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Amazing Belief (Mark 6:1-6)

(Preached at Rocky Creek Baptist Church, Forsyth GA, on July 8, 2018)


I wonder how much we really believe in Jesus. That may sound like a strange thing to ask people who have come to church, but it’s something we should give some serious thought to.
We may have more in common with the people of Jesus’ hometown than we care to admit.
When Jesus encountered the people in Nazareth, “he was amazed at their unbelief” (v. 6a). We may be amazed at it too. After all, they knew him. They had probably heard about his teachings and healings, and now he was coming home. We might expect them to welcome him as the hometown boy made good.
But they didn’t. They instead “took offense” at him. Given the questions they asked, we might express their attitude as something like, “Who does he think he is, anyway? After all, he’s one of us, and he’s no better than we are.” They even seem to put him down a little bit: “How can a man who works in construction also work miracles?”
The bottom line is that their fam…
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Living Dangerously (2 Corinthians 4:5-12; Mark 2:23-3:6)

(Preached at First Baptist Church, Columbus GA, on June 3, 2018)

Do you give much thought to what it means to live as a Christian in our present context? I do. It’s something we should always think about no matter what our circumstances are. And as we determine what it means to live as a Christian, we should always be doing something about it.
Questions we should ask ourselves include: how do I best follow Jesus? How do I best bear witness to the God that Jesus revealed to us? How do I in my unique life have Christ-like motives, think Christ-like thoughts, say Christ-like words, and carry out Christ-like actions? It is vital that as we develop answers, we act on what we realize. It is also vital that as we live our lives, we continually adjust and adapt in light of our continuing reflection and our experiences.
So do you give much thought to what it means to live as a Christian in our present context? We really should.
Here’s another question: do you give much thought to how you can be as…

Without Honor

(A sermon based on Mark 6:1-13 & 2 Corinthians 12:1-10; preached on July 5, 2015)

I've recently moved back to my home territory after forty years away. I have during those forty years functioned as a prophet, if by “prophet” you mean “preacher.” In the places where I have lived and served during those four decades I have been known as the pastor, as the preacher, or as the professor. I have been called “Rev. Ruffin” or “Dr. Ruffin” or “Pastor” or “Preacher.”

Now, though, when I am with my family or with my old friends, I am just “Mike.” I’m the cousin or the nephew or the schoolmate. Some of those folks are aware of who I have been and of what I’ve been doing, but some aren’t. Some of them think they know what it means for me to be a pastor and preacher, but their assumptions are wrong. Some of them know that I’ve changed over the years, that I’m not the same Mike who left all those years ago. Some of them will be disappointed when they find out who I have become.

I try to ima…

Jesus’ Touch

(A sermon based on Mark 5:21-43 and preached on June 28, 2015)

Is there anything in life more meaningful than touch? Does anything mean more to us than a compassionate touch when we are hurting, a reassuring touch when we are frightened, a welcoming touch when we are lonely, or a healing touch when we are sick?

Can you imagine what it must have been like to be touched by Jesus? Today’s Gospel lesson tells us of two women who were restored by his touch.

One was the twelve-year-old daughter of a synagogue official named Jairus. He came to Jesus seeking help for her because she was at the point of death. Many of us can empathize with Jairus. I will never forget how I felt when our twenty-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a massive blood clot in her leg a few years ago. I will especially never forget how it felt to hear the doctor explain to her how they were going to treat her and about the risk of a piece of the clot breaking off and going to her lung, heart, or brain. “That could be…

What I’ve Been Trying to Say: Practice Love!

(A sermon based on Philippians 2:1-18 for Sunday, April 26th, 2015--my last sermon as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald, GA)

When all is said and done, it all comes down to love. So “love” is the word and the reality with which I want to leave you.

Well, actually it all comes down to worshipping God. But God is love—that is, God is most defined by God’s love and so to worship God is to worship the One who is perfect love. And actually it all comes down to following Jesus. But Jesus showed us what kind of love God’s love is so to follow Jesus is to practice God’s kind of love.

To worship God is to worship the One who is love.

To follow Jesus is to follow the One who showed us what love is.

So it all comes down to love.

I decided long ago that I would in living my life always try to come down on the side of love. I decided long ago that I would in carrying out my ministry always try to come down on the side of love. I decided long ago that I would in leading the chu…

What I’ve Been Trying to Say: Follow Jesus!

(A sermon based on Mark 8:27-38 for April 19, 2015. Second in a series of my final three sermons as Pastor of First Baptist Church in Fitzgerald, GA)


“I have decided to follow Jesus.” How many times have we sung it? Hopefully every time we sing it we make a recommitment to follow Jesus. In fact, that’s a recommitment we need to make every day.

For the last six years I’ve been steadily encouraging us to follow Jesus. I believe that most of us want to do so; the question is how do we do it?

We follow Jesus by following Jesus. And we have to see Jesus and to see where Jesus is going if we are going to follow him; we have to keep our eyes on Jesus. There are several ways we can keep our eyes on him.

One is to pray regularly. Remember: the crucified and resurrected Jesus is present in you and with you. You have a personal relationship with him and that relationship can and should be developed and deepened. Jesus is not an object to be admired; he is a person to be known and loved.

Another…

What I’ve Been Trying to Say: Worship God!

(A sermon based on Psalm 8 for Sunday, April 12, 2015. First in a series of my final three sermons as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Fitzgerald, GA)

Psalm 8 addresses these words to God: “When I consider the works of your hands …”

When Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment is, he replied, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.”

The Apostle Paul encouraged the Roman Christians, “I appeal to you … brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Romans 12:1).

When you put those three biblical passages together you pretty much get what I’ve been trying to say about God during these last six years: (1) consider God, (2) love God, and (3) serve God.

All three passages presume, as the entire Bible presumes, that God is. We Christians presume that, too. But do we move beyond presuming to actually thinking about God? How much attentio…