Matthew 5:13--You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.
If you have never read through the Old Testament, I would highly recommend you read the book of Daniel. For one thing, the prophetic material found in the book of Revelation cannot be rightly interpreted without a general knowledge of Daniel’s writing. This small book of 12 chapters is highly organized and by its intricate arrangement reveals how incredibly wise Daniel was. Daniel’s ministry covered the length of the Babylonian exile with his last dated prophecy made around 536 B.C. when he was in his eighties.
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.
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.
The 3rd United States Infantry Regiment has three active battalions, and is identified by its nickname, “The Old Guard.” The regiment is a major unit of the Military District of Washington (MDW) and is the oldest active duty regiment in the U.S. Army. Originally called the First American Regiment in 1784, its mission is “to conduct memorial affairs to honor fallen comrades and ceremonies and special events to represent the U.S. Army.”
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.
“Charles Clark cleans toilets at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas. But he also helps kids turn their lives around — not because it was his job, but because it needed to be done . . .” You can watch him in action at http://omeleto.com/215307/. Charles is committed to excellence. This janitor takes pride in sweeping away dirt, mopping floors and sanitizing rooms because he takes his job seriously. When he is not cleaning or repairing, he pours his life into mentoring teenagers who need guidance and the reassurance that someone loves and cares about them. Mr. Clark understands that the students who populate Trinity High School are the greater investment. So in the natural flow of work, he makes time to listen, to encourage and to touch the hearts of students.
Palmer Bailey, “the stars and rocks guy,” shares with us some fascinating information about starlight. By carefully examining stars we can learn some amazing things. Did you know that the color of a star is determined by its surface temperature? The hottest stars are almost blue, less hot are white and even cooler are those that are red. And while stars may look clustered closely together from our vantage, they may in fact be from entirely different galaxies.
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.
At Jerry Delmark’s memorial service during the time of sharing multiple people got up and testified that he was an authentic Christian. He walked his talk. He loved God. He was a hard worker. He made a difference in the lives of those around him. I know this to be true because Jerry had a tremendous impact on our oldest son Bryan. Yet while the tributes were fittingly positive, it was Jerry’s daughter, Jackie, who subtly took us to a harder place. Yes, she cherished his humor and loving parenting but quietly she wondered why he had to suffer so painfully in the final leg of his journey. Her question was not addressed to us but to God.
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.
German immigrant John Roebling began building the Brooklyn Bridge in New York in 1870. In 1883 it was completed along with an amazing story of three people’s determination.
Mr. Roebling was told by bridge building experts to give up trying his impossible design. Undeterred, he talked his son Washington, also an engineer into helping him. Together they hired a crew and began work. While conducting surveys for the project, a ferry pinned John’s foot against a piling so severely injuring his toes that his foot required amputation. Then the crippled man developed a tetanus infection which led to his death!
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.