LEADERS

And a little child shall lead them.  Isaiah 11:6

 

 

Have you learned to be careful what you say around children?  Their hearing is remarkable, and their memory is even more astonishing.

I have two friends who are faithful ministers of the Word in another country.  They have taught their two boys by example to love the Lord and to be obedient to his teachings.   And now they have two little disciples who diligently live out the Gospel in their daily routines.

Matthew is seven years old and is enrolled with his brother in a local public school.  One day during the lesson, his teacher became frustrated with one of the students and finally said to him, “You are stupid.”  At this, Matthew stood and told the teacher that she had said a bad word when speaking to his friend and that she could no longer be his teacher.  I imagine the teacher, already distressed, was further upset when Matthew continued.  “You must apologize to this boy and ask his forgiveness for saying this bad word.”

When the teacher saw Matthew’s intensity, she asked the student to forgive her.  She said that he was right and then suggested to the class that this event not be repeated to anyone.  Of course, that was not to be with a group of second-graders.  Matthew went home and told his parents about the disturbance in his classroom, and the following day, my friends went to visit the teacher.  They explained that they were entrusting their sons to the teachers for the majority of the day and expected the teachers to be examples.  They knew the teacher had asked forgiveness, and they assured her that they, also, had forgiven her but reinforced the importance of her role modeling to all her students.

When I heard the story, and knowing Matthew and his brother as I do, I reflected on my own parenting, even my own personal witness.  How bold am I, how bold are my children and grandchildren in standing for truth?  Is truth so important that I confront error when I see it or do I tolerate unkindness or bad language or injustice rather than making a scene?  And how consistent is my life that my words reinforce what I live out every day?  Matthew was respectful when he stood up to denounce what he saw was hurtful and “bad,” but he was also willing to take the consequences for his public witness.

What can, what will I do when faced with abusive language and behavior?

 

 

Lord, make me and all my family such lovers of Jesus who is the Truth, that our lives reflect truth and that our mouths respectfully confront error.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

STANDING FOR JESUS

But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.  Matthew 10:33  (NIV)

 

A new friend who works in a part of the world where terrorists operate said that they will knock on the doors of villagers asking them to name their religion.  If they say they are Christians, they have three options:  convert, pay an enormous tax, or leave.  If they elect to leave, they do not realize that groups of soldiers will be stationed on the roads leading out of the village to kill them as they flee.  Then my friend asked, “What would you say?”

O’Sullivan (National Review, April 24, 2013) determined after some historical research that “our present age is the Age of Christian Persecution.”  He looked at the early Church and the Church throughout time to make this determination.  I’d really like to think that the world is becoming a more tolerant and accepting place, but the facts dispute that.

The great question is what my friend asked, “What would you say?” if you were asked about your religion?  What would I say?  I would like to believe that we would all stand up for Jesus rather than betray him in a moment of fear.  Jesus said we are not to fear those who can kill the body (Matt. 10:28), but our respect is to be for the one who judges for eternity.

Perhaps we think we’ll never be in a position where we have to make a choice about standing for Jesus or denying him, but don’t we face that choice everyday with our words and attitudes and behavior?  Do our lifestyles betray Jesus for fear of our associates or social groups?  Or do we stand up for him in gentleness and love?

I think about Peter’s denial of Jesus.  On his final denial, Jesus heard him.   Luke (22:61, 62) records, “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.”  I don’t ever want to cause Jesus that kind of grief.  Never.

 

Father, all of us have opportunities to stand for Jesus or for ourselves.  Give us boldness to be true to Jesus and strengthen all those who daily must make this courageous choice.  In Jesus’ name.  AMEN.

PEACE ON EARTH

 

And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

 

 

It’s that time of the year.  Our family has had a Christmas play for almost fifty years, and this year will be no exception.  With great imagination that only comes from the minds of little ones, we typically retell the story of Jesus’ birth or some Christmas miracle story connected with his birth.  This year we are indulging my youngest grandson’s obsession with history.

 

 

In December 1944 during the brutal Battle of the Bulge three young American soldiers strayed from their unit and were lost several days in the Ardennes Forest.  Snow was thick on the ground, and there were no markings to guide them on that Christmas Eve.  One of the boys was wounded, and they desperately needed shelter.  As they trudged through the woods, they came upon a small, isolated cabin.  Two of the soldiers marched up to the door and knocked.

Elisabeth Vincken and her son Fritz had been forced away from their bombed-out home in the city and hidden in the little cabin by Elisabeth’s husband who would visit from time to time.  Elisabeth and Fritz were expecting him to return in time for Christmas Eve and eagerly went to the door.  To their surprise and awe, three American soldiers greeted them.  Elisabeth knew the penalty for harboring the enemy was execution, but the boys had kindly knocked on the door and looked so young.  She ushered them into the cabin, and she and Fritz helped the wounded soldier into bed, covering him with blankets.  Elisabeth went back to her preparation for the Christmas Eve meal and was again interrupted with a knock at the door.  Fritz ran to open the door thinking it could be other Americans.

As the door opened, Elisabeth saw, to her horror, that it was German soldiers, four of them, and they were armed.  They were cold and wanted to come in.  With great boldness, Elisabeth said they were welcome as long as they accepted her other guests.  Furthermore, they had to put their weapons in the shed first.  At first the Germans were hesitant, but the warmth and light drew them.  They deposited their weapons while Elisabeth also took the weapons of the Americans.

Fear and tension were strong in the little cabin for a while, but the smell of the meal baking in the oven, the relative comfort, and Elisabeth and Fritz’s hospitality ushered in a sense of peace.  One of the German soldiers, a medical student, inquired about the wounded GI and bandaged his injuries.  By the time everyone sat down to eat, a miracle had occurred.  Elisabeth said grace asking God to bring his peace and to end all wars.  When she finished, everyone was in tears.

After eating, the soldiers lay down to sleep together and arose early in the morning to return to their own units.  The Germans fashioned a stretcher for the wounded American, and one pointed on the Americans’ map to indicate the direction back to their troops.  He even provided them with a compass.  The Americans and the Germans shook hands—these men who had been shooting at each other only days before—and they left on different routes after having experienced the wonder of a holy, silent, peaceful night.

 

Prince of Peace, in you we find peace no matter what our circumstance.  Move in all our hearts around the world that we may truly experience that peace of which we all dream.  AMEN.

 

 

(This story was retold in 1995 on the television program “Unsolved Mysteries.”  Grown- up Fritz was able to contact two of the Americans he had met that Christmas Eve who told him that his mother had saved their lives.)