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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.
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
Sermon Central Staff
MY SHEEP KNOW MY VOICE
Do you all know much about Emperor Penguins? I was not very familiar with these birds until a few years ago when the documentary, March of the Penguins, came out. And as I watched this documentary, I learned many intriguing facts about this largest of the penguin family.
For one thing, Emperors are monogamous; a relatively unique feature in the world of animals; they have one mate for life. Perhaps even more interesting than that, though, is the fact that it is the male Emperors who care for the egg until it hatches. That’s right, every year, when mating season is over, the female Emperors take off for the ocean; all of them together in one huge flock traveling hundreds of miles so that they can fish and get plenty to eat to sustain them and their new chick for a year. Meanwhile, back at their home, the male penguins are caring for the eggs. Each male tucks his egg between his feet to keep it from breaking and to keep it warm in the cold, harsh, winter winds.
But here’s the thing that is perhaps most interesting. When all those females return from the ocean, hundreds, perhaps even thousands of them, how do you think they find their mate in the equally large crowd of males? It’s not that they can just walk up to the doorstep of their nest and step inside. No, there are no nests. The Emperor penguins always find their mate and their children by the sound of their call, their voice. It seems impossible for a flock of thousands of penguins to sort themselves out by the sounds of their voices, but they do it. In our view, it’s nothing short of a miracle!
I suppose such a feat shouldn’t surprise us too much. Perhaps all human voices sound alike to birds, just as bird calls (especially within a single species) all sound the same to humans. Yet, we humans do have some selective hearing; a father or mother will recognize their child’s voice in a crowded room and vice versa. But those of us who don’t have much to do with the bird and animal kingdoms on a daily basis are often startled at just how much animals can distinguish between different people as well as between others members of their own species. To this day, in the Middle East, a shepherd will go into a crowded sheepfold and call out his own sheep one by one, naming them. They will recognize his voice and come to him.
An Anglican priest toured the Holy Land many years ago. One day on his travels, he saw several different groups of sheep converging together on a watering hole. As he watched the meeting, he thought to himself, "Now, there will be trouble. They’ll all get mixed up. The shepherds won’t like this." But the sheep continued to come together, until they formed one big flock of sheep. They all looked alike--a big mass of white wool. "What will they do now?" the priest thought. "How will the shepherds ever separate them out?"
The priest was intrigued enough to stay for a while. And when the sheep had finished drinking, he was amazed at what he saw. Each shepherd gave out a cry. Each let go his unique call, and almost by magic, the sheep divided back into their original herds.
(From a sermon by Clair Sauer, A Call in the Cacophony, 5/11/2011)
Story: At a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity.
Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God took human form in Jesus. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.”
Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.
Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, arm full of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what’s all this rumpus about?”
Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We’re debating what’s unique about Christianity.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” answered Lewis. “It’s grace.”
The room fell silent.
Lewis continued that Christianity uniquely claims God’s love comes free of charge, no strings attached. No other religion makes that claim.
After a moment someone commented that Lewis had a point, Buddhists, for example, follow an eight-fold path to enlightenment. It’s not a free ride.
Hindus believe in karma, that your actions continually affect the way the world will treat you; that there is nothing that comes to you not set in motion by your actions.
Someone else observed the Jewish code of the law implies God has requ...
D. Greg Ebie
ILLUSTRATION: Glynn Wolfe lived 88 years; he was born July 25th 1908 and died June 10th 1997. He died alone in a nursing home in Redlands, California where no one visited him and no one came to claim the body. Wolfe died with $430 to his name which was used to give him a pauper’s funeral. What makes Glynn Wolfe’s death so unique is that he had been married 29 times, a world record. 29 times Wolfe said “I do;” 29 times he said “until death we do part.” Unfortunately it never worked out that way. His shortest marriage lasted 19 days, and his longest lasted seven years. He reportedly died leaving behind 19 children, 40 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren together with many living ex-wives, and innumerable ex-in-laws, but he died alone, and no one came to the funeral. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glynn_Wolfe)
WORSHIP: IT TAKES TIME TO WARM UP
When I was a kid in Kansas City, we lived next door to a family who owned a publishing company. They had an old 4 door Mercedes that they would let their son drive to school. He was 3 years older than me and also named Tim. On those winter mornings when the temperature had dropped below freezing, I would walk next door to their house and find the car sitting in the driveway with the engine running to warm it up. Tim would turn on the car and let it run for 15 minutes to warm up the car and engine and get the fluids thawed and running. One morning though, Tim overslept and in his rush to get ready, he forgot to turn on the car. We got inside the car and it was freezing. We backed out of the driveway and headed to school and the car was just spitting and sputtering. We didn't know if the car was going to get there or not. It took almost the entire ride to school for it to get warmed up and running at its peak capacity.
And that's exactly what happens when we come to worship unprepared. It takes forever to warm up our hearts, focus our minds and free our Spirits so that we can enter worship prepared to encounter and honor and glorify the King. If we don't take the time to prepare before worship on Sunday morning and to worship individually throughout the week, then it takes most of the praise time or even more to get to a place to worship our Creator and Redeemer. And some of us never even get to that place. And then we walk out say, "That's wasn't a very good service today" when in reality the worship we gave God was very good to begin with. Worship is both personal and corporate and there's something unique when you are in the presence of a group of people who have take responsibility to prepare themselves for worship.
THE CHOICE OF SHEEP AND GOATS
I tried and tried to think of a common example that could be used to illustrate this separation of the sheep from the goats but was unable to do so because this situation is so unique and the reason it is so unique is because the sheep and the goats have chosen their species.
Imagine a world where a goat, when presented with the opportunity to be transformed miraculously into a sheep, could do so just by embracing the offer extended by the one making the offer. Supernaturally the goat would be instantaneously into a baby sheep and cared for by the Great Transformer, Christ the Savior and King!
Do you remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about grace? Grace was shown to be prevenient grace which draws each person to Christ. Then there is saving grace, which, when embraced brings that person to Christ, and finally, sustaining grace which enables we humans who are spiritually weak and pitiful to remain faithful to Christ the King.
All of us are born as goats and, as we will see later in this Scripture, the Lord, the Judge, Christ the King will allow each of us to enjoy or endure the path we have freely chosen.
That is why it is so difficult to come up with an illustration. For instance, if a jeweler had a bag of jewels containing both diamonds and cubic zirconia and was separating them into two groups, one for use in jewelry and the other for disposal, it would be a poor illustration as the contents of the bag would have no choice in the matter. In this Scripture, however, the sheep were once goats who have been transformed into sheep by their individual response to the calling grace of God.
"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons."
--Popular Mechanics, forecasting the relentless march of science, 1949
"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers."
--Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943
"I have traveled the length and breadth of this country and talked with the best people, and I can assure you that data processing is a fad that won’t last out the year."
--The editor in charge of business books for Prentice Hall, 1957
"But what ... is it good for?"
--Engineer at the Advanced Computing Systems Division of IBM, 1968, commenting on the microchip.
"There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."
--Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp., 1977
"This ’telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value to us."
--Western Union internal memo, 1876.
"The wireless music box has no imaginable commercial value. Who would pay for a message sent to nobody in particular?"
--David Sarnoff’s associates in response to his urgings for investment in the radio in the 1920s.
"The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a ’C,’ the idea must be feasible." --A Yale University management professor in response to Fred Smith’s paper proposing reliable overnight delivery service. (Smith went on to found Federal Express Corp.)
"Who the heck wants to hear actors talk?" --H.M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927.
"I’m just glad it’ll be Clark Gable who’s falling on his face and not Gary Cooper." --Gary Cooper on his decision not to take the leading role in "Gone With The Wind."
"A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make."
--Response to Debbi Fields’ idea of starting Mrs. Fields’ Cookies.
"We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out."
--Decca Recording Co. rejecting the Beatles, 1962.
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."
--Lord Kelvin, president, Royal Society, 1895.
"If I had thought about it, I wouldn’t have done the experiment. The
literature was full of examples that said you can’t do this."
--Spencer Silver, on the work that led to the unique adhesives for 3-M "Post-It" Notepads.
"So we went to Atari and said, ’Hey, we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ’No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, ’Hey, we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’"
--Apple Computer Inc. founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and H-P interested in his and Steve Wozniak’s personal computer.
"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily in high schools."
--1921 New York Times editorial about Robert Goddard’s revolutionary rocket work.
"You want to have consistent and uniform muscle development across all of your muscles? It can’t be done. It’s just a fact of life. You just have to accept inconsistent muscle ...
There was a art contest held in a local school one Christmas season a few years ago in East Texas. One of the prize winners was a picture drawn by a nine year old boy showing three men, offering gifts to the baby Jesus in his manger. What made the picture unique is how the three gift presenters arrived – there was fire truck on the side of the picture.
The principle asked the boy about his decision to draw the truck and the boy, in his heavy East-Texas accent, was quick to reply: “Well, the Bible says the wise men came from a-far.”
Did you ever notice a tag on a piece of clothing saying, “The irregularities in this product are not flaws, but are a natural result of the handworking of the fabric.”?
That’s the way we are, too!
God put into your very being certain things that reflect His nature and His character in a way that no one else ever has or ever will.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have certain characteristics that no one has ever had before
But no one has the unique combination of characteristics that God has placed in you.
David likens God’s work to that of a weaver
He picks the exact color and thickness of every strand
Then He carefully puts them together to create a unique and beautiful creation.