Saturday, June 28, 2014

24-Karat Friendship

By Alan Smith

    As the Winter Olympics come to a close, I am reminded of a beautiful story from past Games.  Those of you who are even mildly acquainted with Olympic history will recognize the name of Jesse Owens.  At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, Owens was the United States' response to the German leaders' claim for "Aryan superiority."  He achieved international fame by winning four gold medals; one each in the 100 meter dash, the 200 meter dash, the long jump, and for being part of the 4x100 meter relay team.
    However, you may not have heard the story behind his long jump competition.  It was a competition he seemed certain to win.  After all, the year before, Owens had jumped 26 feet, 8 1/4 inches -- a record that would stand for 25 years.  But at the 1936 Olympics, he was almost out of the long jump shortly after qualifying began.  Owens fouled on his first two jumps.  A third foul and he would have been out of the competition.
    As he walked to the long-jump pit, Owens saw a tall, blue-eyed, blond German taking practice jumps in the 26-foot range.  Owens felt nervous. He was acutely aware of the Nazis' desire to prove "Aryan superiority," especially over blacks. At this point, the tall German introduced himself as Luz Long.
    "You should be able to qualify with your eyes closed!" he said to Owens. Then Long made a suggestion. Since the qualifying distance was only 23 feet, 5 1/2 inches, why not make a mark several inches before the takeoff board and jump from there, just to play it safe?
    Owens took the advice from his stiffest competition and qualified easily.  In the finals that afternoon, Jesse Owens won the gold medal with a jump of 26-5½. The first to congratulate the Olympic record holder was Luz Long.
    Owens said, "It took a lot of courage for him to befriend me in front of Hitler.  You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the 24-karat friendship I felt for Luz Long at that moment."
    I wonder -- in the church, do we more often view ourselves as competitors who are trying to do better or look better than the next guy, or as friends who are there to encourage others to accomplish what we know they can do (even if it surpasses our efforts)?
    What great value there is in having (and being) a real friend.  Solomon said, "Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labor.  For if they fall, one will lift up his companion.  But woe to him who is alone when he falls, for he has no one to help him up." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)
    Indeed, woe to the man who doesn't have a friend -- someone he can talk to, someone he can lean on, someone he can pour his heart out to.  Writer Patrick Morley has made a stinging observation.  He said that while most men could recruit six pallbearers, "hardly anyone has a friend he can call at 2:00 A.M."
    Let me ask you, "Do you have a friend you can call at 2:00 in the morning?"  More importantly, are you that kind of friend to others?  Solomon said that "A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity." (Proverbs 17:17).  Who do you have in your life that you can turn to without hesitation in the midst of adversity?  Who do you know that can confidently turn to you?
    We need to be reminded by the example of Luz Long that we were not created by God to compete with one another; we were created to encourage and exhort one another.  God intended for us to be (and have) friends.
     Have a great day!

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the Fayetteville Church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC, may be contacted at alansmith.servant@gmail.comA

An Added Burden

By Alan Smith

    I read once about a missionary who was living in Africa.  He was disturbed over something he was seeing.  The women walked around with heavy loads of wood piled on their backs.  Their husbands, on the other hand, carried nothing more than a walking stick and walked several yards in front of them.  It was considered an honor for the women to carry these heavy loads for their husbands.
    Feeling sorry for them, this missionary saw a need for some wheelbarrows.  So he sent a telegram back to the United States, ordering 200 of them to be shipped immediately.  When they arrived, he showed the women how to load the wood in the wheelbarrows.
    A few weeks later, he returned to the village to find the wheelbarrows all parked in a neat row -- unused.  He asked, "Why aren't you using them?"  One woman explained, "Well, you see, when we got the wheelbarrows loaded and all of that up on our backs, they were just too heavy!"
    That incident suggests the way a lot of people have experienced religion.  It holds out a promise to them of a fuller, richer life where all their problems will disappear.  In reality, it just brings additional burdens -- one more thing to do, one more thing to worry about.
    That's the way, in fact, that the Pharisees saw religion -- a list of rules to be kept, a pile of commands that they saw as their responsibility to enforce.  Jesus rebuked them, saying, "You load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." (Luke 11:46)
    But Jesus offered something that the Jews found nowhere else - a relief from those burdens.
    "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)
    Do you find that religion is a burden for you, or have you discovered the "rest" that Jesus intends his followers to know?
    Have a great day!

- Alan Smith, author of the popular "Thought For Today," and minister for the Fayetteville Church of Christ in Fayetteville, NC, may be contacted at alansmith.servant@gmail.com



Belief Is What You Need

   A man was lost while driving through the country.  As he tried to read a map, he accidentally drove off the road into a ditch.  Though he wasn’t injured, his car was stuck in the mud.  So the man walked to a nearby farm to ask for help.
   “Warwick can get you out of that ditch,” said the farmer, pointing to an old mule standing in a field.  The man looked at the haggardly mule and looked at the farmer who just stood there repeating, “Yep, old Warwick can do the job.”  The man figured he had nothing to lose.  The two men and Warwick made their way back to the ditch.
   The farmer hitched the mule to the car.  With a snap of the reins he shouted, “Pull, Fred! Pull, Jack! Pull, Ted! Pull, Warwick!”  And the mule pulled the car from the ditch with very little effort.
   The man was amazed.  He thanked the farmer, patted the mule, and asked, “Why did you call out all of those other names before you called Warwick?”
   The farmer grinned and said, “Old Warwick is just about blind.  As long as he believes he’s part of a team, he doesn’t mind pulling.”

- via The Lantern, Highway Church of Christ, Sullivan, IL  Ron Thomas serves as preacher and an elder for the congregation and you may visit their website as http://www.highwaycofc.com



“Belief That” or “Belief In”?

By Lance Cordle

     In the opening pages of his book, Cold-Case Christianity, J. Warner Wallace tells a story involving a fellow police officer, Mark Walker. Officer Walker was on evening patrol when observed an automobile being driven er- ratically, weaving back and forth in the road. The obvious first guess was that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or some other drug. The officer went through the process of pulling the driver over and approached the driver. When in conversation with the driver, he smelled alcohol on the man’s breath. Walker then asked the driver to get out of the car.
     What Officer Walker did not know was that the man was a parolee who was in possession of a handgun at the time of this incident. In fact, the pistol was tucked inside the waistband of the man’s pants. The police officer asked the driver to turn around so he could do a pat-down. As the man turned, he drew the pistol and fired. Walker knew that he had been beaten to the draw and even as he drew his own weapon, that he would not fire the first shot. So, he braced himself for the impact.
     The positive about the incident that evening was that Mark Walker was wearing a bulletproof vest. In his training, he had learned to use the vest, and up until that moment, the vest had not been called upon to stop a bullet. How- ever, it did stop the bullet and the police officer lived to tell Detective Wallace and others about his experience.
     What is most interesting to me about this incident is the way Wallace sums up the experience of Officer Walker: “In that singular moment, Mark went from ‘belief that’ to ‘belief in.’ It’s one thing to believe that the vest can save a life; it’s another thing to trust it to save your own life.” (J. Warner Wallace, Cold-Case Christianity, Kindle Edition, locations 97- 111).
     Let’s briefly relate that summation by Wallace to our daily walk. We can and should believe that Jesus is the Son of God. The evidence is there (John 20:30, 31); we can agree with that statement. However, until we move from the belief that Jesus is the Son of God, to a belief in him (and obedience to him as Lord as part of that belief), we will not completely live for him, nor will we be willing to die for him. 
     Jesus put it this way: “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live” (John 11:25, ESV).

- via The Encourager, the weekly bulletin for the Calvert City Church of Christ, Calvert City, KY.  Lance Cordle preaches for the congregation.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com


The Bridge

By David A. Sargent

     Once upon a time two brothers who lived on adjoining farms fell into conflict. It was the first serious rift in 40 years of farming side by side, sharing machinery, and trading labor and goods as needed without a hitch. Then the long collaboration fell apart. It began with a small misunderstanding and it grew into a major difference, and finally it exploded into an exchange of bitter words followed by weeks of silence.
     One morning there was a knock on John's door. He opened it to find a man with a carpenter's toolbox. "I'm looking for a few days work" he said. "Perhaps you would have a few small jobs here and there. Could I help you?"
     "Yes," said the older brother. "I do have a job for you. Look across the creek at that farm. That's my neighbor, in fact, it's my younger brother. Last week there was a meadow between us and he took his bulldozer to the river levee and now there is a creek between us. Well, he may have done this to spite me, but I'll go him one better. See that pile of lumber curing by the barn? I want you to build me a fence-an 8-foot fence-so I won't need to see his place anymore. Cool him down, anyhow."
     The carpenter said, "I think I understand the situation. Show me the nails and the post-hole digger and I'll be able to do a job that pleases you."
     The older brother had to go to town for supplies, so he helped the carpenter get the materials ready and then he was off for the day. The carpenter worked hard all that day measuring, sawing, nailing.
     About sunset when the farmer returned, the carpenter had just finished his job. The farmer's eyes opened wide, his jaw dropped.
     There was no fence there at all. It was a bridge – a bridge stretching from one side of the creek to the other! A fine piece of work, handrails and all – and the neighbor, his younger brother, was coming across, his hand outstretched. "You are quite a fellow to build this bridge after all I've said and done."
     The two brothers met at the middle of the bridge, taking each other's hand. They turned to see the carpenter hoist his toolbox on his shoulder. "No, wait! Stay a few days. I've a lot of other projects for you," said the older brother.
     "I'd love to stay on," the carpenter said, "but I have so many more bridges to build." *
     When WE were separated from God due to our sin (Isaiah 59:1-2), God, because of His great love for us, sent His Son Jesus to “build a bridge” of reconciliation.
     Actually, Jesus WAS and IS the bridge that reconciles man to God, for Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for our redemption (Ephesians 1:7).  Through Jesus, we are reconciled to God (see 2 Corinthians 5:17-21).
     To access the Bridge of reconciliation to God... we must place our faith and trust in Jesus (Acts16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized(immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).
     Don’t remain separated from God!  Cross the Bridge of reconciliation through your trusting obedience to His Will.
     Won’t YOU?

- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org

* From illustrations data base at www.bible.org, Author Unknown

Courage or Foolishness?

It takes a lot of courage  
    To put things in God's hands,
To give ourselves completely--  
    Our lives, our hopes, our plans-- 
To follow where He leads us    
  And make His will our own-- 
But all it takes is foolishness  
    To go the way alone!      

      - Author unknown

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted at eddsterchi@comcast.net


Firm Foundation

By Terry Livingston and David A. Sargent

    The bell tower of the cathedral in the Square of the Italian city of Pisa is popularly known as "The Leaning Tower of Pisa." It dates from 1173 when the foundation was begun, and it required hundreds of years for completion due to political disturbances and technical challenges. Several architects have been credited for contributions, including Gugliemo, Pisano, and Diotisalvi. It was noted by one of his students that from this Tower, Galileo conducted some of his experiments on gravitational descent. Today it is known worldwide as a popular landmark for tourism due to its historical lean of about 3.97 degrees.
    Modern engineers have attributed the tilt of the Tower to its original foundation, being a mere eight feet in depth and set in unstable, sandy soil. Throughout its history, it has been in motion, causing a progression of projects to be done to prevent it from leaning too far and toppling, such as soil removal and reinforcement with cables. Interestingly, the builders tried to counter the lean by designing some of the walls in the upper stories to be shorter than the opposing walls. Even if the foundation were straightened perfectly, the ceilings in the upper stories would not be level! Thus, the unstable foundation led to other imperfections in those things which it supports. *
    The Tower of Pisa reminds us that a structure is only as stable as its foundation. Like the Tower, our lives are also built on foundations. For many, that foundation might be a family history, a career, a famous philosophy, or political leanings. But like the Tower’s foundation, these too are subject to shifting and change.
    The question is "What foundation could we use to set the structure of our lives, a structure which is timeless, stable and unwavering?" The answer is found in Holy Scripture. JESUS CHRIST is that one true reliable Foundation upon which we may build our lives with full confidence.
    "On Christ, the Solid Rock, I stand; All other ground is sinking sand." –
Edward Mote. See Matthew 7:26-27. To build our lives on any other foundation will only lead to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14).
    Jesus said: "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock" (Matthew 7:24-25).
    To build our lives on the solid, eternal foundation of Jesus, we must place our faith and trust in Him (Acts 16:30-31), turn from our sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Him before men (Romans 10:9-10), be baptized(immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16), and continue to HEAR His Word, and DO it (Matthew 7:24-25; 1 John 1:7).
     Won’t YOU build your life on the only Foundation that will lead to eternal life?

- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled Living Water."  To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org


* Sources: New World Encyclopedia, Iowa State University Engineering Department