Sermon 05-09-2021: “Even Little Children Can Defeat the Devil”

May 10, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 2:12-17

Years ago, I attended an important work-related conference. I knew the keynote speaker pretty well, and—to say the least—I was not looking forward to it. She was not a great speaker, and I did not think that what she had to say would prove helpful to me. And as she was talking, I did what many of us do in meetings, I got on my phone. Except it was a Blackberry, to give you an idea how long ago this was. But I texted Lisa. I said, “So-and-so is speaking. It’s actually not as horrible as I thought it would be.” And I pressed the “send” button.

Only… I realized that I didn’t send the message to Lisa, my beloved wife with whom all my conversations are “privileged,” as they say on all the cop shows. No… I accidentally sent the message to the person who was speaking at the conference!

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Sermon 05-02-2021: “How to Know That You Know”

May 4, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 2:3-11

I’ve shared some of this before, but last summer a team of us from Toccoa First went into the community over the course of several weekends and deliberately shared the gospel with people—with strangers—people who were attending the summer music festival in town. We handed out information about the church as well as gospel tracts. And most importantly, we had meaningful conversations about Jesus and the gospel with at least three dozen people. Most of those three dozen or so said they were Christians, but… of those who said that, only a few expressed confidence that they would go to heaven when they die—and when we asked follow-up questions, they told us that they hoped that they were “good enough” to earn a place in heaven.

And I know from research that this isn’t only true in Toccoa, Georgia; this is true all over our nation—in big cities and small towns. We have a crisis of people who say they’re Christians, most of whom don’t go to church, yet who believe that the basis on which they’ll receive eternal life is their own personal goodness.

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Sermon 04-25-2021: “Christ the Advocate for Sinners”

April 27, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 1:1-2:2

I told you before about my two mission trips to Kenya seven or eight years ago. Before I left, I had to get some shots and prescriptions to help me avoid diseases like malaria, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid… But I’ve told you before that I’m a hypochondriac. I worry about getting sick. And my doctor probably sensed that about me—so for extra safety—he recommended that I go to a camping store before I left and buy what’s called a “Steripen”: it’s an ultraviolet water purifier. It’s almost like a flashlight, except it has long, narrow wand in place of a bulb. Whenever you have to drink water that isn’t from a sealed bottle, you turn the Steripen on and place the wand in the cup. After a minute the ultraviolet light kills all the bacteria inside… so you won’t get sick! 

“When in doubt,” the doctor said, “use the Steripen.”

So I happily bought one… And I’m sure I didn’t need it. All the water we drank, if it didn’t come from a bottle, was filtered… supposedlyBut how would I know? I didn’t see it being filtered… and even if it was filtered, how do I know the filter worked properly? 

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Sermon 04-18-2021: “Did Our Hearts Not Burn Within Us?”

April 20, 2021

Scripture: Luke 24: 13-35

Next month marks a special day in the life of Methodist and Wesleyan churches around the world. Indeed, even in the Church of England, this day is celebrated as a “feast day” for John and Charles Wesley. I’m referring to Aldersgate Day, May 24. Two-hundred-and-eighty-three years ago, in 1738, John Wesley attended a Bible study on Aldersgate Street in London. 

He wrote about it in his journal as follows:

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation, and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.1

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Sermon 04-11-2021: “The Five Ps of Resurrection Faith”

April 14, 2021

Scripture: John 20: 19-31

One of the best things I’ve done in ministry—indeed, one of the best things I’ve done in my life—was to go to Kenya, in East Africa, on two different trips. Kenya is a place where our United Methodist Church is growing explosively. We simply can’t start churches fast enough there; we can’t train and equip pastors fast enough there. So on two occasions I went to Nakuru, Kenya, to teach church history, United Methodist theology and doctrine, and liturgy to a group of highly effective, very enthusiastic, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled indigenous pastors who couldn’t otherwise begin to afford a seminary education on their own. So these classes I taught were a small step in the direction of a seminary education.

My friend and seminary classmate—I’ll call her Laura—was the one who told me about this teaching opportunity. She called me out of the blue one day and told me that the large Methodist church where she worked was paying for her to go and teach these classes in Kenya. She was leaving later that month, but her church was sponsoring another trip later in the year. She said, “I think you should consider doing it, Brent. In fact I’ll recommend that the church send you next time… that they pay for your trip… because you’re so brilliant.

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Sermon 04-04-2021: “The Meaning of Easter”

April 5, 2021

Scripture: John 20: 1-18

If you remember the movie Back to the Future, you remember the DeLorean that Doc Brown converted into a time machine. Once the DeLorean reached a speed of 88 miles per hour, and the flux capacitor reached 1.21 gigawatts of power—or “jigga”-watts, as Doc Brown insists on pronouncing it—the DeLorean would disappear in a flash of light and travel either into the future or back into the past… at a preset date that you would enter on the dashboard.

And I was always amused by that scene in which Doc Brown is showing off the time machine to Marty McFly. He says, “We can travel back in time to when Jesus Christ was born.” And he enters the date, “December 25, 0-0-0-0,” on the dashboard display. This, of course, is wrong in two important ways: First, there is no year zero. Our calendar goes from the year 1 B.C. to the year A.D. 1. From one to one.

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Sermon 03-28-2021: “If Jesus is Our King”

March 30, 2021

Scripture: Mark 11:1-11

Remember the famous “cantina” scene in Star Wars? Just before Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, C3PO, and R2D2 go to the cantina, they drive their landspeeder through an imperial checkpoint, with stormtroopers. The stormtroopers are looking for the two droids, who happen to be in this landspeeder. The stormtroopers stop our heroes and ask for identification. And it seems like the good guys are about to get caught: And Obi Wan says, “You don’t need to see identification.” And the stormtroopers repeat back, “We don’t need to see your identification.” And Obi Wan says, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” And the stormtroopers repeat back, “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.” Obi Wan: “We can go about our business.” The stormtroopers: “You can go about your business.”

It’s some kind of Jedi mind trick… Obi Wan can make these people do what he wants them to do!

And it seems like, whether George Lucas knew it or not, that scene was mimicking real life—what we find in today’s scripture, in verses 2 and 3. Jesus tells two of his disciples to go to Bethphage, a village located a mile or so from Jerusalem. “There,” he says, “you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat”—and by the way, we know from Matthew’s description of this event that this is the colt of a donkey, not a horse. But Jesus said that when they find this baby donkey, “Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why  are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’”

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Sermon 03-21-2021: “Wanting What You Receive”

March 23, 2021

Scripture: Exodus 20:15-17; Philippians 4:4-7, 10-13

I want to begin this sermon by sharing what I think is one of the most amazing promises in all of scripture—it comes from 1 Corinthians. But I have to explain the context first. The church at Corinth was a mess. It was badly divided—over a number of issues. Among other things, the church was split into factions based on which apostle was their favorite: Some said, “I belong to Paul; he’s my guy; he’s the best.” Others said, “No… Forget about Paul. I belong to Apollos! He’s a much better preacher!” Still others said, “I belong to Jesus’ numero uno apostle, Peter himself!” Paul refers to Peter by his Aramaic name, Cephas. So some were saying, “I belong to Cephas! I’m his man.” 

With this in mind, listen to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 and prepare to be blown away:

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

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Sermon 03-14-21: “Marriage is Not About You”

March 16, 2021

Scripture: Exodus 20:14; Ephesians 5: 15-33

I’m tackling the seventh commandment today, not by talking about what “thou shalt not do” in marriage, but what “thou shalt do,” and why. In other words, I believe that this scripture from Ephesians chapter 5 is like reverse image of the seventh commandment—that it’s describing what it looks like to fulfill this commandment.

As some of you know, I’m teaching a Bible study on Ecclesiastes for college students on Thursday nights, and I was struck recently by something that Solomon wrote in chapter 2 of that book. Solomon, you may recall, succeeded his father, David, on the throne. He was one of the wealthiest, most powerful, and most admired men in the world at the time. His kingdom was the envy of the world. He could do anything, he could buy anything, he could experience anything that he wanted.

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Sermon 03-07-2021: “Murderers Like Us”

March 8, 2021

Scripture: Exodus 20:12-13, Matthew 5:21-26

In last week’s sermon, I preached about the Fourth Commandment—keeping the Sabbath. I talked about friends down the street whose parents wouldn’t let them do anything on Sundays—or at least anything fun… like go to movies, go to shopping malls, go to the arcade, go to sporting events. I talked about how I used to think, “I’m so glad I don’t have to try to observe the Sabbath like that… because, after all, that seems so difficult.

But I said something last week that bears repeating: As Christians, we should never look at any of the Ten Commandments and think, “That’s difficult to obey.” We should instead think, “That’s impossible to obey. Thank God that he became incarnate in Jesus Christ and obeyed all ten of these Ten Commandments on my behalf. Because otherwise I would be judged a guilty sinner and go to hell.”

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