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THE LUKEWARM SHEEP
Now, for the sake of my illustration, I want to break a flock of sheep down into 3 groups.
1. The first group of sheep had DECIDED to look to Shepherd & follow Him wherever He leads.
These are the "Good sheep" who follow the "Good Shepherd. Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 KJV
2. The 2nd group wants nothing to do with the Shepherd. They want to run their lives their own way and they deliberately DECIDE to walk away from Him. These are the pagans and atheists of society. They don't want to hear Jesus' voice... they don't want to follow.
3. But the 3rd group DECIDES that they like the Shepherd. They want to hang out with Him... but they don't want to get TOO close to Him. They still want to keep their options open. They want to look for their own grass once in a while. They want to nibble at a little of this and a little of that....
George Orwell once observed: "On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."
That's the problem with this 3rd group of sheep.
They like being close to Jesus... just not too much, and not just all the time. And because they have this "loose" connection to the shepherd they're the ones who end up wandering off. They're the ones that end up getting lost. They're just close enough to the Shepherd to feel secure. And just far enough away to not hear His voice.
"My sheep hear my voice... and they follow me." says Jesus. John 10:27
And so, they wander off into their own little world, and they end up getting hurt and making bad decisions. And those bad decisions cause them pain and heartache.
As Proverbs 13:15 says, "...the way of transgressors is hard." (KJV)
Because they've chosen NOT to listen to the Good Shepherd and to follow Him closely, they are without the protection of that Shepherd and open to the attacks of Satan and this world.
OWNERSHIP OF THE GIFT
A humanitarian group in Africa, noticing the filthy water, sewage, and disease, built clean water and sewage system for a village. Months later, they visited the village, but it was back to square one with filthy water, sewage and disease. [from Pickthebrain.com]
The chief told the humanitarian workers: "And what did you expect? These people had been many years without clean water. Then you gave it to them for free in abundance. They took all they could use and more. The people did not work for those water stations. They do not own them, and they could not be persuaded to maintain them."
The humanitarians were silent. The chief had spoken truth. The great gift alone had not been enough and the reasons could be clearly observed. Perhaps it is human nature to abuse a gift. The humanitarians returned to their camp and thought long and hard about how they could help the villagers.
The next day the humanitarians returned, determined to rebuild the water and sanitation systems with the following conditions.
1. The villagers would have to pay for water and sanitation. Not more than they could afford, but there would be no gift giving this time.
2. A group of villagers would work with the contractors to build the system and would be taught how to repair every aspect of it. These villagers would in turn train others so the system would never fall into disrepair.
With these new conditions in place, the water and sanitation systems were restored. This time the people had respect for the systems because they owned them. This time they were able to repair the system when it broke down. To this day the villagers have plenty of clean water and live free of filth and disease.
THE RED BARON AND TEMPTATION
Manfred, Freiherr von Richthofen was a famous German First World War fighter pilot.
He was better known as the Red Baron because he flew a distinctive a red Fokker aircraft.
He shot down more combat planes than any one else on either side in the first World war
His known kill tally was 80.
On 21st April 1918, he began chasing a Canadian plane - that was trying to escape the battle over the Mor-lan-court Ridge, near the river Somme.
As the Red Baron pursued his prey, he strayed behind Allied lines.
He dived too low into the enemy lines
And he also he missed a Canadian pilot (Arthur) "Roy" Brown coming up on his tail to help his comrade.
We will never know whether it was a shot from the ground - or a shot from Brown that killed Richthofen.
But what we do know is that the "Red Baron" came to his end because he made the mistake of pursuing that Allied 'plane "too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory" (as one report so succinctly put it)
And many committed Christians have been shot down because they have followed temptation for too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory.
And as with Richthofen -- they are then caught unawares and then have to deal with the conseqences.
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...
Sermon Central Staff
WHAT A CONTAGIOUS CHRISTIAN LOOKS LIKE
Bill Hybels, Becoming a Contagious Christian: "Recently, I saw a letter written by a relatively new Christian to the person whose life had influenced hers so greatly. She actually lists about a dozen qualities she found contagious in the life of this older Christian. Listen to some of what she wrote:
'You know when we met; I began to discover a new vulnerability, a warmth, and a lack of pretence that impressed me. I saw in you a thriving spirit--no signs of internal stagnation anywhere. I could tell you were a growing person and I liked that. I saw you had strong self-esteem, not based on the fluff of self-help books, but on something a whole lot deeper. I saw that you lived by convictions and priorities and not just by convenience, selfish pleasure, and financial gain. And I had never met anyone like that before. I felt a depth of love and concern as you listened to me and didn’t judge me. You tried to understand me, you sympathized and you celebrated with me, you demonstrated kindness and generosity--and not just to me, but to other people, as well. And you stood for something. You were willing to go against the grain of society and follow what you believed to be true, no matter what people said, and no matter how much it cost you. And for those reasons and a whole host of others, I found myself really wanting what you had. Now that I’ve become a Christian, I wanted to write to tell you I’m grateful beyond words for how you lived out your Christian life in front of me.'"
(From a sermon by Michael Luke, Discussing the Deacons, 5/5/2011)
HISTORY IS STORY OF UNFORSEEN
In the introduction to his A History of Europe, H.A.L. Fisher writes:
"Men wiser and more learned than I have discovered in history a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern. But these harmonies are concealed from me. I can see only one emergency following another, as wave follows upon wave--there can be no generalization. There is only one safe rule for the historian--that he should recognize in the development of human destiny the play of the contingent and the unforeseen."
— Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations —
Arthur Pink, a theologian from another generation, talks against those who preach about Jesus as a savior from hell rather than a savior from sin. He explained that there are many who are dangerously deceived by this, because there are many who desire to escape the flames of hell, but have no desire to be delivered from their sins. I believe he is right. So many today think they can love God and still live in their sin. It cannot be done. You have to make a choice. It must be God or your sin. You can’t have both. You can’t love both. You have to die to your sin in order to come alive to God. Jesus stated an important kingdom principle with these words: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:24-25).
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...
This illustration concerns an incident one day when C.S. Lewis was in the tool shed in his garden. He noticed a sunbeam shining across the shed. It was showing up the dust particles. He must have seen the same thing many times before, but this time he was captivated by it.
He traced the beam of light to the crack at the top of the closed door of the shed. But what struck him was that although it appeared to be coming from the crack, it was really coming from a blazing star 90 million miles away! Squinting up the beam carefully so as not to burn his eyes, he followed the beam through the crack in the door, through the leaves of a tree outside and beyond to its magnificent source. Lewis thought to himself how different it was looking along the beam to its source than it was looking at the beam in his tool shed.
As we join Lewis in his tool shed, in our mind’s eye, we cannot help but notice that the thin beam is so small and weak by comparison with that great burning nuclear fire that is the sun. Just looking at the beam alone tells us so little about its great source. You have to look along the beam to see that. The little beam is beautiful certainly, but it source is magnificent and awe-inspiring.
(Source: from a sermon by Will Langford, "How to Better Understand the Bible, Part 1" 7/16/08)
POEM: “I Am Just a Raindrop”
The following poem was heard on Paul Harvey’s broadcast in 2004:
I AM JUST A RAINDROP
I am just a raindrop
I was born in the sky and settled into a hillside
there to dance in the sun and sparkle
And nourish green and growing things
But there are other raindrops on the hillside
and they invite me to join them for a downhill romp,
and we become a chain of raindrops.
Thus able to travel faster and what do you know
soon others join us until we become a stream
now remember I’m still just a drop of rain.
And yet the other drops say
I’m important to them and they are important to me
and together we hasten downward toward the beautiful forest.
The grass bends in our path
the soil beneath us begins to crumble
until my companions and I are carving out a pathway
farther and deeper
until we are tearing little gullies in the earth
and then big gullies.
I’m just a little drop of rain
its my friends who have the power
I’m just along for the ride
Ahead a towering tree
stands majestically at the edge of the forest.
And soon my friends and I
are playfully ripping the soil from the roots
and its roots from the rocks
and low and behold the great tree comes crashing down in front of me.
For a long moment the tree lies motionless:
Facedown, defeated, dying.
But then my friends and I are under, and lifting, and moving the great tree
carrying it before us as a huge battering ram.
Nothing can stop us now.
I wonder if I can stop myself now, or, if I even want to.
Into the forest we plunge my friends and I
and our battering ram tree.
Other trees grouped together stand their ground,
from us they can see there is strength in numbers.
And our numbers are greater.
Our battering ram is sideways now.
We raindrops get behind;
we push with all of our might.
My friends and I are learning the strength and the weaknesses of trees.
Erode the soil, denude the roots, and you leave them with nothing to hold to.
So, soon, we are a raging torrent.
And they and we and the turncoat tree are thundering toward the sea.
And I am freighted.
I’m just a little raindrop,
but I’m soiled now.
How did I become a part of this?
I never wanted to conquer, nor to destroy
I only needed to be needed.
I only needed to be one of the crowd.
Down there ahead, at the end of the valley
Dear God that’s a town!
I will not be a part of this any longer.
Now my friends have gone too far.
Far too far.
I’m stopping right here right now.
But I can’t. I can’t stop.
I am no longer me.
I am something different then I ever meant to be.
It took a thousand million gallons of water they say
to drown that town that day.
So don’t blame me.
I’m only one little drop of rain.
From Donald Tabberer’s Sermon: An Empty Frame