OUR WEAKNESS/ HIS STRENGTH
he folklore surrounding Poland's famous concert pianist and prime minister, Ignace Paderewski, includes this story:
A mother, wishing to encourage her young son's progress at the piano, bought tickets for a Paderewski performance. When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Stein-way waiting on stage.
Soon the mother found a friend to talk to, and the boy slipped away. When eight o'clock arrived, the spotlights came on, the audience quieted, and only then did they notice the boy up on the bench, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."
His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the master appeared on the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard.
"Don't quit—keep playing," he whispered to the boy. Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice held the crowd mesmerized.
In our lives, unpolished though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, "Don't quit—keep playing." And as we do, he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created.
—Darrel L. Anderson
hat is crucifixion? A medical doctor provides a physical description: The cross is placed on the ground and the exhausted man is quickly thrown backwards with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of the wrist. He drives a heavy, square wrought-iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly he moves to the other side and repeats the action, being careful not to pull the arms too tightly, but to allow some flex and movement. The cross is then lifted into place.
The left foot is pressed backward against the right foot, and with both feet extended, toes down, a nail is driven through the arch of each, leaving the knees flexed. The victim is now crucified. As he slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists, excruciating, fiery pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain—the nails in the wrists are putting pressure on the median nerves. As he pushes himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, he places the full weight on the nail through his feet. Again he feels the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the bones of the feet.
As the arms fatigue, cramps sweep through the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push himself upward to breathe. Air can be drawn into the lungs but not exhaled. He fights to raise himself in order to get even one small breath. Finally carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream, and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically he is able to push himself upward to exhale and bring in life-giving oxygen.
Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint-rending cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. Then another agony begins: a deep, crushing pain deep in the chest as the pericardium slowly fills with serum and begins to compress the heart.
It is now almost over—the loss of tissue fluids has reached a critical level—the compressed heart is struggling to pump heavy, thick, sluggish blood into the tissues—the tortured lungs are making a frantic effort to gasp in small gulps of air.
He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues. . . . Finally he can allow his body to die.
All this the Bible records with the simple words, "And they crucified him" (Mark 15:24).
What wondrous love is this?
—Adapted from C. Truman Davis, M.D.
in The Expositor's Bible Commentary Vol. 8.
favorite nursery rhyme is the familiar tale of an egg that takes an unfortunate tumble:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't put Humpty together again.
According to those who know about such things, this piece of wisdom is a relic thousands of years old. Versions have appeared in eight European languages.
In its primitive stages, however, Humpty Dumpty was a riddle. It asked the question: what, when broken, can never be repaired, not even by strong or wise individuals? As any child knows, an egg. Regardless of how hard we try, a broken egg can never be put back together again. We simply have to learn to live with the mess.
There is a Humpty Dumpty story in the Bible. We call it the Fall.
Adam and Eve eat the forbidden fruit. They claim they possess the necessary wisdom to be like God. When the dust settles, Adam and Eve are not perched on a lofty plane. They have fallen. Regardless of how hard we try, things can never be put back together again.
Our contemporary fall is seen in the feeling that things just don't work anymore. Our lives appear out of control. Changes come faster than our ability to cope. Broken eggs are an appropriate symbol. Wherever we step we hear the crunch of fragile shells beneath our feet.
—Brent Philip Waters in The Christian Ministry, January, 1983
n a recent trip to Haiti, I heard a Haitian pastor illustrate to his congregation the need for total commitment to Christ. His parable:
A certain man wanted to sell his house for $2,000. Another man wanted very badly to buy it, but because he was poor, he couldn't afford the full price. After much bargaining, the owner agreed to sell the house for half the original price with just one stipulation: he would retain ownership of one small nail protruding from just over the door.
After several years, the original owner wanted the house back, but the new owner was unwilling to sell. So the first owner went out, found the carcass of a dead dog, and hung it from the single nail he still owned. Soon the house became un-livable, and the family was forced to sell the house to the owner of the nail.
The Haitian pastor's conclusion: "If we leave the Devil with even one small peg in our life, he will return to hang his rotting garbage on it, making it unfit for Christ's habitation."
—Dale A. Hays
othing can choke the heart and soul out of walking with God like legalism. Rigidity is the most certain sign that the Disciplines have spoiled. The disciplined person is the person who can live appropriately in life.
Consider the story of Hans the tailor. Because of his reputation, an influential entrepreneur visiting the city ordered a tailor-made suit. But when he came to pick up his suit, the customer found that one sleeve twisted that way and the other this way; one shoulder bulged out and the other caved in. He pulled and struggled and finally, wrenched and contorted, he managed to make his body fit. As he returned home on the bus, another passenger noticed his odd appearance and asked if Hans the tailor had made the suit. Receiving an affirmative reply, the man remarked, "Amazing! I knew that Hans was a good tailor, but I had no idea he could make a suit fit so perfectly someone as deformed as you."
Often that is just what we do in the church. We get some idea of what the Christian faith should look like: then we push and shove people into the most grotesque configurations until they fit wonderfully! That is death. It is a wooden legalism which destroys the
—Richard J. Foster in TSFBulletin, Nov.-Dec. 1982
n Elmer Bendiner's book, The Fall of Fortresses, he describes one bombing run over the German city ofKassel:
Our B-17 (The Tondelayo) was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit. Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a twenty-millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple.
On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck. The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but eleven had been found in the gas tanks—eleven unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. Even after thirty-five years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.
He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer.
Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were clean as a whistle and just as harmless. Empty? Not all of them.
One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On
it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people
scoured our base for a man who could read Czech.
Eventually, they found one to decipher the note. It set
us marveling. Translated, the note read: "This is all we
can do for you now." c ..... .
1 —Scott Wenig
he captain of the ship looked into the dark night and saw faint lights in the distance. Immediately he told his signalman to send a message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south."
Promptly a return message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north."
The captain was angered; his command had been ignored. So he sent a second message: "Alter your course 10 degrees south—I am the captain!"
Soon another message was received: "Alter your course 10 degrees north— I am seaman third class Jones."
Immediately the captain sent a third message, knowing the fear it would evoke: "Alter your course 10 degrees south—I am a battleship."
Then the reply came: "Alter your course 10 degrees north—I am a lighthouse."
In the midst of our dark and foggy times, all sorts of voices are shouting orders into the night, telling us what to do, how to adjust our lives. Out of the darkness, one voice signals something quite opposite to the rest—something almost absurd. But the voice happens to be the Light of the World, and we ignore it at our peril.
—Paul Aiello, Jr.
What are the most effective illustrations you've come across? We want to share them with other pastors and teachers who need material that communicates with clarity and imagination. For items used, leadership will pay $15. If the material has been previously published, please include the source.
Stories, analogies, and word pictures should be sent to:
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