Read Matthew 7:24-29 to start.
The wise man
built his house upon the rock. That’s of course the title of a children’s song
we sing from time to time, it’s not one we trot out every single week or
anything, but I recall it being quite popular when I was Sunday School age. The
first two verses of that song are lifted wholesale from this passage of
scripture. Those two verses tell the story of prudent construction versus
unwise building methods, much as the parable we read to start does. It’s a
familiar account, and a familiar song, and it’s an easy to understand principle
as it applies both to building a house and to establishing your manner of
living. If you follow Christ, if you hear His words and decide to obey them, then
you will be established and sound. If you do not, then you will find yourself,
as Paul describes in Ephesians chapter four, tossed about by every wind of
doctrine. The wise man takes one approach, the foolish man a different one, and
the results speak for themselves.
Continue reading Blessings, Mercy, and Precipitation
Read Judges 17 to start.
We’ll get back to the story of Micah from mount Ephraim in a few minutes, but first, I’m going to talk about my backyard. I know, I know, it’s January, and there’s a foot of snow covering it, but I want to talk about that yard to start this morning. Most everyone here has been to my house I think, if not when it was my house then at some point over the past 30 years. So you’ve seen my backyard, even if you aren’t all that familiar with the back part of it. It’s a double lot, which is great for the kids to play in, but it takes a while to mow it all. The back portion, the area behind the row of pine trees, we call it the back forty, although it’s not even half of an acre, there’s really nothing back there apart from a little area where the kids attempted to plant a garden, a big bush at the back, and a whole lot of grass. I haven’t specifically gone out there with a tape and measured it, but it’s a lot of walking back and forth and back and forth when you mow it.
Continue reading Straight Lines
Read James 3:13 – 4:6 to start.
Before I get to
my topic for this morning, or rather as a lead up to it, I want to talk about
stupid internet memes. Specifically, I want to talk about Tide Pods, and the
eating of them. I wanted to bring one along this morning as a visual aid, but
we don’t actually use them at home, and I was hardly going to go and buy a box
of them to use as a prop. In short, Tide Pods, or for that matter other brands
of laundry pods, have become popular over the last several years because they
are really easy to use, no measuring required, just biff one of those puppies
into your washing machine and away you go. The fact that they look like candy
probably hasn’t hurt sales either. Of course, the fact that they look like
candy is also a big problem, because when something looks like candy there is a
temptation to eat it. About a year ago there was a trend of people posting
videos of themselves doing the so-called Tide Pod Challenge, which involved a
biting down on a laundry Pod and recording the results.
Continue reading Envy
Read 1 Corinthians 1:17-31 to start.
I’d like to start this morning by talking about a movie. You might be familiar with it, it was a highly successful film, although it’s certainly not recent. The movie is The Bridge on the River Kwai. It’s a war movie, set during WWII, quite a good movie, it won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, in 1958. I remember watching it years ago. While the movie is fictional, it does depict real some historical events, as it takes place during the building of the Burma Railway, which the Japanese built to assist the war effort in Southeast Asia in 1942-43. There was indeed a major railroad bridge built in the same area as the movie indicates.
If you haven’t seen the movie, or if it’s been a long time, as it has for me, here’s a brief summary. A group of British POWs are brought in to build a bridge as part of the railway. The highest ranking British officer, played by Alec Guinness, in an effort to demonstrate superiority to his captors, orders his men to build the best bridge they can. They protest, not wanting to help the enemy finish the railroad, but the officer insists. He points out this will demonstrate British ingenuity and skill, and he points out that the bridge will be used by locals for many years after the war is over. Why not built a bridge that will last? He sees this as a triumph of civilization over barbarism. Continue reading Priorities and Motivations
Read Genesis 2: 15-17
There are many words in the English language, something like 250,000 thousand, depending on how technical you want to get. Of those words, most adults know in the range of 25,000 to 30,000 on average, and children as young as four know roughly 5000 words. That’s a lot of words. This morning, though, there is one key word that I want to look at. It’s a common word, we use it every day. It’s only three letters long. The word is but. Continue reading But . . .
Read John 14:27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Not long ago I read an article about the end of the conflict in Columbia. Specifically, the article described it as the last armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere, and a peace deal brokered in 2016 was supposed to have brought an end to an internal war that had simmered since 1948.
The thought that once that peace deal was in place there would be no ongoing war in the Americas or the Caribbean was hailed by this article as a great accomplishment, something that we should be happy about, something that we should take as a sign of increasing peace throughout the world. Continue reading Peace and Rest
Read Ecclesiastes 1:12-2:11 to start
In the past I’ve preached sermons inspired by songs, by animals, by body parts, and on one occasion, by cookies. This morning my sermon arose from a picture I saw online not long ago. It was a picture of a bag of packing peanuts, you know, those white foam pellets that you sometimes find when you open a shipping box. We see a fair number of those at work, they are annoying and messy when you unpack a box. This was a picture of a medium sized bag of those, labelled “Void Fill” quite prominently. If you went and searched on google this morning you’d probably find the same picture in the first few results. What makes the picture memorable, and the inspiration for my sermon, is the caption that someone added – I had no idea you could buy this, I’ve been using alcohol all this time.
Continue reading The Emptiness Within
Read James 1:19-27 to start.
How do you feel about winter? Maybe you enjoy it. Maybe you endure it and just hold on waiting for spring. Even if you do like winter, I’m sure there are some aspects of winter that you don’t particularly appreciate. Myself, I don’t like the bitter cold, it bothers more than it used to. And I don’t like slush, it’s lousy to drive on, and worse to walk through. And I don’t like road salt. I appreciate that it serves a useful purpose, but when you’ve had a few cold days in a row and the trucks have been out salting the roads and the parking lots, then the salt gets everywhere. You drag it in on your boots, even if you are careful to wipe your feet. It gets all over the vehicles, and it gets all over your clothing. If you wear black pants in the winter, you know it’s only a matter of time until those white stains get all over them. Even if you are careful, the salt gets on you, and it leaves its mark. And you may not even realize it.
Continue reading Marked by the World
Read Acts 4: 32-5:11.
Some Bible stories are cheerful and pleasant. This is not one of them. The story of Ananias and Sapphira is a sobering account of the early church. We might read it and see it as a lesson on the dangers of greed and deceitfulness, and certainly, that would be correct. Ananias and Sapphira were undoubtedly greedy, and they were equally deceitful. They chose to sell their property, they chose to give money, and they chose to lie about it. Nothing in that is hard to understand or unfamiliar. The fact that they were so immediately and dramatically called out on their lie and instantaneously judged for it is what makes this passage particularly memorable. They say that if you can’t be a good example, you may instead serve as a horrible warning, and this couple did indeed do that. Continue reading Servants and Selfishness
Read Genesis 49:29-33, 50:22-26.
Is everyone familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe? Even if you’ve never actually read it, or if it’s been many years since you have, it is of course a very well known book. It is the best known book from The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, which is a series of seven books about people from this world who travel into a different dimension, into a land called Narnia. Perhaps you’ve read only the first book, or just a couple of them. Perhaps you’ve read them all. They come highly recommended.
I would give you a cautionary note, though, about the last book, entitled The Last Battle. It’s, how can I say it, it’s odd. I remember reading it when I was much younger, and finding it dark, somewhat disconnected with the other stories, and frankly, dissatisfying. While the Narnia books are allegorical fiction, and certainly not a text for Biblical instruction, The Last Battle also implies some rather questionable theology. It is not a strong end to an otherwise superb series. Continue reading Finishing Well