Competition is one of my signature strengths. I don’t like losing or being wrong. By God’s grace I am mellowing with age. So, I can somewhat identify with John when he and his buddies were bothered that someone they didn’t know was taking on demons in the power of Jesus’ name yet wasn’t part of their signature team. I’m sure he felt that that it was completely inappropriate for one who was not spending time at the feet of the Master to minister as a supposed follower. But John and his fellow disciples were misguided in their thinking.
Greg McKeown is the author of an excellent book entitled essentialism. Greg contends that the disciplined pursuit of less is a major key to success. Lin Yutang says, “The wisdom of life consists in the elimination of non-essentials.” From this premise, McKeown lays out a compelling case which helps us understand why it is important to: say “no” and not overextend; prioritize our lives; exercise the power of choice; discern what is important; know when to make tradeoffs; know when to play and to sleep; know what to select and what to eliminate; set boundaries and focus; etc.
Watchman Nee shares the story of two brothers who both cultivated paddy-fields located half way up a hill. They watered their fields during the heat of the day but at night, farmers whose fields were lower down the hill, dug a hole in the irrigation channel surrounding the brother’s fields so that the water flowed down to their land. The brothers noticed but said nothing. They patched the hole and continued to water their own land. For seven successive nights their neighbors stole their water. Still the brothers endured this thieveryin silence but increasingly became unhappy so at last they went to another brother in the Lord’s service to seek his advice.
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.
1 Chronicles 11:6—David said, “Whoever is the first to kill a Jebusite will become chief commander.” Joab son of Zeruiah went up first, so he became the chief.
Words definitely matter. So do our actions. On the surface, it appears that King David made a pretty smart decision. He needed to defeat the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem who had a successful history of repelling would-be conquerors. In fact, they told David, “You will never get in here” (vs. 5). David needed a general to lead Israel’s army so he issued the challenge in our verse for meditation. The king got what he wanted. Zeruiah’s three sons, Joab, Abishai and Asahel were all warriors and Joab seized the opportunity afforded by David’s challenge, and killed the first Jebusite.
This evening, I’m sitting at a desk at a Residence Inn in northern Virginia. At some hour today I reached a new milestone—I turned fifty. This is a splacious moment (my word for great!) With each passing year, I get to learn new things in older ways and I’m grateful to God for the privilege.
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!
I often notice when I meet people for the first time they look at my chest. Now that sounds weird doesn’t it! What I mean is that when I am wearing a uniform I often feel like I am being sized up or evaluated for the cloth patches sewn on my shirt. Whether it is the military, Girl Scouts, AWANA, varsity jackets, etc., patches, medals ribbons and pins tell a story of what kind of training or accomplishments a person achieved.
Once upon a time a young man, Foye, crossed the ocean to explore Vacuities the world’s most powerful nation. Everywhere he went he met a myriad of people moving from city to city, looking for meaning. Inside a harbor graced by a noble statue, he first encountered the City of Results. But for all the accomplishments the city boasted he constantly met people disappointed that their goals brought no lasting satisfaction. It was like they worked and worked, but for what? Traveling inland, he spent time in the City of Retirement—a most sought after destination. Yet, here he discovered that there was little to live for among those entranced with ease, so most just died.
Each year senior military officers attending the Army War College choose a gift to present to the school. Because of differing tastes, this exercise of selecting a gift proves to be the most contentious challenge each class will face. Typically, students pick a reputable artist and commission that artist to paint a historical event the class chooses. Civil war themes are by far the most popular and sell the most prints. One year when the artist revealed his sketch, one southern student on the selection committee complained that there were no confederate soldiers present. Another member objected that no black Americans were depicted. So they sent the artist back to his canvas. Imagine their surprise when the clever painter produced a beautiful portrait of black Union soldiers guarding sullen Confederate prisoners!
Before I write about self-control I must share a disclaimer. I struggle with this area personally. I wrestle against impure thoughts. I don’t always use my time wisely. I say or do things I shouldn’t. In short, I have a long way to go to be like my hero—Jesus. It is recklessly foolish to think I can control myself by my own doing. My sin nature guarantees the impossibility of self-earned perfection. What is a fallible man to do?
I rise up from my bed today with thoughts beyond attire,
To serve with every breath I take to please my Lord and Sire,
I know that obstacles may come, temptations from the liar,
But they cannot put out the Flame, my everlasting fire!
Have you ever had a day when you wished to be alone; when your heart felt crushed beyond repair and your dreams were smashed like a wooden boat against the jagged reefs of reality? Like the eye of a hurricane, misery has its own island of calm. Often it is in the center of pain where God reveals His warm will and tender truth.
Dennis Rodman of the Chicago Bulls, is arguably the most controversial basketball player to ever lace up his shoes and play. Despite his reckless behavior off the court on the court he was one of the best rebounders of all time—few came close to hauling in as many rebounds per game as Dennis. This running tattoo-covered athlete pounced on loose basketballs like pumas pounce on their prey. His singular focus and drive to snare a bouncing ball propelled him to the top of his game on a team whose superstar, Michael Jordan, was the consummate example of dedication to being the best in the sport.
Galatians 2:19,20--For through the law I have died to the law, so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me
Mark 10:35-45-- Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Him and said, “Teacher, we want You to do something for us if we ask You.”
“What do you want Me to do for you?” He asked them.They answered Him, “Allow us to sit at Your right and at Your left in Your glory.” But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you’re asking. Are you able to drink the cup I drink or to be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”
“We are able,” they told Him. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink, and you will be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with. But to sit at My right or left is not Mine to give; instead, it is for those it has been prepared for.” When the other 10 disciples heard this, they began to be indignant with James and John. Jesus called them over and said to them, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles dominate them, and their men of high positions exercise power over them. But it must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be a slave to all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life—a ransom for many.”