be strong

Be strong — that is how God sees you.

God always uses a person to do great things. Yes, committees accomplish many good things. But if you skim the news, you will see that even today, exceptional individuals birth exceptional movements and organizations. That person may be part of a team, but it’s self-evident that one person was the key.

For Microsoft, it was Bill Gates, for Apple it was Steve Jobs, for Tesla-SpaceX-Neuralink-Boring Company it is Elon Musk. If we look at Christianity, we see Billy Graham as the founder and leader of a worldwide Christian evangelistic team. And, we can consider Golda Meir, Nelson Mandela, Albert Einstein, and the list goes on. 

The Successor

Now, think about the person selected to follow in those footsteps. Often, the replacement is as successful or more so than the founder, but they rarely are willing to risk breaking the mold. Instead, they work on polishing the image of their predecessor and work to maximize the efficiency of the system they inherited. 

Why do people that are often hand-picked by the leader they’ve served for decades constrain themselves? They are highly talented; otherwise, the founder wouldn’t have chosen them. Still, they ramble around within the footprint of their mentor, too afraid to become the leader that they should be.

This insecurity is the risk of being mentored by exceptional people. For example, let’s consider Joshua because Moses mentored him!

Be Strong

Before he died, Moses blessed Joshua as follows: “If nothing else, be strong” (Deuteronomy 31:23). That is an incredible blessing, though understandable given the history of the Israelites. Then we find God telling Joshua to “be strong” in Joshua 1:69, and in Joshua 1:18, we see the Israelites telling Joshua to “be strong.” 

On at least three separate occasions and from no less than God, Moses, and the Israelites, Joshua was told to be strong. So, you might get the idea he was a wimp. No way!

Joshua was one of the two spies that went into enemy territory and came back with a good report (Numbers 14). We know that God enabled him to lead the Israelites across the Jordan river into the Promised Land (Joshua 3). And we know that Joshua led the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6). And we also know God stopped the movement of the sun for him (Joshua 10:12-13). 

Be Who God Calls You To Be

God used Joshua powerfully, but Joshua seemed to never “be” strong. We got a glimpse of this when the city of Ai defeated the Israelites. In Joshua 7:7, we see Joshua essentially throwing a hissy-fit, to the point that, as recorded in verse 10, the Lord said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face?”

In our walk with Jesus, it is a blessing to be mentored by exceptional Christians. Nevertheless, God has a unique purpose for each of us, so let us accept, with humility and trust, the work He assigns us. Let us use what our mentors have taught us, but we each must be the person God has called us to be. And “be strong.”

Photo by Heather Ford on Unsplash

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Do, or Die, But Never Yield

Never Yield

I don’t remember which of the kids was studying family crests, but as they went through them, we decided our family motto is “Die but never yield” because it speaks to our family’s core attribute. I’m not sure which side or sides of the genetic tree it comes from but, let’s face it, our family is exceptionally hard-headed; I mean insanely hard-headed.

So, thinking about our motto led me, of course, to Scotland and the battle of Bannockburn, which led me to this passage from the poem called “Battle of Bannockburn“:

Countless banners floated gaily,
Trumpets sounded loud and long,
As that glorious host advanced –
Full a hundred thousand strong.
Face to face those hostile armies
Looked across the combat field;
Every Scot’s heart echoing proudly,
Do, or die, but never yield.

How easily I relate to that poem. Bring ’em on, I say. Unfortunately, it’s easier to fight a battle with an army you see lined up across a field from you than it is to fight a war of attrition. Sniper shots, booby traps, IEDs and such. That wears an army down.

It is rarely the big sin that destroys us

For Christians, it is rarely the big sin that destroys us. Instead, it’s the constant grinding on our weaknesses that brings us low. I read someplace that Satan’s first attack upon a Christian is rarely a big sin – adultery, murder, theft, and so forth. No, he wears a Christian down with small transgressions, fears, and impure desires. After the Christian has compromised, then the big sin is natural, the one that is family ending, career-ending, reputation ending; the big sin is easy for the defeated Christian.

And, to be sure, many of us have been brought low at some point, perhaps at many points, in our lives. It’s when we fall that we must remind ourselves, “Do, or die, but never yield.”

Falling isn’t a failure. Not getting up and continuing the advance is a failure; that is yielding. Only if we don’t get up, only then should we be ashamed. That’s why the passage in Isaiah 50:7 (ESV) is so important to me. It says, “But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame.

We need to “set our face like a flint.” No matter what the enemy throws at us or what self-inflicted wounds we cause, we must always get up. We must advance; die but never yield.

Photo is Public Domain: A depiction of the Battle of Bannockburn from a 1440s manuscript of Walter Bower‘s Scotichronicon. This is the earliest known depiction of the battle.

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Unchanging Word

Christians around the world are experiencing growing pressure to be silent, not to preach, not to speak what Jesus taught, and to edit the Bible, so people don’t read out loud a Bible verse that offends someone or their government. Even in our neighbor to the North, Canada, there are portions of the Bible which cannot be read aloud in public or preached.

Recently, I was shocked when reading an online New International Version of the Bible because it didn’t align with the book copy I held in my hand. Very significant changes have been made to the NIV. So much so that I will probably be switching the English Standard Version (ESV).

Astonishingly, the very concept of countries is rapidly disintegrating with the vacuum filled by philosophies, religious alliances, and multi-national corporations. After all, with auto-language translation, automatic currency conversion, and even sans-national currencies like Bitcoin, the “group think” seems to think, “Who needs sovereign nations any more?”

So, what can we expect? Since history repeats itself, then we might find ourselves as those Christians the writer of Hebrews addressed, saying, “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” (Hebrews 10:32-35)

So, while we’re alive, be an imitator of Jesus. Speak truth when silence is expected, show mercy when judgment is expected, show grace when nothing was earned, show temperance when willfulness is expected, show piety when foolish arguments are expected, show boldness when fear is expected, show humility when exultation is offered, remain steadfast when compromise is offered, fall to your knees in prayer when temptation assails, preserve when powers assail, rejoice in the joy of others, mourn when others mourn, love no matter the cost, and above all, be obedient to Jesus.

The world we grew up in is rapidly changing, but God’s Word never changes. That’s why we see in Hebrews 13:14, “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.” Don’t worry; help is on the way.

Photo by Bobby Johnson on Unsplash

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