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ABRAHAM LINCOLN: MERIT YOUR FREEDOM
In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln’s army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the throng around him: "My poor friends, you are free—free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it ... . Liberty is your birthright."
But Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom. "Let the world see that you merit [your freedom]," Lincoln said, "Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom he has liberated by his death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom. But that freedom isn’t an excuse for disobedience; it forms the basis for learning and obeying God’s laws. It gives us direction in action.
(From a sermon by Christopher Surber, All Things are Possible with God, 8/15/2012)
Sermon Central Staff
I like the way songwriter and worship leader, Brian Doerksen, puts it. He says, "Becoming a worshipper means becoming a warrior... And by toning that down...we have sent men and women away from the church in droves. It's time to call them back," Doerksen says, "as worshiping warriors." That is as "warriors who are surrendered to God, warriors who know that their authority comes because they are under authority, warriors willing to wait even when everyone else is rushing ahead, or [warriors willing to] act decisively...in obedience" to their commanding officer, Jesus Christ, even when everybody else is lagging behind in disobedience.
(Brian Doerksen, Make Love, David C. Cook, 2009. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Take a Risk, 5/25/2012)
As Vice President, George Bush represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband.
Gary Thomas, Christianity Today, October 3, 1994, p. 26.
The philosophy for dog obedience training has changed quite a bit in the last few decades. It used to be that many dog obedience schools operated by teaching the dog, “you better obey me, because I’m your master. And if you don’t obey me, bad things will happen.” And plenty of dogs were trained this way, and trained well. They obeyed, but they obeyed out of fear. But now there has been a shift in the thinking of many trainers, though some still do it the old way. If the old way was punishing disobedience, the new way could be characterized as rewarding obedience. In this new way of training, you don’t strike the dog, you don’t yell at him any more than a firm “no!” But whenever you catch him doing something good, he gets praise and rewards. The thinking here is that the dog is going to want to do the things that make you happy, because positive things happen to him when you are happy.
Both obedience philosophies get results, but they produce very different dogs. The old way produces a dog that is terrified to do the wrong thing. The new way produces a dog that is eager to do the right thing. And these two schools of thought work not just for dogs, but maybe you’ve seen children raised by these two ways. And this should be nothing new for us, since basically we are talking about the difference between Law motivation and Gospel motivation. In our lives, sometimes we do things, like hitting the brakes when you see a cop car, that would be obeying out of Law motivation. It is the fear of punishment that motivates you to slow down. But now let’s say that you are driving your children in the car with you. You are so happy for the gift of a family that God has given you, that you want to drive as carefully as poss...
I will never forget the day I watched about 40 khaki-clad men get off an old rattletrap brown bus in Houston, Texas. Some had scars on their faces. I especially remember one man whose arm had been amputated. Some of them looked tough. I remember thinking I would not want to meet some of those guys in a dark alley. Others looked like clean-cut, all-American boys. They all had two things in common. Each man had served time in prison and each man had been freed. Freedom had been a long time in coming. They measured the time they had served by calendars.
As I talked with some of those men, it soon became apparent that adapting to freedom would require some adjustment. They were so used to forced regimentation that some of them really did not know they were free. They asked if I represented the Texas Department of Corrections.
As children of God, we sometimes do not quite comprehend the fact that we have been set free by our Savior. Some of us are imprisoned by the memories of a sinful past. Lloyd Ogilvie said, "The memory of past failure is like sand in the gears of our effectiveness." God did not put the handcuffs of past memories on you. They are self-imposed. He wiped out your sins in order that you might have seasons of refreshing (Acts 3:19).
Other Christians are incarcerated by legalism. They read the Bible to learn of its rules. The legalist with a sensitive conscience knows he cannot keep God’s laws perfectly. Maybe that is why the novelist John Updike said, "I agree with the Jews. One Testament is enough." If faith is solely a matter of law keeping, I would agree. The Psalmist was talking about the Old Testament when he said, "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul" (Ps. 19:7). There was no need for a new law code, but there was a need for freedom from the consequences of disobedience. Small wonder that legalists either live in a state of perpetual discouragement or self-righteous hypocrisy. The legalist does not understand that "everyone who believes in Him is freed from all things" (Acts 13:39 NASB).
If you are living in a prison of your own making, you can walk through the doors of freedom today. "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free" (Gal. 5:1).
Stories for Preachers: Freedom
Instant obedience is the only kind of obedience there is; delayed obedience is disobedience. Whoever strives to withdraw from obedience, withdraws from Grace. -Thomas Kampis.
J. Robertson McQuilkin said, "The goal of all Bible study is to apply the truth of Scripture to life. If that application is not made, all the work put into making sure of the author’s intended meaning will have gone for naught. In fact, to know and not do, doubles the offense of disobedience" (Understanding and Applying the Bible, p.255).
FAITH IN A FATHER'S LOVE
Here’s how the story of Finding Nemo develops in the movie:
Nemo’s father loved him very much. He watched over Nemo and protected him from every evil. Nemo and his dad were best friends. There are reasons why so many people enjoy the blockbuster hit Finding Nemo. It is a powerful story of the sacrificial love of a mother, and determination of a caring father. It is the story of being lost, and then found. It is a story that can help you understand God and his love for you.
But one day Nemo disobeyed his father and swam beyond the reef. He was suddenly scooped up by a diver and taken away on a boat. Nemo’s disobedience caused him to be separated from his father. Nemo was so sad because there was nothing he could do to get back to his father. Nemo ended up in fish tank in a dentist’s office overlooking the Sydney Harbor. His situation seemed hopeless.
The father loved little Nemo so much that it did not matter how big the ocean was, or how many fish there were. He was determined to save Nemo, and set out on an incredible adventure to seek and save little Nemo. His journey became the talk of all the fish and birds. The good news of this heroic father traveling the ocean in search of his son reached Nemo through a pelican named Nigel.
Nemo was so surprised and thrilled to learn of his father’s love and search for him. However, time was running out. The dentist’s destructive niece Darla was set to pick up Nemo as a pet. Darla was known for abusing her pet fish until they went belly up. With a strong desire to return to his ...
Most of us love happy endings! My girls when they were little loved Disney’s, ‘Beauty and the Beast.’ In the closing scenes the beast lies dying from a wound inflicted during combat with Gaston his enemy. Belle the beauty finally confesses her love for the beast and just in time gives him the kiss that breaks the curse. The beast is transformed back into a handsome prince and they live happily ever after. Beauty brought life to the beast, we could say.
But we don’t always get a happy ending. The original 1933 ‘King Kong’ Movie is heartbreaking! Having escaped from his chains Kong creates havoc and mayhem in New York searching for the object of his affections, Anne Darrow, played by the actress, Fay Rae. A climactic battle takes place between the air force and Kong as he hangs onto the top of the Empire State building. Kong is injured and plunges 1,000 plus feet to the streets below. In a very moving scene Anne Darrow watches Kong, as he lies dying. Kong’s heartbeat which you hear on the soundtrack stops and his eyes close. A Police Lieutenant says to Carl Denham, who captured the giant gorilla: ‘Well, Denham, the airplanes got him.’ ‘Oh no,’ says Denham, ‘It wasn’t the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.’
Well, these films are of course fantasy stories put together for our entertainment. But with Jonah we’re looking at the true story in history of one of God’s prophets. Now after all that’s happened so far – Jonah’s initial disobedience; God’s humbling of Jonah; Jonah’s going to Nineveh at the second time of asking; the Ninevites’ believing the message and being spared – surely you’d expect there to be a happy ending!
But it isn’t quite as simple as that – life often isn’t. Gordon Keddie says ‘There is something deeply disturbing, even unsatisfying about the last chapter of the book of Jonah.’
Life Is An Arugula Sandwich! (09.14.05--Heavenly Citizens!--Proverbs 10:28)
Arugula, Also known as rocket, roquette, rugula and rucola, was a name of something I may of heard of once or twice; but never really had an appreciation for what it was. Over the past week that has all changed.
Arugula is a type of lettuce with an odd shape and an odd taste. The leaves of the plant are shaped somewhat like the leaves of an oak. Dark, like spinach, they really don’t look much like a lettuce at all. But, it is the taste of the plant that really separates it from it leafy brothers. The taste starts out nutty, really on the bitter side. But, as one’s taste buds slowly acclimate themselves to the unusual flavor, a slow aftertaste begins to creep over the tongue. The bitterness slowly subsides, replaced by a subtle almost gentle sweetness. With each bite of a sandwich or spearing of a salad, the taste becomes bolder and more pleasing. Arugula, as they say, holds a promise with each bite; the promise that eventually it will be sweet if only you can stand the initial bitterness. It holds a hope of flavor that compels you to keep going, pushing through the present in order to gain what lays in store.
Heavenly citizens like you and I taste life in much the same way. On the one hand we must endure the bitterness of our daily, sinful lives. On the other, we defiantly struggle on, spurred by the hope that something sweeter lays in store.
As Vice President, George Bush Sr. represented the U.S. at the funeral of former Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Bush was deeply moved by a silent protest carried out by Brezhnev’s widow. She stood motionless by the coffin until seconds before it was closed. Then, just as the soldiers touched the lid, Brezhnev’s wife performed an act of great courage and hope, a gesture that must surely rank as one of the most profound acts of civil disobedience ever committed: She reached down and made the sign of the cross on her husband’s chest. There in the citadel of secular, atheistic power, the wife of the man who had run it all hoped that her husband was wrong. She hoped that there was another life, and that that life was best represented by Jesus who died on the cross, and that the same Jesus might yet have mercy on her husband. (Gary Thomas, in Christianity Today, October 3, 1994, p. 26.)
Without such hope, hope that the bitter will be replaced by the sweet, life would be entirely untolerable for a Christian. Eventually we would be numbed into a mindless and hopeless station, secured in the bitterness of our daily walk, even satisfied that there is nothing beyond it. Thank God that life is like an arugula sandwich. It’s bitterness tolerable because the finish is so sweet for those who know Jesus.