Michael’s Sermons

 

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...

Whatever Happened to Authenticity?

John 1:43-51 When our daughter-in-law graduated from Veterinarian College at the University of Tennessee, we rented a room from an Air B and B home in Knoxville. The home where we stayed was beautifully decorated inside and out. Our host, Steve, was British. Steve is an entrepreneur, having sold his milk distribution business in London recently for ten million dollars. As a side gig, he chauffeurs brides and grooms in his 1928 Bentley.  He’s done this for over 500 weddings. His Bentley is nice, but it is not in pristine condition, causing one man to quip that his car was a good twenty-footer. “What’s a twenty-footer?” asked Steve in his British accent. The man said, “It looks good from twenty feet away,” the man said condescendingly. “Well, so do you, mate,” Steve said, giving the man back some of his own medicine. Steve has never met a stranger, not in Britain or in the States and he’s a trusting soul. As he waited for his wife to return home, he cooked us supper and told us a story of the time he was restoring one of his old cars. When it came time to paint it, a man stopped by and asked if he needed his car painted. Steve thought the timing was perfect. They worked out a deal, and he paid him $500 as a down payment.  When the man picked up his car, he asked for more money. After several weeks, Steve called to inquire about his work, but all he got was excuses. In the end, Steve discovered that the man was a crook and he didn’t...

The Early Church Had a Big Front Porch

The Early Church Had a Big Front Porch Acts 2: 44-47 The last time I remember seeing my grandmother alive was on the front porch of her house.  She was in the porch swing, chatting with a friend, still recovering from heart surgery. I used to sit in that swing in the summertime during stormy weather.  I enjoyed listening to the rain fall on the tin roof. At night time, when storm clouds formed way off, I enjoyed watching the night sky light up and hear the distant rumble in the clouds. While the front porch could be a place of solitude, out in the country it was also a place where you visited with friends, just like my Granny was doing just before died on that sad, June day 40 years ago.  But she was doing something we all need to do more of, spending time with friends, talking about life. Her sister lived just down the road. She died this year at the age of 104.  After my Granny died, she became a second mother to my mom and an even more important member of our family. To the community, my Aunt Mimi’s porch was a place of comfort and refuge.  It was an inviting place.  Like her sister’s porch, her porch was a place where you could pull away from the business of the day, sit and talk, and share life for a little while. Before you left, it was not uncommon to leave with a slice of pound cake and if you hadn’t been in a while, perhaps a jar of jelly. I shared many conversations with her...

Whatever Happened to Kindness?

August 12, 2018 Luke 10:30-37 The scar remains over the bridge of my nose, but the memory of the kindness of the man who placed a handkerchief over my open gash and drove my mother, my infant sister, and me to the hospital remains. Although I was only three, I remember the small Post Office in Greenville, Alabama where my mother stopped to purchase some stamps. While she paid for her stamps and held my infant sister, I wandered a few feet away to hop on some marble steps that went to the second floor. When I fell, my face hit the stone steps and opened a gash across my face. Blood was everywhere. My mother asked for help. A stranger stepped forward, pulled out his handkerchief and applied pressure to the wound. He put us in his car and drove us to the hospital where I received my first stitches. While he didn’t offer to pay for our bill, he was kind like the Good Samaritan that Jesus spoke about in his parable. In that story, a stranger came by and helped a man that had fallen among thieves along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. What he did for the Jewish man likely saved his life. He attended to his wounds. He made a sacrifice of time and money as he paid for the man’s stay in an Inn where he took him until he could recover. He said he would come back and pay more if it was needed, an additional act of kindness. To describe his actions, Jesus said the Samaritan had “mercy on him.”...

Whatever Happened to Sportsmanship?

Vacation Bible School Sunday July 22, 2018 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 How many of you like to play sports?  How many of you like to watch other people play sports? When you play a game, what is the goal of the game? The goal is to win.  The goal is to do your best and hope you are better than your opponent. Just to make sure I am right about this, is there anyone here that likes to lose? I didn’t think so.  We all hate losing. But we are not going to win all the time.  All of us that play sports or games are going to experience losing. Here’s a good question.  When you win a game, and you have played well and defeated your opponent, how do you want your opponent to act toward you? A.    Do you want your opponent to say, “You won, but I was really better than you?  You just got lucky.  Next time I’ll beat you so bad you’ll be calling for your mama.” B.    Would you want your opponent to be so mad about losing that he or she just walked away without shaking your hand or saying anything to you? C.    Would you want your opponent to accuse you of cheating or say that you didn’t play fair and that’s the only reason you won? D.    Would you want your opponent to shake your hand and say, “Good game,  congratulations/” We want people to have good sportsmanship and congratulate us for winning, so that’s how we should act when we win. Sometimes when we win, we...

Whatever Happened to Fairness?

Whatever Happened to Fairness? July 15, 2018 Exodus 22:1-14 My parents have a neighbor that has a bull that gets out of its pasture.  It jumps a fence, walks through the woods, past their fish pond and jumps another fence and then helps itself to their garden. So far, the owner of the bull has not offered any restitution for the bull’s appetite nor has he kept the bull from repeating his bad behavior. As the Hebrew people came out of Egypt and formed a communal lifestyle, Moses had the task of creating laws to help them sort through their differences.  A lot of these disputes involved animals. What if someone borrowed an ox and returned it with a hurt leg?  What if someone asked you to keep care of your donkeys while you went away and when you came back the donkeys were dead because they had not been watered?  What was fair when someone had been wronged like that? Sometimes it was difficult to know whose animal had misbehaved if all the grapes in your vineyard had been eaten.  Once discovered, it was sometimes difficult for people to resolve their disputes and differences and know what was fair so everyone could get along. As much as he tried, it was impossible for Moses to come up with laws to deal with every possible scenario.  What these laws show us is that we must live with some boundaries.  Without boundaries, life would be chaotic and in constant disarray. But we also see what was considered fair in Moses’ day may not be fair today. Our understanding of God...

What Ever Happened to Moderation? 

July 8, 2018 Philippians 4:4-8 When I was a junior at Samford University, I saw a student riding a unicycle across the campus.  I was instantly hooked.  Before long I had one and I was learning to ride down the long hallway of the dorm where I was a resident assistant. It was a perfect place to learn to ride because I could reach out and touch two walls and balance myself from side-to-side.  If I got off-balance from front to back I just let the unicycle fall to the floor.  Falling off was never hard.  Learning to get on it was the challenge. The first time my grandfather watched me ride a unicycle I though he was going to brag on my abilities.  Instead, he responded in his typical humorous way, “Son, if I were you I’d start a family before I rode one of those things.” I later found a 6-foot unicycle and I rode it from my house to downtown Louisville, just a few blocks away. I didn’t ride a six-foot unicycle again until I bought one when I was the pastor of Clarkesville Baptist Church. I had my picture on the front page of the Northeast Georgian Newspaper riding my unicycle in the Mountain Laurel Parade in full clown costume so I thought I’d impress everyone the next year by riding a 6-foot unicycle.  And I did—for about half the parade. Remember, I told you that falling off was never the hard part.  Well, that day it was.  When I got off-balance that day, I fell sideways and I when I braced my fall I...