“He helps us in our weakness….” (Romans 8:26)
I can hear him now: “O Lord, I am so weak. I am so pitiful, Lord. How you can ever use a nothing like me is beyond me, Lord. I’m so ignorant, so fearful, such a sinner.”
I was soon tired of his praying and all I was doing was listening. I wondered how the Lord felt about it.
I think I know.
He takes it in stride. He knew from the beginning who we were. Nothing about us surprises Him.
God’s word says, “It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
We keep getting surprised on discovering it.
At the end of a long day of touring the big city, the country boy is said to have knelt by his bed and prayed, “Lord, we saw a lot of things today. But I thank you I didn’t see a thing I want.”
“The ruler of this world is coming, and He has nothing in Me” (John 14:30).
Toward the end of His earthly ministry when our Lord was preparing the disciples for the difficult days ahead, throughout this Upper Room Discourse (John chapters 13-16), Jesus assured them He would not be leaving them as orphans. The Holy Spirit would be arriving in full force to supply everything they would be needing.
They should expect difficult days, He said. And make no mistake, He says, the devil is coming, too. (Perhaps He spotted that fallen angel peeping up from a garbage can somewhere.)
My friend Dave, who pastors a church in my neighborhood, reminded me of a story that used to show up in sermons from time to time.
After the war, a soldier who was severely wounded was returning home. As soon as he entered the states, he phoned his parents to say he was bringing with him a buddy who had lost (fill in the blank–an eye, a leg, both legs, etc) and was confined to a wheel chair. He wanted the guy to live with the family and promised that he would take care of him. The mother said, “Now, honey, we appreciate your compassion and your dedication to your friend. But this would be too heavy a burden on your family. This is not a good idea.” A few days later, the family got word that their son, the one just home from the war, had ended his own life in a hotel in a distant city. When the remains were shipped home, the family discovered he had one eye, one leg (or no legs), etc. He had been telling his parents about himself.
Dave and I agreed that such a story, whether true or untrue–it’s impossible to know–is a show-stopper. A sermon killer.
The newlywed couple can easily be overwhelmed with their new circumstances. They are adjusting to each other–the delightful as well as the mysterious, the obvious as well as the surprising. They are finding out how to plan their days and nights now that dating and courting have suddenly been removed from their agenda. And, they are finding out about mortgages and rents, taxes, and neighbors in ways they only imagined earlier.
It’s called life. It happens to all of us.
It would be natural for the newly married couple to postpone some things. And true enough, some things can be put on the back burner. Let them delay going into debt for “big ticket items.” Debt can be a killer for young families. Let them delay having children until they have solidified some matters in their own new relationship and established their home.
However, some mighty important matters should be dealt with head-on and faced immediately.
“He said to the man with the withered hand, ‘Stretch out your hand'” (Mark 3:5).
The very thing the man could not do Jesus asked of him.
“And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.”
To the young virgin of Nazareth, the angel of the Lord said, “For with God, nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).
He seems to love doing the impossible.
The impossible. Such a novel concept. As though anything were beyond the scope of the Creator of the galaxies.
I’m recalling that a college class in the late 1940s once expressed the doubt that God understood radar. Radar? Well, it was all the rage back then, a scientific thing that had given us a great advantage during the Second War, and people were just getting their minds around it.
These days, ninth graders understand radar.
Recently, we posted a list of “59 things not to say to a preacher.” Someone suggested one on things we should not tell a preacher. The emphasis is on “should not tell.”
Here are ten in no particular order….
1. We should not tell the preacher what we think of his hot wife.
This is one not only to keep to oneself, but to ask the Lord to remove it from one’s mind altogether. The prayer “let the…meditations of my heart be acceptable to Thee, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” should cover it.
2. We should not tell the preacher we think he is married to a meddling wife.
Only the rarest of pastors could receive such information. If it happens to be true–pray that it isn’t–let the elected leadership of the church deal with it, and not you.
Okay, I’m not sure what is the “worst possible advice” to young preachers–there is so much to choose from! But what follows has to be among the sorriest counsel ever administered to young proclaimers of the Word….
I was looking up “preach Jesus” and came upon a website which proposes to teach people to “preach sermons and live in the power of the Holy Spirit.” I read a short way into the first article. My mind was frozen by a bullet point which read: “Throw away the concordance.”
I thought, “What?” (For those unacquainted with a concordance, it’s a staple in the preacher’s arsenal. A concordance is a book of subjects with every (or selected) scripture verses listed where you may find that word used. The back of most Bibles will have a brief concordance. And yes, these days, the internet has almost made it obsolete. I type a line from a verse into the search blank and hit “go,” and instantly, I’m told where to find the verse I was looking for. It’s a wonderful help.)
Here is the paragraph, verbatim:
“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them…. Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him…” (Acts 8:5,35).
Two sermons stand out in my mind as possibly the worst I have ever heard.
(And to those who ask about the worst sermons I personally have ever preached, there have been so many, it’s hard to choose!)
One sermon was interesting and easy to follow. The other was a self-centered rant I found completely offensive.
The first was delivered by an interim pastor who, according to the introduction, taught at a local Christian college. The second was delivered by a young pastor who told us that he had started that church only 8 years previously. It now ran in the thousands. We were at one of their multiple locations watching him on a large screen. By any measurement the world uses to judge success, the man was all that and more.
Both sermons were helpful in some ways. Neither was biblical. Both were delivered by gifted communicators; neither mentioned Jesus. Neither message had even a passing acquaintance with the gospel.
I bought three cheap little rubber snakes at Walmart to drop into the tall grass in my front yard to give my grandson a start as he goes by with the mower.
The only one they scared was me.
Son Neil was videoing it as Grant pushed the mower ever closer to the serpents. Then, at the magic moment, when he saw the snakes, he never batted an eye—but started to push the mower over them, until Neil stopped him.
Later, after I’d taken the snakes into the house, Neil returned them to the front yard and laid them in the flower garden as decorations. So, next morning when I went to bring in the newspaper, my eye spots the snakes and my nerves jerk before my mind has time to signal that “it’s okay; they’re just rubber.”
I bought them to scare Grant, but the only person they startle is me.