Sunday, November 15, 2009

Back to the Basics

On October 25 this year, I was involved in a freak motorcycle accident. It is still "under investigation." I was riding, and going 55mph, and began drifting off the road. Slowing down did not help, and eventually I was in the grass on the embankment. The next thing I knew, I was picking myself up from the pavement, with a badly injured left hand (broken finger), a cracked rib, and a concussion. I was thrown from the motorcycle about 15 feet before skidding to a stop. I had blacked out, so the only reason I say I was thrown is because I got up that far from the bike. Possibilities for losing control include wind and terrain (dips,etc). Wind caused a motorcyclist on our country roads to have an accident like mine earlier this year. By God's grace I was wearing my helmet and walked away from the wreck. Also, the bike was able to be driven from the scene with only minor damage.
Since this accident, I spent 2 weeks recovering from the concussion. Confusion, lack of judgement, and lack of short term memory were side effects that kept me from working. My church was very generous to allow me to heal, and support me with prayer and concern.
Coming away from this, God brought me back to the basics. I have shared this with our Board of Administers/Overseers.
In recent past, before this accident, I and others have gotten away from the basics. Matthew 28:19-20 tells us "Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Read also Mark 16:15, and Acts 1:8. We, followers of Jesus, are to keep making disciples. It doesn't say try, it says make them. We all know God is ultimately the mover of peoples' hearts, but we received this command.
Revelation 2:1-7 describes many modern churches today, when it describes the church of Ephesus. They were full of "deeds, hard work . . . perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles and are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary." Yes! Awesome church! Can you say that about your church? Can we say that about First Baptist Darlington? Wouldn't it be great to have this label? But read the next verse, verse 4, "yet, I have this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place."
WOW! I'm still figuring out how a polished, well-oiled machine that is busy for God can be so condemned and rebuked. I can't believe that God doesn't approve of them.
Why are they in danger of God removing His presence (symbolized by the lamp stand) from them? Because they have lost their first love. They are in danger of God removing His presence from them because they have already replaced His presence with something else. It is amazing that as individuals and as a whole church we can forget what we are here to do.
Individually, we are to glorify and enjoy God. If we do that, we will want to express our pleasure and closeness with God in the form of sharing God's love with others, and making disciples. It should come naturally.
God has spoken to me about getting back to the basics, through reading His Word and meditating on it. Through reading Jesus' words and His actions, we read how to keep our first love. Jesus was not only devoted to the Father's will and to prayer, but to reaching lost people. Mark 2:13-17, Jesus called a despised tax collector, telling him, "Follow Me." he went to the man's house. The religious leaders condemned him for eating with (thus culturally accepting) saying to the disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?" What was Jesus' Response?
Verse 17, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
To regain sight of our first love means to a) understand we are currently focusing on the wrong things. Maybe not always, but at an unhealthy level; b) ask forgiveness for personally and corporately getting off track. If programs, perfection, the way we do things, and "things" are more important than people, then we have gotten off track. If things are more important than spending time with God alone, then we have gotten off track.
This means we will not worry about being busy, because "to obey is better than sacrifice." This means we won't worry about being in "inappropriate" places to reach people, because we're not afraid of being called a friend of "tax collectors and sinners." (It would be my honor to be called anything that Jesus was called). It means our leadership meetings will focus on accomplishing the Great Command and the Great Commission, and less on equipment, building, policy, and making sure we stay in the black. It means we ask "What is God's will?" and not "how much money can we afford to spend?"
I urge those in and outside of our church to take a long, careful look at yourself, and answer the question, "Have you lost your first love?" If so, repent, devote yourself more to time in prayer alone and with others, and devote yourself to a consistent discipline of reading the Bible daily. As a church, devote ourselves to praying together and reaching out to the lost, and to making disciples.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Book Review, The Alchemist

The Alchemist has been on the New York Times Bestselling list for trade paperback for 96 weeks. After nearly so long of being one of the best sellers, what does Paulo Coelho’s text have to say about God? What does it have to say about life? Why are so many people reading it?
The O Alquimista, it’s 1988 title in Coelho’s native Portuguese, is about a shepherd boy Santiago in Spain. (No, I don’t read Portuguese, but it was published in English in 1993). Santiago is a shepherd by his own choice, and not because he likes sheep, but because he likes to travel. He travels all over the country side helping protect his sheep and selling the wool at various towns on a route he has made up over the last two years. Santiago has a recurring dream that a child is touching his sheep, and the child tells him to go to the Pyramids of Egypt where he will find treasure. One day he meets a gypsy fortune teller, who tells him what the author thinks is the most important point of the book—his personal legend. The dream he has been having is true.
Coelho defines the personal legend on pages 21–22, through the common literary character of the guardian figure—in this instance Melchizedeck, King of Salem (yes, the same one Abraham met). He says, “ ‘It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is. At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen to them in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend . . . It’s a force that appears to be negative, but actually shows you how to realize your Personal Legend. It prepares your spirit and your will, because there is one great truth on this planet: whoever you are, or whatever it is that you do, when you really want something, it’s because that desire originated in the soul of the universe. It’s your mission on earth.’” The boy replies, “ ‘Even when all you want to do is travel? Or marry the daughter of a textile merchant?’ ‘Yes, or even search for treasure. The Soul of the World is nourished by peoples’ happiness. And also by unhappiness, envy, and jealousy. To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only real obligation. All things are one. And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.’”
Although Coelho professes to be a Roman Catholic, the idea of all people being of one soul and that one soul being one with all the universe is not what we believe. We believe we are not one with creation, but are placed on the world to have dominion over it. The Scriptures tell us we were made by God in His image (Gen 1:26), and that we are separate from God (“God is not man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said and will He not do it? Or has He spoken and will He not make it good?” Num 23:19). We are not one with God.
There are good things in this book, and I hate to say it, because the book is a rare quality of thrilling adventure, but it is worse than a direct contradiction against what we believe. The worst lies always carry parts of the truth, and they are the worst because they lead people astray. Many good ideas for being confident and happy arise in this book. It is one of those books full of good wisdom. In the introduction, Coelho cites how President Clinton and others have read the book. It seems to be an influence, and if you read it you find out why. The Alchemist teaches that Positive things lie ahead for everyone if they pursue their dreams, and the unhappy people are those who stop pursuing their dreams and get stuck. You be yourself, and the omens of the world will speak to you so you can arrive at and achieve that legend. Santiago’s personal legend is to follow the recurrent dream and go to the Pyramids of Egypt and there he will find a treasure.
Helpful truths such as how in seeking the end goal we find happiness (friends, companions, a wife) are very generic truths that Santiago experiences. We watch the confident young Santiago listen to Melchizedeck’s advice, watch him face difficulty, watch him sacrifice for the dream of treasure in Egypt, watch him find happiness, and eventually watch him as he is tested. The desert, the sun, and the wind talk to Santiago, and he speaks back. The spiritual climax of the book is on page 152, “The boy reached through to the Soul of the Word, and saw that it was part of the Soul of God. And he saw that the Soul of God was his own soul. And that he, a boy, could perform miracles.”
It is here that the book is not Christian, but embraces the spirituality of Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, Helen Schucman and A Course in Miracles, or the writings of those who follow these. (If you wish to hear more about this, there are two very good, concise sermons on this whole topic by Erwin Lutzer, at, and see the archives of The Moody Church Hour, message title “Oprah, Miracles, and the New Earth,” parts 1 and 2). When Coelho was interviewed by Beliefnet about his faith, he was asked (on page 181 in my copy), “In the Alchemist, you refer to the Soul of the World. What exactly is this? How is it tied to religion or spirituality?” He replied, “Well, let’s distinguish religion from spirituality. I am Catholic, so religion for me is a way of having discipline and collective worship with persons who share the same mystery. But in the end all religions tend to point to the same light. In between the light and us, sometimes there are too many rules. The light is here and there are no rules to follow this light.”
Confused? The reader will come to one of two conclusions at the end of the book:
1) Each of us can do anything and the universe will obey our command, and even point us in the right direction so we can fulfill every dream. Everything we want is good, we are good by nature, and no desire is evil. Evil is getting stuck in routine and not having adventure.
2) This book teaches wrongly, teaching that we are gods.
If you are very, very mature in your faith, it is a good story and you can read it without frustration (but pray). But, for most Christians, it will be like eating a delicious bowl of oatmeal with gravel buried in it, where you have to keep picking it out lest you break a tooth. Hopefully not too many teeth will be broken, and we will still be able to eat our oatmeal. That is my opinion of The Alchemist and its teaching. Let the reader have wisdom.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

“The Teaching in the Church,” James 3:1–2

Some teachers stand out in my mind. I remember Dr. Louis Barbieri, Dr. Ron Sauer, Dr. Kent Berghuis, Dr. Stephen Bramer, Dr. Darrell Bock, Dr. W. Hall Harris, Dr. Oscar Lopez, Dr. Howard Hendricks, Dr. Mark Heinemann, Dr. Reg Grant, Dr. Ray Badgero, Dr. John Hannah, and a couple of professors who have since passed on (Prof Ken Hannah and Dr. Harold Hoehner). Each of those teachers had particular traits that were specific to themselves, and they invested in me. Can you remember your favorite teachers? I also remember my kindergarten teacher Mrs. Bergstrom, who believed in me--an ADD type kid trying to fit in with a mostly minority class (at least that's my perspective). I remember Mrs. Pruss, 3rd grade teacher when I moved into a new school, and she read stories and made life real. Many more people have influenced and taught me directly and indirectly. My parents and grandparents taught me much without ever standing behind a lecturn. My pastors and youth pastors have taught me much from their intentional teaching and preaching, and from their lives.
There are also those who teach, who we should not model our lives after. Harold Camping, for example, teaches we believe a different gospel and that Jesus is coming back in 2011. Also he and some who follow him believe God tricks us sometimes and his camp takes what they wish from God's Word. He believes formal training in seminary or Bible college is of little or no value, and that we who have such training are suspect (because he never benefited from it, I would guess). I don't usually name names, but the subtlety is to much that a person can follow Camping for years without realizing the frog treatment, and one day be all alone and having rejected the church and many friends, possibly family.
Teaching in the church is a high responsibility. One day all my favorite teachers, those who disagree with me, and I myself will stand before God. With false teachers in the world, teaching what is wrong, and with some up and coming men and women wishing to teach, it is very important to hear what James has to say in James 3:1–2.
It says, "Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check."
First, we need to be cautious about teaching in the church. Christians should be cautious about teaching in the church. James would know from experience. He was a prominent teacher in Jerusalem, the one who held that group of believers together, and was eventually martyred preaching the great truth of Jesus Christ. Foxe's Book of Martyrs tells us James had knees with callouses like camel knees, from kneeling and praying at the Temple. James spoke from experience. He says, "not many of you," here and later will refer to himself, "we who teach."
Possibly many who desired to teach and were spreading differing teachings. It doesn’t mean we should discourage people from being teachers. James is giving a warning.
Why warn people who might want to teach? Don't we need teachers in the church? Yes! We are always looking for potential teachers. But you need to know the eternal consequences of teaching in the church. There are some immediate consequences: Teachers endure long hours, hardship, lower pay, under appreciated, and unless you are a Pastor or on staff you do not get paid money to teach in the church, yet you still give it everything you've got. Teachers not only endure much preparation and work, but criticism. They also think ahead and Biblical teachers are the prow plowing the waters for the ship, the keel hitting whatever is on the bottom of the vessel, the sails to catch the wind of the Spirit’s leading, and the rudders steering the church according to the great navigation charts. Teaching carries awesome responsibility!
Have you ever seen a teacher who is great at teaching? It inspires us. There is tremendous power in teaching. A good teacher is like a good baker, preparing and delivering a hearty meal that appeals to the ears, eyes; we taste it, we feel it, and it energizes us for living!
A bad teacher is like being served rotten food! Unprepared, unskilled cooking/preparation, and the whole thing is ruined!
We need good teachers, but be cautious. Teach because you must and are able, not because you want to be up in front of people or are a good speaker. A one-time friend of mine in Dallas wanted to preach, and had not worked or served in the church at all. He lived somewhat for the Lord, and somewhat for himself. He was waiting for me and the others to allow him to preach. No one had ever heard him do anything up in front, and I explained to him we would never allow someone to teach without being able to watch their life and approve they had the skill, and more importantly approve of what they believed. He ended up leaving discouraged at not getting an opportunity, and I heard he was at another church waiting in the same way he waited at ours.
If you're in love with the idea of teaching, don't teach. Teach if you have passion, but not because you seek gain. Just like a political office, a teacher should serve and contribute towards a need.
Why be cautious? Because we who teach will be held in stricter judgment (v. 1). This is always on my mind, as I prepare for sermons, Sunday school, small groups, and any written form of teaching. God will hold me accountable for every word one day. You too, teachers. Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.”
If you are a pastor or elder in a church, you are supposed to be able to teach. This passage applies to you:
1 Peter 5:1–4, "To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ's sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God's flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away."
We should be able to tell people we teach, "Watch me! Follow my example!" Can you say that, teacher?
Another important concept is found in Ezekiel 33:1–6, "The word of the Lord came to me: 'Son of man, speak to your countrymen and say to them: 'When I bring the sword against a land, and the people of the land choose one of their men and make him their watchman, and he sees the sword coming against the land and blows the trumpet to warn the people, then if anyone hears the trumpet but does not take warning and the sword comes and takes his life, his blood will be on his own head. Since he heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning, his blood will be on his own head. If he had taken warning, he would have saved himself. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet to warn the people and the sword comes and takes the life of one of them, that man will be taken away because of his sin, but I will hold the watchman accountable for his blood.'"
We who teach share this responsibility as watchmen, because we proclaim the Word of God and tell people to live by it. Do you see the responsibility involved when someone comes and says, "I want to teach?" Whenever someone approaches me about teaching, I first try to watch their life for a year at least. They can assist and help, but if I don't know them, I would never allow them to teach. I also have to give account for that.
There are people I'm watching now whenever we fellowship, as they communicate, how important their spiritual growth is to them—all these areas. I pray God will raise up powerful teachers in our church and beyond.
I would have loved it if the man in Texas would have been willing to develop into a teacher.
There will be punishment for false teachers.
Matt 5:19, “Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
There are also other warnings. Paul said, "let them go all the way and mutilate themselves," when false teachers were adding to the Gospel.
There are some who teach today that it is okay to practice habits of homosexuality even in the church. I grew up with and have since met some who practice a lifestyle of homosexuality, and love each of these people. However, my love cannot change God's definition of sin. Teachers teaching that this is okay are wrong, and one day God will hold them accountable for it. In the same way, there are those who will be held in account because they wrongly teach that murder is okay if it is a fetus. Likewise, some wrongly teach that two people can live together physically as if they were married but not be husband and wife. God calls any type of sex outside marriage sin, but there are those either teaching it is okay or allowing it, thus endorsing it as okay. God will hold them all accountable.
What God calls sin is always sin, and never okay. God loves the people caught in sin, as Jesus demonstrated when the woman caught in adultery was brought before Him. Yet, loving people doesn't make their sin okay, and it doesn't mean we love sin.
Teachers should take the Bible and relay that to others. That's why I'm telling us what James says. Even now, there are political leaders celebrating what God calls sin. Not just accepting it, but celebrating it.
The culture we are in is asking, "Did God really say that?" Just like the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Teachers must be the voice to respond, saying, "God said it."
This doesn’t mean no one should teach. It does mean that we should monitor what we say very carefully, especially in passing along truths of Scripture; teaching.
For teachers, ask yourself this question: How would you teach differently if you had Jesus sitting in the classroom?
Let me give some advice humbly to those who are teaching in the church. I give it knowing I have a long way to go before I am like Christ, but this is what I know so far.
First, teach from the Bible. There are great commentaries, helpful books, and study guides, but the Bible is the best commentary on them all. Once in a church where I served as Youth Pastor a Sunday school class was led by a prominent businessman in the area. He had them reading a book full of different peoples' opinions of God. They discussed such things as conversations with God (the popular book). Don't be like that. They should have been digging deeper into the Bible.
Second, plan ahead. If you know today that you need to teach next week, then today jot down a tentative outline, or "the bones," and as the week progresses you can always add "the meat" to those bones.
Third, spend more of your time on the “there and then,” and the “here and now” will be easier.
Fourth, be creative.
Fifth, tell stories. In the Postmodern world and culture, people more and more have moved away from the "Modern Era" and "Enlightenment" and "abc, 123" kinds of teaching. Use stories whenever possible and imagery or examples to relate and communicate points.
Give examples of "How this works for me is . . ." or "How this works for [so and so] . . ."
Finally, as to Nate's teaching tips, be yourself. We have one of me, and one of everyone else, and don't want another one. We only have one of you. God brings each of us to a specific local church to be ourselves, because that church needs the individual contribution.
The overall third point, asking Why should we be cautious about wanting to teach in the Church? Because everyone makes mistakes
Teachers are public persons, standing and speaking the Word of God. So then, a teacher’s mistake will be greater than that of a student’s. I have made mistakes, and will in the future.
There are errors and unintentional mistakes. For these, teachers must be willing to do what ever mature follower of Jesus should do when making a mistake.
1) Admit it, 2) clean up or fix it, and 3) move forward
Then there are intentional mistakes or people misguiding others. Jesus warned us about leading others astray in Matthew 18:6–7, "But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea. Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!'" Woe was a cultural funeral cry as they carried someone's body. Mourners yelled it, and for Jesus to say that is a saying of sadness to false teachers. Their death is so certain the Lord already mourns it.
Verse 2b tells us if someone makes no mistakes he is perfect.
Directly causing people to stumble carries a heavy, eternal penalty. This is why I beg people to keep in prayer for me and our leaders. Just because things are going well, pray anyway. Whenever a leader falls he takes someone with him.
I also caution you, if anyone wants to take over their church or teach their own agenda, you are dealing with Jesus directly, as He will build His church. I caution anyone thinking of using the Church for personal gain (see 1 Peter 5 above).
When I was a leader on a team Mexico 12yrs ago, we had a woman who said the most insulting, offensive things to people and laughed. Her laugh made you feel good, but her words dug deep. After a few times, many people got upset. She nearly got sent home. There came a point when we all realized that this person was trying to lead everyone in a different direction from the leader, and we had to deal with it.
Those who teach, love it and be creative, and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you intend harm in the church, don't do it. If you make a mistake, admit it and fix it and move on. Enter teaching in Jesus' Church with reverence as one who will one day give account. In a culture that is shifting locally and nationally, the Church needs to remain the moral compass. Teachers maintain that course. Teach God's Word well.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Sin of Favoritism, James 2:1–9

In Luke 16:19–31, Jesus told a story, not a parable--but story, of a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus. Here's Jesus' story:

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' He answered, 'Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 'No, father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'"

Why is this story important? Why do we need to read what James has to say about favoritism? Because many of us would have acted like the rich man when we saw Lazarus. Many of us do. You too. In fact, we would have paid more attention to the rich man, if we're honest, than to Lazarus, the poor disheveled man laying by the gate. James calls that "sin!"
Here's what James says on the same topic:

“My brothers, do not have partiality in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ of glory. For if a man enters into your synagogue with a gold ring and bright clothing, and a poor man enters in filthy clothes, and you show special respect to the one who wears bright clothing and say, ‘Here, you sit in the best seat and to the poor man you say, ‘You stand there or sit by my feet.’ Have you not been judged by yourselves and become judges of evil reasoning? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love Him? But you dishonor the poor. Is it not the rich who exercise power over you? Is it not they who drag you into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the good Name that was called upon over you? If you really fulfill the royal law according to Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well, but if you show partiality you yourselves sin, and are exposed as violators of the law.”[1]

The first thing James says is that we must resist the urge to show favoritism to the powerful (v. 1–4). James instructed the audience not to show favoritism to the wealthy oppressors and so dishonor the poor. (v. 1–7). So he says, "Don’t show favoritism.”
What does it mean to resist the urge to show favoritism to those who oppress us? The people were being oppressed, and so honoring the rich oppressors out of fear.
To resist showing favoritism doesn’t mean you shouldn’t love and witness to those who mistreat you, or you should ignore those who take advantage of you. See verses 2 and 3 above again in James 2. Picture the story taking place in First Baptist Darlington, during a church service when you read it. It' s almost unbelievable. Except in Baptist churches they would probably put the poor person in front, since that's where no one wants to sit; otherwise it would be equally tragic.

To resist showing favoritism means:
You should love the person who can’t do anything for you, as if they were the wealthy and powerful. See that James says in verse 5 the wealthy were also the ones exploiting the people, dragging them into court, and slandering the Name of Jesus. These people showed favoritism to their rich oppressors and blasphemers. Why? To earn favor. Out of fear. What is favoritism? It is not helping people try and fit in, helping people realize their need for Christ and trust Him.
When I was in high school, a kid a couple of grades younger than I was usually sat alone at the lunch table. A couple of times I sat next to him during lunch, even though it was my senior year, I was in band, football, NHS member, and had been in baseball, so could have sat anywhere. I left all those other crowds to sit by this guy. I had no idea how much that meant to him until later on, and he eventually became president of a youth group of about 150 senior high students. I didn't know how much sitting by him meant until he wrote a note to me in the yearbook, "thanks for always sitting by me in lunch. It really made a difference." (something like that).

Fear as a motivation always leads to suffering without rewards.
When we disregard the poor, we dishonor the poor. In the context of suffering for what is good, you lose the reward when you suffer for what is not good. If you're in a situation where you find yourself 1 Pet 2:19–20, says, "For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God, but how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing wrong and endure it, this is commendable before God."

Someone would come into the church in James' audience, persecuting Christians, and Christians, out of fear, would favor those people! What does it look like not to show favoritism? It means Love the one who hugs you, as much as the one who hates you; favor the person who is merciful as much as the one who shows no mercy; show love to the one who can't help you as much as the one who can; show love to the one who looks up to you the same way you show love to the one who you look up to.

Proverbs 25:26 says that when a righteous person gives way to the wicked, it is like muddy water or a polluted well. If an unrighteous and powerful person approaches me, and I give into them, I am like a polluted well or muddy river--so are you if you follow Jesus and are righteous in God's sight. All the while someone is being left out.

Secondly, we must resist the urge also to show dishonor the poor (v. 5–7)
“You have insulted the poor.” We must resist the urge also to dishonor the poor. What does it mean? Insulting the poor means to regard those who have less money as if they had less value.
Question: Is value in God’s eyes measured by money? Possessions? How does God determine the value of a person’s work? By what they do for God! V. 5, It is the poor who will inherit the kingdom of heaven.

This is a message the church James addressed needed to hear, and it is a message the church today needs to hear! We get so caught up in the rat race of life we wake up one day and we are not honoring the ones Jesus tries to save, but honoring those who can do something for us, and there needs to be a change.
As a student at Moody Bible Institute, a couple times as a security officer (part time job I was glad to quit), someone would find a homeless man who was dead, and no one could be found who would care for the person. It wouldn't make the news, and no one aside from us who had to "clean up the mess" knew this person had passed. No family, no friends, and the message that was communicated was "nobody cares about this person!" The church should care. We care for all those who don't have family or friends, who have needs because Jesus cares for them.

Jeremiah said, "send me your orphans . . . your poor . . . your widows; I will care for them." Deuteronomy 15 shows how God's people on earth should make certain that no one is without. God’s intent was that no one should be poor! Deuteronomy 15:4–11 (READ IT) Jesus restated this intention! Luke 4:18, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor . . .” Some people short circuit the system of providing for the poor by taking more than what they need and abusing the system. Some short circuit it by not allowing the truly needy to partake. We who are God's should give freely, because it was freely given to us.

I heard an example of dishonoring the poor from a Georgia man I met. I told how a poor man came to a church one Sunday, wearing his best clothes, which were his t-shirt and holey jeans. Everyone else was dressed in a coat and tie, fancy dresses, and the only seat available was one seat in the front row. He stood out, and attracted the attention of the preacher. Finally the preacher stopped mid-sermon and said, "Sir, do you know what the dress code is at this church?" "No sir," replied the visitor. The preacher said, "I want you to go home and ask God what the dress code is at this church." The man sheepishly stood and walked out of the service. The preacher continued preaching. The next Sunday the same man visited, wearing the same clothes, sitting in the same place, and mid-sermon the preacher couldn't concentrate anymore. He stopped again, irritated, and said, "Sir, didn't I tell you last week to go home and ask God what the dress code is at our church?" The visitor, obviously embarrassed, replied, "Yes, sir, you did." "Then why are you dressed the same way as last week?" The man composed himself and replied, "Preacher, I asked God what the dress code of this church was, and God said he didn't know; He's never been to this church before."

Hopefully we don't treat people that way. God welcomed the beggar Lazarus into Abraham's bosom. Jesus told the thief who belonged on the cross, "Today you will be with me in paradise." We should be where people can come when they can't come anywhere else. There are problems in the church, but there are problems in the world too. The difference is we know we have problems and we're trying to fix them. There are problems here because everyone who has trouble comes here, and tries to find hope in God. Rightly so.

God’s church is on the earth so that those who can’t help themselves have assistance. God’s plan is that, even at our own expense, we honor those who are poorer than we are.
We must resist the urge also to dishonor the poor.
Lev 19:15, “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”

Thirdly, we must love everyone as we would love ourselves (v. 8–9). “If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right.” We must love everyone as we love ourselves. Look at the intense phrasing of "really keep the royal law."
James instructed the audience to love their neighbors as themselves, without partiality/favoritism, and so do well (key term). (v. 8–9)
What does it mean to love others as I love myself? Look at the progression in James: Don’t become part of the system of oppression and domination: that’s power over others. Don’t enable that. Second, give honor to those who, being poor, live for God. Ultimately: Love better than others.
It means:
If you want someone to notice and honor you, then notice and honor others.
If you want someone to hug you when you’re sad, give someone a hug who is discouraged.
If you want someone to respect you in public, respect others
If you want someone to call you, write letters, email, ask how you’re doing, then do that first!
If you want someone to help you financially if you get into trouble, then help others with what you have.
Showing favoritism to someone prevents someone else from receiving love or attention they need. All followers of Jesus love their neighbors as themselves. This fulfills the royal law, see 1:25, “law of liberty,” freedom to love! In Jesus Christ, we have the ability to break out of any bondage; including the ability to:
Receive love from Him. Give love to others because of Him
Warning of sin: v. 9, “But if you show favoritism you sin, and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers.” This is the sin of favoritism. We must resist the urge to show favoritism to the powerful, to dishonor the poor, and we must develop an urgency to love others like we love ourselves.
Application: If you are showing favoritism, it is a sin.
It means literally, “You yourselves sin, and are exposed as violators of the law.”
Favoring anyone for anything exposes a lack of love towards someone else and God hates it! Sin!
So, repent of each instance before God.
Favoritism might be because of: wealth, power, popularity, race, gender, ability/disability.
“We must love others as we love ourselves.”

If we as believers began to love others like we love ourselves, not just what is good enough, we would change our community over night. Then we would change the world.
We must resist the urge to show favoritism to the powerful, the urge to show dishonor to the poor, and we must love others as we love ourselves.
The greatest expression of loving others as we love ourselves and showing no favoritism is when Jesus died on the cross, letting His life be taken so He could take ours, rising again with all power from the dead. If you feel like you are that person in rags, poor, helpless, the great news is Christ has shown you the love you need. You can believe and get out of the rut you're in. God changes people.

[1] My translation.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

James 1:26–27, "Pure and Faultless Religion"

Tim Bowden, in his book One Crowded Hour, describes an incident in Borneo in 1964. Nepalese fighters known as Gurkhas were asked to help fight in the war, specifically if they would be willing to jump out of airplanes into combat against the Indonesians. The Gurkhas replied that they would, only asking that the plane fly slowly over a swampy area and no higher than 100 feet. When they were told that they would not have enough time to deploy their parachutes at 100 feet, the Gurkhas replied, "Oh, you didn't mention parachutes before!"
That's devotion.
Elizabeth Elliot told of her first date with her husband Jim, which was a missions meeting at Moody Church in Chicago. One of the speakers was a daughter of the famous missionary to Africa, C. T. Studd. C. T. Studd gave up a pro Cricket career in order to serve the Lord in Africa. The daughter told of her father's final moments. He lay on a cot, gazing around the little hut and at his few possessions. "I wish I had something to leave to each of you," he said to his family. Then he concluded with these words: "But I gave it all to Jesus long ago."[1]
That's devotion.

Devotion, by one definition, means, “ardent, often selfless affection or dedication, to a person or a principle.”
Devotion according to Webster means, “a religious exercise or practice other than the regular corporate worship of a congregation; the act of devoting (devotion of time and energy); the fact or state of being ardently dedicated and loyal." [2] (ardent = “eager, zealous”)
James writes in verses 26–27 about "religion," using a form of the word three times in two verses. What is the topic he's trying to get across? Religion.
When you hear “religion” it means devotion. James says, "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

Starting in verse 26, James describes pure and faultless religion or devotion. This is important for every believer. Why? We were created to glorify God, and are left on earth after salvation so that we can reach others and grow in our walk with Christ. Devotion is a large bone in the skeleton of Christian faith.
On that note, James says first, Pure and Faultless religion is devotion with our words (v. 25)
There is a reason James devotes a verse to this type of devotion, and splits the other two in one verse. If anyone believes he is religious and does not bridle his tongue, but deceives his heart, this religion is in vein. The verb for "bridle" means "to bridle something” such as with animals, horses, etc. The word for "deceives" means just that, “to deceive, mislead.”[3] It was used in 1 Tim 2:14, “and it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”
So religion equals devotion. Some of us are passionate; some of those who have a passion for God are also devoted to Him. There is a difference.

David Brainerd was a missionary to the Native American people during the time of Jonathan Edwards, in the 1700's. He told Edwards, "I do not go to heaven to be advanced but to give honor to God. it is no matter where I shall be stationed in heaven, whether I have a high seat or a low seat there . . . My heaven is to please God and glorify Him, and give all to Him, and to be wholly devoted to His glory."[4]
The first part of pure and faultless religion is this: devotion to God with what we say. In other words, James says to bridle your tongue. Put some reins on it. Have you met someone who controlled what they said, didn't talk badly about others, and would never lose control of their temper? People who are devoted to God have control over what they say.

I remember reading an epitaph, which is on a grave in England somewhere. It says:
"Beneath this stone, a lump of clay,
Lies Arabella Young.
Who on the twenty-fourth of May,
Began to hold her tongue."

If you fit this description, you might need to work on controlling your tongue:
- you frequently or regularly find yourself waiting for someone to leave the room before you speak.
- your kids know your friends' secrets
- your kids' friends know your friends' secrets
- you find yourself suddenly in great animosity around a certain person, and then realize it was for no reason at all . . . wait, maybe that's the guilt of having talked about them when they weren't around.
The main idea is back in v. 22, don’t say it and not do it. Be doers! Faith that works! Later in 2:12 James will tell us to speak and acts as those who will be judged by freedom (grace). An unbridled tongue can mean also that we say things that don't match what we should believe.

We must devote our words to God first of all.
Secondly, not only should our tongues, words, mouths, and all forms of speaking be devoted to God, but we should devote our actions towards others to God (v. 26).
Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father includes taking care of orphans and widows, and keeping oneself pure from the world.
What does it mean? The verb used here meaning “to purify,” means “undefiled.” It is used also in Hebrews 13:4, “Marriage is to be held in honor among all, and the marriage bed is to be undefiled, for fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” How do you know if your practice of faith is pure and undefiled? The answer is: How well do you control your tongue, how often do you assist needy orphans or widows, and how stained are you by the world.
In case the inquiring mind wishes to know, "orphan" means “being deprived of parents; being without parents.”[5] The word for widow means here "a woman whose husband has died.”[6]
What does taking care of them in their distress mean? It means a time of need. "Distress” is “trouble that inflicts distress; oppression, affliction, tribulation.”[7]
Defending Orphans and Widows sums up the way God always intended to meet social needs—through the compassion of His people.
Orphans and Widows are near to God’s heart because they are needy. In this culture, income and earnings were possible by two general methods:
1) a man in the family worked,
2) a woman sold herself into slavery or prostitution or both.
You can see then, the reason that it was very important for God's people to help prevent tragedy when a woman's husband died, especially if he was the only capable male in her life. You can also see why a devoted follower of Jesus helps not just widows but orphans, for they too would be left as victims of slavery or worse.

Look at what God says in his Word about the need to defend orphans. He cares about children without parents (could also apply today to children from broken home or with absentee parents).
1. Exodus 22:22–23, “You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him at all and he does cry out to Me, I will surely hear His cry.”
2. Proverbs 29:14, “If a king judges the poor with truth, his throne will be established forever.”
3. Proverbs 31:9, “Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and the needy.”
Look in the same way at widows. This could also apply to elderly who have no one, whether shut in or forgotten. The command is to “plead the case of the widow,” or to see that she gets what she needs.
1. Deuteronomy 10:18, "He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the alien by giving him food and clothing.”
2. Isaiah 10:1–2, “Woe to those who enact evil statutes, and to those who constantly record unjust decisions; so as to deprive the needy of justice, and rob the poor of My people of their rights, so that widows may be their spoil, and that they may plunder the orphans.”
I love this third verse. Take comfort, all who lack parents or who are elderly and alone!
3. Jeremiah 49:11, (the Lord speaking) “Leave your orphans behind, I will keep them alive; and let your widows trust in Me.”
4. Psalm 68:5, “A father to the fatherless, and a judge for the widows, is God in His holy mountain.”
5. Psalm 146:9, “The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widows, but He thwarts and way of the wicked.”
See how God has a heart for those in need! If you are a part of the Church, we need to show the world the heart of God.
James reminds us of this: How does God measure our devotion to Him? Our devotion to others, namely those who cannot help themselves, and who can never repay us for helping them. Later on, James will apply this same principle to how we treat the wealthy or powerful and mistreat the poor.
The third item of pure and faultless religion is devotion in my actions towards myself (v. 27)
People who are devoted to God keep themselves undefiled from the world
I read a book by Sam Harris entitled Letter to a Christian Nation, in which part of his argument is against Christianity because we care about sexual purity and a standard of personal morality; as opposed to caring solely for world hunger, the environment, world peace, or AIDS. Christians care about all of those things as much, but what Harris missed was how God has always demanded purity of His people. It's not that God is mean or a drill instructor, but God is the definition of holiness and righteousness. Sin, unholiness, unrighteousness--these all are wrong because they are against the character and commands of God. If God were any of those things, they would not be wrong (does that make sense?). He can't have those things in His presence because of Who He is, not because of arbitrary commands and laws. So since the best thing we can do is to be like Him, then the best thing we can do is to change our lives to reflect god-likeness (Godliness), and Christ-likeness.
The third and final way to practice pure and faultless religion is to keep oneself unstained from the world.
Hey ya'll, this is tough! Easy to say, tough to do! Do you know anyone who lives a sinless life? Me either. George Sweeting said, "We can never be sinless, but we must always sin less." That is sanctification in a nutshell.

James says we are to keep ourselves from being polluted by the world. The word means, “being of highest quality and without defect; spotless.”[7]
The principle is described in Ephesians 5:25–27, as we're given a peek into what Jesus desires in His bride, the Church, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."
Piece of cake! Yesterday! Are there stains on you? Wrinkles? Will Jesus need to pull you aside and iron you a bit? Is the wedding dress white? It's a life long goal, one day at a time. The key question is "Are you more pure than you were yesterday?"
Dear reader, please stop now. Especially if you're skimming really fast and need to hurry. Five minutes never hurt anyone. Ask yourself and God a question in light of verse 27 and the previous verse 21, "Is there a stain on me from the world? Music I shouldn't have listened to? Pictures or videos I shouldn't have watched? Words I shouldn't have said, and need to make right? Money or things that I have that aren't mine?" Verse 21 said, "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you" (we covered this is situational not eternal salvation. If you missed that, see the same word for salvation used in Matthew's Gospel for healing the sick).

What do I do if there is a stain in my life? 1 John 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from most of our unrighteousness?" NO. "ALL unrighteousness." Confess it to Him.
On that note, how are you doing altogether? I get the privilege to mull this over for at least a week before preaching it. I found some stuff I'm working on, and still find stuff. Confess to God, and if someone else was offended, own that stuff. Confess it.
If you discover you were the one offended, and the opposite party is either gone or refuses to make it right, forgive them. Forgiveness is God's bolt cutter that releases us from our ball and chains in life. Think of how Jesus said on the cross, "Father, forgive them; they know not what they do." He was innocent, still is, and yet cruelly abused and killed for our sin. But He rose on the third day and has remained alive since, so that all who believe in what He did can have eternal life. The Bible says, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved." Do you believe? Why not. Make that decision now and enter a life of pure and faultless devotion to God.
There's no close second to a life lived for God.

[1] Taken from, 12:40pm, 4/18/09. Originally from Our Daily Bread, January 30, 1994 and Elizabeth Elliot, Passion and Purity, p. 43.
[2] Taken from, at 8:50am, 4/17/09. Second definition from, 8:54am, 4/17/09, Merriam-Webster Dictionary Online, s.v.
[3] BDAG, s.v. All Greek definitions taken from Frederick W. Danker and Walter Bauer, eds., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000). This reference is the most popular and is commonly abbreviated BDAG for the initials of the four editors (Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich). S.v. is an abbreviation meaning the cited definition appears under the word if you were to look it up.
[4] Taken from, 12:30pm, 4/18/09. Originally from Our Daily Bread, November 19, 1997.
[5] BDAG, s.v.
[6] BDAG, s.v.
[7] BDAG, s.v.
[8] BDAG, s.v.

Monday, April 27, 2009

James 1:22–25, "Hearing and Doing the Word."

First, let me apologize to those who have checked and not found anything new. I hope that there is enough meat to last the occasional busy season, as this blogging is fun for me, but it is subject to the needs of the service (to quote Russell Crowe in Master and Commander). With Palm Sunday and Easter, and sick kids, and hospitalized relatives, along with the needs of the local church, many irons have fought for the fire. Yet, my apologies and I thank you for engaging. I hope that your time will always be well spent on this blog, not because of me, but because of to Whom I am pointing the reader. Be blessed, and I hope you can meditate well on not just hearing God's Word, but doing it . . .

. . . James 1, read verses 22–25, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror, and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does."

Have you read a disclaimer recently? The sign on a paranormal psychology meeting room read, "The meeting has been cancelled today due to unforeseen circumstances." I read another one, which explained on a rice cereal box that due to shifting during transport the amount on the label might not be what is inside. In other words, "It's not our fault!" Have you ever bought a 3/4 bag of potato chips? Why pay the same for less, especially half of the product? Have you ever found that in your walk with Christ, following Jesus, you have to give a disclaimer? You say, "I'm a Christian, but . . ." Or, "I know, I know, but I'm still a Christian." "I'm still saved, even though . . ."

This comes after James told us to have joy during trials, persevere, try and mature through trials, and if you lack anything ask God for wisdom and He will give it. When you pray and ask for wisdom (or anything else), pray in faith that God is good and will do what is best for Himself and then for His people. James then wrote not to worry about rich oppressors because their wealth would fade, but to persevere for the crown that doesn't fade. Seek (v. 17 following) good and perfect gifts, which are all from God, no matter where they originated. Verses 19 through 21 James warned of "Speed Limits."

Last time, we saw how James urged us to be in a hurry to listen, not just to others, but most of all to God in receiving the Word planted in us. Now James adds to that. See how James is building actions and steps in a staircase of practical theology? It's like a Master saying, "Very good, very good. Now that's you've accomplished that, move up to the next level."

So, James says now, "Don't just merely listen to the Word (which is a good thing) . . . Do what it says."

Wow. Think about the difference and the bridge he's asking us to cross there. The Bible contains some hard sayings, such as Jesus' command in Luke 6 "love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, pray for those who persecute you." James does not say "Quote Scripture," "Teach the Bible," or "Make your own translation." He says, "Do it! Do it! Do it!" (remember Nike? Just Do It?).

First, God’s people don’t just hear His word.
The Christians should have heard the word, but not JUST heard the word, (v. 22b–24). A “hearer” is “one who hears.” In 1 Timothy 4:13, Timothy was instructed by Paul to “devote yourselves to the public reading of Scriptures.”
Read Rom 2:12–16 (READ IT) Especially Rom 2:13, “For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.”
What is James teaching? This: The question to ask is not "Are you into God's Word?" But:
IS GOD'S WORD INTO YOU? Has it made it's way into your lifestyle?

As Tony Evans said, "When I'm cut, let me bleed the Bible." Let it be like the Gatorade commercials, "Is it in you?"

A boy watched a pastor working in his wood shop. The boy stared as the pastor worked, and in the midst of his frustration the pastor turned and asked, "What are you staring at?" The boy replied, "I just want to know what a pastor says when he hits his thumb with his hammer." I know all Christians say, "Amen. O darn, O brother."
For you, reading, is God's Word in you? Could people point to evidence that you follow Jesus?
There is the word, "And" in Greek at the beginning of this sentence, verse 22. It is as if James is saying, "And another thing . . . make sure when you listen to the Word, you do what it says."
We will see in verses 23–24, an illustration of what not to do. There are 3 verses on this and 1 verse on what TO DO. Emphasis on what not to do.
Look at James' illustration, in verses 23–24. A picture of a man looking into mirror at natural self, forgetting what he has seen.

At this point, it would be good if you have a mirror nearby to look at yourself, and make sure your hair is in place; there's no food in your teeth; no zits or blemishes. We use a mirror to check up on ourselves. We ask "Is my hair okay? Do my clothes match? How do my clothes look on me? Did I miss a hair while shaving? Is there food stuck in my teeth?" We use a mirror to make sure we look okay, right?

What if someone noticed his hair was messy, there was food in his teeth, he hadn't shaved, he had the crusty stuff in his eyes from just waking up, and then he walked away? People would be looking at him saying, "What happened to old so-and-so?"
(Get this) When we read God's Word and close it before asking, "What should I do about what I've just read," we have done just that. We will walk around and as James says, deceive ourselves.
What DO you hear and remember? A lot of influences are going into your mind through your eyes and your ears. Do you have thoughts and memories about:
1. Music lyrics
2. Language
3. Violence
4. Sex and sensuality on TV, Internet
5. Abusing and mistreating others through speech and violence?
The four most major influences in your life are:

1. The God we worship (whether or not that being/thing is the true, living God. This can be idols, sports, drugs, music, etc).
2. The family who raised you (mainly parents, but also siblings and extended family).
3. The friends we associate with.
4. The books we read.
The word “blessed” appeared in v. 12 and here only in James (2nd of 2 times). In verse 25, James emphasizes of “blessed is the man who perseveres through trials for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life.” He says, "he will be blessed in what he does," referring to the man who doesn't forget what he finds when he examines his life in light of Scripture.
What we do defines who we are.

What do you do? What do you do after you read or hear God's word?
A hearer only is not a person who will receive the crown of life; thus not a person who is a doer of the Word, and not a person who has been saved! Followers of Jesus follow Jesus.
At this point, you should read Matthew 21:28–32, five verses, but a loud story. Pause and read it.
Now, after reading that (did you read it? If not, please do so), Who did the master’s will?
If you think you’re going to heaven because of a prayer prayed once upon a time, and you hear God’s word week by week and do not follow it, I think it is very possible that you are not saved. If there is no fruit, then God is not in you, and you need to repent of your sin and ask Jesus to come in and save you. The idea that following Jesus is praying one time is a hearer-only theology.
Some in James’ audience were making this mistake, and he had to correct them. When God’s people forget what they have heard, they drift into ungodliness, such as James’ “hearers” did.
Have you ever known someone who really committed themselves to reading and doing God's Word?
I read of Dr. Louis Evans, Pastor of Hollywood Presbyterian Church, had both the Old and New Testaments memorized. He would challenge the college group to memorize verses. They would discuss many of these verses. He would teach them how to study the Bible and how to teach and preach the Bible. Once he challenged them to memorize all of 1 Corinthians 15. The following Sunday he recited the whole chapter (58 verses) by heart, and then preached on it.[1]
What is the application (what should the "doing" be)? Do whatever it takes to read, listen to, hear, and remember God’s word.
Memorize book and chapter of God's Word (book and chapter, chapter and verse if you can, but book and chapter). Have a regular reading time in God’s word. Everyday I read an Old Testament passage, New Testament passage, and most times translate for myself afresh from Hebrew or Greek to see it come alive. Make observations and applications, and try to live it out. I pick the verse that applies most to me, and try to remember it the rest of the day, applying it.
When we study God's Word, we should do at least 4 things. This is not in the sermon version, but only in this blog. The four things are four questions. This can take 4 minutes for beginners, and even four hours if you are persistent. The questions are:
1. What does it say?
2. What does it mean?
3. What am I doing?
4. What should I do?

Then, respond to question #4. If you do that, it's amazing how much you will grow spiritually.
The problem comes not when we know what we should do; the problem comes when we need to leap, dive, jump in; when we put action behind what we know we should do.
A person might read this and think, "But I'm mostly good. I follow Jesus in 99% of my life. I just want a little portion to myself."
Here are some scary facts about what would happen if 99% were good enough:
Michael Pinto wrote in, May 19, 2000, some scary things that might happen if 99% were good enough.
- 466,750 annual takeoffs and landings of commercial airplanes in the U.S. could end in tragedy (but hey, 99% of the time . . .)
- a light curtain on a power press, which averages 200 pieces an hour, could cause 16 lost fingers a day of the operators (if it operated correctly 99% of the time).
- the safety trainer who is only accurate 99% of the time would seriously jeopardize the lives of 20 construction workers per year. (but hey, 99% of the time everyone would go home at the end of the day)
We try to reason with God like this, don't we? "God, I'm obeying You 99% of the time?" While a lost world suffers without their Savior, and we fail to deliver the most important news that could save lives, we rest in our "mostly" obedient status. (but hey, 99% of the time . . .)
Another source ( has a posting that has calculated that if 99% were good enough (based on popular, average surveys. FYI, snopes is designed to correctly research false Internet facts and disprove them, so this is "99%" accurate, and even allowing for a margin of error lets us see the danger of being only 99% accurate--ironically):
- 12 newborns will be given to the wrong parents daily
- 114,500 mismatched pairs of shoes will be shipped this year
- 18,322 pieces of mail will be mishandled every hour
- 2,000,000 documents will be lost by the IRS this year
- 2.5 million books will be shipped with the wrong cover
- 2 planes landing at Chicago's O'Hare airport will be unsafe every day
- 315 entries in Webster's dictionary will be misspelled
- 20,000 incorrect drug prescriptions will be written this year
- 880,000 credit cards in circulation will turn out to have incorrect cardholder info on their magnetic strips
- 103,260 income tax returns will be processed incorrectly during the year
- 5.5 million cases of soft drinks produced will be flat
- 291 pacemaker operations will be performed incorrectly
- 3, 056 copies of tomorrow's Wall Street Journal will be missing one of the three sections
But hey, if we're 99% good, that's good enough, isn't it? Think again, follower of Jesus. He deserves nothing less than 100% doing what He says.
I think it's important to pause and explain why it is so important for a follower of Jesus Christ to regularly read God's Word. Why listen to this book?
When we say we believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, and we have God’s words recorded, we understand that happened over 2,000 years. We acknowledge that occasionally as copier A passed onto to copier B, then onto C and D, etc. possibly B or C didn’t cross a “T” or dot an “I” that D saw, and then he corrected it. The looking back to find the closest to the original documents as we can and study them is called Textual Criticism. IMPORTANT: this is why the church has always held a collection of manuscripts going back as far as possible, and why we specify we believe “in the verbal inspiration of Scripture complete and without error in the original manuscripts.”
Is our English Bible reliable today? Absolutely! Because pastors and theologians have been keeping records for thousands of years, we have the Bible as it was given to God’s people. How do we know for sure that the Bible we read today is reliable? How do we know it is the Bible as God gave it to men?
I'm glad you asked.
Let's look at a summary of answers on the Old Testament:
Until the 1930’s, when the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, our earliest manuscripts of the Old Testament were copies from around 900AD. Now we have copies from 125 B.C. (1,000 years earlier!). We also know that a Greek version of the Old Testament between 250 and 150 B. C., was copied by 70 men in Alexandria Egypt. We have the first five books of the Old Testament copied and preserved from the 4th Century B. C. by the Samaritans (Samaritan Pentateuch). We have Jewish translations into foreign language during their time of exile from the 6th Century B.C. I have read portions of the Babylonian works by Jewish rabbis from the 6th Century and on (very difficult, but it’s there!). Finally, if those works are considered authentic, then we must trust their references to history that show us all the way back to 1,400 years before Christ when Moses compiled the first 5 books, and 2100 years before Christ (Abraham).
What about the New Testament?
We have much more evidence for the New Testament. Compare it to the other historical documents of the same period. Of the major historical documents written around the time of the New Testament, we have the following with their oldest manuscripts and number of them:
1. Livy (59BC–17AD). The oldest copy we have is from the 4th Century AD, 27 copies survived.
2. Tacitus (AD56–120).The oldest copy we have is from the 9th Century AD, 3 copies survived.
3. Suetonius (AD69–140). The oldest copy we have is from the 9th Century AD, 200+ copies survived.
4. Thucydides (460BC–400BC). The oldest copy we have is from the 1st Cent. AD, 20 copies survived.
5. Herodotus (484BC–425BC). The oldest copy we have is from the 1st Cent. AD, 75 copies survived.
We have over 5,700 Greek manuscripts (papyrus and other forms) of the New Testament! Within 100 years after it was written (2nd Century AD) we have manuscripts. We have older and more manuscripts than any other historical document of that era. Over 10,000 in Latin, and more than 1 million quotations from the church fathers and others.[2]
God’s Word is more reliable than any other historical document of that time!
God’s Word should be heard, and done, especially by those of us who claim to follow Him.
We need to do what God says in His Word!

Verse 25 says, "But." He will contrast what he has just said.

The second and final major point to make is this: Not only should God's people hear His Word, but God’s people are doers of the Word
The Christians should have done the word (v. 22a, 25)
The word for “doer” means “one who does what is prescribed.”[3]
Like looking into the perfect law of freedom.
Compared in James with looking at oneself versus looking at God (previous verses).
Just like looking into the mirror exposes physical flaws, so God’s word is a better mirror for checking ourselves for flaws: spiritually, physically, mentally.
“he who looks into;” “look into” is “to bend over for the purpose of looking, with the focus on satisfying one’s curiosity, take a look.” It was also used in:
John 20:5, “And stooping and looking in, he [John] saw the linen wrappings lying there, but did not go in.”
John 20:11, “But Mary was standing outside the tomb weeping, and as she wept, she stooped and looked into the tomb.”
Luke 24:12, “But Peter got up and ran to the tomb, stooping and looking in, he saw the wrappings only, and he went away to his home, marveling at what had happened.”
It is always used to describe someone focusing, taking a very good, close look at something. It meant tunnel vision, or rapt attention. This is how followers of Jesus should treat God’s Word. Focus, intent, anxiously expecting to have something to walk away with that will change the way we live.
When was the last time you opened the Bible, read it, thought about it, and said, “aha!” You went away seeing something needing correction and were changed! You were a doer of the word!
Psalm 19:7, “The Law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul”
Those who did the work would be blessed in their doing
James' phrase in verse 25 for “perfect law,” is the first time James uses “law.”
James 2:8, “love your neighbor as yourself,” fulfills the “royal law” (King’s Law)
James 2:10, “whoever keeps the whole law and stubmels in just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”
Jesus said, Matt 5:17, “I did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them.”
Jesus gave a new law—the law of freedom. It involves hearing and doing, and blessing for workers. The perfect law that gives freedom is to bind oneself to the law of God, "perfect, reviving the soul."
How are you doing in this area?
The reason you should be a doer is seen if you go to Atlanta Georgia, and eat at The Church of God Grill. One person was so curious about the name of the restaurant, that he asked one of the servers how they picked it. The reply was that once upon a time that building and location was The Church of God. Then they started serving fried chicken. Eventually the fried chicken attracted many people, and they served it with every service. The church died out and gave way to serving people friend chicken. But, they liked the name, so they kept it.

Can you imagine one day driving to Darlington and seeing, "The First Baptist Church Grill"? "The First Baptist Civic Center," or "The First Baptist Recreation Park"? Or how about your church if it isn't Darlington? May it never be! Never!
Let's practice what we read, and hear God's Word. Then, before closing the Bible, pledge ourselves to answer the final question, "What should I do about it?"
If you're reading this and I'm writing in a foreign language, it might be because the Holy Spirit is not with you, which would be because you have yet to trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Acts 16:31 gives the answer to the question, "So what do I do about how Jesus died to pay for my sin on the cross? So what if He came to life on the third day? So what if it was prophesied to happen that way? What does that mean for me?" The answer is "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved."
Do that first, becoming a doer of God's Word. Then continue, as James says, "Do not merely listen tot he word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, And 1,501 Other Stories, (Nashville: Word Publishers, 1998), 52.
[2] Darrell L. Bock, Daniel B. Wallace, Dethroning Jesus, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2007), 51.
[3] BDAG, s.v.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

James 1:19–21, "Speed Limits"

James 1:19–21 says, (NIV) "My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you."

When my wife and I were students at Dallas Theological Seminary, I was dropping her off for a class and returning home one morning. This was the time of day when schools were about to start their regular, daily session. I drove a different way back home, taking a side street. I turned into the middle of a school zone speed limit area. I had turned in after I should have seen the first sign that warned me to slow down to 20 mph. A second sign should have warned me, but that sign was partially hidden in the bushes, so I didn't see it. The third sign got my attention. It was a police officer standing in the middle of the road. I thought to myself, "There must have been an accident. Something is wrong. Hopefully there's nothing wrong with the students at the school. I switched lanes to move around the police officer, and the police officer also switched lanes to stand in front of me. He wanted me to stop, holding out his hand. I had no idea what could have gone wrong, but figured it was terrible if it was bad enough to stop traffic between 7 and 8am on a weekday morning in the metropolis of Dallas, Texas. Then I saw the sign on my right that said "End School Zone." I thought, "Great. A speeding ticket." My first reaction was to explain to the officer what happened, that I didn't see the sign. He didn't care, just nodded his head and kept writing. The speed limit was there for the kids' protection. Reflecting later on this, I thought that since I was driving by a school I should have gathered that I should have driven slower.

Like this, there are speed limits posted in life. Whether or not we acknowledge them makes no difference. The consequences for breaking God's speed limits happens no matter what we think about them.

God gives us speed limits for our benefit in James 1:19–21. This is one of those passages where we could read it quickly and get an idea for what it says, but we have to remember it and do it. The problem with God's speed limits for human beings is on our end. We get too emotional sometimes and before our brain has a chance to filter us, something comes out of our mouth that we wish we would not have said.

James pleaded with "my brothers," his fellow believers, not to let that loss of control happen. Later he writes about the tongue in the same way. This follows James' warning in verse 13 not to give into the trial of temptation. Closing ears and opening mouths too quickly is a serious temptation that can damage the Church of Jesus Christ.

James urges us, first of all, that we should be quick to listen and slow to speak (v. 19)

God’s people are quick to listen and slow to speak (v. 19)
“Quick” is used to mean great urgency and haste, as in:
Luke 15:22, “But the Father said to His slaves, ‘quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him,’” prodigal son story Jesus told.
Matt 28:8, Mary and Mary after the angels announced Jesus’ resurrection and they saw the empty tomb, “And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to report it [the resurrection] to His disciples.”
A good way to rephrase this would be, “be in a hurry to listen. Especially compared to how much you speak.”
The emphasis is on not opening our mouth too fast. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
“Slow” is used in:
Luke 24:25, “O Foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!”
2 Pet 3:9, adjective of it, to mean slowness, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing for any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”
James says, paraphrase, “be slow/hesitant to speak and slow/hesitant to anger.”

James’ admonishment was for the audience, spread all over, to do more listening and less talking.
Why? Later on see how speaking mixed with anger would not accomplish God’s righteousness.
Have you ever been in the presence of a good listener? Someone who listens well? There are times in life when the best thing we can say is nothing. There are times in ministry where a ministry of silent presence is all that is needed; all that is allowed.

Here at First Baptist Church, we too have to be careful of this. You (whether here or another church) can fall into the trap of thinking you are the Oracle of Delphi and you gift others whenever you smell a problem by dumping words on them.

In marriage, husbands listen to their wives and then try to solve the problem. That's why wives get frustrated and say, "You're not listening!"

Listening more and talking less is difficult, because our western world of corporate influence believes that talking more and listening less is the way to get ahead. The person who is loudest, more verbally dominant, controlling, harsh, and quickest to open their mouths will get ahead. That's the way the world is setup, and therefore when we live that way we also gain worldly rewards (see last entry. Seek God's gifts, not the world's).

If you obey God here and don't give into the temptation to be the first with the right answer all the time, or the pushy person who uses rage to get his way, but are quicker to listen and take your time when speaking, you will not get ahead according to the world. Count the cost.

Christians should pause and ask, "Am I living for Friday, or for 20years down the road?" You won't get ahead by Friday if you live according to the "ready, fire, aim" motto of the world. But if you are more concerned about 20 years in the future, you should consider what God says about how to get ahead. Start with listening more, and speaking less. Speak in quality not quantity. It's easier on the ears too. People will start to listen to you every time, because they will learn that when you speak you have wisdom, and you don't speak unless you have something valuable to contribute. It takes time to "train" others to identify this, and in the process we get stepped on, but it outlasts the "shoot from the hip" "fast money" because God's way can be done whether 20 or 90 years old. No one can dominate everywhere, all the time, for their entire life.

I urge the reader to think about this because what you start with, you must maintain. "Don't start what you can't finish," (to use an old mantra).

There are a lot of times when someone is speaking and you know what to say before they finish. But if you wait until they finish, sometimes you realize you almost made a terrible mistake, and they didn't say what you thought they were going to say.

Dr. Rascher, a professor of mine at Moody Bible Institute, used to minister among Native Americans in the U.S. and Canada. He shared with us that in one tribe where he ministered, when you were with an elder, especially as a newcomer, you would never speak first. You let the elder speak. He said that as a newcomer he sat next to the elder to talk, and waited for him to speak first. He waited for a long time. For hours and hours he sat, before being spoken to, and if he had talked he would never have gained access into the community in order to share Christ with them.
People have misconception: More words means more is accomplished.
If you have a problem keeping the mouth closed, this verse was written for you! Proverbs 10:19, “When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise.” Let he who has an ear hear!
Lee Iacocca was a busy man running the Chrysler Corporation. Even so, he knew the value of taking time off: “I’m constantly amazed by the number of people who can’t seem to control their own schedules. Over the years, I’ve had many executives come to me and say with pride: ‘Boy, last year I worked so hard that I didn’t take any vacation. ‘ It’s nothing to be proud of. I always feel like responding: ‘You dummy. You mean to tell me that you can take responsibility for an $80 million project and you can’t plan two weeks our of the year to go off with your family and have some fun?”[1]
Is reading the Bible a necessary part of your day or does it have a low priority in your life? George Mueller, after having read the Bible through one hundred times with increasing delight, made this statement: "I look upon it as a lost day when I have not had a good time over the Word of God. Friends often say, "I have so much to do, so many people to see, I cannot find time for Scripture study.? Perhaps there are not many who have more to do than I. For more than half a century I have never known one day when I had not more business than I could get through. For 4 years I have had annually about 30,000 letters, and most of these have passed through my own hands. "Then, as pastor of a church with 1,200 believers, great has been by care. Besides, I have had charge of five immense orphanages; also, at my publishing depot, the printing and circulating of millions of tracts, books, and Bibles; but I have always made it a rule never to begin work until I have had a good season with God and His Word. The blessing I have received has been wonderful.”[2]
Application: Slow down! No one says at the end of their life, “I’ve spent too much time with family. If only I could have had more time to do my work!” Many say, “I should have spent more time with my family and friends!” Slow down!
A hurried, stressful life leads to hurried, stressful responses, which leads to hurting, stressful relationships.
Listen: first to others in conversation, but there is another audience that requires ever believer’s attention. We’ll come back to that in a minute.

Secondly, we should be slow to anger, because it accomplishes nothing for God (v. 19b–20)
A person’s anger does not work out God’s righteousness. It hinders it.
James told them to be slow to anger, because man’s anger does not accomplish the righteous life God desires (v. 19b–20). Same word for “slow” meaning “be slow/hesitant to anger”
James commanded God’s people not to be quick to get angry.
Sometimes people are quick-tempered. Hot headed. Get angry fast. React fast. Can’t change their mind once they march off with a head full of steam!
James says, “That should not happen except once in a lifetime, and not even then if you can help it.” Why? For “man’s anger does not accomplish the righteousness of God.”
People in the Bible who lashed out in anger and did not accomplish God’s righteousness:
1. Adam and Eve quick to speak and anger in blaming
2. Abraham quick to have an offspring through Hagar instead of waiting
3. Jonah leaving for Tarshish instead of Ninevah b/c quick to anger!
4. Peter taking a sword and cutting off Malchus’ ear b/c he was quick to anger!
All of us are in one of two schools of anger management:

or Twain. Thomas Jefferson said, “When angry, count to ten. If very angry, count to 100.”
Mark Twain said, “When angry count to four. If very angry swear.”[3]
James dealt with people in his audience who from time to time had lost control of their temper. James says that our anger does not accomplish God's desires. Our desires don't always accomplish God's.
We get an idea in our minds sometimes and then it suddenly blurts out. Sometimes people don't say everything they're thinking, but they let it build up until finally it explodes. Being slow to anger doesn't mean being slow to lose one's temper, but it means being slow to have a temper at all.
I think that there is a dangerous idea in Southwest Wisconsin. We have different problems than I came into contact with in Dallas, but we have our own problems to deal with. We sometimes get to the point where we think we have grown up already, whether through confirmation or through a process in our church, and think we have learned everything there is to know.
The Christian life is a process of constantly seeking new ways to be more like Christ.
When we are upset, we need to think about two things: 1) What we say, and 2) the Way we say it.
If we say something to a person in anger it is different than if we say it calmly. Sometimes people can't hear us because of all the emotion that is coming out.
Anger can become such a monster that it overrides the content of our words and destroys relationships, as we seek to massage our feelings and hurt and give someone a piece of our mind (which we cannot afford to lose).
James says, "Don't do that. You will not accomplish God's mission on earth."
Once again, what feels good is not always healthy, and not always godly.
Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.
If you master these, you will be pleasing both to God, and everyone you know.

What does James say next? After saying to be quick to listen and slow to speak, and slow to anger, and telling us what NOT to do, James tells us what TO DO.

Third, James told them (therefore) to receive with humility the word planted in them, which can save them, getting rid of all moral filth and evil that is so prevalent, (v. 21)
Therefore, “therefore/for this reason,” (ask “what is it there for?”)—referring to quick listening and slow speaking and slow anger.
James tells them another path to take: receive God’s word, getting rid of moral filth and evil.
"With Humility!" Not proudly, or with arrogance, but serving the person who angered us and serving God by humbly receiving the word planted in us.
Being slow to anger involves having humility, as well as being quick to listen and slow to speak.
v. 21 says "Accept the word planted in you," or in some translations "receive."
What is James saying? We are supposed to be quick to listen to others in conflict, but most of all who are we supposed to listen to?
Listen to the Word of God which is inside you, follower of Jesus. Listen to the "Word" that "became flesh and dwelt among us." Receive by reading Scripture, following Jesus.
Once again, James uses conception terminology, like above where James had said (verses 13 and following) to be careful that evil desire doesn't conceive and create sin, which gives birth to death. Instead, here James says to be impregnated by the Word of God.
Try this: When we're upset, instead of giving into anger, seek other possible outcomes by reading God's Word, the Bible. Do you have verses about anger? Here's a great passage for those who have problems with anger management.
Ephesians 4:25–32, (NIV) "Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 'In your anger do not sin.' Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according tot heir needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you."
However, getting rid of moral filth and evil are a secondary step.
The command here in v. 21 is “receive” the word planted in you, and the "dependent clause" is getting rid of moral filth and evil.
So then, the main verb in verse 21 is our accepting of God's word. It's like if I were going to the store to pick up groceries and my wife calls and says, "While you're going to the store, can you pick up eggs and milk?"
Here is an important point: Part of my receiving God's word is my getting rid of all evil and moral filth! Look quickly at "lay aside."
“Put off” is “lay aside,” used in Heb 12:1, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
1 Pet 2:1, “Therefore, put aside . . .” names specific sin. This phrasing in James was common language for getting rid of sin. He tells the hearers this phrase in a summary of all kinds of various evils: uncleanliness or vulgarity and abundance of evil. Implied above in the “therefore” is that these all came from slowness to listen and quickness to become angry and speak.
So here is another important point: Instead of my anger leading to the righteousness of God, what can I do that leads to God's righteousness? Listening to the Word of God.
My anger won't get rid of moral filth and sin; it will only add to it. James says that there is excessive evil within his audience. It needed to be rooted out! My talking when in sin will not help in this.
If you're reading this, why not follow what James teaches?
Someone is asking, “But wait! What about the people who make me mad? How can I listen while they’re angry, and I’m not supposed to get angry?
Someone else is saying, "I don't get mad. I get even!"

God doesn’t want us to get even; He wants us to get better. We can only get better through getting into His Bible.
A friend of mine, Sherry, worked with me years ago in a ministry for youth in the Chicagoland area. She told us once that she, as a nurse, was bandaging a man who had been in a fight. She looked his shirt and it was a promotional shirt for the ministry we were a part of. She had our attention. Before finishing working on him she told the man, "Don't you dare wear that shirt again until you change your ways."
We need to put aside all the sin in our lives or else we look like the man who got into a fight with his Christian T-Shirt on.
I urge the reader to accept God's Word, be quick to listen, and quick to obey it. Sometimes when we are with others we also need to listen. If you're the wisest person, then forget this part. But for the rest of us, we need to read God's Word.
Bernard of Clairvaux has good to say about humility, which applies to having the ability to listen. The proud or arrogant won't listen. Let's be listeners.
Humility will save you from consequences of rash, unrighteous anger. Bernard of Clairvaux, monk in 12th Century AD wrote about humility: “So long, then, as I am not united to God, I am divided within myself and at perpetual strife within myself. Now this union with God can only be secured by love. And the subjection to him can only be grounded in humility. And the humility can only be the result of knowing and believing the truth, that is to say, having the right notions of God and of myself."[4]
Humility will save you from rash, unrighteous anger.

i. We should be quick to listen and slow to speak (v. 19)
ii. We should be slow to anger, because it accomplishes nothing for God (v. 19b–20)
iii. Receive with Humility the word of truth which is inside you
Look finally at the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, especially verses 16–23. It's about listening. He who has an ear, listen to the Word of God.
Not only should we listen to and receive God's Word, but Jesus is the Logos, or Word made flesh. First, before listening to anything else, you must hear Jesus and believe He is Who He says He is. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He died in our place and came to life again, confessing sin to Him and repenting of it, and the Bible says we are saved from our sin.
[1] Taken from Originally from Lee Iacocca, An Autobiography by Lee Iacocca & William Novak, Bantam, 1988, quoted in Lifeline, Summer, 1997. My late beloved Dr. Harold Hoehner would not approve of this footnote for citing second level sources. So I leave it partially to show the loss of losing him a few weeks ago to a heart attack. I would not be where I am if it were not for him and his investment as the second reader for my Master's Thesis.
[2] Taken from Originally from Counter Attack, Jay Carty, Multnomah Press, 1988, pp. 155ff

[3] Charles R. Swindoll, The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998), 33.
[4] Swindoll, s.v. humility.