As Luis Palau points out, "Just reading the Bible doesn't mean you are a Christian. When Karl Marx was seventeen years old, he wrote a fantastic explanation of part of John's Gospel. Great theologians agree with much of what he said. But Karl Marx eventually rejected the Bible's authority and during his adult life called himself an atheist, a communist -- anything but a Christian.
"And Nikita Krushchev, the former premier of the USSR, read the Bible when he was a boy. Yet later, he made it his ambition to bury the church in the Soviet Union by 1965. Instead, he is buried and the Russian Church continues to grow!
"Read the Bible all you can.... Since it is God's Word, we can trust it completely. But remember, just reading the Bible won't make you a Christian." (from What is a Real Christian, Multnomah Press)
DIFFICULTIES -- Contain opportunities
The name George De Mestral might not mean anything to you, but you know his invention: the Velcro fastener. He might never have thought of Velcro except for the difficulty of getting burrs off of his pants after time in the fields. De Mestral, a mechanical engineer, looked at the burrs under a microscope and saw that they had little hooks which keep them attached to whatever brushed by them.
How many people have looked at burrs and merely found them to be troublesome? De Mestral looked at burrs and saw an opportunity. When we have a "burr under our saddle," do we merely see it as a difficulty or do we perceive an opportunity? (submitted by David W. Richardson, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Dexter, MO)
GIFTS - Vary
Haddon Robinson tells of a concert violinist whose brother was a bricklayer. One day a woman began gushing to the bricklayer about how wonderful it was to be in the family of that violinist. But not wanting to insult the bricklayer, she added, "Of course, we don't all have the same talents, and even in a family some just seem to have more talent than others."
The bricklayer replied, "Boy, you're telling me! That violinist brother of mine doesn't know a thing about laying bricks. And if he couldn't make some money playing that fiddle of his, he couldn't hire a guy with know-how like mine to build a house. If he had to build a house himself he'd be ruined."Robinson observes, "If you want to build a house, you don't want a violinist. And if you're going to lead an orchestra, you don't want a brick-layer. No two of us are exactly alike. None of us has every gift and ability. Our responsibility is to exercise the gifts we have -- not the ones we wish we had." (from Decision Making by the Book, Victor Books, 1991)
LEADERSHIP - Not born
Leonard Ravenhill tells of a group of tourists who were visiting a picturesque village. One person turned to an elderly man sitting nearby and asked, "Were any great men born in this village?" The old man replied, "Nope, only babies." (submitted by Wayne Rouse, Pastor, Church of the Brethren, Astoria, IL)
Greatness and leadership are not born; they are built slowly, crafted day by day.
Bruce Larson tells of going to Florida for a family reunion. As they were driving down the road, they saw a sign that said "Naturists Convention." They thought it said "Naturalists Convention," and thinking that might be interesting they turned and drove in. They all too soon learned that "naturist" is another term for "nudist," and they had driven into a nudist gathering.
Before long they spotted a group of nudists riding bicycles. One of the grandchildren was the first to spot the group, and he cried out, "Look Mom and Dad! They don't have safety helmets on!"
That was what they had trained him -- always wear a safety helmet when you ride your bike -- so that was what he saw when he looked at the scene. Our perceptions are based so much on what we already think or learn, that sometimes we overlook the obvious as we focus on what we expect to see, (submitted by Eric Ritz, Pastor, Calvary United Methodist Church, Easton, PA)
REDEMPTION - Has a cost
Maya Angelou tells of Tom, a slave in the antebellum South. His owner allowed him to take jobs off the plantation at night, on holidays, and on weekends. He worked hard all day at his own plantation, then walked several miles into town and worked there to earn money. After two hours of sleep, he would rise and repeat the process. This went on for years, and he saved every penny. He didn't marry, didn't spend the money, but saved it all.
After he had stashed away a thousand dollars, he went to the owner of the plantation and asked how much he was worth. The owner said most slaves brought between $800 and $1,200, but since Tom was older and had no children, if he wanted to buy his own freedom he would let him go for $600.
Tom thanked the owner and returned to his cabin. He dug up the money, and as he fondled the cash in his hands, he began to remember how long it had taken to earn it, how hard he had worked. Finally, he put it back into the hiding place, returned to the owner and told him, "Boss, freedom is a little too high right now. I'm going to wait till the price comes down." (from The Heart of a Woman, Bantam Books, 1981; submitted by Don Aycock)
SIN - Deceives us
David McCasland tells about how, as a ten-year-old boy, he was with a camping group as it was hiking on a scorching Oklahoma afternoon. The boys all had canteens, but the water was going fast when, at last, they spied a place with an outside water fountain.
He recalls, "I headed for the fountain behind the other boys, pouring the last of my warm canteen water on the ground as I ran. The water fountain sputtered and quit. There was no water, and I had just thrown mine away. The heat and lack of water made me sick and I had to come home early from camp. It was a foolish, boyhood mistake. But since that day, I have never poured out a canteen in anticipation of some unseen, unknown source of water." (from "One to Grow On," Power for Living, SP Publications, 9/11/88; submitted by Wayne Rouse, Pastor, Church of the Brethren, Astoria, IL)
Isn't that exactly what sin does? It deceives us with the promise of something better, but after we've thrown the real water away we discover the promises of sin were empty and bitter.
WITNESS - Fear of
Ken Chafin tells of a long layover in the Atlanta airport. As he sat in a restaurant leisurely eating a meal, he noticed that at the table next to him were four well-dressed, well-educated, attractive young women.
"I could hardly believe my ears when I overheard the subject of their conversation. I became so interested that I timed them to see how long they could keep it up. For forty minutes they discussed cottage cheese. The one thing which could be said about the subject was that it was safe.
"But before you are too critical of these ladies, do a replay of some of your own conversations with people. There is a lot of 'cottage cheese' talk going around. It is only when you move from the safe areas into talking with people about what Jesus Christ has meant in your life and what He can mean in theirs, that you open yourself up and make yourself vulnerable." (from The Reluctant Witness, Broadman Press, 1974; submitted by David W. Perkins, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Gonzales, LA)