Posts Tagged ‘The Georgia Institute of Technology’

Sermon 09-24-17: “God’s Word Alone, Part 2”

October 11, 2017

This sermon is the second of two on Sola Scriptura, the classic Protestant (and ancient church) doctrine that the Bible is the ultimate authority guiding Christian faith and practice. I contrast this doctrine with ideas put forward by Adam Hamilton in his recent book Making Sense of the Bible. From my perspective, Hamilton is misguided—dangerously so. As with my previous sermon, I hope to inspire confidence that the Bible is, as Wesley said, “infallibly true”—every word of it—and that we can built our lives on it.

Sermon Text: 2 Timothy 3:14-17

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

[Read Psalm 1 as an opening prayer.]

Paul begins today’s scripture with these words: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed.” And what Timothy has learned, and what he has firmly believed, Paul says, is found in the “sacred writings,” our holy Bible. Remain there, Paul says. Remain in God’s Word. Don’t stray from its teaching. Don’t stop reading it, studying it, treasuring it. Don’t stop putting it at the center of your life.

Aside from the gift of eternal life in his Son Jesus Christ, God has not given us a greater gift than the holy Bible. And of course, everything we know about Jesus Christ and God’s great love for us, and God’s plan to save us through faith in his Son comes from this book. Don’t leave it! Don’t think that you can progress beyond it. Or find something better. There’s enough in here for you, every day, to last a lifetime.

Brothers and sisters, do you believe it?

My second-favorite movie about Christian faith is a movie called The Apostle, starring Robert Duvall. It came out about twenty years ago. My first favorite is Chariots of Fire. You should see both of them. But The Apostle is wonderful: It’s about a deeply flawed but sincerely Christian pastor in the deep south. Someone gives him the deed to this tiny church in the middle of nowhere. And he starts preaching there, and slowly but surely more and more people start coming. But the they’re not the “right” kind of people—because most people in his congregation are black or Hispanic, and poor. And at least one person in town—a white supremacist played by Billy Bob Thornton—doesn’t like it at all. One Sunday, while the people at this church are worshiping, he shows up in a bulldozer. And he intends to literally tear the church down.

And Robert Duvall comes outside and places his black leather-bound Bible in front of caterpillar tracks of the bulldozer—daring the man to run over it on his way to destroying this church. And Thornton is like, “Move the Bible.” “I’m not going to move it.” “Move that Bible.” “I’m not going to move it.” The two men are at an impasse. Is Thornton going to run over the preacher’s Bible? Then, after several tense moments, Thornton gets out of the cab of the vehicle in tears. Duvall embraces him. This sinner repents. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon 01-15-17: “To Fulfill All Righteousness”

January 19, 2017

matthew_graphic

Jesus’ first words in Matthew’s Gospel are puzzling: What does Jesus mean when he says that it’s proper for John to baptize him in order to “fulfill all righteousness”? In this sermon, I explore that question and show how these words and actions of Jesus point to the Cross.

Sermon Text: Matthew 3:13-17

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

On Saturdays in the fall, when I go to Georgia Tech football games in midtown Atlanta, there are sometimes people on the corner of North Avenue and Techwood Drive. They have P.A. systems and microphones. They have an urgent message that they want passersby to hear! And their message, in so many words, is “Repent… or else.” I confess these people make me feel uncomfortable. When I see them, I want to cross to the other side of the street. I want to get away from them as quickly as possible. I want them to go away. They’re spoiling my fun, after all. I don’t want to think about my sins, or God’s holiness, or God’s wrath, or my need to repent and turn to Jesus in order to avoid hell. After all, I’m just trying to enjoy a college football game! This is the deep South, after all. Let’s not mix one religion with another! Sunday is for one kind of church, but Saturday is for another kind!

Look, we may quibble with the in-your-face method of evangelism that these people use. But give them credit: At least they understand what’s at stake. They understand that unless or until people do repent and turn to Jesus, and believe in him, and entrust their lives to him, they will face an eternity separated from God in hell.

Do we understand what’s at stake?

Over the course of his life, John Wesley, the founder of our Methodist movement, rode 250,000 miles on horseback and preached 40,000 sermons because he understood what was at stake—because of his firm conviction that people risked being eternally lost unless they repented and believed in Jesus.[1]

The ministry of the apostle Paul was fueled by this same conviction: In Acts 20, Paul is preaching a farewell sermon to some people that he knows and loves—the elders at the church in Ephesus, a church he started and where he ministered for three years. And he says something very interesting: He says, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”[2]

Innocent of the blood of all. What does he mean by that? He means that as a pastor, as a preacher, as a missionary, as a leader in the church, Paul can leave that place knowing that he’s done everything he could do, that he’s told as many people as he could tell, that he’s taken every opportunity to share with his community the full gospel of Jesus Christ. So that if they die—and face God’s judgment, God’s wrath, and hell because of their sins—their blood won’t be on Paul’s hands. Because he’s done all that he can do save them. Read the rest of this entry »

If you receive a Christmas gift, please don’t “pay it forward”

December 22, 2015

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In sermons and blog posts, I’ve been emphasizing the “free-ness” of God’s gift of saving grace, especially in the face of our built-in resistance to receiving a gift. This Facebook post from a local Atlanta TV station is a case in point.

One-hundred fifty students at the Georgia Institute of Technology (my beloved alma mater) raised money to give a campus security guard a Christmas gift of $1,600. A smartphone video shows the man’s reaction.

Nothing to complain about here, except please notice the headline: “Ga Tech Security Guard Brought to Tears after Students Pay it Forward.”

First, inasmuch as “paying it forward” has any meaning, it means exactly opposite what the headline implies. Taken literally, they would only be “paying forward” $1,600 to this security guard if they had received an amount equal to $1,600 from someone else in their past. “Because Mark helped me once when I needed it, I’m going to now help Steve because he needs it.”

Even if the security guard had given these students an in-kind contribution worth $1,600—through service over and above the salary that Georgia Tech pays him—their giving him this gift isn’t “paying it forward.” It’s paying it back. And if they’re paying it back, then they’re not giving the security guard a gift at all. These students are saying, “Merry Christmas. Now we’re even.”

How depressing!

Put in these terms, it’s not nearly as heart-warming a Christmas message as Fox 5 News wanted to communicate, is it?

Sermon 12-06-15: “Reel Christmas Classics, Part 2: A Christmas Story

December 7, 2015

christmas_story

This sermon, illustrated using clips from the 1983 film “A Christmas Story,” is mostly about greed: our sinful tendency to desire far less than what God wants to give us. But it’s also about the gospel of Jesus Christ, which, in a way, also comes through in this movie. 

Scripture: Luke 15:11-24

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

The following is my original sermon manuscript. The video clips from A Christmas Story that were shown in the service are included. Please note: The first two minutes of my sermon video are missing, due to operator error. 🙄 For the missing part, refer to the manuscript.

How many of us grown-ups don’t feel a pang of nostalgia when we see that? I do! We remember what it’s like to desire one great toy for Christmas… If only Santa or our parents could give us one great toy for Christmas. It’s a wonderful feeling—desiring something. It’s an emotion, of course, that marketers and advertisers exploit very well. Just a year ago, comedian Jerry Seinfeld received an honorary Clio Award. A “Clio” is the equivalent of the Academy Awards for the advertising industry. And the words of his acceptance speech were brutally honest and deeply cynical, in a way that surely made advertising industry executives in his audience squirm in their seats. He said:

I love advertising because I love lying. In advertising, everything is the way you wish it was. I don’t care that it won’t be like that when I actually get the product being advertised because in between seeing the commercial and owning the thing, I’m happy, and that’s all I want… We know the product is going to stink. We know that. Because we live in the world and we know that everything stinks. We all believe, ‘Hey, maybe this one won’t stink.’ We are a hopeful species. Stupid but hopeful.

I’m sure Seinfeld is exaggerating here. I doubt he believes that “everything stinks” in the world; I certainly don’t. I don’t even believe that the Christmas gifts we desire will inevitably let us down. But I do agree with Seinfeld to this extent: Everything in the world has the potential of stinking. Why? Because of sin. It infects everything, and it’s everywhere. And it certainly has the ability to corrupt our desires, to confuse us about what we really need to be happy, to be satisfied. There’s nothing at all wrong with Ralphie desiring this Red Ryder BB gun, just as there’s nothing wrong with our wanting things. But the question is, why do we think we need them? What do we think possessing them is going to do for us? Read the rest of this entry »

Mark Richt: living for more than college football glory

December 1, 2015

richtAs a proud two-time graduate of the Georgia Institute of Technology (BSEE ’00, BS MGT ’93), and football season ticket holder, this will likely be the last (or only) positive thing I’ll say about someone or something associated with the University of Georgia, whom I hate with perfect hatred. Nevertheless, their recently fired head coach Mark Richt couldn’t have departed his place of employment over the past 15 years (during which he’s accumulated a phenomenal 145-51 record) with more grace. (He will stay on to coach Georgia’s upcoming bowl game.)

Richt, an evangelical Christian, said the following at his press conference yesterday:

The other thing is, as I’ve said before, I really want God’s will for me. I’m really at peace that it was part of his plan. I’m really just excited about what’s coming down the road, and I want to continue to try to be as obedient as I can be to the Lord, and I’ll see what he has in mind for Katharyn and I.  We’re both at peace. We’ve know we’ve both been blessed abundantly to be at the University of Georgia. Let’s face it. Fifteen years at a major institution, an SEC school, just to get the job to begin with is kind of a miracle. We’re thankful. We’re blessed.

This is exactly the right attitude. Even though it’s deeply disappointing, even heartbreaking, Richt doesn’t doubt for a moment that this new chapter in his life is also a part of God’s plan. Therefore, even for this setback he can be grateful.

Friedrich Nietzsche said, “He who has a why to live for can endure almost any how.” Given that he coaches in the upper echelon of a famously cutthroat profession, it may surprise many people that Richt’s why isn’t college football glory but God’s glory. Even as a pastor, how often do I lose sight of this? When even one thing goes wrong with my job, I’m liable to fall apart! As if it were about me!

Regardless, Richt has a why that’s infinitely bigger than his career, and his life bears witness to this fact.

May we all learn from his example.

(Also, may Richt now be hired by the University of South Carolina and beat his former employer’s team every year! Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 😉)