Sermon Illustration: The Most Important Question

To begin a sermon on the conversation between Peter and Jesus in John 21, I started off describing an earlier conversation between these two from Matthew 16… Matthew records for us in the 16th chapter of his book a critical question Jesus poses to His disciples. First, He asks them, “Who are people saying that I am?” They give Jesus some answers. Some were saying Jesus was like Elijah and Isaiah. Some were even saying Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the dead. Then He asks them this question: “Who do YOU say that I am?” I imagine Him looking...

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Teaching vs. Preaching

Eugene Peterson: “Teaching tells us what we need to know and do; it is about us. Preaching tells us who God is and what He does; it is about God. And that is what the Prophet does. He doesn’t talk about God, explain God, or argue for God. Neither does he explain ourselves to ourselves, give counsel on how to survive the exile, provide directions to improve our lives. He preaches the gospel: tells us that God is alive, present, and savingly active in places where we are living and among the people with whom we are living. There are implications, of course, for...

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Sermon Illustration: Facebook and the Awkward Leak

In a recent sermon from John 21, I wanted to set up a situation to get my hearers thinking about being “caught” in an awkward situation. Being that Facebook has been in the news a lot, I decided picked on this social media giant. Here was my approach… For once in my life, I am glad I’m not Mark Zuckerberg. The head honcho at Facebook is going to have to answer some serious questions before congress about leaked information. Not only was it determined that millions of Facebook users’ private information leaked in 2014; we now know that Facebook leaders knew about it and decided to stay...

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Flood the Passage with Questions

Recently, when preparing a sermon from John 21:9-14, a young preacher working on the same text, asked me my approach and how I planned to arrange the sermon. I really wanted to send him an outline and/or the entire manuscript. But he seriously desires to learn and grow in the craft, so I sent him the following. I wanted him to wrestle with the text. It is a list of questions that came to my mind before, during, and even after I typed out a manuscript. What emotional state would have the disciples been in at this point? Think about what you know...

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Sermon Illustration: Annual Physical & Easter Sunday

I would love to hear how some of you preachers started out your Easter sermon this year. To set up a sermon on Peace from John 20, here’s the route I chose… I was blessed this week to have an annual physical with my physician in Nashville. It was so much fun. Apart from having tremendous eyesight and perfect bloodwork, for which I am grateful, there are a couple of things he brought to my attention. First, I have put on some pounds since last year. When I got on the scales, I thought they were playing an early April Fool’s joke...

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Great Challenge for Preachers

From Frederick Buechner: There was a great teacher of the Old Testament at the seminary where I studied for the ministry years ago, and one thing he told us that I have always remembered is that we really can’t hear what the stories of the Bible are saying until we hear them as stories about ourselves. We have to imagine our way into them, he said. We have to imagine ourselves the prodigal son coming home terrified that the door will be slammed in his face when he gets there, only to have the breath all but knocked out of...

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Because He Lives

In response to her grandmother’s question, “What is your favorite Bible story?” A young nine year old girl questioned back, “Do you mean what is my favorite story besides Jesus dying on the cross that every kid in church has heard a hundred times?” Every person who is or grew up as “that kid in church” can relate. Every person who knew “Jesus dying on the cross” would be the right answer to their childhood Sunday School teacher’s questions can empathize. Every person who got new Easter clothes, a nice Easter basket, took Easter pictures, and consumed ham and deviled...

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Sermon Illustration: Preacher, Please Don’t Do This

Preacher, this Sunday is April 1st. This Sunday is also Easter Sunday. That’s right – Easter Sunday is on April Fool’s Day. For those of you who know me, you know I am ALL about using anything to get people’s attention. Even at the risk of being cheesy. Sometimes way too cheesy. So maybe this is a warning to myself as much as it is to any preacher who reads this. If you are anything like me, you will be tempted to start the sermon with a quip about how Jesus’ bones have been found; or that it was determined recently...

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Preacher, It’s Easter. And You’re Not Alone

Preacher, let these words from a legend encourage you… From Eugene Peterson in his book As Kingfishers Catch Fire: “You may find this hard to believe, but the hardest sermon in the year for me to prepare is this Easter sermon. It has always been that way for me. I keep thinking I will get the hang of it and it will get easier, but it doesn’t. Why isn’t it easier? More people come to worship on this day than any other; the music is exuberant, with the choir in full voice and the hymns triumphant; the budding trees and...

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Sermon Illustration: What Would YOU Do?

In an effort to explain God’s harsh treatment of the Egyptians in Exodus 7-10, I asked several questions.  On the surface, it seems like the Father is being remarkably ruthless. Sure, the Egyptians deserved it. Yes, Pharoah continued to harden his heart time and time again. But why did God proceed to pummel the Egyptians over and over and over again? Reading these chapters in Exodus is like watching a fight where the stronger one refuses to relent or let up. Using the following questions as illustrations, here was my best shot to explain: Have you ever walked by a bird’s...

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