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Stories add punch to sermons

ACHIEVEMENT -- Is relative
Mrs. Albert Einstein was being taken on a tour of the great Palomar observatory. Pointing to the massive telescope, the director asserted, "With this, we will unlock the secrets of the universe!"
Unimpressed, Mrs. Einstein observed, "My husband does that on the back of envelopes."
DEATH - Inevitable for all
An old legend tells of a Baghdad merchant who sent his servant to the market to purchase food. After a few minutes, the servant was back -- pale and trembling. "Down in the marketplace," exclaimed the servant, "I was pushed by a woman in the crowd. I turned around and saw the woman was Death. She raised her arm to strike me. Please, Master, lend me your fastest horse so that I can get away. I will ride to Samarra where I can hide. Death will not find me there."
The merchant lent his fastest horse to the servant, who rode away swiftly. The merchant went to the marketplace himself, and there he also saw Death standing in the crowd.
"Why did you frighten my servant this morning?" he inquired. "Why did you make a threatening gesture?"
"That was not a threatening gesture," replied Death. "It was simply a reaction of surprise. I was astonished to see him here in Baghdad. I have an appointment with him tonight in Samarra."
As Edward Chinn observes, "We all have an appointment in Samarra.... We will all die one day, but God can prevent death from casting its shadow over the years we have left." (Edward Chinn, All Saints' Church, Philadelphia, PA)
EASTER - Meaning of
"If Easter means anything to modern man it means that eternal truth is eternal. You may nail it to the tree, wrap it up in grave clothes, and seal it in a tomb; but 'truth crushed to earth shall rise again.' Truth does not perish; it cannot be destroyed. It may be distorted; it has been silenced temporarily; it has been compelled to carry its cross to Calvary's brow ... but with an inevitable certainty after every Black Friday dawns truth's Easter Morn." (Donald Harvey Tippet)
FLATTERY-Can be misplaced
The student told the professor, "That was a wonderful lecture. You should have it published!"
"Actually," the professor responded, "I am planning to have all my lectures published posthumously."
"Great!" asserted the student. "The sooner the better!"
GOD - Power of
Hudson Baggett, editor of The Alabama Baptist, describes an experience from seminary days when he served as a grader for the preaching professor.
A particular sermon outline had received a 'D' and the recipient was agitated. "When I preached this sermon last Sunday," the student exclaimed, "nineteen people came forward."
Baggett responded, "That just goes to show what the power of God can do."
GRANDMOTHERS
A third-grade girl wrote a report on what a grandmother is. Here's a portion of her essay:
"A grandmother is a lady who has no children of her own. She likes other people's little girls. A grandfather is a man grandmother. He goes for walks with the boys, and then talks about fishing, tractors and things like that.... Grandmothers don't have to do anything but be there. They're old so they shouldn't play hard or run. It is enough if they take us to the market where the pretend horses are and have lots of dimes ready, or if they take us for walks and slow down passing things like pretty leaves or caterpillars. They never say, 'Hurry Up.'
"Usually they are fat, but not too fat to tie your shoes. They wear glasses and funny underwear. They can take their teeth and gums off. They don't have to be smart, but they can answer questions like why dogs hate cats and how come God isn't married. When they read to us, they don't skip words or mind if it is the same story over again and again. Everybody should try to have one, especially if you don't have a television, because grandmothers are the only grownups who got time." (adapted from Thomas St. Bulletin, Altus, OK)
MISSIONS - Remarkable impact
Amazing church growth is taking place around the world, often as an outgrowth of mission efforts begun decades ago. Thomas Wang, editor of AD 2000 and Beyond, reports the following developments:
3,500 new churches are born every week around the globe. Despite difficulties in China, some 28,000 persons convert to Christianity every day in that country, according to some researchers, joining an estimated 25-50 million Chinese Christians. Another 20,000 Africans are converting to Christianity each day.
Though at the beginning of this century there were no Protestants in Korea -- and many considered the nation unreachable -- today South Korea is 30 percent Christian. Indonesia, an officially Muslim country, may now be as much as 25 percent Christian. (National & International Religion Report, January 28, 1991)
PLANNING - Need for
Steve Brown tells about an incident (fictional we're sure!) in the Atlanta airport. The air traffic controller said, "Pam Am flight 407, you are cleared to land on runway B." Just seconds later, the same controller said to another pilot, "American flight 36, you are cleared to land on runway B."
A frantic message was immediately heard in the control tower: "Tower, this is Pan Am flight 407. You just cleared me to land on runway B and now you cleared American flight 36 to land on the same runway."
After a long pause, the controller's voice was heard again. "Well, uh, ya'll be careful now."
PRAYER - No excuse for inaction
The kindergarten Sunday School class was learning about how God cares for us in times of trouble. The teacher asked the class to draw pictures of things that make them afraid. After they finished drawing, each child explained to the others what he or she had drawn.
Five-year-old Scott had created in vivid crayon a looming funnel cloud, a car, and a man. He described how the man could not get his car started and a tornado was coming toward him.
"The man really needs to pray, doesn't he?" asked the teacher.
"No," Scott disagreed. "He needs to run!"
We need balance in our lives. There is a time for prayer and a time for deeds. (Mark D. Stucky, Mennonite Church, Elkhart, IN)
RESURRECTION
"What reason have atheists for saying that we cannot rise again? Which is the more difficult, to be born, or to rise again? That which has never been born, should be, or that which has been, should be again? Is it more difficult to come into being than to return to it?" (Blaise Pascal)
SPIRITUAL NOURISHMENT - Need for
Ernest Campbell tells about the woman who went to a pet store to purchase a parrot to keep her company. She took her new pet home but returned the next day to report, "That parrot hasn't said a word yet!"
"Does it have a mirror?" asked the storekeeper. "Parrots like to be able to look at themselves in the mirror." So she bought the mirror and returned home.
The next day she was back, announcing that the bird still wasn't speaking. "What about a ladder?" the storekeeper said. "Parrots enjoy walking up and down a ladder." So she bought a ladder and returned home.
Sure enough, the next day she was back with the same story -- still no talk. "Does the parrot have a swing? Birds enjoy relaxing on a swing." She bought the swing and went home.
The next day she returned to the store to announce the bird had died. "I'm terribly sorry to hear that," said the storekeeper. "Did the bird ever say anything before it died?"
"Yes," said the lady. "It said, 'Don't they sell any food down there'?"
As Campbell observes, we readily buy mirrors by which to primp, ladders by which we try to climb higher, swings by which we seek pleasure. But where is the food for our souls? (Campbell is on the faculty of Union Theological Seminary, New York, NY)
TIMING - Essential
"When Christ returns, how awful to know that all of it was true, and that it is too late to do anything about it." (C. S. Lewis)
TRUTH
"Christian truth is redemptive truth because it requires not simply knowledge about something but knowledge of someone. It is personal." (Harold Cooke Phillips)
"Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it; ignorance may deride it; malice may distort it; but there it is." (Winston Churchill)
"God offers every mind its choice between truth and repose. Take which you please -- you can never have both." (Ralph Waldo Emerson)