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C.S. Lewis said, “The gospel means we can stop lying to ourselves. The sweet sound of amazing grace saves us from the necessity of self-deception. It keeps us from denying that though Christ was victorious, the battle with lust, greed, and pride still rages within us. As a sinner who has been redeemed, I can acknowledge that I am often unloving, irritable, angry and resentful with those closest to me. When I go to church I can leave my white hat at home and admit I have failed. God not only loves me as I am, but also knows me as I am. Because of this I don’t need to apply spiritual cosmetics to make myself presentable to Him. I can accept ownership of my poverty and powerlessness and neediness.”

Contributed By:
Curry Pikkaart

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The late Ray Stedman recalled a time he was a guest at a conference and was driven around in a Lincoln Continental. He remembered thinking how quietly it rode--he couldn’t hear the engine. Yet, as they drove through mountain passages, he realized that with each push of the accelerator, there was a huge surge of power. He continued:

"That is something like what Paul is describing here. Sin lies silent within us. We do not even know it is there. We think we have hold of life in such a way that we can handle it without difficulty. We are self-confident because we have never really been exposed to the situation that puts pressure upon us--we never have had to make a decision against the pressure of the commandment, 'Thou shalt not...' But when that happens, we suddenly find ourselves filled with attitudes that almost shock us--unloving, bitter, resentful thoughts, murderous attitudes...We find ourselves awakened to these desires. As the great engine surges into life at the touch of the accelerator so this powerful, idling beast within us called sin springs into life as the law comes home to us."

The LAW OF GOD reminds us that there is sin within us which prompts our desires. It waits for the right opportunities to step on the accelerator.

(Ray Stedman, “Expository Studies in Romans 1-8 – From Guilt to Glory – Volume 1”, Word Books,1981, pg. 188)

Contributed By:
Mark Brunner

“A Sword and a Tear!” 2 Timothy 2: 22-26: Key verse(s): 24-25a “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth”

It was a clear-cut case of guilt and punishment. As I was paging through the pages of the magazine I ran across an article about a special judge in Alabama. He held court in a juvenile justice courtroom much like any in this country. Daily dozens of sad cases paraded before his bench. Robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, rape, car theft, shoplifting; this was the daily dose of humanity that seasoned his venue. Boys and girls who had made that one terrible mistake and those that had had occasion to stand before his bench before. According to the article, over the years this one judge had heard literally thousands of such cases. Many of those who had committed these crimes had ended up in the state’s juvenile prison system as this particular judge was not timid in applying the rule of law liberally when it came to sentencing. Passing through this judge’s courtroom was no picnic and few forgot his application of the punishment fits the crime. But, the article continued, many would sooner remember the judge himself than the punishment they so rightly deserved. For, you see, this judge was a man of great mercy. Although he held the sword of justice in his right hand, he always seemed far more comfortable embracing the staff of mercy with the other.

The article focused in on once recent case where a young man had committed a rather serious crime that would bring with it the staunchest of punishments. When it came time for the sentencing, the convicted juvenile stood before the bench with his parents and lawyer standing gravely beside him. The judge solemnly reviewed the nature of the crime, repeating word for word the dreadful details of the act. Addressing the lawyer he reiterated what was already a given, the sentence would be ample and there would be no leniency. The law would not allow it. Then, a remarkable thing happened (something that happens daily in this courtroom), while parents and child hugged and cried the judged removed himself from the bench and embraced the threesome. The hug was not long but it would always be remembered. Despite his willingness to punish, this judge did so in mercy and love. Knowing that the law requires punishment, he was never unwilling to confront those who had transgressed with the cold, hard consequences of criminal behavior. Nevertheless, so that every offender knew that forgiveness was also a part of the bargain, this judge wanted every young girl ...

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Contributed By:
Scott Sharpes

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Jason’s Praying Pencils
How a student gave his teacher a special education
by Hugh Chapman

I was an hour-and-a-half into my new teaching career when I saw him at the other end of the hallway. He was the reason I almost didn’t take the job; before long, he became the reason I stayed.
Though I had never met Jason Banning before, I knew his situation. He was a 13-year-old special needs seventh-grader who had been confined to a wheelchair virtually all his life.

As Izard County (Arkansas) Consolidated School’s newest special education teacher, I was hired to teach Jason and attend to his personal needs. He had medicines that needed to be administered and diapers that needed to be changed twice a day; odd tasks for a man who had made a habit of fleeing his own kids at medicine and diaper-changing time.

My educational certification is in business, but there had been no positions available in that area. Special education was the only job open. It wouldn’t be easy: I would have to go back to school during summers and evenings to be certified in special ed. But because my own kids were in the school system, I wanted very much to be involved.

So I stood at my end of the hall, watching Jason being pushed toward me by his friend Delbert. I whispered a quiet prayer. "God, please help me with this." I expected an angry child, resentful of the life he had been dealt.

More than a student
As I watched him, I had to admit that he had every right to be angry. Jason had spina bifida, a congenital defect of the vertebrae. He had already undergone a dozen surgeries and his family anticipated more. He was being cared for, full time, by elderly grandparents.

His prognosis was poor. I remember seeing Jason at the school’s sixth grade graduation. His grandmother had invited the entire family and had ordered balloons and flowers for the event. She wanted the celebration to be special for Jason, because, as she later explained, it might be the only graduation he would ever see.

Yet if Jason was bitter, I saw no sign of it that day. Wheeling up to me in the school hallway, Jason realized who I was. Holding out both arms in greeting, he said, "Welcome, friend. It’s good to see you."

Though it took us a while to adjust to each other and our new surroundings, we eventually settled in. During our conversations, Jason often shared his heart. He told me he had attended church for as long as he could remember, and a couple of years before he had given his life to Jesus. Someday he hoped to become a preacher.

Prayer in the school
One time my first year, when his 80-year-old grandfather was ill, Jason asked me to pray with him. Not wanting to jeopardize my future, I was reluctant. Tactfully I explained that our government had regulations about teachers and students praying together on school grounds. Jason seemed to understand.

Two hours later, though, when Jason was in band class, God spoke to me—not in an audible voice—but through a feeling of deep remorse that weighed heavily on my heart. It is a sad world indeed, when a public school teacher is so wrapped up in the system that he is afraid to pray with a frightened child, I thought.

I dropped what I was doing and found my friend among the tubas and clarinets. I wheeled him back to the nurses’ station and there, in the quiet of the room, Jason and I prayed for his grandfather. He recovered soon after.

Secret code
Many times after that, Jason and I prayed together. I told Jason I often prayed silently in my classroom, and he suggested a way the two of us could pray silently together. He would lay his pencils (he always had at least two) on his desk in the form of a cross, as a signal to me that he was praying. From wherever I was in the room, I would join him.

Once when I was having a bad day, Jason’s friend Delbert came to class without a pencil. Jason and Delbert knew that I expected my students to be prepared for class, and Jason would often secretly loan paper or pencils to Delbert. I noticed Jason slipping a pencil to Delbert. I was annoyed, but said nothing.

Later, I gave the students an in-class written assignment. Jason wheeled up to my desk with tears welling in his eyes. "I don’t have my pencil," he said.

"Jason," I said, irritated, "if you didn’t keep giving your things to Delbert, you’d have a pencil, wouldn’t you?"
Then I noticed a pencil in Jason’s shirt pocket. Annoyed that the disruption had been unnecessary, I pulled out the pencil and held it in front of him. "Jason, here’s a pencil in your pocket!"

A tear rolled down his cheek. "That’s the pencil I write with," he explained. "It’s the pencil I pray with that I don’t have."
I choked up, ashamed for jumping all over him. I immediately found him a pencil. From that moment, I made a point to have lots of spare materials on hand.
No longer afraid
As the school years went by, I realized how I had been changing inside. At first, I had thought of Jason as a student, then a friend. Now, he was much more than a friend. Jason was like a son to me.
I had a chance to pray another time with Jason, when he was frightened because of an upcoming hospital stay. "Will you pray with me, Mr. Chapman?" he asked. "It seems to work better when you help."

I explained that God listens to everyone’s pray...

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Contributed By:
Sermon Central Staff


Basketball coach Pat Riley in his book The Winner Within tells about the 1980 World Championship Los Angeles Lakers. They won the NBA Championship that year, and they were recognized as the best basketball team in the world.

They began their 1980-1981 season considered likely to win back-to-back championships. But within weeks of the season opener, Magic Johnson tore a cartilage in his knee, and he needed a three month recuperation period. The team and the fans rallied, and the remaining players played their hearts out. They determined to make it through that period without losing their rankings. They were winning seventy percent of their games when the time began to draw near for Magic Johnson to return to action.

As his return grew closer, the publicity surrounding him increased. During time-outs at the games, the public address announcer would always say, “And don’t forget to mark your calendars for February 27th. Magic Johnson returns to the lineup of your World Champion Los Angeles Lakers!” During that announcement, the other players would look up and curse. They’d say, “We’re winning now. What’s so great about February 27th?”

As the day approached, fewer and fewer things were written or said about the players who were putting out so much effort. All the media attention was focused on the one player who hadn’t been doing a thing. Finally the 27th came, and as they clicked through the turnstiles every one of the 17,500 ticket holders was handed a button that said, “The magic is back!”

At least fifty press photographers crowded onto the floor while the players were introduced. Normally only the starters were introduced, and Magic Johnson was going to be on the bench when the game began. But he was nevertheless included in the introductions. At the mention of his name, the arena rocked with a standing ovation. Flashbulbs went off like popcorn. Magic Johnson was like a returning god to the crowd that night.

Meanwhile the other players who had carried the team ...

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