"For Those Who Are Passionate About Reaching The Younger Generation"

Faith-Based Character Traits
(Page Three)

Page One

Acceptance
Accountability
Authority
Cheerfulness
Cooperation
Courage

Page Two

Creativity
Democracy
Dependability
Empathy
Forgiveness
Generosity

Page Three

Gratitude
Honesty
Honor
Humility
Initiative
Kindness

Page Four

Learning
Motivation
Peacemaker
Perseverance
Resilience

Page Five

Respect for Others
Self-Confidence
Self-Respect
Sportsmanship
Virtue

Gratitude

To be grateful is to recognize the love of God. (Thomas Merton)

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"The modern American seldom pauses to give thanks for the simple blessings of life. One reason is that we are used to having so much. We simply assume that we will have all the good things of life. Another reason is that it hurts our pride to be grateful. We do not want to admit that God is the Provider of all good things. We are simply His stewards. Being thankful requires humility and faith in God. When we have these, we can be grateful." (Richard B. Douglass)

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Helen Roseveare suffered greatly as a missionary to Zaire. During that time, she was beaten several times, raped on three occasions, had teeth knocked out, and was once brought before a firing squad. Most people would have become bitter through all this, but Roseveare still speaks and forwards the cause of missions in her latter years. What made the difference? According to Roseveare, she learned to be thankful and even to thank God for allowing the suffering. (Heard from Rosevere in a lecture at Columbia International University)

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Some dolphins may live with the mistaken notion that they are so intelligent that within only a few weeks of captivity, they can train people to stand at the very edge of the pool and throw them fish.

In the same way, God grants some people success in some area of their lives and they get prideful about how they've learned the secrets of success. Hey, maybe God decided to bless you in spite of yourself and you're just like the dolphin, ignorantly attributing the fish life is throwing you to your own greatness. How many thousands of people have worked just as hard and smart as you and failed miserably? We need to thank God for every fish He throws us and not imagine that it came because of our own goodness or great wisdom.

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Part of Abraham Lincoln's proclamation to make Thanksgiving a yearly national holiday, 1863:

"We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation has ever grown.

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November as a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father Who dwelleth in the heavens."

Honesty

One day at church the pastor of a large congregation approached the pulpit and announced that he would be speaking on thought life. Then, before he could get into his sermon, tears welled up in his eyes. He stated, "I am not worthy to preach this." He returned to his seat, called for a song, and dismissed the service. One of his members said that he always respected his pastor's honesty and integrity after that one sentence message.

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It has been said that there are three kinds of lies: white lies, black lies, and sermon illustrations. (Dennis Atwood, Christian Ministry, Nov.-Dec., 1996, p. 37)

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Tim Kimmel, in his book, LITTLE HOUSE ON THE FREEWAY, tells of a pastor of a large congregation who had just preached a sermon on honesty. The next day, he decided to take a city bus to work. He stepped up into the bus, handed the driver a $5.00 bill, received his change, and walked to his seat. But as he counted his change, he realized that the driver had given back too much money. So the pastor begins to rationalize: "maybe God knew I needed extra money this week" or "I could give this extra money to God's service." But his conscience wouldn't let him get away with it.

On the way out, he explained the mistake to the driver and returned the change. But smiling, the driver replied, "There was no mistake, pastor. I was at your church yesterday and heard you preach on honesty. When you handed me that five, I thought I'd see if you were as good at practicing as you are at preaching!" He continued, "you know, Sunday was the first time I agreed to go to church with my wife. I've always thought you guys were a bunch of phonies. But I guess there's more to it than that. I'll see you next Sunday!"

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A missionary to a primitive tribe needed to clear a runway in a Jungle area, in order to be able to receive supplies from the daring missionary pilots that land on such runways. He hired tribesmen to help make the clearing, but found that they would only work while he was on the site. Once he left, they took an extended break until he returned. But he needed to leave for a period of time. Finally, he came up with a solution. He called the tribesmen to himself and told them he would be gone for awhile. They looked on in wonder as he popped out his glass eye, set it on a tree stump on the edge of the construction site, and told them that he would be keeping an eye on their progress while he was gone. They worked feverishly in his absence. (Lord's of the Earth, p. 192) While this true story gave the missionary the work he needed, was it in fact a deception that, upon further reflection, he should have decided against doing? What might have been the future consequences of such a deception? (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)

Honor

Marilyn Manson admired and respected Anton LaVey, founder and high priest of the Church of Satan, meeting with him personally whenever he summoned. He considered LaVey sort of a father figure. LaVey believed that "a louse has more right to live than a human," that "natural disasters are good for humanity," and that "the concept of equality is horseshi�."

According to Manson: "The devil doesn't exist. Satanism is about worshipping yourself, because you are responsible for your own good and evil. Christianity's war against the devil has always been a fight against man's most natural instincts -- for sex, for violence, for self-gratification -- and a denial of man's membership in the animal kingdom."

Think through the implications of what Manson's saying. If we're simply a member of the animal kingdom, not special in God's image, and if we worship ourselves, then there is no objective right and wrong. If someone bothers me and I think that the world would be better without him, then it's very appropriate to gratify my animal instinct to kill that person. This is where a philosophy of no absolutes can lead. (Written by Steve Miller, Copyright April 25, 2002. Source: Marilyn Manson in his autobiography, The Long Hard Road Out of Hell, Regan Books, 1998, pp. 164,165,170, 176.)

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"�knowledge and skills alone cannot lead humanity to a happy and dignified life. Humanity has every reason to place the proclaimers of high moral standards and values above the discoverers of objective truth. What humanity owes to personalities like Buddha, Moses, and Jesus ranks for me higher than all the achievements of the inquiring and constructive mind." "What these blessed men have given us we must guard and try to keep alive with all our strength if humanity is not to lose its dignity, the security of its existence, and its joy of living." (Sept., 1937 letter, found in Albert Einstein: The Human Side, Selected and edited by Helen Dukas and Banesh Hoffman, Princeton University Press, 1979, pp. 70,71)

color="#0000FF" Humility

I heard that popular U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt would often take important diplomatic guests out to the back lawn of the White House at the day's end. He'd begin to stare at the sky until all gazed at the vast array of stars. After a long silence, Roosevelt would say, "Gentlemen, I believe we are small enough now. Let's go to bed." What do you do to keep your perspective on your smallness compared to God's greatness? (Source: E-mail from the Presidential Prayer Team, 6-21-02)

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There is no room for God in a person who is full of himself. (Baal Shem Tov)

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The man who is truly meek is the man who is amazed that God and man can think of him as well as they do and treat him as well as they do. (Martyn Lloyd-Jones)

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I believe the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean by humility, doubt of his own powers. But really great men have a curious feeling that the greatness is not in them, but through them. And they see something divine in every other man. (John Ruskin)

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William Carey, often referred to as the father of modern missions, was a great example of humility. Although a brilliant linguist responsible for translating parts of the Bible into no fewer than 34 different languages and dialects, he never attempted to promote himself, to impress people. Carey was raised in a simple home in England and as a young man worked as a cobbler. Early in his life he traveled to India to live the rest of his life as a missionary. But in India he often faced ridicule for his "low birth" and former occupation. At a dinner party one evening a snob said, "I understand Mr. Carey that you once actually worked as a shoemaker." "Oh no, your Lordship," Carey quickly replied, "I was not a shoemaker, only a shoe repairman." (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)

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The biggest addiction we have to overcome is to the human ego. Why? Because ego stands for "Edging God Out." (Ken Blanchard, author of One-Minute Manager)

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Humility is recognizing that God and others are responsible for the achievements in my life. (See I Corinthians 4:7)

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The Full Gospel Church in Seoul, Korea grew from a handful of believers in the early 60's to over 150,000 members in a mere 20 years. It's the largest congregation in the world. Although many would assume that the phenomenal growth must be due to a strong, dynamic leader, the growth may be more due to his weakness.

You see, although Pastor Cho is truly dynamic, he found himself broken through his illnesses. In fact, he had been ill most of his life, including a diagnosis of TB in its terminal stages. He also experienced a nervous breakdown from fatigue and repeated severe ulcer attacks. Finally, he realized that he was so weak that he could no longer manage the church.

As a result, the elders started cell groups to minister in each neighborhood, which effectively took the church to the world, rather than expect the world to come to church. So as neighbors began to minister to neighbors, more cell groups were formed until 10,000 cell groups were meeting all around the city. If pastor Cho were arrested or killed, his church could continue. Because its growth was not based solely on his personality and leadership, it's not dependent on his dynamism. Rather, the church was made strong through its pastor's weakness.

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So many people spend their lives seeking recognition, the respect and applause of people. Here's one guy who had it all, but gave it up to minister to those our society generally ignores.

Henri Nouwen was born in The Netherlands. During his youngest years he remembers a mother who always praised and affirmed him as a person, calling him to always love Jesus. Henri's father challenged him to make something of his life and pushed him to do more with his talents. His father wanted Henri to be a "success."

"I lived the first part of my life listening more to the voice of my father," said Henri. "The second part of my life I listened more to the voice of my mother."

This explains why a successful author, lecturer, and professor of Psychology at three top universities: Notre Dame, Yale and Harvard, gave up academic life to live in a community of mentally challenged adults. During his journey from the hallowed halls of academia to the nitty gritty of a life spent caring for adults who cannot care for themselves, Henri spent countless hours learning what it means to truly accept and love someone unconditionally.

Henri learned of the work of Jean Vanier, a Canadian who created communities where adults with developmental disabilities lived with "friends." Henri moved into L'Arche Daybreak such community in Toronto, Canada to become a "friend."

When Henri arrived at Daybreak, he gained notoriety more for his inability to make a sandwich than the 30 books he'd written. His heavy Dutch accent caused many to misunderstand his conversations about "faith." The residents thought this gangly man who couldn't speak very well was awfully concerned with "face." Henri spent his early years teaching the academically elite and writing 30 books on spiritual life. His last ten years were spent serving people who couldn't even read.

The people of Daybreak didn't really care that Henri's name was known across the world. They just cared that he loved them. The lessons learned at Daybreak were profound for Henri the scholar. He developed a deep friendship with Adam Arnett. Adam never spoke a word in his life, yet he taught Henri his greatest lessons about slowing down, being physically present with people, and that love between two people can grow without words. Henri tells the story in his book "Adam: God's Beloved."

God had been teaching Henri for several years that every person is "Beloved" to God, regardless of what we do, have, or how we look--but this was made most evident for him through his relationship with Adam. This was Henri's last book before he died of a heart attack in his homeland of The Netherlands in route to Russia to film a documentary on Rembrandt's painting of the Prodigal Son.

Just a few years before, Henri wrote, "Our death may be the end of our success, our productivity, our fame or our importance among people, but it is not the end of our fruitfulness. In fact, the opposite it true....."

If you looked at your daily schedule, is your time spent seeking success, or seeking lasting fruit? Will the things you're living for outlast this life, or will they die when you die? [� Copyright 2002 written by C.K. Miller, from material found on the Henri Nouwen website (www.nouwen.net/henri)]

Initiative

Joe was born into a large family that eventually had 11 children. His parents raised them in a three-room farmhouse in the little town of Aurora, North Carolina. His family was poor, but that wasn't Joe's biggest problem. He was born with a speech problem that caused his teachers to label him as mentally retarded. School was not Joe's favorite place as a boy.

One of his favorite places, however, was Sunday School. "When my teacher read those stories, it gave me hope. If you have hope for the future, you have power for the present."

Also, Joe had a mother that believed in him, despite what the teachers said. She said, "Joe, I don't care�.I believe that slow people could rule the world, because when a slow one gets it, they got it."

A turning point came in Joe's life through a girlfriend's rejection. Joe was now 17 and deeply in love. She said to him, "Joe, I want to get married. But I want smart kids and you're retarded." She left Joe for a smarter boy who she soon married. This was the impetus for Joe to finally buckle down and pay attention to his studies. He went all the way back to the first grade books and studied each one, first, second, all the way up to 10th grade, until he learned everything that he'd ignored the first time. Joe said, "I decided that day that I was gonna put something in my head and nobody could ever take that away from me."

Joe decided that he was going to be somebody and he was willing to do whatever it took. "I think that was one of the determined points in my life that changed me around," Joe said. "Every time I wanted something, I realized you can go to the library and you could find it and I studied. That was the beginning."

Dudley left North Carolina to join the ranks of Fuller Brush salesmen in Brooklyn, New York. He knocked on doors where people would come to the door and teach him how to correctly pronounce the words he was using in his sales script. "It didn't bother me, because I knew I didn't know today, but tomorrow I would," said Joe. "That's how I got started. It was hard. My first day I sold $2.60. I made about $1.20."

Joe Dudley sold brushes during the day and went to college at night, finally finishing when he turned 26. He was trying to expand the items that he sold, but the Fuller Brush Company couldn't help him. So, Joe turned to his old friend, the public library for information. He returned to North Carolina to sell his own products that he learned how to make through a library book. His wife would type out the labels for the containers and he would make the products on the stove. He would go to beauty salons to pick up old containers that would be refilled and sold again. He and his wife would make the products every night and he'd sell them every day.

Eventually Joe became such a good businessman that the President of the Fuller Brush Company called him and asked him to buy the company, which he did. Currently Joe's company grosses over $35 million in business every year and employs 400 people. In the spirit of learning, Joe sponsors an employee reading program to help his employees find the same freedom he learned between the covers of books. President Bush once called Joe's business one of America's "points of light." Joe tells his story for others who may feel that they have no future and are bound by their circumstances. He called it "Walking by Faith." (C.K. Miller, adapted from Christian Broadcasting Networks' Amazing Stories series. http://cbn.org/living/amazingstories/finance-joedudley.asp)

Kindness

When the aircraft carrier USS Harry Truman left Norfolk, Virginia, journeying toward the war with Iraqtheir chaplain told Christianity Today about how the military have to face their fears.

"My charter is in fear itself," says the chaplain. Then he lists the very real fears that soldiers must face. "A lot of people don't know what fear is about:

'I'm not going to come home.'
'I'm going to let down my shipmates.'
'I'm afraid of dying.'

I'll say, 'How can we work through that?' When fear is there, people really go to the core. When life gets really challenging, the fog lifts. You find out what your priorities are, and it's not music, your home, or car. It's people. It's relationships."

(Source: Faith and Fear on the Truman: How one Navy chaplain helps men and women face combat. by Adam Piore | posted 04/01/2003)

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The proof that you have God's Spirit in your life is not that you speak in an unknown tongue, but that you know how to control the tongue that you do know about." (J. Sidlow Baxter)

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Have you ever wondered why God gave us two ears but only one mouth?

"The single most important principle I have ever learned in youth ministry is this: truth flows through relationships." (Bertolini, p. 82)

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According to Billy Graham, he could have never made it as a lone ranger evangelist. The central core of his team was with him almost from the beginning. They protected him, strengthened him when he was weak, counseled him with their wisdom, and corrected him when he needed it. He's convinced that without these guys, he would have burnt out within a few years after his first groundbreaking crusade in 1949. (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved. Source: (Just As I Am, By Billy Graham)

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In a January/February, 2002 edition of Moody Monthly, these are some of the main things people look for when looking for a church. (Based on a survey of 1015 people, 18 and older.)

1. How much the people seem to care about one another:

"Extremely" or "pretty" important: 78 percent

Somewhat important: 16 percent

2. The theological beliefs and doctrines of the church:

"Extremely" or "pretty" important: 76 percent

Somewhat important: 16 percent

3. The quality of preaching:

"Extremely" or "pretty" important: 76 percent

Somewhat important: 18 percent

4. Friendliness to visitors:

"Extremely" or "pretty" important: 71 percent

Somewhat important: 21 percent

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"To live above with the saints we love, that is glory. To live below with the saints we know, that's another story."

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About 4 in 10 first marriages in American end in divorce. But a 1986 publication claims that among couples who marry in the church and continue to attend church regularly, the divorce rate is one out of fifty. Add to the church attendance a prayer life at home and the rate becomes one in 1,105! Truly, couples that pray together, stay together!

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"To be right with God has often meant to be in trouble with men." (A.W. Tozer)

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"You need a faith to live by and a purpose to live for, so that you will be easy to live with."

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The way to grow in holiness is to be around people more holy than ourselves. We hear their stray comments and absorb their judgment of what's important. We listen to their prayers and find that God is bigger than we'd thought. (Oswald Chambers)

TAKING AIM

Hint: Use as either an illustration or replicate the object lesson.

A young lady named Sally relates an experience she had in a seminary class given by her teacher, who we'll call "Brother Smith". She says Brother Smith was known for his elaborate object lessons. One particular day, Sally walked into seminary and knew they were in for another day of fun. On the wall was a big target and on a nearby table were many darts. Brother Smith told the students to draw a picture of someone that they disliked or someone who had made them angry.....he would allow them to throw darts at the person's picture.

Sally's girlfriend on her right drew a picture of a girl who had stolen her boyfriend; another friend on her left drew a picture of his little brother. Sally drew a picture of Brother Smith, putting a great deal of detail into her drawing, even the pimples on his face. Sally was quite pleased at the overall effect she had achieved. The class lined up and began throwing darts, with much laughter and hilarity. Some of the students threw their darts with such force that their targets were ripping apart. Sally looked forward to her turn and was filled with disappointment when Brother Smith, because of time limits, asked the students to return to their seats.

As Sally sat thinking about how angry she was because she didn't have a chance to throw any darts at her target, Brother Smith began removing the target from the wall. Underneath the target was a picture of Jesus. A complete hush fell over the room as each student viewed the mangled picture of Jesus.....holes and jagged marks covered His face and His eyes were pierced out.

Brother Smith said only these words, "In as much as ye have done it unto the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me." No other words were necessary. The tear-filled eyes of each student focused only on the picture of Christ. The students remained in their seats.....even after the bell rang.....then slowly left the classroom, tears streaming down their faces!

"And the King will answer and say to them, 'Truly, I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' (Matthew 25:40 - Can't find source)

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In Dallas, Texas, there were two teenage boys. Both of them were what we could call "trouble makers." Both of them also had a Sunday School teacher. The Sunday School teacher of one of the boys visited him again and again, and finally led him to faith in Christ. That boy's name was Jim Ponder, and he served for many years as the director of evangelism for a large denomination in the state of Florida. The other boy's teacher didn't care about him, and said, "I don't want him in my class." Then he promptly forgot about him. That boy was Lee Harvey Oswald, who shot John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Two boys, two Sunday School teachers; one teacher doing his job faithfully; the other wasn't. (Lost source)

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Steve Sjogren (show'grin) was one frustrated pastor. He worked hard at his ministry, speaking to people day after day about God's love and his vision for starting a church. But people just didn't seem interested. Ninety seven percent of the 1000 plus people that he talked to rejected him. After two full years of rejection after rejection, he had a small group of 37 people to show for all his efforts. But then something happened. Something so amazing that after seven years, over two thousand people were attending his church. Plus, they launched 12 other churches in the area. After 10 more years, 4,500 people were regularly attending. What happened to turn things around?

Instead of trying to pull people into the church, pastor Steve and his small group of believers began looking for ways to show grace to people. They found needs in the community and began meeting those needs. They washed the windows of passing cars, cleaned toilets at businesses, gave away hot drinks to shoppers on cold days, gave away cold drinks on hot days, wrapped people's gifts at malls during the Christmas season, and served in many other ways. And everything was free with no strings attached (that's grace). When people asked why they were doing it, they'd reply, "We just want to show you God's love in a practical way" and leave them with a business card with the name and address of the church on it.

People couldn't believe it. Some would begin to weep. Some would begin to ask questions and open up their hearts. Some would ask for prayer. People expected Christians to preach at them or ask them for money. Instead, these Christians caught them off guard, confusing them with kindness. For most people, there was no immediate response. But over time people began to talk about the church that showed God's love by serving.

Pastor Steve and his flock don't serve people just to get them into their church. They serve because their Master served. But as a result, in one year alone, 5,000 people visited their church, 60% of whom were unchurched. I think the saying etched over the entrance to their church explains their "secret" well:

"Small things done with great love will change the world."

(Source: Consolidated from Conspiracy of Kindness, by Steve Sjogren, Vine Books, 1993. Their website: http://www.cincyvineyard.com/)� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)

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"Kindness has converted more sinners than zeal, eloquence, or learning." (Henrietta C. Mears)

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A skeptic who taught in a University Philosophy department told a student, "You know, there's this Christian lady that lives behind me, really loves me, cooks stuff for me, is kind, and helps me out. You know, she's really getting through to me." Apparently, this philosopher didn't need a better argument. He just needed to see a changed life. (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)

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Rich is the person who has a praying friend. (Janice Hughes)

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Cassie Bernall became known worldwide as a 17-year-old student who died in the April, 1999 massacre at Columbine High School. I think that her spiritual journey well illustrates the change that happens when God takes off a student's dark glasses and replaces them with "Grace Glasses." Cassie's journey to the dark side was much different from Axl's. Her parents adored her. Each morning her dad would sit on the side of her bed, sing a little good-morning song to her, and tell her, "Have a good day, Cassie, I'll see you tonight." Her dad took her for rides on his dirt bike. They had enough money to buy her pets and toys and nice clothes.

But her childhood happiness began to slip away when she got with the wrong friends in the 5th grade, students who dabbled in satanic rituals. Their view of life became her view of life. Very slowly, subtly, over the next few years, the glasses through which she viewed the world became darker and darker till she could not longer see any grace in the world. One day her mom was looking for a Bible in Cassie's room when she ran across some letters addressed to Cassie from her best friend. What she found devastated her.

The friend's letters were full of occult drawings, spells, excitement about a Satanist church where people had to drink a kitten's blood to enter, horrific drawings of a man and woman hanging by their intestines and daggers protruding from their hearts. Incredibly, the drawings were labeled "Ma and Pa," Cassie's parents. Her friend was obsessed with death. One of the letters said, "�kill me with your parents, then kill yourself so you don't go to jail." Cassie told one of her friends that she was planning to kill one of her teachers.

Her parents took drastic action, forbidding her to see her friends, and putting her in a new school. Cassie became obsessed with suicide and would scratch her hands and wrists with a sharp metal file until they bled. She hated her parents. She hated her miserable life. Cassie later wrote these words in a paper for an English class: "Throughout this time I hated my parents and God with the deepest, darkest hatred. There are no words that can accurately describe the blackness I felt�."

Now think with me for a minute. What is going on here? On the outside, Cassie has a lot going for her. She's got parents who love her, feed her, and give her things. She's getting a free education in a great school. She lives in a nice, warm house in a nice neighborhood. Millions of kids around the world would give anything to have what she has. What has happened? (Get some discussion here.) Something has happened inside Cassie's mind. She has allowed herself to become blinded to the grace around her and obsessed with the darkness. If something hadn't happened to open up her eyes, she could have very well become one of the murderers at Columbine High.

From a biblical point of view, I think we can assume that what went on here was more than just a natural process. Cassie later said that she had given her soul to Satan and felt gripped by the powers of darkness. Her parents couldn't make any progress trying to talk to her rationally. Her mom came to see that a spiritual battle was going on. She tried to go into Cassie's room one day and couldn't bring herself to enter. When she finally did, in her own words, "I can't quite describe it, but it felt like you could almost cut the air in that room with a knife, the atmosphere was so oppressive." She felt for certain that there was more to this than just a rebellious teenager. She began to cry and pray for God to break through.

The next chapter of the story is dramatic. A Christian at her new school befriended her, put up with Cassies' bad attitudes and invited her to a weekend retreat in the Rocky Mountains. That night, God broke through to her during a praise and worship service. The change was almost instantaneous. Her dark "glasses" fell off. After the service, Cassie and a few others began to look up at the stars. They stood there in silence, totally in awe of the God she had once hated.

Her parents noticed the change when she stepped off the bus. She had left gloomy, with her head down, saying nothing. She came back bouncy and excited. Listen carefully to her dad's own words, "It was as if she had been in a dark room, and somebody had turned the light on, and she could suddenly see the beauty surrounding her." They saw the smile that had disappeared years ago. She began to love and respect her parents and her brother. Grace had been all around her, but for the first time in years she could finally see it. (Source: She Said Yes: The Unlikely Martyrdom of Cassie Bernall, by Misty Bernall, Plough Publishers, 1999)

Many of us would have looked at Cassie as a loser, a scary loser. But someone saw beyond all the scary exterior and cared for her anyway. Can't we do the same to someone? (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)

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A little boy named Jimmy wanted to join the local YMCA, but there was no way his poor family could afford the annual dues. But one day, a letter arrived at his house saying that he was a member. The family had no idea who had sent the letter and paid for the membership until he was 16-years-old. Every year Jimmy benefited, strengthening his body with weights, running on the track, learning character and skills.

Little Jimmy grew up to become an all pro center for the Raiders, Jim Otto, who wore the number "OO" for the Raiders pro football team, arguably the greatest center to ever play the game. According to player/coach/commentator John Madden, "If someone came from another planet and wanted to know what a football player looked like, you'd show him a poster of Jim Otto." That's how well respected his is in the world of pro football. He was selected to an incredible 12 Pro Bowls and inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But he not only did well at football. He's done well with his life, depending on God, worshiping with his family, raising a son who does full-time ministry with Campus Crusade for Christ.

Sixteen years after his free YMCA membership expired, Jim spoke at an awards dinner back in his home town of Wassau, Wisconsin. Before his speech, he sat next to his former pastor, who was now 86 years old and going blind. The pastor leaned over and said to him,

"James, my sons were all grown up when you attended school. I used to watch you on the playground getting into mischief. But I knew you had good qualities. To get those qualities out of you, I bought YMCA memberships for you without your family knowing. And I just wanted you to know that you turned out very well, and my investment was worth it."

It was an anonymous gift by a pastor to keep a kid out of trouble and to help him get on the right path. It was an act of kindness, a totally unselfish gift that many people could afford for someone. But it was a gift that helped shape a life. What child are you noticing that might need some special attention. There's a future mother playing on the playground, a future Olympian pulling her hair, a future pastor swinging on the monkey bars. What act of kindness could we do to make sure they fulfill their potential?

(Written by Steve Miller, from The Pain of Glory, by Jim Otto and Dave Newhouse, Sports Publishing, Inc., 2000, pp. vii, viii, 191)

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The 9/'92 edition of "Current Thoughts and Trends" summarized a study of 3,000 strong families from various parts of the world. This study identified six primary characteristics that contributed to their high level of satisfaction in both husband-wife and parent-child relationships. Here they are:

1. COMMITMENT: In successful families the members loyally support one another. The foundation for this high degree of commitment is the husband and wife seeing marriage as a lifelong relationship "for better or for worse."

2. TIME TOGETHER: Strong families spend a lot of hours together. Judging by the happy memories people have of their growing up years, these family times need not be expensive or elaborate in order to have a positive impact..

3. COMMUNICATION: Good listening skills and the willingness to openly express thoughts and feelings to each other are typical of strong families. This doesn't happen automatically. Families have to work at communicating effectively.

4. APPRECIATION: Expressing gratitude, paying sincere compliments, and giving praise are ways that members of strong families build each other up.

5. PROBLEM SOLVING: Strong families are not immune to crises, but they deliberately determine that they will work together as a team to overcome them. Members help each other through times of stress rather than letting the problems drive them apart.

6. SPIRITUALITY: Even secular research points to the fact that strong families almost always exhibit a high level of religious commitment. Such families often express the idea that God has a purpose for their lives and they rely on Him as a source of strength. This characteristic is the foundation for the other positive qualities in families. Families that are strong spiritually translate this commitment into love for each other, time spent together, and effectiveness in communicating.

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The "Golden Rule" as Expressed in Different Religions:

Christianity: All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:1)

Confucianism: Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. (Analects 12:2)

Hinduism: This is the sum of duty; do naught onto others what you would not have them do unto you. (Mahabharata 5,1517)

Buddhism: Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. (Udana-Varga 5,1)

Islam: No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself. (Sunnah)

Judaism: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellowman. This is the entire Law; all the rest is commentary. (Talmud, Shabbat 3id)

Taoism: Regard your neighbor�s gain as your gain, and your neighbor�s loss as your own loss. (Tai Shang Kan Yin P�ien)

Zoroastrianism: That nature alone is good which refrains from doing another whatsoever is not good for itself. (Dadisten-I-dinik, 94,5)

(Originally from "The Christopher Newsletter")