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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...


Daily Boost

March 21, 2014 - Famous Last Words

By George P. Wood

Some last words are anything but profound. On his deathbed, P.T. Barnum, the great circus impresario, asked, "How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?" Prompted for some final words of wisdom, the hotelier Conrad Hilton said, "Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub."

Other last words are tragic. One thinks, in this regard, of Julius Caesar's legendary words after being stabbed by a friend: "Et tu, Brute?" ("You too, Brutus?")

Still other last words are heroic in their resistance to death. As he was being burned to death for his faith, Saint Lawrence mocked the savagery of his persecutors and exclaimed, "Turn me! I'm roasted on one side." As he was about to be hanged for espionage, the American patriot Nathan Hale said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." And then there are the magnificent (albeit fictional) words of Sidney Carton that conclude Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities": "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done: it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known."

Why are we so captivated by last words? I think it's because we believe that last words reveal their speaker's priorities in life. Barnum and Hilton's priorities pertained to business. Lawrence, Hale and Carton focused on spirituality, patriotism and moral heroism, respectively.

According to 1 John 5:21, John's last words — in his letter, not in life — were "Dear children, keep yourselves from idols" (NIV). Those words certainly reveal John's priorities, and in two ways.

First, they reveal the priority he placed on relationship. Throughout this letter, John has referred to the members of his churches as "dear children." As the founder of those churches, he has a warm, fatherly love for the souls under his care. He does not think of them as numbers to be counted or students to be lectured or sinners to be disciplined. (I think we've all had run-ins with pastors who treated their congregations so egregiously!) Rather, John thinks of them as his own sons and daughters. He cares for their well-being; he desires their spiritual growth.

Second, John's last words reveal the priority he placed on truth. In verse 20, John writes, "He [Jesus] is the true God and eternal life." If Jesus is the "true God," then following anyone other than Jesus is idolatry. In the ancient world, of course, idols were concrete objects. They were made of metal and marble, they resided in temples, and their worshippers prostrated themselves before them. In our day, however, idols are more like ideologies. We are not tempted to bow down to Zeus or Diana or Moloch, but consumerism and materialism and hedonism do have their allures. If John were writing today, he'd say to us, "Dear children, keep yourself from isms!"

Ancient idols crumbled and rusted. Modern ideologies fail to deliver on their promises. But Jesus and the life He gives are eternal.

— George Paul Wood is director of Ministerial Resourcing for the Assemblies of God and author of The Daily Word online devotionals.




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