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Archive for Sermons


Three Ideas For Sermon Series

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When I served in the local church I was always preaching a series of sermons, which meant that I was always brainstorming ideas for upcoming series of sermons. Sometimes they were expositions of entire books in the Bible or lengthy passages such as the Sermon of the Mount. Other times I enjoyed preaching a series on a biblical character such as Joseph, Moses or David. At other times I would do a thematic series on a topic such as prayer, fear, or suffering. I am a planner and like to have a general idea of where I was going over the course of the coming year. And I was always open to a series idea even though I may not get to it for a year.

Here are three series I really enjoyed preaching that I want to suggest. I think they were beneficial and well received, especially by our younger families.

The first suggestion is on the subject of contentment. I wasn’t a stewardship series, per se, but I did deal with what it meant to be content. I tried to answer the question, “How much is enough?” There are great texts available for this type of series filled with rich word images from the original languages.

The second is on simplicity. This could be timely, given the fact that we are coming off a world wide pandemic that basically forced us to simplify our lives. Many people, especially young families, discovered that they could have margin in their lives both in terms of time and money, and may be reluctant to give up the ground they gained.

The final suggestion is akin to the series on simplicity. It is on sabbath, and how to discover rest in a world of unrest. This topic is found throughout the Bible, and books such as Living the Sabbath by Norman Wirzba provide a lot of insight as to why Sabbath was important in history and remains important today.

There are many resources available on these topics. If you are intrigued by any of these ideas, I’d be glad to visit with you further. You can find examples of these sermons by using the search bar or the tag cloud on this site.

Categories : Pastors, Preaching, Sermons
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The Hardest Part of Preaching

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Most preachers have a routine of sermon preparation and delivery that has become natural and even reflexive. Some preachers prefer the study and writing, while others prefer the act of delivering the sermon. In order to be effective, preachers have to find a level of proficiency in both, otherwise the sermon will either be all heat and no light, or vice versa.

For me, the hardest part of sermon preparation has been the decisions surrounding what not to say. Allow me to explain.

I believe that the Bible contains the inexhaustible truths of God. So to select a text and then attempt to plumb the depths of every insight is impossible. When a pastor prepares a sermon, he or she brings all of their prior knowledge to the table, then adds the collective wisdom of reference works, commentaries, historical contexts, original languages and multiple English translations. This collection of scholarship, added to the revelation of God’s Spirit and personal experience, can yield an overwhelming amount of information. The temptation preachers have is to try to bring the entirety of their preparation into the pulpit. Thus, the sermon sounds like a book report rather than a message from God.

Years ago I had the honor of interviewing preaching and New Testament author and professor Fred Craddock for a paper I was writing for my doctoral program. When I asked him the question, “What is the hardest part of preaching?”, he quickly replied, “determining what not to say.” That insight has perhaps helped me in my personal preaching more than any other I have learned.

If preachers are disciplined about developing a “main idea” (Haddon Robinson), everything that is prepared for delivery must pass across that bar of judgment. The main idea serves as the litmus test for what is to be included and what is to be saved for another sermon on another date. If the information does not serve the main idea, then edit it, and focus more on illustration and application. One idea presented with clarity will have more impact than ten points that are unclear and overwhelming.

Remember, the goal of preaching is transformation of lives, not transmission of information.

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Why Sermons Are Boring

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An old time evangelist named Vance Havner once quipped that “most churches start at 11:00 sharp and end at 12:00 dull.” This elicits a chuckle from many pew occupants simply because it is often true. One of the arguments against church attendance has been the criticism that sermons are boring. Is it still possible in today’s information age? I have probably delivered more than my share of boring sermons, and I have a theory as to why I and many others are also guilty.

I believe the reason that sermons are boring, or at least perceived to be as such, is that they are written for the eye and not the ear. In other words, they are prepared much like one would write an essay and not a speech. Essays can be very compelling to read, but you may not wish to have one read to you.

So what is the difference between writing for the eye and writing for the ear? Let me offer some observations about the distinctions.

First, writing for the eye includes longer sentences that can be more detailed and complex than typical speech. Speech can be be delivered in smaller bites and utilize repetition for emphasis that writing would not include.

Second, writing for the eye is more formal whereas writing for the ear is more informal and conversational. This is the difference between a saying a length of distance is 300 yards versus saying the same length equals three football fields.

The third difference is that writing for the eye is timeless and can be reviews over and over. Writing for the ear is timely, making its impact in an exact moment of time.

Next, writing for the eye is a one way conversation while writing for the ear is a two way conversation. Writers who publish papers and books do not have the benefit of immediate feedback that speakers do, allowing them to make on the fly edits based on the audience’s responses.

Finally, writers for the eye depend on punctuation to deliver emphasis compared to the speakers use of gestures and volume to deliver emphasis. An unspoken gesture, facial expression, or a pregnant pause are all tools that a speaker possesses that cannot easily be replicated on the printed page.

Sermon and speech writing is unlike any other form of writing, in that it is intended to be heard. Wise pastors and speakers will identify the difference between writing for the eye and for the ear, and will use that to enhance their preaching.

Categories : Preaching, Sermons
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Live Stream @ FBCDSM

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For the past year, the Tech Team at First Baptist Church has been working to develop a live video stream of our Sunday Morning Worship services. Through the dedicated work of these talented members, we are up and running!

The full worship service streams live each week beginning at 10:00 am. Following the live stream, the sermon videos are archived on our website to allow people to watch them at their convenience. The production quality is in high definition, making the viewing experience comfortable and enjoyable.

We made this investment for several reasons. First, we wanted our services to be accessible to people who cannot be present with us in person. From people who are traveling to those who are home bound, we have discovered that the live stream provides the viewer with a sense of community, albeit virtual. Another reason we made this step was to provide people who are exploring faith or looking for a church home a safe and anonymous experience prior to taking the step to worship with us in person. Finally, we wanted to provide support to small communities of faith that are either without a pastor or who can no longer afford a pastor. As we move forward, I’m sure there will be many other reasons that we’ll discover.

I’d like to invite you to check it out. You can find the live stream, the archived video, and yes, even the archived audio only sermons at www.fbcdsm.org/media. There you will find the links and clear instructions on how to engage.

My prayer is that God will use our new ministry for his Glory. And, we’re thankful to Him for the technology that makes it possible!

Categories : Sermons, Worship
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Who’s the G.O.A.T.?

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Sports has brought us an interesting new acronymn: G.O.A.T., which stands for Greatest Of All Time. As Americans, we’re interested in such debate.

For instance, what is the greatest television show of all time? Certainly we have our prejudices, but if you base the question on the longest running broadcast, the answer would be The Simpsons, which has aired for 28 seasons. If you base it on the most episodes ever, then the answer would be Gunsmoke, which aired 635 separate shows.

What is the greatest movie of all time? Again, we have our favorites. But if you look to the box office, the movie Avatar would be number one, grossing $2.7 billion including international ticket sales. If you don’t like that metric, you can choose one of three movies, each of which earned eleven Academy Awards: Ben Hur, Titanic, and the Lord of the Rings.

Can you guess the greatest Rock band of all time? Total record sales would indicate the Beatles are the G.O.A.T., amassing sales topping 271 million records. But if you base the question on Grammy Awards, you would have to tip your hat to the band U2’s 22 trophies.

We tend to measure greatness in terms of longest, biggest, best or most. But Jesus defined it in other terms. When asked about what constitutes greatness, Jesus picked up a child from the listener’s midst and began to teach. (Matthew 18:1-14)

Jesus used a child to illustrate greatness in the kingdom. It wasn’t because children are pure or innocent. Its because children in Jesus’ day had no status or significance. They were completely dependent upon adults. While the text contains certain applications to children and children’s ministry, children in this instance are a metaphor for the values of discipleship. Faithful disciples of Jesus are, by nature, vulnerable, powerless and dependent. Our path to Kingdom greatness is paved with such genuine humility.

In light of this truth, we need to be careful with how we estimate our spiritual progress and the progress of our fellow disciples. Are we self reliant or God reliant? Are we powerful or powerless? Do we walk in pride or in humility? Are we great by human standards or by the standard that God has set forth?

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Jars of Clay

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On Sunday I will begin a new sermon series titled, “Jars of Clay.” The goal of this series is to demonstrate how God uses our weakness as a platform to display his surpassing power. For example,

Moses said, “I am afraid.”
Deborah said, “I am unqualified.”
Gideon said, “I am uncertain.”
Samson said, “I am self reliant.”
Nehemiah said, “This is hard.”
David said, “I am inexperienced.”
Jonah said, “I don’t understand.”
Paul said, “I am weak.”

In the lives of familiar characters and stories, we’ll discover how God enables us to serve in the midst of the cracks and imperfections of our lives. I hope you’ll check in from week to week and find encouragement to let the treasure of Jesus shine through your jar of clay.

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Greatest. Sermon. Ever

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SERMONN.jpg Pete Cornell

Who is a good person? How does someone learn to become a good person? These were the kind of questions Jesus addressed in The Sermon on the Mount. This weekend in worship I’m beginning a new series out of the Gospel of Matthew based on this epic text. Check out the artwork for the series provided by our very own Pete Cornell.

Categories : Preaching, Sermons
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New Sermon Series

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This Sunday I will begin a new five week sermon series titled, “Contentment.” Here are the titles:

“The Man Who Needed Nothing” (John 4:31-34)
“The Problem with Contentment” (Exodus 20:17)
“The Pathway to Contentment” (Philippians 4:10-14)
“The Profit of Contentment” (1 Timothy 6:3-10)
“The Profession of Contentment” (Hebrews 13:5-6)

If you’re in Des Moines, join us for worship. If you’re not in Des Moines or participate in another church, feel free to listen to my weekly podcasts at www.fbcdsm.org.

Categories : Preaching, Sermons
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New Sermon Series: iBelieve

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“The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believed that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name” (John 20:30-31, NLT).

The Gospel of John contains seven miracles, called signs. According to John, each of these miracles served a dual purpose: to reveal Jesus as the Son of God and to foster faith that results in life. Each miracle addresses a specific need that robs us of life. But rather than face our circumstances with passive resignation, we can make a different choice. We can choose to believe, even in the face of impossible odds. It’s our belief, not our courage, that produces life!

Beginning August 28 I’m going to do a seven week series that will show how Jesus confronted seven specific threats that rob people like us of life and how He demonstrated the pathway to life in the midst of those challenges.

August 28: Disappointment (John 2:1-11)
September 4: Helplessness (John 4:46-54)
September 11: Habitual Patterns of Sin (John 5:1-15)
September 18: Inadequacy (John 6:1-15)
September 25: Fear (John 6:16-21)
October 2: Lack of Direction (John 9:1-12)
October 9: Death (John 11:1-44)

If you’re in the Des Moines area, I’d like to invite you to visit us at Ashworth Road. You can find our location and service times by visiting our website by finding www.ashworthroad.com. If you’re not local, stay tuned to my blog. I’ll be posting follow ups to each weekend service. I think you’ll be encouraged and challenged by this series, and most important of all, find life!

Categories : Jesus, John, Life, Sermons
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New Sermon Series

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This weekend I’ll begin a new series on the Kingdom Parables of Matthew 13. The series is titled “Right Now.” I’ll be blogging in the upcoming weeks about the series or you can listen to the podcasts online at http://ashworthroad.com.

Categories : Kingdom of God, Sermons
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