CHARACTER - Christ produces in us
Gutson Borglum was the sculptor who carved the massive figures of four American presidents -- Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt -- on Mt. Rushmore in South Dakota. When asked how he produced the amazing work, he replied, "Those figures were there for forty million years. All I had to do was dynamite 400,000 tons of granite to bring them into view."
So Christ shapes our lives, chipping away those things that must go and replacing them with character that honors Him.
CHRIST - Brings encouragement
Steve Brown relates the story of a British soldier in the First World War who lost heart for the battle and deserted. Trying to reach the coast for a boat to England that night, he ended up wandering in the pitch black night, hopelessly lost.
In the darkness he came across what he thought was a signpost. It was so dark that he began to climb the post so that he could read it. As he reached the top of the pole, he struck a match to see and found himself looking squarely into the face of Jesus Christ. He realized that, rather than running into a signpost, he had climbed up a roadside crucifix.
Brown explains: "then he remembered the One who had died for him ... who had endured ... who had never turned back. The next morning the soldier was back in the trenches.
"As a runner, when you are tired, afraid and discouraged, the best way I know to get your second wind is to strike a match in the darkness and to look on the face of Jesus Christ." (Adapted from "Relief for the Runner," Key Life, September-October 1988)
DIVERSITY -- Not all favor
Not every group encourages diversity. John Claypool tells a story which came from the early days of the Communist Revolution in the Soviet Union. A spokesman for the Party was addressing a gathering of peasants in a particular village. He reported one success after another, all produced by the Party. When he announced that the Party had increased wheat production by 100%, a little man stood up in the back and said, "My name is Minsky and I have a question: where is all that wheat?" He was promptly rebuked for his impertinent question.
The next year, the same Party official arrived in the village, and began giving a similar litany of Party victories. When he announced that wheat production was up 200%, the same little man in the back stood and asked: "My name is Minsky, and I have a question: where is all that wheat?" Again, he was rebuked for his impertinence.
The next year, the same Party official returned with the same speech. When he announced that wheat production was up 300%, a little man stood up to ask a question, and the commissar said, "Wait, I know. You're Minsky and you want to know where the wheat is." The man replied, "No, my name is Polsky, and I have a question: where is Minsky?" (Claypool is Minister at St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Mountain Brook, AL)
Did you hear about the man who bragged that he had just purchased the finest hearing aid available? A friend asked, "What kind is it?" and the first man replied, "Oh, about 2:30."
Sometimes we don't hear nearly as well as we think -- especially when it comes to hearing God's call on our lives.
Comedian Flip Wilson, when asked about his religion, responded: "I'm a Jehovah's Bystander. They asked me to be a Jehovah's Witness, but I didn't want to get involved."
That's the way many people are today -- they don't want to get involved. Yet as Christians, Christ calls us to be involved with a world in need.
Charlie Steinmetz built the giant generator for Henry Ford's first auto plant in Dearborn, Michigan. One day the generator broke down, and work at the plant ground to a halt. Ford called in a series of mechanics to work on it, but none could restart the generator, and Ford's losses were mounting by the day.
In desperation, Ford called on Steinmetz. He came to the plant, looked at the generator for awhile, then pulled out a wrench and hit it with a loud crack. With that, Steinmetz threw the switch and put the plant back in business.
A few days later, Ford received a bill for $10,000. He returned the invoice to Steinmetz with a handwritten note: "Don't you think this is a little high for just hitting a generator? Please itemize the bill."
In a few days, Ford received a second invoice. This one read as follows: "For hitting generator -- $10. For knowing where to hit--$9,990."
Knowledge is a valuable thing. It can make the difference between wasted energy and effective service.
MISUNDERSTANDINGS -- Often innocent
Tom Mobley tells about the day his family accompanied the evangelist to lunch. His three-year-old son was instructed to be polite and friendly, so upon the family's arrival for lunch the boy tried to strike up a conversation with the question, "Do you know what I like?"
"No, dear, what do you like?" the lady responded.
In a less-than-clear voice, the youngster said, "I like rocks, sticks and ropes." The dear lady, whose hearing wasn't what it used to be, immediately exclaimed to the group. "Did you hear what he said? He likes chops, steak and roast! All I've got is chicken. I'm sorry -- if I'd only known, I'd have fixed them!" The boy tried to straighten things out, but the poor lady just kept on apologizing.
That's the way a lot of hurt feelings occur -- through simple misunderstandings. He didn't say what was heard; she hadn't intentionally twisted what was said. But what was meant wasn't what was received. (Mobley is Senior Minister of First Christian Church, Scottsburg, IN)
"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan 'press on' has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race." (Calvin Coolidge)
PRAYER -- Attitude more important than words
Grampa was going by his little granddaughter's room one night when he saw her kneeling beside her bed, head bowed and hands folded, repeating the alphabet.
"What are you doing?" he asked her. She explained, "I'm saying my prayers, but I couldn't think of just what I wanted to say. So I'm just saying all the letters, and God can put them together however He thinks best."
The words we say when we pray aren't nearly as important as an attitude of openness and reverence toward God.
PRAYER -- Balance with action
Mark D. Stucky tells of the Kindergarten Sunday School class that was studying God's care for us in times of trouble. The teacher had the youngsters draw pictures of things which made them afraid, then allowed them to explain what they'd drawn.
Five-year-old Scott created a picture in vivid crayon showing a looming funeral cloud, a car and a man. He explained that the man could not get his car started, and the tornado was coming toward him.
"The man really needs to pray, doesn't he?" asked the teacher. Scott disagreed: "No, he needs to run!"
The truth is, Stucky points out, that "we need balance in our lives. There is a time for prayerful piety and a time for deeds." (Stucky is Pastor of Tamarack United Methodist Church, Mishawaka, IN)
REVENGE - Often costly
Aaron Burr is an example of a man who allowed the desire for revenge to destroy him. Burr was a bitter political rival of Alexander Hamilton. When Burr and Thomas Jefferson were deadlocked in the House of Representatives for the Presidency, Hamilton's influence led to Burr's defeat. Later, when Burr was running for Governor of New York, Hamilton's influence again contributed to his defeat.
In his hatred for Hamilton, Burr determined to destroy his enemy. Burr eventually killed Hamilton in a duel -- but the same pistol shot that ended Hamilton's life also ended Burr's political career. Years later, Burr confessed he would have been far wiser to have acknowledged that the world was big enough for both Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
Revenge has a way of destroying the one seeking it as well as the target of that revenge. (Clarence Macartney)
RIVALRY -- Can be bitter
Two writers who were bitter rivals were both attending the same party. One had recently had a book published, and the other commented to him, "I read your new book and liked it. Who wrote it for you?"
The other replied, "I'm glad you liked the book. Who read it to you?"
SACRIFICE -- Required for success
Knute Rockne, the famous football coach at Notre Dame, once observed, "The trouble in American life today, in business as well as in sports, is that too many people are afraid of competition. The result is that in some circles people have come to sneer at success if it costs hard work and training and sacrifice."
The same reality is found in the Christian life. There is no victory without sacrifice, no triumph without commitment.
SERVICE -- Not appreciated
John Killinger tells of a psychologist who recently appeared on television to describe a survey of the beliefs and attitudes of 287 college-age young people. She learned that almost all of the young people expressed a desire for greatness or satisfaction out of life, yet very few of them perceived any connection between greatness and service.
"They are a generation accustomed to being served," she asserted, "not to serving." (Killinger is Pastor of First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, CA)
SIN -- Expected by world
Paul Bailey reports on a situation which occurred in Worchester, Massachusetts, several years ago. The city reported that it might end up with a budget shortfall of a million dollars -- all because people hadn't been breaking the traffic laws as much as had been projected. Traffic fines were below budgeted figures because citizens had been obeying the law too well.
"Sin is part of the fabric of society," notes Bailey. "It is expected. Obedience makes the world stand up and listen." (Bailey is Pastor of Sand Lake Baptist Church, Averill Park, NY)