Sermon Select

Hosanna or Crucify Him! It’s Your Choice 3/28/99

Mark 11:1-10

JESUS CHRIST wants to share His eternal victory with you. An event that occurred on His last Sunday in Jerusalem illustrates this.

The sun was rising rapidly. It was beginning to shoot its golden arrows across the horizon to gild the sky and curtain off the dawn that would bring a new day to the history-filled city of Jerusalem. This is the festive season of Passover. The old city was filled with pilgrims, visitors, and travelers who had come from many countries to share in the feast. Secular census records indicate there were at least 2,500,000 people in Jerusalem for the event. An exciting rumor spread through the city: “Jesus Christ is coming!”

Behind Him were His sermons; ahead, His suffering.

Behind Him were His parables; ahead, His passion.

Behind Him were His suppers of fellowship; ahead, His last supper of betrayal.

Behind Him the delights of Galilee; ahead, dark Gethsemane.

Prophecy was now to become practice.

Let’s set the stage and mentally walk through the actual event before applying it.

Jesus had spent the night at the home of friends in Bethany on the opposite side of the Mount of Olives from Jerusalem. The two towns were no more than three miles apart.

Historians tell us that traditionally persons from various regions all had their special area around Jerusalem where they camped for feast days. The south end of the Mount of Olives had for years been the camping grounds of people from Galilee. These were the unsophisticated and unspoiled people of the area where Jesus spent most of His time and performed most of His miracles. They knew Him best. On several occasions they had tried to make Him a king (John 6:15). Mark 12:37 says of them, “The common people heard Him gladly.” The Galileans were “the common people.”

In the city of Jerusalem were the wealthy and superficially religious leaders. Jesus had antagonized them by referring to the “scribes and Pharisees” as “hypocrites” (Matt. 23). Also among them were the Sadducees who had long been plotting His downfall. In order to preserve their wealth and lifestyle, they had consorted with the conquering Romans and compromised their faith. They had much to lose if they displeased their Roman overlords. These man-pleasing priests and scribes plotted their nefarious death scheme. The poorer Galileans had nothing to lose. The city dwellers would do anything to placate the Romans in order to continue to prosper.

To them the issue was “the economy stupid.” In their eyes Jesus was an expendable. Besides, in the eyes of the religious leaders He was a threat to religious tradition, not the Messiah.

Notice that in verse 9 there were two groups. “Those that went before” were persons who had come out of Jerusalem because of their curiosity as a result of all the shouting. “Those who followed” and “cried out” were the Galileans.

Our distance from the event causes us to merge the two crowds into one and assume it was the same people who shouted “Hosanna” that also cried “crucify Him.”

It was the jubilant Galileans who shouted “Hosanna” and the aristocratic, superficially religious ingrates of Jerusalem who wanted to appease the Romans who cried “crucify Him.”

With which crowd do your actions suggest you would have related? Do you daily put Him to an open shame or is your lifestyle a praise of Him, resulting in people praising Him?

Timing is critical to everything we do. Doing the right thing at the right time is important. Don’t grow weary and become discouraged in waiting for God’s timing in your life. His clock is never wrong. He is a clock watcher, as this event illustrates. Therefore, we need not be.

Passover was a celebration commemorating the deliverance of the Jews from Egyptian captivity. It always occurred on the 15th of the Jewish month of Nisan. That’s about mid-April for us. All who lived within 20 miles of Jerusalem were required to attend. Actually, Jews from all over the world gladly gathered for this major happening. As excitement mounts with the approach of our holidays, so an air of exhilaration preceded Passover. Extensive preparation preceded it. Roads were repaired, tombs were whitewashed, and children were rehearsed in the significance of the event. The prophet Daniel foretold when this momentous event would occur. In Daniel 9: 24 – 26 he said it would be 173,880 days until it happened.

Jesus went to Bethany six days before Passover (John 12:1) and entered Jerusalem the next day, April 6, 32. That was precisely 173,880 days from the time of Daniel’s prophecy. In this act, the Father was further validating Jesus as the Messiah.

This may have seemed to have been an impromptu happening, but it had been scheduled in eternity 173,880 days in advance.

He was also dramatizing for us the fact that He keeps His word and always performs on time.

Incidentally, prophecy said Messiah was to come before the destruction of the temple. The temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. With it all the records showing family ancestry perished.

Prophetically it was written Messiah would be a descendent of Abraham (Genesis 12:3), Isaac (Genesis 17:19), and Jacob (Numbers 24: 17). It was written He would be from the Tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and heir to the throne of David (Isa. 9:7). Birth records of and title deeds were kept in the temple. When it burned the records were lost. Thereafter there has been no way to validate these family tree coordinates.

Two unanswerable questions confront those who doubt His Messiahship. If He were not the Messiah who was? If He were not, how can anyone since the destruction of the family ancestral trees were destroyed, prove from which tribe they descended?

God the Father wanted God the Son to be well identified on His visit to earth.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the world famous fictitious detective, Sherlock Holmes, tells this story on himself and his identity. As he tells it he was waiting for a taxi outside the railway station in Paris. An accommodating taxi driver drove up, put his suitcase in and got in himself. As he was about to tell the taxi driver where to go the driver said, “Where can I take you Mr. Doyle?”

Doyle was astounded. He asked the driver if he recognized him by sight. The driver said, “No sir, I have never seen you.”

Puzzled Doyle asked how the driver knew he was Conan Doyle. The driver responded, “This morning’s paper had a story that you were on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi-stand where people who return from Marseilles always wait. Your skin color tells me you were on vacation. The ink-spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you are a writer. Your clothing is English, not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduce that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

Doyle exclaimed, “This is truly amazing. You are a real-life counter-part to my fictional character, Sherlock Holmes.”
“There is one other thing,” the driver said.
“What’s that?” Doyle asked.
“Your name is on the front of your suitcase.”

Messiah was identified in even greater detail.

B. MATERIALS. In any project it is important to have the right resources, the proper materials.

Jesus needed a couple of donkeys. Centuries earlier the prophet Zechariah (9:9) said Messiah would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey.

All those along the route He was to ride had learned in infancy and repeated often the prophet. As they beheld Him riding the words would have reverberated in their thoughts:

“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9).

Jesus knew where the resources He needed were. One was in the possession of one of His unidentified disciples. He not only had twelve apostles but many disciples, and the owner of the donkey was one. A disciple is a learner or follower. Every Christian is in reality a disciple. Today every true follower of the Lord and supporter of His cause is needed. Our Lord has need of us to pray, study, give guidance, and financially support His cause. These things we should do willingly, eagerly, spontaneously and without thought of acclaim or promotion.

Though He had the authority to command it, He gave the opportunity to refuse its use.

He had the integrity to make His request through His disciples.

He had the honesty and justice to return it.

Are you withholding what the Master needs? Are some of the resources needed by His church being held by you?

Through the ages there have been those who have delighted to serve a meaningful though menial role in His kingdom. He has always had those of us who delight to be the equivalent of His donkey, that is, the means by which He achieves His purpose.

When our beloved Lord needed someone to reform the medieval church from its petrified dignity He chose the rough unpolished son of a miner, Martin Luther. When He needed a donkey to arouse the orthodox church of England He called from behind the bar of the Bell Inn in Gloucester, George Whitfield. When He needed a hard-hitting, free-swinging evangelist at the turn of the century to shatter the formalism engulfing American Christianity He called a drunkard from Cartersville, Georgia named Sam Jones to be His donkey. They would all be proud to be likened to the beast of burden that bore Jesus into Jerusalem that day. When God needed a donkey to pastor this great church He graciously chose a country kid named Nelson Price.

A. He came to CLEANSE. In 175 B.C. Anticus Epiphanes conquered Jerusalem. He sacrificed swine on the holy altar and turned the sacred temple into a brothel. Anticus whose other name “Ephiphanes” means “the Manifest God,” not only had an ego problem, he had a spiritual problem. Three years later Judah Maccabee recaptured Jerusalem and physically cleansed the temple. Now Christ came to the temple to cleanse it spiritually from hypocritical defilement. That is what He wants to do in our lives. A spiritual cleansing is a joyous thing inherent with unimaginable blessings.

B. He came to FORGIVE. He was called “king” and “Lord.”

The Greek word for “Lord” is KURIOS. It was used in various ways. In which of these prominent ways is it used by you?

  1. It was used as a title of respect like our Southern use of the words “Sir” or “Ma’am.”
  2. It was used of one who is in charge. Luke refers to an individual who was the “lord of the vineyard,” meaning He was the master in charge of the vineyard.
  3. It was used of deity. The Romans mistakenly thought Caesar was divine and called him Kurios Caesar. Is He the one you respect who has authority over you as your divine God?

C. He came to IDENTIFY with His followers. It was now time to bring to a climax His reason for coming to earth.

He who could have ridden the wind rode a donkey. He who could have summonsed the Seraphim chose a donkey.

Scripture says, “All things were created by Him…” Yet, He borrowed a donkey. “The earth is the Lord’s,” but He borrowed a donkey. Involved was – –

A. DONKEY. Jesus didn’t come riding a high spirited war steed or prancing white stallion, but on a colt, an animal associated with peace. They were ridden by judges.

B. CLOAK. Symbolized His kingship.

C. PALMS. Matthew, Mark and John each use a different word for “branches.” Matthew speaks of young branches or shoots. Mark refers to a mass of straw. John speaks of palm branches. Each was right. All three were used. Each writer simply mentions the one that stood out to him. This simply shows there was no collaboration or duplicity in their writing. Each wrote from his own viewpoint. Such was the response of the people when Judah Maccabee liberated the city. This confirmed Christ as Liberator.

D. HOSANNA. Pilgrims today follow Christ’s route from Bethany to Jerusalem. As Christ’s climactic moment arrived, He and His entourage mounted the crest of the Mount of Olives where suddenly the vista of the Holy City bursts into panoramic view.

The Jewish historian Josephus wrote of what He looked upon: “The outward face of the Temple in its front wanted nothing that was likely to surprise either men’s minds or their eyes; for it was covered all over with plates of gold of great weight, and, at the first rising of the sun, reflect back a very fiery splendor, and made those who forced themselves to look upon it to turn away their eyes, just as they would have done at the sun’s own rays.”

The exuberant and impetuous crowd of common people on the Mount of Olives shouted, “Hosanna,” meaning “Let even the angels in the highest heights of heaven cry unto God, save now!” (Matthew. 21:9).

In that shouting crowd were persons who owed Him gratitude for their restored sight, straight limbs, clear sane reasoning, and healed bodies; even one named Lazarus, his life restored from the grave. We like them are indebted to Him.

As Jesus descended from the Mount of Olives into the Kedron Valley and started His approach through the Eastern Gate of Jerusalem, there He encountered the hostile crowd intent on appeasing the Romans who would shout “Crucify Him!”

With which crowd do you identify? I don’t mean which in your more spiritual moments do you profess to identify with. In reality with which crowd does your lifestyle more closely identify. Consider the various reactions and mark yours. Some – – –

A. Wanted to use Him. The Zealots wanted Him to be their military liberator.

B. Wanted to ignore Him. The Romans felt superior to this lowly Nazarene whom they sought to ignore.

C. Wanted to obey Him. The owner of the donkey eagerly wanted to obey.

D. Wanted to worship Him. They knew He had resurrected Lazarus (John 12: 17,18).

The eventful morning of His entry into Jerusalem was a Sunday. On this day will you allow Him to enter your heart in triumph? He comes in only by special invitation.

The crowd reaction of that day is not so different from the various responses of today. John Mark in his gospel makes an interesting observation regarding Christ’s immediate followers:

“Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid…” (Mark 10:32).

When Jesus goes before you there is no need to be afraid.

They were not intimidated by their fear, they followed. Courage isn’t not having any fear. It is doing what you know is right in spite of your fear.

Is fear in any form holding you back in your response to Christ? If so, show faith in Him and express courage by reacting with the crowd that shouted “Hosanna.”

Following Christ involves courage, heroism, enthusiasm, power, glory, and peace. Palm Sunday is a living out of Christianity.

Bring Back the Lifeboats 8/15/99

Luke 10:1, 2

Jesus Christ said, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Luke 10:2).

He later said, “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!” (John 4:35).

Jesus Christ spoke of souls as being like a crop ready to be harvested. When a crop is ready to harvest it has to be harvested then or it is lost. The window of opportunity is well defined. There is a limited time in which to act.

Christ’s appeal is to avoid letting opportunity pass you by.

Have you ever heard of the novel “Futility,” by Morgan Robertson? It is the story of the sinking of the ocean liner the Titan that sinks because of hitting an iceberg on its maiden voyage from Southampton to New York.

Perhaps you are thinking I miss spoke when I said the Titan and meant to say the Titanic. I didn’t!

The Titan was 1,800 feet long, the Titanic, 1882 feet.

The Titan displaced 66,000 tons of water, the Titanic 70,000. Amazingly similar.

Both ships were triple-screw ocean liners that could travel up to 25 knots per hour and transport 3,000 passengers.

Perhaps you are wondering why Robertson wrote a novel so nearly like the real life event. The thing that makes this story so intriguing is that the Titanic sank on April 14, 1912. The story of the Titan was published in 1898, fourteen years before the Titanic sank.

It is amazing to think that a story written a decade in advance could so nearly forecast the real event. What is even more engaging is the idea that Bible prophecy written so long in advance can be so exact. When the Bible speaks it speaks truth. When Jesus spoke of there needing to be laborers sent into the harvest He knew the need and asserted our responsibility.

America is rapidly becoming a pagan nation. Before being offended look up the definition of “pagan” and then look around at our society. “The American College Dictionary” defines pagan in the following ways: “a people or community professing some other than the Christian religion.”

Even if you drop down to the second definition pagan still fits America. The second definition is: “one who is not a Christian, Jew, or Mohammedan.”

Drive through our own lovely community on a Sunday morning between 11:00 AM and noon and note the numbers of person not participating in religious worship.

In our wonderful community 67% of the people are unchurched. That is, they do not have a local church where they are a member.

When Christ said the field is white unto harvest he meant the crop is ripe and if not harvested it will spoil.

When a pagan nation turns its back on God it turns back to the gods of decadence. Some of these gods are humanism, secularism, and materialism. These three are flourishing.

All the time churches have the potential of reaching the lost for Christ. The salt is too often kept in the shaker and the light on an immovable lamp stand. My prayer is:
Set us afire Lord I pray,
While the world perishes,
We go our way purposely, passionless, day by day.
Set us afire Lord, stir us I pray.

In an interview this week with a reporter from “The Wall Street Journal” we discussed the many undertakings of modern churches. In conclusion I commented the primary role of the church is to propagate spiritual truths. The church is the only organization founded by Christ who commissioned it to “Go … tell.” Because of a failure to fulfill this role by members of many churches our society is sick and souls lost.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). That was His mission, that is our assignment.

The Biblical record of those He saved is a grouping of the most unlikely prospects. Abraham a liar. Jacob a cheat. David an adulterer. Rahab a harlot. Peter a coward. Joseph of Aramethea a religious bigot. All, like each of us, unlikely converts.

The time for response is now. A man retired after 40 years on a job that required him to catch a bus at 7:30 AM. The first morning after retirement his wife served him eggs as usual. He said, “Honey, I don’t like eggs this way!’ “But,” she said, “I have served you eggs this way for 40 years. Why didn’t you tell me?” His reply, “I never had time.” Take time and make your commitment. Accept His offer of a spiritual rescue.

Jesus said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

That is a mandate He placed upon the church. We are in the spiritual rescue business.

Millions have been captivated by the story of paternal neglect and an adulterous affair called Titanic. The movie captured the imagination and revived interest in this needless tragedy. The real life saga was even more intriguing than the story imagined in the film.

A trade magazine of the time, “The Shipbuilder,” labeled the Titanic “practically unsinkable.” On May 31, 1911, and employee of the White Star Shipbuilding Company said, “Not even God Himself could sink this ship.”

At the time of her launch the Titanic was the world’s largest movable man-made object.

The story of the sinking of the Titanic has striking parallel to the spiritual condition and pending circumstances of many people.

John Phillips was the radio operator on duty that April night. A nearby ship the Californian sent six radio messages to the Titanic warning of icebergs in her path. After the sixth warning he told the messenger from the Californian to “shut up.” Though warned the crew of the Titanic refused to change their course. Survivors say as Phillips faced death his arrogance disappeared and he was heard screaming,

“God forgive me … God forgive me!”

We Christians have heard the Bible lovingly warn of pending spiritual doom awaiting those not heeding its warning. Dare we neglect the loving warning to repent. Dare we refuse to change course spiritually.

Emotionally enter into that event with me. At 11:40 PM, April 14, 1912, a giant iceberg scraped the starboard side of the ship, showered ice on the deck, and ripped open six water-tight compartments. Even then most passengers remained unconvinced the ship was about to sink.

Suddenly resentment over an inconvenience turned to disaster. Passengers realized their peril when rescue flairs were fired in the night air.

Charles Pellegrino, a survivor, said, “The water sparkled for miles around. Lifeboats could be seen on it… In that cave of man-made light, minds, too, were illuminated. Everyone understood the message of the rockets without being told.”

860 members of the crew and approximately 3,500 passengers soon knew they faced potential death.

The wealthiest man in the world, John Astor, tried unsuccessfully to force his way into a lifeboat. His wealth could not save him.

Daniel Buckley tried to disguise himself as a woman in order to get into a lifeboat. His costume failed him and he perished.

Mrs. Isador Straus, whose husband owned Macy’s Department Store refused to leave her husband and refused to get in a lifeboat.

Bruce Ismay, part owner of the Titanic and the man responsible for putting lifeboats on the ship crawled into a lifeboat leaving women and children to drown.

Above the scrams and shouts of the panicky crowd could be heard the voice of John Harper shouting, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Many of the 1,522 men, women, and children left on board screamed their way toward awesome silence.

Amid the confusion most lifeboats pulled away from the sinking ship only partially filled as others struggled to survive. Over the speaker system could be heard the voice of the captain pleading, “Bring back the lifeboats!” They didn’t.

Today many are in no less peril spiritually than those passengers were physically. The job of the church is that of the lifeboats. Those in the lifeboat, the true church of Christ, are safe. Friends without Christ are spiritually perishing.

Circumstances give the impression those safe in the lifeboat appear satisfied and reluctant to rescue others.

Today the message to the church on behalf of the lost in society is, “Bring back the lifeboats.” It is an appeal to get involved in saving souls. The rescue mission of the church is to engage in soul winning.

The story of Christ’s saving grace is simple and illustrated many ways.

Our prosperous economy and highly entertaining society seems to provide security affording as much comfort as that professed by the makers of the Titanic. Never has the message of salvation been more available and ignored. The response is often the same as that of the radio operator on the Titanic, “Shut up!”

There is a double grief illustrated by the Titanic.

One, there were those on board who thought the ship to be unsinkable and therefore ignored the alarm warnings. They had a false trust. Some today think things will always be as good as they are now. A false sense of security exists in our society as many trust in materialism and secularism for security.

On the Titanic that night seven bells marked the hour of 11:30 P.M. as the newest, largest, and most luxurious ocean liner of all times plowed its way from Southampton to New York. Earlier in the evening a communication had come into the Marconi shack from the S.S. Mesaba up ahead: “Saw heavy pack ice and a great number of large icebergs. Also field ice.” The wireless operator on the Titanic was so busy that he shoved the message under a paperweight and their it remained unheeded.

The false sense of security of those on board, typical of those today who trust in material goods, is mirrored by the conduct of Charlotte Cardeza, Philadelphia banking millionairess. She and her maid, valet, 14 trunks, 4 suitcases, and three crates of minor luggage were comfortable in their $25,600 three-room suite when they felt the impact. They ignored the danger in light of their opulent quarters and perished. They failed to heed the warnings. Theirs was a false sense of security.

Days after the disaster the body of John Astor was recovered. In the pocket of the wealthiest man in the world was $4,250 cash. Trust in riches did not save him physically, nor will it save us spiritually.

Second, is the heartbreak found in the indifference of many in the lifeboats who are reluctant to attempt to rescue others. I want to appeal to this church, “Bring back the lifeboats.”

Archibald Gracie remembers the night this way: “The wails and groans of the suffering, the shrieks of the terror-stricken, the awful gasping for breath of those in the throes of drowning —– none of us will forget to our dying day.” Dare we ignore the signs of those spiritually perishing and not bring back the lifeboats. Collectively, let’s dedicate ourselves to the rescue mission at hand.

At 2:20 A.M. the Titanic began her slow descent to the ocean floor. The icy waters of the North Atlantic, in the dark of night, swallowed the ship as souls perished while those who could have saved many relished their own safety refusing to bring back the lifeboats. May it not be true of us.

Back in Southampton, England friends and family members awaited news from the reported sinking. Outside the offices of the White Star Steamship Company was posted a sign reporting on passengers. There were two columns headed: “Saved” and “Lost.” Every person’s name appeared under one or the other. In heaven there will be only two lists, no optional ones, only two: SAVED and LOST. Under which heading is yours presently?

Living in an agricultural society Jesus used familiar terms to describe the two groups: “And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25: 33, 34).

He continued, “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels:” (Matthew 25:41).

In which group are you?

Timothy: A Conscientious Plodder 9/5/99

I Thessalonians 3:1-3

Jesus Christ has had a loyal legion of followers on every continent in every age. The Bible chronicles the experiences of some of the first century stalwarts. Our distance from them diminishes their flaws and dramatizes their favorable qualities. However, in every age loyalist have had one thing in common and Paul was the penman who penned the announcement of it when he wrote: “We told you when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation…” (I Thessalonians 3: 4).

We are blessed and made bold by their example in the face of deprivation, destitution, distress, disaster, and difficulty. They were plodders. They looked neither to the right nor the left but kept on course. Theirs was a long obedience in the same direction.

Jesus said, “If any man will come after me let him take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). What a purpose giving invitation this is. It frees one of boredom and relieves one of monotony.

Our identity with Christ is noted in the word translated “follow.” It means to walk so closely behind that when the person leading removes his foot from one spot the following person puts his foot in that spot. In that proximity there is room for only one cross. Christ said we are to take up our cross and follow Him. If there is room for only one cross and we are to take up our cross that means the cross Christ carried is our cross.

It is not unreasonable to envision Christ struggling under the cross and physically plodding along on His way to Calvary. When we follow Him we become members of the “Society of Plodders.” What a wonderful fraternal order it is.

One of my favorite plodders of a more modern era is George Washington Carver. He was born a slave near Diamond Grove, Missouri. As an infant he along with his mother were stolen by a band of night raiders. It is said his master bought him back in exchange for a horse. He plodded along paying his way through college at Iowa State College by doing janitorial work, taking in laundry, and cooking.

He started a collection of fungus that grew to over 20,000. This earned him national fame. He came to Tuskegee University in Alabama in 1896. His discoveries were numerous.

“When I was young, I said to God, ‘God tell me the mystery of the universe,’ but God answered, ‘That knowledge is reserved for me alone.’ So I said, ‘God tell me the mystery of the peanut.’ Then God said, ‘Well, George, that’s more nearly your size.’ And He told me.”

During his illustrious career this slave child made more than 300 products from the peanut. More than 118 products from the sweet potato and 75 from pecans.

In 1916 this plodder was named a Fellow in the Royal Society of Arts in London, an honor given few Americans.

In 1951 the George Washington Carver Monument was established on 210 acres of Missouri farm land in his honor. By the time of his death some 18 schools had been named in his honor. He was a productive plodder.

Contemporary sports figures are dramatic examples of plodders. Lance Armstrong overcame cancer’s death sentence to win the world of cycling’s most grueling contest, the Tour de France. He said, “I am responsible to tell my story. To encourage others to fight on.” He plodded the often debilitating path of cancer.

Jim Abbot was born without a right hand. Courageously he concentrated on his left and minimized the absence of a right hand. He overcame his limitation to become quarterback of his high school football team. He excelled in baseball batting 427.

In Korea he was a pitcher on the U.S. Gold Medal baseball team.

He broke into the major leagues with the Angels in 1989. He pitched in 263 major league games. In 1991 he was 18 – 11 with an ERA of 2.89. Most remarkably of all while pitching with the New York Yankees this one armed phenomenon pitched a no- hitter.

He said, “My career wasn’t always great, but it was wonderful.” What a productive plodder!

Plodders know toward what they are plodding. They have an objective, goal, or gateway. Create an environment that keeps yours before you.

Strategically placed post-it notes can be used as self-reminders. Post them on your refrigerator, in your bedroom, at your place of play, work, or business.

Record your statement of calling or goals on cassette tape and replay it for yourself often.

Put them on the screen saver of your computer.

Isaac Newton was asked how he discovered the law of gravity and replied, “By thinking about it all the time.”

What are the spiritual goals toward which you are plodding. State them, record them, and repeat them to achieve them.

For examples of traits of a conscientious plodder turn to your New Testament. Timothy is tracked in his faith from his childhood. From him we can learn additional traits of a plodder.

Timothy was evidently reared in a single parent home. His mother and grandmother are identified but no reference is made to his dad (II Timothy 1: 5). Both his mom, Eunice, and grandmother Lois were followers of Christ who served as his maternal mentors.

From infancy they taught him Scripture (II Timothy 3: 15).

Scripture is a curriculum for a course of a joyous life well lived. That is true because it comes from God.

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God…” (II Timothy 3: 16).

Meaning, “Every single part of the whole is given by God.” I have studied textual criticism, form criticism, and higher criticism, which as most often taught are designed to destroy one’s confidence in Scripture. It only confirmed my confidence in it as God’s Word.

A perfect God would have had no problem giving us a perfect Bible. Every single part of it is given “by inspiration of God.” This means “every single part of the whole is breathed out by God.” As we exhale breath from our lungs so every part of the Bible proceeded from the mind of God.

If you want a faith that keeps on keeping on “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Tim 2:15).

HEAR God’s Word, READ God’S Word, STUDY God’s Word,

MEMORIZE God’ Word, MEDITATE on God’s Word, DO God’s Word.

Establish a personal program of daily Bible study. Set aside a time and place to go through this regimen.

Inevitably you will miss a day. If so don’t quit. If you miss a meal do you give up eating all together? No, you look all the more forward to the next one and resume. Do the same in Bible study.

Note the advantages of studying Scripture.

It is “profitable for doctrine,” that is it deals with forwardness.

It is affords “reproof,” meaning it relates to falsehoods.

It is suited for “correction.” Apply it for faltering.

It is reliable “for instruction in righteousness. It guides us in making God first.

Plodders need instructions on the right route.

Let God’s Word be your standard for life. Many people are looking and listening to learn what’s “in.” The “everybody is doing it” mantra is a mandate for meritocracy.

That sage, President Harry Truman, who defied the polls said: “How far would Moses have gone if he had taken a poll? What would Jesus Christ have preached if He had taken a poll in the land of Israel? What would have happened if Martin Luther had taken a poll? It is isn’t polls or public opinion of the moment that counts. It is right and wrong and leadership.”

One plodding after the heart of God gets marching orders from the Word of God. Timothy did.

Paul describes Timothy as his “fellow laborer” (I Thes. 3:2).

In the day when the dignity of labor has been debased we do well to have a Labor Day on our national calendar to pay tribute to those who labor.

When a person sees his or her job as a ministry then it takes on a holy glow. When they conceive of themselves as doing what they are doing as though Jesus were their on job boss life sparkles. Then Colossians 3: 23 becomes a by-word for life: “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

Perform and produce to an audience of one, Jesus.

Few figures are as much in the spotlight as athletes in America today. I am pleased to associate with many of the greatest athletes in the world by virtue of being Chairman of the National Board of Trustees of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Many of them measure their effectiveness not by boos or cheers of the crowds but by whether they have performed in a manner pleasing to Christ. They know Christ to be plodding every step with them.

John Wooden, perhaps the greatest coach of any sport, who won unprecedented number of National Championships with UCLA, said, “Sometimes I wonder if the Lord isn’t almost as much the coach as I am.”

Tom Landry observed, “Knowing your job isn’t the most important thing in your life relieves a lot of pressure. And because I felt I was doing God’s will in my life, I knew I didn’t have to do it all in my strength.”

Bobby Bowden who has enjoyed unprecedented success with his football program at Florida State, in speaking of his life growing “more Christian- patterned,” said, “At least I hope I have grown in my Christian life through the years. I’ve tried to be a better example to my players.”

Tom Osborne whose Nebraska Cornhuskers ranked among the top 24 in the nation for 30 years, from 1969 to 1998, and 21 times in the top ten, is a man of great personal faith. His newly released book, Faith in the Game, is punctuated with accounts revealing his deep personal faith in the sufficiency of Christ.

Grant Teaff, Executive Director of the American Football Coaches Association, told me he has made a long time study of the crucifixion of Christ because His was the ultimate sacrifice. Any sacrifice he asked of himself and his players was measured against that.

Like these men the labor of Timothy was to establish and encourage people in their faith. Everybody needs strengthening and encouraging. Modern behaviorist Dale Carnegie said, “Three- fourths of the people you will ever meet are hungering and thirsting for sympathy. Give it to them, and they will love you.”

Timothy and Paul, like many today, had an unusually difficult assignment. They were to be living examples of the sufficiency of Christ in adversity. Don’t read I Thess. 3: 3 with glazed eyes: “that no one should be shaken by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we are appointed to this.”

They were “appointed” to suffer for Christ.

Benjamin Franklin said, “The things that hurt instruct.”

Paul had a thorn in the flesh with which he lived. Timothy had digestive problems. For this reason he was counseled to “take a little wine for the stomachs sake.” Wooooe!

Many take this as license for consuming alcohol noting the Bible says do it. If you are going to be Biblical about it be Biblical about it all the way. The medical standard of the era is revealed in the word “little.” There was a formula for this. Sanitation and water purification in that era wasn’t good. To compensate for this they added one part wine to 20 parts water. So if you are going to use this as your proof text be sure to follow that formula and you won’t become an alcoholic.

Pollster George Gallup, Jr., concluded in his book Saints Among Us that approximately 13% of Americans live their lives out of deep, authentic, spiritual commitment. He found they are more compassionate, more conscious of God’s presence, and led happier and more joyful lives.

Throughout the Book of Acts Timothy is found being dispatched to a different difficult area to share the love of Christ. He was part of the vanguard that put out the altar fires in the pagan temples and light the gospel torch in the palaces of Caesar. We too have a similar assignment.

Eighty years ago England was the most churched country in the world. Today many churches are closed. Those who do reach people for Christ average baptizing 1?2 person per year.

In 1958 America was the most churched country in the world. Today, 40 years later, we are half-way to where England is.

Loyalist like Timothy must be raised up to plod into the fields that are indeed white unto harvest, over ripe.

Paul described Timothy as “my beloved and faithful son in the Lord” (I Cor. 4: 17). With such identity Timothy was sent to the divided church in Corinth to be God’s instrument of reconciliation. Plodders go where they are supposed to go and do what they are assigned to do.

Timothy’s message and life are confirmed as positive. Paul said, “Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by … Timothy—- was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us” (II Corinthians 1: 19, 20).

There is to be no vacillating. The expression “amen” is an expression of confirmation.

As a leader in the emerging church Timothy was martyred during the reign of Domitian trying to stop an indecent heathen act. Thus, this God-honoring plodded sealed his testimony with his blood.

“Fame is a vapor, popularity is an accident, riches take wings. One thing endures and that is character.” (Horace Greeley)

It’s About Time 1/17/99

Ephesians 5:15-18
Come Alive Bible Page 1712

JESUS CHRIST stepped across the portals of eternity onto the stage of time to demonstrate to us the proper use of time. He was time-conscious. As a child, He said, “I must be about my Father’s business.” “My time is not yet come…” was a statement frequently on His lips. We need to gain His perspective and appreciation for time.

Swiss Clock:
When as a child, I laughed and wept
Time crept.

When as a youth, I dreamed and talked
Time walked.

When I became a full grown man
Time ran.

When older still I grew
Time flew
Soon I shall find in traveling on
Time gone.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Do you love life? Then do not squander time, for it is the stuff of which life is made.”

We do tend to squander time with trivial engagements. A “U.S. News and World Report” recorded the following use of time. In a lifetime the average American will spend:
Six months at stop lights.
Eight months opening junk mail.
One year looking for lost objects.
Two years unsuccessfully returning phone calls.
Four years doing housework.
Five years waiting in line.
Six years eating.

We would do well to pray with the Psalmist, “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12).

We are born time conscious. If you doubt it take a trip with a young child and you will hear: “Are we there yet? How much longer?”

Unfortunately, too soon we lose the sense of importance to time and begin to waste it.

In His wisdom God described some people in this manner: “Some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies” (II Thessalonians 3:11).

An alleged interview with God went like this.
“God what is a million dollars like to you?”
“A million dollars is like a penny to Me.”
“God what is a million years like to you?
“A million years is like a second.”
“God will you please give me a million dollars?”
“In a second.”

Ask the Lord to help you order your time. With just 15 minutes a day in a year you can:
-Read the entire Bible.
-Learn to play a musical instrument.
-Plant and cultivate a small garden.
-Learn a foreign language.
-Become physically fit.
-Write a book.

Don’t pull yesterday’s clouds over today’s sun.

Evidence of time misspent: 7.5 billion sleeping pills per year, 19 million shaky hands each night reach for help. 11 million Aspirin, 7.5 Billion headaches. That’s 50 headaches/head/year. Two factors that can cause this bitterness:
– Glory behind. Don’t live like a peacock whose glory is behind.

– Guilt behind. In marriage counseling, I find many things that are causing problems happened three or more years ago.

You can’t drive to a desired destination looking in the rear-view mirror. Don’t try to live a progressive life looking back. Learn from the past that you might live will in the present.

Don’t waste today. Let Mary tell you her story and perhaps it will help you get today …. everyday in focus.

Mary says she stood with her brother-in-law and watched as he took out of the dresser drawer a tissue wrapped package. As he unfolded it he said, “This is not a slip. It is lingerie.” It was beautiful silk handmade and trimmed with cobwebbed lace.” He continued speaking of my sister, “Jan bought it when we were going to New York 8 or 9 years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, this is a special occasion,” he said as he turned and placed it on the bed along with Jan’s other clothes he was taking to the undertaker.

The he turned and looked at me and said, “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you are alive is a special occasion.”

Ever since he said that “Some day” and “One of these days” are two expressions that have lost their grip on me. I awake every morning realizing this is a special occasion.”

Don’t rush by today to get to tomorrow. Even in Sanskrit it is noted: “Look well to this one day, for it and it alone is life. In the brief course of this one day lie all the verities and realities of your existence; the pride of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of beauty. Yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is but a vision. Yet, each day, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness and each tomorrow a vision of hope. Look well, therefore, to this one day, for it and it alone is life.”

Philip Dormer Stanhope, the Earl of Chesterfield said, “Know the true value of time. Snatch it, seize it, enjoy every second of it. No laziness, no idleness, no procrastination; never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”

Don’t get so busy today that you fail to properly use your time. When the text speaks of “redeeming the time” it is appealing for us to get the true value from it. We do this by living each moment filled with the Holy Spirit. If you become so busy you don’t have time for God you are not in compliance with His will for you. That means you aren’t getting done what He wants you to do.

God never frustrates His people. If it appears you have more work than you can do, it is obvious God didn’t give you part of it.

If the devil can’t make us bad he will make us busy.

Dr. Smiley Blanton: “Thousands upon thousands of people either destroy their lives or frustrate them because of their preoccupation with anxiety, fear, and worry.” Don’t worry away your time– redeem it.

I Peter 5:7 “Casting all your anxiety on Him, because He careth for you.”

I will not do anything today that will mess up tomorrow. Remember a pickle can never be a cucumber again. You can’t unscramble an egg. Sand can’t run uphill in an hourglass.

These vital reasons are given for redeeming the time.

The days are evil. Read the signs of the time with bifocal lenses and you can see the days are evil. Christianity is not a religious escape from history. Our faith is a fortress against the powers and principalities of this world.

It is also an embassy of God’s kingdom set in the midst of a crooked and perverse people.

The moral decay of modern society can never be used as an excuse for lowering our sense of justice, righteousness, and truth.

Redeem the time. HOW? The Scripture answers: “By being filled with the Holy Spirit.”

WHAT does that mean? To be controlled by Christ. Serve Jesus as Lord. “Be not drunk with wine…”

In their worship of the goddess Dionysus, the Greeks used alcohol. They looked at the wine in a chalice and saw the bubbles rising. Movement in the wine caused them to conclude there must be life in the cup. The content of the cup influenced their feelings and behavior. Therefore they assumed the movement in the challenge was caused by a god in the wine. They named that god Bacca.

As Bacca influenced ones walk and talk so does the Holy Spirit. Don’t let your life be under the control of any controlled substance for even a moment. Let it constantly be under the influence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You can’t fake it. To be filled with the Spirit one must have Christ in the life.

HOW can one be filled?

You don’t have to beg God to do what He wants to do. He commanded us to be filled (vs. 18). It is His will for all of His children to be filled. Remember it means to live the Christ controlled life.

Begin by desiring it: “Blessed are they which hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).

Confess and be cleansed: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9).

We must model our lives after the life of Christ. John 1:1 gives insight into the punctual nature of our Lord: “Before time began to begin the Word was…” There never was a time when Jesus wasn’t. There was a time when there was no time. Time was a part of creation.

We live “in hope of eternal life which God, who cannot lie, promised before time began” (Titus 1:2). “Before time began….”

There will be a time when time shall be no more. In this brief capsule of time we live and make our decisions regarding eternity.

When the director of the play steps on stage the play is over.

Scripture alerts us to the expediency of immediate response to the love of Christ: “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Corinthians 6:2).

Do You Have a Great Attitude or a Grrrr-Attitude? 11/28/99

Colossians 2:6, 7

Jesus Christ changes lives. He sweetens spirits, elevates attitudes, gives cause for hope, and inspires gratitude.

In setting the captive soul free He gives wings to optimism, enabling persons to see reasons for rejoicing in the simplest things in life and giving meaning to the most mundane.

Christ gives life meaning and purpose once we give our life to Him. Giving our life to Him means to concede He is who he is and to put our self under His authority and protection.

Colossians 2:6 gives insight into His true nature.

He is the “Christ.” That means He is the “Anointed of God.” He was the member of the Godhead designated to be our prophet, priest, and king.

He is “Jesus,” the historic Savior. The name “Jesus” means Jehovah saves.

He is “Lord.” This title identifies Him as our sovereign authority. It is to Him we owe allegiance and none other.

Colossians 2:9 pulls these three titles together and identifies who He is: “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”

The “fullness,” that is, the completeness of God dwells in Christ. The Greek term translated “Godhead” is Theotetos. It doesn’t simply mean the attributes of God were in Christ, but that the very essence, the nature of God. Simply put, He was God. The whole fullness of what God is, His supreme nature in its infinite entirety, is who Christ is. The fullness of God dwelt in Christ bodily form. Simply put, Jesus Christ was God.

The phrase “in Christ” is in the emphatic position in the text meaning in Him only does the fullness of God exists. This refutes and disputes claims that we are all little gods.

The text challenges us to “walk in Him” meaning to have a lifestyle becoming of Him. Four participles describe this walk.

ROOTED AND BUILT UP, the first two go together.

– “Rooted” is perfect tense meaning a once-for-all experience.

Sidney Lanier the Poet Laureate of Georgia is known as the “Galahad among our American poets.” He wrote such works as “Songs of the Chattahoochee” and “The Marshes of Glynn.” In the latter he wrote:
“I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies
In the freedom that fills all the space ‘twix the marsh and the skies.
As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God:
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God.”

– “Built up” is a present tense, indicating a continual process. Once rooted we are to keep on growing in Christ.

– “Established” or “strengthened” in the faith is the third participle. It is present tense meaning we are to continue to be strengthened in our faith “as you have been taught.” Our faith is fed by the Word of God being applied to daily experiences.

– “Abounding (or overflowing) with thanksgiving” is the fourth participle.

Thanksgiving is a good preparation time for Christmas. It is a distinctly American holiday. It celebrates no birth, no battle, and no anniversary of soldiers or heroes. It is essentially the celebration of the condition of the heart, a pilgrimage, if you will, into one’s inner self to seek out and find an attitude of gratitude so that we can revere it and rededicate ourselves to living in its grace.1

Thanksgiving is more than a holiday enjoyable as that is. It is to be a lifestyle. If we don’t have an abiding attitude of gratitude we inevitably will display a grrrr-attitude. We become sniveling, complaining, pessimist.

Matthew Henry was one of the greatest writers of Bible commentaries. His life was once threatened and he was robbed. That night he prayed:
“I thank Thee, First, that I was never robbed before;
Second, because altho’ they took my belongings, they did not take my life;
Third, altho’ they took everything I had, it was not much;
And fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed.”

That prayer is in keeping with the text that instructs us to give thanks in all things.

We have been instructed to walk by faith not by sight. There are times it seems God is saying to us: “Are you willing to give me thanks for that which I may never give you the privilege of understanding?” That’s faith!

Martin Rinkart, in the early seventeenth century, wrote one of the great hymns of Thanksgiving during the Thirty Years War. He was pastor in a city of refuge during the war. It was a time of famine and pestilence. He buried over 4,000 people in one year, including several family members. It was in that context of tragedy that he wrote one of our well-loved hymns, “Now Thank We All Our God, With Heart and Hands and Voice.”

In our time of prosperity let’s give thanks regularly.

A thankful person aligns self with what is good and ultimately all good things come from God. This means a thankful person is fine tuning self with the most powerful force in the universe and drawing strength by doing so. If you feel a blast of appreciation or a sudden surge of gratitude, translate it into action. Express it!

I was reminded recently how meaningful it is to express thanks by being thanked. I had just delivered the doctrinal address at the Georgia Baptist Convention. As I left the arena a person introduced himself to me and identified himself as the football coach of a large high school in that city. He then told me how I had led him to faith in Christ when he was a teenager. He had left school and come to the arena and had been waiting under the bleachers for me to come off the platform in order to say thanks.

That act of kindness incited in me a desire to be more expressing to others of thanks. Who do you need to thank for any reason? Don’t delay, do it. Don’t excuse yourself by saying “I’m just not an expressive person.” Though that may well be a confession don’t let it be an excuse. Say it. Learn to say the magic words taught by Captain Kangaroo for so many years, “Please and Thank you.” Add to them the crown jewel of gratitude, “I love you.” Some folks find it hard to say, but wouldn’t you regret not having said it if you knew you had just passed up your last opportunity to say, “I love you.”

My wife clipped from “Family Circle” (11\16\99) magazine these reasons for being thankful.

… the mess to clean up after a party because it means I have been surrounded by friends.

...the taxes I pay because it means that I’m employed.
…the complaining I hear about our government because it means I have freedom of speech.
…the clothes that fit a bit tight because that means I have had enough to eat.
…my shadow that watches me work because it means the sun is shining.
…the parking space at the far end of the parking lot because it means I have the ability to walk.
…my heating bill because it means I have been warm.
…the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means I can hear.
…the piles of laundry because it means my loved ones are nearby.
…the weariness and aching muscles at the end of a day because it means I have been active.
…the lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.
…the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means I am alive.

Having shared it before I want to share again my favorite Thanksgiving Poem hoping you will share my appreciation for it.

Today upon a bus I saw a lovely girl with golden hair,
I envied her, she seemed so happy and I wished I were so fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle;
She had one leg, wore a crutch, and as she passed a smile.
“Oh, God forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs and the world is mine.”

Then I stopped to buy some sweets; the lad who sold them had such charm,
I talked with him, he seemed so glad, if I were late ‘twould do no harm.
As I left he said to me: ‘I thank you. You have been so kind.
It’s nice to talk to folks like you. You see,’ he said,
‘I’m blind.’
“Oh God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two eyes. The world is mine.”

Later, walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue,
He stood and watched the others play; it seemed he knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment, then I said: ‘Why don’t you join the others, dear?’
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear.

“Oh God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two ears. The world is mine.”
With legs to take me where I should go,
With eyes to see the sunset’s glow,
With ears to hear what I should know,
Oh, God, forgive me when I whine.
I’m blessed indeed. The world is mine.

Having received Him we are to “walk in Him.” The expression means to have a lifestyle becoming of Christ. Do you? The Bible exhorts to “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

The encouragement is to let Christ’s attitude be your attitude. Think about things like Christ thinks about them.

We hear much of the atrocities committed by the Nazis in their concentration camps. Much is said about the Jews killed there and few know almost as many Christians died there also. One was Emil Kapaun. On January 16, 1954, the “Saturday Evening Post” wrote of his experience in a death camp.

“In his soiled and ragged fatigues, with his scraggly beard and his weird woolen cap, made of the sleeve of an old GI’s sweater, pulled down over his ears, he looked like any other half-starved prisoner. But there was something in his voice that was different —- a dignity, a composure, a serenity that radiated from him like light. Wherever he stood was holy ground, and the spirit within him — a spirit of reverence and abiding faith — went out to the silent, listening men and gave them hope and courage and a sense of peace. By his very presence, somehow, he could turn a stinking, louse- ridden mud hut, for a little while, into a cathedral.

He did a thousand little things to keep us going. He gathered and washed the foul undergarments of the dead and distributed them to men so weak from dysentery they could not move, and he washed and tended these men as if they were little babies. He traded his watch for a blanket, and cut it up to make warm socks for helpless men whose feet were freezing. All one day, in a freezing wind, with a sharp stick and his bare hands, he cut steps in the steep, ice-covered path that led down to the stream, so that the men carrying water would not fall. The most dreaded housekeeping chore of all was cleaning the latrines, and men argued bitterly over whose time it was to carry out this loathsome task. And while they argued, he’d slip out quietly and do the job…

On the day they took him away to his death, the Chaplain himself made no protest. He looked around the room at all standing there, and smiled … ‘Tell them back home I died a happy death,’ he said, and smiled again.”

As they loaded him on the litter he turned to one man named Mike and said, “Don’t take it hard, Mike. I’m going where I’ve always wanted to go.”

That is a great attitude, not a grrrr-attitude.

1 C. Thomas Hilton