Posts Tagged ‘Georgia Bulldogs’

Sermon 01-07-18: “Rewarding Prayer”

January 18, 2018

This is the first of a new six-part sermon series on the Lord’s Prayer. In this sermon, I talk about Jesus’ promise of a reward for praying the way that he teaches. I suspect many of us haven’t experienced prayer as “rewarding”—at least as much as God wants us to! I want that to change! I also talk about the privilege that we have in calling God “our Father.”

Sermon Text: Matthew 6:5-9

My sermons are now being podcast! My podcast is available in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

Many of you have seen the funny meme that has circulated this past week, in the wake of the `Bulldogs’ overtime victory over Oklahoma. It looks like this: [show meme on screen] “If you made any promises in overtime, service starts at 9:30 or 11:15 this Sunday morning.”  And so we could change ours to 9:00 or 11:00, but same difference. The point is, many Georgia fans were praying during that game last Monday—and chances are that some of them made promises to God: “I will go to church, Lord, if only you’ll let the Bulldogs win.”

This is funny. I like it. But by the end of the sermon, I hope you’ll see why, according to Jesus, this is terrible theology.

But this meme is about prayer, and today at HUMC we’re beginning a six-part sermon series on prayer—specifically, the Lord’s Prayer. We sort of began last week by looking at a parable about prayer—the Parable of the Persistent Widow in Luke 18. As we saw last week, Jesus told that parable to encourage us disciples to pray always and not to lose heart.

A natural follow-up question to last week’s sermon is, “O.K., I get it, Pastor Brent. I need to pray a lot more than I do now. Tell me something I don’t know! But how do I do it?”

And to answer that question, Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew chapter 6. We’re going to look at just the very beginning of the prayer today—“Our Father”—and the four verses leading up to it. The four verses leading up to the Lord’s Prayer tell us how not to pray.

The first way not to pray, Jesus says, is to do it for the sake of any audience other than God: “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” Read the rest of this entry »

Devotional Podcast #2: “Does God Care About Football?”

January 12, 2018

Devotional Text: Romans 8:28

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Hi, this is Brent White. It’s Friday, January 12, and this is the second of my new series of devotional podcasts, which I’m calling “Still Life.” My plan is to release new podcasts every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday—in addition to my sermons, which I’ll continue to post on this channel. You’re listening to Leslie Phillips, and her song, “No One but You,” from her 1988 compilation album, Recollection. By the way, Leslie later changed her stage name to “Sam,” her nickname, and the music of Sam Phillips was featured each week on the wonderful TV show Gilmore Girls.

So last Monday was the college football national championship game between the University of Georgia and the University of Alabama, and it was about as exciting a game as you’ll ever see. It ended in an overtime victory for Alabama. One interesting wrinkle in the game was that Alabama’s head coach, Nick Saban, put in his second-string quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, at the beginning of the second half—after Jalen Hurts, the starting quarterback, struggled in the first half.

More than a few observers perceived this to be a desperation move on Saban’s part, but you don’t win five national championships in nine years unless you know what you’re doing! Saban’s decision was vindicated, and Tagovailoa, a true freshman who had seen little playing time this year, was nothing short of electrifying.

But as a Christian, what impressed me nearly as much as his performance were his comments after the game. At least twice, in postgame interviews, when reporters asked the freshman quarterback questions about the game, he said something like, “First, let me give all thanks and praise to my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.” These reporters wanted to revel in this athlete’s glory; he wanted to remind the world of the One to whom all glory belongs.

Tagovailoa seemed eager to steer the conversation away from himself to Christ. What did John the Baptist say? “He must become greater; I must become less.”[1] I don’t know… When I see living examples of this, it moves me deeply.

I have two thoughts I want to share about Tagovailoa’s example:

First, while it’s likely that God will never give you or me so large a platform to bear witness to Christ as he gave to Tagovailoa, he will give us a platform; chances are that God will place people in our lives this week who are lost in their sins and in need of the Good News of his Son Jesus. I’m not saying it’s our job to conduct a full-on Billy Graham Crusade with people, but… each one of us has been commissioned by our Lord to be witnesses for him.

You say, “I don’t know how to do that.” But I disagree! If you’re already a Christian, that means you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ; you have personal experience with Christ; Christ has done good things for you. What has he done? Can you say? Christ has made a tangible difference in your life. How is your life better because of Christ? Can you answer that? If so, then you know how to witness.

As Christians, since we have experienced Christ as good news, we should be willing and able to share this good news with others. And even if we don’t know what to say, shouldn’t we be just as eager as Tagovailoa for people to know Christ the way we do? Shouldn’t we be just as eager for people to repent of their sins and be saved? Of course we should! Nothing less than heaven or hell hangs in the balance, after all!

At the very least, we should pray, daily, for opportunities to witness—pray that the Holy Spirit will give us the right words to speak at the right time. Witnessing starts with prayer!

O.K., here’s my second thought about Tagovailoa’s interview: As a recovering cynic myself, I imagine that there are cynical people—even among us believers—who hear athletes thank God after a big victory and think, “Well, that’s easy for you to say! After all, you won. Your team won! Would you be as eager to thank the Lord if you lost?”

I can’t speak for Tagovailoa; I don’t know this young man, obviously… But I hope the answer would be, “Yes.” Yes…

If we believe that God is sovereign, and that the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 8:28 are true—“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose”—then how could the answer not be yes?

Last Monday on Facebook, someone joked about praying desperately for his team’s victory. Then he wrote: “As if God cares about a football game! LOL.” And many friends chimed in their agreement: “Of course God doesn’t care about something so trivial as a football game!”

And I thought, “Really? What do you mean God doesn’t care about a football game?” God cares passionately about football games! How could he not?

Does he not care deeply about every player on both teams? Does he not care about both teams’ coaches and trainers and equipment managers; about team doctors and chaplains and cheerleaders? Does he not care about referees? Think about everyone whose livelihoods are tied up in football games—from network executives and university presidents on down! Does God not care about them? Does God not care about us and our careers? Or what about all the teams’ fans? If they’re overjoyed or they’re heartbroken, does God not care?

Of course he cares!

We make God seem very small and very weak, if we believe otherwise—a god who does not care about football is hardly the God revealed by Jesus who tells us that every hair on our head is numbered and that not even a sparrow falls to the ground without the Father caring.[2]

If we don’t think God cares about the so-called “little stuff,” well… we obviously don’t think God cares much about us—since our lives consist mostly of “little stuff.” I was talking about the challenge of prayer in the last podcast. Needless to say, if we don’t think God cares about the “little stuff” of life, it’s no wonder we struggle to pray!

No… thank God that he cares about the little things in life, including me and you and everything that we’re going through. Thank God that he’s working for the good of his children through every tiny detail of our lives!

Chances are, some of this “small stuff” is troubling you today. Will you take time to talk to your heavenly Father about it?

Sermon 12-03-17: “Your Prayer Has Been Heard”

January 3, 2018

Happy New Year! I know I’m way behind on posting my sermons! Here’s my sermon on Zechariah and Elizabeth, from the first Sunday in Advent. One important theme of this sermon is that sometimes God’s blessings hurt. When they do, how do we respond?

Sermon Text: Luke 1:5-25

My sermons are now being podcast! My podcast is available in iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher.

I’m always intrigued by the way angels are depicted in Hollywood. Think, for example, of Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life. Think of Michael Landon in Highway to Heaven. Think of Roma Downey and Della Reese from Touched by an Angel. All these depictions of angels have one thing in common: the angels are completely nice, friendly, and non-threatening. They would never do anything for which they would need to say, “Fear not”—because no one who encountered them would ever afraid of them! And what’s the deal with those cherubs—those baby angels—that you see in paintings and on Hallmark cards this time of year?

Clarence the angel visits George Bailey.

Needless to say, Gabriel, the angel who shows up to talk to Zechariah in the sanctuary of the Temple—he’s no cherub; he’s not a Michael Landon/Roma Downey kind of angel. He’s a “fear not” kind of angel. He’s the kind of angel that inspires fear. I’m going to say more about the way in which he punishes Zechariah in verses 18 to 20 next week. For now, I want to talk more about the verses leading up to that…

Zechariah was a priest. He and the other priests in his division served in the Temple for one full week twice a year. So this is his week to serve. Zechariah has a wife named Elizabeth. Notice what we’re told about the couple in verse 6: “And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord.”  Read the rest of this entry »