Psalm 85:15--But You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in faithful love and truth
Mary was in the process of leaving physical therapy in her car in a parking lot. She looked to her right and saw nothing but didn’t look to her left. As she began to pull out the oncoming driver laid on the horn letting Mary know her displeasure. Mary quickly realized her mistake and put up her arms to acknowledge her error and rolling down her window told the other driver, “I’m sorry.”
Later as Mary was pulling into a fast-food restaurant she noticed the woman she had almost cut off was in line in front of her. When it came time for Mary to drive up to the window and pay for her food the attendant said the woman in front had paid for her meal!
Two exhausted, firemen came into a diner around 6 a.m. after working tirelessly for 12 hours to put out a fire. Liz Woodward took their order and just happened to overhear the two firefighters discussing their tiresome battle. Later, when Tim and Paul went to pay for their breakfast, their bill contained this message:
Your breakfast is on me today—thank you for all that you do; for serving others and for running into the places everyone else runs away from. No matter your role, you are courageous, brave, and strong. Thank you for being bold and badass everyday. Fueled by fire and driven by courage. What an example you are. Get some rest.—Liz
I want to share with you a moment burned into my mind as a poignant testimony to generosity. My daughter, Sarah and I, experienced this moment in the city of Cerro de Pasco, Peru, in 2002. In the course of ministering to a small church in this town located at the top of the Andean mountains, we met street children who were collecting trash or anything of value they could find on the streets, in order to garner a handful of coins.
Although home to one of the deepest silver mines in the world, Cerro de Pasco’s 70,000 inhabitants are mostly poor. One would think that any money a child could scrape would be zealously guarded and used for food or clothing. But these joyful children tithed from what they had in order to give to missionaries. It was a demonstration of the poorest giving to the poor to honor and expand God’s work. Someday I hope to learn how God blessed them!
Exodus 23:5—If you see the donkey of someone who hates you lying helpless under its load, and you want to refrain from helping it, you must help with it.
If I see that my enemy, Joe, is in trouble, my natural reaction is to think, “He is getting what he deserves for his poor behavior and attitude!” and to walk past him without providing assistance. Basically Joe’s misfortune is deserved because of past, poor behavior and I should not interfere with his karma.
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.
Dr. Jerry White shares an insightful story in his book Rules To Live By. A young lieutenant forgot to wear his tie with his dress uniform on the day he had to brief a general. Not having enough time to return home, he buttoned up his raincoat and wore it into the meeting. When the general asked him why he was wearing his raincoat, the young man admitted he’d forgotten to wear his tie. So, the general told him to take off his raincoat and then he asked everyone present for the meeting to remove their neckties.
Jerry White, Rules to Live By, Colorado Springs: NavPress, ©2010, ps 112,113
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.
3 John 5-8—Dear friend, you are showing faithfulness by whatever you do for the brothers, especially when they are strangers. They have testified to your love in front of the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God, since they set out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from pagans. Therefore, we ought to support such men so that we can be coworkers with the truth.
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.
The prophet Jeremiah foretold disaster for his countrymen and they felt he was a traitor. Powerful officials talked King Zedekiah into having him killed because his words weakened the resolve of their soldiers. So they took the old man and threw him into a cistern where he sank into the mud. Ironically, Ebed-melech, an Ethiopian eunuch who served the king, interceded on his behalf. The king had a change of heart and ordered Ebed to take thirty men and rescue Jeremiah before he died. The wise eunuch threw rags down to him to put under his armpits and then with ropes pulled him out. God was so pleased with the Ethiopian that through Jeremiah He promised to preserve his life.
Have you ever been hugged by someone and it just seemed like the cares and hurts no longer seemed so bad? Doris is the queen of hugs. Someone avoided by others she approaches and gives her signature loving embrace. Doris will occasionally ask Dan if is okay for someone to come home with them for a meal or maybe to stay for a night, a week, or a month. If there is a hidden need, Doris will find it. Out of her own personal pain and trials, God gave this woman eyes to see deep into the hearts of others and to respond with thoughtfulness. Her legacy is her loving touch!
Sandy sits on the iron bench bolted to the sidewalk by Prink Avenue and finishes her cell phone conversation. Unhesitatingly, she stands and moves into the crosswalk practically daring the cars to stop. The yellow Walk light has not yet flashed but she doesn’t care, she is an important person and she knows the drivers will wait. Her spiritual life is much the same. Sandy approaches God and expects that He will listen to her because she is a good person and her list of accomplishments warrants in her mind, His favor.
Recently I had the opportunity to speak to a group of Army officers and noncommissioned officers. I asked the question, “How many of you grew up with a mom and a dad?” Almost all of them raised their hands. I then asked, “How many of your cadets (college students) come from homes with a mom and a dad?” The crowd guesstimated that about 50% came from two-parent homes. They underscored a point I hoped to make which is that today there is a huge need for mentors. Too many of those exiting high schools across our land have had insufficient parenting and manifest a great craving for meaningful relationships.
Almost five years ago, I shared the story of David Knecht, a West Point classmate who suffered a horrifying injury while on a military exercise that left him partially paralyzed and blind in his right eye. The name of that reveration was Glory. This week I was able to visit Dave and Annette in their home in Tampa, Florida.
Between leading First Cause and commanding the 104th Division, I average about two weeks of travel each month. Consequently, I have many opportunities to meet new people and experience the ups and downs of flying. Recently, I was in an airport and feeling hungry I purchased a large smoothie (a blended and chilled, sweet beverage made from fruit), before boarding the plane. I placed the drink on the side of my seat and then put my luggage in the compartment. Unfortunately, in the act of sitting down I knocked the cup over. Horror of horrors—dark, red liquid poured all over the carpeted floor.
God broke my heart on January 24, 2007. This was our third day of teaching in Eldoret at Bishop Bondet’s Evangelistic Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The theme was disciple making. But before Dad taught his segment, we traveled to Reverend Ombima’s orphanage.
We walked down a dirt road too rutted to allow vehicle passage. On the right side of the Kenyan clay open sewage flowed. In that putrid water we walked past pigs happily foraging. Surrounding us were the homes of many squatters—families eking out a living in a destitute slum. Finally we reached the property where World Revival Evangelistic Ministries (WOREM) five-year old Jireh orphanage is located. S.I. Ombima and his pregnant wife Metrine, humbly live here along with Sylvanus Mukhaima (Moses), their talented and inspiring 21 year-old worship leader.
I remember Michael Bennett as a man who truly loved God and it showed in the way he treated people. Mike was funny, kind and a quick wit. He was totally in his niche as a children’s pastor. When he unexpectedly died last year he left a hole in a lot of people’s hearts and a grieving wife and four children. I wasn’t able to attend Mike’s funeral. And I didn’t do a good job of connecting with Annie*, his wife, always missing her with phone calls or procrastinating. But last week, prompted by the Holy Spirit, I knew I needed to talk to her. In the sovereign kindness of the Lord it was the night of their wedding anniversary.
Recently I had the opportunity to go back for my 25th college reunion. On a beautiful Friday morning we met in the cadet chapel to honor in a memorial service our classmates who have passed away. Dave Mead, my old roommate, planned within the service the opportunity for people to come up to the microphone and share memories of those who had died. Mike Meese was one of many who walked up and paid tribute to our departed comrades. Mike shared a brief story about John Hennessey, a fellow Company D2 member.
Isaiah chapter thirty contains a stern message from God to a nation consistently at odds with His will. Judah was rebellious, deceitful and unwilling to listen to His instruction (vs. 9). The people told the prophets to stop telling them what was right. They asked them to speak pleasant things and to share illusions (vs. 10). I’m reminded of Paul’s word to Timothy when he foretold a time “For the time will come when they will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear something new” (2 Timothy 4:3).