Behind the building at my workplace, there is a parking area and a drive used by delivery trucks. Yesterday, it was used for a staging area by the local police department to prepare for a drug bust. The sting activity was to take place in the large parking lot in front of the building which covers several acres. It isn't something you see everyday, so I watched excitedly as the officers put on their bulletproof vests, loaded the several pistols each carried, placed extra ammunition around their waists, strapped their weapons to their bodies, and carefully rehearsed their strategy before engaging in the mission.
Their preparation for battle was thorough and meticulous. It was evident that every detail of the operation had been practiced many times before.
As I watched this scene, it reminded me of something the apostle Paul wrote to Ephesus about the daily warfare in which Christians are engaged:
"...put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace... take up the shield of faith... take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God... with this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints." (Eph. 6:11-18) 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, September 30, 2009
Sorry... No devotional today.
≈ Devotional for Thursday, October 1, 2009
"The “God” Standard"
Throughout history, mankind has understood that buying and selling required some kind of “standard.”We call it “money.”
A common word for money in the Old Testament was “shekel.” Genesis 23 records that Abraham paid 400 “shekels” of silver for a field.A Roman coin mentioned in the New Testament is the “denarius”, which was the common daily wage for a working man.
The New Testament also refers to the “talent” which represented a very large amount of money – generally about 75 pounds of gold or silver.One talent was roughly equivalent to 6,000 denarii; or, over 20 years of work.
This theme is common all over the world.Whether gold or silver or paper money is used, the common thread in all exchange is work – how much work the money represents is the key.If you’re on the gold standard, how much gold represents a certain amount of work?If you’re using paper money (printed by a government), how much work does a particular denomination represent?Common questions; common theme – how much work for how much reward.
Although the “God” standard is completely different, it’s easy to see why we try to make His standard fit our interpretation.God says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)In other words, He gives us the ultimate reward without any work – He only asks for faith.We just can’t accept that.Our history tells us that if we don’t work for something, it can’t have any value.
God’s point is simple.If Christ dwells in our hearts by faith; then we’re rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17); and, if we love Him, we’ll keep His commandments. (John 14:15)We work because of love; we don’t love as a result of work.
“Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?” (James 2:5)
Live by the “God Standard.”“Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself… this do, and thou shalt live.” (Luke 10:27-28)And when Jesus used the word “live” in this context, He was speaking of eternal living – now that’s pretty good value, don’t you think?
"Be made new in the attitude of your minds and have the same attitude, purpose and humble mind that was in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 4:22-24; Philippians 2:4-7)
≈ Devotional for Friday, October 2, 2009
"Rein It In, Bubba!"
When President George W. Bush began pontificating while on the campaign trail, wife Laura told him, "Rein it in, Bubba!"(People's Magazine)The admonition of a good friend or spouse has saved many of us from more embarrassing moments.
I thought about that this morning as I looked at the task ahead of me.It's the time of year for the annual pruning to begin.There's the hibiscus, with brown winter leaves, begging for me to give it a little correction for the coming spring.And the leafless crepe myrtles, which stood tall and green a few weeks ago, will soon be cut back by a third.But the mystery is the oleander.It hasn't lost a leaf with the onset of winter, so it's tempting just to let it grow, except that it is large and unruly from having let it grow on its own for two years!"Rein it in, Bubba."
Pruning is the work of the Holy Spirit.However, God often uses spiritual mentors to assist with the work of discipline and admonition."Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom... " (Col. 3:16.)
Give an ear to your trusted Christian friends who are courageous and wise enough to share a word of correction with you.And open your heart to the ministry of admonition, but do so with humility and prayer.
GospeLines Prayer:"Father, give me listening ears to hear You through my pride, and wisdom to admonish others only when I am sure You have first spoken to me.With two ears and one mouth, I am sure You meant for me to listen twice as much as I speak."Amen and amen.