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Sermon Central Staff
AN OLD FEUD AND A NEW BRIDGE
There were two old geezers living in the backwoods of the Ozarks: Rufus and Clarence. They lived on opposite sides of the river and they hated each other. Every morning, just after sunup, Rufus and Clarence would go down to their respective sides of the river and yell at each other.
"Rufus!" Clarence would shout, "You better thank your lucky stars that I can’t swim, er I’d swim this river and whup you!"
"Clarence!" Rufus would holler back, "You better thank YOUR lucky stars that I can’t swim, er I’d swim this river and whup YOU!"
Every morning. Every day. For 20 years.
One day the Army Corps of Engineers came along and built a bridge. But the insults went on every morning. Every day. Another five years.
Finally, Mr. Rufus’ wife had had enough. "Rufus!" she squallered one day, "I can’t take no more! Every day for 25 years you’ve been threatenin’ to whup Clarence. Well, thar’s the bridge! Have at it!"
Rufus thought for a moment. Chewed his bottom lip for another moment. "Woman!" he declared, snapping his suspenders into place. "I’m gonna whup Clarence!"
He walked out the door, down to the river, along the river bank, came to the bridge, stepped up onto the bridge, walked about halfway over the bridge, then turned tail and ran screaming back to the house, slammed the door, bolted the windows, grabbed the shotgun and dove under the bed.
"Rufus!" cried the missus. "I thought you was gonna whup Clarence!"
"I was, woman, I was!" he whispered.
"What in tarnation is the matter?"
"Well," whispered the terror-stricken Rufus, "I walked halfway over the bridge and saw a sign that said, 'Clearance, 13 feet, 6 inches.' He ain't never looked that big from the other side of the river!"
That’s what happens sometimes to the people of God. We look at things from a distance and make plans but when we get closer to doing what God wants us to do we think that the task is too monumental and we resort back to the safety of what we have always done. We circle the wagons and stand our ground. We stay right in our comfort zone.
(From a sermon by Horace Wimpey, Christian Attributes of Action, 8/15/2012)
SEEKING THE RIGHT KINGDOM
She is filled with bitterness as she speaks to me. Jillian (not her real name) has suffered from a stroke and her tears run freely as she recounts once again her desire to live at home.
Those who have power of Attorney have decided that she is best cared for at Shalom, but she doesn’t want to spend the remaining years of her life in an Aged Care Facility. She doesn’t like the room, the people, the food. She has money, so much money, "thousands of dollars," but it is no good to her now.
She looks at me through tears of sheer frustration as her kingdom is beyond her reach. She is bereft and disinherited, with all her money just lying in the bank. In building a kingdom of outward luxury, she has forgotten the kingdom of her heart, those inward resources that would enable her to give thanks in all circumstances and to experience inward joy no matter what she encounters in life. She kicks against the goads and says "I DON’T WANT TO LIVE LIKE THIS!" I can understand that. I’ve exclaimed these words with the same anguished vehemence, only she is in danger of losing her sanity and even worse, her own soul.
Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven in contrast to the kingdoms we try to build for ourselves on earth in Matthew 13:24. Jillian’s freedom and contentment depends on which kingdom she seeks and no, I am not speaking about suicide, euthanasia or death. Seeking the Kingdom of Heaven has little to do with dying and much to do with experiencing life to the full, here and now.
Sure, heaven, the Kingdom of God, is a LITERAL place, but Jesus said something interesting. He said “The Kingdom of Heaven has come” (Matthew 4:17). In fact we pray that way whenever we pray the Lord’s prayer. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." We pray that the will and authority of the Kingdom of Heaven will be translated into the everyday things of earth, here and now.
Sermon Central Staff
THE AUTHORITY OF THE BELIEVER
In Santa Cruz there's a strip called Pacific Avenue, and there's a number of bars. And I remember walking down Pacific Avenue, and it was getting a little rowdy. And there was two or three very burly guys in kinda tight T-shirts that looked like they could kill you, and were very tall, very large. And if they weren't on steroids, then they were pumping a lot of iron and doing all kinda other stuff. And they looked like -- boy, I would not mess with these guys. And there was a bouncer there who was trying to get things under control, and they were drunk and they were getting pretty, really out of control, and so they called the police.
And so I just happened to be walking by, and these things were happening, and a police car pulls up, and I'm thinking -- you know, I'm human -- "I'd like to watch this and see what happens, you know?"
So I kinda get over here like this and, you know, see how this is gonna play out. And -- so help me -- door opens and, ladies, I don't mean this is in any, like, sexist way at all. But, you know, this guy's trying to handle these big, burly guys. The door closes and about a 4'11" police officer who's a female steps out. And I'm thinking to myself, "If I was the guy trying to get these big, burly drunk guys under control," I was, like, hoping for, like, a 6'5" weightlifting police officer, not a 4'11" woman.
And so I thought, "I'm gonna kinda watch how this whole thing plays out," and I could've not been more wrong, 'cause, you know, the issue is not your size or your strength. The issue is your authority and your power. Watch this carefully. I watched this happen.
This very confident 4'11" officer walks out. "Gentlemen, do we have a problem here?"
"No, we're good here. Get outta here."
"Excuse me" -- and she had this badge on right here -- "I'm authorized by Santa Cruz County to enforce the law. I'd like both of you to know that -- understand right now -- over against the car. Do you understand?" And they both started to balk a little bit, and she put her hand on her revolver. It was a .45.
And you know what? I've never seen two big, strong drunk guys get sober so fast, and it was like, "I think she might use it, you know." And pretty soon I get this 4'11" little gal and two guys, you know, like this, and she's going boom, boom, boom, boom, "Spread 'em out."
You know why? She has a badge that has a position of authority that says "I have all right and authority vested in me to exercise that. You must do what I say. And if there's any problem with that, I have some power on my leg that can enforce it immediately."
You are a child of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Your badge is your position in Christ. And you have on your side the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. And demons must believe and obey and respond to the authority of every child of God who takes the Word of God and shoots the bullets of God to the specific issues. And you don't have to be strong or spiritual or go to seminary or know a whole lot. What you have to do is claim who you are and act on what is true, and they must obey.
(From a sermon by Chip Ingram, How to Do Battle With the Enemy and Win, 6/11/2010)
AWL FOR THE GOOD
In 1809, Simon Renee Braille and his wife Monique welcomed their fourth child into the world-- a lively boy named Louis. They lived in a small stone house near Paris where Braille was the local harness maker. Leather working tools are dangerous, so the toddler had been instructed not to go into his father's shop alone.
But when Louis was still small, he slipped into the shop, and with curiosity started to handle all the fascinating tools. As Louis was inspecting an awl, the sharp tool used to punch holes in leather, he slipped and punctured a part of his eye with the tool. The injured eye became infected. The little boy could not keep his hands from rubbing and scratching the wound, and soon the infection spread to his other eye as well. When Louis was only 4, he became completely blind.
Louis was fortunate enough to study at the Royal Institution for Blind Youth in Paris. He excelled as an organist, and at twelve years old began asking the question “How can the blind read?” Over his summer break at home, Louis was determined to find the answer. As He moved and groped around his father’s shop in search of the right tool for his task, the awl presented itself as perfect for the job. The awl would make the raised dots he had seen in the French military system of “night writing.”
And with the very instrument that had blinded him, Louis worked and worked until he had created a syste...
Intro: Illustrate: If You Can’t See the Water Line, It’s ... Time to Unload
When I was a child, my father, on leave from World War II, took my sister and me to the Liverpool dock yards to see the
merchant ships that brought us food.
"Brave men have risked their lives to bring us this precious cargo," he told us. I noticed a line painted around each vessel. "What’s that for?" I asked.
"To show the people loading the ship how much it’s made to carry," he said. "If they put too much on, the line disappears
below the water. The boat will sink. If they put too little inside, it won’t be full enough to do what it was made to do.
Each boat is made by its builder to carry just the right amount."
God has painted a water line in our lives… He will not give too much to bear… but would allow “too much” to cause us to need His help. My children enjoy help bringing in the groceries from the car. They prefer to carry in the candy and cookies…. But at times I would asked (make) them to carry in other items. My youngest of boys reaches for items unaware of the weight and if too heavy… says…, “You do this one daddy.” God allows for “things” to get to heavy for us so we can humble ourselves and say, “You do this one daddy.”
I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my father was both a loving and disciplining presence. I guess I would have to say that if there is anything I really remember about my dad is this, he possessed a presence unlike any other person in my life. To me he was always larger than life. He towered over me and just had a way of peering down at me that, depending upon the situation, could either rivet me to the spot in guilt or immediately cause me to reach out in search of his love. My dad had a smell about him that was uniquely him. There was always the faint odor of aftershave no matter what the time of day. This, mixed with the ever-present tinge of Chesterfield aroma, was always a sure sign that he had passed this way. Dad also had a unique way of clicking his teeth and clearing his throat. I knew that he was around and that my world was protected and safe when I heard those distinctively “dad” noises I had become so accustomed to. This was what made up the physical aura of my father.
There were other things about my dad that fleshed out his presence. The way he mixed his peas with his potatoes. The way he always used pepper on his food as well as the inevitable sneeze that followed. My dad wore argyle socks and very seldom wore shorts. He liked to walk barefoot in the grass while he sprinkled his precious lawn in the summer. Over the course of the years, image after image was plied upon his presence as I came to know the man in whose footsteps I knew I would some day walk. To some people his habits might have been annoying, even irritating. To me they were simply images of a man I was trying to know and conform to. Just like most boys, I wanted to be like my father when I grew up. I wanted to smell like him and sing like him. I wanted to drive a car like him and go to work like him. I swing a hammer a certain way today because that’s the way he swung it. I shave in the manner he shaved, first a swipe on the right, then the left, then under the chin and done. In this sense, dad over the course of sixteen or so years was shaping the purpose of a young man who had all of life in front of him.
As I grew older and more perceptive, I became more able in my study of the man. I began to observe his life as well as his presence. I saw his times of joy as well as his times of pain. When he lost his job I was only a little boy but I remember his deep sorrow followed by a stern commitment to make everything better. I saw his anger as well as his gentleness. The way he hugged my mom and kissed her even when we kids were around is an image I have carried with me to this day. When I left home at eighteen I was confident that I was on the way to becoming my “own man.” I didn’t find out until later that I was simply flexing my wings in pre-course to a flight that would bear a great similarity to the way my father had soared above me for years.
In the many years since I launched into my own flight as a man and a father, I can now reflect back and see the greatest lesson my dad taught me; that a man’s presence is a mixture of joy and pain. This is what makes him a man. This is what gives him purpose and value. Happiness is not all joy. Rather, it is having a purpose in life that is founded on the growth a man achieves when he builds on his misfortunes as well as his successes. The pain was as good as the joy. In fact, we can’t really know joy without the pain. To many Americans today even the suggestion that we conform to our suffering in order to know true happiness would be just plain foolishness. In a culture bent on a “no pain” attitude molded by the misguided belief that the end of all living is comfort and happiness, there is no room for such introspection. When we are confronted by trouble the first thought is to escape from it, not learn from it. Our purpose has become a purpose bent on escape from pain. The idea of embracing pain seems almost un-American. Nashville pastor Byron Yawn writes,
“Because of this distorted perception, we rarely stop to search for the ‘hand of God’ in the midst of our trouble. Seeking to understand God’s purposes in our pain is all but foreign. As a result, embracing pain’s role in our sanctification is usually the farthest thing from our minds.” (Preaching Now Vol. 1, No. 20. Tue 9/3/2002)
God has called each of us to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Like our fathers, that is an image of joy mixed with pain. There is now escaping it; this was His life and it is ours as well. His purpose was to glorify the Father in His suffering. Our greatest purpose is no different. May each of us be “counted worthy of his calling.” Embrace the pain and learn from it. Make this the cornerstone of your purpose as a believe in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The New Guideposts Christmas Treasury (3) tells a story of a little girl was wasn’t easy to love. Her name was Phyllis, and her Sunday School Teacher tells this story about her: "Phyllis wasn’t an easy child to love...sometimes I did wish she wasn’t in the particular Sunday School class that I taught...She never sat still. She hated to be touched, and she always had to have the last word." Her teacher tried to give Phyllis a speaking part, but Phyllis refused ""I’m probably going to a party that night," she said grandly. "Lord," I prayed silently, "please help me love Phyllis". "Well I do have a few more parts if you change your mind." "I won’t" Phyllis said, and she didn’t." At the rehearsal, the teacher heard ""Mary doesn’t act like she’s going to have a baby" muttered a husky little voice behind me. Phyllis might not have any desire to be in the program, but she wouldn’t miss the rehearsal. "Shhhh" I whispered, reaching back to pat Phyllis’s hand. She jerked it away, saying "Okay Okay" In the last scene, only a spotlight shone on the holy family, and the children hummed "Silent Night". It was beautiful-- but who was that moving in front of the manger? Phyllis You never knew where that child was going to pop up next. Now she stuck her hand into the manger, squeezed the doll’s arm, and disappeared back into the shadows. "Phyllis", I called, "what are you doing uup there?" "I’m just looking," she said, "Besides it’s not a baby. It’s just a doll. I felt it." "Lord, please help me love Phyllis". ...By 6:45 the air was bristling with excitment backstae...There was no Phyllis to be seen and I began to relax... As the organ chimed the beginnning of the service, I took my prompters seat in the front pew. With the opening strains of "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night", the lights came up on the manger scene, and the narrator began... I felt something bump my knee and give a little shgove. "Move over," muttered an all too familiar voice. "I decided not to go to the party." ... The angels sang to the shepherds. The shepherds went to Bethlehem and took a lamb for the baby. The wisemen went to see herod and then to the stable. And Mary sat there, "pondering these things in her heart." It was lovely. Phyllis sat beside me so quietly that I forgot all about her, and when I realized she was gone it was too late". She stomped her way right up to the manger, just as she had done during rehearsal. But this time she stiffened, awe-struck, then turned, eyes wide with wonder, and came hurrying back to me. "He’s alive" she said to me in a penetrating whisper. Across the aisle, someone asked, "What did she say?" "She said, "He’s alive’ "Lile ripples in a pond, the word passed from pew to pew, all the way to the back of the sanctuary. "He’s alive...alive...alive." ... I put my arm around Phyllis... "You wre the best part of the program" I said into her ear... "It wasn’t in the program" she said, but she didn’t push me away. Christ was love (3) - The New Guideposts Christmas Treasury, "Christmas - As Mysterious as Ever", by Doris Swehla, pp. 78-81
Philip Yancey, in his book "Reaching for the Invisible God" describes the way God get’s blamed for things in this way.
"When Princess Diana died in an automobile accident, a minister was interviewed and was asked the question “How can God allow such a terrible tragedy?” And I loved his response. He said, “Could it have had something to do with a drunk driver going ninety miles an hour in a narrow tunnel? Just How, exactly, was God involved.”
Years ago, boxer, Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini, killed a Korean opponent with a hard right hand to the head. At the press conference after the Korean’s death, Mancini said, “sometimes I wonder why God does the things he does.”
In a letter to Dr. Dobson, a young woman asked this anguished question, “Four years ago, I was dating a man and became pregnant. I was devastated. I asked God, “Why have you allowed this to happen to me?”
Susan Smith, the south Carolina mother a couple years ago who pushed her two sons into a lake to drown and then blamed a fictional car-jacker for the deed, wrote in her confession: “I dropped to the lowest point when I allowed my children to go down that ramp into the water without me. I took off running and screaming, ‘Oh God! Oh God, no! What have I done? Why did you let this happen?”
Now the quest...
Sermon Central Staff
FASTER AND FASTER
Does anyone here know who "Million Dollar Bill" is? If you guessed Bill Gates, then you would be wrong. Another nickname is "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville." In the year 1987, at Talladega Motor Speedway, Bill Elliot set the fastest recorded speed for a qualifying lap at 212.809 mph. This was the fastest miles per hour recorded for qualifying in a NASCAR event. The cars ran so fast that they literally began to lift off the speedway, creating a major safety issue. The speeds were so fast, and they really could not handle the cars.
NASCAR would implement the restrictor plate. If you are not a race fan, or not a car person at all, here is what a restrictor plate does: The device limits the power output of the engine, therefore slowing the acceleration and the overall speed. The horsepower of these machines is phenomenal. In 2004, Rusty Wallace tested a car at Talladega Super Speedway without a restrictor plate, and reached a top speed of 228 mph in the backstretch, and had a one lap average of 221 mph. Wallace would describe the experience as "out of control," and he also said that "there is no way that we could race at those speeds." The restrictor plates have slowed the cars’ speeds significantly, and they now average around 187 mph- still very fast for most of us.
But is it really? We all seem to be going faster and faster, until we actually find out--as Rusty Wallace said-- that we are out of control. The things that we are doing are no longer fun, and have become extremely dangerous.
We have become a society of "I want it now." I mean, look back, say 25-30 years. The cell phone was straight out of Dick Tracy comics, or the Jetsons’ TV phones to see the person on the other end. A computer was something that no one needed. But now, something that used to take up a city block will fit in your shirt pocket, and you can access the world from about anywhere at any time. The speed of things today is more than most of us can imagine. If there was a contest for the most popular virtue, I guess that "fast" would beat "best." Many parts of the world seem to be obsessed with speed- but the fast craze is getting us nowhere, fast.
In Carl Honore’s book, "In Praise of Slowness," he says, "The time has come to challenge our obsession with doing everything more quickly. Speed is not always the best policy."
According to the Bible, he’s right. Peter warns that in the last days, people would doubt God because he is slow, "Slack," in fulfilling his promise to return.
(From a sermon by Ricky Hurst, Patience- Stop and Smell the Roses, 5/31/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
RUBY BRIDGES ON DOING WHAT'S RIGHT
"A federal judge had ordered New Orleans to open its public schools to African-American children, and the white parents decided that if they had to let black children in, they would keep their children out. They let it be known that any black children who came to school would be in for trouble. So the black children stayed home too.
"Except Ruby Bridges. Her parents sent her to school all by herself, six years old.
"Every morning she walked alone through a heckling crowd to an empty school. White people lined up on both sides of the way and shook their fists at her. They threatened to do terrible things to her if she kept coming to their school. But every morning at ten minutes to eight Ruby walked, head up, eyes ahead, straight through the mob; two U.S. marshals walked ahead of her and two walked behind her. Then she spent the day alone with her teachers inside that big silent school building.
"Harvard professor Robert Coles was curious about what went into the making of courageous children like Ruby Bridges. He talked to Ruby's mother and, in his book The Moral Life of Children, tells what she said: 'There's a lot of people who talk about doing good, and a lot of people who argue about what's good and what's not good,' but there are folks who 'just put their lives on the line for what's right'"
(Lewis Smedes, 1001 Quotes, Illustrations and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers, 221. From a sermon by Eric Lenhart, Thursday -- "Sleepy Heads" 8/13/2010)