Stewards of Grace – June 12, 2016

  OT Lesson: Psalm 24 NT Lesson: 1 Peter 4:1-11 Gospel Lesson: Matthew 25:14-30   One of the milestones of growing into Jesus –of having a relationship with the Savior that goes beyond the issue of being saved – toward the issue of becoming mature in your faith – is the epiphany that Jesus is more concerned with “who” you are than (with) “what” you do. This is a milepost of understanding – of revelation – because it evidences a growth of our spirit beyond the elementary coupling of the genuineness of faith to behavioral obedience, to the greater issue of Grace being the primary catalyst and our deepest motivation to change; to the place where we realize (that) only behavior motivated by the love of Jesus is Godly, and only Godly behavior is likely to withstand cultural pressures and human proclivities. I can appear to the world (to be) good and right and proper; but unless this good, right, and proper behavior results from Grace having changed who I am – I may appear socially and culturally to be a good person –but spiritually I remain dead; I remain vulnerable to external pressures to conform, to adapt, and to acquiesce to my own human tendencies and to cultural suggestion. Put another way: Grace is a gift of God – unmerited – offered at God’s own initiative – and absolutely free. And, apart from my willingness to trust this promise – to receive the gift – what I do is of secondary importance. Now – lest we frustrate the Grace of God – lest we fail to inculcate its...

Of Memorials and Remembrance and Faith – May 29, 2016

Memorial Day Sunday OT Lesson: Deuteronomy 11:1-21 (Psalm 137: 1-6; Psalm 143: 5-6; Psalm 105: 5-10) NT Lesson: Hebrews 11: 1-3 Gospel: Luke 1: 46-55   Memories crease our brain; its way of preserving moments from the full effect of time’s erosion. We remember snippets of events. Sometimes a fragrance or a smell will trigger memories. I love the aroma of Ligustrum. Ligustrum bushes were scattered all around our old homeplace in the Kanapaha area of Archer Road. They bloom in the heat of summer – and even now – their aroma always takes me for a brief moment back to those hot, steamy days of my youth in the country. The smell of a certain floor cleaner still used by a few stores in Gainesville carries me back to the hallways of J.J. Finley Elementary school. Sights and sounds also elicit memories. Florida Field during pre-game. A wonderful pageant little-changed from 50 years ago. The rosters come-and-go but pre-game remains a staple of the experience. Some day – when these kids are my age – they will walk into this sanctuary and be suddenly filled with a kaleidoscope of memories. But not all things memorable crease our brain. Some experiences glance-off and are at risk of being lost forever. Each day hundreds of thousands of snippets of human history are lost to culture and civilization and future generations as people die and take with them important nuances of their families and communities and experiences. My mother’s last surviving sibling (of 12) lived with us toward the end of her earthly life,  and I entertained intentions of holding a...

The Spiritually Empowered Church – May 15, 2016

OT: Nehemiah 8:1-3; Nehemiah 8-12 NT Lesson: Acts 2:1-21 Gospel: Matthew 15:21-28   This is Pentecost Sunday. On Pentecost Sunday we commemorate commencement of the Church of Jesus Christ; the Holy catholic – or universal – Church in which we confess our belief each week as we say the Apostles’ Creed. We take our place among the millions upon millions of believers who today – and in a continuum back to the day we read about in Acts when the Holy Spirit opened the ears of 3000 people to ‘hear’ the good news of the Gospel – for their lives – in their native language; we join with all the saints in thankful recognition of the founding of the Church. Sixteen languages. People from throughout the known-world the Bible says – were living in Jerusalem. The eleven plus Matthias who was chosen to replace Judas ‘were all together in one place, and the Holy Spirit came and dwelt upon them, giving ability to be understood in languages they did not speak. And the Bible teaches ‘For the promise is for you and for your children, and for all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God shall call. So those who welcomed the message were baptized, and that day about 3000 persons were added.’   Recently we talked about having Entrepreneurial Spirituality; that quality of faith and action that engenders personal equity in our mission and ministries. We talked about becoming ‘Imagineers’; believers who can ‘see’ the conclusion of a dream and can ‘visualize’ a ministry or mission completely implemented. We talked about the Scriptural promise...

Traditions, Titanic Décor, and Hot Dogs – May 1, 2016

  Old Testament Lesson: Isaiah 29:13-14 New Testament Lesson: James 1:17-27 Gospel Lesson: Mark 7:1-28   This is a letter Ben Haden received in 2006. He shared it with me and I used parts of it in a sermon illustration on September 2, 2006. The woman writes: ‘My husband of 25 years is abusive to me. He was abusive to our children. They are all grown and gone from home now so it is just the two of us. His abuse has never been physical, and not really psychological. I am sure he would never see himself as abusive. In fact, he would be appalled at such a suggestion and would have his feelings hurt. His abuse is religious. He is a very religious person. Having endured 25 years of it I am finally able to articulate how he has hurt me and the children. He is religious. But he has no compassion. He has no recognition that his exercise of religion is harsh and cold – almost mechanical, because he is so good at it. He would never miss church – never neglect to say the blessing at meals. But I have never known him to have been truly touched by a moment of new recognition of a spiritual truth. It’s as if he already knows all he wants or needs to know about God and the Christian Faith. He is an expert in his mind about this and has drawn a veil around his heart. He can quote the Bible fluently but he seems to use it as a weapon. He sees Church as necessary but I...

Entrepreneurial Spirituality…Can You Just Imagine? – April 24, 2016

Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 51:15-17; Isaiah 42:1-4 New Testament Lesson: Ephesians 3:14-21 Gospel Lesson: Mark 6:30-44   Note: Read Mark 6:12-13 and Ephesians 2:11-22 prior to the respective passages for context.)   Thomas Edison said of genius: it is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration. Sweating is part of the process. Reminds me of sweating out big tests at UF. 1% study. 99% sweating and praying. The speaker at Garage.com’s entrepreneurial conference in Austin commented on genius: “The real genius is not in the idea. Its in the execution. Hundreds – maybe thousands – of good ideas – some genius ideas – are lost to history every day because the person with the idea has no vision of nor pathway to its execution.” My father once said he worked so hard making a living he never had time to make any money. In recent Sunday’s we have talked about the distillation of disappointment and the refinement of renewal through claiming the promise of Romans 8:28 (All things work together for good to them who love God, to those who and are called according to His purpose); We then talked about being liberated (in our being called according to His purpose) through appropriate surrender to Grace, and movement toward Abundant Life through a willingness to learn new things about God through Jesus, the Word Incarnate. Last week we talked about the power and authority of God’s Word – and of our responsibility to ‘rightly interpret the Word of Truth’. Today we finish April with a Scriptural call to become a spiritually entrepreneurial congregation.   Perhaps an entrepreneur’s most effective attribute is...

Quoting Scripture. Missing the Point. – April 17, 2016

Old Testament Lesson: Psalm 23 New Testament Lesson: 2 Timothy 2:14-17; 2 Timothy 3:14-17 Gospel Lesson: John 10:22-30   Adelai Stevenson, Governor of Ohio and Democratic presidential candidate in 1952 and 1956 was a man of quick, dry wit; some might say droll. He was a Christian with a fluid command of Scripture. In an iconic photograph from the campaign trail the candidate is relaxing on a couch at the end of a whistle-stop day. His legs are crossed and the photo is taken from a sitting position wherein his shoes appear larger in context than they actually were. The caption read, “Governor Stevenson takes chats informally at the end of a busy day of campaigning. ‘My campaign platform has no holes’, he said. In the photo, the sole of his shoe showed a large hole. One of the newsmen present asked about a report that lies were being told about Governor Stevenson by the Eisenhower campaign, and asked Stevenson if he thought General Eisenhower was a liar. “Well”, he said, “You know what the Bible says. ‘A lie is an abomination unto the Lord…a very present help in trouble’.”   Gary was in my grade all through school. He was active in the 14th Street Church of Christ in Gainesville; grew up in their Sunday School and Youth Group. By high school we was perhaps advanced for his years with respect to knowing Scripture. I might have been also. At GHS we had several classes together and I remember on several occasions having ‘intense’ discussions with him about this, that, or the other issue du jour. Gary’s style...