As Memorial Day approaches, it is a good time to stop and give thanks to the Lord for the amazing freedoms we have in America. But as we celebrate our nation's freedoms and greatness this Memorial Day weekend, America is also a nation that still needs to be defended. That is true because our nation is facing its greatest challenges to maintain our freedoms from within. It seems there are many forces at work today that want to reshape or fundamentally transform America into a different type of nation that has little in common with the Constitutional Republic founded on July 4, 1776. And while much could be said about all of those forces within our nation, let it suffice to say that all of them are connected to having America sacrifice for them, not the other way around. Selfishness is truly America's greatest battle. Few seem to remember President Kennedy's Inaugural address in 1961 that said in these famous words, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Those words have never rung so true as today. America seems to be lost in a growing sea of selfishness and entitlement that it is threatening the future of the Republic as we have come to know and love it.
Thankfully, it wasn't always that way. Just one generation earlier there was a group of people that wanted little if anything from America. Their goal was to give something to this nation. Their lives were shaped by the Great Depression and World War II and they were primarily givers not takers. They were used to hard work and didn't tend to think others owed them anything. They wanted to work. They didn't want someone to take care of them. Many of them had immigrant parents and were just glad to be here in the "land of the free and the home of the brave". Many of their parents and grandparents had come from Europe and around the world to find a new beginning, a chance to be something else, a chance to improve their lives and that of their children. This generation has been called the Greatest Generation by many today because virtually everything that we have has come to us as a result of their lives and sacrifices.
It is hard to believe our national lockdown has been going on for only a few weeks. It seems like months! How about you? How many of us can remember the innocence of Valentine's Day when things seemed "normal" and we were going about everyday life buying flowers and cards for loved ones. Since then, it is not just the lockdown that has made this a difficult time. The really difficult part of this time has been watching what has been happening to our wonderful nation. At the heart of that concern is being shocked by a variety of extreme measures being taken against American citizens during the pandemic. These measures range from being fined, arrested and even jailed for just taking a walk, simply going to dinner with a family member, trying to work in some way to feed your family or listening to a sermon at a local church in your car. The list is long and growing. Such government actions have raised serious questions about whether we are even living in America anymore. Sadly, all these unfolding measures, designed to keep us "safe", are more like something from an emerging totalitarian state we might have read about in high school or seen in an old war movie about Nazi Germany. Surely none of this can be happening in the "land of the free and the home of the brave", as the Star-Spangled Banner says so wonderfully at its close?
Now the most shocking thing about what is happening to America is that every single action being taken by a variety of government leaders is seen by them as "good", "necessary" and "essential" to keeping us "safe". Such actions seemingly cannot be questioned because they are for the public good, right? And while the Constitution and Bill of Rights are under assault like never before, everyone making these draconian decisions sees themselves as faithful servants protecting and caring for the public. Virtually all these leaders apparently remain convinced of their mission from God, the government or themselves to "save us" from ourselves.
One of the most fascinating things going on during our current pandemic is the idea that the government's job is to keep people "safe". Somehow this idea of being "safe" has literally taken over our culture as our number one value in just a matter of weeks. In the "good old days" of about 2 months ago, people would say to each other as they parted, "Have a good day!" Currently people are saying to one another "stay safe". Can you imagine being able to change how the world interacts in such a basic way? This concern about being "safe" has not just become a new parting phrase between people, but a new cultural obsession that is beginning to define how we see our lives. Whereas we used to be enjoying our lives, our new focus is just being "safe".
Now there is nothing wrong with being "safe" and there is nothing wrong with making safety a priority in life, because if we are not safe we won't be able to enjoy life. But an important question is begging to be answered that few want to answer. That question is this: Are there any other things in life that are more important than "staying safe"? If keeping people "safe" is the main virtue of life, then there isn't anything we shouldn't be willing to make sure that happens, even if those measures are extreme. As an example, this goal of keeping us "safe" has become such a mission for some of our leaders that they have decided to do it without the support of the rule of law under the Constitution. Have you noticed? As a result, we are beginning to see people's fundamental rights being denied for the sake of keeping people "safe". Right now, millions of people are under house arrest, confined to their homes, others are being fined and a few have even been shot in certain areas of the world so they can be kept "safe" by their governments. And let it be said that none of these actions are ever being taken by anyone who doesn't think they are doing "good" for the world.
If someone was to ask you what you thought was the greatest experience in life, what would you say? There might be 100 possible answers to that question. But if we really stop and think about it, there can only really be one right answer for the Christian. That answer would be to meet the Lord Jesus Christ in person, face-to-face, and see His loving face looking at ours. The idea that that is going to happen is simply amazing and beyond words. To have the Lord and God of this world looking at us with His own face, as expressed through the Lord Jesus, is just a wonderful thought that cannot be surpassed by anything else we might imagine or dream about in life.
What is remarkable about this thought is that our whole life has been a rehearsal for that exact event from the day we were born. You see, the first loving face we ever saw was that of our mother. Mom had just gone through an agonizing labor and delivery for us so that we could enter the world. When we first saw our mothers, it was probably a little fuzzy exactly who we were looking at. That discovery and growing relationship would take some time...perhaps years until we bought her flowers and told her we loved her.
It is no understatement to say America and the world are living at a unique moment of history, perhaps never to be repeated. Right now, the world is on a global "lockdown" as we attempt to escape the global COVID-19 pandemic. And while many Americans are not working right now, such a situation cannot go on in its present form forever and everyone knows it. The reason for that is simple; a society cannot survive without people working to provide for their basic needs and so that we can generate a tax base to support the government and run our nation. But what if those presuppositions are wrong or seen very differently by people? What if people decided that they didn't really want to work as much anymore? What if people decided to just let the government take over most things and support their lives so everyone could be kept safe from the pandemic?
It might shock people to know that such a system has already been underway in America for a long time now and is increasing rapidly by the day. We call that system socialism and it has been gaining momentum in our nation in dramatic ways as of late. Have you noticed? No, if we are honest, more and more Americans are falling under the spell of socialism each year, especially the young. As a result, increasing numbers of people and politicians are in NO hurry to go back to work, especially if working might get in the way of the government taking care of us and keeping us safe during the pandemic.
What a wonderful thing to take a break from the chaos and focus on the global pandemic to look at a much better storyline, the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and His future for us. While much of our world will be looking at how many have died from the coronavirus this weekend, the Lord's people will be singularly focused on the One that rose from the dead and lives forevermore. Sadly, the only reason the coronavirus has panicked the world is because people don't have an antidote to death. That antidote is not found in a new vaccine or anything else but faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus on the cross for them. People today are deathly afraid of being infected with this unknown virus, but the reality is that sin is a much worse infection. Right now, the death rate for all of us with or without the virus is a 100%. Just today, for example, about 150,000 people will die from just living in this world, no matter how healthy they might be. If only the world could begin to look for an everlasting cure to death itself we would be in a very different place tonight. It is hard to imagine a world like that since we are so conditioned to death being "normal" instead of an enemy of God. Once the death cure is found in the simple Gospel message, fear is gone, and faith begins to fill our lives forever.
If there is one thing we should all be thinking about on this resurrection weekend, it is not only the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ rose from the dead, but that the entire world is not only going to be resurrected, but completely and entirely restored. That thought is so amazing that it seems like "science fiction" to most. Instead of this coming resurrection and glorious restoration of the world, most people believe we are just left to global warming, deadly pandemics, earthquakes, hurricanes and a host of other disasters waiting to happen. And if such things are the best the world has to offer us, no wonder people are panicking. I would panic too! How about you? Just imagine yourself with nothing to hope for except a world underwater or burning up from global climate change with millions dead from uncontrolled pandemics and starvation. Not a very happy place to live. Sadly, that is where many people are today, and the media does nothing to change that focus or future, rather they make it worse with their 24/7 cycle of gloom and doom.
This will be the first Easter/Firstfruits season in world history where most Christians are not going to be in church for services due to the global pandemic. Wow, what a thought! Perhaps that thought gives perspective as to what is underway in our world today. We are living in dramatic times like no other...but we all know that.
Right now, many of us are staying home and trying to comply with our government's restrictions wherever we live. If you're like me, you have probably listened to a lot of media...maybe too much! It is very hard to know what is really happening out there based on a variety of media reports. I think the greatest area of fear and confusion comes from the wide range of possible statistics as to what is going to happen being given out by a variety of people who claim to be "experts". One of the statistics that has made me think twice is the idea that this pandemic might kill over 2,200,000 Americans. However, at the same time, people sharing that grim statistic say it may also be less than 100,000. What a difference! How do we know what to believe? What is true? On the one hand, we might not be able to handle the body count and on the other hand the numbers would be a little more than a bad flu season. It might shock people to realize there were 646,000 deaths from the flu in the world last year and nothing was said. As of today, there are only 42,261 deaths from the coronavirus around the world, with 3,900 deaths here in America. But again, whatever the numbers, what do such statistics really tell us about what is really going on or the future of this pandemic?
Lately it has been a little tough to enjoy the simple pleasures of life when some people are telling us the world is about to end. Have you noticed? Surely the kind of panic and fear that has seized our nation with the coronavirus pandemic can be overwhelming to the average person. Instead of enjoying the Lord, our families and the blessings of each day it seems many of us are starting to tune into the world's network of panic, fear and chaos that is shouting 24/7. When we follow that network we are told about every hour how many people have died of the virus and how our family might be next. Here in Michigan tonight we are being ordered by our governor to stay at home with few exceptions. That means about the only time people are getting out is to go to the grocery store where we can't miss all the empty toilet paper aisles among a few others. So even grocery shopping can produce panic in us if we are not careful.
So, to change the pace of things my wife and I like to go on long walks and try to see what the Lord has for us. Sometimes such walks can be very redemptive because the Lord always has a sermon for us if we are watching and listening. Today was such a day. Thankfully, the signs of spring are all over our neighborhood. One of my favorite sites was the large number of robins we saw getting ready to start their spring nesting season. Robins are like a springtime clock here in Michigan. When you see robins, you know spring has arrived. The one thing I noticed about the robins we saw is that none of them looked anxious. Not one single robin knew about the coronavirus. They didn't care. They didn't know the stock market has fallen or that the nation is greatly divided politically and spiritually. No, as a matter of fact, the robins all looked like themselves. They were just robins.
By now, most of us are watching and perhaps experiencing the panic over the coronavirus that is taking control of our world. Nations are in turmoil, the entire nation of Italy is quarantined, no one can enter Israel without being quarantined for 14 days, stock markets are hanging in the balance, people are fighting over toilet paper and basic supplies for life and the media is preparing us for the end of the world as we know it. If you look at the news right now, it seems like almost every story is about this flu-like virus that some say may be a sign of the end of life on planet earth. Most of us have never seen such a panic going on and according to some the worst is yet to come.
Now if we step back for a moment and take a deep breath, we might begin to understand that the panic under way is much more about how things are being presented to us and a lot less about the reality behind them. Very few people are discussing the facts surrounding this virus and its real effects on people. So it turns out the media is not just reporting this news but making the news. The more people panic the more they panic others in a self fulfilling way. Panic creates panic and right now there is no end in sight. But, if we are honest, we simply don't really know what is fully going on. Right now, we can't easily understand the facts of the matter without the media's polarization of this issue. That will take some time, but not too many people have any interest in doing that because of a variety of hidden agendas.
Without question the greatest trend going on in the American political landscape today is the rapidly growing idea that we can create a heaven on earth without God. The greatest spokesman for this rapidly advancing idea is Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont. Recent primary election results from Nevada, and around the nation, have turned the self-proclaimed "socialist' Senator from Vermont into a political "rock star". Enthusiastic crowds fill his political meetings like they are at an Elvis concert. If you watch the faces and cheers for Senator Sander's coming from his supporters one must wonder why people are so excited. Have we all missed something? Is it a new drug or way to get high? What explains this growing political euphoria that seems to be spreading like wildfire and may be leading us one day toward a new view of America we have never seen before?
Now the answer to all these questions is somehow rooted in the basic idea that no human being can live without hope. The Lord has hardwired all of us to look for hope in our lives and everyone is looking for it one way or another. And so it turns out that Senator Sanders has tapped into people's need for hope by presenting himself as an American, political "savior", a person who can help fulfill that longing for hope inside us. The Senator has promised to create a sort of heaven on earth for his followers with his visionary plan to change America into a socialistic paradise. So, it seems that anyone who can create such powerful feelings in their audience is not only going to be very popular but may even be President one day. For now, that someone appears to be Senator Sanders, a possible savior for millions of people.
Everything that has ever been made was made for a specific purpose. Can you think of one thing in your life that you own that doesn't have a purpose? We own cars to get around, work and shop. We have kitchens because we need to eat. We have beds because we need to sleep. We buy tools because we need to make and fix things. We have lights so we can see in the dark. Everything in our lives and homes has a clear purpose or we wouldn't have it. And yet, the one thing that seemingly has no clear purpose or function in life is human beings. So, if you ask people what their purpose or function in life is all about few have any clear and meaningful answer to give you. If you doubt that just try asking someone sometime about this issue and be ready to be amazed at the lack of answers you will receive.
How wonderful then that the Lord has a simple and easy answer to the question of our specific function and purpose in life. You see the Lord designed human beings for the singular purpose of receiving and giving love. That's it! The Lord just wants us to enjoy His love and share it with others because God is love (I John 4:8). This ability and need to share love is the foundation of the Bible and the Lord's purposes in the world today and forever. It is that foundation of love that is behind the Lord Jesus Christ telling us about God's greatest commandments for our lives in Matthew 22:36-40 where we hear,
One of the goals of the Carlson Report is to help our readers develop a better Biblical discernment and to understand the times we are living in. Discernment is often the missing ingredient in our churches and electorate today. In general, people have little idea of what is happening. Our thinking has become shallow and confused by a steady flood of media and the outright manipulation of the truth. Many of our churches, and Christian leaders, do not even have a basic Christian worldview regarding fundamental Christian doctrine. Instead, our churches and leaders are adrift in a media world that is largely influenced by partisan politics. Sadly, such confusion rarely allows us to sort out these challenges and make a difference for the Lord at such a time as this.
Just recently most of us probably saw the image of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, tear up a copy of President Trump's State of the Union speech, while standing behind him before millions of people. Few things in American political history have so clearly demonstrated the rancor, rage and alienation going on in our nation at the present time. These deep divisions in our nation are obvious to just about everyone that is not living in a cave. Our political divisions have spilled over to our families, schools and workplaces. It seems there are no "safe spaces" where you can go without the media bringing this political war into our daily lives.
As we enter a new year, it is interesting to note that every New Year is really a repeat of the previous year....as least on a cosmological basis. That is, every year is still 365 days and has four seasons of winter, spring, summer and fall. So in a way, 2020 is an exact repeat of 2019. The reason this is so is because the Lord's plan to change the world for His glory never changes. The only plan the Lord has ever had is to make us like the Lord Jesus Christ, to conform us to His image. The Lord tells us that in Romans 8:28-29 where we hear,
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. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
Each New Year is a reminder that the cycle of the last year repeats as it unfolds the cosmological story of the death (winter) and resurrection (spring) of our Lord. So each New Year is a repeating reminder that the concept of newness is rooted in what our Lord has done for us and how His life is the template of change as we die to our old life and come alive or resurrect to a new life in Christ.
After pastoring for over 35 years, I have come to the realization that few people really understand the heart of God toward this world and its people. That even includes many in the Christian church. So many people think God is mad at them or getting ready to judge them. So many people are waiting for something bad to happen to them. So many people wonder if this thing called "life" is going to end well. So many people think God wants something from them they are never sure they can give. So many people have no assurance they will ever be in heaven. The list is very long. I have seen all these attitudes, feelings and questions among hundreds of people throughout my pastoral calling. People just lack assurance and confidence on the basic issues of knowing and understanding the heart of the Lord toward them. All these issues and concerns could be answered if people really had a deeper understanding of the Christmas message. That is my hope with this edition of the Carlson Report for you, your family and friends. Share this truth with someone you love this Christmas. That would be the best Christmas gift you could give, long after that new outfit or special gift wears out.
If you want to know something about God Almighty, a good place to start is to ask what God was doing before Genesis 1 and the creation story. In other words what was God doing before we got into the storyline? Was God bored before we arrived? Did God need something to do to be "happy?" No, in eternity past, God was just being God and that was enough. Nothing more was needed. God didn't need anything other than Himself to be content and have a great life. Back then God was love. God was peace. God was joy. Nothing has ever changed. God was having a glorious time being God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Blessed Trinity was an everlasting Family of glory that lived life to the full in a way that is beyond what any of us could imagine.
Right now, most of us are looking forward to a blessed Christmas holiday with family and friends in a couple of weeks. Christmas is always a season of wonder that allows us to publicly celebrate the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, Savior of the world. Christmas reminds us that the Lord of Heaven and Earth had an amazing plan to enter this fallen world as a human being, our Emmanuel, to save and redeem us from our sin and give us life eternal. Christmas has historically been a season, whatever our beliefs, to express kindness and love toward all and celebrates a little good will toward our fellow humans. Christmas has been a special season to work a little less, love a little more, sing some Christmas carols, drink some hot cocoa and take some time to celebrate the gift of life the Lord has given us and enjoy it with everyone the Lord sends our way.
However, this year's Christmas season is going to be a very different one. It appears our President is possibly going to be impeached by our Congress in just a few days. It would only be the 3rd time in the American history that it has happened following the impeachment of Presidents Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Somehow impeaching the President at Christmas has left us in a troubling place in what is a normally supposed to be a joyful time. So it seems right now that the Grinch may be trying to steal Christmas, Ebenezer Scrooge is saying "Bah Humbug" and King Herod from the birth narrative of our Lord in Matthew 2 is attacking the children in Bethlehem again.
As our Thanksgiving Holiday is celebrated this coming Thursday, November 28, we pause for a moment to reflect on the incredible meaning behind every "Thank You" that has ever been said. It turns out that a "Thank You" is one of the great witnesses to the Lord and the Gospel message that could be given. And the interesting thing about saying "Thank You" is that we all say it to someone, whatever we believe. So if you follow the real source and meaning behind every "Thank You" you end up in the loving arms of the Lord. Let's take a brief look at a typical "Thank You" in this week of Thanksgiving and see how it literally opens the door to see the Lord, Heaven and His love for the world.
You see, the Lord has hard wired Himself into our lives in a way that is almost unseen or unknown by people through the simple words "Thank You". As an example, if a person opens the door for us at a typical store or restaurant most of us would say, "Thank you!" We thank them because they didn't have to do it for us. We are wired to say something in response. Honestly, it's hard not to say something and just walk by and give the person holding the door a "cold shoulder". Lots of people don't open doors for others, so it makes those who do all the more special. You might say that opening the door for someone is an expression of grace. It is an underserved, gracious gift that people are not required to do. In addition, it is also a real joy to open that door for someone else. If we stop and think about it, it may even be a greater blessing to open the door for others than have it opened for us.
One of the most amazing events in human history was when 3 Americans landed on the Moon on July 20, 1969 as part of the Apollo 11 mission. This weekend, we have come to the 50th anniversary of that historic event and there are many stories and events scheduled to help us look back and remember. Who could ever forget Neil Armstrong's incredible statement as he stepped onto the Moon, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind"? I remember well watching the TV with my family as a young teenager and being amazed at what was going on. Most of us looked at that event with awe and started to believe that just about anything could be accomplished with the right plan and determination. In some ways, July 20, 1969 was a watershed moment for American culture and technology like no other before or since.
And yet, 50 years later it is simply amazing to realize that millions of people in this nation and around the world don't even believe the moon landings ever happened. For some it was a total fake, staged for public consumption and political purposes. In a recent poll done by PC Magazine, that reflect similar polls, it was found that 10% of the American public do not believe the moon landing happened at all. Even more incredible is that this unbelief reflects about 18% of all those between the ages of 18-34. And so as many are looking back on this great event, it seems that more than a few are left thinking it was all a lie.
On this 4th of July weekend, we look back, give thanks and remember that no nation in history has a past more concerned and connected to bringing freedom to people than America. From the beginning of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, our founders saw freedom as a God given right that should be defended,
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
This focus on freedom and liberty has defined the American spirit and led our nation to have a profound influence on world history. The love for freedom has led Americans to defend it around the world in battles that have cost the lives of untold thousands in a series of wars. That love for freedom helped create the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor that welcomed millions of freedom-loving people from around the world. That same love for freedom led the architects of American democracy to place the Statue of Freedom on top of our Capital Dome in Washington as a reminder that our laws and government was committed to maintaining and protecting freedom for our nation.
But in the last few years our nation has exhibited signs that many do not understanding what freedom is all about. This conflict over defining and applying freedom to our lives has created a moral civil war between right and wrong, good and evil that is growing each year. Can you see it? Issues like abortion and what defines marriage have divided our nation in ways few thought possible just a few years ago. So this 4th of July is a good time to look back and ask some hard questions about the meaning and definition of freedom and not only what our founders had in mind, but more importantly how freedom is understood by the Lord and how that freedom is to be lived out in our lives.
During the last two nights the American public had the opportunity to watch the Democratic Presidential Debates. The current debates signal the beginning of a long battle to determine who will be the next President. One of the issues in the debates and that is being replayed over and over in our public discourse is the issue of race. There are few conversations today where the charge and accusation of racism is not being made by someone against someone else. For many, the issues surrounding racism have grown weary and divisive, mainly because there seems to be no end in sight or way to resolve the issue in a satisfying way that will allow our divided nation to move forward.
The most important thing that could be said about issues surrounding race and racism is that it is a spiritual issue, not a political one. Sadly, many of the people that talk the most about racism seem to have little interest in really solving the problem. For them, divisive racial issues create power over others and allow them to control public discourse for their political advantage. The real hope that we all should be praying for is that all our leaders, political and otherwise, would begin to understand that unless there is a deeper understanding and discussion of race taking place we will never find a way to come together.
More time and money has been spent by Americans trying to find a beautiful life than just about any other culture in history. At one time the ancient Greeks chased this notion of beauty, but their search would be tepid in comparison to our beauty seeking world. Everywhere you look there seems to be an obsession that is focused on the pursuit of the beautiful. It is virtually a part of everything we see in magazines, advertising, stores, clothing, homes, and movies. Everything we see seems to have been designed with this beautiful image in mind. After all, who is attracted to "ugly" things? So, it seems that our world is being driven by this hidden search for beauty.
The problem, however, with seeking this beautiful image is that we are never quite sure we have found it. The world's definition is always changing to something different at a moment's notice. As a result, multitudes of people are left empty chasing this illusive dream of beauty, whatever it is, and more than a few just give up altogether. Some even see themselves as ugly and end up with low self-esteem, depression or worse. Untold millions of people are medicating themselves today because they feel they cannot arrive at this myterious standard of beauty and perfection they have come to believe is important.
On this Father's Day weekend, it is a good idea to stop and reflect about fatherhood and how that institution has shaped our lives and society for good or bad. For some people Father's Day evokes a warm feeling toward their fathers as someone that was a key person in our lives for the good. For others, Father's Day may be an emotionally charged day full of conflicting and often painful memories. Over the course of my ministry, I have talked with 100's of people about the issues and challenges in their lives. This experience has led me to see that it is almost impossible to have a good start in life without a healthy relationship with your father. The vast majority of broken and hurting people I have talked to over the years often had serious issues with their fathers. Perhaps that explains why the majority of men and women in prison today grew up without a father or had a bad relationship with the one they had.
As a result, if you were to make a spiritual diagnosis of society today much of it could be connected to fatherhood issues. When you remove fathers or change their role in society you fundamentally transform people's lives for good or bad. That is exactly what has been happening during this last generation. It surely would be no exaggeration to say that fatherhood has been under a major attack for a long time now and it is getting worse all the time. Part of the reason fatherhood is under attack is as a result of our sexually confused society and the absence of any role or place for a father. Lately, it seems that fathers are sometimes not even needed anymore. Their role as providers and leaders of the family unit has been replaced by working mothers, the government welfare state and new reproductive technologies.
We stop on this Memorial Day weekend to give thanks for all those who have served our nation to protect our freedoms and the way of life we have here in America. We especially give thanks for those who died for us and ended their journey on a battlefield, often thousands of miles from home, never to enjoy the life that we sometimes take for granted. As is often said, "Freedom is never free." But one of the things that makes Memorial Day memorable is that the Lord gives us the ability to remember. Memory is the one thing that allows us to look back and to gain perspective and value from the past. If we didn't remember, learn from, enjoy or honor the past, life would be meaningless. If we didn't remember those who have gone before us and if cemeteries meant nothing, then our lives would have no purpose. It is only when we remember and honor the past that life becomes eternal and meaningful as it was intended by the Lord. It is only when we remember the past that we truly value our military, our families and those who have gone before us to create the life we have today.
One of the great battles we face today is not on the battlefield but when we forget the past. Our modern world tends to ignore history and just live for the now. It is easy to forget why we have Memorial Day and just have a nice picnic or party. For many people history seems irrelevant to their lives. We tend to forget that history is the record of God's purposes in the world because all of history is really His Story. History is the Lord's way to remember the past and celebrate the wonderful story of His faithfulness, as well as learn from human tragedy and sin. If we forget the people and lessons of history our lives not only become empty and meaningless, but we end up making the same mistakes again and repeat the errors of the past. The philosopher George Santayana is often quoted about this issue when he said,
Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
One of the best ways to understand what is spiritually going on today in the professing Church world is to look at what is happening to Christian worship services. It is no understatement to say that modern worship services have changed dramatically. There are many services that tend to increasingly have less and less to do with the Lord and more and more to do with our culture. If you go to some of our modern, trendy worship services today you may be surprised at what is going on in there. It is not uncommon to be offered ear plugs as you enter the worship center because the music is so loud. Over the last year or so I have personally talked with several people that have had this experience. As a result, it appears that ear plug worship is slowly becoming common place in the church world and not just some fringe experience. This is leading some people to feel like they are at a rock concert being entertained, instead of being led into the presence of the Lord. Sadly, the noise in these services can be so loud that you not only need ear plugs, but you can't hear yourself sing or even think at times.
Nowhere in the Bible does loudness equate to Biblical spirituality or better worship of the Lord. As a matter of fact, an argument could be made that the Lord is better known and encountered in worship through the gentle whisper and still small voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to our hearts as was the case with Elijah in I Kings 19:12. Elijah lived in a day of apostasy when the nation of Israel had drifted away from the Lord and had been taken over by the false gods and practices of the pagans. It was during Elijah's great contest with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel that we see these issues of true and false worship coming into clear focus. Whether we see it or not, we are living in the days of Elijah.