Stephen Brown, a member of Preaching's Board of Contributing Editors, is Pastor of Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church in Key Biscayne, Florida. He is widely known as a preacher, author, and conference leader. His sermons are regularly distributed across the nation through Key-Life Ministries.
Steve Brown is one of the featured speakers at the Third Annual National Conference on Preaching, scheduled for February 19-21, 1991, in Orlando, Florida.
This month, the "To Illustrate" column features illustrations drawn from Steve Brown's sermons.
BIBLE -- Power of
At an Evangelism Explosion meeting at his church (Coral Ridge Presbyterian in Fort Lauderdale), Jim Kennedy was asked by a young man, "We're going to be quoting Scriptures to these people. What if they don't believe in the Bible?"
Kennedy said, "What if you were to hear some noise in your living room, and you should come out and find out a thief was at your safe. You had a .38 gun in your hand, and you point it at him and say, 'I'm going to shoot where you're standing. I would suggest that you move.'
"And what if the thief should say to you, 'I don't believe in guns.' You, then, of course, would explain to him how dangerous guns are. You'd maybe take it apart and show him the bullets and say, 'This is filled with gunpowder.' Or maybe you would put your gun away and say, 'I'm so sorry you don't believe in guns; that means I can't use it'."
Then Jim laughed and said, "Of course you wouldn't. You would simply pull the trigger."
There is great power in the proclamation of the Kingdom. We don't have to explain everything.
BIBLE -- Relevance of
An American was visiting in a third-world country. While walking down the street, he was surprised to see a native reading the Bible.
"My good man," he said. "In my country, that book is considered out-of-date."
The native responded, "My good man, if this book was considered out-of-date in my country, you'd be eaten by now."
COMMITMENT -- Christ demands full
Steve Brown cites the story of Mildred Cable, as found in the book Radical Commitment by Vernon Grounds. She was a long-time missionary to China.
As a student in Britain, Mildred met a young man and they fell deeply in love. As their relationship went on, they realized that they had been called to different areas of ministry -- she had been called to serve as a missionary in China, while he felt called to be a pastor in Britain. Each tried to convince the other but eventually neither had a peace about it.
One night, with great tears and broken hearts, they kissed and said good-bye. Her biographer wrote later: "That night, Mildred Cable died."
The call of God is to die to self that we might live to Christ.
A wife said to her husband over breakfast, "I had a dream last night that you gave me a pearl necklace. What do you suppose that means?"
"You'll find out tonight," the husband said.
And sure enough, that evening he gave her a copy of a book entitled Interpreting Dreams.
Erma Bombeck says never go to a doctor whose office plants have died.
GOD -- Blesses those who value His Son
An elderly man of great wealth died without a will. He had no relatives, so the state was auctioning off his estate.
A shabbily-dressed woman came to the auction and bid on the first and most pedestrian item there: a picture of the old man's son. The son had died years before, but the old man had loved the son very much. She bid and easily won the picture which no one else desired.
Someone asked why she bid on the picture, and she explained that many years ago she had been the son's nurse. She, too, had grown to love him.
As she collected the picture from the auctioneer, she felt a bulge on the back of the frame. She lifted a piece of paper attached to the back of the frame and found a will. The will read: "I leave all of my possessions to the person who holds dear the memory of my son by buying this picture."
GOD -- Nature of
A little girl was on the living room floor drawing pictures. Her father said, "What are you drawing?"
"A picture of God," she answered.
The father responded, "Don't you know that no one knows what God looks like?"
She replied, "They will when I'm through."
The family had a very special guest coming for dinner, and the son had been briefed to be on his very best behavior. As everyone sat at the table, the boy reached for a roll and inadvertently knocked over his glass, sending water flowing all over the table. He knew he was going to be killed.
The boy looked over at his father. The father looked at him, smiled, and knocked his own water glass over.
HOPE -- Need for
A woman was on her very first cruise, and she had become terribly seasick. A member of the crew, trying to lift her spirits, said to her, "Don't worry. Nobody has ever died of seasickness."
She moaned in reply. "Don't tell me that. The only thing that's keeping me going is the hope of death."
When the great warrior Hector was about to go into battle, he went to kiss his little two-year-old boy. Hector was in full battle armor, including a massive helmet with plume. The little boy screamed and fled from his father until Hector finally took the helmet off. Then the boy realized it was his father and ran to him.
The Incarnation is God without the helmet.
Grampa and granddaughter were sitting in her room when she asked, "Grampa, did God make you?"
"Yes, God made me," he answered.
A frew moments later, she asked "Did God make me?" Again, the answer was "Yes."
She looked in the mirror for a while, then said, "You know, God is doing a whole lot better work lately."
SERVICE -- Where we are
Henry III was king of Bavaria in the 11th century. He grew tired of his duties, so one day he went to a local monastery, presented himself to the prior, and announced that he wanted to live the rest of his life in the monastery as a contemplative.
The prior asked, "Your majesty, do you understand that this is about obedience? Whatever I tell you under authority you must do."
King Henry replied, "Yes, father, I understand."
"Then, your majesty, in obedience to me, go back to your throne and serve in the place God has put you."
Henry went back to the throne and lived out the rest of his reign in a magnificent way.