Michael’s Sermons

 

Learning Generosity in the Midst of Grief

Learning Generosity in the Midst of Grief Luke 6:38 During Vacation Bible School this year, I was showing some preschool children some pictures I took in Liberia. One of the pictures showed a young woman holding her infant child. The picture was of particular interest to me because the T-shirt she was wearing said, “Be Like Jesus.” I asked the children, “What kinds of things should we do to be like Jesus?” The children responded with answers like “be kind, love others, pray for people, and be helpful.” One child said, “Be generous.” Eventually, a boy raised his hand and asked, “What does “generous” mean?” I explained that being generous was sharing what you have with others, like the time a little boy shared his lunch with Andrew, a disciple of Jesus, who then gave it to Jesus, who then multiplied it to feed thousands of people. The children had just finished their meal. So I told them that they had something to eat because other people were generous by providing them with their food. We then looked at another picture of three hungry Liberian children squatting down to eat leftovers from a big bowl used for cooking food for the students at Ricks Institute. While in Liberia, I have known people to eat only a cup of rice a day, and even that was due to the generosity of others. Some have gone without food for days. When Jesus said He was the Bread of Life, he wanted people to hunger for a relationship with him like they desired food when they are hungry. Generosity is one of...

Learning to Turn off the Meter and Wait

Learning to Turn off the Meter and Wait 1 Samuel 13:2-15 October 28, 2018 One profession I think would breed impatience would be a cab driver in New York City. Here is an occupation where a person isn’t making money unless the meter is running. Taxi drivers don’t get paid to wait for people unless of course, the meter is running. But on the other hand, if the meter is running, waiting is traffic might not be such a big deal. We’ve all heard how impersonal the big city can be, so when I read this story written by a New York City taxi driver, it brought tears to my eyes. Listen as I share this heartwarming story.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes, I honked again. Since this was going to be the last ride of my shift, I thought about just driving away, but instead, I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked. https://www.elitedaily.com/life/culture/story-one-taxi-driver-will-change-entire-day “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. (Ibid) After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie. (Ibid) By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. (Ibid) There were...

Increase/Decease: The Secret of Humility

Increase/Decrease: The Secret of Humility Daniel 4:1-18; John 3:22-30 In February of 2013, Pope Benedict became the first leader of the Catholic Church in 600 years to resign rather than die in office. New York’s Cardinal Dolan said that it was as if Benedict was saying, “I feel weak; I feel fragile; I am frail.” The Catholic Cardinal said, “Here you have a man who’s aware of the gifts that God has given him, the high office to which the Lord has called him, but is also aware of his own limitations, as we all have to be.” https://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-edward-bernstein/pope-and-rabbi-different-perspectives-on-humility_b_2697401.html You would think that acknowledging limitations would be an easy thing. We are all limited in what we can do. We are not Supermen or women. We are not faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and we cannot leap tall buildings in a single bound. It’s easy to admit things like that. But it’s much harder to admit when we are struggling with a secret sin. It’s much harder to admit that we are struggling with our relationship with our spouse or children. It’s much harder to admit that we have financial problems or that we worry and cannot trust God. It’s harder to admit that we have more work to do than we can get done or that we are struggling with stress. It’s much harder to admit we don’t feel as needed as we once were or that our bodies are not as healthy as they used to be. It’s much harder to admit that we have any weakness, or frailty, or shortcoming. Whenever...

Have Courage: United We Stand, Divided We Fall

October 7, 2018 Have Courage: United We Stand, Divided We Fall Esther 4:1-14; 1 Corinthians 1:10 A lion used to prowl around a field where four oxen dwelled. https://leadchangegroup.com/it-takes-courage-and-character-to-unify-people/ Many times he would try to eat them, but whenever he approached, the four oxen would back their tails up to each other with their bodies pointed outward in different directions. (Ibid) No matter what direction the lion approached, he was met by the horns of one of the oxen and the lion could do nothing to harm them. (Ibid) At last, the oxen fell to quarreling amongst themselves, and so each went off to a pasture of his or her own in a separate corner of the field. Then the lion attacked them one by one and soon made an end to all four. (Ibid) This story is over 2500 years old, but the moral of the story forms the basis for one of the most famous sayings in our country: “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” (Ibid) When our country was in its infancy, the lion was Britain. The Mother Country was trying to squash all attempts by the colonists to exert their independence. They tried to make an example out of a few keep the masses in line. It took courage for the colonists to stay together. It took more courage for them to speak out against the British. One of those that spoke out was John Dickinson. John lived in the pre-Revolutionary War era and can be counted as one of our founding fathers. In July 1768, he wrote this catchy line in a war song...

Are You All-In For Jesus

Are You All In For Jesus? September 29, 2018 Dr. Michael Helms For the record, I don’t know much about playing poker. When you mention “chips,” I think about food or that 70’s televisions show with police motorcycle cops, Ponch and Jon, and cow piles. A royal flush sounds like something a king does after going to the bathroom. Three of a kind is easy enough to understand, but it’s hard to remember if it beats a full house. Occasionally though, I watch some poker on television. It’s broadcast like a heavyweight boxing match, except with poker there is more than one person trying to knock the other players out.  The poker bout isn’t over until there is only one person left standing, or sitting, with everyone else’s chips. Poker can be an innocent game but it can also be mired in dangers.  I learned that just by watching lots of Westerns. Years ago, I also read an article by the Associated Press on teenage gambling.  Ed Looney, head of the New Jersey Gambling Council on Compulsive Gambling, stated that fifteen percent of all teenagers who play poker will develop some gambling problems and five percent will become addicted.  It’s not an innocent game. So, while I am not promoting the game of poker, but I do want to use one of poker’s most exciting bets to illustrate the kind of life that the Lord wants us to live.  Why would I do that?  Because you can learn something from everything, even from the game of poker. In poker, a player looks at his or her poker hand to make some determination...

Whatever Happened to Self-Discipline?

Whatever Happened to Self-Discipline? Daniel 1:1-5  Whatever Happened to Self-Discipline? Daniel 1:1-5 I received an email a couple of months ago from a young man that lives in Athens.  He and his fiancée are getting married in April, and he was checking on my availability to help them with wedding vows.  This man was a teenager when I was a pastor in Moultrie. It might surprise you how many times I get these phone calls from mothers of the bride-to-be or groom-to-be.  She’s so involved in the wedding planning that she’s even securing my services. I usually picture this mother as very loving, but a bit overly involved, unwilling to allow her son or daughter to struggle more with the details of planning his or her own wedding. If we take too much of the struggle of life away from our children, it stunts their ability to become self-disciplined. Hebrews 12:11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Growing up, my mom cooked my food, washed and ironed my clothes, and put clean sheets on my bed.  I never thought much about it at the time, about how much work and effort it took for her to do all that for the family while she worked a full-time job.   I thought it was just something most moms do, and some dads, and I took what she did for granted. The first two years of college I was only thirty miles from home so I traveled home on...

Whatever Happened to Witnessing?

Whatever Happened to Witnessing? Acts 8:26-49 Whatever happened to witnessing?   Something must have happened to it, at least among Baptists. If we use statistics to gauge whether we are witnessing, something has happened. Last June, “Christianity Today” reported that our denomination had its lowest number of baptisms since 1946; its lowest membership since 1990; and lowest worship attendance since 1996.  https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2017/june/southern-baptist-convention-churches-baptisms-sbc-acp.html There are lots of reasons for these low numbers, but one reason must have something to do with our lack of witnessing. Some might say that there is a lot of witnessing taking place. The problem is that some evangelical witness is just bad.   Some evangelicals turn people away from Jesus and not toward Jesus. When people who profess to be Christian do not reflect Jesus, people notice that disconnect.  If people cannot see Jesus in Christians, they see no reason to be in church, or in the scriptures, or to become disciples of Jesus. Another way to look at these low numbers is that Christians are always going to be in the minority.  Jesus said that the road we walk is a narrow road and the gate we enter is a small gate, and few will choose it.  Even when we live a righteous life and reflect the life of Jesus and invite people to follow him, few will.  The commitment is too high. However, we are commanded to “Go and make disciples.” We are supposed to multiply our faith by sharing Jesus with others.  That’s not possible unless we become a witness. So, whatever happened to witnessing? Could it be that we disqualify ourselves by making a simple exercise...

Whatever Happened to Honesty

Whatever Happened to Honesty? Micah 7:1–7 What would life be like if you could not trust anyone?  If there were no trust, society as we know it would crumble.  Because there is so little trust, our nation is crumbling. Trust is the skeleton which holds up every institution that gives our lives meaning. Micah was a prophet that lived in the eighth century before Christ.  He gives us just a little insight into what it was like to live in a world so dishonest that you could not trust the ruler, the judge, your neighbor, or members of your own family. When people are this dishonest, it becomes a dog-eat-dog world.  Fear rules the day.  There is a stark realization that what one needs for survival is missing: trust and honesty. Until it’s missing, we sometimes don’t realize how important trust and honesty are as stack poles for relationships and for a country to function or any meaningful institution. Micah said it was like going out to gather summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard, only to discover there was no cluster of grapes to eat and no early figs that he craved. Have you ever thought about honesty like this? It’s as vital to our survival as fruit at the harvest. Many people think just the opposite.  Many people think about how much more they can have if they are dishonest. If I don’t report all my earnings to the IRS, I can have more. If I cheat God and hold back my tithe, I can have more. If I get more change than I’m owed from a...

Holding Work in Perspective

Holding Work In Proper Perspective  Genesis 2:4-18 Elizabeth Mills published a hymn in 1837 that’s in the Old Broadman Hymnal that many  of you over fifty will know:  “We’ll Work Till Jesus Comes.”   However, the hymn is not really about work.  It really about a day when we can quit all this work and go to heaven.   O land of rest, for thee I sigh/
When will the moment come/
When I shall lay my armor by/
And dwell in peace at home? The refrain then says:   We’ll work till Jesus comes/
We’ll work till Jesus comes/
We’ll work till Jesus comes/
And we’ll be gathered home. http://library.timelesstruths.org/music/Well_Work_till_Jesus_Comes/ With each new verse, there is another longing for heaven, a longing for rest.   There is a verse about the wilderness, which is this world where we live.  She can’t wait to reach her heavenly home, but until then… We’ll work till Jesus comes/
We’ll work till Jesus comes/
We’ll work till Jesus comes/
And we’ll be gathered home. Most of us seem to have a love/hate relationship with work. We bemoan Mondays because we have to go to work and we love Fridays because we get off of work.   Yet if we didn’t have a job, we’d be poor as dirt and depressed. It would be a major crisis for all of us.   I have known people that have worked and worked looking forward to the day that they didn’t have to work, only to discover that they were miserable once they were not working and they soon found themselves another job. I have known people that were addicted to work, and I have known people that worked hard to keep...