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Staff Picks of Free Sermons and PRO Church Media
Bill Hybels is the Pastor of the largest church in America, Willow Creek Community Church, just outside of Chicago, Illinois. His ministry began as an outreach from another church to teenagers during the early 70’s. They called the youth ministry Son City. He and his wife Lynne recount the story of their explosive church growth in their book Rediscovering church. Listen as I read an excerpt from the book, this is Lynne speaking:
"In my mind I am walking again along the quiet, tree-lined streets from the church to the tiny home where we had just begun our married life in May 1974. I am sitting at the round kitchen table with the red tablecloth. Another lonely meal. Another empty evening. An hour earlier I had begged Bill to stay home. He had looked at me in disbelief. "Kids are dying and going to hell, and you want me to stay home and hold your hand?" The words echo in my mind, and I hear them over and over in different forms: Don’t bother me, Lynne. How can you demand that, Lynne? Six months into marriage, I am convinced I have made a horrible mistake. I love the man I married. I love Son City. But I hate our marriage. I hate the pain of disappointment. I hate mourning the death of so many dreams. And I hate the loneliness." (Hybels, p. 44)
Those of us who pray for the persecuted church, mourned the loss of Cardinal Ignatius Kung who died last month at the age of 98. Though I’m not a Catholic, I admire Cardinal Kung who stood by his convictions, and withstood persecution for his faith.
He was ordained as a Bishop of Shanghai in 1949, shortly after the communists took over China. The Chinese government pressured him to align his loyalties to the "Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association," he refused, choosing to remain loyal to his church’s chain of command. In 1955, the authorities brought he and 200 other priests to a stadium in Shanghai. The government ordered them to "confess their crimes." Instead, Kung shouted "Long live Christ the King! Long live the Pope."
Shortly thereafter, he received a life sentence, where he spent the next 30 years in prison, most of the time in solitary confinement. He was freed in 1987 and finally arrived to his final resting place last month.
President Anwar Sadat’s Address to the Israeli Knesset November 20, 1977
In the name of God, Mr. Speaker of the Knesset, ladies and gentlemen, allow me first to thank deeply the Speaker of the Knesset for affording me this opportunity to address you....
I come to you today on solid ground to shape a new life and to establish peace. We all love this land, the land of God, we all, Moslems, Christians and Jews, all worship God....
I do not blame all those who received my decision (negatively) when I announced it to the entire world before the Egyptian People’s Assembly. I do not blame all those who received my decision with surprise and even with amazement, some gripped even by violent surprise. Still others interpreted it as political, to camouflage my intentions of launching a new war.
I would go so far as to tell you that one of my aides at the presidential office contacted me at a late hour following my return home from the People’s Assembly and sounded worried as he asked me: "Mr. President, what would be our reaction if Israel actually extended an invitation to you?"
I replied calmly: "I would accept it immediately. I have declared that I would go to the end of the earth. I would go to Israel, for I want to put before the people of Israel all the facts...."
No one could have ever conceived that the president of the biggest Arab state, which bears the heaviest burden and the main responsibility pertaining to the cause of war and peace in the Middle East, should declare his readiness to go to the land of the adversary while we were still in a state of war.
We all still bear the consequences of four fierce wars waged within 30 years. All this at the time when the families of the 1973 October war are still mourning under the cruel pain of bereavement of father, son, husband and brother.
Sadat then put his peace initiative forward and then concluded:
I have chosen to come to you with an open heart and an open mind. I have chosen to give this great impetus to all international efforts exerted for peace. I have chosen to present to you, in your own home, the realities, devoid of any scheme or whim. Not to manoeuvre, or win a round, but for us to win together, the most dangerous of rounds embattled in modern history, the battle of permanent peace based on justice.
I had tears in my eyes that day when I heard him speak when the speech was broadcast – a man seeking peace with his enemies. And it cost him his life
MEMORIAL DAY, A TIME FOR HEALING
Memorial Day, perhaps more than any other holiday, was born of human necessity. Deep inside all of us lies a fundamental desire to make sense of life and our place in it and the world. What we have been given, what we will do with it and what we will pass to the next generation is all part of an unfolding history, a continuum that links one soul to another.
Abraham Lincoln pondered these thoughts in the late fall of 1863. His darkest fear was that he might well be the last president of the United States, a nation embroiled in the self-destruction of what he described as "a great civil war..testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure." He began his remarks with those words as he stood on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania on November 19th of that year.
The minute’s speech that became known as Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address turned into what might be called the first observance of Memorial Day. Lincoln’s purpose that day was to dedicate a portion of the battlefield as a cemetery for the thousands of men, both living and dead, who consecrated that soil in the sacrifice of battle. Said Abraham Lincoln: "That from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause which they gave the last full measure of devotion...that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom..."
The next year, a pleasant Sunday in October of 1864 found a teenage girl, Emma Hunter, gathering flowers in a Boalsburg, Pennsylvania cemetery to place on the grave of her father. He was a surgeon who had died in service to the Union Army in that great Civil War. Nearby, Mrs. Elizabeth Meyer was strewing flowers upon the grave of her son Amos, a private who had fallen on the last day of the battle of Gettysburg. Emma respectfully took a few of her flowers and put them on the grave of Amos. Mrs. Meyer, in turn, laid some of her freshly cut blooms on the grave of Dr. Hunter. Both women felt a lightening of their burdens by this act of honoring each other’s loss, and agreed to meet again the next year. This time they agreed they would also visit the graves of those who had no one left to honor them.
Both Emma Hunter and Elizabeth Meyer returned to the cemetery in Boalsburg on the day they had agreed, Independence Day, July 4, 1865. This time, though, they found themselves joined by nearly all the residents of the town. Dr. George Hall, a clergyman, offered a sermon, and the community joined in decorating every grave in the cemetery with flowers and flags. The custom became an annual event at Boalsburg, and it wasn’t long before neighboring communities established their own "Decoration Day" each spring.
About that same time in 1865, a druggist in Waterloo, New York, Henry C. Welles, began promoting the idea of decorating the graves of Civil War veterans. He gained the support of the Seneca County Clerk, General John B. Murray, and they formed a committee to make wreaths, crosses and bouquets for each veteran’s grave. On May 5, 1866, war veterans marching to martial music led processions to each of three cemeteries, where the graves were decorated and speeches were made by General Murray and local clergymen. The village itself was also decorated with flags at half-mast, evergreen boughs and mourning black streamers.
Also, as the Civil War was coming to a close in the spring of 1865, Women’s Auxiliaries of the North and South moved from providing relief to the families and soldiers on their own sides to joining in efforts to preserve and decorate the graves of both sides. A woman of French extraction and leader of the Virginia women’s movement, Cassandra Oliver Moncure, took responsibility of coordinating the activities of several groups into a combined ceremony on May 30. It is said that she picked that day because it corresponded to the Day of Ashes in France, a solemn day that commemorates the return of the remains of Napoleon Bon...
Blessed Are The Meek
As you study the character traits described in the Beatitudes, you can't help but realize one thing; these qualities are by no means natural to the human spirit. They are very foreign. Poverty of spirit, true mourning over personal sins against God and meekness does not come to us naturally.
The greatest preacher of all time, Jesus Christ, proclaimed "Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth." (Matt. 5:5)
The Greek word for "meek" means to be gentle; to be strong, very strong, yet be humble and tender. It is a man with all the emotions and ability to take and conquer, but he is able control himself in all ways. It is a state of being disciplined -- a man who is disciplined because he is God-controlled.
W. E. Vine writes: "Meekness is an inwrought grace of the soul; and the exercise of it are first and chiefly towards God. It is temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good and therefore without disputing and resisting."
True meekness is a submissive and trusting attitude toward God. It is an attitude which considers all things that come your way as being for God's good purpose in your life. Meekness looks beyond circumstances, no matter how upsetting and hurtful, and humbly bows the knee to the Sovereign God.
Jesus is the perfect picture of someone who was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 4: 1) and lived a life of true meekness. He had all the power needed to prevent His arrest and crucifixion, yet He surrendered to God's will. (Matthew 26: 53 - 45) He fully understood the sovereignty of God and the results of the free will of man. Jesus said to Pilate, "You would have no authority over Me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." (John 19: 11) Jesus knew that Judas Iscariot would betray Him. God used it to accomplish His plan of redemption, and yet Judas was and will be fully accountable before God. (Acts 1: 15 -19)
Man has strength to ignore God's will or to take God's gifts, talents, and abilities and use them for self or he may choose to use God's good blessings to glorify the Lord. Without meekness, he will squander what is given to him by God to gain earthly wealth, self-satisfaction and fame (little or great).
The Beatitude of meekness epitomizes the results of kneeling in total submission to God's will. It comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit and from allowing Him to produce Christ-like character in us. Are you craving that submissive spirit of meekness that bows and responds to the mighty sovereignty of God with joyful obedience? Meekness says, "not my will, but Yours be done." (Mathew 26: 39)
The Bible says, "...the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace." (Proverbs 37:11) Jesus says, "Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." (Matthew 11:29) The meek will rule and reign with Christ upon this earth someday. (2 Tim. 2:12)
True meekness is not a natural character trait. It can only be obtained by knowing Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord. Invite Christ into your life today a discover the joyful surrender of true meekness.
A funeral and the burial or cremation that goes with it is a vital part in the process of mourning isn’t it? It provides a sense of finality that’s important in coming to terms with loss. You often hear about people who have been lost and assumed dead but their bodies are never found. And their families find it so hard to come to terms with their grief. It’s only when the body is found and they can have a funeral and the person is buried or cremated that they can finally begin to deal with their loss and move on. So for us, our dying and being buried with Christ means we’re finally freed from the power of sin. That’s what happened to Jesus when he died. He was freed from the power of sin and death. That’s why he rose again, because death had no hold over him. And he takes us into his death so we too can be freed from the power of sin and death. But we need to take hold of that fact. We need to make it a daily reality in our lives.
1. Morrie: In His Own Words By Morrie Schwartz:
· Learn how to live, and you’ll know how to die. Once you know how to die, you know how to live.
· Death ends life, not a relationship.
· Dying is only one thing to be sad over. Living unhappily is something else.
· Everything that gets born dies. The best way to deal with that is to live in a fully conscious, compassionate, loving way. Don’t wait until you’re on your deathbed to recognize that this is the only way to live.
· Maybe the distance between life and death isn’t as great as you think. …Maybe it’s not that great chasm that you always thought it was..maybe it’s only a bridge
· If possible find and practice a spiritual connection…We can explain some of life’s questions scientifically, but I don’t think that is the full picture. I think it is clear some higher power exists. … It is something powerful.
· Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Don’t wait.
· Grieve and mourn for yourself, not once or twice, but again and again.
· Get as much help as you can when you need it.
· When you are utterly frustrated or angry, express these feelings. You don’t have to be nice all the time—just most of the time
· I’m going to die—you are going to die—but I’m also going to live on in some other form.
· The best preparation to live fully is to be prepared to die at any time.
· You’re not a wave; you’re a part of the ocean.
· There’s a bird on your shoulder and every day you ask it, “Is today the day that I die? Am I ready? Am I living the life I want to live? Am I being the person I want to be?”
The year was 1630. The place was the Massachusetts Bay along the Atlantic coast near the place known as Plymouth Rock. On board the ship the Arabella John Winthrop, the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Company challenged the Puritan settlers to establish a new kind of Christian community.
Winthrop said: We must be knit together in this work as one man, we must entertain each other in brotherly affection. . ., we must delight in each other, make others’ condition our own, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together. . ., our community as members of the same body, so shal...
". . . before this month began to prepare our ground against seed-time. In the midst of April we began to set, the weather being then seasonable, which much encouraged us, giving us good hopes of after plenty: the setting season is good till the latter end of May. But it pleased God for our further chastisement, to send a great drought, insomuch, as in six weeks after the latter setting there scarce fell any rain, so that the stalk of that was first set began to send forth the ear before it came to half growth, and that which was later, not like to yield any at all, both blade and stalk hanging the head, and changing the color in such manner, as we judged It utterly dead: our Beans also ran not up according to their wonted manner, but stood at a stay, many being parched away, as though they had been scorched before the fire. Now were our hopes overthrown, and we discouraged, our joy being turned into mourning. To add also to this sorrowful estate in which we were, we heard of a supply [ship] that was sent unto us many months since, which having two repulses before, was a third time in company of another ship three hundred Leagues at Sea, and now in three months time heard no further of her, only the signs of a wreck were scene on the coast, which could not be judged to be any other then the same. So that at once God seemed to deprive us of all future hopes. The most courageous were now discouraged, because God which hitherto had been our only Shield and Supporter, now seemed in his anger to arm himself against us; and who can withstand the fierceness of his wrath. These, and the like considerations moved not only every good man privately to enter Into examination with his own estate between God and his conscience, and so to humiliation before him: but also more solemnly to humble our selves together before the Lord by fasting and prayer. To that end a day was appointed by public authority, and set a-part from all other employments, hoping that the same God which had stirred us Up hereunto, would be moved hereby in mercy to look down upon Us, and grant the request of our dejected souls, if our continuance there might any way stand with his glory and our good. But oh the mercy of our God! Who was as ready to hear as we to ask: For though in the morning when we assembled together, the heavens were as clear and the drought as like to continue as ever it was: yet (our exercise [in prayer] continuing some eight or nine hours) before our departure the weather was over-cast, the clouds gathered together on all sides, and on the next morning distilled such soft, sweet, and moderate showers of rain, continuing some fourteen days, and mixed with such seasonable weather, as it was hard to say whether our withered Corn or drooping affections were most quickened or revived. Such was the bounty and goodness of our God. Of this the Indians by means of Hobomok took notice: who being then in the Town, and this exercise in the midst of the week, said, it was but three days since Sunday, and therefore demanded of a boy what was the reason thereof? Which when he [Hobomok] knew and saw what effects followed thereupon, he and all of them [the Indians with him] admired the goodness of our God towards us, that wrought so great a change in so short a time, strewing the difference between their conjuration, and our invocation on the name of God for rain; theirs being mixed with such storms and tempests, as sometimes in stead of doing them good, it layeth the Corn flat on the ground, to their prejudice: but ours in so gentle and seasonable a manner, as they never observed the like. At the same time Captain Standish being formerly employed by the Governor to buy provisions for the refreshing of the Colony, returned with the same, accompanied with one Mr. David Tomson. . . Now also heard we of the third repulse that our supply [ship] had, of their safe though dangerous return into England, and of their preparation to come to us. So that having these many signs of Gods favor and acceptation, we thought it would be great ingratitude, if secretly we should smother up the same, or content our selves with private thanksgiving for that which by private prayer could not be obtained. And therefore another solemn day was set a-part and appointed for that end, wherein we returned glory, honor, and praise, with all thankfulness to our God, which dealt so graciously with us, whose name for these and all other his mercies towards his Church and chosen ones, by them be blessed and praised now and evermore, Amen."
(Primary Source document, "Good Newes from New England" (1624) Written by Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, Good Newes from New England was published in London in 1624.)
It is natural to mourn. A minister once told me about a young woman in his church who asked him to talk to her grandfather. “He’s been so down and irritable lately,” she said. The preacher said, “Is there anything that you can point to that would contribute to his emotional condition?” “Well, Grandma died,” she said, “but that was six weeks ago. You’d think he’d be over it by now. He’s making us all depressed!” She didn’t understand the grief process.