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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Living With Missionaries (Acts 10.24-44)

Sermon by: Robert Austell
August 23, 2009
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**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**
I want to begin with a story from my sabbatical – time in Nicaragua with Jason and Tiffany Hinton. I’ve written about this briefly on my blog, but want to re-tell the story this morning to illustrate an important teaching from scripture.

I’d like you to conjure to mind a picture of a missionary family serving God across the miles, in a far and unfamiliar location. Picture the kind of people whom you believe God would call to do such a thing.

The main question I want to ask this morning is, “What does it take to serve the Lord?”

The Missionary Pedestal

We were at the volcano crater lake at the "Monkey Hut." The water was as clear as a swimming pool, with strange currents of warm water swirling about because of the underground heat source. Tiffany and her family were out in the water with me when she started making a ruckus (I chose that description because she would probably be mad if I called it "shrieking"… I also admit I am prone to exaggerate for a good story.) Nonetheless, the way Tiffany (the mom) was jumping around and ruckus-ing, you would have thought a 75 lb. volcano fish was trying to swallow a toe or something. I came over to see what was wrong and she was backing away from this little green fish the size of a goldfish. She said she wasn't used to seeing the fish in the water she swam in. And here's the key line... I said, "I think you've just fallen off the missionary pedestal."

By that, I meant the mental picture I had of her as the Queen of the Amazon... the super-missionary-mom who single-handedly raises children and orphans, cooks, cleans, walks miles barefoot to the store, etc., etc... And here she was scared of a little fish.

Now two things need to be said. Tiffany is an amazing mom and super-capable; but, she is just as "normal" as any mom I know who also has to juggle family, house-keeping, work, and a hundred other things. In other words, without taking away from all her REAL talents, the fish-episode was a good reminder that simply being a missionary or living in Nicaragua "for God" doesn't give her super-powers.

This observation was made more real by spending a week in the Hinton's home. I’m not saying that the place was a wreck, the kids little monsters, or any such thing. My point is that their home and family were really not substantially different than mine or yours. And that leads to the point I want to make.

You'd think I wouldn't have had to learn that lesson... because people put pastors and their families on a similar pedestal. But guess what? My kids fight, I lose my temper, I'm scared of bugs, and sometimes over-extend my credit card. I get depressed, afraid, intimidated, and struggle with the same things you do... as do these dear missionary friends.

And here's my point... not so much about us as about those with ears to hear. We (missionaries and pastors) are not super-Christians. We're not even super-people. We are normal people trying to serve God in specific ministry settings. And God asks each of us to serve Him... in different settings. The point is that going to another country or going into ministry or becoming a super-Christian is not what it takes to serve God. It simply takes saying "Yes" to God.

One of the things I say about Good Shepherd is that we are ordinary people serving an extraordinary God. That was a lesson I experienced firsthand living and swimming with the Hintons, and it's really humbling and inspiring when it sinks in!

A Soldier’s “Yes”

I chose the story from Acts 10 because I believe it illustrates this same point. Cornelius was a Roman soldier, a centurion in charge of (actually) 60 men. He was part of the Italian cohort or regiment, consisting of 600 men or 1/10th of a legion. His was the position of a career soldier who worked his way up to his current position (rather than being assigned from noble birth). He is also described as being a God-fearer. That means he is interested in the God of the Jews and observing some of the Jewish religious practices.

There a number of interesting things about Cornelius and about this passage. The main point of it is to describe how God opens up the Gospel of Christ and the developing Church to those who are not Jewish by birth. That is a powerful and significant theme of God’s grace, but is not the point I am going to focus on this morning.

Rather, I chose Cornelius as the closest analogue I could find to you as Christian laypeople. He was not an Apostle, a Jew, a Rabbi, a priest, a scribe, or Pharisee. He had no special calling to be a “holy person” – but he was interested in the things of the Lord. He was interested in serving God.

I think it a peculiarity of our North American and Christian sub-culture that we have created this strange group of “professional Christians” like ministers and missionaries. That is not our Reformed heritage. The Reformation stressed the priesthood or service of ALL believers. And if we look closely at Jesus’ model for faith and service, it is not his way either. He cut against the grain of the professional religious folks like scribes and Pharisees and gathered around himself ordinary men and women: blue-collar laborers, accountants, homemakers, teenagers, and more than a few “less savory” characters like prostitutes and thieves.

Were they particularly gifted to be the first bearers of the Gospel? No... many lacked money or formal education. Was Cornelius particularly gifted to bear God’s message? No… he could command men and had leadership skills, but that is not what God asked him to do. God asked him to send for Peter, welcome him into his home, and receive a message from him.

Now, I will note that Cornelius used the skills and means at his disposal, for he “dispatched” (v. 8) several household servants and one of his soldiers to send for Peter. But the main thing God asked of him was obedience, hospitality, and receptiveness.

Cornelius did all that God asked and when Peter arrived, THAT was the moment and the context for the first great opening of the Gospel to the Gentile world. That was the beginning of the spread of Christianity beyond being a peculiar form of Judaism.

This is a long story and there are many rich details, but here’s the point I want to highlight this morning: Cornelius did not need special training or skills to serve God in this story. God asked for obedience, hospitality, and receptiveness. And Cornelius said, “Yes.”

He said, “Yes,” like Jason and Tiffany said, “Yes.”

What Does God Ask and How Will I Know?

I think a major hurdle that keeps us from serving God effectively is thinking, “I don’t have the skills.” I am not a musician or a Bible teacher or a preacher or a missionary. So I’ll attend church, be a good church member, and believe in God. Those are good things… like being a God-fearing soldier was. But Jesus’ constant call was not, “Believe in me,” but “Come, follow me.” His was a call and challenge to service. And he doesn’t just call to specially gifted or faith-filled… he calls all who will follow. What he asks of you is your “Yes.”

What is God asking of you? I don’t know specifically, yet I can say generally. God broadly asks all for the things he asked of Cornelius: obedience, hospitality, and receptiveness. I believe God broadly asks us all to go out into our community to be the face of Christ. We’re going to talk some more about that in the next two weeks. Sometimes, God asks for specific obedience, like to go somewhere or give up something. I’ve found that sometimes those specifics line up with my gifts and expertise and sometimes they line up with my weaknesses. I have found trusted Christian friends and mentors an excellent sounding board when I’m not sure whether something is a God-thing or a me-thing.

Finally, I believe that often, if not always, God’s honor and glory are at the center of our obedient service to God, or our “Yes.” That is because service is a form of worship and all true worship points to God. Don’t miss that at the heart of the Acts 10 story. Ultimately, that obedience and saying, “Yes” opened the door to a glorious summary of the Good News. It’s there in under ten verses (vv. 34-44), followed by a description of how God transformed the hearts of a whole household by the power of the Word and Spirit. Serving God starts with me saying, “Yes,” but ends up back with God being honored and praised.

The takeaway question for today is this: What might God be asking of you and are you willing to say, “Yes?” That’s what makes a true and effective Christian… not living in an exotic location or having “Reverend” before your name. Are you listening for God and willing to say, “Yes.” That’s what it means to follow Jesus. Amen.

See also this blog post: Living with Missionaries

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Opportunity: Freedom (Galatians 5.13-14)

August 16, 2009
Sermon by: Robert Austell
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**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

You were called to freedom – only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Galatians 5:13)

This summer, the session and congregation of this church gave me an extraordinary gift of freedom. If you are new here today or don’t know what I’m talking about, I was given twelve weeks of sabbatical – a rest from the work of pastor of this church, modeled after the biblical idea of Sabbath. In many ways, this gift also parallels God’s gift of grace to each of us. It was not required, surely extravagant, and not deserved so much as freely given.

I remember the months before the sabbatical, wondering how I should use that time. Truly, it was a gift of freedom, not unlike the freedom described in our text this morning.

More than a few neighbors and friends – maybe even some in the congregation – misunderstood. One neighbor persisted in calling it my “vacation.” Many other colleagues in ministry wondered where I’d travel and what I would do. But my perspective on the sabbatical was much closer to the talent challenge I gave the congregation in April. In fact, I called it the “sabbatical challenge.” What do you do when you receive an unexpected and freely given gift with spiritual purpose?

Today, and over the next few weeks, I’d like to share with you some of how I have used that freedom and rest from pastoral work, hopefully in ways that are more than just reporting, but are encouraging and illustrative to you of how we might respond to the grace and freedoms God has given us.

Sabbatical Challenge

The sabbatical offered significant freedom – freedom which could be used or squandered. As I prepared for the time, I asked myself many of the same questions I asked you for the talent challenge. What might this gift, breaking into my routine and habits, stir me to do in a new way? How could I add my own passions, gifts, and obedience to the initial gift of time off from being pastor? When the time was over, what might I bring back to the church, and more importantly, to the Lord?

I chose three areas, and God seemed to open the door to a related fourth. The three areas were writing and recording music, writing books, and focusing on personal health. The open door was an opportunity to teach for a week in Nicaragua at the Bible school where Jason Hinton is director. It was related because the course I taught overlapped the content of one of the books I was hoping to write.

I do have something to show for myself – a full-length CD in final stages of production; a book on worship written at the non-academic level; and somewhere between 25-30 lbs. of weight loss (at least before Bonclarken!). I will also admit to being driven for a while to be able to have something to show at the end.

Unfortunately, grace and freedom are not meant to be tied to performance and production. That’s one of the extremes warned about in this verse in Galatians. And we’ve talked about that before. Depending on your background and experience, you’ve probably experienced one extreme or the other. Grace and freedom can lead to what the Bible might call “licentiousness” – taking advantage of freedom to do anything you want. That is what this verse calls “turning freedom into an opportunity for the flesh.” But grace and freedom can be warped into “legalism” – that performance and production mentality that portrays God as the great test-giver. That, too, is turning freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, particularly when we then use the test-results as a means to control and judge each other.

Instead, the verse in Galatians portrays the purpose of grace and freedom as relational and other-focused. How can I love God? How can I love my neighbor? Grace and freedom are not about me – but are, in turn, to be given away.

So, hard-headed as this pastor can be, I am teachable. Around week six, when I was very discouraged over the lack of progress on my CD and how much time it was taking to do everything, I realized there was more important “fruit” of the sabbatical than coming up with gradable products at the end. That realization helped me break through the impasse and discouragement… and curiously enough to make significant progress on the various projects.

But here’s the real heart of what I bring back from the sabbatical – some lessons observed, experienced, and learned. These are the things I want to share over the next few weeks.

1. Serving God doesn’t require a specific skill set; it requires saying ‘yes’ to what God asks. I’ll look at Acts 10 with you and share about my time living with missionaries.

2. I’ve talked about it before – a lot! – but I was convicted more than ever that worship is a lifestyle. I want to look with you at what we do with the 24 hours in a day. We’ll look at Colossians 4 at open doors and making the most of the time God has given us.

3. We are to be a sent people, meeting people where they are as the face of Christ. This was our theme at Bonclarken this past weekend, and a vital mission God is putting before the church (not just our church – the whole Church). We’ll look at John 17 and Jesus’ prayer for us over that very point.

What Freedoms?

These experiences, along with the talent challenge and some of your responses to that, lead me to an extension of the verse in Galatians.

What freedoms do you have – either to squander or use in service to God and love of neighbor?

A sabbatical is a unique gift of time. And I hesitate to mention it in the same breath as unemployment, for it seemed particularly unfair to be paid when others are not. Nonetheless, work takes up so much time; if you are unemployed, what are you doing with the time? At one point, my father compared the sabbatical to retirement. If you are retired, what are you doing with the time?

Health is a significant freedom, as anyone with health challenges will tell you. What are you doing with the freedom of good health? Will you squander it or use it to serve God and love your neighbor?

Religious and civil freedoms are significant gifts we enjoy in our country, particularly when we understand how compromised and limited those freedoms are in much of the world. But how easy it is to squander those freedoms! We don’t talk about faith or Jesus because we think we don’t know enough or someone might ask a hard question. Some places, evangelism happens despite threat of death or imprisonment. How will you use your freedom?

Our freedoms are embarrassingly many, and this verse among the most convicting in all scripture. We have wealth, health, education, artistic and creative freedoms, access to Internet and amazing technology, leisure time, and the list goes on and on and on. Will we squander or waste those amazing freedoms? Will we serve God and love our neighbor?

The Greatest Freedom

Now I believe these are significant and practical challenges for us from this verse in Galatians. But what the writer has in mind here is an even greater freedom – and responsibility. I have named a number of little freedoms – and some are not so little. But Paul is writing about the greatest freedom and that is the forgiveness, grace, and new start we have through Jesus Christ.

And hear this carefully. This is not just the spiritual point tacked on to the end of a sermon. This is the heart of this verse and what I believe is the heart of our purpose as forgiven and loved children of God. This is the Good News, Gospel story in one sentence. The implied imagery of slavery that is the opposite freedom is a depiction of sin, brokenness, and self-centeredness. The freedom described here is God’s salvation – His releasing the captives for new life.

Paul’s appeal here is for us freshly freed prisoners not to waste the freedom and simply return to the life and ways that once enslaved us. Rather, God has set us free with purpose. All our freedoms are little reflections of this great freedom. Freedom does allow the potential of rejection and waste; but its purpose is life itself. In God’s economy, the purpose is life lived as love toward God and neighbor.

So ponder that deeply. I admit to you the ease with which I get distracted from this great purpose and calling. But it is one God calls us to again and again. And part of my charge as pastor is to issue that call to you again and again.

So hear the Good News: by God’s grace and through Jesus Christ, you are truly free!

Now go live as those God has declared you to be. Go forth to love God and love your neighbor. Amen.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Radical Forgiveness (Matthew 6, Acts 7)

August 9, 2009
Sermon by: Royallen Wiley, elder at Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church

download (click, then choose "save to disk" for playback on computer or iPod, or play sermon live in this window below - works in Firefox; IE users will have to use this last.fm link to hear streaming audio)

**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**

No manuscript available. Royallen was preaching at Good Shepherd while a number of the congregation and Pastor Robert were away at the annual church family retreat.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rich for What? (Luke 19:11-27)

August 2, 2009
Sermon by: Robert Austell

download (click, then choose "save to disk" for playback on computer or iPod, or play sermon live in this window below - works in Firefox; IE users will have to use this last.fm link to hear streaming audio)

**Sermon audio is also accessible as a free podcast in iTunes - search for "Good Shepherd Sermons or Robert Austell"**
It is wonderful to be back at church today. The past twelve weeks have been at times amazing, restful, challenging, frustrating, and fulfilling. I believe God has used all of it to refresh and revive me, and to awaken me to new lessons and vision He has for me and for us as a church community.

Today’s sermon will be a bit more sharing and storytelling, though I do want to root it in the parable you’ve heard read from Luke 19. A little different from the “Parable of the Talents” in Matthew 25, which is primarily about the suddenness of the Lord’s return, Luke 19 is a parable about how one will respond to the Lord in the “not yet” we find ourselves living in. In other words, the focus is moved back slightly from what happens when he returns to what we shall do in the meantime. In this parable, the emphasis is also more on the response to the Lord rather than the talents themselves.

I’d like to share some of the stories you have relayed to me about your own response to the “talent challenge” over the summer. I’d also like to share some with you today about some things I learned during the sabbatical related to my own talents and responding to the Lord. I’ve shifted from Matthew 25 to Luke 19 because I want to take our focus off the idea that some people have more gifts or talents and put it on to the question of what we are doing with what God has given us.

Further, the parable in Luke 19 identifies three groups: the faithful servants, the enemies of the Master, and the one servant who is “in the dark” about what it means to be faithful. In this parable it is the enemies that meet with judgment and we are left somewhat up in the air about the fate of the servant who is in the dark. I believe Jesus’ purpose in sharing this parable is that we might be called out of darkness into light and learn what it means to respond in faithfulness. So my hope in sharing some of these stories is to challenge and invite you out of any confusion and darkness into a more faithful response to God.

The Talent Challenge

Right before I left at the end of April, I issued the “talent challenge.” Each person present that day received a card with a challenge to use and multiply what they received for God’s Kingdom. I intentionally did not give examples so that people might not be boxed in. I’d like to share with you some of the stories relayed back to me. Note that this exercise (as well as the parable) is a metaphor. The point wasn’t to simply double the money and give it back; rather, it was to use it as one would use one’s own money, talent, or time, for the sake of something God is doing in the world. Each of these are wonderful examples and their variety is equally wonderful.

One person (and this one is hard to make anonymous) planned a missions benefit concert. He used the money he received to pay for the promotional materials. The concert is to benefit Francisco and Shirley Gross, GSPC-supported missionaries in Spain. In addition to organizing it, John added his own musical talents to the seed money. A love offering will be collected.

Another person, given $5.00, used money toward sending a child to summer camp at Good Shepherd preschool. Sometimes you don’t see the fruit of a gift like that, but in this case we heard that the child woke up every morning asking his mom, “Do I have camp today?”

Inspired by the knitting ministry that came from two of our members traveling to Nicaragua, another gift of $20 and some cloth material went to Tiffany Hinton to help her start a sewing ministry. That person also decided to “match the gift” and invested another $20 in Bank of America stock for Good Shepherd. In addition to the matching gift idea, this also was seen as a way to support our local community and economy in a small but representative way.

Another couple received $5. They wrote me, “We prayed and pondered what we could do to make it grow for God's kingdom. He gave us the answer via the 5 cents a meal offering the congregation participates in each month. We felt a burden for the hunger fund, especially because a number of people have lost and are continuing to lose jobs. We modeled our challenge on the hunger fund offering by deciding that we would increase it and call it "25 cents a deed." Every time we do something for someone (other than ourselves or each other), we put 25 cents in the box along with the $5 we were originally given. Whether we are doing something as simple as taking the neighbor's garbage out to the curb or driving a friend to the doctor or visiting someone at home or in a nursing home or taking a meal to someone, etc., we are depositing the 25 cents in the box each time. We are anxious to see how much we will have at the end of July. Funny thing about this, I received a request in the mail to fill out a TV survey ($5 was enclosed for completing it), so I did that, and then I was sent $10 for another very short one. We also deposited that $5 and $10 in our "25 cents a deed box."

I know those who received $5 (including my family) were often stumped at what could be done with so little. I thought this was a very thoughtful use of that money!

Another person shared the temptation to just spend the money on weekly needs like groceries or gas, but left the money set aside in the envelope. After seeing a notice in the Voice for the youth mission trip fundraiser, she came to the pancake breakfast and car wash. She found the conversation with church friends and youth a great blessing and decided to give the original $5 plus $5 for each youth she met and spoke with that morning. I can only imagine, then, as the youth return and report on their experiences the wonderful feedback of hearing the fruit of this investment!

One person who received $50 responded to a newsletter from GSPC missionaries, Phil and Arleen Blycker. In that newsletter they were looking for donations to purchase a third octave for a set of hand chimes. Because of an interest in music and the wonderful way music can spread the work of the Lord, she donated her talent challenge money to that program. They were seeking $500 and had a promise of $50 so now they only need $400.

One person who received $5 decided to purchase organic green peppers and then plant the seeds. That person shared several setbacks and some of the learning process. He wrote, “I was hoping to demonstrate that with a little personal effort, we can take something we already buy then take the parts we don't use and multiply the return. Sometimes I think children and teenagers feel like they can't do as much because they can't get jobs, drive, etc. So I was hoping to do something that everyone could do and had a measurable return. After all, who doesn't like a plant full of free $2 green peppers they would normally buy anyway? I'm hoping to be able to share a lot of the fruits with people I feel may be having a difficult financial time. I can't say that the concept of seed money wasn't an influence as well. What I’ve learned from my failures are far more valuable lessons than what I've learned from successes.” Even beyond these wonderful lessons, he went on to write, “As you may already be imagining, my involvement in "organic gardening" has already blossomed into experimentation, several new acquaintances in the industry and several ideas that have evolved from the root idea. I think the developments over the next few months will be exciting.

Those are some amazing doors opening from a very simple use of a $5 gift. (I wish I had been that clever!)

Another person gave $50 to Samaritan’s Purse after looking through one of their catalogues. That amount went to a program to “Train a Believer to Preach the gospel.” She wrote, “It is my belief that by using the funds in this manner, the Gospel can be spread to people throughout the world who will hear God’s Word and learn of His never-ending love for us.” Again, this is one of those examples where we may never see the fruit of the planting, but through trusted ministries like Samaritan’s Purse, a long-time mission of Good Shepherd, we can support God’s work in the world.

Another person shared that she tithed a portion of her $20 gift back to the church and used the rest to sponsor a friend in a fund-raising marathon. Challenging other friends to match her gift, the support level is already over five times her initial gift.

I imagine there are others who have not shared their stories, some who have forgotten about it, and others who still have the talent challenge money and can’t think what to do with it. So let me share one more story about the talent challenge before briefly sharing about the sabbatical.

The Austell family received $5. That’s $1 per family member. We had a discussion after church and had five ideas (at least), from planting a tree to subsidizing a lemonade stand to giving a waitress an extra tip. And as of today, we haven’t done anything. If all this storytelling has made anyone feel guilty… just know that you are in good company with the pastor’s family! The point is not guilt, and the story isn’t over!

Sabbatical Stories (left out of the actual sermon)

I will be sharing much more about the sabbatical over the coming weeks. Today I’d like to share three things particularly related to the “talent challenge.” I’m not sure what to make of the first servant returning ten minas and the second returning five. In this account the first receives words of praise, though both are rewarded proportionally. Those are probably details that should not be allegorized into precise parallels for us. And maybe there is no real distinction that should be made. But, I would like to differentiate between the two, if not in the parable, then in my own experience.

There may be a “ten mina” area in your life. This is probably where you’ve had the most “success” in honoring God. Maybe you volunteer at church or you’ve used your musical talents or you fix things for people or you are a good friend in need. And you get positive feedback and appreciation. For me, this is music. I legitimately recognize that I have musical gifts, and by and large, I use them to honor God. One of the real joys of the sabbatical was getting to spend a lot of time on musical projects. I hope to have a full-length CD ready by mid-September. It was such a gift to be able to spend significant time on that rather than bits and pieces here and there. And there’s no punch line here, no secret gotcha. A good starting place for following Jesus is in the area where you are long-suited. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? Can you envision a way to use that in service to God? The biggest challenge here is that these are sometimes the areas where it is easiest to seek our own success rather than God’s. Music is also where it would be easiest for me to seek a name for myself. It’s my “ten mina” challenge. What is yours?

Much more common are “five mina” areas in the life of a Christian. These are areas that don’t seem so explicitly God-related. So, you’re great in sports… how do you serve God with that? Maybe church softball? Or you are great with numbers – what, should you help the ushers count money? Other “five mina” areas might be undiscovered or unexplored talents. For me, teaching and writing fall into this category. Sure, I teach here on Wednesday nights, but that’s a certain format that I worked at and have a handle on… maybe about 5 minas worth. J But then Jason Hinton asked me to come teach for a week at the School of the Bible. It was over twenty hours… and through a translator. That was neither an obvious choice nor on my list of top twenty adventures. And yet, I learned so much from that experience! Sometimes it is these “five mina” areas that are the most transforming spiritually, as we say ‘yes’ to God for something about which we would normally say ‘no.’ Are you willing to think outside the box and see where you might serve God in some “five mina” areas of life?

Finally, in the parable in Luke 19, the third servant mentioned had not done anything with his one mina. He is not lumped in with the enemies of the Master, but has missed the main assignment.

This is our “one mina challenge.” While many of us may not be in the dark about God’s love and salvation through Jesus Christ, we are pretty much in the dark about what it means to live life as a Christian. It’s easy enough to go to church on some kind of regular basis or read the Bible from time to time, but it really hasn’t clicked about what it means to LIVE life as a follower of Jesus Christ. If you are still sitting on your talent challenge like the Austell’s, don’t worry… it’s just a metaphor. Don’t get stuck on that particular assignment… it’s just a metaphor to point us to this bigger reality. Do hear the challenge for the bigger reality: for life. This connects to the rich biblical teaching on worship as all of life. We are here – here on this earth – for the glory of God. Another way of saying that is that all of life belongs to God. Worshiping God or living as a Christian is very marginally about sitting in a worship service one day a week. One of the most important things you can get from being in here is the reminder that God is concerned about all that out there. So hear the challenging news from Luke 19 – God is interested in and desirous of all of that out there. Start asking the questions; start really challenging yourself – what does it mean for all of my life to belong to God? Don’t hide part of your life in the handkerchief, whether out of fear, selfishness, or confusion. Don’t live in the dark. Here is your life and all God has given you; how will you respond?

Main Idea and Challenge

The main idea of this parable and the talent challenge is this biblical reality: God has entrusted each of you with a wealth of talents for His glory. What will you do with that wealth? How will you respond?

Sabbatical Preachers - 12 sermons from the Psalms

Please enjoy these sermons from elders, staff, and friends of Good Shepherd. I'll include a brief bio next to each one.

Rather than posting streaming audio here for each one (not even sure we could)... use this one link to
last.fm link to access one page with all these sermons. That page will stream audio and allow you to download to your hard drive for later listening.

Psalm 57 - Let Your GLory Be Over All the Earth - Jason Hinton audio
Jason grew up at Good Shepherd and is a missionary in Nicaragua with Youth with a Mission (YWAM). He directs the "School of the Bible" Bible school there, the only one of its kind currently in the world (there are a number of them in English).
John 6 - Let's Pass the Test - Royallen Wiley
Royallen is an elder and frequent Sunday school teacher at Good Shepherd.
Psalm 50 - I Will Not Forget You - Kathy Larson audio
Kathy has been on staff at Good Shepherd for ten years, first as youth director and more recently as Director of Christian Education and Creative Arts. She completed her M.A. in Old Testament (thesis out of the book of Leviticus). She also has written a number of original full-length plays for Good Shepherd Theater.
Psalms 1,2 - Oh, the Blessings - guest preacher audio
Our guest preacher grew up at Good Shepherd, an active participant in the youth ministry. He has recently completed his M.Div. at Southeastern Baptist Seminary and is preparing to move around the world to pursue God's calling. He may indeed hold the record for the longest sermon preached at Good Shepherd, though this one is not the one. :)
Psalm 32 - The Attitude of Forgiveness - Bill Katibah audio
The Rev. Dr. William G. Katibah, Jr. is the founding pastor and pastor emeritus of Good Shepherd Presbyterian Church. After planting the church and pastoring it for 22 years, he retired to other pastoral work within the presbytery. Currently, and for the past several years, he has served as parish associate at Carmel Presbyterian Church.
Psalm 62 - My Rock and My Salvation - Jim Hinton audio
Jim Hinton is a long-time member at Good Shepherd (and father of two of the preachers earlier in the summer). He is an elder and frequent Sunday school teacher. He also enjoys auditing classes at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte and is a fan of D.A. Carson.
Psalm 136 - Love With No End - Jonathan Hetterly audio
Jonathan is a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he completed a M.A. degree in Christian Leadership and is currently pursuing a Masters degree in counseling. He also served as youth director at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Charlotte for a number of years.
Psalm 118 - Wanting More - Graham Meeks audio
Graham is an elder at Good Shepherd. He has taught high school English for a number of years at Weddington High School.
Psalm 119 - Say a Little Prayer for Me - Pinky Bender audio
The Rev.Carol "Pinky" Bender is honorably retired from the Presbytery of Charlotte. She is a friend of the church and attended regularly for a while. Currently she is serving as support and mom at her son's church plant in Indianland, SC. She has taught at Queens University, served as editor for Christian publications, and is a frequent Bible teacher for retreats and conferences.
Psalm 24 - The Hill of the Lord - Quay Youngblood audio
Psalm 8 - God's Greatest Creation - Quay Youngblood audio
Quay Youngblood is an elder and frequent Sunday school teacher at Good Shepherd. He enjoys auditing classes at Reformed Theological seminary and is an avid student of scripture.
Psalm 106 - Breaking Out of the Spiritual Rut - Kathy Larson audio
See above.