Saturday, December 24, 2011
May this Christmas bring a special blessing to you and your loved ones, and may Christ dwell in you and you in Him.
These songs are by John Michael Talbot from his album, "The Birth Of Jesus" recorded with the National Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of London, the Ambrosian Men's Choir, and the Junior Boys Choir of Desborough School.
Thursday, November 24, 2011
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
Worship the LORD with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the LORD is God.
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise;
give thanks to him and praise his name.
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
his faithfulness continues through all generations.
As I thought about what I wanted to say about Thanksgiving day this year, several things came to mind for which I am thankful. For example, my wife heads my list. She has been the greatest blessing in my life — right after the blessing of my redemption in Jesus Christ. I could write a book about how much Gloria means to me, but I will refrain from that today. Next are my children, each of the three of them have blessed me, and continue to bless me, in their own unique, individual ways. And the list goes on and on and on. When we sit down to list those things for which have reason to be thankful, we are often surprised at how many items are on that list.
Most of us in the US stop our usual activities to celebrate Thanksgiving Day with a feast of turkey, dressing, and all the rest. We eat too much. We share time with family. We take naps after the meal. We don’t engage in the activities that occupy our lives the rest of the time. And that is all a good thing. We should take time out to celebrate our thankfulness. For some it is a rare occasion when they actually say a prayer of thanksgiving to God.
Then comes the day after. Someone has labeled the Friday after Thanksgiving Day "Black Friday." It wasn’t always called by that name. It seems to me that it has only been in recent years that Black Friday showed up in our vocabulary. Of course, most of us know by now that it refers to the biggest shopping day of the year and the day on which merchants make a lot of money — when their profit and loss column goes into the black of profit instead of the red of loss.
It seems to me that we Americans have become enslaved so much to the activity of chasing after profit that we have forgotten that the source of our bounty lies not in our commercial activity but in our spiritual activity. In thinking about this, the following scripture came to mind:
No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matthew 6:24)
Clearly, our devotion cannot be divided if we wish to be successful at any endeavor. We must firmly decide our priorities and focus our energies on those priorities. Thanksgiving Day is a day set aside to focus on the priorities in our lives for which we are thankful — which are the real reason for what we do and who we are. But is it only for that one day alone that we are willing to set aside the commerce of our lives to focus on the source of our bounty, on the source of the goodness in our lives?
God clearly spoke to his children about the source of their wealth when he spoke to them as they were entering the promised land:
You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today. (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)
Thanksgiving Day is not about "wealth" in the ususal sense. It is, however, about bounty in a sense we rarely acknowledge. God’s blessings are new every morning, just as he provided the children with manna during their time in the wilderness. Every day brought more than enough for that day. And it still does. Each day, God provides from His endless bounty to supply all of our needs. In this way, God confirms and establishes His covenant with us. We will never run out of what we need because God never runs out of supply for those needs.
Those of us who live in the United States of America have a special blessing. This country was founded on the principles and values handed down to us through a long line of Christian patriots who preserved for us the written Word of God along with the wonderful traditions and sacraments of the Christian faith. We are a blessed nation. But, just as God’s children often rebelled against Him in the Old Testament, America is rebelling against God today, turning away from Him and His ways, and doing what is right in his or her own eyes rather than what it right in God’s eyes and abandoning His ways. So, while we are giving thanks for all of our blessings, let us also be vigilant in being good stewards of those blessings so that we remain faithful to the Source of all Blessing and thus continue to walk in the bounty of God’s paths of righteousness.
So, on this Thanksgiving Day, I pray that all of my family and all of my friends will stop long enough to give God thanks for His endless bounty and gracious mercy to them. As we sit down to our feast today, we will be saying a special "Thank You" to God.
For those who would like to have a pattern for such a prayer, here is a prayer from the Book of Common Prayer:
Let us give thanks to God our Father for all his gifts so freely bestowed upon us.
For the beauty and wonder of your creation, in earth and sky and sea,
For all that is gracious in the lives of men and women, revealing the image of Christ,
For our daily food and drink, our homes and families, and our friends,
For minds to think, and heart to love, and hands to serve,
For health and strength to work, ans leisure to rest and play,
For the brave and courageous, who are patient in suffering and faithful in adversity,
For all valiant seekers of truth, liberty, and justice,
For the communion of saints, in all times and places,
Above all, we give you thanks for the great mercies and promises given to us in Christ Jesus our Lord;
To him be praise and glory, with you, O Father, and the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.
And then may we all join in the words of that song:
Give thanks with a grateful heart
Give thanks to the holy one
Give thanks for he's given
Jesus Christ, his son
And now let the weak say I am strong
Let the poor say I am rich
Because of what the lord has done for us
Friday, November 11, 2011
Too many of Americans have forgotten the origins of what we call “Veteran’s Day.” It started out being called “Armistice Day” in honor of the end of hostilities in World War I. I suppose this is another example of how we have forgotten the sacraments of our times — things that mean more than just the thing itself. Today, I want to remember what this sacrament means and what it does not mean.
World War I was, at the time, thought to be the war to end all wars. The same was said for World War II. Of course, neither war was the last war. Scripture tells us there will be wars and rumors of war, but the end is not yet to be. So, it appears to be man’s destiny to continue to experience wars. There are those who cling to a belief that war can be eliminated, usually by mankind simply being kind to each other and respecting each other. That utopian point of view ignores the nature of man and of the world in which man lives. While I may choose to be at peace with my neighbor, try as I may, I cannot force my neighbor to be at peace with me if my neighbor does not wish it. The same is true with nations.
As a veteran, I can say with great conviction that most veterans, and most soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors want peace. Most military men and women want peace and not war, but they also understand that there are people and nations in the world that do not share their desire for peace, and the only way for America to be at peace is to be prepared to go to war. Paradox, to be sure, but then there are lot of paradoxes in this world. Even Scripture mentions these “Rules of Opposites.” The one who wants to be first must be last. The one who wants to gain life must lose it. Give and it will be given to you.
The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, in the Palace of Versailles outside the town of Versailles, France, but the fighting ceased seven months earlier when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, between the Allied nations and Germany went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. For that reason, November 11, 1918, is generally regarded as the end of “the war to end all wars.”
In November 1919, President Wilson proclaimed November 11 as the first commemoration of Armistice Day with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…"
The United States Congress officially recognized the end of World War I when it passed a concurrent resolution on June 4, 1926, with these words:
Whereas the 11th of November 1918, marked the cessation of the most destructive, sanguinary, and far reaching war in human annals and the resumption by the people of the United States of peaceful relations with other nations, which we hope may never again be severed, and
Whereas it is fitting that the recurring anniversary of this date should be commemorated with thanksgiving and prayer and exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding between nations; and
Whereas the legislatures of twenty-seven of our States have already declared November 11 to be a legal holiday: Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring), that the President of the United States is requested to issue a proclamation calling upon the officials to display the flag of the United States on all Government buildings on November 11 and inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches, or other suitable places, with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.
On May 13, 1938, Congress passed an act making the 11th of November in each year a legal holiday. The day was dubbed “Armistice Day” to honor veterans of World War I. In 1954, after World War II had required the greatest mobilization of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in the nation’s history and after American forces had fought aggression in Korea, the 83rd Congress amended the Act of 1938 by changing “Armistice Day” to ‘Veterans Day” With the approval of this legislation (Public Law 380) on June 1, 1954, November 11th became a day to honor American veterans of all wars.
On October 8, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower issued the first "Veterans Day Proclamation" which stated: "In order to insure proper and widespread observance of this anniversary, all veterans, all veterans' organizations, and the entire citizenry will wish to join hands in the common purpose. Toward this end, I am designating the Administrator of Veterans' Affairs as Chairman of a Veterans Day National Committee, which shall include such other persons as the Chairman may select, and which will coordinate at the national level necessary planning for the observance. I am also requesting the heads of all departments and agencies of the Executive branch of the Government to assist the National Committee in every way possible."
The word sacrament is usually defined in terms of its religious or theological meaning, but the word has a meaning in the temporal and secular world as well. In religious terms, a sacrament is an outward and visible sign of an inward grace. In other words, it is something that is tangible in the physical world that reminds us of something that exists in the spiritual world. I am using it in a similar way to apply to a celebration (something tangible in the physical world) that brings to mind something that is more than simply a celebration (something that exists in the spiritual world). Once we think of special days as sacraments, instead of just a day of celebration, those days take on a special or sacramental meaning to us.
I read a meditation this morning about Veterans Day from a Christian blog that went off into explaining how, while Veterans Day is about honoring our veterans, it is really about honoring all the heroes in our lives, and it used two women, Lois and Eunice, Timothy’s grandmother and mother as examples of this. These women sacrificed to give Timothy an education in the Scriptures so the author of this meditation opined that we should use this day to remember the heroes in our own lives. Well, no, because to do so destroys the sacrament of this day.
Veterans Day is a special day to pay honor to those who have served the United States, and all of its citizens, by being in the military and defending the foundations of freedom and liberty — the very foundations upon which was built the United States of America. It is not a day to honor all of those who are special in our lives. It is a day to honor those living and dead who sacrificed their lives, or a part of their lives, so that all people can be free. To do otherwise cheapens transforms the sacrament into something it was never intended to be. It’s not “Heroes Day.” It is “Veterans Day.” I think we should leave it at that and stop trying to be “relevant” for today. It is what it is, and it is not what it is not.
Not all sacrifices in war require the ultimate sacrifice of life. I am a Vietnam vet. While I did not sacrifice my life by dying, I did, nonetheless, sacrifice my life. I had to put my normal life on hold while I went off to war in a foreign country. My wife was left behind to await my return, and to wonder if I would return. Her life was put on hold, too. My hopes and dreams had to wait until I returned to my normal life. When I first entered service in the Army my income dropped from $550 per month to $96 per month. Was that a sacrifice? You bet! But, there were many other sacrifices — separation from my family, isolation in a strange place, danger of being killed, sleeping on the wet ground, eating things that I don’t even want to mention, watching people die right beside me, and so many other big and little things. These are the sacrifices of a soldier, and they were not unique to me. All veterans have their own stories. So, when you see a veteran this Veterans Day, realize this person has been through hell for you and thank them. I was a civilian again for 30 years before the first person said thank you to me for my service — and it made me cry!
Since we have “Memorial Day” on which we remember those who have died in combat serving this country, perhaps we on Veterans Day we should remember those veterans who served and survived, who walk among us. On this Veterans Day, find a veteran and shake his or her hand and thank them for their service. When you look in the eye of combat veteran you are likely to see a lot of conflicting emotions when you do that — gratitude that someone thinks what they did was worth the effort to thank them, a flicking memory of their experience in war, the horror of watching a comrade fall dead at their side, and, at the same time, a peace and joy that only comes on the other side of war.
Thursday, July 07, 2011
Monday, July 04, 2011
Today, we celebrate the 235th birthday of the United States of America. Today some will have cookouts, eat barbeque, spend time with family and friends, and, in some parts of the country, watch fireworks. Where I live in Texas, we have had less than one-half of our normal rainfall for the year and have had 24 days with temperatures over 100 degrees. So, we won’t be having any fireworks here this year. We’ll have to watch them on television. It just seems so much not like the old July4th celebrations we had once upon a time. Maybe we’ve forgotten the meaning of it all. Maybe we have become cynical about our traditions. And maybe we’ve become disillusioned about our country. There is a spirit of pessimism running throughout America today that I don’t remember experiencing before. Maybe it’s time for a new American Revolution! Maybe it’s time the people from main street to take back their communities. Maybe, just maybe, we can recapture that Spirit of ‘76 that drove our founding fathers to dare to dream of a new nation born of liberty, freedom, and justice. Let’s look at what happened in 1776.
In 1776, a group of 56 men, chosen from their respective states created a nation unlike any that had existed before it and unlike any to be created since. On July 4, 1776, gathered in modest Independence Hall in Philadelphia were the delegates to the Second Continental Congress. There, on that hot summer day, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, and the Colonies that were to become the United States of America became a free, independent and autonomous nation — free from the tyrannical rule of the British crown.
But independence from Britain was not what compelled them to gather in the first place. Independence was not a prevailing sentiment amongst the people who populated the Colonies until early 1776. The Second Continental Congress was a continuation of the First Continental Congress that met briefly starting September 5, 1774, and arose out of the realization within the Colonies that even common justice would be denied them by the “Home Government.” The British government had an avaricious need to replenish their exhausted treasury, and the King and Parliament saw the Colonies as a ready solution to their problem. The idea that taxation and equitable representation were inseparable and too vital to the existence of free people. Thus the Colonists decided it was necessary for a General Council to be created to deliberate on a solution. The First Continental Congress was convened in September, 1774, for this purpose, and out of that first congress formal requests were sent to the King George III and the Parliament to cease the Coercive Acts which had been passed by the British Parliament in response to the Boston Tea Party in December 1773, which was itself a protest of the British Parliaments onerous taxes levied on the Colonies.
The Stamp Act of 1765 was passed by Parliament by which they levied a tax all documents produced in connection with the Colonies — letters, deeds, contracts, invoices, etc — and other impositions of taxes on the Colonies without their consent. These Coercive Acts were intended to punish the Colonies and to assert Parliament’s view that the Colonies were merely servants of the British empire. These acts outraged the colonists and triggered sometimes violent resistence throughout the Colonies. The entreaties of the Fist Continental Congress fell on deaf ears in Britain, where the prevailing response was that increased force upon the Colonies to squelch any thoughts the Colonists may have about their right to govern themselves.
The deliberations of the First Continental Congress were firm: Loyalty to the crown, even though the Colonies were suffering increased oppression. No delegates discussed, even in private conversation, the idea of independence. They concentrated their attention on how best to maintain the integrity of the British realm while at the same time preserving for the Colonies their own inalienable rights. They sent appeals to the King, to Parliament, and to men of conscious and justice in Britain. In response, new oppressions were laid upon the Colonies, including the shedding of Colonists’ blood.
Having failed to convince the British Parliament to accede to the wishes of the Colonies, the Second Continental Congress was convened in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, which set up and organized a temporary government with an army whose commander-in-chief was George Washington. Still they did not talk of independence. They were arming themselves in defense of their rights under the British Constitution. They were still, at this time, prepared to lay down their arms and declare their loyalty to Britain just as soon as their rights were restored. Their appeals were met by armed mercenaries hired by the British Government from German princes, sent to the Colonies to butcher and kill British subjects for asserting the rights of British subjects!
The Second Continental Congress, which convened on May 20, 1775, was considered by those in attendance as a reconvening of the First Continental Congress, and most of the 56 delegates from twelve of the thirteen Colonies (Georgia did not send delegates until July 20, 1775) to the First Continental Congress attended the Second Continental Congress, and the Second Congress had the same officers as the First Congress. At this point the sentiment was still to attempt to convince the British Parliament and King George III to grant the Colonies more autonomy and to seek reconciliation with Britain, even though the Revolutionary War had already officially begun with the battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts on April 19, 1775.
The voices of some patriots had already begun to echo across the Colonies calling for independence prior to the two continental congresses. For example, as early as 1773 Patrick Henry speaking to Colonel Samuel Overton about Great Britain said, “She will drive us to extremities; no accommodation will take place; hostilities will soon commence; and a desperate bloody torch will be lit.” Overton then asked Henry if he thought the Colonies were strong enough to oppose Great Britain’s fleet and armies. Henry replied, “I will be candid with you. I doubt whether we shall be able, alone, to cope with so powerful a nation; but, where is France! — where is Spain! — where is Holland! — the natural enemies of Britain? Where will they be all this while? Do you suppose they will stand by, idle and indifferent spectators to the contest? Will Louis XVI be asleep all this time? Believe me, no! When Loius XVI shall be satisfied by our serious opposition, and our Declaration of Independence, that all prospect for reconciliation is gone, then, and not till then, will he furnish us with arms, ammunition and clothing; and not with them only, but he will send his fleets and armies to fight our battles for us; he will form a treaty with us, offensive and defensive, against our unnatural mother. Spain and Holland will join the confederation! Our independence will be established and we will take our stand among the nations of the earth!” Henry’s prediction was very accurate, because this is exactly what happened, including France, Spain, and Holland’s support of the Colonies once the Declaration of Independence was signed.
Having concluded from the repeated insults and retaliation from the British Parliament to the Colonies appeals for justice that the course of reconciliation was hopeless, the Colonies finally arrived at the conclusion that independence was the only solution left by early 1776. In June, 1776, Richard Henry Lee, of Virginia, offered a resolution in the General Congress declaring all allegiance to the British crown ended. Starting with North Carolina on April 22, 1776, the colonies began to instruct their delegates to the Second Continental Congress to stand for independence. Massachusetts followed on May 10, 1776, Virginia on May 17, 1776, Rhode Island in May, 1776, Connecticut on June 14, 1776, New Hampshire on June 15, 1776, New Jersey on June 22, 1776, Pennsylvania in June, 1776.
A committee was appointed for the purpose of drafting a Declaration of Independence. The committee members were Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. The draft was written by Jefferson with a few verbal amendments from Franklin and Adams and was submitted to the Congress on June 28, 1776. It was brought up for discussion before the Congress on July 1st, and, after several amendments, nine states voted on July 2nd in favor of independence. On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was officially signed by John Handcock, the President of the Second Continental Congress, and the Colonies were declared free and independent states. It was engrossed in the official records of the Congress and on August 2, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by all but one of the fifty-six delegates. Matthew Thornton was the last to sign the document in November, 1776.
On the morning when the historical vote was taken on the Declaration of Independence in Independence Hall, the Hall’s bellman ascended the steps to the steeple. A small boy was positioned below near the door of the Hall to notify the bellman when the vote had been taken. The old man waited and waited and waited. He said to himself, “They will never do it, the will never do it.” Just then a shout rose from below. The little boy clapped his hands and shouted, “Ring! Ring!” The old man took firm hold of the tongue of the bell and swung it back and forth, back and forth a hundred times, all the while shouting, “Liberty to the land and the inhabitants thereof!”
It is time for another clarion call to freedom. Today people all across America are grumbling about how things are going for them. Some are unemployed. Some have lost homes. Some have just flat lost hope. Our government reminds me of the British government in 1776. Those who sit in seats of power seem to not care one whit what the people who elected them want done. They have spent money they did not have, money that belonged to Americans who earned their money to old fashion way by working for it. Now that they’ve spend more money than those American workers provided them, their solution is to tax those same workers some more to raise more money. And they claim that if they don’t get this new tax money, the county will default on its debts — the very same debts they have run up spending someone else’s money. Does this sound any different than the British Parliament and the King? In fact, this sound exactly like them!
This year, 2011, is getting late. If we are to resolve these issues, something has to be done besides the usual “go-along-to-get-along” way of doing things. We need reforms in every area of government. One of the chief things that is different about our time and 1776 is that we hold the power in our vote. Those patriots were fighting a leviathan across the sea which held all the cards and the key to the treasure chest. We hold the key to unlock the door to a successful future for our country. The key is our ballot. In 2010 a lot of people voted to change directions. In 2012 a lot of people will do it again. It is my hope and prayer that there are enough people who are motivated to actually learn about the candidates and overcome their own inertia and work for and vote for the best candidates running in their districts.
It’s time for a change!!!
Thursday, June 09, 2011
May we all subscribe to the Marine motto: Sempre Fi. May we all be Always Faithful!
Isn't it time we stopped behaving like we don't understand what is happening and start doing something about it. America has become a nation just like the people in the story about the emperor who had no clothes. Everyone pretended that the emperor was clothed because none wanted to be the first to point out the obvious embarrasment.
America has declined so quickly that it is mind boggling. We must take action now to return to our foundations before the foundations are totally destroyed. This nation was founded on Christian principles. That is not just my opinion, but an objective fact for anyone who cares to actually examine the record of our founding and our early history.
I for one an ready to tackle the job, and I hope everyone who reads this wil likewise be motivated to stand up and take action. Enough is enough!
Copyright 2011. Bill Fisher. All rights reserved.
Monday, May 30, 2011
The day we celebrate as Memorial Day this year will find Americans having picnics, shopping the seemingly unending Memorial Day Sale Events. A few of us will visit a cemetery where a veteran of some war is buried. This should be a day of solemn remembrance of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice.
The day we call Memorial Day started out as a day to encourage local communities to place flowers of the graves of the war dead after the civil war. The origin of this day seems to have its genesis from a visit to a Confederate cemetery by the wife of a Union general. In the spring of 1868, the wife of Maj. Gen. John Alexander “Black Jack” Logan accompanied Gen. William T. Sherman on a tour of southern battlefields of the civil war. She noticed everywhere she went that the Confederate graves were decorated with flowers, and she thought that should be done for the Union Army’s fallen soldiers as well. She suggested as much to her husband, and Gen. Logan issued GAR General Order No. 11, designating May 30 as Decoration Day, for "the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in the defense of their country.” Here is the order:
HEADQUARTERS GRAND ARMY OF THE REPUBLIC
General Orders No.11, WASHINGTON, D.C., May 5, 1868
i. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet church-yard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.
We are organized, comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, "of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers, sailors, and marines who united to suppress the late rebellion." What can aid more to assure this result than cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead, who made their breasts a barricade between our country and its foes? Their soldier lives were the reveille of freedom to a race in chains, and their deaths the tattoo of rebellious tyranny in arms. We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let no wanton foot tread rudely on such hallowed grounds. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no vandalism of avarice or neglect, no ravages of time testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.
If other eyes grow dull, other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain to us.
Let us, then, at the time appointed gather around their sacred remains and garland the passionless mounds above them with the choicest flowers of spring-time; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved from hishonor; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledges to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon a nation's gratitude, the soldier's and sailor's widow and orphan.
ii. It is the purpose of the Commander-in-Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to lend its friendly aid in bringing to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.
iii. Department commanders will use efforts to make this order effective.
By order of
JOHN A. LOGAN,
WM. T. COLLINS, A.A.G.
The original date was set as May 30th, but in 1971 the U.S. Congress changed the day of observance to the last Monday in May. This year, Memorial Day actually falls on May 30th, the traditional day set aside for its celebration by Gen. Logan. While the day was set aside to memorialize the fallen soldiers of the Civil War, after WW I it became a day to memorialize those who died in any and all wars of the United States. Thus today we remember those who have died recently in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan as well.
May today be a day when we stop and actually take the time to reflect on the sacrifices made by so many so that our way of life might be preserved. Even in the Civil War, where there was such a national tear in our fabric, those who died were honored by both sides of that conflict. Today, we should lay aside our personal agendas about which wars were just and which were not and simply say ‘Thank You” to those who died so we could debate that issue in a free society.
Here is a poem quoted by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. in a Memorial Day speech at Harvard in 1895 entitled "The Soldier's Faith". Holmes spoke in the 1895 speech of "part of the soldier's faith: Having known great things, to be content with silence." He cited this poem as "a little song sung by a warlike people on the Danube, which seemed to me fit for a soldier's last word...a song of the sword in its scabbard, a song of oblivion and peace. A Soldier has been buried on the battlefield."
And when the wind in the tree-tops roared,
The soldier asked from the deep dark grave:
"Did the banner flutter then?"
"Not so, my hero," the wind replied.
"The fight is done, but the banner won,
Thy comrades of old have borne it hence,
Have borne it in triumph hence."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content."
Then he heareth the lovers laughing pass,
and the soldier asks once more:
"Are these not the voices of them that love,
That love--and remember me?"
"Not so, my hero," the lovers say,
"We are those that remember not;
For the spring has come and the earth has smiled,
And the dead must be forgot."
Then the soldier spake from the deep dark grave:
"I am content."
Let us remember the reason they died. It was so we could be free. Let us ever stand vigilant to watch over and preserve that freedom that was paid for by the blood and courage of so many. May we never take it for granted.
Copyright © 2011. Bill Fisher. All rights reserved.
Saturday, April 23, 2011
This Easter, what is it? Some say it is the most holy day of the year. Others say it is one of the holy days on the church calendar. Still others say it is a secular holiday commemorating the arrival of Spring. Some Christians refuse to celebrate Easter because they believe it is associated with a Greek goddess of fertility rite celebrated by the Romans and adapted by the church in error. Whatever it is, it is important because it has such a wide influence throughout the world. Is that influence good? Yes, I think it is. On this day, the world is reminded that the Son of God died for the sin of the world, even if the world doesn’t quite get it.
This year, I am struck by the power of Easter — the power of the resurrection itself. The stone was rolled away from the tomb, not so that our Lord could get out — clearly solid walls could no longer contain him — but so his disciples could see in and know that he had risen from the dead. That was a big stone that had to be rolled away, and there was no man who could do it. Then, there is the power of the resurrection of Jesus within the tomb. That was the same power that moved over the chaos of the void before creation when God spoke and the worlds were created.
Think about this. At the creation, everything happened because God spoke a word. Did God speak at the resurrection? Did he, like Jesus at the raising of Lazarus, say, “Jesus, come forth?” But Jesus is the Word. John tells us that all that was created was created through him, the Word. So think about this: Jesus, the Word, spoke his resurrection into being before he died as he told his disciples that on the third day he would be raised from the dead. He had already spoken the Word of his resurrection before he died on the cross.
This Easter, our nation is faced with some mighty challenges. Our government is spending more than it has. Our leaders seem incapable of figuring out a solution. The price of gasoline is rising. Thousands of people have lost their jobs and homes. The government we have been depending on is running out of answers. People are getting worried about their future. Hope does not burn brightly in their breasts this Easter morning.
But we need not fear. Read Psalm 91:
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.
The power of God is able to deliver us from this mess we find ourselves in. Has man ever made such a mess of things that God could not untangle it? No, and man never will, because man is simply not smart enough, powerful enough, or clever enough.
Starting sometime early in the 20th Century, Europeans and Americans began to think they had found a better way of doing things. The old, traditional ways simply would no longer serve the needs of the modern 20th Century world. So, as humankind is wont to do, they decided they could build a better world than the one God built and the one He maintained for their enjoyment. They reasoned among themselves that, in their view, everything was subject to change. Therefore, change must be an immutable law of sorts that they needed to harness for their own purposes. Then they decided that absolute truth, the kind God dispenses, was an obstaccle to this new-found change principle, so they would need an alternative. Moral relativism was their solution. This led them to turn everything upside down, calling what had been passe and of no more benefit. They threw out centuries of understanding and reliance on the beneficence of their Creator and replaced it with the beneficence of the State, which, of course, they controlled.
In the words of Stan Laurel “Well, here's another nice mess you've gotten me into!” The problem is we have gotten ourselves in this mess by abandoning the truth for a lie. We have reached a point where now, finally, we are beginning to see that politicians are not to be trusted. If the polls are to be believed, the American people have become very distrustful of government and those who run it. Good! But what are they putting in the place of government as the object of their trust? Certainly not God. Church attendance is down. Religion, especially Christianity, is waning as influence over the morals of the nation.
The answer is right there in front of us. It is Easter! The resurrection power of Jesus Christ to resurrect us from our miserable attempts to become our own gods and rule our own lives. As Jeremiah writes in Jer. 10:23, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps. “ We need God to direct our path, to show us the way out of the mess we are in. We have no power in ourselves that we should be gods. We are weak compared to the power of the creation, much less the power of the one who created it.
Have you ever stood in the surf and felt the awesome power of the water as it rolls in? Have you ever seen the power of a flood as it washes away everything in its path? Or the fury of a forest fire burning out of control? Or felt the earth tremble and shake during an earthquake? Our power, even in the machines and inventions of our most capable geniuses pale into insignificance when compared to the power of nature. And, yet, mankind still keeps believing he can come up with a better plan. How arrogant!
So, this Easter, I am focusing on the Power of Easter. “He is Risen” is a powerful statement, and it is my new power source. No matter what my eyes see in the coming year, I will remember “He is Risen.” No matter how large the challenge, how deep the hole, or how hopeless life appears, I will remember “He is Risen.” No matter what the world may throw at me, I will remember “HE IS RISEN!!!”
May this Easter be a breakthrough time for all of us as we ponder and digest the Power of Easter and as we confess “He is Risen” in our life anew this Easter.
Copyright 2011. By Bill Fisher. All Rights Reserved.
Friday, April 22, 2011
By Bill Fisher
Copyright © 2011 by Bill Fisher. All rights reserved.
Today is Good Friday. Courthouses are closed in some places. Some government offices are closed. Some places of business are closed. Why? Here in the United States, a supposedly Christian nation, for those who are off work today, Good Friday has become just another day when they don’t have to go to work. Have we lost our bearings? Do we no longer revere the holy symbols of our faith?
Good Friday is the Friday before Easter Sunday. It is the day the Christian church remembers the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. Did you see the movie? Do you remember what Jesus endured on that day some 2,000 years ago? Does it matter?
If Good Friday is to be a day of remembrance, then certainly it should mean something, or else why have it on the calendar. This day comes at the end of what is called Holy Week, the week leading up to Easter Sunday. During Holy Week pastors of churches all over the world are busy conducting services leading up to the ultimate service on Easter Sunday. By the time they finish the Sunday services, they are typically exhausted. But what about their flocks? Are they exhausted from the weeks devotions? Or, are they simply exhausted from working all week and happy to have the day off on Friday, if they are among the lucky few who actually get to take the day off?
In 1957, according to the Gallup polling firm, 69% of Americans believed that religion was increasing in influence in the United States. That has changed! In Gallup’s December 9, 2010, poll report, 70% of Americans believe that religion is a declining influence in the US. Why the flip-flop? What has happened to cause the change?
Well, a lot has happened since 1957. We have gone through a cultural metamorphosis. We have moved away from the foundational truths that sustained us from the founding of the nation to a more “enlightened” way. Now, we are in a era where moral relativism rules the day. There is no longer any absolute right or wrong. All things are relative. We have morphed into a secular humanistic society in which God is no longer relevant or even welcomed to attend our institutions. We must keep God in our church buildings as much as possible, and, where possible, keep Him out of there, too.
Scripture tells us in Psalm 94:
4 They pour out arrogant words;
all the evildoers are full of boasting.
5 They crush your people, LORD;
they oppress your inheritance.
6 They slay the widow and the foreigner;
they murder the fatherless.
7 They say, “The LORD does not see;
the God of Jacob takes no notice.”
Our society today seems to believe that God is not paying attention, and if He is, He doesn’t care what we are doing. Therefore, God is not having the influence on our society that He once did. After all, God is the one who set out all those obsolete absolute rules and values for men to follow, and, of course, we 21st century geniuses have moved beyond all that. We know what is best for us. And beside that, things change, so we have to be changeable to keep up with the times. There is no place for an unchangeable God. We don’t need that any more. So they say!
So, on this Good Friday, while the world is going about its business as though nothing really happened that matters to them, Christians are following the traditions of their faith and honoring God by remembering the death of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the cornerstone the builders of our modern society have rejected while they build their monuments to themselves on the ever shifting sands of moral relativism.
The remnant of the faithful continue to provide the foundations for the world, even when the world pays no attention. The faithful, by the very act of their faithfulness, serve as a redeeming force to show the way for the rest of the world. Today, as the Christian church remembers Good Friday, the act of remembrance serves all mankind, be they atheists, Muslims, Buddhist, or any of the many other religions practiced by people trying to create their own gods. It is the Christian community that holds up the Light that lights the world, and the darkness cannot snuff it out. All Jesus did that day was take away the sin of the world. It is finished!!!
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.