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AN OLD FEUD AND A NEW BRIDGE
There were two old geezers living in the backwoods of the Ozarks: Rufus and Clarence. They lived on opposite sides of the river and they hated each other. Every morning, just after sunup, Rufus and Clarence would go down to their respective sides of the river and yell at each other.
"Rufus!" Clarence would shout, "You better thank your lucky stars that I can’t swim, er I’d swim this river and whup you!"
"Clarence!" Rufus would holler back, "You better thank YOUR lucky stars that I can’t swim, er I’d swim this river and whup YOU!"
Every morning. Every day. For 20 years.
One day the Army Corps of Engineers came along and built a bridge. But the insults went on every morning. Every day. Another five years.
Finally, Mr. Rufus’ wife had had enough. "Rufus!" she squallered one day, "I can’t take no more! Every day for 25 years you’ve been threatenin’ to whup Clarence. Well, thar’s the bridge! Have at it!"
Rufus thought for a moment. Chewed his bottom lip for another moment. "Woman!" he declared, snapping his suspenders into place. "I’m gonna whup Clarence!"
He walked out the door, down to the river, along the river bank, came to the bridge, stepped up onto the bridge, walked about halfway over the bridge, then turned tail and ran screaming back to the house, slammed the door, bolted the windows, grabbed the shotgun and dove under the bed.
"Rufus!" cried the missus. "I thought you was gonna whup Clarence!"
"I was, woman, I was!" he whispered.
"What in tarnation is the matter?"
"Well," whispered the terror-stricken Rufus, "I walked halfway over the bridge and saw a sign that said, 'Clearance, 13 feet, 6 inches.' He ain't never looked that big from the other side of the river!"
That’s what happens sometimes to the people of God. We look at things from a distance and make plans but when we get closer to doing what God wants us to do we think that the task is too monumental and we resort back to the safety of what we have always done. We circle the wagons and stand our ground. We stay right in our comfort zone.
(From a sermon by Horace Wimpey, Christian Attributes of Action, 8/15/2012)
Brian La Croix
#3 – We Get a New Family
November 4, 2007
NOTE: THE ME/WE/GOD/YOU/WE FORMAT USED IN MY MESSAGES IS BORROWED FROM ANDY STANLEY’S BOOK, "COMMUNICATING FOR A CHANGE."
We’ve been looking at different benefits or blessings of following Christ – living for Him, and not just giving Him lip-service.
One of the things that’s easy for preachers to do is to continually call for a commitment of some kind. And I’m going to be doing that today as well.
But I’d really like to spend most of the time talking about how awesome the family of God is and why it’s a blessing to be part of it.
We: I think all of us, whether it’s obvious to us or not, long to belong. We want to be part of something that is living and active, and that makes feel like we’re a vital part of that.
Families are the ideal place for all of that. That’s part of the way God designed families. Successful families are made up of people who are made to feel like they belong and that their contributions to the family, no matter how small, are appreciated and valuable.
When you put your faith in Christ, you become a member of the family of God. The heavenly Father becomes your Father. You’re adopted into His family as His child. And that’s no small thing, let me tell you.
John 1:12-13 –
Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
You gain a heavenly Father, and you gain a heavenly brother as well.
Hebrews 2:11 –
Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.
And not only do you gain a heavenly Father and a heavenly Brother, you also gain a great and wonderful family comprised of millions and millions of people who have joined that family as well, and who want only the best for you as you become part of it as well.
This church is part of that awesome family, and it’s my desire that this part of the family becomes all it can be to love and support the family of God in our area.
God: The passage that I want to deal with today goes a bit more into what being part of the family of God is all about.
Ephesians 2:19-22 –
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
[Thanks to Jim Drake for the following outline points (SermonCentral.com)]
This passage gives us three things that each member of the family of God shares with one another:
1. The family shares a common foundation (vv. 19-20).
It says here in verses 19-20 that God’s household is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and even that foundation is built on the cornerstone of Christ.
Without Christ, the whole thing crumbles. It exists because of Christ and survives because of Him.
You don’t get into without Him.
God’s family is built on Christ – He is the one who sets everything in the right direction.
Unfortunately, sometimes some of the “bricks” seem to think they need to go in a different direction, and the wall can look kinda funny.
And if it goes too far, that whole portion of the building can collapse – because they’re no longer building on the foundation but on their own shaky strength.
So we need to be careful that everything we do in life is based and built on the foundation of Christ and His Word.
Then we can count on the blessings of God in and through His family.
The second thing we have in common is that…
2. The family shares a common design (vv. 21).
Verse 21 tells us that in Christ the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple to the Lord.
This doesn’t happen by accident. It happens by design.
All of us are different – we have different gifts, talents, different temperaments, different financial situations, different jobs, different clothing styles…
But for some reason God saw fit to take all that and make it work for His grand design to make us a temple of God.
You’re all familiar with Lego’s right? Have any of you ever been to Legoland at the Mall of America?
It’s a place where kids and adults who haven’t grown up can go and just put stuff together. You can’t take them home, but you can just play.
If a person was inclined to do so, they could spend hours and hours there, just making stuff.
They’ve got these huge Lego creations there. Dinosaurs, space ships, and all kinds of stuff. It’s really awesome, especially when you take the time to really look at what it took to make those things.
You know the amazing thing – it takes legos of all shapes, sizes, and colors. And you know what? When they’re put together just the right way, something cool comes out of it.
Think for a moment about what you could build with only one kind of Lego: basically you could build a really big brick – because that’s what Legos are – bricks.
“Hey check out my brick! Whaddya think of that?” “Wow. Just like mine – only smaller.”
But the family of God isn’t like a single Lego brick. It takes a whole lot more than that to make the kind of family that God has in mind.
And it’s not like He just said, “Well, this is all I’ve got to work with, so I’ll just make the best of it and hope it doesn’t fall apart.
He designed us this way. He designed us to fit perfectly into His plan as a family that will glorify Him, with all our differences in mind.
I know what you’re thinking: you mean my weirdo brother-in-law, too? Yup. If he’s a believer in Jesus. I know – it doesn’t seem possible, but with God, even that is possible, folks.
God has designed His family to be built up in a way that brings Him glory. One of the benefits of being part of that family is that we get to be part of that wonderful design.
WHO ARE THOSE MASKED MEN?
Some of you would have no idea of who I am talking about when I speak of the LONE RANGER. He is way before your time and he doesn't fit into our culture anymore. Pity. He had a strict moral code and even the actor, Clayton Moore, was a great ROLE MODEL for children.
Actually, the Lone Ranger was rarely alone. He hung around with his Indian sidekick Tonto). He rode a WHITE STALLION (I never liked the white stallion as much as Zorro's Tornado. I guess I liked the black look. I still wear black, but without the cape and mask. They seem to suit Antonio Banderas better).
Anyway, the Lone Ranger would be introduced each episode with the tune of the WILLIAM TELL OVERTURE (then Robin Hood got in on the act and used the same theme music). Towards the end of each episode, as the Lone Ranger galloped away towards the sunset, he would shout to his stallion "Hi-yo, Silver, away!" No-one ever asked what "HI-YO" meant or why he said it, but this was inevitably followed by someone asking "Who was that masked man, anyway?"
And that's the question I find myself asking when I get to Genesis 18. Abraham meets with 3 men with SECRET IDENTITIES. He doesn't even ask them who they are? All we know is that they are more powerful than either Zorro or the Lone Ranger and their theme tune would more appropriately be HANDEL'S MESSIAH.
Genesis 18:1-2 (NLT) mysteriously speaks of 3 men who visit Abraham. WHO ARE THESE MASKED MEN? (OK, so they are not wearing literal masks but they're real identities are masked from us. Who are they?) I know that One of them is the Lord Himself in human form from later on in the passage, but WHY THREE? The Lord and two angels? The Lord and two prophets? The Trinity in human form? Did the Lord need witnesses concerning the promises He was about to make with Abraham and then the judgment He inflicted on Sodom?
This is all a bit weird and Abraham starts to act even more weird, bowing down, washing their feet, feeding them and waiting on them like a servant before he even asks them who they are and what they are doing here. Even then he doesn't ask the questions I am dying to ask. He had to be interested, surely?
The visitors seem more interested in asking the questions and after Abraham waits on them like a servant and provides a barbeque lunch, they ignore him and ask about his wife, calling her by name (Genesis 18:9). How did they know Abraham's wife was Sarah? And why are they so interested in his wife anyway?
Then comes the bombshell!
In Genesis 18:10 one of them says, "I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!" Now this is a nice positive word to leave with a couple to encourage them when they have been trying to have a child, but it's a bit cruel to say to a couple who are BEYOND CHILD BEARING AGE and have always wanted children of their own. They don't know Abraham's wife. SHE IS 90 YEARS OLD! Abraham himself is certainly no spring chicken!
"Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. ... she laughed silently to herself..." (Genesis 18:12). I mentioned this story to some women in their 90's the other day (I work in an aged care facility) and THEY LAUGHED TOO!
In 2006 CBS News reported on a 62-year-old woman, Janise Wulf, who "gave birth to a healthy 6-pound, 9-ounce baby boy, becoming one of the oldest women in the world to successfully bear a child." CBS didn't mention Sarah.
In Genesis 18:14 the Lord says, "IS ANYTHING TOO HARD FOR THE LORD?"
The answer to that question is "NO." It is the most important question in the Bible in a way. It needed to be answered by Sarah as she took a step of faith in believing God. It's a more important question than "WHO WERE THOSE MASKED MEN, ANYWAY?" or "How did they hear Sarah laugh? Why did they eat a meal if they are angels?" and all the other questions I have about that passage. When it all comes down to it, the really important thing I need to decide about the Lord is whether He is TOTALLY ABLE to direct my life or not. When I get that right then I have acknowledged that Jesus Christ is Lord of my life.
An undertaker ask a local new minister to preach a funeral for a person of no friends, money, or known relatives. The funeral director felt so bad already at the cheap coffin. The new minister responded gladly. The directions were vague and 8 miles into a wooded area and set for 2pm. Panically, at 2:45, after being lost for .45 minutes, the young minister finally sees two men leaning over their shovel handles near a hole and taking a break. He thought this must be it, so it runs over to the hole and begans to say a few words, til one man said "AMEN". the young minister feeling proud, begin to preach vigorously. The 2nd man said "PREACH IT BROTHER". Finally after about 30 minutes of hard preaching, the young preacher felt so proud and was walking away. One of the men stopped him an...
I adapted this story from a Patrick McManus tale: I don’t know about you but I have a worry box. I have this theory that people possess a certain capacity for worry, no more, no less. It’s as though a person has this little box that he feels compelled to keep filled with worries. When one worry disappears, he immediately replaces it with another worry, so the box is always full. He is never short of worries. If a new crop of worries comes in, the person sorts through the box for lesser worries and kicks them out, until he has enough room for the new worries. The lesser worries just lie around on the floor, until there is room in the box for them again, and then they are put back in. Their welcomed by the worries that have been in the box all the time: “Hi guys! Good to have you back. Boy, you should have seen the duds that just left. And they had the nerve to call themselves worries!”
I have a very large worry box. My wife is one of the major suppliers of worries.
“What did you do with the checkbook?” She asks me. The CHECKBOOK! Is that monster loose again? I imagine at that very moment an escaped convict is picking it up off the sidewalk. Maybe he will forge my name and deplete our checking account of every last penny and after he has exhausted all our funds buying dope, he will come to our house, because the address is on checks, and he and I will grapple with each other and he will pull a knife and . . . . . !
“Oh,” Teresa will say, “here’s the checkbook in my lab coat pocket. Silly me! Now what’s wrong with you?” “Nothing,” I say, booting out that worry out of my worry box, at least until the next time she asks, “What did you do with that checkbook?”
Her telephone technique is specifically designed to worry me too. The phone rings. She picks it up. “Hello . . . . Yes. . . . . . .NO!!!! [Me: One of the kids has done something bad.] Oh my!! How bad? [Me: It’s real bad. Otherwise the police wouldn’t be calling.] You just never expect these things to happen to you. [Me: I do.] When can we see him?” [Me: Only during visiting hours, when he will be wearing a full body cast.]
“So what is it now?” I ask, steeling myself to deal with the horrible emergency. “Dollar Bill’s Garage. Larry said that he fixed the car’s oil leak with a thirty-five-cent part. What’s funny is that to install it, he had to totally disassemble the car. Isn’t that amazing, just a thirty-five-cent part? How lucky can you get. By the way, Larry wants to talk to you about something when he has a chance.” Larry the Mechanic wants to talk to me? I know what he wants. He wants my house in exchange for totally disassembling my car, that’s what he wants. We’re about to join the ranks of the homeless.
You see from this example that the old worry about the kid is immediately replaced by a new worry about becoming homeless. I used to pity the homeless; now I am one. And so on. The worry box is wonderfully efficient and always is kept exactly full.
Worry even has a way of invading my sleep time. It’s late. The lights are out. The ceiling fan is running with that calming BAP, BAP, BAP, BAP. The air conditioner is humming quietly. I am entering that delightful land of nod, when my wife suddenly brings from my peaceful slumber with, “Was that you?” “Nope probably the dishwasher.” “I mean the snuffling.” “I don’t think so,” I answer, trying to recall the characteristics of a snuffle. She says, “Oh well, go to sleep, it was probably just my imagination.” Yeah, but maybe not. Maybe something did snuffle. Maybe it was a bird outside in the tree by the window that snuffled, but birds don’t snuffle they chirp. Squirrels are too small to snuffle. Something would have to be pretty big to snuffle. Actually the only animal that I know that makes a true snuffle is an alligator. There is an alligator which has gotten out of the pond across the road from my house. It being hot and all, he can’t seem to get enough to eat, and now has gotten into my bedroom and is snuffling under the bed waiting to attack me when I finally go to sleep.
Now notice something. It is an interesting part of my worry theory. Up to the point that Teresa mentions snuffles, my worry box is neatly layered with worries about my children, work, money, illness, poverty, pestilence, environment, war, the checkbook, famine, each patiently waiting for it’s turn for my attention. But the instant the snuffle is mentioned, and it’s source is identified as ALLIGATORS, all those other worries are blasted right out of the box by sudden inflation of the snuffle worry. War, poverty, pestilence–why, they couldn’t even be shoehorned back into my worry box, it’s packed so tight with snuffle.
As with most of my worries, the snuffle turned out to be nothing.
There’s a story about a wealthy Christian who somehow got obsessed with the idea of taking some of his wealth to heaven. Now he knew the Bible clearly teaches that you can’t take it with you. But so obsessed was he with this desire that he just prayed & prayed & prayed that God would give him permission to take some of his wealth to heaven with him.
Finally, his persistence in prayer paid off. God spoke to him & said, "Okay, enough all ready! You can take one suitcase with you into heaven."
Well, the story continues with the man deep in thought, "What do I take? What are the most valuable things that I can put into my suitcase?"
Well, he finally decided, & filled his suitcase full. Then one day he died, & when next we see him, he is slowly approaching the pearly gates dragging his suitcase behind him.
St. Peter met him there at the gate & said, "Wait a minute. What do you think you’re doing? You’re not allowed to take anything into heaven." The man answered, "You don’t understand. I have special permission from God Himself to take this suitcase into heaven."
Peter rubbed his beard & said, "Well, that’s very unusual. I can’t imagine God ...
HUGGING THE ENEMY
Barbara Brown Taylor tells the story of her nephew Will’s first birthday party. The family was gathered around for the usual traditions of birthdays, the cake. And the presents. Will let them know how pleased he was by doing his new dance-a slow twirling movement that he had invented several days before with lots of fancy arm work.
The whole family was circled around Will, admiring his dance when little cousin Jason couldn’t stand it any more. He charged through the circle, put both hands on Will’s chest, and shoved. Will fell hard, hitting his rear end first, and then his head, with a crack. He looked utterly surprised, and then let out a howl of pain. His mother hugged him, and helped him to his feet, and he calmed down. The first thing Will did was to totter over to Jason. He knew Jason was at the bottom of this thing, only since no one had ever done something like this to him before, he didn’t know what the thing was. So he did what he had always done. He put his arms around Jason and lay his head against the mean little boy’s chest.
Taylor says, "at that moment all my Christian conviction went right out the door. I will buy him a BB gun for his next birthday," she thought. "Iron knuckles. A karate video for toddlers. It just about killed me to think how this sweet child would have to learn to d...