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Sermon Central Staff
VACANT HOMES, VACANT LIVES
TIFTON, GA — 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 town’s 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 ain’t smelled nothing until you come back here on a hot day."
Brothers and Sisters, I’m 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 doesn’t just happen with vacant houses, it also happens with vacant lives! If a person doesn’t fill their life with good stuff, the bad stuff and sometimes, the evil stuff will move in and take over.
What’s 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)
NOT MY JOB
The names in this story have been changed out of respect for their privacy. Julie W told her family's story in a magazine article.
[My daughter], Allison, came home for the weekend. She opened the door, didn't speak, and dropped her duffel bag. Smudges of mascara circled her eyes. I whispered a "God-please-no" prayer.
"Come tell me about your classes." I patted the sofa. She muttered,
"Gotta take a shower."
As she clomped upstairs, I analyzed the recent changes in her: complaints of not having any money, rarely answers the phone, weight loss, pinpoint pupils, and a "who gives a rip" [facade]. I searched her purse and found a leopard-colored pipe and the unmistakable sweet odor of pot. My heart fluttered wildly like a bird stuck inside my chest.
She plodded down the stairs, hair in a towel, wearing the same wrinkled clothes. Be still and talk in a sweet voice, I told myself. You must convince her to stop. "We need to talk, honey."
"Not now. I'm tired."
"I found your pipe."
She stared at me with death-row eyes. "Chill, it's not that big of a deal."
The tightness in the den suffocated me. I needed air. "Want to walk?" I asked brightly. "Like we used to?"
I knew I could talk some sense into her. "Honey, please. You've gotta stop." I grabbed her hand.
"Mom!" She jerked away.
"We have a strong family history. You don't want to..."
I never got to finish the sentence. Allison stormed out of the room and within minutes was headed back to college. I knew what I had to do--abandon everything in my life and start to worry/fix/control full-time.
I began spending most days by the phone. I evaluated Allison's reactions, gestures, and comments. Thoughts circled my mind like buzzards: What if she never stops? What if I never see her again? What if she overdoses? Or goes to jail?
I lured Allison into therapy by promising we'd go to an Italian restaurant before visits. Her first appointment day arrived. She played with her spaghetti, and I couldn't eat. "So, what do you plan to say to the counselor?" I asked.
"How should I know?"
When they called her name at the office, I hurried in to make sure the counselor understood. Allison refused to sign for me to have any information. I considered eavesdropping, but too many people were around. An hour later, she walked past me as I paid.
"What'd you talk about?"
Our therapy/lunch charade continued that way for a few weeks. Then Allison's sister informed me she was still using. She denied it, refused to see the counselor, dropped out of college, and stopped answering my calls.
I was convinced if I forgot about Allison, even for a second, or enjoyed anything, something bad might happen. Several months later, after another night of little sleep, I glanced in the mirror. I could have passed for the addict: dark circles under hopeless eyes.
I called my friend Linda. Her son, also an addict, had been sentenced to state prison. "You can't imagine all that's going on here," I said.
"Come over for coffee," she urged.
I wanted to stand guard at home but knew she'd listen and understand.
"Hey, girlfriend." Linda hugged me. I didn't touch my coffee as I blurted the saga. Linda didn't sweet-talk. "You need help."
"You haven't heard the whole story," I argued. "I'm fine--my daughter, she needs help."
"You're addicted to worry and control," Linda said. "I've been where you are." She stretched out on the sofa. "The only one you can control is yourself."
The possibility that she might be right terrified me. "It took me years to realize that I'm not in charge. God is," Linda admitted. "By worrying, you're telling God he can't handle things. Go to Al-Anon with me." I'd heard of Al-Anon but didn't see how it applied to me. But I agreed because I was in awe of Linda.
I didn't open my mouth during the meeting. Every word spoken sounded like my own thoughts:
"I worried myself sick about my alcoholic husband."
"My peace comes only when I let go and let God."
Then the speaker said, "To change, you'll have to leave behind some familiar lifelong habits." But how? This is who I am--what I do. "An alcoholic can't drink, and those of us in this room can't allow an ounce of worry. For us, it's every bit as dangerous and addictive. Worry robs our serenity."
I didn't think change was possible. Not for me. But I knew one thing for sure--I was destroying my life. That night at home I got real. "Help me, God. I can't do this without you." I began to ask God for help each morning. I whispered, "Not my job," as worry, fear, or control tried to needle back in.
Two years after that first Al-Anon meeting, Allison and I met for an impromptu lunch. She'd gone back to the same therapist. On her own.
"You can't imagine how easy it is to study when you're not high," she laughed.
"Nope, I guess not." I blinked back happy tears.
"When you didn't fix my problems, it scared me. A few times I had to dig change out of the seat of my car for gas money. Some days," she paused, "I didn't have food." My throat felt warm with pride. She'd done it on her own. "I'm making A's. And look," she handed me her checkbook. "I have money again."
Recovery defies logic. It means doing the opposite of what feels natural. When I took care of myself and my addictions, Allison did the same.
Citation: Condensed from our sister publication Today's Christian,© 2008 Christianity Today International Julie W., "Not My Job," Today's Christian (July/August 2008)
Everyone needs a hero. For the mother who told this story it was her friend, Linda. Then she turned to God as her ultimate hero. We all could do with someone to help us work through our troubles. We need a victorious warrior to fight our battles. No one knows that better than God himself.
From Mark Haines' Sermon "Our Mighty God"
Sermon Central Staff
CAPTURE AND CONTROL
Craig Larson talks about being at a lunch party on a warm, Chicago day in early September with a dozen of his fellow workers. The windows were left open, and soon a bee found its way in. After buzzing around for a while, it landed on some food on the table. Then someone took an empty bottle of sparkling grape juice and put the mouth of the bottle near the bee. Without a moment's hesitation, the bee flew to the mouth of the bottle and climbed inside the narrow opening. Immediately, Larson's colleague put the cap on the bottle and screwed it shut. The bee spent the rest of the party drinking at the bottom of the bottle, and as far as anyone knew, the bee was never released.
The people at that table were not concerned about the bee. Their purpose was not to make sure it enjoyed itself and had a good time. No! Their only concern was capture and control.
That's the way it is with Satan. He is not concerned about us. His purpose is not to make sure we have a good time. No! He despises us, and his only concern is capture and control.
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Pitfalls of Leadership, 7/29/2010)
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.
I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...
"The budget should be balanced. The treasury should be refilled. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officials should be tempered and controlled, and assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed, lest we become bankrupt. The people should be forced to work and not depend on the government for subsistence."
Bishop Lalachan Abraham
BILLY GRAHAM: CHOICES
Billy Graham said, "The strongest principle of life and blessings lies in our choice. Our life is the sum result of all the choices we make, both consciously and unconsciously. If we can control the process of choosing, we can take control of all aspects of our life. We can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of our life. So start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.
"If you don’t make a decision, then time will make it for you, and time will always side against you."
1 Thessalonians 4:13-4:18
TONY EVANS ON GETTING UN-STUCK
Tony Evans, a popular black preacher from down in Texas, spoke of being on an elevator in a high-rise building. He said he’d never been particularly comfortable on such elevators. There was something about riding up and down in a little box several hundred feet off the ground that has never sat well with him. He worried that something would go wrong.
One day it did. The car he was riding in got stuck in between floors way up in the higher floors. He noted that some of the people in the car became frantic. They began to beat on the door hoping to get someone’s attention. Others began to yell in the hopes that their voices would get someone on the surrounding floors to come to the aid. But nobody heard their noise or their cries.
Then Evans quietly made his way to the front of the car, opened a little door in the wall and pulled out a telephone. Immediately he was connected with someone on the outside. He didn’t need to beat on the wall to get their attention. He didn’t need to speak loudly in the phone to receive their help. He could have whispered and they would have heard him.
Evans said that - in this world, we’re going to get "stuck" in places we aren’t comfortable with. Some people begin to beat against the walls, others cry out in dismay. But the person who trusts in the power of confident prayer knows there’s someone on the other end who hears their call and comes to their aid.
Hebrews 10:19ff tells us that we now can have "boldness" (KJV) to enter into very presence of God because of the blood of Jesus. We can think this way only because Jesus has opened the way for us to approach God’s throne and earnestly ask whatever we desire according to His Will.
SLOW AND STEADY
The power of the Holy Spirit is not just for salvation, but transformation, a process that might be slow and gradual. The difference might look like this:
You can take ten gallons of gasoline and release a tremendous amount of power and energy by just dropping a lighted match into it. It makes a dramatic onetime impact. But there is another way to release the energy in that gasoline. Place it in the fuel tank of a new Honda, designed to get 30 miles to the gallon. The high tech engine will use that ten gallons of gasoline to take a person 300 miles or more.
Explosions may be spectacular, but the sustained, controlled burn has staying power. You don’t want to be a flash in the pan, you want to make...
Solomon discovered the emptiness of stuff.
Illus. A young banker was driving his BMW, in the mountains, during a snowstorm. As he rounded a turn the vehicle slid out of control and toward a cliff. At the last moment he unbuckled his seatbelt and jumped from the car.
Though he escaped with his life, his left arm was caught near the hinge of the door and torn it off at the shoulder.
A trucker passing nearby witnessed the accident, stopped his rig, and ran back to see if he could be of help. There standing, in a state of shock, was the banker at the edge of the cliff moaning, "Oh no, my BMW, my BMW". The trucker pointed to the banker’s shoulder and said "man you’ve got bigger problems than a car".
With that the banker looked at his shoulder, finally realizing he’d lost his arm, and began crying ":Oh No, my new Rolex, my new Rolex".
The pull of the world can easily steal our affections away, and cause us to live for the wrong things. See, stuff is not bad, and it is not evil to own stuff, to have money, possessions, nice cars, Rolex’s.
The important thing is our attitude toward the stuff in our life.
For example: Money is not evil, the love of it is.
Many godly men were rich :
Solomon – with his wealth he built the Temple.
Jehoshaphat – with his wealth he built a great Military power
Job - Stayed faithful to God even when he lost all his wealth. Then God gave him even greater wealth as a reward..
Hezekiah – Used his wealth to reform Israel.
Solomon was the richest man who ever lived.
He owned : Houses, vineyards, gardens, parks, fruit trees, slaves, flocks, singers, so much silver that it was as common as dirt, gold shields, a solid ivory throne, a solid gold throne, fleets of ships, robes of the finest materials, weapons, Storage buildings full of exotic spices, herds of mules, peacocks, 1,400 chariots, 12,000 horses, and land that extended farther than the eye could see.
Ecclesiastes 2:10: “He was denied nothing his eye desired.”
From a Sermon By Art Good
Heaven, an Inheritance
Jesus said, "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going... I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me." (John 14:1-4, 6)
The Holy Scriptures teach clearly that heaven is a real place, a permanent place, a personal place and a holy place. It is also an inheritance for those who say "yes" to Jesus Christ.
In his gospel, the beloved John conveys a powerful truth of what one must become in order to inherit eternal salvation. "...I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." (John 3:3) And once more, "...You must be born again." (John 3:7) Twice Jesus tells Nicodemus, already a Pharisee and religious leader, "I tell you the truth..."
The truth for you is that a preacher saying nice things, nor beautiful hymns being sung at your funeral, nor the local paper announcing that you were a member of such and such church, nor even being in church nearly every Sunday will gain you entrance into heaven. Being truly born again is a necessity.
Many Scripture passages tell what God will do for a person who through repentance accepts Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. Ezekiel 36: 26, 27 is one of the most clear. It has been used frequently by Dr. Billy Graham to explain what God wants to do in the hearts and lives of those coming forward to receive the forgiveness found only in Christ. The verses say, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit in you and move you to follow My decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
A "heart of stone" is inflexible, unyielding and insensitive. It is not apt to receive from or have any devoted affection toward its Creator. A man with a heart of stone has no fellowship with the Lord. He does not do the will of God, thus, he does what seems right in his own eyes which will lead to his own destruction. God alone gives physical life and He alone can give spiritual life in what Jesus says is being "born again."
When God supernaturally gives a repentant person a "heart of flesh" and puts His Spirit in a new believer, that person becomes sensitive and alive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Only then can he determine and do the will of God. This enables him to know the joy that comes from obedience to the Word of God. Once the Holy Spirit of God has entered the heart and life of a repentant person, they are never the same! Guaranteed! The Bible says they are a new creation, the old has gone and the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Jesus made these truths very clear to Nicodemus, and He desires to make them crystal clear to all who will hear even now. In heaven there will be only those who are born again, those who have trusted Jesus Christ as both Savior and Lord.
The Holy Spirit moved the apostle Paul to write to (and about) authentic Christians, "You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ." (Romans 8:9)
Will you receive Christ today?