I Must Decrease

He must increase, but I must decrease. -John 3:30 

The ministry of John the Baptist preceded Jesus’ public ministry. People had speculated all kinds of things about John the Baptist but he was clear that another was coming after him that would be greater. John compared himself to a friend of the bridegroom. We might say today that his spotlight was fading and Jesus’ was coming up. His statement indicates that his popularity and even his ministry would be decreasing as Jesus’ ministry rose in prominence. It was his time. We sometimes apply this idea to our own lives. We must make less of ourselves and more of Jesus. I suggest there is more than one way to think about this. Continue reading

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Living on Samples

When I was a kid it was a special treat to find them handing out free samples on grocery day. I remember asking my mother to buy whatever brand of sausage they were handing out and she told me that was already what she bought. I then asked if she could cook it in little one inch cubes and serve it on toothpicks because it tasted better that way. She never did that. Continue reading

Illustrations Can Come from Anywhere

Screenshot 2018-03-22 at 9.09.26 AMIf you are a preacher, know a preacher, or for that matter have ever listened to a preacher, you may have heard the oft repeated statement illustrations can come from anywhere. It’s a truism that may cause us to smile but seriously; a funny thing a child says, a misunderstanding in the supermarket line, words said in anger that have to be eaten later, literally anything a professional speaker hears about could become an illustration for a point being made. Be careful sharing those funny anecdotes around your clergyman. You may hear them again from the pulpit. Continue reading

Water in the Bible: Boating and Fishing

Screenshot 2018-01-19 at 11.41.08 AMThe Bible has a lot to say about about water. The message of scripture is framed in many different ways in order that as many people as possible understand. Everything from kings and their armies to a woman sweeping the floor is used to illustrate what the Kingdom of God is like. Jesus told parables about sowing seeds, harvesting grain, searching for pearls, buying oil for lamps, all things that regular people could understand. It should come as no surprise then that water is used in the Old and New Testaments because every living thing needs water. But I want to focus more specifically on the things people do in or on the water. Continue reading

Good Shepherd; Lamb of God

jesus_shepherdIs Jesus the sheep or the shepherd?

Just about every animal has some unique feature that allows it to defend itself from predators. Some have incredible speed, such as deer, while others have sharp claws, powerful muscles or rows of gleaming teeth. Some animals camouflage themselves into the background while the purpose of some camouflage, like that of zebra, make it difficult to distinguish individuals from the group. Even the slow, ungraceful skunk has a very potent defense mechanism. Just about every animal has something, it seems, except sheep. It’s almost as if God intended them to be food for other animals. Sheep are very nearsighted and have to be led to food and water. They cannot drink fast moving water and can actually drown trying. They have to be led to food, led to shelter, and protected from every type of danger. The Bible uses sheep of all things to represent people. Continue reading

From the Archives: I Preached on Baby Diapers

This is reposted from October 31, 2010 

Father’s Day, June 2010

I know what you’re thinking: the stress of working in full time ministry with a 14 month old at home has finally caused me to crack.  I reached a breaking point if my sermon is on changing diapers.  It’s not as bad as all that.  Let me explain.

Last week I preached this sermon on Galatians 4.  It’s about God adopting us into his family.  I had three well-defined points, as a good Baptist preacher should.  Today I preached that same sermon for our students in their Sunday a.m. chapel service.  I can’t take for granted that 6-12 graders know their Bible stories that way my church congregation does.  I cut some of the scripture citations and needed a more colorful analogy or two.  The first point in the sermon is that we are naturally the enemies of God.  He says “Do this” and instead we do that.  Adam and Eve are the first example, and not much has changed since.  I talked about how cute Johannah is; all our students know this to be true.  But when we’re changing a diaper, sometimes she quits being so cute.  If she sits up, rolls over, or otherwise tries to escape then everything takes longer.  We have to do things twice; or three times.  The students all smiled, nodded and laughed.  Then I pointed out that in my history class some of them are the same way.  I have to repeat myself and/or do things twice.  Sometimes three times.  That’s our nature.

It gets worse.  God sent his Son.  Like the father of the prodigal, God waits and watches down the road for us to come home.  The prodigal son (Luke 15) spent a fortune on good food, good wine and loose women.  Eventually he hit rock bottom, and desired the same slop that he fed pigs.  He had to learn that lesson the hard way.  You couldn’t have told him any different, and if the father had come looking for him any sooner, he would have ran as fast as he could in the other direction.  We were all wallowing (or are still wallowing) in our own filth.  We are slaves to sin, whatever sin you want to fill in the blank with.  If my daughter Johannah has filled her diaper, then she is basically sitting there in her own mess.  She stinks.  Yet when I reach for her she runs away.  She ducks and dodges.  Her natural impulse is to escape the diaper change.  Are we any different?  We wallow in our filthy sin, in our own mess, and push God away even as he wants to clean us.

God loved us when we were unlovable.  That’s the Gospel.  And if you have kids, had kids, or know parents with new kids, fell free to preach the Gospel according to dirty diapers.

There’s a Reason He Calls Us Sheep

jesus_shepherdPsalm 23 is one of the best known and most often quoted passages in the scriptures. David plainly says “The LORD is my shepherd.” In John 10, Jesus identifies himself as the Good Shepherd. The sheep know his voice and follow him, and he gives his life for the sheep. Isn’t that adorable? Continue reading