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A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning, Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer and soon invited him to live with our family. The stranger was quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world a few months later.
As I grew up, I never questioned his place in our family. Mom taught me to love the Word of God. Dad taught me to obey it. But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spellbound for hours each evening.
He was like a friend to the whole family. He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies, and he even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie stars. The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind but sometimes Mom would quietly get up—while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places—and go to her room and read her Bible and pray. I wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave. My Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions. But this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them.
Profanity was not allowed in our house—not from us, our friends, or adults. Our longtime visitor, however, used occasional four-letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge, the stranger was never confronted. Dad didn’t permit alcohol in his home. But the stranger enlightened us to other ways of life. He often offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages. He made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes distinguished.
He talked freely about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my early concepts of the man/woman relationship were influenced by the stranger.
I believe it was only by the grace of God the stranger did not influence us even more. Time after time he opposed my parents’ values. Yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave. More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved in with the young family on Morningside Drive.
But if I were to walk into my parents’ home today, I would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his pictures. His name? We always called him TV.
During a trial, in a small Missouri town, the local prosecuting attorney called his first witness to the stand. The witness was a proper well-dressed elderly lady, the Grandmother type, well spoken, and poised. She was sworn in, asked if she would tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, on the Bible, so help her God.
The prosecuting attorney approached the woman and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know me?’” She responded, “Why, yes I do know you, Mr. Williams. I’ve known you since you were a young boy and frankly, you’ve been a big disappointment to me. You lie, cheat on your wife, manipulate people and talk badly about them behind their backs. You think you’re a rising big shot when you haven’t the sense to realize you never will amount to anything more than a two-bit paper-pushing shyster. Yes, I know you quite well.”
The lawyer was stunned. Not knowing what else to do, he pointed across the room and asked, “Mrs. Jones, do you know the defense attorney?”
She again replied, “Why, yes, I do. I’ve known Mr. Bradley since he was a youngster, too. He’s lazy, bigoted, has a bad drinking problem. The man can’t build or keep a normal relationship with anyone and his law practice is one of the worst in the entire state. Not to mention he cheated on his wife with three different women. Yes, I know him.”
The defense attorney almost fainted. Laughter mixed with gasps, thundered throughout the courtroom and the audience was on the verge of chaos.
At this point, the judge brought the courtroom to silence, called both counselors to the bench, and in a very quiet voice said, “If either of you morons asks her if she knows me, you’re going to jail.”
Sermon: THE DAY BEFORE ETERNITY
Scope: This sermon should challenge every listener to examine their relationship with Christ.
Summary: In light of the fact that we may be living in the day before eternity we should use our time, talents, and treasures to glorify God.
Segue: I want to share some truths with you that will prepare you for life and eternal life.
Introduction: John was born in 1917 in Brookline, Massachusetts. He attended school at Harvard University. He was the author of two books. One was his thesis at Harvard, which was entitled Why England Slept. The other was Profiles in Courage, which won him a Pulitzer Price.
He was the Captain of a PT boat in World War II, and was decorated for his heroic rescue of the crew of his PT -- 109 after it was sunk. He was sunk. He was nominated for the Presidency with Lyndon Johnson as his running mate in 1960. His platform was formed from this statement: "We stand today on the edge of a new frontier."
John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected as the 35th President of the United States. JFK was 43 years old when he became president making him the youngest man to ever be elected president. We all know the rest of the story. While traveling through Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated.
I didn't know John F. Kennedy. I was not even born when he was assassinated. All I have to go by is what history has recorded for us. However, there is one thing I am pretty sure about this man. I am pretty sure he never intended for November 22, 1963 to be the day before eternity.
Robert Green was born June 5th, 1935. After high school he joined the US Navy from which he retired. He was a good husband, a wonderful father of two children, and the best uncle a boy could have ever had. After retiring from the Navy, Uncle Bobby settled his family in Panama City Florida where he worked as a Cable Television Technician. On September 16th, 1982, at the age of 47, Uncle Bobby fell dead from a heart attack while at work. I knew my Uncle Bobby very well. He was a man who rarely got sick. I know that he never expected September 16th, 1982 to be his day before eternity.
Lester Lecroy was one of twelve children. He grew up in a home of very meager means. He was a rambunctious, but dependable young man. While cooling off after a hard days work in a creek at a little place we called the Iron Bridge on Cotton Hill Road in Eufaula, Alabama Lester Lecroy lost his life at age 16. I knew Lester Lecroy. I know that he never thought that dreadful day would be his day before eternity.
Whether well-known or unknown, we are no different than any of the three men mentioned earlier. God's Word tells us that no one of us is promised tomorrow. In fact we do not know what the next breath may bring.
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...
J. Michael Shannon tells how some young people put up a web site to encourage atheism. The site invited people to dare God to send them to hell. More than 400 young people took the challenge. People who took the challenge received a free copy of documentation that promotes atheism, entitled "The God Who Wasn’t There." Shannon tells how one man filmed his declaration in the back of a church during a worship service. The site, www.blasphemychallenge.com, is the brainchild of filmmaker Brian Fleming, and founder of the web site "Rational Responders."
Sermon Central Staff
THE GRADUAL ROAD TO HELL
In C.S. Lewis’ book The Screwtape Letters, we read the story of an older demon counseling a younger demon. At one point in the book, we read these words:
"You will say that these are very small sins, and doubtless, like all young tempters, you are anxious to be able to report spectacular wickedness. But do remember, the only thing that matters is the extent to which you separate the man from the Enemy [God]. It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to keep the man away from the Light.… Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts."
(From a sermon by Billy Ricks, Perspective: The Destructive Power of Sin, 8/14/2011)
THE CATERPILLAR JOURNEY
I heard a quote in college that struck me: "The caterpillar is the most confused creature which roams the planet, because undoubtedly stamped in his soul is the call to fly."
Caterpillars must go through four stages before their metamorphosis is complete. They begin as eggs, next they hatch as caterpillars, then they go through a stage where they eat, and eat, and eat some more. Eventually, they become a chrysalis before the transformation is complete and they can finally emerge as a beautiful butterfly.
The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3: 1 "To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven." Often, we want to walk straight into the calling God has for us. We want to do and be everything God wants us to be and not only that, but we want to skip the journey that takes us there and do it NOW! We want to go from being caterpillar eggs to butterflies! However, we all know that there are risks to anything being born prematurely. In order for anything to be birthed, whether it is a vision or a calling, we who are to fulfill it must go on a journey. We must go through stages and seasons of preparation.
For weeks, our class would observe the caterpillars I had ordered. We would begin to notice that each day they would crawl to the top of the aquarium and stand upside down. It was as though they were saying "Is today the day? Is today the day my transformation will begin?" When they realized it wasn't, they would walk back down and eat the day away. Every morning upon returning to the classroom, we would always be amazed at how much the caterpillars had grown.
Sometimes our lives can reach a point where they seem routine and mundane. Like the caterpillars, we are walking up and down, up and down. We may feel bored with where we are, like God has forgotten us, or as though we are not accomplishing much with our lives. We go through the day wondering. Is this the day? If we find it's not, our response should be like the caterpillars. It's not the day, but God has promised it, so I'm going to prepare for it nonetheless! We should eat, and eat, and eat from the Word of God. We should spend daily time in prayer and worship. We should be building, preparing, and strengthening our spirit man to accomplish the things which God has stamped on our souls to do.
After about two weeks, we would usually come to class one morning to find that many of the caterpillars had formed a chrysalis. From the outside of the chrysalis, it always seemed to my students as though nothing were happening. After a while, they would lose interest in the chrysalis. It wasn't fun to watch, and it wasn't spectacular to look at.
I'm convinced that like the caterpillar, God wants to take us on a journey. I'm convinced there is a process. Job said "For He knows the way that I take, and when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold." Sometimes there is pain in the process. Sometimes the journey is difficult, but God knows and sees exactly where you are. When others look and see an ugly cocoon, He looks inside and sees the beautiful creature that is being transformed. Before David became king of Israel, he was first a shepherd boy. Some of his brothers were more handsome than him and greater in stature, but God did not choose them. In the Bible God spoke in 1 Samuel 16: 7 concerning David "for the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart." God chose the young, ruddy shepherd boy who had a heart after Him. All those years David spent alone in the field, God was preparing him. Don't despise the cocoon. God may simply be waiting for your character to catch up with your calling.
It is in the difficult process of breaking out of the chrysalis that the butterfly becomes strong. However, if the caterpillar breaks its way out of the cocoon prematurely, he will never survive. His wings will not be developed enough to allow him to properly fly. God does not want us to simply arrive at our calling, He desires for us to be successful in it. You may be a caterpillar with the word 'butterfly' stamped on your forehead wondering "When is it going to happen?" Consider this thought.is it possible that you have yet to visit the cocoon? If you're having trouble waiting for the moment that you break out into your calling, just remember. "He has made everything beautiful in HIS time." (Ecclesiastes 3: 11)
Dr. S.M. Lockridge was the Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, San Diego CA from 1953 - 1993. He entered heaven in 2000. He is well-known for a passage out of his sermon titled “He’s My King”:
“He’s enduringly strong, He’s entirely sincere, He’s eternally steadfast. He’s immortally graceful. He’s imperially powerful. He’s impartially merciful. He’s God’s Son. He’s a sinner’s savior. He’s the centerpiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He’s unparalleled. He’s unprecedented. He’s supreme. He’s preeminent. He’s the loftiest idea in literature. He’s the highest idea in philosophy. He’s the fundamental truth in theology. He’s the miracle of the age. He’s the only one able to supply all of our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He’s available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He guards and He guides. He heals the sick, He cleans the lepers. He forgives sinners, He discharges debtors, He delivers captives, He defends the feeble, He blesses the young, He serves the unfortunate, He regards the aged, He rewards the diligent, He beautifies the meek. Do you know Him?
Well, my king is the king of knowledge, He’s the well-spring of wisdom, He’s the doorway of deliverance, He’s the pathway of peace, He’s the roadway of righteousness, He’s the highway of holiness He’s the gateway of glory, He’s the master of the mighty, He’s the captain of the conquerors, He’s the head of the heroes, He’s the leader of the legislators, He’s the overseer of the overcomers, He’s the governor of governors, He’s the prince of princes, He’s the king of Kings and the Lord of Lords.
His life is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. Well. I wish I could describe Him to you. But He’s indescribable. Yes. He’s incomprehensible. He’s invincible, He’s irresistible. I’m trying to tell you, the Heavens cannot contain Him, let alone a man explain Him. You can’t get Him out of your mind. You can’t get Him off of your hands. You can’t outlive Him, and you can’t live without Him. Well. The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him, but they found out they couldn’t stop Him. Pilate coul...
The Spirit of Power that we receive is not like the human power that we recognize as strong. It’s a power unlike anything we can do on our own.
A young man growing up in the wrong part of Houston became a bully. He would get in fights in school, in the neighborhood, and began mugging people to get spending money. He even beat up people just for the sake of doing it.
He learned to box, and became pretty good at it. He began to make a lot of money and could have almost anything he wanted. One day, during his training session for an upcoming bout, he heard his mom talking to his sister on the telephone about his favorite nephew. The young boy had had a seizure and now lay in a coma in the hospital. Doctors said he would probably die, but that if he came out of the coma he wouldn’t be able to move his limbs, or speak, or do any of the human functions we consider part of living.
He ran into the room where his mom was on the phone and shouted, “Momma, call the hospital and tell those doctors to give him the best of everything. Tell them I’ll take care of all the bills, to fly in the best doctors from wherever they have to. Tell them who I am, and that I’ll take care of everything — whatever it costs.”
His mom spoke to the doctors, and then told him, “Son, you’re just going to have to pray.”
He realized then how grave the situation was. When someone tells you the only thing you can do is pray, things are looking pretty bad.
Then it hit him. All of his money, his fame, his influence, his friends — none of that could solve this problem. It was out of his hands, out of the doctor’s hands, out of everyone’s hands. For the first time, he was totally powerless.
And for the first time, George Foreman dropped to his knees and prayed.
He wasn’t sure God existed, but he knew that when all else failed, people prayed. He asked God, if he really existed, to help his nephew. Then he got back in bed. A few seconds later, he got back on his knees and offered to give up all his wealth if God would heal his nephew. Then he got back in bed again. A few seconds later he got back on his knees a third time and got angry at God for letting this happen to his nephew, a child who hadn’t experienced life yet. George told God to take his life instead. Let the boy live and take George’s life instead.
The next morning George’s sister called from the hospital. His nephew had woken up and could move his eyes, but the doctors said he wouldn’t ever walk again.
She called later that day, and the boy had begun moving his toes. The next day the boy was talking, and a week later he was on his way home, “walking, talking, and back to normal.” The doctors had no logical explanation. But George Foreman knew God had just given him a miracle.
Three months later in March 1977, George Foreman died in his locker room after fighting Jimmy Young. He collapsed in a heap, and entered what he describes as “a deep, dark void, like a bottomless pit.”
In his book, God in My Corner — A Spiritual Memoir, George wrote “I knew I was dead, and that this wasn’t heaven. I was terrified, knowing I had no way out. Sorrow beyond description engulfed my soul, more than anyone could ever imagine. If you multiplied every disturbing and frightening thought that you’ve ever had during your entire life, that wouldn’t come close to the panic I felt. …
“ I screamed with every ounce of strength in me, ‘I don’t care if this is death. I still believe in God.’
“Instantly, what seemed to be like a giant hand reached down and snatched me out of the terrifying place. Immediately, I was back inside my body in the dressing room.”
George accepted Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and devoted himself to being a disciple of Jesus Christ. He realized his human power, his money, his prestige, were worthless in the next life, and meant to be used as tools to lead others to Jesus during this one.
He went on to win the Heavyweight Championship of the World twice. He was ordained as an evangelist in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ and became pastor of a small church. He also became involved in prison and hospital ministries.
You probably know him best for the George Foreman Grills that continue to sell around the world. And he recently baptized his own 23-year-old daughter who finally decided to dedicated her own life to Jesus.
That’s God’s idea of power.
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.