The Agora
Bits And Pieces

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Part 7

For this one hour I can be grateful.
I can thank God for life itself, for opportunities,
For friends, and for a hundred other blessings and
Privileges to be counted, cherished, and enjoyed.

For this one hour I can be cheerful.
Equipped with a smile, a song, and a sunny disposition,
I can transform the atmosphere, enrich my environment,
And brighten the day for others.

For this one hour I can be optimistic.
Striking a happy medium between the pessimist and
The Pollyanna, I can realistically and confidently
Expect good things to happen to me and through me.

For this one hour I can spend some time in prayer.
I can pause to recharge my spiritual batteries,
Renew my mental perspectives, refresh my physical energies,
And replenish my faith in God and my fellowman.

For this one hour I can be unselfish.
I can take the Golden Rule off the shelf, dust it,
Unwrap it, and put it to work in my thoughts,
Words and actions... right now.

For this one hour I can look for the best in others.
It may take some diligent searching, patient seeking,
And careful screening, but I will work at it,
Even as I want others to look for the best in me.

For this one hour I can help make someone happy.
I can do it through a word of encouragement or comfort,
Or perhaps by a helping hand, an understanding touch,
An empathetic look, a telephone call, a letter, or a visit.

For this one hour I can be forgiving.
I can leave the lowlands of resentment, grudges and bitterness,
And rise to the highlands of understanding, love and forgiveness.

For this one hour I can be generous.
I can listen quietly and attentively when others want to talk.
I can look for opportunities to give a well-deserved compliment
To someone who needs it most.

For this one hour I can live the present.
Now is the only time I have, and I can use this hour
Wisely as a personal and precious gift from God.

(William Arthur Ward)


The following series of letters concerns a believer named Albert Merz. Albert lived in Nazi Germany at the beginning of World War II. This is early 1941 -- several months before the US was plunged into the conflict at Pearl Harbor. Albert was indicted for a capital crime: choosing not to serve in the German army. This letter is penned by his court-appointed attorney shortly after Albert was convicted to die by beheading.

"From Erich Höhne
Lawyer and Notary
At the Landgericht Berlin

"To the Rifle-man Albert Merz at present Berlin-Tegel Detention prison of the Wehrmacht:

"Yesterday's proceedings ended with the death penalty for you. This was not possible otherwise, as you remained numb towards reprimands. It came exactly as I told you at our discussion. You have to admit yourself that the Herr Senatspresident too took great pains to talk you out of your erroneous conception. The more I ponder on your conception, the more incomprehensible your behavior becomes to me. You will remember that the Herr Senatspresident read to you the word in the literal Bible, where it is said that everybody has to be subject to the authorities and that the authorities are instituted by God. If you personally always say that the Bible is sufficient for you, then you must let set this Bible passage against your concept too. You were not able to answer this Bible passage with a single word besides. If an authority, as our Führer here, calls upon the German nation to defend itself, if necessary with the sword, in the fight against intended assaults of envious neighbors, and if he as authority introduced compulsory military service, this means -- according to the before-mentioned Bible passage -- an order approved by God which every subject has to obey.

"Yet your case is not entirely lost; though the hard verdict has been pronounced against you it might still come to an elimination of the verdict, if you, so to speak, in the last hour, become convinced of the error of your previous concept, and declare now you are willing to render unrestrained military service.

"I hope you will come to this better conviction in the face of death. You take your point of view so unilaterally, without taking into consideration the ideas and notions of your fellow-citizens -- who only want what is best for you, and who are good Christians too. This is for me by no means an objection against the Christadelphian Ecclesia, as you erroneously think, but in reality the spirit of an antichrist speaks out of you, that is the spirit of the evil one that inspired you with the spirit of conceit, as if you, together with the few adherents of your irreligion, alone had the true conception about the doctrine of Jesus Christ and all of a different faith had violated the commandments of God. However, it is the firm conviction of myself and every German man that our good Lord will be more pleased with a man who gave his life in doing his duty towards his country, than with somebody who wastes his life worthlessly only because he cannot change his mind from mere conceit. This way of acting can never find the approval of our Lord. I, as by the court officially appointed counsel for the defense, thought it my duty to admonish you once again to think this over once more. Should you come to a better judgment you have to ask for another hearing where the minutes should be taken down in a declaration to this end. But it is very urgent and you have only a few days at your disposal.

"Heil Hitler.

"(signed) Erich Höhne."


The following two letters are from Albert after his conviction and while awaiting execution.

"Berlin, February 3, 1941.

"My beloved all, I find it hard to write you today, not for my own sake, but rather as I know that this letter will bring you much grief. Therefore I want to ask you not to take it too hard. You know my faith and my hope: Christ is my life and to die is my profit. And do not cry on account of me if I have to suffer the worst. Be firm and compose yourself. If I was sentenced to death on the 21st February and if I shall be decapitated, then you know that life, that has taken shape in me, goes back to its source and reshapes in time. When my time has ended and I have to part I want you to remember that man is destined to die and afterwards to undergo the judgment.

"Tomorrow I shall file a petition for pardon. Perhaps the court will have mercy on me, and if it has not I will still hope to get permission to write you once again. Include me in your prayers. I want to come to a close now, trusting in God and His Kingdom. I send you all my love.



Here is Albert's letter to his family after failing to obtain a pardon from the German military authorities.

"Brandenburg, April 3, 1941.

"My beloved all, I should like to use my last hours for writing you once again and asking you not to take it too hard for it is God's will now (John 19:7, Rom 8, Isaiah 59).

"On Friday the 4th April at 5.30 in the morning my time will have expired and my struggle therewith come to an end. It is my last wish that you may live in peace together and take care that none is lost. (2Ti).

"Oh, my Beloved, if I only could write down on paper the thousand thoughts I have been addressing you in silent conversation -- and still do. However, you can find many of them in the Good Book, especially the letters of the Apostles, the farewell address of Jesus in John, etc, and I hope to see you again after my awakening.

"With this I shall come to a close and you will understand, when I do not write more, it would be too much. And I send you kindest regards.

"Yours, Albert.

"Send my love to all brothers and sisters who are well disposed to me. Our Lord's mercy be with you. Amen."


Brother Albert Merz was executed by beheading on the following morning, April 4, 1941, for his refusal to fight in the German army.

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter" (Rom 8:35-36).

"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2Ti 3:12).



"Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in a garage makes you a car."


"Preaching verse by verse through books of the Bible is the most reasonable way to teach the whole counsel of God. If I am obligated to teach the whole new covenant message and all of the mystery unfolded, the only systematic way that I know to teach it all is to take it the way it comes, one book at a time from beginning to end. If I were to approach the goal of teaching the whole New Testament in random fashion, it would be a hopeless maze to lead people through. On the other hand, if I am committed to teaching the Word of God systematically so that all of the revelation of God is brought before His people, the only way of doing that is to go through it one book at a time.

"Also, the only effective way of seeing the significance of a passage is in its context. Going through an entire book sets the passage in its context on its widest, deepest, and richest level... Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament was written as a collection of verses to be thrown into the air and allowed to fall back wherever they might. Rather, each book has a reasonable, logical, inspired flow of thought going from point A to Z, with all stops in between. Each was designed by the Holy Spirit so that you have the Holy Spirit communicating something powerfully and clearly in the whole letter: you dare not miss a single part!

"If I received five letters in the mail one day, it would make no sense to read a sentence or two out of one, skip two, read a few sentences out of another, and go to the next one and read a few out of that, and on and on. If I really want to comprehend the letter -- what is going on, the tone, the spirit, the attitude, and the purpose -- I must start from the beginning and go to the end of each one. If that is true of personal correspondence, then how much more is it so of divine revelation" (John MacArthur).


"What the Bible says about the love of God cannot long survive in people's thinking if it is abstracted [separated] from the sovereignty of God, the holiness of God, the wrath of God, and the providence of God, to mention only a few nonnegotiable elements of basic Christianity.

"The result, of course, is that the love of God in our culture has been purged of anything the culture finds uncomfortable. The love of God has been sanitized, democratized, and above all sentimentalized. This process has been going on for some time. My generation was taught to sing, 'What the world needs now is love, sweet love,' in which we robustly instructed the Almighty that we do not need another mountain (we have enough of them), but we could do with some more love. The hubris is staggering.

"It has not always been so. In generations when almost everyone believed in the justice of God, people sometimes found it difficult to believe in His love. The preaching of the love of God came as wonderful good news. Nowadays if you tell people that God loves them, they are unlikely to be surprised. 'Of course God loves me; He's like that, isn't He? Besides, why shouldn't He love me? I'm kind of cute -- or at least as nice as the next person. I'm OK, you're OK, and God loves you and me' " (DA Carson, "On distorting the love of God", Bibliotheca Sacra 156:4).


Patience is a bitter plant, but it has sweet fruit.


"Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger. Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks. Then the doing of your work shall be no miracle, but you shall be a miracle. Every day you shall wonder at yourself, at the richness of life which has come to you by the grace of God" (MT).


The Bridge Builder

An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and gray,
To a chasm, vast and deep and wide,
Through which was flowing a swollen tide.
The old man crossed in the twilight dim;
The sullen stream had no fears for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

"Old man," said a fellow pilgrim near,
"You are wasting strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the close of day;
You will never again pass this way;
You have crossed the chasm, deep and wide --
So why build a bridge at eventide?"

The builder lifted his old gray head:
"Good friend, in the path I have come," he said,
"There followeth after me today
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be.
He too must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I'm building the bridge for him."

(Will Allen Dromgoole)


A prayer for animals

Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals,
Especially for animals who are suffering;
For animals that are overworked, underfed and cruelly treated;
For all wistful creatures in captivity that beat their wings against bars;
For any that are hunted or lost or deserted or frightened or hungry;
For all that must be put death.
We entreat for them all Thy mercy and pity,
And for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion
And gentle hands and kindly words.
Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals,
And so to share the blessings of the merciful.

(Albert Schweitzer)


Is your life full and busy? Perhaps, too busy? Sometimes we fill our lives so full we don't have time for the important things. At such times I remember a story about a young girl and her bank. The little girl's father had just given her a silver dollar to put into her bank. She excitedly ran off to her room to "deposit" the coin. However, in a few minutes she returned and handed the silver coin back to her father.

"Daddy," she said sadly, "here's your dollar back. I can't get it into my bank."

"Why not?" her concerned father asked.

"It's too full," she said, obviously disappointed.

Her father accompanied her back to her room and, sure enough, her bank was too full to accept even one more coin. It was filled with pennies!

Sometimes our lives are like that bank. So full of errands, obligations and activities that neither nurture us nor help anyone else, that there simply is no room left for what is truly important -- the silver dollars.

Grenville Kleiser has said, "To live at this time is an inestimable privilege, and a sacred obligation devolves upon you to make right use of your opportunities. Today is the day in which to attempt and achieve something worthwhile."

Have you made room for any large coins in your bank; for those things you believe to be worthwhile? If not, you may have to remove a few pennies, but I suspect you will never know they are gone!

(Steve Goodier)


Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the
number of apples in a seed.


"From the cowardice that dare not face new truth,
From the laziness that is contented with half truth,
From the arrogance that thinks it knows all truth,
Good Lord, deliver me."


I dreamed that Jesus came, last night;
The Kingdom doors flew wide.
An apostle, dressed in shining white,
Escorted me inside.

And there, to my astonishment,
Were folks I'd always labeled
As quite unfit, of little worth,
And spiritually disabled!

Indignant words rose to my lips,
But never were set free:
For every face bore stunned surprise --
No one expected ME!


"Little minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas" (Charles Stanley).

"I would rather contemplate what it means to eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, then to spend my time biting and devouring my brethren" (Rachel Black).


"Some time ago I was addressing men and women from the bar association of a major city. I knew it would be a challenging audience because words and arguments are their daily fare. I began by recounting a television news item I had just witnessed. A major network had as their first item of news a survey asking people if words meant anything specific at all. Do words such as 'affair' and 'adultery' have particular public meanings, or could the person speaking fuse them into his or her own private meaning? In our salvation-by-survey culture, the journalists asked people if anything meant anything anymore. Having concluded that there were significant variances in the way people used words, they next inquired if morality was purely a personal matter, or if there were indeed absolutes. Every person interviewed on the street answered the same way: 'No! There is no objective morality; we have to define it in our own terms.' First item: 'were words subject to the user?' Second item: 'was morality a personal matter?' Having settled on a confused answer that left the individual lord over reality, the newscaster went on to discuss a third item on the news -- a warning to Saddam Hussein. If he did not stop playing his word games, we were going to start bombing Iraq. How ironic, I thought. We arrogate to ourselves moral authority and deny referents to words, except when we deal with others who play the same game. It was fascinating to see the expressions of those in the audience change and to see them recognize that communication is impossible if we do not grant univocal meaning to our words" (Ravi Zacharias, "An ancient message, through modern means, to a postmodern mind", from "Telling the Truth: Evangelizing Postmoderns" 25,26).


"This is the beginning of a new day. God has given me this day to use as I will. I can waste it -- or use it for good, but what I do today is important because I am exchanging a day of my life for it! When tomorrow comes, thiday will be gone forever, leaving in its place something that I have traded for it. I want it to be gain, and not loss; good, and not evil; success, and not failure; in order that I shall not regret the price that I have paid for it" (DH Wilson).


'Twas the night before Jesus came and all through the house
Not a creature was praying, not one in the house.
Their Bibles were lain on the shelf without care,
In hopes that Jesus would not come there.

The children were dressing to crawl into bed,
Not once ever kneeling or bowing a head.
And Mom in her rocker with babe in her lap
Was watching the Late Show while I took a nap.

When out of the East there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash!

When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But angels proclaiming that Jesus was here.
With a light like the sun sending forth a bright ray
I knew in a moment this must be The Day!

The light of His face made me cover my head;
It was Jesus -- returning just like He had said!
And though I possessed worldly wisdom and wealth,
I cried when I saw Him in spite of myself.

In the Book Of Life which He held in His hand
Was written the name of every saved man.
He spoke not a word as he searched for my name.
When he said "It's not here", my head hung in shame.

The peoples whose names had been written above
He gathered to take to His Father of love.
Those who were ready He took without a sound,
While all the rest were left just standing around.

I fell to my knees, but it was too late;
I had waited too long and this sealed my fate.
I stood and cried as they left from my sight;
Oh, if only I had been ready tonight!

In the words of this poem the meaning is clear:
The coming of Jesus is drawing near --
There's only one life and when comes the last call
We'll find that the Bible was true after all!

(Author unknown, modified).


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 Done".
Don't just sit there...

(Author unknown, modified).


A Short Course in Work Relations

The six most important words:
I admit I made a mistake.

The five most important words:
You did a great job.

The four most important words:
What do you think?

The three most important words:
Could you please...

The two most important words:
Thank you.

The one most important word:


"Most of us can afford to take a lesson from the oyster. The most extraordinary thing about the oyster is this: Irritants 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 our lives 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).


"People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering" (Augustine).


"So much of what we intend to do is going to be done tomorrow. In a sense it can be said that tomorrow will be the most wonderful day in history, for that is the day when most of us are going to begin to do better.

"But today is the "tomorrow" that you looked at yesterday. You could begin today to do better and be better... why put it off?

"You'll never find a better day than today to begin to be what you've always wanted to be, to begin to live your dream instead of just dreaming it. Don't allow your desires to become museum pieces!"

Maritta Terrell


Preparing for a long trip, a traveler said to his friend: "I am just about packed. I only have to put in a guidebook, a lamp, a mirror, a microscope, a telescope, a volume of fine poetry, a few biographies, a package of old letters, a book of songs, a sword, a hammer and a set of books I have been studying."

"But," the friend replied, "you can't get all that into your bag."

"Oh, yes," replied the traveler, "it doesn't take much room." He placed his Bible in the corner of the suitcase and closed the lid.


"Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen" (Leonardo da Vinci).


"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).

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