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1 Peter 1:13-1:25
A Nation of Bible Illiterates
George Barna wrote The State of the Church in 2002. Barna conducted a survey of self-pronounced Christians and here’s what he found about their knowledge of the Bible. These are Christians.
• 48% could not name the four Gospels.
• 52% cannot identify more than two or three of Jesus’ disciples.
• 60% of American Christians can’t name even five of the 10 Commandments.
• 61% of American Christians think the Sermon on the Mount was preached by Billy Graham.
• 71% of American Christians think “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse.
George Barna said, "Americans revere the Bible, but by and large they don’t know what it says. And because they don’t know it, they have become a nation of biblical illiterates."
Just as the people in this Barna poll are woefully biblical illiterate, Christians are far too ignorant of the Word of God. No wonder 21st century Christians are failing to finish their marathon race. No wonder Christians by the thousands are falling prey to the false teachers of our day. They are being feed junk food and don’t feed themselves on the Word of God. They are desperately in need of a solid diet of good food, Scripture. We need to get into "spiritual shape"!
Sermon Central Staff
JUST FOLLOW DIRECTIONS
Robert Kupferschmid was an 81-year old man who had no flying experience. However, due to a tragic emergency, he was forced to fly an airplane. On June 17, 1998, he and his 52-year-old pilot friend, Wesley Sickle, were flying from Indianapolis to Muncie, Indiana. During the flight, the pilot slumped over and died at the controls. The Cessna 172 single-engine plane began to nose-dive and Kupferschmid grabbed the controls. He got on the radio and pleaded for help.
Nearby were two pilots who heard the call. Mount Comfort was the closest airport, and the two pilots gave Kupferschmid a steady stream of instructions of climbing, steering, and the scariest part: landing. The two experienced pilots circled the runway three times before this somewhat frantic and totally inexperienced pilot was ready to attempt the landing.
Emergency vehicles were called out and ready for what seemed like an approaching disaster. Witnesses said the plane's nose nudged the center line and bounced a few times before the tail hit the ground. The Cessna ended up in a patch of soggy grass next to the runway. Amazingly, Kupferschmid was not injured. He listened and followed those instructions as if his life depended on it--and it did.
When biblical faith is rightly understood and applied, it doesn't matter how many doubts we have. It doesn't even matter if we're convinced that all is lost. What does matter is whether we have enough faith (even the size of a mustard seed) to follow God's instructions. Those who do, get where they're supposed to go. Those who don't end up lost somewhere far from home.
(From a sermon by Michael Luke, Faith Can Fix Anything, 10/1/2010)
Sermon Central Staff
THE RING OF SALVATION
It began at West Point in 1835. It is a practice that has endured almost 200 years. You may have chosen to obtain one, and undoubtedly you waited anxiously for it to arrive. Others of you weren’t really that into it and decided to pass. Some of you in the room may still wear it proudly as a pronouncement of accomplishment. Some of you may have simply discarded it into a drawer to be forgotten. You may have used it is to symbolize commitment or exclusiveness. When it was returned to you it may have been accompanied by pain and even a steady stream of tears. However, you would never have ascribed the power of life and death to this high school tradition.
Who knew that this tradition would also become the story of Easter?
You know the Easter Story or you wouldn’t be here today. The story of God who sent His Son to become man to die for us. A Son who bears our burden of our sin and becomes the great sacrifice. A Son who defeats death and comes to life again.
Most of us have heard it until we have become numb to it, but perhaps if I tell you the story a little differently today.
"By all rules, Skinner was a dead man." With these words Arthur Bressi begins his retelling of the day he found his best friend in a World War II Japanese concentration camp.
The two were high school buddies. They grew up together in Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania---playing ball, skipping school, double-dating. Arthur and Skinner were inseparable. It made sense, then, that when one joined the army, the other would as well. They rode the same troopship to the Philippines. That’s where they were separated. Skinner was on a rescue mission when Bataan fell to the Japanese in 1942. Arthur Bressi was captured a month later.
Through the prison grapevine, Arthur learned the whereabouts of his friend. Skinner was near death in a nearby camp. Arthur volunteered for work detail in the hope that his company might pass through the other camp. One day they did.
Arthur requested and was granted five minutes to find and speak to his friend. He knew to go to the sick side of the camp. It was divided into two sections--one for those expected to recover, the other for those given no hope. Those expected to die lived in a barracks called "zero ward." That’s where Arthur found Skinner. He called his name, and out of the barracks walked the seventy-nine-pound shadow of the friend he had once known. He writes:
"I stood at the wire fence of the Japanese prisoner-of-war camp on Luzon and watched my childhood buddy, caked in filth and racked with the pain of multiple diseases, totter toward me. He was dead; only his boisterous spirit hadn’t left his body. I wanted to look away, but couldn’t. His blue eyes, watery and dulled, locked on me and wouldn’t let go.
"Malaria. Dysentery. Pellagra. Scurvy. Beriberi. Skinner’s body was a dormitory for tropical diseases. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t drink. He was nearly gone."
Arthur didn’t know what to do or say. His five minutes were nearly up. He began to finger the heavy knot of the handkerchief tied around his neck. In it was his high-school class ring. At the risk of punishment, he’d smuggled the ring into camp. Knowing the likelihood of catching a disease and the scarcity of treatment, he had been saving it to barter for medicine or food for himself. But one look at Skinner, and he knew he couldn’t save it any longer.
As he told his friend good-bye, he slipped the ring through the fence into Skinner’s frail hand and told him to "wheel and deal" with it. Skinner objected, but Arthur insisted. He turned and left, not knowing if he would ever see his friend alive again.
Skinner took the ring and buried it in the barracks floor.
The next day he took the biggest risk of his life. He approached the "kindest" of the guards and passed him the ring through the fence. The guard asked, "Is it valuable?" Skinner assured him that it was. The soldier smiled and slipped the ring into his pocket and left.
A couple of days later he walked past Skinner and let a packet drop at his feet. Sulfanilamide tablets. A day later he returned with limes to combat the scurvy. Then came a new pair of pants and some canned beef.
Within three weeks Skinner was on his feet. Within three months he was taken to the healthy side of the sick camp. In time he was able to work. As far as Skinner knew, he was the only American ever to leave the Zero Ward alive.
The ring elevated his position in the camp. The ring secured restoration. The ring brought provision. The common class ring brought salvation.
That is the Easter Story! Arthur’s ring is the perfect illustration of what happened at Easter. However, there is another ring account that also communicates the power of Easter to us.
Skinner attempted to refuse the very ring that would ultimately save his life. He almost declined the life-giving gift his friend could give him.
I wonder if there are some here that have refused the gift of life that Christ has tried to provide for you? It is the greatest gift a loving father could ever extend to you . . . the gift of His eternal love! If you don’t accept the great gift of His love you are doomed to death in bondage.
Skinner leveraged the ring and it gained him privileges and a new lease on life. I wonder if maybe you are here today and even though you have taken hold of the ring of salvation you have failed to leverage the authority, provision, and the freedom that such a relationship with Christ can afford? You are saved, but you are still living in the prison! The ring of Christ’s love and resurrected life can bring complete and total freedom today.
(From a sermon by Charles Sligh, Fellowship of the Ring, 4/20/2011)
A LITTLE GIRL’S PRAYER
One night I had worked hard to help a mother in the labor ward; but in spite of all we could do she died, leaving us with a tiny premature baby and a crying two-year-old daughter. We would have difficulty keeping the baby alive, as we had no incubator (we had no electricity to run an incubator) and no special feeding facilities.
Although we lived on the equator, nights were often chilly with treacherous drafts. One student midwife went for the box we had for such babies and the cotton wool the baby would be wrapped in. Another went to stoke up the fire and fill a hot water bottle. She came back shortly in distress to tell me that in filling the bottle, it had burst. Rubber perishes easily in tropical climates. "And it is our last hot water bottle!" she exclaimed.
As in the West it is no good crying over spilled milk, so in Central Africa it might be considered no good crying over burst water bottles. They do not grow on trees, and there are no drugstores down forest pathways.
"All right," I said, "Put the baby as near the fire as you safely can; sleep between the baby and the door to keep it free from drafts. Your job is to keep the baby warm."
The following noon, as I did most days, I went to have prayers with any of the orphanage children who chose to gather with me. I gave the youngsters various suggestions of things to pray about and told them about the tiny baby. I explained our problem about keeping the baby warm enough, mentioning the hot water bottle. The baby could so easily die if it got chills. I also told them of the two-year-old sister, crying because her mother had died.
During the prayer time, one ten-year-old girl, Ruth, prayed with the usual blunt conciseness of our African children. "Please, God," she prayed, "send us a water bottle. It’ll be no good tomorrow, God, as the baby’ll be dead, so please send it this afternoon."
While I gasped inwardly at the audacity of the prayer, she added by way of corollary, "And while You are about it, would You please send a dolly for the little girl so she’ll know You really love her?"
As often with children’s prayers, I was put on the spot. Could I honestly say, "Amen"? I just did not believe that God could do this. Oh, yes, I know that He can do everything. The Bible says so. But there are limits, aren’t there? The only way God could answer this particular prayer would be by sending me a parcel from the homeland. I had been in Africa for almost four years at that time, and I had never, ever, received a parcel from home; anyway, if anyone did send me a parcel, who would put in a hot water bottle? I lived on the equator!
Halfway through the afternoon, while I was teaching in the nurses’ training school, a message was sent that there was a car at my front door. By the time I reached home, the car had gone, but there, on the veranda, was a large twenty-two pound parcel. I felt tears pricking my eyes. I could not open the parcel alone, so I sent for the orphanage children. Together we pulled off the string, carefully undoing each knot. We folded the paper, taking care not to tear it unduly. Excitement was mounting. Some thirty or forty pairs of eyes were focused on the large cardboard box.
From the top, I lifted out brightly colored, knitted jerseys; eyes sparkled as I pulled them out. Then there were the knitted bandages for the leprosy patients, and the children looked a little bored. Then came a box of mixed raisins and sultanas --- that would make a nice batch of buns for the week...
In his best selling book called, "Into Thin Air," Jon Krakauer relates the hazards that plagued some climbers as they attempted to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Andy Harris, one of the expedition leaders stayed at the peak too long and on his descent, he became in dire need of oxygen. Harris radioed the base camp and told them about his predicament. He mentioned that he had come across a cache of oxygen canisters left by the other climbers but they were all empty. The climbers who already passed the canisters on their own descent knew they were not empty, but full. They pleaded with him on the radio to make use of them but it was to no avail. Harris was starved for oxygen but he continued to argue that the canisters were empty.
The problem was that the lack of what he needed had so disoriented his mind that though he was surrounded by something that would give him life, he continued to complain of its absence. The lack of oxygen had ravaged his capacity to recognize what was right in front of him.
Friends, what oxygen is to the body, the Bread of Life is to the soul. Some of us are suffocating and starving and we don’t even know it. Jesus is offering life to us while we run around trying to appease our appetites. We will never be filled until we take of the Bread and Water of life, Jesus Christ.
Donnie De loney
ILLUSTRTATION: ARE YOU A CHRISTIAN?
Addressing a national seminar of Southern Baptist leaders, George Gallup said, "We find there is very little difference in ethical behavior between churchgoers and those who are not active religiously...The levels of lying, cheating, and stealing are remarkable similar in both groups.
Eight out of ten Americans consider themselves Christians, Gallup said, yet only about half of them could identify the person who gave the Sermon on the Mount, and fewer still could recall five of the Ten Commandments. Only two in ten said they would be willing to suffer for their faith.
SOURCE: Erwin Lutzer, Pastor to Pastor, p. 76
MANY MEN OF SCIENCE, TOO FEW MEN OF GOD
In 1948, at an Armistice Celebration, (Armistice was the declaration of peace at the end of World War I) it was declared on November 11 at 11.00 am. So 11, 11 at 11. They did that symbolically because they felt that they were at the eleventh hour. They actually felt if the war continued, the whole world would be destroyed by it. Over 20 million people were killed in World War I. It was the bloodiest, most destructive war in history up until that time. So they declared an Armistice. Even till today some celebrate that.
Omar Bradley, one of the Generals in World War II went to World War I and he remembered it as a young man. He served in the army in the US, became a General. He actually led one of the largest armies in history during World War II. He spoke at an Armistice Day in Boston, Massachusetts in 1948. He said,
"With the monstrous weapons man already has, humanity is in danger of being trapped in this world by its moral adolescents. Our knowledge of science has clearly outstripped our capacity to control it. We have many men of science; too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Man is stumbling blindly through a spiritual darkness while toying with the precarious secrets of life and death. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom, power without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.
This is our twentieth century's claim to distinction and to progress."
In the middle of 20th century, he makes this commentary and I think that history has borne his testimony to be true. After he made this speech, we had the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the whole group of other wars in the world. We do not know how to make peace.
If we are going to move into the twenty first century in confidence, if we want to give hope to our children and next generation, it must come through our commitment to our being in Christ and seeing character developed in ourselves, so that His light can shine in this very dark world.
One of America’s greatest poets is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The year 1860 found Longfellow happy in his life, enjoying a widening recognition, and elated over the election of Abraham Lincoln which he believed signaled the triumph of freedom and redemption for the nation.
The following year the Civil War began. On July 9, 1861 Longfellow’s wife, Fanny, was near an open window sealing locks of her daughter’s hair, using hot sealing wax. Suddenly her dress caught fire and engulfed her with flames. Her husband, sleeping in the next room, was awaked by her screams. As he desperately tried to put out the fire and save his wife, he was severely burned on his face and hands.
Fanny died the next day. Longfellow’s severe burns would not even allow him to attend Fanny’s funeral. His white beard, which so identified with him, was one of the results of the tragedy – the burn scars on his face made shaving almost impossible. In his diary for Christmas day 1861 he wrote, “How inexpressibly sad are the holidays.”
In 1862 the toll of war dead began to mount and in his diary for that year Longfellow wrote of Christmas, “A merry Christmas say the children, but that is no more for me.”
In 1863 his son who had run away to join the Union army was severely wounded and returned home in December. There is no entry in Longfellow’s diary for that Christmas.
But on Christmas Day 1864 – at age 57 – Longfellow sat down to try to capture, if possible, the joy of the season. He began:
I heard the bells on Christmas day.
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
As he came to the third stanza, he was stopped by the thought of the condition of his beloved country. The Battle of Gettysburg was not long past. Days looked dark, and he probably asked himself the question, “How can I write about peace on earth, good will to men in this war-torn country, where brother fights against brother and father against son?” But...
Recently a Baptist Pastor in Illinois received a visit from the FBI. They came in response to an anonymous caller who took issue with something the Pastor said in his sermon. According to the Baptist Press news service, “Nov. 23, 2004, started out like any other normal morning for Randy Steele, senior pastor at Southwest Christian Church in Mount Vernon, Ill., a town about 80 miles southeast of St. Louis… [until]… the phone rang. It was the FBI. Steele said they wanted to meet with him personally…. When two FBI agents arrived at the church, Steele said they traded small talk for a few minutes before the suspense got to him and he asked about the nature of their visit. Their answer stunned him. “One guy opened a file,” Steele said. And he said, “’This is pertaining to a sermon that you preached on Memorial Day.’” On Memorial Day 2004, Steele was in the middle of preaching a sermon series he called Life Issues dealing with controversial cultural issues from a biblical perspective. One such sermon was about abortion and Steele chose Memorial Day to preach about it. “I shared the number of people who have died in wars versus the number who had died through legal abortion since 1973, Steele said. “I stated that we are in a different type of war that is being fought under the ’presupposition of freedom.” Steele said that he went on to name an abortion clinic in Granite City, Ill., a city just outside St. Louis, and pointed out that they perform as many as 45 abortions per week. Somebody in the church that day apparently misunderstood Steele’s different type of war comment to mean that he was actually calling his congregation to a physical war against abortion clinics, so he or she placed an anonymous phone call to the FBI. (Now, don’t any of you get any ideas) This informant allegedly told the FBI that in addition to Steele calling for a war against abortion clinics, he also said he was willing to go to jail over such a cause. Steele said that he had spoken about his willingness to go to jail, but that he made those remarks in a different sermon that dealt with homosexuality from the same sermon series. “I had mentioned a pastor in Canada who had been arrested for speaking about homosexuality in his church,” Steele said. “The pastor said he went on to tell his congregation that if speaking the truth means that we go to jail, then by golly, that’s where I’m going to be and I’m going to save you a seat next to me.” “That was the major gist of why [the FBI] felt like they could come here and look through my sermons,” Pastor Steele reported. ….Steele said that after the two FBI agents examined his two sermons in question, they realized he was not a physical threat to abortion clinics and apparently dropped their investigation. …Pastor Steele said he was initially a little irritated that the FBI would ask to see his sermons, especially since he had to take time away from the grieving family in his congregation to answer questions, but he said he has no plans to stop preaching messages that are culturally relevant. “As a pastor I believe that as Christians we are called to speak the truth no matter what,” Steele said. “And we have to continue to speak that truth in love to all people and to share the message of Christ because it’s the only message that’s going to change the lives of people.” Like this Pastor, the message of Jesus was controversial in his day. If Jesus were around today I am certain the FBI would question him about some of the things he said.
THE TRUTH OF THE BOOK
John Ortberg states
"It’s a strange thing: the book has never been so accessible. According to Guinness Book of Records, L. Ron Hubbard’s writings of scientology have been translated into 65 languages; the Koran is supposed to be read in Arabic so it hasn’t been translated as much; the Book of Mormon is in about 100 languages. But 2,656 languages have all or some of the Bible. Some 65 million copies of the Bible are brought or distributed in the U.S. every year--nothing else is a close second. The average house has at least three. People cheer the Bible, buy the Bible, give the Bible, own the Bible-they just don’t actually read the Bible. According to George Gallup: One Third of those surveyed know who delivered the Sermon on the Mount. Fewer than half can name the first book of the Bible; 80 percent of born-again Christians believe the phrase Go helps those who help themselves is in the Bible (it’s Ben Franklin, if you’re curious). So I’m thinking a lot these days about how to help the people that God brings my way to know and love the book" (Article People of The Book, pages 37-40 from Leadership Edition Winter 2008).