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I’m taking a break from Nehemiah to share the words to a hymn we sang in church on Sunday.  It’s an old hymn that you’ve likely sung many times.  I’m sharing it in writing without the music so you can appreciate what a beautiful prayer it is. 

I researched this hymn in Then Sings My Soul by Robert J. Morgan and discovered the words were written in 1882 by William Longstaff, a ‘wealthy Englishman’, as a poem.  It was inspired by the scripture verse 1 Peter 1:16, “Because it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’” Musician George C. Stebbins later added the music that made it a song. Following is the inspirational poem that later became a beautiful hymn.

Take time to be holy. Speak oft with the Lord;

Abide in Him always, And feed on His word.

Make friends with God’s children; Help those who are weak,

Forgetting in nothing His blessings to seek.

Take time to be holy.  The world rushes on;

Spend much time in secret With Jesus alone.

By looking to Jesus, Like Him thou shalt be;

The friends in thy conduct His likeness shall see.

Take time to be holy. Let Him be thy Guide;

And run not before Him, Whatever betide.

In joy or in sorrow, Still follow thy Lord,

And, looking to Jesus, Still trust in His Word.

Take time to be holy. Be calm in thy soul.

Each tho’t and each motive Beneath His control;

Thus led by His Spirit To fountains of love,

Thou soon shalt be fitted For service above.

 Amen, Brother Longstaff!  What a beautiful prayer. 

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I’ve read Nehemiah before, but did so in the context of how this Biblical story fit in with the rest of ancient history.  Reading it now, I’m impressed by the story of Nehemiah the man.  The intro for this was shared in Part 1 (see post below).  We’ll proceed now with Nehemiah’s story, taken from the first chapter, NLT.

Nehemiah was leading a good life in Persia when he was visited by his brother who had just been to Judah. Nehemiah asked how things were in Jerusalem and was very distressed and concerned to hear that the Temple had been rebuilt, but there were no walls around the city. Consequently, the Israelites who had returned to Jerusalem were not doing well.  They were unprotected and in a state of ‘disgrace’.

Nehemiah was so grieved to hear this that he sat down and wept.  For days he mourned, fasted, and prayed, humbling himself before the Lord and seeking God’s help for the situation of the people of Jerusalem.  He then claimed scripture from the teachings of Moses: Deuteronomy 9:5, “But if you return to me and obey my commands, even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.”  Nehemiah continued praying and closed by asking God to grant him success when he would go before the king to ask for a favor, and sought God to ‘put it in the king’s heart to be kind’ to Nehemiah.  This happened in late autumn.

Chapter 2: In the following spring, the king expressed concern for Nehemiah (cup-bearer to the king) because he did not look well.  Nehemiah was frightened by the king’s query, but found the courage to share his worries about his people and the state of Jerusalem.  The king asked how he could help.  It is written in Nehemiah that, “With a prayer to the God of heaven”, he replied by asking the king to send him to Judah to rebuild the city of his ancestors. 

The king and queen agreed to his request, so he went on to ask for letters for the rulers of the lands upon which he’d travel, asking them to grant him protection and safety.  Nehemiah also asked the king to instruct the manager of the king’s forest to give him timber for his building projects.  Nehemiah says (2:8), “And the king granted these requests because the gracious hand of God was on me.”

 Nehemiah made the long journey to Jerusalem.  I think I read somewhere that he traveled for three months! After arriving in Jerusalem, Nehemiah secretly slipped out to survey the damage and condition of the city’s ruins.  By his descriptions we have a detailed account of what the city was like.  The map in my Bible looks like a footprint to me.  I find this interesting because it’s as if God left His footprint on His chosen city, Jerusalem.

After investigating the city’s ruins, Nehemiah approached the city officials to ask them if the walls could be rebuilt.  Jerusalem’s leaders were very supportive of Nehemiah’s efforts.  However, the leaders of surrounding lands resented his ideas because they felt threatened by him.  They tried to discourage Nehemiah, but he replied, “The God of heaven will help us succeed…”, 2:20.

We’ve only covered two chapters so far and already Nehemiah is proving himself to be good and godly man. 

Q) What was the first thing Nehemiah did when he heard the bad news about Jerusalem and the state of his people? 

A) He prayed.

Q) When the king frightened him by taking notice of his condition, what did Nehemiah do before making his request of the king?

A) He prayed.

Q) It was spring when this conversation took place with the king.  How much time had passed since Nehemiah first prayed and asked for God’s grace to help him approach the king to ask a favor?   

A) Approx 6 months since the story began in late fall.  Nehemiah had waited MONTHS for God to indicate the proper time to go before the king to ask for his help. Could you wait upon the Lord that long?

Q) When the king granted Nehemiah’s requests, what was Nehemiah’s response? 

A) In verse 2:8, he gives the credit to God.

Q) What was Nehemiah’s response to those who opposed him? 

A) That “the God of heaven would help them succeed”.  2:20

Q) How could Nehemiah answer his oppononents so boldly and confidently? 

A) Because he had been praying about this situation for months and knew he was in God’s favor. 

Nehemiah must have been very pleasing to God.  He seemed to pray about everything; sought God’s will; waited for God’s direction before moving forward; and continued to give God all the credit and glory for the good he encountered. 

In Part 1 of my Nehemiah writings I asked if you would be willing to pursue a project for the Lord despite the inevitable unknowns.   Do you have a project looming before you?  Something God is calling you to do?  If so, I hope you’ll take notes from Nehemiah’s successes and seek first to please God by praying to Him, obeying Him, and honoring Him.  You, too, will be blessed with those who support you; and you will be able to boldly and confidently stand up to your opposers with the grace of God on your side. 

If you’d like to join me in reading the Book of Nehemiah from the Old Testament, I’ll be continuing with chapter 3. 

Blessings to all,

Renee

It’s Sunday, July 22, 2007.  My 12-year old son left today for his first mission trip.  Although I started missing him yesterday before he even left(!) and will miss him all week, I am very excited for him to be pursuing this opportunity.  I’ve never been on a mission trip.  Although I would like to, I haven’t had that calling on my heart.  I think that accounts for part of my excitement for him.  The greatest reason for my excitement is because he has chosen to go away for a week to do God’s work.  He’ll be giving up the comforts of home to go somewhere he’s never been where he’ll encounter a different culture and way of life so that he can serve Christ by serving others.  He’s also serving Christ by giving of himself and being willing to take on all the unknowns and challenges that will be posed by this trip.  How many of us are willing to do that?  Are you willing to give yourself completely to a project for Christ that inlvolves encountering “unknowns”?

 The mission trip he’s on is called the Nehemiah Project.  To refresh myself with Nehemiah  I came home from church started reading the Book of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.  I’ll be reading Nehemiah over the next few days and will share what I learn along the way.  The Book of Nehemiah is a short book.  Why don’t you join me in reading it?  Maybe you’ll find points of interest to share with us, too! 

Nehemiah was written approximately 445-432 BC, recording the history of the third return of Israelites to Jerusalem after they’d been sent into exile.  The exile occured when God allowed the Israelites to fall to Babylon when they refused to turn from their sinful ways.  The Babylonians were merciless, killing many Israelites, taking plunder, and destroying the Temple.  This occured in 586 BC.  The few who survived were taken into exile in Babylon, serving the Babylonian King and his sons.  (2 Chronicles 36:17-21)  They remained in exile until King Cyrus overtook Babylon.  The Lord put on his heart to rebuild the Temple at Jerusalem and release the Israelites to return to their homeland to help with the task.  (2 Chronicles 36: 22-23)

Zerubbabel then led the first group of Israelites back to Jersusalem in 538 BC.  Ezra led the second group in 458 BC, and finally Nehemiah felt it on his heart to lead the third group in 445 BC.  That brings us to the start of Nehemiah’s place in Biblical history.  Please stay with me!  I know the intro part of this was probably ‘dry’, but the story of Nehemiah and the lessons we can learn from him are worth sticking around for!

I began this post by asking if you’d be willing to take a project for the Lord despite probable unknowns.  Although I’ve only read a couple of chapters of Nehemiah, I’ve discovered that Nehemiah was not only willing to take on a big project for God that would present many unknown challenges, he even went to God and volunteered for the job – ASKING to do it! 

My time for writing is up for now.  I’ll return soon to continue with the inspirational story of Nehemiah.  Hopefully we’ll all seek to be more like him!

Blessings,

Renee

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a firm believer in prayer.  My favorite is The Lord’s Prayer.  It covers everything.  It’s the prayer Jesus taught His disciples to pray when they asked Him to teach them how to pray. 

I pray this prayer often as an ending to my personal prayers.  I also like to sing it (when I’m home alone, of course!) slowly and intentionally, offering my heart to God through prayer song.

Most of us who were raised in the church have been reciting this prayer since childhood.  Recitation is a great thing.  It commits words to our memories so that they’re available on demand when needed.  However, recitation can also dull the mind to the meaning and impact of the very words we’re saying if recited mindlessly from memory.  This can be especially true of the Lord’s Prayer since most of us learned it as the King James Version, using words that we might not even know.  We’re so used to reciting the prayer, that we don’t realize we might not fully understand what we’re saying! 

Today I’d like to break it down and paraphrase it for you, verse by verse, and encourage you to give new thought to what you’re saying when you recite this prayer.  It is taken from Matthew 6:9-13, King James Version.

Our Father, Which art in heaven     Our Father, who is in heaven

Hallowed by thy name        Your name has been made Holy.  How awesome is Your name!

Thy kingdom come.     May Your way be the way of this world. 

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.    Lord, help us to bow down to you as the angels do, according to Your will, not our own.   Thy will be done, not my will be done.

Give us this day our daily bread.    Our trust is in You to give us what we need – not seeking more or wanting extra.

And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.     Forgive us of our sins and help us to forgive those who have sinned against us.

And lead us not into temptation,    Help us to resist temptation.

but deliver us from evil:      Protect us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom,    For You have the power over all the kingdom.

and the power, and the glory for ever.    To You be the power and the glory forever!

Amen.      May these things be so. 

Following is a more personal, paraphrased way of praying the The Lord’s Prayer.  It’s how I end my personal prayer time.

My Father, who is in heaven, how awesome is Your name!  May Your kingdom come and YOUR will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  Please give me this day my daily bread.  Forgive me of my sins as I forgive those who have sinned against me.  Lead me not into temptation and deliver me from evil.  For Yours is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever!  Amen. 

Be sure to teach The Lord’s Prayer to your children, too.  We attend a contemporary praise worship.  I love our worship services, but this service doesn’t include the traditional recitations that I grew up with. * I miss saying the Lord’s Prayer in fellowship with others and I worry that today’s children will grow up not knowing this prayer. If your children are not learning The Lord’s Prayer in church, be sure to teach it to them at home.      

One of the most heartwarming experiences I’ve had was at the conclusion of Vacation Bible School the year we taught the Lord’s Prayer to almost 400 children – ages 5 – 11.  They learned it verse-by-verse, learning a new verse each day, until they were able to say the entire prayer.  On the last day parents joined us in the sanctuary for a closing program.  The children were seated around the balcony and the parents were seated below. Tears rolled down my cheeks as the sound of their precious voices filled the sanctuary as they said the Lord’s Prayer with all the sweetness and charm that children possess.  I just can’t describe the joy I felt in my heart knowing that those children had learned not only to say the Lord’s Prayer, but also to understand the meaning of the words they were saying.

I hope you’ll take a few quiet moments to really PRAY the Lord’s Prayer, not just recite it.  When we pray we are going before the Lord.  Don’t let that be mindless time!  Be present with your thoughts and let the words speak from your heart.

Keep the Lord’s Prayer handy in your mind, taking it everywhere you go, just like you do your cell phone, so you have it available when needed for yourself and others, too!

Dear Lord, Thank You for teaching us how to pray and giving us Your prayer to pray.  May we take it to heart and appreciate the worthiness of its meanings, claiming them for ourselves and others in Your holy name.   Amen.

“A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones.”   –Proverbs 15:30

Today I received the sweetest hug from someone I didn’t even know, and I think it’s just because I said ‘hello’. 

My boys and I had gone to the YMCA. We went to the gym to see if it was available because my older son wanted to shoot baskets during his brother’s swim lesson.  When we looked in, I saw a young man sitting on a bench against the wall.  About an hour and a half later, we stopped back into the gym so my son could show me basketball shots he’d been practicing.  I was surprised to see the same young man still sitting on the bench.  When I got closer to him I could see that he had Downs Syndrome (or something similar).  He continued to sit motionless while my son took his shots.  After a few minutes I leaned over to say ‘hello’ to him.  He looked up at me, surprised at first, then a huge smile took over his face.  He gave me a nod in response to my greeting.  “Are you having a good day?”, I asked.  He continued to smile as he nodded yes.  Then he went back to watching my son shoot the basketball and I did the same, saying nothing else.  A few minutes later he got up and came over to me with his arms opened wide for a hug.  He put both arms around me, layed his head on my shoulder, and gave me the sweetest hug!  I thanked him and asked his name.  He seemed to mouth the word, “Ken”.  So I said, “Hello, Ken.  It’s nice to meet you.”  With that said he got a ‘touched’ look on his face, took my hand in his, and kissed it!  Now it was my turn to be surprised!  Then he hugged me once more and left the gym. 

I was touched by the sweetness of his gestures, but also saddened in a way.  All I’d done was say ‘hello’, but you’d have thought I’d just made his biggest wishes come true.  Do people not usually speak to him or acknowledge him?  If not, that’s really sad. 

My thoughts recalled a similar incident that happened in our neighborhood recently.  While I was out walking, I passed an older man walking on the opposite side of the road.  I sent a cheery “hello!” to him as we passed.  I couldn’t help but notice that he didn’t look like ‘most people’ in our neighborhood.  You could tell by his response to me that he was surprised I’d spoken to him.  I wondered if people usually just walked past him without acknowledging him.  He quickly returned my greeting and stopped to say, “God bless you!  God bless you, maam!  God bless you!”   He hadn’t hugged me with his arms like my new friend, Ken, but his response was a hug with his words.  I returned his verbal kindness by saying, “God bless you, too!”  Then we each resumed our walking and went our separate ways.

I remember thinking about how my simple greeting of ‘hello’ seemed to make his day.  The same was true with Ken.

The incident with Ken was quite a learning lesson for my sons and I.  We saw how important it is to acknowledge everyone we meet – regardless of what their appearance might tell us about them.  It also showed us how powerful the simplest acts of kindness can be, especially that of saying just one word, ‘hello’. 

I often pray that God will use me somehow to bless others as He has blessed me.  Perhaps these were opportunities to do just that.  The interesting thing was that these moments were blessings to me, too! 

Is there someone along your way who could use a kind word or greeting? 

“For I know that plans that I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.”   – Jeremiah 29:11 – 12

Recently a group of my friends and I reached out to console another friend who was going through a difficult situation.  We wanted to share scriptures of encouragement with her.  I found it interesting that several people shared the verse above, Jeremiah 29:11-12.  At first they didn’t want to repeat the same scripture, but then decided that if God put the same scripture on all of their hearts, then it must be a message God wanted our struggling friend to hear. 

Coincidentally, at the end of our year in bible study together in the spring, Jeremiah 29:11-12 was also the verse that several claimed as their ‘signature’ verse.  It was a verse that had meaning and offered hope.  I think it’s the first part of this verse that gets most people’s attention, where God promises to have a plan for us.  And it’s not just any plan, but one to give us hope and a future, not to harm us.   Are those words reassuring to you?  Then read on to the second part of the verse, and things get even better.  God says that when we need to claim the truth of His promise, that he has a plan of prosperity, hope and a future for us, that all we have to do is call upon Him, pray to Him, and He will listen to us. 

Well, friends, I can assure you these words are true.  In my previous years in Disciple Bible study, where I’ve been with a new group each year, I’ve seen God’s plans unveiled in various ways.  I saw Him lead a dear ‘sister’ to Christ just weeks into our study, which was her first.  As a victim of hurtful neighborhood gossip she felt God convicting her of her own ‘gossipy’ ways, and through that experience of conviction, she repented and offered her heart to Christ.  When she returned to class the next week, she truly was ‘new in Christ’.  I didn’t know what had transpired, but she literally glowed and even though she was excited, she had a peace and calm about her that I’d never seen in her before.  She shared what had happened since our last class and we all saw firsthand how she had been reborn.  Her heart started growing in new ways as her faith and commitment for Christ grew stronger.  She was having a positive impact on her family, too.  The transformation was incredible to watch.  Then, just months after all this began, she received unexpected bad news at a doctor’s appointment.  She’d gone in to follow up on nagging symptoms she’d been experiencing.  Her diagnosis was lupus and it hit her full-force once its identity was known.  She went through a very difficult time with her health.  She eventually had to drop out of our study, but with her newfound faith, she and her family handled things remarkably well.  I knew she’d be ok because I knew she was in God’s hands.  How did I know?  Because the disease didn’t just happen overnight.  She’d had it for a long time before God let it be known to her, and He didn’t let her know until she’d developed the faith needed to help her and her family handle the struggles and challenges they would face.  In God’s unfailing graciousness, He’d gone before her, making the Way for her, preparing her for what was to come.  He had ‘the plan’ for her that He promised in Jeremiah.

Another ‘sister’ from Bible study, also new to the Bible, shared two things at the start of our study: 1) that she hoped to have a testimony one day, and 2) ever since she was a child, she’d dreamed of going on a mission trip.  Our Bible study began, and just weeks into it, she and her husband fell on hard financial times.  Since it was early in the study, we didn’t yet know each other well, but everyone wanted to do what they could to help our new ‘sister’ who was in need.  She and her husband were overwhelmed by the outpouring of love shown by the group and quickly recognized the gifts and helps as being provisions of  God.  God started working through that situation to draw her and her husband closer to Him.  They were forced to lean on Him completely and trust Him.  As the study went on and her situation continued, her faith and love for Christ grew, and grew, and grew.  I could see that God had His eye on her.  I could tell by the way He was growing her so quickly.  And sure enough, He did.  Just nine months after her journey into the Bible began, she went all the way to Africa on a mission trip to share Christ AND her testimony of God’s grace with African pastors, villagers, men, women and children.  Yes, God had a plan for her.  He knew the plans He had for her, not to harm her – even though things were scary for a while – but to prosper her in His love and lead her through His provisions – enough so that she let Him lead her half-way around the world to glorify Him with her testimony and share His love with others. 

Then this year…we had a wonderful year in study together.  It appeared it would be the first year that no one in the group would have a ‘special need’.  However, as the study was about to end, one of the women shared privately that her marriage was in trouble and she was desperately trying to save it.  As we talked and I reflected on her spiritual growth through the study, ‘the plan’ became apparent to me.  Her marriage had been struggling for a long time.  Consequently, she had been struggling for a long time.  God had decided that enough was enough and it was time to put an end to her suffering.  But before He let her in on ‘the plan’ He led her to a Bible study that would bring her close to Him for the first time in her life. She needed to face her marrital problems, but God prepared her first by growing her in faith in Him and providing her with the biblical wisdom she needed to do what He was calling her to do.  She admittend that if she’d have faced this situation before becoming a woman of faith, she’d have been consumed with anger and displayed not-so godly responses.  Now she was responding with prayer – even praying for her husband – and trusting in God to help her figure things out. 

Then another ‘sister’ shared that she, too, was struggling in her marriage and that she might be forced to end her marriage.  This sister had experienced tremendous spiritual growth throughout our study.  Consequently, she, too, was now being led by God to face problems that had gone on for a long time, but He had prepared her spiritually and fortified her faith in the Lord so that she would be able to face her situation and have the strength to make the tough decisions that had to be made.  God had ‘the plan’ for her, too. 

And then there’s me.  I remember the day I tearfully broke down to tell God that I knew I had every reason in the world to be happy, but I wasn’t.  I was miserable.  And I was overwhelmed by the things that were making me miserable.  We were new in our community and, in addition to the problems in my life, I felt isolated and alone.  I wasn’t very prayerful in those days, but I knew only God could help me.  Immediately He responded by putting the thoughts in my mind that I needed to go to church and find a Bible study.  We were in church the very next Sunday and three weeks later I’d signed up for the Bible study that would change my life.  And like the friends whose stories I shared above, just weeks into the study amazing things began to happen.  When I let God take over my heart, He also took over my life.  He had ‘the plan’ for me, too!  And, my have we prospered, just as the verse promises.  Our prosperity isn’t about money, but about the blessings, love, joy and peace we found in Christ, and the future we have through our hope in Him.  It changed everything! 

What is ‘the plan’ for you?  Could you use more prosperity and less harm in your life?  Are you seeking hope and a better future?  Then do what everyone I spoke about did.  Call upon Him and pray to Him like He instructs us to do in the words of Jeremiah above.   Give your heart to God.  Truly claim Christ as your Lord AND SAVIOR, and put your whole trust in Him.  Let God grow your heart in faith and I promise that He will listen to you and amazing changes will happen in your life, too. 

I don’t know the specific outcomes that God has for any of us, including myself, but I do know that His way is better than my way, and whatever ‘the plan’, my hope is in Him. 

Oh, Lord, Humbly I come before you to thank You for all You’ve done for my family and me since we truly accepted You as our Lord and Savior.  I’m so blessed to witness so many examples of Your unfailing love through the lives of others, a love shown through Your provisions when we live according to Your plan.  Lord, I pray for each person who reading this who needs to know You as I do, that they will give You a chance and put their trust in You so that You can show them ‘the plan’ You have for them, too.  In Your precious and holy name I pray.  Amen. 

Would you like to share how God has worked in your life?  Or maybe you have questions about how to seek God?  If so, click on the word ‘comments’ below the title “Do You Know ‘The Plan?”.   If you’d like to read more about discovering Christ, go to www.Proverbs31.org and select ‘Do You Know Him?’. 

Blessings to all,   ~ Renee

Hi, everyone!  I hope you’re enjoying your summer!  I’m loving the relaxed pace and late mornings.  🙂 

If you’re like me, you like to keep things as simple and easy as possible in the summer to allow for optimal laziness – especially when it comes to cooking.  Following are a couple of quick and easy food ideas for meals or snacks.

I’ll start with the fun stuff – snacks!  Have you tried the new strawberry marshmallows from Kraft?  They’re so yummy!  And they make EXCELLENT strawberry rice krispy bars! (Find the recipe on rice krispy boxes or the marshmallow bag.) They’re also great for strawberry s’mores.  Honey Maid makes graham crackers packaged in squares (instead of rectangles) to make s’mores easy.  We haven’t had any campfires so we made our s’mores in the microwave on paper plates.  Just load your graham cracker square with a strawberry marshmallow, a square or two from a chocolate bar, and top with another graham cracker square.  Cook in microwave for 20-30 seconds.  Try not to let it get too hot for smaller children, or the melted marshmallow might burn their mouths. 

For dinners:  BBQ, anyone?  Tonight I have pork simmering in BBQ sauce in the crock pot.  It’s been cooking on low all day.  Just line your crock pot with one of Reynold’s liners for easy clean-up, put in 2-3 lbs of pork (I use whatever cut of pork that is on sale), cover it with McCormick’s crock pot bbq pork mix (mix according to package directions) OR your favorite prepared bbq sauce.  Cover and cook on low for at least 8 hours.  Do you have a ‘plain’ eater in your family?  If so, cook a serving of pork, sprinkled with salt, separately in a foil pouch in the crock pot or in your oven.  If oven, bake at 400 degrees for 30-45 minutes. 

Serve with slaw made from the cole slaw kits in the produce dept, baked beans, corn or fruit and you have a great meal!  I’m baking yeast rolls from the freezer dept that you pop into the oven right from the freezer.  No prep, no mess!  Just yummy rolls to eat!

Another dinner idea:  Cook burgers and hot dogs on the grill – and cook two or three times more than you need.  Save the leftovers for lunches or another dinner or two in the following days.  The extra grilled burgers can also be chopped for use in casseroles or mexican dishes calling for cooked ground beef.  

There’s a few ideas for starters.  I’d continue but it’s time for me to get our dinner on the table!  If you have easy summer food ideas that you’d like to share, please do so!  Just click the word ‘comments’ under the title above (Simple Summer Suggestions).

Check back for an easy frozen Lemonade Pie recipe! 

Blessings,

Renee

“Yet the LORD set his affection on your forefathers and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations, as it is today.”
Deuteronomy 10:15 

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD…”      –Psalm 33:12

For Christians, 4th of July should be a special day.  While much of America celebrates our political freedom from England and the oppressive ways of the King, Christians can celebrate another reason for the holiday – freedom for Christian worship. 

This freedom began with those who made the pilgram voyage in search of a new land whereupon they could establish new lives that would include the freedom to worship Christ as they pleased.  In the ‘old country’ there were times when people were required to follow the Christian worship practices of the Royal Family.  Failure to do so could result in persecution.  People who sought to worship Christ in other ways were forced to worship secretly and were fearful of discovery by the ‘people’ of the Palace. 

God’s blessings were upon the Pilgrims who made that first voyage.  His blessings continued to be with the new Americans as our Founding Fathers created the the Declaration of Independence on this day in 1776.  They prayerfully brought our great nation into official existence.  They acknowledge ‘Nature’s God’, and the ‘Creator’ in the opening paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence.  In closing the document says, “AND for the support of this Declaration , with a firm reliance on the protection of the divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.”  They closed the Declaration of Independence firmly relying on the divine protection of God.

Oh, how I wish our countrymen still relied on God today as our Founding Fathers did then.  

It might be of further interest for you to know that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson achieved the ultimate freedom from the oppressions of this world when they each died on this day, the 4th of July, exactly 50 years after signing the historical Declaration of Independence.  Their deaths were unrelated, and John Adams actually spoke of Thomas Jefferson in his final words, unaware that he had passed away just hours earlier. 

Today I firmly believe that we continue to be a nation blessed by God.  Yes, oppression still exists.  It always will in our fallen world.  But greater than the existence of oppression is the existence of God, whose fingerprint is within us all, and Who so desperately wants us to seek our freedom in Him. 

Thank you, God, for blessing this great nation of ours. And thank You, too, for the many men and women dedicating their lives in service to protect the freedoms we celebrate today.  May Your blessings be upon them and Your great arms of protection be around them until You bring them safely home. In Jesus Name I pray.  Amen.

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