According to the “Ripley’s Believe it or Not” people, a man named Frazer Simpson was splashed in the face with a corrosive chemical. Instead of harming him, it made his eyesight better. In fact, he no longer needed glasses. No one can explain why Simpson got this result.
Something similar has happened to many Christians. Many Christians have gone through terrible pain and tragedy, only to find out that instead of being destroyed or bitter, they became better people.
In January of 2007, a school bus crash in Kentucky sent 12-year-old Cody Shively to the hospital with serious injuries. He was on a breathing tube for four weeks. He was in an induced coma for several weeks because of swelling in his brain. Finally, in late April, 2007 he was released from the hospital. A crowd of TV cameras and television reporters was waiting for him to come out of the hospital. They wanted him to say something. The first thing he said was, "I can't wait to get back to my church!"
That’s how we all should feel about church. Even with all its faults, church is a place for happiness, fulfillment and joy.
Recently, The Hallmark Hall of Fame told a dramatized version of the story of Bruce Murakami. It was entitled “Crossroads.” Bruce’s Murakami’s wife was killed in an accident and Bruce spent three years trying to prove that Justin, the 19-year-old driver of the other car, had been street racing. Eventually, Justin was charged and taken to court. In an emotional, private conversation, Justin apologized to Bruce. Bruce began to see his need to live up to the tenets of his faith and to forgive Justin. Bruce appealed for Justin to be put on probation if he would agree to accompany Bruce to schools and churches and conduct safe driving presentations. Even though Justin’s community service hours have been served, they still do presentations together.
Murakami once said, “You have to deal with your anger or it will destroy you. If I hadn't found a way to forgive, I would have been a third victim.” News reports also carried Justin’s reaction when Bruce first suggested they work together. He said, “I was totally gung ho. I was like, thank you, God. This was a person you never thought you'd get forgiveness from.” How may lives were blessed and even saved because of one act of forgiveness?
A wealthy man asked a wise man to break his son of bad habits. The wise man took the young man for a walk though a garden. Suddenly he asked the boy to uproot a small plant. The boy pulled it out easily. The wise man then asked him to uproot a bigger plant. This plant came out easily as well. The wise man pointed to a bush and asked the boy to uproot it. It came out, but the boy had to use all his strength.
Finally, the wise man pointed to a tree and ordered the boy to uproot it. The boy could not uproot it, no matter how hard he pulled and pushed. He finally cried out, “This is impossible!” The wise man replied, “It is the same with bad habits. When they are young, it is easy to pull them out. But, as they mature and take hold, they cannot be uprooted.”
Rivers gain more attention than the little streams that create them. You can name the great rivers of the world, but you probably cannot name their tributaries. However, without the tributaries, there would be no river. And it must be remembered that the smaller streams, while less well-known, are purer and are found on a higher elevation.
Some of our lives are tributary lives. It is our role to provide the pure water from the higher elevation that enables another to be a mighty river of power and influence.
Recently Johnny Hart, the well-known cartoonist who invented B.C., passed away. Hart’s Christian commitment was evident in both his personal life and in some of his cartoons. Upon his passing another cartoonist, Mike Peters, told a wonderful story that was a tribute to Hart. It seems that Dick Brown, the cartoonist who drew Hagar the Horrible, was extremely ill. He received a letter from Johnny Hart. Johnny's name was on the return address, and inside was a piece of paper with an outline of Johnny's hand. Evidently he had traced his own hand. There was also a note that said, “Dick -- call me.”
Dick Browne called Johnny Hart and said, “I got your letter -- what does this hand mean?” Johnny replied, "Oh, good you got the letter! Open it up and put it flat on a table. Now put your hand where the drawn hand is.” Dick put his own hand over the outlined hand and said, “Ok, now what?” Johnny said, “Now we're holding hands -- let's pray a little bit.”
In a recent comic strip, Dennis the Menace is praying on a Monday. He says to God, “I didn’t want to bother you yesterday, because I know Sunday is your busy day.” Well, Sunday is a busy day for all Christians, but God is never too busy to listen to His children pray.
After a very long and boring sermon, the church members filed out in silence, trying not to have any eye contact with the preacher. Near the end of the line was a sweet older lady who always had something nice to say about the sermon,
“Preacher, your sermon today reminded me of the peace and love of God!" The preacher was greatly relieved, but could not leave well enough alone. “What do you mean by that,” he asked. Being an honest woman, she replied, “It reminded me of the peace of God because it passed all understanding and the love of God because it endured forever!"
Unamuno, the Spanish philosopher, tells about the Roman aqueduct at Segovia, in his native Spain. It was built in 109 A.D. For 1800 years, it carried cool water from the mountains to the hot and thirsty city. Nearly sixty generations of men drank from its flow. Then came another generation, a recent one, who said, "This aqueduct is so great a marvel that it ought to be preserved for our children, as a museum piece. We shall relieve it of its centuries-long labor."
They did; they laid modern iron pipes. They gave the ancient bricks and mortar a reverent rest. And what happened to the aqueduct? It began to began to fall apart. The sun beating on the dry mortar caused it to crumble. The bricks and stone sagged and threatened to fall. What ages of service could not destroy, idleness disintegrated.
Do you have wind chimes at your house? Some people think they are irritating, but they can teach us a valuable lesson. The next time you face a storm, listen very carefully. Along with the howling wind, you will hear the sound of the wind chimes. They are making their music in the midst of the storm. We should do the same thing. When the storms of life are raging, we can make beautiful music.
According to the book Work to Live, if you live in the following nations, a certain number of vacation days are mandated by law:
United Kingdom: 20
United States: 0
J. Michael Shannon is Academic Dean and Professor of Preaching at the seminary of Cincinnati Christian University.