That Other Good Friday

The Original Good Friday
For nearly two-thousand years, Christians around the world have remembered the day Jesus died an agonizing death on the cross. And we should remember. God’s Son volunteered to leave His home in heaven, come to this planet to fight against Satan, destroy his evil works and bring healing and peace. He completed his task by suffering, dying and then rising from the dead.

No wonder we assigned a special day to remember His sacrifice for us. We call that day Good Friday.

That Other Good Friday
For exactly one-hundred years Europeans and North Americans have remembered another Friday—the day the First World War ended. And we should remember. Millions of fathers, sons and daughters volunteered to leave their homes, and go to war to fight against fierce enemies, destroy their evil works and bring healing and peace. They completed their task by suffering and dying—multi-millions of them.

No wonder we assigned a special day to remember their sacrifice, and the sacrifice of countless other soldiers in all the subsequent wars this past century. We call that day Remembrance Day, the day the First World War ended when an Armistice was signed on Friday, November 11, 1918. It was the eleventh hour, of the eleventh day, of the eleventh month. This year, this other Good Friday falls on a Sunday, November 11.

How Do We Remember?
While we lived in freedom and comfort at home—enjoying our lives in college, career, church, and sports—these soldiers fought in far-away wars to bring this freedom to others. How do we best remember and honour those who suffered the fear of sudden attack, the horror of injury and death all around them, and, for so many, the loss of their own lives?

For some of us, this other “Good Friday” is simply another holiday, a time to spend with family or friends, to relax or catch up on some fall work around the house and yard. For others, it is much more meaningful.

Those whose loved ones returned on stretchers, in wheelchairs or were buried in a far away country, keep this day as a remembrance of a life well lived.

Those who benefited from the sacrifices these soldiers made keep this day with a profound and heartfelt gratitude. I am one of those. I will always remember the day, sixty-two years ago, when the Canadian troops liberated Hilversum, my home-city in the Netherlands from five years of Nazi occupation.

How Should We Honour Soldiers?
How can we, how should we, how must we honour these veterans, both living and dead? Abraham Lincoln, during the dedication of a soldiers’ burial ground near Gettysburg, reminded his listeners that those men had died for the ideals of freedom and democracy. He urged them to dedicate themselves to these concepts so that “. . . these dead shall not have died in vain . . .”

Canadian army surgeon, Dr. John McRae closed his famous poem with the same sentiments:
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

The Cause of War
On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The thirty articles in this declaration read like a biblical description of the Kingdom of God on Earth.

God wants every human being to enjoy freedom of speech and belief, and freedom from fear and want. These are the biblical Kingdom principles for which millions of soldiers fought, suffered and died.

When leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot reject God, spitting their contempt on His ethics, they turn into monsters, start wars, kill multi-millions of people, and outrage the conscience of mankind.

What We Need To Do
These are also the Kingdom principles to which we, the living, need to commit ourselves to bring about. We need to apply them in our own lives and families, then in our communities and as far out as our ability and influence reaches.

After His death and resurrection, Jesus told His disciples to evangelize the world, to disciple the nations, and thus to advance the Kingdom of God on this earth.

This Sunday morning, November 11, as I stand still in silent remembrance, I will be profoundly thankful for the soldiers who died in battle against enemies who despised the basic teachings of God’s Kingdom and attacked my home country.

All we who believe the Bible is God’s Word need to honour these soldiers’ memory by rededicating ourselves to the vision of spreading His Word which is the source of these Kingdom principles. Let us recommit ourselves to do whatever it takes to provide God’s Word to every people group around the world . . .  in their own heart language.

 

A New Habit for a New Year

Happy New Year, and welcome to the first InSights & OutBursts after our Christmas blogging break. I had intended to write and post this last week, but The Flu got Jo and, since we were driving down in the motorhome she couldn’t help but share it with me, so we were both “out of it” for over a week.

A New Line in My Diary
Although I have been writing a daily diary of some sort for over half a century, this time I added a new emphasis.

Five years ago, Jo and I started writing down special things that we were grateful for that happened during the previous week or so. We usually do this as part of our shared devotional time. The result is a list of well over a hundred items each year that have moved us to give thanks to God.

This year, however, I was impressed with the large amount of negativity in world news. Politics, personalities, and problems of every kind, all of them negative and leading me to think negative thoughts. So, I wanted to discipline myself to notice even more things in the world, and in my personal life, for which to praise and thank God. I, therefore, added a ‘Gratitude:’ tickler line to my diary template to remind me every day to think through the previous twenty-four hours to search for something, somewhere that would be praise worthy.

The First Two Weeks Beta Test
New Year’s Day we packed up our 22-year-old motorhome and started driving to California to visit our American family as well as some financial and prayer partners. Naturally getting out of the snow and ice and into green grass and T-shirt weather later that week, was the filler for one Gratitude line! So was a day when we made good progress, without any problems.

But the next day a half a dozen nasty surprises jumped out at us. As I was writing up that day’s negative events that happened to us personally, I wondered if there would be anything at all for which to be grateful. But it jumped right out at me from my own writings! Twice, we had to deal with a dead battery in the car we were towing, and twice men appeared, within minutes, who were happy to bring their vehicles around to boost the battery.

The Satisfying Results
Since “God’s compassions are new every morning” (Lam. 3:22-23), I committed myself to think of something new to be grateful for every day, and not mention something I had already written up earlier, even though I was still thankful for it.

Based on my experience of the past couple of weeks, I am already sensing some differences in my thought life. I tend to more readily follow the apostle Paul’s counsel in Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

Our Focus: The ruined trailer or the brilliant rainbow?

Although there are terrible things happening in the world all around us, I keep focusing on the positive aspects. There may be a horrible disaster, but God’s love remains steadfast  and no matter what the negative circumstance is, He can “replace a spirit of despair with a garment of praise” (Isa 61:3) And, as my general thinking grows more positive, my faith in God’s power, love and wisdom grows stronger. Being grateful for something specific and new is probably a good, new habit to develop at the start of a new year!

What good, new thing are you starting this new year?

The Other Sure-Fire Way to Generate a Thankful Spirit

Last week’s column How to Get What You Want in Ten Minutes a Day provoked a large number of excellent responses. (Since nearly all 900 of you subscribers receive these postings as an email, you reply via email and therefore only a few comments appear in the comments section of the blog.)

Some of you told me that after a few days of sorting and refining your list of ten things you really want, you focused so hard on what you didn’t have that you forgot the good things you do have. You sensed a spirit of ingratitude and you had to remind yourself to “Count Your Blessings” as the old hymn tells us to do.

Good advice. Good practice. Counting our blessings is the first sure-fire way to generate a grateful spirit.

Like you, I counted my blessings, then went one step farther. I made a list of ten things I do not have and I really do not want. I was surprised how much gratitude this exercise generated in me.

I omitted mentioning the details of my Ten Things I Want list, but I will list the things I don’t want and I’m glad I don’t have. I just jotted them down as they popped into my mind, without prioritizing. (To preserve anonymity, I’ll use a * in place of people’s names.

  1. I do not have a future without God as multi-millions of people around to word have.
  2. I do not have a selfish, harsh, and unloving wife as my friend * had until the divorce.
  3. I do not have children or grandchildren that live far from God and break our hearts as our friends * and * have.
  4. Neither Jo nor I have cancer as * has, and our friend *, and *; nor do we have Alzheimer’s as our friend * has.
  5. I do not have severe inexplicable chest pains as our friend * suffered a few weeks ago.
  6. Day After Condo Fire in Edmonton

    I do not have to face the loss of all our possessions as did the 100 residents of the condo building that burned to the ground in south end of the city last week.

  7. I did not have a car accident, like * had just before Christmas, which totally destroyed his vehicle and hurt his passenger.
  8. I do not have any form of osteoarthritis requiring knee and hip replacement as my friend * has.
  9. I do not have a job I hate as my friend * had for years until he had a nervous breakdown.
  10. I do not have a debilitating disease that keeps me in constant pain as our friend * has.

Oh, and one more:

  1. I do not have to wait for years and years until someone translates God’s Word into my own language like 350 million people who are still waiting around the world right now.

Numerous passages in the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New, command people to be thankful. Gratitude won’t bring us to God, only repentance will do that. But not being thankful is one of the first steps away from God.

First we need to stay close to God, count our blessings and be thankful to Him for them. Then we need to count all the things we don’t want which we don’t have and be thankful for those too.