Little things that delight a weary preacher

Humor refreshes me.  You too? 

I like finding signs with misprints. The sign in front of a local neighborhood center announced: “A DULT DANCE — Thursday 7 pm.” It was repeated just like that on the other side.

I read that and wondered, “What is a dult? And why are they invited to the dance and no one else?”

In a book, this misprint gave me a chuckle: “They are up there hugging one anther.” Someone had written underneath, “I’ll hug an anther. Show me one.”

This brings to mind a bit of graffiti observed on a New York subway. Someone had scrawled on a poster, “I love grils.” Underneath, another had written: “I love girls.” And beneath that, a third person had penned: “What about us grils?”

In Reform, Alabama, after the Sunday morning church service, we were in line for lunch in the fellowship hall when a man gave me one of the best cartoon lines ever. He remarked to a friend, “I told my wife, ‘I’m coming back this afternoon and see if I want to sleep on this pew as bad as I think I do!’”

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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.

UNREQUITED LOVE

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.

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Got time for a good story? How about a silly one? Good. Here goes…

A story about people who refuse to grow up

Robert Smith, a writer with the Minneapolis Tribune, told about his daughter who was approaching her third birthday. As they were planning a birthday party for her, she began to rebel. “I’m not through being two yet!”

Dad went through the calendar with her, explaining how life works. “When we get to that day,” he said, “you will be three.”

She stood there with arms crossed and said, “I don’t care what that calendar says. I’m not through being two yet.”

So, the Smith family canceled the party and went on treating their daughter as a two-year-old.

Like this child, some people refuse to go into the future. The Israelites under Moses (Numbers 14) recoiled from the future because they were fearful, forgetful, and fretful.

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Some people are so refreshing to us

I urge you, brethren–you know the household of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints–that you also submit to such and to everyone who works and labors with us.  I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied.  For they refreshed my spirit and yours.  Therefore, acknowledge such men.  (I Corinthians 16:15-18).

Refreshing others.  What a wonderful ministry.  As opposed to wearing them out and using them up.  Leaving them stronger than how we found them.

I’m struck by Paul’s tribute to Stephanas at the end of his epistle to the Corinthians. Along with his family and friends, this brother in the Lord did three things which earned him an “honorable mention” in Holy Scripture—

1.  They were addicted to ministry. That’s quite a tribute. In our day, when people see needs, they frequently imitate the Lord’s disciples in the early part of John 9 and get into debates over who is to blame. But there are among us a few who have no time for such pointless dilly-dallying. They jump in to see what they can do to alleviate the situation.

There are so many kinds of addictions, but surely this is the best.

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Things that cause God to laugh

“But Thou, O Lord, dost laugh at them; Thou dost scoff at all the nations” (Psalm 59:8).

I think it was Erma Bombeck who said, “Know how to make God laugh? Tell Him your plans.”

Or maybe it was Joan Rivers.

Anyway.  It’s right on the mark.

The writer for Our Daily Bread said this:  I was washing my car one evening as the sun was preparing to kiss the earth goodnight.  Glancing up, I impulsively pointed the hose at it as if to extinguish its flames.  The absurdity of my action hit me, and I laughed.

I get a kick out of seeing how prophecy experts bend over backward trying to locate the United States–as well as whatever country happens to be giving us headaches at the moment–in Scripture.  As though our moment in history is so huge and our place in God’s plan so essential, how dare anyone suggest He could have planned the grand sweep of history without our being given a starring role.

As if.

Isaiah 40 has a good word on this.

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Strategy for pastoral success: Make a mistake, a big one

In his book, Everybody’s Normal Till You Get to Know Them, John Ortberg makes a confession. You get the impression that it was not easy in coming.

The church where I work videotapes most of the services, so I have hundreds of messages on tape. Only one of them gets shown repeatedly.

This video is a clip from the beginning of one of our services. A high school worship dance team had just brought the house down to get things started, and I was supposed to transition us into some high-energy worship by reading Psalm 150.

This was a last-second decision, so I had to read it cold, but with great passion: “Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty firmament!” The psalm consists of one command after another to praise, working its way through each instrument of the orchestra.

My voice is building in a steady crescendo; by the end of the psalm I practically shout the final line, only mispronouncing one word slightly:

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How to use humor in your sermon/speech even if you’re not a pro

Watch this. This is how it’s done.

Some years back, Robert Mueller was giving a commencement address at the College of William and Mary. This former director of the FBI in the first Bush administration is the epitome of dignity and class. He is anything but a comic or comedian. That day, speaking on “Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity,” which he called the motto of the Bureau, he demonstrated a great way to use humor in a serious talk.

“In one of my first positions with the Department of Justice, more than thirty years ago, I found myself head of the Criminal Division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. I soon realized that lawyers would come into my office for one of two reasons: either to ‘see and be seen’ on the one hand, or to obtain a decision on some aspect of their work, on the other hand. I quickly fell into the habit of asking one question whenever someone walked in the door, and that question was ‘What is the issue?’

“One evening I came home to my wife, who had had a long day teaching and then coping with our two young daughters. She began to describe her day to me. After just a few minutes, I interrupted, and rather peremptorily asked, ‘What is the issue?’

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Have you met the members of my congregation?

I belong to the greatest church in the world.  We have an eclectic group of members and leaders. You would love them.  Here are some of their names….

First off, our pastor is Rev. Turner Byrne.

The deacons are Rod(ney) N. Staff, Moe Love, Noah D. Word, and Ruffin Tumble.

The Sunday School teachers are I. M. Humble, Chester Drawers, Hal E. Looyah, and Shuck D. Corn.

The church council includes I. M. Wright, R. U. Ready, H. Evan Sent, and Joiner R. Flock.

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A funny thing happened on the way to the cemetery

If you’re ever sitting around with two or three preachers, ask for their funniest stories, the most memorable wedding or funeral they’ve done, something like that.  Pull up a chair because you’ll be here for an hour.

I don’t have any funerals where the “honored guest” got up and walked out, or where the wrong person was discovered to be in the casket, or such foolishness as that. And for good reason.

Funerals are highly structured affairs, regulated by state law and overseen by a whole battery of mortuary employees and family members.

When we gather at the funeral home, the family has already been in conference with the mortician on how they want things done. The funeral directors stand nearby to make sure all goes according to plan. As a result, there is usually very little wiggle room there, space for the unexpected to occur.

And that’s not all bad.

I did this one funeral…

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The best time I ever had in nearly 60 years of ministry

“What is the best time you ever had in a long lifetime of ministry, Joe?”

Wow. I don’t know.  Let me think about it….

A ride in an Air Force jet? The only reason that plane ride in the T-38 was so much fun is that I did it, survived it, then looked back and remembered it with pleasure. Columbus AFB Wing Commander Colonel Chet Griffin said, “You’ve been ministering to these student pilots all these years; you ought to learn something of what they go through.” As I say, it was great fun–in retrospect. (smiley-face goes here)

Chet and his lovely bride Eva Lee are beloved friends now for nearly a half century.  I was their pastor twice, during their  two assignments at Columbus, and we forever bonded. Over the years we have visited with each other, and still keep in touch.  Chet is a Sunday School teacher of the highest grade, and was used of the Lord to reach numerous Air Force officers for Christ.  He still teases me about that plane ride. Btw, my pilot that day was Captain Bob Orwig, now a Ph.D. professor at North Georgia and a dear friend, with his wife Linda.

Mission trip? The 1977 trip to Singapore (via Chicago, Anchorage, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and finally my destination) and back was part of a long, long process of drawing an evangelistic comic book for the missionaries there, then coloring each of the many pages (with acrylic and tiny brushes!), and printing up 10,000 copies for their use. It was a job! It was fun mainly in retrospect because we did it, it was most unusual, we would never be doing anything like that again, and we survived it.

Getting to know missionaries like Bob and Marge Wakefield as well as Ralph and Ruthie Neighbour was a special delight.

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