(Lyrics to a song inspired by Joshua 4:24)
With each sunrise you refill me
To recount the hope that I see
Looking back to claim your promise
All my words proclaim your goodness
This is so
All may know that You are God
This is so
I may always fear You, Lord
Write it on my heart
Remind me who you are
May I not forget
This is so
Waves behind me tell your story
Ever lifting all your glory
Here’s my song to join in raising
Yours alone the name worth praising
In your presence I’m made holy
By your strength I’m standing only
(portions of President John Quincy Adam’s Independence Day speech in 1837 as quoted in Our Presidents and Their Prayers)
Why is it, friends and fellow citizens, that you are here assembled? Why is it, next to the birthday of the savior of the world, your most joyous and most venerated festival returns on this day? – And why is it that, among the swarming myriads of our population, thousands and tens of thousands among us, abstaining, under the dictate of religious principle, from the commemoration of that birth-day of Him, who brought life and immortality to light, yet unite with all their brethren of this community, year after year, in celebrating this, the birth-day of the nation? Is it not that, in the chain of human events, the birthday of the nation is indissolubly linked with the birthday of the Savior? That it forms a leading event in the progress of the gospel dispensation? Is it not that the Declaration of Independence first organized the social compact on the foundation of the Redeemer’s mission upon earth? That it laid the corner stone of human government upon the first precepts of Christianity, and gave to the world the first irrevocable pledge of the fulfillment of the prophecies, announced directly from Heaven at the birth of the Savior and predicted by the greatest of the Hebrew prophets six hundred years before?
…the Declaration of Independence announced the One People, assuming their station among the powers of the earth, as a civilized, religious, and Christian People, – acknowledging themselves bound by the obligations, and claiming the rights, to which they were entitled by the laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.
…A moral Ruler of the universe, the Governor and Controller of all human power, is the only unlimited sovereign acknowledged by the Declaration of Independence; and it claims for the United States of America, when assuming their equal station among the nations of the earth, only the power to do all that may be done of right.
You may have asked or been asked the question, “If you could have one super power, what would it be?” After today, I know a pretty good answer.
Within three hours, God gave me the opportunity to have four conversations-three with people I met for the first time. He apparently wanted to see if I would give them what he gave me (see July 1 post). To summarize in one word what these conversations circled around, they were all about restoration:
- Joy Restoration
- Security Restoration
- Connection Restoration
- Faith, Love, and Value Restoration
In the eyes of someone seeking restoration, you see many things: loss, fear, loneliness, anger, confusion, hurt-to name a few. But when they are given a different vision, a different lens that gives them a peek at an answer or a way out, something else flashes across their eyes. Their restoration has been birthed by a glimpse of hope.
What if we all pursued the super power of restoring hope? If you’re thinking you don’t have any hope to offer, then maybe it’s time for you to be a receiver (see yesterday’s post). Or maybe you’re thinking, I don’t know how to restore hope. Congratulations! You just made yourself available for the Holy Spirit to do his work through you rather than you doing it for him. One thing is for sure-we can’t give something that we don’t have.
So here’s the challenge: store up your own hope. Be ready to give it away to those who show you they need it. Be prepared to answer the super power question: “I already have one. I’m a Hope Restorer.”
Community. Whether we want to be or not, we are in community. And lots of it.
And the list could go on. And in all of these various communities we find ourselves in, we have a role as either a receiver or a giver; ideally, in the best of communities, we all work at keeping a good balance of actually being both.
We tend to focus on how much giving determines a community’s greatness. Generosity no doubt strengthens every fiber of a community. But let’s be honest; there are some challenges with being all about giving and disregarding the value of receiving.
Jesus illustrated this in the scene where perfume was lavished on him. No one could out give Jesus. Yet he illustrated the humility to allow someone to give to him. Did he really need what he was receiving? Some thought no; he believed otherwise. A better question would be, how did Jesus receive the service from others that he taught them to give? In order to fulfill his own teaching of love and peace, he had to allow himself to receive it.
I’m not the best receiver. I’m a much better giver. What has helped my growth in receiving is this definition of community: experiencing Jesus’ love through other humans. I can’t control their giving and receiving, but I certainly can control mine.
Here’s to balanced giving and receiving in all our communities!
It’s possible for someone in my position to ask myself this question more than others; but the reality is we all ask it, consciously or not: “Why is this person in my life?”
Reality also is we can ask that question from a negative or a positive place. The negative place might contain spoken or unspoken expletives. The positive place would not; they would be replaced with a better question, something like this: “How can I fulfill the reason God placed me in this person’s life?”
When you read John’s account of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman at the well (chapter 4), you get the sense Jesus asked this better question. It’s most likely what prompted him to start the conversation. He needed something from her, yet he wanted even more to reveal to her she needed something that only he could provide. The Father had brought them together for a reason.
If you were to make a list of those people you believe God has put in your life for a reason, who would make the list? What if you wrote their names down and then added by each name what that reason might be? It could be something as simple as to listen. Maybe a slightly bigger reason of to recognize. What if like Jesus, God has given you something unique that, with his help, only you could provide for this person? According to Paul in Ephesians 2:10, God’s already given you what you need to fulfill your reason. Nothing stands in your way. Go ahead. Give ’em what God gave you.
This quote came from my @youversion devotion this morning:
“My perspective of every situation will either encourage or dishearten my trust in God.”
I believe that. So to put it to a test, here’s a simple exercise I started as a journal entry. You might give it a try also.
Make two headings on the page: Dishearten & Encourage
Under dishearten, write a perspective that clearly lacks trust in God. Maybe something like, “God doesn’t care.”
Then under encourage, write the perspective that counters this statement. Possibly, “God is always at work.”
So far I’ve written four competing perspectives on my page. I’m going to review it daily and add to it throughout the week. The goal-build trust instead of sabotage it.
What exercise might help you build your trust in God?
“Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions in humble sorrow yet with a sure hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon, and to recognize the sublime truth announced in the holy scriptures and proven by all history that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord, and in so much as we know that by his divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war, which now desolates the land, may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people?
We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown; but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us. It behooves us then to humble ourselves before the offended power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”
-A proclamation by the president, March 30, 1863, Our Presidents and Their Prayers
Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this 156 years ago. What might he proclaim today if he were president? What national sins would he call us to confess?
I picked up this audio book last weekend at the library. It hasn’t disappointed. Here’s one example why:
“I know there is a God, and that he hates the injustice of slavery. I see the storm coming, and I know that his hand is in it. If he has a place and a work for me, and I think he has, I believe I am ready. I am nothing, but truth is everything. I know I am right because I know that liberty is right; for Christ teaches it, and Christ is God.” -Abraham Lincoln, Springfield, Illinois, 1860
Anything you read or watch about Lincoln depicts the burden he carried. What man or woman can imagine it? But when I heard this note read, I heard how he managed the burden.
- He managed it because he believed the burden came from God.
- He managed it because he was discerning to see it coming before it arrived.
- He managed it because he trusted the work, call, and preparation by God for anyone to carry any size burden.
- He managed it because he knew his place, which he chose to humbly embrace.
- He managed it because he viewed it as a burden for truth and right.
- He managed it because he was aligned with God, the life-giver and sustainer of all burden carriers.
What can you learn from Lincoln’s example? How could you better manage your burden with these principles?
If awe is a longing, then embedded in that longing is the cry for a destination. And if awe requires a destination, then every moment of awe in this life merely prepares us for the incalculable awe that is to come. You just can’t write a book about awe and not talk about eternity. Perhaps we can find no more real and present argument for heaven in the angst that we all carry in the face of the temporary and dissatisfying awes of the present. Whether we know it or not, the awe of every human being-that desire to be amazed, blown away, moved, and satisfied-is actually a universal craving to see God face-to-face. All the awesome things in creation point me to the awesome God who created and holds them together, and his presence is the destination where my hunger will finally be satisfied. God designed this present world to stimulate us so we would hunger for another world. On the other side, we won’t need the fingers of creation pointing us to God’s awesome glory because we will see that glory face-to-face and dwell in the light and heat of its sun forever and ever. We will finally stand in the actual presence of God, and we will bask in heart-satisfied awe, never to long again.
This paragraph comes from the epilogue of Awe, a book I first blogged about in 2016. I just finished my annual reading of it. I committed to read it annually to renew my awe. But I also read it this week in order to consider developing and offering a study of it for groups at my church. If you attend First Baptist Bradenton, stay tuned.
While reading the epilogue, I also couldn’t help but think about Frank (see post from May entitled Serving Frank). We celebrated his life yesterday. His longing is over. His heart is satisfied, never to long again.
It’s been a good week.
I have a new favorite verse. At least for today.
“This is what the Lord says: Stand by the roadways and look. Ask about the ancient paths, “Which is the way to what is good?” Then take it and find rest for yourselves. But they protested, “We won’t!””Jeremiah 6:16 CSB
(Check out how these translations ask the question: ESV, NIV, NKJV “Where the good way is?” The Message paraphrases it as the “tried-and-true road.”)
The visual is so clear, yet we seem blind.
Rest doesn’t have to be that hard. Temptations draw us away convincing us rest is a myth. But according to God’s message through Jeremiah, rest has been found by all our preceding generations. In this day of great change and progress, God’s message is still the same:
“Stop hurrying about looking for a new way. Cease driving up and down the road chasing disguised lights of hope. Search out those who have heavenly peace. Humbly ask them the road to it. Join me on that road where rest awaits anyone who trusts rather than protests.”