“Glory Days: Past or Future?” (Haggai 2:1-9, sermon audio)

With this sermon I reached my homiletic goal of utilizing the work of Bruce Springsteen. I have been a huge fan of the Boss since I was sixteen years old, having had the chance to see him live twice. Even though I don’t write poetry or lyric, I’ve no doubt that Springsteen has been a literary influence on me. His ability to tell stories with wonderfully crafted words is enchanting and adventurous.

So as I was studying Haggai 2:1-9, I was overjoyed to make the connection between God’s Word in this text with Springsteen’s song, “Glory Days.” I’ve got the music video of the song below followed by Haggai 2:1-9 and then the sermon audio itself.

I’ll also add that this sermon was a particular delight for me, a delight to create and a delight to preach. I’m not sure I ever experienced so much joy and freedom in preaching a message. Everything just seemed to click for me. Hopefully, it proved equally helpful and encouraging to everyone who listened.

Haggai 2:1-9 (ESV)

In the seventh month, on the twenty-first day of the month, the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet: “Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest, and to all the remnant of the people, and say, ‘Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes? Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, declares the Lord. Be strong, O Joshua, son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land, declares the Lord. Work, for I am with you, declares the Lord of hosts,according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not. For thus says the Lord of hosts: Yet once more, in a little while, I will shake the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry land. And I will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory, says the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts. The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the Lord of hosts. And in this place I will give peace, declares the Lord of hosts.’” 

“The King’s Commission” (Matthew 28:18-20, sermon audio)

At Woodside Bible Church, we set aside on Sunday of the year as “Life Impact Sunday.” We use this day to remember God’s call on our lives to impact the world for the sake of Christ. We inform and encourage our members about several opportunities they have to engage in God’s mission through our church. We also utilize the sermon to demonstrate from Scripture how God has called his people to more than just “Sunday morning religion”.

I was scheduled for this preaching assignment, and I chose Matthew 28:18-20 as my text. One of my former seminary profs is a “Matthean scholar” (meaning a scholar of the Gospel of Matthew), and studying under him led me into a fresh and profound sense of appreciation for the first Gospel. So I especially delighted in this sermon because it’s the fruit of a lot of study and reflection upon Matthew’s Gospel over the last few years.

Here are some of my favorite resources on Matthew and the Gospels in general:

Matthew 1-7, Volume 1 (International Critical Commentary), W.D. Davies and Dale Allison

The Gospel of Matthew (The New International Commentary on the New Testament), R.T. France

Studies in Matthew: Interpretation Past and Present, Dale Allison

Matthew: Evangelist and Teacher, R.T. France

Reading the Gospels Wisely: A Narrative and Theological Introduction, Jonathan Pennington

The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing: A Theological Commentary, Jonathan Pennington

“Core: Be Generous” (Luke 12:13-21, sermon audio)

In just a few weeks, I’ll reach my one year anniversary of being on staff here at Woodside Bible Church, Romeo. It’s been an awesome experience leading our student ministry (middle school, high school) and serving as an associate pastor for the church. One of my duties as an associate pastor is to preach once a month at our main worship services on Sunday mornings. I’ve added most of the audio for these sermons on the “Sermon” page of this blog. However, I also plan to add one blog post to share for each one.

The first sermon I preached was last March on Luke 12:13-21 and the topic of generosity. This sermon was a particularly unique experience being my first time preaching for Woodside Romeo. I feel like I was still “finding my voice” and getting comfortable in that space of worship. Also, my rhythm of preaching had been halted for some time, so I hadn’t preached a Sunday morning sermon in at least three months.

Another unique part of this message is that I preached it three times that morning! I had preached for churches that have two services on Sunday mornings, but Woodside Romeo has three Sunday morning services. So it was a particularly draining experience; however, it’s since come to be pretty normal for me. It’s almost hard to imagine going back to preaching just once on Sunday mornings.

Nevertheless, the text I preached from is powerful as Jesus makes a strong rebuke towards our covetousness. And the passage also includes a parable, so it was fun thinking through that I was worked toward crafting the sermon. I’ve included the text below in the English Standard Version:

13 Someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” 14 But he said to him, “Man, who made me a judge or arbitrator over you?” 15 And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” 16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

The Randy Alcorn book I cite is called The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving. It’s a helpful and concise study on a theology of wealth and possessions.

“The Blessed Depressed Man” (Psalm 6, sermon audio)

This past Sunday I was invited to fill in for Pastor Josh Hutchens and to preach at his church in Buffalo, Kentucky, Mt. Tabor Baptist Church.

As I’ve gotten opportunity to preach over the last year or so, I’m making my way through the Book of Psalms. And Psalm 6 was next in line. The experience of preparing and delivering this psalm was massively healing for me. I hope my message can be encouraging and instructive, but I also hope it will help my hearers appreciate and identify with the sufferings of Jesus. For as one commentator said, “We perceive the pathos of Psalm 6 most clearly when it is read in the context of the Passion.”

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger,
nor discipline me in your wrath.
Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing;
heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.
My soul also is greatly troubled.
But you, O Lord—how long?
Turn, O Lord, deliver my life;
save me for the sake of your steadfast love.
For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who will give you praise?
I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
My eye wastes away because of grief;
it grows weak because of all my foes.
Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.
The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled;
they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

“Prayer and Painful Relationships” (Psalm 4, sermon audio)

Below  is another sermon from the psalms that I preached at First Baptist Church, Washington, Michigan. This sermon was remarkably instructive and comforting for me. I find myself recollecting and re-meditating on insights I gathered from my time with this psalm.

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David.

Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!
    You have given me relief when I was in distress.
    Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!

O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?
    How long will you love vain words and seek after lies? Selah
But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself;
    the Lord hears when I call to him.

Be angry, and do not sin;
    ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.Selah
Offer right sacrifices,
    and put your trust in the Lord.

There are many who say, “Who will show us some good?
    Lift up the light of your face upon us, O Lord!”
You have put more joy in my heart
    than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep;
    for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

“Contending for the Kingdom through Prayer” (Psalm 5, sermon audio)

On the first Sunday of the new year, I had the opportunity to preach Psalm 5 at First Baptist Church, Washington, Michigan. This psalm was the first one I’ve preached that might be called an imprecatory psalm. This type of psalm is one in which the words of the prayer include requests that the wicked be damned. The text of the psalm and the sermon audio are below.

To the choirmaster: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.

Give ear to my words, O Lord;
consider my groaning.
Give attention to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you do I pray.
O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you[a] and watch.

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil may not dwell with you.
The boastful shall not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
You destroy those who speak lies;
the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.

But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house.
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in the fear of you.
Lead me, O Lord, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.

For there is no truth in their mouth;
their inmost self is destruction;
their throat is an open grave;
they flatter with their tongue.
Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy,
and spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may exult in you.
For you bless the righteous, O Lord;
you cover him with favor as with a shield.

The First Scrooge

This is an Advent meditation I wrote at the invitation of Dan Dumas. It was originally posted on his blog earlier today.

———————–

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!”

“Bah! Humbug!”

“Christmas a humbug, uncle! You don’t mean that, I am sure?”

“I do. Merry Christmas? What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.”

These words are taken from the opening dialogue in Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol. From the beginning, the story’s main character, Ebenezer Scrooge, is depicted as a man who loathes Christmas. For Scrooge the holiday brings about a torrent of inconveniences. His employees want the day off; local charities want his money; and the cheerful spirit of the season only annoys him. So Scrooge concludes the dialogue with his nephew, “If I could work my will, then every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

Dickens’ indignant and heartless character seems to be contrary to everything we associate with Christmas. However, the first Advent included its own Scrooge figure. Matthew writes of him in his Gospel:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this he was troubled…”

So the wise men are eager and aggressive in their efforts to seek out the new born king and to worship him. But King Herod responds to the report of a new king with Scrooge-like resentment. Herod is troubled; he’s annoyed; he’s bothered. Why? Because Herod the king knows that a new born king of the Jews means that his own kingdom has been invaded. The Advent of a new king means the expulsion of the old king. Herod loathes Christmas.

The kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of me

The Advent dilemma that faced Herod is the same one that faces us today, every day. Will we joyously pursue the reign of Christ over our lives, as did the wise men? Or will we selfishly resist God’s heavenly invasion into our world, as did Herod? To embrace the kingdom of heaven is to repudiate the kingdom of me. To embrace the coming Christ is to crucify the autonomous self. Herod knew this. Herod hated this. And his lust for self-rule evolved from being troubled (Matthew 2:3), to being deceptive (2:7), to being murderous (2:16), as Herod slaughtered countless children in his hunt for the new born king. Herod proves to us that stiff-arming the reign of King Jesus is not without its ramifications. The kingdom of me comes undone through our humble submission before Christ’s throne, or it unravels in the moral, spiritual, and social decay that follows our rebellion.

Ebeneezer Scrooge learned this same lesson. By witnessing the sorry life he’d lived (the ghost of Christmas past), the pain he was causing others (the ghost of Christmas present), and his sad death to come (the ghost of Christmas future), Scrooge at last yielded to the spirit of Christmas and opened his heart in love to those around him. Scrooge was finally able to let go of control, especially over his money. He was finally able to give up his rights, specifically over his employees. And this led to a kind of prosperity Scrooge had never known when he sat selfishly on the throne of his life. Scrooge’s happy-ending experience is captured in Jesus’ beatitude, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).

So how do you respond when you think about the new born king invading your life, your world? Are you troubled along with Herod? This Christmas I encourage you to meditate on the disastrous path of self-rule. And contemplate the true blessedness that comes from joyful worship that puts Jesus at the center of your life. Ask yourself, How am I resisting God’s rule in my life? Where are selfish attitudes and actions showing up? What is my joy-level like when it comes to laying down my rights for the sake of others?

In coming before our King with honesty and humility about our lust for control, there is forgiveness and freedom. May this Christmas season be one of joining the wise men in self-abandonment and rabid seeking after the kingdom of Christ.