he parable of the vineyard workers (Matt. 20) offends our sense of fairness. Why should everyone get equal pay for unequal work?
Back in Ontario when the apples ripened, Mom would sit all seven of us down, Dad included, with pans and paring knives until the mountain of fruit was reduced to neat rows of filled canning jars. She never bothered keeping track of how many we did, though the younger ones undoubtedly proved more of a nuisance than a help: cut fingers, squabbles over who got which pan, apple core fights. But when the job was done, the reward for everyone was the same: the largest chocolate-dipped cone money could buy. A stickler might argue it wasn't quite fair since the older ones actually peeled apples. But I can't remember anyone complaining about it.
A family understands it operates under a different set of norms than a courtroom. In fact, when the store ran out of ice cream and my younger brother had to make do with a Pop-sicle, we felt sorry for him despite his lack of productivity (he'd eaten all the apples he'd peeled that day — both of them).
God wants all his children to enjoy the complete fullness of eternal life. No true child of God wants it any other way.
— Robert De Moor in The Banner
ne spring our family was driving from Fort Lauderdale to Tampa, Florida. As far as the eye could see, orange trees were loaded with fruit. When we stopped for breakfast, I ordered orange juice with my eggs.
"I'm sorry," the waitress said. "I can't bring you orange juice. Our machine is broken."
At first I was dumbfounded. We were surrounded by millions of oranges, and I knew they had oranges in the kitchen — orange slices garnished our plates. What was the problem? No juice? Hardly. We were surrounded by thousands of gallons of juice. The problem was they had become dependent on a machine to get it.
Christians are sometimes like that. They may be surrounded by Bibles in their homes, but if something should happen to the Sunday morning preaching service, they would have no nourishment for their souls. The problem is not a lack of spiritual food — but that many Christians haven't grown enough to know how to get it for themselves.
— Adapted from Leroy Eims in The Lost Art of Disciple Making
uring his reign, King Frederick William III of Prussia found himself in trouble. Wars had been costly, and in trying to build the nation, he was seriously short of finances. He couldn't disappoint his people, and to capitulate to the enemy was unthinkable.
After careful reflection, he decided to ask the women of Prussia to bring their jewelry of gold and silver to be melted down for their country. For each ornament received, he determined to exchange a decoration of bronze or iron as a symbol of his gratitude. Each decoration would be inscribed, "I gave gold for iron, 1813."
The response was overwhelming. Even more important, these women prized their gifts from the king more highly than their former jewelry. The reason, of course, is clear. The decorations were proof that they had sacrificed for their king. Indeed, it became unfashionable to wear jewelry, and thus was established the Order of the Iron Cross. Members wore no ornaments except a cross of iron for all to see.
When Christians come to their King, they too exchange the flourishes of their former life for a cross.
— Lynn Jost Hesston, Kansas
IDENTIFYING WITH CHRIST
n the book The Fire of Your Life, Maggie Ross recounts the story of Emma, a survivor of the Holocaust, who regularly at 4 p.m. each day stood outside a Manhattan church and screamed insults at Jesus.
Finally the pastor, Bishop C. Kilmer Myers, went outside and said to Emma, "Why don't you go inside and tell him?" She disappeared into the church.
An hour went by, and the bishop, worried, decided to look in on her. He found Emma, prostrate before the cross, absolutely still. Reaching down, he touched her shoulder. She looked up with tears in her eyes and said quietly, "After all, he was a Jew, too." — Diane Karay Rantoul, Illinois
missionary in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, reports that recently an African pastor passed through on his way home to Chad, where civil war was raging.
"What would you like to take to complete your forty-four pounds of baggage allowance?" asked the missionary. "Sugar? Powdered milk? Medicine?"
"If I could have some Bibles or a few good books
"How's that?" the missionary asked.
"Back home we lost everything in the war, and we learned to place less importance on that which passes away and more importance on that which lasts."
The missionary mused: "Was I dreaming? We have heard so often The hungry stomach has no ears' that we misread the Epistle to the Romans to say, 'Faith comes from what one eats,' instead of 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.'
"We must not fail to share our bread with those who are hungry, but neither dare we forget that 'man shall not live by bread alone.' "
— Charles Daniel Maire Abidjan, Ivory Coast
larence Jordan, author of the "Cotton Patch" New Testament translation and founder of the interracial Koinonia farm in Ameri-cus, Georgia, was getting a red-carpet tour of another minister's church. With pride the minister pointed to the rich, imported pews and luxurious decorations.
As they stepped outside, darkness was falling, and a spotlight shone on a huge cross atop the steeple.
"That cross alone cost us ten thousand dollars," the minister said with a satisfied smile.
"You got cheated," said Jordan. "Times were when Christians could get them for free."
— Michael Jinkins Itasca, Texas
mputees often experience some sensation of a phantom limb. Somewhere, locked in their brains, a memory lingers of the nonexistent hand or leg. Invisible toes curl, imaginary hands grasp things, a "leg" feels so sturdy a patient may try to stand on it.
For a few, the experience includes pain. Doctors watch helplessly, for the part of the body screaming for attention does not exist.
One such patient was my medical school administrator, Mr. Barwick, who had a serious and painful circulation problem in his leg but refused to allow the recommended amputation.
As the pain grew worse, Barwick grew bitter.
"I hate it! I hate it!" he would mutter about the leg. At last he relented and told the doctor, "I can't stand it anymore. I'm through with that leg. Take it off." Surgery was scheduled immediately.
Before the operation, however, Barwick asked the doctor, "What do you do with legs after they're removed?"
"We may take a biopsy or explore them a bit, but afterwards we incinerate them," the doctor replied.
Barwick proceeded with a bizarre request: "I would like you to preserve my leg in a pickling jar. I will install it on my mantle shelf. Then, as I sit in my armchair, I will taunt that leg, 'Hah! You can't hurt me anymore!' "
Ultimately, he got his wish. But the despised leg had the last laugh.
Barwick suffered phantom limb pain of the worst degree. The wound healed, but he could feel the torturous pressure of the swelling as the muscles cramped, and he had no prospect of relief. He had hated the leg with such intensity that the pain had unaccountably lodged permanently in his brain.
To me, phantom limb pain provides wonderful insight into the phenomenon of false guilt. Christians can be obsessed by the memory of some sin committed years ago. It never leaves them, crippling their ministry, their devotional life, their relationships with others. They live in fear that someone will discover their past. They work overtime trying to prove to God they're truly repentant. They erect barriers against the enveloping, loving grace of God.
Unless they experience the truth in 1 John 3:19-20 that "God is greater than our conscience," they become as pitiful as poor Mr. Barwick, shaking his fist in fury at the pickled leg on the mantle.
— Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey
recent novel by Madeleine L'Engle is entitled A Severed Wasp. If you're addressing young people or some other audience with strong stomachs, the title, which comes from one of George Orwell's essays, offers a graphic image of human lostness.
Orwell describes a wasp that "was sucking jam on my plate and I cut him in half. He paid no attention, merely went on with his meal, while a tiny stream of jam trickled out of his severed esophagus. Only when he tried to fly away did he grasp the dreadful thing that had happened to him."
The wasp and people without Christ have much in common. Severed from their souls, but greedy and unaware, people continue to consume life's sweetness. Only when it's time to fly away will they grasp their dreadful condition.
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.
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To Illustrate . . .
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