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In a speech made in 1863, Abraham Lincoln said, "We have been the receipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prospertiy; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."
WHAT WE DO NOT KNOW
F.B. Meyer once said that when we see a brother or sister in sin, there are three things we do not know:
First, we do not know how hard he or she tried not to sin.
Second, we do not know the power of the forces that assailed him or her.
Thirdly, we also do not know what we would have done in the same circumstances.
Conviction and compassion - itís not a binary concept of one or the other. It is both strength of conviction and depth of compassion that will enable us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world that God has called us to be.
(From a sermon by Mark Opperman, "Improving our Vision" 1/12/2009)
John Ortberg states:
"The decision to grow always involves a choice between risk and comfort. This means that to be a follower of Jesus, you must renounce comfort as the ultimate value of your life. And thatís sobering news to most of us, because weíre into comfort...but water walkers master failure... Did Peter fail?...Failure is not an event, but rather a judgment about an event. Failure is not something that happens to us or a label we attach to things. It is a way we think about outcomes...Did Peter fail? Well, I suppose in a way he did. His faith wasnít strong enough. His doubts were stronger. 'He saw the wind.' He took his eyes off of where they should have been. He sank. He failed. But here is what I think. I think there were eleven bigger failures sitting in the boat. They failed quietly. They failed privately. Their failure went unnoticed, unobserved, uncriticized. Only Peter knew the shame of the public failure. But only Peter knew two other things as well. Only Peter knew other things as well. Only Peter knew the glory of walking on water. He alone knew what it was to attempt to do what he was not capable of doing on his own, then feeling euphoria of being empowered by God to actually do it. Once you walk on water, you never forget it--not for the rest of your life!"
(Ortberg, If You Want to Walk on Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat, page 21-23).
An umpire named Babe Pinelli once called Babe Ruth out on strikes. When the crowd booed with sharp disapproval at the call, the legendary Ruth turned to the umpire with disdain and said, "There’s 40,000 people here who know that the last pitch was ball, tomato head." Suspecting that the umpire would erupt with anger, the coaches and players braced themselves for Ruth’s ejection. However, the cool headed Pinelli replied, "Maybe so, Babe, but mine is the only opinion that counts." Believers need to realize that God’s judgment is the only on...
Sermon Central Staff
OSWALD CHAMBERS ON CONVICTION OF SIN
Oswald Chambers: "Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man. It is the threshold of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict of sin, and when the Holy Spirit rouses the conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not his relationship with men that bothers him, but his relationship with God."
Conviction of sin is the unbearable burden of all of your sin and filthiness before a holy and righteous God. The word in the Greek carries the idea of exposing your sin. When the Spirit of God brings this type of conviction it reveals your total bankruptcy before God. The burden of that sin can only be overcome by realizing Godís blessing of salvation. The verses tell us that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. When does salvation take place when we stop disagreeing with the truth of our rebellion against God. At this point we no longer have the pride or arrogance to say "I'm good."
(From a sermon by Billy Ricks, The ministry of the Holy Spirit, 1/22/2011)
We fear men so much because we fear God so little.
TALE OF TWO KINGS
Two of the greatest love stories ever told. The one, at Camelot; the other, at Calvary. Two of the noblest kings ever to live. The one, King Arthur; the other, King of the Jews. The one is adorned with a jeweled crown; the other, with a crown of thorns.
The comparisons and contrasts between Camelot and Calvary are many, but one scene from Camelot illustrates a great theological dilemma that only the cross could resolve.
Prior to His appointment with destiny on the brow of that fateful hill, Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Understand, on an emotional level, that this is the pleading of a son to his father. If your child came to you in such agony, wouldnít you do everything within your power to grant the request?
But this Father, this time, didnít respond as expected. And thatís the theological rub. He denied the request of His Son, His only Son, His beloved Son. In Gethsemane, that Son was asking:
"Is there no other way?"
The Son is betrayed, arrested, deserted, denied, beaten, tried, mocked, and finally crucified. Tacitly, the Father answers:
"No, there is no other way."
But why? Why was there no other way?
We find the answer to that question in a scene from Camelot, where the adulterous relationship between Queen Guenevere and Arthurís most trusted knight, Sir Lancelot, has divided the Round Table. When the scheming Mordred catches them in a clandestine encounter, Lancelot escapes. Guenevere is not so fortunate. She faces a trial. The jury finds her guilty and sentences her to the flame.
As the day of execution nears, people come from miles around with one question in their minds: Would the king let her die?
Mordred gleefully captures the complexity of Arthurís predicament:
Arthur! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let her die, your life is over;
Let her live, your lifeís a fraud.
Which will it be, Arthur?
Do you kill the queen or kill the law?
Tragically but resolutely, Arthur decides: "Treason has been committed! The jury has ruled! Let justice be done!"
High from the castle window stands Arthur, as Guenevere enters the courtyard. She walks to her unlit stake, where the executioner stands with waiting torch. Arthur turns away, emotion brimming in his eyes.
A herald mounts the tower where Arthur has withdrawn: "The queen is at the stake, Your Majesty. Shall I signal the torch?"
But the king cannot answer.
Arthurís love for Jenny spills from his broken heart: "I canít! I canít! I canít let her die!"
Seeing Arthur crumble, Mordred relishes the moment: "Well, youíre human after all, arenít you, Arthur? Human and helpless."
Tragically, Arthur realizes the truth of Mordredís remark. Being only human, he is indeed helpless. But where this story ends, the greatest story ever told just begins.
Another Execution Scene.
Another time. Another place. Another king.
The setting: A world lies estranged from the God who loves it. Like Genevere, an unfaithful humanity stands guilty and in bondage, awaiting judgmentís torch.
Could God turn His head from the righteous demands of the law and simply excuse the worldís sin? If not, then could He turn His head from the world He loved? Would the king burn Guenevere?
Like the wicked Mordred, Satan must have looked on in delight:
God! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let them die, Your life is over;
Let them live, Your lifeís a fraud;
Which will it be, God?
Do You kill Your world or do You kill the law?
Without even waiting for His Guenevere to look up in repentance, the King stepped down from His throne, took off His crown, laid aside His royal robes, and descended His castleís polished steps into humanityís pockmarked streets. Paulís words in Philippians are thought by some scholars to be the lyrics of an ancient hymn, singing about the King of kings.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Phil. 2:6-8
That scene in the movie was an epiphany of understanding. Suddenly, it all made sense. We know now why He had to die, why there was no other way.
When love and justice collide, only the cross offers a happy ending.
Source: Abridged excerpt from Ken Gireís book Windows of the Soul. Copyright © 1996 by Ken Gire, Jr. Zondervan Publishing Houses.
No One Expected Me!
I dreamed death came the other night
And heavenís gate swung wide.
With kindly grace an angel fair
Ushered me inside.
And there, to my astonishment
Stood folks Iíd known on earth.
Some Iíd judged and labeled as
ďUnfitĒ, ďOf little worthĒ.
Indignant words rose to ...
Malcolm, a man with a terrible temper, was playing a round of golf with his pastor. After leaving three straight putts on the edge of the cup, Malcolm exploded. "I missed!" he screamed. "How could I miss?" With that he heaved his putter into a nearby lake, kicked a wheel on the golf cart and drove his fist into a nearby tree.
Pastor was shocked. "I have never seen such a terrible display of anger," he said to the poor man. "Donít you know that God doesnít like it when we are angry? I have heard that there are angels whose one assignment is to search out people who express their anger so ferociously and to send lightning bolts from heaven to burn them to a crisp."
Malcolm was embarrassed. Heeding the warning of Pastor, on the next few holes, he managed to control himself. However, on the last three holes his putting failed him again. When the last putt veered off to the right just in front of the hole, Malcolm went crazy. "I missed!" he screamed. "How could I miss?" He broke his club across his knee and threw it as far as he could, he kicked up several large clumps of dirt on the edge of the green, and once more drove his fist into a nearby tree.
Suddenly the sky grew dark as an ominous cloud passed over. There was a clap of thunder and an awesome burst of lightning-and the pastor was burned to a crisp!
An eerie silence filled the golf course. All that could be heard was a quiet voice from heaven: "I missed! How could I miss?"í
Contributed by David Lansdown
AUGUSTINE AND THE FOUR STATES OF MAN
In the 5th century AD, St. Augustine wrote about the "4 States of Man":
* The first state of man (the haec sunt prima) is "living according to the flesh -- with reason making no resistance." This can be seen in so many ancient cultures and religions (and unfortunately more than a few in our own time) with their human sacrifices, their idols, their pagan ceremonies, and even cannibalism. Human life -- without power -- was lightly regarded. Animals, especially domesticated animals, were often valued more highly than human life. Reason often vanishes when weighed against lust and self-gratification. Even today, this seems to be coming full circle.
* The second state of man is "recognition of sin through the Law . . . but sinning knowingly." It was so important for Satan to remove the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and courtrooms. It was critical for him to "separate church and state." So long as people knew the Law, it would not be so easy to ignore the Law. Without the reminders of the Law, we easily return to the first state of man. Does any of this sound familiar?
* The third state of man is "faith in the help of God -- but he perseveres in seeking to please God." Man has begun to be moved by the Spirit of God. We are already standing with one foot in the hell which we have created, but in the "third state", man knows it. So he still struggles against his own sinful nature because he has not yet been fully healed.
* The fourth state of man is "the full and perfect peace in God." This we find in harmony with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see how far we have departed from God.
Augustine adds, "The will of man is always free, even and particularly when it can no longer will to do evil." But Adam and Eve were not gods, "and their 'free will' would not have sufficed, even in paradise, to merit immortality. Divine assistance was needed. Their immortality could only continue by their continued relationship with the Divine. So how much more do we need God's help since our fall?"
Augustine continues, "Even the good merits and qualities which people may display toward one another are gifts from God. Every good quality comes from His grace. God's mercy is the ground of salvation. Therefore, let no man boast. Out of faith spring hope and love. We hope only in God -- not in men and not in ourselves." ("The History of Doctrines", Reinhold Seeberg, p. 366)
Dorothy Sayers wrote, "If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace."