When the philosopher Blaise Pascal died, someone found a shriveled piece of paper hidden in the lining of his coat. Evidently he had been carrying that small piece of paper around for eight years.


Pascal is known for what has been called “Pascal’s Wager,” the idea that when a person decides not to become a Christian they are taking an immense gamble. If it turns out that there isn’t a God when they die, then they’ve won the gamble. If it turns out there is a God, and also a real place called hell, and they chose to do nothing about it, then they’ve lost the “the wager.”


Well, after his death, someone discovered a scrap of paper tucked inside Pascal’s coat that said,


“In the year of Grace, 1654,

On Monday, 23rd of November,

Feast of St. Clement, Pope and Martyr,

And of others in the Martyrology,

Vigil of Saint Chrysogomus,

Martyr and others,

From about half past ten in the evening

Until about half past twelve


God of Abraham, God of Isaac,

God of Jacob

Not of the philosophers and scholars.

Certitude. Certitude. Feeling. Joy. Peace.

God of Jesus Christ.”


Few people in my life can be described by the single word “fire.” Bill Clift is one of them.


I still remember the day I sat in Bill’s living room and told him I felt God was calling me to leave Ohio and start a church in Philadelphia. We talked about the pros and cons of the decision. We weighed my gifts and abilities and the needs of the church in Ohio at the time.  Then Bill said, “Come over here Brian.”


He grabbed my hand and without asking began addressing God on my behalf. He prayed for my wife and daughters. He prayed that God would give me a burning passion for the people of Philadelphia. With each word Bill’s voice grew with intensity and volume. “Father, give him wisdom and courage,” he prayed. “Give him passion for the thousands of people who don’t know you,” he pleaded. “Let him walk hand in hand with you, feeling your heartbeat for those around him.” I stood there shaking, feeling like a prophet from the Old Testament receiving a blessing and a commission at the same time.


When he said “Amen,” I knew I was standing in the presence of fire.



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