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That Illustrates for Sunday, April 28th - May 5th

Boston Bombing Survivors, Heaven Is for Real, and the Lost $1.25 Million Lotto Ticket

Survivors of Boston Bombing Reflect on Life's Value
On April 15, 2013, one of the best-known sporting events in the world, turned deadly last year when two homemade bombs, planted close to the finish line, killed three people, wounded 260 others, and cost 16 some of their limbs. For the one year anniversary of the Boston bombing, The New York Times profiled a number of survivors about how they're coping. Of course there was still a lot of sadness, anger, and fear. But there was also another theme that emerged from the interviews: gratitude. Listen to these words from some of the survivors: "Life, it's short. The day of the marathon just reinforces my belief. Life is short, and you need to cherish each moment." A 45-year-old lawyer said, "It was such a terrible tragedy that sometimes I feel guilty because it was a blessing for me. It made my life more rich, more full. I learned how to appreciate living in the moment. And I learned not to worry and stress about things as much. I don't let work bother me. I don't let piddling money issues bother me. It was not even a conscious effort on my part. It just changed my attitude." A 39-year-old scientist said, "I've had moments where I can't believe how close everything came. Now I embrace life for what it is. I want to keep on living and propel my positive energy to help other people be more positive." Suffering—nobody should ask for it, but it's fascinating how it shapes our soul in ways we'd never expect.

PREACHING ANGLES: Gratitude; Life, short; Suffering; Trials

Heaven is For Real? Sure, But it's a Whole Lot Scarier than That One Movie
The recent film Heaven is for Real is the "true" account of a young boy's near death experience. It's received a lot of attention from Christians and non-Christians alike. But as Drew Dyck points out in a recent CNN opinion piece, the most disturbing element of Hollywood's version of 4-year-old Colton Burpo's story is how non-terrifying heaven is. Dyck writes, "In most movies angels are warm, approachable—teddy bears with wings. God is Morgan Freeman or some other avuncular presence. Scripture, however, knows nothing of such portrayals. Heavenly encounters are terrifying, leaving even the most stout and spiritual vibrating with fear—or lying facedown, unconscious." Dyck observes that heaven is a place of peace and comfort, but also of God's raw power. What we think about heaven shows us what we think about God. Is your vision of heaven in accordance with Scripture's visions of it—a place of God's limitless power and glory? Or is it more like Hollywood's teddy bear—Morgan Freeman version?

PREACHING ANGLES: God, Power of; Heaven

If There Is Heaven, I'm Headed Straight in.
Speaking of heaven, Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, exudes confidence about where he's headed after he dies. During an interview before his 50th college reunion, Bloomberg admits that his mortality has started dawning on him, at 72. He also says that he's been sobered by how many of his former classmates have passed away. But the interview concluded, "But if [Bloomberg] senses that he may not have as much time left as he would like, he has little doubt about what would await him at a Judgment Day. Pointing to his work on gun safety, obesity and smoking cessation, he said with a grin: 'I am telling you if there is a God, when I get to heaven I'm not stopping to be interviewed. I am heading straight in. I have earned my place in heaven. It's not even close.'" As they say, "Good luck with that."

PREACHING ANGLES: Heaven; Justification by Faith; Salvation by Faith; Works Righteousness

Man Mistakenly Tosses $1.25 Million Lottery Ticket
It goes without saying, this guy passed up an incredible opportunity. On March 13, 2013, an unidentified man from York, Pennsylvania spent $100 to purchase 25 lottery tickets at a local grocery store. According to a news story, "Shortly after the drawing, she said, the man checked the numbers, but must have misread them and threw the tickets in the trash. The 25 tickets were worth $50,000 each—$1.25 million total." Back in March of 2013, the Pennsylvania Lottery tried to track the guy down, warning whoever held the tickets that they had until March 13, 2014 to cash them in. A representative said the lottery hates for tickets to go unclaimed and said this instance emphasizes the importance of players checking their tickets. The lottery spokesperson said that they always do what they can to notify winners, but sometimes there's still no response on the other end. It's kind of like God's offer of salvation: at some point the offer has to be accepted on our end.

PREACHING ANGLES: Accepting Christ; Gift of Salvation; Grace

Can Coffee Keep You Honest?
Well, maybe not, but not being tired can. A recent study from the University of North Carolina seems to tie morality to the drug. Forbes reports: "Volunteers who had been kept awake all night were divided into two groups. All were asked to chew gum in the morning, but one group got a plain wintergreen placebo, while the other chomped on gum laced with 200 milligrams of caffeine …The participants were then put in situations where researchers 'encouraged them to go along with a lie in order to earn some extra money' … The results: Those who got the extra boost of caffeine consistently balked when researchers urged them to cheat, while those who were just exhausted—and had chewed the non-caffeinated gum—showed a marked willingness to cast conscience aside and go along with the deception" The key takeaway is the relationship of our energy levels with doing the right thing. When we're physically exhausted, we're prone to sin in ways that we aren't when our energy levels are higher. What does that mean for you and me? We need to care for our bodies, and keep exhaustion from making us vulnerable to sin.

PREACHING ANGLES: Rest; Sabbath; Temptation

Ethical Shmethical: Two-timing Doesn't Work (with People or God)
Every week Carolyn Hax answers "lifestyle" questions in her advice column for The Washington Post. Recently a woman wrote: "I met a man who was a year out of a decades-long marriage, and we became seriously, passionately involved and discussed marriage … After almost two years, he broke up with me rather than work on our problems and immediately started dating others, settling in with one quickly. Now, seven months later, he says he is still in love with me and wants to talk about getting back together. The problem is he won't break up with his current girlfriend (whom he tells me he does not love), or tell her he's talking to me. He doesn't want to risk losing her in case we decide we can't work things out, but I feel it's unethical to talk behind her back … Is there a way forward for us?" (Isn't this a perfect picture of the spiritual adultery found throughout the Bible?) Carolyn's answer was priceless: "Ethical shmethical. This guy is using his current girlfriend as a bed-warmer. If he'll dehumanize one person to serve his own selfish desires, then he'll dehumanize you … Tell him stringing people along is despicable and stop taking his calls. [Moving] forward only works if you're not pointed toward a ditch."

PREACHING ANGLES: Adultery; Idols; Idolatry

Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster Now a Legal Religion in Poland
Christianity has some strange beliefs, but few as odd as those held by a newly recognized religion in Poland, with "adherents" around the world. I use the term "adherents" loosely, because it's difficult to believe that the members of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster sincerely worship their god, an invisible flying monster made of spaghetti. These "Pastafarians," as they call themselves, are making a cultural and political statement through their faith, making recognition by governments (and by extension, drawing attention to the "absurdity" of other recognized religions) their chief goal. (Yes, it's ok to laugh—FSM believers laugh about it all themselves). For Christians, "believers" in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster raise an opportunity to explain our faith: Why is our belief in God much more than a ludicrous joke about pasta in flight?

PREACHING ANGLES: Apologetics; Atheism; Culture

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