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The Author of Life

 

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Three times in the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as Author. Peter called him the Author of life (Acts 3:15), and the writer of Hebrews referred to him as the Author of salvation (2:10) as well as the Author and Finisher of our faith (12:2).

As someone who enjoys writing, I’m intrigued by this title for Jesus. How is he like an author? And how should his role as Author impact my life?

Research and ponderings took me down these pathways:

 

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Just like Jesus, writers are creators. (According to Colossians 1:16-17, God the Son participated in creation, too: “By him all things were created in heaven and earth…all things were created by him and for him.”  See also Note #1.)  Where a character, place, or idea did not exist before, an author brings them to life.

Without C.S. Lewis, for example, we would not know Aslan, the great and noble lion, the land of Narnia or the concept of a New Narnia with its astounding dimensions. (“The further up and the further in you go, the bigger everything gets. The inside is larger than the outside”–The Last Battle, Book #7 of the Narnia series, p. 180).

Writers animate settings, characters, and ideas with the choicest words they can find. The sentence, “A bird sat on the gate looking over the snowy field,” becomes “A black and white magpie, sitting on the rail of a gate, reigned benevolently over the tranquility of a snowy field” (from Lisette’s List by Susan Vreeland, p. 322). Jesus animates our lives with his choicest blessings: purpose, hope, contentment, and joy.

 

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Writers cajole their ideas on the page, striving to form nebulous concepts into clear, solidly built statements. They organize their thoughts, structure sentences, and decide upon word selection. Jesus lovingly coaxes us along, slowly over time sharpening the fuzzy understandings of our faith into solidly built knowledge, wisdom, and conduct.

Writers peel away redundancies, wordiness, and boring details. Jesus peels away our sins, spiritually unhealthy habits, and weighty emotions like discouragement, anxiety, and fear—any excesses that keep us from being our best selves.

According to author, Joan Lowery, writing is “a complicated mixture of art, craft, structure, free-flowing ideas, unleashed imagination, soaring hopes, wondrous insights, giddy joy, deep satisfaction, strong persistence and solid determination” (from The Making of a Writer, pp. 1-2).

 

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As we allow God the Son (2) to write upon our souls, he applies these same processes. Persistently and determinedly he:

  • crafts our spirits into works of poetry (Ephesians 2:10) (3),
  • offers us safe structure in which to function (Proverbs 2:6-8),
  • exposes us to ideas of freedom we never knew existed (John 8:31),
  • surprises us with more blessings than we could ever imagine (Ephesians 3:20),
  • fills us to overflowing with hope (Romans 15:13),
  • imparts wondrous insights, especially through his Word (Psalm 119:130),
  • bestows his complete joy upon us (John 15:11), and
  • fills our hearts with deep satisfaction (Luke 6:21, John 10:10).

 

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Joan Lowery’s long list of writing components (above) appears daunting. It’s a wonder anyone puts pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Yet there are many of us who actually enjoy the process—the discovery of new information and ideas as we research, the development of clearer understanding while wrestling with a concept; the puzzle-assembling of thoughts into organized paragraphs and words into precise sentences; the delight of creating a musical rhythm among the syllables.

In fact, Truman Capote asserted:

 

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(“The greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about,

but the inner music the words make”

–Truman Capote)

Surely Jesus feels the same. His purpose as Author is not to produce best sellers of our life stories. He’s interested in relationship. In collaboration with each of us, Jesus wants to write upon our souls and create inner music together: symphonies of joy, madrigals of peace, and songs of love.

Praise God, he takes great pleasure in the process (Psalm 149:4, Philippians 2:13).

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NOTES:

  1. For the record, Genesis 1:2 and Psalm 104:30 give us glimpses of the Holy Spirit’s role as well.
  2. God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also involved in the process, of course, as three-in-one.
  3. Paul said, “We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10). That word, workmanship, is translated from the Greek word, poema, from which we derive our English word, poem. Our triune God is making us into heavenly pieces of poetry—“the highest, finest, most beautiful expressions of his thought and purpose!” (Herbert Lockyer, Seasons of the Lord, 330).

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.wallpaper4god.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.crosscards.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

 

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” Let all that I am praise the LORD;

with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name…

may I never forget the good things he does for me.”

–Psalm 103:1-2 NLT

 

So begins Psalm 103 (one of my favorites), written by David the Shepherd-King.

I imagine him–seated at a large table, a blank parchment spread before him, and a sharpened reed in his hand. Close by sits a small pot half-filled with a mixture of soot, gum, and water–his ink.

David’s gaze drifts to the view of Jerusalem outside the palace window. His thoughts carry him back in time to the hillsides of Bethlehem, just a few miles away. There he had tended his father’s sheep as a boy. But oh, the wonders God had performed during the years since. The humble shepherd boy became a giant killer, then a fugitive from jealous King Saul, a courageous warrior against Israel’s enemies, and finally after many years, the crowned king of Israel.

I can sense his heart filling with gratitude and praise, his eyes filling with tears as he considers all the “benefits” God has bestowed.

And David begins to write, extolling the Lord for his forgiveness, redemption, love, goodness, and more (vs. 3-6).

 

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His pen needs more ink. As he dips the reed, David’s gaze is once again drawn to the window. He begins to contemplate God’s goodness expressed to his countrymen long ago:

 

“He revealed His ways to Moses,

His deeds to the people of Israel” — v. 7, HCSB.

 

Through the laws outlining his ways, God had revealed his holy character. Through his miraculous deeds God revealed his power, faithfulness and…

…David’s mind shifts to the days when the Hebrews were brought out of slavery in Egypt and led back to the land of their father, Abraham. How compassionate God was.

David marvels at the provisions God engineered, so his people could escape: the gold, silver, and clothing Egyptians gave them as they prepared to flee (Exodus 12:35-36); the food and water necessary for survival (chapters 16 & 17).

 

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David recollects God’s patience with the Israelites—grumbly and rebellious as they were (Numbers 14:18).

And David contemplates God’s love (Deuteronomy 7:7-8)—caring and protective—in spite of the Israelites’ ingratitude and disobedience.

David picks up his reed once more and continues to write:

 

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(“The Lord is compassionate and gracious,

Slow to anger and rich in faithful love — v. 8, HCSB.)

 

Those words beg the question: When have I experienced God’s benefits of compassion and grace, patience and faithful love?

A few examples follow:

 

  • The Lord is compassionate.

Time and again God has tended our family through the loving kindness of friends—friends who have prayed with us in the midst of trauma and who have provided for our needs (like a place to stay, furniture, a contribution to our children’s college funds—the list is very long!).  God has benefited us with numerous blessings—even a car one time.

 

  • The Lord is gracious.

He cares about all our concerns, big and small. 

This past winter I lost a scarf at the local bookstore. It wasn’t an expensive one, just soft and warm, the perfect size. A thorough check through the aisles and an inquiry at the information booth proved futile.

A couple of weeks later I returned to the same shop. Although I doubted the scarf would turn up (After all, my search two weeks prior had been very thorough.), I decided to ask again. Sure enough, the girl behind the counter produced my scarf.

 

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  • The Lord is slow to anger.

I’ve been incredibly blessed to know Jesus my entire life. But I still suffer from bouts of sin—sins like fretting, negativity, lack of faith, low self-esteem, pride, selfishness…must I go on?!

Yet he patiently forgives me and removes my offenses as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He even understands my frailties (v. 14). How gloriously comforting is that?

 

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  • The Lord is rich in faithful love.

Every day, with his provision, protection, and presence, guidance, goodness, and gifts, God expresses his unwavering love for us.

And with David, my heart overflows.

You, too?

 

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(“Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being,

praise his holy name” — v. 1, NIV).

 

How has God demonstrated his compassion, grace, patience and love in your life?  Please share your story in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pinterest (2), http://www.lds.org; http://www.pinterest.com;  www.poshmark.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

 

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Sometime in the 1940s the New York Museum of Natural History created a living room space–from the perspective of a dog. Table legs rose like tall pillars, chair seats hovered overhead, and the mantel of the fireplace loomed higher still.

Now any human museum-goer would instantly know this was an unrealistic representation. But if we were all terriers, we’d bark to one another how accurately the decorator had appointed the room.

Which view of the museum display is correct—that of humans or dogs? Our instinctive response is: the way a room appears to us as humans is the accurate view.

And we think, The poor dogs—living their whole lives with an illusion they accept as reality.

 No doubt that museum space provided plenty of entertainment. But perhaps an important lesson was hiding among the over-sized furniture and features. What if we compared Planet Earth to that room? Then we are the small creatures gazing upwards—at towering mountains, high plateaus, and tall waterfalls.

 

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(El Pailon del Diablo–Ecuador.  Can you spot the people?)

 

Oh, but our view must be expanded further—far beyond Mount Everest even. We must consider what Planet Earth looks like to God, who made the numerous planets, spinning in billions of galaxies. On a map of the stars, our tiny planet isn’t even represented.

Yet it’s so easy to lose sight of this reality.  Our sphere of contacts–family, friends, and coworkers –becomes our whole world.  The pursuit of happiness within this microcosm becomes our whole focus.  And we think living life “my way” is the ticket to happiness and satisfaction.  Like our poor canine friends, we can easily spend our whole lives accepting an illusion as reality.

Then there’s God’s point of view, as taught by Jesus:

 

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“How blessed are those

who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness,

because it is they who will be satisfied!”

–Matthew 5:6 (ISV)

 

Which view of reality is accurate–our view or that of our sovereign Maker (who sees, understands and controls everything)?

Logic supports the latter. The real world-view is God’s view.

And if we’re ready to accept that reality, then we must also agree it makes sense to follow his instruction manual, the Bible, for living in the world he created.

My self-serving, egocentric side says, Wait a minute. I have my own ideas of what’s best for me. I ought to know what will make me happy. Doesn’t my viewpoint count for anything?

Such thinking exposes my lack of understanding, putting me on the level of a dog in that museum living room! My world view is flawed.

No, I’d be much wiser to embrace God’s point of view as revealed in his Word, and learn about true reality—the reality of his invisible, spiritual kingdom and its benefits:

  • His foundation of security

 

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“Those who know your name will trust in you,

for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

–Psalm 9:10 (NIV)

 

  • His way to happiness

 

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“The one who trusts in the LORD will be happy.”

–Proverbs 16:20b (HCSB)

 

  • His gift of peace

 

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“Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts.”

–Colossians 3:15a (NLT)

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, Father, for these benefits and more, lovingly bestowed as we seek to live within the spiritual reality of your kingdom. Yes, it’s invisible to our human eyes, but no less real than the wind. And as we follow you and obey your Word, the more real your world becomes, the more wonders we experience. Help me to outgrow the immaturity of illusions and embrace your reality!

 

(Information about the New York Museum of Natural History room display came from Ralph Sockman’s book, The Higher Happiness, Abingdon Press, 1950.)

 

Photo and art credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.trafficamerican.com; http://www.dailyblossom.com; http://www.pinterest.com (3).

 

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(www.quotesgram.com)

The Ruegg family is making special memories this week, to treasure and keep for always.  I’ll be back with a new post next week!

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No doubt many of you know the name, Jan Karon. She’s the author of the Mitford series, named after the fictional village tucked into the Blue Ridge Mountains where most of her compelling stories take place. Within the pages of these thirteen books live Father Tim, an Episcopal priest, and a delightful cast of eccentric, endearing characters.

One of Mitford’s residents is Dooley, a foster child who is eventually adopted and the recipient of God’s generous, providential care.

In volume #11 of the series, In the Company of Others, Ms. Karon writes of Dooley: “While most people understandably took family for granted, he took it for grace.”

Isn’t that a wonderful quote? I copied it down with the thought, I want to be like Dooley and take all gifts for grace—never for granted.

Gifts such as:

  • A praise song that causes my heart to overflow in joyful, reverential tears.
  • A word of instruction or encouragement that speaks to a need in my life with uncanny accuracy.

 

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  • Participation with God in his creation–even if it’s just in the yard.  Gardening offers great pleasure and a sense of his presence in the beauty of leaf and flower; the concert of bird song as I putter; the aroma of soil, grass, and blooms; the delicate softness of petals–all gracious gifts of my Heavenly Father.
  • Holy beauty in a writer’s words (even in a secular work)–words like: “Lingering as long as it could, sunset’s sad joy filmed over the day with a delicate blush…” (Susan Vreeland, Lisette’s List, 355).

To “take all gifts for grace” can produce ethereal joy.  For a moment we experience the transcendent, as if the veil between heaven and earth is parted ever so slightly, and a single beam of God’s shimmering glory pierces through the dullness. Suddenly we’re basking in the warm euphoria of his presence.

We never want the moment to end. But inevitably the splendor begins to fade and we’re left reeling like Jacob—as though we’d been transported to the gate of heaven (Genesis 28:17).

 

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And we’re anxious to repeat the experience.

Is it wrong to desire frequent glimpses of God’s glory?

I don’t think so. Yes, on the one hand we’d be misguided to try and evoke such moments (“Come on, tears! FLOW!”). On the other hand, surely God wants us to live aware, alert to receive those gifts of grace when he sees fit to grant them.

Like Micah, the prophet, we can affirm:

 

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(“As for me, I watch in hope for the Lord,

I wait for God my Savior.”

–Micah 7:7, NIV)

 

Surely watchfulness is part of seeking—seeking to know him more intimately, to experience him more profoundly (Jeremiah 29:13).

 

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And as we grow in our awareness of these glory-infused moments, we begin to realize how often they really do occur.

Just in creation alone we:

  • See him in the towering mountains and trees, the powerful oceans and rivers. There is glory in the grandeur.
  • Hear him in a pounding waterfall and crashing thunderstorm. There is glory in the power.
  • Feel him in a soft breeze and gentle rain. There is glory in the whisper.
  • Take in his aroma from the pungent pine tree and sweet honeysuckle vine. There is glory in the refreshing.

 

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In fact, his glorious gifts of grace are all around us.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Thank you, oh God, for the gracious display of your splendor throughout each day. You fill my heart with wonder and joy every time I catch a glimpse of your glory—from an early morning bird chorus to a liturgical dance performed by children, from the encouraging word of a friend to the warm welcome of strangers. I praise you that your gifts of grace are bestowed with such delightful creativity! May I never take them for granted.

 

What gift of grace has filled your heart with euphoric gratitude lately?  Tell us about it in the Comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.goodreads.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.doityourself.com.)

 

 

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Have you heard or read such statements as these?

  • Dream big! With God you can go as far as you can think or imagine.
  • Faith may not make things easy; but it does make them possible.
  • When God makes a promise he also makes a provision.

All three statements are valid IF the promises we’ve embraced coincide with God’s plan. If not, God may not be making that dream come true, or turning the unimaginable into possible, or making provision for a particular fulfillment.

That means the perfect wife or husband may not show up, the perfect job may not open up, the perfect family may not be delivered up, and the perfect ministry opportunity (in our view) may not match up with those making the choices.

What do we do when our dreams seem to be fading away like vapor?

 

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We need to remember:

 

  1. God is not limited to our timeframe.

 

We know that, right?  Sometimes God requires a waiting period before making our dreams reality. The dream will be fulfilled—but in his time.  Scripture is full of examples of those who had to wait; we’ve considered them before:  Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David—to name a few.

Eventually their dreams came true.  Abraham became a father, Jacob was blessed with twelve sons, Joseph  became prime minister of Egypt, and David, the king of Israel.

However, we’d be wise to hold onto our dreams with a light grip, as these same four patriarchs demonstrate:

  • Abraham saw the birth of only one son of promise, not exactly the nation God foretold.
  • The full extent of blessing promised to Jacob was not fulfilled until the birth of Jesus.
  • David dreamed of erecting a temple for God, and though he collected an impressive store of materials, the privilege of building went to his son, Solomon.

 

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Perhaps, like these Bible heroes, God has chosen to fulfill our dreams after we’re gone.

I have to decide: Will I balk at such a reality or embrace it?

 

  1. Maybe my heart is set on the wrong dream—even though it seems right and worthwhile.

God may desire that I set aside my Plan A and take hold of his Plan B. Oh, but that sounds like settling, doesn’t it? Not at all. God’s plan is never second best. It’s always better (Hebrews 11:39-40)!

Also important to understand: God may have chosen me to be a foundation-builder—part of the preparation process. Someone else will be the presentation. John the Baptist is a perfect example, as he prepared the way for Jesus.

 

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Foundation builders serve as mentors, planners, and seed planters. Again, will I balk at such a reality or embrace it?

 

  1. We can be “certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

That includes this truth: When we do not see one promise (or more) being fulfilled, we can be certain other promises are. God is loving and good. Always. He will demonstrate his grace and compassion–no matter what.

Part of God’s goodness prompts him to foster within us: a) a deeper relationship with him (Jeremiah 33:3); b) greater obedience to his all-wise ways (Hebrews 12:7-11, 14), and c) greater spiritual strength (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Once we begin to realize the benefit of these blessings, other desires will fade in importance.

(Note to self: When my appreciation for spiritual blessings overrides my celebration of material and circumstantial blessings, I’ll know that the maturity James talked about is taking root.)

 

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I praise you, oh God, for your omnipotent ability to supply, guide, sustain, change, correct, and improve–in your time, for your good purpose. Help me to rely upon your love and wisdom to choose what’s best for me, and your power to live in godly ways for your glory. That is the way to a fulfilling, satisfying life!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.twitter.com; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.saltlakebiblecollege.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.knowing-jesus.com.)

 

No Other Nation

 

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(Warsaw, Poland, January 1945)

 

World War II reduced much of Western Europe to rubble. Homes, businesses, factories, and much of the infrastructure were damaged or destroyed. How could the region rehabilitate itself? It couldn’t. Even two years after the war ended, very little rebuilding had been accomplished. Many people were living in poverty. Government agencies, in chaos themselves, could offer little if any support.

America came to the rescue, helping to rehabilitate post-war Europe at the cost of $22 billion dollars.   That’s about $182 billion in today’s economy, to assist sixteen nations, including Germany, for six years (1946 to 1952) (1).

Granted, the investment provided a boon to our economy when those nations began to thrive and became strong trade partners with us. National security was undoubtedly enhanced as well.

But a nation such as ours, rich with resources and populated by creative, entrepreneurial people, could surely have survived quite well without their participation. Besides, think what America could have done with $22 billion.

No, greater than economic gain or national security was the importance of doing the right thing and providing humanitarian aid – even to our enemies.

 

Picture of German Children receiving aid from LWR in 1951, taken from Together in Hope book by John Bachman.

German Children receiving aid in 1951, taken from Together in Hope book by John Bachman.

 

“Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation, and chaos,” said then-Secretary of State, George C. Marshall.

No other nation in history has offered such post-war assistance—and so generously. Now, nearly seventy years later, the foreign aid continues—still totaling billions of dollars every year. And not only does this aid go to our allies or other republics, but to nations of differing political doctrines, all over the globe.

Such generosity is one of our core values in America, contributing to our nation’s greatness. But it is not the only thing.

No other nation on earth offers so much humanitarian aid—much of it by volunteers. Think of the doctors and nurses, teachers and engineers, plus a multitude of non-profit organizations whose sole objective is to relieve suffering around the world and help others lead more productive, satisfying lives.

In 2013 just one agency, the American Red Cross, accomplished the following (among many other achievements).

They:

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  • Assisted millions of people in 24 countries, impacted by disaster.
  • Continued to aid 4.3 million earthquake victims in Haiti to rebuild their lives.
  • Helped vaccinate over 98 million children against measles.
  • Continued to develop disaster preparedness in 32 countries, so communities are not so vulnerable.
  • Helped to reconnect nearly 900 families separated by war or disaster (2).

Is it safe to say that, without America, the world would be a very different place? Our generosity and humanitarianism alone have produced significant results around the globe. But there is still more that sets us apart.

No other nation on earth provides such freedom, opportunity, and protection for its citizens.

In addition, recent immigrants often speak of the wonder and delight they experience upon coming to America. They marvel that: roads are regularly repaired, highway signs are clear and accurate, business practices are generally fair. They’re astonished by the volume and variety of goods available–things that most American take for granted, like shampoo, disposable diapers, and deodorant (3).

And what’s the foundation of all this goodness that has contributed to America’s greatness? It’s the values and principles most Americans still embrace–those laid out in the Bible.

For example:

Our generosity can be traced back to Deuteronomy 15:7-8, Proverbs 21:26, and Matthew 25:34-40.

 

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Our humanitarianism—even to our enemies—is rooted in the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5:44) and Paul (Romans 12:20).

And our way of life, based on freedom, fairness, and adherence to law brings to mind the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12), Romans 12:9-10, and many other scriptures upholding respectful treatment of all.

Granted, we’re not perfect. Selfishness, greed, and power-grabbing fester among us.  But the world is still a better place for the biblical principles named above which provide America’s foundation–whether folks acknowledge that truth or not.

Praise God for his influence through our founding fathers (many of whom were Christians) and self-sacrificing believers in Jesus throughout our 240-year history. It is on their shoulders we stand to do our part. to advance those attributes that make America great–like no other nation.

 

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What do you think has contributed to America’s greatness?  Celebrate your appreciation for our nation in the comment section below!

 

Notes:

  1. usnews.com
  2. redcross.org
  3. heritage.org

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.lwr.org; http://www.redcross.org; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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