Crosswalk.com aims to offer the most compelling biblically-based content to Christians on their walk with Jesus. Crosswalk.com is your online destination for all areas of Christian Living – faith, family, fun, and community. Each category is further divided into areas important to you and your Christian faith including Bible study, daily devotions, marriage, parenting, movie reviews, music, news, and more.

Joe McKeever Christian Blog and Commentary

Watch this. This is how it’s done.

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 showed us 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?’

“The response, as I should have anticipated, was immediate. ‘I am your wife,’ she said. ‘I am not one of your attorneys. Do not ever ask me ‘What is the issue?’ You will sit there and you will listen until I am finished.’ And of course, I did just that.”

Mueller went on to say how he was learning–from his wife among others–how to be still and listen, truly listen, before making a judgment.

His was not a funny story as such. But it got a great laugh from the entire crowd, and became a great illustration for you and me today.

In his story, he is the goat. He did something foolish and his wife called his hand on it. He conceded that she was in the right and he in the wrong.

Every female in the audience identified with Mrs. Mueller and appreciated the speaker’s point. Every husband in the crowd identified with Mueller himself and felt an immediate connection with him.

Any story that connects the speaker to the audience for the rest of his talk is a great one.

Telling a story in which you yourself are caught red-handed in some offense and then properly humbled is a great device to connect you with your audience.

Let’s analyze it for a moment.

Suppose the story were reversed. Suppose Mueller had been the one telling his wife about his hectic day. And suppose Mrs. Mueller had stopped him in the middle of his monologue and asked him to get to the point. And, suppose he had responded sternly, the way she had done him, and then he told the audience about that in his message.

In the first place, it would not have been funny and would not have gotten a laugh, not the first one. Secondly, it would have alienated the audience from the speaker since his story would have made him look like some hotshot and put his wife down.

We have to choose our stories wisely.

What makes the story work is that Mueller was somebody. That’s why, before telling what his wife had said, it was important to establish that he was running the Criminal Division for the U.S.Attorney’s Office in Boston. He was supervising a lot of lawyers. As government employees go, he was a big shot.

But his wife brought him back to reality that day.

As a result, the commencement audience bonded with him through that story.

It’s a great device, if you have a good story and can make it fit.

One day last week, I had a comeuppance in the waiting room at the Toyota dealership. It was crowded with customers and I was trying to read my paper. At one point, unable to find the rest of my newspaper, I noticed the lady to my immediate left deeply engrossed in hers. “Is that my paper?” I wondered. “Did that woman take my New Orleans Advocate?”

Now, there are 586 acceptable ways to politely inquire whether she had my paper. I considered none of them. “Ma’am,” I said, “Are you reading my paper?”

She looked startled at first, then assured me she was not, that this was her newspaper. “You’re probably sitting on yours,” she said.

I was confident I’d already checked, but as I felt behind my back, sure enough, there was my newspaper wedged up against the chair.

I said, “I’m sorry,” and read my paper.

Ten minutes later, as my car was called and I stood to leave, I turned to her. “Please forgive me. I’m so sorry.” She forced a smile and said, “Next time, use a softer voice.”

I posted this on Facebook, prefacing it with, “I made a fool of myself in the car dealership waiting room today.”

The comments flew in. Practically every one said things like, “I’ve done that,” “You’re human,” and “She’s probably a school teacher.”

Get that? Even though what I did was somewhat rude and thoughtless, by telling it myself and owning up to what I had done, the “team” rallied to my support.

Pastors and other public speakers, this should be written in stone somewhere:

–Humor is almost always acceptable in a sermon or public address;

–A well-placed humorous story is a treasure;

–But the most effective use of humor will tell how the speaker/preacher goofed and was put in his place by his wife, a child, some elderly grandma in the store, or some other unlikely individual. People love hearing how the little person brought the high and the mighty down to earth.

Finally, a couple of notes of explanation.

–By “humor,” we do not necessarily mean something hilarious or side-splitting. Humor is a broad category and includes the type of stories we’ve told here. In a sermon or commencement address, gentle humor works far better than hilarity.

–After telling the story of one’s comedown, it’s important that the speaker/preacher not dwell on it. This is not about you, but about the point you were trying to get across. (I’m thinking of a preacher who told such a story, then proceeded to destroy its effect by bursting out, “Oh God! I’m making myself look so bad!” I was in the audience and will not soon forget the lesson that preacher demonstrated that day: Tell your story, then get on with the message. No groveling allowed.)

Preach Jesus, friend.

The coach walks up and down the sideline in front of his players.

“Get your heads up! All of you!  Take those stupid towels off your head!  Let’s show some courage around here!  The game is not over yet.  You’re not defeated until you quit fighting.  Lift up your heads!  Look like champions!”

The disciples had returned from a trial run in which they had practiced preaching the gospel of Jesus.  Since the time would come when Jesus would be absent and they would be doing this “for real,” the Lord wanted them to get a taste of what to expect.

They returned sky high.  “Lord! It was wonderful!  We saw miracles.  Lives changed.  People healed. It was great!”

Jesus agreed.  “You’re right.  In fact, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

“However,” He said, “I do not want you rejoicing because of such.”

“Do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you. Rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:20).

It wasn’t that He didn’t want them joyful and excited. He loves overflowing praise and exuberance in His children.

He just wants it based on something more substantial than the latest results.

The Lord knew what the disciples were going to find out. The days would come when they would return empty-handed from their preaching missions, their evangelistic trips, their revivals and door-to-door visitations, and their overseas outreach.

To be sure, there would be times of great successes and glorious testimonies. But at other times, they would return empty-handed, with no glowing stories, no big numbers, no sparkling testimonies of victories. Sometimes they would do well to get out with their lives, and sometimes they didn’t even manage that.

If their joy resulted from impressive victories and big numbers, it would be constantly fluctuating. Sometimes they would be happy in the Lord and overflowing with praise, and at other times, their spirits would be dragging, their hope vanished.

The Lord Jesus wants none of that.

He wants His children joyful from beginning to end. “In Thy presence there is fullness of joy; at Thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11). “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy….” (Galatians 5:22). “These things I have spoken to you that my joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11).

Joy. There it is. Joy is the constant refrain of Scripture.

C. S. Lewis famously said, “Joy is the business of heaven.”

God’s word is consistent on this subject.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. And again I say rejoice” (Philippians 4:4).

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Hours before He was arrested and went to the cross, Jesus told the disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

He’s about to go to the cross and experience the worst thing imaginable, something so horrible we can only imagine, a prospect that caused His body to sweat drops of blood. And yet, look at Him here, cheering up the disciples.

The plain fact of the matter is the Lord wants His children always believing and trusting and knowing the important things are settled and everything else is all right. We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).

No hanging heads. No towels draped over our sorry heads to disguise our disappointment and hide our tears.

“Lift up your heads! Your redemption draweth nigh!” is how the psalmist put it.

Rejoicing “because your names are written in heaven” means a thousand things, these among them….

  1. Your salvation is secure.
  2. Your hope is steadfast.
  3. Your future is settled.
  4. Your faith is well placed.
  5. Your focus is upward and eternal.
  6. Your troubles are temporary.
  7. Your joy is constant.
  8. God’s promises are sure and certain.
  9. Jesus’ word is dependable.
  10. God’s enemy (and yours) is out of luck.

You will live and die with a smile on your face. People will come away from you saying, “He’s either a nut or he knows something.”

Stay with me a moment longer, please.

Do not miss the implications of the Lord choosing as the basis of your joy that “your names are written in heaven.” 

Wishing to anchor our joy to something more dependable and more constant than the up-and-down vicissitudes of this life, wanting to secure our joy forever, and intending to settle the matter for all time, Jesus tied it to our salvation.

The strong implications are that you are saved forever.

Implications, nothing! It’s there, plain as the nose on your face (is “explication” a word? He wasn’t implying anything, but was as explicit as it’s possible to get!)

If we can be saved one day and lose it the next, then get it back the next day, then He chose the wrong figure of speech.  The way some of God’s children believe about the temporariness of salvation–that “one little sin can send your soul to hell,” as I’ve heard it put–makes you wonder what it will take for them to start believing in Jesus and quit taking counsel of their fears.

The Lord Jesus actually thought that the born-again would live forever. “They shall never perish.”  “Neither shall anyone pluck them out of my hand.” "I give unto them eternal life.” "So shall we ever be with the Lord.”

We pitiful humans. We resist believing that salvation is of grace and keep wanting our works to play the starring role in this divine production. Or, we play a little mind game with ourselves that says: I know we are saved by grace and Jesus paid it all, but if I sin after being saved, I’m lost again.

If that’s true, if one sin or a certain number of sins undoes what God did in Christ as a result of Calvary, then no one is secure in Christ, no salvation is settled, no forgiveness is permanent, and we are all in big trouble, and Jesus’ death settled nothing.

It’s time to start believing Jesus, people.

I love what some woman told Pastor Tim Keller upon realizing the gospel of grace for the first time….

“I know why I want my morality to save me. If I’m saved by my good works, then like a taxpayer, I have rights. I’ve paid into the system and God owed me a good and decent life, and there is a limit to what the Father can ask of me. But if I’m saved by sheer grace, then my life belongs to the Father, He owes me nothing, and there is no limit to what He can ask of me.”

Sheer grace. That’s it.

Sheer grace or we are in a mess of trouble, children.

But, rejoice. Your names are written in Heaven. In blood, actually. The blood of Christ.

“Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!” (I Corinthians 15:57).

Now, let us go forth in joy.

Publication date: May 27, 2015

10,000 Reasons to Believe

Looking for a reason to have faith in God, His creation, and His plan for redemption? Take your pick, there are only about ten-thousand or so...

“If you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46-47).

I believe in God because I believe in butterflies.

I believe in God because I’ve seen a baby and held one and watched it grow into adulthood. And I have seen him hold babies of his own in his arms.

I believe in God because I watched the sunrise this morning.

I believe in God because of a lack of turbulence. As the earth spins around its axis, as the earth speeds around its orbit, as our solar system zooms through the galaxy, and as the galaxy tears across the heavens at enormous speeds, you and I don’t feel a thing. We can lay a ball on the ground today and it’s still there tomorrow morning, unmoved. I find that truly amazing.

I believe in God because of Jesus.

I believe in God because of the character of Jesus.

I believe in God because of the Bible. There is nothing like it. This book knows me, understands me, speaks to me, and speaks to every fresh situation in my life. It’s the most fascinating book in the world and has the testimony of history as to its truthfulness and the testimony of millions as to its Truth.

I believe in God because of the church. How it survived all these centuries with its human leadership flawed–oh man, is it ever flawed!–and still survives today and when it gets the gospel right is the best thing on the planet.

I believe in God because of my Grandma Bessie McKeever. Widowed when she had 11 children and one in the oven, she served God faithfully for another half century and was radiant in her testimony for the Savior.

I believe in God because everything in my heart and soul cries out that He is real, Jesus is alive, and I am His.

I believe because not to believe means voting for despair and meaningless, and I reject that.

I believe in God because of the humans who populate this planet.  So far the silence from the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence has come up empty because–I figure–earth is unique and the only planet gifted with such creations of a loving God.  The atheist figures that he is an accident. I reject that.

I believe God is a God of love because of the diversity in humanity, in flora and fauna.  No two humans are alike.  How in the world could He pull that off!!

I believe in God because of science.  More and more, we learn how complex this universe is and how unlikely life on earth is. And yet, here we are.

I believe in God because He allows dissent and rebellion and free thought.  You can join the Atheist Society and He doesn’t snuff you out in a fit of temper.  He smiles at your naivete, I expect, but He allows you to do it. “He has not dealt with us according to our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103).

I believe because I see people suffer and come out stronger.

I believe because I see people suffer incredible misfortunes and emerge on the other side of it praising God for bringing them through and the things He taught them.

I believe in God and happily stake my life on it.

Each of us is indeed staking our lives on what we believe about God.

I flew in from California last night. The Airbus is a mighty impressive plane. As we boarded in Salt Lake City for the final leg of the flight, I did not stop to interview the captain and first officer. I did not ask to see the engineer’s report on the construction of that plane nor an update from the most recent mechanical examinations.  I merely (I say this with a smile) staked my life on some people I do not know looking out for their own interests–and indirectly, for mine–in building a great plane and getting it through a stormy night successfully.  They did it well, and I arrived in New Orleans around 1 a.m.

I believe because I’ve seen the kind of people that unbelief produces, and I want none of it.  (I am well aware of all the talk about the noble atheist, but I’ve never known one. They tend to be angry and mean-spirited.)

I believe because it is a choice, no one forces me to do so, but everything I read and see about the Lord Jesus draws me in. I do so want to know HIm and to be loved by Him, and to live forever with Him. There is much about the Old Testament history that troubles me and I do not always appreciate, but there is nothing–absolutely nothing–about Jesus that does anything other than attract and impress me.

Whatever we believe about God, we stake our lives on it.

 

Follow Crosswalk.com