For Easter 2019, I wrote the following poem reflecting on Christ’s resurrection.
“My Cry I Raise”
Hear my voice as I recount
the things I felt and heard.
You need to know what I will share,
so capture every word.
Friday neared the Sabbath when
they laid him down inside,
the one they called the Nazarene,
the one they crucified.
Wrapped and still his body lay,
hour by hour that passed.
The tomb was carved for those like this,
who finally breathed their last.
Outside the Roman soldiers watched
and guarded all around.
The Sabbath came and went without
a robber to be found.
But before the sun rose on
the quiet place of death,
I felt the ground begin to quake
and heard him take a breath.
I felt the royal cords give way
and heard the soldiers cry,
as some fell faint and others fled
in fear that they would die.
Angel hands pushed me aside
and there I sat again,
beside the tomb so I could let
the women enter in.
The Nazarene said stones would cry
if people did not praise.
I am the stone that rolled away,
and this my cry I raise.
Today is April 18, 2019, which is twenty years since my first sermon on April 18, 1999. I have a deep love for opening God’s Word with God’s people, and I hope this joy never fades. Throughout these twenty years, I have learned and heard many important truths about preaching Scripture, and it seems fitting to share twenty thoughts.
- The whole Bible is important for the whole Christian, so preach the Old and New Testaments.
- The Bible is not boring, so neither should the preacher be.
- You can’t preach everything you’ve studied about a text, so a vital part of sermon preparation is determining what to exclude.
- Your personal sorrows are part of your sermon preparation.
- Some days you may not feel like preaching, but you preach anyway because the power of God works through his Word.
- Preaching must not be a regurgitation of commentaries.
- Don’t clog up your sermon with lengthy illustrations; simple and concise illustrations are helpful and sufficient.
- Growing in the craft of preaching is important, so read resources and learn from listeners (especially from other preachers) about ways you can improve your own presentation and method.
- Write a lot, either in a journal or in a document or for your congregation, because writing will fine-tune your thinking and your use of words.
- Make appeals and applications at points during your sermon, not only at the end.
- Don’t assume a faithful sermon equals a long sermon; instead, seek to treat the text faithfully and helpfully for your people, and that goal probably means the length will vary.
- Experiment whether notes-free, some notes, bare outline, detailed outline, or a manuscript works for you, but don’t think you have to adopt the method that works for others.
- Engage the imagination of the listeners, for that will help them stay engaged with you.
- First and last words matter, so spend time thinking about your sermon’s introduction and conclusion.
- Preach your own sermons, not somebody’s sermon that you’ve found online or in a book somewhere.
- Preach through difficult passages and through difficult books of the Bible.
- Whenever you think, “That sermon didn’t go the way I’d hoped,” thank God for the power of his Word, acknowledge that he uses his Word in ways we’ll never know, and then take a nap.
- Pray that God will help you exult in his Word as you are preaching it.
- With the authoritative and inspired Word of God that is sharper than a two-edged sword, you don’t need gimmicks.
- Be doers of the Word and not just preachers of it only, for you need the sermon that you are preparing for others.