What is your perspective on money? What were the messages you heard about money and how to use it wisely and properly when you were growing up? How much time does money occupy in your thoughts and in your family’s conversations? Your attitude toward money – the importance you attach to it and how it should be used – says more about you and about your priorities than you may realize.

You may be surprised at how much the Bible has to say about money. For example, there are about 500 verses in the Bible that mention prayer, but there are over 2,300 on how to properly handle money and possessions. Jesus summed up what a person’s attitude about money should ideally be in Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

The word “serve” as used in this verse means “to be a slave to, literally or figuratively, voluntarily or involuntarily.” It is not a question of advisability, for that would be a priority choice. It is not a question of accountability, for that would be a moral choice. Rather, it is a matter of impossibility. No person can serve more than one master. To serve God with exclusive devotion is to give money secondary importance. The same is true in reverse if getting, having and using money is the most important thing in our lives.

It is sad, but true, that far too often our world revolves around who has money and how it is used. Millions of poor people have the illusion that having lots of money would make them happy. Benjamin Franklin understood that this was not true, for he said, “Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, money makes one.”

Money, of course, is not bad in and of itself. It is necessary to have money to be able to purchase the things we need: food, shelter, health, education, security, etc. Money is only bad when it is used improperly to achieve selfish ends. It will buy a bed but not sleep; books but not brains; food but not appetite; finery but not beauty; a house but not a home; medicine but not health; luxuries but not culture; amusements but not happiness; religion but not salvation; a passport to everywhere but heaven.

George Lorimer once said, “It is good to have money and the things money can buy, but it is good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money cannot buy.” Those who haven’t learned that yet have as their goal the getting of more and more money. They lie for it and die for it. They curse it and save it. They spend it and lend it. They use it and are used by it. They work all their lives to accumulate as much of it as they can, only to learn later that they can’t take it with them when they die.

Several years ago, radio station WXOX in Chicago asked their listeners this question, “What is the most outrageous thing you would do for $10,000 cash?” It attracted more than 6,000 responses. The eventual winner was Jay Gwaltney of Zionsville, Ind., who said he would consume an 11-foot birch sapling – leaves, roots, bark and all. For the highly unusual dining event, he donned a tuxedo and dined at a table set elegantly with china, sterling, candles and a rose vase.

Armed with pruning shears, the Indiana State University sophomore began chomping from the top of the tree and worked his way, branch by branch, to the roots. His only condiment was French dressing. The culinary feat took 18 hours over a period of three days. When it was all over, Gwaltney complained of an upset stomach. Evidently the bark was worse than his bite.


God’s Word tells us: “There are six things the Lord hates: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers” (Proverbs 6:16-19). In early Christian history the wording changed on the things God hates, and they were referred to as the Seven Deadly Sins: envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, sloth and wrath.

If early Christian leaders had added an eighth deadly sin, I would nominate gossip. As a Christian minister since 1951, I have seen the devastating effect that gossip has had within the body of Christ. Gossip can be very cunning, for Satan has a slick marketing trick that he uses to influence church members. He leads us to call gossip by euphemisms like “sharing our concerns” or “venting to a brother or sister.” Euphemisms make gossip sound much less dangerous.

Church members who gossip often try to remain anonymous when they pass along what they consider juicy information about a fellow church member. It doesn’t have to be true. For example, a lady in my hometown often visited her neighbors early in the morning for the purpose of spreading the latest gossip. She would end her conversation by saying, “For God’s sake don’t tell a soul what I’ve told you.” She wanted to tell everybody herself!

There are several specific mentions of gossip in scripture. Three Old Testament highlights are as follows:

  • Do not spread slanderous gossip among your people” (Leviticus 19:16).
  • They visit me as if they were my friends, but all the while they gather gossip, and when they leave, they spread it everywhere” (Psalm 41:6).
  • “A troublemaker plants seeds of strife; gossip separates the best of friends” (Proverbs 16:28).

The apostle Paul showed how seriously he considered gossip when he included it among this unattractive menu of sins: “Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip” (Romans 1:29). Those who gossip probably never realized that God’s Word lumps gossip in with hate, murder and deception. No follower of Jesus should ever give gossip a place to live. Why is this true? “Fire goes out without wood, and quarrels disappear when gossip stops” (Proverbs 26:20).

God is not glorified when a Christian imagines things and spreads idle chatter about a fellow Christian, for it both grieves the Holy Spirit and causes the one who is talked about to experience emotional pain. In the New Testament James is brutally honest in describing the impact of gossip: “The tongue is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).

If you have been guilty of passing along hurtful information about a fellow Christian, you need to repent and receive the gift of a new heart that acts in accordance to the love and law of God. This new heart can only come from God. He has said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees” (Ezekiel 36:26).

A good practice for Christians to follow before passing along information about a fellow Christian that has the potential to be controversial or cause distress is to ask these five questions: (1) Is it true? (2) Is it helpful? (3) Is it inspiring? (4) Is it necessary? (5) Is it kind? If what we are about to say does not pass these five tests, we should keep our mouth shut. To do this will both keep us from dishonoring Christ and creating disharmony in the body of Christ.

It has been said by many psychologists that fear in the form of unrelieved anxiety is the official emotion of our age. Gary R. Collins, in his book, “A Psychologist Looks at Life,” states that modern technology is producing such rapid and far-reaching changes in our standard of living that people are becoming anxious simply trying to keep up. In addition, the mass media has made it possible to be immediately aware of local, national, and international problems in a matter of minutes.

Fear, in the form of anxiety, however, is usually much more personal in scope and cause. It can spring from countless sources and can be either specific or what is called free-floating. Specific anxieties result from our awareness of a specific threatening situation. There are 645 phobias that have been classified. In a free-floating anxiety you do not know why you are anxious and have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

As Christians, how are we to cope with anxiety and fear? Jesus said that without faith, life collapses but that with faith we can move mountains. He often said things like, “Fear not, only believe.” We need to recognize that anxiety and/or fear in its right place is a constructive thing. Sometimes it is a protective response to danger that is real.

Several years ago, newspapers carried the story of a man living near the coast in South Carolina who came home from work, parked his car under a tree and entered his home. Having left his car windows down, during the night a large moccasin snake crawled into his car and went under the front seat. The next morning the man got in his car, cranked up and had traveled down the road a few miles when he felt pressure on his lap. Glancing down, he saw the large moccasin crawling slowly across his lap toward the driver’s side window.

Realizing the window was partially open, and not knowing what else to do, he kept driving. The snake crawled up toward the window. When his head reached outside the window, he quickly rolled it up, pinning the snake. With his heart beating rapidly, he pulled over, stopped, got out and killed the snake. It is a true story! I submit to you that if he didn’t have a serious level of anxiety, something was seriously wrong with him.

He had a legitimate reason to be extremely anxious. On the other hand, neurotic anxiety is abnormal because it involves intense feelings of discomfort even when danger is mild or nonexistent. There are immediate negative physical responses to this kind of anxiety: elevated blood pressure, the slowing of the digestive process, changes in the chemical composition of the blood, stomach ulcers, headaches, etc.

People deal with anxieties and fears in different ways. Some find a certain amount of relief in emotionalizing their problems by crying. Others forget their anxiety temporarily by gorging themselves with food, by getting drunk or by taking drugs. But the Christian has a different prescription. The only Physician who can heal us of all our anxieties permanently keeps office in the New Testament. “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and self-discipline”(2 Timothy 1:7).

The first factor, then, in overcoming morbid fear and anxiety is “power” – the power of faith. One method is to write out a list of the times God has provided in the past. When anxiety attacks you, meditate on that list and put your faith in the One who has and will continue to provide all that you need for living a godly life.

The second factor in defeating unhealthy fear and anxiety is “love.” Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:12). When serving others, you will find that anxious thoughts leave. Loving others brings the double benefits of being the hands and feet of Christ AND giving you respite from anxious thoughts.

The third factor in defeating unhealthy anxieties and fear is “self-discipline.” Fear and anxiety tend to dominate the lives of those who have little or no self-discipline of their thoughts. Take your thoughts “captive to Christ” and refuse to give Satan a foothold in your mind. Philippians 8 admonishes believers to think about “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy…” Again, make a list of these things for times when anxiety threatens to overcome.

Brothers and sisters, practice these three suggestions faithfully and find the “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Jesus promises “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27). He DIED so that you can have peace; peace is your birthright as a new creation in Christ!

Imagine for a moment that you are on a major television quiz show, and you are on a winning streak. You have answered every question correctly thus far. There is only one question left. If you answer it correctly you will win more prizes and money than you ever dreamed possible.

When the question is asked, you answer it correctly. You suddenly realize what it means! Your heart begins to beat rapidly. But imagine at this point that the game show host says, “We have one more question for you.” Another question? You are shocked! And it shows on your face!

The quiz show host then says, “You’ve answered all the other questions correctly, but there is just this one question left: “You can have all these prizes – the money, the new car, the boat, the clothes, and the month-long Hawaiian vacation, a million dollars in the bank – or your integrity. Which do you choose?”

Suddenly there is silence! Dead silence! You may be thinking that you would say to the quiz show host, “I answered the questions correctly. Why can’t I have prizes and still keep my integrity?” Aren’t you glad that you were only asked to imagine this scenario? Still, if you had to choose, what would your decision be? Would you choose the prizes? Or would you choose to keep your integrity?

If such a choice were actually presented to you, other factors would likely have an impact on the decision you make. For example, you may be regularly having some month left over at the end of your money. Mortgage payments seem to come every other week, not just monthly. House and car insurance rates have increased, the children have many needs, and the list goes on and on. We all have need for money. Much of it is justified. It is easy to place too high a value on wealth in trying to climb the ladder.

Ask yourself this question: “Will having money, especially lots of it, bring me any closer to God? Will it make me blind to my neighbor’s needs? What impact will it have on my relationships with others? Will the fact that I have lots of money become so important that I lose sight of the things money cannot buy?”

It is easy to become enamored with our own ability when we are financially comfortable. It is easy to think what we have is ours and forget that it really belongs to God. It is not wrong to have money – even lots of it. God nowhere condemns wealth. Some very wealthy Christians give 50% or more of their wealth to needy causes in order to glorify God and meet human needs. They have discovered that you can own lots of wealth without losing your integrity. It is when you choose wealth over integrity that problems develop.

The book of Proverbs offers some very wise words in this regard:

            “A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold” (Proverbs 22:1 NIV). You don’t have to sacrifice your good name in order to own great riches.

            “Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than a rich man whose ways are perverse” (Proverbs 28:6 NIV; and 19:1 NIV).

            “Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice” (Proverbs 22:1 NIV).

A husband and wife who were having problems in their marriage came to their minister for counseling. The pastor opened the session with prayer, then asked the husband: “What do you believe to be the major problem in your marriage?”

The husband replied, “She says I don’t ever listen to her!” He paused for a few seconds and continued: “At least I think that is what she said.” Without realizing it, he had made it very clear what their primary problem was. They were not communicating.

The single most important ingredient in a long-term marriage is the ability of both partners to communicate. Communication is as important to a marriage as water is to a plant that grows in the desert. It is as important as air to your body. When you stop breathing, you stop living.

Communication is not out-yelling your wife. It is not out-talking your husband. Nor is it out-screaming your children. It is a willing exchange of feelings or information. It takes two people to communicate: one sending, the other receiving. Obviously in any marriage when either the wife or husband is sending and not receiving, communication will be impossible. What began as holy wedlock can easily end in unholy deadlock.

When I was a freshman at Mercer University in 1948, I went into the adjoining dormitory room to visit a friend. He had his radio on and was listening to music. Suddenly the music stopped, and my friend said, “The radio station has stopped sending.” He moved the radio dial across from one end to the other, and not a single sound came out. He replied (jokingly of course), “All of the stations have stopped sending.” All of the stations were still broadcasting, but his radio had stopped receiving. Communication involves both sending and receiving, whether it involves radio broadcasts, a marriage, or any other relationship.

Deep feelings in a marriage must be expressed openly or trouble begins to escalate rapidly. To keep feelings inside and not express them would be like trying to keep a beach ball under water. The instant the person trying to accomplish that feat loses his or her balance the ball will pop out of the water and up into the air. Emotions kept inside will ultimately explode to the surface in the same way.

A marriage begins with the merger of two people who have different thoughts and needs. The Bible defines marriage as two people becoming “one flesh.” This is a spiritual concept, not a physical one. A successful marriage will require much thought and effort. Many adjustments have to be made, and lots of couples do not seem to realize that. But when God is allowed to guide meaningful communication, marriage becomes a unique, enjoyable, and holy adventure.

In marriage counseling sessions I have heard husbands and wives say, “We just grew apart.” And why did this happen? The trouble was not that their problems were insurmountable. They stopped communicating. Notice that I did not say, “They stopped talking.” I said, “They stopped communicating.” Communication between husband and wife involves dialogue, not just a monologue. A dialogue includes both sharing and listening. There are different levels of communication in a marriage:

LEVEL ONE: On this level, a couple talks in pretense and sham. Their masks stay on. Words are exchanged, but only at a shallow level. Genuine needs and feelings are not shared. Even when they are, it is possible they will not be accepted or understood because they are not genuinely listening to each other.

LEVEL TWO: On this level some thoughts and feelings are expressed honestly, but both husband and wife keep their guard up. Words may promise some hope that things will be better, but both watch each other’s moves carefully. The level of trust has not yet been developed. More communication is needed.

LEVEL THREE: On this level honest feelings are openly expressed: “This is what I love, what I fear, and what I really need.” Communication must be prioritized on this level for a marriage to survive. There is no fear of a blow up or pouting or resentment because of a petty disagreement. Husbands and wives who demand that their partner in life agree with them in all things will never achieve this level.

LEVEL FOUR: Communication on this level is like two violins that are playing a beautiful concerto in perfect harmony. The Bible describes it this way, “If two of you agree.” The word “agree” in Greek implies a symphony. A marriage that functions daily on this level will become what God intended when He said, “The two shall become one” (Mark 10:8).

If your communication level isn’t where you want it to be, consult your pastor or a reputable Christian counselor. It’s more painful to live unheard than to develop, or even just tweak, better communication with the one you’ve chosen to love!

We are living in an era of constant change. Millions of people change residences every year. Community buildings, customs and leadership vary with each generation. Even the cells in our bodies undergo complete change every seven years.

Change is absolutely necessary for progress to take place. When a situation becomes static over a long period of time, death sets in. That is why the statement, “We never did it that way before” is often called “the seven last words of a dying church.” Absolute refusal to change is what creates fossilized churches, communities and people. Yet all changes are not equally good.

The change that every human needs most is to be transformed by the power of Jesus Christ. It is why Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish Sanhedrin, came to visit Jesus at night inquiring about a higher and better life. Jesus answered him quickly and directly by saying, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

The change that Jesus demanded of Nicodemus was personal, inner and spiritual. Corporate, external and material changes are good, worthy and desirable, but it is not what every person needs most. As Jesus said, “You must be born again.” This involves a change of heart as well as habit, of attitude as well as action, of character as well as conduct.

The important thing to know is that this change is definitely possible. Some may say, “You cannot teach old dogs new tricks.” But we are not talking about dogs, as lovable as they are. We are talking about human beings made in the spiritual image of God. There are things we cannot change—the law of gravity, the paths of planets, the ebb and flow of the tide, etc. We cannot even change our own lives totally and permanently—but God can!

Nicodemus did not question the need for a new birth, but he was puzzled about how it could be produced. His question to Jesus was, “How can these things be?” Social position had failed him. As a member of the Sanhedrin court, he was highly honored and respected. Religiously he represented the best of his day. As a Pharisee he carefully observed the laws of God and was regarded as being a highly moral man. Socially, religiously, politically, economically, he was regarded as a great success. Yet all these things had left him empty and unfulfilled.

In our day, millions of people are trying a combination of culture, power, wealth, law and science. Yet any single one of these things—or all of them collectively—cannot permanently and totally satisfy the human heart. The irony of it all is that at a time when God is needed most, many are turning away from Him. Some say there is no God. Others say there may be a God, but He is not needed today. His commandments are often changed or ignored totally.

This is often called “the new morality,” but it is actually the old immorality. Scandals in high places are taken for granted. The type of love portrayed in movies, television and books has wrecked our homes. Crime dominates daily newscasts. Law and order in many places have given way to riots, violence and anarchy. It is no longer safe to walk at night on the streets of our cities. As Mrs. Ruth Graham, wife of Dr. Billy Graham, once said, “If God does not judge the United States of America in the years ahead, He will have to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Every Christian should work hard for the social and legal changes that provide a better life for all of our citizens. But we must never forget that the change needed most is in the hearts of people. In other words, it all comes back to what Jesus said to Nicodemus a long time ago, “You must be born again.” It is the only kind of change that totally satisfies and lasts forever.

As Peter Marshal once said, “The greatest heresy among us is that a human being cannot be changed.” This is what God’s Word says: “Therefore, if any person be in Christ, he (or she) is a new creation: old things are passed away; and all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Believe it!

A panel of psychologists several years ago declared, because of their study, that 40% of the things people worry about will never happen, 30% involve things that happened in the past, 22% involve petty trifles, and only 8% involve things of real consequence to which we should address our concern. Even though human beings know that worry is a counterproductive way to spend time, l have known several people who spent so much time worrying that their ulcers developed ulcers.

Worry lets tomorrow’s possible cloud blot out today’s sunshine. As someone once described the uselessness of worrying, “Don’t worry if your job is small and your rewards are few; remember that the mighty oak was once a nut like you.” Alexis Carroll said, “People who do not know how to fight worry die young.”

Jesus said, “Do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). The tense in the Greek in this verse is properly translated, “Stop worrying.” The tense in Matthew 6:31 is different, however, and means, “Don’t start worrying.” In other words, “If you are worrying, quit; if you haven’t started, don’t start.” Jesus gives us three reasons for not worrying about this life: It is unnecessary because God is our Father, it is uncharacteristic because of our faith, and it is unwise because of our future.

When you and I were children, we never worried about where we would get our next meal, or whether we would have a bed in which to sleep, or clothes to wear, or something to drink. Such thoughts never entered our minds because we knew that our father would provide these things for us. But how easy it is for us to forget that our Heavenly Father will provide for all our needs. If we view God as Owner, Controller, and Provider, and beyond that as our loving Father, we should know that we have nothing to worry about.

Jesus wants us to look at the birds. They don’t get together and say, “We’ve got to come up with a strategy to keep ourselves alive.” They have no self-consciousness or ability to reason. But God planted within them the instinct or capacity to find what is necessary to live. God not only creates life; He also sustains it. Birds don’t worry about where they will find food; they just go about their business until they find it, and they always do because God is looking out for them. And Jesus says that we are more valuable than birds (Matthew 10:29-31). That is why we have no valid reason to worry.

An anonymous poet expressed what Jesus meant in this way:

“Said the wildflower to the sparrow:

         ‘I should really like to know

Why these anxious human beings

          Rush about and worry so.’

Said the sparrow to the wildflower:

         ‘Friend, I think that it must be

That they have no heavenly Father,

         Such as cares for you and me.’”

In the late 1960s, when I was pastor of the Carrboro Baptist Church in Carrboro, N.C., I lost my voice completely. There is no way the pastor of a church can teach God’s Word or preach if he cannot speak above a whisper. I immediately scheduled a visit with a physician.

After examining my throat, he said, “You have been talking too much! You have developed polyps on your vocal cords, and they must be removed. This means that you will have to cease talking above a whisper until your vocal cords have recovered.” Since pastors are expected to preach every Sunday, it was not the kind of diagnosis I wanted to hear. However, it could have been worse—much worse.

The Carrboro Baptist Church sanctuary, which had a seating capacity of around 400, did not have an electronic speaker system. I was straining my voice to be heard.Trying to project my voice in a way that would enable parishioners on the back pews to hear every word clearly had strained my vocal cords. Shutting my voice down to the level of a whisper for four weeks was a new experience for me.

We have all been guilty of talking too much at one time or another, haven’t we? It has been rightly said that a multiplicity of words almost always indicates a poverty of thought. When your mouth is in motion and your mind is out of gear, trouble is not very far around the corner. This is true for individuals, for families and even for nations. Talking when listening would be a better option can saddle you with a greater difficulty than having your doctor say you must have polyps removed from your vocal cords.

Who among us has not said things that we wished later we had not said? It is a rare person indeed who has never been guilty of speaking words harshly when using kind words spoken in a friendlier tone of voice would have been much better. I know that I have. Those who have the habit of speaking harsh or unkind words often find they have to eat them. What makes this so difficult is that you must swallow your pride at the same time. Words unkindly spoken can never be recalled.

Torrents of helpful and productive talk inundate our world every single day. Floods of the highest sentiments flow over planet earth like water flowing over Niagara Falls. Oceans of good advice are poured out in counseling sessions with those who need it. Sermons based on biblical truth are being preached by literally thousands of Christian ministers every single Sunday.

There is enough spiritual talk in the world to reform half a dozen worlds! The trouble is that for all the talk there is so little action! The Bible reminds us that “faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself” (James 2:17, 20, 26 NASB). James is saying that the proof of love is works, not words.

Speaking of self-righteous people, Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter” (Matthew 7:20-21 NASB).

The book of James defined righteousness as “Pure religion and undefiled before God our Father is this, to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Actions continue to reap a harvest of good things when words alone are soon forgotten. In other words: “When all the affairs of life are said and done, more is said than done.”

The world has probably never experienced a time when Christianity was so much discussed by so many people in so many different ways in so many places as is the case today. William Barclay, the great British Christian scholar, was right when he said, “The trouble is that people tend to think they are being religious when they are discussing religious questions.”

Churches are littered with discussion groups, and these can be very valuable. There are many topics that can profitably be discussed that can better equip Christians to fulfill their assigned mission. However, if the discussion does not lead to action, it cannot and will not meet anyone’s needs or glorify God.

If you think this is not true, or that I am being unfair, you will have to admit that you will remember your pastor’s kindness in the time of great stress and/or difficulty when you have forgotten every sermon he has ever preached. This is also true of lay persons. Your deeds of kindness in meeting the needs of others will be remembered long after the words you have spoken are forgotten.

The bottom line is this: your smallest good deed is better than your grandest intention.

The largest radio receiver on earth is in New Mexico. Pilots call it “the mushroom patch.” Its real name is the Very Large Array (VLA). The VLA is a series of huge satellite disks on 38 miles of railways. Together the dishes mimic a single telescope the size of Washington, D.C. Astronomers come from all over the world to analyze the optical images of the heavens composed by the VLA from radio signals it receives from space. Why is such a giant apparatus needed? Because the radio waves, which are often emitted from sources millions of light years away, are very faint.

For centuries humans have wondered if there might be other worlds like ours out somewhere in space, perhaps with humans like us. And if other living beings are out there, how intelligent are they, and would it be possible to communicate with them? If we at some time in the future should receive specific communications from other worlds, what would be your response? How would that impact your faith in God? It would certainly dominate the news.

The most interesting thing to me about this discussion is the great lengths to which we have gone to listen for a message from other living beings who might share our universe, yet how little attention we pay to the message the Creator of our universe has spoken so clearly through His Son and through His Word. He also has an ear continuously open to us. He will hear every prayer of His children. That is why prayer is so important in the spiritual life of a Christian.

Jesus Christ both modeled prayer for His disciples and taught them to pray. Suppose Jesus Christ appeared today to you personally, much as He did to the Apostle John on the Isle of Patmos as described in Revelation 1 and said that He expected you to pray. Wouldn’t you be more faithful in prayer, knowing specifically that Jesus expected that of you?

A praying man as well as a reformer of the church, Martin Luther expressed God’s expectation of prayer by saying: “As it is the business of tailors to make clothes and of cobblers to mend shoes, so it is the business of Christians to pray.” Luther’s words enable us to see prayer not only as a divine summons, but also as a royal invitation. The writer of Hebrews expresses it in a way that cannot be misunderstood: “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (4:16).

If Jesus has asked us to pray, and if prayer is such a vital part of a Christian’s spiritual development, why do so many believers confess that they do not pray as often as they should? Perhaps there are many reasons: lack of discipline, a regular time is not allotted, lack of faith, lack of sensing the nearness of God, etc. When there is little awareness of our need to pray there is little prayer. We should not wait until circumstances drive us to our knees.

Andrew Murray, South African minister and author of “With Christ in the School of Prayer,” was very much on target when he said, “Reading a book about prayer, listening to lectures and talking about it is very good, but it won’t teach you to pray. You get nothing without exercise, without practice. I might listen for a year to a professor of music playing the most beautiful music, but that won’t teach me to play an instrument.”

Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.” Abe couldn’t have said it any better than that!

LEON TROTSKY attended Sunday School in Chicago in 1915 with a friend. The teacher did not arrive to teach the class that Sunday morning and, unfortunately, had not notified anyone of his intention to be absent. Trotsky walked away from that class, and as far as is known, never attended Sunday School again.

Trotsky went to Russia and soon became intensely engaged in the Russian Revolution which brought the Communist regime to power. He first became involved in underground activities. He was soon arrested, jailed and exiled to Siberia where he joined the Social Democratic Party. Eventually, he escaped Siberia and spent the majority of the next fifteen years abroad, including some time in London.

One cannot help but wonder what positive effect the AWOL Sunday School teacher might have had on Trotsky, and through him upon future world events if he had only been at his post of duty to teach God’s Word that Sunday morning in Chicago. He had missed a wonderful opportunity to share his faith in a warm and wonderful way.

JOSEPH STALIN, whose paranoid purging caused millions of people to die, was earlier in his life sent to study to become a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church. He soon came to believe that the Russian Orthodox Church had become corrupt and worldly, and he rebelled and turned to communism as a way of life.

During the quarter of a century preceding his death, Stalin probably exercised greater political power than any other figure in history. He industrialized the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, forcibly collectivized its agriculture, consolidated his position by using intensive police terror, helped to defeat Germany in 1941-45, created a mighty military complex and led the Soviet Union into the nuclear age.

In his “Communist Manifesto” Stalin declared that religion is the opiate of the people, in other words, that which puts people to sleep and salves their consciences while the world all around cries out in distress.

MAHATMA GANDHI studied Christianity when he was a young student in England. He rejected it, as he later explained, “Because Christians do not live up to the teachings of Jesus.” Gandhi went back to India to become one of that country’s greatest leaders. One cannot help but wonder how much positive impact for Christ in India Gandhi could have had throughout his life living and representing the teachings of Jesus.

TWO TEENAGE BOYS several years grew up in Dallas, Texas. Both were rough and constantly in trouble. A faithful Sunday School teacher contacted one of them every week for a year. His faithfulness influenced the young man to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. As a result that young man later became the Secretary of Evangelism for the Florida Baptist State Convention.

You will quickly recognize the name of that second young man in Dallas who was constantly in trouble, for it was LEE HARVEY OSWALD who assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Who among us does not have etched in our mind the events of that dark day in Dallas when the President came riding down the street with absolutely no premonition that his life would tragically end in a few hours?

Look again at the names above: Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Mahatma Gandhi and Lee Harvey Oswald. Two words come quickly to my mind: “What if?” Jesus said to those who follow Him, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). We are the light to others because we serve the One who is “the light of the world.” We fail when we miss opportunities to positively impact others with the message of God’s Word.

Do you know anyone with whom you could share God’s love? What if you did that? And why not?