Have you ever researched famous people born on your birthday? I have. I share a birthday with Babe Ruth, Bob Marley, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Queen Anne, Isidor Strauss, J.E.B. Stuart, Tom Brokaw, and, of course, a great many others. Two of the more fascinating, by contrast, were born a year apart. The one born in 1911 was a man. The one born in 1912 was a woman. He was an American patriot and two-term president. She was the companion of a Nazi dictator. He was shot, but survived. Her end was presumably self-inflicted. He lived into his 90s. She died in her 30s. He was Ronald Reagan. She was Eva Braun.
Both were born in two-parent households of modest means. Both had Catholic backgrounds. Both were second-born children. Both were athletes in their youth. Both possessed a talent for the arts. Both were fiercely loyal.
There is much more that could be said by way of comparison and contrast, but consider this. They were born and raised into the world at almost the same time. They were both born with the freedom to choose. Both found themselves in a place of great influence. Why was their ultimate influence so different from one another? It is surely more complex than can be measured from so great a distance of time and geography. Yet, it is a question played out an infinite number of times every day.
The day you were born, you were given a set of resources: time, talent, inclinations, opportunities, and influencers. For all of us, some of those resources present challenges and some present advantages. In other words, all of us have problems to overcome and privileges to leverage. In every case, we get to decide what we do with what we are given.
One of the applications of the parable of the talents (Mat. 25:14-30) is stewardship. Each man was given resources. Each was held accountable for what he did with them. Each made choices regarding them. Each reaped what he sowed.
I do not know how my final epitaph will read. It will certainly not be American president or German dictator’s companion. For that matter, it will not be Hall of Fame baseball player, British royalty, actor, composer, or broadcast journalist.
I know how I want it to read–Faithful Christian, faithful husband, faithful father, faithful preacher, and faithful friend. Am I using my resources to work toward that goal? The only way I get to choose my legacy is by building it day-by-day, decision-by-decision. The same is true of us all. That means we must all use time wisely (Eph. 5:16) to forge it. By doing so wisely, we can be numbered among those to whom the Lord, at the end of it all, says, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Mat. 25:21).
I do not mean to suggest that God is pleased with this nation today. Scripture would indicate that He is anything but happy with our immorality, materialism, and hypocrisy from the highest levels of government on down to the citizenry (cf. Prov. 14:34). From 2008-2016, He put Barak Obama in the White House. In 2016, He put Donald Trump there. The very idea of both of these statements has managed to put a lot of people, including Christians, into a whipped up frenzy for the last decade-plus. But Scripture reminds us, “God reigns over the nations; God is seated on his holy throne” (Psalm 47:8).
In Romans 13, Paul reveals some startling, difficult truths:
- The authorities that exist are established by God (1)
- Resisting them is resisting God (2)
- Governmental authority is a minister of God to you for good (4)
- It is necessary to be in subjection to such (5)
It is disheartening to see so many good people of God sidetracked and distracted by the world of politics, especially in the fevered pitch of the activities currently ongoing. Without true insight into what’s really going on, from “deep state” to “abuse of power,” too many are up at verbal arms metaphorically going door to virtual door in search of a fight about all of this. Wherever we see ourselves on the political spectrum, as we face seeming corruption from both sides of the political aisle, we should ask ourselves a question. Why is this happening in our land today?
God reigns over the United States today. He is at work. Is all of this His means of refining or judging us? I do not purport to know with certainty.
Does God want us to spend our precious time debating politics, fighting our philosophical foes on it? Does He want us to hitch our precious influence to crusading for or against impeachment and its endless tributaries? Or does He want us redoubling our efforts to seek and save the lost, being salt and light in an unsavory, dark world?
God is going to settle the matters swirling in and around D.C. in accordance with His sovereignty. Meanwhile, we must keep our focus on the eternal souls of humanity helping to prepare them for the inevitable appointment before the King of kings and Lord of lords (Mat. 25:31-33; 1 Tim. 6;15). While we don’t know what He has in mind in these matters, we do know what He has in mind at the end of time.
The ship is breaking apart. The timbers of civility. Crack! The planks of morality. Splinter! The mast of critical thinking. Pop! As we hope to stay afloat, we cannot help but feel growing apprehension over the current state of our society. It’s not a matter of preserving or plastering over a past. It’s a matter of preserving peace in the present, but only if that means God’s people are serious about sharing the only possible remedy–Jesus! Yet, as it increasingly seems our country is ratcheted by prejudice, hatred, division, and rancor, we see the tranquility and calm from so many quarters threatened with the dark storms of violence and uncertainty.
In Acts 27, Paul was with 275 other passengers on a boat bound for Rome from Caesarea, and its captain decided to test the Mediterranean Sea at a turbulent time. A violent storm, known as Euraquilo, caught the ship and ultimately battered it to pieces. It must have been an apprehensive time for the passengers and crew. Luke says the wind was violent, the ship was driven, the sun and moon didn’t appear for days, violently storm-tossed, they incurred damage and loss, and that all hope of their being saved was gradually abandoned. I cannot imagine the helpless, vulnerable feeling they must have felt. At least not literally.
It would be easy to let our national unrest and storminess tempt us to act irrationally (like some on Paul’s ship were tempted) or to give in to fear. But, Paul did five things we should do as we try to respond to the current turbulence.
- He listened to God (Acts 27:23-24). Nobody else had a better or equal solution to their dire problem. The only way to be saved was to listen to God. Paul sought to persuade the people of this. In the ruckus and tumultuous noise, listen harder to God’s Word! It’s an anchor in stormy waters.
- He believed God’s Word (Acts 27:25). It’s one thing to comprehend something, but quite another to put your trust in it. What God promised must have seemed quite far-fetched, that this way would save everyone. But, Paul didn’t waver. He said, “I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told” (25). We are surrounded by people who need to witness our faith. As many as are persuaded will escape a shipwreck of faith (cf. 1 Tim. 1:19).
- He encouraged hope (Acts 27:21-26). Despite the foolishness of their leaders, these people were given a message of hope. Paul says, “Keep up your courage!” (22,25). Despite the frightfulness of the moment, Paul offered a possible escape. Right now, you and I are uniquely positioned to give the only true hope available. It’s like an anchor for the soul, both sure and steadfast (Heb. 6:19)!
- He warned the disobedient (Acts 27:31-32). There were those trying to break from God’s Word and will and do things another way. They were trying to take matters into their own hands. Paul spoke up against this! Such was defiance against the divine plan. What a message for us, who justify their sins rather than repent of them. We need to keep the message of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come before people (Acts 24:25).
- He prayed faithfully (Acts 27:35). In this ordeal, Paul was a public example of prayer. Read every epistle of Paul’s and you’ll see his faithfulness in and dependency upon prayer. He appealed to the God he knew was the only hope for salvation. How much are we praying about the turmoil in our country (and world)? How much do those around us believe that we are dependent upon God?
Instead of focusing on the frightful winds currently blowing, let’s focus on the One who can calm the storm. Let’s get others to join us in that focus. Whatever happens to our nation, we must save as many souls as possible!
Judging from Candice Millard’s straightforward account of the assassination of James Garfield, there were two men responsible for his death. The more obvious villain was the shooter, Charles Guiteau, an unquestionably insane loner. The less obvious accomplice, judging from her words, was the man who seized control of Garfield’s care and appointed himself the president’s chief physician. The bullet that wounded the president would not have been fatal, but the medical attention he received afterward was. In fairness, a medical discovery already made in 1881 that could have helped Garfield was considered controversial and would not be generally embraced in America for a few more decades. Yet, Dr. Joseph Lister’s use of carbolic acid to sterilize surgical instruments and clean wounds had been in existence since the 1860s. The Englishman attended the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876, attempting to convince American doctors of its effectiveness. Alexander Graham Bell, whose telephone was discovered at that same exhibition, heard the news that Bliss could not find the bullet inside the president. The incredible inventor came up with the “induction balance”—a metal detecting machine. But Bliss waited too long to call Bell, and when he did he never allowed the inventor to check his left as well as his right side for the bullet. Bliss was sure it was on the right; an autopsy found it on the left. In court, Guiteau made the argument that the president died from malpractice rather than his attempt. While almost certainly true, Guiteau was still hung. Yet, most historians name Bliss as a proud, ignorant accomplice. Portrayed as a glory seeker, Bliss relied on his prowess and rejected several people and principles that could have prevented Garfield’s death (Millard, Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine, And The Murder of a President, Anchor: New York, 2011).
To be fair, it would have taken uncommon clarity and vision for Bliss to ignore the prevailing views of his colleagues and embrace Lister’s techniques and Bell’s invention, but he could have.
There will be people we encounter today, who appear to be in great health and no danger. Yet, the vast majority of them will face a fate infinitely more terrible than the one Garfield succumbed to. They will eventually die, unprepared for the eternity that will follow (Mat. 7:13-14). The most tragic part of this will be, if you and I are in their lives, that it will not have had to be this way. At least, we have the solution from the “Great Physician” and we should know how to administer it. God needs us to make use of the resources He’s made available to us—prayer, Bible knowledge, influence, personality, courage, love, and a sense of urgency (cf. Col. 4:2-6; 1 Pet. 3:15; Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-26; John 4:35; etc.). We can look within our congregations and see those who were reached in this way. We see others who are not far from the cure, but who need us to help them. How inexcusable is it to have the remedy but refuse to share it? May God help us use the resources we have available to us!
When Greek politician Andreas Papandreou died in 1996, he left his entire hefty estate to his third wife, Dimitria Liani. His three sons and a daughter, who had married a politician who was Papandreou’s political enemy, were disinherited when she and her siblings’ refused to ostracize this enemy. It was contested in Greek court for years, but so far that will has apparently not been overturned. Certainly, money can bring out the best and worst in people. The children’s point of view is almost certainly that they, as blood relatives, have as much or more right to their father’s inheritance than a woman he married in the last decade of his life (information via Ray Moseley, Chicago Tribune, 9/29/96).
In the New Testament, sin is legitimate grounds for the Heavenly Father to disinherit us. Paul tells the Corinthians this in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. But his message is one of good news. With God, it is possible to go from disinherited to inheritors. He tells them, “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” This passage reveals several important truths.
First, there is a pertinent fact. “The unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God.” He repeats the thought in verse 10. That phrase indicates missing heaven and all the reward of it (cf. Mat. 25:34).
Second, there is a potential fraud. “Do not be deceived.” How vital that message is for our current culture! There is so much deception about the consequences of sin that it is impossible to keep up with, document, or catalog it.
Third, there are the particulars framed. Notice the sinful individuals enumerated—”fornicators…idolators…adulterers…homosexuals…sodomites…thieves..covetous…drunkards…revilers…extortioners.” Each of those lifestyles and behaviors merit greater study, but these are the ones who are disinherited by the Father. It is His estate and, as such, His call to make.
Then, there is a past forgotten. Human beings can carry vendettas and grudges to their graves, but the living God is not prone to such weakness. He does require repentance, implicit in the phrase “such were some of you.” Because they changed, God put the guilt of their sins in the rear-view mirror.
Finally, there is a purification forged. Paul concludes, “But you were washed…sanctified…justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” God does not just leave us to wallow in our sins. He provides a way of escape. If we take it, He will make those past sins as if they never existed!
In other words, we can go from disinherited to inheritors!