Illustrations Can Come from Anywhere

Screenshot 2018-03-22 at 9.09.26 AMIf you are a preacher, know a preacher, or for that matter have ever listened to a preacher, you may have heard the oft repeated statement illustrations can come from anywhere. It’s a truism that may cause us to smile but seriously; a funny thing a child says, a misunderstanding in the supermarket line, words said in anger that have to be eaten later, literally anything a professional speaker hears about could become an illustration for a point being made. Be careful sharing those funny anecdotes around your clergyman. You may hear them again from the pulpit.

I was watching the sports report just now as we get into the thick of March Madness. Everything’s not always UK Wildcats and NC Tarheels and there have been some powerhouse upsets this year. Coy Wire illustrated the difference in school budgets by showing two different team programs. One was professionally bound with glossy pages. Loyola University-Chicago’s program was Xeroxed on regular paper and bound with a single staple. The team’s equipment manager was seen in the locker room collecting the players’ laundry in a garbage bag. Did I mention the Ramblers broke to the Sweet Sixteen? Schools, athletic programs, facilities and budgets are not created equal. And yet, on the court, it comes down to your five guys versus the other guys. Everybody loves an underdog right?

And here comes the illustration.

I pastor a small country church. We don’t have a digital projector screen that descends from the ceiling on command. We don’t have a team of greeters roaming the parking lot directing traffic or a coffee house selling scones in the vestibule. We are thankful for all that we do have because there are brush arbors and cinder block buildings around the world with dirt floors and generator powered lights. Jesus said that foxes have holes and birds have nests but that he himself didn’t have a place to lay his head. What John Piper, Clark Bunch, the missionary in a remote village in India and Jesus of Nazareth all have in common is the gospel message. Piper has written dozens of books but his Bible has the same 66 books in it that mine does. Billy Graham has been hailed as a great man of God many times in recent weeks. I may not be a great man of God, but I am a man of a great God.

The Apostle Paul wrote that one plants, another waters, but it is God who gives the increase. Regardless of who stands in the pulpit or prays with those seeking council, it is the Holy Spirit that convicts of sin and draws people to Jesus. Jesus saves in small churches, mega churches, prison cells and hospital rooms. A high dollar program printed on glossy sheets is impressive, but that doesn’t win games or save souls.


Note: Pictured above is the Loyola University’s team chaplain Sister Jean. If don’t follow basketball then you at least need to read up on Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt. 


The Phenomenon of Billy Graham

Screenshot 2018-03-01 at 10.36.05 AMI don’t know how many tributes have been written, published, posted or tweeted this week about Billy Graham. I am not writing because I think there needs to be another one; sometimes the writing process is how we work through things. But in the process of thinking about it, maybe I can share with you some things to think about as well. Continue reading

Acts of God

screenshot-2016-10-06-at-3-13-48-pmHurricane Matthew is about to come along the southeast coast of the United States. I was watching a guy on the news talk about what is and is not covered by various types of insurance. Some people find out after the fact, for example, that flood damage is not covered by a typical homeowner’s policy and you must specifically purchase flood insurance. Wind damage and other “acts of God” may be included or excluded in the fine print of the policy documents. And that statement got me to thinking. Continue reading

News of Note

Two items have caught my attention in the past couple of days:

1. The State of California has rewritten some language in an education bill that threatened to greatly infringe on religious liberty in that state. Had the bill passed unchanged, the only students that could receive any type of religious education would have been those training for a career in ministry. It would have effectively outlawed Christian colleges and universities, reserving religious studies to seminary students only. More here.

2. Target is about to spend $2 million on individual use bathroom stalls in all of their stores. Many stores already have such facilities, in addition to men’s and women’s restrooms, and soon all loctions will. Target denies the changes have anything to do with the boycotts and petitions generated by their bathroom policy announcement. I saw this headline in the Washington Post of all places.

Meanwhile in California…

Screenshot 2016-07-01 at 11.29.59 AMEarlier this week, The Christian Index hosted a discussion of sorts about America being a “Christian nation.” Christians who responded were split over whether America used to be a Christian nation and no longer is vs. those who felt America never was a Christian nation to begin with. Very few argued that it still is today.

Meanwhile, California is about to become the first state to do away with religious/ faith-based education at the college level. If passed as is, SB 1146 would limit religious education to seminaries. Church affiliated schools, or colleges and universities that apply Christian principles to all areas of life, would be restricted from doing so with all students except those preparing for vocational ministry.

Please read this article by Ed Stetzer and Marty Duren via Christianity Today. This is one of those issues that could drag on through the court system for years to come, but we currently have an aging Supreme Court that’s already short one member and a presidential election coming up that could dramatically alter its balance of power. Who knows what the long term implications of this state legislation could be?

My Opinion: SBC and the Confederate Flag

Here is an article from The Christian Index on the Convention’s decision to repudiate the Confederate Flag. The Index also posted an editorial by Gerald Harris and my comments to that link on Facebook got a little lengthy. Nearly blog post in length. So, below is my take on the SBC resolution. By all means you are entitled to your opinion; mine is framed on the notion the Gospel is more dear to the heart of Christians than heritage, history, culture or national identity. The end game of all believers should be unity in Christ.

I have lived in Georgia most of my life (and in Kentucky the other years). I have always been a little leary of flying that flag. I understand my heritage, the nation’s history, and the origin story of the SBC. On this issue I land here: If you want to fly the flag on your front porch or on your personal vehicle, this is still a free country and you have every right. Shame on anyone that would desecrate or remove your flag regardless of ideology. But I think it is entirely fitting for our denomination, all our churches together with one voice, to say “WE no longer fly this flag.”

If I display the Confederate flag in support of history and heritage, it may be misunderstand as racism. Indeed some do fly that flag because they are racist, believing if the South would have won we’d have it made, and signifying certain individuals need to “know their place.” At the risk of being misunderstood, I do not fly that flag. In the shadow of the cross, there are no flags, no nations, no skin colors or any other thing that divides or distinguishes. We are covered by the blood. I am disheartened that some will choose the stars and bars of rebellion (it is the rebel flag we are talking about) rather than unity with fellow brothers and sisters, but such is the world we live in.

Separation of Church, State and Twitter

This is a follow up to a post from June 15, 2010. I am pleased to report that Shimkus is still tweeting Bible verses ( and his followers have grown to over 15,000! Below is the original post in it’s entirety. Continue reading