Archives For Sermon Illustrations

Pastor and freelance writer Mark Buchanan tells about a conversation he had with a young philosophy student in his early twenties. Mark had officiated a wedding on a gorgeous day on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, and at the reception the student asked Mark if he really believed all that religious stuff he had spouted at the church.

Mark writes:

I said I did. He smirked. I asked him what he believed. “I tried your religion for a while,” he said. “I found it’s just a burden to carry. You know what I’ve figured out? Life justifies living. Life is its own reward and explanation. I don’t need some pie-in-the-sky mirage to keep me going. This life has enough pleasure and mystery and adventure in it not to need anything else to account for it. Life justifies living.”

“Good,” I said. “And I believe you. Today, here and now, feel the warmth of that breeze, listen to the laughter of those people, smell the spiciness of that shrimp cooking, look at the blueness of the sky. Yes, today I believe you. What a superb philosophy. Life justifies living. Bravo!” “

Only, I’m thinking about someone I met last February. Richard. Richard was 44, looked 60, and had been living on the streets since he was 12. He was a junkie. Now he has AIDS.”

Mark wrote, “The last time I saw Richard was on a gray, rainy day in winter. I bought him a bus ticket and put him on the bus. He was going to his mother’s home in Calgary. He hadn’t spoken with her in almost fifteen years, but he was hoping he could go home to die. Almost incoherent, he sputtered, ‘I wish I’d never been born. My whole life has been a mistake. My whole life has been misery.’”

“I’m thinking about Richard.”

“And I’m thinking about Ernie. Ernie was a man on the rise. While he was in his twenties, he was already vice president of a thriving national business. He was tough-minded, hard-driving, prodigiously skilled, hugely ambitious. He was a superb athlete, a natural at any sport. He had a beautiful wife. They were unable to have children of their own, so they adopted four, three from Africa and one from Mexico. On the day the fourth adoption became final, Ernie got the results back from some medical tests he had undergone to account for some dizziness, blurring of eyesight, and tingling in his hands. The tests came back with stunning news: Ernie had multiple sclerosis.”

“Yes, I’m thinking about Richard and Ernie. And I have a question about your philosophy: How exactly do I explain to them that life justifies living?”

The young philosophy student had no response. He said he’d have to think about it and get back to me. I gave him my address and asked him to write me when he came up with something. I never heard from him, [and never will . . .] because life does not justify living. Eternity does (From a sermon by Stephen Davey on Revelation 4:1-3 at Wisdom for the Heart).


THE FIRE OF GOD’S JUDGMENT IS COMING! Christ warns this church in Thyatira, just as He warned the prophets of Baal through Elijah. The One is coming with eyes of fire and feet with red hot heat.

At 2 o’clock in the morning, if you heard a noise, got up, looked out your window, and saw the woods around you on fire and could tell by the direction of the wind that the fire was going to sweep over your neighbor’s house, where they were sleeping, what would you do?

Would you stand there and debate, “Wouldn’t they rather be left alone? They’re probably sound asleep. Besides, if I get them up, they are going to have to run out in their pajamas and that might be embarrassing; they might be really uncomfortable with fire trucks and news vans and camer as everywhere. I tell you what – I won’t disturb them!”?

Would that be the right and loving thing to do? No! The loving thing would be to run over, break their door down, yell “Fire!”, run upstairs, turn on the lights, and wake them so they can get out.

Confronting the sinner for this church, and for any church, is the action of a loving body that attempts to awaken the sinning believer who is being deceived by the spiritually deadening pleasure of sin. It is the loving, firm, caring, passionate attempt to rescue someone before the fire of judgment reaches them (Stephen Davey sermon).

sermon illustrations

I read, some time ago, of David Buick, who founded the Buick car company. He made millions off the sale of his particular line of cars and lived the life of a millionaire. However, Buick would lose his fortune. In fact, he became so destitute that he had to declare bankruptcy and, in the later years of his life, was too poor to buy a car with his name on it. William Durant ultimately brought the Buick line of cars into General Motors. Durant also bought out Olds of Oldsmobile and others as well. He took all the automotive strings and pulled them together. If you want to read an interesting biography, read his. Durant was a creative genius, but he was not able to organize what he created. He eventually, even tried to compete against his own creation, General Motors, and lost his fortune. He also, became too poor to own a car. His last job, before he died, was managing a bowling alley. All of these stories pale in significance when you think of the One who rode upon the wind; who had multitudes of cherubim and seraphim singing of His holiness and His glory. He came down and became one of us. Jesus gave up His rights to live like God (From Stephen Davey’s sermon on Four Rights that Christ Gave Up).


sermon illustrations

The unity of the church is inward not outward. When the Bible talks about unity it is not talking about some kind of outward unity, it is talking about an inward unity. It is talking about something that is internally compelling, not externally controlled. It is more heartfelt than creedal. It is not particularly verbal as much as it is emotional, spiritual. It is the union of hearts and minds and souls in common cause. It’s not people just being united because they’re in the same container; it’s people who are literally attracted to each other because they’re pulled by the same power.

Let me see if I can illustrate that. If you have a bag filled with marbles you have a certain unity. You have one bag full of marbles and all those marbles are pushed against each other, packed together. But that which binds them into unity is the container. It’s something on the outside that holds them. As soon as you tear the bag, the marbles are everywhere because there’s nothing intrinsic or internal to keep them together. It’s purely the package they’re in, the container.

But on the other hand, if you have a magnet and you put that magnet into some metal shavings, the shavings will all adhere to the magnet. Not because there is an external container but because there’s an internal force. And they are pulled to each other because they are all pulled by the same force pulling through each other. And that’s how the church is to be, it is not a collection of marbles in the same bag, it is people who are pressed against each other because they’re all magnetized by the same force, which is the power of Jesus Christ. That’s the internal unity of the church. We are pulled to each other because we are pulled through each other by the power that pulls, which is Christ (MacArthur’s sermon on Phil. 2:1).


Valentine Illustration

February 13, 2014 — Leave a comment

A husband read a book entitled, You Can Be THE Man of Your House and got all fired up about what he was reading. He marched into the kitchen and announced to his wife, “From now on, you need to know that I am the man of this house . . . You will prepare me a gourmet meal tonight, and when I’m finished eating my meal, you will serve me a decadent dessert. . . . Afterwards, you are going to draw me a bath so I can relax. . . . Then . . . guess who’s going to dress me and comb my hair?”

His wife replied, “The funeral director would be my first guess” (Stephen Davey).


I voted today for the favorite 2014 Super Bowl commercial on YouTube. I voted for Duracell: Trust Your Power – NFL’s Derrick Coleman, Seattle Seahawks.

Since Derrick Coleman was three years old he has been deaf. When he was in elementary school he wore bulky hearing aids, which helped his hearing but also invited smart-alecks to ridicule. His cruel schoolmates nicknamed him “Four Ears.”

How did Derrick respond?

When his schoolmates would start making fun of him, Derrick would just turn the volume down on his hearing aids. “You guys have to actually listen when somebody’s talking. I just turn ‘em off.”

When he was in high school five bullies jumped on him and beat him up just because he was different.

How did Derrick respond?

He went home and to his back bedroom and did push ups. Boy did that ever pay off! I wonder if the five bullies were watching Sunday night’s Super Bowl game and the Seattle Seahawk’s Derrick Coleman play as the first NFL deaf offensive player?

Coleman hoped to be drafted in the 2012 NFL draft. But his name was not called.

How did Derrick’s respond?

“They didn’t call my name, told me it was over,’’ Coleman says in the Duracell commercial, referring to the fact that he went unchosen in the 2012 NFL draft. “But I’ve been deaf since I was 3, so I didn’t listen.’’ He did not give up and was eventually asked to play as a back up full-back for the Seahawks.

What a powerful lesson if only we are listening. Life is hard, people are insensitive, and we can overcome. The Duracell commerical ends by saying, “Trust Your Power.” We can’t trust our power but we can trust the power that is in us if we know Christ as Savior. The Apostle Paul testified, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Christ takes the ‘t out of can’t.


sermon illustrations

Marcel Sternberger was a methodical man of nearly fifty, with bushy white hair, guileless brown eyes, and the bouncing enthusiasm of a dancer from his native Hungary. He always took the 9:09 Long Island Railroad train from his suburban home to Woodside, New York, where he caught a subway into the city.

On the morning of January 10, 1948, Sternberger boarded the 9:09 as usual. En route, he suddenly decided to visit Laszlo Victor, a Hungarian friend who lived in Brooklyn and was ill. Accordingly, at Ozone Park, Sternberger changed to the subway for Brooklyn, went to his friend’s house, and stayed until mid-afternoon. He then boarded a Manhattan-bound subway for his Fifth Avenue office.
Now, Marcel tells his story.

The car was crowded, and there seemed to be no chance of a seat. But just as I entered, a man sitting by the door suddenly jumped up to leave, and I slipped into the empty place. I’ve been living in New York long enough not to start conversations with strangers. But, being a photographer, I have the peculiar habit of analyzing people’s faces, and I was struck by the features of the passenger on my left. He was probably in his late thirties, and when he glanced up, his eyes seemed to have a hurt expression in them. He was reading a Hungarian newspaper, and something prompted me to say in Hungarian, “I hope you don’t mind if I glance at your paper.”

The man seemed surprised to be addressed in his native language. But he answered politely, “You may.”
During the half hour ride to town, we had quite a conversation. He said his name was Bela Paskin. A law student when World War II started, he had been put into a German labor battalion and sent to the Ukraine. Later he was captured by the Russians and put to work burying the German dead. After the war, he covered hundreds of miles on foot until he reached his home in Debratzin, a large city in eastern Hungary. I myself knew Debratzin quite well, and we talked about it for a while.

Then he told me the rest of his story. When he went to the apartment once occupied by his father, mother, brothers, and sisters, he found strangers living there. Then he went upstairs to the apartment that he and his wife once had. It also was occupied by strangers. None of them had ever heard of his family. As he was leaving, full of sadness, a boy ran after him, calling, “Uncle Paskin, Uncle Paskin.”

The child was the son of some old neighbors of his and he went to the boy’s home to talk with the boy’s parents. “Your whole family is dead,” they told him, “the Nazis took them and your wife to Auschwitz.”

Auschwitz was one of the worst Nazi concentration camps. Paskin gave up all hope. A few days later, too heartsick to remain any longer in Hungary, he set out again on foot, stealing across border after border, until he managed to immigrate to the United States in October 1947, just three months before I met him on the subway.
All the time he had been talking, I kept thinking about a young woman whom I had met recently at the home of friends who had also been from “Debratzin”. She had been sent to Auschwitz; from there she had been transferred to work in a German munitions factory. Her relatives had been killed in the gas chambers. Later, she was liberated by the Americans and was brought to America in the first boatload of displaced persons in 1946.

Her story had moved me so much that I had written down her address and phone number, intending to invite her to meet my family and thus, help relieve the terrible emptiness in her life. It seemed impossible that there could by any connection between these two people, but as I neared my station, I fumbled anxiously in my address book. I asked in what I hoped was a casual voice, “Was your wife’s name Marya?”

He turned pale. “Yes!” he answered. “How did you know?”

He looked as if he were about to faint. I said, “Let’s get off the train.”

I took him by the arm at the next station and led him to a phone booth. He stood there like a man in a trance while

I dialed her phone number. It seemed hours before Marya answered. When I heard her voice at last, I told her who I was and asked her to describe her husband. She seemed surprised at the question, but gave me a description. Then I asked her where she had lived in Debratzin, and she told me the address. Asking her to hold the line, I turned to Paskin and said, “Did you and your wife live on such- and-such a street?”

“Yes!” Bela exclaimed.

He was trembling. “Try to be calm,” I urged him. “Something miraculous is about to happen to you. Here, take this telephone and talk to your wife!”

Seeing that he was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t talk coherently, I took the receiver from his shaking hands.

“Stay where you are,” I told Marya, “I am sending your husband to you.”

At first I thought I had better accompany Paskin, lest the man should faint from excitement, but I decided that this was a moment in which no strangers should intrude. Putting Paskin into a taxicab, I directed the driver to take him to Marya’s address, paid the fare, and said goodbye.

Bela Paskin’s reunion with his wife was a moment so poignant, so electric, that afterward neither he nor Marya could recall much of the details. Marya told me, “I remember only that when I left the phone, I walked to the mirror like in a dream to see if maybe my hair had turned gray. The next thing I know, a taxi stops in front of the house, and it is my husband who comes toward me. Details I cannot remember; only this I know – that I was happy for the first time in many years . . . Even now it is difficult to believe that it happened. We have both suffered so much.”

“But,” Bela adds, “God has brought us together.”



Was Gamaliel the first Prosperity Gospel preacher in the New Testament? The Apostles are before the Sanhedrian for the second time for witnessing the gospel of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. The Sadducees or the religious liberals want to put them to death. Gamaliel, the leading Pharisee reasons with them, howbeit a false logic. Here is how Wiersbe describes the scene in Acts 5:

Gamaliel also had the mistaken idea that, if something is not of God, it must fail. But this idea does not take into consideration the sinful nature of man and the presence of Satan in the world. Mark Twain said that a lie runs around the world while truth is still putting on her shoes. In the end, God’s truth will be victorious; but meanwhile, Satan can be very strong and influence multitudes of people. Success is no test of truth, in spite of what the pragmatists say (Warren W. Wiersbe on Acts 5:17-42).

John MacArthur translates Gamaliel’s logic: Whatever succeeds is of God; whatever fails is not. You know today we have movements all over the place that are tremendously successful, but God hasn’t got a thing to do with any of them. Christian Science, Jehovah’s Witnesses, very successful. You know there are 455 million Muslims. A success. 395 million Hindus, 350 million Confusionists, 250 million Buddhists, 100 million Shinto Taoists. The fastest growing religion in the world soka gakkai in Japan with millions of adherents. 1 billion atheists or communists. There’s a lot of successful movements. God hasn’t got a thing to do with any of them and you start making the principle that whatever is of God is going to abide and you’ve got problems. Ultimately that’s true. In time it isn’t so…. I mean if that’s true, if you’re going to judge on the basis of success then God is pleased with Playboy, Budweiser, Mormonism, demon worship, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

Richard Greenham served as a pastor just outside of Cambridge, England, from 1570-1590. He rose daily at four and each Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday preached to his congregation at daybreak before they went into their fields. On Sunday he preached twice, and on Sunday nights and Thursday mornings he catechized the children. He was a godly and faithful man who, as he put it, preached Christ crucified unto my self and the country people. Yet his ministry was virtually fruitless. He told his successor that he perceived no good wrought by his ministry on any but one family.

Richard Baxter ministered at Kidderminster, England, from 1641-1660, except for five years during the civil war. It was a town of about 2,000 adults. When he came, he found them an ignorant, rude, and reveling people. Hardly one family on a street professed to follow God. The church held about 1,000, but it proved to be too small. They had to build five galleries to hold the crowds. On the Lord’s Day, as you walked the streets, you would hear hundreds of families singing psalms and repeating the sermons. When Baxter left, on many streets there would hardly be a single family that did not follow the Lord. (These stories told by J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness [Crossway Books], pp. 43-45).

Why the difference between these two men’s ministries? Both men obeyed God no matter what. God’s sovereignty is the only explanation. Both men will receive the Lord’s commendation, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Sermon by Steven J. Cole Obeying God No Matter What on Acts 5:12-42 on January 21, 2001).




downloadMeet Joanie Yoder.

Joanie Yoder was a Christian and she was also agoraphobic. Her life was paralyzed with a fear of open spaces and going out doors. She couldn’t go grocery shopping. When she did venture out to shop she would panic, break out in a sweat, drive her shopping cart into a corner, and run home to the safety of her isolation.

Her four walls became her cocoon of self-protection. She so protected herself she lived with a population of one person: herself. Joanie Yoder was a Christian but a very unhappy Christian. She was in her thirties totally incapacitated by her fears.

She testifies that she had a breakdown. Not a nervous breakdown but a breakdown of self-sufficiency. After she hit rock bottom, she incorporated four spiritual disciplines in her life, which eventually and slowly delivered her from her self-dependency: Reading God’s Word, praying to the Lord, even in grocery stores, trusting Him to rescue her from her weakness, and obeying Him.

God used these four disciplines to free her from her entrapment of fear. She became a leader of a lady’s Bible study. Now, instead being held captive, she could help release others from their fears.

God led her husband and Joanie overseas to London, England. Quite a bold adventure for a lady who before could not go to the local grocery. They met a drug addict on the subway and took him home. They took him home to live with them so they could help him overcome his problem. She helped that drug addict by convincing him that what had helped her would work for him. If the drug addict could totally depend on God, as she had learned, he would not have to depend on drugs. It worked. Joanie Yoder and her husband continued to invite drug addicts into their home. This led to their starting a Christian rehabilitation center for drug addicts in England. They were able to buy a beautiful facility, a former convent, and 38 acres in Wargrave, Reading. Now for 30 years, this ministry has helped men overcome serious drug or alcohol addictions and lives of crime.

Even after her husband died of cancer she continued to grow and expand her ministry to people. She wrote several books about her God dependency: Finding the God Dependent Life, God Alone, and The God Dependent Life. She became a regular contributor to Our Daily Bread for ten years. To many readers, Joanie Yoder was their favorite contributor. Where many of her admirers were, as she had been, enslaved in fear. Now she could help them get to where she was. Free of fear.

Paul told Timothy “God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power, and love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). Paul wrote this challenge as he awaited his martyrdom in prison for the gospel he fearlessly preached. Are you addicted? I don’t’ mean are you addicted to drugs nor to alcohol, nor to pornography. Are you so dependent on self instead of God you are shackled by fear? There is HOPE! But this liberation will not come easy. The first step to your freedom will be the admission you are addicted. I trust you don’t have hit rock bottom before you realize your need. Start now with the same four steps Joanie Yoder took that God used to set her free to serve Him and others: Read, Pray, Trust, and Obey.

bunter hit

I am working on an eBook entitled You Can Handle What Life Throws At You. Behind the title is the metaphor of batters and Christians handling what is thrown at them. Thus the name of this post.

Baseball is a dangerous career. Professional baseball batters have to handle what pitchers are thrown at them! Sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. Batters live in the constant danger of not just being beaned by wild pitchers but being killed. Hit batters are not even protected by law.

Baseball hits are an inherent risk in the game of baseball and consequently hit batters cannot sue pitchers who even intentionally bean a batter. The Supreme Court in California on April 6, 2006 so ruled: “For better or worse, being intentionally thrown at is a fundamental part and inherent risk on the sport of baseball. It is not the function of tort law to police such conduct” (Wikipedia).

Even though today’s batters have lots of equipment to protect them, pitches are still dangerous, intimidating, and lethal.

Baseball hits can be lethal

Before helmets were required and baseball games were played in the twilight of the afternoon, short stop Ray Chapman of the Cleveland Indians was hit in the head by Carl Mays of the New York Yankees on August 16th, 1920. Chapman died 12 hours later. This was baseball’s most tragic hour. He died for a game he loved.

Christianity is also a dangerous life. At least in the New Testament. All of the Apostles of Christ were put to death. Paul said, “I die daily.” Paul awoke each day knowing this may be the day he offered up his life as sacrificial offering for Christ. Believers still die for Christ around world. Read the Voice of Martyrs. We American Christians, however, are soft. Not only will we never be martyred, we will never even be reproached for the gospel we are ashamed to witnessed. It is more dangerous to play baseball than it is to be a Christian.

Baseball hits are dangerous

In spite of helmets with earflaps and pads and guards that cover elbows, hands, biceps, shins, and feet, baseball is dangerous. Kirby Puckett, of the Minnesota Twins was struck on the cheek by a fastball from Dennis Martinez. The fastball broke his jaw. Kirby later developed glaucoma. He never played professional baseball again. At bat for every player has the potential of being career ending.

Jesus said we must lose our lives for Him in order to find life. Yet we Christians are so unwilling to risk any danger to serve God. Maybe this is the reason so few young people are unwilling to serve on less than safe mission fields. Pampered Christian parents have produced pampered Christian children. Christian parents are proud of the sons and daughters going into firefighting, police work, or the military. Yet if those same young people would be talked out on going to a dangerous mission field or inner city mission.

Baseball hits are intimidating

Pitchers who throw fast and wild intimidate batters. Nolan Ryan comes to mind. He could throw 100 mph fastballs and he was wild. Ryan has a career high of 277 wild pitches and 158 hit batters. Maybe this accounts for his 5714 strikeouts.

Are dangerous inner city ministries off limits to Christians because they are drug infested and intimidating? Would Jesus avoid inner city ministries because they are dangerous?

Brandon Hatmaker tells about Matt Carter who pastors a church in Austin called The Austin Stone Community Church. It’s an incredible church that has grown at incredible rates. Over the first few years of its life The Stone grew to several thousand in attendance. There were many factors that contributed to their growth. They had a clear calling, vision, and passion for the people and city of Austin, and the presence of God was tangible. As fast as they grew in their first few years, it was nothing compared to what happened in 2008, the year God presented Matt with the moral imperative to sell out to mission.

This included taking the resources they had set aside to build their church campus and instead purchase property in the highest-crime-rate neighborhood of Austin. On it they were to build a city center for mission, leaving their existing church to set up and tear down every Sunday in a local high school gym. If I were Matt, I wouldn’t have slept much. I would have feared everyone would leave my church. I would have feared everyone would think I was crazy. And in my flesh, I probably would have been tempted to figure out a way to do “missional light” instead of “missional.” But The Stone sold out to the mission.

They did everything God asked of them to the best of their ability. They sacrificed their new campus, utilized their platform to spread awareness of their new way of church, and reoriented their ministries around a missional posture. I’m sure there were snags along the way that I don’t know about. I’m sure there were opportunities lost just as there were opportunities gained. But I also believe they did their best to make each right next decision. You might think that a church their size going through such transition would have a season of sifting. Maybe lose some people while enduring a few rebuilding years. But during that year they literally doubled in size. In one year!

Hatmaker, Brandon (2011-11-01). Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture (Exponential Series) (p. 158). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.


From Mega Church to Ministry to the Poor Church

Big Church Buildings or Big Hearts for the Poor