John George graduated into heaven recently. He was a man for whom I will eternally be grateful. At a time when I was a cocky senior at West Point, he accurately confronted me about pride and forever changed my life. John knew that the Bible warns us in Proverbs 16:18 that “Pride comes before destruction, and an arrogant spirit before a fall.” His exhortation scared me to death that God would not use me for His kingdom.
On Tuesday I flew into my headquarters to get ready for a key week. The next day with three of my leaders we would interview four candidates to choose our next deputy commander. My current deputy is superb—not just a great officer, but a man who will be a lifetime friend. Unfortunately, I’ve also had the challenge of working with executives who were inept or toxic. So knowing how vital it is to find the right leader, I did not get much sleep. When I woke up on Wednesday morning I felt led to get down on my knees and pray by my bed for wisdom from God and His divine help in making our selection. Immediately I felt His peace.
Matthew 14:13—When Jesus heard about it, He withdrew from there by boat to a remote place to be alone. When the crowds heard this, they followed Him on foot from the towns.
Chip and Dan Heath wrote a terrific book called Switch, subtitled, How to Change Things When Change is Hard. If you are a leader or a worker in an organization undergoing change, this is necessary read. Chip and Dan make a point that self-control is an exhaustible resource. They share an experiment that proves the point. Researchers divided college students into two groups and placed them in a room with two bowls: one contained chocolate and chocolate-chip cookies while the other contained radishes. One group could only eat the cookies; the other group could only eat the radishes. The researchers then left the room to induce temptation. Fortunately, all the participants followed the rules. Next each group received a series of unsolvable puzzles. The group that ate the chocolate spent nineteen minutes on the task making 34 attempts to solve the challenge. The radish eaters gave up after only eight minutes and 19 solution attempts. Why did this latter group quit so quickly? They used up self-control by not eating the chocolate!
John 15:5-I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in Me and I in him produces much fruit, because you can do nothing without Me.
Exodus 24:9-11-- Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and 70 of Israel’s elders, and they saw the God of Israel. Beneath His feet was something like a pavement made of sapphirestone, as clear as the sky itself. God did not harmthe Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank.
Recently, I met with a man whose marriage is tottering towards collapse. He feels alone and unwanted in his own household. His wife seems more devoted to his children than to him. He seemingly cannot do enough to please her and he is ready to give up. When I asked Him how his relationship with God was doing, he shared that it is anemic. He grew up without a loving father which has effected how he views, relates to and trusts his Heavenly Father. Therein lays the core issue.
You probably remember the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. This godly man invoked jealousy in the hearts of the administrators and princes in Babylon. They didn’t like it that he was a better leader, or the fact that the king was planning to put Daniel in charge of the entire empire. So, they set him up by appealing to the ego of King Darius. They convinced the king to sign a stupid law—a law that stated that people could only pray to the king for thirty days, or they would be thrown to the lions.
A bag lady leans forward on a rotating stool in the corner of the brightly lit casino feverishly slapping quarters in the machine she desperately hopes will be her savior. Her sallow cheeks betray the expense of her abiding.
The beginning of the year is a time when people in our society reflect. For many, new resolutions and goals are forged on the gold-embossed pages of a new journal. Yet as the past is closed for the door of tomorrow a timeless God is not concerned with another year. His word makes His question clear—are we loyal to Him?
John 15:7--If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you want and it will be done for you.
My friend Brian shared an interesting vignette about a Romanian village. Thousands of fertile acres surround the town yet the people cultivate only small strips to grow what they can eat. Decades of communist oppression and the lack of modern farm equipment rob these wonderful people of vision. Their concept of what they can attain in the future is shaped by what they could not do in the past.