Acts 10:1,2—There was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the Jewish people and always prayed to God.
It should not surprise us that Cornelius was God’s choice to first bring the gospel to the Gentiles. When we study his profile, it is inspiring and gives us a clear picture of what right looks like and thus why he was favored in God’s eyes. Cornelius was:
1 Timothy 4:16—Pay close attention to your life and your teaching; persevere in these things, for by doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.
The Apostle Paul wrote his protégé Timothy to encourage him but what makes his words so powerful is his own example. He faithfully paid close attention to his life and his teaching. Next to Jesus, the case could be made that he influenced Christianity worldwide through his leadership more than any other man. His epistles continue as vital roots of the worship, theology, and pastoral life in the Catholic and Protestant traditions of the West, and the Orthodox traditions of the East.
What made Saint Paul such a strong leader was that he:
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.
Daniel 1:17—God gave these four young men knowledge and understanding in every kind of literature and wisdom. Daniel also understood visions and dreams of every kind.
Daniel, probably in part because of my given name, has always been my hero. In studying his Old Testament prophetic book that contains his story, there are at least five superb applications that ought to inspire us to be like him.
It was truly an implausible act. She lived behind fortified walls yet chose to be vulnerable. For a woman of the street she possessed great insight. She knew that her city would be destroyed because she believed the reports of the Destroyer. As new stories meandered along hot, dusty streets and through bustling merchant shops, hearts despaired and courage disappeared. She saw things differently; embracing faith from a heaven and earthperspective.
Why did the spies go to her house? She could easily have reported them. Even the king knew they visited her and dispatched messengers who told her to bring them out for arrest. No, she knew a lot about men, and these two were different. So she hid them on her roof and lied about them leaving the city. Later under the cover of darkness she gave them a rope so they could escape down her wall. She was an audacious woman with a simple request.
Genesis 1:25—So God made the wildlife of the earth according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and creatures that crawl on the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.
Marianne got up out of the driver’s seat and left our van. I wondered where she was going and was amazed at what I saw. She walked about fifty feet away to a man pulling luggage out of his car. She grabbed his suitcase rolled it to the van and lugged it up the stairs before depositing it in the luggage rack. His bag was huge and she was probably in her sixties. When he climbed into the vehicle with the rest of his gear, he seemed embarrassed that this slight, gray-haired woman carried his heaviest suitcase.
In the fall of 1977, I struggled mightily to get my Calculus grade from an F to a D. Worn out from a heavy academic load, I looked forward to flying to Idaho to spend the holidays with my girlfriend and my favorite aunt and uncle. Just weeks before leaving, I received a “Dear John” letter from Julie, graciously letting me know that she was seeing someone in California and wanted to break up. On top of that bad news, this was the last year that West Point had final exams after the holidays meaning I had much studying to do over the last two weeks of December. My heart was heavy and my mind was not on math. When I returned to New York I scored the lowest in the entire class on the Calculus exam, failed the course, and had to go to summer school.
Dmitri determined to educate his sons from the Bible at a time when Russia was dominated by communism. Soon neighbors began joining the family Bible study which grew to about 75 people crammed into his little house and standing outside in hearing range. Angry at his refusal to stop teaching the Bible, an officer and soldiers pushed inside during a time of fellowship and arrested him. As the authorities were leaving, a small grandmother waved a finger at the officer and declared, “You have laid hands on a man of God and you will NOT survive.” Two nights later that officer died of a heart attack. The fear of God so filled that community that 150 people joined the next time of teaching. Meanwhile Dmitri was sent to jail.
While driving to an appointment I stopped at a traffic light and happened to look to my left. A prominent sign welcomed people to Northwest Portland on what at one time was a nicely landscaped plot. But whoever had planted and carefully constructed an image meant to greet people had allowed the site to fall into disrepair. Trash littered the ground and it looked like it had been sometime before anyone had tended to the plants.
I’m glad that a community purchased nice vegetation and an attractive sign welcoming people to their city. But if they don’t “tend to the garden” an eyesore and poor impression of their town is the end result for anyone paying attention.
1 Samuel 12:23,24—As for me, I vow that I will not sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you. I will teach you the good and right way. Above all, fear the LORD and worship Him faithfully with all your heart, considering the great things He has done for you.
In his book, Lincoln on Leadership, Donald Phillips quotes Abraham Lincoln in a conversation with the Assistant Secretary of Navy, Gustavus Fox, “A man has not time to spend half his life in quarrels. If any man ceases to attack me, I never remember the past against him.” Earlier in October of 1863, Lincoln sternly reprimanded Army Captain James Cutts, “No man resolved to make the most of himself, can spare time for personal contention. Still less can he afford to take all the consequences, including the vitiating of his temper, and the loss of self-control.” President Lincoln had little patience for arguments. Rather than let himself get bogged down by incessant disputes he chose to live above the fray. At a time when America was deeply divided in war, his personal conduct created the path to restoring union.
Colossians 3:23,24—Whatever you do, do it enthusiastically, as something done for the Lord and not for men, knowing that you will receive the reward of an inheritance from the Lord. You serve the Lord Christ.
Karl and Joe* accompanied me on a missions trip. We had a great time together sharing Jesus with people who had never heard of Him. We laughed at ourselves as we struggled to speak the language of our hosts. We enjoyed the adventure of braving rush hour on motorcycles and eating strange but delicious foods. We bonded as a team as we shared in hardships and victories in the journey of serving God.
Decades later, Karl is still serving the Lord and making a difference in the lives of people. Joe got wrapped around the pursuit of making money and climbing the corporate ladder. His liked to be seen in church on Sunday while the rest of the week he saw to his career and pursuing the good life.
It was an amazing show of sportsmanship. Tiger Woods walked into the gallery and was met by Jack Nicklaus, arguably the world’s greatest golfer. Jack complimented him for his performance—his winning score of 67 matched Jack’s own record. And then he told Tiger that his birdie on the 16thhole was one of the greatest shots he had ever witnessed.
Why was this conversation so remarkable? For the simple reason that Jack knew the heinous sins of Tiger. He witnessed the planet’s most popular golfer meltdown morally and behave in ways that were a complete embarrassment to the sport. He rendered grace and dignity to an athlete he could deliberately have avoided.
Kevin and I prayer walk an asphalt trail that is about 3/4ths of a mile around a church, a wooded area and large field. This morning I noticed big paw tracks from a dog that extended for quite a ways along the trail. If I was trained, I could tell by the size of the prints the approximate size of the dog that left its mark. Instead I could only see the obvious—a dog walked in a muddy field and then wandered across the path we were walking.
In his book, Follow Me, Pastor Jan Hettinga wrote, “Has your ‘right to yourself’ felt the ax? That’s what salvation is designed to accomplish. True repentance and faith ego-proof us. Our independent self-rule is broken at the cross.” Humility can be measured by the air we exhale. Self-focused leaders constantly inflate their glory balloons. If they are not puffing up, they blow away any who might disagree or question them. Their need for grandeur is always tethered to insecurity.
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!
I just finished reading the best book I ever read concerning Biblical principles on giving wisely. The author is Jonathan Martin and the title of his book is Giving Wisely? You can find and purchase it from www.amazon.com.
Isaiah 42:13—The LORD advances like a warrior; He stirs up His zeal like a soldier. He shouts, He roars aloud, He prevails over His enemies.
For those who believe the military is an evil profession or who decry the wearing of a uniform and the responsibility that comes with it, please consider these thoughts.