Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Sermon 07-19-2020: “Don’t Fall Away From Grace!”

July 20, 2020

Scripture: Galatians 5:1-12

We’ve just read Paul’s most impassioned, angriest words in all of the New Testament! Verse 12: “I wish those who unsettle you would would emasculate themselves!” This is heavy sarcasm, in case you missed it! It’s as if he were saying, “Hey, Judaizers! If you’re going to pervert the gospel by insisting that Gentile Christians get circumcised in order to be saved, why stop at circumcision? Why not go all the way and castrate yourselves while you’re at it!” That’s what he’s saying!

Paul is righteously angry here. Why?

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Sermon 07-05-2020: “It’s Not What You Do, It’s Who You Are”

July 14, 2020

Scripture: Galatians 3:5-14

I grew up Southern Baptist, as some of you did. As you might know, Baptists don’t have any kind of confirmation class—you know, “everything you wanted to know about being a Christian but were afraid to ask.” There’s no formal process that leads to young people into making a profession of faith in Christ—for better or worse. Instead it happens something like this: after the pastor preaches his sermon, he makes an invitation for the congregation to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. Then, during one of twenty-six verses of the invitation hymn “Just as I Am,” people respond to this invitation by walking down the aisle, praying a sinner’s prayer, and later getting baptized. Many of you know what I’m talking about because you’ve been through it yourself. I have too. I’m not criticizing this tradition at all.

Except… in my case, at least in the church I grew up in, it would have been nice if someone had explained to me what exactly was happening. Because between the ages of about eight and twelve, I watched one Sunday school classmate after another, one friend after another, walk down the aisle and get saved. That’s what they said was happening: they were saved. And I just sat in my seat, unsure and afraid. 

For one thing, oftentimes people who walked down the aisle were in tears… and I did not want to cry in public, in church! I had a crush on a girl named Betty Jean, and I would been mortified to cry in front of her! So before long I was the only one left who hadn’t walked down the aisle. 

And I felt left out.

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Sermon 06-28-2020: “We Never Outgrow the Gospel”

July 14, 2020

Scripture: Galatians 3:1-5

Not long ago, Paul McCartney gave an interview with Esquire magazine. He was asked if he felt like he still had something to prove. “Yeah, all the time,” he said. “And it is a silly feeling.”

I do actually sometimes talk to myself and say, “Wait a minute: look at this little mountain of achievements. There’s an awful lot of them. Isn’t that enough?” But maybe I could do it a bit better… I mean, I never felt like, “Oh, I did good.” Nobody does.

Wait! So Paul McCartney, who is literally the world’s wealthiest rock star, who was one of the two primary singer-songwriters in a group that sold more records than anyone else, who once wrote a song, “Yesterday,” that people loved so much that other recording artists recorded it more than any other song in the history of recorded music—this same Paul McCartney says that even he “never feels like” he did good—or that he did good enough—and therefore he has something to prove.

He says to himself, “Look at this mountain of achievements… Isn’t that enough?” And for him, the answer is no. And he says the answer is no for the rest of us, too.

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Sermon 06-21-2020: “Living in Step with the Gospel”

July 14, 2020

Scripture: Galatians 2:11-21

Over the past few weeks, the Lord has continued to lay this story on my heart to share with you. I’ve told the Lord “no” a few times, but he doesn’t seem to care. He really wants me to share it with you—and it does tie in to today’s scripture. 

In the summer of 1976, I was six-years-old. My parents had this crazy idea that what my two older sisters and I needed to do that summer was to take ice-skating lessons. Ice skating… in Atlanta. There was a skating rink at the old Colony Square shopping center in Midtown. So that’s where we had our lessons. For at least a few months, we spent a lot of time ice-skating.

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Sermon 06-14-2020: “The B.C. and A.D. of Our Lives”

July 14, 2020

Scripture: Galatians 1:11-24

Do you know any millennials—I’m talking about that generation of people aged 25 to 40? Some of you are millennials, of course—but for the moment I’m not talking to you. I’m talking to the rest of us about you. If we know and love millennials in your life, they could probably use a hug about right now. Not that I can recommend that you literally hug anyone in this time of coronavirus! But listen to this: according to a new survey of 2,000 millennials, fully 80 percent of them feel as if they’re not “good enough” in virtually all areas of their lives. 

Seventy-five percent admit that they constantly feel “overwhelmed” by pressure to succeed in their careers, to find a meaningful romantic relationship, to meet others’ expectations, and to maintain a presence on social media. In all, 80 percent of respondents even say these worries have negatively impacted their sleep and admit that their overall mental health has suffered.

So… millennials could use a hug. They could use some encouragement. In general, they’re not feeling good about themselves!

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Sermon 06-07-2020: “The Gospel of Completely Free Grace”

July 14, 2020

Scripture: Galatians 1:1-10

I am this close to deleting the Twitter app on my phone. I don’t know if I’m sanctified enough to get rid of Twitter yet—because I love it so much! I wake up in the morning—and first thing, I reach for my phone: “I gotta check Twitter!” Even though it only seems to get me angry and worked up and righteously indignant these days. 

But… speaking of anger and Twitter, I saw an angry tweet from a young woman in the Atlanta suburbs this past week. I gather that she is still a teenager, 17 or 18, and that she goes to or recently graduated from an elite high school in metro Atlanta. Anyway, the tweet was calling out—by name—her classmates, acquaintances, and now former friends for being racist. Even more, underneath the tweet, she linked to one smartphone video after another of these white, highly privileged high school kids using the N-word and other racial epithets—again, on video for all the world to see. And since this is the internet, all the world will be able to see the sins of these young people, I suppose, for the rest of their lives. 

So… When these kids apply to college… when they apply for a job… when they fall in love… when they run for office, if they do… these videos will haunt them forever, potentially.

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Sermon 05-31-2020: “What’s Gotten Into Peter?”

July 14, 2020

Scripture: Acts 2:1-21

Just last week I was reading and journaling through Exodus chapters 3 and 4—where God appeared to Moses in the burning bush and called him to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let the Israelites, who were in slavery in Egypt, go free. 

And I couldn’t help but notice that the word “but” appears frequently: Exodus 3:11: “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?’” Exodus 4:1: “Then Moses answered, ‘But behold, they will not believe me or listen to my voice, for they will say, “The Lord did not appear to you.” ’ ” Exodus 4:10: “But Moses said to the Lord, “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and of tongue.’” Exodus 4:13. “But he said, ‘Oh, my Lord, please send someone else.’”

You have to hand it to Moses… at least he’s honest!

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Sermon 05-24-2020: “Do Not Be Surprised at the Fiery Trial”

May 27, 2020

Scripture: 1 Peter 4:12-14; 5:6-11.

Cavonna Holcomb referred to me as Dr. Doolittle on Facebook two weeks ago—because I rescued a baby possum from my garage and brought it to her place. She named it Otis, and it’s living in one of her pastures. The week before Otis visited us, we had a groundhog in our garage. But even Cavonna doesn’t know the best story about an animal showing up at our house, which happened 14 years ago… 

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Sermon 05/17/2020: “Offering to Others the Reason for Your Hope”

May 18, 2020

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:13-22

When I was young, I was not a graceful or confident swimmer. In fact, I didn’t learn to swim properly until I was in my 20s—when Lisa, my wife, taught me to swim. Until then, I was mostly a scaredy cat when it came to the water. 

So imagine how I felt, then, when, in 1988, I found out I got accepted into Georgia Tech. I was happy. I told a friend of mine at church, and the very first thing he said to me was this: “Oh… You’ll have to take drown-proofing. It’s a requirement for all male students. Goes back to World War II. And oh, by the way, if you don’t pass drown-proofing, you can’t graduate.” 

“What’s drown-proofing?” I asked… innocently. “Well… Let me put it this way: for the final exam, they tie your arms and legs together and throw you into the deep end of the pool. And if you don’t drown, you pass the class!” Suddenly, the prospect of going to Georgia Tech, which seemed hard enough already, now seemed like a death wish. I was reasonably certain I would not survive drown-proofing. 

“Don’t worry,” my friend said, “If you drown, they’ll award you your degree posthumously. They’ll give it to your parents.” Gee, thanks!

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Sermon 05/10/2020: “How to Suffer Well”

May 13, 2020

Scripture: 1 Peter 2:18-25

One of my Christian heroes—at least among Christians that I know in real life—is a man named Tracy Fleming. He’s the owner-operator of the Chick-fil-A in Lovejoy, Georgia, down on the southside of Atlanta, not far from where I pastored a church. I used to go to that Chick-fil-A every week to write my sermons. And I got to know Tracy. And I invited him to speak at our church. I don’t know how this current pandemic has changed what I’m about to describe, but over the course of many years, Tracy made a couple of trips to China each year, spending his own money, in order to train and equip Chinese Christians in some of China’s many underground churches. It was risky and potentially even life-threatening, because when he went there, he knew that he and his fellow Christians were under surveillance by the Chinese government. Tracy himself is half-Japanese—not that that endears him to the Chinese government! My point is, Tracy knew that when he went there, there was at least a small risk that he would never come back! But he went anyway! Because he loved Jesus that much!

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