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So if the kingdom of heaven is so valuable, why doesnít everybody do everything they can to be a part of it? I think itís because value is often in the eye of the beholder. What has value and what doesnít is really up to personal interpretation. What some people think are valuable have no value at all to others. Several years ago I used to heat our house with wood. Every fall I would go out and cut wood with my friend Roger Raether and Bob Bosma. I never liked cutting wood because it was a lot of back breaking work but I liked the price. It was free except for the labor so we would take a Saturday here and there in the fall to cut wood and pile it up for the winter. In addition to cutting wood I used to get the wood scraps from a store called ďThe Wooden Bird.Ē They make beautiful hand carved bird decoys and animal decoys out of wood. Every decoy costs from 50 to 250 bucks and they are really nice decorative pieces to put on the mantle. Their shop used to be right here in St. Boni so every couple of weeks I would stop in and pick up their leftover wood scraps to burn in my wood burner. Right before Thanksgiving I stopped in to pick up a load of scraps. I walked in the front door and told them I was there to pick up the wood. The man wheeled out two bins like usual to the loading doors and helped me load them in the truck. Usually the wood was just chunks of pine but this time they looked like decoys. I asked him if he was sure that he was giving me the right wood because they were unpainted decoys. I noticed that they had a few cracks in them so I figured they were throwing them away because of the cracks. The man insisted that I had the right stuff and waved me goodbye. I took my load of wood and promised that I would bring his carts back as soon as I got the chance. He told me there was no hurry and I could even bring them back after Thanksgiving. I went home and unloaded the decoys in a big pile in the basement. The wood burner was low so I grabbed a handful of decoys and threw them in the furnace. That dry pine burned nice and hot so I threw in a few more to ward of the cold. Then I went back to work. After work I went home and reloaded the furnace with decoys and had just enough time to bring back the carts before they closed for the long weekend. When I pulled up in my truck two men ran out of the building and demanded that I bring back the decoys. I asked why and with urgency in his voice he told me that I had taken their entire inventory of Christmas decoys worth tens of thousands of dollars by mistake. He went on and on about calling the police and trying to find my vehicle and driving around for the past three hours in a complete panic because I had taken their entire Christmas inventory of decoys worth thousands of dollars by mistake. I pointed at the guy who gave them to me and he just gave me the deer in the headlights look and walked back into the building. Then the manager said do you still have them because they are incredibly valuable. Each decoy had taken them over a week to make and they needed to get them back. Rather stunned I told them that I had burned a few of them but would bring the rest back. Then I went home and carefully loaded a few hundred decoys back into the bins and brought them back to the Wooden Bird. Value is often in the eye of the beholder. The decoys had no value to me other than a little heat. But to the Wooden bird, the decoys were worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Ideals and principles continue from generation to generation only when they are built into the hearts of children as they grow up.
Maybe when you were at camp or in the boy or girl scouts you sang... "One dark night when we were all in bed, old lady OíLeary lit a lantern in her shed. And when the cow kicked it over, she winked her eye and said, "Itíll be a hot time in the ole town tonight." And weíd yell, "Fire-Fire-Fire." It wasnít til years later that I learned that the song was based on fact. It may not have been a cow but the great fire of Chicago began at 8:30pm, Oct. 8, 1871 by a small blaze in the barn of Patrick and Catherine OíLeary. It left over 80,000 people homeless, 17,500 buildings were destroyed and 300 people killed. What damage from such a small start. And you can carelessly speak a word thatís like a spark- and you have no idea of the ultimate damage that can be caused by your words. Thatís why James writes in vs:6- ďThe tongue is like a spark. It is an evil power that dirties the rest of the body and sets a personís entire life on fire with flames that come from hell itself.Ē
A NATIONAL PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer.
The controversy didnít end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wrightís prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.
Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Hereís what he prayed:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but thatís exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighborís possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air...
IS YOUR CHURCH A CHURCH OF BONES?
In the town of Sedlec in the Czech Republic, there is a famous cemetery that dates back to the 13th century. Some 40,000 people who died from the Black Plague in the 14th century and in the Hussite wars in the beginning of the 15th century were buried there. Around 1400, a Gothic church of All Saints was built at the center of the cemetery. Underneath it, a chapel was built as an ossuary to hold the bones unearthed in mass graves during the construction of the church. This church of bones contains the skeletal remains of these 40,000 people. It is literally a church of bones.
Sermon Central Staff
BECAUSE I'M A GENTLEMAN
A middle-aged business executive once approached the front entrance of the office building in which he worked. A young feminist came up at the same moment, so he stepped back and held the door open for her to pass on through. She looked at him and said with annoyance, "Don't hold the door for me just because I'm a lady."
To her surprise, he looked right back and replied, "I'm not. I'm holding it open because I'm a gentleman."
(Green, M. P. (1989). Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 sermon illustrations arranged by topic and indexed exhaustively (Revised edition of: The expositor's illustration file). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. From a sermon by Matthew Kratz, The parable of the Faithful & Wise Servant, 7/17/2010)
Sermon Central Staff
Unity is not simply an intellectual exercise. We can believe the same things, recite the same creeds, belong to the same denomination, but that does not mean we have unity.
In his book Soul Talk, Larry Crabb writes:
"Which is worse? A church program to build community that doesnít get off the ground or one person sitting every Sunday in the back of the church who remains unknown? A Sunday school class that once drew hundreds but has now dwindled to thirty or a Sunday school teacher whose sense of failure is never explored by a caring friend? A family torn apart by the fatherís drinking, his wifeís frustration, and their third graderís learning disabilities or a self-hating dad, a terrified mom, and a lonely little boy, three human beings whose beauty and value no one ever discovers? A national campaign that fails to gain steam for the pro-life movement or a single woman on her way home from an abortion clinic in the backseat of a taxi, a woman whose soul no one ever touches?"
We may notice the unknown pew sitter, we wonder how the teacher of the now small class feels, we worry over each member of the torn-up family, and we feel for the guilt and pain of a woman who has ended her babyís life. But we do whatís easier. We design programs, we brainstorm ways to build attendance, and in our outrage over divorce statistics and abortion numbers we fight for family values.
These are all good things, but we donít TALK to the pew sitter; we donít ASK the teacher how heís feeling; we donít INVITE the dad to play golf, the woman to lunch, or the little boy to play with our children; we donít let the aborting woman know we CARE about her soul.
That response to hurting people, I would label disunity. Disunity is not just fighting over personal preferences. Itís not just leaving the church because someone hurt your feelings. Itís not just gossip that tears down other members of the body. Itís leaving needs unmet. Itís failing to love people the way God would have us love. Unity is lived out in caring concern for others.
(From a sermon by Bret Toman, Unity For the Glory of God, 1/3/2011)
History records for us an interesting footnote. It was during the dark winter of 1864. At Petersburg, Virginia, the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee faced the Union divisions of General Ulysses S. Grant. The war was now three and a half years old and the glorious charge had long since given way to the muck and mud of trench warfare. Late one evening one of Leeís generals, Major General George Pickett, received word that his wife had given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Up and down the line the Southerners began building huge bonfires in celebration of the event. These fires did not go unnoticed in the Northern camps and soon a nervous Grant sent out a reconnaissance patrol to see what was going on. The scouts returned with the message that Pickett had had a son and these were celebratory fires. It so happened that Grant and Pickett had been contemporaries at West Point and knew one another well, so to honor the occasion Grant, too, ordered that bonfires should be built.
What a peculiar night it was. For miles on both sides of the lines fires burned. No shots fired. No yelling back and forth. No war fought. Only light, celebrating the birth of a child. But it didnít last forever. Soon the fires burned down and once again the darkness took over. The darkness of the night and the darkness of war.
The good news of Chris...
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.
Dr. Larry Petton
DADDY, WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO DIE?
Dr. Larry Petton
Years ago I heard the compelling story of a young pastor whose son was very sick and not expected to live long. Night after night the pastor and his wife would put their boy to bed and say a prayer hoping for a miracle. One evening, the boy looked at his father and said, "Daddy, what does it feel like to die?"
The father struggled to speak a word. He said a quick prayer for courage, put his hand on the face of his child and said, "Son, itís something like this. Night after night you go to sleep on the couch watching your favorite tv shows. You donít know it, but I find you asleep and come and take you in my arms and place you in the room I built for you with my own hands."
The young pastor could barely finish.
"And, son, one of these days........you are going to fall asleep here, but donít be afraid. Jesus is going to come and pick you up and take you to a special room He has built just for you."
Jesus said, "I go and prepare a place FOR YOU." (John 14:1-6).