Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - Be on Guard

Tomorrow is Memorial Day. It is the day that we, as a nation, come together to do more than have barbecues and parades. It is a day that we remember those who have served and those who currently serve this great nation. No matter what branch of service or if they are police, EMT or firefighters, we thank each for their devotion and service to protect us from harm and ensure our liberties to speak freely and to worship openly. Each day I thank our Heavenly Father for these men and women who put their lives on the line each and every day and pray for them and their families. They lead a very difficult life. It is a life of service that may require them to give “the last full measure of devotion”.

Of all the special ceremonies and observances that occur on Memorial Day, there is one that touches me very deeply. It is the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. That one solemn ceremony embodies the nation’s gratitude for those who have served, those who serve and those who “laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom.”

If you have not seen the ceremony, I encourage you to watch one of them on Youtube. It is indeed a very simple, yet moving ceremony. Each time I watch one on television or watch a video of one, I weep and thank the Lord for each brave man or woman who puts on a uniform. Surrounding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier are the headstones of thousands of fellow comrades in arms. You cannot help but be moved by seeing row upon row of soldiers who fought and died for this nation so that it “shall not perish from the earth”.

Although Arlington National Cemetery like other national cemeteries are guarded twenty-four hours a day, there is a special detail of soldiers called “Sentinels” who watch over the Tomb with a solemn reverence that few can really understand. They silently march their post and continue their tour until they are relieved by the relief commander or assistant relief commander, along with the oncoming guard. The relief commander orders the guard being relieved to "pass on your orders" to the oncoming guard. The guard being relieved will say to the oncoming guard, "Post and orders remain as directed." The oncoming guard's response is always, "Orders acknowledged." 

Even as I write, my eyes are filled with tears and my heart swells with pride. Who could not be touched by this simple exchange? The oncoming Sentinel then takes his or her place on the rubber mat in front of the Tomb and marches the tour. The Sentinel marches twenty-one steps, stops for twenty-one seconds and continues the same cycle throughout the tour until relieved. This changing of the guard continues in the dead of winter and the hottest summer days. Rain, shine or storm, the Sentinels are always on guard to protect the soldiers enshrined in this Tomb. Inscribed on the Tomb are these sacred words, “HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD.” The unknown soldier in the Tomb rests quietly and secure in the fact that a special individual stands guard to protect him from harm. 

The devotion that the Sentinel has for his or her most sacred of duties is the same sort of dedication and devotion that we as Christians should have when it comes to our faith. We should be devoted 100% to the Lord and work to not falter in our faith. We will be challenged from time to time with situations that will test our mettle and how we hold on to that faith. It is one thing to believe. It is quite another thing to have faith. The difference between the two is that belief with action is faith. It is easy to believe in God. Having faith means that we actively seek Him out and trust in Him without reservation. We may not understand why we go through certain trials and troubles in our lives, but we must have faith in God and know that His grace is sufficient for every need.

Part of having that faith is to remain constantly vigilant like the Sentinels watching over the Tomb and ready to act. Let us look at what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 16. “13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.” We must be on constant guard. Satan, along with his demons, is always on the prowl like a hungry lion searching for those who question the Lord and are weak in their faith. 

I, as a pastor and follower of Christ Jesus, often times find my own faith weakened by horrible problems that seem to pile one right after another onto my shoulders. This year has been the most difficult year that I have ever experienced in my life. My family and I have suffered through so much misery and pain. Yes, our faith has been challenged at every turn in our tour on the mat of life. Each step has been plagued with the slings and arrows of the evil one. We have felt his claws and teeth tearing into our spirits. But, we remember the words of Paul. We must remain firm in our faith. We must be courageous and strong. We must, when we are weak, turn humbly to the Lord and call upon Him to give us strength and comfort when we need it most. 

Like the soldier in the Tomb, we know that God is always there to protect us from harm or foul. Nothing will come between us and our Heavenly Father. He remains there in our time of need and is there in our times of joy. Unlike the Sentinels of the Tomb, He never needs to be relieved from His post. He remains a constant in our lives and continues to give us strength, comfort and an unfailing love that we cannot even imagine. 

As we rest assured in His promise and commitment to us, we, too, have a sacred duty to perform. We must do everything in love and act with a Christ-like attitude. We must help those who are weak in their faith by praying for them and letting them know they are not alone. We must support them by giving them a shoulder to lean on as we all lean against God’s everlasting arms. When the evil one strikes at one of our brothers or sisters, we must close ranks around that individual and pray for God’s hedge of protection. We must realize that we have Heaven’s armory at our call. God will send legions upon legions of angels to watch over us. God will personally take charge and watch over His children. We just need to remain faithful to Him and remember that we are all children of El-Shaddai. Do you remember what this name of God means? The name appears forty-eight times in the Bible, seven times as "El Shaddai" (five times in Genesis, once in Exodus, and once in Ezekiel). It means God Almighty. His very name tells us that He is God and is mighty in all that He does. By His very power and existence, He is able to provide us with grace, comfort, strength, and most importantly, an unfailing love that nourishes our spirits in times of distress and danger. We have nothing to fear when we act boldly in our faith and know that He is there for us. If God is for us, who can honestly be against us or stand against us?

As we observe this Memorial Day, let us remember not only the brave men and women who have served and continue to serve this great nation under God but also their families. Let us remember those fallen warriors who gave their lives so that this nation would not perish from the Earth. We should never forget the sacrifices of their families and friends. Those families have have given so much to the cost of liberty.

And let us not forget the gift of salvation and freedom from the bondage of sin given to us by God through the sacrifice of His son, Christ Jesus. It is through his sacrifice that we are able to have that wonderful relationship with the Lord. We must remain devoted to our faith during the moments when Satan will try to cause us to falter in our faith. As we grow stronger in our faith, we are to be courageous and strong. We can then stand firm in His grace and show the world that we are truly followers of Christ Jesus and act in love.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace. 
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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