Tag Archives: courage


Paul Harvey, loved for his heartwarming tales and unique style, told this story: “One summer morning as Ray Blankenship was preparing his breakfast, he gazed out the window, and saw a small girl being swept along in the rain-flooded drainage ditch beside his Andover, Ohio, home. Blankenship knew that farther downstream, the ditch disappeared with a roar underneath a road and then emptied into the main culvert. Ray dashed out the door and raced along the ditch, trying to get ahead of the floundering child. Then he hurled himself into the deep, churning water. Blankenship surfaced and was able to grab the child’s arm. They tumbled end over end. Within about three feet of the yawning culvert, Ray’s free hand felt something hard; possibly a rock protruding from one bank. He clung desperately, but the tremendous force of the water tried to tear him and the child away. ‘If I can just hang on until help comes,’ he thought. He did better than that. By the time fire-department rescuers arrived, Blankenship had pulled the girl to safety. Both were treated for shock. On April 12, 1989, Ray Blankenship was awarded the Coast Guard’s Silver Lifesaving Medal. The award is fitting, for this selfless person was at even greater risk to himself than most people knew. Ray Blankenship can’t swim.”

This Sunday, the featured hymn was written by Lydia Baxter, a woman who was invalid for much of her life. “Take the Name of Jesus with You” is a testimony of courage in the face of suffering and difficulty. During the great Moody-Sankey evangelistic campaigns in the late 19th century, the song with lyrics by Lydia Baxter and tune by William Doane was popular with the great crowds.

The human condition is often one that affords us opportunity to rise above our circumstances. Paul wrote, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” The key is found in those two words: through Christ. The One who displayed the greatest courage in history offers His presence and power to us daily. When we appropriate what Christ gives, we can indeed take the name of Jesus wherever we go.

What a mismatch!

Udonis Haslem has had quite a career. While a senior at Miami Senior High School, he led his team to two state titles. He played at the University of Florida where he was a significant part of four UF tournament teams. After a year of professional ball in France, he signed with the Miami Heat of the NBA. The Heat have won three NBA titles while Udonis has played for them. He now has thirteen years with the team, a remarkable achievement in a not-for-long league.

Before moving to Miami to finish high school, Udonis attended Wolfson High School in Jacksonville. He was a formidable presence in a really good high school basketball program. My oldest son and my nephew were on those teams. They also played on a youth church league team when rules allowed such things.

So use your imagination. Think of your average youth church league basketball team and envision one of those kids dribbling down the court to face a 6’8” guy waiting for him in the paint. David and Goliath come to mind … only every time David shot, Goliath swatted the ball into the bleachers. What a mismatch!

The classic story of the shepherd boy against the giant of Gath is known by almost everyone. What a mismatch! Goliath never had a chance. David didn’t just come to the battle armed with a sling and 5 stones; he came in the power of the God he represented.

Sometimes we can be overwhelmingly intimidated by our opposition. We may feel we have no chance for success. Who wants to go into challenge with no confidence of a positive outcome?

The David and Goliath story reminds us of a great truth. You plus God makes a majority, no matter who or what is standing in your way. When Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” he wasn’t relying on his own might. He knew better. I hope we do, too.

Take a deep breath

Good-bye 2016. You brought a plethora of experiences and events that touched every human emotion. We have known grief, despair, anger, confusion, disappointment, and fear. Our world has been rocked by disaster, violence, displacement, and loss. Notable people died this past year. Some of them had obtained celebrity status. Many perhaps mattered more to some of us because they were family and friends. We can be overcome by all that went wrong, all that hurt us, and all that we would change. We turn the page and engage a new year.

Greetings 2017. We refuse to take our first steps into the uncertainty of the days ahead terrorized by the darkness and destruction of evil. We are a people of hope who know the Creator of life personally, who claim an eternal relationship with the King of kings, who believe that we have a purpose to fulfill and a mission to accomplish. The path we will walk will not be without difficulty or pain. We know that we will need more than inner strength to face what will come our way. We claim the comfort, support, and faithfulness of family, friends, neighbors, fellow believers. Even more, we rely on the One who promised to be always with us.

Let His Word speak …

“Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9); “Don’t be afraid of the enemy! Remember the Lord, who is great and glorious, and fight for your friends, your families, and your homes. The joy of the Lord is your strength.” (Nehemiah 4:14; 8:10); “God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear.” (Psalm 46:1); “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13); “He who is faithful to all these things says, ‘I am coming soon!’ Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 21:20)

The upside of giving up

Jesus posed an interesting scenario to those who opposed Him. He told the story of two sons who each were asked by their father to work in the family vineyard. The first son initially refused to stop what he was doing to obey his father’s wishes. The second agreed to the task and then fails to show up. Jesus asked, “Which of the two was obeying the father?” (Matthew 21:28-32)

The first son gave up … gave up his own path, his own desires … so he could find a better path, more satisfying desires. Discovering what you need to do and who you need to be is the upside of giving up.

Most of us understand this simply because we have been there. We have had to stop behaviors and attitudes for the sake of maturing, growing, and developing. Noah Berlatsky’s son had been deeply involved in martial arts training for several years. One day he told his father that he wanted to quit. As Berlatsky listened to his son’s reasoning, he concluded: “Quitting is one of the most important life skills that you can teach your child. If you’re going to change your life, if you’re going to try something else, you have to be ready to quit whatever you were doing before something else showed up.”

We have had to realize that Father does indeed know best. His work in our lives, in the vineyard where we have been placed calls us to give up selfish desires, goals, and preferences for a higher good. Sometimes we have to give up to grow up.

It happens in our personal lives. It occurs in business. It certainly takes place in church. Are there things we give up so we can gain? Are there things we stop doing, even good things, so we can experience the best things? The first son found the truth and found the way. I pray that we follow his lead.

Weary and wary of the storm

Fidel Lopez and Bennie Newton met on the corner of Florence and Normandie avenues in Los Angeles in the spring of 1992. The backdrop of their meeting was the eruption of the city after the acquittal of the LA police officers in the Rodney King incident. Anger boiled over into the streets. 100 fires were set as businesses and homes were looted and destroyed. Roving mobs attacked vehicles and dragged the occupants out of their cars and trucks.

That’s what happened to Fidel Lopez. His boss had given him almost $3000 to buy drywall and insulation for a project. His truck was surrounded and he was pulled into the street. As the Latino man was being pummeled, Newton, an African-American pastor of the Light of Love Church in South Central LA, pushed through the crowd. He covered Lopez with his own body and screamed at the mob, “Kill him and you have to kill me, too!”

The mob moved on. Newton tended to Lopez until he regained consciousness. Trying to summon an ambulance, the pastor realized that no emergency vehicle was going to respond. He put the injured man into his own car and drove him to the hospital.

When Lopez was released from the hospital, he met with Newton. The minister explained that members of his congregation were collecting an offering to replace the money that had been stolen from him during the beating. Lopez was overcome, “I thank you. You saved my life.” Newton told him, “Out of tragedy, good will come. The storm is over.”

I wish the storm was over. People of God, we have work to do. May we have the courage of Bennie Newton to make a difference in a world still covered with threatening clouds.


Steve Edington once told a story about a circus bear. Instead of walking on two legs, ride a bicycle, or other tricks, this bear sat and paced in a nine by nine foot cage. He was a showpiece, a marketing tool to attract crowds to the performances. Day after day, he walked nine feet one way, nine feet the other. For hours he would just lay down.

The circus fell on hard times and went bankrupt. No one was interested in a bear which could do no tricks so he was sold to a zoo. The zoo was rather progressive and provided animals with spaces that would resemble their natural habitats. Moats and rock formation kept the visitors at a safe distance. No bars were needed.

Introduced to his new environment, the bear soon repeated his behavior from his days in the circus cage. Free to wander in his expanded confines, the bear never ventured beyond the area of his old nine-by-nine square.

“The only bars left were the ones in his mind and spirit, which proved to be as real as the ones that had been around him.” wrote Edington.

What are the limitations that hem us in? Are they imposed upon us from the outside?

  • You’re no good.
  • You’ll never amount to anything.
  • I don’t know why I bother with you.

Or are they self-imposed?

  • I’ll never be able to accomplish that.
  • I’m scared.
  • Surely there’s somebody better than me.

Where do “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” and “Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” and “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Don’t lean on your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways and He will direct your paths” come in?


It’s time for the bear to quit being a prisoner. How about you?

God told me

Did you hear the one about the preacher who reported to his flock that God told him that he needed a new $65 million jet? Did you hear that his last name is ‘Dollar’? It made the news last week. It seems that his old jet is just worn out and he needs another one. Jesus wants him to have it. He wants 200,000 people to give $300 a piece so he can purchase a Gulfstream G650 to “cover the world with the Gospel of grace.”

Now, why didn’t I think of that? I need to get some new dreams. I’m not living large enough.

Actually, I do need some new dreams. It wouldn’t hurt at all if I lived larger. I’m not talking about the ridiculous or absurd. Prosperity theology like the good reverend is pushing does ensure prosperity … for the peddlers of same. I am referring to the impact each of our lives can have when we open ourselves to new possibilities, new challenges.

In 2000, Bruce Wilkinson published a book about the prayer of Jabez. Jabez is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4 as a very distinguished man who petitioned God to bless him and enlarge his territory. Much was made of the book, both positive and negative. Some claimed it was similar to prosperity theology. Others would agree with the author who posted an article on allaboutprayer.org which read, in part: “Jabez wants to succeed and increase his sphere of influence. The prayer reminds us that everybody struggles with choosing to rely on himself or God. Jabez challenges each of us to ‘attempt something large enough that failure is guaranteed, unless God steps in’ (Wilkinson).”

Are we willing to “expect great things from God; attempt great things for God” like missionary William Carey once said? Jabez also asked God to keep from all harm so he would not experience trouble and pain (2 Chron. 4:10). While it would seem that you cannot do great things without trouble and pain in this world, Scripture says that God granted the request of Jabez. Will He do the same for us?

Paul wrote to the Philippians: “Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (4:6,7).

While it may not mean that a $65 million jet will be parked out on the front lawn, it might suggest that God wants to do something mighty in us as well as through us. Expect … attempt, it’s a matter of trust. “For I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13)