When my research into my own family history led me back to the 19th century and then to the War of Northern Aggression (‘The Civil War’ for my less enthusiastic readers) my interest expanded from a mere study my own family’s heritage to that of the Southern people at large. When one embarks on the endeavor of investigating the history and culture of the South, one is never truly finished until they reach the man who personified Dixieland, Gen. Robert E. Lee.
April is Confederate History Month, so please indulge me as I write briefly to the influence this man has had, not only on my appreciation of many things “Southern”, but on my own Christian character and faith as well. There are three well-known quotes which comprise my favorite sayings attributed to General Lee. In the first, Lee is quoted as saying, “My chief concern is to try to be a humble earnest Christian”. He was not a general in the army first; he was not even a Southerner first! Robert E. Lee’s main desire for his life was to be a faithful Christian and servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I believe if he were alive today, this would be the legacy he would want to leave.
Second, Lee is noted to have said, “In all my perplexities and distresses, the Bible has never failed to give me light and strength.” Mr. R.E. Lee was a man, not only of his word, but of The Word. His devotion to the Christian faith was known throughout his army and his beloved Southland. As a cursory examination of his life would show, he was a man well acquainted with perplexity and distress. Yet this fact never deterred him in his pursuit of diligent adherence to the precepts and principles of Holy Scripture.
The third quote which has inspired me and that I want to share in this article portrays Lee as a visionary man whose spirit rested not in victory of war or politics, but in the eternal sovereign God. Lee once said,
“The truth is this: The march of Providence is so slow and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged. It is history that teaches us to hope.”
Robert E. Lee saw the hand of a mighty and benevolent God in all things. He realized behind the war, depravity and pessimism of the day would arise a hope for a better future, if not in this world, certainly in the next. I am grateful to the Lord for sending us men like Lee who led by example, and who can serve as a blessing and encouragement to this generation. May this short testimony to the life and character of Lee exhort us all to be more earnest, more humble, yet bolder, in our devotion to our Lord.
"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed." ~ John 8:36
As we observe the 4th of July with our family and friends, let us take a few moments to share with them the true source of freedom - Jesus Christ. Our American forefathers understood from whence freedom flowed. In fact, the Declaration of Independence speaks directly to the source of all freedom saying men everywhere have been "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". In short, we have been endowed with freedom. But with freedom comes responsibility. We have a responsibility towards God and our fellow man to exercise freedom within certain limitations. No man has the right to absolute freedom. Our freedom comes to us defined, defined by the Author of all freedom, God Himself.
The greatest bondage man knows is to his own sin. Man is by nature a slave to sin. Apart from the saving grace of God, we will all perish in slavery to sin. Only Jesus Christ can make us free. And when He delivers us from the bondage to sin, He sets us free to live and serve Him. We can enjoy the highest levels of social and civil liberty, but if we remain entrapped to our sin, we really aren't free in the truest sense of the word. Only when the Son makes you free, are you free indeed. Jesus Christ is the standard of true liberty. Our nation's heritage and history is filled with this reality. May we return to the Source of freedom. May Jesus reign in the hearts and minds of men. Then the godly liberty which once graced our land just might be experienced once more!
“What you have as heritage, take now as task; for thus you will make it your own”. - Goethe
"Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways... and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." - Jer. 6:16
Dear Fellow Christian Gentlemen,
We stand at the edge of a epoch-changing time in our history. The lot has been cast. It has fallen to us to be the generation of men upon which much, if not all, of our future will be written. As I pen these words, the very foundation of our society is crumbling to the ground around us. Rampant demagoguery, decadence, and degeneracy has befallen us and we find ourselves pressed sorely under the hard Providences of a holy and righteous God. The spiritual weaponry of Christ's and our enemies are being wielded this very moment. The tips of their spears and the edges of their swords have been shaped and sharpened; anxious to draw your blood (if only figuratively for the moment). No one remains safe. God's enemies are eagerly anticipating the death and destruction of the Christian man. They long to see an end to all that the Christian holds precious and dear. The enemy's joy and satisfaction, his glorious victory will only be realized as your faith, your convictions, the people and possessions you treasure most (and if needs be your life), along with the ideals you value and the principles upon which you stand united with your brothers in Christ are completely wiped from the face of the earth, stricken from history, and covered in the fullness of the wickedness and depravity of fallen man.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. A challenge has been given. The prince of the power of this world and his minions have rallied together on the field of battle and they are relentlessly determined to send you to your demise. Therefore it is here and it is now that we, as men standing firm upon our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, must answer the call to service in our Master's army. It is now that serious conviction must root out flaccid complacency. Righteous principle must triumph over godless apathy. Fear must flee in the face of a fierceness and determination like that of our once honorable forefathers. It is up to this generation of would-be-warriors to face our enemies on the battlefield, robed in the full armor of God, and prepared to live, or if needs be die, for the cause of Christ! What we, dear brethren, have as a rich and precious heritage, the faith handed down to us, we must now take as our calling and task. Only then do we make it our own. There is an old path, a better way. There is the grace of God and the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit to quicken and strengthen us for what lies ahead. Be it in our coveted churches, in our homes and by our firesides, or in the realm of public opinion, civil affairs and cultural controversy, may we be found fighting the good fight of the Faith once delivered to us by the beloved saints.
The hour is at hand. The time has come. Chose this day whom you will serve. May the men of God in my generation, those of this era, be found faithful in their calling. May history record of many great deeds done, of higher and more nobler victories won, and of the mighty advancement of God's kingdom accomplished at the hearts and hands of my fellow brothers. Yes, we may stand at the edge of an epoch-changing time. Yes, if we fail to act today, the heritage we leave for tomorrow's children may be one of dread, despair and shame. But there is hope! Greater is He that is in you, then he that is in the world. Arthur Hugh Clough (1819-1861) was an English writer, author and poet. One of his best known works was a rousing call to tired soldiers to keep up the good fight entitled, "Say not the struggle nought availeth". Be encouraged my brothers. Trust in God and you will find rest for your soul. I leave you with Mr. Clough's though-provoking poem. Will you join me?
"Say not the struggle nought availeth, the labor and the wounds are in vain,
the enemy faints not, nor faileth, and as things have been, things remain.
If hopes were dupes, fears may be liars; it may be, in yon smoke concealed,
your comrades chase e'en now the fliers, and, but for you, possess the field.
For while the tired waves, vainly breaking, seem here no painful inch to gain,
far back through creeks and inlets making, came silent, flooding in, the main.
And not by eastern windows only, when daylight comes, comes in the light,
in front the sun climbs slow, how slowly, but westward, look, the land is bright!"
Post tenebras lux,
The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes." - Proverbs 21:1
During much of the history of the ancient world, Egypt ruled and reigned as the supreme nation among the nations of their time. No other county could compare with the wealth, prosperity, power and influence of that of the Egyptians. And from among those who were Egyptians, none was greater than that of the Pharoah. In many respects, he would have been considered the ruler of the world.
Yet, we know from sacred Scripture that when the time came for God to accomplish His purposes and plans for His people, the Lord was able to soften and harden the Pharoah's heart as if he was any other man. To God, the king's heart was in the hand of the Lord. Like the way a farmer might dig and trench the earth in such a way so the waters will meet his needs and fulfill his purposes, the hearts of leaders, men of power and affluence are in the hands of almighty God.
By saying this, are we saying God interferes with the will of man? Is God 'controlling' people against their will? Not in any way. Just as a farmer by canals and trenches, turns the water through his grounds as he pleases, which does not alter the nature of the water, nor put any controlling force upon it, God’s providencial workings in the life of man does not impose upon the freedom of man’s will, but directs the course of it to serve His own purpose. And as
our text this week states, even kings’ hearts are so, notwithstanding their powers and prerogatives, are found in the hands of a righteous God.
How then can believers apply this verse? At least a few ways. First, know that God is sovereign. Even the most powerful and influential men of this world are as of nothing to God. He remains in control. Secondly, our leaders, our 'kings', are subject to a higher authority. No man escapes the responsibility to live and act in obedience to God. Pharoah tried rebellion, and he was defeated. Our leaders are in the hands of the Lord. And they can be either a curse sent to bring repentance and faith, or a blessing for having honored the Lord.