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:
Colossians 3:5,8,12,13—Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry . . . But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth . . . Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive.
He saw me sitting in the car and it seemed by the way he kept looking over at me like something was on his mind. Sure enough, when I exited the vehicle he walked up and introduced himself to me. He said he was one of the new instructors in the Supervisor Course I was attending. Then he said he hoped he wouldn’t offend me, but that he felt it was a breach of protocol to require general officers to take the test at the end of the course. He said he had talked to the course managers about his concerns but that he was acting alone. Then he handed me two manila folders—one for myself and one for Dave, the other general attending the course. He told me to sign the document and turn it in on Friday.
When we arrive in heaven will there be a Hall of Fame? Will we find an interactive display manned by select angels who share the stories of those living legends who served God exceedingly well? Conversely, will there be a Hall of Shame in hell for those who acted in the power of Satan? If Hitler was one of the worst men to walk the planet we might also find that his countryman Dietrich Bonhoefferwas an exceptional saint. This German Lutheran pastor and theologian could have successfully pastored in the United States or in Great Britain. Instead, he chose to go back to his country and preach and teach knowing that his life was in jeopardy.
There is an insightful television program called Undercover Boss. Each episode, the owner or CEO of a company is disguised and then works for several days with different employees with differing responsibilities. Often the boss is inept at the tasks the employee is to teach him which puts pressure on him to do better. As he works with each selected person he also finds out what life is like in their shoes. Some are struggling financially or dealing with challenges that make life difficult.
Roman Catholic monk Girolamo Savonarola, (September 21, 1452 – May 23, 1498), was shocked by the immorality in Italy and by the corruption he observed within the church. As a teenager, he walked beside the River Po where he sang to God and wept over the condition of the people. At the age of 22, he wrote “Contempt of the World,” comparing the sins of his time to Sodom and Gomorrah. Years later, while praying, the Holy Spirit gave him a vision in which he was told to announce to the people that hard times were coming to the church.
A home improvement con artist swindled a 100 year-old blind woman. He rang the woman's bell, unsolicited, to offer to do any repair work needed. The woman told him that for years she had struggled with a door that was difficult to open because it rubbed against the rug. To fix the problem, she agreed to pay the man $8,000, to jack up her house.
2 John 1-4--The Elder: To the elect lady and her children: I love all of you in the truth—and not only I, but also all who have come to know the truth—because of the truth that remains in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love. I was very glad to find some of your children walking in the truth, in keeping with a command we have received from the Father.
There are two kinds of ground in this world, holy and unholy ground. The former is found wherever God’s presence abides. We see this most clearly when Moses, seeing the burning bush approached to determine why it was not consumed only to be met by the voice of the Lord.
Imagine you were stranded in a desert for a week eventually exhausting all supplies. Around the wadi comes a camel-striding stranger who sees your plight and says, “Here, let me help you.” He then pulls out a canteen and hands it to you. Grateful, you place the container on your lips and wait for life-renewing water. But the canteen is empty. “What kind of cruel joke is this!” you ask. The stranger smiles and says, “Ah, it is not the liquid but the thought of liquid that is sufficient.”
Recently I needed to set up DSL over a phone line for a ministry I serve. When I called the phone company, (which will go unnamed), to set up the service, the line was answered by a voice-automated machine. The options I was presented did not help me so I repeatedly stated that I wanted to speak with an operator. Finally, the emotionless computer relented and patched me to a real voice. I set up the service thinking I would receive the special discount the company offered. But the price quoted to me was different and much higher. The salesperson explained that we would receive a substantial rebate, but in fact, we would over time lose much money because the contractual cost was too high.
I’m working on a CD cover for my latest music project titled “Evidence.” The image that Misha, the graphics designer, is working with is a lightning bolt across a dark sky which reflects vividly off a placid water surface. We labored for a long time in looking for the right picture. Without an amazing cover many people won’t pick up a CD. With respect to marketing, the saying “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” doesn’t apply.
What in life truly matters? Imagine if God placed you in a huge glass pot in the middle of a giant plaza where hundreds of thousands of people walk by you. He turns a dial that sets in motion transforming heat from coils underneath the container on which you stand. All that you have and represent on earth, as a Christian, is about to be melted down into the pure essentials which define and determine your worth. What crystalline object will the world see? All you have lived for and what characterizes you is about to emerge in some distinctive shape.
Dan kicked the ball away from the goalie and was trying to break free when the enraged keeper threw him to the ground injuring his shoulder and neck. Dan said it was all he could do to keep from jumping to his feet and punching the guy. Sports have a way of revealing a nature inside of us we don’t like to admit exists. Jesus wrestled against sin and pinned it to the mat in triumph. How? He completely trusted and obeyed His Father. He did not succumb to the world (a place and system associated with sin and ruled by Satan). John wrote, “You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him” (1 John 3:5,6). If we want to be righteous we have to be like Jesus.
Ephesians 5:1,2--Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God.
Major General T.K. Moffett walked back and forth in front of the assembled soldiers. The new boss from Mississippi had just finished his first day commanding the 104th Division and he elected to share with his soldiers his leadership philosophy:
#1. Do the right thing
#2. Treat others the way you would like to be treated
#3. Do your best.
When I typed in the word religion on Google's search engine, it gave 1,570,000,000listings. Assuming that 15% of those were repeat entries, if I were to spend just five seconds visiting each site with no break, it would take 13,083,000 days (over 35,000 years) just to visit them all! Sometimes I wonder if people have the same sense when they approach this subject. Everyone has an opinion about religion—but who is right?
I want to be good and I suspect the same is true for you. Yet, despite my best intentions, I cannot live a perfect life. The deeper I get to know my Lord the more aware I am of my shortcomings. For this reason I find the concept of justification to be somewhat overwhelming. God in His profound holiness did not have to go to any length to rescue me from sin. He does not need me and most certainly I have offended Him time and again. Yet, inexplicably through His vast love, He chose a horrific path to blaze a terrific salvation.
How it started I don’t know. Perhaps in the course of conversation God gave the idea to Adam’s family. Nothing is stated in Genesis 1-3 about God asking anyone to bring Him offerings. Yet, for some reason, Cain brought to the Lord some of the fruits of his land. His brother Able presented fat portions from the firstborn of his flock. “And Abel also presented an offering—some of the firstborn of his flock and their fat portions. The Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but He did not have regard for Cain and his offering. Cain was furious, and he looked despondent” (Gen. 4:4,5).
Morning comes and Chris is tired. He spent a restless night battling the accusations of people who disagree with him. His character has been questioned. His actions are constantly scrutinized. His leadership is eroding and he feels angry. So, he contemplates how he should defend himself. Rather than talk to God about His pain, Chris reviews the weaknesses of his detractors and how he can prove them wrong. No longer can he minister effectively for his motives are based on a personal agenda.