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Archive for the ‘Courage’ Category

 

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

In the predawn hours of May 13, 1862, Robert Smalls’ experienced hands gripped the ship’s wheel of the Planter, though his heart was pounding. Ahead were five checkpoints along the Charleston River, and then the open sea. Within a few hours he and the fifteen others onboard would be free from slavery.

Or, failing to succeed, they would be sinking the ship, jumping overboard and perishing together. They had already decided: being captured was not an option.

Smalls prayed aloud, for the benefit of his crew and passengers: “Lord, we entrust ourselves into thy hands. Like thou didst for the Israelites in Egypt, please stand over us to our promised land of freedom” (1).

The first checkpoint came into view, its lanterns gleaming gold against the dark night. Even though the sentries would not be able to see him clearly, Smalls had taken the precaution of wearing the captain’s coat and straw hat. He even assumed his captain’s posture. And when Smalls gave the correct whistle signal, they allowed him to pass without question.

Robert whispered another prayer, this time of gratitude and praise. He marveled how God had engineered events to bring him to this moment:

  • At age twelve, Smalls’ master, Mr. McKee of Beaufort, South Carolina, had rented him to an employer in Charleston. Smalls had worked in the city ever since, as waiter, lamplighter, and then wharf hand.
  • Currently he was employed as wheel hand aboard the Confederate supply ship, Planter, under command of Captain Ripley. His circumstances had allowed him to learn how to sail and how to make the correct whistle signals at checkpoints.
  • The captain and white crew members frequently spent their nights in Charleston, not on the ship. This night was one of them.

 

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(Charleston street scene by Matthew Brady)

 

  • Smalls enjoyed good rapport with the other ship-hand slaves of the Planter. Without them, this daring getaway would have been impossible.
  • The opportunity for escape presented itself when a pre-dawn mission was scheduled for May 13. Smalls’ 3:30 a.m. departure, although earlier than actually scheduled, did not alert the harbor guards.
  • Smalls had time to notify his wife and children that he would pick them up at a prearranged wharf nearby, prior to the first checkpoint.

A small pinpoint of pale light appeared ahead. Checkpoint Two. Again, the Planter slid by without incident as Smalls signaled to those on shore. Three, four, and five also allowed them to pass.

By sunrise they were sailing into safe Union waters. Upon sighting the first vessel of the Union blockade, Smalls took down the Confederate flag and hoisted a white sheet—just in time before Onward sailors began to fire at the Confederate vessel.

His plan had worked; the little band onboard had escaped to freedom. No doubt their shouts of celebration included, “Thank you, Jesus!”

Smalls surprised the captain of Onward with his knowledge of Rebel fortifications and their locations. Also of value: a book of secret flag signals used by the Confederates, and a full cargo of armaments.

It wasn’t long before Smalls had joined the war effort for the Union, helping to enlist Black men to fight. Nearly 5,000 former slaves fought courageously for the North.

For his part, Smalls became the Union Navy captain for the CSS Planter, the ship he had sailed to freedom. He also captained the ironclad, USS Keokuk.

 

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(The USS Keokuk)

 

Smalls led Union ships into waters the Confederacy had protected with mines—mines that Small had helped to plant while enslaved in Charleston. Soldiers deactivated the mines, opening those passageways to Union vessels.

Smalls courageously conducted seventeen missions in and around Charleston, which included assisting in the destruction of railroad bridges in the harbor area.

After the war, Smalls and his family returned to Beaufort, South Carolina. He was awarded the rank of Major General of the South Carolina Militia during Reconstruction, and turned his attention to business, education, and finally, politics.  He opened a general store and started a newspaper. He helped establish the first school built for African-American children in Beaufort County.

 

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From 1869 to 1889 Smalls served in both houses of the South Carolina Legislature, and five terms in the U.S. Congress. Referring to his political service, one commentator said, “His record was brilliant, consistent, and indeed he led in all the most prominent measures” (2).

One story in particular highlights Smalls’ Christ-like attitude that impacted his entire life:

 

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(The McKee/Smalls House in Beaufort, SC)

 

He eventually acquired enough wealth to purchase the house in Beaufort where he and his mother had been slaves of the McKee family. Sometime after Smalls and his family moved in, Mrs. McKee came to the door. By this time she was elderly and perhaps suffering from dementia. She thought the house still belonged to her.

The natural inclination would have been to send her away or have her delivered to her current home. But that was not Robert Smalls’ way. He invited Mrs. McKee inside, gave back to the woman her old bedroom, and then served her.

Robert Smalls died in 1915 at age 76, and was buried with great honors.

In 2001 a Logistics Support Vessel was launched with his name, the Major General Robert Smalls. It was the first ship named for an African-American.  A worthy honoree, indeed.

 

Notes:

(1) Boone, Bishop Wellington, Black Self-Genocide, p. 165.

(2) http://www.docsouth.umc.edu/neh/simmon/simmons.html

 

Sources:  Black Self-Genocide by Bishop Wellington Boone, APPTE Publishing, 2016; http://www.biography.com/people/robert-smalls; http://www.cbn.com/CBNnews/138685.aspx; http://www.historynet.com/robertsmalls; http://www.robertsmalls.com; www.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ibiblio.org; http://www.wikimedia.org (4)

 

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Staff Sgt. Jacob DeShazer, a member of the famed Doolittle Raiders, was the bombardier of Crew No.16, the last of the 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers to launch from the USS Hornet April 18, 1942, on the famous bombing run over Tokyo. Sergeant DeShazer, 95, died March 15. (U.S. Air Force photo)

Jake DeShazer sat on a narrow bench facing the back wall of his cell, a position he was forced to keep hour after hour, day after day, as his imprisonment dragged on.

The year was 1945. DeShazer had been a prisoner of war in Japan for forty long months, enduring suffocating heat in summer, bitter cold in winter, solitary confinement, near-starvation, cruel treatment, and torture.

As he sat, perhaps Jake thought of his comrades among the eighty flyers of Dolittle’s Raiders, the bombing run over Japan that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Allies in 1942.

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But DeShazer’s plane was among those shot down, its crew members captured. How many of the original eighty had survived? Jake had no way of knowing, except for the few in his own cell block.

During those long, solitary hours, perhaps Jake reviewed the encouragements from scripture he had learned and the verses he’d memorized when–for three short weeks–he was allowed to have a Bible. What a change had taken place in his heart.

Prior to his captivity, Jake had no interest in Christianity. But the cruel treatment from his captors month after month nearly drove him crazy. Hatred consumed him. He remembered that Christianity supposedly changed hatred into brotherly love. Was that really possible?

He had begged for that Bible, but it was a long time coming. When the emperor of Japan told prison guards to treat their captives better, DeShazer’s request was finally honored. And as a result of studying the scriptures, he put his faith in Jesus. Bitter hatred for the Japanese transformed into loving pity.

As Jake’s thoughts focused on his captors, he may have prayed again the words from scripture that first melted his heart: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Perhaps DeShazer reaffirmed what God’s Spirit had revealed to him earlier: His captors knew nothing of a Savior.  Without Jesus it was only natural for them to be cruel.

And so, as he lifted up loved ones and fellow soldiers, as he expressed his longing for the war to end, Jake also prayed for his captors to know Christ.

Suddenly he heard the stomping of boots, the hum of multiple voices in the corridor, men crying, and the clanging of prison doors. Then he was able to make out words—in English! “The war is over!” “We’ve come to take you home!”

Within moments his own cell door was swung open by soldiers in American uniform, paratroopers who had landed directly on the prison compound.

The date: August 20, 1945 (seventy-one years ago this Saturday). Unbeknownst to the captives, the emperor of Japan had surrendered on August 10, following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The horror was finally over; DeShazer and thousands of other soldiers returned home to pick up the pieces of their lives.

Jake chose to pursue a degree at Seattle Pacific University, which he accomplished in three years. By December of 1948, he and his wife, Florence, along with their first baby, were headed for the mission field, to—of all places—Japan.

Every time DeShazer met someone in his new home country and told his story, almost always the person would ask, “Why did you come back here?” And he would introduce them to Jesus.

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(DeShazer with Japanese children, 1952)

It is estimated that some 30,000 people accepted Christ into their lives—just in the first year of Jake’s ministry in Japan. Among them, a number of former prison guards who had held Jake and his comrades captive.

Another surprising convert: Mitsuo Fuchida, the pilot who led the attack on Pearl Harbor. He “happened” to read a pamphlet Jake had written, “I Was A Prisoner of Japan.” Fuchida began to study the Bible, became a Christian, and served as a missionary himself in Asia. He and Jake eventually met and became friends.

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(DeShazer and Fuchida)

For nearly thirty years the DeShazers served God in Japan, helping to found sixteen churches throughout the country.

Someone has said:

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(“Forgiveness does not change the past,

but it does change the future.”)

DeShazer’s story proves just how mind-boggling and miraculous that future can be.

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Thank you, Father, for DeShazer’s story, proving it is possible to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). By comparison to DeShazer’s horrific experiences, my hurts and resentments are embarrassingly puny. Yet I still need your Spirit to transform them into compassion and love. As a starting point, may I never lose sight of the totally underserved forgiveness you have lavished upon me.

You can access more of Jacob DeShazer’s story at:

(Art & photo credits:  www.verterantributes.org; http://www.worldevangelism.net; http://www.spu.edu; http://www.jacobdeshazer.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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We’ve all heard the story of Joseph (or seen the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat). You’ll remember he’s the one who endured years of slavery and prison before his dreams (of bowing wheat sheaves and stars paying homage) came true.

We also know about Moses, an adopted prince in Pharaoh’s household who ended up in the wilderness herding sheep.  Forty years later God called him to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

And we’re familiar with Paul who spent years traveling from place to place and, yes, suffering all kinds of trials—beatings, imprisonment, dangers, shipwrecks—all for the privilege of serving God, introducing people to Jesus and establishing churches.

These Biblical stories and others teach us to never give up, because we never know when God will show up to turn a prisoner into a prime minister, a shepherd into a great leader, or a Pharisee tentmaker into a world evangelist.

Then there’s Jeremiah. His is a different kind of story altogether. He was called by God to warn the inhabitants of Judah that destruction would come if they did not return to God and follow his ways. It was not a one-time message. Over a period of forty years Jeremiah spoke many times of coming doom.

 

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Almost no one listened. (A brief revival took place under King Josiah, but when he died, the people returned to their complacency and evil ways.)

We love the stories of Joseph, Moses, Paul, and others, whose perseverance was rewarded with success. But what about Jeremiah?

He, too, persevered through trials–poverty and deprivation, imprisonment and ill-treatment, rejection and ridicule. For what? According to the evidence (minimal results for his efforts), Jeremiah was a wretched failure. Yet he had obeyed God faithfully, endured patiently, and preached courageously.

Perhaps visible evidence is not the best way to quantify success.

Instead, the true measure of success involves our characters, not our acquisitions (Joshua 1:8).

 

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The true measure of success may include the tenacity to get up every day and face the same tasks as yesterday, to persistently make choices that further God’s objectives for each of us, and to remain steadfast even when discouraged (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Last, a true measure of success is how our choices honor God (1 Kings 2:3). Jeremiah may not have turned thousands back to Yahweh, but that was not due to his lack of effort or disobedience to God. Jeremiah doggedly preached to the people of Judah—month after month, year after year.

So the true measure of success includes: 1) pursuing godly character, 2) persevering toward God-given purpose, and 3) making choices that honor him.

 

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Today, such successful people might look like:

  • The parent who has put his career on hold to invest time in his young children.
  • the business owner who drives a twelve-year old car so he can give generously to ministries.
  • The college student slowly working her way through school, anxious to return to her inner city neighborhood and teach school

For those of us looking for that kind of success, Jeremiah is our hero.

He lived out these precepts :

  • Do our prayerful best and leave the results with God.
  • Press on–day by day, month by month, year by year if necessary. Allow such perseverance to build our trust in God and strengthen our character.
  • Persist until God tells us to stop. (How do we know we’ve reached that moment? Peace, not uncertainty, will fill our spirits.)

We may not understand what God is doing, but we know him. And he is holy love and perfect wisdom.*

 

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*Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, p. 129.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.pinterest.com (2); http://www.christianquotes.info; http://www.pilgrimsrock.com.)

 

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“The whole meaning of history is in the proof that there have lived people before the present time whom it is important to meet” (Eugene Rosenstock Huessey, Speech and Reality, p. 167).

The forefathers of our nation are among them…

 

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(January 23, 1737-October 8, 1793)

 

For John Hancock, it was the last straw.

The Stamp Act of 1765 was bad enough, requiring printed materials in America to carry a special stamp, and the obligatory fees sent to England. In the 160-year history of the colonies, Americans had only paid taxes to their colonial governments.

And although the Stamp Act had been repealed, it was replaced with a more detrimental decree: The Declaratory Act of 1766, which proclaimed Britain’s absolute authority over the American colonies.

Then came the Townshend Revenue Acts of 1767, taxing the colonists further.

No wonder they took up the cry, “No taxation without representation.”

Now it was 1768. Customs officials had just confiscated John Hancock’s sloop, Liberty, in the Boston Harbor. They claimed it was being used to transport contraband goods.

And that was the last straw. Hancock had reached the end of his tolerance for sovereign British rule. He and politician, Samuel Adams began orchestrating demonstrations and rallies. They also spread the ideal of liberty to other locales.

Meanwhile, British reinforcements were sent to Boston—an occupation that would last eight years.

 

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In 1770, British soldiers shot into an unarmed crowd, killing five Bostonians and wounding others. The horrific event became known as the Boston Massacre.

For a number of years, that day, March 5, was memorialized in the city. Hancock was asked to speak in 1774. In his speech he said:

“Let us humbly commit our righteous cause to the great Lord of the Universe (Psalm 37:5), who loveth righteousness and hateth iniquity (Hebrews 1:9)…Let us joyfully leave our concerns in the hands of Him Who raiseth up and pulleth down the empires and kingdoms of the world as He pleases (Daniel 2:21).”

Then he quoted Habakkuk 3:17-18, reminding Bostonians that no matter what happened as the conflict continued, or how desperate circumstances might become, “yet we will rejoice in the Lord” (1).

So many scriptures brought together in one brief paragraph give indication of the strong Christian faith John Hancock embraced.

Also in the early 1770s, Hancock, Adams, and several dozen others “hosted” the Boston Tea Party. They dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor rather than pay import duties to Britain.

 

The Boston Tea Party, 1773 Painting; The Boston Tea Party, 1773 Art Print for sale

 

In 1774, Hancock and Adams were elected to the Provincial Congress at Concord, Massachusetts. John was elected president and presided over the Committee of Safety. He and others organized the minutemen, colonial militia who could be ready in a minute to oppose the British.

April 19, 1775, seven hundred British soldiers were sent to Concord to confiscate military supplies and capture Hancock and Adams. Thanks to the warning of Paul Revere, the two men were able to escape.

At nearby Lexington, British soldiers and minutemen engaged in a skirmish, and the Revolutionary War began with the “shot heard round the world.”

Just four days before, John Hancock had written:

“All confidence must be withheld from the means we use; and reposed only on that GOD who rules in the armies of heaven, and without whose blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness—and all created power vanity (2)”.

Hancock knew that all their efforts toward freedom were in vain if God was not on their side.

That summer he represented Massachusetts at the Continental Congress held in Philadelphia, to discuss ways of restoring harmony with Britain, yet establish rights and liberties for the colonists. Independence wasn’t on the table – yet.

 

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But 1776 brought Thomas Paine’s famous pamphlet, “Common Sense.” American patriotism grew strong, and Congress passed a resolution calling on “the aid of God in the moral cause for independence.” They encouraged fasting and prayer throughout the colonies, and “through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness” (3).

That’s how deep and wide the Christian faith permeated American society.

Of course, the most important resolution of the Continental Congress, under Hancock’s presidency, was the Declaration of Independence, severing all ties to Britain. And, as most U.S. history students know, he was the first to sign in his distinctive script.

 

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For almost two and a half years, Hancock tirelessly presided over the Congress, as the war escalated, and the delegates hammered out the first constitution, the Articles of Confederation.

At least four times they had to flee for their lives to other colonies in order to continue their work. In addition, long debates and political rifts took their toll on the delegates, including John Hancock. He also suffered from gout.

When Congress had completed the Articles, Hancock resigned the presidency, but continued public service in Massachusetts, assisting in the formation of the state constitution (4). He and other delegates included this requirement:

“Any person chosen governor, lieutenant governor, counselor, senator, or representative…shall…make and subscribe the following declaration: ‘I, ______________, do declare that I believe the Christian religion and have a firm persuasion of its truth” (5).

I wonder what our institutions of government would look like today if that affirmation were still required.

John Hancock, first governor of Massachusetts, became one of the first to sign that statement of faith. He served eleven years before his death in 1793, at age fifty-five.

Revisionists want to remove from the historical record any mention of God, Jesus, Christianity, and the Bible. But Hancock and many other founding fathers knew: “Without God’s blessing, the best human counsels are but foolishness.”

We had better know that, too.

 

Citations and Notes:

  1. The Founders’ Bible, p. 1374
  2. faithofourfathers.net
  3. johnhancock.org
  4. The only constitution in the world still in use today and older than the U. S. Constitution
  5. The Founders’ Bible, p. 2097

Sources:

  1. acheritagegroup.org
  2. biography.com
  3. The Founders’ Bible
  4. faithofourfathers.net
  5. johnhancock.org
  6. ushistory.org

Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.allthingsliberty.com; http://www.paintingandframe.com; http://www.history.com; http://www.plannersweb.com.

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Granville Sharp

(b. November 10, 1735)

Never had thirty-year old Granville Sharp seen such injuries: large swellings about the neck and head, gaping wounds, and a face hideously swollen, streaked with trails of dried blood.

The victim: Jonathan Strong, a young slave who’d been pistol-whipped by his master and left to die on the streets of London, 1765. Somehow Jonathan made his way to the house of Granville’s brother, William, a doctor. And there he sat, waiting in line outside William’s office, when Granville stopped by the house.

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The encounter would change Granville’s life forever.

His heart went out to the slave; they became acquainted. Jonathan’s story horrified Granville. To make matters worse, when Jonathan recovered, the master demanded he be returned. Granville determined to help Jonathan, even though he’d “never opened a law-book except the Bible in [his] life” (1).

Those defending the slave owner were evidently intimidated by the case Granville put forth. After a two-year legal battle, they never brought Jonathan’s case to trial.

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Sharp helped other slaves win their cases against tyrant owners, becoming more and more involved in the abolition of slavery. One case in particular, that of James Somerset, helped to set an important precedent in England.

Somerset had escaped his master, been recaptured, and was about to be shipped to a Jamaican plantation when Granville and others became involved.  They helped the slave win his freedom, arguing that “no master ever was allowed here (in England) to take a slave by force to be sold abroad because he deserted his service…therefore the man must be discharged” (2).

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Granville remained active in the abolition movement his entire life. He wrote frequent letters to many leaders in America and Britain, influencing their thinking about slavery and earning their respect. Among them: Dr. Benjamin Rush (signer of the Declaration), John Jay (first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court), Benjamin Franklin, and John Adams in America; John Wesley, William Wilberforce, the Archbishop of Canterbury in England; and General Lafayette of France.

But that was only one of his passionate pursuits. Another concern was the illegal treatment of the colonists in America. He published books and pamphlets to help their cause, catching the attention of Ben Franklin during one of his visits to England.

Granville gave Mr. Franklin 250 copies of his pamphlet about people’s natural rights as supported by the British constitution. Franklin sent them to America where several presses reprinted the booklet.

Sharp’s pamphlet influenced Thomas Jefferson as he drafted the Declaration of Independence, evidenced by at least several similarities in both documents.

In 1775, when war broke out in the colonies Granville was employed in the ordnance office (handling all matters concerning weaponry). He wanted nothing to do with the war, so he wrote to his employer: “I cannot return to my ordnance duty whilst a bloody war is carried on, unjustly as I conceive, against my fellow-subjects” (3).

Granville’s brothers agreed to support him, enabling him to pursue his studies, causes, and writing. In fact, beginning with his first book in 1765, Sharp published a new work, sometimes more than one, almost annually for the rest of his life (5).

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One of those books (with a thirty-six word title!) is now known as “Sharp’s rule” (1777). With his self-taught knowledge of ancient Greek, Granville demonstrated how eight passages of the New Testament had been mistranslated by some Bible scholars, leaving the reader to surmise that God the Father and God the Son were separate Beings. Sharp presented a thorough explanation that God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are One, according to the original Greek texts (4).

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Yet Granville accomplished still more. In the mid-1780s, Sharp teamed with a Mr. Smeathman to establish a colony for freed English slaves on the west coast of Africa. (Many of them were homeless, subsisting on the streets of London with no hope of improving their lives.) But Smeathman died shortly after he and Granville established their partnership. Sharp continued the work nevertheless.

In April of 1787, the dream for that African colony became a reality with the founding of Sierra Leone. The colonists named the first settlement, Granvilletown.

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Sharp accomplished even more, as he served on a number of boards and societies, in support of mission efforts and philanthropic concerns.

Yet he did not see the fulfillment of his greatest dream—the abolition of slavery. The battle he began with the case of Jonathan Strong in 1765 finally ended in 1833, when slavery was completely abolished in the British Empire.

Sharp died in 1813.

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His chief biographer, Prince Hoare, said that as he began to study Sharp he intended to “draw a veil over peculiarities of Mr. Sharp’s character,” out of respect for the dead. But when he finished his careful and comprehensive research, he realized Sharp’s “character to be of that high and dignified nature, to leave no necessity for such a precaution…I see nothing to veil.” (6).

Like many other forgotten heroes, Granville Sharp is among that great cloud of witnesses who fixed their eyes on Jesus and ran the race marked out for them (Hebrews 12:1-2a).

May his example and that of others–their faith, integrity, perseverance, and passion–push us along in the race marked for us.

______________________________

  1. history.ac.uk
  2. national.archives.gov.uk
  3. Dr. Daniel Wallace, www.bible.org
  4. christianity.com
  5. brycchancarey.com
  6. Dr. Daniel Wallace, http://www.bible.org

(Art & photo credits:  www.bbc.co.uk; izquotes.com; http://www.virtualtourist.com; http://www.collections.vam.ac.uk; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.en.wikipedia.org; )

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“Oh, what a beautiful tree!” my mother-in-law exclaimed with enthusiasm. Her comment referred to a tall bush, planted near the house and visible outside our kitchen window. “What’s the name of it?” she asked.  Being from Ohio, Mom wasn’t familiar with some of the unique foliage of our area in south Florida.

“That’s a sea grape,” I told her. “It’s actually a shrub, but they can grow quite tall.”

“Well, it’s lovely. Such big leaves!”

Now clearly there’s nothing remarkable about this conversation, until you know that Mom had asked the very same question with the very same enthusiasm every morning of her visit. And each morning I supplied the same answer.  Mom was in her late 80s, and her dementia was becoming more and more noticeable.

Mom’s fresh outlook each morning reminded me of Lamentations 3:22-23: 

The faithful love of the LORD never ends!

His mercies never cease.

Great is his faithfulness;

his mercies begin afresh each morning (NLT).

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Just as Mom brought new enthusiasm to each morning, so God brings new mercies for each day. Yes, the challenges we faced yesterday required wisdom, strength, and perseverance. But today we’ll need a fresh supply.   Praise God he never runs out of such gifts; he is always able to provide.

In the same way, God’s new mercies for today are not meant to be sufficient for tomorrow. In other words, we shouldn’t expect to feel confident and in charge this morning for the potential challenges of the future—much as we’d like to. (Who hasn’t wished to know now exactly how the next day or week will unfold, and how best to respond?)

Instead, our wise and loving Heavenly Father has chosen to lead us one day at a time. And just what is so wise and loving about keeping us in the dark?  So as to protect us from being overwhelmed, easy prey to depression, and paralyzed by fear.

No, our best course of action is to avail ourselves of God’s mercies for this one day. As for tomorrow, we can trust God to supply new mercies, more than sufficient for whatever we might face when the time comes (Matthew 6:34).

I’m remembering Corrie ten Boom. (Maybe this post brought her to your mind, too.)

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Corrie and her family suffered cruel hardships in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany, as a result of helping Jews escape the Holocaust.

After the war, people would often say to Corrie, “I wish I had such great faith as yours. I could never live through the experiences you survived.”

Corrie would tell a story to explain.

When she was a child, Corrie happened to see a dead baby. A terrible fear gripped her that one of her family might also die. When Papa ten Boom came to tuck her in that night, she burst into tears.

“I need you!” she sobbed. “You can’t die!”

Her sister, Betsy, explained why Corrie was so afraid.

Papa asked, “When you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your ticket?”

“Just before we get on the train,” she responded.

“Exactly,” Papa replied. “And God knows when you’re going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that some of us have to die, you will look into your heart and find the strength you need—just in time.”

Papa ten Boom was proven right. When Corrie needed supernatural strength, God did provide. We can rest assured that his mercies will be new and fresh each morning for each of us, as needed.

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I praise you, Lord God, that we can face each day with fresh enthusiasm, because for each trial, you have prepared for us great mercies like endurance, strength, and wisdom. I thank you that in the midst of trouble, you also provide blessings: a more acute awareness of your presence, peace that defies explanation, family and friends to come alongside, miraculous provision, and delightful surprises to make us smile. You are not just a sufficient God; you are an abundantly gracious God!

(Photo credits:  www.mgonline.com; http://www.coffee4thesoul.com; http://www.myhero.com.)

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(In honor of Black History Month)

 

Isabella, the daughter of James and Elizabeth Baumfree, was born a slave in New York state about 1797. No one knows the exact date, because birth records weren’t kept for “property.”

Did her parents know the name means, “consecrated to God?” Even if they chose the name for its meaning, those parents could not have dreamed of the future awaiting their Baby Belle.

Her early years were difficult.  Belle was sold five times, several times to cruel masters.

At age eighteen or so, Belle fell in love with Robert, a young slave from a nearby farm. The couple had a daughter. But Belle’s master, John Dumont, forbade her to see Robert again. According to the law, all children of the union would belong to Robert’s master, not Dumont.

Two years later, Dumont forced Belle to marry an older slave. They had three children: Peter, Elizabeth, and Sophia.

In 1826, Belle escaped the Dumont farm with Baby Sophia. In a vision, God showed her a particular home to go to. That home belonged to a Quaker family, the Wageners, who took in the young woman and her baby. They even paid Belle’s price to Dumont and made her a free woman. Belle became a housekeeper, then a maid.

Shortly after her escape from slavery, Belle learned that her five-year old son, Peter, had been illegally sold in Alabama. She took the matter to court and won her case. Peter was returned to New York. That was the first time a black woman challenged a white man in a U.S. court. It was also the first time of many that Belle’s resolve and courage were put on display.

Several years later Belle was falsely accused of poisoning her former employer. In 1835 she took that case to court and won again.

Someone must have encouraged Belle to tell her story of being a slave and becoming a free woman. But she had never learned to read or write, so a friend wrote as Belle dictated. A Northern Slave was published in 1850.

In her book, Belle explained that several years after she was freed, God revealed himself to her, “with all the suddenness of a flash of lightning, showing her, in the twinkling of an eye, that he was all over, that he pervaded the universe, and that there was no place where God was not.”

The book sold many copies and Belle became well-known. She was asked to speak at a women’s rights convention in Massachusetts. Before long, Belle was traveling with abolitionist, George Thompson, speaking against slavery and for human rights.

In 1851, Belle gave a speech at another women’s conference, this time in Ohio. She spoke convincingly (and extemporaneously) about women being every bit as capable as a man:

“I have plowed and reaped and husked and chopped and mowed, and can any man do more than that?”

And, no doubt with a twinkle in her eye, she added:

“As for intellect, all I can say is, if a woman have a pint, and a man a quart — why can’t she have her little pint full? You need not be afraid to give us our rights for fear we will take too much, for we can’t take more than our pint’ll hold. The poor men seems to be all in confusion, and don’t know what to do. Why children, if you have woman’s rights, give it to her and you will feel better. You will have your own rights, and they won’t be so much trouble.”

She concluded by asking: “And how came Jesus into the world? Through God who created him and the woman who bore him. Man, where was your part?”

It’s not surprising that some were displeased with Belle’s speeches. One time she was told that the building where she was to preach would be burned down if she dared to speak. “Then I will speak to the ashes,” she replied.

Belle was also physically assaulted. One brutal attack caused permanent injury, and she had to walk with a cane for the rest of her life.

In 1863, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote an article about Belle for the Atlantic Monthly:

“I do not recollect ever to have been conversant with anyone who had more of that silent and subtle power which we call personal presence…She seemed perfectly self-possessed and at her ease. An audience was what she wanted—it mattered not whether high or low, learned or ignorant. She had things to say, and was ready to say them at all times, and to anyone.”

Imagine. A slave woman who never had the opportunity to go to school, never learned to read or write. Yet the power of her spoken word helped bring the end of slavery and pave the way for women to be granted the right to vote.

Belle proved:

“There is no difficulty that cannot be defeated.

There is no victory that cannot be achieved,

if you believe in the power of God!”

— Anonymous

Of course, by the time she achieved notoriety, Belle was known by another name.

You see, Belle had asked God for a new name several decades before the Civil War. Again, it was the result of a vision. She said God chose her new first name based on the fact she would travel. Then Belle asked God for a second name, “’cause everybody has two names.” And the Lord granted her request. Her second name proclaimed what Belle always declared from her podium.

Perhaps you remember Sojourner Truth.

 

Sojourner_truth_c1870

(Photo from http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

Sources:  www.biography.com; http://www.sojournertruth.org; http://www.; http://www.blackpast.org; http://www.americanswhotellthetruth.org; http://www.christianitytoday.com.)

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