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In the trenches of life when decisions need to be made quickly, we often depend upon short principles that offer us immediate direction and give us spiritual instincts. C. Everett Koop is a great medical ethicist; when addressing end of life decision-making in a booklet he wrote for pastors--because people often ask our opinion in these sorts of situations -- he said something like, "you need to decide whether you are extending someone’s life or extending their death."

Other quick-reference sayings might include, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," "talk is cheap," "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," "more is not always better," and "you can’t believe everything you read."

For believers, the source for many of these "near at hand" principles is the Sermon on the Mount, such as "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," "turn the other cheek," and "walk the extra mile."

6. The many succinct statements in the Sermon on the Mount hit us like the rapid fire of a machine gun. But I believe that many of these statements are conclusions, separated by perhaps 10 minutes of teaching before reaching those conclusions; yet the conclusions might make us wrongly conclude that nothing came before them. I believe that the starting point for each set of conclusions is the Old Testament, and, in many instances, Deuteronomy. Yet the way Jesus distilled the principles of the Torah is masterful.

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