AGE – Still useful
Eric S. Ritz describes a recent attempt at Annual Conference to deny election as Bishop to anyone over sixty-six years of age, since they would only be able to serve one four-year term. The motion was eventually defeated.
Ritz says, “As I listened to all sides of the argument, my mind wandered back to a biblical figure tending sheep in the Sinai district. Here was an older man getting ready for retirement, accompanied by a teaspoon of Geritol at the Sinai Geriatric Center for Retired Shepherds, and not to be selected to face the gigantic, well-greased machinery of the Egyptian government. The pages of history are forever etched with the witness of this man: Moses. It is not our age that God reviews but our availability.” (Ritz is Pastor, Calvary United Methodist Church, Easton, PA)
CHRIST – Gives understanding
In London’s famed British Museum you will find the ancient “Rosetta Stone.” It was discovered in 1799 by the troops of Napoleon near the city of Rosetta in Egypt. The stone was originally inscribed by priests of Ptolemy V in the second century BC, and contains the same text written in hieroglyphics and in Greek. Because scholars knew Greek, they were able to use the stone to unlock the mysteries of the ancient Egyptian language for the first time.
“Just so, Jesus Christ is the touchstone by which we can decipher the meaning of life. Christ is the Rosetta Stone that gives the clue to the language of God’s creation.” (submitted by Donald B. Strobe, Retired Methodist Pastor, Ludington, MI)
CHRISTMAS – Confused message
Al Mohler points out in The Christian Index that “Christmas presents the Christian church with one of its greatest challenges: how to communicate Christian faith in the midst of Christmas chaos. Our era is marked by what some have termed ‘a confusion of symbols.’ Individuals have great difficulty separating the meaning of Christmas from its overwhelming commercial context.
“James Fallow, until recently the Far Eastern correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly, reports that Americans have exported this confusion of symbols. In one large Japanese department store he came across a display featuring Santa Claus holding the infant Jesus, behind a sleigh pulled by the seven dwarfs.” (Mohler is Associate Editor of Preaching)
CHRISTMAS – Paradox
“Infinite, and an infant. Eternal, and yet born of a woman. Supporting a universe, and yet needing to be carried in a mother’s arms. King of angels, and yet the reputed son of Joseph. Heir of all things, and yet the carpenter’s despised son.” (Charles H. Spurgeon)
CONDITIONING
A mother and her young son were shopping in a supermarket in Salamanca, New York, when a man walked by them. As soon as he had passed them, his “beeper” went off. The startled little boy exclaimed, “Look out Mom — he’s backing up!”
We are conditioned to respond to one another in predictable ways, aren’t we? (submitted by Harvey Rodger, Rochester, NY)
FAITH
The little girl was saying her prayers at bedtime, so Dad stood outside the door and listened in. She was reciting the alphabet. After she finished, he went into the room and said, “Why were you saying the alphabet to God?”
“I really didn’t know what to pray for tonight,” she answered him. “So I said, ‘God, I’m going to give you all the letters of the alphabet and you put them together the way you want to’.”
Ken Chafin observes: “If I’m not mistaken, that is what commitment is all about — the kind of risky faith that opens up every letter of the alphabet of my life and says, ‘God, you take me and put me together the way you want to’.” (Chafin is Pastor of Walnut Street Baptist Church, Louisville, KY)
FOUNDATION – Gives strength
Earl Palmer points out that frame houses were those which best withstand earthquakes. Those frame houses that are bolted to their foundations can often stand firm in the face of an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale. On the other hand, those houses which are simply sitting atop their foundation tend to slide off and collapse.
As believers, we need to be firmly attached to our foundation, Jesus Christ. When the storms and quakes of life confront us, in Him we stand firm, (submitted by Wayne Rouse, Pastor, Church of the Brethren, Astoria, IL)
HEAVEN
American astronomers intend to produce a three-dimensional map of the heavens, which will encompass one million galaxies and one hundred thousand quasars. The new map should be ready after the year 2003. (Dallas Morning News, 11/11/90)
To know the way to Heaven is much more important than having a map of the stars. And the Bible offers us a map to Heaven: by way of Jesus Christ, (submitted by Rick Davis, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Midlothian, TX)
MISSIONS – We must act now
Keith Parks, president of the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board, tells of another time when the time was right for missionary expansion but Christians failed to act:
“In 1258, the fate of Islam hung by a thread, and only Egypt was strong. The great Mongol empire, led by Kublai Khan, stretched from the Black Sea to the Pacific Ocean. In 1266, Kublai Khan sent word by Marco Polo for the Christian church in Rome to send one hundred men to teach Christianity to his court.
“It could have been a turning point in the history of the religions of the world. But the Christians were so busy fighting among themselves that it was twenty-eight years before one, not one hundred, reached the great court. Already retired, the great Kublai Khan said, ‘It is too late; I have grown too old in my idolatry’.”
Parks points to forty-seven people-groups in our own day, representing 260 million people, with virtually no Christian witness.
“All over this world 66 percent of the people do not even claim to be Christian, and 26 percent of the world has not even had a chance to hear the gospel…. Do you want to send a message to the villages of Africa, the cities of Asia? Or shall we simply send the message, ‘There’s no one to come’?”
OPPORTUNITY – Must be seen
In 1951, Kemmons Wilson and his wife, Dorothy, took a vacation to Washington, DC. They had eagerly anticipated the trip, but were disappointed with their cramped, costly lodging. Others might have merely complained and forgotten; Wilson said to his wife, “Let’s go home and start a chain of family hotels.” They returned to Memphis, and in 1952 built the first Holiday Inn.
Opportunities are all around us — but we have to look for them, (submitted by David W. Richardson, Pastor, First United Methodist Church, Dexter, MO)
PREACHING – Convicts
Adrian Rogers tells of a man who came to the preacher after the service and said, “That was a stout sermon. Were you preaching at me?”
The preacher replied, “I was shooting down in a hole. If you were in it, there’s nothing I could do about it.” (Rogers is Pastor, Bellevue Baptist Church, Memphis, TN)
RELIGION
“Religion is a defense against the experience of God.” (Ernest Campbell)
THANKSGIVING
“It may be useful in this age of drift and hallucination to recall the foundations of the first Thanksgiving Day celebrations.
“The Puritans were undoubtedly motivated primarily by gratitude for survival, but also by something more. They were rooted in the conviction that their prosperity had come from their industry, discipline and virtue, and not their virtue from their prosperity.
“More than that, they believed that they were their brothers’ keepers and had survived by helping one another, that they were the trustees of future generations and were to set an example for a civilized world.
“A secular society that forgets its roots is in danger of losing the spirit that holds a nation together.” (James Reston, New York Times News Service, 11/28/85)
WITNESS – Must not be silent
When Luigi Tarisio was found dead one morning, his house contained few luxuries — but it contained 246 violins, many of them of great value. The greatest of his collection, a Stradivarius, was found in the bottom drawer of a rickety old bureau, where it had lain unplayed for many decades. He had collected violins all his life, cramming them into an attic — and leaving them unplayed.
How many Christians are like Tarisio — storing and saving the truth for ourselves and failing to share these glad tidings with the world? The Good News needs to not only be cherished, but proclaimed, (submitted by Wayne Rouse, Pastor, Church of the Brethren, Astoria, IL)


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AGE – Changes perspective
“At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking about us at all.” (Jock Falkson, Frontline).
CHRIST – Depend on Him.
When Beethoven died, a student of the composer Rossini wrote a funeral march in honor of Beethoven. He took it to Rossini, who commented to his student, “Son, the terms would have been more auspicious if you had died and Beethoven had written the march.”
Christ can accomplish more with our lives than we can ever accomplish on our own. As we place our lives in His control, we truly find ourselves in the hands of the Master.
COMMITMENT
John H. Jowett observed: “In the National Gallery of Art can be seen two sorts of people. There are the mere vagrants, who are always on the move, passing from picture to picture, without seeing any. And there are the students, who sit down, and contemplate, and meditate, and appropriate, and saturate.
“There are vagrants in respect to the love of the Lord. They have a passing glimpse, but the impression is not vital and vitalizing. And there are students, who are always gazing, and who are continually crying, ‘O the depth of the riches of God in Christ’.”
CROSS
Clarence Jordan, founder of the interracial Koinonia Farm in Americus, Georgia, was receiving a tour of another minister’s church. The minister pointed with pride to the beautiful carpeting, padded pews and luxurious fixtures.
As they stepped outside, the pastor raised his arm to direct Jordan’s attention to a huge cross atop the steeple. “The cross alone cost us $10,000.”
“You got cheated,” Jordan told him. “Times were when Christians could get them for free.” (Sermons Illustrated)
DEDICATION
Following a concert by famous violinist Fritz Kreisler, a woman from the audience came backstage to greet him.
“I’d give my life to play as beautifully as you do,” she said. He replied, “I did.”
EXPERIENCE — Definition of
“Experience is knowing a lot of things you shouldn’t do.” (William S. Knudsen)
FORGETFULNESS
The University of Louisville Cardinals arrived in Hawaii for a basketball tournament. When they entered a practice gym in Maui, the team soon realized that there were no basketballs on hand.
As they discussed what to do, a youngster with an old, beat-up basketball entered the gym. Team members explained their problem and offered to buy the ball. Though the price kept climbing — $15, then $20, finally $50 — he continued to refuse.
Finally, the team managers arranged for basketballs to be delivered. As the youngster prepared to leave, one Cardinal turned to tell him he’d been dumb to turn down that much money.
“Oh, yeah?” he replied. “At least I’m smart enough to take a basketball along when I practice.” (Sports Illustrated)
GOD – Need not prove
John Killinger recounted the story of the professor of philosophy who spent a full hour demonstrating to the class a complicated proof for the existence of God. At the end of the hour, obviously pleased with his performance, he turned to a student and asked, “Miss Green, have I proved to you that there is a God?”
“Oh, you didn’t have to prove it to me,” she responded. “I knew it all the time.” (Killinger is Pastor of First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, CA)
LOVE — True test of
“The real test of love is the length to which it will go. It is Captain Oates of the Antarctic walking out into the blizzard to his death in order that the men he loved should not be burdened with his helpless life. It is the men of a Yorkshire coal-mine battling underground for days and nights on end through the most frightful conditions of water and mud and darkness and danger in an attempt to reach and save their trapped comrades cut off by flood and fire.
“It is two missionaries who lost their daughter from leprosy, and who — instead of being embittered by their loss — resolved to go back to the very place where she died and establish a leper colony. It is Kagawa of Japan telling his fellow Christians, if you are prepared to die for it, there is nothing you cannot accomplish.”
“It is every vicarious soul in the congregation today who is trying, in response to some inner vision of his or her own heart, to bear a burden for someone else and is glad before God of the chance of doing it.” (James S. Stewart, King Forever, Abingdon Press, 1975)
MARRIAGE — Brings changes
A young bride-to-be was more nervous than usual, so the minister talked to her and learned she was afraid she might not make it through the ceremony properly. He assured her: “When you enter the church tomorrow and the processional begins, you will be walking down the aisle you’ve walked many times before. Concentrate on that aisle.
“When you get halfway down the aisle, you’ll see the altar, where you and your family have worshipped many years. Concentrate on that altar. Then, when you’re almost to the altar, you will see your groom: the one you love. Concentrate on him.”
The bride seemed relieved as she left. The next day she appeared as a beautiful bride walking down the aisle. But those along the center were a bit surprised to hear her muttering over and over: “Aisle, altar him.”
As Donald B. Strobe observes, “Marriage alters all of us! Whether that alteration is for better or worse depends on what we bring to it or, even more important, in Whose spirit we live it out.” (Strobe is senior minister of First United Methodist Church, Ann Arbor, MI.)
MISTAKES — Not always bad
A university psychiatrist tested the top salesmen of a major national insurance company, and found that those with perfectionist tendencies earned from $8,000 to $10,000 per year less than those who were not perfectionists.
The study found that high performers are almost always free of the compulsion toward perfection. Rather than thinking of their mistakes as failures, the top salespersons have managed to learn from their mistakes and build on them.
MISUNDERSTANDING
People often don’t understand what they’re seeing.
An Englishman, watching his first American football game, was surprised to see the team huddle after each play. Asked what he thought about the game, he replied: “Not a bad sport, but they do seem to engage in an excessive number of committee meetings.” (The Sermon Builder)
SENSITIVITY — To Needs of others
October 1, 1986, was declared “Nerd Day” at a Michigan high school. One freshman was bright but sensitive; since entering high school, he had been harassed and teased for being a “nerd.” One day before “Nerd’s Day,” this 14-year-old boy hanged himself in his own home. He simply couldn’t stand any more.
Although that school will no longer have a “Nerd Day,” it is too late for one boy. Was anyone sensitive to his pain before? Are we sensitive to the pain of those suffering around us now? (David W. Richardson is Pastor of College United Methodist Church, Warrenton, MO)
SIGHT — Can blind ourselves
After Wilbur and Orville Wright’s successful flight on December 17, 1903, they joyfully sent a telegram to their sister in Dayton, Ohio. The message read: “First sustained flight, 59 seconds. Home for Christmas.”
The sister, also elated, ran all the way to the newspaper office with the telegram. Laying the message on the editor’s desk, she announced, “I thought you would want to see this for tomorrow’s paper.”
Sure enough, the next day it was in the paper. Buried on page 16, underneath the obituaries, was this notice: “Local bicycle merchants to spend holidays at home.”
Can you believe it? One of the major events of the twentieth century, and the. editor completely missed it — right under his own nose!
“Can you believe it? The scribes and Pharisees had missed the point of faith in God. They had perverted the dynamic of faith into humanly-accomplishable standards.” (Gary C. Redding is pastor of Lakeside Baptist Church, Lakeland, FL)
SIZE
Steve Brown says we’re enamored with size. He tells the story of the Texas rancher who visited colleagues in Chicago. They decided to show him the big city.
When he saw the stockyards, he said, “That ain’t much. We’ve got branding corrals on my ranch bigger than that.” When he saw the skyscrapers, he commented, “We’ve got tombstones at home taller than that.”
That night, the Chicagoans left snapping turtles under his sheets. When he crawled into bed, the rancher had an unpleasant surprise and jumped to his feet yelling. As the others came rushing in, the Texan demanded, “What are those?”
“Those are Chicago bed bugs,” they answered. Taking a closer look, the Texan replied, “You’re right … Young’uns, aren’t they?” (Brown is Pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church, Key Biscayne, FL)
STRUGGLE — Needed for growth
Experiments were done during space flights to test the effect of weightlessness on the aging process. Both carpenter ants and honey bees were used in the studies, and both species were found to age more rapidly and die more quickly in a weightless environment. It seems they needed the pull of gravity to make them work and maintain their physical vitality.
We, too, need the pull of difficulty and struggle to maintain our spiritual vitality. If things are too easy, we do not remain strong.
TIME — Ready for use
“God had infinite time to give us; but how did He give it? In one immense tract of a lazy millenium? No, but He cut it up into a neat succession of new mornings, and with each, therefore, a new idea, new inventions, and new applications.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
TRUTH — Not always accepted
In his book Overhearing the Gospel, Fred Craddock points out that “Knowledge about ethical concepts does not make one ethical. Burghardt DuBois, the great black educator, sociologist, and historian, upon completion of studies at Fisk, Harvard, and University of Berlin, was convinced that change in the condition of the American black could be effected by careful scientific investigations into the truth about the black in America.
“So he proceeded. His research was flawless and his graphs and charts impeccable. After waiting several years and hearing not the slightest stir of reform, Dr. DuBois had to accept the truth about the Truth: Its being available does not mean it will be appropriated.”
WITNESS — Our responsibility
Joe E. Trull tells of a primitive tribe located deep in the South American jungles. Anthropologists learned the most important role within the tribe was the “keeper of the flame.” Since fire is so precious — and takes such effort to recreate — one member is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping the flame alive.
During the night, the “flame-keeper” adds wood to the fire. He keeps it alive whenever the tribe moves. His is a vital task. (The Seven Last Words of the Risen Christ, Baker Book House, 1985).
Christ has called us to be His “keepers of the flame.” We are to keep alive the proclamation of His message.


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