Sermon Prep

When Northside Church suspended onsite services in March, I considered ways to maintain connections with the congregation. The idea for “Sermon Prep” came to me in the middle of the night.

Sermon 5Creating a sermon is like building a house—there’s always materials leftover. Instead of lumber, nails, shingles, and tiles, preachers keep unused research, illustrations, quotes, and jokes. Newly ordained pastors make the rookie mistake of using extraneous material that should have been left on the editing floor.

Therefore, I decided to make use of these leftover scraps. Each Wednesday I publish a video that provides background on the upcoming Sunday’s sermon and Scripture. It gives viewers a homiletical preview along with contextual information.

The entire endeavor is fairly low-tech. Think more public-access than Hollywood-slick. With the help of a desk tripod and a wired mic, I record the videos on my I-phone. Then our amazing Production and Creative Services teams take over. They magically transform the clip into a Vimeo video link emailed to the congregation.

The medium may change, but the message remains the same. The church must learn how to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love in new, engaging ways. Therefore, this preacher who is no longer a puppy is learning some new tricks.


Water with a Dash of Arsenic, Please

This summer Consumer Reports warned that bottled water sold by Whole Foods contains potentially harmful amounts of arsenic. Tests revealed levels three times higher than other brands.

Starkey waterWhole Foods prides itself on offering healthy, clean food for consumers. In response to the report, the company responded that the water meets “all FDA requirements and are fully compliant with FDA standards for heavy metals.”

Bless their hearts.

This raises an interesting question. Just what amount of arsenic is acceptable in drinking water? Call me crazy, but I’m thinking NONE! Some elements are so toxic that even a little bit is too much.

Consumer Reports noted that a single bottle would not harm consumers. However, long-term consumption of even small amounts of heavy metals can cause significant harm.

Turns out arsenic is a lot like sin: toxic even in small amounts and small quantities cause big consequences.

Therefore, here’s my advice:

  • Whole Foods, just quit trying to justify arsenic in your water, and clean up your supply.
  • Christians, just quit trying to justify sin in our hearts and clean up our lives.

Slow Down

Over the past months, I have contemplated posting on social media, “When does the Georgia State Patrol plan to retake our interstates?”

The pandemic has resulted in reduced traffic on highways and byways. However, many of the remaining motorists are recklessly speeding. Vehicles easily exceeding 100 mph pass me regularly.

I read a news story featuring a local body shop. The proprietor stated that business was down with the reduced traffic. Then he added, “And the cars we do see are typically totaled due to high speed impact.”

Slow down.

Slow down not only on the roads but also in life. Even when the destination is important, enjoy the journey along the way. Otherwise, we might miss the most important part of the trip.

Last month I watched a rerun of a reunion concert by The Eagles. They introduced a song that I had never heard before entitled, “Learn to be Still.” Reflect on some of the lyrics.

Now the flowers in your garden
They don’t smell so sweet
Maybe you’ve forgotten
The heaven lying at your feet

There are so many contradictions
In all these messages we send
(We keep asking)
How do I get out of here
Where do I fit in?

Though the world is torn and shaken
Even if your heart is breakin’
It’s waiting for you to awaken
And someday you will-

Learn to be still
Learn to be still

Slow down, and learn to be still.

It’s a Dog’s Life

We came home to find this letter on the counter from Sam the Yorkshire Terrier.

Dear Kibble and Treat Providers,

While you were gone . . .

Someone accidentally had an accidental accident in the house accidentally. However, don’t worry. It took place in the guest bedroom closet where no one will notice for days.

Sam at the LakeSomeone tore all of the stuffing out of my friend, Frog, and strewed it across the floor like polyester snowflakes in August.

Someone jumped up on the neatly made bed and scratched the bedspread into a comfy nest for napping.

Someone scattered dog food across the kitchen floor in order to find just the right kibble to nibble.

Someone sloshed water out of the dog bowl while getting a drink.

Someone left nose prints on the glass while barking at the evil mail carrier.

Someone perched on top of the sofa pillows as a watchtower to guard the house.

Someone raided the bathroom wastebasket AGAIN and dumped Kleenex, Q-tips, and cotton balls on the tiles.

Someone grabbed the end of the toilet paper roll and ran through the house with it streaming behind him.

Someone couldn’t wait to greet you at the door with twists, turns, yips, and doggy-breath kisses.

Someone promises these things will NEVER, EVER happen again. Well, at least until you are gone the next time.