Independence Day (U.S.A)

It’s July 4th

Let’s celebrate this special day

For it’s the day of America’s Independence

So let us be mindful

To thank God for these blessings

 

Sadly our beloved nation

Is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

There’s civil unrest

As Black Lives Matter takes to the streets

Protests have arisen over Confederate monuments

But with all these problems

Let Americans reach out compassionately

To heal these afflictions in our land

 

America’s Independence was first proposed

By Richard Henry Lee of Virginia

That led to the declaration of Independence from Great Britain

From that time on there were celebrations

But now with social problems in our land

People are wearing masks, practicing social distancing

And there will be limited fireworks, and gun-salutes

To commemorate this special day

But the spirit of the nation lives on

 

“God, continue to guide America.  Let’s glorify her achievements.  And let the nation’s universal goals embrace freedom for all – young, old, male, female, black, white, religious, and non-religious with equanimity for all people including LGBTQ+.  Regardless, let American creed, color, national origin, and beliefs help us to be beacons of hope in the world.”

Amen

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Persevere with Inspiration

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

—Rom. 8:38-39

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

—Heb. 12:1-2

An Italian Roman Catholic preacher Francis of Assisi (1181/1182–1226) said, “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”  Kevyn Aucoin (b. 1962), a make-up artist followed this up when he wrote, “Today I choose life.  Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain…To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today.  I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”  That’s why people will turn to the Bible when they look for inspiration, motivation, and reassurance.

A political activist Helen Keller (1880–1968) said, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.”  An essayist and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882) agreed with Keller when he wrote, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.”  We’re assured that God cold work miracles when we believe his promises.  Christians yearn for this ultimate blessing in Psalm 27:4 when they heard, “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

Steve Jobs (1955–2011), an entrepreneur and inventor said, “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be fully satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.  And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.  If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  Don’t settle.  As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.”  Maya Angelou (1928–2014), a poet and civil rights activist wrote, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”  According to Psalm 34:8 that’s when people “taste and see the Lord is good; blessed the one who takes refuge in him.”   Believers ought to do what’s right in the sight of God.

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Use Your Gifts

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.  If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

—Rom. 12:6-8

“You are the light of the world.  A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

—Mt. 5:14-16

Leo Buscaglia (1924–1998), an author and motivational speaker said, “Your talent is God’s gift to you.  What you do with it is your gift back to God.”  John Wooden (1910–2010), a basketball player and head coach agreed with Buscaglia, and wrote, “Talent is God given.  Be humble.  Fame is man-given.  Be grateful.  Conceit is self-given.  Be careful.”  Undoubtedly people must use their gifts wisely and not be conceited.

Erma Bombeck (1927–1996), a humorist cast further light on talent when she said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’”  In order to accomplish such a feat people should live their lives to the fullest.

Persistence

A president of the United States Calvin Coolidge (1872–1933) wrote, “Noting in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”  Stephen King (b. 1947), an author echoing Coolidge’s sentiments said, “Talent is cheaper than table salt.  What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”  And Will Smith (b. 1968), an actor agreed with them when he wrote, “I have always considered myself to be just average talent and what I have is a ridiculous insane obsessiveness for practice and preparation.”

A Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist Thích Nhăt Hanh (b. 1926) said, “When we recognize the virtues, the talent, the beauty of Mother Earth, something is born in us, some kind of connection: love is born.”  So people ought to share their talent with love.

A former vice president of the United States Joe Biden (b. 1942) wrote, “Corruption is a cancer: a cancer that eats away at a citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity: already – tight national budgets, crowding out important investments.  It wastes the talent of entire generations.  It scares away investments and jobs.”  Therefore, for nations to benefit from the contributions having its citizenry with ethical standards are imperative.

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Flame for Living

Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts.  Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.  It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

—Jas. 3:5-6

Then one of the seraphim flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar.  With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

—Isa. 6:6-7

A Hong Kong–American actor Bruce Lee (1940–1973) wrote, “Love is like a friendship caught on fire.  In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering.  As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep burning and unquenchable.”  Who among us live with a consuming fire?  Who could live with such burning? (Isa. 33:14).  This is a gift from God.

Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965), a French-German theologian said, “In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out.  It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being.  We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”  These won’t be like worthless people who dig up evil that scorches the ground (Prov. 16:27).  They are unlike the light of the wicked that goes out (Job 18:5).

A Brilliant Flame

How should people live?  Boris Yeltsin (1931–2007), president of the Russian Federation wrote, “A man must live like a great brilliant flame and burn as brightly as he can.  In the ends he burns out.  But this is far better than a mean little flame.”  While Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), a Serbian-American inventor who amplified Yeltsin’s view said, “The spread of civilization may be likened to a fire; first, a feeble spark, then a mighty blaze, ever increasing in speed and power.”  Undoubtedly a simple spark could have far-reaching effects.  Johan Lehrer (b. 1981), an author wrote, “Creativity is a spark.  It can be excruciating when we’re rubbing two rocks together and getting nothing.  And it can be intensely satisfying when the flame catches and a new idea sweeps around the world.”

The Lord assures us that when we pass through waters he will be with us.  Rivers won’t overflow. When we walk through fire we won’t be scorched, nor do the flames burn us (Isa. 43:2).  That’s how we will be successful in life.  Walter Peter (1839–1894), an English essayist said, “To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.”  And Bernard Williams (1929–2003), an English philosopher wrote, “Talent is a flame.  Genius is a fire.”

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Be a Happy Giver

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there will be food in my house.  Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I may not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”

—Mal. 3:10

Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness.

—2 Cor. 9:10

Ezra Taft Benson (1899–1994), a government official and religious leader wrote, “Our parents deserve our honor and respect for giving us life itself.  Beyond this they almost made countless sacrifices as they cared for and nurtured us through our infancy and childhood, provided us with the necessities of life, and nursed us through physical illnesses and the emotional stresses of growing up.”  As Proverbs 11:25 stated, “A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”  Henri Nouwen (1932–1996), a Dutch Catholic priest said, “When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand.”  This is what we could expect from loving families and friends.

Acts of Kindness

Matthew 6:2 reminded us: “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others.  Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”  But how should people view acts of kindness?  Paul Bloom (b. 1963), a Canadian American psychologist said, “We are constituted so that simple acts of kindness, such as giving to charity or expressing gratitude, have a positive effect on long-term moods.  The key to the happy life, it seems, is the good life: a life with sustained relationships, challenging work, and connections to community.”  A lot of this goodness could come from simple acts.  Rosa Parks (1913–2005) did just that.  She wrote, “People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true.  I was not tired physically… No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in.”  Parks’ actions came to have unbelievable social consequences.

A philanthropist Ron Conway (b. 1951) said, “I believe we all have a responsibility to give back.  No one becomes successful without lots of hard work, support from others, and a little luck.  Giving back creates a virtuous cycle that makes everyone more successful.”  Was that the best in us that Colonel Sanders (1890–1980), a businessman was talking about?  Sanders was referring to his gifts in this process when he wrote, “No hours, nor amount of labor, nor amount of money would deter me from giving the best that there was in me.”  Simon Sinek (b. 1973), an author said, “The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares.  Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when.”  Sinek saw love as important in a relationship.

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Joy of Faith

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

—Jas. 1:2-3

Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

—1 Pet. 1:8-9

A Dutch Catholic priest Henri Nouwen (1932–1996) wrote, “Each day holds a surprise.  But only if we expect it can we see, hear, or feel it when it comes to us.  Let’s not be afraid to receive each day’s surprise, whether it comes to us as sorrow or as joy.  It will open a new place in our hearts, a place where we can welcome new friends and celebrate more fully our shared humanity.”  May God of hope fill us with joy and peace!  We ought to trust him, so that we may overflow with the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 15:13). But such blessings may come through friends.  Charles R. Swindoll (b. 1934), an evangelical Christin pastor said, “I cannot imagine where I would be today were it not for that handful of friends who have given me a heart full of joy.  Let’s face it; friends make life a lot more fun.”

Appreciation of Life

When people think about heaven they delight in knowing there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over the ninety-nine righteous persons who have no need to repent (Lk. 15:7).  This is a Christian’s promise of eternal life.  Richard Bach (b. 1936), an author wrote, “The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other’s life.”  Bach saw all people as God’s family.  What does this mean in life?  Sharon Draper (b. 1948), a children’s writer and educator said, “Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall.  It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events.”  It takes faith to truly appreciate nature.

The Psalmist says that anger lasts only a moment but favor a lifetime.  He sees weeping staying only a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning (Ps. 30:5).  Kevyn Aucoin (b. 1962), a make-up artist and photographer wrote, “Today I choose life.  Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain … To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.”  Much of Aucoin’s beliefs might be likened to an appreciation of living that Albert Einstein (1879–1955), a German-born physicist said, “Joy in looking and comprehending is nature’s most beautiful gift.”    

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The Beauty of Life

Peace is the beauty of life.  It is sunshine.  It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family.  It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.

—Menachem Begin (1913–1992), Prime Minister of Israel

Men and women are expressions of God’s beauty.  He created male and female in his own image (Gen. 1:27).  Mahatma Gandhi (1869–1948), a leader of the Indian Independence Movement wrote, “When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator.”  God’s good.  His beauty is revealed in people and nature.  David Allan Coe (b. 1939), a songwriter and guitarist said, “It is not the beauty of a building you should look at; it’s the construction of the foundation that will stand the test of time.”  For this attribute we must praise God.  We’re wonderfully made and marvelous are his works (Ps. 139:14).

Philippians 4:8 states, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  That was why Eleanor Roosevelt (1884–1962), the first lady of the United States wrote, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993), a British actress and humanitarian said, “The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway of her heart, the place where love resides.”

 Love of Beauty

With love we would enjoy the rejoicing of the heavens, the earth would be glad, the fields jubilant, and see the trees of the forest singing for joy (Ps. 96:11-12).  Elisabeth Kŭbler-Ross (1926–2004), a Swiss-American psychiatrist wrote, “People are like stained-glass windows.  They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light within.”  Moreover, Our Lord loves righteousness and justice and we should be full of his unfailing love (Ps. 33:5).

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), an essayist and poet said, “Never lose the opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”  Daily we should pay attention to God’s designs and learn from them.  Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941), an Indian artist wrote, “Beauty is truth’s smile when she beholds her own face in a perfect mirror.”  While Emerson said, “Love of beauty is taste.  The creation of beauty is art.”  Ultimately with mankind God is concerned with our hearts.  For the Lord instructed the prophet Samuel when he saw Eliab saying, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.  The Lord does not look at the things people look at.  People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  But upon David’s arrival the Lord revealed to Samuel, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one” (1 Sam. 16:7, 12).

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True Happiness

Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land.  The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

—Deut. 30:9-10

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

—1 Tim. 6:17

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354–430 AD), a Christian theologian and philosopher wrote, “Every man, whatsoever his condition, desires to be happy.”  What is happiness?  How could people have such happiness?  Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892), an English Baptist preacher wrote, “Those who are ‘beloved of the Lord’ must be the most happy and joyful people to be found anywhere upon the face of the earth.”  Thomas Boston (1676–1732), a Scottish theologian and philosopher also said, “Consider what man is.  He is a creature that desires happiness, and cannot but desire it.  The desire of happiness is woven into his nature, and cannot be eradicated.  It is natural for him to desire as it is to breathe.”  In Jeremiah 15:16 it was written that to be called by your name, O Lord God of hosts gives joy and delight to our hearts.

George Whitefield (1714–1770), an English Anglican cleric questioned, “Does [Jesus] want your heart only for the same end as the devil does, to make you miserable?  No, he only wants you to believe in him, that you might be saved.  This, this, is all the dear Savior desires, to make you happy, that you may leave your sins, to sit down eternally with him.”  C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), a British theologian said, “It is a Christian duty … for everyone to be happy as he can.”  Lewis further explained, “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea.  We are far too pleased.”  James 5:11 told us that people should count those blessed as the ones who endure like Job.  We have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, because he is full of compassion and mercy.  Johnathan Edwards (1703–1758), a preacher and theologian wrote, “There is no man upon the earth who isn’t earnestly seeking after happiness, and it appears abundantly by the variety of ways they so vigorously seek it; they will twist and turn every way, ply all instruments, to make themselves happy men” For Christians the answer lies with knowing their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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Good Relationships

“Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.”

—Deut. 5:16

Love is patient, love is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, and it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and always perseveres.

—1 Cor. 13:4-7

Earl Nightingale (1921–1989), a radio personality and author wrote, “Learn to enjoy every minute of your life.  Be happy now.  Don’t wait for someone outside of yourself to make you happy in the future.  Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family.  Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”  1 John 4:19 stated, “We love because he first loved us.”  Kim Kardashian (b. 1980), a TV personality and actress echoed this same reality saying, “At the end of the day, life is about being happy being who you are, and I feel that we are so blessed to have the support system and the best family to really just support each other no matter what we’re going through.”

Peace in Life

How do we find peace?  In Acts 10:2 reminded us that our family should be devout and God-fearing.  People ought to give generously to those in need and pray to God regularly.  Menachem Begin (1913–1992), former prime minister of Israel looked at peace a bit differently when he said, “Peace is the beauty of life.  It is sunshine.  It is the smile of a child, the love of a mother, the joy of a father, the togetherness of a family.  It is the advancement of man, the victory of a just cause, the triumph of truth.”  These gifts are undoubtedly the essence of peace.  But it begins with us.  Buddha (563/480 BC–483/400 BC), an Indian ascetic and sage said, “To enjoy good health, to bring true happiness to one’s family, to bring peace to all, one must first discipline and control one’s own mind.  If a man can control his mind he can find the way to Enlightenment, and all wisdom and virtue will naturally come to him.”

In Colossians 3:13 was written that believers should bear with each other and forgive one another.  If any of you have a grievance against someone, forgive as the Lord forgives you.  This forgiveness begins in one’s family.  George Santayana (1863–1952), a philosopher wrote, “The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”  So why wreck it with grudges?  Lex Luger (b. 1958), a professional wrestler said, “Many times, the decisions we make affect and hurt your closet friends and family the most.  I have a lot of regrets in that regard.  But God has forgiven me, which I am thankful for.  It has enabled me to forgive myself and move forward one day at a time.”  It isn’t only family and friends people have to forgive, it also starts with them.

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Renewing the Mind

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.

—Rom. 12:2

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

—Phil. 4:8

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’  When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.  And the final condition of that person is worse than the first.  That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

—Mt. 12:43-45

Willie Nelson (b. 1933), a musician and activist said, “Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you’ll start having positive results.”  But how could we do this?  Norman Vincent Peale (1898–1993), a minister wrote, “Change your thoughts and you change the world.”  Much of what we think will help shape the world.  Buddha (563 BC/480 BC–483 BC/400 BC), an ascetic and sage said, “We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.  Where the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.” Having pure thoughts are an exceptional blessing.

Dominant Thoughts

Henry David Thoreau (1817––1862), a philosopher and abolitionist wrote, “As a single footstep will not make a path on earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.  To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.  To make a deep mental path we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”  Peace Pilgrim (1908–1981), a non-denominational spiritual teacher said, “I don’t eat junk foods and I don’t think junk thoughts.”  Inevitable there are thoughts that build up minds up and those that pull them down.  So focus on elevating the way you live, and use good thoughts to inspire people.

By centering your thoughts positively you’ll be able to reap numerous rewards.  People are able to bless others by the good deeds they do.  So let your focus, be clear.  In speech be positive by elevating others by what you say.  Let the things you do be positive, for every good work is beneficial in God’s kingdom.  You should create heaven right where you live by sharing love on earth.

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