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Desperate for God

Once you hit bottom, you'll find that God is there, doing something great.

Introductory remarks from John Ortberg:

I remember reading that when baseball great Ty Cobb was in a slump, he would battle it by resorting to bunting. Something about the simplicity of bunting—just putting the bat on the ball—helped him regain his confidence and eventually swing away.

I have always felt that way about preaching narratives. Sometimes I go through what feels like a slump in preaching. Fortunately, they never last longer than a decade or so. But when I do, I love to preach a narrative text from Scripture. I think that's because people—including me—love stories. When I can't handle a tricky, abstract passage from Paul, a story can help me preach in a way that will connect with people.

One challenge in preaching narrative well is to find resources or commentaries that are truly helpful. Often those informed by great scholarship are so technical, or follow such an academic agenda, that it's hard to use them for our preaching. On the other hand, those resources that focus on devotional thoughts rarely have much substance. Still, there's great stuff out there. There's just no magic formula to find it! It's a hunt and peck search (at least for me). I have a few friends who teach, and I'll ask them where I can find the good stuff. I also look for reviews in places like Books & Culture. While preparing for this particular message, I found that the Brazos commentary series had a terrific volume on Jonah.

Another challenge with preaching biblical narrative is identifying where the sermon is heading in an effort to make sure I highlight only the details that fit the agenda of the sermon. The temptation is to throw more details in simply because I find them interesting. This only ends up boring people, ...

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John Ortberg is pastor of Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Menlo Park, California.

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Sermon Outline:


One of the problems with the Book of Jonah is that a lot of us think we know the story, but we really don't.

I. Pushing past the debates to see the point

II. Jonah hits bottom and discovers a great God.

III. Jonah as comedy

IV. So what?


Jesus says, "The third day is coming, if you'll meet me."