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The Preaching Ezine (the newsletter of Preachology.com)
Issue #029, December 22, 2013
What's in this Issue:
1. Christmas is right around the Corner...this Wednesday! Some had a special Christmas service today; some have a special Christmas Service on Christmas Eve.
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Mark Hollingsworth here. I hope you had a great Lord's Day this Sunday before Christmas. Don't forget that Christmas Day is Wednesday! And a New Year is not far off either!
2 Tim. 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.
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The Man Who Missed Christmas
Sometime back, MOODY MAGAZINE told the story of a guy named George Mason. His life was consumed by his work. He lived alone, which only contributed to his work addiction. Although he had few friends, each Christmas he received several invitations to spend Christmas Day with a family. He always declined the offers.
This particular Christmas was no exception. On Christmas Eve, after all his employees left, George Mason went into the office vault to get a little extra cash. To his shock, the heavy door of the walk-in safe shut behind him. Desperately, he pounded on the steel door, but no one was around to hear. Even the custodian had left early to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. The lonely miser consoled himself, "I can make it alright until morning." But suddenly he recalled, the next day was Christmas. No one would be coming in for TWO DAYS.
He panicked as he tried to figure out if there would be sufficient oxygen. Then he remembered: The vault had recently been installed and was supposed to have a safety air-hole built in somewhere. He felt around in the dark and eventually found the emergency feature in a corner near the floor.
On the day after Christmas, early in the morning, the chief cashier arrived. As was his routine, he unlocked the vault but didn't bother opening the door. George Mason, exhausted, faint, hungry, and thirsty, exited the human-size safe without being spotted. And by the time he went home, showered, dressed, and returned to the office, no one suspected a thing.
Life went on as usual - except for one thing: George Mason had missed Christmas. Can you believe it? He missed Christmas because the door to the safe closed on him. He's the only person I've ever heard of who had that happen. But do you know what is more common? People who "miss" Christmas year after year. You understand what I mean by that, don't you? People who buy and receive presents and decorate their homes and trees and make an appearance at the appropriate number of parties and church programs, but who miss the opportunity to savor the splendor and contemplate the mystery of God's love made visible. Rev. Greg Asimakoupoulos "The Man Who Missed Christmas"
1. Never has such a gift been given.
The meaning of Christmas is giving – not with packages and food. It is the giving of God. ”For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” (John 3:16). Christmas began with giving. How would you feel if God gave you the same amount of time and attention that you devote to Him? If God put as many things ahead of you as you put ahead of Him? If God offered as many excuses as you do and if the excuses were no more justifiable than yours? If God's promises were no more certain than yours? If God withheld His blessings from you as you withhold your offerings from Him? Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
A certified public accountant did something that maybe all of us should do. He decided to open a journal with God. He wanted to write everything that God gave him and everything that he gave to God. He started keeping a debit and credit book with God.
If someone did him a favor, he put it down as God's gift to him. He credited God with the sun, his food, his health, his friends and relatives, and a thousand other benefits he received.
On the other hand, he put down what he did for God. Finally he gave up saying, "It is impossible for me to balance the books. I find that God is indeed my creditor and what I have done for Him is next to nothing."
The season also imposes its tyranny on many of us. Instead of being able to give out of thoughtfulness and love, we often give because it is "expected". I heard of one couple who had 85 people they felt obligated to remember with a gift. No wonder the joy of giving falls away to a sort of panicked despair. No store-bought gift would do for those He held dear, it must be home-made. Nor was His choice of Gift an optional trinket for the "man who has everything." He gave the only possession that we don't have and really need. He did not give a thing, an object. He gave Himself--a costly Gift in the extreme, so expensive that many reject the Gift because of the obligation they know they incur upon acceptance.
2. Never Was so Great a Gift so Poorly Received
“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and rapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). Now you would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, He surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn. Yes, He could have. And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to His aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved Himself. The question is not what God could do but what He willed to do. God's will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake He became poor. The "No vacancy" signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. "For your sake He became poor." God rules all things--even motel capacities, for the sake of His children. The calvary road begins with a no vacancy sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing and the cross in Jerusalem.
Born in a stable, lived without a home, died on a cross, and buried in a borrowed tomb, he who “was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8: 9). The world had no room far him then. It has all too little room for him now. And to many who are not antagonistic, nor even indifferent to him there are so many things to do, and so many places to go, and such good intentions to let him come in at some more convenient time, that he is left outside with the door locked against him. They did not want him in Galilee. Capernaum did not want him. They drove him out of Nazareth. The Gadarenes asked him to leave their country. His own people, after his three years wonderful ministry among them, shouted him to the cross with: “Away with him! Crucify him!”
“No room.” And what a chilly atmosphere in the world for Christ today! There is still lack of room for him. Crowded out of national life; not much thought is given to him in council chambers or legislative balls. He is all too small for consideration in the big affairs and activities of the world. More and more in great centers of learning is he pushed aside. In commercial life he must not be allowed to “interfere with business.” In international life, the guns of war drown out his message of peace. In industrial
On that first Christmas morning, the world must have seemed a hard place to Mary. At the end of a weary journey there was "no room at the inn." The only shelter offered to her was the "lowly cattle shed." I find this a great mystery and a great wonder.
Emmanuel. The Stunning Impact of Christmas: An old pioneer traveled westward across the great plains until he came to an abrupt halt at the edge of the Grand Canyon. He gawked at the sight before him: a vast chasm one mile down, eighteen miles across, and more than a hundred miles long! He gasped, "Something musta happened here!" A visitor to our world at Christmas time, seeing the lights, the decorations, the trees, the parades, the festivities, and the religious services, would also probably say, "Something must have happened here!" Indeed, something did happen. God came to our world on the first Christmas. James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited, Tyndale, 1972, p. 86.
As we read in the book of Luke we read of a nameless man that has been well-known for 2000 years as the man that turned Mary and Joseph away. He missed Christmas. He is the innkeeper, and because there were so many people in town, he had no room for the expectant mother and the Christ child to be born.
I suspect that this is to the way he would like to be know in history. He may have been a decent man, a good father and husband. If he had only know that the pregnant woman was carrying the Son of God, he may have given up his own bed. But as it was, he missed out on a grand opportunity – for there was no room.
As I think about my own life, I wonder how many opportunities I have missed – not because I wanted to – but because I made no room in my life.
The innkeeper had no room for Jesus. It would be easy to criticize him for that, but the same thing happens to us. Let me tell you how I have had no room for Jesus. I was converted at a fairly young age. It was during a revival, and I was only about eight. In my early teens I felt God’s call to preach. I preached my first feeble sermon at the age of thirteen, and the latest feeble one last Sunday. During my teenage years I gave up on Christ. I followed the desires of my heart, and rebelled against that great love.
After I got married I was a spiritual leader – as the bible tells us – but in the wrong direction. For two years, I only went to church occasionally and was more interested in debating about God than in worshipping him. I did not hate God – I simply had no room for him. Then I moved to South Carolina to live. I began to attend church because my brother Sid was a good preacher and a good pastor. My wife like singing, and she sang in the choir. The after about a year and a half God began to convict me greatly. I believe if a lukewarm Christian starts attending church regularly in a while the Holy Spirit will get ahold of him. I was undecided about what occupation I should pursue, and tried about four different things in a period of six months. It was not the jobs. I was restless within my soul. God began to convict me greatly. I was undecided about what occupation I would pursue, and tried about four different things in a period of six months. It was not the jobs. I was restless within my soul. One Sunday, God spoke deeply to my heart. He said, “Either serve me completely, or get out.” After the service, I spoke with my brother. When we finished talking, I applied to the New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. It is inconceivable to me at this stage of life that anyone would choose to leave Christ out of his life. And yet so many of us have.
There have been times when I have approached loving the Lord My God with all my heart and soul and mind. But I have realized that no matter how much I love Him, he has always loved me more. I have always appreciated that my mother and my wife have given their lives to me. But I appreciate even more that Jesus has given his life for me. The Bible says, “But God demonstrates his own love for use in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Even though I gave up on him, he never gave up on me. He died on the Cross so that I might have everlasting life. The great regret I have is that I wasted all those years apart for Him.
It has been great to receive the loves of my life —- from my parents, my children, my wife, and from Jesus. Who could ever fail with that kind of support? There is a great security in having such unconditional love. I know that I do not have it within my power to cause these three to stop loving me.
Charles L. Allen tells about being at a revival at a small rural church. He invited people to give their testimonies, and an uneducated, elderly man got up to give his story.
He said, “When I was a boy I loved my mother. As I grew older I felt I would never love anybody else but my mother. As a young man I met a girl and I came to love her and I married her. I then loved my mother and my wife but I knew I would never love anybody else. Then a baby boy was born into our home. As I held him in my arms, I knew I loved him too. We never had any other children and these were the only three people that I loved. Then during a service here in this church, the Lord Jesus came into my heart. When I came to know Jesus as my Savior, I loved him. Then a strange thing happened. Loving my mother and my wife and my son did not cause me to love anybody else. But when I love Jesus, then I loved everybody.”
June was a curly headed little girl of five years. She lived in a small Illinois town where her father was a pastor. Her mother frequently sent her to the Post Office for the mail. She was a bright, cheerful child, and a general favorite with the people. One day as she was on one of her trips to the Post office, an old man stopped her and asked, "Little girl, where did you get those pretty curls?" "God gave them to me," she sweetly replied. After a few more words of conversation she looked up earnestly into the old man's face and asked, "Mister are you saved?" He was greatly surprised and deeply impressed by this question and sorrowfully answered "No, little girl, I'm not." "Well," answered June, "You ought to be, for you're getting to be a pretty old man." Then she ran on to fulfill her errand.
Several weeks after this the old man attended an old-fashioned revival meeting and was saved. He testified in the meeting that it was the question that the little girl had asked him, that he could not get out of his mind, and had at last brought him to Jesus. On the way home that night from the revival, the car in which the old man was riding was struck by a train, and he was hurled into eternity. This was very sad, but how blessed it was that he had been saved just in time, and sudden death was to him sudden glory. –Selected
In his book "I Was Born Again," published in 1946, Norman Wingert introduced this story as follows: "Charles C. Waterman lives in Pasadena, California. In his jail work, his tract distribution, and his personal witnessing for Christ, he has made such an impression on his fellow townsmen that from the mayor down they unite in thanking him for the "unique service" which he is rendering his community. He is official chaplain for the Pasadena city prison and for several hospitals. Here is one man that puts God first."
Since I have been saved, it seems strange that more people do not come to themselves. I was born in Eugene, Indiana, in 1870, but when only eighteen years of age I left home to work for steam railroads. It was because I was not born again before leaving home although I was regarded as a moral young man who did not think of even using tobacco--I soon fell into the ways of wicked men; profanity, gambling, drinking, tobacco. These habits began to fasten themselves upon me, but I argued with myself that I could quit them if I wanted to.
At the age of twenty-five I married, and lived pretty decently when my wife was around. But then whenever she would go for a little visit with her relatives or her mother, I was in for a time. I kept getting worse and worse, Both my mother and my sister never wrote me without speaking about my soul, but I went on with my crowd and with my habits.
After the Lord had given us two boys in our home, I began to talk about quitting tobacco and would say to my wife, "I am going to quit now, and the boys will never even know or remember that I used tobacco." I would stop for a few days and then use it on the sly. As soon as my wife would catch me at it, I would start in worse than ever, Satan had a chain around my neck and I could not get away. For twenty-five years he was my master. Every man who knew me knew I would go the limit in sin. At times I would get ashamed, especially when I thought of my fine family, and then would say, "Surely I will do better now!"
We moved to the state of Washington in 1902, and there my wife got a case of old-time religion. She laid aside her jewelry, worldly attire, secular music and every weight that would hinder her from running a victorious Christian race. I snorted, fumed, and acted worse than ever.
When he was eight years of age, my oldest boy took double pneumonia and was given up by both nurse and physician. I told my wife if she wanted to do anything she could have her way, for the boy was dying; his nails had already turned blue. And Mrs. Waterman said, "He can't die until the Lord lets him," So she went out and got two others who believed in prayer. I promised them that if God would heal the boy I would serve Him. God worked a miracle and raised up that child. But I went on in my sins.
A little later, a second son, a rosy-cheeked boy of two years, was stricken, and died. My heart was like a stone. I felt desolate and alone. I often wondered that Mrs. Waterman bore it so bravely, but I did not realize the difference between Grace and despair. I really had no hope of ever seeing this darling babe again. I told Mrs. Waterman I believed that if I could get away from the gang I was running with and move to a new place I could live differently. So we moved to California. But before we had been here a week I found my company--the gang in Pasadena. I knew just where to buy whiskey, where the poker games were played, and where the haunts of vice were. When I was home with my wife and children I was planning how I could get down town to play pool or cards.
Often when she gathered the children for family prayer, I would sit upright and smoke and ridicule her prayers when she was through. But she would merely look at me and say, "You'll talk differently when you become a preacher."
The 31st of March, 1913, found me as sinful as a man could be. I had been gone from home for four days, drinking and doing almost everything a decent man should not do. About four o'clock in the afternoon of this day I was lying in a bed in a rooming house in Los Angeles, suffering a foretaste of the damned. I wanted to go home, but I was bound by the devil and could not. My heart, diseased from the use of whiskey and tobacco, was running away with me. (A few years before a specialist had told me I would drop dead of heart disease if I did not quit the use of tobacco.)
I thought my time had really come. I thought, "Here you are going straight to hell! A drunkard, a gambler, a liar, a fool-going to hell! A good Christian wife, a nice home and children, your wife's prayers, your mother's prayers, and with all the light you've got going to hell!" Then I saw a vision. I saw my baby boy who had died in Washington standing up in Heaven and looking right down at me, his eyes full of pity. And I saw my earthly home and little Faith coming out the door to meet me; it was a habit of hers to watch for her daddy's return.
But tonight, daddy was not coming home; he was dying. Every nerve in me was craving for more whiskey. I got out of bed, walked into another room, poured out a glass of whiskey, swallowed it at a gulp. As I did this, God opened up the hell of the Bible beneath my feet. I saw the dark smoke of their torment "that ascendeth forever," "where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched."
So terrible was the scene that I raised my hand toward heaven as high as I could possibly raise it and said, "I positively refuse to go to hell. I will not go." I had come to myself. I was sobered forever. God gave me power to take my hat and start home at once.
I phoned my wife to meet me down town as I had some news that wouldn't keep. She had decided that day that she would go to Los Angeles and walk about the streets to see if she could find me. But before starting she had gone into the closet to pray, and the Lord showed her to stay at home and leave me in His hands. "Then, Father, send the Holy Spirit to find him and bring him home," she prayed, and felt such assurance that she was heard that she went in and told the children, "Daddy will be home today."
When she heard the phone ring that morning, she said, "That's Daddy now," and started downtown to meet me as I requested. When we met, I told her the devil had overstepped himself and that I was through. I wanted her to get the most godly person she knew to come and unite with her for my salvation. I had heard her read the Bible often and knew it said, "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask in my name, it shall be done." I wanted it done if it took two people, or two thousand. Yes, I had come to myself!
First, I went down before my wife and confessed to the very bottom and asked her forgiveness. She forgave me. Then we decided to send for an old lady, Mrs. Headly, who had been in our home a great deal and knew of my long absence at this time. Unless someone came in and missed me, they never knew that I was gone. My wife told her troubles to no one except the Lord. Her mother lived within a block from us but did not know I was away.
We phoned the people with whom Mrs. Headly was stopping. They told us that she had gone elsewhere and that there was no phone where she had gone. So Mrs. Waterman and I got down to pray alone. It was not long afterward that the phone rang, and a woman wanted to know if everything was all right at our house. Mrs. Headly had made her walk four blocks to call us. Wife told her we wanted Mrs. Headly to come right down. Although she was old and half blind, this saint of God was there in a matter of minutes.
"Sister Headly," I said, "I'm trying to find the Lord." "I believe it, Brother Waterman, I believe it!" (She had always called me Brother Waterman, wicked as I was.) I got down and prayed, "Lord, I'll do anything you want me to do, and say anything you want me to say, and I'm going to serve You the rest of my life whether I ever get a blessing or not."
I got off my knees, told my wife I had not received any witness except that I had a great peace. She asked what other witness I wanted. Well, the peace and joy kept increasing until we had a regular jubilee until about two o'clock.
I was up, the first one, in the morning and took the Bible to my wife and said, "Show me the place in here about counting the cost." She turned to Luke 14:28: "For which of you intending to build a tower sitteth not down first and counteth the cost, whether he hath sufficient to finish it."