Beyond Memorial Day

Memorial Day

What does it mean? For many who lost sons, brothers, fathers or uncles in the war it is a time to remember.

For others who had sons, brothers, fathers or uncles who fought and came home it means a time to be thankful.

For me as a believer, it means that besides human sacrifice there is one who gave His life for me, not on the battlefield but on the cross, so that I could live eternally. What a beautiful time of remembrance and thankfulness.

My wife’s uncles, Emil and Bill, served in World War I from 1917-1918. And they sang the song When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again. Her brother Vernon served in the US Army in Germany in World War II from 1943-1945 and he sang White Cliffs of Dover and When the Lights Go On Again. My brothers JC and Glenn served in the US Navy and US Air Force in Korea and Viet Nam during both of those wars. And they sang Tie a Yellow Ribbon.

The battles still rage across the earth but there is no song that we sing in America today; just lethargy about our freedoms.

However, the spiritual battle is the Lord’s and He has given his life and He is the victor. We have read the back of the Book! John 8:36 promises “If the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Take time to thank God for your relatives who served in the military over the years. And be very sure to thank our Lord Jesus for serving and giving his life that we might live for eternity. Our glorious song can be Faith Is the Victory.

A Bird Plays His Violin for God

A freak sideshow in nature? No, it’s for real.

After we had moved into our new home in Florida, one of the first projects on our “to do” list was to get bird feeders up and filled. My wife and I play a game to see who can be the first to identify a particular song bird. We marvel at the red-throated hummingbird’s sounds. We marvel at the painted bunting’s high-pitched singing in short phrases of variable pitches.

But we marvel most at one we have never heard. That’s the sound made by a small tropical bird, different from the song of any other bird.

Deep in the tropics of Ecuador, an ornithologist heard what sounded like a miniature string orchestra. Baffled, he pushed his way through heavy vines and underbrush to watch a bird sing with its wings. A tiny red-headed bird’s wings created a loud, clear tone that sounded as if it came from a violin. The bird, called a club-winged manakin, sings, not with his throat but with his wing feathers as they vibrate to create violin-like sounds.

The psalmist calls for all the birds to “Praise the Lord from the earth small creatures and flying birds” (148:10). When the manakin “plays his violin,” he wings his music heavenward, first and foremost, to delight his Creator, a God of variety and surprises. And his Creator lets us enjoy what he hears.

Our human voices add our hymns of praise to the manakin’s “violin,” and our blended musical praise soars for the pleasure of, and glory to, our music-loving God of the universe.

Every time now when I hear a violin playing, I think about our delighted Father listening to his unique club-winged manakin’s “violin,” deep in the forests of Ecuador.

And you know what? God invented the moon walk. The manakin actually does the moon walk. Check it out on line.

The Folded Napkin

At a Jewish meal during Biblical times, the napkin carried necessary and symbolic meanings for the master and the servant. When the master prepared to leave the evening table, he either tossed his crumpled napkin onto the table, or he neatly folded it by his plate. Either way, the servant knew exactly what to do. The crumpled napkin meant the meal was finished, and all was to be cleared. However, the folded napkin meant the meal was unfinished, and the master was coming back.

This symbolical meaning is illustrated in the resurrection of Christ. When Simon Peter arrived at the tomb on Sunday morning, he entered and saw the strips of linen lying there as well as the face cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The “napkin” was not crumbled, but was folded, separate from the linen. Either the two angels, seated where Jesus body had been, folded the napkin, or Jesus himself folded it. Wow! What an unhurried peace of the Living One as He left the grave and walked away from the dead. His “meal” unfinished, the master Jesus is returning for us, His servants.

What a beautiful custom to reinforce His promise in John 14:3: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” When we become discouraged or we doubt if he’s returning, remember, Jesus folded his napkin. The master is not finished. He’s coming back.

Read John 20:1-9 for the complete story of the folded napkin.

Posted Friday evening of Mother’s Day weekend. Poor timing. Be sure to read Soap Bubbles from last week.

 

 

Soap Bubbles

Bubbles 3

My grandson Michael enjoyed chasing soap bubbles. They lasted until he jumped up and his small hands smacked them. Wham! The bubbles vanished.

And so did the years. When Michael was a sophomore in high school, his friend David shouted to his mother as they drove off for school, “I’ll be home right after football practice, mom.”

“Ok, see you then. Come right home.” His mother had invited a few classmates to a surprise birthday party for him that night. His grandparents, his family, his girlfriend, and his friends were going to be there to celebrate.

Once again, the years like chasing soap bubbles vanish. The young men finished college. His friend David went to the mission field, and Michael, now working in Atlanta, and his friend Mike working in Fort Wayne, play long distance video games every Friday night.

Among the 20 images in Scripture for the brevity of life, there are five powerful ones. As swift as the click of knitting needles, a breath, a moan, a fleeting shadow, or water spilled on the ground. Job 7:6 (The Message), Psalm 39:11, Psalm 20:9, Job 14:2, 2 Samuel 14:14.

In our church, a 12-year old boy had battled with cancer since he was 4 years old. One day the Lord took him home. He was expecting to celebrate his 13th birthday but the soap bubbles vanished.

James 4:14 says: “You do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Is the Apostle trying to make us feel small and insignificant? No! He wants us to get the message. Life is short! There’s no eternal lease on this life whether we’re 16 or 66. We may not be at that surprise birthday party or go to the mission field.

So what do we do? We prepare ourselves for that brevity, the soap bubbles of life. We daily seek the loving God spelled out in His Word. As we swing our soap bubble wands, let’s be sure that they are God-filled eternal bubbles. They will never vanish!

 

What’s On That Truck?

I couldn’t believe my eyes. “Body piercing saved my life!” There it was. Painted on the back window of a pickup truck in the parking lot at the county fair.

I sneered, Has anyone ever assumed that punching holes in your body could save you or help you?

Then I looked again and saw the picture behind those words: A rough-hewn brown cross.

Body piercing isn’t new. The prophet Isaiah knew about it, for he says, “He was pierced for our transgressions and by his wounds we are healed.” (53:3) On imperial orders, the Romans soldiers fulfilled that prophecy about 750 years later.

Yes, I began to consider another kind of piercing, the cruel piercings done on a rugged hill.

As nails ripped through the wooden symbol of death for transgressors, the nails also ripped through muscles and bones and splattered blood–his holy blood. A Roman spear sliced his side, the side of the kindest and only sin-free man who ever lived.

After his resurrection, Jesus showed his disciples his pierced hands and feet, proof of his identity. And we’ll recognize him the same way, not by the crowns he wears, but by the scars he bears.

We may boast in the status and “in thing” of piercing our nose, tongue, navel, and other body parts. But these offer nothing more than moments of attention and fleeting gratification. Christ’s body piercing does not give us status and those fleeting moments. Instead, because of the piercing of his hands, feet, and side, we have a Savior–for eternity.

Yes, definitely, body piercing saved my life.

Keep Your Fork

M4VUEW478F0y daughter recently told me a story I could not get out of my mind, so I want to share it.

Usually when family, relatives, and friends view the beloved in the casket, there is silence, hushed sobs, maybe a faint whisper or two, but not at this viewing. Gasps followed by muffled giggles were heard, heads turning, some leaning in for a closer look, one man even removing and cleaning his glasses, and a shared restlessness.

Viewers expected to see folded hands, possibly holding a small black Bible or a rose. Instead an old dinner fork was wedged between her hands.

When her husband detected the unasked question on everyone’s lips, he reverently and humbly approached the casket and began to distribute 5 x 7 floral cards with the message of the fork.

“Growing up on the farm, after the evening meal as mom cleared the table, everyone waited to hear that welcome reminder, ‘Keep your fork.’

“For me, that meant, the best was yet to come, her carrot or chocolate cake, or one of her cherry or apple pies. For years those prayed-for three little words, ‘Keep your fork’ resounded in my mind.

“After the Lord took her home, I found among her funeral arrangements, her request to be buried with a fork in her hand. ‘I want it to be a symbolic reminder that for all who die in the Lord, the best is yet to come’.”

What does that mean?

Here are four of the possibilities she may have had in mind. We are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb for the bride has made herself ready (Rev 19:9); we’ll be in the new paradise, “on each side of the river stood the tree of life, yielding its fruit every month,” a metaphor for everlasting nourishment (Rev 22:2); God the chef will “on this mountain [Zion] prepare a feast of rich food, a banquet of aged wine–the best of meats (Isaiah 25:6); and we’ll savor forever, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth,” an insatiable appetite for the life-changing Word of God (Psalm 119:103).

So when we hear God say, “Keep your fork” and our taste buds start salivating, we’ll fall down in praise and gratitude before Him for the eternal dessert set before us, since the best has finally come.

You are Royalty

Royalty“I thank the Lord for my time in the hospital,” I replied when my doctor asked me in my follow-up appointment how things went. “The nurses treated me royally.”

He was a military doctor and in his usual straightforward no-nonsense way, he said, “Well. Why shouldn’t they? You are royalty.”

I looked at him wondering what he meant. Nobody ever called me royalty.

Then he added, “You’re a child of the King. King Jesus.”

I know he is a believer. But I was still surprised by what he said. He had never said anything like that before.

His response made me think of Romans 8:17. “Now we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,” the King of Kings, since God has adopted us as his sons and daughters. What a blessed
warm, personal relationship, for everything Jesus owns, we own. And you also, dear Christian, are a member of this family.

The Holy Spirit wrapped that gracious, almost unbelievable truth, around my heart one early morning, a few years ago, while leaning on a balcony rail overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The sun splashed reds and yellows across the water and God reminded me of that adoption.

I bequeath to you
   every sunrise I’ve painted,
all originals.

Yes, doctor, we are both royalty.