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BIBLE READERS CHANGE THE WORLD
If you’ve read anything by Charles Dickens, you know how terrible conditions were in 18th century England. There were no child labor laws, so children as young as age four were put to work up to 12 hours a day in dangerous factories and sent into the corners of coal mines that were too narrow for adults to reach. If you’ve seen the musical "Oliver," you know that hunger was rampant. Tuberculosis, diphtheria and cholera outbreaks were common. School was only available for the children of the rich.
In 1738, Jonathan Wesley starting forming little Bible studies around the country. He was so keen on using methods to teach the Bible that people called his followers "Method-ists." By 1798, there were 100,000 Methodist Bible studies in England.
One of those Bible reading Methodists was Samuel Plimsoll. Plimsoll thought it was wrong that the merchants overloaded their ships and then shrugged it off and collected large insurance claims when their ships sank and the crews drowned. Plimsoll invented a symbol that marked a line on the ship to indicate its safe loading level. This line has saved thousands of lives and is still called "the Plimsoll mark" to this day.
Another Bible reader was Robert Raikes. Raikes saw that poor children couldn’t attend school because they worked six days a week. So he invited "Sunday school" to teach kids to read by reading the Bible.
Other people from this Bible reading movement formed orphanages, mental asylums, hospitals and prisons.
Florence Nightingale developed the nursing profession.
William Wilberforce brought an end to the English Slave Trade.
Bible readers fought and won women the right to vote.
William and Catherine Booth formed the Salvation Army.
Wesley’s 18th century Bible-reading revolution changed people’s character. It lifted so many English people’s work ethic, care ethic, and sense of personal trustworthiness that, by the 19th century, England had become the most powerful and prosperous nation on earth.
The same thing happened in America. The religious low point of our history was the 1850’s. Then revival began happening all around our country in 1857. People began reading the Bible. This was before gas or electricity. So after dark, families would gather around a few candles at the kitchen table. While mom and grandma sewed and repaired clothes, the father of the family would read the Bible, by candlelight, for an hour or more every evening.
And like in England, work-ethics rose, along with integrity and initiative and care for the poor. The Civil War broke out, in part, because Bible-readers determined that slavery was a sin. America’s 19th century Bible-reading made us the most prosperous and successful nation of the 20th century.
“Aunt Bessie’s Pickled Beets!” 2 Corinthians 7:2-13 Key verse(s): 10:“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
The worst part of doing wrong is being found out. We’ve all been caught doing wrong in life; especially when we reflect back on our childhoods. And there are many things about doing wrong that are hurtful. First and foremost is the pain and suffering that we bring to others in our wrong-doing. This is the impact of wrong-doing that reverberates. Wrong has a way of broadcasting and spreading out, making a little mistake into a much bigger one. Take a lie for example. What started out as a fib can easily become the initiator of all manner of hurt, none of which was our intention in the first place. Certainly the effect of our wrong-doing on others is preeminent in our concern for doing right. But, there are other consequences attached to our wrongful behavior; not the least of which is the regret that becomes our lot when we are discovered in our sins.
I really hate the feeling of regret. There is simply something grinding and gnawing about it. Regret has a way of packaging itself so that it stays fresh for a very long time. Just when you think that you have put it away for good in some safe place where it can slowly but surely dissipate into the farthest and deepest reaches of your consciousness, some little reminder of the deed that spawned the regret in the first place creeps into your life. And that’s when regret pops up. It’s the jar of Aunt Bessie’s pickled beets that you pushed to the back of the fruit cellar shelf in hopes that in the darkness it could be forgotten that, despite the accumulation of years of dust and perhaps a little rust around the rim, stares back at you fresh and beckoning to be opened. Unless you empty the contents and wash the jar, Aunt Bessie’s face will always be popping up in the cellar no matter how many times you push it to the back of the shelf. You can’t live with regret no matter how hard you try. It will never be tamed or transformed because, like pickled beets, regret always tastes and looks the same. You can’t “salt” it or tincture it to make it more palatable. Pickled beets will always taste pickled.
“In 1904 William Borden, heir to the Borden Dairy Estate, graduated from a Chicago high school a millionaire. His parents gave him a trip around the world. Traveling through Asia, the Middle East and Europe gave Borden a burden for the world’s hurting people. Writing home, he said, ‘I’m going to give my life to prepare for the mission field.’ When he made this decision, he wrote in the back of his Bible two words: No Reserves. Turning down high paying job offers after graduation from Yale University, he entered two more words in his Bible: No Retreats. Completing studies at Princeton Seminary, Borden sailed for China to work with Muslims, stopping first at Egypt for some preparation. While there he was stricken with cerebral meningitis and died within a month. A waste, you say! Not in God’s plan. In his Bible underneath the words No Reserves and No Retreats, he had written the words No Regrets. (Daily Bread, December 31, 1988.)
There is only one way to deal with regret. You need to remove it from your life completely. Aunt Bessie’s pickled beets are always going to be there unless, of course, you eat them, wash the jar and return it with thanks to Aunt Bessie. Regrets don’t go away unless you decide in the first place that there is simply no room for them among the provisions in your heart. You may not like pickled beets but one thing you can be sure of, the beets marinated in that pickling solution are suspended in a state of freshness that will preserve them for a very long time. It is not likely that they will self-destruct any time soon requiring you to dispose of them with a clean conscience. No, Aunt Bessie pickled them for a reason. She wanted them preserved as a memorial to her garden and she had every intention of insuring that their survival would even exceed her’s. You might as well eat them and get it over with.
When you first met “J.E.”, you could tell he was a very angry man. In fact, at age 54 he’d been an angry person for many years. In a Bible study that night, many questions had been raised in his mind. Talking with the leader afterward, J.E. said, “I asked Jesus to be my Savior when I was 9 years old. But nobody ever taught me about who I am in Christ, that I’m accepted by God or that Christ lives in me.”
“What were you taught?” the Bible study leader asked.” “Where I grew up, we heard all the time about how perfect Christ was and about how we should learn to live like Him – if we didn’t, God would judge us.” J.E. went on, “It didn’t take me long, I’d say in my teen years, to figure out that I was never going to cut it. So I gave up trying. I guess I’ve been living in guilt and running from God ever since. Off and on through the years I tried to go back to church, but I just got more guilt piled on top of me. I’ve sat under so many teachers who made me fearful that I was afraid to turn in any direction because God was going to get me. This is the first Bible study I’ve ever attended that gave me any hope” J.E. concluded.
At that point, J.E. was 54 years old. That means, even though he had been born again through trusting Jesus Christ at a young age, he had spent at least 35 years running away from God. Tragically, his experience isn’t that unusual. Thousands of people who sincerely responded to the gospel message they were taught spend years thrashing around trying to make it work, but without success. In fact, I believe the reason so many Christians struggle in living the Christian life is their lack of understanding their Identity in Christ.
(This illustration came from the book "Growing in Grace" by Bob George pages 59-60)
THE REFINER'S FIRE
The story is told of a group of women that met for Bible study. While studying in the book of Malachi, chapter three, they came across verse three which says: "He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver." This verse puzzled the women and they wondered how this statement applied to the character and nature of God. One of the women offered to find out more about the process of refining silver, and to get back to the group at their next Bible study.
The following week, the woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him while at work. She didn’t mention anything about the reason for her interest, beyond her curiosity about the process of refining silver.
As she watched the silversmith work, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire, where the flames were the hottest as to burn away all the impurities.
The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot, then she thought again about the verse, that "He sits as a refiner and purifier of silver."
She asked the silversmith if it was true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the entire time the silver was being refined. The man answered yes...
A striking Christmas card was once published with the title "If Christ Had Not Come". It was founded upon our Savior’s words "If I had not come." The card represented a pastor’s falling into a short sleep in his study on Christmas morning and dreaming of a world into which Jesus had never come. In his dream he found himself looking through his home, but there were no little stockings in the chimney corner, no Christmas bells or wreaths of holly, and no Christ to comfort, gladden and save. He walked out to the street, but there was no church with its spire pointing to Heaven. He came back and sat down in his library, but every book about the Savior had disappeared. The doorbell rang and a messenger asked the preacher to visit his poor, dying mother. He hastened with the weeping child, and as he reached the home he sat down and said, "I have something here that will comfort you." He opened his Bible to look for a familiar promise, but it ended with Malachi. There was no Gospel and no promise of hope and salvation, and he could only bow his head and weep with her in bitter despair. Two days later he stood beside her coffin and conducted the funeral service. There was no message of consolation, no hope of heaven. What a terrible dream What a terrifying nightmare How much worse are those who know Christ came yet live as though he did not.
“Just Ask Him!” Judges 16: 28-30 Key verse(s): 28: “Then Samson prayed to the Lord, ‘O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.’”
Has there ever been a time in your life when things have gotten so bad, that your sins have become so burdensome, that God simply wasn’t anxious to hear your prayers? Doubtless there isn’t a Christian among us who would answer that question in the affirmative. Sure, God always listens to our prayers no matter how poorly we have lived our lives. The Bible tells us that this is so. Yet, how many of us really believe it all the time no matter what the circumstance?
Many years ago I remember studying about the great king of the Ostrogoths, Theodoric. He reigned for decades over the fading splendor of the Roman empire and was known for his great bravery and cunning. During his reign the empire, or what was left of it, experienced a very rare period of peace. Yet in his last years, Theodoric disrupted that peace with a brutal act that would affect the remainder of his reign and his life. He put to death two men, Symmachus and Boethius. Both these men were honorable men but posed what Theodoric believed was a threat to his reign. Both were brutally killed. This was an act that haunted the emperor for years to come. He experienced difficulty making decisions and often awoke in the middle of the night in a sweat and great fear.
Remorse had closed itself upon Theodoric. His conscience pestered and plagued him mercilessly to the point of distraction. Finally, one evening at a feast Theodoric beheld the head of a fish that had been served on a platter and it instantly become the visage of the brutally murdered Symmachus. Theodoric removed himself to his bed chamber and became very ill. Trembling with fright and regret, he finally fell to his knees and repented to his physician of his great guilt. Three days later he died calmly and in a peace with His Lord.
Theodoric found that even though the burden of his guilt was great, the prospect of forgiveness and peace was many times more alluring than escape. He bent the knee and unburdened his heart to the Lord. Although he had allowed that guilt to effectively block his prayer pathway for years, it finally became too much of a burden. Prayer overcame fear. So too with Samson. Despite his terrible sins, God still loved Samson. He was willing to hear and answer his prayer of confession and repentance and use him one final time to do his will. His way leads to peace even when it seems that His way is blocked by the burden of sin and sorrow. That’s the horrible thing about sin. It often keeps us from going to God when we need most to be there. Don’t let feelings of guilt separate you from the grace and mercy that God has waiting for you to claim. He still has great things for you to do--just ask Him!
Sooner or later, it seems that at least once in their life with God, every Christian gets infected with the virus of "false maturity." It's a weird virus in that it's symptoms are often easily seen and felt by others, but invisible and unfelt by the infected one!
Once infected, the poor soul suddenly experiences a profound shift in the perception of reality in which he/she believes that full maturity is automatically attained by said individual simply being a Christian "x" years, going to church or listening to messages of various preachers "x" times a week, proven accomplishment in their career, an ability to find a Scripture reference in under 30 seconds, exceeding a certain number of marks & highlights in their personal Bible, and/or simply by obviously not being as immature or sinful as that person next to them.
As I mentioned before, I was saved my sophomore year in college. Somewhere, sometime in the few months after I graduated I picked up this virus. At first, I thought it was a special gift from God. Eventually, I learned it was a curse from my old nature. By the time I had been a truly-saved Christian less than two years, I had become a leader in campus ministry, led other students to the Lord, taught Bible Studies, was used as a special speaker, invited to debates, co-hosted a Christian radio program with a loyal following of saved & unsaved, etc.
When God first called me to vocational ministry, I had to be dragged into it as I felt I was too young in the faith. But then I went to a specialized training for youth ministry and found myself being praised for being bolder, understanding theology, giving good counsel much more so than most others -- most of whom had been Christians since children and raised in Bible churches. Then I took my first position as an Associate Pastor -- Youth.
My first week I got baptized & became a church member for the first time anywhere. It was a small, troubled church in a very small, very dysfunctional and very rural community in MN. The Sr. Pastor was clinically depressed and about as energetic & inspiring as Eeyore. He was also a good & godly man, but few ever realized it. Within six months I was told that I should be the Sr. Pastor. Within 14 mos. I got 'infected' & started to believe it might be so -- blind to my own faults & sin.
Before my two-year Anniversary, the Holy Spirit cured me & showed me that I really was still just a juvenile who had MUCH to learn. The next day I resigned. Many of the deacons & congregates tried to get me to stay. But God had already made it clear I had much I needed to learn from Him & others before I could further fulfill my call.
What is your story? Who are you allowing to be your spiritual teachers?
EVERYTHING I NEED
“I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said.
His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette.
Robert has cerebral palsy.
The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.
And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.
He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language.
Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.
I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched h...
Sermon Central Staff
IF YOU WANT IT BAD ENOUGH
When a person first comes to faith in Christ and gets a taste of His grace, they can’t get enough of the Bible.
Pat Summerall, the well-known sports announcer, trusted Christ with his life and overcame alcohol in the late 60’s. As he describes his life with Christ, he says, "It’s like an alcoholic looking for a drink. If he wants it bad enough, he can find it – no matter what. I’m like that when it comes to finding prayer services and Bible studies. No matter where I am working, I know that they’re out there and I can find them."
(Art Stricklin, Sports Spectrum, Nov/Dec 2001, p. 27. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Love and Longing, 5/13/2011)
RELIGION AND SEXUAL SATISFACTION
Several years ago, Redbook magazine did a computer survey on sexual attitudes and practices (not surprising). What was surprising in the survey was they sprinkled questions about religion in with the study. The survey of about 19,000 women showed that "strongly religious" women reported more sexual satisfaction than with "fairly religious women." At the bottom of the satisfaction scale were non religious women; they are the least satisfied. Redbook editors admit to being "astounded" by this correlation. The editors' could hardly offer an explanation.
The "teaching" that physical pleasure is a necessary element in a good marriage is not the discovery of modern times, nor of psychology. This teaching is embedded in the Bible (notably in The Song of Songs) and has been appreciated and acted upon by people of faith for millennia.