“I Know Not What Course Others May Take!”

Delegate Patrick Henry (1736 –1799) rose to speak his mind to the Second Virginia Convention on March 23, 1775, at St. John’s Church in Richmond, Virginia. He proposed that his fellow delegates act to organize volunteer companies of cavalry and infantry in Virginia to prepare for the military conflict he knew was coming.

The British army was building up its troops on the continent and Mr. Henry asked his audience, “Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies?” He answered his own question; “They are meant for us; they can be meant for no other.” He reminded the Convention of their repeated supplications and petitions to the English throne, all of which had been slighted, rebuffed, and answered with military threats. Henry declared, “There is no longer any room for hope.”

It is often said that discretion is the better part of valor. Granted. Still, the details of discretion are debatable. Henry was fed up with debates and petitions. Caution certainly has its place, but for Henry, freedom was on the line and it was time for courage.

Henry respectfully acknowledged that “different men often see the same subject in different lights.” He had felt the pressure to hold back his opinion for “fear of giving offence.” Rising to reject that fear, he said, “For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and to provide for it.”

Heating up for his conclusion, he cried out, “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.” He continued, “Our chains are forged… Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?”

Then came the finale: “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

Mr. Henry delivered his grave-over-slave address with all the dramatic choreography that our imagination can muster. When he sat down, the convention sat in silence for several minutes. His message moved his audience powerfully, but of course, debate did continue. And war did ensure.

Henry’s conviction lived on. In 1790, John Philpot Curran said, “It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” A generation later, in 1834, Daniel Webster, another great American orator, said, “God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.” More recently, President Ronald Reagan declared, “The future doesn’t belong to the faint-hearted. It belongs to the brave.”
give me liberty
Today, Patrick Henry’s resolve seems lost on a comfortable culture that hardly remembers him. We have a huge media complex geared to dilute and discredit his kind of rhetoric. We have a marketing industry to shape our interests and an entertainment industry to dismantle critical thinking. We have an educational establishment to willfully ignore the Henry’s of history. We have powerful political machines to get us to hate some groups, love others, and vote according to passions they instill in us. We rely on the power of money rather than the courage of conviction to solve our problems, creating a national debt so irredeemable that we just keep adding to it! We have seen the definition of marriage decomposed to the point where it is so genderless that motherhood and fatherhood are disposable. We have devalued human life to the point where an abortion giant like Planned Parenthood can destroy babies at tax-payer expense, sell body parts for profit, and destroy those who tell the truth about what they do.

In short, we are choosing slow death over liberty.

God is…
Jonah’s Theology Under Construction

The big fish in the biblical book of Jonah is just a detour in the drama. The British preacher G. Campbell Morgan (1863 –1945) once said, “Men have been looking so hard at the great fish that they have failed to see the great God.” Unlike the self-willed prophet Jonah, the big fish was simply following God’s command. The main character in Jonah is Yahweh, the God of Israel. Here’s a short list of twenty lessons we learn about God from the book of Jonah.

Each point below teaches that God is…

1. …A Sender (He uses flawed sinners to reach sinners). “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and cry against it…” (Jonah 1:2).

2. …Outraged by Wickedness. “…for their wickedness has come up before Me.” (Jonah 1:2).
3.…Powerful!“The LORD hurled a great wind on the sea and there was a great storm on the sea so that the ship was about to break up.” (Jonah 1:4) In addition to being omnipotent, the Psalmist illustrates God’s omnipresence: “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” (Psalm 139.7).

4.…The Creator! “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the LORD God of heaven who made the sea and the dry land.” (Jonah 1:9).
5.…Willing to Hold the Guilty to Account. “Tell us, now! On whose account has this calamity struck us? …What should we do to you that the sea may become calm for us?” (Jonah 1:8,11).
6.…Free! “For You, O LORD, have done as You have pleased.” (Jonah 1:14).
7.…Fearful and Awesome! “Then the men feared the LORD greatly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.” (Jonah 1:16, their greatest fear was when the storm suddenly stopped).
8.…In control of nature and nature’s creatures. “And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights.” (Jonah 1:17).
9.…Attentive to our Prayers. “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the LORD, And He answered me.’” (Jonah 2:1-2).
10.…A Savior / Rescuer. “While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD… Salvation is from the LORD.” (Jonah 2:7,9).
11.…Persistent (He gave Jonah a second chance). “Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it…” (Jonah 3:1-2).
12.…The Author of the Missionary Message. ‘Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” (Jonah 3:2).
13.…Responsive to Repentance. “When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.” (Jonah 3:10).
14.…Patient. “But it greatly displeased Jonah and he became angry.” (Jonah 4:1).
15.…Gracious and Compassionate. “For I knew that You are a gracious and compassionate God,” (Jonah 4:2).
16.…Slow to Anger and willing to change His mind.“…slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, and one who relents concerning calamity.” (Jonah 4:2, from Exodus 34.6-7).
17.…A Provider and Comforter. “…so the LORD God appointed a plant and it grew up over Jonah to be a shade over his head to deliver him from his discomfort.” (Jonah 4:6, from Exodus 34.6-7).
18.…One Who Gives & Takes Away. “But God appointed a worm when dawn came the next day and it attacked the plant and it withered.” (Jonah 4:7).
19.…Conversational. “Then God said to Jonah, ‘Do you have good reason to be angry about the plant?’ And he said, ‘I have good reason to be angry, even to death.” (Jonah 4:9).
20.…Concerned for the Lost. “Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?” (Jonah 4:11).

Jesus identified with the three days Jonah spent in the belly of the fish, saying, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40). And our Lord was much impressed with the Ninevites because they responded to Jonah’s preaching with repentance (Matthew 12:41).

Perhaps, Jesus saw parallels between the Jonah story and his Prodigal Son parable. In both tales, a stubborn young man ran away, came to his senses, and turned back from his rebellion. Like the prodigal son, Jonah had to learn things the hard way. God put their attitudes under construction. Happily, both stories feature repentance and forgiveness. Like the elder son in Jesus’ story, Jonah resented the Father’s forgiveness for his disobedient younger brother. Still, in both stories, God’s forgiveness stood (see point #13 above). Let it stand in your story too.

Farsighted Faith

My wife and I purchased a small devise with an amazing capacity to direct us to wherever we want to go on the map. It’s called a GPS (Global Positioning System) and our friends say, “It’s about time!” Okay, it’s also about space. Anyhow, I will miss the sheer pleasure of having to stop and ask strangers for directions.

Welcome to the 21st century! We’ve come a long way from having to, as Paul said, “Walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 5:7).

Or have we?

The apostle Paul understood that appearances are not everything. Some of life’s most important principles cannot be reproduced in a lab, deciphered in a computer, or seen with human eyes.

Context matters. The verse just before Paul’s challenge (above) to live more by faith than by sight affirms our “confidence” in the Lord rather than in the flesh (vs. 6). Keep reading. So does the verse right after it (vs. 8). Then verse 9 defines our ultimate goal (to please the Lord) and verse 10 points to our ultimate destiny. Here it is:

    “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Corinthians 5:10).

My eyes are too weak to see justice in all its beauty. It’s too far away. When I pursue it by sight, I get angry and lose my way. When I walk by faith, rusting the Lord with true justice, I begin to see light at the end of the tunnel. My rash attempts to assess justice have taught me to trust Jesus on His judgment seat, not myself. And judge He will.

Walking by faith does not mean closing your eyes. Rather, it means trusting the Lord with all your heart and not leaning on “your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). It is relying on God more than your own perceived preferences.

Our culture pushes the self-centered notion that one’s perception is reality. It is seductive to believe we can create our own reality. Nonsense! Reality is much bigger than our perceptions and it has already been created! We just don’t see it. My perception is not the end-all—be-all. Things are not always as they seem:

  • On a vertical slope, it seems prudent for climbers to cling closely to the rock. Actually, those who lean away from the rock get better leverage.
  • It seems like soccer goalies who can jump high are best suited for that role. Actually, those who hold their ground do better.
  • The more the government tries to fix poverty, the higher our poverty rates climb.
  • The most decent people are those who understand and admit how indecent they know they are.

Fact: we humans are great at fooling ourselves. In the flesh, we’re short-sighted. When you feel stuck in a terrible turmoil, it is not a GPS you need to get through it, nor is it perfect eyesight. It is faith—farsighted faith!

On the surface, the cross looked like a failure. Jesus’ disciples fled in fear. Nevertheless (I love that word), God was doing something they could not see in the moment. He was implementing His farsighted plan to save sinners from the just judgment we deserve and grant forgiveness and eternal hope to those who repent. So, when you feel like a failure, you can still trust that God is doing His best work in you to guide you to a place no GPS can—a place where faith, hope, and love loom large, and ultimately, to an eternal home in heaven.