What some have seen as an accident of history was a carefully worked out plan by God, that Jesus was born in a small village located on the road to Hebron, outside the city of Jerusalem.
Bethlehem.In Hebrew, the word means house of bread or meat.By definition it carries a rich Christian heritage that Jesus Christ, born to a humble family in a cave used for a winter shelter for livestock, is not only our Lord, He is our source of life.As the Bread of Life, He gives to my soul what food provides my body.
He is nourishment to an empty heart, filling me with everlasting hope.He is my strength in a moment of weakness, lifting me above temptation.He is my banquet table, providing joy and fellowship with those who share in His abundance.Each time I partake of Him, I am reminded again that He alone can make my cup run over and fill me so that I shall never want for more.Amen and amen.
“This is my life work: helping people understand and respond to this Message.It came as a sheer gift to me, a real surprise, God handling all the details.When it came to presenting the Message to people who had no background in God's way, I was the least qualified of any of the available Christians.God saw to it that I was equipped, but you can be sure that it had nothing to do with my natural abilities.
And so here I am, preaching and writing about things that are way over my head, the inexhaustible riches and generosity of Christ.My task is to bring out in the open and make plain what God, who created all this in the first place, has been doing in secret and behind the scenes all along.Through followers of Jesus like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!”
(Ephesians 3:6-8 - The Message)
Have you taken an unpopular stand knowing that you would be alone in your viewpoint? Have you stood for something rather than falling for anything?
I recently watched the story of William Wilberforce, a philanthropist and antislavery politician in Britain during the late 1700s. (www.amazinggracemovie.com)
Wilberforce admitted "The first years in Parliament I did nothing - nothing to any purpose. My own distinction was my darling object." However, in 1786, he experienced a spiritual rebirth and started finding his passion, his mission in life… the abolishment of the slave trade.
During those times, the pure “economics of slavery” were so entrenched that only a few thought it possible to change that dreadful circumstance and Wilberforce was among them. After touring a slave ship himself, he could no longer sit idly by while slaves were treated so inhumanely.Slaves were usually branded with hot irons and restrained with shackles. Their "living quarters" were often a deck within the ship that had less than five feet of headroom - and throughout a large portion of the deck, sleeping shelves cut this limited amount of headroom in half.Lack of standing headroom was the least of the slaves' problems, though. With 300 to 400 people or up to 600 packed in a tiny area - an area with little ventilation and, in some cases, not even enough space to place buckets for human waste - disease was prevalent.
One of Wilberforce’s allies was John Newton, who served four years as a slave ship captain.Once Newton resigned his commission his views on the slave trade had begun to change.He eventually became a minister writing, "I think I should have quitted [the slave trade] sooner had I considered it as I now do to be unlawful and wrong. But I never had a scruple upon this head at the time…"In 1770, he penned the familiar words:
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now am found, Was blind, but now I see.
Wilberforce never backed down from his mission even when his health kept him in a precarious state due to his addiction to opiates. He never lost sight of his focus and set the course for others to join him in this quest. He persevered and despite being vilified, introduced bills during at least 12 parliamentary sessions before the abolition of the slave trade became law on March 25, 1807. (Slavery was still a reality in the British territories, however, despite passage of this law.)
GospeLines Prayer: Father, God, it takes but one man/woman with courage and conviction to make a difference. When we lead by example, we set the standard to bring others along, even when the cause is (initially) an unpopular one.
Wilberforce didn’t start out on the path You had for him; many of us don’t. But, with Your gentle (and sometimes not-so-gentle) urging, we come to see the light. We realize that doing what is right, is the only option.
Thank You Father for providing the guidance and freely giving us grace despite our humanness. May we make a difference despite popular opinion.
In His Love,
As an aside, Wilberforce University, the United States’ oldest private, historically black university, was named to honor the great 18th century abolitionist, William Wilberforce. Founded in 1856 under the direction of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Wilberforce University can trace its origin to a period of history before the Civil War, when the Ohio Underground Railroad was established as a means of escape for all those blacks who sought their freedom in the North from the yoke of slavery, one of the destination points of this railroad became Wilberforce University. As the Underground Railroad provided a route from physical bondage, the University was formed to provide an intellectual Mecca and refuge from slavery's first rule: ignorance.
Part of my family’s rich legacy began at Wilberforce. My maternal grandparents met as students there in the late 1800s, subsequently married and started their life together.
≈ Devotional for Wednesday, August 6, 2008
"Angry With God"
It took me by surprise, but it was a question that only an extremely close friend earns the right to ask after several years of sharing intimate heart talks."Why do you become angry with God so often?" My flippant response hid the anguish I felt at that moment.After hours of pondering this query in my private prayer time, I think I have an answer.
No one knows me as well as my Father.With Him, I am free to stand toe to toe, and share every feeling without fear of reprisal.There is no hiding jealousy, fear, doubt, selfishness, and even anger from Him.It is in those moments that the Master is best able to discipline me and put me back on the straight path, and I trust Him with the rod of correction.
GospeLines Prayer:Thank you, Father, for being approachable, and for allowing me to be me.I do not pretend to be mature.Even in my weakest hour, show me how to humble myself and submit to wearing the yoke of Godliness with joy and thanksgiving.Amen and amen.
Steak and Ale was our favorite restaurant when we were dating.The food was excellent and the dining area was partitioned in such a way that you almost seemed to be dining in complete privacy.However, the number one reason we loved Steak and Ale was the dancing.
They had a beautiful dance floor surrounded by booths and tables with low lighting that set a relaxing and romantic mood.The music, though loud enough to dance by, was quiet enough to allow intimate conversation.Even better, the music, primarily from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s, encouraged you to waltz, or just slowly fox-trot with your partner.
Although we had many wonderful evenings dancing there, they weren’t perfect.No matter how hard I tried or how many lessons I took, sometime during every evening’s dancing I would step on my wife’s toes.To make it even worse, she loves to dance with her shoes off; so, when I did step on her toes, it hurt.Sometimes it hurt so bad that we had to sit down – maybe even skip a dance or two while she recovered.
When this happened, she would immediately react: “Ouch!That hurt!” she would shout – sometimes with anger in her voice because it did hurt – sometimes it hurt a lot.
We would sit down and after a few minutes, the “I’m sorry,” “It still hurts” and “Please be more careful” comments gave way to “Of course I know you didn’t mean to” and “I’ll try to be more careful.”Those were always followed by “I love you” and “Get up lazy bones… we came to dance!”
No matter how hard we try, we’ll always step on someone’s toes from time to time.Even though we mean no harm, someone will occasionally be hurt by something we say or do.We can only hope that they were listening to Jesus’ answer when Peter ask, “How many times should I forgive someone who does something wrong to me? Is seven times enough?” (Matthew 18:21 – CEV)
Jesus’ answer (depending on which translation you read) was seventy-seven (CEV & NIV) or seventy times seven (KJV, ESV, ASV): “I say not unto thee, until seven times: but, until seventy times seven”(Matthew 18:21 – KJV).Jesus’ point wasn’t the number, but that our forgiveness should have no bounds – no limits.Jesus emphasized this when, after giving us the parable of the unmerciful servant (Matthew 18:23-34), He added: “This is how My heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart" (Mathew 18:35 - NIV).We don’t want God to limit the number of times He will forgive us; so, we must do the same for our brothers and sisters here on earth when they ask for forgiveness.
Remember, we aren’t here for our own satisfaction; we’re here to serve and please the Lord.We didn’t come to sit and complain while the music plays… we came to dance!
GospeLines Prayer:Dear Lord, help us hear the music of Your Spirit; and, please Lord, be our dance partner in all we do.Thank you for forgiving us so freely when we step on Your toes and help us remember Your example when others step on ours.Help us live our lives is such a way that someday we can step onto Your dance floor in heaven and humbly announce, “We came to dance…”
As a dying man in a parched desert, we stagger through our lives, starving after that eternal drink which will quench our thirst.Many search for satisfaction in the halls of fame and glory.Some seek to end their hunger in torrid relationships, which are a shame to the Father.Others are lapping greedily at riches and success, hoping to find a solution for their emptiness.
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness…”
That’s what we are looking for, something that lasts.We pray for an eternal answer because we have tried everything else and saw the folly of our efforts.
GospeLines Prayer:“Father, I have chased broken dreams and hopeless schemes too long.Now I yearn for something permanent.Come to me, O Lord, and touch my soul with Your hand of righteousness that I may be filled at last!”Amen and amen.