n 1958, a U.S. soldier wandered the streets of Berlin to see the sights. Despite the bustling new life in parts of the city, reminders remained of the destruction of World War II.
Walking through a residential area one evening, across the cobblestone street he saw an open space edged with flowers. In the center stood the stone front of what had been a church. The building was no longer there, but the rubble had been cleared away in an attempt to fill the empty space with a little park.
The former church's main door was shaped in a Gothic arch, and over it was carved into the stone in German: heaven and
EARTH WILL PASS AWAY, BUT MY WORDS WILL NOT
pass away. As he stepped through the arch where the doors had once been, of course he wasn't inside anything. What was once a place of worship had been reduced to a patch of stone pavement and open sky.
Not so with the Door — Jesus Christ! As we step into Christ, we enter into his unshakable, eternal presence. It cannot be reduced; it can only be experienced — forever.
— Coleman L. Coates Cadmus, Michigan
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once led a man to Christ who loved the sunny country of common sense, but he could not put up with the mysteries of godliness. He kept shoving common sense at me, while I kept trying to show him that the mysteries held the meaning of faith.
One day he said, "Pastor, you know this new eternal life I have — well, I've been thinking about it. What are we going to do all day long for eternity?" "We'll praise the Lord," I said. "Forever — for ten million years! — we're going to stand around and praise the Lord?"
"Well, yes," I said, although heaven was beginning to sound like cable television.
"For millions and millions of years?" he said. "Couldn't we just stop now and then and mess around a while?"
I kidded him about his "dumb questions," but I have to admit similar questions of my own at times. How meager our understanding of praise — and heaven!
— Calvin Miller Omaha, Nebraska
man purchased a white mouse to use as food for his pet snake. He dropped the unsuspecting mouse into the snake's glass cage, where the snake was sleeping in a bed of sawdust.
The tiny mouse had a serious problem on his hands. At any moment he could be swallowed alive. Obviously, the mouse needed to come up with a brilliant plan.
What did the terrified creature do? He quickly set to work covering the snake with sawdust chips until it was completely buried. With that, the mouse apparently thought he had solved his problem.
The solution, however, came from outside. The man took pity on the silly little mouse and removed him from the cage.
No matter how hard we try to cover or deny our sinful nature, it's fool's work. Sin will eventually awake from sleep and shake off its cover. Were it not for the saving grace of the Master's hand, sin would eat us alive.
— Laura Chick Denver, Colorado
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n April 1988 the evening news reported on a photographer who was a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with numerous other sky-divers and filmed the group as they fell and opened their parachutes. On the film shown on the telecast, as the final skydiver opened his chute, the picture went berserk. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without his parachute. It wasn't until he reached for the absent ripcord that he realized he was freefalling without a parachute.
Until that point, the jump probably seemed exciting and fun. But tragically, he had acted with thoughtless haste and deadly foolishness. Nothing could save him, for his faith was in a parachute never buckled on.
Faith in anything but an all-sufficient God can be just as tragic spiritually. Only with faith in Jesus Christ dare we step into the dangerous excitement of life.
— James D. Acree Surry, Virginia
n his recent book Integrity, Ted Engstrom told this story: "For Coach Cleveland Stroud and the Bulldogs of Rock-dale County High School [Conyers, Georgia], it was their championship season: 21 wins and 5 losses on the way to the Georgia boys' basketball tournament last March, then a dramatic come-from-behind victory in the state finals.
"But now the new glass trophy case outside the high school gymnasium is bare. Earlier this month the Georgia High School Association deprived Rock-dale County of the championship after school officials said that a player who was scholastically ineligible had played 45 seconds in the first of the school's five postseason games.
" 'We didn't know he was ineligible at the time; we didn't know it until a few weeks ago,' Mr. Stroud said. 'Some people have said we should have just kept quiet about it, that it was just 45 seconds and the player wasn't an impact player. But you've got to do what's honest and right and what the rules say. I told my team that people forget the scores of basketball games; they don't ever forget what you're made of.' "
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n Planet in Rebellion, George Vandeman wrote: "It was May 21, 1946. The place — Los Alamos. A young and daring scientist was carrying out a necessary experiment in preparation for the atomic test to be conducted in the waters of the South Pacific atoll at Bikini.
"He had successfully performed such an experiment many times before. In his effort to determine the amount of U-235 necessary for a chain reaction — scientists call it the critical mass — he would push two hemispheres of uranium together. Then, just as the mass became critical, he would push them apart with his screwdriver, thus instantly stopping the chain reaction.
"But that day, just as the material became critical, the screwdriver slipped! The hemispheres of uranium came too close together. Instantly the room was filled with a dazzling bluish haze. Young Louis Slotin, instead of ducking and thereby possibly saving himself, tore the two hemispheres apart with his hands and thus interrupted the chain reaction.
"By this instant, self-forgetful daring, he saved the lives of the seven other persons in the room. . . . [A]s he waited ... for the car that was to take them to the hospital, he said quietly to his companion, 'You'll come through all right. But I haven't the faintest chance myself.' It was only too true. Nine days later he died in agony.
"Nineteen centuries ago the Son of the living God walked directly into sin's most concentrated radiation, allowed himself to be touched by its curse, and let it take his life. . . . But by that act he broke the chain reaction. He broke the power of sin."
— Vialo Weis Ardmore, Oklahoma
ike Yaconelli wrote in The Wittenburg Door: "I live in a small, rural community. There are lots of cattle ranches around here, and, every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost. . . . Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, 'Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.'
"Americans are in the process of nibbling their way to lostness. . . . We keep moving from one tuft of activity to another, never noticing how far we have gone from home or how far away from the truth we have managed to end up."
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television program preceding the 1988 Winter Olympics featured blind skiers being trained for slalom skiing, impossible as that sounds. Paired with sighted skiers, the blind skiers were taught on the flats how to make right and left turns. When that was mastered, they were taken to the slalom slope, where their sighted partners skied beside them shouting, "Left!" and "Right!" As they obeyed the commands, they were able to negotiate the course and cross the finish line, depending solely on the sighted skiers' word. It was either complete trust or catastrophe.
What a vivid picture of the Christian life! In this world, we are in reality blind about what course to take. We must rely solely on the Word of the only One who is truly sighted — God himself. His Word gives us the direction we need to finish the course. — Robert W. Sutton Forestdale, Massachusetts
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