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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)
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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 wasnít 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 -- itís 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 donít 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.
ďGodís Algebra!Ē Romans 8:9-17 Key verse(s) 16:ďThe Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are Godís children.Ē
One of the unchangeable and mysterious laws of mathematics is that whenever you multiply a positive number by a negative number you will always get a negative number. I remember my 7th grade teacher, Mr. Kramer, drilling that into our heads. There was no way of adequately explaining why a negative times a positive will always equal a negative. And, for a math underachiever such as myself, it simply was a matter of memorizing the theorem and forgetting the understanding part of it. From a purely logical perspective, it always seemed to me that whichever number was the larger ought to be the determining factor in any equation. It just made sense. The big guy was going to defeat the little guy in a wrestling match. The larger hawk would always overpower the smaller sparrow. If you mixed a little bit of gravel with a lot of sand you would still have more sand than gravel. I always had a hard time understanding the concept of something small overpowering something very large.
This seemed logical to me for the most part. Even daily life as it played itself out around me testified to the fact that the equation embraced faulty logic. For example, when you were having a good day and things were going along pretty well and you stumbled into calamity for some reason, if the amount of good you had happened to collect did not exceed the magnitude of the calamity, the bad would always put the hammerlock on the good sending you down to the mat every time. It was a question of balance. If your alarm didnít go off in the morning and you were late for class, that could be overcome in general if you simply negated it by hitting a home run at recess and added a couple of good test scores to the mix throughout the course of the day. That seemed pretty logical to 13-year-old kid who was simply trying to make the best of life at the moment and was determined to finish each day with more good on his plate than bad.
Sometimes being a Christian and having to deal with the bad and negative things in our lives also has this same underpinning of illogical calculation. Life can real deal out some pretty heavy blows sometimes. Even worse, when we are already down for the count, there are even those days when bad piles on bad. If we use the logic of the 13-year-old boy just trying to make it through the day, days like this become unbearable. There simply isnít enough good within our grasp to deal with all the bad. Thatís when despair steps in to put its heavy boot on the back of our neck to keep us down for good.
Thank God for they mystery of His Holy Spirit. When He is inserted into the equation of life, what Mr. Kramer taught me in 7th grade mathematics starts to become even more illogical, however in a reverse sort of way. Whereas algebra dictates that a negative times a positive always equals a negative, Godís textbook, the Bible, dictates that a negative times a positive always equals a positive. When life becomes overpowering it doesnít matter how much of it is negative. When we put the Holy Spirit of God into the equation the outcome is always the same; we get the help we need to cope and to restore our faith. This is a mystery that flies in the face of earthly logic but it is trustworthy. Sorrow and Affliction x the Holy Spirit = Patience. But Godís algebra doesnít stop there. Patience x Experience = Faith. It doesnít seem logical at the outset, but no matter how big sorrow and affliction are, they never come out the winner in this equation.
Miss Thompson taught Teddy Stallard in the fourth grade. He was a slow, unkempt student, a loner shunned by his classmates. The previous year his mother died, and what little motivation for school he may have once had was now gone. Miss Thompson didnít particularly care for Teddy either, but at Christmas time he brought her a small present. Her desk was covered with well-wrapped presents from the other children, but Teddyís came in a brown sack. When she opened it there was a gaudy rhinestone bracelet with half the stones missing and a bottle of cheap perfume. The children began to snicker but Miss Thompson saw the importance of the moment. She quickly splashed on some perfume and put on the bracelet, pretending Teddy had given her something special. At the end of the day Teddy worked up enough courage to softly say, "Miss Thompson, you smell just like my mother . . . and her bracelet looks real pretty on you too. Iím glad you like my presents." After Teddy left, Miss Thompson got down on her knees and prayed for Godís forgiveness. She prayed for God to use her as she sought to not only teach these children but to love them as well. She became a new teacher. She lovingly helped students like Teddy, and by the end of the year he had caught up with most of the students. Miss Thompson didnít hear from Teddy for a long time. Then she received this note: "Dear Miss Thompson, I wanted you to be the first to know. I will be graduating second in my class. Love, Teddy Stallard." Four years later she got another note: "Dear Miss Thompson, They just told me I will be graduating first in my class. I wanted you to be the first to know. The university has not been easy, but I liked it. Love, Teddy Sta...
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FASTER AND FASTER
Does anyone here know who "Million Dollar Bill" is? If you guessed Bill Gates, then you would be wrong. Another nickname is "Awesome Bill from Dawsonville." In the year 1987, at Talladega Motor Speedway, Bill Elliot set the fastest recorded speed for a qualifying lap at 212.809 mph. This was the fastest miles per hour recorded for qualifying in a NASCAR event. The cars ran so fast that they literally began to lift off the speedway, creating a major safety issue. The speeds were so fast, and they really could not handle the cars.
NASCAR would implement the restrictor plate. If you are not a race fan, or not a car person at all, here is what a restrictor plate does: The device limits the power output of the engine, therefore slowing the acceleration and the overall speed. The horsepower of these machines is phenomenal. In 2004, Rusty Wallace tested a car at Talladega Super Speedway without a restrictor plate, and reached a top speed of 228 mph in the backstretch, and had a one lap average of 221 mph. Wallace would describe the experience as "out of control," and he also said that "there is no way that we could race at those speeds." The restrictor plates have slowed the carsí speeds significantly, and they now average around 187 mph- still very fast for most of us.
But is it really? We all seem to be going faster and faster, until we actually find out--as Rusty Wallace said-- that we are out of control. The things that we are doing are no longer fun, and have become extremely dangerous.
We have become a society of "I want it now." I mean, look back, say 25-30 years. The cell phone was straight out of Dick Tracy comics, or the Jetsonsí TV phones to see the person on the other end. A computer was something that no one needed. But now, something that used to take up a city block will fit in your shirt pocket, and you can access the world from about anywhere at any time. The speed of things today is more than most of us can imagine. If there was a contest for the most popular virtue, I guess that "fast" would beat "best." Many parts of the world seem to be obsessed with speed- but the fast craze is getting us nowhere, fast.
In Carl Honoreís book, "In Praise of Slowness," he says, "The time has come to challenge our obsession with doing everything more quickly. Speed is not always the best policy."
According to the Bible, heís right. Peter warns that in the last days, people would doubt God because he is slow, "Slack," in fulfilling his promise to return.
(From a sermon by Ricky Hurst, Patience- Stop and Smell the Roses, 5/31/2011)
CREATED TO BE USED
In his book The Pursuit of Excellence, Ted Engstrom wrote these words: "I was cleaning out a desk drawer when I found a flashlight I hadn't used in over a year. I flipped the switch, but wasn't surprised when it gave no light. I unscrewed it and shoot it to get the batteries out, but they wouldn't budge.
"Finally, after some effort, they came loose. What a mess! Battery acid had corroded the entire inside of the flashlight. The batteries were new when I'd put them in, and I'd stored them in a safe, warm place. But there was one problem. Those batteries weren't made to be warm and comfortable. They were designed to be turned on -- to be used.
It's the same with us. We weren't created to be warm, safe and comfortable. You and I were made to be 'turned on' -- put our love to work, to apply our patience in difficult, trying situations -- to let our light shine."
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SPIRITUAL GROWTH TAKES TIME
There was once a farmer who went to town to purchase seeds for his farm. As he was returning home one of the squash seeds he had purchased fell from his pocket onto the ground. It happened that within a few feet was another seed of a different type. The place where the two seeds lay was rather fertile, and miraculously they took root.
After about a week the squash seed showed signs of growth. The second seed showed none. After two weeks the squash began to sprout leaves. The second seed showed none. After seven weeks the squash began to show fruit. The second seed still showed no progress. Four more weeks came and gone.
The squash plant reached the end of its life bearing much fruit in that time, but the other seed finally began to slowly grow. Many years later, the squash was all but forgotten, but the other tiny seed, an acorn, had grown into a mighty oak tree.
So many people want their faith to be like the squash. They want to experience it all right now... Spiritual training -- like Epaphras understood, requires hard work and patience -- as anything worthwhile does.
(From a sermon by Steve Smith, "Pursuing Godly Living" 2/15/2009)
THE MIRACLE OF GODíS PRESENCE
Lisa Beamer reflects on the loss of her dad in her book, "Letís Roll."
ďSlowly I began to understand that the plans God has for us donít just include Ďgood thingsí, but the whole array of human events. The Ďprosperingí he talks about in the book of Jeremiah is often the outcome of a Ďbadí event. I remember my mom saying that many people look for miracles- things that in their human minds Ďfixí a difficult situation. Many miracles, however, are not a change to the normal course of human events; theyíre found in Godís ability and desire to sustain and nurture people through even the worst situations. Somewhere along the way, I stopped demanding that God fix the problems in my life a...
I read that the Eskimos of Canada and Greenland have an interesting, if rather cruel, way of hunting bear. They will take a bone, preferably a wolf bone, and they will sharpen it at both ends. Then they will coil it through a process, freeze it in blubber and lay it across one of the paths the bears travel. As the bear comes along he smells the blubber and in one gulp he takes it and swallows it, not knowing that itís just blubber on the outside, but on the inside thereís this twisted, sharpened bone. And the minute he swallows it heís dead. He doesnít drop down just yet, but every move he makes, every step he takes, causes that bone to twist and to slash and to tear and the internal bleeding starts and the Eskimos just follow the tracks of that bear until it dies. Itís the same way as a person who says, "Iím going to save my life, Iím going to keep my life for myself, Iím going to do what I want to do." The minute you do that you are already in the process of dying and destroying your life.
A young man once approached Socrates to ask if the philosopher would teach him the gift of oratory. His request was then followed by an incessant stream of words until, finally, Socrates placed his hand over the inquirer’s mouth and said, “Young man, I will have to charge you a double fee.”
When the fellow asked why, Socrates replied, “I will have to teach you two sciences. First, how to hold your tongue, and then, how to use it.”
You cannot speak and learn at the same time.