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WHEN DOES THE SIZE OF A HOUSE BECOME SINFUL?
Several years ago, Millard Fuller of Habitat for Humanity addressed the National Press Club on public radio, on which he recalled a workshop he conducted at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with 200 pastors in attendance. The assembled pastors quickly pointed toward greed and selfishness as the reason the church never had enough money to accomplish its mission in the world.
Millard then asked this seemingly innocent question: "Is it possible for a person to build a house so large that it's sinful in the eyes of God? Raise your hand if you think so."
All 200 pastors raised their hands.
"Okay," said Millard, "then can you tell me at exactly what size, the precise square footage, a certain house becomes sinful to occupy?"
Silence from the pastors. You could have heard a pin drop.
Finally, a small, quiet voice spoke up from the back of the room: "When it is bigger than mine."
(Frank G. Honeycutt, Preaching to Skeptics and Seekers. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Treasure's Trap, 9/18/2010)
Jim Cymbala began at the Brooklyn Tabernacle as an ill-equipped, under-educated, time-strapped preacher who led a second congregation in New Jersey. The Brooklyn church had no money to pay him, a ramshackle building, and barely enough attendance to bother with weekly meetings.
Today, the Tabernacle hosts around 6,000 spirit-filled worshipers. The difference came when Jim, in a moment of desperation, set aside his planned message and called the church to pray. The weekly prayer meeting, not the Sunday worship, became the focal point of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
Jim’s belief that "God can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him" (p. 19) guides his work. It is Prayer, not preaching that brings Revival.
When I look at history I think of another time when America faced a crisis. The year was 1857. America was at both an economic and spiritual low. Attendance in churches had dwindled and there was a cynicism among many concerning religion. It was in the midst of this spiritual crisis that God gave a man a vision. His name was Jeremiah Lanphier. Lanphier had a vision of starting a noontime prayer meeting at a mission in Fulton Street in New York City.
He went to great lengths to advertise this prayer meeting. His first meeting was held on September 23, 1857. When the doors opened at noon, no one seemed to come. At half past twelve, however, the steps of one man could be heard coming up the stairs. Soon another came and then another so that finally there was a total of six people there.
Soon the numbers of those attending the meetings increased. By October 14th over a hundred people were coming to the prayer meetings. Other buildings were needed to accommodate the large numbers of people coming. Churches began to open their doors, but they were not large enough as thousands began to come to these prayer meetings. By March of 1858, Burton’s Theatre which could hold up to 3,000 people was filled to overflowing. Soon firehouses, police stations, and other buildings were requested to house the prayer meetings that had spread like a wildfire in New York City.
But the prayer meetings did not stop in New York City. They spread throughout New York State, New England, and eventually across the entire nation. Many thousands were saved during the revival of 1858. It is interesting that this revival took place three years before the Civil War—the bloodiest war in American history. God in His sovereignty knew that thousands of American lives would be lost and that these people needed to come to a saving knowledge of Himself.
The church service ended at the Lutheran Church in New Sweden, Maine as everyone “passed the peace.” It was the first Sunday after Easter, and the 50 people in attendance headed to the fellowship hour to have some coffee. Some of the people complained that the coffee was bitter, but people usually complain about church coffee, so they didn’t think much about it until some people began to get violently ill. By the end of the day, 16 people were hospitalized and one of them would die by the next morning. Police discovered that arsenic had been dumped into the 30-cup coffee maker, making this the nation’s worst case of mass arsenic poisoning. The next shock was that a well-respected member of the church, 53-year-old Danny Bondeson, a potato farmer, was found dead at home from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He left a note implicating himself in the poisoning. The investigation is now expanding to other members of the Bondeson family, whom police suspect may have been involved in the poisonings.
The story behind the story at this point seems to be that there was a disagreement in the church about a communion table. For years the church had a communion table that was against the wall, and the blessing of the bread and wine was done while facing the wall. The Bondeson family had donated a new altar so that the bread and wine could be done while facing the congregation. But traditions die hard, and the board seemed unwilling to replace the old altar, even though a new one had been donated, because they did not want to offend some of those who wanted the bread and wine blessed while facing the wall like it had always been done. Speculation is that not only Bondeson, but other members of his extended family, had become as bitter as the church coffee and decided to teach some people a lesson.
Was the Bondeson family giving for the g...
When I was a boy, I saw a stereo at Foley’s department store that I wanted. My father agreed to pay for the stereo on the condition that I pay him back with the money I received from mowing lawns that summer. It was my first real loan in some ways. I received the benefits of the stereo immediately. I wore that stereo out too. But, I paid my father off as fast as I could with the lawn mowing money. In time it was completely paid off. Some of us seem to act as though that is the same way salvation works. That God did something for us and now we are trying to pay him off with service or church attendance or good works of some kind. But, that is an insult to the grace of God. When someone gives you a gift, it is meant as a act of kindness. You only have to receive it
GOD COMES FIRST
If you’ve never been, I suggest you go sometime to Jamestown, VA. It is one of the earliest English-speaking settlements in the new world, & it has been carefully restored so that we can see what life was like 350 years ago.
At Jamestown, you’ll discover many interesting things about our country. You’ll learn that when this settlement was first established, most of the people built rather humble huts for their families. But right in the middle of Jamestown they erected an imposing church building as a testimony to all who came, that the people of Jamestown put God first.
They had 2-hour worship services every day of the week, & attendance was mandatory. If you didn’t show up for the daily service, your day’s ration of food would not be given you. Their reasoning was, if you were too sick to go to church, you were too sick to eat.
They had a 5-hour service on Sunday, & you were expected to be there all 5 hours. If you missed church for 3 weeks, they would put you in stocks for 6 weeks out on the church lawn. The stocks are still there for all to see.
Maybe they went a bit too far. But it seems to me the lesson which comes through loud & clear is that in this original settlement, the people wanted to communicate clearly that God came first.
SOURCE: Melvin Newland in "To Reclaim Our Heritage" on SermonCentral.com. http://www.sermoncentral.com/sermon.asp?SermonID=32974
Charles Spurgeon and the Park Street tabernacle- Why did it lose its influence?
When Charles Haddon Spurgeon first went to Park Street church in London, he was nineteen years old. There he found a church with a seating capacity of fifteen hundred but with an attendance of under two hundred. Nine years later the Metropolitan Tabernacle was built to accommodate the crowds which came to hear him preach; his sermons were published in newspapers around the world; a school had been established to train pastors; and a colportage business was started to print evangelistic booklets. It was said that over 23,000 people had heard him preach during those years.
During Spurgeons 38 years as pastor of the MetropolitanTabernacle, his congregation included 6,000 worshippers and added 14,000 members. Clearly the Metropolitan Tabernacle was one of the most influential churches of the 19th century.
In 1972, however, seventy-five years after Spurgeon retired, some pastors visiting his church counted only 87 worshippers for the morning service.
What had happened to this once great church? How did they lose their influence? Many explanations could be given. London had changed. People had changed. The church did not keep up with the times. It should have moved to the suburbs.
In simple terms the church had somewhere along the way, lost its focus.
We are always only one generation away from irrelevancy and extinction!
contributed by Ralph Juthman
The Martyrs of the Ecuador Mission
8 January 1956 (modified by sermon author)
In the dense rain-forests of Ecuador, on the Pacific side of the Andes Mountains, lives a tribe of Indians.
-They simply call themselves the “people” but their neighbor’s call them “savages”
-For many generations they have been completely isolated from the outside world, disposed to kill any stranger on sight, and feared even by their head-hunting neighbors, the Jivaro tribe.
-Nate Saint was 32 years old (born 1923), and devoted to flying.
-With his wife, Marjorie Farris, he established a base at Shell Mera and flew short hops to keep missionaries supplied with medicines, mail, etc.
-There were 3 other families there and another family joined later.
- These were men and woman that love God and felt his call and answered.
-Nate and Ed found a settlement from the air.
-They would fly over the village and drop gifts as a means of making contact and establishing a friendly relationship.
-Eventually they would try for closer contact. Nate had discovered that, if he lowered a bucket on a line from the plane, and flew in tight circles, the bucket remained almost stationary, and could be used to lower objects to the ground. He had devised a mechanism to release the bucket when it touched down.
-Soon the Huaorani were responding with gifts of their own tied to the line: a woven headband, carved wooden combs, two live parrots, cooked fish, parcels of peanuts, a piece of smoked monkey tail....
-After three months of air-to-ground contact, during which they made far more progress than they had hoped, the missionaries decided that it was time for ground contact.
-They located a beach that would serve as a landing strip, about four miles from the village.
-After some discussion, they decided to carry guns, having heard that the Huaorani never attacked anyone who was carrying a gun, and having resolved that they would, as a last resort, fire the guns into the air to ward off an attack, but would shoot no one, even to save their own lives.
-On Tuesday they flew in and made camp, then flew over the village to invite the Huaorani to visit them. The first visitors showed up on Friday: a man, a woman, and a teen-aged girl. -They stayed for several hours in apparent friendliness, then left abruptly. On Saturday, no one showed, and when the plane flew over the village, the Huaorani seemed frightened at first, but lost their fright when presents were dropped.
-On Sunday afternoon at about 3 PM, all five missionaries were speared to death at their camp.
What in the world could their brutal deaths so far away from home in the service of their God could have accomplished in the jungles of some foreign land?
-Because of their deaths the efforts were intensified not abandoned.
---->More than twenty fliers from the United States promptly applied to take Nate’s (the pilot) place.
---->More than 1000 college students volunteered for foreign missions in direct response to the story of these Martyr...
Jim Cymbala (as described in his book Fresh Wind Fresh Fire) looked around a saw a small rag tag group of church goers surrounded by a city of muggers, transvestites, drug addicts and more, and realized he was in trouble. He was overcome by his own inadequacy to lead the church, as well as his lack of answers for the world.
In his desperation, he began to search for answers, yearning for the power that can only come from God. At the end of his rope, he felt the Lord impress on him, deep within his soul, that God’s power would be with them, if only he and the church learned to call on His name to supply their needs.
And so began a heart felt, focused, consistent commitment to prayer by he and his church. And they began to see God work powerfully in the lives of people swallowed up in sin and society, transvestites giving up walking the streets for ministry and marriage, gang bangers learning to be leaders for the Lord. And their church began to grow—toward maturity and in numbers.
Do we really see the need or are we numb?
If we see—revival prayer starts with us.
Charles Spurgeon: The best style of prayer is that which cannot be called anything else but a “cry.”
Are you ready for crying out to the Lord?
Cymbala concluded: “If the spirit of brokenness and calling on God ever slacks off at Brooklyn Tabernacle, we’ll know we’re in trouble—even if we have 10,000 in attendance.”
George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, future US Presidents, were among the delegates meeting at St. John's Church in Richmond, Virginia, on March 23, 1775, considering a resolution sending Virginia troops to the Revolutionary War. The Virginia House of Burgesses was unconvinced. Finally, Patrick Henry spoke. He concluded:
"What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"
Reportedly, those in attendance, upon hearing the speech, also shouted, "Give me liberty or give me death!"
That passionate speech is credited with turning the tide. It is one of the most passionate lines from the American Revolution. It changed the course of history.
That line reminds me of a passionate prayer, prayed over 200 years earlier. John Knox prayed "Give me Scotland or I die."
John Knox was described as low in stature and of a weakly constitution. A contemporary, Mr. Thomas Smeaton, said, "I know not if God ever placed a more godly and great spirit in a body so little and frail."
When that frail body went to his knees, Mary, Queen of Scots, trembled. She said she feared the prayers of John Knox more than the combined armies of Europe.
Larry Christenson in his book, The Christian Family, says John Knox prayed with such power that all Scotland was awakened. He goes so far as to attribute the whole reformation of Scotland to Knox's prayers. He writes, "'Lord, Give me Scotland or I'll die!' [Knox] cried. And he prayed with such intensity that the Lord answered."