Independence Day 2016

Freedom-Not-Free--independence-day-825621_960_720pixabayFreedom isn’t free.  It’s a phrase we often hear, so much that it’s become cliche.  But it’s true.

President Ronald Reagan said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”

In the United States, we are blessed to live in a place and at a time where we are free to worship God, and to tell others about Jesus.  Many, many places in the world do not have that same freedom.

But as important as that political and social freedom is, it pales in comparison to the freedom we have that was secured to us by Jesus.

Because of Jesus, we are able to receive forgiveness from God.  This is true, unending freedom.  Forgiveness now and forever.

Freedom to follow Jesus, live like Jesus (as best as we can, anyway), and ultimately spend eternity with Jesus once we experience our Earthly death.

That is true freedom!

Comparison is the Thief of Joy

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“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

I believe this is truly a great quote, one that teaches an important lesson. It is often attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt, though I’ve not come across an authoritative source other than the internet (so it much be true, right?!).

Often this quote is understood in terms of external comparisons; but I think its valuable for internal comparisons as well. I’ll explain.

So often we do compare ourselves to others, what I call “external” comparisons. For example, we may look at someone else and think, wow, they have a bigger house, nicer car, fancier clothes, etc. Often this does little but breed discontent in our lives, making us wish for “more” instead of being grateful for all we do have. Certainly this type of external comparison can cause challenges.

But I think “internal” comparisons are similarly bad. By internal, I mean something like this: just recently, I had what was the best run I have ever had. Ever. It was awesome. I really enjoy trail running, and I was able to run my favorite trail in the area. It was cool, and rainy. The trail was muddy, and not another person in sight. I ran 5 miles with what felt like little effort. It was just an awesome all around run.

Then two days later, I went for another trail run. This time it was a trail closer to my house, which I don’t like nearly as much. Running was much more laborious; not nearly as effortless feeling as the previous run. I only managed 3.5 miles. It just wasn’t as good a run.

But then I got to thinking, perhaps I wasn’t doing the second run, or myself, justice by comparing it to the first run.

After all, I have definitely come to learn that not all runs are great. They just aren’t. Some days you feel better than others; some days you’re more tired. Some days it’s more miles; some days its less. Some faster, some slower. Preferred places to run, and paths that simply suffice.

And so what I’ve learned is that by comparing them, it takes away from the not-great runs. But why should it? Shouldn’t I be thankful that I was able to get out and run today? Grateful that I have the leisure time to do so in the first place? Grateful that I have a park just a few minutes from home where I can run? Grateful that I am healthy enough to run 3.5 miles? Grateful that I could enjoy being outdoors, the trees, the woods, the breeze, the sun and clouds? Grateful to be in God’s creation?

Yes. Yes, I should be grateful for all these things. I should learn to take the great runs, and be thankful for them. But I should also take the not-so-great runs, and learn to be thankful, and content with them as well, even though they weren’t as good as others. No matter.

Yes, I believe that comparison is the thief of joy. For if I were to have dwelt on the comparison of the great run versus the not-so-great run, I wouldn’t have enjoyed not-so-great run. I wouldn’t have been nearly as thankful for it. And I wouldn’t have been content. This type of internal comparison would have stolen the joy found in having a run that was just ok.

Comparison is the thief of joy. So much of our lives is simply learning to accept our present circumstances, be content in them, and focus on God’s joy instead of external realities.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

May 8 – Scripture of the Day

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Today we continue in the Psalms. Included in today’s reading is the best known and perhaps most loved Psalm of all: Psalm 23.

A psalm of David.

1 The Lord is my shepherd;
   I have all that I need.
2 He lets me rest in green meadows;
   he leads me beside peaceful streams.
3     He renews my strength.
He guides me along right paths,
   bringing honor to his name.
4 Even when I walk
 through the darkest valley,
I will not be afraid,
   for you are close beside me.
Your rod and your staff
   protect and comfort me.
5 You prepare a feast for me
   in the presence of my enemies.
You honor me by anointing my head with oil.
   My cup overflows with blessings.
6 Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
   all the days of my life,
and I will live in the house of the Lord
   forever.

May 7 – Scripture of the Day

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For the next several days in the 365 day chronological bible I’ll be reading the Psalms. The notes indicate that most of the psalms were not specifically dated, nor tied to specific events, though some have.

Today several verses stood out to me in two different psalms. First was Psalm 16:8, which says, “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me.”

This line reminds me of a wonderful song by Building 429 called “We Won’t Be Shaken.” It is a wonderful song. My favorite Building 429 sing is “Where I Belong.” Take a listen below.

The other verses that stood out to me come from Psalm 19. Verses 1, 8 and 12-13. They say:

1 The heavens proclaim the glory of God.
   The skies display his craftsmanship.
8 The commandments of the Lord are right,
   bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the Lord are clear,
   giving insight for living.
12 How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
   Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
13 Keep your servant from deliberate sins!
   Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
   and innocent of great sin.

 

May 6 – Scripture of the Day

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We have come to the portion of scripture in the 365 day chronological bible where King David dies. His son, Solomon, has ascended to the throne. It is a momentous occasion, David’s death. For he is considered Israel’s greatest king; not necessarily for his political and military triumphs, though those were great, but because of his love for the Lord and leading Israel towards righteousness. Which, incidentally, is what allowed for his political and military success; the blessings of the Lord.

The scripture that stood out to me today was 2 Samuel 23:1-7 which were “the last words of David” according to the scripture. It reads:

David’s Last Words

23 These are the last words of David:

“David, the son of Jesse, speaks—

   David, the man who was raised up so high,

David, the man anointed by the God of Jacob,

   David, the sweet psalmist of Israel.

2 “The Spirit of the Lord speaks through me;

   his words are upon my tongue.

3 The God of Israel spoke.

   The Rock of Israel said to me:

‘The one who rules righteously,
who rules in the fear of God,

4 is like the light of morning at sunrise,

   like a morning without clouds,

like the gleaming of the sun

   on new grass after rain.’

5 “Is it not my family God has chosen?

   Yes, he has made an everlasting covenant with me.

His agreement is arranged and guaranteed in every detail.

   He will ensure my safety and success.

6 But the godless are like thorns to be thrown away,

   for they tear the hand that touches them.

7 One must use iron tools to chop them down;

   they will be totally consumed by fire.”

May 5 – Scripture of the Day

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The passage that stood out to me today was 1 Chronicles 29:10-13 which is titled David’s Prayer of Praise and says, “10 Then David praised the Lord in the presence of the whole assembly: “O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel,[a] may you be praised forever and ever! 11 Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. 12 Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength. 13 “O our God, we thank you and praise your glorious name!”

May 4 – Scripture of the Day

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Today’s scripture is 1 Chronicles 28:2-3 which says, “David rose to his feet and said: “My brothers and my people! It was my desire to build a Temple where the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant, God’s footstool, could rest permanently. I made the necessary preparations for building it, 3 but God said to me, ‘You must not build a Temple to honor my name, for you are a warrior and have shed much blood.’ ”