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"LIVING LIFE UPSIDE DOWN" by Russ Lee
John has a new way of looking at life
He’s tired of his job, his kids and his wife
He says the secret to his success
Was in leaving and finding himself
Now he’s someone to somebody else.
And you say we’ve risen to a new age of truth
You’re calling it a spiritual Godly pursuit
But I say, I say,
We’ve got a program for saving the earth
While unborn children are denied their right to birth
One baby’s blessed, another cursed
Have we made this world better or worse
Now that the life of a tree comes first
And you say we’ve risen to a new age of light
You’re telling me what used to be wrong is now right
But I say, I say,
What if we’ve fallen to the bottom of a well
Thinking we’ve risen to the top of a mountain
What if we’re knocking at the gates of hell
Thinking we’re heaven bound
What if we spend our lives thinking of ourselves
When we should have been thinking of each other
What if we reach up and touch the ground
To find we’re living life upside down.
Recently a Baptist Pastor in Illinois received a visit from the FBI. They came in response to an anonymous caller who took issue with something the Pastor said in his sermon. According to the Baptist Press news service, “Nov. 23, 2004, started out like any other normal morning for Randy Steele, senior pastor at Southwest Christian Church in Mount Vernon, Ill., a town about 80 miles southeast of St. Louis… [until]… the phone rang. It was the FBI. Steele said they wanted to meet with him personally…. When two FBI agents arrived at the church, Steele said they traded small talk for a few minutes before the suspense got to him and he asked about the nature of their visit. Their answer stunned him. “One guy opened a file,” Steele said. And he said, “’This is pertaining to a sermon that you preached on Memorial Day.’” On Memorial Day 2004, Steele was in the middle of preaching a sermon series he called Life Issues dealing with controversial cultural issues from a biblical perspective. One such sermon was about abortion and Steele chose Memorial Day to preach about it. “I shared the number of people who have died in wars versus the number who had died through legal abortion since 1973, Steele said. “I stated that we are in a different type of war that is being fought under the ’presupposition of freedom.” Steele said that he went on to name an abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., a city just outside St. Louis, and pointed out that they perform as many as 45 abortions per week. Somebody in the church that day apparently misunderstood Steele’s different type of war comment to mean that he was actually calling his congregation to a physical war against abortion clinics, so he or she placed an anonymous phone call to the FBI. (Now, don’t any of you get any ideas) This informant allegedly told the FBI that in addition to Steele calling for a war against abortion clinics, he also said he was willing to go to jail over such a cause. Steele said that he had spoken about his willingness to go to jail, but that he made those remarks in a different sermon that dealt with homosexuality from the same sermon series. “I had mentioned a pastor in Canada who had been arrested for speaking about homosexuality in his church,” Steele said. “The pastor said he went on to tell his congregation that if speaking the truth means that we go to jail, then by golly, that’s where I’m going to be and I’m going to save you a seat next to me.” “That was the major gist of why [the FBI] felt like they could come here and look through my sermons,” Pastor Steele reported. ….Steele said that after the two FBI agents examined his two sermons in question, they realized he was not a physical threat to abortion clinics and apparently dropped their investigation. …Pastor Steele said he was initially a little irritated that the FBI would ask to see his sermons, especially since he had to take time away from the grieving family in his congregation to answer questions, but he said he has no plans to stop preaching messages that are culturally relevant. “As a pastor I believe that as Christians we are called to speak the truth no matter what,” Steele said. “And we have to continue to speak that truth in love to all people and to share the message of Christ because it’s the only message that’s going to change the lives of people.” Like this Pastor, the message of Jesus was controversial in his day. If Jesus were around today I am certain the FBI would question him about some of the things he said.
GOD JUST NEEDS A VOICE
John Stott, a well-known British pastor and theologian, was invited to preach at the University of Sydney in Australia; but after he got there, he lost his voice. He describes his experience as follows:
"What can you do with a missionary who has no voice? We had come to the last night of the [evangelistic campaign]. The students had booked the big university hall. A group of students gathered around me, and I asked them to pray as Paul did, that this thorn in the flesh might be taken from me. But we went on to pray that if it pleased God to keep me in weakness, I would rejoice in my infirmities in order that the power of Christ might rest upon me.
"As it turned out, I had to get within one inch of the microphone just to croak the gospel. I was unable to use any inflection of voice to express my personality. It was just a croak in a monotone, and all the time we were crying to God that his power would be demonstrated in human weakness. Well, I can honestly say that there was a far greater response that night than any other night. I’ve been back to Australia ten times now, and on every occasion somebody has come up to me and said, "Do you remember that night when you lost your voice? I was converted that night."
God doesn’t need eloquence to reach people. He just needs a voice, your voice, with a living, vital connection to Him in prayer.
I like the way Luci Swindoll once put it. She writes: "A friend of mine was caught in an elevator during a power failure. At first, there was momentary panic as all seven strangers talked at once. Then my friend remembered the tiny flashlight he had in his pocket. When he turned it on, the fear dissipated. During the 45 minutes they were stuck together they told jokes, laughed, and even sang. [The Bible] says we are that flashlight. Just as the flashlight draws power from its batteries, we draw power from Jesus. As light, we dissipate fear, bring relief, and lift spirits. We don’t even have to be big to be effective. We just have to be ’on.’"
(Source: Student Leadership, Spring 1993, p. 32. Luci Swindoll, "Heart to Heart," Today’s Christian Woman. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, "The Power of His Presence" 7/10/2009)
For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.
I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...
Norman Cates shared the humorous story of a guy who prayed this prayer every morning: "Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is." One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat next to our praying friend. The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus. But before he could get very nervous about the man next to him, the big guy burst into tears and began to weep. He then cried out with a loud voice, "I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?" He turned to the Christian and pleaded, "Can you show me how to be saved?" The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, "Lord, is this a sign?" Are you looking for a "sign" to start witnessing?
Why would God go to all the trouble to endure our bad choices and our flagrant sinning in order to have relationship with us? Hear the story of the lost son from the modern setting as told by Philip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing about Grace.
Yancey tells the story of a prodigal daughter who grows up in Traverse City, Michigan. Disgusted with her old fashioned parents who overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, the length of her skirts, she runs away. She ends up in Detroit where she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – recognizes that since she’s underage, men would pay premium for her. So she goes to work for him. Things are good for a while. Life is good. But she gets sick for a few days, and it amazes her how quickly the boss turns mean. Before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, and all the money goes to support her drug habit.
One night while sleeping on the metal grates of the city, she began to feel less like a woman of the world and more like a little girl. She begins to whimper. “God, why did I leave. My dog back home eats better than I do now.” She knows that more than anything in the world, she wants to go home. Three straight calls home get three straight connections with the answering machine. Finally she leaves a message. “Mom, dad, its me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, I‘ll understand.” During the seven hour bus ride, she’s preparing a speech for her father. And when the bus comes to a stop in the Traverse City station, the driver announces the fifteen-minute stop. Fifteen minutes to decide her life.
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. But not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There in the bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and a great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads – Welcome Home!
Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes and begins her memorized speech. He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. We’ll be late. A big party is waiting for you at home.”
There’s another beautiful picture of baptism given here: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” Did you catch it? Baptism clothes us with Christ. We’re wrapped up in Jesus and all of his goodness in baptism. We’re clothed with his work and his righteousness. Armani, Gucci, Abercrombie and Fitch – none of those designer labels can compare with the garments we have in Jesus’ name. God “clothes” us with forgiveness and salvation. In other words, he says that these things are ours. They’re real, just like a change of clothes. All who believe that these garments are theirs have what’s needed to be part of God’s family.
The Lord offers a wonderful wardrobe for his people. It’s his Son’s life, death, and resurrection. These are ours to “wear” spiritually. God does have a dress code for his family. This is what identifies the Christian as such. Let’s face it. People often wear the clothes they do because the want to be noticed. Quite often it’s the label or the name brand that supposedly makes a person a “somebody.” Well, you want to be labeled as a “somebody”, then be labeled as one who is wrapped up with Jesus. Be labeled with Christ. Be proud that you are a Christian. Don’t be ashamed of all the Christ has done for you! God has made you part of his family.
WHAT IS COMPASSION?
"Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin.
It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."
It’s the story of a friendship forged during one of the worst battles of World War II, and a promise made almost 60 years ago, a promise that was finally kept Thursday, Aug. 2, 2001. HAROLD HUGGINS, a veteran of 10 major campaigns in World War II and the last survivor of his battalion, traveled halfway across the country by train on one last mission in memory of his best buddy.
"I had this on my mind for 57 years, trying to locate his sister and loved ones out there in California," says Huggins. "Part of him lives in me."
Huggins, from Albany, Ill., and Mack McClain from Marysville, Calif., were best friends in the army. They wound up together at Anzio Beach, Italy, scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II. Mack had a premonition that he wouldn’t make it out of there alive, so he gave Harold some mementos, a belt, some photos, and said: "’Give this to my sister, tell her that I love her,’ Huggins recalls. ’You can even give her a kiss.’"
Harold promised if anything happened to Mack he would do what was asked. One day later, Mack was killed in an artillery barrage. After the war, Harold looked for Mack’s sister but he never found her until Harold’s daughter sent out e-mails to various veterans groups. Some California vets found Mack’s sister, Grace, whose last name changed when she married.
"We have always hoped and prayed that we would meet somebody that would tell us about Mack," says Grace.
Thursday, Aug. 2nd, at the place where his buddy’s name is engraved in marble at the veterans memorial in Marysville, Calif., Harold Huggins kept that promise he made 57 years ago, meeting Mack’s sister for the very first time and giving her that kiss that Mack asked Harold to deliver, turning over those mementos from his fallen friend.
SOURCE: Steve Shepherd.
Franklin Roosevelt’s closest adviser during much of his presidency was a man named Harry Hopkins. During World War II, when his influence with Roosevelt was at its peak, Hopkins held no official Cabinet position. Moreover, Hopkin’s closeness to Roosevelt caused many to regard him as a shadowy, sinister figure. As a result he was a major political liability to the President. A political foe once asked Roosevelt, “Why do you keep Hopkins so close to you? You surely realize that people distrust him and resent his influence.” Roosevelt replied, “Someday you may well be sitting here where I am now as President of the United States. And when you are, you’ll be looking at that door over there and knowing that practically everybody who walks through it wants something out of you. You’ll learn what a lonely job this is, and you’ll discover the need for somebody like Harry Hopkins, who asks for nothing except to serve you.” Winston Churchill rated Hopkins as one of the half-dozen most powerful men in the world in the early 1940’s. And the sole source of Hopkins’ power was his willingness to serve.” (Discipleship Journal, Issue 39, 1987, p. 5)