December 4, 2023

Advent - Hope

Amidst uncertainty and darkness, the Advent season beckons us to prepare our hearts for Christ’s arrival and ignite a beacon of HOPE that can overpower even the deepest shadows.

December 3, 2023

No Escape but Risky Love

Text: Mark 13:24-37
Jonathan Rakestraw
Human beings enjoy puzzles and figuring things out, and often we try to apply that problem-solving skill to a biblical text. This is especially true of apocalyptic texts, such as our sermon text found in Mark 13. But scripture is not a puzzle to be figured out to avoid pain and suffering, and faith isn’t an escape room. Instead, we’re going to look carefully at the characteristics of apocalyptic literature in the Bible, think about the audience Jesus was speaking to, and consider the hope of Advent the passage conveys for us as modern readers.
December 1, 2023

Speaking of Life 3005 | The Twist Ending

Do we recognize Jesus as the twist ending in the story of our lives? He completes not only your story, and mine, but the grand narrative of all of humanity. Jesus picks up our broken pieces and puts them all together and makes us whole again!

November 26, 2023

Speaking of Life 5053│The Why of Praise

Again and again, God reveals to us how much he cares about us. Jesus’ sacrifice and devotion to the marginalized people, should inspire us to give praise and make a joyful noise. When we praise and give thanks, we celebrate God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.

November 26, 2023

The Most Important Time Is Now

Text: Matthew 25:31-46
Jonathan Rakestraw
There’s a children’s book by Jon J. Muth called The Three Questions. It’s based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, and in the story, a boy named Nikolai was thinking about what it meant to be a good person. He decided that there were three questions he needed to be answered to understand how to be a good person: When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?
November 19, 2023

Speaking of Life 5052 | The Heart of the Father

Through the Parable of the Talents, Jesus tells us that God wants to bless us by using our gifts to help others. Not only do we come into harmony with God’s heart, but by reflecting God’s love, we give others the opportunity to encounter Christ.

November 12, 2023

Speaking of Life 5051 | You Don’t Have to Be a Girl Scout

Similar to the Girl Scouts’ motto “Be Prepared,” Christians are reminded to be prepared for Christ’s return. In a story about ten bridesmaids, five were wise and had enough oil, while five were called foolish for not having enough. When we fix our gaze upon Jesus, even when our path is dark, Jesus invites us to find wholeness in him.

November 5, 2023

Speaking of Life 5050 | Expect the Unexpected

Life is full of surprises, some good and some bad, but the psalmist shows us that God’s surprises are always filled with blessings. As Advent approaches, may we find hope in the unexpected ways God moves in our lives, just like how no one expected Jesus to come into our world the way he did.

November 5, 2023

God's Word at Work

Text: 1 Thes. 2:9-13
Jonathan Rakestraw
Today for our message we have a short passage from Paul’s letter to the church of the Thessalonians. Paul has been writing this letter with passionate thankfulness of what he sees the Lord doing in the lives of these new believers in the striving metropolis of Thessalonica. Paul wasn’t able to stay with the church very long before he was run out of town by those who did not like his message. So, Paul was concerned about these new believers, moving him to send his traveling partner Timothy to find out how they were doing. Timothy brought back a glowing report to which Paul responds with his letter. In this section, he is going to remind them of the time they had together when he first brought the gospel to them.
October 29, 2023

Speaking of Life 5049│CliffsNotes About Love

CliffsNotes are helpful study guides summarizing complex subjects. In a similar way, Jesus collected the essence of the law as loving God and others above all else. As we experience love from God and share it with others, may we grow in understanding and deepen our relationships with both God and people.

October 22, 2023

Speaking of Life 5048 | No Exception to the Rule

The Main Ingredient was a band with a popular song called “Everybody Plays the Fool.” It’s a song about how everyone can feel foolish sometimes. But Jesus Christ is different. He was wise when people tried to trick him. Jesus shows us that we can choose to follow tricky things in the world or follow God. This story reminds us that even when we feel fooled, we can trust in Jesus to make things better and true.

October 22, 2023

Gospel Greetings

Text: 1 Thes. 1:1-10
Jonathan Rakestraw
Today for our passage we have the opening greetings of one of Paul’s letters. You may be thinking, what can we learn from just the greeting and opening comments of a letter? Quite a bit in fact. When we write a letter, or more often these days, an email, how we begin that message will say a lot about what will follow. For example, if your letter is a complaint, it is probably safe to say you will not open with warm fuzzy comments. If you need to compose a formal request, you will avoid informalities in your greeting. The recipient of the letter will also affect how you begin your message. You will probably start a letter written to your sweetheart very differently than one written to your boss. Letter writing in the days of antiquity was not much different. The tone, form, and words chosen at the opening of a letter in the days of Paul would set the tone for what would follow, and it would aim to reflect the relationship between the sender and receiver. So, it may seem odd to have an entire sermon devoted to the introduction of one of Paul’s letters, but as we will see, this greeting is loaded with anticipation of the gospel.
October 15, 2023

Speaking of Life 5047 | Acknowledging God’s Faithfulness

Cara adopted two golden retriever puppies who warmly greet her when she’s home but become anxious when she’s away. This is compared to the Israelites’ impatience with God, highlighting the importance of trusting in God’s faithfulness during uncertain times.

October 15, 2023

Have We Lost Our Minds?

Text: Philippians 4:1-9
Jonathan Rakestraw
Mark Twain once wrote, Of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most.1 While we can laugh at the humor of this statement, it still speaks to the importance of having a sound mind. In fact, mindfulness has become an industry unto itself.
October 8, 2023

Speaking of Life 5046 | Trash and Treasure

In Matthew 21, Jesus shares a story about a landowner and some tenants, representing God’s relationship with Israel. The tenants harmed those sent by the owner. Jesus cautions that the kingdom of God belongs to believers, highlighting that God treasures them, inviting them to help spread love and Jesus’ message.

October 1, 2023

Speaking of Life 5045 │ Undercover Jesus

Like an undercover boss on a TV show, Jesus surprised everyone by coming in a way people didn’t expect. Some leaders even tried to figure out his secret. But Jesus showed that God’s ways are different from what we think, and sometimes we need to let go of our ideas to find happiness and peace in God’s plan.

October 1, 2023

Giving It All Away

Text: Philippians 2:1-13
Jonathan Rakestraw
You may have heard of “The Giving Pledge,” a philanthropic organization set up by Bill and Melinda Gates and Warren Buffet that invited billionaires to commit to giving away the majority of their wealth either during their lifetime or in their wills. While Gates and Buffett have given away billions, they still have plenty left. However, back in 1984, long before The Giving Pledge, one billionaire made it his goal to die broke. His name is Chuck Feeney.
September 24, 2023

Speaking of Life 5044 | God’s Generosity

In the parable of the landowner and the laborers, Jesus reveals the generous and all-encompassing nature of God. The story challenges the concept of human fairness and highlights God’s boundless love for all his servants, emphasizing that his grace and love are offered equally to all, regardless of the amount of work done.

September 17, 2023

Speaking of Life 5043│Too Good to Be True

This story of the merciful king and the unforgiving slave, shared by Jesus, illustrates the nature of God’s forgiveness. It shows that despite our human doubts and fears, we can trust in the reality of God’s grace and love, which Jesus came to reveal to humanity. This revelation empowers us to extend forgiveness and love to others, just as we have received it from God, without doubting that such goodness is too good to be true.