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VACANT HOMES, VACANT LIVES
TIFTON, GA ó The most interesting thing about Tifton is an abandoned Victorian house filled with thousands of bats. Tift County declared the once-elegant house in the townís historic district off limits after a bat specialist said that maybe 20,000 bats had moved in, apparently for good.
Now, teenagers call it the bat house. People talk about the smell, which is an unholy mix of animal urine and decaying wood. "In the summer, ooh, does that place reek," said Linda Turner, 69, a retired nurse and neighbor. "You ainít smelled nothing until you come back here on a hot day."
Brothers and Sisters, Iím not going to visit that bat house. WHAT A SIGHT AND WHAT A STINK IT MUST BE! Vacant houses get infiltrated with all kinds of creatures and probably not just bats. And many of these creatures make a mess, create a big stink, and eventually ruin that dwelling.
But it doesnít just happen with vacant houses, it also happens with vacant lives! If a person doesnít fill their life with good stuff, the bad stuff and sometimes, the evil stuff will move in and take over.
Whatís going on in your house? That is, the house you live in, the fleshly body you live in? Who has moved in? Who has taken over your residence and controlling your life? God wants us to stay clean in this world and that will only happen when we let Him move in, that is, when we fill our lives with worship, prayer and service.
Thy word have I hide in my heart that I might not sin against thee! Ps. 119:11. The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible!
(From a sermon by Steve Shepherd, Our Walk in This World, 4/4/2011)
Letís play ĎLetís Pretendí. Letís pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. Iím the owner and Iím interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until a new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family and move to Europe for six to eight months. And I leave you in charge of the busy stateside organization. I tell you that I will write you regularly and give you directions and instructions. I leave and you stay. Months pass. A flow of letters are mailed from Europe and received by you at the national headquarters. I spell out all my expectations. Finally, I return. Soon after my arrival, I drive down to the office and I am stunned. Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the Receptionistís room. She is doing her nails, chewing gum and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing. The carpet hasnít been vacuumed for weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned. I asked about your whereabouts and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, "I think heís down there." Disturbed, I move in that direction and bump into you as you are finishing a chess game with our sales manager. I ask you to step into my office, which has been temporarily turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas. "What in the world is going on, man?" "What do you mean?" "Well, look at this place! Didnít you get any of my letters?" "Letters? Oh yes! Sure! I got every one of them. As a matter of fact, we have had a letter study every Friday since you left. We have even divided the personnel into small groups to discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of the things were really interesting. You will be pleased to know that a few of us have actually committed to memory some of your sentences and paragraphs. One or two memorized an entire letter or two - Great stuff in those letters."
"OK. You got my letters. You studied them and meditated on them; discussed and even memorized them. But what did you do about them?" "Do? We didnít do anything about them." (Improving Your Serve, Chuck Swindoll)
For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org
READ THE STORY ABOUT A CITY SLICKER WHO WAS VISITING RELATIVES ON A FARM AND THE FARMER GAVE A WHISTLE AND HIS DOG HERDED THE CATTLE INTO THE CORRAL, THEN LATCHED THE GATE WITH HER PAW. "WOW, THATíS SOME DOG. WHATíS HER NAME?" SAID THE CITY BOY. B. THE FORGETFUL FARMER THOUGHT A MINUTE, THEN ASKED, "WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT RED FLOWER THAT SMELLS GOOD AND HAS THORNS ON THE STEM?" "A ROSE?" "THATíS IT" C. THE FARMER TURNED TO HIS WIFE AND SAID, "HEY ROSE, WHAT DO WE CALL THIS DOG?" D. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE HUMANS CAN BE VERY FORGETFUL, SO WHAT IS YOUR WORST FORGETFUL MOMENT? ONE DAY AFTER ALBERT EINSTEIN HAD MOVED TO HIS HOME AT THE INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY IN PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY, THE TELEPHONE RANG IN THE OFFICE OF THE DEAN OF THE PRINCETON GRADUATE SCHOOL AND THE VOICE AT THE OTHER END INQUIRED: "MAY I SPEAK WITH DR. EINSTEIN, PLEASE?" G. ADVISED THAT HE WAS NOT IN, THE VOICE CONTINUED: "PERHAPS THEN YOU WILL TELL ME WHERE DR. EINSTEIN LIVES." H. THE SECRETARY REPLIED THAT SHE COULD NOT DO THIS, SINCE DR. EINSTEIN WISHED TO HAVE HIS PRIVACY RESPECTED. I. THE VOICE ON THE TELEPHONE DROPPED TO A WHISPER: "PLEASE DONíT TELL ANYONE, BUT I AM DR. EINSTEIN. I AM ON MY WAY HOME, AND HAVE FORGOTTEN WHERE MY HOUSE IS"
AN EASTER PARABLE: EDITH EASTER
Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns. One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns.
When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.
Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved. Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Beverly said, "Why yes I do." Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?" Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up." Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room."
After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?" Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the patient." With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you're not going to live very long." Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!" Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!"
Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter."
Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.
One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you." Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won't work. I'm not interested." Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.
Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I'm praying for you." One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day." Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, 'Do you believe in Easter?' but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked..."
Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis Cross said, "Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, s...
Mike Breaux, when he was the Sr. Pastor at Southland Christian Church in Lexington, KY, made this point in a dramatic fashion. On the day he was to preach on the very text weíre studying, from James 2, Mike dressed up as a destitute bag lady and entered the Church service just as it began. He was dressed in such a fashion that no one was able to recognize him. He had put on several layers of old, sweaty clothing including a dress, and then put on a straw hat that he pulled down over his face. He stumbled into the service carrying numerous bags, his odor was not pleasant and he sat down in the middle of the auditorium. Now, Southland is a great church but on that day no-one spoke to him as the bag lady. In fact, several cast disgusting glances his way, and some actually got up and moved several seats away from him. When it came time for the sermon there was an awkward silence because nobody knew where Mike was. But all of sudden the bag lady got up and walked toward the platform. When he got to the pulpit he slowly began to take off his garments revealing who he was. The congregation sat in uncomfortable silence. And then Mike said, "Would you please listen as I read James 2:1-4?"
THE 40 MARTYRS
"History knows them as the forty martyrs of Sebaste. They were soldiers in the famed Twelfth Legion of Romeís imperial army, around A.D. 320. One day the captain informed his troops that Emperor Licinius had sent down an edict commanding all soldiers to offer a sacrifice to his pagan god. Forty of the soldiers were followers of Christ, and they refused. 'You can have our armor and even our bodies, but our hearts' allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ,' they said.
"The emperor decided to make an example of the soldiers, so in the middle of winter he marched them onto a frozen lake and stripped them of their clothes. 'Renounce your God and you will be spared from death,' he told them. Not one man came forward. So he left them there, huddled together to contemplate his offer. Throughout the night the man stayed together, singing their song of victory: Forty Martyrs for Christ. When morning came, thirty-nine of the men had frozen to death. The one survivor finally relented and crawled to safety, recanting his confession of faith in order to live. The officer in charge that night had been so moved by the scene that during his watch heíd come to Jesus, so he broke rank and walked out onto the ice. Stripping his clothes he openly confessed his faith in Christ. The furious emperor demanded that he renounce Jesus, but he refused. When the ordeal was over, the Roman soldiers carried forty frozen men off of the ice."
(Ref: Lahaye, Tim, Jerry B. Jenkins and Frank M. Martin ed., Embracing Eternity, Living Each Day With a Heart Toward Heaven: The Persecuted, Matthew 5:10- February 15. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004.)
SINS ARE HABITS
Iím 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 donít have to think about how to move your legs and to lift your foot and bring it forward and to shift your weight. When youíre 2 and learning how to walk, your brain spends a lot of energy training your brain to do that. But now you donít 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 couldnít 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 donít 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.
Itís a really cool function of the brain to help us handle all the decisions we face constantly everyday.
And if thatís 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 weíd rather change... and itís why itís 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 isnít really from satan (per se)... as much as itís 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.
EVERYTHING I NEED
ďI have everything I need for joy!Ē Robert Reed said.
His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He canít bathe himself. He canít feed himself. He canít brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette.
Robert has cerebral palsy.
The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didnít keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didnít keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.
And Robertís disease didnít prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.
He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language.
Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.
I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched h...
"A part of me loved war. Now, please understand, I am a peaceful man, fond of children and animals. And I believe that war should have no place in the affairs of men. But, the comradeship our platoon experienced in that war provides a moving and enduring memory in me. A comrade in war is someone you can trust with anything because you regularly trust him with your life. In war, individual possessions and advantage count for nothing. The group, the unit, the platoon is everything. A part of me loved war."
--William Broyles, Vietnam Veteran
A dear lady had a husband who was an airline pilot, and he often had difficulty locating items around the house. One day he asked his wife where the salt was. Annoyed, she responded, "How on earth can you find Detroit at night in a blizzard, but you canít find the salt in your own kitchen?" "Well, darling," he replied, "they donít move Detroit"