Illustrations – Archive

ADVERSITY

If only we could understand that whenever and wherever God meets us, we are dealing with the heart we see on Calvary!  If only we would see that whatever comes to us, it is He who gave His Son, His best, His all, who sends it to us.  Then, if facing trouble, we could say with Fraser of Brea, “This is a harsh-featured messenger, yet he comes to me from God, what kindness does he bring me?”

–  Arthur John Gossip  (How Great Thou Art, p. 80.)

ANGER

Part of our problem is that we live in a culture of conflict.  When I was a boy, divorces were very rare.  You almost never heard about somebody involved in a lawsuit.  Terms such as “road rage” and “air rage” hadn’t been invented because there was no need for them.  And people were generally gracious.  They didn’t spew streams of curse words or make obscene gestures because someone happened to be driving a little too slow in the fast lane.  They didn’t run onto the field at ball games and attack athletes.  And athletes didn’t climb ten rows up into the stands to attack the fans!

Yes, it’s a different world today.  Almost everywhere you look there’s tension and conflict.  People’s nerves are on edge.  Like ticking bombs, they’re ready at any moment to explode.

–         Mark Atteberry  (The 10 Dumbest Thing Christians Do, pp. 112-113.)

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Anger seems to be epidemic these days…. Dr. Emil Coccaro, a researcher and professor of psychiatry at the University of Chicago Hospitals, has been studying anger for several decades. He says that many hotheads suffer from Intermittent Explosive Disorder (IED). Dr. Coccaro is championing a new drug called Depakote, introduced by Abbott Laboratories in 1995. Interestingly, an effort to find volunteers with volatile tempers for the clinical studies has been unproductive. Apparently, few people see their anger as a problem.

“The other day I got into a friend’s car and I noticed the visor on the passenger’s side was gone,” reported Dr. Coccaro. “I asked what happened, and the driver told me, ‘Don’t get me started on that. My wife ripped it off.’ I told him these things are hard to rip off, and he told me, ‘Well, she was really angry.'”

Mike Conklin, Chicago Tribune (7-28-00)

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A leading social commentator now teaches that despair and rage are an essential element in the struggle for justice.  He and others who teach this are sowing the wind, and they will reap the whirlwind, the tornado.  Indeed, we are reaping it now in a nation increasingly sick with rage and resentment of citizen toward citizen.  And often the rage and resentment is upheld as justified in the name of God.

–  Dallas Willard  (The Divine Conspiracy, pp. 150-151.)

BIBLE

“The storehouse of God’s Word was never meant for mere scrutiny, not even primarily for study but for sustenance.  It is not simply a collection of fine proverbs and noble teachings for men to admire and quote as they might Shakespeare.  It is rations for the soul, resources of and for the spirit, treasure for the inner man.  Its goods exhibited upon every page are ours, and we have no business merely moving respectively amongst them and coming away none the richer.”

–  Vance Havner (The Best of Vance Hanver,  p. 17.)

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“In a small village in north central India near the border of Nepal, a man walked into a small shop and bought three cigarettes.  Buying a few cigarettes was not odd;  people often bought odd quantities of goods in that region;  you could buy a single carrot or a pencil or two sticks of gum.  And because paper is expensive in India, shopkeepers typically would wrap a purchase from a supply of previously used paper.

When the villager returned home and unwrapped his cigarettes, the paper caught his eye, and he began to read.  Quickly, he realized that he had never seen anything like this in his life.  There was a problem, however; he had only half the original piece of paper.  Part of the message was missing.

So the smoker, disregarding the summer heat, ran back to the shop and asked if he could have the other half of the paper.  The shopkeeper replied, ‘You see those stacks over there?  It might be in there and it might not.  If you really want it, go ahead and look.

So for hours the smoker took each piece from the pile and examined it.  Shoppers came in and looked at him, probably wondering what he was doing, and went out again.  When he couldn’t find the piece that matched his, he carefully reexamined the whole stack.  Grieved at his lack of success, he started slowly home.  On the way, he remembered that the paper referred to an address in a town twenty miles away.  So he borrowed a bicycle and began the long and uncomfortably hot ride.

He eventually found the address and knocked on the door.  When a man answered, the cigarette smoker excitedly shouted at him, ‘Is this your address?  Did you write this?’  It took the man a few minutes to calm his guest so that he could explain.  Yes, this was his address.  No, he didn’t write the words, but he did know them.  He was a pastor; and he invited the smoker in to tell him more about the message that was on the paper, which turned out to be a gospel tract.  Now the smoker, a new believer, cycles the twelve miles to the pastor’s village each week to hear the Word of God – all because of one torn piece of a tract which contained a few words of Scriptures.

– Doug McIntosh (Life’s Greatest Journey, pp. 89, 90.)

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“We must be men of the Scriptures, so that we can know what the content of the biblical system is.  Every day of our lives we should be studying the Scriptures to make sure that what we are presenting really is the Christian position, and that we are presenting it as well as possible in our day.”

Francis Schaffer (The God Who is There, p.18.)

CHRISTMAS

“Just a hurried line… to tell a story which puts the contrast between our feast of the Nativity and, all this ghastly ‘Xmas’ racket at its lowest.  My brother heard a woman on a ‘bus say, as the ‘bus passed a church with a Crib outside it, ‘Oh Lor’!  They bring religion into everything.  Look-they’re dragging it even into Christmas now!”

–  C. S. Lewis (Letters to an American Lady, 29 December 1958, p. 80.)

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“If Jesus were born one thousand times in Bethlehem and not in me, then I would still be lost.”

–  Corrie Ten Boom (quoted in Christianity Today, Dec. 11, 1987, p. 32.)

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[of Mary] “Blessed of God?  Highly favored?  Great things?  Not if ‘blessed’ means knowing a life of ease and prosperity.  Not if ‘great things’ have to do with earthly power and prestige and success.  How then, was Mary blessed?  Ah, she knew the glory of living for divine purpose.”

–         Stanley C. Baldwin (When Death Means Life, p. 32,33.)

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An American Express survey about Christmas gifts found that the fruitcake was chosen most often (31%) from a list of “worst” holiday gifts. It even finished ahead of “no gift at all.” When asked how to dispose of a bad gift, 30% would hide it in the closet, 21% would return it, and 19% would give it away. This suggests that the Christmas fruitcake might get recycled as a gift for the host of New Year’s party.

– Resource, Mar/Apr, 1990

DISCIPLESHIP

“…being a disciple means living a disciplined life, and it is not likely that you will get other disciples, unless you are one first.”

–  Evelyn Underhill

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“When I was a boy, my father, a baker, introduced me to the wonders of song,” tenor Luciano Pavarotti relates. “He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice. Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’

“‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.’

“I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book–whatever we choose–we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”

–  Guideposts.

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Generally people agree the church in the West continues to decline.  However, many have not noticed how serious the problem is among evangelicals.  The question that must be answered is, What is the nature of salvation?  Who is saved and who is not?  If millions of professing Christians think they are regenerate because of a doctrine test alone, this would explain why many Christians don’t witness and give a meager 2 percent to God’s work.

…we have taught faith as agreement, instead of commitment to follow Jesus.

… I am reminded of how my children used to respond when I told them to clean up their rooms.  They often told me they would do it, but later.  Much to my chagrin, hours later their rooms were untouched.  They had agreed, but they didn’t do it.

–         Bill Hull  (Choosing the Life, pp.  28-29.)

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If you have any knowledge at all of human nature, you know that those who only admire the truth will, when danger appears, become traitors. The admirer is infatuated with the false security of greatness; but if there is any inconvenience or trouble, he pulls back. Admiring the truth, instead of following it, is just as dubious a fire as the fire of erotic love, which at the turn of the hand can be changed into exactly the opposite—to hate, jealousy, and revenge. Christ, however, never asked for admirers, worshipers, or adherents. He consistently spoke of “followers” and “disciples.”

Søren Kierkegaard, Danish philosopher and theologian (1813–1855)

DOUBT

There is always an indefinable something about people who have suffered.  They have a fragrance which others lack.  They exhibit the meekness and gentleness of Christ.  …  I sometimes wonder if the real test of our hunger for holiness is our willingness to experience any degree of suffering if only thereby God will make us holy.”

– John R.W. Stott (The Cross of Christ, pp. 319, 320.)

Some years ago I had the privilege of getting to know Dr. Blanchard Demarchant, now a philosophy professor.  Raised in a Christian home, Blanchard began as a teenager to ask questions concerning doubts about the Christian faith that were troubling him.  He went away to Bible college, but to his dismay, found that none of the teachers could address his questions.  Yet there was in the administration one well-educated man.  Blanchard made an appointment with him, hoping to find some answers to his questions.  But when Blanchard had laid out his questions,  the administrator, instead of dealing with them, merely commanded Blanchard to get down on his knees and repent before God for entertaining such doubts.

Needless to say, that travesty only convinced Blanchard even more that there was nothing intellectually to the Christian faith.  He began to study philosophy at a secular university, became an atheist, convinced the Christian girl whom he had married to likewise abandon her faith, was drafted and sent to Vietnam, where he became a drug addict and alcoholic, and later returned to find his marriage, his job, and his world generally falling apart.  He nearly committed suicide.  But instead, he began to study and ponder the teaching of the man Jesus, and slowly, painfully, he began to return to the Christian faith.  To make a long story short, he is now a transformed person, is re-united with his wife, Phyllis, and has a remarkable ministry with secular university students in philosophy by subtly introducing Christian perspective on philosophical problems in the classroom.

He told me with a smile that his students are simply dumbfounded that the can be both a philosopher and a Christian.  Blanchard’s story had a happy ending.  But for many other children from Christian families the outcome is more tragic.

–  William Lane Craig (Hard Questions, Real Answers, pp. 27-28.)

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Thomas, like a good historian, wants to see and touch.  Jesus presents himself to his sight and invites him to touch, but Thomas doesn’t.  He transcends the type of knowing he had intended to use and passes into a higher and richer one.  In the image I used before, of Israel at the Red Sea, this how it looks, in words from the Easter Oratorio.  Thomas begins with doubt:

The sea is too deep

The heaven’s too high

I cannot swim

I cannot fly;

I must stay here

I must stay here

Here where I know

How I can know

Here where I know

What I can know

Jesus then reappears and invites Thomas to see and touch.  Suddenly the new, giddying possibility appears before him:

The sea has parted.  Pharoah’s hosts—

Despari, and doubt, and fear, and pride—

No longer frighten us.  We must

Cross over to the other side

The heaven bows down.  With wounded hands

Our exiled God, our Lord of shame

Before us, living, breathing, stands;

The Word is near, and calls our name.

New knowing for the doubting mind,

New seeing out of blindness grows;

New trusting may the sceptic find

New hope through that which faith now knows.

And with that, Thomas takes a deep breath and brings history and faith together in a rush.  “My Lord,” he says, “and my God.”

–  N. T. Wright  (Surprised By Hope, pp. 70-71.)

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Doubt is useful for a while… If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if he burst out from the cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’  then surely we are permitted doubt.  But we must move on.  To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.

–  Lesslie Newbigin  (Quoted by John Ortberg in Faith and Doubt, p. 31.)

GRADITUDE

A teacher asked her students to list what they thought were the present Seven Wonders of the World. The students cast the most votes for:  1. Egypt’s Great Pyramids 2. Taj Mahal 3. Grand Canyon 4. Panama Canal 5. Empire State Building 6. St. Peter’s Basilica 7. China’s Great Wall

While gathering the votes, the teacher noted that one student had not turned in her paper yet. She asked the girl if she was having trouble with her list.  The girl replied, “Yes, a little. I couldn’t quite make up my mind because there were so many.”

The teacher said, “Well, tell us what you have, and maybe we can help.”  The girl hesitated, then read, “I think the Seven Wonders of the World are:  1. to see 2. to hear 3. to touch 4. to taste 5. to feel 6. to laugh 7. to love

          – getSynergized Newsletter (7-27-03)

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It’s easy to express our gratitude to God when He blesses us, but not so easy when it all goes wrong.

I’m reminded of Gigi Graham Tchividjian’s story about the time she ordered sand for the sandbox.  The sand truck arrived but made deep trenches in the grass.  The truck also broke off branches from overhanging trees.

Then it got stuck.  The more the driver accelerated, the deeper he sank, until the truck began sliding down the hill.  Later, a tow truck arrived.  This driver left more trenches.  He broke sprinkler pipes, splintered branches, and uprooted small trees.  Both trucks were stuck.  Eventually, truck number three arrived—the cab of an 18-wheeler.
Gigi was left with a yard that looked like a war zone.  The day had been a disaster.  But when she tucked in her eight-year-old for the night, she was astonished at his prayer:  “And thank You, Lord, for the exciting day and all the entertainment we had!”

There are times when we feel we could do with a little less “excitement” and “entertainment.”  But the Lord directs us to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  That’s a godly perspective worth remembering—on the bad days as well as the good.

–        James Dobson (Focus on the Family Bulletin, 11/04)

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Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that if the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event it would be.  But because they’re there every night, we barely give them a look.

Helen Keller once said, “I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life.  It would make him more appreciative of sight and the joys of sound.

One of the evidences of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is a gradual reversal of the twisted pattern of ingratitude.  God wants to make us people who exhibit a thankfulness in proper proportion to the gifts and blessings we’ve received.

–        Robert J. Morgan  (More Real Stories For the Soul, p. 183.)

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HUMILITY

“Whoever wishes to understand fully the words of Christ must try to pattern his whole life on that of Christ.  What good does it do to speak learnedly about the Trinity if, lacking humility, you displease the Trinity?”

–        Thomas ‘a Kempis (The Imitation of Christ)

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The Fool’s Prayer

THE ROYAL feast was done; the King                                                                                                                                                                                                 Sought some new sport to banish care,                                                                                                                                                                                                  And to his jester cried, “Sir Fool,                                                                                                                                                                                                                       Kneel now, and make for us a prayer!”

The jester doffed his cap and bells,                                                                                                                                                                                                           And stood the mocking court before;                                                                                                                                                                                                      They could not see the bitter smile                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Behind the painted grin he wore.

He bowed his head, and bent his knee                                                                                                                                                                                                             Upon the monarch’s silken stool;                                                                                                                                                                                                                His pleading voice arose: “O Lord,                                                                                                                                                                                                               Be merciful to me, a fool!

“No pity, Lord, could change the heart                                                                                                                                                                                               From red with wrong to white as wool;                                                                                                                                                                                                   The rod must heal the sin:  but, Lord,                                                                                                                                                                                                            Be merciful to me, a fool.

“’Tis not by guilt the onward sweep                                                                                                                                                                                                              Of truth and right, O Lord, we stay;                                                                                                                                                                                                            ‘Tis by our follies that so long                                                                                                                                                                                                                            We hold the earth from heaven away.

“These clumsy feet, still in the mire,                                                                                                                                                                                                           Go crushing blossoms without end;                                                                                                                                                                                                              These hard, well-meaning hands we thrust                                                                                                                                                                                                Among the heart-strings of a friend.

“The ill-timed truth we might have kept—                                                                                                                                                                                              Who knows how sharp it pierced and stung?                                                                                                                                                                                          The word we had not sense to say—                                                                                                                                                                                                          Who knows how grandly it had rung?

“Our faults no tenderness should ask,                                                                                                                                                                                                      The chastening stripes must cleanse them all;                                                                                                                                                                                             But for our blunders—oh, in shame                                                                                                                                                                                                            Before the eyes of heaven we fall.

“Earth bears no balsam for mistakes;                                                                                                                                                                                                      Men crown the knave and scourge the tool                                                                                                                                                                                                That did his will; but Thou, O Lord,                                                                                                                                                                                                              Be merciful to me, a fool!”

The room was hushed; in silence rose                                                                                                                                                                                                      The King and sought his gardens cool,                                                                                                                                                                                                    And walked apart, and murmured low,                                                                                                                                                                                                         “Be merciful to me, a fool!”

–  Edward Rowland Sill. 1841–1887

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Don King once said, “I am the greatest boxing promoter in the world. And, of course, I say that humbly.”

–  Source Unknown

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Everything boils down to how we understand the gospel.  The problem with religion is that it makes people believe that “somehow because I go to this church, I am better than other people.”  The obvious flaw in this is that the gospel says the bloodstained cross means no one is better than any one else—we are all provided equal grace in the eyes of God.  We all share the same fallen DNA.  The fact that Christians have accepted this grace and are redeemed should create humility in us.

I’m perplexed at how anyone can hear the story of Jesus dying in our place and rescuing us out of our helplessness and have it produce arrogance in their life.  There should be points of distinction, but those should be not only behavior/morality based, but rather God’s love for the world exhibited in his followers who are overflowing with his mercy and compassion.

–  Rick McKinley  (Quoted by David Kinnaman in UnChristian, pp. 200-201.)

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JOY

A Christian friend of mine, Jody, told me she has a neighbor who is a devotee of the New Age because, as she says, “they only emphasize the positive.  There is none of the negative stuff you get with Christianity.”

One day Jody called me, laughing and reciting the following story:  “My neighbor called me and she said, “Jody, you have really convicted me of something.”  Becky, I was alarmed because I knew how defensive she was toward anything she considered negative, especially from Christians!  Then she continued, “You have really convicted me,” she said, “That I don’t know how to have fun.”

“What?”  asked Jody, as puzzled as she was stunned.

“Jody, you enjoy life.  You know when to stop working and relax.  You just have more fun living life that I do.  All I do is work and worry.  You’re going to have to teach me how to lighten up!  Do you think it has something to do with your faith?”

“Becky, I had hoped that my life was a witness to her.  But if you asked me to guess how I was influencing her view of Christianity, I would have never dreamed it had anything to do with my ‘fun quotient,’ Jody confined.

So let us remember as we witness to other what Ignatius wrote:  “The glory of God is a person fully alive.”

–        Rebecca Manley Pippert  (Out of the Saltshaker, pp. 81-82.)

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May the Son of God who is already formed in you grow in you—so that for you he will become immeasurable and that in you, he will become laughter, exultation, fullness of joy which no one can take from you.

–        Isaac of Stella  (quoted by Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in Spiritual Discipllines Handbook, p. 26.)

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So, what has science learned about what makes the human heart sing?  More than one might imagine—along with some surprising things about what doesn’t ring our inner chimes.  Take wealth, for instance, and all the delightful things that money can buy.  Research by Diener, among others, has shown that once your basic needs are met, additional income does little to raise your sense of satisfaction with life.  A good education?  Sorry, Mom and Dad, neither education nor, for that matter, a high IQ paves the road to happiness.  Youth?  No, again.  In fact, older people are more consistently satisfied with their lives than the young.  And they’re less prone to dark moods…  Marriage?  A complicated picture:  married people are generally happier than singles, but that may be because they were happier to begin with.  Sunny days?  Nope, although a 1998 study showed that Midwesterners think folks in balmy California are happier and that Californians incorrectly believe this about themselves too.

On the positive side, religious faith seems to genuinely lift the spirit, though it’s tough to tell whether it’s the God part or the community aspect that does the heavy lifting.  Friends?  A giant yes.  A 2002 study conducted at the University of Illinois by Diener and Seligman found that the most salient characteristics shared by the 10% of students with the highest levels of happiness and the fewest signs of depression were their strong ties to friends and family and commitment to spending time with them.

“Word needs to be spread,” concludes Diener.  “It is important to work on social skills, close interpersonal ties and social support in order to be happy?”

–        Claudia Wallis, “The New Science of Happiness,”  Time Magazine, January 17, 2005, pp. A5-A6.)

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Happiness keeps joy honest.  If the heart is joyful, let it tell our face.  Before Jesus healed a paralytic.  He asked, “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk?’.  Similarly we can ask about joy:  which is easier: to believe in it or live it?

–        Mike Mason  (Champagne for the Soul, p. 32.)

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Psalm 97:11-12

11 Light is shed upon the righteous
and joy on the upright in heart.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you who are righteous,
and praise his holy name.

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KINDNESS

In the focus groups, a similar openness to church involvement was exposed.  The only reservation, noted by several participants, regarded evangelism.  One put it this way:  “Churches should not try to push their religious views on anyone.  But if they would just open their arms to those in need.”

One could take offense at a statement like that or see it, as I do, as an opening.  The whole premise of this book has been to restore the incarnational aspect of the gospel.  Disconnected words, absent a body of works, not only fail to build a bridge but also dig a moat.  People today need to see the gospel first.  If we can deliever it with “open arms”—and our community is asking for it—is there any doubt that evangelism will follow?  Will not the gospel of faith flourish in an atmosphere of love and good deeds?

–        Robert Lewis (The Church of Irresistible Influence, p. 198.)

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When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people. Now I admire kind people.

– Abraham Heschel (quoted in Another Country by Mary Pipher)

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A woman in a small Arkansas community was a single mom with a frail baby.   Her neighbor would stop by every few days and keep the child so she could shop.  After some weeks her neighbor shared more than time; she shared her faith, and the woman… followed Christ.

The friends of the young mother objected.  “Do you know what those people teach?”  they contested.

“Here is what I know,” she told them.  “They held my baby.”

–        Max Lucado (Next Door Savior, p. 25.)

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It was a great Colorado evening—warm, with a gentle breeze.  Couples and families were enjoying the chance to be out on the hiking and biking trails of our community.  But as I rounded the turn for home I heard some kids screaming.

Two little girls and a boy—siblings, I assumed—had been playing with an orange ball in their backyard when it bounced over their fence and headed onto one of the busiest streets in our area.  The kids, peering over the fence, watched their ball roll into traffic.

For a moment I almost walked by.  After all, it was only a ball, which could be replaced.  But I’d just been working through thoughts about being authentic and living the gospel—not just knowing it.  In a quick moment, the Spirit whispered in my soul, “Don’t walk past.  You have a congregation of three watching you.”

Before I realized it, I was in the middle of the road with traffic bearing down, chasing an orange ball.  After dodging speeding cars and hearing a few choice words yelled my way, I got the ball.  I threw it back over the fence to the three children.  “Here you go.  Have fun.”  I said as I went tromping on toward home.  Within a few steps I heard the boy calling, “Mister, mister!”  He waved me back to his spot at the fence, where I could see his mom standing in the doorway to their deck.  His sister looked over the fence, too.

He said, “Thank you.  That was an important ball for my littlest sister.  We gave it to her for her birthday this weekend.”  I could see it was important to him, too.  I looked at the youngest child, and as she finished wiping the last remnants of tears from her face, she very quietly said, “Thank you, mister.”

–        Wes Roberts (Reclaiming God’s Original Intent for the Church, pp. 39-40.)

Loving Others

We live in a heavily screened, body-guarded reality.  Not much gets by the great bulldog of the ego.  For truly to open our hearts to another person is to invite them into our own throne room and to sit them down on our very own  throne, on the seat normally warmed by no one but ourselves.  And to do that is to have the throne, the seat of the ego, rocked off its foundations.  Love is an earthquake that relocates the center of the universe.”

–  Mike Mason (The Mystery of Marriage, p. 37)

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“Today Roberta Langella heads up our ministry called ‘New Beginnings’ a weekly outreach to drug abusers and the homeless.  She now has a hundred workers involved, riding the subway every Sunday afternoon to the shelters to the rehab centers to escort people to our church for a meal and the evening meeting.  The love of the Lord just exudes from her life.  Roberta is a real trooper these days, even when she doesn’t feel well.  As she sits in the balcony on Sunday nights with all the homeless she has brought with her, there’s nobody too dirty, too far gone for her to care about.  She sees herself in them.  She is a living example of the power of God to pick up the downtrodden, the self-loathing, the addicted, and redeem them for his glory.”

–        Jim Cymbala (Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, p.46)

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I began to reflect on this little biblical phrase—to love someone “in the Lord”—and it occurred to me how often we misuse it.  “I don’t like someone and I don’t hope the best for them, but I’m a Christian, and of course, Christians love everyone, so this must be ‘loving them in the Lord.’”  The phrase becomes a way to spiritualize our lack of love.

–  John Ortberg (The Life You’ve Always Wanted, p. 181.)

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I am now aware that the family of God contains people of various ethnological, cultural, class, and denominational differences… Within the true church there is a mysterious unity that overrides all divisive factors.  In groups which in my ignorant piousness I formerly “frowned upon,” I have found men so dedicated to Christ and so in love with the truth that I have learned that although Christians do not always agree, they can disagree agreeably, and that what is most needed in the church today is for us to show an unbelieving world that we love one another.

–  Billy Graham  (Quoted by Harold Myra and Marshall Shelley in The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham, p. 316.)

MERCY

“Only Jesus Christ, who bids us follow him, knows the journey’s end.  But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy.”

–  Detrick Bonhoeffer (The Cost of Discipleship, p.41)

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A cartoon shows a husband and wife standing in a long, curving line before the gates of heaven.  They’re waiting for their turn to face judgment.  The woman leans toward the man and whispers behind her head, “Now, Harold, whatever you do, please don’t demand what’s coming to you.”

–  Mark Buchanan (The Holy Wild, p. 117.)

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… there was no one more gracious about publicly living it (forgiveness) out with me than Chonda (Pierce).  When she asked if I would be interested in doing the tour with her, I said to her, “Do you know about my past?  Do you know that I made some bad choices?  Do you know that some people may stop listening to you because you are with me?”

“Are you talking about the stuff from twelve years ago?”  Chonda asked.

“That’s what I’m talking about,” I told her.

“Good Lord!  Twelve years ago I was workin’ in a bar!”  she answered.

–        Sandi Patty  (Broken on the Back Row, p. 206.)

MISSIONS

“Let’s face it… 99% of us (maybe more) are scared silly of the word missions.  We really like the idea of someone ‘forsaking all for Christ and the Gospel’… as long as that someone is someone else.”

– Sid McCollum (Quoted in In The Gap, p. 53.)

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“William Carey had to overcome great odds to obey the call of God.  In The Challenge of Life, Oswald J. Smith noted that ‘even the Directors of the East India Company opposed [Carey’s] work.  Following is the idiotic resolution they presented to Parliament:  ‘The sending out of missionaires into one Eastern possession is the maddest, most extravagant, most costly, most indefensible project which has ever been suggested by a moonstruck fanatic.’  Smith added, ‘In 1796, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland passed the following infamous resolution:  ‘To spread the knowledge of the gospel amongst barbarians and heathens seems to be highly preposterous.’  One speaker in the House of Commons said that he would rather see a band of devils let loose in India than a band of missionaires.  Such was the opposition to missions when Carey set forth.  And yet, he was able to write, ‘Why is my soul disquieted within me?  Things may turn out better than I expect.  Everything is known to God, and God  cares.'”  William Carey stood the test, and became the father of modern missions.”

– Our Daily Bread

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“We must not confuse the aims of foreign missions with the methods used because it is too easy to forget our aim when we fall in love with our particular method.  Sometimes successful operations result in the death of the patients.”

–        Samuel M. Zwemer (From the book, Into All the World, p.131)

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“Many sincere Christians around the world are concerned for evangelism.  They are delighted at evangelizing in their own countries.  But they do not see God’s big picture of ‘world need’ and the ‘global responsibility’ that He has put upon the Church in His world.  The Christians in Nigeria are not just to evangelize Nigeria, nor the Christians in Peru just the people in Peru.  God’s heartbeat is for the world.”

–        Billy Graham (quoted in In the Gap, p.54)

PERSEVERANCE

“Perseverence is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.”

–   Walter Elliott

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Don’t make the mistake of Florence Chadwick.  In 1952 she attempted to swim the chilly ocean waters between Catalina Island and the California shore.  She swam through foggy weather and choppy seas for fifteen hours.  Her muscles began to cramp, and her resolve weakened.  She begged tp be taken out of the water, but her mother, riding in a boat alongside, urged her not to give up.  She kept trying but grew exhausted and stopped swimming.  Aids lifted her out of the water and into the boat.  They paddled a few more minutes, the mist broke, and she discovered that the shore was less than a half mile away.  “All I could see was the fog,” she explained at a news conference.  “I think it I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

–        Max Lucado  (Facing Your Giants, p. 70.)

“Before we can begin to see the cross as something done for us (leading us to faith and worship), we have to see it as something done by us (leading to repentance).  Indeed, ‘only the man who is prepared to own his share in the guilt of the cross’ wrote Canon Peter Green, ‘may claim his share in its grace’.  Horatius Bonar (1808-89), who has been called ‘the prince of Scottish hymn-writers’, expressed it well:       ‘Twas I that shed the sacred blood;

I nailed him to the tree;

I crucified the Christ of God;

I joined the mockery.

Of all that shouting multitude

I feel that I am one;

And in that din of voices rude

I recognize my own.

Around the cross the throng I see,

Mocking the Sufferer’s groan;

Yet still my voice it seems to be,

As if I mocked alone.

– John R. W. Stott (The Cross of Christ, p. 59-60)

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“When I was a boy growing up in Michigan, my dad’s produce company purchased a farm just outside of Kalamazoo.  Every day, I’d wait for my father to come home from work, and when his car drove up, I’d rush to accost him, standing so close to the door that he couldn’t open it without bumping me.  As soon as the door was opened a crack, I’d begin pleading, ‘Dad, let me ride my bike from school over to the farm, and you can teach me how to drive the tractor.  Pleeeease?’

There was nothing I wanted to do more than to disk and drag a field with the tractor.  My idea of heaven was sitting in that seat, starting the engine, and driving up and down the field until the sun went down.

‘You’re a little young, aren’t you?’ my dad would respond.

‘I can do it, Dad, I know I can.  Just give me a chance, pleeeease?’

Finally, he agreed to meet me at the farm.  He explained how to start the engine, where the clutch and transmission were, and how to hook up the equipment and work the hydraulics.

I couldn’t wait.  To me, happiness was spelled J-o-h-n D-e-e-r-e, and I was about to drive it.

After my first lesson, my father walked me over to the gas pump.  ‘One cardinal rule- and don’t you ever break it- is never put gas in a hot tractor.  When you are done and you need to refuel this thing, you bring it in and shut it off in front of a gas pump.  Then, take a walk, go to sleep on a bale of hay, do whatever you want to do, but don’t you try to put gas in a hot tractor.  I can catch fire.’

‘No problem’, I said as I nodded my agreement.  And with my private lessons completed, I was off on an agricultural adventure.

For weeks, I would jump on my bike after school and ride to the farm, eager to drive that tractor.  I had great fun disking and dragging the field.  I even learned how to unhook the equipment at the end of the day, get the tractor going fast, then jam on one of the brakes, causing the tractor to spin around in circles.  My brother proudly showed me how to rev the engine and pop the clutch so the front tire would jump off the ground.  Life just didn’t get any better than this!

One day I was particularly eager to finish a field when I looked at the fuel gage and noticed that it was almost empty.  My heart was set on finishing because I knew how proud it would make my dad.  If I waited until the tractor cooled to refuel it, however, I wouldn’t have time.  I drove to the gas pump and ignored my dad’s warning: ‘Never gas up a hot tractor.’

He’ll never know, I reasoned.  In fact, to make it go even a little faster, I didn’t even bother to shut the tractor off!  Instead, I climbed up on a little stepladder and started pouring gas into the tank that was located right over that hot engine.

Then disaster struck.  My foot slipped off the ladder.  Gas spilled all over the engine, and suddenly a ball of fire shot up from the tractor, the explosion pushing me backward.  I tumbled onto the ground, shocked and terrified at what I had done.  I got up and watched in horror as flames engulfed the tractor and eventually melted the tires right in front of my eyes.

‘I’m a dead man,’ I said to myself.

The bike ride home felt as if it was five hundred miles long.  I looked cautiously into the driveway and was relieved when I noticed my dad’s car wasn’t there.  When I walked into the house and inquired as casually as I could, I discovered he wouldn’t be back for several days.

At first, I thought I was the luckiest kid in Michigan.  But after a while, the wait became excruciating.  “I’m going to have to tell him when he comes home, I kept thinking, and the imagined punishments that would surely follow grew worse and worse with time.

Finally, my dad came home, but my fear had reached such a pitch I couldn’t bring myself to say anything.  Earlier, I had talked about nothing but that stupid tractor, but now I practically broke out in hives if anyone so much as mentioned the word.

I finally decided to take the diplomatic approach and ignored the problem.  I’ll wait until he brings it up, I reasoned.  Who knows?  Maybe he’ll never find out.

After dinner a few nights later, my dad opened the freezer and took out a half gallon of ice cream.  He started scooping it out for us.  He gave two scoops to my mom, two scoops to my brother and sisters, and then he came to me.

One scoop.

I looked at him and thought, He shorted me… he knows!

Even though I was eating ice cream, I could feel the sweat beading up on my forehead.  I’ve got to tell him, I thought.  He already knows, anyway.  Every minute that I hold out is nothing less than open treason.

        After dessert was over I went bursting into the family room.  ‘Dad, I blew it.  I filled up the gas tank while the motor was still running and burned the tires right off the tractor.  If you want me to spend the rest of my life paying for the tractor, I will.  I promise never to do it again.’

‘Come over here, Son.’

I slowly walked up to my dad and he took me gently into his arms.  ‘I gave you those instructions because I didn’t want you to get hurt.  Next time, listen a little better, will you?’  Now don’t worry about it.  The tractor was insured, and we’ve already replaced it.  It’s over.  Just be there Monday, ready to work again.’

When I left that room, I had an entirely new understanding of the theology of confession and forgiveness.

– Bill Hybels (The God You’re Looking For, p. 14)

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I am not recommending we pray for brokenness or seek it out.  In fact, I think such praying and seeking undo the benefit that brokenness can otherwise give.  Seeking it is akin to vandalism or arson, a willful damaging.  Only sick people ransack or burn down their own houses.  But ordinary people sometimes find, in spite of themselves, their house burned down or ransacked.  And then the only thing you can do is pick through the wreckage for heirlooms.

Sometimes you walk away rejoicing that something you never really wanted but hadn’t the strength to throw away had been destroyed.

–        Mark Buchanan (Your God is Too Safe, p. 94.)

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I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road.  A wrong sum can be put right:  but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.  Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good.  Time does not heal it.

–  C. S. Lewis (from The Great Divorce, quoted by Rebecca Manley Pippert in A Heart For God, p. 143.)

We must all suffer from one of two pains:  the pain of discipline or the pain of regret.  The difference is discipline weighs ounces while regret weighs tons.

–  Jim Rohn

REGRETS

Regret for the things we did can be tempered by time; it is regret for the things we did not do that is inconsolable.

–  Sydney Smith

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An organization in Los Angeles, California, operates the Apology Sound-Off Line. It’s a telephone service that allows people to call in and confess their wrongs for the price of a phone call. They log 200 anonymous calls a day; people confess everything from adultery to murder. One lady who had caused a traffic accident that killed five people called in and said, “I just want to say I’m sorry. I wish I could bring them back.” [From What’s So Amazing About Grace? by Phillip Yancey. (c) 1997. Zondervan Publishing House. page 35]

As a pastor, I have heard numerous confessions of the struggles people have with guilt. People have said to me, “I had an affair, and I can’t live with myself…I had an abortion, and I regret it everyday of my life…I’m an ex-con, and even though I’ve been to prison I still don’t feel like I’ve paid my debt…I cheated. I lied…I was a lousy father…I neglected my parents…” And on and on.

–  Steve May

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Sin is a waste of energy.  Plain and simple.  It’s wasting your energy on things you can’t have or can’t control.  And it’s actually a double waste.  After you waste your energy on things like lust and pride and anger, then you have to waste even more energy on things like guilt and shame and regret.  Nothing is more de-energizing than sin.  But by the same token, nothing is more reenergizing than obedience.  It’s pure energy.

–         Mark Batterson  (Primal:  A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, p. 145.)

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Gordon McDonald describes a group of people he calls the secret carriers of the past.  He says they have “an active memory of an event or events in the past for which they have consuming regret.  They live in the constant fear that their secrets will come back to haunt them with consequences that will shatter not only their words but the worlds of loved ones and trusted friends… Secret carriers expend tremendous psychic and emotional energy to keep the past from interfering with the present… Active secret carriers become experts in deception to survive.”  After a while, such a person’s secrets “have become secrets even to him.

–        Quoted by Gary J. Oliver  (How to Get it Right, After You’ve Gotten it Wrong, p. 103.)

SPEECH

He who knows little knows enough if he knows how to hold his tongue.

–        Italian Proverb  (Quoted in The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do, p. 61.)

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For the tongue is a pen, which pressing deeply enough (and whether for good or for evil) will write upon the heart.”

Mike Mason (The Mystery of Marriage, p.67.)

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For the umpteenth time in one shift, my co-worker at the grocery store somehow managed to offend one of our customers.  “Do you ever think about the things you say before you say them?”  I asked.  “No,” he admitted.  “I like to hear them for the first time along with everybody else.”

–        Patrick Chenoweth (“All in a Day’s Work,” Reader’s Digest, Jan. 2007, p. 38.)

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SUCCESS

Try not to become men of success.  Rather, become men of value.

–        Albert Einstein (quoted in Today Matters, p. 266.)

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Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at something that doesn’t really matter.

–        New Tribes missionary quoted in Eternal Perspectives newsletter (Fall 2003), also quoted in Leadership, Spring 2004, p. 79.

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Even today you can witness their astonishing ability to meet aggressive goals.  Yard after yard, mile after mile, you can still see the amazing fortifications they built—strong, imposing, and deeply impressive.  They used concrete thicker than anything known previously, armed themselves with huge guns, and built air-conditioned areas for troops, recreation areas, living quarters, supply storehouses, and underground rail lines connecting various portions of the fortification.  It took the French several years in the early 1930s to construct the Maginot Line against a German invasion – and it took the Germans no time at all to outflank the fortifications by invading Frace through Belgium, thus rendering the line useless.

Everyone today recognizes the Maginot Line as a great achievement, but no one would call it a success.  While its builders met all their goals, their shortsighted purpose doomed the whole enterprise.

What benefit is there in meeting goals that don’t serve a worthy purpose?  How can that be called “success”?

–        Luis Palau (High Definition Living, pp. 154-155.)

You will never find Jesus so precious as when the world is

one vast howling wilderness.  Then he is like a rose blooming in the midst of the desolation, a rock rising above the storm.

… Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843)

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“The Iliad is great because all of life is a battle; the Odyssey is great because all of life is a journey; the book of Job is great because all of life is a riddle.”

– G. K. Chesterton (quoted by Ben Patterson in Waiting, p.28)

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SUFFERING

Christ did not come to do away with suffering; He did not come to explain it; He came to fill it with His presence.

–        Paul Claudel (quoted in Illustrations Unlimited, ed. James S. Hewett, p. 20.)

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The sound was deafening.  Although no one was near enough to hear it, ultimately it echoed around the world.  None of the passengers in the DC-14 ever knew what happened—they died instantly.  That was February 15. 1947, when the Avianca Airline flight bound for Quito, Ecuador, crashed into the 14,000-foot-high peak of El Tablazo not far from the Bogota, then dropped—a flaming mass of metal—into a ravine far below.   One of the victims was a young New Yorker named Glenn Chambers, who had planned to begin a ministry with the “Voice of the Andes.”

Before leaving the Miami airport earlier that day, Chambers had written a note to his mother on a piece of paper he picked up in the terminal.  The paper was piece of an advertisement with the single word WHY? Sprawled across the center.  In a hurry and preoccupied, he scribbled his note around that word, folded it, and stuffed it into an envelope addressed to his mother.   The note arrived after the new of his death.  When his mother received it, there, staring up at her, was the haunting question:  WHY?

–        Charles Swindoll (The Finishing Touch, p. 170.)

TEMPTATION

“A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means.  This is an obvious lie.  Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is.  … A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later… Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means – the only complete realist.”

–       C.S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, pp. 124, 125.)

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Writing in the seventeenth century, the Puritan author William Gurnall gives us this time-proven advice:  “Christian, this is imperative for you to realize:  When wicked or unclean thoughts first force their way into your mind, you have not yet sinned.  This is the work of the Devil.  But if you so much as offer them a chair and begin polite conversation with them, you have become his accomplice.  In only a short time you will give these thoughts sanctuary in your heart.  Your resolve—not to yield to at temptation you are already entertaining—is no match for Satan and the longings of the flesh.

–        Rory Noland (The Heart of the Artist, pp. 281-282.)

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There are several good protections against temptation, but the surest is cowardice.

Mark Twain

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Raynald III was a 14th century duke in what is now Belgium. Grossly overweight, Raynald was commonly called by his Latin nickname, Crassus, which means “fat”.

After a violent quarrel, Raynald’s younger brother Edward led a successful revolt against him. Edward captured Raynald but didn’t kill him. Instead, he built a room around Raynald in the Nieuwkerk castle and promised him he could regain his title and property as soon as he was able to leave the room.

This would not have been too difficult for most people since the room had several windows and a door of near normal size – and none was locked or barred. The problem was Raynald’s size. To regain his freedom, he needed to loose weight. But Edward knew his older brother, and each day he sent a variety of delicious foods. Instead of dieting his way out of prison, Raynald grew fatter.

When Duke Edward was accused of cruelty, he had a ready answer. “My brother is not a prisoner. He may leave when he so wills.”

Raynald stayed in that room for ten years and wasn’t released until after Edward died in battle.

TRANSFORMATION

A guy by the name of Bill Moore, who grew up in poverty, got drunk one time and shot a man for five thousand dollars.  He ended up on death row.  Lee Strobel met Bill and writes about him in his book The Case For Faith.

A couple of guys went into prison (because God prompts people to go into prisons) and told him, “Bill, there is a man, Jesus, who loves you, and he gave his life on a cross.  He died for you.  He went to death row for you.”  Nobody had ever told Bill about Jesus before.  He’d been sitting on death row for years.  He turned his life over to Jesus, and it changed him so much—changed the darkness and bitterness and hatred inside him so much—that other people began to be drawn to him.  People started meeting Jesus through this guy on death row.  He became known as “The Peacemaker.”  His cell block was the safest place in the penitentiary because so many people were coming to Christ through Bill Moore.

Churches found out about this, and when people needed counseling, no kidding, churches started sending people to the penitentiary to bet counseling from Bill Moore.  Can you imagine calling a church to ask for a referral and hearing, “I want you to go over to death row.  There’s an inmate there…”  What does that?  Jesus does that.

Bill Moore was changed so much that he won the love of the family of the man he killed.  It changed him so much over the sixteen-year period that all kinds of people wrote letters for him.  Eventually, the authorities not only canceled his death sentence; but they parolled him.  Bill Moore now serves as head of congregation in a couple of housing projects in a desperately poor area.  When Strobel met with him, he asked, “Bill, what in the world turned your life around?  Was it a new medication?  Was it some kind of rehab program?  Was it a new approach to counseling?”

Bill said, “No, Lee, it wasn’t any of that stuff.  It was Jesus Christ.”

–  John Ortberg  (Faith & Doubt, pp. 167, 168.)

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Once when I was 19 years old, I was in a pickup truck in Andrews, Texas, a west Texas town close to Muleshoe and Lorenzo and No Trees. You’ve all been there. James, my best friend, and I had shared a case of beer that night. I was to the point where I could drink a six-pack and not feel it. I was so accustomed to the alcohol that it took more and more and more to get me drunk every night. I turned to James that night in July and I said, “James, there’s got to be something more to life than this.” I believe that husky prayer of a soon-to-be alcoholic was heard that night. I felt something on my shoulder. It was some time later before I identified who it was. But I knew that night I was forever being changed. Something happened because Christ touched my heart, and I felt him touch me with his hand.

–         Max Lucado, TOUCH OF CHRIST Matthew 8:1-4, sermonnotes.com.

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God creates out of nothing—wonderful, you say:  yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful:  he makes saints out of sinners.

–         Soren Kierkegaard (The Journals included in A Kierkegaard Anthology, ed. Robert Bretall, p. 10.)

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Your nature is a hard thing to change; it takes time…. I have heard of people who have life-changing, miraculous turnarounds, people set free from addiction after a single prayer, relationships saved where both parties “let go, and let God.” But it was not like that for me. For all that “I was lost, I am found,” it is probably more accurate to say, “I was really lost. I’m a little less so at the moment.” And then a little less and a little less again. That to me is the spiritual life. The slow reworking and rebooting the computer at regular intervals, reading the small print of the service manual. It has slowly rebuilt me in a better image. It has taken years, though, and it is not over yet.  —Bono, lead singer of U2

–  U2 (with Neil McCormick)   (U2 by U2 (HarperCollins, 2006), p. 7)

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WISDOM

Ye can lead a man up to the university,

but you can't make him think.   ~ Finley Peter Dun

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Great truths from small children

• It’s hard to unlearn a bad word.

• A pencil without an eraser may as well just be a pen.

• It’s only fun to play school when you’re the teacher.

• Sometimes your best move is blocked by your own checkers.

• Don’t expect your friends to be as excited about your “100” as you are.

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True wisdom cannot be earned or aquired by human effort.  Nor is it reserved for old age, or the result of experience alone.  We can have lived and squeezed the fruit of life dry and not have wisdom.  Wisdom is a gift.  It is imparted by God, imputed in communion with him, and infused by his Holy Spirit.  It is beyond acquired skills.  Deeper than insight.  More profound than learning.

–        Lloyd John Ogilvie  (When God First Thought of You, pp.76.)

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