In training pastors and students to do Sermon Preparation with Logos Bible Software, I showcased my Sermon Planner Template note file. Lots of you wrote and asked for a copy of this note file. Note-sharing is not yet implemented in Logos 4, so in the meantime, below is the note file content which you can use to create your own sermon planner template.
Logos users can now download the Sermon Planner Template using the FaithLife website group called “Gospel Centered Preaching
5 Day Sermon Planner
DAY 1a: OBSERVATION
GOAL = Allow the passage to create questions and doubts.
STUDY = Read the passage in multiple translations across the spectrum from Literal to Paraphrastic. Determine the flow of thought so you can understand how each specific element of the passage is connected to the central meaning.
RESULT = Write down the questions you want answered.
– Who is important to this passage?
– What does not make sense?
– Where is this taking place?
– When is this taking place?
– Why did God want this story told?
– Why should you tell it to others?
DAY 1b: MEANING
GOAL = Allow the language to both clarify and create more questions.
STUDY = Use your skills, and original language resources, to understand the vocabulary, word-order, and structural connections. Provide a translation of key words or the entire passage as time permits.
– What new questions arise from your study of the language?
– What questions does your study of the language answer?
RESULT – Write a “Passage Outline” which presents an historically accurate account of of the authors unfolding progression of thought. The Passage Outline will answer the question, “what happened then?”
DAY 2: EXPOSITION
GOAL = Determine the context for your passage.
STUDY = Find the relevant stories from the Bible that shed light on your passage. Read what others have written so you can see beyond your own cultural perspective and expand your own understanding.
RESULT = Take your observations and transform the “Passage Outline” into a “Timeless Outline.” Your Timeless Outline will turn historical statements into universal statements. The Timeless Outline makes the historical events relevant to any audience in any time in any culture. The “Timeless Outline” will answer the question, “what happens now?”
DAY 3: APPLICATION
GOAL = Summarize your entire message in a single sentence
STUDY = Read what others have preached and how they have applied this passage. Be sure to read sermons, both old and new, so that your application is informed by a diversity of cultural the theological perspectives.
RESULT = Know why you are going to preach and what you want people to take home.
a. What is the Historical Truth?
Reread the Passage Outline and in a single noun phrase summarize the dominant theme the biblical author wanted to get across to those hearing/reading their message.
b. What is the Timeless Truth?
Reread the Timeless Outline and in a single noun phrase summarize the dominant theme God has intended for every generation?
c. What is the Central Truth?
i. Reading both your Historical and Timeless Truth statements, answer the question in a single noun phrase, “Why did God want this story told?”
ii. Now that you know God’s purpose in revealing this passage of the Bible, turn your noun phrase back into an interrogative question, “What question was God trying to answer?”
iii. Finally, take the interrogative question and use it to form an incomplete sentence. The answers you give to this unfinished sentence will provide meaningful content of your sermon.
iv. Now write down your Central Truth. The Central Truth is your broad theme or issue you will address and answers the question, “what is the meaning?“
d. What is your Take Home Truth?
What is the one single message you want your hearers to take home and apply to their life? The “Take Home Truth” answers the question, “what happens next?”
DAY 4: ILLUSTRATION
GOAL = Make your Take Home Truth understandable to others.
STUDY = Use your available resources to find visual illustrations that will enhance your Take Home Topic; pictures, movies, physical objects, etc…
RESULT = A collection of visuals that will not distract from, but enhance the audiences’ understanding of the Take Home Truth.
DAY 5: CONFRONTATION & CONVERSATION
GOAL = Let God’s Spirit convict you about “what happens next” in your own life and then turn your conviction into a conversation with your church fancily.
STUDY = Take all of your previous content and craft a sermon and/or Bible Study.
RESULT = A sermon manuscript relevant to your church for this week.
I expand greatly on this process in my Homiletics courses & videos, but for those not able to take my class, check out, “Invitation to Biblical Preaching: Proclaiming Truth with Clarity and Relevance” by one of my favorite Doctoral Professors Donald Sunukjian.
Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength. — Henry Ward Beecher
The Clifton Strengths Finder is a tool developed by the Gallup organization to assess a person’s strengths. I have used it in my church to help develop leadership and as a professor in my Church Planting and Leadership classes. This is truly one of the best assessment tools ever created.
You need to first get the book which includes a free code to take the online StrengthsFinder 2.0 assessment which features a personalized Strengths Insight Report, an Action-Planning Guide, and a web-based Strengths Community. I have found this to be one of the best tools in understanding my own personality and leadership AND a valuable tool for learning about the strengths of other people on my teams. Here are the results of my latest assessment.
- Strategic–I create alternative ways to proceed. Faced with any given scenario, I can quickly spot the relevant patterns and issues.
- Achiever–I have a great deal of stamina and work hard. I take great satisfaction from being busy and productive.
- Responsibility–I take psychological ownership of what I say I will do. I am committed to stable values such as honesty and loyalty
- Belief–I have certain core values that are unchanging. Out of these values emerges a defined purpose for my life.
- Connectedness–I have faith in the links between all things. I believe there are few coincidences and that almost every event has a reason.
If you have never taken this assessment, take time as you begin the new year and do it. It is totally worth the investment! If you have already taken it and used Strength Finder, then share your experience:
- How has knowing your Strengths helped you?
- How has it helped your team?
- Have you used this in creative ways in the classroom?
- What are some ways you have used this to foster stronger team?
Feel free to share the results and insights.
History Records that Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Palestine in a manger. The manger was most likely a stone trough located in a cave where the animals were sheltered. He was born somewhere between 6 and 4 B.C and most likely not on December 25th.
So if Jesus was not born in December, how did we get to this modern tradition of celebrating His birth at this time every year? Following is some history you may enjoy reading.
For the church’s first three centuries, Christmas wasn’t in December-or on the calendar. If observed at all, the celebration of Christ’s birth was usually lumped in with Epiphany (January 6), one of the church’s earliest established feasts. Some church leaders even opposed the idea of a birth celebration. Origen (c. 185 A. D. -c.254 A. D.), for example, preached that it would be wrong to honor Christ in the same way Pharaoh and Herod were honored. Birthdays were for pagan gods!
Not all of Origen’s contemporaries, however, agreed that Christ’s birthday should not be celebrated, and some began to speculate on the date (actual records were apparently long lost). Clement of Alexandria (c. 150 A. D. -c.215 A. D.) favored May 20 but noted that others had argued for April 18, April 19, and May 28. Hippolytus (c. 170 A. D. -c.236 A. D.) championed January 2. November 17, November 20, and March 25 all had backers as well. A Latin treatise written around 243 A. D. pegged March 21, because that was believed to be the date on which God created the sun. Polycarp (c. 69 A. D. -c. 155 A. D.) had followed the same line of reasoning to conclude that Christ’s birth and baptism most likely occurred on Wednesday, because the sun was created on the fourth day.
The eventual choice of December 25, made perhaps as early as 273 A. D., reflects a convergence of Origen’s concern about pagan gods and the church’s identification of God’s son with the celestial sun. December 25 already hosted two other related festivals “natalis solis invicti” (the Roman “birth of the unconquered sun”), and the birthday of Mithras, the Iranian “Sun of Righteousness” whose worship was popular with Roman soldiers. The winter solstice, another celebration of the sun, fell just a few days earlier. Seeing that pagans were already exalting deities with some parallels to the true Deity, church leaders decided to commandeer the date and introduce a new festival. Western Christians first celebrated Christmas on December 25 in 336 A. D., after Emperor Constantine had declared Christianity the empire’s favored religion. Eastern churches, however, held on to January 6 as the date for Christ’s birth and his baptism. Most easterners eventually adopted December 25, celebrating Christ’s birth on the earlier date and his baptism on the latter, but the Armenian Church celebrates his birth on January 6. Incidentally, the Western church does celebrate Epiphany on January 6, but as the arrival date of the Magi rather than as the date of Christ’s baptism.
Another wrinkle was added in the sixteenth century when Pope Gregory devised a new calendar, which was unevenly adopted. The Eastern Orthodox and some Protestants retained the Julian calendar, which meant they celebrated Christmas 13 days later than their Gregorian counterparts. Most-but not all-of the Christian world has now adopted the Gregorian calendar and the December 25 date.
The pagan origins of the Christmas date, as well as pagan origins for many Christmas customs (gift-giving and merrymaking from Roman; greenery, lights, and charity from the Roman New Year; Yule logs and various foods from Teutonic feasts), have always fuelled arguments against the holiday. “It’s just paganism wrapped with a Christian bow,” naysayers argue. But while kowtowing to worldliness must always be a concern for Christians, the church has generally viewed efforts to reshape culture-including holidays-positively. As a theologian asserted in 320 A. D., “We hold this day holy, not like the pagans because of the birth of the sun, but because of Him who made it.”
“Our Saviour, dearly-beloved, was born today: let us be glad. For there is no proper place for sadness, when we keep the birthday of the Life, which destroys the fear of mortality and brings to us the joy of promised eternity. No one is kept from sharing in this happiness. There is for all one common measure of joy, because as our Lord the destroyer of sin and death finds none free from charge, so is He come to free us all. Let the saint exult in that he draws near to victory. Let the sinner be glad in that he is invited to pardon. Let the gentile take courage in that he is called to life.” – Leo the Great, Bishop of Rome
Milt Rodriguez is the author of “The Community Life of God.” Rodriguez contacted me some time ago to asked if I would review his book. I was intrigued by the topic of the book and agreed to post my thoughts.
Rodriguez is involved in the Organic Church movement and his book is endorsed by author Frank Viola and house church advocate Jon Zens. “The Community Life of God” attempts to lay both a practical and theological foundation for the Trinity as the model of all relationships.
The strength of this book is Rodriguez’s emphasis on the practical need within the church to build deep relationships. Rodriguez writes, “Building cannot happen with stones who occasionally and casually meet together (p. 106).” Community life only happens when there is a deep investment and willingness to sacrifice for others. Rodriguez argues that as the Trinity works in concert, so too each member of the church must eschew individualism and work together to fulfill the purpose of God (p. 130).
David Flowers has a good summary of what works well in this book. Flowers writes,
Rodriguez proposes that much of Christian activity today is spent furthering the individualistic mindset that is so popular in our culture. Even when believers come together corporately there is not an understanding of God’s image among us. Church life ought to be more than socializing and individual Christian ministries.
On this point I think every Christian can agree and aspire.
What Needs Work
The book started off a bit rough for me. The introductory chapter has some awkwardly worded paragraphs that are more confusing than helpful. For example, the following paragraph is supposed to define God’s purpose in the creation of man.
Why did God create? What was the motivational factor in the creation? I think that we can safely say the He created in order to put His plan into action; to take the first step toward fulfilling His purpose. You see, there is the purpose, but then there is His plan to fulfill the purpose. The purpose is His goal. The plan is the way to achieve that goal. The apostle Paul speaks of this “plan” in his letter to the Ephesians.
“Why did God create?” This paragraph does not help answer the question and quite honestly the entire introduction to the books is more frustrating than insightful.
At times, Rodriguez tries to lecture the reader. He writes,
Now please pay attention very carefully.
When you just read my quotation of that verse in Colossians you immediately took that verse and applied it to you as an individual (p. 49).
Stylistically, it is a bit off-putting when a writer lectures the reader about what they think or feel. Some readers may not mind this approach, but for me it created a barrier. Writing style aside, the bigger issue is Rodriguez’s theology.
In Rodriguez’s effort to counter the individualistic church culture, he tends to overstate his case. In this example, Rodriguez asserts that anyone who says they are, as an individual, made in the image of Christ is repeating a lie of Satan.
Yet I hear believers talking all the time about being “like Jesus”or being “like Christ.” Yet the scriptures do not ever teach that you, as an individual, can be like Christ. That again, is the delusion of the ole’ serpant. You cannot be like Jesus. You were never meant to be like Jesus (p. 52).
While I agree with Rodriguez that community is key to being conformed to the image of Christ, this in no way precludes the meaning for the individual disciple.
The most disconcerting aspect of Rodriguez’s theology is his bent toward “Open Theism” That is, Rodriguez takes the “community” of God’s being as analogous to the “community” of humanity.1 Here is a sampling of quotes where Rodriguez’s theology should be critically examined.
“From God’s perspective, Christ is no longer a single person. He is a corporate person, Christ and the Church are a single reality (87).” Quoting Frank Viola’s book, “From Here to Eternity”
“The Man is a new creation, a new species. He is made up of both God and Man. He is composed of both divinity and humanity. God and man have been merged together as one in Christ (p. 88).
“Who is in charge [of the church]?” Christ is in charge. A Christ who is made up of both the Head and the Body. The One New Man(p, 141).”
Ultimately, Rodriguez’s book blurs important distinction between the Creator and the Created.. and key difference between Christ and the Church.
There is no need, nor any biblical root, for connecting the essential “community-life” of Church with the “community-life” of the Trinity. There is a significant amount of Scripture that teaches the necessity of community that stands on its own without reading into it a philosophical paradigm that recreates God in the image of humanity. We, as the Church, can achieve a practical community life without the kind of “creative” theology embraced in “The Community Life of God.”
1. Smith, Fred, “Does Classical Theism Deny God’s Immanence?” vol. 160, Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 160, 637 (Dallas, TX: Dallas Theological Seminary, 2003), 22-24.
As Christians, we have all read faith statements about the Scriptures like the one below.
“I believe the canonical Scripture to be the inerrant Word, inspired by a Holy God and penned by Man, the complete revelation of His will for the salvation of Man, and the Divine and final authority for all Christian faith and life.”
But agreeing and putting our faith upon these basic truths does not mean a whole lot unless we take the time to read God’s Word. We can agree on the basic idea that we can have a total trust in the content of what God has given to us. But now what? Yes, the Bible is God’s written Word, but, is it really relevant to modern life? Can we understand God’s message and apply it? The answer is a resounding yes!
We do not need dumbed-down and misleading translations to understand the Bible. The Bible has authority to speak into our lives. From it we can learn all that we need to know about God’s plan for us and what it means to be a Christian. You see, the Bible is inspired by God. Inspiration is God “breathing” into the heart and mind of the human writers a revelation of Himself so that by using their individual personalities He was able to produce a coherent and infallible record of His love for Man. The infallibility of the Bible does not mean it is free from errors in spelling, numbers, or even errors of fact. Infallibility refers to the power of the Scripture to accomplish its purpose in your life and mine. Through the superintendent work of the Holy Spirit, the Scripture has not failed to accomplish God’s purpose. And God’s purpose for you, me and the world will never fail… HE is infallible.
1 Thessalonians 2:13 And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, that is at work among you who believe. (NET Bible)
To know the Scripture though, we must understand that it does not stand alone. God has given to you His Written Word (the Bible), the Living Word (Jesus), the Word who Speaks (the Holy Spirit), and the Manifest Word (The Church). These four are given so that you can grow and mature into the wonderful person He has made you to become. And you know what? There is not one thing in this world that limits your ability to understand and apply God’s Bible to your life.
God’s Holy Spirit can work in your life to illuminate your understanding of His truth for you life. Unlike “Inspiration”, which is restricted to the human writers of the Scripture, illumination is meant for every Christian of every age. Illumination is God’s Holy Spirit giving you insight into what He has already revealed through His Bible. Illumination is not new information about God; it is God helping you understand the stuff He has already revealed. The world is not the controlling factor in how we view God and the Bible; rather it is God who works so that our understanding of Scripture is not subject to natural limitations of worldly birth or limited experience.
Romans 15:4 For everything that was written in former times was written for our instruction, so that through endurance and through encouragement of the scriptures we may have hope. (NET Bible)
Don’t ever sell yourself short as someone who can not understand God’s Bible. Your own experience does not limit the truth of God’s Word. The mind of Man is made free to see the wisdom of God by the illuminating power of His Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1:20-21 Above all, you do well if you recognize this: no prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination, for no prophecy was ever borne of human impulse; rather, men carried along by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (NET Bible)
I know this might sound harsh, but hang in here with me when I say that the only limit to the Bible is personal ignorance. Understand though, ignorance is not talking about a lack of education or not knowing Greek or Hebrew. Ignorance is talking about a conscious choice to ignore God’s Word. God has promised us that He will illuminate our minds and hearts to hear and understand His written Word. We should never be afraid of knowing “too much” about the Bible, the only fear is knowing too little of God’s Word and its power.
Matthew 22:29 Jesus answered them, “You are deceived, because you don’t know the scriptures or the power of God.” (NET Bible)
The Word belongs to God and we must submit our hearts to it. God’s Written Word (Scripture) must always be approached with an attitude of humility, a desire to be sanctified into the image of Jesus (the Living Word), and an unswerving reliance upon God’s Spirit (the Word who speaks) to guide and inspire Truth.
1 Corinthians 2:12-13 Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things that are freely given to us by God. And we speak about these things, not with words taught us by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual things to spiritual people. (NET Bible)
We, as the creature, must strive for obedience in what has been revealed by the will of YHWH our Creator and not impose our own desires or dreams. Submit your life to the Father and His Word (Living, Spoken, and Written) and your life will be forever transformed!
2 Timothy 3:16-17 Every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. (NET Bible)