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There is a big difference between batting practice and playing ball. It is common for pro-ball players to describe the overwhelming power of the of the sound of thousands cheering them on. In a sense our life is the game and the cloud of witnesses, heroes, our audience cheering us on in a similar fashion.
(From Christopher Nerreau’s Sermon "Don't Lose Heart")
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An old American Indian tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within. "It is like two dogs fighting inside of us," the chief told them. "There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight."
"Who is going to win in the end?" a young brave asks.
The chief answered "The one you feed."
There was a certain old recluse who lived deep in the mountains of Colorado. When he died, distant relatives came from the city to collect his valuables. Upon arriving, all they saw was an old shack with an outhouse beside it. Inside the shack, next to the rock fireplace, was an old cooking pot and his mining equipment. A cracked table with a three-legged chair stood guard by a tiny window, and a kerosene lamp served as the centerpiece for the table. In a dark corner of the little room was a dilapidated cot with a threadbare bedroll on it.
They picked up some of the old relics and started to leave. As they were driving away, an old friend of the recluse, on his mule, flagged them down. “Do you mind if I help myself to what’s left in my friend’s cabin?” he asked. “Go right ahead,” they replied. After all, they thought, what inside that shack could be worth anything?
The old friend entered the shack and walked directly over the table. He reached under it and lifted one of the floor boards. He then proceeded to take out all the gold his friend had discovered over the past 53 years – enough to have built a palace. The recluse died with only his friend knowing his true worth. As the friend looked out of the little window and watched the cloud of dust behind the relative’s car disappear, he said, “They should have got to know him better.
I wonder, as we reflect on this Good Friday, as we watch the Lamb, Jesus Christ, who suffered and died a criminal’s death 2000 years ago that we too have missed out on the gold. Do we know our Friend’s (Jesus) true worth? Do we treat Him as if he’s some old relic of history that lived somewhere in strife-torn Middle East long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far way? What’s that gotta do with me? Yeah, sure He died, and maybe he’s some tragic hero and we drive away, walk away empty from this assembly this day or do we wanna walk out here with the gold? Have we missed the gold? Will someone one day say of us that we should have got to know Jesus better?
Dr. S.M. Lockridge was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego CA from 1953 - 1993. He entered heaven in 2000. He is well-known for a passage out of his sermon titled “He’s My King”:
“He’s enduringly strong, He’s entirely sincere, He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. He’s God’s Son. He’s a sinner’s savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s preeminent. He’s the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the highest idea in philosophy. He’s the fundamental truth in theology. He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick, He cleans the lepers. He forgives sinners, He discharges debtors, He delivers captives, He defends the feeble, He blesses the young, He serves the unfortunate, He regards the aged, He rewards the diligent, He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him?
Well, my king is the king of knowledge, He’s the well-spring of wisdom, He’s the doorway of deliverance, He’s the pathway of peace, He’s the roadway of righteousness, He’s the highway of holiness He’s the gateway of glory, He’s the master of the mighty, He’s the captain of the conquerors, He’s the head of the heroes, He’s the leader of the legislators, He’s the overseer of the overcomers, He’s the governor of governors, He’s the prince of princes, He’s the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Well. I wish I could describe Him to you. But He’s indescribable. Yes. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible, He’s irresistible. I’m trying to tell you, the Heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him, and you can’t live without Him. Well. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate coul...
On September 11, Lt. Col. Brian Birdwell (from U.S. Army Headquarters) had just stepped into a Pentagon hallway when the fireball from the hijacked plane hit him. After recovering from the initial shock, Birdwell realized he was on fire. "Jesus, I’m coming to see you," he remembers praying. When doctors finally attended to him at the Washington Burn Center, they found second- and third-degree burns over 40 percent of Birdwell’s body. To save him, they performed several skin graft operations. President George W. and First Lady Laura Bush visited the Washington Burn Center on September 13. Among those they visited was Birdwell. Laura Bush went into Brian’s room and spoke to him for about a minute, all the time as if they were life-long acquaintances. She then turned to Brian’s wife, Mel, who had been at the hospital for about two-and-a-half days. She was dirty, grimy, and wore a bloodstained shirt. Despite this, Laura hugged her for what Mel said seemed like an eternity, just as if Mel was one of her closest family members. Laura then told Brian and Mel that there was "someone" there to see him. The President walked in. Standing by Brian’s bedside, the President told Colonel Birdwell that he was very proud of them both and regarded them as heroes. The President then saluted Brian. Brian slowly began to return the salute, taking about 15 to 20 seconds to get his hand up to his head because of his bandaged arms. During all of this, President Bush never moved. He dropped his salute only when Brian was finished with his. Birdwell lives now with renewed purpose. "I’m a walking miracle. Christ got me out of the fire. In him not taking me, that means I have a mission to complete. He’ll tell me what it is in due time."
Babe Ruth had hit 714 home runs during his baseball career and was playing one of his last full major league games. It was the Braves versus the Reds in Cincinnati. But the great Ruth was no longer as agile as he had once been. He fumbled the ball and threw badly, and in one inning alone his errors were responsible for most of the five runs scored by Cincinnati. As the Babe walked off the field after the third out and headed toward the dugout, a crescendo of yelling and booing reached his ears. Just then a boy jumped over the railing onto the playing field. With tears streaming down his face, he threw his arms around the legs of his hero. Ruth didn’t hesitate for one second. He picked up the boy, hugged him, and set him down on his feet, patting his head gently. The noise from the stands came to an abrupt halt. Suddenly there was no more booing. In fact, hush fell over the entire park. In those brief moments, the fans saw two heroes: Ruth, who in spite of his dismal day on the field could still care about a little boy; and the small lad, who cared about the feelings of another human being. Both had melted the hearts of the crowd.
Ted W. Engstrom, The Pursuit of Excellence, 1982, Zondervan Corporation, pp. 66-67.
In a museum in Scotland, resides the sword of the famous Scotsman Wallace who was a hero and patriot. A visitor once said, “I do not see how it could win such victories.” “Ah sir, you do not see the arm that wielded it,” came the reply.
G.B. F. Hallock. 2500 Modern Illustrations. Harper’s and Brothers Publishers. New York. 1935. Pg. 269.
A LIGHT NAMED AL
On the morning of September 11, Jeannie Braca switched on the television to check the weather report, only to hear that a plane had just hit the World Trade Center.
Jeannie’s husband, Al, worked as a corporate bond trader for Cantor Fitzgerald. His office was on the 105th floor of Tower One.
Al had survived the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and had even helped a woman with asthma escape from the building.
Jeannie knew that Al would do the same thing this time, “I knew he would stop to help and minister to people,” she said, “but I never thought for a minute that he wouldn’t be coming home!”
A week later, like so many others who were in that building, Al’s body was found in the rubble. Al’s wife, Jeannie, and his son Christopher were devastated!
Then the reports began to trickle in from friends and acquaintances. Some people on the 105th floor had made a last call or sent a final e-mail to loved ones saying that a man was leading people in prayer.
A few referred to Al by name.
Al’s family learned that Al had indeed been ministering to people during the attack! When Al realized that they were all trapped in the building and would not be able to escape, Al shared the gospel with a group of 50 co-workers and led them in prayer.
This news came as no surprise to Al’s wife, Jeannie.
For years, she and Al had been praying for the salvation of these men and women. According to Jeannie, Al hated his job and couldn’t stand the environment. It was a world so out of touch with his Christian values, but he wouldn’t quit.
Al was convinced that God wanted him to stay there, to be a light in the darkness, and although Al would not have put it this way, to be a hero!
Al was not ashamed of Christ and Christ’s words…and he paid the price of taking up his cross daily. Al shared his faith with his co-workers….many of whom sarcastically nicknamed him “The Rev.”
And on that fateful day…on September 11, in the midst of the chaos, Al’s co-workers looked to him—-and...
Hitler imprisoned a German pastor, Martin Niemoeller, for eight years. He spent some time in prisons and concentration camps, including Dachau. Hitler realised that if Niemoeller, a First World War hero, could be persuaded to join his cause then much opposition would collapse, so he sent a former friend of Niemoeller to visit him, a friend who now supported the Nazis. Seeing Niemoeller in his cell, the one time friend is reported as saying, "Martin, Martin! Why are you here?" To which he received from Niemoeller the response, "My friend! Why are you not here?"
Some of us get so used to the adrenaline rush of handling crises that we become dependent on it for a sense of excitement and energy. How does urgency feel? Stressful? Pressured? Tense? Exhausting? Sure. But let’s be honest. It’s also sometimes exhilarating. We feel useful. We feel successful. We feel validated. And we get good at it. Whenever there’s trouble, we ride into town, pull out the six shooter, do the varmit in, blow the smoke off the gun barrel, and ride into the sunset like a hero. It brings instant results and instant gratification.
We get a temporary high from solving urgent and important crises. Then when the importance isn’t there, the urgency fix is so powerful we are drawn to do anything urgent, just to stay in motion. People expect us to be busy, overworked. It’s become a status symbol in our society - if we’re busy, we’re important; if we’re not busy, we’re almost embarrassed to admit it. Busyness is where we get our security. It’s validating, popular and pleasing. It’s also a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives.
"I’d love to spend quality time with you, but I have to work. There’s this deadline. It’s urgent. Of course you understand."
"I just don’t have time to exercise. I know it’s important, but there are so many pressing things right now. Maybe when things slow down a little.""
Stephen Covey, First Things First, pp. 33, 35