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VACANT HOMES, VACANT LIVES
TIFTON, GA ó The most interesting thing about Tifton is an abandoned Victorian house filled with thousands of bats. Tift County declared the once-elegant house in the townís historic district off limits after a bat specialist said that maybe 20,000 bats had moved in, apparently for good.
Now, teenagers call it the bat house. People talk about the smell, which is an unholy mix of animal urine and decaying wood. "In the summer, ooh, does that place reek," said Linda Turner, 69, a retired nurse and neighbor. "You ainít smelled nothing until you come back here on a hot day."
Brothers and Sisters, Iím not going to visit that bat house. WHAT A SIGHT AND WHAT A STINK IT MUST BE! Vacant houses get infiltrated with all kinds of creatures and probably not just bats. And many of these creatures make a mess, create a big stink, and eventually ruin that dwelling.
But it doesnít just happen with vacant houses, it also happens with vacant lives! If a person doesnít fill their life with good stuff, the bad stuff and sometimes, the evil stuff will move in and take over.
Whatís going on in your house? That is, the house you live in, the fleshly body you live in? Who has moved in? Who has taken over your residence and controlling your life? God wants us to stay clean in this world and that will only happen when we let Him move in, that is, when we fill our lives with worship, prayer and service.
Thy word have I hide in my heart that I might not sin against thee! Ps. 119:11. The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible!
(From a sermon by Steve Shepherd, Our Walk in This World, 4/4/2011)
THE TRUTH OF THE BOOK
John Ortberg states
"Itís a strange thing: the book has never been so accessible. According to Guinness Book of Records, L. Ron Hubbardís writings of scientology have been translated into 65 languages; the Koran is supposed to be read in Arabic so it hasnít been translated as much; the Book of Mormon is in about 100 languages. But 2,656 languages have all or some of the Bible. Some 65 million copies of the Bible are brought or distributed in the U.S. every year--nothing else is a close second. The average house has at least three. People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, own the Bible-they just donít actually read the Bible. According to George Gallup: One Third of those surveyed know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Fewer than half can name the first book of the Bible; 80 percent of born-again Christians believe the phrase Go helps those who help themselves is in the Bible (itís Ben Franklin, if youíre curious). So Iím thinking a lot these days about how to help the people that God brings my way to know and love the book" (Article People of The Book, pages 37-40 from Leadership Edition Winter 2008).
Dr. Larry Petton
THE FROZEN WATERFALL
The present day church in America appears to be mostly principle and very little power. We say the right things and believe the right things, but produce very little evidence to confirm what the Bible says. You might say that the modern church is much like a FROZEN WATERFALL. It has all the form and shape of its early days...but none of the movement!
Oh, that the fire of the Holy Spirit would come upon our churches, leaders and ministries and thaw us out!!
THE REFINER'S FIRE
The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study.
The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didnít mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes...
WHERE GOD IS
A man offered a little boy, who was returning from a Bible class, a dollar if he would show him where God is. The little boy responded, "Mister, Iíll give you a dollar if you will show me where God ainít!"
THE MARK OF JESUS
When I was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Levelland, there was a man in our church, the owner of a local business and a highly intentional Christian. The apostle Paul once said of himself that he bore "on [his] body the marks of Jesus" (Gal. 6:17). Well, this man bore the marks of Jesus on his life. His wife was the most annoying woman I have ever known. She was chronically ill, and her sickness had embittered her spirit. She demanded almost all of this man's time and energy, and she was never grateful for a single thing he did for her. She complained about life, and she complained about him. For his part -- I don't know how he did it -- but he remained gentle and serene, and he had the utmost patience with this woman. He never spoke ill of her. He never sighed under the burden of her criticism. He was truly a man of God. He had an intimacy with God that was not showy but nevertheless evident. If life had not rewarded him with outward happiness, he was deeply and inwardly joyful. God was his "portion," as the Bible says (e.g., Lam. 3:24; Ps. 16:5; 73:26), and he was satisfied.
How could he do this? How could he be so patient and kind and committed to the welfare of his wife despite her ingratitude? I'll tell you: he was in covenant with his wife, but he was also in covenant with God. And here's what I learned from him. This man partnered with God in his own process of sanctification. Now, let me tell you what I mean. This man's highest interest was not in being happy in some conventional way. No. Instead, the longing of his heart was to be the kind of person God wanted him to be. And God has to work on a person to make them like he wants them to be. And what this man did is: he yielded to God's program of overhaul in his life. God not infrequently uses suffering and adversity. How does the old hymn say it? "When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
That's what this man wanted. He wanted his dross consumed; he wanted his unloving tendencies to be burned in the fire of affliction if need be, and his gold refined, his character refashioned to be like that of his Lord, who "loved the church and gave himself up for her."
Ephesians 6.10-12 Especially, "schemes of the devil..."
Here Paul explains the realities of evil in this world. How different this is from popular ideas about evil. There is a comical view of evil -- the character who wears a red suit and carries a pitch fork. Then there is the Hollywood view of evil as we see in the Star Wars movies: Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and (for the serious Star Wars fans...) Darth Sidious. You can picture these figures dressed in black with haunting faces and piercing eyes. But is that a realistic picture of evil?
It is not. Evil is more likely to be found in comedians, actors, singers, politicians, or even pastors. St. Paul said, "Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light" (2 Corinthians 11.14). Evil is found wherever we are led away from God.
Paul also speaks about the "schemes of the devil." The Greek word is "methodia" or the "methods" of the devil. What are these? Probably the most important is that of deception. The word "devil" means "deceiver." He is so adept at this that he is not at all afraid to use the Bible. In fact that is one of his favorite schemes. In the Garden of Eden he tempted Adam and Eve beginning with God's word and causing them to doubt it and finally to disobey it. In the wilderness he tried to tempt Jesus by quoting Scripture.
AN EASTER PARABLE: EDITH EASTER
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns. One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns.
When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.
Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved. Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Beverly said, "Why yes I do." Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?" Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up." Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room."
After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?" Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the patient." With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you're not going to live very long." Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!" Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!"
Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter."
Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you." Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won't work. I'm not interested." Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.
Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I'm praying for you." One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day." Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, 'Do you believe in Easter?' but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked..."
Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis Cross said, "Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, s...
FALLEN HUMAN NATURE
The fate of the women from Judges 19 touches the most troubling question of our modern time. Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel describe the most traumatic memory of his life, a scene from the year 1945, when he and his family were sent to the concentration camp by the German military machine:
'As the sea of people drifts by I see for the last time a mother and her little daughter, ghostly silent and introverted,' wrote Wiesel. 'I see them walk away, hand in hand, closely entwined. I will continue seeing them in my mind's eye as long as I live, how they disappear.'
The mother was his mother, too, and the daughter was his little sister, disappearing from view and forever lost to him in the extermination camp at Auschwitz. He, too, had experienced at first hand God's inaction in the face of injustice and His apparent indifference to human suffering.
'The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful, was silent' he protested in his book, The Night. He expressed the feelings of countless defenseless victims who pleaded for a hand to intervene and deliver them from the evil they did not have the means to escape.
To find the story from Judges 19 in a book that is supposed to tell about God, suggests that the Bible presents the evidence fairly and in an unbiased manner. During a long, chilly night in the hills of Judaea, a young woman was deserted by her husband and sexually abused to death by people who had been chosen from among the nations of the world to safeguard a knowledge of God. Itís a story of our fallen human nature, a story revealing what people who chased away the presence of the Holy Spirit, can become. BeastsÖ
In today's world of Smart Phones, tablets and instant Internet access, there are many things that we can "know." If someone asks the questions, "how long is the Verrazano Bridge," a nimble person with a 4 G connection and an Iphone can ask Siri, "How long is the Verrazano Bridge," and they will get an almost instantaneous response. But if we had sitting here an 85 year old retired construction worker that spent 2 years of his life building the Verrazano bridge in his 20s we would get the right information, but we would also get it with great passion.
That's what it means to "know Christ and the power of his resurrection." It involves much more than repeating facts concerning Christ or the Bible. Knowing Christ is an intimate relationship with Him that changes your life.