Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Sermon 08-14-2022: “God Wants You to Have Heroic Faith”

August 17, 2022

Scripture: Hebrews 10:32 – 11: 2, 8-16

When I planned our current sermon series, I intended this week’s scripture to be a detour from the gospel of Luke. But today’s scripture is part of the same theme we’ve been discussing—the Bible’s surprising and often difficult path to lasting happiness and joy. In fact, today’s scripture, mostly from Hebrews chapter 11, is part of the “hall of faith” chapter—because it describes a Who’s Who of great heroes of faith from the Bible.

The author wants us to know that these great saints of the Old Testament are not part of an elite club of super-spiritual believers of which you and I could never be members. They may be heroes of faith, in other words, but they aren’t superheroes of faith. The author is saying that if these Bible heroes possess a “heroic faith,” well, so should we. So in this sermon, I want to encourage us modern-day believers to have the same kind of “heroic” faith.

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Sermon 08-07-2022: “If Christ Is Your Treasure”

August 17, 2022

Scripture: Luke 12:32-40

I’m a fan of a podcast called This American Life—which is also broadcast on public radio. Each week they choose a theme, and reporters go and find interesting, real-life stories related to that theme.

Years ago, the theme and title of one episode was “Blackjack.” More specifically, it was about what’s known as “counting cards” while playing blackjack. Nothing I’m about to say, I hope, will be construed as an endorsement of gambling. I’m opposed to it. I think it’s terrible. But according to the producers of this show, if you learn to count cards—which is difficult to learn—but if you learn to do it, you can “beat the house” and win money. So, from the perspective of card-counters, you’re not placing your faith in “Lady Luck”; you’re simply believing in math and applying it to the problem of blackjack. Also, contrary to popular belief, counting cards is not illegal; but casinos have the right to ask you to leave if they suspect you’re doing it.

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Sermon 07-31-2022: “Get Rich in the Only Way that Matters”

August 3, 2022

Scripture: Luke 12:13-21

If you’re of my generation—Generation X—and you needed to be reminded that you’re getting older, well… with great sadness we were reminded of this fact last week when actor Tony Dow—whom most of us know and love as Wally Cleaver from Leave It to Beaver—died, from cancer, at age 77. And I was genuinelysaddened. I know you can say it’s “just a TV show,” but, man… Leave It to Beaver was an important part of my childhood. I mean, that show dealt with real issues that I was facing when I was a kid at the time—that’s for sure!

Anyway, even the New York Times obituary writer put her finger on something that I always appreciated about Wally, the older brother to Beaver. While describing the kind of person Wally was, she said, “And [Wally] would never ‘squeal on’ the Beav, unless he had to.”1 

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Sermon 07-24-2022: “Three Encouragements for Praying Boldly”

July 27, 2022

Scripture: Luke 11:1-13

In last week’s sermon, I talked, in part, about prayer. I said that Jesus seems to emphasize that prayer—contrary to popular belief—is not supposed to be difficult; it’s supposed to be easy. And if you were here last week, you’ll recall that I said that even so-called “bad” prayers are infinitely better than no prayers at all. 

But in today’s scripture, Jesus shows us what a good prayer looks like: a perfectly good prayer, in fact. The prayer that we call the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus likely taught his disciples this prayer on many occasions. The prayer in Luke is a little shorter than the more familiar version of the prayer that he offers in Matthew’s gospel, in the Sermon on the Mount. But the pattern of the prayer is the same. 

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Sermon 07-17-2022: “What Can We Learn from Squabbling Sisters?”

July 18, 2022

Scripture: Luke 10: 38-42

We were on vacation last week, and my son Townshend’s girlfriend, Lydia, joined us for part of the trip. And I’m not saying I should have felt this way, but I felt a tiny amount of pressure to “be on my best behavior.” It’s same pressure you feel when company is coming over for the first time, and you want to make a good impression. With your close friends and family, being on your best behavior is no longer important. They know you already—they know both the good and the bad… And if, after getting to know you so well, they still want to be your friends… well, they must love you enough to overlook or at least tolerate your many faults.

But Lydia doesn’t know me that well… so for about three days I wanted to fake her out. For example, I wanted to make sure that she didn’t notice how grumpy I can often be; that she didn’t see me snap at Lisa in anger; that she didn’t hear me accidentally use salty language—as I confess with shame that I sometimes do.

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Sermon 07-03-2022: “The Who, the Why, and the How of Mission”

July 18, 2022

Scripture: Luke 10:1-20

When I was in college, I was first a writer and later an editor of The Technique, Georgia Tech’s student newspaper. Yes, some of us at Toccoa First earned Ph.D.s in nuclear engineering from Georgia Tech. And some of us worked for the student newspaper… So… Potato, po-tah-to

But one time we had an English professor—who was himself an editor of a national jazz magazine—come and talk to us about how to write newspaper articles. There’s no journalism school at Georgia Tech, keep in mind. And he said that the most important thing about writing news stories is that you need to try to answer the five W’s: Who, what, where, when, and why? And how?

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Sermon 06-26-2022: “‘Setting Our Faces’ to Follow Christ”

June 28, 2022

Scripture: Luke 9:51-62

Our scripture begins, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he—Jesus—set his face to go to Jerusalem.” He set his face… That’s an unusual figure of speech, but it’s used in a few places in the Bible. What does it mean to “set one’s face”? It means that you’ve decided to do something very difficult, or something very costly, or even something risky or dangerous. But you’re determined to do it, no matter how difficult, because you know it’s the right thing to do.

Jesus has “set his face” toward Jerusalem because he knows what’s waiting for him there: the cross. He’s had an appointment to keep with that cross since before the creation of the world. And now his Father has revealed to him that the time has come for him to go to the cross.

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Sermon 06-19-2022: “Challenges to Faithful Christian Living”

June 28, 2022

Scripture: 1 Kings 19:1-18

The twentieth-century English novelist and Christian apologist G.K. Chesterton famously said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried.”

I’m sure most of us can relate. I’m sure the prophet Elijah in today’s scripture could relate! 

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Sermon 06-12-2022: “The Power Behind Positive Thinking”

June 27, 2022

Scripture: Acts 16:6-10, 16-34

Last week, we looked at how the Holy Spirit was poured out on all believers at Pentecost. As I said then, when we place our faith in Christ and are born again, every single one of us receives the Spirit. And the main thing the Spirit does, I said, is to enable us fulfill Christ’s commission in this world, the Great Commission. Today’s sermon is a sequel to last week’s, because in this week’s scripture we see examples of the Holy Spirit in action in the lives of Paul, Silas, and Timothy, and in the lives of people they’re reaching with the gospel.

And I want to focus on three things that the Holy Spirit does for us believers in Jesus. One, the Spirit enables us to overcome disappointing circumstances. As part of this point, I’ll explain the importance of discerning God’s specific will for decisions we make. Point Number Two, he enables us to overcome sin. And, Point Number Three, he enables us to overcome suffering… And when I say “overcome suffering,” I don’t mean we can reach a place where we magically never suffer anymore; rather, I mean that the Holy Spirit will equip to handle it much better, to deal with it much more effectively, without having it destroy us or harm us spiritually. 

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Sermon 06-05-2022: “Treasuring Christ by the Power of the Holy Spirit”

June 8, 2022

Scripture: Acts 2:1-21

I’ve told you before that back in 2012 and 2013, I made two trips to Kenya, in East Africa. I went there to teach indigenous United Methodist pastors—to teach them the basics of church history, Wesleyan theology and doctrine, and things related to liturgy and our Book of Discipline. Kenya was a former British colony and many of my students—about a hundred in all… many of them spoke English quite beautifully, but even the best English speakers in the classes only spoke English as a second language… and some didn’t speak it at all… Their first language was Swahili. Which meant I used an interpreter.

I enjoyed the experience! But it took a little while to get the hang of it… to learn to speak a sentence, or even a half-sentence, then to pause, then to allow my words to be translated… and then continue.

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