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PARABLE OF THE CANDLES
There was a blackout one night. When the lights went out, I fumbled to the closet where we keep the candles for nights like this ... I lit four of them. I was turning to leave with the large candle in my hand when I heard a voice,
"Now, hold it right there."
"Who said that?"
"I did." The voice was near my hand.
"Who are you? What are you?"
"I'm a candle."
I lifted up the candle to take a closer look. There was a tiny face in the wax. "Don't take me out of here!"
"I said, Don't take me out of this room."
"What do you mean? I have to take you out. You're a candle. Your job is to give light. It's dark out there."
"But you can't take me out. I'm not ready," the candle explained with pleading eyes. "I need more preparation."
I couldn't believe my ears. "More preparation?"
"Yeah, I've decided I need to research this job of light-giving so I won't go out and make a bunch of mistakes. You'd be surprised how distorted the glow of an untrained candle can be..."
"All right then," I said. "You're not the only candle on the shelf. I'll blow you out and take the others!"
But right then I heard other voices, "We aren't going either!"
I turned to the other candles, "You are candles and your job is to light dark places!"
"Well, that may be what you think," said the first one, "You may think we have to go, but I'm busy ... I'm meditating on the importance of light. It's really enlightening."
"And you other two," I asked, "Are you going to stay, too?"
A short, fat, purple candle with plump cheeks spoke up. "I'm waiting to get my life together, I'm not stable enough."
The last candle had a female voice, very pleasant to the ear. "I'd like to help, "she explained, "but lighting the darkness is not my gift ... I'm a singer. I sing to other candles to encourage them to burn more brightly."
She began a rendition of "This Little Light of Mine." The other three joined in, filling the closet with singing.
I took a step back and considered the absurdity of it all. Four perfectly healthy candles singing to each other about light but refusing to come out of the closet.
Here is a question for you--when was the last time you shared the gospel to someone? This world is full of darkness, with many people stumbling around trying to find their way. You can be a light for them, and believe me, there's a light waiting for you. It can all happen with something as sharing the faith, to just a smile across the room, to a quick hello to a forgotten friend. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. LET YOUR LIGHT SO SHINE BEFORE MEN THAT THEY MAY SEE YOUR GOOD WORKS, AND GLORIFY YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN." Matthew 5:14-16
- Author unknown
Sermon Central Staff
THE HARVEST IS RIPE
The Harvest is ripe -- Here's proof:
Wycliffe: Vision 2025
Translation projects started in every language on the planet by 2025.
In "The Faith Equation," Dr. Marvin Bittinger, Professor of Mathematics at Purdue University and author of over 175 college math textbooks, claims that by 2033 every person on the planet capable of understanding the gospel will have been presented the gospel, according to modern evangelism trends.
34,000 converts each day in South America
28-37,000 Chinese converts daily
23-25,000 African converts daily
16,000 Muslims come to Christ daily - the following stories are all quoted.
"In December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad al Qataani, a leading Saudi cleric, appeared on a live interview on Aljazeera satellite television to confirm that, sure enough, Muslims were turning to Jesus in alarming numbers. "In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity," Al Qataani warned. "Every day, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Every year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity." Stunned, the interviewer interrupted the cleric. "Hold on! Let me clarify. Do we have six million converting from Islam to Christianity?" Al Qataani repeated his assertion. "Every year," the cleric confirmed, adding, "a tragedy has happened."
Stories from Muslim countries: Iraq -- thousands of new Christians since Saddam was overthrown, many new churches started, Egypt -- some reports say 1 million Egyptians have trusted Christ over the past decade or so. The Egyptian Bible Society used to sell about 3,000 copies of the JESUS film a year in the early 1990s. But last year they sold 600,000 copies, plus 750,000 copies of the Bible on tape (in Arabic) and about a half million copies of the Arabic New Testament. The largest Christian congregation in the Middle East, meets in an enormous cave on the outskirts of Cairo. Some 10,000 believers worship there every weekend. A prayer conference the church held in May 2005 drew some 20,000 believers, Afghanistan -- only 17 Muslim converts to Christianity before 9/11/01, but now more than 10,000, Kazakstan -- only 3 known Christians in 1990, but now more than 15,000, Sudan -- more than 1 million Sudanese have converted to Christianity just since 2000, and some 5 million have become Christians since the early 1990s, despite a radical Islamic regime and an on-going genocide that has killed more than 200,000.
Seminaries are being held in caves to train pastors to shepherd the huge numbers of people coming to Christ. Why such a dramatic spiritual awakening? "People have seen real Islam, and they want Jesus instead," one Sudanese evangelical leader said, Iran -- in 1979, there were only 500 known Muslim converts to Christianity, but today Iranian pastors and evangelical leaders say there are more than 1 million Iranian believers in Jesus Christ, most of whom meet in underground house churches. One of the most dramatic developments is that many Muslims are seeing dreams and visions of Jesus and thus coming into churches explaining that they have already converted and now need a Bible and guidance on how to follow Jesus."
Worldwide: 174,000 converts daily -- David B. Barret and Todd M. Johnson of the Global Evangelism Movement.
This is truly the most exciting time in all of history to be alive and a part of His Great Commission. The opportunity has never been more dramatic and the need has never been so huge:
All of history has built up to this point.
Global impact in your hometown.
Transportation and communication impacts.
Current end time events.
Israel, wars and other events.
The 4th qtr., bottom of the 9th, the end-game.
(From a sermon by Nate Herbst, The Great Commision -- Discussion, 11/21/2009)
The Didache, is a first or second century document that relates to us outside the New Testament the teaching of the early church. This document "prescribed two fast days a week: Wednesday and Friday." For early Christians; this was seen as a regular part of daily discipleship.
John Wesley sought to revive the teaching of the Didache and urged early Methodists to fast on Wednesdays and Fridays. He felt so strongly about this matter that he refused to ordain anyone to the Methodist ministry who did not fast on those two days.
Matthew Henry said, "Fasting is a laudable practice and we have reason to lament that it is generally neglected among Christians."
Hudson Taylor the great missionary and founder of China Inland Mission, said, "In Shansi I found Chinese Christians who were accustomed to spend time in fasting and prayer. They recognized that this fasting, which so many dislike, which requires faith in God, since it makes one feel weak and poorly, is really a Divinely appointed means of grace. Perhaps the greatest hindrance to our work is our own imagined strength; and in fasting we learn what poor, weak creatures we are-dependent on a meal of meat for the little strength which we are so apt to lean upon."
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones: "I wonder whether we have ever fasted? I wonder whether it has even occurred to us that we ought to be considering the question of fasting? The fact is, that this whole subject seems to have dropped right out of our lives and right out of our whole Christian thinking."
WHAT IS COMPASSION?
"Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin.
It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too."
John Williams III
Christian fathers need to pray for their children. When we pray for our children, we are asking God to help, guide and protect beyond our abilities to do so. All human fathers have limits. But, our Heavenly Father is not limited by any means! And when we pray to our Heavenly Father for wisdom and guidance, we are praying for the interaction the hands of our Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer who is all knowing (omniscient), everywhere (omnipresent), and all-powerful (omnipotent). Only our Heavenly Father has these unlimited capacities! Therefore, when we pray to God our Heavenly Father, we are praying that He will help us. We are praying that He will help us in our helplessness and give us hope in our uncertainties in all that we do as we seek to do our part in training our children up in the ways that they are to go and grow (Proverbs 22:6).
While I was working on this sermon, I looked up a prayer of General Douglas MacArthur. Listen to the wisdom and the insight of his prayer that I am going to read to you.
The General’s Prayer: by General Douglas MacArththur
"Build me a son, oh Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.
"Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee, and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge.
"Here let him learn to stand up to the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.
"And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.
"Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, `I have not lived in vain.’ (Internet source http://my.dreamwiz.com/junewlee/prayers2.html#general).
It was a dark and stormy night.
You could hear the thunder in the distance. Bats flapped their wings in the darkness of the night.
There the castle stood. The wolves were howling; the trees were swaying in the wind as it whistled.
And inside the castle, a faint light shown…from a laboratory.
This was the laboratory of the one and only, the maddest
scientist of them all…the laboratory of the infamous Dr. Emil Van-Gelical!
A rat ran across the granite floor as a daunting figure appeared in the light. It was Dr. Van Gelical himself with his white laboratory coat stained with the evidence of his notorious experiements.
His eyes were glowing with mad delight as he gazed upon the table in the middle of the room, covered with a white sheet.
Under the sheet lay a human-like form.
Suddenly, Dr. Evan Gelical shouted:
"Igor, come quickly! We have much to do!"
Irregular footsteps were heard coming down from the stairs.
In a moment appeared Igor, a hunchback with tattered clothes and a candelabrum in one hand and a big cardboard box in the other.
"Yes master…here is everything you ordered. All is ready!"
"Very good. Bring all the materials to the table Igor. Now we begin….the experiment!
Thunder was heard in the distance while Igor dragged the box towards the table.
"Tonight I will conduct the greatest experiment of my career. Tonight shall be my greatest triumph ever!"
Doctor Evan Gelical raised his fist towards the sky:
"I shall achieve what no man has achieved before. Tonight I create spiritual life! This shall be my greatest hour for I shall create….Christianstein!"
More thunder and lightning.
"They say that I am mad Igor. But Christianstein shall be the greatest specimen of spiritual life the world has ever seen! He shall everything Igor, EVERYTHING!"
"The moment has arrived. Igor, y gloves!."
"Give me the voice of a great evangelist Igor!"
"Yes master" and he handed him a jar from the box.
"The courage of Stephen!" Igor produced a disty vial.
"The patience of Job!" the doctor commanded and he was rewarded with an ancient-looking flask.
"Now the hypodermic and the serums I distilled!"
Igor’s hands trembled as he presented a long, steel syringe and bottles filled with different colored fluids.
"Double dosis of daily prayer and Bible reading,"
murmured Dr. Evan Gelical while he withdrew liquid from one of the bottles and injected it into the lifeless figure’s arm.
"Then faithful church attendance…generous giving…temperance…volunteer work…ability to resist temptation…witnessing…"
The doctor paused for a moment, then filled the syringe with fluid from the final container.
"And last-but not least-a triple injection of …orthodoxy!
The mad doctor consulted his list once more.
"Examine the box Igor. Have we forgoteen anything?"
"Oh no master…Everything must be in place!"
"Excellent! This is the moment the world has waited for. This is the moment for….Christianstein!"
The doctor dashed to the nearest wall where an electical control panel waited.
"A million volts of lightning will bring my creation to life. Now stand back Igor while I throw the power switch…and prepare to meet the perfect Christian…CHRISTIANSTEIN!"
Doctor Emil Van Gelical threw the massive switch as an avalanche of thunder shook the castle.
The figure began to tremble.
"Doctor! shouted Igor…it’s….moving!
"Yes, yes, my creation lives!
That thing called "CHRISTIANSTEIN" sat up slowly. Then, stiffly, it climbed from the table and stood to its full height.
"Oh, my creation…..Speak to me, speak to me!"
The figure looked down at the doctor and frowned. Finally it began to speak in a low and hostile growl:
"If I speak in the language of angels but have not love…"
"LOVE?" asked the doctor, examining in perplexity his list once again.
Slowly the creature lifted his hands towards the doctor who was still consulting his list.
"If I have the gift of prophecy and can understand all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have faith that can move mountains and have not love…."
"LOVE?" Igor, what is he talking about?"
"I, I don’t know master! answered Igor as he hid himself under the table.
"If I give all my possessions to the poor and give my body to the flames to be burned and have not love…" Suddenly the figure, growling, picked up the doctor by his coat off of his feet…."I gain nothing!"
"Nothing?" said the doctor.
"¡Aaarrggghhh!" the creature bellowed throwing the doctor to the ground and reaching for his throat.
"Igor you fool! I knew that we forgot something! And such a small thing!" while the doctor fled for his life with the creature CHRISTIANSTIEN in hot pursuit.
A few minutes passed before Igor finally had enough courage to come out from under the table. Finally, looking this way and that, he whispered:
"I, I think….we have created a monster!"
The following incident took place in 1968 on an airliner bound for New York. It started out routine and uneventful. Descending to the destination, the pilot realized the landing gear would not engage. He worked the controls back and forth, trying again and again to make the gear lock down into place. No success. He then asked the control tower for instructions as he circled the landing field. Responding to the crisis, airport personnel sprayed the runway with foam as fire trucks and other emergency vehicles moved into position. Disaster was only minutes away.
The passengers, meanwhile, were told of each maneuver in that calm, cheery voice pilots manage to use at times like this. Flight attendants glided about the cabin with an air of cool reserve. Passengers were told to place their heads between their knees and grab their ankles just before impact. It was one of those I-can’t- believe-this-is-happening-to-me experiences. There were tears and a few screams of despair. The landing was now seconds away. Suddenly the pilot announced over the intercom: "We are beginning our final descent. At this moment, in accordance with International Aviation Codes established at Geneva, it is my obligation to inform you that if you believe in God you should commence prayer."
I’m happy to report that the belly landing occurred without a hitch. No one was injured though the plane suffered so rather extensive damage.
What is it to serve God and to do His will? Nothing else than to show mercy to our neighbor. For it is our neighbor who needs our service; God in heave...
Sermon Central Staff
I’ve know people who questioned God’s love for them because God didn’t heal them. I’ve known others who questioned their own faith...they felt like if they’d just had more faith God would have healed them. In fact, I’ve known people who were TOLD by a faith-healer that the reason they were sick was because they didn’t have "enough faith."
A few weeks ago, I saw a special on TV about faith healers. In that show, Lisa Ling went to the meeting of a renowned faith healer where she interviewed a man named Steve. When he was 18, Steve was in a car crash that left him with brain injury and a speech impediment. Years after that, he fell off a roof and was paralyzed from the waist down.
Doctors said Steve would never walk again--but Steve said God had told him this was his time to be healed. He was completely convinced that he would leave that meeting walking and pushing his wheelchair. His faith was absolute; he didn’t express a single doubt that God was about to heal him.
On the last day of the meeting, Steve’s turn came. He went forward and sat in a row of people where the faith-healer touched his forehead and said "Bam!" Then a group of people prayed over him, reached under his arms, and lifted him up--but then after a couple of minutes, they set him back in his wheelchair. His condition was unchanged.
After this, Lisa Ling became very concerned for Steve. She knew he was completely convinced that he would be healed and she wondered what would happen to his faith. When she found Steve after the meeting, though, she was amazed. He was disappointed--but his faith was unshaken.
In his halting voice, Steve told her, "It wasn’t my time to be healed--but one day I will walk and run--when I get to Heaven, God will give me a new body." Then Steve laid his hand on Lisa and prayed for her.
When I saw that, I realized I was witnessing a miracle. The miracle wasn’t in the man’s legs; it was a miracle of his soul--the light of Jesus was shining out of his heart. After all, a physical healing is always temporary. But spiritual healing, a healing of the faith, lasts for eternity.
(From a sermon by K. Edward Skidmore, Bart and Zach, 3/30/2011)
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.