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Contributed By:
David Tack
 
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THE 40 MARTYRS

"History knows them as the forty martyrs of Sebaste. They were soldiers in the famed Twelfth Legion of Rome’s imperial army, around A.D. 320. One day the captain informed his troops that Emperor Licinius had sent down an edict commanding all soldiers to offer a sacrifice to his pagan god. Forty of the soldiers were followers of Christ, and they refused. 'You can have our armor and even our bodies, but our hearts' allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ,' they said.

"The emperor decided to make an example of the soldiers, so in the middle of winter he marched them onto a frozen lake and stripped them of their clothes. 'Renounce your God and you will be spared from death,' he told them. Not one man came forward. So he left them there, huddled together to contemplate his offer. Throughout the night the man stayed together, singing their song of victory: Forty Martyrs for Christ. When morning came, thirty-nine of the men had frozen to death. The one survivor finally relented and crawled to safety, recanting his confession of faith in order to live. The officer in charge that night had been so moved by the scene that during his watch he’d come to Jesus, so he broke rank and walked out onto the ice. Stripping his clothes he openly confessed his faith in Christ. The furious emperor demanded that he renounce Jesus, but he refused. When the ordeal was over, the Roman soldiers carried forty frozen men off of the ice."

(Ref: Lahaye, Tim, Jerry B. Jenkins and Frank M. Martin ed., Embracing Eternity, Living Each Day With a Heart Toward Heaven: The Persecuted, Matthew 5:10- February 15. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004.)

 
Contributed By:
Fr Mund Cargill Thompson
 
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MOTHERS LIVE FOR OTHERS

We've got all sorts of people here this morning. One thing we have got a lot of is mothers. Some of you, your children are long grown up. But you have the experience of having been a mother. So? Well, every mother lives her life for another. And that is what the church is meant to be like. As former Archbishop of Cantabury William Temple put it, "The Church is the only society that exists solely for the benefit of it's non-members." Or as Jesus put it "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"

Every Mother lives her life for another. Those of you who have been mothers - for the love of your child you have been through the excruciating pain of labour. For the love of your child you had yoru sleep broken as you wake to feed your baby and change her nappy. For the love of your child, you have massively reduced your social life - think how much more you used to go out before you had your child than you did when your child was young. For the love of your child, you structured our entire day around things like School drop off and School pick up times. And on top of all the practical things you did for your child, you spent your time constantly thinking about what would be best for her or him. Every mother lives her life for another.

Now, not all of us in this church are mothers. I, for example, have never been a mother. And of course there are other forms of self sacrifice too. But the mothers here are an inspiration to the rest of us. Every mother exists not for her own benefit but for the benefit of her children. We need to put that into practice in a different context. Every mother exists not for her own benefit but for the benefit of her children. We need to learn more and more to exist not for our own benefit but for the benefit of our non-members.

Of course - it's easy to romanticise being a mother. Frequently you will have thought "I don't want to do this", "I don't want to do that", "Do I have to?" - especially when it comes to having your sleep broken in the middle of the night. "Do I have to?" Yet for love of your child, you got out of bed, comforted her, fed her and changed her nappy. For love of your child you did not what you wanted but what was best for her. As a church too, there will frequently be times for each one of us when we say "I don't want to do this", "I don't want to do that", "Do I have to?" yet, if as parents we can do things we don't want because we love our child, then as Christians, for love of God and love of those who haven't yet come to faith, we will do not what we want but what is best for them.

 
Contributed By:
Darren McCormick
 
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Take a look at this next slide. It’s from the opening sequence of Gunsmoke, one of the longest running television shows ever produced. Notice how the street’s full of activity. Well I’ve got news for you. What you think you see in this picture and what you thought you saw on television probably don’t agree with reality. I know, because I saw the set of Gunsmoke up close and personal. They built one not far from where my grandfather lived in Arkansas----and while my family was on vacation visiting my grandparents we went to the set. At first sight as a little guy I thought wow, this is was pretty cool. I’m standing on the main street of Dodge where Marshal Dillion had a lot of gunfights. I wanted to see more than the fronts of the buildings; I wanted to explore the town. I wanted to check out the insides of the buildings. I don’t know why but I almost immediately broke into a run and headed up the stairs that lead to the Doc’s office. I threw open the door and stepped inside. And it’s a good thing they had a small platform with a railing there otherwise I might have plunged head first from that lofty height. What a disappointment. Doc’s office wasn’t there. The jail, Miss Kitty’s, Newly’s gun shop, none of it was there---I mean there were but they weren’t there. The storefronts were there but when you walked through the doors, there was nothing on the other side of them.
[SLIDE]
When in our hearts and minds we make God out to be something which He is not---we can expect disappointment. For example, there are those people who carry with them the belief that God will grant them whatever they ask for if only they have enough faith. In doing so, they’ve erected a false mental image of God---and disappoint awaits them just like it did me on the set of Gunsmoke. You can almost see it coming, can’t you?----the disappointment when God doesn’t give them what they’re asking for. They’re worshiping the right God but doing it the wrong way----and when the anticipated answer doesn’t come along ---these people are destined to be upset with themselves for their lack of faith or they’re going to be mad at God for not meeting their expectations---and maybe both. Worshiping the right God the wrong way---leads to disappointment. And if we’re disappointed enough we may abandon the relationship----and more than anything else, God doesn’t want that to happen.

 
Contributed By:
Randy Leckliter
 
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FAITHFUL INSTRUCTIONS

There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that time he saw a little shack in the distance.
He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note.

The note read: "pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need". Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn’t work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find. Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction, he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveller.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “ Please prime the pump, believe me it works”!

We have the same choice to make...

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Illustration- Pharmacists For example, • You go to a doctor whose name you cannot pronounce and whose degrees you have never verified. • He gives you a prescription you cannot read. • You take it to a pharmacist you have never met. • He gives you a chemical compound you do not understand. Then you go home and take the pill according to the instructions on the bottle. All in trusting, sincere faith

 
Contributed By:
Lynn Floyd
 
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Assumptions can be quite dangerous. For example, the photographer for a national magazine was assigned to get photos of a great forest fire. Smoke at the scene hampered him and he asked his home office to hire a plane. Arrangements were made and he was told to go at once to a nearby airport, where the plane would be waiting. When he arrived at the airport, a plane was warming up near the runway. He jumped in with his equipment and yelled, "Let’s go! Let’s go!" The pilot swung the plane into the wind and they soon were in the air. "Fly over the north side of the fire," yelled the photographer, "and make three or four low level passes." "Why?" asked the pilot. "Because I’m going to take pictures," cried the photographer. "I’m a photographer and photographers take pictures!" After a pause the pilot said, "You mean you’re not the instructor?" The Jokesmith.

 
Contributed By:
Chris Santasiere
 
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The latest statistics clearly show that Christians in America are not doing a good job of resisting the devil. In fact, it appears that we are embracing the devil, or discounting that the devil even exists. The truly sad fact as we will see is that Christians in America think and behave no differently from anyone else. Here are some examples taken from a 1997 OmniPoll survey:
Donated any money to a non-profit organization in the past month:
47% Christians 48% Non-Christians
Have been divorced:
27% Christians 23% Non-Christians
Volunteered time to help at a non-profit organization in past week:
29% Christians 27% Non-Christians
Bought a lottery ticket in the past week:
23% Christians 27% Non-Christians
Gave money to a homeless person or poor person in the past year:
24% Christians 34% Non-Christians

 
Contributed By:
Martin Dale
 
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Story: At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity.

Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.”

Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”

Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”

“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.”

The room fell silent.

Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.

After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride.

Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.

Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requ...

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Contributed By:
Mark Brunner
 
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“If You Can’t Beat ‘Em?” Philippians 1: 12-14 Key verse(s): 14:“Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em! We’ve all said it at times when it just seemed hopeless and there was no other way to cope other than relenting and giving in to the problem. Back in the late 1940’s the extensive system of railroads that criss-crossed the United States found themselves in just such a situation. For over a century rail had been not only the way to ship goods between towns and cities, it was about the only safe, secure and fast way to travel as well. In the early part of the last century it appeared to most who owned, operated, worked-on and used the over a million miles of steel rails in this country that the future of the railroad would go on forever. The automobile was but as decade or two old and it was prone to mechanical failure, prone to slow speeds and, most of all, relegated to a poorly constructed network of antiquated wagon paths turned into muddy highways. Although several companies were manufacturing trucks, none were designed to go the long haul. Trucks were simply ways of moving things around in town and carting goods to the, of course, rail head. Air travel was primitive at best with little or no goods shipped by air with the exception of the mail. And since air travel was fairly dangerous and expensive, it offered little competition to the burgeoning rail lines of America.

Then in 1906 something called the Lincoln highway went on the drawing boards. The dream of a few visionary believers in the future of over-the-road travel and commerce, the idea was to link New York City with Chicago via a paved highway over over 1,500 miles. It took over a decade to build and some segments of it were little more than repaved country lanes. Nonetheless, as World War I swept through Europe, cars and trucks began sweeping from the New York to the midwest in the incredible time of only eight to nine days. By the mid-1920’s the Lincoln Highway was connected to the Los Angeles and the west coast of the United States by U.S. Route 66. From these two pioneering roadways, a network of U.S. and state highways, county road and eventually metropolitan freeways quickly developed. By 1938, for the first time in nearly a century and a half, more fright was being hauled by truck than by rail. And, by 1948, more people were traveling interstate by automobile than by passenger train. Even air freight threatened the very existence of rail by the early 1950’s. It seemed the future of rail freight as well as travel was in grave doubt.

But the major rail lines refused to accept their own demise. Convinced that they could still compete with the ever-widening network of interstate highways and large full-service air ports, they began to see what had been viewed as a threat as a beckoning opportunity. For too long rail service had been focused on inter-city linkages and not interstate connections. As the railroads developed in the 1800’s, they followed a very parochial pattern of growth. Every city or at least portion of a state had its own railroad meaning that hundreds of thousands of lines of track were independently owned and, therefore, not available for easy pass-through traffic by a rival rail shipper. Seeing an opportunity to buy-out the little guy and merge many of the less than competitive lines, a handful of major railroads began to build a smooth system of long-haul, interstate rail lines. National railroads finally found their niche and by the 1970’s many had once again become profitable as long-haul, freight and passenger services. What had been a threat to their very existence turned out to be the very opportunity that saved them.

Being thrown into prison, especially the brutally cold and dank confines of the infamous Mamertine prison of Rome, was not treat. If you happened to survive the confinement, odds are you wouldn’t survive the diseases and maladies that were part and parcel of the stay. Only a fool would fine any comfort in that. Yet Paul, a fool for Christ, was able to find comfort, even joy in the fact that he had been thrown into prison. Thrown into a dark and cold cell unjustly, Paul, recognizing that he was “in chains for Christ,” gloried in the hardship and reveled in the opportunity. The “brothers” were using Paul’s misfortune and suffering to inspire and teach others about Christ Jesus. They were holding him up as an example of courage, faith and hope, hope that can only come from a believing heart and a spirit that was daily replenished and restore by the pure Word of God. His body may be suffering but his spirit was soaring. Paul turned the bad situation of Mamertine into a wonderful opportunity to reflect the glory of his Lord. Deep in that dark and dirty hole, a magnificent light was reflecting skyward. The circumstance that had dictated his defeat and turned into an opportunity that would eventually reflect his victory. Paul had found through hardship, a new purpose for living even as he was dying to do it.

 
Contributed By:
Gregg Bitter
 
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70 FUNERALS IN ONE DAY

During a forty-year ministry, I would guess that many pastors do seventy or more burials. But this wasn't over the full span of his ministry. In fact, it wasn't even a full year. In one day, Pastor Rinkart did burial rites for up to seventy people and did the same the next day and the next.

The year was 1637. He was the only pastor left in Eilenburg, Germany. This was the height of the Thirty-Years War that had start in 1618. By 1637 one army after another had pillaged the fields of Germany for nearly twenty years. Refugees fled to walled cities such as Eilenburg. Famine and plague ran rampant. In 1637 Pastor Rinkart buried nearly 4,500 people including many of his coworkers and his own dear wife.

Yet during this war that would bring such devastation, this same Pastor, Martin Rinkart, in the year 1630 wrote the words: "Nun danket alle Gott Mit Herzen, Mund und Händen." What an example of the Apostle's words, "[W]e also rejoice in our sufferings" (Romans 5:3 NIV).

Now granted, the worst of the war came after he wrote those words, and I don't now how often he would have sung them during that dreadful year of 1637. And yet his faithful service throughout that year and onward certainly confesses a faith that was able to rejoice in suffering. How can we imitate that faith as we put into practice the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 5?

 
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