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.
Candy and I spent most of the morning writing back and forth about questions regarding the definition of Christians and evangelicals and current events that troubled her. While we may not have the same political leanings that does not prevent us from having honest and prolonged discussion. She ended our time with kind words and greetings to my family. Candy is one of the most warm-hearted persons I know and it is always a privilege to be around her.
Sadie is amazing. Her body is constantly wracked in arthritic pain yet her countenance reveals mostly joy. She has more broken bones than most football players. Her abusive husband died leaving her penniless and with no insurance to handle her ever-mounting medical bills. Still, she does not complain. Her ’96 faded blue Ford Taurus won’t start so she must rely on the help of others to get around until she can find the money to pay a mechanic to fix it. Her son is addicted to meth and her daughter is in her fourth relationship with a man who is a total controller. If anyone was a candidate for bitterness it would be Sadie. Yet she is serene and confident in her faith. She consistently encourages others—an empathy distributing angel in a world of mean, selfish people. What is her secret?
They said they would do it, the task well defined
But then they turned left, then right, then behind.
They scorned those in power subverting their will
When sudden calamity finished their thrills.
So don’t hitch your wagon with those who rebel
Unless you would like your pain to excel.
Proverbs 24:21,22—My son, fear the LORD, as well as the king, and don’t associate with rebels, for destruction from them will come suddenly; who knows what distress these two can bring?
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.
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
John the Baptist was discouraged. The imprisoned forerunner to Jesus was unable to personally witness Jesus at work. He begin to have doubts as to if Jesus truly was the Messiah. So he sent his disciples to ask the Lord, “Are You the One who is come, or should we look for someone else?” It was an honest question from a godly prophet.
Luke 7:22--He replied to them, “Go and report to John the things you have seen and heard: The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, those with skin diseases are healed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are told the good news.
The Ascent Church in Monument, Colorado is in the process of selecting new elders. Two of us, who are currently on the elder board, recently met with one of two prospective elders to gauge whether he would be a good addition to our team. The process will continue with several more meetings with our pastors and elders and, then if nominated, the congregation will vote to bring them on as elders. It is a solid method and it works well for our church.
1 Timothy 5:22—Don’t be too quick to appoint anyone as an elder, and don’t share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.
1 Timothy 1:3,5—As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, continue to remain at Ephesus so that you might command some to teach no other doctrine . . . Now the goal of this command is love from a pure heart, and from a good conscience, and from sincere faith. (Modern English Version)
The word, “command” in verses three and five is a military term which means “to give strict orders.”