We Will Remember Them

img_1229They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Englishman Laurence Binyon wrote his well-known poem, “For the Fallen”, shortly after the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Sitting on the cliffs of Cornwall, gazing across to France where the British army had suffered heavy casualties on the Western Front, he composed the poem to honour his fallen countrymen. The third and fourth stanzas are quoted often as a universal tribute for fallen servicemen and women.

Receiving little recognition, an ongoing battle rages between the worldwide family of Christ and those who oppose and persecute its members. Recently Perfecto, a dedicated church elder from a village in the Philippines, was brutally murdered by two Muslim men as he rested in a hammock outside his house. Perfecto’s 12 year old daughter witnessed the shooting. She and her younger brother lost their only parent as their mother left the family years ago.* Perfecto’s murder is only one among many occurring in countries restricted and hostile to Christians. As well, large numbers of believers are being tortured, imprisoned and persecuted for their faith. Will we remember them?

When the apostle Paul wrote the book of Hebrews, the early Christians were already suffering persecution for their belief in Christ. “Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.”
(Heb. 13:3 NIV) Calling upon the compassion exemplified by Christ, Paul exhorts believers to identify with their persecuted brothers and sisters and do what they can to comfort and help them. The most accessible and effective defense for such intense spiritual warfare is the weapon of prayer which can be wielded from anywhere by any believer. In Ephesians 6. Paul uses the parts of a soldier’s armour to illustrate the list of defenses needed for spiritual warfare. He instructs them to pray “in the Spirit, on all occasions” and to “be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” (Eph. 6:18)

How can we best honour and remember those of the army of Christ who have given their lives for their faith? By vigilantly praying for those who are presently being persecuted around the world because of their love for Jesus, asking Him to equip and protect them with the His spiritual armour. “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

* story from Voice of the Martyrs http://www.persecution.com

 

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Warrior

3474875-hands-of-the-elderly-woman-close-upI would literally sit at the feet of this frail woman housed in a body scored by pain. With my legs tucked beneath me, I listened to her soft voice as she taught me from a worn Bible open on her quilt-covered lap. As a busy mother of three young children, these times of spiritual learning and prayer were vital to me. Being a new believer in Jesus Christ, I was hungry to know more about Him and Margaret became my mentor.

Cared for by her husband, Margaret watched the world from a little cedar cottage perched on a steep hillside overlooking the ocean. During a routine surgery she suffered irreparable nerve damage to her back and as a result lived with chronic, disabling pain. She became a housebound invalid, yet I never heard her complain.

Margaret was a warrior. A most unlikely one from the world’s view, but a warrior in an unseen yet ever present battle. Like a commander at her headquarters, she kept in touch with the battle through letters, phone calls and visits from those she upheld in prayer. She armed herself with the sword of God’s word and developed spiritual muscles in the crucible of pain and isolation. When she prayed aloud, I felt heaven hold its breath to listen.

Cradling my newborn son for the first time, her faded blue eyes swam with tears which dripped onto his blanket like a benediction. She had prayed fervently for the health and safe delivery of this little boy, and now here he was in her arms. Without hesitation she closed her eyes and lifted her trembling voice in praise for this gift from God. Margaret’s prayers were more meaningful to me than any christening ceremony.

When she talked about Jesus, it was obvious He was her closest companion. With warm reverence Margaret wove His name and words into all her conversations. From the confines of her home she looked for ways to tell others about Him, and to offer prayer for their needs. By the chair where she spent so many hours she kept a prayer list, underlined, marked and often tear-stained. The one name most prayed for was her son, Bill, whose wayward lifestyle had landed him in prison. The enemy faced a fierce opponent in Bill’s warrior mother.

This week in North America many soldiers will be remembered and commemorated for their brave, selfless deeds, as they should be. But there is another army whose arms may be weak but whose prayers are mighty; whose legs cannot stand but who wield the mighty sword of God’s word.

They do not wage war as the world does but declare like the apostle Paul, “The weapons of the war we’re fighting are not of this world but are powered by God and effective at tearing down the strongholds erected against His truth. We are demolishing arguments and ideas, every high-and-mighty philosophy that pits itself against the knowledge of the one true God. We are taking prisoners of every thought, every emotion, and subduing them into obedience to the Anointed One.” – (2 Corinthians 10:4-5  The Voice)

I am grateful for the soldiers who fought for our country’s freedom, but my true hero is a frail little lady whose prayers transcended her physical disabilities; a warrior who discovered Christ’s grace sufficient for her, for His power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

A Channel of Thanksgiving

IMG_0734 - 2I remember …  my father coming home, tall and handsome in his navy uniform, setting down his duffle bag full of gifts from far away places and sweeping me up in his arms. I remember my mother, lovely in a fresh summer dress, pearled and perfumed, her face aglow for her returned husband. I remember and I am thankful for parents who loved each other and us.

I remember … three sparkling moments when my babies were placed in my arms for the first time. Perfect, precious miracles carried within for months, now lodged in my heart forever. I remember the gift of motherhood and I am filled with gratitude for these children, birthed and nurtured.

I remember … a time of sorrow, stress and loss when my world tilted off balance. Every day I clung to God because I was too weak to face it alone. Always He met me in those hard, dark places, revealing the facets of His character like diamonds in the dust. I remember and I am thankful for God’s revelation of Himself to this lone, hurting woman.

Remembering is a channel of thanksgiving, a recounting of all the ways God has shown Himself to me. The urgent needs of the here and now can overwhelm but when pause is taken to remember His faithfulness, provision and care, peace comes. Yes, I remember when I didn’t know how I could afford to feed my children. Someone unaware of our need sent enough cash to get us through, but I remember it as God who provided.

“I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds,” says the psalmist. (Ps. 9:1 NIV) His desire was to tell others about God’s wonderful deeds but I want to remember to tell myself. When life gets overwhelming and doubts arise, I need to recall the myriad of times and ways God broke in with undisputed evidence of His love for me. When I recall, then I trust. Again and again. Remembrance is a temporary focus that needs to be called forth often in order for it to benefit the present.

This was Jesus’ purpose when He instituted The Lord’s Supper. (Luke 22, 1 Cor.11) He knew it was the last time He would share a meal with His disciples before His crucifixion. He wanted to give them symbols to help them remember, representing His sacrificial death to redeem them from their sins. Using everyday emblems, He took bread, broke it and said, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” Then He took a cup of wine, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” So whenever they ate bread and drank from the cup in His honor, they would proclaim Jesus’ death until His return.

Jesus knew what fickle, forgetful memories we have so He gave us a way to always remember what He did for us. The magnitude of His gift of eternal life and forgiveness by His sacrificial death cannot be remembered without a sense of overflowing gratitude. That is why in some Christian traditions, partaking of the Lord’s Supper is called Eucharist, from the Greek word eucharisteo, meaning thanksgiving, with the root word charis. meaning grace, and the derivative chara, for joy.

My thanksgiving flows from a remembrance of grace-filled joy, undeserved mercy, overflowing love, all coming from the beneficent hands of my Father God and my Lord Jesus Christ. I desire thanksgiving to be the atmosphere of my days.

Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!  (2 Cor. 9:15)