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There are many things I don’t enjoy. One of them is taking my vehicle to the dealership to have it serviced. Then there’s the wait for a ride back to the office (or sit in the waiting room drinking terrible coffee). I lose the rhythm in my day.
This past week was an absolute nightmare on Wednesday morning. I dropped the vehicle off and waited thirty minutes for the shuttle to get a ride back to the office. When I got to the office I was already thirty minutes late for a meeting, only to realise I had to leave at 11am for a meeting in London but wouldn’t have my vehicle! Our two staff kindly agreed to hike back to the dealership and get my un-serviced vehicle while I looked after my meeting at the office. THEN, when I finally left for London I was an hour late, and a call led me to turn around and come home because they figured the meeting would be nearly finished by the time I got there! And all because my vehicle needed to be serviced!
But I know it’s a necessary process, otherwise the vehicle will get ‘sick’ and have far more problems later on.
Sometimes I feel like my vehicle! There’s plenty of slug in my thoughts and grit in my spirit. But when I get together with God’s people, I get a tune-up!
THE LUKEWARM SHEEP
Now, for the sake of my illustration, I want to break a flock of sheep down into 3 groups.
1. The first group of sheep had DECIDED to look to Shepherd & follow Him wherever He leads.
These are the "Good sheep" who follow the "Good Shepherd. Jesus said: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me." John 10:27 KJV
2. The 2nd group wants nothing to do with the Shepherd. They want to run their lives their own way and they deliberately DECIDE to walk away from Him. These are the pagans and atheists of society. They don't want to hear Jesus' voice... they don't want to follow.
3. But the 3rd group DECIDES that they like the Shepherd. They want to hang out with Him... but they don't want to get TOO close to Him. They still want to keep their options open. They want to look for their own grass once in a while. They want to nibble at a little of this and a little of that....
George Orwell once observed: "On the whole human beings want to be good, but not too good, and not quite all the time."
That's the problem with this 3rd group of sheep.
They like being close to Jesus... just not too much, and not just all the time. And because they have this "loose" connection to the shepherd they're the ones who end up wandering off. They're the ones that end up getting lost. They're just close enough to the Shepherd to feel secure. And just far enough away to not hear His voice.
"My sheep hear my voice... and they follow me." says Jesus. John 10:27
And so, they wander off into their own little world, and they end up getting hurt and making bad decisions. And those bad decisions cause them pain and heartache.
As Proverbs 13:15 says, "...the way of transgressors is hard." (KJV)
Because they've chosen NOT to listen to the Good Shepherd and to follow Him closely, they are without the protection of that Shepherd and open to the attacks of Satan and this world.
Sermon Central Staff
THE CENTER OF A FAMILY
Gary Ezzo says that one of the problems with families today is that the husband and wife join hands to form a family circle and then a child comes along and they place the child in the center with the husband and wife still forming the circle. But now everything revolves around the child. Then a 2nd child comes and that child is also placed in the circle. And now everything revolves around two children. And as the family becomes larger the center becomes so big that the hands of the father and mother are pulled apart and the circle is broken. He says that what we must do is form the circle but with Christ in the center. Then as each child is born, they join hands with mom and dad to make the circle bigger. And the result is that the circle is never broken as long as Christ is the center.
Here’s the deal. We must love God more than we love anyone. He is first.
(From a sermon by David Henderson, "Father Abraham" 1/5/2011)
A LITTLE GIRL’S PRAYER
One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do she died, leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator) and no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. "And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed.
As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.
"All right," I said, "Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God," she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby’ll be dead, so please send it this afternoon."
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?"
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen"? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home; anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys; eyes sparkled as I pulled them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas --- that would make a nice batch of buns for the week...
In his best selling book called, "Into Thin Air," Jon Krakauer relates the hazards that plagued some climbers as they attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Andy Harris, one of the expedition leaders stayed at the peak too long and on his descent, he became in dire need of oxygen. Harris radioed the base camp and told them about his predicament. He mentioned that he had come across a cache of oxygen canisters left by the other climbers but they were all empty. The climbers who already passed the canisters on their own descent knew they were not empty, but full. They pleaded with him on the radio to make use of them but it was to no avail. Harris was starved for oxygen but he continued to argue that the canisters were empty.
The problem was that the lack of what he needed had so disoriented his mind that though he was surrounded by something that would give him life, he continued to complain of its absence. The lack of oxygen had ravaged his capacity to recognize what was right in front of him.
Friends, what oxygen is to the body, the Bread of Life is to the soul. Some of us are suffocating and starving and we don’t even know it. Jesus is offering life to us while we run around trying to appease our appetites. We will never be filled until we take of the Bread and Water of life, Jesus Christ.
I recently read a peculiar story about a family in Lander, Wyoming that had gone to their local refuse dump to dispose of some unwanted family items that were either busted or greatly abused. As they were emptying there junk into a large dumpster, the man of the home saw something that caught his eye. It was apparently an ornate, antique four-poster bed that had been left there by some other family.
The man called to his wife to have her to look at it as well. After a few moments of discussion they both agreed that it most likely could be stored to its original condition. So, even though it was a bit worn and tattered, they began to inquire about that possibility with the management staff of the refuse center. They found that they there was no problem with taking the grand piece of junk home if they would just pay a small fee of a few dollars.
They proceeded to load the headboard, footboard and the wooden rails into the back of their pickup and pull-along trailer. As they were loading the post, which were separate pieces, they began to question the weight of each one. The husband felt they were quite a bit heavier than he had imagined they would be. But they finally got all the pieces loaded and drove home.
When they got home, the husband backed the truck and trailer into his driveway with the assistance of his wife and eldest son. They then proceeded to unload the bed one piece at a time. To their amazement, as their son picked up one end of the first bed-post, the finial at the top worked loose and slipped out of its socket. Thankfully they were standing in the front yard and a nearby hedge broke the fall, catching the post. But suddenly they heard the weirdest noise.
As they turned to look toward the area of the noise, something caught the glimpse of the father’s eye. A few silver coin tumbled to the ground near the base of the bush. After picking up the loose coins he looked in the opened end of the bed-post and to his surprise there were more silver coins inside. With the help of his son, he picked up the opposing end and hundreds of silver, brass and gold coins came rolling out onto the lawn. Many of the gold ones dated back into the 1800’s and almost all of the coins were near mint condition. After close inspection of the other three posts, they, too, were completely hollow and contained equal amounts of coinage.
Amazing stuff one can find at a garbage dump! The finest of treasures in the least likely places! To hear stories like that are always a great thrill to hear! Who knows, next time any one of us goes to the refuse dump, hard to tell what we might find. As my dad always said, one man's trash is another man's treasure!
During a trial, in a small Missouri town, the local prosecuting attorney called his first witness to the stand. The witness was a proper well-dressed elderly lady, the Grandmother type, well spoken, and poised. She was sworn in, asked if she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, on the Bible, so help her God.
The prosecuting attorney approached the woman and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?’” She responded, “Why, yes I do know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a young boy and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, cheat on your wife, manipulate people and talk badly about them behind their backs. You think you’re a rising big shot when you haven’t the sense to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper-pushing shyster. Yes, I know you quite well.”
The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?”
She again replied, “Why, yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, has a bad drinking problem. The man can’t build or keep a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. Yes, I know him.”
The defense attorney almost fainted. Laughter mixed with gasps, thundered throughout the courtroom and the audience was on the verge of chaos.
At this point, the judge brought the courtroom to silence, called both counselors to the bench, and in a very quiet voice said, “If either of you morons asks her if she knows me, you’re going to jail.”
Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ tells this story of a famous oil field called Yates Pool:
During the depression this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Mr. Yates wasn’t able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch.
With little money for clothes or food, his family (like many others) had to live on government subsidy.
Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would pay his bills. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract.
At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. In fact, 30 years after the discovery, a government test of one of the wells showed it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day.
And Mr. Yates owned it all.
The day he purchased the land he had received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he’d been living on relief.
A multimillionaire living in poverty.
Sermon Central Staff
GOD MADE HIMSELF UNDERSTANDABLE
I read of a story from the famous Danish philosopher from the mid 1800s, a Christian theologian named Soren Kierkegaard. It is a familiar story, a story rewritten by many over the ages in many different forms, yet it is still relevant today. Here’s what he wrote:
A prince wanted to find a maiden suitable to be his queen. One day while running an errand in the local village for his father, he passed through a poor section. As he glanced out the windows of the carriage, his eyes fell upon a beautiful peasant maiden. During the ensuing days he often passed by the young lady and soon fell in love.
But he had a problem. How would he seek her hand? He could order her to marry him. But even a prince wants his bride to marry him freely and voluntarily and not through coercion. He could put on his most splendid uniform and drive up to her front door in a carriage drawn by six horses. But if he did this he would never be certain that the maiden loved him or was simply overwhelmed with all of the splendor.
The prince came up with another solution. He would give up his kingly robe. He moved, into the village, entering not with a crown but in the garb of a peasant. He lived among the people, shared their interests and concerns, and talked their language. In time the maiden grew to love him, because of who he was and because he loved her first.
This very simple, almost childlike story is what John is describing here--God came and lived among us. He had to reveal Himself to us in an understandable way, and this is precisely what Jesus did--became flesh just like you and me. He made Himself understandable.
(From a sermon by Rich Anderson, Love Came Down At Christmas, 12/16/2010)
The Spirit of Power that we receive is not like the human power that we recognize as strong. It’s a power unlike anything we can do on our own.
A young man growing up in the wrong part of Houston became a bully. He would get in fights in school, in the neighborhood, and began mugging people to get spending money. He even beat up people just for the sake of doing it.
He learned to box, and became pretty good at it. He began to make a lot of money and could have almost anything he wanted. One day, during his training session for an upcoming bout, he heard his mom talking to his sister on the telephone about his favorite nephew. The young boy had had a seizure and now lay in a coma in the hospital. Doctors said he would probably die, but that if he came out of the coma he wouldn’t be able to move his limbs, or speak, or do any of the human functions we consider part of living.
He ran into the room where his mom was on the phone and shouted, “Momma, call the hospital and tell those doctors to give him the best of everything. Tell them I’ll take care of all the bills, to fly in the best doctors from wherever they have to. Tell them who I am, and that I’ll take care of everything — whatever it costs.”
His mom spoke to the doctors, and then told him, “Son, you’re just going to have to pray.”
He realized then how grave the situation was. When someone tells you the only thing you can do is pray, things are looking pretty bad.
Then it hit him. All of his money, his fame, his influence, his friends — none of that could solve this problem. It was out of his hands, out of the doctor’s hands, out of everyone’s hands. For the first time, he was totally powerless.
And for the first time, George Foreman dropped to his knees and prayed.
He wasn’t sure God existed, but he knew that when all else failed, people prayed. He asked God, if he really existed, to help his nephew. Then he got back in bed. A few seconds later, he got back on his knees and offered to give up all his wealth if God would heal his nephew. Then he got back in bed again. A few seconds later he got back on his knees a third time and got angry at God for letting this happen to his nephew, a child who hadn’t experienced life yet. George told God to take his life instead. Let the boy live and take George’s life instead.
The next morning George’s sister called from the hospital. His nephew had woken up and could move his eyes, but the doctors said he wouldn’t ever walk again.
She called later that day, and the boy had begun moving his toes. The next day the boy was talking, and a week later he was on his way home, “walking, talking, and back to normal.” The doctors had no logical explanation. But George Foreman knew God had just given him a miracle.
Three months later in March 1977, George Foreman died in his locker room after fighting Jimmy Young. He collapsed in a heap, and entered what he describes as “a deep, dark void, like a bottomless pit.”
In his book, God in My Corner — A Spiritual Memoir, George wrote “I knew I was dead, and that this wasn’t heaven. I was terrified, knowing I had no way out. Sorrow beyond description engulfed my soul, more than anyone could ever imagine. If you multiplied every disturbing and frightening thought that you’ve ever had during your entire life, that wouldn’t come close to the panic I felt. …
“ I screamed with every ounce of strength in me, ‘I don’t care if this is death. I still believe in God.’
“Instantly, what seemed to be like a giant hand reached down and snatched me out of the terrifying place. Immediately, I was back inside my body in the dressing room.”
George accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and devoted himself to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He realized his human power, his money, his prestige, were worthless in the next life, and meant to be used as tools to lead others to Jesus during this one.
He went on to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World twice. He was ordained as an evangelist in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and became pastor of a small church. He also became involved in prison and hospital ministries.
You probably know him best for the George Foreman Grills that continue to sell around the world. And he recently baptized his own 23-year-old daughter who finally decided to dedicated her own life to Jesus.
That’s God’s idea of power.