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THE BEGINNING OF LEE
Lee, a reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a self-professed atheist was sitting at his desk on Christmas Eve. A slow news day he found himself reminiscing about the Delgado family that he had featured while writing a series of articles about Chicago’s neediest people a few days earlier. The Delgado’s were comprised of a grandmother named Perfecta and her two granddaughters, Jenny age 13 and her sister Lydia 11 years old.
He remembered how unprepared he was when he walked into their two room apartment on the west side of Chicago for the interview; bare halls and bare walls, no furniture, no rugs, nothing but a kitchen table and a handful of rice in the cupboards. He learned during the interview that Jenny and Lydia only had one short-sleeved dress apiece, plus a thin gray sweater that they shared. On cold days when the girls walked the half-mile to school, one of the girls would start with the sweater and then give it to the other at the halfway mark. It was all they had. Perfecta wanted more for her granddaughters and would gladly have worked, but her severe arthritis and age made work too difficult and painful.
Since it was a slow news day Lee decided to check out a car and drive to Chicago’s west side to check up on the Delgado’s. When Jenny opened the door he couldn’t believe what he saw! His article on the Delgado’s had touched the hearts of many subscribers who responded with furniture and appliances, rugs, dozens of coats, scarves and gloves. The girls wouldn’t have to share a sweater any longer. There was cartons and cartons and boxes of food everywhere. They had so much food that the cupboards and closets couldn’t contain it. Someone had even donated a Christmas tree, and under it were mounds of presents and thousands of dollars in cash!
Lee was astonished! But what astonished him the most was what he found Perfecta and her granddaughters doing. They were preparing to give most of it away. "Why would you give so much of this away?" Lee asked. Perfecta responded, "Our neighbors are still in need. We cannot have plenty while they have nothing. This is what Jesus would want us to do." Lee was dumbfounded.
After regaining his composure he asked Perfecta another question. He wanted to know what she and the girls thought about the generosity that was shown to them. Again, Lee was not prepared for the answer. She said, "This is wonderful, this is very good." "We did nothing to deserve this; it’s all a gift from God. But," she added, "It is not his greatest gift, Lee. No, we celebrate that tomorrow. Jesus."
Lee was speechless as he drove back to the office. In the quiet of his car he noted a couple of observations. He had plenty and along with it plenty of anxiety, while the Delgado’s despite their poverty had peace. Lee had everything and yet wanted more, but the Delgado’s had nothing and yet knew generosity. Lee had everything and yet his life was as bare as the Delgado’s apartment prior to the article running. And yet the Delgado’s who had nothing were filled with hope, contentment and had a spiritual certainty. Even though Lee had so much more than the Delgado’s, he longed for what they had in their poverty.
(From a sermon by Bryan Fink "Christmas is for all the Lees/Leighs of the World" 12/25/2008)
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 —
Anyone see “Oprah” this past week?...I believe it was on Friday, Feb. 8.
The test tube babies of the 80’s have come of age...and Oprah had some of those young people on her show.
These children had no identity apart from a mother and were in a constant search for, not only there father, but for other siblings. They admitted with tears that there is a huge void inside that needs so desperately to be satisfied and they are willing to use all their energies to seek the truth.
These young people were consumed with the hope of learning their true identities.
One teenage child only knew he was from test tube #46.
One mother, when asked by her child –where their father was, explained that another man, who already had a family, was loving enough to donate and that made the child a “love child.”
We live in a land and among a people who have no idea...Not only who they are BUT where they came from
How in the world can we expect them to know where they are going?
Most are using all their energies to learn their true identities.
Well, there is good news for them, and for you...
for when someone introduces them to Jesus Christ, or for that fact...when you introduce anyone to Jesus Christ, he provides that person with their true identity, their true purpose in life.
WHAT MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME
My mother taught me RELIGION: When I spilled grape juice on the carpet, she instructed, "You better pray the stain will come out of the carpet."
My mother taught me LOGIC: From her decisive words, "Because I said so, that’s why."
My mother taught me FORESIGHT: "Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident."
My mother taught me IRONY: "Keep laughing, and I’ll give you something to cry about."
My mother taught me about STAMINA: "You’ll sit there ’til all that spinach is finished."
My mother taught me about WEATHER: "It looks as if a tornado swept through your room."
My mother taught me THE CIRCLE OF LIFE: "I brought you into this world, and I can take you out."...
THE MARK OF JESUS
When I was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Levelland, there was a man in our church, the owner of a local business and a highly intentional Christian. The apostle Paul once said of himself that he bore "on [his] body the marks of Jesus" (Gal. 6:17). Well, this man bore the marks of Jesus on his life. His wife was the most annoying woman I have ever known. She was chronically ill, and her sickness had embittered her spirit. She demanded almost all of this man's time and energy, and she was never grateful for a single thing he did for her. She complained about life, and she complained about him. For his part -- I don't know how he did it -- but he remained gentle and serene, and he had the utmost patience with this woman. He never spoke ill of her. He never sighed under the burden of her criticism. He was truly a man of God. He had an intimacy with God that was not showy but nevertheless evident. If life had not rewarded him with outward happiness, he was deeply and inwardly joyful. God was his "portion," as the Bible says (e.g., Lam. 3:24; Ps. 16:5; 73:26), and he was satisfied.
How could he do this? How could he be so patient and kind and committed to the welfare of his wife despite her ingratitude? I'll tell you: he was in covenant with his wife, but he was also in covenant with God. And here's what I learned from him. This man partnered with God in his own process of sanctification. Now, let me tell you what I mean. This man's highest interest was not in being happy in some conventional way. No. Instead, the longing of his heart was to be the kind of person God wanted him to be. And God has to work on a person to make them like he wants them to be. And what this man did is: he yielded to God's program of overhaul in his life. God not infrequently uses suffering and adversity. How does the old hymn say it? "When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
That's what this man wanted. He wanted his dross consumed; he wanted his unloving tendencies to be burned in the fire of affliction if need be, and his gold refined, his character refashioned to be like that of his Lord, who "loved the church and gave himself up for her."
Bishop Lalachan Abraham
"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." (Socrates)
You cannot learn Godly wisdom in a University and get a degree in it. It can only come to a heart in right relationship with God, and seeking it.
Sermon Central Staff
THE POWER OF SNOWFLAKES
We can learn great lessons of unity and its power simply by observing the nature. For example a single snow flake that looks beautiful and innocent. If it remains on its own it can easily fly away or quickly melt away. On it's own it does no harm and poses no threat to any one does it? But when it unites with other snow flakes, they gain more strength and power. Those of us who live in New England know the power of the accumulation of "snow flakes" They have the power to work havoc and bring a whole administration to halt.
If that is the power of the united snow flakes can you imagine the power generated when people are united? Even God takes note of this power. Remember the first ever human construction of a tower in Gen 11th Chapter? This is a classical example of the power of unity.
(From a sermon by Francis Balla, Unite We Stand, 8/24/3012)
The Unbaptized Arm
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan’s response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they w...
SINS ARE HABITS
I’m reading a book right now called "The Power of Habit" (http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/) about how so much of our daily life is lived by habit. We have to. Our brain needs habits in order for us to be able to function. Just about everything we do is habitual.
How we walk... you don’t have to think about how to move your legs and to lift your foot and bring it forward and to shift your weight. When you’re 2 and learning how to walk, your brain spends a lot of energy training your brain to do that. But now you don’t even think about it... until there is some disability or arthritis or when we trip over something... and then suddenly our brain has to move that thought to our conscious brain.
But if we had to think about every single movement or how we do anything, our brain would be so overwhelmed, we couldn’t get anything done. God designed our brains in a way that most of what we do is done in a small part of the brain that just takes over to free up our conscious brain, that takes more energy.
Try something once (just go with it here). Cross your arms.
Now do it the other way. You have to think about it don’t you?
Almost everything we do, we do by habit... or a series of habits. Walking, talking, eating, driving a car... how you get ready in the morning... and so God designed us this way so that we could function most of the time.
When you get to the top of a set of stairs, your brain already knows what this looks like and so the brain hands it over to the amygdale (part of the brain) to do that hard work of which foot goes first and how the stepping motion works, so that you can focus instead on any surprises that might change the habit, like stuff ON the stairs, that you need to avoid.
It’s a really cool function of the brain to help us handle all the decisions we face constantly everyday.
And if that’s true, then it makes me wonder how much of what we do by instinct and is NOT what God wants us to do, is more from habit than it is a temptation from satan.
Because not only is the good stuff habitual... but so are the things we’d rather change... and it’s why it’s so hard to change our habits...because it has been moved to that part of the brain deep inside that tends to work on instinct instead of consciously.
And so a lot of our sinful behavior isn’t really from satan (per se)... as much as it’s just the habits we have fallen into and developed over time...stuff we have done so much that it is just the way we respond by instinct without a lot of conscious thought going into it.
Fr Mund Cargill Thompson
MOTHERS LIVE FOR OTHERS
We've got all sorts of people here this morning. One thing we have got a lot of is mothers. Some of you, your children are long grown up. But you have the experience of having been a mother. So? Well, every mother lives her life for another. And that is what the church is meant to be like. As former Archbishop of Cantabury William Temple put it, "The Church is the only society that exists solely for the benefit of it's non-members." Or as Jesus put it "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"
Every Mother lives her life for another. Those of you who have been mothers - for the love of your child you have been through the excruciating pain of labour. For the love of your child you had yoru sleep broken as you wake to feed your baby and change her nappy. For the love of your child, you have massively reduced your social life - think how much more you used to go out before you had your child than you did when your child was young. For the love of your child, you structured our entire day around things like School drop off and School pick up times. And on top of all the practical things you did for your child, you spent your time constantly thinking about what would be best for her or him. Every mother lives her life for another.
Now, not all of us in this church are mothers. I, for example, have never been a mother. And of course there are other forms of self sacrifice too. But the mothers here are an inspiration to the rest of us. Every mother exists not for her own benefit but for the benefit of her children. We need to put that into practice in a different context. Every mother exists not for her own benefit but for the benefit of her children. We need to learn more and more to exist not for our own benefit but for the benefit of our non-members.
Of course - it's easy to romanticise being a mother. Frequently you will have thought "I don't want to do this", "I don't want to do that", "Do I have to?" - especially when it comes to having your sleep broken in the middle of the night. "Do I have to?" Yet for love of your child, you got out of bed, comforted her, fed her and changed her nappy. For love of your child you did not what you wanted but what was best for her. As a church too, there will frequently be times for each one of us when we say "I don't want to do this", "I don't want to do that", "Do I have to?" yet, if as parents we can do things we don't want because we love our child, then as Christians, for love of God and love of those who haven't yet come to faith, we will do not what we want but what is best for them.