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I want to read to you the opening story from David Platt's book "The Radical Question" (Multnomah Press).
Imagine a scene that took place in Asia not so long ago:
A room in an ordinary house, dimly lit, all the blinds on the windows closed. Twenty leaders from churches in the region sit quietly in a circle on the floor, their Bibles open. They speak in hushed tones or not at all. Some still glisten with sweat; others' clothes and shoes are noticeably dusty. They have been walking or riding bicycles since early morning when they left distant villages to get here.
Whenever a knock is heard or a suspicious sound drifts in, everyone freezes while a burly tough-looking man gets up to check things out.
These men and woman have gathered in secret, arriving intentionally at different times throughout the day so as not to draw attention. In this country it is illegal for Christians to come together like this. If caught, the people here could lose their land, their jobs, their families, even their lives.
I was in that dimly light room that day, a visitor from America. I huddled next to an interpreter, who helped me understand their stories as they began to share.
The tough-looking man--our "head of security"--was first to speak up. But as he spoke, his intimidating appearance quickly gave way to reveal a tender heart.
"Some of the people in my church have been pulled away by a cult," he said. Tears welled up in his eyes. "We are hurting. I need God's grace to lead my church through these attacks."
The cult that had been preying on his church is known for kidnapping Christians, taking them to isolated locations, and torturing them, my interpreter explained. Many brothers and sisters in the area would never tell the good news again. At least not with words. Their tongues had been cut out.
"Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, "Enthusiastic Admirer" isn’t an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them." Kyle Idleman "Not a Fan" p. 25
Peggy Noonan, speech writer for Ronald Reagan, relates a story about Frances Green, an eighty-three-year old woman who lived by herself on Social Security in a town just outside of San Francisco, California. Peggy was very poor, but for eight years she had been sending one dollar a year to the Republic National Convention. One day Frances got an RNC fund raising letter inviting the recipient to come to the White house to meet President Ronald Reagan. She never noticed the little RSVP card that suggested a positive reply that needed to be accompanied by a generous donation. She thought she had been invited because they appreciated her dollar-a-year support. Frances scraped up every extra cent she had and took a four day train ride across America. Unable to afford a sleeper, she slept sitting up in the coach. Finally, this little elderly woman with white hair, white stockings, an old hat with white netting and an all white dress arrived at the White House. When she walked up to the entrance of where the grand event was to be held she gave her name to the guard. He informed Frances that her name was not on the list. She could not go in. A Ford Motor company executive who was standing in line behind Frances watched and listened to the little scenario. Realizing something was wrong, he pulled Frances aside and got her story. He asked her to return the next day at 9:00 A.M.. Frances agreed. This executive of Ford Motor Company made contact with Anne Higgins, a presidential aide, and got clearance to give Frances a tour of the White House and if possible introduce her to the president. The next day was anything but calm and easy at the White House. Ed Meese had just resigned and there had been a military uprising abroad. President Reagan was in and out of high-level secret sessions. Never-the-less, Frances Green showed up right on time with full expectation and enthusiasm. An executive met her and gave her a personal tour of the White House, then quietly led her to the Oval Office. Members of the National Security Council came in and out while high-ranking generals were coming and going. President Ronald Reagan glanced out of his office and saw Frances, patiently waiting. With a smile President Ronald Reagan motioned for her to come into the office. As Frances entered, President Reagan rose from his desk, invited her to sit down. They talked about her town and family and California. The president of the United States and the White House staff took time out of a very busy day to properly greet Frances Green.
One of America’s greatest poets is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The year 1860 found Longfellow happy in his life, enjoying a widening recognition, and elated over the election of Abraham Lincoln which he believed signaled the triumph of freedom and redemption for the nation.
The following year the Civil War began. On July 9, 1861 Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window sealing locks of her daughter’s hair, using hot sealing wax. Suddenly her dress caught fire and engulfed her with flames. Her husband, sleeping in the next room, was awaked by her screams. As he desperately tried to put out the fire and save his wife, he was severely burned on his face and hands.
Fanny died the next day. Longfellow’s severe burns would not even allow him to attend Fanny’s funeral. His white beard, which so identified with him, was one of the results of the tragedy – the burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible. In his diary for Christmas day 1861 he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”
In 1862 the toll of war dead began to mount and in his diary for that year Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.”
In 1863 his son who had run away to join the Union army was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.
But on Christmas Day 1864 – at age 57 – Longfellow sat down to try to capture, if possible, the joy of the season. He began:
I heard the bells on Christmas day.
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
As he came to the third stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, good will to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But...
Sermon Central Staff
2 Timothy 1:5-2:1
2 Timothy 1:5-1:8
1 Timothy 2:1-2:4
PRAYER AND PRESIDENT LINCOLN
A clergyman from New York, during a call on President Lincoln at the White House, said: "I have not come to ask any favors of you, Mr. President; I have only come to say that the loyal people of the North are sustaining you and will continue to do so. We are giving you all that we have, the lives of our sons as well as our confidence and our prayers. You must know that no boy’s father or mother ever kneels in prayer these days without asking God to give you strength and wisdom."
His eyes brimming with tears, Mr. Lincoln replied: "But for those prayers, I should have faltered and perhaps failed long ago. Tell every father and mother you know to keep on praying, and I will keep on fighting, for I know God is on our side."
As the clergyman started to leave the room, Mr. Lincoln held him by the hands and said: "I suppose I may consider this as sort of a pastoral call?"
"Yes," replied the clergyman.
"Out in our country," replied Lincoln, "when a parson makes a pastoral call, it was always the custom for the folks to ask him to lead in prayer, and I should like to ask you to pray with me today. Pray that I may have the strength and the wisdom."
The two men knelt side by side, and the clergyman offered the most fervent plea to Almighty God that ever fell from his lips. As they arose, the President clasped his visitor’s hand and remarked in a satisfied sort of way: "I feel better."
(From a sermon by George Bannister, Praying For America, 7/1/2010)
Joe La Rue
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EINSTEIN AND EMMY
When Einstein fled Nazi Germany, he came to America and bought an old two-story house within walking distance of Princeton University. There he entertained some of the most distinguished people of his day and discussed with them issues as far ranging as physics to human rights.
But Einstein had another frequent visitor. She was not, in the world’s eyes, an important person like his other guests. She was a ten-year-old girl named Emmy. Emmy heard that a very kind man who knew a lot about mathematics had moved into her neighborhood. Since she was having trouble with her fifth-grade arithmetic, she decided to visit the man down the block and see if he would help her with her problems. Einstein was very willing and explained everything to her so that she could understand it. He also told her she was welcome to come anytime she needed help.
A few weeks later, one of the neighbors told Emmy’s mother that Emmy was often seen entering the house of the world-famous physicist. Horrified, she told her daughter that Einstein was a very important man, whose time was very valuable, and he couldn’t be bothered with the problems of a little schoolgirl. And then she rushed over to Einstein’s house, and when Einstein answered the door, she started trying to blurt out an apology for her daughter’s intrusion – for being such a bother. But Einstein cut her off. He said, “She has not been bothering me! When a child finds such joy in learning, then it is my joy to help her learn! Please don’t stop Emmy from coming to me with her school problems. She is welcome in this house anytime.”
(Peter Kennedy, Copyright 2000, Devotional E-Mail, “It Is His Joy” (located at http://www.geocities.com/palmercog/joydevo.html) (last visited April 22, 2008)).
And that’s how it is with God! From it’s very opening pages, all the way to the end of the book, the Bible is a story about how God has pursued us with an unchanging and unquenchable and UNDESERVED love, because he wants us to come to his house! And we do that in this life through prayer! It’s an amazing privilege.
MOODY'S SERVANT'S HEART
A large group of European pastors came to one of D. L. Moody’s Northfield Bible Conferences in Massachusetts in the late 1800s. Following the European custom of the time, each guest put his shoes outside his room to be cleaned by the hall servants overnight. But of course this was America and there were no hall servants.
Walking the dormitory halls that night, Moody saw the shoes and determined not to embarrass his brothers. He mentioned the need to some ministerial students who were there, but met with only silence or pious excuses. Moody returned to the dorm, gathered up the shoes, and, alone in his room, the world’s only famous evangelist began to clean and polish the shoes. Only the unexpected arrival of a friend in the midst of the work revealed the secret.
When the foreign visitors opened their doors the next morning, their shoes were shined. They never know by whom. Moody told no one, but his friend told a few people, and during the rest of the conference, different men volunteered to shine the shoes in secret. Perhaps the episode is a vital insight into why God used D. L. Moody as He did. He was a man with a servant’s heart and that was the basis of his true greatness.
[Gary Inrig, A Call to Excellence, (Victor Books, a division of SP Publ., Wheaton, Ill; 1985), p. 98]
THE POWER OF GIVING THANKS
Something to reflect on as you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner:
If you had been a Pilgrim, would you have given thanks?
Consider what they had been through, the men and women who broke bread together on that first Thanksgiving in 1621.
They had uprooted themselves and sailed for America, an endeavor so hazardous that published guides advised travelers to the New World, "First, make thy will." The crossing was very rough and the Mayflower was blown off course. Instead of reaching Virginia, where Englishmen had settled 13 years earlier, the Pilgrims ended up in the wilds of Massachusetts. By the time they found a place to make their new home - Plymouth, they called it - winter had set in.
The storms were frightful. Shelter was rudimentary. There was little food. Within weeks, nearly all the settlers were sick.
"That which was most sad and lamentable," Governor William Bradford later recalled, "was that in two or three months’ time, half of their company died, especially in January and February, being the depth of winter, and wanting houses and other comforts; being infected with the scurvy and other diseases.... There died sometimes two or three of a day."
When spring came, Indians showed them how to plant corn, but their first crops were dismal. Supplies ran out, but their sponsors in London refused t...
Sermon Central Staff
THE HARVEST IS RIPE
The Harvest is ripe -- Here's proof:
Wycliffe: Vision 2025
Translation projects started in every language on the planet by 2025.
In "The Faith Equation," Dr. Marvin Bittinger, Professor of Mathematics at Purdue University and author of over 175 college math textbooks, claims that by 2033 every person on the planet capable of understanding the gospel will have been presented the gospel, according to modern evangelism trends.
34,000 converts each day in South America
28-37,000 Chinese converts daily
23-25,000 African converts daily
16,000 Muslims come to Christ daily - the following stories are all quoted.
"In December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad al Qataani, a leading Saudi cleric, appeared on a live interview on Aljazeera satellite television to confirm that, sure enough, Muslims were turning to Jesus in alarming numbers. "In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity," Al Qataani warned. "Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity." Stunned, the interviewer interrupted the cleric. "Hold on! Let me clarify. Do we have six million converting from Islam to Christianity?" Al Qataani repeated his assertion. "Every year," the cleric confirmed, adding, "a tragedy has happened."
Stories from Muslim countries: Iraq -- thousands of new Christians since Saddam was overthrown, many new churches started, Egypt -- some reports say 1 million Egyptians have trusted Christ over the past decade or so. The Egyptian Bible Society used to sell about 3,000 copies of the JESUS film a year in the early 1990s. But last year they sold 600,000 copies, plus 750,000 copies of the Bible on tape (in Arabic) and about a half million copies of the Arabic New Testament. The largest Christian congregation in the Middle East, meets in an enormous cave on the outskirts of Cairo. Some 10,000 believers worship there every weekend. A prayer conference the church held in May 2005 drew some 20,000 believers, Afghanistan -- only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000, Kazakstan -- only 3 known Christians in 1990, but now more than 15,000, Sudan -- more than 1 million Sudanese have converted to Christianity just since 2000, and some 5 million have become Christians since the early 1990s, despite a radical Islamic regime and an on-going genocide that has killed more than 200,000.
Seminaries are being held in caves to train pastors to shepherd the huge numbers of people coming to Christ. Why such a dramatic spiritual awakening? "People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead," one Sudanese evangelical leader said, Iran -- in 1979, there were only 500 known Muslim converts to Christianity, but today Iranian pastors and evangelical leaders say there are more than 1 million Iranian believers in Jesus Christ, most of whom meet in underground house churches. One of the most dramatic developments is that many Muslims are seeing dreams and visions of Jesus and thus coming into churches explaining that they have already converted and now need a Bible and guidance on how to follow Jesus."
Worldwide: 174,000 converts daily -- David B. Barret and Todd M. Johnson of the Global Evangelism Movement.
This is truly the most exciting time in all of history to be alive and a part of His Great Commission. The opportunity has never been more dramatic and the need has never been so huge:
All of history has built up to this point.
Global impact in your hometown.
Transportation and communication impacts.
Current end time events.
Israel, wars and other events.
The 4th qtr., bottom of the 9th, the end-game.
(From a sermon by Nate Herbst, The Great Commision -- Discussion, 11/21/2009)
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FREEDOM HAS A COST
At the dramatic conclusion of the musical, Camelot, the tragic figure of King Arthur calls a boy named Tom out of the bushes. Arthur dubs the boy a "Knight of the Round Table," but orders him not to fight in the battle. He is to "grow up and grow strong" in order to tell of the ideals and accomplishments of Camelot, so future generations would remember.
A similar scene takes place in the graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 (recently released as a feature film). One of the Spartans has lost an eye, so Leonidas sends him back to tell the citizens to "Remember us!" as the dying heroes’ way of saying that "Freedom has a cost." Of course, Miller was kinder to Aristodemus than Herodotus was-—the Greek historian noting that Aristodemus was considered a "craven," a coward, until he redeemed himself at the Battle of Plataea.
Today is Memorial Day weekend. For some, it has little meaning other than a day off and the running of the Indianapolis 500. Yet, the origin of the day began with remembering the dead in the War of Northern Aggression-—the women of Pennsylvania who decorated Union graves in August of 1864, the women of Virginia who decorated Confederate graves in April of 1865, and the women of Columbus, MS who decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate dead-—prompting Horace Greeley’s editorial and the subsequent events which called for national observance of such memorials. This day reminds us of all our war dead, hence that freedom has a cost.
(From a sermon by Johnny Wilson, "Never Forget What’s Important")