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So if the kingdom of heaven is so valuable, why doesn’t everybody do everything they can to be a part of it? I think it’s because value is often in the eye of the beholder. What has value and what doesn’t is really up to personal interpretation. What some people think are valuable have no value at all to others. Several years ago I used to heat our house with wood. Every fall I would go out and cut wood with my friend Roger Raether and Bob Bosma. I never liked cutting wood because it was a lot of back breaking work but I liked the price. It was free except for the labor so we would take a Saturday here and there in the fall to cut wood and pile it up for the winter. In addition to cutting wood I used to get the wood scraps from a store called “The Wooden Bird.” They make beautiful hand carved bird decoys and animal decoys out of wood. Every decoy costs from 50 to 250 bucks and they are really nice decorative pieces to put on the mantle. Their shop used to be right here in St. Boni so every couple of weeks I would stop in and pick up their leftover wood scraps to burn in my wood burner. Right before Thanksgiving I stopped in to pick up a load of scraps. I walked in the front door and told them I was there to pick up the wood. The man wheeled out two bins like usual to the loading doors and helped me load them in the truck. Usually the wood was just chunks of pine but this time they looked like decoys. I asked him if he was sure that he was giving me the right wood because they were unpainted decoys. I noticed that they had a few cracks in them so I figured they were throwing them away because of the cracks. The man insisted that I had the right stuff and waved me goodbye. I took my load of wood and promised that I would bring his carts back as soon as I got the chance. He told me there was no hurry and I could even bring them back after Thanksgiving. I went home and unloaded the decoys in a big pile in the basement. The wood burner was low so I grabbed a handful of decoys and threw them in the furnace. That dry pine burned nice and hot so I threw in a few more to ward of the cold. Then I went back to work. After work I went home and reloaded the furnace with decoys and had just enough time to bring back the carts before they closed for the long weekend. When I pulled up in my truck two men ran out of the building and demanded that I bring back the decoys. I asked why and with urgency in his voice he told me that I had taken their entire inventory of Christmas decoys worth tens of thousands of dollars by mistake. He went on and on about calling the police and trying to find my vehicle and driving around for the past three hours in a complete panic because I had taken their entire Christmas inventory of decoys worth thousands of dollars by mistake. I pointed at the guy who gave them to me and he just gave me the deer in the headlights look and walked back into the building. Then the manager said do you still have them because they are incredibly valuable. Each decoy had taken them over a week to make and they needed to get them back. Rather stunned I told them that I had burned a few of them but would bring the rest back. Then I went home and carefully loaded a few hundred decoys back into the bins and brought them back to the Wooden Bird. Value is often in the eye of the beholder. The decoys had no value to me other than a little heat. But to the Wooden bird, the decoys were worth tens of thousands of dollars.

 
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NOT MY JOB

The names in this story have been changed out of respect for their privacy. Julie W told her family's story in a magazine article.

[My daughter], Allison, came home for the weekend. She opened the door, didn't speak, and dropped her duffel bag. Smudges of mascara circled her eyes. I whispered a "God-please-no" prayer.
"Come tell me about your classes." I patted the sofa. She muttered,
"Gotta take a shower."

As she clomped upstairs, I analyzed the recent changes in her: complaints of not having any money, rarely answers the phone, weight loss, pinpoint pupils, and a "who gives a rip" [facade]. I searched her purse and found a leopard-colored pipe and the unmistakable sweet odor of pot. My heart fluttered wildly like a bird stuck inside my chest.

She plodded down the stairs, hair in a towel, wearing the same wrinkled clothes. Be still and talk in a sweet voice, I told myself. You must convince her to stop. "We need to talk, honey."

"Not now. I'm tired."

"I found your pipe."

She stared at me with death-row eyes. "Chill, it's not that big of a deal."

The tightness in the den suffocated me. I needed air. "Want to walk?" I asked brightly. "Like we used to?"

"Whatever."

I knew I could talk some sense into her. "Honey, please. You've gotta stop." I grabbed her hand.

"Mom!" She jerked away.

"We have a strong family history. You don't want to..."

I never got to finish the sentence. Allison stormed out of the room and within minutes was headed back to college. I knew what I had to do--abandon everything in my life and start to worry/fix/control full-time.

I began spending most days by the phone. I evaluated Allison's reactions, gestures, and comments. Thoughts circled my mind like buzzards: What if she never stops? What if I never see her again? What if she overdoses? Or goes to jail?

I lured Allison into therapy by promising we'd go to an Italian restaurant before visits. Her first appointment day arrived. She played with her spaghetti, and I couldn't eat. "So, what do you plan to say to the counselor?" I asked.

"How should I know?"

When they called her name at the office, I hurried in to make sure the counselor understood. Allison refused to sign for me to have any information. I considered eavesdropping, but too many people were around. An hour later, she walked past me as I paid.

"What'd you talk about?"

"Just stuff."

Our therapy/lunch charade continued that way for a few weeks. Then Allison's sister informed me she was still using. She denied it, refused to see the counselor, dropped out of college, and stopped answering my calls.

I was convinced if I forgot about Allison, even for a second, or enjoyed anything, something bad might happen. Several months later, after another night of little sleep, I glanced in the mirror. I could have passed for the addict: dark circles under hopeless eyes.
I called my friend Linda. Her son, also an addict, had been sentenced to state prison. "You can't imagine all that's going on here," I said.

"Come over for coffee," she urged.

I wanted to stand guard at home but knew she'd listen and understand.

"Hey, girlfriend." Linda hugged me. I didn't touch my coffee as I blurted the saga. Linda didn't sweet-talk. "You need help."
"You haven't heard the whole story," I argued. "I'm fine--my daughter, she needs help."

"You're addicted to worry and control," Linda said. "I've been where you are." She stretched out on the sofa. "The only one you can control is yourself."

The possibility that she might be right terrified me. "It took me years to realize that I'm not in charge. God is," Linda admitted. "By worrying, you're telling God he can't handle things. Go to Al-Anon with me." I'd heard of Al-Anon but didn't see how it applied to me. But I agreed because I was in awe of Linda.

I didn't open my mouth during the meeting. Every word spoken sounded like my own thoughts:

"I worried myself sick about my alcoholic husband."
"My peace comes only when I let go and let God."
Then the speaker said, "To change, you'll have to leave behind some familiar lifelong habits." But how? This is who I am--what I do. "An alcoholic can't drink, and those of us in this room can't allow an ounce of worry. For us, it's every bit as dangerous and addictive. Worry robs our serenity."

I didn't think change was possible. Not for me. But I knew one thing for sure--I was destroying my life. That night at home I got real. "Help me, God. I can't do this without you." I began to ask God for help each morning. I whispered, "Not my job," as worry, fear, or control tried to needle back in.

Two years after that first Al-Anon meeting, Allison and I met for an impromptu lunch. She'd gone back to the same therapist. On her own.
"You can't imagine how easy it is to study when you're not high," she laughed.

"Nope, I guess not." I blinked back happy tears.

"Thanks, Mom."

"For what?"

"When you didn't fix my problems, it scared me. A few times I had to dig change out of the seat of my car for gas money. Some days," she paused, "I didn't have food." My throat felt warm with pride. She'd done it on her own. "I'm making A's. And look," she handed me her checkbook. "I have money again."

Recovery defies logic. It means doing the opposite of what feels natural. When I took care of myself and my addictions, Allison did the same.

Citation: Condensed from our sister publication Today's Christian,© 2008 Christianity Today International Julie W., "Not My Job," Today's Christian (July/August 2008)

Everyone needs a hero. For the mother who told this story it was her friend, Linda. Then she turned to God as her ultimate hero. We all could do with someone to help us work through our troubles. We need a victorious warrior to fight our battles. No one knows that better than God himself.

From Mark Haines' Sermon "Our Mighty God"

 
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Andrew Moffatt
 
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The Parable of Water

There are a lot of things I could compare when it comes to living in the world, sexual sin, the lust we have for objects that are shiny; but, I’ve decided that I’m not going to. I’ve decided to discuss two different liquids. One of them is water and the other is Coca Cola.

The two I’m going to compare in this way:
Let’s just pretend that water is the God’s kingdom stuff, the things that come from the Father.(repeat)
Let’s also pretend that Coke on the other hand is the world.(repeat)

By my own admission, there’s always some Coke in the Moffatt family grocery trolley. We are Salvationist’s we don’t smoke, we don’t drink, or gamble – but hey we have Coke in the fridge.

1) When I see a Coke bottle or Coke advertising I’m keen for a Coke. On a hot day I could be said to be craving a Coke. Water might be better for me, the truth is water is better for me, but there is water in Coke, Coke contains carbonated purified water, cane sugar, caramel 150d (colour), food acid (338), flavour, and caffeine. It says that about caffeine twice, the second time in bold letters.

On the other hand water contains two hydrogen atoms to every oxygen atom, a virtual trinity of atoms. All life is dependent on water if it knows it or not.

Coke all that yummy caramel coloured, caffeine enhanced goodness. The caffeine helps fuel the craving. That this has all been in the fridge – ice cold, (open the can), all enhances the craving, (take a sip) – how is that craving going for you? Now remember I’m pretending water is God’s Kingdom stuff and that Coke is the world.

2) Now the lust of the eyes, Coke comes in a “contour bottle” with its hoop skirt appearance and the “dynamic ribbon device” note the attractive red and white against the dark caramel of the liquid. With the trademark Coca-Cola, lettering. Nice! This is one of the most widely recognised designs in the world.

So along with the craving and the eye attractiveness thingy Coke is a must! I even found this bottle that has my name on it, have a Coke with Andrew, that’s clever.
Water on the other hand, well its always close, we see it in creation, it sustains life, it cleans us, allows growth, it rains down on us. All life is dependent on water whether it knows it or not. You could deny all knowledge of water but it still sustains you.

Like Coke / the world comes in different flavours; mmm vanilla, with or without sugar and it’s on special often. Water / that kingdom of God stuff is always there, the benefits of it are always there, the life sustaining growth that it brings is always there, you could almost take it for granted, how often do we pass it over for the Coke. Coke that liquid that comes in a variety of sizes, continually costs, not to mention the litter that is left behind. When if we just turned the tap on, if we just leapt into a lake of water we would have a supply that would never run out and the price of which has been paid for us.

The other thing about the world is that just when you believe that you have found satisfaction in Coca Cola, you discover Dr Pepper!

 
Contributed By:
Davon Huss
 
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CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY

Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.

As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”

We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”

He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”

“David.”

“How long have you been on the street?”

“Six years.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.

“Where did you sleep last night, David?”

“Abandoned truck.”

I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.

I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”

I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.

But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”

Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...

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Contributed By:
Paul Dietz
 
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I recently read a peculiar story about a family in Lander, Wyoming that had gone to their local refuse dump to dispose of some unwanted family items that were either busted or greatly abused. As they were emptying there junk into a large dumpster, the man of the home saw something that caught his eye. It was apparently an ornate, antique four-poster bed that had been left there by some other family.

The man called to his wife to have her to look at it as well. After a few moments of discussion they both agreed that it most likely could be stored to its original condition. So, even though it was a bit worn and tattered, they began to inquire about that possibility with the management staff of the refuse center. They found that they there was no problem with taking the grand piece of junk home if they would just pay a small fee of a few dollars.

They proceeded to load the headboard, footboard and the wooden rails into the back of their pickup and pull-along trailer. As they were loading the post, which were separate pieces, they began to question the weight of each one. The husband felt they were quite a bit heavier than he had imagined they would be. But they finally got all the pieces loaded and drove home.

When they got home, the husband backed the truck and trailer into his driveway with the assistance of his wife and eldest son. They then proceeded to unload the bed one piece at a time. To their amazement, as their son picked up one end of the first bed-post, the finial at the top worked loose and slipped out of its socket. Thankfully they were standing in the front yard and a nearby hedge broke the fall, catching the post. But suddenly they heard the weirdest noise.
As they turned to look toward the area of the noise, something caught the glimpse of the father’s eye. A few silver coin tumbled to the ground near the base of the bush. After picking up the loose coins he looked in the opened end of the bed-post and to his surprise there were more silver coins inside. With the help of his son, he picked up the opposing end and hundreds of silver, brass and gold coins came rolling out onto the lawn. Many of the gold ones dated back into the 1800’s and almost all of the coins were near mint condition. After close inspection of the other three posts, they, too, were completely hollow and contained equal amounts of coinage.

Amazing stuff one can find at a garbage dump! The finest of treasures in the least likely places! To hear stories like that are always a great thrill to hear! Who knows, next time any one of us goes to the refuse dump, hard to tell what we might find. As my dad always said, one man's trash is another man's treasure!

 
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Ovidiu Radulescu
 
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FALLEN HUMAN NATURE

The fate of the women from Judges 19 touches the most troubling question of our modern time. Nobel Prize winner Elie Wiesel describe the most traumatic memory of his life, a scene from the year 1945, when he and his family were sent to the concentration camp by the German military machine:

'As the sea of people drifts by I see for the last time a mother and her little daughter, ghostly silent and introverted,' wrote Wiesel. 'I see them walk away, hand in hand, closely entwined. I will continue seeing them in my mind's eye as long as I live, how they disappear.'

The mother was his mother, too, and the daughter was his little sister, disappearing from view and forever lost to him in the extermination camp at Auschwitz. He, too, had experienced at first hand God's inaction in the face of injustice and His apparent indifference to human suffering.

'The Eternal, Lord of the Universe, the All-Powerful, was silent' he protested in his book, The Night. He expressed the feelings of countless defenseless victims who pleaded for a hand to intervene and deliver them from the evil they did not have the means to escape.

To find the story from Judges 19 in a book that is supposed to tell about God, suggests that the Bible presents the evidence fairly and in an unbiased manner. During a long, chilly night in the hills of Judaea, a young woman was deserted by her husband and sexually abused to death by people who had been chosen from among the nations of the world to safeguard a knowledge of God. It’s a story of our fallen human nature, a story revealing what people who chased away the presence of the Holy Spirit, can become. Beasts…

 
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The colonel who served as inspector general in a particular base paid close attention to how personnel wore their uniforms. On one occasion he spotted a junior airman with a violation. "Airman," he bellowed, "what do you do when a shirt pocket is unbuttoned?"

The startled airman replied, "Button it, sir!"

The colonel looked him in the eye and said, "Well?"

At that, the airman nervously reached over and buttoned the colonel’s shirt pocket.

(From a sermon by Tolmmy Burrus, Living Letters of Recommendation, 7/11/2010)

 
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Tim Harrison
 
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THE REFINER'S FIRE

The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study.

The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.

As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."

She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes...

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Contributed By:
K. Edward "Ed" Skidmore
 
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DO YOU LIKE TO BE BLIND?

Our grand-kids came to visit our church one Sunday, and I asked our grandson, Caleb, how he liked Sunday School. He said he didn't like it at all!

I asked him why and he explained that the teacher made them close their eyes for a long time and wouldn't let them open their eyes.

I looked at his Sunday School paper and saw they were teaching this same story we talked about today about healing the man born blind. So I explained that the teacher just wanted him to see what it would be like to be blind.

Caleb wasn't impressed. He shouted, "But I don't LIKE to be blind!" (Of course, at that age, he actually said, "I don't WIKE to be Bwind!"

There are a lot of people walking around today who seem to "wike to be bwind!" They walk around with their eyes tightly shut against seeing God's power and love for them.

Will YOU let Jesus reveal your spiritual blind spots and open your eyes to His truth today?

 
Contributed By:
Warren Curry
 
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Have you ever been to a church where you didn’t feel welcome? You went in and looked around the foyer area and no one greets you. You proceed through the doors into the sanctuary and find yourself a seat in the back row and begin to prepare yourself for the worship time. People come filing in and many are talking with one another, because it seems they all know each other, but still, no one offers a hand to be shaken or says hello. As you look around, you even notice some making eye contact with you and when they notice you seeing them, they turn away quickly or pretend they are looking beyond you at something else. The service goes by and when it is done, you linger around for a while in the foyer area again, reading some of the bulletin boards to see what things the church is involved with and still no one says boo to you. Finally you leave, feeling a bit slighted, and tell yourself you will never visit this church again.

 
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