Preaching And Communicating

   Is there a difference in preaching and communicating? Not supposed to be… I mean, when someone gets up to speak to the people of God a message from God, it should be communicated well. (Communication involves not only speaking words but how well these words are received.) However, we have all sat and listened to well meaning preachers who have presented a message but it went ‘right over your heads’. We have all heard lessons where we have thought it would have been better to have stayed home. In other words… boring. No change, no challenge. I am guilty of all of this for sure. Over the years of preaching, there have been quite a few occasions where dad was in the audience, and he offered a lot of good advice. However I also learned from simply watching and listening to  others who were more experienced. What appealed to me was when a preacher really communicated to the people.  There is something that happens when God works in His man.

   There is something that happens to the audience as well. It shows in their faces, people lean forward, they laugh, they cry, they smile, nod. It’s hard to put in words as you have noticed, but when you are communicating and reaching the audience, you ‘feel’ something happening. Someone wisely said that “no one has the right to make the Bible boring”. Unfortunately, too many times, I made it boring. Didn’t mean to, but here are some things that I have learned… ie mistakes.

 1. Poor preparation results in shallow lessons. I look back over my first few year’s lessons and just wonder how they put up with my lessons in Fitzgerald. They were kind and patient. But poor study habits result in poor lessons. People need and want to go deeper into the scriptures. They should go home saying, “What a wonderful Lord” not “What a great speaker.” “How great is His grace” not “How great an orator this man is”. They want to see Jesus.

 2. No contact with people (staying in the office too much), hearing theirs stories, their laughter, their tears. Without this contact with people in your town (soul winning), and congregation (visiting their homes), the lessons are more a shot gun approach, hoping you may spark an interest. If you know people’s hurts, and needs it’s easier to reach them in the lessons, and illustrations without being direct.

 3. Too nervous about how you will be received (Dad called it “too much Exum, not enough Lord”). Preachers should not get in the pulpit because they have to say something… but because they have something to  say, ie a message from God. that is what people need. Actually the preacher is standing in God’s stead speaking to the greatest people on earth.  Love the people, relax, hide behind the cross, forget yourself, and speak a word from God.

 4.  Poor illustrations. and jokes. Don’t get me wrong. Jokes and illustrations really help. Without them a lesson CAN BE dry. Many times a good illustration at the right time, done well, really nails down when you are saying. A “thus saith the Lord” is good, but Jesus didn’t just quote scriptures… he used simple illustrations and stories. They were done well, and ‘hit home’. These things have to come across naturally, even if you have to reherse them over and over. “Make it your own”, dad said. Make sure the illustrations, and jokes, are appropriate for the occasion.

 5. Poor conclusions are like a “burp in a presidential speech”. You can have a great lesson, and then ruin it with a poor conclusion. Plan it all to the end. Make your endings vary. Don’t think you have to mention the 5 steps every time, and call people to be baptized. The invitation did not begin at Pentecost, it began in the 1800’s with the Mourner’s bench, and the “Altar call”. Sometimes it is good to end with a prayer. Be sure and convey your thoughts to the elders, but the idea is to reach people, not follow tradition for tradition sake.

Preaching is a privilege that carries with it huge responsibilities, so be sure you are right in yourself with the Lord. A preacher who is not right with the Lord cannot be right in the pulpit. The power needed will not be there. Be lost in the Lord and in his power. The Lord will use you if you let Him. In the end you will be humbled at what God does through the selfless attitude. Dad said, I’m the kind of guy that believes the act of communicating always supersedes any teaching or praying. Many preachers preach, but how many really communicate? You first have to get permission from your students that they want to learn. I always believed in hands-on teaching. Most preachers put themselves away  from the audience as they stand behind the pulpit. When I teach I use all kinds of visual aids. I use their eyes, and their ears, and that’s two different modes of communication working in concert. I always wanted the congregation to move up so I could touch them in many ways. I remember a child coming down front, and sitting next to me. I said, “You like being close don’t you?” She said, “Yes”. That’s the key to communication… to be down on their level. I believe the idea of a hierarchy is a no-no. It is said in the Bible, “Holy and reverend is THY name”, not my name….
 He always loved the people he spoke to and for the time he was there… he was theirs and they were his. There was a relationship with the audience, a bond, and they knew he cared. This was dad. Hard to emulate, but easy to love. Again, he would be the last one to say, “Copy me”. He would also be the first to say, LEARN FROM ME, copy what will help, and avoid that which will not help. He would encourage any and all who wanted to be a communicator, to be yourself, and let God use you in His service.

 People that dad loved in the pulpit… Charles Hodge Jr., Earl Williams., C.E. McGauphy., Fred Walker, are the ones I remember him speaking about.

“Preach the word” brother…



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Dad’s Preacher Bloopers

    There were times when dad was preaching or teaching a class, that things just didn’t go according to plan. Obviously preaching is an exciting way of serving the Lord, and well worth the struggles involved. It takes a special person, or maybe I should say, a special Lord working through a very usable “vessel”. Even then, sometimes things just don’t go ‘as planned’. You just have to laugh, and we all did.

 1. One time dad was preaching, he had a dark brown blazer on over his white shirt and tie. His pants were light brown. Well, he needed to use the bathroom, so before he got up to speak he went to the bathroom. Problem,  it went down his slacks. He had one side light brown, and the other ‘dark’. Thinking fast, he ‘innovated’, took off his  pants, soaked them in water so they looked dark  brown (along with his dark blazer). Then he returned to the auditorium to speak. He started a with dark brown blazer and dark pants, and when he finished, his pants had dried out and were light brown.

 2. One time, dad had to speak and he had a terrible cold. His throat was sore, and he had to clear his throat. Well if you were around dad a lot, you would know how that sounds. This time, he had started speaking but could not keep going… He excused himself to the bathroom and cleared his throat. “Hoooiiiiccckkk”. It was terrible of course. He came back to the class and heard everyone laughing. He discovered he had left his microphone on and every gross sound he made, was broadcast over the speakers.

 3. While in Calgary, Alberta, Canada – He got up to speak and made a special announcement about Sister Brown. “Good to have Sister Brown back with us this morning. She was being checked for cancer, and the AUTOPSY reported the cysts were benign.”

 4. Another time he was speaking and had a great lesson going about the second coming of Jesus. He was quoting from Revelation 22:7, 12 where Jesus says, “I am coming quickly” (KJV). He made that statement (I come quickly!), rushing toward the pulpit, and pointing his finger toward the audience. Then it happened, he forgot what he was going to say next. So he decided to try it again. He back up and went at the pulpit, pointed his finger at the audience, and said, “Behold I come quickly!!!” Again he could not remember what came next. One last time he backed up and determined to put everything in it. He rushed at the pulpit, just about to say those famous words, and tripped over the carpet, knocked over the pulpit, stumbled, and landed in an old lady’s lap who was sitting on the front row. His face was red, the lesson was destroyed, everyone was shocked and quiet, the pulpit was knocked over, and there he sat, red faced, apologizing in this lady’s lap.  “I’m so sorry, I don’t know what happened” he said. She looked at him and said, “It’s OK sonny, you done warned me three times.”

 5. Speaking on the subject of “How to raise your kids right”, making the point that if parents are not consistent, and allow their children to disrespect their authority, and the authority of teachers, that they won’t respect the law later in life. Then he raised a blank pistol, and said, “You may as well just give them a gun.”  Well, he made the mistake of going a bit far with his illustration… and pointed it at his head and pulled the trigger… To te shock of everyone… most of all, dad… there was a blank in the pistol, and it went off. What a noise. It’s hard to imagine what went through dad’s mind then. Probably thought, “I’m glad it was a blank!” Anyway, after the lesson, a young  boy came up to him as he was getting all his stuff together, and said, “I know you didn’t mean for that to happen. You’re too smart to do that twice.”

 6. While speaking one time, Dad was really hungry. He had preached over-time (I know your minister never does that), as he was preaching, he was thinking about eating fried chicken with potatoes and gravy. He ended his lesson by reading a song. “Rescue the perishing care for the dying, snatch the poor sinner from sin and the gravy!” (instead of grave).

   We remember dad would be relaxing in his big blue recliner as he told us about these times, and others, and we all just laughed till we cried. People who take themselves too seriously and cannot laugh at themselves, are people who are touchy, sensitive and hard to be around. Learn the lesson… you’re not perfect…

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Haze, My Friend

   I was 7 years old, and we lived in Alexandria, Virginia. Dad moved around so often, it was difficult to develop close, lasting friends. One friend I have remembered through the years is Haze. Memories are a bit blurry now, sad I cannot even remember his last name. We lived right next door to each other, and shared happy times together.  We went to Maury Elementary School, played in the snow during the winter. We dug in our sand pile in my back yard making tunnels and hills in the sand. We enjoyed playing with plastic army men and having make believe wars in the sand pile. This was during days when kids didn’t have to be entertained, and didn’t need expensive toys and electronic games. These were good days, we just didn’t know how good they were. Time passed dad got another preaching job in Beaumont, Texas, and I lost touch with Haze. Of course I thought of him, but new places, new people, new friends happened.
   Years passed, we grew up, I wondered whatever happened to my friend Haze. One day, I took a vacation and decided to go back to Alexandria. I drove by the old Elementary school, and Radio Tower Hill, where we as kids had gone down on sleds, nearly killing some by-standers. I went to our old home where my brother Ed had lost seven teeth thanks to riding on my back part way down the stairs. (He fell the other half way down.)
   Next door was my friend Haze’s house. I went and knocked on the door. His mother came to the door and at first did not recognize me. I said. “It’s me, Jack” (she called me Jackie then) of course she was happy to see me. I walked in and we sat together in a living room where Haze and I once had spent time together playing when it was rainy outside. “Where is Haze?” I asked. His mother’s face changed, it seemed that the joy just left her face. Haze was an only son, and was her pride and joy. He had grown up, was drafted to go to Vietnam. “Did he make it back?” I asked. She said that he did.
 She told me that Haze had come home from the war, and received the “welcome” that so many others received. “For months, he was terribly depressed” she said. Then the terrible news, “Soon after that he committed suicide.” My friend was dead, and I never knew. Sometimes I wonder what he thought, and why life had been so dark for him. Where was the justice in all this? Fighting a war that few supported. Seeing friends die beside him. Perhaps he wondered why he was spared.
   The emptiness in my heart is hard to explain when I think of Haze. He deserved better, they all did, and do. The pain of Vietnam, I never knew because I was passed over, but it still hurts. That is why when I meet Vets, I say, “Thank you, thank you for what you did”.
 I never got to say good bye to Haze, but August 28, 2010 my wife (Wiwik) and I along with some dear friends, went to the “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, DC, I walked up to “The Wall” and laid my hands on the hallowed stone, and said “Thank you”, and “good-bye Haze”, my friend.
   “Honor to whom honor is due.”


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“Divorced… Now What?”

This article is part 1 of 9 in the series Divorce and Remarriage

   (Presently updating this series)
   This series is being offered simply and solely to offer hope and healing to the broken hearted. This is not an easy thing to deal with, and should not be treated lightly. Yet the church continues to be faced with this. We are not dealing with ‘things’, we are dealing with hearts. “Have you been through divorce?” asks someone? The answer is sadly yes. I understand a little more about the broken hearted David. “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: According to the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. 2  Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, And cleanse me from my sin. 3  For I know my transgressions; And my sin is ever before me. 4  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, And done that which is evil in thy sight; That thou mayest be justified when thou speakest, And be clear when thou judgest.
5  Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; And in sin did my mother conceive me.
6  Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts; And in the hidden part thou wilt make me to know wisdom. 7 Purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8  Make me to hear joy and gladness, That the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. 9  Hide thy face from my sins, And blot out all mine iniquities. 10  Create in me a clean heart, O God; And renew a right spirit within me.
11  Cast me not away from thy presence; And take not thy holy Spirit from me.  (Psalm 51:1-8). 

   Yet there is hope for the broken, penetent and contrite heart…

David found forgiveness… Psalms 32:1  Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered. 2  Blessed is the man unto whom Jehovah imputeth not iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no guile. 3  When I kept silence, my bones wasted away Through my groaning all the day long. 4  For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: My moisture was changed as with the drought of summer. Selah 5  I acknowledged my sin unto thee, And mine iniquity did I not hide: I said, I will confess my transgressions unto Jehovah; And thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin.
What precipitated David’s ‘about face’ in his life? David met the prophet…Nathan who accuses and convicts him not only of adultery, but murder as well! David’s heart crumbles before Nathan and into the arms of the Righteous God, who in turn forgives. Were there consequences? Yes, but was he forgiven? Yes. This is the ‘mainest thing’, right?!  
   Is there hope for you, for me and others? Yes, but it rests in humbly repenting and confessing sin… not in pridefully denying it. Beginning again, means having a starting point. David found his… I found mine… you can find yours. As with all sin repented of, must come the promise, “Never again Lord, never again.”


   Most every person who knows something about the Bible knows what is said regarding divorce. Just a casual look at Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 shows that the Lord is against it, and didn’t approve of how the religious leaders were handling this. Obviously divorce is not a good thing, it hurts, it wounds, it destroys… there’s just nothing good about it. Bottom line… it is not easy!
   People don’t just wake up on a bright sunny morning and say, “Well, we’ve been together for a few years now, why don’t we go down and get a divorce.” Couples who go through this crisis have been and are hurting.   
   The questions start pouring in, problems multiply from everywhere but unfortunately, many in the church who mean well, offer little comfort or help with traditional views.
   It is not the purpose of this writing to pretend that I have all the answers or that there is some magic potion which will make all problems, hurts, and relationships will somehow all be made right. I just don’t. I do understand the feelings, struggles, and many problems because I have been through marriage failures. I am not proud of it, and am truly sorry and repent for breaking my Master’s heart, and won’t do it again. My purpose in sharing this and writing, is that today the church is truly facing a serious problem with so many going through marriage failure. 
   I truly want to help those who have travelled down this ‘road of tears’. Who was the ‘guilty party’? Who did what and when? These are important questions, however the bottom line is, when divorce ocures, there is sin, somewhere. Either in action, or attitude and words or all of these together. Paul said, “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory” (Romans 3:23).
   I have never believed that the answer is in trying to ‘unscramble the eggs’ when this is not the Bible plan of ‘forgiveness’. Considering the First Century church and the circumstances surrounding its spreading throughout the Roman world, it is truly amazing that the Apostles handled questions of immorality, divorce and remarriage, with more simplicity than people have today.
   What I want everyone to understand at the outset is there is hope and forgiveness for all who sin, through the finished work of Jesus. He still saves “to the uttermost” all who seek Him.  
   Read what the Bible says is required for forgiveness (Acts 2:38-39 for those outside of Christ wanting ‘in’, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). (For Christians, Acts 8:22; I John 1:9). 
   Ever since I was in preacher’s school, and I ‘hitched’ a ride back and forth to and from school, with a good friend of mine, Harold Thomas. We would have ‘mini-debates’ on this topic…. I never believed adultery was an unforgivable sin or that peole who have divorced and remarried must separate to be or remain saved. 
   The question of the Christian, “Now what?” is addressed by God’s grace in response to Godly sorrow, repentance, and determination to NEVER, do it again.
Now it’s time to get back and serve the Lord.
   More later….


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Dad Went Fishing

   OK, I just heard this from Bob while we were at a restaurant, but it’s just too funny to pass up. We don’t know where this happened, and we don’t know when… We just know it happened, and somewhere in Wyoming, there is a picture of this.
   Dad and a friend went river Trout fishing. They had traveled  out in  the rolling hills, and found a quiet place along the river. Preparations were under way. Fly fishing for Trout is no easy thing for a beginner. Dad was a beginner. He had been deep sea fishing for Drum and Barracuda, he had been fishing off the coasts of Ireland, and in beautiful lakes in Canada, and had done fine. Preparation for river Trout fly fishing included wearing some (what we call) ‘rubbers’. Actually the proper name is hip-waders. It’s what preachers wear when they are baptizing someone. Well dad figured he knew all about this, so he gingerly slipped on his waders, and tied them neatly at the waste. He forgot one thing… AIR. He had trapped air in the outfit. Anyway, he proceeds into the water, prepared for battle with the river Trout. All went well till he got out into the middle of the river, and then it happened. The air trapped in his waders started to make him float. The rocks were slippery, the current was fast, and his feet went out from under him, and he started floating down the river. Amazing things happen when dad goes fishing.


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Casting The First Stone

  Where was the man?! I mean ‘it takes two to tango’, and yet these “religious leaders” have already decided, he was not from God. They were stunned when the temple guards came back without him, saying, “No one ever spoke the way this man does” John 7:46. Their prejudice and jealousy was obvious, not interested in truth, or the One who brought it. They had to trap him, but he had somehow escaped all the other traps. This time they would put him in a position where he had either to inflame the Roman authorities or break the Law of Moses, and somehow loose the popularity he had gathered.
   Scriptures do not record  how they got this done, but perhaps they schemed with a man who knew of a woman who was unfaithful. To get her in the situation where they would come and catch her committing adultery. Who knows, but John 8:1-11 deals with this woman who is “caught in adultery”. They bring her (not the man) to trap Jesus. They knew the Law commanded that both were to be put to death, Leviticus 20:10, but they were not interested in that. They bring her to Jesus, and you can just see them all forming a cirle around the woman, and the confrontation with Jesus. “In the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” John 8:5
   Jesus bends down and begins writing in the ground with his finger. They kept on questioning him, (thinking they had him trapped), and he stood and asked them this question. “IF ANY OF YOU IS WITHOUT SIN, LET HIM BE THE FIRST TO THROW A STONE AT HER” John 8:7.  He bends down and continues writing in the ground, and while he does this, one by one the ones who brought her leave. “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you” Jesus said. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” John 8:10-11.
   Is Jesus saying he was a sinner and that he could not have condemned her? Of course not. He knew what these religious leaders were trying to do. He knew their hearts and the heart of the woman. He does not condemn her which does not mean He condones adultery or any sin.
   Where do we go from here, the grace of God. Adultery, Jesus said, takes place in the heart of everyone who lusts after someone, Matthew 5:27-30. It takes place in the heart… Often we are more harsh on this than we are on other sins, but Jesus is not. He explains the Law on subjects like, murder, adultery, divorce, oaths, and vengeance in Matthew 5. Obviously God hates this and all sins, each having consequences, some being impossible to ‘un-do’ (like trying to unscramble an egg).
   Where does grace enter the picture? Well, grace is the picture when considering man’s sin, and the sacrifice of Jesus. This is why Jesus came, to provide the way of salvation where the life of sin can be put away. This is why you read in I Corinthians 6:9-11 “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor male prostitutes, nor homosexual offenders, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” At first glance, you see that SLANDER is as bad as ADULTERY in the sence that both will keep one from inheriting the kingdom of God. The blood of Christ cleansed all these things and more. Obviously, when you start to pick up a stone and throw it, consider your own situation.
   Can these things be forgiven? Yes. What about Christians who sin? They are forgiven as well, by the same blood. Forgiveness is not just for the past. This does not condone abuse of grace, because that is getting close to falling away from Christ and being lost altogether. Grace simply means we receive something we don’t deserve, forgiveness. We don’t deserve it because we sin… before and after we come to Christ.
   In John 8 the leaders brought this woman to trap Jesus, but truth be told, they were as trapped as the woman was, they just refused to accept it. So are we, without Jesus. The outstanding feature of Jesus here and always, is His love for fallen man. His compassion, and concern. Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground and stood up and asked, “Where are your accusers?” According to Paul, there aren’t any, Romans 8:31-37. Praise god for His wonderful, great grace.


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What’s With The Clay Pot?


Clay Pot

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” 2 Cor. 4:7

   A pot is a pot, right? Not necessarily. This one is dated 670AD, and is from Pre-Columbian times in Mexico. Probably used for water or something. It use to have decorations which can be seen if you look closely, but time and wind blown sand has done it’s work. It’s value now, we don’t really know.

   Paul, in 2 Corinthians 4:1-12 Paul speaks about a “ministry” and a “treasure” and “pots of clay”.  The treasure, the ministry of Jesus is given to us, not just to hold it. But of course to share with others. Don’t worry, the pot won’t go empty. It seems the more you share, the more you have. But there is more… because he repeats thoughts like “we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord” and “the power is….not from ourselves”. The pot is only important as the container, it’s the content that’s important.  The power is from Jesus, living within. The “pot” may be, “hard pressed on every side”, “perplexed”, “persecuted”, “struck down”… The purpose of the pot is that “his life may be revealed in our mortal body”.

   Yes Paul spoke of himself, but the principle is clear and applies to us, that we are to “go into all the world and make disciples of every nation”. The best sermon, is truly the one we live. We are 21st century clay pots of God.


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Dear Father, Can We Talk?

   Have you ever had to try and change something on your phone service? You call, and the first thing you get is a recording of a man or a woman stating that “this is a new voice system and so they can direct your call to the right person please state why you called.” They give you several options. They ask for the number you are calling about. They repeat the number and ask is this the correct number, or they state, “oops, I didn’t understand that, can you repeat it?”Then you find out that the “lady” has transferred you to the wrong department, and you have to go through the whole thing over again, giving out your name, address and last four of your social security number. After going through that two or three times, your Christian virtue of patience is out the window.

   Well, what happens when we call on God in prayer? Happily, gratefully, David says in Psalms 86:7 ”In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.” It doesn’t matter about the time, Morning (Psa. 5:1-3; Mk. 1:35), Evening (Gen. 24:63), Always (Lk. 18:1; Rom. 1:10; I Thess. 5:17). Doesn’t matter where you are!!! In secret (Mt. 6:6), in bed (Psa. 63:6) , out in the open (Gen. 24:11-12), on the battlefield (Joshua 10:12-13), anywhere (I Tim. 2:8).

   We go through one man, who doesn’t ask questions, JESUS,

   ( I Tim. 2:5).  Through Jesus, direct to the Father…. and because of the Spirit who indwells us, He knows exactly what we need. WOW!


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