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.
Carol Dweck, Ph.D, wrote a best-selling book that is insightful in evaluating the two different types of thinking that dramatically effect how people live their lives. The book is called Mindset. The first type of thinking that Carol examines is the fixed mindset. It stands in stark contrast to a growth mindset.
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.
In Judah, around 622 B.C. during the reign of King Josiah, the book of the law was discovered in the temple. When the king’s court secretary, Shaphan read the law to Josiah, he tore his clothes. He knew God’s anger was stirred against them because their ancestors had disobeyed God’s instructions. So he sent Hilkiah the high priest (who found the scripture) with some of his court officials to “Go and inquire of the LORD for me, the people, and all Judah about the instruction in this book”(2 Kings 22:13a). So five men went to the prophetess Huldah in order to hear from the Lord. She told them of God’s plans for them. But why couldn’t Hilkiah the high priest explain the message it contained to King Josiah? Why did he have to go to Huldah? If my answer is correct it is pretty disturbing.
The doorbell rang and I answered it to find two young men well dressed and eager to speak with me. They wanted to see if they could visit with us. So I invited them in and Kathleen provided them something to drink.
Acts 2:12,13--They were all astounded and perplexed, saying to one another, “What could this be?” But some sneered and said, “They’re full of new wine!”
One man was a Pharisee, a religious leader zealous to maintain a sinless posture. The other woman was in all likelihood a prostitute. The Pharisee invited Jesus into his home and whether by oversight or by intent failed to offer the common amenity of providing water for his guest to wash his feet. The woman, taking advantage of a custom that allowed the poor into a home for scraps, bathed Jesus’ feet with grief-stricken tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them in profound reverence and perfumed them—perhaps with the very oil she once used to lure men.
Sarah is preparing to go on a missions trip to Cameroon, Africa for two months. Through the generosity of a company that sells footwear, she was given a pair of Danner boots made of leather and Gore-Tex. Gore-Tex is a durable substance that allows the skin to breathe yet is waterproof. Unfortunately, the directions from the mission organization were explicit that only all-leather boots were acceptable.
“There is no sun,” the people cried. “Don’t talk to us about sun. Every day it is the same. We can see only so far in front, so far above and that’s the way it is. Life is a mist, soak it up. What we see is far more important than what we don’t see. What we believe is beyond us is of no consequence to what we experience. We do what we want to do and we want to be left alone. When we die we die and so it is better to live for whatever makes us happy.
Vanadium stared at the brawny sweat-laden arms of Dowson as he slammed the pick repeatedly into the soil. All she wanted was a nice hole. But he was getting nowhere. Finally, frustrated and tired he motioned for her to come outside. “It’s no use! This hill is made of granite. Are you sure we can’t put this feeder somewhere else?”
I love to spend time with people who are searching for meaning in life. I find that often many of them grapple with tough questions. They sincerely yearn to know God. Repeatedly I find that most of these folks will not go to church. They’ve tried. They have attended different fellowships but left in frustration. Three themes regarding their disappointment emerge.
Sam walked from the studio into the sanctuary. The amplifier levels were set incorrectly and the sound in the room from the instruments was unbalanced. So he adjusted the levels on the soundboard and moved the amp volumes up to full power. He removed the old paper arrows taped to the board assigning each channel a specific level. Now the system sounded great. Sam was pleased he had helped the church.
CPT Bob climbed the tower. His soldiers were there to rappel off the tall wooden platform. At the top he inspected the training and noticed that the end of one of the ropes was improperly anchored with a simple granny knot. So he pointed out to the Lieutenant, Officer in Charge (OIC), the problem. The LT disagreed, said the knot was fine and ordered Bob off the tower. By rights as the OIC he could do so. Bob reminded him that safety was everyone’s responsibility and that he would not allow his soldiers to go down under such unsafe conditions. Again, the LT told him to leave. After more heated words, Bob descended the stairs and walked over to the nearest phone to report an unsafe condition. While he was on the phone, one of his soldiers leaning over the edge shrieked as his rope came loose. He fell straight to the ground. Today that injured soldier remains a quadriplegic.
If being right is most important, listening may be a lost cause. There is a cost for preferring stubbornness to sensitivity, opinion to grace. For isn’t it true that there still remain churches:
Orthodox Jews understand that 39 kinds of work are forbidden on the Sabbath under prevailing Halakah. The Pharisees were experts in the law. Today we would consider them legalists. We recognize them as the black and white thinkers among our friends, co-workers and relatives. In fact we ourselves may be wired as such. Every society needs law-proponents. But if taken to the extreme, legalism may spawn five serious problems.
Romans 14:8-- If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.
I know a man who sees everything black or white. Maybe you know him too. He is zealous for the truth. He is a defender of justice who confidently speaks for God. His critical eye is the first to spot error in others and in himself. He is meticulous in his theology, mastered in the school of answers, mindful of all the rules.