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J. Michael Shannon tells how some young people put up a web site to encourage atheism. The site invited people to dare God to send them to hell. More than 400 young people took the challenge. People who took the challenge received a free copy of documentation that promotes atheism, entitled "The God Who Wasnít There." Shannon tells how one man filmed his declaration in the back of a church during a worship service. The site, www.blasphemychallenge.com, is the brainchild of filmmaker Brian Fleming, and founder of the web site "Rational Responders."
THE CATERPILLAR JOURNEY
I heard a quote in college that struck me: "The caterpillar is the most confused creature which roams the planet, because undoubtedly stamped in his soul is the call to fly."
Caterpillars must go through four stages before their metamorphosis is complete. They begin as eggs, next they hatch as caterpillars, then they go through a stage where they eat, and eat, and eat some more. Eventually, they become a chrysalis before the transformation is complete and they can finally emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3: 1 "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Often, we want to walk straight into the calling God has for us. We want to do and be everything God wants us to be and not only that, but we want to skip the journey that takes us there and do it NOW! We want to go from being caterpillar eggs to butterflies! However, we all know that there are risks to anything being born prematurely. In order for anything to be birthed, whether it is a vision or a calling, we who are to fulfill it must go on a journey. We must go through stages and seasons of preparation.
For weeks, our class would observe the caterpillars I had ordered. We would begin to notice that each day they would crawl to the top of the aquarium and stand upside down. It was as though they were saying "Is today the day? Is today the day my transformation will begin?" When they realized it wasn't, they would walk back down and eat the day away. Every morning upon returning to the classroom, we would always be amazed at how much the caterpillars had grown.
Sometimes our lives can reach a point where they seem routine and mundane. Like the caterpillars, we are walking up and down, up and down. We may feel bored with where we are, like God has forgotten us, or as though we are not accomplishing much with our lives. We go through the day wondering. Is this the day? If we find it's not, our response should be like the caterpillars. It's not the day, but God has promised it, so I'm going to prepare for it nonetheless! We should eat, and eat, and eat from the Word of God. We should spend daily time in prayer and worship. We should be building, preparing, and strengthening our spirit man to accomplish the things which God has stamped on our souls to do.
After about two weeks, we would usually come to class one morning to find that many of the caterpillars had formed a chrysalis. From the outside of the chrysalis, it always seemed to my students as though nothing were happening. After a while, they would lose interest in the chrysalis. It wasn't fun to watch, and it wasn't spectacular to look at.
I'm convinced that like the caterpillar, God wants to take us on a journey. I'm convinced there is a process. Job said "For He knows the way that I take, and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Sometimes there is pain in the process. Sometimes the journey is difficult, but God knows and sees exactly where you are. When others look and see an ugly cocoon, He looks inside and sees the beautiful creature that is being transformed. Before David became king of Israel, he was first a shepherd boy. Some of his brothers were more handsome than him and greater in stature, but God did not choose them. In the Bible God spoke in 1 Samuel 16: 7 concerning David "for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." God chose the young, ruddy shepherd boy who had a heart after Him. All those years David spent alone in the field, God was preparing him. Don't despise the cocoon. God may simply be waiting for your character to catch up with your calling.
It is in the difficult process of breaking out of the chrysalis that the butterfly becomes strong. However, if the caterpillar breaks its way out of the cocoon prematurely, he will never survive. His wings will not be developed enough to allow him to properly fly. God does not want us to simply arrive at our calling, He desires for us to be successful in it. You may be a caterpillar with the word 'butterfly' stamped on your forehead wondering "When is it going to happen?" Consider this thought.is it possible that you have yet to visit the cocoon? If you're having trouble waiting for the moment that you break out into your calling, just remember. "He has made everything beautiful in HIS time." (Ecclesiastes 3: 11)
Sermon Central Staff
INVALIDS' PRAYERS BRING REVIVAL
Max Lucado told of a church in Scotland back in the 1940s that was struggling to keep the doors open. A couple of its members were two older ladies who were invalids and couldnít get out for worship any longer. But these ladies refused to allow their infirmities to get in the way of serving their God. They became convinced that their community needed Jesus desperately and they were going to do something about it. They were going to pray.
They determined to make their house a house of prayer.
Around the clock they prayed for God do something powerful.
Then one day, one of the ladies became convinced that God wanted a revivalist by the name of Campbell to come and hold meetings at their church. They talked to their preacher and he contacted Campbell...but Campbell was unavailable. He was booked up.
The women refused to give up in their prayers however...and it wasnít long before--oddly enough--some of Campbellís other revivals became cancelled and he decided to accept the invitation of that small church. He arrived and held 5 weeks of meetings.
The Revival was so well received that hundreds showed up each night. And lives were so changed that many of the local taverns had to close up because they lacked patrons.
One might think it was because of the powerful preaching of a renowned revivalist. But in reality it was because of the faithfulness of two invalid older ladies who dedicated themselves to prayer.
(From a sermon by Jeff Strite, Godís Idea of Church, 5/2/2011)
PRAYER'S BEST POSITION
Three ministers were talking about prayer in general and the appropriate and effective positions for prayer. As they were talking, a telephone repairman was working on the phone system in the background.
One minister shared that he felt the key was in the hands. He always held his hands together and pointed them upward as a form of symbolic worship. The second suggested that real prayer was conducted on your knees. The third suggested that they both had it wrong--the only position worth its salt was to pray while stretched out flat on your face.
By this time the phone man couldnít stay ...
Sermon Central Staff
THE HARVEST IS RIPE
The Harvest is ripe -- Here's proof:
Wycliffe: Vision 2025
Translation projects started in every language on the planet by 2025.
In "The Faith Equation," Dr. Marvin Bittinger, Professor of Mathematics at Purdue University and author of over 175 college math textbooks, claims that by 2033 every person on the planet capable of understanding the gospel will have been presented the gospel, according to modern evangelism trends.
34,000 converts each day in South America
28-37,000 Chinese converts daily
23-25,000 African converts daily
16,000 Muslims come to Christ daily - the following stories are all quoted.
"In December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad al Qataani, a leading Saudi cleric, appeared on a live interview on Aljazeera satellite television to confirm that, sure enough, Muslims were turning to Jesus in alarming numbers. "In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity," Al Qataani warned. "Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity." Stunned, the interviewer interrupted the cleric. "Hold on! Let me clarify. Do we have six million converting from Islam to Christianity?" Al Qataani repeated his assertion. "Every year," the cleric confirmed, adding, "a tragedy has happened."
Stories from Muslim countries: Iraq -- thousands of new Christians since Saddam was overthrown, many new churches started, Egypt -- some reports say 1 million Egyptians have trusted Christ over the past decade or so. The Egyptian Bible Society used to sell about 3,000 copies of the JESUS film a year in the early 1990s. But last year they sold 600,000 copies, plus 750,000 copies of the Bible on tape (in Arabic) and about a half million copies of the Arabic New Testament. The largest Christian congregation in the Middle East, meets in an enormous cave on the outskirts of Cairo. Some 10,000 believers worship there every weekend. A prayer conference the church held in May 2005 drew some 20,000 believers, Afghanistan -- only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000, Kazakstan -- only 3 known Christians in 1990, but now more than 15,000, Sudan -- more than 1 million Sudanese have converted to Christianity just since 2000, and some 5 million have become Christians since the early 1990s, despite a radical Islamic regime and an on-going genocide that has killed more than 200,000.
Seminaries are being held in caves to train pastors to shepherd the huge numbers of people coming to Christ. Why such a dramatic spiritual awakening? "People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead," one Sudanese evangelical leader said, Iran -- in 1979, there were only 500 known Muslim converts to Christianity, but today Iranian pastors and evangelical leaders say there are more than 1 million Iranian believers in Jesus Christ, most of whom meet in underground house churches. One of the most dramatic developments is that many Muslims are seeing dreams and visions of Jesus and thus coming into churches explaining that they have already converted and now need a Bible and guidance on how to follow Jesus."
Worldwide: 174,000 converts daily -- David B. Barret and Todd M. Johnson of the Global Evangelism Movement.
This is truly the most exciting time in all of history to be alive and a part of His Great Commission. The opportunity has never been more dramatic and the need has never been so huge:
All of history has built up to this point.
Global impact in your hometown.
Transportation and communication impacts.
Current end time events.
Israel, wars and other events.
The 4th qtr., bottom of the 9th, the end-game.
(From a sermon by Nate Herbst, The Great Commision -- Discussion, 11/21/2009)
Sermon Central Staff
VACANT HOMES, VACANT LIVES
TIFTON, GA ó The most interesting thing about Tifton is an abandoned Victorian house filled with thousands of bats. Tift County declared the once-elegant house in the townís historic district off limits after a bat specialist said that maybe 20,000 bats had moved in, apparently for good.
Now, teenagers call it the bat house. People talk about the smell, which is an unholy mix of animal urine and decaying wood. "In the summer, ooh, does that place reek," said Linda Turner, 69, a retired nurse and neighbor. "You ainít smelled nothing until you come back here on a hot day."
Brothers and Sisters, Iím not going to visit that bat house. WHAT A SIGHT AND WHAT A STINK IT MUST BE! Vacant houses get infiltrated with all kinds of creatures and probably not just bats. And many of these creatures make a mess, create a big stink, and eventually ruin that dwelling.
But it doesnít just happen with vacant houses, it also happens with vacant lives! If a person doesnít fill their life with good stuff, the bad stuff and sometimes, the evil stuff will move in and take over.
Whatís going on in your house? That is, the house you live in, the fleshly body you live in? Who has moved in? Who has taken over your residence and controlling your life? God wants us to stay clean in this world and that will only happen when we let Him move in, that is, when we fill our lives with worship, prayer and service.
Thy word have I hide in my heart that I might not sin against thee! Ps. 119:11. The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible!
(From a sermon by Steve Shepherd, Our Walk in This World, 4/4/2011)
I remember our friend Taylor Hendley who took teams of missionaries to Russia when it first opened itís doors to us. He described how people would walk from miles around (many all night) to come to worship in a small one-room church with no heat. How to accommodate as many people as possible they could not sit but would stand for up to four hours singing and praying and worshipping.
A NATIONAL PRAYER OF REPENTANCE
Joe Wright is the pastor of Central Christian Church in Wichita, KS. On January 23, 1996, He was asked to be the guest chaplain for the Kansas State House in Topeka. He prayed a prayer of repentance that was written by Bob Russell, pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky. According to an article in the Kansas City Star from January 24, 1996, his prayer stirred controversy, and one member of the legislative body walked out. Others criticized the prayer.
The controversy didnít end there. Later that year in the Colorado House, Republican representative Mark Paschall angered lawmakers by using Joe Wrightís prayer as the invocation. Some members there also walked out in protest.
Paul Harvey got a hold of the prayer and read it on his program. He got more requests for copies of it than any other thing he had ever done. Hereís what he prayed:
"Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask Your forgiveness and to seek Your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good," but thatís exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and inverted our values. We confess that:
We have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it pluralism.
We have worshipped other gods and called it multi-culturalism.
We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.
We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation.
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.
We have killed our unborn and called it a choice.
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem.
We have abused power and called it political savvy.
We have coveted our neighborís possessions and called it ambition.
We have polluted the air...
Late one summer evening in Broken Bow, Nebraska, a weary truck driver pulled his rig into an all-night truck stop. The waitress had just served him when three tough looking, leather jacketed motorcyclists - of the Hell’s Angels type - decided to give him a hard time. Not only did they verbally abuse him, one grabbed the hamburger off his plate, another took a handful of his french fries, and the third picked up his coffee and began to drink it. How would you respond? Well, this trucker did not respond as one might expect. Instead, he calmly rose, picked up his check, walked to the front of the room, put the check and his money on the cash register, and went out the door. The waitress followed him to put the money in the till and stood watching out the door as the big truck drove away into the night.
When she returned, one of the bikers said to her, "Well, he’s not much of a man, is he?" She replied, "I don’t know about that, but he sure ain’t much of a truck driver. He just ran over three motorcycles on his way out of the parking lot."
WE'LL STAY OUT OF THE WAY
The Call to Worship had just been pronounced starting Easter Sunday Morning service in an East Texas church. The choir started its processional, singing "Up from the Grave He Arose" as they marched in perfect step down the center aisle to the front of the church.
The last lady was wearing shoes with very slender heels. Without a thought for her fancy heels, she marched toward the grating that covered that hot air register in the middle of the aisle. Suddenly the heel of one shoe sank into the hole in the register grate.
In a flash she realized her predicament. Not wishing to hold up the whole processional, without missing a step, she slipped her foot out of her shoe and continued marching down the aisle.
There wasnít a hitch. The processional moved with clock-like precision. The first man after her spotted the situation and without losing a step, reached down and pulled up her shoe, but the entire grate came with it! Surprised, but still singing, the man kept on going down the aisle, holding in his hand the grate with the shoe attached.
Everything still moved like clockwork. Still in tune and still in step, the next man in line stepped into the open register and disappeared from sight. The service took on a special meaning that Sunday, for just as the choir ended with "Allelujah! Christ arose!" a voice was heard under the church shouting, "I hope all of you are out of the way ícause Iím coming out now!"
The little girl closest to the aisle shouted, "Come on, Jesus! Weíll stay out of the way."