Sermon 03-28-2021: “If Jesus is Our King”

March 30, 2021

Scripture: Mark 11:1-11

Remember the famous “cantina” scene in Star Wars? Just before Obi Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, C3PO, and R2D2 go to the cantina, they drive their landspeeder through an imperial checkpoint, with stormtroopers. The stormtroopers are looking for the two droids, who happen to be in this landspeeder. The stormtroopers stop our heroes and ask for identification. And it seems like the good guys are about to get caught: And Obi Wan says, “You don’t need to see identification.” And the stormtroopers repeat back, “We don’t need to see your identification.” And Obi Wan says, “These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.” And the stormtroopers repeat back, “These aren’t the droids we’re looking for.” Obi Wan: “We can go about our business.” The stormtroopers: “You can go about your business.”

It’s some kind of Jedi mind trick… Obi Wan can make these people do what he wants them to do!

And it seems like, whether George Lucas knew it or not, that scene was mimicking real life—what we find in today’s scripture, in verses 2 and 3. Jesus tells two of his disciples to go to Bethphage, a village located a mile or so from Jerusalem. “There,” he says, “you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat”—and by the way, we know from Matthew’s description of this event that this is the colt of a donkey, not a horse. But Jesus said that when they find this baby donkey, “Untie it and bring it. If anyone says to you, ‘Why  are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’”

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Sermon 03-21-2021: “Wanting What You Receive”

March 23, 2021

Scripture: Exodus 20:15-17; Philippians 4:4-7, 10-13

I want to begin this sermon by sharing what I think is one of the most amazing promises in all of scripture—it comes from 1 Corinthians. But I have to explain the context first. The church at Corinth was a mess. It was badly divided—over a number of issues. Among other things, the church was split into factions based on which apostle was their favorite: Some said, “I belong to Paul; he’s my guy; he’s the best.” Others said, “No… Forget about Paul. I belong to Apollos! He’s a much better preacher!” Still others said, “I belong to Jesus’ numero uno apostle, Peter himself!” Paul refers to Peter by his Aramaic name, Cephas. So some were saying, “I belong to Cephas! I’m his man.” 

With this in mind, listen to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23 and prepare to be blown away:

So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.

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Sermon 03-14-21: “Marriage is Not About You”

March 16, 2021

Scripture: Exodus 20:14; Ephesians 5: 15-33

I’m tackling the seventh commandment today, not by talking about what “thou shalt not do” in marriage, but what “thou shalt do,” and why. In other words, I believe that this scripture from Ephesians chapter 5 is like reverse image of the seventh commandment—that it’s describing what it looks like to fulfill this commandment.

As some of you know, I’m teaching a Bible study on Ecclesiastes for college students on Thursday nights, and I was struck recently by something that Solomon wrote in chapter 2 of that book. Solomon, you may recall, succeeded his father, David, on the throne. He was one of the wealthiest, most powerful, and most admired men in the world at the time. His kingdom was the envy of the world. He could do anything, he could buy anything, he could experience anything that he wanted.

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Sermon 03-07-2021: “Murderers Like Us”

March 8, 2021

Scripture: Exodus 20:12-13, Matthew 5:21-26

In last week’s sermon, I preached about the Fourth Commandment—keeping the Sabbath. I talked about friends down the street whose parents wouldn’t let them do anything on Sundays—or at least anything fun… like go to movies, go to shopping malls, go to the arcade, go to sporting events. I talked about how I used to think, “I’m so glad I don’t have to try to observe the Sabbath like that… because, after all, that seems so difficult.

But I said something last week that bears repeating: As Christians, we should never look at any of the Ten Commandments and think, “That’s difficult to obey.” We should instead think, “That’s impossible to obey. Thank God that he became incarnate in Jesus Christ and obeyed all ten of these Ten Commandments on my behalf. Because otherwise I would be judged a guilty sinner and go to hell.”

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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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