Archive for June, 2022

LEON TROTSKY attended Sunday School in Chicago in 1915 with a friend. The teacher did not arrive to teach the class that Sunday morning and, unfortunately, had not notified anyone of his intention to be absent. Trotsky walked away from that class, and as far as is known, never attended Sunday School again.

Trotsky went to Russia and soon became intensely engaged in the Russian Revolution which brought the Communist regime to power. He first became involved in underground activities. He was soon arrested, jailed and exiled to Siberia where he joined the Social Democratic Party. Eventually, he escaped Siberia and spent the majority of the next fifteen years abroad, including some time in London.

One cannot help but wonder what positive effect the AWOL Sunday School teacher might have had on Trotsky, and through him upon future world events if he had only been at his post of duty to teach God’s Word that Sunday morning in Chicago. He had missed a wonderful opportunity to share his faith in a warm and wonderful way.

JOSEPH STALIN, whose paranoid purging caused millions of people to die, was earlier in his life sent to study to become a priest in the Russian Orthodox Church. He soon came to believe that the Russian Orthodox Church had become corrupt and worldly, and he rebelled and turned to communism as a way of life.

During the quarter of a century preceding his death, Stalin probably exercised greater political power than any other figure in history. He industrialized the Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics, forcibly collectivized its agriculture, consolidated his position by using intensive police terror, helped to defeat Germany in 1941-45, created a mighty military complex and led the Soviet Union into the nuclear age.

In his “Communist Manifesto” Stalin declared that religion is the opiate of the people, in other words, that which puts people to sleep and salves their consciences while the world all around cries out in distress.

MAHATMA GANDHI studied Christianity when he was a young student in England. He rejected it, as he later explained, “Because Christians do not live up to the teachings of Jesus.” Gandhi went back to India to become one of that country’s greatest leaders. One cannot help but wonder how much positive impact for Christ in India Gandhi could have had throughout his life living and representing the teachings of Jesus.

TWO TEENAGE BOYS several years grew up in Dallas, Texas. Both were rough and constantly in trouble. A faithful Sunday School teacher contacted one of them every week for a year. His faithfulness influenced the young man to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. As a result that young man later became the Secretary of Evangelism for the Florida Baptist State Convention.

You will quickly recognize the name of that second young man in Dallas who was constantly in trouble, for it was LEE HARVEY OSWALD who assassinated President John F. Kennedy. Who among us does not have etched in our mind the events of that dark day in Dallas when the President came riding down the street with absolutely no premonition that his life would tragically end in a few hours?

Look again at the names above: Leon Trotsky, Joseph Stalin, Mahatma Gandhi and Lee Harvey Oswald. Two words come quickly to my mind: “What if?” Jesus said to those who follow Him, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). We are the light to others because we serve the One who is “the light of the world.” We fail when we miss opportunities to positively impact others with the message of God’s Word.

Do you know anyone with whom you could share God’s love? What if you did that? And why not?


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With his head buried in his hands, tears began to flow. A river of tears poured out as the prophet Jeremiah vented his innermost feelings. “O God, O God, where are You? Why do You seem so distant from me? It would be wonderful if I had never been born.” In the fifteenth chapter of his prophecy, he records feelings of aloneness and anger, frustration and failure, dejection and despondency, despair and doubt, hatred and hostility, ridicule and rejection. Isolated and alone, he struggled with his personal feelings.

Jeremiah had responded to God’s call at an early age. Some scholars have conjectured that he might have only been 14 years of age. He answered God’s call to preach that judgment would come from the north, and Israel would fall. But year after year went by, and what he said would happen did not happen.

No enemy came and no destruction fell upon Israel. Jeremiah impatiently waited for what God told him to prophesy would come true. While he waited for God’s judgment to be poured out, he was rejected by his friends, the political leaders and the religious leaders. Even his own family plotted to put him to death. They couldn’t understand his strange behavior. What were they supposed to make of him?

Jeremiah is not the only one who has had that kind of experience. Perhaps there have been times in your life when you have felt alone and wondered where God was in your pain, rejection, ridicule, loneliness, despair and depression? If so, you perhaps cried out as Jeremiah did, “Are you in heaven, Father? If so, why don’t You hear my cry?

Many today have known the rejection of losing a job. After years of hard work, you were no longer wanted or needed. When you were young you may have been ridiculed in some way. If you were thin, or perhaps stout, you may have been called “Skinny,” “Bones,” “Beanpole” or “Fatty.” Sometimes children can be thoughtless in what they say to or about each other.

Others experience loneliness day after day. Perhaps you have lost your mate and live alone. Or you have left home to go to college, and all of the friends with whom you have enjoyed life up until this moment are left behind. Others are in nursing homes. Having served as Chaplain for four years at Parkview Nursing Home in Sanford, I had the opportunity of ministering to many people who were lonely. Sometimes family members lived a long distance away or could not visit them often. Others had no family members visit at all.

Jeremiah thought he was a failure. He had preached God’s message for 38 years, and he had received only rejection and ridicule from his listeners. He thought he had failed God. But finally, God’s message was vindicated. We have all known failure at one time or another. And like Jeremiah, many of us have experienced suffering of one kind or another. Some have watched their children get sick and die. They know what it is like to pour out rivers of tears. Yes, they have cried out, “O God, where are you?”

So, what did God say to Jeremiah? Instead of offering him comfort, He gave him a challenge. He said, “Jeremiah, you have been preaching for people to repent, so I want you to listen to your own preaching. I want you to repent of thinking that I have forgotten you. You told my people what they needed to hear, not what they wanted to hear. I have never left you. I will be with you and vindicate you.”

Jeremiah found that in his aloneness he was not really alone. And neither are you, nor am I. There is absolutely nothing that can separate us from God’s presence. When life caves in, do what Jeremiah did: turn to God. You will find that He is already seeking to nourish you, nurture you, love you and sustain you. You do not have to bear difficulties alone. He will be there to support you. Believe it!

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Have you ever looked up the definition of the word “integrity”? Webster’s “New Collegiate Dictionary” defines it as “the state of being complete or undivided.” To have integrity is to be upright, to have soundness of character, moral wholeness, to be honest. Without integrity, human relationships are difficult at best.

James Patterson and Peter Kim, in “The Day America Told the Truth”, shared the results of a poll that asked Americans: “What would you be willing to do for $10,000,000?” Different percentages of those who responded to the poll agreed to do one (and some more than one) of the following things:

  • Abandon their entire family (25%).
  • Become a prostitute for a week or more (23%).
  • Leave their spouse (16%).
  • Withhold testimony and let a murderer go free (10%).
  • Kill a stranger (7%).
  • Put their children up for adoption (3%).

If this poll is anywhere in the vicinity of being accurate, integrity is in short supply in our culture. When King David recognized that he lacked integrity, he cried out to God, “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me” (Psalm 51:10, 12). He realized that he needed a fresh start in his life. He also knew where to find it.

You may also need a fresh start. When you stand in front of a mirror, as David did, and look honestly at your reflection, what do you see? Pride? Deception? Sexual lust? Greed? Self-righteousness? Wasted talent? Idolatry (you can make a god out of money, security or self-image)? Cheating? Lying? Failure to develop the gifts God gave you? Exaggerated ego that puts others down and elevates your own image?

The good news is this: no matter what you see, God offers forgiveness for all of it. Not only that, He offers you the choice to have it become part of your past rather than have it as a part of your present and your future. The new life that God makes possible for you is not just some throwaway idea that was only relevant during the years the Bible was being written. It is a present tense possibility in your life today.

The full measure of what God can do for all who believe in Him is that He can set us free and fit us for kingdom living in the here and now. That is incredible news! Keep in mind the Apostle Paul’s word to the Colossian Christians: “For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).

We can say, as did the Apostle Paul to the Galatian Christians, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). Paul’s commitment to Christ shaped every decision he made and determined every step he took. Ask yourself, “How close am I to doing this?” Identifying with Jesus means that we identify with His suffering. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance produces character and character produces hope. Knowing this, we can face any situation with our head held high.

Genuine commitment to God leads to daily communion with Him. Regular communion with Him develops integrity with the power to impact our world. Do you talk daily with God? If not, why not start today?

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Every preacher is asked sooner or later, “How in the world do you keep coming up with two or three sermons a week, 52 weeks a year?” It definitely is not easy, that is, if you do it the right way. Any pastor who is serious about all the things that need to be done in ministering to a congregation has a 24/7 job. Several years ago, as his family was leaving Sunday morning worship, a little boy, only six years old, said to me, “Preacher, what do you do during the week?” He normally saw me only on Sundays at church, so he likely thought I only worked one day a week.

A pastor’s work involves a lot more than preaching sermons on Sunday. There are several ways to prepare a sermon. I begin by listing several wrong ways.

First, there is the “Mail Order Sermon.” Sermons can be ordered in complete or outline form from publishing companies. They might be called “canned” sermons and unfortunately, aren’t as Biblical or as interesting as advertised. Preachers who manage to get successfully through a reputable seminary shouldn’t need this lazy preacher’s shortcut. They ought to be able to preach without the aid of a canning company.

Second, some preachers have used what could be called the “String of Pearls” method. The idea is simple: devise an introduction, three main points and a conclusion as a basic skeleton. Then pull out of Guidepost or Reader’s Digest or some other source a few clever sayings or cute stories and string them along the outline. Even if the listeners miss the main point, they will remember how funny the preacher was.

Third, I have even known a few preachers who have used what might be called the “Gomer Pyle” method. They wait until Saturday night, put their minds into neutral, say a 30-second prayer, take a pen and pad in hand and wait for divine inspiration to start moving the pen on the pad. Preachers who have used this method the longest wait until Sunday morning to prepare their sermon (this takes a 60-second prayer!), and they wing it. The end result turns out to be, in the words of Pyle, a “surprise, surprise, surprise”—even to God!

Fourth, another wrong way to prepare a sermon is what might be called the “TV Dinner” method. Preachers who dare to use this method listen to prime-time preachers on TV preach (every hair in place and makeup on straight). After a steady diet of listening to a few of these sermons they have enough material and exposure to success techniques to preach almost endlessly.

Lastly, every preacher, especially when he has had a very busy week, has used the “Barrel” method of preaching. This involves dusting off an old sermon that you have preached before, polishing it up a bit, adding a new illustration or two and serving it the second time to an unsuspecting congregation, often under a new title. Like Thanksgiving turkey, such sermons generally turn out to be hash.

The huge number of duties required of fulltime pastors occasionally tempts them to fall back on one or more of these inadequate methods of preparing and preaching a sermon. Hopefully though, they should not do so very often! The best and most effective method to use in preparing and preaching a sermon is definitely the most difficult. Even so, it is the one I favor and have tried to use for nearly 70 years. It requires serious and regular Bible study, widespread reading and much prayer, a conscious visualizing of the people and their needs to whom the sermon will be delivered—and a lot of hard work! Information? Of course! Inspiration? Absolutely! But don’t leave out the perspiration!

Soft soap in the pulpit will not cleanse sinners in the pew. Also, church members should remember that it takes great listening and praying in the pews to make any sermon effective. Don’t forget to pray for your pastor regularly. You can help him by bringing a friend with you as often as you can when you attend church.

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