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Archive for June, 2017

 

In a rented room not far from the State House in Philadelphia, Thomas Jefferson found himself surrounded with books and pamphlets as resources for a daunting assignment: to compose the first draft of a Declaration of Independence.

The others on the five-person committee had convinced Jefferson he was the best choice for the task. He had few enemies in the Continental Congress and was already known as an excellent penman, having drafted the Virginia Constitution.

Among Jefferson’s resources was the pamphlet, Vindication of the Government of New England Churches by Rev. John Wise. Originally published in 1717, it was reprinted in 1772 for its persuasive arguments backing the cause of liberty from British tyranny.*

Now why would New England churches have needed to defend themselves?

As early as 1687, the Anglican Church of England sought to extract tax revenue from the colonial churches. John Wise was the Congregational pastor of Ipswich, Massachusetts at the time. In a sermon he used scripture to assert that taxation without representation was tyranny. He also led the revolt against the Royal Governor, Sir Edmond Andros, in response to the tax levy.

Wise and other leaders were heavily fined and briefly imprisoned. But a group of Massachusetts citizens conducted a lawful “citizens’ arrest” of the governor and sent him back to England. As a result of their effort to be free from oppression, Ipswich became known as “The Birthplace of American Independence.”

 

 

John Wise’s experience with unlawful taxation and his persuasive arguments against tyranny made his work a likely resource as Thomas Jefferson prepared to draft the Declaration.

But where did John Wise obtain those compelling arguments? Surely they came from the Bible.

For example, Wise wrote: “Every man must be acknowledged equal to every man.”

Thomas Jefferson similarly wrote, “All men are created equal.”

 

 

That principle is found in Malachi 2:10.  “Have we not all one Father? Did not one God create us? Why do we profane the covenant of our fathers by breaking faith with one another?”

Another example of Wise’s influence includes: “The end of all good government is to cultivate humanity and promote the happiness of all, and the good of every man in all his rights, his life, liberty, estate, honor, etc., without injury or abuse done to any.”

Sound familiar?

In the Declaration we read, “All men…are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“Inalienable rights” are those God bestowed when he created humankind. Because they are from God himself, governments do not have the prerogative to take them away. Examples are found within our Bill of Rights. Others include: to earn a living and keep the profits of our labor, to move freely within the country or leave the country, and to live secure in our homes.

Such rights should be respected by all, because each of us was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).  He is our Heavenly Father, who loves each of us passionately (Jeremiah 31:3) and desires we act justly toward one another (Micah 6:8).

 

 

What parent doesn’t desire that siblings live happily and peacefully together?

But“Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” for all are only possible if we follow Jesus’ teaching of the Golden Rule: “In everything do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).

Finally, one more example from John Wise:  “Only by the voluntary consent of individuals can a government have authority, since it must be delegated from the individual.”

Jefferson included similar reasoning in the Declaration. “To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

Even kings are under the law of God, not above it. They have no right to arbitrarily make laws and decrees that benefit them but are unjust to the governed. Again, scripture makes such truth clear:

 

 

(“Woe to those who make unjust laws,

to those who issue oppressive decrees,

to deprive the poor of their rights

and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people,

making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

–Isaiah 10:1-2 NIV)

 

With such inspiration from John Wise and others, Jefferson picked up his pen and began to write:

 

 

 

“We hold these truths to be self-evident…”

 

Indeed, the truths espoused by the Declaration of Independence are based on absolutes, ordained by our Creator God for our best welfare–as individuals, communities, and nations.

 

Lord, help each of us live out these self-evident truths.

________________________________

 

*One of the committee members, John Adams, wrote in a letter to his friend, Timothy Pickering, in 1822:  “There is not an idea in it [the Declaration] but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before…Indeed, the essence of it is contained in a pamphlet, voted and printed by the town of Boston before the first Congress met.”  According to Dr. Paul Jehle, Executive Director of the Plymouth Foundation, that pamphlet was Pastor Wise’s Vindication of the Government of New England Churches.  (“The Origen of the Declaration,” http://www.plymrock.org).

 

Resources:

 

Art & photo credits:  www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.godswordimages.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.ushistory.org.

 

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“Ask the animals, and they will teach you,

or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,

or let the fish of the sea inform you.

Which of all these does not know that

the hand of the Lord has done this?”

–Job 12:7-9

 

It’s true. Just a bit of knowledge in the fields of zoology, botany, or geology does inform us of the precision with which our God created all things:

  • Every living thing is provided just the right kind of nourishment it needs.
  • The Amazon rain forest supplies the entire planet with half its oxygen.
  • Rivers respond to God’s laws of physics, causing them to meander instead of run straight. As a result, calm estuaries form so young aquatic animals are protected while they grow.

 

 

Countless facts such as these make it difficult to disregard the evidence: A Supreme Being had to mastermind all this.

Even mathematical explorations lead us to the same conclusion.

Take for example Fibonacci* numbers—a sequence where each succeeding number is the sum of the two preceding numbers. 0+1=1; 1+1=2; 1+2=3, 2+3=5, and so on, produces this sequence: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, etc.

So what’s the big deal? someone may ask. There are more than a few big deals.

First, the number of petals on a flower very often comes from the Fibonacci sequence. The calla lily has one petal; Euphorbia, two; trillium, three; violets, five; bloodroot, eight; and black-eyed Susan, thirteen. The list could continue.

 

 

Or, imagine each Fibonacci number as the sides of a square arranged like this:

 

 

Now add an arc from opposite corners in each square, to form a spiral. Someone designated it the Golden Spiral.

 

 

Look familiar?  You’ve seen it in the interior view of a nautilus shell,

 

 

the pattern of sunflowers seeds,

 

 

the tail of a seahorse,

 

 

the rotation of a hurricane,

 

 

and the expansive reach of some galaxies.

 

 

Other spirals are also in evidence:

Imagine holding a stem of leaves. Look carefully at how each leaf is attached to the stem and you’ll see a spiral pattern. Now put your (imaginary) finger on one leaf and turn the stem to find another leaf in the same position on the stem. The number of turns will be a Fibonacci number.

Count the leaves in between those two leaves you’ve just identified, and again, the total will be a Fibonacci number. For example, the ratio of turns to leaves is 1:2 for elms, 1:3 for beech, 2:5 for oak.

 

 

Trees are not the only vegetation to display spirals in a consistent ratio of side-by-side Fibonacci numbers. The scales of pinecones grow in opposing spirals in a 5:8 ratio, the bumps on a pineapple are 8:13.

Even the DNA molecule measures 34 angstroms long by 21 angstroms wide for each full turn of its double helix spiral—again, neighboring numbers in the Fibonacci sequence.

 

 

Similar ratios are found on sunflowers. The number of seed-spirals going in one direction will add up to a Fibonacci number; those going in the other direction will be a neighboring Fibonacci number.

 

 

Evidence of these number sequences is so vast in creation, The Fibonacci Quarterly was established in 1963, published by The Fibonacci Association. Their purpose is to document the occurrence of the phenomenon in nature.

I wonder if they would agree with Galileo (1564-1642) who proclaimed:

 

(“Mathematics is the language in which God has written the universe.”)

 

Just the Fibonacci sequence alone gives much proof.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

Glorious God, you are the Artist who fashioned mountains and sunsets of breath-taking beauty. You are the Scientist who designed flora and fauna to thrive and regenerate. You are the Mathematician who shaped the world with symmetry, organization, and pattern.   The whole earth is filled with your glory (Isaiah 6:3)—down to the last molecule! How can we express the overwhelming wonder that fills our hearts?        

 

* Leonard da Pisano, also known as Fibonacci (son of Bonaccio), discovered the sequence pattern around 1200 A.D.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (5); http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimedia.org (2); http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.azquotes.com.)

 

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Years ago I created a memory booklet to celebrate my dad on his birthday. Good thing I did. Over the intervening decades, some of those recollections would surely have been forgotten. And now the memories are more precious than ever.

 

(Dad and me 1964)

 

Their meaning, however, goes deeper than mere sentiment. Throughout my life, Dad has modeled the loving ways of my Heavenly Father.

For example:

Dad often took my brother and me to the community pool or on bike rides through the back streets near our home.  We also accompanied Dad to the hardware store, the lumberyard—even the dump! When he asked us to tag along, we always said yes. It meant quality time with our hero.

How incredible to realize God Almighty desires our intimate company, too (2 Corinthians 6:16).

 

 

    *     *     *

 

John and I had our own personal shoe fitter—Dad. He’d gently press on toes, instep, and heel, to ensure proper fit. Such attention to detail was his modus operandi. As a result, we could trust him. He always had our best interests at heart.

God also carefully attends to the details of our lives (Isaiah 40:11).   For a number of months in 2013 we searched realty websites for a new house. Two weeks before the actual walk-throughs, a perfect brick ranch just happened to become available. Though we looked at other homes, this became his obvious choice for us—a true gift.

 

 

 *     *     *

 

Dad started taking me to the library as a toddler. It was on his lap and my mother’s I learned to appreciate books.

My Heavenly Father guided me to appreciate his Book.  Nowhere else have I found such wisdom, consolation, inspiration, and direction. David was right: The scriptures are more valuable than gold (Psalm 19:10).

 

 *     *     *

 

One time I ran out of reading material while sick with a virus. Dad went to the library to remedy the situation. Because he knew me well, Dad could choose books he was reasonably confident I’d like. And sure enough, I read all four.

 

 

My Heavenly Father knows me more intimately yet and cares about my interests (Psalm 139:1-3). After I had taken up writing again, a woman at church just happened to invite me to her writers’ group. Not only did the members offer encouragement and challenge, they became delightful friends as well.

 

  *     *     *

 

Dad and I were on an errand at Sears when we passed the bicycle display. Suddenly he asked, “If you’re willing to pay half out of your savings, what do you say we get you a new bike today?”   My heart pounded so loudly at such a glorious surprise, I found it difficult to focus on the decision of red or blue. (Blue won.)

God in heaven blesses us in delightful, surprising ways as well (Matthew 7:7-11). One afternoon a member of our church (where my husband, Steve, was pastor) called to seek a recommendation on a car. Why me? he wondered.  Steve thought perhaps she planned to purchase one for her grandson’s graduation. But no, it was for us.

 

 

    *     *     *

 

When I was seven or eight, Dad taught me the card game, “21,” so I could practice addition and subtraction. (Math never was my friend.) Not only did he sacrifice his time to help me, he aimed to make the exercise pleasurable too.

My Heavenly Father has gently taught me life skills too (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Recently I came across Ephesians 5:4 about what should be coming out of my mouth instead of foolish talk. Paul encourages thanksgiving, because it is life changing.   Positive thoughts become positive words that foster positive action. In addition, God knows a grateful heart is a joy-filled heart (Psalm 92:1-2, 4).

 

 

  *     *     *

 

My father is ninety-three, and still a remarkable man of strength, wisdom, and faith. His godly influence greatly helped shape my life.

I wonder how different the world would be if all fathers followed the model of our Heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 13:4-8)?  He lavishes such attentive, everlasting love on his children.  My heart fills with awe and adoration at the wonder that I am his and he is mine.

 

(Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg (2), http://www.pinterest.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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“If God is for us,

who can be against us?”

–Romans 8:31 NIV

 

As I write…

…two friends are fighting cancer, one of them for the second time.

…Another deals with debilitating illness every day while a fourth deteriorates as the result of Alzheimer’s. 

…A married couple among our acquaintances is separated. He is filing for a divorce that she doesn’t want or deserve.

…Families and friends of those who died in the recent terrorist attacks suffer through the aftermath, as well as those injured, their families and friends. My heart aches for the first responders as well.

 

 

Though I wish it weren’t so, even devout believers in Jesus endure physical pain, emotional hurt, and horrific circumstances. How can God be for us when so many endure anguish?

Here’s what I’ve come to understand:

#1. My interpretation of a particular verse must be measured against the whole of scripture and the experience of countless saints through the ages.

Evidence from the Bible and church history would indicate that “God for us” does not mean he will engineer a problem-free life—even for one of his beloved. Perfection is reserved for heaven.

What God has promised here and now is to:

  • be with us,
  • provide strength,
  • help us through the situation, and
  • uphold us with encouragement and comfort (Isaiah 41:10).

 

 

But when shocking news sends me spinning toward fear, when trouble threatens to destroy my peace and joy, when pain exhausts my strength, those familiar promises seem—dare I say it?—inadequate.

God may have promised:

  • His presence with me, but I want him to show me the way out.
  • His strength, but I don’t feel it Instead, I feel terribly weak.
  • His help through the situation, but I want his help around it.
  • His encouragement and comfort, but I am discouraged and uncomfortable.

Such statements bring immediate clarity to the inadequacy. Look how I am the focus of those statements, how I assert my desires for relief and ease.

The problem is me.

 

 

#2. God’s desire for me during my time on earth is not endless comfort and pleasure.

His goals include:

  • maturity (James 1:4)—fully developed character of faith, discipline, and integrity.
  • Heightened awareness of him so that “in the darkness of adversity, [I am] able to see more clearly the radiance of his face”* (2 Corinthians 4:6).
  • Lessened awareness of the inconsequential things on earth (Colossians 2:1-2).

 

 

And why are these goals important to him? Because the result is an indescribably glorious prize:

 

“Our momentary light affliction is producing for us

an absolutely incomparable eternal weight of glory.”

–2 Corinthians 4:17 HCSB

 

Paul wrote that—a man who suffered much. He was beaten, imprisoned, and even stoned because of his faith in Jesus (2 Corinthians 6:4-5).  

Yet he was able to assert that anything he had suffered was nothing compared to the glorious joys of heaven awaiting him. That’s a critical truth to remember.

 

 

Also helpful to keep in mind:

#3. Evidence abounds that God is for us no matter the circumstances.

Just for fun, I counted up God’s attributes in the index of one of my resources—attributes such as God’s Attentiveness, God’s Blessings, and God’s Care. The list includes twenty-eight different categories.  No doubt there are even more.

How can I doubt the motives of such a loving, generous God?

My own experience provides bountiful evidence.

As some of you will remember, I’ve kept a journal since 1983 of God’s faithfulness to our family. Each year I total up the blessings, and praise God for his help, kindness, and miracles during the previous twelve months. To date there are more than 1,200 entries in all.

 

(Can you see how yellowed and tattered the edges of this first page are?!)

 

At the end of one particularly difficult year my jaw dropped to discover more entries than any year previously. God had indeed been for me—through it all.

The great missionary to China, Hudson Taylor (1832-91905), was right:

 

 

(“All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of his grace, power, and love.”)

 

Every day, every moment, the Almighty God of grace, power, and love is at work for our benefit.

Who could possibly win against such supremacy?

 

* Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, Thomas Nelson, p. 361.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

How have you experienced God’s grace, power, and love during a time of difficulty?  Please share in the comment section below!

 

 

(Art & photo credits: http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.picturequotes.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.biblesociety.ca; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.quotefancy.com.)

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Wouldn’t that be nice—a deep sea of joy—for the days when the washer breaks down in the middle of a load, a tire goes flat on the way to an important meeting, and a jar of spaghetti sauce slips out of hand, splattering bright red ooze and shards of glass over much of the kitchen.

Yup. That’s what we need: a deep sea of joy. We could jump right in and be swallowed up in delightful mirth while everything else conspires to dump us into despair.

But according to that wise preacher of long ago, Charles Spurgeon, that’s exactly what we do have:

 

 

“Our God is a deep sea of joy.

My soul will dive therein

And be swallowed up

In the delights of his companionship.” *

 

Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Such sweet relief. But how do we do that? How do we delight in the companionship of an invisible God?

Actually, the relationships we enjoy with our (visible) loved ones give us many cues.

 

 

For example, just last weekend we enjoyed three days at Red River Gorge, Kentucky, with our older son and his family. You might recall Eric and Hilja (Hill-ya) have two little girls, ages four and four months. Needless to say our activities at the gorge were limited. No zip-lining, horseback riding, or long treks through the forest. Not this trip.

But we still took great pleasure in interesting conversations on the deck (especially in the evening after the girls were asleep), a short, scenic woodland hike, superb dinners prepared by Eric, reminiscings through some family history, frequent laughter**, and simply basking in the joy of being together.

God offers us similar joys as we delight in him:

 

  • Conversation—in the form of “simple, short prayers flowing out of the present moment” (Sarah Young, Jesus Calling, 55).

 

  • Common interests, such as impacting the lives of others–opportunities to participate side by side with God in his work (John 15:5).

 

 

  • The splendor of creation–all the more magnificent as we revel in his artistry and genius (Psalm 33:6-9).

 

  • Celebration of who our God is and what he does (Psalm 145:7, 92:4).

 

  • Humorous moments–created by God just like everything else, so that with Sarah each of us can say, “God has brought me laughter” (Genesis 21:6).

 

  • His ever-present, ever-attentive companionship–itself a source of lavish joy (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

Oh, but there are still more ways to delight in God as we…

Trust.

Consistent contentment is possible as we affirm, “He is faithful in all he does” (Psalm 33:4).

Thank.

Honoring God with our gratitude is uplifting to us and pleasing to him (Philippians 4:6-7; Psalm 69:30-31).

Praise and sing.

If God delights in us with singing (Zephaniah 3:17), how much more should we delight in him with an expressive, lyrical heart?

 

 

Charles Spurgeon was right:

 

Our God offers a deep sea of joy–

if only we dive into his delights

frequently,

all day long.

 

 

*from Morning by Morning by Charles Spurgeon, updated by Whitaker House, 1984.

 

**Maybe it was only funny to us, but I have to share what four-year old Elena said after her first fishing excursion. She’d been warned to stay out of the greenery along the side of the road in case of poison ivy. Upon returning to the cabin she announced, “I stayed out of the weeds so I won’t get poisonitis.”

 

(Art & photo credits: http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpictures.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.uk.pinterest.com (2); http://www.pixabay.com.)

 

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