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Yep. I Preached a Sermon about Gossip

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We giggle, we wink, we lower our voice and say, “I know I’m not supposed to say this . . . but . . . “ We fully acknowledge that gossip is wrong, but that doesn’t stop us from doing it. In that moment we feel rewarded for both telling and being told. We have revealed that we are part of an exclusive club that knows secret, hidden information and we have granted you access because you are willing to listen.

But how does God see gossip?

To say that this sermon struck a nerve would be an understatement. Within hours I was receiving text messages thanking me for the message. The next day there were visits to my office, phone calls, emails. People who weren’t at church had heard about it and were listening to the sermon online.

And we probably were still gossiping too.

As I mentioned in the message, I had started this sermon some years ago. I had little more than a rough outline–Three Reasons God Hates Gossip and You Should Too. Honestly, that was about it. To be completely honest with you . . . and I hate to admit this . . . I didn’t even have a text yet.

God help me . . . I prooftexted this sermon!

No, I don’t feel good about that. I don’t know whether to cling to the grace of God and say, “Isn’t it amazing that he worked this out?” or hang my head in shame and confess.

Maybe I should do a little bit of both . . . maybe I am.

Two things amazed me about this sermon. One, the outline came together with the Scripture in what seems like a very fortuitous way to me. I don’t feel like any of the points were a stretch. Even my wife commented about how strong the Scriptures were in this one. That’s high praise!

What amazed me even more after I had preached the sermon was the trinitarian elements I saw in both it and the text. Paul ends 2 Corinthians with a great trinitarian blessing in 13:14, The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.As I looked at my points I saw a definite focus on the work of the trinity:

  1. Gossip is doing the work of Satan as opposed to the work of God
  2. There is nothing redemptive about gossip – nothing that points to Christ’s work as redeemer of our lives.
  3. Gossip negates the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.

Again, I feel like I just stumbled into this and I promise I’ll never intentionally do it again, but I continue to be amazed at how it worked out.

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Famous Last Words: It Is Finished

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It Is Finished

There are times when I am very aware of what I lack in faith, faithfulness and devotion. There are times when I struggle to imagine that’s God’s grace is big enough to make up for all that I lack. In those times I find my peace in those three final words from the cross, “It is finished.”

There was a lot more I wanted to do with this sermon. I had some specific issues I wanted to address. In reality I  probably had a hobby horse or two I wanted to ride.

A few month ago I was listening to a radio program where a woman was explaining the doctrine of Purgatory. She explained that while Jesus’ death on the cross paid the penalty for our sin, sin had left something like a “ring around the collar” on our souls. Therefore, Purgatory is necessary to remove the final stain of sin.

I was angry. I really was.

I wanted to yell at the radio, “IT.IS.FINISHED!!!” Either Jesus died for all our sin or he died for NONE of it!

I tend to get a little excitable about this stuff.

In the end, though, I realized I wasn’t addressing a crowd of people who had concerns about Purgatory. Not many of them, at least.

I also realized I wasn’t addressing my usual crowd. Our attending was the typical Easter crowd; family, friends and a few extras who show up to do the Easter thing. I also realized many there weren’t accustomed to my usual delivery, so I changed things up a bit. The sermon was much more story driven than usual. In my average sermon I’m lucky if I have one illustration. This one built on two major stories, one personal and one from Jon Acuff.

All-in-all, we had a great Easter service and a very nice build up to Easter with this series. For me, though, the series (a retread of an earlier series) was supposed to provide me with some much-needed time to prepare for the next few months. Unfortunately that didn’t really happen. It’s been a busy and stressful season and there’s been no time for planning ahead.

Thankfully I am blessed with wonderful and caring leaders who insisted I take some time out of the pulpit after Easter. So, I’m spending two weeks plotting out the next six months. I’m really looking forward to where we’re going next!

Bump Ahead

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I was traveling an unfamiliar road a few weeks ago. Being in Illinois, it was straight and flat enough, but the road hadn’t been paved in some time. It was in bad need of repair. At one particular point in the trip I noticed a yellow caution sign on the side of the road. As I got closer I read it. “Bump.”

They weren’t kidding! Potholes covered the next several feet as huge chunks of asphalt were missing. I guess I should have been more appreciative of the warning sign but still I wondered, why didn’t they just fix the road?

2949380-bump+1I don’t know much about road maintenance, but I’m pretty sure that putting up a sign is cheaper than putting down new asphalt. All you have to do is get a sign and put it up in the right spot. It becomes incumbent upon the driver to read the sign and respond accordingly.

If there’s any real cost it’s to the driver that doesn’t heed the warning—they’ll be responsible for the blown tire or messed up suspension.

We are sometimes like those old roads. Over time we develop our trouble spots. Maybe it’s a little bitterness here, a hurt feeling there. Maybe there are potholes in our character. Potholes like gossip or envy or jealousy. These spots need to be repaired and it takes a lot of work. It just becomes easier for us to put up “Bump” signs.

You’ve seen those kind of “Bump” signs, right? Usually they’re whispered to us by others who made the mistake of not recognizing them. “Don’t bring up politics with him.” “Don’t talk to her about forgiveness.” “Make sure you stay on his good side.”

And if we miss the “Bump” sign the only real expense is to the person who didn’t see it. Their feelings, their relationships, their confidence, their joy.

I can’t help but notice that Jesus didn’t have any “Bump” signs, and therefore his followers shouldn’t have them either. Instead we’re called to repair those rough spots in our lives with Christ-like character. We pave the potholes of our hearts with the fruit of the Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).

We mend the bridges of our relationships with the peace, love and forgiveness that Paul tells us of in Colossians 3:13-15. “Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.”

The beautiful thing about these repairs is that Jesus isn’t just the Great Physician, he’s the Great Road Commissioner! Philippians 2:12-13 tells us, “Work out your own salvation (that is, live like you’re saved) with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and work for his good pleasure.”

God’s not in the business of putting up “Bump” signs. He’s in the business of making you just like Jesus. It’s time to tear down the “Bump” signs and let God get to work.

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Famous Last Words: I Thirst

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When I began this series I considered titling it “7 Last Words.” However, winters in Illinois are unpredictable and I knew there was a chance we’d have at least one week where we were snowed out. Sure enough, the first weekend in March was bad enough that our attendance was less than half of our usual crowd. I preached a short devotional message that week rather than continuing with the series. That left me one week shy of being able to do all seven.

Then I began to notice the connection between Maundy Thursday and this saying on the cross, “I thirst.” While I would never get dogmatic about it, from the Biblical record it appears that Jesus didn’t have anything to drink from the Last Supper until he requested a drink on the cross. Whether that’s actually the case or not, the deep thirst he felt on the cross made for an interesting connection to our remembrance of the upper room on Maundy Thursday.

I’ve always loved the way our community approaches Holy Week. I think you can tell that from the first minute or two of my message. I love the opportunity we have to meet with the other churches in town and share the services. Maundy Thursday has always meant a lot to me. While Easter Sunrise has its pageantry and excitement, I love the mood of Maundy Thursday.

The service went well. We did our best to leave in silence. That’s difficult for our community. We certainly do enjoy our time together.