Thursday, March 31, 2011

Illustration-a-day: Counterfeit Liberty

St. Augustine, in his autobiography, Confessions, tells a story that we can probably all relate to. As a boy, he and some friends where walking down the road, when they came upon a neighbor’s pear tree. Now, he says, there was nothing particularly appealing about this tree. The fruit was no better than that of their own orchards. And yet, he says, he and his friends almost could not help but “shake and rob” this tree. They carried off a large load of pears, most of which they either threw at each other or fed to the hogs. At the time, he admits of his thievery, “It was foul, and I loved it. . . I did not desire to enjoy what I stole, but only the theft and the sin itself.” There was an excitement in it, a rush, a sense of power and freedom.

He pondered, later in life, why such sins were so enjoyable. Why he could not simply receive the gift of life, but instead, insisted upon taking that which he neither needed nor even especially wanted. He concludes, that in rebelling against God’s prohibitions, even in the face of God’s permissions, he sought “by gesture, to rebel against Thy law, even though I had no power to do so actually – so that even as a captive, I might produce a sort of counterfeit liberty, by doing with impunity deeds that were forbidden, in a deluded sense of omnipotence.”

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Illustration-a-day: Doubts that Shout

Frank Schaeffer recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post entitled, "Franklin Graham, Religious Extremism, Dad, God and Me (Confessions of a Former Religious Nut Leader)". His basic argument is that people with the most doubts tend to shout more loudly and more harshly than others. Actually, that's not quite his point. He has plenty of doubts and doesn't seem to be prone to shouting anymore. More accurately, perhaps, is the idea that people with repressed doubts shout with a ferocity that leads to extremism.

Another insightful point in the article is Schaeffer's assertion that all Christian leaders suffer from the temptation to be relevant. This temptation leads them to use a rhetoric of certainty that often goes beyond the reality of their own beliefs. Whether we should paint all Christian leaders with as broad a brush as Schaeffer does, the article raises some challenging thoughts that might work their way into a sermon.

  • What do the struggles of the children of celebrity Christians (who have seen their fathers' feet of clay) teach us about the tendency of Christians to treat their leaders as infallible? Do just the children of the leaders suffer or do we all suffer in some way?

  • What is the role of uncertainty and doubt in faith? Is uncertainty the same thing as being humble? The Pharisees in John 9 had lots of certainty, but they didn't have faith, nor were they very humble.

  • What is the role of being relevant in the proclamation of the gospel? In what ways does attempting to be relevant, important, significant create problems for the church?

Learning through imitation: A comment worthy of a post

Yesterday, my friend, Eric, left this comment on my post about listening to other preachers. It reminded me of something Augustine wrote, "The fact is, given a bright and eager disposition, eloquence will come more readily to those who read and listen to eloquent speakers than to those who pore over the rules of eloquence." I liked Eric's comment so much I wanted to give it its own post so that it might get the attention it deserves. I'm going to give this a try very soon. I'll let you know how it goes.

"Research a friend of mine has done shows that repetitive listening to good sermons can enhance the listener's ability to understand and imitate vocal inflection and delivery pace, among other things. He requires his seminary students to choose a sermon (from a provided list) and listen to it over a period of three weeks. Week 1: 3 times consecutively three days in a row. Week 2: 2 times consecutively three days in a row. Week 3: 1 time three days in a row. This is based on the Suzuki music method."

Monday, March 28, 2011

Illustration-a-day: The (non) utility of religious affiliation

This past week a group of mathematicians presented a paper that predicted that organized religion will eventually disappear from nine western democracies. You can read CNN's take here. The mathematicians came to their conclusions after measuring the movement from stated religious affiliation to non-affiliation in census reports over the last one hundred years. It should be noted that claiming to be non-affiliated with a religious denomination is certainly not the same thing as non-belief.

The reasons the mathematicians gave for the move from affiliated to non-affiliated status attempt to speak concerning the basic reasons humans are motivated to join up with religious groups. The first reason they gave is basically, people like to be in the majority. As more and more people dis-affiliate from religious denominations more and more people will dis-affiliate from religious affiliation. Essentially, we're all still in junior high doing what everyone else does.

The second reason provided is more interesting to me. Apparently, we join up with things that bring us personal advantages. The scholars call this the utility motivation. Religious affiliation used to have a utilitarian advantage over non-affiliation. But recent data claims the opposite, non-affiliation now appears to have a utilitarian advantage over religious affiliations in many western democracies. No doubt there was a day when belonging to a denomination brought with it certain benefits for a person in society. In former days, you couldn't do business in the south without belonging to some church. That day is gone. Now affiliation has no utilitarian advantage over non-affiliation. Let me repeat. Religious affiliation has no utilitarian advantage over non-affiliation. It won't help you be a better business person, have a happier family, be a part of a more cooperative society - at least not in the majority population's eyes (For an expanded look at this reality read Darrell Guder's Missional Church).

How is the church to respond? Well, many in the church are attempting to argue for the utilitarian advantages of affiliation. They ratchet up the marketing to promote the usefulness of church. Pastors preach sermons on the usefulness of Christianity for life, marriage, economics, etc. All in an attempt to win back the utilitarian advantage the church once enjoyed. That is one option. It might work. It might not.

Either way it doesn't seem a lot like New Testament preaching that preached not on the usefulness of the gospel, but its truth. Preaching that had little utilitarian advantage (believing the message could get you killed - how's that for non-utilitarian) but could certainly set you free. Maybe, just maybe, losing our utilitarian advantage isn't as bad as it seems. Especially, if it helps us return to the emphasizing our greatest advantage, the truth of our gospel and the power of the Spirit at work in our midst.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Question of the week: What preachers do you like to listen to?

Last week we talked about listening to one's own sermons for the purpose of self-evaluation. Today, we're visiting about listening to other people's sermons for personal and professional edification. I've made it a practice to listen to other people's sermons for a while, now. It helps with my own creativity. It keeps me thinking of ways to improve my own sermons. Perhaps most importantly, it feeds my soul.

Here are three preachers I've listened to recently - who do you like to listen to?

Adam Hamilton - Dr. Hamilton is the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas.

You can stream or download both audio and video at his church's website and on Itunes.

The sermon below is a sermon he preached a few weeks ago that combines a first person monologue (something we've discussed recently) with a normal sermon. I don't know what I think about combining the two, but it gives you an idea of what we were talking about previously.

Richard Kannwischer is the Senior Pastor at St.Andrews Presbyterian Church in New Port, Beach, CA. I visited with Dr. Kannwischer a few months ago for a D.Min. project. He was gracious and kind and had a wealth of wisdom for the task of preaching. I benefited greatly from that conversation and from listening to his sermons.

The video below is the only one I could find in a video format, but audio of his sermons can be streamed/downloaded from both his church's website and on Itunes.

Easter Sermon 04/04/10 St. Andrews Presbyterian Church from sapres on Vimeo.

Julie Pennington-Russell is the senior Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Decatur, GA. Julie was my pastor in Waco, TX when I was in seminary.

The sermon below is one she gave to the students and faculty of Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, TX. Audio of her weekly sermons can be streamed and downloaded at her church's website.

Seminary Chapel September 24, 2009 from Logsdon Seminary on Vimeo.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Five minute preaching tune-up.

I've read a lot of preaching books. I've listened to a lot of classroom discussions on preaching. Truth be told, I've forgotten most of it. You might be able to, but I just can't hold all that good information (and most of it is good!) in my head. So good ideas that I once had while reading or listening to some mentor in the faith never get applied. Instead, I keep doing the same things over and over again, things that are comfortable, things that are safe, things that I can do without thinking.

Enter the Preaching Points podcast from Gordon-Conwell's Center for Preaching. Found in the ItunesU section of Itunes, these weekly 4-6 minute segments, often by Haddon Robinson, give you one idea to think about. One idea, not twenty, not ten, not even five. One. That I can work with . . . this week. I listen on the way to a hospital visit, or while I'm waiting for an appointment, or while I'm staring at a blank page wondering when the words will start to come.

It's a resource that's helped me. It might help you. It only takes five minutes to find out.

What are some of the resources you've found helpful in keeping the basics of preaching fresh in your mind?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Horror in the Pulpit!

We all have those Sundays when things don't go as we please in the pulpit. I remember a time early in my preaching career when I could just tell, the people were not with me. I just didn't understand why they weren't. I was explaining a C. S. Lewis quote in which Lewis declares that no person should be considered a mere mortal. Every person we meet, he insisted, was either "an immortal splendor or an immortal horror." No matter how hard I tried, puzzled looks was all I was getting in return. So I started giving examples, the person in front of you in the buffet at Mr. Gattis, the coworker in the next cubicle, all of them are going to live forever as immortal splendors in the presence of Christ of immortal horrors separated from God forever. More puzzled looks. I gave up, finished the sermon, and went home. Later I asked my wife what was so confusing. She answered, "It sounded like you were calling everyone who refuses to believe in God a whore. I know what you were trying to say, hor-ror. But you don't say that well. It sounded like 'whore.' 'Everyone is an immortal splendor or an immortal whore.'"

Hor-ror. Ho-rror. Hor....ror. I still can't say it. Next time I used that quote I made an editorial decision, "Everyone you meet is either an immortal splendor or an immortal terror." Much better. Now if I could just take back the time I accidentally said in a Sunday morning sermon, "You know, sex is better in the church."

Illustration-a-day: Chesterton

Some great one liners from one of my favorite authors, G. K. Chesterton.

"The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank."

"Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian."

“Jesus tells us to love our neighbors and to love our enemies, because often they are the same people.”

"The more I considered Christianity, the more I found that while it had established a rule and order, the chief aim of that order was to give room for good things to run wild."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Illustration-a-day: How much money does it take to be rich?

According to a Reuters article by Helen Kearney, Fidelity Investments recently surveyed over one thousand millionaires and asked them, "How much money do you need to have to be truly rich?" The millionaires, whose average investments hover at around $3.5 million, answered that they would need at least $7.5 million to actually be rich. The main issues concerning one's perception of how rich you are involve your peer group (how rich am I compared to my friends) and whether or not your money can support your lifestyle until you die. If you read the article, be sure to pay attention to the percentage of the millionaires who do not consider themselves wealthy.

You can read the Reuter's article here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Illustration a day: What makes rich people sad?

A great article on the limits of wealth to make a person happy. The article is well balanced. It recognizes the misery of poverty. On most days, it is better than to have some money over having none. But there are limits to how much happiness can come from having lots and lots of money. Having lots of money can cause as many problems as it solves. The quotes from the super wealthy are great. One section in the article rich (no pun intended!) for application is the section that talks about how spending one's money can shape one's happiness. Spending one's money on others does seem to improve one's happiness.

This article lends itself to several different possibilities for sermon use.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Illustration-a-day: It's remarkable what people will drink when they are dying of thirst

Three weeks ago, Water for All missionaries from our own church traveled out into one of the driest, barren places in the country of Uganda. There they met with villagers whose bodies and souls bore the scars of decades of war. While the wars have ceased, the needs have not. Families in the area constantly struggle to acquire the most basic of necessities, clean water. This need for water not only shapes their daily routines – they sometimes walk miles simply to fill up their jugs with water – but it has formed their identity. The name of this village when translated into English? Thirsty.

While all of us have been thirsty from time to time, few of us have experienced that kind of thirst that brings one to the edge of death. When I first saw the photo that showed the mud hole these families use for their daily water supply I almost became sick to my stomach. We who have never lacked for water for probably a few hours likely could never bring ourselves to take a sip from that nauseating pool. I was reminded once more that it’s remarkable what a person will drink who’s dying of thirst.

With in just a few days, our missionaries helped the people drill a new well in the little village of Thirsty, Uganda. After two days of work, clean water began to flow and the people where so excited they gathered together and gave the village a new name which when translated into English means, “Place where the waters run.”

Do you listen to your own sermons?

Part of my Monday morning routine involves converting yesterday's sermon into an mp3 file in order to post it to our website. For the longest time I would only listen to the first and last bits of the sermon as I clipped the rest of the service off of the file. For the last month or so, I've started listening to the entire sermon. I do other things while I listen - like writing notes to church members or sorting through some mail - but simply hearing myself speak has helped me catch some things that I'd like to change about my speaking style that I would not have noticed otherwise.

Most recently, I've noticed some verbal tics that I'd fallen into without realizing it. My wife had pointed one of these out previously (that's an issue for another post - spousal critiques!), but hearing it for myself helped me realize how irritating it was. Fixing the problem hasn't been easy, but I have been working on it.

Admittedly, the process of listening to one's own sermon is somewhat excruciating, every verbal slip up or stumble causes me to cringe, but I do think the process is helping me to become a better speaker.

So, do you listen to your own sermons? How often? What is the experience like for you? When you notice something you'd like to change about your own speaking style, how do you go about it?

- The Short Preacher

Friday, March 18, 2011

Illustration-a-day: I didn't know I was supposed to be seeing more

Recently, my eyes have been failing me. I'd get to about four o'clock in the afternoon and I just couldn't focus on anything anymore. It wasn't that I couldn't see, I could see fine (or so I thought) but man my eyes hurt. Reading was out of the question, but even watching TV seemed to be too much. So I went to the optomitrist. Interestingly, my eyes were not that bad, but they were just enough different from one another that after lots and lots of reading and computer work, they were fairly stressed out. He wrote me a perscription for some glasses.

The day I picked up my glasses, was quite a revelation. On the drive home I kept lowering and then raising my new glasses to my eyes. Amazing! I had no clue how much I'd been missing: individual leaves and twigs in the trees, the texture of the road, letters the street signs before you get to them. To be honest, the change wasn't as drastic as it is for most people with glasses - again, my perscription is a weak one - but I was giddy and my eyes rejoiced. No more stressing, squinting, and straining to see the world as it was meant to be seen.

The apostle Paul tells us that because of Christ's death on the cross we no longer "regard anyone from a worldly point of view." Instead, through the lense of God's love, we see them as they were meant to be seen, not as nameless faces, not as threatening competitors, not as hated enemies, but as men and women loved by God. When you look at others do you remember to look at them through the love of God?

The power of story: Eugene Peterson (from

As we finish up this week, one more look at the power of story. Peterson broadens our discussion by noting that it is important to not only know and creatively tell the biblical story, we must know our people's story as well. When we (or better yet, the Spirit) can connect the two, well, that's when preaching works.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Illustration-a-day: To love at all is to be vulnerable

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries, avoid all entanglements, lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

- C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves, Chapter 6

To help you think dramatically

I've struggled to find examples of dramatic monologues that I consider good examples of the genre. If you know of some, let me know and I'll post them. Until then, I'm providing some links to one of my friend's blogs, the proprietor over at (the photo to the left is a nod to the blog's sponsor). Each of these links includes a creative retelling of a biblical story. Patrick has a true gift for bringing the biblical stories to life. Reading his work might inspire you to do the same.

The Chronicles of Shamgar - The tale of an obscur Old Testament character.

The diary of Hagar the Egyptian - giving dignity and voice to an often overlooked woman in the Old Testament.

Give Me a Drink: Inside an Awkward Conversation with Jesus - Giving us an inside look at the Woman-at-the-Well's conversation with Jesus.

Apostles' Court! (A Play in One Act) - A creative retelling of Acts 19:13-20.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sermon of the week: Haddon Robinson

This isn't a first person narrative sermon. Haddon wrote the book on those, but I can't find an example online of him doing it. He is an excellent narrative preacher, though. He didn't start out that way, but through the years his preaching has shifted in that direction. This is a marvelous biographical sermon on the person of Philemon. I love how he is able to make the ancient world come alive. What would you say is the secret to making that happen?

The introduction is about 3 minutes if you want to skip past that.

CPC Special - "Put That on Master Charge" Philemon, by Haddon Robinson from Steve Toler on Vimeo.

Trying something new: Preaching a First-Person expository message

This past Sunday I did something I had never done before. I preached a first person narrative sermon. I came across the idea from a little book by Haddon Robinson entitled, It's All in How you Tell It: Preaching First-Person Expository Messages. Preaching in character (say as Zaccheus, or as a bystander during the feeding of the 5000) was not something I wanted to do. I don't have any experience with drama. Yet, when I began preparing my Lenten sermon series which would be focusing upon conversations different people had with Jesus throughout the course of John's gospel, I was struggling to figure out how to preach on Nicodemus' conversation with Jesus. I've preached on Nicodemus before, and I struggled to think of a way to preach it again. I pulled out Robinson's book and reread it (it's a quick read). And after testing the waters with some trusted people (basically by asking them, "Do you think this would be stupid?") I decided to give it a go.

My decision process involved evaluating the advantages and disadvantages.


  • Variety - it would definitely be different. People's attention would be grabbed (at least until I fell on my face).

  • A new hearing - Not only have I preached on Nicodemus several times, the people in my congregation had probably heard even more lessons/sermons on Nicodemus than I have preached. This might help us all hear the text anew.

  • The power of a good story - By it's very nature this kind of sermon is a narrative. If done well it could be very powerful.


  • I might look stupid. My youth minister and I both agree that we spend an ungodly amount of time in life just trying not to look stupid.

  • No notes. This sermon would absolutely not work with notes. It would have to come from a combination of good memory (I do write manuscripts) and the ability to speak somewhat extemporanously (once I obviously forgot something and needed to course correct).

  • Application. Being Nicodemus would limit my knowledge of modern life. How would I make any application in my sermon?

Result: Once I decided to do this, I went for it. I had the manuscript done by Tuesday and spent an extra amount of time learning it. Whereas I usually go over my sermon verbally 2-3 times before a Sunday morning, I lost count on how many times I went over this one. It's been a while since I was truly nervous about a sermon. I was incredibly nervous about this. All in all, it went well, I thought. The response from the congregation was positive. In general, I think people appreciated the attempt to bring some variety into the service. Several said they thought I should do that more often. At least a handful seemed to connect to the message, "We must be born again" in a renewed way. I don't think that this is a style of sermon I'll do often, but it is something I'll do again.

If you want to listen to my attempt at this style of sermon - check here - it's the sermon on 3/13/11, entitled The Teacher Gets Taught

Have any of you every preached as a biblical character? What was your experience?

Illustration-a-day: People long for the majestic

The poet Gerald Manley Hopkins stated, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” That's true, but to experience that grandeur, you have to stop and look. This past weekend, my family went camping in Central Texas. On the way we had noticed a random spot on the highway where about a dozen cars were stopped on the side of the road. People lined a fence looking out into a rather ugly, uncultivated field with binoculars and large lensed cameras.

My wife asked if I knew what was going on. I'd seen a large nest in one of the trees and something sparked to life in the back of my mind. "I think that must be where the bald eagles nest. I read something about it in a magazine I think. But I'm not sure." We continued speeding on down the road filled with nothing but mild curiosity.

On the way back home, we noticed the cars again, and decided to stop. Just as we did a magnificent bald eagle took off from one tree and soared across the field, wings outstretched, its majestic white head gleaming in the spring sun. People cheered and cameras clicked. We all felt enriched by simply witnessing the grandeur of the moment. For me personally, mild curiosity had been replaced with the desire to offer praise to the Maker of eagles, spring days, and my own two eyes with which I had been able to take in such sights!

James Mays, an Old Testament scholar, explains that all people have a need for doxology, that is the need to be moved by the glory of another. Doxology is a fancy church word that simply means to speak praise. And as creatures, we were created with a built in desire to give praise. It's why we're drawn to stop and look, at eagles, and canyons, and any number of other spectacular sights. We yearn to be moved by the glory of another, but that can only happen if we pull over and take a look.

For pictures of the site on Hwy 29 between Burnett and Llano, click here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Illustration-a-day: When prayer doesn't work

The other day my family sat down to supper. My 4-year-old son, John Curtis, sat down with a scowl on his face. He had missed his nap and his fuse was now short. We asked him if he would like to offer the blessing to which he simply stuck out his lip and grunted. We turned to our 6-year-old, daughter Sophie, who obliged. "Dear God, thank for this day. Thank you for our food. Help my brother John Curtis not be so grumpy. Amen."

Immediately, John Curtis, cut her a look that could kill and blurted out, "Hmpff! Your prayer didn't work!"

Thoughts on using this illustration: What does it mean to pray for other people? Do we ever use prayer just to stick it to someone? I think about the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Can our prayers sometimes do more harm than good if voiced out loud in front of the others for whom we are praying? What does it mean to pray for another person's actions, attitudes, etc. in light of the fact that they have free will?

Variety is the spice of preaching?

Every preacher has his or her go to style. There's a reason we can say, "That sounded like a Fred Craddock sermon" and have other preachers know what we are talking about (or, "That sounded like the guy from Princess Bride!). All of us have a style of sermons that fits our particular personality, theology, denominational setting, etc. There's nothing wrong with having a style. It helps keep things consistent, comfortable for both the congregation and the preacher. One's style can help create the feeling of being home for the congregation. They know what to expect.

That being said, departing from one's style on occasion can be beneficial, as well. Variety, after all, is the spice of life. Do you always preach inductive sermons? Try a deductive approach for just one Sunday and see how it goes? Always preach deductive sermons, give an inductive sermon a try? Growing up, most of the sermons I heard were deductive. They were good deductive sermons, not what gets derisively called three points and a poem sermons. Nevertheless, because this is what I heard most, when I started hearing inductive sermons at seminary they sounded very fresh. Guess what kind of sermons I started preaching? That's right, inductive sermons. Now, I preach inductively most of the time. It's my style, but occasionally, I'll preach a deductive sermon because I think the text or the purpose of the sermon leads me in that direction. Amazingly, what used to seem like a worn out style of sermon feels fresh again to both me and the congregation. Primarily because it's different.

I find variety especially helpful when I am preaching a text that is very familiar to the congregation. People see the sermon text and assume they know where you are going to go with it. Unconsciously, they tune out. How do you gain a new hearing for an old familiar text? I've found changing up the style of my sermon can help.

So, the question of the week is this: What is your basic sermon style? Do you ever deviate from that style? How? and What were the results? I'll provide my answer tomorrow.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

A Sunday Prayer

Almighty Father, maker of heaven and earth,
To you we owe our very lives.

Remind us that we are but the dust of the earth,
Dead as dirt without the breath of your Spirit.

Remind us that we are dead in our sins,
Without the redeeming power of your grace.

Breathe on us, breathe on us, that we may live once more.

In the name of the Feather who made us,
In the name of the Son who saved us,
In the name of the Spirit who guides us still,


Friday, March 11, 2011

Barbara Brown Taylor - Sacramental Sky

This is a Lenten Sermon that Barbara Brown Taylor preached at Duke Chapel last year. The sermon starts at 30:10 and lasts about seventeen minutes. I listen to a lot of sermons and this one is in my top three. The move she makes at the 38:50 mark, speaking of Abraham's eyes, and the way she returns to that image at the end of the sermon in a way that involves the listener is nothing short of brilliant. I'm blessed everytime listen. I pray you will be as well.

- The Short Preacher

Using a blog to organize sermon illustrations

Back in seminary I inherited my childhood pastor's illustration file. This involved several file cabinets of illustrations, upwards of 4,000 illustrations of all types collected over decades of ministry. My pastor was a man of immense organization. The illustrations were filed away simply in the order they were collected, each labeled with a number. Then, in a small box, were hundreds of index cards each with a heading: marriage, sacrificial love, missions, etc. On these cards were written numbers that corresponded to various illustrations. This system had several advantages to simply filing the illustrations themselves according to subject. Most illustrations can be used for more than one topic. Unless one wants to make multiple copies of an illustration, you risk missing a good illustration because it's in one file and not another. With Dr. Land's system, that problem is solved. You simply write that illustrations number on all the subject cards it fits.

In many ways, Dr. Land's system anticipates what happens when I file my illustrations on a blog. I simply type the illustration once, then tag (or label) it with all of the subject headings I think fit that particular illustration. Then I can search the entire system by simply searching that tag word. The advantages of the blog, are that I don't have to retype things if I find them in electronic form. I can simply type a brief summary that will jog my memory and then link to the original article.

I've been keeping my illustration file this way for about five years. I keep this particular blog private because most things on there are copyrighted. With it being for my eyes only I avoid any trouble on that front. When I use an illustration I simply write in a comment noting the date and setting in which I used it. That way, a few years from now (or even months the way my memory is going!) I don't have to go by my memory alone to determine if I've used that illustration before.

This works for me. What works for you?

- The Short Preacher

Illustration-a-day: God's joy

"Human repentance gives God the joy that we feel when we find something we had lost."

J├╝rgen Moltmann, The Source of Life (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997), 14.

Key words: forgiveness, joy, lost, Moltmann, prodigal-son, redemption, repentance

Are you a preacher who blogs?

Do you have a blog on preaching? Are you a preacher who blogs? Leave a comment below with your blog's address. I'll check it out and if I like it, I'll add you to the blog roll.

No need to worry about if we're the same kind/tribe/style of preacher. I like hearing and learning from all types.

Grace and peace - The Short Preacher

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Haddon Robinson on Preaching from

Illustration-a-day: I knew what to do once we got there.

We are often asking God for directions concerning what comes next in our lives. We want to know ahead of time what's going to happen and how we're going to get there. Much to our chagrin, this is not how life often presents itself. Most of our lives come at us unexpectedly.

That's really not as big of a deal as it seems. As a kid, I had no idea how to get anywhere and yet I still managed to get there. How? I jumped in the back seat and went for the ride. As a child, it wasn't up to me to know how to get places - it was, however, up to me to know what to do once I got there.

I think of a ministry our youth group had. We called it HOP (Helping Older People). The youth minister drove us around to older people’s houses. I didn’t know how to get there but I knew what to do when we got there (mow their yards). In the same way, we might not know when or how the road to the future will unfurl but as believers we should know what to do along the way. Constantly asking, “Are we there yet” will not speed up the trip. And it may actually distract from perhaps a better question, “What are we here for?”

- The Short Preacher

Welcome to the Short Preacher!

Welcome to The Short Preacher! I'm so glad you've dropped by. The purpose of this blog is to be a place to share illustrations, frustrations, best practices, book reviews . . . you name it. Anything to do with preaching. I hope you'll drop by often and make your own contributions through through the comments. Many blessings - TSP.