VICTORY IN DEATH
ome scientists, according to a story by Harold Bredesen, decided to develop a fish that could live outside of water. So, selecting some healthy red herring, they bred and crossbred, hormoned and chromosomed until they produced a fish that could exist out of water.
But the project director wasn't satisfied. He suspected that though the fish had learned to live on dry land, it still had a secret desire for water.
"Re-educate it," he said. "Change its very desires."
So again they went to work, this time retraining even the strongest reflexes. The result? A fish that would rather die than get wet. Even humidity filled this new fish with dread.
The director, proud of his triumph, took the fish on tour. Well, quite accidentally, according to official reports, it happened— the fish fell into a lake. It sank to the bottom, eyes and gills clamped shut, afraid to move, lest it become wetter. And of course it dared not breathe; every instinct said no. Yet breathe it must.
So the fish drew a tentative gill-full. Its eyes bulged. It breathed again and flicked a fin. It breathed a third time and wriggled with delight. Then it darted away. The fish had discovered water.
And with that same wonder, men and women conditioned by a world that rejects God, discover him. For in him we live and move and have our being. — Jim Thomson
Otis Orchards, Washington
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olin Chapman, in The Case for Christianity, quotes Ugandan bishop Festo Kivengere's account of the 1973 execution by firing squad of three men from his diocese:
February 10 began as a sad day for us in Kabale. People were commanded to come to the stadium and witness the execution. Death permeated the atmosphere. A silent crowd of about three thousand was there to watch.
I had permission from the authorities to speak to the men before they died, and two of my fellow ministers were with me.
They brought the men in a truck and unloaded them. They were handcuffed and their feet were chained. The firing squad stood at attention. As we walked into the center of the stadium, I was wondering what to say. How do you give the gospel to doomed men who are probably seething with rage?
We approached them from behind, and as they turned to look at us, what a sight! Their faces were all alight with an unmistakable glow and radiance. Before we could say anything, one of them burst out:
"Bishop, thank you for coming! I wanted to tell you. The day I was arrested, in my prison cell, I asked the Lord Jesus to come into my heart. He came in and forgave me all my sins! Heaven is now open, and there is nothing between me and my God! Please tell my wife and children that I am going to be with Jesus. Ask them to accept him into their lives as I did."
The other two men told similar stories, excitedly raising their hands, which rattled their handcuffs.
I felt that what I needed to do was to talk to the soldiers, not to the condemned. So I translated what the men had said into a language the soldiers understood. The military men were standing there with guns cocked and bewilderment on their faces. They were so dumbfounded that they forgot to put the hoods over the men's faces!
The three faced the firing squad standing close together. They looked toward the people and began to wave, handcuffs and all. The people waved back. Then shots were fired, and the three were with Jesus.
We stood in front of them, our own hearts throbbing with joy, mingled with tears. It was a day never to be forgotten. Though dead, the men spoke loudly to all of Kigezi District and beyond, so that there was an upsurge of life in Christ, which challenges death and defeats it.
The next Sunday, I was preaching to a huge crowd in the hometown of one of the executed men. Again, the feel of death was over the congregation. But when I gave them the testimony of their man, and how he died, there erupted a great song of praise to Jesus! Many turned to the Lord there.
— Ray Stamps Los Gatos, California
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he Scriptures often exhort us to be filled with various godly virtues — which means what? How do we know if we are "full of goodness" (Rom. 15:14), for example? Think a moment about a water-saturated sponge. If we push down with our finger even slightly, water runs out onto the table. We immediately know what fills the interior pockets of the sponge.
The same is true of ourselves. We can tell what fills us on the inside by what comes out under pressure.
— Robert Schmidgall Naperville, Illinois
teve Green, who sang six years with Bill and Gloria Gaither, tells about getting to know some of the work crews in the large auditoriums where their concerts were held.
The Gaithers prefer con-certs-in-the-round, which means extra work for the "riggers," who walk the four-inch rafter beams — often a hundred feet above the concrete floor — to hang sound speakers and spotlights. For such work, understandably, they are very well paid.
"The fellows I talked to weren't bothered by the sight of looking down a hundred feet," says Green. "What they didn't like, they
said, were jobs in buildings that had false ceilings — acoustical tile slung just a couple of feet below the rafters. They were still high in the air, and if they slipped, their weight would smash right through the flimsy tile. But their minds seemed to play tricks on them, lulling them into carelessness."
Satan's business is not so much in scaring us to death as persuading us that the danger of a spiritual fall is minimal. No wonder Peter advised us to "resist him, standing firm in the faith" (1 Peter 5:9).
o become a Christian is to accept an extra dimension to life. From the Christian's point of view the notable thing about the unbeliever's world is how much smaller it is. The unbeliever is imprisoned in a decaying universe.
Imagine you took a child to the theater to see some tragedy like, say, Hamlet, at the end of which the stage is littered with corpses. And suppose you had difficulty comforting the child afterward, so distressed was he at the spectacle of the deaths. "But the man who played Hamlet is not really dead," you explain. "He is an actor. He also lives a life outside the theater. He has a wife and family and, far from being dead, he is probably now at home with them enjoying a late supper."
If there is one word the Christian secretly wants to use to describe the unbeliever's outlook, it is literal . . . like the child who takes the play for reality.
— Harry Blamires in On Christian Truth
n The Wounded Healer, Henri Nouwen retells a tale from ancient India: Four royal brothers decided each to master a special ability. Time went by, and the brothers met to reveal what they had learned.
"I have mastered a science," said the first, "by which I can take but a bone of some creature and create the flesh that goes with it."
"I," said the second, "know how to grow that creature's skin and hair if there is flesh on its bones."
The third said, "I am able to create its limbs if I have the flesh, the skin, and the hair."
"And I," concluded the fourth, "know how to give life to that creature if its form is complete."
Thereupon the brothers went into the jungle to find a bone so they could demonstrate their specialties. As fate would have it, the bone they found was a lion's. One added flesh to the bone, the second grew hide and hair, the third completed it with matching limbs, and the fourth gave the lion life.
Shaking its mane, the ferocious beast arose and jumped on his creators. He killed them all and vanished contentedly into the jungle.
We too have the capacity to create what can devour us. Goals and dreams can consume us. Possessions and property can turn and destroy us—unless we first seek God's kingdom and righteousness, and allow him to breathe into what we make of life.
— Nathan Castens Chanhassen, Minnesota
GIVING IN SECRET
harles Spurgeon and his wife, according to a story in The Chaplain magazine, would sell, but refused to give away, the eggs their chickens laid. Even close relatives were told, "You may have them if you pay for them." As a result some people labeled the Spurgeons greedy and grasping.
They accepted the criticisms without defending themselves, and only after Mrs. Spurgeon died was the full story revealed: All the profits from the sale of eggs went to support two elderly widows. Because the Spurgeons where unwilling to let their left hand know what the right hand was doing (Matt. 6:3), they endured the attacks in silence.
n The Jewish Press, Morris Mandel writes, "Gossip is the most deadly microbe. It has neither legs nor wings. It is composed entirely of tales, and most of them have stings."
— Arlin Schrock Atmore, Alabama
ne New Year's Day, in the Tournament of Roses parade, a beautiful float suddenly sputtered and quit. It was out of gas. The whole parade was held up until someone could get a can of gas.
The amusing thing was this float represented the Standard Oil Company. With its vast oil resources, its truck was out of gas.
Often, Christians neglect their spiritual maintenance, and though they are "clothed with power" (Luke 24:49) find themselves out of gas.
— Steve Blankenship Edmond, Oklahoma
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