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 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 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.


Sermon Recap for April 7 2024

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