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(this is a pretty cool illustration. The materials cost less than $3, and, though it was originally intended more for a junior high audience, it actually is pretty fascinating for all ages, including senior high and adults. Everyone likes to blow things up!)

Let me give you a visual. Another science experiment. Here’s two bars of soap. One is Zest – think of it as the world’s vision for a life in pursuit of personal pleasure. The other is Ivory – think about it as God’s vision for a morally pure life. It even says right here on the side – “100% Pure”

(have a volunteer unwrap a bar of each kind of soap and put them in a large, clear container. I used a 5-gallon storage bin from our church kitchen. The bin is originally empty except for the soap, but I pour in about six pitchers of water while I’m talking about the “tides of life rising around you”. Ivory floats, Zest does not.)

Now, lets try a couple of things. First, water. Think about this water as the difficulties life. Trying to pay all the bills with not enough money. Making yourself be responsible and go to work when you would rather go to the lake and forget about it all. Paying for braces for your kids instead of getting a ski boat for yourself. All your life you struggle trying desperately to do all the right things with too little resources. This isn’t the life you imagined – this isn’t fun – this is trying to just hang on another day. This is trying to keep from drowning. What kind of life will keep you afloat? Oddly enough, it isn’t a life lived seeking personal pleasure. That’s just not good enough when the waters rise. There is no hope in a life lived in pursuit of pleasure. Believe me, when you are feeling overwhelmed, drowning in the details of life, what you need most is hope. There was a movie once, called “Hope Floats.” It’s true. The hope that God gave us will keep you afloat, but you have to accept the gift and take it inside you, live the life demanded by a restoration with God.

(now have a volunteer unwrap another bar of each type of soap and put them in a small bowl each. Put them both in a microwave at the same time and turn it on high for about a minute and a half. Make sure the microwave is one that lights up and you can see things through the door while they cook. The Zest just gets soft. The ivory foams and grows to several times its original size.)

Next, let’s heat things up. Think about this microwave as those things that go way beyond the day-to-day troubles of life. I’m talking about tragedy striking. A drive-by shooting of someone you love. I’m talking about discovering you have cancer. I’m talking about emotional and physical abuse, or someone in your family who has and alcohol or drug problem. Those things we talked about earlier that people are hoping to overcome this Christmas. Tragedy that comes like fire to burn you up. When the fire comes, you will either melt down, or grow and be transformed. It’s the hope inside you that makes the difference.

You see, there’s something different about Ivory than about any other kind of soap. Once, a long time ago, a factory worker at a soap-making plant fell asleep and left a machine on far too long. This particular machine was responsible for mixing up all the ingredients in the soap while it was still liquid. Left on too long, the machine actually began to whip the liquid. Just like making eggs into meringue, if you whip the liquid too long, you begin to mix in air, tiny bubbles. Ivory is full of microscopic air bubbles. These bubbles keep the soap afloat. These bubbles expand when heated.

These bubbles are like hope. Hope keeps you afloat when the waters of life threaten to drown you. Hope transforms you when tragedy strikes and threaten to consume you.