Sermon Illustration: Using the Bible to Illustrate the Bible

Often the preacher doesn’t have to go very far to find an illustration for his sermon. In fact, he may not even have to leave his seat. Many times, the illustration he needs is right under his nose, in the same book he is studying. At the end of John’s Gospel (John 21:20-23), Peter seeks to compare himself to John. He wants to know what life will look like for the “beloved disciple” (John). In other words, he wants to compare what Jesus said about Peter (John 21: 18-19) to what is going to happen to John. Jesus, of course, doesn’t...

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Barzillai

Imagine with me a conversation between Barzillai and his wife Phoebe (fictional name) after the events of 2 Samuel 19 (specifically 2 Samuel 19:31-39). “Well that’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my life!” Phoebe was furious, mixing the bread dough with increasing intensity. “What do you mean you told the king you would stay here? You mean to tell me you sent Kinham? What were you thinking? Now Kinham gets to be with the king and enjoy all the accompanying benefits while you and I sit here and rot. I don’t mind saying it, Barzillai, but...

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Sermon Illustration: When a Quote Saves the Day

To begin a sermon from John 21:18-19, I confessed my struggle with the text the previous week…   There are some weeks when I am preparing a sermon where the thought for the sermon and direction I feel the text is going comes easily. Like a hot knife through butter. There are other weeks when I wrestle and toss and turn and think and process and read and read and read and nothing seems to come. Like a hot knife through stone. This has been one of those weeks. A hot knife through stone weeks. It’s one thing to know the essence of...

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Eyes See Facts, Not Truth

Frederick Buechner: What we have to remember is that our eyes are not all we have for seeing with, maybe not even the best we have. Our eyes tell us that the mountains are green in summer and in autumn the colors of flame. They tell us that the nose of the little girl is freckled, that her hair usually needs combing, that when she is asleep, her cheek is flushed and moist. They tell us that the photographs of Abraham Lincoln taken a few days before his death show a man who at the age of fifty-six looked as...

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“I Love You. Do You Love Me?”

“Mom, I love you. Do you love me?” I vaguely remember repeating these words to my mom before I was old enough to go to school. My parents confirm this. As a young boy, I would need constant affirmation that I was loved. I am told when various people came in and out of our house (the exterminator, electrician, plumber, friends) they would look puzzled at my parents because I always expressed my love and asked for it in return. If I am being honest, I still have that need. I don’t go around declaring it constantly and I certainly don’t...

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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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