Honoring Veterans The Right Way [repost]

Disclaimer: I’m a patriotic crier. I love the United States of America, and proudly call her the greatest nation in history. So whenever I watch a patriotic movie, or serve at a veteran’s funeral, or even sing the national anthem before a Cedar Springs football game, I get misty.

I believe we owe a huge debt of gratitude to our veterans. But I also believe we may not be honoring that debt in the right way.

We usually honor our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have given “their last full measure of devotion” by playing taps at their funeral, firing a 21-gun salute, or even putting a flag in the sacred ground of their burial site every year at Memorial Day.

But what about our vets who are still living? Don’t they deserve more than just an occasional visit on Veterans Day?

In many ways, we treat Veterans Day like we do Thanksgiving Day: it’s just one day on our calendar to take care of our obligations to be grateful, and then we can continue on with business-as-usual until the next year.

Wouldn’t it be more fitting for us to treat Veterans Day—like Thanksgiving Day—as a culmination of another year full of gratitude? After all, it’s very likely that we wouldn’t even be able to enjoy our business-as-usual lives if it were not for the sacrifices of our veterans.

The Apostle Paul gives us a good pattern to follow. Four times in his letters he says, “I thank God for you every time I remember you” (Romans 1:9; Philippians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philemon 4). In these times of thanks, he is remembering others who put their lives on the line for freedom, just as our veterans have done for us.

Here are at least three things we can learn from Paul’s thankfulness to apply to our gratitude for our veterans —

  1. Keep mementos of remembrance around you. Perhaps it’s an American flag, or a picture, or a Veterans Day program. Simply find something that will jog your memory frequently about the debt of gratitude we owe to our vets.
  2. Pray for our veterans. Paul often told his friends that when he was filled with thoughts of gratitude about them, he turned those thoughts into prayers for them.
  3. Turn your feelings into actions. When you see one of your mementos and say a prayer for a veteran, take it a step further. Jot a note to a vet, send an email, send flowers, or take them out to lunch. Perhaps you could invite a veteran into your home for Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter, or “adopt” a veteran on Mother’s Day or Father’s Day.

The point is this: Let’s not make honoring our veterans something we only do on November 11. Let’s remember them often, be thankful for them always, and turn those thoughts and gratitude into action all year long.

The Christian Leadership Cycle

…an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God… (2 Timothy 1:1). 

Paul tells his protegé Timothy that he didn’t choose apostleship, but that God chose him for it. The same should be true for all Christian leaders. To use a personal example: I didn’t choose to be a pastor, but God chose me for the pastorate. 

A mark of a godly leader is one who knows that God chose him to be a leader.

Knowing that, there are now choices that all leaders can—and should—make to steward their calling in a way that glorifies God. 

Paul tells Timothy that a pure conscience and a genuine faith allowed him to maximally use the gift of apostleship that God gave him. With these, Paul could use God’s gift without fear, but lovingly and with a sound mind (see vv. 3-7). 

This clear direction allows all Christian leaders to never be ashamed of their calling or of the fruits that come as a result of their leadership. This clear direction and sincere belief that I am doing what God has called me to do keeps me committed to an utter reliance on God’s supply all the way until the end (vv. 8-12). 

Finally, my commitment to effectively stewarding my God-ordained leadership is reinforced by holding fast to sound doctrine and remaining sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit (vv. 13, 14). 

It looks something like this—

This is part 41 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Wonder Of Christ

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Wonder Of Christ

     Works of art require some education in the beholder before they can be thoroughly appreciated. … Because of failures in our character and faults in our life, we are not capable of understanding all the separate beauties and the united perfection of the character of Christ, or of God, His Father. … 

     You cannot fail to notice that men, through the alienation of their natures, are continually misrepresenting God because they cannot appreciate His perfection.… Men will misunderstand Him because they are imperfect themselves and are not capable of admiring the character of God. …

     Did you ever notice, when you read the history of Jesus Christ, that you could never say He was noble for any one virtue at all? … 

     It is because of the complete perfection of Jesus Christ that we are not accustomed to say of Him that He was eminent for His zeal, or for His love, or for His courage. We say of Him that He was a perfect character, but we are not able very easily to perceive where the shadows and the lights blended, where are the meekness of Christ blended into His courage and where His loveliness blended into His boldness in denouncing sin.

     We are not able to detect the points where they meet. And I believe the more thoroughly we are sanctified, the more it will be a subject of wonder to us how it could be that virtues that seem so diverse were in so majestic a manner united into one character. It is just the same of God.

From Mercy, Omnipotence, And Justice

As we grow in our understanding of processes and techniques, our appreciation of a work of art or a symphony grows as well. We may go from “Oh, I like that” to “That is amazing” to “This is an exquisite masterpiece! 

Christians should experience the same wonder and awe of the character of God seen in Jesus and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. 

I believe the reason the angels around God’s throne are constantly calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” is because at every moment they are perceiving a new facet of His sheer awesomeness. They are calling out to one another, “Did you see that?! Holy!” And another responds back, “Yes, and look at that! Holy!” 

We are invited to join in that chorus. The apostle Paul prayed that our eyes would be opened and our vision expanded to see new depths, and heights, and widths, and lengths of the awesomeness of our God (see Ephesians 3:16-19).

Practicing And Preaching In Difficult Times

…the things which happen to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel (Philippians 1:12).

About 4-5 years before Paul wrote this, he wrote to the church in Rome: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). 

Paul said, “All things” were being used in God’s plan for his life.

If I was one of those Philippian Christians I might respond, “Even in imprisonment?! C’mon, Paul, your liberty has been taken away and you can’t travel and preach anymore—can God use even that??” 

Paul would give me an emphatic “Yes! 

A mark of a godly leader is one who practices what he preaches.

Paul said even his imprisonment was being used by God…

  • … the palace guards heard the gospel  
  • … others became bolder in their Christian testimony
  • … more people began preaching the good news about Jesus (see Philippians 1:13, 14, 18)

It’s still true today: God has a plan for your life, which He will work out even in the most difficult trials. 

How powerful it is when a leader continues to practice what he preaches even in the toughest of circumstances!

This is part 40 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

A Life Worthy Of The Gospel

Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ… (Philippians 1:27).

The apostle Paul wanted the Philippians’ living to be their preaching. Much like Francis of Assisi said years later: “Preach always; if necessary, use words.”

The big question is—what does conduct “worthy of the gospel of Christ” look like? I believe Paul identifies at least 15 characteristics in just the next 20 or so verses

  1. It is not a people-pleasing lifestyle. It is a God-honoring, Spirit-lead, Christ-glorifying lifestyle.
  2. It is steadfast, which means it perseveres even through the trials and difficulties.
  3. It is a heart and mind unified with other Christians.
  4. It is bold—“without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” 
  5. It is strengthened in Christ and it is in constant fellowship with the Holy Spirit. 
  6. It overflows with loving comfort, affection, and mercy to those around it.
  7. It humbly serves others while confidently refreshing itself in Christ.
  8. It strives to live as Jesus did, seeking always for God to be glorified.
  9. It is obedient to the conviction and direction of the Holy Spirit.
  10. It finds pleasure in doing God’s will.
  11. It doesn’t complain.
  12. It is a blameless and harmless life.
  13. It shines a light that attracts others to God’s love.
  14. It holds fast to the Word of life for the long haul.
  15. It is a rejoicing, contented lifestyle.

Heavenly Father, may it always be said of my life that it is one that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. May I always be sensitive to the nudges of the Holy Spirit to keep my life aligned in this way. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen! 

Full Of Gratitude And Prayer

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly. (Ephesians 1:16)

Paul didn’t pray just a one-and-done prayer, but every time he thought of his friends he was grateful and prayerful. 

The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

What a prayer Paul prayed! He didn’t want his friends just barely eking out an existence, but he desired for their lives to experience explosive growth and joy! 

He prayed for them to experience…

  • … the full weight of God’s glory
  • … the vast knowledge of God’s revelation wisdom 
  • … an ever-increasing understanding of just who God is
  • … an enlightened mind to grasp God’s nature
  • … an unshakable hope in God
  • … the immeasurable richness of an intimate relationship with God through Jesus Christ
  • … God’s power working both in them and through them 
  • … the rock-solid security they have in Jesus
  • … their inestimable value they were to God
  • … their indispensable place in the Body of Christ 

I like the way Eugene Peterson captures this prayer in The Message:

That’s why, when I heard of the solid trust you have in the Master Jesus and your outpouring of love to all the followers of Jesus, I couldn’t stop thanking God for you—every time I prayed, I’d think of you and give thanks. But I do more than thank. I ask—ask the God of our Master, Jesus Christ, the God of glory—to make you intelligent and discerning in knowing Him personally, your eyes focused and clear, so that you can see exactly what it is He is calling you to do, grasp the immensity of this glorious way of life He has for His followers, oh, the utter extravagance of His work in us who trust Him—endless energy, boundless strength!

Spiritual leaders should be working for and praying for the ever-growing maturity of those under their care. When they see that growth, they should burst out into grateful prayer. And if they don’t see the growth they anticipated, they should pray in faith believing that maturity will soon be visible. 

Let me say it again: The mark of a godly leader is one who is grateful and prayerful of those around him.

This is part 40 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

Uphill Or Downhill?

…And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice (Philippians 1:18).

Paul is in prison, yet he tells his friends that he is choosing to rejoice. Wow! 

Not only that, but this same imprisoned man also reminds his friends to…

  • … let their joy in Jesus overflow 
  • … conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ
  • … continue to have a servant’s attitude like Jesus
  • … don’t give in to complaining or arguing 
  • … look out for the interests of other people 
  • … rejoice in the Lord
  • … don’t rest on their laurels
  • … forget the past and press on toward the future 

John Maxwell has noted that most people have uphill dreams but downhill habits. That is definitely not a winning combination! 

Paul is making his friends aware of the possible downhill habits that may hold them back from their uphill dreams, and using himself as an example. This first step—awareness—is vital if we are going to break free of the things that are pulling us away from our God-given dreams. 

Solomon wrote, “The path of life leads UPWARD for the prudent to keep them from GOING DOWN to the realm of the dead” (Proverbs 15:24). 

Being prudent is saying, “I’m always on the lookout for what’s best.” 

None of us can go UP by ignoring our downhill habits, or even trying to coast through life. The only way to achieve our uphill dreams is to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal our downhill habits so that we can make a plan to turn those around. 

Check out these characteristics that Paul shares—

Downhill Habit              Uphill Habit
Complaining                    Rejoicing (4:4)
Selfishness                      Gentleness (4:5)
Worrying                         Praying (4:6a)
Grumbling                       Giving thanks (4:6b)
Fixing it myself                Giving it to God (4:6c)
Idle thoughts                   Thinking about my thinking (4:8)
Making my own way         Getting a mentor / partner (4:9)
Being discontent              Being content (4:11-12)
Trying to be self-made     Striving to be Christ-reliant (4:13)

A good prayer for all of us who have uphill dreams that we want to achieve—Holy Spirit, reveal to me my downhill habits. I acknowledge that I need Your help to see and break these habits. Then help me to replace them with Christ-honoring uphill habits that will allow me to achieve the purpose God has for my life.

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