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We Always Turn to Something
In Thessalonica, notice those who heard the gospel responded by 1Thes1:9 turning to God from idols to serve the true and living God.
In our 21st century western society there has been a huge paradigm shift, a turning away from Judea/Christian God centred worldview, to a new atheism which desires a complete secularisation of society with a non religious (irreligious) values and secular institutions.
But the very fact they are turning away from God doesn’t mean they are turning to something which is neutral. In fact, to turn away from God means you have to be turning to something else, which by default becomes our 21st century idols.
We see it with the rise of militant atheism–pseudo science. We see it with mass consumerism becoming an idol (credit crunch). The new liberalism sweeping our country becomes an idol, humanistic Christianity with our own personal fulfilment at the top of the agenda rather than the Glory of God, our own self-sufficiency and importance, our own personal vanities and obsessions all become idols and become the centre of our worship and take the place of God and rob us of genuine worship.
(Source: Aubrey Vaughan, Essential Worship)
Sermon Central Staff
THE STORY OF ERNEST GORDON
There is a book (and now a movie) called To End All Wars that tells of the extraordinary life of Ernest Gordon, a British Army officer captured at sea by the Japanese at the age of 24. Gordon was sent to work on the Burma-Siam railway line that the Japanese were constructing through the dense Thai jungle for possible use in an invasion of India. For labour, they conscripted prisoners of war they had captured from occupied countries in Asia and from the British Army itself. Against international law, the Japanese forced even the officers to work at manual labour, and each day Gordon would join a work detail of thousands of prisoners who hacked their way through the jungle and built up a track bed through low-lying swampland.
The conditions were horrifying. Naked except for loin cloths, the men worked under a broiling sun in 120-degree heat, their bodies stung by insects, their bare feet cut and bruised by sharp stones. Death was commonplace. If a prisoner appeared to be lagging, a Japanese guard would beat him to death, bayonet him, or decapitate him in full view of the other prisoners. Many more men simply dropped dead from exhaustion, malnutrition, and disease. Under these severe conditions, 80,000 men died building the railway--393 fatalities for every mile of track.
Ernest Gordon was gradually wasting away from a combination of beriberi, worms, malaria, dysentery, and typhoid. Paralyzed and unable to eat, Gordon was laid in the Death House, where prisoners on the verge of death were laid out in rows until they stopped breathing. The stench was unbearable. He had no energy to fight off the bedbugs, lice, and swarming flies. He propped himself up long enough to write a final letter to his parents and then lay back to await the inevitable.
For most of the war, the prison camp had been a survival of the fittest, every man for himself. In the food line, prisoners fought over the few scraps of vegetables or grains of rice floating in the greasy broth. Officers refused to share any of their special rations. Theft was common in the barracks. Men lived like animals. The conditions brought out the worst in them. And you can see how self centeredness is virtually synonymous with disunity. When we live for ourselves, we do so to the exclusion of living for others.
Something happened to Ernest Gordon in the prison camp. It became known as "Miracle on the River Kwai." One event in particular shook the prisoners. Phillip Yancey recounts what happened in his book Rumours.
Japanese guards carefully counted tools at the end of a day's work, and one day the guard shouted that a shovel was missing. He walked up and down the ranks demanding to know who had stolen it. When no one confessed, he screamed "All die! All die!" and raised his rifle to fire at the first man in line. At that instant an enlisted man stepped forward, stood at attention, and said, "I did it." The guard fell on him in a fury, kicking and beating the prisoner, who despite the blows still managed to stand at attention. Enraged, the guard lifted his weapon high in the air and brought the rifle butt down on the soldier's skull. The man sank in a heap to the ground, but the guard continued kicking his motionless body. When the assault finally stopped, the other prisoners picked up their comrade's corpse and marched back to the camp. That evening, when tools were inventoried again, the work crew discovered a mistake had been made: no shovel was missing.
One of the prisoners remembered the verse "Greater love hath no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." Attitudes in the camp began to shift. Inspired by his sacrifice, prisoners started treating the dying with respect, organizing proper funerals and burials, marking each man's grave with a Cross. Prisoners began looking out for each other rather than themselves. Thefts grew increasingly rare. Men began selling their watches to the Japanese soldiers to buy medicines for the sick. The prisoners even built a tiny church and each evening they gathered to worship and pray for one another. Gordon himself received extensive care from the other prisoners and was eventually nursed back to health. The unity inspired by sacrifice impacted him more than just physically. It had a profound impact on his spiritual life.
(From a sermon by Bret Toman, Unity For the Glory of God, 1/3/2011)
ROGER WILLIAMS: WORSHIP AS A "RELIGIOUS FIX"
Roger Williams was thumbing through a magazine on a short flight from Sacramento to San Diego. He had taken his seat when two well-dressed, attractive 20-something-year-old women sat down next to him. Their conversation competed with his attention to his magazine.
They talked about the club scene, what they liked to drink, who they were dating, their intimate relationships with men, both single and married. Then it turned to a gripe session. "Why do guys have such a hard time committing?" one asked. The other said, "And why don't they ever leave their wives like they promise to?" Then their conversation shifted to work. Finally, one of them said, "But you know, if it wasn't for my church, my life would be really hell."
"Wow, you go to church? I know exactly how it feels. If it wasn't for church, I don't know where I'd be."
"Yeah, I know what you mean," the other lady said, "if I miss more than two weeks of church, everything in my life goes nuts."
Then the plane started its descent and everything got quiet. Roger just sat there stunned at what he had heard as this conversation had unfolded. And then he writes, "Worship was just a religious fix. For them, their worship of God, what they did and how they lived their lives reflected who and what they truly worshipped."
There is a popular children’s show on the Disney Channel called Out of the Box. The theme song is one of those songs that, once you’ve heard it, sticks in your mind all day. It ends with the words, “Out of the box, it’s really up to you what comes out of the box.”
In the business world the new catch phrase is “thinking outside the box.” It is a challenge to go beyond the ordinary and do something extraordinary.
The church today is stuck in the box. Our focus has shifted from people to pews, from saving souls to Sunday assemblies. Today when you mention Christianity most people immediately think of the worship assembly. As long as we continue with this mentality we are stuck in the box without hope of growing beyond.
A prank that’s as old as most of us here today is to call up a store and ask, “Yes, do you have Prince Albert in a box?” When the clerk answers in the affirmative then you respond, “Well, you’d bet...
K. Edward "Ed" Skidmore
WORSHIP IN THE THRILL AND THE AGONY
The 2012 Olympics gave a great illustration of how Christians can trust God in the thrill of victory AND the agony of defeat. If you watched the Olympics, you probably saw Gabby Douglas's big smile. When she won the Individual Gold in gymnastics. She said, "I give all the glory to God. It's a win-win situation. The glory goes up to Him, and all the blessings fall down on me."
She praised God publicly in the "thrill of victory." You may NOT have heard about another Olympian who praised God in "the agony of defeat." Ryan Hall failed to finish the Olympic Marathon race when he pulled a hamstring on the final day.
But look at what he "tweeted" the very next morning on his official Twitter page: "God is so good. My circumstances have the possibility of shifting my perception of His goodness ... but His goodness never changes." And he's already looking ahead to his next race.
A frog is a cold-blooded animal. That means that he can adjust his body temperature to the temperature of this environment around him. Please kids, do not try this at home.
But you can take a frog and theoretically put him in a pot of room-temperature water and he will adjust his body temperature to that. And then, you can incrementally degree by degree, turn the heat up, allowing time in between for him to adjust, to the point where you boil that frog.
How does that play out in the life of a believer? Remember when you first came to Christ? When you first fell in love with him? How exhilarating it was? There was nothing you wouldn’t do for Christ, no matter how difficult or inconvenient. You were into prayer. Into the Word. Into the Worship. Ordering everything in your life around this new found love. This supreme love.
And then, you don’t know exactly when or where or how; but, you began to grow up and you began to become more "respectable" in your faith. Maybe you became a church leader. And maybe it was because of your great giftedness and leadership abilities; or maybe it was becaus...