Category Archives: Sermon Illustration

a goose and guilt

Quite a few years ago I toyed with the idea that I could enjoy golf. I was wrong, but that is another story. I was in Reno, Nv and after I had picked up a set of fourth-hand clubs and headed off to the local public golf course. It sits adjacent to Reno International Airport in the apex between the North and West runways. Reno for its relatively mild winter weather was filled in every green spot with non-migratory geese. The fairways was just the place for them to eat grass and leave their little gifts of grey and white clumps along the fairway.

I think it was on the fourth or maybe the fifth hole I was ready to tee off and my attention was diverted by the sound of thirty or more geese landing in the fairway before me. They were close enough that my shot would easily clear the flock. I put the ball, a brand new one just purchased from the office, on the tee, sized up the shot and let it rip. In golf parlance it was a hedge hopper. It took one hop and hit a goose in the head. There was an immediate feeling of guilt.

Guilt does terrible things to a believer in God. But it was not my fault. But I still felt bad very bad. Even after running up to the now struggling goose to retrieve my ball the shame of it all was almost overpowering. I started to second guess myself, my unworthiness to strike on of God’s creatures had destroyed my will to continue my game.

In the Old Testament the Hebrews had a sacrificial system that was to cover over their sin. To make them no longer responsible. But it was not helping for the individual to deal with their guilt. I was like those Hebrews of old that was struggling with a conscience that would not give peace.

In the book of Hebrews I have since found the solution to the sense of guilt or shame. Hebrews 9:13,14 The blood of goats and bulls and ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from act of that lead to death, so the we may serve the living God.

What is the solution to shame and guilt from within with no cause? What do we do with our memories that bring up the bad stuff that has been confessed and forgiven? REMEMBER, Jesus not only died for our sins but to cleanse our guilt.

Every time I remember that goose and feel a little remorse, I remember full well that I have a clean conscience by the blood of Christ. With that remembrance, I by faith, know it is not real guilt or even shame. AND I SMILE.

Did you learn anything?

It was an accomplishment.  Stepping off the school bus in rural Iowa.  It had been the first day of school.  Her clothes were a little more wrinkled that when he set off that morning to learn, to study, to be a grown up.  There was a little mud on the sweet pink and white checked dress from playing with the kids at recess.  And now she was boldly walking up the path to home where dad was waiting to see how it had went.

After a big hug, a peanut butter sandwich made with extra grape jelly, and a cold glass of milk, Dad asked the big question, “Well did you learn anything at your school?”

The daughter stopped and looked at her dad and with a look of disappointment she answered, “I guess I didn’t learn enough”

“Why do you say that my little sweet pea?”

“Well Dad it is like this, I have to go back tomorrow.”

Learning takes a lifetime.

No choices left?

I completed a Bible study a couple of months ago with ten men about decision making. It was about the choices we make and what criteria we as Christians should use.  But while looking through my obligatory Facebook friends, I was struck by a forlorn and heart-breaking post.  He lives in the back of his car, lives from moment to moment and he seems to be saying, “I have no choices left.”  The outpouring of this helplessness is being spewed out for the world to hear and it is all negative.

In John 15 there is an account of an invalid.  Someone in worse circumstances than my acquaintance.  He could not walk.  He couldn’t gain meaningful employment.  His only choice was to depend on a few that knew him to bring him to a place of prayer, the pool of Bethesda.  No options, no hope, no dignity, no expectations other than getting into the swirling waters first.  But even that was almost impossible because he had no one to help him in. As Max Lucado said, “God’s efforts are strongest when our efforts are useless.”

Jesus told the man, “stand up, pick up your mat and walk.” In a moment a flash of a second the man was able to do just that.

We have to take Jesus at His word.  When God tells us to get up and get out, God enables this motion, this progress to something better.  I believe there is a stubborn unwillingness to cast off our maladies and just do.  When Jesus forgives your sin let the guilt go with it.  When Jesus says you are a child of God, act like it.  When Jesus says something it is our obligation to believe Him.

When Jesus says, “stand up,” don’t just sit there thinking of all the reasons not to but in faith, get up and go.

Just saying.

Knowing and knowing

In teaching ten men on a weekly basis, I have often reached conclusions in my own personal study as I prepare.  Sometimes they are nothing more than a black hole dragging me away from the subject I was trying to understand.  The word “know” throughout the Bible has been most often related to a relationship.  It is more than head knowledge.  It is coming to point of value to the thing or person you have come to know.  It is not just a compilation of facts.  It is coming to understanding and that understanding is worth something.  Only with a sense of importance and a value, does it become known.

An example may help here.  I was returning from Oakland airport after picking up a special visitor to my home.  I left the airport and my GPS device reported immediately there was going to be a 20-minute delay on my chosen route home.  Intellectually I understood what 20 minutes were.  It was a simple inconvenience.  So we pulled into the prime commute traffic heading North.  About three miles down the road I hit the traffic.  in which no one was going anywhere fast.

After experiencing this congestion for seven minutes, my mind told me there would be a reprieve in a couple of minutes or so.  At that point my trusty GPS reported a change in the traffic pattern, “there will be a 54-minute delay on your route. My intellectual understanding of being inconvenienced changed to knowledge.  As we moved as a dreadnaught of hundreds of cars down the five lanes of traffic, I began to be a little irritated with little things.  Little things like motorcycles whizzing down between cars with only inches to spare started to irritate me a little.  I started keeping track of two or three cars that seemed to want to change lanes with every opportunity to gain on the rest of us willing to go with the flow.  It was nerve-wracking.

I was really getting to know traffic. When you know something beyond a simple understanding and then when you become a part of it you are changed.  To know of a future delay and becoming part of it is two separate things.  When you know something as the Bible uses know, then you have to live it. To know is experiencing and being changed by it.  It affects your feelings, your hopes, your dreams, and even your driving habits.

John 17:24 is John’s intent to tell us about knowing God.  His intent is to tell us that knowing God is more than an intellectual head knowledge.  Knowing God is seeing the value.  Knowing God is the relationship.  Knowing God is being changed.  Knowing God is an intimacy. Knowing is more than a warning of an impending delay in my plans, any more than our concept of hell slowing us down.

Califorina Highway Patrol and grace

Way back in the day I owned one hot 68 Ford Fairlane two door.  It was a very special car and it had a lot of work done.  I had all the chrome and emblems removed and painted it with six coats of #44 black lacquer and it was buffed mirror shine. It was fast. It had a 428 cu in (7.0 L) Cobra Jet, developing 335 bhp. The largest tires that would fit under the wheel wells on the rear,  gave it a rake that looked mean.

I was employed in a small grocery store as a meat cutter and after work, I was always in a hurry to get home. The little town of Cottonwood was not a large anything and very seldom was there any traffic down the main street; the freeway had passed the sleepy town by.

Not being very cautious and wanting to get home, I pulled out from a blind stop sign in front of another black car.  I had cut that car off a little close and I stepped on the gas in response and left just a little bit of black mark on the road.  It was out of embarrassment that I had done this dastardly thing.  I had wanted to create some additional space between myself and the other black car just for safety sake.

I was well exceeding the posted 35 miles per hour and that other black car flipped on its siren and his Blue light, I had not noticed that trailing black car was a California Highway Patrol car. My turn to home was just a half a block away and wanting to be safe I turn quickly down the street and pulled over with just enough room to allow the officer to park behind.

The rapid turn took the CHP officer by surprise and he tried with all his might to follow but as he turned he realized he was too close and literally slid all four of his tires into the small space behind me with only one foot to spare in a great cloud of dust.

After, what seemed to be an eternity, the CHP officer who had been quietly sitting in his car trying to assume a posture of calm, opened his door and walked very slowly to my window.

Rolling down the window I stated with a large smile on my face, “Can I help you, officer?”

He replied, “I almost rear-ended you twice; the first time when you pulled into the street in front of me.  I could have let that slip, but when you sped up I had to turn on my lights.”  He continued to say with a small rivulet of nervous sweat coming from under his official brown hat, “Then you turned left abruptly and when I tried to follow, and the excessive speed I was making, my engine died.  I lost my power steering and my power breaks.  I almost lost control and came close to hitting you again.”

I came to the realization he was almost apologizing for coming so close to my car.

“I could well write you up for a number of things, but I came very near to hitting you the second time, that I just don’t have it within me.”  Please slow down and watch your turns.”  He walked back to his car and sat down.

I pulled out slowly with the appropriate turn signal as I watched the CHP just sit in his car. My actions as I pulled away were in response to grace.  My reaction to grace was not that I got away with something, it was that I had been stupid and I would be more careful, more attentive, and more obedient.

It is the same calling we receive by grace to act accordingly.  “The things I believe I do, all else is just religious talk.

GRACE….

Viewpoint and disagreements.

With apologies to Dr. Henry T. Hodgkin a medical doctor and Quaker missionary in the early 1900’s, I wish to share with you a philosophy that he wrote just prior to the first World War.  He was a true pacifist and was feeling the brunt of the national ardor of becoming part of the War of all Wars. It speaks to me as what a Christian attitude should be.  I have taken a little license to paraphrase his text to bring common vernacular and understanding. It is primarily what kind of attitude one should have when confronted by someone with a differing opinion.

  1. I will always seek to discover the best and strongest points to any brother’s position.
  2. I will give credit for sincerity and persistence in opinion.
  3. I will try to avoid classifying him and assuming that his position is only because of a class or membership of which they belong.
  4. I will emphasize our agreements and convergence points.
  5. When others criticize, I will try to bring out favorable points.
  6. When there is misunderstanding, either I of him or he of me, I will go to him directly.
  7. I will seek opportunities to pray with him.
  8. I will try to remember that I may be mistaken and that God’s truth is too big for any one mind.
  9. I will never ridicule another’s faith.
  10. If I have been found criticizing another’s viewpoint, I will seek the first opportunity of understanding if my criticism is just.
  11. I will not listen to gossip and second-hand information.
  12. I will pray for those from who I differ.

Arguments rarely solve anything. It is when the rational and reasonable come together willing to listen and understand other points of view that change will happen.

Comments?

Magnificent uninvolvement

I have used a phrase most of my adult life to describe someone who is a part of a church or other organization that just belongs but does nothing for its furtherance, “magnificent uninvolvement”.  This is a person that enjoys the community but without adding anything to that community.  It has become an art form of slippery non-commitments.  When someone asks for a decision about anything the pat answer is, “let me get back to you”.  When pressed brand new excuses come up.  Excuses like, “I am really too busy”, “I am compartmentalizing my life right now and can’t make a decision right now”, or “I am not ready to jump in with both feet.”

In my opinion, there are three reasons for magnificent uninvolvement.

The first is the person simply has a feeling of uselessness.  They have seen the up-front ones, the ones that are seen and admired, as the ones who should be doing the community involvement.  They are called but are not so-called that they see their place. They read in their Bible I Peter 4:10 and don’t see them seeing anything of worth to be used.  For the forlorn few, remember ministry is not just preaching. A board member suggested that all the church should have a method of finding a ministry.  The preacher interjected, “What would we do with 100 ushers?”  These people need to be taught.  Taught that there are special places, ministries, and gifts for all.  And, in turn, given the possibility to use and exercise in their gifts.  And yes, allowed to fail.

The second group is the hurting.  They have tried to become more active.  They have tried to use the gifts that God has given.  They ventured out to be what God wanted them to be.  But the response was judgment.  Others in the church did not see perfection in the offering and were too quick to tell the fledgling minister he was not producing the expected.  The church saw them as a threat to the status quo (which means all messed up in the first place).  Those who have been hurt by the judgment of others needs to be simply loved.  They need time to heal.  They need time to be in a community that does not judge.  Ministry is messy.

Lastly, there is a group that really irritates me.  The simply lazy.  In their lazy life, the only thing they do well is to criticize. They sit back and exclaim, “I won’t do anything until something changes around here.”  “Until everyone else does as I want them to do, I am not going to step up.”  It was Charles Spurgeon who said, “Every Christian is either a missionary or an imposter.”  This group becomes only consumers and not collaborators.  What they need is a fresh infilling of the Spirit of God.  But usually, that is the very thing they are running from.

Comments?

Toll of rejection

Being rejected more than once can be a bruise that will not heal quickly.  It seems to linger on until the next blow or rejection.  Sometimes you get to a point where you don’t feel quite as bad.  It becomes an acceptance of the off-color places in your soul.  It can even get to a place where you feel as though you deserve the abuse.  You feel like you don’t belong in the mainstream.  That you belong on the outside edge.  A place where you expect a disapproval.

In the Bible, a person like this would have been called unclean.  You start to feel like an outcast. You just want to give up.  You don’t want to be around those who tell you over and over, “You don’t belong here.”

Then comes the story from the Old Testament.  He was the son of Jonathan, who was the son of King Saul, Israel’s first king. You see Mephibosheth was disabled.  Both of his feet were useless.  In those days he would be called an outcast, a mistake, a person who didn’t belong.

When King David invited him and the rest of the family to join him to eat with him, he reacted just like someone who had been rejected so many times before.

In response to the invitation of King David, he hung his head down low and Mephibosheth said, “Who am I that you pay attention to a stray dog like me?” 2 Samuel 9:8.  You see rejection had taken its levy on his heart.  He could not see himself in the presence of the King, let alone eat with him. He had taken all the worlds opinion of him and deep down in his soul, he didn’t think himself worthy to be acknowledged, let alone invited in.

The church is becoming the instigator of pointing fingers at the different, the ones that don’t quite fit the mold.  And in response, those who need acceptance and love the most have started to believe the lies that they don’t belong. That they don’t matter. That the “church” will never have a place for them.

And yet King David, the man after God’s own heart, was not deterred. He insisted to Mephibosheth: “You belong here.”

And the story goes: Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, taking all his meals at the king’s table. He was lame on both feet.” 2 Samuel 9:13

Christians, churches, humanity — this must be our attitude toward anyone  and toward any person or group whom society has deemed “less than.” The fringes of society, the ones who are rejected turned away and told they don’t belong.

We must — like King David — insist otherwise.

Because if you are a human being, then you are indeed an image-bearer of the Most High God. So hear me when I say: You belong here.  You belong on this earth.  You belong at the King’s table.  You belong at the feet of Jesus.

Comments?

Trials and our response

No one likes being tested.  No one likes being on trial.  No one likes discipline. But they happen.  It happens.  There is no one immune to them.  They just happen.  We have no control over them.  But for a Christian they must be seen as a “woe is me moments.”   Our response makes all the difference.

First of all , one way of responding to these unwanted events in you life is to REBEL.  I will fight back.  I will put all my strength into a response that is characterized by anger, deceit, vengeance all filled with an attitude of pay back.

The second way to respond is to simply REJECT.  You can push back from the situation and cloister yourself way from it all.  Dig a hole in the sand and stick your head in. You can simply pretend it does not exist.  But it does not go away.

The next response can well be characterized as RESIGN.  You believe that nay response is futile.  You shout to God “I give up, I am powerless.”  You lay down in the gutter and let the garbage of live cover you and drive you to the sewer.  In a way, it is a move forward from the other previous two responses because you are acknowledging your inability to meet the challenge on your own. But in there is little hope.

In my opinion the best response to trials is REJOICE.  This may sound a little strange.  You might well thing that is simply impossible.  Quoting Jesus, “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things about you (Matthew 5).”  God is still God and he has a blessing for you.

This does not mean to slather your problems with a sugar coating.  It is looking intently at that situation with clarity and reality and say, “I choose to accept this situation as a situation which God can work.”

It turns a prison to a palace.

It turns an heartache into a heart throb.

It turns a trial into a triumph.

It is the best choice.

What do you think?  Leave a comment.

Before a man can do things, there must be things he will not do.

Everything attempted is always at the expense of something else.  All effort requires sacrifice of something.  If you would lose weight, you must give up eating a whole banana cream pie.  Life is about trading one thing for another.  It is in the comparison that we have trouble.  What one thing is worth compared to the other.  Is the newest phone worth giving up part of my vast wealth?  Is wearing shorts to church worth the strange looks I would receive?

On the other hand, there are things we would just like to eliminate.  These things have no worth at all but we hold on to them because it would be painful to let go.  The last time I went to the local dump, I was amazed by the sheer magnitude of things be thrown away.  Some of it was simply disgusting due to its odoriferous aroma. I saw furniture, bricks, toys, and books.  All were unceremoniously cast off.  If I had the gumption I could fill a large truck with my own cast offs.  So why do we hold on to things?  Things that have no worth.  Things that just take up space.

I think it must do with disgust.  We must reach a place where the worth of simplicity outweighs the pile of junk.  If we are willing to put up with the stench around us, there is no motivation to do something.  Before a man can do things, there must be things he will not do. (MENCIUS)  The problem arises when we think time will make a difference.  I don’t need to do it right now, I well might need this extra computer cable someday.

Our society is like that.  Always expecting things to change in time.  The next election will take care of Washington.  The next technological breakthrough will solve all my communication issues.  The next scientific breakthrough will solve all environmental issues.  The next pay raise will put us over the edge to financial security. If I just wait long enough it will all work out.

But it is just a big lie.  Time does not change anything.  Time often makes things worse. We must rid ourselves of the rubbish in our lives and go on to the great simplicity.

Let go and let God.

Comments?