Today's Word for Pastors...
The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron.
1 Timothy 4:1-2
Today's Preaching Insight...
The Sunday after Sept. 11, 2001, pastor Craig Barnes (then at National Presbyterian Church in Washington, DC) shared these comments: "Sooner or later every individual ends up in the emergency room. Something happens that you were not planning on, something that permanently alters the plans you had. Maybe a loved one dies, a deadly disease is discovered, or a cherished relationship unravels. When that happens, you realize you will not leave the emergency room the same person you were when you entered. That is exactly where our nation is today. Wounded with a broken heart and certain only that things have changed.
"As we leave the emergency room and make decisions about how we get on with life, let us remember that the nation is strong. It is strong enough to survive this atrocity. Actually, it is strong enough to do more than survive. It can become a different, better nation than we were on Monday. But that all depends on the choices we make in the days ahead.
"The French Philosopher Paul Ricoeur has written about the creative possibility of "limit experiences." A limit experience is an experience that is beyond the limits of normal life. It's the one you spent most of life avoiding, dreading, defending yourself against, like death and separation. Beyond the limits of those things, we think there's nothing but emptiness, loss, and anomie. But as Dr. Ricouer reminds us, there is more. There is also God, whose creative love knows no limits.
"Watching enormous skyscrapers crumble into dust is beyond the limits of comprehension. It doesn't matter how many times we watch the video, it's still beyond comprehension. As is seeing a gaping wound in the side of the Pentagon. And imagining how men can be so evil as to crash full airplanes into these buildings. And understanding how thousands could so easily die on our own well-protected soil. It's all beyond our limits.
"Be clear. None of that was the will of God. It was not a judgment against us, retribution for our sins, or God teaching us a lesson. Rather the will of God is always that evil be redeemed and not given the last word. That is why God can always be found at work beyond the limits of evil's destructive powers, waiting to bring us back to new life.
"The greatest catastrophe of history happened not on Tuesday, but two thousand years ago when we crucified the Son of God. That was the ultimate experience beyond humanity's limit. But it was then that history was given the possibility of resurrection. When Jesus Christ defeated death, He did so that we may experience something beyond our limits — to rise with Him into a new life. After every cross, the resurrection remains a possibility. The stone that covers the tomb is rolled back, but it is up to us to emerge as a new nation. It all depends on the choices we make."
A Joyful Noise
Author Pauline Fraser relates a story that happened to her over a decade ago. She and her daughter ducked into dimly a lit thrift shop to keep dry from the rain pounding outside. The clerk smiled and said, "Hi, today is stuff-a-bag-day." Pauline inquired what that meant and the helpful clerk replied, "Stuff as much stuff into the bag and you can have it all for three dollars."
Thinking that was a good deal, Pauline and her young daughter began putting "stuff" into the bag. As they wandered around there was an abrupt tug on her hand to get her attention to the shoe section of the store. Pauline writes, "My daughter shares my weakness for shoes, so we stopped for a minute to look. I let go of her hand and she reached out to touch a pair of shiny black shoes with a strap and silver buckle."
Her daughter asked, "Buy me?" Pauline told her daughter that they were tap shoes and she wasn't taking tap lessons. But the daughter insisted, so Pauline finally told her to try them on. Perfect fit! So they bought them, and her daughter wore them out of the store with a click, click, click all the way down the street. Continuing their shopping at another store the shoes made the same click, click, click as before, and people turned their heads as they entered the store.
As the clicking continued some shoppers gave a disapproving stare, but for Pauline it was music to her ears. One lady approached her and said, "Excuse me, dear. Is your daughter in tap this year?" "No," she replied. "Well, why on earth would you allow her to wear tap shoes, here, of all places, in a store? They make so much noise."
Pauline told her how wonderful it is to hear. The lady asked, "How can it be wonderful?" Pauline replied, "Because when she was a baby, we were told she would never walk or talk. It has taken a lot of hard work and patience but she asked for the shoes and the click, click, click says that she can walk."
Her daughter is now 18 and will graduate from high school this year. Pauline states, "It has not always been easy, but it has all been worthwhile. She has taught me that it doesn't matter what others think. They don't walk in your shoes." (Derl G. Keefer, Friday Evenings newsletter)