Sermon 09-26-2021: “The Wisdom from Above and the Devil’s Three Biggest Lies”

September 30, 2021

Scripture: James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a

Some of you will be surprised to learn that I do have a second dog. Her name is Neko—a black terrier mix. We rescued her eleven years ago. Some of you have seen me walking her. If you drive by our backyard she’s usually in it. Unlike our spaniel, she is not especially affectionate. Let’s say she’s sitting on one of the cushions of the loveseat. And I sit down on the other cushion. She will literally jump down off the loveseat and then jump up on the sofa—on the other side of the living room! To avoid being too close to me. I try not to take it personally.

But it’s a good thing she doesn’t want or need much affection from us humans, because when we show her any—just patting her on the head—and her brother Ringo sees us doing it… Uh-oh… he’ll come running over and chase his sister away or sort of force himself between Neko and us… As if to say, “Don’t give her something that you’re not also going to give me! That’s not fair!”

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Sermon 09-19-21: “Words Are Your Most Important ‘Work'”

September 23, 2021

Scripture: James 3:1-12

Back in 2009, I had the pleasure of chaperoning a youth mission trip to the Navajo Reservation in the Four Corners area of New Mexico. This is near the spot where the “four corners” of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Utah meet. One day, when we weren’t working, some Navajo guides led our group by horseback down the side of a steep, rocky mountain into a beautiful canyon down below. And I don’t know how else to describe the terrain—as someone who is unfamiliar with desert places out west… But it looked to me… like the real-life version of the old Road Runner/Wile E. Coyote cartoons. 

Remember when Wile E. Coyote would run off a mountain cliff, and then be suspended in air for a few seconds before going splat at the bottom of the canyon? Those were the kinds of mountains, cliffs, and canyons I’m talking about!

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Sermon 09-12-21: “Faith Without Works Is Dead”

September 15, 2021

Scripture: James 2:14-26

Last week in my sermon I talked briefly about investor Warren Buffett, the third wealthiest man in the world, and his pledge, several years ago, to give away tens of billions of dollars to charity. At the time he said, “There is more than one way to get to heaven, but this is a great way.”

As I’ve said before, there are only two problems with this statement: First, there’s only one way to get to heaven, and second, no amount of money—even the tens of billions of dollars that Buffett pledged to give away—can begin to purchase salvation. The debt that we owe to God on account of our sin is infinitely more than that!

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Sermon 09-05-21: “How to Fulfill the ‘Royal Law'”

September 15, 2021

Scripture: James 2:1-13

Malcolm Gladwell is a bestselling author, and some of you have probably read his book Outliers. At least one of my kids had to read it for school. Outliers is the book that says you have to practice at something for 10 thousand hours before you become really, really good at it… before you master it. So, for example, the Beatles became the great band that everyone knows them to be today because they spent 10 thousand hours playing live music in the clubs of Hamburg, West Germany, in the early ’60s… long before invading America.

But here’s some bad news… for me, at least: By my rough calculation, yours truly has only spent about 700 hours of my life preaching sermons… so… that explains a lot, doesn’t it?

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Sermon 08-29-2021: “Hearing and Doing God’s Word”

September 2, 2021

Scripture: James 1:17-27

Some of you saw this on Facebook, but Lisa and I moved my son Townshend into his dorm room at Georgia Tech last Saturday. Saying goodbye to him wasn’t quite as hard as our experience three years ago, dropping our daughter off at her college in central Florida for the first time. But she was going to be nine hours away! 

But dropping Townshend off was still hard. I miss him! But we dropped him off last Saturday, and I’m happy to say that he had already made a reservation to visit a nearby church in Atlanta the next day—you have to make reservations to go to this church because of seating limitations due to Covid… Anyway, he liked the church a lot, and he made an appointment to have coffee with the associate pastor. So I’m excited for him. I’m eager for him to find a church home near Tech’s campus. 

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Sermon 08-22-21: “The What, Why, and How of Spiritual Warfare”

August 26, 2021

Scripture: Ephesians 6:10-20

Last week, when I baptized Parker, I asked him the following question as part of our baptism liturgy: “Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin.” Note those words: spiritual forces, evil powers. This is a reference to the very thing that Paul himself describes in today’s scripture when he speaks of rulers, authorities, “cosmic powers” and “spiritual forces.” 

These aren’t human opponents, because Paul prefaces these words by saying, “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood”… Instead we wrestle against these invisible spiritual forces that are not flesh and blood.

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Sermon 08-15-2021: “For New Disciples: One Warning and Three Encouragements”

August 19, 2021

Scripture: John 6:52-71

Brothers and sisters, this morning we’re going to celebrate that John Parker Carey, who went on the youth mission trip in June, responded to the call of our Lord Jesus Christ and made a decision for himself to become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ… for the rest of his life. Three other young people on the trip publicly reaffirmed their faith.

On a day like this, I can’t help but think of my own profession of faith, my own baptism, which happened when I was 14. So I’ve been thinking, “What would I have benefitted from hearing back then… back when I was just beginning my life as a young disciple of Jesus Christ?” 

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Sermon 08-08-2021: “The Cure for Complaining”

August 10, 2021

Scripture: John 6:35-51

Do you remember manna in the Old Testament? We use the expression today—“manna from heaven”—to refer to some unexpected gift that arrives at just the right moment. But it comes from the experience of Israel, when they were wandering in the wilderness for those 40 years, before entering the Promised Land. God fed them each day with this miraculous bread that fell from the sky each morning. In today’s scripture, Jesus intends for us to see parallels between Israel’s experience wandering in the wilderness and the crowd’s experience having witnessed Jesus’ miraculous feeding earlier in the chapter. He makes this comparison explicit in verses 49 and 50. 

So that’s what this sermon is about: I want to talk about how the crowd’s response to Jesus in John 6 is a lot like the response of ancient Israel in the wilderness—and a lot like our response to Jesus the “bread of life” today. Then I want to talk about how Jesus the “bread of life” is like manna—and what that means for us today. 

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Sermon 08-01-2021: “Do Not Work for the Food that Perishes”

August 10, 2021

Scripture: John 6:22-35

I want to begin today by talking about two separate but not entirely unrelated events in the news. First, over the past couple of months, two of the wealthiest men in the world spent billions of their considerable fortunes to do that thing that children of my generation believed we would all be doing by now… I’m referring, of course, to entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos launching themselves into outer space. And they did so in rockets that their own companies designed and built. As a former engineer, I think that’s kinda cool! And don’t get me started about Elon Musk’s Space X program. I love it!

Of course, if you had asked the seven-year-old version of me, in 1977, whether or not space travel would be as commonplace as air travel by the year 2021, I would have said, “Of course it will!” And I would have been disappointed if you told me back then that by age 51, I still wouldn’t have gone up in space. But at least a small handful of civilians so far have now done so… So we’re a little behind schedule, but we’re making progress.

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Sermon 07-25-21: “Leave the ‘How’ to Jesus”

July 29, 2021

Scripture: John 6: 1-21

If you have a dog that likes to play fetch—like a certain spaniel that you’ve heard me mention before—then you’ve probably had this experience: Your dog wants you to throw the ball to him. But you don’t have the ball. And so you’re pointing to it. “It’s over there, dummy!” And what does the dog do? Instead of following your finger to where it’s pointing, the dog stares at your finger. The dog doesn’t understand the point of, well… pointing. Our dogs easily get confused.

And in today’s scripture we see that humans aren’t so different.

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