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I want to read to you the opening story from David Platt's book "The Radical Question" (Multnomah Press).
Imagine a scene that took place in Asia not so long ago:
A room in an ordinary house, dimly lit, all the blinds on the windows closed. Twenty leaders from churches in the region sit quietly in a circle on the floor, their Bibles open. They speak in hushed tones or not at all. Some still glisten with sweat; others' clothes and shoes are noticeably dusty. They have been walking or riding bicycles since early morning when they left distant villages to get here.
Whenever a knock is heard or a suspicious sound drifts in, everyone freezes while a burly tough-looking man gets up to check things out.
These men and woman have gathered in secret, arriving intentionally at different times throughout the day so as not to draw attention. In this country it is illegal for Christians to come together like this. If caught, the people here could lose their land, their jobs, their families, even their lives.
I was in that dimly light room that day, a visitor from America. I huddled next to an interpreter, who helped me understand their stories as they began to share.
The tough-looking man--our "head of security"--was first to speak up. But as he spoke, his intimidating appearance quickly gave way to reveal a tender heart.
"Some of the people in my church have been pulled away by a cult," he said. Tears welled up in his eyes. "We are hurting. I need God's grace to lead my church through these attacks."
The cult that had been preying on his church is known for kidnapping Christians, taking them to isolated locations, and torturing them, my interpreter explained. Many brothers and sisters in the area would never tell the good news again. At least not with words. Their tongues had been cut out.
Sermon Central Staff
IS THERE HOPE FOR THE NEXT GENERATION OF EVANGELICALS?
Russell Moore recounts a conversation with the evangelical theologian Carl Henry. As Moore and some of his friends were lamenting the miserable shape of the church, they asked Dr. Henry if he saw any hope in the coming generation of evangelicals. Dr. Henry replied: "Of course, there is hope for the next generation of evangelicals. But the leaders of the next generation might not be coming from the current evangelical establishment. They are probably still pagans. Who knew that Saul of Tarsus was to be the great apostle to the Gentiles? Who knew that God would raise up a C. S. Lewis or a Charles Colson? They were unbelievers who, once saved by the grace of God, were mighty warriors for the faith."
Russell Moore added: "The next Jonathan Edwards might be the man driving in front of you with the Darwin Fish bumper decal. The next Charles Wesley might be a misogynist, profane hip-hop artist right now. The next Billy Graham might be passed out drunk in a fraternity house right now. The next Charles Spurgeon might be making posters for a Gay Pride March right now. The next Mother Teresa might be managing an abortion clinic right now."
(From a sermon by David Ward, Gospel Without Walls, 8/15/2012)
SPIRITUAL RIVER RAFTING
The necessary safety equipment for river rafting and spiritual river rafting:
i. The Helmet – Helmets protect the most vital and vulnerable part on a person their head – their thinking!
1. Spiritually: We need to be wearing the helmet of salvation as we ride the wave of the spirit because the river is full of obstacles, rocks, river hydraulics, hot spots, whirlpools, and drop offs.
a. The helmet is placed on our head by the Lord to protect us on our river journey.
b. The Lord made it to fit our exact size head.
ii. Personal Flotation Device (PFD)
1. Life jackets – life preservers – breast plate of righteousness – wear it will keep you afloat in the water if you get knocked out of the raft.
2. Spiritually: Life jackets keep you from sinking as so does your righteousness. Your right standing with God.
iii. Rafting Clothing
1. In rafting you need to wear the right clothing to stay warm and dry.
2. Spiritually: In spiritual rafting the Shield of Faith or faith is what we are to wear so as to stay warm and comfortable in our long wet journey of life, it will protect us from the elements and keep us warm and secure.
iv. Sunscreen –To me this is the anointing from the Holy Spirit which keep us protected from those un-for-seen damaging ultra violet rays which can burn you .
1. The sun’s rays off the water do more damage than from above so you need sunscreen to protect your skin.
2. Spiritually: The anointing of the Holy Spirit protects you from the unseen elements of life and empowers you to move forward.
v. The oar represents - the Bible- the Sword of the Spirit
1. They give us the ability to direct the raft and to help maneuver it down the river of life.
2. Bit notice we only get one?
3. It only works in conjunction with other peoples oars.
vi. A patch kit
1. You need to carry a patch kit for your raft in case it gets a hole in it so you can fix it.
2. Spiritually: The patch of forgiveness is what all of us in the church should carry to patch any leaks in the raft.
vii. Pure drinking water – usually they recommend a water pack that you were.
1. You must bring good clean drinking water to prevent dehydration.
2. Spiritually: You need to have the Holy Spirit in you to stay hydrated.
a. If no spirit then you will dry up
viii. The safety rope
1. You need one to throw out to someone in need to pull them to safety if they get caught in a whirlpool or undertow.
2. Spiritually: Belt of truth is our safety rope to throw to those caught in whirlpools in the river, or rough water.
ix. Water Shoes
1. Protect your feet from getting cut up and helps protect them the elements.
2. It also helps your feet get better traction under the water.
3. Spiritually: The Gospel of peace is the covering we need to be able to keep our traction on the slippery rocks in the journey and we need it’s protection from sharp objects found under water. It’s essential to protect our feet in the journey so we can keep moving down stream to our destination.
x. The raft - is the church – He gave us this boat given to helps us float and manage the ride or the flow of the Holy Spirit.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
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?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“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?”
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...
BE LIKE MIKE...?
Gary Thomas, in his book Authentic Faith, describes a friend of his named Mike. He met Mike when he went to college. Mike was a leader among students. He had everything: a contagious personality, athletic ability, good looks, and natural appeal. And everybody wanted to be around Mike. Everybody wanted to be Mike.
But a few years after college, Mike suffered a brain hemorrhage, and, as a result, he lost everything: his handsome appearance was gone, his voice was slurred, he couldn’t teach any more. Everything that others admired in Mike was now taken from him.
His treatment required months of grueling therapy, but eventually he was able to function again. The devastating effect on his body was paralleled by an equally powerful change in his spirit. He still attracted followers, but he was no longer focused on himself. He was focused on God. Gary Thomas says, "In college, when I was around Mike, I wanted to be like Mike. Now, after spending time with Mike, I want to be more like Jesus."
Henry Blackaby in "Experiencing God" words it this way:
The crisis of belief
An encounter with God requires faith.
Encounters with God are God-sized.
What you do in response to God's revelation (invitation to the task) reveals what you believe about God.
True faith requires action (page 135).
Historical Background of Patrick:
Patrick lived in the fifth century, a time of rapid change and transition. In many ways we might say that those times of turbulence and uncertainty were not unlike our own. The Roman Empire was beginning to break up, and Europe was about to enter the so-called Dark Ages. Rome fell to barbarian invaders in 410. Within ten years of that time, the Roman forces began to leave Britain to return to Rome to defend positions back home. Life, once so orderly and predictable under Roman domination, now became chaotic and uncertain. Patrick entered the world of that time (Joyce).
Partick’s biography is as follows: By Anita Mc Sorley
The uncontested, if somewhat unspecific, biographical facts about Patrick are as follows: Patrick was born Patricius somewhere in Roman Britain to a relatively wealthy family. He was not religious as a youth and, in fact, claims to have practically renounced the faith of his family. While in his teens, Patrick was kidnapped in a raid and transported to Ireland, where he was enslaved to a local warlord and worked as a shepherd until he escaped six years later. He returned home and eventually undertook studies for the priesthood with the intention of returning to Ireland as a missionary to his former captors. It is not clear when he actually made it back to Ireland, or for how long he ministered there, but it was definitely for a number of years. By the time he wrote the Confession and the "Letter to Coroticus," Patrick was recognized by both Irish natives and the Church hierarchy as the bishop of Ireland. By this time, also, he had clearly made a permanent commitment to Ireland and intended to die there. Scholars have no reason to doubt that he did. He died on March 17 the day we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
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...
Sermon Central Staff
REFINING SAP TO MAPLE SYRUP
Dr. David Osborn at Denver Seminary says, "Too often we try to use God to change our circumstances, while He is using our circumstances to change us." (Compass, April 2003) You see, God is right now in the process of making us like Christ.
Think of the process of refining maple syrup. Maple trees are tapped with buckets hung under the taps, and out drips a sap which is thin and clear, like water. On a good day, 50 trees will yield 30-40 gallons of sap, but it is essentially useless at this point with only a hint of sweetness.
Then as the buckets fill, they are emptied into large bins that sit over an open fire. The sap comes to a slow boil; and as it boils, its water content is reduced and its sugars are concentrated. Hours later, it has developed a rich flavor and golden-brown color, but it must be strained several times to remove impurities before being reheated, bottled, and graded for quality. In the end, those 30-40 gallons of sap are reduced to one gallon of pure, delicious maple syrup, which is far better than the cheap, imitation, colored sugar-water that passes for maple syrup in the grocery store.
So it is when we come to faith in Christ. We start like raw, unfinished sap, which could have been tossed aside as worthless. But God knew what he could make of us. He sought and found us, and his skillful hands are transforming us into something precious, sweet and useful. The long and often painful refining process brings forth a pure, genuine disciple easily distinguished from cheap imitations.
(Michele Straubel, Red Lake, Minnesota. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Our Living Hope, 4/26/2011)
YOU’RE GOING TO PLAY BASEBALL THIS SUMMER
Joshua 14:12, James 2:26
A little boy named Jimmy was about 13 years old. He grew up with his brother in a very poor family not too far from downtown. Their dad was very sick and could not work. They had food to eat every morning and evening, but he and his brother wore jeans with holes in their knees. Both boys had paper routes so that they could have some lunch money at school.
One day in early spring, Jimmy’s dad called him into his room. “Son,” he said, “your mother and I have been saving up money all year so that you can play on a baseball team. I just wanted you to know that you’re going to play baseball this summer.”
Jimmy jumped to his feet and hugged his dad. He could hardly believe it. But, he knew that playing baseball cost a lot of money. He needed baseball shoes and a glove. He knew that his dad couldn’t afford all of that. He couldn’t believe that his dad had the money for the signup fee. But he knew his dad said that he would get to play baseball this summer. It was all too wonderful.
Jimmy immediately ran to the neighbors to see if he could cut their lawns and sweep their driveways. It didn’t take too long for him to have enough money to buy some cleats. So he went to the store and came home with a brand new pair of baseball cleats. He tried them on to show his dad. He was so excited.
Next, he saw a baseball glove at the corner drug store and began to work and save his money for that. It wasn’t long until he had it. Now he could begin practicing.
Every day after school, he threw an old tennis ball he had found against the side of the garage so he could practice being a baseball player. He thought he could be a pitcher so he drew a square on the garage wall out of chalk and began throwing the tennis ball at the square.
Soon he could put the ball in the square every time. Finally, the day came for signups. He and his dad walked down to the park and waited in line. The boy looked at all the coaches and wondered who would pick him to be on their team. He was the happiest boy at the sign ups. He loved his dad.
That was the last time Jimmy’s dad would take him to the park. Right after signups, he got extremely ill. He would lie in bed and wait for Jimmy to get home after every game so he could hear all about it. Right after baseball season ended that summer, Jimmy’s dad died. He never got to see him play in one game. But Jimmy never forgot about the day his dad told him, “This summer you’re going to play baseball.”
Because his dad told him that, Jimmy believed it. He trusted his dad. Then he worked hard toward what his dad had told him. Finally, he received what was promised.
Jimmy played baseball that summer. Later on, he played in high school and college.
Faith and works. James 2:26 in action.