The Power of ‘One’ [v96]

FEBRUARY 2007

THE POWER OF ‘ONE’—Can ‘little ol’ you make a difference?
 I say…absolutely!
 The difference can be for bad—or for good.
 The difference can impact just a few—or millions of people. 
The difference can be practical, material, and for the day—or can have an affect for many years to come.
 Change nearly always comes down to one person’s taking initiative and becoming a positive presence in a negative situation.

In 1800 Aaron Burr would have become the third President of the United States if he would have received just one more electoral vote. There was only a difference of one vote that brought Texas into the Union. One vote kept Andrew Jackson from being impeached.

Joan of Arc was only one women, but she saved France. Martin Luther was only one man, but the 95 theses he nailed to the Wittenberg church door altered the course of European history.

One man, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, with nothing but a pen in hand, stood up to the entire Soviet Empire. They didn’t know what to do with him. He didn’t stand with a gun; he stood with moral courage. The whole world admired him, even if it didn’t agree with everything he said.

All it takes is ONE. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link—every link is necessary.

I’ve got to believe that you’re familiar with the 1946 film classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” where the character played by Jimmy Stewart, George Bailey, gets a chance to see what life would be like had he not been born. The main point of the film is that each person’s ‘one solitary life’ does have an impact on everybody else’s life. Had he never been born, there would have been gaping ‘holes’ in others’ lives left by his absence.

Now, some people have made transformational changes in one ‘department’ of human learning or in one ‘aspect’ of human life, and their names have been enshrined in the annals of human history. I, however, want to suggest that there was One that—more than anyone else that has ever lived—has had an immeasurable impact on this world. His name is Jesus Christ.

Bill Bright once said that, “History is His-Story” (talking about Jesus and the time between His first ‘coming’ and His second).

Dr. James Allan Francis put Christ’s life and influence into perspective, better than I could, in his famous narrative:

“He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where He was born. He had no credentials but Himself.

He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.

While He was dying, He executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race.

All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.”

Even most non-Christians would ‘argue’ this one man has had more impact on the world than any person in history—or, at least, respects Him as a great moral teacher. Emperors and governors have come and gone, but it is this man Jesus whose birth we still celebrate yearly 2000+ years later.

So, putting aside the supernatural, let’s examine how the person of Jesus impacted the course of history.

IMPACT ON HUMAN LIFE
– Women: In ancient cultures, a wife was the property of her husband. Aristotle said that a woman was somewhere between a free man and a slave. In India, widows were voluntarily or involuntarily burned on their husbands’ funeral pyres. Christian missionaries were a major influence in stopping these century-old practices and ideas.

– Children: In the ancient world, for example in classical Rome or Greece, infanticide was not only legal, but it was applauded. Killing a Roman was murder, but it was commonly held in Rome that killing one’s own children could be an act of beauty. Through a higher view of life, it was the early Christian church that ultimately brought an end to infanticide.

– Slavery: While it is true that committed Christians have owned slaves in history, it is also true that slavery was ended in great measure by Christian activists. For example, historians credit the British evangelical William Wilberforce as the primary force behind the ending of the international slave trade (which happened prior to the American Civil War). Two-thirds of the members of the American abolition society in 1835 were Christian ministers.

– Gladiators: A 5th century monk, Telemachus is credited as being the pivotal force ending the gladiator spectacles.

– Cannibalism: Missionary followers of Jesus are credited with stopping cannibalism in many primitive societies.

COMPASSION AND MERCY
– Historians record that prior to Jesus, the ancient world left little trace of any organized charitable effort.

– An important aspect to Jesus’ ministry was his emphasis on helping the neediest and lowliest in society. For example, his Parable of the Good Samaritan [Luke 10:30-37] is a classic illustration that is still part of our language today. While there are good charitable efforts outside of the name of Jesus, I argue that Christian charities stand out. Consider Mother Theresa, the Salvation Army, religious hospitals, and church supported soup kitchens, and thrift shops in every community. Jesus has had such an enormous impact on charity that one wonders how different things would be if he had never been born.

– The mythical character of Santa Claus points back to Christ. St. Nick unquestionably arose within the Christian tradition.

EDUCATION
- From the beginning of Judaism, from which Christianity is derived, there was an emphasis on the written word. But the phenomenon of education for the masses has its roots in the Protestant Reformation.

– In order to promote Bible literacy, Christians have been leaders in education. This trend was accelerated with the advent of the printing press at about the same time as the Protestant Reformation. Many of the world’s languages were first set to writing by Christian missionaries in order for people to read the Bible.

– In America, the first law to require education of the masses was passed by the Puritans. The law was called “THE OLD DELUDER SATAN ACT.” This name was a reference to the devil, who Christians believe gets his foothold into people’s lives because of their ignorance of Scripture.

– For the first 200 years in America, children’s reading texts emphasized biblical literacy. The emphasis on literacy was so intense in colonial America, that John Quincy Adams said in the early 1800’s that the illiteracy rate was only 4/10th of 1 percent. By comparison, it has been estimated that in America today, 40 million people are functionally illiterate.

– All but one of the first 123 colleges in colonial America were Christian institutions. While these universities have lost their Christian identities, it is interesting to read the founding statements of these schools. Harvard, for example, was founded on this statement: “Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life. One requirement of students was that “Everyone shall so exercise himself in reading the Scriptures twice a day that he shall be able to give an account of his proficiency therein.”

GOVERNMENT OF THE PEOPLE
– While America’s constitutional government is not specifically Christian, it can be argued that its roots are taken from Biblical doctrines. Here are just a few possible arguments in this regard:

– America’s first constitution was the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. The Puritan framers of this document required that each aspect of it be grounded in Scripture. Other constitutions to follow contained many similarities to this one.

– At least 50 of the 55 signers of the U.S. Constitution were orthodox Christians.

– There is no doubt that the concept of our Constitutional checks and balances system is a direct result of the Biblical doctrine of the sinfulness of mankind. All of our founders understood the importance of this doctrine to the social order.

– America’s foundational idea of The Rule of Law rather than the authority of man traces back to the Old Testament, beginning with the Ten Commandments.

– The idea that all men are created equal as enshrined in the Declaration of Independence is a Biblical doctrine.

– The notion of the sovereign authority of God (as mentioned in the Mayflower Compact, the Declaration of Independence, all 50 state constitutions, our currency, etc.)—rather than the sovereignty of the state—is certainly Biblical.

– The existence of moral absolutes (a Biblical concept) is an important idea in our Declaration of Independence—specifically, “self-evident truths and unalienable rights from the Creator.” Many other aspects of our laws come directly from the Bible—for example, the judicial, legislative, and executive branches trace back to Isaiah 33:22. Fair trials with witnesses have numerous Old and New Testament support.

– Regarding civil liberty, founding father John Adams (and others) emphasized II Corinthians 3:17 as the basis for American civil liberty. The slogan on the Liberty Bell is “Proclaim Liberty throughout the land unto all the Inhabitants Thereof” is from Leviticus 15:10. I suggest that Jesus Himself was the greatest civil libertarian of all time.

SCIENCE
– Many suggest that science has it roots in Christianity. They point out that other world religions may express a worldview of “fatalism” (everything is fatalistically determined) or of “illusion” (that the physical world is an illusion). Science could not have arisen from these worldviews.

– Christianity on the other hand, is based on the notion that there exists a rational God who is the source of rational truth. This, they argue, gave rise to the possibility of scientific laws.
– Evidence for this view is that nearly all the founders of modern science were Christians. These include men such as Keppler, Boyle, Pascal, Pasteur, Newton, etc.

FREE ENTERPRISE AND THE WORK ETHIC
– Private property rights can be traced to the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:15,17 (“Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not covet.”)—as well as to other passages from the Old and New Testaments. Interestingly, there are over 700 references to money in the Bible!

– It is noteworthy that Adam Smith’s “Wealth of Nations” was written in 1776, the same year as the birth of America. But many historians credit theologian John Calvin from 200 years earlier as the person who is most responsible for putting together the principles that were always in the Bible into a system adapted by the American founders. For example, the biblical doctrines of “self-reliance” and “self-denial” are the foundation of the famous “Protestant work ethic.” These doctrines are at the heart of our economic (and political) way of life.

– A distinction can be made between ‘Biblical’ capitalism and ‘evolutionary’ capitalism. The emphasis on biblical capitalism is on the importance of ‘servanthood’—a key teaching of Jesus. Evolutionary capitalism on the other hand relies solely on the ‘survival of the fittest’. America’s anti-trust laws are evidence that American capitalism emphasizes the former over the latter.

Anyone who doubts the relationship of biblical ideas to free enterprise need only to note the stark contrast with communism. Communism is specifically an ‘atheistic’ system that relies on the non-biblical notion that all men are “good” (thus will work for the common good). But communism has been an abject economic failure.

ART, MUSIC, AND LITERATURE
– The influence of Jesus on art, music, and literature is enormous. For example, the Christian faith has influenced literature in such Christian writers such as Dante, Chaucer, Donne, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, Dickens, Milton, etc.

– Had Jesus never been born, music would likely sound very different from what we’re used to. There may never have developed the cantata, the concerto, or the symphony. Handel, Vivaldi, and Bach were Christians who worked to honor God with their work. Bach, for example, signed all his works with 
”Soli Deo Gloria” (Solely to the glory of God).

– Art has likewise been magnificently impacted by Jesus. While much modern art seems to debase the human spirit, classical Christian art tries to bring out the best of mankind—pointing us to a higher plane. This is certainly a tribute to Jesus.

– Just think of all the incredible architecture through the years. Especially noteworthy are the beautiful cathedrals in Europe.

CONTRARY EVIDENCE
– Some point out the atrocities in history committed in the name of Christianity—specifically the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch hunts, and anti-Semitism. I acknowledge the sinful nature of these events—but argue that those who committed them were acting ‘contrary’ to the teachings of Christ, who taught to love even your enemies! The blame for committing such acts should be placed on those who perverted Jesus’ teachings—not at the feet of the Prince of Peace!

However, it should also be mentioned that many historians say that Christians have gotten a bad rap from the above events. For example, it can be said that all of the Crusades were defensive in nature—in the same way that one can accurately say that America’s current War on Terrorism is defensive in nature. America is responding to an unprovoked attack first made upon us. Our goal in this war is simply to protect our citizens and our property. This is the same thing that the Christian Crusaders were doing, acting in self-defense against aggressors.

And in the case of the Inquisition, I am convinced that the people leading the Inquisition were not Christians at all. In every case in which Christians are blamed for violence, a closer look largely exonerates Christians.

Further, they point out that when Christian restraints have been removed from a society, the atrocities are magnified many times over. For example, the regimes of Hitler, Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot were essentially atheistic bloodbaths. These twentieth century despots alone account for well over 100 million murders. The evidence is strong that when the restraining influence of Christianity has been removed from a country or culture, unmitigated disaster will naturally follow. As admitted by existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre, “[Without God] all activities are equivalent.”

Well, in my opinion, the greatest ‘value’ of one’s life is not how much they accumulated, but how much they gave.

In the final analysis, when you look back over all your life, it will be in those moments of self-less giving— in humble bestowal upon others—that you will see how your life took on its true significance. Compared to all other things, love will ‘stand out’ as the greatest.

The Bible says that if we “don’t have love, then we become a noisy gong or a clanging symbol” [1 Corinthians 13:1]. We must abide in faith, hope, and love—with the greatest of them being love.

Jesus, when He was on this earth, was the supreme example of what love should ‘look’ like—and He left us with some ‘tools’ to enable us to continue to be more loving—His ‘teachings’ (compiled in the Bible) and the “counselor that will teach you all things and remind you of everything He said”—the Holy Spirit for those who put their trust in Christ.

Jesus told a story about a shepherd who had 100 sheep. One of them was missing, and the shepherd left the 99 to go out after the one lost sheep. Are you that lost ‘sheep’? You could be the ONE that God is ”waiting’ for to give your heart and life to Him so He can then USE YOU mightily.

One person CAN make a difference! In fact, the power of one Christian is UNLIMITED—because a Christian is someone who is vitally linked to an all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving God.

[Excerpts from: Michael Youssef; Billy Graham; D. James Kennedy; Charles and Cindy Meek]

(If you would like to investigate the concept of “power” or “deeds” of influence, click the following link:
http://www.4vis.com/sfm/sfm_pres/sp_q11_d8_1of10.html )

Blessings…Mark

LIFE’S DEEP THOUGHTS (v96) for FEBRUARY 2007
If you have a ‘neat’ story or some thoughts about an issue or current event that you would like me to try to respond to, I would be glad to give it a try…so, send them to me at: mbesh@comcast.net

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THE POWER OF ONE
One SONG can spark a moment;
One FLOWER can wake the dream;
One TREE can start a forest;
One BIRD can herald spring;
One SMILE begins a friendship;
One HANDCLASP lifts a soul;
One STAR can guide a ship at sea;
One WORD can frame the goal;
One VOTE can change a nation;
One SUNBEAM lights a room;
One CANDLE wipes out darkness;
One LAUGH will conquer gloom;
One STEP must start each journey;
One WORD must start a prayer;
One HOPE will raise our spirits;
One TOUCH can show you care;
One VOICE can speak with wisdom;
One HEART can know what’s true;
One LIFE can make a difference.
You see, it’s up to you.
[Author Unknown]

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HOW DO YOU LIVE YOUR DASH?
I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend.
 
He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning to the end. 

He noted that first came her date of birth and spoke the following date with tears,

But he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time she spent alive on earth, 

And now only those who loved her know what that little line is worth. 

For it matters not how much we own—the cars, the house, the cash—

What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard—are there things you’d like to change? 

For you never know how much time is left that can still be rearranged.
 
If we could just slow down long enough to consider what’s true and real
 
And always try to understand the way other people feel.

And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more
and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
 
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile,

Remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy’s been read with your life’s actions to rehash,

Would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?
[Linda Ellis]

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THE POWER OF A SINGLE FLAME
When I was in college I heard of an event in a large stadium. Everyone was given an unlit candle. A speaker talked about the power of one person with the courage and desire to improve the world. To prove his point, he lit his own candle and walked over to two people in the stands and lit theirs with his. He asked them to light two others. In minutes, thousands of candles lit the entire ballpark.

The experience was a powerfully vivid metaphor. The tiny flame from a single candle was all that was needed to light thousands of others. What’s more, the original flame, and each one born of it, retained their own undiminished glow and warmth. The speed with which that single light spread to everyone in the stadium presented compelling proof of the life-changing power of every individual.

In today’s dark world chilled by so many examples of human shortcomings, we need to reject the self-defeating prophesy of hopelessness and the self-fulfilling illusion of powerlessness.

If we are to realize our own potential as a change agent, we have to reject the darkened worldview of the cynic. Even if we can’t make everything perfect, we can make lots of things better—and that’s a worthy lifetime’s work.

As you approach the holidays and a new year full of unlimited possibilities, resolve to be a candle. Let your good deeds and kind words brighten days and heal wounds, stand up for what’s right, and show others the way—and never waiver in your commitment to teach and model the power of virtue.
[Michael Josephson]

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I am only one, but still I am one. 

I cannot do everything, but still I can do something;
 
and because I cannot do everything, 

I will not refuse to do something I can do.

We don’t need more money, 

we don’t need greater success or fame, 

we don’t need the perfect body or even the perfect mate. 

Right now, at this very moment, we have a mind, 

which is all the basic equipment we need to achieve 
complete happiness.
[Author Unknown]

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DEEP THOUGHT:
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
[Abraham Lincoln]

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I hope you enjoyed some of these insights. Share them with your friends and colleagues, so we can have a larger ‘pool’ to receive from—and more to share with! Also, remember to include your name as the “source,” especially if some of this wisdom is of your doing—I would like to give credit where credit is due!

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1:8].

Mark

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Disclaimer: All the above jokes & inspirations are obtained from various sources and copyright are used when known. Other than our name and headers, we do not own the copyright to any of the materials sent to this list. We just want to spread the ministry of God’s love and cheerfulness throughout the world.

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