Many people are familiar with the “Serenity Prayer” in this form:
Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.”
But few people know the history or original version of this prayer. Reinhold Neibuhr was an American theologian, who wrote an embryonic form of this prayer in the mid-1930s and developed it to its current form sometime in the early 1940s. It is a prayer that was circulated among U. S. troops during wartime and adopted into popular use among various recovery groups. It is a prayer of trust and surrender to a loving Father who is providentially governing all things.
Here is the prayer in full…
“God, give me grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things which should be changed,and the
Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech in Washington, D.C. In that historic speech, King said:
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
As a nation we have come a long way. Sure, there are still examples of racism in the United States, but as a whole, we no longer judge a person by the color of their skin. Surely Dr. King would be pleased with the progress that has been made in this country.
But the problem is that we have also reached a point where we no longer judge someone by the content of their character. The spirit of the age is to not judge at all, with the ironic exception being judging those who do still seek to judge according to the content of character.
When Dr. King spoke of judging someone by the content of their character, he spoke from an underlying worldview that accepted the reality of moral standards. Our nation has jettisoned those moral standards, which makes it impossible to judge character.
America’s favorite Bible verse is the first part of Matthew 7:1…”Judge not” interpreting it to mean, in essence, “Don’t judge anyone for the content of their character.” Such an interpretation of that command completely contradicts Matthew 7:6, where Jesus says, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you in pieces.” Here Jesus clearly and strongly calls us to judge content of character.
Jesus fully expects us to judge the content of a person’s character, but He qualifies it with an admonition against hypocrisy and a mandate to be willing to help the person improve, as we see in Matthew 7:5…”First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” For Jesus, it’s not enough to judge someone without hypocrisy, we must also proactively seek to help that person.
Because we have rejected moral standards and because we are misinterpreting, and therefore, misapplying Jesus’s teaching on this subject, we also run the risk of descending back into a nation that judges others by the content of their skin. Both the negative half of Dr. King’s statement (not judging by the color of skin) and the positive half (judging by the content of character) must be embraced for racism to truly be put to death.
Dr. King’s dream will be fulfilled when a person is no longer judged by color of skin but rather is judged by content of character in a way that is loving and redemptive.
This is an amazing clip from a 50s television show called “I’ve Got a Secret.” The special guest is Samuel J. Seymour, who was the last living witness to the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Seymour died just two months later. Also on the program was Jayne Meadows (widow of Steve Allen and sister of Audrey Meadows of The Honeymooners), who is still living.
At the risk of being overdramatic, I have to say that this may be the most powerful life story I’ve ever heard. Louis Zamperini has lived a life that tops anything you’ve ever seen in the movies. Laura Hillenbrand, also author of Seabiscuit, does a masterful job of putting you right alongside Louis in his Olympic and War adventures. I found this Youtube video featuring a CBS documentary on Louis followed by an interview with Louis and a Q&A session with a USC journalism class. The 2 hour video is priceless.
My recommendation is that you read the book BEFORE you watch this video. You’ll enjoy the book and the video more if you read the book first. So for those of you who’ve already read the book, or for those who can’t wait, enjoy:
One of my goals for 2011 is to read 52 books, which, of course, is one book per week. This shouldn’t be too difficult, but considering the fact that I also am attempting to continue my regimen of reading 10 chapters of the Bible per day, it becomes a little more challenging. The first book I read this year was Majestie: The Man Behind the King James Bible by David Teems. I was sent a free copy of this book from Michael Hyatt, President of Thomas Nelson Publishers. 2011 is the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible, so it is probably appropriate that I started the year off with this particular work. I actually finished this book the first week of January, but am just now getting around to posting a short review here on my blog.
The strength of this book is the ability of Teems to tell the story. I found it to be a very entertaining read. Teems does a great job of selecting aspects of the story that keeps the reader engaged, as well as employing the literary tool of foreshadowing to create a hunger for more and to build momentum. He also has a keen ability to make the story light and humorous.
Teems does not have the typical background for a history author. Most Christian history books I read are written either by history professors or pastors with strong history backgrounds, but Teems is a musician by trade with a degree in Psychology and Philosophy. Perhaps this is the reason I found myself disagreeing at times. For example, throughout the book Teems presents the Puritans in a most negative light. This is by no means out of step with most modern historians, but I think a closer look at the evidence reveals that most modern historians are wrong when it comes to assessing the Puritans. If you want a different perspective on the Puritans, a positive one, check out the writings of Leland Ryken, J. I. Packer, and Stephen Nichols on the subject.
In spite of my disagreements with Teems, which are few, I recommend this book as a good one to read this year to get a good portrait of the man who was most influential in seeing the King James Bible come to reality…James Stewart. I’ll give it 4 stars.
Do you like history? How about the history of Christianity? Here’s an excerpt from a recent post by Rick Rose:
Far from a dry collection of facts, history provides thousands of real heroes. Some with backgrounds or personalities like ours which can bring encouragement to see God using such individuals. Others we find so unlike us in accomplishment that we are challenged or inspired. Still others faced situations so incomprehensibly dire compared to our own that we are humbled. Nothing teaches and sticks with us quite like the examples of others.”