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The Banner of Freedom

3 Jul

I am posting a blog one day early this week. I hope to get ahead of the holiday festivities and fireworks to trigger deeper thoughts about why we celebrate this day.

Examine the flag as you never have before. The original prototype was not a printed design on a single piece of cloth like the ones we put out on our homes today. Thirteen stripes of alternating red and white sewn together symbolized much more than the thirteen colonies. It told of thirteen regional self-interests that were willing to compromise to promote freedoms and the common good. What they were proposing would no doubt face incredible opposition with little chance for a good outcome. But they were resolved to try.

The field of blue reminded them that they were a new concept—a wild experiment—in the family of nations in the world. They took their success or failure seriously. Looking into the future, they saw what impact their experiment could have world-wide.

Each star stitched onto the blue field represented an act of covenant. Individually, each state then and to this day has signed a social and moral contract to preserve and protect the original purpose and one another. Any attack against freedom in one state was against the whole.

Less than ninety years after the U.S. Constitution was signed, the definition of freedom and to whom it applied was tested. The Civil War claimed more deaths than all other wars we have been in combined. It succeeded in ending many aspects of the greatest blight and contradiction of our nation’s history.

While it expanded who qualified for freedom, it failed to give us a good working definition for freedom. The political strife we find ourselves facing in our nation today with progressives wrestling conservatives has its roots in the struggle our Founders fought over. This July 4th I call us to find a definition in our hearts that acknowledges freedom also requires self-limiting barriers. Total individualism is a failed stitch in the flag flying proudly above us that will unravel the whole.

And enjoy all the freedom expressed millenniums ago: there’s no law against doing good.

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What if Christianity began with today’s American churches?

9 May

Have you ever played the “What if…” game? Perhaps in the solitude of your thoughts? Well, here goes. What if the church in America were responsible for launching Christianity for the first time? Send me your thoughts and I will post them here. I can even post them anonymously, if you want. You can write your ideas in the comment section or send me an email at charley.charleshuff@gmail.com.

Be creative. Have some fun with this. I want to hear what you think before I share my thoughts.

I limit your imaginations only by asking you think of the American church as a whole, not just your own congregation. Beyond that, you can place the church back 2000 plus years or leave it in the current era.

How does the American church spread the gospel? Will it be effective? How do you think it would take hold? What obstacles does the church face? How does it overcome? What persecutions will it face? Where will the church be in 100 years?

Feel free to answer any other questions you might think of.

Ready? Set? Go!

Remembering What Resurrection Sunday Is

15 Apr

I confess. All the years I have spent “up north” and have passed through the changes is worship music, my favorites are irrevocably Southern Gospel–especially good quartets.

Recently a video clip popped up on my screen as something I might enjoy. I want to share it with you as my Happy Easter greeting. It has extra meaning for me as I listened to so many of the singers captured in this video when I was young and still in southern Illinois. And, most of them are now on the other side of the lyrics. They have transitioned from having hope for being reunited with loved ones to standing with them in the Lord’s presence.

I hope you enjoy this and remember Easter is more accurately called Resurrection Sunday. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSE5PuX63vc

And, if you liked that one, I’m sure you will love this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q5740m6F6kg

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Source of Problems

11 Mar

Encouragement in Crisis

15 Dec

I’m doing something for the first time today. I am posting a blog from another writer as a type of guest blog on my sight. I read this shortly after posting my last blog and felt it complemented mine and maybe could be an even bigger help and comfort for others. It’s written by Joanie Shawhan. She called it Embracing the Light of Christmas While Navigating a Crisis. It encouraged me, and I hope it does you, too. Thank you, Joanie.

5-advent-candled-flicker-east-cobbler

Everywhere I go I am reminded of Christmas: lights twinkle, trees sparkle, bells chime, shoppers scurry and Christmas carols ring out the joy of the season. Wreaths with cheery red bows adorn the entrances of my neighbors’ homes.

I stare at my bare door as I enter my home devoid of Christmas decor. My fireplace mantel, normally home to my lighted nativity scene, lays bare. My energy bank is drained. A crisis has rocked my world.

How do I prepare my heart for Christmas when my circumstances do not seem merry and bright?

How do we embrace the true meaning of Christmas while wading through the pain of grief, sickness or loss? Is it possible to rejoice in hope and experience peace?

My circumstances seem to have smothered the light that I need to shine in my darkness. I am reminded of the lights flickering from the advent wreath candles. Each week an additional candle is lit, symbolizing the coming of Christ with increasing light.

I have discovered five truths based on the meaning of the advent candles to help us embrace the light of Christmas while navigating a crisis.

The first candle is the candle of hope—a hope not based on our circumstances, but a hope in God who is faithful and fulfills His promises. He promises never to leave us.

The second candle is the candle of peace. We long for peace. Peace silences the voices of fear and anxiety. Jesus promises us a peace that transcends our circumstances. He is the Prince of peace.

The third candle represents joy—a joy that surpasses our pain. Even though we look to the day when all sorrow and mourning will cease and every tear will be wiped away, the very presence of God fills us with joy.

The fourth candle of Christmas is love. God is love. He loves each one of us so much that He sent His Son into the world so we can experience His love through a relationship with Him. In turn, we are able to love others with His love.

A white candle graces the center of the advent wreath and is lit on Christmas day. This candle represents Christ. He is the light that will shine in our darkness and show us how to navigate through this life, including the present crisis.

This advent, instead of focusing on our suffering, we can embrace the five lights of Christmas: hope, peace, joy and love, culminating in the arrival of Christ, the light of the world.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2 NKJV)

Complaining Substitutes

16 Aug

My seven year-old granddaughter is having a hard time adjusting to all the changes in her life. She is getting older and wanting to express and experience her individuality. Her two younger sisters try to keep up with her. This creates many opportunities for conflict. One of her responses is to cry and say, “She makes me sad.”

Photo by Charles Huff

Photo by Charles Huff

In my feeble attempts to help mold a better response, I say, “No. You are choosing to be sad. What could you choose instead?” We talk about what specifically makes her sad. What would she want her sister to do if the situation were reversed. Our conversations can take some interesting turns. I’m afraid it may take a lifetime to know how much effect I am having with her.

But what about us? How well do we handle others “making us sad”? How can we deal well with difficult situations and relationships?

In the chart below I have two lists. On the left are attitudes or heart conditions that can give rise to the complaining I wrote about in the last blog. On the right are alternative responses that come from being a part of the royal priesthood in the Lord’s kingdom. Read the sentence above the table, replacing each couplet and ponder an answer.

Now what if we replaced ________ with _______________?
Selfishness                                                                Concern for others
Covetousness                                                             Freely sharing
Greed                                                                          Giving
Fear of loss                                                                Trust
Dissatisfaction                                                          Filled to satisfaction
Pride                                                                           Humility
Comparing ourselves to others                             Comparing ourselves to Christ

In case you did not catch my hint above, these choices are in response to our faith. A person can choose to stop biting their nails. They can decide to eat less and exercise more, replacing bad habits with good ones. But Paul points out this limitation in his first letter of instruction to Timothy: “For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8 NKJV).

While the lists above represent choices we can make, they are heart issues. Faith is required to choose from the right hand column. A right choice as a result in trusting Jesus for the outcome will confirm to others you are being genuine. Faith makes your action stand out and shine.

Philippians 2:14-16 (NKJV) “Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life…”

I would love to hear what you have learned from choosing from the left and choosing from the right. Sharing is such a simple way to encourage one another toward excellence.

Another is to share any posts that encourage you.

And don’t forget you can be sure to receive notice of a new blog entered by simply clicking on either the sign-up or the follow boosterclub button.

Beginnings

29 Mar

Let Us Return to the Beginning
When you hear the word beginning, what thoughts or emotions are kicked up? I would expect quite a range of responses due to the different types of beginnings we can experience. For example, new beginnings can cause fear and anxiety of what lies ahead. On the contrary, some may feel a sense of pleasure or hope with the word, relating it to things like spring which is the start of our seasonal growth cycle. Starting new projects may give rise to excitement that wains the longer the task takes.

Groans can often be heard when being told to go back to the beginning, at least it happened a lot in band rehearsals. The feeling that we will never get it right leads to frustration, boredom, or even despair. For Christians, going back to the beginning takes on a different meaning and very different responses.

The Apostles’ Obsession
The apostle John begins his first letter with “That which was from the beginning.” In the second chapter he mentions beginning five times. Indeed much of John’s exhortation in the letter points back to the initial start of our faith and experience in Jesus. This got me thinking about other references to the beginning in the scriptures and why they are important.

John’s opens his gospel book with “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God.” Moses recorded “In the beginning God created…” When answering a question about divorce, Jesus said “it wasn’t so in the beginning.” Jesus is called the corner stone, which marks the beginning of a new structure. The master builder always made sure the corner stone was in its precise position because the rest of the construction all related to it. Jesus is also called the foundation. The foundation is the first part of a structure to be built after the cornerstone is set; all else must fit on it or fail. Paul, Peter, John and James remind believers about when they first believed and challenged them to always remember that moment. And the Spirit said to the Church of Ephesus in the book of Revelation that it had left its first love. We are called to grow in our faith and our relationship. But based on the apostles’ emphasis, we also cannot live apart from it.

Two Beginnings
Our lives began at conception or as other contend with our first breath. We grow and live our lives apart from God. Everyone has the opportunity to have a new beginning. The second chance (the do-over) came through Jesus who brought reconciliation between God and man and opened the door for men to enter the kingdom once again. Jesus in his prayer and Paul in his writings remind us we still live in this rebellious world. But they also remind us to remember our new beginning.

The moment we are born again, as Jesus said to Nicodemus, we have been given access to see the kingdom of heaven. In other words, placing our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to pay for our sin, paving the way for us to be reconciled with God is the threshold to the kingdom of God. We must then enter in.

God’s Kingdom Do-over
The message of Jesus’ ministry was the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He taught his disciples to preach the good news of the kingdom, but if a city refused to listen, be sure to tell them the kingdom of heaven had come near them that day. He patterned for his disciples to pray that God’s kingdom would come to earth and that God’s will would be done here on earth as it is in heaven. He said the end of the world would not come until his message of the gospel of the kingdom has been preached in every land.

His message was the message of the do-over. The original kingdom is found in Genesis chapters one through three. Adam and Eve experienced the fellowship with God and His given authority over earth. That was taken away once they disobeyed. They nor any of their descendants until Jesus died and rose from the dead could not have such access to the Father. Jesus gave us the opportunity for a new beginning. Believing in His work on Calvary’s hill is the threshold to the kingdom life. Our challenge as believers is to move beyond the threshold of our faith and be led in the forever now by the Spirit.

After Adam and Eve fell from perfection and were kicked out of the Garden, they had to fight a constant battle against weeds so their food crops would survive. In a spiritual sense we fight the weeds and snares in our daily lives—destructive weeds of wrong thoughts, false philosophies, and every temptation man can imagine. As a result, many gospels have been preached. The church is divided along whatever flavor of gospel feels good to hearers. The apostles strove to direct our focus to our life as it was in the beginning. There is only one beginning for any of us whose name is recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Everything else written supports that first love we experienced when we first believed. In that moment we realized what a mess we had made of our lives and only Jesus could set things straight. That first love is to be a part of our daily experience. Nothing is to replace it.

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