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Henry Blackaby said, "You never find God asking persons to dream up what they want to do for Him...Without doubt, the most important factor in each (Biblical) situation was not what the individual wanted to do for God. The most important factor was what God was about to do." (Experiencing God, page 66)
He adds, "God reveals His purposes (His tasks) so you will know what He plans to do... When God came to Noah He did not ask, 'What do you want to do for me?' He came to reveal what He was about to do. It was far more important to know what God was about to do. It really did not matter what Noah had planned to do for God. God was about to destroy the world. He wanted to work through Noah to accomplish His purposes of saving a remnant of people and animals to repopulate the earth." (page 99)
NOT MY JOB
The names in this story have been changed out of respect for their privacy. Julie W told her family's story in a magazine article.
[My daughter], Allison, came home for the weekend. She opened the door, didn't speak, and dropped her duffel bag. Smudges of mascara circled her eyes. I whispered a "God-please-no" prayer.
"Come tell me about your classes." I patted the sofa. She muttered,
"Gotta take a shower."
As she clomped upstairs, I analyzed the recent changes in her: complaints of not having any money, rarely answers the phone, weight loss, pinpoint pupils, and a "who gives a rip" [facade]. I searched her purse and found a leopard-colored pipe and the unmistakable sweet odor of pot. My heart fluttered wildly like a bird stuck inside my chest.
She plodded down the stairs, hair in a towel, wearing the same wrinkled clothes. Be still and talk in a sweet voice, I told myself. You must convince her to stop. "We need to talk, honey."
"Not now. I'm tired."
"I found your pipe."
She stared at me with death-row eyes. "Chill, it's not that big of a deal."
The tightness in the den suffocated me. I needed air. "Want to walk?" I asked brightly. "Like we used to?"
I knew I could talk some sense into her. "Honey, please. You've gotta stop." I grabbed her hand.
"Mom!" She jerked away.
"We have a strong family history. You don't want to..."
I never got to finish the sentence. Allison stormed out of the room and within minutes was headed back to college. I knew what I had to do--abandon everything in my life and start to worry/fix/control full-time.
I began spending most days by the phone. I evaluated Allison's reactions, gestures, and comments. Thoughts circled my mind like buzzards: What if she never stops? What if I never see her again? What if she overdoses? Or goes to jail?
I lured Allison into therapy by promising we'd go to an Italian restaurant before visits. Her first appointment day arrived. She played with her spaghetti, and I couldn't eat. "So, what do you plan to say to the counselor?" I asked.
"How should I know?"
When they called her name at the office, I hurried in to make sure the counselor understood. Allison refused to sign for me to have any information. I considered eavesdropping, but too many people were around. An hour later, she walked past me as I paid.
"What'd you talk about?"
Our therapy/lunch charade continued that way for a few weeks. Then Allison's sister informed me she was still using. She denied it, refused to see the counselor, dropped out of college, and stopped answering my calls.
I was convinced if I forgot about Allison, even for a second, or enjoyed anything, something bad might happen. Several months later, after another night of little sleep, I glanced in the mirror. I could have passed for the addict: dark circles under hopeless eyes.
I called my friend Linda. Her son, also an addict, had been sentenced to state prison. "You can't imagine all that's going on here," I said.
"Come over for coffee," she urged.
I wanted to stand guard at home but knew she'd listen and understand.
"Hey, girlfriend." Linda hugged me. I didn't touch my coffee as I blurted the saga. Linda didn't sweet-talk. "You need help."
"You haven't heard the whole story," I argued. "I'm fine--my daughter, she needs help."
"You're addicted to worry and control," Linda said. "I've been where you are." She stretched out on the sofa. "The only one you can control is yourself."
The possibility that she might be right terrified me. "It took me years to realize that I'm not in charge. God is," Linda admitted. "By worrying, you're telling God he can't handle things. Go to Al-Anon with me." I'd heard of Al-Anon but didn't see how it applied to me. But I agreed because I was in awe of Linda.
I didn't open my mouth during the meeting. Every word spoken sounded like my own thoughts:
"I worried myself sick about my alcoholic husband."
"My peace comes only when I let go and let God."
Then the speaker said, "To change, you'll have to leave behind some familiar lifelong habits." But how? This is who I am--what I do. "An alcoholic can't drink, and those of us in this room can't allow an ounce of worry. For us, it's every bit as dangerous and addictive. Worry robs our serenity."
I didn't think change was possible. Not for me. But I knew one thing for sure--I was destroying my life. That night at home I got real. "Help me, God. I can't do this without you." I began to ask God for help each morning. I whispered, "Not my job," as worry, fear, or control tried to needle back in.
Two years after that first Al-Anon meeting, Allison and I met for an impromptu lunch. She'd gone back to the same therapist. On her own.
"You can't imagine how easy it is to study when you're not high," she laughed.
"Nope, I guess not." I blinked back happy tears.
"When you didn't fix my problems, it scared me. A few times I had to dig change out of the seat of my car for gas money. Some days," she paused, "I didn't have food." My throat felt warm with pride. She'd done it on her own. "I'm making A's. And look," she handed me her checkbook. "I have money again."
Recovery defies logic. It means doing the opposite of what feels natural. When I took care of myself and my addictions, Allison did the same.
Citation: Condensed from our sister publication Today's Christian,© 2008 Christianity Today International Julie W., "Not My Job," Today's Christian (July/August 2008)
Everyone needs a hero. For the mother who told this story it was her friend, Linda. Then she turned to God as her ultimate hero. We all could do with someone to help us work through our troubles. We need a victorious warrior to fight our battles. No one knows that better than God himself.
From Mark Haines' Sermon "Our Mighty God"
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A LIGHT THAT LASTS
Thomas Edison invented the electric light bulb in 1879. Twenty-two years later, in 1901, one of the newfangled gadgets was hung and turned on in the Livermore, Calif., Fire Department. It’s still there, and still on. The old bulb has almost never been turned off in 109 years.
By today’s standards it should have burned out 852 times by now. The bulb, hand-blown, with a thick carbon filament, was made, it is said, by the Shelby Electric Company, which did not become one of the giants of the nation, for an obvious reason. The Shelby Company made light bulbs to last, and nobody ever reordered.
The bulb is accorded an awesome respect by Fire Captain Kirby Slate and his men. In a time of planted and planned obsolescence, when gadgets are forever falling apart or burning out or breaking up, it’s reassuring to watch a dusty 109-year-old light bulb shine on and on and on.
His promises are never failing.
(From a sermon by Ralph Andrus, How to Dwell Securely, 8/26/2010)
A Religion Professor named Dr. Christianson taught a required survey of Christianity course at small college. Every freshman was required to take the course regardless of his or her major. Although he tried hard to communicate the gospel, students viewed the class as nothing more than a waste of time.
One particular year Dr. Christianson had a student named Steve. Steve was the Center for the college football team and also a strong Christian who intended on going to Seminary. One day Dr. Christianson had an idea and he asked Steve to stay after class. "How many push ups can you do?" He asked. Steve said, "I do 200 every night." The professor asked Steve if he could do 300. "I have never done 300 before" Steve said, "but I think I can do it." "Good," the professor said, and he proceeded to tell his plan to Steve.
Friday came and Steve got to class early. Dr. Christianson came in with a large box of fluffy, cream filled doughnuts. The class was excited, it was Friday the last class of the day, and they could start their weekend early. Dr. Christianson went to the first girl in the row and asked, "Cynthia would you like a donut?" "Yes," she said. Dr. Christianson then turned to Steve and asked, "Steve would you do ten push-ups so that Cynthia can have a donut?" "Sure." Steve jumped down out of his desk and counted off ten push ups. Dr. Christianson laid the donut on Cynthia’s desk. Joe was next. He asked Joe the same question and Joe said "yes." Steve did 10 more pushups and the professor laid the doughnut on Joe’s desk. And so it went all the way down the first row and half way down the second until it came to Scott. He was a basketball player and friendly to female companionship. Scott replied to the professor’s question by saying, "I want the doughnut if I can do my own push ups." Dr. Christianson said, "No Steve has to do the pushups." Then Scott said, "Well I don’t want one if I can’t do my own." Dr. Christian turned around and asked, "Steve, would you do ten push ups so Scoot can have a donut he doesn’t want." Scott said, "hey! I said I didn’t want one!" Dr. Christianson said, "Look, this is my classroom, my class, my desks, and these are my donuts, Just leave it on the desk if you don’t want it." And he put the donut on Scott’s desk.
Steve had begun to slow down a little and sweat had began to form on his cheeks. Dr. Christianson started down the third row. Students were beginning to get a little angry. Dr. Christianson asked Jenny, "Jenny, do you want a donut?" Sternly, Jenny said, "NO!" Then Dr. Christianson asked, "Steve, would you do ten more push ups so Jenny can have a donut that she doesn’t want?" Steve did ten-Jenny got a doughnut.
By now a sense of uneasiness had filled the room. The students were all beginning to say "no." There were uneaten donuts on every desk. Steve was now putting forth a lot of extra effort to get the pushups done for each doughnut. A small pool of sweat was on the floor, his face was red, and you could see the sweat soaking through his shirt.
Dr. Christianson asked Robert, the most vocal unbeliever in class, to watch to make sure Steve did the full ten. Dr. Christianson started down the forth row. Students from other classes had came in and were sitting along the side of the room watching on. When the professor saw them he counted and saw that there were now 34 people in the room. He was worried about Steve, "Could he do that many push ups?" Jason, a recent transfer student, didn’t know what was going on and came in to see. The class yelled, "Go away! Don’t come in!" Steve picked up his head and said, "let him come in." Jason was asked and he said "yes." "Steve will you do ten push ups so Jason can have a donut?" Steve did ten pushups very slowly and with great struggle. Jason, confused, was handed a donut and he sat down. Dr. Christianson then finished the fourth row and began on the visitors. Steves arms were shaking uncontrolably with each push up. By this time sweat was pouring off of his face and arms. The very last two students were cheerleaders. "Linda, do you want a donut?" Linda cried and said, "no thank you." Professor turned to Steve, "Steve would you do ten push ups so Linda can have a donut she doesn’t want?" Grunting from the effort, Steve did ten very slow push ups for Linda. The last girl was Susan. "Susan would you like a donut?" Susan was full of tears and did n...
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1 Peter 1:3-1:10
1 John 2:3-2:9
2 Thessalonians 2:13-2:17
1 Timothy 2:3-2:4
Ruby Hamilton, a businesswoman in her fifties, was stunned at the loss of her husband of 32 years in a car accident. Her anger and disappointment went deeper than a more typical expression of grief though. She had become a follower of Christ in her late twenties, but her husband didn't share her newfound interest in spiritual things. Nonetheless, she had set about praying for him feverishly and unceasingly that he would come to know the Lord. And one day when she was praying, she felt a wave of peace wash over her, and that still small voice assuring her that her husband would be okay. She eagerly awaited the day when her husband surrender his life to Jesus. And now this.
What do you do when faith doesn't make sense? When God doesn't seem to be answering or opening doors or being found? Ruby Hamilton stopped living for God.
Roger Simmons was hitchhiking his way home. He would never forget the date - May 7th. His heavy suitcase was making him tired and he was anxious to take off that army uniform once and for all. Flashing the thumb to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped.
The passenger door swung open. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. "Going home for keeps?"
"Well, you're in luck if you're going to Chicago."
"Not quite that far - do you live in Chicago?"
"I have a business there, the driver said. My name is Hamilton."
They chatted for a while, and then Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to share his faith with this fiftyish, apparently successful business man. But he kept putting it off, till he realized that he was now just 30 minutes from his home. It was now or never.
"Mr. Hamilton, I would like to talk to you about something very important." Then he simply told Mr. Hamilton about the plan of salvation and ultimately asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord.
The Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger expected that he was about to get thrown out of the car. Instead, the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."
Five years went by. Roger married, had a couple of kids and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a trip to Chicago he found a small white business card that had been given to him by Hamilton five years previous. In Chicago, he looked up Hamilton enterprises. The receptionist told him that it was impossible to see Mr. Hamilton, but he could see Mrs. Hamilton. A little confused, he was ushered into a beautiful office where he found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties.
She extended her hand "You knew my husband?"
Roger told her about how Hamilton had picked him up while he was hitchhiking home after the war. "Can you tell me what day that was?"
"Sure it was May 7th, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army."
"Anything special about that day," she asked.
He hesitated, not knowing if he should mention how he shared the message of Jesus with her husband. "Mrs. Hamilton, I explained the gospel to your husband that day. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day."
Explosive sobs shook her body. Finally getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, "I had prayed for my husband's salvation for years. I believed God would save him."
"Where is your husband, Ruby?"
"He's dead. He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see, I thought God had not kept his promise. I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought God had not kept his word!"
(Considerable influence for this message came from John Piper's "The Spring of Persistent Public Love", DesiringGod.org. From a sermon by Bret Toman, Power to Live the Golden Rule, 1/3/2011)
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1 John 4:7-4:21
2 Corinthians 5:17-5:17
$3.00 WORTH OF GOD, PLEASE
Tim Hansel in his book "When I Relax I feel Guilty," writes some insights of what most people want from God.
"I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please. Not enough to explode my soul or disturb my sleep, but just enough to equal a cup of warm milk or a snooze in the sunshine. I don't want enough of Him to make me love a black man or pick beets with a migrant. I want ecstasy, not transformation; I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth. I want a pound of the Eternal in a paper sack. I would like to buy $3.00 worth of God, please."
If we would be totally honest, the idea of transformation really scares us. That is because we know that such a radical change would be quite uncomfortable. We realize that with transformation comes a major overhaul of our lives and priorities.
(From a sermon by Scott Chambers, The Mission if You Accept it: Transformation, 2/15/2011)
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1 Thessalonians 5:12-28:28
THE DANGER OF SPIRITUAL PROCRASTINATION
There is a fable which tells of three apprentice devils who were coming to this earth to finish their apprenticeship. They were talking to Satan, the chief of the devils, about their plans to tempt and to ruin men. The first said, "I will tell them that there is no God."
Satan said, "That will not delude many, for they know that there is a God."
The second said, "I will tell men that there is no hell."
Satan answered, "You will deceive no one that way; men know even now that there is a hell for sin."
The third said, "I will tell men that there is no hurry."
"Go," said Satan, "and you will ruin men by the thousands."
The most dangerous of all delusions is that there is plenty of time.
(William Barclay: The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2 [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1975], p. 317. From a sermon by Matthew Kratz, The parable of the Faithful & Wise Servant, 7/17/2010)
THE AMAZING 8-WATTS
In 1972, NASA launched the exploratory space probe Pioneer 10. According to Leon Jaroff in Time, the satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and its moons, and beam data to earth about Jupiter’s magnetic field, radiation belts, and atmosphere. Scientists regarded this as a bold plan, for at that time no earth satellite had ever gone beyond Mars, and they feared the asteroid belt would destroy the satellite before it could reach its target.
But Pioneer 10 accomplished its mission and much, much more. Swinging past the giant planet in November 1973, Jupiter’s immense gravity hurled Pioneer 10 at a higher rate of speed toward the edge of the solar system. At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer 10 passed Saturn. At some two billion miles, it hurtled past Uranus; Neptune at nearly three billion miles; Pluto at almost four billion miles. By 1997, twenty-five years after its launch, Pioneer 10 was more than six billion miles from the sun.
And despite that immense distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam back radio signals to scientists on Earth. "Perhaps most remarkable," writes Jaroff, "those signals emanate from an 8-watt transmitter, which radiates about as much power as a bedroom night light, and takes more than nine hours to reach Earth."
The Little Satell...
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WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
Several years ago, Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Bob Patterson described one of his pitches, which the Cincinnati Reds’ Barry Larkin hit for a game-winning home run: "It was a cross between a screwball and a change-up. It was a screw-up." (Wall Street Journal, 7/9/96; Leadership, Vol. 17, no.3)
That describes our lives sometimes, but what do we do when we screw-up? What do we do when we fail? What do we do when life doesn’t go as we planned?
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Lessons from Failure, 6/22/2012)
Do you guys remember the cartoon with Wiley Coyote and Ralph the sheep dog. I use to love that cartoon. Every morning Ralph and Wiley would meet at the time clock which was mounted on a tree. As they clocked in they would great each other and then they would go to their respective departments.
Ralph the sheep dog went to his post on the cliff and took his position as head of the sheep protection department. Wiley, true to his nature, would slink away in to the forest to plan his strategy as head of the sheep acquisition and consumption department.
As the day wore on Ralph sat patiently at his post with a protective eye looking over the flock as Wiley tried one scheme after another in hopes of making his quota of sheep for the day. However, no matter how hard he tried it seemed that poor Wiley’s plan was always thwarted by Ralph at the last moment. Inevitably as the day drew to a close just before the whistle blew, Wiley would pull out all the stops and slip into his sheep costume and meander into the fold with the hope of finally catching his prey only to realize after his pray was in fact none other than Ralph the sheep dog who had dressed himself up as a sheep in anticipation of Wiley’s scheme. Poor Wiley never caught a break.
Wiley’s sheep costume illustrates a tactic that is used by our enemy the devil. In fact in Matthew 7.15 Jesus warns us that in similar fashion Satan will send ravenous wolves into the fold dressed in sheep’s clothing to catch the sheep unaware and snatch them away by false teaching. As we learned last week Satan will do what ever he can to destroy the flock. Therefore, it is imperative that we have discerning spirits so that we can discern the motives of those who are among us.
However, our generation, as I’m sure it has been in generations past, I believe the greatest danger to the work of the Kingdom of God is not as much when wolves come in dressed as sheep, but it is when the sheep go in to the world dressed in wolves clothing. The greater problem in modern American Christianity is when “so called” Christians wear their sheep’s clothing on Sunday only to put on their wolves clothing on Monday.