VIDEO Josiah Henson: The Real Uncle Tom, Part I

slave manacles
Did a runaway slave inspire the bestselling novel of the 19th century? And did the unprecedented success of that novel ignite flames of public opinion that led to the Civil War? Find out as we continue our story of the extraordinary life of
“Josiah Henson: The Real Uncle Tom.”

Sledding And Praying

Now it came to pass in those days that [Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. —Luke 6:12

When the snow flies in Michigan, I like to get my grandkids, grab our plastic sleds, and go slipping and sliding down our backyard. We zoom down the hill for about 10 seconds, and then climb back up for more.

When I travel to Alaska with a bunch of teenagers, we also go sledding. We are hauled by bus nearly to the top of a mountain. We jump on our sleds and, for the next 10 to 20 minutes (depending on levels of bravery), we slide at breakneck speeds down the mountain, holding on for dear life.

Ten seconds in my backyard or 10 minutes down an Alaskan mountain. They’re both called sledding, but there is clearly a difference.

I’ve been thinking about this in regard to prayer. Sometimes we do the “10 seconds in the backyard” kind of praying—a quick, spur-of-the-moment prayer or a short thanks before eating. At other times, we’re drawn to “down the mountain” praying—extended, intense times that require concentration and passion in our relationship with Him. Both have their place and are vital to our lives.

Jesus prayed often, and sometimes for a long time (Luke 6:12; Mark 14:32-42). Either way, let us bring the desires of our heart to the God of the backyards and the mountains of our lives. By Dave Branon

Prayer was the essence of Jesus’ relationship with the Father. He often withdrew to a solitary place to pray (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 9:18). Sometimes He spent long hours communicating with His Father (Luke 6:12; John 17) and other times He prayed short, quick prayers (Matt. 14:19; Luke 23:34,46; John 12:27).

Lord, please challenge us to pray constantly—both in
short sessions and long. As we face the valleys, hills,
and mountains of our lives, may we lift our hearts
and minds to You in constant communication.

The heart of prayer is prayer from the heart.

Behaviors That Bind Us

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

It would seem that in a world of such plenty, there should be great contentment. Yet even in the most prosperous countries, the opposite is true in most cases. Why are so many people unhappy, anxious, unsettled, and discontent?

First, it’s because most of the world does not know Jesus Christ personally. Second, many people, even in privileged circumstances, are living on “leftovers”— emotions and attitudes left over from the way they were raised.

For instance, those who as children felt they could never measure up to expectations are likely to experience feelings of inadequacy, rejection, and guilt as adults; they may also deal with resentment and hostility. And grownups who walk away from responsibilities or commitments when they don’t get their way are frequently the ones whose parents caved in to their every desire. This is why it’s so detrimental to respond to children’s temper tantrums by giving in to their demands.

The adult pitfall of low self-esteem often is created by a lack of childhood acceptance and affirmation. It’s important for children to learn that they are of tremendous value to Christ—their sense of security should come, not from possessions, but from a personal relationship with Him. Otherwise, they may grow into materialistic adults.

The behaviors that bind us start early. By the same token, positive mindsets can also be ingrained at a young age. Let’s take this as a strong reminder to regard children as the gifts they truly are.

You All

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.” (Philippians 1:3-4)

One would suspect from his frequent use of the phrase “you all” that the apostle Paul had come from Alabama or Georgia! But, in his writings, “you all” is not a southern idiom but a warm expression of Christian fellowship. His heart was burdened, not just for a few close friends and loved ones (as in most of our own prayers) but for “all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

He assured the Philippian church that he was, in every one of his prayers, praying for “you all.” He told them of his confidence in their continued growth in Christ, that it was altogether fitting for him to believe this of “you all,” thankful that “in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace” (Philippians 1:7).

He wrote in a similar vein to the Thessalonians at the start of his (chronologically) first epistle: “We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers” (1 Thessalonians 1:2). Paul had a long prayer list.

To the Roman Christians he wrote: “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world” (Romans 1:8). Then he wrote his benediction: “Now the God of peace be with you all” (Romans 15:33). He concluded his message to the Christians at Corinth: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all” (2 Corinthians 13:14).

Peter and John used the same expression in their writings, for they also were large of heart and concern. Finally, these are the very last words of the Bible: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Revelation 22:21). HMM

Accountability to God

And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment. —Hebrews 9:27

It was the belief in the accountability of man to his maker that made America a great nation. Among those earlier leaders was Daniel Webster whose blazing eyes and fiery oratory often held the Senate spellbound. In those days the Congress was composed of strong, noble statesmen who carried the weight of the nation in their hearts and minds.

Someone asked: “Mr. Webster, what do you consider the most serious thought that has ever entered your mind?”

“The most solemn thought that has ever entered my mind is my accountability to my Maker,” he replied.

Men like that cannot be corrupted and bought. They do not have to worry if someone listens to their telephone calls. What they are in character and in deportment results from their belief that they will finally be accountable to God.

Lord, help me to live my life today in such a way that, should You call me tonight to stand before You and give account, I would have nothing of which I would need to be ashamed. Amen.

The Humble Man Says: “The Mistakes Are Mine”

Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:29

A page in church history reveals that the godly Macarius of Optino was once told that his spiritual counsel had been helpful.

“This cannot be,” Macarius wrote in reply. “Only the mistakes are mine. All good advice is the advice of the Spirit of God; His advice that I happen to have heard rightly and to have passed on without distorting it.”

There is an excellent lesson here which we must not allow to go unregarded. It is the sweet humility of the man of God who was enabled to say, “Only the mistakes are mine.”

He was fully convinced that his own efforts could result only in mistakes and that any good that came of his advice must be the work of the Holy Spirit operating within him.

Apparently this was more than a sudden impulse of self-depreciation, which the proudest of men may at times feel; it was rather a settled conviction that gave set and direction to his entire life. His long and humble ministry which brought spiritual aid to many reveals this clearly enough.

It is our belief that the evangelical movement will continue to drift farther and farther from the New Testament position unless its leadership passes from the modern religious star to the self-effacing saint who asks for no praise and seeks no place, happy only when the glory is attributed to God and himself forgotten!

Christ Will Rule

I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 THESSALONIANS 5:23

I am not surprised that I still meet people who do not believe that Jesus Christ is going to return to earth. In fact, some of them, armed with their own Bibles and interpretations, are insistent on setting me “straight.”

One gentleman has written saying that I have it all wrong, and that Paul did not mean what I had said he meant, as I applied Paul’s statement to everyday life.

I took time to write a reply: “When it comes to saying what he meant, Paul’s batting average has been pretty good up to now. So, I will string along with what Paul plainly, clearly said.”

I did not figure I needed someone to straighten me out—particularly someone who had decided the Bible does not mean what it says.

No one is going to argue me out of my faith in what God has revealed and what God has said. As far as I am concerned, it is a fact that Jesus is coming again! The question I do raise is this: Are we prepared spiritually for His coming? Are we tolerating conditions in our midst that will cause us embarrassment when He does come?

Dear Lord, grant me courage to live today—indeed, every day of my life—as though You were coming back this afternoon.

Hope, Makeovers, and a New Beginning

Hope Makeovers

There are plenty of makeover shows around promising new beginnings. Whether it is a new backyard, a new house, a new hairdo or a whole new body, many of these shows claim that your life will be radically transformed if you have this particular makeover.

Of course a mere cosmetic change cannot change a human heart, where the real makeover is needed. We all need new beginnings, and a change of direction, but most changes on offer just will not do the trick. Only radical open heart surgery (spiritually speaking) can make the real and lasting changes we are all in need of.

Several television offerings I happened upon last night help to illustrate all this. The first had to do with a guy who did not get a chance to change, to find a new beginning. His life was cut short, and his selfish, hedonistic ways meant that he would not even live into his thirties.

I refer to one of a number of rockers who died at age 27: Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. A doco on the early days of the Stones aired last night and I managed to view some of it. Having been a hard core Stones fan in my wild youth, it was interesting to revisit those tempestuous days in the mid- to late-60s.

Drugs and wild living were of course a big part of the rock scene. And Jones was fully into it all, so much so, that he became less and less involved with the Stones and less and less able to contribute, so they had to seriously consider finding someone else to take his place.

The Stones were in a London recording studio when they learned of the drug-related death of Jones on July 3, 1969. Two days later they went ahead with a concert in Hyde Park, with as many as a half million fans in attendance. Mick Taylor was the replacement guitarist. This was sort of a new beginning for the Stones, but it was obviously too late for Jones to start over.

The second thing I saw last night was the tail end of a film in which a couple are given a new lease on life – a whole new beginning. Evidently at least one of them had quite a shady past, as a hit man, but after getting rid of their various enemies, the film ends with them on a train with new passports and new identities – ready to embark upon a whole new life.

When I saw this I thought, “Wow, if only…” One can certainly hope that things were that easy in real life: live a very dodgy and destructive lifestyle, but then have the ability to make an entirely fresh new start, and do it all over again, from scratch. Very few people can experience such a radical makeover.

This in fact is possible, but as I say, the makeover which we all need is ultimately a spiritual one – one in which a heart of stone is replaced by a heart of flesh; one in which our selfish, sinful nature is radically transformed by an encounter with Jesus Christ. The Bible speaks much to this theme of course.

In Jeremiah 13:23 we read about our predicament: our inability to change ourselves; “Can an Ethiopian change his skin or a leopard its spots? Neither can you do good who are accustomed to doing evil.” But later in Jeremiah we find a remarkable promise of real change. Jer. 31 offers an amazing passage which is quoted a number of times in the New Testament:

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the LORD. “This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the LORD. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Jer 31:31-34)

This new heart is just what we all need. And it comes by grace when we receive Christ in faith and repentance. These words about newness of life are found often in the New Testament. Plenty of important passages could be mentioned here.

In 2 Corinthians 5:17 we find these words: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” What is needed is new life, and that is exactly what Jesus said we must experience: “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (John 3:3)

Or as Paul said in Romans 6:4-6: “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with.”

When we come to the end of our rope, and cry out to God to deal with the mess we have made of our lives, he promises to step in and give us a new beginning. And it is not just a new beginning, but a whole new life for the rest of our lives.

Thus our initial saving experience in Christ is just the start of a whole new adventure. The rest of our Christian life is to be characterized by slow but steady growth in sanctification, holiness, and conformity to the image of Christ. We are to cooperate with God in this.

We are to put off the old man, the old ways, and our old fleshly thoughts, and put on the new man, new ways, and new spiritual thoughts. It is a complete revolution, transforming us in every aspect of life, from inside out. Sure, it will be a gradual, progressive, and less than perfect journey. But real progress is possible as we allow Christ to do his work of renewal within us.

The characters in the film I mentioned above had a shot at a new life. One can only guess just how new it was. And some, like Brian Jones, really never got the chance to experience a wholly new life. He tragically died while still in his old life, and missed out on the opportunity to be transformed by the grace of God.

The gospel message is really quite simple. We are all condemned sinners who are unable to save ourselves or remake ourselves. Only God can do that, and he has made every provision for this possibility by sending his son to take our place at Calvary.

Whether we avail ourselves of this opportunity for new life, and a fresh start, is up to us. We all need a new beginning. We all are in desperate need for a deep and life changing makeover. Christ offers this to all of us. What we do with this offer will determine not only the course of the rest of our life on earth, but our life in the next world as well.

Choose wisely.

by Bill Muehlenberg

Consequences of Coveting

Exodus 18:17-21

People oftentimes develop a desire for something that is not in God’s plan for them. When they fail to attain what their heart is set on, the desire can build into intense, unrelenting pressure.

Christians who are consumed by covetousness have ceased to depend on God. To reach a goal, some will manipulate circumstances because they’ve lost faith in the Lord’s ability to know what is best and provide it. Such behavior indicates a rejection of God’s sovereignty. Then fear becomes an issue as the person chases harder and harder after the object of his desire.

The consequences of jealousy are painful: A believer’s spiritual sensitivity can be weakened to the point that he no longer hears when God speaks to him. As a Christian distances himself from the Lord, an envious attitude is likely to breed ungratefulness. It’s hard to be thankful for the things one has when the focus is on what’s lacking.

Covetousness leads to a life of tension and worry. Jethro wisely advised his son-in-law Moses to search for assistants who hated ill-gotten gain. These men were more interested in what God provided for them than in what they could acquire for themselves. If we want to be like them, we must focus on God’s purpose for our life. When we are sensitive to His voice, He will teach us to distinguish between desires falling within His will and those that lie beyond. As believers, we have the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit to help us resist the lure of wrong desires. Covetousness does not have to be our downfall.