AGING -- Continue to learn
"When I was young," W. Somerset Maugham once observed, "I was amazed at Plutarch's statement that the elder Cato began at the age of eighty to learn Greek. I am amazed no longer. Old age is ready to undertake tasks that youth shirked because they would take too long."
CALVARY -- The repentant thief
"Dante, in his Divine Comedy, tells of his journey into the world of the unseen. He was guided to those spirits who, like the penitent thief, had been sinners up to the last moments of their lives. But, heeding the warning of heaven, they had repented and were forgiven. In the poet's words, they 'did issue out of life at peace with God.'
"Among them, Dante is surprised to see one Buonconte who, while he lived on earth, had been sensuous, rebellious and vile. How came he to be among those who journey on to the vision of God? Buonconte answers that, stricken in battle, he had fled away, leaving on the plain a gory trail from a gaping wound in his throat.
"As he lay dying, the minions of Hell came swooping down to bear him away but, swifter than thought, God's angels had also come and stood on guard. The two forces debated for possession of his soul. So black was Buonconte's record that he believed himself forever lost. But just as the demons were claiming him for their own, an angel pointed to his eyelids, weighed down in the last long sleep, where hanging from their fringe was 'one poor tear.' It was a token of repentance. At the last moment he had turned his face toward God. Triumphantly the angels bore him to the realms of the redeemed.
"It was not just 'one poor tear' which the outlaw on the cross has to offer Christ, but an entire life flung on the mercy of God which is in Christ Jesus. For you and me also there is no other place of refuge. No soul will ever enter the Kingdom of God save through the gateway of repentance." (John Sutherland Bonnell, "The Second Word," He Speaks From the Cross)
CHALLENGE -- Can make impact
As a 12-year-old boy, Wendell Phillips met the popular evangelist Lyman Beecher. Beecher looked down on the boy and proclaimed, "Son, you belong to Christ. Live for Him."
Phillips, who became one of the leading anti-slavery reformers in America, later recalled, "That very day I accepted my mission."
Many young people will only reach as high as we challenge them to reach.
CHURCH -- How do we rate?
Charles Horton reported the results of a study in Lincoln, Nebraska, in which a lady attended 18 different churches on successive Sundays to rate their friendliness. She sat near the front of the sanctuary each time and walked slowly to the rear, then returned to the front using another aisle. On each occasion she was dressed neatly, and with a smile asked at least one person to direct her to the fellowship hall or church office.
She used the following scale to rate her reception:
10 -- for a smile from a worshiper
10 -- for a greeting from someone nearby
100 -- for an exchange of names
200 -- for an invitation to the fellowship hour
1,000 -- for an introduction to another worshiper
2,000 -- for an invitation to meet the pastor
Each of the eighteen churches earned less than 100 points. The researcher concluded: "The preaching may be biblical, the singing inspirational and the sermon uplifting, but when a visitor finds no one who cares whether or not he/she is there, he/she is not likely to come back."
How would our church rate? (Charles Horton is Pastor of College Park Baptist Church, Orlando, FL)
CHURCH -- Requires cooperation
Stephen Brown explains that when a group of thoroughbred horses face attack, they stand in a circle facing each other and, with their back legs, kick out at the enemy. Donkeys do just the opposite; they face the enemy and kick each other!
How often the church does just that -- ignoring the real enemy while we attack fellow believers!
CROSS -- Carrying our own
"The relation to Christ, the meaning of our atonement, the risk one runs to have God at his elbow, the inevitable concomitant of our salvation means that at this cross there is no place for observers. There is no detached ground; there are no uninvolved ones. We are caught here. Cross means nailed here. There are no spectators ... We are all 'on stage.' You are in it: the drama of the redemption of the world. But not alone -- there are no single crosses anywhere, anymore. All our crosses participate in His." (Carlyle Marney, The Carpenter's Son)
CROSS -- Quotations
"The cross is the only ladder high enough to touch Heaven's threshold." (George Dana Boardman)
"It may take a crucified church to take a crucified Christ before the eyes of the world." (W. E. Orchard)
DREAMS -- Produce results
John Killinger tells of hearing W. Clement Stone, the Chicago financier and philanthropist, reply to the question, "How have you done so much in your lifetime?"
Explained Stone: "I have dreamed. I have turned my mind loose to imagine what I wanted to do. Then I have gone to bed and thought about my dreams. In the night, I have dreamed about them. And when I have arisen in the morning, I have seen the way to get to my dreams. While other people were saying, 'You can't do that, it isn't possible,' I was well on my way to achieving what I wanted."
EASTER -- Meaning of
"The great Easter truth is not that we are to live newly after death -- that is not the great thing -- but that we are to live here and now by the power of the resurrection; not so much that we are to live forever as that we are to, and may, live nobly now because we are to live forever." (Phillips Brooks)
EASTER -- Requires Calvary
"One trouble with the churches is that too many people want to have Easter without Calvary." (Lawrence Pearsall Jacks)
EDUCATION -- Value of
A citizen of Athens once asked Aristotle the value of education. The great philosopher and teacher replied: "The difference between an educated and uneducated man? The same as between being alive and being dead."
IMPACT -- for Christ
John Henry Jowett told about a small village where an elderly woman died. She died penniless, uneducated, unsophisticated, but during her lifetime her selfless service had made a tremendous impact for Christ. On her tombstone they chiseled the words, "She did what she couldn't."
That can be the epitaph for every Christian who will allow Christ to live through us: He can do through us what we can never do ourselves.
MEMORY -- Can get us in trouble
The young preacher was shocked to hear the well-known evangelist utter the words, "I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man's wife. Yes, I have spent some of the happiest moments of my life in the arms of another man's wife." Then, following a pause, the evangelist added, "That woman was my mother."
"I've got to use that!" the young pastor thought to himself. A few weeks later, as he was speaking to a civic group, the phrase leapt into his mind and he exclaimed, "I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in the arms of another man's wife. Yes, I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in the arms of another man's wife." A pause, then again, "Yes, I have spent some of the happiest days of my life in the arms of another man's wife." Then, after another long pause, the young man muttered meekly, "But for the life of me I can't remember who she was."
MINISTRY -- Reflects Jesus
John A. Huffman, Jr., tells the story of Florence Nightingale who, one night during the Crimean War, was passing down a hospital ward. She paused to bend over the bed of a wounded soldier. As she looked down on him with eyes of compassion, the young man looked up and said, "You're Christ come to me."
When we truly minister with love and compassion, we reflect Jesus and His love.
It is easy to misunderstand the counsel we receive from others, isn't it?
Charlie Stink was constantly being advised by his friends and coworkers that he should have his name changed. Finally he agreed, and went to court to have the process completed.
The next day back at work, his associates inquired, "What did you have your name changed to?"
"I changed it to George Stink," he answered, "but for the life of me I can't see what difference it's going to make!"
MOTIVES -- Not always clear
We don't always know the motives of others -- good or bad.
One minister was walking down a row of fine old Victorian homes on a cold day when he spotted a young boy on the front porch of one home. The old-fashioned doorbell was set high in the door, and the little fellow was too short to ring it despite his leaping attempts.
Feeling sorry for the youngster, the minister stepped up onto the porch and vigorously rang the bell for him. "And now what, young man?" inquired the minister.
"Now," exclaimed the boy, "we run like crazy!"
SACRIFICE -- Requires commitment
Both Samuel Chase of Maryland and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts were among the original signers of the Declaration of Independence. Chase, a huge man of 250 pounds, was asked by Gerry why he was willing to risk his significant property holdings to sign the Declaration.
Chase turned to the frail Gerry and replied, "It's you who will have the far more difficult time. With your slight build, you're likely to keep dangling on the gallows while I will only but suffer for a moment."
We are each called to count the cost of commitment.
SHARING -- Promoting sharing
At one time India seemed to have so many people and so little food that it seemed a hopeless situation. Then came the "green revolution." While being mindful that India still has problems, it is worth noting that in the list of nations which helped with the famine in Ethiopia was India. (David W. Richardson is Pastor of College United Methodist Church, Warrenton, MO)
Mother Teresa has observed, "God rarely is found in the midst of noise and restlessness; instead, He is the friend of silence."
SIN -- Destructiveness of
R. G. Lee once quoted a Memphis paper concerning a mole which tunneled into the base of a rebuilt levee in Arkansas. The mole's "underground work" caused the only break in the levee system during the high water period that year, resulting in the crumbling of fifty feet of the Red River levee system.
Randall Broome observes, "Little things can make a big difference in life. As the mole caused the collapse of the levee, so does sin in our lives. Sins, even small sins, left unchecked and unconfessed can cause the crumbling of the spiritual foundations necessary to live a victorious Christian life." (Randall Broome is Pastor of Oconee Baptist Church, Commerce, GA)
SUCCESS -- Public favor no proof
Winston Churchill knew that public favor was no proof of real success. Once, after he gave a speech for which 10,000 people came out, a friend asked, "Winston, aren't you impressed that 10,000 people came to hear you speak?"
Churchill replied, "Not really. 100,000 would come to see me hang."
WORK -- Required for success
One of the major components of genius seems to be hard work.
Noah Webster worked 36 years on his Dictionary, while Gibbon labored 26 years on his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. When Milton was writing Paradise Lost, he rose at 4:00 a.m. every morning to begin work. Plato wrote the first sentence of the Republic nine different times before it was acceptable to him.