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Archive for Preaching


The Gardens of God

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On Sunday I will begin a new sermon series on the five major gardens found in Scripture. The series is based on a book by Murray Andrew Pura titled, Rooted: Reflections on the Gardens in Scripture. Here’s my speaking schedule:
March 10: Eden: The Garden of Birth
March 17: En Gedi: The Garden of Love
March 24: Gethsemene: The Garden of Death
March 31: The Tomb: The Garden of Immortality
April 7: The New Heaven and Earth: The Garden of the New World

I’d like to thank Mark Marturello for providing the graphic artwork for our worship folders during this series. I hope you’ll join us for worship. You can access sermon recordings from our website, www.fbcdsm.org if you cannot attend our services.

Categories : Preaching, Worship
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Training Camp

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My son left for fall football camp a couple of weeks ago. This is a big season for him, given it is his final year of college eligibility. As we talked I asked him what he would be doing in fall camp. His simple response? “Go to meetings, check out equipment, and practice.” This conversation led me to think that our church needed our own training camp to get ready for the fall. I have developed a three week sermon series titled, Training Camp, based on Romans chapter 12. Here’s my preaching itinerary:

August 26 “Go to Meeting” (Romans 12:1-2)
September 2 “Check Out Your Equipment” (Romans 12:3-8)
September 9 “Put it into Practice” (Romans 12:9-16)

The picture that is part of this post will be the bulletin graphic that we will use for worship each week. Each week I’ll post on those topics. Thanks for checking in from time to time and to those of you who have recommended this site to your friends. God Bless!

Categories : Church, Preaching
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The Comedian

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I did my doctoral studies in the field of preaching. In my personal library reside some 75 volumes written by preachers for preachers. I took every course my seminary offered on the topic and still have the notes. I have verbatims that I’ve written and typed from interviews that I conducted with some of America’s greatest pulpiteers. Yet one of the most helpful resources that I maintain in my collection is a documentary on Jerry Seinfeld titled, The Comedian.

The Comedian is an 87 minute DVD that chronicles Jerry Seinfeld’s return to stand up comedy following his successful television career. Seinfeld determined to return to comedy from the ground up. He tossed all of his material and committed to begin with all new, never performed material. I appreciate the honesty of the work which reveals Seinfeld’s struggles and even his failures.

It’s definitely entertaining, especially if you’re a fan of stand up comedy or Seinfeld’s brand of humor. But to the eye of those who have to do any form of public speaking, the documentary holds several insightful lessons.

For example, it was interesting to see the stand ups struggle with ego, insecurity, and vulnerability. One would think that these experienced entertainers would be numb to audience opinion, but they were surprisingly sensitive to audience response. Some were very open to feedback from peers, while others worked as lone rangers, rejecting any feedback, including positive comments.

I admired their passion and single focus shared among members of the comedy circuit. They ate, slept, and drank comedy. Their lives off stage were intertwined with their craft.

Their work ethic was impressive. Far from the fun and games one might imagine, they described their work as “the daily grind.” Like preaching, the performance was the “fun” part. But the good ones shared one thing in common: the daily practice of writing, rehearsing, and evaluating.

My favorite part, though, was to see the struggle they shared when it came to developing new material. At one point, Seinfeld is congratulated for having accrued eight minutes of brand new material in his first three months of work. As I listened to this section, I laughed at the thought that pastors are routinely required to develop between 20-25 minutes of new material each week, atop the rest of their pastoral duties.

If you preach or teach with any regularity, The Comedian will serve as an insightful and encouraging word. If you view it through the lens of your pulpit ministry, you might even find yourself helped in a hopeful kind of way.

Categories : Books, Preaching
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Preaching as Worship, by Michael Quicke, is the third publication by the C.W. Koller Professor of Preaching and Communication at Northern Seminary in Chicago. His previous two works focused on preaching as an act of leadership and how preachers can work toward a cooperative communication relationship with the audience.

Quicke’s latest book also takes a specialize direction, namely that of incorporating the preaching event into worship as an act of worship. Those of us who serve vocationally in pastoral ministry are well acquainted with the challenge the author describes in the opening pages. Often churches view worship as units of time segmented into functional parts with their own purposeful outcomes. Music is music, prayers prayers, offerings offerings, and preaching preaching. Rather than see the parts, Quicke offers practical suggestions on how to incorporate the parts into the whole. He is especially interested in helping pastors and preachers learn how to incorporate their preaching into the whole hour and view the preaching act as an act of worship.

This book is more theological than practical, and is best suited for those who are experienced in preaching. If preachers are already cognizant of the need to see the sermon as part of a larger whole, then this book will offer some helpful ideas, but the primary goal of the book is already accomplished. If preachers view their sermon as special or unique from the rest of the worship hour, then their thinking will be challenged and hopefully inspired to incorporate the book’s recommendations.

Categories : Books, Preaching
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The Seven NEXT Sayings of Christ

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The week after Easter I began a new series titled The Seven Next Sayings of Christ. Many are familiar with the seven last sayings of Christ He uttered on the cross. But I wanted to focus on the first post resurrection comments from Christ because I felt they were timely and appropriate for where we are in culture today.

While I take credit for the content of the sermons, I cannot take credit for the concept. I came across a book by the same title several years ago written by a pastor named Shane Stanford. I liked his approach and immediately thought it had the potential to be an important post Easter series that would lead our church up to those summer months.

For the majority of my ministry I’ve tried to plan my preaching calendar in 4-12 week increments. I like to know where I’m going, and those of you who communicate regularly know the terrible feeling that looks week in and week out at the most important book ever published and utter, “I can’t think of anything to preach.” Planning series certainly is a tremendous time saving measure, for sure. But the second major benefit it that it helps keep me balanced. Everyone has a homiletical hobby horse that comes easily or naturally. Every pastor also has subjects (ahem…stewardship) that they would simply prefer to never address. Planning helps make sure that congregations get a balanced diet.

Those of you who regularly follow my blog by dedication or by subscription know that the lion’s share of my posts are reflections of the previous week’s sermon. You are also aware of the fact that I’ve been out of routine these past couple of weeks, and for that I apologize. I hope to get caught up over the next several days and continue to share through this forum. Thank you for your support and encouraging feedback. If no one ever read it, I’d still enjoy the practice. The fact that you do read it is icing on the cake.

Categories : Preaching
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Of the many benefits I received through completing my Doctor of Ministry program, none had a more profound impact than being exposed to the writings of Fred Craddock. Craddock’s story is interesting. He was a New Testament professor that was called upon to teach homiletics. Without any advanced training in teaching preaching, Craddock undertook the responsibility as a humble learner. No one has been more surprised than Craddock that he would become one of the most influential voices on the topic of preaching in the 20th century. I poured over the pages of his monographs, and had the privilege of conducting a two hour phone interview with him in 2003.

His latest release, Craddock on the Craft of Preaching, is yet another creative contribution to the field of preaching. Lee Sparks and Kathryn Hayes Sparks have transcribed tapes from Craddock’s lectures and seminars and put them in a book format. Each chapter highlights some of Craddock’s most profound insights on preaching regarding preparation and delivery. One of the things that sets Craddock apart from other writers on the subject is the amount of attention he gives to understanding the audience. Those chapters alone are invaluable and make the purchase of the book worthwhile.

I would recommend this book to those who are veterans in the pulpit who are in need of some encouragement. Craddock is not trendy as far as the 21st century pulpit is concerned, yet his principles are timeless and refreshing. If you’ve not read Craddock before, I would suggest you begin with the book Preaching. If you have read Craddock before, then your experience will be enriched by this volume. I believe that this is the kind of book that you’ll highlight and refer to time and time again.

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Last week, Dr. Robert Jeffress created a storm of controversy with his personal endorsement of Texas Governor Rick Perry for President. The reaction to this has been strong, given that Jeffress cited the Southern Baptist stance on treating Mormonism as a cult. I have always been a seperation of church and state person, siding with those who believe that there should be freedom of religion, freedom for religion, and freedom from religion. While the prophetic pulpit should speak truth to power concerning social ills, bi-partisan pulpit endorsements have not been my style nor my leaning.

Today’s Des Moines Register ran Cal Thomas’ syndicated take on pulpit endorsements and I think he did a pretty good job of dealing with some of the concerns. You can read it by clicking here. What do you think? Do you think its appropriate for pastors to endorse candidates?


Speaking with Conviction

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This video expresses the importance of speaking with clarity and conviction. Very funny! Very true!

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African American Preaching

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Here’s a nice article from CNN.com on African American preaching in America. Click here for the article.

Categories : Preaching
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What is Gospel Preaching? (part 4)

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One person (Jesus) made provision for our salvation through two events, the crucificion and resurrection. Through those two events God makes two promises to people.

In Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, he elaborated by saying, “Repent…and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the gift is for you and for your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:38-39, HCSB).

The first promise God makes is that we can be forgiven of our sin. The word for forgiveness is a financial term that speaks of the elimination of a debt. Have you ever had a debt forgiven? When my wife and I were first married, our first major purchase was a new car. We bought a 1985 Mercury Lynx (the Mercury version of the Ford Escort). We financed it for 60 months and kept the car until it was paid off. I still remember the amount of the payments: $159.23. We wrote sixty checks for that amount until finally we were able to tear the final coupon out of the payment book and mailed it in. We were so happy to truly own the car, even with the door dings, soda stained upholstery, and 100,000+ miles on the odometer.

The problem with sin is that there is no end to the amortization schedule. We can’t pay it off by our own efforts through good deeds. The reason being that good deeds may help us feel better as we contemplate the fruit of sin (the bad things we do), but it doesn’t deal with the root of our sin. The Bible teaches that we are born with a tendency or a bent toward sin and self. Have you ever noticed that you don’t have to teach a child to lie, hit, or grab? No, you have to teach a child to tell the truth, restrain their anger, and to share. We are born from birth with a bent to sin and self. Its in our DNA, and there’s not enough good deeds to overcome that. Yet Jesus offers forgiveness–elimination of the debt–of sin. That’s good news.

But wait, there’s more!

Not only does God promise that he will provide forgiveness. He promises the Holy Spirit. So what’s that all about? According to Ephesians 1, the Holy Spirit is God’s pledge of promise on our eternal life. Again we see another financial term. If you’ve ever purchased a home, you know that in order to complete the contract offer you have to write a check to accompany your offer. That check is called earnest money. It’s a good faith promise that you intend to fulfill your contractual obligation in accordance with the terms of the sale offer. Or to put it simply, its a deposit.

When a person responds to the gospel God fulfills two promises. Not only does he forgive our sin, he also gives the gift of the Holy Spirit who serves as God’s pledge of promise that the faith we exhibit will indeed result in eternal life right now and a home in heaven when we die.

Gospel preaching calls out the good news that one person through two events offers two promises. It’s that simple. And it’s something everyone of us is called to do.

Categories : Acts, Gospel, Jesus, Preaching
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