“The little difference that makes a big difference”

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Oct 182020

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE:  “The little difference that makes a big difference”. 

     Howard W. Ferrin, President of Providence Bible College, used to exhort his students often with the following words:  “There is little difference between men, but that little difference makes a big difference!”  He told them that to encourage them to pay the price; to put forth the effort; to sacrifice whatever is necessary to stand out; to make an unusual impact; to go the extra mile.  He knew that most want to be viewed that way, but most are willing, in the end to settle for mediocrity rather than magnificence!  William Law spoke to this issue as well in his classic A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life.  He told the story about a businessman, who was a Christian, but gave far more of his dedication to worldly ambition and his business, than to living the Devoted life to His Lord.  When he was diagnosed with a terminal disease and told that he only had a few months to live the businessman spoke with regret and candor about his wrong choice.  Law relates the story about how the businessman was faced with the hard fact that life was drawing to a close in this thirty-fifth year.  Shortly before his death, when the doctors had given him over, some of his neighbors came to visit him and expressed their sorrow that one so young was being cut off in the prime of life.  The businessman acknowledged their concern over his condition but spoke of his approaching demise with candor.  He observed that the new experience before him made everything else in life completely trivial.  It was just here that he made a startling confession.  He said, “What a strange thing it is that a little health, or the poor business of the shop, should keep us so unaware of the great things that are coming upon us so fast!  If I now had a thousand worlds, I would give them all for one year of such devotion and good works as I never so much intended…The thing that surprises me the most is this:  That I never intended to live up to the Gospel.  This never so much as entered my head or heart.  I never once considered whether I was living as the laws of religion direct or whether my way of life was such as would procure me the mercy of God at this hour.  What is the reason that I-who have so often talked of the necessity of rules, methods, diligence, and dedication in worldly business-have all this while never thought of any rules, methods, or managements to carry me on in a life of devotion?  Had I only my frailties and imperfections to lament at this time I should lie here humbly trusting in the mercies of God.  But alas!  How can I call a general disregard and thorough neglect of all religious improvement a frailty or imperfection when it was in my power to have been as exact and careful and diligent in a course of devotion as in the business or my trade?  I could have called in as many helps, have practiced the same kind of devotion, and been taught as many methods of holy living as of thriving in my shop, HAD I BUT SO INTENDED AND DESIRED IT.  BUT ALAS I DID NOT.  ACTUALLY, I NEVER INTENDED TO DO THAT!”

     Jesus did not want any of his disciples to experience that failure and face such regret.  He exhorted His disciples to be willing to do the difference that would make a big difference-make all the difference!  In Matthew 5:44-47 we hear Him say, “:Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, and persecute you;  THAT YOU MAY BE CHILDREN OF YOUR FATHER WHICH IS IN HEAVEN: for He maketh the sun to rise on the good and the evil.  For if you love them that love you back, what reward have ye?  do not even the publicans do the same?  And if you salute your brethren only, WHAT DO YE MORE THAN OTHERS?  Do not even the publicans do the same?”   What do you more than others?  Where do you excel?  What evidence do you give of any supernatural presence and power in your life that comes from your Heavenly Father?  Where have you gone the extra mile?

     Several years ago, I came across a poem that spoke quite expressively to this very truth.  It is called “THE SECOND MILE” by Joseph E. Harvey


“Come here you dog, and bear my pack a mile”

So spoke a Roman to a Jew;

“The day is hot and I would rest awhile-

Such a heavy load was made for the likes of you”

The Jew obeyed, and, stopping in the path,

He took the burden, though his back was tired:

For who would dare arouse a Roman’s wrath,

Or scorn to do what the Roman law required?

They walked a mile in silence; at its end

They paused but there was not a soul in sight;

“I’ll walk another mile with you, my friend”,

Spoke up the Jew, “This burden now seems light”.

“Have you gone mad?” The angry Roman cried,

“To mock me, when you know that but one mile

Can I compel such service?  By his side

The Jew stood silent, but with kindly smile

“I used to hate to bear a Roman’s load,

Before I met the lowly Nazarene,

And walked with Him along the dusty road,

And saw Him make the leper clean.

I heard Him preach a sermon on the mount;

He taught that we should love our enemies;

He glorified the little things that count

So much in lessening life’s miseries.

The soldier tried to speak; as he began

His head was bowed, his eyes with tears were dim;

“For many years I’ve sought for such a man,

Pray tell me more, I, too, would follow Him”. 

When you and I, being transformed by our Lord’s presence and power in our lives, we go beyond what the natural man can do.  We go beyond what we can do in the flesh.  We give evidence of doing more than most.  That little difference becomes a big difference that invites others to join us in being transformed.  The Apostle John, known originally as a Son of Thunder, was transformed into the Apostle of Love.  He exhorts us to live in this world as Jesus lived.  Loving our enemies like Jesus did.  Loving one another as He loved us. 

 Posted by at 3:12 pm

” That Incredible Christian or That Incredible Shrinking Christian”

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Oct 042020

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: ” That Incredible Christian or That Incredible Shrinking Christian”.

     Back in 1964 A.W. Tozer wrote a book called That Incredible Christian.  In his book he enumerated the characteristics of a true Christian that often made him an enigma to the rest of the world, and yet that enigma was an unexplainable difference that often had a magnetic draw of curiosity that caused non-Christians to investigate the genuineness of our faith, and often would lead them to choose that fascinating relationship with God, through Christ for themselves.  Listen to a brief description that Tozer shares-“The Christian believes that in Christ he has died, (to his old self), yet he is more alive than ever…and he fully expects to live forever!  He walks on earth, but is seated in heaven!  He is like the Nighthawk, which is so graceful in flight in the air, but is so awkward and ugly on the ground…to be a victorious son of heaven he must not follow the pattern of earth.  To be safe-he must put himself in jeopardy! He loses his life-to save it.  When he tries to preserve it, he is in danger of losing it! He goes down-to go up! If he refuses to go down, he is already down!  He is strong when he is weakest…and weakest when he sees himself strong.  He has the most when he has given the most away!  He is most sinless when he is most conscious of his sin!  Most sinful when he feels he has little or no sin! He is wisest when he knows that he knows little!  Knows least when he thinks he knows much! Sometimes he does the most, by doing nothing! -Goes furthest when he is standing still!  He fears God-yet is not afraid of Him.  When he is in God’s presence, he feels overwhelmed and undone! Yet there is no other place he desires to be more! He loves supremely One he has never seen! He fully expects to go and see Him one day soon, but is in no hurry to get there!  In this world he is a confirmed pessimist, but expecting Christ soon, he is a restful optimist! THAT INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN!”  That kind of incredible Christian lived with a conviction that God had brought something into their lives through Christ that was an enigma to the world, but something they desperately needed to share.  That led them to pray for their non-Christian friends; be there for them in the difficult days of their lives; and always ready to share the Gospel with them and encourage them to give their lives to Christ.  Always it seemed that the Incredible Christian had a burden to see their friends and loved ones share in this Incredible Christian life!

     But those days seem like a mirage in the cold hard reality of this New Millennium!  I am not sure why but most Christians do not even seem to be familiar with all the Incredibility they have in Christ Jesus.  Losing the wonder of it all has evaporated the ever-present desire to share that incredible faith with those who have never met or known our Lord.  It seems that many Christians are not even sure how incredible the Christian life is-why would it be something you would want to convince others to embrace it!  IT SEEMS THAT INCREDIBLE CHRISTIAN HAS BECOME THAT INCREDIBLE SHRINKING CHRISTIAN!   Eight years before Tozer wrote his book, That Incredible Christian, another author, a science fiction author, Richard Matheson, wrote a novel called The Incredible Shrinking Man.  It was made into a movie in 1957.  In the book/movie Scott Carey is exposed to a cloud of radioactive spray.  This radioactivity causes him to shrink 1/7 of an inch per day.  As he shrinks, he is detrimentally affected in his success on his job; with his family; and in all of his relationships!  As he shrinks to 7 inches he engages in battles with sparrows and spiders who would normally run away from him. This fiction was fantastically entertaining for an earlier generation.  Truth be known-it speaks to our generation-to the Christians in our generation.  For the last several decades Christians have been shrinking in stature.  It used to be that we had a strong influence on our culture and in our community.  But as we have grown less and less in being Incredible Christians-we have become as Martin Lloyd Jones has said-“irrelevant”.  Instead of the world looking to the Church and the Christian for direction, they have chosen to ignore us.  The tragedy of it all is we have become comfortable with that!  We seldom take a stand on the issues of our day.  We seldom hold up the Cross and the Christ as the only answer to the problems that confront our society today.  We have embraced the philosophy “I’m Ok-Your Ok!” and from a Biblical point of view-“That is Not Ok!”  Instead of being “That Incredible Christian” we have become “That Incredible Shrinking Christian!”  That is the tragedy for the Gospel in this new millennium!

     There was another Carey.  His name was William Carey.  He and some fellow Baptist pastors in England began to pray for the lost, in their country, and in the world as a whole.  They began to discuss the destiny of those who had not received Christ.  They prayed that God would bring the good news of the gospel to them.  They became the answer to their own prayers.  Carey came to the conviction “Expect Great Things from God-Attempt Great Things for God!”  That lead to the birth of modern missions.  William Carey gave his life to taking the good news of the Gospel to Burma.  He embraced all the challenges of learning the languages and customs-of loving the unlovable…Of patiently giving all his possessions, energy and life in winning them to Christ.  He even engaged his 8-year-old son Felix in the work.  Felix excelled in learning the language and translating the Bible into the language of the Burmese people.  Felix was a co-laborer with his father William in a “Great work for God”.  When he was 21 Felix married.  He and his wife had a son.  The hardships of the missionary life took the life of his wife and son.  In his weariness he grew discouraged.  Felix not only was gifted in language translation but had medical abilities as well.  The King of Burma offered Felix a position as Ambassador to the governor-general in Calcutta.  The weary Felix accepted, resigning his mission activities in 1814, Felix lived in affluence as a Burmese Government official now.  His father William was crushed.  He wrote to fellow Christians back in England-“pray for Felix-he is shriveled from a missionary to an ambassador!”  Felix’s wealth and position in the world led him to overspending and alcoholism.  He had to resign in disgrace.  He disappeared into the province of Assam, wandering and homeless for three years!  The good news is he recovered.  He returned to being a missionary. He finished well and had an impact for the gospel.  Perhaps we need to write a letter to ourselves.  “Pray for the 21st century Christian.  He has shriveled from being a witness to a wanderer!  From that Incredible Christian to that Incredible Shrinking Christian!”  Unless we draw near unto our Lord; Unless we get our credible stature back in the eyes of the world-our Gospel will fall on deaf ears in these last days! Today’s message is about Understanding the Gospel in a Nutshell and striving together in applying the essentials needed for Impacting the World with the Gospel of Christ…and stop the shrinking!

 Posted by at 3:14 pm