Stand Boldly and Speak Confidently

Children 2

Nobody likes bullies. They’re mean, ornery and cocky. They threaten and intimidate. They taunt and jeer. They hurt and scar people, inside and out—sometimes for life.

I got bullied by guys twice my size. They stuffed me inside trash cans. Stole my lunch money. Kicked and knocked me down. Bad-mouthed and belittled me. Harassed and hit me.

Fortunately, that brazen bullying was short-lived because Dad taught me to fight and defend myself. He said, “Son, never pick a fight; but if someone starts a fight with you, make sure you finish it.”

So, I ended up fighting a lot—all the way through high school.

I fought often, and enjoyed it—but I hated bullies. That’s why I stepped into tense situations and stood up for friends and strangers who were being pushed around, beat up or bullied.

Today, I’m not proud of my bare-knuckle fighting days, but I’m okay with how I stood up for others. And thankfully, I’m now a much gentler man.

Who or what do you stand up for today?

Long ago, the bold prophet Elijah stood for righteousness and truth on top of Mt. Carmel, as he squared off with wicked King Ahab and 400 false prophets. Anointed and empowered by God, Elijah stood alone against the forces of unrighteousness, idolatry, abuse and false practices.

God expects us to stand for what’s right and true, and speak on behalf of vulnerable and marginalized people who can’t defend themselves. Humbly. Boldly. Persuasively.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

But before we stand and speak, we must know who we’re defending. Unborn babies. Elderly folks. Disabled people. Terminally ill. Outcasts. Rejects. And the list goes on. To many, these individuals may be the lost, last and least of people. But not to us.

As I watch Elijah in action on Mt. Carmel (1 Kings 18), I see five principles for us to apply, as we stand and speak for what’s right and true.

With courage and conviction, we must (1) pray for God’s direction, power and blessing, (2) trust God and leave the results with him, (3) be willing to stand alone, (4) speak boldly, and (5) say and do what’s right, regardless of the consequences.

Like Elijah of old, let’s stand boldly and speak confidently—and let’s rely on God to empower us to say and do what’s right, no matter what.

 

Lost Treasure

Painting Renoir Skiff

A Virginia woman drove into West Virginia—where she went to a flea market, and spent $7 on a cardboard box containing a Paul Bunyan statue and some odds and ends.

She didn’t think much of the green and pink painting that she found inside the cardboard box—that is, until she uncovered and looked at the back of the frame, and saw the word “RENOIR” written there. To her surprise, she’d bought a valuable painting for just a few bucks.

An East Coast auction house offered to help the woman sell her original masterpiece, painted by the famous French impressionist master, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and valued today by experts at $100,000 or more. That’s a lot of cash for something that was stuck in a box and forgotten!

Have you ever discovered a lost treasure? King Josiah did.

Josiah was eight-years-old when he became king of Israel. He lived in Jerusalem, and reigned for 31 years. He worshipped God, lived with integrity and pursued righteousness.

The Bible says, “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left” (2 Kings 22:2).

Unlike many of his predecessors, King Josiah had a whole heart for God, just like King David.

About 10 years after becoming king, Josiah sent his secretary Shaphan to the temple, directing him to account for the money collected to buy supplies and repair the temple.

That’s when the high priest Hilkiah told Shaphan about his incredible discovery. He said, “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the LORD” (2 Kings 22:8).

Imagine that, the Book of the Law—the first five books of the Bible—had been neglected, and lost inside the temple for years. Stuck on a shelf inside God’s house, it was gradually covered with thick dust and cob webs. It was left and lost among less important things.

Excitedly, but with some embarrassment, Shaphan told King Josiah about Hilkiah’s startling discovery—and then he read aloud from the Book to the young and humble king.

Josiah tore his royal robes, and wept openly. Then, he ordered the high priest to go to the LORD, confess their corporate neglect of the Book and seek his direction. Next, God blessed Josiah because of his broken and repentant heart.

Today, God’s people still misplace and bury the Book.

How? We neglect, ignore and lose God’s Word when we stop reading and delighting in it. We grow callous, apathetic and indifferent toward it. We abandon and forget about it.

Have you tossed your Bible—or do you treasure it more today than you did yesterday?

 

A New Skipper

Ship USS Ronald Reagan

One day, Dad and I toured a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, docked and anchored in the San Diego harbor, not far from Coronado Island.

As a young boy, I was awestruck, as we explored and walked around this gun-barrel gray ship. Everything I saw was so massive and impressive. Fighter jets. Huey helicopters. Big guns. Powerful radar and sonar. Anchor chain. Thick rope. And hundreds of sailors.

We walked the flight deck. Saw the com center. Climbed stairs and took elevators. Cruised the huge hangar below deck. Ate lunch in the mess hall. Met and talked with the captain. And more.

The carrier was docked in port, getting refueled and reloaded, while the captain and his crew worked and waited for orders to deploy and head out to sea again.

I learned that the captain—also known as “skipper”—is the commanding officer, in charge of the ship and its personnel. He gives the orders, and his officers and the crew carry them out.

When the captain boards his ship, a sailor rings the ship’s bell, signaling his arrival, and calls out, “Captain on deck!” In response, every officer and seaman snaps to attention and salutes, recognizing the captain’s rank and authority. Why? He’s their skipper.

Our “flesh”—that old invisible part of us that learned to live independently of God before we trusted Christ as Savior—is like an old crusty skipper we no longer have to salute and serve.

Before Christ, we had to serve “the flesh” because it controlled us. But now, because we’ve been transformed and made new in Christ, we no longer have to submit to “the flesh.”

Paul wrote, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16). “We are under obligation, not to the flesh … for all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God” (Romans 8:12, 14).

We once served a cruel skipper—our old sinful self with its rebellious, depraved nature. We also once belonged to Satan, the prince of darkness. But by God’s grace, we’ve been set free, transformed by King Jesus and transferred into his kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13).

We have a new skipper—our “new self” in Christ. We’ve been infused with a new nature, and transformed by our new Commander-in-Chief. As rescued “sailors” on the Savior’s ship, we still sin—but we’re no longer under the authority of “the flesh” that once controlled us.

So, why do we sometimes think and live as if our old skipper—“the flesh”—is still in charge, barking orders and calling the shots? Simply put, we forget who we are in Christ.

As born-again believers, we’re beloved children—loved by our heavenly Father, adopted into his family, transformed by our mighty Savior and empowered by the Holy Spirit. We now enjoy a new identity, position and authority in the Lord Jesus Christ!

 

Who’s Following You?

Shark Tailgates Kayaker

One afternoon, Walter Szulc got the surprise of his life at Cape Cod Beach. Lifeguards and swimmers started yelling at the novice kayaker, telling him to return to shore. That’s when Szulc realized he was being trailed by a great white shark.

Within seconds, Szulc was fully focused on how he could escape his huge predator, and he figured, “All I can do now is turn around and paddle for shore.” So, that’s what he did.

After what felt like an eternity, Szulc landed safely on the sandy beach, where he grinned and said, “I just wanted to get out of the shark’s territory, and paddle like a madman until I got back to shore. I couldn’t see him very well. I just saw a dark figure swimming underneath me.”

Remarkably, that was Szulc’s very first time kayaking—and fortunately, he’d spent enough time in the water “getting the hang of things” before he encountered the great white shark.

You and I have probably never been trailed by a shark.

But every day, whether we recognize it or not, we’re being watched and followed by people we know and don’t know. Family. Friends. Coworkers. Neighbors. Strangers.

They’re seeing and evaluating what we do, and hearing and weighing what we say. They’re looking to us for leadership and direction—and often imitating what we say and do.

I’m convinced leadership is all about integrity and influence.

That’s why the apostle Paul wrote a very practical letter to young Pastor Timothy (and us!), declaring that Christ-like character is required of leaders within every local church.

Paul wrote, “Now the overseer [bishop, pastor] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach …” (1 Timothy 3:2-3).

That’s integrity—and I believe the presence of integrity qualifies us, but the lack of it disqualifies us, as leaders.

Paul also wrote, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity … be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.  Watch your life and doctrine closely” (1 Timothy 4:12, 15-16).

That’s influence—and I believe the sphere of our influence is marked by the depth of our character.

Together, let’s renew our commitment to being men and women of integrity that others can trust, imitate and follow.

An Incredible Lunch

Lunch Box

In grade school, I carried my lunches inside metal lunch boxes—featuring Lassie, Superman, Batman, Wagon Train, Bonanza and the Rifleman—until I hit the 7th-grade. That’s when I retired my no longer “cool” lunch boxes—and became a brown-bagger!

I started taking my lunch in a brown paper bag, which Mom usually packed. She always penciled my name on the outside, and often hid encouraging notes and fun surprises inside.

My buddies sometimes teased me about Mom’s notes, but I think they were just jealous of how she encouraged me. On a tough day, I couldn’t wait to see what Mom put inside my lunch bag.

One day, Jesus made lunch for a lot of hungry people. They came out to the countryside to see Jesus’s amazing power, hear his authoritative teaching and receive his miraculous healing.

Earlier that day—after hearing their friend John had been killed—Jesus and his disciples had climbed into a boat and rowed across the lake, hoping to rest and grieve, away from the crowds. But that’s not what happened. Thousands of people were waiting for them on the other side.

The Bible says, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). Ignoring his fatigue and sadness, Jesus cared for them.

Surrounded by people again, our tired and grieving Savior healed and cared for individuals, one after the other, possibly until late in the afternoon. The people were hungry and thirsty—and probably grumpy. Maybe they forgot to pack lunches, or figured Jesus would feed them.

When the disciples asked Jesus to send everyone home, he said, ‘They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.’ When the disciples saw a boy with his lunch, they reported to Jesus, ‘We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.’ ” (Matthew 14:16-17).

That wasn’t enough. They were far from the city. They couldn’t run to McDonalds or Taco Bell.  Convinced it was impossible to feed everyone, the disciples thought, “We can’t do this!” They were absolutely right. That was the point. They couldn’t do it, but Jesus could—and he did.

That’s why Jesus took and blessed the boy’s small lunch, and miraculously multiplied it to feed 5,000 men—and probably just as many women and children, if not more. That’s why Jesus told his disciples to go and serve lunch to the hungry crowd.

After everyone had eaten fish and chips until they were no longer hungry, the disciples retrieved 12 baskets of leftovers. Can you imagine that? Twelve astonished men holding full baskets!

Our Savior’s amazing miracle spotlights two awesome principles:  (1) There’s no problem too big for Jesus to solve, and (2) There’s no need too great for Jesus to satisfy.

Jeremiah 32:17 agrees, “Ah, Sovereign Lord … nothing is too hard for you.” That’s why I believe we can always rely on God to care about our troubles and provide for our needs!

 

Inside My Heart

Letters

In 1968, my father went to Vietnam, where he fought the Viet Cong—and taught the South Vietnamese how to provide triage care and run field hospitals in a war-torn countryside.

Just before he shipped out of Camp Pendleton, Dad put his hand on my shoulder, and told me to take care of Mom and my brothers. I was a 7th-grade boy—and I did my best, working hard as the “man of the house” and tackling chores Dad usually did. I took my new role seriously.

At times, I wondered if Dad would be okay and if I’d see him again, but I never wondered if he loved me. I knew he loved and thought often about Mom, Doug, Jeff and me.

For as long as I can remember, my now 81-year-old father has told me, “Son, I love you.”

That’s why he wrote at least one letter to me almost every day for two years—and some days, he wrote two or three letters, just to me. Of course, he wrote many letters to Mom (sometimes as many as four letters a day) and my brothers.

I think it’s safe to say my loving father wrote more than 700 letters only to me, which he signed “Love always, Dad”. They were full of encouragement, hope and joy.

I kept a lot of Dad’s letters and put them in a special box, along with a lot of other letters, cards and keepsakes. I treasure them—and every once in a while, I take out that box and sift through the things I’ve kept. They’re prized possessions that I cherish, deep inside my heart.

King David cherished the Scriptures—God’s “love letters” to us. One day, inspired by the Holy Spirit, he sat down and wrote Psalm 119—the longest chapter in the Bible. He carefully crafted 176 verses that spotlight and communicate his love for the Scriptures.

David wholeheartedly and joyfully treasured the written Word of God. He memorized and meditated on it. He cherished and craved it.

David wasn’t perfect, not by a long shot. He had a lot of warts. He made a lot of mistakes. At times, he was a knucklehead. He sinned and rebelled. But he treasured the Word in his heart.

He wrote, “I have hidden your word in my heart. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts. I delight in your commands because I love them. I keep your precepts with all my heart.” (Psalm 119:11, 14-15, 47, 69).

“Oh, how I love your law. My heart is set on keeping your decrees. I love your commands more than gold. I open my mouth and pant, longing for your word. See how I love your precepts. I obey your statutes, for I love them greatly” (Psalm 119:97, 112, 127, 131, 159, 168).

Can you hear David’s heartbeat for God? Do you cherish the Scriptures? I believe David had a strong spiritual pulse because he had a huge thirst for God and a hearty appetite for his Word.

Do you wholeheartedly love God and treasure the Scriptures?