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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!

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Famous Last Words: Into Your Hands I Commit My Spirit

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Jesus’ last words reveal much about his heart and his character. The fact that in the moment of his greatest pain he was able to forgive those who had crucified him says volumes about who he is. His concern for his mother and best friend speaks to his desire for our relationships. Even his cry of dereliction, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” points to a depth of connection with his Father that was so intense that the separation was unbearable.

So when we come to those words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,” they are more than just a prayer, they’re his very heart. They are the words he has known and lived by his whole life. They are now the words he will die by.

Of all my sermons on the last words from the cross this one might be my favorite. The reason is because of the connection to the audience.

On Tuesday before I preached I sent out an email asking for those favorite promises. The response was overwhelming. I hadn’t actually planned on providing them in print, but once I that I wouldn’t be able to use them all it seemed like a great way to keep the connection going.

I feel like the sermon not only provided a point of connection back to Jesus on the cross but also a connection to the community through the scriptures offered by others. It also offers a connection for the future, when those promises others trust in can be used in their own time of need.

I’ve spoken with others about using questions like this through emails and social media posts. I really thinks it’s a great way to connect your people to what you’re doing. They become part of the message and take ownership of it. If you get a chance, definitely do it.

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Famous Last Words: Woman, Behold Your Son

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Jesus said, “There is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” That’s a promise that no one should ever feel they’re alone. God has connected us through the cross as one big family. When we care for each other we’re proving the truth of what Jesus said.

There’s probably no place that call was ever displayed with more beauty and pain than on the cross in Jesus’ words to the Apostle John and his mother, Mary. Through the cross, Jesus redefined their relationship, just as he redefines ours.

As with the other sermons in this series, I had originally preached this one in 2009. It was amazing to see how little I needed to add and change with this one. I added the illustration about the news that Jesus had a brother (that’s some news) and the story about my text from Andy. Other than that, I updated my scripture references and tweaked the conclusion a bit.

The amazing part was just how timely the sermon was. There have been some issues about caring for one another and recognizing our need for each other lately. The sermon addressed them perfectly. I’ve been told there have been several “are you ok?” messages sent out over the past day or so.

The text message illustration provided something simple and concrete for them to do with the message. It was almost like giving them permission to care for each other.

I’m looking ahead to next week’s message: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” With it the shift will go from practical relationships with one another to their relationship with the Heavenly Father. It will be an interesting transition.

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Famous Last Words: Today You Will Be With Me in Paradise

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The story of the thief on the cross has always intrigued me. I doubt I’m the only one. I’ve had more than one conversation about salvation with someone and been asked, “What about the thief on the cross?”

Why don’t we take the attention off the thief and put it where it belongs–on Jesus? It’s only when we focus on Christ that we can see ourselves in this story.

I was really surprised at the reaction I got to this sermon–it was all positive. Honestly, I felt like my delivery stuttered and floundered in several spots, but I’ve had a lot of great feedback on this one.

The truth is, this is one of my oldest sermons. It was originally my senior sermon way back when I was in college in 1989. It’s the sermon I preached when I tried out for my first full-time church and it’s one I’ve gone back to over and over again. The last time I delivered it was in 2009.

My re-writes have mostly been illustrative. I changed the intro this time to draw attention to the idea of being saved “by the skin of your teeth.” The audience was really with me on that part. I think they could feel the train barreling down at me.

About 15 years ago I added the Spurgeon story. I really enjoy that part.

The “What Does it Mean to be Crucified?” is actually much older. I picked that up from an old issue of Leadership Journal somewhere around 1986. I used it in an even earlier sermon I preached during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college.

One of these days I intend to write an article on how to “re-tread” a sermon. Until then I’ll remember the words of my Greek professor, Dr. Marion Henderson, “If it’s not worth preaching twice it probably wasn’t worth preaching once.”

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