Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Book: Worship in an Age of Anxiety


This week, I'm wrapping up reading J. Michael Jordan's Worship in an Age of Anxiety. This isn't an assigned review, but a book I've had on hand for a month or two and wanted to read for personal growth.

It's part of a series from IVP called on the Dynamics of Christian Worship. There are six entries in the series, this being the most recent. Jordan is a Wesleyan Pastor and the Dean of the Chapel at Houghton College. That makes his primary work with college-age students, though he also works pastorally with his church and the community he lives in.

The "age of anxiety" reference in the title launches from W. H. Auden's poem "The Age of Anxiety," which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. Auden's poem is worth reading; it deals with seeking meaning in the industrialized world. However, we're not going to look at the poem here. I'm not great with poetry reviews--my high school English grades show that to be very true.

Instead, I want to point you to this book. Jordan opens with a good description and discussion of what anxiety looks like. As well as any other book I've read that tries to bridge the gap between the more academic concepts of mental health and the popular level of mental health discussions (without dipping into the social media definitions which are almost always wrong), he provides an overview of what "anxiety" is in contrast to "worry" or "stress." The intro chapters alone were worth the time.

From there, we are treated to an examination of the deliberate uses of 'anxiety' in evangelical worship through the past couple of centuries. This includes reflecting on the practices of revivalists in the 19th century. Jordan does not pass judgment on those methods, but simply notes their usage.

Jordan then presents some basics of how anxiety can dreep into the methods and understandings of worship planning now. He suggests that evangelical circles would benefit from the grounding of historic liturgical practices, though noting the need to ensure they are presented in a way congruent with the theology that evangelicals embrace. 

In all, I'm finding this read a good challenge in how we think about worship and the value of alleviating the anxiety that comes in the door, rather than simply acting as if it does not exist.

Which is, I think, the bigger and more useful lesson here: do not ignore the reality of the people who have come to worship. Folks come in with anxieties, even as they are more current-era anxieties that rise higher on the classic "hierarchy of needs" than food and shelter. These anxieties are more nebulous and, therefore, harder to both measure and address. They are not any less real, though.

And drawing near to God in honest, church-wide worship must not ignore them, even as it is the keystone in helping to address them.

Monday, July 15, 2024

Sermon Recap for July 14 2024

 Good morning! After being at Praiseworks Arkansas last week, I'm back. 

Here is yesterday's sermon, where I am proud of myself for not making any "have fun stormin' the castle" references even though it was Bastille Day. Given that a bystander was killed during an attempted assassination of a presidential candidate, it just felt wrong to try and make jokes about revolutions and such.

Believe me, Billy Crystal as Miracle Max is always funny. It just wasn't the time for it.

We continued in our series in 1 Samuel with 1 Samuel 3.

You can "subscribe" to the video here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCJBGluSoaJgYn6PbIklwKaw

And to the audio here: 

If you’d like, you can subscribe to the audio feed here: http://feeds.feedburner.com/DougHibbardPodcast
Audible Link is here: https://www.audible.com/podcast/Doug-Hibbard-Sermons-and-Thoughts/B08JJND2RP

Monday, July 8, 2024

Sermon Recap for July 7 2024

 I'm headed to Praiseworks with our youth this week, so the rest of the blog schedule may go "splat." However, here's the sermon from yesterday:

Thursday, July 4, 2024

Fourth of July

 Okay, first of all:

The Continental Congress voted to declare independence on July 2nd. However, the long-standing convention is to remember and celebrate the 4th, when the Declaration of Independence itself was ready for its first readings and signatures. Not everybody signed that day.

And, honestly, not everybody received their independence that day. We've been slowly in-progress ever since to see true liberty and justice for all in this nation. I think one can make a strong case that philosophical influence from where we started in 1776 has enabled progress, however slow it is, in a way that would not have happened otherwise. I also think that influence spans national boundaries and the philosophical development in the US leads to other nations having thinkers who say, "Okay, but why stop there?"

Also worth noting: yes, there are historical examples of cultures where tribes, cities, or small regions saw better equality than the US sees now. Factors to compare: size of population, size of territory, and diversity of population. It is pretty uncommon to see cultures where a diversity of origins results in a unified nation with equality for all. Again, we're not there yet here but that is the goal: to fulfill the promise of America, that is what we must become. So, yes, there was once a remote village that was idyllic and perfect. We're trying to be a whole nation. It's harder than it looks.

All that context being noted, here is the Declaration of Independence, as found in the National Archives: 


The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.—Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

  He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

  He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

  He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only. 

  He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 

  He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

  He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

  He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

  He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

  He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

  He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

  He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

  He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

  He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

  For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

  For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

  For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

  For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 

  For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

  For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

  For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

  For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

  For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

  He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

  He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people. 

  He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

  He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands. 

  He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Sermon Addendum for June 30 2024

 What got left out of the sermon this past Sunday?

Lots of things:

First, background on 1 Samuel: It's a long work, and as best can be told, our 1 and 2 Samuel were 1 work, divided at the "this scroll is too big" line. We do not know who wrote it, but it covers too long of an era to likely have a single author. At the very least, the author works from records passed forward to his time frame. (Yes, given the source culture it is reasonable to assume a male author.) Some traditions put everything from 1 Samuel through the end of 2 Kings as compiled in their final form by one author working from the official court records of Israel, then Israel and Judah. 

We do see him anticipate the installation of kings over Israel as well as the inauguration of the Temple. The references to both of these institutions at the beginning suggest that the author is familiar with them, and some scholars think the authorship fits post-Exile, meaning he's perhaps even pining for them.

Speaking of things being "post-Exile," it's a good time to remind you of the general outline of Old Testament History:

You start with: Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. 

Then you take the people into the Promised Land with Joshua, have the time of the Judges and Ruth.

After which comes the United Kingdom, Israel, has three kings: Saul, David, and Solomon, and it falls apart into two kingdoms. The Northern Kingdom is called "Israel" and has all bad kings. The Southern Kingdom is called "Judah" and some good, but mostly bad, kings. Israel is destroyed by Assyria in 722 BC, Judah is destroyed by the Neo-Babylonian Empire in 586 BC. 

The destructions resulted in exile and resettlement, but under the Medo-Persian Empire, the Israelites return to the land under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah.

1 Samuel covers the development from the Judges to the United Monarchy.

Second, textual info in 1 Samuel: 1 and 2 Samuel pose some of the bigger challenges in Old Testament textual criticism--that is, the science of discerning the original document from the extant sources. I'm not an expert in the field, so we won't really delve into it. I would recommend a good technical commentary on 1 & 2 Samuel to help examine what is happening here. There are some significant differences that will come up between the Masoretic Text (the Hebrew text most English Bibles are based on), the Septuagint (the Greek text made around 200 BC), and the Dead Sea Scrolls (both their Hebrew and other language versions of this text). 

The main points of doctrine and even of history are the same, but some of the details develop a bit differently.

Finally, left out of Sunday's sermon was a strong critique of a society that valued women primarily for childbirth. Why? While it may seem appropriate to note that women should not be limited to only one future and not be counted worthwhile without meeting that one target, it's not present in this text. We do not see anyone say to Hannah: "No, you are valid and worthwhile without children and everyone needs to straighten up."

Instead, we see God answer her prayer. Over the course of all Scripture, I think we can see the critique of the "moms are better than anything else" point of view, but it's not here. We should be careful not to press a viewpoint into the text if it is not there.

On top of that: where does the situation go, if Hannah is not used by God to bring Samuel into this world? What happens then?

Also left out, because I would not likely have chased it anyway: the attempt to read this narrative downward from the definite work of God to it being just another "hero story" like many ancient cultures, beginning with the "heroic birth" of the special child. First, I think that downplays the uniqueness of the Bible. Second, arguably, the "hero" of 1-2 Samuel is David. Samuel, Saul, Hannah, Eli, are all part of the setup. I don't buy it, but my presupposition is that the text of the Bible says what the truthful God wants it to say. Interpretations that start from a perspective of "God's not particular about being honest" are outside what I will consider, normally.

Tuesday, July 2, 2024

Books: Why read?

I know, I know, I'm doing two things today that are a bit...wrong.

First, I'm going to use a blog post to encourage you to read materials that are longer than blogposts.

Second, I'm going to use the Internet and electronic communications to encourage you to read "dead-tree" books. 

You are correct: there's a bit of hypocrisy going on here. Log off, go read a book for an hour and then come back and tell me.

First, why read long form? After all, there are plenty of soundbites, short posts, even the news is broken down into fairly short stories. 

Realize this: I'm not saying you should never read shorter things. A newspaper article. A Twitter thread. Your friend's Facebook post about their trip to Aruba and Jamaica. However, your attention span and mental processing becomes tuned to the average what you normally read.

So if you normally are reading news articles and then sprinkling that with Tweets, telegraphs, or bumper stickers, your abilities will stretch as far as that requires. Much like your biceps may become excellent at picking up 12 pounds if you pick up 12 pounds every day, but struggle with 20, if you read 5-minute snippets daily, you'll be good at 5 minutes. 

And multiple "reps" are more about toning than about building up--reading 12 5-minute items (or worse, 60 1-minutes!) does not have the same mental strengthening effect that reading 1 30-minute item would have. In truth, it helps your brain learn to shallow switch back and forth through many things, and you do not learn to discern what matters are important and what matters are not--everything bounces through so quickly you miss that understanding. 

Neil Postman hits on this very well in Amusing Ourselves to Death. It's a book worth reading ;)

Want a quick test for whether or not you are sliding into that trap? How do you feel when the news puts too many murders, wars, and disasters between you and the sports and culture events? Are you hitting the website looking for Taylor Swift and annoyed to see Ukraine in the way? You might be trending toward a problem. Oh, and if you always avoid news sites so that you can always miss the "bad stuff," you have probably gone even farther.

Reading long-form helps train your brain to discern what is, and is not important. Further, it helps you distill information as you read it. I have (and like!) some of the shortened versions of books. I have a *lot* from Optimize.me that takes some of the bigger books in productivity, etc., and distills them into 6 pages (3, front and back). It's a speedy way to consume information, but it does not help you retain it better. And, you're assuming the distiller got the right parts. Basically, the TL;DR helps of the current era are just like the Cliff's Notes they're patterned after: better than nothing but often like taking a prime steak and grinding it up to make a quick hamburger. You're losing a lot.

So make the time to read long-form.

Second, make the effort to amass, and read, actual printed books. Yes, get a Kindle. Read on e-ink. Get Logos Bible Software, read/research through those tools. For that matter, get all the books digitized and uploaded in PDFs so that researchers throughout the years can access them. (I mean, seriously, let's get old newspaper archives digitized from microfilm and accessible; there is equipment for that and student workers who need hours and digital tools to help with it. There is no reason to limit historical research to those wealthy enough to travel to large libraries and spend all day reading microfiche.)

But at the same time, you should still acquire and read the printed word. Why? Well, take this blog as an example. It's digital. I can go back and edit it at any time. And, sure, if you know how to parse the metadata, you can see whether or not I backdated that prediction of a Trump win in 2016 (I did NOT make any predictions) or if I added a post or even use Wayback to, perhaps, find one I deleted. 

If you don't, though, or if the other tools do not support seeing behind-the-curtain, what do you do when someone is changing the information? How do you even know?

This is why I would argue for digitization of historical materials, like newspapers and such, through PDFs. These are not impossible to change, but they are harder to change.

Plus, it's far easier to see the footnotes, the references, the linking between information. 

Generally, for me, if I am looking at non-fiction material, I would rather have several editions of a print book than an evolving e-book or website without a chain of reference of what changed and when. Additionally, yes, it costs more to create the print book. Which should result in a stronger effort to get it right.

There are some notable exceptions--at least 4 biographies I've seen in the last decade or so were not only shaded by political and theological agenda, but also missed important points of accuracy. This happens when the author does not bother to engage the primary sources himself.

(Which he could have done without visiting the relevant archives if those sources had been digitized, but they are not. And he did not.)

Now, fiction, generally, I'm more okay with digital but even then, you want books with reference copies available in print. Many of the great works of literature are fiction, after all--can you imagine if you could not determine the original text of 1984 or A Handmaid's Tale? Or Moby Dick? You could do a find and replace and make the whole thing about Moby Duck.

It's always better to read than to not read, but I think you would do well to make sure most of your reading is long-form and at least some of it is coming from printed, dead-tree books. 

PS: Audiobooks? Yes, if you are constantly on the go and can listen, do so. If at all possible, find a way to make space in your life to also read with your eyes if physically able. Again, read what you can, some approaches are better than others but even a cheeseburger has more nutrition than a cardboard box. 

Thursday, June 27, 2024

Historical Thinking: "What is History?"

 As we get started down this rabbit trail of “Historical Thinking,” the first thing I’d like to work through is a question: “What is history?” 

Why? Because too many people come back with “I don’t like history” as their response to the idea of studying, learning, or reading anything about history. Now, some folks will probably still never like history. And certainly, not everyone is going to vibe on the academic discipline of history, but history as a whole can be very enjoyable even without perfectly spelled footnotes!

First, let’s dismiss some wrong definitions of history. History is not just a collection of dates. While it is necessary to keep up with what happened when—I read once that a key factor in history is knowing some things happened before other things—your school-aged history tests of just memorizing and reciting dates is not really history. It’s facts.

Second, “history” comes from a Greek word “ ‘istoria” and has nothing to do with the gender pronoun. It’s not “his story” in place of “her story.” Sometimes it’s presented as such—and it’s sometimes presented that we need a “her story” to counterbalance “his.” Folks, it’s all “history.” Because the word doesn’t break down into a pronoun.

Third, a corollary on the second point: I firmly believe that history involves the work of God in the world. Fully and completely. But it’s not “His story,” either. He gave us His story—has garden-based bookends, Creation, fall, redemption, REDEEMER, redeemed. That’s not the same. Neither is it appropriate to apply to God all the causation in history, though that’s another matter but we’ll hit it here: God is sovereign. Historical causation can be viewed as understanding how God did it, but we do not drop back to “Well, it happened because God did it, moving on….” 

Apply that to something as simple as World War II: I’ll take miraculous intervention helping the Allies overthrow the Nazis. But a “all that matters is God did it” view means that God caused the Nazis. I don’t think that lines up with theology, how about you?

Another thing that is not “history” are the memory triggers we use, like statues or single items in museums. Those help us remember history, but without “history” it’s just a guy on a horse. Who is he? Why did we put up his statue? 

You need to know that.

So what is “history”? 

For our purposes here, “history” is the recorded story we tell to understand the past. That’s my combination of several pieces of definition from around the academic world. It is not just a record of events, but the interpretation and collation of the facts surrounding them. This is why history, at times, needs to be reconsidered. For example, throughout the 1950s-1970s, much of the story about events in the American space program focused on the astronauts and the “high profile” lead scientists, like von Braun. Recently, though, the lens has widened to show that men and women, including Black women, were always in the picture. The story we need tell needs to be told better.

Or, as we look longer into the past, we have long heard the popular tale that Columbus proved the Earth was round. Yet clearly understanding history shows that this story was told without regard to the facts: it was a widely known fact that the Earth was round. The initial story was more focused on “heroic development” of America at the time.

History is the story we tell about the facts—it cannot exclude the facts but instead explains them, interrogates them (asks questions, seeks understanding), and puts together a mostly cohesive narrative about them. That narrative is recorded, shared, and then open to debate and discussion. Perspectives affect our creation of history as well as our understanding, but the facts remain the same. 

That’s why history remains an open discussion. Some things are fairly plainly settled, but new information should lead to re-evaluation of the story, correction of errors, and plainer dealing with what has gone on before now. History does change, because we understand the story better. The facts remain the same, and that’s the key.

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Sermon Addendum June 23rd 2024

 Sermon Addendum June 23rd 2024

(Keep in mind, the date is for the sermon, not the post :) )

This past Sunday, I wrapped up the sermon series in Acts that I’ve been doing for several months. There wasn’t enough time to get all the way through Acts, and when it comes to Acts you either need about 2 years or you have to leave something out. After all, one of my “want but am not spending the money” book purchases is Craig Keener’s four volume commentary on Acts. We do Acts a disservice if we only read it as one-off actions stories.

So, what’s going on in Acts 15?

First, it’s the justification for what is called in church history The Conciliar Movement. At least, one of my textbooks used that label. Most of what we deem standard (orthodox) Christian doctrine is born from bodies of church leaders in the 2nd-5th Centuries AD gathering and establish what Scripture means, how Christianity understands the truths contained in the Word. For example, our understanding of God in Three Persons, the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, was defined by the Councils of the Early Church. It is drawn from Scripture’s revelation of the nature of God, but there is a lot of Bible about God.

And the idea that a group of wise Jesus-followers can make plain what Scripture means starts here in Acts 15, where Peter, Paul, James, Barnabas, and others gathered to sort out how the Old Testament Law needed to be applied on the current church.

Second, we see some basic guidelines on how the Old Testament Law needs to be applied on the current church! Note the nature of the four instructions passed on to the Gentiles. As we look at the expectations given to the people, these were about clear worship (abstaining from idols); clear lifestyle (abstaining from sexual immorality); and clear fellowship (avoiding foods that would have re-divided Jew and Gentile). And the last one we see some development through later years under Paul’s authority as he mitigates that command somewhat. (He never backs up from avoiding idolatry and immorality.) As we examine the traditions and expectations of years gone by, our questions could rightly come back to these: are we clearly worshiping only Jesus? Are we honoring God with our lifestyle? Are we strengthening our fellowship with one another or being self-absorbed?

Third thing that we see here is some of the leadership of the church in Jerusalem. We see James, and we know it is not James Zebedee, as he died earlier in Acts (Acts 12). So it’s another James. Usually we connect him to James the (half-)brother of Jesus, and author of the Biblical book of James. We see Peter, we see Paul, we see Barnabas. Both the primacy of James as spokesman and the equality of all to share their views are important here.

Finally, Acts 15 wraps up with perhaps one of the sadder moments in the flow of the story of the early Christians. Paul and Barnabas have a sharp disagreement, sharp enough that they no longer work together. The text’s statement of “they parted company” implies something deeper than a “well, agree to disagree, see you later,” moment but more of a “Nope, we’re done” kind of event. Tragically, we sometimes go down that path: it is okay to have a disagreement, but strive to keep it from causing you to “part company.” That’s an important idea to keep in mind, that we can disagree. We can even decide that we are not going to work with someone because our approaches are too different. But preferences and styles should never drive us apart in our relationships.

Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Books: What I'm Reading

Rather than a book review this time, I would like to hit a rundown of some of the things I am currently reading. I would not automatically endorse everything in all of these...but they should be useful reading anyway!


1. I'm rereading Timothy Zahn's Thrawn and Thrawn: Ascendancy trilogies during wind-down time in the evening. It's a good relaxation moment.

2. Before that I read the Michael Crichton/James Patterson work Eruption. It's not as awesome as Jurassic Park, but it's still good :)

Non-Fiction Devotional:

1. I'm working through Dallas Willard's Renovation of the Heart and the accompanying work by Jan Johnson Renovation of the Heart in Daily Practice. Thought-provoking.

2. Ryan Holiday's latest in the Stoic Virtues series: Right Thing, Right Now. I like this series, even though I might not always agree with all of Holiday's philosophical ideas, this is a good series.

3. Jesus Every Day: A Journey through the Bible in One Year by Mary DeMuth, which is a great opener with a short Bible passage and devotional.

Non-Fiction Learning:

1. The Battle of Brandy Station which is about the largest cavalry battle in North America. It occurred in the Civil War, shortly before the Battle of Gettysburg. It's by Eric J. Wittenberg, who also wrote a good book about John Buford during Gettysburg.

2. Ownership: The Evangelical Legacy of Slavery in Edwards, Wesley, and Whitfield by Sean McGever. Why? because.

That's the current spread of reading outside of the dissertation work.


Monday, June 24, 2024

Sermon Recap for June 23 2024

 Good afternoon!

It's time for the sermon recap for yesterday. The morning sermon was the last one in our series on Acts. We've wrapped up that one and we're moving on to 1 Samuel next week.

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Historical Thinking for June 18 2024

 So, one of the things that has me struggling with blogging for the last, oh, 3 or 4 years is that I am supposed to be writing a dissertation. I feel bad to blog when I should write for assignments. Except these days the dissertation is a bit stymied. It’s not so much writer’s block as it is…doldrums. I’m just stating and restating the same things and that is getting me nowhere. I’m also now past the deadline/time-limit and living on appeal.

But one lesson learned from the mechanical world is that sometimes, one must prime the pump. You have to put in a little bit to get a lot out, and since the blog is worth exactly what you are paying for it, I decided it’s a good place to write with a little less formality. Hopefully that gets my brain going to get the other, “proper” writing going. It’s not that I intend to be less precise or spell worse—if I represent something as factual, I intend to show where I got that fact from.

Academic history writing, though, is expected to be dispassionate, third-person, non-prescriptive, and generally lacking in empathy or judgment. As I write about racism and misogyny in late nineteenth century America, I’m not supposed to sound agitated by the people who cloaked that in religious language. 

Except I’m quite agitated by it. It was wrong. It remains wrong that we have never really corrected for the embedding of these attitudes in many of our religious systems to this day. There’s just some agitation to be shared.

Although I do not want to only rant here, but I do want to have a way to talk about where we have been and how that, in turn, drives certain emotional responses. It is good and right and fitting to have emotional responses to history. 

Which is the main point for Historical Thinking today: it is not only acceptable to have feelings about the past, it is right and fitting to have feelings about the past. In the course of those feelings, you cannot ignore the facts or be unwilling to learn new ones. There may be a whole new set of emotional responses to deal with after learning new facts, but thtat is just the way it goes sometimes.

You see, history is not just the facts of what has happened, it is more accurately our understanding of the facts. Not just whether or not the United States declared independence from England, but why they did, when they did, and what difference it made. And our emotional response is part of that. The facts—like the approval of the Declaration of Independence on July 2, 1776, or the final end of the Revolutionary War (which started in 1775) in 1783—are part of that understanding. Neither fact should affect an American’s emotional attachment to July 4th as our Independence Day. It’s the mutually-agreed upon celebration of all those facts at once.

Most weeks, then, I’ll post a bit of something about the past and how we think about the past. Maybe it will be something that provokes some thought. Maybe it will be something that you find boring. All of it will be from things I have learned or am learning in working in history.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Book: Matthew through Old Testament Eyes


Cover of book Matthew through Old Testament Eyes

In the ever-growing intermittency of my blog writing, I have another book to talk about today. It is Matthew through Old Testament Eyes, the next entry in the Through Old Testament Eyes commentary series. Which, hopefully, will end up encompassing most of the New Testament. I would not expect OT commentaries, although a "Pentateuch through Post-Exilic Eyes" type of commentary might be intriguing.

First, the series: the idea here is to examine specifically how Old Testament thoughts informed the writing of portions of the New Testament. Not merely the "big idea" concept of "There is a God, He made the world," but rather the finer details like how the Beatitudes are informed by passages like Psalm 1. There are entries, so far, on the Gospels of John and Mark, and on the book of Revelation. (No, it's not "Revelations" through Old Testament Eyes, either. It's always singular.)

This entry to the series is on the Gospel of Matthew, and therefore draws the appropriate name of Matthew through Old Testament Eyes. It is a paperback, 390 pages, published by Kregel Academic with a list price of around $31. Endorsement blurbs include Lynn Cohick from Houston Theological Seminary and Michael F. Bird from Ridley College.

David Capes, author, is the Executive Director of the Lanier Theological Library in Houston, a place that my daughters have been to but I have not. I will try not to hold that jealousy against him in this review. He holds a PhD from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary nad been involved in many scholarly works on the New Testament in his thirty-plus years of academic work.

On to the content: 

This is a generally academic commentary, more fit for the in-depth study of Scripture than for basic devotional use. It is not a deeply technical one requiring knowledge of Greek or Hebrew (the Hebrew would be relevant because of the OT references). It is broken down by sections of Matthew, with some areas detailing verse-by-verse but usually covering a couple of verses per comment. 

As an example, the commentary on Matthew 18:21-22 caught my attention. Most Christians are familiar with Peter's question about how many times he should forgive his brother--it even made one of the earlier VeggieTales episodes--and we have sermons on it, debates about it. It was not until this commentary that I even considered a connection to Genesis 4:23-24 about Lamech's boast. 

This is a good insight. And representative of the types of help this commentary will bring. The introductory material, covering background, etc., of Matthew is brief. It will hit the highlights but if you are needing details on authorship debates, date of writing, etc., you will need an additional source.

In all, this is a good addition to the Matthew shelf. This will broaden your understanding of how Matthew's original audience heard what he said.

Sunday, June 16, 2024

Sermon Recap for June 16 2024

 Good Monday!

Here is yesterday's sermon. Video and audio. One more sermon in Acts, then it's time to move elsewhere in the text.

Monday, June 10, 2024

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Sermon Recap for June 2 2024

 Good morning!

This week, there's just the one sermon :)

Steven preached his second sermon at Mt. Olive, Crossett, and had the joy of preaching a second week in a row after last week. Here he is:

Monday, May 27, 2024

Sermon Recap for May 26 2024

 Good morning!

We actually have sermons this time because yesterday, Steven preached at Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist Church in North Little Rock. So you'll get the embed of their service (on Facebook), then you'll get Mt. Olive in Crossett. Someday we'll get Dad setup with video, and you may get all three Hibbard sermons...if we ever have another day where all three of us are preaching.

Who knows, maybe someday we'll all preach in the SAME PLACE!

Steven, guest of Pastor Victor Moore, Mt. Olive Missionary Baptist North Little Rock. Happy Birthday, PASTOR MOORE!

Doug sermon, with video and audio options.

Monday, May 20, 2024

Sermon from May 19 2024

 Good morning! Yesterday we talked about Simon Magus. Didn't actually hit on the sin of simony, because we don't really see it that much in the small town, but we'll cover that Wednesday.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

Sermon Recap for May 12 2024

 Here is this week's sermon! (And yes, though it's been 3 years since I consistently had Sunday Night Church, it's still weird to not do "here are this week's sermons" and I have to retype the intro line nearly every week.

Monday, May 6, 2024

Sermon Recap for May 5

 Here is the sermon recap for yesterday. Last night we had a gathering with Arkansas Baptists here in the Southeast part of the state. Rex Horne brought a great message. If it was livestreamed/videoed, it would probably be on First Baptist Monticello's website. It was....odd to be in the middle of the sanctuary instead of responsible for anything.

Oh, and just for fun, looks like a very small tornado moved between where Ann and I were and home...

Monday, April 29, 2024

Sermon Recap for April 21 and 28

 So, my notoriously unreliable writing staff failed to post last week's sermon outline. However, after drinking coffee and checking my to-do list, I am actually remembering to do it today. You get two weeks for the price of one!!!

(I don't have a writing staff. It's just me.)


Monday, April 8, 2024

Sermon Recap for April 7 2024

 We started in Acts this week. We'll be there for a few months, then moving onward...

Monday, April 1, 2024

Sermon Recap for March 31 2024

Good morning! Here we are, done with March and moving into April...here is yesterday (Easter Sunday) morning's sermon.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Sermon Recap for March 24 2024

 I really need to do better getting ahead of Palm Sunday. I miss the tradition of Frond Day in church. Well, we'll work on the classic Friend Day and maybe have Fronds later...we could use the plastic fronds that are fronds forever.

Here's yesterday's sermon:

Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Sermon Recap for March 17 2024

 Okay, I'm running behind this week. Here is this past Sunday's sermon:

Thanks! Have a great day!

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Sermon Add-on for March 10

 Continuing the use of Artificial Intelligence to try and generate discussion questions from the sermon, here's what it gave me this week:

1. Reflecting on Jesus's triumphant entry into Jerusalem, as described in Mark 11:1-11, what does the symbolism of the palm fronds and Jesus riding on a colt speak to you about how God fulfills prophecy and expectations? (Mark 11:1-11; Zechariah 9:9)

2. The sermon draws parallels between the Old Testament prophecies and Jesus's life. How do these connections deepen your understanding of Jesus as the legitimate and victorious king? (Zechariah 9:9)

3. Considering the disciples' humorous quest for a colt, how can we discern when specific instructions in Scripture are for a particular time and context, and when they are principles we can apply to our lives today? (Mark 11:2-6)

4. The Feast of Tabernacles was a time to remember Israel's journey from slavery to liberation. How can this historical celebration encourage us to cultivate gratitude and hope in our current trials? (Leviticus 23:42-43)

5. In what ways can you incorporate the practice of recalling and teaching the significance of God's past faithfulness to inspire hope in the present and future generations? (Deuteronomy 31:12-13)

6. The sermon emphasizes the universal search for hope and how Jesus embodies that hope. How does this perspective influence the way you interact with and serve those who are seeking hope in their lives? (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 12:21)

7. As we are reminded to shout for hope, discuss how the collective expression of faith within the community can uplift and encourage those who are struggling. Why is it important to vocalize our faith and hope? (Psalm 47:1)

8. In what practical ways can you "find and share your hope" with others this week, especially with those who may have lost their way or are new to faith? (1 Peter 3:15)

9. The sermon concludes with a call to rediscover hope. What are some strategies or spiritual disciplines that can help you reconnect with the hope found in Christ? (Romans 15:13)

10. Reflect on the idea of our earthly homes being temporary, as mentioned in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles. How does this concept influence your perspective on material possessions and your focus on eternal priorities? (2 Corinthians 4:18)

I think it's getting better.

Monday, March 11, 2024

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Discussion thoughts on February 25 2024 Sermon

 I'm still experimenting with PulpitAI to create supporting content for the sermons...here are some discussion questions it generated from February 25th's sermon:

1. In Mark 10:35-45, James and John seek positions of honor beside Jesus, yet Jesus teaches a lesson on servant leadership. Reflect on a time when you sought personal advancement. How does this passage challenge your understanding of true greatness in the kingdom of God?

2. Jesus describes His mission as giving His life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45). What does the concept of ransom mean to you, and how does it deepen your understanding of Jesus's sacrifice?

3. The sermon speaks to the value that God places on us, suggesting that we are worth more than the greatest treasures of the world. How does this notion of divine worth influence the way you see yourself and others?

4. How can we practically live out servant leadership in our daily lives? Consider Philippians 2:3-4, which encourages us to value others above ourselves and look to their interests. Discuss ways you can embody this scripture in your community.

5. Discuss the importance of gratitude and praise in our spiritual walk, as mentioned in the sermon. How can cultivating a thankful heart impact our perspective on life's challenges?

6. Reflect on the historical context of ransom and redemption. How does understanding the weight of this concept in ancient times enrich the meaning of Christ's sacrifice for us today?

7. The sermon suggests that many remain unaware of their spiritual liberation. In light of Matthew 28:19-20, how can we as a church body work to share the message of freedom found in Christ?

8. The sermon concludes with a call to spread the life-changing message of Christ's liberating sacrifice. How can you, as an individual and as part of a faith community, contribute to this mission? Consider Acts 1:8 as a starting point for this discussion.

9. In your own journey of faith, how has the idea of living as a servant leader transformed your relationships and approach to leadership within your family, workplace, or church?

10. The sermon emphasizes that through Jesus's ransom, we are liberated from sin and death and can return to the Father. How does this assurance of spiritual freedom and divine acceptance affect your day-to-day life and decisions? Reflect on Romans 8:1-2 as you discuss this question.

Monday, February 26, 2024

Sermon Recap for February 25 2024

 So, here's the sermon recap from yesterday, followed by a lovely instrumental presentation of "The Solid Rock."

Monday, February 19, 2024

Sermon Recap for February 18 2024

 It's Monday again, so here's the recap of the sermon. We were in Mark 10, looking at the story of the rich young man--often called the rich young ruler, but we don't have a definite thing he "ruled." He was possibly part of the ruling elite of his day, but Mark does not tell us that. It's important to read the text and notice what is there and also notice what is not there. We tend to pick up traditions and interpretations from preachers and books along the way and they are not specifically bad, but they are not clearly evident. And yes, I have and still do sometimes repeat things without working on this.

Meanwhile, here's the sermon from yesterday:

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Addendum for Wedding

 Yesterday's post was the wedding ceremony that I use. I thought I would address a little bit more about it here.

First, yes, I use the same wedding. This isn't laziness--and I will adjust, for example, if there are specific, relevant things to add. Or to take away--a second marriage of a couple in their 50s-70s might not include the lines about having children. Also, some weddings call for a personal request, like a specific Scripture reading before a song, the unity candle idea, etc., and those go into the ceremony overall. 

But I like to keep it the same thing: it's a reminder that marriage is a combination of the uniqueness of the two people coming together and the repetition of a relationship that is as old as time itself. Your marriage is yours, uniquely, but it also belongs with all the marriages across the ages.

Second, I really do believe that marriages work better within the community of believers. We tend to think that it's just about the bride and groom. And yes, without those two it doesn't work. 

But the relationship requires mentors and teachers and examples and companions. You need to see other people struggle, sweat, smile, survive, and thrive in their marriages so that you can see that it does happen, it does work. 

Additionally, there is value in taking vows crafted from the fabric of history, Scripture, and tradition. Why? Because you do not know what you need to promise in your marriage. Oftentimes, marriage is entered by young folks who are madly in love and think life is going to run fine--maybe there's a head nod toward "it's not always perfect" but that is far different from really understanding that you're vowing for both the rich days and the poor days--and the poor days aren't just when you only have basic cable.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Sermon Recap from this last weekend: Wedding!

 Well, it's a trick headline. I didn't preach Sunday because I was doing a wedding. However, I thought it would be worth sharing the wedding ceremony I use here. Partly because we aren't usually listening at weddings anyway, so it might help to see it in print. Partly because it gives me a backup location where I can find this next time I do a wedding. 

This is, with names redacted, the same file I use for a wedding. What I will do is put the bride and groom's name in at the appropriate locations, and then read it throughout. On an iPad, highlighting shows up clearly in a way it won't here, but realize some of this is direction, some is "repeat after me" text. In all, it takes about 20 minutes to go through. (18 minutes at normal talking speed, to be precise).

“Dearly beloved:

     We have come together in the presence of God to witness and bless the joining together of this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony. The bond and covenant of marriage was established by God in creation, and our Lord Jesus Christ adorned this manner of life by his presence and first miracle at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church, and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people."

"The union of husband and wife in heart, body, and mind is intended by God for their mutual joy; for the help and comfort given one another in prosperity and adversity; and, when it is God's will, for the procreation of children and their nurture in the knowledge and love of the Lord. Therefore, marriage is not to be entered into unadvisedly or lightly, but reverently, deliberately, and in accordance with the purposes for which it was instituted by God. Yet neither should we come today with hearts too heavy, for marriage is also given by God as a gift to be enjoyed. That is one of the glorious mysteries of marriage: that a lifetime covenant should be a thing of joy and excitement rather than a dreary burden.

“Marriage further reminds us of the temporary nature of life, but the foundation of the promises of God. J and S come today to covenant that no matter what changes life brings, they will stand to face those changes together, bound with each other in the Lord Jesus Christ.

“A wedding, though, is not just about the couple being wed. If it were, none of you needed to be here, and all the decorating is in vain. Rather, the wedding ceremony carries with it reminders to the rest of us that here:

“First, to those who have walked this pathway and taken similar vows: that we will not only abide by our vows, but find joy and strength in the keeping of them. Let the happiness of a new couple now send you home to remember and live in the happiness you have together.

“Second, this is a request for help by this couple. J and S, realize you cannot make it through your marriage with just the two of you. Realize also that you don’t have to. You stand here today asking your family and your church family to lovingly help you glorify God through your marriage. We stand with you, willing first of all to show by our actions how marriage glorifies God, and second to speak words of encouragement and blessing to you as you grow. We also long to watch you and see the ways God works in your lives through your marriage.

“Finally, this is a challenge to all of us: to some, to commit to whatever God has for you. For others, to live up to the commitments we have made. For all of us, to remember that in all things, love is a glorious thing to have.”


Exchange of Vows:

The Celebrant says to the Bride:

"S do you take J to be your husband; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and cherish him, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in want, through mountains and valleys, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?"

The Bride answers "I do"

The Celebrant says to the Groom:

"J, do you take S to be your wife; to live together in the covenant of marriage? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and cherish her, in sickness and in health; in plenty and in want, through mountains and valleys, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?"

The Groom answers "I do”

The Groom, facing the Bride and taking her right hand in his, says:

Repeat after me: USE SHORT 5 WORD GROUPS

"In the sight of God, I, J, take you, _S_____, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."

"In the sight of God, I, S, take you, J, to be my husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better and for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death. This is my solemn vow."

May I have the rings?”

“The giving of rings symbolizes the commitment of marriage.  A ring forms a circle, with no end, made of rare and precious metal, showing the value of marriage, and worn on the left hand, closest to the heart.”

Ask God's blessing on a ring or rings as follows:

"Bless, O Lord, these rings to be a sign of the vows by which this Man and this Woman have bound themselves to each other; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Repeat after me: USE SHORT 5 WORD GROUPS


The Groom places the ring on the ring-finger of the Bride’s hand and says:

"S, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The Bride places the ring on the ring-finger of the Groom's hand and says:

“J, I give you this ring as a symbol of my vows, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

Foundation of faith, fidelity commitment---interrelation, shared life though still individuals

Then the Celebrant joins the right hands of husband and wife and says:

"Now that J and S have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of a ring, I pronounce that they are husband and wife, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

“You may now kiss the bride”

“Gathered family, friends, and guests, I now introduce to you:

Mr. and Mrs. J and S”

Tuesday, February 6, 2024

Sermon Questions February 4 from Pulpit AI

 So, I used PulpitAI to generate questions about the sermon from Sunday. Here's the list of questions it created--if you were at church or listened to that sermon (find it here), see how well it did.

1. Reflecting on Mark 9:35, where Jesus says, "If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all," how can we apply the principle of servant leadership in our daily lives and within our church community?

2. In light of the sermon's discussion on George Liele's legacy of faithful servitude, what are some practical ways we can follow his example in dedicating ourselves to the Gospel and serving others?

3. The sermon emphasized the importance of authenticity in our faith journey, especially when sharing the Gospel. How can we ensure our motives are pure and aligned with Jesus' teachings as found in Mark 9:36-37, where He speaks about welcoming a child in His name?

4. Mark 9:42 warns about causing others to stumble. What measures can we take within our church family to protect the vulnerable and prevent ourselves from becoming a stumbling block to others?

5. Discuss how personal ambition can sometimes interfere with our service to God and others. How can we navigate these feelings and keep our focus on the Kingdom of God, as Jesus instructed in Mark 9:33-50?

6. Reflect on the metaphor of salt in Mark 9:50, "Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other." How can we maintain the 'saltiness' of our faith while promoting peace and unity within our community?

7. Considering the sermon's message about dedication and collaboration in God's kingdom, how can we better support one another in our individual callings and work together to advance the mission of the church?

8. In the sermon, the importance of setting aside distractions to pursue eternal values was highlighted. What distractions do you currently face that may be hindering your spiritual growth, and how can you address them based on the radical teachings of Jesus in Mark 9:43-48?

9. How can the example of Jesus embracing a child (Mark 9:36-37) inspire us to practice humility and genuine care in our relationships with others, both within and outside the church?

10. Share personal experiences or insights on how living out the teachings of Jesus with 'salt and peace' has influenced your interactions and relationships with others, as mentioned in the sermon.

Monday, February 5, 2024

Sermon Recap for February 4 2024

 Here we are, in February! We're continuing onward through Mark, with this week looking at Mark 9:33-50.

Here's the video:

Here's the audio player:

I'm experimenting with a service that might produce a transcript...among other things. I'll share the results when I have them. I don't really have the time to transcript it myself, but we'll see what the AI system does.

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Sermon Addendum: Mark 7

 This week's sermon was from Mark 8, as we looked at the feeding of the 4,000. You can go back to yesterday's post to watch or listen if you're interested. 

What I feel like I should catch up on here is Mark 7, which I skipped over entirely. Why? Well, I know that some preachers can be interesting while staying in the same book of the Bible for 3 years; others have multiple opportunities to preach, so they can keep one series on the same book for a long time and do other portions of Scripture at other times.

I can't. Truth be told, I get a bit bored my own self, because one of the aspects of sermon prep that I love is background study, and after awhile, you've studied the background and there's not much else to dig out. Unless, of course, you have the budget to load up on an entirely new pallet of resources. Who doesn't love more books?

Still, Mark 7 has some important points. At the end of the chapter, there are two key moments of Jesus teaching and healing among the Gentiles. He's in the region of Tyre and then in the region of the Decapolis, and it is from the Decapolis that the crowd for the Feeding of the 4,000 came.

The first is the oft-discussed encounter with the Syro-Phoenician woman, where we have to wrestle with Jesus appearing to be unnecessarily harsh with a person in need. After all, He initially turns down the request, then seems to call her a dog. At the very least, He accepts her self-designation as somewhat less than a child. Usually, we see this as a discussion of priority in Jesus' mission: He goes first to the people of Israel, she is a Gentile and therefore comes after the children of God. Yet we also see that Jesus readily performs this miracle (and in a parallel passage, commends her faith in a way that never does an Israelite!), so perhaps the bigger point is that neither she, nor any of the Greeks, are a dog. 

They are all children of God.

Then Jesus moves down to the region of the Decapolis (Ten Cities, all around the Sea of Galilee) where He encounters a deaf man who has difficulty speaking--usually considered a deaf-mute, but it just reads slightly odd for that to me. Jesus heals the man after taking him away from the crowd. Jesus sticks His fingers in the man's ears, spits (where, we don't know), and then touches the man's tongue.

And the man is healed. It has to be the oddest connection of actions described in connection with a miracle of Jesus that we see in the Gospels. Why does He do all of this when He can heal at a word? And at a distance?

We have no idea. There are some who think Jesus is hiding meaning in His actions, but it is very infrequent that Jesus does not explain the hidden meaning to someone--like His disciples. All in all, we do not know.

We do know that He can heal. He can make possible the restoration of those things which are lost, whether children or senses or even just our own self-worth: you're not a dog. You're a child of God. Your redemption will be costly, but He would not have you left unredeemed.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Sermon Recap for January 29 2024

 Here is the sermon from January 28 2024. It's weird, out of habit I still tend to start this post with "here are the sermons," when I haven't done two different sermons on Sundays since June of 2020. That was when we started back to in-person services after the COVID pause, and we kept Sunday night as not "in-person." We did a worship service earlier in the week that we then posted on Sunday nights, but it wasn't live anymore.

Then we relocated here to Crossett and they had ended Sunday night entirely during COVID, their pastor left, they didn't bring it back, and, to be fully clear, I wasn't really enthused about bringing it back since it was not happening. I wanted us to find other avenues for Bible study and fellowship and use that time as something other than a retread of Sunday morning. There was a time that churches really did use the Sunday evening for a different focus, but so much of that has been lost in the few decades that it's better to stop the habit and rebuild a new one than continue to hold a line that you can find no use in. It would be like continuing to go down the rail lines here in rural Arkansas that still have old telegraph poles by them and maintaining the wires: true, there's not great bandwidth for the Internet in many of those places, but maintaining the old telegraph wires just because we used to love telegrams and there's no good replacement does not make sense anymore.

Anyway, here's the sermon.

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Sermon Addendum for January 21 2024

 This past Sunday, January 21, 2024, I preached on the Feeding of the 5,000 as it is recorded in Mark 6. I thought I'd take a moment here to highlight a couple of things that I didn't draw out on Sunday. After all, the more I draw out, the longer the sermon draws out...

First, we should note that the Feeding of the 5,000 (I don't think the style guide says that should be capitalized, but it's a singular event in history, so that's a good way to be clear) comes right on the heels of Jesus hearing about John the Baptist's death. Jesus had sent his disciples to preach, teach, and heal (Mark 6:7-13), and while they were gone, Herod got worked up. I don't think I made clear in the sermon as well as I should that, while Mark tells of John's execution here, it's clearly something that had taken place farther in the past.

The drive for the Feeding of the 5,000 is Jesus wanting to take the Apostles away from the chaos to rest up after their preaching mission. However, Mark clearly wants to draw a contrast with Jesus and Herod here, so he puts the remembrance of the execution here.

So, the people who have come out to see Jesus, hear Jesus teach, and who eventually eat the bread and the fish are uninvited interlopers in a private meeting. Yet there is no reproach from the Lord Jesus to them for showing up. Instead, they are greeted with compassion, teaching, and feeding. 

How do we manage the uninvited? There are several ways to unravel that knot, but just consider: often, churches have "targeted" outreach. Somewhere, a committee has decided who they really want in church, and then the church designs for them.

What happens when other people show up? People who are younger? Older? Richer? Poorer? More Black, Hispanic, White, Korean, Chinese? More Republican? More Democrat? You get the point.

Do we feed them? Do we have compassion? Do we teach them? Or do we say to them, "You set over there on the floor, these seats are reserved."?

The answers to those questions should come from Jesus, not our marketing experts or denominational gurus.

Second, we should note that the disciples point out that it is already "very late" in v. 35. They've really pushed past the point where anybody will have a good solution to the problem. This isn't the preacher going until 1:30 and the buffets are closed, He's gone until the Taco Bell has closed for the night. There are no good options out there.

The disciples were leaning toward sending the people away in the dark, hungry, to go figure it out when the individuals would have no better luck solving this problem than the group would. The disciples were trying to wash their hands of any responsibility for fellow human beings. Jesus was not going to put up with that. He won't tolerate it from us forever, either.

Third, God does nothing by half-measures. There is no doubt when God works. He is never "just enough." He's always more than--much more. Not a lagniappe but a dozen extra baskets!

Monday, January 22, 2024

Sermon Recap for January 21 2024

 That's right! It's time for another sermon. Mark 6 was the sermon focus for yesterday, January 21, 2024. And, naturally, we had a lovely little glitch as someone (ME) forgot to load the slides and outline into the presentation software.

Which meant that my notes were not there either. So, I looked in my Logos Bible Software app, because that's where I construct the sermon notes, and I couldn't find it here, either. The sermon, therefore, was entirely from memory. That was my habit in times past, but recent years have seen me trying to be more on-topic through the whole sermon, so I try to stick with sermon as-written. (That whole discussion is another post!)

Fortunately, I think multiple rewrites and revisions throughout the week had the basic outline pretty well locked down in my brain. Here's the video and audio players:

Monday, January 8, 2024

Sermon Recap January 8 2024

New year, same me: will I post to the blog regularly, like I did once upon a time?

Not likely. Neither will I likely remember to do graphics or promote it or anything like that. It's more of a public but never-read occasional thoughts repository. 

However, I do need to remember to keep the sermons updated!

Here is yesterday's sermon, and remember that the audio player will cycle through all the previously uploaded sermons.

The YouTube channel has previous sermons on it once you click through to YouTube.


Book: Worship in an Age of Anxiety

  This week, I'm wrapping up reading J. Michael Jordan's Worship in an Age of Anxiety . This isn't an assigned review, but a boo...