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This week's sermon:

            2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18  -  "Three Secrets of a Life Well Lived"
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Some clever person has written a fictitious letter from a pastor to a church search committee. The letter reads as follows: "I understand your church is looking for a pastor. I should like to submit my application. I am generally considered to be a good preacher. I have been a leader in most of the places I have served. I have also found time to do some writing on the side. I am over fifty years of age, and while my health is not the best, I still manage to get enough work done to please my congregation. As for a reference, I am somewhat handicapped. I have never served in any place more than three years, and the churches where I have preached have generally been pretty small, even though they were located in rather large cities. Some places I had to leave because my ministry caused riots and disturbances. When I stayed, I did not get along too well with other religious leaders in town which may influence the kind of references these places will send you. I have also been threatened several times and been physically attacked. Three or four times I have gone to jail for expressing my thoughts. You will need to know that there are some men who follow me around undermining my work. Still, I feel sure I can bring vitality to your church. If you can use me, I should be pleased to be considered."


The committee was dismayed that anyone would think that their church could use such a man. A trouble-making, absent-minded, ex-jailbird could not possible be an effective pastor let alone be accepted by the community. "What was his name?" they asked. The chairman of the committee said, I do not know. The letter is simply signed, 'Paul'.


Most leadership of the early church wouldn’t make it through the church interview process today. Theirs was a rough and dangerous world. Turmoil on every side, both in the Jewish nation and the Roman. Think of the pictures we have seen from Afghanistan these past few weeks and you get an idea of hardships the Apostle Paul faced as he traveled for 20 years and thousands of miles all over the Roman world.


And now the end was near for Paul. This was not just a guess; it was certainty. He was under house arrest in Rome. He was under no illusion about his fate. So it was that he took pen in hand and wrote a parting letter to his friend and close associate Timothy of Ephesus. He writes: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”


It might be well for us this morning to review the secret of a life well lived. Here are the three secrets:


1. A good fight is worth fighting for.

2. Desertion does not mean defeat.

3. Faith must not be lost.



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What Is Unique About Christianity?

The story of Jesus sitting and debating the Law with rabbis reminds me of another debate that took place in a comparative religions conference, the wise and the scholarly were in a spirited debate about what is unique about Christianity. Someone suggested what set Christianity apart from other religions was the concept of incarnation, the idea that God became incarnate in human form. But someone quickly said, “Well, actually, other faiths believe that God appears in human form.” Another suggestion was offered: what about resurrection? The belief that death is not the final word. That the tomb was found empty. Someone slowly shook his head. Other religions have accounts of people returning from the dead.

Then, as the story is told, C.S. Lewis walked into the room, tweed jacket, pipe, armful of papers, a little early for his presentation. He sat down and took in the conversation, which had by now evolved into a fierce debate. Finally during a lull, he spoke saying, “what's all this rumpus about?” Everyone turned in his direction. Trying to explain themselves they said, “We're debating what's unique about Christianity.” “Oh, that's easy,” answered Lewis, “it's....


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