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A wealthy man before leaving on an extended vacation said to a contractor, "While I am away, I want you to build me a fine new home according to these plans. Be sure you work with extreme care, and use the best of everything. Tell me the cost as soon as you have it and I’ll send you a check." During the process of construction the contractor discovered many opportunities to substitute inferior materials; he put in his own pocket the money he saved. His employer would never know the difference, and he himself would profit. But he soon regretted his dishonesty, for the wealthy man upon his return inspected the finished home and said: "You have built it exactly as I wanted it, and I’m sure that you used the best of everything in its construction. Now, in appreciation for your long years of service to me, I am giving you this new home for your very own. Here’s the deed!" Church, we are building for eternity. Do we build with inferior materials or do we build with choice materials on the foundation of Christ? Don’t ever forget, the house we will have later on depends on the material we are using now.
Catherine Marshall wrote:
"My friend Marge had an experience aboard a plane bound for Cleveland, waiting for takeoff. As she settled into her seat, Marge noticed a strange phenomenon. On one side of the airplane a sunset suffused the entire sky with glorious color. But out of the window next to her seat, all Marge could see was a sky dark and threatening, with no sign of the sunset.
"As the plane’s engines began to roar, a gentle Voice spoke within her. 'You have noticed the windows,' He murmured beneath the roar and thrust of the takeoff. 'Your life, too, will contain some happy, beautiful times, but also some dark shadows. Here’s a lesson I want to teach you to save you much heartache and allow you to abide in Me with continual peace and joy.
"'You see, it doesn’t matter which window you look through; this plane is still going to Cleveland. So it is in your life. You have a choice. You can dwell on the gloomy picture. Or you can focus on the bright things and leave the dark, ominous situations to Me. I alone can handle them anyway.
"'And the final destination is not influenced by what you see or feel along the way. Learn this, act on it and you will be released, able to experience the peace that passes understanding.'"
Why would God go to all the trouble to endure our bad choices and our flagrant sinning in order to have relationship with us? Hear the story of the lost son from the modern setting as told by Philip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing about Grace.
Yancey tells the story of a prodigal daughter who grows up in Traverse City, Michigan. Disgusted with her old fashioned parents who overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, the length of her skirts, she runs away. She ends up in Detroit where she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – recognizes that since she’s underage, men would pay premium for her. So she goes to work for him. Things are good for a while. Life is good. But she gets sick for a few days, and it amazes her how quickly the boss turns mean. Before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, and all the money goes to support her drug habit.
One night while sleeping on the metal grates of the city, she began to feel less like a woman of the world and more like a little girl. She begins to whimper. “God, why did I leave. My dog back home eats better than I do now.” She knows that more than anything in the world, she wants to go home. Three straight calls home get three straight connections with the answering machine. Finally she leaves a message. “Mom, dad, its me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, I‘ll understand.” During the seven hour bus ride, she’s preparing a speech for her father. And when the bus comes to a stop in the Traverse City station, the driver announces the fifteen-minute stop. Fifteen minutes to decide her life.
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. But not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There in the bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and a great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads – Welcome Home!
Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes and begins her memorized speech. He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. We’ll be late. A big party is waiting for you at home.”
THE CONCEPT OF GRACE
There is a great article that illustrates the concept of grace written by Charles Stanley.
“One of my more memorable seminary professors had a practical way of illustrating to his students the concept of grace. At the end of his evangelism course he would distribute the exam with the caution to read it all the way through before beginning to answer it. This caution was written on the exam as well. As we read the test, it became unquestionably clear to each of us that we had not studied nearly enough.
The further we read, the worse it became. About halfway through, audible groans could be heard through out the lecture hall. On the last page, however, was a note that read, "You have a choice. You can either complete the exam as given or sign your name at the bottom and in so doing receive an A for this assignment."
Wow? We sat there stunned. "Was he serious? Just sign it and get an A?" Slowly, the point dawned on us, and one by one we turned in our tests and silently filed out of the room.
When I talked with the professor about it afterward, he shared some of the reactions he had received through the years. Some students began to take the exam without reading it all the way through, and they would sweat it out for the entire two hours of class time before reaching the last page.
Others read the first two pages, became angry, turned the test in blank, and stormed out of the room without signing it. They never realized what was available, and as a result, they lost out totally.
One fellow, however, read the entire test, including the note at the end, but decided to take the exam anyway. He did not want any gifts; he wanted to earn his grade. And he did. He made a C+, but he could easily have had an A.
This story illustrates many people’s reaction to God’s solution to sin. Some people look at God’s standard--moral and et...
John Williams III
Jesus lifted up the spirit of a discouraged preacher who retired early because of what happened to him. "In the Pentecostal Evangel church leader George U. Wood writes:
"Have you ever heard a healing take place? I have. I listened to an audiotape of Duane Miller teaching his Sunday school class from the text of Psalm 103 at the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on January 17, 1993. Duane prematurely retired from pastoring three years earlier because of a virus which penetrated the myelin sheath around the nerves in his vocal cords, reducing his speech to a raspy whisper....
"Teaching his class that day with a special microphone resting on his lips,
he reaffirmed his belief in divine healing and that miracles had not ended
with the Book of Acts. Listening to the tape, at times you can barely
understand his weakly spoken wheezy words of faith. The miracle happened at verse 4 when he said, "I have had and you have had in times
past pit experiences."
"On the word pit his life changed—the word was as clear as a bell, in contrast to the imperfect enunciation of the preceding "word past. He paused, startled; began again and stopped. He said a few more words—all in a normal clear tone—and stopped again. The class erupted with shouts of joy, astonishment and sounds of weeping. God completely healed him as he was declaring the truth in this psalm. (You can read the full account in Miller’s book Out of the Silence, Nelson Publishers.)". (Craig Brian Larson. Choice Contemporary Stories & Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers, & Writers. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998, p. 116). If there is anything that this story tells us it is this, never underestimate what God can do! It was the healing touch of Jesus that gave Rev. Duane Miller the full range of his voice again!
Charlene Cothran is the publisher of Venus Magazine, which is a periodical for lesbians of African descent. She recently announced on the magazine’s web site that she has become a Christian and has rejected the lesbian lifestyle she had been living. Cothran said that as a magazine publisher she has had the opportunity to address thousands of people publicly, influencing homosexuals to come out of the closet. Now, she says, she must come out of the closet again. She said, “The spirit of God spoke directly into my soul and said you will choose this day who you will serve and if you make the wrong choice, I will allow you to drift so far away from me that you will never hear my voice again. I gave God my heart and soul in the parking lot of the mall, right there in my car. A river of tears flowed as Jesus washed me and forgave me and redeemed me for His work.” Cothran will continue her work in the homosexual community, but she has changed her mission. She said, “I intend be just as ‘out’ about my transformation as I was about my lesbian life. I have given every gift I have back to God, including VENUS Magazine. The target audience will remain the same but the mission has been renewed. Our new mission is to encourage, educate and assist those in the [homosexual] life who want change but can’t find a way out.”
It was an unusually cold day for the month of May. Spring had arrived and everything was alive with color. But a cold front from the north had brought winter’s chill back to Indiana. I sat with two friends in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town squire. The food and the company were both especially good that day. As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There,
walking into town, was a man who appeared to be caring all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read "I’ll work for food." My heart sank. I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him.
Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief. We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases at a store and got back into my car. Deep within me, the spirit of God kept speaking to me: "don’t go back to the office until you’ve at least driven once more around the square." And so with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square’s third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the storefront church, going through his sack. I stopped and looked, feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from god: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town’s visitor. Looking for the pastor? I asked. Not really, he replied, just resting. Have you eaten today? Oh, I ate something early this morning. Would you like to have lunch with me? Do you have some work I could do for you? No work, I replied. I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to! Take you to lunch. Sure he replied with a smile. As he began to gather his things, I asked him some surface questions. Where you headed? St. Louis. Where you from? Oh, all over; mostly Florida. I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark and clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling. He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, "Jesus is the never ending story." Then Daniel’s story began to unfold. He had seen rough times earl in life. He’d made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona. He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a big tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God. Nothing’s been the same since, he said, I felt the lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now. Ever think of stopping? I asked. Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me. But god has given me this calling. I give out bibles. That’s what’s in my sack. I work to buy food and bibles, and I give them out when the spirit leads. I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a minute and then I asked: what’s it like? What? To walk into town carrying all your things on your back and to show you a sign? Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn’t make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people’s concepts of other folks like me. My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused. He turned and said," come ye blessed of my father and inherit the kingdom I’ve prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in." I felt as if we were on holy ground. Could you use another bible? I asked.
There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that time he saw a little shack in the distance.
He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note.
The note read: "pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need". Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn’t work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find. Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction, he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveller.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “ Please prime the pump, believe me it works”!
We have the same choice to make...
“Our Poor Choices--His Good Grace!” Genesis 16: 1-15 Key verse(s): 3: “So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian maidservant Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife.’”
Do you ever pray for discernment? People tend to pray for things that they feel are useful at the moment and fruitful for today and tomorrow. But discernment, you say? Just exactly what is it and why should I be including it in my prayers? Discernment is the ability to examine the situation, apply a good dose of experience, stand back and get a perspective on the recipe, and take the appropriate action at the appointed time. It’s what most people would call “good judgement.”
Chuck Swindoll writes: “I read this past week of a couple (let’s call them Carl and Clara) whose twenty-five year marriage was a good one. Not the most idyllic, but good. They now had three grown children who loved them dearly. They were also blessed with sufficient financial security to allow them room to dream about a lakeside retirement home. They began looking. A widower we’ll call Ben was selling his place. They liked it a lot and returned home to talk and plan. Months passed. Last fall, right out of the blue, Clara told Carl she wanted a divorce. He went numb. After all these years, why? And how could she deceive him...how could she have been nursing such a scheme while they were looking at a retirement home? She said she hadn’t been. Actually, this was a recent decision now that she had found another man. Who? Clara admitted it was Ben, the owner of the lake house, whom she inadvertently ran into several weeks after they had discussed the sale. They’d begun seeing each other. Since they were now ‘in love,’ there was no turning back. Not even the kids, who hated the idea, could dissuade their mother. On the day she was to leave, Carl walked through the kitchen toward the garage. Realizing she would be gone when he returned, he hesitated, ‘Well, hon, I guess this is the last time--’ His voice dissolved as he broke into sobs. She felt uneasy, hurriedly got her things together, and drove north to join Ben. Less than two weeks after she moved in with Ben, her new lover, he was seized with a heart attack. He lingered a few hours...and then died.” (Charles Swindoll, The Quest For Character, Multnomah, p. 42).
For more from Chuck, visit http://www.insight.org
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TWO MEN, TWO SOILS
Two of the men have impacted my life. Both of them died of cancer. For many years one of these men allowed his CIRCUMSTANCES to harden him towards those in his family and towards God.
I thought my dad was about as far away from God as he could be. He seemed to be represented by footpath in the parable of the sower that Jesus relates in Matthew 13:4,19. Jesus speaks of HARD soil, defensive, closed and bitter towards God.
The other man also had cancer. Before he died, Bill (not his real name) said to me, "I'm an atheist and I intend to stay that way!" INTENTIONALLY RESISTANT to considering that the message of Christ might have had any relevance. He was also like the footpath in the parable but it seems to me that he had allowed the cancer to be like a PNEUMATIC SOIL COMPACTER and His heart had set like concrete.
My Dad also got CANCER and it was clear that he was going to die. I think he could have responded to God in one of 2 ways. He could have allowed the cancer to harden his heart even further towards God like Bill, the atheist. Instead he allowed the cancer to be a like a PNEUMATIC JACKHAMMER. Yes, it shook him up but it also broke up the hard places of his heart and enabled God to get through to him. Everyone of us has that choice.
In Matthew 13:19 Jesus says, "The seed that fell on the FOOTPATH represents those who HEAR the message about the Kingdom and DON'T UNDERSTAND it. Then the evil one comes and SNATCHES AWAY the seed that was planted in their hearts."
Jesus says His message is planted in their hearts but there's an AUTHORITY issue here. Two KINGDOMS in conflict. What King Jesus wants to GIVE, Satan wants to STEAL. The "message about the Kingdom" speaks of the RULERSHIP of Christ. The degree that things grow in my life is determined by who has AUTHORITY over my ears and my heart.
Acts 28:27 (NLT) says "For the hearts of these people are hardened, ... so their eyes cannot see, and their ears cannot hear, and their hearts cannot understand, and they cannot turn to Me and let Me heal them.'"