Watching from the Walls – Joseph’s Challenge

Our third sermon in the Watching from the Walls worship series this Advent is “Joseph’s Challenge.” It focuses on the challenge that learning of Mary’s pregnancy meant to Joseph, and especially the way that he chose faithfulness to God over adherence to the world’s standards of how he would have been expected to react in the situation he faced. The sermon text is Matthew 1:18-25.

You can find episode #13 of our Behind the Sermon podcast at this link. That podcast episode is linked to the sermon on Joseph’s Challenge and can serve to set the context of the sermon. (It’s also a great way to get to know my colleague Todd Lovell and I a little bit better!)

Here’s the sermon on Joseph’s Challenge courtesy of Youtube:



Watching from the Walls – Mary’s Unusual Visit

Watching from the Walls_Advent 2015The second sermon in the Watching from the Walls worship series is “Mary’s Unusual Visit.” It centers on the conversation between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary when Gabriel delivers news to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus.

Episode #12 of our Behind the Sermon podcast is connected to the sermon on Mary’s Unusual Visit. You can find that episode at this link. Todd Lovell and I discuss the meaning the Incarnation—the act by which God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth—in our salvation.

Mary’s Unusual Visit takes Luke 1:26-38 as its text. Here’s the sermon:



Watching from the Walls – Longing for Jesus

Watching from the Walls_Advent 2015Over these days leading up to Christmas, I’m going to post the sermons from our Advent worship series on “Watching from the Walls.” I’ll also post the episodes of the Behind the Sermon podcast that go along with each sermon.

You can find the Behind the Sermon Episode #11 at this link. In that episode, Todd Lovell and I outline the worship series and talk a little bit about the image of the “watchmen on the walls” in the Old Testament and what that means.

The sermon, “Longing for Jesus,” begins the Advent worship series. The Scripture text is Isaiah 62:6-7,11-12. Here’s the link to that first sermon:



It’s All About the Food!

Book Cover Front_It's All About the FoodA retired telecom executive moves with her husband to small town Mount Ida, Arkansas. Their plan is to live out their golden years in happiness. Then, tragically, her husband dies much too soon. She later answers a call for volunteers at a local food pantry, partly to fill the void left behind by her husband’s passing.That move leads to the beginning of a journey — both personal and practical — to discover just what has happened to food in America.

Pat Smith’s new book, It’s All About the Food, is a wonderful guide to where the American diet went wrong, why that matters to you, and what you can do about it. (That’s a riff on the book’s subtitle and is totally accurate regarding where this book will take you.) The stories, wisdom, experience, and downright practical advice that fill this book’s pages together offer a wonderful entry in the healthy living and sustainable foods genre. Readers of Michael Pollan, Melissa Hartwig, Pamela Smith, and Gillian McKeith will engage Pat Smith’s writing and perspective with profit and enjoyment.

Part of Smith’s power is in her ability to weave together a story about wanting to help the economically disadvantaged folks in her community together with a personal quest to find the causes and treatments for her type 2 diabetes. In the process she’ll take you from Mount Ida to Austin, and from the family farm of her own childhood to the food mega-industry of the present. Smith writes as a dedicated Methodist laywoman whose interest in helping people make good choices about food and lifestyle is at least partly borne out of her deep Christian faith—something that I appreciate, and which connects her with a significant strand of the Wesleyan tradition.

You can find It’s All About the Food on Amazon at this link.

For the It’s All About the Food’s Facebook page, click here.



Watching from the Walls during Advent

This Advent season at First Church in Springdale, we will be “watching from the walls.” Like the watchmen of old, we will be standing guard and ready to herald the coming of our king.

Here’s a preview:

“Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy.
When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes.”
–Isaiah 52:8

Come and join us in worship each Sunday in December!


Family Faith Series — Part 5

Our final sermon in the series on Family Faith focuses on “Connection.” The Scripture passages used are Colossians 3:12-17 and John 14:21-24. The emphasis, as we wrap up the Family Faith worship series, is on what it means for us to form deep connections within the family of faith. That is particularly important when we consider all the forces in our culture that tempt us to think of connection in shallower, less real ways.



Behind the Sermon — Episode #6


In this week’s episode of “Behind the Sermon,” we reflect on our progression as professional podcasters, the massive identity-making might of the military, and how consumerism creates complications when connecting to communities. All this alliteration and more as we discuss the final sermon in our Family Faith worship series, entitled “Connection.”

Episode 6 — October 22, 2015

Behind the Sermon is now available for free via iTunes! If you’re on an iOS device you can open the “Podcasts” app, search for “Behind the Sermon”, then download episodes and click “subscribe” to get notifications whenever a new episode is posted.

If you’d like to access previous episodes of Behind the Sermon directly from our website, go to this link. Happy listening!

The Lord’s Prayer

This 56-second clip is worth watching. More than once.

As Steven Croft, the Anglican bishop of Sheffield put it, “This is a prayer said by billions of people every day in every language on the planet.  In every single moment in time, someone is praying these words.  They are the first words of prayer we learn as children and the last words we say at the moment of death.”

It’s called the Lord’s Prayer for a very good reason. When Jesus’ disciples asked him how to pray, this is the prayer he gave them. And so it is the prayer he gives to us.

A little website redesign…

I’ve changed the look and feel of the ol’ website over the past few days. You might’ve visited the site at some point lately and thought to yourself, “What’s going on here?” And, well, sorry about that.

I didn’t really give anyone a heads-up about the changes and just spent some time experimenting. (I also owe a big debt of thanks to Nathan Lindsey on our staff here at First Church. Couldn’t have done any of this without him!) There were really two things I was aiming for in the site’s redesign:

1) Simplicity. My old template was a great tool to use in the academic position I held at Memphis Theological Seminary. But now that I am back in pastoral ministry on a full-time basis, I wanted something simpler that would focus especially on my blog writing. So for example, you’ll notice that the blog is now on the front page of rather than there being a static front page.

2) Usability on mobile devices. This template — recommended to me this week by my good friend Kevin Watson — offers a MUCH better format for accessing the website on a mobile device.

There are still a few kinks to work out, but I am really pleased with the new design. If you have suggestions, feel free to let me know. And as always, thanks for reading!