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Happy Birthday, America

“Righteousness exalts a nation, But sin is a reproach to any people.” – Proverbs 14:34


I’m thankful God has brought our nation to another birthday! We have a lot to celebrate in the history of this 238-year-old country.
Off the top of my head: The Statue of Liberty and the multitudes of immigrants who were welcomed to these shores. Innovations in technology and discoveries in medicine that have helped people and saved lives. Soldiers who sacrificed their security and well-being, and sometimes their lives, to keep citizens and others free. The many moments when righteousness exalted this nation.
Some of you view the U.S. with skepticism. Some mistrust and disdain its history and founders and policies. Others esteem the past and have grown disgusted with what this nation is becoming.
Yes, the U.S. has veered down the wrong path at times – as in, the deplorable mistreatment of Native Americans, the unconscionable enslavement of African Americans and, more recently, the legalized murder of unborn babies. Yes, we have many sins of which to repent.
But mercifully, we also have so much for which to be grateful. While I regret the wrongs that we have done, and fear what we may become, I am extremely grateful for the blessings we have experienced and for the good that has been done.
Certainly, in this decaying culture, there is still much good to be done – actually more than ever before – and there is much rich history to gratefully celebrate.
Happy birthday, America! And by God’s grace, many more!

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Trees of Righteousness

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Joseph had a hundred reasons to weep.

His half-brothers hated him – so much that they conspired to kill him and instead sold him as a slave. In a foreign country far from his father, he was falsely accused and locked in prison.

But Joseph stayed faithful to God, and God helped him to prosper wherever he was. As the saying goes, he bloomed where he was planted.

Finally, things were looking up for Joseph. King Pharaoh set him free and promoted him to second-in-command over Egypt. He gave Joseph a wife, and God blessed the young couple with two sons.

Even in his prosperity, though, Joseph was faced with his past in a huge way one day, when his traitorous brothers arrived in Egypt.

Their reappearance in his life set the stage for more weeping. He had to have wrestled with a tidal wave of the emotions that he thought he had buried (as when he named his first son Manasseh, saying, “For God has made me forget my toil and all my father’s house.”).

But God gave Joseph grace and a remarkable perspective. He was able to see God’s hand through all his trials.

He kissed all his brothers and wept over them (Genesis 45:15). Later, he told his brothers, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (Gen. 50:20)

You may have picked up some dents or scars in life, some from others and completely unwanted. But God doesn’t want you to focus on those or to be held back by them.

He wants to bring healing and to bring you into a beautiful place for His glory. He even wants, through your past hurts, to use you to bring healing to someone else.

When you start to feel weighed down by the past, realize that your past doesn’t have full sway over your life today. You have a new purpose: to bear fruit and to glorify God.

Jesus will accomplish this in you by His transforming work, described in Isaiah 61:1-3. To those who mourn in Zion, He gives

“Beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning,

The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;

That they may be called trees of righteousness,

The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.”

Our Messiah, Jesus, fulfilled this passage. He also conquered death and the grave. He lives. There is nothing beyond His power or His reach. Your past, your present, your future – they are all in His hands. Trust in Him.

City Bustle

Bumper to bumper, elbow to elbow
Toe to heel and heel to toe
Traffic honking, stop-and-go

Pausing at the crosswalk-blinking
Clans of black suits somber, thinking
Glance at watches, patience shrinking

Light changes
Bustle-bustle, hurry-hurry
All of them are prone to worry

Bumper to bumper and elbow to elbow,
Toe to heel and heel to toe,
Traffic honking – go

Psalm 11

For the director of music. Of David.

In the Lord I take refuge. How then can you say to me: “Flee like a bird to your mountain. For look, the wicked bend their bows; they set their arrows against the strings to shoot from the shadows at the upright in heart.

When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord is on his heavenly throne.

He observes everyone on earth; his eyes examine them. The Lord examines the righteous, but the wicked, those who love violence, he hates with a passion. On the wicked he will rain fiery coals and burning sulfur; a scorching wind will be their lot.

For the Lord is righteous, he loves justice; the upright will see his face.

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