The Agora
Bits And Pieces

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Part 4

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. We spend more, but have less. We buy more, but enjoy less. We have bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time. We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We've learned how to make a living, but not a life. We've added years to life not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things, but not better things.

We've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom, but not our prejudice. We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less. We've learned to rush, but not to wait. We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to quiet, to kill. It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not going to be around forever. Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe, because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side. Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent.

Remember, to say, "I love you" to your partner and your loved ones, but most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from deep inside of you. Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to speak and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.

(George Carlin)


"Faith is not a pill you take, but a muscle you use" (Unknown).


We can't afford to win the gain that means another's loss;
We can't afford to miss the crown by stumbling at the cross.
We can't afford the heedless jest that robs us of a friend;
We can't afford the race that comes to tragic bitter end.

We can't afford to play with fire, or tempt a serpent's bite
We can't afford to think that sin brings any true delight.
We can't afford with serious heed to treat the cynic's sneer,
We can't afford to wise men's words to turn a careless ear.

We can't afford for hate to give like hatred in return;
We can't afford to feed a flame and make it fiercer burn.
We can't afford to lose the soul for this world's fleeting breath;
We can't afford to barter life in mad exchange for death.

How blind are we apart from thee, our great all-seeing Lord;
Oh, grant us light that we may know the things we can't afford.



Sometimes life seems hard to bear,
Full of sorrow, trouble and woe.
It's then I have to remember
That it's in the valleys I grow.

If I always stayed on the mountain top
And never experienced pain,
I would never appreciate God's love,
And would be living in vain.

I have so much to learn
And my growth is very slow.
Sometimes I need the mountain tops,
But it's in the valleys I grow.

I do not always understand
Why things happen as they do.
But I am very sure of one thing:
My Lord will see me through.

Forgive me, Lord, for complaining
When I'm feeling so very low.
Just give me a gentle reminder
That it's in the valleys I grow.

Continue to strengthen me, Lord,
And use my life each day --
To share your love with others
And help them find your way.


"Many modern novels, poems, and pictures which we are brow-beaten into appreciating are not good work because they are not work at all. They are mere puddles of spilled sensibility or reflection. When an artist is in the strict sense working, he of course takes into account the existing taste, interests, and capacity of his audience. These, no less than the language, the marble, or the paint, are part of his raw material; to be used, tamed, sublimated, not ignored nor defied. Haughty indifference to them is not genius nor integrity; it is laziness and incompetence" (CSL).


"The Word of God, a jewel bright,
With facets flashing many a light.
If God's Word you wish to know,
Delve the surface, deep below.
Few its hidden meaning see,
Or discern the Yet to be.
Search and find its meaning true,
And a message there for you"

(H Sulley).


"The Bible can never command or retain its place as the supreme mentor of human life unless its absolutely divine character is recognised. Its histories will never be studied as they require to be, or its hopes practically blended with the motives of human action, or its self-denying precepts adopted and acted upon in human life, where there is the least suspicion of the presence of a human element in its composition. This suspicion saps confidence: and the lack of confidence leads but too easily to a neglect to which we are naturally predisposed. Society is a desolation today because of this. The divine authority of the Bible is not recognised. If it were recognised, as it has been hitherto among the brethren, there would be that application to it in constant reading which would purify and ennoble with righteousness and hope. Instead of this, it is regarded as a venerable piece of literary antiquity, good in its way, but not deserving of the first place in human life, and, on the whole, inconvenient and even hurtful, if it is put into that position. All confidence in it as the word of God has been undermined in the general ranks of society through the influence of learned but false theories. A few have had that confidence restored, with the result of light and comfort and righteousness entering into their dark lives by the daily reading of the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make men wise unto salvation" (RR).


"We would never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world" (Helen Keller).


"It was this general intention [to please God in all their actions] that made the primitive Christians such eminent instances of piety, and made the goodly fellowship of the saints, and all the glorious army of martyrs and confessors. And if you will here stop, and ask yourselves, why you are not as pious as the primitive Christians were, your own heart will tell you, that it is neither through ignorance nor inability, but purely because you never thoroughly intended it. You observe the same Sunday worship that they did; and you are strict in it, because it is your full intention to be so. And when you as fully intend to be like them in their ordinary common life, when you intend to please God in all your actions, you will find it as possible, as to be strictly exact in the service of the Church. And when you have this intention to please God in all your actions, as the happiest and best thing in the world, you will find in you as great an aversion to everything that is vain and impertinent in common life, whether of business or pleasure, as you now have to anything that is profane. You will be as fearful of living in any foolish way, either of spending your time, or your fortune, as you are now fearful of neglecting the public worship" (SCDHL).


"We are, not metaphorically but in very truth, a Divine work of art, something that God is making, and therefore something with which He will not be satisfied until it has a certain character" (CSL).


Love people and use things; don't use people and love things.


When Mahatma Gandhi was the spiritual leader of India, he was asked by some missionaries, "What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?" His reply was, "Christians."


"Many of us spend countless hours dreaming about something we truly want in our lives. We spend our waking days thinking about it. We talk with others about our dreams. We feel convinced that we are fully committed to pursuing our dream. But we fail at ever bringing these dreams into reality because we hesitate to take the first step toward making them come true. We fail to take action.

"Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote, 'The great thing in this world is not so much where we are, but in what direction we are moving.'

"Are you moving in the direction of what you desire in life? Because if you don't know where you are going, you will probably end up someplace else. Aristotle, the great philosopher, was asked one day by a young man, 'How do you get to Mount Olympus?' To which Aristotle replied, 'By ensuring that each step you take is in that direction' " (MT).


Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.


Anatoli Scharansky, a dissident Soviet Jew, kissed his wife goodbye as she left Russia for freedom in Israel. His parting words to her were, "I'll see you soon in Jerusalem." But Anatoli was detained and finally imprisoned. Their reunion in Jerusalem would not only be postponed, but it might never occur. During long years in Russian prisons and work camps Anatoli was stripped of his personal belongings. His only possession was a miniature copy of the Psalms. Once during his imprisonment, his refusal to release the book to the authorities cost him 130 days in solitary confinement.

Finally, twelve years after parting with his wife, he was offered freedom. In February 1986, as the world watched, Scharansky was allowed to walk away from Russian guards toward those who would take him to Jerusalem. But in the final moments of captivity, the guards tried again to confiscate the Psalms book. Anatoli threw himself face down in the snow and refused to walk on to freedom without it. Those words had kept him alive during imprisonment. He would not go on to freedom without them.


"The most important things we learn in life are the things we learn after we know it all" (Harry Truman).


Imagine, if you will, that you work for a company whose president found it necessary to travel out of the country and spend an extended period of time abroad. So he says to you and the other trusted employees, "Look, I'm going to leave. And while I'm gone, I want you to pay close attention to the business. You manage things while I'm away. I will write you regularly. When I do, I will instruct you in what you should do from now until I return from this trip."

Everyone agrees. He leaves and stays gone for a couple of years. During that time he writes often, communicating his desires and concerns. Finally he returns. He walks up to the front door of the company and immediately discovers everything is in a mess -- weeds flourishing in the flower beds, windows broken across the front of the building, the girl at the front desk dozing, loud music roaring from several offices, two or three people engaged in horseplay in the back room. Instead of making a profit, the business has suffered a great loss. Without hesitation he calls everyone together and with a frown asks, "What happened? Didn't you get my letters?"

You say, "Oh, yeah, sure. We got all your letters. We've even bound them up in a book. And some of us have memorized them. In fact, we have 'letter study' every Sunday. You know, those were really great letters." I think the president would then ask, "But what did you do about my instructions?" And, no doubt the employees would respond, "Do? Well, nothing. But we read every one!"


"Love: a Variation on a Theme"

If I live in a house of spotless beauty with everything in its place, but have not love, I am a housekeeper... not a homemaker.

If I have time for waxing, polishing, and decorative achievements, but have not love, my children learn of cleanliness... not godliness.

Love leaves the dust in search of a child's laugh. Love smiles at the tiny fingerprints on a newly cleaned window. Love wipes away the tears before it wipes up the spilled milk. Love picks up the child before it picks up the toys. Love is present through the trials. Love reprimands, reproves and is responsive. Love crawls with the baby, walks with the toddler, runs with the child, then stands aside to let the youth walk into adulthood. Love is the key that opens salvation's message to a child's heart.

Before I became a mother I took glory in my house of perfection. Now I glory in God's perfection of my child.

As a mother, there is much I must teach my child... but the greatest of all is "LOVE." (Jo Ann Merrell)


An English Christadelphian was visiting in an African country, being guided here and there to some of the remote ecclesia in the "outback". After a long few days of driving and talking and visiting and speaking at a dozen spots, his Christadelphian guide said, 'We just have one more stop, but it requires such-and-such car trip, then a trek on foot a number of miles over a dirt path, to visit Brother ____ -- he's an elderly brother who lives in total isolation in such-and-such village. By the way, Brother ____ is illiterate.'

So the English brother knew he should go, and he went willingly. But he confesses thinking to himself: 'What a waste of time! What can I give to this brother?' or thoughts to that effect.

After an arduous trip, they finally reach the remote village. And they set about trying to find Mr ___. Where is he? From talking with several folks in the village, our English brother pieces together what Mr ___ does with his life. He is known in the village, by everyone, as the "old man with the Bible". How does he spend his time? He walks around the village, carrying his well-worn Bible, and whenever he finds someone who seems to be resting, or in between tasks, or who just needs a break from whatever he or she is doing (children included)... then he says, "Stop and sit awhile, and how about reading to me from this book?" (Of which he had committed large sections to memory, by the way!)

So the English brother concludes his visit, truly humbled, and realizing that his guide took him to this remote outpost of the Truth, not so that he -- the Englishman -- might teach something, but so that he might learn something.


"Nature never taught me that there exists a God of glory and of infinite majesty. I had to learn that in other ways. But nature gave the word glory a new meaning for me" (CSL).


Heavenly Father, help us remember that the jerk who cut us off in traffic last night, is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children.

Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can't make change correctly is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester.

Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking bum, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares.

Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the store aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savoring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together.

Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not just to those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love.


One day a while back, a man, his heart heavy with grief, was walking in the woods. As he thought about his life this day, he knew many things were not right. He thought about those who had lied about him back when he had a job.

His thoughts turned to those who had stolen his things and cheated him.

He remembered family that had passed on. His mind turned to the illness he had that no one could cure. His very soul was filled with anger, resentment and frustration.

Standing there this day, searching for answers he could not find, knowing all else had failed him, he knelt at the base of an old oak tree to seek the one he knew would always be there. And with tears in his eyes, he prayed:

"Lord, You have done wonderful things for me in this life. You have told me to do many things for you, and I happily obeyed. Today, you have told me to forgive. I am sad, Lord, because I cannot. I don't know how. It is not fair, Lord. I didn't deserve these wrongs that were done against me and I shouldn't have to forgive. As perfect as your way is Lord, this one thing I cannot do, for I don't know how to forgive. My anger is so deep Lord, I fear I may not hear you, but I pray that you teach me to do this one thing I cannot do -- teach me to forgive."

As he knelt there in the quiet shade of that old oak tree, he felt something fall onto his shoulder. He opened his eyes. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw something red on his shirt.

He could not turn to see what it was because where the oak tree had been was a large square piece of wood in the ground. He raised his head and saw two feet held to the wood with a large spike through them.

He raised his head more, and tears came to his eyes as he saw Jesus hanging on a cross. He saw spikes in his hands, a gash in his side, a torn and battered body, deep thorns sunk into his head. Finally he saw the suffering and pain on his precious face. As their eyes met, the man's tears turned to sobbing, and Jesus began to speak.

"Have you ever told a lie?" He asked?

The man answered, "Yes, Lord."

"Have you ever been given too much change and kept it?"

The man answered, "Yes, Lord." And the man sobbed more and more.

"Have you ever taken something from work that wasn't yours?" Jesus asked?

And the man answered, "Yes, Lord."

"Have you ever sworn, using my Father's name in vain?"

The man, crying now, answered, "Yes, Lord."

As Jesus asked many more times, "Have you ever...?" the man's crying became uncontrollable, for he could only answer, "Yes, Lord."

Then Jesus turned his head from one side to the other, and the man felt something fall on his other shoulder. He looked and saw that it was the blood of Jesus. When he looked back up, his eyes met those of Jesus, and there was a look of love the man had never seen or known before.

Jesus said, "I didn't deserve this either, but I forgive you."

It may be hard to see how you're going to get through something, but when you look back in life, you realize how true this statement is. Read the following very slowly and let it sink in.

If God brings you TO it, He will bring you THROUGH it.

"Lord, I love You and I need You. Come into my heart, today. For without You I can do nothing."


"The man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones" (William Faulkner).


"Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened" (Winston Churchill).


The Scriptures are like a great pool of water... in which even an elephant will have to swim, but in which also a little child may safely wade.


"The Bible in a man's life is God in a man's life. Where people place the Bible, they place God. The place it demands is the heart -- the throne. With nothing less will God be satisfied. Do you neglect it? You neglect God. Do you allow the affairs of house, or business, or friends to ride over it, to displace it from the first position, to put it in the comer, to keep it hidden, neglected, disregarded? Then is God cast behind your back, and great is your danger. A voice of great thunder would not be too loud to rouse you from your folly. You say you have no time to read. The plea is absolutely inadmissible. You take time to eat and drink, and this is the most important kind of eating and drinking. You will have to take time to be ill some of these days. Death will rap at the door, and he won't ask you if you have time to attend to him. Christ will stand in the earth one of these days, and what about your family, your house, your business then? You will want to turn to wisdom in a hurry, but wisdom will fly far from you" (SC 74).


"A lady had recently been baptized. One of her co-workers asked her what it was like to be a follower of Christ. She was caught off guard and didn't know how to answer, but when she looked around she saw a jack-o'-lantern on the desk and answered: 'It's like being a pumpkin.' The worker asked her to explain that one.

" 'Well, God picks you from the patch and brings you in and washes off all the dirt on the outside that you got from being around all the other pumpkins. Then He cuts off the top and takes all the yucky stuff out from inside. He removes all those seeds of doubt, hate, greed, pride, etc. Then He carves on you a new smiling face and puts His light inside of you to shine for all to see.'

"I'll never look at a pumpkin the same way again!" (MT).


"A churchgoer wrote a letter to the editor of the newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. 'I've gone for 30 years now,' he wrote, 'and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons and talks. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the people are wasting theirs by giving talks at all.'

"This started a real controversy in the 'Letters to the Editor' column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

" 'I've been married for 30 years now. In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this: They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today! I might not remember the details of the meals, or the details of the talks on Sundays, but the gist of them is in me, and it helps me live day by day!' " (MT).


"It was only a sunny smile,
And little it cost in the giving.
But it scattered the night like morning light,
And made the day worth living" (Unknown).


"Character is the foundation stone upon which one must build to win respect. Just as no worthy building can be erected on a weak foundation, so no lasting reputation worthy of respect can be built on a weak character. Without character, all effort to attain dignity is superficial, and the results are sure to be disappointing" (RC Samsel).

Character is like the foundation of a house; it can be found below the surface. People of strong character will always do what they say they will do, when they say they will do it. They are dependable and truthful when it comes to keeping a commitment.

We are all builders of a sort. Some build houses, computers, cars, products of every sort, but one thing we all build -- whether we are aware of it or not -- is character. Laying the foundation of good character means never taking ethical shortcuts, but doing the right thing because it's the right thing to do. You can never maintain the integrity of your character through deceit and dishonesty. The true test of a person's character is in what they would do if they knew that no one would ever know.


"A pessimist is one who makes difficulties of his opportunities.

"An optimist is one who makes opportunities of his difficulties.

"For example, you can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses" (MT).


This is a story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job and Everybody was asked to do it. Everybody was sure Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it. Somebody got angry with that, because it was Everybody's job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn't do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have done.


In happy moments... praise God.
In difficult moments... seek God.
In quiet moments... worship God.
In painful moments... trust God.
In every moment, thank God.


"I read about a preacher of Christ who had a friend who was an actor. The actor was drawing large crowds of people, but there were only a few in the church being preached to. One day he said to his actor friend, 'Why is it that you can draw great crowds, and I have no audience at all? Your words are sheer fiction, and mine are unchangeable truth.' The actor's reply was quite simple: 'I present my fiction as though it were the truth; you present your truth as though it were fiction.'

"Are we as believers in Christ giving the idea that the truth is fiction by the way we live and by a lack of dedication to the teachings of our Lord? I pray that we will all yield our lives to the Lord so that others may know that the Savior we love and serve is the truth!" (MT).


Don't want to have your own way always. It would be bad for other people if you did, but it would be much worse for you!


"Most of us can afford to take a lesson from the oyster. The most extraordinary thing about the oyster is this: Irritations get into his shell. He does not like them; he tries to get rid of them. But when he cannot get rid of them, he settles down to make one of the most beautiful things in the world. He uses the irritation to do the loveliest thing that an oyster ever has a chance to do. If there are irritations in your life today, there is only one prescription -- make a pearl. It may have to be a pearl of patience, but, anyhow make a pearl. And it takes faith and love to do it" (Harry Fosdick).


"Many wise words are spoken in jest, but they don't compare with the number of stupid words spoken in earnest" (Sam Levinson).


Some boys caught two chirping baby finches. They decided to teach these birds to sing by placing them in a small cage and hanging it next to the cage of a pet canary. The canary, of course, sang beautifully, so the boys thought if the finches were close to it they too would become good songbirds. Several weeks went by with no apparent results. Then one day the youngsters were startled by a strange sound coming from the canary's cage. "Listen," said one of them, "the canary is cheeping like a finch."

A similar danger awaits the Christian who fellowships with ungodly people in the world. He will become like them. But worse than that, he will incur the disfavor of the Heavenly Father, whose will it is that His children separate themselves from sin and evil.

As Christians, we shouldn't be isolated from the world. We have to live in it, but we do not have to be "of it." Our Lord said to the Father, "I pray not that Thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that Thou shouldest keep them from evil" (Joh 17:15). Only a separated Christian can bear witness to a sinful world.

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