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Kevin Malone
 
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I’ve got two rings on my hand today. This one is my wedding ring- 24 karat gold, very pure. The other is one my daughter got out of a gumball machine. It looks kind of gold but it is tin at best. The stone is pretty but I’m sure it’s made of plastic. Now which one of these is going to stand up under the heat? The gold is going to stand. The gold is Jesus Christ- pure, the perfect Lamb of God. He had no sin throughout His life. He is righteous. Now even driving here today I didn’t live up to ‘loving my neighbor’, and isn’t this one of the most basic of commandments, the one we start with? This is my righteousness, this ring made of tin. This one of gold is His righteousness. Now on the day I present my righteousness to God, which one will I present to Him? I’ll present this one, the righteousness of Christ. And how do we get this righteousness of God? It’s through faith by God’s grace.

 
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REFINING SAP TO MAPLE SYRUP

Dr. David Osborn at Denver Seminary says, "Too often we try to use God to change our circumstances, while He is using our circumstances to change us." (Compass, April 2003) You see, God is right now in the process of making us like Christ.

Think of the process of refining maple syrup. Maple trees are tapped with buckets hung under the taps, and out drips a sap which is thin and clear, like water. On a good day, 50 trees will yield 30-40 gallons of sap, but it is essentially useless at this point with only a hint of sweetness.

Then as the buckets fill, they are emptied into large bins that sit over an open fire. The sap comes to a slow boil; and as it boils, its water content is reduced and its sugars are concentrated. Hours later, it has developed a rich flavor and golden-brown color, but it must be strained several times to remove impurities before being reheated, bottled, and graded for quality. In the end, those 30-40 gallons of sap are reduced to one gallon of pure, delicious maple syrup, which is far better than the cheap, imitation, colored sugar-water that passes for maple syrup in the grocery store.

So it is when we come to faith in Christ. We start like raw, unfinished sap, which could have been tossed aside as worthless. But God knew what he could make of us. He sought and found us, and his skillful hands are transforming us into something precious, sweet and useful. The long and often painful refining process brings forth a pure, genuine disciple easily distinguished from cheap imitations.

(Michele Straubel, Red Lake, Minnesota. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Our Living Hope, 4/26/2011)

 
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W Pat Cunningham
 
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Tags: Angels (add tag)
 
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God's Will is Best

Angels are pure spirits, but it was God's intention to raise human beings, who are lower than the angels, to divine status, to union with the Trinity. An ancient tradition tells us that this was the cause of Lucifer's rebellion, jealousy over one day being ruled by a mere human. The great army of Michael got it right–-God's will is best, and serving God's will is the highest happiness, even if it causes us some inconvenience.

 
Contributed By:
Stan Martin
 
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On April 28, 1999, just eight days after the Columbine shooting, shock rock singer Marilyn Manson was scheduled to perform a concert in Iowa City, Iowa. And since Manson’s music
was prominent in the lives of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, there was a lot of emotion surrounding his concert. Mark Forstrom, a local Youth Minister in the area wrote about what happened.

He wrote, "The police, the media, and the community began to prepare for angry protests and ugly brawling between Christians and Marilyn Manson supporters."

Suddenly, something totally unexpected happened. Emerging thru the vehicle of e-mail, another local movement suddenly sprang to life— that the only way to truly change our moral climate is to soften hard hearts. (The hearts of Manson fans have been hardened by
their perception that Christians are mean-spirited, hateful, and judgmental.) Thus, the idea was birthed to unravel that stereotype by encouraging Christians to show the pure LOVE of Christ to these fans in tangible ways.

Concert day finally arrived, and tension filled the community. The media geared up for an ugly battle between Manson fans and the Christian opposition.

Instead, what they observed here was an amazing testament to the power of and love of Christ! Scores of Christians from churches all over Linn County and as far away as Des Moines (2 hours away) converged on the sidewalks outside the Five Seasons Center, to do
two POSITIVE things: pray, and to show unmistakable love. It was a sight to behold.
~ Groups conducted "prayer walks" around the arena.
~ People prayed in huddles on the sidewalk.
~ Churches around the city held special prayer eetings.

As for showing LOVE to the fans,

~ One church purchased 100 pizzas, which were freely given away to the fans in line and bystanders.
~ Cookies and over 1,200 cans of soda were purchased or donated and distributed.
~ Someone made turkey & cheese sandwiches and gave them away.
~ One pastor asked Manson fans who passed by how he could pray for them--about 20 shared specific things & were prayed for on the spot.
~ After the concert, about $200 in cash (collected mostly by a local youth group) was given out to pay for parking in the parking ramp.

The Christians involved said, "We’re Christians and we’d like to show you God’s love by paying for your parking tonight." The
immediate results of this love in action were phenomenal:

~ People continually asked, "Why are you doing this?" and then listened to the answer. ~ Two "live" radio reporters (one inside the stadium and one outside) discussed--on the air--how preferable it was to be outside with the generous Christians.
~ At least 3 people gave their lives to Christ through the loving care of the Christians.
~ At least one other fan that we know of chose...

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Contributed By:
Michael McCartney
 
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Tags: Parenting (add tag)
 
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M-O-T-H-E-R
"M" is for the million things she gave me,
"O" means only that she’s growing old,
"T" is for the tears she shed to save me,
"H" is for her heart of purest gold;
"E" is for her eyes, with love-light shining,
"R" means right, and right she’ll always be,

Put them all together, they spell "MOTHER,"

A word that means the world to me.
~By Howard Johnson~

 
Contributed By:
Ken Pell
 
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Tags: Holiness (add tag)
 
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REMOVE THE HATE -- BE PURE

"And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood (Hebrews 13:2)."

Three years ago, Chris Simpson led a white pride march. Two years ago, he abandoned the white supremacist movement. This past April (2012), he was baptized.

Chris, a 38-year-old garbage man and former Marine had the words "PURE HATE" tattooed across his knuckles.

After the loss of his first child, Simpson had a lot of hatred and anger built up inside. The white pride movement gave Simpson a place to direct his anger and frustration—at people of other races.

After he and his family watched the movie “Courageous,” he began attending church. One month later he was baptized as a follower of Jesus Christ.

"Any kind of burdens I carried before, I let them go." Simpson said, "There’s no need to carry things that happen in the past. I forgave all those who wronged me and asked forgiveness from those that I have wronged."

Simpson has left hate behind. He’s even going through the Freedom Ink Tattoo removal program too -- starting with the word HATE.

(Source: Aaron Aupperlee, "Former White Supremacist Sheds Hate and Embraces Christianity," The Washington Post {7-2-12})

 
Contributed By:
Jason Bonnicksen
 
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WHITE AS SNOW

Ash Wednesday — it’s kind of a solemn day. It’s the start of Lent —a word which means “spring” in German. But more than this, it’s the time each year when we intently focus on the path Christ Jesus laid out for us to follow — to be true to his word, true to his calling, and true to the faith, hope and life we share in him.

You know though, sometimes it’s kind of hard to focus on spring when winter is in full force around us. Today it’s been snowing, and within the past week alone, the mountains surrounding our communities have received over 50 inches of fresh snow. For, while we’re beginning to look forward to spring, we have still have to live in the reality that we’re still surrounded by the billions of fluffy white flakes from the Lord’s heavenly storehouses.

Snow — the bible speaks of it often, likening it to that which is pure, clean, and righteous. Truly, the crystal formations of snowflakes are beautiful. There are many different shapes and sizes of snowflakes; amazingly, each and every one is unique.

But despite their uniqueness, snowflakes have one common thing: dirt at the core. Oddly enough, snowflakes start as tiny dust particles, which serve as the center of the snowflake.

Like snowflakes, we have been beautifully created by God. We are the greatest of all God’s creation. We are his pride, and his joy; and like snowflakes we are all created uniquely. Yet, like snowflakes, we too have dirty hearts. We’re all marked by sin; we’re all stained at the core of our being; we’re all dirty in the middle. But through Jesus Christ, we can all be made clean. The dirt at the core of our being can be washed way, and we can be made pure in Christ Jesus

 
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THE MAN WHO’D DIE FOR HER-- COMMUNION MEDITATION

On the southern border of the empire of Cyrus, there lived a great chieftain named Cagular who tore to shreds and completely defeated the various detachments of Cyrus’ army sent to subdue him. Finally the emperor, amassing his whole army, marched down, surrounded Cagular, captured him, and brought him to the capital for execution. On the day of the trial, he and his family were brought to the judgment chamber - Cagular, a fine looking man of more than 6 feet, with a noble manner about him - a magnificent specimen of a man. So impressed was Cyrus with his appearance, that he said to Cagular: "What would you do should I spare your life?"

"Your Majesty, if you spared my life, I would return to my home and remain your obedient servant as long as I lived."

"What would you do if I spared the life of your wife?"

"Your Majesty, if you spared the life of my wife, I would die for you."

So moved was the emperor that he freed them both and returned Cagular to his province to act as governor thereof. Upon arriving at home, Cagular reminisced about the trip with his wife. "Did you notice," he said to his wife, "the marble at the entrance of the palace? Did you notice the tapestry on the wall as we went down the corridor into the throne room? And did you see the chair on which the emperor sat? It must have been carved from one lump of pure gold."

His wife could appreciate his excitement and how impressed he was with it all, but she only replied: "I really didn’t notice any of that."
"Well," said Cagular in amazement, "What did you see?"

His wife looked seriously into his eyes and said, "I beheld only the face of the man who sai...

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HOW TO GIVE THANKS IN THE MIDST OF LOSS

When you've lost something or someone precious, it is easy to forget that "the Lord gives and the Lord takes away." He doesn't owe us a reason.

John Claypool was a pastor in Louisville, Kentucky many years ago. He and his wife lost their daughter, Laura Lou, to leukemia. He later explained his loss by telling a story from his childhood.

During WWII his family didn't own a washing machine, and since gas was rationed, they couldn't afford to drive to a laundry. Keeping their clothes clean became a challenge. John's neighbor went into the service and his wife moved in with her family. They offered to let John's family use their Bendix wringer washer while they were gone. They reasoned it would be better for it to be used than to sit rusting on the porch.

John helped with the family's laundry, and he said he developed a fondness for that old green Bendix. When the war ended his neighbors returned, and they reclaimed their washing machine. Over the course of the war, young John had actually forgotten the machine was loaned to them, so when the neighbors removed it, John was upset and angry that they would take his washing machine. His mother sat him down and said, "John, you must remember that the washing machine never belonged to us in the first place. That we ever got to use it at all was a gift. So, instead of being mad at it being taken away, let us use this as an occasion to be thankful that we ever had it at all."

John Claypool would say years later he struggled with the death of eight-year-old Laura Lou, until he remembered that old green Bendix. He wrote: "When I remember that Laura Lou was a gift, pure and simple, something I neither earned nor deserved nor had a right to; and when I remember that the appropriate response to a gift, even when it is taken away, is gratitude, then I am better able to try and thank God that I was ever given her in the first place." (Steps of a Fellow Struggler)

That's exactly how Job felt. He knew every good thing in his life had come from God, and God had the right to take anything away. That's the kind of attitude that will keep you from becoming bitter when you face loss.

(From a sermon by Fred Markes, Praise God, 8/30/2011)

 
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Tags: Heart (add tag)
 
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KEEP THE SPRINGS PURE

The family’s water supply came from a spring just a few feet from the house. The pure, cold, sweet water bubbled up through a large pipe about the size of a barrel that had been sunk in the ground. One morning two huge frogs were found in the spring. No one wanted to drink from the water until the frogs had been removed, and the water had been allowed to flush over the sides for the rest of the day. Everyone wanted to make sure it was clean and pure again.

You can make a parable out of the incident. Those frogs could represent bad thoughts, and the spring is man’s heart. If our thought life is evil, the words and deeds that flow from within will be contaminated. Jesus said that the blasphemous statements made by His enemies revealed their inner selves. They spoke the way they did because they had allowed evil thoughts to take control of their minds.

(From a sermon by Dennis Davidson, Guard Your Heart, 9/1/2011)

 
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