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Archive for the ‘Godly Character’ Category

I remember the moment; I don’t remember when it took place . . . perhaps in young adulthood, during my quiet time. A Bible verse caught my attention–John 17:21–causing my eyes to widen and fill with tears.

First, a bit of context. That chapter includes Jesus’ prayer after the Last Supper and mere hours before the crucifixion. He asked his Father to sustain him, to manifest God’s power through his death, resurrection, and ascension, and in so doing, prove that Jesus was the Son of God (vs. 1-5).[1] 

Second he prayed for his disciples—for their protection, joy, spiritual growth, and unity (vs. 6-18).

And then (wonder of wonders!) Jesus prayed for you and me, his future followers!

“I pray also for those who will believe in me,” he said (v. 20, emphasis added).

I read on with eager expectation. What did he ask God to do on our behalf? Strength to endure? Guidance for wise choices? Kind and generous hearts?

Those are worthwhile prayers, but it would seem Jesus left those for us to request.

Instead, he prayed for one over-arching blessing to characterize his believers: unity.

“I pray that they may all be one, Father!

May they be in us, just as you are in me and I am in you.”

John 17:21a GNT

Among all the things we need as his followers, why would Jesus pray for unity? We’ll get to that in a moment.

First, we need to understand he wasn’t praying for uniformity, expecting his followers to agree on every issue. The apostle Paul and his co-missionary Barnabas disagreed over their young companion Mark (Acts 15:37-39), and godly men throughout church history have taken different sides of various issues: Martin Luther with Huldrych Zwingli, John Wesley with George Whitefield, and John Stott with Martyn Lloyd-Jones—to name a few.

It’s doubtful Jesus expected his followers to grow into one big denomination. What he did desire was a spirit of love and an attitude of grace to bind us together, equipping us to overlook differences of preference and tradition. He’d have us focus on what we have in common.

At the Christian university I attended, all students were required to take the course, Philosophy and Christian Thought. One of our textbooks (a very thick one!) was titled, The Protestant Faith. And though the differences between denominations were certainly laid out, I was struck by how much doctrine and theology we share in common—much more than what divides us.

That’s what we need to concentrate on: the foundational truths like those we recite in the Apostles’ Creed, and our purpose of introducing others to Christ as well as taking delight in obeying him and growing more like him.

Even more important? A covering of love—love that admits wrong, forgives grievances, allows for differences of opinion on nonessentials, and doesn’t dishonor others but seeks the best for them.

Last but foremost: we must continually look to Jesus through prayer and worship, privately and publicly.

Perhaps you remember A. W. Tozer’s illustration. If one hundred pianos are all tuned to the same fork, they’re automatically in tune with each other. Similarly, if one hundred worshipers look to Christ, they’re going to be much more in tune with one another than if they focus on other matters, worthwhile as they might be. That would include unity itself.[2]

And now to answer that question, why would unity be so important to Jesus? His reason is revealed at the end of John 17:21.

“May they be one, so that the world will believe that you sent me.”

John 17:21b GNT

The world is plagued by ugly divisiveness, hatred, and vitriol.

Jesus desired his followers to be characterized by the beauty of unity as we strive to love like him—overlooking slights, sidestepping fights, and giving up our rights.[3]

When people witness such beauty, there will be those who desire it for themselves and come to faith in Christ.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

O Father, point out those areas where my preferences and opinions interfere with my love for your people. Help me put aside differences and focus on areas of commonality. May I play an active part in the beauty of unity within my circle of influence, drawing others to you.   


[1] Barnes Notes on the Bible, www.biblehub.com.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, 90.

[3] Patsy Clairmont, Boundless Love, 236.

Art & photo credits: http://www.commons.wikimedi.org; http://www.flickr.com (Long Thien); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (Peter Swain); http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.rawpixel.com.

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Mr. Ribeau studied young Michael’s work, checking for crooked stitches and traces of glue. But after just two years of training, the young book-binding apprentice was already quite proficient.

“You’ve done a fine job, my boy!” Mr. Ribeau praised.

A small smile curled on Michael’s face. “Thank you, sir. This is the last book for today. May I go work on my experiments, please?”

Mr. Ribeau chuckled. “Of course. Off with you!” 

Michael scurried to the back room where his master had given him space to investigate his favorite subject: electricity.

Interest had begun five years before in 1803 when Michael became an errand boy for Mr. Ribeau. Michael would read the books that came into the London shop for binding. Even though he attended school for just two years, Michael read with competence.

The volumes on science especially intrigued him, and he desired to conduct his own experiments. Kind Mr. Ribeau had made it possible. He also provided extra pennies now and then to attend scientific lectures.

Another book captured Michael’s attention: The Improvement of the Mind by the famous hymn-writer, Isaac Watts. Michael determined to follow Watts’ advice including: read worthwhile books, take thoughtful notes, and “ever maintain a virtuous and pious frame of spirit.”

No doubt Michael’s heart was primed for such a book, since he came from a Christian home. And as he grew into manhood, Michael embraced his faith in Jesus with ever-maturing dedication. 

One day Mr. Ribeau presented Michael with four passes to attend presentations by Sir Humphrey Davy, a renowned chemist. At each lecture, Michael took careful notes. Later he bound them into a beautiful book.

Sir Humphrey Davy

In 1811 at age nineteen, Michael completed his apprenticeship, but had no desire to become a bookbinder. Though just a tradesman with little schooling, he sought a position with one of the scientific institutions, including Sir Davy’s prestigious Royal Institution.

With that application, he sent his precious notebook from Davy’s lectures, hoping to convince the great chemist of his passion for the sciences. But no position was available.

In 1813 an invitation arrived for Michael to interview with Davy, and he was hired as a laboratory assistant. Michael quickly proved himself, assisting Sir Davy at his lectures. Six months later, Davy selected Michael to accompany him on a two-year lecture tour through Europe.

When they returned, Michael pursued his scientific studies with passion. He researched steel, hoping to make it stronger. He sought to improve lighthouse lamps, prevent corrosion of ships, clean up the pollution in the Thames, and preserve art works and sculptures.  

Young Michael Faraday

Michael was the first person to liquefy chlorine and discovered a new element, later named benzene, that’s used in dyes, nylon, and plastics. Further discoveries included the process that produced refrigeration and the potential use of ether as an anesthetic.

But he didn’t neglect his first love, electricity. Michael invented the transformer and the dynamo that created electricity without a battery. His discoveries also paved the way for the electric motor. In fact, Michael Faraday has been called “the scientific genius who gave electricity to the world” (1).

Such research propelled Michael into elite circles. He became director of the Royal Institution where he’d begun as an assistant to Sir Davy. Oxford University awarded him a doctorate, and he was invited to become a member—even president–of the prestigious Royal Society. He declined the position.

Michael Faraday lecturing at the Royal Institution: Prince Albert and his sons in the audience. Wood engraving, 1856, after A. Blaikley. Contributors: Alexander Blaikley. Work ID: xt5crqqq.

In spite of great success, Michael Faraday remained a humble man, uninterested in the fortune he could have amassed, manufacturing his inventions.

To Michael, the pursuit of scientific studies was a holy calling, and to understand even a fraction of nature’s workings was a gift from God (2) –much more valuable than money.

But not all his waking hours were devoted to science. Faraday was an active church member, serving as elder for more than 20 years, frequently leading in worship and even preaching.

Faraday also demonstrated faith-in-action. For example:

He proved himself a forgiving man on many occasions. One time the elders removed him from their circle—even church membership for awhile–because he accepted an invitation from Queen Victoria for Sunday lunch, which meant he couldn’t be at church. 

But Michael continued to attend services and remained cordial to all, including those who’d hurt him.

Michael demonstrated grace. He and Sir Davy differed in opinion more than several times, but the younger scientist always expressed admiration for his mentor.

Michael’s generosity was also well known. He supported charities and visited the poor. And when his mother became widowed, he also supported her.

Throughout his career Michael expressed gratitude to God that he, a poor, uneducated tradesman should be privileged to explore the beauty and synchronization of God’s physical laws of creation.  

In 1861, the aging Faraday wrote to a friend, “The contemplation of death [is] a comfort—not a fear. Such peace is alone in the gift of God. . . His unspeakable gift in His beloved Son is the ground of no doubtful hope” (3).

Michael Faraday proved himself a man of intelligence and integrity, but also of strong faith in God, and in the end, peace.

Michael Faraday. Photograph by W. Walker & Sons. Work ID: hjz8gkmw.

Isaac Watts would have been pleased, and no doubt so is God (Psalm 147:11).

Notes:

1. https://www.revshirelymurphy.co.uk/post/michael-faraday-and-his-christian-faith-which-influenced-his-science

2. https://crev.info/scientists/michael-faraday/

3. Ibid

Sources:

https://answersingenesis.org/creation-scientists/profiles/michael-faraday-gods-power-and-electric-power/

Heroes of the Faith: Michael Faraday

https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/drinking-from-a-fount-on-sundays

https://christiantoday.com.au/news/michael-faraday-his-christian-faith-influenced-his-science.html

https://creation.com/michael-faradaygods-power-and-electric-power

Michael Faraday

https://www.revshirleymurphy.co.uk/post/michael-faraday-and-his-christian-faith-which-influenced-his-science

Art & photo credits: rawpixel.com (2); http://www.lookandlearn.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.lookandlearn.com; http://www.azquotes.com; http://www.lookandlearn.com.

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If you’d asked Robert’s mother Elizabeth about her teenage son, she may have replied, “He is a strong-willed, rebellious daredevil. If God doesn’t get ahold of him, he may not make it to twenty!”

No doubt Robert’s parents wondered if they’d made the right decision, when they allowed him to drop out of school at age fourteen and work in an iron foundry. But given his learning difficulties, on-the-job training seemed appropriate, to prepare Robert for his future.

Two years later in 1904, God answered the concerned parents’ prayers for their son. Robert decided hell was not an option he wanted to risk and at age sixteen invited Jesus into his life.

Later he would write, “No bolts of lightning hit me. No great flash of awareness. I just prayed to the Lord to save me, and then I was aware of another presence. No words were spoken. I received no messages. It was just that all of my bitterness was drained away, and I was filled with such a vast relief that I could not contain it all.”[1]

Robert moved from one uninspiring tradesmen job to another until he became an auto mechanic and discovered his passion—machinery. He opened his own garage with a business partner in 1911.

In April of 1917 the U.S. entered World War I. Robert volunteered for the war effort, working in a naval shipyard north of San Francisco. In August of that year he married Evelyn Peterson.

Upon returning home to Stockton, CA in 1918, Robert discovered his partner had sunk their business into debt. Robert carried $5000 of that liability.

He wondered, was God trying to transition him out of business? Should he become a missionary so he could work for God more directly? Robert sought guidance from his pastor and after praying together the clergyman remarked, “You know God needs businessmen too.”

Not long after, a rancher asked Robert to level a large parcel of land. The job paid well and Robert signed on. He satisfactorily completed the task in good time and actually enjoyed the work.

Through the 1920s earth-moving contracts kept coming Robert’s way. He bought land and built an engineering shop where he put his ingenuity and giftedness for engineering to work, designing machines that completed the task more efficiently. Most other companies still used mules with plows and dozens of men with shovels.

(Two of LeTourneau’s early machines)

But even as a top-notch, road-construction contractor, financial struggles still plagued Robert. Now and then he’d sell one of his earth-moving inventions to help make ends meet for his growing family. (He and Evelyn had five children, though tragically their first died during the Spanish influenza epidemic.)

In the early 1930s, Robert’s attorney suggested, “Why don’t you focus on manufacturing your machines? That might prove more profitable.”

Robert decided to try, even though the nation was suffering through the Great Depression. During his first year in 1932, he earned a profit of more than $52,000 and by 1935, well over two million.[2]

(Robert nearly always included reference to his life verse with each signature.)

It was then that he and Evelyn decided to live on 10% of Robert’s income and give 90% to Christian mission work, colleges, and institutions. Meanwhile Evelyn started Sunday Schools and youth camps. God blessed each of their endeavors.

Robert not only invented the earth mover, but also the bulldozer, the electric wheel, the tree crusher, the log picker, the Tournawheel (a two-wheel tractor), and more. Eventually he’d own 300 patents and construction plants on four continents. He’d also design the first off-shore oil rig.

(from the he R.G. LeTourneau Museum and Archives, The Margaret Estes Library, LeTourneau University)

During World War II Robert’s company supplied 70% of the U.S. Army’s earth-moving equipment, making it possible for the Allies to quickly build roads, airports, and military bases.

After the war, Robert’s machinery helped construct the 48,000 miles of U.S. interstate highways.

(R.G. LeTourneau:  The Man, Machines, and Mission Collection
Evelyn LeTourneau Collection)

In 1946 he and Evelyn founded the LeTourneau Polytechnic Institute, a Christ-centered school especially for veterans who desired training in engineering. It has since become LeTourneau University.

Business and philanthropy weren’t Robert’s only pursuits. Though he’d always feared public speaking, Robert felt compelled to accept an invitation to share his story at a banquet in 1935. Soon he was speaking all over America and even overseas.  Robert would encourage others to honor God with their wallets and see what God would do.

“You will never know what you can accomplish

until you say a great big yes to the Lord.”

Robert Gilmour LeTourneau (1888-1969)

How has God blessed you as you’ve honored him with your wallet? Please share your story in the comment section below!


 Notes:

[1] https://www.wayoflife.org/reports/christian_inventor_rg_letourneau.html

[2] Ibid

Other sources:

 http://www.giantsforgod.com/rg-letourneau/

https://www.letu.edu/75/exhibit/panel-faith.html, and subsequent panels

https://www.oemoffhighway.com/trends/article/21366254/historical-construction-equipment-association-hcea-the-great-innovator-r-g-letourneau

https://www.peoriamagazines.com/ibi/2011/jan/rg-letourneau

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.canva.com; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; Margaret Estes Library, LeTourneau University (2); http://www.dailyverses.net.

Special thanks to Shelby Ware at the Margaret Estes Library, LeTourneau University, for arranging permission to use the two images of R. G. LeTourneau in this post.

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“This is the property,” his agent told him, as they flew over a great swath of swampy real estate—about 43 square miles worth.  “What do you think?”

The passenger, W.E., smiled with satisfaction. He hardly noticed the scrub pines, cypress groves, and marshy ponds dotting the landscape. In his mind’s eye he saw beauty and grandeur. “I like it!” he cried.

Ground view of the kind of landscape W.E. saw that day

Within days, W.E. and his associates were arranging to purchase the land from the various owners. The final price tag: five million dollars (the equivalent of about 43 million today).

That was in 1963. In 2011, the property was estimated to be worth over 1.3 billion dollars, because of W. E.’s vision and his ability to accomplish what he started.

Development of the property began in 1965. It took thousands of workers and six years to complete the initial phase of W. E.’s plan.

First, the acreage had to be cleared, then lakes dredged as well as canals built in order to control the flow of water. Before the first foundation could be poured, the land had to be elevated. Millions of trees, shrubs, and plants were also installed.

Some might say what followed was pure magic, as the massive project resulted in Disney World. And ever since its opening in 1971, the visionary genius of Walter Elias Disney has dazzled the senses of visitors.

Someone else sees value in places where most of us don’t. The King of the universe recognizes worth in you and me, scrubby and nondescript as we might be. In fact, he smiles with satisfaction on his people of faith, because what he envisions is the beauty and grandeur of what we’re becoming.[1]

The Apostle Paul explained it this way:

And what does God’s good work include? Here’s a partial list:

  • He guides us to know what’s right and then empowers us to do it
  • He creates the desire within us to follow his way of wisdom
  • He draws us toward a heavenly perspective that impacts our choices and motives
  • He grows our love for one another
  • He develops godly traits that minister to others and provide us satisfaction as well
  • He transforms us, day by day, into the beauty and grandeur of Christ’s character[2]

“The life of a Christian is a series of miracles” wrote Charles Spurgeon—miracles that include wisdom, love, godliness, power, and more. Such transformation is much more spectacular than turning swampland into a stunning park. And God will never stop developing his miracles within us until we’re home with him.

Our challenge is to submit to his work.  

God wants to dredge self-centeredness from our spirits so rivers of living water can flow freely. Then we’ll enjoy the continual, life-giving spring of contentment he provides.[3]

God wants to place us on the foundation-rock of his Word, providing peace and security—especially when the storms of life threaten to overtake us.[4]   

God also wants to establish us like trees planted by water. Then we won’t fear the heat of difficulty or a drought of deprivation, because our roots grow deep into the river of God’s delights—delights like His love, his truth as found in the Bible, his strength and presence.[5]

Walt Disney and his team did accomplish incredible feats of innovation, design, and technology. But God shaping us into beautiful, joyful, purposeful people?  That’s mind-boggling miraculous.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thank you, loving Father, for continuing to grow me in your grace until your task within me is finally finished. Thank you for never giving up, for completing what you start. May I be an enthusiastic participant in your good work!

Sources:

https://dozr.com/blog/building-disney-world

https://d23.com/we-say-its-disney/

https://www.forbes.com/sites/megandubois/2021/09/23/looking-back-at-50-years-of-walt-disney-world-history-and-business-strategy/?sh=a0fc33fff209

https://www.themeparktourist.com/features/20140323/17091/making-walt-disney-world-20-amazing-photographs

Notes:


[1] Psalm 147:11

[2] Psalm 119:33-37; Philippians 2:13; Colossians 3:2; Philippians 1:9; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 3:18

[3] John 7:37-39 and footnote to v. 38, The Woman’s Study Bible

[4] Matthew 7:24-27; Psalm 119:24

[5] Jeremiah 17:7-8; Psalm 36:8; Ephesians 3:16-19

Photo credits: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.pxhere.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.rawpixel.com; http://www.flickr.com.

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A nail is driven out by another nail;

habit is overcome by habit.

So said Desiderius Erasmus, Dutch philosopher and theologian of the 1500s.

Desiderius Erasmus

Research in recent times has proven his statement true.  One of the best ways to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one.

That’s why President Reagan replaced his cigarettes with jelly beans, dieters replace chips with popcorn, and late-night TV addicts forego talk shows to read calming books.

Some of the most stubborn bad habits are those that occur in the mind. It’s no easy task to shut down anxious, negative, or covetous thoughts—even when we know they contribute nothing to our well-being.

But if we apply Desiderius’ advice, we can retrain our brains toward healthy, even delightful thinking. For example, we can:

Replace anxiety with trust.

Worry spirals us downward into fear; trust-statements provide the way out–trust-statements such as these:

  • I can trust the One who died for me. He will thwart every plan that should be stopped and complete each one that results in his greatest glory and my highest good.[1]
  • God is with me and for me. His strength enables me, and his light guides my way.
  • Time and again I’ve witnessed God’s provision and protection, his miracles and blessings. “All that I have seen has taught me to trust him for all that I have not seen.”[2]

As other trust statements come to our attention, we can record them in our journals or in Notes on our phones. Then we’ll be prepared when the slide into worry begins.

Replace negativity with positivity and praise.

Continual praise is what changes the emotions,

lifts the darkness, offers hope, frees the mood

and blesses God so that evil is driven out.

Praise changes everything.

–Arnold Prater[3]

Throughout the day take a praise-pause now and then. Praise God for his power to keep this world on its axis, tilted just right to support life. Praise him for the proofs of his creativity in nature, for his goodness and loving mercy that prompted him to make a way to heaven for us.

Of course, the demands of the day often distract us from such thoughts. But if we post reminders here and there—around the house, on the visor of the car, at our places of work—we can jump-start this habit.

Replace covetousness with gratitude.

Gratitude doesn’t change the scenery;

it merely washes clean the glass you look through

so you can clearly see the colors.

–Richelle E. Goodrich

Too often our attention gravitates toward wants instead of haves, fostering discontentment and envy–emotions we’d do well to eliminate.

One helpful strategy is keeping a gratitude journal. Even brief entries can be effective. I only record one or two things each day, but discovered there’s benefit in the process of reviewing the day to glean the highlights. An added delight: rereading old entries and feeling grateful all over again.

Of course, developing good habits is not as easy as driving out a nail. What about those days when we fail? That’s the time to remember: even in failure there is progress.

Failure points to the inadequacy of striving on our own, and turns us toward greater dependence on God.

We learn, on the one hand,

that we cannot trust ourselves

even in our best moments,

and, on the other,

that we need not despair even in our worst,

for our failures are forgiven.

–C. S. Lewis[4]

We can begin our habits of trust-statements, praise, and gratitude right there!


[1] Based on a quote from J.H.M., Streams in the Desert (Zondervan, 1997) 295.

[2] Ralph Waldo Emerson

[3] Bonding with God (Marno Books, 2000) 78.

[4] Mere Christianity (MacMillan, 1952) 78.

Photo credits: http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.heartlight.org (2); Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org; http://www.heartlight.org.

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Eliza strained forward as her legs churned beneath her, the underbrush tearing at her long skirts. The small boy in her aching arms whimpered, sensing a danger he couldn’t see.

“Hush, chile,” she gasped in a whisper. “Mama’s gone keep you safe.”

Eliza dared a quick glance behind her. She could see nothing of the slave catchers who’d found her hiding place, a house near the Kentucky side of the Ohio River.  She’d slipped out the back door and into the woods as they approached the front. But they would surely guess her run for freedom, and their long legs, unencumbered by skirts, would quickly bring them close.

Runaways like Eliza Harris

Eliza dared not slow her pace toward the northern side of the river, where she and her baby had a chance to be together. Though her master had been kind, he was planning to sell her son. Eliza could not let that happen; her two older children had already died.

Finally, Eliza could see glimmering flecks through the trees as morning light danced on the water. But this was not what she’d planned. Eliza had expected to walk across the mile-wide river on ice, given the winter season. Instead she found the ice broken up into mammoth chunks, drifting slowly on the current.

With a prayer on her lips, Eliza made the choice to cross anyway, jumping from ice cake to ice cake. Sometimes the cake on which she stood sunk beneath the surface of the water. Then Eliza would slide her baby onto the next cake and pull herself on with her hands. Soon her skirts were soaked and her hands numb with cold. But Eliza felt God upholding her; she was confident he’d keep them safe.

On the northern bank stood William Lacey, one of those who watched the river for escaping slaves in order to help them. Time and again he thought the river would take the woman and child, but she miraculously reached the bank, heaving for breath and weak from cold and exhaustion.

When she’d rested for a few moments, the man helped her to a house on the edge of town. There she received food and dry clothing before being taken to another home and then another, along the Underground Railroad. Finally she reached the home of Quakers, Levi and Catherine Coffin, in Newport, Indiana.[1]

Note the mention of Levi Coffin

By the time Eliza arrived on their doorstep in 1838, the Coffins had been helping escaped slaves for more than a decade. In fact, the following year they would build a house specifically designed for their work as station masters on the Underground Railroad.

A Federalist-style house, similar to the Coffins’ home

In the basement they constructed a spring-fed well, to conceal the enormous amount of water needed for their many guests. On the second floor, they built a secret room between bedroom walls, just four feet wide. Up to fourteen people could hide in the long, narrow room.

Eliza Harris was only one of more than a thousand slaves (some say 3,000) that stayed in the Coffin home on their way to Canada. Had the Coffins (or others) been caught helping runaway slaves, they would have owed a $1000 fine (which few could afford) and would have spent six months in jail (which meant no income for the family during that time). Slave hunters were known to issue death threats as well.

But the Coffins held strong convictions concerning slavery. In the 1870s Levi wrote in his memoirs, “I . . .  risked everything in the work—life, property, and reputation—and did not feel bound to respect human laws that came in direct contact with the law of God.”[2]

For the introduction of Coffin’s book, William Brisbane[3] wrote the following about Levi and two other abolitionists:

“In Christian love they bowed themselves before their Heavenly Father and prayed together for the oppressed race; with a faith that knew no wavering they worked in fraternal union for the enfranchisement of their despised colored brethren, and shared together the odium attached to the name of abolitionist, and finally they rejoiced together and gave thanks to God for the glorious results of those years of persevering effort.”[4]

Should we face such hatred and endangerment in our day, may we stand in the midst of it like Levi and Catherine Coffin—steadfast and unmovable in the power of God.

Addendum:

In 1854 the Coffins visited Canada and happened to encounter a number of former slaves they’d helped. Eliza Harris was one of them–settled in her own home, comfortable and contented.

Her story may sound familiar because Harriet Beecher Stowe, a friend of the Coffins, included the slave’s harrowing escape in her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin.


[1] Now called Fountain City

[2] https://www.indianamuseum.org/historic-sites/levi-catharine-coffin-house/

[3] a doctor, minister, author, and South Carolina slaveholder who turned abolitionist and moved north where he freed his slaves

[4]https://docsouth.unc.edu/nc/coffin/coffin.html

Other sources:

http://www.womenhistoryblog.com

http://www.rialto.k12.ca.us/rhs/planetwhited/AP%20PDF%20Docs/Unit%206/COFFIN1.PDF

https://mrlinfo.org/famous-visitors/Eliza-Harris.htm

Art & photo credits: http://www.nypl.getarchive.net; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimedia.org; http://www.flickr.com (2); http://www.slr-a.org.uk; http://www.wikimedia.org.

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Prince Kaboo’s head hung over his chest. Every part of his body ached from being tied to a wooden cross and then beaten. His back stung like fire from whippings with poisonous vines that also caused chills and fever. 

All Kaboo could think about was death, and he welcomed it. Then the continual torture and starvation would stop, inflicted by the powerful Grebo tribe, who’d taken him captive in central Liberia. They used Kaboo to extort “peace payments” from his father, chieftain of the neighboring Kru tribe. He was only fourteen years old; the year, 1887.

(Liberia is located west of the Ivory Coast in southwestern West Africa.)

Suddenly, a bright light appeared over Kaboo. The ropes that held him to the cross fell off, and a voice called, “Kaboo! Run!” He felt miraculous strength return to his emaciated body.

Kaboo did as the voice commanded, dashing for the jungle and hiding inside a hollow tree until nightfall. Questions swarmed in his head. Where had the light come from? Who spoke to him? How did he become instantaneously strong? Kaboo had no answers.

The young prince did know he could not return home. The Grebos would just come for him again. So Kaboo determined to go in the opposite direction. At nightfall when he emerged from the tree, Kaboo was startled to see the light still shining above him. It guided him through the jungle.

Kaboo walked many days and finally came to a farm where he met one of the workers who happened to come from his tribe. That young man introduced Kaboo to the boss, who gave him a job.

The fellow tribesman took Kaboo to church on Sunday.

(Perhaps the church resembled this one.)

There he heard the story of a man named Saul who saw a great light and heard a voice.

“That’s what happened to me!” Kaboo exclaimed. He realized the same Jesus who spoke to Saul had spoken to him, and he invited Jesus into his life.  Soon after, an American missionary, Miss Knolls, gave Kaboo a new name: Samuel Morris, after her benefactor.

Months later Kaboo met a boy who’d been a slave in the Grebo tribe when Sammy (as he came be known) was held hostage. The boy told Sammy, “We didn’t know what happened to you. A bright light flashed over you, someone called your name, and then you were gone!”

Sammy explained the miracle of his escape and the boy became a Christian too.

A dream began to form in Sammy’s heart, to head for America where there’d be knowledgeable teachers and many books about God. He was hungry to learn. So Sammy set out on foot for the coast where he found a ship headed to America.

(Such a scene may have greeted Sammy as he arrived at the port in Monrovia.)

He offered to work in exchange for passage but the captain declined.

“Oh Lord,” Sammy prayed. “Change his heart!”

And God answered. One of the sailors became sick and Sammy was assigned his tasks. Others on board mistreated him, but Sammy’s kindheartedness won them over, and by voyage’s end many chose to believe in Jesus, including the captain.

Upon arrival in New York City, Sammy set out to find Stephen Merritt. According to his missionary friends back in Liberia, this superintendent of a homeless mission would gladly help him.

(New York City, 1880-1890)

Sammy stayed several months with Stephen, learning to know God better and assisting with the mission work. His passion for Jesus was contagious and many of the men who came through the mission also accepted Christ into their lives.

Stephen urged Sammy to go to Taylor University in Indiana to continue his education. The superintendent contacted the school’s president, Thaddeus Reade, on Sammy’s behalf.

This was the same university where the missionary, Miss Knolls, had attended. By December of 1891, Sammy had enrolled at Taylor and planned to become a missionary himself to the people of Liberia.

(Samuel Morris)

On May 12, 1893, the unthinkable occurred. Sammy died from a respiratory infection.

Some would say, “Why would God allow such a tragedy?”

But here’s what happened.

A few days after Sammy’s funeral, one Taylor student declared in a prayer meeting, “I feel impressed this moment that I must go to Africa in Sammy’s place, and I pray that as his work has fallen upon me, the mantle of his faith may also fall upon me.”[1] 

Two more of that group affirmed they felt God wanted them to go to Africa also. Instead of one missionary—Samuel Morris—there would be three. And many more have followed.

In addition, five books and a film chronicle his life. In Sinoe County, Liberia, stands the Samuel Morris Educational Resource and Conference Center—a joint project of Taylor University, the Sinoe County Association of the Americas (SCAA), and local agencies in Liberia. At Taylor, scholarships and a dorm bear his name, and the school still prepares missionaries to serve around the world.

“Samuel Morris was a divinely sent messenger of God to Taylor University. He thought he was coming over here to prepare himself for his mission to his people, but his coming was to prepare Taylor University for her mission to the whole world. All who met him were impressed with his sublime, yet simple faith in God.”[2]

Thaddeus Reade

 

[1] https://pillars.taylor.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=samuel-morris

[2] https://www.taylor.edu/about/samuel-morris

Sources:

https://www.taylor.edu/about/samuel-morris

https://www.taylor.edu/news/taylor-group-traveling-to-liberia-for-dedication-cornerstone-laying-of-samuel-morris-center

https://wellsofgrace.com/biography/english/morris.htm

Photo sources: http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.picryl.com; http://www.wikimedia.org.

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(What follows is an imaginary conversation between God and me as I contemplated the verses above.)

ME:

O God, at face value this proclamation excludes me from your presence. How unthinkable! I can’t imagine life without you actively involved, providing strength, wisdom, encouragement, and more.

But I haven’t led a blameless life, I haven’t always done what is right, nor kept my mouth from lies or insincerity. Any effort on my part to warrant access to your presence would fall horribly short of your standard.

However.  You understand what I’m made of; you know I’m just dust! You’ve provided the Way for me to enter your presence—even enjoy relationship with you—through your perfect and blameless Son.[1]

Jesus’ sacrifice in my place provided a figurative, pure white robe for me to wear, constructed from his uprightness, which is more than sufficient to cover all the stains of my sins.

It’s not my failures and wrongdoing that you see, but that radiant, spotless robe. “Thank you” seem such paltry words for such a precious gift![2]

And yet, even though I’ve been forgiven of all wrongs and no longer stand condemned, I dearly desire to be pure before you, including my thoughts, motives, and desires. 

I want to please you in appreciation for all you’ve done for me. In addition, a pure life of wisdom and goodness will allow me to experience the fullness of your blessings like peace and joy, untainted by any sin, guilt, or shame.[3]

How do I become pure, Father?

GOD:

(Put your name in the blanks.)

It pleases me greatly, __________, that this is your heart’s desire. Remember, just as my Spirit led you to Jesus, he is at work within you creating good.[4]

This is a joint effort, however. You strive toward purity while I strengthen you for the task and augment the outcome. With each step you take, the next one becomes easier as you grow in self-discipline.[5]

Let’s begin with your thought life. I inspired Paul to include eight adjectives that describe the kinds of thoughts that will cleanse the mind of negativity, discouragement, and temptation:

And the purest, most noble truth you can dwell on is my Word.

Within the covers of your Bible you find the guidance you need and the wherewithal to heed it, the encouragement to press on and the strength to do it, the comfort for every wound and the faith to embrace it.

And then pray, dear __________.  Seek the quality of purity as King David did when he asked, “Create in me a clean heart within me, O God” (Psalm 51:10).

Thus empowered by noble thoughts, scripture-truth, and heartfelt prayers, you’ll learn to love the sound of your feet walking away from things not meant for you[6] and reveling in the pure things that are.

Then–such wonderful blessings I’ve reserved for you! Remember what Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount?

To see me is to enjoy intimate fellowship with me. You’ll sense my presence with you. Together we’ll enjoy my glory reflected in creation, in the events of your life, and in the lives of others.

I’ll open your eyes to see rare splendors of my glory.  From morning till night, __________, you’ll be praising my name and I will smile with delight.[7]

ME:

O Father, grow me in purity so I may present it as a love-gift back to you, and as a means of experiencing the blissful life with you that you so graciously offer.

In the powerful name of your Son Jesus I pray, AMEN.


[1] Psalm 103:14; 1 John 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21

[2] Isaiah 61:10;

[3] Romans 8:1; Romans 12:1-2; John 14:21; Proverbs 2:1-11; James 3:17

[4] Philippians 1:6, 2:13;

[5] 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Corinthians 9:10; Galatians 5:22-23

[6] Based on quote, author unknown

[7] Isaiah 6:3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Psalm 113:3; Psalm 147:11

Photo credits: http://www.canva.com; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.dailyverses.net.

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(From Morning by Morning, March 4.)

S. Truett Cathy (1921-2014) was just such a person, who grew up in poverty during the Great Depression to become a steadfast and unmovable masterwork of God.

At age eight he started his own business, inspired by a woman in his Atlanta, Georgia neighborhood. She sold cupcakes from her front yard.

M-m-m.  What could I sell to earn some money? Truett wondered. 

The answer: soft drinks. He purchased six bottles for a quarter and sold them for a nickel apiece. Just twenty six-packs, he figured, and I’ll have a whole dollar.

Truett quickly realized he could expand sales by enticing the door-to-door salesmen with cold drinks. He began to serve ice with the soda.

Soon the young entrepreneur had saved four dollars—enough to buy an old bicycle. Now he could make quicker profits by delivering newspapers.  But competition for customers was stiff with three well-established papers in Atlanta.

Truett had learned the value of customer satisfaction, however, so he made sure his papers landed on porches. On rainy days he put them inside the screen doors, and his customer list grew.

Truett delivered papers until high school graduation, after which he was drafted into the Army. Upon honorable discharge in 1945, Truett returned home to pursue his lifelong dream:  owning a business.

He decided to open a restaurant, knowing a bit about cooking for a crowd.  For years he’d helped his mother as she daily prepared meals not only for their family of nine but also for six boarders.

Truett and his younger brother Ben pooled their resources, took out a loan and bought a piece of land near a Ford assembly plant and Delta Airlines at the airport which provided a large customer base.

The tiny restaurant, aptly named the Dwarf Grill, included just ten counter stools and four tables.  The brothers served quick-to-fix burgers and steaks.

(The Dwarf Grill is still in operation, but in a new building with a revised name.)

They worked hard and the business thrived. But in 1949 tragedy struck. Ben, another brother, and two friends were killed.

Later Truett would remark, “I lost two brothers in an airplane crash, both of them leaving a wife and kids.  When I get to heaven, that’s probably the first question I’d like to ask: Why was it necessary?”[1]

The heartbreak did not erode Truett’s strong faith in God, which had been inspired by his devout mother and nurtured by Sunday School teacher and life-long mentor, Theo Abbey.

Then more trouble ensued.  In 1959 Truett was diagnosed with colon cancer. In an interview he explained that just prior to the successful surgery he experienced a new peace, knowing that whether he lived or died, he would be with God.[2] God granted another fifty-six years.

In 1960 the second restaurant burned to the ground, and then the original Dwarf Grill caught fire in 1965. But instead of becoming discouraged, Truett leaned on his God, growing stronger in faith and more determined than ever.

With only one restaurant to oversee, he focused his time on developing the menu. Truett remembered his mother’s impressive fried chicken, how she seasoned it the night before and put it in the ice box to marinate. 

He experimented with recipes, tried his efforts on regular customers and soon created a new menu item: the Chick-fil-A sandwich—a play on the word fillet, but also indicating the meat was grade A.

Customers loved the new sandwich, and in 1967, Truett opened the first Chick-fil-A restaurant. One successful opening followed another until, in the year 2000, the restaurant chain grossed one billion dollars in sales. By 2018, it surpassed $10 billion in sales.

(Enlarge this image to read about Truett Cathy’s winning habits
–based on Biblical principles.)

Today, the company generates more revenue per restaurant than any other fast-food chain, even though all locations are closed on Sundays. (Since his first day in the restaurant business, Truett set aside that day for his employees and himself “to rest and worship if they choose.”[3])

Truett’s commitment to put God first is expressed in the company’s statement of purpose: “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-A.”[4]

Truett also delighted to glorify God by spending his fortune to encourage others.

How do you identify someone who needs encouragement?

That person is breathing.

–Truett Cathy

Since 1973, Chick-fil-A has given more than $35 million in college scholarships to its employees. Truett also founded the WinShape Foundation, providing approximately $18 million dollars for the development of foster homes and summer camps.

His legacy of planting Christian ideals in the lives of others continues, even though Masterwork Samuel Truett Cathy now resides in heaven. (He is survived by his wife of sixty-six years, three children, eighteen grandchildren, and nineteen great-grandchildren.)


[1] https://www.quotetab.com/quote/by-s-truett-cathy/i-lost-two-brothers-in-an-airplane-crash-both-of-them-leaving-a-wife-and-kids-w

[2] https://www.11alive.com/article/news/thank-you-god-that-im-alive-in-book-chick-fil-a-founder-s-truett-cathy-shared-faith-affirming-brush-with-mortality/85-48c52862-7a53-4167-9e7a-1a37bd8d6185

[3] https://thechickenwire.chick-fil-a.com/inside-chick-fil-a/secret-menus-and-closed-on-sundays-chick-fil-a-fact-or-fiction

[4] https://billygraham.org/story/a-conversation-with-truett-cathy

Other Sources:

http://www.academicstar.us/UploadFile/Picture/2015-7/20157331854318.pdf

https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/311452

http://www.giantsforgod.com/s-truett-cathy/

https://www.thextraordinary.org/s-truett-cathy

Photo credits: http://www.pixhive.com; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.samiskelton.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pxfuel.com.

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Sanders’ statement above begs the question:  where might seeing eyes focus?  No doubt there are a number of areas, but for today, let’s look at—or rather, see (!)–just two:

Seeing Eyes Focus on the Evidence of God

First, all areas of science from astronomy to zoology are grounded upon such laws of nature as gravity, the 24-hour cycle of light and dark, and the evaporation / condensation cycle of water.  Such regularities beg the question, why is everything in the universe so structured?

“There is no logical necessity for a universe that obeys rules,”[1] and yet it clearly does. Someone had to give order to what would otherwise be chaos.

Second, the more cytologists study the structure of cells, the more complexities they discover. Even so, five years ago they did create a cell with 473 genes.  However, they have a long way to go to match God’s engineering skills.  The single-cell organism, E. coli bacteria, contains 4,000 genes; a human cell, 30,000.[2] 

Third, all around us are examples of God’s artistry, but, “for lack of attention, a thousand forms of loveliness elude us every day.”[3]  Such loveliness—right outside our door–includes:

  • A sunrise back-lighting the tree-tops
  • Ethereal mist swathing the woods’ undergrowth
  • Dewdrop jewels sparkling in the grass
  • Scampering squirrels making thin tree limbs dance
  • Hydrangeas transforming their finery from shell pink to deep salmon

And seeing eyes turn heavenward in worship.

Seeing Eyes See People

Perhaps a true story will illustrate best:

There I stood over my son’s open suitcase, staring at the tag on his new school uniform pants. They were the wrong size. J. needed those pants the very next morning when all the sixth graders of his school would head to Washington D. C. for a three-day field trip. 

We’d ordered those pants the previous week when the uniform store didn’t have his size in stock.  They’d arrived on Saturday, but I never checked the tag till that moment. A glance at my watch confirmed:  if we left immediately, we might arrive at Harris Prep Shop (a half hour away) before it closed.

But a long night lay ahead with another hour added to the agenda. And what if they still didn’t have J.’s size?  Several scenarios played in my mind while I called the store.

Mrs. Harris apologized for the mix-up, then informed me a shipment had arrived that morning, including pants. I told her we’d get there ASAP, but it would take thirty minutes.

“Wait a minute,” she replied.  Her voice became muffled while she spoke to someone else, then came back to me. 

“Mrs. Ruegg?  There’s another mom here from your school, and she says she’ll pick up the pants for you. You can return the others another time.”

“Oh—that would be fantastic!” I cried.  “What’s her address?  I’ll meet her there.”

More muffled conversation ensued, then Mrs. Harris relayed, “She says, give her your address and she’ll drop them off.”

An hour of precious time was suddenly regained by this thoughtful mother.  Granted, she didn’t see my eyes widen upon discovering the size-tag, or my brows furrow as I fretted over several less-than-satisfactory solutions to our dilemma.

This woman was able to see me across the miles with the eyes of empathy and responded with gracious kindness.

Now that kind of sight is rare indeed.


[1] https://www.everystudent.com/features/is-there-a-god.html

[2] https://kenboa.org/apologetics/scientific-evidence-of-gods-existence/; https://www.nist.gov/news-events/news/2021/03/scientists-create-simple-synthetic-cell-grows-and-divides-normally

[3] Evelyn Underhill

Art & photo credits: http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pixaby.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; http://www.facebook.com; http://www.piqsels.com.

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