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On a hot July afternoon in 2010,  my husband and I went with my daughter and her family to the National Space and Aeronautics Museum in DC to see the IMAX presentation of the Hubble telescope.  Everything about it was spectacular.  It was especially impressive that my husband worked all the launches related to the Hubble, except one and we saw that launch in our front yard as it careened into space.

The movie showed the astronauts as they played in the Brevard County beaches only a few miles from our house. It was a an eerie feeling to realize that I had seen history being made a few steps from my front door.  Of course, we always glibly talk about the fact that we are watching history in the making.  But sitting in the theatre with approximately 1,000 other people puts the NASA experiences of the past 4 decades in a totally different light.

Then as the pictures that have been taken from the Hubble unfolded, we all gasped in wonder.  Perhaps the other people in the theatre didn’t have the same sense of amazement as our small group because we lived it.  When the Hubble first launched, the Hubble family came to see the first launch attempt.  They were Presbyterians and they attended Trinity Presbyterian Church in Satellite Beach where I was working.  It was an honor to have the Hubble family with us.

God has been such an important part of our history.  As I pushed him out of the theatre, my husband, Frank said, “We cannot even imagine how big and awesome our God is.”  We have prayed for each launch and the many astronauts.  We have their patches tucked away in desks drawers.  There are  framed photos of launches hanging on our walls.  Years ago, I stood on the road of our church when the Challenger exploded.  The stunned staff stopped to pray for the astronauts and their family, because the horror of the moment was more gut wrenching than we could imagine.

Our small troop walked from the Hubble movie and headed into the McDonald’s attached to the museum.  While licking our escaping ice cream, we discussed the wonders of what we had seen.  Reality was beginning to seep back into our lives.  After a heady time of reviewing history, ice cream was a refreshing touch of today.

We walked out of the museum blasted by the scouring heat.  Walking a few feet from the museum, we realized our car had been towed away by the police while we were reliving history.  A passing pedestrian said, with a grin, “Welcome to DC.”  We all laughed and I thought to myself,  welcome back to reality.

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The choice that changed everything

Nehemiah 9:17

Central Theme: Man choices to sin and God chooses to be gracious.

A ream of paper has 500 sheets–not more and not less. A foot is 12 inches–not more and not less. There are many absolutes in our lives. There is a couple of absolutes that totally changed mankind. First, since Adam’s sin, We all choose to sin and God always chooses to be gracious and forgive. Have a member read Nehemiah 9:17.

I.     Tell the story of the first sin and the fall of mankind from Genesis 3.

A.Eve ate the fruit and Adam followed her.

B.  They were tricked by Satan.

C.God made them leave the garden but he chose to love them and forgive them.

II.     God will always choose to be gracious and loving to you.

A.We must desire God‘s love and his forgiveness.

B.  We don’t always think we need God.

III.     The ways we reject God.

1.  We decide that we can handle everything ourselves.

2.  We work toward being independent of God

3.  We want to please people rather than God

4.  We disobey God‘s laws.

A.There are unintended consequences to all of the bad choices that we make.

IV.     We should never forget that God will always show his love and graciousness to us.

Conclusions: Each of us chooses to sin but God chooses to forgive us all the time.

In the past weeks, I’ve been going over some of the key words in our covenant relationship with God.  Perhaps one of the most important words we use is grace.

Most of us have learned and maybe we even remember

  • God’s
  • Riches
  • At
  • Christ’s
  • Expense

This is great explanation of grace and the first one I could readily remember.  However, it is a bit churchy sounding for many people.

Then there is the wonderful explanation:  Unmerited favor.  I love this simple explanation that encapsulates this amazing concept in two words.

However, trying to explain grace seemed harder than I had imagined.  They didn’t grasp the whole acrostic idea.  And while unmerited favor seems simple enough, even the members who remember the two-word definition could not explain what it meant.

Therefore, we worked our way into another definition that they understood and fully appreciated.  Grace is receiving a gift we don’t deserve.

Receiving a gift we don’t deserve is not as catchy at the acrostic or as short as “unmerited favor” but our members understand it and have grasped its meaning.

meeting PresidentMeeting Important People

Central Theme:  As the Lord leads, we can have influence on many people.

Call to Worship: Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone (Mark 16:15).  

I will tell you what he has done for me (Psalm 66:16)

Introduction—Many years ago, a young man moved down the street from us.  He was living with friends.  He was from Canada and beginning a small ministry.  My husband and I worked hard to introduce him to some important people in the area.  That young man has become pretty famous and infamous TV evangelist.  At different times in our lives we will be thrown with people who are famous.  Paul was in prison but he was meeting important people.  Have a member read Psalm 66:16.

I.    The Romans had put Paul in jail.  In addition, the Jewish leaders were still trying to kill him.  Paul didn’t want to go free because he believed that the Jews would kill him. (Acts 25:13-26:32).

A.    The Roman governor was Felix.  Paul was called before him many times.  Felix wanted to set him free; but he also knew the Jews would kill Paul.  Then Festus became governor.

B.    One day King Agrippa visited Paul.  Agrippa was a Jew, like Paul.  Paul told Agrippa about Jesus.  King Agrippa asked, “Do you think you can convince me to become a Christian?”  Paul said, “I wish everyone could be like me, except for these chains.

C.    Everyone agreed  that Paul had done nothing wrong.  They wanted to set him free.  Nevertheless, Paul said that he wanted to have a trial before Caesar, the Emperor of Rome.  As a Roman citizen he could do that.

II.    Because Paul was in prison, he was able to tell many important people about Jesus.

A.    One of the worst things in Paul’s life became a great blessing because Paul followed the Lord and obey him.

B.    Paul obeyed God and did what the Lord wanted him to do.

III.    The time for each of us to share Jesus may be during times that are hard for us.

A.    Paul said that he hoped everyone would be like him, except for the chains.

Conclusion—Can you think of a time that the Lord used you even though you were hurting?  God wants to use us all the time, not only when things are going good.

jesus walks on waterRemember the story of Jesus walking on the water taken from the Gospels?  In Mark’s account of the story, Jesus doesn’t invite Peter to come out on to the water but rather he intends to walk past the disciples who are in the boat.

I often puzzle over the entire incident.  This story reeks of magic, an illusion, a trick.  Of course, I know that this was a miracle but what was the purpose?  In recent months I’ve seen there are several explanations.  First, water walking was the quickest way to get across the lake.

The second was that Jesus wanted to get the attention of the disciples to teach them a lesson.  That is pretty reasonable to me.  After all, at The Special Gathering which is a ministry within the mentally challenged community, the presenter will use an attention-getting device before the devotional actually begins.  If you’ve taken any preaching courses or courses regarding public speaking, you know that attention-getting is a time-honored technique used by successful preachers and other presenters.  However, Jesus had already gotten the attention of his disciples.  That afternoon he had fed about 20,000 people with almost no food.  They were already impressed.

The third reason kind of coincides with and combines the first two reasons.  Perhaps Jesus wanted to his followers to understand in a concrete way that they could depend on God to do miracles in even the simplest areas of their lives.  He knew they were straining to row the boat in the storm.  He came the quickest and shortest way possible.  He got on the boat and calmed the storm.

jesus calms stormA few weeks earlier, he had calmed a storm and rebuked the disciples because he was asleep on the boat.  “Didn’t you know I was in the boat?” he had asked them.  This time there was no rebuking.  There was calmness.

Within the intellectually disabled community, there is a woeful lack of self-esteem.  Most of our members carry with them the stigma of their disability.  While professionals and parents do a wonderful job of helping them to understand their worth as a human being, only God can give a holy understanding of who we are to him, without the lousy side effects of self-pride.  The disciples experienced a miracle in the middle of a common storm in the life of a fisherman.  Even if our only disability is stubbornness, God wants us to understand that we can also experience miracles in our lives. During the daily storms of life,  He loves us enough to come along side our vessel and calm the storm.

Have you seen God work miracles in the lives the people to whom you minister?  Has God done a miracle for you?

onboardplaneWhile traveling on a plane recently, I found myself seated next to a young woman who was attractive, prime, proper and aloof.  I don’t mind people who don’t want to talk on a plane because I like that alone time also.

However, she was clearly impressed with herself. Because I admire that in younger women, she caught my attention  Therefore, even though she wasn’t interested in speaking to me, questions flooded my mind.  I wanted to know her.  I quietly and silently prayed that somehow I could be a blessing to her.

I felt that she was a person who had newly acquired her positive self-image because there was still a bit of uncomfortable awkwardness about the way she sat straight and tall.  It was impossible to notice that she took out pictures of cosmetic sample and flipped through them several times.  I felt that perhaps she recently took a job that helped her to see how valuable she really is.

We waltzed a bit in our seats, shifting and maneuvering our computers, phones and purses to avoid contact.  She was the one who was leading each dance, while never allowing my eyes to meet hers.  My interest grew.

boarding passThen she lost her boarding pass and all the defenses and reserve melted.  Panic slipped into the space that had been occupied by self-assurance.

“I lost my ticket,” she said in broken but clear English.  I knew that she meant “boarding pass” for her next flight; but I didn’t see the need to correct her.

“Oh, I found one in the front pocket of my seat.  Perhaps, it was yours.”   No.  We searched together but we couldn’t find the missing boarding pass.

“Don’t worry.” I said, as her black and delightfully expressive eyes filled with tears.  Her look questioned me.  I explained the procedure to get another boarding pass.  But she didn’t understand.  I clarified several times.  Finally, she seemed satisfied.  She sat back in her seat and grasped her Gucci handbag.

“I don’t need to worry,” she reassured herself out loud.  “I can get another ticket.”  She smiled at me and I felt such love for her.  In that moment, it was as though God had given me another daughter.

I touched the sleeve of her elegant leather coat and prayed soft enough that only she, the Lord and I could hear,  “Father, help her find her ticket.  She needs to have it in her hands.”  Again, she smiled shyly.

Then she reached down on the floor, moving her hand between her seat and the wall of the plane.  “It is here!” she exclaimed, smiling from ear to ear. “I found my ticket.”

I settled down to resume our previous positions; but the barriers were broken for her and a flood of questions followed.  We spent the next 20 minutes getting to know each other as only two women who are strangers can do.  As we parted from the plane, we smiled and walked away.

There are times in our lives that God can reach out and touch us in such a powerful way that there is almost heavenly music in the air.  Others times, there is only a smile and word of reassurance needed to reach the heart of a person.  Yet, how important it is to grasp the moment, knowing that God alone can make hearts confident.  I’ve prayed all this week for this wonderful, young woman.  I hope we meet again in heaven.

prisoner

Some of the greatest miracles and healings have come into my life through forgiveness.  It is an interesting phenomenon–forgiveness.  When I forgive, it is not the person that I forgive who receives the miracle.  It was me.

I cannot say that I’ve had more to forgive than most because life is hard for all of us.  No matter what your circumstances or generational history, life has a way of taking each of us and wringing all the marrow from our bones.  Without Divine intervention, we eventually collapse from the weight of our own empty carcass and die.

moldForgiveness is one of the miraculous life-giving principles that the Lord has given to us to renew our minds and bodies.  At times, unforgiveness can be a tricky business.  Like damaging mold, it can hide behind walls we build to protect ourselves from harm.  We prance glibly along not understanding that a damaging parasite is growing in our bodies that will eventually kill us if it isn’t fumigated from our systems.

For years, I carried a hidden resentment toward my parents that seemed to remain under the surface. Because no one was hurt by the things I’d observed, I had no concern about dealing with this festering little pimple.  Nevertheless, I slowly realized that I had fallen into the same habit that had been abhorrent to me all during my childhood.

I could not seem to break the pattern until I discovered the miracle of forgiveness.  The scripture that set me free is Matthew 6:14 and 15.  “Yes, if you forgive others for their sins, your Father in heaven will also forgive you for your sins. But if you don’t forgive others, your Father in heaven will not forgive your sins” (NCV).

Even though I knew this familiar verse that follows the Lord’s example prayer, I had not applied it to this situation.  As soon as I told the Lord I forgave my parents and asked him to forgive me of my petty resentment,  I experienced a miracle in my spirit that still lingers in my memory decades later.

The sad part was that when I explained to my mother about the annoyance I held, she laughed.  “Oh, Honey.  I didn’t do that for your dad.  I did that for me!  It was only for my sake I did it.  At times, your father even resented my actions.”

I had kept that festering indignation for years and it was not even justified.  Had I not experienced the Lord’s miracle of forgiveness, I could still be hurting and following the same pattern of behavior that caused my animosity.

I had to learn that forgiveness is not a feeling but an act of my will.  The word Jesus used in the Greek means “to send away from one’s self.”  Feelings can trick you into believing things that are not true.  True forgiveness may not result in goosey feeling.  However, it will result in a miracle in the spirit man.

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