Michael’s Sermons

 

Today Could Be Your Bethlehem

Advent 1 Today Could be Your Bethlehem Matthew 2:1-12 I have a pastor friend that was adopted into a wonderful family as a baby.  His parents never hid the fact from him that he was adopted.  They wanted him to embrace the story of his life and of their love for him and process it as he grew. There came a time in my friend’s life that he felt the need to search for his biological parents.  He wanted to fill in some unanswered questions. He knew where he was born, but nothing else about the circumstances of his birth. He wanted to know his medical history, the circumstances surrounding his birth, and the reason he was given up for adoption.  He wanted to know if his biological parents were alive.  Would they speak with him?  Did he have any half brothers and sisters? He purchased an Ancentry.com kit, and he was able to find a close relative that eventually led him to his birth mother. Recently, his birth mother and three half-sisters drove down from Pennsylvania to meet him, with the blessings of his parents.   So far, his biological father has not responded to his efforts for conversation. I’ve often wondered about how Jesus processed the information about the uniqueness of his birth. It is clear that the gospel writers want us to see where Jesus came from.  They want us to know that he was unique.   He was both from heaven and the lineage of King David.  These gospel writers want us to see that even before Jesus was born, God was at work in Jesus’ life and had...

The Significance of Leftovers

November 25, 2018 The Significance of Leftovers Mark 4:30-34 Mark 8:14-21 For all of the school teachers present today, here is something that should make you feel good about your profession.  Of the 90 times that Jesus is addressed in the gospels, 60 times he is referred to as “teacher.”  So you are in good company. You often think of Jesus as a preacher, but no one called him “preacher.”  Jesus was called a teacher. When you see the word, “Rabbi,” that is a Hebrew word that means, “teacher.” Teachers are among the most important people in the world. Without teachers, how could children learn to read? How would they learn right from wrong? How could we learn to ride a bike, or tie our shoes? How would a rancher learn to raise cattle? How could a doctor learn to operate? How could an engineer learn to build roads and bridges? We don’t learn to do these things on our own.  We all need teachers. Even people that are inventors build on knowledge that others taught them. You might not have a teaching degree, but all of us are teachers to one degree or another.  What we teach is left up to us.  What we are teaching may be good, or it may be bad. It may be in line with what the Master Teacher taught, or it may not be. What are you teaching those around you?  What are they learning from you? Jesus taught us to “Go and make disciples.”  We cannot make disciples unless we are teachers and we cannot be good teachers unless we understand what it is that we are supposed...

What if We Lived By the National Motto?

What If We By Lived the National Motto? Proverbs 3:5-6 In March, the Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that the U.S. Motto, “In God We Trust,” must be in a prominent location, either as a plaque, artwork or in some other form in all Tennessee public schools. Governor Haslam said that at the end of the day he’s never thought that having a motto somewhere changes a lot of people’s thoughts, but in April he signed the bill into law.  If he wanted to earn the trust of voters, he didn’t have much choice. Perhaps the motto gives God-believing people some feeling of hope that we still have not strayed completely away from acknowledging God as our Lord. However, mottos are not worth much if they are lived out. If no one pays attention to a motto, or if no one is being held accountable to live by a motto, then it becomes like a piece of trash that people walk by, ignore, step on, and even discard. It becomes like a church people ride by every day but never see.  It becomes like a Bible people put on a shelf but never read. It becomes like wedding ring people wear but forget the vows it represents. When is the last time you’ve heard that someone’s behavior about how they use their money was influenced or changed because they were convicted by the motto, “In God We Trust.” That motto is printed on every coin and every piece of currency. Every day, money passes through our hands without us giving any thought to whether we should save, it, invest it,...

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...