Friday, July 03, 2015
Happy Birthday USA! A Fourth of July Repost
Well, the USA is celebrating yet another birthday, and although some people think that the brightness has worn off this "city on a hill," I'm not ready to read her obituary yet. I went back into the archives to find some quotes for you today. The first one comes from John Wayne. In the movie "The Alamo," Duke plays Davey Crockett, leader to the Tennessee volunteers. At one point in the movie he gives a speech about the USA and the idea of a "republic." Here is the excerpt I liked the best:
"Republic. I like the sound of the word. It means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose. Some words give you a feeling. Republic is one of those words that makes me tight in the throat - the same tightness a man gets when his baby takes his first step or his first baby shaves and makes his first sound as a man. Some words can give you a feeling that makes your heart warm. Republic is one of those words."
I also wanted to share some song lyrics with you all. Johnny Cash was a singer/songwriter whose music I heard a lot growing up. I think my dad had every Cash album ever made! At any rate, Johnny Cash has a song that I think is appropriate for this day. It is entitled "Ragged Old Flag," and here are the words:
I walked through a county courthouse square,
On a park bench an old man was sitting there.
I said, "Your old courthouse is kinda run down."
He said, "Naw, it'll do for our little town."
I said, "Your flagpole has leaned a little bit,
And that's a Ragged Old Flag you got hanging on it."
He said, "Have a seat", and I sat down.
"Is this the first time you've been to our little town?"
I said, "I think it is." He said, "I don't like to brag,
But we're kinda proud of that Ragged Old Flag.
"You see, we got a little hole in that flag there
When Washington took it across the Delaware.
And it got powder-burned the night Francis Scott Key
Sat watching it writing 'Oh Say Can You See.'
And it got a bad rip in New Orleans
With Packingham and Jackson tuggin' at its seams.
"And it almost fell at the Alamo
Beside the Texas flag, but she waved on through.
She got cut with a sword at Chancellorsville,
And she got cut again at Shiloh Hill.
There was Robert E. Lee, Beauregard, and Bragg,
And the south wind blew hard on that Ragged Old Flag.
"On Flanders Field in World War I
She got a big hole from a Bertha gun.
She turned blood red in World War II.
She hung limp and low by the time it was through.
She was in Korea and Vietnam.
She went where she was sent by her Uncle Sam.
"She waved from our ships upon the briny foam,
And now they've about quit waving her back here at home.
In her own good land she's been abused--
She's been burned, dishonored, denied, and refused.
"And the government for which she stands
Is scandalized throughout the land.
And she's getting threadbare and wearing thin,
But she's in good shape for the shape she's in.
'Cause she's been through the fire before,
And I believe she can take a whole lot more.
"So we raise her up every morning,
Take her down every night.
We don't let her touch the ground,
And we fold her up right.
On second thought I do like to brag,
'Cause I'm mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag."
I close these verses with a poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson, "A Nation's Strength."
What makes a nation’s pillars high
And its foundations strong?
What makes it mighty to defy
The foes that round it throng?
It is not gold. Its kingdoms grand
Go down in battle shock;
Its shafts are laid on sinking sand,
Not on abiding rock.
Is it the sword? Ask the red dust
Of empires passed away;
The blood has turned their stones to rust,
Their glory to decay.
And is it pride? Ah, that bright crown
Has seemed to nations sweet;
But God has struck its luster down
In ashes at his feet.
Not gold but only men can make
A people great and strong;
Men who for truth and honor’s sake
Stand fast and suffer long.
Brave men who work while others sleep,
Who dare while others fly...
They build a nation’s pillars deep
And lift them to the sky.
Happy Birthday, USA!
Thanks for reading!
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Prayer for the Hurting
We may never completely understand the pain that some face due to the wicked and violent actions of others, but we know sorrow and brokenness when we see it. We come to realize (sometimes later than we hoped) that this world is not always what we expect, and the story that we hope will end with "happily ever after" sometimes simply ends with no happy or positive resolution in this world.
If you are facing hurt or pain or some kind of situation that has broken you or caused you harm, this prayer is for you. May we all find healing for our brokenness, and may the Restorer and Healer of broken hearts hear our prayer. Here are the lyrics to the song:
I see the children on the TV, asking, "Have you seen me?"May the God of all grace grant healing and restoration to those who are broken and may the broken and resurrected life of Jesus be a balm to us. He suffered, he lives, and he suffers with us in our brokenness. May we soon realize his resurrection life and restoration as well.
More little faces every day; they don't go away,
Torn from their world and out on their own, you can hear them calling,
Taken from home unto the unknown, so lost and alone.
Hear our voice, hear our cry,
Say a prayer for the children,
Heal the pain, heal our world,
Say a prayer for the children.
Suffering hearts bear all of the pain while the world is watching,
The innocent die and nothing is changed; it's always the same.
Hear our voice, hear our cry,
Say a prayer for the hurting,
Heal the pain, heal this world,
Say a prayer for the broken.
We pray for the broken, their voices are crying,
The hurt and the pain is too much for a wounded heart to bear,
We don't hold the answers, we can't find the reasons,
My God, can you hear us? - Please let us know that you're there.
Hear our voice, hear our cry, (hear our voice, hear our cry)
Say a prayer, (for the children)
Heal the pain, heal this world, (heal this world)
Say a prayer, (say a prayer for the broken)
Hear our voice, hear our cry, (hear our voice, hear our cry)
Say a prayer, (for the children)
Heal the pain, heal this world, (heal the pain, heal this world)
Say a prayer. (for the hurting)
Heal the pain, heal this world.
If you know someone who is hurting, go to them, call on them, show them love. Don't wait. Help someone near you. The world is broken enough, act in a way that would promote healing.
Isaiah 61:1-3 speaks volumes. May the people of God be a people who announce his good news, who act in ways that resemble his Son, who embody the justice and grace of God. Even so, Lord Jesus, come.
Thank you for reading!
Saturday, May 23, 2015
Memorial Day: A Short Speech from Ronald Reagan
Speech: Remarks at Memorial Day Ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery, May 31, 1982Thank you for reading! And special thanks to all those who have served or are serving in the U.S. military. You have my respect and my deepest gratitude.. May God bless you and your families!
In America's cities and towns today, flags will be placed on graves in cemeteries; public officials will speak of the sacrifice and the valor of those whose memory we honor.
In 1863, when Abraham Lincoln dedicated a small cemetery in Pennsylvania marking a terrible collision between the armies of North and South, he noted the swift obscurity of such speeches. Well, we know now that Lincoln was wrong about that particular occasion. His remarks commemorating those who gave their "last full measure of devotion'' were long remembered. But since that moment at Gettysburg, few other such addresses have become part of our national heritage -- not because of the inadequacy of the speakers, but because of the inadequacy of words.
I have no illusions about what little I can add now to the silent testimony of those who gave their lives willingly for their country. Words are even more feeble on this Memorial Day, for the sight before us is that of a strong and good nation that stands in silence and remembers those who were loved and who, in return, loved their countrymen enough to die for them.
Yet, we must try to honor them -- not for their sakes alone, but for our own. And if words cannot repay the debt we owe these men, surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and to final sacrifice.
Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost; it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we -- in a less final, less heroic way -- be willing to give of ourselves.
It is this, beyond the controversy and the congressional debate, beyond the blizzard of budget numbers and the complexity of modern weapons systems, that motivates us in our search for security and peace. War will not come again, other young men will not have to die, if we will speak honestly of the dangers that confront us and remain strong enough to meet those dangers.
It's not just strength or courage that we need, but understanding and a measure of wisdom as well. We must understand enough about our world to see the value of our alliances. We must be wise enough about ourselves to listen to our allies, to work with them, to build and strengthen the bonds between us.
Our understanding must also extend to potential adversaries. We must strive to speak of them not belligerently, but firmly and frankly. And that's why we must never fail to note, as frequently as necessary, the wide gulf between our codes of morality. And that's why we must never hesitate to acknowledge the irrefutable difference between our view of man as master of the state and their view of man as servant of the state. Nor must we ever underestimate the seriousness of their aspirations to global expansion. The risk is the very freedom that has been so dearly won.
It is this honesty of mind that can open paths to peace, that can lead to fruitful negotiation, that can build a foundation upon which treaties between our nations can stand and last -- treaties that can someday bring about a reduction in the terrible arms of destruction, arms that threaten us with war even more terrible than those that have taken the lives of the Americans we honor today.
Our goal is peace. We can gain that peace by strengthening our alliances, by speaking candidly of the dangers before us, by assuring potential adversaries of our seriousness, by actively pursuing every chance of honest and fruitful negotiation.
It is with these goals in mind that I will depart Wednesday for Europe, and it's altogether fitting that we have this moment to reflect on the price of freedom and those who have so willingly paid it. For however important the matters of state before us this next week, they must not disturb the solemnity of this occasion. Nor must they dilute our sense of reverence and the silent gratitude we hold for those who are buried here.
The willingness of some to give their lives so that others might live never fails to evoke in us a sense of wonder and mystery. One gets that feeling here on this hallowed ground, and I have known that same poignant feeling as I looked out across the rows of white crosses and Stars of David in Europe, in the Philippines, and the military cemeteries here in our own land. Each one marks the resting place of an American hero and, in my lifetime, the heroes of World War I, the Doughboys, the GI's of World War II or Korea or Vietnam. They span several generations of young Americans, all different and yet all alike, like the markers above their resting places, all alike in a truly meaningful way.
Winston Churchill said of those he knew in World War II they seemed to be the only young men who could laugh and fight at the same time. A great general in that war called them our secret weapon, "just the best darn kids in the world.'' Each died for a cause he considered more important than his own life. Well, they didn't volunteer to die; they volunteered to defend values for which men have always been willing to die if need be, the values which make up what we call civilization. And how they must have wished, in all the ugliness that war brings, that no other generation of young men to follow would have to undergo that same experience.
As we honor their memory today, let us pledge that their lives, their sacrifices, their valor shall be justified and remembered for as long as God gives life to this nation. And let us also pledge to do our utmost to carry out what must have been their wish: that no other generation of young men will every have to share their experiences and repeat their sacrifice.
Earlier today, with the music that we have heard and that of our National Anthem -- I can't claim to know the words of all the national anthems in the world, but I don't know of any other that ends with a question and a challenge as ours does: Does that flag still wave o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave? That is what we must all ask.
Friday, May 15, 2015
A Note to Graduates: What will be your Legacy?
Ecclesiastes 7:1 A good name is better than a good ointment, And the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth.
Proverbs 22:1 A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold.
The current graduating class at Liberty was the largest ever. This class also marked the first time the PhD in Theology and Apologetics graduated 8 students at one time! What a proud moment for me as a professor!
At Liberty's graduation, I watched several students and good friends walk across the stage to receive their degrees and launch into their ministries and vocations. This momentous occasion reminded me of beginnings and endings, but more importantly it made me think of the idea of "legacy" and the kind of impact an individual life might have on people. In the next few paragraphs I'll try to explain.
I'm not sure how much we think of the impact of our lives. As I watched the proud graduates walk the stage, I couldn't help but think about what I may hear about these people in the future. Some of them have already made an impact, some of them have a future impact to make. Most of them have no idea what the end of their lives will be, they only have dreams and hopes and (perhaps) plans.
Some of the students who walked across the stage Saturday have already begun their legacy. Many of them left homes and nice jobs to pursue a degree at the seminary. They said "no" to "success" as the world measures it so that they would have the opportunity to labor for God. Some will labor in obscurity, some will never have "the largest church in America," some will never make the "big money," or write the most impressive "how to" book for other pastors. I know their lives, their hearts, and I know that their legacy will be greater than any can imagine.
I once posted a note about "James the Less," and his figure seems fitting here. He was one of the twelve chosen by Jesus, but even church history and tradition have trouble determining who he was. Yet, he was one of the original twelve disciples, one of the eyewitnesses to Jesus' life, ministry, death, and resurrection. Not as famous as James the son of Zebedee, this James nonetheless left enough of an imprint on history to be regarded as one of those individuals who "turned the world upside down" with his life and preaching.
We no doubt graduated a lot of these individuals on Saturday--folks we may have a hard time identifying who will nonetheless make a great impression on many they will bring to Christ or love in God's name. "Less" may describe the knowledge of them, but it will not define their impact on those to whom they minister and with whom they work. I bet there were people in the first century who didn't think of James as "the Less" because of what God did through him. Nonetheless, James built a legacy, and like him, many of these graduating students are building a legacy. We may not know their names, but God does. And with his help they are building quite a legacy.
Let me offer a moment of transparency here: I pray for my students. Some semesters I pray a LOT! One of the most frequent prayers I offer on their behalf runs something like this: "Lord, help these students run further and accomplish more than any of their professors. May their spiritual progress move the church closer to her beloved Savior, Jesus Christ, and may their growth go beyond what I have experienced."
I pray it, but I wonder if I really mean it sometimes. I look at students who graduated and who have definitely progressed down the road of godliness in ways I did not imagine. I see their accomplishments, and I must admit that I am sometimes envious. Some of my students are accomplishing the very things for which I prayed. I am proud of them, and sometimes I envy them. I remember my own seminary graduation well--the dean mispronounced my name, my family was there to support me, and I knew that I was going to be used by God to "set the world on fire" for Jesus. I promptly went to work in a bookstore.
Yes, a bookstore . . .
Granted, it WAS a Christian bookstore, but I digress.
All those dreams and plans of becoming this pastor or that professor suddenly took a back seat to paying the bills. My legacy wasn't quite what I expected.
Nonetheless, I wouldn't trade that experience. Now I pray for students who head out to fulfill God's call on their lives. I wonder what stories I'll hear in the future. No doubt there will be stories of churches served, perhaps more degrees earned, books written, mountains claimed, families started, etc. No doubt there will be stories about changes made in the lives of others because of the love of Christ poured out in the lives of these men and women.
I want to tell you all a secret--some of you are heroes to me. I see what you have already accomplished, I see the potential, and I have so much hope and joy for you.
Yes, I know things don't reflect that at the moment. In fact, for some of you it is simply time to take a break and take a breather. Others are already launching into the next adventure. I can't wait to hear the stories, but I want to leave you with some final questions to ask as you pursue these things.
What kind of legacy are you leaving? Where will your footprints lead others if they follow you closely? Like Paul, can you encourage others to imitate you as you imitate Christ? Will your love for Christ be obvious? Is your love for others real and clear?
God has blessed me to walk with giants (and some giants in training), and I have to admit that I am often overwhelmed by their collective witness. I am reminded of a conversation I had with Dr. William L. Lane. I admitted to him that I didn't think I could live up to his example of a godly life and scholarship, and he said to me, "Never covet another person's gift, and never despise your own." He went on to remind me that God had not called me to be identical to Dr. Lane or to anyone else. God had called me to use my unique gifts and abilities for his glory. I do not have to live up to the stories of these giants, I simply need to live the legacy God has given me.
No matter how obscure or unrecognized or inconsequential a life may seem, if it is lived for God it will have a legacy. What kind of legacy are we leaving the next generation? I have no doubt that many of you will leave a legacy that will cause your professor to be a bit envious . . . and I look forward to hearing every marvelous part of those stories! I am so proud of you all, and I will keep praying.
Thanks to all of the men and women who left their footprints in my heart and life!
Thank you for reading!
Thursday, April 30, 2015
What are We Building? Will our Towers Stand? Genesis 11:1-9
Thanks for reading!