Tag Archives: Fourth of July

A few personal notes in lieu of holiday-focused rhetoric

Plowing on through the year-long Bible study, I am now into Deuteronomy and Acts.  I am struggling with remaining open-minded enough not to get bogged down by the minutia of the Old Testament laws.

But I also admit that I am doing everything I can not to frame the current national status within the context of the Old Testament laws.  I do not understand why we have to make our lives so complicated by complex legislation.

You see, the New Testament law of loving one another supersedes everything else.  As I read through the detailed explanations of the Old Testament Law, I see how even that one commandment encompasses all the initial ten commandments. 

Therefore, I again implore all to use the Golden Rule as a litmus test for all decisions.  Does the decision show love for one another?  Is the decision something I want applied to myself?  Can I apply this decision in my own life that I chose to love one another?

As I listen to the nightly news, I have a tendency to analyze what is going on along the rubric of the Golden Rule.  How could the event or the person been different if the individuals involved really did use the Golden Rule.

I even find myself reviewing the personalities and wondering if they have stopped to consider whether or not they reflect the Golden Rule.

Needless to say that this is an over-simplification of any event I am sure, but if only we could live the Golden Rule as the one and only law that needed to be applied.

And this over-simplification probably will make many snicker, especially when our country is celebrating its independence. But, I fear that our founding fathers would not be impressed by the way our democracy is NOT using the Golden Rule.

Therefore, I invite all to join in prayer for the country, the leaders, and the people. . . 

Dear all-knowing, all-powerful Lord, our God,

Forgive us for our narrow-minded thinking.

Open our minds that we honestly see and hear

     what we say and do to one another.

Guide us to rethink our decisions and actions

     using the Golden Rule as our guideline.

Move us to action to love one another in any way 

     that we can, whenever we can, at all the times

     we can so your love reaches all.  –Amen

[P.S.  The holiday week has been gilled with grandkids, anniversary, and holiday—not to mention excessive rain.  Next week will be busy, too, as I step away for a few days.  I will see you after then.]

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God, Bible & Flag: Evidence of your foundation?

given on Sunday, July 5, 2015

Fourth of July Weekend and everything is dressed up in red, white and blue. We cannot deny that our country is celebrating its heritage this weekend, but the heritage is not always easy to preserve or even to understand.

Our hymnal has several selections that reflect this country’s history, but each revision has challenged the validity of some hymns because they are too closely connected to the fighting mentality-or reality–that has insured the freedoms of American citizens.

George Washington’s quote speaks to the founding fathers basic premise concerning the laws of this land: “It is impossible to rightly govern a nation without God and the Bible.” The Judeo-Christian principles that continue to hold this country together are challenged repeatedly, but the law continues working for the citizen.

This week once again challenges our basic American and our Christian foundations. The violence occurring in South Carolina has forced the long time discussion about a flag, the Confederate Flag. Whatever one’s opinion is about this historic flag, it must be remembered that a flag is a symbol.

In the midst of this current and repeated cultural debate, the Confederate flag is remembered as a symbol of a historical event that ended 150 years ago. The political significance in no longer relevant, but the emotional turmoil the flag generates conflict that many thought the country had settled with the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.

Sadly, the emotions demonstrate that Christian principles are not being practiced even though the legal system has created the standards to end the conflict. In our system, we have three branches that are to keep each other in check.

The recent decisions of the Supreme Court have triggered other emotional reactions, but the Supreme Court considers the lower court decisions based on whether or not the decisions are aligned with the Constitution.

In the Bishop Robert Schnase’s open letter concerning the legality of gay marriage, he reminded us that the decision was a civil decision. A change on the United Methodist Church’s position will not be determined until after the next General Conference in 2016, if a decision can be reached.

Living the Christian lifestyle is our individual responsibility. Turning to the verses from Romans 13, Paul shares God’s expectations concerning life under any civil rule:

Everyone must submit to governing authorities. . . the authorities do not strike fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. . . . do what is right and they will honor you.

The new law from God makes life so simple—do no harm. Love one another, as you want to be loved.

The problems that have developed within this country could be eliminated if all sides had followed God’s law. The problems in Ferguson, the escaped inmates, the violence in Charleston, SC, the threats against women clergy now being made, and the senseless killings in our communities whether inner city, suburb, or rural county.

Christians must speak out for the lifestyle that does no harm. The statics may indicate that church attendance is decreasing, but the number of Christians is still large enough to make a difference in our world.

Look around the community. What can be done that will improve the quality of life? Does a small corner of this huge world need attention? Is there a person with a need that you or we could manage? How can we make a difference right here, right now?

Maybe a letter writing campaign (snail mail or email) taking a stand on an issue that challenges the Christian principles could make a difference. By working together, many voices can be heard better than one voice.

We are Christians first, Americans second. This weekend we celebrate our American heritage by honoring the “Stars and Stripes,” with family reunions, by eating ice cream, hot dogs, hamburgers, and watermelon. As long as we keep God’s law first, we can live under the civil government that our founding fathers created.

Washington’s quote reminds us just how important our Christian heritage is as we continue to celebrate our American heritage. The flag-waving of this holiday weekend is a symbolic action that can do no harm as long as we Christians are doing what is right. American Christians can wave the Christian flag, too, as it represents the very principles that established this country and continues to guide its culture changes over two centuries.

Prayers for our country

Dear God,

Thank you for providing one simple rule:

To love one another.

Thank you for sending your Son

To demonstrate how to live under your rule.

Thank you for Paul and the earliest disciples

Who had to learn how God’s law works under civil law.

For the citizens struggling to live in today’s world,

Open their hearts and minds with your word.

For the Christians maintaining their lifestyle,

Fill their hearts and souls with peace and joy.

For those who are filled with hate and anger,

Let them discover the healing power of love.

May we serve as your emissaries for lost souls;

May we find ways to heal emotional wounds;

And may we do no harm to one other.   –Amen

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Prayers for Our Nation

given on Sunday, June 29, 2014

Words of Reflection . . .

This week will end with a celebration, a birthday for our nation. As of Friday, the United States of American will be 238 years old—a mere toddler in comparison to the age of Christianity.   The history of the nation shows how Christianity has affected the laws and the courts and the leadership. The distance between the two is often only a few words.

Yet we are so afraid that the current path is leading us into chaos that we easily forget that we have the power of prayer and the responsibility to act rather than sit back and watch the chaos grows and grows. Today, we join together to pray for our nation because as Christians we can and we must take action to preserve the very foundation of our nation. We must not let the violence, the leadership, the fear, the economy, or even the land itself destroy the very nation we call home.

As we struggled with all the problems we talk about around our dinner tables or chance meetings on the street or in casual conversations anywhere, we talk about how can we make a change, how can we possibly get the politicians to do something different. We have a responsibility as Americans to speak out, to serve and to vote.

As Christians we have an additional power—the power of prayer. How often do we honestly open our hearts to God and pray for guidance, for help in this nation? With all the evil that is spinning around us, even in our small communities or brought into our homes by the internet or by cable or satellite, we must step up and actively pray.

A prayer for our Nation:

Join in this prayer from Peter Marshall, found in the book, God Bless American: Prayers & Reflection for Out Country,” which was introduced to me by Ms. Edith.

O God, our Father, we pray that the people of America, who have made such progress in material things, may now seek to grow in spiritual understanding.

For we have improved means, but not improved ends. We have better ways of getting there, but we have no better places to go. We can save more time, but are not making any better use of the time we save.

We need Thy help to do something about the world’s true problems—the problem of lying, which is called propaganda; the problem of selfishness, which is called self-interest; the problem of greed, which is often called profit; the problem of license disguising itself as liberty; the problem of lust, masquerading as love; the problem of materialism, the hook which is baited with security.

Hear our prayers, O Lord, for he spiritual understanding which is better than political wisdom, that we may see our problems for what they are. This we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen [p. 45]

In Chronicles, Solomon asked God to make provisions for the people who sinned. Even as we pray for guidance and healing, we must take responsibility for what we do ourselves. Solomon, in all his wisdom, understood the sins of humanity, and he used prayer to ask God for help. God answered them in 2 Chronicles 7:14:

14 But they make themselves low (humbled) in my sight. They pray and look to me. And they turn from their evil ways. Then I will listen to them from heaven. I will forgive their sin. And I will heal their land. After all, they are my people. (the NIRV)

 

The next verse adds even more clarity to the God’s actions in reply for Solomon’s prayerful appeal:

15 “Now my eyes will see them. My ears will pay attention to the prayers they offer in this place. 16 I have chosen this temple. I have set it apart for myself. My Name will be there forever. My eyes and my heart will always be there. (the NIRV)

Solomon’s appeal brings the Israelites to God’s attention, and Solomon apparently felt confident that the people would indeed ask for forgiveness know that they would be scrutinized by God. Are we confident enough to ask forgiveness and to be under such scrutiny?

In James 2:12-13, we are again held accountable, but remember this is well over 2,000 years after Solomon talked with God about the sins of men. But James, Jesus’ brother, in now talking to the newest Christians, and these are his words to them about how they were to act one to another:

12 Speak and act like people who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom. 13 Those who have not shown mercy will not receive mercy when they are judged. To show mercy is better than to judge. (from the NIRV)

 

“To show mercy is better than to judge.” These words were radical during the first century of Christianity. In a culture where one of the greatest Israelite leaders Solomon was known as a wise judge, Christians were asked not to judge but to show mercy—to love one another, to love unconditionally.

In today’s crazy society, many complain how this person or that one does not live by our standards.   Comments can be heard that demonstrate how difficult not judging really is, how difficult it is to show mercy to others who do not fit into the comfortable expectations we have for a productive, happy life. We judge before we walk the proverbial mile in the shoes of others.

As Americans began developing the foundations of this country, the leaders quickly learned that the Constitution really did not delineate the the citizens’ freedoms. The Bill of Rightswere written to correct this oversight, and as Americans it is the standard by which we are to live:

The First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government of a redress of grievances. (approved December 15, 1791)

 

Simply applying the Golden Rule can preserve these rights: Love one another as you want to be loved. Showing mercy for each individual regardless of circumstances, race, gender, station in life, broken family or not, is living out that rule. Even two of our most Midwestern Presidents understood this in the very midst of the 20th century:

Harry S. Truman: We believe that all men have a right to equal justice under law and equal opportunity to share in the common good. (p. 156)

Dwight D. Eisenhower:There must be justice, sensed and shared by all peoples, for without justice, the world can know only a tense and unstable truce. (p. 156)

 

We need to consider the type of person we elect to serve as our leaders from the local, through the state, and throughout the federal governments. We need to accept our Christian responsibility to elect the officials who will preserve and promote the values that represent us honestly.

Martin Luther: A Christian man is the most free lord of all, and subject to none; a Christian man is the most dutiful servant of all, and subject to all.

Even during the Reformation Movement within Christianity, when some of the most horrific acts were carried out by Christians on other Christians, the reformists maintained that Christians were free because only God could judge and God was merciful.

Wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in such an hour?

Christians outnumber the villains, so why do we not stand up and take action to stop the violence of one against another. Why do we watch rather than act? Why do we feel so overwhelmed, so frightened when God is with us?

Again, we all can pray. We do not have to step into the middle of a battle and hold up our hands demanding it all stop; instead, we can, we must pray. Only God has the authority to judge, and God can intercede; but he needs to hear from us.

A second prayer for our nation

Marshall has a second prayer that can help guide us in saying what our hearts really wants to say. Join me in his prayer:

We know, our Father, that at this desperate hour in world affairs, we need thee. We need thy strength, thy guidance, thy wisdom.   There are problems far greater than any wisdom of man can solve. What shall our leaders do in such an hour?

May thy wisdom and thy power come upon those whom have been entrusted leadership. May the responsibility lie heavily on their hearts, until they are ready to acknowledge their helplessness and turn to thee. Give to them the honesty, the courage, and the moral integrity to confess that they don’t know what to do. Only then can thy lead us as a nation beyond humans wisdom to thee, who alone has the answer.

Lead us to this high adventure. Remind us that a “mighty fortress is our God”—not a hiding place where we can escape for an easy life, but rather an arsenal of courage and strength the mightiest of all, who will march beside us into the battle for righteousness and world brotherhood. (God Bless America, p.41)

Our worship could be concluded right now, but there is more to say. In our nation, community has long demonstrated a strength that shows how loving one another in true Christian spirit. In the little book, God Bless America, a section titled “Community” helps define this concept:

Daniel Webster: There is no solid basis for civilization but in the Word of God. If we abide by the principles in the Bible, our country will go on prospering and to prosper. I make it a practice to read the Bible through once every year.

 

Our ancestors established their system of government on morality and religious sentiment. Moral habits, they believed, cannot safely be trusted on any other foundation than religious principle, nor any government be secure which is not supported by moral habits. . . . Whatever makes men good Christians, makes them good citizens. (Webster at the bicentennial celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, December 22, 1820)

 

In closing, amidst the frustrations of a 238-year-old country who some feel that the foundations are cracked and crumbling, there is hope. In fact, there is a real opportunity for Christians to join in prayer and ask for God’s help.

 

A final prayer for the nation and its citizens

One of the world’s most respected citizens lived her life so fervently, fighting for the wellbeing of each and every child of God she could reach, has written our closing prayer. Join me in Mother Teresa’s prayer:

Make us worthy, Lord, o serve our fellow men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger. Give them through our hands this day their daily bread, and by our understanding love, give peace and joy.

Jesus came to give us the good news that God loves us and that he wants us to love one another as he loves each one of us. And to make it easy for us to love one another, Jesus said, “Whatever you do to the least, you do it to me. If you give a glass of water, you give it to me. If you receive little child in my name, you receive me. So whatever you do to the least, you do it to me.”

And where does this love begin? In our own families. How does it begin? By praying together. The family that prays together stays together, and if you stay together, you will love each other as God loves each one of you. So teach your children to pray, and pray with them, and you will have the joy and the peace and the unity of Christ’s own love living in you.” [Amen.]

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