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Bishop Lalachan Abraham
BILLY GRAHAM: CHOICES
Billy Graham said, "The strongest principle of life and blessings lies in our choice. Our life is the sum result of all the choices we make, both consciously and unconsciously. If we can control the process of choosing, we can take control of all aspects of our life. We can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of our life. So start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.
"If you don’t make a decision, then time will make it for you, and time will always side against you."
YOU'LL FIND JESUS THERE
"Tomorrow morning I'll open up your heart" the surgeon said to the 8 year-old-boy.
"You'll find Jesus there," the boy said.
The surgeon continued, "I'll open your heart and check the damage."
"You'll find Jesus there," the boy said.
"When I see the damage, I will suture you back up and then think about the next step," said the surgeon.
"You will find Jesus in my heart because my Sunday school teacher told me so. She said it says so in the Bible. Besides that, our Sunday school songs say He lives there," said the boy.
The surgery took place the next day. After the surgery the surgeon began to make notes of what he found. In his mind there was no hope and no cure. The little boy would die within a matter of months.
The thought began to get to the doctor and all of a sudden the doctor shouted to God, "Why did you do this to the boy? Why can't he live a normal life?"
God spoke to the surgeon's heart and said, "The boy is a part of my flock and will always be a part of my flock. When he is with me there will be no more suffering and pain. He will have comfort and peace. One day his parents as well as you will join him and my flock will continue to grow."
The next day the surgeon went to the boy's room and sat down with the parents beside the bed.
In a moment or two, the boy opened his eyes and asked very quietly, "What did you find in my heart?"
With tears flowing down his cheeks, the surgeon said, "I found Jesus there."
AUGUSTINE AND THE FOUR STATES OF MAN
In the 5th century AD, St. Augustine wrote about the "4 States of Man":
* The first state of man (the haec sunt prima) is "living according to the flesh -- with reason making no resistance." This can be seen in so many ancient cultures and religions (and unfortunately more than a few in our own time) with their human sacrifices, their idols, their pagan ceremonies, and even cannibalism. Human life -- without power -- was lightly regarded. Animals, especially domesticated animals, were often valued more highly than human life. Reason often vanishes when weighed against lust and self-gratification. Even today, this seems to be coming full circle.
* The second state of man is "recognition of sin through the Law . . . but sinning knowingly." It was so important for Satan to remove the Ten Commandments from our classrooms and courtrooms. It was critical for him to "separate church and state." So long as people knew the Law, it would not be so easy to ignore the Law. Without the reminders of the Law, we easily return to the first state of man. Does any of this sound familiar?
* The third state of man is "faith in the help of God -- but he perseveres in seeking to please God." Man has begun to be moved by the Spirit of God. We are already standing with one foot in the hell which we have created, but in the "third state", man knows it. So he still struggles against his own sinful nature because he has not yet been fully healed.
* The fourth state of man is "the full and perfect peace in God." This we find in harmony with Jesus Christ by the power of the Holy Spirit. In the person of Jesus Christ, we see how far we have departed from God.
Augustine adds, "The will of man is always free, even and particularly when it can no longer will to do evil." But Adam and Eve were not gods, "and their 'free will' would not have sufficed, even in paradise, to merit immortality. Divine assistance was needed. Their immortality could only continue by their continued relationship with the Divine. So how much more do we need God's help since our fall?"
Augustine continues, "Even the good merits and qualities which people may display toward one another are gifts from God. Every good quality comes from His grace. God's mercy is the ground of salvation. Therefore, let no man boast. Out of faith spring hope and love. We hope only in God -- not in men and not in ourselves." ("The History of Doctrines", Reinhold Seeberg, p. 366)
Dorothy Sayers wrote, "If men will not understand the meaning of judgment, they will never come to understand the meaning of grace."
2 Samuel 12:1-12:15
1 Thessalonians 1:1-1:10
Can you imagine what it was like for the church in Smyrna as they watched their beloved and aged pastor burn at the stake? Polycarp was his name. he was a disciple of Jesus’ disciple, the Apostle John. One could tell it immediately because he possessed the same tenderness and compassion as his mentor.
Polycarp was Bishop of the church at Smyrna (present day Turkey). Persecution broke out in Smyrna and many Christians were fed to the wild beasts in the arena. The godless and bloodthirsty crowd called for the carcass of the leader – Polycarp.
The authorities sent a search party to find him. He had been taken into hiding for some Christians but the Romans tortured two young believers until they finally disclosed his location. When the authorities arrival was announced there was still time to whisk Polycarp away but he refused to go saying, “God’s will be done.”
In one of the most touching instances of Christian grace imaginable Polycarp welcome his captors as if they were friends. He talked with them and insisted they eat a meal. Ha made only one request before being taken away – he asked for one hour to pray. The Roman soldiers listened to his prayer. Their hearts melted and they gave him 2 hours to pray. They had second thoughts as well and were overheard asking each other why they were sent to arrest him?
Other authorities also experienced a warmed heart when Polycarp arrived. The Proconsul tried to find a way to release him too. “curse God and I will let you go!” he pleaded.
Polycarp’s reply was: “For eighty-six years I have served him. He has never done me wrong. How then can I blaspheme my King was has saved me?”
The Proconsul again looked for a way out. “The do this old man, just swear by the spirit of the emperor and that will be sufficient.’
Polycarp’s reply was: “If you imagine for a moment that I would do that, then I think you pretend that you don’t know who I am. Hear it plainly. I am a Christian.”
More entreaties by the Proconsul
Polycarp stood firm.
The proconsul threatened with the wild beasts.
Polycarp’s reply was: “Bring them forth. I would...
The movie industry has made some pretty creative attempts at explaining conflict with god. For those of you that remember the movie “Caddyshack,” there is a scene toward the end of the movie in which a golfing enthusiast priest is playing the round of his life. As he makes his way around the links, the weather turns.
The movie depicts the scene as a battle between this priest in search of nirvana through a golf game and a insensitive and spiteful god that would thwart the priest’s quest for that perfect game. The scene ends with the priest defiantly raising his putter to the violent heavens and being struck down by a well-placed bolt of lighting.
I’m sure many of you have seen the movie “Forrest Gump.” Well, there is a scene in this movie about man’s conflict with god as well. In this movie, the character “Lt. Dan,” who lost both of his legs in a battle in a Vietnamese jungle, and was saved by none other than Forrest Gump, decides its time to have it out with god.
Forrest, by this time, is trying to make it on his own as a shrimp boat captain. Lt. Dan joins Forrest as his first mate. The two men manage only to salvage tires, license plates, and toilet seats from the ocean’s bottom. After several failed attempts, Lt. Dan asks Forrest, “Where’s this god of yours?”
As soon as Lt. Dan asked the question, god arrived in the form of a destructive hurricane. As the storm rages, we find Lt. Dan strapped to the top of the mast, next to an American flag, shaking his fist at god, daring god to try to destroy the boat, and cursing like a sailor. When the storm subsides, Lt. Dan and Forrest’s boat was the only one still afloat. Since no one else could harvest the shrimp, Bubba Gump Shrimp Company became a multi-million dollar industry. A few minutes later in the movie we find Lt. Dan at peace with the world. He had met god face to face, so the filmmaker would have us believe, and won.
Let me share with you one last example, one that I saw recently. The scene is found in the season finale of the popular television show “The West Wing.” President Bartlett, played by Martin Sheen, faces his major conflict with god.
The scene finds President Bartlett alone in the National Cathedral following the funeral of his secretary and long-time friend. The President orders his chief of staff to tell the Secret Service agents outside to secure the perimeter so he won’t be disturbed. After a moment or two of silence, Bartlett does battle with god.
Bartlett begins to curse god for, as he saw it, causing his friend to die in a car accident. He curses god and blames him for the other tragedies that have occurred up to this point, during his presidency. He defiantly lights a cigarette, takes a few puffs, and then tosses the cigarette to the floor, crushing it under his shoe as he gives god a dirty look.
The producers of the show set the scene the way they did in order to try to get the audience to feel sorry for Sheen’s character and respect his independence and defiance of god. It certainly didn’t work for me. In fact, I was so offended by the scene; I doubt I’ll watch the show again.
In all likelihood, and I think I’m on safe ground with this assumption, the producers of the shows I just described have spent little time studying James’ letter. From what we see often times in the media, conflict with god is portrayed as something god desires and causes.
More often than not, we find man as the hero in the conflict and god being the weak, unknowable force. In the media, when man comes to terms with god, it is more often than not due to man’s strength and god’s capitulation, not as a result of man’s submission to God’s will. Hollywood does not see conflict with God the same way James does, or the way we should.
If you go on-line and read the transcript of this portion of this morning’s message, you will see that when I describe these various scenes, I use a little “g” when I make mention of God. The reason is simple. In depicting man’s conflict with God, Hollywood shows quite brazenly that they have no idea who the God of the Bible is.
This morning, as we study God’s Word, we’re going to see what conflict with God looks like from God’s perspective, not man’s.
Decisions are public displays of our character.
THE BIG BLACK DOOR
An Arab chief tells a story of a spy who was captured and then sentenced to death by a general in the Persian army. This general had the strange custom of giving condemned criminals a choice between the firing squad and the big, black door. As the moment for execution drew near, the spy was brought to the Persian general, who asked the question, "What will it be: the firing squad or the big, black door?" The spy hesitated for a long time. It was a difficult decision. He chose the firing squad. Moments later shots rang out confirming his execution.
The general turned to his aide and said, "They always prefer the known way to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet, we...
DOING WHAT FEELS RIGHT
Although most Americans claim to be religious, that is they claim to believe in an absolute God of some kind, most live and believe as practical atheists. A recent survey by George Barna discloses some shocking results. Barna wanted to see how American’s opinions had changed after 9/11. He surmised that Americans would finally begin differentiating between right and wrong because the terrorist actions of the preceding months could only be described as evil. Reason no longer works in our culture.
At the start of 2000, almost four out of ten adults (38%) said that there are absolute moral truths that do not change according to the circumstances. When the same question was asked in the just-completed survey, the result was that just two out of ten adults (22%) claimed to believe in the existence of absolute moral truth.
Interestingly, when people were further queried as to the source of the principles or standards on which they base their moral and ethical decisions, the post-attack survey discovered that only o...