humility (9)

What I Learned from John Rankin

Lately I’ve found myself thinking about John Rankin, a guy who was in the Christian fellowship group with me at Denison University over 40 years ago. John wasn’t one of my best friends—far from it. In fact, he was one of those people who constantly got under my skin and pushed my buttons.

Have you had people like that in your life?

John was a freshman, and I was a senior. I was the main leader of the group, and he was a newbie. Under those circumstances, you would think he would show me some respect, wouldn’t you?

My problem with John Rankin was his obnoxious arrogance. At 18 years of age, he was one of the most egotistical men I’ve ever met. And although he was a newcomer to the group, he thought he knew better than everyone else. If you look up “Know It All” in the dictionary, I bet you’ll see a picture of John Rankin.

Don’t you hate it when someone thinks they know it all?

I’ll never forget the day things came to a head in our relationship. John wanted to put his favorite song in our fellowship songbook: “Do Lord.”

Isn’t that the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard? You undoubtedly know the song: “Do Lord, oh do Lord, oh do remember me, oh Lordy…”

You see, everyone knows that silly song, which is one of the reasons it was totally unnecessary to add it to our songbook.

I also strongly objected to the song’s warped theology. I tried to explain to John that because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, we are eternally “remembered” and accepted by the Father. There’s certainly no need to beg Him to remember us!

Yes, John always wanted to change things…always thought he knew better…always wanted to get his way. The young man clearly had a spirit of control, and the songbook incident was just one of the most memorable examples.

Perhaps you’re wondering why John Rankin has been on my mind lately—over four decades since I last had contact with him. I wondered that too at first. But then I realized there’s someone in my life today who reminds me of John Rankin! Yikes… I thought I was done with him forever, and it’s as if he’s back.

Once again, my buttons are being pushed. Once again, I find myself offended by a know-it-all guy who thinks he knows better than I do. Once again, I’m going bonkers because I discern that someone has a controlling spirit.

However, I’ve concluded that God must have wanted me to learn some lessons during my encounters with John Rankin at Denison—and my encounters today with the person who reminds me of him. So I’ve asked Him to show me what’s going on here, and the lessons have turned out to be both hilarious and painful:

  1. If you don’t learn what you’re supposed to learn from the first “John Rankin,” God will keep sending you other ones. Failing to learn this vital principle, people go from marriage to marriage, job to job, and church to church, trying to escape the thorny people in their life. But everywhere they go, they find someone else who pushes the same buttons! In case you haven’t realized it yet, there are John Rankins EVERYWHERE!
  2. If people keep pushing your buttons, it’s time to ask God to heal those buttons so the cycle stops happening. I’ve always loved the old maxim that says, “If someone gets your goat, it just goes to show you’ve got one!” You see, God purposely sends us people He knows will offend us. Why? Because He wants to reveal and heal the hypersensitive, easily offended areas of our life. 
  1. In many cases, we’re offended by people who have the same personality trait we have. One preacher calls this principle “If you can spot it, you’ve got it!” It shouldn’t have been any great mystery why I was so offended by John’s controlling spirit. I didn’t want him to be in control, because I wanted to be in control! Why was I so upset by his know-it-all attitude? Because I thought I knew better than he did! And the reason I was offended by his song selection was because I was certain my songs were better.

So now that I realize what’s going on with this phenomenon, I’m asking God to expose and heal my buttons pushed by people like John Rankin. And since my own pride has been the root cause of my offenses in these cases, the healing process is requiring me to humble myself before the Lord and admit my own tendency to be a controlling, know-it-all person who wants to get my own way.

I’ve lost touch with John Rankin over the years, but I would love to track him down somehow. John, if you’re out there somewhere, please contact me.

It would be great to find out if John Rankin is still the same arrogant, controlling person he was at Denison. And I’m sure he would wonder the same about me.

I encourage you to take a moment and sincerely thank God for the John Rankins in your life. If you allow the Lord to do His work in your heart, He will use people like that to make you more like Jesus.

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This Week’s Question: Does the Bible refer to prejudicial or discriminatory actions in Scriptures other than James? If so, where, and what is the context?

 

No other Biblical writer addresses prejudice or discrimination as comprehensively as James, but other books have nuggets to understand why prejudice and discrimination are anathema to God. Genesis 1:26a, and 27 are great verses for initiating this discussion, “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness... So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” The truth is all men, women, and children are made in the likeness of God, so there is no justifiable basis for someone to treat, discriminatorily, another person with different physical or social characteristics.

 

Peter affirms that position in his visit to Cornelius, “Then Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him’ (Acts 10:34-35).” Although Peter’s visit violated Jewish law, he was given clearance by the Holy Spirit to violate that law since Christ broke all walls of separation. Peter justified his visit by saying, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean (Acts 10:28).” It seems clear that these words apply to everyone and all circumstances both then and now. Therefore, any intentional discrimination is self-imposed, and pits the perpetrator against God.

 

Paul used Jesus’ kenosis as a model for others to emulate by declaring, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others (Philippians 2:3-4). To save a dying world, Jesus shed His divinity to become a servant which is contrary to many today who fight aggressively to maintain his/her power, prestige, and position. The problem is the privileges they may receive in this life will eventually be lost because according to Matthew 5:5, it is the meek who will inherit the Earth. The bottom-line is a person should not think too highly of him- or her-self, and should treat all others with respect, honor, and esteem.

 

John captures the essence of the problem of discrimination as the abandonment of love in several of his first epistle passages. In I John 2:9-11 he writes, “He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. He who loves .his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.” This proposition is frightening for “Christians” who discriminate because Jesus says (this is a paraphrase), when someone thinks he/she is walking in the light but are actually walking in darkness, how deep is that darkness (Matthew 6:23)?”

 

In I John 3:15-18 readers are challenged to put love into action when John writes, “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” It is important that John equates someone who hates a brother or sister to a murderer, which does not bode well for purveyors of past, present or future discrimination. John also makes it very difficult for anyone who lives according to God’s moral code to remain ambivalent of injustice. John’s charge is to take sides with the needy!

 

Based upon these passages, more people need the love John wrote about, and the evidence of that love is more people would be engaged in fighting the social ills that have plagued America for hundreds of years. Among them are an ongoing fight for civil rights; immigrant rights domestically and at the border; climate change so the world our children inhabit is livable; and Native American rights since they are the only non-immigrants living in this country! Unfortunately, all that was rightfully theirs was stolen due to the greed, pride, and prejudice that are denounced by the above passages.

Next Week’s Question: Since prejudice was systemically built into the moral fabric of America, do you think Americans who tacitly or actively profited from that model (past, present, and future), will be damned eternally?

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“Love . . . does not boast; it is not arrogant. . . .” (1 Corinthians 13:4b ESV).

 

As we continue our journey of discovery into what matters most to God, there is a fourth quality that God seeks in the hearts of His followers. It is a quality that we all wish other people would show toward us, but that we sometimes only grudgingly show toward others: humility.  

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In his letter to Corinthian believers, Paul describes a believer’s potential lack of humility in a couple behavioral ways. First, he says that bragging does not reflect the love of God in one’s heart. Considering the context of the prior and following chapters, some believers may have been bragging, drawing attention to themselves about their ability to speak in tongues. Paul says that being a self-promoting windbag is not loving others as Christ loves us.

 

Second, he says that arrogance does not reflect the love of God in one’s heart. This same Greek word pops up earlier in Paul’s letter. Several times in chapter 4, and again in chapters 5 and 8, he warns about the wrongness of being puffed up in one context or another.

 

A puffed up person is a disappointment to God. Knowing that the eyes of Almighty God are on us, how dare we become so full of ourselves, so pride-filled, that we act arrogantly toward others?!

 

Stated in the positive, a person who does not boast and who is not arrogant is a person who is humble. Think of humility as “honoring others by drawing attention to them instead of to our self.” Think not, however, that meekness means weakness. Meekness—humility—is actually strength that is self-controlled. Humility is one of the special ways that we can show respect to others.

 

One of the best examples of humility is Jesus Christ Himself. Philippians 2 gets very specific about the ways that Jesus—“Emmanuel”—demonstrated humility. Again while praying on the Mount of Olives before His imminent crucifixion, Jesus said:

Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me.

Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done.

(Luke 22:42 ESV)

His example is sobering and powerful.

 

Privately or with some friends, please ponder the relationship of humility to these issues:

  • Conviction: What does our humility reveal about our trust that God loves and leads us?
  • Comparisons: On whom are we focusing—and not focusing—when we stoop to bragging about our self and/or acting arrogant toward others?
  • Aspiration: How does Christlike humility (e.g., Philippians 2) relate (or not relate) to our personal and professional aspirations?
  • Thankfulness: How does thankfulness affect humility?
  • Worship: How is humility an act of worship?

 

Do you want to honor Him and do what matters most to Him? I do. Let’s take our eyes off ourselves and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. Let’s cultivate humility.

 

This week.

 

Today.

 

© 2018 John C Garmo

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The Benefits of Manure

Several weeks ago I was feeling even more arrogant than usual. I had just published two new books – not as a ghostwriter this time, but under my own name. In a four-week period, I had also preached 10 times, more opportunities than I’ve had in any other month in recent years. In addition, I’ve been thrilled about several young Christian leaders God has given me to mentor.

Feeling rather proud of myself, I thought it might be a good time to fish for a compliment from the Lord.

“Father, why is it that I’ve become so fruitful in this advanced stage of my life?” I asked Him.

I guess I was expecting God to pat me on the back and thank me for my great faithfulness. Maybe He would commend me for my prayer life or my perseverance. Or perhaps He would even say, “I don’t have many other servants as dependable as you, Jim!”

Well, God didn’t tell me anything like that. Instead, He just showed me a picture, and it was a vivid picture indeed: In my mind’s eye, I saw a farmer shoveling manure onto his beautiful, lush garden.

“Jim, you’ve become this fruitful because you’re well fertilized!” was the Lord’s only comment on my humbling vision.

If you’re a millennial, you probably think fertilizer has always come from Miracle-Gro or Monsanto. But in the old days, the best thing for growing healthier crops was manure.

The Bible describes this principle in several places. In Luke 13:6-9, Jesus told a parable about what to do when you have a barren fig tree. Perhaps you’ve never had that exact problem, but it’s likely you’ve faced some other kind of barrenness in your life at one point or another. The solution prescribed in this story was to “dig around it and put on manure” (v. 8 ESV).

Yes, manure really does have some benefits if you want to be more fruitful.

Since God showed me this word picture of “The Manure Effect,” I’ve begun to see Paul’s famous words in Philippians 3:3-10 quite differently. After listing all the things he could have boasted about, Paul wrote that he was counting all those things as “dung” (KJV), i.e., manure (Gk. skybalon).

Yes, the positive experiences in our lives are meant to provide fertilizer too – if we don’t get puffed up in the process.

New Perspectives

If you grasp this deep revelation about The Manure Effect, you will see your past in a whole new way. If you’ve experienced trials and tribulations such as betrayals, divorces, business failures, job losses, bankruptcies, sicknesses, church splits, persecutions, or bouts of depression, the Bible says to “count it all joy” (James 1:2-4). That advice seems completely nonsensical unless you understand that such things can fertilize your future hopes and dreams.

Yes, every hardship is meant to provide valuable fertilizer for your future. So rejoice! Instead of grumbling about your past failures and difficulties, thank God that He’s been fertilizing you for greater fruitfulness.

Manure stinks, but manure is inevitable. As the popular bumper sticker says, “Manure Happens!”

Yet instead of interpreting the manure in our lives as a sign of God’s displeasure, we must realize that the opposite is true: Whoever the Lord loves, He fertilizes.

So I encourage you to pause and thank Him for sending some manure your way. Don’t let it go to waste!  

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The Myth of Indispensability

It’s humbling to discover you’re not indispensable. This unpleasant experience happened to me a few months ago when I had to go on medical leave from work.

The whole thing was unimaginable. Within days I went from having a full-time job I loved to no longer even having a workable scan key to get me into the building.

Most humbling of all was having to encounter the painful Myth of Indispensability. Put simply, this myth says people can’t survive without us. We’re irreplaceable and thus have unlimited job security.

To be honest, it feels good to think you’re indispensable. You feel like a person of exceptional importance, with skills no one else possesses. What an ego trip.

However, humbling as it has been, I discovered in recent months that the world at Inspiration Ministries was quite capable of going on without me. To my deep regret, the suddenness of my departure certainly made things much more difficult for everyone, but they rose to the occasion and life went on.

Is anyone truly indispensable? Perhaps you’re somewhat irreplaceable in your role as a spouse, parent, or grandparent. But in just about any other setting someone else could take your place.

Some of us predicted the quick demise of the Apple brand after the untimely death of Steve Jobs in 2011. But although they lost a great innovator when Steve died, they somehow are doing quite well without him.

Throughout the Bible, we see the Myth of Indispensability confronted…

  • How could anyone replace an amazing leader like Moses? Yet the Israelites’ leadership passed into the hands of Moses’ 40-year understudy, Joshua. Although Joshua must have experienced considerable trepidation at his new assignment, he was encouraged by the Lord to be strong and courageous (Joshua 1:1-9). The result? Joshua took God’s people further into their destiny than Moses has been able to do.
  • Elijah seemed like a unique and totally irreplaceable prophetic voice. “I alone am left,” he grumbled to God (1 Kings 19:10). Yet the Lord told him to quit complaining and go train his replacement, Elisha (v. 16). Not only did Elisha perform many of the same miracles as Elijah, but Bible scholars point out that he seems to have done twice as many as his mentor!
  • Queen Esther appeared to be the only person with even a small chance of defeating Haman’s plot to annihilate the Jewish people. Yet Esther’s cousin Mordecai told her something incredible: “If you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place” (Esther 4:14). Even Queen Esther was replaceable in fulfilling the purposes of God. If she wasn’t willing to step up to the occasion, Mordecai was confident the Lord would find someone else.

The Indispensability of Jesus

Far beyond these other examples, Jesus provided us with the most stunning example of the Myth of Indispensability. On the one hand, He’s the only Person in the universe who truly IS indispensable. His disciples came to understand this, so they must have been shocked and dismayed when He assured them that it would be to their advantage when He no longer walked with them in His physical body (John 16:7).

While the disciples must have wondered how they would even survive Jesus’ physical departure, He told them they would actually thrive. They would do the same works He had done when He was with them…and even greater works (John 14:12).

You see, Jesus was the kind of leader who recognizes the folly of the Myth of Indispensability. He easily could have told His disheartened disciples, “Guys, you clearly suck at this leadership stuff, and things are bound to fall apart after I’m gone.”

Instead, Jesus said just the opposite. He assured them they would receive such great power from the Holy Spirit that they would be able to extend His kingdom far beyond Jerusalem and Judea…to the very ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).

Notice the stark contrast: Insecure leaders, like King Saul, try to hold on to the reigns of power rather than invest themselves in the next generation. Exceptional leaders, like Jesus, confront the Myth of Indispensability by freely dispensing their lives into the lives of others.

If we are truly “indispensable” in our leadership role, something is clearly wrong. It’s a clear indication that, over the course of months or years, we’ve failed to dispense ourselves into those who are called to carry the leadership baton into the future.

But we’ve all seen churches that end up shutting down after the founding pastor dies or must leave his post for some other reason. And countless businesses have to be sold or shut down when the original owner can no longer provide leadership. How sad. Success without a successor often ends in failure.

So what lessons can we learn when forced to admit we’re not as indispensable as we thought? Painful as this experience is, it’s also amazingly liberating. It leads to an acknowledgement that the government of the universe doesn’t rest on our shoulders, but on the Lord’s (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Facing our limitations and vulnerabilities will also help us focus on the Biblical mandate to train our replacement. We’ll be challenged to greater intentionality in dispensing our lives into the lives of others in the months and years ahead.

When the Myth of Indispensability is shattered in your life, it can feel pretty traumatic. I picture it like the scene in the Wizard of Oz where the curtain is pulled back on the “great and powerful Oz.” How embarrassing…

But it’s time to come out from behind the curtain, acknowledging our dispensability and our need for others. Instead of trying to impress people with our own importance, we can transform lives by helping people unleash their own remarkable potential.

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The Secret to Billy Graham's Humility

Billy Graham once told a humorous story revealing how he could stay so humble, even while accomplishing so much. He was an evangelical superstar, to say the least. Yet when one of his long-time friends reflecting on Graham’s ministry, he said, “Billy always saw himself as just a farm boy from Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He was amazed that God could use him like He did.”

Before I share Graham’s quite revealing story, it’s important to note the contrast between him and many of the other televangelists of his era. There were numerous other superstars back then, but many of them eventually flamed out because of scandals – their reputation and ministry destroyed because of money, sex, and power.

Like Graham, the others had charisma. But the thing that truly set Graham apart was his character. Above all, his humility stands out as the key ingredient for how he handled his great success.

Who Deserves the Applause?

Billy Graham told a fanciful story that can help us understand his humility.

Graham reminded people about the Bible’s account of a young donkey that carried Jesus down the Mount of Olives during His triumphal entry into Jerusalem (Luke 19:28-40). Adding a bit to the story, Graham described how the colt was talking to one of his fellow donkeys later that day:

“You’ll never guess what happened to me today.”

“What?” his friend inquired.

“As I was coming into town, everyone bowed down and laid palm branches and garments in the road to greet me!” the donkey exclaimed. “They all shouted, ‘Hosanna. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

“That’s incredible,” marveled his friend. “I’ve been down that road numerous times, and no one ever gave me that kind of reception. How did you ever merit such treatment?”

“Well, I always knew I would be famous someday,” the young donkey explained. “It’s about time I got the respect I deserve!”

While some Christian leaders make the same mistake as the donkey that carried Jesus, Billy Graham always recognized that the crowd’s adulation was for Jesus, not for him.

You see, when Jesus is “riding us,” there may indeed be applause from the crowd at times. But we must never forget that the hosannas are not for us, but for the One who accompanies us. True humility knows who the applause is for, and that’s why the humble will ultimately cast all their crowns and accomplishments at His feet:

The twenty‑four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying: “You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created” (Revelation 4:10‑11).

Many people have speculated on what it was like when Billy Graham arrived in heaven. I’m sure it was a joyous occasion, but one thing we know for sure: Declaring the worthiness of the Lord to receive all glory and honor, Graham cast all his crowns and earthly achievements at the feet of Jesus.

Another Insightful Story

I once heard another helpful story. I’m not sure the source of the story, but perhaps it came from Billy Graham as well.

An elephant and a mouse were walking together and came to a rickety old wooden bridge. As they set foot on the bridge, it rumbled and shook at the impact, making quite a disturbance.

Once they had safely reached the other side, the mouse proudly remarked, “We really shook that bridge, didn’t we!”

I love that story.

When we walk with the Lord, we can expect to see some “bridges” shake at times. However, if we aren’t careful, we’ll make the same mistake as the mouse – thinking we ourselves can take some credit for the impact. What a tragic deception.

Throughout his ministry, Billy Graham both built bridges and felt them shake. But he always kept in mind that he was just the mouse. As he humbly walked with God Almighty, the ground sometimes shook under his feet, but Graham knew he couldn’t take the credit.

Billy and Paul

Some people have said that Billy Graham was the greatest evangelist since the apostle Paul. That’s quite a statement. To me, the men had very different ministries, yet one thing they had in common was an understanding of where their power came from.

Paul described himself and other believers as merely being earthen vessels – jars of clay – to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV).

And a profound test of any ministry is found in Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 4:5 (NASB): “We do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake.”

This test isn’t as easy as it sounds. When people look at our publications, fundraising letters, television programs, and video promos, and other communications, do they conclude that we are exalting Christ, or merely promoting ourselves?

Although Paul was a mighty apostle, he never lost sight of the fact that he was the Lord’s bond-servant, a sinner who had received God’s amazing grace. That’s the same posture Billy Graham took, and hopefully we are taking as well.

So, let the hosannas come. Let the bridges shake. But may we never forget where the power comes from and who the applause if for.

P.S. This blog post is adapted from a chapter in my highly acclaimed leadership book, Walking the Leadership Highway – Without Becoming Roadkill! In all humility, I can say it’s one of the best Christian leadership books ever written…

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As every student of history knows, America was in crisis in 1863. Despite Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation to free the slaves in January of that year, the Civil War raged on, with no end in sight.

Today America is in crisis again, even though the symptoms aren’t yet as obvious. And while presidential candidates promise to “make America great again,” they offer solutions that fail to recognize what made America great in the first place. Their faulty premise is that greatness will return if we have better trade deals, more jobs, a more equitable tax structure, or a stronger military.

We can argue about whether such things are an improvement. But none of them will make America great again.

In stark contrast to what is being promised today, on March 30, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued a presidential proclamation “Appointing a Day of National Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.” Calling the nation to repentance and a spiritual awakening, he pointed to our need for God’s grace and favor. In support of this, he paraphrased Psalm 33:12, saying, “Those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord”:

Whereas it is the duty of nations as well as of men, to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God, to confess their sins and transgressions, in humble sorrow, yet with assured hope that genuine repentance will lead to mercy and pardon; and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord…

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 behooves us then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness…

All this being done, in sincerity and truth, let us then rest humbly in the hope authorized by the Divine teachings, that the united cry of the Nation will be heard on high, and answered with blessings, no less than the pardon of our national sins, and the restoration of our now divided and suffering Country, to its former happy condition of unity and peace.

Whether you’re a Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, or follower of some other political philosophy, I hope you will grasp the power of Lincoln’s message. We need more than better politicians or better policies. We need a spiritual awakening that begins with you and me.  

In addition to Abraham Lincoln’s diagnosis of our need for national repentance and revival, the words of nineteenth-century historian Alexis de Tocqueville are amazingly prophetic today: “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Forgive us, Lord.

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When People Forget You--and Other Deflating Events

I had a very humbling experience last week when I was invited to the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet at a local Retirement Village. I received the invited because, for nearly a year now, I’ve visited the center once a month to sing and tell Bible stories to the residents.

Most of the residents are women in their 70s, 80s, and even 90s, and it has been a long time since I’ve found people so genuinely appreciative of my singing. Whether I’m singing an old hymn or a ballad by Elvis, the women clearly love me there. I’m sure they check their calendar each month, counting the days until I return. And if I had posters available showing me with my guitar, many of them would undoubtedly hang them in their room.

This is all background information to help you understand why the Volunteer Appreciation Banquet was such a humbling experience for me.

The banquet was attended by an assortment of people: other volunteers, staff members, and a few residents as well. I was especially happy to see that some residents had come (I always enjoy interacting with my fans, after all).

I approached one of the residents, named Lillian, who had a big smile on her face. Wow, she is really glad to see me, I thought to myself.  

So I sat next to Lillian and told her I’ve missed coming and singing for a few weeks now. I wasn’t prepared for her reply.

“I don’t remember you singing here,” she said quite seriously. “In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you before.”

Lillian was sitting next to a resident named Ruth, who had been listening to our conversation. Ruth was another of my fans, and I looked toward her in hopes of getting some reassurance.

“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you sing either,” she informed me.

How deflating. Two of those I considered my biggest fans didn’t even remember me.

I was crushed.

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience. It probably wasn’t connected with the memory loss of residents in a nursing home. Your experience may have been much more painful than that, when people you had loved and poured your life into seemed to forget you even existed.

There are many possible lessons from my story, but here are just a few:

  • Sometimes people WILL forget the acts of kindness we have done for them, but God never will. Hebrews 6:10 assures us: God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.” So, in light of that fact, does it really matter if people forget what we have done? God is keeping a record of it all.
  • When people fail to remember us or show us gratitude, our true motives get tested. Did we only do our good deeds in hopes of receiving people’s thanks or applause? Or were we willing to bless the people even if we got absolutely no credit or appreciation?
  • Experiences like this are an excellent opportunity to forgive. Of course, it was pretty easy for me to forgive Lillian and Ruth for forgetting me. Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible thing, and there’s a good chance Lillian and Ruth are starting to not even recognize their own loved ones. But forgiveness is much harder when the person who has forgotten you is of sound mind, but is simply too caught up in their own activities to acknowledge you, especially during the holidays.

In the final analysis, my experience at the Retirement Village Appreciation Banquet was just another example of God’s sense of humor and His ability to deal with our pride and other blind spots. Yes, I was humbled, but the Lord probably was laughing the entire time. He knew I had developed an overinflated view of my own importance, and He was more than happy to let out some of the air.

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Andrae Crouch & Me: To God Be the Glory

No Christian musician ever influenced me as much as Andrae Crouch did. In fact, I modeled my own “music ministry” after his.

Of course, I stunk as a singer and musician, and my attempt to become a contemporary Christian artist ended the day a friend told me, “Jim, your singing is hoarse and out of key, but at least you sing with feeling.” 

Oh well. It was painful, but I got the message.

Although I quit singing much in public after that, in my private devotions I always aspired to be more like Andrae Crouch. He sang with feeling too, and I could relate.

I was privileged to see Andrae in concert on numerous occasions. The first time was at an outdoor concert, where I chatted briefly with him as he walked through the crowd and listened to the other groups on the stage before him. Although his group, Andrae Crouch and the Disciples, was the headliner of the day, he was just an approachable, humble brother in the Lord behind the scenes.

But I was the most impacted by a concert in Dayton, Ohio. Andrae’s group was the final act, and I remember sitting through some incredibly boring Southern Gospel groups who came on first.

When the moment finally came for Andrae to take the stage, he was introduced by a rather obnoxious local DJ. For what seemed like an eternity, the DJ went on and on about how great Andrae was, citing all the awards he had already won and all the #1 songs he had written.

The DJ’s introduction was over-the-top, nauseating HYPE, pure and simple. He seemed to be preparing the crowd for Andrae Crouch to suddenly descend from heaven in a cloud of smoke or walk on water as he took the stage. I couldn’t help wondering how Andrae was going to begin his concert after such an uproarious introduction.

The DJ eventually ran out of accolades and declared loudly, “HERE HE IS, GRAMMY AND DOVE AWARD-WINNER, ANDRAE CROUCH!!!”

Despite the hype that preceded him, Andrae took the stage without saying a word. He didn’t greet the audience or even look our way. Nor did he start his concert with a rousing song to match the hype of the DJ’s introduction.

Instead, Andrae quietly sat down on his piano bench, looked toward heaven, and began singing one of my favorite songs: “Thank You, Lord. I just want to thank You, I just want to thank You…for all you’ve done for me.”

The scene still brings tears to my eyes today. Many of us would have fallen into the trap of believing the hype and accepting the accolades for ourselves. But not Andrae Crouch.

Even at the height of his popularity and acclaim, Andrae was careful to lay down his crowns and trophies at the feet of Jesus. You see, that’s what we’ll all do in eternity, but Andrae was wise and humble enough to get a head start on glorifying God while he was still alive.

Today Andrae Crouch is no doubt singing in a much more anointed group than he ever experienced on earth. Casting down their crowns before the Lord’s throne, I’m sure they are singing passionately:

You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and by Your will they exist and were created (Revelation 4:11)

 Thank You, Lord, for Andrae Crouch. To You be the glory for a life so well spent.

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