Thank God for Freedom

Of all the holidays celebrated by our nation, the 4th of July, Independence Day, stands out above the rest. It is a time of flag waving, parades, and feeling thankful for our liberties and freedoms. We have every reason to be proud and to glory in our heritage as Americans, for Independence Day is much more than just another holiday. It is the birthday of a great idea. Not merely the idea of independence from those who oppress us, but the idea that basic rights of freedom and liberty are for each and every person. That was a very radical idea in 1776.

The Declaration of Independence adopted in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 laid down the principles, the foundation stones, and the truths of this nation. The Continental Congress declared that certain truths are self-evident, although most of the world had failed to take notice of them. These truths, the Declaration stated, are “that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with such unalienable rights as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

The Declaration of Independence also states that “governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed.” There are many parts of the world where the words of this Declaration would be considered sedition and treason today. Even so, the idea of basic human rights was put forward and continues to be declared. The Declaration signaled the birth of American self-government, and our freedom has inspired democratic movements on other continents ever since.

The Declaration of Independence strongly proclaims the idea and truth that each and every person is and ought to be free.

But let us be clear. The idea of freedom was not original with the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence. Freedom is a concept and condition which God alone gives. We are made in His image and likeness. God made us to be free and functioning individuals, who are accountable to Him. Jesus said: “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) In 2 Corinthians 3:17 we are told: “…where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

There is no true freedom apart from God, for freedom is God-given.

Sadly, today some Americans do not understand or have regard for freedom as created by God and declared by the Declaration of Independence. They selfishly live their lives as they please without regard for God, the common good, or anyone else.

There is always risk in a free society. Some people are bound to abuse what they ought to hold dear and sacred. That is the nature of sin. In the name of freedom of speech, there are Americans who reach for new levels of vulgarity and bad taste on a daily basis. Most days they succeed in being uncivil.

Let us be reminded: God has placed the concept of freedom at the very core of the Christian Gospel. He has made us to be free and He offers us freedom through His Son, Jesus Christ. At the center of this concept of personal freedom is the privilege of personal choice, and that is part of the doctrine of the soul competency of every believer before God. Personal and responsible choice in all areas of life is the badge of freedom worn by a       free people.

Freedom is an idea that may not be fully appreciated by people who have never known any other way of life. It is like good health, we do not think much about it until it is lost. Understanding freedom is somewhat like that.

Let us never forget that our freedoms did not come free. There were enormous costs, for freedom always has a big price tag. Long ago it cost God the life of His own Son. Freedom is not without cost today. It is to be paid for with good citizenship.

We must guard the freedoms that have been handed down to us for there are always threats from within and from without today. The many efforts toward conformity and “correctness” are such dangers. These are methods often used by enemies of freedom. Beware of those who want to limit free inquiry, or dissent, or the right to be different. Let us cherish and vigorously guard our God-given freedoms and those of all other citizens as well.

America is a great nation today because it has been built on a great idea. Our founding fathers thought that spiritual values were ultimately more important than material things. Those early Americans believed that significant issues should not be decided by impulse, or expediency, or public opinion polls. Issues should be decided by the truth God has written into the very fabric and nature of the universe.

When we go back to the roots of our national ideals we discover people who had strong convictions. The concluding words of the Declaration of Independence say: “And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.” Freedom in America did not come free! In our day we need to renew our commitment to liberty, freedom, and personal responsibility for our actions. Responsibility for our city, state, and nation is a sacred duty.

Even with all that is lacking in America today, we are still a people of achievement, in a land of opportunity, and God expects us to responsibly use the freedom He has given us. Instead of giving attention to a few hate-mongers and the blame-placers, let us rethink the wonders of our nation and thank God. Let us raise our voices in praise with true gratitude for all who helped bring this nation into being. May we honor the past achievements and continue to support the truth. The future will be secured by those Americans who are committed to pay the price, to blaze the trail, and who will be true to our spiritual values. There is much to do and we need to spend more time thinking about the remarkable and positive aspects of our country. Let us on this 4th of July celebrate the idea of freedom and liberty for all. And let us thank God. Jesus said, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

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Things Mother Taught Me

I was on the internet recently and came across a site called Bert Christensen’s Truth & Humor Collection. The lessons his mother taught him are some of the same lessons I learned. Do they sound familiar to you?

  1. My mother taught me TO APPRECIATE A JOB WELL DONE. “If you’re going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning.”
  2.  My mother taught me RELIGION. “You better pray that will come out of the carpet.”
  3. My mother taught me about TIME TRAVEL. “If you don’t straighten up, I’m going to knock you into the middle of next week!”
  4. My mother taught me LOGIC. “Because I said so, that’s why.”
  5. My mother taught me MORE LOGIC. ‘If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you’re not going to the store with me.”
  6. My mother taught me FORESIGHT. “Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident.”
  7. My mother taught me IRONY. “Keep crying and I’ll give you something to cry about.”
  8. My mother taught me about the science of OSMOSIS. “Shut your mouth and eat your supper.”
  9. My mother taught me about CONTORTIONISM. “Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck?”
  10. My mother taught me about STAMINA. “You’ll sit there until all that spinach is gone.”
  11. My mother taught me about WEATHER. “This room of yours looks as if a tornado went through it.”
  12. My mother taught me about HYPOCRISY. “If I told you once, I’ve told you a million times. Don’t exaggerate!”
  13. My mother taught me the CIRCLE OF LIFE. “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.”
  14. My mother taught me about BEHAVIOUR MODIFICATION. “Stop acting like your father!”
  15. My mother taught me about ENVY. “There are millions of less fortunate children in this world who don’t have wonderful parents like you do.”
  16. My mother taught me about ANTICIPATION. “Just wait until we get home.”
  17. My mother taught me about RECEIVING. “You are going to get it when you get home!”
  18. My mother taught me MEDICAL SCIENCE. “If you don’t stop crossing your eyes, they are going to freeze that way.”
  19. My mother taught me ESP. “Put your sweater on; don’t you think I know when you are cold?”
  20. My mother taught me HUMOR. “When that lawn mower cuts off your toes, don’t come running to me.”
  21. My mother taught me HOW TO BECOME AN ADULT. “If you don’t eat your vegetables, you’ll never grow up.”
  22. My mother taught me GENETICS. “You’re just like your father.”
  23. My mother taught me about my ROOTS. “Shut that door behind you. Do you think you were born in a barn?”
  24. My mother taught me WISDOM. “When you get to be my age, you’ll understand.”
  25. And my favorite: my mother taught me about JUSTICE. “One day you’ll have kids, and I hope they turn out just like you!”
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Prayer of Confession

As I was watching TV News today, I recalled a prayer delivered on January 23, 1996 by Pastor Joe Wright to the Kansas House of Representatives. Here it is:

“Heavenly Father, we come before You today to ask Your forgiveness and seek Your direction and guidance. Lord, we know Your Word says, “Woe to those who call evil good,” but that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values.

We confess that we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism.

We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.

We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.

We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building esteem.

We have abused power and called it political savvy.

We have coveted our neighbors’ possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our fore-fathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us oh God and know our hearts today; try us and see if there be some wicked way in us; cleanse us from every sin and set us free.

Guide and bless these men and women who have been sent here by the people of Kansas, and who have been ordained by You, to govern this great state. Grant them Your wisdom to rule and may their decisions direct us to the center of Your will. I ask it in the name of Your Son, the Living Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.”

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Use of Time

“I just don’t have time. I try so hard but I never seem to get everything done. Where does the day go?” Do you ever feel this way? Perhaps at some point we all feel rushed, overworked, and out of time. But if we feel this way every day, or most days, then we need to stop for a look at our involvements, our priorities, and ourselves.

It might be helpful for us to read the third chapter of the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes. The truth is very clear that you and I have the same amount of time as every other person. No more, no less.

God created the world and planned for it to operate in an orderly fashion. From the creation until this present day, God has personally seen to it that everything works on His timetable. If it did not follow along on God’s schedule, the universe would be quickly destroyed. The planets could not survive. Humankind would be doomed in a split second if the world were not orderly.

If God places so much value on time, perhaps we need to be more aware of our stewardship of time. It may be that we would have enough time to do the things we need to do, if the things we do really are worth doing. To put it more clearly, eliminate the matters of lesser importance and do the essentials. Give major attention to the main issues of life. Said another way, put first things first, and last things last.

A basic need of every Christian is to discover God’s priorities for our life. Why? His priorities do not conflict. He does not confuse. There are no failures or loose ends in His plan for us.

Examination of our use of time would probably indicate that some of our projects or activities should be phased out. Others need to phase in. God does not expect more from us than we are able to perform, but He does have expectations for each believer. Many of us have to admit that our lack of time is mainly due to poor scheduling, taking on more than we can do, or badly placed priorities.

The truth is that when we control our time, we control one of our most important assets. We all start the day with exactly the same number of hours available. How do some people accomplish so much more than others do? How may we be more like those who accomplish a great deal in the day?

Here are several practical suggestions that are worth consideration:

  1. Know what you are going to do before you start out on any activity. If you do not know, how will you be able to tell when you are finished?
  2. Do your planning before and after prime work periods. Concentrate on whatever you are doing now. Remember the Scripture, “This one thing I do.”
  3. When it is possible, make appointments. It will save a lot of waiting time and wasted travel. Not only do appointments get you started on schedule but may also help to stop on time.
  4. Use each moment well. When waiting is necessary, do something worthwhile while you wait, if that is practical.
  5. Work when you work and play when you play. It is generally a good idea to keep personal time and work time separated.
  6. Avoid as many meetings as you can. If meetings are necessary, plan them carefully. End them as soon as the agenda is completed. Businesses, churches, clubs, and other groups with poorly planned and conducted meetings waste a tremendous amount of time.
  7. Another suggestion worth consideration is to make a list of the things we do on a daily basis, the amount of time spent on various activities, and the results obtained. After a few days, a pattern will be discovered. Then it will be easier to learn where the time goes. Armed with this information and God’s priorities for our lives, we can then start making the needed changes that will give added quality to the day.
  8. Always remember that there is much more to life than just increasing its speed.
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There are many people who live in or near a state of unreality. That includes some who are Christians. Living in the past (the good old days) or the future (a time of pie in the sky), will not always aid us today. When we as Christians truly face reality as it is, we must conclude that the choices we make will have lasting significance. Each day we must decide anew whether we will choose the way of God, or the way of sin and evil. Admittedly, the choices are often hard to make. We will all face those times when we cannot tell right from wrong.

Whether we want to acknowledge the fact or not, there is a strong power of evil in the world. It is led and ruled by Satan, and Satan is not stupid. He will always make evil look as attractive as possible. He wants the choices of good and evil to be unclear to us. He likes to place us in a dilemma so he may further confuse us. Or he may help us to choose not to choose, which is a decision in itself. We often take the way of compromise and/or procrastination, which amounts to a rejection of God’s truth.

Now I believe every true Christian honestly wants to do the right thing. However, in each situation of life we must somehow discover and come to know what is right. It is always necessary to interpret the events of life in the light of Scripture and the leading of God’s Holy Spirit.

It is not possible to be a happy, healthy, growing Christian without regular study and application of God’s Word to our lives. It is not possible to know and do what is right apart from the direction, leading, and instruction of God’s Holy Spirit. I have always been appalled to hear people claim to be Christians, and then admit that they do not read the Bible or consider the Spirit’s leading. Often they justify their behavior by mentioning that they do the best they can, or state that God knows they mean well.

I say rubbish and balderdash! God never called us to a life of ignorance and stupidity! He did not command us to know as little as possible, and do the best we can all alone. He never instructed His people to charge off into a world of sin and try to live a good life. He clearly said, “apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5) At another time He added that those who have the faith as a mustard seed will find that, “nothing shall be impossible to you.” (Matt. 17:20)

I believe God means that at each turn of life He expects us to come to Him to learn what is going on, and what He wants us to do about it. Once He tells us, He then expects us to throw ignorance and stupidity out the window, and do the right as He reveals the proper choice to us.

A Christian never goes up against the world all alone. Almighty God Himself is always with us. One Christian plus God is a majority. Anytime we choose to decide the issues of life alone, even according to our own best judgment, we are sinning. It is imperative that we choose to decide the issues of life as directed by God’s Word, God’s Spirit, and His revelation to us. Without Him, we can do nothing, but with Him all things become clear and possible.

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Let’s Go Fishing

There was an old man in the little fishing village that always caught more fish than any other fisherman. And he always fished alone. Everyone asked him about the secret of his success, but he wouldn’t tell. One day, however, his best friend, who was also the game warden, asked if he could go and observe his fishing methods. To everyone’s surprise, he agreed that his friend could go with him. Just after dawn the two of them left the boat dock and went way out in the bay, far out of sight of land. As the sun was beginning to come up the old fisherman turned off the motor and announced, “this is the spot we catch ‘em today.” Then he reached into his tackle box, pulled out four sticks of dynamite, lit the fuses and tossed them out into the water. His friend the game warden looked on with horror as the dynamite sank deep then exploded with a mighty splash. Quickly the bay was covered with dead fish floating on top of the water. The old fisherman started the motor and slowly cruised around picking up the fish. In a few minutes, there was a huge pile of fish on board.

Finally, the game warden spoke: “You know I am your best friend, but you also know I am the game warden. What you have done is so illegal I will have to arrest you.”

By that time, the old fisherman had pulled out another stick of dynamite, which he lit and when the fuse was only two inches long, he put it over in the game warden’s lap. “Are you just gonna sit there and talk, or are you gonna start fishing?”

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Behave Yourself!

As a boy, it seems that about every time I left home I got the same message from my mother; “Behave yourself, you hear?” She was attempting to teach me right from wrong by those constant reminders. Life was much simpler in those days and it was not too hard to behave myself.

It seems to me that today it is often more difficult to tell right from wrong than in former years. All of us are forced to make value judgments every day. We use our personal internal frame of reference to discover meaning in everything that goes on around us. Our Christian faith offers some positive principles and guidelines as we form our internal frame of reference.

Before looking at some of these principles and guidelines, let’s dismiss a couple of false ideas some people follow.

Some people believe we can trust our own best judgment to know and do what is right. This is a false premise for it implies that we are basically good and complete within ourselves. It ignores our need of God and our relatedness to other people. Besides, the Bible teaches that we are self-centered, rebellious, and lost sinners. Left on our own we are capable of unbelievable evil and destruction. Even a great saint of God like Paul confessed that at times “I do not know what I am doing. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Rom. 7:15 NIV)

A second false idea is the notion that certain conduct is right because “everybody is doing it.” Morals are not decided by popular vote or how “everybody” might feel. Right or wrong is not a fashion or fad. Whether it is popular or not, this world is governed by some absolutes that are laid down by God. The actions of other people may be considered, but that cannot be the sole rule for our behavior.

Let’s look on the positive side for making choices and making decisions. Here are three positive principles to consider.

The first positive principle for daily morality is to know, believe, and follow the truths of God’s word. There is a shortage of vital faith in America today. That lack of vital faith is directly related to our general ignorance of the Bible. Some are tempted to think that the Ten Commandments are outmoded and are not relevant for our generation. Bible reading can no longer be done in the public school and is rarely done in the home!!

We cannot ignore God’s word or His approval of it. When considering the rightness of any decision, let us look to Scripture for instruction, and to God’s Holy Spirit for guidance and understanding. Many of us are able to recall situations where this principle was used. And it worked. We are to use Scripture to live by, not argue about.

The second positive principle for daily morality is to stand firm on the convictions we have been developing all our lives. There are certain beliefs, customs, and ways of living we have found to be true. Until we find something better, let us hold on to these convictions and live by them. We should develop them; deepen them, but stay true to them.

The Old Testament prophets often cried out for the people to have the courage of their convictions. We, too, must search our hearts and stay true to our sacred beliefs. Spend some time and think about it. What are your important convictions?

When we have inner convictions that are supported by God’s Word, that honor God, that are directed by the Holy Spirit, then we are on the right track.

The third positive principle for daily morality is to act from the motive of Christian love. There is not the slightest doubt that God’s love includes all people everywhere. What is right for one is right for all. Jesus was very outspoken when dealing with sin, but He always expressed His love for the sinning person. Jesus left no doubt about the fact that He disapproved of sin, but He always reached out to the person who was doing wrong. He will save any sinner who comes to Him.

There is a great difference in resisting evil, yet loving the evildoer. The principle is to stand fast against evil, but have a Godly love for the person who is sinning. We are never wrong when we treat people with God’s love. It may be tough love, but let it be love. We are always wrong when we ignore the feelings of others, or deal with them for selfish motives.

In the context of the Christian faith, right or wrong is a moral question. It is intimately connected to the will of God. To say that an action is wrong is to declare that it is contrary to the will of a holy, loving, and just God. To declare that an action is right is to say that it conforms to the will of a holy, loving, and just God.

The standards with which we measure are the word of God, personal beliefs and convictions, and the motive of Godly love. This makes the act of behaving ourselves a search for the will of God and then being obedient to it.

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You Are Someone Special

The news on April 15, 1912 told a story about how the unthinkable happened out on the North Atlantic. The Titanic, proclaimed to be unsinkable, sank. A New York City newspaper, The American, devoted the entire coverage to the death of John Jacob Astor IV, the millionaire. At the end of the story, it mentioned casually, that 1800 or so other people had also died in the sinking. Only the rich and famous were reported, however.

Ask yourself a question? Do you want to get ahead in life? Work? Education? Personal growth? Then be quick to put away and dismiss the above attitude. In its place, recognize the fact that you and every other person are special.

Let me offer a suggestion: do not bother trying to keep up with the crowd. Do not waste your time and efforts trying to compete with others. Do not worry that some people are ahead of you or can do something better than you.

Realize and accept the fact that you are unique. Your uniqueness separates you from everyone else. To accept your uniqueness requires a decision. So, make one! Make up your mind to be the best you that you can be. That’s it. And you alone can arrive at such a decision for you.

Look a little closer. Unique is defined as being without a like or an equal; single in kind; the only one of its kind; without equivalent.

Think about it. You are the only one of your kind. You have unique talents, abilities, personality characteristics, opportunities, mental powers, self-image. It is a fact beyond dispute that no other person can do what you do, exactly the way you do. No one knows exactly what you know. You are the only one with your personality.

Children sometimes sing a song that says, “In all the world over there’s no one like me, no one like me, no one like even me.” Therefore, I am suggesting most emphatically that you celebrate your own uniqueness!

Would you like a challenge that will last for the rest of your life? Here it is. Discover your own uniqueness and use it to the best possible advantage.

Instead of competing with anyone else, determine what you can do that others cannot, then do your thing. As you are looking for your unique abilities, talents, or interests, remember it is often the little things in life that count the most.

My challenge to you is to find your uniqueness. What thing, ability, or interest sets you apart from everyone else? Learn to use it well. Expand it. Let it grow and develop.

Did you ever hear of the Wright brothers? Of course you have, we all know about them. Their name is widely recognized everywhere. In December 1903, they did an impossible thing. They took a heavier-than-air plane and flew in the sky for several hundred feet, landing safely.

Earlier in 1903, a highly respected scientist of that time published proof that powered flight was impossible. No one remembers his name.

So how did the Wright brothers do a thing that was not possible? They did not allow others to control or thwart their unique abilities and interests.

Discover your own uniqueness; get well acquainted with yourself, your abilities, talents, and interests. Then, go forward; conceive of every possible plan to use it. Find a cause somewhere in the world that is so big you can lose yourself in it. Do not overlook the obvious and the ordinary.

I can guarantee that if you will take this challenge seriously, you will discover more happiness and personal satisfaction than you ever thought possible.

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Apple-Cranberry Dish

Here is a recipe that has been in my family for fifty years or more. It is simple to make and goes with any meal. (You will not find it on any weight-loss programs. However, if you are skinny and need to gain a few pounds, you may use it as a dessert and put several large spoons of vanilla ice cream on top. It is guaranteed to work.)

3 cups chopped apples

 2 cups fresh Ocean Spray Cranberries

 1 cup sugar

 ½ cup brown sugar

 1/3 cup flour

 1/3 cup chopped pecans

 2 sticks Oleo

 1 ½ cups uncooked oatmeal

 Place unpeeled, chopped apples, cranberries and white sugar in the bottom of a casserole dish (a 3 quart size). Blend the oatmeal, brown sugar, flour, chopped pecans, melted Oleo, and pour over the mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Makes 8 servings. May be served with a meal or as a dessert.

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Bill Gates High School Address

 Bill Gates gave a speech at a High School about eleven things they did not and will not learn in school. He talked about how feel-good, politically correct teachings created a generation of kids with no concept of reality and how this concept set them up for failure in the real world.

Rule 1: Life is not fair-get used to it!
Rule 2: The world won’t care about your self-esteem. The world will expect you to accomplish something BEFORE you feel good about yourself.
Rule 3: You will NOT make $60,000 a year right out of high school. You won’t be a vice-president with a car phone until you earn both.
Rule 4: If you think your teacher is tough, wait till you get a boss.
Rule 5: Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your Grandparents had a different word for burger flipping . . . they called it opportunity.
Rule 6: If you mess up, it’s not your parents’ fault, so don’t whine about your mistakes, learn from them.
Rule 7: Before you were born, your parents weren’t as boring as they are now. They got that way from paying your bills, cleaning your clothes and listening to you talk about how cool you thought you were. So before you save the rain forest from the parasites of your parent’s generation, try delousing the closet in your own room.

Rule 8: Your school may have done away with winners and losers, but life HAS NOT. In some schools they have abolished failing grades and they’ll give you as MANY TIMES as you want to get the right answer. This doesn’t bear the slightest resemblance to ANYTHING in real life.
Rule 9: Life is not divided into semesters. You don’t get summers off and very few employers are interested in helping you FIND YOURSELF. Do that on your own time.
Rule 10: Television is NOT real life. In real life people actually have to leave the coffee shop and go to jobs.
Rule 11: Be nice to nerds. Chances are you’ll end up working for one.

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