A man called on Sir John Gielgud after a performance to extend his congratulations. Recognizing the name, Sir John welcomed him with the words, "How pleased I am to meet you. I used to know your son; we were at school together."
The man paused a moment, then responded, "I have no son. I was at school with you."
BIBLE -- Greatest treasure
The famous merchant John Wanamaker began his labors at age 11 in his father's brickyard. Though he conducted business worth millions of dollars, he recalled the "greatest purchase" he ever made was a small, red-leather Bible he purchased for $2.75 at age 11.
"That little red Bible has counted for more than anything else in my life," Wanamaker later claimed. "It was the greatest and most important and far-reaching purchase I ever made." (Sunday School Times)
COMMITMENT -- Church doesn't reflect
Elton Trueblood noted that while the early church reflected much of the commitment and obedience of a military unit, the contemporary church does not.
"The ordinary successful church of the twentieth century is about as different from an army as anything we can imagine. Instead of being under anything resembling military discipline we pride ourselves on our 'freedom.' We go and come as we like, as no soldier can do; we give or withhold giving as we like; we serve when we get around to it. Obedience is considered an irrelevant notion, and the theme of 'Onward Christian Soldiers' is so alien to our experience that some churches avoid the hymn entirely. A few avoid it on the mistaken assumption that it glorifies killing, which of course it does not. The military metaphor seems strained when it is applied to smartly dressed men and women riding in air-conditioned cars to air-conditioned churches." (from The Best of Elton Trueblood, Impact Books, 1976)
CREATION -- Reflects direction
"The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the unabridged dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing factory." (Edwin Conklin, Princeton University biologist)
DARKNESS -- Some prefer
The storming of the Bastille was a key event in the French Revolution. This prison fortress held many French prisoners, and when revolutionaries took the prison they began freeing prisoners.
One man, who had been held in the Bastille for many years, begged to be taken back to his cell. It had been so long since he had seen the sunlight that he could not stand the brightness. He preferred to return to his dungeon cell to die.
How many men and women refuse the light of God's love, preferring to live and die in the dark bondage of sin?
EVANGELISM -- Bringing light to world
When Robert Louis Stevenson was a child of six or seven, he was watching the lamplighter at work one evening. As the boy stood silently at his window, he saw the man move down the street lighting streetlamps one by one.
Thinking his silence was evidence of mischief, his nanny called out to ask what Robert was doing. Young Stevenson replied, "I'm watching a man punch holes in the darkness."
As Gary Redding observes, "That is a description of the Christian life. As the light of the world, it is our responsibility to punch holes in the darkness so that people might see God and find their way to Him." (Redding is Pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Lakeland, FL)
"No decent married man dates another woman, and no true Christian dates this world. To flirt with it is to fall in love with it and live in spiritual adultery. Physical adultery often begins with a look and casual conversation that is innocent enough. Christians are lured away from the Lord gradually enough. The first flirtations are sometimes so harmless that warnings are ridiculed. Preachers are called pharisaical, and parents are called puritanical when they warn of danger.
"But one thing leads to another, and soon it is too late. The best rule is, do not make the first date." (Vance Havner, "The Better or the Best?" from On This Rock I Stand, Baker Book House, 1986)
FATHER'S DAY - Fatherhood simple?
Lane G. Adams tells of the man who received his doctorate in psychology with highest honors. In his dissertation, the man had reduced all childrearing to three simple principles.
"Ten years later," says Adams, "he had three children and no principles." ("God's Word to Fathers" in Good News for All Seasons, Baker Book House, 1987)
A stranger came up to a man in Atlantic City and asked to borrow $100. "My family has no place to sleep," he said, "and we haven't eaten in two days."
"How do I know you won't take the money and gamble it away?" the man asked.
"Oh, don't worry about that," said the stranger. "We already have enough gambling money."
IDENTITY -- Find in right places
The cartoon character Ziggy was sitting on a park bench beside an unshaven man in unkempt clothing. The man tells Ziggy, "I'm 55-years-old, sonny, and I still haven't found myself." To that Ziggy suggests, "Maybe you've been looking in all the wrong places."
David W. Richardson carries Ziggy's wisdom a bit further: "We can try to find ourselves in suburbia or high rises or a park bench. We can try to find ourselves in high finance or middle-class America or among the street people. The Christian faith affirms that we will never know who we are until we know Jesus the Christ." (Richardson is Pastor of College United Methodist Church, Warrenton, MO)
MOTHER'S DAY -- Value of wives
As he retired from Riverside Church in New York City in 1948, Harry Emerson Fosdick paid tribute to his wife. He said that he had wondered throughout his life why women -- though equal or superior to men in brains -- had not achieved the public accomplishments of men. Responding to his own question, Fosdick said, "At last I know the answer. No woman ever had a wife!" (W. Graham Smith, "Is It Well With Your Family?" in Good News for All Seasons, Baker Book House, 1987)
PEACEMAKING - Requires forgiveness
Cotton Mather, the New England Puritan leader, received many critical letters -- most written anonymously. After reading several, he would bind them together by wrapping a piece of paper around them; then, on that paper, he would write the words: "Libels -- Father, forgive them." Then he put them on the shelf.
As John A. Huffman, Jr., notes: "If you are going to be a peacemaker, you don't need to rush to defend yourself. You know that the God you serve will take care of His own." (Huffman is Pastor of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, Newport Beach, CA)
PREJUDICE -- Danger of
During the 1987 National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C., U.S. Senator Paul Simon of Illinois recalled a story he heard while stationed with the Army in Germany after World War II. The story was of a minister who, in response to the political realities of his day, one Sunday announced to his congregation: "Will anyone who is of the Jewish faith please leave this service immediately."
There was a silence and no movement, so he repeated his challenge: "Will anyone here who is Jewish please leave this service immediately." With that, the story goes, the Christ on the crucifix climbed down and walked out of the church. (Provided by Derl G. Keefer, Pastor of Three Rivers Church of the Nazarene, Three Rivers, Ml)
PURPOSE -- Need for
During a period of high unemployment, the Irish government began an ambitious road building campaign. Many new jobs were created as workers enthusiastically signed on --they would be able to feed their families while helping build their nation's roads.
The workers' motivation soon declined, however. They lost their excitement. Why? They had discovered that the roads led to nowhere. The road-building campaign had been invented simply to create jobs.
As Reginald McDonough observes, "The mission that had provided the workers with a sense of destiny was no longer a reality. The work was the same, but much of the meaning was gone." (Baptist Program, June-July 1985)
RESPONSIBILITY -- We try to avoid
Rick Shannon tells about his niece's accident, in which she dropped an object and broke it. As she stood over the shattered pieces -- with a look of anxiety and guilt written on her face -- she replied quickly to an inquiry. "It did it on my hand!"
Like Adam and Eve before us, we often try to avoid responsibility for our own sins, but we cannot. We must face up to our sin before we can gain God's forgiveness. (Shannon is Pastor of Second Baptist Church, Greenville, KY)
"It would not be hard to believe that the archenemy of God has conspired to surround us at every conceivable point in our lives with the interfering noises of civilization that, when left unmuffled, usually drown out the voice of God." (Gordon MacDonald, Order Your Private World)
As worshipers leave the service, pastor Rick Shannon hugs the children or has a special word for them. They often reciprocate by giving him hand-made pictures or other Sunday School projects.
One busy Sunday as Rick greeted people at the church door, a small child slipped something into his coat pocket and scurried away. Upon returning to his office, the pastor found a small, tan envelope holding a note folded several times. On the note, in carefully-drawn letters, were the words, "I LIKE CHURCH."
Rick notes: "That child was experiencing the truth of Psalm 133:1 -- "Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity."
After Bernard Baruch made his first million in the stock market, he began boasting to his father of his accomplishment. "I am not even thirty, and already I have made my first million."
His father replied, "I am not impressed. What I want to know is --how will you spend the money you have earned?"
VISION -- Has patience
As Napoleon met in conference with his generals, he began discussing the problem of moving his armies across Europe during the summer heat. He proposed planting shade trees along the roads of the continent.
His ministers said, "Why, that will take thirty years!" To that, Napoleon replied, "Then begin immediately. We don't have a moment to waste."
Men and women of vision know that their dreams may not become reality overnight, but they are willing to begin the process that will ultimately culminate in success. Will we as Christians have a vision for Christ that will challenge us to work, though we may not see many results overnight?
WITNESS -- Hesitancy leads to failure
Our reluctance to share our faith in Christ leads some non-Christians to question the validity of our commitment. In his book Yes to Mission, Douglas Webster quotes a Buddhist monk who said, "To the eastern religions, it looks as if Christianity has reached the stage in adolescence when the child is slightly ashamed of his father and embarrassed when talking about him."