"An apology is much like a burnt offering: serve it up half-cooked and you haven't really accomplished anything." (Lawrence Shames, quoted in Esquire)
APPEARANCE -- Important to us
The important executive was putting his coat on following his annual physical. He said, "Doc, if there's anything wrong with me, don't try to cover it up with a long scientific name. Just tell me in plain English what's wrong with me.
The doctor replied, "Well, to be honest with you, you're just plain lazy and you need to get more exercise."
"Thanks, doctor," the man responded. "Now please give me the long scientific name so I can tell people at the office."
CHRISTMAS -- Has deeper meaning
Richard Allen Bodey tells of a man who attended a Christmas service. The preacher took time to explain the true meaning of Christmas in light of the coming cross of Christ.
Afterward, the man complained, "When I come to church at Christmas, I don't want to hear about the death of Christ. I want to hear something glad and cheerful." (Good News for All Seasons)
It is all too easy to romanticize the Christmas story into a pleasant fable of cooing babies and stars in the sky and wise men bearing gifts. The reality is that the Christmas story climaxes at the cross. Christmas is not completed without Good Friday and Easter.
CHRISTMAS -- Should last all year
William P. Tuck tells about the manger scene he and his family passed on the way to and from church in the days just prior to Christmas. On the Sunday following Christmas, the family drove by the same church and noticed the manger scene had been taken down. Tuck's preschool son, Bill, offered the insightful comment: "They have put the Lord Jesus away for another year."
How often we do that in our own lives. During the Christmas season, we revel in the story of the birth of Jesus, but as we enter a new year we often forget the meaning of the incarnation in our daily lives.
CHRISTMAS -- Quotations
"This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ." (Frank McKibben)
"The character of the Creator cannot be less than the highest He has created, and the highest is that babe born to Mary on that first Christmas morning." (A. Ian Burnett)
"I love the Christmas-tide, and yet,
I notice this, each year I live;
I always like the gifts I get,
But how I love the gifts I give!"
DISCIPLINE -- Required for greatness
"The only real despisers of craft are poor craftspersons. Others realize that there is no worthwhile achievement without work and practice. A Picasso may appear to dash off a masterpiece with little or no effort, but the effortlessness merely belies the years of disciplined struggle behind the present moment. A Rubenstein may sit at the piano and play with apparent ease a difficult composition he has never seen before, but he is able to do this because of years of drilling on scales and arpeggios and mastering other difficult pieces." (John Killinger, Fundamentals of Preaching)
ENCOURAGEMENT -- We all need
Bart Starr was the great quarterback of the Green Bay Packers. One year he made an arrangement with his oldest son to encourage good grades: for every "A" Bart Jr. brought home from school, Dad would give him ten cents. (It was the 1960's!)
One Sunday the Packers had a particularly bad game, and Starr didn't do well at all. It was a long plane ride home, but as he arrived home and entered his own bedroom, he felt better to see a handwritten note from Bart Jr. It read: "Dear Dad. I thought you played a great game. Love Bart." and taped to the note were two dimes!
There are times in each of our lives when we can use a little encouragement!
GOD -- Man can't fully understand
Though he put all his mental faculties to the task, St. Augustine was having a difficult time resolving the question of the Trinity. One day as he walked along the shore, he noticed a little boy playing. The boy had used a seashell to dig a hole in the sand, and was going back and forth from the water to the hole, filling the shell with water, then pouring it into the hole.
Augustine asked the boy what he was doing, and the youngster replied, "I am putting the ocean in this hole."
Augustine laughed, then suddenly realized he was guilty of the same fallacious thinking. He said, "Standing on the shores of time, I am trying to get into this finite mind things that are infinite."
IDOLATRY -- Must be destroyed
The legend is told of an invading army which overran a city which contained a famous temple. The conquering general entered the temple and led his men in beginning to destroy it. The priest asked the general to spare one specific idol, but the general instead chose to destroy that idol himself. After two or three blows, the idol burst open to reveal an array of precious gems that had been hidden in its hollow interior.
As Christians, God calls us to put away the idols that would claim our allegiance. When we do, we find that even greater treasures are ours than we had dreamed possible.
LISTENING -- Has danger and value
"Listening is risky. It can cause you a lot of trouble if you listen, especially if you listen to people you don't like very much. For one thing, if you listen to him, you may have to change your line of attack against him, and that could be a great bother ...
"If you will listen to him, you may discover that he is not the mere fool nor the sheer knave that you have already pinned at the center of your dart board. If you listen, you may have to forfeit a quick and massive victory and that takes all the fun out of the tussle ...
(On the other hand) "the rewards of listening are so great. You hear truth you've never heard before. You feel other people's pain that you couldn't otherwise have felt. You discover in yourself finally a love you'd never let yourself experience. You discover beauty where you had disguised it with your own prejudice." (Lewis B. Smedes, Light, June 1985)
MARRIAGE -- Takes work
"A good marriage is like an incredible retirement fund. You put everything you have into it during your productive life, and over the years it turns from silver to gold to platinum." (Willard Scott)
MOTHERS -- Value of
"An ounce of mother is worth a pound of clergy." (T. W. Higginson)
SALVATION -- Offered as free gift
A young man entered a bank in New York to obtain a small loan. He stood in line, then stepped up to the desk to submit his completed application. The young man was a bit surprised at the amount of time it was taking the loan officer to complete processing of the application; in fact, several times the banker left the desk to consult with the manager.
Finally the paperwork was complete, and as the man received his loan he stood to leave. At that point, he was startled to have flashbulbs popping off in his face and people crowding around him. Had he done something wrong?
In fact, the bank officials were crowding around him to explain that he could hand back the paperwork, and he would not have to repay the money. The money he had borrowed -- only a few hundred dollars -- included the one billionth dollar ever loaned by the bank. In honor of the occasion, his debt would never be entered on the books; he would never be required to repay it.
That is what Christ has done for us. Though we have sinned against God, and the penalty rightfully should be paid by us, the Lord Jesus Christ has taken upon Himself our debt. He has removed our obligation from the books. Our sin will never be held against us, for Christ has paid the cost.
A tourist was visiting a village in Mexico where a hot spring and cold spring were located right next to one another. This natural phenomenon proved to be very helpful to the women who brought their laundry, for they could boil their clothes in the hot spring, then rinse them in the cold spring.
The tourist commented to his guide that the people must be very thankful for this convenience. The guide replied, "Not really. They grumble that Mother Nature provides the water but no soap."
THANKFULNESS -- Quotations
"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues." (Cicero)
"Were there no God, we would be in this glorious world with grateful hearts, and no one to thank." (Christina Rossetti)
"Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road." (John Henry Jowett)
"A blind man's world is bounded by the limits of his touch; an ignorant man's world by the limits of his knowledge; a great man's world by the limits of his vision." (E. Paul Hovey)
WORD OF GOD -- Changes lives
An anthropologist was carrying out studies in the Fiji Islands and entered into a coversation with a tribal chief. An atheist, he expressed disappointment that the tribe had been influenced by foreign missionaries to become Christians.
"It's a pity you've allowed yourself to be taken in by these missionaries," the professor exclaimed. "No one in our world believes the Bible anymore. We all know it is foolishness."
The old chief paused for a few moments to consider the man's words, then answered: "Foolish? Look at the rock over there -- on that rock we used to smash the heads of our enemies. See the furnace next to it -- in that furnace we roasted the bodies of our enemies. If not for those missionaries sharing the Word of God with us, you would never leave this place alive. You should thank the Lord for the Word of God; otherwise, you would be our meal tonight!"