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It is said that Cyrus, the founder of the Persian Empire, once had captured a prince
and his family. When they came before him, the monarch asked the prisoner, "What will
you give me if I release you?" "The half of my wealth," was his reply. "And if I release
your children?" "Everything I possess." "And if I release your wife?" "Your Majesty, I will
give myself." Cyrus was so moved by his devotion that he freed them all. As they returned
home, the prince said to his wife, "Wasn’t Cyrus a handsome man!" With a look of deep
love for her husband, she said to him, "I didn’t notice. I could only keep my eyes on you-
-the one who was willing to give himself for me."
A Candymaker in Indiana wanted to make a candy that would help us remember who Christmas is really about. So he made a Christmas Candy Cane. He incorporated several symbols for the birth, ministry, and death of Jesus Christ. He began with a stick of pure white, hard candy. White to symbolize the virgin birth and sinless nature of Jesus. Hard candy to symbolize the solid rock, the foundation of the Church, and firmness of the promises of God. The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the name of Jesus. It also represented the staff of the "Good Shepherd". The candymaker then included red stripes. He used three small stripes and a large red stripe to represent the suffering Christ endured at the end of his life. The candy became known as a Candy Cane -- a decoration seen at Christmas time. The meaning has faded, but still gives joy to children young and old, whom Jesus loves and treasures.
Douglas Hyde was a major leader in the Communist Party in England during the 1930’s and 1940’s. However, in 1948 he converted to Christianity. Later he wrote a fascinating little book, Dedication and Leadership, in which he pointed out that the means of developing leaders among the communists were not all that different from the means of developing leaders among Christians. The only real difference, Hyde observed, was that the communists had actually employed those means.
Hyde developed an entire chapter to a young man named Jim. Jim had approached Hyde after a lecture in which Hyde boldly asserted that the Communist Party could take anyone who was willing to be trained in leadership and turn him into a leader.
Sizing him up, Hyde took Jim to be a man who “was almost pathetically anxious to be turned into a leader.” In fact, “As I looked at him I thought that I had never seen anyone who looked less like a leader in my life.”
According to Hyde, Jim was extremely short and fat, with a pale complexion, a slightly crossed eye, and worst of all, a most debilitating handicap: “Quite literally he came to me and said: ‘C-c-comrade, I w-w-want you to t-t-t-take me and t-t-turn me into a l-l-leader of m-m-m-men.’ I looked at Jim and I wondered how I was going to do it. Then I thought to myself: ‘Well, I told the class that we could take anyone who was willing to be trained in leadership and turn him into a leader, and here is Jim pathetically anxious for me to do it. This is a challenge.’ So I set about the job.”
Then Hyde writes: “It will be observed that I had made only one qualification. This was that the would-be leader must be willing to be trained. This presupposed a certain attitude of mind, which Jim already had. I was, so far as I could see at that moment, almost the only thing I had to build on.”
What was that one qualification, that one attitude? An eagerness to learn, a willingness to be trained. It was indeed all that Jim had - but it was enough to get started.
Jim spent many months showing up to lectures and classes, listening to the leaders discuss communist philosophy, history, and strategy. Then they put a man under Jim for him to tutor. From there they sent him into his workplace to build relationships with other men and gradually infect them with seeds of communist thought. Eventually they even enrolled him in a public speaking course.
“[Jim] was appalled at the thought,” Hyde wrote. “But he knew, nonetheless, on the basis of his experience in tutorial work that he had unsuspected potentialities. So he went. We did not turn him into a great orator, we did not even entirely cure him of his stutter, although, as he gained confidence in himself this became modified and finished up as a noticeable but not entirely unhelpful impediment in his speech.”
Jim eventually assumed leadership in his industry’s local trade union and from there went on to become a national leader and a key agent of the Communist Party. As Hyde put it, “Jim, the most unpromising-looking piece of human material that ever came my way had become a leader of men.”5
5. Howard & William Hendricks. Iron Sharpens Iron. Moody Press, C/O, Chicago, Illinois, 1995, pg. 53-54.
THE WISDOM OF BABES
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Out of the mouth of babes?” Certainly you have. It comes from the simple truth that sometimes it takes a child to reveal lasting wisdom. It seems foolish but it isn’t!
· Patrick, age 10, said, “Never trust a dog to watch your food.”
· Michael, 14, said, “When your dad is mad and asks you, "Do I look stupid?" don’t answer him.”
· Michael, wise man that he was also said, “Never tell your mom her diet’s not working.”
· Randy, 9 years of age said, “Stay away from prunes.” One wonders how he discovered that bit of wisdom.
· Kyoyo, age 9, said, “Never hold a dust buster and a cat at the same time.”
· Naomi, 15 said, “If you want a kitten, start out b...
"Christian education recognized the inspired Word of God, not only as its text and the sum of its message, but also as the source of the principles by which successful Christian education may be carried on."
Sermon Central Staff
INTENDING TO GROW
In the 1920s there was a young African American child who was growing up in Cleveland. One day a famous athlete named Charlie Paddock, came to his school to speak to the students. At the time Paddock was considered "the fastest human being alive." He told the children, "Listen! What do you want to be? You name it and then believe that God will help you be it."
That little boy decided that he too wanted to be the fastest human being on earth. The boy went to his track coach and told him of his new dream. His coach told him, "It’s great to have a dream, but to attain your dream you must build a ladder to it. Here is the ladder to your dreams. The first rung is determination! And the second rung is dedication! The third rung is discipline! And the fourth rung is attitude!" The result of all that motivation is that he went on to win four gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He won the 100 meter dash and broke the Olympic and world records for the 200 meter. His broad jump record lasted for twenty-four years. His name was Jesse Owens.
Spiritual growth is not an accident. It is intentional. You must intend to grow. You must make a choice to grow. I don’t know how to say it any clearer than this. You are as close to Jesus Christ as you choose to be. If you are not growing spiritually don’t blame your wife or husband or kids or parents or pastor. You are as close to God as you choose to be. If you don’t feel close to God right now, guess who moved? God didn’t move.
(From a sermon by Stephen Sheane, New Year - New You, 12/23/2010)
One of my favorite stories from the Old Testament is the story of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath. (1 Kings 17: 7-24) Elijah the prophet of God is sitting by a brook that had dried up since there had been “no rain in the land.” Elijah had been led to the brook by the Lord who was feeding him daily by means of the brook and the ravens who brought him food. Doubtless the fact that the brook had now dried up was of concern to Elijah. Nevertheless, he waited patiently on the Lord. The Lord came to Elijah and told him to go to the town of Zeraphath to the house of a widow. There, the Lord told Elijah, he would find food and drink since He had “commanded” the widow to provide it.
Elijah picked himself up, dusted off his cloak and followed the divine instructions. Reaching the town he connected with the widow who was searching for fuel with which to make her meal. Elijah asked her for food and drink. Being poor, destitute and herself about to perish from lack of both, she responds by telling him that all she has left is enough flour to bake a loaf of bread for herself and her son. After that she was sure that they would perish for lack of any more food. Elijah assures her that “The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain on the land.” Although skeptical, the widow complies and prepares a meal for the prophet. She prepares a meal for herself and her son as well. Ultimately, the prophet’s words hold true and neither the flour nor the oil runs out until rain returns to the land. Elijah, the widow and her son are fed on a promise--that the bin would remain bottomless.
I like this story not only because it appeals to my faith, it also appeals to my curiosity. What must it have been like to wake up each morning, peer into the bin and see the flour level amazingly the same, morning after morning. What a thrill it must have been to consume the bread made with the endless flour and wellspring of oil. Each bite must have seemed like you were consuming a miracle. And, appealing to my human condition of always looking to find something for nothing, my imagination is piqued. I can easily fantasize how remarkable it would be to transfer such bounty from the widow and her son to my life. Wouldn’t it be grand to be able to “go to the bin” daily and pull out just enough cash to pay the bills? Wouldn’t it be great to be able to lift that lid and discover that the scrumptious meal we shared together as a family yesterday was freshly preserved and waiting for consumption today? In general, wouldn’t it be great to have some never-ending source of anything -- A’s on assignments, product rebates, birthday greetings, even a water softener that never ran out of salt?
MY FRIEND WILL FIND ME
Sam was a great bird dog. If he pointed to a clump of bushes, there surely was a bird in there. He was much more than just a bird dog. Often we’d share together lazy lunches in an abandoned apple orchard, and the snooze that followed.
Late one afternoon, Sam and I became separated. Neither of us was familiar with the area. I called and whistled. No sign of Sam. I had to get back to town for an important appointment. But how could I leave Sam? If he finally came back and I wasn’t there, would I lose him for good?
Then I remembered a trick an old dog trainer had passed on. I unbuttoned my jacket, and laid it on the ground under the branches of a small bush. I worried all night. But when I returned the next morning there was Sam curled up with his nose under the sleeve of my jacket. He looked up and wagged his tail. His eyes seemed to say, "Where’ve you been friend? I’ve been waiting for...