Posts Tagged ‘University of Georgia’

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 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. 😉)

Is it selfish to complain? Only if it’s also selfish to be happy

December 15, 2014
My son Townshend and I enjoyed this recent Georgia Tech victory, over Clemson.

My son Townshend and I enjoyed this recent Georgia Tech victory over Clemson.

I’m almost embarrassed to say how happy I was a couple of weeks ago when my beloved alma mater, the Georgia Institute of Technology, defeated its in-state SEC rival to win the Governor’s Cup. I say I’m almost embarrassed because of course it’s unwise to let a group of 18-22 year-olds affect my happiness to such a great extent. So the voice of reason within said, “Act like you’ve done it before, Brent.” And we have done it before, although our current losing streak had been five years.

Still, the next day at church I disappointed a few Tech fans who wanted me to gloat. But it’s not my style. Act like you’ve done it before, Brent.

Happiness from sports is a zero-sum game. One team’s happiness from winning always comes at the expense of the other team’s misery from losing. Since we Tech fans, unfortunately, are much smaller in number than University of Georgia fans, our team’s victory in this game inflicts a disproportionate amount of pain on our state. Not that I mind!

Predictably, this pain was reflected in my Facebook feed that afternoon. One clergy acquaintance posted that he was tempted to complain about so many things regarding his team’s performance and the coaching decisions but decided not to—which is probably for the best. But I gently disagreed with the reason he gave for not complaining: all the “real” suffering in the world, from ISIS’s campaign of terror against Christians to parents in his church who are grieving the death of a child.

I replied, “Yes, but by that standard what right do any of us ever have to complain about anything?” Football is trivial relative to the scale of suffering in the world—as are most things that occupy our time and give meaning to our lives. Yet, my clergy friend and I both spend money on our respective teams’ games and merchandise. Why do we do that when that same money could go to help relieve suffering in the world? Why do we even spend time watching football games when we could more productively spend that time working for justice in the world?

Do you see the problem with my friend’s logic?

If we can’t complain about “little things”—for the sake of what other people are dealing with—then we can’t complain, period. Because no matter what we’re going through on a particular day, there are always at least tens or hundreds of thousands of people who are going through something much worse.

Moreover, if we can’t complain about little things then, by all means, we can’t let ourselves be happy with little things, either! For example, how can we be happy with presents that we receive on Christmas Day when so many people around the world have nothing, or next to it? How is our happiness not selfish? How can any of us be happy until God finally balances the scales of justice in Final Judgment?

Obviously this is not a Christian disposition. For one thing, God’s Word is filled with righteous complaining and complainers. God seems O.K. with that, even as he also tells us repeatedly and emphatically to rejoice in all circumstances—no matter how favorable or unfavorable, how significant or insignificant.

God gives us gifts—even like football, which I’ve blogged and preached about before—and he wants us to enjoy them.