Subject: Congregations


The sweetest thing I've seen in a while happened recently when I was preaching in Pickens County, Alabama. Some mornings, I would meet host pastor Tommy Winders and another preacher or two down at the diner in Carrollton for breakfast. The first morning as we exited the diner, two large dogs met us on the sidewalk. My first reaction was to step back inside. But Pastor Tommy knew these animals. He said, "Hey, you guys are supposed to be around back." And off they went, just like that, their tails wagging.

The second morning, I had parked at the bank's lot on the side of the cafe and as I was leaving the car, I noticed those same two dogs with a buddy standing guard at the rear of the cafe, their tails swinging. While the other two held back, the leader of the bunch walked up to the back door and looked up expectantly. After a moment, he said, "Woof!" That's all. Just "Woof!" One time, nothing more.

In a minute, the door opened and the cook tossed out some breakfast leftovers. I thought, "Boy, these dogs sure have the humans trained."

I have not been able to erase that image from my mind-the dogs at the back door, tails a-wagging, and one of them calling to the kitchen to announce their presence. Wouldn't it be nice if Christians were so well trained to receive the word?

Joe McKeever
(who preaches, writes, and draws pointedly engaging cartoons)

Subject: Dying to Self

"You are Already Dead"

During the height of a bloody battle behind enemy lines during the D-Day invasion of German-held France, an older American paratrooper counseled a young private who was petrified with fear as he witnessed the carnage of dead and mangled Germans and fellow Americans strewn all around him. The young man paralyzed by fear, as he envisaged an almost certain, similar fate for himself in the days ahead.

The older soldier's counsel was chilling but poignant: "Accept the fact that you are already dead. The sooner you accept that the sooner you'll be able to function as a soldier is supposed to function... All war depends upon it."

Oh, what a biblical truism in the life and spiritual war in which we find ourselves as followers of our Lord Jesus Christ! Truth in the natural often portrays truth in the spiritual. The Apostle Paul used similar words: "I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me" (Gal. 2:20, NIV); "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3); "If Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness" (Rom. 8:10).

We are in a spiritual war. "We are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world" (Eph. 6:12, NLT).

A Christian cannot be an effective soldier in this fight and live for our Lord until he has died to self.

From an "Insights From Bill Bright" article
©2002 by Bill Bright

Subject: Pride

"Look What I Did!"

There is a little fable that expresses a great truth:

A woodpecker was pecking away t the trunk of a dead tree. Suddenly lightning struck the tree and splintered it. The woodpecker flew away unharmed.

Looking back to where the dead tree had stood, the proud bird exclaimed: "Look what I did!"

That fable may remind us of the proud man who arrogates to himself all the glory for his accomplishments: "Is not this great Babylon...that I have the might of my power and for the honor of my majesty?" (Dan. 4:30).

W.B.K. via Sparks

Subject: The Holy Spirit

Unused Power

A. J. Gordon [former prominent pastor and founder/first president of Gordon College] frequently told the story of an American who with an Englishman was viewing Niagara Falls. Taking the Englishman to the foot of the falls, the American said, "There is the greatest unused power in the world."

"No, no, my friend," the Englishman replied. "The greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the Living God."

Z. E. Coon, via Sparks

Subject: the Crucified Life

He Brought Back Clear Gain

At a dinner given by a Grand Army Post, a veteran soldier was introduced as one of the speakers. In making the introduction, the presiding officer referred to the fact that the man who was to speak had lost a leg in the war, and the veteran was greeted with loud cheering as he arose to give his address.

He began by disavowing the introduction. "No," he said, "that is a mistake. I lost nothing in the war-for when we went into the war, we gave our country all that we had, and all we brought back was so much clear gain1."

The closer you walk with Jesus, the farther away you will be from fulfilling the lusts of the flesh. What have you crucified lately...or is it crucifying you?

1. Walter B. Knight, Knight's Master Book of 4,000 Illustrations, found in Practical Illustrations-Galatians-Colossians, by Leadership Ministries Worldwide.

Subject: Salvation

Prepaid Eternal Time

Bogota, Colombia, telemarketer Maria del Pilar Basto became a national hero when she called Leonardo Diaz. Having determined Diaz's wireless phone was out of minutes, she planned to sell him more time. What Basto didn't know was that Diaz was trapped in a blizzard in Colombia's Andes and had almost given up hope of ever being rescued [Reuters, 6-28-02].

Man became lost in the Garden of Eden and God sent His Son to rescue him. Peter wrote, "The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance" [2 Pet. 3:9]. Paul said, "At the appropriate time Jesus died for sinners" [Rom. 5:5-6].

God is calling, and He has an eternity of minutes available for those who answer.

John Gillmartin,

Subject: Pilgrims and Sojourners

Just Camping Overnight

The soldiers were driving in their tent stakes after a long day's march. But then the hammering was interrupted by their officer's penetrating voice: "Don't drive your stakes in too deep; we are moving on in the morning!"

(You and I have seen some folks who seem to think they're going to stay here. This world is a journey-not a destination!)

John F. Brand in Sparks

Subject: God's Protection

Armor Up

In The Encourager, Charles Mylander writes that Los Angeles motorcycle police officer Bob Vernon saw a red pickup truck speed through a stop sign. "This guy must be late to work," he thought to himself. He turned on his emergency lights and radioed that he was in pursuit. The pickup pulled over and the officer approached. Meanwhile in the truck, the driver thought, "The cops already know!" He was scared. He rested his hand on the same gun he had used a few moments before to rob a twenty-four-hour market.

The sack of stolen money was beside him on the seat. The officer said, "Good morning, Sir, may I see your...." He never finished the sentence. The driver shoved his gun toward the policeman's chest and fired from just inches away, but did not kill him. What saved the policeman's life were dozens of layers of Kevlar, the super strong fabric used for bulletproof vests. Only three-eighths of an inch thick, Kevlar can stop bullets cold.

Dear Christian friend, has the devil been pushing you around lately by giving you problems and trying to discourage you? Don't let Satan have the upper hand. He has no right to tell you what to do; all he can do is bluff. Make sure to put on the whole armor of God, which is your bulletproof vest to protect you and stop the devil's spiritual bullets cold. 

"Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil" (Eph. 6:11).

Thanks to Ted Matamis for this illustration

Subject: Priorities

Mudville or Godville

On June 3, 1888, the San Francisco Examiner published Ernest Thayer's poem, "Casey at the Bat"-a poignant portrait of a hometown sports hero who dashed the hopes of Mudville fans by striking out. But it wasn't until comedian DeWolf Hopper began reciting it in his stage routine that it became popular.

The wide world of sports has exploded. Fans these days choose between scores of games in a dozen different sports. If they can't attend the event, unlimited television coverage and replays are available. Leisure fans quickly become involved in fanatical idolatry. Their emotions swing like a pendulum, based on the success or failure of their favorite team. Then, too often, family communication goes on the rocks, excessive drinking leads to violence, and irrational throngs riot.

It is time for all of us to reprioritize! When fans spend more time watching Casey strike out than seeing their Savior pitch a perfect game, perhaps they are the ones who have fanned.

Between the emotions of "there is no joy in Mudville," and "You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand" (Ps. 16:11), which would you choose?

J. Kenneth Bassett, Timeless Signatures,
© 2003

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