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"Jesus was never interested in having fans. When he defines what kind of relationship he wants, "Enthusiastic Admirer" isn’t an option. My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them." Kyle Idleman "Not a Fan" p. 25
The New Guideposts Christmas Treasury (3) tells a story of a little girl was wasn’t easy to love. Her name was Phyllis, and her Sunday School Teacher tells this story about her: "Phyllis wasn’t an easy child to love...sometimes I did wish she wasn’t in the particular Sunday School class that I taught...She never sat still. She hated to be touched, and she always had to have the last word." Her teacher tried to give Phyllis a speaking part, but Phyllis refused ""I’m probably going to a party that night," she said grandly. "Lord," I prayed silently, "please help me love Phyllis". "Well I do have a few more parts if you change your mind." "I won’t" Phyllis said, and she didn’t." At the rehearsal, the teacher heard ""Mary doesn’t act like she’s going to have a baby" muttered a husky little voice behind me. Phyllis might not have any desire to be in the program, but she wouldn’t miss the rehearsal. "Shhhh" I whispered, reaching back to pat Phyllis’s hand. She jerked it away, saying "Okay Okay" In the last scene, only a spotlight shone on the holy family, and the children hummed "Silent Night". It was beautiful-- but who was that moving in front of the manger? Phyllis You never knew where that child was going to pop up next. Now she stuck her hand into the manger, squeezed the doll’s arm, and disappeared back into the shadows. "Phyllis", I called, "what are you doing uup there?" "I’m just looking," she said, "Besides it’s not a baby. It’s just a doll. I felt it." "Lord, please help me love Phyllis". ...By 6:45 the air was bristling with excitment backstae...There was no Phyllis to be seen and I began to relax... As the organ chimed the beginnning of the service, I took my prompters seat in the front pew. With the opening strains of "Watchman, Tell Us of the Night", the lights came up on the manger scene, and the narrator began... I felt something bump my knee and give a little shgove. "Move over," muttered an all too familiar voice. "I decided not to go to the party." ... The angels sang to the shepherds. The shepherds went to Bethlehem and took a lamb for the baby. The wisemen went to see herod and then to the stable. And Mary sat there, "pondering these things in her heart." It was lovely. Phyllis sat beside me so quietly that I forgot all about her, and when I realized she was gone it was too late". She stomped her way right up to the manger, just as she had done during rehearsal. But this time she stiffened, awe-struck, then turned, eyes wide with wonder, and came hurrying back to me. "He’s alive" she said to me in a penetrating whisper. Across the aisle, someone asked, "What did she say?" "She said, "He’s alive’ "Lile ripples in a pond, the word passed from pew to pew, all the way to the back of the sanctuary. "He’s alive...alive...alive." ... I put my arm around Phyllis... "You wre the best part of the program" I said into her ear... "It wasn’t in the program" she said, but she didn’t push me away. Christ was love (3) - The New Guideposts Christmas Treasury, "Christmas - As Mysterious as Ever", by Doris Swehla, pp. 78-81
A small congregation in the foothills of the Great Smokies built a new sanctuary on a piece of land willed to them by a church member. Ten days before the new church was to open, the local building inspector informed the pastor that the parking lot was inadequate for
the size of the building. Until the church doubled the size of the
parking lot, they would not be able to use the new sanctuary. Unfortunately, the church with its undersized parking lot had used every inch of their land except for the mountain against which it had been built. In order to build more parking spaces, they would have to move the mountain out of the back yard.
Undaunted, the pastor announced the next Sunday morning that he would meet that evening with all members who had "mountain moving faith." They would hold a prayer session asking God to remove the mountain from the back yard and to somehow provide enough money to have it paved and painted before the scheduled opening dedication service the
At the appointed time, 24 of the congregation's 300 members assembled for prayer. They prayed for nearly three hours. At ten o'clock the pastor said the final "Amen." "We'll open next Sunday as scheduled," he assured everyone. "God has never let us down before, and I believe He will be faithful this time too."
The next morning, as he was working in his study, there came a loud knock at the pastor's door. When he called, "Come in," a rough looking construction foreman appeared, removing his hard hat as he entered.
"Excuse me, Reverend. I'm from Acme Construction Company over
in the next county. We're building a huge new shopping mall over
there and we need some fill dirt. Would you be willing to sell us a
chunk of that mountain behind the church? We'll pay you for the
dirt we remove and pave all the exposed area free of charge, if we
can have it right away. We can't do anything else until we get the
dirt in and allow it to settle properly."
The little church was dedicated the next Sunday as originally planned and there were far more members with "mountain moving faith" on opening Sunday than there had been the previous week!
A parable is told of a community of ducks waddling off to duck church one Sunday to hear their duck preacher. After they waddled into the duck sanctuary, the service began and the duck preacher spoke eloquently of how God had given the ducks wings with which to fly.
He pounded the pulpit with his beak and said,
With these wings, there is nowhere we ducks can not go!
There is no God-given task we ducks cannot accomplish!
With these wings we no longer need walk through life.
We can soar high in the sky!
Shouts of Amen!¨ were quacked throughout the duck congregation.
The duck preacher concluded his message by exclaiming,
With our wings we can fly through life!
WE......CAN.....FLY!!!!¨ More ducks quacked out loud AMENS! in response.
Every duck loved the service.
In fact all the ducks that were ...
Sermon Central Staff
CHRYSOSTOM ON ECCLESIASTES
Eutropius had fallen into disgrace. As the highest-ranking official in the Byzantine Empire (late fourth century), he served as the closest adviser to the emperor Arcadius, then ruling in Constantinople. But Eutropius abused his imperial power and aroused the anger of the empress Eudoxia, who orchestrated a campaign against him that resulted in a sentence of death.
Desperate to save his life, Eutropius slipped away from the palace and ran to the Hagia Sophia, where he clung to the altar and claimed sanctuary. Soon an angry mob of soldiers surrounded the great church, denouncing Eutropius and demanding his execution. Eventually, the crowds dispersed, but the next day was Sunday, and so they returned the following morning to see whether the pastor would give in to their demands for the execution of Eutropius.
The pastor was John Chrysostom, the famous preacher who served as the Bishop of Constantinople. As he mounted his pulpit, Chrysostom could see a church crowded with worshipers and thrill-seekers. They, in turn, could see Eutropius groveling at the altar. The great man had become a pitiable spectacle, with his teeth chattering and hopeless terror in his eyes.
The dramatic sermon Chrysostom preached that day may have been the finest he ever preached. For his text Chrysostom took Ecclesiastes 1:2 ("Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity"), and for his primary illustration he used the decline and fall of Eutropius.
Here was a man, Chrysostom noted, who had lost everything--position, wealth, freedom, safety. Only days before, he had been the second most powerful man in the world. But it was all vanity, as events had proven, for now Eutropius had become "more wretched than a chained convict, more pitiable than a menial slave, more indigent than a beggar wasting away with hunger." "Though I should try my very best," Chrysostom said, "I could never convey to you in words the agony he must be suffering, from hour to hour expecting to be butchered."
Chrysostom did not stop there, however. His purpose was not to condemn Eutropius but to save him, and also to give his listeners the gospel. To that end, he challenged his listeners to recognize the vanity of their own existence. Whether rich or poor, one day they would all have to leave their possessions behind. They too would face a day of judgment--the judgment of a holy God. Their only hope then would be the hope that they should offer to Eutropius now--mercy at the table of Christ.
The sermon must have hit its mark, for as Chrysostom came to a close, he could see tears of pity streaming down people's faces. Eutropius was spared--a life saved by the preaching of Ecclesiastes.
Because Ecclesiastes is the Word of the living God, it can have the same impact in our lives today. Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Ecclesiastes warns us to live our lives in light of eternity. Ecclesiastes teaches us how to live a meaningful life.
(From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, 7/11/2010)
In his autobiography, Mahatma Gandhi wrote that during his student days he read the Gospels seriously and considered converting to Christianity. He believed that in the teachings of Jesus he could find the solution to the caste system that was dividing the people of India. So one Sunday he decided to attend services at a nearby church and talk to the minister about becoming a Christian. When he entered the sanctuary, however, the usher refused to give him a seat and suggested that he o worship with his own people. Gandhi left the church and never returned, “If Christians have caste differences also, “ he said, “I might as well remain a Hindu.” That usher’s prejudice not only betrayed Jesus but also turned a person away from trusting Him as Savior.
THE MIRACLE OF THE GROCERIES
The following is a true story. In 1984, Mike and his family belonged to an East Coast church. One Sunday evening, the sermon was on sacrificial offerings, and a special offering was taken at the end of the sermon. The only money in Mike’s wallet was a $50 bill, which was supposed to buy a week’s worth of groceries for his wife, their five children, and himself. However, in a move of faith, Mike put the $50 bill in the offering. Then, after the conclusion of the service, the family went out to the parking lot to go home.
Within minutes, they joyfully returned to the sanctuary, and asked the pastor to come outside and see their miracle. Somewhat skeptical, the pastor accompanied them outside to their 20-year-old station wagon. Peering through the windows, he saw that the interior of the vehicle was completely filled with bags of groceries. Happy for the family, he remarked that someone had given them a huge blessing.
“You don’t understand, pastor,” Mike said. “Before service, I made sure that all the windows were rolled up and the doors were locked. I have the only key, so it must have been the Lord!” To which the pastor added, “Giving truly is the only key to God’s provision!”
(Mike had no family living in the area, and no one from the congregation ever claimed responsibility.)
Witnessed by, Rev. Robert Costa, Detroit, Michigan.
Editor’s note: this sounds exactly like: Psalm 78:25 NIV
25 Men ate the bread of angels; He sent them all the food they could eat.
In my secular vocation I am a computer project manager for the Duke University School of Medicine. I primarily develop web based, “anywhere” access “web-top” applications that people use throughout the medical school. One of the most beautiful and liberating aspects of my job is that although I have an office in 0159 Purple Zone of the South Hospital, I do not have to be there to work. Since all of my applications and databases are Internet based, as long as I can access an internet connection, I can program and develop my systems. I can work from home; I can work from many of the coffee shops and bookstores that offer wireless internet access. Since I travel a lot for my job, as I am on the road in other parts of the country, as long as I have a high speed internet connection I can access my office network, my database systems, my applications, securely, safely and productively no matter where I am.
Brothers and sisters you and I have to realize a great importance of my worship life, and that fact is that in the same way that I can open my laptop and connect onto a high speed network to do my secular business, I can also open my heart and connect onto a high speed...
Illus.: “Empty Offering Plate”
An artist who wished to paint a picture of a “dead church” visited a sanctuary with beautiful stained-glass windows and a magnificent pipe organ. Every pew was filled, but the offering plate, lying in the vestibule, was marked “FOR MISSIONS” and was conspicuously empty. It was then that the artist knew he had his subject.
The Temple in Jerusalem was built with a 3’ to 4’ high wall which ran through the court and separated the court of the Gentiles from the rest of the inner court. Only Jews were permitted past this dividing wall. Archaeologists in 1871 uncovered the inscription: ‘No man of another race is to proceed within the partition and enclosing wall about the sanctuary. Any one arrested there will have himself to blame for the penalty of death which will be imposed as a consequence.