Archive for October, 2022

Have you ever said, “I am just one person; what can one person do?” Believe it or not, one person can change the course of human history. It has happened many times.

Thomas Jefferson was elected president by just one vote in the Electoral College. So was John Quincy Adams. Rutherford B. Hayes was also elected president by just one vote. When his election was contested, he again won by a single vote, cast by a lawyer from Indiana who was elected to Congress by the margin of just one vote. That one vote was cast by a client of his, who, though seriously ill, insisted on being taken to the polls to cast his vote.

In DeKalb County, Ind., in the 1840’s, a miller on his way to grind grain on Election Day ran into some friends who were on their way to vote. They persuaded him to go to the polls first and cast his ballot. He may have thought it was not all that important, but they insisted that it was. Reluctantly agreeing, he grumbled, “Much good all my trouble will do!”

Yet it happened that just one vote – his vote – was the majority by which his candidate was elected to the state legislature. And by a single vote of that DeKalb County lawmaker the Indiana legislature elected Edward Allen Hannagan to the United States Senate.

In Washington, Senator Hannagan was chosen “president pro tem” of Congress when the question of offering statehood to Texas came up for decision. Congress balloted but the vote was a deadlock. As the president pro tem, Hannagan stepped forward to cast the ballot that would break the tie. He cast his one vote in the affirmative. By that one vote Texas was annexed into the union! This action led to the Mexican War and helped shape America’s future.

One vote kept Aaron Burr from becoming president of the United States. One vote saved President Andrew Johnson from impeachment. One vote elected Oliver Cromwell to the famous Long Parliament and sent Charles I to the gallows. Can you imagine how different the history of the United States would be if Texas had never been admitted to the union?

No person, in any given situation, should ever say, “I’m only one person, so what good can I do?” On countless occasions throughout history one person has changed the course of history. It could happen again in the election before us. You could be a part of history. Be thankful that American elections are by ballots – not bullets. We count the returns – not the remains.

There are countries in the world whose citizens do not have the right to vote. They are, in reality, “people of the government, by the government and for the government.” The United States government was designed to be “a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” Whatever a voter’s race, color, creed, or gender happens to be, we are all one family. We can keep it that way on Election Day by going to the polls and voting for those we believe to be the best qualified and should be chosen to serve.

Remember this: the most dangerous vote in any election is the vote not cast. Therefore, say to yourself as you go to the polls: “I am one person – but I am one! I cannot do everything – but I can do something! What I can do, I should do. And what I should do, by the grace of God I will do. I will vote!”


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What does it mean to live here in the light of there?

Solomon states in the book of Ecclesiastes that “God has set eternity in our hearts” (3:10-11). Living in the light of eternity enables us to make choices and commit ourselves to the kind of actions that dramatically affect every part of our lives.

Such a choice was required of a woman named Vibia Perpetua who lived in the second century A.D. She had a husband and a newborn baby. They were new Christians, and were members in the struggling, persecuted church in North Africa.

Linda Holland tells Vibia’s story in her book, “Alabaster Doves”:

The day came when people moved from the center of the street in Carthage to make way for a procession of Roman legionnaires. The lead Roman soldier unrolled a scroll and read it to the people who had gathered. The message denounced those who were Christians because they would not sacrifice to the emperor. Wherever they were to be found they were to be taken, held, and brought before the consul.

Meanwhile, outside the town, Vibia Perpetua and her husband had just become new members of their church. She was 22 years old and could not have known at the time that her commitment would demand of her the ultimate test.

The Roman Emperor Septimius Severus had issued an edict prohibiting Jews and Christians alike from converting or making converts. Roman procurator Hilarianus faithfully and fanatically attended to the execution of this edict.

The followers of Jesus Christ had entered the martyr age. Men, women, and children were torn from their homes, judged to be dangerous citizens, and condemned to die. Spies lurked in neighborhoods who reported the names of those who became followers of Jesus Christ. Among those who were reported to have become Christians were Vibia Perpetua, her husband, and several of her friends.

Vivia’s father came to the prison again and again to plead with her. He did not want his daughter to die. With tears in his eyes, he kissed her hands and fell at her feet, asking her to recant her faith. For this he was taken out and beaten. Vibia watched as her husband denied his faith, placed the lighted sacrificial incense on the altar to the emperor, and ran away.

The day came when Vibia and other Christians were led before Hilarianus, Procurator of Carthage. “Are you a Christian?” Hilarianus demanded.

“I am,” Vibia answered. “I cannot forsake my faith for freedom. I will not do it. For Christ is my life, and death to me is gain.” Hilarianus signaled the executioners, who herded Vibia and her friends to the entrance of the arena to await their turn for execution.

Vibia and her friends met their deaths on a March day in A.D. 203 and stepped into the loving arms of Jesus. The blood and tears of these dedicated early Christians were not wasted, though. They moistened the ground into which new seed would fall and produce a harvest for Christ’s Kingdom. They knew what it meant to live here in the light of there.

Across the continent of Africa today Christians are being persecuted and killed. All of the children in a Nigerian Christian school were captured and taken prisoner a few years ago and faced the likelihood of death. I wondered if any of those children were descendants of individuals who had been won to Christ by Southern Baptist missionaries Carlyle and Rosa Powell.

In the 1960’s Carlyle and Rosa had completed their years of ministry as Southern Baptist missionaries in Nigeria and returned to Warsaw in Duplin County where they had been raised, and where members of their family still lived. The Powells again became members of the Warsaw Baptist Church. It was my joy and privilege to serve as their pastor during their last years on earth. Their lives on earth came to an end, and they moved from “here” to “there” – which is often called “that city, eternal, in the heavens, not made by hands.”

If you were ever faced with the decision to either deny your faith in Christ or face persecution and death, what would your answer be?

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“I was never so humiliated in my entire life!” Have we not all said that or something similar to it in the past? The fact that embarrassment is not an uncommon experience for us can be seen by recalling the multitude of phrases we use to describe it – we speak of being mortified, confused, nonplussed, humbled, crestfallen – of having to eat humble pie, of looking foolish, and feeling small.

There is a measure of comfort in being reminded that even the best and smartest people suffer from the humiliations of life – even the Apostle Paul. Compelled to defend himself against the cruel criticism of men who should have been his friends, he tells us of the things he endured as an ambassador for Christ. At Corinth on one occasion, he was savagely attacked. His credentials as an accredited apostle were challenged.

Beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, faced with starvation, thirst, and privation, burdened with the responsibility for new and struggling churches, he said, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness” (2 Corinthians 11:30). In Damascus the governor had his troops try to arrest him. He was let down through a window in a basket down the city wall and escaped. It was Paul’s first experience of being humiliated. Perhaps some of his enemies had sneered at the undignified way he arranged for his escape.

Imagine the feelings of this able ambassador of the King of Kings escaping in such a humiliating way. Paul had first come to Damascus as a well-known representative of the Pharisaic party. He was the product of the best schools, armed with authority and conscious of his gifts. Then, one week after he arrived he had to be smuggled out of town at night by being let down through a window and over the wall to save his skin.

Have you ever been humiliated in any way? You lost a promotion. You were demoted in rank. You found yourself in the middle of an emotional crisis. You had an injury that left you with a physical handicap or disfigurement. How did you handle it? You may at the present time, comparatively speaking, need to escape over a wall in a basket as Paul did. There are basically two ways we can handle life’s humiliations:

  1.  We could let them embitter us. We could remain resentful. One of the familiar names in English literature is Lord Byron. He entered life lame, and it was to him humiliating. Self-pity, moral excesses, and bitterness were the ineffective weapons he employed to deal with it. When Paul wrote his most tender letter – the Epistle to the Philippians – he said something immeasurably finer, I have learned how to be abased [or, in need]… I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” (Philippians 4:12-13). Apparently, Lord Byron had not learned this.
  2. We could use them to make us more useful. History is full of instances when people turned humiliations into useful instruments. For example, years ago in a Midwestern orphanage there was a 10-year-old girl, a hunchback, sickly, ill-tempered and hard to look at, called Mercy Goodfaith. One day a lady came to the orphanage and told the director that she wanted to adopt a child nobody else would take. Mercy Goodfaith was brought in with her twisted body, scowling face and embittered eyes. The lady adopted Mercy, took her home, and tried to help her overcome her humiliation. Did she succeed? Thirty-five years later an official investigator inspected the county orphan’s home and reported it to be a model of cleanliness and happiness. One girl played the organ and the other girls sang. On the director’s lap were two of the smallest children. Four others were on the arms of her chair. The children adored her. Her name was Mercy Goodfaith.

To learn how to be in need is to learn to walk humbly with God. Paul’s escape from his enemies in Damascus by being let down the outside wall in a basket shows us that God is able to help us overcome our humiliations so that we can continue serving Him in an effective way.

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Henry David Thoreau, approximately 150 years ago, sat in his haven at Walden Pond and watched the linemen string a wire down the railroad track. Thoreau inquired of the workmen what they were doing. They explained that they were building a telegraph system so that people in Maine and Texas could talk to each other. Thoreau then asked, “What if the people in Maine do not have anything to say to the people in Texas, and what if the people in Texas do not have anything to answer back to the people in Maine?”

It was a good question. The point Thoreau was making is that there is no reason to talk unless you have something to say. That is why I am glad Christians have something worth saying that others genuinely need to hear. It concerns the good news from heaven of what God has done and is doing through His Son, Jesus Christ. The New Testament calls it the gospel – which means “good news.” And what is the gospel?

The gist of the gospel is this: “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (I Corinthians 15:3-4). That is very good news. It is an announcement and not an argument. It is the story of what God has done and is doing for lost persons that they could never do for themselves. It is news about an event that took place in history 2,000 years ago. It happens to be the greatest story ever told.

How can news that is nearly 2,000 years old continue to be good news? The book of Revelation calls it “the everlasting gospel” (14:6), which means that it is always good news and will never become old news. The discovery of America by Christopher Columbus was news in 1492, but since that date it has been nothing more than a fact of history. The death of Abraham Lincoln was news when it happened, but it is no longer news. All news stories cease to become news after they are released. The facts of old news stories are sometimes printed many times, but not as news.

But the truth contained in John 3:16 never ceases to be news – very good news indeed! When God loved, He loved the entire world. When He gave, He gave His one and only Son. The reason He did this is that all who believe might be redeemed from sin, made a part of God’s family, and have everlasting life. That was good news 2,000 years ago. It was good news a century ago. It is good news today. It will be good news next week. It will always be good news.

Millions of people in our world have never even heard who Jesus is. Bible publication companies are working diligently to get the Bible translated into native languages and dialects so the people of the earth can be introduced to God’s good news for the very first time.  But Christians are not doing nearly enough to share the gospel with the people who have not yet heard it and who, therefore, desperately need Christ.

Many have heard the gospel proclaimed but have not yet accepted it or understood it. They have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but do not hear, hearts to understand but do not understand. No one can understand the gospel who is not aware of being a sinner. The apostle Paul said, “If the gospel be hid, it is hid to those who are lost” (II Corinthians 4:3-4).

The facts of the gospel become news with life-changing power only when the Holy Spirit opens the eyes, the ears, and hearts of people, enabling them to believe. This new awakening, this impact of good news, this glorious dawning, leads to a decision to accept Him as Savior and Lord. To believe the good news is to enter the kingdom of God and to embark upon a new way of life.

The gospel never ceases to be good news to those who believe it. It is never an old, uninteresting story to the Christian. Hearing it anew in every new experience in the power of the Holy Spirit is always a transforming experience. Studying the Bible under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, the Christian is always discovering some new aspect of the truth of the gospel.

There is a famous street in London called Charing Cross Road. It is so familiar to the people who live in London that they refer to it as “The Cross.” On a cold, dark dreary day in London several years ago, the police found an elderly man who was lost. They offered to help him find his way home. He thanked them and said, “If you will take me to the Cross, I can find my way home from there.”

The central message found in God’s Word couldn’t be said any better or more accurately than that. All any person must do to become a new creation in Christ, and become heir to eternal life, is to go to Calvary’s cross, lay his (or her) sins down, accept Christ as Savior and Lord, turn to the right, and keep straight ahead.

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