Posts tagged empty tomb

Real men die

“Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.”


Photo by Stacy Fischer

The inscription on the tomb of the unknown soldier in Arlington Cemetery remains a fitting tribute to true manhood: Giving up your life, not for personal recognition, but in the service of others. Even when no one knows what you have done but you and the One who weighs the motives of your heart.

I grew up hearing the stories of heroism on the field of battle. To me, these soldiers were paragons of manhood. As a young boy, I especially loved the movie Sergeant York. I don’t know how many times I replayed in my mind the scene where Alvin York went alone up the hill toward enemy machine gun nests that had been picking off his fellow soldiers. He did it not for the thrill of battle, or dreams of glory and fame, but on behalf of the men who fought alongside him. If you’re not familiar with the story, York eventually captured 132 German soldiers — single handedly.

The humble and godly York initially turned down the Warner Brothers biopic offer, but later agreed so he could use the money to benefit others. With the movie royalties and speaking engagements, he built a Bible school and a high school on his old homeplace in Pall Mall, Tennessee.

Alvin York believed God’s favor on the battlefield paved the way for him to have the platform to help people and change lives. His considered his greatest lifetime achievement not his achievements as the most-decorated soldier of World War I, but building the schools and giving himself to improve the lives of others.

Real men die

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” – Luke 9:23

In contrast to his fellow soldiers who gave their lives on the battlefield, York lived a full 76 years. But if you know the back story, his life was one of daily dying to self. After giving his life to Christ in 1915, York did a 180, turning from his past of violent drunken outbursts to a deep conviction not to harm others. Although he signed up for the service, he did so as a conscientious objector. When his appeal was denied, the expert marksman reluctantly accepted the role of training soldiers how to shoot.

Soon afterward he had to find a way to serve his country on the battlefield without violating his conscience. And when his commanding officer was killed, he assumed the leadership of his platoon, storming the hill alone, killing 28 German soldiers and capturing 32 machine guns that had been picking off his fellow soldiers. All the time York was shooting, he was yelling for the Germans to surrender, hoping to save as many lives as possible, even of those who were trying to kill him.

In a way, Alvin York didn’t have to worry about dying as he charged that hill because he had already committed his life to dying to self in the service of others.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” – John 15:13

Alvin York’s life belonged to the Lord Jesus Christ, who had provided the ultimate example of manhood on another hill. His very purpose in coming from heaven to earth was “to seek and to save.” Denying Himself to the very end, He offed himself a willing sacrifice on the hill called Golgotha (the place of the skull).

If anyone occupying human flesh ever had a right to glory and fame, Jesus Christ did. Yet he willingly gave it all up for us, offering to exchange his life for the death that all of us eventually face as men. In doing so, He gives us the maxim for masculinity: Real men die to self. Real men serve others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.   – Philippians 2:5-8

In the 45 years since I first saw Sergeant York, the heroic visions of my childhood have never materialized in my own life. I haven’t had the opportunity to storm an enemy hill, capture countless prisoners, or save a platoon. I haven’t even been able to build a school or missionary training center.

But I’ve learned that the real heroism as a man isn’t in the big feats. It comes in putting away my selfish desires on behalf of my wife and children, serving others by sharing the word of life and seeking to better the lives of those around me. I’ve also found that these little decision to die daily to self are so much harder than the ready-for-the-moment courage of my childhood fantasies. Amazing how it can be so easy to storm a machine gun nest in my mind, yet so hard in real life to give my undivided attention to Ellie and the kids.

Real men die. Our decisions to deny self may be unknown to anyone but ourselves, but they are known to God, who looks at the heart. He is the same God who accepted Christ’s sacrifice for us, conquering death for all and leaving an empty tomb.

He is risen.

4 steps to helping your family understand the meaning of Easter

As Grandpa Bob pulled into the driveway he could see his 4-year-old granddaughter, Caitlin, and a couple of her friends playing in the backyard. It was almost Easter and he wanted to know how much these children knew about the Easter story.

Approaching the three little girls he asked, “Who knows why we celebrate Easter every year?”

One friend chirped up first: “Oh, that’s when you go sit on the big bunny rabbit’s lap and tell him what you want in your Easter basket.”

EasterEggHunt-wp FamilyLife Stepping Up Easter 2013 Dennis Rainey

Her second pal’s answer was no better: “No, no, no! It’s when you get a tree and hang eggs on it — and you wake up on Sunday and there’s presents under it and …”

At this point Grandpa interrupted and gently said, “Those are good guesses. Caitlin, do you know why we celebrate Easter?”

Caitlin nodded her head. “It’s when Jesus was crucified. He died, and His disciples put His body in the grave. Then, on the third day, the stone rolled away …”

Grandpa was really encouraged that Caitlin knew so many details.

“… And then the entire town would come out by the grave,” Caitlin continued. “And if Jesus came out and saw his shadow, they knew there would be six more weeks of winter!”

Understanding the message of Easter

Well, at least little Caitlin had a portion of the message right! Yet my experience tells me that, when they are told the story in a way they can grasp, children are capable of understanding the meaning of Easter. This holiday presents a great opportunity to tell children of their need for salvation.

Many children are able to comprehend and experience the grace of God at a very early age. In fact, many of the great leaders of the church became Christians when they were young. It was said of Polycarp, a second centruy church leader, that he walked with God for 86 years before he died at the age of 95.

How old must a child be before he or she can place saving faith in Jesus Christ? C. H. Spurgeon, the great English preacher, said, “A child who knowingly sins can savingly believe.”

I was six when I began to understand my need for forgiveness. I recall becoming so aware of my sin that I would lay in bed and shudder — afraid to go to sleep at night for fear that I’d die and spend eternity in hell.

So one Sunday evening I told my mom that I felt it was time for me to give my life to Christ. And that night, with a huge lump in my throat, I walked down the church aisle in a public confession of my desire to make Jesus Christ my Savior and Lord. I look back on that commitment as the most important decision in my life and am thankful to my parents for their faithful instruction that led me to that point.

Regardless of age, children (and any person) need to know the following basics to become a Christian:

Children need to be taught who God is and how He loves them.

God is holy. He is perfect. We are not perfect.

God is just. He is always fair. We are not just in all our decisions.

God is omnipotent. He knows all there is to know. We are not all-knowing.

God is sovereign. He is in control. We are not in control.

God is love. He desires a relationship with us; that’s why He sent His Son. We do not love others perfectly.

Will they fully understand? No. But children do not need to fully comprehend God’s character to be able to believe. They need to understand that He is the Creator, unlike man, and that we are accountable to Him for our lives.

Children need to be taught about sin.

I don’t think we talk enough today about sin and the penalty that accompanies it — hell. These are not popular concepts in our culture of tolerance.

Hell isn’t in style today because it represents a couple of things that are repugnant to many people. It represents accountability to someone in authority — and we want to avoid authority. It also represents absolute eternal judgment. Many people have a difficult time believing in everlasting punishment because they prefer to think of God only as a loving father.

God is loving, but He is not tolerant. He is holy. His justice calls for an atonement (a payment, a penalty) for man’s sins. Our children must have some understanding that their sins can keep them out of heaven. Their sins must be paid for. And that is what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.

Children need to know that they can receive God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.

They need to agree with God that they are sinners and cannot reach Him by their own efforts, turn to Him in faith, and trust Jesus Christ to be their Savior and Lord (Ephesians 2:8-9).

I remember the night years ago when I was putting my daughter Ashley, then 7 years old, to bed. We started talking about the second coming of Christ — how all Christians would be caught up with Him in the air. Ashley frowned and asked about her younger brothers. “What about Benjamin and Samuel — would they go, too? They aren’t Christians yet!”

Well, Benjamin was in the upper bunk and his head popped out with a worried look on his face. “Dad, I want to talk to you about how I can become a Christian!” Within 24 hours, Benjamin asked Christ to be His Savior and Master.

It’s interesting that all six of our children indicated a desire to come to Christ before the age of 8. As you approach this Easter season, may I encourage you to prayerfully think about your children or loved ones in your family who do not know God’s love and forgiveness? What better time to proclaim the good news?

In our next post we’ll show you how to use a product that FamilyLife developed a number of years ago that will help you explain the real meaning of Easter to your kids and, just maybe, to a neighborhood full of kids!


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