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Recently a Baptist Pastor in Illinois received a visit from the FBI. They came in response to an anonymous caller who took issue with something the Pastor said in his sermon. According to the Baptist Press news service, “Nov. 23, 2004, started out like any other normal morning for Randy Steele, senior pastor at Southwest Christian Church in Mount Vernon, Ill., a town about 80 miles southeast of St. Louis… [until]… the phone rang. It was the FBI. Steele said they wanted to meet with him personally…. When two FBI agents arrived at the church, Steele said they traded small talk for a few minutes before the suspense got to him and he asked about the nature of their visit. Their answer stunned him. “One guy opened a file,” Steele said. And he said, “’This is pertaining to a sermon that you preached on Memorial Day.’” On Memorial Day 2004, Steele was in the middle of preaching a sermon series he called Life Issues dealing with controversial cultural issues from a biblical perspective. One such sermon was about abortion and Steele chose Memorial Day to preach about it. “I shared the number of people who have died in wars versus the number who had died through legal abortion since 1973, Steele said. “I stated that we are in a different type of war that is being fought under the ’presupposition of freedom.” Steele said that he went on to name an abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., a city just outside St. Louis, and pointed out that they perform as many as 45 abortions per week. Somebody in the church that day apparently misunderstood Steele’s different type of war comment to mean that he was actually calling his congregation to a physical war against abortion clinics, so he or she placed an anonymous phone call to the FBI. (Now, don’t any of you get any ideas) This informant allegedly told the FBI that in addition to Steele calling for a war against abortion clinics, he also said he was willing to go to jail over such a cause. Steele said that he had spoken about his willingness to go to jail, but that he made those remarks in a different sermon that dealt with homosexuality from the same sermon series. “I had mentioned a pastor in Canada who had been arrested for speaking about homosexuality in his church,” Steele said. “The pastor said he went on to tell his congregation that if speaking the truth means that we go to jail, then by golly, that’s where I’m going to be and I’m going to save you a seat next to me.” “That was the major gist of why [the FBI] felt like they could come here and look through my sermons,” Pastor Steele reported. ….Steele said that after the two FBI agents examined his two sermons in question, they realized he was not a physical threat to abortion clinics and apparently dropped their investigation. …Pastor Steele said he was initially a little irritated that the FBI would ask to see his sermons, especially since he had to take time away from the grieving family in his congregation to answer questions, but he said he has no plans to stop preaching messages that are culturally relevant. “As a pastor I believe that as Christians we are called to speak the truth no matter what,” Steele said. “And we have to continue to speak that truth in love to all people and to share the message of Christ because it’s the only message that’s going to change the lives of people.” Like this Pastor, the message of Jesus was controversial in his day. If Jesus were around today I am certain the FBI would question him about some of the things he said.
It’s the story of a friendship forged during one of the worst battles of World War II, and a promise made almost 60 years ago, a promise that was finally kept Thursday, Aug. 2, 2001. HAROLD HUGGINS, a veteran of 10 major campaigns in World War II and the last survivor of his battalion, traveled halfway across the country by train on one last mission in memory of his best buddy.
"I had this on my mind for 57 years, trying to locate his sister and loved ones out there in California," says Huggins. "Part of him lives in me."
Huggins, from Albany, Ill., and Mack McClain from Marysville, Calif., were best friends in the army. They wound up together at Anzio Beach, Italy, scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Mack had a premonition that he wouldn’t make it out of there alive, so he gave Harold some mementos, a belt, some photos, and said: "’Give this to my sister, tell her that I love her,’ Huggins recalls. ’You can even give her a kiss.’"
Harold promised if anything happened to Mack he would do what was asked. One day later, Mack was killed in an artillery barrage. After the war, Harold looked for Mack’s sister but he never found her until Harold’s daughter sent out e-mails to various veterans groups. Some California vets found Mack’s sister, Grace, whose last name changed when she married.
"We have always hoped and prayed that we would meet somebody that would tell us about Mack," says Grace.
Thursday, Aug. 2nd, at the place where his buddy’s name is engraved in marble at the veterans memorial in Marysville, Calif., Harold Huggins kept that promise he made 57 years ago, meeting Mack’s sister for the very first time and giving her that kiss that Mack asked Harold to deliver, turning over those mementos from his fallen friend.
SOURCE: Steve Shepherd.
OPENING ILLUSTRATION… Mother’s Day Background, Pulpit Helps 1991
It was a woman named Anna M. Jarvis who first suggested the national observance of an annual day honoring all mothers because she had loved her own mother so dearly. At a memorial service for her mother on May 10, 1908, Miss Jarvis gave a carnation (her mother’s favorite flower) to each person who attended.
Within the next few years, the idea of a day to honor mothers gained popularity, and Mother’s Day was observed in a number of large cities in the U.S. On May 9, 1914, by an act of Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. He established the day as a time for "public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."
My wife and I recently saw a television show on The History Channel titled, “The Man Who Predicted 911.” We were both moved by this hour presentation and its focus on one man by the name of Rick Rescorla. Long before September 11th, Rick Rescorla, the 62-year-old head of security at the Morgan Stanley Bank, developed an evacuation plan for the bank. The bank’s offices were situated high up in the South Tower at the World Trade Center. Rescorla was convinced that Osama Bin Laden would use jet planes to try and destroy the World Trade Center. The plan and its preparation were hugely unpopular with the Morgan Stanley staff, many of whom thought Rescorla was mad.
On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 hit World Trade Center Tower 1 at 8:46 am. Rick Rescorla ignored building officials’ advice to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of Morgan Stanley’s 2,800 employees on 20 floors of World Trade Center Tower 2, and 1,000 employees in WTC 5. Rescorla reminded everyone to "be proud to be an American ... everyone will be talking about you tomorrow", and sang God Bless America and other songs over his bullhorn to help evacuees stay calm as they left the building. Rescorla had most of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 employees as well as people working on other floors of WTC 2 safely out of the buildings by the time United Airlines Flight 175 hit WTC 2 at 9:07 a.m.
After having reached safety, Rescorla returned to the building to rescue others still inside. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains were not recovered. As a result of Rescorla’s actions, only 6 of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 WTC employees were killed on September 11th, 2001, including Rick and three of his deputies who followed him back into the building.
The remainder of this very moving broadcast focused on Morgan Stanley Bank employees who now in tears were praising and acknowledging Rick Rescorla for saving their lives from total destruction that day. Many felt so guilty and apologetic they had thought Rick foolish to keep preaching and standing for what he believed would happen if they were not ready. Those interviewed said they would never forget Rick Rescorla. He was their hero.
Mr. Rescorla left behind a widow, Susan Rescorla, and two children that day. Since 911, a memorial stone was erected in Rick’s hometown of Hayle, Cornwall, to commemorate his life and the sacrifice he made to save others.
James 5:19-20 says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” As sinners saved by grace, we must have a “Rick Rescorla Attitude.” He was convinced people entrusted to his care would perish if his plan of escape were ignored. Rick Rescorla stayed the course even when unpopular and ridiculed because he believed what he was doing would save lives.
Sadly, many Christians today have a “Cain Attitude” when it comes to rescuing the perishing and having a consistent witness. Unlike Rick Rescorla, they say by their actions: “I am not my brother’s keeper.” How this must grieve the heart of Almighty God who has left us here as His Beloved Children to sh...
The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs ever built, but there is something fascinating about its beginnings. In 1629, when the favorite wife of Indian ruler Shah Jahan died, he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built as a memorial for her. The shah placed his wife’s casket in the middle of a parcel of land, and construction of the temple literally began around it. But several years into the venture, the Shah’s grief gave way to a passion for the project. One day while he was surveying the sight, he reportedly stumbled over a wooden box, and he had some workers throw it out. It was months before he realized that his wife’s casket had been destroyed. The original purpose for the memorial became lost in the details of construction.
Dr. James Dobson, Coming Home, Timeless Wisdom for Families, (Tynadale House Pub., Wheaton; 1998), 122.
"Earlier that same year, 1885, three Christian boys had shed their blood for Christ in Uganda. The king had ordered the arrest of these page boys in an effort to stamp out Christianity. The eldest was fifteen and the youngest was eleven-year-old Yusufu. They held fast their faith and staked their lives on it, though people were weeping and their parents were pleading with them. At the place of execution they sent a message to the king: ‘Tell his majesty that he has put our bodies in the fire, but we won’t be long in the fire. Soon we shall be with Jesus, which is much better. But ask him to repent and change his mind, or he will land in a place of eternal fire and desolation.’ They sang a song which is now well loved in Uganda as the ‘martyr’s song.’ One verse says, ‘O that I had wings like the angels. I would fly away and be with Jesus!’ Little Yusufu said, ‘Please don’t cut off my arms. I will not struggle in the fire that takes me to Jesus!’ Forty adults came to Jesus the day the boys died. This was a new kind of life, which fire and torture could not control. We have a memorial near Kampala where these youngsters are remembered as the first Christian martyrs of Uganda. By 1887, the end of the first decade of the church, hundreds had died. There were martyrs out of every village that had believers. They were only beginners, they knew little theology, and some could barely read, but they had fallen in love with Jesus Christ. Life had taken on a completely new meaning. The value of living and of living eternally had been discovered. They were not hugging their lives, but ready to give them for Jesus. During these dangerous days, there was an immediate and steady increase in the number of those embracing Christ."
When the first Memorial Day was celebrated, a group of women from Washington D.C. asked the War Department for permission to put flowers on the soldiers graves at Arlington Cemetery. After a lot of haggling, permission was finally granted to do so. But a stern order was attached to the permission. No flowers were to be placed on the graves of the Confederate soldiers who were buried in a segregated section of the cemetery. The ladies carried out their task, careful to follow these instructions. Then General James Garfield made a speech. When the crowds left, a strong wind arose. The wind blew almost all the flowers into the Confederate section. After that the separation was never repeated. Many believed that all this was due to divine intervention.
MEMORIAL DAY, A TIME FOR HEALING
Memorial Day, perhaps more than any other holiday, was born of human necessity. Deep inside all of us lies a fundamental desire to make sense of life and our place in it and the world. What we have been given, what we will do with it and what we will pass to the next generation is all part of an unfolding history, a continuum that links one soul to another.
Abraham Lincoln pondered these thoughts in the late fall of 1863. His darkest fear was that he might well be the last president of the United States, a nation embroiled in the self-destruction of what he described as "a great civil war..testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure." He began his remarks with those words as he stood on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19th of that year.
The minute’s speech that became known as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address turned into what might be called the first observance of Memorial Day. Lincoln’s purpose that day was to dedicate a portion of the battlefield as a cemetery for the thousands of men, both living and dead, who consecrated that soil in the sacrifice of battle. Said Abraham Lincoln: "That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause which they gave the last full measure of devotion...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..."
The next year, a pleasant Sunday in October of 1864 found a teenage girl, Emma Hunter, gathering flowers in a Boalsburg, Pennsylvania cemetery to place on the grave of her father. He was a surgeon who had died in service to the Union Army in that great Civil War. Nearby, Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer was strewing flowers upon the grave of her son Amos, a private who had fallen on the last day of the battle of Gettysburg. Emma respectfully took a few of her flowers and put them on the grave of Amos. Mrs. Meyer, in turn, laid some of her freshly cut blooms on the grave of Dr. Hunter. Both women felt a lightening of their burdens by this act of honoring each other’s loss, and agreed to meet again the next year. This time they agreed they would also visit the graves of those who had no one left to honor them.
Both Emma Hunter and Elizabeth Meyer returned to the cemetery in Boalsburg on the day they had agreed, Independence Day, July 4, 1865. This time, though, they found themselves joined by nearly all the residents of the town. Dr. George Hall, a clergyman, offered a sermon, and the community joined in decorating every grave in the cemetery with flowers and flags. The custom became an annual event at Boalsburg, and it wasn’t long before neighboring communities established their own "Decoration Day" each spring.
About that same time in 1865, a druggist in Waterloo, New York, Henry C. Welles, began promoting the idea of decorating the graves of Civil War veterans. He gained the support of the Seneca County Clerk, General John B. Murray, and they formed a committee to make wreaths, crosses and bouquets for each veteran’s grave. On May 5, 1866, war veterans marching to martial music led processions to each of three cemeteries, where the graves were decorated and speeches were made by General Murray and local clergymen. The village itself was also decorated with flags at half-mast, evergreen boughs and mourning black streamers.
Also, as the Civil War was coming to a close in the spring of 1865, Women’s Auxiliaries of the North and South moved from providing relief to the families and soldiers on their own sides to joining in efforts to preserve and decorate the graves of both sides. A woman of French extraction and leader of the Virginia women’s movement, Cassandra Oliver Moncure, took responsibility of coordinating the activities of several groups into a combined ceremony on May 30. It is said that she picked that day because it corresponded to the Day of Ashes in France, a solemn day that commemorates the return of the remains of Napoleon Bon...
WHEN YOUR BACK IS AGAINST THE WALL, PAT RILEY, NBA COACH
The Los Angeles Lakers were dominating the Boston Celtics in the final round of the 1984 National Basketball Association championship. The Lakers beat Boston on their home floor in Game 1. They beat them by 33 points in Game 3. They were ahead by 10 points in Game 4 and cruising and then it all changed.
Two days after losing the deciding seventh game, the Lakers were back in Los Angeles for their last team meeting. Coach Pat Riley looked at the young faces and said, “Even though we lost, they can’t take away our pride and our dignity; we own those. We are not chokers or losers. We are champions who simply lost a championship.”
The Lakers came back for the 1984-1985 season sharply focused. All year long, they heard about how they were a “show time” team that folded as soon as things got tough. The Celtics and their fans referred to us as the L.A. Fakers. Abuse and sarcasm were heaped on, and the Lakers had to take it. Yet still they achieved a tremendous season and ripped through the place at a high pace. On May 27, they got to face their tormentor, the Celtics, in Boston Garden.
The next day’s headlines called Game 1 of the 1985 finals The Memorial Day Massacre. A 148-114 humiliation was the most embarrassing game in the history of the Lakers franchise. The Lakers saw themselves become exactly what they had been called: choke artists, underachievers. The troubling question was why was it that every time the Lakers faced the Celtics, they became paralyzed with fear.
Before they went out for Game 2, the Lakers gathered in the dinghy locker room of the Boston Garden. The players were sitting there, ready to listen and to believe. Every now and then, you have your back pushed up against a wall. It seems like there is nobody you can depend on but yourself. That is how the Lakers felt on that day. If they lost, the choke reputation would be chiseled into stone, a permanent verdict. If they won, they had an opportunity to prove they could keep on winning. It was a do or die situation.
Coach Riley faced Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the star center, and said, “When I saw you and your father on the bus today, it made me realize what this whole moment is about. You spent a lot of time with Big Al today. Maybe you needed that voice. Maybe everyone in this room needs to hear that kind of voice right now--the voice of your dad, the voice of somebody in the past who was there when you didn’t think you could get the job done.”
“A lot of you don’t think you can win today. A lot of you don’t think you can beat the Celtics. I want each of you to close your eyes and listen.” And they did.
And Riley began his tale, “When I was nine years old my dad told my brothers, Lee and Lenny, to take me down to Lincoln Heights and get me involved in the basketball games. They would throw me into a game and I would get pushed and shoved. Day after day, I ran home crying and hid in the garage. I didn’t want anything to do with basketball.”
“This went on for two or three weeks. One night, I didn’t come to the dinner table, so my dad got up and walked out to the garage where he found me hunkered down in a corner. He picked me up, put his arm around me, and walked to the kitchen. My brother Lee was upset with him. ‘Why do you make us take him down there? He doesn’t want to play. He’s too young.’
“My father stood up and staring at Lee, said, ‘I want you to take him there because I want you to teach him not to be afraid, that there should be no fear. Teach him that competition brings out the very best and the very worst in us. Right now, it’s bring out the worst, but if he sticks with it, it’s going to bring out the best.’ He then looked at his nine-year-old, teary-eyed son and said, ‘Pat, you have to go back there.’
So Coach Riley told his players, “I thought I was never going to be able to get over being hurt and afraid, but I eventually did get over it.” As he was talking, he was slowly pacing back and forth the locker room. Looking at the players, he saw that Michael Cooper was crying. A couple of other players looked as if they would start crying too.
Coach Riley went on, “I don’t know what it is going to take for us to win tonight but I do believe that we are going out there like warriors, and that would make our fathers proud.”
The Lakers won the game. They also won three of the next four games. The 1985 championship was won by the Lakers. Seven times in Laker history, the NBA Finals had been lost to those adversaries. Now the Celtic Myth was slain and the choke image with it.
During the off season, Michael Cooper told Coach Riley that the pregame message had gone deep for him. As a boy, Cooper had a grievous leg wound, an ugly cut through the muscle. Doctors did not think he would ever walk correctly again, much less become an athlete. He was sustained through those times by a wonderful mother and devoted uncle. So he had heard those voices.
All of us have at least one great voice deep inside. People are products of their environments. A lucky few are born into situations in which positive messages abound. Others grow up hearing messages of fear and failure which they must block out to hear the positive. But the positive and courageous voice will always emerge, somewhere, sometime, for all of us. Listen for it, and your breakthroughs will come.
Fear of failure will lead you to despair, wrong decisions, and host of other problems. However, when the voice comes through it will counsel courage, that affirms your life and your ability, and it will position you to do your very best.
Come with me for a moment. Come with me as we leave here and drive down Elizabeth Street. At the end of Elizabeth Street, you take a left on Debary Ave. Drive on Debary Ave. until to reach Providence and take a left. Drive down Providence until you reach Saxon. Take a right on Saxon and drive ˝ mile and you will see something there on the left side of the road. I’m sure many of you have seen it before. It is a memorial, set up and maintained by the family of an accident victim.
Let me ask you, “Why is that memorial there?” It is there to remind us, to help us remember the person who lost his life there.
In Washington D.C., in Arlington National Cemetery, you will find many graves, headstones, and tombs, but several stand out above all of the rest. They are the tombs of the unknown soldiers. Let me ask you, “Why are those tombs there?” They are there to honor those who have given their lives in the defense of this country, but they are also there as reminders. They remind us of the value of the freedoms we enjoy in this country, and the high price paid for those freedoms.
How many of you are wearing wedding rings this morning? Why do wear a wedding ring? I know, you wife made you, but other than that, why do you wear that ring? Wedding rings are a sign to others that you are married. They are also reminders to us, of the commitments we have made. They are memorial reminders.
Just as we have set up many things in our lives to serve as reminders, God has also established a number of memorials over the years to help us remember as well.
Back in Genesis chapter 9, we find one of the earliest memorials ever established. You may remember, back in the early part of Genesis, God caused a flood to cover the earth and kill every living thing on earth except for Noah, his family, and two of every animal that had been on the ark. After the flood was over, God said, this is a sign of the covenant I am making between Me and every living thing, that I will not destroy the earth again with a flood. I have placed My bow in the clouds. God created rainbows as memorials, to remind us of the covenant He made with us.
You may remember the memorial God set up for the Israelites in the book of Exodus. If you remember, the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years. God sent 9 plagues on Egypt to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Again and again Pharaoh refused. Finally, God said, “I will send a 10th. I will send an angel of death to kill the firstborn of every family and animal in Egypt. But, if you will place the blood of a lamb on your doorpost and over your door, the angel will pass over your home. From this day forward I want you to observe the Passover as a reminder of the time I delivered you out of Egypt and passed over you. It was a memorial, a reminder.
In Numbers, God set up another memorial. In chapter 15 He told the Israelites to place tassels with a blue thread, on the four corners of all of their garments, as a memorial, a sign to remind them to obey all of God’s commands.
Memorials are important and God uses them all through the Bible, but there is no memorial more important, no memorial more significant to Christians than the one Jesus established in the 22nd chapter of Luke. …