Prequel: The Old, Cardboard Box

By Eric K. Thomsen

“I don’t suppose you want this, do you? I found it when I was cleaning out the garage.”

I glanced up to see my dad holding a dusty and tattered cardboard box. “What is that?” I asked, crinkling my nose as he blew the dust from the top in my general direction.

“It’s a box of my old sermons I didn’t throw away when I cleaned out the church office all those years ago.”

Instantly, my demeanor changed. “Of course I want them!” I took the box from his hands and put it in my car before Dad could change his mind.

He was still shaking his head when I returned to Mom’s kitchen. He slurped his steaming coffee and muttered, “Don’t know why you want those old things. Not sure there’s anything worth reading. That’s why I threw out the rest.”

If he only knew…

Before my head hit the pillow that night, I had read the entire box—sermon after sermon, outline after outline, point after point. I drank in my spiritual heritage with great gulps. It’s not that Dad was the greatest theologian, orator, or expositor. In fact, most of his sermons were pithy and practical—often topical and heavy on application. He aimed bullet point outlines at specific simple targets and hit them most every time. 

However, what his sermons lacked in flowery elegance, they made up for in the power of personal example. Dad loved Scripture—still does. It is hard to remember a morning in my childhood when I didn’t find him at the kitchen table with a Bible in one hand, pen and notebook in the other. I knew he had been there for hours—three hours to be exact. Every morning, from 3:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m., dad sought to understand the mysteries of Scripture, tuck them away in his heart, and apply them to his life. This love of Scripture carried over to his preaching. He couldn’t help it. His simple points and sub-points found power in the memorized verses that flowed like water throughout his delivery.

Yet, perhaps the most powerful sermon Dad preached was through his life. Don’t get the idea he was perfect. He wasn’t; no one is. But his life reflected powerful principles I have never forgotten and want to emulate: share the gospel at every opportunity; embrace the outcast, because no one is beyond the reach of God’s grace; give second chances, even the third time; and you can never, ever get too much of God’s Word.

The world may not mention Dad’s preaching in the same breath as Spurgeon, Robinson, or Sunday, but as his son, I can tell you I have few greater treasures than the “gold” in that old, cardboard box.

About the Writer: Eric K. Thomsen is managing editor of ONE Magazine and former president of the Evangelical Press Association.


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