Illustrations from Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad

Not long after the Civil War, Mark Twain joined a steamship tour of Europe and the Holy Land. His entertaining book, The Innocents Abroad, chronicles the journey in a way only Twain could. Punctuated liberally with sarcasm and irony, the volume contains not a few (well-deserved?) jabs at hypocritical religion. From time to time, however, the author offers striking praise for what he observes. The Innocents Abroad has become one of my favorite books; I have read it three times. I have made use of a number of anecdotes from the book in my sermons in recent years, and hope the following might be useful to you as life lessons, or in your own lessons or messages as you seek to illustrate the truth of God’s word:

Continue reading

Posted in Reviews, Sermon Illustrations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Classic Response

Governor Nehemiah models for us how we need to respond to a number of things that clamor for our attention. In Nehemiah 6, the continual enemies of the governor’s work in rebuilding the wall around Jerusalem, Tobiah, Sanballat, et al, issued Nehemiah an invitation to come and meet with them. His response is classic — and instructive to us:

Continue reading

Posted in Devotions/Bible Studies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Discipline of Giving” (Genesis 28:20-22 sermon)

(Preached at First Baptist, Pauls Valley, OK, 10-19-14)

Cheryl & I love to watch old movies, and one of our favorites is the 1948 classic: “Life With Father” with William Powell & Irene Dunne. There is actually a great lesson on baptism in that movie, which perhaps we will refer to another time, but one of our favorite scenes unfolds as the husband gives his wife a new ring, I believe it was. Her response is classic: “This shows you love me a little; now if you’d get me the matching necklace, it would show you love me a lot!” Cheryl & I often tease about those lines; if I do something for her, she will say, “This shows you love me a little …”!

We know that our love for others is not merely expressed by the way we give — and sometimes there are good reasons NOT to give someone something. But the truth is, most of the time, we DO demonstrate our love by the way we give. Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21) In other words, you are willing to spend money on what is important to you. If you want to see where a person’s heart is, just follow their checkbook (or their debit card!) — what they spend money on will lead you to what is most important to them. Continue reading

Posted in "The Disciplines of Disciples" series, Discipleship, Sermons | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

General and Special Revelation (Psalm 19)

Psalm 19, which opens with those famous words: “The heavens declare the glory of God”, gives us a great example of what theologians call “General Revelation” and “Special Revelation.”

Continue reading

Posted in Devotions/Bible Studies, Doctrine/Theology | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

A Righteous Anger

It is not always a sin to be angry. In fact, there are times when it is a sin NOT to be! Nehemiah experienced one of those times when he was told about how the Jewish leaders were taking advantage of their poorer brothers and sisters through unjust mortgages and usury. Nehemiah 5:6 says: “Then I was very angry when I had heard their outcry and these words.”

Continue reading

Posted in Devotions/Bible Studies | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”

Following threats by those who wanted to stop the construction of the wall around Jerusalem, Nehemiah 4:9 says: “But we prayed to our God, and because of them we set up a guard against them …”. Nehemiah kept an important balance here which should serve as an example for us:

Continue reading

Posted in Devotions/Bible Studies | Leave a comment

A Picture of Cooperation

When everyone does their part, it is amazing what can be accomplished. Nehemiah 3 describes how Nehemiah and the people who returned to Jerusalem rebuilt the wall around the city. What is significant about it is that no one person did it all; rather it was done by numerous individuals and groups who rebuilt one of the gates, or the section in front of their home. For example, verse 10 says: “Jedaiah the son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house.” With everyone pitching in like that, the whole wall was soon rebuilt. Continue reading

Posted in Devotions/Bible Studies | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment