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Contributed By:
David  Yarbrough
 
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The fact that our good deeds are not good enough to get us into heaven is no more cruel than it’s cruel for you to tell the fish in the water (I hope your not talking to the fish in the water) “I just can’t breath in your environment.” To say that, is not a cruel statement it is just a statement about your nature. You can’t breath under water. To say that my good deeds to God is like water to my lungs is not to say anything cruel about God it’s just the facts. God can’t tolerate us. And that’s not mean and it’s not cruel it’s just the facts. And in the world of our modern celebrities who seem to represent the thoughts of our culture, they in essence want us to believe that God can hang with sin. That God, the perfect God can somehow tolerate imperfection. And God can look at people like you and me, people who’s lives are out of sink and say “you know what, it’s OK”. But God would cease to be God the day He said that. You don’t want a God who accepts sin. Because a God who accepts sin is not a holy perfect God. It’s like when Grocho Marks said “I will never join a club who will accept me as a member.” And in reality we don’t want a God who looks at us in our sinful fallen state and say, “it’s OK your alright your in.”
The fact that you can’t breath underwater isn’t entirely true. People can breath underwater when equipped with scuba apparatus. You can conquer the environment but it’s going to take something, something you don’t have inherent in yourself. And that is what Good Friday is all about. Good Friday is about what we have in a bloody cross that allows us to live in God’s environment. And God says I’m going to provide the oxygen tanks for you, I’m going to make you acceptable in my sight. But you must recognize that there is an exchange that has to take place; your life for my Son’s. You take His life and you trade yours in for it and you can be with me. God will accept us but as the Bible puts it He will only accept us in Christ. I don’t want to just be accepted in David, I want to be accepted in Christ. That retains God’s perfection and makes me understand that I cannot be accepted aside from Jesus Christ. What I need I can’t provide, God is going to have to provide it for me.
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is (scuba gear) eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:26) God says in effect you put on the scuba gear; put on Christ and you can survive in my environment.

 
Contributed By:
Mark Brunner
 
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“Work With It!” Romans 12: 1-8: Key verse(s): 6 “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”

“All things being equal!” Where that may be the rallying cry of today’s philosophical democratically-driven culture, it wasn’t the impetus for justice in the Brunner household as I was growing up. In the first place, nothing was really “equal” in the sense that everyone in the household shared the same potential or received the same rewards. There were six children in my family and two parents. I had three sisters and two brothers. That would make a household equally divided between the genders, four males and four females. That is where equality began and ended. First, there was the matter of parents. Although there were only two of them and six of us, they outnumbered us substantially in the areas of discipline, the giving of rewards, teaching and provisioning along with the numerous other inherited duties and tasks of Christian parents. No, very little if any equality on that level. And, for that matter, freedom either. My Dad could drive the car and go to work. He could use power tools and, occasionally, spit on the lawn. None of us could do those things. My Mom could drive the car and write out checks for groceries, pay the bills and go on a date (with my Dad) every now and then. Best I can recall, until we were much older, none of these things were available to us either.

On a sibling level, apart from the fact that we at least shared the role of brothers and sisters, equality beyond the point that I had the same right to have clean underware as my brothers, was pretty much limited. Although my brothers and I followed roughly in close sequential fashion, age was still a distinction. For example, being the oldest, I was the first one to drive and also the first of the brothers to own a car. That privilege came with age and driving skills. I handed down my first car to brother number two and he to three. For the most part we lived in a small, closed society that ran pretty well on the inequity dictated by position (child or parent), age and, yes, gender. Despite the fact that all of us children shared some duties like cleaning the house and doing the dishes, the roles within those duties were often specific to gender. Boys were often given the dirtier jobs like taking out the trash or sweeping the basement floors (because of our close association with the element) and girls the more detail-oriented and perfected tasks like dusting and polishing. And, when there was hidden dirt to root out, that was a job for a woman since God has given them radar when it comes to finding dust, grime, and all the invisible elements of the dirt world that are truly hidden from a man’s view. My mother was wise enough to know this. Yard duties gravitated to the boys and household chores gravitated toward the girls. None of us really wished to cross the line into the other’s territory and certainly didn’t feel put-upon by our singular assignments.

Over time, as age and wisdom brought us closer to our parents in freedoms and responsibilities, as soon as our new-found status came into contact with their “sphere of power” the inevitable friction resulted and, like opposing magnets, we were repelled. God led us out into our own little words to establish our own closed systems. Mom and Dad continued on without us as gradually each child pushed upon their level of authority. Although economic circumstances compelled me to return to home briefly after a couple of years, the old powers that held us separate but functioning when I was young were no longer there. It was only a matter of months before I found my own apartment again.

Was it wrong that there was so little equality within our home? Should my parents have shared more of their freedom and authority with us? Although neither of them recognized these inequalities as tangible assets, I am sure that Mom and Dad would have found it foolish to share such things. God had, in His grace, called them to be parents, not children. Their roles as children had been left behind. First when my Dad joined the army and then when marriage called my Mom from her home. The inherent inequalities of the Brunner household were comfortable and sound. The gifts that God gave us as children and those He blessed my parents with as adults were perfect for the work that needed to be done and the love that needed to be granted. There was no need to long for another’s role since the ones given each of us were just right for that time and place.

God calls each of us to do something in this life. And, even when that calling is similar to another’s, it is never exactly the same. God is not democratic nor is the family. And, for that matter, neither is the world into which He has placed each of us. He expects us to honor the role given us by doing our best and preserving the work that has been given us in that role. Unfair? Perhaps! But when you consider the fact that each of us has one foot in heaven what matters where the other is placed here on earth?

 
Contributed By:
Paul Dietz
 
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Tags: Faith (add tag)
 
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WHERE DO WE STAND?

This past Tuesday morning I had finally settled down into my easy chair to read the daily news paper. As always, I turned to the editorial section of which is one of favorites, besides the daily “Frank and Ernest” cartoon. There I found a very interesting Readers Commentary entitled, “Catholic Lifestyle is Counter Cultural Today,” written by a Mount Savage resident, Nancy E. Thoering.

One of the paragraphs jumped off the page at me as I read her commentary about not just living a Catholic lifestyle but living a Christian lifestyle as well. Her statement just kept sticking with me as I continued to read the rest of the morning paper, to the point that I returned again to the editorial page and re-read the entire commentary.

The paragraph that really spoke to me and I now share with you is this: “Faith, after all, is a way of life, Church is our springboard into the mystery of God, where we strive to live by His commandments and prepare to return to Him in eternity.” She then continues: “For Christians, adhering to God means embracing Christ’s cross and hoping to share in His resurrection.”

In a nutshell, Ms. Thoering’s commentary was about how times have changed and that we as Christians have altered the state of our belief systems to become politically correct and culturally acceptable. What do you think?

Have we become so impatient with life that we will do whatever it takes to be accepted, even if it means going against the grain of our Biblical-based faith? Have we become so lost in our worldly culture that we are willing to forego our belief system in order to gain social acceptance? Where do you and I and the entire church stand when it comes to the temptations of this world to engage in the idol worship of status and prestige?

(Quote from Ms. Thoering’s “Reader’s Commentary” in the July 12, 2011 Cumberland Times-News, Cumberland, MD)

 
Contributed By:
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JUSTIN

I want to tell you about a 12-year-old boy we’ll call Justin. Justin never knew anything good. His parents, if you want to call them that, were completely without qualifications to birth the boy, having done so quite unintentionally, making far less effort to raise him than they made to conceive him. So, like many other boys of similar background, he literally grew up on the streets.

He had seen and done it all. By this young age he had already committed crimes that should have landed him in prison for a very long time. But, "fortunately" for Justin, in the crowd he spends time with, these crimes were everyday life largely hidden from mainstream society.

Everything he had, such as it was, was stolen. He rarely ate well and never on a plate. His language was foul, his manners atrocious. He was always dirty, always smelled bad. And the evil things that shock the average citizen either went ignored by him or, sometimes, it made him laugh. But mostly, he didn’t laugh, not really. Mostly he was just sad. Very, very sad. But, by now, he had grown numb to it.

One day Justin was picked up by the police (nothing new). But this time he was taken into a room and shown a large file. He had no idea the cops had so much dirt on him. They seemed to be aware of his crimes, but since there were so many boys like him, the police seemed to mostly ignored them. But he had gotten worse. Of course, in his culture he was getting better. He was able to steal without anyone detection, inflict pain without remorse, and even smile when he needed to. But he wasn’t just picking pockets any more. He was up to home invasions, mugging, carjacking, drug dealing, and other things I won’t mention here. He was actually considered to be very successful among his peers, destined for great things, well respected.

But this day his sat in an interrogation room with an iron clad case against him. He was going away for a very long time. He knew that he would be tried as an adult, this time he would not be able to get off by blaming his parents.

Just as his fate was sinking in, an extremely well dressed young man was brought into the room. He introduced himself as Joshua. He came representing a man that wished to adopt him.
Justin was incredulous. "What? Why? Who? What does it even mean?"

"As to the ’who’," replies the young man, "it is my father. He is the King of a foreign nation, though he spends much time in your land. As to the why, he has noticed you on his visits here and even has people watching you. He takes a great interest in you and is convinced that you are a great man inside the mind of a broken boy. He wants to adopt you and help you become that man. To put it short, he loves you. He talks about you all the time. Don’t get me wrong, you aren’t the only one he has sent me to bring home, but he acts like you are. He acts like you all are."

"Your dad is clearly out of his mind, Josh. And I am guessing that you are too."

"It would seem so, but he’s just unusual, as, I suppose, so am I. But he’s never wrong...about anything. And he’s absolutely determined to put all his vast resources into getting you, and others like you, up to your full potential."

"Why?"

"Because he can. Because he cares. Because nothing else makes sense. He’s just like this, and it’s what he loves to do."

"Has he seen my file?"

"He had it made. This is all the work of special investigations. It begins with how your parents came together and is thorough right up to the moment you were picked up. The ink is barely dry on some of this stuff."

"And still, he wishes to adopt me. There is something very wrong about this picture. Tell me, what does adoption mean exactly?"

"Well, it means that you immediately become a prince. Not much different from me, really. Everything that it is his is mine, and everything that is mine I share with you and the others measured out according to how cooperative you are."

"Ah ha, cooperative. That sounds like the catch to me. Explain it."

"Well, Justin, you will be retrained. From the ground up you will be completely re-educated on what life means and how you are to live it. In fact, you will no longer be called Justin. My Father has a special name for you that you will find out at the end of your process. In the meantime, you will be taught how to see yourself, your world, and your life. You will be given an almost entirely new picture of how to treat others. And, each of you, based on your particular skills and weaknesses, you will be given specific tools to help you in the re-education of others."

"That sounds easy enough. Why the emphasis on ’cooperation’? I am still missing something here."

"It isn’t easy. I am offering you something wonderful, but don’t ever think that I am offering you something easy. You will very quickly begin to come at odds with this training. The ideas you will be taught will sound completely wrong, and you will refuse most of it. There will be times when you will be very angry with my father. You’ll want to come back to your former lifestyle and will likely attempt to do so."

"What then, you have the cops pick me up again?"

"No. We simply wait. You’ll come back. My father is never wrong. You might take a while, but you’ll come back. Once you know my father, you’ll never see life the same again. All the things that make you happy today will seem bland by comparison or at best, they’ll simply remind you of him. No, you’ll come back. But you will have wasted a lot of time feeling sorry for yourself. It’s very painful to watch."

"So, if I accept this offer, my life as I know it is over?"

"Sort of. Actually the training takes place right here. You don’t leave."

"What? That’s nuts! How am I supposed to do that?"

"Well, a person doesn’t truly change unless he rises above that which has kept him down in the first place. We have training facilities all around to help you through this process. These facilities are run by people just like you. But this is why it takes cooperation. No one is going to force you to do anything. No coercion, no manipulation. You will be pushed, but you will have to choose to engage every step of the way. Otherwise, it will have no value and no real effect. This entire arrangement is built on trust. My father trusts you. So do I. You have to trust him, too. That’s what this is all about. The sooner and deeper you learn that, the more you’ll get out of this offer. But you must completely and thoroughly promise to give this your best effort."

"I’ve got to tell you, this seems way too good to be true. It’s like I won the lottery or something."

"It is good, real good. But it is true. And let me remind you, it is no picnic. You HAVE won the lottery, but you will not be spending the rest of your life sipping pina coladas on a beach somewhere. At least, not most of the time. When you are engaged, you will work like you’ve never worked before. It will hurt. You will struggle. I just want to make sure you understand this. But, if you completely surrender to the process, you will love it and the rewards are beyond your dreams."

Looking down at the table Justin asked, "What about this file? What about the cops? I can’t imagine they are going to let me off just because your dad’s a rich king?"

"Actually, no, they won’t. Nor should they. But we HAVE worked out a deal with the judge. I will be arrested in your place. I will serve your sentence."

Complete silence. Justin just stares at Joshua in shock. Not only at what he just heard, but at the fact that Joshua was smiling. "Joshua, do you have any idea what they will do to you in there?"

"I know EXACTLY what they will do to me in there."

Justin was used to pain. But he always feared prison. He was also used to fear and he could see that while Joshua was smiling...

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Contributed By:
Timothy Grayless
 
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Robert Tuttle, in his book Can We Talk explains that people the world over have four needs that don’t change transculturally. He calls them the “Universal Spiritual Laws of Cross Culture.”
1. Everyone needs to measure up to some kind of law.
2. We all have an innate need to understand our origins.
3. Need to overcome temptation.
4. We all have a need for community.

 
Contributed By:
Paul Fritz
 
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Vital Statistics From Operation World (6th Edition, 2001, Patrick Johnstone, and Jason Mandryk) Paternoster, Waynesboro, GA

1. 15-25% of the population of the world is yet to hear a clear presentation of the gospel so that they can personally place saving faith in Christ for salvation.
2. Only 6.3% of the world’s population lives in a culture without a witnessing church – though in large populations many would have little chance to visit one.
3. 93.7% of the population lives where they have a witnessing church, but most Christians are not sharing their faith, usually about 2% do on a regular basis.
4. 98% of the world’s population has a resident national or expatriate witness in their midst. This is to emphasize the importance of working through church planters and missionaries in the developing world and especially in the 10/40 window. (ChristianAid.org; BibleLeague.org; GFA.org)
5. 60.3% of the world’s population or 3.6 billion compromising 6000 people groups out of the 12,000 people groups on the earth with a population of over 10,000 people are more than 2% evangelical or more than 5% adherents to Christianity.
6. 39.2% of the world population or 2.3 billion with a population over 10,000 people with 1600 people groups have less than 2% evangelicals and less than 5% adherents to Christianity.
7. .5% of the world’s population (many being migrant over or cross-border minorities) with 30 million people and 4400 people groups have more than 2% evangelicals or more than 5% adherents to Christianity.
8. A church for every people group. The challenge to adopt a people group for payer and ministry gained momentum in 1990’s. Progress was logged for the 1,583 peoples listed in the October 2000 Joshua Project List with the following results:
A. By the end of 2000 there was a church planting team in 1084 of the people groups and evidence of a congregation of 100 members in 487 people groups. This does not include the possible 2000 people groups of under 10,000 population that remain inadequately researched and may need pioneer church planting. The biggest need is the inadequate mechanism for holding those committed to their promises for adoption, insufficient verification and over-simplification of the task but thank God for what was achieved. This means that there are only about 500 people groups of over 10,000 that are yet to have a church planting team. We need to train the church planters and equip them to help complete Matthew 24:14 and the whole of the five aspects of the great commission.
B. DAWN – Jim Montgomery’s strategy to reach out to the edge and then draw a matrix of the whole community and church plant the whole.
9. World A – 28.% of these countries have had exposure to the gospel – (2% with no witness; 4.3% with resident witness; 21.9% with indigenous church) (West Africa to Sudan; Horn of Africa – Somalia; North Africa and West Asia; E. turkey, Iran Afghan. NE Pakistan, Turkey, Central Asia. Siberia, China, Mongolia; Western China, Himalayas, Myanmar, India (caste distinctions) Indo-China, Thailand, South and Southwest China, North Korea, Malaysia, Israel, Central and East Africa, East Asia,
10. 90% of the all the least reached peoples on the earth live within the areas shown on the map in p. 17 of Operation world. In the all the rest of the world are about 350 people groups with 82 million individuals which are in the least reached category.
11. There are 20 million Christians among the World A people groups and probably some on going church planting ministry among the 2,500 of the 3,500 people groups represented in this group. Within these Affinity groups on p. 16 is the best key to reaching these people groups.
12. Relatively few of these 3500 people groups have no known Christians but in most cases they constitute a small minority on average 1.2% of the population. They face many pressures and even persecution.
13. Churches and individuals need to have a vision for the lost and unreached people groups of the world to complete all five aspects of the great commission.
A. Mark 16:15 – The evangelistic challenge
B. Matt 28:18-20 – The discipling/church planting challenge
C. Luke 24:44-49 – Repentance and the teaching challenge
D. John 20:21 – The missions challenge and the suffering challenge
E. Acts 1:8 – The global challenge (To the uttermost parts of the earth)
14. There must be great commission disciple-makers made of each ethnic group. (Matt 28:18-20) This gives western Christian great opportunities to equip, facilitate, train and support disciple-makers and church planters in the developing world as teachers, givers and catalysts. Leadership training programs and seminaries are greatly needed around the world. Leadership is the key.
15. Christian radio has a potential coverage of 99% of the earth population with the gospel as well as training locals for church planting and church leadership.
16. The Jesus Film has been shown to nearly 5 billion people and has recorded around 150 million decisions for Christ. It has a potential coverage of 99% of the world’s population
17. New Testaments are available to 94% of the world’s population
18. 93.7% of the world’s population has a local witness available to them.

 
Contributed By:
sam higgs
 
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CALL TO WAR

Have you ever heard the "trumpet" call to do battle in our culture? On every side we are bombarded with things and teachings that are anti-God. There is the lasciviousness where "free-sex" reigns as supreme. It is the Christian’s God ordained duty to confront this sin against God and call our culture back to chasity! We have the abuse factor; abuse of mind / mood altering drugs and alcohol, we see abuse in the family (physical, emotional and spiritual), we should understand the battle involves being "pro-life", "pro-traditional marriage", "pro-family" and "pro-God".

Every person who has trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (by the way, those are inseparable) is granted enlistment in the Army of God. Being enlisted means we are required to follow the orders of our Great General. Jesus Christ. He is the One that has the battle plan. He knows the end of the battle from the beginning. The soldier is seldom trusted with the battle plan, he is normally given a specific task to fulfill. He may not realize he is important until the tide of the battle starts to fail.

This is where we are today. The soldiers of the Cross have failed to see the importance of their particular task and have neglected their duty. As a result we see many battles being lost. Prayer in school, Abortion, Political Correctness Culture, Divorce-rate, etc... These things ought not to be, but they are, mainly, because of the soldiers of God who are A.W.O.L. (absent with out leave).

There is a time for rest and that time is now now! Our culture is in desperate need of Godly men and women who will engage in the battle for the future of our children and grand children to the extent that we will not just hear the sound of the trumpet, but will rally together around our Great General and take to complete His orders for the battle at hand.

If you belong to Jesus, this NOT OPTIONAL!

 
Contributed By:
Clark Tanner
 
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Sin separates. Sin divides. Sin brings death to relationships and destroys fellowship.
God unites. God brings oneness and unity. On the day of Pentecost, God reversed the Babel process, and with one language from heaven, He demonstrated that all in Him will be sharers of one divine ‘language’.

No, I’m not talking about the gift of tongues, which typified what I really am talking about.
Believers from every time, from every continent, every nation, every culture and tribe, speak one language.
It is a language of love. It is a language of brotherhood in Christ. It is a language of the Spirit of God that only those with the Spirit in them can comprehend.

As I sat preparing this sermon, my daughter popped up on Instant Messenger and began to chat with me. She asked what kind of songs we sing in church, so I listed a few as examples.

When she saw the title, “Shout to the Lord”, she began telling me a story about her trip a couple of years ago to China. I copied it here to read to you.

When I went to China it was with the understanding that while we were there (for 4 weeks) we would probably not go to church. Because it is difficult to find a church that is not "underground".
We were actually in China for a total of 5 Sundays. The 4th Sunday we found a church that meets in a little building. Well, one of the teachers said that the church started at 10:30am so we all got ready and left for church around 10:10-10:15am.
We got there and they were already almost done with worship time. They saw us pull up and cleared the first 2 rows for us. Mind you it is standing room only in that church. Literally there are people standing outside at the windows, listening, whether rain or shine.
We sat down and they started the service completely over just for us. They were singing hymns. Some we knew some we didn’t.
The hymnals were in Chinese so it didn’t do us much good. But we sang along with the songs we knew...i.e.: The Old Rugged Cross
Instantly I began thinking that that is kinda what heaven will be like. Everyone coming from far and wide and yet we’ll all be singing the same songs.
(this is what I’m talking about, folks)
Anyway,...
The 5th Sunday we were on our way back home. We were in Beiging. We’d just gotten in at 8am and they told us church started at 9am. We wanted to go sooooooo bad.
We found out that the church they were talking about was International Christian Fellowship. In order to get in you have to live somewhere other than C...

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Contributed By:
Curry Pikkaart
 
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CROSSING THE LINE

A business training exercise shows how people from different cultures look at the same task in different ways. A leader draws an imaginary line on the floor, and puts one person on each side. The purpose is to get one person to convince the other, without force, to cross the line. U. S. players almost never convince one another, but their Japanese counterparts simply say, "If you will cross the line, so will I." They exchange places and they both win.

I'm convinced that if each of us would be willing to cross a few lines in our attitude towards worship, we would rediscover that we're all on the same side and experience a deeper unity.

 
Contributed By:
Lynn Malone
 
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Finally, we give, give, give. Jesus left his heavenly throne, laid aside the glory that was his, and came to us. He gave his life on the cross of Calvary that we might be redeemed and reconciled to God. He gave us life, and he has blessed us beyond even our ability to measure. Giving is a response of gratitude for all that Christ has given us. And we give out of the abundance that is ours, just as Jesus does to us almost daily. We give of ourselves, our resources and our time. Christians in western cultures combine for a total income in the $10 trillion dollars per year range. The good news is that Christians give 50% more than the average person. The bad news the average person give 1.7% of his/her income—that makes the Christian average 2.5%.

 
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