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The Japanese introduced a tree to the world that is called a Bonsai tree. It is measured in inches instead of feet as other trees are measured. It is not allowed to reach anywhere near its full growth potential but instead grows in a stunted miniature form. The reason for it growing in stunted form is that when it first stuck its head out of the ground as a sapling, the owner pulled it out of the soil and tied off its main tap root and some of its branch feeder roots and then replanted it. By doing this, its grower deliberately stunted its growth by limiting the roots ability to spread out and grow deep and take in enough of the soils nutrients for a normal growth. What was done to the Bonsai tree by its owner is what Satan has purposed to do to the believer, if he can. He is going to try to tie off our tap root of prayer. He wants to limit our receiving in prayer what God supplies for our spiritual growth.
The movie industry has made some pretty creative attempts at explaining conflict with god. For those of you that remember the movie “Caddyshack,” there is a scene toward the end of the movie in which a golfing enthusiast priest is playing the round of his life. As he makes his way around the links, the weather turns.
The movie depicts the scene as a battle between this priest in search of nirvana through a golf game and a insensitive and spiteful god that would thwart the priest’s quest for that perfect game. The scene ends with the priest defiantly raising his putter to the violent heavens and being struck down by a well-placed bolt of lighting.
I’m sure many of you have seen the movie “Forrest Gump.” Well, there is a scene in this movie about man’s conflict with god as well. In this movie, the character “Lt. Dan,” who lost both of his legs in a battle in a Vietnamese jungle, and was saved by none other than Forrest Gump, decides its time to have it out with god.
Forrest, by this time, is trying to make it on his own as a shrimp boat captain. Lt. Dan joins Forrest as his first mate. The two men manage only to salvage tires, license plates, and toilet seats from the ocean’s bottom. After several failed attempts, Lt. Dan asks Forrest, “Where’s this god of yours?”
As soon as Lt. Dan asked the question, god arrived in the form of a destructive hurricane. As the storm rages, we find Lt. Dan strapped to the top of the mast, next to an American flag, shaking his fist at god, daring god to try to destroy the boat, and cursing like a sailor. When the storm subsides, Lt. Dan and Forrest’s boat was the only one still afloat. Since no one else could harvest the shrimp, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company became a multi-million dollar industry. A few minutes later in the movie we find Lt. Dan at peace with the world. He had met god face to face, so the filmmaker would have us believe, and won.
Let me share with you one last example, one that I saw recently. The scene is found in the season finale of the popular television show “The West Wing.” President Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, faces his major conflict with god.
The scene finds President Bartlett alone in the National Cathedral following the funeral of his secretary and long-time friend. The President orders his chief of staff to tell the Secret Service agents outside to secure the perimeter so he won’t be disturbed. After a moment or two of silence, Bartlett does battle with god.
Bartlett begins to curse god for, as he saw it, causing his friend to die in a car accident. He curses god and blames him for the other tragedies that have occurred up to this point, during his presidency. He defiantly lights a cigarette, takes a few puffs, and then tosses the cigarette to the floor, crushing it under his shoe as he gives god a dirty look.
The producers of the show set the scene the way they did in order to try to get the audience to feel sorry for Sheen’s character and respect his independence and defiance of god. It certainly didn’t work for me. In fact, I was so offended by the scene; I doubt I’ll watch the show again.
In all likelihood, and I think I’m on safe ground with this assumption, the producers of the shows I just described have spent little time studying James’ letter. From what we see often times in the media, conflict with god is portrayed as something god desires and causes.
More often than not, we find man as the hero in the conflict and god being the weak, unknowable force. In the media, when man comes to terms with god, it is more often than not due to man’s strength and god’s capitulation, not as a result of man’s submission to God’s will. Hollywood does not see conflict with God the same way James does, or the way we should.
If you go on-line and read the transcript of this portion of this morning’s message, you will see that when I describe these various scenes, I use a little “g” when I make mention of God. The reason is simple. In depicting man’s conflict with God, Hollywood shows quite brazenly that they have no idea who the God of the Bible is.
This morning, as we study God’s Word, we’re going to see what conflict with God looks like from God’s perspective, not man’s.
“Secret of the Fifth Man!” Mark 2:1-5 Key verse(s) 3:“Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.”
Five people passed the beggar but only one stopped to help. The will it seems to get somewhere on time, a preoccupation with self, easily thwarted a fragile affection that stirred in each heart but bloomed in only one. Why did the fifth man stop? Why did he stop, discover, propose and act? What did the others miss that this man saw?
Tennessee Williams tells a story of someone who forgot – the story of Jacob Brodzky, a shy Russian Jew whose father owned a bookstore. The older Brodzky wanted his son to go to college. The boy, on the other hand, desired nothing but to marry Lila, his childhood sweetheart – a French girl as effusive, vital, and ambitious as he was contemplative and retiring. A couple of months after young Brodzky went to college, his father fell ill and died. The son returned home, buried his father, and married his love. Then the couple moved into the apartment above the bookstore, and Brodzky took over its management. The life of books fit him perfectly, but it cramped her. She wanted more adventure – and she found it, she thought, when she met an agent who praised her beautiful singing voice and enticed her to tour Europe with a vaudeville company. Brodzky was devastated. At their parting, he reached into his pocket and handed her the key to the front door of the bookstore.
“You had better keep this,” he told her, “because you will want it some day. Your love is not so much less than mine that you can get away from it. You will come back sometime, and I will be waiting.” She kissed him and left. To escape the pain he felt, Brodzky withdrew deep into his bookstore and took to reading as someone else might have taken to drink. He spoke little, did little, and could most times be found at the large desk near the rear of the shop, immersed in his books while he waited for his love to return.
Nearly 15 years after they parted, at Christmastime, she did return. But when Brodzky rose from the reading desk that had been his place of escape for all that time, he did not take the love of his life for more than an ordinary customer. “Do you want a book?” he asked. That he didn’t recognize her startled her. But she gained possession of herself and replied, “I want a book, but I’ve forgotten the name of it.” Then she told him a story of childhood sweethearts. A story of a newly married couple who lived in an apartment above a bookstore. A story of a young, ambitious wife who left to seek a career, who enjoyed great success but could never relinquish the key her husband gave her when they parted. She told him the story she thought would bring him to himself.
But his face showed no recognition. Gradually she realized that he had lost touch with his heart’s desire, that he no longer knew the purpose of his waiting and grieving, that now all he remembered was the waiting and grieving itself. “You remember it; you must remember it – the story of Lila and Jacob?”
After a long, bewildered pause, he said, “There is something familiar about the story, I think I have read it somewhere. It comes to me that it is something by Tolstoi.” Dropping the key, she fled the shop. And Brodzky returned to his desk, to his reading, unaware that the love he waited for had come and gone. (Signs of the Times, June, 1993, p. 11.)
When we focus on ourselves continually we often fail to see what is happening around us. We feel affection, friendships, even erotic love. But, when it comes to acting on these things they are, as C. S. Lewis put it, nothing but flowers surrounded by weeds unless there comes a gentle gardener to till the weeds and primp the garden. So, what caused that fifth man to act when four others did not? Why did Brodzky fail to grasp the one opportunity of love he thought he had always lived for? One man’s passion was compelling. The other’s was not. The former in affection reached out beyond sympathy. He did not miss love when he found it because the “gentle gardener,” Christ, had cultivated the love in his heart giving it beauty, purpose and mission. Brodzky and the four who did not stop missed an opportunity to manifest their love because they were preoccupied with the most important thing in life, themselves. The flowers of affection and friendship were choked by the weeds of self-interest. Christian love, charity as it was once called, takes the natural loves God puts in all men’s hearts and tend them, giving them purpose and, most of all, action. Charity doesn’t stop at sympathy. It carried the lame man to Christ where sympathy could only stand and watch. This is the secret of the fifth man.
There was a time when I told the Lord that I would do whatever He wanted me to do EXCEPT CAST OUT DEMONS and do weird stuff like that with the occult. I now realise that Jesus' power and authority far exceeds that of demons. Oh yes, I believe that demons exist! You don't want to talk about it? Well, that's how I felt too, but it's no use trying to bury your head in the sand. We are, as many Christians say, involved in a Spiritual Battle. If all we are battling is having a bad day, and a headache, then hello? We have missed the point! That's not a Spiritual Battle! Today, I fought off spiritual forces of darkness who tried to thwart my every step as I battled to get a panadol! Get a life!
On the other hand, on one occasion I found myself praying that demons would stop oppressing a friend who had been male witch and had become a Christian. He knew the reality of demons. Am I to do that everyday? I hope not. That was a battle!
I was at Borders the other day (which reminds me that I must visit Koorong bookstore soon) and I noticed that most of the young adult best selling books had occult themes ranging from mythological warewolves to ghosts. And of course I can't not mention other demonically associated characters like vampires who fall in love with humans ("New Moon", etc and yes, no matter how much ...
Walking in the Confidence of God
Christians walk in confidence because they serve a "Providential God:"
Christians serve a Lord whose plans and purposes come about. Psalms 33:4-11 says, "For the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does. The LORD loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of His unfailing love. By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; He puts the deep into storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD! Let all the people of the world revere Him. For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm. The LORD foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations."
In gratitude toward God, Job writes, "You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence you watched over my spirit." (Job 10:12) Job was recognizing that he owed God his entire life because God had given him constant vigilance and had absolute control of his life.
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia gives us this explanation of "providence." It "implies more than just seeing in advance. It is anticipation causing one to take steps to meet a need through making a plan. It is in a sense that pre-vision becomes pro-vision... Applied to God, providence obviously includes the divine foreseeing, but God's foreseeing has a fuller and broader reference in view of divine overruling. Providence, then, is the preservation and superintendence of all things by God. It is divine governance whereby all possible events are woven into a coherent pattern and all possible developments are shaped to accomplish the divinely instituted goal."
Many Holy Spirit illuminated Christians have seen the Lord provide for a real need in their lives. Walking in the Confidence of God begins with accepting His provision through Christ, who died for your sins so you may have eternal life.
Accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord ?
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
The Sovereignty of God. What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the god-hood of God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that God is God. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of Heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Psa. 115:3). To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is "The Governor among the nations" (Psa. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the "Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords" (1 Tim. 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.
Sermon Central Staff
ROAD RAGE AND PATIENCE
(From Bob Bob Mionske’s Blog on Cyclists and the Law)
Charles Montgomery writes:
"The driving experience primes car drivers for meltdowns. They are conditioned by popular culture to see cars as symbols of freedom, yet city driving is a slow-motion trap that subjects drivers to constant restrictions on their movement. Drivers are thwarted from enjoying the promise of motion by traffic lights, by congestion – and yes, by cyclists – and they suffer the natural but impossible desire to escape and move forward. All this while being strapped to their seats!"
In fact, there are a number of factors influencing driver anger; road rage psychologist Dr. Leon James has identified fifteen sources of driver anger, including:
• Restriction: “Being prevented from moving forward when you expect to arouses frustration, and along with it anxiety and an intense desire to escape the restriction. This anxiety prompts drivers to perform risky or aggressive maneuvers to get away or get ahead.”
• Regulation: Regulation of driving “feels like an imposition and arouses a rebellious streak in many, which then prompts them to disregard whatever regulations seem wrong or inconvenient.”
• Lack of personal control: The “lack of personal control over traffic events is frustrating and often leads to venting anger on whoever is around.”
• Being put in danger: “Hair-raising close calls and hostile incidents” result in “physiological stress, along with many negative emotions — fear, resentment, rage, a sense of helplessness, and a depressed mood.”
• Venting: Vented anger “is felt as an energizing rush. This seductive feeling is short-lived, and is accompanied by a stream of anger-inspiring thoughts that impair judgment and tempt us into rash and dangerous actions.”
• Unpredictability: “Streets and highways create an environment of drama, danger, and uncertainty.”
These feelings, simmering beneath the surface, threaten to boil over in anger as soon as somebody to blame can be found. And then along rolls a cyclist, taking up road space, slowing people down, wearing funny clothes, not paying taxes, and not even obeying the law! Never mind that some of these stereotypes may not even be true; the cyclist makes a convenient scapegoat to blame.
Patience with circumstances – we make plans, and want to stick to them, but everything seems to get in the way.
Patience with capital – much of the current meltdown of the economy has to do with the impatience of investors – we want to double our money now. I heard this amazing woman Jacqueline Novogratz share stories of how "patient capital" can bring sustainable jobs, goods, services -- and dignity -- to the world’s poorest. – If investors have a vision that goes beyond betting on the fastest horse, and are willing to work with entrepreneurs in the 3rd world, we can move beyond charity to true development.
Patience with history – How long oh Lord? – 7 times the Psalmist asks this.
How long, LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?
(From a sermon by Mike Wilkins, Fruit of the Spirit: Patience, 10/19/2009)
Jesus went into the synagogue on the Sabbath and saw a man with a crippled hand. He knew that the Pharisees were watching to see what he would do, and he felt angry that they were only out to put him in the wrong. They did not care a scrap for the handicapped man, nor did they want to see the power and love of God brought to bear on him.
There were other instances where Jesus showed anger or sternness. He "sternly charged" the leper whom he had healed not to tell anyone about it (Mark 1:43) because he foresaw the problems of being pursued by a huge crowd of thoughtless people who were interested only in seeing miracles and not in his teaching. But the leper disobeyed and so made things very hard for Jesus.
Jesus showed anger again when the disciples tried to send away the mothers and their children (Mark 10:13-16). He was indignant and distressed at the way the disciples were thwarting his loving purposes and giving the impression that he did not have time for ordinary people.
He showed anger once more when he drove "out those who sold and those who bought in the temple" (Mark 11:15-17). God’s house of prayer was being made into a den of thieves and God was not being glorified -- hence Jesus’ angry words and deeds. Commenting on this, Warfield wrote: "A man who cannot be angry, cannot be merciful." The person who cannot be angry at things which thw...
ONLY ONE TEST
For some crazy reason I have one of those migraine headaches this morning that started last night. I tried to pray this morning but couldn’t get past the pain. I spoke to God but more about MY pain instead of your pain. But I knew that I wanted to get this lesson out. Sometimes when I have a migraine I know that Satan is trying to thwart me from encouraging each of you. There has to be something good to hurt this bad. I want God to be real to you. I want you to trust God. I want your relationship with Him to flourish. So I started looking up verses about putting God to the test. I say this because I know He will show up for you. But I also know that there are over 50 verses in the Bible that talks about not putting God to the test EXCEPT ONE!
Van Gogh was born March 30, 1853, in Groot-Zundert, son of a Dutch Protestant pastor. Early in life he displayed a moody, restless temperament that was to thwart his every pursuit. By the age of 27 he had been, in turn, a salesman in an art gallery, a French tutor, a theological student, and an evangelist among the miners in Belgium. His experiences as a preacher are reflected in his first paintings of peasants and potato diggers; of these early works, the best known is the rough, earthy Potato Eaters (1885, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam).