FAITH OF OUR FATHERS

As a child, I often wondered how legends came about. Here’s one that I only recently discovered was not a legend but an actual event.

One of the best-known paintings of the American Revolution, The Prayer at Valley Forge by Arnold Friberg, depicts George Washington praying on his knees. For years, I held the misconception that the painting came from the artist’s imagination. Not so.

General George Washington chose Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, as his troops’ winter quarters in December 1777. The setting created an optimal defense locale … beyond that, nothing about their situation was idyllic. The men were underdressed for the brutal, freezing temperatures; roads were treacherous; food was scarce; farmers were unwilling to accept Continental money. With approximately twelve men per hut, poor sanitation caused disease to spread quickly.

It’s estimated that due to starvation, disease, and suboptimal hygiene, 2-3,000 men died that winter. How this must have weighed on their leaders’ heart!

Yet, it’s recorded that his men saw Washington read his Bible, pray, and at times venture away from camp to attend church. Often he would go off into the woods alone to pray.

On one such occasion, Quaker Tory Isaac Potts was passing through the woods when he heard a voice that sounded like “a man at prayer.” Potts left his horse to venture closer. He spied the general on his knees praying to God for his country, and not only the people of this country but everywhere in the world.

Potts hurried home and told his wife the shocking sight and prayer he’d heard. How could a man be both a soldier and a Christian? Potts had, to this point, believed in the British cause. But his conversion was swift and immediate. In fact, it’s recorded that Washington spent the remainder of the winter with the Potts’ family in their home.

The faith Washington demonstrated changed the course of the Potts’ family, the course of our country, and the course of history. And, while we’re grateful that’s true, is it any less miraculous and praiseworthy that prayer changed George Washington’s life and the lives of all he prayed for?

Could our prayers do any less?

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14, KJV

By Amre Cortadino

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THE GREAT EXCHANGE

Stretch and bend,
Reach for the stars.
Here comes Jupiter,
There goes Mars.

Perhaps you, too, learned this song as a child?

This simple tune helps illustrate the various religions of the world. Man stretching, reaching, doing whatever to appease the gods.

For example, in ancient times babies were burned to secure the favor of a pagan god. Whether coerced or not, some cultures adhered to these demands because they believed the only way to ensure blessings, abundant crops, etc., was to sacrifice to chiseled stone or wood-carved gods.

Are we any different? Has the passage of time altered our thinking or do we still work to please a man-made god?

We all have a God-shaped vacuum in our hearts. Religions leave us searching, thirsty, lost. The world’s standards – money, power, and fame – create a deeper void.

Not so with Jesus Christ.

Biblical accounts and historical findings document God reaching down to save us. He sent His son to die in our place! In contrast to world religions, we can’t impress God by good works, thoughts, or deeds. When we acknowledge we can do nothing to save ourselves and choose to accept God’s love and forgiveness, He meets us where we are!

So, let’s forget about how to strive, to do life ourselves. God wants to wrap us in His love and freely pour out His blessings on us.

Where’s the catch, you ask?

There is none!

God’s word says we’ve all sinned and fallen short of His perfect plan for our lives (Rom.3:23). Because Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for our sins and shortcomings, we’re forgiven. No blood-letting, human sacrifices, or boxes to check.

Instead, we exchange our brokenness for God’s love, peace, and joy. He alone fills the void in our hearts.

Ready to make the great exchange?

By Amre Cortadino

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FLIGHT SCHOOL

Mother bird builds her nest with choice twigs, feathers, and other objects before she lays her eggs. Her care in this monumental task ensures that her young ones will transition well.

Watch as the little birds grow and gain their footing. Suddenly, they discover sharp twigs along the edge of their home. Limited space and a painful perimeter make for uncomfortable bedfellows. Mother’s meals arrive later each day and aren’t enough to fill their empty tummies. Hence, when Mother bird offers free flying lessons, little wings anxiously volunteer. And another scary, yet important step toward maturity begins for her little ones.

We may not have literal twigs poking at us, but we’re sometimes prodded by the Lord for our good. Trouble in the nest? For our good. The free-fall? You guessed right–for our good.

Praise be to the Lord, to God our Savior, who daily bears our burdens. (Psalm 68:19, NIV)

The illustration of Mother bird is but one of the wonderful examples of the Lord’s love for us. Even when it seems He’s far off, He’s not listening, or is unaware of what’s going on in our lives, He is with us. Though we may rail against His silence, His timing, and His method of bearing our burdens … “He is never far from any one of us.” (Acts: 17:27b, NIV)

Consider how purposeful Mother bird’s constructs are – her diligent plans secure her babies’ futures.

How much more diligent is God’s design for our lives! In fact, Paul says He set the boundaries for our lives so that we will reach out to Him and find him! (Acts 17:27a, NIV).

When we think we’re in a downward spiral, God has abandoned us, and there’s no help in sight, is it possible that He’s teaching us to grab onto Him so we can learn to fly?

By Amre Cortadino

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LIBERTY OR DEATH

When Patrick Henry famously uttered the words, “Give me liberty, or give me death,” he had already represented his home state of Virginia at the First and Second Continental Congresses. No cush heated seats or air-conditioned SUV chauffeured him to a 5-star hotel, nor did Henry receive a handsome paycheck for his service to our country. Not by a long shot. Whenever congress convened, his was a long journey on horseback to Philadelphia. Whether snow, rain, scorching heat, or subzero temperatures.

Familiar with the hardships of securing liberty, Henry did not balk but rather rolled up his sleeves and inspired others to do the same.

I dare say, the hearts of those who considered freedom a necessity had rallied after Henry’s impassioned speeches.

And yet, biographers have a common complaint against Henry: he put very little on paper! Perhaps his speeches were all on his heart, in his head – impromptu. Nonetheless, if his peers hadn’t recorded Henry’s words, service to our country, and other accomplishments, his legacy might have been buried with him and known only to God. Could it be this revolutionary orator and statesman preferred action to accolades?

What a lesson politicians could learn from such an American!

Throughout history, various men and women have stood and pleaded just causes. Many gave much more, pouring out their blood for our liberty. Our hearts beat with gratitude for their service.

However, to me, no one has ever uttered more life-saving words or served with more compassion, wisdom, and impact than Jesus Christ.

The following essay, adapted from a 1926 sermon by Dr. James A. Francis, usually finds its way into Christmas cards. I believe the prose and truth are too good to unwrap but once a year:

One Solitary Life

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

By Amre Cortadino (with Dr. James A. Francis as above)

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IMAGINE

“…and the great Babylon came in remembrance before God to give her the cup of the fierceness of His wrath.” (Rev.16:19b)

Does this verse leave you quaking in your boots too?

Imagine if we received the penalty for our sins … the wrath we’ve earned?

Yet, Ephesians 5 reminds us that because of God’s rich mercy and great love, even when we were dead in our sins, He made us alive with Christ. He saved us by His grace!

Ephesians paints a picture you and I need to see daily.

Stand with me in the shadowy wing of a vast gallery displaying portraits of familiar faces—yours and mine! Do you see the sunken eyes? The mottled, emaciated skin? The thick chains that have ravaged our flesh and opened sores, left scars? Shrieks of pain overtake the once proud and self-confident visages, and in their place lay the crippled, broken, still forms death has claimed. Too horrible to look upon, their torment bleeds through the canvas. Icy fingers grope in the darkness, in one last menacing attempt to capture us…

Hurry, now. Don’t delay! Run with me through a narrow passageway that brightens with each step. Our heart rate slows as we enter a smaller space, the floor ladened with gold. Awe fills us, and warmth bathes each portrait in a radiant glow. We recognize the smiling faces— some familiar, some new, some we’ve longed to meet. 

The Tour Guide approaches. Dressed in white linen, crowned with many crowns, He holds out His arms, His nail-pierced hands, in greeting. In His embrace, we escape the anguish we’d felt in the previous portraits—sin’s punishment He’d paid…

When we choose to kneel before the Lord, relinquish our sins and accept His pardon for our wrongdoing, and ask Him to be the Lord of our lives, our portrait changes. We no longer face the fierceness of His wrath. We’re wrapped in His love now and in the life to come.

That verse in Revelation speaks of a time to come during the tribulation. As you think of loved ones, friends, and neighbors who haven’t accepted Christ as their Savior, imagine in which gallery you’ll view their portraits.

What are you willing to do to change their portrait? To bring them to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ?

By Amre Cortadino

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CONTRITION

I recently entered a conversation between a leader of a Christian organization and a volunteer. The leader admitted to, and apologized for, “a failure to communicate and provide clear direction.” But, his contrition ended there. After profuse excuses for his failure, he said, “Well, maybe this isn’t the job the Lord has for you.”

My jaw dropped. If facial expressions were any indication, the volunteer’s heart went into A-fib.

Is that where we’ve arrived? Instead of humbly accepting responsibility, and leaving it at that, we blame God or the person He’s provided for the job?

Long story short, thank God this situation has been rectified. But here’s what God’s word says:  …“a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.” (Ps. 51:17b)

The original word for contrite, conterere, means to grind or to bruise. When we offer an apology without a change of heart (repentance), our words sour within us. The healing that should come from contrition and humility instead produces more bruising. For everyone involved.

So, why do we hold onto what we need to release … what would immediately free us and promote healing?

If the church is a hospital for Christians, are we getting any better?

Do we allow guilt and pride to block our ability to humble ourselves? Ouch! Yep, that includes me.

When King David was confronted by the prophet Samuel, the king’s immediate response was contrition. He didn’t balk, hem or haw, or make excuses. No doubt David’s sin with Bathsheba ate away at him. His severed relationship with the Lord, something he’d never before experienced, tormented him. He wanted freedom from his shame and guilt.

The words David penned in Psalm 51 have been a model for repentance for Jews and Christians alike. Hear his heart as he cries out to God for cleansing; for God to move in His unfailing love and compassion; and his desire for God to create a clean heart in him.

I pray that the contrition David showed, the longing he expressed to the Lord, and the forgiveness and peace he enjoyed will rest on each of us today and always.

By Amre Cortadino

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THE DIFFERENCE OF ONE

Ever feel like you can’t make a difference? Why bother trying, the problem is too large, too overwhelming.

Whether you are a Mother or Father, Grandparent, Aunt or Uncle, Sibling, or Neighbor, I pray you’ll think differently after reading this story:

“A grandson of slaves, a boy was born in a poor neighborhood of New Orleans known as the “Back of Town.” His father abandoned the family when the child was an infant. His mother became a prostitute and the boy and his sister had to live with their grandmother.

Early in life he proved to be gifted for music and with three other kids he sang in the streets of New Orleans. His first gains were coins that were thrown to them.

A Jewish family, Karnofsky, who had emigrated from Lithuania to the USA, had pity for the 7-year-old boy and brought him into their home. Initially giving ‘work’ in the house, to feed this hungry child. There he remained and slept in this Jewish family’s home where, for one of the first times in his life, he was treated with kindness and tenderness.

When he went to bed, Mrs. Karnovsky sang him a Russian lullaby that he would sing with her. Later, he learned to sing and play several Russian and Jewish songs. Over time, this boy became like an adopted son of this family.

The Karnofskys gave him money to buy his first musical instrument, as was the custom in the Jewish families. They sincerely admired his musical talent. Later, when he became a professional musician and composer, he used Jewish melodies in some of his compositions.

The young black boy grew up and wrote a book about this Jewish family who had adopted him in 1907. In memory of this family, and until the end of his life, he wore a Star of David and said that in this family he had learned “how to live real life and determination.”

You might recognize his name. This little boy was called Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong. Louis Armstrong proudly spoke fluent Yiddish and “Satchmo” is Yiddish for “big cheeks, a nickname some say was given to him by Mrs. Karnofsky!”

   

Researched and compiled on June 20, 2020 by Sara Esther Matz Crispe (on FB as Sara Esther Crispe) and reposted here with her permission.

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SHARPER FOCUS

It is said that Benjamin Franklin, the brilliant statesman and prolific inventor, etc., of yesteryear, invented bifocals. Tired of switching from glasses for distance to those for reading, he experimented with an idea. He cut the lenses of each pair of glasses in half then placed the reading lenses below the distance ones. Viola! The birth of bifocals – a vision solution for millions.

Have you noticed that it’s not only our eyes that need help to focus? To-do lists for projects, goals, and immediate needs are useful reminders. But when the cares of this life have us scrambling from one thing or thought to the next, how do we regain our focus?

Or perhaps our focus has settled on things beyond our control. Our lives can revolve around a misplaced drive to succeed; futile desires to please others; inordinate concerns regarding how we’re perceived; and unrealistic expectations. If that’s not enough, we wallow in a blur of worry.

Merriam-Webster’s second definition of success is a “favorable or desired outcome.” Pursuits that build success can sometimes obstruct or cloud our focus until we’re blinded to what truly matters.

Paul saw through lenses we have yet to discover when he said “…one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13b-14, NIV)

What a wonderful perspective! Paul wanted to succeed. He strove to win God’s prize. To do that, he had to forget everything behind him. Then, with laser-like focus, he kept his eyes forward.

With or without Benjamin Franklin’s corrective lenses, we can learn from Paul and zero in on the goal before us.

We can’t change what’s behind us, and only God can see what’s up ahead. So, let’s focus on Him and attain His prize!

By Amre Cortadino

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LEARNING FROM LEADERS

According to one source, over 4.8 billion books are published each year with the word leadership in the title. Two schools of thought argue whether individuals learn to be great leaders or great leaders are born with easily identified, leadership skills.

Come and examine a leader from each camp.

ALEXANDER THE GREAT

There once lived Alexander a man of great war,
Who was educated by the best, including Aristotle.


On a black stallion he perched,
All lofty and proud, He thought himself God.


The mention of his name struck fear in hearts.

He killed millions, his ego stupendous,
Slaves he made, his life was horrendous.

Having conquered all, depression began,
Slept in wet clothes, then pneumonia set in.


He died 3 days later at age 33,
And in a gold casket, he is a memory.

JESUS THE MESSIAH

Jesus, Son of God, was born in a lowly stable,
He taught the priests at age 12, well-able.


Came to set captives free, His love paved the way,
To Jerusalem he rode on a borrowed donkey.

Encouraging love, He Himself the example.


He healed many & washed followers’ feet,
His purpose so God they would meet.

A sacrifice required, His blood for all atoned,
At 33, closed with a stone in a tomb not His own.

He rose in 3 days & crushed death with His power,
Victorious, His return could be at any hour.

History records these two men.

Alexander’s leadership determined the course of lives for a time.

Jesus’ life did and will continue to radically impact lives for all eternity.

Which leader will you choice?

The Bible says, “…choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…” (Joshua 24:15, NIV)

By Amre Cortadino

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HE CARES FOR YOU

When we think about the life of David, the starts and stops, the pitfalls and the profound faith, the man who God dubbed “after His own heart,” there isn’t a praise he offered the Lord or failure he endured that we can’t learn from.

The words penned in the psalm below still strengthen our faith, stir our hope, and encourage us to rest in the Lord.

God bless you as you trust in His everlasting love and care.

By Amre Cortadino

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