I read, some time ago, of David Buick, who founded the Buick car company. He made millions off the sale of his particular line of cars and lived the life of a millionaire. However, Buick would lose his fortune. In fact, he became so destitute that he had to declare bankruptcy and, in the later years of his life, was too poor to buy a car with his name on it. William Durant ultimately brought the Buick line of cars into General Motors. Durant also bought out Olds of Oldsmobile and others as well. He took all the automotive strings and pulled them together. If you want to read an interesting biography, read his. Durant was a creative genius, but he was not able to organize what he created. He eventually, even tried to compete against his own creation, General Motors, and lost his fortune. He also, became too poor to own a car. His last job, before he died, was managing a bowling alley. All of these stories pale in significance when you think of the One who rode upon the wind; who had multitudes of cherubim and seraphim singing of His holiness and His glory. He came down and became one of us. Jesus gave up His rights to live like God (From Stephen Davey’s sermon on Four Rights that Christ Gave Up).
Archives For Sermon Illustrations
The unity of the church is inward not outward. When the Bible talks about unity it is not talking about some kind of outward unity, it is talking about an inward unity. It is talking about something that is internally compelling, not externally controlled. It is more heartfelt than creedal. It is not particularly verbal as much as it is emotional, spiritual. It is the union of hearts and minds and souls in common cause. It’s not people just being united because they’re in the same container; it’s people who are literally attracted to each other because they’re pulled by the same power.
Let me see if I can illustrate that. If you have a bag filled with marbles you have a certain unity. You have one bag full of marbles and all those marbles are pushed against each other, packed together. But that which binds them into unity is the container. It’s something on the outside that holds them. As soon as you tear the bag, the marbles are everywhere because there’s nothing intrinsic or internal to keep them together. It’s purely the package they’re in, the container.
But on the other hand, if you have a magnet and you put that magnet into some metal shavings, the shavings will all adhere to the magnet. Not because there is an external container but because there’s an internal force. And they are pulled to each other because they are all pulled by the same force pulling through each other. And that’s how the church is to be, it is not a collection of marbles in the same bag, it is people who are pressed against each other because they’re all magnetized by the same force, which is the power of Jesus Christ. That’s the internal unity of the church. We are pulled to each other because we are pulled through each other by the power that pulls, which is Christ (MacArthur’s sermon on Phil. 2:1).
A husband read a book entitled, You Can Be THE Man of Your House and got all fired up about what he was reading. He marched into the kitchen and announced to his wife, “From now on, you need to know that I am the man of this house . . . You will prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I’m finished eating my meal, you will serve me a decadent dessert. . . . Afterwards, you are going to draw me a bath so I can relax. . . . Then . . . guess who’s going to dress me and comb my hair?”
His wife replied, “The funeral director would be my first guess” (Stephen Davey).
I voted today for the favorite 2014 Super Bowl commercial on YouTube. I voted for Duracell: Trust Your Power – NFL’s Derrick Coleman, Seattle Seahawks.
Since Derrick Coleman was three years old he has been deaf. When he was in elementary school he wore bulky hearing aids, which helped his hearing but also invited smart-alecks to ridicule. His cruel schoolmates nicknamed him “Four Ears.”
How did Derrick respond?
When his schoolmates would start making fun of him, Derrick would just turn the volume down on his hearing aids. “You guys have to actually listen when somebody’s talking. I just turn ‘em off.”
When he was in high school five bullies jumped on him and beat him up just because he was different.
How did Derrick respond?
He went home and to his back bedroom and did push ups. Boy did that ever pay off! I wonder if the five bullies were watching Sunday night’s Super Bowl game and the Seattle Seahawk’s Derrick Coleman play as the first NFL deaf offensive player?
Coleman hoped to be drafted in the 2012 NFL draft. But his name was not called.
How did Derrick’s respond?
“They didn’t call my name, told me it was over,’’ Coleman says in the Duracell commercial, referring to the fact that he went unchosen in the 2012 NFL draft. “But I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen.’’ He did not give up and was eventually asked to play as a back up full-back for the Seahawks.
What a powerful lesson if only we are listening. Life is hard, people are insensitive, and we can overcome. The Duracell commerical ends by saying, “Trust Your Power.” We can’t trust our power but we can trust the power that is in us if we know Christ as Savior. The Apostle Paul testified, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Christ takes the ‘t out of can’t.
Marcel Sternberger was a methodical man of nearly fifty, with bushy white hair, guileless brown eyes, and the bouncing enthusiasm of a dancer from his native Hungary. He always took the 9:09 Long Island Railroad train from his suburban home to Woodside, New York, where he caught a subway into the city.
On the morning of January 10, 1948, Sternberger boarded the 9:09 as usual. En route, he suddenly decided to visit Laszlo Victor, a Hungarian friend who lived in Brooklyn and was ill. Accordingly, at Ozone Park, Sternberger changed to the subway for Brooklyn, went to his friend’s house, and stayed until mid-afternoon. He then boarded a Manhattan-bound subway for his Fifth Avenue office.
Now, Marcel tells his story.
The car was crowded, and there seemed to be no chance of a seat. But just as I entered, a man sitting by the door suddenly jumped up to leave, and I slipped into the empty place. I’ve been living in New York long enough not to start conversations with strangers. But, being a photographer, I have the peculiar habit of analyzing people’s faces, and I was struck by the features of the passenger on my left. He was probably in his late thirties, and when he glanced up, his eyes seemed to have a hurt expression in them. He was reading a Hungarian newspaper, and something prompted me to say in Hungarian, “I hope you don’t mind if I glance at your paper.”
The man seemed surprised to be addressed in his native language. But he answered politely, “You may.”
During the half hour ride to town, we had quite a conversation. He said his name was Bela Paskin. A law student when World War II started, he had been put into a German labor battalion and sent to the Ukraine. Later he was captured by the Russians and put to work burying the German dead. After the war, he covered hundreds of miles on foot until he reached his home in Debratzin, a large city in eastern Hungary. I myself knew Debratzin quite well, and we talked about it for a while.
Then he told me the rest of his story. When he went to the apartment once occupied by his father, mother, brothers, and sisters, he found strangers living there. Then he went upstairs to the apartment that he and his wife once had. It also was occupied by strangers. None of them had ever heard of his family. As he was leaving, full of sadness, a boy ran after him, calling, “Uncle Paskin, Uncle Paskin.”
The child was the son of some old neighbors of his and he went to the boy’s home to talk with the boy’s parents. “Your whole family is dead,” they told him, “the Nazis took them and your wife to Auschwitz.”
Auschwitz was one of the worst Nazi concentration camps. Paskin gave up all hope. A few days later, too heartsick to remain any longer in Hungary, he set out again on foot, stealing across border after border, until he managed to immigrate to the United States in October 1947, just three months before I met him on the subway.
All the time he had been talking, I kept thinking about a young woman whom I had met recently at the home of friends who had also been from “Debratzin”. She had been sent to Auschwitz; from there she had been transferred to work in a German munitions factory. Her relatives had been killed in the gas chambers. Later, she was liberated by the Americans and was brought to America in the first boatload of displaced persons in 1946.
Her story had moved me so much that I had written down her address and phone number, intending to invite her to meet my family and thus, help relieve the terrible emptiness in her life. It seemed impossible that there could by any connection between these two people, but as I neared my station, I fumbled anxiously in my address book. I asked in what I hoped was a casual voice, “Was your wife’s name Marya?”
He turned pale. “Yes!” he answered. “How did you know?”
He looked as if he were about to faint. I said, “Let’s get off the train.”
I took him by the arm at the next station and led him to a phone booth. He stood there like a man in a trance while
I dialed her phone number. It seemed hours before Marya answered. When I heard her voice at last, I told her who I was and asked her to describe her husband. She seemed surprised at the question, but gave me a description. Then I asked her where she had lived in Debratzin, and she told me the address. Asking her to hold the line, I turned to Paskin and said, “Did you and your wife live on such- and-such a street?”
“Yes!” Bela exclaimed.
He was trembling. “Try to be calm,” I urged him. “Something miraculous is about to happen to you. Here, take this telephone and talk to your wife!”
Seeing that he was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t talk coherently, I took the receiver from his shaking hands.
“Stay where you are,” I told Marya, “I am sending your husband to you.”
At first I thought I had better accompany Paskin, lest the man should faint from excitement, but I decided that this was a moment in which no strangers should intrude. Putting Paskin into a taxicab, I directed the driver to take him to Marya’s address, paid the fare, and said goodbye.
Bela Paskin’s reunion with his wife was a moment so poignant, so electric, that afterward neither he nor Marya could recall much of the details. Marya told me, “I remember only that when I left the phone, I walked to the mirror like in a dream to see if maybe my hair had turned gray. The next thing I know, a taxi stops in front of the house, and it is my husband who comes toward me. Details I cannot remember; only this I know – that I was happy for the first time in many years . . . Even now it is difficult to believe that it happened. We have both suffered so much.”
“But,” Bela adds, “God has brought us together.”
- The above sermon illustartion was by Stephen Davey in a sermon entitled First Century Griffiti on Acts 8:1-8
- More sermon illustrations at drtimwhite.com
- (Here is a lesson on finding and filing illustrations in my series Eight Steps to Preparing a Sermon)
- Sermon central
Was Gamaliel the first Prosperity Gospel preacher in the New Testament? The Apostles are before the Sanhedrian for the second time for witnessing the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Sadducees or the religious liberals want to put them to death. Gamaliel, the leading Pharisee reasons with them, howbeit a false logic. Here is how Wiersbe describes the scene in Acts 5:
Gamaliel also had the mistaken idea that, if something is not of God, it must fail. But this idea does not take into consideration the sinful nature of man and the presence of Satan in the world. Mark Twain said that a lie runs around the world while truth is still putting on her shoes. In the end, God’s truth will be victorious; but meanwhile, Satan can be very strong and influence multitudes of people. Success is no test of truth, in spite of what the pragmatists say (Warren W. Wiersbe on Acts 5:17-42).
John MacArthur translates Gamaliel’s logic: Whatever succeeds is of God; whatever fails is not. You know today we have movements all over the place that are tremendously successful, but God hasn’t got a thing to do with any of them. Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, very successful. You know there are 455 million Muslims. A success. 395 million Hindus, 350 million Confusionists, 250 million Buddhists, 100 million Shinto Taoists. The fastest growing religion in the world soka gakkai in Japan with millions of adherents. 1 billion atheists or communists. There’s a lot of successful movements. God hasn’t got a thing to do with any of them and you start making the principle that whatever is of God is going to abide and you’ve got problems. Ultimately that’s true. In time it isn’t so…. I mean if that’s true, if you’re going to judge on the basis of success then God is pleased with Playboy, Budweiser, Mormonism, demon worship, and Jesus Christ Superstar.
Richard Greenham served as a pastor just outside of Cambridge, England, from 1570-1590. He rose daily at four and each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday preached to his congregation at daybreak before they went into their fields. On Sunday he preached twice, and on Sunday nights and Thursday mornings he catechized the children. He was a godly and faithful man who, as he put it, preached Christ crucified unto my self and the country people. Yet his ministry was virtually fruitless. He told his successor that he perceived no good wrought by his ministry on any but one family.
Richard Baxter ministered at Kidderminster, England, from 1641-1660, except for five years during the civil war. It was a town of about 2,000 adults. When he came, he found them an ignorant, rude, and reveling people. Hardly one family on a street professed to follow God. The church held about 1,000, but it proved to be too small. They had to build five galleries to hold the crowds. On the Lord’s Day, as you walked the streets, you would hear hundreds of families singing psalms and repeating the sermons. When Baxter left, on many streets there would hardly be a single family that did not follow the Lord. (These stories told by J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness [Crossway Books], pp. 43-45).
Why the difference between these two men’s ministries? Both men obeyed God no matter what. God’s sovereignty is the only explanation. Both men will receive the Lord’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Sermon by Steven J. Cole Obeying God No Matter What on Acts 5:12-42 on January 21, 2001).
I am working on an eBook entitled You Can Handle What Life Throws At You. Behind the title is the metaphor of batters and Christians handling what is thrown at them. Thus the name of this post.
Baseball is a dangerous career. Professional baseball batters have to handle what pitchers are thrown at them! Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Batters live in the constant danger of not just being beaned by wild pitchers but being killed. Hit batters are not even protected by law.
Baseball hits are an inherent risk in the game of baseball and consequently hit batters cannot sue pitchers who even intentionally bean a batter. The Supreme Court in California on April 6, 2006 so ruled: “For better or worse, being intentionally thrown at is a fundamental part and inherent risk on the sport of baseball. It is not the function of tort law to police such conduct” (Wikipedia).
Even though today’s batters have lots of equipment to protect them, pitches are still dangerous, intimidating, and lethal.
Baseball hits can be lethal
Before helmets were required and baseball games were played in the twilight of the afternoon, short stop Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was hit in the head by Carl Mays of the New York Yankees on August 16th, 1920. Chapman died 12 hours later. This was baseball’s most tragic hour. He died for a game he loved.
Christianity is also a dangerous life. At least in the New Testament. All of the Apostles of Christ were put to death. Paul said, “I die daily.” Paul awoke each day knowing this may be the day he offered up his life as sacrificial offering for Christ. Believers still die for Christ around world. Read the Voice of Martyrs. We American Christians, however, are soft. Not only will we never be martyred, we will never even be reproached for the gospel we are ashamed to witnessed. It is more dangerous to play baseball than it is to be a Christian.
Baseball hits are dangerous
In spite of helmets with earflaps and pads and guards that cover elbows, hands, biceps, shins, and feet, baseball is dangerous. Kirby Puckett, of the Minnesota Twins was struck on the cheek by a fastball from Dennis Martinez. The fastball broke his jaw. Kirby later developed glaucoma. He never played professional baseball again. At bat for every player has the potential of being career ending.
Jesus said we must lose our lives for Him in order to find life. Yet we Christians are so unwilling to risk any danger to serve God. Maybe this is the reason so few young people are unwilling to serve on less than safe mission fields. Pampered Christian parents have produced pampered Christian children. Christian parents are proud of the sons and daughters going into firefighting, police work, or the military. Yet if those same young people would be talked out on going to a dangerous mission field or inner city mission.
Baseball hits are intimidating
Pitchers who throw fast and wild intimidate batters. Nolan Ryan comes to mind. He could throw 100 mph fastballs and he was wild. Ryan has a career high of 277 wild pitches and 158 hit batters. Maybe this accounts for his 5714 strikeouts.
Are dangerous inner city ministries off limits to Christians because they are drug infested and intimidating? Would Jesus avoid inner city ministries because they are dangerous?
Brandon Hatmaker tells about Matt Carter who pastors a church in Austin called The Austin Stone Community Church. It’s an incredible church that has grown at incredible rates. Over the first few years of its life The Stone grew to several thousand in attendance. There were many factors that contributed to their growth. They had a clear calling, vision, and passion for the people and city of Austin, and the presence of God was tangible. As fast as they grew in their first few years, it was nothing compared to what happened in 2008, the year God presented Matt with the moral imperative to sell out to mission.
This included taking the resources they had set aside to build their church campus and instead purchase property in the highest-crime-rate neighborhood of Austin. On it they were to build a city center for mission, leaving their existing church to set up and tear down every Sunday in a local high school gym. If I were Matt, I wouldn’t have slept much. I would have feared everyone would leave my church. I would have feared everyone would think I was crazy. And in my flesh, I probably would have been tempted to figure out a way to do “missional light” instead of “missional.” But The Stone sold out to the mission.
They did everything God asked of them to the best of their ability. They sacrificed their new campus, utilized their platform to spread awareness of their new way of church, and reoriented their ministries around a missional posture. I’m sure there were snags along the way that I don’t know about. I’m sure there were opportunities lost just as there were opportunities gained. But I also believe they did their best to make each right next decision. You might think that a church their size going through such transition would have a season of sifting. Maybe lose some people while enduring a few rebuilding years. But during that year they literally doubled in size. In one year!
Hatmaker, Brandon (2011-11-01). Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture (Exponential Series) (p. 158). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
Austin and Julie Locke from Washington Illinois, newly married and thrilled to be expecting, became the proud parents of a healthy baby boy, Dax Ryan Locke, born on June 26, 2007. At six months old, Dax began getting colds and ear infections constantly. His parents, diligent in their struggle to help Dax regain his health took him repeatedly to the pediatrician who assured them it was a virus and he would be fine. On Dax’s first birthday, with two ear infections and both eyes infected, he was admitted to the hospital the day after his first birthday. The doctors thought he was just dehydrated from the sickness and would perk up after getting some fluids. Three hospitals later the Locke family landed in Memphis, Tennessee at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital diagnosed with AML M7 leukemia. Although shocked, grief stricken, and exhausted from the emotional toll the last six months had taken, adrenaline kicked in and Julie and Austin from that second began their battle to do all they could for their baby son, Dax.
AML M7 leukemia is common in men over 65; Dax was only 15 months old when he was diagnosed. Dax began rounds of chemotherapy but it was not working; his body was so full of cancer by the time he was diagnosed the treatments could not stop the growth of the cancer. St. Jude and the wonderful staff of doctors and nurses never gave up on Dax. After the chemotherapy treatments failed and with no other options to try, Dax was enrolled in an experimental protocol where he would undergo a stem cell transplant. If Dax had not been taken to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital his story would have ended here. Given this new hope, Dax received his first transplant from his mother, Julie’s stem cells. The cancer returned in Dax’s small body even harder. Again, St. Jude offered another transplant and this time his dad, Austin’s stem cells were used. Unfortunately Dax’s little body just couldn’t beat the disease and Julie and Austin returned home in mid October with Dax to “Cherish Every Moment” with him. The doctors thought he probably would not live through Christmas. Julie and Austin will forever remember the time and effort St. Jude put into saving Dax’s life and most importantly for the gift of extra time they were able to spend with their precious son.
At home and with Dax, Julie and Austin decided to celebrate one last Christmas with Dax. Dax especially loved the Christmas lights on the tree and on the house and soon the neighborhood began asking why they had Christmas lights up before Halloween? As the story spread, within days the neighborhood and soon the town of Washington was lit for Dax. His story was a headline on CNN and Dax’s story captured the hearts of literally thousands of people. Before they knew it, Christmas lights had actually gone up all around the world for Dax. Dax did live to see Christmas day. He passed away December 30th, 2009.
Despite their sadness, Julie and Austin knew that Dax’s story, which had touched so many people, could be used to bring awareness to childhood cancer and the work of St. Jude and started a foundation called “Cherish Every Moment” the Dax Locke Foundation. The foundation’s purpose is to raise $1.8 million dollars to run St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for one day in honor of Dax! They began chipping away at this goal by running fundraisers and spreading the word. Singer and songwriter,Matthew West reached out to help after hearing Dax’s story. He wrote a song called One Last Christmas and the song went viral! Matthew donated all the money he made from the song to to the Dax Locke foundation! A producer heard the song, decided it would make a charming Christmas movie(One Last Christmas) telling how the neighborhood came together for Dax and put up their Christmas lights and filming began. The movie was aired December 4th, 2011 on GMC network and broke every record the network had ever set. Dax’s story has moved the world. To this date over $580,000 has been raised to help Austin and Julie Locke meet their goal for their sweet boy, Dax.
My wife and I are going to get away for a few days before Christmas. We will leave after church tomorrow and come back Christmas day so we can spend time together with family at Mom and Dad’s. My wife went online to research the hotels in the Pigeon Forge area. This is where we spent our honeymoon back when the earth’s crust was still forming.
She read about the many options and amendies available for the best price. She is her own priceline.com. The hotels are rated Excellent, Very Good, Average, Poor, and Terrible. She read the reviews of customers, which were both good and bad. One common complaint was musty smells. The reviews even tell you if the hotel has bed bugs or not.
The hotel we chose is not the most expensive nor one that requires the services of the Orkin Man. It has a nice indoor pool with a very good-looking free Continental Breakfast with sausage, eggs, pancakes, gravy and biscuits. We watch the virtual tour and saw the room we will stay in, the heated pool, and the dining area. Our hotel is right behind the Apple Barn. This is where we ate on our honeymoon and I got addicted to apple butter. So we will be eating there for sure.
Over twenty-one centuries ago, God booked a room for His Son when he came to earth in the incarnation. God booked His room in a stable in Bethlehem because there was no room in the inn. Where the eternal Son of God stayed that night would have been rated “terrible” had Joseph and Mary previously read the reviews. Actually God booked this room 500 years ahead of time according to the prophet Micah. Micah wrote down this supernatural prediction in 5:2: “But you, Bethlehem Ephratah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
Paul informs us that the “Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes became poor, that you through his poverty might be rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus was born in a germ infested, manure smelling room in order to go to a rough hewned cross and die for our sins that you and I, if we receive Him as our Savior, can spend eternity in the beautiful city of God. Have you booked your room in Heaven? Go to Romans10:9-10.com and follow the instructions.