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The great violinist, Niccolo Paganini willed his marvelous violin to city of Genoa on condition that it must never be played.
The wood of such an instrument, while used and handled, wears only slightly, but set aside, it begins to decay. Paganini’s lovely violin has today become worm-eaten and useless except as a relic.
A Christian’s unwillingness to serve may soon destroy his capacity for usefulness. J.K. Laney, Marching Orders, p. 34.
The great violinist, Niccolo Paganini willed his marvelous violin to city of Genoa on condition that it must never be played. The wood of such an instrument, while used and handled, wears only slightly, but set aside, it begins to decay. Paganini’s lovely violin has today become worm-eaten and useless except as a relic. A Christian’s unwillingness to serve may soon destroy his capacity for usefulness. I never have really understood the idea of collecting antiques. I know that there is a lot of money in that hobby, but I never have understood why someone would by something that is a classic and never use it. People will buy cars for thousands of dollars and they will never drive them. They may have a nice collectors item that everyone can “ewww” and “ahhhh” over, but they aren’t using it. There are many people that God has given great talents and abilities and either they are using it for the glory of God, they aren’t using it all, or they are using them for themselves with the wrong motives. God has given every Christian certain talents and abilities and his intent was that the church might be made stronger through everyone working together.
A Philosopher named Haserot, once observed Dutch housewives wrapping their household belongings in pieces of canvas. Upon closer examination he discovered that the women were wrapping their goods in actual paintings by the Dutch artist Rembrandt.
These women saw a value in the canvas based upon its usefulness to them.
But they missed the canvas’ true worth.
Rejoice in the Shade! (08.16.05--Envy!--Duet. 5: 21)
Standing in the shadows can be lonely at times. When others are taking the bows and hearing the accolades it is sometimes impossible not to be envious. Recognition is something that each one of us by nature yearn for. To be recognized for what we do and how we do it is a pretty simple thing after all. It’s not like we are asking for trophies and plaques to line our walls and bookcases. Simply, to know that others appreciate what we do as much as they appreciate the efforts of others, is not too much to ask--is it?
Yet, life usually isn’t fair when it comes to recognition. We strive to achieve and then, just when we feel that we’ve reached our goal, someone else steals the limelight. They trot out on stage and take the bows that should have been ours. Or, at least, that is what we are prone to think. We plod and they gallop. We strive and they just always seem to get there with ease. There’s something inherently unfair about having to work hard and try our best and then receive nothing more than scant praise. If God is a just god and justice means that we get what we deserve, why is it that so often our strivings and longings find us standing in someone else’s shade? Would it be that bad to capture the spotlight occasionally?
The godly Scottish preacher Andrew Bonar penned a diary entry. He wrote, “This day 20 years ago I preached for the first time as an ordained minister. It is amazing that the Lord has spared me and used me at all. I have no reason to wonder that He used others far more than He does me. Yet envy is my hurt, and today I have been seeking grace to rejoice exceedingly over the usefulness of others, even where it cast me into the shade. Lord, take away this envy from me!” (Andrew Bonar.)
God, in His mercy, is constantly standing between us and ourselves. He knows what is best for us when, most of the time, we have little clue of it. Often He puts us in the “shade” of others just to protect us from ourselves and our own inability to dea...
OBJECT LESSON: SPIRIT-FILLED BOTTLES
(Will need 2 water bottles, One empty and one full)
We can be like these water bottles, here. One is full of "spirit" and one has none. (Crush empty bottle) This empty bottle with no integrity inside is easily crushed under the pressure I apply to the out side. Everything can be destroyed. Its shape and usefulness is no more. But this bottle, full of the "Spirit" will resist me effectively. (Attempt to crush or bounce bottle from the floor). Its full on the inside of "the good stuff" so out side does not cave in.
Sermon Central Staff
COLOSSIAN PHILOSOPHY: "BORROWED" FEATURES
I used to collect basketball cards. This was way back in the early 90s, though I still have held on to them. Basketball cards took off well after baseball cards, and each brand over time had its own unique features. Some were UV coated, others had gold foil on them, some had extensive stats, and some just had the best 'insert cards' or special cards that you’d find with varying odds per pack.
When I started collecting, there were only a few major brands – Fleer, Topps, Upper Deck. However, in the next few years, new brands started to branch off of the old, and some new competitors came into the forefront, as well. After a short while, there were TONS of brands. Many of the brands would take one good feature of another brand and then change everything else to make it unique. It was like a smorgasbord of questionable usefulness, and it was often very confusing to choose given the vast number of trading card brand options.
Anyway, this is similar to the way philosophies were in 60 AD, in the time of the boom of the Colossian church. Many simple philosophical theories would be 'borrowed from,' and other more complicated and sometimes completely different philosophies would branch off. In Colossae, there was a smorgasbord of empty philosophy, and many held eclectic beliefs about existence and the world around them.
(From a sermon by Sterling Franklin, Jesus Christ, the Preeminent One who Reconciles, 10/26/2010)
THE MORE EXCELLENT WAY
I remember a sermon – years ago, in fact I think I may have preached it during my time here as an intern – where my opening illustration was the difference between the way my father chopped wood and the way I chopped it. You may remember the scene – me as a skinny 18 year-old trying to impress my forty-five year-old dad by going as fast and hard as I was able. I would swing with my whole body, big looping strokes as fast as I could until I was forced to pause, huffing and puffing. I would swing five or six or seven real hard times and then rest for a minute or so before going on.
But my dad, my old, out-of-shape dad who I was certain I could work circles around – he established a rhythm, taking his time. He used measured, slow, controlled swings – steady as a drum beat. While I was huffing and puffing, he was steadily thudding away, breaking log after log and stacking it neatly into the woodshed. By the time mom called us for lunch, dad had outpaced me, stacking twice as much wood.
You know, what I learned that day was a more excellent way. Not just a more excellent way of chopping wood, but a more excellent way of approaching life. If we were to break-down the reasons for why my dad’s approach is so much more excellent than my approach probably last on the list of reasons would be that dad’s way was so much more productive. Although in a world where utility or usefulness is considered the greatest virtue – let’s face it, we like things that work well and honor those who are high capacity type-people – in that kind of world, you might think productivity would be at the top of the list, but that really isn’t what makes dad’s way more excellent. It has to do with what is in view, what motive drives the work.
You see, I was interested in impressing – I wanted props for how strong I was, how powerful my swings were, how fast I was. I wanted someone to notice that I was a fine physical specimen who split the daylights out of the wood. I was interested in showing my dad that I was better than he was at splitting wood, that I was the future and he was the past.
Now all this is really hilarious if you know that I was 5’10” and weighed a whopping 120-125 at the time. I may have been 130, but that was about it. I was not a fine physical specimen – I was skinny little punk who obviously thought way too much of himself and way too little of my dad. I was focused on what the work could do for me, where as dad saw his work as service. The family needed wood for the stove – dad chopped wood. His satisfaction came from seeing his family warm – that’s what motivated him.
Dad’s desire to provide fueled his effort and informed his approach to the wood pile. He knew it didn’t matter how fast you swung the axe – what mattered is how well you placed the stroke. If you wanted to have the wood split and put away before winter came, slow and steady won the race.
Spurgeon in his commentary on Ps. 126 said, “The church must not only keep this seed in the storehouse, for such as come to inquire for it, but must also send her sowers forth to cast it among those who are ignorant of its value, or too indifferent to ask for it.
“The church must not sit weeping because men will not apply to her, but must go forth and bear the precious seed to the unwilling, the careless, the prejudiced and the profligate.
“The promise belongs to those sowing in tears. When a man’s heart is so stirred that he weeps over the sins of...
ROOTS AND FRUITS
How many of you have been to a funeral? As you approach the casket you'll see numerous floral arrangements, and these floral displays use two different kinds of flowers.
First there are the bouquets of cut flowers, and there are planters. There's generally more bouquets than planters because the florist can create a more impressive splash of color than a planter can. But both of these floral arrangements have beautiful flowers and both mean a lot to the family of the deceased.
BUT NOW... wait about 6 weeks. What happens then to the cut flowers after that period of time? (They die.) What about the planters? (They usually are still alive.)
Why did the cut flowers die? They died because (unlike the planted flowers) they DIDN'T have any roots. Both sets of flowers had pretty fruits--the flowers, but the cut flowers died because they had no root. It was the root that gave the plant its life...not the fruit
But both sets of flowers were on display at the funeral because of their fruit. You'll never go to a funeral and see a bunch of stems sticking out of a planter with no flowers. The root gives the flower its life. But the fruit (the pretty flowers) give the flower its usefulness in that setting.
Now let's go back to Ephesians 2. Remember it told us in verses 8-9 "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast."
But then, in verse 10 it says: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do (what?) good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." Ephesians 2:10
Why does verse 10 say we were saved (created in Christ Jesus)??? To do good works! But the previous verses tell us we're not saved by those good works; we are saved to DO good works.
John Newton wrote to a young minister advising that God leads his people through distresses, including a sense of their sinfulness. And His purpose? To: ’…preserve in you a due sense of your own unworthiness, and to convince you, that your ability, your acceptance, and your usefulness depend on a power beyond your own.’