Michael’s Sermons

 

Out Fiddling the Devil

Luke 4:1-13                                                                                                    November 17, 2019 Those of you who follow country music might remember a song that came out in the late seventies by the Charlie Daniel’s Band entitled “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”    The song features a fiddling duel between the devil and a boy named Johnny. The stakes were high–Johnny’s soul or the devil’s fiddle of gold.     The ballad went something like this: “Well, the devil went down to Georgia. He was looking for a soul to steal. He was in a bind, and he was way behind, and he was willing to make a deal. Well, the devil came across a young man sawing on a fiddle and playing it hot, and the devil jumped up on a hickory stump and said, “Boy, let me tell you what. I guess you didn’t know it, but I’m a fiddle player too, and if you care to make a dare, I’ll place a bet with you. Now you play pretty good fiddle boy but give the devil his due. I’ll bet this fiddle of gold against your soul that I can play it better than you.”    To which the young man responded, “Well, my name is Johnny, and it might be a sin, but I’ll take your bet, you’re gonna regret that I’m the best that’s...

Is it True? Is it Kind? Is it Necessary? 

November 10, 2019 James 3:1-12 Many years ago, I cut my ministerial teeth on being a youth pastor. Youth pastors have to do some unusual things to keep the attention of their youth. When I studied this passage about the tongue, I asked, “What would make a teenager remember this passage?” I remembered when I was a boy, the cows used to come to the fence in the summertime when we cut watermelons. We would hold the watermelon rinds over the fence and watch the cows stick out their long tongues to get them. A cow’s tongue is about eighteen inches long and I’ve read that some can grow up to three feet. That’s a lot of tongue. So, before I did the Bible study, I went to the butcher and asked for a cow’s tongue. They sell them, you know – to eat. That night in youth group, the title of my message was, “Keep it in your pocket.” We talked about how often we use our tongues to wound people and say things that we should not say.  I might have reminded them that our parents and teachers sometimes tell us to hold our tongues when we want to say something that we should not say. That’s when I pulled eighteen inches of cows tongue out of my pocket.   Of course, you can imagine, that got everyone’s attention.  Some wanted to touch it.  Others were running from it. They didn’t forget my lesson. Each time I made a point, I’d pull out eighteen inches of cow tongue from my pocket and shook it at them. I...

The Future of the Church

October 20, 2019 I want you like at this picture that Joel Logan took of our church not long ago. When we look at our church from this vantage point, we have an entirely different perspective than when we are just walking around on the ground level. Now use your imagination. What if our drone could go even higher, and we were able to see every church in Jefferson? How about every church in Jackson County? What if we had access to a Satellite that was able to pinpoint every church in America? Along with this Satellite, what if there was a supercomputer that stored information about every church and from those statistics we were able to analyze patterns of behavior about why people attend church, why people don’t, who is attending, and who is not?  Would that information helpful to us as we try to grow the church? There’s no supercomputer on a Satellite looking at every church in America. But we do have access to information gathered through reliable polling services like Gallup, the Barna Group, and the Pew Forum that helps us understand what’s happening in our culture that’s affecting how people are responding to the gospel, some of which I will share with you this morning. The Apostle Paul understood the context of the Greek philosophers that inhabited Rome. When he arrived there and noticed that they had a monument to an unknown god, Paul used that as his starting point to say, “Let me tell you about this unknown god. His name is Jesus.” Paul used the context of his culture as a starting...

What Will You Bring to the Table?

Exodus 36:1-8 October 13, 2019 When I was a boy, every summer at Prospect Baptist Church, we held the Baker reunion. The Baker reunion was held in conjunction with my great-grandfather’s birthday. Warren Baker lived to be 100, so we had a lot of birthday gatherings. We gathered under the oak trees, which were adjacent to the cemetery. The men of the church constructed a fence that stretched horizontally through the trees. On the day of the reunion, women threw old quilts and blankets over the fence. After church, people began bringing food out of their trucks and cars. Out came some of the finest cooking South Alabama could offer. Chicken and dumplings, fried chicken, fried okra, and fried squash. If it could be fried, it seemed like it showed up somewhere on the quilted fence. There were homemade biscuits, peas, butterbeans, pineapple casseroles, homemade macaroni and cheese, and fresh-cut tomatoes. I’m sorry. Am I making you hungry? I haven’t even gotten to the deserts: pecan pie, banana pudding, chocolate cake, and several different kinds of homemade ice cream. Do you want to know the best part? Mom and Dad just let me run free as squirrel through those oak trees and among all those relatives, most of whom I couldn’t call by name. I took full advantage of my freedom by filling my plate with everything I wanted and nothing I didn’t. That’s where I decided it was a good thing to eat dessert along with my meal. I didn’t have to wait until I’d eaten all my vegetables. It was great! I never went to a family...

The Power of Inertia

October 6, 2019 Hebrews 3:7-19 NIV There will never be agreement about how the dinosaurs died or even how long ago they lived. Paleontologists point to fossils records and suggest that they lived millions of years ago. Young earth theorists say that can’t be possible. But one thing is clear: they all died. Perhaps it was a cataclysmic event that caused all the dinosaurs to die, like a giant meteor. Perhaps it was something that caused a change in their food source. A paleontologist looking for clues about why dinosaurs became extinct might look to Newton’s First Law of Motion called the Law of Inertia to find a clue. Inertia is not a biological or zoological term. It’s a physics term. Inertia is the resistance of an object to any change in motion, including a change in direction. An object will stay still or keep moving at the same speed and in a straight line unless some external force acts upon it. Another way of saying this is that an object will keep doing what it’s doing unless another force causes it to change its speed or direction. So, as it applies to the dinosaurs, they would still be here had some external force not acted to wipe them out. Today, I want you to think about the Law of Inertia, or Newton’s First Law of Motion, and how it applies to our spiritual lives. First of all, we are creatures of habit, and it is easy for us to remain at rest or in the same uniform motion unless acted upon by an external force. Sometimes that is...

The Strength of a Three-Stranded Cord

September 29, 2019 At many Christian weddings, couples use symbols to represent their union as husband and wife. These symbols involve three objects that fit together. One represents the bride. One represents the groom, and one represents God whom they believe to be the most vital part of their relationship. I’ve seen couples light unity candles, construct a unity cross, and mix unity sand. Tanner and Tori Thurmond invoked a different metaphor last month at their wedding when they had this passage from Ephesians read at their wedding. 9 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12 Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.  (Ecc. 4:4-12) So there you have it — the image of a three-stranded cord for marriage, one for the groom, one for the bride, and one for the Holy Spirit. While this passage is not about marriage, it is about the strength of unity, and no marriage can survive without unity. We are living in a time when we could use a reminder of the importance of unity. Our country is divided on many fronts. That’s not a new thing. In case you forgot, we had a Civil War in this country one time. If you were a person of color living in the...

The Excitement of Possibilities

September 22, 2019 Nehemiah 2:1-6 It was a warm sunny day in Houston, Texas, on September 12, 1962. John F. Kennedy stood before 40,000 people in the Rice University football stadium to deliver a speech that helped launch American astronauts to the moon. Most Americans were not convinced that we should embark on such a bold endeavor or believed that it was even possible. But that day, John F. Kennedy began winning people over to the idea that it was possible. “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask, why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?” He even threw in a bit of humor and asked, “Why does Rice play Texas?” “We choose to go to the moon in this decade,” he said, “and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.” “It is for these reasons that I regard the decision last year to shift our efforts in space from low to high gear as among the most important decisions that will be made during my incumbency in the office of the Presidency.” (President John F. Kennedy, September 12, 1962) Some of you are old enough to remember this speech. Others of us are too young, and some of you were not even born. What...

The Power of Vision

Proverbs 29:18 September 15, 2019 It might surprise you that Henry Ford did not invent the automobile or the assembly line. What Ford did was take the ideas of others and build upon them, improve them, and expand them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Ford Ford’s ability to envision a future where the automobile took the place of the horse and buggy set him apart.  For that to happen, he made cars at a cost that the average wage earner could buy by introducing the Model-T assembly line in 1913.  The speed of automobile production increased by a factor of eight, and the world changed forever. (Ibid) There are not many people in a generation whose vision fundamentally changes our lives and their ideas are not usually supported  right away. By nature, visionary people live and think outside the box. They are ahead of the pack.  Because of that, in the beginning, their ideas, dreams, hopes, and plans seem like a fantasy.  If not fantasy, their views represent the kind of change that people are afraid to embrace. We are comfortable with what we know, and most of us are afraid of change if we are satisfied with the present. We prefer to stick to what we know. Most of us are not risk takers or dreamers.  Few of us are willing to risk changing the way we see the world or risk changing the way we live even if there is the promise that our world could be a better place to live. Some say Elon Musk is the “Ford” of our generation. I have not drunk the Musk cool-aid.   However, there seems to be little doubt...

The Secret to Being a Leader

Mark 9:30-36 September 8, 2019 Listen to the stories of these people. You have likely heard about all of them. After I share a summary of something each one of them did, I want you to think of what each of them has in common with the other. On December 1, 1955, in segregated Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the “colored section” of a bus to a white passenger when ordered to do so by the driver. Her nonaction had her arrested. She lost her job and received death threats for many years. However, her action became a powerful symbol of the modern civil rights movement, and Rosa became an international icon. She went on to organize and collaborate with civil rights leaders, wrote an autobiography, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. The United States Congress called her “the first lady of human rights.” https://www.roffeypark.com/leadership-and-management/7-inspiring-leadership-stories/ In the 1980s, AIDS arrived on the world stage. It was a new, frightening disease with no cure and was rampaging through communities and countries. People believed that you could catch AIDS from touching someone who had it or by sitting on the same toilet seat. Sufferers were shunned, and up to 50% of people polled in the United States believed that those with AIDS should be quarantined. (Ibid) On April 19, 1987, Princess Diana, one of the most famous people in the world, opened the first unit in the United Kingdom dedicated to treating people with HIV and AIDS. During her visit, she shook the hand of an AIDS patient without wearing gloves, and changed...