Learning A Lesson From A Lantern

Gary Pollard III

For some reason, I’m a big fan of old fashioned lighting. I’m especially drawn to old kerosene lanterns because they’re simple and just cool. I went to light one of my lanterns (I might have a few of them…) and the flame wouldn’t stay alive for more than a few seconds. I thought, “Maybe the vent is covered in carbon and there isn’t enough oxygen for the flame.” So, I took it apart, cleaned it out, and put it back together. I was sure that it was the vent.

To my chagrin, the flame died within seconds even after the lantern was cleaned. Next, I trimmed the wick because it seemed too dark; perhaps having a fresh wick would allow the flame to stay alive. It wasn’t a stopped vent, so it had to be the wick. Sure enough, the flame died even with a fresh wick.

At this point I was stumped, so I gave up. The next day it occurred to me while putting gas in my car: the lantern was just out of kerosene! It was obvious to the extreme. I knew Chelsea would never let that one go. When I got home I put the kerosene into the lantern which, of course, was the solution to a simple problem that I overcomplicated.

This is a mundane example of a profound truth: we make mistakes as humans. Worse yet, some people put words in God’s mouth that He never used. “My God is a God of love– He wouldn’t condemn me just for this one little sin.” “God doesn’t care if we live the way we want.” Some use phrases like this with great confidence while overlooking an obvious truth: God has told us what He does and does not care about in His word. If we aren’t in the word listening to God and allowing Him to change us, our solutions will end in failure. There was only one solution to keep that flame going in my lantern. There is only one right way to follow God, and He’s told us how to do that! Life will be so much easier for the one who looks to God for answers before relying on his/her own wisdom.

Gary serves as youth minister for the Hope church of Christ in Hope, Arkansas.


Ten Important Words With Good Illustrations

Neal Pollard

I–nteresting (illustrations are to grab attention or make the point memorable; beware of being one-dimensional–always quotes, poems, sports, etc.)

L–asting ( the preacher joke is that you can re-preach most sermons, you’ve just got to change the illustrations.  Why?  We remember good illustrations.  An illustration can help make a Bible lesson live on in people’s hearts)

L–earning (the purpose of the illustration is to aid in teaching the lesson; the illustration is not an end in itself.  It is a means to an end)

U–nderstandable (in that [a] people understand why the illustration was used where it was; does it fit & help establish the point?; [b] especially older illustrations or illustrations taken from those who speak formally or loftily need to adapted to your vernacular and way of speaking and not sound like you copied it out of an illustration book)

S–upportive (Don’t overdo illustrations; it’s not about the illustrations, but about the Bible lesson you are delivering; Some get this concept backwards)

T–ruthful (Be careful that your illustration will pass the truth test; Some people are jaded about “preacher stories,” finding them hard to believe or learning themselves they aren’t true; Verify as best you can the illustration you use and if you cannot verify then be careful not to pass it off as a “true story.”)

R–ealistic (In addition to truthful, make sure the illustration is “reasonable,” something people can relate to; Ex.–In cross-cultural situations, especially in 3rd-world countries, illustrations about extravagances or items said to cost “X” when the same item is either much cheaper there or is so extravagant that your audience can’t relate)

A–ssorted (Vary types of illustrations: poem, current events, historical events, quotes, parables, fables, jokes [in moderation], Bible accounts)

T–asteful (avoid overly shocking, graphic, suggestive, morbid, salacious illustrations; Wendell Winkler once said, “Avoid creating in one’s mind what you are trying to condemn” [Ex.: illustration about sexual immorality or the like])

I–lluminating (The purpose of the good illustration is to shed light on a Bible truth; It should help produce an “aha” that drives home your point)

O–pportunistic (Take advantage of current events, congregational situations, holidays, etc.  Use wisdom, common sense, and discernment to know what is and isn’t off-limits; Note: Concerning “congregational situations,” only in exceptional circumstances would I use a “negative” one rather than a positive or neutral one).

N–ecessary (Without them, lessons are dry and lifeless; Like windows without curtains; They can make all the difference in whether or not the point sinks in, convicts, and moves the heart of the hearer).