“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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“Super Grace For Super Sinners” (Romans 5:20 sermon)

This week I read about a worship team that was meeting together, planning for upcoming services. They discussed using a certain song at the end of the service to encourage people to come forward and pray. But one woman on the team said that she didn’t want to use that song, because if she came down and prayed during it, “I wouldn’t want people to think I have a problem.” 

But see, that’s a problem right there, isn’t it?  If we want people to think that we are here at church because we don’t have any problems; that we are here because we are such good people, then we’ve missed the whole point of Christianity!  We are not here in church because we are so good and all  “those others” out there aren’t. We’ve got to realize that we are only here by the grace of God! Romans 5:20 reminds us of that: 

“The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”

This is such an amazing verse, which teaches us that although we are super sinners, God has a grace that is even greater. He has “Super Grace For Super Sinners.”  Continue reading

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“Culture-blind” — or Cowardly?

In Washington Irving’s delightful The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, the author journals about his attendance at a venerable English country church: “The congregation was composed of the neighboring people of rank, who sat in pews sumptuously lined and cushioned, furnished with richly gilded prayer-books, and decorated with their arms upon the pew doors; of the villagers and peasantry, who filled the back seats and a small gallery beside the organ; and of the poor of the parish, who were ranged on benches in the aisles.” (The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, “The Country Church,” Washington Irving, p. 104)

One is immediately struck by the incongruity of the church seating arrangement: the wealthy enjoying lavishly decorated pews, but the poor unceremoniously inhabiting the back seats, and benches on the aisles. It is such a flagrant violation of the command of James 2: Continue reading

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“Ambassadors For Christ” (II Corinthians 5:20 sermon)

According to a recent article in Politico magazine, the American ambassador to Germany is not the most popular man in that country today. In fact, he is very unpopular. But part of the problem is the fact that he is representing his president, Donald Trump, and many of the president’s policies are just not popular in Germany. But the article pointed out that in German, the word for ambassador is Botschafter, which, translated literally into English, means “messenger.” As such, our ambassador is not to be judged on how “popular” he may be among the Germans to whom he is sent, but on how faithfully he represents the message of the President who sent him. That is what an ambassador does. He is to represents his leader and conveys his messages to the citizens of the country in which he temporarily serves.

So II Corinthians 5:20 says a lot of things to us as Christians when it calls us “AMBASSADORS for Christ.” It’s saying that we are Christ’s representatives to this world. Like an ambassador, we live in this place temporarily, but we are representing heaven, and we are here to share heaven’s message with the world — and we will be judged ultimately NOT on how popular or successful we are here in this world, but by how faithfully we represent our King while we are here.

“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” Continue reading

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