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Story: At the very start of his ministry in Florence, Savonarola the Italian political reformer (1452-1498) noticed an elderly woman who used to come and pray regularly before that statue of the Virgin Mary.
One day, Savonarola took an elderly priest aside , who had been serving in the cathedral for many years, and said,
"Look how devoted this woman is. She comes every day to offer prayers to the blessed Mother of Jesus. What a marvellous act of faith."
But the elderly priest replied,
"Do not be deceived by what you see. Many years ago when the sculptor needed a model to pose for this statue of the blessed Mother, he hired a beautiful young woman to sit for him. This devout worshiper you see here everyday is that young woman. She is worshiping who she used to be."
For me, my belief in God was reaffirmed recently by something I would not have expected. While I was in England I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. Worshiping in that great cathedral your eyes are drawn to the great dome. It is actually three domes, one on top of the other, with the highest and smallest dome having windows, making you think they are the very windows of heaven. I stood there in that great place, surrounded by exquisite art and architecture, and said to my friend: “This building makes me believe in God.” I think he was somewhat taken back by my statement that a physical, man-made building could make me believe in God. But I said, “What else could inspire such a sense of transcendence and create a feeling of otherworldliness — a world of unspeakable beauty and holy purpose?” These glorious monuments to God are all over England and Europe — countries which were strongly influenced by the Christian faith. “Name me one monument to the devil which has been built in his honor,” I said to my friend. “I can’t think of one.”
But then I began to think. Actually, I have seen a monument to the devil. It exists in a country I visited a few years before, whose national religion is Voodoo, or devil worship — the country of Haiti. We drove by it on our way to the mission station in Cape Haitian. It is the center for Voodoo worship — a large mud hole where chickens are strangled and their blood poured into the pool. Rumors are that there are even secret rites where human sacrifices are offered to the devil, and their blood becomes a part of the mud as well. There are unspeakable acts of evil performed there. Worshipers come to cover themselves with the mud of that cursed place. So there I stood thinking about one country whose religion worships Jesus Christ, and another country whose religion is devil worship. The monument to Jesus Christ was an exquisite cathedral, and the monument to the devil was a mud hole. One was transcendent in its themes and beauty, and the other was vile and ugly. One inspired noble thoughts and holy lives, the other aroused perverse thoughts and evil acts. One was elevating and the other degrading. One made you look up and the other made you look down.
A.W. Tozer (1897-1963) God wants worshipers before workers; indeed the only acceptable workers are those who have learned the lost art of worship. . . . The very stones would praise him if the need arose and a thousand legions of angels would leap to do his will.
Paul Brand wrote in the March 4, 1983 issue of "Christianity Today:"
Blood spatters the pages of mythology and of history. Drinking it gives strength and new life: to the ghosts of the dead in The Odyssey, to the Roman epileptics who dashed onto the floor of the Coliseum to quaff the blood of dying gladiators, to Kenya’s Masai tribesmen who still celebrate feast days by drinking blood freshly drawn from a cow or goat.
In early history, blood assumed a mysterious, almost sacred, aura in human relations. An oath held more power than a person’s word, but blood made a contract nearly inviolable. The ancients, unashamed to act out the physical literality of their symbols, would sometimes seal blood contracts by cutting themselves and mingling their blood.
We moderns inherit quaint symbolic tokens of the intrinsic mystery of blood: a wedding ring on the "/leech finger," which was believed to contain a vein that led directly to the heart, or perhaps a child’s game of "blood brothers" in which two participants solemnly and unhygienically act out their undying loyalty. We echo misconceptions, too, when we use such terms as "pure blood," "mixed blood," "blood relations," harking back to the days when blood was assumed to be the substance of heredity.
Even after blood has been analyzed in laboratories and demythologized, it still retains some power, if only in the queasy feeling it evokes when we see it shed. There is something horribly unnatural—to some, physically nauseating-about watching the juice of life seep uncontrollably out of a living body. No wonder religions throughout history have exalted blood to sacral status. A ravaging plague, a minor drought, a desire to triumph over enemies, a decoy for the gods’ anger—anythi...
Sermon Central Staff
CHRYSOSTOM ON ECCLESIASTES
Eutropius had fallen into disgrace. As the highest-ranking official in the Byzantine Empire (late fourth century), he served as the closest adviser to the emperor Arcadius, then ruling in Constantinople. But Eutropius abused his imperial power and aroused the anger of the empress Eudoxia, who orchestrated a campaign against him that resulted in a sentence of death.
Desperate to save his life, Eutropius slipped away from the palace and ran to the Hagia Sophia, where he clung to the altar and claimed sanctuary. Soon an angry mob of soldiers surrounded the great church, denouncing Eutropius and demanding his execution. Eventually, the crowds dispersed, but the next day was Sunday, and so they returned the following morning to see whether the pastor would give in to their demands for the execution of Eutropius.
The pastor was John Chrysostom, the famous preacher who served as the Bishop of Constantinople. As he mounted his pulpit, Chrysostom could see a church crowded with worshipers and thrill-seekers. They, in turn, could see Eutropius groveling at the altar. The great man had become a pitiable spectacle, with his teeth chattering and hopeless terror in his eyes.
The dramatic sermon Chrysostom preached that day may have been the finest he ever preached. For his text Chrysostom took Ecclesiastes 1:2 ("Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity"), and for his primary illustration he used the decline and fall of Eutropius.
Here was a man, Chrysostom noted, who had lost everything--position, wealth, freedom, safety. Only days before, he had been the second most powerful man in the world. But it was all vanity, as events had proven, for now Eutropius had become "more wretched than a chained convict, more pitiable than a menial slave, more indigent than a beggar wasting away with hunger." "Though I should try my very best," Chrysostom said, "I could never convey to you in words the agony he must be suffering, from hour to hour expecting to be butchered."
Chrysostom did not stop there, however. His purpose was not to condemn Eutropius but to save him, and also to give his listeners the gospel. To that end, he challenged his listeners to recognize the vanity of their own existence. Whether rich or poor, one day they would all have to leave their possessions behind. They too would face a day of judgment--the judgment of a holy God. Their only hope then would be the hope that they should offer to Eutropius now--mercy at the table of Christ.
The sermon must have hit its mark, for as Chrysostom came to a close, he could see tears of pity streaming down people's faces. Eutropius was spared--a life saved by the preaching of Ecclesiastes.
Because Ecclesiastes is the Word of the living God, it can have the same impact in our lives today. Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Ecclesiastes warns us to live our lives in light of eternity. Ecclesiastes teaches us how to live a meaningful life.
(From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, 7/11/2010)
Jim Cymbala began at the Brooklyn Tabernacle as an ill-equipped, under-educated, time-strapped preacher who led a second congregation in New Jersey. The Brooklyn church had no money to pay him, a ramshackle building, and barely enough attendance to bother with weekly meetings.
Today, the Tabernacle hosts around 6,000 spirit-filled worshipers. The difference came when Jim, in a moment of desperation, set aside his planned message and called the church to pray. The weekly prayer meeting, not the Sunday worship, became the focal point of the Brooklyn Tabernacle.
Jim’s belief that "God can’t resist those who humbly and honestly admit how desperately they need him" (p. 19) guides his work. It is Prayer, not preaching that brings Revival.
A pastor tells of a mission tour to the Far East. While in Hong Kong, he observed a hungry little girl outside a bakery window. She had fallen asleep with her face pressed against the window that separated her from the fresh bread inside. He took slides of that scene. When sharing his slide presentation back home, the pastor always climaxed his sermon with that picture and an appeal for people to share Christ, the Living Bread, with a hungry world.
Following one presentation, one worshiper asked him, “What did you do about it?” “About what?” the pastor replied. “About the little girl asleep at the bakery window, what did you do about that?”
Dallas Willard, in his excellent book, The Divine Conspiracy, writes about what the church would look like if we were as inclusive as this band of believers that Jesus led:
“If I, as a recovering sinner myself, accept Jesus’ good news, I can go to the mass murderer and say, ‘You can be blessed in the kingdom of the heavens. There is forgiveness that knows no limits.’ To the pederast and the perpetrator of incest. To the worshiper of Satan. To those who rob the aged and weak. To the cheat and the liar, the bloodsucker and the vengeful: Blessed! Blessed! Blessed! As they flee into the arms of the Kingdom Among Us.
“These are God’s grubby people. In their midst a Corrie Ten Boom takes the hand of the Nazi who killed her family members. The scene is strictly not of this earth. Any spiritually healthy congregation of believ...
I WAS WRONG
Jim Bakker is back in the pulpit again. "It’s awesome to die and come back," he told about 400 worshipers at Way of Life Church, where he was the guest speaker Sunday.
The former PTL Ministries leader presided over a multimillion dollar TV ministry until he resigned amid a sex and money scandal that led to a five-year prison term.
The reinvigorated Bakker preached against "the gospel of money."
"If you fall in love with the things of this world, you will be disappointed," he said. He apologized for his misdeeds and once lavish lifestyle and thanked the Lord for sending him to prison.
Bakker has moved to Los Angeles and joined the International Dream Center helping inner-city youth.
"My flesh doesn’t want to live in the inner city because I don’t like earthquakes," Bakker said. "Jesus told me to move to L.A."
"As the true impact of Jesus’ words regarding money impacted my heart and mind, I became physically nauseated. I was wrong. I was wrong! Wrong in my lifestyle, certainly, but even more fundamentally, wrong in my understanding of the Bible’s true message. Not only was I wrong, but I was teaching the opposite of what Jesus had said."
SOURCE: ANAHEIM, Calif. (July 27, 1998 5:16 p.m. EDT. http://www.nandotimes.com)
Girolamo Savonarola was one of the great preachers of the fifteenth century. He preached in the great cathedral of Florence, Italy, which contained a magnificent marble statue of the blessed virgin Mary. When Savonarola started preaching at this great cathedral, he noticed one day an elderly woman praying before this statue of Mary. He then began to notice that it was her habit to come every day and pray before the statue.
Savonarola remarked one day to an elderly priest who had been serving in the cathedral for many years, "Look how devoted and earnest this woman is. Every day she comes and offers prayers to the blessed Mother of Jesus. What a marvelous act of faith." But the elderly priest replied, "Do not be deceived by what you see. Many years ago when the sculptor needed a model to pose for this statue of the blessed Mother, he hired a beautiful young woman to sit for him. This devout worshiper you see here everyday is that young woman. She is worshiping who she used to be."
Brett Blair, e-sermons, 2001