Sermons Archive

January 31, 2016 — “Faith, Widows & Orphans James”, 1:26-27

Faith, Widows & Orphans James 1:26-27 January 31, 2016 There is a book that I have relied on fairly heavily in preparing for our time together in James over the course of January. I have used it regularly as I have prepared for worship as well as preparing for our in-depth study of James for the Wednesday night bible study time. It really does a nice job of providing good commentary on the text as well as some nice, engaging stories at times that help bring the passages to life. In fact, several of the points from this book and a couple of the stories have made their way into my notes and have been a part of what I have shared with you. This past week, I was eager to see what this writer in this very book had to say about our text for today related to the care of widows and orphans. Truth be told, it was the first book that I opened this week in preparation. What I discovered there surprised me because what I found was next to nothing. Our verses for today had been ignored by and large by this author. Now, it is impossible for any author to spend time on every verse in any Biblical book. But, the book of James is five chapters long and occupies less than half a dozen pages in most modern translations. The book that I have been using devotes 176 pages to these five chapters. To say the least it is thorough and thus for it to skip a verse is very telling. So, why the lack of attention to this section of the text? Well, the truth is that I don’t know for sure. But… I have a guess. My guess is that this particular author simply didn’t see these two verses as all that important. Unfortunately, this response is more typical than unusual. In my opinion, this author illustrates the fact that faith as we describe it in 2016 is mainly about how God wants to work in our lives. So often, we describe Christianity as a faith devoted to what God wants to do for us. In turn, our modern version of a supposed orthodox Christianity is not so much about how God wants to work through us in order to make a difference in the lives of others as simply being about God becoming a divine genie in a bottle who simply waits to respond to our own requests. In spite of all of this, James says it this way in vs. 27; “religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this; that we care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” This verse is crystal clear. A lived out faith that demonstrates with the behavior of one’s life a deep commitment to God is seen in how we care for orphans and widows who in the Biblical day were the two primary groups of people in that time who were unable to care for themselves. In that male dominated society women without a husband had no voice and no one to care for their needs. They were on their own with no way of supporting themselves and with no one to look out for them. That is why it is common for us to see family members or next of kin in the Bible marrying the widow of a recently deceased brother or relative. They did so not only as a way of carrying on the family name but...

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January 24, 2016 — Morning Worship

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January 17, 2016 — “Living in a World Gone Mad James”, 1:19-21

Living in a World Gone Mad James 1:19-21 First Baptist Church Laurens The Internet giant Google keeps a list called “Ten Things We Know To Be True”. The list is in essence nothing but a set of guiding principles for the company. Though slightly altered for a modern and hip work force, some of the principles are age-old ideas such as the number one truth on their list – “Focus on the user and all else will follow” which is simply another way of saying that the customer comes first. Or, take number six on their list “you can make money without being evil” which sounds to me a lot like “you can succeed without sacrificing integrity”. In Google’s “Ten Things We Know to Be True” there are also some ideas, however, that are a product of modern times. Consider their 9th truth, “you can be serious without a suit” which goes against the old classic of the business world that we should “dress for success”. Or how about the 10th Google belief, “Great just isn’t good enough” which is their way of saying that they want to set goals that they know they can’t achieve. Though compelling, that’s a lot different from the old adage of setting measurable and achievable goals. But, it is the third item of the Google list of things that they “know to be true” that I am most interested in today. Their third truth is simply this; “fast is always better than slow”. “Fast is always better than slow” in 2016, we have to admit that most people would agree with this. We do indeed often see fast as better. The restaurant where we receive the quickest service often rises to the top of our favorite places to eat. The person who gives us quick and timely answers is someone that we often feel is on the ball or ahead the rest. And the friend who always has a response is the one we deem as being wise, intelligent and a leader. We would indeed be tempted to say that “fast is always better than slow”. And, yet, in our text for today from the later verses of James 1, just the opposite is suggested. In these verses James seems to say this, often times, “slow is far, far better than fast”. And further, James wants to apply this principle to two basic areas of our lives – being slow to speak and slow to anger. Having lived with these verses for the better part of the past week, I have to say that I like fast service and quick answers just like you do. But, I am also prone to want to be quick to speak and quick to show my emotion. In light of this, I very much appreciate the simple, practical wisdom of James here that there is some areas of life where we all need to take things at a much slower pace. I also believe that in the maddening modern world in which we all live, work and play, that the advice of James here can make a huge, obvious and profound difference for the better in so many ways. Just think about it for a moment. How much better would our world be if we were slow to speak? And, how much better would our world be if we were slow to anger? Think with me about these two ideas for just a moment. First, just as James says, what if we really lived quickly to listen and slow to speak? Or said another way, what if...

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January 10, 2016 — “For the Long Haul James”, 1:2-8

For the Long Haul James 1:2-8 First Baptist Church Laurens I have only been snorkeling one time in my life. It was a half-day excursion off the coast of the Florida Keys on what is called Sombrero Reef. Honestly, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience. The water was choppy and I felt seasick most of the afternoon. While the fish and the reef were absolutely beautiful to see so close up, my thoughts were elsewhere, namely on getting back to dry, stable land as quickly as possible. The one thing that I remember most vividly from that day is the speech that our guide gave us before we jumped into the water. Most everyone on board was an amateur at best and as I recall no one had ever snorkeled in that particular area before. This led to one primary word of advice. “Here is the big thing,” said our guide. “I want you all to know right now that there are fish down there that are as big or bigger than you are. But, they are all harmless. So, when you see one, don’t be afraid, just know in advance that they won’t hurt you.” Well, you can imagine how that affected our little group. Everyone, humbly and generously invited the others to be their guest and enter the water first with the words, “Don’t worry, I’ll be right behind you!” Of course, that was a frightening little piece of advice to receive before jumping into unfamiliar and deep waters. But, it was a needed word. Without question, it was far, far better for us to have that piece of advice ahead of the game than it would have been for us to have seen such a fish up close and personal without having had any prior warning of their presence. I feel similarly about the words that greet us in James chapter 1. They are good words as we stand on the bow of a New Year with choppy waters around us too. The writer of James wants us to know, just as he wanted his original audience to know that difficulties are not a possibility but rather a certainty in the road that lies ahead in our lives. This passage, in essence, becomes our spiritual fair warning if you will. James’ reason for making this clear is similar to the rationale of our guide on that snorkeling trip. James wanted believers to know that difficulties are a given so that we can be prepared for them and so that we can approach them as life situations not to fear but merely as obstacles to overcome. James’ takes the perspective that when it comes to troubles in our lives the question is not if they will happen but rather how will we respond when they happen. And, James’ goal is that when difficulties do come our way that we will stand firm or persevere. It is very interesting that the Greek word used in this text that we translate as persevere was actually a military term. The idea was that of a solider who maintained their ground in the midst of battle rather than retreating. The goal is for us not to throw up the white flag of surrender but rather that we will stand our ground. So, how do we do this? When the inevitable life issue arises in 2016, how do we stand our ground? How do we put our faith into action in the midst of life’s worries, stresses and struggles? James insinuates that we need to adopt two basic perspectives. First, we have...

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January 3, 2016 — “Do We Have the Courage to Follow? Matthew”, 2:1-12

Do We Have the Courage to Follow? Matthew 2:1-12 First Baptist Church Laurens Over the holidays, while at my parent’s house, I picked up a book off of one of the shelves in their house. The book was called Mysteries of the Bible or at least something similar to that. Knowing that I was going to be preaching on Matthew’s story of the Magi today, I immediately went to the table of contents, and, as I suspected, there was a nice section on the Wise Men. In the end, it dealt with the usual questions. How many Wise Men were there? Of course, we don’t know for sure. We say three simply because there were three gifts. Where we they from? Again, we don’t know but many suggest ancient Persia, which would be modern day Iraq or Iran. What exactly was it that they followed? Here, all kinds of theories were given – the tail of Haley’s comet, an alignment of two planets with the moon, or even a new star that had never been seen before. And, how long did it take them to get there? Yet again, this is a mystery too. It likely took quite a while since Matthew states that Herod, after meeting with the Wise Men, ultimately had all of the boys two years of age and under in the area of Bethlehem put to death just to make sure that Jesus was in the mix. This book devoted quite a lot of space to the Wise Men and their story. And, in all honesty, I enjoyed reading what it had to share and the theories that were explored. But in the end, it made the same fatal mistake that we too so often make when it comes to this story – it dealt with all of the unknowns in the story and failed to address what we do know and what we can learn from this beautiful passage in the early pages of Matthew’s gospel. Without question, one of those obvious lessons is that the Wise Men were followers! There is a story which I like that may be more legend than historic truth and yet it makes a great point that is right on the mark. The story is of a small college where applications were being considered for the following year’s freshman class. One particular application was from a young girl named Mary. Mary had evidently asked one of her high school teachers to write a recommendation for her. The teacher, in his or her recommendation wanted to be very honest with the admission board and wrote the following, “Mary is NOT a leader, but she is an excellent follower.” According to the story, the president of the little college, having seen the application, wrote across the top, “by all means admit Mary; with a class of four hundred and fifty leaders we need at least one follower!” (Thinking About Leadership, Nannerl Keohane, Princeton University Press, 2010, page 48) Today, on this first Sunday of the New Year and in light of today’s text regarding the Wise Men, I want to make a similar suggestion to all of us. In 2016, in a world full of people charting their own paths, we need to be people who are followers – Jesus followers! I say this knowing full well that followers are not always admired in our day. Instead we lift up those who are pioneers, who dare to be different and who lead us down paths and in directions that we have never known before. Without question there is something very...

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December 27, 2015 — Morning Worship

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