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:
Consuello is a big man, not just in size but in heart. He lettered in three high school sports—track, football and basketball. His last second shot sent his team to the state championship in basketball. In football he was the defensive player of the year for four straight years earning a scholarship to play college football. At the transitional age of 13, his mother died. She inspired him to see the best in people regardless of the situation. One powerful example she set was in sending her divorced husband’s new wife a birthday card every year. Consuello could not understand why she would do this so she taught him the value and importance of respect. She did not fault the other woman or let bitterness spoil her kind disposition.
Oswaldo Calixto grew up in Via El Salvador of Lima, Peru in poverty. Traumatized by a mother who exposed him to witchcraft and constant family conflict, at the age of 14, he fled home to live on the streets with his friends. Oswaldo became a thief and robber to survive, scrounging whatever he could to survive. Many times he risked his life through
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.
Sadao Munemori was born in Los Angeles, California. As a young man he joined the Japanese-American 442ndRegimental Combat Team which included the 100thInfantry Battalion, the most heavily decorated unit in World War II. Sadao, while fighting on a hillside near Seravezza, Italy, was faced with a wounded squad leader and an entire team pinned down by machine gun fire. Private First Class Munemori decided to engage in a one-man frontal attack. Using grenades he wiped out two machine gun nests but in the process became completely exposed to enemy fire.
Ezra 1:5—So the family leaders of Judah and Benjamin, along with the priests and Levites—everyone God had motivated—prepared to go up and rebuild the LORD’s house in Jerusalem.
For seventy years the Jews lived in exile in Babylon and surrounding nations. Their severe unfaithfulness to God resulted in His fierce punishment which meant they were forcefully removed from their homes. But, in keeping with His promise communicated through multiple prophets, God opened a way through the Persian King Cyrus for the exiles to go home. As we read in the book of Ezra, those who were motivated by Godpacked up their belongings and moved back to their homeland to rebuild the Lord’s temple and settle.
On August 25th,I will serve my last day in the military. Over forty years ago, God graciously allowed me to enter West Point. The military academy took a chance on me as I was a clear academic risk with a weak background in math and sciences. Before I set foot on that military reservation in New York, I claimed 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.” I figured if God could give my hero, the prophet Daniel, wisdom in how to thrive in Babylon, He could help me survive four years of tough courses. He did just that.
Mark was one of my soldiers when I commanded D Company 3/502ndInfantry in the 101stAirborne (Air Assault) Division. How encouraging it is over 30 years later to hear his story and vision for manhood! It is a story about choosing the right path and may it bless you.
Mark 10:47,48—When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out, “Son of David, Jesus, have mercy on me!” Many people told him to keep quiet, but he was crying out all the more, “Have mercy on me, Son of David!”
I am motivated by this story for many reasons. First, Bartimaeus, the blind beggar mentioned above, was a man of faith. He had heard about Jesus and, when he realized the Son of God was close, he took action and cried out for mercy. Just because someone struggles or is disabled does not mean that person is necessarily deficient in faith.
General Vladimir Sukhomlinov was the Russian Minister of War from 1909-1915. He was a cavalry officer and a war hero during Russia’s war with Turkey in the 1870s. Unfortunately, Sukhomlinov decided that he knew everything that there was to know about warfare. His decorations, record and position bolstered his self-importance despite the fact that Russia lost territory and huge numbers of dead and wounded to the Japanese from 1904-1905.
Dashrath Manjhi by his own hands carved a road through a 300-foot mountain to provide his town access to doctors, education and opportunities. After his wife fell down and got hurt while trying to cross the mountain that separated two villages, Manjhi sold three goats to buy a hammer and chisel. He decided to do something to make it safer for his family and those in their village. So from 4:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. and from 1:00 p.m. to evening each day he attacked the mountain—pounding his way through massive rock. From 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. he plowed the fields of his neighbors to earn enough money to sustain his family.
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!
Donna sat next to me on my plane flight home. I was blessed to get to know this incredible woman. Donna is the President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of HMS, a company she started. As she shared with me some of her life story I was most impressed by her humility and her sense of gratefulness.
Psalm 138:8—The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me. LORD, Your love is eternal; do not abandon the work of Your hands.
There is natural reason for Ukrainians to dread Russia taking over their country again—oppression under communism was intense and costly. Ukrainian Kostyantyn spent many years in a Soviet labor camp. The authorities disliked his actions as an elder in his church so they sent him to be re-educated. Over 200 pastors were also sent to the same camp.
Navy Petty Officer First Class Marcus Luttrell was the sole survivor of a US Navy SEAL team ambushed by Taliban fighters. Severely wounded, Luttrell somehow managed through great courage to evade an enemy zealous to kill him. Fortunately, members of the Afghan Sabray tribe found him and whisked him into their village. Despite incredible danger, the tribal chief protected him, fending off Taliban attacks until word reached nearby American forces who then came and rescued him.
In 1915, Rabbi Jeremy’s grandfather as a teenager recognized that if he stayed in Russia he was likely to be persecuted and deprived of basic freedoms. So, he left his family and walked—all the way to Israel. It took him one and half years to reach the port of Jaffa. I would imagine it was a dangerous trip full of excitement, fighting cold and hunger as well as numerous other challenges. With a group of men touring Israel (including my two sons and son-in-law), we listened to Jeremy share life lessons at Yad Hashmona Country Hotel.
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.