(I started this piece toward the end of October, in the 9th month of widowhood. And finished it today.)
My sister and several friends are saying I have to do something for Joe.
Like we’re talking about a third-person here.
I replied to one, “I’m not sure what that means. I do my job. I draw cartoons for editors, I work on my blog, I travel to cities where I preach the Gospel and sketch people, and then I come home. When I get home, I dump stuff in the washer, take things to the cleaners, buy groceries, deposit checks in the bank, and have the car washed. Then, a week or so later, I do it all over again. It’s my life.”
“That’s not in question.”
“That’s not the issue here.” This is not about deserving.
“You are unworthy and will always be unworthy.”
“Get past this.”
“It’s all about grace.”
“Now, get on with what you’re supposed to be doing.”
It was sometime in the early hours past midnight, and I was hoping to get back to sleep. Sometime in that vague area that blends wakefulness and sleep, the Lord and I were having this conversation about my burdens and His sufficiency. That’s when I pulled out the unworthy card and began playing it, as I am wont to do.
“Ah, Lord. I am so unworthy. I am not righteous enough. Not holy enough. Much too carnal. Weak beyond description. Flawed and marred and inept. I am unworthy.”
When He answered, I knew by long experience to get out of bed and write down what He said.
“Therefore, you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).
The goal is perfection. Of course.
However, you will not attain it in this life.
That does not change the goal. It just means we keep trying, keep aiming high, and never stop getting up from our failures and trying again.
What we have here is a paradox: The goal is and always will be perfection, but we are not to be perfectionists.
We are sinners. Flawed humans of whom it is said, “There is none righteous, no not one.”
That’s the reality. We fall short.
The goal is heaven. But we are earthlings.
But we are going to heaven. We will see Him. We will be like Him. And we will finally be perfect.
That’s Scriptural. It’s the reality.
But in the meantime, we’re here.
Everyone has opinions about sermons. Those of us who deliver them are always looking for the most effective way to get one across. The great majority of people–those who have to listen to them!–have opinions also. Most say they want the conclusion as close to the introduction as possible, but I suspect that’s mostly a tease. Surely anyone who bothers to get dressed and drive to church and sit through a worship service wants the sermon to be worthwhile and to do its “perfect work.” So, we all have interests in this.
Most preachers spend far more time on the introduction than on the conclusion, and I think that’s a mistake.
Would a sales person spend all his time planning a pitch for the product without a thought as to getting the customer’s name on the dotted line? That signature is the whole point.
The response to the sermon is the point of the message.
Ronald Dunn, now in Heaven, was a prolific writer and speaker on prayer and the deeper life. He pastored in Texas and authored many books. What follows are stories taken from his book “Don’t Just Stand There, Pray Something: The Incredible Power of Intercessory Prayer.” Published in 1991 by Thomas Nelson.
First story. (I’ve heard this from numerous speakers, but it’s Ron’s story.)
I was speaking at a banquet for a church’s intercessory prayer ministry when (this mother of a teenager) shared a recent answer to prayer. A few days before, as she was getting a pie ready to put into the oven, the phone rang, It was the school nurse. Her son had come down with a high fever and would she come and take him home?
The mother calculated how long it would take to drive to school and back, and how long the pie should bake, and concluded there was enough time. Popping the pie into the oven, she left for school. When she arrived, her son’s fever was worse and the nurse urged her to take him to the doctor.
“Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:16).
Sometimes a verse of Scripture gets under our skin and burrows itself deep inside and will not leave us alone. This is such a text for me.
It comes right in the middle of a tribute to some Old Testament citizens who nailed the faith thing. By faith Noah built an ark. By faith Abraham left home without a clue where he would end up. By faith Moses walked away from the palace and threw his lot in with the Hebrew slaves.
Faith means a) I have evidence but b) still have questions.
Faith means a) I believe in the Lord God but b) there are still some parts of the puzzle missing.
Faith means I decide to go forward with the evidence I have and the belief present. The missing pieces may or may not show up, the questions may or may not get answered, but the evidence I have is sufficient.
“Above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8).
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
My dad was an enigma. From his youth, he was clearly someone special, otherwise my teenage mama-to-be would never have been drawn to him and her daddy, a shrewd judge of character, would not have consented for her to marry him.
The eldest of what would eventually be an even dozen children, Carl McKeever was intelligent, possessed with excellent common sense, strong in body, and handsome in appearance. But he had a temper which he could not always control and developed a fondness for drink. His mouth was foul, particularly when with his friends, and he had a mean streak in him.
And yet, people were drawn to him.
We still have the hand-scribbled note on a piece of brown paper torn off from a grocery bag apparently, where Grandpa Virge Kilgore consented for Carl J. McKeever, age 21, to marry Lois Jane Kilgore, 17.
So, they must have seen something there.
“Now, it came to pass that when Samuel was old that he made his sons judges over Israel…. But his sons did not walk in his ways; they turned aside after dishonest gain, took bribes, and perverted justice” (I Samuel 8:1-3).
Let’s talk about the offspring of the Lord’s shepherd, those sweet little lambs birthed into his beloved family in order to enrich their lives, to bless the church and to provide a fresh palette on which the preacher and his lady can demonstrate all it means to grow up in the fear and nurture of the Lord.
Those little monsters who terrorize the congregation with their out-of-control behavior.
Those darling babies and toddlers who are smothered by the loving attention of the entire congregation, and for whom teenage girls compete as babysitters.
Those juvenile delinquents who run up and down the aisles of the church and treat the sacred buildings as their own personal playroom.
Those teenagers who look so angelic on Sunday and test their parents’ patience during the week, the subject of ten thousand stories in deacons’ homes, who exasperate the seniors in the church hoping for a little peace and quiet this Sunday.
They put the gray hairs in their preacher-dad’s head and the great stories into his sermons. They put the the lines in their mom’s brow and the thrill into her heart.
They occupy the major portion of their parents’ prayers day and night.
God bless ’em. We love our PKs. Our preachers’ kids.
“Not that we are adequate for these things. But our adequacy (sufficiency) is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
If you want to be a preacher and are satisfied with what R. G. Lee called “sermonettes by preacherettes to Christianettes,” then you can do that easily enough.
Prepare sweet little devotionals around interesting Scripture verses you come across. Add some cute stories and raise your voice at least once in the 15-minute message (to convince the more discerning that what they’re hearing is really preaching) and you can stay at that church a long time.
Lord, bless your churches and help your preachers.
The preacher’s wife (Marlene is not her real name) who suggested an article on 59 things NOT to say to a preacher’s wife ended by suggesting that we follow it with a positive piece listing good things to say to the wife of the minister.
Marlene got us started with this list:
I am praying for you. We love you.
Thank you sharing your husband with us.
Thank you for sharing your lives with us. We love you.
I do not want anything from you but friendship.
Let me help. We love you.
You have such great kids.
Let me know if you need anything. We love you.
I overheard this compliment. “You are a success at (insert career
choice here).We love you.”
I really missed seeing you this morning.
How do you feel? We love you.
We appreciate what you bring to the church.
WE WOULD LOVE TO PUT YOU ON STAFF SO YOU CAN SERVE THE LORD
Those are all nice.
All right. That was Marlene’s list.