Archives For Preaching

School Kids

“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service.” So wrote the elder Paul to younger Timothy (1 Timothy 1:12 NLT)

Paul’s words are the introduction to the Bible’s three volume textbook on pastoral ministry (1 & 2 Timothy and Titus). And in that introduction, Paul issues a fairly stern warning to Timothy to watch out for three of the biggest false sources of security and confidence for those who lead in ministry. They were, and are, and have been for me in seasons when I’m not on guard…

1. Our preparation.

That is, we begin to rely on what we know, and we begin to assume that what we know is enough for us to coast. Here’s the thing. When God called me to ministry, I knew pretty much nothing. I was still cutting my teeth on trying to read through the New Testament for the first time. In my early years of ministry, I was a sponge. I learned enough before Bible college that I tested out of the required Old and New Testament survey classes and jumped right into some sophomore-level…

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Preaching and Teaching at Grace Hills ChurchWhen it comes to personal growth, the world has plenty of solutions, and all of them are incomplete. I like inspirational quotes and pithy sayings, but I can also feel the difference between wishful thinking and truth backed by divine revelation. This is what makes the difference between fortune cookies and biblical proverbs. God has inspired His word in such a way that it shapes us, molds us, and forms us as we hear it taught and expounded.

Practical teaching is one of the five things God uses to shape and grow our faith. The others are providential relationships, private disciplines, personal ministry, and pivotal circumstances. (I didn’t come up with this list – Andy Stanley gets the credit, but I agree with him completely.) It is because practical teaching plays such a prominent role in the spiritual growth of people that I’m absolutely passionate about getting it right on Sundays when I preach. God even says of His Word,

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful…

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HatsJeff wears multiple hats. He pastors a church and works full-time in the medical field. After a long night shift, Jeff and I at a local coffee shop. Although I knew he must have been exhausted, the topic of local church ministry brought about an energy and passion in his voice.

In the midst of talking about current trends in ministry and the needs of churches, Jeff made an interesting comment that caught my attention. He said that he preferred bi-vocational ministry because of all of its advantages.

He went on to explain that even though many full-time pastors have given him the “bi-vocational pastoring is second-rate vibe,” he sees things differently.

The advantages to bi-vocational pastoring that he shared with me excited my heart and caused me to wonder if God might be preparing to raise up a new generation of pastors from men who already have careers in progress.

For years, older pastors have worried that there may not be a shortage of new pastors to carry on the ministry. However, taking bi-vocational pastoring into consideration immediately multiplies the pool of candidates. And, once you read about these advantages, I think you’ll see them as…

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Sunshine

It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine…

That’s a line from the chorus of a hit song by the band R.E.M. And I think, surprisingly, there’s a great deal of truth in it.

I was pulled aside after a Sunday morning service not long ago by an attender who wanted to know when I was going to be warning the congregation about the impending crash of the world economy that Illuminati would be orchestrating in order to decrease the human population by up to 90%. After several minutes of hearing of the danger of vaccines, conspiracies with communist nations, and the malicious intent of the heads of states, I finally held up a hand and said, “Even if this were all true, I’d be completely comfortable preaching exactly what I just preached.”

I believe, at the time, I was in a series called Roots based on the book of Colossians. We were covering such subjects as how to spot real love, how to grow deeper in Christ, and how to live a spiritually fruitful life.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been confronted about my lack of urgency about end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it issues. There are also these pesky…

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Passion

I’ve been there. I’ve been burned out and depressed, discouraged and defeated. I’ve led in atmospheres where every creative idea was smothered by questions rooted in fear. I’ve been distracted by secondary interests. I’ve given into my own emotions and have isolated myself from healthy, life-giving relationships.

And I’ve recovered. That doesn’t mean I’m where I need to be – I’m still on the journey and have a long way to go. But I’ve learned the hard way how to bounce back to passionate preaching and leadership in the local church. From my own past and my own painful experiences, let me shoot from the hip with five big ways you can bounce back from burnout and be a passionate leader once again.

  1. Repent of sin. Dig it out of the depths of your heart – the secret recesses where no one else sees but God and own your sin, especially the seven most life-stealing sins: pride, lust, laziness, envy, unholy anger, gluttony, and greed. If you’re hanging onto these, it’s no wonder you’re feeling defeated. You’re living as though victory isn’t already yours in Christ.
  2. Read the Word. Let’s be honest. Most of the time, when we’ve given…

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mother's day sermon ideasI am studying this week for a Mother’s Day Sermon I will be preaching.

When I start the message prep process, I always begin with prayer and then find a text in the Bible that I will preach.

Since I am preaching on Mother’s Day, I did a study on all the passages of scripture that I might want to preach for a sermon about mothers.

The best sermon ideas come from scripture. So here are some Mothers Day sermon ideas for you.

My hope is that this list will be helpful to save some of you the time of having to find the passages on your own.

Mother’s Day Bible Verses

Note: All scripture below is from the ESV translation.

Jesus Takes Care Of His Mother

John 19:25-27

25 but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

Timothy Is The Product Of…

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Head on cross

About seven hundred years before Jesus died on the cross, Isaiah wrote about it in extraordinary detail…

Who has believed our message? To whom has the LORD revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the LORD’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.

We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.

All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his…

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WolfI’ve never stood in the midst of a large pasture-tending sheep (the kind that say “baa-baa”). However, I have served as a shepherd of a local church (the kind that say “amen,” “God bless,” and “what time is the pot-luck”).

The Bible’s word-picture of the pastor or church leader as a shepherd is powerful. A shepherd must guide, lead, protect, watch, and guard. It is a weighty responsibility not to be taken lightly.

In Ezekiel 34, God entrust a message to Ezekiel for the purpose of prophesying against the bad shepherds (people leaders) of Israel. In a stunning rebuke, he declares “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock?” (v. 2)

Next, the LORD proceeds to name these leaders’ laundry list of sins:

  • Demanding the choice animals for wool and food while neglecting the people.
  • Not strengthening the weak, healing the sick, or binding up the injured.
  • Not rescuing the strays or searching for the lost.
  • Ruling over the people harshly with brutality.

The result, God declares, is that the sheep were scattered and became prey to the wild animals and outside nations. Can you imagine being…

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Easter SermonToday I sit down to write my Easter sermon. My parishioners may be surprised to know that this sermon is one of the hardest to write. What can I say that hasn’t been said before? How do I keep it fresh and engaging? When I finally get over these concerns and start writing, I’m immediately slammed with another issue – how can I say everything that needs to be said and still keep my sermon down to the time I have to talk?

Here is what I remind myself each time I write the Easter message for my congregation.

Each year is different. The idea that I cannot write anything new or different is a fallacy of my limited imagination. The truth is each year is different. My audience is different. There will be people sitting in our pews that have never heard an Easter message in my church before. Even those lifetime members with perfect attendance haven’t heard the Easter sermon for at least 52 weeks. Most importantly I am different.

I am in a unique place in my Christian journey. This year I will reflect on the resurrection story differently than…

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Garden Cross

Yesterday, we launched a new message series at Grace Hills all about The CROSS. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt the power of God overwhelm me for a message as much as the first in this series, and I think I know why. Paul said it this way:

The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God… Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God.

– 1 Corinthians 1:18, 24 NLT

For non-believers, the message of the cross is foolish. That is, it’s confusing, mysterious, and impossible to completely understand. Yet it demands action. The cross calls for a decision. You can’t ignore the cross.

And for God’s people, those who believe, the message of the cross is the power and wisdom we so desperately need in our lives. There’s nothing deeper to be studied. There’s nothing beyond the cross in the Christian life. Or to put it another way, we never outgrow our need for the gospel of God’s saving grace.

I need to be reminded of the cross every single day. Or to put it in a…

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Yesterday, I asked a group of pastors if they believe minister’s should address pop culture related topics in their messages. Over 1500 pastors responded to the survey. A whopping 74% of them said, “Yes”—ministers can and should talk about culture from the stage.

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Recently, I chatted with Ministry Pass’ Content Manager, Wade Bearden, about pop culture and the Bible. Along with leading our sermon series planning department, Wade is also a film critic in his spare time. His work has been featured on Christianity Today, RogerEbert.com, and ChristandPopCulture.com. He’s also gearing up to help launch a new podcast on film and television in the next few months.

Here’s a quick summary of our conversation about pastors and pop culture:

1. Jesus used the common imagery of his day to illustrate deep, spiritual truths, we should do the same. Seeds, sheep, and vineyards; Jesus utilized all of these pictures to help an ancient middle eastern culture understand the Kingdom of God. We too should leverage our contemporary culture’s interested in film, television, and art to communicate the message of the Bible. Films are modern day parables. Facebook is a contemporary…

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QuestionsEvery church I know of holds weekend worship services. Most of them hold at least 52 a year. Nearly all of them will have visitors show up, even if by accident.

What we don’t often realize is the incredible anxiety most of them are feeling as they walk through our doors.

Their minds are racing with questions.

The answer to those questions will most likely determine whether or not they ever come back.

For some, it may even determine where they spend eternity!

Here’s my unofficial list of a first time guest’s questions:

1. Is the roof going to cave in on me? Or sometimes stated, “Am I going to get struck by lightning?”

Many of our guests are feeling the incredible contrast between their current lifestyle and what they know God wants from them. Because of this, they think that God and them are on the outs and that He’s probably ticked off at them.

2. Is anyone going to acknowledge me?

This is human nature. Whether we are visiting a church or a restaurant or a store. When we enter walk into an organization we believe to be customer-driven, we expect someone to speak to us. In fact,…

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