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Contributed By:
Daniel Owens
 
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Anyone see “Oprah” this past week?...I believe it was on Friday, Feb. 8.
The test tube babies of the 80’s have come of age...and Oprah had some of those young people on her show.

These children had no identity apart from a mother and were in a constant search for, not only there father, but for other siblings. They admitted with tears that there is a huge void inside that needs so desperately to be satisfied and they are willing to use all their energies to seek the truth.
These young people were consumed with the hope of learning their true identities.

One teenage child only knew he was from test tube #46.

One mother, when asked by her child –where their father was, explained that another man, who already had a family, was loving enough to donate and that made the child a “love child.”

We live in a land and among a people who have no idea...Not only who they are BUT where they came from
How in the world can we expect them to know where they are going?
Most are using all their energies to learn their true identities.

Well, there is good news for them, and for you...
for when someone introduces them to Jesus Christ, or for that fact...when you introduce anyone to Jesus Christ, he provides that person with their true identity, their true purpose in life.

 
Contributed By:
Warren Curry
 
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Have you ever been to a church where you didn’t feel welcome? You went in and looked around the foyer area and no one greets you. You proceed through the doors into the sanctuary and find yourself a seat in the back row and begin to prepare yourself for the worship time. People come filing in and many are talking with one another, because it seems they all know each other, but still, no one offers a hand to be shaken or says hello. As you look around, you even notice some making eye contact with you and when they notice you seeing them, they turn away quickly or pretend they are looking beyond you at something else. The service goes by and when it is done, you linger around for a while in the foyer area again, reading some of the bulletin boards to see what things the church is involved with and still no one says boo to you. Finally you leave, feeling a bit slighted, and tell yourself you will never visit this church again.

 
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Sermon Central Staff
 
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CAPTURE AND CONTROL

Craig Larson talks about being at a lunch party on a warm, Chicago day in early September with a dozen of his fellow workers. The windows were left open, and soon a bee found its way in. After buzzing around for a while, it landed on some food on the table. Then someone took an empty bottle of sparkling grape juice and put the mouth of the bottle near the bee. Without a moment's hesitation, the bee flew to the mouth of the bottle and climbed inside the narrow opening. Immediately, Larson's colleague put the cap on the bottle and screwed it shut. The bee spent the rest of the party drinking at the bottom of the bottle, and as far as anyone knew, the bee was never released.

The people at that table were not concerned about the bee. Their purpose was not to make sure it enjoyed itself and had a good time. No! Their only concern was capture and control.

That's the way it is with Satan. He is not concerned about us. His purpose is not to make sure we have a good time. No! He despises us, and his only concern is capture and control.

(From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Pitfalls of Leadership, 7/29/2010)

 
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PRAYER WORKS
George Muller was born in Prussia on September 27, 1805. His father was a collector of taxes and George seemed to inherit his father’s ability with figures.

When Muller was converted to Christ he was impressed by the many recurring statements of Jesus for us "to ask." At this point in Muller’s life he and his wife launched into a daring experiment. First, they gave away all of their household goods. The next step was even more daring, he refused all regular salary from the small mission he had been serving. He then set out to establish an orphan home to care for the homeless children of England.

The first home was dedicated in a rented building on April 21, 1836. Within a matter of days, 43 orphans were being cared for. Muller and his co-workers decided their experiment would be set up with the following guidelines:
1- No funds would ever be solicited.
2- No debts were ever to be incurred.
3- No money contributed for a specific purpose would ever be used for any other purpose.
4- All accounts would be audited annually.
5- No ego-pandering by the publication of donor’s names.
6- No "names" of prominent people would be sought for the board or to advertise the institution.
7- The success of the orphanage would be measured not by the numbers served or by the amount of money taken in, but by God’s blessing on the work, which Muller expected to be in direct proportion to the time spent in prayer.

When the first building was constructed, Muller and his friends remained true to their convictions. The public was amazed when a second building was opened six months after the first. They kept concentrating on prayer and eventually there were five new buildings, 110 workers, and 2,050 orphans being...

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GUARD DUTY

When I was in the U.S. Army, I remember we had to pull guard duty many times. The purpose of guard duty was to ensure that other soldiers, equipment, or areas were protected from the enemy. I can recall that in basic training, or boot camp, we had to memorize three General Orders and the first one was, "I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved."

When we were properly relieved, there was a password that was spoken between the person on guard duty and the one that was relieving them. If the improper password was given, you were not properly relieved. The safety of all that was being guarded depended upon you, the person on guard duty. If something went wrong or the enemy was able to get access into that which you were responsible for guarding, then you were held accountable and punishment was inevitable.

(From a sermon by Melvin Maughmer, Jr., Guard Duty, 5/25/2011)

 
Contributed By:
Josh Hunt
 
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I recently read an insightful story that would serve as a good reminder for us both as we prepare to part ways. The story is about a group of climbers who set out to scale a large mountain in Europe. The view boasted a breathtaking peak of snowcapped rocks. On clear days the crested point reigned as king on the horizon. Its white tip jutted into the blue sky inviting admiration and offering inspiration.
On days like this the hikers made the greatest progress. The peak stood above them like a compelling goal. Eyes were called upward. The walk was brisk. The cooperation was unselfish. Though many, they climbed as one, all looking to the same summit.
Yet on some days the peak of the mountain was hidden from view. The cloud covering would eclipse the crisp blueness with a drab, gray ceiling and block the vision of the mountaintop. On these days the climb became arduous. Eyes were downward and thoughts inward. The goal was forgotten. Tempers were short. Weariness was an uninvited companion. Complaints stung like thorns on the trail.
We’re like that, aren’t we? As long as we can see our dream, as long as our goal is within eyesight, there is no mountain we can’t climb or summit we can’t scale. But take away our vision, block our view of the trail’s end, and the result is as discouraging as the journey.


Lucado, M. (1987). God came near : Chronicles of the Christ (189–190). Portland, Or.: Multnomah Press.

 
Contributed By:
Davon Huss
 
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HUMILITY: THE BALLOON GAME

Robert Roberts writes about a fourth grade class in which the teacher introduced a game called "balloon stomp." A balloon was tied to every child's leg, and the object of the game was to pop everyone else's balloon while protecting one's own. The last person with an intact balloon would win.

The fourth graders in Roberts' story entered into the spirit of the game with vigor. Balloons were relentlessly targeted and destroyed. A few of the children clung to the sidelines like wallflowers at a middle school dance, but their balloons were doomed just the same. The entire battle was over in a matter of seconds, leaving only one balloon inflated. Its owner was, of course, the most disliked kid in the class. It's hard to really win at a game like balloon stomp. In order to complete your mission, you have to be pushy, rude and offensive.

Roberts goes on to write that a second class was introduced to the same game. Only this time it was a class of mentally handicapped children. They were given the same explanation as the first class, and the signal to begin was given. But the game proceeded very differently. Perhaps the instructions were given too quickly for children with learning disabilities to grasp them. The one idea that got through was that the balloons were supposed to be popped. So it was the balloons, not the other players, that were viewed as enemies. Instead of fighting each other, they began helping each other pop balloons. One little girl knelt down and held her balloon carefully in place, like a holder for a field goal kicker. A little boy stomped it flat. Then he knelt down and held his balloon for her. It went on like this for several minutes until all the balloons were vanquished, and everybody cheered. Everybody won.

Who got the game right, and who got the game wrong? In our world, we tend to think of another person's success as one less opportunity for us to succeed. There can only be one top dog, one top banana, one big kahuna. If we ever find ourselves in that enviable position, we will fight like mad to maintain our hold on it. A lot of companies fail to enjoy prolonged success because the people in charge have this "balloon stomp" mentality. In the church, the rules change. Jesus Christ gets top billing. We're just here to serve his purposes, and we do that most effectively by elevating others and humbling ourselves.

 
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GETTING PAST YOUR PAST

Consider Charles Colson, the aide to Richard Nixon who was sent to jail for Watergate. As as a result of his experience as a convicted felon, Colson founded Prison Fellowship, now the world’s largest Christian outreach to prisoners and their families. Prison Fellowship has more than 50,000 volunteers working in hundreds of prisons in 88 countries around the world. A ministry that has blessed millions of people got started twenty-five years ago because Charles Colson committed a crime. God’s eternal purposes for that man included even the sin that sent him to prison. It was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning.

But the story that matters most to you isn’t Peter’s, or Paul’s, or even Charles Colson’s. It’s yours. And what I want to say to you this morning is that the story of your life has not been ruined, not by your sin or anyone else’s. God’s good plan for your life is not buried under the mistakes of the past. God has a plan for your life, a good plan, a wise plan, a loving plan, a sovereign plan, and that plan is still in effect. You haven’t missed it. He is working ...

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Contributed By:
Jeff Strite
 
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WHY DID JESUS NEED TO BE BAPTIZED?

So why would Jesus need to be baptized by John?
Well... Jesus' baptism by John was the beginning of Jesus' ministry

Mark 1:1 starts out: "The BEGINNING of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" and then Mark starts telling us about Jesus' baptism by John.

In Luke 3:23 we're told of Jesus' baptism by John and then we read: "Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he BEGAN HIS MINISTRY..."

Obviously, for some reason, Jesus' ministry began with His baptism.

Now, at this point in Jewish history, water baptism served one of 3 purposes.
1st, there was the Baptism Of Repentance.
This was what John the Baptist's was preaching.
But of course Jesus didn't need to repent because He hadn't sinned.

The 2nd kind of baptism was for people who desired to convert to Judaism.
It was a Baptism Of Conversion.
If you were a Gentile who wanted to convert to Judaism, they baptized you in water.

ILLUS: Jamieson, Fausset and Brown explained that: "The Jews were accustomed to say of a heathen proselyte, on his public admission into the Jewish faith BY BAPTISM, that he was a new-born child."

So, baptism was used when someone wanted to convert to Judaism. But Jesus had no need to convert to Judaism. He already was one. He'd been born a Jew.

So baptism in those days could be for repentance or conversion... and Jesus did not need to be baptized for those reasons. So, for what OTHER reason would a person be baptized in water back then???

Well, the only other people who experienced baptism - in the Jewish faith in that day were priests. The Law dictated that especially the High Priest was to "washed with water." And the Temple had pools set aside for just that purpose.

In Leviticus 8:6 we're told that - by the instruction of God -- "Moses brought Aaron and his sons forward and washed them with water."
Then, later, during that ceremony Moses "poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron's head and anointed him to consecrate him." Leviticus 8:12

This act INITIATED Aaron's ministry as High Priest. When Aaron and his sons were washed with water and anointed with oil, they BEGAN their priesthood and were empowered to make sacrifices and to handle holy things as God's representatives.
At that point (their baptism) God put His mark of approval on the ministry of Aaron and his sons.

The Bible tells us that Jesus' ministry began with His baptism by John.
After His baptism, the Father anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit as it descended on Him in form of a dove. And the Father put His mark of approval on Jesus by loudly declaring:
"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." Matthew 3:17

This was the beginning of Jesus' ministry as our High Priest.
Did you realize Jesus was our High Priest?
Indeed He is!
Hebrews 4:14: "...we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God..."

From the day of His baptism by John at the Jordan until His death on the Cross, Jesus (as our High Priest) prepared the ultimate sacrifice for our sins... His own body.

 
Contributed By:
Ronnie Knight
 
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In fact God has created us in such a way so that our very existence hinges upon these two concepts. The Bible bears this out. The heart of God and His Word is centered on relationships and love. The fundamental Law of God is hinged on these two concepts. Jesus expresses this clearly in Matthew 22 as he is questioned by the lawyer asking Him to share what He understood as the greatest commandment. In answering this question Jesus reveals to us that the Divine plan and purpose of God for our lives rests in the fundamental elements of relationships and love. The lawyer asked for the greatest commandment and Jesus gave him the reason for our existence.

Jesus said that the greatest commandment was to love God with everything you are, but He didn’t stop there. He went on to express that the second greatest commandment was to love your neighbor as yourself. While these two statements are profound enough, Jesus, with His next statement revealed the key to our whole existence. Hear what He said, "on these two commandments hang ALL of the Law and the Prophets." The phrase Law and Prophets is a euphemism for the entirety of God’s Word in their time. We understand that to be the Old Testament. In essence Jesus was saying that the very heart of all of God’s teaching rest upon these two commandments.

In order to see the significance of this even more we must think just a moment about the underlying source of these commandments which is the Ten Commandments. In these two statements Jesus summed up the Ten Commandments. When God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses we know from His Word that He wrote them on two stone tablets. On one tablet are four laws that deal with out relationship with God. On the other tablet are six laws that deal with our relationship with each other. At the heart of each of these relationships is one key world -- Love. Therefore, the very essence of God’s purpose for our existence is to enter into a personal relationship of true authentic love with Him and to share that Godly love as we develop meaningful relationships with each other. So, my friends what we are discussing today is at the very heart of our reason for existing. Today we are talking about aspect of love in relationships.

 
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