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Contributed By:
Brian Mavis
 
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Our house was directly across the street from the clinic entrance of John Hopkins in Baltimore. We lived downstairs and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.
One summer evening as I was fixing supper, there was a knock at the door. I opened it to see a truly awful looking man. “Why, he’s hardly taller than my eight-year-old,” I thought as I stared at the stooped, shriveled body. But the appalling thing was his face – lopsided from swelling, red and raw. Yet his voice was pleasant as he said, “Good evening. I’ve come to see if you’ve a room for just one night. I came for a treatment this morning from the Eastern Shore, and there’s no bus till morning.”
He told me he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no success; no one seemed to have a room. “I guess it’s my face. I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says with a few more treatments . . ..”
For a moment I hesitated, but his next words convinced me: “I could sleep in this rocking chair on the porch. My bus leaves early in the morning.”
I told him we would find him a bed, but to rest on the porch. I went inside and finished getting supper. When we were ready, I asked the old man if he would join us. “No thank you. I have plenty.” And he held up a brown paper bag.
When I had finished the dishes, I went out on the porch to talk with him a few minutes. It didn’t take a long time to see that this old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. He told me he fished for a living to support his daughter, her five children, and her husband, who was hopelessly crippled from a back injury. He didn’t tell it by way of complaint; in fact, every other sentence was prefaced with thanks to God for a blessing.
He was grateful that no pain accompanied his disease, which was apparently a form of skin cancer. He thanked God for giving him the strength to keep going. At bedtime, we put a camp cot in the children’s room for him. When I got up in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and the little man was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, haltingly, as if asking a great favor, he said, “Could I please come back and stay the next time I have a treatment? I won’t put you out a bit. I can sleep fine in a chair.” He paused a moment and then added, “Your children made me feel at home. Grownups are bothered by my face, but children don’t seem to mind.”
I told him he was welcome to come again. And on his next trip he arrived a little after seven in the morning. As a gift, he brought a big fish and a quart of the largest oysters I had ever seen. He said he had shucked them that morning before he left so that they’d be nice and fresh. I knew his bus left at 4:00 a.m., and I wondered what time he had to get up in order to do this for us.
In the years he came to stay overnight with us there was never a time that he did not bring us fish or oysters or vegetables from his garden. Other times we received packages in the mail, always by special delivery, fish and oysters packed in a box of fresh young spinach or kale, every leaf carefully washed. Knowing that he must walk three miles to mail these, and knowing how little money he had, made the gifts doubly precious.
When I received these little remembrances, I often thought of a comment our next-door neighbor made after he left that first morning. “Did you keep that awful looking man last night? I turned him away! You can lose roomers by putting up such people!”
Maybe we did lose roomers once or twice. But oh! If only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear. I know our family always will be grateful to have known him; from him we learned what it was to accept the bad without complaint and the good with gratitude to God.
Recently I was visiting a friend who has a greenhouse. As she showed me her flowers, we came to the most beautiful one of all, a golden chrysanthemum, bursting with blooms. But to my great surprise, it was growing in an old dented, rusty bucket. I thought to myself, If this were my plant, I’d put it in the loveliest container I had!”
My friend changed my mind. “I ran short of pots,” she explained, “and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting out in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, till I can put it out in the garden.”
She must have wondered why I laughed so delightedly, but I was imagining just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when he came to the soul of the sweet old fisherman. “He won’t mind starting in this small body.”
All this happened long ago. And now, in God’s garden, how tall this lovely soul must stand.
Mary Bartels Bray, reprinted from Guideposts, June 1965.


 
Contributed By:
Mark Brunner
 
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“Passing Through The Shadows!” 1 Corinthians 11:23-34 Key verse(s): 26:“‘For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes’.”

“Smile and the world smiles with you! Cry and you cry alone.” Walking through life with a smile on our faces is something to hope for, isn’t it? Life it far too short to be all gloom and sadness. Like the old song says, if you smile you draw crowds. When you cry you draw isolation and loneliness.

From an early age on we are taught not be be gloomy. There’s something about being around a person who is sad that simply repels us. Most of us will resort to nothing less than our best efforts to either avoid the gloom or change it somehow. Recently I returned home from a long day at the office dragging pretty much everything that I had encountered that day behind me. As I slipped in through the garage door into the entry way, so slipped in the meeting that had not gone well, the invoice that turned out to be more than I had planned, and the angry telephone call I had taken. Plop, they landed on the floor right beside my briefcase. Somehow I knew they were still there because even when I tried to refocus my thoughts on home and family, all I could think of was the office. I guess it was pretty evident on my face as I walked into the kitchen, shuffling across the floor in my slippers, mostly looking past my children and wife. They could see it written all over my face. “Had a bad day, huh?” “Yeah, the worst!” And I plunged into a lengthy dissertation on the woes of the day; moving back and forth between diatribe and regret. They had had a great day but now, as they listened to my woes, somehow their days had not been as good as they had thought. In fact, it wasn’t long before they were able to match woe for woe with the “king of woes”. My sorrow had magically become their sorrow. My sorrow like a drop of black ink in water slowly spread its inky murk throughout their clear and sunny day. “Gloom and doom, meet happy and promising!” Like that bothersome gab that grabs your hand and makes it serve as a sort of freeway for their emotions, gloom and doom simply won’t let go until they have poured themselves into you completely.

Carry our sorrow and laying it on others is not a very good idea. Yet, how can one be happy all the time? Isn’t there ever a place for sorrow, at least to balance out the brilliance of the light from time to time? In northern Chile, between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, lies a narrow strip of land where the sun shines every day! Clouds gather so seldom over the valley that one can say, “It almost never rains here!” Morning after morning the sun rises brilliantly over the tall mountains to the east. Each noon it shines brightly overhead, and every evening it brings a picturesque sunset. Although storms are often seen rising high in the mountains, and heavy fog banks hand their gray curtains far over the sea, Old Sol continues to shed his warming rays upon this “favored” and protected strip of territory. One might imagine this area to be an earthly paradise, but is far from that! It is a sterile and desolate wilderness! There are no streams of water, and nothing grows there.

We often long for total sunshine and continuous joy in life, and we desire to avoid the heartache that bring tears to our eyes. Like that sunny, unfertile part of Chile, however, life without clouds and even an occasional downpour would not be productive or challenging. But though showers do come, they will also end, and the sun will shine again. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Psalm 30:5). (Our Daily Bread.)

Total sunshine in life? Let’s face it. That is never going to happen. In fact, there will always be a proper place for sorrow in life. I’m not talking about the impertinent spreading of your own personal gloom on people. Nobody needs that. No, I’m talking about the godly sorrow that leads to repentance and forgiveness of sins. When Jesus passed the cup to his disciples and broke the bread between his fingers at that last communing supper together, His soul was filled with a kind of sorrow that was truly appropriate and necessary for the moment. His soul was, as Martin Luther put it, “empty, single, and hungry”. His soul was prepared for the task ahead and He was demonstrating to His disciples how that sorrow could and would turn into joy. But first it must pass through the shadows and dwell in the darkness of sin. Here the soul must weep and by that invisible cleansing be able to behold more clearly the land of sweet light and happiness that awaits it if only it can endure the sorrow for but a short time longer. Yes, there is a time for sorrow when we rightly park our joy and walk some distance away from the light toward the shadowland where we find the source of that nagging that is constantly beating upon the doors of our souls. Here we too shall find the emptiness that makes preparation for being filled.

 
Contributed By:
Terry Blankenship
 
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OBITUARIES
Jeruselem 33 AD

Calvary
Jesus Christ, 33, of Nazareth died Friday on Mount Calvary, also known as Golgotha, the place of the skull. Betrayed by Judas, Jesus was crucified by the Romans, by order of the Ruler Pontius Pilate. The causes of death were extreme exhaustion, severe torture, and loss of blood.

Jesus Christ, a descendant of Abraham was a member of the house of David. He was the Son of the late Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth, and Mary, His devoted Mother. Jesus was born in a stable in the city of Bethlehem, Judea. He is survived by His mother Mary, His faithful Apostles, numerous disciples, and many other followers.

Jesus was self educated and spent most of his adult life working as a Teacher. Jesus also occasionally worked as a Medical Doctor and it is reported that he healed many patients. Up until the time of His death, Jesus was teaching and sharing the Good News, healing the sick, touching the lonely, feeding the hungry and helping the poor.

Jesus was most noted for telling parables about His father’s Kingdom and performing miracles, such as feeding over 5,000 people with only five loaves of bread and two fish, and healing a man who was born blind. On the day before His death, He held a Last Supper celebrating the Passover Feast, at which He foretold His death.

The Body was quickly buried in a stone grave, which was donated by Joseph of Arimathea, a loyal friend of the family. By order of Pontius Pilate, a boulder was rolled in front of the tomb. Roman soldiers were put on guard.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that everyone try to live as Jesus did. Donations may be sent to anyone in need.

*****
I had this illustration sent to me this week by several well-meaning church members. As I previewed the item, it hit me the number of inaccuracies listed in the illustration that most people over-looked. Let’s consider several of them.

First of all, "The causes of death were extreme exhaustion, severe torture, and loss of blood," is wrong. It was my sin and your sin which caused His death. He willing gave His life for us that we might have a relationship with Him.

Then, "He was the Son of the late Joseph, a carpenter of Nazareth," is also incorrect! He was not the son of Joseph but is the Son of God. He is Immanuel, God with us!

Third, "He is survived...by His faithful Apostles," is just wrong! They all abandoned Him. They were anything BUT faithful! So much for Peter’s never forsaking Him!

Fourth, "On the day before His death, He held a Last Supper celebrating the Passover Feast, at which He foretold His death," is incorrect. He had been telling His disciples for a year that He would die by the hands of the religious Jews and secular Romans. He was telling them this long before the final Passover meal.

Fifth, "The Body was quickly buried in a stone grave, which was donated by Joseph of Arimathea, a loyal friend of the family. By order of Pontius Pilate, a boulder was rolled in front of the tomb. Roman soldiers were put on guard," gives the impression His life was over! That was it! Life was finished. So, where is the resurrection? This implies He was simply a man who left us a wonderful legacy!

Then we discover the phrase, "In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that everyone try to live as Jesus did," makes it appear that it is our good works which get us into heaven. Friends, it can’t be done! It is impossible because Jesus was holy, righteous and without sin. Can’t say the same about us!

But the one which is so obvious is, "OBITUARIES." There can never be an obituary for one who is still alive! Jesus died and rose again to give us real life in Him! He now sits at the right hand of the Father! Even if the obit had been written on the crucifixion day, the paper would have had to run a retraction on Monday!

 
Contributed By:
Davon Huss
 
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CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY

Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.

As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”

We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”

He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”

“David.”

“How long have you been on the street?”

“Six years.”

“How old are you?”

“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.

“Where did you sleep last night, David?”

“Abandoned truck.”

I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.

I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”

I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.

But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”

Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...

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Contributed By:
Jeeva Sam
 
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Leonardo Da Vinci, just before he commenced work on his "Last Supper" had a violent argument with a fellow painter. Leonardo was so bitter that he determined to paint the face of his enemy, the other artist, into the face of Judas, and thus take his revenge by handing the man down in infamy and scorn to succeeding generations. The face of Judas was, therefore, one of the first he finished. And everyone could easily recognize it as the face of the painter with whom he had quarreled.

But when he came to paint the face of Christ, he could make no progress. Something seemed to be baffling him, holding him back, frustrating his best efforts. Finally he came to the conclusion that the thing that was frustrating him was that he had painted the face of his enemy onto the face of Judas. He painted out the face of Judas and was then able to resume his work on the face of Jesus and this time did it with the success that the ages have acclaimed.

When DaVinci moved past his right to take revenge and made the right response instead, he broke the power of hatred and allowed the love of Christ to have the last word.

 
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He was a scientist, a sculptor, a engineer, a painter, a philosopher, a musician and a man who historians say will never again be endowed with as many God given gifts.

One of his greatest works was that of The Last Supper. I am speaking of Leonardo da Vinci.

This painting is a work of art and what is interesting about it is the expressions of the disciples when they are told that one of them would betray them.

What you may not know about this painting is that he painted real people with expressions in 1495. When he was painting the face of Christ, he sought long and hard for the right face. In one of the churches in Italy he found a boy named Pietro Bandinelli. His face became the focal point of the painting.

Yet in 1498 all the disciples' faces were painted except one: Judas Iscariot. He need one that had the miseries of SIN all over it. After a long and hard search he found the man, and Leonardo stated his face made him shudder.

He asked the man his name, and the man stated, "I am Pietro Bandinelli, the one who you painted 3 years ago."

What happened? Sin.

 
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DISUNITY STORIES

A man was stranded on an island. Alone for a number of years. Finally he was located and some people came ashore to rescue him. Before they took him off the island, he wanted to show them around. He took them to his hut and said "This is the home I built with my own 2 hands." Then he showed them to another building and he said "This is the church I built with my own 2 hands." Then someone in the group said "Hey, what's that building over there?" And the man replied "That's where I used to go to church."

I don't know how it is in other parts of the world, but it seems like this is the American way. 2 cars, 2 kids, a dog and half a dozen churches we used to attend.

This isn't bad necessarily. There are times when God would have us move on, take our gifts, abilities, resources and energy and use them to serve another body of believers.
But too often selfishness, pride, unforgiveness, a mentality that the church exists to meet my needs prevails and we become disgruntled, we divide and there is disunity for the wrong reasons. Disunity grieves the heart of God and brings dishonor to his name.

I read about a church where there was division and it began over an argument at a potluck supper when a lady brought a congealed salad she made with Cool Whip instead of real whipping cream.

Churches have divided over whether the pianist should sit to the right or the left side of the podium, over whether the Lord's Supper should be served from the front to the back or the back to the front, over trying to decide whether a kitchen should be a part of the church building or not.

One church split over who was the real pastor. They had two pastors. Two groups thought they each had their own guy, and both of them got up to lead a service one Sunday. Both led the singing. Both groups tried to out-sing each other. Then both pastors started preaching, trying to out-preach each other. Finally, they just broke out into fisticuffs, and the police had to come in and break it up.

This from Landover, Maryland, August 1999:

100 years of Christian fellowship, unity, and community outreach ended last Tuesday in an act of congregational discord. Holy Creek Baptist Church was split into multiple factions.

The source of dissension is a piano bench which still sits behind the 1923 Steinway piano to the left of the pulpit. Members and friends at Holy Creek Baptist say that the old bench was always a source of hostility. People should have seen this coming.

At present, Holy Creek Congregation will be having four services each Sunday. There has been an agreement mediated by an outside pastor so that each faction will have it's own separate service with it's own separate pastor. Since the head pastor is not speaking to the associate pastors, each will have their own service, which will be attended by factioned members. The services are far enough apart that neither group will come into contact with the other. An outside party will be moving the piano bench to different locations and appropriate positions, between services, so as to please both sides, and avoid any further conflict that could result in violence.

(From a sermon by Bret Toman, Unity For the Glory of God, 1/3/2011)

 
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REMEMBERING JOSEPH BAU--COMMUNION MEDITATION

When someone dies, we remember—we remember all the stories that filled their life. Last week a man named Joseph Bau died. It’s a name you probably don’t know, but a story worth hearing.
Joseph Bau was born on June 18, 1920, in Krakow, Poland. He became a young man just in time to experience the German invasion of Poland. He was one of three boys in a prosperous middle-class family that lived in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods. Joseph had always been good at art, and at the age of 18, he enrolled in the University of Plastic Arts at Krakow.
But the war interrupted his studies. His family was forced to move to the Jewish Ghetto, and then later to the Plaschow concentration camp. Because of Joseph’s partial education in Art before the war, and because of his talent for Gothic lettering, the Nazis employed him in producing maps and signs for the camp.
Joseph’s job also enabled him to save more than 400 Jews by forging false documents and identity papers that secured their release from the camp. When asked after the war, why he did not forge documents for himself, he replied, “Then who would have done it for the other Jews?”
When Jesus was hanging on the cross, we hear a similar question, “He saved others; He cannot save himself?” And Jesus answers, “What shall ...

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Contributed By:
Eric Stefanski
 
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Those who don’t understand the food that God gives, those who don’t see how deep their need is for it, also consider the Gospel and Sacrament as ’fleeting’, and they seek some new ’rush’ in worship, desiring an emotional high, no matter how lacking in nutrition such a meal is. It’s like the hospital patient who must be hooked to an IV and absolutely cannot eat; he cries out for the food he wants, but only the food he needs--the food that is so easy to despise--will save Him. As that clumsy IV pole can be our ’best friend’ in the hospital, so the wrappings of the Lord’s Supper--the liturgy and hymns that exalt it, but, maybe, don’t make us stomp and dance--the liturgy and hymns that bring us the life-creating and -sustaining Gospel are what we need; like the other things of this world, ’emotional highs’ do not endure.

(But) Jesus gives us something that will last, and He gives it through this Divine Service: He gives us Himself, the eternal Bread of Life. If we rely on Him, our spirit need never hunger or thirst, because the fulness of salvation and peace is ours. As David says: "The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want." We lack nothing, but have a God who has richly provided for us both in this world and in the world to come.

 
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Charles McCarry can claim a varied career. In addition to being the author of The Tears of Autumn and The Last Supper, he served as assistant to the Secretary of Labor in the Eisenhower cabinet and has done two stints in the CIA. But he almost wasn’t born.

Says McCarry, “My mother became pregnant with me at the age of 39. She had nearly died while giving birth to my only sibling. Her doctor, who believed the second pregnancy was a serious threat to her life, advised an abortion. The advice made sense, but my mother refused to accept it. Just before she died at age 97, I asked her why. She replied, “I wanted to see who you were going to turn out to be.”

In a letter to the Wall Street Journal, quoted in Feb. 1990, Reader’s Digest.

 
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