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THE RED BARON AND TEMPTATION
Manfred, Freiherr von Richthofen was a famous German First World War fighter pilot.
He was better known as the Red Baron because he flew a distinctive a red Fokker aircraft.
He shot down more combat planes than any one else on either side in the first World war
His known kill tally was 80.
On 21st April 1918, he began chasing a Canadian plane - that was trying to escape the battle over the Mor-lan-court Ridge, near the river Somme.
As the Red Baron pursued his prey, he strayed behind Allied lines.
He dived too low into the enemy lines
And he also he missed a Canadian pilot (Arthur) "Roy" Brown coming up on his tail to help his comrade.
We will never know whether it was a shot from the ground - or a shot from Brown that killed Richthofen.
But what we do know is that the "Red Baron" came to his end because he made the mistake of pursuing that Allied 'plane "too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory" (as one report so succinctly put it)
And many committed Christians have been shot down because they have followed temptation for too long, too far, and too low into enemy territory.
And as with Richthofen -- they are then caught unawares and then have to deal with the conseqences.
Sermon Central Staff
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: MERIT YOUR FREEDOM
In the last days of the Civil War, the Confederate capital, Richmond, Virginia, fell to the Union army. Abraham Lincoln insisted on visiting the city. Even though no one knew he was coming, slaves recognized him immediately and thronged around him. He had liberated them by the Emancipation Proclamation, and now Lincoln’s army had set them free. According to Admiral David Porter, an eyewitness, Lincoln spoke to the throng around him: "My poor friends, you are free—free as air. You can cast off the name of slave and trample upon it ... . Liberty is your birthright."
But Lincoln also warned them not to abuse their freedom. "Let the world see that you merit [your freedom]," Lincoln said, "Don’t let your joy carry you into excesses. Learn the laws and obey them."
That is very much like the message Jesus gives to those whom he has liberated by his death and resurrection. Jesus gives us our true birthright—spiritual freedom. But that freedom isn’t an excuse for disobedience; it forms the basis for learning and obeying God’s laws. It gives us direction in action.
(From a sermon by Christopher Surber, All Things are Possible with God, 8/15/2012)
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.
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...
IS YOUR CHURCH A CHURCH OF BONES?
In the town of Sedlec in the Czech Republic, there is a famous cemetery that dates back to the 13th century. Some 40,000 people who died from the Black Plague in the 14th century and in the Hussite wars in the beginning of the 15th century were buried there. Around 1400, a Gothic church of All Saints was built at the center of the cemetery. Underneath it, a chapel was built as an ossuary to hold the bones unearthed in mass graves during the construction of the church. This church of bones contains the skeletal remains of these 40,000 people. It is literally a church of bones.
Sermon Central Staff
1 John 5:14-5:15
1 Peter 1:3-1:10
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Ruby Hamilton, a businesswoman in her fifties, was stunned at the loss of her husband of 32 years in a car accident. Her anger and disappointment went deeper than a more typical expression of grief though. She had become a follower of Christ in her late twenties, but her husband didn't share her newfound interest in spiritual things. Nonetheless, she had set about praying for him feverishly and unceasingly that he would come to know the Lord. And one day when she was praying, she felt a wave of peace wash over her, and that still small voice assuring her that her husband would be okay. She eagerly awaited the day when her husband surrender his life to Jesus. And now this.
What do you do when faith doesn't make sense? When God doesn't seem to be answering or opening doors or being found? Ruby Hamilton stopped living for God.
Roger Simmons was hitchhiking his way home. He would never forget the date - May 7th. His heavy suitcase was making him tired and he was anxious to take off that army uniform once and for all. Flashing the thumb to the oncoming car, he lost hope when he saw it was a black, sleek new Cadillac. To his surprise the car stopped.
The passenger door swung open. He ran toward the car, tossed his suitcase in the back and thanked the handsome, well-dressed man as he slid into the front seat. "Going home for keeps?"
"Well, you're in luck if you're going to Chicago."
"Not quite that far - do you live in Chicago?"
"I have a business there, the driver said. My name is Hamilton."
They chatted for a while, and then Roger, a Christian, felt a compulsion to share his faith with this fiftyish, apparently successful business man. But he kept putting it off, till he realized that he was now just 30 minutes from his home. It was now or never.
"Mr. Hamilton, I would like to talk to you about something very important." Then he simply told Mr. Hamilton about the plan of salvation and ultimately asked him if he would like to receive Jesus as his savior and Lord.
The Cadillac pulled over to the side of the road. Roger expected that he was about to get thrown out of the car. Instead, the businessman bowed his head and received Christ, then thanked Roger "This is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me."
Five years went by. Roger married, had a couple of kids and a business of his own. Packing his suitcase for a trip to Chicago he found a small white business card that had been given to him by Hamilton five years previous. In Chicago, he looked up Hamilton enterprises. The receptionist told him that it was impossible to see Mr. Hamilton, but he could see Mrs. Hamilton. A little confused, he was ushered into a beautiful office where he found himself facing a keen-eyed woman in her fifties.
She extended her hand "You knew my husband?"
Roger told her about how Hamilton had picked him up while he was hitchhiking home after the war. "Can you tell me what day that was?"
"Sure it was May 7th, five years ago, the day I was discharged from the army."
"Anything special about that day," she asked.
He hesitated, not knowing if he should mention how he shared the message of Jesus with her husband. "Mrs. Hamilton, I explained the gospel to your husband that day. He pulled over to the side of the road and wept against the steering wheel. He gave his life to Christ that day."
Explosive sobs shook her body. Finally getting a grip on herself, she sobbed, "I had prayed for my husband's salvation for years. I believed God would save him."
"Where is your husband, Ruby?"
"He's dead. He was in a car crash after he let you out of the car. He never got home. You see, I thought God had not kept his promise. I stopped living for God five years ago because I thought God had not kept his word!"
(Considerable influence for this message came from John Piper's "The Spring of Persistent Public Love", DesiringGod.org. From a sermon by Bret Toman, Power to Live the Golden Rule, 1/3/2011)
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.
History records for us an interesting footnote. It was during the dark winter of 1864. At Petersburg, Virginia, the Confederate army of Robert E. Lee faced the Union divisions of General Ulysses S. Grant. The war was now three and a half years old and the glorious charge had long since given way to the muck and mud of trench warfare. Late one evening one of Lee’s generals, Major General George Pickett, received word that his wife had given birth to a beautiful baby boy. Up and down the line the Southerners began building huge bonfires in celebration of the event. These fires did not go unnoticed in the Northern camps and soon a nervous Grant sent out a reconnaissance patrol to see what was going on. The scouts returned with the message that Pickett had had a son and these were celebratory fires. It so happened that Grant and Pickett had been contemporaries at West Point and knew one another well, so to honor the occasion Grant, too, ordered that bonfires should be built.
What a peculiar night it was. For miles on both sides of the lines fires burned. No shots fired. No yelling back and forth. No war fought. Only light, celebrating the birth of a child. But it didn’t last forever. Soon the fires burned down and once again the darkness took over. The darkness of the night and the darkness of war.
The good news of Chris...
FREEDOM HAS A COST
At the dramatic conclusion of the musical, Camelot, the tragic figure of King Arthur calls a boy named Tom out of the bushes. Arthur dubs the boy a "Knight of the Round Table," but orders him not to fight in the battle. He is to "grow up and grow strong" in order to tell of the ideals and accomplishments of Camelot, so future generations would remember.
A similar scene takes place in the graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 (recently released as a feature film). One of the Spartans has lost an eye, so Leonidas sends him back to tell the citizens to "Remember us!" as the dying heroes’ way of saying that "Freedom has a cost." Of course, Miller was kinder to Aristodemus than Herodotus was-—the Greek historian noting that Aristodemus was considered a "craven," a coward, until he redeemed himself at the Battle of Plataea.
Today is Memorial Day weekend. For some, it has little meaning other than a day off and the running of the Indianapolis 500. Yet, the origin of the day began with remembering the dead in the War of Northern Aggression-—the women of Pennsylvania who decorated Union graves in August of 1864, the women of Virginia who decorated Confederate graves in April of 1865, and the women of Columbus, MS who decorated the graves of both Union and Confederate dead-—prompting Horace Greeley’s editorial and the subsequent events which called for national observance of such memorials. This day reminds us of all our war dead, hence that freedom has a cost.
(From a sermon by Johnny Wilson, "Never Forget What’s Important")
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.