Created Equal

In a few days we will celebrate the birth of our nation, Independence Day, with parades, picnics,  fireworks, and all the usual Fourth of July activities.  It is appropriate at this time to take a look at our founding documents.

When I went to school, back when we studied real educational subjects, such as history, we were obliged to memorize the Preamble to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. One phrase from the second paragraph in the Preamble comes easily to mind, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

While the idea of a Creator has lost favor with quite a few Americans, many still cling to the idea that we are guaranteed EQUALITY and HAPPINESS by this document.

I think it is important to clarify: we are created equally worthy by God, but our government can only guarantee equality of opportunity under our laws. It is not possible to legislate equal circumstances or abilities. Pursuit of happiness is to remain unfettered, but the outcome cannot be guaranteed.

People are born with widely different physical and mental abilities in a multitude of circumstances. This is a fact which doesn’t come under the purview of government regulation. Politicians who attempt to create equality in these areas are doomed to failure and frustration.

Perhaps it is time for all citizens to accept the unchangeable facts of life, accept our innate differences, and take responsibility for our own pursuit of happiness, within the boundaries of our individual circumstances.

God gives us Life, the government promises Liberty, but the pursuit of Happiness is up to us.

Have a blessed Fourth!

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Brothers and sisters, let us cast a spell…

Brothers and Sisters, Let Us Cast a SpellNon-believers frequently refer to religion as mere superstition, an attempt by lesser mortals to attempt to explain and control a random and capricious universe. Setting aside the condescension and blasphemy inherent in that view, I have to admit that, like most people, I have a streak of superstition.

The success of the Harry Potter books demonstrates how attractive magical thinking is to most of us and this tendency can sometimes influence our attitude toward God and prayer.

When reciting a “ritual” prayer, I sometimes wonder if I am I praying from my heart or merely trying to manipulate God with special “magical” words.

In my personal prayer life I like to use the Disciple’s Prayer as a pattern; acknowledging God as my Father, seeking His will, asking for provision and forgiveness, etc.  Using a pattern while tailoring it to my unique concerns and situations keeps my prayers from becoming rote recitations.

However, since my life is fairly consistent, my pattern prayer has become almost a ritual in itself. The other night when I fell into bed, exhausted from a trying day, and merely mumbled a hurried, “Thank you, Lord, your will be done,” I felt strangely uneasy. I worried that by not mentioning the usual people and issues, at the usual time and in the usual way, I was somehow exposing them to harm by failing to cover them with my prayer. I was mistaking the power of my praying words for the omnipotence of the One to whom I prayed.

We are admonished to pray without ceasing, of course, but that is not because God will forget about us if we fail to nag Him. At least as I see it, unceasing prayer is an attitude of mind where one communicates with the Lord constantly, acknowledging His presence and awareness of our every thought and feeling; it’s a communing spirit.

Memorized prayers can help us to feel closer to God and get the conversation going when our own words fail us, but if we begin to feel the power of prayer comes from us or the words we say, we have moved away from God and His infinite power and love.

In the turmoil of today, sharing our concerns with our Heavenly Father gives us peace of mind and strengthens our confidence that God knows what is going on. He will take care of everything in His way and in His time.

[Original version posted June 2010]

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Speaking in tongues

Many Christian churches celebrated Pentecost last Sunday, commemorating the day the Holy Spirit was poured out on Christ’s disciples as recorded in the Book of Acts, chapter 2: On the day of Pentecost all the Lord’s followers were together in one place. Suddenly there was a noise from heaven like the sound of a mighty wind! It filled the house where they were meeting. Then they saw what looked like fiery tongues moving in all directions, and a tongue came and settled on each person there. The Holy Spirit took control of everyone, and they began speaking whatever languages the Spirit let them speak.

pentecostThere were Jews from many different countries who spoke a variety of languages and all understood the disciples in their own tongue.

As a result of this miraculous event, there is disagreement among the various Christian denominations as to how we are to understand the spiritual gift of tongues. While I’m not comfortable with those who aver that one must speak in tongues in order to validate their salvation, I agree that the words we speak can certainly be an indication of the state of our sanctification. As it says in James, chapter three, if you can control your tongue, you are mature and able to control your whole body.

Mature, spirit-filled Christians demonstrate maturity by controlling what they say and how they say it. Today, that also includes what we share on social media; especially how we comment on posts with which we may disagree, either politically or theologically.

Christians may continue to disagree about the meaning and necessity of speaking in tongues, but we all agree about one thing: the world will know we are Christians by our love and that includes our words.

 

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One in Christ

Diversity, multiculturalism, racism, sexism, white privilege, black power, Islamophobia

What comes to mind, what feelings are aroused, when reading those words?

diversity2In light of the current prominence of these concepts in our society, many of our Christian ministries are making an effort to become more sensitive to minority cultures and viewpoints. Unfortunately, in the process, many minority members within our ministries are becoming hyper-sensitive to perceived slights. This well-intentioned consciousness-raising is resulting in a deepening of feelings of separation within many ministries.

Now, consider these words from Galatians 3:28:

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

blog text boxHow, then, are we to consider one another within the Body of Christ? If we truly believe we have been made new and we are One in Christ, then we must give up our preconceptions about those with different heritage and background and see them only as brothers and sisters in Christ. This applies to majorities and minorities equally. It means we gladly set aside what we feel is our right to take offense for unintentional slights from our Christian brothers or sisters, not only on matters of race and culture, but on the day-to-day life of the church.

No one grows up without absorbing some bias, prejudice, or stereotypes. No matter how divisive these differences in outlook become in the world, they must melt away within the Body of Christ; they have no place within the Christian Church.

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Never forget

memorial-day-clipart-memorial-day-clip-art-2014-2Memorial Weekend is a time set aside to remember those men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. It is a time for flag flying, camping, picnics, barbecues, and family celebrations; all the while remembering the ones who died to preserve these happy gatherings.

Memorials and days of remembrance were set down in the Bible, both old and new testaments, because God knows what short attention spans His creatures have. He knows we need frequent reminders of who He is, what He has done for us, and what He expects of us while we remain in this world.

As you gather with your family and friends this weekend, whether at a social gathering or a Memorial service, along with honoring our military heroes spend a few moments honoring the One who created them and us, and who has a plan for every one of His children. A plan for our good and His glory.

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Whatsoever is true…

Doctors don’t want you to know this bombshell technique celebrities use to lose belly fat and wipe out wrinkles with only these two simple ingredients!”clickbait

Every day we are bombarded with click bait, fake news, misinformation, unfounded accusations, innuendo, and spin confusing us and muddling our thoughts. What are we to do? We might be tempted to simply believe whatever agrees with our own biases and ignore anything which challenges them, as many people do, but this leads to ignorance and complacency.

Fortunately, Christians have a simple solution for cutting through the clouds of maliciousness and falsehood swirling around us: God’s truth, the Bible.

As the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:8:

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.
Whatever we hear or read should be sifted through this filter, with the additional knowledge that
the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. (James 3:17-18 NIV) 

We should also take into account the source. What sorts of fruits are being produced by the person or organization making the claims being promoted?

 As always, God has given us all the tools we need to discern truth.

Still confused?  Take advantage of this bombshell secret the devil doesn’t want you to know:

PRAY FOR WISDOM
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Special Thanks (and a little shameless self-promotion)

As many of you know, I write fiction as J.B. Hawker.

My latest release, Mrs. Thistlethwaite and the Magpie came out this week.

I want to make my faithful readers aware that this well-reviewed book may be downloaded from Amazon FREE this week only (May 16-20).

If you enjoy wholesome fiction, please click on the download button to get your copy with my thanks.

AN ABSOLUTE DELIGHT!!
I’ve been a fan of J.B. Hawker’s fantastic writing for sometime. This book is outstanding!! Her ability to use elderly characters – Matilda Thistlewaite and Slim Bottoms – is brilliant!! These characters (as well as all the other characters) are painted so vividly that you feel as though you would recognize them if you met them in your local churchKindle Cover, grocery store, or neighborhood. The story is set in a small town and reflects the devastation and fear brought by the disappearance of a young teenaged girl and the evidence of the return of a serial killer. The author seamlessly weaves the story and has you wanting to read the entire book in one sitting. It’s about friendships, families, First Responders, and the criminal element. There are a myriad of surprises scattered all throughout this book. Read it. You’ll be so glad you did!! ”

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Fans of Miss Seeton and Mrs. Pollifax will welcome the indomitable Mrs. Thistlethwaite. Like these beloved, mature characters, at the ripe old age of eighty-five Mrs. T. is ready for whatever comes her way.

When a beautiful and talented teenage ballet student disappears, rumors fly in the charming village of Tillamook, Oregon. Did she run away to the big city, or is she the latest victim of the notorious serial killer preying upon lonely young women along the coastal highways?

Beguiling octogenarian, retired school teacher, Tillie Thistlethwaite, applies her exceptionally sharp mental skills and no-nonsense practicality to the mystery. Petite Mrs. T. and her tall gentleman friend, Slim, reject both theories and launch their own investigation. Will the amateur sleuthing of this unlikely and adorable pair succeed where the police fail, or will they fall victim to foul play?

——

For those who prefer a paperback book, you can buy a print copy at a 50% discount by following this LINK and using discount code  6FYNHJWE  at checkout.

NOTE: This discount is not effective from the regular Amazon site.

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Big Brother is watching, and so is the Father

poster_1984_lrgIn George Orwell’s classic science fiction novel 1984, he depicts a society where Big Brother, the government’s all-seeing eye, is watching citizens for even the slightest infraction against the powers that be. When it was first published, many critics scoffed at such a scenario, but today we are becoming accustomed to having our every movement recorded via traffic cams, security cameras, and even cell phones.  We hear warnings about the ability of our interactive devices, computers, and televisions to monitor our words and activities without our knowledge.  Thinking about this situation makes most of us uneasy at the loss of privacy, but it is obvious from the recent social media postings of horrific criminal acts, that not everyone feels the need to respond to this constant observation by living a blameless life.

This is similar to Christians ignoring the Bible’s teaching of God’s omniscience and failing to curb our sinful impulses. We know we are being observed 24/7 and even our thoughts are exposed to God’s all-knowing, all-seeing eye. Yet, we still think we can hide our secret sins.

Many who can quote Psalm 139 from memory still ignore the portent of these words, “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.

Although constant surveillance is uncomfortable; law-abiding citizens of a benign government have nothing to fear. There is no government more benign than God’s Kingdom ruled by the love of our Lord.  Rather than trying to hide our missteps from Him, we should rely on His watchful love and care to keep us from temptation.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

 

 

 

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The sleeping church

We read in the Book of Acts how the Apostle Paul, knowing he was leaving Troas the next day, and wanting to teach these new followers all he could before leaving them, preached past midnight. He was teaching in an upper room of a three-story building. As the night wore on in the crowded room, not everyone was paying close attention to his words.
Acts 20:9:
A young man by the name of Eutychus was sitting on a window sill. While Paul was speaking, the young man got very sleepy. Finally, he went to sleep and fell three floors all the way down to the ground. When they picked him up, he was dead.
Eutychus
Even without the distractions of modern technology, this young man’s attention span had been stretched to its limit. He had taken a seat on the the ledge of one of the room’s large, open windows, perhaps only leaning against the sill, at first, but eventually, seeking greater comfort, he sat within the opening. This was a precarious perch at the best of times, and exceedingly dangerous for one as drowsy as Eutychus.
Fortunately for this young man, his lack of attentiveness was not permanently fatal. Paul was on hand to restore him to life and the story has a happy ending.
         The story of Eutychus has application to the church today in that many believers are paying little attention to God’s word and His teaching. Our attention span is so short that even in those churches where the Bible is being taught, the people forget it as soon as they leave the sanctuary.   Some of us have become bored and are leaning against the edge of the window sill. Others are quite comfortably settled on their precarious perch overlooking the abyss.
       The Church is  in danger of falling asleep.  It is time to stand up, shake off our lethargy, pay attention, and become Christ’s vigorous body as the Gospel admonishes to do.
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What’s Your Sign?

Signs are wonderful things. They can convey all sorts of important information… to anyone who can interpret the message.

circleWhen I visited Italy for the first time and drove the unfamiliar streets, the traffic signs which were meaningful to the locals were confusingcrossing to me. Blessedly, I was able to safely navigate from point A to point B, but it was an exciting adventure.

Directional signs take on critical importance when entering unknown territory. This is especially true in our faith walk. When dealing with knotty decisions, I am tempted to ask for a sign from God to show me what to do. But if something happens which seems to point to one choice or the other, I wonder if it is God’s message or merely my own wishful thinking, misinterpretation, or a random coincidence. I yearn for something bold to point me in the right direction; nothing less than a hand writing on the wall will do.

However, that’s not usually the way God speaks to us today. First of all, He speaks through the Bible. If the choice I’m dealing with is addressed in His word, I don’t need signs or wonders. Many times the clearly recognizable signs such as Stop, Wait, and Yield are there for all to see. He also speaks to us through that still small voice of conscience, but we must listen carefully.

It is human nature to want a clear, unambiguous, unavoidable sign posted on our path at each intersection, but this is not God’s way.horn

Before we had the clear message of the Bible and the gift of the Holy Spirit, God anointed prophets to interpret His signs to His people.

germanThose of us who are not prophets do not have the gift of interpretation to let us know if a leaf blown across our path is a sign from God to turn around, or a sign that it’s a windy day. We must rely on our knowledge of God’s word and sensitivity to His leading through the Holy Spirit. If I am stymied by my options in a situation, I need to get back to these basics and trust God to carry me through.

What’s my sign?  I think I’ll choose One Way: God’s way.

 

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