Inspiration for Today's World

Category: Virtues (Page 1 of 2)

Biblical history lessons based on the 9/12 program

Raising the Next Generation to Believe in God

It was surprising when an article was published by a liberal news outlet that was entitled: “15 Reasons Why Raising Your Child with Religion Just Makes Sense.1 The article did a good assessment of the benefits that await a child if they grow up exposed to the right religion. However, no preference for any specific religion was given in the article. Lostpine has modified the assessment noted in the article to be consistent with the Judeo-Christian tenets of the Holy Bible. We have maintained the understanding that the term “religion” means the one that recognizes Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We have also added lists of church programs that would be supportive of the goals mentioned in the original article. Think of this as a parental or church checklist.

The tenets of a Judeo-Christian church that are consistent with the Bible would generally encompass core beliefs and principles shared in the Old Testament (Tanakh) and the New Testament. Here are some fundamental principles that such a church should emphasize:

  • Monotheism: The belief in one God, as taught in both the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and the New Testament.
  • Creation: The belief that God is the Creator of the universe and all living beings, as described in the Book of Genesis.
  • Sin and Redemption: The acknowledgment of human sinfulness and the need for redemption. This includes the concept of salvation through repentance and faith in God’s Grace and forgiveness.
  • Covenant: Emphasis on the biblical covenants between God and humanity, such as the Abrahamic, Mosaic, and New Covenants. These covenants outline the relationship between God and His people.
  • Ethical Standards: Emphasis on moral and ethical behavior, including adherence to the Ten Commandments and the teachings of Jesus regarding love, compassion, and ethical conduct.
  • Prophetic Tradition: Recognition of the prophetic tradition, which involves listening to God’s guidance through prophets and scripture.
  • Messiah: The anticipation of a Messiah or Savior, as foretold in the Hebrew Bible and fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God.
  • Worship and Prayer: Regular communal worship, prayer, and study of the scriptures as a means of connecting with God and seeking His guidance.
  • Restorative Justice and Compassion: An emphasis on caring for the vulnerable, advocating for principles of equal justice, and showing compassion to others, consistent with the teachings in both the Hebrew Bible and of Jesus in the New Testament.
  • Resurrection and Afterlife: Belief in the resurrection of the dead and the hope of eternal life, as taught in the New Testament.

The interpretation and emphasis of these tenets will vary among different denominations and congregations within a Judeo-Christian context. It is the responsibility of parents to seek a church that is representative of the faith values they support. Let’s go through the original list of 15 and concentrate on the church programs that serve to support each specific benefit.

  1. Provides a Sense of Community

Remember that the article uses religion as a generic term, listing first that it can provide a sense of community for both parents and children. The article’s definition includes attending religious services and events that help families connect with others who share similar values and beliefs. A church can provide a sense of community for children through various activities, programs, and interactions that foster a supportive and inclusive environment. Here are some ways in which a supportive church can achieve this:

  • Sunday School and Religious Education: Many churches offer Sunday School programs where children can learn about their faith in an age-appropriate and engaging manner. These classes not only teach religious principles but also create a space where children can bond with their peers and develop a shared understanding of their beliefs.
  • Youth Groups: Churches often establish youth groups that allow children and teenagers to come together, socialize, and explore their faith more interactively. These groups may organize meetings, events, retreats, and community service projects that promote teamwork and camaraderie.
  • Children’s Choirs and Music Programs: Music is a powerful way to connect people. A church’s children’s choir or music program can help children develop their musical talents while also fostering a sense of unity and belonging as they collaborate on performances.
  • Family-oriented Events: Hosting events that involve both children and their families, such as picnics, potlucks, holiday celebrations, and themed parties, can create opportunities for children to interact with their peers while strengthening family bonds within the church community.
  • Volunteer and Service Opportunities: Engaging children in volunteer and service activities within the community can teach them the importance of giving back and help them feel like they are contributing to something greater than themselves.
  • Summer Camps and Retreats: Organizing summer camps or retreats specifically for children can offer a unique opportunity for them to spend extended time together, participate in various activities, and engage in spiritual discussions in a relaxed setting.
  • Mentorship Programs: Pairing children with older members of the church community can create meaningful relationships that offer guidance, support, and a sense of belonging. Mentors can serve as positive role models and provide a safe space for children to share their thoughts and concerns.
  • Celebration of Milestones: Churches often celebrate significant milestones in children’s lives, such as baptisms, confirmations, and first communions. These ceremonies not only mark important religious moments but also strengthen the child’s connection to the community.
  • Interactive Lessons and Workshops: Interactive lessons, workshops, and activities that involve discussions, arts and crafts, and storytelling can make learning about faith more engaging for children and allow them to connect with their peers in a meaningful way.
  • Open Communication: Creating an environment where children feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and questions about faith and spirituality helps them build relationships with both their peers and adult leaders.
  • Inclusive Environment: Ensuring that the church community is welcoming and accepting of all children, regardless of their backgrounds, abilities, or circumstances, is crucial for fostering a strong sense of belonging.

Regular attendance at a church by a family can offer a variety of engaging activities, promoting positive relationships, and creating an atmosphere where children feel valued, supported, and connected to others who share their faith.

  1. Instills Moral Values

Religions based on the Bible (Old and New Testaments) emphasize moral values such as compassion, forgiveness, and respect for others. By raising your child with a biblical background, they will learn to live a life focused on forgiveness and peace. You can help instill these same values in them from a young age. The leaders of any church play a significant role in instilling moral values in children by offering guidance, and teachings. It is important to make sure that the principles of that religion align with your principles. Here’s how a church can help instill moral values in children:

  • Religious Education: Through Sunday School programs, youth groups, and age-appropriate classes, churches can teach children about the moral teachings and ethical principles that are central to their faith. These teachings often include concepts of compassion, honesty, kindness, empathy, and respect for others.
  • Scripture and Stories: Churches often use religious texts, parables, and stories from their faith’s traditions to illustrate moral values. By sharing these stories and discussing their meanings, children can learn valuable lessons about right and wrong behavior.
  • Role Models: Church leaders, clergy, and other adult members of the community can serve as positive role models for children. Their behavior, attitudes, and actions can demonstrate how to live out the moral values taught by the faith.
  • Community Service: Engaging children in community service projects and outreach efforts helps them learn the importance of giving back and helping others in need. These experiences can foster a sense of empathy and a commitment to making a positive difference in the world.
  • Ethical Discussions: Encouraging open and age-appropriate discussions about ethical dilemmas and real-world situations can help children apply moral values to practical situations. This enables them to develop critical thinking skills and understand the complexities of moral decision-making.
  • Prayer and Reflection: Incorporating moments of prayer, meditation, and reflection in church activities can help children connect with their inner values and consider how they align with their faith’s teachings.
  • Family Involvement: Supporting families in discussing and reinforcing moral values at home can be a powerful way for the church to extend its influence. Providing resources, discussion guides, and suggestions for incorporating faith-based values into daily life can help parents guide their children’s moral development.
  • Celebration of Virtues: Recognizing and celebrating instances where children demonstrate moral virtues reinforces positive behavior. Acknowledging their efforts encourages them to continue living by those values.
  • Ethics-Based Activities: Organizing workshops, role-playing activities, and group discussions focused on ethical scenarios helps children navigate complex moral issues and develop a strong moral compass.
  • Practical Application: Encouraging children to participate in acts of kindness, volunteering, and community service allows them to put their moral values into action and experience the positive impact they can have on others.
  • Consistency and Repetition: Reiterating moral teachings consistently throughout various church activities and age groups helps reinforce these values over time, making them a part of children’s core beliefs.

Instilling moral values is a collaborative effort involving not only the church but also families, schools, and the broader community. The church’s teachings and activities can complement the values taught in these other settings, contributing to a holistic moral upbringing for children.

  1. Offers Guidance and Support

The Bible can offer guidance and support during difficult times. Whether it’s through prayer or seeking guidance from a religious leader, or the Word of God Himself, a supportive church can provide comfort during times of hardship. A Bible-believing church can offer guidance and support to children in various ways, helping them navigate the challenges of life, make informed decisions, and grow in their faith and character. Here are some ways a church can provide guidance and support to children:

  • Mentorship Programs: Establishing mentorship programs where children are paired with caring and responsible adult mentors can provide them with a trusted source of guidance, advice, and support. Mentors can offer a listening ear, share their life experiences, and provide valuable insights.
  • Pastoral Counseling: Trained clergy or counselors within the church can offer pastoral counseling to children who are facing personal, emotional, or spiritual challenges. These sessions provide a safe space for children to express their concerns and receive guidance rooted in their faith.
  • Youth Groups: Organizing youth groups where children can interact with their peers in a positive and supportive environment allows them to share experiences, seek advice, and receive encouragement from others who are facing similar challenges.
  • Educational Workshops: Hosting workshops on topics such as bullying, peer pressure, stress management, and healthy relationships can equip children with practical skills and strategies for navigating these issues. God’s Word offers guidance on all these topics.
  • Spiritual Education: Offering age-appropriate classes and discussions on spiritual matters can guide children in understanding their faith, building a strong moral foundation, and seeking answers to their questions about spirituality.
  • Parent-Child Workshops: Hosting workshops that involve both parents and children can facilitate open communication and understanding between generations. These workshops can address various aspects of growing up, including communication, values, and expectations.
  • Bereavement Support: Assisting children who are dealing with loss, grief, or the death of a loved one through grief support groups, counseling, and age-appropriate resources can help them process their emotions and find comfort in their faith.
  • Prayer and Meditation: Incorporating prayer and meditation into church activities can provide children with tools for managing stress, seeking guidance, and finding moments of calm reflection.
  • Positive Role Models: Encouraging church leaders, volunteers, and older members of the community to model strong values and behavior can provide children with examples to emulate.
  • Community Outreach: Involving children in community service projects and outreach initiatives can help them develop empathy, a sense of responsibility, and a greater awareness of the needs of others.
  • Workshops on Social Issues: Addressing social issues like tolerance, diversity, inclusion, and social justice through educational workshops can guide children in understanding their responsibility to create a just and compassionate society.
  • Supportive Literature and Resources: Providing age-appropriate books, articles, and resources that align with the church’s teachings can help children further explore their faith and receive guidance on various aspects of their lives.
  • Personal Development Activities: Offering activities that focus on personal development, such as leadership training, communication skills, and emotional intelligence, can equip children with valuable life skills.

By combining the above approaches, a church can create a holistic support system that addresses the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of children, helping them grow into well-rounded individuals who are equipped to face life’s challenges with faith and resilience.

  1. Teaches Responsibility

Our Holy Bible emphasizes the importance of taking responsibility for one’s actions. By raising your child with an understanding of Scripture, you can help teach them the importance of accountability and taking responsibility for their choices. Teaching responsibility to children is an important aspect of their moral and character development. A church can play a role in helping children understand the value of responsibility and how it aligns with their faith. Some examples of teaching responsibility to children are:

  • Biblical Examples: Using stories and parables from religious texts to illustrate responsibility can help children connect this value to their faith. For example, discussing the parable of the talents or stories of individuals who fulfilled their responsibilities can provide valuable lessons.
  • Sunday School Lessons: Incorporating responsibility-related themes into the Sunday School curriculum can help children learn about the importance of fulfilling their duties, being accountable, and making thoughtful choices.
  • Discussion and Reflection: Engaging children in open discussions and reflections about responsibility helps them internalize the concept. Encouraging them to share their thoughts and experiences can deepen their understanding.
  • Service Projects: Involving children in community service projects or volunteer activities emphasizes their responsibility to help others and make a positive impact on their community.
  • Chores and Tasks: Encouraging children to participate in age-appropriate chores and tasks at church events or within the church premises teaches them responsibility and teamwork.
  • Leadership Opportunities: Allowing children to take on leadership roles in youth groups, events, or service projects helps them understand the responsibilities that come with leading and organizing. As children grow older, providing them opportunities to conduct their own worship service in combination with the congregation, provides them with future experience in church leadership responsibilities.
  • Goal Setting: Helping children set achievable goals and encouraging them to work toward these goals teaches them about commitment, planning, and taking ownership of their actions.
  • Accountability: Teaching children about accountability by discussing how their actions have consequences can help them recognize the importance of being responsible for their choices.
  • Stewardship Education: Teaching children about being good stewards of resources, including time, money, and the environment, promotes a sense of responsibility toward the world around them.
  • Role Modeling: Demonstrating responsible behavior as church leaders, volunteers, and older members of the community sets a positive example for children to follow. It also provides the older children with an opportunity to become role models for the younger children in the church.
  • Pledges and Commitments: Encouraging children to make commitments or pledges to uphold certain responsibilities, such as attending Sunday School or participating in community service, can reinforce the value of keeping promises.
  • Parent Involvement: Providing resources and suggestions for parents to teach responsibility at home reinforces the lessons learned at church and extends the learning experience beyond church activities.
  • Storytelling: Sharing stories of individuals who have shown responsibility and the positive outcomes that result can inspire children to embrace this value.
  • Discussion of Ethical Dilemmas: Engaging children in discussions about real-life ethical dilemmas and their responsible resolutions can help them develop critical thinking skills and a strong moral compass.

By integrating these strategies into church activities and teachings, children can develop a deeper understanding of responsibility as a core value in their faith. It’s important to make the lessons engaging, age-appropriate, and relevant to their everyday lives to effectively instill a sense of responsibility in children. It is equally important for parents to volunteer for leadership positions in these youth activities to show their children the importance of a lifelong commitment to faith.

  1. Fosters a Sense of Purpose

Having a belief in God can provide a sense of purpose and meaning in life. By raising your child with an appropriate religion and church, you can help them develop a sense of purpose and direction in life. Fostering a sense of purpose in children within a church community involves helping them understand their unique worth, potential contributions, and how their lives align with their faith. Here are some ways in which a church can achieve this:

  • Spiritual Education: Teach children about their faith’s teachings on the value of every individual and how their lives fit into a greater plan. Help them understand that they are part of a community working towards shared spiritual goals. Remember, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God created man and that He created him for His glory. Therefore, the ultimate purpose of man, according to the Bible, is simply to glorify God.
  • Encouraging Gifts and Talents: Identify and encourage children’s talents and passions. Provide opportunities for them to use these talents within the church community, reinforcing the idea that their abilities have a greater purpose.
  • Service Opportunities: Involve children in age-appropriate service projects and outreach initiatives. Experiencing the positive impact of their actions can help them see the meaningful contribution they make to others’ lives.
  • Youth Groups: When children participate in youth groups, they can connect with peers who share their faith and explore how their faith informs their life choices. These groups can encourage discussions about life’s purpose and identity.
  • Mentorship: Pairing children with mentors can guide them in understanding their strengths, interests, and potential contributions. Mentors can help children explore their sense of purpose within the context of their faith.
  • Mission Trips and Retreats: Organized mission trips or retreats that expose children to different communities and cultures, broaden their perspective on their purpose, and inspire them to contribute positively to the world.
  • Biblical Role Models: Sharing stories of individuals from religious texts who discovered and lived out their purpose, emphasizing how faith guided their actions and decisions.
  • Personal Reflection: Encouraging children to reflect on their values, beliefs, and aspirations. Journaling, meditation, and prayer can help them explore their sense of purpose on a deeper level.
  • Empower Decision-Making: Teaching children about making responsible decisions aligned with their faith. Guiding them in ethical decision-making reinforces the idea that their choices have purpose and impact.
  • Empathy and Compassion: Promoting empathy and compassion by discussing the importance of caring for others. This helps children understand that their acts of kindness contribute to a better world.
  • Community Celebrations: Celebrating milestones in children’s spiritual journeys, such as baptisms, confirmations, and first communions. These celebrations can help children feel connected to their faith community and affirm their place within it.
  • Discussion of Life’s Big Questions: Engaging children in thoughtful discussions about the meaning of life, the universe, and their role within it. Encouraging them to ask questions and explore their beliefs.
  • Encouraging Curiosity: Supporting children’s natural curiosity about the world and their faith. Providing resources and opportunities for learning that help them discover their interests and passions.
  • Supportive Environment: Creating a welcoming and inclusive church environment where children feel valued, respected, and encouraged to explore their identity and purpose.

By integrating these strategies into the church’s activities and teachings, children can develop a deeper understanding of their purpose within the context of their faith. The goal is to help them recognize that they have a unique role to play in the world, guided by their faith and values.

  1. Encourages Self-Reflection

Religions of all types usually encourage self-reflection and introspection. By raising your child with religion, you can help them develop a sense of self-awareness and reflection, which can be valuable skills for their personal growth and development. Encouraging self-reflection in children is an important aspect of their personal and spiritual development. Self-reflection helps children understand their thoughts, emotions, values, and actions, leading to greater self-awareness and growth. Here are ways a church can foster self-reflection in children:

  • Guided Prayer and Meditation: Introducing children to simple prayer and meditation practices that allow them to connect with their inner thoughts and feelings. Guided sessions can help them explore their emotions and experiences. The Lord’s Prayer is a simple example of this.
  • Journaling: Encouraging children to keep journals where they can write about their thoughts, experiences, and questions. Journaling provides a private outlet for self-expression and introspection.
  • Discussion Circles: Organizing small group discussions where children can share their experiences, thoughts, and questions. A safe and supportive environment fosters open dialogue and self-discovery.
  • Themed Workshops: Hosting workshops that focus on self-discovery and personal growth. Themes could include values, emotions, goals, and aspirations. Workshops work well for parents too.
  • Storytelling: Sharing personal stories or anecdotes related to character development, challenges, and growth. Discussing these stories prompts children to reflect on their own lives.
  • Ethical Dilemmas: Presenting children with hypothetical ethical dilemmas and encouraging them to think about how they would respond. This helps them consider their values and beliefs. Once they are on their own, life will present them with the reality of ethical dilemmas.
  • Quiet Reflection Time: Dedicating moments of quiet reflection during church gatherings or youth group meetings. This provides children with an opportunity to think about their experiences and the messages they’ve heard.
  • Service Reflection: After participating in community service or outreach activities, facilitating discussions where children can reflect on the impact of their actions and how they will align with their values.
  • Artistic Expression: Allowing children to express themselves through art, music, or creative writing. These outlets can help them process their thoughts and emotions.
  • Open-Ended Questions: Asking open-ended questions will prompt children to think deeply about their beliefs, experiences, and hopes. This encourages critical thinking and introspection.
  • Personal Growth Challenges: Issuing personal growth challenges, such as setting goals, practicing acts of kindness, or stepping outside comfort zones. Encouraging children to reflect on their experiences throughout the process.
  • Mindfulness Exercises: Teaching mindfulness techniques that help children stay present and aware of their thoughts and feelings. Mindfulness (self-awareness of their world) can lead to deeper self-understanding.
  • Letters to Future Self: Having children write letters to their future selves, expressing their current thoughts, dreams, and goals. Revisiting these letters over time can offer insights into their growth.
  • Role Models and Heroes: Discussing the lives of historical figures, biblical people, or individuals who exemplify positive qualities. Encouraging children to reflect on what they can learn from these role models.

The key goal here is to create a supportive and nonjudgmental atmosphere where children feel comfortable exploring their thoughts and feelings. By incorporating these strategies, a church can help children develop self-awareness, empathy, and a deeper connection to their faith and values.

  1. Provides a Framework for Decision-Making

God’s Word provides a framework for decision-making in life. Helping your children develop a moral compass and make decisions based on their values and beliefs is an important role in parenting. A church can provide a framework for decision-making for children by offering guidance and principles rooted in its faith teachings. This framework helps children make informed, ethical, and values-driven choices in their lives. Here’s how a church can provide such a framework:

  • Teach Moral Values: Incorporating regular teachings about moral values and ethical principles that align with the church’s beliefs. Helping children understand the importance of living by these values in their decisions.
  • Reference Religious Texts: Using stories, parables, and passages from religious texts to illustrate decision-making scenarios and the consequences of choices. Discuss the lessons that can be learned from these stories.
  • Discuss Real-Life Scenarios: Engaging children in discussions about real-life scenarios they might encounter. Encouraging them to consider how their faith values can guide their choices in challenging situations.
  • Ethical Guidelines: Providing age-appropriate guidelines that help children navigate common ethical dilemmas they may face. Offering insights on honesty, kindness, respect, and other virtues.
  • Encourage Prayerful Reflection: Teaching children the practice of prayerful reflection before making important decisions. Encouraging them to seek guidance from their faith and connect with their inner values.
  • Personal Values Clarification: Helping children identify their core values and beliefs. This self-awareness forms a foundation for decision-making based on what matters most to them.
  • Consulting with Elders or Mentors: Teaching children to seek advice and guidance from trusted adults, such as parents, mentors, or church leaders, when facing complex decisions.
  • Weighing Consequences: Teaching children to consider the potential outcomes of their decisions, both for themselves and for others. Discuss how certain choices align with their faith values.
  • Case Studies and Role-Playing: Using case studies and role-playing exercises to present ethical dilemmas and encourage children to explore different decision-making options.
  • Youth Group Discussions: Facilitating discussions within youth groups where children can share their experiences and perspectives on decision-making. Learning from peers can be insightful.
  • Setting Personal Goals: Encouraging children to set goals that reflect their values and faith principles. This helps guide their decisions toward desired outcomes when they become adults.
  • Reflecting on Past Choices: Discuss with children how reflecting on past decisions can lead to growth and learning. Encourage them to evaluate the consequences of previous choices. Reminding children of the forgiving nature of God and the redemptive purpose of Jesus.
  • Understanding Conscience: Teaching children to listen to their conscience, which is often informed by their faith teachings, when making decisions.
  • Responsibility and Accountability: Emphasizing the importance of taking responsibility for one’s choices and being accountable for their actions.
  • Encourage Humility: Teach children that it’s okay to make mistakes and that humility is a key aspect of responsible decision-making. Learning from errors is part of growth.

By including these approaches in the church’s teachings and activities, children can develop a strong framework for making decisions that are in alignment with their faith values and contribute to their personal growth and character development.

  1. Promotes Gratitude and Appreciation

Having a sense of religion often emphasizes the importance of gratitude and appreciation. By raising your child with religion, you can help them develop a sense of gratitude for the blessings in their life and appreciate the world around them. Promoting gratitude and appreciation among children is a wonderful way for a church to help them develop a positive outlook on life and a deeper connection to their faith. Here are ways a church can encourage gratitude and appreciation in children:

  • Gratitude Prayers: Teaching children to incorporate gratitude into their prayers by thanking God for blessings, experiences, and people in their lives.
  • Storytelling: Sharing stories from religious texts and modern examples that highlight the importance of gratitude and the positive impact it can have on individuals and communities.
  • Thanksgiving Celebrations: Organizing special Thanksgiving events or services where children can express their gratitude for specific things in their lives.
  • Service Projects: Engaging children in volunteer and service projects that expose them to different life circumstances. These experiences can foster empathy and gratitude for what they have.
  • Gratitude Journals: Encouraging children to keep gratitude journals where they write down things that they are thankful for each day. This practice can help them focus on the positive aspects of life.
  • Acts of Kindness: Encouraging children to perform random acts of kindness for others. This can help them realize the impact of their actions and develop an attitude of appreciation.
  • Discussion Circles: Host discussions where children share things that they are grateful for and discuss the reasons behind their gratitude.
  • Nature Walks: Organizing walks or outings in nature where children can appreciate the beauty of creation and reflect on the wonders around them.
  • Sharing Stories: Inviting children to share personal stories of moments when they felt grateful or when someone showed kindness to them.
  • Crafts and Art: Incorporating crafts and art activities that revolve around the theme of gratitude. Children can create visual representations of what they appreciate.
  • Gratitude Challenges: Issuing challenges that encourage children to find something to be grateful for every day for a set period. This can help establish a habit of appreciation.
  • Blessing Rituals: Introducing simple blessing rituals before meals or bedtime, where children express gratitude for the food they have or the experiences of the day.
  • Cultural and Global Awareness: Educating children about different cultures and global perspectives. This can help them appreciate the diversity and interconnectedness of the world.
  • Positive Role Models: Sharing stories of individuals who exemplify gratitude and appreciation in their lives, showing children how these attitudes can lead to a fulfilling life.
  • Family Involvement: Encouraging parents to model gratitude and appreciation at home. Provide resources and ideas for incorporating gratitude practices into family routines.

By integrating these practices into the church’s activities and teachings, children can cultivate a genuine sense of gratitude and appreciation that enriches their lives, relationships, and their spiritual journey.

  1. Helps Develop Empathy

You can help develop empathy and compassion for others through religion. Children can develop a sense of empathy for those who may be different from them and understand the importance of treating others with kindness and respect. Developing empathy in children is crucial for fostering compassion, understanding, and strong interpersonal relationships. A church can play a significant role in helping children cultivate empathy. Here’s how:

  • Teach Compassion from God’s Word: Sharing stories and teachings from the Bible that emphasize the importance of compassion, kindness, and caring for others. Discuss the examples of empathy shown by figures in these stories.
  • Lead by Example: Modeling empathetic behavior as church leaders, volunteers, and members. Children learn by observing how adults treat others with kindness, respect, and understanding.
  • Storytelling: Share real-life stories that showcase acts of empathy and the positive impact they have on individuals and communities. This is one important benefit of parents being involved in church programs.
  • Role-Playing: Organizing role-playing activities that help children put themselves in someone else’s shoes and understand different perspectives.
  • Service Projects: Engaging children in community service projects that involve interacting with people from different backgrounds or those facing challenges. These experiences can foster empathy.
  • Discussion Circles: Facilitating open discussions about emotions, feelings, and experiences. Encourage children to share their thoughts and learn from one another.
  • Empathy Education: Hosting workshops or seminars that focus specifically on empathy, teaching children about its importance and how to practice it.
  • Guided Reflection: Encouraging children to reflect on their feelings and experiences, as well as how others might be feeling in certain situations.
  • Empathy-Building Games: Incorporating games or activities that encourage cooperation, teamwork, and consideration of others’ feelings.
  • Family Involvement: Providing resources for parents to promote empathy at home. Encourage open conversations and teach parents how to model empathetic behavior.
  • Letters of Encouragement: Organizing letter-writing campaigns where children send letters of encouragement and support to individuals who might be struggling or in need.
  • Understanding Differences: Teaching children about diversity, different cultures, and unique life circumstances. Help them see the value in understanding and appreciating differences.
  • Media Literacy: Discussing media portrayals of various situations and people, helping children critically analyze and empathize with different perspectives. Our world is filled with misrepresentations. Children need to learn to search for the truth.
  • Apology and Forgiveness: Teaching children the importance of apologizing when they’ve hurt someone and the significance of forgiving others. “What Would Jesus Do?”
  • Mindfulness and Listening Skills: Introducing mindfulness techniques and active listening exercises that help children be present and attuned to others’ feelings.

By integrating these practices into the church’s teachings and activities, children can develop a strong foundation of empathy that contributes not only to their personal growth but also to the creation of a more compassionate and empathetic community.

  1. Offers a Sense of Belonging

Religion can offer a sense of belonging and identity. By raising your child with religion, you can help them develop a strong sense of self and belong to a larger community. A church can offer a sense of belonging to children in several ways, fostering a welcoming and supportive community that helps them develop spiritually, emotionally, and socially. Here are a few strategies and practices that can create a sense of belonging for children in a church setting:

  • Youth Programs: Establishing age-appropriate programs and activities for children, such as Sunday School, youth groups, and special events, can help them build relationships with their peers and mentors within the church community.
  • Inclusive Atmosphere: Ensuring that the church environment is inclusive and welcoming to all children, regardless of their background, abilities, or family situation. Encourage diversity and embrace differences. This can be specifically helpful if children have special needs.
  • Dedicated Leaders: Look for dedicated leaders and volunteers who have a passion for working with children. These leaders should be positive role models and provide a safe and nurturing environment. Provide additional training and development for them.
  • Worship Services: Making worship services engaging and accessible to children by incorporating age-appropriate activities, music, and storytelling. Encourage children to participate in the worship experience.
  • Small Groups: Creating opportunities for children to connect in smaller groups where they can share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences. This can help them form deeper relationships with their peers and mentors.
  • Family Engagement: Involving families in church activities and events. When parents and caregivers are engaged, children often feel more connected to the church community.
  • Community Service: Encouraging children to participate in community service projects and outreach programs. This not only instills a sense of belonging within the church but also teaches them the importance of giving back.
  • Mentoring and Discipleship: Establishing mentorship and discipleship programs where older, more experienced church members can guide and support children in their spiritual growth.
  • Celebrations and Milestones: Recognizing and celebrating important milestones in a child’s life, such as baptisms, confirmations, and graduations. These ceremonies can reinforce a child’s sense of belonging within the church community.
  • Open Communication: Maintaining open and honest communication with children, listening to their concerns, questions, and ideas. Creating an atmosphere where they feel comfortable expressing themselves.
  • Fun and Social Activities: Organizing fun and social activities outside of regular church services, such as picnics, game nights, and camping trips. These events can help children form lasting friendships.
  • Support and Care: Providing emotional and spiritual support to children during challenging times, such as illness, loss, or family difficulties. Showing that the church community cares for them beyond the church walls.
  • Education and Spiritual Growth: Offering age-appropriate educational resources and opportunities for spiritual growth, helping children develop their faith and values.

By churches implementing these practices, they can create a nurturing and inclusive environment that offers children a strong sense of belonging within the faith community. It’s important to adapt these strategies to the specific needs and dynamics of your church and the children you serve.

  1. Encourages Critical Thinking

Religious beliefs can encourage critical thinking and questioning of those beliefs and values. By raising your child with religion, you can help them develop their thoughts and opinions on important issues. Encouraging critical thinking in children is essential for their cognitive development, decision-making skills, and ability to analyze complex situations. A church can foster critical thinking by creating an environment that encourages questioning, exploration, and open-mindedness. Here’s how:

  • Interactive Discussions: Organizing honest group discussions on topics related to faith, ethics, and morality. Encouraging children to ask questions, share their perspectives, and engage in thoughtful dialogue.
  • Questioning Sessions: Setting time aside for children to ask questions about their faith, religious texts, and teachings. Providing thoughtful and respectful answers that promote inquiry.
  • Socratic Approach: Use the Socratic method by asking open-ended questions that guide children to think critically about their beliefs and the reasons behind them.
  • Comparative Studies: Introducing children to different religious perspectives, historical contexts, and cultural influences. Encourage them to compare various viewpoints.
  • Case Studies: Presenting ethical or moral dilemmas and asking children to analyze and discuss possible solutions. This helps them practice evaluating situations critically.
  • Critical Reading: Encouraging children to read religious texts, stories, and literature critically. Discuss the meanings behind the texts and how they can apply to real-life situations.
  • Debate and Deliberation: Organizing debates or group discussions where children can take opposing sides and present logical arguments to support their viewpoints.
  • Problem-Solving Activities: Engaging children in activities that require them to brainstorm solutions, weigh pros and cons, and make informed decisions.
  • Critical Reflection: Scheduling after-church events or discussions that ask children to reflect on what they’ve learned, what questions arose, and how they might apply these insights.
  • Research Assignments: Assigning research projects related to faith, history, or ethics. This encourages children to seek information from various sources and think critically about the material.
  • Guest Speakers: Inviting experts, scholars, or individuals with unique perspectives to speak on relevant topics. Encouraging children to engage in Q&A sessions with the speakers.
  • Ethical Dilemma Workshops: Hosting workshops focused on ethical dilemmas children might encounter in their lives. Guiding them through analyzing situations and making informed choices.
  • Art and Creative Expression: Encouraging children to express their thoughts and ideas through art, writing, or other creative mediums. This allows for unique forms of critical expression.
  • Encourage Curiosity: Fostering an atmosphere where curiosity is welcomed and rewarded. Support children’s inquiries and exploration of different aspects of their faith.
  • Empower Independent Thinking: Encouraging children to form their own opinions and beliefs based on thoughtful consideration rather than simply accepting information at face value.

Children can develop strong critical thinking skills that serve them well in all aspects of their lives and deepen their understanding of their faith by incorporating these strategies into the church’s activities and teachings.

  1. Provides a Sense of Ritual and Tradition

Religions often include rituals and traditions that can provide a sense of continuity and connection to the past. By raising your child with religion, you can help them feel connected to their cultural and religious heritage. Creating a sense of ritual and tradition for children within a church community can help them feel connected, grounded, and a part of something meaningful. Here’s how a church can provide a sense of ritual and tradition for children:

  • Regular Worship Services: Including children in regular worship services, allowing them to experience the rituals, prayers, and hymns that are part of the congregation’s tradition.
  • Children’s Liturgy: Offering a special children’s liturgy during the main service where elements are tailored to their age and understanding, introducing them to the order and structure of the service.
  • Seasonal Celebrations: Marking special seasons like Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter with age-appropriate rituals and traditions that engage children in the spiritual significance of these events.
  • Sacramental Preparation: Guiding children through sacramental preparation, such as baptism, first communion, and confirmation, helps them understand the meaning and significance of these milestones.
  • Festivals and Feast Days: Celebrating feast days of saints and other important figures in the tradition, introducing children to stories and rituals associated with these figures.
  • Blessings and Benedictions: Incorporating blessings and benedictions into children’s activities, emphasizing the idea of receiving and sharing blessings.
  • Family-Focused Events: Organizing events that involve both children and their families, fostering a sense of unity and tradition across generations.
  • Storytelling: Sharing stories from religious texts and the history of the faith to introduce children to the traditions and values of the community.
  • Crafts and Artwork: Incorporating hands-on activities where children can create art or crafts related to traditional symbols, stories, or themes.
  • Prayer Circles: Forming prayer circles where children gather to pray, fostering a sense of unity and connection through shared rituals.
  • Candle Lighting: Introducing children to the symbolism of lighting candles during worship services or special ceremonies, allowing them to actively participate in a meaningful tradition.
  • Memorization: Encouraging children to memorize important prayers, hymns, and passages from religious texts, creating a connection to the tradition.
  • Church Decorations: Involving children in decorating the church for special occasions, allowing them to contribute to the visual aspects of the community’s traditions.
  • Legacy Projects: Creating projects that allow children to learn about the history and traditions of the church, encouraging a sense of continuity and passing down of values.
  • Service and Giving: Instilling the tradition of service and giving by involving children in community service projects and initiatives that reflect the church’s values.

By integrating these practices into the church’s activities, children can experience a sense of continuity, connection, and reverence for the traditions of their faith community, contributing to their overall spiritual growth and sense of belonging.

  1. Promotes Self-Discipline

Part of faith is promoting self-discipline and self-control. By raising your child with religion, you can help them develop the ability to delay gratification and make choices that align with their values and beliefs. Promoting self-discipline in children is essential for their personal development, character building, and ability to make responsible choices. A church can play a significant role in helping children cultivate self-discipline. Here’s how:

  • Clear Expectations: Communicating clear expectations for behavior and actions, both in church activities and in daily life, emphasizing the importance of self-discipline.
  • Character Education: Integrating teachings from religious texts that highlight virtues such as self-control, patience, and humility, helping children understand the value of self-discipline.
  • Guided Reflection: Encouraging children to reflect on their actions and decisions, discussing how self-discipline plays a role in making choices aligned with their faith values.
  • Role Modeling: Setting positive examples of self-discipline through church leaders, volunteers, and older members of the community. Children often learn by observing adults.
  • Prayer and Meditation: Teaching children the practice of prayer and meditation as tools for cultivating inner self-discipline and focus.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Introducing mindfulness techniques that help children become more aware of their thoughts, feelings, and impulses, enabling them to exercise self-control.
  • Small Group Discussions: Organizing discussions where children can share experiences of self-discipline and support one another in their efforts.
  • Goal Setting: Encouraging children to set personal goals that require self-discipline to achieve. Guide breaking down goals into manageable steps.
  • Delayed Gratification: Teaching children about the benefits of delaying immediate desires in favor of long-term rewards. Share stories that illustrate the value of patience.
  • Positive Reinforcement: Offering praise and recognition when children exhibit self-discipline. Positive reinforcement can motivate them to continue making disciplined choices.
  • Accountability Partners: Pairing children with accountability partners who support each other in practicing self-discipline and making positive choices.
  • Coping Strategies: Equipping children with healthy coping strategies for managing stress, frustration, and challenging situations, encouraging them to respond with self-control.
  • Volunteer Opportunities: Involving children in volunteer activities where they need to commit to specific tasks and responsibilities promotes a sense of duty and self-discipline.
  • Regular Routines: Encouraging children to establish regular routines for tasks like homework, chores, and personal responsibilities, fostering habits of self-discipline.
  • Natural Consequences: Teaching children about the natural consequences of their actions and decisions, helping them understand the importance of making disciplined choices.

By integrating these strategies into the church’s teachings and activities, children can develop self-discipline as an essential life skill that supports their spiritual growth, ethical development, and ability to contribute positively to their community.

  1. Offers Opportunities for Service and Giving Back

The Bible often emphasizes the importance of service and giving back to others. By raising your child with a knowledge of God’s commands, you can help them develop a sense of responsibility to their community and encourage them to contribute to the greater good. Offering opportunities for service and giving back is an important aspect of a church’s role in fostering a sense of compassion, empathy, and social responsibility in children. Here’s how a church can provide such opportunities:

  • Community Service Projects: Organizing age-appropriate service projects that address local needs, such as food drives, clothing collections, or volunteering at shelters.
  • Youth-led initiatives: Empower young members to propose and lead service projects that resonate with their interests and concerns.
  • Partnerships: Collaborating with local organizations, charities, and community groups to identify meaningful service opportunities for children.
  • Mission Trips: Arrange mission trips for older children to engage in service projects in different communities, helping them experience the broader world and its needs. Such trips not only teach the role of service but provide opportunities to learn to work together as a team with their peers.
  • Seasonal Outreach: Engaging children in special service projects tied to holidays or seasons, such as distributing gifts during Christmas or cleaning up local parks in spring.
  • Intergenerational Activities: Creating events that involve different age groups, allowing children to work alongside adults in service projects and building cross-generational connections.
  • Fundraising Efforts: Encouraging children to organize fundraisers for causes they care about, helping them understand the impact of their efforts on charitable organizations.
  • Storytelling: Sharing stories of individuals who have made a positive impact through service and giving, inspiring children to do the same.
  • Environmental Stewardship: Promoting activities that emphasize caring for the environment, such as tree planting, beach cleanups, or recycling initiatives.
  • Support for Vulnerable Groups: Teaching children about marginalized or vulnerable populations and involving them in projects that show care and support, such as making cards for hospital patients or nursing home residents.
  • Service Clubs: Establishing service-oriented clubs or groups within the church where children can regularly participate in planning and executing service projects.
  • Reflection and Discussion: After service activities, facilitating discussions where children reflect on their experiences, share how they felt, and discuss the impact of their actions.
  • Recognition and Celebration: Acknowledging children’s efforts and achievements in service through certificates, awards, or special recognition during church gatherings.
  • Skill-Sharing Workshops: Encouraging children to offer skill-sharing workshops to peers or community members, showcasing their talents while giving back.
  • Letters of Gratitude: Organizing letter-writing campaigns where children express gratitude to community helpers, first responders, or members of the armed forces.

By actively involving children in service and giving back, a church helps instill values of empathy, compassion, and social responsibility from a young age, nurturing well-rounded individuals who contribute positively to society.

  1. Helps Develop a Sense of Hope

Having a well-established faith in a Creator can provide a sense of hope and optimism, even in difficult times. By raising your child with exposure to religion, you can help them develop a positive outlook on life and the world around them. Fostering a sense of hope in children is an important aspect of their emotional and spiritual development. A church can play a significant role in helping children cultivate hope through various means. Here’s how:

  • Teach Faith Stories: Sharing stories from religious texts that exemplify hope, resilience, and overcoming challenges. Discuss the lessons children can learn from these stories.
  • Positive Role Models: Introducing children to individuals within the church community or from history who have demonstrated hope and perseverance in the face of adversity.
  • Prayer and Meditation: Teaching children how prayer and meditation can provide a source of comfort, guidance, and hope during difficult times.
  • Biblical Promises: Highlighting promises from religious texts that inspire hope and provide reassurance during challenging circumstances.
  • Supportive Environment: Creating a welcoming and caring church environment where children feel safe expressing their feelings and seeking guidance.
  • Discussion Circles: Organizing group discussions where children can openly share their hopes, fears, and dreams, fostering a sense of community and understanding.
  • Creative Expression: Encouraging children to express their feelings and hopes through art, music, writing, or other creative outlets.
  • Service and Outreach: Involving children in service projects and outreach initiatives that allow them to make a positive impact in the lives of others, fostering a sense of hope through giving.
  • Nature and Reflection: Organizing outings in nature where children can experience the beauty of creation and reflect on the wonders of the world.
  • Storytelling and Testimonies: Sharing personal stories and testimonies from members of the church community who have faced challenges and found hope in their faith.
  • Seasonal Celebrations: Emphasizing the message of hope during religious holidays and celebrations, connecting the spiritual significance to children’s lives.
  • Encouraging Dreams: Supporting and encouraging children’s aspirations and dreams, helping them see the potential for positive change and growth.
  • Resilience Workshops: Offering workshops that teach children resilience skills, problem-solving, and strategies for overcoming obstacles.
  • Counseling and Support: Providing access to trained counselors or pastoral support for children who may be struggling emotionally or in need of guidance.
  • Affirming Messages: Incorporating affirming messages of hope and encouragement into sermons, children’s lessons, and church materials.

By integrating these practices into the church’s activities and teachings, children can develop a sense of hope that extends beyond their immediate circumstances, guiding them toward a positive outlook on life and a deeper connection to their faith.

One Nation Under God

Teaching Youth the Virtues for a Christlike Life

In the beginning days of America, our Founding Fathers built this country on powerful and sound principles. These principles can be seen most clearly in our history. It is in this history that we can see how our God works in our world. The 9-12 Project (alternatively called 9/12 Project, 912 Project) was a group created by American television and radio personality Glenn Beck. It was launched on March 13, 2009, an episode of Glenn Beck’s talk show on Fox News Channel. A website was launched to promote the project. It spread throughout the United States. The purpose of the project was to rekindle the unity felt after September 11, 2001. It was a time when there were no red states, blue states, or political parties. We were united as Americans, standing together to protect the virtues and principles of the greatest nation ever created. The nine Principles and twelve Virtues represented the same principles and virtues shared by the Founding Fathers of the United States in 1776.

“Tell Me and I Forget; Teach Me and I May Remember; Involve Me and I Learn” ~ Ben Franklin

One Nation Under God” resources1Subject to the Privacy and Terms of Use Policy of are based upon those same lofty principles and goals. How can we pass our heritage and wisdom on to subsequent generations? We do so by teaching a set of principles and virtues that define the nature of citizenship that created and kept America great. This adaptation attempts to take the twelve original virtues, adds a few, and then breaks them down into teachable moments. 

First, come biblical definitions of America’s virtues. What does our God really think about each? Next are biblical examples, stories, and people of the Bible, that exemplified those virtues. There are also American Revolutionary examples. Examples of people, places, and events that defined the messages of our Founding Fathers. Finally, there is my State of Florida. It is’s home state. We hope that anyone not in Florida can adapt this program to fit their own location. We searched for people and events locally that supported the virtues defined herein. In each section, local historical sites, museums, and attractions were listed to provide a “living experience” for all those who choose to use this program.

It is not a class, not a vacation Bible School, not even a simple series of experiences. It is a set of suggested resources that will immerse youth into the Word of God, our country’s history, and Florida’s state history (or their own State). It is the author’s hope that this is but a cornerstone to involving our future citizenry and securing our nation’s future. [Download additional Resources: Raising the Next Generation to Believe in God]

This program is dedicated to these nine principles and the virtues in life that support them:

  1. America is inherently good.
  2. People should believe in God and place Him as the foundation of their life.
  3. The pursuit of honesty is a lifelong pursuit, always striving to be a better person.
  4. The family is sacred. The mother and father are the ultimate authority, not the government.
  5. If you break the law, you must be held accountable. Justice is blind and no one is above it.
  6. Everyone has a right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.
  7. Hard work brings success and with success, God asks you to be charitable and share with those you choose to share with. The Government cannot force you to be charitable.
  8. It is not un-American to disagree with authority or to share an opinion that may differ.
  9. The government works for the people. People do not answer to the government.

The virtues addressed in this program are the original twelve plus two additional virtues.

Just click on the VIRTUE NAME to find a Biblical Definition of the Virtue’s meaning, a Biblical example, a historical example/story, and a historical example and/or story from Florida’s history.

The Theological Virtues
  1. Charity
  2. Faith [this has been added to the original 12]
  3. Hope
Other Key Virtues
  1.  Honesty
  2. Reverence
  3. Thrift
  4. Humility
  5. Sincerity
  6. Moderation
  7. Hard work
  8. Courage
  9. Personal Responsibility
  10. Gratitude
  11. And the Greatest of these is LOVE [this has been added to bring the entire list into focus]

Ideas on Implementation

Program Ideas

The Virtue of Charity

Biblical Definition of Charity

The Biblical use of the word charity is primarily found in the King James Version of the Bible, and it always means “love.” In the great “love chapter,” (1 Corinthians 13) the KJV translates the Greek word “agape” as “charity” while the modern Bible translations describe the word agape as meaning “unconditional love.” The only use of the word charity to mean “giving” is found in Acts 9:36, which refers to Dorcas, a woman “full of good works and charity.” The Greek word used in Acts means “compassion, as exercised towards the poor; beneficence.” The KJV translates this word use as “almsgiving.”

Charity is one of the three basic Theological Virtues; the other two theological virtues are faith and hope. Charity is an act of free will, and the exercise of charity increases our love for God and for our fellow man. The theological virtues of faith, hope and charity are called “theological” because they are infused into the human person by God. These are in a sense, master gifts, crucial to living authentically as a child of God. Theological gifts cannot be earned through human effort, but rather are of divine origin, freely given by our loving God to direct His children toward complete human fulfillment.

Modern secular dictionaries define charity as “a provision of help or relief to the poor; almsgiving.” Alms are money or goods given to those in need, an act of charity. The word alms come from the Old English word ælmesse and prior to that from a Greek word meaning “pity, mercy.” In its original sense and use, when you give alms, you are dispensing mercy.

Example of Biblical Charity

In Acts 9 we find the story of a woman named Dorcas, or Tabitha, introduced as one known for her care of widows and her provisions of clothing for the poor. As a widow herself, she lived in the town of Joppa, a city on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Dorcas was well-off and was loved by the townspeople. When she became ill and died, they called for the Apostle Peter. Peter took Dorcas by the hand and brought her back from the dead.

(Acts 9:36-42)1NIV New International Version Translations In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (in Greek her name is Dorcas); she was always doing good and helping the poor. About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, “Please come at once!” Peter went with them, and when he arrived, he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them. Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, “Tabitha, get up.” She opened her eyes and seeing Peter she sat up. He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called for the believers, especially the widows, and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord.

The Christians who knew Dorcas had heard that Peter was in the nearby town of Lydda, and they sent for him. The Bible does not specifically tell us that the disciples at Joppa were hoping for Peter to resurrect Dorcas. However, when Peter arrived, he found many other widows there, weeping. They all showed Peter “the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them” as evidence of Dorcas’ loving service on God’s behalf. No one should ever underestimate the impact of simple acts of charity. In Dorcas case, they not only had helped many of the poor in her community but had given hope and purpose to many other women who were also widows. What happened next is proof that our God is full of glorious, unrestrained power. Peter got down on his knees and prayed and she opened her eyes. Peter then took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Her story became known all over Joppa, and many more people believed in the Lord. That is how our God can use a simple act of charity to build His kingdom.

Dorcas is just one example in our Bible of how we are to meet the needs of those around us. Christians are to “continue to remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). James, Jesus’ half-brother, is quoted in (James 1:27) “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” This was the type of religion Dorcas practiced. It is how the Body of Christ functions. We are to be united in Christ, and as believers we mourn the loss of those around us as if they were close family members.

(1 Corinthians 12:25–26) – “so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.”

Dorcas was one of Joppa’s own, and her absence had left a huge void in their lives.

Ideas to Explore

Teaching about Biblical Charity can take many forms. One might be to have a group discussion on this story. Here are some questions for a group to discuss.

  • Dorcas was “well off.” Did this help her in her pursuit of charity? If so, how? What is “well off” mean?
  • Does the lack of financial resources hinder someone from being charitable, merciful?
  • Why were other women, other widows, attracted to Dorcas compassion and mission? Why does a merciful, charitable person attract others through their actions?

Consider taking an afternoon and working in a sharing center where your group can see firsthand, the impact of charity and mercy at work.

Example of Historical Charity

Reverend Peter Miller of the Ephrata Cloister2The term cloister probably referred to the design of a church in Ephrata that had a covered walk with a wall on one side and a colonnade open to a quadrangle on the other. taught George Washington an important lesson in charity and the humane treatment of prisoners and criminals. The Ephrata Cloister was the location of a conservative congregation of Christians. Two men, Reverend Peter Miller, and a bar owner by the name of Michael Witman would make a permanent mark in American history. These two men were by all human standards enemies. Yet a strange turn of events would bring mercy to one and a forgiving heart to another.

Washington granted very few pardons during his term of Commander in Chief and President. By 1775, Washington had already documented his propensity to treat enemy combatants humanely. However, a few years of disillusions, frustration, bloodshed, and betrayals by people he trusted, Washington would occasionally require a reminder of his own principles.

Years before, Reverend Miller had been the minister at the German Reformed Church in Germantown. He withdrew from the German Reformed Church and joined the Seven Day Baptists at Ephrata. Michael Witman was a deacon in the German Reformed Church. The withdrawal of Peter Miller from the church made Witman angry. Miller had openly rejected the more conventional principles of Witman’s church. This difference in doctrine placed Miller and Witman at odds with each other. Witman often spat in Miller’s face whenever they met. Witman had often tripped Miller on the local footpaths, and at least once punched Reverend Miller. Let us say, they were not on the best of terms!

Michael Witman had been a vocal patriot. After the colonies declared independence, Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County had formed a Committee of Safety, and Witman spearheaded that Committee from its inception. After the Battle of Brandywine and the British occupation of Philadelphia, The British General Howe dispatched two men as spies traveling incognito to gather intelligence near the Ephrata Cloister. By that time, the cloister had become the principal hospital for Continental soldiers wounded near Brandywine. The men, the spies, stopped for supper and lodging at Michael Witman’s tavern, a short ride from Ephrata.

Witman, who still supported the patriot cause, openly spoke of the British General Howe in an uncomplimentary manner. His guests, who were British undercover agents, became angry and put a pistol to his chest. Witman managed to break through a rear tavern window and escape. Fearing that his life now depended upon finding refuge from these men. He hid in the attic of a house in Ephrata. All Germantown residence knew that Witman was a prominent, combative member of the Reformed Church, because he considered them the “heretics” in Ephrata. The cloister was the last place the townspeople would expect to find Michael Witman.

Witman hid behind the chimney in the attic of the Brotherhood of Zion house, part of the cloister, for three days. He was hungry, had gotten no sleep, and with no way to escape the area, he grew convinced he would be executed if discovered by the British. Witman decided to leave Ephrata and head for Philadelphia and request an audience with General Howe. His plan was to apologize for his loose tongue, begging for clemency. Witman stopped home to tell his wife of his plight. When he reached Philadelphia, Witman saw Howe. Witman also offered General Howe the locations of the Rebel munitions stores. To save himself, he had become a counter spy.

The men of Howe’s scouting party at the tavern recognized Witman and reminded Howe about the event. Witman was petrified. To save his neck again, Witman offered every conceivable service to the British. General Howe, disgusted by the whimpering Witman, dismissed him, unharmed. “Such a cowardly and contemptible man,” said Howe “could never be trusted in the Royal cause.”

Meanwhile, Witman’s wife had told the patriot authorities of his plan to betray the Continental Army. As soon as he came back to the patriot area, the colonial militia seized him and put him in the Block House in West Chester. At a court-martial, he was convicted of treason.

It is not known exactly how Reverend Miller was informed of the outcome of the trial. However, just after the death sentence was passed, Reverend Peter Miller got up early in the morning, dressed himself, put on his walking boots, took his cane, and began walking. He walked 60 miles to where he knew General George Washington was encamped. It took the better part of 3 days, stopping only to sleep in kind people’s homes when it was dark. He would begin walking again at first light. Miller’s intent was to intercede and plead for the life of Witman. General Washington had the highest respect for clergy and made himself available to Miller. Washington, however, informed Reverend Miller that his petition for a pardon of a friend could not be granted. Miller quickly replied, “My friend! I have not a worse enemy living than that man.”What!” rejoined Washington. “You have walked 60 miles to save the life of your enemy?

Miller’s appeal for clemency for Witman was not as Washington first assumed. Witman and Miller were not friends. Moved by the Reverend’s argument that Jesus had done as much for all of us, granting us a pardon for our sins, Washington granted Witman a pardon. We are told that with tears in his eyes, in front of his men, the Commander thanked Peter Miller for the lesson in charity. With the pardon arriving just before Witman walked to the gallows, it is said that afterwards, both Miller and Witman embraced each other. They walked home to Ephrata together and remained friends. Witman re-entered his home and was restored to his family. His life was spared, but his property was confiscated and sold. Witman did not remain long in Ephrata, but emigrated with his family somewhere to the West, where is not known.

Peter Miller taught George Washington a simple lesson in forgiveness, charity, and why revenge and punishment, even in wartime, was wrong. Ephratan scholars preserved the story for a reason or, maybe more accurately, two reasons. One was to illustrate the extent to which Peter Miller would sacrifice personal safety and welfare to perform an unselfish act of human kindness and mercy towards even his most bitter enemy. The second reason was to memorialize the kind of contribution that the men and women drawn to Ephrata could make to a Revolutionary cause that required bloodshed to complete.

Most importantly, as a teacher and pastor, Peter Miller left home that night to forgive his enemies in a Christ-like manner; he also left home to teach another extraordinary man the wisdom to do the same. Miller went out to impart a message into the spirit of George Washington and, into the patriot cause into which America had the power to evolve.

Ideas to Explore

In a group setting, consider asking people to form in pairs. Let them decide which one will be Michael Witman and Peter Miller. Now ask them to take a few minutes and write a script for the first few minutes of time after Witman’s pardon, where both men walked off toward home. Have the pairs present their scripts as a “first person” short scene to the group. After all are done, ask the group to compare the presentations and comment on what they heard.

Example of Historical Charity Occurring in Florida

Charity and mercy can take unique pathways. Dr. John Gorrie (1803 – 1855) is one such person who is not well known but has impacted lives of Floridians greatly. Land developers should fall at his feet. The tourism industry should give daily praise. Environmentalists might hang him in effigy. The most unrecognizable person on our list has had the most widespread and profound impact on our State of Florida.

Dr. John Gorrie, a physician in Apalachicola, lived in the Florida Panhandle. He was only trying to relieve the suffering of his patients with malaria and yellow fever in the 1840s when history seized him. To cool the hospital rooms for the sick, Gorrie, a part-time inventor, became the father of modern air conditioning and refrigeration. “We know of no want of mankind more urgent than a cheap means of producing artificial cold,” wrote Gorrie at the time he began his experimentations. “The discovery would alter and extend the face of civilization.”

His most significant work, however, was in medicine. During an outbreak of yellow fever, Gorrie became concerned for patients sick with the disease. He urged draining the swamps, clearing weeds, and maintaining clean food markets in the city. He recommended sleeping under mosquito netting to prevent the disease.

Dr. Gorrie also became convinced that cold was a healer. He noted that, “Nature would terminate the fevers by changing the seasons.” He advocated the cooling of sickrooms to reduce fever and to make the patient more comfortable. He cooled rooms with ice in a basin suspended from the ceiling. Cool air flowed down across the patient and through an opening near the floor. Since ice had to be brought by boat from the northern lakes, Gorrie began to experiment with making artificial ice.

Gorrie invented a machine that produced ice. Horse, water, wind-driven sails, or steam power could power his compressor. This machine lay the groundwork for modern refrigeration and air-conditioning. On May 6, 1851, he was granted Patent No. 8080. The original model of this machine and the scientific articles he wrote are at the Smithsonian Institution.

For years, Gorrie worked on a mechanical concoction to chill his patient’s rooms by use of compressed and condensed air. Then, on a hot June day in 1850, he called his fellow doctor Alvan Chapman into his laboratory. Jokingly, I said, “Well, have you found a way yet to freeze all your patients?” Chapman wrote. “Not exactly,” Gorrie replied. “But I’ve made ice.” “The hell you have!” exclaimed Chapman. “This has nothing to do with hell,” Gorrie responded. “But with continued success, I may be able to lower the temperature in that torrid climate too.”

The ice machine was a miraculous invention. But in his lifetime Gorrie gained little fame or wealth from his discovery. Ice-shipping magnates from the north staged a campaign of disbelief and branded the Florida inventor a kook. Gorrie died with a patent, but with little praise or profit. In time, his invention would alter nearly every aspect of Florida. The production of ice and its use in preserving Florida vegetables and fish for shipping opened markets worldwide. Improvements on his patent for air conditioning first brought relief from heat and humidity to hospitals and public buildings, and then to nearly every home in the state. The comfort we take for granted today begs the question: Without air conditioning Florida may have continued to be a nice place for the wintering rich to visit – but would 22 million people have wanted to live here?

What kind of person was Dr. Gorrie? He studied tropical diseases. This influenced him to move to Apalachicola, Florida, a large cotton market on the Gulf coast. During his residence, Gorrie served as mayor, postmaster, city treasurer, council member, bank director, and founder of Trinity Church where he served as a vestryman (elder). Trinity Episcopal Church was incorporated by an act of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Florida on February 11, 1837. The building was one of the earliest prefabricated buildings in the United States. The framework was shipped by schooner from New York City and assembled in Apalachicola with wooden pegs. Dr. Gorrie gave back to the people and served the community he loved so much.

Field Trips for Charity in the State of Florida

The John Gorrie State Museum is a Florida State Park located in Apalachicola, Florida, a block off U.S. 98 at 46 Sixth Street. It commemorates the man who was a pioneer in developing air conditioning, receiving the first U.S. Patent for mechanical refrigeration in 1851. The museum address is 46 6th St, Apalachicola, FL 32320. (Map) The museum features multiple exhibits about Apalachicola and the life and inventions of John Gorrie. Trinity Episcopal Church is also located nearby at 79 6th St, Apalachicola, FL 32320.

Practicing Acts of Charity

The product of any lesson on charity or mercy should include opportunities to work within communities as providers of charity. The saying “Preach the Gospel at all times and if necessary, use words” is often credited to St. Francis. There is no evidence that he said this. However, the wisdom of the quote is still relevant. To show the power of the Gospel through the actions of disciples of Christ is a powerful demonstration of God’s Kingdom at work in this world. Consider adding to any program, time spent in one or more of the following activities:

  • Mission Trips
  • Working in local food kitchens serving the homeless
  • Helping in food distribution centers
  • Working in neighborhoods after weather events helping elderly clean up their yards
  • Habitat for Humanity (age dependent requirements)
  • Working in local missions. Some of Florida’s best are Give Kids the World, The Edgewood Children’s Ranch, Ronald McDonald House
  • Gleaning local farms for a food bank
  • And any other general assistant to those in need
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    NIV New International Version Translations
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    The term cloister probably referred to the design of a church in Ephrata that had a covered walk with a wall on one side and a colonnade open to a quadrangle on the other.

The Virtue of Faith

Biblical Definition of Faith

Faith is the cornerstone of the Christian religion. Our world defines faith as any firm belief based upon confidence in the authority and veracity of another, rather than upon one’s own knowledge, reason, or judgment; earnest and trustful confidence: as, to have faith in the testimony of a witness; to have faith in a friend. However, our Bible defines faith as:

(Hebrews 11:1)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Biblical faith is hoping that the message of the Gospel is true. It is one of the theological virtues, a virtue that comes from God. The message of faithfulness? “That the good news is that Jesus died for our sins and bridged the gap between us and God. Because of His sacrifice on the Cross, there is a way for us to be right with God and spend eternity in heaven. The reality of the Gospel’s message can affect every part of our lives, change the way we think which, in turn, change how we behave.” Simply stated, that is the Gospel’s message of faith-filled hope.

The Gospel also tells us how to enjoy life, during our lifetime. Faith proves to our own minds, the reality of things that we cannot see by our human eye. Because of all that God revealed, we can see God as holy, just, and good, NOW. This Christian view of faith is be explained by the many examples of persons in history. It is the reason why the retention of history is critical to our hope and joy in this world. It has been through faith and an obedience to God those remarkable accomplishments have been achieved despite human failings and sufferings. It is the Bible that gives the most true and exact account of the origin of all these things. We are expected to believe them, and not rewrite them to fit a worldly human narrative. All humanity has already been given sufficient evidence to see the works of creation that were brought about simply by the command of God. Hence, God holds all power. It will be our faith in Christ that provides access to God’s power because Christ is God.

Without faith in Christ, there is no substance, no purpose, or strength in a person’s life. People may have faith in other worldly gods, themselves, or even material things, but this type of faith is temporal. For the faith we are talking about relies on an eternal source of energy. We witness this faith with power in God’s servants, from the very beginning of the world. Wherever the principles of the Gospel’s message have been planted, there is always a regenerating Spirit of God present. With the planting of the Gospel comes Truth and Hope. Our hope in the Gospel is that God will perform all He has promised us through His Son, Jesus Christ. Our joy will come from knowing that our faith is built on Truth.

Example of Biblical Faith

Faith appears 458 times in the New International Version of the Bible. There are many stories about people faithful to God. The story we will look at is of a few minor biblical characters, Roman officers.

(Matthew 8:5-13) – “When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. ‘Lord,’ he said, ‘my servant lies at home paralyzed, suffering terribly.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Shall I come and heal him?’ The centurion replied, ‘Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, go, and he goes; and that one, come, and he comes. I say to my servant, do this, and he does it.’ When Jesus heard this, he was amazed and said to those following him, ‘Truly I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith. I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go! Let it be done just as you believed it would.’ And his servant was healed at that moment. “

To understand the source of faithfulness that emanated from this Roman officer, let us look at how the Bible and the world documents these men:

A centurion (pronounced cen-TU-ri-un) was an officer in the army of Rome. Centurions got their name because they commanded 100 men (centuria = 100 in Latin). Some were appointed by the Senate or emperor or elected by their comrades, but most were enlisted men promoted through the ranks after 15 to 20 years of service. They were hardened by battle. Centurions held important responsibilities, including training, giving out assignments, and maintaining discipline in the ranks.

At the time of Christ, most Centurions carried a gladius, a sword 18 to 24 inches long with a cup-shaped pommel. It was double-edged but specially designed for thrusting and stabbing because such wounds were more deadly than cuts. In battle, centurions stood on the front line, leading their men. They were expected to be courageous, rallying the troops during the tough fighting. Cowards could be executed. Julius Caesar considered these officers so vital to his success that he included them in his strategy sessions. They were the toughest of the tough, the “special forces” of the Roman army.

Several Roman centurions are mentioned in the New Testament, including one who came to Jesus Christ for help when his servant was paralyzed and in pain. That man’s faith in Christ was so strong that Jesus healed the servant from a great distance. Another centurion, also unnamed, oversaw the execution detail that crucified Jesus, acting under orders of the governor, Pontius Pilate. While Jesus was on the cross, the centurion ordered his soldiers to break the legs of the men being crucified, to hasten their deaths. However, the centurion who had watched the entire beating, crucifixion, and Jesus’ death on the cross, responds:

(Mark 15:39) – “And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, saw how he died, he said, ‘Surely this man was the Son of God!'”

Later, that same centurion verified to Pilate that Jesus was, in fact, dead. Pilate then released Jesus’ body to Joseph of Arimathea for burial. Yet another centurion is mentioned in Acts 10. A righteous centurion named Cornelius and his entire family were baptized by Peter and were some of the first Gentiles to become Christians. The final mention of a centurion occurs in Acts 27, where the apostle Paul and some other prisoners are put under the charge of a man named Julius, of the Augustan Cohort. A cohort was 1/10th part of a Roman legion, typically 600 men under the command of six centurions. When their ship struck a reef and was sinking, the soldiers wanted to kill all the prisoners, because the soldiers would pay with their lives for any who escaped.

(Acts 27:43) – “But the centurion wanted to spare Paul’s life and kept them from carrying out their plan. He ordered those who could swim to jump overboard first and get to land.”

All these men knew what authority was about. Hardened by the realities of war, centurions would have a pragmatic view of the world around them. Yet, all could see the works of God, and the authority given to Jesus and Paul. These men had faith. Does your faith in God allow you to believe that God’s Word will do what it says? Can you see God in the world around you?

Ideas to Explore

Teaching about Biblical Faith can take many forms. One might be to have a group discussion on these stories. Here are some questions for a group to discuss.

Read Hebrews Chapter 11 before you start your discussion. This is the “Hall of Fame” for faithful people in the Bible.

  • What visible things would you notice in someone who was a faith-filled person?
  • Does such a person make friendship easier or harder? Why?
  • In our biblical examples, we chose hardened soldiers. Why would men, hardened by both war and command (leadership positions) be viewed as a reliable source for an example of faith?
  • How does the exposure to death change someone’s perspective on faith?
    • Military
    • Medical – emergency doctor, nurses
    • Hospice volunteers
    • EMT (paramedics) workers in our city fire departments
  • What examples of a strong faith have you personally seen?
  •  What experiences have you had where your faith helped you get through a tough time that you can share with the group?
  • In the career you have or are planning to have, how do you see a strong faith in Christ helping you?

Example of Historical Faith

The American Revolution may still be the single greatest event impacting the freedoms of ordinary people. Until 1776, the aristocracy ruled the world. Wealth brought respectability and assured dominance over ordinary people. The common person was held in contempt and there was little dignity in menial labor. Afterwards, in a manner unprecedented in history and not equaled elsewhere in the world, the revolution eliminated monarchy and created the concept of a republic. It gave people rights, something that had alluded them throughout most of history. The Revolution did not merely create a political and legal environment conducive to economic expansion; it also released powerful entrepreneurial and commercial energies that transformed the economic landscape of America. In short, the Revolution was the most radical and most far-reaching event in US history.

Our first Commander-In-Chief, George Washington, had little or no formal education, George Washington had a less than stellar record in the military. He had overseen Fort Necessity and lost it quickly to the French. He had never led an army in battle, never commanded anything larger than a regiment. And never had directed a siege. George Washington would be idle for 15 years before he again assumed the role of Commander-In-Chief. Yet, time after time, God would stand with him. George Washington believed that America had a covenant with God.

George Washington documented much of the Revolution through letters and notes. All retained and archived for posterity. His leadership style was firm, but you could always find him in the front of his troops, very much like the Roman Centurions. During the entire 8 years of war, Washington never took a salary (pay) but only asked to be reimbursed for his actual expenses. At the end of the revolution, George Washington accepted land as a grateful gift of compensation for his leadership. That land along the Potomac River is now Washington, D.C.

While his eagerness, ambition, and lack of experience got him into trouble (such as at Fort Necessity), other qualities emerged:

Toughness – Washington was a rugged frontiersman from an early age. He endured hardship on the frontier. He always camped and wintered with his troops.

Persistence – Most people would have pursued another career after the losses at Fort Necessity. George Washington did just the opposite, pursuing further military experience.

Organization – Following Braddock’s defeat, Washington was sent to western Virginia to protect citizens from Indian attack. Though these years were frustrating for him, Washington had to contend, on a regular basis, with matters of supply, morale, discipline, and communication. He developed critical experience in organizing and managing troops.

Incredible bravery – Washington repeatedly exposed himself to danger. At one-point Washington charged his horse between lines of his own men who were mistakenly firing at one another. During Braddock’s infamous march and defeat, Washington was among the only mounted officers to emerge unscathed. Four bullet holes in his uniform and two dead horses were ample testimony to his courage and providential protection.

Here are just a few examples of God’s protection of our first chief and of our cause for freedom:

  • In July of 1775, an unprepared Washington came to retake Boston. The battle would be at Breed’s Hill. As our troops made ready for their assault, the British just abandoned Boston. Had the battle ensued, Washington would have lost. The American troops were no match for the British troops on that day.
  • Then there was the battle of New York. In April of 1776, Washington prepared to defend the city. Outflanked by the British, our troops were on the verge of collapse when the decision was made to retreat. But the route across the Hudson River was open water and the British navy was on guard. On the night of August 29th, a fog covered Long Island and covered Washington’s escape. Our army survived to fight another day.
  • Not long after a victory at Trenton where there were three crossings of the Delaware River, Washington was camped near the town of Saratoga. The British General John Burgoyne prepared to attack. However, Burgoyne was encumbered by his spoils of war, such as the stolen fine china he carried with him and a large entourage of prostitutes for his pleasure. Washington repeatedly condemned such behavior because he believed that the Americans were fighting under a covenant with God. Could this have been a factor in the surprising defeat of Burgoyne in October of 1777?
  • To end our revolution at Yorktown, God sent the French navy and Lafayette, to block Cornwallis’ retreat by ship. The British navy, coming to free Cornwallis, would be stopped by the French at the Battle of Capes. The British navy re-provisioned and tried again, only to be blocked by a storm that kept them in New York. With Washington’s troops winning the siege at Yorktown, Cornwallis would try a nighttime retreat, only to be blocked by a nighttime storm. On October 19, 1781, Cornwallis surrendered.
Ideas to Explore

There is a year 2000 movie called “The Crossing.” It is a dramatization of George Washington’s perilous gamble of crossing the Delaware River three times and attacking the Hessian forces at Trenton, on Christmas Day. Directed by Robert Harmon and from the novel by Howard Fast. The movie stars Jeff Daniels, Roger Rees, Sebastian Roché and is 1 hour and 29 minutes long. This is an excellent film to introduce the sacrifice and faithfulness of the men who gave us our freedom.

Watch the movie as a group. Discussion on the movie should follow. One question to answer is why death and faith are so closely linked together?

Example of Historical Faith Occurring in Florida

In 1687 eight men, two women, and a nursing child escaped from Carolina to Spanish St. Augustine and requested baptism into the “True Faith.” Florida’s governor sheltered the runaways out of a Christian obligation and refused to return them when an agent from Carolina who came to reclaim them. The slaves’ “telegraph” quickly reported this out-come, and soon other runaways began arriving in St. Augustine. Florida officials repeatedly solicited Spain for guidance, and finally, on November 7, 1693, Charles II of Spain issued a royal proclamation “giving liberty to all … the men as well as the women … so that by their example and by my liberality others will do the same.”

By 1738, more than 100 freedom seekers had achieved asylum. In that year, a fortified town named “Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose’” was constructed on St. Augustine’s northernmost border. Located about two miles from St. Augustine, it was set up as a fortified town to protect the Spanish from attack by the British. The community was self-governing and economically self-sustaining. Because so few men came with wives, the remainder had formed unions with local African and Indian women, making Mose’ a multiethnic and multicultural settlement.

Florida’s governor at that time clearly considered the benefits of a northern outpost of ex-slaves carrying Spanish arms. The freedmen also understood their expected role and vowed to be “the most cruel enemies of the English,” and to risk their lives and spill their “last drop of blood in defense of the Great crown of Spain and the Holy Faith.” Mose’ was a valuable military resource for the Spaniards but also a continuing provocation to English planters. Mose’ was considered a town of “new Christians,” and its residents were the “subjects” of their leader Francisco Menéndez.

Menéndez, a former enslaved African, led the free black militia of Fort Mose’. He was granted the rank of captain. Francisco Menéndez was born in the Gambia in West Africa, Menéndez was captured and sold into slavery, being purchased by European slave traders, and shipped across the Atlantic to Carolina. He escaped into the Spanish colony of Florida soon after, taking advantage of legislation promising freedom to all fugitive slaves from the Southern colonies dating back to the 17th-century. Menéndez converted to Catholicism and enlisted in the colonial militia, settling down in this new settlement created for free people of color by the Spanish authorities. Participating in numerous conflicts on the side of the Spanish Crown, Menéndez was recognized by the Spanish Crown for his loyalty and courage through the numerous conflicts he participated in. For years, the Mose’ warriors valiantly protected St. Augustine.

Although some later freedom seekers were re-enslaved by a governor who tried to appease the Carolinians and avoid war, those not freed persisted in claiming the freedom promised by Spain’s king. Francisco Menéndez repeatedly petitioned the governors and church officials, but to no avail. As war with England threatened, however, Florida’s new governor reviewed their petitions and granted all the enslaved runaways unconditional freedom.

In 1740, the British attacked Fort Mose’, and Menendez’s militia successfully thwarted them. Fort Mose’ was rebuilt after the attack, but the community disbanded in 1763 when Spain ceded Florida to the British after the French and Indian war. Because the British laws regarding escaped slaves or freed black were far less liberal than Spanish laws, Menendez and many black residents of Fort Mose’ fled to Spanish Cuba. The town they built was named “Jesus Menendez” and is in the province of Las Tunas. Menendez is thought to have died in Havana.

Faith and freedom are closely aligned. The story of Fort Mose is one of faith-filled people seeking the freedom to worship Jesus and be free. It was the faith of each escaping slave that created the community called Fort Mose’ that established itself in St. Augustine.

Ideas to Explore

Over the years, the Fort Mose’ site was swallowed by marsh, and the important legacy of its community was largely forgotten. However, Fort Mose’ has since been designated as a National Historic Landmark, as it was the first legal free Black community in what is now the United States. Late in the twentieth century, a highly dedicated team of archaeologists, historians, government leaders and committed citizens helped restore Fort Mose’ to its rightful place of honor. Check the Fort Mose website for visitation details. Take a trip. Stand where these faithful people lived and worked. Spend time to tour the visitor’s center and museum that now holds the memories of Fort Mose’.

Practicing Acts of Faith

  • A list of faith-building activities that can be done any time.
  • Study the Bible and see what it says about faith. Feed your faith.
  • Bring a Bible verse alive. Practice your faith by doing it.
  • Do loving acts of kindness for people you both know and do not know. Be of service to others.
  • Learn to forgive.
  • Pray for one hour with no interruptions or pauses. Let your heart listen to the calling of the Holy Spirit.
  • Speak to your faith – it will grow. Practice sharing your story of joy with each other.


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    NIV New International Version Translations

The Virtue of Hope

Biblical Definition of Hope

This is a study on Hope, a form of trust. To trust in, wait for, look for, or desire something or someone; or to expect something beneficial that is in the future. We look to two places for definitions: the Old Testament and the New Testament.

There are several Hebrew verbs in the Old Testament that can be translated “to hope” in English. One of them, qawa denotes “hope” in the sense of “trust, ” as when Jeremiah addresses God, “Our hope is in you” (Jeremiah 14:22). In the Old Testament believers are encouraged to wait for God “hopefully.”

God promises that those who wait for Him will not be disappointed (Isaiah 49:23). God can bring about the realization of one’s hopes. Twenty-seven times qawa comes into the Greek Old Testament as hupomeno, “to wait,” “to be patient,” “to endure.” Where suffering is present, the term indicates that the individual is bearing affliction patiently while hopefully waiting for the Lord’s deliverance. Psalm 40 and Psalm 130 are psalms of thanksgiving that recount the suffering of an individual whose hope was realized.

(Psalm 40:1)1NIV New International Version Translations – “I waited patiently for the Lord;”
(Psalm 130:5-6) – “I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. he turned to me and heard my cry.”

In the New Testament, hope is primarily “eschatological.” This is a good term to learn. As a Christian, you will find it often as you study God’s Word. The term relates to the death, judgment, and the final destiny of the soul and of humankind. The only sure hope in our world is Jesus: when He returns, believers who have died and those still living will both be given imperishable bodies like that of the risen Lord (1 Corinthians 15:20-23; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). That is our hope!

Hope is the proper and only appropriate response to the many promises of God. Abraham serves as a prime example. Even though he was old, he had confidence that God would fulfill his promises. “Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed” (Romans 4:18). However, the most significant part about hope is that hope leads to joy (Romans 12:12), boldness (2 Corinthians 3:12), faith, and love (Colossians 1:4-5). Hope is the doorway that leads to eternal comfort. It is through hope that we encourage one another with the knowledge of the resurrection (1 Thessalonians 4:18). Hope is also the pathway to comfort in our present world.

Happiness depends on ourselves,” says Aristotle, calling happiness as a central purpose of human life and a goal in itself. That is the world’s view of how to be happy, it is all about, you, selfishness. Aristotle was convinced that a genuinely happy life required the fulfillment of a broad range of conditions, including physical as well as mental well-being. He would argue that happiness is achieved by maintaining the Mean, which is the balance between two excesses. We can find further evidence of the importance of happiness because it would be enshrined in the United States Declaration of Independence where it is stated, “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” are clearly defined as every person’s inalienable rights.

Merriam Webster defines happiness as “a state of well-being and contentment; a pleasurable or satisfying experience.” Whereas joy is specifically stated, even in the dictionary, as “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires; the expression or exhibition of such emotion.” Joy, however, is rooted in who God is. Job 33:4 says, “The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” Our God is fair, compassionate, and all-knowing. His ways are not our ways, and His thoughts are not our thoughts. Job possessed the wisdom to know God’s character, and a strong faith to hold onto what he knew to get him through difficult times and the hope of a life everlasting.

Did Aristotle get happiness right? Is it really balancing two excesses? Our Bible tells us that the root of happiness should be based on the hope for eternal joy. Furthermore, joy is not a balance between “two things” but a full commitment to “One person.” Jesus did not come to help us get along, or teach us to take care of the poor, or to restore “social justice.” Jesus did not come to make us happy. God had already sent many before Him with the kind of advice we need to hear. There was no point in His personally coming down merely to repeat what had already been said. No, Jesus came for a different reason. Jesus came to show us the very nature of God and to remove your sin and guilt in life. Jesus came to point your journey toward the path of Truth and eternal Hope. As the Apostle John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 1:4). Yes, Jesus came to bring you Joy! Jesus came to bring you Hope! There can be no real Joy without hope and no real Hope without Jesus.

Example of Biblical Hope

One of the top Biblical stories about hope is no doubt the story about Abraham and Sarah found in Genesis. It recalls that God includes Abraham and his wife in a plan to populate the promised land. Sarah (originally named Sarai) was one of several women in the Bible who were unable to have children. Sarah’s story was doubly distressing for her because God had promised them both that they would have a son. God had appeared to Sarah’s husband Abraham when he was 99 years old and made a covenant with him. He told Abraham that he would be the father of the Jewish nation, with descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky:

(Genesis 17:15–16) – “God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’”

However, after waiting many years without successfully bearing a son, let alone a child, Sarah convinced Abraham to sleep with her handmaiden, Hagar, to produce an heir. That was an accepted practice in ancient times. As Sarah grew older, she had given up hope. The child born of that encounter was named Ishmael. But God had not forgotten His promise. Three strangers (angels), disguised as travelers, appeared to Abraham. They repeated God’s promise to Abraham that Sarah would bear a son. And, despite Sarah’s age, she conceived and gave birth to a son. They named him Isaac. Isaac would become the father of Esau and Jacob. Jacob would have 12 sons who would become heads of the 12 tribes of Israel. From the tribe of Judah would come David, and finally Jesus of Nazareth, God’s promised Savior for us all.

At times, Sarah doubted God. She had trouble believing God would fulfill His promises, so she plunged ahead with her own solution. Waiting for God to act in our lives is never easy and it may be the hardest task we will ever face. It is also true that we can become dissatisfied when God’s solution does not match our own ideas and expectations. The story of Sarah’s life teaches us that when we feel doubtful or afraid, we should remember what God said to Abraham:

(Genesis 18:14) – “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”

Sarah waited 90 years to have a baby. Certainly, she had given up hope of ever seeing her dream of motherhood fulfilled. Sarah was looking at God’s promise from her limited, human perspective. God, however, used her life to create the nation of Israel. Sarah’s story should remind us that waiting may be part of God’s precise plan for us.

Ideas to Explore

Doctors know that hope affects our ability to lead a normal life, even to heal. Hopeful patients have higher levels of dopamine, endorphins and other neurochemicals which promote wellbeing and the energy for living a productive life. Hope is our energy in life, our fuel for living. This should be a time to create an exercise about how people can “increase their hopefulness.” While we hope for the future ahead, hope requires a foundation for the “here and now.”

Hope must be real to be effective It has to be based on something tangible. It is not possible to fake optimism and pretend to be happy. Hope recognizes our interdependency with our families, church, society, and environment. Hope must also be based on God! To support a hopeful world is to also support hope in others and ask that others do the same for you, surrounding yourself with people working to create a hopeful world with you. Use this opportunity to create an exercise that makes hopefulness tangible now, not just in the future. Hope can be all the little things we do each day to make our lives or to contribute to hopeful living of others. Start everyone off with creating a list, an audit of sort, of what it takes to be part of a hopeful world. What are the “things” that must be present and done regularly:

  • Health
  • Productive work
  • Supportive relationships
  • Having a place for God in your life.
  • What else can you think of?

Now consider doing a demonstration for your group – Materials Needed: This material list is complex so please read carefully:

  1. A clear glass container at least one quart in size with a large opening.
  2. A pitcher of water; Enough large rocks to fill the glass container.
  3. Gravel to fill in the spaces between the rocks.
  4. Sand.
  5. A pail with more large rocks, enough so each group member can receive one rock; and
  6. A whiteboard or easel.
  7. All this material can be purchased at a building supply (stones, gravel, sand in the garden section) and super center (glass container, pitcher, and pail). All should be very dry, so the gravel and sand pour freely.

This demonstration does not require a high component of discussion and can be used if the group is new or young. You will be trying to decompose the typical Christian response to priority setting, “God must be first.” The idea of God first, however, is more complex. You will begin your study on hope by doing a demonstration.

The Demonstration

Begin to fill in the glass container with large rocks. Place them carefully into the container until it is full. Then ask the question, “Is it full?” The response of your group is not important, just move to the next step. You do not have to tell your group what you are doing. In fact, a little mystery at this point is good.

Start pouring in the gravel. Your choice of the size of the rocks, gravel and sand should be such that the large rocks leave air pockets. The gravel then fills them in. Shake and tap the container. Then ask the question, “Is it full?” Their response is not important.

Next, start pouring in the sand. Your choice of the size of the gravel should be such that the gravel has left air pockets and the sand filters into the remaining spaces. Shake and tap the container. To make all this work, the rocks, gravel, and sand should be very dry. Then ask the question, “Is it full?” Again, their response is not important.

Now, pour in the water slowly. When you can no longer pour in any more water, ask the question, “Is it full?Yes, now the jar is full!

The setup for the discussion

In each progressive step, more and more of your group should have become skeptical and realized that you could keep on packing more into the glass container. At the end, after all agree the jar is full, take one more large rock and ask someone in your group to put it into the container. It should be so full at this time, that one more will not fit without major disruption.

What is the Point?

Now ask the question, “What is the point of this demonstration?” Let the discussion go for a while. Silence is OK so are answers like:

  • There is always room for packing more into your life.
  • You can take on so much you eventually can fill your life.
  • It is an example of (my) life, etc.

The discussion itself does not really matter until they begin to get to the point of your demonstration:

The container represents life. The rocks, gravel, sand, and water represent the choices we make and the priorities we set in life. All make big choices, some important choices, and some trivial choices. God lets us do that in life, that is what “free will means.” The moral of the story, however, is that to fill the container (life) to the maximum, you must put the big rocks in first.

Ask your group the question, what are the big rocks of life?

  • Education
  • Family
  • Career
  • God (while this is a key point, do not offer it as an example unless someone in your group does)

What is the gravel of life?

  • Cars
  • Friends
  •  Clothes

What is the sand of life?

  • Recreation
  • Sports
  • Hobbies
  • Crafts

What is the water of life? Note: You are not looking for Biblical answers here, like “Jesus.” Use worldly things.

  • Movies
  • TV
  • Music
  • Books
  • Video games

The moral of the story so to speak is that God wants to be one of your big rocks and He wants each of us to put Him into our life first, before we fill our life with the other things (rocks, gravel, sand, and water). The example shows that you have plenty of room for other big rocks, gravel, sand, and water but if we wait until our life is full, it is extremely hard to find room for God. God provides us with the opportunities in life, but God expects to be the first rock in our “life’s jar”. Hope, therefore, must be built upon a foundation of God. For hope to be eternal, it needs a strong foundation, the kind only God can provide. Now give everyone a “God Rock.”

Example of Historical Hope

When 56 men signed the Unanimous Declaration of the United States of America, there were over 40,000 British soldiers waiting in ships off the shore of the Colonies. There were already thousands of British soldiers marching in the streets. King George III was ready to snuff out the pending revolution and hang all those who signed. Each signer, however, had hope in the freedom that God gives to each person and in the formation of a new country, a country whose foundation was set upon the “God Rock.” Only one of the signers was a minister. He was the only active clergyman to sign the Declaration on July 4th, 1776. There were other signers who had graduated with Theology Degrees from seminaries, but John Witherspoon was a practicing Church of Scotland Presbyterian minister and president of the College of New Jersey (1768–94; now Princeton University) where he trained many leaders of our early nation.

John Witherspoon was born February 4, 1723, in Gifford, Scotland. He received the finest education available to a bright young gentleman of that era. John attended the preparatory school in Haddington Scotland. He proceeded to Edinburgh where he attained a Master of Arts, then to four years of divinity school. At this point he was twenty. In 1743 he became a presbyterian minister at a parish in Beith, where he married, authored three noted works on theology. He was later awarded a Doctor of Divinity from the University of St. Andrews, in recognition of his theological skills. It was only through a protracted effort on the part of several eminent Americans, including Richard Stockton and Benjamin Rush, that the colonies were able to acquire his service. In colonial American, the best educated men were often found in the clergy. The College of New Jersey needed a first-rate scholar to serve as its first president. Witherspoon was at first unable to accept the offer, due to his wife’s great fear of crossing the sea. She later had second thoughts, and a visit from the charming Dr. Rush secured the deal. He emigrated to New Jersey in 1768.

Upon his arrival at the College of New Jersey at Princeton, Witherspoon found the school in debt, instruction had become weak, and the library collection did not meet current student needs. At once he began fund-raising locally and back home in Scotland, added three hundred of his own books to the library, and began the purchase of scientific equipment, many maps, and a “terrestrial” globe. He also firmed up entrance requirements. These things helped the school be more on par with Harvard and Yale. His most lasting contribution was the initiation of the Scottish Common-Sense Realism, which he had learned by reading Thomas Reid and two of Reid’s contemporaries, Dugald Stewart and James Beattie.

Witherspoon believed that common sense could be cultivated in his students or deduced through the development of a moral sense, an ethical compass instilled by God in all human beings and developed through religious education (Reid) or civil sociability (Hutcheson). As a Christian, Witherspoon saw the impossibility of maintaining public morality or virtue in the citizenry without an effective religion. In this sense, the temporal principles of morality required a religious component which derived its authority from the spiritual. Therefore, public religion was a vital necessity in maintaining the public morals.

Dr. Witherspoon enjoyed great success at the College of New Jersey. He turned it into a successful institution and was an extremely popular man as a result. He also wrote frequent essays on subjects of interest to the colonies. While he at first abstained from political concerns, he came to support the revolutionary cause, accepting appointment to the Committees of Correspondence and Safety in early 1776. Later that year he was elected to the Continental Congress in time to vote for R. H. Lee’s Resolution for Independence. He voted in favor, and shortly after voted for the Declaration of Independence. He made a notable comment on that occasion; in reply to another member who argued that the country was not yet ripe for such a declaration, that in his opinion it “was not only ripe for the measure, but in danger of rotting for the want of it.” Witherspoon was an active member of congress, serving on more than a hundred committees through his tenure and debating frequently on the floor.

In November 1776, he shut down and then evacuated the College of New Jersey at the approach of British forces. The British occupied the area and did much damage to the college, nearly destroying it. Following the war, Witherspoon devoted his life to rebuilding the College. He also served twice in the state legislature. In the last years of life he suffered injuries, first to one eye then the other, becoming totally blind two years before his death. He died on his farm, “Tusculum,” just outside of Princeton in November of 1794, a man much honored and beloved by his adopted countrymen.

Witherspoon is buried in the Princeton Cemetery. From among his students came 37 judges, three of whom made it to the U.S. Supreme Court; 10 Cabinet officers; 12 members of the Continental Congress, 28 U.S. senators, and 49 United States congressmen. When the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America met in 1789, 52 of the 188 delegates had studied under Witherspoon. Dr. John Witherspoon died November 15, 1794.

Ideas to Explore
  • Do you think that Witherspoon could have accomplished what he did in his life if he were not a hope-filled person?
  • What do you think Witherspoon’s source of hope was?
  • How did Witherspoon keep his “hope” up?
  • Do you think we would be a free country, America, if it were not for hope? Why or why not?
  • Is there ever an age that you should give up hope?

Example of Historical Hope Occurring in Florida

What could be more hopeful than to leave the country of your birth, sail across the Atlantic and start a new business and a new life? Do this in St. Augustine before the American Revolution in 1768! Florida was just a swampy mosquito-infested British colony back then. St. Augustine was its capital and central to the city was the Castillo de Marcos, a coquina rock fort built by the Spanish in the late 1600’s. John Hewitt was an expert builder and contractor in England, but he purchased a 1,000-acre property near Pellicer Creek in what is now Flagler County. This location is approximately 1,000 feet from the interchange of Route 1 and Interstate 95 (exit 298) and sits back into an overgrown woodland. Only a small sign marks the simple dirt road that takes you to the site. The Florida Agricultural Museum is responsible for its care and keeping.

Archeological sites surround us with our rich State history. However, many of them are now empty of physical artifacts and only hold placards of historical excerpts to stimulate one’s imagination. This is just one example of how a simple woodland area, virtually unknown to all that drive near, can teach a lesson that is desperately needed in our country today. For teachers, you are about to use one of Dr. Albert Ellis’ principal theories: “To understand behavior, we need to understand one’s beliefs. To understand one’s beliefs, we need to know the situations that formed them.

Prior the American Revolution, Old Kings Road, was constructed by the British in 1767-1772 from Georgia to the new colony of Minorcan settlers in New Smyrna Florida, a journey of some 106 miles. This early roadway was located near what was to become Hewitt’s Saw Mill. It is likely that many passed by the working mill including the residents of the failed colony in New Smyrna. They were known to have travelled up Old Kings Road in 1777.

In Florida, there were no lumber mills constructed with earthen dams and flowing water in the 1700’s. John Hewitt dream was to change that fact. First, he would dig a large collection pond was dug using slave labor. Then let the slowly flowing water from Pellicer Creek fill the pond. When the pond was sufficiently full a series of water gates regulated its flow to a power system driven by ‘flutter wheels.’ Such a sawmill was the highest example of pre-revolution technology. This slash mill with its up-and-down steel saw was said to be capable of cutting 500 to 1,000 feet of lumber per day, far above that possible with pit saws worked by slaves. This was a highly sophisticated, hydraulic system for its time with a complex system of levers and gates to regulate the movement of water energy and the logs to be cut with the up-and-down blade.

During the period just prior to the start of the Revolution and the eight years of war itself and the period after the Treaty of Paris, over 20,000 people, still loyal to King George III, were driven from their own land in the southern colonies. They did not want to give up their British citizenship and there was no discourse that seemed to work with their neighbors. It was leave or more likely escape to East Florida. East Florida was considered the 14th colony. Florida would remain loyal to King George III throughout the revolutionary conflict. The influx of loyalists also brought slaves some of whose owners were killed in the revolution. Florida, both while under Spanish control and then British control allowed all people to live, have homes, work, and prosper. This included the numerous local Indians who called the St. Augustine area home. The East Florida Colony became a melting pot of cultures.

Needing places to house the growing population, many homes in old St. Augustine would be constructed with John Hewitt’s lumber. Because St. Augustine was packed with escaping loyalists, there was a great housing shortage. He did much construction during the twenty-year British period including the steeple for St. Peter’s Church and the State House. It is not known exactly when the Mill was abandoned. Researchers believe the structure which was two stories high with a nearby colonial era house was destroyed during the Patriot War 1812-1813.

During the Seminole War which began in December of 1835 records show that General Hernandez established a food cache at the old mill site to feed both Indians and the accompanying desperate slaves who had either been taken by Indians in raids or escaped from the burned plantations to join with the Seminoles. It was said they were starving and needed food to reach the safety of Fort Peyton to the north on Old Kings Road. It was also likely that Seminole leader Osceola and his group camped near here as they arrived for a white flag parley with the Army General. World attention would again be focused on St. Augustine when Osceola and his group were captured and imprisoned under a white flag of truce.

History must never be used to justify hatred, bigotry, to demean others because of their opinions. The hope of patriots and the hope of loyalists clashed in Florida. History is meant to be used to expand learning, to avoid repetitive errors and to guide the path to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This simple story shows that you can take a short walk in the woods and reflect on one of the most critical issues in society today. The lumber mill is a real story based on the disruption caused when a nation (or soon to be nation) failed to learn what our first amendment really means. Freedom of speech does not and never will mean that one opinion has permission to crush the discourse of others. If we are to save our nation, future generations must learn how to disagree in peace. That is what our founding fathers created, a republic, based on individual rights first and democracy second. A republic whose foundation was built upon God.

What happens when we so damage a relationship that it can never recover? Just read the story of the East Florida Ranger Colonel, Thomas “burnfoot” Brown, a lifelong loyalist. His skull was fractured, he was tied to a tree where he was roasted by fire, scalped, tarred, and feathered. This mistreatment resulted in the loss of two toes and lifelong headaches. Who did this to him? His neighbors in Augusta Georgia. Colonel Brown would survive, go on to St. Augustine and form the East Florida Rangers. This was a group of 400 soldiers and over 150 local Indians who would keep the patriots from ever reaching St. Augustine and the Castillo de Marcos. The East Florida Rangers would protect what John Hewitt’s mill was creating.

Here in Florida, John Hewitt’s property tells the story of the East Florida Rangers, you can teach about Chief Osceola and his people who camped nearby, you can teach about the “Trail of Tears.” Everyone in this historic story had hope, their hope was not all the same, not all placed their hope and faith directly in God. Yet, without hope, Florida’s history would have no value. Without God’s providential blessings, the freedoms we all enjoy would be very different today.

Field Trips – Hope – for the State of Florida

The Florida Agricultural Museum was established in 1983 by a group of concerned agriculturalists and historians at the request of Agricultural Commissioner Doyle Conner to help preserve this important part of Florida’s heritage. Originally located in Tallahassee, the museum was part of the Division of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

In 1992, it was designated the “Museum of Agriculture and Rural History of the State of Florida” under Florida Statute. In 1997, the Florida Agricultural Museum moved to its new home on 460 acres in Flagler County. All the Museum’s buildings were moved from their original locations and renovated with grant funds provided by the Florida Department of State, Division of Historical Resources.

In addition to preserving Florida’s agricultural past, the Museum is also active in the conservation of heritage livestock including rare Florida Cracker cattle, horses, and sheep. The Florida Agricultural Museum provides a fun and educational experience for all ages. Flagler County and the St. Augustine area lead the state in historic sites. Only 25 minutes from downtown St. Augustine, the Florida Agricultural Museum is one of Flagler County’s most popular attractions. The museum does offer volunteer opportunities to individuals and groups.

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    NIV New International Version Translations

The Virtue of Honesty

Biblical Definition of Honesty

Defining honesty in a society where dishonesty is rewarded is not an easy task., defines honesty as being “free of deceit and untruthfulness, sincere.” Deceitful people practice the concealment or distortion of the truth. They do it to be misleading; for duplicity; fraud or even cheating. Honesty and truth are bound together, linking honesty to the source of a person’s truth. The Bible links honesty to a person’s mind, character, and their behavior when dealing with others.

Biblical honesty is visible through a person’s actions and words. Being a Christian is about providing a mirror of God’s own nature. God requires all Christians to be honest. Honesty begins with and is integral to the Gospel’s message. To be honest is to be to be correct, fair. As followers of Jesus, we must know God’s Truth. Knowing the Truth enables one to continue to fight off falsehoods. If you pursue God’s Truth for your doctrines and beliefs, you will protect yourself from Satan’s deception:

(Ephesians 4:11–15)1NIV New International Version Translations – “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”

A life of honesty requires being honest with others, but also being honest with ourselves. Our own sinful nature and the world are full of deceit. If we are not careful, sin can begin to look good to us and we can forget that the only source of genuine Truth is God.

(James 1:14–17) – “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”

One way to keep ourselves honest is to continue to read and study the Word of God. The Bible is a primary way that God reveals Himself to us. The more we know Him and His Truth, the more we will live honest lives. Another key part of honesty is the Christian community itself. People committed to following Jesus can encourage one another. This helps others keep the faith and to live as Jesus has called them to live. The world may not applaud honesty, but people in Christ can remind us that the way of Christ is the way of true life. Community also helps with accountability.

(Hebrews 3:13) – “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

We are often unable to see the true situation of our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). When there are people in our lives who are willing to be honest with us about everything, even those things that are difficult to hear, it is easier to deal with our own shortcomings. The same is true if we are willing to be honest with others, even when the truth seems uncomfortable. Together, as a body of Christ, we can grow in faith, love, and honesty. Honest words spoken with gentleness, respect, and love make a difference.

(1 Peter 3:15) – “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

Example of Biblical Honesty

One of the most significant stories in the Bible about honesty or the lack there of is about Ananias and Sapphira. They were a married couple who sold their land and gave the proceeds to the disciples, only they did not give all the money. They lied, telling Peter that it was all the money when in fact they had saved some back for themselves. When Peter confronted them, they died. While sudden death seems like a very harsh punishment for lying, it shows us how much God hates dishonesty.

(Acts 5:1-11) – “Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then some young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, “Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?” “Yes,” she said, “that is the price.” Peter said to her, “How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.” At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

The deaths of Ananias and Sapphira are frightful and puzzling. This married couple sell a piece of their own property and publicly give the proceeds to the community. But they secretly hold back a portion of the money for themselves. Peter detects the deception and confronts the two separately. Merely hearing Peter’s accusation causes each of them to fall dead on the spot. To our ears, their fate seems out of proportion to their infraction. Peter acknowledges that they were under no obligation to donate the money: “Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.” (Acts 5:4). Private property had not been abolished, and even those in the community of Christians could legitimately choose to hold the resources God has entrusted to them. So why does lying in this case about the money bring about instant death?

It is too simple to explain their deaths as simply sin. It appears that Ananias and Sapphira’s transgression is they are fake Christian community members. By lying to achieve an honor they did not earn, Ananias and Sapphira dishonored and shamed themselves. They also revealed themselves to really be outsiders, imposters. Their deceit demonstrated that they were still functioning as members of the Roman system. The couple had pretended to have become members of the Christian community. They attempt to look like Barnabas in his approach to stewarding resources (Acts 4:36-37). But the couple’s motivation was to gain honor for themselves.

They looked generous, but they were giving for the sake of status, not love. Moreover, their lie about their stewardship of resources was interpreted by Peter as a lie directly to the Holy Spirit and to God (Acts 5:3-4). Their false generosity and their attempt to deceive the Holy Spirit was a threat to the identity of their Christian community. This comes to us as a sober reminder of the seriousness connected with our own Christian community and to our own participation within it.

What if deceit occurred in the realm of the church’s work itself? What if someone had falsely pretended to serve as though they were serving God (Colossians 3:22-24), or treat subordinates unjustly (Colossians 3:25)? Would deceiving the Christian community about such things have caused a similarly unacceptable threat to the community? Genuinely belonging to a Christian community should carry with it a fundamental change in our orientation to the group. We should act honestly in all ways, including work. Our purpose should be to love our neighbors as ourselves, not to increase our social status, wealth, and power.

Ideas to Explore

From our definition, it appears that there are several aspects to honesty. These include being morally correct in our words, actions, and thoughts. It would be worthy of a group discussion to ask about the following:

  • What are some examples of being morally correct in our words? An example of being morally correct in words may include being honest and never putting others down.
  • What are some examples of being morally correct in our actions? An example of being morally correct in actions includes dealing with resumes or taxes honestly.
  • What are some examples of being morally correct in our thoughts? An example of being morally correct in our thoughts includes resisting the temptation to dwell on a sexual fantasy with an attractive girl or boy we may see.
  • What is the hardest to control or has the most difficulty in maintaining moral correction? Thoughts are typically the hardest to control. How do you control your thoughts?
  • Why is it so difficult to control our thoughts? Read Psalm 51:5 for the biblical answer. Our thoughts are the easiest to hide from others. As the result of being born sinful, people are naturally judgmental and selfish. As Christians, our call is to turn away from our sinful tendencies.
  • What is the difference between being judgmental and making a judgement?
  • Why are we sinful at birth? Read Romans 5:12-21 for the biblical answer: Through Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God, all people have been cursed by sin. As the result of generational sin, we have the tendency to be dishonest.
  • In what life events is it the most difficult to be honest?
    • When we know that we have messed up and know that the truth will result in a major consequence.
    • When we are sure that we can get away with what we did wrong.
    • When we believe that we are protecting someone as the result of not telling the truth.

A Departure

For this virtue, we are going to use stories where the decisions made by people had elements of fraud in them. Yes, in our stories, there were good outcomes. There was also a little trickery. The problem many people face today is that life’s decisions are not always black and white. Many are gray. Honesty should be truthfulness. This lesson will touch on the concept of truth from a human perspective as well as from God’s perspective. God’s Truth often offends people. The gospel’s message is one that asks people to change, and that can be hard to do. Others might take offense at their need for a “Savior,” someone to be subservient to bow to. In fact, Jesus pretty much promises that people will be angry at His message:

(Luke 21:12-19) – “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. And so you will bear testimony to me. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict. You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. Everyone will hate you because of me. But not a hair of your head will perish. Stand firm, and you will win life.”

What is truth?” asks Pilate when Jesus stood at His trial before him. A good question even today since we live in a world in which absolute truth does not exist. Pilate was dismissive, angry that Jesus dared to speak with Truth. Yet, there was Pilate looking into the face of the Incarnate Truth but could not discern it. Truth is reality. It is how things are. Truth is consistent with the mind, will, character, glory, and being of God. Truth is the self-disclosure of God Himself. All Truth is defined by God, whose very nature is Truth. Truth is divine, from above, not of this world. Truth is not determined by opinion polls, public surveys. It does not come from human knowledge. Truth is found only by divine revelation.

God’s Truth is absolute because God is absolute. Human truth is subjective, relative, and pragmatic. It gives way to personal or cultural preferences. The issue today is whether there is absolute truth that is true for everyone? This would be a truth for no matter who they are, where they live, or what they do. Society defines truth as whatever they want it to be. Something cannot be both true and not true. In such a worldview of self-deception, truth is no longer a goal. All truth must be true! The Truth we seek must be absolute because it comes from the one and only God.

Since God does not change, neither does His Truth. What is true today for God is true tomorrow. Truth is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Right is always right and wrong is wrong. Wrong is forever wrong! Society may try to redefine morality. But Jesus called Himself the Truth, not the custom of the day. The world changes but God’s Truth remains unchanging.

Example of Historical Honesty

For our American Revolution story about honesty, we are going to look to Paul Revere. Revere became involved as an active member of the Boston’s Sons of Liberty chapter right from its inception. Revere was a talented silversmith. He used proceeds from his trade to finance revolutionary activities. One of his most publicized and effective activities used his engraving skills. This is where his trade and his political views came together. To print pictures during the times before photography, a plate was engraved for a printing press. Paul Revere is famous for his representation of the Boston Massacre.

By the beginning of 1770, there were 4,000 British soldiers in Boston, a city with 15,000 inhabitants. Stating this another way, one out of every four people were an armed British soldier. This was a tense time in the city. On the evening of March 5, a crowd of day laborers, apprentices, and merchant sailors began to throw snowballs, icicles, and rocks at British soldiers near the Custom House. A shot rang out, and then several soldiers fired their weapons. Five civilians lay dead or dying, including Crispus Attucks, an African American merchant sailor who had escaped from slavery twenty years earlier.

Paul Revere’s historic engraving was produced three weeks after the Boston Massacre. Entitled, “The Bloody Massacre in King-Street,” it was the most effective piece of war propaganda in American history. Yet, it was not an accurate depiction of the actual event. The engraving shows a neat row of soldiers firing in a volley on command into an orderly group of townsmen. Later evidence indicated that no officer gave an order to fire. Before any shots were fired, at least one soldier had been attacked by a man with a club. The engraving also includes a window embellishment and a poem that Revere likely wrote. Revere based his engraving on that of the artist, Henry Pelham, who created the first illustration of the event. Pelham was neither paid nor credited for his work. Revere stole it.

Window showing a musket firing

The embellishment of a window in the engraving is interesting. In 1770, British merchandise was of higher quality. To protest taxation by King George III, local merchants had been operating under a voluntary agreement to only sell colonial goods. Frustrated by several years of struggling to make any profit, the merchants announced they would resume selling British goods. Theophilus Lillie, a dry goods merchant, was one of the first to break the non-importation agreements. Though some merchants disregarded the ban altogether, most did it quietly. Lillie, though not political, did so with a flourish, announcing his intentions in a letter to the Boston Chronicle.

His decision led to dueling letters and articles in the newspapers, and, on the night of February 22, 1770, a protest formed in front of his house. Soon their protest turned violent. Ebenezer Richardson, a British customs officer, stepped in and tried to stop the demonstration. He urged several passing men to tear down the sign and effigies in front of Lillis’ house. The passersby declined to help, and the protesters drove back Richardson and pelted him with dirt and stones as he fled. But the crowd pursued Richardson to his house. Richardson went to a window and first fired his musket without shot to disperse the crowd. He returned to the window to shoot again. This time his gun loaded with “swan shot,” pea-sized lead balls.

The second shot injured teenager Samuel Gore. The second shot also killed 11-year-old Christopher Seider, one lead ball striking him in the chest. This made Christopher Seider the first casualty in the American Revolution. The news quickly spread through the city. Newspapers halted their presses to include accounts of the shooting. Days later, they would report more than 1,000 people attended Seider’s funeral.

In the engraving, Revere shows a rifle pointed from a window, firing at the crowd. People knew his reference. By adding an event not part of the Boston Massacre and then misrepresenting the actual shooting of colonists near the Custom House, Paul Revere was able to maximize the anger brewing in the colonies. His engraving could be called one of the first examples of “fake news.” Most was true but embellished to maximize a political point.

Afterwards, John Adams, a future Founding Father, received a request to play the role of legal counsel for the British soldiers. Despite his own independent views, Adams accepted the case and acted with great integrity to fulfill his duty to the law. Although he understood the reasons for the colonial subjects to be angry, he argued that the mob had threatened the British soldiers forcing them to defend their own lives. Six of the soldiers were acquitted while the other two were found guilty of manslaughter and sentenced to a branding on the hand. The light sentence for two was a legal trick employed by John Adams. The convicted soldiers were granted a Benefit of the Clergy. The only definition of “clergyman” was an ability to read from the Bible. This was John Adams’ defense and can be found here.

Paul Revere was a Patriot and hero in our American Revolution. Many times, he risked his life for this belief in the American dream. The question is whether the honesty that informed “a soon to be nation” was tainted by the embellishments added by Revere? We are free people today because a picture and a poem. Was Paul Revere a dishonest person? How does God view Revere’s actions?

Ideas to Explore

With fake news as a contemporary topic, consider selecting several publications and cable television shows. Choose a selection that is known for both their honest appraisal of the news and for their personal embellishment of their own bias. Collect the headlines over a week or two. Meet, and review them to identify the elements of honesty as well as deceit.

Discuss whether the areas of misinformation can have a greater purpose that is in concert with God’s Truth and the overall betterment of the Christian church. Then discuss how as people in the world, one can keep themselves grounded in the Truth, God’s Truth.

Examples of Historical Honesty Occurring in Florida

Osceola is the most well-known leader of the Seminole Indians. You would know him as the statute in front of the Florida State University football stadium. Osceola was born in 1804, in a Creek Indian town near Tallahassee. Today, it is Tuskegee, Alabama. His Creek mother, Polly Copinger, was married to an Englishman William Powell. Throughout his youth, Osceola was known as Billy Powell.

In 1813, armed conflict broke out among various Creek tribes in Alabama, and then expanded to disputes between whites and Creeks. These Creek Wars influenced the move of Osceola’s tribe further south, into an area between the St. Marks and Suwannee rivers in northern Florida. The various groups living in Florida, mostly of Creek and Hitchiti background, came to be called Sim-in-oli, or “wild” in the Muskogee language. This phrase eventually became the term “Seminole”. Efforts to escape conflicts with whites moving into the Florida territory were futile. The American government, especially General Andrew Jackson, preferred relocating native peoples to territories as far west as Oklahoma.

The Seminole Wars were three related military conflicts in Florida between the United States and the Seminoles. Today’s Seminoles are ancestors of a Native American nation which formed in Florida during the early 18th century. About 1816, war started and continued through 1858. There were two periods of uneasy truce between active conflict. The Seminole Wars were the longest and most expensive of the United States and American Indian Wars. Originally the Spanish territory of La Florida, and later the provinces of East and West Florida were ceded to the United States. The Territory of Florida became an organized incorporated territory of the United States on March 30, 1822. On March 3, 1845, it was admitted to the Union as the State of Florida.

Osceola became an outspoken advocate for Seminole rights. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, signed by President Andrew Jackson, was the greatest threat to Osceola’s desire for Seminole autonomy. Between 1832 and 1838, this Federal legislation directed the removal of the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole people to lands occupying present-day Oklahoma. Jackson’s removal process was poorly planned. It was plagued by food shortages, adverse conditions, and disease. It is appropriately named the “Trail of Tears” and is a sad reminder of the fate suffered by many native tribes within our states.

Florida’s Seminole Wars were about property rights. Osceola believed that the indigenous peoples of Florida had rights to the land they occupied. While Osceola was not a chief by birth, his followers recognized him as such because of his natural leadership abilities. He gathered other Seminoles in opposition against forced removal, during the Second Seminole War, 1835-1842. Osceola considered anyone, both whites and other natives who cooperated with whites as his enemy.
Osceola had attended several meetings with American officials. None addressed the issues. During one treaty meeting near St. Augustine, Florida, Osceola was knocked out, bound, and imprisoned. This was done while all under a flag of truce. Osceola was then imprisoned in the Castillo de Marcos in St. Augustine. Later, he was moved to Fort Moultrie, South Carolina. Osceola remained there until his death on January 30, 1838. He was buried on the grounds outside of Fort Moultrie without his head. It was removed by Dr. Frederick Weedon as a scientific curiosity.

The questions of honesty should never be gray. Yet, we have a story of the rights of indigenous people, their land, fair treatment during displacement, the word of our own American government’s promises under a flag of truth, and the inhuman treatment of Osceola. Florida’s early settlers would claim that it was justified to remove Osceola. Every resident of the State of Florida benefits from Osceola’s removal today, except the indigenous people. The question for future generations is how will you test the honesty of an action against God’s Truth? Do your rights ever supersede the rights of others?

Ideas to Explore

Plan a field trip to the Castillo de Marcos where Osceola was held prisoner. The Castillo de San Marcos is located on the shores of St. Augustine’s Matanzas Bay. It is a unique fortress that has served as a military post since 1672. Built from an indigenous and semi-rare stone composed of the shells of dead shellfish (called coquina), the Castillo stands today as the only 17th-century military structure in the United States.

Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain, decided that the city and its port needed protection. Starting construction in 1672, workers retrieved the coquina stone for the walls from Anastasia Island, located just across the bay. The fort was completed after 23 years of construction in 1695. It has since gone through a series of improvements and renovations through the course of the varying countries that have occupied it, including raising the walls as well as additional walls surrounding the city.

The Spanish kept St. Augustine in its power for quite some time. It was not until 1763 that the British gained the Florida Territory in a trade with Spain, and they were forced to relinquish it after the American Revolution. The name of the fort was changed for the first time to Fort St. Marks. The Spanish regained St. Augustine in 1784, reverting the fort back to its original name. However, after Florida became a US territory the name was changed to Fort Marion. At Fort Marion, old storerooms were converted to prison cells, and many Native Americans were held here as prisoners, including Osceola.

Although it has been occupied by various cultures, specifically the Spanish, British, and the US, the Castillo has never been conquered in all the years of its operation. Many believe its soft and porous stone walls have contributed to this long-lasting fortress. Unlike other stones, coquina has a compressible nature, absorbing the blasts of projectile cannons rather than deflecting. Its star-shaped design, modeled after the ‘bastion system,’ a 15th-century Italian military design, the Castillo was built to withstand the changing technologies of New World warfare.

The Castillo is operated by the US Government’s National Park Service. You can find information about this site here.

Practicing Acts of Honesty

There are numerous ways people can practice honesty. Here is a partial list. Your group should work to build its own list. One good idea would be to pick one item a week, make it the focus of both discussion and Bible Study. God has a lot to say about the topic of honesty.

  • Think before you speak.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say.
  • Do all you can to communicate in an open and honest fashion.
  • Simplify, simplify, simplify so that everyone clearly understands your message.
  • Do not embellish but describe things accurately.
  • Present both sides of each issue fairly.
  • If you have a bias or a conflict of interest, be open and admit it.
  • Ask questions to make sure nothing you have said is misinterpreted.
  • When someone tells you the truth and you don’t like it, thank them for their honesty.
  • Accept responsibility, admit your mistakes.
  • Hold people accountable when their words do not match their actions.
  • Never compromise your integrity and reputation by associating yourself with people whose standards of integrity you question.
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The Virtue of Reverence

Biblical Definition of Reverence

Reverence is honor and respect that is deeply felt and outwardly demonstrated. Because of God’s awesome power and majesty, He is deserving of the highest level of reverence.

(Leviticus 19:30)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Observe my Sabbaths and have reverence for my sanctuary. I am the Lord.”

The Bible defines reverence as the automatic response of everyone who encounters our awesome God (Numbers 20:6; Judges 13:20; 1 Chronicles 21:16).

The idea of reverence for God started with God. In the Old Testament, God taught the Israelites how to show proper reverence by giving them hundreds of laws related to purity, holiness, and worship (Deuteronomy 5). Sinful humanity does not know how to worship a holy God with reverence and awe. God love us so much He became a teacher for us. For Israel, His presence was within in the Ark of the Covenant. They were not to touch it as a matter of reverence. The “Holy of Holies,” is the place set aside within the temple for the Ark. The area required the highest level of reverence (Leviticus 16:2). Anyone disobeying God’s command about entering the Holy of Holies died instantly (Leviticus 22:9; Numbers 4:20; 1 Chronicles 13:9–10). The purpose of these strict rules was to define holiness and impress upon mankind the necessity for reverence in the presence of God.

In New Testament, reverence for God is shown by our willingness to voluntarily give ourselves up to God and obey His commands (Galatians 2:20; 5:13; James 2:12). Jesus also reminded us that we must have proper reverence for God. He taught the disciples to begin their prayers with “Our Father, who is in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9–13). Hallowed means “set apart as holy.” We are to treat the name of God with reverence.

To have the correct understanding of God’s nature is also understand His wrath. The proper reverence for God takes seriously His hatred of sin. Reverence takes in account the coming judgment on those who refuse to repent (Colossians 3:6; Romans 1:18). Another way to show reverence for God is by the way one lives. The pursuit of holiness takes in account God’s Holiness (1 Peter 1:15–16). Reverent behavior says “no” to ungodliness and worldly passions. It is a life of self-control and upright behavior.

(Titus 2:12) – “It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,”

Human beings were created to worship God. Reverence is the natural response of a heart that has been transformed by the Holy Spirit. The more we grow in knowledge and understanding of who God is, the more reverence we feel toward Him. The gift of Jesus to us was God’s invitation to draw near (James 4:8; John 14:9). How a person approaches worship is also a barometer for that person’s reverence toward God. Jesus said that the Father is seeking people who will learn to worship Him “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). True worship is not about our favorite hymn. It is not about a sermon that makes us feel good inside. Worship is not about an emotional experience. True worship is about how we live our life. When we worship in truth, our minds are engaged and filled with the biblical understanding of God’s nature. To worship God is to know Him and to serve Him!

(Luke 6:46) – “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”

Reverence must be about God. It is a quality that is missing in our society today. Reverence is about the holiness, power, and righteous wrath of a Sovereign Creator. Once we know who God is, we revere Him in our hearts.

Example of Biblical Reverence

To find our biblical example of reverence, we look in the Gospel of Luke. Here is the story of Jesus’ crucifixion Two other men suffer the same death on either side of Him. The one to Jesus’s right has become known as the “Good Thief.” The one to Jesus’ left is known as the “Unrepentant Thief.” Reverence is about acknowledging God. It requires repentance and humility. Our good thief acknowledged the true King that day. The unrepentant thief on the left, mocked our Savior. What is most interesting about these stories is that our world seeks to always make us pick sides. Lines are drawn that we are not to cross. Which side are you on?

Both thieves were already on their crosses in Luke’s Gospel. We can discount any “good works” as part of the equation of salvation. Neither could be baptized. It would be the last few moments of their lives that would determine their eternal fate. Their lives of thievery and sin were over. Both men would soon die. It is this part of the story that all people should take great hope in. God’s Grace is enough for all those who seek Him, even up to the moments before death.

(Luke 23:32-38) – “Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with him to be executed. When they came to the place called the Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals—one on his right, the other on his left. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they divided up his clothes by casting lots. The people stood watching, and the rulers even sneered at him. They said, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.’ The soldiers also came up and mocked him. They offered him wine vinegar and said, ‘If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself.’ There was a written notice above him, which read: this is the king of the jews.”

It is remarkable that, while still in the excruciating and mind-numbing torment of the cross, the Son of Man had the heart, mind, and will to pray for others. Both men began their time on their crosses by mocking and blaspheming Jesus. They were no different than many of the spectators. Even His disciples were busy abandoning Him. One thief, while in agony himself, heard the Spirit of God call to him to repent. He accepted the forgiveness God was about to provide. One man, the thief on the right answered the call. His sins were forgiven, including his blasphemy against the Son of God (Luke 5:31-32, 12:8–10) just a few minutes earlier.

The thief on the left, at the point of death, rejected Jesus. While being tortured himself, he joined his torturers in insulting the Savior of the world. He most likely did so because he wanted his torturers to think he was like them. A man of the world! There are many like him who are prideful of their hatred of God (Matthew 27:44). It is hard to give either man any excuses. Not only were they next to the Savior, but they could also hear Jesus pray. Both men could hear the testimony of Jesus as He was dying, as they were dying. Both men could see the world go dark. The humility of repentance and reverence toward God saved one while the sin of pride condemned the other.

What can be learned from this story is that we are all sinners in need of a Savior. No matter how great our sins are, no matter if we, or the world, think our sins are minor or extreme, it is never too late to repent and accept the gift of salvation (Ephesians 2:8–9; Revelation 22:17). It takes a mind and the will to choose life over death (Hebrews 9:27) It is also never too late to proclaim the Gospel’s message to someone else. None of this has any meaning unless we hold our God in reverence.

Repentance is a change of mind, a change of a purpose and/or a change in direction. Repentance is turning away from previous sinful behavior, attitudes, or opinions. True repentance goes beyond saying we are sorry for something. True repentance results in a new behavior pleasing in God’s sight, pleasing to the God we revere. Repentance, however, does not always shield us from the consequences of our actions. The good thief died that day.

(Romans 6:23) – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

The Gospels do not mention specific names for the thieves. In the Catholic faith, by tradition, they are given names. The good thief is named Saint Dismas and the unrepentant thief’s name Gestas. While both men were suffering the same gruesome execution and both were in the presence of Jesus, their reactions to their situation were quite different. Gestas, the unrepentant thief, mocks Jesus, “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39) Gestas asks to come down from his cross.

The good thief, Dismas, does not ask to be taken down from his sure and painful death. Instead, he rebukes Gestas and proclaims Jesus’ innocence. He asks, instead, to be taken up with Jesus, saying “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42). Jesus replies, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.

Our lesson is not about placing hope in this world, but in the promise of the next. Which man do you relate to? Will you hang with Jesus on the right or the left side? All must make that choice one day! Will you be on the “right,” holding the One and Only King in reverence, or to the “left,” taking up the radical views of our world!

(2 Corinthians 7:10) – “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”

Ideas to Explore

This is a good time for a Bible Study. Ask for youth to step up and lead a small group discussion. Some of the points to discuss could be the differences between the man on the right of Jesus and the man on the left.

  • Ideas to Explore: Why have words like right and left become political, so polarizing? Can someone from the right of an issue and left of an issue ever agree? Is agreement even a good idea?
  • Ideas to Explore: Right seems to be stay the course, while Left seems to take the more controversial position – Does this always mean you must choose a side? Is middle ground ever a wrong conclusion?
  • Ideas to Explore: Divisiveness itself is not new but the addition of hatred is – Why? Who wins when we hate each other? How do two people, one who is placing their faith in Jesus and the other, placing their faith in the world, come to common ground? Is that a reasonable expectation?
  • Ideas to Explore: The world is very enticing. Some may not believe in eternal life. Repentance is not always easy. Fear of consequences of the world more than consequences from God. How do we overcome these concerns when sharing our faith with others?

Example of Historical Reverence

History is often filled with bias, brought about by differing political views. One such area is on the happenings of April 18, 1775. Two lanterns were raised to warn Minute Men of an impending invasion. This specific story is not about any direct hero of the Revolutions. Controversies still exist today about the exact building where the lanterns were raised and who lit and lifted them. Paul Revere’s famous nighttime ride is also a part of this night. This story is about reverence. It looks at a woman named Sarah Thaxter. Sarah was the widow of Major Duncan McBean Thaxter. We do not know the nature of her husband’s death. Both had lived in Boston. Sarah would meet another widower named Captain John Pulling. In January of 1773, both would marry.

We know a lot more about John Pulling. He grew up in the Boston area. As the revolution grew eminent, John’s close childhood relationship with Paul Revere drew him into underground activities. Both men were active with Boston’s Committee of Correspondence. The Committees of Correspondence were the American colonies’ means for maintaining communication lines in the years before the Revolutionary War. In 1764, Boston formed the earliest Committee of Correspondence to encourage opposition to Britain’s stiffening of customs enforcement and prohibition of American paper money. In 1772, a new Boston Committee of Correspondence was organized, this time to communicate with all the towns in the province, as well as with “the World,” about the recent announcement that Massachusetts’s governor and judges would now be paid by and accountable to King George III rather than the colonial legislature. More than half of the province’s 260 towns formed committees and replied to Boston’s communications. The meetings were always ended by each attendee placing their hand on a Bible and swearing to secrecy.

John Pulling was a vestryman, a church elder at the Old North Church. He had fired their Rector Reverend Rather Biles Jr. earlier that week. Reverend Biles had preached against the Patriot cause. The church was now closed until a new rector could be found. With its tall steeple, the Old North Church was a perfect place to hang the warning lanterns on evening of the 18th. Part of the controversy is whether Robert Newman, the church sextant (janitor), or John Pulling hung the lanterns. That specific act would be viewed as treason by the British. If caught, it would result in death. Both Newman and Pulling would be at the church that evening. Newman had the keys. The British soldiers were quick to spot the lanterns. They went to the church and found Newman across the street hiding in his room. While they arrested him, he said it was John Pulling’s idea and was released. An immediate search was made of John Pulling’s home. John was now a hunted man.

Sarah was home when her husband came rushing in. John hid in a wine barrel in the basement. You can imagine the fear Sarah had, watching the armed soldiers search her home. Sarah was pregnant so this added to her fear. God’s providence would protect them both. John was not found, and Sarah was not harmed. Once the soldiers left, it was clear they both had to leave immediately. There would be no time to pack or take valuables. John would escape by rowing a boat across the harbor. It is not known whether Sarah travelled by land or by boat with John, but they both went to Nantasket. This was an obscure fishing village on the coast. John’s travels would take him past a British War Ship that night. When challenged by the ship’s crew, he was able to pass. God’s providence at work again.

Sarah Pulling is not remembered in history. Her husband John is barely remembered. But Sarah would make a simple decision that night to keep this story alive for generations. Sarah would take her Bible with her. She could not leave without God’s Word at her side. The time away, living in squalor, was very hard. John would become ill. Their length of time in Nantasket is not known. However, when the British finally left Boston, the Pulling’s returned to find all their possessions and home destroyed. It would be shortly after their return that John Pulling would die. Sarah was a widow once more.

The legacy of John Pulling would be carried on by Sarah’s daughter and grandchildren. Their stories would be published in the “Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1876-1877)” published in Boston in 1878. Sarah’s Bible is still in the family’s possession today. Through the generational stories, John Pulling’s epic climb to the top of the Old North Steeple would live on. Was it worth it? Paul Revere was captured and held by the British. He arrived late after the battle at Lexington Green had started. It was the backup riders that saw the two lanterns that fateful night. John and Sarah’s sacrifice warned our Minutemen of the advancing British troops. Sarah died December 17, 1843, in Abington, Massachusetts. The Old North Church gives the credit of hanging the lanterns to Robert Newman. John is forgotten in History. Even today, Sarah is not even listed on her hometown’s “Notable People” list in Abington.

Ideas to Explore

Tell your group to think about having to leave their home, risking every possession that their family has. Now tell them to pick one item that they would take with them when they leave. They cannot take their Bible! That is too easy a choice. When they meet as a group, they should be prepared to show their item and take a few minutes as to why that item is the most important to them. Adults, take note. The discussion among the youth will give insight to what is important to that generation!

Now ask the group to share the “Generational Stories” of faith that their own family has shared with them.

Examples of Historical Reverence. Occurring in Florida

In the 16th century, the area around the State of Florida was called “La Florida.” The name was given to our lands by Juan Ponce de Leon in 1513. He stumbled upon the Florida peninsula while searching for gold and the legendary “Fountain of Youth.” The fountain was a legendary spring reportedly that gave people eternal life and health. Ponce de Leon sailed from Puerto Rico on March 3 with three ships, the Santa Maria, the Santiago, and the San Cristobal, and about 200 men. After stops at Grand Turk Island and San Salvador, they reached the east coast of Florida, near St. Augustine. Ponce de Leon claimed the land for Spain. La Florida is the Spanish name for flowery, covered with flowers, or abounding in flowers.

Fifty years later, September 8, 1565, five ships would return under the command of General Pedro Menéndez de Aviles. Menéndez was a Spanish admiral and explorer from Avilés, in Asturias, Spain. He was known for planning the first regular trans-oceanic convoys. These became known as the Spanish treasure fleet. General Menéndez is also known for founding St. Augustine, Florida. St Augustine would become the first successful European settlement in La Florida. It would remain the most significant city in the region for three centuries. While General Menéndez was in search of gold, he also desired to convert the Indian population to Christianity. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously inhabited, European-established settlement in the continental United States.

Menéndez de Avilés would be the first governor of La Florida (1565–1574). By his contract (asiento) with Philip II, Menéndez was appointed adelantado (the governor of La Florida). He was responsible for implementing royal policies and building fortifications for the defense of the city. Sailing with General Menéndez was a Catholic priest named Father Francisco López de Mendoza Grajales. Recording the day’s events in his diary he wrote:

On Saturday the eighth the General landed with many banners spread, to the sounds of trumpets and the salutes of artillery. As I had gone ashore the evening before, I took a cross and went to meet him, singing the hymn “Te Deum Laudamus (God, We Praise You).” The General, followed by all who accompanied him, marched up to the cross, knelt and kissed it. A large number of Indians watched these proceedings and imitated all that they saw done.

Following Menéndez’ veneration (meaning great respect; reverence) of the Cross, he proclaimed this land in the name of God (Nombre de Dios). Father Lopez celebrated Mass at a rustic altar made of wood. The sky served as the roof for what would be the first parish Mass in what is now the United States. It is on this ground that the Spanish settlers would begin their devotion to Our Lady of La Leche, Nuestra Señora de La Leche y Buen Parto (Mary nursing the infant Jesus). In the early 1600s, the Spanish settlers of St. Augustine established the first Shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the United States at this location.

Today, a small mission chapel is in the heart of what is referred to as the “sacred acre.” Pilgrims come from all parts of the world to pray for the Virgin Mary’s powerful intercession. They pray for fertility, for the health of their children, for safe delivery of those expecting children. It is a place set apart for reverence.

Ideas to Explore

The Fountain of Youth Archaeological Park is said to be on the site of Ponce de Leon’s landing. While there is a spring, a few buildings typical for the 16th century, it is a place that charges admission to taste the water from a spring on the property.

While in St. Augustine, a visit to the mission and shrine. It is considered a holy site and operated by the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine. You can find both an event calendar and information on the shrine here. It is living proof of the faith of our forefathers in the one and only God!

Practicing Acts of Reverence

One of the best exercises for practicing reverence is prayer. Take your group into a quiet place, large enough where they can be spread out. Ask them to take their Bibles with them. Turn off phones. The purpose will be to pray for one hour. Their task is to be reverent toward God. It may be helpful to have them take a list of Bible verses that are their favorites. Each person should read their verses, then read the verses before and after their favorite verses. Challenge them to enter the scene in the Bible as an observer or a participant. Use their imagination. Become one with God’s Word.

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The Virtue of Thrift

Biblical Definition of Thrift

Saving by using resources sparingly is the classical definition of “thrift.” Scriptures encourage thrift by pointing out the dangers of materialism. Thrift, by definition, is the wise management of money and resources. Sometimes it means being frugal. To understand thrift, first let us look at any dangers associated with it:

(John 12:4-6)1NIV New International Version Translations – “But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected, ‘Why wasn’t this perfume sold and the money given to the poor? It was worth a year’s wages.’ He did not say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief; as keeper of the money bag, he used to help himself to what was put into it.”

Motives mean everything. Why is someone thrifty, frugal? Is the motivation based on a foundation of Godly behavior? In the case of Judas Iscariot, he was only interested in maximizing his part of illicit gains. Jesus knew the true purpose behind the gift of perfume. Judas was not being thrifty!

Next, consider whether the pursuit of thrift passes the commonsense test. As Jesus was hanging on the cross, four Roman soldiers, divided His clothes by lots (tossing dice). While they were not aware of it, the soldiers were fulfilling the prophecy found in Psalm 22:18. Here, David writes, “They divide my clothes among them and cast lots for my garment.” The apostle John in 19:23-24 tells us that Jesus’ coat was seamless. This is a sign of high quality. Jesus’ coat was the same quality of clothing as that worn by the high priest in Jerusalem’s temple. The soldiers decided that because of its value, they would keep it intact.

Thrift also does not mean buying cheap things! Jesus had only one robe, a high-quality robe. We can see this better when looking at the construction of buildings. The effects of thrift on architecture can affect the safety and life span of buildings. Compare today’s buildings with those built hundred years ago. There is nothing wrong with quality. Jesus did not have a closet filled with low-cost robes. He did not need an “estate sale” to liquidate His assets after His death. Jesus had what was necessary to sustain His ministry in the world. Jesus had enough!

Finally, thrift or frugality does not mean using unethical practices to save money. Sometimes there is reason why something is cheaper. Was child labor used? Were the working conditions in manufacturing unclean or unsafe? Thrift should never mean using substandard materials. Lower costs should never lead to products being more dangerous to use. The real purpose of a thriftful life is to lay a foundation for “generosity.” In Acts 2, the picture is not of a group of people seeking to conserve resources:

(Acts 2:42-47) – “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

The purpose behind the “thrift,” in Acts was “generosity.” The people were selling their possessions and belongings. They were distributing the proceeds to all, as many had needs. Their thrift came by gathering for worship and meals together. The people had generous hearts. Their impulse was not to accumulate, not to store up and keep their wealth. The Bible also points out the futility of storing up for yourself. Tomorrow is not guaranteed.

(Luke 12:16-20) – “And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, you have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’”

Thrift, frugality have its place in the Christian life through self-control. Self-control is a fruit of the Spirit. As believers, we should all seek to be good and faithful stewards of what God has given us. Our frugality, however, must never take a back seat to generosity. The focus of thrift is to turn perishable cash into the imperishable Kingdom of God. It will be the best return on investment we will ever get.

(1 Timothy 6:18-19) – “Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.”

Example of Biblical Thrift

Based on our definition of “thrift,” it may be more productive to talk about self-control than frugality. It’s important for Christians to learn to live within their means. The Christian life is about learning how to control one’s desires and to put the desires of others above our own. Self-control is willing to sacrifice and save when caring for oneself, while it is willing to spend on others in need. The world tends to view thrift and frugality as pinching pennies no matter what. For our first Bible story, we go to a parable.

(Matthew 25:14-30) – “Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more. So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more. But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money. After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20 The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’ “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’ “Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’ “His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned, I would have received it back with interest. “‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags. For whoever has will be given more, and they will have plenty. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’“

Jesus tells the story of the 5 talents (bags of gold) to tell us how God expects us to be good stewards and investors of our resources. From this story, one sees both risk and self-control. It’s important for Christians to learn to live within their means. It is also important for Christians to learn to control the self’s desires and to put the desires of others above our own. A healthy balance of Holy Spirit inspired generosity and self-control will always be more becoming of the believer than just being thrifty.

(1 John 2:15-16) – “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Frugality and self-control have other important benefits. Our Bible tells the story of Joseph in Genesis chapter’s 37 through 50. Joseph was the most loved son of his father. He was given the famous robe of many colors. God would speak to Joseph through his dreams. His brothers, jealous of his favored status, sold him into slavery to a traveling caravan of Ishmaelites. He was taken to Egypt and then sold to Potiphar, the captain of Pharaoh’s guard. In Egypt, God’s presence with Joseph enabled him to find favor with Potiphar and the keeper of the prison. Joseph interpreted the dreams of two prisoners, predicting that one of them will be reinstated but the other put to death. Joseph then interpreted the dreams of the Pharaoh. The message of Joseph’s dream was to expect seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Pharaoh recognized Joseph’s God-given ability. He is promoted to the chief administrator of Egypt. During the seven years of plenty, Joseph organized a program to save the surplus grain. You can call it a “Rainy Day Plan.” Joseph’s planning was correct and when the famine comes, Egypt is saved from starvation.

As the famine comes, there is a shortage of food in Canaan where Joseph’s family lives. This forces Jacob to send his sons (the ones who sold Joseph into slavery) to buy grain from the Egyptians. Benjamin, Joseph’s younger brother remained at home as his father fears losing him, as he did Joseph. When Joseph finally sees his brothers again, he conceals his identity. He accuses them of being spies and tells them to return with Benjamin or he will not sell them grain. The ongoing famine forces Joseph’s father, Jacob to send his sons back to Egypt with Benjamin. They are invited to dine at Joseph’s house. Joseph then tests the character of his brothers by placing a silver cup in the sack of Benjamin and falsely accusing him of the theft. When Joseph’s brother, Judah, offers to stay in place of Benjamin, Joseph knows that his brother’s character has changed. He reveals that he is their brother, the one they sold into slavery.

Joseph then explains they need not feel guilty for betraying him as it was God’s plan for him to be in Egypt to preserve his family. Joseph tells them to bring their father and his entire household into Egypt. They are to live in the province of Goshen because there were five more years of famine left. Joseph supplied them with Egyptian transport wagons, new garments, silver, and twenty additional donkeys carrying provisions for the journey. Jacob is then joyously reunited with his son Joseph.

The story of Joseph’s life is an example of the sovereignty and grace of God available to those who live faithfully and righteously. Despite being sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph remained faithful. He continued to trust in God to deliver him from harm. God’s plan may not always be obvious to our limited perspective. But “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Ideas to Explore

One of the simplest ways to demonstrate thrift is to organize the group around a fund-raising goal. For example, the goal might be to purchase food and gifts for a needy family for Christmas. Once the goals are set, establish a list of projects that can generate funds toward the goal:

  • A yard sale comprised of multiple households, even church wide if possible. Items are donated, sales minus expenses go toward the fund-raising project.
  • Saving and harvesting scrap aluminum cans, parts, etc. Aluminum brings a nice return at the recycling center.
  • Give up program. Give something up for a month or two. Put the savings in a jar. Consolidate funds at the end of the program. Ideas might be ordering small instead of supersizing, give up French fries, try water instead of a soft drink, etc. Make sure that the cost of the item you avoid goes in the jar.
  • Be creative. How much can you really save?

Examples of Historical Thrift

Our founding fathers such as Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all promoted thrift and stewardship of resources. The ethic of “thrift” had originated in Europe during the late eighteenth century. Aligned with values later called “the Protestant work ethic,” thrift emphasized hard work and strict money saving practices. Private and municipal savings banks were founded throughout Europe. By 1816, Philadelphia had its first saving bank, the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society (PSFS). The Saving Fund Society encouraged individuals to save money for mortgages and retirement. The idea of saving provided a form of economic insurance in case of debilitating illness or the death of a family’s primary wage-earner. This form of institutional savings became popular in the Philadelphia area. By 1853, there were three other savings fund societies formed. In other Northeastern states, where six hundred savings banks in operation by 1930.

The existence of banks or savings habits did not guarantee, of course, that people would have the skills or desire to save or be thrifty. For some, habits are difficult to change. Making saving a priority over spending money on other luxuries, such as games, alcohol, or tobacco is not always easy. Some did not trust banks with their small amounts of hard-earned cash.

During the American Revolution, the comforts of the family depended upon the thrift, energy, and thoughtfulness of women. Much of this was done through education and art. Needlework was the one art in which women controlled the education of their daughters. By the 19th century, most American women knew how to sew. This was not only acceptable work for women; in many cases, it was necessary work. All colonial women sewed their family members’ clothing and other domestic textiles until the introduction of ready-made garments. Making quilts also fell into the realm of women’s work. Many girls learned plain stitching, necessary for making household textiles and clothing, through completed “stints” of hand stitching patchwork. It was an excellent form of reusing bits and pieces of worn items. Today, quilting continues as an art form.

Food was also an area that needed stewardship. During the American Revolution, a soldier’s daily rations were defined on June 10, 1775, by the Massachusetts Provincial Council. The set the daily allowance or ration for its troops in Boston as:

  • One pound of bread
  • Half a pound of beef and half a pound of pork; and if pork cannot be had, one pound and a quarter of beef; and one day in seven they shall have one pound and one quarter of salt fish, instead of one day’s allowance of meat
  • One pint of milk, or if milk cannot be had, one gill [half a cup] of rice
  • One quart of good spruce or malt beer
  • One gill of peas or beans, or other sauce equivalent
  • Six ounces of good butter per week
  • One pound of good common soap for six men per week
  • Half a pint of vinegar per week per man if it can be had.

In colonial times, food shortages frequently accompanied poor harvests, particularly in urban areas that had little access to produce. As early as 1710, requisitions by the British army made wheat scarce. Merchants hoarded the remaining supply to raise prices to a level that colonists couldn’t afford. This allowed them to export the wheat to more lucrative European markets. Food riots broke out in Boston three times, which led to a law prohibiting the export of wheat.

Food shortages returned during the American Revolution. Food was either blockaded by the British or requisitioned by the colonial army. Merchants often hoarded commodities like tea, coffee, sugar, and flour. Between 1776 and 1779, 30 food riots broke out in the colonies. They were led by women who struggled to feed their families while their male breadwinners were off at war.

On July 24, 1777, a crowd of angry Boston women drew carts and wagons to the warehouses of merchant Thomas Boylston and demanded the keys. Boylston refused. According to Abigail Adams, “one of the women seized him by the neck and tossed him into the cart.” Realizing the women wouldn’t yield, he handed over the keys. “They tipped up the cart and discharged him, then opened the warehouse, hoisted out the coffee themselves, put it into wagons and drove off.

The idea of thrift and frugality is driven by supply and demand. When the supply is adequate to fill the demand, thrift is a fleeting thought for most. It is not until there is a high demand that the benefits of thrift and savings come to bear.

Ideas to Explore

Have a quilting group come in and speak to your own group. If up to the task, design and create a quilt. Everyone should contribute both fabric and sewing skills. Raffle the quilt off and use the earnings for one of the service projects later. Don’t miss this opportunity to teach everyone how to sew, fix a button or tear in a seam. This is a skill that lasts a lifetime! Make sure each member of your group gets a small gift, a sewing kit. Needles, threads, a few buttons, some straight pins, a pair of small scissors, and a pouch to keep them in.

Let your group see if they can survive the day on the rations of an American Revolutionary Soldier. And yes, you can find non-alcoholic beer!

Examples of Historical Thrift Occurring in Florida

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is a private, nonprofit organization that collects, stores, and distributes donated food to more than 550 feeding partners in six Central Florida counties: Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Seminole and Volusia. Last year, with the help of numerous donors, volunteers and a caring, committed community, the food bank distributes food and meals to partner programs such as food pantries, soup kitchens, women’s shelters, senior centers, day care centers and Kids Cafes. The need is great. 1 in 7 Central Floridians are struggling with the reality of hunger and food insecurity.

One of the most powerful ways to help close the gap on hunger in Central Florida is to help the organization financially. The Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida is noted for its frugal management of resources. For every $10 contributed, the food bank can provide 40 meals for struggling families, seniors, and kids. Their fund efficiency ratio allows for 97% of contributions to be used directly for programs that help people. Because of their responsible use of resources, the food bank is rated 4-star charity by Charity Navigator. Second Harvest is a tax-exempt charitable organization under IRS 501c(3). In 2019/2020, Second Harvest proved over 73 million meals to families, children, and seniors in Central Florida.

In 2020, Second Harvest provided:

  • Bring Hope Home Program (meals taken to people) : 4,443 deliveries | 76,068 meals
  • Fresh Produce at School Markets: 183,039 meals
  • COVID-19 Relief Boxes: 16,606 boxes | 200,981 meals
  • 7-day Breakfast & Lunch Boxes: 498,393 meals
  • Family Meal Boxes: 71,600 meals

In addition to helping feed those in need of help, Second Harvest also transforms dozens of lives directly every year. Economically challenged adults who graduate from a 16-week culinary training program are placed in ‘better than minimum wage’ jobs that set them and their families on a path to self-sustainability. The organization is located at 411 Mercy Drive, Orlando, Fl 32805. Their phone number is: 407-295-1066 and website is

Second Harvest Food Bank relied on more than 39,000 volunteers last year whose hours totaled 111,420. There are various volunteer opportunities offer fun and unique ways for individuals and groups to contribute their time, talents, and resources to help Central Florida’s neighbors in need.

Ideas to Explore

Volunteer in a thrift shop, Meals on Wheels program, Second Harvest, or other food bank.

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    NIV New International Version Translations

The Virtue of Humility

Biblical Definition of Humility

Humility is defined as not being proud or haughty, not arrogant, or assertive. The Bible states that humility is critical and necessary for godliness. As Christians, we are called to be humble followers of Christ. We are also called to trust in the wisdom and salvation of God. Biblical humility is based on God. God the Father descends to help the poor and afflicted. The incarnate Son manifests Himself in humility from birth until His crucifixion.

(Matthew 11:29)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Humility and meekness are also interrelated. These are righteous traits necessary for serving the will of God.

(Micah 6:8) – “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.”

Humility is necessary to enter God’s kingdom (Matthew 5:3; 18:1-4). Humility is also the prerequisite for honor (Proverbs 15:33; 18:12; 22:4; 29:23) and a physical blessing (Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5). It is the gateway to eternal life (Matthew 5:3; 18:1-4), not physical rewards (Matthew 5:10-12).

(Proverbs 3:5) – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;”

Proverbs gives us a summation of the biblical meaning of humility. To be humble, we must have faith that God will lead us in the best way to live and guide our paths to avoid temptation. It takes complete trust in the Lord. Anything less and we deceive ourselves with vanity or lust.

(Proverbs 22:4) – “Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life.”

To be humble consists of trusting God and following His will. It also takes fear. There are consequences for neglecting God’s commands of truth, love, work ethic, mercy, and more. Humility is recognizing the magnificent power of God. Humility is accepting God’s condemnation upon us if we do not aim our life’s purpose toward God’s righteousness.

(2 Chronicles 7:14) – “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

Solomon recognized this warning as a restatement of the warning in Deuteronomy 28. God had entered a covenant with Israel. He promised to take care of them and allow them to prosper as long as they obeyed Him. God also promised to bring curses upon them if they failed to obey. The covenant relationship established a direct link between their obedience and their prosperity. It also linked their disobedience to their hardships. In 2 Chronicles 7, God is reminding Solomon of the previous agreement. If Israel obeys, they will be blessed. If they disobey, they will be judged. The judgment is meant to bring Israel to repentance. God is reassuring Solomon that, if they are humble, pray, and repent, then God will keep them from His judgment.

When Christians humble themselves, pray, seek God, and repent, God heals. The healing can include the physical land, the morality of the citizenry, the economy, and even political leadership. Whether God will fix our country is up to God. It is never wrong, however, to confess our sins and pray. It is our duty as believers to continuously confess and repent of our sins. Why? So we are not hindered in any way (Hebrews 12:1). We are to continuously pray for our nation and those who lead it (1 Timothy 2:1–2). As believers, we must live holy lives, seek God, pray, and share the gospel. We should be confident in the knowledge that all who believe will be saved.

Example of Biblical Humility

As Christians, we believe that Moses is the father of all the prophets before and after him. All the prophets after Moses were beneath him in stature. He was chosen above all mankind to achieve a greater knowledge of God than anyone before him or after him. Moses reached a level of communication with God that surpassed all other human attainments. There was no barrier between himself and God that he was not able to penetrate. There was no physical limitation that hindered his communications with God. He had no imperfection large or small that impeded him. To achieve this level of communication, Moses gave up his sensual and imaginative faculties. His human desires and worldly motivations ceased. Moses was left to rely on his pure intellect. We look to Moses and how he communicated with God with awe. Even the angels had no closer relationship with God.

Our Christian faith asks us to believe that other than Jesus Himself, Moses was the greatest person to ever live or will ever live. What enabled and empowered Moses to actualize his human potential more than anyone else? How did he achieve this unparalleled level before God that can never be and will never be replicated?

(Numbers 12:3) – “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”

The answer can be found in the Torah, the first five books of the Old Testament, written by Moses. In it, he describes himself as humbler than any other person. Moses’ modesty and unpretentiousness allowed him to see himself as a servant of God. Moses saw his goals as improving the world and being of service to others. He had no ulterior motive of elevating himself or increasing his name recognition or his net worth. His pure intent was the way he lived his life. When he combined his humility with his skills, it made him the perfect choice for God to communicate through. That is why we look to Moses as our Biblical example of humility. God chose not only to talk to Moses but to appear in his presence. God even wrote down His advice on stone. Today, we would compare this with someone who not only had God’s cell phone number, but also His private email address.

Humility for Moses did not mean denying his unique talents, abilities, and opportunities. It meant recognizing that they were gifts and blessings from God. He was obligated rather than entitled. His gifts and talents created expectations, rather than fame and notoriety. Moses understood that whatever gifts he had were on loan. They were borrowed but never owned by him. The same is true for us. What makes us unique, our gifts and talents are on loan from God. They can be taken from us at any moment.

Moses had an unbelievable life. He was a prince, shepherd, prophet, liberator, chieftain, military leader, and judge. In our world today, someone with such greatness is hardly ever called humble. What then made Moses different? Moses had confidence. He was not a pacifist. Moses killed an Egyptian, challenged Pharaoh, and crushed a rebellion. He killed by sword 10,000 of his people after the golden calf incident. Moses spoke face-to-face with God. He broke the first set of inscribed tablets from God, argued with, and challenged God. This passage from Proverbs gives us an insight into the meaning of humility (See Proverbs 22:4).

According to the Biblical and Jewish traditions, humility is based on an awareness of oneself that comes about because of our awareness of God. In other words, it comes from our perception of an intelligent power in and beyond the universe. This power transcends human comprehension and inspires awe and wonder, gratitude, generosity, and love. It comes from God! Our Bible condemns arrogance and close-mindedness, the opposite of humility. But don’t expect to get a free pass for being humble. In a remarkable passage (Numbers 20:1-11), Moses is told to draw water from a rock for the second time. Before, he was told to strike the rock, but here he speaks to the rock. Instead, he calls the Israelites “rebels,” which they were, and strikes the rock twice. While the rock gushes water for all, God tells Moses and the accompanying Aaron why they cannot enter the land:

(Numbers 20:12) – “But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.’”

There is a lot of theological speculation about the actual sin that Moses committed. He did get water from the rock. He tried twice. He took credit for getting the water. The Bible only tells us that Moses had not believed in God. His disobedience was not in what he did but in his attitude. Even though Moses was the humblest person that had lived, had spoken with God, and even received instructions from God in writing, he was not permitted to enter the promised land.

What does this tell us? Following rules cannot guarantee blessings from God. Even the best of us are sinners. Despite repeated attempts by Moses to change God’s mind, he died on the mountain, seeing but never entering Israel’s the promised land. It is faith, and not law-keeping, that makes us right with God. The Old Testament teaches the same justification by faith, as the Apostle Paul taught us in Romans chapter 4.

Ideas to Explore

The following information was taken from the Billy Graham website. It offers a framework for discussion on how to define and practice biblical humility. Please go to the original link and explore the additional resources available. Practice makes perfect. Have a working session on building humble disciples.

  • Routinely confess your sin to God (Luke 18:9-14)
  • Acknowledge your sin to others (James 3:2, James 5:16)
  • Be patient with those who have wronged you (1 Peter 3:8-17)
  • Receive correction and feedback from others graciously (Proverbs 10:17, 12:1)
  • Accept a lowly place (Proverbs 25:6,7)
  • Purposely associate with people of lower state than you (Luke 7:36-39)
  • Choose to serve others (Philippians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 4:5, Matthew 23:11)
  • Be quick to forgive (Matthew 18: 21-35)
  • Cultivate a grateful heart (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
  • Purpose to speak well of others (Ephesians 4:31-32)
  • Treat pride as a condition that always necessitates embracing the cross (Luke 9:23)

Example of Historical Humility

In the war for America’s independence, the life of a common soldier was a rough one. Soldiers served short periods in state militias or longer periods in the Continental Army, raised by Congress. About two hundred thousand men enlisted for one period or another. Militias supplied the greatest number of soldiers. They were comprised of farmers, artisans, and some professionals. All faced war’s hardships of severe food shortages, discomfort, low morale, and danger. As a result, the Continental Congress recruited both the young and old. Those with fewer resources, such as apprentices or laborers, the poor, were attracted to the American Revolution. Pay and a promise of land was the typical incentive. While some enlisted others were drafted. The more affluent hired paid substitutes. What makes the story of Joseph Plumb Martin unique is that his education and writing skills allowed him to keep a journal throughout his wartime activities. Later, after the war ended, he wrote a colorful portrayal of the life of a common soldier, “A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier.” Because Martin was just an ordinary soldier with no political aspirations other than to survive, his narrative has become one of the most referenced documents on the life of a common soldier in the American Revolution.

Joseph Plumb Martin was born in Becket, Massachusetts on November 21, 1760, to the Reverend Ebenezer Martin and Susannah Plumb. At the age of seven, he was sent to live with his grandparents in Milford, Connecticut. Because his family was well-to-do (His father studied at Yale), Martin was able to receive a well-rounded education, including reading and writing. When he was 15, in 1775, he was eager to join the war effort following the Battles of Lexington and Concord. His grandparents initially opposed the idea but agreed after Martin vowed to run away and join a naval ship as a privateer if he was not allowed to join. He joined the 8th Connecticut Regiment in June 1776. There, he was assigned duty in the New York City area. Martin arrived just before the opening of the British Long Island Campaign.

Joseph Plumb Martin’s propensity to re-enlist provided him with many firsthand accounts of the critical battles in the Revolution. It is notable that Martin, for most of the war, was just a private in the army. His firsthand account does not involve the usual heroes of the Revolution. Scholars believe that Martin kept some type of journal during the war. Later in life, he used it to write his book. While some events may be dramatized, the narrative is remarkably accurate. Martin’s regiment would have been present at every event he writes about, according to war records of the time.

Martin participated in such notable engagements as the Battle of Brooklyn, the Battle of White Plains, the siege on Fort Mifflin, and the Battle of Monmouth. He encamped at Valley Forge, witnessed John Andre being escorted to his execution, and was also present during the climactic Siege of Yorktown in 1781. He was assigned to Light Infantry in 1778, attaining the rank of Corporal.

In the summer of 1780, Washington ordered the formation called “Corps of Sappers and Miners.” Sappers and Miners were the first units of military engineers. They played a significant role in the Revolutionary War. Sappers were key in preparing the defense around strategic points such as Bunker Hill and leading assaults through fortified enemy positions such as Redoubt #10 at Yorktown. Plumb Martin was recommended by his superior officers to be a non-commissioned officer of this regiment. Additionally, he was promoted to Sergeant. Before Yorktown, the corps was responsible for digging the entrenchments for the Continental Army. During the final battle at Yorktown, they were also a key part of a regiment commanded by Alexander Hamilton. They cleared the field of sharpened logs called abatis so that Hamilton’s regiment could capture Redoubt #10.

Martin’s narrative was originally published anonymously in 1830 at Hallowell, Maine, as A narrative of some of the adventures, dangers, and sufferings of a Revolutionary soldier. It was interspersed with anecdotes of incidents that occurred within his observation. It has been republished in many forms but was thought lost to history. In the mid-1950s, a first edition copy of the narrative was found and donated to Morristown National Historical Park. The book was published again by Little, Brown in 1962, in an edition edited by George F. Scheer (ISBN 0-915992-10-8) under the title Private Yankee Doodle; as well as appearing as a volume in Series I of The New York Times’ Eyewitness Accounts of the American Revolution in 1968. The current edition, published in 2001, is entitled A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some of the Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin. Other current versions include a version adapted for children, entitled Yankee Doodle Boy and The Memoirs of a Revolutionary which ended with Plumb describing the British surrender at Yorktown in October 1781.

When Martin was discharged from duty when the Continental Army disbanded in October 1783, he taught in New York state for a year and settled on Maine’s frontier. Martin became one of the founders of the town of Prospect, near modern-day Stockton Springs. Over the years, he was known for being a farmer, a selectman, a Justice of the Peace, and Town Clerk (the last position being held for over 25 years). He married Lucy Clewley (b. 1776) in 1794 and had five children, Joseph (b. 1799), Nathan and Thomas (twins, b. 1803), James Sullivan (b. 1810), and Susan (b. 1812). He also wrote many other stories and poems over the years.

In 1794, he became involved in a bitter land dispute with Henry Knox, former Major-General in the Continental Army and Secretary of War under George Washington’s administration as President. Knox claimed that he owned Martin’s 100-acre farm, as well as the surrounding 600,000 acres in an area now known as Waldo County, Maine. Martin said that this was not true and that he had the right to farm the land. In 1797, Knox’s claim was legally upheld, and Martin was ordered to pay $170 in rent. He could not raise the money and begged Knox to allow him to keep the land. Knox denied the request. By 1811, his farmland was cut by half, and by 1818, when he appeared in court with other Revolutionary War veterans to claim a war pension, he owned nothing. In 1818, Martin’s war pension was approved, and he received $96 a year for the rest of his life. Many other war veterans were fighting for what they were promised as compensation. To further the cause of the veterans, he published his memoirs in 1830. It was not considered a success and was lost to history.

In 1836, a platoon of United States Light Infantry was marching through Prospect and discovered that Plumb Martin resided there. The platoon stopped outside of his house and fired a salute in honor of the Revolutionary War Hero. Joseph Plumb Martin lived to the age of 89, dying on May 2, 1850. He is buried with his wife at the Sandy Point Cemetery, outside of Prospect, Maine.

Joseph Plumb Martin is chosen as our example of humility because he represents the very heart of our nation. Born a minister’s son, Martin gave up his youth to help birth a nation. He asked very little for his sacrifice.

Ideas to Explore

This is an opportunity to purchase for each person involved in this review, a copy of Joseph Plumb Martin’s book. They are available through multiple sources such as Amazon Books or Barnes and Noble online. In paperback they are inexpensive. While the reading style takes care, the book gives the reader a chance to live with Joseph Plumb Martin during the Revolutionary War. Every young person should read this book and add it to their library.

Examples of Historical Humility Occurring in Florida

William Stanhope Foster left the practice of law and entered military service on March 12, 1812, as a first lieutenant in the Eleventh Infantry Regiment. We often forget that there was a second attempt by the British to reclaim the colonies after they lost the American Revolution. The War of 1812 brought such events as the burning of the White House in Washington, DC, and the famous Battle of New Orleans led by Andrew Jackson. Foster was a patriot in our nation’s pursuit of freedom. In the War Of 1812, he was promoted to captain on March 13, 1813, and promoted to major by brevet2a commission giving a military officer a higher nominal rank than that for which pay is received on August 15, 1814, for “gallant service” in the battle for Fort Erie. Between wars, on September 12, 1822, he married Elizabeth Kilgour (1800 or 1801-1879) of Cincinnati. Foster was later promoted to lieutenant colonel by brevet on August 15, 1834.

In December 1836 Lieutenant Colonel William S. Foster was assigned to build a new fort in Florida, on the site of the old Fort Alabama. This is a location in Hillsboro County, Thonotosassa, Florida on the Hillsboro River. The first fort established at the site was called Fort Alabama and was built by troops led by Colonel William Lindsay in March 1836. The fort came under attack by a large force of hostile Indians almost immediately and was abandoned in April 1836. It was later destroyed by a booby-trapped keg of gunpowder. On December 1, 1836, Colonel Foster arrived at the site with 430 men. His assignment was to rebuild the fort and bridge that had been destroyed months earlier. All materials had to be sourced from local forests. By December 19, he had erected two blockhouses, a large storehouse, and a fort. Then on December 22, Col. Foster departed with 180 men, and 25 wagons with provisions and forage to resupply Fort Armstrong. The rest of his men were tasked with completing the bridge and powder magazine.

Fort Foster was to be a strategic fortification built for the protection of the bridge, the river crossing, and the supplies within the fort. Fortified supply depots were continuously placed deeper into the Seminole territory. This allowed soldiers to operate in the field while they fought the Seminoles. On January 1, 1837, Col. Foster boasted in a letter to General R. Jones. He stated that the fort and bridge he oversaw the construction of made one of the best and strongest field fortifications ever erected against Indians. His words would be proven correct over time. The fort was successful in its defense of the bridge.

During the Second Seminole war, he was promoted to colonel by brevet on December 25, 1837 “for distinguished service in Florida. This was due to his actions in the Battle of Kissimmee,” also known as the Battle of Lake Okeechobee. In that battle, he led a decisive charge on Christmas Day as commander of the Fourth Infantry Regiment. In 1838, he was assigned to the pursuit of the fugitive Cherokee leader Tsali in the mountains of North Carolina. About a year later, on November 26, 1839, Colonel Foster died of yellow fever in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and was buried there.

Why would a military leader be an example of humility, especially when he was prideful about his role in the war? To begin with, Lieutenant Colonel William S. Foster loved his country. He took his role as a soldier seriously. Discomfort and death were always close. To face death for the betterment of others is the ultimate act of humility. Foster’s orders are difficult to comprehend. The Seminole Wars were about the elimination of all Indians within Florida. It was about the annihilation of a race of people who were fighting for their land. The war was not Colonel Foster’s idea. Those were his orders as one of the senior officers of the Second Seminole War. Colonel Foster served directly under the war’s foremost leaders while seeing action in most of the Seminole war’s decisive battles. He left his history behind as a group of official writings and his many letters to his wife Betty. There was a book published about William S. Foster (This Miserable Pride of a Soldier – October 1, 2005). It is a compilation of his letters and Journals. Colonel Foster was no different than any soldier given orders to make war. He obeyed his orders; he did his best. There are no statues we know of for him, no monuments. One must ask if you are assigned to a miserable service, is it wrong to be proud that you served with honor?

Much of the information about William Foster has been mishandled in history. Colonel Foster’s birthplace was either Weathersfield, Vermont, or Charlestown, New Hampshire. Currently, records differ. We don’t know for sure where he was born. Colonel William Stanhope Foster was incorrectly assigned the middle name “Sewell” by a clerical error in federal military records from the War Of 1812. That error was duplicated in Francis Bernard Heitman’s authoritative “Historical Register and Dictionary of The United States Army” (1903), in John K. Mahon’s authoritative “History of The Second Seminole War, 1835-1842,” and likely elsewhere. Effective Internet research on the Colonel requires separate searches using separate middle names. At present, the location of Colonel Foster’s grave in the Baton Rouge National Cemetery should be described as “probable,” based on the likelihood that his grave was one of those moved from the Old Post Cemetery. Incomplete government records and weathered grave markers make that unclear.

Humility in life does not mean a lack of pride in life. Col. Forster asked nothing from his country but for the opportunity to use his skills in service to the United States. Many people do not celebrate the efficiency with which the United States Army dispatched the Indian population within Florida. Lieutenant Colonel Foster did his job as ordered by his leaders. It is no different than anyone who serves in the military today. Many find their sacrifice and service used for political agendas. Service to our country should never be politicized. Foster’s legacy can still be found at the site of his Florida fort, the fort he built in just a few weeks. The exact location was discovered, excavated, and rebuilt using a period map provided by the Colonel’s papers. Archaeological research helped confirm the location and the original design before reconstruction. You can step back to 1836 and walk with Col. Foster and his men. It will be a memorable afternoon. We owe much to the military who have served throughout our nation’s history. Here you can imagine yourself, in service to your country. Cold in the winter, hot in the summer, under the constant threat of enemy attack.

Ideas to Explore

Planning a visit to Fort Foster has become very difficult. Recent decay has rendered the fort unsafe for visitation. Technically part of (and administered by) Hillsborough River State Park, Fort Foster State Historic Site is on the opposite side of US Highway 301. What is now at the Fort Foster State Historic Site was a reconstruction of a fort in use during the Second Seminole War. Park rangers offered tours (giving out facts about the history, living conditions, and operations) of the site on weekends (when the weather allows). There was also an annual Fort Foster Rendezvous held every year in February, complete with folks in period dress and engaging in re-enactment-type skirmishing. This activity has been suspended.

The parking lot is across the road at Hillsborough River State Park, where the restrooms are, too. The interpretive center is over there, with exhibits about the fort, the Seminoles, and the Second Seminole War. To get there: Take US Highway 301 for 9 miles north of Tampa (6 miles south of Zephyrhills). You can get there from Interstates 75 and 4 easily, but everything involves you finding the exits for US Highway 301 and following the same instructions. Fort Foster was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. Check the fort’s calendar for special events that are held throughout the year.

Advisory: Fort Foster is currently closed for safety renovations. Please check before you plan a visit to see the status. As an alternative, you might consider Fort King in Ocala Florida. Originally called Camp King or Cantonment King, Fort King is National Historic Landmark. The site lies on the north side of Fort King Street west of its intersection with Northeast 41st. The fort was named for Colonel William King. It was built because of the 1823 Treaty of Moultrie Creek, signed between the United States and leaders of the Seminole Nation.

The original fort consisted of several log buildings and a log stockade and was held by the army from 1827-1829. Because of its distance from Fort Brooke in Tampa Bay, the army decided that it was too costly to supply and evacuated it in the latter year. Fort King was abandoned in May of 1836. It has a rich history like Fort Foster. However, its restoration is not complete. The fort stockade has been rebuilt and the site does have scheduled events including reenactments. The history of Fort King is similar to that of Fort Foster. Another fort, Fort Christmas is located just east of Orlando, FL. It too offers similar opportunities to learn about this period in Florida’s history.

Practicing Acts of Humility

  1. Speak as little as possible about yourself. Don’t be a braggart.
  2. Mind your own business. Don’t be nosey.
  3. Don’t try to run other people’s life. Be wary of giving advice. Wise men don’t need it, fools won’t heed it.
  4. Accept criticism. It could be a character flaw that will make you stronger and a better person if you fix it.
  5. Tolerate imperfection. Ignore the mistakes of others. Just try not to make them yourself. But if you do make a mistake, move on, and learn from your experience. Admit when you are wrong.
  6. Control your anger. Not everyone will treat you fairly. Rise above the petty! Make your first response one of kindness. It will throw your enemies off guard and show your friends what you are made of. Use Jesus as a guide.
  7. Don’t think less of yourself, think of yourself less.
  8. Serve others, serve often. Do your best. Enjoy your successes.
  9. Don’t care about getting credit. God is always watching anyway.
  10. Always do the right thing. Practice makes perfect.
  • 1
    NIV New International Version Translations
  • 2
    a commission giving a military officer a higher nominal rank than that for which pay is received

The Virtue of Sincerity

Biblical Definition of Sincerity

Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary lists the meaning of sincerity. It says the quality or state of being sincere; honesty of mind or intention; freedom from simulation, hypocrisy, disguise, or false pretense; sincereness. From God’s perspective, sincerity is the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy. Sincere people represent themselves honestly. Their verbal expressions are free from double-talk, gossip, flattery, or embellishment. The Bible places a high value on sincerity. “Love must be sincere” (Romans 12:9; 2 Corinthians 6:6). So also faith must be sincere (1 Timothy 1:5).

What does the Bible say about the kind of sincerity God is looking for?

(Ephesians 6:23–24)1NIV New International Version Translations – “Peace to the brothers and sisters, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with an undying love.”

The phrase “with an undying love,” comes from the NIV translation of the Bible. In the NKJB Bible, it is “sincerity.” This gives you a sign of how God views whether someone is sincere about their faith. God values personal sincerity. God is not willing to overlook shortcomings based only on sincerity. Sincerity does not get you eternal life. A person may be sincere and yet they may be “sincerely lost.”

It is important to understand that sincerity is not a virtue in and of itself. A person can be sincerely wrong, too. Because someone sincerely believes in something does not make them correct. It is only when sincerity is part of our search for God that it pleases the Lord (Matthew 6:33; Jeremiah 29:13).

God forgives us when we surrender our own will at the foot of the cross. Only those who sincerely repent and believe are granted pardon. God is not impressed with an attempt to make something that is not the case appear true. First, we must agree with God about our sinful state. God then takes the record of charges against us and nails it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). He wipes our past clean and gives us a fresh start (2 Corinthians 5:17). In doing so, God eliminates any need for us to live in pretense or hypocrisy. We are free to live authentically, having been pronounced righteous before God.

Because every human heart is subject to pride and pretense, the wise Christian allows the Holy Spirit to have free access to every part of their life. It is with the prayer that our pride and insincerity are revealed to us (Psalm 139:23). God knows if we are sincere by our obedience to His Word:

(Psalm 51:16-17) – “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

God knows the depth of our commitment to Him and the level of our sincerity. We cannot hide from God or fool Him (Psalm 139:1–12). When we allow God to strip pride and pretense from our lives, we discover He loves us all the same. His love frees us to embrace our authentic selves and serve others with “glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46–47).

Example of Biblical Sincerity

Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, were devoted friends and ministry colleagues of the Apostle Paul. At some point, or perhaps several times, they had even risked their lives for Paul’s sake (Romans 16:3-5). Paul first met Priscilla and Aquila when he went to Corinth as part of his second missionary journey. Priscilla and Aquila had just arrived in Corinth from Rome in around 49 AD. Paul then spent eighteen months living and working with them (Acts 18:1-3, 11, 18). After Corinth, Priscilla, Aquila, and Paul travelled together to Ephesus (Acts 18:18). Paul had confidence in the abilities of both Priscilla and Aquila as church leaders, and he left them there to care for a church that met in their house (1 Corinthians 16:19). It was while the couple were caring for a church in Ephesus that they met Apollos.

Apollos was a man of the Jewish descent from Alexandria. He had important skills. Apollos was eloquent and had a good knowledge of the Scriptures. He was sincere in his desire to preach about Jesus. Despite his skills, Apollos still needed the help of his two best friends, Aquila, and Priscilla. Apollos met them when he came to Ephesus. Aquila and Priscilla provided counsel and instruction. Apollos’ message, although sincere, was incomplete. For sincerity to be effective for God, it takes more.

(Acts 18:24-28) – “Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers and sisters encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. When he arrived, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. For he vigorously refuted his Jewish opponents in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Messiah.”

Apollos had knowledge. Verse 24 says he was “with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures.” Apollos was a Jew born in Alexandria. Jews who were raised in this Egyptian city were generally highly educated. Alexandria was an important center of academic learning. It is where the Old Testament had been translated from Hebrew into the Greek. The city was the second largest in the Roman Empire. The Jews had built a large synagogue there. Alexandria had the reputation of being a seat of learning where Jewish students received a complete education. Having access to books and classes and teachers does not train or educate or make you wise. Apollos applied himself, took both the initiative and the time. While living there, his objective was to become knowledgeable in the Scriptures. It is part of the virtue of sincerity that is often missed. Learning about God through Scriptures is a foundation for a virtuous life.

Apollos was teachable. His academic standing did not stop him from learning more. Aquila and Priscilla “invited them into their home,” and “explained to him the way of God more adequately.” There was something Apollos did not know yet, the doctrine of Christian baptism. He was teachable, and because of his good and honest heart, he was able to bring his preaching in line with truth and reality. This made Apollos more effective. When Christians open their homes, their lives to others, and sincerely take interest in others, good things happen. They could have said nothing. They could have stood up and have humiliated Apollos. They could have marked him as a false teacher in front of others, but without saying anything to him. Instead, Aquila and Priscilla went directly to Apollos, taught him something he did not know. The outcome was good for everybody and pleasing to God. If you ever reach a place in life where you cannot accept correction, you are no longer teachable. To stop learning is not compensated for by a prior accumulation of knowledge!

Apollos himself was approachable. He accepted an invitation to learn more. That was a test of personal humility, to let someone take you aside to learn more. Do people feel free to approach you?

(1 Corinthians 10:12) – “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”

Some of the most valuable things you will learn about yourself will come from criticism. If you refuse all criticism and correction, you could shut yourself off from one of the great sources of education.

(1 Corinthians 15:58) – “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Apollos was immovable. When we are rooted in our faith, when we know we will not move away from Christ, we can become effective for God. After learning the full truth of the gospel, his public defense of Jesus became stronger. Apollos’s work required knowledge and firmness of conviction. It required courage under fire. He was immovable because he believed and practiced what he preached. He really believed that Jesus Is the Christ! Apollos believed that with all his heart and his preaching and living was based on that belief.

Apollos’s ministry was blessed by God. In addition to the testimony of Luke in Acts, there are these mentions by Paul (1 Cor. 3:6 & 4:6), showing that Paul and Apollos worked together as fellow workers but not competitors. So that people in Corinth would hear the gospel of Christ and so that Christians would know how to live. Apollos’s sincerity was based on his love for Christ!

Ideas to Explore

Use this time to practice teaching the Gospel’s message. What does it take to be an effective teacher? Why were parables so effective? Do people know and understand how to explain Jesus?

Example of Historical Sincerity

Sincerity is clearly a virtue whose foundation is based on trust. If one looks at the American Revolution, one of the greatest failures would be in our treatment of the indigenous population, the Indians. Here were the top reasons the American Revolution occurred:

  • Opposition to taxation. The colonists insisted that taxation could only be passed if they had a voice in the British parliament, or at the very least to be consulted. They also wanted to have their petitions to Britain heard and treated with respect.
  • Desire for representation. The desire for “actual representation” was a corollary of the debate about representation.
  • Sovereignty. A desire for sovereignty became part of the debate, particularly in 1774 and beyond. Thomas Paine wrote in Common Sense about the reasons for independence and American sovereignty, the right of a nation’s government to rule itself and not be commanded by others.
  • Fear of military oppression. Military rule is “tyranny.” Cities in the colonies didn’t even have a visible police force so the presence of British soldiers in the 1770s came as a shock. The use of a threat of violence to make the colonies “obedient” was an insult. 
  • Natural rights. The English philosopher John Locke argued that man is born with “natural rights” that no government could take away: these rights are life, liberty, and property. Property being the right to acquire it and keep it safe from theft or seizure. It was the role of any government to protect the natural rights of its citizens, rather than to restrict or impinge upon them. The various Quartering Acts of 1765 and 1774, requiring colonists to house and feed British soldiers in their own homes was also despised.
  • Commercial freedom. The restriction of colonial commercial potentially fanned the flames of dissent due to the many restrictions imposed by British mercantilism and the Navigation Acts.
  • Anti-Catholicism. Religion and paranoia about Catholicism also helped drive the revolution and secured the support of colonial Protestant churches. While the colonists often preached religious tolerance, they feared Catholics as much as King George III.

The Magna Carta, signed in England in 1215. Before William the Conqueror invaded in 1066, England had Common Law in place that respected the private property rights of landowners. However, after William took control of England, he asked for a complete list of all the private property owners in the land. This was completed in 1085. With this information, William forced these landowners to sign over the deeds to their property. The battle over property rights continues today to be one of the principle causes of wars.

  • the right to use the good (thing that is owned),
  • the right to earn an income from it,
  • the right to transfer it to others, and
  • the right to enforce the property rights.

No lesson on the American Revolution can exclude a discussion on Indians and property rights. The indigenous peoples in North American were here first! During the American Revolution, Indians operated physically from the interior forests of North America. Their tribal culture viewed themselves as “stewards” of the land rather than “owners” of the land. While conflicts occurred over some areas, most Indians were initially content to view the landowner as the “Creator.” After a century and a half of exploration and settlement, the English colonists, in 1763, were finally masters of the coastal areas. With the colonial populations growing rapidly. Colonists were looking west for room to grown. Here is where the breakdown occurs about sincerity and trust. The European concept of property rights were paramount, no co-existence would do. The westward expansion would first take the form of the French and Indian War. The English government had applied controls over colonial freedom to expand.

Westward expansions were limited. By the Proclamation of 1763, the lands beyond the Appalachian Mountain chain were declared off limits to colonial governments. These areas were “reserved” to the Indians under the word (the trust) of the British Crown. In the Crown’s dealings with the Indian nations, the English authorities utilized the concept of treaties in which solemn covenants were entered into as between equals. During the period 1763 to 1775, a series of boundaries between the colonists and the Indians of the interior were created from Lake Ontario to Florida. Clearly this confirmed to both the Indians and colonists that expansion and further settlement would not occur.

The English government, meanwhile, continued its policy of restraining colonial expansion into the territory reserved to the Indians. By the Quebec Act, the seaboard colonies were seemingly shut off from expansion into the lands they claimed by charter, those lands being incorporated into the new British province of Quebec. While the Quebec Act is typically interpreted as having religious significance, the act was more significant in stopping expansion. As the American Revolution progressed, a reluctant Indian population was pressured to take sides. The Iroquois, because of their treaties with Britain, joined the British in leading to counter offensives from George Washington. Patriot armies, under George Washington, applied a scorched earth policy to the villages and cornfields of the Iroquois.

In the inland areas of the South, the Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks and Chickasaws joined with the British colonies of East and West Florida. As the American Revolution ended, the Spanish representative at the Paris negotiations, the Conde de Aranda, had asserted that the territory west of the Appalachians to the Mississippi, which England grandly delivered to the American colonies, belonged to “free and independent nations of Indians.” American negotiators rejected the Indian claim and asserted the full authority of the colonies to possess the lands west to the Mississippi. In their succeeding negotiations with the Indians, the Americans attempted to convince the Indians that by choosing the losing side in the struggle they had lost all their rights, including the rights to live in their homelands. They asserted that the Indians were a conquered people. So much for sincerity and trust if you are on the losing side!

In 1830, Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which required the various Indian tribes in today’s southeastern United States to give up their lands in exchange for federal territory which was located west of the Mississippi River. Most Indians fiercely resisted this policy, but as the 1830s wore on, most of the major tribes, the Choctaws, Muscogee Creeks, Seminoles, and Chickasaws agreed to be relocated to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). In May 1838, the Cherokee removal process began. U.S. Army troops, along with various state militia, moved into the tribe’s homelands and forcibly evicted more than 16,000 Cherokee Indian people from their homelands in Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, and Georgia. The Seminole Wars in Florida, Florida’s resistance to the Removal Act, would add about 3,000 more to the relocation.

The impact of the resulting Cherokee “Trail of Tears” was devastating. More than a thousand Cherokee, particularly the old, the young, and the infirm died during their trip west. Hundreds more deserted from the detachments, and an unknown number perished from the migration. The tragic relocation was completed by the end of March 1839, and resettlement of tribal members in Oklahoma began soon afterward.

We now have a Bill of Rights that offers all citizens further protections.

  • The Fourth Amendment protects Americans from “unreasonable searches and seizures” by the government wherever there is a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
  • The Fifth Amendment protects the right to private property in two ways. First, it states that a person may not be deprived of property by the government without “due process of law,” or fair procedures. Second, such takings must be for a “public use” and require “just compensation” at market value for the property seized.

Today, social media and e-services are transforming the meaning of trust. Spin doctors and fake news makers destabilize public confidence in the integrity of legal, political, and media institutions. Politicians have deepened the “crises of trust.” Instead of being true representatives of “the people,” there is a complete avoidance of truth. For a nation to survive, all must face painful truths. Those who refuse to do so, simply lack sincerity and should not be trusted.

Ideas to Explore

Begin with a review of the “Great Law of Peace,” also known as “Hiawatha Wampum.” Take time to learn the Indian culture of that period in history.

Make a list of all the “factions,” the groups or individuals involved in this period of history. Now determine whether each one was sincere in their dealings? For those who were not, what were the consequences? For those who were, what were the benefits, if any?

Examples of Historical Sincerity Occurring in Florida

The dictionary defines sincerity as “the absence of pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy”. To be sincere, one needs to be a person that says what they believe. A person’s words and actions reflect what is in their heart. Sincere people are truthful people. Sincere people live a life of servanthood. For our historical Florida example of sincerity, we will look at the life of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune, who devoted her life to service.

Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune was one of the most prominent African American women of the first half of the twentieth century. She was born in Maysville, South Carolina, July 10, 1875, to parents who had been slaves. She began her life working in fields with her family at age five. Her motivation to seek an education included a five mile walk to a one room schoolhouse. She would be the first member of her family of seventeen to attend school. Mary McLeod received a scholarship provided by a teacher in Colorado who wanted to help an African American girl realize an education. Bethune then attended Scotia Seminary, a school for African American women in North Carolina. After graduation seven years later, her benefactor paid for her to attend the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Her every intention was to serve as a missionary in Africa.

The Presbyterian Mission Board denied her request to serve. They stated that there were no missionary positions available for African Americans in Africa. This disappointment led Mary McLeod to the conclusion that Africans in America need Christ. Teaching would be her next endeavor. Mary Bethune was raised in a God-conscious environment with intentional nurture in the Christian faith. Her beliefs in these principles made her sensitive and benevolent toward others. McLeod married Albertus Bethune in 1898. They moved to Savannah, Georgia, where she did social work until the Bethunes moved to Florida. They had a son named Albert. Coyden Harold Uggams, a visiting Presbyterian minister, persuaded the couple to move to Palatka, Florida to run a mission school. The Bethunes moved in 1899. Mary ran the mission school and began an outreach to prisoners. Albertus left the family in 1907. He never got a divorce but relocated to South Carolina where he died in 1918 from tuberculosis.

Foresight is a characteristic that enables servant leaders to understand lessons from the past. Then compare them against the realities of the present. This allows for comparative decisions on the future. Servant leaders are adept at picking up the patterns in the world and predicting what the future will bring them. Divine guidance would cause Mary Bethune to leave her work in Palatka, Florida. Her new goal was to start a school in a destitute area of Daytona Beach, Florida. Faced with much opposition, Mary saw the African American community of Daytona as a place of need.

The school was initially an all-girls school. The curriculum had the girls rise at 5:30 a.m. for Bible study. Classes included home economics and industrial skills such as dressmaking, millinery, cooking. Other crafts emphasized a life of self-sufficiency for them as women. Students’ days ended at 9 pm. Bethune then added science and business courses. And then high school-level math, English, and foreign languages. Mary Bethune was always seeking donations to keep her school operating. As she traveled, she was fundraising. A donation of $62,000 by John D. Rockefeller helped, as did her friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt and his wife, who expanded her network of contacts.

In 1931, the Methodist Church helped the merger of her school with the boys’ Cookman Institute. This formed the Bethune-Cookman College, a coeducational junior college. Bethune became president. Bethune-Cookman School continued to operate and met the educational standards of the State of Florida. From 1936 to 1942, By 1941, the college had developed a four-year curriculum and achieved full college status. After making the school’s library accessible to the public, the Bethune-Cookman College library became Florida’s first free library accessible to Black Floridians.

In the early 1900s, Daytona Beach, Florida, lacked a hospital that would help people of color. Bethune had the idea to start a hospital after an incident involving one of her students. She was called to the bedside of a young female student who fell ill with acute appendicitis. No local hospital would take her or would treat black people. Bethune demanded that the white physician at the local hospital help the girl. When Bethune went to visit her student, she was asked to enter through the back door. At the hospital, she found that her student had been neglected, ill-cared for, and segregated on an outdoor porch. Out of this experience, Bethune decided that the black community in Daytona needed a hospital. She found a cabin near the school, and through sponsors helping her raise money, she purchased it for five thousand dollars. In 1911, Bethune opened the first black hospital in Daytona, Florida. Black people would not fully integrate into the main location of Daytona’s public hospital until the 1960s.

On May 18, 1955, Bethune died of a heart attack. Her death was followed by editorial tributes in African American newspapers across the United States. Her life and history are filled with contributions to our world. Take time to learn more about Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Her life is an example of what can be accomplished by a servant of God. Your life will be better for it.

Ideas to Explore

The home of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune is located on the campus of Bethune-Cookman University, which she founded in 1904. Formerly known as “The Retreat,” her home is now known as the Bethune Foundation. The home features precious pieces including her original library, furniture, photos, and family heirlooms. Visitors who came during Dr. Bethune’s time include Langston Hughes (Harlem Renaissance writer), Jackie Robinson (baseball legend) and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Come walk in the steps of the presidential advisor, international civil rights activist, and college president!

Practicing Acts of Sincerity

  1. Sincerity comes from the heart – Mean what you say, do what you promise
  2. Be a genuine person – To do anything less is insincere
  3. Be a servant without concern for a reward – Live and act in the interest of others
  4. Be positive to others – Use positive affirmations, they outweigh the negatives
  5. Be Truthful – Choose the truth, speak from the heart
  6. Be open, be calm, be non-confrontational – Anger brings insecurity
  7.  Be giving – Open your heart
  • 1
    NIV New International Version Translations
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