The little difference that makes a big difference”

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Feb 252024

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. 


1 PETER 1:3-5


A. It’s Resource







                                                                                                                                                       III.   THE GRIP OF GOD’S MERCY

A. The Power of It.

B.  The Promise of It

 Posted by at 6:38 pm

Streams of Mercy-Never Ceasing!

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Feb 182024

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Streams of Mercy-Never Ceasing!”

     Robert Robinson was born September 27th 1735.  He lost his father at an early age and was raised by a poor single mother.  She was a godly woman, raising 12 children on a meager income.  She prayed for her children, and especially prayed that Robert would become a preacher of the gospel.  In 1750, at the age of 15 he was indentured to a barber in London.  He worked hard but had more interest in books and taught himself four languages, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and French.  He loved to listen to the Methodist preachers of his day but was especially drawn to the powerful preaching of George Whitefield.  He came to faith in 1752 at one of Whitefield’s preaching services.  He wrote his testimony in Latin, talking about born of the flesh in September 27, 1735. and born-again May 24, 1752.  He studied under John Gill, John Wesley, and Whitefield of course.  In 1759 he was invited to preach at a Baptist Church at Cambridge, later made famous by Robert Hall.  He soon began preaching there and drew large crowds.  He followed the Lord in Believer’s Baptism and became a Baptist.  He soon wrote two hymns.  One called-Brightness of Thy Eternal Glory. 

Brightness of eternal glory,

Shall Thy Praise Unuttered lie?

Who would hush the boundless story?

Of the one who came to die

Came from off the throne eternal.

Down to Calvary’s depth of woe

Came to crush the powers infernal;

Streams of praises ceaseless flow.

Sing His blest triumphant rising

Sing Him on the Father’s Throne

Sing til heaven and earth surprising

Reigns the Nazarene Alone!

His most famous hymn was Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Tune my heart to sing thy Grace

Streams of mercy, never ceasing

Calls for songs of loudest praise

Teach me some melodious sonnet

Sung by flaming tongues above

Praise the mount, I’m fixed upon it

Mount of Thy unchanging love.

He was also asked to write a History of English Baptists.  His history became a standard for many years.  But as often happens, he began to be drawn in by other voices.  Friends bombarded him with teachings of the Unitarian faith.  He soon began to wander into teachings that questioned the deity of Christ, and the fundamentals of the faith.  He soon quit preaching and returned to a life in the far country.  One bright Sunday morning Robert was in the mood for anything but sunny.  All along the street there were people hurrying to Church.  But in this crowd Robert was a lonely man.  The sound of the Church bells reminded him of years past when his faith in God was strong, and the Church a joyous part of his life.  He walked outside, and hailed the horse drawn cab to take him to the local pub.  He saw the cab was occupied by a young woman obviously dressed for Lord’s Day, he waved the driver on, but she insisted he join her.  He got in.  She was reading a book.  To his surprise, she handed it to him and she asked his opinion of the hymn she was reading.  His eyes fell on these words:

Oh, to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be

Let that grace, now like a fetter

Bind my wandering heart to Thee

Prone to wander, Lord I feel it

Prone to leave the God I love

Here’s my heart, O take and seal it

Seal it for Thy courts above

He began to cry as he read those words.  She asked, “what is wrong?”  He said, “mam…I am the poor wretched, miserable man that wrote those words!  I would give anything to have the joy that I had when I penned them!”  She reminded him of the previous verse “steams of mercy never ceasing” are still flowing even for the author that needed them now more than ever.  That encounter was used of God to bring Robinson back to His Lord.  God did take his heart and seal it.  He returned to usefulness and preached several times each Sunday until the day he died in June 9th, 1790.  Galatians tells us that when we see a brother, “overtaken in a fault, ye that are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself”.  The word restore is “katartidzo”- it means “restore a broken bone” it means “restore a torn fishing net”.  The idea is to take what is broken and restore it to full usefulness.  God used this dear lady in the horse-drawn cab to use Robert’s own words to restore his soul.  Perhaps God wants to use you today to restore a broken brother or sister. 


     Mathew 5: 1-7

                   I.   THE ESSENCE OF MERCY

                   II.  THE EXAMPLE OF MERCY

                   III.  THE EXPECTATION OF MERCY

                   IV. THE ENABLEMENT OF MERCY

 Posted by at 4:11 pm

SUPER Bowl – Youth Encounter in Illinois

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Feb 112024

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “SUPER Bowl – Youth Encounter in Illinois”.

     I was led to Christ by Pastor Russell Pittman, of the Salem Baptist Church of Decatur, Illinois in early September 1968.  The next year, after growing in Christ, I felt God calling me to give up plans to go to the University of Illinois and be a Physical Education major, with the goal of being a coach.  My second choice was to be a disk-jockey on a radio station! I know-I was setting my goals extremely high!  But God had other plans!  I was licensed to the ministry in March of 1969, and began an itinerant ministry of Youth revivals all over the state of Illinois.  But I remember an event that affirmed that call in a very emphatic way.  It was the Illinois Baptist State Association’s Youth Encounter of 1969.  It was held on Dec. 26-27 at the Springfield, Illinois Holiday Inn.  Kids from all over Illinois traveled through the snow to attend the conference.  There were three main personalities giving testimony and speaking at the Encounter.  The first was Debra Barnes.  She was Miss America 1968.  She was Miss Kansas, and was elected Miss America.  She was a devout Christian, and made that plain in her acceptance speech.  While she was speaking protesters from the New York Radical Women were waving sheets promoting Women’s Lib, and “No More Miss America Pageants!”  Debra was a gifted Pianist and played and gave her testimony.  She gave God the glory, and told how holding that honor opened doors for her to share Christ with the world!  (Boy how times have changed!).  Debra has lived faithfully to the Lord, and currently is Associate Professor of Piano studies at Missouri Southern State University, in Joplin, Mo., and Worship leader for nearly 20 years at The Faithlife Worship Center in Carthage, Mo. The second personality was Terry Bradshaw.  Terry was a football star whose father was retired military and a Vice President of a manufacturing company in Shreveport, La. They were strong Southern Baptists, and Terry grew up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  In High School Terry led his football team to record setting years.  He also set a national record for throwing the Javelin-throwing it 245 ft! (a record that stood for years, but was recently eclipsed by 10 feet). That feat earned him a spot in Sports Illustrated, where he would appear on the cover three times after winning the Super Bowl in 1974, 1975, and 1979.  At the time he spoke to us he was star quarterback for Louisiana Tech University, having been back up to Phil (Duck Dynasty) Robertson in his first two years.  Phil choose not to play in 1968.  He told Terry, (he now says-“I am going for the ducks, you go for the bucks!”).  In 1969 Terry was the Most Outstanding College Quarterback.  He broke records in his last two collegiate years!  Terry came to the Youth Encounter as a spokesman for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.  Of course, he went on to be the #1 draft pick of the Pittsburg Steelers, for whom he won 4 Super Bowls (’74, ’75, ’78,’79).  Terry unashamedly declared his love and commitment to Jesus Christ as the most important thing in his life, and gave God all the glory for the accomplishments he had been blessed to attain.  The third personality at the conference was Ron Hutchcraft.  He was a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and leader in the Youth for Christ movement.  Since that time Ron has been active for over 55 years in RHM Ministries.  He has a radio program entitled A Word With You, and a ministry to native Americans called On Eagles Wings.  He was so different!  He spoke casually, sitting on a stool, not behind a podium.  Every word he spoke went straight to the heart.  He clearly held Jesus up as the only way of salvation.  But more than that, he challenged these many young people to give their life to something that would matter for time and eternity-“following Jesus with all your heart-wherever He calls you!” He insisted that Jesus wanted us to be “all in” and give ourselves 100% No holding back! I have never forgotten the last service.  As the instrumentalists played and sang, I have decided to follow Jesus, he challenged each of us, if we were serious about it, to stand up, in front of all our peers around us, and declare publically-“I HAVE DECIDED TO FOLLOW JESUS-NO TURNING BACK!”  I have never forgotten the decision I made that day- almost 50 years ago!  What an Encounter!  The theme was “STAND UP AND STAND OUT FOR JESUS”.  He probably doesn’t even remember that day.  I have never forgotten it.

     Recently I heard Ron on the radio.  It was his program-A WORD WITH YOU.  He titled his program-“A mission with a name on it!”  Let me briefly share part of it with you.  Maybe God will use him to impact your life like he did mine!

Ron said, “My friend Dave got tired of wearing glasses.  But if he didn’t, he was dangerous.  After consulting with a specialist, he determined he was a candidate for Lasik surgery.  During the procedure, a laser beam was aimed at the parts of his eyes that had limited his vision and the carefully aimed light of that laser changed everything! Guess who doesn’t need glasses anymore!  All because of the power of focused light.  My Word With You is ‘A mission with a name on it!’  For someone you know, for someone you love, their only hope of ever seeing Jesus may be the power of focused light.  You are God’s laser light to their life.  Were not talking about single-handedly reaching everyone in your town, your school, your workplace, or your neighborhood for Christ.  Were talking about focusing your love, prayer, and efforts on one person you want to have in heaven with you.  Someone who, if they died today, probably would not go there.  I call it a mission with a name on it.  Not just non-specific concern for the ‘lost’.  We’re talking about a burden with a name.  Andrew met Jesus.  The first concern of his was to go and tell his brother Peter.  We know the results of that mission (See John 1:40-42).  We know Jesus had a heart for just one sheep.  He left the 99, to go search diligently for the one lost sheep.  A mission with a name on it. (Palestinian Shepherds named their sheep).  That doesn’t mean you ignore all the other lost people around you!  But you start with one person.  God lays that person on your heart.  You pray for that person every day.  You pray that you, or someone of God’s leading, will cross paths with them, and share the Gospel.  You look for ways to love them, in their language of love, demonstrating Jesus’ love for them, in practical ways.  You focus the light of Jesus and your efforts like a laser beam on that one life! 

     In a previous generation, a man named John Wannamaker, one of the most looked to and successful businessmen in America, and founder of one of the first famous department stores in America, was also a lover of Jesus Christ, and a Sunday School teacher.   One day he wrote a hand copied letter to each member of his large class.  What he said touched my heart.  He wrote, ‘If you are saved, humbly trusting in what Jesus did for you in His love on the cross, think of others who are not saved.  Be burdened that they will be spending eternity in darkness-separated from God forever! That’s your friend, your relative, your neighbor-Do Something!  Settle your mind and heart on some particular person.  Pray and work and do not give up til that person comes to Christ. Your help comes from God.  It is an undying soul you are laboring for.  What a pleasure it will be to have some newborn soul with you in heaven!  Do not put it off for a single hour.  Hearts grow harder and eternity is close”.   He signed his letter to his class-‘Yours in the hope of heaven, and to win our friends to go with us’.”   That’s your mission with a name on it!  That is your laser beam of Gospel proclamation!  Imagine the joy of someone coming up to you in heaven and saying “Thank you-I would not be here if not for you!”  Thank God your mission with a name on it had their name!


                   Matthew 5:6

                  I.     PROVISION _ GRACE

                  II.    PURPOSE _ GROWTH

                  III.   PLEASURE _ GLORY

 Posted by at 4:10 pm

Can Christians be Indubitably real ever again?

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Feb 042024

PASTOR’S PERSPECTIVE: “Can Christians be Indubitably real ever again?”

     The Wesleyan revival of the eighteenth century was one of the great outpourings of the Spirit, and the secret to retaining the fruits of revival was the class meetings that were held by the Wesley’s.  They emphasized Bible reading, prayer, holiness and dedication to be practiced by the converts.  The classes provided fellowship and accountability.  After many years Wesley decided to write a guide-a manual for the class in an effort to carry on with the movement.  But the power and vitality of the movement seemed to diminish from that point on.  This troubled Wesley so much, he wrote: “It was a common saying among Christians that ‘the soul and the body make the man’ but ‘the spirit and discipline make the Christian’: implying that none could be a real Christian without the help of Christian discipline.  But if this be so, is it any wonder that we now find so few Christians, for where is the Christian Discipline?” (Causes of the Inefficacy of Christianity-a sermon by John Wesley).  Wesley put his finger on an ongoing problem confronting Christians of all eras-how do you sustain real Christian living on an everyday level? Thomas A Kempis, author of the Imitation of Christ, warned “Know well that the enemy labors to hinder the desire, (of the Church), for holiness and make you fail to attain all good spiritual exercise.” Thomas Aquinas, seeing this loss of power, did his best to communicate it.  On one occasion he was confronted by Pope Innocent II, who showed him all the property of the Church, all her magnificent buildings, and large sums of money.  Innocent said, “You see the Church is no longer in the age which she has to say, ‘silver and gold have I none’-she can no longer say that!”  Aquinas acknowledged that is true, then said, “Neither can she say, In the name of Jesus Christ-rise up and walk!”  For entirely different reasons, the Church today finds herself with the same inability to impact our world for Christ.  We profess to know Christ.  We have committed to be His followers.  But there is a veritable “Grand Canyon” of difference between Who He is, and who we are!  It seems the Church has “fallen and we cannot get up!”  Henry David Thoreau used to say, “men, (Christians), lie on their backs talking about the fall of man, but never make an effort to get up!”  It sure seems like it!  Leo Tolstoy, in his book The Kingdom of God is Within You, “All men, (Christians included), of the modern world exist in a continual and flagrant antagonism between their consciences and their way of life”.  How have we drifted so far from the real Christianity we witness in the New Testament?  Richard Halverson, Presbyterian pastor, and past Chaplain of U.S. Congress, wrote years ago, “In the beginning the Church was a Fellowship of men and women centering on the Living Christ; The Church moved to Greece and became a Philosophy; The Church moved to Rome and became an Institution; The Church moved to Europe a Culture; The Church moved to America and became an Enterprise!”  That history is very revealing about how we got to where we are at today.  Donald Miller says “the inner reserves of Christianity have been largely depleted!”  Richard Foster says “most conservatives by the early seventies generally accepted that being a Christian had nothing essentially to do with actually following Jesus.  Most Christians are NOT like Him.  The main popular bumper sticker became ‘Christians are not perfect, just forgiven’.  The only absolute requirement for being a Christian is to believe proper things about Jesus”. (Discipleship: For Super Christians Only). That explains the modern impotent Church.  The salt has lost its savor! 

     William Iverson identified that very thing.  He wrote “one quarter of the population of the United States professes an evangelical conversion experience.  Jesus said that those who claim that are to be the salt of the earth.  He deduces-a pound of meat would surely be affected by a quarter pound of salt-wouldn’t you think?  Where is the effect of which Jesus spoke?” (William Iverson-Christianity Today– 1980 p.33).  Henry Churchill King, long time President of Oberlin College, and well-known theologian raises a very pertinent question for our generation-“What happened to Christians being indubitably real?”  (Indubitably is a word hardly used anymore that means “something so real it cannot be doubted”).  What has happened to “that kind” of Christianity?  When Christianity, in the past, slipped away from being the real deal kind of Christianity there usually came a revival to bring them back to their real identity.  Revival was the means of restoring a life of spirit, genuineness, and power to the fallen Church.  But how about today?  Richard Foster, in his book The Spirit of Disciplines, says “that doesn’t work any longer.  The mainstay-revival is no longer what it used to be.  Revival in the classic sense is the overwhelming infusion of spiritual life coming into the Church, and into the whole community.  But that kind of revival has been replaced with meetings, still called by the old name.  But people who make decisions remain substantially unchanged from what they were before.  Revivals are no longer an influx of Word and Spirit.  Now one can have an ‘unsuccessful revival’ and still have revival-which if you think about it that makes as much sense of having a raising from the dead without having a raising at all!”  Paul Scherer says the number one problem of the Church today is that it has become “too trivial to be true…empty and powerless…and this is accepted as the norm these days!” 

     What do we do?  We need to take the attitude of Darrell Royal.  He was a very successful coach of the University of Texas for many years.  When he first started his career at Texas he got a call from the President of the Alumni, after the first game.  The president said to the coach-“Darrell when can I come over to give you some constructive criticism?”  Coach Royal replied, “Never!”  The President of the Alumni insisted-“We have a group that meets to do just that after every game!”  Coach said, “Not anymore!  I work best when people affirm me, and tell me what I am doing right, not what I am doing wrong!  I need supporters to cheer me on!”  His supporters became just that and for years the University of Texas had a very successful football program.  We need that kind of support for the Church.  Not that we are to stick our head in the sand concerning diagnosing where we are at.  But we need to be cheered on to return to the Church that walks with the Lord…in the Light of His word…filled and empowered by His Spirit again.  John Mackay, past president of Princeton University, and Scottish missionary for many years, used to speak to Churches all across America.  He always started his messages with “Let the Church Be the Church!”  Theologian Helmut Thielicke always said, “The Church cannot permit its authority to be defined by people who have no idea of its mission!”  We need to stop trying to Follow in His Steps-in the power of the flesh.  That is why we are failing.  We do not need an Imitation of Christ…but an Incarnation of Christ.  Paul was right. “Christ In You-The Hope of Glory”.  That is our only hope! That is possible only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.  We must be yielded to Him again.  We need to pray the poem of Amy Carmichael-Oh Flame of God.

From the prayer that asks that I may be

Sheltered from the winds that beat on thee

From fearing, when I should aspire

From faltering when I should climb higher

From silken self, O Captain free

Thy soldier who would follow thee

From subtle things of softening

From easy choices-weakening’s

(not thus are spirits fortified)

Not went that way the Crucified

From all that dims Thy Calvary

Oh Lamb of God deliver me

Give me a LOVE that leads the way

A FAITH that nothing can dismay

A HOPE no disappointment can tire

A PASSION that will burn like fire

Let me not sink like a clod


     The entire population of a small town gathered to watch the Baptist Church burn to the ground.  In the crowd, with their parents, watching the disaster were two young children.  The little girl said to her brother, “I’ve never seen so many people at Church”.  There was silence for a minute.  Then the brother replied, “The Church has never been on fire before!”  THAT JUST MAY BE THE ANSWER TO OUR PROBLEM!  Indubitably real Christians must catch fire again to be Indubitable!SERMON:  THE GAIN OF LOSS

 Posted by at 2:58 pm