Posts Tagged courage

Fear Not – Week 3 – FBC – Say Something Nice Sunday

Scripture Focus: For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. — 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself,” is one of the most memorable statements in American history. President Franklin Roosevelt endured daunting hardships after being stricken with polio. Little was known about the disease when he contracted it. The mere mention of it spread panic among parents. His great courage in the face of such a burden inspired a nation ravaged by the Great Depression. As memorable and as important as those words are, Roosevelt was not the first to utter them. The Bible makes that same statement in a variety of ways more than one hundred times beginning in the Old Testament and continuing in the New. Fear is one of our most inhibiting emotions. We fear change. We fear the unknown. We fear strangers. It is a controlling factor in many lives, but it cannot survive in a life of faith. That does not mean that our faith gives us license to be reckless or fool-hearted. It does mean that we are to live with the assurance of where our strength comes from. When Carol was involved in a serious automobile accident, she said one Bible verse kept playing in her mind. “Perfect love cast out fear.” Even though the Jaws of Life were required to get her out of our mangled car, she emerged relatively unscathed.

Prayer Focus: Thank you God that your love does cast out fear. Regardless of the circumstances your love upholds us. Amen

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Encourage One Another – Week Two – FBC – Say Something Nice Day

Scripture Focus: “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” — 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)

My friend has been unable to have full use of his right arm since having open heart surgery a few months ago. On the way back from lunch he said to me, “I can complain about all the things I can’t do with my right arm or I can be grateful for all the things I can do with my left arm. I choose to be thankful.” Wow! These words came from a man who has just lost his only daughter to a rare lung disease. His faith and courage under such circumstances gave me courage to walk back into my own house where my wonderful wife is plagued with Alzheimer’s disease. Carol taught in the public schools for twenty-eight years. She holds a Master’s degree plus thirty more graduate hours. She is the only person I have known who received more money on a grant request than she asked for. Five years ago she helped me edit my book, Christian Civility in an Uncivil World. She loved singing in the Sanctuary Choir. When our faith grows weak we can lean into the faith of someone’s whose faith is stronger. Peter Gomes said it best in his sermon for Christmas Day, “The House of Bread,” “The miracle of Christmas is that God cared enough to send the very best and that he continues to do so in the gifts now given to us in one another.” God has blessed me with friends whose faith helps me strengthen my own.

Prayer Focus: Dear God, thank you for all the wonderful people you have sent into my life. You have blessed me beyond measure. Amen

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Timothy George Issues a Call for Courage at the 19th. Hamrick Lectureship

Dr. Timothy George, speaking at the 19th Annual John A. Hamrick Lectureship at First Baptist Church of Charleston, stressed his belief that studying the lives and works of Christian martyrs can inform and influence the way we live out our faith. He cited William Tyndale, Carl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer as examples. Dr. George is the Dean and Professor of Divinity, History and Doctrine at the Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham, Alabama.

William Tyndale was martyred because he translated The New Testament and part of the Old Testament into English. He was unable to finish his translation of the Old Testament because he was betrayed and imprisoned. After 16 months in prison, he was choked to death (garroted) and his body burned.  George stated that, “William Tyndale was single minded in his desire to bring the Bible to the people. It was a cause he was willing to die for.”

Carl Barth lost his professorship because he refused to salute Hitler at the beginning of his classes. He was later exiled. Barth exercised a great influence on Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer was executed because of his opposition to Hitler. The day after Hitler became chancellor, Bonheoffer’s radio broadcast was silenced while he was still talking. In fact he later participated in a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. Dr. George concluded his lectures with a challenge to those present to be courageous in living out their faith.

The Hamrick Lectureship are given to honor the life and work of Dr. John A. Hamrick, long time pastor of First Baptist Church and the founding president of Charleston Southern University. Dr. Michael Bryant introduced Dr. George on Sunday night and Dr. Malcolm Clark introduced him on Monday morning. David Templeton, Minister of Music and Worship, and Beverly Bradley, Organist, provided special music at both events. All those in attendance were invited to a Soup and Cornbread Lunch prepared by the Joy Club of First Baptist Church.

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You Mean There’s More – Dr. Thomas McKibbens


John 16: 12-24

A sermon by Thomas R. McKibbens

May 26, 2013


I still have many things to say to you, said Jesus to his disciples.  After all that he had said, all that he had done, and all that he was about to do, the disciples must have been thinking, “You mean there’s more!”  Yes, he seemed to be saying, there is more, much more.  And it would evolve over the centuries until the “more” came right down to us in Worcester, MA on the 26th day of May, 2013.

The message of Jesus is not stuck in the past; there is more to his story.  He could surely stand before us in this post-modern time and say, I still have many things to say to you.


            Among the first things I believe he would say to us on this Memorial Day weekend is this:  take courage!  Take courage, FBC Worcester!  We have been blessed beyond measure.  We have been filled with the living spirit of Christ, and we gather on Sundays to worship the God who knows our every weakness, yet loves us still.  Take courage!

Ethicists have often spoken of different types of courage.  There is, of course, physical courage, the courage of those who face fear and the threat of pain and death.  This type of courage is the virtue of a soldier entering battle, a courage that even the most ardent pacifist recognizes and honors.  This is the courage we remember this weekend.

Then there is a form of courage we call moral courage, which is the courage to stand for what is morally right in spite of personal consequences.  This is the courage of a Rosa Parks refusing to sit in the back of the bus.  It is the courage of many people in this very room who face life’s challenges with an equanimity that defies understanding.

Then there is a third form of courage which the theologian Paul Tillich called “The Courage to Be.”  It is the form of courage required to go on living in the face of inevitable death.  It is the courage to live meaningfully even if you have suffered a moral failure of judgment.  Suppose you have harmed or brought injury to another.  You have betrayed your best and true self, and the illusion of your perfection lies in ruins at your feet.  It takes courage to go on in the face of private guilt or public shame.

But I suggest this morning a fourth kind of courage:  the courage to live joyfully in spite of heartache, to live thankfully when great challenges are still before us, to live with kindness when rudeness is all around us, to live thoughtfully in a superficial world, and to live graciously in a rude and harsh world.  This is courageous, counter-cultural, and Christ-like.  And it is precisely what we are called upon to do and to be in our day. 

            I still have many things to say to you, said Jesus, and I am convinced that one of those things is to take courage.


            But along with his call to take courage, I believe that Christ is calling us to ENcourage.  It is never a wrong time to do the right thing, and a little encouragement can be a powerful thing.  We are surrounded by heroes and heroines, people who live with courage and good cheer while enduring loneliness or rebuilding a life or fighting addiction or embarrassment or pain.  They don’t spend their time cursing their calamity or complaining or moping.  They live their lives with amazing good cheer and humility.

I can’t help but think of one of America’s great novelists, Reynolds Price.  In the spring of 1984, Price was at the height of his career as a writer and professor at Duke University.  He reported difficulty walking and underwent testing at Duke Hospital.  What they found was a pencil-thick and cancerous tumor that was ten inches long and intricately braided in the core of his spinal cord.  Surgery managed to remove the tumor, but he became a paraplegic and required a wheelchair for the rest of his life.  He lived with what he called “colossal, incessant pain,” but he also wrote in his memoir the following:  “I’d have to say that, despite an enjoyable fifty-year start, these recent years since full catastrophe have gone still better.  They’ve brought more in and sent more out—more love and care, more knowledge and patience, more work in less time.”[2]  He would look at the healthy-bodied who loomed around him and call them “temporarily abled.”

If you are among the “temporarily abled,” one of the most important things to do is to offer a word of encouragement.  It can make a world of difference to the many people who have tied a knot in their rope and are hanging on for dear life.

I still have many things to say to you, said Jesus.  And among those things is his call to encourage others.


            It is impossible for me to know where these words find you.  Perhaps you suffer with a boss that only parents could love (and they would be sorely tested!), or perhaps you have a body that is piece by piece falling apart, or a family responsibility that is a long and exhausting ordeal.  Or maybe you have the job from hell, or no job at all.

Whenever we have national crises like the Newtowne tragedy or the marathon bombings or the Oklahoma tornado, we always see great acts of courage and kindness from strangers.  And always, someone asks, “Why can’t this kind of caring and sensitivity happen all the time, and not just in a crisis?”

In answer to that question, we can truthfully say that this kind of caring and sensitivity does happen, in small and unnoticed ways—it happens all the time in church, in this church, in our time.  That’s one reason church is so important.  When you get exasperated or frustrated over a personality or predicament in church, remind yourself that such acts of kindness happen all the time here.


An inscription on the parish church in Northampton, England, says, “In the year 1654, when throughout England all things sacred were either profaned or neglected, this church was built by Sir Robert Shirley, whose special praise it is to have done the best of things in the worst of times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous.”

What if you were to insert your name in that inscription?  What if you were to call out your own name and follow it with these words, “…whose special praise it was to have done the best of things in the worst of times, and to have hoped them in the most calamitous.”

If you can do that today, you will have shown the most beautiful kind of courage:  the courage to be faithful, the cou

[1] ©Thomas R. McKibbens, May 26, 2013.

[2] Reynolds Price, A Whole New Life (New York:  Scribner’s, 1995).

Dr. McKibbens is a friend. He was the speaker for the 325th. anniversary celebration of First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina and for the John Hamrick Lectureship.

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