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WE'LL STAY OUT OF THE WAY
The Call to Worship had just been pronounced starting Easter Sunday Morning service in an East Texas church. The choir started its processional, singing "Up from the Grave He Arose" as they marched in perfect step down the center aisle to the front of the church.
The last lady was wearing shoes with very slender heels. Without a thought for her fancy heels, she marched toward the grating that covered that hot air register in the middle of the aisle. Suddenly the heel of one shoe sank into the hole in the register grate.
In a flash she realized her predicament. Not wishing to hold up the whole processional, without missing a step, she slipped her foot out of her shoe and continued marching down the aisle.
There wasnít a hitch. The processional moved with clock-like precision. The first man after her spotted the situation and without losing a step, reached down and pulled up her shoe, but the entire grate came with it! Surprised, but still singing, the man kept on going down the aisle, holding in his hand the grate with the shoe attached.
Everything still moved like clockwork. Still in tune and still in step, the next man in line stepped into the open register and disappeared from sight. The service took on a special meaning that Sunday, for just as the choir ended with "Allelujah! Christ arose!" a voice was heard under the church shouting, "I hope all of you are out of the way ícause Iím coming out now!"
The little girl closest to the aisle shouted, "Come on, Jesus! Weíll stay out of the way."
SUCKED IN, WASHED UP, AND BLOWN OVER
Chippie the parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, and blown over.
The problems began when Chippieís owner decided to clean Chippieís cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. Sheíd barely said "hello" when "ssssopp!" Chippie got sucked in.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie -- still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter whoíd initially written about the event contacted Chippieís owner to see how the bird was recovering. "Well," she replied, "Chippie doesnít sing much anymore -- he just sits and stares."
Itís hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . Thatís enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart.
SOURCE: Max Lucado, In the Eye of the Storm, Word Publishing, 1991, p. 11.
Contributed by: Mark Beaird
1 John 2:4-2:5
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What Does Hope Do For Mankind?
Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.
Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
Hope energizes when the body is tired.
Hope sweetens while bitterness bites.
Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
Hope believes when evidence is eliminated.
Hope listens for answers when no one is talking.
Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.
Hope endures hardship when no on is caring.
Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.
Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.
Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.
Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.
Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.
- John Maxwell from Think on These Things –
THE CROSS AT GROUND ZERO
Iím an excavation laborer, and a member of union local 731. Pick-and-shovel work is my trade. I live in New Jersey, but Iím a New York City native, Brooklyn born and bred. After the Towers collapsed, my city was hurting. When I heard they needed guys like me for search-and-rescue work at Ground Zero, I couldnít get there fast enough.
Iíd seen the news coverage, but that didnít prepare me for the reality. Down there it was like hell on earth. Fires burned out of control. Destroyed vehicles littered the streets. Everything was blanketed with dust; the air was filled with a choking stench. I soaked a bandanna with water before wrapping it around my head to cover my nose and mouth. I went to work wondering if Iíd be able to get through this.
Six firefighters and I entered World Trade Center building six, which had been flattened by Tower One. We took a smoke-filled stairway down into the garage levels, searching for survivors. There were no cries for help, no signs of life. We spray-painted orange Xs to indicate where weíd searched and to help us find our way back.
After 12 hours of searching, weíd recovered three bodies. By then I was exhausted, but I couldnít quit. ďThink Iíll take a look over there,Ē I told the firemen, motioning toward the remains of the lobby atrium.
Picking my way through the massive piles of debris, I peered into what had become a sort of grotto. Illuminated by the pale light of dawn were shapes . . . crosses. What? How did these get here? The largest was about 20 feet high. It must have weighed a couple of tons.
In that little grotto I felt a strange sense of peace and stillness. I could almost hear God saying, The terrible thing done at this site was meant for evil. But I will turn it to good. Have faith. I am here. I fell to my knees in front of the largest cross. Tears came, and I couldnít stop them. I cried like a baby.
Finally I was able to pull myself together. I grabbed my gear and left the strange grotto to go back to search-and-rescue work. But first I spray-painted ďGodís HouseĒ on the atrium ruins.
Digging day after day at Ground Zero was the hardest work Iíd ever done. Often I was so drained I felt I couldnít go on. Thatís when Iíd go to Godís House. Standing there in front of that 20-foot-high steel-beam cross, I always felt my strength and spirit renewed.
Word spread. The cross had the same healing effect on others too. Firemen, police, volunteers, grieving survivors, visiting dignitaries and clergy. They would walk into Godís House, see the cross and fall to their knees crying, like I had. Some people sang, some prayed. Everyone left changed.
There are some who say that the cross I found is nothing more than steel. That it was just plain physics that broke the steel beam into the shape of a cross when it plunged through the roof of building six. But I believe differently.
So does my friend Father Brian Jordan. He was a chaplain at Ground Zero, and is a priest at St. Francis of Assisi in midtown. When the time came for wh...
While I was working in the V Corps Chaplainís office in Frankfurt, Germany; I came in contact with many wonderful Christian individuals. One of the most inspiring was a German by the name of Carl Scholz. In speaking to him one day, he related to me of how that during the Second World War he served as a Nazi soldier, but not believing fully in what they were doing, he tried to desert, but failing in his attempt, was captured and thrown into prison. He was accused as a deserter, and thus was sentenced to die before a firing squad along with another of his conrades.
When the day came they were both marched to the outskirts of the town, and the spot where they were supposted to be executed. Not hearing the change of orders, Carl didnít realize that all rifles were to be turned to his conrade instead, letting him live. Rifles fired, and in shock, he also fell to the ground. They picked him up and again was placed in prison. The months passed, and finally Carl was set free. The war had also ended, and not having any place to go to, he went from war-torn village to the next. One last hope was his only living relative, his mother...and by the time that he found her, he realized that she was entombed in the communist side of Berlin. Again lossing all hope, he made his dwellings in the bomb stricken buildings, drinking more and more with each passing day.
Finally receiving word that his mother had been killed while trying to escape the communist, he felt his last hope fly out of his body. He said to himself, "Now, whatís the use of living!" So, he went down to a near-by river hoping to drown his sorrows by throwing himself into the river. As he was about to jump he heard soft singing coming from a near-by wooden building. He could well remember the words...
"When Jesus comes the tempterís Powír is broken,
When Jesus comes, the tears are wiped away;
He takes the gloom and fills the life with glory,
For all is changed when Jesus comes to stay."
Hearing such sweet words, he came closer to the building wanting to hear more about this Jesus. As he approached the door, he read those gentle words which have meant so much to millions of individuals throughout the ages...
"Gott Ist Liebe - God is Love;
Gott Ist Leben - God is Life!"
He went inside, and there for the first time he heard the wonderous love that God had for him. And how He send his only Begotten Son to die on the cross so that he could have life - and have it more abundantly! Eternal Life! Praise God! Carl found Christ at that moment! The young missionary said, "Christ says, íCome unto me all ye that are heavy laden, and I will give ye restí" Carl said to himself, "If there is anyone here burdened down itís me! I am tired of this life I am living." And that night, Carl went to the altar and said, "Lord, if itís true that you can change the worst sinner like this missionary says, change me! If itís true that you can give rest...give it to me! If itís true that you can straighten out the most twisted life...straighten out mine!" And that night the Christ that had saved Carl from the firing squad also broke the chains of bondage of sin that had his life captive, and he got up from that altar a new person. Christ had saved him...he had forgiven his many sins.
And now, Carl has been preaching and helping in the Berean Missionary Fellowship in Erzhausen, Germany, and bringing others to Christ with his wonderous testimony of salvation.
Although Charles Wesley had been engaged in preaching the gospel with much diligence and earnestness, he did not know what it was to enjoy peace with God until he was in his thirtieth year. Being laid low by an alarming illness, and seeming as if he were going to die, a young Moravian named Peter Bohler, who was undergoing a course of preparation by him to go out as a missionary, asked him, "Do you hope to be saved?" Charles answered, "Yes."
"For what reason do you hope it?" "Because I have used my best endeavors to serve God," was his reply. The Moravian shook his head and said no more.
That sad, silent, significant shake of the head shattered all Charles Wesley's false foundation of salvation by endeavors. He was afterwards taught by Peter Bohler the way of the Lord more perfectly, and brought to see that by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ men are justified. And now in his sick-room, he was able to write for the first time in his life, "I now find myself at peace with God"; and it was on this occasion he composed that beautiful hymn, "O for a thousand tongues to sing my great Redeemer's praise!"
Our hope likewise need only rest in the finished work of our remarkable Redeemer. Our righteousness is not about our righteousness. Our righteousness is the gift of the imputation, the transfer, of the righteousness of Christ credited, as it were, to our account. The debt that we couldn't pay, He paid.
(From Chris Surber's Sermon "Remarkable Redeemer")
Sermon Central Staff
FEAR AND THE DECEITS OF THE HEART
I think Edward Welch chose brilliantly the title for his book on overcoming the fear of man: When People are Big and God is Small. Maybe you can relate to his personal awakening to this problem when he was a high-school senior:
"I had always been shy and self-conscious, controlled by what my peers thought (or might have thought), but I never considered it seriously until the day of the awards assembly. I was up for an award, and I was scared to death I would get it!
"The auditorium bulged with over two thousand high-school juniors and seniors. From the back, where I like to sit, it seemed a good mile or two up to the platform. All I could think of was what my classmates would think of me while I walked to the front. Would I walk funny? Would I trip going up the stairs? Would one person -- I prayed it would not be a girl I liked -- think I was a jerk? What about those who were also nominated or who thought they were deserving? What would they think of me if I won instead of them? What would I ever say for a brief acceptance speech? 'God, please don't let me get this!' I prayed.
"After a number of lesser awards were announced, the vice principal went to the podium to introduce the winner. He began with a short, somewhat cryptic biographical sketch. It did not sound exactly like me, but it was generic enough to fit. I was starting to sweat, but I sat motionless for fear that someone would think I was getting interested. Finally the announcement came: 'And the winner of this year's senior award is...Rick Wilson.
"Rick Wilson! I could not believe it! Of all people. No one even thought he was a candidate!
"You can imagine my reaction. Relief? No way. I felt like a total failure. Now what would people think of me? They knew I was up for the award, and someone else was chosen. What a loser I was.
"Immediately my mind began spinning out justifications. If I had worked at all this year, I would have won. I certainly had the potential, I just didn't want to win. I'm a late bloomer; when I get to college, I will show them. I was ashamed to go back to class. Pitiful, isn't it?"
Dr. Welch describes well the deceit of the heart. Many fear success, for it would put us on display; yet we also fear failure, for then we are shown to be less wonderful than we had hoped. The Bible mentions often this heart-struggle. Almost 600 verses contain the word, "fear" and related synonyms. One of the profound comments comes through the prophet Isaiah: "And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away. [So God promises to restore and revive his people, to protect and deliver them. Then he says,] 'I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass, and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth?'" (Isaiah 51.11-13).
(From a sermon by Glenn Durham, How Fear Controls People, 5/31/2010)
There are going to be things happen to you in this life that will make you cling to that eternal hope because there is no other. Wally and Barbara Rendel know thatís true. Wally is the minister at the Southern Acres Christian Church in Lexington and has been for over 20 years. But five years ago they got the phone call that every parent dreads. Late one night an Ohio State Trooper told them that their 21 year old daughter Jill was killed when the van that she was riding in with the rest of the girls basketball team from her college had overturned. Jill was vivacious, she was on the deanís list, she was popular, even been selected by her student body as Homecoming Queen just several days before she was killed. She was a Daddyís girl. I understand that a week before she died that she was home in Lexington and sat on her Dadís lap for an hour just joking around. When Wally and Barbara received the tragic news that Jill had been killed they were devastated. But within minutes, because of his faith, this Dad through tears said, "The Queen has gone home to be with the King." Say what you will, there is something markedly different about the way mature Christians face death. Paul said, "We grieve, but not as those who have no hope."
The funeral for Jill Rendel was packed. Over a thousand people came. I understand that it was a funeral that was a little different for some. It was not a dirge of sadness but a celebration of Jillís ultimate victory in Christ and our promise of life eternal. Toward the end of the service a young man sang a most moving song. Itís entitled, "I fell on my knees and cried Holy." The song says, "I dreamed of a city called glory, so bright and so fair. When I entered the gates I cried holy, the angels all met with me there. They carried me from mansion to mansion. Oh, the sights that I saw. Then I said, "I want to see Jesus, for Heís the one who died for all." The second time that he sang, "I want to see Jesus.." Wally and Barbara, who sat within reach of their daughterís casket stood and raised their hands to heaven and ...
Christmas is an exciting time and little Sammy was excited. He was 15 years old and Christmas was still to him a time of wonder. He was a happy child despite his handicap. You see, Sammy was slightly retarded. He still went to school, though he was 2 years behind. And he did the things that most boys do; he played ball, road his bike, fished, climbed trees and other fun stuff.
And for the most part the kids were not too mean -- sometimes they laughed and called him "stupid Sammy" -- but Sammy just didnít seem to hear them -- he just enjoyed life every part of it; to him life was full of wonder and amazement.
And Christmas was the most wonderful time of all.
It was Christmas Eve, and both the sky and the ground were white with snow. And it was 8 OíClock, time to go to church for the annual Christmas Eve Celebration. Sammy could hardly wait. He was so excited wondering what present would be under the tree for him this year. Last year he got a telescope.
Every year on Christmas Eve after the service all the children would gather around the huge Christmas tree and each one was handed a present, with their name on it. And even though Sammy was a little old for this they still let him take part.
Sammyís parents left early that night, because his mother was singing a solo, "Silent Night" and she wanted to practice.
They were the first to arrive at church. And when his dad opened the door; well you can guess where Sammy went; thatís right.. at the speed of light he went right to the Christmas tree and started to look for the present with his name of it.
After a few minutes, he began to worry because he couldnít find it. Then his eyes caught hold of a big box -- the biggest present that was there. He slowly walked over to it -- lifted the card and there in great big letters was his name "Sammy." He couldnít believe it, the biggest present was his, and his mind began thinking at the sped of light of all the many possibilities of what was inside; maybe it was a bike; a TV a horse, a tent; ... What was in it -- Sammy could barely stand it -- but he knew he had to wait.
Sammy really did enjoy the service, really, but he kind of thought that 3 days was just a little too long -- well, at least that is how long it seemed to him.
Finally it was over and all the children rushed to the huge tree.
Preacher Joe stared picking up presents and calling out names; Sarah, Bobby, Susan, Sammy was on the edge of his seat -- he was about to burst with anticipation.
The Preacher Joe walked over to the big box and said, "Well, letís see whose name is on this one," but before he could read the name Sammy bolted beside him and said "Itís mine Preach Joe" "so it is," Joe replied.
Sammy took the box and gently took off the bow, His heart was racing like a jack hammer. His mom and dad stood beside him smiling -- enjoying their sons excitement.
Sammy removed all the paper and laid it beside the box -- And then he began to remove the lid -- In his mind all of the things he hoped to see flashed before his eyes in a second. Finally Sammy got the box open and he looked inside and he saw........
Nothing ---- He saw nothing -- someone had played a trick on stupid Sammy. When Sammy lifted his head, huge tears were streaming down his face.
Who would do something so cruel -- who would play such a mean trick on Sammy... The box was empty.
Everyday, all around the world, this same trick is being played. Though the names and exact situation are a little different -- the results are still the same.
Our world promises people great things; happiness, wealth, pleasure, relationships, fame, success, power. And it wraps them up in a great big box, with pretty paper and a beautiful bow.
And it hands us this box -- as a gift, we get excited; and we take off the bow -- we unwrap the box and we open it with great expectations.... And when we look inside, just like Sammy all we find is an empty box. No hope, no life, no joy, no happiness -- just huge tears of heart break streaming down our face. THATíS THE KIND OF GIFTS THIS WORLD GIVES US... HAVE YOU EVER OPENED ONE OF HER BOXES? I THINK YOU HAVE AND ITíS NOT FUN IS IT?
“In January, 1995, according to an article written by Gary Thomas, J. Robert Ashcroft had fewer than forty-eight hours to live, but he was holding on to life, hoping to see his son, John Ashcroft, sworn into the U.S. Senate the following day. [John Ashcroft, as we all know by now, is in the process of being confirmed as our next Attorney General]. As family and friends gathered in Washington for a small reception, J. Robert Ashcroft asked his son to play the piano while everyone sang, ‘We Are Standing On Holy Ground.’”
“After the song, the frail old man spoke some powerful words: ‘John, I want you to know that even Washington can be holy ground. Wherever you hear the voice of God, that ground is sanctified. It’s a place where God can call you to the highest and best.’”
“Wherever we are in our vocation, if Jesus is Lord of our lives, that place is a holy place of service for Him” (Thomas, “Working for All It’s Worth,” Moody, July/August 1998, p. 13, as quoted in Morgan, p. 796).