Last week, I told you about Condoleezza Rice and her testimony. It helped reinforce for me the fact that God does put leaders in place, and this time, he did better than he has some other times. It still makes me smile to remember her statement: "Doesn't God have a long arm that he could reach out to that spice aisle in Lucky's and pull me back to him?" and, "I think God is in the key of C and sooner or later we all gradually come back to him."
Then I told you about the international visitors at our table at the NPB from Macedonia, Kyrgyzstan, South Korea and Guatemala.
We wrapped up with the testimony of Francis Collins, Ph.D and M.D. who stumbled unto Jesus of Nazareth while trying to understand why people of deep faith were able to manage illness and death better than other patients. The lesson here is that in spite of the obstacles of great education and high intellect, Jesus finds those that God gave to him.
So, this morning, let's wrap up the testimonials we heard. After the actual National Prayer Breakfast was over, we gathered again in the South Central States group for the Leadership Seminar.
The main presentation at the Leadership Seminar was from an elderly Jewish man from Jerusalem by the name of Nono (No-No). He spoke in broken English, with a very strong Hebrew accent. As you might expect, he had a big gray beard, sort of short, and pretty stout. He looked like a little old Jew from Jerusalem, which he was.
Nono and his family came back to Israel before the 1948 creation of Israel. His father and all of the fathers for generations were Rabbis. When Nono was a young man of about 17 or 18, he was put in charge of a small group of Israeli soldiers in a small settlement in the northern part of the country. In spite of his age, he was the oldest of the group of soldiers and was in change, so he was given the name Nono, which is a nickname for an elderly leader, like grandpa. His given name was Emanuel. Over the years he studied the history and antiquities of the Holy land and became a tourist guide for foreign tourists coming to Israel.
He was very close to his father, as is the custom in the Jewish community. He loved him dearly. Every time that Nono mentioned his father to us, he would say, parenthetically, "may he rest in peace". In his culture, this is to show the respect and love that he has for him, even after his death. His father was a very devout Jew, as you would expect a Rabbi to be. As his father grew older and more frail, he called Nono in and made Nono promise him three things:
A few years ago, Nono was assigned to guide a group of visiting Americans around Israel. After a day or so, Nono noticed that there was something different about these people. They did not hurry to beat each other to the best seats in the bus. No one monopolized the front seats with the best views. They were especially polite and considerate; they just weren't like the usual bunch of tourists. Nono found that he really liked these people.
At the end of the trip, as is usually the custom, the group gathered up some money for a tip for the bus driver and guide. They gave the money to the driver as a tip, but they did not give any money to Nono. He was hurt. He was a poor man, and the tip money was important to him. Then a man who seemed to sort of be the leader of the tourists, seeing that Nono seemed to be disappointed, came over to him and told Nono that he would like for Nono to come to the United States for a visit. Nono responded that that was not possible. He was a poor man and could not afford to do that. The man then explained that Nono misunderstood. The man wanted Nono to come to the United States at his expense. Nono could not believe what he was hearing. Most people in Israel who have not been to the States, hope all their life to be able to see America, but most know they never can. Later Nono found out that the man making him this offer was Doug Coe, the leader of the National Prayer Breakfast.
So arrangements were made for Nono to come to America for a visit, in conjunction with the National Prayer Breakfast. When he arrived with the clothes he owned, old and worn but clean, his hosts told him that they wanted to take him to meet some people, including a trip to Congress and to the White House. Nono was concerned that he did not have any clothes proper for those kinds of visits, but his hosts explained that he need not worry. They took his to a men's clothing store and outfitted him with a new suit and shirt and shoes and tie. He said this was the first time he had ever had clothes like this. They then took Nono around to visit all these places. I could not tell for sure, but I think I remember that he attended a small dinner in the White House with the President and others from the National Prayer Breakfast.
Nono attended the National Prayer Breakfast. Between the "difference" he saw in these people and how they related to each other and to the people around them, and what he heard at the NPB, he stumbled into Jesus. At first he didn't know quite what he had stumbled into, but he knew it was important. Here was a man who had committed to his Rabbi father (may he rest in peace) never to eat pork, never to step into a church and never to have anything to do with Gentiles, who now had stumbled into Jesus. He wasn't looking for Jesus, Jesus found him, through followers of Jesus just being followers of Jesus.
Nono told us, with tears in his eyes how he felt when he heard the song "Amazing Grace" song at the Prayer Breakfast, and what impact it had on him. He told us that to this day when he hears it, tears flow down his cheeks. He told us that he was very disappointed during the Breakfast which we had just finished, as the program was being completed that no one sang Amazing Grace. He felt like there was a hole in his heart. Then at the very end of the Breakfast, the Grace Singers closed the Breakfast with Amazing Grace and he was so relieved and fulfilled. For him and from his background, Jesus is such Amazing Grace. He lived those words. But every one of us does too.
He went ahead to relate his growth and development after the trip to America. When he got back to Jerusalem, men from the fellowship mentored him, and he continued to get spiritual support. As you would expect, his family abandoned him. In the progress of his growth, he came to know a man who lived in Germany by the name of Rudolph Decker. Mr. Decker invited Nono and his wife to come to his German hometown for a while. This Rudolph was a very gruff stern man, sort of German. For a Jew to move to Germany, even for only a year or two, and especially to live with a German couple, brought back all the hate and anger toward the Germans and Nazis. Nono told his wife of the offer, but she told him that over her dead body would she go to Germany to live with a German family. He explained to her how important that this was and she reluctantly agreed to go. Today, that German man and his wife are Nono and his wife's closest friends and mentors. Rudolph Decker is now Nono's replacement father, (may he rest in peace) -- not Rudolph, but Nono's father.
My friend Joyce knows that German man very well. Rudolph Decker, according to Joyce, is exactly as Nono described him. Typically German. Cold, gruff, stern. Not what an orthodox Jew could possible relate to, without Jesus as their bond. Only Jesus can make a Jew and a German brothers.
I found so many lessons in Nono's story.
Let me wrap this up with another of God's little "coincidences." Thursday night at the Family dinner, we were seated at a table when a young man from the next table asked if he could join us because they had more people that chairs. Of course we invited him to do so. As we got to know him, his name was John Dresser, we found that he was originally from Tucson where his father was a physician and a devout Jew. His father and grandfather were rabbis. After college he came to Washington to work on a congressional staff and then went into lobbying in healthcare. While on the congressional staff, a friend invited him to a Bible study/prayer group, and although he was not too keen on it, he went. At the first meeting they started praying and talking about Jesus, which for him as a Jew was scary. But he did not leave. As he continued to attend with a friend, due to peer pressure more than anything else, he gradually became interested is this Jesus. Then he was invited to the National Prayer Breakfast, where he accidentally stumbled into Jesus, and was convicted that Jesus was the answer that he had been looking for. This did not make a hit with his family.
At the time, his grandmother was elderly and in poor health back in Jerusalem, so he decided he wanted to go to Jerusalem and live for a couple of years to be with his grandmother, which he did. He lived with his grandmother until her death. While there, he was introduced to Nono. God's world is full of the strangest "coincidences." He then started meeting with Nono and discipling him while he was in Jerusalem. Here in one day, we had met two Jews, from devout Rabbinical families, both of whom had stumbled into Jesus at the National Prayer Breakfast, and whom God had put together in Jerusalem for mutual support and growth.
Is God good or what?!
(End of the Series on the National Prayer Breakfast)
Resuming Our Study in Ephesians:
A few weeks ago, before I so rudely interrupted our Ephesians study, we were up to verse 15 of Chapter 5. So I want to rebuild the foundation for Paul's teachings in Chapters 4, 5 and 6 of Ephesians. In these three chapters Paul gives us instructions about how we should lead our lives as Christians. In all the teachings in Ephesians 4-6, if you keep in mind the big picture, what they are really about, it will help you manage the instructions better. In the first verse of chapter 4, Paul makes it clear what all of this is about.
Let's recap the general teachings that Paul gave us between 4:1 and 5:14, where we last studied.
For next week, read Ephesians 5:15 - 33. It is not likely that we will get that far, but you can read ahead, and then make sure to be here the following week, or if you chicken out, make sure to be gone.