The Agora
Bits And Pieces

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Part 3

" 'When the last word has been said about the Bible it will no longer be the Word of God' (Joseph Parker). We never get to the end of the Bible. It is as wise in its reservations as in its revelations. Enough is reserved to give faith scope for development. Everything needful to salvation and godliness is written with such clarity that all the simple-hearted may understand; but there are other matters which, with wise divine purpose, are presented less lucidly, or even enigmatically, so as to challenge enquiry -- matters fascinating, mysterious, or more intricate, but all yielding rich and sanctifying reward to devout exploration" (JS Baxter).


When he cometh, when he cometh
To make up his jewels,
All his jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and his own.

Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for his crown.

He will gather, he will gather
The gems for his kingdom,
All the pure ones, all the bright ones,
His loved and his own.

Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for his crown.

Little children, little children,
Who love their Redeemer,
Are the jewels, precious jewels,
His loved and his own.

Like the stars of the morning
His bright crown adorning,
They shall shine in their beauty,
Bright gems for his crown.

(WO Cushing)


"We have found the enemy -- and he is us!" ("Pogo", Walt Kelly).


If someone asked you where to find the Bible verse that begins, "For God so loved the world..." you'd probably know he was asking about John 3:16. If you had a Bible, you could find it for him in no time. But there was a time when no one could find a single verse in the whole Bible. There was no John 3:16, Gen 1:1 or any other verse because the Bible wasn't divided into verses or even chapters. Worse yet, there were hundreds of years when there weren't even any word divisions. Punctuation marks, capital letters and even vowels were omitted. In those days, if Genesis had been written in English, it would have started: "NTHBGNNNGGDCRTDTHHVNSNDTHRTH." You would have had to spend hours or days just to find your favorite verse.

Words were divided by Jesus' time, but vowels weren't used in Hebrew Old Testaments until the sixth century AD. Gradually, capitalizations, punctuation and paragraphing worked their way into the Old and New Testaments. But Bible chapters such as we have today didn't come into being until the 13th century. They were the work of Stephen Langton, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

For the next 200 years, the Bible, now divided into chapters, continued to be copied by hand. Then in 1448, Rabbi Nathan startled the world by breaking the Old Testament into verses. The New Testament wasn't divided into numbered verses until 1551 when a French printer, Robert Estienne did the job. He was planning a study Bible that would have side-by-side columns in three translations when he got the idea. He was so rushed for time he decided to do the dividing on a trip from Paris to Lyons. Some people have suggested he did the work on horseback and his sometimes awkward divisions resulted when his "jogging horse bumped his pen in the wrong places." Yet, with a few exceptions, Estienne's divisions provide us with the verses we have today.

So just as number of people were used in writing of the Bible over a period of centuries, it was the contribution of countless scribes, hundreds of years, and three men in particular -- a Catholic archbishop, a Jewish rabbi and a Protestant printer -- who turned "NTHBGNNNGGDCRTDTHHVNSNDTHRTH" into Gen 1:1.


"I would recommend you either believe God up to the hilt, or else not to believe at all. Believe this book of God, every letter of it, or else reject it. There is no logical standing place between the two. Be satisfied with nothing less than a faith that swims in the deeps of divine revelation; a faith that paddles about the edge of the water is poor faith at best. It is little better than a dry-land faith, and is not good for much" (CHS).


His interviews were legendary. Admiral Hyman Rickover always wanted to cut through glib, rehearsed answers to get a look at the person underneath. He especially wanted to know how candidates would act under stress. On occasion he had them sit in a chair with the front legs sawed off an inch or two shorter than the back, to keep them off-balance.

In his autobiography "Why Not the Best?", President Jimmy Carter tells about his Rickover interview. The admiral asked how he had stood in his class at the Naval Academy. "I swelled my chest with pride and answered, 'Sir, I stood 59th in a class of 820!' I sat back to wait for the congratulations.

"Instead came the question: 'Did you do your best?' I started to say, 'Yes, sir,' but I remembered who this was. I gulped and admitted, 'No, sir, I didn't always do my best.' He looked at me for a long time, and then asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget -- or to answer. He said, 'Why not?' "


Things I've learned:

I've learned.... That the best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.

I've learned.... That when you're in love, it shows.

I've learned.... That just one person saying to me, "You've made my day!" makes my day.

I've learned.... That having a child fall asleep in your arms is one of the most peaceful feelings in the world.

I've learned.... That being kind is more important than being right.

I've learned.... That you should never say no to a gift from a child.

I've learned.... That I can always pray for someone when I don't have the strength to help him in some other way.

I've learned.... That no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.

I've learned.... That sometimes all a person needs is a hand to hold and a heart to understand.

I've learned.... That simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.

I've learned.... That life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer it gets to the end, the faster it goes.

I've learned.... That we should be glad God doesn't give us everything we ask for.

I've learned.... That money doesn't buy class.

I've learned.... That it's those small daily happenings that make life so spectacular.

I've learned... That under everyone's hard shell is someone who wants to be appreciated and loved.

I've learned.... That the Lord didn't do it all in one day. What makes me think I can?

I've learned.... That to ignore the facts does not change the facts.

I've learned.... That when you plan to get even with someone, you are only letting that person continue to hurt you.

I've learned.... That love, not time, heals all wounds.

I've learned.... That the easiest way for me to grow as a person is to surround myself with people smarter than I am.

I've learned.... That everyone you meet deserves to be greeted with a smile.

I've learned.... That there's nothing sweeter than sleeping with your babies and feeling their breath on your cheeks.

I've learned.... That no one is perfect until you fall in love with them.

I've learned.... That life is tough, but I'm tougher.

I've learned.... That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.

I've learned.... That when you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

I've learned.... That I wish I could have told my Dad that I love him one more time before he passed away.

I've learned.... That one should keep his words both soft and tender, because tomorrow he may have to eat them.

I've learned.... That a smile is an inexpensive way to improve your looks.

I've learned.... That I can't choose how I feel, but I can choose what I do about it.

I've learned.... That when your newly born grandchild holds your little finger in his little fist, that you're hooked for life.

I've learned.... That everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you're climbing it.

I've learned ... That it is best to give advice in only two circumstances; when it is requested and when it is a life threatening situation.

I've learned.... That the less time I have to work with, the more things I get done.

(Andy Rooney)


"A resurrected mind is the prelude to a resurrected body" (Dennis Gillett).


The noted English architect Sir Christopher Wren was supervising the construction of a magnificent cathedral in London. A journalist thought it would be interesting to interview some of the workers, so he chose three and asked them this question, "What are you doing?"

The first replied, "I'm cutting stone for 10 shillings a day."

The next answered, "I'm putting in 10 hours a day on this job."

But the third said, "I'm helping Sir Christopher Wren construct one of London's greatest cathedrals."


"The work of the truth will be done, whatever frets or oppositions arise among men. The very frets and oppositions are part of its machinery. Its great and solid and excellent power will quietly work its work among the good and honest-hearted, not only in spite of, but partly by means of the troubles that arise. 'All that the Father hath given to me shall come to me.' Here lies the strength of the righteous. Let those who wish to be of their number use it" (RR).


According to modern readings of the Koran, faithful martyrs who die in a "jihad" can expect to be carried immediately upon death to paradise, where they will be welcomed and entertained by "fair virgins". Now some Koranic scholars, daring to apply to the ancient texts the same analytical methods long used with the Old and New Testaments, have asserted that this is a forced misreading of the text -- and that what is actually supposed to await the martyrs are... "white raisins"!

How can this be? In both ancient Aramaic and in at least one respected dictionary of early Arabic, the term "hur" means "white raisin". White raisins were prized delicacies in the ancient Near East.

Perhaps the great Islamic "truths" were originally compared (by Muhammed) to "white raisins" -- of sweetness and clarity... much as Bible writers compared God's word to honey (Psa 19:10; 119:103; Eze 3:3; Rev 10:9,10).

However, the scholar (Christoph Luxenberg, of Germany) believes that at a very early time in the development of the text, leading Islamic scholars began the tradition of reading "hur" as "houri", or "virgin" -- and that this tradition has persisted to the present day (New York Times, 3/2/02).

One can only imagine an early council of Islamic holy men: "Sharif, what do you think? would you prefer white raisins when you ascend to paradise? Or beautiful virgins?"

"Well, Omar... the grandfathers were so looking forward to the white raisins of crystal clarity, but..."

"I know. Some of the young warriors would certainly enjoy the fair virgins more!"

"Shall we take a vote, Omar?"

"Yes, indeed."

"All in favor of white raisins?... All in favor of fair virgins?... The fair virgins have it, 27 to 2. Virgins it is. So let it be written... Now, let's consider the sexual orientation of the two 'raisin' votes... why AREN'T Abdul and Hussein married anyway? Does anyone know?"


If you knew you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, whom would you call and what would you say?

So why are you waiting?


"A man will sometimes say to himself -- indeed we have heard it openly suggested -- that as David was forgiven his sin, and it is evident that God makes much allowance for human weakness, surely we in these days shall be excused for doing such and such things.

"These fleshly reasoners fail to perceive that by the very fact of their indulging such reflections they move the transgression of fleshly weakness into the category of deliberate despising of God's law. If David, previous to his transgression had deliberately reasoned the matter out and concluded that since God had shown mercy in other cases, it might be worth while to undertake the risk of sinning, we should never have heard of him as an example of rectitude. In all probability he would have been treated with the severity shown to other despisers and wilful transgressors of the law" (ConCon).


"It is a most lamentable thing to see how most people spend their time and their energy for trifles, while God is cast aside. He who is all seems to them as nothing, and that which is nothing seems to them as good as all. It is lamentable indeed, knowing that God has set mankind in such a race where [eternal life] or [eternal death] is their certain end, that they should sit down and loiter, or run after the childish toys of the world, forgetting the prize they should run for. Were it but possible for one of us to see this business as the all-seeing God does, and see what most men and women in the world are interested in and what they are doing every day, it would be the saddest sight imaginable. Oh, how we should marvel at their madness and lament their self-delusion!

"If God had never told them what they were sent into the world to do, or what was before them in another world, then there would have been some excuse. But it is there, in His [guaranteed] word, and they profess to believe it" (Richard Baxter).


What we can learn from a dog:

(Shiloh Ranch, Calder, Idaho)


Good advice

(Max Lucado)


Anger is only one letter short of Danger!


"I am my neighbor's Bible:
He reads me when we meet
Today he reads me in my house,
Tomorrow in the street
He may be relative or friend,
Or slight acquaintance be;
He may not even know my name,
Yet he is reading me."



When you've trusted God and walked his way
When you've felt his hand lead you day by day,
But your steps now take you another way...
Start over.

When you've made your plans and they've gone awry,
When you've tried your best and there's no more try,
When you've failed yourself and you don't know why...
Start over.

When you've told your friends what you plan to do,
When you've trusted them and they didn't come through,
And you're all alone and it's up to you...
Start over.

When you've failed your kids and they're grown and gone,
When you've done your best but it's turned out wrong,
And now your grandchildren come along..
Start over.

When you've prayed to God so you'll know his will,
When you've prayed and prayed and you don't know still,
When you want to stop 'cause you've had your fill...
Start over.

When you think you're finished and want to quit,
When you've bottomed out in life's deepest pit,
When you've tried and tried to get out of it...
Start over.

When the year has been long and successes few,
When December comes and you're feeling blue,
God gives a January just for you to...
Start over.

Starting over means "Victories Won",
Starting over means "A Race Well Run",
Starting over means "God's Will Be Done".
Don't just sit there...


" You don't get ulcers from what you eat. You get them from what's eating you" (Vicki Baum).


"Search the scriptures with the teachableness of a little child, and thy labour will not be in vain. Cast away to the owls and to the bats the traditions of men, and the prejudices indoctrinated into thy mind by their means; make a whole burnt offering of their creeds, confessions, catechisms and articles of religion; and, after the example of the Ephesian disciples, hand over your books of curious theological arts, and burn them before all. These mountains of rubbish have served the purpose of a dark and barbarous age; the Word, the Word of the Living God alone, can meet the necessities of the times" (Elp 5,6).


I hoped that with the brave and strong
my portioned task might lie;
to toil among the busy throng
with purpose pure and high;
but God has fixed another part,
and He has fixed it well:
I said so with my breaking heart
when first this trouble fell.

These weary hours will not be lost,
these days of misery,
these nights of darkness, tempest-tost,
can I but turn to Thee;
with secret labour to sustain
in patience every blow,
to gather fortitude from pain,
and holiness from woe.

If Thou shouldst bring me back to life,
more humble I should be,
more wise, more strengthened for the strife,
more apt to lean on Thee.
Should death be standing at the gate,
Thus should I keep my vow:
But Lord! Whatever be my fate,
Oh, let me serve Thee now.

Anne Bronte


Good advice for employees:


Good advice (2):

(Erma Bombeck)


Forget and remember:

And you will find, through age and youth, that many will love you.


18 Proven Stress Reducers

  1. Don't rely on your memory. Write down appointments, when to pick up the laundry, when library books are due, etc.
  2. Get up 15 minutes earlier in the morning so you don't start the day feeling frazzled.
  3. Keep a duplicate car key in your wallet.
  4. An instant cure for most stress: 30 minutes of brisk walking or other aerobic exercise.
  5. Resolve to be tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant with the weak and erring, for sometime in life you will have been all of these.
  6. Say "No, thank you" to extra projects you don't have the time or energy for.
  7. Set up contingency plans -- just in case, "If either of us is delayed..."; "If we get separated in the mall, here's what we'll do..."
  8. Put brain in gear before opening mouth. Before saying anything, ask yourself if what you are about to say is (a) true, (b) kind, and (c) necessary.
  9. Stop worrying, If something concerns you, do something about it. If you can't do anything about it, let it go.
  10. For every one thing that goes wrong, there are 50 to 100 blessings. Count them.
  11. Learn to live one day at a time.
  12. Every day, do at least one thing you really enjoy.
  13. Don't sweat the small stuff.
  14. Laugh!
  15. Remember that the best things in life aren't things.
  16. Add an ounce of love to everything you do.
  17. If an unpleasant task faces you, do it early in the day and get it over with.
  18. Do one thing at a time.

Good advice (3):


The easy roads are crowded
And the level roads are jammed;
The pleasant little rivers
With the drifting folk are crammed.

But off yonder where it's rocky,
Where you get a better view,
You will find the ranks are thinning
And the travelers are few.

Where the going's smooth and pleasant
You will always find the throng,
For the many -- more's the pity --
Seem to like to drift along.

But the steps that call for courage,
And the task that's hard to do
In the end results in glory
For the never-wavering few.

Edgar A. Guest

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