It was 7:00 am. I sat in the restaurant of a beautiful hotel, ready to devour my breakfast meal. I looked out of the window, and to see God’s beauty. The ocean was serene, calm and peaceful. Two or three species of birds were floating in the water, some sat on the jugged rocks that formed a wall at the intersection of land and sea. The sun was slowly rising. With it came a warmness that was enveloped in this yellowish tint that painted over the distant mountains. The sun’s glistening light also caused a beautiful reflection upon the calm waters. It was as if God was saying, “Good morning world!”
The morning crisp air smelt like salt, with a slight hint of a beautiful fragrance of freshly caught fish. Occasionally I would hear the gentle ocean waves hit the rocks producing a rhythmic, melodious sound. This sound of natural music and the splendor of God’s architectural work led me to an intimate moment of reflection and prayer. The indescribable beauty of God’s unmatched creation lured me to reach out to God and touch Him. I wanted to invite Him to sit down and have a cup of morning Joe with me. His goodness overwhelmed me. It was as if all nature was collaborating in drawing my attention to the Creator God.
I sat there, as if glued to my chair, reflecting on the goodness of God. Overwhelmed by God’s grace, the little Zimbabwean boy in me asked, “How did I get here?” This is a question I often ask when I struggle to reconcile my past and my present life. This is a valid question.
- How did I get here? God’s amazing favor and grace, together with a series of obedient yes-to-God responses.
- How did I get here? A deep desire to serve the underprivileged.
- How did I get here? A deep desire to make a difference in our hurting world.
- How did I get here? The desire to preach the Gospel to all people.
- How did I get here? Maybe the answer is in the understanding of the “Who” who brought me here. The best answer is “God’s grace.”
As I sipped my third cup of coffee, I wondered where I would be, if Jesus had not saved me. What path would I have taken?
How about you?
How did you get where you are?
How has God directed your path?
Do you have moments when you have clearly seen God direct you from one place to another?
I was simply there to meet and greet. I was at the Senior Olympics to encourage the runners. I was at the event to move around the people and be seen, as a leader. I was simply there for the work.
There he was. About 6 feet tall. He was chewing some food. He mumbled something. I pretended to listen, but did not pay much attention. He asked again. A little louder this time. “Terry, do you still like me?” I said, “Yes, of course Wayne.” As I said those words, I quickly looked away. I held my breath for a while. You see, when Wayne chews his food, crumbs and this yellowish goo drip down his scruffy beard. Wayne does not take regular showers, if any at all. Wayne, sort of, emits an unpleasant body odor.
I wanted to get away. I feared looking at the drool on Wayne’s face was going to make me lose my breakfast. I turned around and walked fast, back to my office. As I walked to the office, I heard God say, “But you eat meals with wealthy people. You go for lunches with clean people. Wayne just asked if you liked him, and you said, “Yes.” You lied.” The conviction was swift. My heart sank. I promised myself I will eat a meal with Wayne sometime in the next few years. That did not work. I had to do something sooner than that. I told my wife “I am going to take Wayne to a sit down restaurant for lunch before October 31, 2014.” I had to be specific. She was surprised. So was I. Would I be able to do it?
Last Sunday, my daughter, Fiela and I had the amazing privilege and humbling opportunity to go for lunch with Wayne. As we walked into Greek Chicken restaurant, all heads turned and looked at us. I planned that we would offer to sit outside. I was convicted, once again. We ordered our lunch and sat down to eat. As soon as I saw the drool, I almost lost it. My lunch, that is. I gave Wayne a bunch of napkins. He seemed to enjoy his chicken and fries. I enjoyed my food, and of course the discussion. We had a wonderful conversation about his family and his shelter. I enjoyed the discussion. Soon, I did not smell the bad body odor. Soon, I forgot about the drool and crumbs on his chin and clothes. It was just three people – God’s children sharing a meal together. It was one of my most favorite meals. I will never forget this day. Thank you God for convicting me. Thank you Wayne for helping me put things into perspective. And, yes, I still like you.
My Reflections on the Count Me In Convention
There was a perfect storm brewing in my mind as we drove to the Count Me In Convention last weekend. I guess I had no idea what to expect. I wondered if the weekend would be only applicable to people in recovery from alcohol and drug addictions. I wondered if my wife and I, and the children would huddle in a corner somewhere feeling out of place. I wondered if we would question why we even went there in the first place. God had a wonderful surprise in store for us.
During the first meeting, that Friday evening, my heart was warmed by the exuberant welcome and responses from the beneficiaries from all over our beautiful territory. As each Adult Rehabilitation Center’s name was called out, the men and women responded in these boisterous chants that would have left many a sports fan stunned. These men and women were excited to be gathered in the presence of God, representing all the work God has done in their lives through their distinct centers. I noticed that I was not an outsider, I am one of them. I have been saved by Grace through faith in our Lord Jesus. I, too, am recovering from many sins that have plagued me over my lifetime. I embraced the warmth of their friendly cheers, and there, stood shoulder to shoulder with my fellow redeemed soldiers.
The speaker that first evening, was the dynamic Dr. Steven Arterburn http://newlife.com/, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Arterburn . He spoke about his past challenges with sex addiction, and how God redeemed him from it. He testified that when his then girlfriend fell pregnant, he paid for the abortion. As a result, he and his wife could not have children. However, God blessed when they had the privilege of adopting a baby, at birth. Dr Artburn’s testimony resonated with me, and many others. I felt at home, as I knew I was in the company of fellow horrible sinners who were miraculously saved by a magisterial, graceful God!
On the second day, the second guest, Maria Durso https://www.facebook.com/MariaDursoMinistries shared her powerful testimony. She skillfully took us on a journey dating back to the time when her mother was pregnant with her. Her mother’s passing from a brain tumor, her father’s depression, and eventual death. One could almost hear pin drop, as Maria described the abuse she endured at the hands of the religious people at an orphanage, as well as at the hands of street thugs. The whole convention erupted in applause as she described her salvation moment in a room hotel room in Mexico. At the end of her testimony, Commissioner Knaggs challenged us to respond to the message. Hundreds of men and women rushed to kneel at the altar in humility as they surrendered to God’s power. At the altar, the ceiling shone in a shape of the cross. I will never forget the image of people kneeling in submission to God, as the cross was shining over them. It was as if God’s light was piercing through the flesh to provide light in our dark hearts! Hallelujah!
During meal breaks, I would pass a group of our San Diego A.R.C. beneficiaries who would give me a big teddy bear hug, and tell me how glad they were to be at the Count Me In convention. I was able to connect at a deeper level, with most of the beneficiaries, many of whom attend our corps on Sundays. On Sunday morning, my family and I had the privilege of eating breakfast with the beneficiaries from the San Diego A.R.C. who were going to be enrolled as adherents later in that morning. Two of them said, “Captain, we are ready to become soldiers!” I was privileged to witness God’s transforming power in the lives of many of our delegates.
The Count Me In convention was a great experience. It showed me the necessity of linking our Corps with the A.R.C. I am glad I attended the Count Me In convention.
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.
2 Let Israel say: “His love endures forever.”
3 Let the house of Aaron say: “His love endures forever.”
4 Let those who fear the Lord say: “His love endures forever.”
5 When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place.
6 The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?
7 The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.
8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.
9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
- Thank God, always. When you are blessed, do not forget to thank the Lord. How thankful are you? I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
- God is good, all the time, God is good. Even if life is not working, God is still good. Even if all hell is breaking loose, God is still good. Whatever the circumstances, God is good. Our problems change our perception of God’s character. Our problems do not change God’s character. Psalm 145:9 says, “The Lord is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.”
- His perfect love never ends. He loves me even when I do not feel loved. He loves me, even when I am sinful and bad. He loves me in spite of me. Psalm 100:5 says, “For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
- I shall call on Him when life is tough. I shall call on Him always. Self-dependence gives a false sense of security. Only God will provide the only true security one needs.
- I am to fear not. God is with me, always. Isaiah 41:10 says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”
- God gives me the victory. We carry around wounds and scars from battles against sin. Yet, we are still here. We are still here because God has one the victory for us. He has beaten the devil hands down! We belong to the winning army. Praise God!
- God is my helper, and support. Psalm 54:4 says, “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”
- I hide, and I am safe in God. I am safe in His everlasting arms. Psalm 91:1-2 says, “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
- I put all my hope and trust in God. It may seem difficult to talk about hope, when our situation feels hopeless. I remember the words of someone who once said, “At the end of the rope is hope. Hope is real, when our current situation makes it impossible to do anything in our own strength. Hope is believing in God’s power. Hope is believing the future is brighter than today. The best is yet to come. Isaiah 40:29-31 says, “He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”
10. What is God saying to me this week? He is saying, “Trust Me.” Are you trusting Him in all areas of your life?
While we could never replace the Bible with any other books, there are some Christian books which have enhanced my spiritual walk.
Here are my top 20 Christian books:
- The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
- The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom with John and Elizabeth Sherrill
- Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand
- The Purpose-Driven Life – by Rick Warren
- Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby
- Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend
- The Cost of Discipleship by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
- The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard
- What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Philip Yancey
- Celebration of Discipline – by Richard J. Foster
- Mere Christianity – C. S. Lewis
- In the Name of Jesus – by Henri Nouwen
- Redeeming Love – by Francine Rivers
- Wild at Heart – by John Eldredge
- My Utmost for His Highest – by Oswald Chambers
- The Pursuit of God – by A.W. Tozer
- The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman
- Out of the Salt Shaker & into the World- by Rebecca Manley Pippert
- The Jesus I Never Knew – by Philip Yancey
- The Screwtape Letters – by C. S. Lewis
- What Christian books have had an impact in your life?
- What are you reading right now?
- What is God saying?
- What changes do you need to make in response to what you have been reading?
10 LESSONS FROM MY 40 YEARS ON PLANET EARTH (PART 3)
- Learning never ceases. This is a literal translation of Shona statement “Kudzidza hakupere.” We should always be open to learning every day, even if you are in your twilight years. We can learn at school, at home, on the streets, from others, even from children. We can learn anywhere, anytime, anyhow. Education is important. If you are in school, stay there. If you are in college, keep at it. If you are in leadership, keep learning. To lead well, read much. What books have you read lately? What books are you reading right now? What has God been teaching you this week?
- Don’t take yourself so seriously. Enjoy life. My wife often reminds me, “Life is too short. Have fun.” Sometimes we spend too much time worrying about things that never happen, or are beyond our control. Go ahead play a sport, go sky diving, bungee jumping, laugh – do something to lighten your life.
- Don’t give up or quit easily. We often face challenges that corner us and leave us, seemingly, with no option but to throw in the towel. The devil often whispers to us to give up. Life is never meant to be a walk in the park. In fact, the challenges we face make us stronger. Quitting robs us of the opportunity to grow. Refuse to quit. Often, we quit right before the moment of victory. We need to ask for God’s grace to handle life’s pressures. We need to be people who take a licking but are able to keep on ticking. The Bible says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the LORD your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
- Give to others. We imitate God the most when we give sacrificially. Giving money, gifts, and treasures is a sign of our love and gratitude. I have learned that I feel great when I give, much better than when I am on the receiving end. There is something divine and godly in the act of giving. In Luke 6:38, we read, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Do you tithe to your church? Do you give to the poor?
- I have learned that life is more meaningful when I serve than when I am served. In this age of movie superheroes, sports, political and church celebrities, we lack great examples of We forget we are at our best when we serve others. This world needs more servants than bosses; more service oriented leaders than dictators. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.” In Matthew 20:27-28, we read “And whoever wants to be first must be your servant– just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
- Do you know what your calling is? Are you in God’s will? If not, what is stopping you?
I have learned that you thrive and flourish when you are doing what God called you to do. I like what God says in Jeremiah 29:11-13: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” I dare you to discover God’s will for your life. I dare you to live in the midst of God’s will. Buckle up, the ride is going to be full of hard times, and fulfilling times, as well. An adventure with God is worth leaving all our personal plans for. Are you ready?
- I have learned that hard work does not kill. God hates laziness. Laziness does not put food on the table; neither does it sustain a healthy lifestyle. I have seen intelligent, book smart people struggle, while the hard working people succeed in life. I read somewhere this saying, “Those who do their homework rule the world.” There is an element of truth there. The discipline of putting an honest day’s work brings forth wonderful returns. Success in school takes the discipline of good study habits. Spiritual growth partly, is dependent on overcoming the laziness that keeps us in bed instead of prayer. Working hard means getting off the couch, and putting some sweat equity into your life. Your sweat today will make your life sweet tomorrow.
- Face your fears. What is that you fear the most? What are your fears? Most of us have done ourselves a huge disfavor by allowing fear to cripple us. We have stopped living. We have short changed ourselves when we have cowered to a corner rather than sing, speak up, or do anything we know deep inside, we need to do. Fear works against faith. Fear debilitates many good, gifted people. We need to face our fears. We will soon discover God equips and empowers us to handle our fears. Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Are you ready to hold the bull by its horns – face your fears, and start living!
- We need each other. We were created for community. I have learned that it is better to be economically poor and be surrounded by loving family and friends, than to be financially wealthy while living a solitary, lonely life. It is imperative that we learn to relate well with all people, especially our family. I know we live in an individualistic, independent society. Let us go counter-culture and learn to live and thrive in community. We have to be comfortable around people; learn to subject our independence to the community. After all, no person is an island. Do you have relationships that need to be rebuilt? Are there family members you need to forgive to restore your strained relationships? Stop being stubborn. Extend grace.
10. Try something new and daring. New foods. New sports. Go back to school and finish that degree. I am amazed how many times my life goes into a rut. Often I get stuck in a routine that sucks life out of everything. I have learned that it is important to keep exploring new worlds. A couple of years ago, I made up my mind that I would try eating sushi. The last time I had tried was 12 years earlier – and I hated it. This time, I enjoyed sushi. Now I call myself a “food fanatic.” I am enjoying trying different foods. This has exposed me to new cultures, new friends, and a sense of adventure. Do you need to try eating something exotic? Have you considered skydiving, or singing a solo, or teaching a Sunday School class? What is it that you can do to inject life into your boring routine?
- Don’t write and send letters or emails when angry. You may say words you will forever regret. You are not rational and wise when in anger. You need time to reflect on your thoughts. Sleeping over it helps you cool down. James 1:19-20 says, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak (write/type) and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.”
- A good reputation is better than fame and money. Proverbs 20:1 says, “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” (NIV) It is better to be poor and be a person of integrity and character, than to be a wealthy fool.
3. Refresh yourself. Don’t run on fumes. Our society thrives of busyness. We need to set aside time to slow down to refresh and recharge ourselves. We need to spend quality time with our loved ones. Gifts and money do not replace the human touch and fellowship.
- Accountability and mentoring. We all need people who speak into our lives. We need someone to bounce ideas off of. We need people who will tell us, not what we WANT to hear, but what we NEED to hear. Who is your mentor? Who is watching your back?
- Plan for tomorrow. We never know what tomorrow holds. The best time to save is today. Work on cutting down and eliminating your debt. Live within your means. Do you really need that many pairs of shoes? Jeans?
- Encourage others. Be an encouraging machine. Many people we meet everyday are hurting. Your encouragement may be all they need today. Go ahead encourage someone.
- Think before you speak. It is amazing how many times we hurt others through careless words because we did not think before we spoke. Do you often suffer from the “foot in mouth disease”? Do you often regret what you say? Remember words can hurt and destroy people for life. Gossip and slander destroy community. Proverbs 18: says, “The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts.”
- Negativity is contagious and poisons community. One bad apple can spoil the whole fruit basket. Sometimes it takes one negative person to affect the mood of a group, stealing everyone’s joy, and causing unnecessary sadness. Read Psalms. Hang around positive people. Inject life by trying new foods, travel, or pick up a new hobby. Philippians 4: says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
- Gratitude is the best attitude. Ingratitude is a sign of immaturity. Entitlement. A simple thank you goes a long way. It amazes me when I see people receive something and never utter a word. They just grab it and go, like the world owes them something. Don’t be that person. Start expressing gratitude to everyone who has done something for you. Say “thank you” always. People often feel like you have taken them for granted, if you do not show gratitude. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
- My friend, Andy Van Gerpen used to say, “No good deed goes unpunished.” We do good, but that does not mean we people will do good to us. Jesus did good all the time, yet they killed Him. Many good people suffer. Many suffer because they are good. Do good anyway.
The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith
People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.
People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.
© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001