When . . . . Then

foregone conclusions  Driving The Point To . . . .

A Preface:  

2016-2017: I posted over 500 “Big Ideas” on Twitter.  Outside of a handful, which I identified accordingly, I connected my “Big Ideas” with Bible references.  There is also an article on creating and understanding the nature of a “Big Idea.” Key to understanding a “Big Idea” is that they are not just a theological statement of fact — i.e., “God is faithful.”  He is, but that is not a “Big Idea.”  You can also check out an example “Magazine Commentary” on Ruth 1 for another example:

2017-2018: I posted over 250 articles on Homiletics — Monday-Friday —  from the perspective of “Classical Rhetorical Theory.”  I have about 160+ articles in the hopper — at different levels of completion.  Over the next year, I am going to finish some of them up and post them.  Today is one of those days — #254 below . . . .

2018-2019: This year I have been posting “Today’s Illustration” – Monday-Friday.  My goals for this project are primarily to provide a way to begin a message or a speech.  Rather than begin with — “Open your Bible to. . . . ” or “Today we are going to look at . . . .” — Why not begin directly with something like . . . .

A tragic accident happened just weeks ago, and only a small community of believers was aware of what had happened.  Three young men — all three were married, and two of them were expectant fathers — went down in a small aircraft in Seattle, Washington.

The pilot-instructor, Diego Senn, was married to his wife Naomi — leaving behind three children and a fourth one on the way.

Joochan (Austen) Lee was a student pilot aboard.  He and his wife – Yuki- were expecting their first child early next year.  On his wife’s Facebook page it says . . .

“Austen, two years I spent with you were the best days of my life. And I can’t believe you are gone.” . . . “I love you and I miss you. I probably won’t stop crying for years thinking about you. Bt I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for the love, sacrifice, laugh, dreams and the memories you’ve given me. You have completely changed me, and I’m so so grateful for that. I will see you soon and we will be together again in the presence of God.”

They were all part of the Moody Bible Institute’s missionary flying program.  The flight instructor and two student pilots were aboard.  They were all killed upon impact just minutes after takeoff . . . .




Rhetorical Techniques – #254:  When . . . Then – at that time

Martin Luther King’s famous 1963 — “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” which was published in The Atlantic as “The Negro Is Your Brother,” is a great “rhetorical” example of effective argument.

Eight white southern religious leaders criticised King for going to Birmingham.  This was King’s response!

While confined here in the Birmingham city jail, I came across your recent statement calling our present activities “unwise and untimely.” Seldom, if ever, do I pause to answer criticism of my work and ideas. If I sought to answer all of the criticisms that cross my desk, my secretaries would be engaged in little else in the course of the day, and I would have no time for constructive work. But since I feel that you are men of genuine good will and your criticisms are sincerely set forth, I would like to answer your statement in what I hope will be patient and reasonable terms.

I think I should give the reason for my being in Birmingham since you have been influenced by the argument of “outsiders coming in.”

I am in Birmingham because injustice is here …

I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states.

I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.

Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.

Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea.

Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider …

We have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our God-given and constitutional rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jetlike speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse-and-buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say “wait.”


Now notice King’s use of  — When.”
King builds his case before he states his case by stacking or piling up “whens.”


But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will

and [when you see] drown your sisters and brothers at whim;

when you have seen hate-filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize, and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity;

when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society;

when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television,

and [when you] see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children,

and [when you] see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky,

and [when you] see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people;

when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos, “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”;

when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you;

when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”;

when your first name becomes “nigger,” and your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are)

and [when] your last name becomes “John,”

and when your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”;

when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro,

[when you are] living constantly at tiptoe stance, never quite knowing what to expect next,

and [when you are] plagued with inner fears and outer resentments;

when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodyness”–

All the “whens” are supporting the “then” statement — “then you will understand why.” When you understand these “whens,” THEN you will understand that what can’t agree with “wait.”

Now notice King’s use of  — “THEN.”
King wraps it all up with the argument of how all the previous “whens” justify what he is doing!

then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of injustice where they experience the bleakness of corroding despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience …

(The remainder of the letter can be found below)**

The beginning of his message is also worthy of attention in that King, first of all argues “connectivity” before he argues “conditions.”  He does this by such words as . . . .

  • Interrelatedness
  • in Atlanta . . .  in Birmingham.
  • anywhere
  • network of mutuality
  • affects one directly affects all
  • narrow, provincial “outside agitator”
  • Anyone
  • never outsider


Nevertheless, that is not today’s focus.  Back to “when . . .  then” . . . .

King could have begun with . . . .

“Let me tell you the reasons for why it is difficult to wait, and we marched in Birmingham.

First of all, it is because . . .

Instead, King begins with a series of “whens” which all lead to a “then.”

However, it is not a “then” that is part of an “if. . . .then.”

Rather, it is a “then” of time — “at that time” or “now.”

It is “after you understand the many events – details – circumstances – conditions which have and do press upon black men, woman, and children” — THEN  – AT THAT TIME  – NOW you will see why it is that we can’t wait.

The “whens” pile up to an inarguable conclusion — all saying — “No — we cannot wait any longer.”

In fact — as the “events-circumstances-situations-conditions” pile up — one upon another — layer upon layer — the conclusion that we cannot wait any longer is psychologically obvious and inarguable! As the speaker stacks the “whens” up  . . . .


by the end of the whens

maybe long before the last “when”!


Now that the reader or listener sees and understands the pattern, it can be duplicated. That is the value of going “analytical” when listening to a speaker.  You can not only be affected by what was just said, but you can also unwrap what was just done.  What made that effective or powerful?

Let’s lay out the template and then imitate it within a completely different context.


#1) A light reference to an objection

#2) The stacking of “whens” or “events-circumstances-situations-conditions” which revolved around and/or previous to

#3) The “then” — “THEN you understand-realize-grasp-feel-will be moved to”

#4) Chose a biblical account or passage.


Two Examples — OT & NT:

Acts 9:26-27:

“And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.

But Barnabas took him, and brought him to the apostles, and declared unto them how he had seen the Lord in the way, and that he had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus.”

Of course the believers were reluctant and even fearful of Saul/Paul . . .

when your fellow believers have already been killed
when you heard stories of what this man has already done
when you are just a new or young believer
when you are dismissed by family and friends for embracing Jesus as the Messiah
when you have experienced pain and/or persecution already
when you know how powerful the religious leaders are
when you have seen or heard what has happened to men like the blind man/his family in John 9
when you understand that the Roman government will not be there to protect you
when you fear for your wife and children were something to happen to you
when you understand what it means to be thrown into a jail in those days

THEN you begin to grasp their unwillingness to befriend a man like Saul/Paul


THEN you understand how unusual a man like Barnabas was!




David – I Sam 21:  Of course David was confused, crushed, in a state of panic when he runs to Nob and then the city of Gath!
when you were annointed by the prophet Samuel
when you were told that you would one day be King over Israel
when you were called to the palace of King Saul to play the harp
when you knew that God protected you against the bear and the lion
when you volunteered to face Goliath and defeated Goliath
when you became friends with the King’s son – Jonathan
when you promoted by the King to lead a band of men against the Philistines
when you were so effective that you slew thousands and 10’s of thousands
when you were praised by God’s people throughout Israel
when you were married to the King’s daughter
when you were assured by the King’s son that he could and would resolve this
AND add this on — when you hear from your best most optimistic friend – Jonathan – that he too agreed that there was no resolution and he would have to run, make hast, flee for his life
THEN you begin to understand the confusion – the panic – the mental state of David!

This approach reflects some of the “arts” sides of public speaking.  Public Address is both an art and a science!  Having these various rhetorical techniques in your rhetorical storehouse of options gives you the ability to provide variety, strength, and effectiveness to your speaking situations.

* The Design Of “Today’s Illustration”:  The Format & Purpose

  • The illustrations are designed to be different and fresh.
  • The illustrations are based on . . . .

True events
The lives of real people
“How it works” (which is what Tony Evans often uses)

  • Sometimes the illustration is well known in the preaching world, but we have done more research to add additional details that might prove to be interesting.
  • The basic facts of the event or person are laid out.
  • Quotations from books and magazine articles about the event or person are included.
  • “Key Illustrative Thoughts” are designed to get your mind thinking about possible ways to use the illustration.
  • The “Key Thoughts” catch some of the keywords and phrases found in the illustrations content which can be carried down into the message.
  • Other general or interesting information which might be of use is provided at the end.
  • Additional links for your own further exploration of the topic, person, or event have been included at the end.  There is plenty more that could be used from the references.
  • We do all the research and work for you!  Dig deeper into the story or event if you want and let us know about yet other ideas which can be useful!
  • Feel free to use all that is provided as you will.  It is yours to use and to benefit your preaching, teaching and speaking.


** “You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. Since we so diligently urge people to obey the Supreme Court’s decision of 1954 outlawing segregation in the public schools, it is rather strange and paradoxical to find us consciously breaking laws. One may well ask, “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that “An unjust law is no law at all.”

Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine when a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law, or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas, an unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality …

There are some instances when a law is just on its face and unjust in its application. For instance, I was arrested Friday on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong with an ordinance which requires a permit for a parade, but when the ordinance is used to preserve segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and peaceful protest, then it becomes unjust.

Of course, there is nothing new about this kind of civil disobedience. It was seen sublimely in the refusal of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego to obey the laws of Nebuchadnezzar because a higher moral law was involved. It was practiced superbly by the early Christians, who were willing to face hungry lions and the excruciating pain of chopping blocks before submitting to certain unjust laws of the Roman Empire. To a degree, academic freedom is a reality today because Socrates practiced civil disobedience.

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was “legal” and everything the Hungarian freedom fighters did in Hungary was “illegal.” It was “illegal” to aid and comfort a Jew in Hitler’s Germany. But I am sure that if I had lived in Germany during that time, I would have aided and comforted my Jewish brothers even though it was illegal. If I lived in a Communist country today where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I believe I would openly advocate disobeying these anti-religious laws …

I have no fear about the outcome of our struggle in Birmingham, even if our motives are presently misunderstood. We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with the destiny of America. Before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, we were here. Before the pen of Jefferson scratched across the pages of history the majestic word of the Declaration of Independence, we were here …If the inexpressible cruelties of slavery could not stop us, the opposition we now face will surely fail. We will win our freedom because the sacred heritage of our nation and the eternal will of God are embodied in our echoing demands …

Never before have I written a letter this long–or should I say a book? I’m afraid that it is much too long to take your precious time. I can assure you that it would have been much shorter if I had been writing from a comfortable desk, but what else is there to do when you are alone for days in the dull monotony of a narrow jail cell other than write long letters, think strange thoughts, and pray long prayers?

If I have said anything in this letter that is an understatement of the truth and is indicative of an unreasonable impatience, I beg you to forgive me. If I have said anything in this letter that is an overstatement of the truth and is indicative of my having a patience that makes me patient with anything less than brotherhood, I beg God to forgive me.

Yours for the cause of Peace and Brotherhood,


*** anaphora — “the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses”



One thought on “When . . . . Then

  1. When you attend a Church where he preaches
    When you see his spiritual example day by day
    When you see his physical example in helping with every project
    When you see the Church filled every holiday or weather condition,
    THEN you will understand the phrase “servant of God” and “expositor of the WORD”


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