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THE STOLEN BABY JESUS SYNDROME
A few years back, Wellington, FL had their baby Jesus stolen two years running. This was a wealthy community and their Jesus was worth around $1800. The third time around they put a GPS inside and traced the thief to her home.
But the baby Jesus doesnít have to be expensive. In 2008, in Eureka Springs AK, the thieves not only stole a plastic baby Jesus; they also took the concrete block and chain meant to keep that from happening
Itís called the ďStolen Baby Jesus Syndrome.Ē Some take the babies as a joke. Others do so because they want to protest Christmas. When found, the babies are often defaced with profanity or Satanic symbols (AP Dec. 10, 2008)
But the thief doesnít always have bad intentions. About 6 years ago, Chicago Police say an art student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was arrested for stealing a figure of the baby Jesus from the Nativity Scene at the Daley Plaza. Two witnesses saw him pull the three-foot figure from the manger and just walk away with it. When questioned about the theft, the man said he took the figure because he saw it and wanted it.
(http://www.14wfie.com, Baby Jesus Stolen - Again, 12/6/04. From a sermon by Jeff Strite, A Reason to Party, 12/26/2010)
GOD JUST NEEDS A VOICE
John Stott, a well-known British pastor and theologian, was invited to preach at the University of Sydney in Australia; but after he got there, he lost his voice. He describes his experience as follows:
"What can you do with a missionary who has no voice? We had come to the last night of the [evangelistic campaign]. The students had booked the big university hall. A group of students gathered around me, and I asked them to pray as Paul did, that this thorn in the flesh might be taken from me. But we went on to pray that if it pleased God to keep me in weakness, I would rejoice in my infirmities in order that the power of Christ might rest upon me.
"As it turned out, I had to get within one inch of the microphone just to croak the gospel. I was unable to use any inflection of voice to express my personality. It was just a croak in a monotone, and all the time we were crying to God that his power would be demonstrated in human weakness. Well, I can honestly say that there was a far greater response that night than any other night. Iíve been back to Australia ten times now, and on every occasion somebody has come up to me and said, "Do you remember that night when you lost your voice? I was converted that night."
God doesnít need eloquence to reach people. He just needs a voice, your voice, with a living, vital connection to Him in prayer.
I like the way Luci Swindoll once put it. She writes: "A friend of mine was caught in an elevator during a power failure. At first, there was momentary panic as all seven strangers talked at once. Then my friend remembered the tiny flashlight he had in his pocket. When he turned it on, the fear dissipated. During the 45 minutes they were stuck together they told jokes, laughed, and even sang. [The Bible] says we are that flashlight. Just as the flashlight draws power from its batteries, we draw power from Jesus. As light, we dissipate fear, bring relief, and lift spirits. We donít even have to be big to be effective. We just have to be íon.í"
(Source: Student Leadership, Spring 1993, p. 32. Luci Swindoll, "Heart to Heart," Todayís Christian Woman. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, "The Power of His Presence" 7/10/2009)
For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org
THE TROUBLE TELESCOPE
Most of you have seen the wonderful images from the Hubble Space Telescope. From the far reaches of space, we're able to see God's most breathtaking creations. Do you remember that in the beginning the Hubble Space Telescope was not the wonderful machine that it is today. After lots of excitement, the telescope was launched several years ago and the first images were blurry. There was a flaw in the mirror. It was a terrible disappointment. That problem was later corrected, but at the time there was a joke making the rounds that said the only thing NASA learned from the Hubble Telescope was to never name a project that rhymed with "trouble." It was a huge embarrassment.
The self-centered life is just like the early years of the Hubble Space Telescope. It makes everything out of focus so that you don't see truth and reality -- you just see a blurry image of it. The self-centered life makes you think that you are the most important thing in the universe -- but you're not.
THE COOLEST DAD IN THE UNIVERSE
He was 50 years old when I was born, and a "Mr. Mom" long before anyone had a name for it. I didnít know why he was home instead of Mom, but I was young and the only one of my friends who had their dad around. I considered myself very lucky.
Dad did so many things for me during my grade-school years. He convinced the school bus driver to pick me up my house instead of the usual bus stop that was six blocks away. He always had my lunch ready for me when I came home -- usually a peanut butter and jelly sandwich that was shaped for the season. My favorite was at Christmas. The sandwiches would be sprinkled with green sugar and cut in the shape of a tree.
As I got a little older and tried to gain my independence, I wanted to move away from those "childish" signs of his love. But he wasnít going to give up. In high school and no longer able to go home for lunch, I began taking my own. Dad would get up a little early and make it for me. I never knew what to expect. The outside of the sack might be covered with his rendering of a mountain scene (it became his trademark) or a heart inscribed with "Dad-n-Angie K.K." in its center. Inside there would be a napkin with that same heart or an "I love you." Many times he would write a joke or a riddle, such as "Why donít they ever call it a momsicle instead of a popsicle?" He always had some silly saying to make me smile and let me know that he loved me.
I used to hide my lunch so no one would see the bag or read the napkin, but that didnít last long. One of my friends saw the napkin one day, grabbed it, and passed it around the lunchroom. My face burned with embarrassment. To my astonishment, the next day all my friends were waiting to see the napkin.
From the way they acted, I think they all wished they had someone who showed them that kind of love. I was so proud to have him as my father. Throughout the rest of my high school years, I received those napkins, and still have a majority of them.
And still it didnít end. When I left home for college (the last one to leave), I thought the messages would stop. But my friends and I were glad that his gestures continued.
I missed seeing my dad every day after school and so I called him a lot. My phone bills got to be pretty high. It didnít matter what we said; I just wanted to hear his voice. We started a ritual during that first year that stayed with us. After I said goodbye he always said, "Angie?" "Yes, Dad?" Iíd reply. "I love you." "I love you, too, Dad."
I began getting letters almost every Friday. The front-desk staff always knew who the letters were from -- the return address said "The Hunk." Many times the envelopes were addressed in crayon, and along with the enclosed letters were usually drawings of our cat and dog, stick figures of him and Mom, and if I had been home the weekend before, of me racing around town with friends and using the house as a pit stop. He also had his mountain scene and the heart-encased inscription, Dad-n-Angie K.K.
The mail was delivered every day right before lunch, so Iíd have his letters with me when I went to the cafeteria. I realized it was useless to hide them because my roommate was a high school friend who knew about his napkins. Soon it became a Friday afternoon ritual. I would read the letters, and the drawing and envelope would be passed around.
It was during this time that Dad became stricken with cancer. When the letters didnít come on Friday, I knew that he had been sick and wasnít able to write. He used to get up at 4:00 a.m. so he could sit in the quiet house and do his letters. If he missed his Friday delivery, the letters would usually come a day or two later. But they always came. My friends used to call him "Coolest Dad in the Universe."...
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POSSUMS AND THE GRAVE
I have heard that possums are smart animals. You wouldnít think so because you hardly ever see one except when itís dead on the road. Thereís a joke that goes, ďwhy did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the possum that it could be done!Ē
But possums, it turns out, are smart. They wonít enter a hole if thereís just one set of tracks going into it. They know thereís something in there. But if there are two sets of tracks. The possum will enter and not be afraid.
The message of Easter is that we can enter the grave - we donít have to fear death because there are tracks leading out of the tomb. Paul preached the proclamation of Easter: "Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?"
This is the message that we need to hear this Easter. Jesus is risen!
Pastor Bruce D. Weaver and his wife drove in their car to pick up their son from Vacation Bible School. The sky was growing dark and there was a storm watch in effect, but no rain was falling yet. The theme for their upcoming Vacation Bible School had to do with Noahís ark and the flood, so he joked with some of the adult leaders about going to great lengths this year with special effects. By the time he arrived home with his wife and son, the wind was blowing fiercely and lightning bolts were coming down all around them. They hurried inside the house and began to shut windows. Within a few moments they were without electrical power. They tucked their son into bed, trying not to betray their concern regarding the severe weather conditions outside. Suddenly the telephone rang. It was their neighbor informing them that a "tornado warning" had been issued for their area. That meant a funnel cloud actually had been sighted somewhere near. Weaver asked him why the siren in their small town was not sounding. The neighbor said that the siren could not be sounded because of a power outage. He further explained that he had heard on his police scanner instructions for everyone who could hear the scanner to call their neighbors to inform them of the "tornado warning." Weaver was thankful for his concern and he was also thankful that the funnel cloud sighted damaged neither his family nor anyone else in their area.
Later that evening, Pastor Weaver thought about his neighborís concern for his safety and he reflected upon his own concern, or lack there of, for his neighbors. But it is all the more important to inform neighbors that a "code red" has been issued by God, because in due time Jesus Christ will return.
I heard of a story this week that really moved me deep. Itís a story of a black girl who had cleft palate (bungi). She was the butt of jokes and was very unhappy. They called her names Ė ugly names that just drove her deeper into despair. Most people made no attention to her except for this one school teacher who showed great interest in her. She was always for her. She talked to her. One day the pupils were being tested with how good they could hear. The teacher would whisper something into their ear, and the pupil would say it back. This girl says that was the turning point of her life. She will become a very successful person after that Ė serving the Lord. The teacher whispered, "I wish you were my daughter."
(SOURCE: from a sermon by Daniel Villa, "Christians are Being Transformed" 6/30/08 SermonCentral.com)
An elderly couple passed away and found themselves at the pearly gates. Peter was there to welcome them. First he showed them their mansion. The man overwhelmed by the sheer luxury of it all asked, "How much does this place cost per night?" Peter replied, "Sir, this is Heaven, it doesnít cost anything." Then Peter took them to the dining room where table upon table was piled high with the most delicious foods you could imagine. Again overwhelmed by the glory of it all the man asked, "How much for the meals?" Peter said, "You forget, this is Heaven, itís free." Peter then took them out back where they saw a fantastically beautiful golf course. As the man stood there open-mouthed Peter said, "Now before you ask, there are no greens fees, this is Heaven, everything is free." The man looked at his wi...
During the war in Vietnam, a young West Point graduate was sent over to lead a group of new recruits into battle. He did his job well, trying his best to keep his from ambush and death. But one night when they had been under attack, he was unable to get just one of his men to safety.
The soldier left behind had been severely wounded. From their trenches, the young lieutenant and his men could hear him in his pain. They all knew any attempt to save him Ė even if it was successful -- would almost certainly mean death for the would-be rescuer.
Eventually the young lieutenant crawled out of hiding toward the dying man. He got to him safely but was killed before he could save himself.
After the rescued man returned to the States, the lieutenantís parents heard that he was in their vicinity. Wanting to know this young man whose life was spared at such a great cost to them, they invited him to dinner.
When their honored guest arrived, he was obviously drunk. He was rowdy and obnoxious. He told off-color jokes and showed no gratitude for the sacrifice of the man who died to save him. The grieving parents did the best they could to make the manís visit worthwhile, but their efforts went unrewarded.
Their guest finally left. As the dad closed the door behind him, the mother collapsed in tears and cried, "To think that our precious son had to die for somebody like that."
Thatís what Jesus did.
Thatís what it says right in these verses:
Christ died for us while we were still sinners
Illus.: “You Can’t Practice Burying Me”
Shortly after a recent seminary graduate had assumed his first pastorate, he and his wife went to visit his family. His mother sensed that her daughter-in-law was unhappy, but not wishing to interfere, she pretended not to notice. As they were leaving, she heard her daughter-in-law say, “All right, we can go by the church and you can practice baptizing me just one more time. But remember this—when you have your first funeral, you are not going to practice burying me!”