Archive for December, 2009

What Do You Want To See?

December 31, 2009

Behavioral scientists have discovered that we usually see things that we are prepared to see. This is all centered in a network of nerve cells called the “Reticular Activating System.” Everybody has this system.

The “Reticular Activating System.” works like this: Once something has been brought to our attention, and we have been prepared to see it, we’ll see it virtually everywhere we go.

For example, you decide to buy a new car. You make up your mind that you are going to buy a certain brand, a certain body style, and a certain color. Now, you’ll see those cars everywhere. You’ll see them on the roads, in TV advertisements, in newspapers and magazines. They’re everywhere.

Now what has happened? They were always there, but the moment you were prepared to see them, your Reticular Activating System kicked in, and suddenly you saw them everywhere.

It happens in other areas of life, too. We see what we are prepared to see. If we are prepared to see doom & gloom this year, then that’s what we’ll see. If, on the other hand, we have prepared ourselves to see sunshine & opportunities, then that’s what we are going to see.

Contributed by: Melvin Newland, “How Does It Look to You Now?”

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Being Still

December 30, 2009

Before refrigerators, people used icehouses to preserve their food. Icehouses had thick walls, no windows, and a tightly fitted door. In winter, when streams and lakes were frozen, large blocks of ice were cut, hauled to the icehouses, and covered with sawdust. Often the ice would last well into the summer.

One man lost a valuable watch while working in an icehouse. He searched diligently for it, carefully raking through the sawdust, but didn’t find it. His fellow workers also looked, but their efforts, too, proved futile.

A small boy who heard about the fruitless search slipped into the icehouse during the noon hour and soon emerged with the watch.
Amazed, the men asked him how he found it.

“I closed the door,” the boy replied, “lay down in the sawdust, and kept very still. Soon I heard the watch ticking.”

Often the question is not whether God is speaking, but whether we are being still enough, and quiet enough, to hear.

Source: Phillip Gunter in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

Contributed by: Dan Cormie

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On Power

December 29, 2009

Power always thinks it has a great soul and vast views beyond the comprehension of the weak; and that it is doing God’s service, when it is violating all His laws.

Source: John Quincy Adams

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How Poor We Are

December 28, 2009

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people live. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”

“It was great, Dad.”

“Did you see how poor people live?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the son.

“So, tell me, what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered: “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”

The boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks, Dad, for showing me how poor we are.”

Isn’t perspective a wonderful thing? Makes you wonder what would happen if we all gave thanks for everything we have, instead of worrying about what we don’t have.

Contributed by: Steve Miller

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If He Was Rich…

December 26, 2009

William Boice once wrote: “Dear Lord, I have been re-reading the record of the rich young ruler and his obviously wrong choice. But it has set me thinking. No matter how much wealth he had, he could not ride in a car, have any surgery, turn on a light, buy penicillin, hear a pipe organ, watch TV, wash dishes in running water, type a letter, mow a lawn, fly in an airplane, sleep on an innerspring mattress, or talk on the phone. If he was rich, then what am I?”

Contributed by: Jeff Strite

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Closer Than Our Problems

December 25, 2009

In reflecting on Handel’s “Messiah,” Joseph E. McCabe wrote: “Never again are we to look at the stars, as we did when we were children, and wonder how far it is to God. A being outside our world would be a spectator, looking on but taking no part in this life, where we try to be brave despite all the bafflement. A God who created, and withdrew, could be mighty, but he could not be love. Who could love a God remote, when suffering is our lot? Our God is closer than our problems, for they are out there, to be faced; He is here, beside us, Emmanuel.”

Contributed by: Steven Simala Grant

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The Peace Child

December 24, 2009

In 1962, the Sawi people of New Guinea still lived in relative isolation. They were head-hunting cannibals. Their culture could not be more different from that of Don and Carol Richardson, and yet this missionary couple attempted to share Christ with them. In fact, two rival Sawi tribes, fascinated by the Richardsons, moved their villages right around the missionaries’ jungle home.

But Don became frustrated by his inability to find a point of contact. He was also discouraged by the 14 civil wars he had already counted right outside his front door now that the two tribes lived side by side. Eventually, the Richardsons decided to leave. However, the Sawi response surprised them: “If you’ll stay, we promise we’ll make peace in the morning.”

The next morning the Richardsons awoke to see the most amazing ritual they had ever witnessed. The two tribes were lined up outside their houses, on either side of the clearing. Finally, one man dashed into his hut, grabbed his newborn son, and began to run across the meadow towards the other tribe. His expression betrayed absolute agony. His wife ran after him, screaming and begging him to give the baby back to her.

But her husband wouldn’t stop. He ran over to the other tribe and presented the boy to them. “Plead the peace child for me. I give you my son, and I give you my name,” he said. Moments later, someone from that tribe performed the same agonizing sacrifice with the same intensity and passion. Richardson found out later that as long as those two children remained alive, the tribes were bound to peace. If they died, then literally all hell would break loose–cannibalism, murder, civil war.

While this amazing scene unfolded before him, Don suddenly realized that this was the analogy he needed to communicate Christ. The next time he spoke to the Sawi elders he told them of the perfect Peace Child, Jesus. Eventually, droves of Sawi became followers of Christ.

Several years later, on Christmas day, hundreds of Sawi from every tribe – tribes that had warred and cannibalized each other for many years – gathered together for a feast for the first time. A Sawi preacher stood up and read in his own language a scripture that few people in the history of the world have ever understood so clearly: “Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders, and He shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Later, the Richardsons would write that it was the best Christmas they had ever experienced. It was the best day the Sawi had ever known.

Source: Adapted by James McCullen from “Peace Child” by Don Richardson (Regal, 1976) in Mars Hill Review, Fall 1994. Pages 62-63.

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You Have to Stoop

December 23, 2009

The announcement went first to the shepherds. They didn’t ask God if he was sure he knew what he was doing. Had the angel gone to the theologians, they would have first consulted their commentaries. Had he gone to the elite, they would have looked around to see if anyone was watching. Had he gone to the successful, they would have first looked at their calendars. So he went to the shepherds. Men who didn’t have a reputation to protect or an ax to grind or a ladder to climb. Men who didn’t know enough to tell God that angels don’t sing to sheep and that messiahs aren’t found wrapped in rags and sleeping in a feed trough.

A small cathedral outside Bethlehem marks the supposed birthplace of Jesus. Behind a high altar in the church is a cave, a little cavern lit by silver lamps. You can enter the main edifice and admire the ancient church. You can also enter the quiet cave where a star embedded in the floor recognizes the birth of the King.

There is one stipulation, however. You have to stoop. The door is so low you can’t go in standing up. The same is true of the Christ. You can see the world standing tall, but to witness the Savior, you have to get on your knees. So…. while the theologians were sleeping and the elite were dreaming and the successful were snoring, the meek were kneeling. They were kneeling before the One only the meek will see. They were kneeling in front of Jesus.

Source: Max Lucado

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Christmas Present

December 22, 2009

It was the day after Christmas at a church in San Francisco. Pastor Mike was looking at the nativity scene outside when he noticed the baby Jesus was missing from the figures. Immediately, Pastor Mike turned towards the church to call the police. But as he was about to do so, he saw little Jimmy with a red wagon, and in the wagon was the figure of the little infant, Jesus. Pastor Mike walked up to Jimmy and said, “Well, Jimmy, where did you get the little infant?” Jimmy replied, “I got him from the church.” “And why did you take him?” With a sheepish smile, Jimmy said, “Well, about a week before Christmas I prayed to little Lord Jesus. I told him if he would bring me a red wagon for Christmas, I would give him a ride around the block in it.”

Source: BeliefNet.com

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How To Get Lost

December 21, 2009

Mike Yaconelli writes 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 green 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.”

Source: Craig Brian Larson, Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching, Baker, 1993

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