Archive for the 'Sermons' Category

Sermon 10-20-13: “Rich Towards God, Part 2: The Shrewd Steward”

October 24, 2013


The dishonest manager—or the “shrewd steward”—got a lucky break. He found out before it was too late that people mattered more than money, possessions, pride, or power. Our church exists for the sake of people: We sacrifice our time, energy, talents, and—yes—our money so that people in our community and around the world can experience for themselves the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ.

As I say in this sermon, this sacrifice will hurt a little bit. But we do it because we remember what our Lord sacrificed for us. Like the steward in the parable, our Lord Jesus came to our house and sacrificed everything he had in order to pay for our debts—on the cross—which we couldn’t begin to afford to pay on our own.

Sermon Text: Luke 16:1-13

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Recently I decided that my son Townshend was now old enough to enjoy and appreciate James Bond movies. When I was his age I loved them, and I want him to love them, too. So we saw one of the recent vintage movies, with Daniel Craig, and it was O.K. But I wanted him to experience the real James Bond: Roger Moore. No, I’m just kidding. I love Roger Moore, but I’m referring, of course, to Sean Connery. So I bought the DVD of Goldfinger, and Townshend and I watched it recently.

And I was reminded of that classic action movie cliché in which the supervillain doesn’t just kill the hero—by shooting him, for example—getting it over with quickly. The supervillain instead devises some slow, elaborate, drawn-out way of killing our hero, which inevitably gives our hero the chance to escape. And that’s true in the movie Goldfinger: Remember the scene when Goldfinger straps Bond down to a solid-gold table, and Goldfinger intends to slice Bond in two with an industrial laser?

When will supervillains ever learn?

When will supervillains ever learn?

This laser is inching toward Bond’s body at a snail’s pace—which gives Bond about five minutes or so to try to find a way out of this predicament. When will these supervillains ever learn? “Do you expect me to talk?” Bond asks Goldfinger. “No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die!” And he laughs. But, sure enough, while that laser is making its way toward him, Bond does talk, and uses his wits, and eventually talks his way out of certain death. And when Goldfinger turns the laser off, well, his fate is sealed. We know the good guy is going to win. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 09-15-13: “Back to School, Part 6: Love & Marriage”

September 20, 2013
Marriage is not a romantic comedy.

Marriage is not a romantic comedy.

We Christians understand the nature of self-denying, cross-carrying Christ-like love when we choose to love our neighbor “out there”—in the mission field, suffering and sacrificing for the Lord. When we marry, however, we now have a neighbor who lives under our roof, sleeps beside us, and makes a life with us. Are the demands and expectations of this kind of love any different?

As I explain in this sermon, the answer is a resounding no.

Sermon Text: Matthew 5:31-32

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

[Ask congregation to snap along. Begin by singing:] “Love and marriage, love and marriage/ They go together like a horse and carriage/ This I tell you, brother, you can’t have one without the other… Try, try, and separate them/ It’s an illusion/ Try, try, try and you only come/ To this conclusion.”

Today’s sermon is about, yes, love and marriage. In so many words, Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount that you can’t have one without the other. They are inseparable. Last week’s scripture touched on that theme. But Jesus goes a step further in this week’s scripture to say that not only are they inseparable, they are also permanent. Or at least they ought to be.

Obviously, when we consider the divorce rate, even among Christians, it’s clear that we are failing to take Jesus’ tough, uncompromising words as seriously as we should. There’s no way to read these words of Jesus and come to some conclusion other than divorce, in most cases, is wrong. It’s a sin. Listen: I made this point in last week’s sermon, and I need to make it again and again. We are all sinners. Church is a sinner’s club to which everyone is invited. We’ve all fallen short of the glory of God. And even if we haven’t sinned in one particular way, we have sinned in so many other ways. When it comes to sin, none of us has any moral high ground on which to stand. O.K.? The good news is that there’s always, always, always forgiveness for us sinners who repent, and our gracious God always gives us an opportunity to start again. If you hear me say nothing else, please hear me say that. Remember God’s grace! Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 08-11-13: “Back to School, Part 1: Being Happy”

August 15, 2013
The mountain on which Jesus delivered his most famous sermon.

The mountain on which Jesus delivered his most famous sermon.

It’s hard for many of us to imagine that God wants us to be happy. We often think of God as giving us rules to prevent us from being happy. We even have a hard time imagining that Jesus was happy—what with his overturning the money-changers’ tables, sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, and often saying, “Woe unto you.”

Obviously, these few episodes from Jesus’ life don’t tell most of the story. In fact, since the only true happiness that exists in the universe comes from God, we should as easily imagine that Jesus was the happiest person who ever lived!

Regardless, Jesus describes in today’s scripture the lives of people who are truly happy—although the Greek word usually gets translated as “blessed.” Biblically speaking, to be blessed is to possess a happiness that goes much deeper than the happiness for which we usually strive.

Do you want to be happy? The Sermon on the Mount tells us how.

Sermon Text: Luke 6:17-26

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Have you heard the latest about “Johnny Football”? Johnny Football is the nickname of Johnny Manziel, the quarterback at Texas A&M who won college football’s highest honor last year—the Heisman Trophy. Since Manziel won the Heisman, he has been in the news a lot—but not for doing this thing he’s so good at. Instead, he’s been in the news for his off-the-field behavior—mostly, for being an out-of-control party animal. And last week, things got worse: turns out, the NCAA is investigating allegations that he sold autographed merchandise—for a lot of money. And as both Georgia and Georgia Tech fans know, it doesn’t even take a lot of money to get into big trouble with the NCAA!    Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 07-28-13: “Summer Vacation, Part 5: Nice Day for a Picnic”

August 1, 2013
In part 5 of our series, we'll go on a picnic with Jesus, Philip, Andrew, and about 5,000 of their closest friends.

In part 5 of our series, we’ll go on a picnic with Jesus, Philip, Andrew, and about 5,000 of their closest friends.

My favorite part of today’s scripture is verse 6, which says that Jesus asked Philip about feeding the multitudes “in order to test him.” We don’t like having our faith tested, but our Lord has a helpful but very annoying habit of doing it just when we start to get comfortable. Pass or fail, God tests us in order to help us trust in him more and more. Most of us probably have a lot of growing to do when it comes to trust. The good news is that he doesn’t require a great deal of faith on our part to do remarkable things through us.

Sermon Text: John 6:1-15

The following is my original sermon manuscript.


The biggest news this week was, of course, the birth of the royal baby, His Royal Highness Prince George. And I greatly appreciate the lengths to which Prince William and Kate went to show the the world that they’re just like any other first time parents. William brought George out of the hospital to his SUV and told the press, “He’s got a good pair of lungs, that’s for sure.” Of course, we veteran parents know that that little newborn baby cry is positively cute compared to the high-decibel wail of a six-month-old. Talk about a set of lungs!

But I was impressed by how down to earth the royal couple seemed. Like any new father, William had to nervously fumble with the car seat as he set the baby in it for the first time. Kate told the media that William had even changed his first diaper, a rite of passage for any new father. No, William is so much like us. For example, he was going to store and asked Kate if she needed anything. She said, “Buy Pampers.” And so he did. Of course he misunderstood her and bought the company… but that’s an honest mistake!

And Kate is like any new mother. For example, learning to nurse the baby was a bit of a challenge—as it is for any first-time mother. So they called in a lactation consultant. Kate told her, “I can’t get the baby to latch on.” But the consultant said, “You first have to remove the silver spoon from the child’s mouth.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 07-21-13: “Summer Vacation, Part 4: Camp Meeting”

July 25, 2013
In part 4 of our series, we'll go camping with the Israelites outside the walls of Jericho.

In part 4 of our series, we’ll go camping with the Israelites outside the walls of Jericho.

Last week, the sports world turned its attention to the latest scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) in Major League Baseball. Never mind the harmful effects of PEDs on a player’s health: we don’t like that PED-using athletes achieve records that they didn’t earn and don’t deserve.

Fortunately for us, God isn’t nearly as concerned about our getting what we deserve!

This sermon is about God’s grace, as seen through the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho. We can’t earn God’s love or our salvation, nor should we want to. I also challenge us to imagine ourselves not on “God’s side,” with the Israelites outside the walls of Jericho, but on the other side of the wall—with Rahab, the Gentile convert. Her mission is also our mission.

Sermon Text: Joshua 6:1-5, 15-27

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Major League Baseball’s All-Star Game was last week. The American League won, unfortunately. But that event was overshadowed by much bigger news in baseball: which is, the most recent scandal involving performance-enhancing drugs, or PEDs. There was a medical clinic down in Miami called Biogenesis, whose doctors, according to one report, are responsible for juicing 20 current Major League players, including one of the highest-paid—Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees.

I heard an interview on sports radio with infamous former Braves closer John Rocker, who said, “Who cares about doping in baseball? Wasn’t the game more exciting back in the ’90s, when PED-using superstars like Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds were chasing or breaking homerun records?”

Well, that was exciting back then… before we knew the truth. When we thought, perhaps naively, that these athletes turned into Incredible Hulks by merely sweating it out at the gym. The problem with PEDs is that players like Hank Aaron, Roger Maris, and Babe Ruth earned their records the old-fashioned way, without artificial enhancements. Although Barry Bonds was an amazingly gifted player before drugs, he wouldn’t have achieved his single-season or lifetime homerun record without them. Which is why I support putting an asterisk by his name in the record books. Because he doesn’t deserve it!

Fortunately for us, God isn’t nearly as concerned about our getting what we deserve. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 07-14-13: “Summer Vacation, Part 3: How to Prevent Sunburn”

July 18, 2013
In part 3 of our series, we'll get tips on preventing sunburn from three men who should know!

In part 3 of our series, we’ll get tips on preventing sunburn from three men who should know!

The three friends in today’s scripture exhibited great courage as they faced being thrown into the fiery furnace. Notice that they weren’t completely confident that God would rescue them from their terrible fate: “But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

We all face bad situations over which we have little or no control. What do we do? How can we face those situations with faith? That’s what this sermon is about.

Sermon Text: Daniel 3:8-30

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

You probably heard about the Korean airliner that crashed while attempting to land in San Francisco last week. Mercifully, so far, out of 307 people onboard, only three were killed. Not that it isn’t horrible when this sort of thing happens, but the crash obviously could have been much worse. I used to fly frequently when I was an engineer, and I never paid much attention to the flight attendants’ instructions about what to do in the event of an emergency landing. It never really mattered to me that the seat cushion could be used as a flotation device. I figured that unless the seat cushion could also be used as a spare airplane, then I was pretty much toast. Right?

Then you occasionally hear about successful crash landings like last week and think, “Well, maybe there’s a small chance I’d survive a crash.” Who knows? My point is, pay attention to the flight attendants, kids! 

Sometimes in life we face situations at least a little bit like last week’s plane crash: It’s as if we’re strapped in a plane that’s going to crash, and we’re powerless to do anything about it. We have no control over the situation. We didn’t choose this for this to happen—any more than the passengers onboard that airliner chose to crash. They chose to go to San Francisco. They assumed the negligibly small risk that doing so might lead to a crash. So… here we are. Stuck. This bad thing is happening. What do we do now? Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 07-07-13: “Summer Vacation, Part 2: Set a Course for Adventure”

July 11, 2013
In part 2 of our series, we're going on a cruise with Jonah.

In part 2 of our series, we’re going on a cruise with Jonah.

The prophet Jonah doesn’t get a lot of respect from most of us. But why? If you simply look at what he accomplished, he might be the most successful prophet in the Bible—however reluctant he might have been at first. In this sermon, I talk about the surprisingly good news of God’s wrath toward Jonah’s disobedience and what that means for us today. Curious? Watch the sermon!

Sermon Text: Jonah 1

Ed. note: I’m aware that it looks like my head is floating above the altar in the video! We’ll fix that next time!

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Like many of you, I was inspired last week by the examples of those 19 firefighters of the Granite Mountain Hotshots who gave their lives fighting a dangerous wildfire in Arizona. As President Obama rightly said, “They were heroes… who, as so many across our country do every day, selflessly put themselves in harm’s way to protect… fellow citizens they would never meet.”[1] Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 06-23-13: “The Main Thing”

June 27, 2013
Jesus moved from his hometown of Galilee to Capernaum, where he likely worked as a carpenter.

Jesus moved from his hometown of Galilee to Capernaum, where he likely worked as a carpenter.

Sermon Text: Mark 2:1-12

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

Mark Burgess told me the story of his first Sunday at Hampton UMC. It turns out it also corresponded to the first day of Vacation Bible School. So Mark got up and preached what he thought was a good sermon, but he had barely finished his benediction, he said, when these people marched up and took the pulpit away. And Mark thought, “Was I that bad? Are they not going to let me do this anymore?” I am so grateful to Mark for his faithful, effective, and grace-filled leadership over these past seven years, and his love and support of me during this transition. He has left a strong foundation for ministry on which each of us can continue to build. Praise God?

Corin Tucker, on left

“My favorite band perspired on me!”

As you will surely learn about me, I am passionately interested in music. Back in the late-’90s I saw one of my favorite bands in concert at a sold-out club in Atlanta. They were a female punk-rock trio called Sleater-Kinney. In fact, one of members of the group was a woman named Carrie Brownstein, who now stars with comedian Fred Armisen on a show called Portlandia. She’s even featured in an American Express commercial. Anyway, this small club was packed, wall-to-wall, with people. Standing room only. No elbow room. To make matters worse, the air-conditioning wasn’t working, and it was very hot—and everyone was sweating profusely. Anyway, I was standing near the door that led backstage. Shortly before the show started, the three members of this band that I idolized walked out of that door. And they walked right up to me, and they politely said, “Excuse me,” and they squeezed past me on their way to the concession stand. Each of them brushed against me as they passed. And after they did so, I turned to my friend Keith and said, “I’ve been perspired on by my favorite band! I’ll never wash this shirt again!” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 06-16-13: “Pressing On”

June 20, 2013
Vinebranch constantly challenged me to step outside of my small and safe comfort zone.

Vinebranch constantly challenged me to step outside of my small and safe comfort zone.

I preached the following farewell sermon in Vinebranch last Sunday using Paul’s words from Philippians about “pressing on to win the prize.” As I told the congregation, “I know I’m a better pastor and a better person now than I was six years ago. And the truth is, it’s mostly because I was trying to keep up with you.”

Sermon Text: Philippians 3:4-14

The following is my original sermon text with footnotes.

Some of you, I’m sure, will be running the Peachtree Road Race in a couple of weeks. I’ve run it several times in the past, and I’m struck by the “party atmosphere” of it: It’s a big celebration more than anything. It doesn’t really matter how fast we run it—or even whether we run it at all. The only thing that matters is that we cross the finish line—whether running, walking, crawling, sliding, skipping, rolling, or somersaulting—so that we can get the big prize: the T-shirt.


I know that in front of the 50 thousand or so who are running for the T-shirt there is a group of elite, world-class runners—probably some of Bill and Chat’s friends from Kenya—who are running for more than the T-shirt. But most of us, let’s face it, are in it for the T-shirt. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 06-09-13: “Devil in the Details, Part 2”

June 14, 2013

Devil In the Details_1_600

In Part 1 of this sermon, I talked about the skepticism we usually have about Satan’s literal existence. In this sermon, I talk about the ways that Satan and the other “principalities and powers” often attack us. This sermon is both a warning and an encouragement for Christians: a warning because we need to take seriously the deadly Enemy that we face and an encouragement because we have all the power necessary to defeat this Enemy.

Sermon Text: Ephesians 6:10-17

The following is my original sermon text with footnotes.

I met a man recently named Bob, who goes to Hampton UMC, the church that I will soon be pastoring. Bob retired from Delta Airlines. But before that, he was in the Air Force. He flew U-2 spy planes 70,000 feet up in the air, at the edge of outer space, over enemy territory, at the height of the Cold War—probably while being fired upon by enemy missiles! I didn’t ask him where he flew U-2s, but I know U-2s routinely flew top secret missions over the Soviet Union, and China, and Cuba, and North Korea. They were used for surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence-gathering.

Today, in Part 2 of our sermon “Devil in the Details,” I want us to fly over enemy territory ourselves and gather intelligence on our Enemy, which we identified last week as Satan and the “principalities and powers” that Paul talks about in today’s text. I talked about the challenge we modern people often face in believing in a literal Satan—even though Jesus himself certainly did. I also said that if Satan did exist—and he does—he would undoubtedly want us not to believe in him—then he could do so much of his work unimpeded.

Read the rest of this entry »