Guess when this was written–
By the time he came out of his Hanoi prison, John McCain had learned the power of stories. He had been raised on them. The son and grandson of admirals forever at sea, he had spent more time with their legends than with the men themselves. Among the POWs, he was the prison storyteller, the one who helped pass the days by retelling, scene by scene, his favorite Marlon Brando movies, who offered a course he called A History of the World from the Beginning, the one who was allowed 10 minutes with a Bible one Christmas so he could refresh his memory of Bethlehem and lead a service in their cell. But it was not until he was home, a famous, crippled war hero, that he met Ronald Reagan and learned from the master that he now had the ultimate political weapon.
The Story. You could argue that the story of McCain’s remarkable rise, to the point where he now has a chance of snatching the G.O.P. nomination away from the $65 Million Man, is the Story of a story. It is not just that the commentariat has concluded that this presidential race is all about character and biography and that McCain’s, at the moment, is a best seller. It is not just that McCain’s story defines the man: You cannot scare me, I’ve been scared by professionals, and I have nothing to lose because every day is a gift I once thought I’d never have.
Correct answer: 1999.http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,992801,00.html
But it is still true today. The power of story is unmatched in its ability to teach. If you would teach well, if you would teach like Jesus, tell lots of stories.
One category of stories to include is the funny story. There is nothing like laughter that loosens people up and prepares the heart to hear. How many times have you found yourself laughing in a sermon and when you the laughter settles down, you find a dagger in your side–a dagger of the truth of the Word of God. A dagger put there without you knowing. A dagger lodged there while you were laughing.
I love John Ortberg for a lot of different reasons. Most, I suppose, because he has something to say. His take on the gospel of the kingdom has profoundly changed my life. If you have not been blessed by some John Ortberg’s sermons, you are missing out on a real blessing. Google it.
But, another, less important (I suppose) reason I like listening to John Ortberg is. . . well. . . he makes me laugh. He nearly always includes just enough humor in every message that it just makes if fun to listen to. “A wise teacher makes learning a joy.” Proverbs 15:2 (TLB)
Here are a couple of stories he used recently that had me laughing out loud. You may can work these into an upcoming lessons. If not, they serve as a great example of the kind of stories you want to include in every lesson.
If you would like to listen to or read the whole sermon, go to http://www.mppcfamily.org Find the sermons. Work your way back to 2/18/07. Find the sermon called, “Settling the ownership issue.”
Cookie story #1
This is something I read in a theological journal called The Reader’s Digest:
A traveler between flights in an airport went to a lounge and bought a small package of cookies. Then she sat down and began reading a newspaper. Gradually, she became aware of a rustling noise from behind her paper. She was flabbergasted to see a neatly dressed man helping himself to her cookies. Not wanting to make a scene, she leaned over and took a cookie herself.
A minute or two passed and then came more rustling. He was helping himself to another cookie! By this time they had come to the end of the package, but she was so angry she did not dare allow herself to say anything. Then, as if to add insult to injury, the man broke the final remaining cookie in two, pushed half across to her, ate the other half and left.
Still fuming some time later when her flight was announced, the woman opened her handbag to get her ticket. To her shocking embarrassment, there she found her pack of unopened cookies.
Whoops. Coming to grips with “Whose Cookies Are They?” That changes everything, doesn’t it?
Here’s where we are a little confused. From the age of about two on, “Whose cookies are they?” The Psalmist was very clear on this. Let’s read these words together:
The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)
The earth is the Lord’s and what in it? Everything. What’s left out of that word? Not much. God’s cookies. God’s house. God’s clothes. God’s IRA. God’s car. God’s body. It’s all God’s Stuff.
Cookie story #2
There’s another cookie story I want to share with you. Lisa Rogack has written a book titled Death Warmed Over. It’s a combination cookbook and sociological study of funeral meals and rituals. It’s a very interesting book. She starts it with the story of a man dying at home in bed. I love this story:
He could smell the aroma of chocolate chip cookies, his favorite kind, baking downstairs. He wanted one more cookie before he died. He dragged his body out of bed, rolled down the stairs, crawled into the kitchen, reached a trembling hand to grasp one final cookie when he felt the sting of a spatula smack his hand.
Put that back!
His wife said.
They’re for the funeral!
That’s the human condition right there. I’m telling you!
Solomon had many, many cookies, and he kept thinking,
I want one more cookie…just one more cookie before I die, then I’ll be happy.
Then one night, out comes the spatula. Whack! “They don’t belong to you. They’re for the funeral.” Ask not for whom the spatula whacks. It whacks for thee. It’s God’s Stuff. I cannot keep it. The spatula whacks for me one day.
I try to include a lot of stories like these in my lessons. If your church budget can handle $200 a year, you can provide ALL these lessons to ALL your teachers. They correspond with Lifeway’s curriculum outlines:
- Explore the Bible Series
- Bible Studies for Life Series
- Masterworks Series (my favorite)
I also write lessons that go along with the International Standard Series. For details, see www.joshhunt.com/lessons.htm