Thursday, March 19, 2009

Before I begin, I would like to say a few things. Number one, when I noticed that I was scheduled to preach this Thursday since the beginning of the semester, I knew that God knew what he was doing. A couple of months ago, I had a burden to preach my mother’s funeral, but I knew that she would rather have Preacher preach her funeral. I was talking about this time to someone a couple of days ago, and they said, maybe, God wanted you to preach the prelude of mom’s funeral. I just want to give you a couple things that I have learned since Friday, before I start. If I had asked for God to keep her alive any longer than that, it would be selfish of me. She is much better than we are. I also learned that as a guy, I must be strong before the ladies of my family. I am not saying don’t have emotions. If a man can’t cry, he is too prideful. And yes, I have cried myself to sleep a few times over the past few weeks, but I knew that God was in control. God is so Good.

Looking at our lives, I can see the blessing that has been given to us to have great preachers. I think we all have our favorite preachers. I think of Preacher and thank God for his strong preaching. Then I think of others like Pastor Whitecar and Dr. Allison, and Pastor Ouellette. I then think farther back than them and remember Dr. Bob Kelley, and Phil Schuler. Then I think even farther back to the preaching ministries of John R. Rice, and Dr. Bob Jones, Sr. I think of the Prince of Preachers: Charles Spurgeon. Then I think to the Bible days of Paul, and Peter. Elijah and Isaiah. I think of so many preachers and so many of them, I long to have heard, but the preacher that I would wish to hear more than any would be the Lord Jesus Christ himself. I would have loved to hear him preach that Sermon on the Mount. It would have been wonderful to hear him introduce his sermon with the beatitudes in Matthew 5, if you would turn there. I would have love to here him compare himself to the law. Then to hear him preach of Spiritual standards and Inward purity. It would have been great to hear him preach on marriage, and to hear him transition into a Christian’s love for the Lord. Oh, how I wish, I could have heard him touch on Benevolence, and continue to the crux of his message: Prayer. He would then continue to preach about investing in Heavenly things and not worrying about the world. Then he went back to the necessity of prayer. It would have been a treat to hear him teach on the golden rule and to conclude his message by speaking on the House that stood on a rock. These would have all be wonderful, but being the perfect example, it would have been wonderful to hear him talk about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We find this point of his message, directly following his introduction, in verses 13-16 of Matthew 5. Let’s read this passage.

I.Ye are the Salt of the earth: but if the salt hath lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?

For years, I have been puzzled over the statement, “if the salt hath lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted?” A few months ago, I heard a story that answered my questions. My cousin, Brooke, pray for her, if you would, was raised in a home, not quite as much Bible as I had, but was given much of the Gospel. She knew what was right and what was wrong. A few months ago, as I said, we received, either a phone call or an email, saying that she was in the hospital from stab wounds. After hearing the story develop, I was informed that she, a year younger than me, was married. Her husband was overseas, serving his country, and how I am thankful for men like that. But when he came home on furlough, she suspected him to be cheating on her. After he returned to the battlegrounds, she and her friends decided to go confront this girl. Arriving at her house, they began to argue. Over the course of events, a friend of the girl inside convinced her to take a knife and go stab her. She went outside and stabbed her in the stomach and in the side. She had undergone multiple surgeries by the time that we found out. She had lost her savor. When we no longer affect our friends in a positive way for the Lord, we have lost our savor. Not only then but a long time before then.

II.Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

Secondly, in this sermon from the Lord, I can hear him tell those people on the hillside, listening, that they are to be the light of the world. The majority of us Christians have been striving to be a light for the Lord to the world but how we struggle to accomplish this goal. I can remember just a few weeks ago, sitting up in the hospital with mom, when the Lord smacked me in the face with this point of my sermon. Yes, I had been praying for God to work on my life through this passage. He did it ever so humbly. As we were sitting there, every nurse that came into the room or passed by the room, Lindsey my little sister would look at us and ask if they were going to Heaven. I can picture her pointing at them and saying, “Heaven?” And then she would look at the stack of tracts sitting there. She would take a tract to them and ask them, and we would have to tell them what she was saying.

How is it that an 18-year-old girl with Down syndrome can follow the Word of God better than us, yet we are the ones who can actually read the Word? I don’t mean this in a bad way, but how can a retarded child obey God so easily, yet we cannot even carry tracts in our pocket let alone give one to someone in need. I can think of countless times when I would want to give out a tract but I would not have any to give. Our lights ought to shine before ALL men that as the Scripture says, “we might glorify your Father which is in Heaven?”

III. Ye are a candle not hid under a bushel.

A.Being the son of a maintenance man, I began
to compare a light fixture to a candle and ask God why does he tell us that we are like a candle. Over the last few weeks, God has shown me three things that I want to look at in conclusion. First of all, a candle is moveable. I heard it said, “How it would be great to see how much a candle can do in the hands of the master?” How much more would we be able to accomplish if we were in the hands of the Master? It shouldn’t matter where God tells me to go, I should go. He could tell me to go to the place of the lowest of the low, and I should go. He could tell me to go to the place of the vilest of the vile, and I should go. He could tell me to go to the place of the darkest of the dark, and my light should still shine for Him. I ought to be moveable. How is it that on her way out of surgery, could try to witness to that transport team? How is it that all those people in the last year and a half of mom’s life were saved because of her testimony? How is it that she was able, on her death bed, in the hospital, to still have a stack of tracts for Bro. Courtney’s church sitting on the table beside her bed? How is it? Because she was willing to go even unto death, to let her light shine for the Lord. No matter where God wants me to go, I should be willing to go.

B.I also was shown by the Lord that no matter
what happens, the candle will still burn
. When the power has seemingly gone out, a candle would still burn. A couple of Fridays ago, my dad, jokingly, said, “Its Volleyball Marathon, get the generators out.” As we know, we did need those generators. But what else do we usually get out when the power goes out. We usually go and get out the candles. We let the candles burn and give us light as the Bible says, “to all that are in the house.” As men, we are to be the leaders in our homes and in our churches some day, and the power may seemingly be gone from these places, but we are to let our lights shine on. We expect to be able to let our light shine with our wife and kids but yet, we won’t let our light shine in our dating life. Let me tell you something, buster. If your light won’t shine now with your girlfriend, it won’t shine later with your wife or later with your kids. We want our light to shine later, but we sit a little to close up in the service. We want our light to shine later, but we hold hands before we are married. We want our light to shine later but we won’t let it shine now. God cannot bless us. We need God’s power in our families and eventually in our churches. When the power has gone out all around me, my light will still shine. When no one else will fight, I’ll fight. When no one else will stand, I’ll stand. When no one else will preach, I will. When no one else will sing, I will. When no one else will fight on, I will. When no one else will stand up, I will. When no one else will tell the truth, I will. It doesn’t matter if the power is gone, My Light Will Still Shine before the Lord.

C. Lastly, when the light does go out, I must take time to relight that candle. I will otherwise be in the dark about the things of the Lord. I remember a few months ago, when it was really cold and snow was on the ground, I felt as if the Lord’s power was not on me. I felt as if my light had gone out. The Lord convicted me about taking some time out of my busy schedule and spending time with Him. That Saturday night about six o’ clock, I went out to the dunes and hiked for about an hour. There I found a bench and just spent some time in with my Bible and the Lord. My light was gone out and I had to take time to get right with God. How will we do this? This will only come by spending time in the Word of God and in prayer. As Paul did leave some final instructions for Timothy before he died, so did my mother leave some final charges for me in this letter here. One thing in particular that stuck out to me was, “Jim, stay in God's Word. You get wisdom there. And you need wisdom. When we see folks make dumb mistakes with their money, time, relationships, whatever... it goes back to a lack of time spent in the Bible. It's a wonderful Book; I've really learned that since I got sick. And learn to pray. ” We must spend time with the Lord if we expect our lives to be of any substance and of any fulfillment in the lives of others.

Conclusion: I want you all to listen to this and search your hearts. Find out what your life contains and ask God to work on your life through this. I have heard this a few times and perhaps you have too.

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in the room. There were no distinguishing features except for the one wall covered with small index card files. They were like the ones in libraries that list titles by author or subject in alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor to ceiling and seemingly endless in either direction, had very different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first to catch my attention was one that read 'Girls I have liked.' I opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on each one. And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.

This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn't match. A sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

A file named 'Friends' was next to one marked 'Friends I have betrayed.' The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright weird 'Books I Have Read,' 'Lies I Have Told,' 'Comfort I have Given,' 'Jokes I Have Laughed at .' Some were almost hilarious in their exactness: 'Things I've yelled at my brothers.' Others I couldn't laugh at: 'Things I Have Done in My Anger', 'Things I Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents.' I never ceased to be surprised by the contents.

Often there were many more cards than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped. I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived. Could it be possible that I had the time in my years to fill each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting. Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked ‘Music I have listened to’, I realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn't found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the quality of shows but more by the vast time I knew that file represented.

When I came to a file marked 'Lustful Thoughts,' I felt a chill run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not willing to test its size and drew out a card. I shuddered at its detailed content..

I felt sick to think that such a moment had been recorded. An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my mind: No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see this room! I have to destroy them!' In insane frenzy I yanked the file out. Its size didn't matter now. I had to empty it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as strong as steel when I tried to tear it.

Defeated and utterly helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it.. The title bore 'People I Have Shared the Gospel With.' The handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused. I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that they hurt. They started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room. I must lock it up and hide the key. But then as I pushed away the tears, I saw Him.

No, please not Him. Not here.. Oh, anyone but Jesus. I watched helplessly as He began to open the files and read the cards. I couldn't bear to watch His response. And in the moments I could bring myself to look at His face, I saw a sorrow deeper than my own.

He seemed to intuitively go to the worst boxes. Why did He have to read every one? Finally He turned and looked at me from across the room. He looked at me with pity in His eyes. But this was a pity that didn't anger me. I dropped my head, covered my face with my hands and began to cry again. He walked over and put His arm around me. He could have said so many things. But He didn't say a word. He just cried with me.

Then He got up and walked back to the wall of files. Starting at one end of the room, He took out a file and, one by one, began to sign His name over mine on each card. 'No!' I shouted rushing to Him. All I could find to say was 'No, no,' as I pulled the card from Him. His name shouldn't be on these cards. But there it was, written in red so rich, so dark, so alive. The name of Jesus covered mine. It was written with His blood. He gently took the card back. He smiled a sad smile and began to sign the cards. I don't think I'll ever understand how He did it so quickly, but the next instant it seemed I heard Him close the last file and walk back to my side.

He placed His hand on my shoulder and said, 'It is finished.' I stood up, and He led me out of the room. There was no lock on its door. There were still cards to be written.

Let me ask you today, what cards will be written and added to your card file. Will they be filled with ways that your light did shine before men, or not? As we stand at the threshold of the door to eternity, we must strive to let the light of Jesus shine through us, and affect those who are left behind: saved or unsaved. Is your light shining before men? Let’s pray.

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