Archives For Preaching


So this past June I had the privilege of going to Israel and Jordan for a couple of weeks to see where Jesus lived and walked on this earth. In Israel, you can’t throw a rock without hitting a Bible story, (actually you shouldn’t throw rocks because they could also be a Bible story).

For two weeks I got to travel around and see Israel, from Dan to Beersheba. I went to the places that Jesus would’ve seen and talked about, and got to see the landscape and visuals Jesus pulled from to teach about the Kingdom of God.

And since I couldn’t take everyone along with me, I took along some Google Glasses (a device that records everything a person is looking at).

Gospel of Mark Introduction from Highland Church on Vimeo.

Let me tell you, this was a labor of love, because wearing Google Glasses is like the 21st century version of traveling with a fanny pack. Every picture I have of me over there looks like I’m trying to be an honorary member of the Borg (see below picture), but looking over these videos I’m excited that I’m going to get to share with you some of the things that I saw, and in some sense take you along.

Looking like a nerd wearing Google Glasses on a camel in Jordan

Looking like a nerd wearing Google Glasses on a camel in Jordan

I can’t wait to show you the Mount of Olives and the Garden of Gethsemane, or the Via Dolorosa, the path Jesus was said to have walked on his way to the Cross. I want you to see the mountains that really do surround Jerusalem, and let you experience what it’s like take a boat ride on the Sea of Galilee.

There’s something powerful about realizing that these places really do exist, and that these are more than just “Bible stories.”

Because unlike other world religions of it’s day, the Jewish/Christian faith is actually something grounded in history, it’s the history of a people who believe God has acted in the world, and is acting in this world.

Mark was the first to write down the story of the loved, hated, revered, despised and often misunderstood first century rabbi: Jesus of Nazareth. Mark wrote his Gospel in an attempt to answer the one question that Jesus himself asks throughout the book, “Who do you think I am?”

In a world where everyone seems to think they know who Jesus was and what His movement is about, but strangely seem to have lives similar to people who have no intention of following him, maybe it’s time to look again at the man who turned the world upside down.

In a world where everyone seems to be a Christians the Gospel of Mark calls us to more than a polite religion. The Gospel of Mark calls us to re-imagine what being a follower of Jesus means, to re-look at the story of Jesus.

Because In the words of another Mark (Twain)  “You cannot depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”

Join us this Fall at Highland as we look at the life of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark…on location.

Our service times for assembly are:

8:30 A.M. A Capella Worship

11:00 A.M. Instrumental Worship

If you’d like directions, or more information about getting involved at Highland, or are planning on coming as a first time guest, click here, or email us at

On February 6, 2014

Translation: Sitz Em Laben

The church has plenty of leaders who can tell us what the bible said. What we need are leaders who can tell us what the bible is saying.-Skye Jethani

Leadership with education


One of the things I love about living in Abilene is getting to work with college students who are wanting to preach. At Highland, we have a group of young people who are training to be preachers,  they volunteer in different ministries serving throughout the church, and a few times a year they each get to a chance to preach on Wednesday nights.

Most of them are studying the Bible in depth for the first time, and they want to share some of the cool new things they are learning about, and often after I hear them preach I ask them this question:

Are you trying to teach the Bible to people, or are you wanting to teach people the Bible?

I’ve learned there is a big difference between those two things.

I was taught the importance of this question by Rick Atchley. He’s one of my best friends and mentor, not to mention a great preacher. For several years I was his associate (to the) preacher, and the entire time I was working with him, I was also in grad school. And one day he told me this story.

When he first started as the preacher at Southern Hills he was just out of college, and one day while he was teaching a Ladies Bible Class he was trying to talk about context and why we have to pay attention to the Context that each book of the Bible was written in.

Then he turned around and wrote on the Chalkboard the words, “Sitz im Leben”

Which is so funny on so many levels.

Because that’s a German phrase that just means “Situation in Life” if you’ve ever gone through Seminary or Theological studies, you’ve probably heard the phrase a lot, but if you are a member of an Abilene quilting club you probably think it’s something you are supposed to say after someone sneezes.

It’s a phrase about taking context seriously, and Rick wrote it down unaware of the irony of him writing a German word in Abilene Texas to little old West Texas ladies.

Throwing Keys and Telling Stories

I grew up in a church where the only Bible that we used was the KJV. Which is a beautiful, poetic translation of the Scriptures that makes ever verb end with -eth. But I also grew up with a preacher who was a former missionary. He paid attention to whether or not we were paying attention, and Bro. Foy would bend over backwards to make the Bible engaging to a teenager who was working his hardest to feign disinterest.

If Bro. Foy was talking about the Keys to the Kingdom and we weren’t making eye contact, he would reach in his pocket and throw his keys at us (true story), or he would tell the craziest stories about that time that he was in jail in Germany, or when he got food poisoning in India, or about his mother catching him stealing when he was a boy. And then when we were leaning in closer, he’d tell us about Jesus.

Remember in the book of Acts, when Philip is caught up by the Spirit of God? He’s whisked away where he finds a neutered man from Ethiopia who is trying to read the book of Isaiah. It’s a very relatable story, obviously lots of us have been led by the Spirit to have a Bible study with a Eunuch.

But for those of us who haven’t had this happen yet, notice that Philip’s first question to him is, “Do you understand what it is you are reading?”

Which is a totally normal question to ask. Isaiah’s got cherubim’s and public nudity and warnings and symbols and suffering servants, and if you aren’t familiar with the story of the Bible, Isaiah can be pretty confusing, no matter what language you read it in. And that’s why the Ethopian man responds the way he does, “How can I unless someone helps me out?”

In other words, the task of any Christian trying to tell the story of God is to help bring the story to bear on the life of the person trying to understand it.

Latter Day Saints

Founding of the LDS

Founding of the LDS

I think it’s interesting to see what happens historically when we don’t do this well. Joseph Smith founded Mormonism in the early 1800’s in response to the question that everyone was asking but not many were answering. “What does this mean today?” No matter what you think about Mormonism, one of the genius’ of the movement was it’s ability to reach for the idea of “Continued Revelation.”

So Mormons have books like “Pearl of Great Price” and “Doctrines and Covenants” in addition to the Bible, but they also believe that if the Holy Spirit falls on someone they will be able to speak with the authority of Scripture. And the reason why is because in the words of Joseph Smith:

“God said, ‘Thou shalt not murder’ at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted–by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed.”

Obviously, I disagree with Mormonism and their view of inspiration, but not with their view of why they did it. Joseph Smith was tapping into a deep tradition of bringing the story of God to bear on the times and places we find ourselves in. In fact, Smith created a new story, because Christians at the time, weren’t doing a good job of telling their story for their time.

Truth needs to speak in a language that is accessible, and if it’s not than it doesn’t matter how loud you shout it or how powerful it is.

Doest thou concur?

Last week I sat down with Luke Norsworthy and Wade Hodges, a couple of my good, preacher friends, to talk about preaching and Stand-Up Comedians…and how often these two vocations overlap, and how they are incredibly different.

I’ve never been introduced by, “Sorry he’s not the drummer from Jimmy Eat World but he’s who we could get this week.” But I think it picked up after the intro.

If you are interested in preaching or public speaking at all, I think this might be interesting for you. Over the past few years, whenever I talk to a young preacher, this is one of the conversations we have…and what I loved about this podcast was that this was a snapshot of what my preacher friends talk about (and like) when we get together.

And you might be surprised about why preachers think this matters.

In my experience, preachers get trained to read Scripture, how to interact with Christian History, and even how to write sermons. But the one thing that are seminaries rarely teach is how to actually preach to actual people.  People are inundated with information, and we live in an “attention economy.” Preachers know when they look out at the church who’s using their phone to read their Bible, and who’s looking at Facebook. And it’s hard to talk about Jesus, the master-storyteller while feeling like you aren’t telling stories that are engaging.

So that’s why we try to be funny. You’ll have to listen to see why we sometimes aren’t very good at it.

If you’re not familiar with Luke Norsworthy’s podcast, check it out. He’s a great interviewer and has had some fascinating conversations with people like Scot McKnight, Ian Cron, Richard Beck and others.

And one day soon, I think he’s actually going to interview that drummer after all.

On October 16, 2013

The Sequels: Adam and Eve

Jonathan Storment and Richard Beck – Adam and Eve from Highland Church on Vimeo.

This week I’m at a conference for preachers and haven’t had time to write. So I wanted to share this sermon that Richard Beck and I did this past Sunday. The sermon came out an observation. We noticed that much of the discussion between and about men and women in marriage lacks very much imagination, and even less generosity. And so we wanted to ask what does it mean to try and live out the cross in our marriages?

Here are my favorite points of the sermon:

  • The problem isn’t just the war between the sexes (women vs. men) it is the war within the sexes (men judging other men, women judging other women).
  • This isn’t a new problem, blame and shame started in the Garden, and marriage was the context for the first sin.
  • Mary and Joseph are an example of a reverse Adam and Eve.
  • We ask the question what is a man like, what is a woman like? But the better question is What is God like? (This point was Beck’s idea, but he let me say it).

We were trying to cast a vision for Mutual Submission that everyone could buy into, and Beck brilliantly came up with the parable of Duck Dynasty. (You’ll just have to watch)

One of the best parts about being at Highland is having so many gifted people who care deeply about the local church and living out the Gospel. This series has been a great example of that. From Jeff Childers, to Sally Gary, to Richard Beck, (and in a few weeks the one and only Leslie Storment will be talking with me!)

If you are interested in more about this series, or for a free accompanying E-book go to

“For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”- Paul

Honoring Mom

All this week I’ve received emails and Facebook messages from friends and mothers sending me to this blog. It’s a great blog for anyone in ministry to read about the hard side of Mother’s Day.

Over the past few years I’ve learned to just circle the day after Mother’s Day on my calendar as the day that I will get an angry email from someone…I just need to pick who I will get it from.

And I totally understand why.

We often talk about the Bible characters like Sarah or Hannah, and say things like, “to not be able to have a child back in that day was seen as a curse. Back in that day a woman felt like a failure if she didn’t have a child.” And we pretend like that is just a problem people used to have, back in the Old Testament.

Leslie and I first started trying to have children more than a year before we first got pregnant with Eden, and while I know it was just a year, for us it was a tough year. We started quietly wondering if something was wrong with us, or if we would ever be able to have kids.

And for a lot of people in our churches, that doesn’t just last a year.

But Jesus has a word for them this Sunday.

Great With (or Without) Child

There’s a time in the Gospels where Jesus is teaching, and someone just hollers out in the middle of his sermon “Blessed is the woman who gave birth to you, and nursed you.” Which is kind of creepy if you think about it.

Right in the middle of Jesus’ sermon, someone hollers out about Jesus’ nursing.

And you might expect Jesus to say something back like, “Yeah! Mom’s Awesome!” But he doesn’t.

Instead, Jesus replies by saying this, “Blessed rather are those who hear God’s Word and obey it.”

Now what Jesus is doing here is huge. He’s actually disagreeing with this person. John Ortberg points out that Jesus is saying that no longer is the highest calling of a woman to bear a child. Being a parent is a noble calling, but it’s not the ultimate one. And if you don’t, or are unable, to have children, you still haven’t missed out on the blessing and presence of God.

And this verse also has a lot to say about those of us who have kids.

Because this Mother’s day (or Father’s day) we’re also not defined by our kids lives…their choices, or how they turn out.

The Blessing of God is for those who hear the word of the LORD and obey. That’s the ultimate calling.

Mother God

But that doesn’t mean that we can’t learn something about God this Mother’s day.

I think most of us know that God transcends gender. He’s not male or female…in fact, there are many times in the Bible that God is described as a Mother…Like when Jesus says that he wishes he could protect Jerusalem like a Mother hen protects her chicks. In fact, one of the titles used for God in the Old Testament (specifically about his mercy) literally means “many breasted one”

Flannel-graph that.

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On July 26, 2012

The Bricks We Build With

We must never forget that the breath of God is what sustains our speech and one day each of us will breath our last. We build our lives with bricks, one word at a time. And when we are gone, the better words we use, the more life-giving, God-honoring, Jesus-like words, those words just might leave something that will last forever.

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On July 12, 2012

More Than a Fish

I just finished a series on Jonah at Highland, and it’s one of the most surprising series I’ve ever done. We’ve developed all these ways to keep Jonah at arms length, we pretend that it’s a story about a guy and a whale, and try to reduce Jonah to some Veggietales story, but it’s not. It’s a story about national idolatry, and racism, and arrogance, and unforgiveness, and a story about people who speak for God but don’t really like God.

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On April 18, 2012

A Restoration Movement

So this past weekend at the Highland Church of Christ, we talked about the vision for Highland for the next 10 years of her existence. It was the product of 18 months of the staff and shepherd praying, fasting and discerning what we would be about of the next decade. And we are doing it all to partner with God in his dream of Restoration. We’re calling it A Restoration Movement.

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On March 28, 2012

Heaven/Earth F.A.Q.’s

So at Highland right now, we are going through a series called Heaven/Earth, where we look at what the classical Christian doctrine of the resurrection really means for us, Creation and the age to come. Throughout this series there have been a lot of great question, and these are the FAQ of the Heaven/Earth.

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I never dreamed that TMZ would ever ask me to do an interview for anything…ever. . I still have no idea how the celebrity gossip hub heard about me doing this, or why they thought it might matter. In fact, I wasn’t going to do it, but a very good ministry friend reminded me that if you offend some religious people, but help some non-religions people get a better glimpse of God, you might be on the right track.

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