8 Ways to Find Sermon Illustrations

Every preacher knows the feeling of needing an illustration, but not having anything handy. Even if you have good systems for capturing and filing illustrations, you will inevitably have moments where nothing is in your notes, and you cannot think of anything spontaneously. I know some people are against illustrations, and certainly they can be abused. For instance, we can be tempted to rely on illustrations too much out of a desire to make our sermons more engaging or emotional. But I’m convinced that there is also a way to go about illustrating that is honoring the text of Scripture,…

Pastors Should Like People (Not Just Love Them)

Affection should be a part of ministry. It was for Paul: “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8) “being affectionately desirous of you … because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Affection isn’t quite identical to kindness or even love. In these verses, for instance, affection involves yearning (Philippians 1:8), desire, and dearness (1 Thessalonians 1:8). Put it this way: to do ministry well, you need to not only love people, but like them. You need to give your heart to them. But amidst the strains and seasons of ministry, it is easy for affection…

Why We Misunderstand the Beatific Vision

I’ve been reading Hans Boersma’s helpful and interesting book Seeing God: The Beatific Vision in Christian Tradition (Eerdmans 2018). For a while I’ve been wanting to learn more about this intriguing and often neglected doctrine, so now I’m finally getting around to it. The beatific vision is widespread throughout the early and medieval church, East and West, and into Protestantism (especially the Reformed tradition). Yet many evangelical today have never heard of it, or misunderstand it. As Kyle Strobel puts it, “few doctrines are as ‘standard’ in the history of theology, and ignored in contemporary theology, as the beatific vision.”…

Another Ortlund Update

God has blessed us during our year in the Chicago suburbs. In July Esther and I celebrated 10 years of marriage at the very restaurant at which I proposed to her in downtown Chicago (pictured right). In August little Elijah joined us. I will never forget walking around the neighborhood just outside the hospital in Highland Park, filled with joy and amazement at being a family of 5! Unbelievable. God has been so good to us. We purchased a minivan, which makes me feel like an official “dad.” I became quite adept at chucking snacks into the back row while…

God Whispers In All of Life

I think logic and argument can suggest God. I have personally benefited a lot from apologists like William Lane Craig who do this so well. But, of course, this is not the only way to suggest God. It is possible to make God plausible, not as the conclusion of a thread of reasoning, but as the premise of human experience. This approach says, in effect, “if God does not exist, so much of life—so much of what we simply assume everyday in the way we function—becomes mysterious and inexplicable.” Such a strategy is often rationally avoidable. But that does not…

Is the Bible Pro-Slavery?

“The Bible is pro-slavery.” This is a common charge these days. It is a part of the New Atheist attack on religion, and it also comes from various progressive circles to defend certain social views (in line with the so-called redemptive-movement hermeneutic). It is not an incomprehensible claim. In fact, it has some apparent, face value support—and not just in Old Testament law regulations, but in New Testament epistles written by the very apostles of Jesus Christ: Ephesians 6:5: “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters” (all translations ESV). Colossians 3:22: “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters.” I Peter 2:18: “Servants,…

Is 6-Day Creation the Only Long-term Viable Option? A Response to Tim Challies

[Update: Just to be clear, the Tim Challies quote just below is an excerpt from Thomas Purifoy’s article, not Tim’s own language. Please read this response with that in mind.] I like Tim Challies, and benefit from his blog regularly. Recently he promoted the film Is Genesis History? on Facebook, linking to an article by the film’s director Thomas Purifoy, which includes this assertion: I wanted to offer a few brief thoughts in response, because many of those who read this statement may not be aware of other perspectives on this issue. My comments here come in a larger context…

Why Do We Love Music?

I love music. I have over 500 CDs of Dave Matthews Band concerts, and I have vivid memories of specific moments in my life listening to them. For example, I remember listening to the long build up of “Seek Up” in June 2004, while driving to a dinner event at the church I was working at in Chattanooga. It is burned into my memory as if it were yesterday. Most of us have similar memories. When we think about favorite music, whether it be classical or country, Beethoven or Bono, most of have memories and associations that touch upon the deepest…

What I Liked and Disliked About Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I enjoyed watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi last night, but I also found myself unsatisfied with some features of it. At the risk of incurring the wrath of those who loved it, here I list several things I liked, and several things I disliked. I am not a big Star Wars know-it-all so this is basically worthless. Also it has *spoilers ahead* so don’t read it if you haven’t seen it yet. WHAT I LIKED I liked the moral ambiguity invested in Kylo Ren. The fact that he hesitated in killing his mother showed a glimmer of good in him, and you…

How Carl Sagan Strengthened My Faith

I’m about 37 years behind on this, but I finally got around to reading Carl Sagan’s Contact (it was originally published in 1980, and made into a film in 1997). I was interested in the book because I’m interested in the larger science-religion relationship in our culture, in which Carl Sagan is a kind of iconic figure. I want to understand scientific worldviews in the way that Atticus Finch talks about as “seeing the world through another person’s eyes”—that is, in a careful, generous, un-caricatured way. Contact, as the best-selling English-language science book of all time, is a good entry…