“The Faith That Pleases God” (Hebrews 11 sermon)

What kind of gift makes your spouse happy? That’s important to know, isn’t it? Because people vary so much in what pleases them. For example, some women might be delighted if you got them a certain kitchen appliance for Christmas or for their birthday — but there are others that if you got them a kitchen appliance as a gift you’d be in “the doghouse” for the foreseeable future! One of the keys to a good relationship is knowing what kind of gift pleases the one you love.

And this is true of our relationship with God as well. What pleases Him? That’s an important question. Since you are here at church, I assume that means you probably have at least some kind of desire to please God. So what pleases Him? We see it in this passage: Continue reading

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“Opportunities For The Gospel” (Colossians 4:2-6 sermon)

Well, most of the church has probably heard about it by now, but in case you haven’t: I had a missed opportunity at our church senior adult cookout last week. I showed up at 6:00 last Saturday night, which was all fine and good — except the cookout started at 4:00! Somehow I just had it in my mind that it started at 6:00.  I forget who it was who said, “Well Pastor Shawn, you not only qualify age-wise, you also qualify MENTALLY as a senior adult now!” Jan and Diane and the crew were very gracious and gave me a meal to take home — but I did miss the opportunity for fellowship with everyone.  

Maybe you’d say that you also had a missed opportunity last week: you missed a chance to go somewhere, or buy something, or do something. But one of the most important opportunities that any of us as Christians can miss, is an opportunity to share the Gospel with someone.  Here at the end of Book of Colossians, the Apostle Paul talks about how important these opportunities are: 

“Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have also been imprisoned; that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Conduct yourselves with wisdom towards outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” Continue reading

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“The Gift That Is An Insult” (I Kings 9:10-14)

In “Henry V”, one of my very favorite plays or movies, Shakespeare tells of how when King Henry V of England was considering invading France, the French ambassador came to him with a “treasure,” saying that the Dauphin (or Prince of France) thought that this treasure would be more fit for him than invading their country. Henry asked his Duke of Exeter to examine the box and see what the treasure was. He peered in and reported: “Tennis balls, my liege.” Of course it was an insult: the Dauphin was implying that Henry was more fit for playing tennis than he was for warfare. It was an ancient form of “trash talking,” and that was a “gift” that was in actuality an insult. 

Many gifts are actually insults like that — and so was the “gift” we read about in I Kings 9 this morning, that Solomon gave to Hiram. I want us to see that this is more than just an inside look into the relationship between two kings, but is a challenge for us in the way we serve our God as well.  Continue reading

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“Where’s Your Glory?” (Jeremiah 9:23-24 sermon)

Sunday morning came to our church in Southwest Louisiana, and the crowd was exuberant. Purple and gold clothing was everywhere. People were cheerful and talking in the hallways. A festive air just covered the whole place. LSU had won their football game in Baton Rouge the night before!  And some of them had actually been there — and everyone was happy.    A few weeks later, it’s Sunday morning again. But this time, a darkness just draped over the church like a shroud. People dragged in, sat slumped in their seats, and listened to the sermon with glazed eyes. For late that Saturday night, LSU had lost to “Nick Satan” and Alabama. Again.

It’s football season, and the lives of many people hang very much upon the success of their football teams. They wear their team’s colors on game day; they get excited when they win, and bask in the glories for a day or two — and get really depressed when they lose. In a very real sense, it can be said that they “glory” in their team. (Some of us here in North Carolina may identify more with basketball than football, but you get the idea!) 

But that sense of “glorying” in something is very much at the heart of Jeremiah 9 when it says, “let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches, but let him boasts, boast of this: that he understands and knows Me, that I am the LORD …”.

The word “boast” in this verse is the Hebrew word “halal,” we get our word “Hallelujah” from it. It means “to praise, to glory, to boast” in something — like people do their favorite sports team. What you praise or glory in says a lot about what’s really important in your life. And God has a word for us here in these verses about what we SHOULD and should NOT boast or glory in:  Continue reading

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“Neglecting God” (Zephaniah 1:1-6 sermon)

You never know what your kids are going to do with the things they hear you say. We had not been at  our church in Tulsa Oklahoma very long when we pulled up to a convenience store, and Cheryl saw where they had those little bundles of wood that they sell for $5, and we had just moved in to our new house, and had a fireplace for the first time, so Cheryl said, “Hey, maybe we should get some of that wood!” I said, “No, that is really expensive; we can get a lot better deal on it somewhere else.” And Cheryl jokingly said, “Oh, you’re just neglecting your family!” 

Well, the next Sunday our son David’s Sunday School teacher came to us chuckling. She said that their lesson that day had been on confession of sin, and she had asked the kids to think about if they needed to tell God they were sorry for something.  David, pre-conversion, never believed that he had ever done anything wrong and said he had nothing to say he was sorry for! The teacher said, “Well, David, isn’t there ANYTHING you need to apologize for, maybe something at home?” He said, “Well yeah, my Dad does. Mom said the other day he’s neglecting his family!” 

Truly, neglecting your family would indeed be a great sin. But there is an greater sin: and this is to neglect GOD. And that is exactly one of the charges that God lays at the feet of His people here in our passage in Zephaniah 1.   Continue reading

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“Worshiping God Anyway” (Habakkuk 3:16-19 sermon)

On November 5th of last year, a killer shot 46 people people who had gathered to worship at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs, Texas, just southeast of San Antonio. The pastor, Frank Pomeroy, and his wife were out of town that Sunday, but their daughter Annabelle was in the service and was killed by the shooter. At a news conference the next day, Pastor Pomeroy said, “Christ is the one who’s going to be lifted up. That’s what I’m telling everybody. You lean into what you don’t understand. You lean into the Lord … Whatever life brings to you, lean on the Lord rather than your own understanding. I don’t understand, but I know my God does. And that’s where I’ll leave that.” And a few days later the church was having services, with their minister of music leading worship from a wheelchair, still recuperating from his injuries.

That pastor, and that church, exemplify the true Christian spirit. Having endured some of the worst that life can throw at you, they didn’t give up on their faith; instead they decided they were going to worship God anyway. 

That’s the kind of spirit we see in Habakkuk this morning. He’d gotten about the worst news you could get about his future. And yet it didn’t turn his gaze from God. He shows us how he was committed to worship God anyway.   Continue reading

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“Your Most Important Prayer For Others” (Romans 10:1 sermon)

It’s usually a whole lot easier to pick on the sins of other people, instead of addressing our own. I remember years ago, when I was in seminary, watching an evangelist on television turn to the tv camera and say, “I’m here to tell you, all you godless atheists and secular humanists out there …” and the crowd got all fired up and applauded and said “amen!”  But I remember thinking to myself; “How many ‘godless atheists and secular humanists’ did he think were really out there watching his show?” But it made for a rousing speech, and for good television!

 It’s easy to sit here in front of a bunch of Christians and rant about the sins of others. And truly there is a place for us to preach against the sins of society, and make sure our people don’t get caught up in the tide of moral compromise. We are not to keep silent, and we need to train our people in the truth. But truthfully it’s a whole lot easier to condemn the sins of people “out there” in the world, and ignore the sins of the people sitting right in front of you.

This week we read in Micah 3 about how God condemned the false prophets, who “speak ‘peace’” as long as someone pays them — but he said, “On the other hand I (the true prophet of God) am filled with power and with the Spirit of the Lord and with justice and courage, to make known to Jacob his rebellious act, and to Israel his sin.”  He says the true prophet of God, will point out the sins of Jacob and Israel — NOT the sins of Ammon, or Moab, or the Philistines — but the sins of JACOB — GOD’S people. That means that a big part of a pastor’s job is to speak to the sins of God’s people. And if we don’t do that, we are not being faithful to God’s call.  

And one of the biggest sins of God’s people today is be our lack of concern for people who don’t know Christ as their Lord & Savior. This is no small sin, because it goes right to the very heart of our faith, and it shows what we really believe. Paul addresses this here in Romans 10:1 where he says, “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.” 

Now the context of this verse is very important. If you read Romans this last  week you know that Paul spent a lot of Romans 9 talking about how he was troubled for the salvation of his Jewish brothers and sisters. In fact he begins Chapter 9:1, “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites …”.  

So these are the people he is talking about here as he opens Chapter 10, saying “My heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation.”   Continue reading

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