Sermon 07-04-2021: “Strength through Weakness”

July 7, 2021

Scripture: 2 Corinthians 2: 1-10

Many of you have asked about our beach trip last week… My family and I had a wonderful vacation… at Englewood Beach, in Florida, south of Tampa. We enjoyed some perfect or nearly perfect days there. So thank you, Lord! The only thing that detracted from the trip at all is that, somehow, I forgot to apply an adequate amount of sunscreen on Day One at a the beach, so I had to manage a sunburn for the rest of the week. No big deal, though! 

But getting sunburned reminded me of a traumatic experience one summer, when I was 11 or 12, when the Whitewater Water Park opened in Atlanta. Do any of y’all know Whitewater? The summer it opened, there was a big marketing campaign to promote it. And the TV commercials showed this fair-skinned kid whose skin tone was unnaturally pale. I’ve always been fair-skinned—prone to sunburns, unable to tan—but even I wasn’t like the kid on TV; they added some special effect to make him appear ghostly white. And there was a jingle that went along with the commercial. The kid sang these words: “I used to be the whitest/ I looked just like a ghoul.” A ghoul—like a ghost or phantom. And they rhymed “ghoul” with “cool”—as in “staying cool at Whitewater.” That was the tagline.

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Sermon 06-20-2021: “The Victory that Overcomes the World”

June 22, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 5:1-5

This won’t come as a shock to those of you who’ve been married for a while, but you and your spouse don’t have to share all the same interests or hobbies in order to have a happy and successful marriage. But… I do think it’s important for married people to support their spouse’s interests and hobbies. For example, I absolutely cannot stand jigsaw puzzles. Lisa, in the their hand, adores them. But I love purchasing these puzzles for her whenever special occasions come around… You know how you can get family photos turned into jigsaw puzzles. I like doing that, even if I don’t enjoy these puzzles.

But here’s the thing: I do enjoy solving some other kinds of puzzles—especially puzzles in the Bible… which is good because today’s scripture presents a puzzle that we need to solve in order to understand what John is saying in today’s scripture.

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Sermon 06-13-2021: “The Love Chapter”

June 15, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 4:7-21

If I asked you, “What is the ‘Love Chapter’ of the Bible?” I know what many of you would say—it’s okay if you don’t even have a guess at all, but I’m referring to those of you who do. Hint: It’s the chapter of scripture that is read at most weddings. And if, like me, you’re a fan of the show The Office, it was even read on prime-time television, unforgettably, in an episode during which Jim and Pam are going through a rough patch in their marriage.

I’m talking about 1 Corinthians 13. “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal…” In addition to being God’s holy Word, 1 Corinthians 13 is a masterpiece of ancient literature!

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Sermon 06-08-2021: “In Between Christ and Cain”

June 8, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 3:11-24

When I preached a series on 1 Peter last year, it was easy enough to compare and contrast Peter in the four gospels and the Book of Acts with the words that Peter wrote later in his letters. It’s harder to do that with John because John plays a much less prominent role in the gospels than Peter—Peter was so outspoken and impulsive. 

But still… John is one of the Big Three disciples, alongside Peter and John’s brother James. The two brothers are sons of a man named Zebedee, but the they also have a nickname: the “Sons of Thunder,”1 which sounds like the name of a professional wrestling duo. But the nickname makes me think that neither James nor John was exactly a shrinking violet!

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Sermon 05-30-2021: “Abiding in Christ as the Cure for Sin”

June 2, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 2:28-3:10

I want to tell you about one of the best things I’ve discovered, or rediscovered, in the Bible during my quiet times recently. As you know, I do “Bible journaling.” I learned this practice from my daughter four years ago. I have a journaling Bible, which has a blank page between every page of scripture, which enables me to take notes, right down thoughts and reflections and prayers… It has been a great blessing. So I started journaling through Song of Solomon recently. 

The Song of Solomon, in case you don’t know, is a breathtakingly beautiful and passionate poem that celebrates the love between a new bride and her husband—the poem is all about romantic love, about falling in love, about being in love. It captures those feelings so perfectly.

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Sermon 05-23-2021: “Waiting for the Holy Spirit to Show Up”

May 26, 2021

Scripture: Acts 2:1-21

When I was 16 years old, I had a job bagging groceries at Kroger. I was just a Baptist kid growing up, like most of my friends. But I met someone who worked at Kroger, his name was Elbert, who was a Pentecostal Christian—the first one I’d ever met. And we hit it off immediately, because we both clearly loved Jesus; we both were on fire for Jesus; we both wanted to tell other people about Jesus. You know that spark you sometimes feel when you meet another believer? I had that! 

Anyway, one day, when we were on break together, he asked me if I had ever spoken in tongues. I said “no.” He said, “Oh! So you haven’t yet received the Holy Spirit.” 

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Sermon 05-16-2021: “Let the Word and Spirit Abide in You”

May 19, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 2:18-27

A few weeks ago, I noticed for the first time a beautiful hutch, near the sanctuary, displaying Bibles, antique books, and mementos related to our church and its history. Inside this hutch, next to a 1914 edition of the Methodist Book of Discipline, was this particular book: Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, copyright 1906.

Maybe that title by itself doesn’t mean anything to you, but suppose I told you it was written by Mary Baker Eddy?

For some of you, that raises a red flag. Baker Eddy is the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist, or Christian Science church. So this is literature that is published, quite literally, by a cult—part of what’s called the “New Thought” movement of the late-nineteenth century. 

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Sermon 05-09-2021: “Even Little Children Can Defeat the Devil”

May 10, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 2:12-17

Years ago, I attended an important work-related conference. I knew the keynote speaker pretty well, and—to say the least—I was not looking forward to it. She was not a great speaker, and I did not think that what she had to say would prove helpful to me. And as she was talking, I did what many of us do in meetings, I got on my phone. Except it was a Blackberry, to give you an idea how long ago this was. But I texted Lisa. I said, “So-and-so is speaking. It’s actually not as horrible as I thought it would be.” And I pressed the “send” button.

Only… I realized that I didn’t send the message to Lisa, my beloved wife with whom all my conversations are “privileged,” as they say on all the cop shows. No… I accidentally sent the message to the person who was speaking at the conference!

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Sermon 05-02-2021: “How to Know That You Know”

May 4, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 2:3-11

I’ve shared some of this before, but last summer a team of us from Toccoa First went into the community over the course of several weekends and deliberately shared the gospel with people—with strangers—people who were attending the summer music festival in town. We handed out information about the church as well as gospel tracts. And most importantly, we had meaningful conversations about Jesus and the gospel with at least three dozen people. Most of those three dozen or so said they were Christians, but… of those who said that, only a few expressed confidence that they would go to heaven when they die—and when we asked follow-up questions, they told us that they hoped that they were “good enough” to earn a place in heaven.

And I know from research that this isn’t only true in Toccoa, Georgia; this is true all over our nation—in big cities and small towns. We have a crisis of people who say they’re Christians, most of whom don’t go to church, yet who believe that the basis on which they’ll receive eternal life is their own personal goodness.

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Sermon 04-25-2021: “Christ the Advocate for Sinners”

April 27, 2021

Scripture: 1 John 1:1-2:2

I told you before about my two mission trips to Kenya seven or eight years ago. Before I left, I had to get some shots and prescriptions to help me avoid diseases like malaria, yellow fever, cholera, typhoid… But I’ve told you before that I’m a hypochondriac. I worry about getting sick. And my doctor probably sensed that about me—so for extra safety—he recommended that I go to a camping store before I left and buy what’s called a “Steripen”: it’s an ultraviolet water purifier. It’s almost like a flashlight, except it has long, narrow wand in place of a bulb. Whenever you have to drink water that isn’t from a sealed bottle, you turn the Steripen on and place the wand in the cup. After a minute the ultraviolet light kills all the bacteria inside… so you won’t get sick! 

“When in doubt,” the doctor said, “use the Steripen.”

So I happily bought one… And I’m sure I didn’t need it. All the water we drank, if it didn’t come from a bottle, was filtered… supposedlyBut how would I know? I didn’t see it being filtered… and even if it was filtered, how do I know the filter worked properly? 

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