Anybody who can still do at sixty what he was doing at twenty wasn't doing much at twenty." (Jimmy Townsend)
CHRIST -- Unites people
George E. Truett, who was for many years pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, told the story of an art gallery where an older man was seen gazing at a picture of Christ on the cross. Almost unknowingly, his lips parted to utter the words, "I love Him!" A stranger standing nearby heard the man's words; he stepped over and said, "Brother, I love him too!" Then a third, a fourth, and others who were once strangers found themselves coming together around their common love for Christ.
Truett comments: "That is a parable and a prophecy of what is going to come to pass throughout all the earth. When Christ's love is fully shed abroad in men's hearts by the Holy Ghost, armies will cease to be, guns will be allowed to rest, ... money now spent on munitions of war will be spent, not to spread death but to enrich and gladden life." (Follow Thou Me)
CHURCH -- What attracts people?
Larry Michael tells of building a birdfeeder along with his son. It was a beautiful red structure they felt certain would attract birds from a fifty-mile radius. It was filled up with attractive seed, but they noticed no birds were coming. They scattered seed around the ground, but still no birds.
Meanwhile, an older couple across town was bragging about all the birds that were flocking to their feeder -- blue jays, goldfinches, cardinals, sparrows.
Larry realized two things were happening. First, the birds were going to the place they'd been receiving food for a long time. Second, fair weather meant they had no need to look elsewhere for sustenance.
"Is it possible there is a lesson for the church here?" he asks. "Regardless of what we do to attract people, they will not be there until there is a felt need. As long as the weather of life is fair and the storms are at a distance, the need to turn to God and the church for spiritual help seems remote.
"Meanwhile, we keep the feeder stocked and ready for hungry birds and the next snowstorm. At the same time, the church must maintain its services and ministries -- those who are hungry for the Lord will be there. Those who are being fed will stay." (Larry J. Michael is Pastor of Switzerland Baptist Church, Vevay, IN)
COMMUNICATION -- Can be difficult
Recently, Willie Brown was cut from the squad of the Albany Patroons of the Continental Basketball League. Coach Gerald Oliver had a difficult time communicating the bad news with Willie, however, since the player is deaf.
When the coach was ready to announce the cuts, the interpreters who usually translated for Brown were not present. That forced Oliver to write it out on the chalkboard. The coach drew a ladder and indicated to Brown that he had nearly made it to the top.
Oliver wrote out the words: "Some days you played outstanding. We think it's possible for you to play here in the future."
Whether the news is good or bad, there are times when it is hard to communicate. There are obstacles we must overcome.
EXAMPLES -- Are powerful sermons
"On March 11, 1686, James Morgan was executed in Boston. Joshua Moody and Cotton and Increase Mather all preached to him, and following their sermons, the prisoner preached, warning the righteous to heed his dread example. The four sermons attracted so many spectators, their collective weight cracked the gallery of the church." (Calvin Miller, Spirit, Word, and Story, Dallas: Word Books, 1989, pp. 96-97)
Charles Schultz -- that great cartoonist/philosopher of our generation -- often expresses valuable insights through the lips of his Peanuts characters. In one installment, Lucy and Linus are deep in conversation. Linus is telling his big sister:
"Charlie Brown says that brothers and sisters can learn to get along.
"He says they can get along the same way mature adults get along.
"And he says that adults can get along the same way that nations get along."
Then Linus concludes: "At this point, the analogy breaks down."
GRATITUDE -- Example of
Dr. Robert Cade is a research physician at the University of Florida. In 1965 he was asked why football players lose so much weight during extended practices and games. That question led to research in which Cade developed a drink designed to replenish the fluids lost during heavy exercise. He even named the drink after the Florida football team: Gatorade!
Last year, the Stokley-Van Camp company had Gatorade sales of more than $400 million. Dr. Cade's royalties have provided him with tremendous income. Yet he still lives in the same house in Gainesville, preferring to use his money on behalf of others. He has supported Vietnamese boat people, paid the bills of many needy patients, funded research performed by himself and others, and he currently underwrites the education of sixteen medical students.
When asked about his charitable gifts, he replied, "God has blessed me in all kinds of ways -- including a big income. In the book of Deuteronomy God tells the Israelites a man should give as he is blessed. I think I am dutybound to do as He suggests." (Main Event, a sports journal for physicians, Sept. 1989, p. 24)
PARENTS -- Should spend time with kids
Billy Graham tells about the father who gave his son an unusual Christmas present. The boy opened a package to find a note inside; the note read: "Son, during the next year I am going to give you one hour every day and two hours on Sunday." The boy ran to his father, gave him an enormous hug, and cried out, "Dad, that's the best Christmas present I've ever had."
Graham observes: "Your children not only require a great deal of your time, they long and hunger for it. Perhaps they do not express it, but the hunger and longing are there just the same. Be a pal to your children, love them, spend hours with them. Cut out some of your so-called 'social engagements' and make your home the center of your social life. God will honor you and your children will grow up to call you 'blessed'." (The Wit and Wisdom of Billy Graham)
POWER -- Man's incomplete without God
"God gave victory to the British when, in 1588, the Spanish Armada, seven miles from horn to horn of its crescent shape, went out against England, when unbelieving enemies, as now, believed not in the invincible and invisible God as their ally. Never before had so mighty a fleet of ships, on war's bloody business bent, sailed the English Channel. The enemies of England swore by the stars above, by every wave that lapped the western shores of Europe, by every sail that 'bellied under the breezes,' that the Armada of one hundred and fifty ships was an invincible Armada.
"But the strategy of Drake and Frobisher, the fires of Calais harbor, and the storm of God, their ally on the North Sea, made their boastful statements as the chatterings of idiots, for man's effort at invincible might were as futile as the efforts of blind men to see themselves in frost-coated mirrors. Therefore did Queen Elizabeth, to commemorate the victory, giving evidence that God was England's ally, have a medal struck with these words from the Word of the Lord that endureth forever: 'Thou didst blow with thy wind, the sea covered them: they sank as lead in the mighty waters' (Exodus 15:10)." (Robert G. Lee, Be Ye Also Ready)
Stuart Briscoe explains that as a young man he joined the Marines. "Their magnificent dress uniform attracted me, and I thought that I would get one of those uniforms immediately. But they didn't give me one for months. When I asked about it, they told me, 'You are a Marine. The moment you walked through the gates, you became a Marine. You are a Marine to stay.' I said 'Give me another uniform then.' They replied, 'You are not fit to wear one yet. We will have to do something about your back, about your chest, and about your shoulders. We'll have to teach you how to march, how to walk, how to look like a Marine, and how to behave like a Marine. Then you can wear the uniform.' I was a Marine the moment I was sworn into that position, but it took me a long, long time to wear the uniform.
"I was sanctified the minute that I was washed (in the blood of Christ). But it will take me the rest of my life to learn how to behave in a sanctified way." (Stuart Briscoe, What It Means to Be Real, Dallas: Word Books, 1988, p. 115)