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British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge once had a discussion with a man who firmly believed that children should not be given formal religious instruction, but should be free to choose their own religious faith when they reached maturity. Coleridge did not disagree, but later invited the man into his somewhat neglected garden. "Do you call this a garden?" the visitor exclaimed. "There are nothing but weeds here!"
"Well, you see," Coleridge replied, "I did not wish to infringe upon the liberty of the garden in any way. I was just giving the garden a chance to express itself."
Daily Walk, March 28, 1992
- Marquis de Lafayette was a French general and politician who helped George Washington in the American Revolution. After the war was over, he returned to France and resumed his life as a farmer of many estates. In 1783, the harvest was a terrible one, and there were many who suffered as a result. However, Lafayettes farms were still able to fill their barns with wheat and were unaffected by the devastating harvest. One of his workers, offered what seemed to be good advice to Lafayette, "The bad harvest has raised the price of wheat. This is the time to sell." After thinking about the hungry peasants in the surrounding villages, Lafayette disagreed by saying, "No, this is the time to give."
John Wesley and George Whitefield - the two great preachers of the 18th Century Evangelical Revival - were both great men of God.
Sadly having been great friends at Oxford, they fell out over the Arminian/Calvinist debate.
There was quite a bit of animosity between their followers.
Once one of Whitefield’s followers said to him:
"We won’t see John Wesley in the heaven, will we?"
To which Whitefield humbly replied "Yes, you’re right, we won’t see him in heaven. He will be so close to the Throne of God and we will be so far away, that we won’t be able to see him. !" .
What a lovely attitude Whitefield had.
Despite profoundly disagreeing with Wesley, Whitefield recognized John Wesley as being a man of God.
Indeed the respect for the other was so great that when Whitefield died in The USA, John Wesley preached at George Whitefield’s memorial service in London.
In the film The Shawshank Redemption, Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman), tells the story of Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins)—a young, successful banker wrongly convicted of murdering his wife in 1947 and sentenced to two consecutive life terms at Shawshank Prison.
Halfway through the film, an old con, Brooks Hadlin, becomes enraged and threatens to take another inmate’s life—holding a makeshift knife at the inmate’s throat. A few tense moments later, Red and Andy persuade Brooks to lay down his knife. That’s when they discover that Hadlin had just received word that his parole was finally approved. The mere thought of freedom outside the prison walls was enough to send Brooks over the edge.
Later, discussing it in the prison yard, an inmate concludes that Brooks had "bugged out," gone mad. Red quickly disagrees:
Brooks ain’t no bug! He’s just…institutionalized. The man’s been in here 50 years—50 years! This is all he knows. In here, he’s an important man. He’s an educated man. Outside, he’s nothing...
His name is Roger Crawford … he’s about forty years old. He makes his living as a consultant and public speaker. He has written two books and travels all across the country working for Fortune 500 companies, national and state associations, and school districts.
Those aren’t bad credentials. But if they don’t impress you, how about this? Before becoming a consultant, he was a varsity tennis player for Loyola Marymount University and later became a professional tennis player certified by the United States Professional Tennis Association. Still not impressed? Would you change your opinion if I told you roger has no hands and only one foot?
Roger Crawford was born with a condition called ectrodactylism. When he emerged from his mother’s womb, the doctors saw that he had a thumblike projection extending out of his right forearm, and a thumb and finger growing out of his left forearm. He had no palms. His legs and arms were shortened. And his left leg possessed a shrunken foot with only three toes. (The foot was amputated when he was five).
… Roger’s parents were determined to give him the best chance possible for living a normal life. They raised him to feel loved, to be strong, and to develop independence. "You’re only as handicapped as you want to be," his father used to tell him.
When he was old enough, they sent him to regular public schools. They involved him in sports. They encouraged him to do everything his heart desired. And they taught him to think positively.
"Something my parents never did was to allow me to feel sorry for myself, or to take advantage of people because of my handicap," observes Roger.
Roger appreciated the encouragement and training he received from his parents, but I don’t think he really understood the significance or the extent of his achievements until he was in college and he interacted with someone who wanted to meet him. He had received a phone call from a man who had read about his tennis victories, and Roger agreed to meet him at a nearby restaurant. When Roger stood to shake hands with the man, he discovered that the other guy had hands that were almost identical to his. Roger became excited because he thought he had found someone similar to him but older who could act as a mentor. But after talking with the stranger for a few minutes, he realized he was wrong. Roger explains,
"Instead, what I found was someone with a bitter, pessimistic attitude who blamed all of life’s disappointments and failures on his anatomy.
I soon recognized that our lives and attitudes couldn’t have been more different … He had never held a job for long, and he was sure this was because of ’discrimination’ - certainly no because (as he admitted) he was constantly late, frequently absent, and failed to take any responsibility for his work. His attitude was, "The world owes me," and his problem was that the world disagreed. He was even angry with me because I didn’t share his despair.
We kept in touch for several years, until it dawned on me that even if some miracle were suddenly to give him a perfect body, his unhappiness and lack of success wouldn’t change. He would still be at the same place in his life."
Roger maintains, "Handicaps can only disable us if we let them. This is true not only of physical challenges, but of emotional and intellectual ones as well … I believe that real and lasting limitations are created in our minds, not our bodies."
John Maxwell, Failing Forward pp. 68-71
In 1995 Nathan Frederick Klimosko, 21, was sentenced to two years’ probation in Kelowna, British Columbia, for hitting and choking his girlfriend into unconsciousness. The fight started in a car when the two disagreed over his interpretation of a certain passage from the Bible, and he reached over and smacked her in the face, blackening her eye.
News of the Weird
The Bet -- Anton Chekhov
We live in a world that knows little about what’s truly valuable. People all around us are pursuing things that have no lasting value. That pursuit is ably treated by Anton Chekhov in his classic short story The Bet. This story gives us great insight into the value system of most people.
The plot involves a wager between two educated men regarding solitary confinement. A wealthy, middle-aged banker believed the death penalty was a more humane penalty than solitary confinement because “an executioner kills at once, solitary confinement kills gradually.” One of his guests at a party, a young lawyer of twenty-five, disagreed, saying, “To live under any conditions is better than not to live at all.”
Angered, the banker impulsively responded with a bet of two million rubles that the younger man could not last five years in solitary confinement. The lawyer was so convinced of his endurance that he announced he would stay fifteen years alone instead of only five.
The arrangements were made, and the young man moved into a separate building on the grounds of the banker’s large estate. He was allowed no visitors or newspapers. He could write letters but receive none. There were guards watching to make sure he never violated the agreement, but they were placed so that he could never see another human being from his windows. He received his food in silence through a small opening where he could not see those who served him. Everything else he wanted—books, certain foods, musical instruments, etc.—was granted by special written request.
During the first year the piano could be heard at almost any hour, and he asked for many books, mostly novels and other light reading. The next year the music ceased and the works of various classical authors were requested. In the sixth year of his isolation he began to study languages and soon had mastered six. After the tenth year of his confinement, the prisoner sat motionless at the table and read the New Testament. After more than a year’s saturation of the Bible, he began to study the history of religion and works on theology.
The second half of the story focuses on the night before the noon deadline when the lawyer would win the bet. The banker was now at the end of his career. His risky speculations and impetuosity had gradually undermined his business. The once self-confident millionaire was now a second-rate banker, and it would destroy him to pay off the wager. Angry at his foolishness and jealous of the soon-to-be-wealthy lawyer who was now only forty, the old banker determined to kill his opponent and frame the guard with the murder. Slipping into the man’s room, he found him asleep at the table and noticed a letter the lawyer had written to him. He picked it up and read the following:
Tomorrow at twelve o’clock I shall be free . . . but before leaving this room . . . I find it necessary to say a few words to you. With a clear conscience, and before God, who sees me, I declare to you that I despise freedom and life and health and all that your books call the joys of this world. . . . I know I am wiser than you all. . . . And I despise all your books, I despise all earthly blessings and wisdom. All is worthless and false, hollow and deceiving like the mirage. You may be proud, wise and beautiful, but death will wipe you away from the face of the earth, as it does the mice that live beneath your floor; and your heirs, your history, your immortal geniuses will freeze or burn with the destruction of the earth. You have gone mad and are not following the right path. You take falsehood for truth, and deformity for beauty. To prove to you how I despise all that you value I renounce the two million on which I looked, at one time, as the opening of paradise for me, and which I now scorn. To deprive myself of the right to receive them, I will leave my prison five hours before the appointed time, and by so doing break the terms of our compact.
The banker read the lines, replaced the paper on the table, kissed the strange, sleeping man and with tears in his eyes, quietly left the house. Chekhov writes, “Never before, not even after sustaining serious losses on change, had he despised himself as he did at that moment.” His tears kept him awake the rest of the night. And at seven the next morning he was informed by the watchmen that they had seen the man crawl through a window, go to the gate, and then disappear. (From John MacArthur, www.gracechurch.org/sfellowship/pulpitcm/article.asp?id=20&aid=80, Article “Praying For the Right Things; Accessed 04/09/06)
I like some of what Edwene Gaines writes about although I do not agree with all her views on spirituality. But I have learned enough from her writings that I decided not to be bothered in areas where I disagree. I find her life story and spiritual journey though to be compelling.
Years before she became a notable speaker and minister, as a single mother Edwene Gaines was raising her daughter in abject poverty. Overwhelmed and terrified, she turned toward her faith for reassurance, sustenance, and finally for direction.
In the midst of her poverty, Edwene Gaines feeling hopeless decided to open her Bible and here is the passage she turned to, Malachi 3:10:
Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house, and thus put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts; see if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you an overflowing blessing.
What seemed impossible at the time, she did anyway. She gave 10% of every cent that came to her. Gaines herself began the journey into tithin...
Insurgency! (11.08.05--Christian Soldiers!--Revelations 12:7)
What war? That was the response that I got from a friend recently when I referred to Operation Iraqi Freedom as a war. I looked at him and asked: “How would you define a war?” His response? “A war is when freedom is at stake and our well-being as a nation is challenged. I don’t see how anyone could define what is happening in Iraq in these terms!”
Because Pearl Harbor had not been bombed by the Japanese or the Lusitania had not been sunk by the Germans, my friend simply could not equate the events in the Middle East with his understanding of what war is. Even though the Twin Towers had been attacked and thousands more had died than on the Lusitania or at Pearl Harbor, the fact that it was not a “definable” enemy made all the difference in the world to him. If he couldn’t put the face of a nation on the face of an enemy, he could not equate the struggle against international terrorism as a legitimate war.
But, what about the battle against Satan and his minions? Do Christians take a similar viewpoint on who is the enemy and who is not when it comes to the war against God and His people here on earth?
In his book which provides a statistical analysis of religious beliefs in America, George Barna cites several fascinating statistics which are based on a national survey. In chapter four he states, “The Devil, or Satan, is not a living being but is a symbol of evil.” Then asking that segment of his survey respondents who have identified themselves at being Christians, he states, “Do you agree strongly, agree somewhat, disagree somewhat, or disagree strongly with that statement?” The population reply with 32 percent agreeing strongly, 11 percent agreeing somewhat and 5 percent did not know. Thus, of the total number responding, 48 percent either agreed that Satan is only symbolic or did not know! (What Americans Believe, pp. 206-212).
What a shame that so many Christians aren’t able to put a face on the enemy when it comes to the most crucial and fearsome battle ever fought on the face of this earth--the war against God. Declared long ago when he was thrown from heaven, Satan has been waging an all-out battle against God since the beginning of time. Although Christ crushed Satan on Calvary, he is still a dangerous foe. Like the insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan, He lurks waiting to bring his brand of terrorism to bear against any unsuspecting Christian unwilling or unable to see his face as that of the enemy. Now is not the time to drop the shield and sword. The Devil is for real and his war against you and I will not end until Jesus returns. Until that time it is our responsibility to know who the foe is, believe that he is powerful, and join actively in the fight.
Dwight Morrow, the father of Anne Morrow Lindbergh, once held a dinner party to which Calvin Coolidge had been invited. After Coolidge left, Morrow told the remaining guests that Coolidge would make a good president. The others disagreed. They felt Coolidge was too quiet, that he lacked color and personality. No one would like him, they said.
Anne, then age six, spoke up: “I like him,” she said. Then she displayed a finger with a small bandage around it. “He was the only one at the party who asked about my sore finger.”
“And that’s why he would make a good president,” added Morrow.
Bits & Pieces, February 4, 1993, pp. 18-19