If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs … you clearly don’t fully understand the situation.
Actually, Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If,” is much more uplifting:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!
As I read this, I thought it really summed up Paul’s life pretty well. What do you think? I mean, he experienced almost everything that Kipling mentions, just in Acts 21 – 23! Never mind the rest of Acts.
Within the first seven days that Paul was back in Jerusalem, he became the focus of a city wide riot. “The whole city was aroused, and the people came running from all directions. Seizing Paul, they dragged him from the temple, and immediately the gates were shut. While they were trying to kill him, news reached the commander of the Roman troops that the whole city of Jerusalem was in an uproar. He at once took some officers and soldiers and ran down to the crowd. When the rioters saw the commander and his soldiers, they stopped beating Paul.” Acts 21:30-32
Can you imagine? And then, not only did the rioters not get punished, but Paul’s the one who gets arrested and put in chains. Does that seem fair to you? Paul must have been thinking, “And why was I in such a hurry to get here?”
“The commander came up and arrested him and ordered him to be bound with two chains. Then he asked who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing and some another, and since the commander could not get at the truth because of the uproar, he ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. When Paul reached the steps, the violence of the mob was so great he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, ‘Get rid of him!’” Acts 21:33-36
This makes me think of a quote from Soren Kierkegaard, theologian and philosopher, wrote: “When one preaches Christianity in such a way that the echo answers, ‘Away with that man, he does not deserve to live,’ know that this is the Christianity of the New Testament. Capital punishment is the penalty for preaching Christianity as it truly is.”
Well, Paul was right on point then! Even so, as the soldiers carry him to the barracks, Paul remained so calm that he asks to speak to the people who had just been trying to rip him limb from limb. He speaks to the mob, in their own language and tells them the story of his conversion.
They listen to him for a bit, but when he tells them that God told him to preach to the Gentiles, the crowd completely loses their minds!
“The crowd listened to Paul until he said this. Then they raised their voices and shouted, ‘Rid the earth of him! He’s not fit to live!’
“As they were shouting and throwing off their cloaks and flinging dust into the air, the commander ordered that Paul be taken into the barracks. He directed that he be flogged and interrogated in order to find out why the people were shouting at him like this.” Acts 22:22-24
That’s an interesting fact finding method, don’t you think? Let’s beat him until he tells us who he is and why these people want to kill him. Sure, that’ll work.
Even then, as they’re tying him so they can flog him, he calmly and almost off handedly turns to one of the soldiers and asks what could be a hypothetical question: “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who hasn’t even been found guilty?”
He’s not demanding his rights. He’s not resisting. He’s not yelling, “Do you know who I am?” He’s not threatening to have anyone’s job. He quietly asks a question that might apply to himself, or might not.
“Those who were about to interrogate him withdrew immediately. The commander himself was alarmed when he realized that he had put Paul, a Roman citizen, in chains.” Acts 22:29
That poor commander. He was seeing his career pass before his eyes, thinking about what would have happened to him if he’d “interrogated” (beaten) a Roman citizen who hadn’t been charged with any crime. That would have been a career ending mistake!
When Paul is brought to the Sanhedrin, he continues to keep his head in spite of the craziness going on around him. Even when he accidentally insults the high priest, he calmly apologizes … just before he, with planning and forethought, starts another riot by getting the Sadducees and the Pharisees to fight with each other. That was brilliant, because then the whole, “then enemy of my enemy is my friend” think kicked in and all of a sudden, the Pharisees were defending him! Again – brilliant.
“Then Paul, knowing that some of them were Sadducees and the others Pharisees, called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘My brothers, I am a Pharisee, descended from Pharisees. I stand on trial because of the hope of the resurrection of the dead.’ When he said this, a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, and that there are neither angels nor spirits, but the Pharisees believe all these things.
“There was a great uproar, and some of the teachers of the law who were Pharisees stood up and argued vigorously. ‘We find nothing wrong with this man,’ they said. ‘What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?’ The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.” Acts 23:6-10
I think Kipling could have been thinking about Paul when he wrote the poem, “If.” Probably not, though, because if he had been, the last two lines would have read: “Yours is Heaven and everything that’s in it, And—which is more—you’ll be God’s man, my son!
Lillianne Winegardner Lopez 9.7.2018
Paul may have spent as much as 25 percent of his time as a missionary in prison. We know of his brief lock-up in Philippi, two years’ incarceration in Caesarea, and at least another two in Rome. Yet Paul says he experienced “far more imprisonments,” than his opponents. To understand Paul, we need to understand where he spent so much time.
Roman imprisonment was preceded by being stripped naked and then flogged, a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal. The bleeding wounds went untreated; prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated, blood-stained clothing was not replaced, even in the cold of winter. In his final imprisonment, Paul asked for a cloak, presumably because of the cold.
Most cells were dark, especially the inner cells of a prison, like the one Paul and Silas inhabited in Philippi. Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable.
Male and female prisoners were sometimes incarcerated together, which led to sexual immorality and abuse.
Prison food, when available, was poor. Most prisoners had to provide their own food from outside sources. When Paul was in prison in Caesarea, Felix, the procurator, gave orders to the centurion that “none of his friends should be prevented from attending to his needs.”
Because of the miserable conditions, many prisoners begged for a speedy death. Others simply committed suicide.
The Privileged Few
All of this could be mitigated to some extent if the prisoner was important or paid a bribe (as Governor Felix hoped to receive from Paul in Caesarea).
A prominent individual, or one expected to be released, might be kept under house arrest if he or she could afford the rent. In Rome, where housing prisoners was excessively expensive, Paul was given the privilege of house arrest, and he paid the rent himself (exactly how, we don’t know). He probably lived in a third-floor apartment; first floors were used for shops, and the second floor was expensive.
In his final imprisonment in Rome, though, Paul’s life came to an end in the woeful conditions of a Roman prison. John McRay
Waking up offers one of the most basic pictures of what can happen when God takes a hand in someone’s life. There are classic alarm-clock stories, Saul of Tarsus on the road to Damascus, blinded by a sudden light, stunned and speechless, discovered that the God he had worshipped had revealed himself in the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth. John Wesley found his heart becoming strangely warm and he never looked back. They and a few others are the famous ones, but there are millions more.
And there are many stories, thought they don’t hit the headlines in the same way, of the half-awake and half-asleep variety. Some people take months, years, maybe even decades, during which they aren’t sure whether they’re on the outside of Christian faith looking in, or on the inside looking around to see if it’s real.
As with ordinary waking up, there are many people who are somewhere in between. But the point is that there’s such a thing as being asleep, and there’s such a thing as being awake. And it’s important to tell the difference, and to be sure you’re awake by the time you have to be up and ready for action, whatever that action may be. N.T Wright
One of the greatest Christian leaders of the last century was John R. W. Stott, rector of All Souls Langham Place in London and a peerless preacher, Bible teacher, evangelist, author, global leader and friend to many. I knew him over many decades, but I will never forget my last visit to his bedside three weeks before he died. After an unforgettable hour and more of sharing many memories over many years, I asked him how he would like me to pray for him. Lying weakly on his back and barely able to speak, he answered in a hoarse whisper, “Pray that I will be faithful to Jesus until my last breath.” Would that such a prayer be the passion of our generation too. Os Guinness
Conversion seems to respect the raw materials we start with. It might turn a Saul into Paul; it’s not likely to turn a Rosanne Barr into Thomas Aquinas. John Ortberg
In his novel Ah, But Your Land Is Beautiful, Alan Paton tells the story of Robert Mansfield, the headmaster of a school in South Africa during the days of apartheid, a cruel system of racial segregation. When Mansfield’s school was barred from competing against a black school, he finally took a stand against apartheid and resigned his post. A friend said to him, “You know you will be wounded. Do you know that?”
Mansfield replied, pointing to heaven, “When I go up there … the Big Judge will say to me, ‘Where are your wounds?’ If I say I haven’t any, he will say, ‘Was there nothing to fight for?’ I couldn’t face that question.”
Tell your story in as many ways as possible, and the result will be greater.
Charles Warnock III
Saving knowledge is diffused over the earth, not like sunlight but like torchlight, which is passed from hand to hand. James Strachan
When John Grisham wrote a book called A Time To Kill, it sold just five thousand copies in hard cover. I don’t think it was advertised, ever made a list or was reviewed by anybody that I know of. It was sort of a flop.
Then he wrote The Firm, and it wasn’t advertised either. It was hardly reviewed, and the reviews it got weren’t very good. But people read it and liked it and told other people they liked it and The Firm sold seven million copies.
John Grisham has written several other books, and today the number-one paperback best seller in the United States is by John Grisham, as are number-two and number-three. And the number-one hardcover best seller is by John Grisham. That has never happened before in history, and it’s not because of advertising, not because of the publisher’s clever marketing plan, but because somebody liked the book. I guess a lot of people liked the book and told other people, until millions of these books have been sold.
Christians are people who like Jesus. They’ve experienced him, and so they tell somebody else. It doesn’t take a newspaper ad. It doesn’t take a review in a magazine. Evangelism is people who like Jesus and have experienced him, telling other people, until it has spread to thousands and millions and tens of millions and hundreds of million and more.
Courage is almost a contradiction in terms. It means a strong desire to live taking the form of a readiness to die. G. K. Chesterton
I am struggling to understand the “don’t impose your values” argument. According to this popular belief, it is wrong, and perhaps dangerous, to vote your moral convictions unless everybody else already shares them. Of course if everybody already shared them, no imposition would be necessary. Nobody ever explains exactly what constitutes an offense in voting one’s values, but the complaints appear to be aimed almost solely at conservative Christians, who are viewed as divisive when they try to “force their religious opinions on us.” But as UCLA law professor Eugene Volokh writes, “That’s what most lawmaking is—trying to turn one’s opinions on moral or pragmatic subjects into law.”
Those who think Christians should keep their moral views to themselves, it seems to me, are logically bound to deplore many praiseworthy causes, including the abolition movement, which was mostly the work of the evangelical churches courageously applying Christian ideas of equality to the entrenched institution of slavery. The slave owners, by the way, frequently used “don’t impose your values” arguments, contending that whether they owned blacks or not was a personal and private decision and therefore nobody else’s business. John Leo
Our church rented a theater to watch The Passion of the Christ on opening weekend. Afterward we gathered for dinner, discussion, and prayer. I returned home in a somber mood, deeply reflecting upon the sacrifice of Christ.
When I opened my mail that night, the first letter was from a local church, inviting me to visit their “special community.” They listed the ways they were unique:
No religious dogma—We encourage the freedom of individual thought and belief. A humanist view of life—Our faith is based on celebrating the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
Warm, accessible services—Our Sunday services…typically include a mix of readings, music, moments of meditation or contemplation, and a sermon….
Our children’s religious education program—We teach our kids to be accepting of differing beliefs and the importance of each person seeking his or her own truth. They study the world’s major religions and draw on the core values of each faith tradition….
So if you’re looking for a congregation that cherishes freedom of belief and opinion, with a warm sense of community and fellowship, please visit us!
I had watched the horrific suffering of Jesus and heard him say, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Hours later I opened an invitation to visit a group where truth doesn’t matter. The contrast was overwhelming. John Beukema
Martin Niemoeller, a World War I hero in Germany, was imprisoned for eight years by Hitler. He spent time in prisons and concentration camps, including Dachau. Hitler realized if Niemoeller could be persuaded to join his cause then much opposition would collapse, so he sent a former friend of Niemoeller’s to visit him, a friend who supported the Nazis.
Seeing Niemoeller in his cell, the onetime friend said, “Martin, Martin! Why are you here?”
Niemoeller replied, “My friend! Why are you not here?”
Amos S. Creswell
Joshua Chamberlain was a student of theology and a professor of rhetoric, not a soldier. But when duty called, Chamberlain answered. He climbed the ranks to become colonel of the 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, Union Army.
On July 2, 1863, Chamberlain and his three-hundred-soldier regiment were all that stood between the Confederates and certain defeat at a battlefield in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. At 2:30 P.M., the 15th and 47th Alabama infantry regiments of the Confederate army charged, but Chamberlain and his men held their ground. Then followed a second, third, fourth, and fifth charge. By the last charge, only 80 blues stood standing. Chamberlain himself was knocked down by a bullet that hit his belt buckle, but the 24-year-old schoolteacher got right back up.
It was his date with destiny. When Sergeant Tozier informed Chamberlain that no reinforcements were coming and his men were down to one round of ammunition per soldier, Chamberlain knew he needed to act decisively. Their lookout informed Colonel Chamberlain that the Confederates were forming rank. The rational thing to do at that point, with no ammunition and no reinforcements, would have been to surrender. But Chamberlain made a defining decision: in full view of the enemy, Chamberlain climbed onto their barricade of stones and gave a command. He pointed his sword and yelled, “Charge!”
His men fixed bayonets and started running at the Confederate army, which vastly outnumbered them. They caught them off guard by executing a great right wheel. And in what ranks as one of the most improbable victories in military history, 80 Union soldiers captured 4,000 Confederates in five minutes.
Historians believe that if Chamberlain had not charged, the Confederate army would have gained the high ground, won the Battle of Gettysburg, and eventually won the war. One man’s courage saved the day, saved the war, and saved the Union. Mark Batterson
Leadership is the capacity to inspire and motivate; to persuade people willingly to endure hardships, usually prolonged, and incur dangers, usually acute, that if left to themselves they would do their utmost to avoid.
Sir Michael Howard
How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life.
Admiral James T. Kirk
Every Christian–as he explores the historical record of Scripture and tradition and comes to a deep, abiding faith–experiences that Christ is the risen one and that he is therefore the eternally living one. It is a deep, life-changing experience. No true Christian can keep it hidden as a personal matter. For such an encounter with the living God cries out to be shared–like the light that shines, like the yeast that leavens the whole mass of dough. Pope John Paul II
 Soren Kierkegaard, “The Echo Answers,” in Provocations: The Spiritual Writings of Kierkegaard (Plough, 1999), p. 181;