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STOWELL: HOW PEOPLE GO ASTRAY
Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, in his book, Following Christ, asks the question:
HOW DO PEOPLE GO SO FAR ASTRAY SPIRITUALLY?
The question was prompted when Dr. Stowell read an article given to him from the local paper the about Tom Wilson who died, gunned down as a member of a Neo-Nazi gang.
Tom had grown up in the church he of which he was now the Pastor
• Active in the youth group
• Professed Christ as Savior and was Baptized
• He was "A very good student and won many points for faithful memory work, lesson completion, and attendance" according to his fourth-grade Sunday School Teacher.
How did he fall so far?
"That first step was, more probably, a choice to not listen to
the voice of the Spirit, to love his lusts more than Christ, or to
choose a friend who encouraged his stepping off the path. This sad story of a life inflicting incredible damage on the Name of Christ was played out, not by momentary, cataclysmic departure, but by the gradual erosion of a commitment to be a fully devoted follower of Christ."
Dr. Joseph M. Stowell, Following Christ, pg. 154
JOE STOWELL ASKS:
Who among us has not gone astray and indulged our flesh in some manor?
Who among us has not taken a detour after a driving ambition?
Who among us has not flirted in their mind with adultery?
Who among us has not risked stepping beyond the parameters of what is right?
WE ARE GOING TO LOOK AT THE DANGER OF OVERCONFIDENCE
The Bottom Line:
So, if you think you are standing firm,
be careful that you don’t fall!
1 Cor 10:12 NIV
(From a sermon by Rick Finitzer, Watch Out for Ambushes, 10/28/2009)
John Newton: Infidel Restored
John Newton continued his ministry into his old age, turning a deaf ear to friends who urged him to accept retirement, as by the time he reached 80 he was almost blind and partially deaf. "I cannot stop" he replied. "What! Shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?"
But in December 1806, the end was coming. His diary recorded his prayer asking God to help him meet his end with a faithful spirit: "Oh for grace to meet the approach of death with a humble, thankful, resigned spirit becoming my profession. That I may not stain my character by impatience, jealousy or any hateful temper but may be prepared and permitted to depart in peace and hope and be enabled, if I can speak, to bear my testimony to thy faithfulness and goodness with my last breath. Amen." That’s the prayer that I would make my own and perhaps you as well.
Newton’s friend wrote: "I saw Mr Newton near the closing scene. He was hardly able to talk; and all I find I noted down upon my leaving him was thus: ’My memory is nearly gone but I remember two things: That I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Saviour.’"
Newton would not have been pleased by the eulogistic reference in The Times report of his death to his "unblemished life," for he never forgot that he owed his redemption from a life of sin to a life in Christ entirely to divine mercy. He made this clear in the epitaph he wrote for himself. It was to be the inscription on his tomb at Olney and on a commemorative tablet to him at St. Mary Woolnoth:
"Once an Infidel and Libertine,
A Servant of Slaves in Africa,
Was, by the rich mercy of our Lord and Saviour JESUS CHRIST,
Preserved, restored and pardoned,
And appointed to preach the faith
He had long laboured to destroy."
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In 1994, two Christian missionaries answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics in a large orphanage. About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage.
It was nearing Christmas and they decided to tell them the story of Christmas. It would be the first time these children had heard the story of the birth of Christ. They told them about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem. Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger. Throughout the story, the children and orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened. Some sat on the edges of their stools, trying to grasp every word.
When the story was finished, they gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger. Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that they had brought with them since no coloured paper was available in the city.
Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown an American lady was throwing away as she left Russia, were used for the baby’s blanket. A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt which the missionaries had also brought with them.
It was all going smoothly until one of the missionaries sat down at a table to help a 6 year old boy named Misha. He had finished his manger. When the missionary looked at the little boy’s manger, she was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger. Quickly, she called for the translator to ask Misha why there were two babies in the manger.
Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, Misha began to repeat the story very seriously. For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the baby
Jesus in the manger.
Then Misha started to ad-lib. He made up his own ending. He said, "And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay. Then Jesus told me I could stay with him. But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give him like everybody else did.
"But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift. I thought maybe if I kept him warm, that would be a good gift. So I asked Jesus, 'If I keep you warm, will that be a good enough gift' And Jesus told me, 'If you keep me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave me.'
"So I got into the manger, and then Jesus looked at me and he told me I could stay with him--for always."
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed.
The little orphan had found someone who would never abandon nor abuse him, someone who would stay with him--FOR ALWAYS.
NO GREATER LOVE
It was February 1941, Auschwitz, Poland. Maximilian Kolbe
was a Franciscan priest put in the infamous death camp for helping Jews escape Nazi terrorism.
Months went by and in desperation an escape took place. The camp rule was enforced. Ten people would be rounded up randomly and herded into a cell where they would die of starvation and exposure as a lesson against future escape attempts.
Names were called. A Polish Jew Frandishek Gasovnachek was called. He cried, "Wait, I have a wife and children!" Kolbe stepped forward and said, "I will take his place."
Kolbe was marched into the cell with nine others where he managed to live until August 14.
This story was chronicled on an NBC news special several years ago. Gasovnachek, by this time 82, was shown telling this story while tears streamed down his cheeks. A mobile camera followed him around his little white house to a marble monument carefully tended with flowers. The inscription read:
IN MEMORY OF MAXIMILIAN KOLBE
HE DIED IN MY PLACE.
Every day Gaso...
The Monarch Mystery.
The ability to find home evokes legends of Rover or Fido who, when owners have moved from one coast to the other, have made a 3,000-mile trek to find their owners in a location to which they’ve never been before. At least the dogs make it back home.
But not the monarch butterfly. These insects somehow know how to migrate thousands of miles every autumn, from the Eastern United States to a handful of sites in Mexico. There, they rest over the winter for the return trip home. But here’s the amazing part: No individual butterfly ever goes to Mexico and back, yet thousands converge on the same few sites year after year. These insects know where to go. But none of them has ever been there before. Let’s explain.
"Monarchs are not guided by memory, since no single butterfly ever makes the round trip. Three or four generations separate those that spend one winter in Mexico from those that go there the next." A monarch butterfly born in August in New York state, for instance, will fly all the way to Mexico, spend the winter there, and leave in March. Then it will fly north, laying eggs on milkweed along the Gulf Coast in Texas and Florida before dying.
The butterflies born of those eggs will continue northward, breeding and laying more eggs along the way. By August another monarch, four generations or so removed from the monarch that left New York for Mexico the previous summer, will emerge from its chrysalis and do the same thing. It will head south, aiming for a place it’s never been, an acre or two of forest on the steep slopes of a particular mountain range.
Wade Hughes, Sr
Many years ago, I failed the Lord in a stupid teenager deed.
I can painfully remember January the 1st, 1968.
I was raised in the parsonage,
I was 16 years old, I knew right from wrong.
But I failed the Lord!
1/1/68 was always a painful memory of my stupid
Before the sun went down Jan. 1, 1968 I begged God
to forgive me for breaking the very heart of God.
On Jan. 2nd, I begged God for His forgiveness.
On Jan. 3rd I begged God for His forgiveness.
And this continued for many years as the enemy oft
reminded me of my failure.
In 1970 I started college and moved to Tennessee
for my education.
One day as I was driving to class my enemy
rightfully accused me of my failure.
And I again asked the Lord to forgive me.
In 1973 I had been to classes, my junior year,
and driving home I remembered Jan. 1, 1968
and the enemy laughed at me for my failure.
I went to my apartment where Linda and I lived and
laid on the couch.
I know not that I was awake or asleep,
but as I lay there remembering my failures of
Jan. 1, 1968,
Jesus appeared right in front of me.
And I immediately cried and told him I was so sorry
for breaking his heart on Jan 1, 1968.
He said, Hum, Hum, as he stroked his beard, and he
reached for the book of my life.
I could see the tops of the pages,
I could see the headings : 1961, 1962..etc.
As he neared the end of 1967 my heart was broken
because I knew that he was getting close to a
terrible page in my life.
Finally, Jesus turned to the page for which I had
He took his right hand and stroked his beard several
times and said, Hum!
I then had a fear come over me.
I looked in His eyes and I wondered,
I reached over and I touched the book and I pulled
it down where I could see the whole page of
Jan. 1, 1968 and to my surprise it was totally
WHITE! Snow white!
There was not one blot of dirt or anything on that
I said to Jesus, "I very clearly remember
Jan. 1, 1968.
To which He replied to me,
"Son, you asked forgiveness for that on that
evening and I took my blood and
I washed your black sin and made it white as snow
and removed it as far as the East is from the West.
As far as I am concerned, you have been justified by
the blood of the lanb.
I will never remember or recall any of the deeds of
your life that is under the blood."
Before Jesus left, I said,
"Jesus, I have one question to ask you.
If you have removed this from my past, and it is
very apparent that you have,
why did you not remove this painful day of Jan. 1,
1968 from my mind, my memory hurts me so bad?"
Jesus looked over his shoulder and said,
"Son, while I have forgave you and forgotten your
sin, if I removed this painful memory out of your
mind, you would again fall into the same trap.
I love you so much that I have forgiven you, but I
leave this scar to remind you that you need to live
your life pleasing to me."
With that, He said, "I love you and was gone."
The Resurrection of the Dead
Avijah Powers felt moderately sure nobody would recognize him when he registered under an assumed name at the little inn. It was more than twenty years since he had left the town--a hard,
reckless boy, running away from a good father and a devoted mother because he hated goodness and loved lawlessness and his own way.
For years he had led the life of a vagabond. Then the spirit of adventure was aroused in him by the stories of the wealth of the Klondike. He joined one of the earliest parties, in that hazardous search for gold, and succeeded beyond his dreams. Now he had come back, with his old instincts, but with the wealth of a millionaire, and some strange compulsion led him to the village where he first drew breath.
He did not even know whether his parents were living or dead. It was altogether likely they were dead. With that conviction and without asking a question, he made his way in the August twilight to the graveyard, and to the spot where for three generations his ancestors had been laid.
Yes, there were new stones placed since he had been there. The sight moved him strangely. He bent to read the inscription on the first one. It was to the memory of his father, "Died, 1884. ’Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord.’"
The date cut the man to the heart. His father had died a year after the only son had run away! And his mother had been left alone! But perhaps she had followed her husband mercifully soon. Again he bent to read, this time with tear-filled eyes, "Died, 1902. ’And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.’"
His mother had been alone for eighteen years! She was but just dead -- in poverty, perhaps; certainly in loneliness. He drew himself up as if to shake off a hideous dream.
But the other stone - whose grave could that mark? They had no relatives except some distant cousins. Perhaps some one of them had done for his mother what he ought to have done in her long, desolate years. Again he stooped to read - his own name. "Abijah Powers. Born 1870; died--. ’The only son of his mother, and she was a widow.’"
It was his own gravestone, set up by his mother when her hope of his return was dead. Out of the depth of his memory there flashed up the story of the widow of Nain, and the gracious presence which spoke the word of life to her dead son. How many times his mother must have read and re-read the page, and how frequently she must have prayed that her boy, bone of her bone, and flesh of her flesh, might be given back to her arms!
The thought was anguish to the graceless son, and it brought him to his knees beside his own empty grave. With his hand resting over his mother’s head he wept as he had not wept since he was a child. They were gracious drops. Out of the mother’s love, which had found its cold comfort in the words of scripture for the grave that was no grave, there came, indeed, the resurrection of the real, living soul.
The widow’s son went out of the graveyard that night a new man. The world wondered what had happened to him. Money did not often make a man over from a devil to a saint; but that miracle seemed to have been worked in Abijah Powers. Nobody knew that the transformation did not come from the touch of Klondike gold, but from the power of love -- reaching from beyond the vale, and speaking from the cold marble of a gravestone.
SING TO THE CHILDREN
A tradition that Evelyn Knowles has chosen for posterity is to sing to her babies. The very first time she held each of her newborn grandchildren cheek to cheek and heart to heart, they heard their grandmother softly sing-- Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Why? Because she wanted to be certain that they would never remember a time when they hadn't known Jesus.
Growing up in church, Evelyn learned all the songs in the book. In her family of 10, singing church songs was second nature. Sitting on the front porch, riding in the car, or doing dishes "assembly line" style, would more often than not find them bursting into song. Hymns meant little more than an excuse to sing as a child, but how they instructed in adulthood.
Soon Ok Lee grew up in North Korea and devoted herself to its communist party, only to be “rewarded” with 6 years of brutal, inhumane prison life. When she was released and escaped to South Korea, she was aided by a kind, Christian gentleman. She heard him sing songs that were somehow familiar to her, and was puzzled that she knew these songs well enough to sing along. One of those songs was “Amazing Grace.” These hymns were certainly not sung in godless North Korea!
Ah, but a faint and long forgotten memory was triggered—a memory of her own mother singing these very songs when she was a tiny child. So tiny, in fact, that she hadn’t realized they were hymns. But gospel seed had been planted in her wee heart—her mother’s secret way of teaching little Soon Ok Lee of God’s love. Secret, because under their North Korean government, children were taken away from parents who taught them the Bi...
John Williams III
Jesus lifted up the spirit of a discouraged preacher who retired early because of what happened to him. "In the Pentecostal Evangel church leader George U. Wood writes:
"Have you ever heard a healing take place? I have. I listened to an audiotape of Duane Miller teaching his Sunday school class from the text of Psalm 103 at the First Baptist Church in Brenham, Texas, on January 17, 1993. Duane prematurely retired from pastoring three years earlier because of a virus which penetrated the myelin sheath around the nerves in his vocal cords, reducing his speech to a raspy whisper....
"Teaching his class that day with a special microphone resting on his lips,
he reaffirmed his belief in divine healing and that miracles had not ended
with the Book of Acts. Listening to the tape, at times you can barely
understand his weakly spoken wheezy words of faith. The miracle happened at verse 4 when he said, "I have had and you have had in times
past pit experiences."
"On the word pit his life changed—the word was as clear as a bell, in contrast to the imperfect enunciation of the preceding "word past. He paused, startled; began again and stopped. He said a few more words—all in a normal clear tone—and stopped again. The class erupted with shouts of joy, astonishment and sounds of weeping. God completely healed him as he was declaring the truth in this psalm. (You can read the full account in Miller’s book Out of the Silence, Nelson Publishers.)". (Craig Brian Larson. Choice Contemporary Stories & Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers, & Writers. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998, p. 116). If there is anything that this story tells us it is this, never underestimate what God can do! It was the healing touch of Jesus that gave Rev. Duane Miller the full range of his voice again!
Two little boys got into a fight. But the next morning Johnny took his cap and headed for Bobby’s house again. Surprised, an older member of the family said teasingly, "What! Going to play with him again? I thought you had a fight last night and was never going to have anything more to do with him? Funny memory you have." Johnny looked a little sheepish, dug his toe into the carpet for a moment, then flashed a satisfied smile as he hurried away. "Oh! Bobby and me’s good forgetters!" .