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Dr. Larry Petton
THE POWER OF FORGIVENESS
An African woman gave her heart to Christ. Her husband was the chief of a Zulu tribe. When she told him what she had done, the chief beat her brutally. As she was lying in the floor bleeding, the man mocked her and said, “Now, what can your Jesus do for you now?”
The woman picked herself up and tearfully said, “He can help me to forgive you.”
THE MARK OF JESUS
When I was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Levelland, there was a man in our church, the owner of a local business and a highly intentional Christian. The apostle Paul once said of himself that he bore "on [his] body the marks of Jesus" (Gal. 6:17). Well, this man bore the marks of Jesus on his life. His wife was the most annoying woman I have ever known. She was chronically ill, and her sickness had embittered her spirit. She demanded almost all of this man's time and energy, and she was never grateful for a single thing he did for her. She complained about life, and she complained about him. For his part -- I don't know how he did it -- but he remained gentle and serene, and he had the utmost patience with this woman. He never spoke ill of her. He never sighed under the burden of her criticism. He was truly a man of God. He had an intimacy with God that was not showy but nevertheless evident. If life had not rewarded him with outward happiness, he was deeply and inwardly joyful. God was his "portion," as the Bible says (e.g., Lam. 3:24; Ps. 16:5; 73:26), and he was satisfied.
How could he do this? How could he be so patient and kind and committed to the welfare of his wife despite her ingratitude? I'll tell you: he was in covenant with his wife, but he was also in covenant with God. And here's what I learned from him. This man partnered with God in his own process of sanctification. Now, let me tell you what I mean. This man's highest interest was not in being happy in some conventional way. No. Instead, the longing of his heart was to be the kind of person God wanted him to be. And God has to work on a person to make them like he wants them to be. And what this man did is: he yielded to God's program of overhaul in his life. God not infrequently uses suffering and adversity. How does the old hymn say it? "When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."
That's what this man wanted. He wanted his dross consumed; he wanted his unloving tendencies to be burned in the fire of affliction if need be, and his gold refined, his character refashioned to be like that of his Lord, who "loved the church and gave himself up for her."
"Cheer Him, Boys!"
There was a fire in the big city, and the firemen flung their ladders together, and went up in their brave fashion to the very topmost story to rescue the people that were trapped. One after another was rescued by the brave firemen.
All had been rescued, it seemed, No! As the firemen looked up they saw a white face at the most upper window. They wrapped something about one of their firemen, and, breasting the fierce flames, he went again to that window, and put a robe around the little woman and started down.
Then they saw him tremble as the fire raged around him, and it seemed that he would fall with his precious burden, but the fire chief cried to his men: “Cheer him, boys! Cheer him, boys!”
And they cheered him with words of encouragement as he came down with the precious life saved.
--George W. Truett
THE REFINER'S FIRE
The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study.
The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes...
Sermon Central Staff
1 Peter 1:3-1:10
1 John 2:3-2:9
2 Thessalonians 2:13-2:17
1 Timothy 2:3-2:4
Ruby Hamilton, a businesswoman in her fifties, was stunned at the loss of her husband of 32 years in a car accident. Her anger and disappointment went deeper than a more typical expression of grief though. She had become a follower of Christ in her late twenties, but her husband didn't share her newfound interest in spiritual things. Nonetheless, she had set about praying for him feverishly and unceasingly that he would come to know the Lord. And one day when she was praying, she felt a wave of peace wash over her, and that still small voice assuring her that her husband would be okay. She eagerly awaited the day when her husband surrender his life to Jesus. And now this.
What do you do when faith doesn't make sense? When God doesn't seem to be answering or opening doors or being found? Ruby Hamilton stopped living for God.
Roger Simmons was hitchhiking his way home. He would never forget the date - May 7th. His heavy suitcase was making him tired and he was anxious to take off that army uniform once and for all. Flashing the thumb to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped.
The passenger door swung open. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. "Going home for keeps?"
"Well, you're in luck if you're going to Chicago."
"Not quite that far - do you live in Chicago?"
"I have a business there, the driver said. My name is Hamilton."
They chatted for a while, and then Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to share his faith with this fiftyish, apparently successful business man. But he kept putting it off, till he realized that he was now just 30 minutes from his home. It was now or never.
"Mr. Hamilton, I would like to talk to you about something very important." Then he simply told Mr. Hamilton about the plan of salvation and ultimately asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord.
The Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger expected that he was about to get thrown out of the car. Instead, the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."
Five years went by. Roger married, had a couple of kids and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a trip to Chicago he found a small white business card that had been given to him by Hamilton five years previous. In Chicago, he looked up Hamilton enterprises. The receptionist told him that it was impossible to see Mr. Hamilton, but he could see Mrs. Hamilton. A little confused, he was ushered into a beautiful office where he found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties.
She extended her hand "You knew my husband?"
Roger told her about how Hamilton had picked him up while he was hitchhiking home after the war. "Can you tell me what day that was?"
"Sure it was May 7th, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army."
"Anything special about that day," she asked.
He hesitated, not knowing if he should mention how he shared the message of Jesus with her husband. "Mrs. Hamilton, I explained the gospel to your husband that day. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day."
Explosive sobs shook her body. Finally getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, "I had prayed for my husband's salvation for years. I believed God would save him."
"Where is your husband, Ruby?"
"He's dead. He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see, I thought God had not kept his promise. I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought God had not kept his word!"
(Considerable influence for this message came from John Piper's "The Spring of Persistent Public Love", DesiringGod.org. From a sermon by Bret Toman, Power to Live the Golden Rule, 1/3/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
HANNAH AND MICHAEL: FINDING WHAT WAS LOST
Let me tell you what happened to Ted Forbes back in 1984.
While walking down a street in Chicago...Ted found a wallet. Being an honest Christian man he wanted to return it to its owner. So he opened it to look for identification. The wallet contained just $3.00. No driver’s license...no Social Security card...no pictures...nothing to indicate who owned the billfold.
Looking through the wallet a little more, Ted found and an old envelope. It was wrinkled and looked as if it had been carried there for years. The only part of the writing on the envelope that could be read was the return address.
To find more information, Ted opened the envelope, and to his surprise, the letter was dated June 6, 1924. The letter had been written nearly 60 years before. It was a "Dear John" letter. It was written to a man named Michael, and it was from a woman named Hannah.
She explained that though she loved him, and she would always love him, her parents had forbidden her to see him any more.
Ted Forbes wanted to locate the owner of the lost wallet. He drove to the location listed on the return address. He parked the car and walked up to the door.
A woman answered the door. Ted asked the lady if she knew a Michael or a Hannah. He was told that 30 years ago she had purchased the house from a family whose daughter was named Hannah. She said that Hannah had placed her mother in a nursing home just a few blocks down the street.
Ted drove down to the nursing home. He explained the story to the Nursing Supervisor. She told Ted that the lady he was trying to find had died. However, she gave him a telephone number where he might locate Hannah.
Calling that number he learned that Hannah was not living there anymore. The person answering the phone said Hannah was now in an apartment house for the elderly.
Ted began to wonder why he was making such a big deal out of an old, lost wallet which contained only $3.00 and a crumpled up old letter. But he decided to keep looking until he ran into a dead end.
He finally tracked down Hannah and went to visit her at the elderly apartment house. She had an apartment on the 3rd Floor. Ted knocked on the door. A gray-haired, alert, bright eyed lady with a warm smile on her face answered the door. Yes, it was Hannah Marshall.
Ted told her about finding the wallet and, showing her the letter, asked if she knew someone named Michael.
Hannah took the letter. Tears filled her eyes. She told Ted that the letter was the last contact she had with Michael. She said that she had never married because she never met anyone she loved as much as Michael. Then she asked Ted if, when he found Michael, he would tell him she still loved him and that she thought about him every day.
Ted thanked her and left. As he was walking down the apartment house hallway, he was carrying the wallet in his hand. The janitor saw the wallet and stopped Ted in the hallway. "Let me see that wallet."
Ted handed it to him. "Why, that’s Mr. Goldstein’s wallet. I’d know it anywhere. He’s always losing it." Ted asked where he could find Mr. Goldstein. The janitor said he lived in Apartment 6 on the 8th Floor.
So, Ted quickly made his way to the eighth floor. He found Apartment #6 and knocked on the door. Sure enough, an old man named Michael answered the door. Ted showed the wallet to the old man. He asked if it was his. Yes, it was. Ted admitted reading the letter to seek identification of the owner.
Mr. Goldstein asked, "You read it?" Then he told Ted that his life nearly ended many years ago when he lost Hannah. He had never married and had never stopped loving her.
Then Ted said, "Mr. Goldstein, I think I know where Hannah is."
The old man became very excited. Ted simply took him by the hand, led him to the elevator and down to the third floor to Hannah Marshall’s apartment door.
When she opened the door, they looked at one another in disbelief. Michael Goldstein walked slowly to Hannah. He took her in his arms. And the 60-year separation evaporated in the warmth of their love.
About three weeks after Michael and Hannah were reunited, Ted got a call asking him to be their best man. They were to be married after years of separation.
It must have been some sight: a 79-year-old man and a 76-year-old woman acting like teenagers. A perfect ending to a tragic separation. They had every reason to celebrate.
(From a sermon by David Rigg, When a Lost Person Is Saved, 3/30/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
AND IT CAME TO PASS...
"The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me." -- Martin Luther
During a Sunday class the question was asked, "In your time of discouragement, what is your favourite Scripture?"
A young man said, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want" Psalm 23:1. A middle age woman said, "God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" Psalm 46:1. Another woman said, "In this world you shall have tribulations, but be of good cheer, I have overcome this world" John 16:33-35.
Then old Mr. John who was 80 years old, with head of white hair and dark black skin, stood up and said with as much strength as he could muster, "It says, 'And it came to pass...' 85 times in the Bible." The class started to laugh a little, thinking that old Mr. John's lack of memory was getting the best of him.
When the snickering stopped, he said, "At 30, I lost my job with six hungry mouths and a wife to feed. I didn't know how I would make it. At 40, my eldest son was killed overseas in the war. It knocked me down. At 50, my house burned to the ground. Nothing was saved out of the house. At 60, my wife of 40 years got cancer. It slowly ate away at her. We cried together many a night on our knees in prayer. At 65, she died. I still miss her today.
"The agony I went through in each of these situations was unbelievable. I wondered where was God. But each time I looked in the bible I saw one of those 85 verses that said, 'And it came to pass' I felt that God was telling me, my pain and my circumstances were also going to pass and that God would get me through it."
(From a sermon by Stephen Sheane, The Table of Shewbread, 5/25/2011)
AN ANSWERED PRAYER
John Maxwell writes in his book, Partners in Prayer;
"In the summer of 1876, grasshoppers nearly destroyed the crops in Minnesota. SO in the spring of 1877, farmers were worried. They believed that the dreadful plague would once again visit them and again destroy the rich wheat crop, bringing ruin to thousands of people.
The situation was so serious that Governor John S. Pillsbury proclaimed April 26 as a day of prayer and fasting He urged every man, woman and child to ask God to prevent the terrible scourge. On that April day all schools, shops, stores and offices were closed. There was a reverent, quite hush over all the state.
The next day dawned bright and clear. Temperature soared to what they ordinary were in midsummer, which was very unusual for April. Minnesotans were devastated as they discovered billions of grasshopper larvae wiggling to life. For 3 days the unusual heat persisted, and the larvae hatched. It appeared that it wouldn’t be long before they started feeding and destroying the wheat crop.
On the fourth day, however the temperature suddenly dropped, and that night frost, covered the entire state. Result - it killed every one of thos...
One day 2 men were talking as they saw a woman walking down the road. One of the men said, “That’s Mrs. Jones. She always has something good to say about everyone.” The other man decided to test her, so when she got close he hollered, “Mrs. Jones, what do you think about the devil?” She thought for a second and answered, “He sure is busy isn’t he?” You can find something good to say about almost anyone. Encourage them.
Sermon Central Staff
A PEACEMAKING CHURCH
I can tell this story because one neighbor has died and the other neighbor no longer lives across the street from our church. Our neighbors endured the disruption of their lives as we built on to our church. I'm sure that contributed to their lack of patience with us. We put our dumpster next to the parsonage. We didn't want it on Rock Creek. It was believed that it would attract others continually filling it up, and it was not the first thing that we wanted people to see when they look at our church. One neighbor had a different point of view. He didn't like coming out of his front door and looking across the street at a dumpster. He wanted to know what we were going to do.
All the neighbors and some men from our church and myself met at the dumpster. This man was angry. After he'd let off some steam I asked where he recommended we put the dumpster. You know that was a dangerous question. What he wanted was to put it out front on the corner of our property. I said to the group let's go look at what he's talking about. I did not want to do this.
I walked with the neighbors and listened to their complaints. When we got out front the man began explaining why it was a good spot. I was thinking of why it was not a good spot. But Music Minister Jim Garling, who'd followed behind and heard the man complain from one end of the property to the other, looked at me and said, "Ed, this will be OK. We can make it work." As you can see to this day, that's exactly what we did.
There are shields inside the covers of the outside lights on the west side because the woman who lived across the street at that time complained that the lights were so bright that it lit up her living room and kitchen. We didn't have to do any of that. But we're Christians. We are people of peace. Those were minor actions to do good for our neighbors in order to live at peace with them.
Peacemakers release tension; they don't intensify it. Peacemakers seek solutions and find no delight in arguments. Peacemakers calm the waters; they don't trouble them. Peacemakers work hard to keep an offense from occurring. And if it has occurred, they strive for resolution. Peacemakers lower their voice rather than raise their voice. Peacemakers generate light not heat.
(From a sermon by Ed Sasnett, Like a Good Neighbor, 7/29/2011)