Respect for Others
"The heart of the discerning
the ears of the wise seek it out."
Now look closely at this verse from Proverbs. Although reading is one of our best skills to acquire knowledge, the verse doesn't say "read all the time." No. It simply says to acquire knowledge and seek it out. Even if you can't read books, you can read people and learn how to relate to them. You can listen to audio tapes checked out of the library, or learn a languages by listening to Bible cassettes in that language. In other words, find out some ways you can learn, and start seeking.
And don't just stay with a few pet subjects. Solomon's wisdom extended to composing over 1000 songs, describing plant life, and teaching about animals. (I Kings 4:29-34) Do you ask questions when you work in the garden with your parents, or experiment to find the best ways to grow the plants? (Written by Steve Miller, Copyright Feb., 2003)
"Not only was the Teacher wise, but also he imparted knowledge to the people. He pondered and searched out and set in order many proverbs." (Ecclesiastes 12:9)
Abraham Lincoln's Proclamation for Thanksgiving
Here is part of Abraham Lincoln's proclamation to make Thanksgiving a yearly national holiday, 1863:
"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.
But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens."
God is looking, not so much for our ability, as our availability.
Many people divorce because "we just can't communicate any more" or "she mate no longer meets my needs." In stark contrast to this attitude, Robertson McQuilkin gave up the presidency of Columbia International University to better serve his wife. Because of the ravages of Alzeimer's Disease, she can no longer provide the understanding, communication, and services that once defined their relationship. She can't even speak in sentences, much less cook a meal or share a good book or movie. But she can say "I love you," and she says it often.
Many told him that he should put her in a hospital, that he could never meet her needs. But he knew that she was frightened when he was gone but when he was there. So he dropped everything to care for her. Dr. McQuilkin doesn't consider his devotion unusually heroic. "It was a matter of integrity," he writes. "Had I not promised, 42 years before, 'in sickness and in health...till death do us part'?" He also saw it as only fair. After all, hadn't she taken care of him and the family through the years. Now it was simply his turn.
So this brilliant leader left a fulfilling, prominent career to feed, bathe and hold the hand of Muriel, who could no longer care for herself. That's what I mean by commitment in marriage. (Source: "Living By Vows," Robertson McQuilkin)
To love another person is to help them love God. (Soren Kierkegaard)
During the Summer of 2001, 8-year-old Jessie Arbogast was attacked by a shark while playing in the ocean off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. Jessie screamed for help when the shark bit his arm and leg. His uncle Vance and another man sprinted from the beach into the bloody water. Jessie lost his arm to the shark but was taken to shore and looked after by his mother, but two girls were still further out in the water. What happened next makes the Crocodile Hunter pale in comparison. Uncle Vance grabs the vicious, 7 1/2 foot, 200 pound shark by the tail with his bare hands and wrestles it to the shore, where it continued to thrash about. A park ranger rams an expandable baton into the shark's mouth, shoots it four times in the head with a hand gun, and a volunteer fire fighter/lifeguard reaches in and pulls out Jessie's arm, which was packed in ice, rushed to an ambulance and eventually re-attached to Jessie's body.
The most amazing hero of this story has got to be uncle Vance. I'm sure that on a normal day at the beach if he saw shark fins rising out of the water he wouldn't even think of sprinting out into the surf and attacking it! But something welled up inside him when the children were attacked. I still can't imagine how he wrestled a powerful 200 pound shark from its natural environment, with the shark desperately thrashing about trying to stay in the ocean, and pulled him onto the shore. I've got to wonder if the sharks tuck their fins and swim out to sea when they realize uncle Vance is in the water.
But it's a perfect example of how love conquers fear. Courage replaced fear because his nephew's life was at stake. Uncle Vance brought a new meaning to the phrase "shark attack." He attacked the shark! It reminds me of I John 4:18 - "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear...." If we pray for a deep love for lost people, even those who dress and act and think radically different from us, isn't it possible that we could overcome our fears of reaching out to them? (Copyright Aug. 2001 by Steve Miller, all rights reserved. Source of information: "Saving Jessie Arbogast," by Timothy Roche, pp. 40,41, Time, July 30, 2001)
I will love God only as much as I love the person I dislike the most. (Unknown source)
To love another person is to help them love God. (Soren Kierkegaard)
Jamie was considered one of the weird girls at her school. While most of the others dressed fairly preppy, she dressed grungy, complete with big chains and metal beads around her neck, and short, bleached-blonde hair. But Jamie was a Christian, and when a new ninth grade girl transferred into her school, Jamie was the one who stubbornly loved her and prayed for her. I say "stubbornly" because the new girl apparently didn't want a friend. At first Jamie would just say "hello," and the new girl would just give those "Don't talk to me" signals. She was closed off, bitter, hopeless � and seemed like she wanted to stay that way. But every day Jamie kept trying to break through the hard shell and pray that the new girl would respond.
When the girl finally opened up enough to talk, Jamie tried to bring God into the conversation and silently pray for a response. But the girl responded, "There's no way I can love God" and went on to explain that she had given her soul to Satan. But Jamie refused to give up.
The new girl was heavy into darkness and wrote dark, suicidal poems. She brought a file to school and sometimes cut herself with it. She often considered suicide. Turns out she was seething with rage because her parents had taken her away from her friends and had moved her to a new school.
But Jamie never gave up. She invited the new girl to her church group retreat. She felt the new girl would relate to the youth in the group, since many of them dressed like punk rockers with weird hair. Her parents freaked a little when they let their daughter off in the parking lot to go to the retreat. From the way the kids dressed, it appeared that they were letting their daughter go with a group like the kids they were trying to get her away from. But they let her go. And they were glad they did.
Because at that weekend retreat, God opened her eyes and she poured out her heart to God, asking His forgiveness for all she had done. She went home a different person and never looked back.
I'm so glad that Jamie never gave up. The girl she stubbornly loved to Jesus was named Cassie Bernall, whose earthly life suddenly ended three years later, when the two gunmen blasted their way through Columbine High School. The story of Cassie's faith traveled around the world. But the part of the story I want you to remember today is the stubborn love that a teen misfit named Jamie played. You've got to wonder whether Cassie would have ever seen the grace of God, had she not seen it through Jamie. (Facts summarized from: She Said Yes: the unlikely martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, by Misty Bernall, pp. 58-85)
And you know, there are Cassie's all around you today, in your neighborhood and at school. Some dress preppy and some dress freaky. But they're confused, hopeless, and desperately need Jesus. And we don't know how long we have to reach them before they exit this life. (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)
I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. (Mother Teresa)
We ought not to be weary of doing little things for the love of God, who regards not the greatness of the work, but the love with which it is performed. (Brother Lawrence)
To love a person means to see him as God intended him to be. (Dostoevsky)
We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flaunt the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the Golden Rule. (The Negro and the Constitution, Martin Luther King, in The Cornellian, May 1944)
To feel sorry for the needy is not the mark of a Christian � to help them is. (Frank A. Clark)
So many people spend their lives seeking recognition, the respect and applause of people. Here's one guy who had it all, but gave it up to minister to those our society generally ignores.
Henri Nouwen was born in The Netherlands. During his youngest years he remembers a mother who always praised and affirmed him as a person, calling him to always love Jesus. Henri's father challenged him to make something of his life and pushed him to do more with his talents. His father wanted Henri to be a "success."
"I lived the first part of my life listening more to the voice of my father," said Henri. "The second part of my life I listened more to the voice of my mother."
This explains why a successful author, lecturer, and professor of Psychology at three top universities: Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, gave up academic life to live in a community of mentally challenged adults. During his journey from the hallowed halls of academia to the nitty gritty of a life spent caring for adults who cannot care for themselves, Henri spent countless hours learning what it means to truly accept and love someone unconditionally.
Henri learned of the work of Jean Vanier, a Canadian who created communities where adults with developmental disabilities lived with "friends." Henri moved into L'Arche Daybreak such community in Toronto, Canada to become a "friend."
When Henri arrived at Daybreak, he gained notoriety more for his inability to make a sandwich than the 30 books he'd written. His heavy Dutch accent caused many to misunderstand his conversations about "faith." The residents thought this gangly man who couldn't speak very well was awfully concerned with "face." Henri spent his early years teaching the academically elite and writing 30 books on spiritual life. His last ten years were spent serving people who couldn't even read.
The people of Daybreak didn't really care that Henri's name was known across the world. They just cared that he loved them. The lessons learned at Daybreak were profound for Henri the scholar. He developed a deep friendship with Adam Arnett. Adam never spoke a word in his life, yet he taught Henri his greatest lessons about slowing down, being physically present with people, and that love between two people can grow without words. Henri tells the story in his book "Adam: God's Beloved."
God had been teaching Henri for several years that every person is "Beloved" to God, regardless of what we do, have, or how we look--but this was made most evident for him through his relationship with Adam. This was Henri's last book before he died of a heart attack in his homeland of The Netherlands in route to Russia to film a documentary on Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son.
Just a few years before, Henri wrote, "Our death may be the end of our success, our productivity, our fame or our importance among people, but it is not the end of our fruitfulness. In fact, the opposite it true....."
If you looked at your daily schedule, is your time spent seeking success, or seeking lasting fruit? Will the things you're living for outlast this life, or will they die when you die? [� Copyright 2002 written by C.K. Miller, from material found on the Henri Nouwen website (www.nouwen.net/henri)]
Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in Atlanta on January 15, 1929. King's roots were in the African-American Baptist church. He was the grandson of the Rev. A. D. Williams, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist church and a founder of Atlanta's NAACP chapter. His father was Martin Luther King, Sr., who succeeded Williams as Ebenezer's pastor and also became a civil rights leader. Martin followed in his grandfather and father's footsteps to become a pastor in Montgomery, Alabama.
It was during his pastorage in Montgomery, that Rosa Parks, on December 1, 1955, refused to obey the city's rules to give her seat to a white man. Five days later black residents launched a bus boycott and elected King as president of the newly-formed Montgomery Improvement Association.
As the boycott continued during 1956, King gained national prominence as a result of his exceptional oratorical skills and personal courage. His house was bombed and he was convicted along with other boycott leaders on charges of conspiring to interfere with the bus company's operations. Despite these attempts to suppress the movement, Montgomery buses were desegregated in December, 1956, after the United States Supreme Court declared Alabama's segregation laws unconstitutional. Subsequent mass demonstrations in many communities culminated in a march on August 28, 1963, that attracted more than 250,000 protesters to Washington, D. C. Addressing the marchers from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, King delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" oration. Following is a paragraph from that speech:
"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." (for complete text of this message go to: http://web66.coled.umn.edu/new/MLK/MLK.html)
During the year following the March, King's renown grew as he became Time magazine's Man of the Year and, in December 1964, the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. Despite fame and accolades, however, King faced many challenges to his leadership.
Because of his convictions, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. paid a tremendous personal cost for the way he lived out his values. While marching in Chicago in 1966 to promote open-housing in that city, a man who marched with him said, "Those cherry bombs that the counter-protesters would set off when we were marching -- Dr. King would jump a mile when they went off," said Dr. Quentin Young. "I could see he was really scared, but he never wavered. That to me was real heroism."
Dr. Martin Luther King's message was from the Scriptures. And he applied them to his fight for equal rights,often conflicting with the leaders in the movement like Malcolm X who were promoting violence as the solution to racism. Dr. King preached the same message as his own hero, Jesus.
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that," said King. "Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."
General Oglethorpe once said to John Wesley, "I never forgive and I never forget." To which Wesley responded, "Then Sir, I hope you never sin." (The Friendship Factor, by Alan Loy McGinnis, Augsburg Publishing House, 1979, p. 160) (See Matthew 6:15.)
Two high school students had so much going for them. They came from upper-middle class families. No struggle with poverty. They seemed to have stable homes. Their parents weren't divorced. They had activities like bowling and boy scouts. They were intelligent.
So what caused them to walk into Columbine High School and unleash an arsenal of weapons, killing 12 students and a teacher, and wounding many for life? Sure, they were fed up with the bullying, taunting and teasing. But lots of students take abuse from other students without plotting a sinister revenge.
I think a root of their problem goes back to their belief system. If they believed in God at all, they despised Him. So to them, people had no great worth in themselves. To them, people were just another species of animal. So what's wrong with taking a few of them out? How we view ourselves and other people makes a tremendous difference in how we treat ourselves and others. (Written by Steve Miller, Facts from Angie Cannon; Betsy Streisand; Dan McGraw; David Whitman; Douglas Pasternak; Chitra Ragavan; James Morrow; Franklin Foer, Why?. Vol. 126, U.S. News & World Report, 05-03-1999, pp 16.)
"Shawn" is an 18-year-old who attends a prestigious art school. But he could have suffered the fate as Harris and Klebold, the killers at Columbine High School. Like the killers, his high school years were consumed with hatred for the popular crowd that put him down. Like the killers, he planned to seek revenge by hurting or killing the students who caused his pain. But unlike Harris and Klebold, he finally realized that his obsession with revenge was tearing him apart. In "Shawn's" own words, "In the long run, I wasted four years hating people." Shawn was wise enough to see what was happening, and stopped the chain of hate. (Facts from Kevin Flynn; News Staff Writer, COLUMBINE KILLERS STRIKE CHORD ON NET VISITORS TO WEB SITE FOR DYLAN AND KLEBOLD WRITE OF RAGE, VIOLENT THOUGHTS OVER BEING RIDICULED IN SCHOOL. , Denver Rocky Mountain News, 07-12-1999, pp 5A.)� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved
Corrie ten Boom miraculously survived Ravensbruck, one of Hitler's death camps. After the war, she started a home in Holland to help people recover from the trauma inflicted upon them by the Nazis. What she found was that those who were willing to forgive their tormentors could go on to rebuild their lives. But those who refused to forgive, hanging onto their bitterness, remained emotionally crippled.
At a speaking engagement in Munich, Corrie was challenged to apply her own teaching on a new level. After the service, her blood ran cold as she recognized a man walking toward her. He was one of her former guards from Ravensbrook � and not just any guard, but one of the cruelest guards. Suddenly, the horrid memories flooded her mind. "You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk," he said, "I was a guard there." Corrie realized that he didn't remember her, only one of the thousands of prisoners. "But since that time I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear from your lips as well. Fraulein," and he put out his hand, "will you forgive me?"
Corrie just stood there, as she put it, with a "coldness clutching my heart." But she knew that forgiveness was an act of the will, not just of the heart. So she silently called out for Jesus' help, and prayed, "I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling."
"And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bring tears to my eyes."
"I forgive you, brother," I cried. "With all my heart."
"For a long moment we grasped each other's hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God's love so intensely, as I did then. But even so, I realized it was not my love. I had tried, and did not have the power. It was the power of the Holy Spirit as recorded in Romans 5:5, ��because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." (Source: Corrie ten Boom, Tramp for the Lord, Old Tappan, N.J.: Revell, 1976, pp. 53-55. � Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)
Do you have trouble forgiving those who have harmed not only yourself, but also your family? Then you know the feelings that East German pastor Uwe Holmer must have faced when asked if he would help Erich Honecker, the former despised leader of East Germany's totalitarian regime. At seventy-seven-years-old, Honecker had been declared too sick for prison and relieved of standing trial for treason. But the State refused to give he and his wife a place to live. So pastor Holmer was asked if he could provide housing for the homeless couple.
To understand what was being asked of pastor Holmer, you must try hard to share his bitter memories. You see, while Honecker and other communist leaders basked in their power and privilege, Christians like pastor Holmer and his family spent what could have been the best years of their lives suffering under the repressive regime. How could he forget Honecker's active part in building the wall that no only divided his family, but prevented him from attending his own father's funeral? And then there was Honecker's wife, who had ruthlessly run the State's Ministry of Education. Pastor Holmer's ten children were denied admission to any university, not because of low grades or misconduct, but simply because they refused to swear allegiance to the Communist Party. So, put yourselves in pastor Holmer's shoes. Would you have given this man a place to live? If you were honest, many of you would have said, "Serves you right, you creep. Now you get to reap what you've been sowing all these years."
But instead of getting even, Holmer put himself in Honecker's shoes, asking himself what it must be like to plummet from power to helplessness, from privilege to poverty. He also reflected on his Christian duty. Wasn't Honecker now one of the poor, sick and homeless individuals that Jesus urged His followers to care for? Yes. But the church's retirement home already had a waiting list, and it wouldn't be fair to put Honecker on the front of the list. So he did what to many would be unthinkable. He invited the old couple to share their own home. As they entered, pastor Holmer cordially greeted them: "Welcome to my home. I know you have come here to convalesce and to rest, and I hope you will find the quiet and peace you need here."
So now Pastor Holmer had acted in forgiveness. But he found that feeling the forgiveness was often a different matter. Imagine seeing the Honecker's in your home, often sitting or standing next to pictures of the precious children they had oppressed. But as the bitterness would continue to rise up inside of him, he reflected on the price Jesus paid to forgive his own sins. In understanding God's forgiveness, he was able to forgive the Honeckers.
But as you can imagine, many people, even within his own church, violently disagreed with his attitude and actions. Some threatened to leave their church. Others considered withholding their money. Hate mail poured in, and then came bomb threats. But the Holmer's stood firm. He responded publically by letter through an East German newspaper. In part, he wrote: "We have been commanded by our Lord Jesus to follow him and to receive all those who are weary and heavy-laden, in spirit and in body, but especially the homeless. We also felt compelled to act as we did because of Jesus's example in visiting Zacchaeus, the tax collector, his commandment to love our enemies, and his instructions that we pray: �Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.' We are convinced that what Jesus asked his disciples to do is equally binding on us." (Written by Steve Miller, Copyright, 2001. Source: Revolution By Candlelight, by Bultman.)
Corrie ten Boom, a Dutch evangelist who survived a German concentration camp, said, "Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander's mind, I liked to think that that's where forgiven sins were thrown. "When we confess our sins," I said, "God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believed God then places a sign out there that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED." (Found by C.K. Miller in Tramp for the Lord, Corrie ten Boom, pg. 53). Once we understand God's great forgiveness of us, it's rather embarrassing to think of Him looking on as we hold grudges against others.
People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful you will win some false friends and true enemies; Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today,
people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
Get Motivated By Seeing Jesus in the Poor
Let me introduce you to a lady who clearly saw the image of God in people. Because of this insight, she treated people very differently from others. Her name is Mother Teresa. She's known worldwide for spending her life helping the poorest of the poor in the slums of Calcutta, India.
Growing up in Albania, she desperately desired to love God and His people more as a teenager. So, she became a novice at a convent in Dublin. However, she was described as such a clumsy girl she was not even trusted with lighting the candles.
But at age 18, Agnes Bojaxhiu changed her name to Teresa and left Dublin to begin her "Missionaries of Charity" ministry to the streets of Calcutta.
Mother Teresa never thought that anything she did was exceptional. She considered her contribution to relieving human suffering as "A drop of deliverance in an ocean of suffering."
She took the terminally ill off the streets and loved them so that they died with dignity. She bandaged stinking wounds and gave her food to the starving.
Her zeal to meet the needs of those around her inspired others worldwide to sacrifice for the poor, so that with no marketing savvy or leadership aspirations, thousands caught her vision so that similar ministries have been established in over 100 countries. At her death the Missionaries of Charity had 2,500 nuns serving across the world, backed up by 400 brothers and thousands of lay volunteers who run the 380 hospices and leper colonies and over 160 orphanages in India. Because of her work, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.Eventually, she was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
What do you think motivated her to spend her life, not worrying about how people treated her, but serving the less fortunate? (Get their input.) In her own words,
"Jesus said, whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do to me. If you give a glass of water in my name, you give it to me. If you receive a little child in my name, you receive me. That is why I want to receive all these unborn children. God's own image is in every single child, no matter what that child is, disabled or beautiful or ugly - it's God's beautiful image created for greater things - to love and be loved." (Mother Teresa, by Navin Chawla, Element Books, Massachusetts, 1992, p. 208)
Another time, she told an acquaintance,
"If we did not believe that this was the body of Christ, we would never be able to do this work. No amount of money could make us do it. In our wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor, it is Christ we touch in the broken bodies of the starving and destitute. He said, "What you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me." Then she took the interviewer's hand and pressed his thumb and each finger while saying "You - did - it - to - me."
(� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved. Source: Mother Teresa, by Navin Chawla, Element Books, Massachusetts, 1992, p. 61)
How do you think that seeing people as made in God's image motivated Mother Teresa to love the poorest of the poor? How can understanding this truth change our lives?
The Poverty of Materialism
Explaining her work, Mother Teresa told Time Magazine,
"I have the opportunity to be hours a day with Jesus�The poor are Jesus for me�I find the rich much poorer. Sometimes they are more lonely inside. They are never satisfied. They always need something more�I find that poverty hard to remove. The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread."
Speaking to an increasingly materialistic world, Mother Teresa once said, "I have come to realize more and more that the greatest disease and the greatest suffering is to be unwanted, unloved, uncared for, to be shunned by everybody -- to be just nobody to no one."
It would be hard to picture Mother Teresa lusting after material possessions. When the Pope gave her a Rolls Royce, Mother Teresa auctioned it off for four times its value and gave the money to the poor. Why would she do this? Her God had already supplied her with everything that she would ever need. (Written by Cherie Miller, Copyright February 1, 2003)
Seeing people from a biblical world view, as created in God's image and thus worthy of our compassion, can radically change our attitudes and actions, motivating us to service.
Jesus taught...you gain by losing; you reap by sowing; you live by dying. (From the Collection of Barry St. Clair)
We must see Christ in the disturbing disguise of the poor. (Mother Teresa)
"True evangelical faith, cannot lie dormant. It clothes the naked, it feeds the hungry, it comforts the sorrowful, it shelters the destitute, it serves those that harm it, it binds up that which is wounded, it has become all things to all people."
The US Government takes multimillion-dollar planes and puts them in the hands of their 19-year-old military recruits. When those same kids come to church, we won't even let them take up the offering. (Barry St. Clair)
"Remember that when we leave this earth, you can take with you nothing you have received, fading symbols of honor, trappings of power, but only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice, and courage." Francis of Assisi (1181-1226)
I am shocked. I have spent ten years as a Christian, but for some reason I didn't see the power that is connected with simply serving in small ways in the name of Christ. When I clean toilets hearts are opened. I feel that my life will be divided into two parts -- B.T. and A.T. -- before toilets, and after toilets!" (Lady in her mid 50's)
As I was returning to earth, I realized that I was a servant--not a celebrity. So I am here as God's servant on planet Earth to share what I have experienced that others might know the glory of God. (Astronaut James Irwin)
We arrived at her apartment by night in order to escape detection. We were in Russia (in the region of Lithuania, on the Baltic Sea). Ellen and I had climbed the steep stairs, coming through a small back door into the one-room apartment. It was jammed with furniture, evidence that the old couple had once lived in a much larger and much finer house.
The old woman was lying on a small sofa, propped up by pillows. Her body was bent and twisted almost beyond recognition by the dread disease of multiple sclerosis. Her aged husband spent all his time caring for her since she was unable to move off the sofa.
I walked across the room and kissed her wrinkled cheek. She tried to look up but the muscles in her neck were atrophied so she could only roll her eyes upward and smile. She raised her right hand, slowly, in jerks. It was the only part of her body she could control and with her gnarled and deformed knuckles she caressed my face. I reached over and kissed the index finger of that hand, for it was with this one finger that she had so long glorified God.
Beside her couch was a vintage typewriter. Each morning her faithful husband would rise, praising the Lord. After caring for his wife's needs and feeding her a simple breakfast, he would prop her into a sitting position on the couch, placing pillows all around her so she wouldn't topple over. Then he would move that ancient black typewriter in front of her on a small table. From an old cupboard he would remove a stack of cheap yellow paper.
Then, with that blessed one finger, she would begin to type.All day and far into the night she would type. She translated Christian books into Russian, Latvian, and the language of her people. Always using just that one finger - peck.peck.peck - she typed out the pages. Portions of the Bible, the books of Billy Graham, Watchman Nee, and Corrie ten Boom - all came from her typewriter. That was why I was there - to thank her. She was hungry to hear news about these men of God she had never met, yet whose books she had so faithfully translated.
We talked about Watchman Nee, who was then in a prison in China, and I told her all I knew of his life and ministry. I also told her of the wonderful ministry of Billy Graham and of the many people who were giving their lives to the Lord.
"Not only does she translate their books," her husband said as he hovered close by during our conversation, "but she prays for these men every day while she types. Sometimes it takes a long time for her finger to hit the key, or for her to get the paper in the machine, but all the time she is praying for those whose books she is working on."
I looked at her wasted form on the sofa, her head pulled down and her feet curled back under her body. "Oh Lord, why don't You heal her?" I cried inwardly. Her husband, sensing my anguish of soul, gave the answer.
"God has a purpose in her sickness. Every other Christian in the city is watched by the secret police. But because she has been sick so long, no one every looks in on her. They leave us alone and she is the only person in all the city who can type quietly, undetected by the police."
I looked around at the tiny room, so jammed full of furniture from better days. In one corner was the kitchen. Beside the cupboard was her husband's "office," a battered desk where he sorted the pages that came from her typewriter to pass them on to the Christians. I thought of Jesus sitting over against the treasury, and my heart leaped for joy as I heard Jesus bless this sick old woman who, like the widow, had given all she had.
What a warrior! Today we got a letter from her husband. In the early morning hours last week she left to be with the Lord. But, he said, she had worked up until midnight that same night, typing with that one finger to the glory of God.
(Corrie ten Boom, in her book, Tramp for the Lord, Fleming H. Revell, 1974, p. 175-177.)
They tell me that in the armed forces, recruits will complain about the food, the accommodations, and grate on each other's nerves as long as they remain idle at camp. But active on the front lines, dependent upon their fellow soldiers for their very lives, they work together, overlooking the personality differences that might otherwise drive them crazy. And that Spam in a can tastes pretty good when it's the only ration you might see that day. In the same way, one of the best ways to cut down on the problems within the church or youth group is to give it a sense of mission, get members ministering outside the church walls, and focusing outward rather than inward.
"As one author put it, 'The Spirit is not a guide and a helper for those on a straight way perfectly able to manage on their own. He comes to assist men caught up in the thick of battle, and tried beyond their strength." (Tell It Often, Tell It Well, by McCloskey, p. 255)
Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois grew from 125 members in 1975 to an average of 15,000 worshippers in 1995. You may think that people come simply because of their sharp, innovative weekend services. But there's more depth to Willow Creek than some people realize. It offers 1,100 small groups to help people with everything from Bible study to alcoholism. They have ministries targeting prisoners' families, and ex-prisoners who are re-entering society. They even have a car ministry where mechanics volunteer to repair the cars of poor church members, and other members donate used cars for the needy members. When we put legs to our faith, things begin to happen. ("The look of church for the unchurched," by Debra Hale, associated press writer, Dec. 2, 1995; � Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)
The church is the only cooperative society in the world that exists for the benefit of its nonmembers. (Bishop William Temple)
"We are a contemplative order," Mother Teresa told a rich American visitor who could not comprehend her fierce commitment to the dregs of Calcutta. "First we meditate on Jesus, and then we go out and look for him in disguise."