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Ten Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better! (Part 3)

Friends:  My new booklet is entitled “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take To Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!” will be done soon and I will be giving it away on this blog.  It will be a pdf or ebook that you can download and share with your pastor or preacher. Chapter one was entitled “Step One: Do the Work!”  Chapter two was entitled “Step Two: Develop a Clear Outline!”  Here’s Chapter Three:

This might have been my picture when I was younger. Not sure.

STEP THREE: Expository Versus Topical Messages!
I heard about one preacher who received a compliment after his Sunday morning sermon. The elderly lady didn’t realize what she said, but what came out was, “You are one of the best suppository preachers I have ever heard!” [She obviously meant “expository”].

Expository messages are a means of working one’s way through an entire book of the Bible. They typically focus on one main text — the next section coming up in that study. Topical sermons, on the other hand, seek to give the overall Scriptures’ teaching on a particular subject from a number of passages.

Topical sermons are often quite helpful for those who are new to the faith. They give the preacher the opportunity to briefly explain the overall teaching of the Bible on a subject. One danger of topical sermons is that the preacher might only preach on the subjects that are interesting to him. He might begin riding his hobby horse. [Someone has asked, “What is the difference between riding a hobby horse and riding a real horse?” The answer? “You can get off a real horse!”]

Expositional messages, however, focus on one main text at a time. They are seeking to expose the point the passage is making. Exegesis, a fancy term which literally means “to lead out,” is the art of unfolding what is truly there in the passage. We can read into a passage what isn’t there — and that’s called “eisegesis.” If someone says to you, “Your sermon was the best example of eisegesis I’ve ever heard!”, they are not complimenting you.

I would recommend that most of your sermons ought to be of the expository kind. One advantage is that you are working your way through an entire book of the Bible. So if you are doing a sermon series on the Gospel of Matthew, and this Sunday’s message is on Matthew 19, no one can really complain that you spoke on the topic of divorce. That was your next preaching section!

 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in preaching

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord: Psalm 145

Psalm 145

A psalm of praise. Of David.screen-shot-2017-01-01-at-6-56-08-am

I will exalt you, my God the King;
    I will praise your name for ever and ever.
Every day I will praise you
    and extol your name for ever and ever.

Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.

8 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.

9 The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
10 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.

The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
14 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
15 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
16 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing.

17 The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
18 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
19 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
20 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.

21 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
    Let every creature praise his holy name
    for ever and ever.

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2017 in character of God

 

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Ten Steps You Can Take to Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better! (Part 2)

Friends:

My new booklet is entitled “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take To Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!” and I will be giving it away in the next few weeks after I have finalized it.

It will be a pdf or ebook that you can download and share with your pastor or preacher. Chapter one was entitled “Step One: Do the Work!”  Here’s the second chapter.

This might well be your pastor. I just don’t know.

STEP TWO: Develop a Clear Outline!
Most sermons we preach should have a strong outline so the congregation can follow the progression of the passage. Outlining takes some practice, but there is a real joy in seeing the congregation anticipating your next point because your outline is easy to follow.

One of the many mistakes I have made in preaching is failing to have a KEYWORD for my sermon. A keyword is a word you use in each of the major steps in your outline as you announce your next point. For example, a word like “thing” should almost never be used by a preacher: “The next THING we notice here in Luke 12 about worry is . . .” If the message is on the sin of worry, a far better keyword would be something like “aspect” or “failure” or “mistake.”

If I were going to preach on Luke 12:22-31, I would probably use the term “waste.” Here’s the passage:

22 Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. 24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! 25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life[b]? 26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?

27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.

I might say, “The first WASTE of worry is that it causes us to devalue our lives (vv. 22-24).” “The second WASTE of worry is that it is unproductive (vv. 25-26).” “The third WASTE of worry is that it causes us to forget God’s care for us (vv. 27-28).” “The fourth WASTE of worry is that it can make us look like pagans (vv. 29-30).” “The fifth WASTE of worry is that it is a barrier to our seeking God’s kingdom (v. 31).”

Of course I would want to elaborate on (and illustrate) each of those points, but you see the value of a well-chosen keyword? Apart from the separate points, you are making an overall statement that worry is a WASTE!

If you have studied your text sufficiently, sometimes a keyword will jump out at you. But please don’t use the word “thing.” Ever again. Promise?

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2017 in preaching

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord: Psalm 144

Psalm 144

Of David.

Praise be to the Lord my Rock,screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-6-18-58-am
    who trains my hands for war,
    my fingers for battle.
He is my loving God and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer,
my shield, in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues peoples under me.

Lord, what are human beings that you care for them,
    mere mortals that you think of them?
They are like a breath;
    their days are like a fleeting shadow.

Part your heavens, Lord, and come down;
    touch the mountains, so that they smoke.
Send forth lightning and scatter the enemy;
    shoot your arrows and rout them.
Reach down your hand from on high;
    deliver me and rescue me
from the mighty waters,
    from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
    whose right hands are deceitful.

I will sing a new song to you, my God;
    on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you,
10 to the One who gives victory to kings,
    who delivers his servant David.

From the deadly sword 11 deliver me;
    rescue me from the hands of foreigners
whose mouths are full of lies,
    whose right hands are deceitful.

12 Then our sons in their youth
    will be like well-nurtured plants,
and our daughters will be like pillars
    carved to adorn a palace.
13 Our barns will be filled
    with every kind of provision.
Our sheep will increase by thousands,
    by tens of thousands in our fields;
14     our oxen will draw heavy loads.
There will be no breaching of walls,
    no going into captivity,
    no cry of distress in our streets.
15 Blessed is the people of whom this is true;
    blessed is the people whose God is the Lord.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2017 in pacifism

 

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Ten Specific Steps You Can Take To Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better! (Step #1)

Friends:

I will be giving away my new booklet entitled “Ten Specific Steps You Can Take To Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!” in the next few weeks as I finalize it.

This is not me. Nor is this your pastor.

It will be a pdf or ebook that you can download and inflict on, I mean, give to, your pastor or preacher.  Here’s the first chapter.

Ten Specific Steps You Can Take
To Make Your Sermons and Preaching Better!

The American humorist Will Rogers reportedly said, “I refuse to accept my religion from anyone who earns his living only by the sweat of his jaw!”

Preaching is a tough business, but it is a primary, God-appointed means of communicating His truth. As refreshing and helpful as group Bible studies may be, there is no substitute for the clear, authoritative proclamation of God’s Word. And in our western context, that usually happens up front, behind a podium or lectern, with a hopefully attentive congregation listening.

I grew up preaching after getting saved as a teenager. And I’ve made every preaching mistake in the book. I’ve also taught homiletics and public speaking and have evaluated scores of sermons from students who paid for the class (and unsuspecting preachers who didn’t realize they were being critiqued for free).

So, here are ten specific steps you can take as a preacher of God’s Word that may well help you become more effective and more confident in your preaching.

STEP ONE: Do the Work!
There is no substitute for spending the necessary hours pouring over your biblical passage to understand what God is saying. Oh, sure, you or I can purchase sermons off the internet, but that’s just spiritual prostitution, don’t you think?

One great temptation for preachers is that we have an idea of what we want the text to say, and might be inclined to force that point onto the passage. As one ditty put it, “Wonderful things in the Bible I see — When they are put there by you and by me.” Make sure you’ve done the hard work of observation and interpretation before you jump to application. The great commentator William Barclay wrote, ”You will find a certain type of preacher and evangelist who claims that he is entirely dependent on the Holy Spirit. It is a blasphemous thing to saddle the Holy Spirit with the blame for rambling, wearisome, and unprepared effusions.” (Fishers of Men, p. 18).

I believe it was Donald Grey Barnhouse who was asked by one of his preaching students his opinion of the young man’s sermon. Maybe Barnhouse was having a bad day, but the story I heard tells us that Barnhouse said, “Son, if your text had had leprosy, your sermon would not have caught it!”

Doing the hard work of study will increase your confidence as a preacher. Time, of course, is of the essence. And some of us need to carve out sufficient time to do what we were called to do.

I try to blog on topics or texts that I will eventually preach on, so I’m trying to think ahead and not wait to the last minute to prepare my sermons. I’ve recently been doing a sermon series entitled “Jonah: Belief Contradicted by Behavior.” And I’ve been writing posts every day as I go through that short book. This particular set of posts won’t be published until a couple of months after I’ve preached the series, but it’s been a very useful exercise for me each morning. Start a WordPress blog. It’s free and will help you in your labor.

Walter Burghardt in his book Preaching: The Art and the Craft, said, ”To me, the unprepared homilist is a menace. I do not minimize divine inspiration; I simply suggest it is rarely allotted to the lazy.” Do the work. Ask God the Holy Spirit to guide you in making wise decisions about the time you invest in studying the passage you will preach on.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2017 in preaching

 

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Time for a Great Cartoon: Dads and Answers!

screen-shot-2016-09-23-at-6-52-21-pmSometimes we dads don’t know the answer!  Actually, I admire Calvin’s dad for being creative with his non-answers!  Teach the child to sort truth from error, I always say!

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2017 in fathers

 

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Psalms of the Salter: Some Thoughts on Really Living for the Lord: Psalm 143

Psalm 143

A psalm of David.screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-7-11-34-am

Lord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
    for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
    like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
    my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
    I thirst for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
10 Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

11 For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
12 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2017 in prayers

 

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