White rose at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

Symbols only work if people remember what they mean.

I have a short memory. How about you? I surprise myself with how much important information I can forget and how easily I can forget it. My only consolation is that I don’t think I’m alone.

People need reminders. We need symbols set in front of us to remind us of the important things that have happened in our past so that we won’t forget what we’ve learned and so we won’t forget how God brought us through.

The passage for today is more like a book, but you’ll understand why when you read it.

White rose at Glen Eyrie - Colorado Springs, CO

White rose at Glen Eyrie – Colorado Springs, CO

Today’s verses are Joshua 4:4-7, 22-24.

So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ … Then you can tell them, ‘This is where the Israelites crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the river right before your eyes, and he kept it dry until you were all across, just as he did at the Red Sea when he dried it up until we had all crossed over. He did this so all the nations of the earth might know that the Lord’s hand is powerful, and so you might fear the Lord your God forever.”

Today is Memorial Day. It’s the day we celebrate being American by throwing our family into the car and driving out to the lake to cook hot dogs and get sunburned. Right?

Well, that’s what a lot of folks will do. But that’s not what Memorial Day is about.

As someone who comes from a military family, Memorial Day is very special to me. My grandfathers and my great uncles are from that generation of men who were willing to give their lives for their country in World War II and Korea. And though the rest of my immediate family is in the age range where they missed either being drafted or they missed many of the major military conflicts, that hasn’t stopped my family from being intensely patriotic.

But Memorial Day isn’t like Veteran’s Day. Veteran’s Day is a day to thank all of our military service people for what they have done for freedom in our country. Memorial Day is a day to remember the military people who didn’t come home. Memorial Day is a day set aside to thank them for their sacrifices.

And I don’t see that we do that. We’re too busying barbecuing.

Memorial Day is a symbol intended to help us remember, but symbols aren’t much good if the meaning behind them is lost.

This passage in Joshua recounts a time in history when the Israelites were trying to reach the land that God had promised them, and in one conflict, God parted the waters of the Jordan River while they were at flood stage so that the army could cross over.

After the battle, Joshua had the army set up a memorial so that the people would remember, not just what God had done for them that day but so they could remember what God had done for their ancestors too.

I am saddened by what we, as Americans, have forgotten. I’m not going to be specific. If you’re a patriot, you know what I’m talking about. I understand that things happen for a reason, but it is difficult for me to accept that the country my grandfathers and great uncles gave so much for has become a place no one recognizes anymore.

Symbols are only successful as long as people remember what they mean.

So this is my contribution to Memorial Day: whenever you see an American flag waving, think about what it would have been like to grow up in a country bound by religious laws or tyrannical dictatorship. Imagine what it would have been like to grow up in a country where your children can be taken from you and molded to fit a social need whether you or they liked it or not. Imagine what it would have been like to grow up without enough food, clean water, or sufficient shelter to be healthy.

America isn’t what she used to be, but I’d like to think we still have a little bit of hope, even though many of us have forgotten.

So while you’re barbecuing or while you’re working on your suntan or driving your boat (nothing wrong with any of those things, by the way) take a moment to talk to your kids about what men and women have sacrificed through the years to make this country. Take a moment to just be thankful. Take a moment to remember.

Because if we don’t remember, what purpose did their sacrifices serve?

The State of the American Christian

Many Americans are distraught about the state of our country these days, and I’m not speaking politically. Politically, we’re a mess. But many American Christians have given up on this country because it’s so evil.

It’s ironic though, because the Bible makes it pretty clear whose responsibility it is to keep a country or a nation from being evil. The responsibility belongs to the people who believe in Christ. You can’t expect someone who doesn’t know Jesus to act like Him. You can’t expect someone who isn’t a Christian to make choices based on Scripture. God doesn’t expect nonbelievers to obey Him, so why do we?

But those of us who believe in Christ are expected to act like Him, to live our lives based on Scripture, and to obey God. That is our responsibility. So isn’t it possible that America has fallen so far because those who believe in Christ haven’t fulfilled their responsibilities?

America’s trouble isn’t based on the fact that we don’t believe anymore. It stems from the fact that American Christians have forgotten God.

The verse this morning is 2 Chronicles 7:14.

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

This verse is part of God’s response to Solomon after Israel completed the temple where they would worship for hundreds of years. God tells him basically that He will cherish the Temple but that if Solomon’s people turn away from Him, He’ll bring oppression and conquerors to chastise them until they turn back to Him.

Christians are a fickle breed.

We say we follow God but most of the time we follow our own desires. We say we believe in Jesus but we’re too afraid to tell our friends that’s why we don’t act like them anymore. We say we read the Bible but we really spend most of our time watching television. When God directs us to do something, we fabricate reasons why we don’t have to. We say we love everyone but we really only love ourselves. We say we give sacrificially but we really only give enough to make ourselves look good.

Christians are more interested in reality television than reality itself. We hear about destruction and devastation around the world and wonder how the government is going to help. We spend hours on chat rooms and forums debating political opinion with total strangers but won’t talk to someone we love about Christ.

Come on, Christians. Wake up. America is in trouble. And the fault is ours.

No finger pointing at current or past administrations. No blaming specific laws because even if the government took prayer out of schools, there’s no law saying it was outlawed in our homes.

Is it too late for our nation? I don’t think so. At least, I hope not. As long as we’re still here, there’s still hope.

14 Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.

My people. God’s people. Us.

Let’s get humble, guys. Let’s stop thinking that the world owes us something. Let’s go back to the God who saved us and forget about everything the world tells us should make us happy. Love God. Love people. Live your life like Christ lived His, and God will sort everything else out.

If we as Christians can do that, God will honor it. And He’ll restore this country to what it used to be.