Archive for March, 2020

Sermon 03-29-2020: “Jesus Is the Resurrection and the Life”

March 31, 2020

My family and I are big fans of the TV sitcom The Office. We have watched the series many times. If you’re like me, you may remember the episode in which Dwight Schrute’s great aunt Shirley died. There was a funeral. And to say the least, Dwight’s very traditional Pennsylvania Dutch family had some unique funeral customs. Dwight says to the camera:

We Schrutes don’t need some Harvard doctor to tell us who’s alive and who’s dead. But there was an unlucky streak of burying some heavy sleepers. And when grave robbers discovered some scratch marks on the inside of some of the coffins, we decided to make sure our dead are completely dead—out of kindness.

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Sermon 03-22-2020: “The Works of God on Display”

March 25, 2020

Scripture: John 9:1-41

Good news! A couple of days ago, Tom Hanks tweeted the following: “One week after testing positive, in self-isolation,” Hanks said, “the symptoms are much the same. No fever but the blahs. Folding the laundry and doing the dishes leads to a nap on the couch. Bad news: My wife @ritawilson has won six straight hands of gin rummy and leads by 201 points.”

I’m relieved that Hanks and Rita Wilson are on the mend.

I’m not proud to say this, but when I heard about Tom Hanks getting the coronavirus, I judged him. “What did he do wrong? He must have done something wrong!” And then when I found out, I was like, “A-ha! That explains it! He was surrounded by a large cast and crew while filming a movie. He wasn’t limiting himself to ten people or fewer. He was bound get the virus that way… you know, unlike me who’s being so careful!” 

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Family Devotional 03/18/2020: “When We Call God Our ‘Father'”

March 18, 2020

Devotional Text: Matthew 6:7-13.

If you’ve heard me preach over the past year, you probably know about this beautiful, perfect creature named Ringo. Ringo is an English Springer Spaniel—he celebrates his first birthday in a couple of weeks—and he has absolutely melted my heart. I couldn’t love him more. 

Well, I shared the following anecdote in a sermon recently, but it bears repeating: When I talk on the phone, I like to go outside and walk around, if possible. And I was doing just that about a month ago. I was out in our backyard, and I walked to the other side of the street, where the sidewalk is. I was talking on the phone; I wasn’t paying attention to anything else—including the fact that Ringo had followed me outside.

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Family Devotional 03/17/2020: “What We Really Need”

March 18, 2020

Devotional Text: Matthew 6:7-8

Good evening, Toccoa First family! It’s Tuesday, March 17. This is the second episode of our series, “Toccoa First Family Devotionals.” Thanks for tuning in. As I said last night, we may be under a quarantine, but that doesn’t mean that you’re quarantined from your church family or your pastors. And that’s why we’re doing this.

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Family Devotional 03/16/2020: “Why Does God Listen to Us?”

March 17, 2020

Devotional Text: Matthew 6:7-13

Good evening, Toccoa First family! It’s Monday, March 16. This is the first of a series of “family devotionals.” God willing, I plan on creating and broadcasting one of these each weeknight during this strange, challenging time in which we find ourselves. When we’re “quarantined.” I don’t want you to feel “quarantined” from church, or from your pastors… So that’s why I’m doing this.

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Sermon 03-08-2020: “So Must the Son of Man be Lifted Up”

March 11, 2020

Sermon Text: John 3:1-17

You’ve probably heard that next month, Prince Harry and his wife, Meghan Markle, are resigning from the Royal Family. Their resignation becomes official next month, in April. Prince Harry will no longer be called “prince.” He will no longer be referred to as “his royal highness.” When asked last week what he’d like to be called now, he said, “Just call me Harry.” Officially he will be “Harry, Duke of Sussex.” But he doesn’t want to be called duke of anything… so speculation is that he’ll take a last name, like the rest of us. What will his last name be? When he was in the army, he was called “Harry Wales,” since his father is the Prince of Wales. Now he might go by “Harry Sussex.” But as far as he’s concerned, he’s “just Harry.”

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Sermon 03-01-2020: “Tempted By the Devil”

March 4, 2020

Sermon Text: Matthew 4:1-11

I got baptized in April of 1984, two months after my conversion. I was 14. As you can imagine, my baptism was deeply significant. I felt as if I were on a spiritual high; I felt very close to God. And then… the next day the lawnmower incident happened.

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Sermon 02-23-2020: “Listen to God’s Beloved Son”

March 4, 2020

Sermon Text: Matthew 17:1-9

An important event happened on May 30, 1984. (I only remember the date because of Google.) But it was significant: A near-total eclipse of the sun happened on that day—the first time in 84 years in Atlanta. And back then—as hard as it is to believe now—we didn’t get out of school until the middle of June. So I was finishing up eighth grade. But it was great because we were barely in class that day: We were outside, on the track and practice field, with our “shoebox projectors.” As I recall, you put a little pinhole on one side of a shoebox; hold the pinhole side of the box facing the sky; and watch this tiny dot of light projected onto the other side of the shoebox slowly go black as the moon eclipses the sun.

Granted, it would have been much more spectacular if only we could only have watched the sky and seen the sun go black. But we couldn’t. Why? For the same reason you can’t just stare at the sun for very long: you’ll go blind. When there’s an eclipse, however, the darkness tricks your eyes into forgetting that fact. And you watch the sun for a while… and suddenly you’re blind. So all of our teachers warned us: “Don’t look up at the sky! Don’t look at the sun! It’s too dangerous! You’ll go blind!” I remember my smart-aleck friend Paul Heslep glancing up at the sky. “See… No big deal! Watch me! No big deal!” And I’m like, “Paul, are you crazy!” I wasn’t about to do that! Those teachers had me psyched out! I was afraid!

Likewise, in today’s scripture, the “inner circle” of the twelve disciples—Peter, James, and John—were afraid of a light that, according to Matthew, was bright as the sun—and they didn’t dare look at it very long. Only this bright light wasn’t coming from the sun; it was coming directly from Jesus’ face and clothes!

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Sermon 02-16-2020: “New Year’s Resolution #5: Travel More”

March 4, 2020

Sermon Text: Genesis 11:27-12:9

[Explain that God later renames Abram and Sarai “Abraham and Sarah.” I’ll be referring to them as Abraham and Sarah throughout this sermon.]

In today’s scripture Abraham travels from Ur of the Chaldeans—present-day Iraq—up to a place called Haran—present-day Turkey—and down through Syria to a city in Canaan, the “Promised Land,” called Negeb, which is in the south of present-day Israel. If airplanes existed back then, the shortest route from Ur of the Chaldeans to Canaan would be due west. But you couldn’t travel by land that way because you’d have to cross the Arabian Desert. So you had to go around the desert, which is why Abraham’s family traveled northwest to Haran, and then southwest to Negeb. 

I want us to notice chapter 11, verse 31: “they went forth together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan [in other words, they intended to go to Canaan] but when they came to Haran, they settled there.” They intended to go to Canaan, but they stopped halfway, in Haran. Why?

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Sermon 02-09-2020: “New Year’s Resolution #4: Save or Make Money”

March 4, 2020

Sermon Text: Philippians 4:10-13, Matthew 13:44-46

There’s a pastor I follow on Twitter named Derek Rishmawy. He writes for Christianity Today magazine. He’s Presbyterian, but he’s still okay. And I don’t know what exactly was happening in the news on February 7 at 10:25 a.m. when he posted this, but I suspect there was something that many people on Twitter were upset about, or complaining about, or worried about. There always is on Twitter. And so he tweeted this:

Wow, I just checked and it turns out it’s another excellent day to praise the Lord. The hits just keep coming!

I like that. Indeed, Paul himself writes, just a few sentences above today’s scripture, in verse 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” This means, according to Paul, we always have reason for joy no matter what’s happening in our lives or world.

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