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Sometime ago a man who was Pastor in a large church, very successful in everything he did except one thing – the most important thing. He was failing in his marriage. The reason was, because his wife could see through him. She knew what he was really like. Not what he was like up in the pulpit, but at home. That’s where it counts. This man had written many books, served on one of the presidents staff, and from start to finish was successful except, in his own home. He knew a lot of the truth of the Word as shared here and his pastoral counselor was becoming very frustrat-ed because they weren’t making any progress. So in praying, the counselor asked the Lord, “What’s standing in the way of this man’s being broken?” The next day as they discussed that very subject, he said, “Jesus was made of no reputation, how would you like to be made of no reputation? “NO!” he said! “Why not?” He responded, “I’ve spent my whole life trying to make something out of myself.” Then he remembered he was born in a little town in the South where his Dad was the town drunk. And he was embarrassed as a child for time and time again he and his mother would go to the bars and get Dad and bring him home. He vowed as a little boy that he would restore the family name and he did. But he was failing in his marriage. And when he began to realize that he had to be made of no reputation, just as Jesus was, he got on his knees, humbled himself, and agreed -- surrendering his right.
Sermon Central Staff
CHRYSOSTOM ON ECCLESIASTES
Eutropius had fallen into disgrace. As the highest-ranking official in the Byzantine Empire (late fourth century), he served as the closest adviser to the emperor Arcadius, then ruling in Constantinople. But Eutropius abused his imperial power and aroused the anger of the empress Eudoxia, who orchestrated a campaign against him that resulted in a sentence of death.
Desperate to save his life, Eutropius slipped away from the palace and ran to the Hagia Sophia, where he clung to the altar and claimed sanctuary. Soon an angry mob of soldiers surrounded the great church, denouncing Eutropius and demanding his execution. Eventually, the crowds dispersed, but the next day was Sunday, and so they returned the following morning to see whether the pastor would give in to their demands for the execution of Eutropius.
The pastor was John Chrysostom, the famous preacher who served as the Bishop of Constantinople. As he mounted his pulpit, Chrysostom could see a church crowded with worshipers and thrill-seekers. They, in turn, could see Eutropius groveling at the altar. The great man had become a pitiable spectacle, with his teeth chattering and hopeless terror in his eyes.
The dramatic sermon Chrysostom preached that day may have been the finest he ever preached. For his text Chrysostom took Ecclesiastes 1:2 ("Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity"), and for his primary illustration he used the decline and fall of Eutropius.
Here was a man, Chrysostom noted, who had lost everything--position, wealth, freedom, safety. Only days before, he had been the second most powerful man in the world. But it was all vanity, as events had proven, for now Eutropius had become "more wretched than a chained convict, more pitiable than a menial slave, more indigent than a beggar wasting away with hunger." "Though I should try my very best," Chrysostom said, "I could never convey to you in words the agony he must be suffering, from hour to hour expecting to be butchered."
Chrysostom did not stop there, however. His purpose was not to condemn Eutropius but to save him, and also to give his listeners the gospel. To that end, he challenged his listeners to recognize the vanity of their own existence. Whether rich or poor, one day they would all have to leave their possessions behind. They too would face a day of judgment--the judgment of a holy God. Their only hope then would be the hope that they should offer to Eutropius now--mercy at the table of Christ.
The sermon must have hit its mark, for as Chrysostom came to a close, he could see tears of pity streaming down people's faces. Eutropius was spared--a life saved by the preaching of Ecclesiastes.
Because Ecclesiastes is the Word of the living God, it can have the same impact in our lives today. Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is more to life than what we can see with our eyes. Ecclesiastes warns us to live our lives in light of eternity. Ecclesiastes teaches us how to live a meaningful life.
(From a sermon by Freddy Fritz, Introduction to Ecclesiastes, 7/11/2010)
Sermon Central Staff
A man was stranded on an island. Alone for a number of years. Finally he was located and some people came ashore to rescue him. Before they took him off the island, he wanted to show them around. He took them to his hut and said "This is the home I built with my own 2 hands." Then he showed them to another building and he said "This is the church I built with my own 2 hands." Then someone in the group said "Hey, what's that building over there?" And the man replied "That's where I used to go to church."
I don't know how it is in other parts of the world, but it seems like this is the American way. 2 cars, 2 kids, a dog and half a dozen churches we used to attend.
This isn't bad necessarily. There are times when God would have us move on, take our gifts, abilities, resources and energy and use them to serve another body of believers.
But too often selfishness, pride, unforgiveness, a mentality that the church exists to meet my needs prevails and we become disgruntled, we divide and there is disunity for the wrong reasons. Disunity grieves the heart of God and brings dishonor to his name.
I read about a church where there was division and it began over an argument at a potluck supper when a lady brought a congealed salad she made with Cool Whip instead of real whipping cream.
Churches have divided over whether the pianist should sit to the right or the left side of the podium, over whether the Lord's Supper should be served from the front to the back or the back to the front, over trying to decide whether a kitchen should be a part of the church building or not.
One church split over who was the real pastor. They had two pastors. Two groups thought they each had their own guy, and both of them got up to lead a service one Sunday. Both led the singing. Both groups tried to out-sing each other. Then both pastors started preaching, trying to out-preach each other. Finally, they just broke out into fisticuffs, and the police had to come in and break it up.
This from Landover, Maryland, August 1999:
100 years of Christian fellowship, unity, and community outreach ended last Tuesday in an act of congregational discord. Holy Creek Baptist Church was split into multiple factions.
The source of dissension is a piano bench which still sits behind the 1923 Steinway piano to the left of the pulpit. Members and friends at Holy Creek Baptist say that the old bench was always a source of hostility. People should have seen this coming.
At present, Holy Creek Congregation will be having four services each Sunday. There has been an agreement mediated by an outside pastor so that each faction will have it's own separate service with it's own separate pastor. Since the head pastor is not speaking to the associate pastors, each will have their own service, which will be attended by factioned members. The services are far enough apart that neither group will come into contact with the other. An outside party will be moving the piano bench to different locations and appropriate positions, between services, so as to please both sides, and avoid any further conflict that could result in violence.
(From a sermon by Bret Toman, Unity For the Glory of God, 1/3/2011)
The Unbaptized Arm
Ivan the Great was the tsar of all of Russia during the Fifteenth Century. He brought together the warring tribes into one vast empire--the Soviet Union. As a fighting man he was courageous. As a general he was brilliant. He drove out the Tartars and established peace across the nation.
However, Ivan was so busy waging his campaigns that he did not have a family. His friends and advisers were quite concerned. They reminded him that there was no heir to the throne, and should anything happen to him the union would shatter into chaos. "You must take a wife who can bear you a son." The busy soldier statesman said to them that he did not have the time to search for a bride, but if they would find a suitable one, he would marry her.
The counselors and advisers searched the capitals of Europe to find an appropriate wife for the great tsar. And find her, they did. They reported to Ivan of the beautiful dark eyed daughter of the King of Greece. She was young, brilliant, and charming. He agreed to marry her sight unseen.
The King of Greece was delighted. It would align Greece in a favorable way with the emerging giant of the north. But there had to be one condition, "He cannot marry my daughter unless he becomes a member of the Greek Orthodox Church." Ivan’s response, "I will do it!"
So, a priest was dispatched to Moscow to instruct Ivan in Orthodox doctrine. Ivan was a quick student and learned the catechism in record time. Arrangements were concluded, and the tsar made his way to Athens accompanied by 500 of his crack troops--his personal palace guard.
He was to be baptized into the Orthodox church by immersion, as was the custom of the Eastern Church. His soldiers, ever loyal, asked to be baptized also. The Patriarch of the Church assigned 500 priests to give the soldiers a one-on-one catechism crash course. The soldiers, all 500 of them, were to be immersed in one mass baptism. Crowds gathered from all over Greece.
What a sight that must have been, 500 priests and 500 soldiers, a thousand people, walking into the blue Mediterranean. The priests were dressed in black robes and tall black hats, the official dress of the Orthodox Church. The soldiers wore their battle uniforms with of all their regalia--ribbons of valor, medals of courage. and their weapons of battle.
Suddenly, there was a problem. The Church prohibited professional soldiers from being members; they w...
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Origin of Taps -
“Reportedly, it all began in 1862 during the Civil War when Union Army Captain Robert Ellicombe was with his men near Harrison’s Landing in Virginia. The Confederate Army was on the other side of the narrow strip of land. During the night, Captain Ellicombe heard the moans of a soldier who lay severely wounded on the field. Not knowing if it was a Union or Confederate soldier, the captain decided to risk his life and bring the stricken man back for medical attention. Crawling on his stomach, the captain reached the stricken soldier and began pulling him toward his encampment.
When the captain finally reached his own lines, he discovered it was actually a Confederate soldier, but the soldier was dead. The captain lit a lantern and suddenly caught his breath and went numb with shock. In the dim light, he saw the face of the soldier. It was his own son. The boy had been studying music in the South when the war broke out. Without telling his father, the boy enlisted in the Confederate Army.
The following morning, heartbroken, the father asked permission of his superiors to give his son a full military burial despite his enemy status.
His request was only partially granted. The captain had asked if he could have a group of army band members play a funeral dirge for his son at the funeral. The request was turned down since the soldier was a Confederate. But, out of respect for the father, they did say he could have one musician play.
The captain chose a bugler, and he asked the bugler to play a series of musical notes he had found on a piece of paper in the pocket of the dead youth’s uniform. This wish was granted, The haunting melody we now know as “Taps,” used at military funerals, was born.
Source: Pulpit Helps (July 2001) article written by:
Diane O. Sides
Missouri State University, Cape Girardeau, MO
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Henry Ward Beecher was one of the great preachers of the 19th Century. He was ill one Sunday, so a substitute pastor walked up to the pulpit as the worship service began. Seeing that Dr. Beecher would not be speaking that day, a number of people got up and headed for the door. The substitute preacher said, "All those who came to worship Dr. Beecher this morning may leave. All those who came to worship the Lord, may stay in their seats." Everyone sat back down.
Many years ago Charles G. Finney was preaching in Rochester, New York. Far up in the balcony was a brilliant and able lawyer. He was chief justice of the
court of New York. As he listened to the minister, he became convicted of his need to follow Christ. "That man is speaking the truth," he said to himself. "I ought to act up on it. Here and now I ought to make a public confession of Jesus Christ." But there was another voice that spoke, reminding him of the prominent position he held, also how humiliating it would be for him to go forward and make his confession just as any ordinary sinner. "But why not?" came the more manly voice! Then, lest his cowardice might get the better of him, while the minister was still speaking, he arose and went down the stairway and the long aisle. He stepped into the pulpit, plucked the minister by the sleeve, and said, "If you will call for decisions for Christ now, I am ready to come." By that courageous decision he not only found Christ for himself, but was the means of helping to bring a new spiritual springtime to his entire city.
A parable is told of a community of ducks waddling off to duck church one Sunday to hear their duck preacher. After they waddled into the duck sanctuary, the service began and the duck preacher spoke eloquently of how God had given the ducks wings with which to fly.
He pounded the pulpit with his beak and said,
With these wings, there is nowhere we ducks can not go!
There is no God-given task we ducks cannot accomplish!
With these wings we no longer need walk through life.
We can soar high in the sky!
Shouts of Amen!¨ were quacked throughout the duck congregation.
The duck preacher concluded his message by exclaiming,
With our wings we can fly through life!
WE......CAN.....FLY!!!!¨ More ducks quacked out loud AMENS! in response.
Every duck loved the service.
In fact all the ducks that were ...
The phone rang. Dad put down his garden tools, wiped the sweat from his face and rushed into the house to grab the phone before its final ring. With his mind on his Saturday morning chores, he didn’t notice the sliding glass patio door was closed.
Mom found him in a pool of blood with glass chards laying beside him. Frantically, Mom called 911. The dispatcher couldn’t send any help, it seems that my parent’s address was on the wrong side of an arbitrary bureaucratic line. Mom would have to call someone else.
Afraid there wasn’t enough time to make another phone call, Mom managed to get Dad in the front seat of the car to take him to the hospital herself. Instead of getting on the freeway and driving to downtown Ft. Worth, she took a side street to a hospital that was closer.
Traffic was heavy. Blood was pouring into the floorboard of the car. Time slowed down. Dad was bleeding to death. Mom was desperate.
My Dad was dying and Mom felt helpless. Traffic was at a standstill. Mom saw the looks on the driver’s faces as they pointed to the bleeding man, her husband in the car next to them. She honked the horn, but no one pulled over to let her by. No one offered to help. At that moment she would have done anything to get Dad the help he needed. It was surreal. The strong man who had always provided for her and always protected her was wilting away before her very eyes. He needed help. She had to get him some help.
I can only imagine my Mom’s relief as she turned into the entry way of the emergency room at the hospital. Attendants put Dad on a Gurney and wheeled him in. I was a freshman in college when this all happened. I can still remember the tremor in my Mother’s voice when she called to tell me about it.
Dad was pretty beat up. His face was scarred and the glass had cut a major blood vessel in his leg. In the early hours, it looked like he would live, but the doctors weren’t sure if they could save Dad’s leg.
Dad was confined to a wheel chair when he went home, but he kept serving the Lord. Each week, some men from the church would help him get up on stage and he would preach his sermon. One Sunday, he forgot about his leg and walked to the pulpit, stood and began preaching. The congregation gasped. God healed him. He never used the wheelchair again.
Dad doesn’t talk about his healing much. While acknowledging the fact that God performed a miracle in his life, saved his leg and healed his body, he prefers to talk about a greater miracle. The day God saved his soul and made him a new man.
OPENING ILLUSTRATION… Mother’s Day Background, Pulpit Helps 1991
It was a woman named Anna M. Jarvis who first suggested the national observance of an annual day honoring all mothers because she had loved her own mother so dearly. At a memorial service for her mother on May 10, 1908, Miss Jarvis gave a carnation (her mother’s favorite flower) to each person who attended.
Within the next few years, the idea of a day to honor mothers gained popularity, and Mother’s Day was observed in a number of large cities in the U.S. On May 9, 1914, by an act of Congress, President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day. He established the day as a time for "public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."