Faithlife Sermons


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To Illustrate







ark Tidd of Web­ster, New York, describes an ex­perience from his college days:

"An old man showed up at the back door of the house we were renting. Opening the door a few cautious inches, we saw his eyes were glassy and his furrowed face glistened with silver stubble. He clutched a wicker basket holding a few unappealing vegetables. He bid us good morning and offered his produce for sale. We were uneasy enough that we made a quick purchase to alleviate both our pity and our fear.

"To our chagrin, he re­turned the next week, in­troducing himself as Mr. Roth, the man who lived in the shack down the road. As our fears subsided, we got close enough to realize it wasn't alcohol but cata­racts that marbleized his eyes. On subsequent vis­its, he would shuffle in, wearing two mismatched right shoes, and pull out a harmonica. With glazed eyes set on a future glory, he'd puff out old gospel tunes between conversa­tions about vegetables and religion.

"On one visit, he ex­claimed, The Lord is so good! I came out of my shack this morning and found a bag full of shoes and clothing on my porch.'

" "That's wonderful, Mr. Roth!' we said. 'We're hap­py for you.'

" 'You know what's even more wonderful?' he asked. 'Just yesterday I met some people that could use them.' "

| D |

ean Niferatos was riding the Number 22 CTA bus in Chicago. The bus brimmed with doz­ing office workers, restless punkers, and af­fluent shoppers. At the Clark and Webster stop, two men and a woman climbed in. The driver, a seasoned veteran, immediately bellowed, "Everybody watch your valuables. There are pickpockets on board."

Women clutched their purses tightly. Men put their hands on their wallets. All eyes fixed on the trio, who, looking insulted and harassed, didn't break stride as they promptly exited through the middle doors.

The Bible warns us to be vigilant, because evil is less likely to overtake us when we're watching.

— Craig Brian Larson Arlington Heights, Illinois



n Jules Verne's novel The Mysterious Island, he tells of five men who escape a Civil War prison camp by hijacking a hot-air balloon. As they rise into the air, they realize the wind is carrying them over the ocean. Watching their homeland disappear on the horizon, they wonder how much longer the balloon can stay aloft.

As the hours pass and the surface of the ocean draws closer, the men decide they must cast over­board some of the weight, for they had no way to heat the air in the balloon. Shoes, overcoats, and weapons are reluctantly discarded, and the uncomfortable avia­tors feel their balloon rise. But only temporarily. Soon they find themselves dangerously close to the waves again, so they toss their food. Better to be high and hungry than drown on a full belly!

Unfortunately, this, too, is only a temporary solu­tion, and the craft again threatens to lower the men into the sea. One man has an idea: they can tie the ropes that hold the passenger car and sit on those ropes. Then they can cut away the basket beneath them. As they sever the very thing they had been standing on, it drops into the ocean, and the balloon rises.

Not a minute too soon, they spot land. Eager to stand on terra firma again, the five jump into the water and swim to the island. They live, spared because they were able to discern the difference be­tween what really was needed and what was not. The "necessities" they once thought they couldn't live without were the very weights that almost cost them their lives.

The writer to the Hebrews says, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (Heb. 12:1, niv).

— Ed Haynes Edwardsville, Illinois

| I |

n the book A Saviour for All Seasons, William Barker relates the sto­ry of a bishop from the East Coast who many years ago paid a visit to a small, mid-western religious college. He stayed at the home of the college president, who also served as professor of physics and chemistry. Af­ter dinner, the bishop de­clared that the millennium couldn't be far off, because just about everything about nature had been discovered and all inventions con­ceived.

The young college presi­dent politely disagreed and said he felt there would be many more discoveries. When the angered bishop challenged the president to name just one such in­vention, the president re­plied he was certain that within fifty years, men would be able to fly.

"Nonsense!" sputtered the outraged bishop. "Only angels are intended to fly."

The bishop's name was Wright, and he had two boys at home who would prove to have greater vi­sion than their father. Their names: Orville and Wilbur.

— Larry Wise East Troy, Wisconsin



ary Grant once told how he was walk­ing along a street and met a fellow whose eyes locked onto him with excitement. The man said, "Wait a minute, you're . . . you're — I know who you are;  don't tell me —uh, Rock  Hud— No,   you're

Grant thought he'd help

48       LEADERSHIP/90

him, so he finished the man's sentence: "Cary Grant."

And the fellow said, "No, that's not it! You're

There was Cary Grant, identifying himself with his own name, but the fel­low had someone else in mind.

John says of Jesus, "He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him" (John 1:10, niv). And even when Jesus identified who he was — the Son of God — the response was not a welcome recognition, but rather the Crucifixion. — Robert F. Simms Boone, North Carolina



n Witnesses of a Third Way: A Fresh Look at Evangelism, Robert Neff s chapter includes this story about visiting a church service: "It was one of those mornings when the tenor didn't get out of bed on the right side. . . . As I listened to this falter­ing voice, I looked around. People were pulling out hymnals to locate the hymn being sung by the soloist. By the second verse, the congregation had joined the soloist in the hymn. And by the third verse, the tenor was beginning to find the range. And by the fourth verse, it was beauti­ful. And on the fifth verse, the congregation was ab­solutely silent, and the tenor sang the most beau­tiful solo of his life. That is life in the body of Christ, enabling one another to sing the tune Christ has given us."

— John H. Unger Brandon, Manitoba



o one imagined that Charles Dutton would have achieved anything, for he spent many years imprisoned for manslaughter.  But when someone asked this now-successful Broadway star of "The Piano Lesson" how he managed to make such a remarkable transition, he replied, "Unlike the other prisoners, I never decorated my cell." Dutton had resolved never to regard his cell as home.

Christians, too, accomplish much in this world when they don't accommodate themselves to it, but instead are "longing for a better country — a heav­enly one" (Heb. 11:16, niv).

— Stuart Sacks Newtown Square, Pennsylvania



ene Stallings tells of an incident when he was defensive backfield coach of the Dallas Cow­boys. Two All-Pro players, Charlie Waters and Cliff Harris, were sitting in front of their lockers after playing a tough game against the Washington Redskins. They were still in their uniforms, and their heads were bowed in exhaustion. Waters said to Harris, "By the way Cliff, what was the final score?" In our competitive society, we sometimes fail to remember that excellence isn't determined by com­paring our score to someone else's. Excellence comes from giving one's best, no matter the score.

— Penney F. Nichols Van Nuys, California



n a sermon, Juan Carlos Ortiz spoke of a conver­sation with a circus trapeze artist. The performer admitted the net underneath was there to keep them from breaking their necks, but added, "The net also keeps us from falling. Imagine there is no net. We would be so nervous that we would be more likely to miss and fall. If there wasn't a net, we would not dare to do some of the things we do. But because there's a net, we dare to make two turns, and once I made three turns — thanks to the net!"

Ortiz makes this observation: "We have security in God. When we are sure in his arms, we dare to attempt big things for God. We dare to be holy. We dare to be obedient. We dare, because we know the eternal arms of God will hold us if we fall."

— Vernon Luchies Beauty, Kentucky



raser of Lisuland in northern Burma translated the Scrip­tures into the Lisu lan­guage and then left a young fellow with the task of teaching the people to read. When he returned six months later, he found three students and the teacher seated around a ta­ble, with the Scriptures opened in front of the teacher. When the students each read, they left the Bible where it was. The man on the left read it sideways, the man on the right read it sideways but from the oth­er side, and the man across from the teacher read it up­side-down. Since they al­ways occupied the same chairs, thaf s how each had learned to read, and that's how each thought the lan­guage was written.

We, too, can be like that. When we learn something from only one perspective, we may think it's the only perspective. Sometimes it's good to change seats to as­sume a different perspec­tive on the same truth.

John Ross

Cranleigh, Surrey


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