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The Preacher

I was browsing in the local Cokesbury bookstore, before it closed a while back, when I came across the most recent release of a favorite book of mine. I was impressed that sixty years after it was first published, this book is still being used by countless aspiring preachers as a guide in communicating the Gospel message. This book was written by Dorothy’s second cousin, Charlie Koller. He was born in 1896 in Waco, Texas.

He grew up as a member of Waco’s German Baptist Church now called Central Baptist. Dorothy’s grandmother, Elise Koller Niederer, organized the Woman’s Missionary Union at that church in 1910. Her grandparents were so impressed by the dedication and faithfulness of this man that they named two of their sons after him. Charles William Koller went to Baylor and studied law before following the call to preach and earning his Doctor of Theology degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He later served as the professor of preaching and president of the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary in Chicago for more than twenty years. Dorothy introduced me to him once at a church anniversary in Waco. 

The book, now titled How to Preach Without Notes, provided the framework for understanding expository preaching, which is basically reading the Scripture, relating the background of the passage and the application of its meaning for today. He emphasized how deeply one must study and prepare before standing to preach. By preaching without notes rather than reading from a prepared manuscript, the preacher could take what was in his head to his heart before speaking it to the people. The book is his seminary course on preaching. The chapter on how to file sermons in folders and manila envelopes has saved many a preacher’s Saturday night. The last half of the book contains 15 of his sermons. I had wonderful preaching professors in college and seminary, but Dr. Koller’s book shaped me profoundly, and I am grateful. The preacher’s watchword is found in Paul’s admonition to Timothy: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Tim. 4:2)

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Hide God’s Word in your heart. And let’s experience the love and power of God together while we are apart.

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Winter Is Coming

It took a long time to happen, but the colorful fall foliage was gorgeous for about two weeks before the windy cold front chased it all away. Winter is coming. The neighborhood leaves are making their way into our yard, as always. I was able to bag some leaves to keep them dry for next spring’s compost before the rains on Tuesday. “Winter is coming” is also an ominous warning from a popular book series. I saw it being used as a caution concerning the double dangers of the coronavirus and influenza. This is the year to get a flu shot and the pneumonia shots, whether I want to or not. (Check with your doctor’s office for their recommendations for yourself.) 

Updates on the coronavirus show glimmers of encouraging breakthroughs and alarming sirens of rising danger all around. The news of a possible two injection vaccine with a 90% effectiveness rate, sent Pizer stocks soaring. Reports indicate that, following the scientific review process, the vaccine could be ready for first delivery around the end of the year. There is still the whole manufacturing, distribution, and inoculation issues involved in providing a vaccine throughout the world, twice. On another hopeful front, an anti-coronavirus vaccine nasal spray has shown great success in animal tests. That sounds easier all around if human trials prove safe and effective. Keep praying. Meanwhile, our situation in Oklahoma keeps getting worse each week, with record hospitalizations pushing our intensive care bed limits. Add to those pressures a growing number of fatigues, burn-out and resignations in medical staff and support personnel, and we are facing a possible deep crisis in all of our medical and health facilities.

I am more than ready for this season of sickness and precautions to pass. I am more than ready for us to get back to meeting together, and singing together, and eating together. But we must persevere in keeping each other safe from this disease. We must persevere in checking on each other, looking out for our neighbors, and not growing weary in prayer and encouragement. This is the season of gratitude and thanksgiving. Count your many blessings. Name them one by one. Prepare for the coming season of our lives.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Winter is upon us. And let’s experience the love and power of God together while we are apart.

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Expect the Best

My father taught me “to expect the best and to prepare for the unexpected.” My father was a railroad man for the Seaboard Airline Railroad, now CRX, for 33 years. He spent years as a switchman until he decided he wanted more for his life and career. He got ahold of the Dale Carnegie book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. He was so inspired that he enrolled in the Dale Carnegie Course. He found a way to impress his bosses by drawing a detailed map of all the unmarked rail spurs that went behind warehouses and manufacturing plants throughout the Miami-Dade County area. He was soon promoted to Assistant Yard Master. He joined the Toastmasters International organization, not to give speeches but to gain self-confidence when talking with people. He became Yard Master. Then in 1965, the unexpected happened.

This all came to mind when I came across a quote from Dale Carnegie this week, “First ask yourself: What is the worst that can happen? Then prepare to accept it. Then proceed to improve on the worst.” That seemed a little grim to me. I liked my father’s admonition better. Expect the best in people, opportunities, and circumstances first and foremost. Likewise, be prepared for the unexpected—the unpleasant surprise, the disappointing result, or the unimaginable experience. In 1965 my father received a call from the railroad company’s office in Birmingham, Alabama. He was offered a new position with the railroad to negotiate contracts with new companies needing to ship their goods. One requirement the company had of him was to learn to play golf. One requirement he had of the railroad was for him to keep his seniority if things did not work out. After four years, he decided to give up golf and go back to the railroad yards. He became General Yard Master over the Atlanta yards, eventually becoming a Terminal Train Master overseeing South Carolina. 

There is a difference in our starting points—best or worst. We are a people of hope. We expect to see the best of life now and in the future. Others are a people of worst-case scenarios. They expect the worst outcome and plan accordingly, hoping against hope that something better happens. I prefer Paul’s prayer for us in Romans 15:13.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Expect the best. And let’s experience the love and power of God together while apart.

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