Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: God is working to get our attention. Sometimes He uses alarm bells when we must respond immediately. Sometimes He uses alarm clocks to focus us on our daily disciplines. What is best, however, is the inner body clock, the inner drive to be a Kingdom pe

The greatest challenge any speaker has is to gain and to

hold the attention of his audience. Speech teachers tell us

that if we are going to practice anything, practice both the

opening and the ending of a speech. That may be all that

anyone remembers. So how does a speaker gain and hold

the attention of his audience? Talking VERY LOUD? That

works for a while, but soon it wears out the speaker and

assaults the audience. Regale the audience with bursts of

poetic oratory? Whoop, like the country preacher? Maybe

speak in a rap idiom? Nice if you can do it, but some of us

are ethnically challenged on those items.

One way to get an audience’s attention is to do something a

little outrageous, something a little offbeat. I told you last

week the story of the film, Dead Poets Society, where the

teacher climbed on a desk and revved up his students by

repeating, “Carpe diem” “Seize the day”. At the end of the

service Michael Stuckey told me I really had him scared into

thinking I was going to climb up on the Communion Table!

Well, that would have been a little too strong, even for my

tastes, but you would have remembered it! Just as you

remember those occasions when I have come out here in

bathrobes vaguely resembling some Biblical character.

(Although not even I have had the courage to do what I am

told Pastor Gillespie did years ago, come out dressed as

Santa Claus!).

Costumes and outrageous actions are one way to get

attention. Another is to use props, something visible. I am

told that my sermon, “Been There, Done That, Got the T-

Shirt”, in which I peeled off and revealed the slogans on five

or six different shirts, was all the rage in a federal

penitentiary! Hard to believe, because they couldn’t see the

shirts, but the idea seems to have grabbed hold. Maybe you

remember the time I preached on “The Strength of the

Triangle”, trying to illustrate how you and I can love each

other if we have God’s love with us, and I arranged three

two-by-fours to make my point. (There are, incidentally,

other ways to use two-by-fours to get people’s attention,

most of them involving something about ‘up side your head’).

Again maybe you remember the Easter when Camila Morris

made a huge papier-mache blob to represent the stone that

was rolled from the Lord’s tomb. I dramatically ended the

sermon with a push, and the thing rolled right off the platform

and down the steps, kaplunk! Well, if the point was to get

your attention, at least that it worked!

Well, what does God do to get our attention? God speaks to

us, all the time, but it’s easy to go to sleep. We ignore God.

Yet He keeps on working to get our attention. The Bible

says that He spoke to us in the law and through the

prophets, but in these latter days He has spoken to us by a

Son. That’s an attention-getter. Like the old hymn says,

“What more can He say than to you He has said, to you who

for refuge to Jesus have fled?” God has spoken, but we are

not always listening. God is working to get our attention.

The seer of Revelation introduces us to God’s use of alarm

bells to wake us up. He identified these alarm bells in the

letter to the church at Sardis.


First, there are times when God has to use something very

dramatic to get our attention. I call it a fire alarm.

Sometimes it takes a real disaster before we wake up and

realize that, like it or not, we have to act. When the fire

alarm sounds, nobody ignores it.

The Lord says to the church at Sardis,

I know your works; you have a name of being alive, but you are

dead. Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is on the point of


Wake up, strengthen what remains and is on the point of

death. Sometimes the Lord has to do something dramatic to

wake us up to the fact that we are near death.

There is a phone next to my bed, so that if it rings during the

night, I can grab it quickly. It was placed there when we had

young adult children. When it rang at some ungodly hour it

was something like, “Dad, I’ve got a flat tire; can you help

me?” Or, “Dad, I got sleepy while I was driving home, and I

think I scraped this jersey barrier on the Beltway”. That

jangling phone bell was like a fire alarm; when it rang, it was

not good news. And even today, though we are well past all

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