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WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW
F.B. Meyer once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are three things we do not know:
First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin.
Second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her.
Thirdly, we also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.
Conviction and compassion - it’s not a binary concept of one or the other. It is both strength of conviction and depth of compassion that will enable us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world that God has called us to be.
(From a sermon by Mark Opperman, "Improving our Vision" 1/12/2009)
SOMETHING BETTER DOWN THE ROAD
A football game was being played in Badger Stadium in 1982 in Madison, Wisconsin with more than 60,000 fans in attendance. The home team was losing. But out of the blue during time outs, when play was a at stop, the fans would jump up and roar with excitement. Why?
Many of those in the stadiums were listening to a game being broadcast on the radio from 70 miles down the road. What they were listening to was the Milwaukee Brewers beating the St. Louis Cardinals in game three of the 1982 World Series. Their team on the field was losing, but they were turned into something better down the road.
The Christian life is like that for us today. Our circumstances are bad at times but we must be tuned into something better down the road. We must place our hopes not in this world but in heaven.
(From a sermon by Tommy Burrus, "Dealing with Discouragement" 7/1/2009)
In his devotional book, "My Utmost For His Highest" Oswald Chambers writes, "Get into the habit of saying, 'Speak, Lord,' and life will become a romance. Every time circumstances press in on you say, 'Speak, Lord,' and make time to listen. Chastening is more than a means of discipline--it is meant to bring me to the point of saying, 'Speak, Lord.' Think back to a time when God spoke to you. Do you remember what he said? As we listen, our ears become more sensitive, and like Jesus, we will hear God all the time."
Bill Hybels tells about an interesting experience after a baptism service in their church. He writes: “I bumped into a woman in the stairwell who was crying. I thought this was a little odd, since the service was so joyful. I asked her if she was all right. She said, ‘No, I’m struggling.’ She said, ‘My mom was baptized today. I prayed for her every day for almost 20 years. The reason I’m crying is because I came this close to giving up on her. At the 5-year mark I said, “Who needs this? God isn’t listening.” At the 10-year mark I said, “Why am I wasting my breath?” At the 15-year mark I said, “This is absurd.” At the 19-year mark I said, “I’m just a fool.” But I just kept trying, kept praying. Even with weak faith I kept praying. Then she gave here life to Christ, and she was baptized today. I will never doubt the power of prayer again.”
Sometimes when we pray and pray we feel like we are experiencing the law of diminished returns — so we stop praying. We correspon...
Sermon Central Staff
REFINING SAP TO MAPLE SYRUP
Dr. David Osborn at Denver Seminary says, "Too often we try to use God to change our circumstances, while He is using our circumstances to change us." (Compass, April 2003) You see, God is right now in the process of making us like Christ.
Think of the process of refining maple syrup. Maple trees are tapped with buckets hung under the taps, and out drips a sap which is thin and clear, like water. On a good day, 50 trees will yield 30-40 gallons of sap, but it is essentially useless at this point with only a hint of sweetness.
Then as the buckets fill, they are emptied into large bins that sit over an open fire. The sap comes to a slow boil; and as it boils, its water content is reduced and its sugars are concentrated. Hours later, it has developed a rich flavor and golden-brown color, but it must be strained several times to remove impurities before being reheated, bottled, and graded for quality. In the end, those 30-40 gallons of sap are reduced to one gallon of pure, delicious maple syrup, which is far better than the cheap, imitation, colored sugar-water that passes for maple syrup in the grocery store.
So it is when we come to faith in Christ. We start like raw, unfinished sap, which could have been tossed aside as worthless. But God knew what he could make of us. He sought and found us, and his skillful hands are transforming us into something precious, sweet and useful. The long and often painful refining process brings forth a pure, genuine disciple easily distinguished from cheap imitations.
(Michele Straubel, Red Lake, Minnesota. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Our Living Hope, 4/26/2011)
SEEKING THE RIGHT KINGDOM
She is filled with bitterness as she speaks to me. Jillian (not her real name) has suffered from a stroke and her tears run freely as she recounts once again her desire to live at home.
Those who have power of Attorney have decided that she is best cared for at Shalom, but she doesn’t want to spend the remaining years of her life in an Aged Care Facility. She doesn’t like the room, the people, the food. She has money, so much money, "thousands of dollars," but it is no good to her now.
She looks at me through tears of sheer frustration as her kingdom is beyond her reach. She is bereft and disinherited, with all her money just lying in the bank. In building a kingdom of outward luxury, she has forgotten the kingdom of her heart, those inward resources that would enable her to give thanks in all circumstances and to experience inward joy no matter what she encounters in life. She kicks against the goads and says "I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS!" I can understand that. I’ve exclaimed these words with the same anguished vehemence, only she is in danger of losing her sanity and even worse, her own soul.
Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in contrast to the kingdoms we try to build for ourselves on earth in Matthew 13:24. Jillian’s freedom and contentment depends on which kingdom she seeks and no, I am not speaking about suicide, euthanasia or death. Seeking the Kingdom of Heaven has little to do with dying and much to do with experiencing life to the full, here and now.
Sure, heaven, the Kingdom of God, is a LITERAL place, but Jesus said something interesting. He said “The Kingdom of Heaven has come” (Matthew 4:17). In fact we pray that way whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We pray that the will and authority of the Kingdom of Heaven will be translated into the everyday things of earth, here and now.
BE LIKE THE SPIDER
There was a man who was cleaning up his desk one Friday afternoon when he noticed an envelope that had been opened. Someone must have placed it there while he was on the phone. He opened it and read it, and to his shock and dismay it was a notice of being terminated, being laid-off from his job. His entire department was being eliminated along with his position. After all the years he had given to his corporation, he found himself filled with resentment and the sense of being victimized. The man sat slumped in his chair in utter despair.
He began to think of all the terrible things that were going to happen to him. His entire lifestyle would have to be altered. He thought, "I'll have to sell my house; I'm too old to get another job; I'm useless; I'm all washed up."
At that moment, the man noticed a spider on his desk, and without thinking he brushed it off. He was amazed though as he watched as the tiny creature automatically spin a strand to bear its weight and swing gracefully to the floor.
He pondered: If this tiny creature could draw forth from within itself some reserve of resources to meet its emergency, why could he not do as much? For many hours, he sat deep in troubling thoughts that turned gradually to creative mediation.
The man moved from the anxiety of what he lacked to the abundance of the God-given inner resources he had been blessed with. He thought: "My security is not in my job or in my money or in my house but in my connection with the God of grace who has seen me through all circumstances in my life. They might take me off the payroll, but no one can take away the flow of God's abundance in my life."
This man had secretly been longing for an opportunity to tap into his creative ability and interest in writing. Now here was the opportunity before him. A whole new way of thinking possessed him. He thanked God for the new door that had opened before him and even blessed his termination from his job. He left the office with an enthusiasm and zest for life that surprised even himself.
To make a long story short, the man had some writings published and earned some money. Now he didn't become a financial giant but more importantly he had a new found faith in the abundance of God and became less anxious about what he lacked in his life.
Source: Adapted from a story told by Eric Butterworth
POWER OF A PRAYING MOTHER
The year was 1820 and Peter Richley was a grateful man. He had survived one of the strangest and most harrowing events known to mankind. The ship which he had been traveling on sank. He was rescued. By some strange twist of circumstance, however, this ship sank.
He was rescued again. But, this third ship sank likewise. He was rescued for a third time. Yet, his fourth ship of passage soon sank. And unbelievably, he was rescued for a fourth time, but this fifth ship sank as well.
It would have been laughable had it not been so serious. On the high seas, however, he floated with the serene confidence that somehow God did not want him to die. And sure enough, as if on cue, another ship came by and answered his call for help.
This ocean liner, The City of Leeds, was named after it’s British city of orgin. It was bound from England to Australia and traveled the same sea lane as Peter Richley’s downed ships. The crew of The City of Leeds hoisted Peter aboard. Dry clothing was provided to Peter. The ship’s doctor gave him a cursory exam, pronounced him fit, and then asked an unusual favor.
“There’s a lady on board who booked passage to Australia,” the doctor explained. “She’s looking for her son who disappeared years ago. She’s dying and she’s asking to see her son. She knows everybody on board and since you’re the only newcomer, would you pretend to be her son?”
Peter agreed. After all, his life had now been saved for the fifth time. He followed the doctor below deck and entered into a cabin. There on a small bed lay a frail woman with silvered-hair. She was obviously suffering from a very high fever. Deliriously, she was crying out. “Please God. Let me see my son before I die. I must see my son!”
The ship’s doctor gently pushed the young man toward the bed. Soon, however, Peter Richley began sobbing. For lying there on that bed was the reason that he couldn’t seem to die. Here was the lifeline that had kept him from drowning five times. For lying on that bed was none other than Sarah Richley—who had p...
The circumstances of life often speak to us like Lucy one day spoke to Charlie Brown. Lucy said to Charlie Brown "Sometimes, I feel we are not communicating: You, Charlie Brown, are afoul ball in the line drive of life. You’re often in the shadow of your own goal post you’re a miscue. You ‘re 3 putts on the 18th green. You are a 7-10 split in the 10th frame. You have dropped a rod and reel in the lake of life. You’re a missed free throw. You’re a shacked 9-iron, a called 3rd strike, a bug on the windshield of life! Do you understand? Have I made myself clear?"
But the Christian who is living as a disciple considers that which he is confidently assured of-that he will be like Christ one day and that as he lovingly surrenders to God, he can be blessed by becoming more like Christ today. Then he replies like Paul in verse 31, "God is for me!"
FRANKL AND THE MEANING OF LIFE
When Jewish psychiatrist Viktor Frankl was arrested by the Nazis in World War II and put in Auschwitz, the infamous death camp, he was stripped of everything: property, family, possessions, and a manuscript he had spent years researching and writing on finding meaning in life. The manuscript had been sewn into the lining of his coat.
"Now it seemed as if nothing and no one would survive me; neither a physical nor a spiritual child of my own," Frankl wrote. "I found myself confronted with the question of whether under such circumstances my life was ultimately void of any meaning."
A few days later, the Nazis forced the prisoners to give up what little clothing they still wore. "I had to surrender my clothes and in turn inherited the worn-out rags of an inmate who had been sent to the gas chamber," said Frankl. "Instead of the many pages of my manuscript, I found in the pocket of the newly acquired coat a single page torn out of a Hebrew prayer book, which contained the Jewish prayer 'Shema Yisrael' (Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one God. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.)
"How should I have interpreted such a 'coincidence' other than as a challenge to 'live' my thoughts instead of merely putting them on paper?"
Frankl later reflected on his ordeal in Man's Search for Meaning, saying, "There is nothing in the world that would so effectively help one to survive even the worst conditions, as the knowledge that there is meaning in one's life.... He who has a 'why' to live for can bear almost any 'how.' "
[Based on Viktor Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning (Pocket, 1997). Larson, C. B., & Ten Elshof, P. (2008). 1001 illustrations that connect (241). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.]