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2 Timothy 1:5-2:1
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PRAYER AND PRESIDENT LINCOLN
A clergyman from New York, during a call on President Lincoln at the White House, said: "I have not come to ask any favors of you, Mr. President; I have only come to say that the loyal people of the North are sustaining you and will continue to do so. We are giving you all that we have, the lives of our sons as well as our confidence and our prayers. You must know that no boy’s father or mother ever kneels in prayer these days without asking God to give you strength and wisdom."
His eyes brimming with tears, Mr. Lincoln replied: "But for those prayers, I should have faltered and perhaps failed long ago. Tell every father and mother you know to keep on praying, and I will keep on fighting, for I know God is on our side."
As the clergyman started to leave the room, Mr. Lincoln held him by the hands and said: "I suppose I may consider this as sort of a pastoral call?"
"Yes," replied the clergyman.
"Out in our country," replied Lincoln, "when a parson makes a pastoral call, it was always the custom for the folks to ask him to lead in prayer, and I should like to ask you to pray with me today. Pray that I may have the strength and the wisdom."
The two men knelt side by side, and the clergyman offered the most fervent plea to Almighty God that ever fell from his lips. As they arose, the President clasped his visitor’s hand and remarked in a satisfied sort of way: "I feel better."
(From a sermon by George Bannister, Praying For America, 7/1/2010)
The royal palace in Tehran, Iran has one of the most beautiful entrances of all palaces in the world today. As one enters the royal palace the doomed ceilings, sidewalls, and columns seemed to be covered with diamonds. When the Royal Palace was planned, the architects sent an order to Paris for mirrors to cover the entrance walls. The mirrors finally arrived in their crates. When they took the crates apart, all the broken pieces fell out. They were all smashed while being transported. They were going to throw them all away when one of the men had an idea to see how the broken pieces would look if they fitted them together. The result is an enormous distortion in reflections, and it sparkles with diamond like rainbow colors.
Broken to be more beautiful!
That is exactly what God can do with the broken pieces of our lives if we will just turn it over to Him.
“Bring Back the Rotary Phone?” Acts 13:42-52 Key verse(s): 50:“But the Jews incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city. They stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.”
There are three things you can do in life when confronted by change. You can examine the change, judge its merits and incorporate it into your life. You can, upon that same examination, deem it unworthy or foolhardy and courageously push it out of your way. And, finally, motivated by fear, you can pull over to the side of the road and let it rush past you. The first and second alternatives feed on courage. The latter feeds on your fears.
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have a “thing” about telephones. I grew up in a day and age when phones were something that were either mounted solidly on the kitchen wall or sat boldly on your father’s desk. In either case, they had rotary dials and not buttons. Telephones were heavy, so if you dropped them on your foot you knew it. They had cords that connected the receiver to the base. They were not portable. If you wanted to make a phone call you had to go to one of these two places. You asked to use the phone and, permission given, you placed the call after carefully dialing the number. That is, of course, if the neighbor was not on the line before you. If the phone rang you knew exactly where it was ringing from since it had to be either on the kitchen wall or on Dad’s desk. You did not need to search for the source of the ringing since there was no need to worry about a misplaced receiver. So connected, they were always there, ready to be picked up and answered.
Since those wonderful days of Bell Telephone so many years ago, many things have changed. Bell is no longer Bell. Phones are light-weight; that wonderful dial has been replaced with buttons, and receivers are no longer connected to the base unit. These modern times find us wandering around the entire inside of our homes as well as the outside with a wireless receiver. There is no longer the need to worry about “party” lines or if you knew the exchange number before your called. Everything is programmed in and, with only the touch of a finger to a button, your call is sent instantly around the world. Add cell phones and internet calling to the mix, and you’ve got a picture of change probably unequalled in our society by any other technology over the last forty years. But, as mentioned, I have a “thing” about phones. When they ring I can’t find the receiver. When I want to make a call my finger tips are too large and I hit the wrong buttons. And, worst of all, they are no longer devices for which you ask permission to use. Now they are deemed as much a part of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as breathing and going to the bathroom. I lament the passage of time and the changes in phone technology to that extant. I often find myself yearning for the days when phones were heavy, a privilege to use, stayed in one place and you seldom misdialed. Yet, as my children have informed me so often, those days are gone and I just need to adapt to the change. All my complaining won’t bring back the rotary phone. Besides, despite the inconvenience of the convenience, modern communication has been enhanced by these sometimes inconvenient enhancements.
When changes come, especially those which demonstrate “inconvenience” even hardship, it is hard to embrace them. We want to shut our minds to them because our security is threatened. The “pattern” and habit of our lives is a comfortable thing and when this is threatened, we often react blindly and without thought. From time to time I have threatened to install an old rotary phone in our house. But, after some thought, I knew this would be foolish. The day of the rotary phone is past and I need to move on. I recall reading about a group of Amish folk who pulled up stakes and moved their entire community to Peru. When asked why they were taking such a drastic measure, they responded that “We got tired of having to move our wagons to the side of the road to let the cars go by.” When presented with change, they pulled over refusing to take a stand one way or the other. Sometimes that’s the easiest way to go because changes that confront the very purpose of who we are and what we do are the most difficult ones to handle. We simply don’t want to be wrong, so we pull over to the side of the road and let the challenge pass. This is what the Jews in Antioch were confronted with. Paul and Barnabas challenged their beliefs and they, finding great comfort in those beliefs, refused to accept the need to change to something with more promise and greater hope. They pulled their wagons over and let the teachings of Paul and Barnabas pass by hoping that the whole thing would simply go away. When it comes to changing our lives for the better and removing those bad habits that are comfortable, it is never wise to pull our wagons over to the side of the road.
Sermon Central Staff
Some time ago, a small east coast community was struggling financially, so they called an open town meeting to discuss the problem. A couple dozen people were there, including a stranger that no one seemed to know. Most assumed he was a tourist who had just dropped in on the meeting. He started to make a comment when various ideas were offered, but he was interrupted, so he just kept quiet for the rest of the meeting and ended up leaving early.
Just as the stranger left, a late arriving resident came in and asked with excitement, "What was HE doing here? Is he going to help us?"
The others said, "Who are you talking about? Who was that man?"
The latecomer replied, "You mean you don't know? That was John D. Rockefeller. His yacht is in our harbor. Didn't you get his help?"
Now, John D. Rockefeller happened to be one of the richest men in the world at the time. So someone cried out in despair, "No, we didn't get his help, because we didn't know who he was." (Paul Lee Tan, Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, #4162)
My dear friends, God often shows up in our lives, and in our church meetings, desiring to help us and bless us richly. But so often, we ignore Him like some "ignorant tourist" and miss out on the blessing, because we don't recognize who He is.
(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, The Face of God, 3/9/2011)
FASTING BEFORE THE GREAT AWAKENING
Jonathan Edwards was a man used by God in the First Great Awakening. I have read that he preached in a weak, squeaking, monotone voice and held his tiny manuscript so close to his face that people could not see his expressions. When he preached, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," in his weak, squeaking, monotone, people had to strain to hear him. It is said that he preached powerfully without the energy, eloquence, or theatrics some modern "evangelists" depend on. Strong men gripped pews and pillars as if they felt themselves falling into hell. Judgment day had dawned and they were desperately holding on to life until the altar call.
For three days before he first preached that sermon, he did not eat or sleep. Claiming New England for Christ was the only thing that mattered to him. Prayer was important to him. Food and sleep were not. Nothing distracted him. I am certain he did not intend it, but people passing his room heard his weak, squeaking voice as he sobbed, "God, give me New England! Give me New England!"
He finally rose from his knees and made his way to the pulpit. He was so weak, he could barely prop himself up. Before he opened his mouth, great conviction had already fallen on the congregation.
Three longs days have passed since the fire has gone out. Gloominess engulfs the earth. Hatred has triumphed over love and compassion. War has defeated peace. Patience has been obliterated by anxiety and kindness has been annihilated by cruelty. Jubilation has been abolished by feelings of grief and sorrow. The foundation of faith has failed. The cornerstone of conviction is cracked. The basis of belief has been blown apart. The labor of loyalty is now loathed. The devotion to devoutness is damaged. The commitment to compassion has been compromised. And the determination of discipleship has been destroyed.
But yet, deep in the hearts and character of his elect the fire smolders. The flames of faith, even though dampened by disillusionment and contained by contentment, still live on in the recesses of the soul. All it will take is the fortitude to flame the embers of enthusiasm once again.
What will that take? When will it happen? What can be expected? Will it occur just as the fire has predicted? Is it now time for the fire to be rekindled into a blaze of glory once again?
Yes! The sealed tomb is open! It is empty! He is not here! The grave could not contain Him! He has risen as He said! He’s alive! Like the legendary phoenix raising out of the ashes the fire is aflame with its fullness once again! Yet this is no legend! It is authentic! The fire is blazing around the world forever more! Blaze, Spirit Blaze! Set the World on fire! Yes, out of a pile of ash rises an all encompassing fire! Once again, we can feel its warmth! Once again, our darkness is dispelled! No more doubt! No more need to deny knowing Him! No more necessity for betrayal.
Our discipleship had been dampened; our commitment, compressed; our devoutness, deterred; our loyalty, lacking; our belief system, bothered; our conviction, crushed; our faith, floundered; our joy, jostled; our patience, perplexed; our peace, pelted; our love, lowered; and our compassion, cooled. Yet, now the firestorm of Jesus is burning deep within your and my soul! Our discipleship is now determined to be dutiful; our commitment, catchy; our devoutness, definite; our loyalty, likely; our belief system, bona fide; our conviction, certain; our faith, full; our joy, jubilant; our patience, practical; our peace, pure; our love, lively; and our compassion, compliant and dutiful. Out of the ashes, comes the Savior of the world.