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DEAREST JESUS, HOLY CHILD
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient cradle song,
Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given
While angels sing with pious mirth.
A glad new year to all the earth.
SOURCE: Martin Luther
SPIRITUAL GROWTH TAKES TIME
There was once a farmer who went to town to purchase seeds for his farm. As he was returning home one of the squash seeds he had purchased fell from his pocket onto the ground. It happened that within a few feet was another seed of a different type. The place where the two seeds lay was rather fertile, and miraculously they took root.
After about a week the squash seed showed signs of growth. The second seed showed none. After two weeks the squash began to sprout leaves. The second seed showed none. After seven weeks the squash began to show fruit. The second seed still showed no progress. Four more weeks came and gone.
The squash plant reached the end of its life bearing much fruit in that time, but the other seed finally began to slowly grow. Many years later, the squash was all but forgotten, but the other tiny seed, an acorn, had grown into a mighty oak tree.
So many people want their faith to be like the squash. They want to experience it all right now... Spiritual training -- like Epaphras understood, requires hard work and patience -- as anything worthwhile does.
(From a sermon by Steve Smith, "Pursuing Godly Living" 2/15/2009)
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VICTOR OR VICTIM--THE CASE OF ROBERT REED
If ever there was a person who could have offered Jesus an excuse, Robert Reed would be that person. His hands are twisted and His feet are useless. He canít bathe himself. He canít feed himself. He canít brush his teeth, comb his hair or put on his clothes by himself. His shirts are held together by velcro. He has cerebral palsy. This disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike and just going for a walk. But it didnít keep him from graduating from high school and then from college with a degree in Latin. It didnít keep him from eventually teaching at the college level. And it didnít keep him from going on 5 overseas mission trips. And it didnít keep him from becoming a missionary to the country of Portugal. He moved there, rented a hotel room and began to study Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the crowd was gone and he found someone who would tutor him in the language there. Then he stationed himself daily in a park where he gave out brochures about Jesus. Within 6 years he led 70 people to the Lord. Why? Because he chose not to offer any excuses. In kindness I would ask you, whatís your excuse today?
Have you been crippled from the past? If so, do you want to hold on to it? Itís the choice of being a victor or a victim.
(From a sermon by David Henderson, "A Lame Excuse," 1/5/2011)
May your Saturday mornings be special.
The author is unknown.
The older I get, the more I enjoy Saturday mornings. Perhaps itís the quiet solitude that comes with being the first to rise, or maybe itís the unbounded joy of not having to be at work. Either way, the first few hours of a Saturday morning are most enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, I was shuffling toward the basement shack with a steaming cup of coffee in one hand and the morning paper in the other. What began as a typical Saturday morning, turned into one of those lessons that life seems to hand you from time to time. Let me tell you about it.
I turned the dial up into the phone portion of the band on my ham radio in order to listen to a Saturday morning swap net. Along the way, I came across an older sounding chap, with a tremendous signal and a golden voice. You know the kind, he sounded like he should be in the broadcasting business. He was telling whoever he was talking with something about "a thousand marbles".
I was intrigued and stopped to listen to what he had to say. "Well, Tom, it sure sounds like youíre busy with your job. Iím sure they pay you well but itís a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet. Too bad you missed your daughterís dance recital."
He continued, "Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a good perspective on my own priorities."
And thatís when he began to explain his theory of a "thousand marbles."
"You see, I sat down one day and did a little arithmetic. The average person lives about seventy-five years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on average, folks live about seventy-five years."
"Now then, I multiplied 75 times 52 and I came up with 3900 which is the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their entire lifetime. Now stick with me Tom, Iím getting to the important part."
"It took me until I was fifty-five years old to think about all this in any detail", he went on, "and by that time I had lived through over twenty-eight hundred Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be seventy-five, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy."
"So I went to a toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up having to visit three toy stores to round-up 1000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right here in the shack next to my gear. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away."
"I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight."
"Now let me tell you one last thing before I sign-off with you and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I ...
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PRAYER FOR THIEVES
About 12 years ago, three men broke into our church building here. They didn't steal much, and they didn't really damage all that much (they broke a couple of doors, and stole a few small items) but we called the police and reported the incident. After the police left, our youth minister at the time and I were talking in the youth room and a thought came to me.
"Brad," I said, "you know those guys are going to get caught some day. Wouldn't it interesting if -- once they were arrested -- we got the chance to talk to them about Jesus?"
Brad agreed and we decided to pray for that specific opportunity.
The next day, the men were arrested. And two of the men called US! They didn't call the other churches they broke into. They called us. And they wanted to talk to me.
So I went down to the jail and the men told me they wanted to ask our forgiveness for breaking in. I responded that "Well, forgiveness is what we do... but would you be open to doing Bible study with me?" They jumped at the chance.
We met every week for the next few weeks, and as a result we baptized one of them, and -- last I knew -- they were involved in the church their family went to.
Like I said -- I don't think I've been praying enough for that.
(From a sermon by Jeff Strite, God's Idea of Church, 5/2/2011)
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CHARLES FINNEY AND DANIEL NASH--EVANGELISM AND PRAYER
Charles Finney is a name known to everyone who has studied the mighty movements of God in country. A former lawyer turned preacher by the call of God, Charles Finney was one of the key figures during the Second Great Awakening in 19th Century America, which touched virtually every aspect of life in this country. Finney is sometimes called "Americaís foremost revivalist," and thereís no doubt that God had His hand on him. In the seven years in which Finney was an evangelist, there were an estimated 500,000 conversions. His ministry in Rochester, NY from 1830-1831 has been called the greatest year of spiritual awakening in American history. Someone did a follow-up study of those reportedly converted under Finneyís preaching, and found that, years later, 80% of those who made professions of faith gave evidence of true life change.
What is more, there were immediate effects felt in the social structures of entire cities and townships. By every standard we know, that is extraordinary. How do you account for the effectiveness that visited this man and his ministry? To what can we attribute the amazing harvest God accomplished from his preaching? If you ask Charles Finney, he will point to one man who partnered with him in his crusades: Daniel Nash. Daniel Nash joined himself to Finney for the purpose of prayer. When Finney was invited to speak in a city, Nash would arrive 3 or 4 weeks early, rent a room, find a small group of like-minded Christians to join him, and start a prayer meeting to plead with God for souls. Once the public meetings began, Nash usually did not attend. He and his group would stay hidden away, agonizing in prayer for the conviction of the Holy Spirit to melt the crowd.
On one occasion, Finney himself noted in his journal that when he arrived in a particular town for a revival, he was met by a lady who ran a boarding house. "Brother Finney," she asked, "do you know Mr. Nash? He and two other men have been at my boarding house for the last three days, but they havenít eaten a bite of food. I opened the door and peeped in at them because I could hear them groaning and I saw them down on their faces. They have been this way for three days, lying prostrate on the floor and groaning. I thought something awful must have happened to them. I was afraid to go in and I didnít know what to do. Would you please come and see about them?" And Charles Finney replied, "No, it isnít necessary. They just have a spirit of travail in prayer."
Finney and Nash traveled thousands of miles together, in prayer and proclamation of the Gospel. Then in the winter of 1831, Nash took ill. On December 20 of that year, while he was on his knees in prayer, he died at age 56. Charles Finney said this of his dear friend and partner in ministry: "Said a good man to me: 'Oh, I am dying for the want of strength to pray! My body is crushed, the world is on me, and how can I forbear praying?' I have known that man to go to bed absolutely sick, for weakness and faintness, under the pressure. And I have known him to pray as if he would do violence to Heaven, and then have seen the blessing come as plainly in answer to his prayer as if it were revealed, so that no person could doubt it any more than if God had spoken from heaven.
"Shall I tell you how he died? He prayed more and more; he used to take the map of the world before him, and pray, and look over the different countries and pray for them, till he expired in his room, praying. Blessed man! He was the reproach of the ungodly, and of carnal, unbelieving professors; but he was the favorite of Heaven, and a prevailing prince of prayer." Today, there is a marker on a neglected grave in a cemetery near the Canadian border that reads, "Daniel Nash, Pastor, Laborer with Finney, Mighty in Prayer." He never had the limelight, the stage, or the accolades. But he shook heaven and hell because he believed in the power of praying together.
(From a sermon by Fred Markes, Principles of Praying for the Lost, 8/30/2011)
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ARE YOU READY TO RESCUE THE PERISHING?
I read a story of a man that got saved as a young, adult. He was so excited about Christ for the first couple of weeks, he told everybody the difference Jesus had made in his life. One Sunday night he was at his church and they sang this song, "Rescue the perishing, care for the dying, snatch them in pity from sin and the grave, weep over the erring one, bring them to Jesus, tell the poor sinner that Jesus can save." He heard that song and he got so excited that as soon as the service was over he rushed up to the pastor, and said, "Pastor, I'm ready."
The pastor said, "Ready for what?"
He said, "Man, I'm ready to go rescue the perishing--let's do it!"
The pastor looked at him and said, "Well, that's not something we really do, that's just a song we sing."
It wounded that man's spirit for many years until he realized that the normal Christian life is to be excited about rescuing the perishing.
(From a sermon by Fred Markes, Do I Have A Burden For The Lost?, 8/30/2011)
Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. To keep food on the table the father, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood.
Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of the children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.
After many discussions, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, he would support the other brother while he attended school.
They tossed a coin and Albrecht won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. By the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When he to his village, the family held a festive dinner to celebrate his triumphant homecoming. After the meal, Albrecht rose to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, "And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you."
Albert rose and said softly, "No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines with a pen or a brush. No, brother, for me it is too lat...
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ORDINARY PEOPLE FOR CHRIST
Bud Villers was a good man. Bud was my neighbor. I grew up beside him until he died when I was in college. Bud helped my dad put a roof on our house, he assisted my dad when they poured concrete sidewalks and porches. My dad helped him put a roof on his patio. When Bud got older he would hire me to cut his grass occasionally. He usually invited me in for a glass of Coke and a piece of pie. He was always generous. I also delivered his newspaper for a couple of years. He tipped well. He was kind. He didnít get upset if our baseball, wiffle ball or football went into his yard.
Mr. Villers was an avid fisherman. He often brought us some of his trout catch.
I donít remember Bud talking a lot about religion when I was a kid, but it struck me that EVERY Sunday morning I saw Bud walking up the street with his Bible in hand-órain or shine Bud walked to church with a Bible in his hand every week.
Every year he invited my younger brother and me to attend VBS at the Nutter Fort Baptist Church. Most years we didnít go, but some years when some of my friends were going I did go. Then when I was 15 Bud invited us to church on a Sunday. I didnít go, but my younger brother did. And the next weekend he invited us again. Again, I didnít go but my little brother went. The same thing happened the next Sunday and the Sunday after that. My brother started going to church two or three times a week. I caught him reading the Bible a couple of times.
Months later Bud was still inviting me and I was still not interested. Then a singing group attended my school. They were college students and the girls were really pretty. They performed several songs and they told us that they were going to be at a church that evening and they wanted us to come. When I got home from school that day, Bud came over and invited my little brother and me to come to church that evening. The singers from the school were going to be there, so I went. That night I became a Christian and my life has never been the same since.
To my knowledge, Bud Villers never taught a Sunday School class, never preached a sermon, never held a position of leadership in the church. He was an usher, a faithful usher. He simply lived a life of integrity and love for God and his family and friends. And occasionally invited people to church.
If Bud was an ice cream flavor, he would be vanilla. But he would be HńAGEN-DAZS vanilla.
Icebreaker Question: Who influenced you to become a Christian or to check out Christianity?
(From a sermon by Quint Pitts, Uncommonly Average, 10/17/2009)
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PRAYER TRANSFORMS A WORKPLACE
Brandon A. Bradley told his story in Pray! Magazine some time back about an opportunity in his life:
"I am a surgical assistant--the surgeon's right-hand man. At one point in my career, I lost my passion. I wanted a job with spiritual significance, and I prayed for that. Imagine my shock when God led me to a position in plastic surgery. Why would God want me in a hotbed of vanity? I wondered. During my quiet times, the Lord assured me that this was part of his plan, and that I should wait upon his direction. So I obeyed, continuing to pray that the Lord would use me in this job.
"The first thing I heard him say when I started my new position was, 'Gather and pray in my name.' There were only a few Christians who worked in the plastic surgery department, but I started with them. 'I'm going to start praying for our workplace each Monday, 15 minutes before we clock in,' I told them. 'I'll be in Operating Room 2, and I hope you will join me.'
"We met each week, praying for our work, our colleagues, and our patients. Soon we were praying boldly for opportunities to witness. By the end of that year, God had answered many prayers, which included 10 friends who accepted Christ as their savior. God has blown me away with his answers, and he has given me a purpose far beyond patient care. He expanded my circle of influence by transferring me to the main surgery department, where I now rotate through all four surgery departments in the hospital campus. I have been able to start several prayer groups throughout the hospital. Each group focuses on inviting the Holy Spirit to move in their department. They encourage each other in Christ, pray for opportunities to witness, seek God's will, and ask that Christ be glorified in their work.
"I don't know if I'll always work in a surgery department, caring for patients who are under anesthesia most of the time I'm with them. But since I realized that I could advance the kingdom of God through praying at work, I have found renewed passion for my job, as well as for the opportunities for ministry it provides."
(From a sermon by Bart Leger, Buying Up Opportunities, 1/3/2011)