Veterans Day – Thou Shalt Love Thy Neighbor

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“I give you a new commandment: love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another.” John 13:34

Veteran’s Day 2014

My father didn’t start talking about his war experiences until late in his life. I think he didn’t want to burden us with difficult memories but eventually opened up and I’m so glad he did. What a testimony to his family of a life well lived.

My Dad was a POW in Nazi Germany for many years after his B-17 was shot down during a military raid. While I think this experience had a profound effect on him, I don’t think it changed him at the core.

My father loved people. My father loved his family. My father really loved Jesus.

Dad led by example and he told the story of walking through deep snow with the frail and aged Nazi guards who were too weak to carry their own weapons. So Dad and the other soldiers carried their guns. They were not required to do so, they did it to help.

I have always found this story to be one of the most striking of my father’s war memories. Dad’s faith in Jesus never wavered and even in the worst of circumstances, he would use an opportunity to share the love of Christ with ANYONE.

On this Veterans Day, I thank Dad for his courage. I thank Dad for his loving heart. I thank Dad for teaching me about Jesus. Dad said that he survived the war through his belief that Jesus was standing beside him and giving him the strength to return home. I believe this and I am grateful to God.

I am sure my Dad is not the first soldier to have Jesus hold his hand and he won’t be the last. I wish this were not so. If we could only truly love our neighbors…

Peace.

Herding Black Sheep

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I think black sheep get a bad rap. Let’s be honest, we are all black sheep…there is not a spotless lamb among us. 

I become exasperated when I hear anyone say they don’t attend church because it is consumed by hypocrites, liars and thieves. That’s just an excuse. If anyone thinks the church is perfect and blameless then they are ignorant. Any church that claims to be so should be ashamed.

To be honest, the church isn’t the problem – I compare the modern church to a hospital for those who have the incurable illness we also call sin. This world won’t fix them – only God can do so. The church just puts a sturdy band-aid on the problem.

To dismiss organized religion under the excuse of avoiding sinners is the absolute height of hypocrisy. I don’t know about you…but the plank in my eye is so large and sin so great that I wouldn’t dare to condemn anyone else of wrong-doing. I’m working too hard on my own issues.

Church is exactly where sinners should be. A fellowship of believers who strive for “more” is a good thing. It’s where we belong. 

In this world, the church is a safe haven for sinners until we reach glory where we will be washed white as snow by the only One who remains blameless and free of sin.

The good Shepherd awaits.

We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Isaiah 53:6

Regrets? I have a few

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I’m somewhat surprised when I hear someone say they have no regrets. I find that hard to believe.

There is only one person that I know who is perfect and we just celebrated His resurrection yesterday. But for the rest of us…we could use some work.

As for me, I have a lot of regrets. Too many to mention. I have been known to sit through Sunday service, say all my prayers of forgiveness with a genuine and contrite heart, march up for communion and then on the way back to my pew my mind wanders to something that I instantly regret. I can go south in a hot minute.

I once thought if I was the sort of person that believed in tattoos, I would put a permanent bodily marking of Romans 3:23 in a place where the sun doesn’t shine. That verse is courtesy of my sweet Baptist upbringing. Romans 3:23 rings true for my life. Some days I just fall a little short of the glory of God. Maybe a lot.

I have learned to live with regret but I try to learn from my mistakes as well. Even more important, I believe in a God that forgives my sins. In fact, it is my desire to try to please Him by decreasing my personal number of regrets earned in a single day.

Regrets? I have a few. But I also have a loving Savior who reminds me daily that He holds my hand as we walk through the highs and lows of this life together. Loving Jesus and choosing to follow Him is the one thing I will never regret.

How great is that?

Jesus Paid It All…All To Him I Owe.

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My Dad was always thinking ahead. He apologized on more than one occasion that one day I would come in to wake him and he would be gone and walking with Jesus. While I told him not to stress out about this, I also reminded him that no one knows the time, date or way you are going to cross from this life into eternity.

No one knows the day they will die…except Jesus.

Jesus knew.

Jesus knew the end from the beginning. Like all of us…technically we are born to die. But he knew his death was imminent and was going to be difficult, very difficult.

I cannot even begin to imagine the sheer weight of this knowledge. I can’t imagine how Jesus felt carrying the sins of the world on His shoulders. It is just beyond my ability to comprehend.

Tonight, I will ponder these things and I will prayerfully watch for one hour at my church as part of Maundy Thursday services. One hour. It’s not enough to thank Him for the sacrifice He made for you and for me.

But then again, nothing I do could thank Him enough.

Jesus paid it all,

All to Him I owe;

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow.

Sorrow and Forgiveness

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

I harbor a hurt in my heart. I’m not sure how long it will take before it leaves but it is an ever present reminder of a sorrow that is hard to let go.

I learned many years ago that religious leaders aren’t perfect. You cannot count on them to never fail. But for a time, I had believed in my Pastor and it went wrong. It went really wrong.

I remember sitting in our church that had sustained me and comforted me through some of the most difficult and dark days of my life. Sunday services were my personal sanctuary. Sunday nights I turned everything over to God and just sat quietly as I tried to glean some words of comfort and grace through the service. For eight months one particular year as my Mother struggled with cancer, this was something I looked forward to and which kept me strong.

The church saved me in so many ways. Comfort came through the preaching, the concern, the serving, but especially the actual words spoken that seemed aimed directly at me in a room full of hurting and wounded souls.

Some people look back and realize that they did not appreciate this time. I remember clearly thinking that I could not believe how GREATLY blessed we were through our church leadership. We had something special. His messages were a gift from God…his failings were not.

Today, I am missing Pastor Isaac. I mourn his loss and I thank Jesus for one who tried and succeeded in reaching others for Christ. I wish he could have forgiven himself.

Jesus, watch over him for us.