hen John Owen, the great Puri-,tan, lay on his deathbed his secretary wrote (in his name) to a friend, "I am still in the land of the living."
"Stop," said Owen.
"Change that and say, I
am yet in the land of the
dying, but I hope soon to
be in the land of the living."
— John M. Drescher
in Pulpit Digest
hen it was built for an international exposition in the last century, the structure was called monstrous by the citizens of the city, who demanded it be torn down as soon as the exposition was over.
Yet from the moment its architect first conceived it, he took pride in it and loyally defended it from those who wished to destroy it. He knew it was destined for greatness. Today it is one of the architectural wonders of the modern world and stands as the primary landmark of Paris, France. The architect, of course, was Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. His famous tower was built in 1889.
In the same way we are struck by Jesus' loyalty to another structure—the church—which he entrusted to an unlikely band of disciples, whom he defended, prayed for, and prepared to spread the gospel. To outsiders they (and we) must seem like incapable blunderers. But Jesus, the architect of the church, knows this structure is destined for greatness when he returns.
— John Berstecher Tionesta, Pennsylvania
veryone is familiar with Sherlock Holmes, his faithful companion Dr. Watson, and Holmes's keen powers of observation that solved countless crimes. Yet few of us know that Holmes thought deduction and observation were even more necessary to religion.
Tucked away in The Adventure of the Naval Treaty, Holmes is found studying a rose. Watson narrates: "He walked past the couch to an open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any interest in natural objects.
" 'There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,' said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. . . . 'Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.' "
What other "extras" should we be observing and thanking God for this year?
— Chris T. Zwingelberg Elgin, Illinois
n A Forgiving God in an Unforgiving World, Ron Lee Davis retells the true story of a priest in the Philippines, a much-loved man of God who carried the burden of a secret sin he had committed many years before. He had repented but still had no peace, no sense of God's forgiveness.
In his parish was a woman who deeply loved God and who claimed to have visions in which she spoke with Christ and he with her. The priest, however, was skeptical. To test her he said, "The next time you speak with Christ, I want you to ask him what sin your priest committed while he was in seminary." The woman agreed.
A few days later the priest asked, "Well, did Christ visit you in your dreams?" "Yes, he did," she replied.
"And did you ask him what sin I committed in seminary?" "Yes."
"Well, what did he say?" "He said, 'I don't remember.' " What God forgives, he forgets.
— David H. Bolton Anaheim, California
ne afternoon while playing on a wooden picnic table, 4V2-year-old Jordon ran a splinter into his finger. Sobbing, he called his father (me) at the office. "I want God to take the splinter out," he said.
I told him his mother could remove it very easily. But he wanted God to do it because when Mom takes a splinter out, it hurts. He wanted God to remove it "by himself."
When I got home an hour later, the splinter was still there, so I proceeded to remove it, and I tried to teach Jordon that sometimes God uses others to do his work. And sometimes it is painful.
— Gregory A. Wiens Clayton, Ohio
t their school carnival, our kids won four free goldfish (lucky us!), so out I went Saturday morning to find an aquarium.
The first few I priced ranged from $40 to $70. Then I spotted it—right in the aisle: a discarded 10-gallon display tank, complete with gravel and filter—for a mere five bucks. Sold! Of course, it was nasty dirty, but the savings made the two hours of clean-up a breeze.
Those four new fish looked great in their new home, at least for the first day. But by Sunday one had died. Too bad, but three remained. Monday morning revealed a second casualty, and by Monday night a third goldfish had gone belly up.
We called in an expert, a
member of our church who has a 30-gallon tank. It didn't take him long to discover the problem: I had washed the tank with soap, an absolute no-no. My uninformed efforts had destroyed the very lives I was trying to protect.
Sometimes in our zeal to clean up our own lives or the lives of others, we unfortunately use "killer soaps"—condemnation, criticism, nagging, fits of temper. We think we're doing right, but our harsh, self-righteous treatment is more than they can bear. — Richard L. Dunagin Denton, Texas
fellow who had been reared in the city bought a farm and several milk cows. In the feed store one day he complained his best cow had gone dry.
"Aren't you feeding her right?" asked the store owner.
"I'm feeding her what you've been selling me," said the man.
"Are you milking her every day?"
"Just about. If I need six or eight ounces of milk for breakfast, I go out and get it. If I don't need any, I don't get it—I just let her save it up."
The feed store owner had to explain it doesn't work that way. With cow's milk, like God's presence, you take all that's there, or you eventually have nothing.
Asking for God's power in six-ounce doses, or asking sporadically only at our convenience, may mean that for us, the source dries up.
— Don Aycock Franklinton, Louisiana
recently read about an old man, walking the beach at dawn, who noticed a young man ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Catching up with the youth, he asked what he was doing. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun.
"But the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish," countered the old man. "How can your effort make any difference?"
The young man looked at the starfish in his hand and then threw it to safety in the waves. "It makes a difference to this one," he said.
— Hugh Duncan Moses Lake, Washington
former policeman with whom I stayed on a choir tour told me about being on duty during an ice storm. The ice was a half-inch thick on every tree in the area. He was called to a site where the ice and falling branches had caused a power line to come down; his duty was to keep people away from the area.
"There was a small tree near the fallen power line," he said, "the kind with a short trunk and lots of long thin branches. While that fallen power line was crackling and popping with electricity, it was throwing out sparks through the branches of that small tree. The sparks would reflect off the ice-covered branches sending out a rainbow of glimmering colors. I stood there and watched, and wondered how anything so beautiful could be so deadly."
I was reminded of the power of sin. We see something that seems beautiful, but when we reach out to touch, it becomes death to us.
— Rick Green Taloga, Oklahoma
hen John Belushi died in the spring of 1983 of an overdose of cocaine and heroin, a variety of articles appeared, including one in U.S. News and World Report, on the seductive dangers of cocaine:
"It can do you no harm and it can drive you insane; it can give you status in society and it can wreck your career; it can make you the life of the party and it can turn you into a loner; it can be an elixir for high living and a potion for death."
Like all sin, there's a difference between the appearance and the reality, between the momentary feeling and the lasting effect.
— Daniel Hans Milford, Connecticut
iving without Christ is like driving a car with its front end out of line. You can stay on the road if you grip the steering wheel with both hands and hang on tightly. Any lapse of attention, however, and you head straight for the ditch.
Society in general—educators, political leaders, parents—exhorts us to drive straight and curb our destructive tendencies. But it is a ceaseless struggle.
Coming to Christ is a little like getting a front-end alignment. The pull toward the ditch is corrected from the inside.
Not to say there won't be bumps and potholes ahead that will still try to jar us off the road. Temptations and challenges will always test our alertness to steer a straight course. We can hardly afford to fall asleep at the wheel. But the basic skew in the moral mechanism has been repaired.
—Robert Schmidgall Naperville, Illinois
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:
To Illustrate . . .
465 Gundersen Drive Carol Stream, IL 60188
SUMMER QUARTER 69