Tuesday, July 24, 2018

The Principle of Faithfulness

Julius Caesar was at his prime; he had just won a civil war and had been made the perpetual dictator of Rome.  He was, however, caught off guard as a group of senators made a pretense of petitioning him, only to hem him in. Then, one of the men flashed the blade of his dagger and plunged it into the Caesar. The others followed suit stabbing the dictator twenty-three times. Brutus, who was a close family friend, delivered one of the blows. Shakespeare wrote that Julius cried, “Is that you, Brutus?” What betrayal must he have felt? How common betrayal is for all of us. George Washington had his Benedict Arnold, and so do we.

Who hasn’t seen someone give up when things didn’t go well? We have all heard the well-rehearsed reasons why someone won’t go to church anymore. We are familiar with the causes of why someone gave up on his or her marriage. How admirable it is when you meet someone who after many years and many battles remains faithful. They were hurt and betrayed just like everyone else but never gave up. They faced hopelessness, confusion, and even despair but didn’t throw in the towel. Instead, they stayed at the task.

Betrayal is so hard to take because it diminishes us so. It may be the strongest and most painful human emotion. The prophet Jeremiah knew betrayal of the worst kind when he learned that his friends and even relatives were planning his assassination (Jer 11:18-19). Jeremiah struggled to recover from his hurt, and he complained to God. His questions were similar to ours:  How can you let evil people prosper? How is it that you allow them to have it so good? Why are crooks allowed to rip people off and get away with it? Why would you let hypocrites get by with wrong? You know what they are like (Jer 12:1-2).

God listened and answered Jeremiah, but the answer is not what Jeremiah expected. We, like Jeremiah, want God to reveal to us what we cannot understand. We feel that if we knew the why of things we would be so much stronger. God hardly ever does that, instead, he reveals himself to us, which is what we need more than anything else. He tells Jeremiah, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses? If you stumble in safe country, how will you manage in the thickets by the Jordan?” (Jer 12:5).

God was saying to the prophet, “If you can’t handle this, Jeremiah, how do you expect me to entrust you the great things I have planned for you?” For Jeremiah to remain faithful to God in tough times, he would have to turn to God and trust him completely. Learning this is what helped Jeremiah to remain faithful through his long and difficult ministry. It will be no different for us today. When we are discouraged in our marriages, our churches, or our ministries, we must turn to the Lord.  Isaiah saw the weariness in people, and he asked them this question: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31). When God strengthens us in our weariness, we feel purpose and significance. Viktor Frankl said, “Despair is suffering without meaning.” Let us turn to the One who is the creator of the ends of the earth and trust him, and he will make us faithful.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018


Courage is the ability to face pivotal moments in life with boldness and fortitude. Most people think of courage as a great feat performed before thousands of spectators. That rarely happens, as when David accepted Goliath’s challenge and fought him before all the army. However, most people perform feats of courage in absolute obscurity.  Sometimes having courage means we are willing to face problems squarely and not run from them. When we acknowledge our mistakes and determine to do the right thing, that is the essence of courage.

Stephen, found in the book of Acts, was such a man of courage. He lived and died with no regrets.  He lived unintimidated by those who wanted to silence him, and he remained faithful and committed to his faith to the end. When his enemies made it clear they would do whatever was necessary to suppress his voice, Stephen never flinched. He maintained his witness in the face of fierce hatred and barbaric treatment. 

Luke says that Stephen was a man full of God’s grace and power (Acts 6:8). He understood God’s goodness, and it affected the way he treated people.  In fact, Stephen became a channel of God’s power and love to those around him. He generously shared with others, and consequently, lives were touched. God’s power works through his grace.

Stephen did not write the book of Hebrews, but he probably could have.  Hebrews, more than any other book in the New Testament, declares the supremacy of Christ.  It presents Christ as our savior and high priest.  Stephen announced the message of Hebrews in his talks in the synagogue before Hebrews was ever written. The Holy Spirit anointed his powerful debates. Stephen pointed to a savior who is for everyone, and his death replaces all animal sacrifices. The same man whom the Jews crucified was none other than Jesus Christ. That message met with resistance because Stephen’s arguments were solid and irrefutable, which caused more animosity toward him.

Stephen was brought before the highest court of the land and given a chance to defend himself, but instead, he only articulated even more clearly that Jesus was the savior. Stephen’s sermon was his death warrant.  He was willing to stand true to his faith because he was committed to the truth.  As Stephen finished his final words, his enemies came after him like a lynch mob. 

Imagine this extraordinary scene.  Stephen’s enemies have all been sitting very piously in their places as he gave his last speech.  He never gave it in self-defense; it was instead a summation of God’s wondrous grace working in history among the nation of Israel.  As Stephen came to the end of his discourse, he indicted those rebellious leaders who rejected his message for their unbelief.  They could take no more, so they covered their ears and yelled at the top of their lungs as they rushed toward him.  His enemies then took hold of him; they dragged him out of the city and threw him down.  Each man took stones in hand to cast at him. 

Every time we see Christ in heaven, the scriptures give us a picture of Jesus seated at the right hand of the father, but on this occasion, Jesus is standing.  Jesus stood up in tribute to the courageous faith of Stephen.  While they were hurling stones to kill Stephen, he never begged for mercy but instead prayed to God that this sin not be held against them (Acts 7:60).  He prayed as Christ had prayed on the cross, and he showed us how to live and die with courage.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018


Integrity is the ability to remain unimpaired morally, spiritually, and rationally through a firm adherence to biblical values. Solomon said that integrity is our moral GPS guidance system: “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out” (Prov 10:9). The Apostle Paul gave an excellent illustration of how biblical integrity works. In a passage found in 2 Cor 4:7-12, he starts with calling all of us just ordinary clay pots. Nothing to brag about— only regular containers. However, God chose to place an incredible treasure in these common pots—the Gospel. Then Paul demonstrates how we are tested by life’s difficult trials and how by God’s grace we can stand firm. Paul said that he sometimes felt pressured on every side but not crushed, perplexed but not driven to despair, persecuted but not abandoned, and knocked down but not knocked out. That is unrelenting integrity. In standing firm as Paul did, we reveal Jesus to the world.

 As clay pots, we are fragile, our time on this earth is short, and we have many weaknesses, but still, God chooses to place in us his surpassing great treasure. That treasure is powerful because it is the transforming gospel of the Lord. Having this treasure does not make us great; it only displays our weaknesses and his great power at work in us. When we become men and women of integrity and learn that we will be pressured from within and without, we don’t have to be crushed. We learn that no matter how difficult life becomes, we do not need to despair. Even though we are at times persecuted, and we will be, we know we will not be abandoned. Also, though life deals us some powerful blows that knock us down—they never knock us out, and we get back up.

When we live this way, our integrity reveals Jesus to the world. That incredible treasure becomes attractive to people who see us live. Every Christian who lives with integrity is giving the world a testimony of God’s transforming power. They can see what Jesus has done in our lives, and that gives them hope that he will do the same for them.

The fact that many trials pressure us but never crush us is a display of our integrity. The fact that we are perplexed but not in despair is a display of our integrity. No matter how confused we get, when we do not despair, it is a display of integrity and trust in God. We may feel the way Jesus did on the cross, that we are forsaken because the persecution is so real, but we know that God will never abandon us.  We can be confident of God's abiding presence regardless of how we feel. Even the most potent blows don’t have to knock us out of the fight. The fact that we get back up is integrity on display. For Paul, the whole point of life was that Jesus would be revealed. He lived for those opportunities that people would see Jesus in his life. Is this not the life we all want as believers?

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

High Cost of Freedom

We are living in a time when people do not know our history, do not care to understand it. That is dangerous because there are people who will rewrite our history. They deny the facts of our true founding. They reject that men of faith in the God of the Bible founded the nation. The revisionists love to talk about Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, and Benjamin Franklin because they were not devout Christians, however, they neglect to tell us that these men, though not Christians, were not opposed to Christianity. They even supported it. The grand majority of the founders were men of devout faith. Thomas Jefferson, who wrote the Declaration of Independence, declared that our rights of freedom come from God: “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

It had been over 150 years since the first pilgrims had landed in Plymouth. The thirteen colonies united in defense for the first time against the abuses of England. The king had deprived them of the right to self-rule. He had taken away their judicial system and placed judges that were loyal only to him. He had put his army there to carry out his orders at the expense of the colonies. He had taken away their right to fund their governments and economies. He had forbidden trade with any other nations. His laws became a burden too big to bear.

Eventually, a war erupted for our independence. England never imagined that there was any possibility that the colonies could win their freedom.  The war spanned eight years with battles fought from Canada to South Carolina. Over 8,000 Americans died in action, but most of the wounded also died because of inadequate medical care and rampant diseases, causing the number of dead to rise to 25,000.

General George Washington led the American army through some of the most challenging conditions any military has ever faced. They were outnumbered, out trained, out supplied, with no navy to speak of, and continually fighting a war of attrition. Despite these obstacles, they won. There were some unexplainable things that some people consider more than coincidences that saved the army on many occasions, such as: the dense fog that came in at just the right moment and allowed Washington’s troops to cross the East River in New York without detection; the sudden change in the weather that brought a freeze that hardened the ground and allowed the army to make its escape from Trenton, New Jersey. Their survival in some of the most inhospitable conditions proved to be an extraordinary feat both in cold and hot weather and without proper clothing and adequate food. With enlistments continually expiring and trained soldiers replaced with fresh recruits, it is incredible that the army survived. One example of the many instances of protection over George Washington, was when musket balls were flying through the air and all the while he remained safe, is startling. The French navy arriving at precisely the right time to seal off the British troops from an escape by sea was incredible. Perhaps the most significant event ever was the refusal of George Washington to become our first king when the war was over. It was offered to him, but he refused it.

Several years after the war was over and the peace treated was signed in Paris declaring the independence of the United States of America, our founding fathers produced the Constitution of the United States. It has been and continues to be one of the most exceptional documents ever written. We are grateful to God for it and pray for men and women to fill our places of government who love and cherish this document and who acknowledge the blessings of God over our nation.