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Archive for July, 2019

 

“I made soup,” she says.

I peer into the pot to see a chicken leg, a whole apple, a cluster of green beans and an ice cream cone.

“Eat some!” she coaxes.

I spoon a bite and assure her, “Oh, this is delicious.”

She smiles broadly. “I make dessert.” And two-year old Maarit (Mah-rit), our granddaughter, trots back to her child-size kitchen to bake a plastic cake or pie.

 

 

It’s such fun to watch little ones enjoy their vivid imaginations, and it comes so naturally to them. No one has to teach toddlers how to pretend; they just do. But as we grow and leave childish things behind, most of us abandon our imaginings.

Oh, what we’re missing.

In a post a couple of years ago (Oh, Say Can You See), we looked at three ways an active imagination can positively impact our faith, helping us to better understand God, add insight to Bible reading, and see more in this incredible world he’s created.

Today let’s consider three more ways. 

  1. With an active imagination, we are more likely to see people and situations the way God sees them. 

In his Word he calls us to see people for what they could be and will be as they avail themselves of his transforming power. We’re also called to see situations with forward-looking faith in God’s ability to do far more than we can imagine (1).

By contrast, our thoughts too often veer to the negative. We forget what the Apostle Paul told us in Philippians 4:8—to think on excellent and praiseworthy things.

 

 

C. S. Lewis helped a woman do just that in a letter he wrote as she lay in a hospital contemplating the possibility of death:

“Think of yourself,” he said, “just as a seed patiently waiting in the earth: waiting to come up a flower in the Gardener’s good time, up into the real world, the real waking. I suppose that our whole present life, looked back on from there, will seem only a drowsy half-waking. We are here in the land of dreams. But the cock-crow is coming” (2).

Surely Lewis’s words stirred fresh hope in her heart as he awakened her imagination to a new perspective. In your mind’s eye, can you see excellent, praiseworthy events unfolding in the situation that most concerns you? Allow such imaginings to provide fresh hope for your heart.

  1. With an active imagination we can envision the kingdom of God that exists here and now, even though hidden from view. 

The very nature of faith requires imagination, because the kingdom of God cannot be perceived by the senses. It exists invisibly among and within those who invite King Jesus to rule in their lives (3). But our imaginations can help us access the invisible through the visible as we contemplate:

 

 

  • The glory of God in the splendor of creation
  • The rule of God in the organization of the universe
  • The goodness of God in our numerous blessings
  • The wisdom of God in his precepts that usher in abundant life
  • The power of God, as he transforms misery to joy, trouble to triumph, and even bitterness to forgiveness
  1. With an active imagination we can experience God more fully. 

For example, what if we:

 

 

  • Imagine God sitting with us as we pray, our hands pressed between his, his head leaning in close to hear our every word. Would it be easier to sense his presence, stay focused, and pray with more intensity?
  • Imagine God at our right hand as we work through our days (Psalm 121:5). He is our ever-present Protector, Guide, and Help. Might such visualization reduce stress? Could mindless tasks become sublime opportunities to enjoy his presence and access his strength?
  • Imagine God on his throne as we worship, with his dazzling radiance signifying splendor, and his voluminous robe representing power (4). Might the joy and passion of our worship-experience be enhanced as we contemplate his magnificence?

 

 

You might remember that Jesus held children in great regard. He suggested that adults become like little children to enter the kingdom of God (Matthew 18:1-5). Granted, his emphasis was upon trust, loyalty and humility. But responding to him with the imagination of a child as well will help us fly beyond the stars.

 

 

I don’t want to miss that. I’m guessing you don’t either.    

 

Notes:

  1. Philippians 1:6; Ephesians 3:20
  2. The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, vol. 3: Narnia, Cambridge, and Joy, 1950-1963, [2007]
  3. Hebrews 11:1; Luke 17:21
  4. Ezekiel 1:27; Isaiah 6:1-2

 

Photo credits:  http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.edwards.af.mil; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.goodfreephotos.com; http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com.; http://www.quotefancy.com.

 

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The summers of my childhood included a blend of games and activities with neighborhood friends, afternoons at the community pool, bike rides to the library, and a few weeks spent with Grandma Clara and Grandpa Henry who lived four hours away in Iowa.

No doubt some would describe our summer experiences as mundane, not realizing the joy hidden among the ordinary:

  • The delight of lazy Monopoly marathons
  • The wonder of fireflies in a jar
  • The satisfaction of a big bowl of buttery popcorn–after biking to the park and spending several hours of nonstop cavorting in the pool, then biking home again
  • The pleasure of tucking ourselves under the willow tree to read
  • The fun of an evening bike ride with Dad

 

 

It’s the small, happy moments—not the grand events—that contribute to satisfying days and a joy-filled life.

 

The joy of small…makes life large.

–Ann Voskamp (1)

 

However, I have to admit: my childhood-self took those lovely moments for granted. I lived unaware of God’s glory pervading my everyday experiences: his creative genius on display—even in the backyard, his love, peace, and security within a family grounded on Christian values, and his goodness to provide joy-filled moments that shimmer in my memory with holy perfection.

Now, as the decades have passed, I’m learning to identify more of the transcendent moments God provides, including:

 

 

  • A cardinal filling the silence of the woods with his hope-inspiring “Cheer! Cheer! Cheer!”
  • A toddler wrapping her arms around my neck and crying, “I love you!”
  • A devotional that speaks exactly what I need to hear
  • An opportunity to encourage a waitress and see her concern turn to hope
  • A small gathering of family and friends quickly ballooning to twelve—with much laughter, camaraderie, and delightful conversation

 

 

God’s glory is on display right “in the middle of our minutes” (2).

 

So each night before falling asleep, let’s measure the moments of our days:

  • Taking note of God’s blessings and the delights of his creation; singing our praise for his breath-taking handiwork (Psalm 92:4; Job 5:9).
  • Thanking God for the camaraderie and conversation, hugs and support among family members and friends who keep us strong (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10).
  • Counting the riches that result from abiding in God, beginning with peace (Isaiah 26:3), stability (Psalm 16:8), and contentment (1 Timothy 6:6).
  • Celebrating the honor of ministering to others in Jesus’ name (Matthew 25:40), giving us purpose and cultivating fulfillment in our spirits.
  • Delighting in the opportunities to smile, laugh, and find moments of joy—even in the midst of trouble or frustration (Proverbs 17:22).

 

“Laughter is to life what shock absorbers are to automobiles.

It won’t take the potholes out of the road,

but it sure makes the ride smoother.”

–Barbara Johnson

 

 

And just as inches are measured into feet, so we can measure meaningful moments into satisfying days and a joy-filled life–because God is in them.

 

What meaningful moments are at the top of your list for today?  Please share in the comments section below!

 

Notes:

  1. One Thousand Gifts, Zondervan, 2010, p. 167.
  2. Sara Hagerty, Unseen, Zondervan, 2017, p. 109.

 

(Photo credits:  http://www.geauxguard.la.gov; http://www.pixnio.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pexels.com.)

 

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It happened again. I was reading a familiar Bible passage when a new question presented itself.

Here’s the scripture:

 

 

The first two reasons made perfect sense. Pushing through difficulty does produce endurance, and endurance results in the formation of character–traits like responsibility, self-discipline, and patience.

If Paul had concluded by saying character produced maturity, I’d have heartily agreed and read on. But he says character fosters hope, which led to my question: Why hope?

To begin, we need a clear understanding of what hope means. Which of these definitions do you find most insightful?

Hope is: a) looking forward with confidence and expectation (Beth Moore), b) the reality that is being constructed but is not yet visible (Eugene Peterson), or c) happy certainty (J. B. Phillips).

 

 

Actually, instead of choosing, let’s weave them together: Hope is the attitude of looking forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to the reality being constructed though not yet visible.

Author Katherine Paterson would also have us understand: “Hope… is not a feeling. Hope is something we do”–such as:

  • Affirming God’s omnipotent power—power that can accomplish anything (Matthew 19:26).

 

 

When we are facing the impossible,

we can count upon the God of the impossible.

–Amy Carmichael

 

  • Remembering God’s promises of the Bible—promises that never fail (Psalm 145:13b).

 

 

Quit studying the problems

and start studying the promises.

–Ruth Graham

 

  • Practicing God’s presence—presence that instills comfort, encouragement, and strength (Psalm 94:19; Isaiah 41:10; Joshua 1:9).

 

 

Few delights can equal the mere presence

of one whom we trust utterly.

–George MacDonald

 

In the 1980s, retired millionaire Eugene Lang was asked to speak to the graduating six graders of his East Harlem alma mater. He planned to share his story and encourage them that effort and perseverance do produce success.

But when he took the podium, Lang changed his mind.

“Stay in school,” he charged them. “In fact, it is so important, I’m going to make you a promise. You stay in school, and I’ll help pay the college tuition for every one of you.”

 

 

No doubt some of the students thought, “Yeah, right.”

Most of these kids had already experienced a lifetime-worth of disappointment. Why should they believe this old guy?

Yet even the most cynical among them had to admit: Mr. Lang did have the financial power to keep such a promise—a promise announced in front of numerous witnesses.

Soon Mr. Lang founded the I Have a Dream Foundation and convinced others to add their support. He exercised his own financial power to hire a project coordinator, finance field trips, and provide mentors and tutors for each student.

 

 

Mr. Lang made his presence known by taking students to restaurants and museums. He personally counseled them through crises, and intervened with school officials on their behalf.

The kids responded. They began to work toward the goal of a college education, learning self-discipline, perseverance, and responsibility along the way. As those character traits and more developed within them, their hope grew that Mr. Lang’s promise would manifest itself in reality.

Six years after that impromptu offer, nearly ninety percent of the students graduated from high school, and close to half were enrolled for college in the fall. Character did indeed lead to hope—hope that looked forward with confidence, expectation, and happy certainty to a reality under construction.*

 

 

Mr. Lang typified what God does for us, developing our character so we might grow in hope—a hope for every tomorrow based on his power, promises, and presence, and a hope that can see heaven through the thickest clouds (Thomas Brooks).

 

Addendum: As of 2017, approximately two hundred I Have a Dream programs were in operation in the United States and in New Zealand, assisting more than 16,000 students.*

 

* https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/08/nyregion/eugene-lang-dead-harlem-college.html

 

Photo credits:  http://www.canva.com; http://www.jbsa.mil; http://www.pixabay.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.nps.gov; http://www.vaguard.dodlive.mil.

 

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Some historians would have us believe most of our founding fathers were Deists, not Christians—that they believed in a distant God who created the universe but who does not intervene in human events.

Those historians are choosing to ignore the many sources that would indicate otherwise.

In honor of those who signed the Declaration of Independence 243 years ago today, and sacrificed much for our freedom, I present the following proofs of Christian faith. (This post is long; you have my permission to skim read!):

 

John Adams

  1. In a letter to Thomas Jefferson on June 28, 1813 John Adams wrote:

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.”

 

Samuel Adams

  1. In his Last Will and Testament, attested December 9, 1790, Samuel Adams wrote:

“I…[rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.”

 

 

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Fasting and Prayer, March 17, 1792, Josiah Bartlett called on the people of New Hampshire…

. . . “to confess before God their aggravated transgressions and to implore His pardon and forgiveness through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ . . . [t]hat the knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ may be made known to all nations, pure and undefiled religion universally prevail, and the earth be fill with the glory of the Lord.”

 

Charles Carroll

  1. In a letter written to Charles W. Wharton, Esq. on September 27, 1825, Charles Carroll wrote:

“On the mercy of my Redeemer I rely for salvation and on His merits; not on the works I have done in obedience to His precepts.

 

Elbridge Gerry

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise on October 24, 1810, Elbridge Gerry called on the State of Massachusetts to pray that…

…”with one heart and voice we may prostrate ourselves at the throne of heavenly grace and present to our Great Benefactor sincere and unfeigned thanks for His infinite goodness and mercy towards us from our birth to the present moment for having above all things illuminated us by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, presenting to our view the happy prospect of a blessed immortality.”

 

John Hancock

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving in 1791, John Hancock called on the entire state to pray…

…“that universal happiness may be established in the world [and] that all may bow to the scepter of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the whole earth be filled with His glory.”

 

John Hart

  1. In his last will and testament, John Hart wrote:

“Thanks be given unto Almighty God therefore, and knowing that it is appointed for all men once to die and after that the judgment [Hebrews 9:27]…principally I give and recommend my soul into the hands of Almighty God who gave it and my body to the earth to be buried in a decent and Christian like manner…to receive the same again at the general resurrection by the mighty power of God.”

 

Samuel Huntington

  1. In his Proclamation for a Day of Fasting, Prayer, and Humiliation on March 9, 1791, Samuel Huntington wrote:

“It becomes a people publicly to acknowledge the over-ruling hand of Divine Providence and their dependence upon the Supreme Being as their Creator and Merciful Preserver . . . and with becoming humility and sincere repentance to supplicate the pardon that we may obtain forgiveness through the merits and mediation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

 

Robert Treat Paine

  1. In The Papers of Robert Treat Paine (1992), editors Stephen T. Riley and Edward W. Hanson included Paine’s Confession of Faith from 1749:

“I desire to bless and praise the name of God most high for appointing me my birth in a land of Gospel Light where the glorious tidings of a Savior and of pardon and salvation through Him have been continually sounding in mine ears.”

 

 

Benjamin Rush

  1. In his autobiography, Benjamin Rush wrote:

“The Gospel of Jesus Christ prescribes the wisest rules for just conduct in every situation of life. Happy they who are enabled to obey them in all situations! . . . My only hope of salvation is in the infinite transcendent love of God manifested to the world by the death of His Son upon the Cross. Nothing but His blood will wash away my sins [Acts 22:16]. I rely exclusively upon it. Come, Lord Jesus! Come quickly! [Revelation 22:20].”

 

Roger Sherman

  1. In correspondence to Samuel Hopkins in October of 1790 (as cited in Correspondence between Roger Sherman and Samuel Hopkins by Charles Hamilton, 1889, p. 26) Roger Sherman wrote:

“True Christians are assured that no temptation (or trial) shall happen to them but what they shall be enabled to bear; and that the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for them.”

 

James Wilson

  1. From The Works of the Honorable James Wilson, edited by Bird Wilson, 1804, James Wilson wrote:

“Our all-gracious Creator, Preserver, and Ruler has been pleased to discover and enforce His laws by a revelation given to us immediately and directly from Himself. This revelation is contained in the Holy Scriptures.”

 

John Witherspoon

  1. In a sermon titled, “The Absolute Necessity of Salvation Through Christ (January 2, 1758) John Witherspoon wrote:

“I shall now conclude my discourse by preaching this Savior to all who hear me, and entreating you in the most earnest manner to believe in Jesus Christ; for “there is no salvation in any other” [Acts 4:12].”

____________________

 

These thirteen signers of the Declaration were obviously committed to Christian principles, based on their faith in a participatory God, who provides salvation to all who ask through his Son, Jesus.

Given more time and access to more resources, we’d surely find additional proofs for the Christian faith of other signers. It is verifiable that all of them were members of churches, many contributing significantly to their congregations with monetary support and service.

Would Deists consider it important to be contributing members of Christian churches?

We know this too: In the last paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, the signers, “with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence,” pledged to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor.

I have to ask: Would the majority–if Deists–vote to include such a statement?

Seems more than unlikely.

 

Sources:

  1. The Founders’ Bible, Shiloh Road Publishers, 2012
  2. https://wallbuilders.com/founding-fathers-jesus-christianity-bible/
  3. http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/news/2546951/posts
  4. www.libertyunderfire.org

 

Art credits:  http://www.wikipedia.org; wikimedia.com (3); wikimedia.org; wikimedia.com; wikimedia.org (2); wikimedia.com; wikimedia.org (4); http://www.flickr.com.

 

 

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