Odds and ends from a hoarding preacher

Pastor, scan through these offerings and see if you find anything of use as illustrations for sermons. Or, just as good, perhaps they will spark an idea inside you.


Want a great love story, one that will inspire every heart listening to you?  This ain’t it!

In 1964, a hitchhiker was picked up on the highway and given a ride by an 18- year-old woman. They chatted, she dropped him off, and they each went on their way. Within minutes, the man decided that he was in love with her. I mean, seriously, head over heels, a real goner.

The problem was that he had no way to contact her. She was gone. But he never forgot her.

Thirty-one years later, he came across her name in the newspaper in the obituary of her mother. So he sent her 5 dozen roses–alongwith all the letters he had written her over 31 years.

Thirty-one years of letters.

The police found in his house stacks of Christmas cards and boxes of birthday prsents for every one of those 31 years. Of course, by now she was 48 years old.

I said the police found them, because the woman had him arrested for misdemeanor harassment after he kept hounding her.

That’s the thing about love…

–a) you love someone and they may not know it. Think of Charlie Brown and the little red-headed girl.

–b) you love someone and they do not want it. So the love is not returned.

–c) you love someone and they are not worthy.

“God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). We weren’t worthy, were we?

“We love Him because He first loved us” (I John 4:19). We return His love when we turn to Christ in salvation.


The radio preacher told his audience that the greatest orator in the ancient world was Cicero. The second was Julius Caesar. And coming in third was Apollos.

My question is: who decided this? And how did he know?

Since no one living has heard either of them, we honestly have no basis for comparison. And yet, here we have them ranked in order of effectiveness in oratory.

The man of God put this forth as fact, but I think we can agree that he was not the scholar who made this determination. But somebody obviously did.

My problem is pastors who pontificate on matters they have no right or business or background for doing so. He did not cite an authority but laid that line before his audience as accepted fact.

Standing at the pulpit with the eyes of hundreds of people upon you presents a huge temptation for any minister. It can be a heady experience. One has to keep his wits about him and pray constantly for the Lord to “set a guard upon my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).

If you are not faithful in the little things, pastor–and that includes the facts and figures you cite and the stories you tell–then who will trust you with the big things, like their eternal lives?  See Luke 16:10.


Where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them (Matthew 18:20).

There is nothing else like this statement in all Scripture. It is wonderfully unique. Consider these thoughts on that promise–

a. This is the special reason why Christians gather:

–it is commanded.

–the numbers do not have to be big for Christ to show up.

–we are there to honor Him.

–to encourage each other.

–but the big reason is because of the unusual promise of the presence of Christ.

b. This is the special way Christians gather: “in my name”

–for my purpose

–for worship

–to honor and obey Him.

c. This is the special promise to Christians gathered: He will be there.

–Pastor, give worship-leadership your best effort; the Lord is here today.

–Do not cut things short if only a few come; He is here.

–Scripture teaches the Lord thinks His presence makes all the difference in the world. When Moses protested his assignment, God said, “I will be with you.” To Joshua, He said, “As I was with Moses, I will be with you.” To Gideon, “I will be with you.” Same with so many others, including Jeremiah. When He gave you and me the Great Commission, He followed it with “I am with you all the way, even to the end of the world.”


This speechwriter for President Reagan has much to say about effective speech-making, or sermon-delivery.  She says we should….

–Boil it down to one sentence.

–Tell a story.

–Talk about you.

–Think and write. Put your points and stories in proper order.

In order to speak with power, Noonan suggests:

–don’t be smooth; be authentic

–do a sound check; be prepared

–make a connection with the audience

–build a group within the audience.

Sometime prior to giving her speech, while people are still gathering, Noonan deputizes some in the audience to be on her team. “If I fall flat or lose my voice, do something!” In a speech, if her joke falls flat, she’ll say, “Okay, Joe at Table 2–get ready!”


(These are fragmentary notes that may spark something within you.)

Exposure: what if everyone knew?

Censure: does your own spirit condemn it?

Nurture: does it help people?

Perjure: Is it the truth?

Pure: any mixture of falsehood with it?

Scripture: what does the Word have to say on the subject?

Cure: anyone being healed by it?

Serve the Lord with a sincere faith.  I Timothy 1:5

I love the word sincere. Our English word comes from the Latin sine cera which literally means “without wax.” A sculptor working on a commission for a customer discovers a crack in the marble. He fills it in with wax and hopes no one notices. The customer pays the full price, takes it home and parks it near the fireplace. One day the wax melts and the ruse is discovered. The artist is revealed to be a crook.

The Greek word translated as “sincere” or “pure” is heilikrine. (Found in Philippians 1:10 and II Peter 3:1 only.) Helios is the sun or its light, and krino means to judge. So, the Greek word means “tested by the light of the sun.”  I’m recalling from somewhere stories about people buying a suit of clothes in ancient times, but first taking it outside to look at its quality and color in the light.  State legislatures have “sunshine laws” to require state agencies, boards, and committees to conduct their meetings openly so no shenanigans will go on. At least, that’s the plan.

Great stuff, huh? This is all about transparency and faithfulness. Turn up the heat, get it out in the light, and let us see what you’re really made of.


The obituaries will tell how this guy lived for his bowling team, another for her bingo games, and someone else for his bridge tournaments. That started me thinking.

What if we held their funeral services at the place where they lived their lives?  One would have his services at the lodge hall, another at the bingo parlor, the casino, or the tavern.

What is the point in having the memorial service at a church when the guy never darkened the door? What if we decided to get honest here? What might the preacher say….

–In the bowling alley, the minister might say, ‘It takes a score of 300 to get into Heaven. And Old Tom threw lots of gutter balls, had more than his share of spares and 7-10 splits. Pray for Old Tom’s soul.”

–in the bingo parlor, the minister would say, “Old Tom tried to play several cards at once. He was always glad to get the free square. Let’s finish his card for him, shall we? Under the B, believe. Under the I, invite Jesus into your heart. Under the N, there is no other name. Under the G, give your heart and life to Him. And under the O, obey the Lord from now on. See you in church.”

–at the casino, the minister: “Old Tom bet it all on the red square. So sorry, Tom. You knew the odds of winning in this place when you entered. You should have gone to church, friend. There the odds are ‘whosoever will’ may come.”

–Well, that’s the idea. Have those funerals at the restaurant for the overeaters, at the theater for the celebrity hound, at the ball park for the sports nut, at his office for the workaholic, and at the mall for the shopaholic.  At least we would be consistent with the way they lived their lives.

“For me to live is Christ,” said the Apostle Paul. “And to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).  If we live for anything other than Christ, to die will be loss.


Legend says this Greek philosopher (412 – 323 B.C.) walked about the streets carrying a lamp in search of an honest man.

That probably is fictional, but he was one interesting character. His school of philosophy taught self-control and the subjugating of all desire for pleasure and things. Carrying this to extremes, we’re told he lived in a tub and walked the streets barefoot.

During a journey from Athens to Aegina, Diogenes was captured by pirates who tried to sell him as a slave. He told his captors he knew only one trade, governing men. He pointed out a rich Corinthian. “Sell me to this man. He needs a master.” Strangely enough, the Corinthian bought him and put him to work tutoring his sons.

Alexander the Great came to see Diogenes. The philosopher was outside, sunning himself at the time. Alexander stood over him and said, “Ask me any favor.” Diogenes: “Get out of my sunlight.” Later, Alexander said, “If I were not Alexander, I would like to be Diogenes.” Go figure.

Some stories about people leave me gasping, “What???” and that’s one of them.

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