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Sunday, June 27, 2010

Faith and Leadership of the Founding Fathers – Part 2

Leading up to Independence Day – July 4, 2010 – which will be the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – I’ll be sharing with you some thoughts on the leadership of three of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.

A word of caution: it has been vogue in the last couple of years to point out the anti-Christian nature of the Founding Fathers. Many contend that the Founding Fathers were, at best, Deists, and most certainly not Christians. The only proof given for these statements – from what I could find in my research – has been opinions and writings from the early 20th Century onward.

I’ll be using the words of the Founding Fathers themselves to show how their faith in Jesus Christ shaped their lives and leadership.

This week the Founding Father is Samuel Adams.  SamuelAdams

Samuel Adams was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and, in the new United States, one of the first governors of the State of Massachusetts. In addition to being one of the Founding Fathers, he was also called, by the Boston newspaper Independent Chronicle, the "Father of the American Revolution."

Today, most people associate the name “Samuel Adams” with beer. This is unfortunate for two reasons. One, Samuel Adams worked briefly as a maltster (preparing malt for the making of beer) and not a brewer, and two, because it overlooks his contribution to the founding of the United States and what we can learn today from this patriot and Christian man.

1. Rely on Jesus Christ for Forgiveness

“I . . . [rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins.” [From the Last Will & Testament of Samuel Adams, attested December 29, 1790; see also Samuel Adams, Life & Public Services of Samuel Adams, William V. Wells, editor (Boston: Little, Brown & Co, 1865), Vol. III, p. 379, Last Will and Testament of Samuel Adams.]

The forgiveness of sins won for the world by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ (His “merits”) is the epitome of liberty. And Samuel Adams was very interested in liberty - pledging his “life, fortune and sacred honor” for the cause of liberty in 1776.

Samuel Adams reliance on Jesus Christ was life-long, in both good times and in bad times. A leader needs to know what it takes to live in adversity and prosperity. I think it is a vital part of the definition of leadership to have gone through both extremes – although the “extremes” can be different for everyone.

Getting through those times requires reliance on something greater than us, something that transcends but is also a vital part of the human experience.

The forgiveness of sins is just that. Samuel Adams went through a lot – as did all the people who would eventually become American Citizens. But it is clear from one of the last things that Samuel Adams said (through his last will and testament) that the forgiveness of sins won by Jesus Christ was his rock and foundation for all that he said and did.

2. A Leader Also Needs a Leader

“The name of the Lord (says the Scripture) is a strong tower; thither the righteous flee and are safe [Proverbs 18:10]. Let us secure His favor and He will lead us through the journey of this life and at length receive us to a better.” [Letters of Delegates to Congress: August 16, 1776-December 31, 1776, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1979), Vol. 5, pp. 669-670, Samuel Adams to Elizabeth Adams on December 26, 1776.]

Samuel Adams was instrumental in the founding of the United States of America. But he also recognized that no leader is above following another leader. Who would the Founding Fathers tend to follow as their leader? For Samuel Adams it was God. He would follow God’s will for his life and also rely on the rock-solid foundation of God’s mercy to shape and form his life.

For a husband and father, the Biblical mandate is that he is the “head of the household.” But as a husband he is called to “love his wife as Christ loves the Church.” This is the concept primus inter pares – “first among equals/peers.” But for the husband and father, there is a superior authority that he will follow – God.

3. “Thy Kingdom Come” is a Good Leadership Prayer

“I conceive we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world . . . that the confusions that are and have been among the nations may be overruled by the promoting and speedily bringing in the holy and happy period when the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and the people willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is the Prince of Peace.” [From a Fast Day Proclamation issued by Governor Samuel Adams, Massachusetts, March 20, 1797, in our possession; see also Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, Harry Alonzo Cushing, editor (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1908), Vol. IV, p. 407, from his proclamation of March 20, 1797.]

When people say that the United States is a Christian nation, I will only agree with that sentiment if they mean what Samuel Adams says here. It isn’t a political kingdom that Samuel Adams was looking for, but one of grace, the Kingdom of Grace of which Christ is the King.

A Christian leader will follow Christ and serve in His Kingdom. He will pray “The kingdom come” – which means he will lead others with an eye towards the truth that “the kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also. God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity” (Small Catechism, Martin Luther).

© 2010 True Men Ministries, Inc.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Faith and Leadership of the Founding Fathers – Part 1

Leading up to Independence Day – July 4, 2010 – which will be the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – I’ll be sharing with you some thoughts on the leadership of three of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.

A word of caution: it has been vogue in the last couple of years to point out the anti-Christian nature of the Founding Fathers. Many contend that the Founding Fathers were, at best, Deists, and most certainly not Christians. The only proof given for these statements – from what I could find in my research – has been opinions and writings from the early 20th Century onward.

I’ll be using the words of these Founding Fathers themselves to show how their faith in Jesus Christ shaped their lives and leadership qualities.

The first Founding Father is George Washington. George_Washington_1782_painting

He was the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army that defeated British Forces in the War of Independence – giving rise to the United States of America. He was then elected the first President of the United States and served two terms. He is popularly known as the “father of our country.”

George Washington was a leader. By almost all accounts, he was a great leader. What was the basis of his leadership? What can we learn from his leadership? At least three things.

1. Jesus Christ is the Corner-Stone of Life

George Washington was a Christian. I know that many, many people will deny this. They say he was a deist, not a Christian. But I’m confident in saying that George Washington was a Christian because he was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But also because of what he said about Jesus Christ.

“You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are.” [The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XV, p. 55, from his speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779.]

As you explore the life of this Founding Father of the American nation, it will become clearly evident that he lived his life based on his faith in Jesus Christ. Not just Christian morals but based on the religion of Jesus Christ. It was George Washington’s belief that living with faith in Jesus Christ would make a person happy and great.

No doubt there have been great people who did not believe in Jesus Christ. No doubt there are happy people who do not believe in Jesus Christ. But it was George Washington’s belief that you could become greater and happier still if you have faith in Jesus Christ.

A good leader will lead out of his beliefs. Washington led his men – and then his country – out of his belief in Jesus Christ.

2. Character Counts

Washington was a soldier, a general, a president, and a farmer. But more than that – George Washington was all these things as a man of character. I’ve yet to see anyone question the character of George Washington (except the possibility of his owning slaves as a character flaw). George Washington drew on a main source for his character – Christianity.

“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” [The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XI, pp. 342-343, General Orders of May 2, 1778.]

Christian faith will not make a person a perfect leader. Washington readily admitted that he was not perfect, that he was a mere mortal prone to mistakes. But I believe that Christian faith will shape character and leaders in the most positive way.

3. Our Faith is for All Times

And while Christian faith is a cornerstone of human character, it is not something that is simply a means to an end. It is something that stays with us at all times – in good times and in bad times, in prosperity and adversity.

Washington said, “The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.” [The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. 5, p. 245, July 9, 1776 Order.]

It is clear to me that while Washington was in the field leading the troops of the Continental Army, he was drawing upon his Christian faith to get him through all the defeats (and those were many) and the hard winters, lack of provisions, and the diseases that plagued the army. He never despaired of the Cause for which he was fighting – the rights and liberties of his country. This confidence and courage came from his faith in Jesus Christ that he carried with him at all times.

On this Father’s Day, as we approach the anniversary of the Independence of the United States, we can draw strength – and pass to the next generation – these three things from George Washington: Jesus Christ is the Corner-Stone of Life, Character Counts, and Our Faith is for All Times.

© 2010 True Men Ministries, Inc.

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