Saturday, June 05, 2004

About President Reagan

Looking at C-Span's airing of Ronald Reagan's Farewell Address of January 11, 1989, I was struck by what an incredible speaker he was. Because it had been some time since I had seen anything more than sound bites from Reagan addresses, I guess I had forgotten how well he deserved the title, the Great Communicator. In fact, he is peerless in that category among active politicians today.

And make no mistake, communication is absolutely fundamental in leadership. A leader with communication skills, including Reagan's enviable capacity for sticking to what was of central importance, can accomplish a great deal.

Whether Reagan was a great president or not is something that future historians, more removed from his time in office, will have to decide. To my mind, it's unlikely that he will be so judged because greatness is something elicited by the most challenging of circumstances and times. Reagan faced no Great Depression, Civil War, or World War Two. The fall of Soviet Communism, with which Reagan is often credited, was the inevitable result of that horrible system's inherent inertia as well as forty-plus years of the containment policy initiated by President Truman and, I firmly believe, prayer. And, contrary to his conservative principles, Reagan piled up the largest budget deficits in US history.

But that he wisely pursued just a few goals, undergirding them with his incredible skill as a communicator, setting the table for future Republican triumphs, cannot be taken away from Reagan. He was an effective chief executive and obviously a personally decent man.

Whatcha Reading?

I get asked all the time what I'm reading. I try to keep two or three books going at the same time. Doing so keeps my brain from moving into comfortable ruts and sometimes allows me to make interesting connections I wouldn't otherwise make.

Currently, I'm reading three books. One is Kevin Phillips' well-researched and rather brutal look at the Bush family, American Dynasty. Phillips, a one-time Republican thinker whose work in the late-60s and early-70s, anticipated the rise of the current GOP majority, is well-known among some for his longtime service as a pithy commentator on National Public Radio. (As you read his evocative prose in this book, you can almost hear Phillips enunciating each word.)

Like another Nixon era functionary, John W. Dean, Phillips is now a political independent and is highly critical of George W. Bush. He doesn't see Bush as a conventional Republican or conservative at all. Rather, he and the Bush clan are portrayed by Phillips as royalists who employ conservative rhetoric in order to pursue their primary ends: influence, cash, and power. It is a withering critique.

A second book is a revised edition of Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. Whatever leadership a person may take on---whether as a pastor or a CEO, this book can be of immense help. Filled with wisdom about what it takes to lead, drawn primarily from the Bible, but also from History and other sources, this will help leaders lead with integrity, putting God's priorities first, one's ego last, and doing what is best for the people whom the leader is meant to serve. This is the second time I've read Spiritual Leadership and I heartily recommend it.

The third book I'm reading is part of the new Henry Holt and Company set, The American Presidents Series, edited by Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. The books of the series are obviously meant to provide thoughtful readers with quick, general introductions to the lives and presidencies of figures they may not know well. Schlesinger has also shown an interesting penchant for selecting persons to write the biographies you might not first associate with their subjects.

The volume I'm reading at present is Rutherford B. Hayes by Hans Trefousse. I selected this book to start my foray into the series because Hayes, an Ohioan like me, is a bit more obscure to me, although I have always been intrigued by his moral sensibilities and the connection to places in Ohio with which I am personally familiar. The book sometimes seems truncated, subjected to an editing process which leaves one with an impoverished sense of the man or his motivations. But it does give a good overview of his life and whets my appetite for learning more about him.

A Book for Remembering D-Day

Once upon a time, theology, the study of God, was considered the queen of all disciplines. Of course, nothing is more important in life than cultivating an understanding of and a relationship with God. So, I believe in the preeminent importance of theology. A lifelong study of God helps us understand our purpose in life, God's grace offered through Jesus Christ, and how we are to live with others, among other things. John Adams, America's second president, observed that American democracy would not long endure unless its citizens were marked by the selfless love for God and neighbor that come to those who have genuinely surrendered to the God known in Jesus Christ. I think that he was right and I believe that whether its importance is appreciated today or not.

But if theology is most important for us to study, second in importance, it seems to me, is the equally neglected discipline of History. People without an understanding of History operate in an anchorless vacuum. To be responsilble citizens, parents, neighbors, or human beings, it is simply imperative that people know about History. Jefferson spoke of this and convinced the young American Republic to make public education, including a strong commitment to civic education, a feature of our national life. Ronald Reagan, I noted today as C-Span aired his presidential farewell address of January 11, 1989, spoke of how important History and civic education are.

So, on the eve of the sixtieth anniversary of D-Day, I want to recommend a great book that families can read together. It's one I read to my own family a few years ago. Citizen Soldiers, written by the late historian and biographer, Stephen Ambrose, tells the story of the soldier's war in Europe. I guarantee you that when you read it, there will be times when it moves you to tears and it will demonstrate how American democracy gave our fighting forces a leg-up in facing down tyranny during the Second World War.

Friday, June 04, 2004

Dorado Covenant Signers Provide Voice for ELCA Majority

Senior pastors from a number of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) congregations recently gathered to approve a simple statement of faith. The Dorado Covenant has since attracted the signatures of many pastors and laypeople from across the ELCA. I believe that this simple statement bespeaks the sentiments of the vast majority in the ELCA.

There is a crisis confronting this denomination of which both I and the congregation I serve are partners. In a nutshell, the crisis is over what is the ultimate authority over the Church's life, faith, and practice.

Lutherans have always been "people of the Word." That is, we have always held that the inspired Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are the authoritative source and norm of all we say, do, and proclaim.

No Lutheran would claim to be perfect or to understand Scripture perfectly.

Every Lutheran would claim the Augsburg Confession's affirmation that it is sufficient for the unity of the Church that the Gospel is rightly proclaimed and the sacraments rightly administered. No other authority is needed but that of God as expressed in His Word, apprehended by faith, given to us by Jesus Christ.

But today in the ELCA, it seems that some would replace the authority of Scripture with the authority of an episcopacy.

Others would replace the Bible as God's authoritative voice with science, societal trends, sociological musings, or even fleeting emotions.

The most prominent current flashpoint in this crisis of authority is the debate and official study of sexuality and homosexuality. I believe that most members of the ELCA want to be welcoming to all people who desire to sincerely repent and wrestle with their sin and those who wish to sincerely battle their own temptations. This includes those who would identify themselves as being gay or lesbian. But each day, we face a steady drumbeat of propaganda---from both official and unofficial ELCA sources---telling us that such an open, loving attitude is insufficient. We're told, in effect, that we must now legitimize some sins. We're told that the Bible must be overridden by a new stance more in touch with feelings, than with God's clearly expressed will.

But it is cheap and eternally destructive grace to tell people that overt and unrepetentant rebellion against God is acceptable.

Being a coward by nature, I would prefer not having to stand with the Bible on this and other issues. And on the issue of homosexuality, I would like to be able to cave into what has clearly become the prevailing view of our culture. But as Christians, we are called to be countercultural and to be faithful to the whole counsel of God.

This is why I find the Dorado Covenant and its simple affirmations so refreshing and encouraging. They incite hope in me that we may yet see our Lutheran body clearly and unambiguously stand for the authority of Scripture in all phases of our lives.

Below is the text of the Dorado Covenant. You can learn more by going to the web site:

The Dorado Covenant

1. We covenant to teach a high view of Scripture. We trust the Bible to be the only final authority for all aspects of life.

2. We affirm an aggressive, positive stance on kingdom expansion and congregational growth.

3. We choose to advance the use of all spiritual gifts through unleashing the priesthood of all believers.

4. We teach and practice that a full sexual relationship belongs exclusively within the biblical boundaries of a publicly committed legal marriage between one man and one woman.

5. We believe that mission and ministry is best accomplished within the context of congregations. Facilitating that mission and ministry should be the central focus of all expressions of the Church.

The Original Signers

Bill Bohline, Hosanna, Lakeville, MN
John Bradosky, Epiphany, Dayton, OH.
Eric Burtness, St. Matthew, Beaverton, OR
Chuck DeHaven, St. Paul, New Braunfels, TX
Steve Dornbusch, Calvary, Golden Valley, MN
Roger Eigenfeld, St. Andrews, Mahtomedi, MN.
James Glesne, Decorah, Decorah, IA
Roger Gordon, King of Glory, Tempe, AZ
James Hinkhouse, Kinsmen, Houston, TX
David Housholder, Grace, Huntington Beach, CA
Mike Housholder, Hope, West Des Moines, IA
Tim Johnson, Zion, Anoka, MN
Mike Nelson, Alleluia, Naperville, IL
Ralph Olsen, King of Kings, Woodbury, MN
Olaf Roynesdal, East Side, Sioux Falls, SD
Scott Suskovic, Christ, Charlotte, NC
Paul Ulring, Upper Arlington, Columbus, OH
John Weber, Christ Our Shepherd, Peachtree City, GA
George Weinman, Roseville, Roseville, MN
David Zellmer, Lutheran Memorial, Pierre, SD

We invite individuals, pastors and church councils to sign this document.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

A Lesson from Ike

Commemorations of the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion at Normandy have drawn my mind to thoughts of its leader, Dwight Eisenhower. Ike, as he was called, led the Allies in the greatest amphibious military landing in history and in the subsequent successful campaign to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny.

Shakespeare once observed that some have greatness thrust upon them and that was certainly true of Eisenhower. Through a long military career, he served capably. But by the time he’d reached his early fifties, it appeared that Eisenhower’s chances to achieve anything of note as a soldier were nil. It turned out though, that through his work under such difficult personalities as Douglas MacArthur and through personal development, Ike had become uniquely suited for commanding and working with an international fighting force brought together to defeat Hitler.

Eisenhower’s life demonstrates that it’s foolish to underestimate either the achievements or potential in others. Each human being, under the right circumstances, with affirmation and opportunity, is capable of being more and doing more than even they may realize. Every person is a precious creation of God.

This is something that Eisenhower himself seemed to know. In his book, At Ease: Stories I Tell to Friends, Eisenhower recounts an incident that occurred when he was an upperclassman at West Point, the US Military Academy. It was the custom in those days for the first year students—Plebes—to be “hazed” or “crawled,” treated with disrespect by the other cadets. One day, Eisenhower recounts, a Plebe, scurrying to obey orders given to him by another upperclassman, literally ran into Eisenhower. The Plebe fell to the ground. Eisenhower writes that he used “all the sarcasm and scorn I could muster...,” and asked the guy what he had done before coming to the Point. “You look like a barber,” he told the cowering Plebe.

“He stood up,” Eisenhower writes, [and], “said softly, ‘I was a barber, sir.’ I didn’t have sense to apologize to him on the spot...I just turned my head and went to my tent where my roommate, P.A. Hodgson, was sitting. I looked at him and said, ‘P.A., I’m never going to crawl another Plebe as long as I live...I’ve just done something that was stupid and unforgivable. I managed to make a man ashamed of the work he did to earn a living.”

By all accounts, Eisenhower was as good as the vow he made that day. Thirty years later, while serving as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, he was known for the respect and reverence he showed for the lives of all under his command. Unlike other generals, when Eisenhower met with GIs, the citizen soldiers, Marines, sailors, and airmen who put their lives on the line in freedom’s defense, he always asked about their past lives and honored the civilian work to which he hoped they could return. His battle plans always strove to minimize the loss of life.

He extended this same consideration and respect to both the vanquished and to the victims of war. Eisenhower’s moving and shocked post-war accounts were among the first in-depth reports the world received about the Holocaust. To one who saw the value and potential in people, the murder of six-million Jews was profoundly disturbing.

I bring all this up because, it seems to me that we live in a crass time in which the dignity and potential of people are constantly demeaned. “Reality” TV shows derive much of their “entertainment value” and popularity from showing people being subjected to insult, unkindness, and condescension. We seem to forget that every human being is created, quoting a mysterious phrase appearing in Genesis in the Old Testament, “in the image of God.” Looking back sixty years later, at D-Day and the man who planned it, that phrase, denoting the dignity and potential of every human life, is a good thing to remember.

Monday, May 31, 2004

What is the American Dream? (short version)

[A column I wrote over four years ago, which is under my May 30, 2004 post, seems timely today. So, I revised it to fit current specifications for columns appearing in the local chain of suburban Cincinnati newspapers for which I write, and submitted the following.]

Today, when people talk about 'the American Dream,' they seem to view it as a synonym for making lots of money. But that isn't how the phrase was originally used in the early part of the twentieth century.

From the perspective of the phrase's originator, the American Dream is about two things.

First, it's the dream of being free: free to worship as one wishes, free to speak one's mind and to effect what happens in government, free to choose the career path that seems best for us, free to get an education, free to marry whomever we wish to marry, and so on.

Second, it's the dream that our freedom can be kept in tension with the responsibility that each of us bears to treat our neighbor with respect and consideration.

Freedom within a community of caring. That's the American Dream.

It's true that the United States is flawed and that our reality rarely matches our ideals. We must admit that there have been terrible things done by our country.

But when we Americans are at our best, it's when we live out this American Dream. It happens when we let each other enjoy the freedom this country was founded to bring and when we care for others.

For me, the American Dream is best articulated in the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty. Written by Emma Lazarus, it says nothing about money or possessions and reads in part:

"'Give me your tired, your poor,
'Your huddled masses yearning to be free,
'The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
'Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me,
'I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'"

The real American Dream is a vision of a land (and a world) in which every person is free to be all that God made them to be and where every person is committed to helping others fulfill that same destiny.

There is so much more to being an American or a human being than how much we possess. The penetrating question of Jesus Christ challenges us to see that. "What does it profit them if they gain the whole world, but lose...themselves?" Jesus asks. His question helps us to see what we can readily observe in America today: It's possible to have fat wallets and empty lives.

The only way we can have a society characterized by freedom within a community of caring is if we turn to Jesus, God-in-the-flesh. Jesus gives us the relationships with God and neighbor we need to use freedom wisely and to share it with our neighbor.

I'm not perfect. (Just ask my family and friends.) But when I turn my life to Jesus Christ, He gives me the confidence and security I need to be who God made me to be. He also gives me the confidence and security to let others be who God made them to be.

The American Dream has little to do with politics, even less with economics. And the surest route to living the real American Dream--freedom in a community of caring--is through Jesus Christ. Let's follow Him and make the dream a reality!

Sunday, May 30, 2004

What is the American Dream? (original version)

[This is a column I wrote about four years ago. It seems relevant today.]

Recently, my daughter's German pen pal, a fifteen year old named Sarah, wrote to her with an interesting question. "What," she asked, "is the American Dream?"

My daughter asked me to answer that question from my perspective. Here's part of what I wrote:

"Sarah: Today, when people talk about 'the American Dream,' it seems that they have the idea only of making lots of money and having possessions. But that isn't how I remember hearing the phrase used when I was growing up.

"I've done a little research recently, learning that the phrase was first used in the early part of the twentieth century. To the originator of the phrase and to me, the American Dream means two things. First, it means the dream of being free: free to worship as one wishes, free to speak one's mind and to effect what happens in government, free to choose the career path that seems best for us, free to get an education, free to marry who we wish to marry, and so on.

"But a second part of the American Dream is that our freedom is to be kept in tension with the responsibility that each of us bears to treat our neighbor with respect and consideration.

"Freedom within a community of caring. That's the American Dream.

"It's definitely true that the United States is flawed and there have been terrible things that have been done in this country. Slavery and the continued discrimination that African-Americans face here today is wrong. The mistreatment of Native Americans is a horrible blot on our country's history. During the Second World War, Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps for no reason, even as many of their sons were fighting and dying in the war. We are horribly materialistic and our wealth seems to make us insensitive to the needs of the poor within our own country and in the rest of the world. We've desecrated the environment.

"But when we're at our best, it's when we're living out the American Dream. We're letting each other enjoy the freedom this country was founded to bring and we're caring for each other.

"I think that the American Dream is best summarized by the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor. Written by Emma Lazarus, it says nothing about money or possessions:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

'Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!' cries she
With silent lips, 'Give me your tired, your poor,
'Your huddled masses yearning to be free,
'The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
'Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me,
'I lift my lamp beside the golden door!'"

Obviously, Sarah's question was important to me. I'd very much like to see an end brought to our materialistic interpretation of the American Dream. I'd like to see it replaced by the dream of a society--and a world--in which every person is free to be all that God made them to be and where every person is committed to helping others fulfill that same destiny.

There is so much more to being human than how much stuff we possess. Time and again, I hear the penetrating question of Jesus Christ, "What does it profit them if they gain the whole, but lose...themselves?" We can have fat wallets and empty lives.

Through my forty-six years on this planet, I've come to believe that the only way we can have a society characterized by freedom within a community of caring is if all of us turn to Jesus Christ, God-in-the-flesh. Jesus gives us the right relationships with God and neighbor we all need just to live good lives on this earth, not to mention in eternity.

But, lest you think I feel bleak, know this: I wake up with enthusiasm each morning because I can't wait to share Jesus Christ with more people. Jesus can change this world one person at a time! And I'm out to let everybody know that.

I'm not perfect. Far from it! But when I turn my life to Jesus Christ, I find that He gives me the confidence and security I need to be who God made me to be. He also gives me the confidence and security to let others be who God made them to be.

The surest route to the real American Dream--freedom in a community of caring--is through Jesus Christ. I hope you'll join me in following Him.

How to Fulfill Our Mission

Acts 2:1-11
(shared with the people of Friendship Church, May 30, 2004)

Back in the 1950s, the operator of a lighthouse on the Atlantic coast was a popular man. That’s because he was so kind and considerate. Recreational boaters knew that if they ever ran out of gas while out cruising or fishing, they could contact the man at the lighthouse and he would show up with a few gallons of gas to get them going again.

One week, a large number of boaters had asked for the lighthouse operator’s help. He hadn’t noticed that with all the gas he gave away, he was running low. This was the same fuel he needed to operate the generator that powered the lighthouse.

You can imagine what happened. That week, there was a ferocious storm. Just when an incoming ship needed its way lighted into the harbor, there was no gas to power the lighthouse. Without its light, hundreds of people died at sea.

The lighthouse operator was charged with criminal negligence. One person after another testified on his behalf. They told of how helpful the man was, how he was always willing to give a hand to those in distress.

Ultimately though, the jury convicted him. When it came time for the judge to sentence the man, he meted out the maximum penalty and explained: “We’ve heard the compelling testimony of many people regarding your kindness and compassion, sir. But in doing all your good deeds, you forgot one important thing: the fundamental mission of a lighthouse operator is operating the lighthouse.”

Pentecost comes around every year to remind the Church that while there may be many things in which you and I can be involved and the world may hail us for being kind and compassionate, friendly and considerate, we really have just one mission. And if we fail at that, we may as well go out of business.

Jesus’ first followers, about one-hundred-twenty of them, we’re told, were gathered in a locked room in Jerusalem. This was during Pentecost, one of the great feasts of the Jewish faith, a time when Jerusalem’s streets were clogged with people, much as Washington, D.C. has been this weekend for the dedication of the World War Two Memorial. Pentecost fell fifty days after Passover. For those first Jesus-Followers that year, it had been fifty days since Jesus rose from the dead and ten days since He had ascended back into heaven. When Jesus last saw them, He gave them instructions: “Go back to Jerusalem and pray. At the right time, I’ll send My Holy Spirit. Filled with His power, you’ll be able to fulfill your mission in life. You’ll be able to share the Good News that everyone who turns from sin and entrusts their lives to Me...whoever will believe in Me...will have peace in their souls, peace with God, peace with others, and live forever with God.”

Sharing Jesus with others. Letting people know that they can turn from sin and through Jesus, be with God forever. That is the mission of the Church. It’s the mission of every believer in Jesus Christ—whether we’re plumbers, teachers, engineers, homemakers, or even preachers. With words, deeds, and lives, we’re to let people know about the free gift of new and never ending life offered to all by our God-in-the-flesh Savior, Jesus Christ.

And on that special Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit came to make it possible for Jesus-Followers to do their job. The Spirit still comes to believers who are open to Him. And yet, when we look at the sorry mess the world is in today, the Church seems powerless and irrelevant. We get involved in millions of different things from social gatherings to road clean-up projects. All of these activities may be laudable. But you and I know that what the world needs more than anything is Jesus Christ. If we who are part of Christ’s Church don’t share Christ with the world, who will?

The actions of Jesus' followers on that special Pentecost following Jesus’ ascension can help us learn how to share Christ with a world in desperate need of Him.

First, we must be humble. A man decided to try skydiving one day. On his first jump, his chute wouldn’t open. The auxiliary chute didn’t either. He was falling with no more options. To his amazement, something started coming towards him from the ground at a rapid speed. It was a man. At the moment when they passed each other, the parachutist cried out, “Do you know anything about parachutes?” “No,” the guy shouted back. “Do you know anything about gas stoves?” Both of those guys could have used some help! It might have been theirs had they humbly asked for it earlier.

If you’re a normal human being, you’re bound to get frightened by the prospect of sharing your faith in Christ with someone else. Inviting them to worship. Telling them what Christ has done for you. We wonder if people will like us or dismiss us or see us as Bible-thumpers. We need to be humble enough to go to God and admit our need of His help.

Jesus’ first followers, a crowd not known for their boldness, were given a huge mission: share Christ with the world. They had already seen Jesus murdered. They knew that doing anything in Jesus’ Name was going to be risky business. And yet, they’d also seen Jesus rise from the dead. They knew that He gave forgiveness and hope to anyone who follows Him, no matter how far a person they may have wandered from God. They knew that the lives of people who follow Jesus are better forever. So, they humbly went to God and admitted they couldn’t do the mission that Jesus gave them without the Holy Spirit Jesus had promised to them.

It’s amazing the promises God makes to people who humbly rely on Him. Listen to two of them:

“If My people, who are called by My Name, will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time.”

When we empty ourselves of egotism and self-doubt, God fills us with His power. He sends us confidence, healthy self-esteem, and the ability to fulfill our mission as followers of Christ.

We need humility. We also need to be honest. We need to admit to our helplessness not just to God, but to each other. The world’s problems are huge. We can’t face them, solve them, or deal with them without God.

I was once talking with a woman active in her church, but unencumbered by that fusty churchiness that can turn people off of God. She was real. She told me convincingly one day that there is great power that comes when people are able to admit their helplessness to each other. “You know where I learned that?” she asked me. When I said, “No,” she told me, “The sad thing is that I didn’t learn it in church. I learned it at Alcoholics Anonymous.”

AA, rooted as it is in Christ and the Church, understands the power that comes to people when they admit their powerlessness. Too often in the institutionalized Church, we’re so busy trying to fool people into thinking that everything is okay in our lives, that we forget this truth. But God’s Word tells us that His power is perfected in our weakness. God can only use people honest enough to admit their weakness.

A pastor I read about was a talented preacher. People would flock to hear him from miles around. Then a strange thing happened. He developed the most horrible case of stage fright and stuttering. He literally could not preach any more. He left his church. His wife took on a second job and they and their family moved in with her parents. He wrote desperate letters to colleagues and classmates, asking for their prayers on his behalf. That pastor never did get over his stage fright or stuttering. But in owning his weakness and asking for prayers, several people got the idea for a new ministry for him. They invited him to wrtie for a magazine. He was so good at that, he was later hired as an editor. Later still, he became a writer and eventually, a producer of inspiring TV and radio shows that touched millions of people.

Just before the events we’re told about in today’s Bible lesson happened, the book of Acts says that Jesus’ followers huddled together, “constantly devoting themselves to prayer.” They were humble before God and honest with one another and God sent the Holy Spirit so that they could fulfill their mission.

And finally, those first followers of Jesus show us another critical element to explain how you and I can share Christ with others: They did it. They trusted God’s promise and went out into the city and shared the Good News of Jesus with the world around them. And thank God they did! Because they did, you and I live each day in the hope of Christ and the peace of God. They passed the message of Christ onto others. And now it’s up to us. May we never forget our mission of sharing Christ with others. And may we take the three simple steps taken by those first followers of Jesus: humbly asking for God’s help; honestly owning our weakness to one another; and then, powered by God’s Spirit, sharing the best news the world will ever hear, the Good News of Jesus Christ!

[The story of the lighthouse operator is one told by Pastor Gerald Mann in one of his messages. The story of the parachutist was told by Steve Goodier in his book, Touching Moments: 60-second readings that touch the mind and the heart. Inspiration for much of this message comes from the book, Humility by C. Peter Wagner.]