An Explanation of Belief

In a small town (village) was a young woman, the age of which is unknown, but perhaps as young as her early to mid-teen years. She had a character that stood before all who paid any attention, and certainly the Lord did (Luke 1:30). Her name was Mary, and Mary did not have to be the way the Holy Spirit described her to be, but she chose a path in life that was above the paths many lived.

About 6 months after the grand (and divine) visit with Zacharias, Gabriel visited Mary in the small town of Nazareth. No doubt, Mary was startled by such a visit and, presumably, in a location that had privacy all around “he” visits with her. Frightened, perplexed, and confused, the angel reassured her because she was “blessed among women” (Luke 1:28). “What manner of visit could this be?” she asked.

What the Lord’s messenger said was humbly received with the grace by which she lived her life. That which the angel told her was fantastic to be sure. She would carry a child in her womb, a son; more than that, the child would sit on the throne of David, the great patriarch and loved servant of the Lord (Luke 1:33-34). Though she did not know how this could be, she not once expressed doubt but that it could be!

The angel explained to her how this would come about, and just as she did not understand the “mechanics” of it then, we do not now understand today. She accepted this, and moreover, the angel gave her a sign, telling her about her relative Elizabeth now being six months pregnant. Can you imagine the joy at such news! Yet, there was a natural, physical problem. Joseph.

For three months she stayed with Elizabeth (Luke 1:56). I wonder if they talked about how to handle that situation (among the great many things a grandmotherly aged woman would teach to a very young woman). Mary knew, being raised in a strict Jewish environment, that people would note her pregnancy and that she and Joseph were not “officially” married, having consummated that union. Imagine her apprehension; yet, Joseph came to know (Matthew 1:18-19), but how he came to know is untold to us. Perhaps Mary broke the news to him, but the fantastic nature of such a thing seemed much too extraordinary to believe, much less accept.

Not only was Mary a young woman of great virtue, but there was something in Joseph that was equally the same, for the Holy Spirit called him a “righteous man” (Mt. 1:19), and because both were righteous in the Lord’s eyes, to these two the Savior was brought into the world.

Truly, a time for thanksgiving.

#belief, #gabriel, #mary, #virgin-birth, #virtue

Meeting the crisis of our times

Speaking before the Cincinnati Council of World Affairs, Admiral Arthur W.Bradford asked this question, “How can American democracy meet the crisis of our times?”

He then gave this answer, “Americanism means the qualities of courage, honor, justice, truth, sincerity, and hardihood, thus the virtues that made America. The things that will destroy America are prosperity-at-any-price, peace-at-any-price, safety-first instead of duty-first, the love of soft living and the get-rich-quick theory of life.”

You see, the real basis of this world struggle is spiritual. The above qualities, which are recognized as the basic traits that have made America great, are fundamentally spiritual qualities.

The Chinese wall was built centuries ago to keep rude invaders from the culture of the Chinese. The wall still stands. The Mongols just bribed the gate-keepers and got across.

The greatest thing you can do for America today is to get right spiritually and then become a center of contagion to revive those virtues that make a nation worth saving.

—Jack Bates

“Thoughts For Today to Brighten Your Day” by Glenn, Mercedes and Lauren Hitchcock

#america, #virtue

Virtue of the Poor

Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21, ESV). Some will interpret the Lord’s words as being the virtue of all virtues – selling what one has in order to help the poor, but this would be a mistake in interpretation. The Lord’s point is not selling and then giving, but getting rid of the hurdle that has now become a hindrance to one’s standing before the Lord. What hurdle is it that you feel like you have to jump in order to be pleasing to the Lord? With the Lord’s answer to the young man, the rich man turned away disappointed. Will you consider the hurdle the Lord wants you to remove, or will you turn away disappointed? 2/28/2011

#devotional, #poor, #virtue

Some “Virtues” in Esther (2)

Yesterday we considered some lessons to be learned from the Book of Esther. Today, there are five additional points to consider.

1. Virtue in being principled (3:3). Mordecai must have been some kind of man. His home destroyed and his family ripped apart. Before him was a little girl (his niece) named Hadassah (Esther). He raises her to be a young woman who understands authority and respects it highly. While he had a prominent position before the king, he was principled enough to lose it rather than go contrary to what he conscientiously believed – though it probably helps when arrogance presents itself. However, even with this Mordecai had much to lose (Keil & Delitzsch has some useful remarks in this regard). What Mordecai could have lost was of less importance than what he insisted on maintaining – his integrity and devotion to the One who loves all.

2. Virtue in location (4:14). Esther, a modest woman, was one who resolved to have great courage. Yet, this courage was not so obvious at the instant of her learning about the destruction planned for her people; it was Mordecai who brought it out in her. If there was a time in which he wondered about what would happen to his niece, perhaps he is now assured that she was raised for this purpose (cf. Romans 9:17). However, this was not obvious to her. Nevertheless, she prepares herself to do the right thing. Reflecting on our own lives, are we in our respective locations for the purposes of the Lord? Whether we are or not; whether we know or not, let us live and serve the Lord as the beacon of righteousness He wants of us.

3. Virtue in self-evaluation (6:7). Arrogance is one attribute that turns people off as quickly as it is recognized. Haman must have been some kind of arrogant man, but because of his position, people feared him and didn’t dare to tell him to “tone-it-down.” There is a difference between arrogance and confidence. When one is arrogant, he (she) thinks much of self in spite of the evidence to the contrary. When one is confident in relation to the Lord, he (she) has assurance because of the Lord who has already walked the path which we are on. This confidence, though, is one that encourages and demands self-evaluation by a standard different that self (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:13; 2 Corinthians 13:5).

4. Virtue in presumption (7:5). The NKJV reads the Haman’s actions were interpreted by the king as presumptuous (though the king did not immediately know it was Haman until Esther identified him). It mattered not whether the king interpreted correctly or not, for he was in position to interpret however he wanted to interpret it. So interpreting as he did, the king could surely see that as ambitious as Haman was, his interpretation was not far wrong. One does not have to be ambitious, however, to be presumptuous. All one has to do to be presumptuous is to attribute authority to self and then begin to move on that self-aggrandizement. Is there virtue in presumption? Not in the way it unfolded for Haman, and not in the way it unfolds for those who presume on the Lord’s authority.

5. Virtue in reciprocity (9:25). Moses told those who prepared to live on the east side of the Jordan River that if they did not follow through with their commitment, be sure their sin would find them out (Numbers 32:23). Justice has a way of tending to those who violate her!

#esther, #mordecai, #virtue

Some “Virtues” in Esther

The book of Esther is known for a number of things. We learn of the virtue of Queen Vashti, the principled Mordecai, and the providence of God. As important as these points are, there are some additional lessons to learn in the book. I hope to bring some of these to your attention in two postings.

1. Is there virtue in parading another person, especially such a prominent person as Queen Vashti (1:11-12)? Whatever “virtue” there might have been in the minds of some prominent men, the queen certainly saw nothing in their form of virtue, if it can be called that! In Scripture, parading one in the presence of others suggest the one paraded is a conquered foe, and the queen was going to have none of that! She stood her ground and it cost her. What did it cost? It cost her royal position, protection, and possessions. In what it cost her, she had something that she would not sell – her dignity.

2. Virtue in leadership (1:22). Most assuredly there is virtue in leadership, but is leadership to be compelled or earned? A quality of leadership is respect and when another is commanded to respect a position (or person), that respect has a hard time making its way into the heart of the one so commanded. The wife is to lover her husband, respecting his God-ordained position of leadership. It is likely that a wife will readily submit to a loving husband that she respects, but if she does not respect him, will there be submission or resistance?

3. Virtue in beauty (2:9, 12). The harem of the king was to be prepared on the outside, but beauty is to have more depth than that. Peter told the women of his day that beauty was to reside in the “hidden person of the heart,” something that had depth and not only in appearance. Men and women want to look attractive to the opposite sex, but being attractive on the outside without the inside makes for a short and disruptive relationship. Those who have already experienced this can’t tell you adequately the heartache endured.

4. Virtue in modesty (2:15). Modesty, in religious circles, is generally associated with one’s apparel. Modesty, however, goes to the heart. When the heart is interested in virtue, is there a need to promote self? Esther was in a difficult circumstance, and when she went into the king, imagine the apprehension, fear, dread, and the other emotions that might have come over her. Whatever she might have thought (or felt), she goes in at the advice of the king’s servant. Perhaps it is not unreasonable to think that one of the attractive features of Esther was this little thing the Holy Spirit notes for us.

#esther, #mordecai, #virtue

“[T]he only foundation for a useful edu…

“[T]he only foundation for a useful education in a republic is to be laid in religion. Without this there can be no virtue, and without virtue there can be no liberty, and liberty is the object and life of all republican governments.”

–Benjamin Rush, On the Mode of Education Proper in a Republic, 1806

#education, #liberty, #narcissism, #religion, #virtue