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Mike Breaux, when he was the Sr. Pastor at Southland Christian Church in Lexington, KY, made this point in a dramatic fashion. On the day he was to preach on the very text weíre studying, from James 2, Mike dressed up as a destitute bag lady and entered the Church service just as it began. He was dressed in such a fashion that no one was able to recognize him. He had put on several layers of old, sweaty clothing including a dress, and then put on a straw hat that he pulled down over his face. He stumbled into the service carrying numerous bags, his odor was not pleasant and he sat down in the middle of the auditorium. Now, Southland is a great church but on that day no-one spoke to him as the bag lady. In fact, several cast disgusting glances his way, and some actually got up and moved several seats away from him. When it came time for the sermon there was an awkward silence because nobody knew where Mike was. But all of sudden the bag lady got up and walked toward the platform. When he got to the pulpit he slowly began to take off his garments revealing who he was. The congregation sat in uncomfortable silence. And then Mike said, "Would you please listen as I read James 2:1-4?"
READ THE STORY ABOUT A CITY SLICKER WHO WAS VISITING RELATIVES ON A FARM AND THE FARMER GAVE A WHISTLE AND HIS DOG HERDED THE CATTLE INTO THE CORRAL, THEN LATCHED THE GATE WITH HER PAW. "WOW, THATíS SOME DOG. WHATíS HER NAME?" SAID THE CITY BOY. B. THE FORGETFUL FARMER THOUGHT A MINUTE, THEN ASKED, "WHAT DO YOU CALL THAT RED FLOWER THAT SMELLS GOOD AND HAS THORNS ON THE STEM?" "A ROSE?" "THATíS IT" C. THE FARMER TURNED TO HIS WIFE AND SAID, "HEY ROSE, WHAT DO WE CALL THIS DOG?" D. THERE ARE TIMES WHEN WE HUMANS CAN BE VERY FORGETFUL, SO WHAT IS YOUR WORST FORGETFUL MOMENT? ONE DAY AFTER ALBERT EINSTEIN HAD MOVED TO HIS HOME AT THE INSTITUTE FOR ADVANCED STUDY IN PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY, THE TELEPHONE RANG IN THE OFFICE OF THE DEAN OF THE PRINCETON GRADUATE SCHOOL AND THE VOICE AT THE OTHER END INQUIRED: "MAY I SPEAK WITH DR. EINSTEIN, PLEASE?" G. ADVISED THAT HE WAS NOT IN, THE VOICE CONTINUED: "PERHAPS THEN YOU WILL TELL ME WHERE DR. EINSTEIN LIVES." H. THE SECRETARY REPLIED THAT SHE COULD NOT DO THIS, SINCE DR. EINSTEIN WISHED TO HAVE HIS PRIVACY RESPECTED. I. THE VOICE ON THE TELEPHONE DROPPED TO A WHISPER: "PLEASE DONíT TELL ANYONE, BUT I AM DR. EINSTEIN. I AM ON MY WAY HOME, AND HAVE FORGOTTEN WHERE MY HOUSE IS"
THE 40 MARTYRS
"History knows them as the forty martyrs of Sebaste. They were soldiers in the famed Twelfth Legion of Romeís imperial army, around A.D. 320. One day the captain informed his troops that Emperor Licinius had sent down an edict commanding all soldiers to offer a sacrifice to his pagan god. Forty of the soldiers were followers of Christ, and they refused. 'You can have our armor and even our bodies, but our hearts' allegiance belongs to Jesus Christ,' they said.
"The emperor decided to make an example of the soldiers, so in the middle of winter he marched them onto a frozen lake and stripped them of their clothes. 'Renounce your God and you will be spared from death,' he told them. Not one man came forward. So he left them there, huddled together to contemplate his offer. Throughout the night the man stayed together, singing their song of victory: Forty Martyrs for Christ. When morning came, thirty-nine of the men had frozen to death. The one survivor finally relented and crawled to safety, recanting his confession of faith in order to live. The officer in charge that night had been so moved by the scene that during his watch heíd come to Jesus, so he broke rank and walked out onto the ice. Stripping his clothes he openly confessed his faith in Christ. The furious emperor demanded that he renounce Jesus, but he refused. When the ordeal was over, the Roman soldiers carried forty frozen men off of the ice."
(Ref: Lahaye, Tim, Jerry B. Jenkins and Frank M. Martin ed., Embracing Eternity, Living Each Day With a Heart Toward Heaven: The Persecuted, Matthew 5:10- February 15. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 2004.)
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...
POEM: ďI Am Just a RaindropĒ
The following poem was heard on Paul Harveyís broadcast in 2004:
I AM JUST A RAINDROP
I am just a raindrop
I was born in the sky and settled into a hillside
there to dance in the sun and sparkle
And nourish green and growing things
But there are other raindrops on the hillside
and they invite me to join them for a downhill romp,
and we become a chain of raindrops.
Thus able to travel faster and what do you know
soon others join us until we become a stream
now remember Iím still just a drop of rain.
And yet the other drops say
Iím important to them and they are important to me
and together we hasten downward toward the beautiful forest.
The grass bends in our path
the soil beneath us begins to crumble
until my companions and I are carving out a pathway
farther and deeper
until we are tearing little gullies in the earth
and then big gullies.
Iím just a little drop of rain
its my friends who have the power
Iím just along for the ride
Ahead a towering tree
stands majestically at the edge of the forest.
And soon my friends and I
are playfully ripping the soil from the roots
and its roots from the rocks
and low and behold the great tree comes crashing down in front of me.
For a long moment the tree lies motionless:
Facedown, defeated, dying.
But then my friends and I are under, and lifting, and moving the great tree
carrying it before us as a huge battering ram.
Nothing can stop us now.
I wonder if I can stop myself now, or, if I even want to.
Into the forest we plunge my friends and I
and our battering ram tree.
Other trees grouped together stand their ground,
from us they can see there is strength in numbers.
And our numbers are greater.
Our battering ram is sideways now.
We raindrops get behind;
we push with all of our might.
My friends and I are learning the strength and the weaknesses of trees.
Erode the soil, denude the roots, and you leave them with nothing to hold to.
So, soon, we are a raging torrent.
And they and we and the turncoat tree are thundering toward the sea.
And I am freighted.
Iím just a little raindrop,
but Iím soiled now.
How did I become a part of this?
I never wanted to conquer, nor to destroy
I only needed to be needed.
I only needed to be one of the crowd.
Down there ahead, at the end of the valley
Dear God thatís a town!
I will not be a part of this any longer.
Now my friends have gone too far.
Far too far.
Iím stopping right here right now.
But I canít. I canít stop.
I am no longer me.
I am something different then I ever meant to be.
It took a thousand million gallons of water they say
to drown that town that day.
So donít blame me.
Iím only one little drop of rain.
From Donald Tabbererís Sermon: An Empty Frame
A dear lady had a husband who was an airline pilot, and he often had difficulty locating items around the house. One day he asked his wife where the salt was. Annoyed, she responded, "How on earth can you find Detroit at night in a blizzard, but you canít find the salt in your own kitchen?" "Well, darling," he replied, "they donít move Detroit"
SINS ARE HABITS
Iím reading a book right now called "The Power of Habit" (http://charlesduhigg.com/the-power-of-habit/) about how so much of our daily life is lived by habit. We have to. Our brain needs habits in order for us to be able to function. Just about everything we do is habitual.
How we walk... you donít have to think about how to move your legs and to lift your foot and bring it forward and to shift your weight. When youíre 2 and learning how to walk, your brain spends a lot of energy training your brain to do that. But now you donít even think about it... until there is some disability or arthritis or when we trip over something... and then suddenly our brain has to move that thought to our conscious brain.
But if we had to think about every single movement or how we do anything, our brain would be so overwhelmed, we couldnít get anything done. God designed our brains in a way that most of what we do is done in a small part of the brain that just takes over to free up our conscious brain, that takes more energy.
Try something once (just go with it here). Cross your arms.
Now do it the other way. You have to think about it donít you?
Almost everything we do, we do by habit... or a series of habits. Walking, talking, eating, driving a car... how you get ready in the morning... and so God designed us this way so that we could function most of the time.
When you get to the top of a set of stairs, your brain already knows what this looks like and so the brain hands it over to the amygdale (part of the brain) to do that hard work of which foot goes first and how the stepping motion works, so that you can focus instead on any surprises that might change the habit, like stuff ON the stairs, that you need to avoid.
Itís a really cool function of the brain to help us handle all the decisions we face constantly everyday.
And if thatís true, then it makes me wonder how much of what we do by instinct and is NOT what God wants us to do, is more from habit than it is a temptation from satan.
Because not only is the good stuff habitual... but so are the things weíd rather change... and itís why itís so hard to change our habits...because it has been moved to that part of the brain deep inside that tends to work on instinct instead of consciously.
And so a lot of our sinful behavior isnít really from satan (per se)... as much as itís just the habits we have fallen into and developed over time...stuff we have done so much that it is just the way we respond by instinct without a lot of conscious thought going into it.
EVERYTHING I NEED
ďI have everything I need for joy!Ē Robert Reed said.
His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He canít bathe himself. He canít feed himself. He canít brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette.
Robert has cerebral palsy.
The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didnít keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didnít keep him from teaching at St. Louis Junior College or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.
And Robertís disease didnít prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.
He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language.
Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.
I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched h...
"A part of me loved war. Now, please understand, I am a peaceful man, fond of children and animals. And I believe that war should have no place in the affairs of men. But, the comradeship our platoon experienced in that war provides a moving and enduring memory in me. A comrade in war is someone you can trust with anything because you regularly trust him with your life. In war, individual possessions and advantage count for nothing. The group, the unit, the platoon is everything. A part of me loved war."
--William Broyles, Vietnam Veteran
Sermon Central Staff
WHEN TO SAVE A DROWNING MAN
Watchman Nee tells the story of his stay in China with twenty other Christians. The bathing accommodations were inadequate in the home where they were lodging, so they went for a daily dip in the river.
On one occasion, one of the men got a cramp in his leg and began sinking fast. Mr. Nee motioned to one of the other men, who was an excellent swimmer, about the drowning man. To his astonishment, however, the man did not move. He just stood there and watched the drowning man.
Mr. Nee was agitated, but the swimmer was calm and collected. Meanwhile, the voice of the drowning man grew fainter and more desperate. Mr. Nee hated the swimmer who just stood and watched on the shore when he could have jumped into the river and rescued the drowning man. As the drowning man went under for what looked like the last time, the swimmer was there in a moment, and both were soon safely on shore.
After the rescue, Mr. Nee chewed out the swimmer, accusing him of loving his life too much and being selfish. The response of the swimmer revealed, however, he knew what he was doing. He told Watchman that if he had gone too soon, the drowning man would have put a death grip on him and they would have both drowned in the river, and he was right. He told Mr. Nee that a drowning man cannot be saved until he is utterly exhausted and ceases to make the slightest effort to save himself.
Such is the case with our salvation. When we stop trying to save ourselves, then the Lord can step in and save us when we yield to Him. When you see the struggle that is a sign that youíre sensitive to sin and that is where God can help you.
(From a sermon by Daniel Darling, The Monster Inside - Saying No To Yourself, 2/1/2011)