I heard an excellent message from a pastor recently about not defending ourselves when we are betrayed or attacked. His point was that no matter what we say in defense we cannot undo the damage and we may actually make things worse. If we have done what is right and are slandered, lied about, or smeared unfairly, the best course of action is to continue to live our lives righteously and trust God for the results. If close friends ask what is happening, we may share with them . . . The point is: don’t retaliate, defend, or excuse ourselves.
This is not easy. To hold our peace when warred against is like watching mosquitoes take blood and not swatting them. Why would we do that?
Frank Musisi grew up on the island of Ssese on Lake Victoria. Kibile School’s coach would not let him run for the school’s team when he was in fourth grade so he received permission to run for Beta, a smaller rival school. It was a decision the coach would regret because Frank was so fast he ended up winning district competition and defeating the runners from his own school!
In Genesis 19, we read one of the saddest stories in the Bible. Evidently, the behavior of the valley inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah was so awful that the Lord with two angels came down to investigate. Fearfully, Abraham asked Him if He would spare Sodom if He found just ten righteous people there. He was concerned because his nephew Lot lived in the city. The Lord replied, “for the sake of ten I will not destroy it” (18:32).
I received an email that tore my gut in two. A friend from seminary wrote to those on his mailing list. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. He was back in his home city with his children, no longer in the Asian country where God led him and his wife to minister. Their work was vital in a place restricted and fraught with danger. He knew what it meant to serve God through opposition. But he never expected his wife to fall in love with someone she met on the internet. She left her family—devastated. As if confused and heartbroken was not bad enough, his mission organization requested his resignation. Now what does he do? Who can he trust? His children struggle mightily to adjust to a new culture. They wrestle with the reality their mother is living in immorality. He wonders what more could go wrong.
Greg is an avid kayaker. Along with his two sons, they decided to make a trip on the Tennessee River. Together they had a great day paddling until they hit a section where five-foot swells continually pounded them. His boys were in larger kayaks and had little difficulty cutting through the waves. Soon they were far away from Greg. But their dad hit a portion in the middle of the river where he could no longer cut through the waves and he began to take on water. With only a water bottle to bail he continued to sink. Calmly recognizing that his life was in serious danger, he prayed, “God, I need Your help, there is nothing I can do.”
Nigeria is a nation of over 146 million people—the largest populated country in Africa. It comprises more than 250 ethnic groups of which the following are the most populous and politically influential: Hausa and Fulani 29%, Yoruba 21%, Igbo (Ibo) 18%, Ijaw 10%, Kanuri 4%, Ibibio 3.5%, and Tiv 2.5%.* In mass Nigeria is over twice the size of California. The nation is located on the Gulf of Guinea and shares borders with the countries of Benin, Cameroun, Chad and Niger. Our team ministered in the city of Jos which literally means Jesus Our Savior! Jos is part of the Plateau State (Nigeria has 36 states) which sits in the middle of the country.
All of our family met together in northern Idaho to celebrate my parent’s 40thwedding anniversary. One day a bunch of us drove to a remote lake to fish for rainbow and brook trout. The fishing pole one of the grandkids used broke and we could not fix it. But Sandy’s daughter, Kimmy, asked if she could just take some fishing line and with her hook baited with worm toss it out to see what she could catch. She was bored watching an inactive bobber and her idea seemed much more fun.
Vicki and I asked her to walk further down the shoreline so as she thrashed through the water she would not scare away the fish near our lines. Vicki pointed to a good spot for her to throw her line out. We also hinted that it was unlikely she would catch anything because she was too noisy and too close to her bait. We didn’t want her to be discouraged when nothing happened. But Kimmy was quite content to fish her way. Of course, you know what happened. Kimmy caught a brook trout! Go figure.
Psalm 34:4--I sought the Lord, and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.
At the age of one month he was dedicated to be a witch doctor and to one day replace his grandfather. But as a ten-year-old he ran away mad because the ancestral spirits wanted him to start practicing divination. Consequently, this young boy grew up rejected by both his paternal and maternal family.
David Ole Kereto was born in Narok, Kenya, the Maasai son of a witch doctor. By tradition he was expected to follow in his father’s footsteps. One of the highest honors for a Maasai male is to become a warrior. To achieve warrior status, one must kill a lion or a man. To kill a lion, tribesmen will surround the big cat and agitate it by shouting. One of the men then steps forward making himself a target. He holds a spear in his right hand and a stick sharpened to a point on both ends in the other hand. When the lion attacks it usually lunges for the spear hand. Just as it leaps, the Maasai shifts the stick to his right hand and as the lion opens its mouth he thrusts it between its jaws. David accomplished this at age 15 thereby becoming a Maasai warrior!
Three children walked down the aisle to their rehearsed places. The wee lassies stood four steps up on one side with the little lad on the other. The wedding party was in place and Uncle Ralph began speaking. While the two, prim girls faithfully stood still, the boy inched towards the edge of the step, cheerfully smiled, leaned his body backward and slid downward as only a limber child could. Twice more the process repeated until he was now on the main floor. Jonathan, the Best Man, saw what was happening, turned toward the boy and motioned him to move back to his appointed place. Embarrassed, knowing he’d erred, he went up two stairs, laid down with his face in his hands and quietly shook. Soon, the tears fell in torrents and he stood up wailing, quickly fleeing to his mother’s arms. He sobbed for what seemed like minutes, upstaging the wedding so that his father had to carry him out. While Josh and Katie went on to become man and wife I couldn’t help but think of the tender spirit of that boy and the loving manner in which his mother and father embraced him. They didn’t make a fuss or scold him, they held him. If they were concerned about the crowd, they didn’t show it. Instead they faithfully ministered to their son.
Isaiah 40:27-31— Why do you say, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God.”Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Every Sunday evening, Dan and Doris Berg lead a Bible Study for a Hispanic family. It is an ongoing ministry of love. One evening, after logging 340 miles on the road with his job with Wickes, Dan borrowed Tom’s pick-up truck to help the family move to another location in Hillsboro. One of the nephews, Jacob, about twenty-one years of age, accompanied Dan as they transported furniture. Jacob shared with him his desire to get away from a hazardous lifestyle that involved gangs and all that goes with spending time with bad company. While Dan listened, he spoke of his need for God—something he had not told anyone else.
I don’t know about you, but I personally find it a challenge to submit my reputation, rights and responsibility to God’s authority. When wronged by someone else, my instinct is to seek retribution. For most of my life I’ve possessed a fierce need to defend myself. If my family, friends or teachers pointed out flaws in my conduct or character I was adept at making excuses. Of course all of this posturing can be explained by one word—PRIDE.
June 17, 2001, Father’s Day—a day I’ll not forget. Barbie left a message on our answering machine. Dad fell off a cliff. He broke his neck, knocked his two front teeth out and was listed in serious condition in Providence Hospital, Anchorage.
Acts 9:4-6--Falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
“Who are You, Lord?” he said.“I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting,” He replied. “But get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
Silence is golden. It is a paradoxical potion to a stressed spirit. I say paradoxical because often in our busyness we cry out for God and we cannot hear Him. He may seem absent from the roar of everyday life. Indeed, I wonder if we crowd Him out by out incessant action. No wonder He impressed upon the sons of Korah “He says, 'Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth'” (Psalm 46:10--NIV).
It’s hard to sleep at night with the realization that you may wake up with your house tumbling into the ocean. Such is the case of many Oregonian coast dwellers watching in apprehension each winter as Pacific waves continue to steadily devour beach and sand dune. The importunate cries of desperate homeowners have reached lawmakers who must decide whether to allow the emplacement of huge boulders that would form a wall against the water.
Matthew 5:3--The poor in spirit are blessed, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.
I grew up in a pornography-free environment. My parents love God and they made sure that we were raised in a house that allowed no such filth.
Before going to sleep one night, Bryan asked his mom, about the seriousness of his brain-stem tumor. Through tears, he asked her, “Does this mean that I am going to die?” And so, we had the opportunity to share with our wonderful son the reality of death. He voiced the hope that Jesus would return before anything ever happened to his tumor. As best I could, I shared with him that even if his tumor were to grow, the reality is that he will be with Jesus and that is a wonderful thing to look forward to. Meanwhile, each day is a gift.
David Widerski, a pastor and friend, wrote as one of his resolutions before starting a new year, “To live each day as if it were my last.”