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Church Tech: 9 out of 10 Protestant pastors have Internet access, and about half of all Protestant churches maintain a church Web site, according to a recent Ellison Research study. While 90% of ministers are online, only a third of those use a content filter on their church office computer. 88% of larger churches (200 or more in attendance) maintain a Web site, compared to 60% of mid-size churches (100 to 199) and only 28% of churches with fewer than 100. Pastors expect that the most important forms of technology in their ministry over the next 5 years will be doing research on the Internet followed by using Bible study software, building, or maintaining a Web site, using PowerPoint, and being able to show DVDs or videos. (PWB 1/7/05)
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WHO MADE ME?
I love the story of the boy sitting on his father's lap as they were looking into a mirror. The boy said to his dad, "Dad, who made me?"
He said, "God made you, son."
He said, "Dad, who made you?"
He said, "God made me, son."
He said, "Dad, who made granddad?"
He said, "God made him, son."
He said, "Dad, who made great-granddad?" He said, "God made him, son. Why do you ask?"
The boy took one look back in the mirror and said, "Well, it just seems to me He's been doing a better job in recent years!"
Laugh as we might and should, the boy was right. God so starts at conception to develop a child that unborn children have detectable heartbeats at just 18 days.
(From a sermon by Larry Moyer, What Does God Say about the Sanctity of Life? 1/5/2011)
In the recent Summer Games (2012), Kim Rhode won the gold medal in skeet shooting making her the first American to win 5 olympic medals in 5 consecutive olympic games. That’s a span of 20 years and not her only distinction. In the 2012 games, she hit 99 out of 100 skeet setting a new Olympic record and tying the world record for the event. Also, her first medal was in the 1996 Summer Games making her the youngest female gold medalist in Olympic shooting. How does one so distinguish themselves from the rest of the crowd?
In an interview with the New York Times, Rhode firmly answers the question of how. She shoots anywhere from 500 to 1,000 rounds every day of the week year around. To save you the math, this is 3,000,000 plus shots with a shotgun. That’s 600,000 rounds per medal. When you step back and look at that number, the medals and accomplishments really are not that surprising.
It would be interesting to know how much other Olympian medalists have invested in their training? How many calories have they burned? How much money have they spent? How many other things have they rejected so that it would not interfere with their training? Of course, there is the occasional rare, natural talent, but I imagine, in most cases, if these numbers were lined up, the favorites will have distinguished themselves well before the race ever began.
In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul indicates that life is a race and its a race that we are all entered in so we might as well compete. We can choose to sit the race out but it is to our own demise. Our entry fees are paid, the starter has fired the gun, and our finish will still be recorded. Only those that complete the race get to advance to the next event.
Run to win. Run to finish first. At the very least run it in such a noble, honorable, and faithful manner that you are allowed to finish. Compete so that even if you do not win all of life, you will not be ashamed of how well you finished. And remember, the race isn’t won on the track, its won in the training and preparation.
There are roughly 775,000 words in the Bible. If we read one word ever day for every round Kim Rhode practices, we would complete the Bible every few years. These days, a person that has read through it completely just once has already distinguished themselves from the pack. How much more dominant would we be if we had read through it 5 times or a dozen times?
A Religion Professor named Dr. Christianson taught a required survey of Christianity course at small college. Every freshman was required to take the course regardless of his or her major. Although he tried hard to communicate the gospel, students viewed the class as nothing more than a waste of time.
One particular year Dr. Christianson had a student named Steve. Steve was the Center for the college football team and also a strong Christian who intended on going to Seminary. One day Dr. Christianson had an idea and he asked Steve to stay after class. "How many push ups can you do?" He asked. Steve said, "I do 200 every night." The professor asked Steve if he could do 300. "I have never done 300 before" Steve said, "but I think I can do it." "Good," the professor said, and he proceeded to tell his plan to Steve.
Friday came and Steve got to class early. Dr. Christianson came in with a large box of fluffy, cream filled doughnuts. The class was excited, it was Friday the last class of the day, and they could start their weekend early. Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the row and asked, "Cynthia would you like a donut?" "Yes," she said. Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?" "Sure." Steve jumped down out of his desk and counted off ten push ups. Dr. Christianson laid the donut on Cynthia’s desk. Joe was next. He asked Joe the same question and Joe said "yes." Steve did 10 more pushups and the professor laid the doughnut on Joe’s desk. And so it went all the way down the first row and half way down the second until it came to Scott. He was a basketball player and friendly to female companionship. Scott replied to the professor’s question by saying, "I want the doughnut if I can do my own push ups." Dr. Christianson said, "No Steve has to do the pushups." Then Scott said, "Well I don’t want one if I can’t do my own." Dr. Christian turned around and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push ups so Scoot can have a donut he doesn’t want." Scott said, "hey! I said I didn’t want one!" Dr. Christianson said, "Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts, Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it." And he put the donut on Scott’s desk.
Steve had begun to slow down a little and sweat had began to form on his cheeks. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?" Sternly, Jenny said, "NO!" Then Dr. Christianson asked, "Steve, would you do ten more push ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?" Steve did ten-Jenny got a doughnut.
By now a sense of uneasiness had filled the room. The students were all beginning to say "no." There were uneaten donuts on every desk. Steve was now putting forth a lot of extra effort to get the pushups done for each doughnut. A small pool of sweat was on the floor, his face was red, and you could see the sweat soaking through his shirt.
Dr. Christianson asked Robert, the most vocal unbeliever in class, to watch to make sure Steve did the full ten. Dr. Christianson started down the forth row. Students from other classes had came in and were sitting along the side of the room watching on. When the professor saw them he counted and saw that there were now 34 people in the room. He was worried about Steve, "Could he do that many push ups?" Jason, a recent transfer student, didn’t know what was going on and came in to see. The class yelled, "Go away! Don’t come in!" Steve picked up his head and said, "let him come in." Jason was asked and he said "yes." "Steve will you do ten push ups so Jason can have a donut?" Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great struggle. Jason, confused, was handed a donut and he sat down. Dr. Christianson then finished the fourth row and began on the visitors. Steves arms were shaking uncontrolably with each push up. By this time sweat was pouring off of his face and arms. The very last two students were cheerleaders. "Linda, do you want a donut?" Linda cried and said, "no thank you." Professor turned to Steve, "Steve would you do ten push ups so Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?" Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push ups for Linda. The last girl was Susan. "Susan would you like a donut?" Susan was full of tears and did n...
Redemption and Restoration in Real Life
I conclude this morning with a story about what happened since a tragic event that took place 9 months ago around Christmas time at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. I share it because I think it makes a point about moving beyond the 'Who, Them?' To THEM!
The event was the shooting of several people in the church parking lot and building that left three dead and three wounded. The young man, who had done the shooting, killed himself after being shot by a security guard. Earlier that day, he had entered Youth with A Mission Headquarters in suburban Denver, shooting four and killing two. His name was Matthew Murray, and he had been raised in a Christian home.
The tragedy shook the church that had just started to come out of the painful and very public story about their former pastor's, Ted Haggard, sexual sin. Now they were faced with this terrible tragedy.
In a recent Christianity Today article, it was told that after granting the interview to talk about that day and its after effects, it was revealed that Brady Boyd, the current Senior Minister, called Murray's parents and asked if they would like to come to New Life and see where 'their son had passed away.' They said they had wanted to, but had refrained from do so because of their concerns for the church. They were also asked if they would be willing to meet with members of the family who had lost two teenage daughters that morning. They said yes. The same invitation was extended to the victim's family, the Work's. They said yes.
After showing the Murrays around the church where the tragic events took place, they met with the Work's in Boyd's office. "What happened there in the two hours in my office ... was the most significant ministry moment I've experienced, maybe in all of my life," Boyd said. When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They sat, wept, and cried together, Boyd said, for "I don't know how long." Then they prayed together.
Later Jeanne Assam [the security guard who shot Murray] was invited to join them. When Jeanne, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot the Murray's son, walked into the room, "the Murrays embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. The dad looked at Jeanne and said, "Please know we're so sorry that you had to do what you did. We're so sorry."
The article concludes with these words from Boyd, "We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God," Boyd said, "but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem."
1 John 2:15-2:17
1 Kings 3:16-3:28
2 Corinthians 9:12-10:1
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ILLUSTRATION… Discipleship Journal, 11-12/92
A recent survey of Discipleship Journal readers ranked areas of greatest spiritual challenge to them:
5. (Tie) Anger/Bitterness
5. (Tie) Sexual lust
Survey respondents noted temptations were more potent when…
they had neglected their time with God (81 percent)
and when they were physically tired (57 percent).
Resisting temptation was accomplished by prayer (84 percent), avoiding compromising
situations (76 percent), Bible study (66 percent), and being accountable to someone (52 percent).
In a recent report by Linda Duxbury of Carleton University’s School Of Business. Ottawa, and Chris Higgins of the Richard Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario, London, entitled “Work-Life Balance in the New Millennium: Where are We? Where Do we need to Go?,” the authors claimed that many Canadians are finding it very difficult to balance their roles in life as employer, employee, parent and spouse. This shows up in increased workloads, more stress, declining physical and mental health, increased absenteeism, lower job satisfaction and lower commitment to employers. Duxbury says: “Our data demonstrate that the inability to balance work and family life is everyone’s problem. It hurts the employer, the employee, the employee’s colleagues, the employee’s family and Canadian society as a whole.” Estimated absenteeism from work-life conflict costs Canadian firms almost $3 billion a year, which results in extra visits to the doctor adding $ 425million annually to the cost of health care.
Hence, this whole thing of being a great worker is a very live issue in our day and time. If things aren’t working well in the work world it can be damaging to our lives and if we buy into Linda Duxbury’s conclusion, all of Canada, all of life will be affected in one way or another.
SAVED FROM OUR RUBBLE OF SIN- COMMUNION MEDITATION
The September 11, 2002 issues of TIME magazine has a touching article about 31-year old Genelle Guzman. Genelle was the last of just four people caught in the debris of the Twin Towers to be found alive.
After the planes hit the World Trade Center, Genelle was descending a stair case from the 64th floor of the North Tower. Steel beams weakend to their breaking point. Solid concrete was pulverized. But somehow her body found an air pocket.
Her right leg was pinned under heavy concrete pillars. Her head was caught between stacks of wreckage. But somehow she was still alive.
For twenty-seven hours Guzman lay trapped and seriously injured.
In recent months before the attacks Genelle had started attending the church called Brooklyn Tabernacle, and wanted to get her life turned around. So while she was stuck in the rubble, she started to pray. She’d trail off into sleep – wake up and pray some more.
Shortly after noon on Wednesday the 12th, she heard voices. So she screamed as loud as she could, “I’m here! HEY, I’M RIGHT HERE!” A rescue worker responded, "Do you see the light?" She did not. She took a piece of concrete and banged it against a broken stairway overhead—probably the same structure that had saved her life. The searchers find the noise.
Genelle wedged her hand through a crack in the wall, and felt someone grab it. She heard a voice say, "I’ve got you," and Genelle Guzman said, "OH GOD, THANK YOU.”
It took 20 long minutes, and then she was saved.
In many ways, Genelle Guzman represents the plight of all people. We are buried under an enormous mess of sp...
We have bought into the idea that the busier you are, the more important your life is. A recent book, Time for Life (Pennsylvania State University Press, 1997), surveyed ten thousand people and found that, after tracking their true working hours, they actually worked fewer hours than they thought. The survey found that people tend to overstate the number of hours they work because it elevates their professional status, which elevates their imaged self-worth.
Another report from the “Americans’ Use of Time Project” at the University of Maryland (Los Angeles Times, December 11, 1996) agreed that there was a big gap between perception and reality in time use. If that’s so, then why does it feel as if there’s not a minute to spare? The report concluded, “A culture that promotes instant gratification also helps explain why life seems more hectic than it is. ‘We want everything fast – fast food, eyeglasses in an hour, drive-through banking. Internally, we feel rushed. And the more rushed someone feels, the more they feel pressed for time.’”
Laura Schlessinger, The Ten Commandments: The Significance of God’s Laws in Everyday Life, pp. 96-97
I read a recent magazine article about a pastor and his encounter with some unbelievers while having breakfast. Here is how he tells the story: “My wife and I were vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado, and had breakfast in a coffee shop. It was empty except for four men at another table. One was mocking Christianity; in particular, the resurrection of Christ. He went on and on about what a stupid teaching that was. I could feel the Lord asking me: ‘Are you going to let this go unchallenged?’ However I was thinking, But I don’t even know these guys. He’s bigger than me. He’s got cowboy boots on and looks tough. I was agitated and frightened about doing anything. But I knew I had to stand for Jesus. Finally, I told Susan to pray. I took my last drink of water and went over and challenged him. With probably a squeaky voice, I said, ‘I’ve been listening to you, and you don’t know what you’re talking about ’ I did my best to give him a flying rundown of the proofs for the resurrection. He was speechless, and I was half dead. I must have shaken for an hour after that. But I had to take a stand. We cannot remain anonymous in our faith forever. God has a way of flushing us out of our quiet little places, and when he does we must be ready to speak for him.”
Now I admire this pastor’s courage and his determination to be a witness, regardless of how difficult it was. A lot of Christians would have just sat there in fear or fumed, thinking about how terrible the things were that these men were saying. I realize that I have the opportunity of looking back with hindsight on the situation, but I wonder if there wasn’t another possible approach that may have been more positive, and perhaps had more impact, than rattling off a list of rational arguments for the resurrection. It seems to me that he missed the most important and impressive proof of the resurrection — his own life. I wonder if it would not have been more effective to walk over to the men at the table and say something like this: “You know, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and found it very interesting. If you don’t mind, I would like to pay for all of your breakfasts. The reason I want to do this is that, because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ has changed my life and lives in me, and wants to communicate his tremendous love for you.”
Rational arguments do not change people, changed lives do. Changed lives change the lives of others, and thereby change the world. It is how we challenge the unbelief of a skeptical world. But not only would it possibly have been a stronger witness, it would have been an excellent use of money to buy their breakfasts. I think the point in what Jesus was saying in our Scripture reading this morning was that people are always the priority. Helping people, whether physically or spiritually, is to be given priority over serving ourselves — especially when it comes to money. But money is usually our last holdout in our walk with God. It is what we surrender last. As you grow in the Christian life you realize that it is not your money anyway. Everything you own already belongs to God. It is a gift, a loan from him.