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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.
Ill. There is a terrible story about a man who went out to play golf early one Saturday morning. His wife became concerned when he had not returned home by dinner time. It wasn’t until about midnight when he came through the front door, exhausted.
“Where have you been?” she demanded
“I’ve been playing golf” came the reply.
“But that was 18 hours ago. What happened?”
“I was having the best game of my life. I was two under par when on the seventh tee Harry had a heart attack and died.” His wife still didn’t understand.
“After that it was hit the ball, drag Harry - hit the ball drag Harry . . .”
I read a recent magazine article about a pastor and his encounter with some unbelievers while having breakfast. Here is how he tells the story: “My wife and I were vacationing in Estes Park, Colorado, and had breakfast in a coffee shop. It was empty except for four men at another table. One was mocking Christianity; in particular, the resurrection of Christ. He went on and on about what a stupid teaching that was. I could feel the Lord asking me: ‘Are you going to let this go unchallenged?’ However I was thinking, But I don’t even know these guys. He’s bigger than me. He’s got cowboy boots on and looks tough. I was agitated and frightened about doing anything. But I knew I had to stand for Jesus. Finally, I told Susan to pray. I took my last drink of water and went over and challenged him. With probably a squeaky voice, I said, ‘I’ve been listening to you, and you don’t know what you’re talking about ’ I did my best to give him a flying rundown of the proofs for the resurrection. He was speechless, and I was half dead. I must have shaken for an hour after that. But I had to take a stand. We cannot remain anonymous in our faith forever. God has a way of flushing us out of our quiet little places, and when he does we must be ready to speak for him.”
Now I admire this pastor’s courage and his determination to be a witness, regardless of how difficult it was. A lot of Christians would have just sat there in fear or fumed, thinking about how terrible the things were that these men were saying. I realize that I have the opportunity of looking back with hindsight on the situation, but I wonder if there wasn’t another possible approach that may have been more positive, and perhaps had more impact, than rattling off a list of rational arguments for the resurrection. It seems to me that he missed the most important and impressive proof of the resurrection — his own life. I wonder if it would not have been more effective to walk over to the men at the table and say something like this: “You know, I couldn’t help but overhear your conversation, and found it very interesting. If you don’t mind, I would like to pay for all of your breakfasts. The reason I want to do this is that, because of the resurrection, Jesus Christ has changed my life and lives in me, and wants to communicate his tremendous love for you.”
Rational arguments do not change people, changed lives do. Changed lives change the lives of others, and thereby change the world. It is how we challenge the unbelief of a skeptical world. But not only would it possibly have been a stronger witness, it would have been an excellent use of money to buy their breakfasts. I think the point in what Jesus was saying in our Scripture reading this morning was that people are always the priority. Helping people, whether physically or spiritually, is to be given priority over serving ourselves — especially when it comes to money. But money is usually our last holdout in our walk with God. It is what we surrender last. As you grow in the Christian life you realize that it is not your money anyway. Everything you own already belongs to God. It is a gift, a loan from him.
1.A young girl once consulted with her minister. “I cannot stick it out any longer. I am the only Christian in the factory where I work. I get nothing but taunts and sneers. It is more than I can stand. I am going to resign.” “Will you tell me,” asked the minister, “where lights are placed?” “What has that to do with it?” the young Christian asked him rather bluntly. “Never mind,” the minister replied. “Answer my question: ‘Where are lights placed?’ “ “I suppose in dark places,” she replied. “Yes, and that is why you have been put in that factory where there is such spiritual darkness and where there is no other Christian to shine for the Lord.” The young Christian realized for the first time the opportunity that was h...
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"The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand."
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The 1992 Olympics in Barcelona featured memorable moments of sports history.
Derek Redmond of Great Britain was on the way to fulfilling a lifetime dream, that of winning a gold medal in the Olympics. He had earned a spot in the semifinals of the 400 meter race, and as the gun sounded to start the race, Derek got off to a great start. He was running the race of his life, and the finish line was in sight, when suddenly he felt a stab of pain in his right leg. He feel face first to the track with a torn hamstring. The race was over for Derek.
He struggled to his feet before the medical team could reach him. Though every runner had passed him, he began hopping forward, tears of pain and disappointment streaking his face, determined to finish the race. Suddenly, man plowed through the security guards on the sidelines and ran onto the track.
He raced up to Derek and hugged him, "You don;t have to do this," Jim Redmond told his weeping son.
"Yes I do," Derek answered.
"Well, then," his father said, "we’re going to finish the race together."
Derek’s father gripped his son around the shoulders, and they faced the finish line, resolutely waving off the security men who hovered around them. They limped and hopped together, Derek’s head sometimes buried in his father’s shoulder, and stayed in Derek’s lane all the way to the end.
The watching crowd gaped at first at the unusual scene. Then one by one, they rose to their feet, and began cheering and crying at the son’s determination and the father’s support.
A bride was very nervous. It was right before the service. She wasn’t sure she could even walk down aisle. Her mother gave her some words of calming wisdom. She said to her. “Honey, there’s only three things you need to focus on. If you focus on these three things, you’ll be fine. The first is walking down the aisle. Just focus on walking down the aisle of the church. I know its rather long, but just concentrate on that. Don’t get caught up with those on either side of the aisle. Just focus on getting to the end of the aisle. Next, focus on the altar. It is your destination today. Make your way down the aisle to the altar. There you will stand before God with the man you love and will make vows to God and him. God will also make vows to you. Focus on the altar that represents the love God has for you in Jesus Christ. Last, focus on the hymn that the soloist will sing. In poetry and song, the hymn embodies God’s love for you in Christ, your love for your husband and his love for you. So, to help you not be so nervous, focus on those three things. Walking down the aisle, standing before the altar and listening to the hymn.”
The bride was very thankful to her mom for her words of advice. The family and friends gathered watched as she walked down the aisle and noticed a look of calm determination on her face. But as she passed them, they began to chuckle quietly. For along with the look of calm determination, she was mumbling three words over and over to help calm her nerves. As she passed them, they heard her saying, “Aisle, Altar, Hymn. Aisle, Altar, Hymn. Aisle, Altar, Hymn.”
The year was 1980, Bill Brodherst who hadn’t ran in any race since his high school days decided to begin training for a marathon known as the Pepsi Challenge 10k in Omaha Nebraska. Sending in his application, he wasn’t sure they would accept him as a participant, but soon the approval came back and he was a designated part of the running pack. His major reason for wanting to be in this race was that Bill Rodgers, a nationally known runner was also competing in the challenge and Brodherst wanted to be able to tell others that he had run in a race beside the great Bill Rodgers.
The reason that Brodherst had not run in races since his high school days was that he had been cruelly struck down in the prime of his life with an aneurysm that caused doctors to question if he would ever walk, let alone run. But with determination that only a few may ever understand, Mr. Brodherst continually took on the impossible and met the challenge. Eventually he did learn to walk... but always with a need to drag on foot behind him as he progressed. His running was not much different. One foot ahead, drag the other up... one foot ahead, drag the other up.
At the beginning of the race Brodherst joined the other runners and as the gun went off, the hundreds of competitors trotted off and Bill slowly followed. For a while he could still see them in the distance, and then the crowds cheered him on for a while. Eventually, he heard the sounds of their feet... coming back towards him and towards the finish line. Then the crowds gradually disappeared, and Bill Brodherst ran on alone towards the halfway point. When he reached he found that everyone had left, assuming their were no other runners. But Brodherst doggedly half ran, half dragged himself to the marker and placed his hands on it so that there would be no question that he had reached that destination.
Turning and making his way back toward the final marker he found that he was the forgotten man: the police stayed with him for a while but then they had to leave to return to their duties. Children came out to taunt and imitate him as he painfully made his way on. The markers that had laid out the course had been taken down. But Brodherst trudged on to the goal. Finally, it was in sight... although the crowds had disappeared and all that was left was the line that had painted on the street. Bill Brodherst struggled on with no one to watch his victory over his personal ...
A. Todd Coget
["Mr. Holland’s Opus": Leaving a Legacy, Citation: Mr. Holland’s Opus, (Hollywood Pictures, 1995), rated PG, written by Patrick Sheane Duncan, directed by Stephen Herek; submitted by Greg Asimakoupoulos, Naperville, Illinois]
Mr. Holland’s Opus is a movie about a frustrated composer in Portland, Oregon, who takes a job as a high school band teacher in the 1960s.
Although diverted from his lifelong goal of achieving critical fame as a classical musician, Glenn Holland (played by Richard Dreyfuss) believes his school job is only temporary.
At first he maintains his determination to write an opus or a concerto by composing at his piano after putting in a full day with his students.
But, as family demands increase (including discovery that his infant son is deaf) and the pressures of his job multiply, Mr. Holland recognizes that his dream of leaving a lasting musical legacy is merely a dream.
At the end of the movie we find an aged Mr. Holland fighting in vain to keep his job.
The board has decided to reduce the operating budget by cutting the music and drama program.
No longer a reluctant band teacher, Mr. Holland believes in what he does and passionately defends the role of the arts in public education.
What began as a career detour became a 35-year mission, pouring his heart into the lives of young people.
Mr. Holland returns to his classroom to retrieve his belongings a few days after school has let out for summer vacation.
He has taught his final class.
With regret and sorrow, he fills a box with artifacts that represent the tools of his trade and memories of many meaningful classes.
His wife and son arrive to give him a hand.
As they leave the room and walk down the hall, Mr. Holland hears some noise in the auditorium.
Because school is out, he opens the door to see what the commotion is.
To his amazement he sees a capacity audience of former students and teaching colleagues and a banner that reads "Goodbye, Mr. Holland."
Those in attendance greet Mr. Holland with a standing ovation while a band (consisting of past and present members) plays songs they learned at his hand.
His wife, who was in on the surprise reception, approaches the podium and makes small talk until the master of ceremonies, the governor of Oregon, arrives.
The governor is none other than a student Mr. Holland helped to believe in herself his first year of teaching.
As she addresses the room of well-wishers, she speaks for the hundreds who fill the auditorium:
"Mr. Holland had a profound influence in my life (on a lot of lives, I know), and yet I get the feeling that he considers a great part of his life misspent.
Rumor had it he was always working on this symphony of his, and this was going to make him famous and rich (probably both).
But Mr. Holland isn’t rich and he isn’t famous.
At least not outside our little town.
So it might be easy for him to think himself a failure, but he’d be wrong.
Because I think he’s achieved a success far beyond riches and fame."
Looking at her former teacher the governor gestures with a sweeping hand and continues, "Look around you.
There is not a life in this room that you have not touched, and each one of us is a better person because of you.
We are your symphony, Mr. Holland.
We are the melodies and the notes of your opus.
And we are the music of your life."
There is tremendous relief in knowing that His love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery can disillusion Him about me, in the way I am so often disillusioned about myself, and quench His determination to bless me. There is, certainly, great cause for humility in the thought that He sees all the twisted things about me that my fellow-men do not see (and I am glad!), and that He sees more corruption in me than that which I see in myself (which, in all conscience, is enough). There is, however, equally great incentive to worship and love God in the thought that, for some unfathomable reason, He wants me as His friend, and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me in order to realize this purpose.
J.I. Packer, Knowing God, p. 37