BAPTISM - Means death
Will Campbell tells the story of the day he was baptized in the East Fork River in Amite County, Mississippi. They baptized outdoors, and his parents had ordered some baptismal clothes from the Sears & Roebuck catalog to make sure that Will would look good when he went under.
Will's brother, Joe, was a bit of a skeptic. Joe stood up on the creek bank and watched the preacher baptize two or three other people. As he watched, he got more and more concerned for Will's safety, so he slid down that muddy bank and grabbed Will, saying, "Will, dear God, don't let them do this to you. A fellow could get killed doing this." Will responded, "It took me thirty years to recognize that was precisely the point." (John Hewett, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Asheville, NC)
The woman asked her husband, "If I died, would you marry again?" The husband replied, "Probably."
"Would you give her my clothes and my jewelry?" "Probably."
"Would you give her my car?" Probably.
"How about my golf clubs?" asked the increasingly exasperated wife. "Would you give those to her, too?"
"No," he answered. "She's left-handed." (Robert R. Kopp, Pastor, Logans Ferry Presbyterian Church, New Kensington, PA)
CHURCH - Provides something essential
Paul Watermulder tells of an old Scot who had been a member of a kirk (church) just outside Edinburgh for many years. One night during an especially heated session meeting, another elder said something that was recklessly unkind. The old Scot was deeply wounded -- he rose from his seat, walked out the door, and didn't return.
A month passed, then a year. Letters were sent, but the old Scot was hurt, angry and bitter. Though he had marched away from the church, he told people he had been forced out.
Time passed and a new pastor was called to the kirk. He went to see the man, and when the door opened the pastor could see the anger and bitterness on the man's red face. As they went into the living room, not a word was spoken. They sat by the fire, looked at the burning coals, and said nothing for nearly an hour.
Then the pastor stood up, took a pair of tongs, removed a burning coal out from the fire, and set it on the hearth. They watched it flicker, grow dim, and finally burn out. The pastor picked it up again, placed it in the fire, and they watched it begin to burn bright and strong again. The pastor looked at the old man and said, "We miss you at the kirk." (Robert R. Kopp, Pastor, Logans Ferry Presbyterian Church, New Kensington, PA)
EVANGELISM - Our responsibility
An old deacon was leading in prayer and used one of his stereotyped phrases, "Oh, Lord, touch the unsaved with Thy finger." He stopped short in his prayer and said nothing further. After a moment, a couple of members came to his side to see if he was ill.
He answered, "No, but something suddenly seemed to say to me, 'You are my finger'." (Wayne Rouse, Pastor, Church of the Brethren, Astoria, IL)
A man had a mongrel dog he was taking to New York City to enter in the Madison Square Garden Dog Show.
"I don't think he's likely to win a prize," someone suggested, to which the dog's owner replied, "No, but think of the company he'll be keeping!" (Kenneth L. Chafin, Pastor Emeritus, Walnut Street Baptist Church, Louisville, KY)
That's true with the church, isn't it? Most of us aren't prize winners ourselves, but just think of the great company we're keeping!
HOLY SPIRIT - Power often ignored
Ralph Herring tells of a minister about to perform a wedding uniting two wealthy families in the church. Naturally, he and his wife could not help speculating on the amount of the wedding honorarium which might be given for performing the wedding. At the end of the wedding and during the reception, the groom expressed his appreciation for the minister's service and gave him a pair of fine kid gloves. When the minister returned home, he laughingly tossed the gloves in his wife's lap, saying that they were too big for her and he rarely wore gloves -- so she put them away.
Some months later, the minister was planning a trip and his wife suggested he take those nice gloves since it would be cold. She found the gloves and gave them to him -- but when he tried them on, he discovered an object in the finger of the glove. Digging it out, he unrolled a $10 bill. In surprise and mounting excitement, he and his wife began to work on both gloves, and discovered each glove contained $50 -- a total of $100, which was quite a sum in that day.
The $100 was given by the groom and received by the pastor on the wedding day, yet the money was not full realized or appreciated for some time. So it is with the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Too often, we fail to access the power He has already made available to us. (Earl C. Davis, Pastor, First Baptist Church, Memphis, TN)
PARDON - Must be accepted
Haddon Robinson tells of a man named George Wilson who in 1830 was sentenced by a Philadelphia court to be hanged. The President of the United States, Andrew Jackson, extended to Wilson a full pardon, but he refused to accept it. The case went to the Supreme Court, where Chief Justice Marshall ruled that a pardon is a piece of paper, the value of which depends on the acceptance of the person implicated. If it is refused, then there is no pardon. (Wayne Rouse, Pastor, Church of the Brethren, Astoria, IL)
On July 8, 1776, a man read the Declaration of Independence publicly to the people of Philadelphia. Charles Biddle, in his biography, wrote: "I was in the old State House Yard when the Declaration of Independence was read. There were few respectable persons present."
Some felt there weren't many respectable people in Jesus' audiences, either. Some religious leaders complained, "This man welcomes people with whom no respectable Jew would have anything to do, and actually shares their meals with them" (Luke 15:2, Barclay).
Those who did not see many respectable people at Independence Square on July 8, 1776, missed one of the main points of the Declaration read that day. People have value because they are "endowed by their Creator." People are not valuable just because we can use them, but because God loves them. They are worthy of respect because there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people." (Edward Chinn, Minister, All Saints' Church, Philadelphia, PA)