I Will Remember

Last weekend, Melanie and I had the honor to visit the National Infantry Museum just outside Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia. The entrance exhibit is called “The Last 100 Yards.” It is a ramp 100 yards long on which the stories of ten important U.S infantry battles are depicted in dramatic scenes. The infantry, they say, has to own the last 100 yards of the battle field in order to defeat our enemies. The museum also includes an overwhelming amount of the history of the U.S. Army throughout all our nation’s conflicts. It is a stirring tribute. There is something very emotional about seeing these reminders of all who fought and sacrificed for our country. I had to think about why.

Some would say that there is no room for patriotism for Christians. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven, and there our hearts must be focused. There is no dual allegiance or dual citizenship, they would argue. I disagree, as I have written previously. Yes, our ultimate allegiance is to Jesus and His Kingdom, but America, at least in its founding ideals, exemplifies many Christian principles.

Duty, loyalty, personal courage, integrity, honor, respect – these are the ideals carved into the glass columns at the beginning of The Last 100 Yards. These are the traits which mark the best of America’s men and women who gave their lives defending our freedoms and advancing the cause of freedom around the world. It was Americans who turned the tide to end the seemingly endless and useless brutality of World War I. It was America who broke the Nazi stronghold on  Europe and liberated the death camps. It was America that fought back Japanese imperialism in Asia and the Pacific. It was America (primarily) who fought back the Communists in Korea, giving South Korea the opportunity for freedom. (Now, South Korea is one of the top three missionary-sending countries in the world.)

But what gets me so emotional when I see the tradition, brotherhood, commitment, and honor of our military throughout our history? At its best, it reflects the ideals of God’s Kingdom and Jesus, Himself. It was Jesus who never swerved from his duty to purchase our pardon from sin. It was Jesus who called us into a community united by a common mission. It was Jesus who walked the last 667 yards (using the Via Dolorosa as an approximation) to Calvary to die on the cross for our sins. It was Jesus whose death and resurrection won the victory over sin, death, and the forces of evil. And it is Jesus whose armor still protects us today as our defeated foe still tries to ambush us (see Ephesians 6:10-17).

So, as Memorial Day approaches, I will remember. I will remember those who gave their lives, so that I might have freedom. I will remember the families who grieve and mourn and, yet, carry on. I will remember there are missions that are worth the cost. And I will remember the Savior who remembered me.

God and Country? – I’m Good With That

The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing;
He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect.
The counsel of the Lord stands forever,
The plans of His heart to all generations.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord,
The people He has chosen as His own inheritance.

Psalm 33:10-12 NKJV

This past Sunday our church had its annual God and Country worship service. We honored veterans, waved American flags, and sang patriotic songs. Some might argue that this is a dangerous mix of faith and patriotism. We should be honoring Jesus and not our country. However, I think those who would argue that are misguided.

I am not going to argue that the United States is God’s new chosen people. And our church is not declaring that either. There is plenty of evil in our land. And as our pastor said, if we keep going the way we are, God will have to judge us. Abortion (54 million+ killed since 1973), immorality, greed, and pride have powerful grips on our culture. Many Americans needs to repent and turn back to God for sure (starting with the church!).

However, while all that is true, America still is the number one missionary sending country in the world and the home of the greatest number of evangelical Christians. We are also the most charitable country in the world, according to the World Giving Index. We are the beacon of freedom to a world of bondage. We are the refuge for the poor and needy and persecuted. There is much more to America than the nightly (bad) news and the sewage seeping from Hollywood. God is blessing the world through America.

God and Country worship service

God and Country worship service – July 1, 2012 Burnt Hickory Baptist Church, Powder Springs, GA

America’s ideals are drawn from the truths of Scripture. Freedom and liberty. Sacrifice for others.  Protection for the weak and the minority. Checks and balances to curb corruption. The rule of law. The power of grace. The melting pot of many cultures, talents, and opportunities. The good guys win in the end. The value of one life. The importance of the individual. The bonds of community. We do not consistently live up to our ideals, yet they do inspire us toward  God’s best. America, ideally, is good.

I agree with our pastor’s exhortations from Sunday. America’s future hope is in Jesus Christ and His people, the church.  It is not in Washington, D.C., or Hollywood, or Wall Street or even Main Street. It is at the foot of the cross. When we bow to our Creator; when we seek His ways and turn from ours; when we earnestly pray and trust; then He will hear, and answer, and heal. Otherwise, America has no hope. The church must stand unashamedly for Jesus in our land.

So, it is with joy and sorrow that I celebrate our country’s birth. I am so thankful for God’s blessings on America. I am thankful for the freedoms we (yet) have. And I am inspired by the ideals that spur us on. My heart is stirred when I think of all those who sacrificed to make our nation great and free. But I mourn for the lost in America. I mourn for those who spurn God and turn to the false idols of self, security, fame, fortune, and power. I wish we did not use our liberty as a license to sin against God. Yet, I will wave my flag, pledge my allegiance, and celebrate this great nation.

Happy birthday, America! May you honor God and realize His blessings.

My recent prayer for America