First blog post

The suggestion for this post was to explain why this blog exists.  The simple answer is that I was looking for somewhere to put all the different things I’m writing and doing as a Pastor and this seemed like the best way to do it and make it available to those (probably a small group) that might be interested in it.  So I guess the answer is also a little bit of arrogance, I think there may be people out there interested in what I think and say.  If you’re one of those people (and I assume you are since you’re here), thanks for the ego boost!  If you somehow got here by accident, I hope you find something worth your time.  As for what this is eventually going to be, I don’t know.  Maybe beyond sermons and devotionals and things like that I’ll get into other thoughts on faith and culture, I’ve got some ideas.  Thanks for stopping by, hopefully you’ll finds something here worth your time.



“You are What you Eat”

Last week I read an article about why January was the worst time of year to make resolutions – “The Scientific Reason You don’t Keep your Resolutions”

  • It got a little weird – I’m not sure how scientific it really was
    • It went all the way back to ancient Rome and Julius Ceasar and all that to explain how January became the first month of the year
    • Threw out a lot of stuff about the earth’s rotation and seasons and what times would be better to bring in a spirit of newness or whatever
      • Bottom line was this – January is a terrible time to make major life changes because its cold and dark and there is a long time left before it becomes less cold and dark
        • Cold and dark make you not want to do things, better off waiting for spring

Be that as it may, January is when our resolutions usually happen

  • Not gonna force a show of hands about what resolutions were made and how we’re doing at them
  • I’m also not going to pretend like there is some biblical answer to making resolutions stick
    • Sorry if you came here for tips to make your diet work, you’ve obviously not watched me on a Wednesday night

What interests me about New Year’s resolutions is how common they are

  • How many people resolve to do similar things
  • How often the same resolutions are made year after year
  • The ten most common resolutions year after year are always about one of four things
    1. Health – diet, eat better, quit smoking, etc.
    2. Spirituality – go to church, read the Bible more, pray
    3. Family/Relationships – talk to family/friends more, end a relationship if it doesn’t progress, start dating again, etc.
    4. Finance – spend less, save more, donate to charity, etc.
      • The fact that those are the things that jump out to person after person year after year is interesting to me, and while I don’t think there’s some Biblical or Spiritual trick to keeping our resolutions I do think there is a lot for us about those four things

Week 1 – Resolutions about Health

  • Most common resolutions by far – diet, exercise, eat better, quit smoking/drinking
  • Part of scripture that jumps to the forefront of people’s mind is the story of Daniel
    • Type Daniel into Google and you’ll see results for the “Daniel Diet”
    • We heard the story already, we know the story
      • Daniel and his friends are in the king of Babylon’s court and refuse to eat his food
      • Take only vegetables and water, at the end of ten days they’re healthier and more impressive than anyone else
        • If you’ve seen the Vegietales version – the Babylonians come at Daniel with cake and cookies and pies and he avoids their temptation
          • That’s what we usually take away, and vegetables are good for you, but that’s not what this story is about. Daniel’s story is not about a certain diet, there are several reasons he does what he does and they don’t have anything to do with his figure


Political Reason – look at what has happened so far

  1. Nebuchadnezzar takes Judah’s king and things from the temple back with him and puts them at the feet of Babylon’s god
  2. Babylonians take their best and brightest back with them AND change their names
    • Think of other places where names change in Scripture – biggest examples: Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah and Saul become Paul
      • Both cases God changes the names
        • Changing someone’s name was a power move – establishes the hierarchy in the relationship
          • Still is – I let my college roommate call me Andy and that established from day one that he was in charge
          • What the Babylonians are saying – your king is nothing compared to ours, your God is nothing compared to ours. We’ve taken your sovereignty, we’ve taken your religion, and now we’re going to take your next generation and make them ours and there’s nothing you can do about it
            • See how there’s more here than just an issue of food?
          • The Babylonians are trying to assimilate these boys and take their identity away, to make them dependent on Babylon, and the food is part of that. By fighting against that Daniel is showing a commitment to his people


Social Reason – look at what they want him to eat

  • Meat and wine – used in OT to describe excess
    • The prophets talk about people throwing banquets with meat and wine while people starve
    • Points especially to wealth and excess that has come at the expense or through the exploitation of other people
      • The reason the Babylonians can feed their prisoners this well is because they’ve sucked the people they’ve conquered dry
      • By refusing to eat these particular foods and choosing a diet that a power person could have Daniel is showing a commitment to the people he represents


Religious Reason – meat and wine are the foods most associated with sacrifice

  • These are the foods most likely to have been involved in the worship of Babylon’s gods, and eating food that’s been offered to those gods is admitting that they all the claims the Babylonians might make about their gods being superior are right. The refusal to eat the food comes from the same place that will lead S, M, and A to the furnace and Daniel to the lion’s den, they’re refusing to acknowledge any God before God.


So…if Daniel and the others eat the food they’re admitting to being dependent on Babylon’s power and Babylon’s wealth, they’re admitting that they want what Babylon has to offer and they’re willing to ignore their people who are suffering to provide the wealth that gives them these opportunities, and they’re admitting that Babylon’s gods have beaten Israel’s.


Daniel doesn’t reject the royal food because of how its going to impact his health, he does it because of all the baggage and all the things that it brings with it, he realizes that there’s more to the food he eats than what it does to his body, and that’s where this passage speaks to us.


Here’s the Point: Everything we do reflects our faith

  • For Daniel something as simple as what he eats carries huge ramifications about who he is and what he believes
  • That element is any almost every scripture that concerns what we put into our bodies
    • The writers of scripture are way less concerned with our Body Mass Index than they are making sure we recognize that even a decision about what we eat can carry huge implications to how or faith is viewed.
  • So obviously our health is important, but in this time of year where we’re reflecting on what we eat and why and how much and what else we might put into our bodies we’d be wise to do some reflecting on how all the little things we do are reflecting who we are and who our God is
    • What does our diet say about God – are we gluttonous, are we wasteful
      • Are we treating our bodies and the food we eat as a gift
    • What do our politics say about God –  are we promoting the Kingdom in the people and policies we support
    • What does our spending say about God – are we too far on either side


Jesus – anyone who would follow me has to take up his cross daily

  • We don’t get to pick and choose when we won’t people to be judging our faith or what aspects God has control over
  • When we think about the things we do for our health it should remind us that everything, no matter how detached we think it is, is pointing people towards the God we serve or turning them away.
  • In 2018 let’s take seriously the task of reflecting God in all we do

2017 Sermons


December 3, 2017: “Let There Be Light”

December 10, 2017: “I am the Light”


November 5, 2017: “Scattered”

November 12, 2017: “Who’d a Thunk it?”

November, 19, 2017: “When God Chooses”

November 26, 2017: “The World Turned Upside Down”


October 1, 2017: “No Longer Afraid (World Communion Sunday 2017)”

October 8, 2017: “I Need to Make a Call”

October 15, 2017: “Extravagant Generosity”

October 22, 2017: “Soliciting Celebrity”

October 29, 2017: “Hallelujah Anyhow”


September 3, 2017: “Where Were You Last Week?”

September 17, 2017: “Now What?”

September 24, 2017: “Get Up”


August 6, 2017: Fish Stories: “Are You Kidding Me?”

August 13, 2017: Fish Stories: “Left in the Dust”

August 20, 2017: Fish Stories: “What’s for Dinner?”


July 2, 2017: “A Woman Like…That

July 9, 2017: “The Runt of the Litter”

July 16, 217: “The Man After God’s own Heart?”


June 4, 2017: “12 Guys in a Crowd”

June 11, 2017: “Little Brother”

June 18, 2017: “The Walking Partner”

June 25, 2015: “The Late in Life Parents”


May 7, 2017: “Making the List” (Pleasant Hill Baptist Church Memorial Day/Homecoming)

May 14, 2017: “Old, Abandoned Rocks”

May 21, 2017: “The Air we Breathe”

May 28, 2017: “Bearing Witness”


April 2, 2017: “Easter, Before and After: Liven Up”

April 9, 2017: “The Surprise Guest” (Palm Sunday)

April 16, 2017: “If the Tomb is Empty” (Easter Sunday)

April 23, 2017: “Reach Out and Touch”

April 30, 2017: “On the Road Again”


March 5, 2017: “Easter, Before and After: Cause and Effect”

March 12, 2017: “Easter, Before and After: Take a Step”

March 19, 2017: “Easter, Before and After: Free Samples”

March 26, 2017: “Easter, Before and After: Wait For It”


February 5, 2017 – “Lessons from Mema: A Day Old Honey Bun Tastes Just as Good”

February 12, 2017 – “Lessons from Mema: Coke Costs a Dollar”

February 19, 2017 – “Lessons from Mema: Who Pays Their Rent”


January 1, 2017 – “Made New: New Life”

January 15, 2017 – “Made New: New Joy”

January 22, 2017 – “Made New: New Rules”

January 29, 2017 – “Made New: New Future”

“Live in the Light,” Ephesians 5: 8-15

Note from Andrew: I’m trying some different things with how I prepare and deliver sermons this year, I felt like I was getting too dependent on having a manuscript so I went with broader notes this week. I’ve tried to flesh them out a bit and make them easier for anyone to follow, but to see the sermon as it was delivered visit the Pleasant Hill Vimeo page.

Does Christmas ending make you sad?

  • December 26 bums me out
    • I blame my parents (both teachers)
      • Once Christmas is was over vacation might as well have been, all the focus shifted back to school starting up again
        • July 5th is the same way – summer is over
  • What I think the reality is – Christmas doesn’t live up to the hype
    • Do people ever like your gifts as much as you think they will
    • Do you ever like people’s gifts as much as you know you should
    • Christmas is way more about the build than the event itself
      • How do I know? Christmas songs are on the radio for a solid month at least before hand and off the radio by 5pm on December 26

That’s an issue in the secular world of Christmas but it hits us in the church too

  • The Sunday before Christmas is a much bigger deal than the Sunday after
    • A PHill our decorations are down,
  • That’s a problem – Christmas should be the beginning, not the end
    • The light comes and doesn’t leave, hope, peace, joy and love are realities in our lives, but once the excitement dies down it’s easy to lose that reality


Ephesians 5 – Paul gets that it is easy for the excitement to die down

  • If there was a city where this was a threat it was Ephesus – big city, temple to Artemis (wonder of world), a lot to entice them when the excitement of their faith died down
    • Rest of chapter 5 = tips to stay living in the light and as children of the light


This is the time of year where people like to make resolutions so I want to offer 5 resolutions for living in the light in 2018

  1. Focus on people more than pixels
    1. Maybe a reminder to those of us more attached to to our phones and computers than others but the big idea is the same, Be present
      1. We have so much technology that in theory allows us to be connected but what it really does is make our relationships suface level and superficial
        • We text instead of call
        • We wait for information on Facebook instead of seeking it out – presence is important – “children of the light, ” not individual child of the light – not supposed to be disconnected from each other and our world. There’s a reason Paul writes more to churches than individual, faith is supposed to be a corporate thing.
      2. We also have the means of thinking we know about the world without being in the world
        • If we rely on what we hear and aren’t present we’ll miss the good. When we’re present in the world we’ll feel more connected to the good in the world
  2. Take your soul seriously
    1. Lie we believe – what we see, hear, read, and the people we’re around don’t affect us
      • I’ve used the example before, the more time we spend in darkness the more our eyes adjust to it
        • Violence desensitizes us
        • Sex desensitizes us
        • Negative and hateful people and media will make us negative and hateful
    2. Decide to take your soul seriously
      • People we’re around and the things we choose expose ourselves to impact us, they leave us better or worse.
        • In Ephesians – “be careful how you live, not as unwise but as wise”
          • Be careful, think about what you’re exposing yourself too, take your soul seriously
  3. Increase your kindness
    1. Another lie we believe – feelings lead to action
      • Think that through – I’ll be faithful when I feel like it, I’ll work when I feel like it
      • If we wait for feelings to dictate our actions we’ll wait a long time
        • Pizza will never stop being good
    2.  More often than not our actions lead to feelings
      1. If we choose to be generous, if we choose to be kind, the actions and seeing the results will build those feelings in us
        • A great example of this are the Disciples, they followed Jesus first and figured it out as the went along
    3. People who have great prayer lives or who are really dedicated to bible study don’t have some special feeling we don’t have access to, they made those things habits and the results produced the feelings that then keep them going
    4. Choose actions that keep you in the light, don’t wait for the feelings. One you could try…
  4. Forgive people
    1. We give people a lot of power over us when we hold on to the things they’ve done we feel wronged by
      1. Some of us have very serious wrongs that have happened – its hard to let that go
        • Don’t start there
      2. We’ve also all got things that we know deep down is insignificant but we cling to them
        • Start forgiving people who cut you off in traffic – forgiveness is a skill that grows
        • A good place to start…
  5. Forgive yourself
    1. I find myself drawn to Genesis 3 a lot
      • Where things go wrong is that Adam and Eve hear God and hide
        • They know God’s gonna be mad so they run away
          • We run away a lot
            • Tullian Tcvidjian – the reason problem we have with grace isn’t a God problem, it’s an us problem

We don’t believe we can be forgiven because we can’t forgive ourselves

Paul in Romans – while we were sinners Christ died for us. Before any of us were born, before we did anything, God decided we were worth forgiving and saving. Christmas is the start of that. Christmas is a reminder that there’s nothing keeping us away from living in the light but our own belief that we can’t

Wake up sleeper. Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine in you. This year we can choose to forgive and be forgiven. This year we can choose to wake up. We can choose to live in the light

“You are the Light,” Matthew 5: 13-16

The very beginning of this section may be the most important, Jesus says to the people who have gathered or to the entire crowd, “you are the salt of the earth.” Not, “you might be,” not, “you could be,” not, “you will be if you follow this multi-step formula, you ARE the salt of the earth, you ARE light of the world.” That present tense is not a mistake, it is intentional. What he’s saying is this: their saltiness and brightness doesn’t come from them, it isn’t a result of who they are or what they do, they are salt and light by virtue of the fact that they are there, and Jesus says so. They don’t really get a choice in the matter. This is early in Matthew’s gospel so it might be one of the first times they’ve been brought face to face with a reality that should be familiar to us if we’re familiar with the life of faith: there is no way to partially follow Jesus.

I’d guess most of us have heard the term “bandwagon fan” before? Bandwagon, fair-weather, it’s a way to describe people whose fandom doesn’t have any depth to it, who base their fandom around who is successful at the time or on particular players. Its people who buy a jersey to wear during good times and the give it to Goodwill when things aren’t so great. Its people who were fans of the Cleveland Cavilers until Lebron left and then became Miami Heat fans and now they’re Cavs fans again until next year when their loyalty will go to Houston or Los Angeles

What Jesus says with those two words at the beginning of this passage is “you don’t get to be a bandwagon fan. You don’t get to wear the t-shirt during the good years and then change the channel when things get rough. You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world right now and from here on out.” If we buy the jersey we’re all in. If we call ourselves Christians we’re in it completely, we take on these titles, we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

That should be both a comfort and a challenge to us. On the one hand, there are not levels of Christianity. Billy Graham is not more salt or light than any of us. We don’t have to look around and compare ourselves to other Christians and figure out some way to reach our next stage of saltiness and brightness. But on the other hand, there are not levels to Christianity. We are not less salt and light than Billy Graham, and we don’t get to put this salt and light thing aside until we reach some next stage. I’ve mentioned a pastor friend of mine before I think who talks about what he’ll do “in five years when he’s a good pastor.” A lot of do that, we assume that in x amount of time we’ll figure out our job or after x number of years of marriage we’ll know how to be good husbands and wives or on the next kid we’ll know how to be good parents (which I’m already going ahead and calling). There’s no interim training period for being salt and light, when we declare ourselves followers of Jesus we’re all in, so it would probably be helpful to know what in the world it means to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

“You are the salt of the earth.” Refrigerators have ruined the way we think of salt. Salt to us is like a set of Encyclopedias. We have Google now, no one under a certain age thinks of Encyclopedias as a necessity. They’re nice to have, they make you look smart, they fill up shelf space in a room, but very few of us are reaching for them if we need information fast. In Jesus’ day salt was one of, maybe even the, most important minerals people had access to. Salt was literally worth its weight in gold, because it was the only known preservative people had access to. Salt was the only way to keep meat long periods of time. It worked, and still does, by drying the meat out so that bacteria couldn’t grow. When it came in contact with the meat it prevented rot, and preserved what was good about it, in addition to adding flavor.

“You are the salt of the earth.” Salt preserves what’s good and prevents rot. Salt adds flavor and makes good things better. The salt of the earth preserves and emphasizes what’s good about creation and prevents rot from overtaking it. We have to be willing to embrace the good of creation and prevent rot from taking it over. We’ve got to be willing to confront rot when we see it. If you’ve been following the news about the cultures sexual harassment and assault in so many industries and the political world one of the things you might have noticed, I’ve certainly been struck by it, is how many of these things were open secrets. You can go back and watch tv shows from 5-10 years ago and hear them joke about figures in entertainment who have lost their jobs in the last few months. We have to be willing to confront the rot when we see it. Dismissing things as “just the way things are,” or labeling them “the price we pay for x, y, or z” is failing to live up to the task of being salt.

“You are the salt of the earth.” Salt only works as a preservative if it makes contact with the meat. It doesn’t work through osmosis, if you set a bag of salt beside your meat and leave it the meat is going to go bad. The salt has to make contact with the meat. The salt of the earth doesn’t do the earth any good from a distance. If we’re going to be the salt of the earth we have to make contact with the earth. A lot of times we avoid the hard work of being salt. We hope that bumpers stickers or bible verses as Facebook statuses or electing people who promote “Christian values” will do the job of preventing rot for us. Being the salt of the earth means we have to be willing to come in contact with the parts of the earth that need salt the most.

“You are the light of the world.” We’ve talked a lot about light over the last few weeks, you’re probably sick of hearing about it. What does light do? Light gives hope. Light drives away darkness. Light provides clarity about where we are and what we’re facing. Light guides us if we’re on a journey.

“You are the light of the world.” Light provides hope. Many of you probably saw the clip this week of John McCain’s daughter talking to Joe Biden about the cancer that Senator McCain has, the same cancer that killed Vice-President Biden’s son, and she got emotional and he went to comfort her and what he said over and over was to not give up hope. We’re the light of the world when we point the world toward the hope that is found and centered on Jesus Christ. We’re the light of the world when we’re willing to look into the face of despair and of hardship and declare that those things will not overcome us. We’re the light of the world when we remind the world of the hope of Christmas, that God will not abandon creation. That God will not leave us in despair. That Christ has come to offer us the hope of the Father, a hope that all the problems of the world and of our lives will not get the last word. A hope that the creator of the universe loves each and everyone of us to die that we might have life.

“You are the light of the world.” Light drives out darkness. Martin Luther King talked about that: “darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” We drive out darkness by the way we choose to live. We drive out darkness by responding to hate with love. We drive out darkness by responding to despair with hope. We drive out darkness by refusing to let ourselves be overcome by it, by refusing to settle for what the world passes off as life and instead directing our sights one the promise of the kingdom. We drive the darkness out by rejecting hatred and bigotry and misogyny and inequality and all the trappings of a fallen world and embracing the fact that each and every one of us and each and every person out there is made in the image of God and deserves to be treated like God’s greatest and most prized possession. We drive out darkness by choosing to love as God loves, but putting others ahead of ourselves. We’re the light of the world by the things we choose to value and the ways we choose to live.

“You are the light of the world.” Light provides guidance and clarity. We are the light of the world when we show people the reason for our hope. A city on a hill can’t be hidden, people don’t light a lamp just to put it under a basket, we’re the light of the world when people see Christ in us. One of the only specific lessons I remember learning in school is that the moon doesn’t produce light. I don’t remember the moment I learned to read or add or when the Civil War was, but I remember being blown away by the fact the moon doesn’t make its own light, it just reflects light from the sun. We don’t make our own light to give to the world, we reflect to the world the light that comes to us from Christ. We show the world the reason for our hope, the reason that we don’t succumb to the darkness, we’re the light of the world when the thing that people see in us is not our job and not our status and not our politics and not anything that we do ourselves but instead what Christ does through us and for us. We’re the light of the world when people see Jesus in us.

Jesus ends this declaration and challenge to the crowd with these words, therefor let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” You are the light of the world. This Christmas season may that light shine through our homes and families and communities, and my others see the light of Christ all the more clearly. Amen, and amen.

“Let There be Light,” Genesis 1: 1-4, John 1: 1-10

Is there anything worse than plugging in Christmas lights in and nothing happening? Obviously there are, that’s a pretty good example of a first world problem, but still, as far as problems that are really inconveniences more than actual problems go that’s pretty high up there. And perhaps this is a sign that I’m too much of a pessimist, but I always assume my Christmas lights aren’t going to work, so I’m tense through the entire decorating process just waiting for that moment when we realize the lights aren’t going to work. And then you have to decide whether its worth trying to fix it right? Is it worth going through and trying to find the bad bulb or do you just go by new lights, and then the ones you buy are yellow not white so they’re worthless and you have to go back, it is almost enough to make me go full Grinch and try to end Christmas. Continue reading ““Let There be Light,” Genesis 1: 1-4, John 1: 1-10″

“I am the Light,” John 8: 12-30

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of you have heard this story before, it has made the rounds before I think, but it’s a good story none the less: it’s said that one night when a British Battleship was out on maneuvers, a lookout noted a light in the dark, foggy night. After noting the light’s coordinates, the captain recognized his ship was on a collision course with the other vessel. The captain instructed, “Signal the ship: We are on a collision course, advise you change course 20 degrees.” The return signal countered, “Advisable for you to change course 20 degrees.” The captain signaled, “I’m a captain, change course 20 degrees.” The response was, “I’m a seaman second class, you’d better change course 20 degrees.” By this time the captain was furious. His signal curtly ordered, “I’m a battleship. Change course 20 degrees.” The reply: “I’m a lighthouse. You make the call.” Continue reading ““I am the Light,” John 8: 12-30″

“The World Turned Upside Down,” Acts 17: 1-7

On October 17, 1781 a single drummer appeared on the walls of the city of Yorktown in Virginia. Inside the city were over 7000 British soldiers and German mercenaries, comprising almost all of the forces Britain had left in America. The city had been under siege by American and French soldiers under the command of George Washington and Rochambeau since September 28, almost a month. After the drummer got the attention of the American forces long enough for their bombardment of the walls to stop he was replaced by a British officer who unfurled a white flag, surrendering the city and the army inside of it to Washington. If you know your history you know that this was the last major land battle of the American Revolution (if you’re from around here or upstate South Carolina you know that the Yankee history books ignore the fact that if not for victories at Cowpens and King’s Mountain then the British army wouldn’t have been in Virginia and none of it would have happened, but I suppose that’s beside the point). Continue reading ““The World Turned Upside Down,” Acts 17: 1-7″