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This morning I want to focus upon some new year’s resolutions that each of should consider for ourselves, but before we delve into our topic, I thought you might enjoy a few stories of failed resolutions: A story is told that At the beginning of a new year, a high school principal decided to post his teachers’ new year’s resolutions on the bulletin board. As the teachers gathered around the bulletin board, a great commotion started. One of the teachers was complaining. "Why weren’t my resolutions posted?" She was throwing such a temper tantrum that the principal hurried to his office to see if he had overlooked her resolutions. Sure enough, he had mislaid them on his desk. As he read her resolutions he was astounded. This teacher’s first resolution was not to let little things upset her in the New Year. Or how bout this one…A son called his parents to wish them a happy new year and when his Dad answered the phone, He asked his dad,” well Dad, what’s your new year’s resolution? His dad replied, To make "To make your mother as happy as I can all year," When his mom got on the phone he asked. her the same question. His mom replied my resolution is "To see that your dad keeps his New Year’s resolution." Or some of you may have given up on resolutions taking the same attitude as the characters in the cartoon Calvin and Hobbes: The cartoon character Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes once said, “God put me on this earth to accomplish a certain number of things. Right now I’m so far behind I’ll never die.”
More than anyone else Christian parents can have the most influence on their children, because when Christ died upon the Cross the veil was ripped open so they could enter into the presence of God who sits on the Throne of Grace. The call to pray is from God’s Word and we are given a sure promise, “The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16b) One mother who knew this truth was Monica Augustine, the mother of St. Augustine who after a long struggle was converted to Christianity. St. Augustine was born in North Africa (Tagaste, Numidia) to a Christian mother and his father was a pagan until very late in life. Augustine’s childhood was marred by stealing pears and his ability to learn led him to one humanistic philosophy after another. He even had an obsession with the occult for a season in his life. During his period of exploration he lived a life of excessive fleshly desires causing him to become the father of a child by a mistress. After his conversion to Christ Augustine became the author of many great works writing about the “…City of God,” “On the Trinity,” “On Faith,” “Hope,” “Love” and “Christian Doctrine.” Augustine’s most widely read book is “The Confessions” which are several books that record how he felt about the Lord and his prayers to God. Studying Augustine’s life during that period of living in selfish sin shows that the Christian living he saw in his mother and the Christian teaching he received was not a waste of time. Thirteen years before his conversion he was moved in his prayers to return to God (Confessions #3:4) but he could not make himself do so. One year before his conversion Augustine was influenced by a man (Ambrose) who he knew was presenting “healthy teaching on salvation,” yet he could not return to the teaching and lifestyle he saw in his mother because of self-living. Listen to these confessions of Augustine while he struggled with sin and surrendering to Christ. “I was storm tossed and you [God] held the tiller.” “I was swept away by your beauty [Lord] and then I was torn away from you by my own weight [of sin] and fell back groaning toward these [lesser] thing [in life].” While being exposed for nearly a year to “healthy teachings of salvation” he wrote, “But salvation is far from sinners of the kind that I was then.” When Augustine was being moved to prayer to return to God he writes, “[I was] on fire to leave earthly things behind and fly back” [to God]. But there was an obstacle that kept Augustine from reaching God, he writes, “The Name of Christ was not there…” Augustine writes about how the Name of Jesus Christ was his mother’s milk and His Name touched his heart tenderly, but the fruit of his life was surrendered to self-will and not God’s will. Finally in early August 386 Augustine abandoned his teaching career and his proposed marriage and went off with some friends to live a life of contemplation. One day he heard how some men had moved to give their whole heart and life to serve the Lord. Augustine was suddenly confronted with his sin of self-living. He rushed out into the garden and flung himself under the fig tree and wept bitterly, crying out to God, “How long, how long, why should not this hour be an end to my baseness?” From a neighboring yard he heard the voice of a child say, “Take and read” Augustine went over to a bench where laid a copy of the Apostle Paul’s Epistle and he read Romans 13:13-14, “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.” (Romans 13:13-14) At that moment Augustine put on Christ, took on the Name that was missing, the only key person missing in his life that would enable him to live for God. Long before we even came into this world the grace of God confronted Augustine as dramatically as God’s grace did the Apostle Paul. At age 31 Augustine’s struggle came to an end and through him came teachings and service that laid the foundation of Western theology. Augustine has often been call “Bishop of Hippo” and “Doctor of the Church.” The opening prayer of Augustine’s “Confessions” sums up his whole experience in life. He writes, “Our hearts are restless until they can find peace with you [Lord Jesus].” Augustine and one of his friends put on Christ and they went and told Monica his mother. Fredrick S. Leahy wrote about this time in Christian history, “Over the years she had prayed for her wayward son with tears. Now her prayers were answered yes to and her heart’s wishes granted.”
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Johann Sebastian Bach was born into the musical family of Bachs in 1685. By the age of ten, both of his parents were dead. Early in his friction-filled life, young Johann determined he would write music … music for the glory of God … and this he did.
Most of Bach’s works are explicitly Biblical. Albert Schweitzer referred to him as The fifth evangelist, thus comparing him to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. At age 17 Bach became the organist at the church; soon thereafter he was given charge of the entire music ministry.
During his ministry in Weimar, Germany he wrote a new cantata every month … EVERY MONTH! And during one three-year period he wrote, conducted, orchestrated, and performed (with his choir and orchestra) a new cantata every week!
No one had any idea what a mark Bach would leave. His legacy lives on some 300 years later. You can hear his music at will.
At the beginning of every authentic manuscript one will find the letters “J.J.” This stands for Jesu Java (Jesus help me). At the end of each original manuscript you will find the letters “S.D.G.” This stands for Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God).
Bach is a reminder that one who gives his life to Jesus and serves Him does not count it a loss. Mk 8:35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.
OUR COMFORT, OUR HOPE-- COMMUNION MEDITATION
Recently I came across a true story that happened during the Holocaust of the Second World War.
Solomon Rosenberg, his wife and their 2 sons were arrested, together with Rosenburg's mother and father for the crime of being Jews. They were placed in a Nazi concentration camp.
It was a labour camp, and the rules were simple.
"As long as you can do your work, you are permitted to live. When you become too weak to do your work, then you will be exterminated."
Rosenberg watched as his mother and father were marched off to their deaths. He knew that the next would be his youngest son, David - because David had always been a frail child.
Every evening, Rosenberg came back into the barracks after each day of hard labour and searched for the faces of his family. When he found them they would huddle together, embrace one another and thank God for another day of life.
One day Rosenberg came back and didn’t see those familiar faces.
He finally discovered his oldest son, Joshua, in a corner, huddled, weeping and praying. He said, "Josh, tell me it’s not true."
Joshua turned and said, "It is true, Dad. Today David was not strong enough to do his work. So they came for him."
"But where is your mother?" asked Mr. Rosenberg.
"Oh Dad," he said, "When they came for David, he was afraid and he cried. So Mum said, 'There is nothing to be afraid of, David,' and she took his hand and went with him."
That illustrates a mother’s love-- a love so strong that it chooses to give up life so her child can be comforted.
This is also a picture of the sacrificial love Jes...
IN 1989, A LOS ANGELES TIMES JOURNALIST JANNY SCOTT TRIED [to explain evil], IN AN ARTICLE SHE WROTE IN GIL BAILIE’S BOOK ON THE LIFE AND EXECUTION OF SERIAL KILLER THEODORE BUNDY ENTITLED: VIOLENCE UNVEILED WHERE HER ARTICLE WAS QUOTED,“THE SCENE OUTSIDE THE STATE PRISON WAS THE WILDEST I HAD EVER WITNESSED. PARENTS BROUGHT CHILDREN, MEN BROUGHT WIVES. HUNDREDS OF REPORTERS CAMPED OUT IN A PASTURE. IT WAS LIKE A TAILGATE PARTY AT A NASCAR EVENT. WE ARE A VIOLENT SPECIES!!”
From Gene Edwards’ Sermon: Assassinating the Assassin
There is a game my parents used to play when we were on road long road trips in the car. The rules of the game went something like this. "The first one to talk loses." We called it the silence game. Have you ever played the game? I would bet that just about every parent has made up a game similar to this. When traveling in a vehicle and arguing continues, or complaining erupts, or the eternal question, "How much further?” is asked for the 100th time, we want silence. So we play the silence game. Sometimes, silence is golden.
Sometimes, though, silence is not golden. If you have ever felt the awkward pause in the conversation, or if you have ever had an angry spouse or parent give you the silent treatment then you know what I’m talking about. (Whisper) Sometimes silence can be deafening.
YOU'LL FIND JESUS THERE
"Tomorrow morning I'll open up your heart" the surgeon said to the 8 year-old-boy.
"You'll find Jesus there," the boy said.
The surgeon continued, "I'll open your heart and check the damage."
"You'll find Jesus there," the boy said.
"When I see the damage, I will suture you back up and then think about the next step," said the surgeon.
"You will find Jesus in my heart because my Sunday school teacher told me so. She said it says so in the Bible. Besides that, our Sunday school songs say He lives there," said the boy.
The surgery took place the next day. After the surgery the surgeon began to make notes of what he found. In his mind there was no hope and no cure. The little boy would die within a matter of months.
The thought began to get to the doctor and all of a sudden the doctor shouted to God, "Why did you do this to the boy? Why can't he live a normal life?"
God spoke to the surgeon's heart and said, "The boy is a part of my flock and will always be a part of my flock. When he is with me there will be no more suffering and pain. He will have comfort and peace. One day his parents as well as you will join him and my flock will continue to grow."
The next day the surgeon went to the boy's room and sat down with the parents beside the bed.
In a moment or two, the boy opened his eyes and asked very quietly, "What did you find in my heart?"
With tears flowing down his cheeks, the surgeon said, "I found Jesus there."
A FATHER'S FORGIVENESS
In his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace , Phillip Yancey tells the story of Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway grew up in a very devout evangelical family, and yet there he never experienced the grace of Christ. He lived a libertine life that most of us would call "dissolute"… but there was no father, no parent waiting for him and he sank into the mire of a graceless depression. A short story he wrote perhaps reveals the grace that he hoped for. It is the story of a Spanish father who decided to reconcile with his son who had run away to Madrid. The father, in a moment of remorse, takes out this ad in El Libro , a newspaper. "Paco, meet me at Hotel Montana, Noon, Tuesday… All is forgiven… Papa." When the father arrived at the square in hopes of meeti...
Sermon Central Staff
"PLEASE COME BACK"
Max Lucado tells us about a girl named Christina. She lives in a small dusty village in Brazil. She’s bored. She feels like her strict parents have cheated her out of the joys of life. She longs for the excitement of the big city of Rio.
One morning her mother Maria finds Christina’s bed empty. Maria knew immediately where her daughter had gone. So she quickly throws some clothes in a bag, gathers up all her money, and heads for the bus station.
On her way, the mom enters one of those photograph booths in a local drug store and takes pictures of herself. She puts the pictures in her purse and takes the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.
She puts up pictures of herself all over town. But she can’t find her daughter. The weary mother gets back on the bus and weeps all the way home.
Months later, Christina slowly walks down the hotel stairs. She’s already worn down by life. Her young face is tired. Her brown eyes no longer dance with youth but speak of pain and fear.
A thousand times over she longed to go back home. She remembered the warm secure feeling of love and acceptance she had experience back with her mum in their little village. But she thought it was too late to turn back.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes notice a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back were these words: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home." And she did.
Christine’s mom pulled out all the stops to get her child to come back home, and this is exactly what God is doing for His children. It’s not His will for anyone here in this room to perish. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come back to Jesus."
(From a sermon by Maarc Axelrod, Crazy About His Kids, 2/9/2011)
Redemption and Restoration in Real Life
I conclude this morning with a story about what happened since a tragic event that took place 9 months ago around Christmas time at New Life Church in Colorado Springs. I share it because I think it makes a point about moving beyond the 'Who, Them?' To THEM!
The event was the shooting of several people in the church parking lot and building that left three dead and three wounded. The young man, who had done the shooting, killed himself after being shot by a security guard. Earlier that day, he had entered Youth with A Mission Headquarters in suburban Denver, shooting four and killing two. His name was Matthew Murray, and he had been raised in a Christian home.
The tragedy shook the church that had just started to come out of the painful and very public story about their former pastor's, Ted Haggard, sexual sin. Now they were faced with this terrible tragedy.
In a recent Christianity Today article, it was told that after granting the interview to talk about that day and its after effects, it was revealed that Brady Boyd, the current Senior Minister, called Murray's parents and asked if they would like to come to New Life and see where 'their son had passed away.' They said they had wanted to, but had refrained from do so because of their concerns for the church. They were also asked if they would be willing to meet with members of the family who had lost two teenage daughters that morning. They said yes. The same invitation was extended to the victim's family, the Work's. They said yes.
After showing the Murrays around the church where the tragic events took place, they met with the Work's in Boyd's office. "What happened there in the two hours in my office ... was the most significant ministry moment I've experienced, maybe in all of my life," Boyd said. When they first entered the office, the two families embraced. They sat, wept, and cried together, Boyd said, for "I don't know how long." Then they prayed together.
Later Jeanne Assam [the security guard who shot Murray] was invited to join them. When Jeanne, who had undoubtedly saved many lives but had been forced to shoot the Murray's son, walked into the room, "the Murrays embraced her and hugged her and released her from any guilt and remorse. The dad looked at Jeanne and said, "Please know we're so sorry that you had to do what you did. We're so sorry."
The article concludes with these words from Boyd, "We can talk philosophically about repentance and redemption and going forward with God," Boyd said, "but what I saw in that room in my office was the greatest testimony of forgiveness and redemption that I have ever seen. It was a testimony that God really can restore and redeem."