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Sermon Central Staff
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: MERIT YOUR FREEDOM
In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln’s army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the throng around him: "My poor friends, you are free—free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it ... . Liberty is your birthright."
But Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom. "Let the world see that you merit [your freedom]," Lincoln said, "Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom he has liberated by his death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom. But that freedom isn’t an excuse for disobedience; it forms the basis for learning and obeying God’s laws. It gives us direction in action.
(From a sermon by Christopher Surber, All Things are Possible with God, 8/15/2012)
THE PUNISHMENT OF THE GOLF ADDICT
Once there was a man who was such a golf addict that he was neglecting his job. Frequently he would call in sick as an excuse to play.
One morning, after making his usual call to the office, an angel up above spotted him on the way to the golf course and decided to teach him a lesson. "If you play golf today, you will be punished," the angel whispered in his ear.
Thinking it was only his conscience, which he had successfully whipped in the past, the fellow just smiled. "No," he said, "I've been doing this for years. No one will ever know. I won't be punished."
The angel said no more, and the fellow stepped up to the first tee where he promptly whacked the ball 300 yards straight down the middle of the fairway. Since he had never driven the ball more than 200 yards, he couldn't believe it. Yet, there it was.
And his luck continued. Long drives on every hole, perfect putting. By the ninth hole he was six under par and was playing near-perfect golf. The fellow was walking on air.
He wound up with an amazing 61, about 30 strokes under his usual game. Wait until he got back to the office and told them about this! But, suddenly, his face fell. He couldn't tell them. He could never tell anyone.
The angel smiled.
(Bits & Pieces, August 22, 1991 -- 10,000 Sermon Illustrations)
Sermon Central Staff
ATTITUDE NOT APTITUDE
Jesus' message here is that everybody can be great ... because anybody can serve. Dave Stone says that "service is the language of grace."
One day a couple of church members were out distributing loaves of bread in a low-income housing complex. They came to an apartment where they heard arguing through the door, but they decided to knock anyway. A man opened the door and asked what they wanted. One of the visitors said, "We don't want anything. We just wondered if you know anyone who could use some loaves of bread?"
"Why are you doing that?" the man asked.
"Just to let people know that God loves them."
"What did you just say?" the man asked, rather anxiously.
"We're just handing out loaves of bread to let people know that God loves them."
The man stared and said, "I can't believe this. We just buried our three-week-old son yesterday, and now here you are at our door."
The visitors offered to pray with them, and the couple accepted their offer. As they were leaving, and the door was being closed, they heard the husband say to his wife, "See, honey? I told you God cares. We thought he wasn't paying attention to us, but he sent those people here to make sure we knew."
Too many people make excuses as to why they can't serve. Can you bake a cake? Can you cook some food item? Can you cut someone's grass? Can you call people and give them an encouraging word? Can you do housework? Can you do handy work? Can you donate anything of value? Can you stop along your way and give a smile? Can you take an interest in someone else's life?
The big thing is that you have to be ready to serve. You have to open your eyes and your ears to the needs of others. 1 Pet. 4:10 -- "Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms."
(From a sermon by Michael Luke, The Demonstration Factor, 5/5/2011)
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
CYMBALA'S EASTER STORY
Jim Cymbala preaches at a church in the slums of New York. He tells the following story: It was Easter Sunday and I was so tired at the end of the day that I just went to the edge of the platform, pulled down my tie and sat down and draped my feet over the edge. It was a wonderful service with many people coming forward. The counselors were talking with these people.
As I was sitting there I looked up the middle aisle, and there in about the third row was a man who looked about fifty, disheveled, filthy. He looked up at me rather sheepishly, as if saying, “Could I talk to you?”
We have homeless people coming in all the time, asking for money or whatever. So as I sat there, I said to myself, though I am ashamed of it, “What a way to end a Sunday. I’ve had such a good time, preaching and ministering, and here’s a fellow probably wanting some money for more wine.”
He walked up. When he got within about five feet of me, I smelled a horrible smell like I’d never smelled in my life. It was so awful that when he got close, I would inhale by looking away, and then I’d talk to him, and then look away to inhale, because I couldn’t inhale facing him. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“How old are you?”
“Thirty-two.” He looked fifty--hair matted; front teeth missing; wino; eyes slightly glazed.
“Where did you sleep last night, David?”
I keep in my back pocket a money clip that also holds some credit cards. I fumbled to pick one out thinking; I’ll give him some money. I won’t even get a volunteer. They are all busy talking with others. Usually we don’t give money to people. We take them to get something to eat.
I took the money out. David pushed his finger in front of me. He said, “I don’t want your money. I want this Jesus, the One you were talking about, because I’m not going to make it. I’m going to die on the street.”
I completely forgot about David, and I started to weep for myself. I was going to give a couple of dollars to someone God had sent to me. See how easy it is? I could make the excuse I was tired. There is no excuse. I was not seeing him the way God sees him. I was not feeling what God feels.
But oh, did that change! David just stood there. He didn’t know what was happening. I pleaded with God, “God, forgive me! Forgive me! Please forgive me. I am so sorry to represent You this way. I’m so sorry. Here I am with my message and my points, and You send somebody and I am not ready for it. Oh, God!”
Something came over me. Suddenly I started to weep deeper, and David began to weep. He fell against my chest as I was sitting there. He fell against my white shirt and tie, and I put my arms around him, and there we wept on each other. The smell of His person became a beautiful aroma. Here is what I thought the Lord made real to me: If you don’t love this smell, I...
MOODY'S SERVANT'S HEART
A large group of European pastors came to one of D. L. Moody’s Northfield Bible Conferences in Massachusetts in the late 1800s. Following the European custom of the time, each guest put his shoes outside his room to be cleaned by the hall servants overnight. But of course this was America and there were no hall servants.
Walking the dormitory halls that night, Moody saw the shoes and determined not to embarrass his brothers. He mentioned the need to some ministerial students who were there, but met with only silence or pious excuses. Moody returned to the dorm, gathered up the shoes, and, alone in his room, the world’s only famous evangelist began to clean and polish the shoes. Only the unexpected arrival of a friend in the midst of the work revealed the secret.
When the foreign visitors opened their doors the next morning, their shoes were shined. They never know by whom. Moody told no one, but his friend told a few people, and during the rest of the conference, different men volunteered to shine the shoes in secret. Perhaps the episode is a vital insight into why God used D. L. Moody as He did. He was a man with a servant’s heart and that was the basis of his true greatness.
[Gary Inrig, A Call to Excellence, (Victor Books, a division of SP Publ., Wheaton, Ill; 1985), p. 98]
Sermon Central Staff
THE AUTHORITY OF THE BELIEVER
In Santa Cruz there's a strip called Pacific Avenue, and there's a number of bars. And I remember walking down Pacific Avenue, and it was getting a little rowdy. And there was two or three very burly guys in kinda tight T-shirts that looked like they could kill you, and were very tall, very large. And if they weren't on steroids, then they were pumping a lot of iron and doing all kinda other stuff. And they looked like -- boy, I would not mess with these guys. And there was a bouncer there who was trying to get things under control, and they were drunk and they were getting pretty, really out of control, and so they called the police.
And so I just happened to be walking by, and these things were happening, and a police car pulls up, and I'm thinking -- you know, I'm human -- "I'd like to watch this and see what happens, you know?"
So I kinda get over here like this and, you know, see how this is gonna play out. And -- so help me -- door opens and, ladies, I don't mean this is in any, like, sexist way at all. But, you know, this guy's trying to handle these big, burly guys. The door closes and about a 4'11" police officer who's a female steps out. And I'm thinking to myself, "If I was the guy trying to get these big, burly drunk guys under control," I was, like, hoping for, like, a 6'5" weightlifting police officer, not a 4'11" woman.
And so I thought, "I'm gonna kinda watch how this whole thing plays out," and I could've not been more wrong, 'cause, you know, the issue is not your size or your strength. The issue is your authority and your power. Watch this carefully. I watched this happen.
This very confident 4'11" officer walks out. "Gentlemen, do we have a problem here?"
"No, we're good here. Get outta here."
"Excuse me" -- and she had this badge on right here -- "I'm authorized by Santa Cruz County to enforce the law. I'd like both of you to know that -- understand right now -- over against the car. Do you understand?" And they both started to balk a little bit, and she put her hand on her revolver. It was a .45.
And you know what? I've never seen two big, strong drunk guys get sober so fast, and it was like, "I think she might use it, you know." And pretty soon I get this 4'11" little gal and two guys, you know, like this, and she's going boom, boom, boom, boom, "Spread 'em out."
You know why? She has a badge that has a position of authority that says "I have all right and authority vested in me to exercise that. You must do what I say. And if there's any problem with that, I have some power on my leg that can enforce it immediately."
You are a child of the King of kings and the Lord of lords. Your badge is your position in Christ. And you have on your side the sword of the spirit, which is the Word of God. And demons must believe and obey and respond to the authority of every child of God who takes the Word of God and shoots the bullets of God to the specific issues. And you don't have to be strong or spiritual or go to seminary or know a whole lot. What you have to do is claim who you are and act on what is true, and they must obey.
(From a sermon by Chip Ingram, How to Do Battle With the Enemy and Win, 6/11/2010)
ILL: This is an alleged New Year’s letter written from a church member to the pastor.
You often stress attendance at worship as being very important for a Christian, but I think a person has a right to miss now and then. I think every person ought to be excused for the following reasons and the number of times indicated.
Christmas Holidays (the Sunday before & after) 2
New Years (the party lasted too long) 1
Easter (get away for the holidays) 2
July 4th (national holidays) 1
Labor Day (need to get away) 2
Memorial Day (visit hometown folk) 1
School closing (kids need a break) 1
School reopens (one last fling) 1
Family reunions (mine & wife’s) 3
Sleep late (stayed up too long Saturday night) 9
Deaths in family 2
Anniversary (second honeymoon) 1
Sickness (one per family member) 5
Business trip (a must) 1
Vacation (three to four weeks) 6
Bad weather (ice, snow, rain, clouds) 2
Ball games 2
Unexpected company (can’t walk out) 2
Time changes (spring & fall) 2
Special on TV (superbowl, etc) 3
Pastor, that leaves two Sundays per year. So, you can count on us to be in church on the 4th Sunday in February and the 3rd Sunday in August unless we are providentially hindered.
A Faithful Member
A man in a hot air balloon realized he was lost. He reduced altitude and spotted a woman below. He descended a bit more and shouted, "Excuse me, can you help me? I promised a friend I would meet him an hour ago, but I don’t know where I am." The woman below replied, "You’re in a hot air balloon hovering approximately 30 feet above the ground. You’re between 40 and 41 degrees north latitude and between 59 and 60 degrees west longitude."
"You must be an engineer," said the balloonist.
"I am," replied the woman, "How did you know?"
"Well," answered the balloonist, "everything you told me is, technically correct, but I’ve no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is I’m still lost. Frankly, you’ve not been much help at all. If anything, you’ve delayed my trip."
The woman below responded, "You must be in Management."
"I am," replied the balloonist, "but how did you know?"
"Well," said the woman, "you don’t know where you are or where you’re going. You have risen to where you are due to a large quantity of hot air. You made a promise, which you’ve no idea how to keep, and you exp...
R. Darrel Davis
Richard Roney is Chief of Chaplain Services at the VA Medical Center in Marion, Illinois. He reminds pastors they aren’t the only ones who hear excuses about not attending church; as a hospital chaplain, he’s heard more than his share:
"It’s snowing outside. I never attend church in bad weather." (The chapel was on another floor in the same building!)
One lady commented, quite seriously, "I’m usually always sick on Sunday morning."
"The nurse doesn’t want me out of bed," one patient told a volunteer. But as the volunteer began to leave, the same patient asked, "If you’re going near the smoking room, could you give me a push?"
A favorite was the patient who said, "When I sing, I get nauseated.”
TALE OF TWO KINGS
Two of the greatest love stories ever told. The one, at Camelot; the other, at Calvary. Two of the noblest kings ever to live. The one, King Arthur; the other, King of the Jews. The one is adorned with a jeweled crown; the other, with a crown of thorns.
The comparisons and contrasts between Camelot and Calvary are many, but one scene from Camelot illustrates a great theological dilemma that only the cross could resolve.
Prior to His appointment with destiny on the brow of that fateful hill, Jesus agonized in the Garden of Gethsemane: "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done" (Lk. 22:42).
Understand, on an emotional level, that this is the pleading of a son to his father. If your child came to you in such agony, wouldn’t you do everything within your power to grant the request?
But this Father, this time, didn’t respond as expected. And that’s the theological rub. He denied the request of His Son, His only Son, His beloved Son. In Gethsemane, that Son was asking:
"Is there no other way?"
The Son is betrayed, arrested, deserted, denied, beaten, tried, mocked, and finally crucified. Tacitly, the Father answers:
"No, there is no other way."
But why? Why was there no other way?
We find the answer to that question in a scene from Camelot, where the adulterous relationship between Queen Guenevere and Arthur’s most trusted knight, Sir Lancelot, has divided the Round Table. When the scheming Mordred catches them in a clandestine encounter, Lancelot escapes. Guenevere is not so fortunate. She faces a trial. The jury finds her guilty and sentences her to the flame.
As the day of execution nears, people come from miles around with one question in their minds: Would the king let her die?
Mordred gleefully captures the complexity of Arthur’s predicament:
Arthur! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let her die, your life is over;
Let her live, your life’s a fraud.
Which will it be, Arthur?
Do you kill the queen or kill the law?
Tragically but resolutely, Arthur decides: "Treason has been committed! The jury has ruled! Let justice be done!"
High from the castle window stands Arthur, as Guenevere enters the courtyard. She walks to her unlit stake, where the executioner stands with waiting torch. Arthur turns away, emotion brimming in his eyes.
A herald mounts the tower where Arthur has withdrawn: "The queen is at the stake, Your Majesty. Shall I signal the torch?"
But the king cannot answer.
Arthur’s love for Jenny spills from his broken heart: "I can’t! I can’t! I can’t let her die!"
Seeing Arthur crumble, Mordred relishes the moment: "Well, you’re human after all, aren’t you, Arthur? Human and helpless."
Tragically, Arthur realizes the truth of Mordred’s remark. Being only human, he is indeed helpless. But where this story ends, the greatest story ever told just begins.
Another Execution Scene.
Another time. Another place. Another king.
The setting: A world lies estranged from the God who loves it. Like Genevere, an unfaithful humanity stands guilty and in bondage, awaiting judgment’s torch.
Could God turn His head from the righteous demands of the law and simply excuse the world’s sin? If not, then could He turn His head from the world He loved? Would the king burn Guenevere?
Like the wicked Mordred, Satan must have looked on in delight:
God! What a magnificent dilemma!
Let them die, Your life is over;
Let them live, Your life’s a fraud;
Which will it be, God?
Do You kill Your world or do You kill the law?
Without even waiting for His Guenevere to look up in repentance, the King stepped down from His throne, took off His crown, laid aside His royal robes, and descended His castle’s polished steps into humanity’s pockmarked streets. Paul’s words in Philippians are thought by some scholars to be the lyrics of an ancient hymn, singing about the King of kings.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross! Phil. 2:6-8
That scene in the movie was an epiphany of understanding. Suddenly, it all made sense. We know now why He had to die, why there was no other way.
When love and justice collide, only the cross offers a happy ending.
Source: Abridged excerpt from Ken Gire’s book Windows of the Soul. Copyright © 1996 by Ken Gire, Jr. Zondervan Publishing Houses.