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One day Hudson Taylor was traveling on a Chinese junk from Shanghai to Ningpo. He had been witnessing to a man named Peter who rejected the gospel but was under deep conviction. In the course of events, Peter fell overboard, but no one made any effort to save him. Taylor sprang to the mast, let down the sail, and jumped overboard in hopes of finding his friend. But no one on board joined Taylor in his frantic search. Taylor saw a fishing boat nearby and yelled to them to help, but they wouldn't do it without money. Finally, after bartering for every penny that Taylor had, the fishermen stopped their fishing and began to look for Peter. In less than a minute of dragging their net, they found him, but it was too late. They were too busy fishing to care about saving a drowning man.
We can easily condemn the selfish indifference of those fishermen, but by indicting them, we may condemn ourselves. Are we too busy with our jobs and other activities to take the time to rescue those who are perishing without Christ?
(Kenneth Cole, The Crucial Message. From a sermon by Gerald Flury, Why Are You Standing Around? 8/16/2012)
THE LIGHT OF HOPE
As Craig T. Kocher in his commentary on our text states, "Christian hope is fundamentally different from optimism. Christian hope locks its steely eyes on the devastation of the world around it, and readily acknowledges that things may not get better. Christian hope does not bury its heat in Yule-tide cheer and artificial lights, but like an Advent wreath glowing stronger and brighter each week, this hope pushes its way into the brokenness of the world clearing a path in the wilderness so the true light might burst into the darkness."
Kocher then goes on to cite a story told by Tom Long, about a rabbi Hugo Grynn, who was sent to Auschwitz as a little boy. In the midst of the concentration camp, in the midst of the death and horror all around them, many Jews held onto whatever shreds of their religious observances they could, without drawing the ire of the guards. One cold winter's evening, Hugo's father gathered the family in the barracks. It was the first night of Hanukkah, the Jewish Feast of Lights.
The young child watched in horror as his father took the family's last pad of butter and made a makeshift candle, using a string from his ragged clothes. He then took a match and lit the candle. "Father, no!" Hugo cried. "That butter is our last bit of food! How will we survive?"
"We can live for many days without food," his father said. "We can not live a single minute without faith and hope. This is the fire of hope. Never let it go out. Not here! Not anywhere!" [Pulpit Resource, Logos Productions, Inc, 2005]
From Ronald Harbaugh's Sermon "John the Baptizer Points to the Light that Shines in Our Darkened World"
NOT MY JOB
The names in this story have been changed out of respect for their privacy. Julie W told her family's story in a magazine article.
[My daughter], Allison, came home for the weekend. She opened the door, didn't speak, and dropped her duffel bag. Smudges of mascara circled her eyes. I whispered a "God-please-no" prayer.
"Come tell me about your classes." I patted the sofa. She muttered,
"Gotta take a shower."
As she clomped upstairs, I analyzed the recent changes in her: complaints of not having any money, rarely answers the phone, weight loss, pinpoint pupils, and a "who gives a rip" [facade]. I searched her purse and found a leopard-colored pipe and the unmistakable sweet odor of pot. My heart fluttered wildly like a bird stuck inside my chest.
She plodded down the stairs, hair in a towel, wearing the same wrinkled clothes. Be still and talk in a sweet voice, I told myself. You must convince her to stop. "We need to talk, honey."
"Not now. I'm tired."
"I found your pipe."
She stared at me with death-row eyes. "Chill, it's not that big of a deal."
The tightness in the den suffocated me. I needed air. "Want to walk?" I asked brightly. "Like we used to?"
I knew I could talk some sense into her. "Honey, please. You've gotta stop." I grabbed her hand.
"Mom!" She jerked away.
"We have a strong family history. You don't want to..."
I never got to finish the sentence. Allison stormed out of the room and within minutes was headed back to college. I knew what I had to do--abandon everything in my life and start to worry/fix/control full-time.
I began spending most days by the phone. I evaluated Allison's reactions, gestures, and comments. Thoughts circled my mind like buzzards: What if she never stops? What if I never see her again? What if she overdoses? Or goes to jail?
I lured Allison into therapy by promising we'd go to an Italian restaurant before visits. Her first appointment day arrived. She played with her spaghetti, and I couldn't eat. "So, what do you plan to say to the counselor?" I asked.
"How should I know?"
When they called her name at the office, I hurried in to make sure the counselor understood. Allison refused to sign for me to have any information. I considered eavesdropping, but too many people were around. An hour later, she walked past me as I paid.
"What'd you talk about?"
Our therapy/lunch charade continued that way for a few weeks. Then Allison's sister informed me she was still using. She denied it, refused to see the counselor, dropped out of college, and stopped answering my calls.
I was convinced if I forgot about Allison, even for a second, or enjoyed anything, something bad might happen. Several months later, after another night of little sleep, I glanced in the mirror. I could have passed for the addict: dark circles under hopeless eyes.
I called my friend Linda. Her son, also an addict, had been sentenced to state prison. "You can't imagine all that's going on here," I said.
"Come over for coffee," she urged.
I wanted to stand guard at home but knew she'd listen and understand.
"Hey, girlfriend." Linda hugged me. I didn't touch my coffee as I blurted the saga. Linda didn't sweet-talk. "You need help."
"You haven't heard the whole story," I argued. "I'm fine--my daughter, she needs help."
"You're addicted to worry and control," Linda said. "I've been where you are." She stretched out on the sofa. "The only one you can control is yourself."
The possibility that she might be right terrified me. "It took me years to realize that I'm not in charge. God is," Linda admitted. "By worrying, you're telling God he can't handle things. Go to Al-Anon with me." I'd heard of Al-Anon but didn't see how it applied to me. But I agreed because I was in awe of Linda.
I didn't open my mouth during the meeting. Every word spoken sounded like my own thoughts:
"I worried myself sick about my alcoholic husband."
"My peace comes only when I let go and let God."
Then the speaker said, "To change, you'll have to leave behind some familiar lifelong habits." But how? This is who I am--what I do. "An alcoholic can't drink, and those of us in this room can't allow an ounce of worry. For us, it's every bit as dangerous and addictive. Worry robs our serenity."
I didn't think change was possible. Not for me. But I knew one thing for sure--I was destroying my life. That night at home I got real. "Help me, God. I can't do this without you." I began to ask God for help each morning. I whispered, "Not my job," as worry, fear, or control tried to needle back in.
Two years after that first Al-Anon meeting, Allison and I met for an impromptu lunch. She'd gone back to the same therapist. On her own.
"You can't imagine how easy it is to study when you're not high," she laughed.
"Nope, I guess not." I blinked back happy tears.
"When you didn't fix my problems, it scared me. A few times I had to dig change out of the seat of my car for gas money. Some days," she paused, "I didn't have food." My throat felt warm with pride. She'd done it on her own. "I'm making A's. And look," she handed me her checkbook. "I have money again."
Recovery defies logic. It means doing the opposite of what feels natural. When I took care of myself and my addictions, Allison did the same.
Citation: Condensed from our sister publication Today's Christian,© 2008 Christianity Today International Julie W., "Not My Job," Today's Christian (July/August 2008)
Everyone needs a hero. For the mother who told this story it was her friend, Linda. Then she turned to God as her ultimate hero. We all could do with someone to help us work through our troubles. We need a victorious warrior to fight our battles. No one knows that better than God himself.
From Mark Haines' Sermon "Our Mighty God"
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.
I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...
READ THE STORY ABOUT A CITY SLICKER WHO WAS VISITING RELATIVES ON A FARM AND THE FARMER GAVE A WHISTLE AND HIS DOG HERDED THE CATTLE INTO THE CORRAL, THEN LATCHED THE GATE WITH HER PAW. "WOW, THAT’S SOME DOG. WHAT’S HER NAME?" SAID THE CITY BOY. B. THE FORGETFUL FARMER THOUGHT A MINUTE, THEN ASKED, "WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT RED FLOWER THAT SMELLS GOOD AND HAS THORNS ON THE STEM?" "A ROSE?" "THAT’S IT" C. THE FARMER TURNED TO HIS WIFE AND SAID, "HEY ROSE, WHAT DO WE CALL THIS DOG?" D. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE HUMANS CAN BE VERY FORGETFUL, SO WHAT IS YOUR WORST FORGETFUL MOMENT? ONE DAY AFTER ALBERT EINSTEIN HAD MOVED TO HIS HOME AT THE INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY IN PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY, THE TELEPHONE RANG IN THE OFFICE OF THE DEAN OF THE PRINCETON GRADUATE SCHOOL AND THE VOICE AT THE OTHER END INQUIRED: "MAY I SPEAK WITH DR. EINSTEIN, PLEASE?" G. ADVISED THAT HE WAS NOT IN, THE VOICE CONTINUED: "PERHAPS THEN YOU WILL TELL ME WHERE DR. EINSTEIN LIVES." H. THE SECRETARY REPLIED THAT SHE COULD NOT DO THIS, SINCE DR. EINSTEIN WISHED TO HAVE HIS PRIVACY RESPECTED. I. THE VOICE ON THE TELEPHONE DROPPED TO A WHISPER: "PLEASE DON’T TELL ANYONE, BUT I AM DR. EINSTEIN. I AM ON MY WAY HOME, AND HAVE FORGOTTEN WHERE MY HOUSE IS"
"The minute the bankruptcy is over, the high-risk lenders inundate them with credit applications," says Charles Juntikka, a bankruptcy attorney in New York. Some credit-card companies love lending to post-bankruptcy people because they know you can’t file Chapter 7 again for six years, and "many people have been so traumatized by what happened, when they get the credit, their on-time payment records are better than people who haven’t declared bankruptcy," says Juntikka.
If 99.9 percent is good enough, then...
- Two million documents will be lost by the IRS this year.
- 811,000 faulty rolls of 35mm film will be loaded this year.
- 22,000 checks will be deducted from the wrong bank accounts in the next 60 minutes.
- 1,314 phone calls will be misplaced by telecommunication services every minute.
- 12 babies will be given to the wrong parents each day.
- 268,500 defective tires will be shipped this year.
- 14,208 defective personal computers will be shipped this year.
- 103,260 income tax returns will be process incorrectly this year.
- 2,488,200 books will be shipped in the next 12 months with the wrong cover.
- 5,517,200 cases of soft drinks produced in the next 12 months will be flatter than a bad tire.
- Two plane landings daily at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago will be unsafe.
- 3,056 copies of tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal will be missing one of the three sections.
- 18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled in the next hour.
- 291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly this year.
- 880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect cardholder information on their magnetic strips.
- $9,690 will be spent today, tomorrow, next Thursday, and every day in the future on defective, often unsafe sporting equipment.
- 55 malfunction automatic teller machines will be installed in the next 12 months.
- 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written in the next 12 months.
- 114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped this year.
- $761,900 will be spent in the next 12 months on tapes and compact discs that won’t play.
- 107 incorrect medical procedures will be performed by the end of the day today.
- 315 entries in Webster’s Third New International Dictionary of the English Language will turn out to be misspelled.
InSight, Syncrude Canada Ltd., Communications Division Communicator, p. 6.
Survivor Eva Hart remembers the night, April 15, 1912, on which the Titanic plunged 12,000 feet to the Atlantic floor, some two hours and forty minutes after an iceberg tore a 300-foot gash in the starboard side: "I saw all the horror of its sinking, and I heard, even more dreadful, the cries of drowning people."
Although twenty life-boats and rafts were launched-too few and only partly filled-most of the passengers ended up struggling in the icy seas while those in the boats waited a safe distance away.
Lifeboat No. 14 did row back to the scene after the unsinkable ship slipped from sight at 2:20 A.m. Alone, it chased cries in the darkness, seeking and saving a precious few. Incredibly, no other boat joined it.
Some were already overloaded, but in virtually every other boat, those already saved rowed their half-filled boats aimlessly in the night, listening to the cries of the lost. Each feared a crush of unknown swimmers w...
THE 100 THING CHALLENGE
Have you heard about the 100 Thing Challenge? It's a "grass-roots movement in which otherwise seemingly normal folks are pledging to whittle down their possessions to a mere 100 items." It was started by on-line entrepreneur Dave Bruno, who believes in this simple truth: "Stuff starts to overwhelm you."
You should set aside a few minutes to read the whole article. It's filled with interesting quotes and stories from folks who have taken on the challenge. I also found the section featuring professional organizer Julie Morgenstern to be engaging if only because of the acronym she lives by: SHED--"Separate the treasures, Heave the trash, Embrace your identity from within, and Drive yourself forward." Not sure I need to list for you the angles on this one, but here goes: materialism, consumerism, identity, the tension of treasures (earthly/kingdom). (From Preaching Today).
Some people are never happy. A Jewish lady's grandson is playing in the water, she is standing on the beach not wanting to get her feet wet, when all of a sudden, a huge wave appears from nowhere and crashes directly over the spot where the boy is wading.
The water recedes and the boy is no longer there. He simply vanished. She holds her hands to the sky, screams and cries, "Lord, how could you? Have I not been a wonderful mother and grandmother? Have I not given to Bnai Brith and Haddasah? Have I not tried my very best to live a life that you would be proud of?"
A few minutes later another huge wave appears out of nowhere and crashes on the beach. As the water recedes, the boy is standing there, smiling, splashing around as if nothing had ever happened. A loud voice booms from the sky, "Okay, okay, I have returned your grandson. Are you satisfied?"
She responds, "He had a hat." [http://www.haruth.com]