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“Of Chickens and Country Music” (1 John 4:7–9)
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This autobiographical sermon stems from my college days. The summer before college I worked as a painter at the Marshal Durbin Poultry Factory in Hattiesburg, MS. That experience I never will forget. I was “saved” from that job by William Minter, a private painting contractor of Petal, MS. William taught me the trade of painting and practical lessons of life. One of the greatest insights I ever had on the job came through the misery of trying to abide that country music that always blared from William’s old, beat up radio.
“The Lost Son” (Luke 15:11–32)
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Calling this parable “The Prodigal Son” misses the point. Jesus began the parable, “A certain man had two sons.” The question is, Who is really lost here? The younger son who wanders away but comes home, or the mad, older brother standing outside the celebrating household refusing the father’s invitation to go inside? Like someone driving in an unfamiliar city without a GPS navigational system listening to the passenger complaining, “ We’re just going in circles!” to which the driver responds, “Well, who is really lost here? You’re the one with the map!”
“Keep Yourselves from Idols” (1 John 5:1–21)
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In my first opportunity to preach in chapel soon after arriving on the seminary campus, I wanted to speak personally and confessionally to establish a connection with the student body I was teaching. I chose to do an autobiographical sermon because my journey back to my alma mater and the New Orleans campus was more a spiritual move than physical. In my seven years doing Baptist Campus Ministry work at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, I learned a priceless truth about how we should handle the call of God on our lives.
“The Whispering Wind” (John 3:1–21)
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Several of my sermons actually are stories. I invent fictive, first-century plots based upon features of a biblical text to bring out points from the text dramatically. One example of a story sermon is “The Whispering Wind.” This sermon is based on the encounter of Jesus and Nicodemus in John 3. The scene is set in the Garden of Gethsemane on the slopes of the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. I had a chance to visit the actual garden and view the olive trees there, some of which may be thousands of years old.
“The Third Nativity” (Rev 12:1–18)
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Many people are familiar with the two nativity narratives about the birth of Jesus in the two Gospels of Matthew and Luke. All of our imagery for Christmas pageants derive from these two sources. What most people do not realize is that the Bible actually has three nativity narratives. The third nativity is the story in Revelation 12. We do not recognize this story as a nativity story because Christmas here is cloaked in apocalyptic language. John subverts ancient redeemer myths traditionally told in dragon language to speak of the world’s true Redeemer.
“Live Worthy” (Phil 1:27–30)
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The story behind the story is the exegesis of Paul's letter to the Philippians. The story behind the story of Philippians is the story of the Roman history of Philippi and of Paul's Second Missionary Journey. Luke’s account in Acts tells about this Second Missionary Journey and how the Macedonian Vision at Troas puts Paul on track and launches the gospel mission to another continent. Paul's first stop is Philippi, a thoroughly Roman city whose Roman history and Roman culture has everything to do with the meaning of Paul's exhortations to Philippian believers.
“A Crisis of Character” (Acts 15:36–41)
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Character development is crucial to understanding the plot of a story. Acts is a narrative, and Luke has paid careful attention to character development in order to build his plot. Paul’s fight with Barnabas over John Mark is another opportunity to watch Luke use character development as part of his brilliant narrative technique. How he develops the two characters of Joseph-Barnabas and Saul-Paul is a fascinating revelation of plot trajectories that play out to the very end of Acts. (For a streaming video of the message, click here.)
“Hear the Angels Sing” (Luke 2:1–20)
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The TV special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2015. Charlie Brown asks, “Is there anyone who can tell me what Christmas is all about?” Young Linus explains by reciting Luke 2:8–14. The message of the angels is in the song they sing of peace on earth, good will toward all. Luke carefully sets that message in the context of the Roman empire and its competing gospel of peace on earth and its savior, Augustus. What competing gospels today drown out the angels’ song? (For a streaming video of the message, click here.)
“A Gift Unopened” (Luke 2:1–20)
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“A Gift Unopened” is a Christmas story that moves from a modern Christmas morning opening Christmas presents back in time to a shepherd, a master, a lamb, and a magical night. Shealtiel the faithful shepherd saves to buy his freedom through the magnificent sheep, Mattan, and finds his story woven into the greatest story ever told. (For a streaming video of the message, click here.)
“Heaven’s Savior” (Rev 5:6–7)
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“Heaven’s Savior” is a sermon on John’s image of a “slaughtered lamb standing” in Rev 5:6 as the premier key to all images and visions of the book of Revelation and its theology answering the crucial question, “How does God conquer evil in the world?” The message challenges futurist visions of nuclear meltdown as God’s way of conquering evil in the world. (For a streaming video of the message, click here.)
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