Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Sermon 02-28-2021: “Sabbath Rest and the Cure for Cursing”

March 3, 2021

Scripture: Exodus 20:7-11; Mark 4:35-41

I went to Israel back in 2011. I went as part of a group of pastors and deacons who got ordained the previous year. During the first leg of the trip, we stayed in Tiberias, which is on the Sea of Galilee. There was a sign in the front lobby that said that the hotel featured something called “Sabbath elevators.” I had no idea what Sabbath elevators were. But I found out at sundown on Friday. I was on the sixth floor of the hotel, and I was meeting friends down in the lobby for dinner. So I pushed the call button on the elevator and after a long wait, the elevator doors finally opened. No one was in the elevator. I pressed the button marked “1.” The doors closed, and then the elevator stopped at the fifth floor—even though I hadn’t pushed that button. And there was no one there waiting for it. Then the elevator stopped at the fourth floor. No one was there. Then the third floor. No one was there. “What’s going on?” I thought.

A hotel employee got on the elevator. I said, “I think something’s wrong with the elevator,” I said. He literally rolled his eyes at me! I’m sure he was thinking, “Tourists!”

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Sermon 02-14-2021: “Listen to God’s Beloved Son”

February 16, 2021

Scripture: Mark 9:2-9

Well, he did it again… Forty-three-year-old Tom Brady led his team to Super Bowl glory. For the seventh time! He’s only seven years younger than I am! I’m at the age where I can’t even get up off the couch without experiencing pain—some of you know what I’m talking about—and here Brady is, routinely being crushed by the world’s biggest, strongest, heaviest athletes, and he’s not only getting up, he’s winning Super Bowl championships!

His example should inspire over-the-hill people like me!

His team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, had an unusual victory parade last week—a boat parade, on the Hillsborough River near Tampa. And aside from the unusual location, the most noteworthy part of the parade was when Tom Brady threw the Super Bowl trophy from his boat to one of his teammates on another boat—fittingly, he threw it to one of his tight ends, Cameron Brate… who caught it!

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Sermon 02-07-2021: “Turning Giants into Grasshoppers”

February 16, 2021

Scripture: Isaiah 40:21-31

In case you missed it, the biggest news in the business world over the past couple of weeks is GameStop, a brick-and-mortar store that sells video games. Their business model is considered by many people to be obsolete, as more and more people buy or download video games online. In other words, GameStop today is where Blockbuster Video was ten years ago.

I’m not going to explain what “short selling” is, but it allows Wall Street investors to profit off of GameStop’s demise. If the company’s stock price continues to fall, these investors make a lot of money. If it rises, they lose a lot of money. And the last couple of weeks, they’ve lost a lot of money. All because a bunch of individual investors banded together online to buy shares of GameStop stock, pushing the price of this otherwise failing business sky-high—and thus punishing Wall Street for betting against the company’s future success.

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Sermon 01-31-21: “The Brother or Sister for Whom Christ Died”

February 2, 2021

Scripture: 1 Corinthians 8: 1-13

My family and I miss eating at restaurants! That’s one activity that in the wake of COVID-19 we have seriously curtailed. And so many restaurants and restaurant chains are going under! I know it’s happened here in Toccoa—as so many people stay home or choose drive-through or take-out because they don’t want to sit down in a crowded restaurant with lots of people.

It may not be obvious, but in today’s scripture, Paul is asking some of these Christians in Corinth to do the same thing: to avoid sitting down in restaurants. Not because of threats to their physical health, but threats to their spiritual health… and the spiritual health of others. You see, most restaurants and banquet halls in Corinth were connected to pagan temples. And when the pagan priests would sacrifice bulls or cows or sheep or birds or pigs whatever else—well, believe it or not the gods wouldn’t eat very much… Seriously, the priest would burn up parts of the animal as a sacrifice, serve part of what was left over in the temple dining room—where rich people in Corinth gathered to eat, the same way we go to restaurants. And then the temple would sell the rest of the meat in the marketplace.

Most meat consumed in Corinth had first been offered as a sacrifice to these idols.

So what should Christians do? You’ve got to admit it’s a good question! In Acts 15, one of the rules the early church gave to Gentile converts was to refrain from eating meat sacrificed to idols. And Paul, probably in an earlier letter that we no longer possess, had passed down this rule to the Corinthians. But… Some of these Corinthians who were “in the know” thought they knew better… and they had a pretty good counterargument: We know that idols aren’t real. All meat comes as a gift from the one true God whom we worship. Therefore, what’s the harm of going into these temples and having a nice meal?

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Sermon 01-24-21: “God’s Grace in a Storm”

January 26, 2021

Scripture: Jonah 1:1-17; 3:1-5, 10

Objectively speaking, the “hero” of today’s scripture, Jonah, is probably the most successful preacher who has ever lived. Or close enough! By the end of this book, we learn that through Jonah’s faithful preaching of God’s Word, 120,000 people repented of their sins, turned in faith to the one true God, and were rescued from God’s wrath. They were saved.

Jonah was very successful in his mission! Billy Graham reached more lost people than that, but that was over the course of 70 years; Jonah did it in three days!

But perhaps that’s where the comparisons end. Based on what we learn from chapter 1 of this book, Jonah does not seem much like Billy Graham.

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Sermon 01-17-21: “Come and See”

January 20, 2021

Scripture: John 1:43-51

Young people who hear me say this won’t believe me, but there was a period of time—gosh, 25 years ago now—when buying products made by Apple Computer was considered very risky—even foolish. Because many so-called experts were predicting that Apple Computer would soon be out of business…

Back then, being a “fanboy” of Apple, as I was, was a little like being in a religious cult. I’m not kidding. And if so, I drank the Kool-Aid. See, I was very eager to convince friends, family, co-workers, and even complete strangers that their lives would be much better if they purchased a Macintosh computer and not one of those evil Windows PCs. Please don’t make fun of me. I know it’s silly now.

One time, I was at a computer store, looking at all these shiny new Mac computers that I couldn’t afford, when a young man came up to me and asked me if I knew anything about Macs, that he was considering switching from Windows to Mac, and he wanted to know why I thought it was better. 

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Sermon 01-10-21: “Hope in Our Wilderness”

January 13, 2021

Scripture: Mark 1:4-11

I came home from work last Wednesday, not having watched the news or paid close attention to social media during the day. Like everyone, I was deeply troubled, sad, even angry. Several fellow clergy online were posting their thoughts and speaking out. And I thought, “I have nothing to say that will be helpful right now.” One clergy friend posted on Facebook, “Well, I guess I’ll have to rewrite my sermon now!” And that made me angry—I thought, “How were you able to write your sermon before Wednesday in the first place? You’re just rubbing it now!” 

But seriously, I thought, “I hope that the gospel is good enough for this Sunday. I hope it’s relevant. Surely it is.” Some of Paul’s final words to his young protege Timothy in 2 Timothy are these: “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.” 

I don’t know if, in light of last week’s events, the gospel is “in season” or “out of season,” but it’s all I’ve got! I wholeheartedly believe that the gospel is what we and our world need now more than ever. So I hope you’ll understand and appreciate that in this sermon I’m going to preach the gospel.

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Sermon 01-03-2021: “Three Responses to King Jesus”

January 7, 2021

Scripture: Matthew 2:1-12

I love today’s scripture, in part because it reminds me of a formative event in my own life as a Christian. My Wednesday night Bible study has already heard this testimony, but I’d like to share it with you. About 13 years ago, I was serving a large church, Alpharetta First United Methodist, as one of two associate pastors. Like April I was in the process of becoming fully ordained. Unlike April, I was in a bad place, spiritually speaking, with my faith.

It was in part because, unlike April, I went to a mainline Protestant seminary that deliberately sowed seeds of doubt in the truthfulness of scripture—including the doctrine of the Virgin Birth. Looking back, I was unprepared for the spiritual warfare that came my way when I decided to answer God’s call into ministry. I was like a sheep led to the slaughter! And as a result, I graduated from seminary riddled with doubts.

Suffice it to say that I don’t for a moment doubt the Virgin Birth anymore. And I could easily and happily answer the objections of my skeptical seminary professors today. But that’s not where I was in 2007, shortly after graduation, when the senior pastor of the large church I served gave me an assignment: He got a call the day before from a man who said he’d like for a pastor to visit him. He said he needed prayer and pastoral care. This man wasn’t a member of our church. His home church was in another state. He had recently moved to the area when he got very sick, and he’d spent several months convalescing at home, cut off from his church family.

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Sermon 12-20-2020: “Mary, Most Likely to Succeed”

December 21, 2020

Scripture: Luke 1:26-38

In last night’s SEC Championship game, Florida was down by six with seconds remaining on the clock. On this last possession, they had one goal: to advance the ball to midfield—so that Kyle Trask, Florida’s quarterback, could then heave the ball as far as he could throw it toward the end zone. If he were able to do that, many Florida receivers and many Alabama defenders would be gathered at or near the goal line. Florida’s receivers would try to catch the ball, score a touchdown and extra point, and win 53-52; Alabama’s defenders, meanwhile, would simply try to bat the ball down and hold on for a victory.

Florida wasn’t able to run that play, of course. Because time ran out before they reached midfield.

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Sermon 12-13-2020: “You Can Be a Star”

December 17, 2020

Scripture: John 1:6-8; 19-29

December 21 is the longest night of the year—the winter solstice. And this year, it’s also the night of an astronomical event that hasn’t happened in 800 years. Astronomers tell us that for the first time since the year 1226, we will be able to see with the naked eye an alignment of Jupiter and Saturn in the night sky—such that these two planets will almost appear as one bright, shining star. This is such and unusual and interesting event that astronomers call this conjunction of planets the “Star of Bethlehem”—and many Christians have even speculated that God might have used this very event over 2,000 years ago to inspire the magi, or Wise Men, to travel the 700 miles or so from modern-day Baghdad to Jerusalem, looking for the Messiah.

Whether God used this natural event, or whether he used some supernatural event, the result is the same: Remember, these magi were literally world’s foremost experts in astronomy. So God spoke to them in a “language they could understand”—the language of astronomy. And what God told them through these stars is, “Go to Israel and worship the newborn king of the Jews.”

It was very gracious of God to do this! It’s unlikely that anything else would have gotten their attention! But as a result, these magi were saved—and if we are in Christ, just think… we will even have an opportunity to meet them some day.

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