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Some one has said, there are three kinds of givers -- the flint, the sponge and the honeycomb. To get anything out of a flint you must hammer it. And then you get only chips and sparks. To get water out of a sponge you must squeeze it, and the more you use pressure, the more you will get. But the honeycomb just overflows with its own sweetness. Which kind of giver are you?
Let’s play ‘Let’s Pretend’. Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m 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 Receptionist’s 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 hasn’t 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 he’s 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! Didn’t 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 didn’t do anything about them." (Improving Your Serve, Chuck Swindoll)
For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org
Last week, Bernie came to the church door. He showed up about five minutes before I was getting ready to leave for an appointment, and my first response to his arrival was, oh, no, not now.
Bernie had been drinking – I could smell it on his breath. He was sweating profusely and was a little bit shaky, though he spoke clearly without slurring. Bernie asked if I could help him, and I asked what I could do for him. He said he was an alcoholic, and he needed a ride to Hillcrest Hospital, because he’d been part of a 12 step alcohol program, and had “fallen off the wagon.”
I thought, OK, I can take him to the hospital on my way to my appointment. I was relieved he hadn’t asked for money, because we cannot give any money to someone who has been drinking.
In my five-minute ride to the hospital, where I dropped him off at the emergency room, Bernie told me he really loved Jesus, but was having a hard time staying off the alcohol. I told him that admitting himself to this program at the hospital was a good step, and that I was sure the Lord would help him. Bernie was clearly hurting physically, but seemed genuinely touched that I would help him in this small way.
When we got to the drop-off point in front of the ER, Bernie thanked me – almost excessively – for helping him. He reached over across the seat and wanted a hug. Smell, sweat and all, I hugged Bernie, and he hung on tightly for a moment as I assured him of God’s love and care for Him. As he stumbled away from the van, he called back for me to pray for him, and I assured him I would. And I did, as I drove on to my appointment – I did pray that Bernie would find help and find compassion from the Lord.
And the Lord spoke to me clearly that, despite my initial attitude, all Bernie really needed was compassion.
I watched as Bernie sort of stumbled into the ER at Hillcrest. I was ashamed of my initial attitude, and the Lord said to me clearly: all he needed was a little compassion. All he needed was to be treated with respect and dignity.
And at that moment, I knew God would have me bring this message to TCF this morning.
We’re in a time in our fellowship when we need this reminder - of the source of compassion, and of how God uses us as His tools of compassion.
You may have heard the phrase, “Been there, done that” – it’s the title of this message. It’s a phrase that represents the idea that someone has already experienced something. When someone says that to you, it means they have some understanding of what they’re discussing with you. In some ways, it might mean that they have sympathy for you, maybe even real compassion, if that’s what’s called for.
In the vernacular, it mostly means they can relate to you and your experiences, and admittedly, it’s often a dismissive way of expressing that, whether good or bad, they’ve “been there, and done that.”
In our Christian lives, in times of difficulty or suffering, it’s often helpful to talk to someone who can relate to your experience. Now, I’ve never been an alcoholic like Bernie, but I know what it is to be hurting, for different reasons than Bernie,
and more importantly, I know the source of real compassion, and real comfort.
His compassion and comfort are revealed in His Word. The Word of God is living and active, and it’s for this time and this place, whenever and wherever this time and place might be.
God can speak to us through His Word, just as clearly as I’m speaking to you, by using these words written almost two millennia ago.
2 Cor. 1:3-5 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. 5For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
“Worship does not satisfy our hunger for God—it whets our appetite. Our need for God is not taken care of by engaging in worship—it deepens. It overflows th...
Alvin Slaughter: I’m convinced more now than ever That we don’t serve a god of the mundane But God of the supernatural You see, when we worship him in faith He will always meet us at the point of our needs Dry, fleshly worship is not enough Get ready, get ready to be completely drenched and covered by the power of the spirit For He alone is our peace God is all the power we need The power to make new, He has the power to save So today as we worship Him, I pray the power of God will fill your life to overflow with the latter rain. It’s the latter rain, It’s the latter rain
Chuck Swindoll in his book, Improving Your Serve, gives a memorable illustration:
Let’s pretend that you work for me. In fact, you are my executive assistant in a company that is growing rapidly. I’m the owner and I’m interested in expanding overseas. To pull this off, I make plans to travel abroad and stay there until the new branch office gets established. I make all the arrangements to take my family in the 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 direction 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. I am stunned! Grass and weeds have grown up high. A few windows along the street are broken. I walk into the receptionist’s room and she is doing her nails, chewing gun, and listening to her favorite disco station. I look around and notice the wastebaskets are overflowing, the carpet has been vacuumed in weeks, and nobody seems concerned that the owner has returned.
I ask for you and someone in the crowded lounge area points down the hall and yells, “I think he’s 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 turned into a television room for watching afternoon soap operas).
“What in the world is going on, man?”
“What do ya’ mean?”
“Well, look at this place! Didn’t you get any of my letters?”
“Letters? Oh, yeah – sure, got every one of them. As a matter of fact … we have a letter study every Friday night since you left. We even divide all the personnel into small groups and discuss many of the things you wrote. Some of those things were really interesting.
You’ll 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!”
“Okay, okay – you got my letters, you studied them and meditated on them, discussed them and even memorized them. BUT WHAT DID YOU DO ABOUT THEM?”
“Do? Uh – we didn’t do anything about them.”
For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org
F.B. Meyer preached in London, England, while Charles Spurgeon & G. Campbell Morgan were preaching there, too. They were all great preachers, but Spurgeon’s church & Morgan’s church were both bigger than Meyer’s church. And he admitted to being a bit envious of them.
So he prayed, asking God to tell him what to do because he was jealous of them, & he didn’t want to be jealous. And somehow God instructed him to pray for both Spurgeon & Morgan, that their churches would prosper, & that more & more people would come to them.
Well, Meyer said that he didn’t want to do that. But he thought that he had better obey the Lord. So he prayed diligently that Spurgeon’s church & Morgan’s church would grow & grow. He said, “Their churches grew so much in answer to my prayers, that they overflowed. And,” he said, “the overflow came to my church.”
Ravi Zacharias tells the amazing story of a young Christian in Vietnam. He writes, “I was ministering in Vietnam in 1971, and one of my interpreters was Hien Pham, an energetic young Christian. He had worked as a translator with the American forces, and was of immense help both to them and to missionaries such as myself. Hien and I traveled the length of the country and became very close friends before I returned home. We did not know if our paths would ever cross again. Seventeen years later, I received a telephone call. ‘Brother Ravi?’ the man asked. Immediately I recognized Hien’s voice, and he soon told me his story. Shortly after Vietnam fell, Hien was imprisoned on accusations of helping the Americans. His jailers tried to indoctrinate him against democratic ideals and the Christian faith. He was restricted to communist propaganda in French or Vietnamese, and the daily deluge of Marx and Engels began to take its toll. ‘Maybe,’ he thought, ‘I have been lied to. Maybe God does not exist. Maybe the West has deceived me.’ So Hien determined that when he awakened the next day, he would not pray anymore or think of his faith.
The next morning, he was assigned the dreaded chore of cleaning the prison latrines. As he cleaned out a tin can overflowing with toilet paper, his eye caught what seemed to be English printed on one piece of paper. He hurriedly grabbed it, washed it, and after his roommates had retired that night, he retrieved the paper and read the words, ‘Romans, Chapter 8.’ Trembling, he began to read, ‘And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him. . . for I am convinced that nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’ Hien wept. He knew His Bible, and knew that there was not a more relevant passage for one on the verge of surrender. He cried out to God, asking forgiveness, for this was to have been th...
When I look at history I think of another time when America faced a crisis. The year was 1857. America was at both an economic and spiritual low. Attendance in churches had dwindled and there was a cynicism among many concerning religion. It was in the midst of this spiritual crisis that God gave a man a vision. His name was Jeremiah Lanphier. Lanphier had a vision of starting a noontime prayer meeting at a mission in Fulton Street in New York City.
He went to great lengths to advertise this prayer meeting. His first meeting was held on September 23, 1857. When the doors opened at noon, no one seemed to come. At half past twelve, however, the steps of one man could be heard coming up the stairs. Soon another came and then another so that finally there was a total of six people there.
Soon the numbers of those attending the meetings increased. By October 14th over a hundred people were coming to the prayer meetings. Other buildings were needed to accommodate the large numbers of people coming. Churches began to open their doors, but they were not large enough as thousands began to come to these prayer meetings. By March of 1858, Burton’s Theatre which could hold up to 3,000 people was filled to overflowing. Soon firehouses, police stations, and other buildings were requested to house the prayer meetings that had spread like a wildfire in New York City.
But the prayer meetings did not stop in New York City. They spread throughout New York State, New England, and eventually across the entire nation. Many thousands were saved during the revival of 1858. It is interesting that this revival took place three years before the Civil War—the bloodiest war in American history. God in His sovereignty knew that thousands of American lives would be lost and that these people needed to come to a saving knowledge of Himself.
If I Were the Devil
If I were the prince of darkness, I’d want to engulf the world in darkness, and I’d have a third of its real estate, and I’d have four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree. THEE. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first. I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve. DO AS YOU PLEASE. To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth, I would convince them that man created God, instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good, and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray, after me, "our father, which is in Washington." And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lewd literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could; I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.
If I were the devil I’d soon have families that war with themselves, churches that war with themselves, and nations that war with themselves, until each in its turn was consumed, and with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.
If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions, just let them run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every school house door.
Within a decade I’d have prisons overflowing, I’d have judges promoting pornography. Soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion, and deify science. I would lure priest and pastors into misusing boys and girls, and church money.
If I were the devil, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas, a bottle. And what’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich. I would caution against extremes, in hard work, in patriotism, and in moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old fashioned, that swinging is more fun. That what you see on TV is the way to be, and thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure.
In other words, If I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.
- From a Paul Harvey Broadcast