gives us the same sort of advice we would find in a “TRIP TIK” guiding us in our choices roads and stops as we travel along on our life journey. That familiar verse from Psalms says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light upon my path.” It says, “…in all your ways … in all your roads….acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” In Matthew, Jesus warns us to choose the right road in life when He says, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” But perhaps the most well-known reference to our journey along the “road of life” is in our text for today where our Lord instructs us to go two miles if someone forces us to go one.

You are probably very familiar with these words–the whole world is. I think everyone has used the expression “Go the second mile!” repeatedly in their lives. But what do these words really mean? What was Jesus saying in this small bit of advice for travelers?

Well, let’s pause and remind ourselves of the background here. Remember that Palestine was an occupied country. Rome enforced its rule over the people of Israel with garrisons of solders stationed throughout the country. And Roman Law said that these occupying troops were permitted to force any Jewish citizen to do their bidding. This is what happened to Simon of Cyrene, when he was compelled by Roman soldiers to bear the Cross of Jesus. According to this law a Roman soldier could ask a Jewish citizen to carry his pack for him a distance of one mile. Law obligated them to this first mile of servanthood. Jews hated this, and so when they were forced to obey they did so with bitterness and obvious resentment. So Jesus’ statement here is quite revolutionary. If you were compelled at spear point to carry the pack one mile, do so but then go one more—-two miles!!!

And over the years I have felt that this was our Lord’s way of teaching you and me that as we go down the road of life we are look at the tasks we are given—-even the unfair ones—-as opportunities to serve others cheerfully as we reflect the love of Christ in our attitudes. First mile things are obligations—ordinary things but the second mile things should be seen as opportunities to show our love for people. And certainly that is part of what Jesus was teaching here.

But you know I think there is more “travel advice” in this verse than this. There are deeper truths here for us. I think that in this familiar passage of scripture, Jesus has given us some great tips that will help us avoid at least two “potholes” in the road of life that lays ahead.

So this morning let us look at two “travel tips” found in this text and apply them to the journey we take down the roads of 2009.
A. For one thing, I think Jesus was saying that I must be careful to walk the first mile in the Christian life before I attempt to walk the second.

Remember, the first mile was required. Jews were obligated to walk it. They received no special honor or attention by fulfilling this task. No one would notice. Everybody had to do this. And this may sound strange but I think it can be very tempting for us to leapfrog the first mile of obligation to get to the second mile of opportunity. Because it is attractive for us to get to the extraordinary before we’ve been faithful in the ordinary. Have you ever met people who would love to be involved in spectacular areas of ministry, the popular well-known events that yield high glory, but not be interested in the unknown, ordinary things? They want to do the “2nd Mile” because it is noticed, but not the “1st mile” which often is not.

Leonard Bernstein the famous orchestra conductor was asked, “What is the most difficult instrument to play?” He replied, “Second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.” And Bernstein is correct because often these first mile things are vital things–necessary things.

Jesus taught that the first mile of obligation was vital but often we avoid it because “first mile” things are behind the scenes unnoticed. We are to be willing to serve even if no one but Him notices, because when we serve others we are serving Christ Himself.

Martin of Tours was a Roman Soldier and a Christian. One cold winter day, as he was entering a city, a beggar stopped him and asked him for alms. Martin had no money, but the beggar was blue and shivering with cold. So Martin gave him what he had. He took off his soldier’s coat, worn and frayed as it was. He cut it in two and gave half of it to the beggar. That night he had a dream. In it he saw the heavenly places and all the angels and Jesus in their midst. He saw Jesus wearing half of a Roman soldier’s cloak. One of the angels said to him, “Master, why are you wearing that battered old cloak? Who gave it to you?” And Jesus answered softly, “My servant Martin gave it to me.”

So we must not avoid the first mile of obligation for in bypassing these little things that seem “least” we are passing by an opportunity to serve Jesus Christ Himself. And that is a turn in the road that no Christian should miss for when we avoid the little things we miss real opportunities to serve God.

So, check up on yourself. Does the mileage record of your life’s journey show that you have been yielding to the temptation to leapfrog the mile of obligation to get to the mile of opportunity?

The second bit of travel advice Jesus gives us in this passage is this:
B. Jesus warns us not to assume that we ourselves can accomplish the second mile that He talked about.

It is enjoyable to go farther and to do more for people—if they respond positively. It can be greatly rewarding to do acts of kindness—for people who appreciate them. We all like that kind of affirmation. But look with me at the context of this command. In His instruction to go the second mile, Jesus was not referring to appreciated acts of unusual kindness. Let’s review. Just a couple of verses prior to this statement, Jesus said: “Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Think about it. Suppose a right-handed man is standing in front of another man, and suppose he wants to slap the other man on the right cheek. How would he do this? Well, unless he goes through the most complicated contortions, and unless he empties the blow of all force, he can only hit the other man’s right cheek in one way—WITH THE BACK OF HIS HAND. Now according to Jewish Rabbinic law, to hit a man with the back of the hand was twice as insulting as to hit him with the FLAT of the hand. Jesus was talking about our response to a deadly, calculated insult. He is saying that when this happens we must not retaliate or even resent it.

So when Jesus told us to walk the second mile He was talking about a Christian person facing people who don’t like him, who don’t appreciate what he does; and who, when he does them good, may go off and laugh at him. Remember, “Love your ENEMIES…and pray for those who PERSECUTE you.” Now I have yet to find a person who on His own strength can keep up that kind of Christian response for very long. So, in going the 2nd mile Jesus is calling us to the impossible task of being so different from non-Christians that our goal is to be “perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect”? , Jesus is hinting that we can be unrealistically optimistic about our ability to travel the second mile.

We cannot go the second mile on our own strength. Jesus said that, “…IF a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” So as you chart your course for this next year remember Jesus’ advice.

* Don’t skip the first mile. Don’t avoid those ordinary, unseen things. They are vital—even though they are usually not all that glorious. Remember that when we minister to people in these “unseen” ways Scripture says we are ministering to Jesus Himself!
* Walk the second mile….not only when it is appreciated, but when it’s humiliating, not only for people whom you love but for people you have a hard time loving.

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47 And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.
48 Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” 49 Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Matthew 26:47-49

In Oberammergau, Germany, there is a famous Passion Play, and it wonderfully portrays the life and death of Jesus. One day I was relating to a  ministry team member what the play is like, having been lucky enough to be able to attend on two seperate occasions. That conversation brought back some memories of a similar play he’d been in some years ago. I asked him what part he played, and he answered a little sheepishly, “I think maybe I was typecast. I played Judas.” Then he went on to explain what an eerie feeling it was to play the one who betrayed our Lord. But, then, haven’t we all?

It’s an unsettling thought to consider that you or I might ever play Judas in our relationship with Christ; unsettling, but sometimes all too true. Our word for today from the Word of God focuses again on what it can look like to sell out the Son of God.

Matthew 26:14 records it this way,

“Then one of the Twelve – the one called Judas Iscariot – went to the chief priests and asked, ‘What are you willing to give me if I hand Him over to you?’ So they counted out for him thirty silver coins. From then on Judas watched for an opportunity to hand Him over.”

The first thing that bothers me about this is that the one who betrays Jesus is one who is really close to Him. And most of us Christians would like to think that we’re close to Jesus. We sing the psalms, and the hymns, we say the prayers, and profess that we believe. But that closeness, the piousness, the actions, are no guarantee that you won’t sell out your Savior when the price seems right. I’m sure if you had told Judas a few months before his betrayal that he was going to do this, he would have reacted the same way you and I do, “No way I’d ever betray Jesus.” But he did.

And it’s convicting to see the value judgment that led to Judas’ betrayal. There was something that seemed worth more to him than Jesus did; something he couldn’t have and also remain true to the Lord. In his case, some silver coins. Some of us have sold out Jesus for a lot less.

I wonder what your sellout price might be; the thing that you would allow to displace Jesus – the thing you would leave Jesus’ way to get? Would you push Jesus aside to have a relationship you know He doesn’t want? Or to get ahead? To get some friends or to keep your friends? Would you betray Jesus to have more money? To get married? To keep your image? Would you sell out Jesus for a little pleasure? A little relief from your pain? Would you shove Jesus aside to have your own way? More importantly, are you betraying Jesus for anything you cannot have and still remain true to Him?

Judas betrayed Jesus and he never came back. While there’s a Judas, there’s also a Peter; one close to Jesus who turned his back on Jesus. But Peter is living proof that a denier, a betrayer, can come back! In fact, when Peter repented with all his heart, all Jesus wanted to know (He asked him three times) was this, “Do you love Me?” Peter did, and Jesus entrusted major spiritual leadership to this one who had once turned his back on Him. You know, he’ll do the same for you. With Jesus, failure doesn’t ever have to be final.

The ugliest role in any story about Jesus is playing Judas. Are you?

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Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

In 1865, Henry C. Welles, a druggist in the village of Waterloo, NY, mentioned at a social gathering that honor should be shown to the patriotic dead of the Civil War by decorating their graves.

In the Spring of 1866, he again mentioned this subject to General John B. Murray, Seneca County Clerk. General Murray embraced the idea and a committee was formulated to plan a day devoted to honoring the dead.

Townspeople adopted the idea wholeheartedly. Wreaths, crosses and bouquets were made for each veteran’s grave. The village was decorated with flags at half-mast and draped with evergreen boughs and mourning black streamers.

On May 5, 1866, civic societies joined the procession to the three existing cemeteries and were led by veterans marching to martial music. At each cemetery there were impressive and lengthy services including speeches by General Murray and a local clergyman. The ceremonies were repeated on May 5, 1867.

The first official recognition of Memorial Day as such was issued by General John A. Logan, first commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. This was General Order No. 11 establishing “Decoration Day” as it was then known. The date of the order was May 5, 1868, exactly two years after Waterloo’s first observance. That year Waterloo joined other communities in the nation by having their ceremony on May 30.

Since May 5th, 1866, America has set aside a day of remembrance for her war dead.

There has been 651,008 Battle Deaths in all wars (excluding the current war in Iraq and Afghanistan) since the War Between the States.

But as my father stated so well last night … when we spoke on the phone … It is not merely about the dead … but those who were left behind … wives who lost husbands … sons and daughters who lost parents … It is about remembering the tremendous sacrifices paid by all!

My father is part of the generation that Tom Brokaw rightfully named: The Greatest Generation.

Ian Drake dubbed them: The Men Who Saved the Western World

It is not my intention today to slight any service member who served in any war … ALL OF YOU ARE HEROES!

But I am privileged to have my father with me today, on  September 18th he will be 71 years of age

It is estimated that of the 16.4 million Americans who served in World War II, only about five million are still alive, the youngest being in their mid-seventies.

Those remaining veterans are estimated to be dying at a rate of 1,100 to 1,700 per day.

And I want to take a moment of PERSONAL PRIVILEGE here today to honor my hero, my father, and to say to him: DAD, THANK YOU … AND YOUR GENERATION … FOR DOING WHAT YOU DID!

Now, I know that by this time many of you are wondering how in the world I am going to tie this scripture in with Memorial Day and the GREATEST GENERATION … hang on!

In the text scripture I’ve picked for today today we see where God did three things:

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

1: He formed

2: He breathed

3: He caused man to “become”

The thesis or though of the sermon is simply this: The actions of One caused another to become.

I want to pose a soul-searching question today: How many people are not “alive” (figuratively speaking) today because we have refused to form them and breathe into their nostrils the breath of life?

1: He Formed

Gen. 2:7: (a) And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground

The word “formed” literally means: To mold into a form through squeezing into shape … like a potter.

§ At the dawn of time … the Creator God formed man into a shape that pleased Him.

§ The creation wasn’t yet alive … therefore he had no say in his shape

§ The actions of the One Creator God … forever shaped the man.

Sixty plus years ago, on battlefields far away my father’s generation was forming me. Because of theiractions I had the opportunity to “become” who I am today.

Note: Theydidn’t make me who I am … they merely gave me the opportunity to “become.”

The older I get the more I realize that not only do I physically carry his DNA, it is also prevalent in my mind and in my spirit.

1: He Formed

2: He Breathed

Gen. 2:7: (b) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life

The word breathed in this passage means: Puffed

The phrase Breath of Life means: Divine Inspiration

Creator God “Puffed” “Divine Inspiration” into the nostrils of a molded lump of clay called: MAN … and MAN BECAME … what he previously was not … alive!

1: He Formed

2: He Breathed

3: Man Became

Gen. 2:7 (c) and man became a living soul.

Man was filled with Divine Inspiration … not Divine Constraint or Divine LIMITATION … but DIVINE INSPIRATION!!!

Creator God placed within the man all he would ever need to become what the Creator desired him to be!

I’m glad that my earthly father placed within me the things I would need to become who God wanted me to be.

Sometimes he resorted to CONSTRAINT AND LIMITATION (WHIPPINGS) … but he got it in me!!!

*And I’m of the strong opinion that if we had a few more squalling babies today … we’d have a whole lot less squalling parents tomorrow!!!

My father placed things within me like:

§ Love (There was never a time in my life that I doubted my father’s love for me, my mother, and my siblings.)

§ Honesty

§ Trustworthiness

§ Respect

§ Manners

§ Discipline

§ Work Habits

And on and on I could go …

These things didn’t guarantee success … but they sure stacked the deck in my favor!!!

Memorial Day is a day of commemoration for those who have died in the GREAT WARS that secured America’s freedom.

However … today we are engaged in another GREAT WAR … A SPIRITUAL WAR!

This war will not only determine America’s freedom and fate … but this war will determine the freedom and fate of the world … for this and all future generations!

This war is not for land or some political ideal

It is neither a Republican War nor a Democratic War

It is not a Racial War

It is not a Social War

It is a Spiritual War … the War of the Ages

A battle or good versus evil

It is a battle for the souls of men, women, boys, and girls … who Without Jesus … will die and go to an awful place called hell!

It is a battle to:

§ Love the unlovable

§ Forgive the Unforgivable

§ To reach the unreachable

§ To teach the unteachable

§ To feed the hungry

§ To clothe the naked

§ To comfort those who mourn

§ To do good to those who despitefully use us

§ And to love our neighbor as ourselves

This is the battle in which we are engaged!

There are two questions that beg an answer:

1: Are we forming and breathing Divine Inspiration into the lives of those in our sphere of influence?

2: Years from now … will history judge us as Christianity’s Greatest Generation?

Will they refer to us as the Generation that Saved Christianity?

If we are to reach our generation for Jesus, and form the possibilities for future generations to know Him … WE MUST CONDUCT OURSELVES AS THE GREATEST GENERATION CONDUCTED THEMSELVES!

We must become Spiritual Soldiers that mimic the character of the WWII heroes:

1: We must realize that Forming the lives of others and breathing Divine Inspiration into them: IS OUR SACRED DUTY AND PRIVILEGE… NOT OUR CHOICE!

I’m positive that it wouldn’t have been my father’s generation’s choice to spend four years island hopping in the Pacific, but they felt it was their duty!

2: We must develop the attitude that we: DO WHATEVER IT TAKES!

3: We must learn to: Endure the Hardships! … DON’T QUIT!!!

4: We NEVER FORGET the Price that was paid for our freedom (Calvary)

5: We honor the Heroes of the Faith … by “Becoming” what the Creator placed within us to be!

As I begin to close this most unusual topic today, I do so by again posing the question: Are we breathing the Breath of Life into those in our sphere of influence … or are we breathing in the poison of sin?

§ One day a harlot (caught in the act) was brought to Jesus … He breathed the breath of Life into her!

§ He encountered the Woman at the Well … He breathed the breath of Life into her!

§ He brought Zaccheaus down out of his tree … And breathed the breath of Life into him!

§ He encountered a funeral possession one day … touched the bier …stopped it … and breathed the breath of Life into the young man!

§ He encountered Eric DeMar one day, after a long time knocking at the door of his heart, and  … HE BREATHED THE BREATH OF LIFE INTO ME!

§ A lifeless lump of Clay … who knew no real joy … came to life!

§ I have never been the same.

Are we breathing life or the poison of sin into others?

§ Hatred

§ Judgmentalism

§ Racism

§ Unforgiveness

§ RELIGION and not Salvation

And on & on I could go.

One day I will stand before God …

If I am to hear those words: WELL DONE MY GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT …

§ I must learn to form lives …

§ I must learn to Breath Divine Inspiration into those I can reach

§ I must learn to be patient and allow them to “become”

§ I must learn to not breath the poison of sin into their lives

A few years ago I attended the funeral service of a Giant of the Faith (to me anyways): My grandmother.

Draped across her coffin was a Christian Flag

The flag stated the message very clearly:

§ She was a solider in God’s Army

§ She was a fallen soldier on a foreign battlefield

§ But she had fought many battles

§ Endured much pain

§ Won great victories

I hope that when my time comes to meet my Maker …

I will have lived a life true enough to Christ that my family and friends will feel comfortable draping my coffin with Christian Battle Flag!

The flag will state the message very clearly that I wish to convey to this world:

§ He was a solider in God’s Army

§ He was a fell on a foreign battlefield while in service for his Lord

§ He had fought many battles

§ Endured much pain

§ But won great victories

I hope my friends will tell their children and grandchildren:

§ Eric didn’t view his Christianity as a choice … he viewed is as his solemn duty and privilege!

§ He did whatever it took to Form others and Breath Divine Inspiration into their lives!

§ He endured the hardships

§ He enjoyed the beauty

§ He never forgot the cost of his salvation

§ Honor him by “becoming” the person the Creator “formed” and “Divinely Inspired” you to be!

singlepoppy

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields 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 glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields. John McCrae

flanderslandscape

Are we forming, breathing, and allowing to become, a generation that we can pass the torch, from our failing hands?

Will they call us the greatest generation?

The torch has been passed to us …

WHAT WILL WE DO WITH IT?

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