here is a natural, logical kind of loving that loves lovely things and lovely people. That's logical. But there is another kind of loving that doesn't look for value in what it loves, but that creates value in what it loves. Like Rosemary's rag doll.
When Rosemary, my youngest child, was three, she was given a little rag doll, which quickly became an inseparable companion. She had other toys that were intrinsically far more valuable, but none that she loved like she loved the rag doll.
Soon the rag doll became more and more rag and less and less doll. It also became more and more dirty. If you tried to clean the rag doll, it became more ragged still. And if you didn't try to clean the rag doll, it became dirtier still.
The sensible thing to do was to trash the rag doll. But that was unthinkable for anyone who loved my child. If you loved Rosemary, you loved the rag doll — it was part of the package.
"If anyone says 'I love God' yet hates his brother or sister, he is a liar," (1 John 4:20). "Love me, love my rag dolls," says God, "including the one you see when you look in the mirror. This is the first and greatest commandment." — Ian Pitt-Watson adapted from A Primer for Preachers
hen John Todd, a nineteenth-century clergyman, was six years old, both his parents died. A kind-hearted aunt raised him until he left home to study for the ministry. Later, this aunt became seriously ill, and in distress she wrote Todd a letter. Would death mean the end of everything, or could she hope for something beyond? Here, condensed from The Autobiography of John Todd, is the letter he sent in reply:
"It is now thirty-five years since I, as a boy of six, was left quite alone in the world. You sent me word you would give me a home and be a kind mother to me. I have never forgotten the day I made the long journey to your house. I can still recall my disappointment when, instead of coming for me yourself, you sent your servant, Caesar, to fetch me.
"I remember my tears and anxiety as, perched high on your horse and clinging tight to Caesar, I rode off to my new home. Night fell before we finished the journey, and I became lonely and afraid. 'Do you think she'll go to bed before we get there?' I asked Caesar. 'Oh no!' he said reassuringly, 'She'll stay up for you. When we get out o' these here woods, you'll see her candle shinin' in the window.'
"Presently we did ride out into the clearing, and there, sure enough, was your candle. I remember you were waiting at the door, that you put your arms close about me — a tired and bewildered little boy. You had a fire burning on the hearth, a hot supper waiting on the stove. After supper you took me to my new room, heard me say my prayers, and then sat beside me till I fell asleep.
"Some day soon God will send for you, to take you to a new home. Don't fear the summons, the strange journey, or the messenger of death. God can be trusted to do as much for you as you were kind enough to do for me so many years ago. At the end of the road you will find love and a welcome awaiting, and you will be safe in God's care."
— Vernon Grounds Denver, Colorado
n I Talk Back to the Devil, A. W. Tozer reminds us: "Money often comes between men and God. Someone has said that you can take two small ten-cent pieces, just two dimes, and shut out the view of a panoramic landscape. Go to the mountains and just hold two coins closely in front of your eyes — the mountains are still there, but you cannot see them at all because there is a dime shutting off the vision in each eye."
It doesn't take large quantities of money to come between us and God; just a little, placed in the wrong position, will effectively obscure our view.
— Cedric Gowler Indio, California
atients who undergo organ transplants are routinely taken to the intensive care unit after surgery. There they are classified as being in critical but stable condition, even if the operation went well. The doctors and nurses keep constant watch over them until they become strong enough to be transferred to a less intensive state of care.
New believers in Christ have undergone a serious organ transplant: they have received new hearts. They need careful follow-up and nurture if they are to make it. Leading people to new life in Christ is a cause for celebration. But let's remember they are in critical but stable condition. — Steve Cordle Rockwood, Pennsylvania
ccording to a traditional Hebrew story, Abraham was sitting outside his tent one evening when he saw an old man, weary from age and journey, coming toward him. Abraham rushed out, greeted him, and then invited him into his tent. There he washed the old man's feet and gave him food and drink.
The old man immediately began eating without saying any prayer or blessing. So Abraham asked him, "Don't you worship God?"
The old traveler replied, "I worship fire only and reverence no other god."
When he heard this, Abraham became incensed,
grabbed the old man by the shoulders, and threw him out of his tent into the cold night air.
When the old man had departed, God called to his friend Abraham and asked where the stranger was. Abraham replied, "I forced him out because he did not worship you."
God answered, "I have suffered him these eighty years although he dishonors me. Could you not endure him one night?"
—Thomas Lindberg Stevens Point, Wisconsin
EYES TO SEE
oger von Oech, in his book A Kick in the Seat of the Pants, suggests:
"Take a look around where you're sitting and find five things that have blue in them. Go ahead and do it.
"With a 'blue' mindset, you'll find that blue jumps out at you: a blue book on the table, a blue pillow on the couch, blue in the painting on the wall, and so on. ... In like fashion, you've probably noticed that after you buy a new car, you promptly see that make of car everywhere. That's because people find what they are looking for."
At times in our lives, God seems strangely absent, but the problem is not that God has disappeared. We simply lack a "God" mindset. When we develop our sensitivity, we soon begin to see his work everywhere.
hat is a Christian? In the Letter to Diognetus, which dates back to the second century a.d., an anonymous writer describes a strange people who are in the world but not of the world.
"Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language, or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect. . . . They live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them. They follow local customs in clothing, food, and the other aspects of life. But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the unusual form of their own citizenship.
"They live in their own native lands, but as aliens. . . . Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country.
"They marry and have children just like everyone else, but they do not kill unwanted babies. They offer a shared table, but not a shared bed. They are passing their days on earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the appointed laws and go beyond the laws in their own lives.
"They love everyone, but are persecuted by all. They are put to death and gain life. They are poor and yet make many rich. They are dishonored and yet gain glory through dishonor. Their names are blackened and yet they are cleared. They are mocked and bless in return. They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others.
"When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given new life. They are attacked by Jews as aliens and are persecuted by Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility."
abush, a town in a remote portion of Labrador, Canada, was completely isolated for some time. But recently a road was cut through the wilderness to reach it. Wabush now has one road leading into it, and thus, only one road leading out. If someone would travel the unpaved road for six to eight hours to get into Wabush, there is only way he or she could leave — by turning around.
Each of us, by birth, arrives in a town called Sin. As in Wabush, there is only one way out — a road built by God himself. But in order to take that road, one must first turn around. That complete about-face is what the Bible calls repentance, and without it, there's no way out of town.
— Brian Weatherdon New Glasgow, Nova Scotia
ur life in Christ can be compared to an aqueduct, the stone waterways that brought water from nearby mountains into parched cities in Italy and Spain, and that are still used in some countries today.
The objective foundation of our spiritual lives, the Word of God, is like the huge stone aqueduct itself. The subjective elements, our daily experience of Christ, is like the fresh water flowing through it.
Some Christians neglect the Word and seek only the subjective experience. But without the solid Word of God to contain and channel that experience, the experience itself drains away into error and is lost.
Other Christians boast well-engineered aqueducts based on extensive knowledge of the Bible, but they are bone dry. They bring no refreshment. Strong spiritual lives require both a strong knowledge of the Word of God and an intimate daily relationship with Christ.
— John H. Morgan Denver, Colorado
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