"At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At 40, we don't care what they think of us. At 60, we discover they haven't been thinking about us at all." (Jock Falkson, Frontline).
CHRIST - Depend on Him.
When Beethoven died, a student of the composer Rossini wrote a funeral march in honor of Beethoven. He took it to Rossini, who commented to his student, "Son, the terms would have been more auspicious if you had died and Beethoven had written the march."
Christ can accomplish more with our lives than we can ever accomplish on our own. As we place our lives in His control, we truly find ourselves in the hands of the Master.
John H. Jowett observed: "In the National Gallery of Art can be seen two sorts of people. There are the mere vagrants, who are always on the move, passing from picture to picture, without seeing any. And there are the students, who sit down, and contemplate, and meditate, and appropriate, and saturate.
"There are vagrants in respect to the love of the Lord. They have a passing glimpse, but the impression is not vital and vitalizing. And there are students, who are always gazing, and who are continually crying, 'O the depth of the riches of God in Christ'."
Clarence Jordan, founder of the interracial Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia, was receiving a tour of another minister's church. The minister pointed with pride to the beautiful carpeting, padded pews and luxurious fixtures.
As they stepped outside, the pastor raised his arm to direct Jordan's attention to a huge cross atop the steeple. "The cross alone cost us $10,000."
"You got cheated," Jordan told him. "Times were when Christians could get them for free." (Sermons Illustrated)
Following a concert by famous violinist Fritz Kreisler, a woman from the audience came backstage to greet him.
"I'd give my life to play as beautifully as you do," she said. He replied, "I did."
EXPERIENCE -- Definition of
"Experience is knowing a lot of things you shouldn't do." (William S. Knudsen)
The University of Louisville Cardinals arrived in Hawaii for a basketball tournament. When they entered a practice gym in Maui, the team soon realized that there were no basketballs on hand.
As they discussed what to do, a youngster with an old, beat-up basketball entered the gym. Team members explained their problem and offered to buy the ball. Though the price kept climbing -- $15, then $20, finally $50 -- he continued to refuse.
Finally, the team managers arranged for basketballs to be delivered. As the youngster prepared to leave, one Cardinal turned to tell him he'd been dumb to turn down that much money.
"Oh, yeah?" he replied. "At least I'm smart enough to take a basketball along when I practice." (Sports Illustrated)
GOD - Need not prove
John Killinger recounted the story of the professor of philosophy who spent a full hour demonstrating to the class a complicated proof for the existence of God. At the end of the hour, obviously pleased with his performance, he turned to a student and asked, "Miss Green, have I proved to you that there is a God?"
"Oh, you didn't have to prove it to me," she responded. "I knew it all the time." (Killinger is Pastor of First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, CA)
LOVE -- True test of
"The real test of love is the length to which it will go. It is Captain Oates of the Antarctic walking out into the blizzard to his death in order that the men he loved should not be burdened with his helpless life. It is the men of a Yorkshire coal-mine battling underground for days and nights on end through the most frightful conditions of water and mud and darkness and danger in an attempt to reach and save their trapped comrades cut off by flood and fire.
"It is two missionaries who lost their daughter from leprosy, and who -- instead of being embittered by their loss -- resolved to go back to the very place where she died and establish a leper colony. It is Kagawa of Japan telling his fellow Christians, if you are prepared to die for it, there is nothing you cannot accomplish."
"It is every vicarious soul in the congregation today who is trying, in response to some inner vision of his or her own heart, to bear a burden for someone else and is glad before God of the chance of doing it." (James S. Stewart, King Forever, Abingdon Press, 1975)
MARRIAGE -- Brings changes
A young bride-to-be was more nervous than usual, so the minister talked to her and learned she was afraid she might not make it through the ceremony properly. He assured her: "When you enter the church tomorrow and the processional begins, you will be walking down the aisle you've walked many times before. Concentrate on that aisle.
"When you get halfway down the aisle, you'll see the altar, where you and your family have worshipped many years. Concentrate on that altar. Then, when you're almost to the altar, you will see your groom: the one you love. Concentrate on him."
The bride seemed relieved as she left. The next day she appeared as a beautiful bride walking down the aisle. But those along the center were a bit surprised to hear her muttering over and over: "Aisle, altar him."
As Donald B. Strobe observes, "Marriage alters all of us! Whether that alteration is for better or worse depends on what we bring to it or, even more important, in Whose spirit we live it out." (Strobe is senior minister of First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.)
MISTAKES -- Not always bad
A university psychiatrist tested the top salesmen of a major national insurance company, and found that those with perfectionist tendencies earned from $8,000 to $10,000 per year less than those who were not perfectionists.
The study found that high performers are almost always free of the compulsion toward perfection. Rather than thinking of their mistakes as failures, the top salespersons have managed to learn from their mistakes and build on them.
People often don't understand what they're seeing.
An Englishman, watching his first American football game, was surprised to see the team huddle after each play. Asked what he thought about the game, he replied: "Not a bad sport, but they do seem to engage in an excessive number of committee meetings." (The Sermon Builder)
SENSITIVITY -- To Needs of others
October 1, 1986, was declared "Nerd Day" at a Michigan high school. One freshman was bright but sensitive; since entering high school, he had been harassed and teased for being a "nerd." One day before "Nerd's Day," this 14-year-old boy hanged himself in his own home. He simply couldn't stand any more.
Although that school will no longer have a "Nerd Day," it is too late for one boy. Was anyone sensitive to his pain before? Are we sensitive to the pain of those suffering around us now? (David W. Richardson is Pastor of College United Methodist Church, Warrenton, MO)
SIGHT -- Can blind ourselves
After Wilbur and Orville Wright's successful flight on December 17, 1903, they joyfully sent a telegram to their sister in Dayton, Ohio. The message read: "First sustained flight, 59 seconds. Home for Christmas."
The sister, also elated, ran all the way to the newspaper office with the telegram. Laying the message on the editor's desk, she announced, "I thought you would want to see this for tomorrow's paper."
Sure enough, the next day it was in the paper. Buried on page 16, underneath the obituaries, was this notice: "Local bicycle merchants to spend holidays at home."
Can you believe it? One of the major events of the twentieth century, and the. editor completely missed it -- right under his own nose!
"Can you believe it? The scribes and Pharisees had missed the point of faith in God. They had perverted the dynamic of faith into humanly-accomplishable standards." (Gary C. Redding is pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Lakeland, FL)
Steve Brown says we're enamored with size. He tells the story of the Texas rancher who visited colleagues in Chicago. They decided to show him the big city.
When he saw the stockyards, he said, "That ain't much. We've got branding corrals on my ranch bigger than that." When he saw the skyscrapers, he commented, "We've got tombstones at home taller than that."
That night, the Chicagoans left snapping turtles under his sheets. When he crawled into bed, the rancher had an unpleasant surprise and jumped to his feet yelling. As the others came rushing in, the Texan demanded, "What are those?"
"Those are Chicago bed bugs," they answered. Taking a closer look, the Texan replied, "You're right ... Young'uns, aren't they?" (Brown is Pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church, Key Biscayne, FL)
STRUGGLE -- Needed for growth
Experiments were done during space flights to test the effect of weightlessness on the aging process. Both carpenter ants and honey bees were used in the studies, and both species were found to age more rapidly and die more quickly in a weightless environment. It seems they needed the pull of gravity to make them work and maintain their physical vitality.
We, too, need the pull of difficulty and struggle to maintain our spiritual vitality. If things are too easy, we do not remain strong.
TIME -- Ready for use
"God had infinite time to give us; but how did He give it? In one immense tract of a lazy millenium? No, but He cut it up into a neat succession of new mornings, and with each, therefore, a new idea, new inventions, and new applications." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
TRUTH -- Not always accepted
In his book Overhearing the Gospel, Fred Craddock points out that "Knowledge about ethical concepts does not make one ethical. Burghardt DuBois, the great black educator, sociologist, and historian, upon completion of studies at Fisk, Harvard, and University of Berlin, was convinced that change in the condition of the American black could be effected by careful scientific investigations into the truth about the black in America.
"So he proceeded. His research was flawless and his graphs and charts impeccable. After waiting several years and hearing not the slightest stir of reform, Dr. DuBois had to accept the truth about the Truth: Its being available does not mean it will be appropriated."
WITNESS -- Our responsibility
Joe E. Trull tells of a primitive tribe located deep in the South American jungles. Anthropologists learned the most important role within the tribe was the "keeper of the flame." Since fire is so precious -- and takes such effort to recreate -- one member is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the flame alive.
During the night, the "flame-keeper" adds wood to the fire. He keeps it alive whenever the tribe moves. His is a vital task. (The Seven Last Words of the Risen Christ, Baker Book House, 1985).
Christ has called us to be His "keepers of the flame." We are to keep alive the proclamation of His message.