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Sermon Central Staff
One day Hudson Taylor was traveling on a Chinese junk from Shanghai to Ningpo. He had been witnessing to a man named Peter who rejected the gospel but was under deep conviction. In the course of events, Peter fell overboard, but no one made any effort to save him. Taylor sprang to the mast, let down the sail, and jumped overboard in hopes of finding his friend. But no one on board joined Taylor in his frantic search. Taylor saw a fishing boat nearby and yelled to them to help, but they wouldn't do it without money. Finally, after bartering for every penny that Taylor had, the fishermen stopped their fishing and began to look for Peter. In less than a minute of dragging their net, they found him, but it was too late. They were too busy fishing to care about saving a drowning man.
We can easily condemn the selfish indifference of those fishermen, but by indicting them, we may condemn ourselves. Are we too busy with our jobs and other activities to take the time to rescue those who are perishing without Christ?
(Kenneth Cole, The Crucial Message. From a sermon by Gerald Flury, Why Are You Standing Around? 8/16/2012)
Sermon Central Staff
POOR MAN'S PHILANTHROPIST
In 2005, when Thomas Cannon died of colon cancer in a hospital in Richmond, Virginia, he was 79. Thomas described himself a "poor man's philanthropist."
When Thomas was three years old, his father died. Once Thomas' mother remarried, the family of six lived in a three-room wooden shack without running water or electricity.
As an adult, Thomas went to work with the postal service. He never made more than $25,000 a year. Upon retirement, he and his wife lived in poverty. Yet over the course of 33 years, Thomas gave away more than $156,000. His gifts were mainly in the form of $1,000 checks given to people he read about in the newspaper who were going through hard times or who especially exemplified courage or kindness. A youth worker in a low-income apartment complex, a volunteer faithfully serving at an elementary school, a Vietnamese couple wanting to return home to visit, and a teenager abandoned as an infant were some of the recipients of Thomas' benevolence.
Thomas' motivation came from an incident that happened as a young man while away at a Naval signal school. When an explosion at Chicago's Port took the lives of many of his shipmates, Thomas concluded, "He had been spared to help others and be a role model." This led to his passion for giving.
Cannon biographer, Sandra Waugaman, comments, "Not many people would consider living in a house in a poor neighborhood without central heat, air conditioning, or a telephone, and working overtime so that they could save money to give away."
["Thomas Cannon had Little Money to Give," Omaha Sunday World Herald (July, 2005), p. 13A; Margaret Edds, "Cannon's Canon," HamptonRoads.com (7-24-05); submitted by Ted De Hass, Bedford, Iowa. From a sermon by Terry Blankenship, Running and Serving with Passion, 5/16/2011]
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.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13:8
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?”
“How long have you been on the street?”
“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?”
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...
Sermon Central Staff
"PLEASE COME BACK"
Max Lucado tells us about a girl named Christina. She lives in a small dusty village in Brazil. She’s bored. She feels like her strict parents have cheated her out of the joys of life. She longs for the excitement of the big city of Rio.
One morning her mother Maria finds Christina’s bed empty. Maria knew immediately where her daughter had gone. So she quickly throws some clothes in a bag, gathers up all her money, and heads for the bus station.
On her way, the mom enters one of those photograph booths in a local drug store and takes pictures of herself. She puts the pictures in her purse and takes the next bus to Rio de Janeiro.
She puts up pictures of herself all over town. But she can’t find her daughter. The weary mother gets back on the bus and weeps all the way home.
Months later, Christina slowly walks down the hotel stairs. She’s already worn down by life. Her young face is tired. Her brown eyes no longer dance with youth but speak of pain and fear.
A thousand times over she longed to go back home. She remembered the warm secure feeling of love and acceptance she had experience back with her mum in their little village. But she thought it was too late to turn back.
As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes notice a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back were these words: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home." And she did.
Christine’s mom pulled out all the stops to get her child to come back home, and this is exactly what God is doing for His children. It’s not His will for anyone here in this room to perish. "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come back to Jesus."
(From a sermon by Maarc Axelrod, Crazy About His Kids, 2/9/2011)
Sermon Central Staff
WHEN DOES THE SIZE OF A HOUSE BECOME SINFUL?
Several years ago, Millard Fuller of Habitat for Humanity addressed the National Press Club on public radio, on which he recalled a workshop he conducted at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary with 200 pastors in attendance. The assembled pastors quickly pointed toward greed and selfishness as the reason the church never had enough money to accomplish its mission in the world.
Millard then asked this seemingly innocent question: "Is it possible for a person to build a house so large that it's sinful in the eyes of God? Raise your hand if you think so."
All 200 pastors raised their hands.
"Okay," said Millard, "then can you tell me at exactly what size, the precise square footage, a certain house becomes sinful to occupy?"
Silence from the pastors. You could have heard a pin drop.
Finally, a small, quiet voice spoke up from the back of the room: "When it is bigger than mine."
(Frank G. Honeycutt, Preaching to Skeptics and Seekers. From a sermon by C. Philip Green, Treasure's Trap, 9/18/2010)
Sermon Central Staff
THE RISE AND FALL OF NINE RICH MEN
A popular story recounts a meeting that may have taken place at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago in 1923. There is debate whether the meeting in fact occurred, but what is not in question is the actual rise and fall of the men featured in the story, who were nine of the richest men in the world at that time: (1) Charles Schwab, President of the world’s largest independent steel company; (2) Samuel Insull, President of the world’s largest utility company; (3) Howard Hopson, President of the largest gas firm; (4) Arthur Cutten, the greatest wheat speculator; (5) Richard Whitney, President of the New York Stock Exchange; (6) Albert Fall, member of the President’s Cabinet; (7) Leon Frazier, President of the Bank of International Settlements; (8) Jessie Livermore, the greatest speculator in the Stock Market; and (9) Ivar Kreuger, head of the company with the most widely distributed securities in the world.
What happened to these powerful and rich men twenty-five years later? (1) Charles Schwab had died in bankruptcy, having lived on borrowed money for five years before his death. (2) Samuel Insull had died virtually penniless after spending some time as a fugitive from justice. (3) Howard Hopson became insane. (4) Arthur Cutten died overseas, broke. (5) Richard Whitney had spent time in a mental asylum. (6) Albert Fall was released from prison so he could die at home. (7) Leon Fraizer, (8) Jessie Livermore, and (9) Ivar Kreuger each died by suicide. Measured by wealth and power these men achieved success, at least temporarily. But it did not surely guarantee them a truly successful life.
Many people think of fame and fortune when they measure success. However, at some point in life, most people come to realize that inner peace and soul-deep satisfaction come not from fame and money, but having lived a life based on integrity and noble character.
(From a sermon by Sajeev Painunkal SJ, What Changed Zaccheus? 10/30/2010 )
Dr. Bill Bright of Campus Crusade for Christ tells this story of a famous oil field called Yates Pool:
During the depression this field was a sheep ranch owned by a man named Yates. Mr. Yates wasn’t able to make enough on his ranching operation to pay the principal and interest on the mortgage, so he was in danger of losing his ranch.
With little money for clothes or food, his family (like many others) had to live on government subsidy.
Day after day, as he grazed his sheep over those rolling West Texas hills, he was no doubt greatly troubled about how he would pay his bills. Then a seismographic crew from an oil company came into the area and told him there might be oil on his land. They asked permission to drill a wildcat well, and he signed a lease contract.
At 1,115 feet they struck a huge oil reserve. The first well came in at 80,000 barrels a day. Many subsequent wells were more than twice as large. In fact, 30 years after the discovery, a government test of one of the wells showed it still had the potential flow of 125,000 barrels of oil a day.
And Mr. Yates owned it all.
The day he purchased the land he had received the oil and mineral rights. Yet, he’d been living on relief.
A multimillionaire living in poverty.
A FULL LIFE
A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.
"Not very long," answered the Mexican.
"Well, then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American.
The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family.
The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"
"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, play the guitar, and sing a few songs. I have a full life."
The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
"With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers. Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.
"You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge enterprise."
"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican.
"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.
"And after that?"
"Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"
"Millions? Really? And after that?"
"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take siestas with your wife, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."
Max Lucado, in No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, tells the story of Maria and her daughter Christina. Longing to leave her poor Brazilian neighborhood, Christina wanted to see the world. Discontent living at home having only a pallet on the floor, a washbasin, and a wood-burning stove, she dreamed of a better life in the city. One morning she ran away, breaking her mother’s heart. Her mother knew what life on the streets would be like for her young, attractive daughter, so Maria quickly packed to go find her daughter. On her way to the bus stop, she went to a drugstore to get one last thing—pictures. She sat in the photograph booth, closed the curtain, and spent all the money she could on pictures of herself. With her purse full of small black-and-white photos, she got on the next bus to Rio de Janeiro. Maria knew Christina had no way of earning money. She also knew that her daughter was too stubborn to give up. Maria began her search. Bars, hotels, nightclubs, any place with the reputation for street walkers or prostitutes. At each place she left her picture--taped on a bathroom mirror, tacked to a hotel bulletin board, or fastened to a corner phone booth. On the back of each photo she wrote a note. It wasn’t too long before Maria’s money and pictures ran out, and Maria had to go home. The tired mother cried as the bus began its long journey back to her small village. A few weeks later, Christina was coming down the stairs in a seedy hotel. Her young face was tired. Her brown eyes no longer danced with youth but spoke of pain and fear. Her laughter was broken. Her dream had become a nightmare. A thousand times she had longed to trade all those countless beds for her secure pallet. And yet the little village seemed too far away. As she reached the bottom of the stairs, her eyes noticed a familiar face. She looked again, and there on the lobby mirror was a small picture of her mother. Christina’s eyes burned and her throat tightened as she walked across the room and removed the small photo. Written on the back Maria had written this: "Whatever you have done, whatever you have become, it doesn’t matter. Please come home." And Christina went home. God is the same way. He wants us to come home. It doesn’t matter what we’ve done. It doesn’t matter what we’ve become. We can always come home to Him. It is like Maria, reaching out for her daughter even when her daughter didn’t realize it. It is like God reaching out to us while we are living a life of sin and we are lost and yet, Christ is there...reaching....longing...desiring to bring us home. It is prevenient grace—it has kept us, as Newton writes, “safe thus far.”