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In a speech made in 1863, Abraham Lincoln said, "We have been the receipients of the choicest bounties of heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prospertiy; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us."
1 Peter 1:13-1:25
A Nation of Bible Illiterates
George Barna wrote The State of the Church in 2002. Barna conducted a survey of self-pronounced Christians and here’s what he found about their knowledge of the Bible. These are Christians.
• 48% could not name the four Gospels.
• 52% cannot identify more than two or three of Jesus’ disciples.
• 60% of American Christians can’t name even five of the 10 Commandments.
• 61% of American Christians think the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.
• 71% of American Christians think “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse.
George Barna said, "Americans revere the Bible, but by and large they don’t know what it says. And because they don’t know it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates."
Just as the people in this Barna poll are woefully biblical illiterate, Christians are far too ignorant of the Word of God. No wonder 21st century Christians are failing to finish their marathon race. No wonder Christians by the thousands are falling prey to the false teachers of our day. They are being feed junk food and don’t feed themselves on the Word of God. They are desperately in need of a solid diet of good food, Scripture. We need to get into "spiritual shape"!
CHRIST IS THE WIND, CHRISTIANITY IS THE SAIL
Does the practice of our religion reflect the God we serve?
In Shane Hipps' book, "Selling Water by the River: A Book about the Life Jesus Promised and the Religion that Gets in the Way," he uses an analogy from sailing to express what has happened in the church over the past generations. He says (I quote loosely),
One thing that might ease our anxiety is to remember that Christ and Christianity are not the same thing; If Christ is the wind, then Christianity is the sail. Some sails are better than others at catching the wind, some sailors are better at using the sail, but there is always and only one wind. A sail without the wind is a limp flag; wind without a sail is still the wind. The relationship is only one way.
The wind (Christ) is the pre-existent creative power of the universe with no birthday or death date. The sail (Christianity) on the other hand is an institution built with the intention of harnessing that power. If the institution goes away, the power remains. Put simply, Christ is much, much bigger than our religion.
Listen to me, just because my religion bears his name doesn't always mean it bears His likeness. Such misconception is a dangerous, even an arrogant illusion. If we buy into this assumption, we become like the sail who believes it controls the wind.
There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that time he saw a little shack in the distance.
He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note.
The note read: "pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need". Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn’t work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find. Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction, he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveller.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “ Please prime the pump, believe me it works”!
We have the same choice to make...
More than anyone else Christian parents can have the most influence on their children, because when Christ died upon the Cross the veil was ripped open so they could enter into the presence of God who sits on the Throne of Grace. The call to pray is from God’s Word and we are given a sure promise, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b) One mother who knew this truth was Monica Augustine, the mother of St. Augustine who after a long struggle was converted to Christianity. St. Augustine was born in North Africa (Tagaste, Numidia) to a Christian mother and his father was a pagan until very late in life. Augustine’s childhood was marred by stealing pears and his ability to learn led him to one humanistic philosophy after another. He even had an obsession with the occult for a season in his life. During his period of exploration he lived a life of excessive fleshly desires causing him to become the father of a child by a mistress. After his conversion to Christ Augustine became the author of many great works writing about the “…City of God,” “On the Trinity,” “On Faith,” “Hope,” “Love” and “Christian Doctrine.” Augustine’s most widely read book is “The Confessions” which are several books that record how he felt about the Lord and his prayers to God. Studying Augustine’s life during that period of living in selfish sin shows that the Christian living he saw in his mother and the Christian teaching he received was not a waste of time. Thirteen years before his conversion he was moved in his prayers to return to God (Confessions #3:4) but he could not make himself do so. One year before his conversion Augustine was influenced by a man (Ambrose) who he knew was presenting “healthy teaching on salvation,” yet he could not return to the teaching and lifestyle he saw in his mother because of self-living. Listen to these confessions of Augustine while he struggled with sin and surrendering to Christ. “I was storm tossed and you [God] held the tiller.” “I was swept away by your beauty [Lord] and then I was torn away from you by my own weight [of sin] and fell back groaning toward these [lesser] thing [in life].” While being exposed for nearly a year to “healthy teachings of salvation” he wrote, “But salvation is far from sinners of the kind that I was then.” When Augustine was being moved to prayer to return to God he writes, “[I was] on fire to leave earthly things behind and fly back” [to God]. But there was an obstacle that kept Augustine from reaching God, he writes, “The Name of Christ was not there…” Augustine writes about how the Name of Jesus Christ was his mother’s milk and His Name touched his heart tenderly, but the fruit of his life was surrendered to self-will and not God’s will. Finally in early August 386 Augustine abandoned his teaching career and his proposed marriage and went off with some friends to live a life of contemplation. One day he heard how some men had moved to give their whole heart and life to serve the Lord. Augustine was suddenly confronted with his sin of self-living. He rushed out into the garden and flung himself under the fig tree and wept bitterly, crying out to God, “How long, how long, why should not this hour be an end to my baseness?” From a neighboring yard he heard the voice of a child say, “Take and read” Augustine went over to a bench where laid a copy of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle and he read Romans 13:13-14, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:13-14) At that moment Augustine put on Christ, took on the Name that was missing, the only key person missing in his life that would enable him to live for God. Long before we even came into this world the grace of God confronted Augustine as dramatically as God’s grace did the Apostle Paul. At age 31 Augustine’s struggle came to an end and through him came teachings and service that laid the foundation of Western theology. Augustine has often been call “Bishop of Hippo” and “Doctor of the Church.” The opening prayer of Augustine’s “Confessions” sums up his whole experience in life. He writes, “Our hearts are restless until they can find peace with you [Lord Jesus].” Augustine and one of his friends put on Christ and they went and told Monica his mother. Fredrick S. Leahy wrote about this time in Christian history, “Over the years she had prayed for her wayward son with tears. Now her prayers were answered yes to and her heart’s wishes granted.”
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1 Peter 1:3-1:10
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)
THE CATERPILLAR JOURNEY
I heard a quote in college that struck me: "The caterpillar is the most confused creature which roams the planet, because undoubtedly stamped in his soul is the call to fly."
Caterpillars must go through four stages before their metamorphosis is complete. They begin as eggs, next they hatch as caterpillars, then they go through a stage where they eat, and eat, and eat some more. Eventually, they become a chrysalis before the transformation is complete and they can finally emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3: 1 "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Often, we want to walk straight into the calling God has for us. We want to do and be everything God wants us to be and not only that, but we want to skip the journey that takes us there and do it NOW! We want to go from being caterpillar eggs to butterflies! However, we all know that there are risks to anything being born prematurely. In order for anything to be birthed, whether it is a vision or a calling, we who are to fulfill it must go on a journey. We must go through stages and seasons of preparation.
For weeks, our class would observe the caterpillars I had ordered. We would begin to notice that each day they would crawl to the top of the aquarium and stand upside down. It was as though they were saying "Is today the day? Is today the day my transformation will begin?" When they realized it wasn't, they would walk back down and eat the day away. Every morning upon returning to the classroom, we would always be amazed at how much the caterpillars had grown.
Sometimes our lives can reach a point where they seem routine and mundane. Like the caterpillars, we are walking up and down, up and down. We may feel bored with where we are, like God has forgotten us, or as though we are not accomplishing much with our lives. We go through the day wondering. Is this the day? If we find it's not, our response should be like the caterpillars. It's not the day, but God has promised it, so I'm going to prepare for it nonetheless! We should eat, and eat, and eat from the Word of God. We should spend daily time in prayer and worship. We should be building, preparing, and strengthening our spirit man to accomplish the things which God has stamped on our souls to do.
After about two weeks, we would usually come to class one morning to find that many of the caterpillars had formed a chrysalis. From the outside of the chrysalis, it always seemed to my students as though nothing were happening. After a while, they would lose interest in the chrysalis. It wasn't fun to watch, and it wasn't spectacular to look at.
I'm convinced that like the caterpillar, God wants to take us on a journey. I'm convinced there is a process. Job said "For He knows the way that I take, and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Sometimes there is pain in the process. Sometimes the journey is difficult, but God knows and sees exactly where you are. When others look and see an ugly cocoon, He looks inside and sees the beautiful creature that is being transformed. Before David became king of Israel, he was first a shepherd boy. Some of his brothers were more handsome than him and greater in stature, but God did not choose them. In the Bible God spoke in 1 Samuel 16: 7 concerning David "for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." God chose the young, ruddy shepherd boy who had a heart after Him. All those years David spent alone in the field, God was preparing him. Don't despise the cocoon. God may simply be waiting for your character to catch up with your calling.
It is in the difficult process of breaking out of the chrysalis that the butterfly becomes strong. However, if the caterpillar breaks its way out of the cocoon prematurely, he will never survive. His wings will not be developed enough to allow him to properly fly. God does not want us to simply arrive at our calling, He desires for us to be successful in it. You may be a caterpillar with the word 'butterfly' stamped on your forehead wondering "When is it going to happen?" Consider this thought.is it possible that you have yet to visit the cocoon? If you're having trouble waiting for the moment that you break out into your calling, just remember. "He has made everything beautiful in HIS time." (Ecclesiastes 3: 11)
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"Peter replied, 'Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’" (Acts 2:38).
Pat Summerall spent 50 years with the national Football League. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1952 and played with the Chicago Cardinals and New York Giants until 1961. After his retirement from the game, he joined CBS as a broadcaster, and in 1993 switched to Fox. During his CBS years he and a fellow broadcaster partied hard off the field. "We raised Cain. I was the first guy at the bar and the last to leave." Summerall was told that if he kept on drinking he was going to die.
After checking himself into the Betty Ford Clinic, his counselor urged him to seek a better life through faith. At age 66, Pat Summerall was baptized. In USA Today he told a reporter that when the minister "leaned me back in the water, I never felt so helpless." Summerall testified, "I knew I just became a Christian. I can’t tell you how great life has been since then."
Baptism is a faith response to the gospel of Christ. In baptism we are indeed helpless. We are sinners in t...
Sermon Central Staff
THE VACUUM SALESMAN
A vacuum salesman down in rural Tennessee. He had a his vacuum cleaner and all of this tools and everything, and he went out there and he told a lady, "I’ve got the most exciting vacuum cleaner you have ever seen. It will clean your house from top to bottom...you only have to pay so much down."
And the lady said, "It sounds real good."
He said, "You see that big pile of dirt right there on the floor with all those fur balls and bugs and things." He said, "My vacuum cleaner will just pick up all those things up just like that and if they don’t, I’ll eat it."
She said, "Well, you might as well get your knife and fork, because we do not have any electricity out here!"
Power is the one thing nations, politicians and businessman
covet. But the power that we need is not an earthly
power. God has promised believers Spiritual power.
Vance Havner once rightly said,"We are not going to move this world by criticism of it nor conformity to it, but by combustion within it of lives ignited by the Spirit of God."
(From a sermon by Donnie De Loney, Pentecostal Power, 5/22/2012)
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FASTER AND FASTER
Does anyone here know who "Million Dollar Bill" is? If you guessed Bill Gates, then you would be wrong. Another nickname is "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville." In the year 1987, at Talladega Motor Speedway, Bill Elliot set the fastest recorded speed for a qualifying lap at 212.809 mph. This was the fastest miles per hour recorded for qualifying in a NASCAR event. The cars ran so fast that they literally began to lift off the speedway, creating a major safety issue. The speeds were so fast, and they really could not handle the cars.
NASCAR would implement the restrictor plate. If you are not a race fan, or not a car person at all, here is what a restrictor plate does: The device limits the power output of the engine, therefore slowing the acceleration and the overall speed. The horsepower of these machines is phenomenal. In 2004, Rusty Wallace tested a car at Talladega Super Speedway without a restrictor plate, and reached a top speed of 228 mph in the backstretch, and had a one lap average of 221 mph. Wallace would describe the experience as "out of control," and he also said that "there is no way that we could race at those speeds." The restrictor plates have slowed the cars’ speeds significantly, and they now average around 187 mph- still very fast for most of us.
But is it really? We all seem to be going faster and faster, until we actually find out--as Rusty Wallace said-- that we are out of control. The things that we are doing are no longer fun, and have become extremely dangerous.
We have become a society of "I want it now." I mean, look back, say 25-30 years. The cell phone was straight out of Dick Tracy comics, or the Jetsons’ TV phones to see the person on the other end. A computer was something that no one needed. But now, something that used to take up a city block will fit in your shirt pocket, and you can access the world from about anywhere at any time. The speed of things today is more than most of us can imagine. If there was a contest for the most popular virtue, I guess that "fast" would beat "best." Many parts of the world seem to be obsessed with speed- but the fast craze is getting us nowhere, fast.
In Carl Honore’s book, "In Praise of Slowness," he says, "The time has come to challenge our obsession with doing everything more quickly. Speed is not always the best policy."
According to the Bible, he’s right. Peter warns that in the last days, people would doubt God because he is slow, "Slack," in fulfilling his promise to return.
(From a sermon by Ricky Hurst, Patience- Stop and Smell the Roses, 5/31/2011)