Leaving Out Hours of Preaching

As I learned to preach – and I guess, to be honest, I’m still learning – one of my mentors told me, “Good preachers know what to put into their sermons. Great preachers know what to leave out.” In agreement to this pithy little proverb, I have always labored to streamline my sermons so that they are laser-focused on the main idea of the text. In order to do so, however, I end up leaving out mountains of thrilling, Christ-exalting, and disciple-edifying comments every. single. week.

This past week’s sermon, “Jesus Above All” from Colossians 1:15-23 was no exception. In fact, this one particular text is so rich with Christological implications, that from my vantage point, limiting the coverage to just one sermon can’t help but rob the text of its fullest tribute to our Lord Jesus. What a tremendous hymn! So, just to whet your appetite regarding this passage, I’ll give you some of the spade-work I did for this text, line by line.


Refocus 2018

I will sing unto the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously…  (Exodus 15:1)

I am still overwhelmed by the events of last night. It was cold. The Panthers were playing the NFL Wild Card Playoff game on television. It was Sunday night. And yet, more people gathered in our Fellowship Hall than I had ever seen there before. Most of our folks showed up for the first of my annual encouragement/report/direction times that I call “Refocus.”

It was not just the size of the crowd, however, that overwhelmed me last night. I was overwhelmed at the goodness of God to First Baptist Concord. As I called our folks to celebrate what the Lord had done, the bigness of the moment moved me.


Making Disciples

All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

As a Christ-follower and a pastor, I want 2018 to be marked by my maturing and growing in Christ. I desire to lead our church to also mature and grow in grace as we walk with Him. I can’t really imagine any other reason for existing as a church or living as an individual.


New Year’s Resolutions

“My New Years resolution is to not get tricked into a diet” — @parker_snider (12/26/17)

We are in that “dead week” in between Christmas and New Year’s Day. Retailers are busy transitioning their displays from sweets and Christmas gifts to sweats and workout gear. Why? Because those of us that threw caution to the wind and ate all of the fudge in one sitting are now trying to figure out how to cut fifteen pounds by spring break. Enter the days of New Year’s resolutions.


A Christmas Note

She will bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. 

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased! 

The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end…. 


Just the Right Time    

At this time of year I often am drawn to Galatians 4:4, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law….” I love that phrase “the fullness of time.” In this case, it means at “just the right time.” God had set the conditions for Jesus’ birth, life, death, and resurrection. He combined Jewish zealotry, Roman roads, and the Koine Greek to set the stage for Jesus’ acts and for the rapid spread of the Good News.


A Pastor’s Plea

I’m a pastor. (“Gump, you’re a genius!”) No, I don’t mean that my job description says “Senior Pastor,” although it does. I mean that when God put me together—temperament, personality, life experiences, calling, and spiritual giftedness—He built a pastor. The thing about being put together as a Pastor is that I can never shut it off. Every situation in which I find myself the sheepdog in me is constantly herding the sheep. (Remind me to tell you about Kimber, my Australian Shepherd, and her constant herding instinct.)


On the Move

Something happened yesterday during the invitation to respond to God’s Word. I did not expect it. I was not looking for it. I had never experienced anything like it. But, it happened.

I was attempting to clarify the invitation to respond. You know,

“If you’ve never repented of your sins and trusted in Christ’s death for you, His burial,

and His resurrection, Come to Jesus.”

“If you know Jesus, but have been living for yourself, repent and walk with Jesus.”

“If you’re looking for a church home, and believe that God has led you here, come

and join us.”


A Song in My Mouth

I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry. He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the LORD.                                                              (Psalm 40:1-3)
In many ways, Psalm 40 describes my experience with the Lord better than any other. I’m very sensitive (responsive?) to this Psalm and love its various renditions. The superstar rock band U2 put Psalm 40 to music, and it has appealed to me since I was a teen. The Christian singing group Newsong did one as well, and right this very minute their version is echoing through the corridors of my mind. I love this Psalm; it delights my soul.


A Little Help with Christmas Music

I recognize that the real debate over Christmas music revolves around the question, “When is it appropriate to begin listening to the carols?” Many folks, Christians included, engage in this discussion, arguing for after Halloween, or the day after Thanksgiving, or (my favorite) all year ‘round. I confess that it is really weird to hear “Let it Snow” at a gas station on the first day of November.