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Believing God's Power (1 Kings 18:20-39)

This week we begin a new sermon series based on the ministry of Elijah the prophet, called "Victory in Faith." God offers us faith as a gift of the Holy Spirit, through which we may obtain victory in many ways. Through our faith, God's grace saves us. And by our faith and our obedience, God gives us the power to do the impossible. In the case of Elijah, it was his faith that allowed him to claim victory over the prophets of Baal who had infiltrated the nation of Israel through King Ahab's wife, Jezebel. When we believe God's power, we can do the impossible for the glory of God.

Recorded at Hudson UMC on May 29, 2016

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The Godhead, Three in One (John 16:12-15)

The doctrine of the Trinity is confusing for even long-time Christians, and is often a stumbling block for those who do not believe. We say we worship one God, and yet we speak of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each as God but not three Gods. We have names for the Trinity like the Godhead, and we speak of one God in three persons. So how does the doctrine of the Trinity actually reveal God in all His glory? How do the interpersonal relationships between the three persons of the Godhead really work? We will look at all of these questions and more on this Trinity Sunday.

Recorded at Ebenezer UMC on May 22, 2016

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Prayer for Peace

As we look at the cycle of violence and how it has been escalating over the past few years, with the inception of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to police killings in Fergusson and Cinncinati, it's hard not to become disheartened and disillusioned over the moral state of humanity, especially in the United States. Our culture has become so enamored of guns that it has risen to the level of fetishism. Yet we defend our right to bear arms and protect ourselves, even as we continue to kill each other at an alarming rate. In today's podcast, I'm presenting not a sermon, but a prayer. This prayer and its introduction I gave at the July 10th service at Ebenezer United Methodist Church. I just felt that it was important to address these issues in a timely manner, and to remind ourselves that while prayer is needed, it also needs to be backed by action.

Recorded at Ebenezer UMC on July 10, 2016

Cycle of Violence (July 8, 2016)

I haven't done this before, but I felt like I needed to put a special message out there given the recent events transpiring in the United States. The us-vs-them mentality and cycle of violence has to end, and in the end it will not be about who is physically stronger.

Recorded on July 8, 2016.

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Have You Told Anyone? (Acts 2:1-21)

We come to the end of our sermon series based upon the baptismal vows of the United Methodist Church, and we come also to the biggest baptism recorded in the Bible. Pentecost was a Jewish holy day and feast celebrating the harvest, but on this particular Pentecost the Holy Spirit filled the disciples and they went out into the streets of Jerusalem proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. In our baptismal vows, we look at the five vows we make when we join the local church - to uphold it with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. And on this Pentecost Sunday we focus on our witness, and how we can tell the good news with courage and conviction, especially in today's increasingly secular society.

Recorded at Hudson UMC on May 15, 2016

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Faith in the Scriptures (Acts 16:16-34)

On this Mother's Day we continue our sermon series based upon the vows of our Baptismal covenant. We'll look at how the faith of Paul and Silas affected so many people around them, people to whom they may not have even spoken directly about Jesus Christ. We also see the promise of Paul to the Roman Jailer, that if he believes on the Lord Jesus Christ then he will be saved - he and his entire family. Our faith certainly affects the faith of those around us, particularly our families. So we'll also take a short departure and recognize some of the women of faith in our families, to recognize how they have formed and shaped our faith.

Recorded at Ebenezer UMC on May 8, 2016.

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Loyal to Christ (Acts 16:6-15)

As we continue to look at our baptismal vows against the backdrop of the book of Acts, we come to this vow: Will you be loyal to Christ through the local church and do all in your power to strengthen its ministries? Today's scripture contains the account of Paul and Silas and how they were prohibited by the Holy Spirit from going into areas where they thought were most in need of the Gospel. Instead, the Spirit led them to Philipi, a Roman colony with only a small Jewish population. And sometimes when we think we are doing what God is calling us to do, God stands in the way and says "no." At times like this, it's difficult to be obedient and not second-guess God. But we must be loyal to Christ in all we do.

Recorded at Hudson UMC on May 1, 2016.

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Freedom and Power (Acts 11:1-11)

We continue to take a fresh look at our baptismal vows against the backdrop of the formation of the early Christian church. When we think of sin we rarely think of anything like freedom or power. Yet our baptismal vow today asks if we accept the freedom and power God gives to us to resist evil, injustice and oppression. That sounds like quite a good deal for us - freedom and power offered as a gift from God. Yet it also comes with a caveat - that we take that freedom and power to resist. The story of the Apostle Peter's evangelistic work with the gentile family of Cornelius is our framework.

Recorded at Ebenezer UMC on April 24, 2016.

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Brock Turner and the Rape Culture

I've probably spent a lot more time thinking about Brock Turner in the last two days than I'd like to. In fact, that I spend any time at all thinking about this young man makes me turn a slightly pinker shade than normal. Just the name alone ranks up there with a litany of social miscreants that I'd rather not think about, if I can help it.

But Brock's name is not the only name I keep thinking about.

I also keep thinking about Dan Turner, Brock's father, who released an open letter lamenting the treatment of his poor, poor boy.

I keep thinking about Judge Aaron Persky who sentenced a 20 year-old man convicted of three counts of sexual assault to 6 months in county jail and probation, because he didn't want to adversely affect this young man's future prospects.

I keep thinking about the defense attorney, who went after the credibility of the victim and tried to brand her rescuers as meddling and confused.

But mostly I keep thinking about the girl.

You remember the girl, right? She was the one that Brock raped while she was unconscious behind a dumpster. She's the one who had something taken from her forever, something that no father or judge can ever give back, even if they did seek some cartoonish semblance of justice on her behalf.

And yet Brock still, to this day, has not admitted that what he did was wrong. He blames it on the party scene at Stanford. He plans on going round other campuses and telling others about the evils of alcohol. In other words, he still doesn't get it.

And yet, I can't help but think that Brock Turner is not an aberration. That he is simply a product of the current rape culture in our society.

This culture has been cultivated over the past five decades or so. It began with the free love movement of the 1960s. The prevailing worldview from that movement can best be summed up in the words of the Crosby, Stills and Nash song: "If you can't be with the one you love, Honey, love the one you're with." Promiscuity became the standing order; sexual boundaries were dropped in favor of doing whatever with whomever, wherever and whenever one pleased. Gone were the stuffy rules of religion. They just hold us back from our freedom.

In the 1970s we saw the legalization of abortion and the widespread use of the birth control pill. Both of these actions effectively removed all responsibility from men who could now have sex with a long parade of girls and face absolutely zero consequences, outside of the occasional STD, which were very treatable by that point. That is, until the end of the decade.

The 1980s saw the rise of a new STD called Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, which led to full-blown Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. In the 1980s, just being diagnosed HIV-positive pretty much meant a death sentence. It's only been in the past 20 years or so that treatment options have become better, to the point where people can live normal lives despite being HIV-positive for many years and even decades.

The 1990s saw an increased awareness of date-rape and it seemed as though we might be headed in the right direction with the "no means no" campaign. However, as I will point out in a minute, that campaign has actually turned up the rape culture as it still puts the responsibility square on the shoulders of the victim. But we began to teach young men that it didn't matter what a woman wore, or whether she had been drinking, that if she didn't give explicit consent to sex, then no means no.

Enter the 2000s and the explosion of the online porn industry. Pornography, previously relegated to the magazine racks behind the counter at the 7-Eleven, was now incredibly easy to obtain for anyone, with or without a credit card, with or without proof of age. A generation of boys had every conceivable act at their fingertips on the family computer, and very few parents did anything to restrict their movement in cyberspace, simply because they either didn't know about it or didn't know how to filter it.

So that brings us to today, and it brings us to Brock Turner. When you add up all the columns from each of the decades this is what you get: women have been, increasingly, seen as objects of sexual gratification by boys, who have grown into men. They watch other men abusing these women and the women turn to the camera and smile through the abuse. It's all just fun, isn't it? And if the woman is on birth control, why, that simply means that she likes sex. And if the woman is pro-choice, why that means that she'll take care of any of the mess left behind. And if we contract HIV, no biggie, because medicine is advancing all the time and who knows, but they might find a cure any day now. And here's the topper: if the girl is drunk, she can't say no, and no no is as good as a yes.

That, my friends, is the prevailing ideology of the current rape culture in a nutshell. Men are sexual beasts and need to be satisfied any way they can. And if they go too far, no worries, they'll probably find an Aaron Persky to give them a slap on the wrist. Their father will probably write a heartfelt letter garnering sympathy from the public. But by all means, our young men are not held accountable for their actions. Boys will be boys.

Tell that to the girls.

Here's what I have to say. It doesn't matter how she dresses. It doesn't matter if she is drunk. It doesn't matter if she's on birth control. It doesn't matter if she's pro-choice. It doesn't matter if she's had sex before. It doesn't matter if she says she likes sex, because it doesn't mean she likes or wants sex WITH YOU. A woman's body is first and foremost her own. But it's not just up to me to say. We have a generation of boys that we need to drill this into before they grow up to become men. We have a responsibility to show these young men just how precious and unique and incredible these young women are. We need to show them in the way we treat our wives that women are to be loved and cherished, not abused and discarded. That the right woman will become the one and only precious gift of God, the only one with whom you can share that intimacy that God offers to us in the marital bed. Until we can teach boys that women are not sex toys, and that they need to take responsibility for their actions, we will continue to foster the rape culture until it morphs into the next thing, whatever that may be. And there will be more and more Brock Turners and Dan Turners and Aaron Perskys to follow.

To Brock I have this to say: What would you have done if some guy had done that to your sister?

To Dan I have this to say: Would you still be concerned about the young man's future if it had been your daughter behind that dumpster?

To the defense attorney I have this to say: If that had been your daughter, would you have spoken to her as you did to the victim on the witness stand?

To Aaron Persky I have this to say: When Brock gets out after serving his sentence, will you sleep well at night knowing he's out there, on the streets, potentially finding his next victim? You won't have long to think about that question. He'll be out soon.

And to every young man in college or even high school I have this to say: treat women the way you'd want a man to treat your sister, with love and respect and gentleness.

Until we can change the way young men look at women, we will never change the rape culture, and we will increasingly continue to see stories like this one.

Faithful Service (Acts 9:36-43)

We continue in our examination of our Baptismal vows in the United Methodist Church as we look at the account of the raising of Tabitha from the dead by the apostle Peter. The beginning of our Christian walk is trust in Jesus Christ as our savior, but it doesn't end there; we also promise to serve him as Lord. The problem for the modern church, especially in America, is that we have no point of reference for what it means to serve a lord, and why our commitment to the Lord of lords is so much greater than any earthly ruler. We'll look at what that means and how Christians today can live in faithful service to Jesus Christ as their Lord.

Recorded at Ebenezer UMC on April 17, 2016

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