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A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in our family. Mom taught me to love the Word of God. Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening.
He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies, and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars. The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind but sometimes Mom would quietly get up—while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places—and go to her room and read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave. My Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them.
Profanity was not allowed in our house—not from us, our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four-letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge, the stranger was never confronted. Dad didn’t permit alcohol in his home. But the stranger enlightened us to other ways of life. He often offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.
He talked freely about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.
I believe it was only by the grace of God the stranger did not influence us even more. Time after time he opposed my parents’ values. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave. More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the young family on Morningside Drive.
But if I were to walk into my parents’ home today, I would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures. His name? We always called him TV.
MANY MEN OF SCIENCE, TOO FEW MEN OF GOD
In 1948, at an Armistice Celebration, (Armistice was the declaration of peace at the end of World War I) it was declared on November 11 at 11.00 am. So 11, 11 at 11. They did that symbolically because they felt that they were at the eleventh hour. They actually felt if the war continued, the whole world would be destroyed by it. Over 20 million people were killed in World War I. It was the bloodiest, most destructive war in history up until that time. So they declared an Armistice. Even till today some celebrate that.
Omar Bradley, one of the Generals in World War II went to World War I and he remembered it as a young man. He served in the army in the US, became a General. He actually led one of the largest armies in history during World War II. He spoke at an Armistice Day in Boston, Massachusetts in 1948. He said,
"With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its moral adolescents. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it. We have many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
This is our twentieth century's claim to distinction and to progress."
In the middle of 20th century, he makes this commentary and I think that history has borne his testimony to be true. After he made this speech, we had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the whole group of other wars in the world. We do not know how to make peace.
If we are going to move into the twenty first century in confidence, if we want to give hope to our children and next generation, it must come through our commitment to our being in Christ and seeing character developed in ourselves, so that His light can shine in this very dark world.
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In 1994, two Christian missionaries answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics in a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage.
It was nearing Christmas and they decided to tell them the story of Christmas. It would be the first time these children had heard the story of the birth of Christ. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
When the story was finished, they gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that they had brought with them since no coloured paper was available in the city.
Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt which the missionaries had also brought with them.
It was all going smoothly until one of the missionaries sat down at a table to help a 6 year old boy named Misha. He had finished his manger. When the missionary looked at the little boy’s manger, she was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, she called for the translator to ask Misha why there were two babies in the manger.
Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, Misha began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the baby
Jesus in the manger.
Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending. He said, "And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did.
"But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift' And Jesus told me, 'If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.'
"So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him--for always."
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed.
The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him--FOR ALWAYS.
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...
"Isaac’s Storm" is a very interesting book about the hurricane that wiped out Galveston in 1900. One of the main plot lines of the book is about how everyone was convinced that a hurricane could never strike Galveston, even as one approached. The author vividly describes how as the streets began to flood people went about their business as if nothing was wrong. Children played in the water, men gathered for breakfast at the local diner, and no one fled from the storm that was about to strike.
Some didn’t worry because Issac Cline, the national weather service officer in Galveston, assured them it would not be a severe storm. Other’s simply believed that Galveston was invincible. Some thought that since they had never seen a hurricane strike Galveston one never would. So for a number of reasons, people assured themselves nothing bad would happen. And as a result over 6,000 people died one September day in 1900.
Today we can see storm clouds forming on the horizon. There is a moral and spiritual decline that continues to erode our national life. The warning signs are there for us to see--the signs that Jesus is coming soon. They beckon us to return to the Lord and seek refuge in Him. How will history look back on what we did as the storm approached?
SOURCE: Steve Hanchet. Citation: "Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History," by Erik Larson and Isaac Monroe Cline. Vintage Books; ISBN: 0375708278; (July 11, 2000).
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On Sept 16, 1620 2 ships set sail from Plymouth Englnad, The Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell encountered much difficulty as they began their journey springing many leaks in the ship. So when the 2 ships went to Port in Plymouth England, the Speedwell decided to go no further and 42 passengers from the Speedwell joined the 60 passengers and 30 crew members aboard the Mayflower..
Of the 102 passengers on board the Mayflower the majority were devout Christians. They were coming to America to shake lose from the bonds of the church of England so they could worship God as they believed scriptures taught.
And with great excitement and expectations that set sail for a new land... It wasn’t long before the trip became difficult for several reasons, as noted by William Bradford an historian on the Mayflower, who would later became Governor of the colony for 33 years.. Many of the passengers became sea sick as huge waves would crash over the deck of the ship... The nights were cold, damp and dark... Remember there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. And to make matters worse one of the crew, a very large man would constantly curse and abuse those who were sick... saying he was going to throw them overboard and steal all of their possessions... Bradford records, "BUT IT PLEASED GOD BEFORE THEY CAME HALF SEAS OVER, TO SMITE THE YOUNG MAN WITH A GRIEVOUS DISEASE OF WHICH HE DIED IN A DESPERATE MANNER.. AND SO HE HIMSELF WAS THE FIRST THROWN OVERBOARD. THUS HIS CURSES LIGHT OWN HIS WON HEAD, AND IT WAS AN ASTONISHMENT TO ALL HIS FELLOWS FOR THEY NOTED IT TO BE THE JUST HAND OF GOD UPON HIM.."
But their problems were far from over yet, they encountered many fierce storms which shook the ship with tremendous force. So fierce that many times they could not even keep the sail out and the force of the wind -- eventually cracked and bowed the main beams when they had just went over the half way point across the Atlantic. And although the passengers and crew wanted to turn back, Christopher Jones, the ships Master, assured all the vessel was "strong and firm under water." He ordered the beam to be secured. It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. AND Upon raising the beam, they "committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed." These 100 people; cold, wet -- on wooden ship in the middle of the ocean -- put their hope, trust and lives into the hands of God. The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. Two had died at sea and two had given birth. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as, "a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea," William Bradford writes, "AFTER LONG BEATINGS AT SEA THEY FELL WITH THAT LAND WHICH IS CALLED CAPE COD; AND THEY WERE NOT A LITTLE JOYFUL..."
Before going ashore they decided to write a document know as the Mayflower Compact.
At the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and the law without a moral base is really no law at all.
The day the Pilgrims signed the May Flower Compact, according to William Bradford, "they came to anchor in the Bay, which was a good harbor...and they blessed the God of Heaven, who brought them over the fast and furious ocean... and a sea of trouble. And they read the following from the Geneva Bible (the Bible the Pilgrims used) "LET THEM, THEREFORE PRAISE THE LORD, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD AND HIS MERCIES ENDURE FOREVER."
This coming thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day... Many will be busy cooking turkeys, making stuffing, baking pumpkin pies.... and watching football games. And that is fun stuff -- it is important to get together with loved ones... But that is not what thanksgiving is really about -- it’s not about food and fun... it is about giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty.
We usually picture the first thanksgiving in America, as the time when the Pilgrims and the Indians got together for a great feast (though I really don’t know how they could of eaten pumpkin pie without cool whip). But I tend to look at that time when on the sea battered Mayflower anchored in the bay at Cape Cod, a group of weary and worn men and women were on their knees praising their God in heaven for bringing them safely through the treacherous sea to this new land, as the real first thanksgiving.
James O. Davis
Jesus said the times before His second coming would include a multiplication sign, a mental sign, a moral sign, and a miracle sign. Concerning the latter, He was talking about the nation of Israel. He reminds us to keep our eyes on the fig tree. When it begins to blossom you know the end is near. Israel is the historical miracle in world civilization. She had been extinct as a nation for over 1,900 years, ever since Titus and the Roman legions marched into Jerusalem in 70 AD and nearly obliterated the Jewish people, forcing them out of their own country. The people were slaughtered and Israel died as a nation that day. But she was born again in one day. Isaiah predicted it would happen. On May 14, 1948, Israel became a nation again. David Ben Gurion signed the Declaration of Independence. Jesus said when the fig tree buds the kingdom is at hand.
On April 28, 1999, just eight days after the Columbine shooting, shock rock singer Marilyn Manson was scheduled to perform a concert in Iowa City, Iowa. And since Manson’s music
was prominent in the lives of Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, there was a lot of emotion surrounding his concert. Mark Forstrom, a local Youth Minister in the area wrote about what happened.
He wrote, "The police, the media, and the community began to prepare for angry protests and ugly brawling between Christians and Marilyn Manson supporters."
Suddenly, something totally unexpected happened. Emerging thru the vehicle of e-mail, another local movement suddenly sprang to life— that the only way to truly change our moral climate is to soften hard hearts. (The hearts of Manson fans have been hardened by
their perception that Christians are mean-spirited, hateful, and judgmental.) Thus, the idea was birthed to unravel that stereotype by encouraging Christians to show the pure LOVE of Christ to these fans in tangible ways.
Concert day finally arrived, and tension filled the community. The media geared up for an ugly battle between Manson fans and the Christian opposition.
Instead, what they observed here was an amazing testament to the power of and love of Christ! Scores of Christians from churches all over Linn County and as far away as Des Moines (2 hours away) converged on the sidewalks outside the Five Seasons Center, to do
two POSITIVE things: pray, and to show unmistakable love. It was a sight to behold.
~ Groups conducted "prayer walks" around the arena.
~ People prayed in huddles on the sidewalk.
~ Churches around the city held special prayer eetings.
As for showing LOVE to the fans,
~ One church purchased 100 pizzas, which were freely given away to the fans in line and bystanders.
~ Cookies and over 1,200 cans of soda were purchased or donated and distributed.
~ Someone made turkey & cheese sandwiches and gave them away.
~ One pastor asked Manson fans who passed by how he could pray for them--about 20 shared specific things & were prayed for on the spot.
~ After the concert, about $200 in cash (collected mostly by a local youth group) was given out to pay for parking in the parking ramp.
The Christians involved said, "We’re Christians and we’d like to show you God’s love by paying for your parking tonight." The
immediate results of this love in action were phenomenal:
~ People continually asked, "Why are you doing this?" and then listened to the answer. ~ Two "live" radio reporters (one inside the stadium and one outside) discussed--on the air--how preferable it was to be outside with the generous Christians.
~ At least 3 people gave their lives to Christ through the loving care of the Christians.
~ At least one other fan that we know of chose...
The Significance of Nazareth
"God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee." (Luke 1:26)
Many Christian historians tell us that by the time of the birth of Christ, Nazareth had become an unimportant town. It was the home of Joseph and Mary (Luke 2:39) and Nazareth was where the angel announced to the virgin the birth of the Messiah. (Luke 1:26-28) Nazareth is where Jesus grew to manhood (Luke 4:16) and where He began His public ministry in the synagogue. (Matthew 13:54) Unfortunately, Nazareth around the time of the birth of Christ had established a rather poor reputation in morals and religion. Nazareth and the people living in her were despised by Romans and Jews and those living in her were considered a conquered people. Evidence of the citizen's spiritual condition in Nazareth is found in their treatment of Christ during His ministry. When He told them things they could not tolerate they drove Him out of town, they even tried to throw Him off the cliff. (Luke 4:16-22)
Symbolically, the significance to all this is that Nazareth in Jesus' time represented no reputation for religion. Jesus, having His connections to Nazareth shows us symbolically that God is just as able and willing to send His message to a people that are not willing to receive the message as well as to a people searching for God.
Gabriel can mean "the strength of God." Let the Holy Spirit place this truth deep within your heart. Gabriel's message informed Mary that she had found favor with God. (Luke 1:30)
Even though you live in a world that has no reputation for the things of God and no desire to worship Christ in spirit and truth, the Lord can get His message to you anytime and strengthen you to accomplish your part of the Great Commission this Christmas season. No matter where you live and no matter what circumstance you find yourself in, the Lord can reach into your life and make you a valuable part of the building of the kingdom of God.
If you find yourself in Nazareth, in poor reputation in morals and dead religion, then let the Holy Spirit open your heart to the Christ of Christmas, be strengthen enjoy the favor of God in your life.
Let Christ be Significant In Your Life!
Sermon Central Staff
RUBY BRIDGES ON DOING WHAT'S RIGHT
"A federal judge had ordered New Orleans to open its public schools to African-American children, and the white parents decided that if they had to let black children in, they would keep their children out. They let it be known that any black children who came to school would be in for trouble. So the black children stayed home too.
"Except Ruby Bridges. Her parents sent her to school all by herself, six years old.
"Every morning she walked alone through a heckling crowd to an empty school. White people lined up on both sides of the way and shook their fists at her. They threatened to do terrible things to her if she kept coming to their school. But every morning at ten minutes to eight Ruby walked, head up, eyes ahead, straight through the mob; two U.S. marshals walked ahead of her and two walked behind her. Then she spent the day alone with her teachers inside that big silent school building.
"Harvard professor Robert Coles was curious about what went into the making of courageous children like Ruby Bridges. He talked to Ruby's mother and, in his book The Moral Life of Children, tells what she said: 'There's a lot of people who talk about doing good, and a lot of people who argue about what's good and what's not good,' but there are folks who 'just put their lives on the line for what's right'"
(Lewis Smedes, 1001 Quotes, Illustrations and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers, 221. From a sermon by Eric Lenhart, Thursday -- "Sleepy Heads" 8/13/2010)