End of the Year’s Leftovers

Cleaning out a stack of papers, here are some of the tidbits I found. If you find anything of use to yourself in teaching or sermonizing, welcome to them.

Here is the makings of a sermon on God.

Nowhere is it written that the Lord of this universe has to be a God of love. It would be just as conceivable that a despot, a tyrant, might create a universe for sport. Or that God may be flighty like some people we know, and create a universe one day, then abandon it as His attention drifts toward some new project.

There are indeed those who think of the Lord of the universe as a tyrant who kills babies or an an absentee landlord who made us but has no further interest in our doings.

Were it not for three overriding facts, many of us might agree with them….

1) This World.

Creation speaks of a great God, a Lord of order and beauty, a Deity of kindness and compassion. My friend Fisher Humpreys asks, “Who but God would have thought of oysters?” And we might add, an octopus? a hippo? a camel? or my Uncle Edwin? The heavens declare the glory of God, and so does the earth.

2)The Bible.

Its revelation of God. This book is unique among the writings of all history. The more we learn about its intricacies and revelations, its teachings and its consistencies, the more we come away shaking our heads knowing, “This is from God.” Only the fool dismisses the Bible as a collection thrown together by a cabal intent on deceiving the world. We all should be so deceived, this Word is so wonderful.

3)The Lord Jesus Christ.

Among those who have walked this planet, He is unique. They said of Him, “No one ever spoke like this man” (John 7:46). We would add, “No one ever was born as He was born.” “No one ever lived as He lived.” “No one taught as He taught.” “No one worked as He worked.” “No one died quite the way He died.” And, then, “No one ever rose from the dead the way He did.”

There, pastor! See if you can find a sermon in there somewhere!

I thought of writing an article called, “Confessions of a Homesick Preacher.” Here are some of the notes I jotted down on that subject.


(A note of explanation: these notes were clearly jotted down years ago when both my parents were living.)

1) Homesickness is good. It shows roots and loyalty and love.

2) Homesickness can be bad, however. It can distract a person from his tasks for the day.

3) I’ve noticed that whenever I get homesick for Nauvoo, Alabama, and the family farm where my parents live, the homesickness ends when I drive into the front yard. From that moment on, I do not need to watch an Alabama football game on television or eat a meal at the Cracker Barrel Restaurant to get my “fix.” I’m home. At rest. No more longing.

4) I’ve also noticed that my deeper homesickness is not satisfied and quenched unless I get out of the house and walk in the fields and woods. I need to sit on the front porch with my dad and enjoy the quiet boredom. It’s not enough to do a quick fly-by and then head home. I need to enter the experience.

5)There is a deeper homesickness that nothing can touch. This inner longing is not for a physical place or particular people or certain foods. It’s spiritual, a yearning I am convinced originates with God. It’s a longing for Heaven. An old gospel song says, “I’m homesick for a place I’ve never seen.”

6) The older we get, the more mature we grow, the more Jesus Christ means to us. When that happens, two things result simultaneously:

–a. The world recedes. We love it less.

–b. Heaven draws near. We love it more.

As Colossians 3:1-4 speaks of, we become more heavenly minded.

7) This is how to serve God best in this world:

–Eyes on Heaven; feet in this world.

–Keeping our balance.

–Knowing where our strength comes from, our loyalty and authority derive.

The idea is to be preoccupied with Christ–knowing, serving, loving, obeying, and honoring Him.

In a 1971 book, Fritz Ridenour suggests that we stop playing I’LL NEVER BE SPIRITUAL ENOUGH. That’s a cop-out, he says. A waste of time.

To be more heavenly minded, Ridenour makes these suggestions:

1) Start each day with God’s promises.

2) Keep on course throughout the day by repeating positive biblical ideas of “who you are in Christ.” Repeat the promises.

3) Screen your thoughts. Be selective about what goes into your mind through your eyes and ears.

4) Pray throughout the day.

Here’s a little test to give yourself: Where are you known better in your town?

It was homecoming week on a college campus. A local tavern ran an ad in the school paper: “Students, while your parents are on campus, bring them by our tavern. We’ll act like we don’t know you.”

The next day, a church near the campus ran this ad:

“Students, while your parents are on campus, bring them to Sunday services. We’ll act like we do know you.”

The question today, students, is: where are you known better? In the tavern or in church? By the bartender or by your pastor?

And what does the answer say about you?

Bette Davis (movie star of the first magnitude for you youngsters among us) once said that if your children had never hated you, you have failed as a parent.

I’m sure she meant that if you give them the discipline and limits they need, they will sometimes resent it and say they hate you. But you’re doing well.

Parents do not work for immediate approval or look for proof that their methods are good the same day.

Johnny Carson (comedian and talk show host of the same magnitude) said one of his sons sassed him with, “Well, I didn’t ask to be born!” Carson answered, “If you had, the answer would have been ‘No!'”

When the angel of God told Samson’s parents they were to give birth to a special child, they called the messenger of God back and said, “Tell us what to do with him!” Every parent echoes that cry.

No parent can do better than consult God’s Word to see what He says on the subject of child-rearing.

The Great and Terrible God.

Theologian Richard Niebuhr said, “Modern Christianity has a theology of a God iwthout wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

The Revolutionary Gospel.

The first miracle Jesus did was to turn water into wine. He taught us that the Gospel is like new wine which is powerful, surging, energizing, pulsing.

Modern Christianity has been busy turning the win back into water.

Steadfastness.

Hugh Latimer’s wife said to him just before he was to appear before Queen (Bloody) Mary: “Now, dear, don’t you shilly shally.”

Sometime around 1990, when America and Britain were about to launch Desert Storm, aimed at ousting Saddam from Kuwait, British Prime Minister said to President George Bush, “Now, George, don’t go wobbly on us.”

Contentment.

Anyone who knows me is aware of my appreciation for the old Andy Griffith Show. Here’s a vignette from one of the classic episodes….

Sheriff Andy and Deputy Barney are chatting about a wanted criminal for whose capture there is a reward of $500. Barney says, “Boy, I could sure use that money.”

Andy: “What would you do with it?”

Barney: “Put it in the bank.”

He is thoughtful a moment, then says, “On second thought, with bank robbers around, the bank is not a safe place.”

Then: “I could put it under my pillow. But we might have a fire.”

“Maybe I could bury it. But worms and slugs might eat it up.”

He’s quiet a minute, then Andy says:

“I’ll tell you one thing though. You were a much happier man when you were poor.”

God knows your name.

In his book, “Portraits of God,” Harold Bryson tells this story. Two boys asked the pastor what they could do, if there was anyone they could help. He sent them to a blind man in the church, telling them to read the Bible to him each week.

The man was delighted.

Where should they begin?

He told the boys, “Well, since you’re going to be here each week, let’s read through the New Testament. Start at Matthew.” So they did.

Soon, the boys were encountering the long list of names and hard words. One of the boys said, “Let’s just skip all those names, sir.”

“Oh no,” the man said. ‘Read them all.”

As they did, the boys noticed the old man crying. They said to him, “What is so important about a list of names, anyway, sir?”

The blind man said, “Boys, God knowed everyone of those fellas. And He knew them by name. That makes me feel important to know that God knows me and He knows my name!”

He does indeed. One of the classic sermons in the Christian faith is one by Fred Craddock on that “list of names” in Romans 16. Craddock’s sermon is tellingly called, “Don’t Call It a List.”

Last week I had lunch with a friend who is on staff at a large church in Florida. He told me a friend from former days who serves on their church staff. We chatted about him a little, and then he told me something fascinating.

Our mutual friend possessed a last name that had given him trouble and his children embarrassment all their lives. (Since I don’t have permission, I’ll not tell it here.) One day recently when the oldest child was preparing to head off for college, he asked the parents if he could change his name. “I’ll be starting fresh in college with lots of new friends,” he said, “so this is a great time to do this.”

After discussing it, the family decided they would ALL change their names. They called a lawyer in the church who started the legal process, and not long after, they all appeared in court and walked out with new names.

What name?

Ah, that’s a good question. You get a chance to junk a name that has given you trouble through the years and start afresh. What would you like to be? You think of your favorite celebrities and all the names you have admired over the years. They’re all in play; you can be anyone you choose.

They chose Smith.

It was my friend’s wife’s maiden name. The family adored the maternal grandparents and all the wife’s family, so it was an obvious choice.

The next Sunday at church, without any knowledge of the great timing on this, the choir’s anthem was “He Knows My Name.”

He does indeed.

Whatever your name, have a wonderful new year in serving the Lord!

One thought on “End of the Year’s Leftovers

  1. For yr first list by all means add the duck-billed platypus. Perhaps designed by the committee in Job called the “heavenly council”?

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