Illustrations lend power to sermons

BIBLE -- Serious study required
John Huffman tells the classic story of the man who was in a difficult situation, and in desperation turns to the Bible. He didn't know where to look, so he let the book flop open and he laid his finger on a verse, which said that Judas "went and hanged himself." After a moment's thought, he decided to turn to a different verse for help; he repeated the process and read, "Go thou and do likewise." Worried, he tried it once more and opened to, "What thou doest, do quickly."
Too many of us are "hunt and poke" Bible students, and it's no wonder we have so little understanding of God's Word for us. The Bible requires and deserves our serious attention and study.
CHALLENGE
The story is told that a young boy complained to his father that most of the church hymns were boring-old-fashioned, with tiresome tunes and words that meant little to his generation. His father challenged him with these words: "If you think you can write better hymns, why don't you?"
The boy accepted the challenge, went to his room and wrote his first hymn. The year was 1690, and the young man was Isaac Watts. Among his 350 hymns are "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" and "Joy to the World."
See a problem? Accept the challenge and do something about it yourself!
CHRIST -- Alive in world
In his drama The Trial of Jesus, John Masefield has the centurion Longinus report to Pilate after the crucifixion of Jesus. Longinus had been the officer in charge of the execution, and after his official report, Pilate's wife calls the centurion to come and tell her how the prisoner had died. Once the account is given, she asks, "Do you think he is dead?" Longinus answers, "No, Lady, I don't." "Then where is he?" asks Procula, to which Longinus replies, "Let loose in the world, Lady, where neither Roman nor Jew can stop his truth."
The Christ we serve is alive and living in us!
COMMITMENT -- Satisfaction in
"The quality of a man's life is in direct proportion to his commitment to excellence, regardless of his chosen field or endeavor ... I firmly believe that any man's finest hour- -- his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear -- is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle, victorious."
Vince Lombardi
DECISIONS -- Importance of
Just as there are two sides to every question, so there are two sides to a piece of flypaper -- and it makes all the difference in the world which side the fly lands on.
No matter how sincere you may be, there are consequences to the decisions you make.
DIFFICULTIES/PROBLEMS
Stephen Brown tells about the man who had decided to end it all. He went to the fourth floor of his apartment building and jumped out -- he did a half-gainer in mid-air, landed on an awning, bounced off and landed on his feet.
A mother cat and kitten were watching, and when the man landed on his feet, the mother cat turned to the kitten and said, "See, that's what I've been trying to teach you!"
Wouldn't it be nice if we always landed on our feet? But we don't. Sometimes there are no easy solutions to life's problems.
EXPECTATIONS
The expectations of others can affect how we think about ourselves. Wayne Dyer tells about a teacher who was given two rosters listing IQ scores, but on the second list the students' locker numbers had been mistakenly put where the IQ scores were to have been listed. The teacher assumed that the locker numbers were the IQ scores of her students. After that year, it was observed that, in the first class (where the teacher had the correct information), the students with high IQ scores performed better than students with low scores. Yet in the second class, students who had higher-numbered lockers scored higher than those with low-numbered lockers!
The truth is, we absorb a great deal of what people expect of us -- and it often affects our performance, and even how we view ourselves.
FAMILY -- Media don't portray correctly
Television doesn't accurately portray American families, according to a study funded by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. The report indicates that while television portrays all single mothers as middle class or wealthy, the truth is that 69 percent of families headed by women live in poverty. While 80 percent of television's black children live in the middle class or above, the truth is that 50 percent of the nation's black children live in poverty.
GOD -- Existence of
On an episode of Barney Miller, the popular situation comedy that's still watched in syndicated reruns, the police captain Barney got into a conversation with one of his detectives, Dietrich, about the existence of God.
"Barney, do you believe in God?" he asked. Miller said, "Well, I've always thought that there was something out there."
"Not me," said Dietrich. "We are all probably the result of a big accident of some kind."
Barney said, "But what if you are wrong, and you wake up down there in an afterlife and have to explain yourself? What will you say?"
"Oops," replied Dietrich.
What about you? If you were to stand before God today, what would you have to say? To bet your life against the possibility of God's existence is a fool's gamble. (Randall Broome)
LIFE -- Not always logical
Have you heard about the unnatural laws that govern life? Most of us have heard of the first, Murphy's Law -- "If anything can go wrong, it will" -- but there are others. Here are a few.
"Negative expectations yield negative results. Positive expectations yield negative results.'
"The other line always moves faster."
"The chance of the bread falling with the buttered side down is directly proportional to the cost of the carpet."
"When in doubt, mumble."
"Inside every large problem is a small problem struggling to get out."
As we've all learned, life has its complexities; and sometime's life's complexities have complexities all their own!
LOVE -- Of Christ
Did you read about the little boy who returned home after his first Sunday School class. His mother asked, "Who was your teacher?" and the little boy answered, "I don't remember her name, but she must have been Jesus' grandmother because she didn't talk about anyone else."
Does our conversation reflect our love of Jesus? Would our words give away our relationship with Him?
MISTAKES
Think you're the only one that's made mistakes? Hardly.
Imagine if you had been the president of a Michigan bank who advised Henry Ford's lawyer not to invest in the new motor company, assuring him, "The horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty."
Or there was Gary Cooper's comment about Clark Gable accepting the role of Rhett Butler which he had turned down: "'Gone With the Wind' is going to be the biggest flop in Hollywood history. I'm just glad it'll be Clark Gable who's falling flat on his face and not Gary Cooper."
Or the Boston sportswriter who summed up young Ted Williams by saying, "I don't believe this kid will ever hit half a singer midget's weight in a bathing suit." Whatever that meant, he was most certainly wrong!
We all make mistakes, including the experts. The key is not to live in the mistakes of the past, but to move forward, learning from those mistakes.
MORALITY -- On decline
Almost a quarter of all American adults cheat on their income taxes, according to a survey done for U.S. News & World Report. The study showed that a fourth of those surveyed admit lying to family and co-workers, 28% pad expense accounts, more than a third believe there are times when stealing from an employer is justified, and almost half call in sick when they're not.
OBEDIENCE
The young reporter listened carefully to the editor's instructions. One of the rules the editor emphasized was that names should be obtained whenever a story was to be written. "Names are essential," he told the reporter.
The next day the young reporter faithfully handed in his first story: "Last night lightning struck a barn northwest of town belonging to Zeke Thomas, and killed three cows. Their names were Lulu, Rosie and Bossy."
PRAYER -- Must maintain
A man was hired to paint white lines along the highway. The first day he painted 10 miles; the boss was so impressed that he promised a raise if he could keep up the pace. But the next day he only did 5 miles, and the third day only 1 mile and was fired. As he walked away he muttered, "It wasn't my fault. I kept getting farther away from the can."
Lots of folks do that in their Christian life: they start out with lots of power, but as time goes on they keep getting farther from the power source. That's why prayer is so essential.
PREACHING -- Requires conviction
"Faith makes one believable, and if the messenger is not believable, neither is the message. The absence of faith is almost impossible to disguise for any period of time. No one can increase the volume in the pulpit to such a level as to muffle the echo of lost conviction."
Fred Craddock
PRODIGAL SON
After the Sunday School teacher told the story of the prodigal son to the class, she asked, "Was anyone sorry when the prodigal son returned?" to which one boy answered, "The fatted calf."
STEWARDSHIP
As the ushers came down the aisle bearing offering plates, Susie asked her mother what was happening. "They are taking up the offering, Susie, and when they get here you can put your nickel in the offering plate," her mother answered. Anxiously, Susie replied, "But this nickel is for Jesus."
Mother explained how, by putting her nickel in the plate she was giving it to Jesus, because of the many ways in which her gift would be used to spread God's Word. As the plate came down her row, Susie carefully placed her nickel in the plate, then turned to her mother and asked, "If that money is for Jesus, why wasn't there more in the plate?"
TIME -- Need more
I read recently that the amount of sleep required by the average American is usually about ten minutes more!
That's the way with time. No matter how much we have, we always seem to need more. Yet the important question is: what are we doing with the time God has given us?
VACATIONS
Robert J. Hastings, editor emeritus of The Illinois Baptist, has shared some ways ministers can tell when they don't need a vacation. Among his list are these: When life seems worth living -- especially on Monday mornings; When the Finance Committee has an extra meeting to decide how to spend the budget surplus; When "Deacon-You-Know-Who" has announced that he will not serve another term, no matter how many votes he receives; When the church around the corner, which uses your parking lot to park its fleet of buses, purchases 10 acres across town to relocate.
YOUTH -- Alcoholism is problem
Although adults worry about teenage use of cocaine and other drugs, alcohol continues to be the most abused drug by American youth. One national survey showed that almost a third of high school students who drank were "problem drinkers," meaning they had been drunk at least six times in the previous year or had serious difficulties two or more times that year as a result of drinking.
Alcohol is the leading factor in all traffic accidents involving teenage drivers. Last year 5,000 young people were killed in such accidents.
And they're trying it younger. A survey found that a third of current sixth-graders had tried beer or wine, and a tenth had tried hard liquor. And weekly alcohol use among this group more than doubled from 1983 to 1984. Most younger children indicate that their most common place for drinking is their own home; for older children, it's a friend's home. (Light, Feb. 86)