AIDS — Danger grows
The World Health Organization predicts that the number of people infected with the AIDS virus would reach 100 million by 1990. According to USA Today, as many as two million people in the United States may already carry the AIDS virus, of whom 30 percent may contract the disease within five years. A total of 50,000 Canadians are thought to carry the virus, of whom 17,500 will likely contract the disease and die.
One of life’s greatest mysteries is how the idiot your daughter married can end up being father of the smartest grandchildren in the whole world! (Bits & Pieces)
CHRIST — Changes lives
Though born into a Christian home, John became an orphan as a boy and ended up wandering the streets of London. In the Royal Navy he learned to navigate a ship well, but then became a deserter. John escaped to Africa and sought refuge in a home where a harem was kept. The leader of the harem enjoyed mistreating the young Englishman; she frequently made him eat off the floor, like a dog, and several times lashed him to the bed and whipped him with a lash.
John escaped to a merchant ship, where he became navigator again. But his drinking led him into serious trouble. He was beaten, thrown into the ship’s hold, then knocked off the ship. The captain harpooned him and dragged him back onto the ship, where he was again dropped in the hold — this time beaten, wounded and near death.
Laying there all alone, John came to himself — much like the Prodigal Son. There and then John turned back toward God and gave his heart to Christ. In addition to becoming a successful merchant, John Newton would eventually provide the church with some of its greatest hymns of faith, including “How Sweet the Name of Jesus Sounds,” “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken,” and, of course, “Amazing Grace.” John Newton’s own life was an example of the greatness of God’s grace.
CHRIST — Our model
In her book Siring of Pearls, Mary Crowley tells about the official from Scotland Yard who was in charge of catching counterfeiters. Asked if he studied counterfeit bills, he said no. “I study perfect bills; that way I can spot the counterfeits.”
If we wish to know the reality of God’s love and grace, we must study the true model: Jesus Christ. While His followers may often appear to be counterfeits — flawed and weak — He will never lead us astray.
S. Parkes Cadman was a popular preacher in New York and had a radio program in which he answered questions of callers. One day a young man asked him, “Is it possible to live the Christian life in New York on $27 a week?” To that Dr. Cadman replied, “Young man, on $27 a week it is impossible to live any other kind of life in New York.”
CHURCH — Must retain passion
Soren Kierkegaard warned of the danger of the church losing its passion for the gospel, treating it instead like “a piece of information.” Passion is replaced with descriptions of passion. The result for the church, he said, could be compared with reading a cookbook to a person who is hungry.
COMMUNICATION — Must be clear
A mother was concerned that her eldest son was using profanity, and she consulted with the pastor for advice. The preacher advised that each time the boy cursed, she slap him.
The next morning as her sons came to the table, she asked what they wanted for breakfast. The eldest said, “I want some ‘blankety-blank’ Post Toasties, and the mother promptly slapped him. As he sat dazed on the floor, mother turned to the younger son and asked what he wanted for breakfast, to which he replied, “Well, I sure don’t want any Post Toasties!”
Flossie Baker was a dedicated Christian woman who went to be with the Lord in December of 1985. In a message she wrote that was given to those attending her memorial service, she said:
“My dear family and friends — do not grieve for me, for I have lived up to my motto: Live, Love, Laugh! I have lived every moment of every day that the Lord has given me to the fullest. I have accomplished most of the things I wanted to do.
“I have loved every thing and everybody — the heat of summer, the beauty of the fall foliage, the coldness of winter, and the newness of spring with new life. I have loved people — the smile of a child, the warmth of a friend, the enthusiasm of youth, the comfort of being with loving family members.
“I have laughed at things I once worried about and had fun in doing all the activities of Church, school, friends and family. I hope that somewhere in my life I have been an influence on others to strive for higher ideals and to accomplish greater things to serve others ….” For the Christian who has walked with Christ, death is a cause for celebration rather than grief.
IDENTITY — Need to know
We all need to know who we are and where we came from.
“Where did I come from?” asked one little boy as he came in from school. The startled mother drew her thoughts together and decided that it was time to face the issue squarely: “Ask your father when he comes home from work.”
When Dad arrived he faced a questioning son: “I’ve been talking with my school friends and I wonder if you would tell me where I came from.” Father took a deep breath and proceeded to tell him about the birds and the bees. The boy’s eyes got larger and larger. When Dad finished, the boy jumped up and said, “Thanks, Dad. That was great! My friend, Johnny, he’s just from New Jersey!” (C. Thomas Hilton)
An unknown individual wrote to the Internal Revenue Service: “Several years ago I cheated on my income tax. I can’t sleep, so I’m sending $25. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the balance.”
Integrity is not something that can be taken in small doses; it is a way of life.
JUDGING — Sometimes premature
A young American at a banquet found himself seated next to a Chinese diplomat. Not knowing what to say to a Chinese, the young man asked, “Likee soupee?” The diplomat nodded and smiled. Later the diplomat, Wellington Koo, was called on to speak and delivered an eloquent address in flawless English. As he sat down to the sound of applause, he turned to the young American and said, “Likee speechee?” (Cheer)
We are better not judging other folks prematurely, lest we find out that it is we who are being judged, not them!
MATURITY — Takes time
Larry J. Henry reports that his family bought a microwave, and can now cook a hot dog in less than two minutes.
“We want instant everything,” he says. “But as nice as ‘instant’ is, it is still hard to beat a good old-fashioned home-made stew that has simmered for hours on the stove. Some things just take time.
“Christian maturity is like that. We would all like to have the kind of faith that moves mountains, and we want it right now! But for God to develop that kind of faith in us, He must let it simmer for awhile.”
The family stopped at a roadside motel for the night, and early the next morning Mom was getting things organized in the car trunk. Still groggy, she stepped back into what she thought was her room, saw a sleeping man she presumed to be her husband, and yelled, “Get out of bed!”
Upon closer examination she realized that this was not her room or her husband, and as she quickly left the room she heard him exclaim, “Boy, this is some wake-up service!”
PEACE — Doesn’t come easily
Richard C. Halverson, Chaplain of the U.S. Senate, has a devotional letter for laypersons called Perspective. In it he said, “There is a way to peace, but it is very costly. Question is, are we willing to pay the price? If there is to be peace men must renounce the things that make for war. Human greed, avarice, prejudice, lust, envy must go! Are you willing to forsake your lust for power, for position? Are you willing to repudiate your prejudices of race and religion and politics?
“Will you say no to the greed that makes you want always more than you have? Will you reject the jealousy which makes it impossible for you to rejoice in another’s honor? Will you deny the envy that forces your bitter criticism of the friend who has gotten ahead of you? Will you renounce the stubborn pride that is alienating you from your wife and children?”
PRAYER — Eases stress
By law, the Tokyo city zoo in Japan must be closed for two days each month. The law was necessary because officials discovered the animals were showing signs of extreme emotional distress from being constantly exposed to the public.
C. Thomas Hilton points out that Jesus also lived in the public regularly and felt it necessary from time to time to “close the zoo” and withdraw into the wilderness for prayer.
If it was necessary for Jesus to “get away from it all” and spend time with the Father, how much more do we need that time with God?
PREACHING — Enough’s enough
Randall Broome reports a placard hanging on the office wall of a staff member in a neighboring church. It read: “Lord, fill my mouth with worthwhile stuff, and nudge me when I have said enough.” Every preacher would do well to utter this prayer on occasion!
PRIDE — Must control
John Killinger expresses appreciation for the fact that William Randolph Hearst, at his fabulous estate at San Simeon, insisted that ordinary ketchup bottles be kept on the tables all the time. Although some objected that this was not in keeping with the elegant surroundings, says Killinger, “he knew who he was and what he wanted. It did not matter who dined at the Hearst home; the ketchup bottles were always there.
“It was the sort of thing Jesus Himself might have done. If you know who you are, you can sail in and out among the big boats and never be swamped.” (“How to Live with the Hollywood Syndrome”)
Wayne Gretzky — known to professional hockey fans as “the Great Gretzky” — was being interviewed some time ago. The interviewer pointed out that at age 23, Gretzky was already a multi-millionaire, had already broken most of the sport’s records, and would go down in history as one of the greatest players of all time.
Then the interviewer asked, “Well, Wayne, what can you possibly have to look forward to?” After a brief pause, Gretzky answered: “Tonight’s game.” Despite his accomplishments, he was ready to move on and do what was needed next. (David IV. Richardson, College United Methodist Church, Warren, MO)
SERVICE — Way to real success
James Cash Penney started his business with a small general merchandise store in Kemmerer, Wyoming, in 1902. A devout Christian, J.C. Penney built his business on a simple principle: the golden rule. In fact, for many years his stores were called “The Golden Rule Stores.” He believed that by treating customers and employees the way he would want to be treated, his business would grow and prosper. And he was right!
Although it doesn’t always result in a multi-million dollar empire, service always leads to success — because it is the way Christ leads.
A church newsletter recently carried this “Psalm of Summer”:
“Now it came to pass that spring turned to summer again. God’s people raised their voices and said,
“Recreation is my shepherd, I shall not stay at home;
“He maketh me to lie down in a sleeping bag; He leadeth me down the interstate each weekend.
“He restoreth my suntan; He leadeth me to state parks for comfort’s sake.
“Even though I stray on the Lord’s Day, I will fear no reprimand, for Thou art with me; my rod and reel, they comfort me.
“I anointeth my skin with oil; my gas tank runneth dry.
“Surely my trailer shall follow me all the weekends of summer; and I shall return to the House of the Lord this fall.
“But then it is hunting season, and that’s another Psalm.”
SUBMISSION — Of our wills
In his book Full Surrender, J. Edwin Orr (who recently went to be with the Lord) tells about a crisis he faced in his own Christian life when his submission to Christ was only partial. As he knelt with friends in Belfast, Northern Ireland, he told the Lord that he was willing to do “anything to be surrendered and filled.”
An inner Voice said to him: “What about your will?” Orr recalls that he would have been happy to confess his besetting sins once more, but this question about his will was different. Perhaps the Lord wanted him as a missionary; he was willing. Yet the inner Voice persisted. What about the romance that was just beginning in his life; was he willing to surrender it to God’s will? Orr said yes with his lips, but knew that his heart said no.
John Huffman points out, “That’s what Jesus is talking about in the renunciation of self. Are you holding on to something that is undercutting God’s will for your life? If so, you cannot be His disciple.”
Many men and women of accomplishment have pointed to tenacity, persistence, as one of the greatest factors in their achievements.
Scientist Louis Pasteur: “Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”
Playwright Noel Coward: “Thousands of people have talent. I might as well congratulate you for having eyes in your head. The one and only thing that counts is: Do you have staying power?”
View more sermon illustrations for inspiration for your next message.