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Adam Clarke was a sales clerk in a store that sold fine silk to people of the upper classes in London. One day his employer showed young Adam how he could increase sales and profits by stretching the silk as he measured it out. Young Adam Clarke looked his employer straight in the eye and said, "Sir, your silk may stretch, but my conscience won’t."
It is October 14th, and the sun is reflecting mirages of water on an Air Force base runway in southern Florida. The silence of the scene is interrupted as a long-winged plane touches down on the runway and taxies to the hanger. A thousand planes a day go through this same routine, but this one plane’s payload is different from all the others. Its payload is just a few rolls of film, but the information on that film will shape the events of the world. It will shift the balance of power in the world. The film is transported to a top-secret laboratory and developed. It is sent to the Pentagon and then to the Oval Office in the White House.
The date is 1962, and a young president, John F. Kennedy, just 44 years old, sits at the desk. The decision he makes moves the armies of the most powerful nation in the world. The crisis he faces is one of immense proportions.
The photos taken were from a U2 reconnaissance aircraft. One picture in particular revealed that the Soviets had placed medium-range missile silos in Cuba. These missiles were capable of reaching strategic targets throughout the United States.
The risk of world conflict hadn’t reached this level since WW2, and it involved the two greatest superpowers in the world. The president moved decisively, ordering Premier Khrushchev to halt all further deliveries of weapons and to immediately dismantle the missile sites.
A broadcast to the American people let us know the gravity of the situation. The president said, "This secret, swift, extraordinary buildup of communist weapons is a deliberate and unjustifiable challenge to our national security, and it will not be accepted.
America braced for what was to come. President Kennedy ordered an immediate naval and air blockade of Cuba.
Premier Khrushchev decided he would test this young president’s fabric. He would challenge this nation’s resolve. He would confront the standard of our convictions. The Soviet ships sailed on toward Cuba.
The world held its breath in nervous anticipation as hours crept by and ships grew closer and closer to one another.
As kids we played a little game. We called it ’chicken’. You want to see who is going to flinch when challenged. In national politics, you call it ’brinkmanship.’ Brinkmanship is the willingness to expose oneself to risk, to press the limits of safety for a cause. It is the walking of the tightrope of disaster.
The Soviets were going to press the boundary, walk the line, and see just how much they could get away with.
The Soviet ships were 100 yards away from our American ships. Our Navy was on full battle alert with orders to stop the Russians at all costs.
Some of you recall those moments as people were glued to the radios and TV’s to see who would flinch, who would fire, or what the world would look like in this latest age of nuclear war.
With just feet to spare, at the brink of disaster and destruction, the Soviets turned.
This incident in world history has a living parallel in our daily lives. Many are involved in a dangerous game of spiritual brinkmanship. We walk the very boundary of sin in our lifestyle. Balancing precariously, we move toward the cliff’s edge. Dangling our toes over the abyss, we tempt the fall. We struggle with bad habits that become self-destructive patterns. At the same time, we are saying, "Oh, don’t worry about me’ it’s okay, I’m a Christian."
You might recall this recent news story… Illustration- Abdul Rahman Afghanistan’s Muslim religious and governmental leaders had demanded that 41-year-old Abdul Rahman be executed because of his conversion to Christianity more than 14 years ago. Rahman converted to Christianity while working for a Christian aid group in Pakistan in the early 1990s. He was only recently jailed after court leaders learned of his faith in a child-custody battle with his ex-wife. Rahman was freed and went into immediate hiding March 27. He is now in Italy, where officials offered him asylum. Afterwards, hundreds of Afghans protested the release, as did the nation’s parliament, believing that he should be put to death. Question- Now let me ask you a question- who is the hero in this story? Is it Abdul Rahman? Is it the nations and groups worldwide who pressure put on Afghanistan to release Abdul? Question- Or is it the Christian Aid Group who went on a mission trip to Afghanistan? • surrounded by Muslims- the church is an underground church- found in the cities only • surrounded by intense persecution- no one who isn’t Muslim survives in the rural countryside • only approximately 3,000 total Christians- only in the cities and only in secret Question- What did Abdul see in those Christian Aid workers that would make him renounce his upbringing, risk his life and convert to Christianity? Was It Something Abdul Saw That Made Him Believe- Or Was It Something He Believed That Made Him See? I believe that God put that Christian Aid Group there- to save Abdul • They were seized with an extraordinary vision • They served with extraordinary endurance; and Now Abdul will never be the same again • And it was all because a Christian Aid Group went on a Mission Trip Question- What about you? Is the extraordinary vision limited to Christian Aid Groups in Afghanistan?
UCLA sociologist, James Wilson, has observed an interesting fact about city life: The crime rate escalates on those streets where broken windows are not repaired. His study showed that the failure to replace windows makes an announcement to the public by saying the standards have been lowered and authority has been abandoned. Wilson sees such practices of disrepair as an invitation for further crime without the threat of adverse consequences. What is true on the street is also true in the church. If we allow sin and unscriptural practices to go unchecked, we are be inviting destruction into the Lord’s church.
Sermon Central Staff
HOW TO HUG
A man walked by a book store, and in the window saw a book with the title How to Hug. Being somewhat of a romantic, he went in to buy the book. To his disappointment, he discovered that it was a volume of an encyclopedia covering the subjects "How" to "Hug."
Everyone knows that the church is a place where they ought to be able to meet God, and many people have come to church with that hope - only to discover something as dry as an encyclopedia.
(From a sermon by Dave McFadden, "His Temple", 6/14/2010)
Sermon Central Staff
THE ANT AND THE GRASSHOPPER
In a field one summer’s day a grasshopper was hopping about, singing to its heart’s content. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest.
"Why not come and play with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?"
"I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same."
"Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper. "Take care of that later. We have got plenty of food at present."
But the ant went on its way and continued its toil.
When the winter came the grasshopper had no food and found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing every day corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the grasshopper understood.
Some things we need to think about before it happens. We need to prepare to face God.
(From a sermon by Christian Cheong, The Lord of Life, 6/28/2010)
Brian La Croix
“They who are conscious of their own sins have no eyes for the sins of their neighbors.” (Abbot Moses, "1001 Quotations that Connect," Larson/Lowery, Zondervan)
Sermon Central Staff
A THIEF AND A PRIEST
The story is told about a Catholic priest who was walking down an alley behind his church when a thief jumped out from behind some garbage cans and pressed the muzzle of his gun into the priest's ribs.
The thief said, "Give me your wallet!"
Without hesitation, the priest went and reached for his wallet in the front pocket of his coat. It was then the thief got a glimpse of his collar.
"Are you a priest," the thief asked?
"Yes I am," said the priest.
"Well, put your wallet back," the thief said. "I don't rob priests. I am Catholic too."
At that point, the relieved Catholic priest pulled out two cigars and offered one to the thief. The repentant thief responded, "Oh no, I could not do that. Smoking is wrong and I can't believe you would do such an evil thing!"
Sometimes people have convictions about certain things, but fail to deal with the things that really matter in their lives.
(Scott Kircher, cited in a sermon by Mark Opperman, Life, Love, and Liberty, 6/19/2012)
I recently read the story of a man who, in 2006, was driving along a road in Pune India, a city located in the Maharashtra province of central India. The man was driving a common mode of transportation in India, his motorcycle with its mighty 2 stroke engine, through torrential rains on a road that was less than well paved. He did not travel alone, however, seated atop his gas tank with its paws resting on the handle bars was his pet cat; apparently Indian cats enjoy riding in this fashion.
He came to a point in the road where he fell into a ditch more than ten feet deep that had been created by the incessant rains. The man and his disgruntled soaking wet cat stayed in that ditch for nearly half an hour until some local law enforcement officers took notice of their plight and eventually rescued them out of the muddy ditch where they had been trapped.
Often, we get trapped in muddy ditches of fruitless activity. In Romans 14:1 the Apostle Paul writes, "Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things." (NKJV) Or "not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions." (NASB) Or "without passing judgment on disputable matters." (NIV)
When we get trapped in conflicts within the church, be it the local church or the body of Christ at large, over disputable matters, it is like getting trapped in potholes out of which we can not seem to climb.
As God's people, we do well lay aside matters of preference in favor of matters of eternal value. We do well not to allow secondary matters of faith distract us from the goal of seeing unity thrive among us, unity in the local fellowship and unity in the body of Christ, just as Jesus prayed in the garden on that fateful evening for believers everywhere, "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me." (John 17:21 NKJV)