“Consecration Today, For Wonders Tomorrow” (Joshua 3:5 sermon)

As I said a few weeks ago, Michael’s wedding last week put an “exclamation point” on a busy first half of the year for Cheryl & I, that included getting COVID to start the year; then a mission trip to Bulgaria, a major vacation with our grandkids to Florida, the birth of another grand baby, helping one of our kids move, and now the wedding in South Carolina. We’re glad to be home, and looking forward to just a “normal” schedule for a while!  But the wedding was a big deal, and as you know, it takes a LOT of planning and preparation to bring it off: dresses and shoes and suits and dinners and table settings and money and money and money!! It was a beautiful wedding, and a great time for our whole family to be together — but something like that doesn’t just “happen;” it takes MONTHS of planning and preparation to put it all together.

The Mutina’s are going through the same thing for Madison & Jason’s wedding next month; many of you have done the same with events like that in your life. We have to prepare today, if we want an important thing like that to go well tomorrow. We know that. But do we realize the same thing is true for the things of God? If we want to see God work in our church in the days ahead, we need to prepare for it today. If we want God to work in our personal lives tomorrow, we need to prepare for it today. One of the verses we read this week, Joshua 3:5, speaks to that. It says:

“Then Joshua said to the people, ‘Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.’”

The context here is that Joshua and the people of Israel are just about to cross the Jordan River and finally go in to the Promised Land. But God says, wait a minute! You can’t just “traipse right in”! You have to prepare yourselves for it first. And I believe we as a church are in a similar situation today — and some of us as individuals are in similar situations as well. We’re looking ahead and we think God may be about to do something in us and through us. And He MAY — but we need to realize that it won’t just “happen;” we have to prepare today, if we want to see God’s wonders tomorrow.

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Explore the Bible lesson overview: I Kings 15:9-22, “Return” for Sun., July 3, 2022

(This is a brief overview for Sunday school teachers and Bible study leader of the Lifeway Explore the Bible lesson for this text. A video version of this overview is available at:

ONE way you could open this lesson would be to refer to the landmark decision our Supreme Court handed down last week, overturning the Roe v Wade decision in 1973 that somehow found a guarantee of abortion rights in the Constitution. For the last almost 50 years, our country had endured this evil, with 63 million babies being killed — but last Friday, June 24, that was overturned. It marked a great turn BACK from evil in our country.

(Or you could introduce the lesson with some other story of a “turning back,” or “revival” that took place, or a pastor who came to your church and turned things around, or a personal turning back to God in your life, or the life of someone you know.)

Then you might say: this week our lesson in I Kings refers to a similar “turning back”, a revival that took place in Judah under King Asa.

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Lifeway Explore the Bible lesson overview: I Kings 12:6-19, “Divided,” for Sunday, June 26, 2022

(This is an overview intended for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders, of the Lifeway lesson for June 26, 2022. A video version is also available on YouTube at:

ONE way you could introduce this passage would be to talk about (or ask your group to share) some big “splits” or divisions in history. For example:

— the Civil War in 1861, when the South seceded from the Union

— the Reformation in the 1500s, when Martin Luther and the Protestants separated from the Roman Catholic Church

— there was a lesser-known (to us) split in 1054 A.D., when the Western Pope “excommunicated” the Bishop of Constantinople, and the Eastern and Western churches split at that time — actually THE biggest division in Christianity – called “The Great Schism” though few in our culture are aware of it! 

— then there are well-known “celebrity spits” (the only one I can think of is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie — and I had to look that up to make sure! — but your class may know some of these!)

But then after you or your class discuss some of these famous divisions or splits, I would say: One of the most famous splits in Church/Biblical history is the one that took place between Israel & Judah after the death of King Solomon, when all the tribes except Judah left to become the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and Judah continued under David’s descendants. 

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“A Not-So-Happy Ending” (Jonah 4 sermon)

In Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities he tells of the Marquis St. Evremonde, an extremely rich man who entertained himself by racing his carriage through the narrow streets of Paris and watching the peasants dive out of the way. But while he was driving, suddenly there was a thud; the carriage stopped. People were screaming and crying. His carriage had hit a child. The Marquis was upset also: “Why is he making that abominable noise? How do I know what injury you have done to my horses?” He tossed out a gold coin to the child’s father, and sped away. 

The passions of that rich man were grotesquely misplaced, weren’t they? He cared more about his horses, and his personal entertainment, than he did a maimed and dying child. But before we shake our heads at him, let’s make sure that we don’t see ourselves in his reflection. What really bothers YOU? What are YOU passionate about? The Kingdom of God and the people God loves? Or your own possessions and comforts?

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Lifeway Explore the Bible overview of I Kings 11:1-13, “Compromised” for Sunday, June 19, 2022

(A brief overview of the lesson, for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders of Lifeway’s “Explore the Bible” lessons. A video version is available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z3eASaR88Co&t=28s ) 

SAMPLE INTRODUCTION:  Can you think of someone, in sports or political or religious history, who may have had a good career, but who did not FINISH well?

— Have you ever seen a team or an individual get a big lead in sports and then lose it? It happens all the time! One of my recent favorites was last year’s OU/Texas football game, where Texas jumped out to a 28-7 lead in the first quarter, and everyone thought the game was over — but OU crawled back and scored the winning touchdown with THREE SECONDS left, to win 55-48! It’s not how you start, but how you finish! That’s why a lot of sports teams adopt as their motto “FINISH”! Don’t blow it at the end; FINISH!

— Politically I think of Richard Nixon, who had a great political career, but of course did not finish well, with Watergate.

— Sadly there are a number of examples of men who did not finish well spiritually, even recently in the Southern Baptist Convention: among them the SBC Executive Committee Director, who had a long career as a successful pastor, and whom I highly respected, but while at the Executive Committee it was found that he had a relationship with a woman outside of his marriage. It was sad to me that he did not finish well. 

There are too many of these kinds of examples. Be careful not to take up the whole class discussing those.  OR, depending on your group, it might be best for you just to share 1 or 2 instances like I just did, and then move on.

But however you do the introduction, then you could say: This morning our scripture passage deals with another national and spiritual leader who started well, but did not FINISH well: the SAME man we have looked at the past two weeks, King Solomon.  

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Explore the Bible Sunday school lesson overview: I Kings 8:46-60, “Repentance,” for June 12, 2022.

(This study is an overview, especially for teachers and Bible study leaders, of the Lifeway “Explore the Bible” Sunday school lesson, “Repentance”, for June 12, 2022. Please feel free to use any of the questions, examples, and illustrations in your lesson. The video version of this overview is available on YouTube at:

ONE way that you could introduce this lesson to your class this Sunday might be to ask them: “What prayer is the best/most touching/most memorable prayer you’ve ever heard?” Does one come to mind?

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“Jesus Coaches His Misguided Disciples” (Luke 9:46-56 sermon)

A couple of years ago, a hurricane hit southwest Louisiana where we had formerly pastored, and some of you may remember, we had a family come and stay with us in the aftermath. They have a little preschool boy (4-5 or so) by the name of Jasper, and he is a firecracker. Just this week his family put on Facebook a video of him playing baseball in the championship game of a big tournament. Jasper was on base, and somebody hit the ball, and Jasper was running from 3rd to home — and about halfway down the 3rd base line, he starts doing summersaults — like FIVE of them — while the other team was throwing the ball in. His mom was screaming at him: “NO NO NO: RUN, Jasper, RUN!”; the coaches were all exhorting him to get up and run. He finally DID make it in, JUST before the throw! Now, I am not any kind of baseball expert, but Jasper needs some coaching on the proper way to run from 3rd to home! (Either that or maybe he needs to switch over to gymnastics?!) 

In our passage for today, Luke 9:46-55, Jesus’ disciples weren’t doing summersaults like little Jasper was doing, but they were in a sense doing “spiritual summersaults.” They were saying and doing and thinking things that were not what Jesus wanted from them as His disciples. So Jesus had to “coach them up,” and straighten them out. Many of us today need some of that same “coaching” that Jesus gave them, so let’s look at “Jesus’ Coaching For Misguided Disciples.”

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“The Most Important Thing” (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 sermon)

In 1962 Birch Bayh was elected to the Senate from Indiana, and he and his wife Marvella came to Washington D.C.  Marvella had always wanted to see Europe, and she was delighted when she and her husband received an invitation to attend a small dinner at the Norwegian Embassy. But the afternoon of the dinner, they got a call from the White House, inviting them to drop by there for a movie night. She asked her husband: “What shall we do?” He didn’t know. (What would YOU do?) He called the Protocol Office and they instructed him: send your regrets to the Norwegian Embassy. In Washington, a White House invitation was a command. In Washington, there’s nobody more important than the President. (Marvella Bayh, quoted in Katharine Graham’s Washington, p. 91)

Well maybe in Washington society nobody takes priority over the President, but in all of life, no one should ever take priority over God. That’s one of the things our scripture for today reminds us of.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that preaching from our daily Bible readings this year will give us the opportunity to share from some of the greatest passages in all of the Bible. This is one of those passages. These verses are foundational, fundamental to our faith. And they remind us that loving God is to be “The Most Important Thing” in our lives.

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“The Answer To The Biggest Problem You Have” (Luke 5:17-26)

What if I told you this morning that I know the answer to the biggest problem you have? Some problem just jumped to the front of your mind, didn’t it? “You have the answer to THAT?!” If you’re like me (and I hope you’re not, but …) then you often have one “biggest problem” right at the front of your mind.  

What is that to you? What would you say is the biggest problem you have right now?  I don’t think most of us would have any difficulty listing something. Maybe it is a health issue that has suddenly popped up, a relationship that’s giving you trouble; or a financial burden; or a problem at work; but I bet you could identify something right now as the biggest problem you have. 

The thing is, our passage today shows us that your biggest problem may not really be what you think it is. It wasn’t for the people in Luke 5 — and it may not be for you either. The good news is: God has given us the answer to the biggest problem we really have. Let’s look at what these verses teach us about our biggest problem, and the answer that God has given us:

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