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Posts Tagged ‘Book of John’

Memorial Day allows us to remember the meaning of sacrifice.  Veterans, soldiers, and veteran groups frequently celebrate Audie Murphy and his sacrificial efforts during World War II.

As a soldier, Murphy was credited with destroying six tanks, killing over 240 German soldiers, and capturing many others.  He was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions in the battle of Holtzwihr, France.  In this campaign, Murphy’s unit was reduced to 19 out of 128.  As they continued to take losses, Murphy ordered his men to fall back while he provided rifle fire to protect their escape.  When he ran out of ammunition, he climbed on top of a burning M10 tank destroyer and used its .50 caliber machine gun to fight the enemy.  He also called in artillery fire to slow the German advance.  Murphy continued to shoot and call in artillery for an hour until he was wounded in the leg.

When asked after the war why he had seized the machine gun and taken on an entire company of German infantry, he replied simply, “They were killing my friends.”  His selfless service and sacrifice is celebrated every year.

Each Memorial Day we celebrate the suffering and sacrifice of veterans.  But to understand sacrifice we must  look past the holiday weekend.  To understand sacrifice we must look to God.

John 3:16 shares that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  A sacrifice was made for us.  Christ was wounded for our wrongs.  Isaiah 53 is titled the Suffering Servant.  This chapter in the Old Testament shares how the Son of God would be “pierced for our transgressions” and suffer on our behalf.  His actions would bear our iniquities and justify us before a Holy God.

As Christians, we understand that Jesus went to the cross for our sins.  His substitution on the cross ultimately atoned for the sins of the world.  He interceded to save us.

While stories of sacrifice, war wounds, medals, and heroism will take center stage this holiday weekend, remember that we understand sacrifice through the love and devotion of Jesus Christ.  He is truly our Savior.

 

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Military funerals are difficult.  The age of the veteran doesn’t really matter.  Each time family members gather to mourn the loss of a loved one there is incredible sorrow.  Battle buddies, friends, and military leaders show up to share stories and give comfort.  At the conclusion, rifles fire, taps play, Soldiers salute, and a family member receives a flag to remember the sacrifice and devotion of the departed veteran.  These military customs and ceremonies honor the life and service of people in the armed forces, but they can also remind us of a difficult loss.

For many who attend a military funeral, death seems cruel, harsh, and final.  That is how the disciples felt when they saw Jesus hanging on the cross.  They were devastated.  Death crushed them.  There was nothing left for them.  The last three years of following Jesus seemed to be for nothing.  They huddled together in darkness, but then came the morning.

An empty tomb was discovered.  The rock had been rolled away.  Even the death shroud and linen wrappings were laying perfectly in place.  Something miraculous had happened – Jesus was no longer there.  He had risen from the grave!

In John 11:25 Jesus shares, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies.”

Jesus not only is life, but conveys life to the believer so that death will never triumph over him or her.  What once seemed final and devastating is now transformed into new life.  Death is no longer the end.  Death should instead be viewed as the gateway to our heavenly home.  Since Jesus rose on the third day, we have the promise of life beyond the grave.  The promise of eternal life through Jesus, the Son of God.

If you are hurting and suffering from a recent loss, allow the words of Jesus to strengthen and comfort you.  A cemetery is where we remember lives lost, but it is not our final home.  For those who have put their faith in Christ, Easter means that we will live in the presence of God forever.

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I am often reminded of my mother in the spring.  She loves to be outdoors gardening and tending to the fruit trees on our family farm.  Each March she would take the kids out to the orchard as she pruned the apple trees.  Our job was to pick up the fallen branches and move them to the burn pile.

As a child, part of this was concerning.  Doesn’t this process hurt the tree?  Why would you snip off branches if you want to get more apples?  Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose?  Surely more branches would equal more apples.  It turns out that mother did know best, at least when it comes to apple trees.

Wild trees have strange branch angles that cause limb breaks.  This in turn reduces the number of apples and ultimately reduces the life of the tree.  If apple trees are left fallow, you may only get a bushel of apples every ten years.  And that is bad news if you enjoy apple pie like my family.  If you prune apple trees, they yield more apples, provide apples at an earlier age, and live longer.  It turns out that pruning allows the tree to develop a strong branch framework that will support fruit production.

I fell into the same trap of wrong thinking after my deployment to Iraq.  It was difficult to find the off button and relax.  More time with my friends would help my transition home.  More time at work would help my military career.  More hobbies would help me relax.  More somehow looked better than taking time to prune away the unnecessary distractions in my life and in turn be more fruitful.

Many people fall into the same way of thinking.  “I need to have more.”  “More is better.”  “Bigger is better.”  Perhaps a little pruning will do the trick.  Just make sure that God has the pruning shears.

John 15 reminds us that, Jesus is “the true vine” and His followers are the branches.  These branches are already productive, but God occasionally prunes them back so that they can “bear more fruit.”  While pruning may seem wrong to our earthly eyes, it is the best thing that could ever happen.

Remember that more branches will not equal more apples.  Allow God to shape you into a better fruit producing machine.  Continue to abide in Christ and enjoy the season of life that He brings.

 

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