Luke 15:2—And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!”
Our pastor recently received an anonymous email that was highly critical of himself and his executive pastor. As an elder, I can honestly share that this kind of message serves only to discourage leaders. The person criticizing picks apart whatever he or she disagrees with, is not part of a solution and hides behind a cloak of anonymity rather than come and personally share what is misunderstood. It is too easy to be critical. It is also immature to lob rocks from the other side of the hill.
Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a significant book entitled Necessary Endings. Cloud wrote, “When we fail to end things well, we are destined to repeat the mistakes that keep us from moving on.” He shares observations why pruning may be essential for an organization to move forward; why many leaders struggle to understand that endings are a natural season in life; the difference between pain with a purpose and pain for no good reason; hoping versus wishing; three kinds of people; creating urgency and motivation for change; how to handle resistance; and, many other excellent insights that best position leaders to succeed in the future.
George Washington, probably American’s most famous leader, once said, “Show not yourself glad at the misfortune of another, though he were your enemy. Be not hasty to believe flying reports to the disparagement of any.” How true those sage words ring today! And how well we would do to heed them.
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:
Acts 5:34,35,38,39—A Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law who was respected by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin and ordered the men to be taken outside for a little while He said to them, “Men of Israel, be careful about what you’re going to do to these men . . . And now, I tell you, stay away from these men and leave them alone. For if this plan or this work is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. You may even be found fighting against God.” So they were persuaded by him.
Lisa was quite frustrated with Jacov. He and his wife were not in agreement when it came to living sensibly. She wisely stewarded resources while he grew up living lavishly. Their arguments over finances and possessions put significant strain on their marriage. His lack of preparation and impatience often caused them unnecessary challenges. Finally, in desperation to bring peace, Jacov found a marriage counselor that he and Lisa could go to for help. To their surprise, the counselor actually made their sessions pleasant and more importantly, he equipped them with ten guidelines to help them live sensibly. He encouraged them that if they both observed these recommendations they should have less friction and fighting in their marriage
2 Corinthians 10:12—For we don’t dare classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. But in measuring themselves by themselves and comparing themselves to themselves, they lack understanding.
Three definitions for the word compare are worth noting. One is to appear in a similar standing, a second is to differ in quality or specified accomplishment and the third is to vie or rival. In the tenth chapter of his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul notes that the act of comparison is unwise when believers do so with other believers.
For my sixtieth birthday my son Stephen gave me a Fitbit, a smartwatch designed to help mestay motivated and improve my health by tracking my activity, exercise, food, weight and sleep. Stephen loves using his and weekly checks to see how I am doing. I use it almost exclusively as an exercise incentive and, wow, after wearing it for almost a month I’m amazed at how much my workouts have increased. The hourly reminders to exercise motivate me to get up from behind my desk—away from the computer to walk. But it has also radically affected my prayer life—an unexpected benefit. Because, when I’m walking to increase my step count, I’m now also concentrating on conversing with my Father.
Romans 13:12—The night is nearly over, and the daylight is near, so let us discard the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Consuello is a big man, not just in size but in heart. He lettered in three high school sports—track, football and basketball. His last second shot sent his team to the state championship in basketball. In football he was the defensive player of the year for four straight years earning a scholarship to play college football. At the transitional age of 13, his mother died. She inspired him to see the best in people regardless of the situation. One powerful example she set was in sending her divorced husband’s new wife a birthday card every year. Consuello could not understand why she would do this so she taught him the value and importance of respect. She did not fault the other woman or let bitterness spoil her kind disposition.
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.
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!
Luke 9:51-56--When the days were coming to a close for Him to be taken up, He determinedto journey to Jerusalem. He sent messengers ahead of Him, and on the way they entered a village of the Samaritans to make preparations for Him. But they did not welcome Him, because He determined to journey to Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?” But He turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.
This past year was one of the toughest I can remember. For the first time I have asthma and now require a daily inhaler to keep my lungs functioning. I never suffered from food poisoning until this year. Shortly after returning from Africa in August, I underwent an appendectomy without TRICARE (health insurance we had except for this past year). In November, within days from returning from Peru, I went down hard with bronchitis, possible pneumonia (both firsts) and a sinus infection that went into my eyes. Finally, with free medication, the exhaustion, chills, cough and infections are receding. It was similar for my son Bryan—he too endured a rough year battling surprising illnesses to include a scary ambulance trip to the hospital.
Oswaldo Calixto grew up in Via El Salvador of Lima, Peru in poverty. Traumatized by a mother who exposed him to witchcraft and constant family conflict, at the age of 14, he fled home to live on the streets with his friends. Oswaldo became a thief and robber to survive, scrounging whatever he could to survive. Many times he risked his life through
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:
Job 7:19,20—Will You ever look away from me, or leave me alone long enough to swallow? If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of mankind? Why have You made me Your target, so that I have become a burden to You?
One of the things I love about the Bible is the raw honesty that it contains as people interact with God. You undoubtedly heard the story of Job and how God allowed Satan to sorely test him. Job was exasperated. The man who lived in wealth and privilege suddenly felt like a big target was drawn on his back. Nothing he could say or do would eliminate his suffering. Perhaps most discouraging was the fact that even his friends turned against him. Yet there is much we can learn from his questioning God.
Phil Downer in his book, Eternal Impact, differentiates between the value of success and significance. For success, he likes the definition Chip MacGregor and Bobb Biehl devised, “the feeling you get when you reach your goals.” Phil defines significance as “making a difference in the lives of people over time.” For Downer, the distinction between success and significance is that the former ends with the attainment of goals whereas the latter has a lasting dimension. I’m conflicted with his distinction because the ability to attain significance is a mark of success. But let’s take it deeper to the point Phil is really making—reproduction of what is important is what we ought to seek. To do this requires training.