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Isaac Butterworth
 
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THE MARK OF JESUS

When I was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Levelland, there was a man in our church, the owner of a local business and a highly intentional Christian. The apostle Paul once said of himself that he bore "on [his] body the marks of Jesus" (Gal. 6:17). Well, this man bore the marks of Jesus on his life. His wife was the most annoying woman I have ever known. She was chronically ill, and her sickness had embittered her spirit. She demanded almost all of this man's time and energy, and she was never grateful for a single thing he did for her. She complained about life, and she complained about him. For his part -- I don't know how he did it -- but he remained gentle and serene, and he had the utmost patience with this woman. He never spoke ill of her. He never sighed under the burden of her criticism. He was truly a man of God. He had an intimacy with God that was not showy but nevertheless evident. If life had not rewarded him with outward happiness, he was deeply and inwardly joyful. God was his "portion," as the Bible says (e.g., Lam. 3:24; Ps. 16:5; 73:26), and he was satisfied.

How could he do this? How could he be so patient and kind and committed to the welfare of his wife despite her ingratitude? I'll tell you: he was in covenant with his wife, but he was also in covenant with God. And here's what I learned from him. This man partnered with God in his own process of sanctification. Now, let me tell you what I mean. This man's highest interest was not in being happy in some conventional way. No. Instead, the longing of his heart was to be the kind of person God wanted him to be. And God has to work on a person to make them like he wants them to be. And what this man did is: he yielded to God's program of overhaul in his life. God not infrequently uses suffering and adversity. How does the old hymn say it? "When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, my grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply; the flame shall not hurt thee; I only design thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine."

That's what this man wanted. He wanted his dross consumed; he wanted his unloving tendencies to be burned in the fire of affliction if need be, and his gold refined, his character refashioned to be like that of his Lord, who "loved the church and gave himself up for her."

 
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Fr Mund Cargill Thompson
 
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MOTHERS LIVE FOR OTHERS

We've got all sorts of people here this morning. One thing we have got a lot of is mothers. Some of you, your children are long grown up. But you have the experience of having been a mother. So? Well, every mother lives her life for another. And that is what the church is meant to be like. As former Archbishop of Cantabury William Temple put it, "The Church is the only society that exists solely for the benefit of it's non-members." Or as Jesus put it "Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you"

Every Mother lives her life for another. Those of you who have been mothers - for the love of your child you have been through the excruciating pain of labour. For the love of your child you had yoru sleep broken as you wake to feed your baby and change her nappy. For the love of your child, you have massively reduced your social life - think how much more you used to go out before you had your child than you did when your child was young. For the love of your child, you structured our entire day around things like School drop off and School pick up times. And on top of all the practical things you did for your child, you spent your time constantly thinking about what would be best for her or him. Every mother lives her life for another.

Now, not all of us in this church are mothers. I, for example, have never been a mother. And of course there are other forms of self sacrifice too. But the mothers here are an inspiration to the rest of us. Every mother exists not for her own benefit but for the benefit of her children. We need to put that into practice in a different context. Every mother exists not for her own benefit but for the benefit of her children. We need to learn more and more to exist not for our own benefit but for the benefit of our non-members.

Of course - it's easy to romanticise being a mother. Frequently you will have thought "I don't want to do this", "I don't want to do that", "Do I have to?" - especially when it comes to having your sleep broken in the middle of the night. "Do I have to?" Yet for love of your child, you got out of bed, comforted her, fed her and changed her nappy. For love of your child you did not what you wanted but what was best for her. As a church too, there will frequently be times for each one of us when we say "I don't want to do this", "I don't want to do that", "Do I have to?" yet, if as parents we can do things we don't want because we love our child, then as Christians, for love of God and love of those who haven't yet come to faith, we will do not what we want but what is best for them.

 
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Alison Bucklin
 
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THE LAW AND THE GOSPEL

John Wesley: "There is no [conflict] at all between the law and the gospel; that there is no need for the law to pass away, in order to the establishing of the gospel. Indeed neither of them supersedes the other, but they agree perfectly well together. Yea, the very same words, considered in different respects, are parts both of the law and of the gospel. If they are considered as commandments, they are parts of the law: if as promises, of the gospel. Thus, 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,' when considered as a commandment, is a branch of the law; when regarded as a promise, is an essential part of the gospel; -- the gospel being no other than the commands of the law proposed by way of promises. Accordingly poverty of spirit, purity of heart, and whatever else is enjoined in the holy law of God, are no other, when viewed in a gospel light, than so many great and precious promises. There is, therefore, the closest connection that can be conceived between the law and the gospel. On the one hand, the law continually makes way for, and points us to the gospel; on the other, the gospel continually leads us to a more exact fulfilling of the law. The law, for instance, requires us to love God, to love our neighbor, to be meek, humble, or holy. We feel that we are not sufficient for these things; yea, that 'with man this is impossible:' But we see a promise of God, to give us that love, and to make us humble, meek, and holy: We lay hold of this gospel, of these glad tidings; it is done unto us according to our faith; and 'the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us,' through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

 
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Davon Huss
 
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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?”

“David.”

“How long have you been on the street?”

“Six years.”

“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?”

“Abandoned truck.”

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...

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Contributed By:
Jeff Strite
 
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THE BLOOD AND WATER

Before I became a minister I attended a secular college for a couple of years. While I was there I took several classes I thought would help me when I went to Bible college, and some of those classes were in Philosophy.

Now Philosophy and Christianity are somewhat at odds. Christianity exalts Christ, Philosophy tends to exalt man. Thus, teachers of Philosophy tend to spend a fair amount of their time undermining the faith of their students whenever possible.

In one class the professor said: "Jesus didn't die on the cross... and I can prove it!"

He then went on to set up his premise: "When a person dies," he said, "their heart stops pumping and gravity takes over. If you were to die right now, seated at your desks, your blood would drain to the lowest part of your body -- and settle somewhere around your waist. But the Bible says that when Jesus died, a Roman soldier pierced his side with a spear ... and blood and water came out. Jesus was supposedly dead. He was nailed to a cross. And yet when He 'died' there was blood where there shouldn't have been blood. That proves He hadn't died."

That shook me. I went back to my dorm and had a little talk with God. I said to Him "This sounds pretty convincing. If you can't answer it, I'm gonna go sell insurance. I can't justify spending my life preaching about a God I can't defend against accusations like this one."

Now, that was fairly rude of me. But God was gracious.

I don't know why, but I didn't go to a preacher, or to a campus minister to ask for them to explain this to me. I guess I just waited to see what God would do. And I didn't have to wait very long.

About a month or so later, I was in another philosophy class. The class was over and a few students were gathered around the teacher's desk. Wandering what they were talking about, I made my way into the group in time to hear the teacher say: "I just heard the most intriguing thing this last weekend. Do you remember where the Bible says that Jesus died on the cross?"

That peaked my interest.

He continued "Do you remember where it said that a Roman soldier pierced His side and blood and water came out"

Now, he really had my interest.

"There's a condition known as cardiac tamponade. It happens when a person undergoes enough stress in their life that their heart literally bursts from the strain. When this happens, the blood from the heart mixes with the fluid in the sac that surrounds the heart known as the pericardium. That fluid looks a lot like water. So -- if you were to pierce that sac after person died of cardiac tamponade, what you'd see come out would be 'blood and water.'"

Now that made sense for a couple of reasons:

1) If I cut your arm, you'd bleed. But you wouldn't bleed blood and water. Only blood.
2) The Bible says that when Jesus was on the cross... all of the sins of mankind were brought to bear on His body in that one place, in that one time. The only thing that held that body up under the strain was the power of Son of God. But when Jesus died, He didn't die from the cross itself. Scripture says: "Jesus called out with a loud voice, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.' When he had said this, he breathed his last." Luke 23:46
Thus, when Jesus gave up control over His body, it was like a snapping a rubber band. All the sins of mankind bore down now on a body that was no longer held by His power, and it makes sense that its heart burst.

I went back and explained that to my original Philosophy professor, and he hemmed and hawed, but had no real comeback for that. I doubt that he'd ever heard anything like it before.

I was excited. This was great stuff!

So when I went to Bible College the next year, I was determined to share this gem of knowledge with the professors there. But... there's a reason why Bible college professors are professors. They've heard most of this before.

So when I mentioned this discovery to one of my professors, he replied "Oh Jeff, it's even better than that! When Jesus died on the cross, He was placed on the cross at 9:00 in the morning, and He died at 3:00 in the afternoon. At the Temple, the first sacrifice was made at 9:00 in the morning... and the last sacrifice was offered at 3:00 in the afternoon.

"Now, Passover was a major day of sacrifice. People were lined up around the block to offer their lambs and other sacrifices to God. With all that sacrificing, there was a lot of blood on the altar, the floors and the utensils. How do you think they removed all that blood?

"Well, they'd developed a technique where they would pump water up from underneath the Temple and they used this water to wash down the altar, the utensils and the floor. This liquid then was carried by trenches out beneath the city walls into the Kidron Valley (the Kidron Brook ran between the city of Jerusalem and the Garden of Gethsemane).

People that have visited the Holy Land tell me that the banks of the Kidron are still red from all the blood from the many sacrifices over the centuries. Farmers would go to the Kidron and collect mud from its banks to spread on their fields -- it was a rich fertilizer for their crops.

"Now, if you'd been standing outside the walls of Jerusalem about 3:30 in the afternoon... what do you think you'd have seen coming out of those pipes? (Blood and water)."

Now, if I'd been God, there'd have been more than 21 chapters in the book of John. If I'd been God there'd have been at least another 10 chapters talking about all the applications of that one verse.

But John didn't care. He didn't care! His comment about seeing blood and water come out of the side of Jesus wasn't all that important to him. All John wanted to prove was that there had been no need to break Jesus' bones. Why? Because Jesus was the sacrificial Lamb. John knew that that kind of lamb would be unacceptable to God if it's bones were broken. So, John says "I KNOW Jesus was dead! I SAW the Roman soldier pierce His side, and blood and water came out."

 
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There are two major bodies of water in the land where Jesus walked. One is the Sea of Galilee, a beautiful lake 13 miles long and 7 _ miles wide filled with fish and surrounded by lush foliage.

The other body of water is the Dead Sea, 50 miles long and 11 miles wide, the shoreline of which is 1300 feet below sea level. Seven million tons of water evaporate from the Dead Sea every day. The saline or salt content of the water of the Dead Sea ranges from 26-35%, making it 10 times saltier than the oceans of the world. There’s no seaweed or plants of any kind in or around the water. There are no fish or any kind of swimming, squirming creatures living in or near the water. As a matter of fact, what you’ll see on the shores of the Sea is white, crystals of salt covering EVERYTHING. According to extremescience.com, fish accidentally swimming into the waters from one of the several freshwater streams that feed the Sea are killed instantly, their bodies quickly coated with a preserving layer of salt crystals and then tossed onto shore by the wind and waves.

Both the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea are fed by the Jordan River There is really only one difference between these two bodies of water, really only one thing that causes the Sea of Galilee to be beautiful and alive while the Dead Sea is barren and lifeless. The Sea of Galilee has an outlet; the Dead Sea does not! Water flows through the Sea of Galilee. Water flows into the Dead Sea but not out!
Spiritual input but no spiritual output = Stagnation
If you and I have Spiritual input but no spiritual output, we will become stagnant, lifeless, bitter, and caustic.
From Johnny Creasong’s Sermon: You Are Free to Serve the Lord

 
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Todd Leupold
 
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J. Vernon McGee once pointed out:

"Martha believed in a resurrection. But listen, it makes less demand upon faith to believe that in a future day we shall receive glorified bodies than it does to rest now on the assuracne that they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. It is easier to believe that the Lord is coming and the dead will be raised than it is to believe that tomorrow I can live for God. It is so easy to comfort people who are mourning and say, 'Well, you'll see your loved ones someday.' That doesn't take much faith. It takes a lot of faith to say, 'I have just lost my loved one, but I am comforted with the assurance that God is with me and He does all things well.' You see, although Martha knew from the Old Testament that there would be a resurrection from the dead, she didn't believe that Jesus could help her now."

(Source: Thru The Bible, Vol. IV, pg. 439).

 
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Harvie Neatherlin
 
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AN EASTER PARABLE: EDITH EASTER

Edith Burns was a wonderful Christian who lived in San Antonio, Texas. She was the patient of a doctor by the name of Will Phillips. Dr. Phillips was a gentle doctor who saw patients as people. His favorite patient was Edith Burns. One morning he went to his office with a heavy heart and it was because of Edith Burns.

When he walked into that waiting room, there sat Edith with her big black Bible in her lap earnestly talking to a young mother sitting beside her.

Edith Burns had a habit of introducing herself in this way: "Hello, my name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Then she would explain the meaning of Easter, and many times people would be saved. Dr. Phillips walked into that office and there he saw the head nurse, Beverly. Beverly had first met Edith when she was taking her blood pressure. Edith began by saying, "My name is Edith Burns. Do you believe in Easter?" Beverly said, "Why yes I do." Edith said, "Well, what do you believe about Easter?" Beverly said, "Well, it's all about egg hunts, going to church, and dressing up." Edith kept pressing her about the real meaning of Easter, and finally led her to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Dr. Phillips said, "Beverly, don't call Edith into the office quite yet. I believe there is another delivery taking place in the waiting room."

After being called back in the doctor's office, Edith sat down and when she took a look at the doctor she said, "Dr. Will, why are you so sad? Are you reading your Bible? Are you praying?" Dr. Phillips said gently, "Edith, I'm the doctor and you're the patient." With a heavy heart he said, "Your lab report came back and it says you have cancer, and Edith, you're not going to live very long." Edith said, "Why Will Phillips, shame on you. Why are you so sad? Do you think God makes mistakes? You have just told me I'm going to see my precious Lord Jesus, my husband, and my friends. You have just told me that I am going to celebrate Easter forever, and here you are having difficulty giving me my ticket!" Dr. Phillips thought to himself, "What a magnificent woman this Edith Burns is!"

Edith continued coming to Dr. Phillips. Christmas came and the office was closed through January 3rd. On the day the office opened, Edith did not show up. Later that afternoon, Edith called Dr. Phillips and said she would have to be moving her story to the hospital and said, "Will, I'm very near home, so would you make sure that they put women in here next to me in my room who need to know about Easter."

Well, they did just that and women began to come in and share that room with Edith. Many women were saved. Everybody on that floor from staff to patients were so excited about Edith, that they started calling her Edith Easter; that is everyone except Phyllis Cross, the head nurse. Phyllis made it plain that she wanted nothing to do with Edith because she was a "religious nut". She had been a nurse in an army hospital. She had seen it all and heard it all. She was the original G.I. Jane. She had been married three times, she was hard, cold, and did everything by the book.

One morning the two nurses who were to attend to Edith were sick. Edith had the flu and Phyllis Cross had to go in and give her a shot. When she walked in, Edith had a big smile on her face and said, "Phyllis, God loves you and I love you, and I have been praying for you." Phyllis Cross said, "Well, you can quit praying for me, it won't work. I'm not interested." Edith said, "Well, I will pray and I have asked God not to let me go home until you come into the family." Phyllis Cross said, "Then you will never die because that will never happen," and curtly walked out of the room.

Every day Phyllis Cross would walk into the room and Edith would say, "God loves you Phyllis and I love you, and I'm praying for you." One day Phyllis Cross said she was literally drawn to Edith's room like a magnet would draw iron. She sat down on the bed and Edith said, "I'm so glad you have come, because God told me that today is your special day." Phyllis Cross said, "Edith, you have asked everybody here the question, 'Do you believe in Easter?' but you have never asked me." Edith said, "Phyllis, I wanted to many times, but God told me to wait until you asked, and now that you have asked..."

Edith Burns took her Bible and shared with Phyllis Cross the Easter Story of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Edith said, "Phyllis, do you believe in Easter? Do you believe that Jesus Christ is alive and that He wants to live in your heart?" Phyllis Cross said, "Oh I want to believe that with all of my heart, and I do want Jesus in my life." Right there, Phyllis Cross prayed and invited Jesus Christ into her heart. For the first time Phyllis Cross did not walk out of a hospital room, s...

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Contributed By:
Michael Deutsch
 
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HONESTY MATTERS

I read about a high school golfer, Chelsee Richard, of Bloomingdale High School in Brandon, Florida. She lost her chance to win the 2004 state championship — by being honest. In the qualifier for the state finals, Chelsee hit her tee shot on the second hole into the rough. Without knowing it, she played another golfer’s ball out of the rough and finished the hole. On the third hole, she realized what she had done. The rule is that a golfer must declare on that hole, they hit the wrong ball before putting the ball into the hole, or they are disqualified.

Chelsee drew strength from her favorite Bible verse, Philippians 4:13 - "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." She reported her error, a painful ending to her senior season and her dream of going to State. She said: “With my faith and with God, being honest was the most important thing to me, and that’s what is going to advance on throughout my life, being honest and making the right choices." (November, 2004; www.PreachingToday.com)

Her honesty spoke of her Christian faith and the Lord she serves. Honesty is important. The truth really does matter, because it honors Christ. It makes our faith in Jesus more attractive to a world longing for something better than what they have.

 
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RUBY'S PRAYER

Ruby Hamilton, a businesswoman in her fifties, was stunned at the loss of her husband of 32 years in a car accident. Her anger and disappointment went deeper than a more typical expression of grief though. She had become a follower of Christ in her late twenties, but her husband didn't share her newfound interest in spiritual things. Nonetheless, she had set about praying for him feverishly and unceasingly that he would come to know the Lord. And one day when she was praying, she felt a wave of peace wash over her, and that still small voice assuring her that her husband would be okay. She eagerly awaited the day when her husband surrender his life to Jesus. And now this.

What do you do when faith doesn't make sense? When God doesn't seem to be answering or opening doors or being found? Ruby Hamilton stopped living for God.

Roger Simmons was hitchhiking his way home. He would never forget the date - May 7th. His heavy suitcase was making him tired and he was anxious to take off that army uniform once and for all. Flashing the thumb to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped.

The passenger door swung open. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. "Going home for keeps?"

"Sure am."

"Well, you're in luck if you're going to Chicago."

"Not quite that far - do you live in Chicago?"

"I have a business there, the driver said. My name is Hamilton."

They chatted for a while, and then Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to share his faith with this fiftyish, apparently successful business man. But he kept putting it off, till he realized that he was now just 30 minutes from his home. It was now or never.

"Mr. Hamilton, I would like to talk to you about something very important." Then he simply told Mr. Hamilton about the plan of salvation and ultimately asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord.

The Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger expected that he was about to get thrown out of the car. Instead, the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."

Five years went by. Roger married, had a couple of kids and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a trip to Chicago he found a small white business card that had been given to him by Hamilton five years previous. In Chicago, he looked up Hamilton enterprises. The receptionist told him that it was impossible to see Mr. Hamilton, but he could see Mrs. Hamilton. A little confused, he was ushered into a beautiful office where he found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties.

She extended her hand "You knew my husband?"

Roger told her about how Hamilton had picked him up while he was hitchhiking home after the war. "Can you tell me what day that was?"

"Sure it was May 7th, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army."

"Anything special about that day," she asked.

He hesitated, not knowing if he should mention how he shared the message of Jesus with her husband. "Mrs. Hamilton, I explained the gospel to your husband that day. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day."

Explosive sobs shook her body. Finally getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, "I had prayed for my husband's salvation for years. I believed God would save him."

"Where is your husband, Ruby?"

"He's dead. He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see, I thought God had not kept his promise. I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought God had not kept his word!"

(Considerable influence for this message came from John Piper's "The Spring of Persistent Public Love", DesiringGod.org. From a sermon by Bret Toman, Power to Live the Golden Rule, 1/3/2011)

 
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