Archives

Be Prepared

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Just as her friends were doing, my daughter Melissa was busily preparing for adulthood. At school, she was getting ready for college by taking the right courses and had signed up for the ACT college entrance test.

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The Devil In Court

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The Devil and Daniel Webster” is a short story by Stephen Vincent Benet. In it, Jabez Stone, a New England farmer, has such “bad luck” that he sells his soul to the devil to become prosperous. Eventually, the devil comes to collect Jabez’s debt. But the eminent lawyer Daniel Webster is called in to defend him. Through a skillful series of arguments, Webster wins the case against the devil, and Jabez is saved from perdition.

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Prisoners Of Sin

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A 2008 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime said, “At any given time there are more than 10 million people imprisoned worldwide.” Since some prisoners are being released while new ones are being sentenced every day, there are more than 30 million total prisoners worldwide each year. Statistics like these have caused many people to work for prison reform and a reexamination of sentencing laws.

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The Only Place To Start

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When a publishing company asked me to write an endorsement for a new book, I said I’d be glad to. It appeared to be a helpful effort directed to young people, challenging them to live for God in a changing world. But as I read the book, something troubled me. Although it had lots of Scripture and great spiritual advice, it didn’t explain that the starting point for any relationship with God is salvation through Jesus Christ.

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Lassa Fever

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When Lily Pinneo, a missionary nurse, was in West Africa, she contracted a deadly disease called Lassa fever. After Lily was flown to New York for medical treatment, her temperature soared to 107°F. To reduce the fever, doctors packed her in ice and fed her intravenously. The fever subsided. After 9 weeks, she had lost 28 pounds and most of her hair. Yet somehow, she survived.

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Liberating Truth

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An unmarried missionary had been disparaging herself. She was unhappy with her life in general, but she was especially displeased with what she felt was her low level of spiritual growth.

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Speeding Ticket

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I had been driving in Singapore for 34 years when I received my first summons for speeding! It was not the first time I had exceeded the speed limit, but it was the first time I had been fined for doing so.

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Running For Nothing

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As my friend Roger Weber started the 2006 Chicago Marathon, he noticed something on the ground. It was a runner’s chip—the device each runner puts on his or her shoe to record progress at various timing stations during the race. Apparently, one poor runner would be traversing the next 26.2 miles on foot with nothing to show for it.

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Who Are You?

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Identity theft is a big problem in the age of credit cards and the Internet. It’s not hard for someone to retrieve your vital information and pose as you. If that were to happen, however, it would not change the essence of who you are. The thief would not steal your true identity—just some superficial information about you.

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Walking Tall

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During my basic training in the Army, our drill sergeant worked hard week after week to transform us from a group of slouching civilians into a company of men who stood straight and walked tall. It was not an easy job. When he finally said, “You’re looking good!” we felt proud of who we were and how we had changed.

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Two Gardens

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Two gardens are mentioned prominently in the Bible: the garden of Eden and the garden of Gethsemane. God placed the first man, Adam, in the garden of Eden; Jesus went into Gethsemane to restore what the first man had lost.

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House Of Symbols

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Our neighbor was startled when two young men walked into her home uninvited. She screamed, and they ran out. Yet no one would accuse her of failing to be hospitable. If you enter someone’s house, you come in on that person’s terms.

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'They Wouldn’t Let Me!'

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A woman was trapped on the top floor of a burning building. Flames and smoke blocked every way of escape. When firefighters arrived, one of the men scrambled up a ladder to the window where the woman was screaming for help, and with outstretched arms he offered to save her. But when she looked down and saw the great distance to the ground below, she panicked and drew back into the room.

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There When You Need It

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When I donated blood some time ago, a nurse gave me a card to read while a pint of the vital red fluid was flowing out of my vein. The card showed the percentages of people who have different blood types. Here are some of them:

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No Snatching

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In the mid-1950s, General Motors displayed more at their auto shows than just cars. At one show in Miami, GM featured a display of a million one-dollar bills, as well as the Hope Diamond (the largest blue diamond in the world).

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Get The Point!

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One thing you have to say about the apostle Paul-he was not a man to mince words. It didn’t matter who it was-a judge, a ruler, or his fellow apostle Peter-Paul said what had to be said. In Galatians 2:16, he made the same point three times: No one is justified by the works of the law.

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Two Bethlehems

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The birth of Jesus Christ was unlike any other. Mary’s was an “other world” conception. The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). The child conceived in her was from outside our world. And it had to be so, because the boy born to Mary was Immanuel, “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23).

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Greater Grace

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One morning, when our granddaughter Julia was quite young, she and her Nana were reading the Bible together. They came to the familiar verse, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

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The Ultimate Physician

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Physicians can cure many illnesses, both physical and mental. But only Jesus can bring about the healing that makes bad people good.

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It’s Your Choice

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As Joshua was nearing the end of his life, he gathered the children of Israel together at Shechem. And there, from the lips of a man who was close to death, came an appeal that throughout the centuries has moved the hearts of many. Joshua said, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

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"Nothing Is Ever Sure"

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In November 1975, the huge freighter Edmund Fitzgerald sank in the cold waters of Lake Superior during a fierce storm. Only a week before the tragedy, chief steward Robert Rafferty had written to his wife, “I may be home by November 8. However, nothing is ever sure.” The prophetic irony of his words was noted in a newspaper article listing the 29 crew members who perished in the disaster.

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Changed Lives Are Possible

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Lord Kenneth Clark, internationally known for his television series Civilization, lived and died without faith in Jesus Christ. In his autobiography, he wrote about an overwhelming religious experience he had while visiting a beautiful church.

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A Winner Either Way

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Lois had just undergone cancer surgery and was alone with her thoughts. She had faced death before, but it had always been the death of people she had loved—not her own.

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No Change

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All around us, life is changing at a dizzying pace. Even in the church, change is happening so fast that it can be tough to keep up.

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Trapped!

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A New York City man who sold books and magazines on the street was freed after being trapped for 2 days under a mountain of paper in his apartment. The man’s collection of printed materials, which he had stacked wall to wall and floor to ceiling, collapsed and buried him alive. Emergency workers filled 50 garbage bags as they dug through the debris just to reach him.

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Rest In Peace

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A man has created a safety bed which he claims will provide protection against hurricanes, tornadoes, thieves, kidnappers, and terrorists. The inventor’s Web site calls it “the safest rest you’ve ever had.”

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From Sunset To Sunrise

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Kariel was riding home from a children’s program at church with her neighbor friends. Admiring the sunset, she said to Gini, the driver, “That sunset is so beautiful it looks like heaven!” So Gini asked her, “Do you know how to get to heaven?” Kariel, who was only 5, answered confidently, “You have to have Jesus as your Savior—and I do!” Then she began to ask her friends in the van if they knew Jesus too.

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Good Question

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“Finding the right questions is as crucial as finding the right answers,” says devotional writer Henri Nouwen. Yet how easy it is to run ahead of God’s Spirit as we talk to unbelievers about Christ, giving pre-packaged answers before we listen to their questions.

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Only One Door

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Old Testament scholar Sir George Adam Smith says that when he visited the Holy Land he came upon a shepherd and his sheep standing before a stockade. There was no door in that protective enclosure, only an opening the width of a man’s body.

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Child's Play

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After a surprise storm blanketed the Middle East with snow, a newspaper photo showed four armed men smiling as they built a snowman outside the battered walls of a military headquarters. The wintry weather also caused a protest to be canceled and delayed a debate over parliamentary matters of pressing importance. Men wearing long robes and women in traditional black dresses and headscarves were seen playing in the snow. There’s something about snow that brings out the child in all of us.

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The Ethics Of Good News

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If a scientist discovered the cure for cancer, we would expect the discovery to be shared with the world. Basic ethics requires that good news not be kept secret.

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The Blackness Of Midnight

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When I was a young boy, our family visited an old abandoned copper mine. Having descended into the mine, our guide suddenly turned off his flashlight and we were enveloped by an oppressive blackness. It seemed as though we could feel the darkness.

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Celebrate The Baby

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Why do we celebrate Jesus’ birthday so differently from other birthdays? When it’s time to honor historical figures who have a day set aside for them, we don’t think about them as babies. We don’t have pictures of cute little Abe Lincoln in his log cabin in Kentucky. No, we remember him for his contributions as an adult.

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Earth Walk

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After the Apollo XV mission, Colonel James Irwin related some of the high points of his experience. He told of their weightless bodies floating free in the space capsule, the rising crescent of the earth as seen from the moon, and the triumphal splashdown before a watching world.

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Believing Is Trusting

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Occasionally I meet people who know they have a spiritual need but are reluctant to make a personal commitment to Christ. Although they have seen what faith in Christ has done for others, they are confused by the advice they get from some good churchgoing people.

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A Pleasant Diversion

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A friend was looking for a church to join and told me she had found just what she was looking for: “I like this church because I don’t have to change my lifestyle of partying. It doesn’t make me feel guilty or require anything of me. I feel good about myself when I’m there.”

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Give Thanks And Remember

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One of today’s most popular syndicated newspaper columns is “Dear Abby.” Started in 1956 by Abigail Van Buren, the advice column is written today by her daughter Jeanne Phillips. In a recent edition, she included this Thanksgiving Prayer written many years before by her mother:

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"Just As I Am"

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Charlotte Elliott learned an important lesson about Jesus one sleepless night in 1834. She was an invalid, so when her family held a bazaar in Brighton, England, to raise money to build a school, she could only watch from afar.

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As Is

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The beat-up old car sits on the used-car lot, rusty and forsaken. Years of abuse and hard driving have taken their toll on the formerly shiny automobile.

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The War Is Over!

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The bitter conflict had finally ended between the North and the South. The soldiers of the US Civil War were free to return to their families. But a number of them remained hidden in the woods, living on berries. They either didn’t hear or didn’t believe that the war was over, so they continued enduring miserable conditions when they could have been back home.

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"Retronyms"

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What do regular coffee, acoustic guitars, and black-and-white television have in common? All are what journalist Frank Mankiewicz calls “retronyms”—words or phrases created because a familiar word needs to be distinguished from a term that refers to a new development or invention.

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Sign-Seekers

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A skeptic once said to me, “I’ll believe in Jesus if He comes down and appears visibly above my house.” Not necessarily!

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For Sinners Only

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Many non-Christians know the hymn “Amazing Grace” but may not know what grace means. One day when evangelist D. L. Moody was studying the meaning of God’s grace, he dashed into the street and shouted to the first man he saw, “Do you know grace?” Mystified, the man replied, “Grace who?” No doubt Moody then explained grace —that God has compassion on sin-sick people and freely offers them forgiveness and new life through faith in Christ.
I heard of a man who had lived a troubled life and died without understanding the message of God’s grace. A minister had talked to him and encouraged him to come to church, but his response was, “I’m too undeserving.” He didn’t know that God’s grace is for the undeserving.

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Master Of Redemption

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As I glanced through the mail, some words on a card from a charitable organization caught my eye: WE NEED YOUR DISCARDS! The meaning was straightforward and simple: Whatever you don’t want, we’ll take. Those household items you call rubbish, rejects, throwaways, and junk, we’ll use to help people in need.

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So Near And Yet So Far

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Back in Canada’s early days, pioneers were taking shelter in Fort Babine. When supplies were nearly exhausted, Victor Clark and a young guide left the fort and walked to the town of Hazelton to get food.

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A Storm Is Coming!

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We were in a small boat on the far side of the lake and the fish were biting when we heard a rumble of thunder in the distance. Looking up, we saw a mass of dark clouds in the west.

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Finding God

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Tourists rarely take great photographs. They seldom make the effort to be at the right spot at the right time to get the right angle of light in the right weather conditions. To capture beautiful outdoor pictures, professional photographers are careful to view the scene from different angles, during different seasons, and at different times of day.
This makes me wonder if the reason some people don’t have a clear picture of the beauty and glory of God is that they make snap judgments. They come to wrong conclusions about God based on a bad church experience, or an encounter with someone who claims to be a Christian but isn’t living like one. They misjudge what the Lord is like and turn away from Him, feeling disillusioned.

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How Long?

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It took years before she finally said yes. A Welshman had fallen in love with one of his neighbors and wanted to marry her. But they had quarreled, and she refused to forgive. Shy and reluctant to face the offended woman, the persistent suitor slipped a love letter under her door every week.

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A Mysterious Equation

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Professor John Nash of Princeton University is a math genius who has spent his life in the abstract world of numbers, equations—and delusions. Nash suffers from schizophrenia, a mental illness that can result in bizarre behavior and broken relationships. With medical help and the love of his wife, he learned to live with his illness and later won the Nobel Prize.

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Starting Over

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The little boy looked up at his mother and asked, “Mama, do you know why God made us?”

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With God All The Time

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It was the summer between Melissa’s sophomore and junior years of high school. She and her friend Mandy were in Spain on a trip with their Spanish class, and they stayed up one night in their hotel room for a serious discussion. They had just seen a report on the BBC about some teens who had died in an accident, and they started talking about death.

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Does He Care?

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If you are ever tempted to write yourself off as insignificant among the billions of people on earth, consider this: You are a one-of-a-kind creation of God (Psalm 139:13-14). That’s true even of identical twins. There never has been and never will be another person exactly like you.

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Turnaround Expert

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Members of The Turnaround Management Association are rarely asked to join successful companies. Instead, these skilled professionals are called into ailing businesses to help get them back on their feet.

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Christmas Choice

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The glitter of bright decorations, the sound of joyous Christmas carols, the happy children, and the cheerful “Merry Christmas” greetings sometimes give the impression that everybody is glad that Jesus came to our planet. But that isn’t true today, and it never was.

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A Light In The Darkness

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An artist was painting a winter scene. Snow blanketed the ground and the pine trees. Night was falling, and the landscape was enveloped in semi-darkness. A log cabin was barely visible in the shadows. The whole scene was one of gloom.

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Salmon Run

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Salmon fascinate me. Each August I drive a few miles north of my home in Idaho and watch them make their weary way through the last stages of their spawning run to the sandbars along Lake Creek. I always think of the long journey they’ve taken.

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A Good Account

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As a young boy I watched my dad write checks and wished that I could do it. What I didn’t realize was that there had to be money in an account to back them up.

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Tenant Of The Tunnel

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For 16 years, John Kovacs was a “tenant of the tunnel.” Along with a few others, John lived underground in an abandoned railroad tunnel in New York City. When Amtrak bought the tunnel and prepared to reopen it, John was forced to look for a place to live above ground.

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Nice Is Not The Point

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Your two closest neighbors are Ernestine Quibbles and George Smiley. Ernestine has a sharp tongue and is quick to inform you when your kids’ soccer ball goes into her yard. George, the nicest man you’ve ever met, is always friendly. He loves to play ball with your boys. He gives you vegetables from his garden, and he helps you whenever you need it.

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The Name

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If you were to select some of the most influential figures in the whole sweep of the ages, men and women who have affected millions of lives, what names would be on your list? I think one name that would appear on all our lists, without exception, would be the name of Jesus.

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More Than A Contract

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We are all accustomed to contracts. We are often required to sign them, whether we’re closing a business deal, taking out a bank loan, buying a car, leasing an apartment, or purchasing a major appliance. Contracts, formal or informal, specify what happens if one of the parties fails to live up to an agreement.

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Caught Red-Handed

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A small plane loaded with cocaine valued at $20 million was intercepted by federal agents as it flew over the Florida coast. Suddenly, bales of cocaine began falling out of the sky. One dropped in a church parking lot. Another hit a housetop. Several others came down in the Everglades.

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Calvary's Deepest Pain

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After washing His disciples’ feet and celebrating the Passover with them, Jesus led them into a familiar garden and “began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed” (Matthew 26:37). Going a bit farther with Peter, James, and John, He said, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me” (v.38).

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His Pain

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The Old Testament book of Judges is a somewhat depressing account of God’s people locked in a recurring cycle of rebellion, punishment, repentance, and deliverance. After every divine intervention, the process was repeated. It was always their pain that caused God’s people to call on Him: “The children of Israel said to the Lord, ‘We have sinned! Do to us whatever seems best to You; only deliver us this day, we pray’” (Judges 10:15).

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The Wrong Standard

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A little boy announced, “I’m like Goliath. I’m 9 feet tall.” “What makes you say that?” asked his mother. The child replied, “Well, I made a ruler and measured myself with it, and I am 9 feet tall!”

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A Storm Is Coming!

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Several years ago in Florida, I watched the ominously black sky as a howling wind drove the rain in stinging sheets across angrily churning baywaters. A hurricane was approaching! All day long, radio and TV stations gave urgent instructions on how to guard against the destructive winds and surging tides of the impending storm.

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Life's Final Deadline

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We’re all confronted with deadlines. Bills must be paid, licenses renewed, tax returns filed— the list goes on and on.

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Pretenders

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For 11 years a Massachusetts man kept his secret hidden from others. No one suspected that anything was wrong. Even at home his behavior appeared normal. He would sit down with the newspaper every night after dinner, and not even his wife knew of his problem.

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A Person Is The Pathway

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The pilot of a military plane was forced to parachute into a jungle in southeast Asia. How could he possibly find his way out? A local man saw what had happened and came to the pilot’s rescue, slashing through the tangled underbrush. The frightened pilot cried out, “Where’s the road? Where’s the way out?” The rescuer shouted back, “No road! I’m the way! Follow me!” The pilot trusted the man, who led him through the jungle to safety.

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It's Too Easy

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I read about an instant cake mix that was a big flop. The instructions said all you had to do was add water and bake. The company couldn’t understand why it didn’t sell—until their research discovered that the buying public felt uneasy about a mix that required only water. People thought it was too easy. So the company altered the formula and changed the recipe to call for adding water and an egg to the mix. The idea worked, and sales jumped dramatically.

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New Life On Death Row

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We see two opposite responses to Jesus from the two thieves who were crucified next to Him: One blasphemed, the other believed (Luke 23:39-42). We rejoice over the conversion of the one and Christ’s words to him: “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (v.43). Now, as then, Jesus saves those who truly repent—even at “the eleventh hour.”

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Three Crosses

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There were three crosses on Calvary’s hill. On one was a man dying in sin—he did not accept Jesus. On another was a man dying to sin—he trusted Jesus as Savior and Lord (Luke 23:40-43). And on the middle cross was One dying for sin. He could die for others because He was God’s Son and had no sin of His own. The center cross made all the difference for those two men hanging beside Jesus—the difference between an eternal hell and an eternal heaven.

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Scammed By Spam

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Have you ever been scammed by spam? Spam is a computer term that refers to junk mail on the Internet. It’s a common problem for people who use personal computers. Sometimes it’s harmless, but sometimes it’s not.

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You Matter To God

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American author Julia Ward Howe is remembered chiefly for her poem “Battle Hymn Of The Republic.” According to her daughter, Howe once invited her friend US Senator Charles Sumner to meet a rising young actor. But he declined her invitation, saying, “I don’t know that I should care to meet him. I have outlived my interest in individuals.” Julia later wrote in her diary, “Fortunately, God Almighty had not, by last accounts, gotten so far.”

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God Can Save Anyone!

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Today, as always, there is an urgent need for us to pray for “all who are in authority” (1 Timothy 2:2). But does the word all include the most wicked of leaders? Are there ever people in positions of power and influence who are beyond the help of prayer?

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At The Well

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A guide in Israel was preparing to lead a tour into the desert. His instructions to the group were simple and clear: “If you do not have these two items, I will not allow you to accompany us. You must have a broad-brimmed hat and a full bottle of water. These will protect you from the sun, and from the thirst caused by wind and dryness.”

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Yes Or No?

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If God were to give professing believers a quiz on Christianity, many would score well. They would be able to answer “Yes, it’s true” to questions such as: Did Christ die for your sins? Did He rise from the dead? Is He coming back to earth?

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Who's Going To Heaven?

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A poll for U.S. News & World Report asked 1,000 adults their opinion about who would likely make it into heaven. At the top of that list, to no one’s surprise, was a well-known religious figure. Several celebrities were also listed. But it was surprising to me that of the people being surveyed, 87 percent thought they themselves were likely to get into heaven.

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The Judge's Compassion

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During his years as mayor of New York City, Fiorello La Guardia sometimes presided as judge in a night court. In one case, a man was found guilty of stealing a loaf of bread. He pleaded that he had committed that theft to feed his starving family. “The law is the law,” La Guardia declared. “I must therefore fine you $10.” When the man sadly confessed that he had no money, the judge took $10 out of his wallet and paid the fine. He also asked each person in the courtroom to contribute 50 cents to help the man.

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New Clothes

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Two men were talking not long after they had become Christians. One was a poor man from a godless background; the other was from an affluent religious environment. After each man told of his conversion, the man with the religious background asked the other, “Why do you suppose you responded the first time you heard the gospel, while so many years passed before I did?”

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A Wonderful Life

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Each December, millions of people around the world watch Frank Capra’s 1946 film It’s A Wonderful Life. Although it wasn’t a hit when it debuted, it has become a Christmas classic.

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Unforgivable?

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An elderly man thought he had committed the unpardonable sin. Overwhelmed with guilt, he mistakenly thought he had done something that God would not forgive.

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