Monthly Archives: March 2016

“Just One of Them Things”

     In two days I have the honor of speaking at the funeral of a kind-hearted and generous sister in Christ who passed on to her reward Sunday night. Nothing came easy for Sister Norma in her life. She worked hard through many situations that would have brought down other people. She raised six children and two of her grandsons after they lost their parents. She was humble and generous, sometimes to a fault, but her love for her family and her fellow Christians was never questioned.

     In the time that I knew her, Sister Norma had a phrase that she used regularly that truly embodied her approach to life. “It’s just one of them things,” she would often say. However, that phrase would be uttered both in good times and bad. When encouraging someone else, or lying in the hospital dealing with her own problems. Whether talking to me about a lesson I had just presented, or dealing with some problem she couldn’t control, she approached them all with the mentality that life is “just one of them things.

     You see, Sister Norma understood that life is not about fair and unfair, nor does it set upon the point of only having good things happen in life. She understood that sunshine and rain come upon both the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), and that there are many things that are part of life that are outside of the control of we mere mortals.

     Among the things that she discussed with me as “just one of them things” was death. She knew that it was one of those things that comes to all men. While concerned for the welfare of her family, she did not fear death, for she knew she was ready to face that which comes to all of us. She understood the principle of Revelation 14:13, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth… that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” She had done everything necessary to prepare for the day that came on Sunday and could approach it with the same attitude as she had everything else in life.

     I will miss Sister Norma. The conversations we had, the encouragement she gave, the calls to check on someone sick in my family when she was worse off than we were. But before I conclude, there is one more thing Sister Norma would want me to say. As I was preparing to speak at the funeral of her son a few years ago, I asked her if there was anything she wanted me to say. Her response was, “Tell it like it is, because some there might not get to hear it again and they need to hear it now.”

     With that in mind, I must ask: are you ready for death? Do you know what God expects of you to be acceptable in his sight, and have you done it? Are you sure that what you currently believe is the truth, or are there questions in your mind? Have you repented (turned away) of the sin in your life (2 Peter 3:9), and been immersed in water for the remission of your sins (Acts 22:16)? Are you living your life by walking in the light of Christ and letting him guide your steps (1 John 1:7; Galatians 2:20), or are you trying to walk your own path hoping that God will accept it because he loves you?

     The Bible is clear about what God commands man to do in obedience to him; but they must be done while opportunity exists today. Remember, tomorrow is not guaranteed and death is “just one of them things.”

     Are you ready? Are you sure?

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The Reason I Never Throw Away My Sermons

I have often heard of preachers who, it was said, never kept their sermons. They would throw them out after each presentation for the purpose of then being forced to put new material together on a given topic or text each time they spoke. While there can be value in such an approach, and there is certainly value in the reason behind it, allow me to give the reason why I have never thrown away my sermons.

I began preaching full-time at the age of 21. Even though I had been speaking for a number of years already and spent 3 years in preaching school, I was by no means polished and complete as a preacher (as a side note, I’m still not). As a general rule, I have always tried to write my own sermons. While I will on occasion take titles, ideas, and such from other sources, I work hard to ensure that the style and presentation of the substance is my own.

In spite of that fact, I can honestly say that it is rare for me to preach the same sermon more than once. I will, from time to time, take a sermon I have prepared for an event elsewhere and preach it here at my home congregation. I will also occasionally take an old sermon, repurpose and retool it, and preach it again a few years after the first occasion. However, by the time I am done with it you would hardly recognize it side-by-side with the original.

So, why keep all of my sermons and articles? One main reason: evidence of growth.

For a preacher, sometimes the evidence for whether we are growing the way we should is hard to come by (at least for me). We see the growth in our families, fellow preachers, and brethren in our congregations. However, even though we study constantly, it is sometimes very difficult to measure our own personal growth in areas like preparation, presentation, style, and use of substance. Brethren can see, to some degree, the growth of the preacher in his grasp of the Scriptures. However, there are not many who will approach you at the back of the building and state, “I just want you to know that your ability to exegete and communicate the Scriptures has improved exponentially over the last _____ years!”

That is why I keep my sermons. There are many of my sermons from years gone by that I would not preach today. It is not because there is anything doctrinally amiss in them, but because I would approach those same topics/passages very differently today than I did then. Understanding in various aspects of Scripture has grown, and the style with which those things are presented has evolved over time.

Sometimes there are sermons I pull out and cringe over the approach that was taken, or the argument that was made from a passage that really did not support it. But that is actually a positive, not a negative. It shows that over time the efforts to continue to grow and develop have been fruitful.

It is for this reason that I would encourage you to keep your work. Whether you are a preacher, Bible class teacher, or just a student of the Bible who writes notes, articles, and food for thought from the Scriptures. As time goes by you have something tangible to which you can turn to see where you have been and how far you have come.

Are we growing as we should? Have we taken the time to check?

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