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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)
Sermon Central Staff
"In an article in Campus Life a young nurse writes of her pilgrimage in learning to see in a patient the image of God beneath a very 'distressing disguise.'
"Eileen was one of her first patients, a person who was totally helpless. 'A cerebral aneurysm (broken blood vessels in the brain) had left her with no conscious control over her body,' the nurse writes. As near as the doctors could tell Eileen was totally unconscious, unable to feel pain and unaware of anything going on around her. It was the job of the hospital staff to turn her every hour to prevent bedsores and to feed her twice a day 'what looked like a thin mush through a stomach tube.' Caring for her was a thankless task. 'When it's this bad,' an older student nurse told her, 'you have to detach yourself emotionally from the whole situation...' As a result, more and more she came to be treated as a thing, a vegetable...
"But the young student nurse decided that she could not treat this person like the others had treated her. She talked to Eileen, sang to her, encouraged her, and even brought her little gifts. One day when things were especially difficult and it would have been easy for the young nurse to take out her frustrations on the patient, she was especially kind. It was Thanksgiving Day and the nurse said to the patient, 'I was in a cruddy mood this morning, Eileen, because it was supposed to be my day off. But now that I'm here, I'm glad. I wouldn't have wanted to miss seeing you on Thanksgiving. Do you know this is Thanksgiving?'
"Just then the telephone rang, and as the nurse turned to answer it, she looked quickly back at Eileen. 'Suddenly,' she writes, Eileen was 'looking at me... crying. Big damp circles stained her pillow, and she was shaking all over.
"That was the only human emotion that Eileen ever showed any of them, but it was enough to change the whole attitude of the hospital staff toward her. Not long afterward, Eileen died. The young nurse closes her story, saying, 'I keep thinking about her... It occurred to me that I owe her an awful lot. Except for Eileen, I might never have known what it's like to give my self to someone who can't give back'" (Rebecca Manley Pippert, Stories from the Heart (Multnomah Books: Sisters, Oregon, 1996), 31-32).
What have you been confronted with that seems impossible to overcome? How are you allowing God to use you to meet the needs of others through the divine resources he has?
(From a sermon by Eric Lenhart, Are We Manufacturers or Distributors? 8/12/2010)
I was fortunate to grow up in a home where my father was both a loving and disciplining presence. I guess I would have to say that if there is anything I really remember about my dad is this, he possessed a presence unlike any other person in my life. To me he was always larger than life. He towered over me and just had a way of peering down at me that, depending upon the situation, could either rivet me to the spot in guilt or immediately cause me to reach out in search of his love. My dad had a smell about him that was uniquely him. There was always the faint odor of aftershave no matter what the time of day. This, mixed with the ever-present tinge of Chesterfield aroma, was always a sure sign that he had passed this way. Dad also had a unique way of clicking his teeth and clearing his throat. I knew that he was around and that my world was protected and safe when I heard those distinctively “dad” noises I had become so accustomed to. This was what made up the physical aura of my father.
There were other things about my dad that fleshed out his presence. The way he mixed his peas with his potatoes. The way he always used pepper on his food as well as the inevitable sneeze that followed. My dad wore argyle socks and very seldom wore shorts. He liked to walk barefoot in the grass while he sprinkled his precious lawn in the summer. Over the course of the years, image after image was plied upon his presence as I came to know the man in whose footsteps I knew I would some day walk. To some people his habits might have been annoying, even irritating. To me they were simply images of a man I was trying to know and conform to. Just like most boys, I wanted to be like my father when I grew up. I wanted to smell like him and sing like him. I wanted to drive a car like him and go to work like him. I swing a hammer a certain way today because that’s the way he swung it. I shave in the manner he shaved, first a swipe on the right, then the left, then under the chin and done. In this sense, dad over the course of sixteen or so years was shaping the purpose of a young man who had all of life in front of him.
As I grew older and more perceptive, I became more able in my study of the man. I began to observe his life as well as his presence. I saw his times of joy as well as his times of pain. When he lost his job I was only a little boy but I remember his deep sorrow followed by a stern commitment to make everything better. I saw his anger as well as his gentleness. The way he hugged my mom and kissed her even when we kids were around is an image I have carried with me to this day. When I left home at eighteen I was confident that I was on the way to becoming my “own man.” I didn’t find out until later that I was simply flexing my wings in pre-course to a flight that would bear a great similarity to the way my father had soared above me for years.
In the many years since I launched into my own flight as a man and a father, I can now reflect back and see the greatest lesson my dad taught me; that a man’s presence is a mixture of joy and pain. This is what makes him a man. This is what gives him purpose and value. Happiness is not all joy. Rather, it is having a purpose in life that is founded on the growth a man achieves when he builds on his misfortunes as well as his successes. The pain was as good as the joy. In fact, we can’t really know joy without the pain. To many Americans today even the suggestion that we conform to our suffering in order to know true happiness would be just plain foolishness. In a culture bent on a “no pain” attitude molded by the misguided belief that the end of all living is comfort and happiness, there is no room for such introspection. When we are confronted by trouble the first thought is to escape from it, not learn from it. Our purpose has become a purpose bent on escape from pain. The idea of embracing pain seems almost un-American. Nashville pastor Byron Yawn writes,
“Because of this distorted perception, we rarely stop to search for the ‘hand of God’ in the midst of our trouble. Seeking to understand God’s purposes in our pain is all but foreign. As a result, embracing pain’s role in our sanctification is usually the farthest thing from our minds.” (Preaching Now Vol. 1, No. 20. Tue 9/3/2002)
God has called each of us to conform to the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Like our fathers, that is an image of joy mixed with pain. There is now escaping it; this was His life and it is ours as well. His purpose was to glorify the Father in His suffering. Our greatest purpose is no different. May each of us be “counted worthy of his calling.” Embrace the pain and learn from it. Make this the cornerstone of your purpose as a believe in Christ Jesus our Lord.
A CHANGE OF WORDS, A CHANGE OF FOCUS
Here is a story that I believe show how our journey is made better simply by a change in words. A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign, which said: "I am blind, please help." There were only a few coins in the hat. A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. He put the sign back so that everyone who walked by would see the new words.
Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon the man who had changed the sign came to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, "Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?" The man said, "I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way." I wrote, "Today is a beautiful day but I cannot see it." Both signs told people that the boy was blind. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind. The second sign told people that they were so lucky that they were not blind. Should we be surpri...
Decisions are public displays of our character.
The Scottish preacher John McNeill liked to tell about an eagle that had been captured when it was quite young.
The farmer who snared the bird put a restraint on it so it couldn’t fly, and then he turned it loose to roam in the barnyard.
It wasn’t long till the eagle began to act like the chickens, scratching and pecking at the ground. This bird that once soared high in the heavens seemed satisfied to live the barnyard life of the lowly hen.
One day the farmer was visited by a shepherd, who lived in the mountains where the eagles lived.
Seeing the eagle, the shepherd said to the farmer, "What a shame to keep that bird hobbled here in your barnyard! Why don’t you let it go?"
The farmer agreed, so they cut off the restraint. But the eagle continued to wander around, scratching and pecking as before.
The shepherd picked it up and set it on a high stone wall. For the first time in months, the eagle saw the grand expanse of blue sky and the glowing sun. Then it spread its wings and with a leap soared off into a tremendous spiral flight, up and up and up.
At last it was acting like an eagle again.
John Williams III
I read an account about a storm that came as a surprise. "The storm came roaring in from the Atlantic, and it left the city of New York paralyzed. Ordinarily such a snow fall cause little inconvenience in that city. Snowplows are assembled and crews are at work even as the first flakes begin to fall. The weather forecasters do a good job, and because they do the city is kept moving and New Yorkers can continue on their way. But on that cold day a few years back, the weatherman missed it. His mistake was understandable. Weather systems in this country usually move west to east. This storm slipped in from the east, taking New York City by surprise. This sort of thin happens not only to cities but also to people". (Ernest A. Fitzgerald. Keeping Pace: Inspirations In The Air. Greensboro: Pace Communications Inc. 1988, p. 116). Jesus knew that there would be times when storms would come and cause an upheaval for these disciples that He was praying for. Jesus is praying for them and their mission to be faithful when those times would come. Jesus is praying for protection from the evil one as well as their sanctification.
MADE IN HIS IMAGE
In 1940 the Battle of Britain took place in the skies over England. Day after day hundreds of German bombers delivered to the targets below a cargo of death and destruction. The only thing stopping the certain defeat of the allies in western Europe was the Royal Air Force, whose pilots rose to fight the German bombers and their escorts every time. And although their cause seemed futile and more than half of their fighters would be shot down, the RAF pilots never gave up.
Winston Churchhill said of them "Never in the history of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few." Paul Brand speculates "I doubt whether a more adulated group of young men has ever lived. They were the cream of England, the brightest, the healthiest, the most confident and dedicated, and often the handsomest men in the entire country."
But for many of the pilots who survived, they paid the price with their appearance. A design flaw in the Hurricane fighters they piloted left them vulnerable to explosions that would severely injure them if they didn't eject immediately. Many were left to endure numerous surgeries to reconstruct their faces.
Each fell into one of two groups. Those whose wives and girlfriends couldn't accept the new faces. They either slipped away or filed for divorce. But in the 2nd group the wives and girlfriends stuck by them. Psychologists charted the progress of the two groups.
The first group tended to stay indoors, rarely ventured outside except perhaps at night. They looked for some kind of work to do at home.
But those whose wives and girlfriends stuck by them --- they went on to great successes. Many became executives, professionals and leaders of their communities. They remained - the elite...
* We believe in sanctification through the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit, and we believe in personal holiness, purity of heart and life.
* We believe in divine healing, through faith in the Name of Jesus Christ, and that healing is included in the Redemption.
* We believe in water baptism, in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit as distinct from the New Birth, in speaking with tongues as the Spirit of God gives utterance (Acts 2:4), in the gifts of the Spirit, and the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit. We believe that all of these are available to believers.
* We believe in the Christian's hope: the soon-coming, personal return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Two preachers were carrying a conversation. One said to the other, “Currently, we are having a problem at our meeting place with the mice. It looks like everywhere you step; you will be greeted by a mouse.” “Well,” said the other preacher, “we solve that problem long ago. We baptized them all, and they left.” This is a sad story that illustrates a familiar reality. Many individuals believe that once they are baptized, all they need to do is done. The truth of the matter is that it does not end there. In reality, the contrary is true. Romans 5-8 illustrate our call to holiness. This process of sanctification has its epilogue in the justification; it is presented into three images; and is fueled in the power of the Holy Spirit.