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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)
“In 1992, a Los Angeles County parking control officer came upon a brown El Dorado Cadillac illegally parked next to the curb on street-sweeping day.
The officer dutifully wrote out a ticket. Ignoring the man seated at the driver’s wheel, the officer reached inside the open car window and placed the $30 citation on the dashboard.
The driver of the car made no excuses. No argument ensued-and with good reason. The driver of the car had been shot in the head ten to twelve hours before but was sitting up, stiff as a board, slumped slightly forward, with blood on his face. He was dead.
The officer, preoccupied with ticket-writing, was unaware of anything out of the ordinary. He got back in his car and drove away.
Many people around us are ‘dead in transgressions and sins.’ What should catch our attention most is their need, not their offenses. They don’t need a citation; they need a Savior.” (Rowell)
Not too many years ago newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who came to faith in Jesus Christ. What made his story remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. Still, he believed his relationship with Christ demanded a confession. And he even voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money! Today in the Word, April, 1989, p. 13.
LEAVE IT UP ALL YEAR LONG
Not too many years ago newspapers carried the story of Al Johnson, a Kansas man who repented, who came to faith in Jesus Christ. What made his story so remarkable was not his conversion, but the fact that as a result of his newfound faith in Christ, he confessed to a bank robbery he had participated in when he was nineteen years old. Because the statute of limitations on the case had run out, Johnson could not be prosecuted for the offense. But because of his complete and total change of heart, he not only confessed his crime, he voluntarily repaid his share of the stolen money! That’s repentance – radical reconstruction of the heart.
Of all the decorations you have, this one is the most important of them all. It’s invisible, because it first takes place in your heart. The Holy Spirit changes you through the Word, and through baptism. It’s visible, because you become empowered to show your repentance in your...
Brian La Croix
A mother once approached Napoleon seeking a pardon for her son. The emperor replied that the young man had committed a certain offense twice and justice demanded death.
"But I don’t ask for justice," the mother explained. "I plead for mercy."
"But your son does not deserve mercy," Napoleon replied.
"Sir," the woman cried, "it would not be mercy if he deserved it, and mercy is all I ask for."
"Well, then," the emperor said, "I will have mercy." And he spared the woman’s son.
Blessed Are The Persecuted
Matthew 5:10-12 says, "Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
We are not to be surprised if people in the world hate Christians. (1 John 3: 13) Matthew Henry wrote, "Whom Christ blesses the world curses. The heirs of heaven have never been the darlings of this world, since the old enmity was put between the seed of woman (Eve) and of the serpent (Devil). Why did Cain hate Abel? Because Abel's works were righteous."
Persecution is a great paradox and a part of Christianity. Therefore it is put last of the eight Beatitudes. Jesus gives mention of it twice in His opening statements in the Sermon on the Mount because persecution is certain. In fact, "...everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted..." (2 Timothy 3: 12)
Righteousness, proper living before God, is an offense to people who live for the flesh, the world and the Devil. True holy living by the children of God convicts those who live for themselves.
Persecution, which is seen by an all-knowing God, comes in many forms and is found in every nation. Christians have been fined, imprisoned, banished, stripped of their estates, scourged, tortured, falsely accused and killed. There is no evil so black and horrid as false accusations and the persecution of Christians who truly walk uprightly before God.
Today's text does not encourage Christians to seek persecution. But, neither does it permit retreating from it, sulking or retaliation.
Christians who are persecuted because of righteousness will have a great reward in heaven. They may not understand the purposes nor see the benefits of it down here on earth, but there will be a great reward in the future life. Persecuted Christians who are fully surrendered to the Holy Spirit, can be like Peter and the other apostles when they left the Sanhedrin "...rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Christ]." (Acts 5: 14)
Dayna Curry and Heather Mercer were the two American Christian aide workers being held by the Taliban under threat of death during the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on America and the resulting U.S. attack on Afghanistan. They open their book, "Prisoners of Hope" with these words, "To the Afghan people whom we so dearly love." These words reflect the heart of Christians who are willing to risk persecution and perhaps death for the sake of taking the gospel to the lost, those who are without Christ as personal Savior and Lord. They also wrote; "To our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Your everlasting love healed our hearts and set us free. May we honor and love you with all that we are for all of our days."
Having the "Righteousness" of God is to have a surrendered heart to His will, regardless of the cost. Blessed are those who will undergo persecution for the sake of the righteousness of Christ.
Most of us remember the story of Pinnochio. What we remember most about Pinocchio is how his nose grew whenever he told a lie. The story is actually much deeper than that. The original tale was written by Carlo Collodi about 1883. Pinocchio is in many ways a beautiful illustration of what Christ has done for us. The original 1940 Disney film captures some of the essence of the original story by transforming a sadistic, cruel, heartless little wooden boy and turns him into a real boy with a good heart but who is weak-willed and doesn’t always listen to reason.
I love this story because it so well illustrates what God has done for us. He took us as we were, full of sin and unrighteousness and transformed us into his very own child. He has changed our hearts and while we still struggle to get it right and often do not get it right we have been made his very own child and he proclaims loudly before the whole world "This is my Child, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."
“Mercy Resting Upon Wrath!” John 8: 12-20 Key verse(s): 16: “‘But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.’”
The young man sat before the bench, head held low, hands hanging loosely at his side. His crime had been serious and parents, family and all who knew him had been shocked by what he had done. The jury had found him guilty on all charges and now all that remained to be done was for the judge to pass sentence. As the judge entered the courtroom and order was called, those present, including the young man, arose. As everyone returned to their seats, the young man heard the words that he had been dreading: “The defendant will rise and face the court.” The moment had come and he knew that his entire future now rested in the hands of the man he was now facing.
The judge repeated the charges and reiterated the finding of guilty by the jury on each charge. The young man winced as each charge and finding was repeated. “On the charge of aiding and abetting a criminal act involving the transportation of stolen goods, the defendant has been found guilty. On the charge of evading an officer, the defendant has been found guilty. On the charge of possession of a fireman, the defendant has been found guilty. On the charge of . . .” The charges, six in all, echoed throughout the young man’s mind. How would he ever be able to face his parents, his friends, and especially his girl friend again? Would the judge be lenient since he had never been in trouble before? Would he receive prison time and, if so, how much? What would prison be like? As the judge rattled on, the scene in the courtroom became surreal, almost like a bad dream. He lifted his face toward the bench as the judge finished his recitation “ . . . you have been found guilty” and paused.
The judge brought his eyes directly into focus on the defendant as he began his sentencing. “I hope that you know the seriousness of what you have done. James Rogers, you have affected the lives of your parents and everyone who loves you. The law is very specific in demonstrating how serious your offenses are. The penalties it calls for in these circumstances are not lenient. However, this is your first offense and I believe that you are sorry for what you have done. You have shown great remorse in the course of this trial. The character witnesses that were called in your defense spoke highly of you. I have spoken with your parents and have come to the conclusion that there will be no repeat of this behavior. Therefore, I sentence you to one year of probation and two hundred hours of community service.” With those words the young man suddenly felt a cooling sense of relief filter down from his head to his toes. His knees wobbled and he grabbed for his attorney’s coat sleeve feeling that in a moment he might collapse under the strain of the situation.
Following these comforting words, the judge’s merciful countenance slowly began to change. With a stern look toward the young man he added, “It is my job to protect society from those who seek to harm her. It is also my job to uphold the law and punish those who disobey that law.” He then asked the young man to approach the bench. James wondered if there would be additional punishment since the judge was deliberately writing something down on a piece of paper. He folded it and placed it within an envelope. “James, within this envelope are the penalties that I could have brought to bear on you today. I want you to go home and read them over with your parents. And, remember, even though it is my job to show mercy when I feel that it is warranted, if you disregard that mercy I will be forced to do exactly what is written on this sheet of paper....
The Greatest Love of All
"For this reason I kneel before the Father... that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God." (Ephesians 3: 14, 17 - 19)
Everyone of us who is now born-again in Christ Jesus was at one time an enemy of God. We loved ourselves more than God, and we esteemed our sin more highly than we esteemed His salvation. We were fit only for hell and the judgment of God. Scripture says that, "we were by nature objects of wrath."
If you have not yet accepted Jesus as your Savior and Lord, you are, unfortunately, still in this position with God. But, we were changed, and so can you be changed!
"Because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions -- it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2: 4, 5)
Because of His great love! This is the sole reason that any one of us may be reconciled back to God. There simply is no other rationale for us to have been given the opportunity to live in His presence forever. It is because of His great love!
"For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3: 16)
God's love for you is perfect, complete and everlasting. Our human love for one another is fickle and changeable. The dearest of friends may find offenses and part ways. A vow of love at the alter may fail only months or years later. Even a parent may let their love for their own child grow cold, or a child for his parent. But the love of the Lord our God, Creator of heaven and earth does not fail. His love does not grow cold. He says, "I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness" (Jeremiah 31: 3)
There is no person, no thing seen or unseen, no trial or hardship that can separate you from the love of God. The apostle Paul, a man acquainted with many trials and much suffering, wrote these words, "For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8: 38, 39)
If you are reading this and you do not know Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord, then God is drawing you now to Him. When Jesus allowed His blood to be shed at Calvary, this covered all your sin and His death paid the penalty for it. You can have a fresh clean start in Christ. He will enable you to overcome any sin that may be keeping you out of fellowship Him and give you the ability to sacrificially love your spouse, children, family members, co-workers and the body of Christ.
Who of you can refuse such a great love? Why would you want to? Asked Jesus to forgive you today! Invite Him into you heart and life while you still have time!
DEFUSING A BOMB
The setting is modern day Iraq. A soldier specially trained is cautiously approaching a large cigar-shaped bomb capable of destroying the lives of anyone within half a block. He has good intentions of defusing it and making peace instead of destruction. But the bomb is a real threat -- it is dangerous and any wrong move, any wrong wire that is cut is instant death.
When you see a bomb, the temptation is anger - to kick, to scream, to take a hammer and pound that bomb. But will that have any effect? Yes! It will explode and you with it! Many others will be killed as well. You don't fight a bomb with another bomb.
Every difference of opinion is like a bomb which has the potential to destroy everything around it. And so every conflict has even more potential for damage.
How do you defuse a bomb? How do you defuse the bomb of conflict? Of offense? Of differences of view or opinion? There is a special key to keeping the peace -- to defusing the bomb. How do you defuse a bomb of conflict? With humility! You defuse it with gentleness, with love, with humility. Humility is the key to disarming any attack. As Paul wrote: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him..."