As an American, Memorial Day reflects on the sacrifice of so many who won and kept our freedom. The roots of the celebration came after the American Civil War when it was first called “Decoration Day.” Memorial Day was celebrated for nearly 100 years after the Civil War, but it was not until in 1971 that day was standardized as the last Monday in May. As the unofficial beginning of summer, Memorial Day brings trips, travel, and family celebrations.

But as a special holiday in the life of our country, Memorial Day can teach us about more than just taking some time to relax. Here are some lessons we can apply from Memorial Day.

Allegiance. My friend and former teacher, Dr. Cameron Cloud wrote a piece last week entitled, Christians, Patriotism, and Idolatry. Cloud articulated, “Being a good citizen is part of being a good Christian, and being a good Christian makes me a better citizen.” He’s right. While some on the right and left make an idol of politics, politicians, and parties, Christians should be different. Christians should be good citizens who submit to the government because their primary allegiance to Jesus leads them to live out a healthy allegiance to family, church, and nation (see Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Honor. In 1 Peter 2:17, the apostle wrote, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” To honor is to value and give others proper respect. Honor is all too rare these days. Our founders pledged their life, liberty, wealth, and honor in the War for Independence and to the fledgling country. Many military heroes (past and present) have served their country with honor and valor. For an astounding picture of honor, read the stories of Charlie Brown and Franz Stiegler in Adam Makos’ book A Higher Call. Brown was a B-27 bomber pilot whose mission over Germany in WWII resulted in the near destruction of his plane. Some of his crew were killed, two engines were out, his machine guns had frozen, and his rear stabilizing wing was gone. Brown’s B-27 was damaged and defenseless. When Franz Stiegler, a German fighter ace, flew behind the limping B-27, he acted with honor. Instead of finishing the bomber off, Steigler tried to get the bomber to land or fly to neutral Sweden. Eventually, because Stiegler flew in formation next to the bomber, he escorted the bomber over German flack fields and out over the Atlantic where they parted ways. The book details the stories of both men and the honor that permeated the act of chivalry. The ending of the book is fascinating. As followers of Jesus, honoring others is a command and should be part of our character.

Remembrance. This is the primary reason for Memorial Day. When we memorialize something/someone, we remember. Since the days of the War for Independence, those serving in the armed forces have bled and died for the freedoms we experience. Brave men and women have given everything to bring the freedoms we appreciate to other lands. It is right and appropriate that we remember their sacrifices. So as you grill out, enjoy friends, take a day off, or celebrate your freedoms, don’t forget that your freedoms weren’t free. Remember those who pledged their honor, valor, and lives to the cause of freedom.

Repentance. I’ve observed the political and national tensions of the past year. It appears that there are competing and irreconcilable visions for the United States. The political divisions coupled with the racial tensions have been especially difficult to watch. Accusations of anarchy and idolatrous nationalism have been made by members of various sides of the political spectrum. As citizens of a great country with enormous freedoms, the animosity and division is troubling. As citizens of a heavenly kingdom, we must realize that the solutions to our national problems do not ultimately reside in parties or politicians. These tensions (the pandemic, racial divisions, political animosities, international uncertainties, etc.) are all warnings. God is shouting loudly to his people through these events. He’s inviting us to repent. For repentance to precipitate a move of God, it must start with God’s people. Let this Memorial Day remind you to look yourself in the mirror, acknowledge your guilt, and repent of your sins.

I believe that God wants our everyday experiences (even our celebrations) to bring us to Him. Would you give God your attention this Memorial Day and apply these lessons to your life?

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Father, you are Lord and Creator. You are holy and sovereign. We pray to you because you alone hear. You alone can intervene in our circumstances. You alone are able to bring about salvation, peace, and healing.

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

As your people, we humble ourselves, pray, seek your face, and repent. When we look around our nation and world, we are heartbroken at the fallen condition of mankind. We see wickedness, despair, immorality, violence, and hate. We long for awakening. We long for sinners to come to know you. But we realize that revival must begin with us. Reveal to us our sins that we may confess them. Grant us repentance that we may turn to you.

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
    blot out my transgressions.
 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
    and cleanse me from my sin!

Psalm 51:1-2

Have mercy on us your people. When we look in our sinful hearts, we find idols: things to which we give attention and adoration besides you (1 John 5:21). Use these days to reveal our idols that we may turn from them and to you with our whole hearts. We deserve judgment for our sin, but we plead your mercy.

You keep him in perfect peace
    whose mind is stayed on you,
    because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

Father, we are weak. As your people, we should walk by faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). But we find ourselves nervous, anxious, afraid. Forgive us for being overwhelmed by our circumstances and controlled by our fears. Teach us to keep our minds on you, to trust in you, and experience your peace.

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

Teach us to bring our anxieties to you in prayer with thanksgiving. Father, you want to hear us as your children. You want us to have your peace and presence. May we learn to pray in thankfulness and experience your peace.

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

John 17:16-19

Thank you Father that you have changed us. Thank you that we have your Spirit living within us and our hope and future is eternal. Nevertheless, we find ourselves living in a world fractured by what is false and divided by disinformation. Sanctify us in your truth. You have sent us into this world to influence and impact. To fulfill your purposes, we need what is timeless: your truth and your Word. May we focus this day on your Word and your will.

praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

Ephesians 6:18-20

Father, may we walk daily in a demeanor of prayer. May we persevere, praying when we feel like it and when we don’t. May we intercede for others. May we have boldness to declare the truth of the gospel that will redeem lost souls. The only hope for your people is revival and renewal in your Word and by your Spirit. The only hope for our nation and world is the gospel of your Son. Revive us your people that we may boldly proclaim Jesus to a lost world. In your glory and grace, grant revival to your people and awakening to our land.


PhPhoto by Matthew Henry on Unsplash