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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.
YOU'LL FIND JESUS THERE
"Tomorrow morning I'll open up your heart" the surgeon said to the 8 year-old-boy.
"You'll find Jesus there," the boy said.
The surgeon continued, "I'll open your heart and check the damage."
"You'll find Jesus there," the boy said.
"When I see the damage, I will suture you back up and then think about the next step," said the surgeon.
"You will find Jesus in my heart because my Sunday school teacher told me so. She said it says so in the Bible. Besides that, our Sunday school songs say He lives there," said the boy.
The surgery took place the next day. After the surgery the surgeon began to make notes of what he found. In his mind there was no hope and no cure. The little boy would die within a matter of months.
The thought began to get to the doctor and all of a sudden the doctor shouted to God, "Why did you do this to the boy? Why can't he live a normal life?"
God spoke to the surgeon's heart and said, "The boy is a part of my flock and will always be a part of my flock. When he is with me there will be no more suffering and pain. He will have comfort and peace. One day his parents as well as you will join him and my flock will continue to grow."
The next day the surgeon went to the boy's room and sat down with the parents beside the bed.
In a moment or two, the boy opened his eyes and asked very quietly, "What did you find in my heart?"
With tears flowing down his cheeks, the surgeon said, "I found Jesus there."
A SPECIAL OCCASION
If you are waiting for a special house guest or a special occasion to use something you cherish in your house, consider the following following article by Ann Wells that appeared several years ago in the Los Angeles Times:
My brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of my sister's bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. "This," he said, "is not a slip. This is lingerie."
He discarded the tissue and handed me the slip. It was exquisite; silk, handmade and trimmed with a cobweb of lace. The price tag with an astronomical figure on it was still attached.
"Jan bought this the first time we went to New York, at least eight or nine years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, guess this is the occasion."
He took the slip from me and put it on the bed with the other clothes we were taking to the mortician.
His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then he slammed the drawer shut and turned to me. "Don't ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you're alive is a special occasion."
I remembered those words through the funeral and the days that followed when I helped him and my niece attend to all the sad chores that follow an unexpected death.
I thought about them on the plane returning to California from the Midwestern town where my sister's family lives. I thought about all the things that she hadn't seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that she had done without realizing that they were special.
I'm still thinking about his words, and they've changed my life. I'm reading more and dusting less. I'm sitting on the deck and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I'm spending more time with my family and friends and less time in committee meetings.
Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experience to savor, not endure. I'm trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them. I'm not "saving" anything; we use our good china and crystal for every special event--such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, the first camellia blossom. I wear my good blazer to the market if I feel like it. I'm not saving my good perfume for special parties; clerks in hardware stores and tellers in banks have noses that function as well as my party-going friends.
"Someday" and "one of these days" are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it's worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now. I'm not sure what my sister would have done had she known that she wouldn't be here for the tomorrow we all take for granted. I think she would have called family members and a few close friends. She might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles. I like to think she would have gone out for a Chinese dinner, her favorite food. I'm guessing--I'll never know.
It's those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew that my hours were limited, angry because I put off seeing good friends whom I was going to get in touch with--someday. Angry because I hadn't written certain letters that I intended to write--one of these days. Angry and sorry that I didn't tell my husband and daughter often enough how much I truly love them.
I'm trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives. And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that the day is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is ...a gift from God.
Life is a precious gift from God, and he wants us to get the most out of it. Jesus came to give us life "to the full and abundantly" (John 10:10). In other words, he came so that we would live our lives abundantly-full of purpose, meaning, and joy.
What are you waiting for? If it's a special occasion or a "someday,"--- keep in mind that it may never come.
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...
Why would God go to all the trouble to endure our bad choices and our flagrant sinning in order to have relationship with us? Hear the story of the lost son from the modern setting as told by Philip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing about Grace.
Yancey tells the story of a prodigal daughter who grows up in Traverse City, Michigan. Disgusted with her old fashioned parents who overreact to her nose ring, the music she listens to, the length of her skirts, she runs away. She ends up in Detroit where she meets a man who drives the biggest car she’s ever seen. The man with the big car – she calls him “Boss” – recognizes that since she’s underage, men would pay premium for her. So she goes to work for him. Things are good for a while. Life is good. But she gets sick for a few days, and it amazes her how quickly the boss turns mean. Before she knows it, she’s out on the street without a penny to her name. She still turns a couple of tricks a night, and all the money goes to support her drug habit.
One night while sleeping on the metal grates of the city, she began to feel less like a woman of the world and more like a little girl. She begins to whimper. “God, why did I leave. My dog back home eats better than I do now.” She knows that more than anything in the world, she wants to go home. Three straight calls home get three straight connections with the answering machine. Finally she leaves a message. “Mom, dad, its me. I was wondering about maybe coming home. I’m catching a bus up your way, and it’ll get there about midnight tomorrow. If you’re not there, I‘ll understand.” During the seven hour bus ride, she’s preparing a speech for her father. And when the bus comes to a stop in the Traverse City station, the driver announces the fifteen-minute stop. Fifteen minutes to decide her life.
She walks into the terminal not knowing what to expect. But not one of the thousand scenes that have played out in her mind prepares her for what she sees. There in the bus terminal in Traverse City, Michigan, stands a group of forty brothers and sisters and great-aunts and uncles and cousins and a grandmother and a great-grandmother to boot. They’re all wearing goofy party hats and blowing noise-makers, and taped across the entire wall of the terminal is a computer-generated banner that reads – Welcome Home!
Out of the crowd of well-wishers breaks her dad. She stares out through the tears quivering in her eyes and begins her memorized speech. He interrupts her. “Hush, child. We’ve got no time for that. No time for apologies. We’ll be late. A big party is waiting for you at home.”
Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. Yes, every morning. However, it debits what is left over at the end of the day. Every evening, it deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every penny, of course! Each of us has such a bank in our lives. It’s name is TIME.
Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft . Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the day’s deposits; the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the "tomorrow." You must live in the present on today’s deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success! The clock is running, it is your future. Make the most of today.
Martin Luther is reputed to have said that even if he knew Christ was going to return tomorrow, he would still plant an apple tree.
My wife and I recently saw a television show on The History Channel titled, “The Man Who Predicted 911.” We were both moved by this hour presentation and its focus on one man by the name of Rick Rescorla. Long before September 11th, Rick Rescorla, the 62-year-old head of security at the Morgan Stanley Bank, developed an evacuation plan for the bank. The bank’s offices were situated high up in the South Tower at the World Trade Center. Rescorla was convinced that Osama Bin Laden would use jet planes to try and destroy the World Trade Center. The plan and its preparation were hugely unpopular with the Morgan Stanley staff, many of whom thought Rescorla was mad.
On September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 hit World Trade Center Tower 1 at 8:46 am. Rick Rescorla ignored building officials’ advice to stay put and began the orderly evacuation of Morgan Stanley’s 2,800 employees on 20 floors of World Trade Center Tower 2, and 1,000 employees in WTC 5. Rescorla reminded everyone to "be proud to be an American ... everyone will be talking about you tomorrow", and sang God Bless America and other songs over his bullhorn to help evacuees stay calm as they left the building. Rescorla had most of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 employees as well as people working on other floors of WTC 2 safely out of the buildings by the time United Airlines Flight 175 hit WTC 2 at 9:07 a.m.
After having reached safety, Rescorla returned to the building to rescue others still inside. He was last seen heading up the stairs of the tenth floor of the collapsing WTC 2. His remains were not recovered. As a result of Rescorla’s actions, only 6 of Morgan Stanley’s 2800 WTC employees were killed on September 11th, 2001, including Rick and three of his deputies who followed him back into the building.
The remainder of this very moving broadcast focused on Morgan Stanley Bank employees who now in tears were praising and acknowledging Rick Rescorla for saving their lives from total destruction that day. Many felt so guilty and apologetic they had thought Rick foolish to keep preaching and standing for what he believed would happen if they were not ready. Those interviewed said they would never forget Rick Rescorla. He was their hero.
Mr. Rescorla left behind a widow, Susan Rescorla, and two children that day. Since 911, a memorial stone was erected in Rick’s hometown of Hayle, Cornwall, to commemorate his life and the sacrifice he made to save others.
James 5:19-20 says, “My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” As sinners saved by grace, we must have a “Rick Rescorla Attitude.” He was convinced people entrusted to his care would perish if his plan of escape were ignored. Rick Rescorla stayed the course even when unpopular and ridiculed because he believed what he was doing would save lives.
Sadly, many Christians today have a “Cain Attitude” when it comes to rescuing the perishing and having a consistent witness. Unlike Rick Rescorla, they say by their actions: “I am not my brother’s keeper.” How this must grieve the heart of Almighty God who has left us here as His Beloved Children to sh...
My wife, Darcy; and I were on a date, sitting in the corner of the restaurant waiting for our food. I took out my pen and started to mark lines on a paper napkin. When I was done, I had made an acceptable likeness of a casket. I slid it across the table.
Darcy peeked at it, then rolled her eyes. She knew I hadn’t been taking this milestone (the big forty) in my life as well as I should. But this time she had read my thinking wrong.
"How many people does it take to carry one of these?" She looked at me with whimsical eyes that said, "What is he up to now? But she gave the right answer. "Six."
"Darcy; if I died tomorrow, who would you ask to carry my casket?’ I had plenty of friends who I believed would be willing to help with this task, assuming there was nothing more pressing in their appointment book. But I didn’t want those types of people carrying me to my grave. I wanted People who would drop whatever they were doing in order to drop me. Our conversation reminded me I had some work to do in the area of committed friends.
I realize this could sound morbid, but I decided I needed to start grooming my pallbearers. Certainly not because I planned on needing them anytime soon. But they represent the people who have been with you through the best and the worst of times. It was obvious to me that if I wanted to have rich friendships I would have to be a loyal friend.
Grooming Your Pallbearers
Tim Kimmel - President of Generation Ministries
D. L. Moody, the great evangelist of the nineteenth century, assigned some ministerial students to conduct evangelistic tent meetings throughout the city of Chicago. The students were to preach nightly sermons as a means of winning souls for Christ and to practice their preaching. Dr. Moody personally showed up one night unannounced at one of the meeting places to hear one of his fledgling young ministers preach the gospel. The young man did quite well expounding on the death of Christ on the cross for the sins of the world. At the close of the service, he announced that everyone should come back the next night when he would “preach on the resurrection of Christ.” After the people left, Moody said, “Young man, many of these people will not be back tomorrow night and consequently have only heard half the gospel!” (Source unknown).