Sermon Illustrations on Approval


Does God Really Like Me?

I don’t know what I did wrong. But he had that “calmer than calm” look that hid a rage inside. I picked up the phone and saw her name. Not now. I can’t handle her right now. I scanned the room, looking for someone I knew. I just wanted to disappear. I didn’t have the energy for small talk. So I got more appetizers. “How dare you!” he screamed. Then he let loose about everything that’s wrong with me. If I said anything, she would just blow up again. So I let it go.  

We’ve all experienced situations like these. We’ve felt disconnected and judged, overwhelmed by friends and underwhelmed by our relatives. We know how it feels when someone doesn’t want us around. And we know how it feels when someone is sucking up all our energy. We’ve been yelled at. And we’ve yelled back. We’ve been ignored. We’ve done the ignoring.

We’ve felt people were just putting up with us. And we’ve just put up with others too. Whether we know it or not, all these experiences color our experience of God. If you’ve been ignored, scolded, or shamed, then you’ve probably wondered—consciously or unconsciously—if God is ignoring, scolding, or shaming you. Or, more painfully, maybe you think God is just putting up with you. We’re told that God loves us. But the real question is, Does God really like me?

Taken from Does God Really Like Me?: Discovering the God Who Wants to Be With Us  by Cyd and Geoff Holsclaw Copyright (c) 2020 by Cyd and Geoff Holsclaw. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Origin of Acceptance

The word “acceptance” has an interesting origin. It comes from the Latin ad capere, which means to “take to oneself.” What does that mean? It’s a paradoxical truth, but in order for us to accept others, we must first accept ourselves. Self-acceptance leads to acceptance of others.

The opposite is also true. As hard as it is in the moment when we experience the scorn and judgment of another, it usually has more to do with their own lack of self-acceptance than with anything we have done ourselves. In order to accept others, we must “take to oneself,” that is, to accept the person God has created in us. There is a tension in this to be sure. We are all “works in progress,” and we all have “sharp edges” in need of being smoothed out. Yet, once we accept ourselves as we truly are, we may actually be more capable of growing in our faith.

Stuart Strachan Jr.


Not Until After My Death

Frederick William I was a king of Prussia in the early 18th century. Personality-wise, he was described as exacting, frugal and austere. He was known to beat his children when they disappointed him. His eldest son, the future king Frederick William II, along with two friends, attempted to run away to escape his father’s ire. One escaped, but the other was imprisoned, and after a season, executed in front of the son in an attempt to reform the child’s wayward path.

As he lay on his deathbed, the pastor attending him told him he must forgive all his enemies. Immediately he thought of his brother in law, George II of England. “In that case,” he told his wife reluctantly, “write to your brother and tell him I forgive him, but be sure not to do it until after my death.”

Stuart Strachan Jr.

The Only Opinion That Matters

Most of us have heard of Babe Ruth, but have you ever heard of Babe Pinelli? Pinelli was an umpire in Major League Baseball who once called The Great Bambino (Ruth) out on strikes. When the crowd began booing in disapproval of the call, Babe turned to the umpire and said “There’s 40,000 people here who know that the last pitch was a ball.”

The coaches and players braced for a swift ejection, but instead, Pinelli responded coolly, “Maybe so, Babe, but mine is the only opinion that counts.” In life it’s easy to get caught up in the opinions of others, but in the end, it’s not our scoffers or critics by whom we will be judged, only God.

Stuart Strachan Jr.

Rejection and Acceptance

In his book The Logic of the Spirit, James Loder talks about a woman with whom he had been in a therapeutic relationship for years. This woman’s underlying issue seemed to be a complete sense of rejection by her mother. She had never experienced her mother’s unconditional love.

This woman described an experience where she went back to the day she was born. The delivery room was cold. She saw her mother laying there looking at her with contempt. And suddenly, a warm light filled the room. Jesus picked her up moments after her birth and looked at her adoringly. Jesus kissed her and swung her around in delight. Jesus had replaced her mother at her birth. She saw his eyes looking at her as if she were his only child. Rejection had been replaced by sheer joy.

After this transforming experience, the hurt of being rejected by her mother did not magically go away, but it was no longer debilitating for her. The rejection had been redeemed. And she was able to live out of a place of knowing that even though her mother had failed her, her mother Jesus had given her new birth.

Scott Bowerman, Source material from James E. Loder, The Logic of the Spirit. Jossey- Bass, 1988.


To Be One of the Great Ones Is Not What It Seems

For those of us who live in the shadow of self-doubt, who may wonder what meaning a life of relative anonymity may have in a society filled with the cult of celebrity in which likes, reposts, and digital followers are signs of significance, there is a beautiful description of a woman named Sarah Smith of Golders Green, 

“First came bright Spirits, not the Spirits of men, who danced and scattered flowers…Then, on the left and the right, at each side of the forest avenue, came youthful shapes, boys upon one hand, and girls upon the other. If I could remember their singing and write down the notes, no man who read that score would ever grow sick or old. Between them went musicians: and after these a lady in whose honour all this was being done… ‘Is it?…is it?’

 I whispered to my guide. ‘Not at all,’ said he. ‘It’s someone ye’ll never have heard of. Her name on earth was Sarah Smith and she lived at Golders Green.’ ‘She seems to be…well, a person of particular importance?’ ‘Aye. She is one of the great ones. Ye have heard that fame in this country and fame on Earth are two different things.’ ‘And who are these gigantic people…look! 

They’re like emeralds..who are dancing and throwing flowers before her?’ ‘Haven’t ye read your Milton? A thousand livery angels lackey her.’ ‘And who are all these young men and women on each side?’ ‘They are her sons and daughters.’ ‘She must have had a very large family, Sir.’ ‘Every young man or boy that met her became her son–even if it was only the boy that brought the meat to her back door. Every girl that met her was her daughter.’ ‘Isn’t that a bit hard on their own parents?’ ‘No. There are those that steal other people’s children. But her motherhood was of a different kind. 

Those on whom it fell went back to their natural parents loving them more. Few men looked on her without becoming, in a certain fashion, her lovers. But it was the kind of love that made them not less true, but truer, to their own wives.”

Taken from pp. 108-110 in The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis, MacMillan Publishing Co., 1974. 

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