The Agora
Bits And Pieces

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Part 5

"Today the Christadelphian community -- 'Brothers in Christ' -- is the inheritor of a noble tradition, by which elements of the Truth were from century to century hammered out on the anvil of controversy, affliction and even anguish... God does not establish Truth by the counting of heads, but by the trying of hearts... we as Christadelphians today resist the outstretched hands of broader ecumenical unity, and consider as traitors any among us who sell their birthright for this cause,

"To uphold Scriptural teaching was the aim of many whose exploits are [recorded in our history]. Their success varied, and the process was continuous, dynamic and even painful, needing to be adapted to the changing character of the corrupting prevailing. If contention over dogma and statements of faith has produced schism and un-Christlike action, it has also promoted intense study of the Word of God and burning loyalties and convictions -- all things this spineless generation of ours desperately needs. If the faith of Christ means anything at all, it is worthy of our highest and our all. This, more than any other, is the basic message of this book. Better one who, like Paul, 'gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you' (Gal 2:5), than one who, half ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, sells his salty birthright for a mess of contemporary corruption" (Prot 8,9).


Did Jesus Use a Modem at the Sermon on the Mount?
(Author Unknown)

Did Jesus use a modem
At the Sermon on the Mount?
Did He ever try a broadcast fax,
To send his message out?
Did the disciples carry beepers,
As they went about their route?
Did Jesus use a modem
At the Sermon on the Mount?

Did Paul use a laptop
With lots of RAM and ROM?
Were his letters posted on a BBS
Did the man from Macedonia
Send an E-Mail saying "Come?"
Did Paul use a laptop
With lots of RAM and ROM?

Did Moses use a joystick
At the parting of the Sea?
And a Satellite Guidance Tracking System
To show him where to be?
Did he write the law on tablets
Or are they really on CD?
Did Moses use a joystick
At the parting of the Sea?

Did Jesus really die for us,
One day upon a tree?
Or was it just a Hologram,
Or Technical Wizardry?
Can you download the Live Action Video Clip,
To play on your PC?
Did Jesus really die for us,
One day upon a tree?

Have the wonders of this modern age
Made you question what is true?
How a single man, in a simple time,
Could offer life anew?
How a sinless life, a cruel death,
Then a glorious life again,
Could offer more to a desperate world,
Than all the inventions of man?

If in your life, the voice of God
Is sometimes hard to hear.
With other voices calling,
His doesn't touch your ear.
Then set aside your laptop and modem,
And all your fancy gear.
And open your Bible, open your heart,
And let your Father draw near.


"The last and highest result of prayer is not the securing of this or that gift, the avoiding of this or that danger. The last and highest result of prayer is the knowledge of God -- the knowledge which is eternal life -- and by that knowledge, the transformation of human character, and of the world" (George John Blewett).


"Can't" is the worst word that's written or spoken,
Doing more harm than slander and lies,
On it is many a strong spirit broken,
And with it many a good purpose dies.
It springs from the lips of the thoughtless each morning,
And robs us of courage we need through the day.
It rings in our ears like a timely-sent warning,
And laughs when we falter and fall by the way.


Whatever our hands touch --
We leave fingerprints!
On walls, on furniture
On doorknobs, dishes, books.
There's no escape.
As we touch we leave our identity.

Oh God, wherever I go today
Help me leave heartprints!
Heartprints of compassion
Of understanding and love.

Heartprints of kindness
And genuine concern.
May my heart touch a lonely neighbor
Or a runaway daughter
Or an anxious mother
Or perhaps an aged grandfather.

Lord, send me out today
To leave heartprints.
And if someone should say,
"I felt your touch,"
May that one sense YOUR LOVE
Touching through ME.



All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colors,
He made their tiny wings.

The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
He made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.

The purple-headed mountains,
The river running by,
The sunset and the morning
That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.

The tall trees in the green wood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
To gather every day.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

(Cecil F. Alexander)


"In the Old Testament all the lines of its teaching converge upon him who is to come. In the New all the lines of living light radiate from him who has come. In the Old he is prepared for. In the New he is proclaimed. In the Old he is infolded. In the New he is unfolded. In the Old he is latent. In the New he is patent. In the Old he is declared. In the New he is demonstrated" (Stuart Holden).


"Scripture... is not only an armor, but also a whole armory of weapons, both offensive and defensive; whereby we may save ourselves and put the enemy to flight. It is not an herb, but a tree, or rather a whole paradise of trees of life, which bring forth fruit every month, and the fruit thereof is for meat, and the leaves for medicine. It is not a pot of manna, or a cruse of oil, which were for memory only, or for a meal's meat or two, but as it were a shower of heavenly bread sufficient for a whole host, be it never so great; and as it were a whole cellar full of oil vessels; whereby all our necessities may be provided for and our debts discharged" (Myles Smith, Preface to the KJV, 1611).


"How odd of God to choose the Jews;
But not so odd as those who choose
The Jewish God yet spurn the Jews."


Something does go back to God when we die. When I think about this subject, my thinking is informed by my career: I am a computer programmer.

What is the difference between a computer when it is switched on, versus when it is switched off? When you turn on your computer in the morning, it "comes to life" so to speak. Electricity starts flowing through circuits, little areas of magnetism on your hard drive are read and fed through a piece of silicon with millions of little circuits on it. Billions of nanoseconds later (many billions if you are booting up today's huge operating systems...) your computer presents you with a nice easy-to-use interface (or something like that), which, depending upon the cleverness of the programmer, is capable of doing many, many useful things (and many not-so-useful time-wasting things...).

So what is the difference between your computer five minutes before you turn it on, and five minutes afterwards? The energy flowing through it. Now something or someone has to actually "flip the switch", and get the process started. And the interesting thing is that if I physically remove the hard drive, and install it into a system at least somewhat similar to the computer I removed it from, my old computer is still there, really. Perhaps running faster, or with better graphics, but basically the same. So what exactly is the computer? The chip which simply processes the information, based on a set of about 30 very basic instructions (called "op codes") (computers really only process a few pieces of information at a time, but they do it really, really, really, really fast, so fast we have the illusion that a lot is happening at the same time)... or the hard drive which is full of all the complex instructions that make your computer do the things that you think of your computer as doing?

So, now, what is the difference between a human body five minutes before it is dead, and five minutes after it is dead? Very little has changed, in one sense. But in another sense, very much has changed. Neurons, which were alive and crackling with electricity, and neurotransmitters have ceased being alive and crackling. An extremely organized system ceases being so, and gradually turns into very disorganized dust. The information content of the body, once measured in trillions of trillions of trillions of bits, eventually degrades to a very low level. Many years ago (or sadly, maybe only a few days ago) God "turned on" the system, gave it power and then sustained it. At death he withdraws that "sustenance", that ineffable something which caused your body to be an incredibly complex and beautiful system.

But in a sense, after death, something lives on, and returns to God. For a believer, the process is almost beautiful when I think about it. God shuts off the power, gently removes the hard drive, and stores it in the safest of all places, waiting for a new body to run the program which is stored on the hard drive. Is that hard drive conscious? No. It has no power going through it, no body to run the program. Are we "with the Lord"? Absolutely.

I find that thought very comforting. Perhaps more comforting than imagining myself in "Heaven", as many churches think of it. Heaven as they picture it seems a very strange, unworldly, and well, weird place. We were designed, and designed very well, to live within the context of a complex and beautiful system called Earth. I like very much the idea of being alive forever on a perfected Earth. Earth is our home. Now (uncomfortably sometimes) and forever.

In my profession, we often have a very deep respect for those "gurus" and "master programmers" who know much, are very clever, and can make systems that do lots of cool stuff. For me, THE Master Programmer, who created everything you see, commands a very, very deep respect.

So I hope you will not interpret my "reduction" of human beings to "computers" as a lack of respect for humans, or for their Maker!

Trevor Brierly


Centuries ago, when a mapmaker would run out of the known world before he ran out of parchment, he would often sketch a dragon at the edge of the scroll. This was intended to be a sign to the explorer that he was entering unknown territory at his own risk.

Many explorers, however, did not perceive the dragon as a mapmaker's warning sign, but as a prophecy. They foresaw disaster and doom beyond the "known worlds" they traversed. Their fear kept them from pushing on to discover new lands and peoples.

Other, more adventuresome travelers saw the dragon as a sign of opportunity, the doorway to a new territory worth exploring.

Each of us has a mental map containing the information we use for guidance as we explore each new day. Like the maps of long ago, our mental maps have edges, and sometimes those edges seemed to be marked by dragons, or fears. At times, our fears may be valid. But at other times, our fears may keep us from discovering more of this world, or more about other people -- including ourselves. Don't let fear keep you from all that you desire to explore and know.


"Tater People" -- which are you? Which do you want to be? Do it!

Some people never seem motivated to participate, but are just content to watch while others do the work. They are called "Speck Taters".

Some people never do anything to help, but are gifted at finding fault with the way others do the work. They are called "Comment Taters".

Some people are very bossy and like to tell others what to do, but don't want to soil their own hands. They are called "Dick Taters".

Some people are always looking to cause problems by asking others to agree with them. It is too hot or too cold, too sour or too sweet. They are called "Agie Taters".

There are those who say they will help, but somehow just never get around to actually doing the promised help. They are called "Hezzie Taters".

Some people can put up a front and pretend to be someone they are not. They are called "Emma Taters".

Then there are those who love others and do what they say they will. They are always prepared to stop whatever they are doing and lend a helping hand. They bring real sunshine into the lives of others. They are called "Sweet Taters" (MT).


He asked for strength that he might do great things;
But he was given infirmity that he might do better things.
He asked for riches that he might be happy;
He was given poverty that he might be wise.
He asked for power that he might have the praise of men;
He was given weakness that he might feel the need of God.
He asked for all things that he might enjoy life;
He was given life that he might enjoy all things.
He had received nothing that he asked for;
But he gained more than he hoped for.



And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green?
And was the holy Lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen?

And did the Countenance Divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among these dark Satanic mills?

Bring me my bow of burning gold:
Bring me my arrows of desire:
Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my chariot of fire.

I will not cease from mental fight,
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
Till we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land.

(William Blake)


Sometimes do you ever wonder why God called you to do something for Him? There are many reasons why God shouldn't have called you, or me, or anyone else for that matter, but God doesn't wait until we are perfect to call us. Think of all those God used. You're in good company if you think you aren't ready for God to use.

The next time you feel like God can't use you, remember the preceding people, and realize that God looks at us differently than people do.

But God doesn't hire and fire like most bosses because He's more like our Dad than a boss. He doesn't look at financial gain or loss. He's not prejudiced or partial, nor deaf to our cry. He's not blind to our faults. His gifts to us are free. We could do wonderful things for others and still not be wonderful ourselves. The enemy says, "You're not worthy!" Jesus says, "So what? I AM." The enemy looks back and sees our mistakes. God looks back and sees the cross.


"It's good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it's good, too, to check once in a while and make sure that you haven't lost things that money can't buy" (George Horace Lorimer).



If you find the perfect ecclesia
Without one fault or smear,
For goodness sake don't join that one --
You'd spoil the atmosphere!

If you find the perfect ecclesia
Where all false doctrines cease,
Then pass it by, lest, joining it,
You mar the masterpiece!

And, finding the perfect ecclesia,
Then don't you ever dare
To tread upon its holy ground --
You'd be a misfit there!

But, since no perfect ecclesia exists
Within this world of sin,
Then let's stop looking for that one --
And love the one we're in!

No, it's not a perfect ecclesia;
That's easy to discern,
But you, and I, and all of us
Could cause the tide to turn!

What a fool you'd be to leave your post,
Looking for a place to please ya;
It could be that, where problems form
Is where GOD builds HIS ecclesia!

So let's keep working in OUR ecclesia
Until the Resurrection,
And then we each can join THE ecclesia
With no imperfection!


"You can't sing songs of praise in the dark if you haven't learned the words in the light."


"In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is the kind and gentle spirit."


"No one is useless in this world who lightens the burden of another" (Charles Dickens).


Dis-appointment -- His appointment.
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God's better choice for me.
His appointment must be blessing
Though it may come in disguise,
For the end from the beginning
Open to His wisdom lies.

Dis-appointment -- His appointment.
Whose? The Lord's who loves me best,
Understands and knows me fully,
Who my faith and love would test;
For, like loving earthly parent,
He rejoices when He knows
That His child accepts, unquestioned,
All that from His wisdom flows.

Dis-appointment -- His appointment.
Lord, I take it then as such.
For, like clay in hands of potter,
Yielding wholly to Thy touch,
All my life's plan in Thy moulding
Not one single choice be mine.
Let me answer unrepining:
"Father, not my will, but Thine."


Years ago, I was walking alone at the Zilker Park/Barton Springs area (a very big city park area near downtown Austin).

I think I was feeling a bit tired, not so much tired physically as mentally and emotionally, just "down".

Then, as I walked, I noticed: way across the green fields, a school bus far in the distance, on the other side of the park. It had just pulled up, and the children were getting off and making their way to tables and campsites. I couldn't make out much about them, not even their age, because they were so far away. But I was walking in their direction, so I kept them in view as I got closer and closer.

The strange thing about them, so I first thought, was that instead of straggling out one by one, they all seemed to be walking in twos and threes, close together.

And then I got close enough to realize: the bus was from the special school, and all the children were Downs syndrome or other special children, and some were physically impaired.

So none of them walked alone. Each one had at least one special companion, and maybe two, to help them, and to help one another along the way.

Each one was leaning on his or her friend's arm or shoulder.

And it suddenly dawned on me: In the sight of God, we are... all... mentally retarded, developmentally handicapped, physically disabled.

None of us are what we could be, none of us are what we should be... none of us are what we will become, by the grace of God.

But He loves us anyway, right now, even with our disabilities.

And He gives us one another, to help and to support, to hold up and to hold on to, as we limp through life. Because we all need help.

I left the park that morning feeling much better than when I entered it. I was taught an important lesson, by some children who didn't even know I was there.


"I admonish every pious Christian that he take not offence at the plain, unvarnished manner of speech of the Bible. Let him reflect that what may seem trivial and vulgar to him, emanates from the high majesty, power, and wisdom of God. The Bible is the book that makes fools of the wise of this world; it is only understood by the plain and simple hearted. Esteem this book as the precious fountain that can never be exhausted. In it thou findest the swaddling-clothes and the manger whither the angels directed the poor, simple shepherds; they seem poor and mean, but dear and precious is the treasure that lies therein" (Martin Luther).


My daily walks take me by a small shopping mall not too far from our home -- where one big sign out front advertises the stores inside, with some of the descriptions being generic ones. Down one side of the sign the stores are, in order:


The "Goodwill Blockbuster Catfish Church"?

Some of these, I assume, are self-explanatory... but others may or may not mean something to our NUSABAS (Non-USA brothers and sisters").

"Goodwill" is a charitable organization that operates second-hand and discount stores.

"Blockbuster" is a major video-store franchise (that's probably international).

"Catfish" (and I'm thinking you'd have to be not only USA, but southern USA, to get this one) is "Cherry Creek Catfish Restaurant", a fine dining establishment (one of our favorites) where they serve catfish primarily -- by that I mean: where one may order catfish to eat. No, not where catfish are invited to eat, but where humans (southern and Texan humans, anyway) may eat catfish... there, I think I finally got it right. Fried catfish, baked catfish, grilled catfish, catfish Mexican style, catfish Cajun style, catfish with crawdads, catfish with hushpuppies, catfish with shrimp, catfish with beans and rice... in short, all the basic food groups.

"Church" is the "Worldwide Harvest Church", which meets in a large store turned into auditorium/sanctuary... I guess the owners of the mall won't let the church advertise its full name out front on the big sign.

But it's the juxtaposition (I love that word! a John Thomas-Robert Roberts kind of word! a "pioneer" word!) of the names that gives me pause as I walk by...

What kind of church do we want?

A church of goodwill? Now, that's not a bad idea: "And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men" (Luk 2:12-14). (Which might actually be better translated, as the NIV: "peace to men on whom his favor rests"). The church of men and women on whom the favor of God has rested, and who then demonstrate a goodwill -- a kind and gentle and amiable spirit to those around them, and a friendly and caring and loving desire to help others find the way to "God's good will" too. That sounds all right.

A "blockbuster" church? Probably not... the "blockbuster" churches have thousands of members; they meet in huge, fancy, well-furnished and richly-decorated sanctuaries; they have "youth" ministries, "singles" ministries, "seniors" ministries, "gay" ministries, "upwardly-mobile, Anglo-Saxon, 35-40 age-group, two-car, 2 1/2-child" ministries. "Blockbuster" churches have gymnasiums, swimming pools, bowling lanes, psychologists, counselors, and a multitude of other programs "on premises". They supply everything you might ever need... except the... gospel. "But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things -- and the things that are not -- to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him" (1Co 1:27-29). No... we probably don't need a "blockbuster" church.

But, then, of course, there is the "catfish" church... Sounds like those who claim the right to "worship" the Almighty in their own special way: by going fishing on Sunday morning. The "fishing" church... which is closely affiliated with the "hunting" church, the "golf" church, the church of "football", the church of "gardening", the church of "sleeping in on Sunday morning", the "whatever I want to do, whenever I want to do it, and nobody has a claim on me" church. The "I can 'worship God' on a golf course or sitting by the creek; I don't need to go to church" church. But Jesus said, "Where your treasure, there will your heart be also" (Luk 12:34). And where you heart is, and where you are on Sunday mornings, that's where you really "worship", and that's... WHAT you really worship too!

So... no "Goodwill Blockbuster Catfish Church".

But how about... the "Goodwill Little-Flock Sunday-Morning-I'm-There Church"?

That works for me.

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