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"I DON'T WANT TO BE A SAINT..."
So the Bible clearly teaches that everyone who has been sanctified and set apart by God is a saint. I read a story earlier this week about a Wisconsin mom who was trying to teach her kids how God sees them. She told them that when they receive Jesus as Savior that He then sees them clean and without sin. Actually, He sees them as saints. So she could call them Saint Sawyer or Saint Mylee or Saint Charlie. She kept this up all week, periodically calling them her little saints. Then, towards the end of the week, the family was going for a ride in the car when one of the one of the sons asked, "Can I be funny for a minute?" This prompted the parent's curiosity so they answered, "Sure." Then the boy proclaimed, "I don't want to be a Saint; I'd rather be a Packer!"
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DON'T WASTE YOUR LIFE
In his book Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper recounts a story his father often told of his days as a fiery Baptist evangelist. It is the story of a man who came to saving faith in Jesus Christ near the end of his earthly existence. Piper writes:
"The church had prayed for this man for decades. He was hard and resistant. But this time, for some reason, he showed up when my father was preaching. At the end of the service, during a hymn, to everyone’s amazement he came and took my father’s hand. They sat down together on the front pew of the church as the people were dismissed. God opened his heart to the Gospel of Christ, and he was saved from his sins and given eternal life. But that did not stop him from sobbing and saying, as the tears ran down his wrinkled face, 'I’ve wasted it! I’ve wasted it!'"
(From a sermon by Monty Newton, Bowed Knees, Confessing Tongues and God Glorifying Lives, 12/24/2010)
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SEEING YOU FOR REAL
Just a few years ago, Leadership Journal did an interview with Saul Cruz, who along with his wife founded Armonia (Harmony) Ministries in Mexico City. They minister to hundreds of poor people all over Mexico today, but they began their ministry by planting a church on the edge of a vast garbage dump.
Starting the church had its challenges. In particular, the people had a difficult time trusting Saul's leadership. Although Saul is a gifted strategist and thinker, he often appeared aloof. His education prepared him to be a psychologist, a family therapist, or a college professor, and by his own admission, at that point Saul was "unwilling to plunge into the pain and poverty of his people."
But all of that changed one Sunday morning when someone burst into their worship service with a frantic need: the local sewage system had started leaking and then flooding the street. As the sewage continued to gush, the street was on the verge of collapse. The crisis also threatened to sweep away dozens of nearby homes. To make matters worse, the city wouldn't respond for at least three days.
Saul and a local engineer organized the onlookers and church members to stop traffic and make sandbags. After working frantically for nearly fifteen hours, by three o'clock the next morning they had finally stopped the flow of sewage. It was cold and drizzling, and Saul was shivering. Exhausted, covered with mud and sewage, Saul and his church members emerged from the pit and walked back to the church. Some of the women had heated water so the volunteers could wash off the filth.
As they gathered together, Saul started to cry. "I'm sorry," he said, "but I need to pray. I need to thank God, because he just saved us. He saved you. He saved me. Can we pray?" Then Saul put out his hands as they all held hands and knelt to pray. By the time they had finished praying, Saul had earned their trust, becoming their leader and their friend.
Later on, Saul would comment, "People need to see you're for real -- that you really care for them, that you're even ready to put your life on the edge for them."
("Dumping Ground: An Interview with Saul Cruz," Leadership Journal, October, 2007. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, The Church's Concerns (or priorities), 1/20/2011)
March of 1981, President Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr. , and was hospitalized for several weeks. Although Reagan was the nation’s chief executive, his hospitalization had little impact on the nation’s activity. Government continued. On the other hand, suppose the garbage collectors in this country went on strike, as they did in Philadelphia not long ago. That city was not only in a literal mess, but the pile of decaying trash quickly became a health hazard. A three-week nationwide strike would paralyze the country. Who is more important—the President or a garbage collector? In the body of Christ, seemingly insignificant ones are urgently nee...
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BEWARE OF DOG!
Upon entering a little country store a stranger noticed a sign saying "DANGER! BEWARE OF DOG!" posted on the glass door. Inside, he noticed a harmless old hound dog asleep on the floor near the cash register. He asked the store’s owner "Is that the dog folks are supposed to beware of?"
"Yep," the proprietor answered, "That’s him."
The stranger couldn’t help being amused. "That certainly doesn’t look like a dangerous dog to me," he chuckled. "Why in the world did you decide to post that sign?"
"Because," the owner replied, "before I posted that sign, people kept tripping over him."
This illustration is about an old hound dog that was sound asleep at the foot of the cash register. It seems that even a useless guard dog will from time to time slow some people down if they happen to trip over him.
I wonder if that’s the kind of Christian that you or I want to be. Do you want people to trip over you and only then discover that you are a watchdog for the Lord or would you rather be alert and ready to point people to Jesus?
(From a sermon by Mark Aarssen, Stand On Guard For Thee, 6/29/2011)
THEY SENT ME TO FINISH
With all the pomp and prestige that the Chinese government went to in order to put their best foot forward, there was one person who they honored who stood out. He is now in his seventies, but China brought him to Bejing as an honored guest. Why? The odd thing is that John Steven Akwhari is not famous for being a champion. In fact, he was the last place finisher of the 1968 Olympic Marathon in Mexico.
Why would China who put all of their focus on winning as many gold medals as possible focus on a 70-year-old last place finisher? Because John Akwhari understood why he was in the Olympics like no one else. He represented Tanzania in the Marathon that year. Early on in the journey, John stumbled, fell and injured his knee and ankle. He was immediately out of medal contention. By 7 p.m. an Ethiopian runner won the race. John stumbled into the stadium with a bloody leg and injured ankle over an hour later, which is a lifetime in an Olympic competition. Yet, thousands of fans remained in the stadium awaiting his arrival. And as he limped and hobbled, the people stood and cheered him on. Even though he was not a medal contender, he was a true competitor.
Reporters could not understand why he continued to run despite his injuries and the plain and simple fact that the he was out of the race early on. He somberly explained to reporters what they had missed about the Olympics. It was not simply about him and his achievement or failure. He represented something bigger than himself. He said, now this is translated but you get the jist: "My country did not send me 7,000 miles to begin a race; they sent me to finish the race."
God teaches us to follow Him no matter what. "Even if good people fall seven times, they will get back up." (Proverbs 24:16). God teaches us in Hebrews to keep going: "Let us run with determination the race that lies before us." (Hebrews 12:1)
(From a sermon by James Bohrer, "COMPLETING THE RACE!" 1/14/2009)
Imagine a group of people coming to your home and interrupting your Twinkie-eating, TV-watching routine with an urgent message: “Good News! We’re from the United States Olympic Committee. We have been looking for someone to run the marathon in the next Olympics. We have statistics on every person in the entire nation on computer. We have checked everybody’s records – their performance in the president’s fitness test in grade school, body type, bone structure, right down to their current percentage of body fat. We have determined that out of two hundred million people, you are the one person in America with a chance to bring home the gold medal in the marathon. So you are on the squad. You will run the race. This is the chance of a lifetime.”
You are surprised by this because the farthest you have ever run is from the couch to the refrigerator. But after the first shock passes, you are gripped by the realization of what’s happening in your life. You picture yourself mingling with the elite athletes of the world. You allow yourself to imagine that maybe you do have what it takes. At night you dream about standing on the podium after the race and hearing the national anthem, seeing the flag raised, and bending low to receive the gold medal.
You begin to feel a sense of urgency. It will be your body wearing those little racing togs, with a billion people watching on television. But greater than any external pressure is the internal drive that says, “This is the race I was created to run. This is my destiny. This is why I was born. Here’s my chance!”
This race becomes the great passion of your life. It dominates your mind. It occupies every waking moment. To run the race – to win if you can – become the central focus of your existence. It is what gets you out of bed in the mor...
HOW DID I SPEND MY 75 YEARS?
Statisticians tells us that the average life span is now around 75 years. If you’re under 30 then you think that is a long time. If you’re around my age, you’re beginning to realize that’s not really very long at all.
A few years ago, someone went to the trouble to research what people do with their time, and came up with these results:
If we live to be 75, most of us will have spent 3 solid years, 24 hours a day, acquiring an education - grade school, high school & college.
We’ll have spent 7 years eating, 24 hours a day, - some more, some less, obviously. We’ll have spent 14 years, day & night, working. We’ll have spent 5 years riding in automobiles or airplanes.
We’ll have spent 5 years talking with each other -again some more & some less. We’ll have spent 1 year sick or recovering from sickness. And get this, we’ll have spent 24 years of our life sleeping!
We’ll have spent 3 years reading books, magazines & newspapers. And 12 years amusing ourselves - watching TV, going to the movies, fishing, etc.
That totals up to 75 years - and that is what the researchers say, on the average, most of us will have done with our lives.
As I looked at these statistics I began thinking. Let’s suppose that you spent every Sunday of your life, for 75 years - through infancy, childhood, adulthood, old age - in God’s house worshipping during a Church Service. Now if you did, how much time would you have spent worshiping God? Figure it out - the answer is less than 5 1/2 months.
But let’s ...