Of Course! Women Can WRITE Sermons
For those of you who read my blog, you can tell that my life has been a journey. During my 48 years of being a believer, God has revealed things to me about my faith, about my love for Him, about my struggles and about my writing. From the beginning of my journey, the Lord has kept me in His Word—loving Him through thick and thin.
We all have beginnings. We have beginnings when we start to write; we have beginnings when we learn something new, and we have beginnings when we become a believer.
Today, I would like to reveal part of my journey by sharing a semi-UNEDITED* version of the first “sermon” I ever wrote. You might ask, “Why would you want to write a sermon?” And my best answer is, “Because I can.”
The other day I was at my house going through old things and I found a folder I had saved from 1993. In it were all my notes from a class I took at First Baptist Church in O’Fallon, Missouri. The leader of the church at the time was my wonderful pastor—Gary Taylor.
In case you are interested, I do believe in supporting ministries that my church offers, and at that time Pastor Gary (mostly known as Brother Gary) was offering a PREACHING class on Sunday evenings. While I am not a fan of women preachers, I wanted to learn. I love to write (although sometimes I debate my effectiveness), so I asked Brother Gary if, as a woman, it was okay if I took his class. He said, “Of course.” So, I took his class and as I recall, I was the only woman in the class!
During his lectures, I took notes—lots of them. One of the projects, at the end of the class, was to write a sermon. It was in my old dossier that I found the sermon I wrote on Jonah.
On a Journey
As believers in Christ, we are all on a journey. We are on a journey to learn more, to love Jesus more and to share our faith with others. I’ve been on this journey for a while, picking up various classes, listening to various preachers, doing individual studies, reading books, and reading different versions of the Bible.
In my young Christian walk, I attended seminary. At the time, my interests laid more in the theology classes than the education classes, and I guess this desire has followed me all throughout my life. So, this class was my cup of tea!
Today we are going to look at Jonah. Jonah refused to obey God. It was only after a time of trying to run away from God did Jonah pray and decide to do things God’s way, just like Helen.
MY FIRST SERMON: JONAH (ORIGINALLY TYPED ON A TYPEWRITER)
Jonah, son of Amittai, is the historical character and author of this book. Jonah was a prophet, but this book is not a book about prophecy—meaning there is no prophecy of the future recorded in it. The book of Jonah is about a personal account of a major event in the life of Jonah. Jonah probably ministered between 800-750 B.C. which during that time King Jeroboam II restored her traditional borders. This ended the conflict between Israel and Damascus which went on for almost a century. Most scholars say the book was written after the destruction of Nineveh in 612 B.C. The book of Jonah is often questioned on its credibility. It has been ridiculed by Christians and non-Christians. The book of Jonah is not a fish story. It is about God’s sovereignty and however God may plan his own life, it is God who is working all things out in such a way as to bring glory to His name.
I. God reveals His will to us; Bible – Jonah 1:1-3
God is calling Jonah to go someplace for him. He is asked to go to Nineveh. Nineveh is called “that great city.” It was the capital of the Assyrian Empire and was located on the Tigris city. It was the world power in that day. But it is a great city—great in wickedness. It was so wicked that God has decided He will judge the city if the city does not turn to him. Jonah is told to go to Nineveh, but he goes down to Joppa and buys a ticket for the 1st boat to Tarshish on the S. coast of Spain. We may ask why Jonah did this—Some possibilities include:
- Jonah hated the Ninevites and he did not want them to be saved. There was a basis for his hatred. The Assyrians were the most brutal people in the ancient world. They used very cruel methods of torture. One of the procedures the Assyrians used was to take a man out to the desert sands, bury him up to his neck, they would put a thong in his tongue and leave them there to die while the sun beat down on their heads. They’d go made before they died.
- He knew God well enough that if he went to Nineveh with a message of judgment and the people accepted God through repentance, God would not judge them, and he would save the city. That was something he did not want to happen.
- He was a disobedient prophet of God. He was out of God’s will. He didn’t want to live under the will of his father.
- In Jonah’s day, the method of sending missionaries out was for people to come to the nation of Israel to hear about God. Queen of Sheba came from the ends of the earth to Israel to hear about worship. During that period of history, Israel witnessed to the world not by going out as missionaries but by the world coming to them. It wasn’t the method of Jonah’s day to go to a foreign country as a missionary.
Jonah hears God’s call and heads in the opposite direction. He goes down to Joppa, finds a ship, buys a ticket, gets on board and goes to sleep.
God may not show you his will like he did Jonah, but he will show you his will. It may be direct like Jonah’s, but many times it is more like a step by step, day by day obedience to God. Some steps to knowing God’s will are:
- Read your Bible—It is our guidebook.
- Pray—Communicate with God. Ask him what his will is. Pray for wisdom. James 1:5 states, “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him, and he will gladly tell you, for he is always ready to give a bountiful supply of wisdom to all who ask him; he will not resent it.” (Living Bible)
- Depend on the Holy Spirit—An inward urge can be just as clear as an audible voice. John 16:13 states, “He will guide you into all truth.”
- Normal circumstances—If you can’t sing a tune, you probably don’t need to sing the church solos.
- Godly advice—Discussion with people of a wise and godly character
B. Illustration—Personal[One day] when I worked in downtown Houston, I felt the Lord wanted me to walk in the downtown tunnel, which I rarely did, during the lunch hour. At the exact same time, a construction worker fell from a building they were working on 56 floors to his death. God spared me the horror of that tragic situation.
II. We cannot hide from God; Bible – Jonah 1:4-7
In verse 4, the Lord sent out a great storm. This storm is not a natural storm—it is a storm sent from God. God is using this storm for a good purpose. God wants to do 2 things with this storm: Save a city and turn around a prophet who was going in the wrong direction.
In verse 5-7, the Mariners knew this was not a natural storm. They are sailors accustomed to the Mediterranean sea. Some commentaries say Jonah was able to go down into the sides of the ship and fall fast asleep believing that he was confident everything was all right. Or could it be possible Jonah fell into a deep depression and fell fast asleep? Psychologists and psychiatrists say that deep sleep can be a sign of depression. He was sleeping although the pagan sailors are worshipping all kinds of gods.
The shipmaster asked Jonah to call upon his God, so they won’t perish. They then cast lots. It appears that God was in the casing of these lots, but it doesn’t mean that God approves of the practice. The men on board were superstitious. The lot fell on Jonah. J. Vernon McGee says, “that God will make the wrath of man to praise Him and God can also make the superstition of men to praise him.” ¹
Jonah tried to escape from God. We cannot escape from God. In Psalm 139:1-8, David says, “Oh Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise…Where can I go from your presence: If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.” We cannot escape from the presence of God. We must read our Bible and pray daily for the strength to follow God when he speaks.
Escapism is the or order of the day. We escape by traveling, we go to another city or another country, we escape with drugs or alcohol, we escape with pre-marital or extramarital sex, we escape into our hobbies, work or television. When we try to escape from God’s will, our thinking and lives will be blurred.
III. God uses people to accomplish his purposes; Bible – Jonah 1:8-10
At this point, Jonah hasn’t revealed much about himself to the sailors. Jonah hasn’t told anybody he is a prophet. He hasn’t told them he is from the Northern kingdom of Israel. He hasn’t said he belongs to the Israelite people who know the true and living God. Why? He is a man out of God’s will and a man out of the will of God can never be an effective witness for God.
Finally, in v. 9, Jonah tells them he is a Hebrew. From that, the sailors knew he worshipped one God and never an idol. He says he “fears the Lord the God of heaven.” In v. 10, these sailors knew he had fled from the presence of God. They ask him what he has done. At this point, Jonah is presenting a bad witness to these pagan sailors.
God will use our spouses, our friends, our children, or our parents to point us in the right direction. However, there are also people who lead us to live our lives unpleasing to God. We need God’s wisdom as we allow Him to use His people to accomplish His purposes.
A friend gave John, my husband, an ad for a job in St. Louis. We moved there for that job! God does use other people to accomplish his purposes
IV. God provides a way of escape amid disobedience; – Jonah 1:11-17
- v. 11—Jonah is asked “What shall we do to you so that the sea may be calm for us? They asked straightforward question and Jonah proceeds to give them a straight forth answers.
- v. 12—Jonah decides his own fate. He recognizes the hand of God in all this. He knows the only way to stop the storm is to get off the ship going to Tarshish and go to where God wants him to be…Nineveh.
- v. 13—These pagan sailors are seen in a good light here. They do not want to throw Jonah overboard. They try their best to get out of the storm by rowing to land, but they can’t do it.
- v. 14—We can’t know for sure if the sailors accepted God as they cried out to him, but we can tell that their hearts responded to the mercy of God who delivered them from the storm.
- v. 15—So they threw him into the sea and the seas calmed down. This reveals that it was truly a supernatural storm under God’s control.
- v. 16—Did these men fear their gods? No. They feared the Creator of the sea and land and offered a sacrifice unto the Lord—that sacrifice points to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no alternative.
- v. 17—What about Jonah? The Lord had prepared a great fish. That means a “huge fish—ketos in Greek. The importance is God prepared this fish for this special event. Jonah is in the belly of the fish 3 days and 3 nights—symbolic of Christ’s 3 days in the grace before his resurrection.
A. Application—Combined with an invitation
As you look at your life, are you wanting to run away from God as Jonah did? Is God trying to show you His will? Are there areas in your life, that He just can’t get through? Are you burdened by sin in your life?
A cartoon was once published in three parts. In the first scene, there was a young man seated at a desk at his shoulder stood Jesus Christ, inviting him to be saved. Politely he told the Lord that he was just launching his career and had no time for anything else.
The second scene showed a middle-aged man. He was heavier and well dressed, and his large desk was covered with papers and reports. Again, Christ stood at his elbow. But again, the man replied with the same answer—no time, busy, tomorrow.
The last picture showed an old and graying man at his desk. At his shoulder stood not the Savior, but the gaunt, bony specter of Death. Death, speaking in hollow tones, declared, “I have come for you.” The businessman, with frightened eyes, replied, “Go away, Death, I did not send for you.” But Death refused to be sent away, and the man was ushered into eternity without God. ²
God does provide a way of escape. An old Scottish clergyman said the devil has two lies that he uses at two different stages. Before we commit a sin, he tells us that one little sin doesn’t matter— “no one will know.” The second lie is that after we’ve sinned, he tells us we’re hopeless. The good news is because Jesus Christ came and died on the cross and rose from the dead, we are not in a hopeless position.
If you’ve never asked Jesus to forgive you of your sins and accept Him into your life, today is the day to get things right with God. Perhaps, God is calling you to a specific ministry or task? Perhaps you need to commit your life anew to God? Perhaps he is leading you to be a part of this church fellowship? As you come, God’s arms are open wide for you.
My first impression is that I wrote a pretty good sermon way back when, but the errors, which you probably noticed, are astounding! Bad punctuation, wordiness, incomplete Works Cited, and more. However, I could teach from this sermon. Add some prayer, tone, possible repetition, and I could use this as a lesson today!
Recently I read a book titled Passion in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines and Adam B. Dooley. I don’t read these types of book to learn how to be a preacher, but I was reminded when I found this folder that I have always been interested in learning more about preaching techniques and the best way to share my faith with others.
I’m not there yet at all, but when I read the book the other day, it reminded me, “Yes, we can read preacher books—even if we are a woman,” not because we want to be a preacher, but because we want to learn how to present our thoughts in a meaningful, theological and systematic way.
Unfortunately, many would wonder (maybe even criticize me) for picking up and/or buying a book about preaching. I don’t aspire to be a preacher, but I do aspire to be a better teacher. In this book, I learned about:
- Examining a word exegetically (meaning: “studying for a critical explanation or interpretation of a text or portion of a text, especially the Bible”);
- Gauging audience reactions;
- Authenticity; and
- Verbal, vocal and visual strategies.
It has been 26 years since I wrote my one and only sermon although many people have called some of my blogs sermons! I guess I have that “sermon-writing bug” in my DNA!
Furthermore, I hope I write a little better than I did 26 years ago, but if not, maybe my current pastor will teach a class on preaching someday! And, I hope when I ask him if I can take the class, he’ll say, “Of course.”
Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 24-25)
Therefore, if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:1-2)
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
Dear Jesus, Thank You for giving me gifts and talents. Thank You that You can use me to work for You within my church and in my community. I may not do it correctly, but Lord, use whatever You need to further Your kingdom. I praise You for allowing me to be a part of Your eternal kingdom. Show me Your power and how my life progresses into a deeper maturity when I am following Your plan. I love You. Amen.
¹ McGee, J. Vernon. The Prophets: Jonah and Micah. Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1991.
² Sweeting, George. Tomorrow May Be Too Late! Good News Publishers. Tract.
Partially Edited by E. Johnson
All verses come from the New American Standard Version.
* Okay, I did run my 1993 sermon through spellcheck. I just couldn’t stand to have misspellings in my article. But all else has been unedited.
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