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"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
This illustration concerns an incident one day when C.S. Lewis was in the tool shed in his garden. He noticed a sunbeam shining across the shed. It was showing up the dust particles. He must have seen the same thing many times before, but this time he was captivated by it.
He traced the beam of light to the crack at the top of the closed door of the shed. But what struck him was that although it appeared to be coming from the crack, it was really coming from a blazing star 90 million miles away! Squinting up the beam carefully so as not to burn his eyes, he followed the beam through the crack in the door, through the leaves of a tree outside and beyond to its magnificent source. Lewis thought to himself how different it was looking along the beam to its source than it was looking at the beam in his tool shed.
As we join Lewis in his tool shed, in our mind’s eye, we cannot help but notice that the thin beam is so small and weak by comparison with that great burning nuclear fire that is the sun. Just looking at the beam alone tells us so little about its great source. You have to look along the beam to see that. The little beam is beautiful certainly, but it source is magnificent and awe-inspiring.
(Source: from a sermon by Will Langford, "How to Better Understand the Bible, Part 1" 7/16/08)
The soldier walks 21 steps. On the 21st step he turns and faces the tomb he is guarding. He does this for 21 seconds. The soldier then turns to head back the other direction. He moves his rifle to his outside shoulder away from the tomb. After 21 seconds he walks 21 steps and repeats the process again and again.
Since July 1, 1937 a relatively small number of hand picked soldiers have stood guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The tough duty is not for everyone. Over 80% of the soldiers who tryout for guard duty at the Tomb do not make it. Each soldier must have strong military bearing, discipline, stamina, and present an outstanding soldierly appearance. Each Sentinel must be able to flawlessly perform seven different types of walks, honors, and ceremonies. They must retain vast amounts of knowledge concerning the Tomb, Arlington National Cemetery, the United States Army, and their unit. They can have no military or civilian convictions for violating the law. They must score a minimum of 250 on the Army Physical Fitness Test. Their height must be within 5’11” – 6’4.” They need a 30-inch waist and be able to present a soldierly appearance in the Army Blue Uniform.
The Tomb Guards make personal sacrifices to have the honor of serving in their special role. They work on a team rotation similar to firemen at a firehouse. Those soldiers who serve well for at least nine months are rewarded with a special badge to wear on their uniforms that acknowledges their service at the Tomb of the Unknowns. If they ever bring shame on the tomb that they guard or otherwise fail in their duty they are stripped of the badge and the honor that goes with it.
From: Michael Otterstatter’s Sermon: Live Your Life Worthy of the LORD!
The Unbaptized Arm
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan’s response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they w...
Psalm 94:19 - When doubts filled my mind
The doubts of this verse concern a multitude of realities as offered by John Gill. There are thoughts of the majesty of God and how we relate to him. It is offered that we sense security yet an uncertainty at the same time. We believe we have hope but are consumed with hopelessness; saved but lost; sure but doubtful at the same time. It is a struggling desire to be all God created us to be, realising we can never attain to that image; waiting for heaven but never sure it will come.
Sermon Central Staff
Sin and Hypocrites
Some mistakenly think that they are free to sin, just so long as they aren't hypocrites about it, that the worst form of sin is hypocrisy. Often one hears it said, "I know I'm not perfect, but at least I'm not hypocritical about it."
A few years ago in Texas there were two men who robbed a bank. One wore a ski mask and the other did not. They both were captured and ultimately appeared before the judge for sentencing. The one without the mask could have stated, "Look, I know that robbing the bank was the wrong thing to do, but at least I was not hypocritical about it. I didn't try to cover up who I was. I was open and honest. That should be worth something as far as leniency is concerned." The judge sentenced both men to the same time in prison.
(Galaxie Software. (2002; 2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press. From a sermon by Matthew Kratz, Pursuing God in Giving, 1/31/2010)
Sermon Central Staff
GOD MADE HIMSELF UNDERSTANDABLE
I read of a story from the famous Danish philosopher from the mid 1800s, a Christian theologian named Soren Kierkegaard. It is a familiar story, a story rewritten by many over the ages in many different forms, yet it is still relevant today. Here’s what he wrote:
A prince wanted to find a maiden suitable to be his queen. One day while running an errand in the local village for his father, he passed through a poor section. As he glanced out the windows of the carriage, his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant maiden. During the ensuing days he often passed by the young lady and soon fell in love.
But he had a problem. How would he seek her hand? He could order her to marry him. But even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a carriage drawn by six horses. But if he did this he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed with all of the splendor.
The prince came up with another solution. He would give up his kingly robe. He moved, into the village, entering not with a crown but in the garb of a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time the maiden grew to love him, because of who he was and because he loved her first.
This very simple, almost childlike story is what John is describing here--God came and lived among us. He had to reveal Himself to us in an understandable way, and this is precisely what Jesus did--became flesh just like you and me. He made Himself understandable.
(From a sermon by Rich Anderson, Love Came Down At Christmas, 12/16/2010)
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...
THE CATERPILLAR JOURNEY
I heard a quote in college that struck me: "The caterpillar is the most confused creature which roams the planet, because undoubtedly stamped in his soul is the call to fly."
Caterpillars must go through four stages before their metamorphosis is complete. They begin as eggs, next they hatch as caterpillars, then they go through a stage where they eat, and eat, and eat some more. Eventually, they become a chrysalis before the transformation is complete and they can finally emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3: 1 "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Often, we want to walk straight into the calling God has for us. We want to do and be everything God wants us to be and not only that, but we want to skip the journey that takes us there and do it NOW! We want to go from being caterpillar eggs to butterflies! However, we all know that there are risks to anything being born prematurely. In order for anything to be birthed, whether it is a vision or a calling, we who are to fulfill it must go on a journey. We must go through stages and seasons of preparation.
For weeks, our class would observe the caterpillars I had ordered. We would begin to notice that each day they would crawl to the top of the aquarium and stand upside down. It was as though they were saying "Is today the day? Is today the day my transformation will begin?" When they realized it wasn't, they would walk back down and eat the day away. Every morning upon returning to the classroom, we would always be amazed at how much the caterpillars had grown.
Sometimes our lives can reach a point where they seem routine and mundane. Like the caterpillars, we are walking up and down, up and down. We may feel bored with where we are, like God has forgotten us, or as though we are not accomplishing much with our lives. We go through the day wondering. Is this the day? If we find it's not, our response should be like the caterpillars. It's not the day, but God has promised it, so I'm going to prepare for it nonetheless! We should eat, and eat, and eat from the Word of God. We should spend daily time in prayer and worship. We should be building, preparing, and strengthening our spirit man to accomplish the things which God has stamped on our souls to do.
After about two weeks, we would usually come to class one morning to find that many of the caterpillars had formed a chrysalis. From the outside of the chrysalis, it always seemed to my students as though nothing were happening. After a while, they would lose interest in the chrysalis. It wasn't fun to watch, and it wasn't spectacular to look at.
I'm convinced that like the caterpillar, God wants to take us on a journey. I'm convinced there is a process. Job said "For He knows the way that I take, and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Sometimes there is pain in the process. Sometimes the journey is difficult, but God knows and sees exactly where you are. When others look and see an ugly cocoon, He looks inside and sees the beautiful creature that is being transformed. Before David became king of Israel, he was first a shepherd boy. Some of his brothers were more handsome than him and greater in stature, but God did not choose them. In the Bible God spoke in 1 Samuel 16: 7 concerning David "for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." God chose the young, ruddy shepherd boy who had a heart after Him. All those years David spent alone in the field, God was preparing him. Don't despise the cocoon. God may simply be waiting for your character to catch up with your calling.
It is in the difficult process of breaking out of the chrysalis that the butterfly becomes strong. However, if the caterpillar breaks its way out of the cocoon prematurely, he will never survive. His wings will not be developed enough to allow him to properly fly. God does not want us to simply arrive at our calling, He desires for us to be successful in it. You may be a caterpillar with the word 'butterfly' stamped on your forehead wondering "When is it going to happen?" Consider this thought.is it possible that you have yet to visit the cocoon? If you're having trouble waiting for the moment that you break out into your calling, just remember. "He has made everything beautiful in HIS time." (Ecclesiastes 3: 11)
ANGELS OF RECONCILIATION
With his life in disarray, Steven Lavaggi sat on his bedroom’s wooden floor, and began searching his Bible for answers. His wife had just left him to marry a writer for The Rolling Stone Magazine. Ten days later, Steven discovered his son was stricken with Juvenile Diabetes. Then he lost his graphic art business. Unemployed, abandoned, and worrying about his son, Lavaggi turned to God’s Word.
As Steven read, he skipped over the black letters, only wanting to read the words of Jesus. The Risen Christ emerged from the pages. Lavaggi gave his life to Jesus. As a new Christian, he clung to Psalm 91:11: "For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways."
Out of his brokenness, came a passion to create a message of hope. He discovered his passion was to minister through fine art. He moved to California, to influence the people who influence the world--Hollywood. He is doing just that.
The response to his work is overwhelming. Inspired by the Psalmist’s words he painted an angel. When a friend encouraged him to make the image three dimensional, he collaborated with a sculptor, and together they cast the angel.
While speaking to a crowd of 3500 natives in Soweto, South Africa, Lavaggi held a 20" sculpture of a black angel above his head. When he did, the crowd erupted with enthusiasm. A man on the stage told him that just a few days before, a preacher had declared that God would soon send an international artist who would express the love of God to their culture by doing something like "painting Angels in black!" When Lavaggi heard this, he grabbed a 20" white angel, held it above his head and said, "these angels were created to be like brothers and sisters, even as we are supposed to be." Those sculptures became known as, "The Angels of Reconciliation."
Today, he is known as the artist of Hope. It propelled him into creating an incredible series of spirit-inspired paintings, sculptures, figurines, and prints. Steven’s message would not exist without his passion! Through his passion, today he is touching and changing the world fopr Jesus Christ.