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.

6 Quotes From “Light & Truth—The Lesser Epistles”

Light & Truth The Lesser EpistlesHoratius Bonar’s insights on the Scriptures are amazing! So far I’ve read and reviewed three of the four commentaries he has prepared on the New Testament (you can read those reviews here, here and here). These are a few quotes from the third book on the epistles Galatians through Jude. Any reference in brackets is the passage from the Bible on which Bonar is commenting.

“It is a busy, lighthearted, laughing, pleasure-seeking world. But sin is here, and pain is here, and broken hearts are here, and weeping is here, and death is here, and the grave is here. Oh! in spite of all its laughter and vanity, it is an evil world. And the great proof of its evil is, that it cost the death of the Son of God to deliver you from it. … Give yourselves to Him Who came to deliver you from it, and Who stretches out His hands to you all day long, asking you to allow Him to deliver you. He yearns over you; and with sincere earnestness proffers to you His love, His friendship, His great salvation. Consent, O man, consent! His desire is to bless, and not to curse; to save, and not to destroy.” [Galatians 1:4]

“There never have been two gospels. There is not an Old Testament gospel and a New Testament Gospel. There is not one gospel for the Jew, and another for the Gentile, one gospel for the first century, and another for the nineteenth. It is but one gospel, as there is but one Cross and one Savior. Many ages, but one gospel; many sinners, but one gospel; many prophets and apostles, but one gospel. As our earth has had but one sun, so it has had but one gospel. Nor does it need more; that one is sufficient.” [Galatians 1:6-9]

“As the earth without rain or sunshine turns to barrenness, so is it with the Church or soul without the Spirit. … The age thinks it can do without the Spirit. Let the Church watch against this blasphemy. Let her keep hold of the Lord’s promise, the promise of the Father. Let her prize the gift; long for more of it. Let every saint seek more of it. Let our cry be continually: More of the Holy Spirit; more of His fullness; more of His gifts and graces!”

“Strength for the race is needed, hourly strength, superhuman strength; for it is no earthly race, but something lofty, supernatural, divine. Forgetting the supernatural source of strength, we betake ourselves to the internal or the simply external. And so we weary. For only God can supply the power which keeps us running. By Him only shall we run, and not be weary.” [Galatians 5:7]

“‘To Him who is able’—He is the Mighty One, the mighty God, the Lord God Almighty. Hear how this word ‘able’ is used. ‘He is able to subdue all things unto Himself’ (Philippians 3:21). ‘He is able to help them that are tempted’ (Hebrews 2:18). ‘He is able to save to the uttermost’ (Hebrews 7: 25). ‘He is able to keep us from falling’ (Jude 24). It is with the mighty God that we have to do; mightier than ourselves or our foes; mightier than earth or hell; omnipotent.” [Ephesians 3:20]

“Are you expecting the Lord? Are you living in this expectation? Is it a deep-seated, abiding, cherished hope? Is it a hope that tells upon your character, your life, your daily actings in public or private, your opinions, your whole man? Does it quicken you? Does it purify you? Does it keep you separate from the world? Does it keep you calm in the midst of earth’s most exciting events, or most untoward changes? Does it give you a new view of history as well as prophecy? … Let your expectation of the Lord’s coming be a calm and healthy one; not one that excites, but one that tranquilizes; not one that unfits for duty, but one that nerves you more firmly for it; not one that paralyzes exertion, but one that invigorates you for it; not one that makes you indifferent to present duty, but one that makes you doubly in earnest about everything that your hand findeth to do; not one that stops liberality, and prayer, and work, but one that increases all these a hundred fold; not one that dwells exclusively on the future’s dark side—the judgments that are at hand—but one that realizes the glory and the joy of Messiah’s approaching victory and triumphant reign.” [Philippians 3:20]

Still Learning

I live by the axiom, “If you’re through learning, you’re through.” So I try to learn something new every day.

I just finished a class called New Testament Survey: a quick overview of the 27 books that compromise the New Testament of the Bible. Here’s a couple of interesting factoids I picked up from my studies:

  • The earliest-written book was James. Interesting, because at one point James thought Jesus (his half-brother) was nuts.
  • Only Matthew uses the term kingdom of heaven; all of the other writers use kingdom of God.
  • Mark uses the word immediately more times than anyone else. Perhaps because his source (Peter) was always doing things so quickly… sort of a ready, FIRE!, aim kinda guy.
  • Luke wrote what is called “the global gospel” for everyone, so he included 45 teachings/events that no one else records.
  • John doesn’t record any of Jesus’ parables.
  • John uses the word believe nearly 100 times— way more than any other writer.
  • Luke talks about the Holy Spirit nearly 60 times in the 28 chapters of Acts.
  • Romans is the longest of Paul’s epistles with 7101 words; Philemon is the shortest with just 355 words.
  • With the exception of the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus) Paul’s letters are arranged in the Bible from longest to shortest.
  • In 1 & 2 Thessalonians (only 136 verses) Paul refers to God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, or a combination thereof more than 150 times.
  • Paul gives Timothy seven word pictures to describe the kind of pastor he should be: son, soldier, athlete, farmer, workman, instrument, and servant.
  • Hebrews is called “the book of better things” so better is used 13 times. This word is used only six times in the remaining 26 books of the New Testament.
  • James wrote 108 verses but issues 50+ direct commands.
  • In John’s three short epistles he uses the word know 33 times, and the word dear ten times.

Keep on learning! There’s a lot of good stuff out there. What have you learned lately?

Fill ’Er Up!

I sort of remember the days of full-service gas stations. My Dad would drive in and say, “Fill ‘er up,” and the gas station attendant would jump into action. Filling up the gas tank, cleaning the windshield, checking the oil level, and even checking the air pressure in the tires.

But, alas, those days of full service seem to be long gone, replaced by highly-efficient, less-personal self-serve stations. And I’m not necessarily talking just about gasoline stations either.

All of our lives seem to have become more efficient and less personal. We are a more do-it-yourself, leverage-technology kind of society today. And I wonder if the result is that many people aren’t getting filled up like they used to.

There is a well-known Bible story in 2 Kings 4. A widow is facing what would amount to foreclosure today. Except this foreclosure was on her sons. Her husband, a God-fearing man, had died and left her with debts she could not pay. The practice in that society was for her sons to be “sold” to pay off the debts. Her sons would have to work all day long for someone else, and whatever money they would have earned for their labors would go to the creditors.

In her desperation, the widow turned to the prophet Elisha. He asked her if she had anything of value in her house, and she replied, “Just a little oil. But not enough to pay off my debts.” The counsel Elisha gave her is applicable for our self-serve society today—

Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few” (v. 3).

Elisha asked the woman and her family to humble themselves—ask all your neighbors. Sometimes this is one of our biggest hindrances: pride which keeps us from admitting we have a need. And this was no small task because she had to ask ALL her neighbors to, “Fill ‘er up!”

Elisha asked them to be persistent—don’t ask for just a few. Not just a jar here and there, but ask for every available jar to, “Fill ‘er up!”

This story shouldn’t just apply to times of desperation in our lives. Because maybe if we worked on being around our neighbors and asking what needs they have, and sharing our needs as well, maybe we wouldn’t get into such desperate situations.

In this story in 2 Kings, the oil stopped flowing only after every available jar had been filled. If I want God to continue to pour His oil of blessing into my life, He has to have room in which to pour. That means that I need to be pouring into others’ lives daily. Listen to the blessings when we, “Fill ‘er up!”—

I want you to know how delighted I am to have Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus here with me. They partially make up for your absence! They’ve refreshed me by keeping me in touch with you. (1 Corinthians 16:17-18, The Message)

In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you.(2 Corinthians 7:13, New International Version)

God bless Onesiphorus and his family! Many’s the time I’ve been refreshed in that house. And he wasn’t embarrassed a bit that I was in jail. The first thing he did when he got to Rome was look me up. May God on the Last Day treat him as well as he treated me. (2 Timothy 1:16-18, The Message)

Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people. (Philemon 7, New Living Translation)

Get around other “full” people and let them fill you up.

Seek out “empty” people and pour abundantly into them.

The more you pour out into others, the more room there is for God to pour into you.

God is always pleased when our lifestyle is one of “Fill ‘er up!”

Puppy Love

Three weeks ago I had come to the end of a particularly rough week, so when I got home I told my family I was declaring the next day to be “National Be Kind To Craig Owens Day.” I figured that was one way to get some love!

That day was so wonderful I decided to extend NBKTCO Day through the weekend, and I talked Betsy into letting us buy a puppy. And so Grace became a part of our family.

Since I didn’t want to leave her home alone, I started bringing Grace with me to my office. While I’ve been trying to potty train her, she has been training me in a few areas too. Here are some of the lessons I’m rediscovering—

  • Always greet people warmly. Even if they only left the room a couple of minutes ago. It always makes people smile when they are greeted so warmly.
  • Treat everyone like a friend. It doesn’t matter if they are the one who feeds you or a perfect stranger, everyone deserves to be treated like they are the nicest person alive.
  • Genuine puppy “kisses” makes anyone’s day!

The Apostle Paul had a friend like Grace—someone always so welcoming and encouraging to others. Paul wrote to Philemon, “Friend, you have no idea how good your love makes me feel, doubly so when I see your hospitality to fellow believers.” (Philemon 1:7, The Message).

Thanks, Grace, for the lessons. I’m learning how to show some puppy love to everyone.

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