Faithlife Sermons


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argaret Sangster Phippen wrote that in the mid-1950s her father, British minister W. E. Sangster, began to notice some un­easiness in his throat and a dragging in his leg. When he went to the doctor, he found he had an incurable disease that caused pro­gressive muscular atrophy. His muscles would gradually waste away, his voice would fail, his throat would soon be­come unable to swallow.

Sangster threw himself into his work in British home missions, figuring he could still write and he would have even more time for prayer. "Let me stay in the struggle, Lord," he pleaded. "I don't mind if I can no longer be a general, but give me just a regiment to lead." He wrote articles and books, and helped or­ganize prayer cells throughout England. "I'm only in the kindergarten of suffering," he told people who pitied him.

Gradually Sangster's legs became useless. His voice went completely. But he could still hold a pen, shakily. On Easter morn­ing, just a few weeks be­fore he died, he wrote a letter to his daughter. In it, he said, "It is terrible to wake up on Easter morn­ing and have no voice with which to shout, 'He is risen!' — but it would be still more terrible to have a voice and not want to shout."

— Vernon Grounds Denver, Colorado

| B |

ruce Larson, in Believe and Belong, tells how he helped people struggling to surrender their lives to Christ:

"For many years I worked in New York City and counseled at my office any number of people who were wrestling with this yes-or-no decision. Often I would suggest they walk with me from my office down to the RCA Building on Fifth Avenue. In the entrance of that building is a gigantic statue of Atlas, a beautifully proportioned man who, with all his mus­cles straining, is holding the world upon his shoul­ders. There he is, the most powerfully built man in the world, and he can barely stand up under this burden. 'Now that's one way to live,' I would point out to my companion, 'trying to carry the world on your shoul­ders. But now come across the street with me.'

"On the other side of Fifth Avenue is Saint Patrick's Cathedral, and there behind the high altar is a little shrine of the boy Jesus, perhaps eight or nine years old, and with no effort he is holding the world in one hand. My point was illustrated graphically.

"We have a choice. We can carry the world on our shoulders, or we can say, 'I give up, Lord; here's my life. I give you my world, the whole world.' "

— Richard A. Hasler Belpre, Ohio



alking through a park, I passed a massive oak tree. A vine had grown up along its trunk. The vine started small — nothing to bother about. But over the years the vine had gotten taller and taller. By the time I passed, the entire lower half of the tree was covered by the vine's creepers. The mass of tiny feelers was so thick that the tree looked as though it had innumerable birds' nests in it.

Now the tree was in danger. This huge, solid oak was quite literally being taken over; the life was being squeezed from it.

But the gardeners in that park had seen the danger. They had taken a saw and severed the trunk of the vine — one neat cut across the middle. The tangled mass of the vine's branches still clung to the oak, but the vine was now dead. That would gradually become plain as weeks passed and the creepers began to die and fall away from the tree.

How easy it is for sin, which begins so small and seemingly insignificant, to grow until it has a stran­gling grip on our lives.

And yet, Christ's death has cut the power of sin. Yes, the "creepers" of sin still cling and have some effect. But sin's power is severed by Christ, and gradually, sin's grip dries up and falls away.

— J. Alistair Brown Cults, Aberdeen, Scotland

| A |

bout 350 years ago a shipload of trav­elers landed on the northeast coast of Amer­ica. The first year they es­tablished a town site.

The next year they elected a town government.

The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wil­derness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government be­cause they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilder­ness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get there. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pio­neering vision.

With a clear vision of what we can become in Christ, no ocean of diffi­culty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

— Lynn Anderson Abilene, Texas

40       LEADERSHIP/87







adio  personality Paul Harvey tells the story of how an Eskimo kills a wolf. The account is grisly, yet it of­fers fresh insight into the consuming, self-destructive nature of sin.

"First, the Eskimo coats his knife blade with animal blood and allows it to freeze. Then he adds an­other layer of blood, and another, until the blade is completely concealed by frozen blood.

"Next, the hunter fixes his knife in the ground with the blade up. When a wolf follows his sensitive nose to the source of the scent and discovers the bait, he licks it, tasting the fresh frozen blood. He be­gins to lick faster, more and more vigorously, lap­ping the blade until the keen edge is bare. Fever­ishly now, harder and hard­er the wolf licks the blade in the arctic night. So great becomes his craving for blood that the wolf does not notice the razor-sharp sting of the naked blade on his own tongue, nor does he recognize the instant at which his insatiable thirst is being satisfied by his own warm blood. His car­nivorous appetite just craves more — until the dawn finds him dead in the snow!"

It is a fearful thing that people can be "consumed by their own lusts." Only God's grace keeps us from the wolf's fate.

— Chris T. Zwingelberg Elgin, Illinois

| I |

n Context, Martin Marty retells a parable from the Eye of the Needle newsletter: "A holy  man was  engaged in his  morning meditation under a tree whose roots stretched out over the riverbank. During his meditation he noticed that the river was rising, and a scorpion caught in the roots was about to drown. He crawled out on the roots and reached down to free the scorpion, but every time he did so, the scorpion struck back at him.

"An observer came along and said to the holy man, 'Don't you know that's a scorpion, and it's in the nature of a scorpion to want to sting?'

"To which the holy man replied, 'That may well be, but it is my nature to save, and must I change my nature because the scorpion does not change its nature?' "

— Joseph B. Modica Elmhurst, New York



n modern times we define a host of relations by contracts. These are usually for goods or services and for hard cash. The contract, formal or infor­mal, helps to specify failure in these relationships.

The Lord did not establish a contract with Israel or with the church. He created a covenant. There is a difference.

Contracts are broken when one of the parties fails to keep his promise. If, let us say, a patient fails to keep an appointment with a doctor, the doctor is not obligated to call the house and inquire, "Where were you? Why didn't you show up for your appoint­ment?" He simply goes on to his next patient and has his appointment secretary take note of the patient who failed to keep the appointment. The patient may find it harder the next time to see the doctor. He broke an informal contract.

According to the Bible, however, the Lord asks: "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isa. 49:15).

The Bible indicates the covenant is more like the ties of a parent to her child than it is a doctor's appoint­ment. If a child fails to show up for dinner, the parent's obligation, unlike the doctor's, isn't canceled. The parent finds out where the child is and makes sure he's cared for. One member's failure does not destroy the relationship. A covenant puts no condi­tions on faithfulness. It is the unconditional commit­ment to love and serve.

— Bruce Shelley in Christian Theology in Plain Language

| I |

n March of 1981, Presi­dent Reagan was shot by John Hinckley, Jr., and was hospitalized for several weeks. Although Reagan was the nation's chief executive, his hospi-talization had little impact on the nation's activity. Government continued on.

On the other hand, sup­pose the garbage collectors in this country went on strike, as they did not long ago in Philadelphia. That city was not only in a literal mess, the pile of decaying trash quickly became a health hazard. A three-week nationwide strike would paralyze the country.

Who is more important — the President or a gar­bage collector?

In the body of Christ, seemingly insignificant ones are urgently needed. As Paul reminds us, "The head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you!' On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable" (1 Cor. 12:21-22).

— David Parsons Paso Robles, California

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