Posts Tagged ‘sermons’

Help My Unbelief: Mark 9:14-29

This is a sermon manuscript, which is written for the ear, not the eye.  So, it’s full of grammatical errors and incomplete sentences, I imagine.  Also, I try to attribute thoughts to others, but my sermon is the product of much reading of others, to whom I am indebted.

 Help My Unbelief  (Mark 9:14-29);  One of my favorite passages and verses (I know I have a lot):  “I believe, help my unbelief”.  After two sermons on miracles in the Gospel of John, I want to turn our attention to one more desperate father and one more healing from Christ.  This is a story that we will find ourselves somewhere in, but I hope that we also find our Savior in this story.   


Do you ever think of your life as a story?  Or maybe you picture yourself in a movie, complete with a soundtrack.  And in general, we love a good story.  And some of us love to tell a good story.  Part of the fun of our Wednesday night gatherings is the opportunity to fellowship over a meal and tell the stories of our week.  Sometimes, they are of our foibles or our frustrations, but in those moments we understand ourselves as living in a story.  Obviously, you know that my use of the term “story” does not imply fiction, but the truth of our lives as we experience them.  Aren’t you glad that the Bible gives us stories?  Yes, we get lots of other things we need:  teaching, prophecy, poetry, included.  But we also get stories.  And here we have another story from the Gospels.

What are the five elements of story (you may have learned slightly different terms): the plot, the characters, the theme, the conflict, and the resolution.  Well, we definitely have that today in this story from the Gospel of Mark.  And we have those in our lives.  Do you know conflict in your life and your heart?  Aren’t our lives full of characters, especially here in the Deep South – we have some real characters here.  And whether we know it not,

Let me tell you the theme of this story that were going to explore, and thus the theme of this sermon:

Theme:   You can have an imperfect faith, if you have a perfect Savior. 

 Your faith can falter & fail, if you know Jesus.  You can struggle with unbelief, when you also believe that God is bigger than it.  Isn’t that who we are?  And where we live most days?

BB:  We’re going to take a slightly different approach this morning.  We’ll get the outline of the story and then we’ll look at the details as we consider the characters in this story.    So, my main points our The Story, The (Usual) Suspects, and The Savior.

Continue reading

Preparing for Cancer

How does one prepare for cancer?  Specifically, how does a Christian prepare to face the battle of cancer in their life or in that of a close family member?

And I don’t mean, how do you keep from getting cancer.  I’ll leave you to your own devices with that one.  Certainly, I don’t have anything worthwhile to share in that category anyway!

I do not hold ourselves up as paragons of faith, but I do wonder in amazement at how steady we have been through this (It’ll have to be a separate post, but we must remember that faith is more about it’s object – Christ – than our “work of faith”).  Our faith has surprised me at times.  I don’t mean to paint an inaccurate picture.  To be clear this whole thing sucks (to use a technical term), I hate it many days, and the teardrops are too numerous to count at this point.  And yet, there is something more.  Really, there is Someone more.

One answer, in my mind, without a doubt is all of the prayer that we have received and continue to receive.  Friends, family, preschoolers, acquaintances, and strangers lifting us up before the Lord.  Yes, that has much to do with it.  And that’s probably another whole reflection.  Here, I want to think about preparing in the years before trials come, suffering hits, and horrific news knocks us to our knees.  In that sense, this applies more broadly to cancer.

Ready for the answer?  Here it is:  walking faithfully with the Lord day in and day out for years.  In good times and bad.  In plenty and in want.  You get the idea.  As we do that, what happens?   We will have read the Scriptures, we will have heard the Scriptures proclaimed, hymns and songs will root into our bones, and we will watch others deal with the falleness of life.    We will come along side of them when they need prayer, meals, hugs, and encouragement.  We will see the faith of the saints carried out in both the mundane and the tragic.

Trust is something that we learn over the seasons.  We learn that God is trustworthy during the harvest and even during the drought.  For He provides.  Not always what we want or expect, but still this is something that has to be learned over the course of time.  But if we don’t put ourselves in the company of others and we don’t learn those hymns and we don’t hear the Word of Life, then it will be hard for us to trust.  We will have stunted our growth.  Think about it this way.  That hymn that you are singing on Sunday (you know the one that you don’t like the tune of), may not be for today.  You might be learning it for a tomorrow that is going to come and you’ll need to be reminded that “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head” (“God Moves In a Mysterious Way”, William Cowper, 1774).  You’ll need to have treasured up already the Words of Scripture that alone give life and lead us.  You’ll need to have put in some time already listening to the pastor drone on just a little too long once again.  It may not seem like much is happening right now, but I can assure you that the cumulative effect of walking with God and His people, can sustain you when you are diagnosed with cancer.

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the Lord.

He is like a shrub in the desert,

and shall not see any good come.

He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord.

He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

                                                                                (Jeremiah 17:5-8)


How can we bear fruit in a drought season?  Only if we have placed our trust in the Lord and have been nourished by Him before that.  That is part of how you prepare for cancer.

Wedding Homily: Welcome One Another

This is a wedding homily I gave this past Saturday:

One of the joys of working outside the home is the gift of returning home.  Not just because it’s nice to be home or because I get to kick my feet up to relax, but because of the welcome that I receive.  My children are especially good at making me feel welcomed back home, whether it’s them running to greet before I have even gotten out of the car or the giant hugs that I get from them.  There is a particular joy that comes from their delight in my return home and that helps put the troubles of each day in perspective.  Also important to me are the words of welcome from my wife – each brings me into that place we all long for: home.  Paul speaks of welcome at the end of the passage from Romans 15 that we have already heard.

(ESV) Romans 15:7 – Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.

Paul addresses these words to the Christian community and it is appropriate to consider these words in light of the smallest, but very important community that exists in a marriage.  In this verse, there is a Command, a Connection, and a Consequence. I want to consider these briefly in light of this wonderful of occasion of your two lives being joined in marriage today.  First, the command…

Paul says, “Welcome one another”.  It is a simple command.  At least it’s simple to understand, maybe less simple to apply. The word here that is translated as “welcome” is much deeper than a greeting or anything merely on the surface.  Paul is not describing a casual greeting, but the kind of reception or acceptance for someone else that is rooted in our hearts.  It refers to our opening our hearts to another person.  And in marriage, we are welcoming another person into the most vulnerable and sensitive place in our lives – our hearts.  C.S. Lewis recognizes the inherent danger in this, as he says: to love at all is to become vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safely in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless space, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. But you are opening your hearts to one another today.  The challenge in marriage is to see this kind of opening of our hearts as something that is done not just today on the wedding day, but rather everyday.  Especially when we become frustrated or annoyed with our spouse.  Especially when we have hurt or been hurt.  Especially when the pressures of finances or work intrude into the peace of our home.  You fight to welcome one another, because to do so is to fight for your very marriage.  This might be through a welcoming word, a welcoming touch, or a welcoming sacrifice of service for the other.

Paul understands the difficulty in this command.  So, Paul offers not just a command, but also a connection to Jesus Christ.

This is the pattern of the New Testament Epistles, especially in Paul’s letters.  The commands of Christianity are always connected in some way to Jesus Christ because we are not able to keep them in our own strength.  So, the command to welcome one another is connected to Christ’s welcome of us:  “just as Christ has welcomed you.”
This leads to us naturally to a question:  How has Christ welcomed us?  Scripture does not pull any punches in describing our lives prior to faith in Christ.  We need only go back in the book of Romans to see this:  in Romans 5:6-10 we get a picture of who we were:  “weak and helpless, ungodly, sinners, enemies” – these are the words used to describe us.  The picture of our lives without Christ is not pretty, but the testimony of Romans is that we were not chosen for salvation because we deserved it or had earned it.  The weak, the ungodly, sinners, and enemies of God actually deserve something far different than the welcome that we receive in Christ.  It can be hard for us to see ourselves in this light.   What becomes clear from Scripture is that Christ does not welcome us because we deserve it, but rather because grace and mercy are at His very heart.  

Just as we have to keep the command to welcome one another alive in our marriages, it is also crucial to keep the connection with Christ alive in it as well.  Again, this is not easy and there will be a hundred other things (many of them good) that will challenge your connection with Christ.  The question then that we must ask is this:  to what or whom should I connect to help me grow in love and welcome for my spouse.  There is no greater help that I know of than a connection to Christ.

Both our keeping the command to welcome one another and our connection lead to a consequence.

How might you describe the dating scene across America these days?  To me it seems that it is largely about figuring out how one person can present their most attractive qualities and minimize their flaws to another person who is doing the exact same thing.  Too often the flaws aren’t revealed until after the wedding.  Unfortunately, this is the poor foundation upon many marriages are built.  And the consequences are often severe.  But to welcome one another recognizing the welcome we have received from Christ leads to a far different consequence – the glory of God.   There is no greater thing for us to do than to give glory to God. And here we can see the purpose that our marriages may serve within the greater community that we live – giving glory to God.  I found in my own marriage that what galvanizes our relationship more than any other, is for us to both to be focused on something much greater than ourselves or our desires.  As a result, this consequence strengthens our marriages and helps us to grow deeper in the difficult work of an ongoing welcoming and drawing each other into our hearts.

A simple message:  welcome one another…But not always easy to apply.  So, we look at the little ways and build from there.

  • Words of welcome for one another.  The kinds of words that go beyond the surface and touch each other’s hearts.
  • A welcoming touch:   a hug, a kiss, or just remembering that physical proximity matters.
  • Being quick to listen, and slow to speak
  • Being quick to apologize and quick to forgive
  • Living in light of the welcome of Christ, so that you learn what the welcoming heart is and does

[Prayer] Pray with me….

Notes from the Sermon (10-4-09)

Sermon Text:  Colossians 3:1-4

Sermon Title:  New Life in a Dead World

Sermon Theme:  How do we live new life in a dead world?

I did not use any quotations in the sermon yesterday.  I did refer to a cartoon (How to Over-Spiritualize Everything) that can be seen here.

Notes from the Sermon…(9/20)

I am going to start posting some of the quotations that I use in my sermons…these are from yesterday’s sermon:

Text:  Colossians 2:13-15

Theme:  Our freedom flows from the Cross of Christ (We are freed from death, debt, and dominion)


Be sure you see this most wonderful and astonishing of all truths: God took the record of all your sins that made you a debtor to wrath . . ., and instead of holding them up in front of your face and using them as the warrant to send you to hell, God put them in the palm of his Son’s hand and drove a spike through them into the cross. It is a bold and graphic statement: He canceled the record of our debt . . . nailing it to the cross (Col. 2:14).”  John Piper – This Momentary Marriage

We normally think that power is needed to defeat an enemy, but God uses weakness.  We generally think that dignity is associated with majesty, but God glories in the shame of Calvary.  We are accustomed to think that success must be safeguarded, but in Christ God embraces defeat.  We mostly believe that pain is to be eschewed, but in the cross God willingly accepts it.  But in weakness, shame, pain, and apparent defeat of the cross there is real victory.” Derek Tidball – The Reality Is Christ

If I wanted others to think highly of me, I would conceal the fact that a shameful slaughter of the perfect Son of God was required that I might be saved…Indeed, the most humiliating gossip that could ever be whispered about me is blared from Golgotha’s hill; and my self-righteous reputation is left in ruins in the wake of its revelations….(Why would anyone be shocked to hear of my struggles with past and present sin when the Cross already told them I am a desperately sinful person?). Milton Vincent – A Gospel Primer for Christians

And here is one from Charles Spurgeon I did not use:

His cross was his triumph…. What more do you want? Your enemy is vanquished, your sins blotted out, your death changed to life, your necessities all supplied. Will you not stay at home with Christ?…Canst thou have a better lover than thy Lord, a dearer husband than the heavenly Bridegroom? Oh, love the Lord, ye his saints; cling to him, and make much of him; let him be all in all to you!”

September Texts & Topics for North Hills

Here are the text and topics for our worship services in September at North Hills Church.

Series for Morning Worship:  Book of Colossians
Series for Evening Worship:  The Lord’s Prayer

September 6th
AM:  Colossians 2:6-10
PM:  “As We Forgive”

September 13th
AM:  Colossians 2:11-12
PM:  “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

September 20th
AM:  Colossians 2:13-15
PM:  “Deliver Us from Evil”

September 27th
AM: Colossians 2:16-23
PM:  “For Yours Is…”

Sermon on Romans 13:1-7

There are two things we are not suppose to talk about…politics and religion.  In this sermon, I got to talk about both on the Sunday after our national elections.  This is a part of our preaching series through Romans at Calvary and we were not intentional about this passage falling on this particular date (all things in God’s providence).   Anyway, here is the sermon information:

Passage & Title:  Romans 13:1-7…Submitting to God’s Servants

Theme:  How should submission to governing authorities characterize the lives of Christians?

I.  The Motivation of our Submission

A.  God’s Sovereignty
B.  God’s Servant
C.  God’s Spirit

II.  The Movement of our Submission

A. Towards Prayer
B.  Towards Repentance
C.  Towards The Kingdom of God

Real Preachers of Genius

(HT:  PastorHacks)

Movies as Sermon Illustrations?

Okay, since we’re on a roll here at helpmyunbelief on sermons and the last couple of posts on some sermon hijinks, I wanted to bring to throw out a question based on Ed’s comments from the previous post (“Sermon Mischief”).

To use movies as sermon illustrations or not?

If you are a pastor/preacha, why or why not?

If you are a parishioner, how do you respond when a pastor uses a movie illustration?

Personally, I can think of one time when I used a movie illustration in a sermon, though there may be others…the sermon theme was on hope and I used a discussion between Andy Dufrane & Red from Shawshank Redemption.  I believe the illustration was effective, but it did require a disclaimer given that it is a rated “R” (shocking, I know).  Movie illustration also often assume that everyone has seen the movie.

Ed is tired of the Lord of the Rings illustrations…personally, I’m tired of the Chariots of Fire illustration.

Sermon mischief

This is worse than texting during the sermon, methinks.  (HT:  Colossians Three Sixteen)

Thou Shalt Text?

This blog post is prompted by an article in my local paper last Saturday, though the story originated in St. Louis and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.  Tim Townsend writes about a new practice that has cropped up in a few churches and in particular this church (Morning Star Church) is profiled.  Unfortunately, I could not find an online version of the article to link to…

So, what is this new practice?  Text messaging questions to the pastor while the pastor is preaching.  In the case of Morning Star, text messages are sent to the worship director who screens them and then sends some to a computer near the pastor.  He then decides what and how to answer the questions.  Here is a snippet from the article:

Mid-sermon texting is a way for pastors to engage their flocks with technology many of them – especially those under 30 – are using every day.  ‘Lot’s of people say this is cool or edgy, but that’s not what it’s about for us,’ Schreinder said [he’s the Senior Pastor at Morning Star].  ‘It’s really about staying true to our mission to meet people where they are.’

I must confess that this raises some issues in my mind, though I am by no means certain about everything that I am thinking in response to this.  Here are some thoughts:

  • Preaching is different from teaching.  Both are communication, but preaching is proclamation of God’s Word.  I believe that we should distinguish between preaching and teaching in the church.  That is not to say that teaching is not an element of preaching, but proclamation must not be lost in the process.  With confidence, faithful preachers can say “thus saith the Lord”.  But for this pastor, he likes moving more towards teaching (“It gives me a little more of a teaching role.  It gets back to Jesus Christ and the Sermon on the Mount, where I picture have a conversation with the people.  With texting, it becomes much more of a dialogue.”).
  • Texting or taking questions from the audience during the preaching event changes the dynamic of communication.  Without disregarding the legitimate questions, as it is impossible to have questions about a given text, we still must let God’s Word be central, rather than our questions.  This practice, I believe, intrudes upon that centrality.
  • Might this practice frustrate those whose questions are not answered?
  • Might this practice, without intending so, subtly encourage people not to continue to wrestle with Scripture on their own?
  • Does this elevate technology over the preaching of God’s Word or at least put them on more equal footing? (I am not against technology or its use in the church; we use sound systems without qualm for example).
  • Personally, the way I preach and think, I am not sure I would be able to respond in the midst of a sermon to a question/text and not lose my focus.  But that’s a personal problem.

These thoughts are not meant to lambast the church or pastor profiled.  Certainly, this is happening in other places and may even become common-place.  The article quotes positively a couple of teenagers and maybe this is the first time they have gotten excited about the sermons.  I am all for people engaging with God’s Word and with the pastor, but is this the right medium for that?  I am inclined to say no.  Any thoughts out there?  Am I merely being reactionary, a Luddite, or without vision?

Sermon: Romans 11:11-24

I preached this past Sunday from Romans 11:11-24 and my theme was:  How do we respond to those who have rejected the Gospel?  To make clear, the response I am speaking of is a more internal/heart response rather than three things to say to that person/tips/techniques etc…  You can download the sermon for a limited time here.

Sunday Sermon: The Sovereignty of God in Election

You can download an mp3 of this Sunday’s sermon from Romans 9:19-29 here.  (available for the next seven days).  One note about the recording:  the Scripture Introduction and Reading are on a separate track and so not on this sermon.  I dislike this because it should all be one track since it is all a part of the sermon.

Theme: God is not God if he is not Sovereign.