Respect for Others
I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.(Galileo Galilei)
Watch Your Motives...
Wisdom seeking can become a pride trip, a competition. One student at Ohio State University was so brilliant that she set out to read every book in the school's enormous library. But competition and pride were two of her motivators. In order to top another guy's grade point average, she dated him and tried to keep him up late the night before important tests. (Fortunately, the story has a happy ending. As she was reading through the reference section of the library, she came to the Bibles, read one, and got her life right with God!) (From a professor's personal testimony)
Some things we need to hear over and over...
"Keep reminding them of these things,�." (II Tim. 2:14a)
The Spiritual Should Study...
Billy Graham, reflecting on what he would do differently if he had his life to live over again, said, "I would speak less and study more...." (Just as I Am, p. 723)
On seeking God for wisdom...
We all know that Benjamin Franklin was famous for his great wisdom and insight. Just think of his many inventions, his writings on the nature of electricity, his ability to negotiate foreign policy, and his pearls of practical wisdom that he circulated in "Poor Richard's Almanac." But what you may not realize is that one of his strategies for gaining wisdom was to ask God for wisdom. He put it this way in his autobiography: "And conceiving God to be the Fountain of Wisdom, I thought it right and necessary to solicit his Assistance for obtaining it...." So he worded his request to God, and made it a matter of daily prayer. (Autobiography, p. 96) Franklin wrote, "...do not depend too much upon your own industry, and frugality and prudence, though excellent things, for they may all be blasted without the blessing of Heaven; and therefore ask that blessing humbly, and be not uncharitable to those that at present seem to want it, but comfort and help them. Remember Job suffered, and was afterwards prosperous." (Autobiography, pp. 224,225)
� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved
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Sometimes you can't get the wisdom you need from either books, wise counsel, or even the Bible. You've got to pray for God's wisdom. Here are a couple of examples:
The missionaries to Africa knew that the political situation was heating up, but until now, all of them had chosen to remain in the troubled country to minister as long as they could. But today their prayers led them all to the same, distinct warning: "It's time to leave." Although located miles apart, they had all individually, without consulting one another, been similarly impressed by the Spirit to leave. They packed light, leaving most of their belongings behind, and headed to the airport. Their impressions were confirmed when they found that this departure would be the last chance to flee the country. (From chapel message at Columbia International University)
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A young Malaysian Christian knew the dangers of being bold in his faith, but the news of Jesus was too good to keep to himself. He'd just trust God to care for him. One day, as he undertook a journey by bicycle, he felt distinctly impressed to change roads and take another route. He obeyed the Lord's prompting and didn't know until later that another person traveling by bicycle on the same day, traveled down the first road and was murdered. ((Written by Steve Miller, Copyright Feb., 2003 heard from the Malaysian Christian at Columbia International University)
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The wisest person in the world couldn't have foreseen the need for the African missionaries to depart at that specific time, or for the Malaysian Christian to take another path that day. And listen, no matter how clever you are, you can never know for sure what that cute girl or guy you like is going to be like 20 years from now. That's why we need direct access to God through prayer. Let's turn to James 1:5 and see how God put it�
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"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)
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So God's telling us that we've got a wisdom account in heaven. But if we fail to access it with prayer, we might never get the wisdom we need.
Benjamin Franklin realized this. Reasoning that God must be the source of all wisdom, he made it a point to pray daily for God's wisdom. (Autobiog., p. 96)
And don't just pray for the big things. Have you seen the New Age bumper stickers that say, "Visualize World Peace." Well later I saw another one that said, "Forget World Peace. Visualize Using Your Turn Signal!" A good reminder that we need help, not just with big matters, but also with the daily, routine matters.
What about you? Is prayer becoming almost automatic, like breathing to you? Do you talk to Him as a friend, wherever you are, whatever you're doing? Do you pray for wisdom as you study, pray for the wisdom to mend family relationships, and the patience to endure an overactive brother or sister?
Every now and again take a good look at something not made with hands, a mountain, a star, the turn of a stream. There will come to you wisdom and patience and solace and, above all, the assurance that you are not alone in the world.(Sidney Lovett)
Guard What You Put in Your Mind...
"Guard well thy thoughts; our thoughts are heard in heaven." (Owen D. Young)
Fear of God as the Beginning of Wisdom
Both of the following men have
died and are experiencing their eternal reward or punishment. Today, which would
you rather be? A) Howard Hughes, whose business wisdom allowed him to become one
of the wealthiest man of his day, but so thoroughly ignored God and His ways
that anyone who got close to him learned to thoroughly despise him? Or, B) John
Wesley, who gave away most of the money he didn't need to live on, and used his
energy and wisdom to touch as many lives for Christ as he could in his
The answer is obvious. But the way people live, we can tell that many are missing it. That's why our next signpost on the road to wisdom is so important that God places it first.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;
all who follow his precepts have good understanding.
To him belongs eternal praise." (Ps. 111:10, cr. Pr. 1:7; 9:10)
"The beginning of wisdom." Has it ever occurred to you that when you're taking a trip, the first turn is probably the most important? If you take a wrong turn once you get close to your destination, you can simply turn back around and you're still close. But if you begin on a main road going North instead of South, you can end up in the wrong country quick. So when God speaks of "the beginning of wisdom," He seems to be saying, "If you miss everything else about wisdom, don't miss this. Here is where you start."
Have you ever finished an assigned project in Math class, only to look around and discover that everyone else is still working? You're thinking, "I never finish first." And as you casually glance at the nearby desktops, your worst fears are confirmed. Nobody else is working on the page you worked on. A sinking feeling overwhelms you as you realize that for entire class period, you've been working on the wrong page. How many have ever had this happen to you? Do you remember the feeling?
Perhaps it's the same sinking feeling, only intensified many times, that many of the world's greatest successes will experience when they meet God on judgment day. At that time God will expose, not only what they've done, but also their motives. And many people will realize that for their entire lives, they knocked themselves out to complete the wrong page.
We Need to Be Wise in Both Science and Religion...
Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.(Albert Einstein)
Learn from Others...
"It seems odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves should think so little of what He has revealed to others."(Charles H. Spurgeon, found in Cyril J. Barber, A Minister's Library, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Baker Book House, 1974, p. xi.)
Be Willing to Go Counter Culture...
You are a Christian only so long as you constantly pose critical question to the society you live in... so long as you stay unsatisfied with the status quo and keep saying that a new world is yet to come. (Henri Nouwen)
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The Psalmist tells us that the
heavens declare the glory of God. But some people can miss the obvious.
For example, extraordinary detective Sherlock Holmes and his friend Dr. Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes wakes Watson up.
"Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you deduce."
Watson says, "I see millions of stars, and if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it's quite likely there are some planets like Earth, and if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life."
Holmes replies, "Watson, you idiot, somebody stole our tent!"
The Power of Jesus' Wisdom
Philip Schaff, well known historian and author of The History of the Christian Church: "Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more milllions than Alexander, Caesar, Mohammed and Napoleon; without science and learning, He shed more light on things human and divine than all the philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of the school, He spoke words of life such as were never spoken before, nor since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet. Without writing a single line, He has set more pens in motion and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, works of art, learned volumes, and sweet songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times. Born in a manger and crucified as a malefactor, He now controls the destinies of the civilized world and rules a spiritual empire which embraces one-third of the inhabitants of the globe." (The Person of Christ, New York: American Tract Society, 1913, P 33.) [Bill Bright, A Man Without Equal, p.15]
Follow the Instructions
How many of you have ever built one of those complex model airplanes, cars, or starships? You know, the ones with hundreds of tiny parts, where you use so much glue that you're tripping by the end of the day? Well, imagine that someone had the audacity to think that he could build a complex model airplane without ever referring to the instructions. Since many of the parts look familiar, he wastes no time gluing the fuselage together, and the the cockpit to the fuselage. But soon, he begins to experience major frustrations. He didn't realize that some of those remaining little parts made up the control board, which is now permanently sealed beneath the windshield. And that tail fin was designed to fit in before the fuselage was glued together. As you can imagine, the final result would be a disaster. But how simple is even a complex model when compared to the complexity of dealing with relationships and learning to succeed in life. Is it any wonder that so many thoroughly foul up their lives, seeing that they never bothered to look at God's instruction manual? (Steve Miller) (You could similarly develop an illustration about a surgeon who failed to follow his classroom instructions and thus kept ending up with spare parts left over after each surgery!) � Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved
The Importance of Not Neglecting our Spiritual Side
Most people don't know the impact of Christianity in promoting education around the world. For example, I believe that all but one of our original colleges in America were essentially Christian schools. For example, in 1636, Harvard University was founded on the motto:
Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning and seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself to prayer in secret to seek it of Him.
"God is more interested in your M.Q. (motivation quotient) than your I.Q." (Heard from Dan Dehaan)
At LEADERSHIP 88, a conference designed to challenge younger leaders to action, Luis Palau, the great evangelist of Latin America, presented his listeners with the three choices facing those who are challenged with leadership:
* to go forward and succeed
* to go forward and fail
* or to stay safe and be mediocre.
(From Leading the Way)
Christian educator Howard Hendricks shared of a spunky old lady who refused to stop growing. He remembers a party, where people were standing around making small talk and she quickly tired of it all. So she comes up to him and asks, "Hendricks, what are the best five books you have read lately? Let's not bore each other. Let's discuss something, or argue."
I believe it was on her 86th birthday that she died in her sleep. The lady's daughter asked Hendricks to come to the house, wanting to show him something. It seems that before she went to bed that last night, she had written out her goals for what she wanted to accomplish in the next ten years. That's the way I want to go - not coasting to a stop, but pressing on toward the goal. (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)
I don't know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future.
"Thou hast made us for Thyself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Thee." (Augustine)
Jimmy Carter, Peacemaker
How does a small town farm boy become one of the greatest peace makers today? When he became President, Jimmy Carter aspired to make government "competent and compassionate," responsive to the American people and their expectations. His Presidency was caught up with domestic issues, such as joblessness and inflation.
Despite the turmoil in America at the time, Carter had some major peacekeeping victories:
- In 1978 Carter did bring Egypt and Israel to a peace treaty at Camp David.
- Building upon Nixon's foundation, he forged a better relationship with the People's Republic of China.
- Negotiations were completed with the Soviet Union to complete the SALT II nuclear limitation treaty.
Each of these events were seeds of the future work Carter would accomplish AFTER his presidency. For the past 20 years, after founding of the Carter Center in Atlanta, Jimmy has promoted an international agenda of peace, human rights, conflict resolution, democracy and economic development and fought against poverty, hunger and disease throughout the world.
His life work of peacekeeping did not go unnoticed. In a surprise decision on October 11, 2002, the Nobel Committee awarded Carter the 2002 Nobel Prize for Peace.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Carter said, "I am delighted, humbled and very grateful that the Nobel committee has given me this recognition. I share this prize with everyone at the Carter Center. The last 20 years have been the most gratifying of all."
Jimmy Carter lived according to a life motto that says "We must adjust to changing times and still hold to unchanging principles." A deacon and a Sunday school teacher at the Maranatha Baptist Church of Plains, Carter holds fast to the unchanging principles of the Word of God to live his life and to bring peace to the suffering people of the world.
In a speech accepting the Nobel, Carter said, "This honor serves as an inspiration not only to us, but also to suffering people around the world. I accept it on their behalf." (Written by Cherie Miller)
Martin Luther Finds Peace With God
Some people have to make peace with God before they can make peace with People. The story of Martin Luther tells how he made peace with God.
A short, stocky teenager named Martin Luther was like a lot of other young men of his day. He enjoyed a good time, loved music and the outdoors. He played an instrument and worked hard enough at his studies to be able to make it into law school.
You'd have thought he had everything going for him. But no matter how good things looked on the outside, he couldn't find peace in his heart. His parents and the folks at church had taught him that in order to make it to heaven he had to:
1) do enough good deeds, and
2) pay off his bad deeds
But no matter how hard he tried, doubts and fears plagued Martin because even though he was good, he could never be certain that he'd been good enough deserve heaven.
One day while was walking to the university a storm suddenly developed and a bolt of lightning struck him to the ground. Assuming that God was trying to get his attention, Martin decided to do the most sacrificial thing that he could in order to be on God's good side. He vowed to become a monk. It didn't matter that the decision enraged his dad and disappointed his teachers. He figured you don't fool around with God. So he didn't waste any time. In two weeks he entered a monastery. And not just any monastery, an especially strict monastery. And Martin wasn't just any monk. He was an especially strict monk. Martin wanted to do everything possible to make sure he could avoid hell and achieve heaven.
In the monastery, Martin wore rough clothing and limited his food, sometimes not eating at all for three days straight. He worked by day, had devotions at night, prayed seven times a day, and committed not to marry. If anyone could have worked his way to heaven, Martin could have.
Even after ten years of stellar performance for God in the monastery, Martin still couldn't find peace. He could never know if he had remembered to confess every single sin or if he had confessed each one sincerely enough.
Eventually, Martin began to hate God � this all-powerful judge he could never satisfy. Over time everything changed when Martin was given the responsibility of teaching the Bible to the other monks. He began to learn more about what the Bible said about God than believing what other people told him about God. That's when he began to discover what he had totally missed his whole life � the grace of a loving God. His change of mind began when he was teaching Psalms. One prophetic psalm showed him that the Son of God came to earth and experienced what it's like to be forsaken by God. Jesus had experienced the same forsaken emotion that Martin felt! Finally he began to see the mercy of God.
When Martin began to teach Romans, he discovered that salvation didn't come by good deeds. Instead God forgives only by His grace because of Jesus' death for us. Now his life made sense. Martin no longer had to work for his salvation! He no longer had to wonder if he had done enough to earn heaven. Jesus had already paid his way!
Martin Luther was never again the same. Finally he found the peace he had always sought. In fact, he got so excited that he stood against the powerful leaders of his time. He put his life on the line by defying both his religious and civil authorities, starting a spiritual revolution that has impacted both Catholic and Protestant churches to this day.
What happened to Martin Luther after he discovered a merciful God reads much like a modern day action movie. To avoid being murdered by the church leaders, he had to travel in disguise. Once his friends kidnapped him and took him to a castle to keep him safe. One day the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire ordered him to appear before a meeting of princes and other important people, and demanded that Martin deny his teachings. But he stood his ground before the Emperor and said,
"Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason�I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not retract anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. I cannot do otherwise."
Today, over 400 years after Luther's death, he is considered one of the most influential men who ever walked the face of the earth. He's in your school history texts because you can't understand Western Civilization without understanding Martin Luther. He changed the course of religious history, both for the Catholic and Protestant church. He wrote songs that are still sung today. People still study the books he wrote. No one would have remembered the life of Martin Luther unless he had found peace with God through understanding His grace and mercy. (Sources: Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, Abingdon Press, Nashville, pp. xii-63; World Book Encyclopedia)
On Balance: "If the devil can't make you bad, he'll make you busy."
"Four steps to achievement: plan purposefully, prepare prayerfully, proceed positively, pursue persistently." (William A. Ward)
Thank God - every morning when you get up - that you have something to do which must be done, whether you like it or not. Being forced to work, and forced to do your best, will breed in you a hundred virtues which the idle never know. (Charles Kingsley)
We've all seen paintings that were created to be viewed from a distance; not up close. (For an object lesson, bring one of those paintings for students to see.) It's amazing how I can observe one of these paintings up close all day and see what appears to be only random blotches of color. But when I step back, I see a beautiful landscape. While living here on earth, we are too close to our circumstances to see the big picture. Only when we reach heaven can we look back and see the beautiful landscape. (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)
They say that the view of the dogs on a dog sled team is all the same, except for the leader. This is precisely why many people can't handle their hard times. All they can see is what lies immediately ahead, and it neither looks nor smells very good. I suggest that we occasionally peak around the pack to see where we are going. According to the Bible, we're touching the world for God, and heading for a place that makes the best of this world look like a garbage heap. So peek around the pack occasionally. And smile at the thought. (Steve Miller)
Balance: There is an Indian proverb or axiom that says that everyone is a house with 4 rooms, a physical, a mental, an emotional and a spiritual. Most of us tend to live in one room most of the time, but unless we go into every room every day, even if only to keep it aired, we are not a complete person. ( Rumer Godden)
John Wesley traveled 250,000 miles in 40 years; preached 40,000 sermons; produced 400 books; knew 10 languages. At 83 he was annoyed that he could not write more than 15 hours a day without hurting his eyes; and at 86 he was ashamed that he could not preach more than twice a day. He complained in his diary that there was an increasing tendency to lie in bed until 5:30 in the morning." (Last Days Newsletter, April-June, 1981)
You may think of Billy Graham as being so natural in the pulpit, that he merely reviews his messages a few hours during the day and delivers them at night, allowing his professional staff to handle everything else. But most are unaware of the grueling intensity that often accompanies his crusades. I'll site two instances from his autobiography:
"The wear and tear were beginning to show on me, however. By the six-week mark (of a crusade), I had lost fifteen pounds. Sleep was elusive, as always, and my eyes looked dark and hollow." (p. 226)
After the London crusade � "I was exhausted; in three months I had lost thirty pounds. �The pace we endured was grueling, and yet with that pace came the joy of being exactly where we were supposed to be, doing what we were supposed to be doing, and seeing God bless our endeavor all the way." (p. 232)
Billy Graham's dean of men at Florida Bible Institute described young Billy as "a spindly farm boy with lots of nail-biting energy, a mediocre academic record, and a zeal to serve the Lord that exceeded his knowledge and skills." (� Copyright 2002 Steve Miller - All Rights Reserved)
"When a football coach wants to build a good team, he does not send it out on the field to play with soft pillows; he puts it to work against rough opponents, a bucking frame, a tackling dummy, and he puts it through exercises that are strenuous. God does the same thing with us, to give us the strengths of steadfastness and patience in our character: He marches us at times against tough opponents, against temptation, against public opinion, against discouragement." (Louis H. Evans)