Posts Tagged ‘Donald Miller’

Sermon 02-05-17: “Are We Committing Spiritual Murder?”

February 15, 2017


Jesus’ uncompromising words against anger in today’s scripture puts us on the defensive: “Yes, in most cases, anger is sinful and unjustified, but not in my case!” We often feel perfectly justified in our anger. What if we’re wrong? What makes anger sinful? What do we need to overcome anger in our lives?

Sermon Text: Matthew 5:21-26

[To listen on the go, right-click here to download an MP3.]

Big game today. Passions are running high. Even churches are getting into the spirit. Some of you may have seen on “Fox 5” news report that the St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Carrollton posted the following message on their church sign: “Even Jesus rose up. Rise Up, Falcons.” I know the pastor there! Then, the church sign in front of First Baptist Church of Sandy Springs reads, “God has no favorites, but this sign guy does. Go Falcons!”

Remember those happy days before the Super Bowl?

Remember those happy days before the Super Bowl?

And I’m excited, too. In fact, this week I even let myself get into an online argument about the Super Bowl. It started innocently enough: A Facebook friend posted his prediction for a Falcons victory. He said he really thinks the Falcons are going to win. And I replied to his comment—voicing my agreement, and offering a few reasons why I thought it would happen. A lot of it has to do with our team’s offense. And then one of his friends—someone I don’t even know—replied to my comment: “It’s easy to have a great offense against teams that don’t have a defense.” Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 09-13-15: “When God Seems Far Away”

September 26, 2015

Fight Songs

Psalm 42 is about an experience that all Christians will have during their journey of faith: a spiritual dry spell, when God seems far away. How do we deal with it? This psalm offers guidance. First, recognize that this isn’t necessarily happening because you’ve done something wrong. Second, be honest with God about what you’re feeling. Third, speak truthful words to your soul—encourage yourself with the gospel truth.

Sermon Text: Psalm 42:1-11

The following is my original sermon manuscript.

I was talking to Lisa, my wife, about today’s sermon, and she said, “Are you going to sing this week?” And I’m like, “No. We’ve got talented people like Ryan and Matthew and Haley to do the singing around here.” And she said, “No. In your sermon, I mean.” And I’m like, “Oh, right! Yes, I guess the past few weeks I’ve broken into song—a cappella—in the midst of my sermon. And it’s been the highlight of your week, I’m sure.

So as not to disappoint anyone, I will, in fact, begin this sermon with a song that was a hit a couple of years ago. It goes like this:

Everything is awesome
Everything is cool when you’re part of the team
Everything is awesome
Living our dream

That’s, of course, from The Lego Movie. And it’s ironic because in the movie itself it turns out that everything is most assuredly not awesome, no matter how badly all the Lego people wanted to believe that it was. It’s never the case in the real world that “everything is awesome.” That’s not realistic on this side of eternity. Read the rest of this entry »

God loves you (and he even likes you)

March 6, 2014

“Love is a decision, not a feeling.” You’ve heard this before. I’ve preached it before. Feelings are great, but they’re fickle, and what do you do when you’re not “feeling it”? In order to love his neighbor (who was also his enemy), the Good Samaritan in the parable didn’t have to feel anything for this man left for dead on the side of the highway.

And all that seems true enough, and yet… there’s an often unseen danger in this idea, as Dr. William Lane Craig describes in this podcast of Reasonable Faith. He’s describing an insightful and provocative sermon he recently heard:

It is very often said that when we are commanded to love others—even love our enemy—that this is a decision. It is not some sort of emotional feeling. Thoennes was disagreeing with that, which has become I think sort of the conventional wisdom. He said this can lead to the attitude, “Well, I have to love you but I don’t have to like you.” So, you can regard other people in such a way that you don’t really have any affection or feeling for them, but you treat them in a loving way…

We make a decision to act in a loving way toward them whether we have those feelings or not. And he recognized that. But he said if you think that that is all that love is—that that is the end goal of love—then he says you have fallen short. He says a full and mature love will involve a genuine affection for the other person. This is a reflection of the way that God loves us.

He said that he’s afraid that many people may think of God’s love for them as a love that is without affection. They think, “Well, God loves me but he doesn’t really like me.” When you think of what that would do in your relationship to God, I think you can imagine how debilitating that would be if you think that God really doesn’t like you as a person. But he sort of tolerates you and loves you because he has to. It is almost as though if love were not an essential property of God, if he were freed from the necessity of loving you, then he really wouldn’t love you if he didn’t have to.

What do you think?

In last night’s sermon—which I was definitely preaching to myself, too—I said that whatever else we’re “giving up” during Lent, let’s also give up guilt. Whether or not this is easy to do—and I confess that it’s often difficult for me—depends to a large extent on the picture of God and his love that we hold in our minds.

I think we reduce God down to human size if we imagine that while God loves us, he does so without affection or enthusiasm—he has to love us, after all; he’s God. (Or worse, we imagine that were it not for what Jesus accomplished for us on the cross, God would just as soon send us to hell.)

This can’t be right. While I may not always be able to love others while feeling anything for them (although love comes much easier when I do), and my love may look at times like mere tolerance, do I have to state the painfully obvious? I’m not God. My love, even at its best, will fall far short of God’s love.

Besides, I totally understand that Will Rogers aphorism: “I never met a man I didn’t like.” While that’s not literally true for me, don’t most of us tend to like people in whom we invest ourselves emotionally? No one can possibly be more emotionally invested in us than God.

Also, how do we ascribe to God an unfeeling kind of love when Jesus gives us three parables about God’s love in Luke 15 that plainly contradict this idea?

I’ve heard sermons in which I’m told that the Bible’s teaching (and Jesus’ command) to “love our neighbor as we love ourselves” isn’t a command to love both neighbor and ourselves—that we naturally love ourselves by feeding and clothing and merely keeping ourselves alive. (Notice again that we’re emphasizing love as action only.) But this preaching seems inadequate: I don’t know that I do love myself very well, even though I do plenty of things to take care of myself.

I need to remind myself of something Donald Miller describes in his best-selling memoir Blue Like Jazz. It happened when he was cleaning his toilet. An internal voice was telling him (as it had for years) what a loser he was, that he was as disgusting as the bathroom he was cleaning.

As he was listening to that voice, however, a Bible verse popped into his head. It was a powerful sensation: “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He didn’t know what it meant at first. Then he realized it was God telling him that he would never talk to his neighbor the way he talked to himself—because the way he talked to himself wasn’t loving. “[S]omehow I had come to believe it was wrong to kick other people around but it was okay to do it to myself.”[†]

If, like me, you have a voice telling you what a loser you are, please don’t mistake it for God’s voice.

Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 229-231.

Sermon for 01-01-12: “Journey to Bethlehem, Part 5: The Magi”

January 9, 2012

"Adoration or the Magi," Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337)

We conclude our sermon series “Journey to Bethlehem” by turning our attention to the Wise Men, or magi. These royal astrologers followed a star from Persia to Bethlehem in order to find the newborn king of the Jews.

Do you believe that God still gives signs today, which draw people to Jesus Christ? Have you ever considered that God may be calling you to be a compelling sign to others?

Sermon Text: Matthew 2:1-12

The following is my original manuscript.

Occasionally, when my children were babies, I had the privilege of giving them a bottle in the middle of the night and feeding them. While I was feeding or rocking them to sleep, I would listen to a syndicated radio show that comes on in the middle of the night called “Coast to Coast.” Some of you know this show. It features guests and callers who often talk about UFOs—including Area 51 and Roswell and various conspiracy theories purporting to show how aliens from outer space have visited our planet, and our government has covered up the evidence. I wish I could suspend my disbelief and buy into these conspiracy theories because it seems like fun! It’s fun to speculate about intelligent life on other planets, although scientifically it seems very unlikely. It’s fun to speculate, for example, how aliens living trillions of miles away are reacting to the Beatles now that the radio waves from the first Ed Sullivan Show appearance are reaching them. Read the rest of this entry »