BIBLE — Power to change lives
Young Jacob de Shazer was one of those who participated in Jimmy Doolittle’s raid over Japan in April 1942. He was captured and imprisoned by the Japanese, and in the coming months underwent both physical and emotional punishment. He watched friends go before firing squads, others die of starvation.
Though he was an atheist, the days and weeks of pain and deprivation made him consider issues of life and death. He asked a jailer if he could get a Bible and was met with derision. He persisted, and more than a year later a guard finally brought him a Bible, saying: “Three weeks, then I take it away.” Sure enough, in three weeks the guard returned and claimed the Bible.
But those three weeks changed his life. When deShazer eventually returned to Japan in 1948, this time it was with a wife and son — and they returned as Christian missionaries. The Word of God has power to change lives.
CHURCH — Must challenge world
R. Benjamin Garrison described an event which took place during his first pastorate. He was walking down the street of his New Jersey town when he saw the young lady who was president of the high school fellowship. He let out a little whistle, then when she turned her head to see he teased her: “So, Carol, that’s all the boys have to do is whistle.” He was stung by her sweet reply: “Oh, Mr. Garrison, I knew it was you — you’re harmless!”
Garrison commented: “A man would rather be called just about anything than harmless!” Then he added: “The church has engaged in too much of what I shall call, for want of a better term, flirtation evangelism. The world turns its attractive head because she knows we do not mean it, or at least are not prepared to do anything about it. Then she walks on. She concludes that the church is harmless … No church can afford to be considered safe. That is just a shorter word for irrelevant.”
Artists have tended to romanticize the crucifixion of Jesus “and to not fully comprehend what a gruesome and disgraceful means of execution it was,” according to Dr. William D. Edwards, a pathologist at the Mayo Clinic.
Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Edwards concludes that Jesus died of shock due to blood loss; a contributing factor was that the weight of His body pulled down on His outstretched arms and shoulders, making breathing difficult.
Crucified persons tended to survive anywhere from three-four hours to three-four days; because Jesus died so soon, it suggests that His lashing was severe and blood loss significant. Edwards says that the fact Jesus was too weak to carry His own cross supports that conclusion.
The flow of blood and water from the wound in His side indicated the Roman spear probably punctured Jesus’ right lung and His heart, insuring His death. (Associated Press)
DREAMS — Ought to be great
The dean of the church at Seville gathered the people together on a July day in 1491 and said to them: “Let us build a church so great that those who come after us may think us mad to have attempted it.” The result of that great vision was the magnificent cathedral of Seville.
Christ calls us to dream great dreams — ones that would seem ludicrous to any who do not know the power of God.
EASTER — Proves Christ’s message
“Something happened on Easter Day which made Christ more alive on the streets of Jerusalem forty days after His crucifixion than on the day of His triumphal entry. A false report might last forty days but the church which was founded on a Risen Christ has lasted for nineteen centuries, producing generations of the race’s finest characters and now including six hundred million members.” (Ralph W. Sockman)
EASTER — Modern man trivializes
Thirty years ago, Christianity and Crisis carried a “version” of the Easter story at told by “St. Hereticus.” Here’s a portion of the text:
“But on the first day of the week, toward dawn, they arose and went to the garden in convertibles, ranch wagons, and Corvettes, wearing on their persons the spices they had prepared for the occasion. And behold, as the sun burst forth, there was a great blast from four trumpets, drawn from the local high school marching band. And at the blast of the trumpets, an Easter bunny, wondrous large, stood before them. His appearance was like lightning and his fur was white as snow. And he did carry a sign affixed to his hat bearing the words ‘Courtesy of Jones’ Department Store.’
“And in great joy at his appearing, all the children began to clamor and to shout, saying as with one voice, ‘Who will roll away the eggs for us?”
The world continues to trivialize Easter, transforming it into a pleasant Spring festival. In the midst of the commercial trappings of the season, we must loudly proclaim the message of Christ’s triumph over death and the grave.
GOD — What we teach about
A Sunday School teacher asked her class of five-year-olds where God lives, and got a variety of answers. One little girl said, “God lives in heaven.” Another said: “God lives in church.” She was surprised, however, when little Johnny said, “God lives in our bathroom.”
“What makes you say that, Johnny?”
He answered: “Every morning my dad stands at the door of the bathroom and shouts, ‘My God, are you still in there?”
What are you teaching your children about God by what is said and done in your home?
HUMILITY — Essential
“God has nothing to say to the self-righteous. Unless you humble yourself before Him in the dust, and confess before Him your iniquities and sins, the gate of heaven, which is open only for sinners, saved by grace, must be shut against you forever.” (Dwight L. Moody)
LIFE — Not guaranteed
Carl F. H. Henry tells about his first night in Kerozawa, Japan. He was not aware that he was in an earthquake zone — until a late night tremor woke him with a start.
Henry remembers: “The tremor didn’t register topmost on the Richter scale, but its severity reminded me not to take tomorrow for granted.” (“The Fight of the Day” in Best Sermons 1, 1988)
OBEDIENCE — Must be sincere
Paul Bailey recalls a “Leave it to Beaver” rerun in which Wally, Eddie and the Beaver are going to a movie. Mrs. Cleaver said they were to go to “Pinocchio,” not to the other movie in town, “Voodoo Curse.” As they approached the theatre, Eddie suggested a way around the problem: “Your Mom told you not to take the Beaver to “Voodoo Curse’ — but what if the Beaver took you?” With that rationalization in hand, they were convinced they had done nothing wrong.
How often we do the same thing with God’s law — looking for ways to rationalize our disobedience. (Bailey is Pastor of Sand Lake Baptist Church, Averritt Park, NY)
PATIENCE — We often lack
Someone has observed that the most hated four-letter word in the English language is spelled: W-A-I-T.
PRAYER — Comfort in
Ulysses S. Grant was fighting the final battle of his life — this time with cancer. General O. O. Howard came to call on his old colleague, and they spoke for a time about some of the battles of the Civil War in which they had had a part. Suddenly, Grant interrupted with the words: “Howard, tell me what you know about prayer.”
In the face of death and eternity, past glory fades and we want to know the comfort and assurance that can only come from spending time with the Heavenly Father.
PRAYER — No short cut
“Prayer is not a lazy substitute for work. It is not a short cut to skill or knowledge. And sometimes God delays the answer to our prayer in final form until we have time to build up the strength, accumulate the knowledge, or fashion the character that would make it possible for Him to say ‘yes’ to what we ask.” (Roy M. Pearson)
According to Forbes magazine, the number of millionaires in the U.S. has doubled in the past eight years, and now totals almost a million persons.
As David Richardson points out: “Do you realize that as a nation we have far more millionaires than we have missionaries? Where are our priorities?” (Richardson is Pastor of First United Methodist Church, Dexter, MO)
PROBLEMS — May be caused by few
Steve Brown tells about the man who drove by a pond and heard an enormous amount of croaking. He thought to himself, “I could make a fortune if I bought that pond and sold frog legs to the restaurants in my city.”
So he negotiated with the farmer who owned the pond and bought it. He drained the pond — and discovered there was just one big bullfrog making all that noise!
Sometimes a church can be thrown into conflict by just one or two people making lots of noise. (Brown is Pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church, Key Biscayne, FL)
Some time after leaving the White House, Lyndon Johnson was reflecting on the way he handled the Vietnam conflict. He said, “I never felt I had the luxury of reexamining my basic assumptions. Once the decision to commit military force was made, all our energies were turned to vindicating that choice and finding a way somehow to make it work.” Johnson never felt free to turn around and change directions.
The Bible tells us that we have the option of changing direction in life — it’s called repentance. We can change; we can get a fresh start.
John Killinger describes Mother Teresa and her ministry to the very poorest of humanity.
“How tirelessly this little nun, scarcely five feet tall, has labored to bring comfort and love to the poor, to save the lives of lepers, to rescue unwanted children from dustbins and see them placed with caring parents. Even in her eighties, she rises before five in the morning, prays, and often works until midnight or one a.m., traveling, speaking, overseeing the many mission houses she has helped to establish, and personally tending to the sick and dying …
“I can imagine, someday in heaven, standing in a roll call at which God asks to look at my hands. ‘Too soft!’ He will say. ‘They have been too long at the typewriter, or too long gesturing in public speech. They should look more like Mother Teresa’s hands!” (Killinger is Minister of First Congregational Church, Los Angeles, CA)
SIN — Requires confession
“If in the course of your Christian life Satan trips you up and causes you to fall and to be ashamed, what must you do? At that moment, in the presence of God, you must judge it as sin; do not ally yourself with it, but judge it and condemn it. Look up into God’s face and trust Him for forgiveness and cleansing, pardon and restoration, and power to overcome.
“But if you refuse to do that, and continue to allow yourself to be the victim of habit and sinfulness, then you will face a dreadful day when you come to meet with God. The time lag between the moment of sinning and the moment of forsaking and confessing is a sure indication of the true nature of a man’s walk with God. No one who has enjoyed the intimacy of His presence and the power of His Spirit can endure His absence for long!” (Alan Redpath, Blessings Out of Buffetings)
WORSHIP — Quotations
“It is only when men begin to worship that they begin to grow.” (Calvin Coolidge)
“Worship renews the spirit as sleep renews the body.” (Richard Clarke Cabot)
“He who neglects worship neglects that which separates man from the birds, the animals, the insects, the fishes.” (Dwight Bradley)
View more sermon illustrations for inspiration for your next message.