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My first teaching job was in a small community southwest of Lexington, Kentucky. Although the school included first through sixth grades, there were only five teachers. Second grade was divided, some students included in first, the rest with third. I was assigned the first/second split.

The first morning of school went by quickly as we read stories, played a few learning games, and completed a class chart of favorite summer activities. Soon it was time to march to the cafeteria for lunch.

The children lined up to receive their plates of food, and then were instructed to pick up napkins, utensils, cartons of milk, and straws – all without benefit of trays. Little hands struggled to hold so many items–much less carry them all without accident.

 

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So began my habit of standing at the end of the counter, wrapping utensils and a straw in a napkin, then perching a milk carton on an empty corner of the plate as the students passed by.

One second grader, Ricky, was much too manly to use a straw. Each day he would proclaim, “I don’t need no straw.”

Each day I would patiently correct him: “I don’t need a straw.” Ricky would repeat it again after me.  It almost became a joke between us, as the exchange occurred day after day, month after month.

One noontime in March, while focused on wrapping the next set of flatware, I heard Ricky’s voice proudly proclaim, “I DON’T NEED A STRAW!”

My eyes popped, Ricky’s twinkled, and his broad smile indicated his pleasure in remembering–all by himself–how to correctly form his request.

A quick hug, a few pats on the back, and an “I-am-so-PROUD-of-you!” let him know how I felt.

It never occurred to me to say, “Well, it’s about time, Bud! You DO realize we’ve repeated this little ceremony over one hundred times, don’t you?”

No. This was a moment to celebrate! Our perseverance had paid off. And perhaps this one little grammatical victory would prompt Ricky to conquer the next. I was thrilled.

Do you suppose that’s how God feels when our “practice makes perfect?”

When:

 

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  • Our quiet time with him finally becomes a near-daily habit?
  • We remember to express gratitude and praise to him throughout the day?
  • We’re able to think before we speak more consistently?
  • We forgo some purchase for pleasure in order to supply someone else with necessities?
  • We put aside our agenda to do a favor for someone else?

Yes, I believe God is thrilled with our steps of progress, just as I was with Ricky’s effort. If God withheld his pleasure until we reached perfection, we’d never experience even one good thing (Psalm 84:11). He’d always be in discipline-mode.

But Isaiah tells us: “The Lord longs to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion” (30:18).

David reminds us that out of his grace and compassion he guides our steps and takes delight when we follow his way (Psalm 37:23).

Another psalmist proclaimed that the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (147:11).   No mention of delight reserved only for those who are perfect.

Ah, but what about Jesus’ statement in Matthew 5:48:   “Be perfect as your Heavenly Father is perfect?”

Yes, that is the standard, but God does not disapprove of us because we haven’t achieved that goal.   He knows perfection this side of heaven is impossible. What he does approve of is effort—to press on like Paul to “receive the heavenly prize for which God through Christ Jesus, is calling us” (Philippians 3:12-14).

When we stumble, we keep going. When we fall, we get up and try again.

But listen closely.  You’ll hear God celebrating our progress (Zephaniah 3:17).

 

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*    *     *     *     *   *     *     *     *     *

 

We praise you, Heavenly Father, for being a gracious, compassionate God,

who is slow to become angry and always abounding in loving-kindness.

Even as we strive to be more like you,

we can rest in the knowledge that you will not condemn us

when we stumble and fall.

Thank you for your readiness to forgive and your everlasting love.  

Thank you for continually drawing us closer to you and your perfection. 

 

(Psalm 103:1-2, Romans 8:1; 1 John 1:9; Jeremiah 31:3).

 

Photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.grist.org; http://www.neabscobaptist.org; http://www.untilsheflies.com.)

Reblogged from June 15, 2015.

 

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Hurricane Frances, 2004, provided Steve’s and my first experience with that level of storm, even though we’d lived in Florida nearly thirty years. For twelve hours we listened to the roar of the wind and the banging of storm shutters, because Frances did not whoosh through the state, she shuffled.

 

(Note the eye.  That’s just slightly north of where we lived.)

 

Challenges continued after the storm, with a steam bath of heat and humidity compounded by the absence of electrical power for five or six days.

Even so, we celebrated:

  • Minimal damage–a mangled pool enclosure, many missing shingles, and a debris-filled yard. That was it.
  • A neighbor who shared his generator power with us, preserving the food in our refrigerator.
  • Time to rest after the ordeal of preparation; time to read and just be together.

The most memorable moment, perhaps, was the night we lathered up with Off, stood in the backyard, and stared into the cloudless heavens. (Plodding Frances had made a clean sweep of the sky on her way through.)

With the power out all along the coast of South Florida, more stars were visible than I thought possible to see without a telescope. Thousands upon thousands pierced every square inch of sky. Even one arm of the Milky Way spiral was discernible to the west.

 

 

Such an image is a worthy accompaniment to Philippians 2:15, where Paul urges us to be blameless and pure in a crooked and perverted generation, “among whom you shine like stars in the world” (emphasis added).

 

 

Paul surely had plenty of opportunity during his travels to contemplate the night skies. His view of the stars would always have been unencumbered by manmade light. And with all the ancients, he would have known that stars always shine brightest on the darkest nights.

So perhaps one inference we can make from Paul’s shine-like-stars encouragement: The brighter we shimmer with love, joy, and a positive outlook, the more we’ll stand out from those who focus on self, criticism, and negativity.

My thoughts turn toward those of you reading this right now who face dark circumstances in your lives. Every day you endure physical and/or emotional pain, yet you glow! You’re lit up by the Spirit within! And you scatter beams of grace to everyone around you–your family and friends, coworkers and neighbors. We bask in the light of your example and praise God for you.

 

 

Another inference we might make from Philippians 2:15: If only one pin-point star gleamed in the sky, we’d hardly notice. It’s the sheer number of stars that grabs our attention.

 

 

I wonder if Paul wanted us to contemplate the power of numbers. By the time he wrote to the Philippians, Christian churches had been established throughout much of the Roman empire. Today, thirty-seven million Christian churches spread across the globe*, and 2.3 billion people identify themselves as Christians**. That’s nearly one-third of all people on Planet Earth.

God has invited us to be part of a cosmos of believers—as grand as the night sky and awe-inspiring as the stars.

Just as the stars cannot be destroyed, nothing can destroy his church. Members may be persecuted, oppressed, and even murdered for their faith, but the church will not be extinguished (Matthew 16:18).

 

 

For 2000 years, kings, emperors, and dictators have tried. No one has succeeded. There are more believers in Jesus than ever.

True, people may scoff at or even refuse to listen to our words.  But a shining example of star quality is difficult to refute—especially against a dark sky.

 

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Lord God, on any given day I fail to shine like the star you’ve created me to be. I want my words and actions to manifest YOU, to be a glimmer of hope, encouragement, and joy to others. Just as the stars continually gleam in the heavens, I pray for consistency in my life—consistency to rely upon you, my Source of delightful Light.

 

  

* http://www.christianpost.org

**http://www.pewresearch.org

 

Photo credits:  www.wikimedia.com; http://www.Forestwander.com on wikimedia.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.jpl.nasa.gov; http://www.goodfreephotos.com; http://www.dailybiblememe.com; http://www.flickr.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).

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

In the predawn hours of May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls’ experienced hands gripped the ship’s wheel of the Planter, though his heart was pounding. Ahead were five checkpoints along the Charleston River, and then the open sea. Within a few hours he and the fifteen others onboard would be free from slavery.

Or, failing to succeed, they would be sinking the ship, jumping overboard and perishing together. They had already decided: being captured was not an option.

Smalls prayed aloud, for the benefit of his crew and passengers: “Lord, we entrust ourselves into thy hands. Like thou didst for the Israelites in Egypt, please stand over us to our promised land of freedom” (1).

The first checkpoint came into view, its lanterns gleaming gold against the dark night. Even though the sentries would not be able to see him clearly, Smalls had taken the precaution of wearing the captain’s coat and straw hat. He even assumed his captain’s posture. And when Smalls gave the correct whistle signal, they allowed him to pass without question.

Robert whispered another prayer, this time of gratitude and praise. He marveled how God had engineered events to bring him to this moment:

  • At age twelve, Smalls’ master, Mr. McKee of Beaufort, South Carolina, had rented him to an employer in Charleston. Smalls had worked in the city ever since, as waiter, lamplighter, and then wharf hand.
  • Currently he was employed as wheel hand aboard the Confederate supply ship, Planter, under command of Captain Ripley. His circumstances had allowed him to learn how to sail and how to make the correct whistle signals at checkpoints.
  • The captain and white crew members frequently spent their nights in Charleston, not on the ship. This night was one of them.

 

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(Charleston street scene by Matthew Brady)

 

  • Smalls enjoyed good rapport with the other ship-hand slaves of the Planter. Without them, this daring getaway would have been impossible.
  • The opportunity for escape presented itself when a pre-dawn mission was scheduled for May 13. Smalls’ 3:30 a.m. departure, although earlier than actually scheduled, did not alert the harbor guards.
  • Smalls had time to notify his wife and children that he would pick them up at a prearranged wharf nearby, prior to the first checkpoint.

A small pinpoint of pale light appeared ahead. Checkpoint Two. Again, the Planter slid by without incident as Smalls signaled to those on shore. Three, four, and five also allowed them to pass.

By sunrise they were sailing into safe Union waters. Upon sighting the first vessel of the Union blockade, Smalls took down the Confederate flag and hoisted a white sheet—just in time before Onward sailors began to fire at the Confederate vessel.

His plan had worked; the little band onboard had escaped to freedom. No doubt their shouts of celebration included, “Thank you, Jesus!”

Smalls surprised the captain of Onward with his knowledge of Rebel fortifications and their locations. Also of value: a book of secret flag signals used by the Confederates, and a full cargo of armaments.

It wasn’t long before Smalls had joined the war effort for the Union, helping to enlist Black men to fight. Nearly 5,000 former slaves fought courageously for the North.

For his part, Smalls became the Union Navy captain for the CSS Planter, the ship he had sailed to freedom. He also captained the ironclad, USS Keokuk.

 

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(The USS Keokuk)

 

Smalls led Union ships into waters the Confederacy had protected with mines—mines that Small had helped to plant while enslaved in Charleston. Soldiers deactivated the mines, opening those passageways to Union vessels.

Smalls courageously conducted seventeen missions in and around Charleston, which included assisting in the destruction of railroad bridges in the harbor area.

After the war, Smalls and his family returned to Beaufort, South Carolina. He was awarded the rank of Major General of the South Carolina Militia during Reconstruction, and turned his attention to business, education, and finally, politics.  He opened a general store and started a newspaper. He helped establish the first school built for African-American children in Beaufort County.

 

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From 1869 to 1889 Smalls served in both houses of the South Carolina Legislature, and five terms in the U.S. Congress. Referring to his political service, one commentator said, “His record was brilliant, consistent, and indeed he led in all the most prominent measures” (2).

One story in particular highlights Smalls’ Christ-like attitude that impacted his entire life:

 

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(The McKee/Smalls House in Beaufort, SC)

 

He eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase the house in Beaufort where he and his mother had been slaves of the McKee family. Sometime after Smalls and his family moved in, Mrs. McKee came to the door. By this time she was elderly and perhaps suffering from dementia. She thought the house still belonged to her.

The natural inclination would have been to send her away or have her delivered to her current home. But that was not Robert Smalls’ way. He invited Mrs. McKee inside, gave back to the woman her old bedroom, and then served her.

Robert Smalls died in 1915 at age 76, and was buried with great honors.

In 2001 a Logistics Support Vessel was launched with his name, the Major General Robert Smalls. It was the first ship named for an African-American.  A worthy honoree, indeed.

 

Notes:

(1) Boone, Bishop Wellington, Black Self-Genocide, p. 165.

(2) http://www.docsouth.umc.edu/neh/simmon/simmons.html

 

Sources:  Black Self-Genocide by Bishop Wellington Boone, APPTE Publishing, 2016; http://www.biography.com/people/robert-smalls; http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/138685.aspx; http://www.historynet.com/robertsmalls; http://www.robertsmalls.com; www.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ibiblio.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (4)

 

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Staff Sgt. Jacob DeShazer, a member of the famed Doolittle Raiders, was the bombardier of Crew No.16, the last of the 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers to launch from the USS Hornet April 18, 1942, on the famous bombing run over Tokyo. Sergeant DeShazer, 95, died March 15. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Jake DeShazer sat on a narrow bench facing the back wall of his cell, a position he was forced to keep hour after hour, day after day, as his imprisonment dragged on.

The year was 1945. DeShazer had been a prisoner of war in Japan for forty long months, enduring suffocating heat in summer, bitter cold in winter, solitary confinement, near-starvation, cruel treatment, and torture.

As he sat, perhaps Jake thought of his comrades among the eighty flyers of Dolittle’s Raiders, the bombing run over Japan that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies in 1942.

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But DeShazer’s plane was among those shot down, its crew members captured. How many of the original eighty had survived? Jake had no way of knowing, except for the few in his own cell block.

During those long, solitary hours, perhaps Jake reviewed the encouragements from scripture he had learned and the verses he’d memorized when–for three short weeks–he was allowed to have a Bible. What a change had taken place in his heart.

Prior to his captivity, Jake had no interest in Christianity. But the cruel treatment from his captors month after month nearly drove him crazy. Hatred consumed him. He remembered that Christianity supposedly changed hatred into brotherly love. Was that really possible?

He had begged for that Bible, but it was a long time coming. When the emperor of Japan told prison guards to treat their captives better, DeShazer’s request was finally honored. And as a result of studying the scriptures, he put his faith in Jesus. Bitter hatred for the Japanese transformed into loving pity.

As Jake’s thoughts focused on his captors, he may have prayed again the words from scripture that first melted his heart: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Perhaps DeShazer reaffirmed what God’s Spirit had revealed to him earlier: His captors knew nothing of a Savior.  Without Jesus it was only natural for them to be cruel.

And so, as he lifted up loved ones and fellow soldiers, as he expressed his longing for the war to end, Jake also prayed for his captors to know Christ.

Suddenly he heard the stomping of boots, the hum of multiple voices in the corridor, men crying, and the clanging of prison doors. Then he was able to make out words—in English! “The war is over!” “We’ve come to take you home!”

Within moments his own cell door was swung open by soldiers in American uniform, paratroopers who had landed directly on the prison compound.

The date: August 20, 1945 (seventy-one years ago this Saturday). Unbeknownst to the captives, the emperor of Japan had surrendered on August 10, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The horror was finally over; DeShazer and thousands of other soldiers returned home to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Jake chose to pursue a degree at Seattle Pacific University, which he accomplished in three years. By December of 1948, he and his wife, Florence, along with their first baby, were headed for the mission field, to—of all places—Japan.

Every time DeShazer met someone in his new home country and told his story, almost always the person would ask, “Why did you come back here?” And he would introduce them to Jesus.

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(DeShazer with Japanese children, 1952)

It is estimated that some 30,000 people accepted Christ into their lives—just in the first year of Jake’s ministry in Japan. Among them, a number of former prison guards who had held Jake and his comrades captive.

Another surprising convert: Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. He “happened” to read a pamphlet Jake had written, “I Was A Prisoner of Japan.” Fuchida began to study the Bible, became a Christian, and served as a missionary himself in Asia. He and Jake eventually met and became friends.

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(DeShazer and Fuchida)

For nearly thirty years the DeShazers served God in Japan, helping to found sixteen churches throughout the country.

Someone has said:

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(“Forgiveness does not change the past,

but it does change the future.”)

DeShazer’s story proves just how mind-boggling and miraculous that future can be.

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Thank you, Father, for DeShazer’s story, proving it is possible to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). By comparison to DeShazer’s horrific experiences, my hurts and resentments are embarrassingly puny. Yet I still need your Spirit to transform them into compassion and love. As a starting point, may I never lose sight of the totally underserved forgiveness you have lavished upon me.

You can access more of Jacob DeShazer’s story at:

(Art & photo credits:  www.verterantributes.org; http://www.worldevangelism.net; http://www.spu.edu; http://www.jacobdeshazer.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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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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We’ve all heard the story of Joseph (or seen the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat). You’ll remember he’s the one who endured years of slavery and prison before his dreams (of bowing wheat sheaves and stars paying homage) came true.

We also know about Moses, an adopted prince in Pharaoh’s household who ended up in the wilderness herding sheep.  Forty years later God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

And we’re familiar with Paul who spent years traveling from place to place and, yes, suffering all kinds of trials—beatings, imprisonment, dangers, shipwrecks—all for the privilege of serving God, introducing people to Jesus and establishing churches.

These Biblical stories and others teach us to never give up, because we never know when God will show up to turn a prisoner into a prime minister, a shepherd into a great leader, or a Pharisee tentmaker into a world evangelist.

Then there’s Jeremiah. His is a different kind of story altogether. He was called by God to warn the inhabitants of Judah that destruction would come if they did not return to God and follow his ways. It was not a one-time message. Over a period of forty years Jeremiah spoke many times of coming doom.

 

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Almost no one listened. (A brief revival took place under King Josiah, but when he died, the people returned to their complacency and evil ways.)

We love the stories of Joseph, Moses, Paul, and others, whose perseverance was rewarded with success. But what about Jeremiah?

He, too, persevered through trials–poverty and deprivation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, rejection and ridicule. For what? According to the evidence (minimal results for his efforts), Jeremiah was a wretched failure. Yet he had obeyed God faithfully, endured patiently, and preached courageously.

Perhaps visible evidence is not the best way to quantify success.

Instead, the true measure of success involves our characters, not our acquisitions (Joshua 1:8).

 

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The true measure of success may include the tenacity to get up every day and face the same tasks as yesterday, to persistently make choices that further God’s objectives for each of us, and to remain steadfast even when discouraged (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Last, a true measure of success is how our choices honor God (1 Kings 2:3). Jeremiah may not have turned thousands back to Yahweh, but that was not due to his lack of effort or disobedience to God. Jeremiah doggedly preached to the people of Judah—month after month, year after year.

So the true measure of success includes: 1) pursuing godly character, 2) persevering toward God-given purpose, and 3) making choices that honor him.

 

Zac-Poonen-Quote-Mans-Greatest-Honor1

 

Today, such successful people might look like:

  • The parent who has put his career on hold to invest time in his young children.
  • the business owner who drives a twelve-year old car so he can give generously to ministries.
  • The college student slowly working her way through school, anxious to return to her inner city neighborhood and teach school

For those of us looking for that kind of success, Jeremiah is our hero.

He lived out these precepts :

  • Do our prayerful best and leave the results with God.
  • Press on–day by day, month by month, year by year if necessary. Allow such perseverance to build our trust in God and strengthen our character.
  • Persist until God tells us to stop. (How do we know we’ve reached that moment? Peace, not uncertainty, will fill our spirits.)

We may not understand what God is doing, but we know him. And he is holy love and perfect wisdom.*

 

Pilgrims-Rock-gods-wisdom-is-faultless-application-of-his-perfect-knowledge-300w

 

*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, p. 129.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.christianquotes.info; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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