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Sermon Central Staff
VACANT HOMES, VACANT LIVES
TIFTON, GA ó The most interesting thing about Tifton is an abandoned Victorian house filled with thousands of bats. Tift County declared the once-elegant house in the townís historic district off limits after a bat specialist said that maybe 20,000 bats had moved in, apparently for good.
Now, teenagers call it the bat house. People talk about the smell, which is an unholy mix of animal urine and decaying wood. "In the summer, ooh, does that place reek," said Linda Turner, 69, a retired nurse and neighbor. "You ainít smelled nothing until you come back here on a hot day."
Brothers and Sisters, Iím not going to visit that bat house. WHAT A SIGHT AND WHAT A STINK IT MUST BE! Vacant houses get infiltrated with all kinds of creatures and probably not just bats. And many of these creatures make a mess, create a big stink, and eventually ruin that dwelling.
But it doesnít just happen with vacant houses, it also happens with vacant lives! If a person doesnít fill their life with good stuff, the bad stuff and sometimes, the evil stuff will move in and take over.
Whatís going on in your house? That is, the house you live in, the fleshly body you live in? Who has moved in? Who has taken over your residence and controlling your life? God wants us to stay clean in this world and that will only happen when we let Him move in, that is, when we fill our lives with worship, prayer and service.
Thy word have I hide in my heart that I might not sin against thee! Ps. 119:11. The Bible will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from the Bible!
(From a sermon by Steve Shepherd, Our Walk in This World, 4/4/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
A LIGHT IN THE DARKNESS
In 1963, my grandfather was serving as the Senior Minister of West End United Methodist Church in Nashville. West End is situated right across the street from Vanderbilt University, and has always been a wealthy, predominately white church.
One communion Sunday, a black family happened to be worshipping at West End, and like the rest of the congregation, they came forward to receive the meal. Without a sidelong thought, my grandfather served them the bread and juice just as he did the rest of the congregation.
Now, as you know, the Southern U.S. in 1963 was caught up in the height of the Civil Rights movement. And as soon as church dismissed that day, the Administrative Board went into a meeting. A few hours later, they called my grandfather into the room, and though my grandfather was greatly liked by all the people of West End, they asked for his immediate resignation because he served communion to blacks. My grandfather told the gathered group that if that was really the way they felt, then he was not the right minister for them anyway. In stunned silence, the members of the board said nothing more. They knew my grandfather was the right pastor for West End at that time, and they knew that he was right.
My grandfather stayed at West End for many more years, and in that time, other blacks came to worship there as well. Here is a light that illumined a darkness of our world.
(From a sermon by Clair Sauer, A Signpost and a Dash of Salt, 2/2/2011)
Have you ever been to a church where you didnít 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.
The Unbaptized Arm
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivanís response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they w...
But sometimes I think the church has forgotten how to celebrate How to party Maybe it is because we have forgotten what Jesus has done for us. Or maybe because the stories the Bible have gotten old and we havenít been around any new believers to remind us of the hope we have in Jesus Christ. That reminds me of what happened to a tribe in the jungles of East Asia, when missionaries showed them the Jesus film. It was a big deal when I was in Seminary and one of my friends was a missionary telling me about all that was going on with the Jesus Film. The movie was being shown as an evangelistic tool to people all overóin the desert, and in the jungles Not only had some of these people never heard of Jesus, they had never seen a motion picture. And on that one unforgettable evening, they saw it allóthe gospel in their own language, visible and real. Imagine again how it felt to see this good man Jesus, who healed the sick and was adored by children, held without trial and beaten by jeering soldiers. As these East Asians watched this, the people came unglued. They stood up and began to shout at the cruel men on the screen, demanding that this outrage stop. When nothing happened, they attacked the missionary running the projector. Perhaps he was responsible for this injustice He was forced to stop the film and explain that the story wasnít over yet, that there was more. So they settled back onto the ground, holding their emotions in tenuous check. Then came the crucifixion. Again, the people could not hold back. They began to weep and wail with such loud grief that once again the film had to be stopped. The missionary again tried to calm them, explaining that the story still wasnít over, that there was more. So they composed themselves and sat down to see what happened next. Then came the resurrection. Pandemonium broke out this time, but for a different reason. The gathering had spontaneously erupted into a party. The noise now was of jubilation, and it was deafening. The people were dancing and slapping each other on the back. The Christ is risen, indeed Again the missionary had to shut off the projector. But this time he didnít tell them to calm down and wait for what was next. All that was supposed to happenóin the story and in their livesówas happening. SOURCE: Ben Patterson, "Resurrection and Pandemonium," LeadershipJournal.net 4-13-04
MAN IN A HURRY
On the Andy Griffith Show episode "Man in a Hurry"- Malcolm tucker is a wealthy businessman from Charlotte. One Sunday he happens to have car trouble a couple of miles outside of Mayberry. Malcolm walks the rest of the way to town and meets Andy coming out of Sunday morning worship.
Andy offers to assist Malcolm but warns that it is nearly impossible to get anything done on a Sunday in Mayberry. Malcolm begins to lose patience when Wally, the filling station owner, refuses to fix his car because it is his policy not to work on Sunday. Furthermore, Malcolm is dumbfounded when he learns that he can't even use the telephone because the elderly Mindelbright sisters use the party line to visit on Sunday afternoons, since they are unable to get around very well.
Back at the Taylor house, things don't get much better for Malcolm. He explodes into a tirade, screaming that the citizens of Mayberry are living in another world--that this is the twentieth century, and while the whole world is living in a desperate space age, the town of Mayberry shuts down because two old ladies' feet fall asleep.
Out on the front porch Malcolm actually begins to relax as Barney and Andy sing the old spiritual "Church in the Wildwood." But this calm is short lived when Gomer informs Malcolm that his cousin Goober has offered to fix the car. Later, when Gomer returns with the car, Malcolm is surprised that there is no charge for the repair since it was just a clogged fuel line. Goober actually considered it an honor to work on such a fine machine.
As Mr. Tucker prepares to leave, he stops and contemplates the events of the afternoon as well as his return to the activities of his hectic life. Malcolm realizes that the very characteristics of Mayberry life that initially frustrated him so much are, in fact, the priorities he needs to establish in his own life. He decides to put his business on hold and stay the night in Mayberry.
I think the reason the episode is so popular is that we can all see ourselves in Malcolm Tucker. We can all get caught up in our daily activities to the extent that we are blinded to everything else going on around us, and when things don't go our way, we explode! One man said, "Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans." The next time that something unexpected or bad happens (not if but when), may our trials make us stronger in our faith.
I remember our friend Taylor Hendley who took teams of missionaries to Russia when it first opened itís doors to us. He described how people would walk from miles around (many all night) to come to worship in a small one-room church with no heat. How to accommodate as many people as possible they could not sit but would stand for up to four hours singing and praying and worshipping.
His name is Bill. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of
college. He is intelligent. Kind of esoteric and very, very bright.
He became a Christian while attending college. Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. They want to develop a ministry to the students, but are not sure how to go about it.
One day Bill decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair.
The service has already started, so Bill starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church is completely packed and he canít find a seat. By now people are really looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. Bill gets closer to the pulpit, and when he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet. (Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship, this had never happened in this church before!)
By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick.
About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward Bill. Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, and
a three-piece suit. A godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane and, as he starts walking toward this young man, everyone is saying to themselves that you canít blame him for what heís going to do.
How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some
college kid on the floor?
It takes a long time for the deacon to reach the young man...
An old American Indian tale recounts the story of a chief who was telling a gathering of young braves about the struggle within. "It is like two dogs fighting inside of us," the chief told them. "There is one good dog who wants to do the right and the other dog always wants to do the wrong. Sometimes the good dog seems stronger and is winning the fight. But sometimes the bad dog is stronger and wrong is winning the fight."
"Who is going to win in the end?" a young brave asks.
The chief answered "The one you feed."
On Sept 16, 1620 2 ships set sail from Plymouth Englnad, The Speedwell and the Mayflower. The Speedwell encountered much difficulty as they began their journey springing many leaks in the ship. So when the 2 ships went to Port in Plymouth England, the Speedwell decided to go no further and 42 passengers from the Speedwell joined the 60 passengers and 30 crew members aboard the Mayflower..
Of the 102 passengers on board the Mayflower the majority were devout Christians. They were coming to America to shake lose from the bonds of the church of England so they could worship God as they believed scriptures taught.
And with great excitement and expectations that set sail for a new land... It wasnít long before the trip became difficult for several reasons, as noted by William Bradford an historian on the Mayflower, who would later became Governor of the colony for 33 years.. Many of the passengers became sea sick as huge waves would crash over the deck of the ship... The nights were cold, damp and dark... Remember there was no indoor plumbing or electricity. And to make matters worse one of the crew, a very large man would constantly curse and abuse those who were sick... saying he was going to throw them overboard and steal all of their possessions... Bradford records, "BUT IT PLEASED GOD BEFORE THEY CAME HALF SEAS OVER, TO SMITE THE YOUNG MAN WITH A GRIEVOUS DISEASE OF WHICH HE DIED IN A DESPERATE MANNER.. AND SO HE HIMSELF WAS THE FIRST THROWN OVERBOARD. THUS HIS CURSES LIGHT OWN HIS WON HEAD, AND IT WAS AN ASTONISHMENT TO ALL HIS FELLOWS FOR THEY NOTED IT TO BE THE JUST HAND OF GOD UPON HIM.."
But their problems were far from over yet, they encountered many fierce storms which shook the ship with tremendous force. So fierce that many times they could not even keep the sail out and the force of the wind -- eventually cracked and bowed the main beams when they had just went over the half way point across the Atlantic. And although the passengers and crew wanted to turn back, Christopher Jones, the ships Master, assured all the vessel was "strong and firm under water." He ordered the beam to be secured. It was hoisted into place by a great iron screw that, fortunately, the Pilgrims brought out of Holland. AND Upon raising the beam, they "committed themselves to the will of God and resolved to proceed." These 100 people; cold, wet -- on wooden ship in the middle of the ocean -- put their hope, trust and lives into the hands of God. The battered ship finally came within sight of Cape Cod on November 19, 1620. Two had died at sea and two had given birth. The Pilgrims scanned the shoreline just to the west of them and described it as, "a goodly land wooded to the brink of the sea," William Bradford writes, "AFTER LONG BEATINGS AT SEA THEY FELL WITH THAT LAND WHICH IS CALLED CAPE COD; AND THEY WERE NOT A LITTLE JOYFUL..."
Before going ashore they decided to write a document know as the Mayflower Compact.
At the heart of the compact lay an undisputed conviction that God must be at the center of all law and order and the law without a moral base is really no law at all.
The day the Pilgrims signed the May Flower Compact, according to William Bradford, "they came to anchor in the Bay, which was a good harbor...and they blessed the God of Heaven, who brought them over the fast and furious ocean... and a sea of trouble. And they read the following from the Geneva Bible (the Bible the Pilgrims used) "LET THEM, THEREFORE PRAISE THE LORD, BECAUSE HE IS GOOD AND HIS MERCIES ENDURE FOREVER."
This coming thursday we will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day... Many will be busy cooking turkeys, making stuffing, baking pumpkin pies.... and watching football games. And that is fun stuff -- it is important to get together with loved ones... But that is not what thanksgiving is really about -- itís not about food and fun... it is about giving thanks to the Lord God Almighty.
We usually picture the first thanksgiving in America, as the time when the Pilgrims and the Indians got together for a great feast (though I really donít know how they could of eaten pumpkin pie without cool whip). But I tend to look at that time when on the sea battered Mayflower anchored in the bay at Cape Cod, a group of weary and worn men and women were on their knees praising their God in heaven for bringing them safely through the treacherous sea to this new land, as the real first thanksgiving.