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Songs of Faith – Sermons of Grace: Carpe Diem-Not A Fancy Name For A Fish Dish!

Psalm 118:19-25

Recently Ted Pierce, of our staff, was wearing a T-shirt which caught my eye. The T-shirt said: “Carpe Diem—Not a Fancy Name For a Fish Dish.” I asked where he had gotten it. He explained that Jim Ferber, a member of our congregation, who heads Orlando’s YMCA gave it to him. The T-shirt was designed to remind “Y” kids to “carpe diem,” to seize the day, to make the most of any opportunity life may set before them. Well, my feelings are hurt that Jim Ferber didn’t give me one of those T-shirts, however, that does not diminish my admiration of Jim Ferber for trying to pound into the heads and hearts of “Y” kids that very potent and positive message. In fact, it’s that same message which I want to pound into your heads and hearts today: “Carpe Diem. Seize the day. Don’t miss the moment of your opportunity.” That’s a message we need to hear and to heed. Let me make the point by telling you a telling little story.

In the early days of our country, a Native American princess went one day to visit a neighboring tribe. The tribe she visited was known far and wide for their magnificent cornfields. The corn they produced each harvest was without equal. The princess asked if she might select one ear of corn from their fields to take home and provide seed corn for her own tribe’s fields the next year. Her request was granted but with one condition. She would have to make her choice as she walked down just one row of corn. That is, she could not turn back and pick an ear of corn which she already had passed by. So off she went walking slowly down the row, looking intently for that one perfect ear of corn. She looked and pondered and studied as she walked, but she could not bring herself to choose an ear of corn for fear that there might be a better one ahead on the row. Suddenly, sickeningly, she realized what she had done. She had missed her opportunity. She had walked the entire length of the row and had not found the one absolutely perfect ear of corn—and now there was no turning back. She failed to make a choice, and so she went home empty-handed.

That’s a parable worth remembering. Each day we have is a generous gift from God and each day provides us with opportunities which may never come again. If you wait for the perfect opportunity, you may miss the one opportunity which will benefit you the most. If you wait for the perfect date to come along, you may never go out. If you want to join the perfect cause in life, you may never contribute to anything. If you wait for the perfect job, you may wind up unemployed. If you spend your life looking for the perfect moment to do what you know you ought to do and to be what you ought to be, well you may discover too late that life has passed you by. Like the Native American Indian, you may wind up empty-handed.

Listen to the way the Psalmist puts it: “This is the day which the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it.” In other words, don’t wait for another day—embrace this one! This is the only day you can be sure of—accept it with gratitude! Make the most of the opportunities of this day. Commit your life to the Lord today! Carpe diem. Seize the day!

Seize the moment for building character.

Every one of us needs to grow in character. There is no person within the sound of my voice today who does not need to grow in character. Maybe Dr. Laura says it best in her book How Could You Do That? Listen:

“Think of all the times you’ve tried to cut life’s corners, played helpless, taken without returning, told stories about others, threatened and hurt, lied and manipulated, used and discarded, disdained or ignored the welfare of others, sacrificed your obligation to someone else’s needs for personal gain, sold out on a principle for money or fame. The modern-day ‘out’ or excuse for such behavior is generally psychological: ‘Considering my hurts, disappointments, and traumas, I can’t be responsible for the havoc I wreak in the lives of others or the mess I’ve made out of my own life.’

“Oh, puhleese! Do you really believe that only those people graced with great genetics, perfect parentage,and ideal social conditions can and will behave with character, courage and conscience? Do you really believe that laziness, gutlessness and selfishness are products only of some form of psychoneurosis? NONSENSE! The path to solid, supportive, healthy relationships, self-respect, and a quality life starts with the usually painful decision TO DO THE RIGHT THING!”

Her words are a reminder that people of character are people who choose to live responsibly in the world, who choose to live morally in the world, who choose to put their principles above their feelings when making decisions in life. And I believe that God is calling us to people like that—people of character.

However, we need to remember that there are moments, there are times, there are opportunities which encourage our growth in character, but there are other moments where such growth is virtually impossible. Do you know that in the production of seamless steel pipes, ribbons of metal are heated and rolled and cut? Then the rolls are spun at great speed and by centrifugal force they open from the center out, thus forming a perfect length of pipe without seam or flaw. Now that process will work only when the molten metal is at precisely the right temperature. If it is allowed to cool even a couple of degrees, the process will fail. Just so, there are molten moments in character development. There are times when we can be molded and changed, times when we can develop and climb higher, times when we can see quite clearly what we ought to be and what we ought to do.

Yes, there are those moments in life when we are open to growth and character—moments when we experience some unexpected suffering, moments when someone we love has died, moments when some mysterious urge rises up with us and points us to ultimate truth, moments when stern conscience points a warning finger at us, moments when some example of good or ill is held up before us, perhaps words of Scripture or a sermon or the words of some preacher or the words of this preacher or these very words—but there are moments which must be seized. Henry Kissinger once said: “Opportunities cannot be hoarded. Once past, they are irretrievable.” Carpe diem. Seize the day. Make the most of this opportunity to grow in character, to become the kind of person God is calling you to become.

Seize the moments for loving other people.

Mary Ann Bird once wrote a short story from her own life’s experience. She called it “The Whisper Test.” Mary Ann Bird said that she grew up knowing that she was different and she hated feeling that way. She had some disabling conditions which caused her young classmates at school to say things like: “What happened to you?” Dealing with the questions, the stares, the rejection was painful for her as a child. She became convinced that no one outside of her family could ever love her. When she reached second grade, Mary Ann Bird was placed in Mrs. Leonard’s room. Mrs. Leonard was easily the most popular teacher at the school. Mary Ann Bird described her like this: “She was short, round, happy … a sparkling lady.” Each year the students were given a hearing test. Little Mary Ann dreaded the test because she was deaf in one ear and limited in her hearing through the other ear. However, she had discovered that if she did not press her hand as tightly on her one hearing ear as she had been instructed, she could pass the test and thus avoid more ridicule from the other students. She knew from the past year how the test worked. Students would stand across the room, cover one ear at a time, and the teacher, Mrs. Leonard, would sit at her desk and whisper something. The children would have to repeat it back to her. Things like: “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” Mary Ann Bird said: “When my turn came, I was straining to hear the whispered words, and I heard words which God must have put into Mrs. Leonard’s mouth. The seven words changed my life forever. In a beautiful whisper Mrs. Leonard said, ‘I wish you were my little girl.’”

When that thoughtful, compassionate, loving teacher did that, somewhere in heaven God was smiling because that gesture was so God-like. You see, God looks at all of us and He sees our weaknesses and failures and foibles and inadequacies and disabilities and sins and still He says: “I know you are not perfect but I love you anyway and I want you to be my child.”

And God wants us to imitate His generous spirit in our dealings with other people. If you can’t love other people for their sake, then love them for the Lord’s sake. Let the love of God flow into you and out to others—and do it now! Carpe diem—seize the day. Seize the moment!

If I haven’t learned anything else in my life, I have learned something about the urgency of life. I say to you today that there are friends who need you, loved ones who want your words and gestures of support and affection, people crying out to you either aloud or in silence. I also say to you that when we gather in this place one year from now some of those who call to you now will call to you no more. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Don’t miss this opportunity you have this day to love those whom God has given you to love.

And seize the moment for committing to Christ and the Church.

I see so many people who become what I call “church tasters.” They visit this church and that church tasting, testing, sampling, critiquing, but they never join. They never make a commitment to Christ and His church. They mean to do it, but they put it off to another day and never get around to it.

David Brainerd, the great missionary to the American Indians, once witnessed to a tribal chieftain and sought to bring him to Christ. The chief listened carefully but wouldn’t make a decision. He wouldn’t resolve the issue. Finally, with a sense of urgency, Brainerd took a stick and in the soft earth he drew a circle about where the chief was standing and then said: “Decide before you cross this line.” Why the urgency? Because Brainerd realized that at that moment the Spirit of God was blowing through the life of that chief, and if he missed this opportunity to cement his commitment to Christ he might never have the opportunity again.

Listen, my beloved! If you’re not in a church right now, get in one. If you are in a church, then get into it a little deeper. Don’t wait any longer. Don’t put it off anymore. Commit your life as never before to Christ and His church. Do it now. Carpe diem. Seize the day. Don’t miss the moment of opportunity because “This is the day the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad in it.”

Well…

What I’m trying to say to you today was actually lived out in the life experience of a man named Edward Mote. He was born in 1794 to very poor, ungodly parents in London. His parents tended bar and consequently young Edward was left to become a child of the streets. Later on, he said: “I didn’t even know that there was a God.” Furthermore, the school he attended didn’t permit the Bible to be seen, much less taught. As a troubled youth, Mote was then apprenticed to a cabinetmaker and eventually became rather successful in that trade. Some years later, he was taken by his master to hear one of the great preachers of that day, John Hyatt. It was a powerful and decisive moment for Edward Mote. All of the darkness and uncertainty of his own life gave way to the light and stability of Jesus Christ. He seized that moment and he gave his life to Christ. Not long thereafter, as he was walking to work one day, some words came into his mind: “On Christ the solid rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.” He couldn’t get the words out of his mind, and eventually he wrote a poem to go with the words. The poem became a hymn, the first of what we now call “the great Gospel hymns of the church.”

By the way, Edward Mote went on to become a minister, serving a small Baptist church in the village of Horsham in England. Largely through his personal efforts, a building for that church was constructed. Believe it or not, out of that gratitude to Mote, the church members actually offered him the deed to the church property. He refused their offer, saying: “I do not want the church; I only want the pulpit, and when I cease to preach Christ, then turn me out of that.”

I love that! Because all I want is this pulpit so I can preach Christ to you. Today I have spoken to you about character, which is the armor of the soul; about companionship which is the function of the soul; and about commitment which is the salvation of the soul. There is an urgency in what I have said because we do not know if the opportunity will ever come again. So come to Jesus Christ today. Love through Jesus Christ today. Serve Jesus Christ in His church today. This is the day the Lord has made.

Carpe diem per Christos!
Seize the day for Christ!

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