June 17, 2012

The Perfect Father's Day Gift [All American Series, Part 3 of 10]

Psalm 68:5-6
"A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation. God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land."

The ideals of fatherhood are strong in the Bible. Unlike the gods of other religions, the Judeo-Christian God is shown as a loving Father. Christ described God as his own intimate Father and claimed to show in himself what the Father was like (Jn. 14:9-11). God gave His beloved Son for the salvation of the world (Jn. 3:16). Consequently, wherever the Christian ideal has manifested itself and prospered, fatherhood has taken on a deeper meaning. The tender appeals of the apostles John and Paul to their "children" helped foster this attitude. To see for yourself, read I John 4 in its entirety.

Christian, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things about God I am about to write:

The Father as a Wall Builder. Only God knows how to repair the breaches in our lives. Consider II Chronicles 32:5-8,

5 Also he strengthened himself, and built up all the wall that was broken, and raised it up to the towers, and another wall without, and repaired Millo in the city of David, and made darts and shields in abundance.

6 And he set captains of war over the people, and gathered them together to him in the street of the gate of the city, and spake comfortably to them, saying,

7 Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude that is with him: for there be more with us than with him:

8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles. And the people rested themselves upon the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.

For further study, read up on Nehemiah, Chapters 1-7. Then pray and allow Him to build up the broken walls of your life.

The Father as a Builder. God builds from the ground up. Just like a good restorer doesn't take a broken down shack and improve upon it, God does not leave the sinner in his miserable state and add on a few token gifts. He is a thorough builder, using His word to edify and establish (Col. 1:21-23; 2:7). And, the building begins on a strong foundation. To wit, Matthew 7:24-27,

24 Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand:

27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it.

For further study, please read Ezra, Chapters 1-6 regarding the rebuilding of the Temple. If you're born again and saved, Friend, then your body is the temple of the Lord (I Cor. 6:19-20). Treat it right and let the Master Builder do His work in you and through you.

The Father as a Watchman. God protects and watches over you. In Psalm 121:3, we  read that "He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber."

God’s sleepless vigilance is for our good. In verse 5 says, “The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy shade upon thy right hand.” God keeps us, protects us, and cares for us. If there is a need for refreshing the Lord will provide it. Our Protector is constantly seeking our good. As one song puts it: “He never sleeps, He never slumbers. He watches me both night and day.”

Are you facing difficulties? Turn to the One who never sleeps. Each second of each day, let Him “...preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” (v.8).

The Father as a Provider. Who knows better what we need than God the Father? No one, not even our earthly fathers. Matthew 7:7-11 states, "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?"

To say the least, God is so much more than this abbreviated list of traits. He is our All in all. Someone once said, "If you've got Jesus, you've got everything. If you've got everything else but Jesus, man - you've got nothing!"

How Deep the Father's Love For Us

1. An earthly father sees himself in his children because they were born of his flesh. To some extent, they look like him and act like him.
  • God gives us His Spirit, who indwells us and empowers us to act in ways that please Him. Our task is simply to let Him live through us (Romans 8: 9-10).
2. Children can’t provide for themselves. In fact, they usually don’t even try. They simply trust their parents to provide food, clothing, and shelter. 
  • Because we are God’s children, we don’t have to worry about our basic needs. Like little kids, we can trust our Father to supply them. Will we still have to make wise choices? Yes. But we can place our burdens on the wide shoulders of our heavenly Provider. Read Matt. 6:34 and Psalm 84:11-12, and meditate on their promises.
3. A good father doesn’t expect his three-year-old to be able to mow the yard. Nor does he become impatient if his child can’t tie her shoes the first time he shows her. 
  • Similarly, God doesn’t expect us to be mature instantly. He gradually gives us more responsibility and teaches us to lean on Him more completely (Ephesians 4:11-16). 
5. Parents usually regret it when they fail to set boundaries for their children. Although discipline is difficult for both the child and the parent, it is necessary to form a child’s character.

  • Although our heavenly Father is patient with us as we grow, He will discipline us when we persist in willful sin. (See Hebrews 12:5-11.)

6. Unfortunately, many fathers express love to their children only when their child looks good, succeeds, or is well-behaved. Or, a father may communicate a lack of love by spending very little time with his child. 
  • In contrast, our heavenly Father is willing to express His love for us at any time (Psalm 103:17-18). 
7. Little children can’t plan a vacation, buy a house, or select the school that’s right for them. They trust their parents to plan a good life for them. 
  • As believers, we often think we have more control over our lives than we really do. God wants us to trust Him to give us His goals for our lives (Ephesians 5:15-17). Often, His guidance will come one step at time, not all at once (Proverbs 16:9).


Origins of Father's Day

The campaign to celebrate the nation’s fathers did not meet with the same enthusiasm--perhaps because, as one florist explained, “Fathers haven’t the same sentimental appeal that mothers have.” On July 5, 1908, a West Virginia church sponsored the nation’s first event explicitly in honor of fathers, a Sunday sermon in memory of the 362 men who had died in the previous December’s explosions at the Fairmont Coal Company mines in Monongah, West Virginia. But it was a one-time commemoration and not an annual holiday.

The next year, a Spokane, Washington woman named Sonora Smart Dodd, one of six children raised by a widower, tried to establish an official equivalent to Mother’s Day for male parents. She went to local churches, the YMCA, shopkeepers and government officials to drum up support for her idea, and she was successful: Washington State celebrated the nation’s first statewide Father’s Day on July 19, 1910.

Slowly, the holiday spread. In 1916, President Wilson honored the day by using telegraph signals to unfurl a flag in Spokane when he pressed a button in Washington, D.C. In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge urged state governments to observe Father’s Day.

However, many men continued to disdain the day. As one historian writes, they “scoffed at the holiday’s sentimental attempts to domesticate manliness with flowers and gift-giving, or they derided the proliferation of such holidays as a commercial gimmick to sell more products--often paid for by the father himself.”

Advertisers redoubled their efforts to make Father’s Day a “second Christmas” for men, promoting goods such as neckties, hats, socks, pipes and tobacco, golf clubs and other sporting goods, and greeting cards. When World War II began, advertisers began to argue that celebrating Father’s Day was a way to honor American troops and support the war effort. By the end of the war, Father’s Day may not have been a federal holiday, but it was a national institution.

Today, economists estimate that Americans spend more than $1 billion each year on Father’s Day gifts. That's a lot of neckties!

Seriously though, the best gift you can give to God the Father is to entrust Him with your life (Click Here). The best gift you can give your earthly father is your respect. Oh, a hug would be okay, too.

Sources: usa.gov, artofmanliness.com, history.com, intouch.org, fathersday.com

June 14, 2012

Flags of Our Fathers [Flag Day, All American Series, Part 2 of 10]

Psalm 20:5
"We will rejoice in thy salvation, and in the name of our God we will set up our banners: the Lord fulfil all thy petitions."

All people, when they go to war, have standards or banners, whether flags or some other ensigns, around which they rally; which they follow; under which they fight; and which they feel bound to defend.

We, too, will erect our standards; we will unfurl our flag.

Don't believe the liberals when they say or claim that the United States isn't a Christian Nation. It still is, so long as there is a remnant. All of you who are out there thinking it's over and that America has seen its last good days are dead wrong.

There's nothing stopping us from ascending back into great heights. There is a condition, though. In II Chronicles 7:14-15, the Bible says, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attent unto the prayer that is made in this place."

Some trust in tanks, and some in their infantry; others trust their missiles. But we will remember the name of the Lord our God and magnify His name.

Dear Christian, are willing and able to do that? Do you have a heart for the Lord and this great Nation? With wickedness running rampant in D.C. and around State Capitol houses (especially in Olympia, Washington), this country and the 50 states need prayer. People need to pray for revival, which almost always begins with you. Don't wait for someone to catch revival or to be revived. It's you who can be the spark, the ember that gets something going in your local church.


The Battle of Iwo Jima

American air forces pounded Iwo in the longest sustained aerial offensive of the war. "No other island received as much preliminary pounding as did Iwo Jima." -Admiral Nimitz, CINPAC.
Incredibly, this ferocious bombardment had little effect. Hardly any of the Japanese underground fortresses were touched. Twenty-one thousand defenders of Japanese soil, burrowed in the volcanic rock of Iwo Jima, anxiously awaited the American invaders.

The US sent more Marines to Iwo than to any other battle, 110,000 Marines in 880 Ships. The convoy of 880 US Ships sailed from Hawaii to Iwo in 40 days.

Shortly before 2am on Feb. 19, 1945, the Navy's big guns opened up on Iwo Jima again, signaling the beginning of D-Day. After an hour of punishment, the fire was lifted, leaving Iwo smoking as if the entire island were on fire.

The battle was unique in its setting. One hundred thousand men fighting on a tiny island one-third the size of Manhattan. For 36 days Iwo Jima was one of the most populated 7.5 miles on earth.

In 36 days of fighting there were 25,851 US casualties (1 in 3 were killed or wounded). Of these, 6,825 American boys were killed. Virtually all 22,000 Japanese perished.

The Battle of Iwo Jima is just one representation of the many great sacrifices our men have made in battle to secure our freedoms. Please remember our veterans and their families in your prayers today!


Six Nice Young Boys

Each year my video production company is hired to go to Washington D.C. with the eighth grade class from Clinton, Wisconsin where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I greatly enjoy visiting our nation’s capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me. This fall’s trip was especially memorable.

On the last night of our trip, we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history – that of six brave men raising the American flag at the top of Mount Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima, Japan during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed toward the memorial. I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, “What’s your name and where are you guys from?”

I told him that my name was Michael Powers and that we were from Clinton, Wisconsin.

“Hey, I’m a Cheesehead, too! Come gather around Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story.”

James Bradley just happened to be in Washington, D.C. to speak at the memorial the following day. He was there that night to say goodnight to his dad, who had previously passed away, but whose image is part of the statue. He was just about to leave when saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history in Washington, D.C. but it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night. When all had gathered around he reverently began to speak. Here are his words from that night:

“My name is James Bradley and I’m from Antigo Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue and I just wrote a book called “Flags of Our Fathers” which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. Six boys raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game, a game called “war”. But it didn’t turn out to be a game. Harlon, at the age of twenty-one, died with his intestines in his hands. I don’t say that to gross you out; I say that because there are generals who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were seventeen, eighteen, and nineteen years old.

(He pointed to the statue)

You see this next guy? That’s Rene Gagnon from New Hampshire. If you took Rene’s helmet off at the moment of this photo was taken, and looked in the webbing of that helmet you would find a photograph. A photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in there for protection, because he was scared. He was eighteen years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys, not old men.

The next guy here the third guy in this tableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the “old man” because he was so old. He was already twenty-four. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn’t say, “Let’s go kill the enemy” or “Let’s die for our country”. He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, “You do what I say, and I’ll get you home to your mothers”.

The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, “You’re a hero”. He told reporters, “How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies hit the island with me and only twenty-seven of us walked off alive?”

So you take your class at school, 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only twenty-seven of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at the age of thirty-two, ten years after this picture was taken.

The next guy, going around the statue, is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop Kentucky, a fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, “Yeah, you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn’t get down. Then we fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night.

Yes, he was a fun-lovin’ hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of nineteen. When the telegram came to tell is mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran the telegram up to his mother’s farm. The neighbors could hear her scream all night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue, is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Cronkite’s producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, “No, I’m sorry sir, my dad’s not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there, sir. No, we don’t know when he is coming back”

My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually he was sitting right there at the table eating his Campbell’s soup, but we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn’t want to talk to the press. You see, my dad didn’t see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, because they are in a photo and a monument. My dad new better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died, and when boys died on Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain.

When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, “I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. Did NOT come back.”

So that’s the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7,000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst battle in the history of the Marine Corps. My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time.

Suddenly the Monument wasn’t just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of a son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero in his own eyes, but a hero nonetheless.


A New Constellation

The “Stars and Stripes”, the official National symbol of the United States of America was authorized by congress on that Saturday of June 14, 1777 in the fifth item of the days agenda. The entry in the journal of the Continental Congress 1774-1789 Vol. Vlll 1777 reads “Resolved that the flag of the thirteen United States be Thirteen stripes alternate red and white: that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.”

Flag Day is celebrated today across the United States. Please pray for our men and women in the Armed Forces and ask for God's protection over them. Please pray for this great Nation and ask for God's mercy because we've strayed far from Him. This is still the land of milk and honey for many who are trying to get into this country. This land is a great land to live in because of the liberty still thriving here that you don't see in other nations. God bless America!

Here are five facts about the patriotic U.S. holiday that starting in 1916.

1. Flag day commemorates the implementation of the U.S. flag which took place through resolution of the Second Continental Congress in 1777. It is always celebrated on June 14.
2. In 1916, former President Woodrow Wilson declared that June 14 would be officially established as Flag Day.
3. Flag day isn’t an official federal holiday, but Pennsylvania has adopted it as a state holiday.
4. The sitting President must proclaim the official observance of Flag Day.
5. Fairfield, Washington, holds the title of having the oldest continuing Flag Day parade, beginning in 1910.
6. The 50 stars on the flag represent the 50 states of the United States of America and the 13 stripes represent the thirteen British colonies that declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain and became the first states in the Union.
7. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well: Red symbolizes Hardiness and Valor, White symbolizes Purity and Innocence and Blue represents Vigilance, Perseverance and Justice.
8. Nicknames for the flag include the "Stars and Stripes", "Old Glory", and "The Star-Spangled Banner".


One Last Thing to Think About

There is One who loves us so much that He laid down His life so that many could live (John 3:16). Read Jeremiah 50:2 and then think about the meaning about who Jesus Christ is. He is, to be sure, the great Captain of our salvation, having obtained a complete victory over all enemies, and made us more than conquerors thereby, we will set up our banners, hang out the flag, and in His name triumph over sin, Satan, the world, death, and hell.

Think about this, Beloved -

"He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love."  (Song of Solomon 2:4)

Christ's banner is draped crimson, a deep red that is pure and wholesome and holy. Behold, the Lamb's blood that takes away the sins of the world! It is yours for the asking. Here's how: I Want My Sins To Be Washed Away!

Sources: Encyclopedia Brittanica, iwojima.com, hq224usmc.com, nationalflagday.com, usflag.org, history.com, newsmax.com