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Strong Hearts 
Sunday, December 3, 2006, 07:00 AM - Sermon
I Thessalonians 3:9-13

The first quote in my Facebook is one I found in my reading ( Don't Ever Call Them Jerks by Arthur Paul Boers): “Whatever happens to you is the best possible thing for your salvation” by Meister Eckhart a 14th Century German mystic. This is a kinder and gentler version of Nietzche: “What does not destroy me, makes me stronger!”

How does one get a strong heart: one that will enable us to escape all fear and foreboding of the world and enable us to stand before God blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints?

Earnestly pray night and day—Pray first is always the best plan. We had a gathering of prayer warriors here last Tuesday night praying for the ministry of the church. It is sobering to realize that wherever two or three are gathered in Christ's name, Christ is present (Matthew 18:20). Being in the presence of Christ is a great way to strengthen our hearts. We do that each time we gather with others for prayer.

A larger gathering in prayer is sponsored by Love Akron is in the middle of a 40 day prayer vigil for the greater Akron area. We have a link on our web site at www.ghpcakron.org to the daily scripture, reflection, and prayer if you want to join with folks in prayer for Akron against drugs, violence, and gangs. There will be a public prayer service at 3 pm two weeks from today (on Sunday, December 17th) at Grace Park. You can get strong hearts there.

Prayer makes hearts strong by linking your heart not only with the hearts of others, but with God's heart as you seek God's will and purpose in prayer.

Increase and abound in Love for one another—Whitney Houston gave voice to a generation with the song, “The Greatest Love of All.” What is the Greatest Love of All according to the song?

I found the greatest love of all inside of me
The greatest love of all is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all
And if by chance that special place that you've been dreaming of
Leads you to a lonely place, find your strength in love

Yet the scripture is constantly pushing us from ourselves to others. In reflection of the greatest love of all, the love of God shown in coming as Christ, God with us, giving up heaven for our salvation. We have a generation that believes and lives for themselves, not for others, and they are the unhappiest generation as well. Strength comes in numbers and with others, not in love wrapped up in ourselves.

The designated president of the nationwide Christian Coalition, Rev. Joel Hunter, resigned before he started this month after several state chapters, including Ohio, broke with the national organization over the controversy of expanding the mission of Christian Coalition to include compassion issues such as easing poverty and saving the environment. At what point did compassion become a liberal or conservative choice? Strong hearts care for others.

Another disturbing opinion comes from Dr. Wayne Dyer a prophet of Generation Me. He is against going to funerals that you rather not go to. Who wants to go to funerals? We go because of our love for one another, and such exercise in love of others strengthens our hearts. Our hearts grow strong as they are extended beyond ourselves.

Increase and abound in Love for all—Love of others isn't just for me and mine. It is for all people.

A PresbyNet friend of mine, Houston Hodges, tells about some strong hearts that increase and abound in love for all. And as is the often case, love grows out of a tragedy in his town of Huntsville, Alabama. A bus, with forty students from Lee High School, was cut off on an overpass in the center of the city and it was forced over the side, a thirty foot drop to the pavement below... nose first. Twenty-three students were injured, 13 of them seriously, and three teen-aged girls were killed.

Members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas protested outside the church during one of the funerals. The group has gained national attention for protesting at funerals of fallen soldiers claiming that such tragedies are punishment from God on America. I cannot say the name of their hate filled web site in polite company.

The demonstrators from Kansas were not alone, however: a good-sized group of counter-protesters were there as well “to present an alternative” quietly holding a sign which told that contributions were being made to the families of the kids who died and to the local AIDS Action Committee, and that the pledges for contributions were based on how long the Westboro Baptist church crew remained -- $956 per hour. The longer the haters stayed, the greater the lovers pledged.

Strong hearts indeed met hate with caring and contributions. Hearts grow strong when hate is met with resolute and costly love.

Conclusion—Strong hearts come from prayer, getting our hearts in line with God's heart and the hearts of good Christians. Strong hearts come from the love of others not ourselves reflecting the greatest love of all—God with us in Christ. Strong hearts come from facing down hate with sacrificial love.

Advanced permission is given for non-profit, for-prophet use of the above at no charge as long as it is reproduced unedited with notices and copyright intact. Written copies are provided after they are preached as a courtesy for the personal, private, appreciative use of the congregation of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church, their families and friends to support the ministry of Goodyear Heights Presbyterian Church and its pastor the Rev. J. Christy Ramsey. Join us Sundays! 8:15 Traditional Worship and 10:15 Blended. Mingle in our Gathering Room between services and take advantage of Christian Education opportunities.

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