During the US civil war Abraham Lincoln met with a group of ministers for a prayer breakfast. Lincoln was not a church-goer but was a man of deep, if at times unorthodox, faith. At one point one of the ministers said, “Mr President, let us pray that God is on our side”. Lincoln’s response showed far greater insight, “No, gentlemen, let us pray that we are on God’s side.”
Lincoln reminded those ministers that religion is not a tool by which we get God to do what we want but an invitation to open ourselves to being and doing what God wants.
Source: this is a widely distributed anecdote found on the internet, including citation in serious studies. I have been unable to confirm its historicity
A pastor took up a new position in a small country town, dependent for its income of timber milling. Walking by the river one day he noticed some of the men from his congregation standing atop logs floating down the river. This was the way the logs were transported from the forest to the mill. He admired the skill of the men in standing upon the moving logs and sawing a meter or two off the end of each as they floated downstream. But his admiration turned to horror when he saw the branding on the logs. They came from an opposition sawmill. The men were stealing the ends of the logs and rebranding them as their own.
The following Sunday the newly arrived pastor stood up to preach. He chose as the title for his sermon, “Thou shalt not steal”. Afterward he was congratulated by the loggers on a fine sermon. Pleased that they had got the point he took another walk by the river the following day. But to his utter astonishment there were the men cutting off the end of the opposition’s logs once more. Clearly they had not appreciated the point.
The following Sunday the pastor stood up to preach once more. This week’s sermon title: “Thou shalt not cut off the end of thy neighbour’s logs.” The next week the minister was sacked.
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognisable landmarks on the planet. Built as the grand entrance to an 1889 world trade fair, the tower receives thousands of visitors every year and is a favourite spot for romantic rendevous.
But when it was built there was ferocious opposition. A group of leading artists and writers, including the author of “The Three Musketeers”, Alexander Dumas, filed a petition that read:
We, the writers, painters, sculptors, architects and lovers of the beauty of Paris, do protest with all our vigor and all our indignation, in the name of French taste and endangered French art and history, against the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower.
History vindicated Alexandre Eiffel. In 1889 he was roundly condemned. Today he is praised. His story shows us that what matters is not the opinions others have of us and what we do – these will change according to what is culturally fashionable – but holding onto what we believe to be the values and wisdom of God.
In November 2000 my wife, my kids and I took a holiday to the Gold Coast. About 600kms north we were driving up a big hill, knowing that Byron Bay was down the other side. We were looking forward to it. We’d been in the car for a long time, it was hot, and we were eagerly anticipating a break. So up the hill we came, knowing that our break was down the other side. And then we saw it – the most breathtaking view you’re ever likely to encounter. At the top of the hill we got the most breathtaking view of a lush green valley stretching away to the deep blue of the ocean.
There was a lookout at the top of the hill, so we stopped, jumped out of the car and stood looking. The kids figured they’d reached the top of the world, so they danced on a little stone wall singing, “We’re on top the world, we’re on top of the world.” Over and over, “we’re on top of the world, we’re on top of the world.”
And in some ways it really felt like it – it was one of those perfect moments frozen in time. The kids singing and dancing, the wind fresh on the face, the sun shining above us, the road we’d travelled stretching out behind us, the road to come winding its way ahead. We knew who we were, where we’d come from, where we were going.
If you think of life as a journey, most of us would like to sit at the top of the world, to have one of those perfect moments where it all comes together and make sense, where we can look back at where we’ve come from and look ahead and know where we’re going, to have a sense of what is out there waiting for us, to see the detours and potholes and danger points that lie out there and start planning how we’ll meet them.
But instead of sitting at the top we spend most of our time travelling on either side of the hill. God sits at the top, has a sense of how it all fits together, but we usually don’t get that view. We get surprised by potholes and detours and danger spots and have to struggle our way through them. Faith however reminds us that God is at the top of the hill, and that even in the roughest parts we can live with trust in him to guide us through.
Source: Scott Higgins
A man named Jack was walking along a steep cliff one day when he accidentally got too close to the edge and fell. On the way down he grabbed a branch, which temporarily stopped his fall. He looked down and to his horror saw that the canyon fell straight down for more than a thousand feet. He couldn’t hang onto the branch forever, and there was no way for him to climb up the steep wall of the cliff.
So Jack began yelling for help, hoping that someone passing by would hear him and lower a rope or something. “HELP! HELP! Is anyone up there? “HELP!” He yelled for a long time, but no one heard him. He was about to give up when he heard a voice.
“Jack, Jack. Can you hear me?”
“Yes, yes! I can hear you. I’m down here!”
“I can see you, Jack. Are you all right?”
“Yes, but who are you, and where are you?
“I am the Lord, Jack. I’m everywhere.”
“The Lord? You mean, GOD?”
“God, please help me! I promise if, you’ll get me down from here, I’ll stop sinning. I’ll be a really good person. I’ll serve You for the rest of my life.”
“Easy on the promises, Jack. Let’s get you off from there, then we can talk.”
“Now, here’s what I want you to do. Listen carefully.”
“I’ll do anything, Lord. Just tell me what to do.”
“Okay. Let go of the branch.”
“I said, let go of the branch.” Just trust Me. Let go.”
There was a long silence.
Finally Jack yelled, “HELP! HELP! IS ANYONE ELSE UP THERE?”