July 4th reminds us of the best and worst of American history. Many celebrate Independence Day and the ideals of the Declaration of Independence. And there is much to be proud of as we remember the sacrifices of so many that keep freedom’s flag flying. Others consider the failure of the Founders and Framers to offer a clear road of Emancipation for the slaves, thus delaying justice for millions, costing our nation a horrible Civil War, the tragedy of Jim Crow, and the unfulfilled promises of the Civil Rights Movement. Add to this the almost 100% record of broken covenants and treaties between the USA and the indigenous Native American tribes and being suspicious of American ideals is understandable.
The USA is an experiment in virtue-based liberty and representative governance rooted in reverence of the Almighty, the equality of all people, and limitations on the power of government. But our history is a tapestry of tremendous and tortured narratives. We celebrate the Ellis Island Hospitality enshrined in the Statue of Liberty and forget the prejudice, racism, and exploitation of both slaves and immigrants. We rightly celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and innovation of our culture and forget the painful road toward prosperity for most workers.
What makes America truly great? First, we see that our first liberty, enshrined in the first 16 words of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights is complete freedom of conscience and religion for people of all faiths (or no faith) to live their lives and build their communities without government interference. Second, the promise of and potential for genuine access, equity, and opportunity for everyone. And third, our history of halting but continual progress toward justice.
Let’s celebrate heroes of the past and hopes for the future. Let’s feast in freedom and build a future so more can enjoy the fruits of freedom.
Billy Graham’s recent passing way at age 99 stirs up deep emotions as I consider the impact of his preaching and service. In addition to billions hearing the gospel and millions converted, thousands of leaders were trained and millions more helped with compassion outreach.
Along with John Stott, Graham is the founder of the Lausanne Movement, a global evangelical network that is dedicated to evangelization and human flourishing in the kingdom. In just over 40 years, we have seen a shift in global Christianity from “the West to the rest” to ministry now being “from everywhere to everywhere” and the majority of Christians residing in non-Western nations.
As he reflected in an interview with Diane Sawyer on his life and ministry he said, “I wish I would have done more about race.” This from a man who integrated his meetings and lost friends as he rightly rejected racism and segregation. He also regretted the lack of time with his family and proper self-care…what humility for a world leader!
A voice of my lifetime, bearing witness to grace and truth. our best tribute? Faithful service and witness in all I do. And continually growing in kindness, love and wisdom. May we begin every encounter with every person with love and respect. The Cross welcomes all and when the Holy Spirit is working, there is a new sociology.
I am very concerned with the triumph of emotivism in academic/intellectual circles. Critical thinking is not confined to a culture, gender or race. Critical thinking needs new attention so our dialogues move us toward truth, and, where possible, principled compromise on policies. Please friends, let’s be unafraid listen with humility and observe with objectivity.
In our polarized world, there two things that offer hope:
- shared encounters in community worship; and
- shared engagement in God’s work that renews our communities. God’s presence expands our hearts in holy love and practical work expresses our unity in service.
For centuries, human beings have sought meaning. In our century, we are debating the meaning of being human. Grateful for the Biblical story that offers identity and hope, humility and purpose.
Lord, please heal us.
Heal our hearts: touch our deepest wounds as use us as emissaries of compassion.
Heal our heads: liberate our minds from captivity to crowds and release fresh thinking.
Heal our hands: deliver us from selfish motives and methods and unleash innovation and integrity for the common good.
Lord, heal our land, one prayer, one kind word, one sacrificial act at a time.
As we face personal and community challenges, there is “wisdom from above” that is pure and peaceable and unites love and justice, compassion and empowerment. Here are some more reflections as I listen to God – and that listening is mediated through wise people in my life.
Confusion leads to anarchy and ultimately external control. Clarity leads to accountable liberty and greater personal responsibility. On most issues, ethical/moral clarity is not difficult – it is just demanding.
Reflecting and responding beats reacting and resenting every day.
Instead of castigating former and present leaders, how about constructing new friendships?
Current reactions in our civil conversation are morphing from legitimate dissent to hysterical accusations and perceptions. Instead of anger and violence and quashing voices, how about concrete actions of love and service and policy proposals that have a chance to work? I challenge all parties and groups to think of the common good of all – Black and White, rich and poor, religious and secular.
Grateful for the global church of all ages today: Jewish and Gentile, African and Asian, Near Eastern and Western, in soaring cathedrals and hidden catacombs…from Mt. Sinai to Monte Cassino, from Armenian chapels to American campuses, from bells and incense to freeform dance and song…may their testimonies inspire our fidelity and service.
Choosing contemplation over cynicism, helpfulness over hatred and vision over venom. Such responses are harder than reactions, but so much better for the soul and society.
As we worship, let’s consider awakening each day with a simple prayer:
Lord, by your grace and power, may all I feel and think, say and do add to the beauty of your world and bring value to all.
Today I choose blessing over cursing, reconciliation over conflict, peacemaking over polemics and service over selfishness.
I cannot do this in my own strength.
Sovereign Spirit, envision, encourage and empower my efforts for the glory of the Father and Son and the good of others.