CALL TO WORSHIP: ONE: Pour out your praises each one of you, acknowledge all the good things God has done for you. ALL: Sing to His glory, your inhibitions release, that to your Lord and King Your praises never cease. ONE: Let Christ be praised, dear Saviour of all, sinners so needy who have heard His call. ALL: Who now can rejoice with thankful praise, just let it all out. To Him be the praise.
OPENING PRAYER & THE LORD'S PRAYER: May we always praise You and come to know You better. Today, as we join together in worship, may we sing with all the angels of heaven of Your greatness and wonder. Lord, we adore You. Accept our love and adoration in Jesus' name. Your children have gathered to worship in Your presence and sing Your praises. Thank you that You walk with us every day, that You are with us in each moment. Lord, would You fill us with Your peace, so that as we journey onwards we would pour out Your love and grace to others. We ask that our souls would catch the wind of Your Spirit so that we would take Your presence to all the world. And now, as Jesus taught us when we pray to say:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Offertory Prayer: We give with joy into Your kingdom today. May You bless our offering. Come, 0 Lord, and work through these gifts. Extend Your love through us as we pray. We dedicate our lives, hard work and sacrifices to You, Father. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.
Prayer God, help us to walk in a way worthy of the calling You have given us. Help us in all our interactions with one another to have humble and gentle hearts. Grant us patience for one another, bearing with each other in love. When we are being attacked and crushed from all sides, remind us of Your faithfulness to use everything for Your good and Your glory. May we not only be readers of Your Word but believers and doers. Increase our faith, Lord. We come together to seek You. Help us to live in such a way that Your majesty and mercy are seen by all. Father, hear our prayer, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Once upon a time there was a poor peasant who needed to cut some wood, but unfortunately, he didn't own an axe. As we all know, you need an axe or a saw to cut down a tree, so the peasant scurried about until he found one he could borrow. Once he had borrowed the axe, he headed into the forest.
The trees along the river bank looked the best to the peasant. After walking along the bank for a while, he finally selected a fine, large tree and he started chopping.
Now, as it happened, the axe he had borrowed wasn't the best, and as he was chopping, the axe-head came off and fell into the river.
The peasant tried to get it out of the water, but the river was too deep and the axe-head was too heavy. The poor peasant just couldn't manage to retrieve it. He was so frustrated and upset, so he sat on the bank and began to weep and wail. He was afraid of being beaten for losing the axe-head, or even worse, being put into prison. Just at that moment, a man was passing through the woods, and he heard the peasant's wailing. The man hurried toward the sound to see what the trouble was. The peasant told him what had happened, and when the stranger heard where the axe had fallen, he took a long pole and fished around in the water until he succeeded in finding it. He carefully manouvered it until he was able to reach the axe-head. The peasant, quickly drying his tears, thanked the stranger and then ran to return the axe to the person from whom he had borrowed it. Then, he immediately went and bought one of his own, because he didn't ever want to be caught in a fix like that again.
Now let's listen to the story of Elisha and the Floating Axe-head. One day a group of young men who studied at the school of the prophets heard good news. The prophet Elisha was coming to visit. The young men would be able to talk with him and learn from him.
They told Elisha that the building where they were staying was too small. They needed a larger place. When the students told Elisha about their need for more room, he agreed. So they set a day to go to the banks of the Jordan River and cut logs for their new school. They asked Elisha to go with them.
One young man borrowed an expensive axe. He didn't have his own, but he wanted to help build the new school. Happily, he joined the group at the river on that special work day. Some of the young men chopped down trees, while others cut the trees into boards. Elisha worked right along with them, reminding them of God's love and care.
Then, with one swing of an axe, everything changed. The young man with the borrowed axe lifted it into the air. But this time the iron axe-head landed with a splash in the river. "Oh Master," the student cried out to Elisha. "The axe was borrowed and I have no money to pay for it." His friends and Elisha came running. They all stared into the dark, swiftly flowing water. No one could see the axe-head.
"Where in the water did it go?" Elisha asked. All the young man could do was point. Elisha smiled and looked around at the trees. Finding just the right tree, he cut off a small branch. Then he walked to the river's edge and threw the branch where the young man had pointed.
The branch made a little splash. Then, ever so slowly, the axe-head came up to the top of the water and started to float. A gasp went up from the students. The biggest gasp of all came from the young man who had, just moments before, thought that his life was ruined.
God, through Elisha, had turned the young man's accident into a miracle. He had taken an ordinary day and turned it into a day to remember forever.
As the tired, but very excited young man walked back to school that evening with his friends, they probably talked about what had happened. They were more sure than ever that God loved and cared for them. They knew that no problem was too big or too small to take to God.
Elisha was a powerful prophet and a true, happy warrior for God. His mentor was Elijah, and in some ways, Elijah's ministry was very public, while that of Elisha was much more private in nature. Elijah is known for some really spectacular miracles and Elisha is not.
We have just heard the story of a miracle under Elisha's ministry. It isn't spectacular, like calling for fire to rain down from heaven, but it is a miracle and it reveals something of Elisha's character and that of the young man he was mentoring.
We know that the students had character. The fact that they ran out of room at the school and were ready to build their own residence hall shows that. They didn't think twice about it. They were basically broke, but they had spunk and they had a plan. They were workers, and no job was beneath these "preachers in training."
The story also shows us Elisha's character. He wasn't above doing a job far below his calling and capabilities. Here he was, Elijah's successor and a great prophet in his own right, going out with some students to build a house.
We also see something else about the character of these people. The only thing these young students wanted was a larger, less crowded place to live. They weren't looking for grand palace. They knew where some logs were and that was good enough for them.
Elisha didn't tell them to go and send for some cedars of Lebanon or marble or oak panelling or anything like that. They were all content to use the resources that were at hand.
Character is what defines us. It's what other people see in us.
Character is one of the most important things we have. How are you investing in your character? Do people see your faith in the things that you do? True character is shown in how you act in any given situation. Actions do speak louder than words in many circumstances.
Let's go back to the two stories of the borrowed axe. Take a moment to thik about an axe. An axe has a handle and it has a head. People chop things with an axe. The old pioneers used axes to clear the forests that were all around them. And with the wood they built homes in which to live and barns for their animals. They had large farms or small farms according to the amount of land they cleared. And they all had axes of their own.
However, if an axe broke or got lost, a person would have to borrow one to be able to continue clearing his land. Did you ever borrow anything? Of course you have. People borrow everything from a paper clip to a car. Sometimes we have to borrow things, but it's better to have our own.
Now, we have to make our clearing in life. We have to cut our way in the world. We need an axe! There is a very special axe that will cut a large place for you. The handle of that axe is called character. It must not be weak. It must not be splintered. The wood of the handle must not have knots in it. Our character must be strong. Our axe must have a good head and sharp blade. We'll call the head our mind. Just as the axe must be kept sharpened, so must your mind.
But an axe mustn't be left standing in a corner. It must be used. You need to chop, swing your axe. No big tree comes down with one blow. Take your good character and your sharpened mind and make a place for yourself in the world, in your community and in your church. Remember, the world, the community and your church is not away in some far off place. It's right here.
Let us pray: Dear Lord, You know our hearts. You know where we walk and where we stumble and fall. We look to You now to change us and to build our character. First, remove from us the things that stop Your will from working in us. Shine Your light, 0 Lord. Free us from our vanity, our pride and our arrogance. Free us from our fear and insecurity. Show us the patience and character of Your Son, Jesus Christ. We are Your children and we will keep an unbreakable trust in Your absolute love. In the name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
BENEDICTION & CHORAL AMEN: The peace of God be in your heart; the grace of God be in your words; the love of God be in your hands; the joy of God be in your soul and in the song that your life sings.