Tuesday, November 29, 2005


In January of 1740, a twenty-five year-old George Whitefield examined a piece of land 10 miles outside of Savannah, GA, that would become the location of Bethesda, the “House of Mercy” orphanage that he planned to establish in the new world. While none of the original buildings exist today, the institution does, and we made Bethesda our first stop during our quick trip through Savannah on our way to Florida. Here is a picture of our family on the grounds of the orphanage. I toyed with the idea that this tree could have been planted by Whitefield, but as old as it is, I doubt that it is anywhere near 265 years old.

Unfortunately, there is not much about Whitefield to be seen at Bethesda today. They do have a small museum but it was closed for renovations when we were there. About the only thing of note is a small chapel constructed in his honor.

The fundraising for Bethesda was something in which even Benjamin Franklin participated, albeit reluctantly. Here is the humorous account, in Franklin’s own words (as found in Arnold Dallimore’s wonderful biography on Whitefield):

Mr. Whitefield … preached up this charity, and made large collections, for his eloquence had a wonderful power over the hearts and purses of his hearers, of which I myself was an instance.

I did not disapprove of the design, but as Georgia was then destitute of materials and workmen, and it was proposed to send them from Philadelphia at a great expense, I thought it would have been better to have built the house here, and brought the children to it. This I advised; but he was resolute in his first project, rejected my counsel, and I therefore refused to contribute.

I happened, soon after, to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the coppers. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so admirably that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector’s dish, gold and all.

How the other half lives

One of my favorite things to do in Ft. Lauderdale is to take a boat ride through the New River and Inter-Coastal Waterway sections of the area. It is especially nice at night, when the weather is cooler, and I can enjoy the time alone with my wife while the kids are at home with their grandparents. The outing has become a much anticipated part of our annual Thanksgiving trip to South Florida.

Several outfits run mini-cruises through these Ft. Lauderdale waterways. Probably the most famous is the Jungle Queen Riverboat cruise that includes dinner and a cheesy, Vaudeville-type show at their “jungle” destination. I prefer the cruises that simply work their way through the canals, pointing out interesting tidbits as they go. This past year, we got a discount fare of $11 per adult for a 90 minute cruise – not bad.

Besides the unique, sometimes jungle-like foliage along the banks of the rivers, the most interesting thing about these cruises is seeing all the mansions and the yachts “parked” out front. I have never seen such wealth on display as I have on these cruises. The homes are just unbelievable! One family had to buy a new home with a hundred foot dock because the dock at their old home was too small for the new yacht that they had just purchased for their daughter’s birthday. Oh, the sacrifices we make for our children….

At any rate, when cruising through these multi-million dollar neighborhoods at night, it is often possible to actually see into the homes as you float by. The lights are all on and many of the homes have large picture windows that are left uncovered. Many times you can actually see the owners inside. Sometimes they will even wave to you. Do you know what most of these millionaire owners were doing as we infringed upon their evening? Watching TV or eating. All these millions of dollars and they spend their time, for the most part, doing the same thing that most everyone else in Ft. Lauderdale does. The only difference would be the cost of the TV and room in which it was watched. Sad, really.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Jennifer likes raw oysters!

We are on vacation right now. We spent a couple days in Savannah, GA before heading south to visit with Daphne's family for Thanksgiving in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. I'm planning to blog more on this trip after we get home, but something happened yesterday that deserved its own post. We drove up to the Port Saint Lucie area for the day and had lunch at a seafood restaurant situated on the coast with a nice view of the water. My brother-in-law, Robert, ordered several appetizers, including raw oysters. Much to everyone's surprise, Jennifer wanted to try one. She ate one and then pointed to the last three and said that she wanted those, too! She is definitely her mother's daughter, as I am well-known for NOT being an adventurous eater. And, no, I did not try one. :)

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Keep Yourselves in the Love of God

In verse 21, near the end of the book of Jude, we come to an interesting imperative – keep yourselves in the love of God. It is a command to guard or preserve our position in God’s love. That’s interesting because normally we don’t think about it in those terms. Our focus tends to center on the biblical promise that nothing is able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8:38-39) or that no one is able to snatch us out of our Father’s hand (John 10:28-29). While those promises are certainly true, what are we to make of this command by Jude? What would it look like to be obedient in this area of responsibility?

My second question helps answer the first. We have a responsibility to be active rather than passive in maintaining our relationship to God and His love. There are several verses that speak to this issue but perhaps the most well known is Philippians 2:12-13:

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (ESV)
We have a responsibility to work out our salvation even though we know (or because we know) everything we do results from God producing the will and the power in our lives to do it. The popular expression, “Let go and let God” is profoundly unbiblical. God expects us to be engaged in the process.

There are three participial phrases in Jude 1:20-21 that show us what it means to keep ourselves in the love of God. We are to (1) build ourselves up in the most holy faith, (2) pray in the Holy Spirit, and (3) wait for the mercy our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. Consequently, a person with a desire to persevere in the love of God will actively work on these three areas of the Christian life. He will make an effort to grow in his knowledge and understanding of the teachings and doctrines that constitute the faith (cf., Jude 1:3; Eph 4:11-16). He will develop an active and consistent prayer life (cf., Eph 6:18). Lastly, he will wait longingly (often used in an eschatological sense, cf., Mark 15:43; Luke 2:25, 38; Titus 2:13) for the Lord’s return when he will receive the benefits of God’s mercy.

These three things should be the everyday desire of the believer. Our relationship to the Lord cannot remain strong without them. It is no wonder that the early church faithfully devoted themselves to all three:

Acts 2:42 (ESV)
And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread [which has an important “until He comes” component] and the prayers.