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.
Alex is a high school student in Vancouver, Washington. One day he was driving on a job when he was rear-ended by another driver. Alex took a photo of the man’s driver’s license so he could report it to his insurance company. He noticed that the man held a commercial license. In conversing with him he found out that he was married and a father and that this was his second accident in less than a month. The man was upset that he had been so careless.
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.