James commands us not to take oaths, but instead to have full integrity (James 5:12).

James commands us not to take oaths, but instead to have full integrity (James 5:12).

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Many years ago, a courageous and devoted American broadcast a message to his listeners that served as a harbinger for where the nation was headed societally and culturally. In his broadcast he revealed what he would do if he were “the devil,” to destroy our culture and undermine our collective societal standards and social mores. That man was Paul Harvey Aurandt, affectionately known to the nation simply as Paul Harvey, and his message not only has proven to be prophetic, but serves as a warning to Americans today of where our society continues to trend.

Paul Harvey was a broadcaster who rendered daily news on the radio from the 1950s through the 1990s, and inspired generations of Americans with true stories of goodness and heroism with his daily, “The Rest of the Story.” He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005 for his contributions to the nation. At his peak, his broadcasts reached as many as 24 million listeners and readers, as 1,600 radio stations and 300 newspapers carried his program and columns across the nation.

One broadcast, which he titled, “If I Were the Devil,” ran originally in 1964, but he updated it several times over the years, and the version detailed below aired in 1996. In Paul Harvey’s own words, here is what he said he would do, if he “were the devil.”

Here it begins:

“If I were the prince of darkness, I would want to engulf the whole world in darkness. I’d have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I would not be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree — thee. So, I would set about however necessary to take over the United States.

“I’d subvert the churches first, and I would begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent, I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: ‘Do as you please.’

“To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince the children that man created God instead of the other way around. I’d confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old, I would teach to pray after me, ‘Our Father, which art in Washington …’

“Then, I’d get organized, I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

“If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves and nations at war with themselves until each, in its turn, was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

“If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellect but neglect to discipline emotions. I’d tell teachers to let those students run wild. And before you knew it, you’d have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door. With a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing and judges promoting pornography. Soon, I would evict God from the courthouse and the schoolhouse and then from the houses of Congress. In his own churches, I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I’d lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

“If I were the devil, I’d take from those who have and give to those who wanted until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. What’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

“I’d convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun and that what you see on television is the way to be. And thus, I could undress you in public and lure you into bed with diseases for which there are no cures.

“In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.”[1]

Today we celebrate Independence Day in worship, but I want to talk about something that has also been important to our country, integrity.

Something that is for sure missing in our country right now is integrity.

Thomas Jefferson wrote:

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.[2]

Further, he wrote:

Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.[3]

George Washington wrote:

“In politics as in philosophy, my tenets are few and simple. The leading one of which, and indeed that which embraces most others, is to be honest and just ourselves and to exact it from others, meddling as little as possible in their affairs where our own are not involved. If this maxim was generally adopted, wars would cease and our swords would soon be converted into reap hooks and our harvests be more peaceful, abundant, and happy.”[4]

In a recent biography of Washington Chernow writes:

He valued his reputation for integrity, calling it “the principal thing which is laudable in my conduct.”[5]

Integrity… Let’s talk about integrity.

Why can’t our “yes” be “yes” and our “no,” “no?” Why can’t we be trusted?

In this sermon I want to show you that human beings are all liars. That sounds harsh, but the point is that we have a sin nature that compels us to lie. So, we will do things in order to give more confidence in our words. We swear. But James is saying that even though humans are liars, Christians aren’t liars. James is telling us don’t swear, instead be habitually honest.

Turn with me to James 5:12

But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

  • Notice that James writes “above all.”
    • It seems that this is the most important command he has given. What other command has James started with “above all?” None. This is the only time “above all” is used in the epistle of James.
    • What James is about to introduce is clearly very important. But this is not new material. James has written about our words all the way through his epistle. In James 1:19: be slow to speak; James 1:26: anyone who thinks of himself as religious must keep a tight rein on his tongue. James 3:1-12 are about not using our words to curse people. In chapter 4:11-12 it says not to slander one another, then in verses 13-17 he writes about boasting and bragging. So, James is not introducing a new theme, but building on an old theme.
    • Actually, if you look in your Bible you will see that there are only about eight verses left in this epistle. It seems that James is hitting on a few important points as he closes.
    • So, James introduces this one as the most important.
    • Look at the rest of the verse, what do you think? You may not care too much about an oath, but look at the end of the verse. “Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” This means you should be trustworthy.
      • How many of you are employers? Don’t you want employees you can trust?
      • How many of you are parents? What do you do when your children directly lie to you? Do you pat them on the back and say, “Way to go son”? No, of course you don’t. Even if you are habitual liars you don’t let your children lie.
      • Integrity is lacking today, isn’t it? Do we even know who to trust in politics or the news?
    • So, we must see why this is introduced with “above all.” James wants Christians to be trustworthy.
  • Now, James gives the command. He says not to swear. Don’t swear by Heaven or by earth or by anything else.
    • Before I talk more about swearing, I must reference

Matthew 5:34-37:

But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.

  • You can see that Jesus gave the same teaching. But I can tell you that James didn’t look at Matthew’s scroll and plagiarize this material. This epistle of James was written before Matthew was written. James might have heard Jesus teach this, but also we must remember that the Bible has many authors but God is guiding the authors. God is inspiring and guiding the message.
  • Now, when James writes about swearing he is not talking about a list of vulgar words. He is talking about calling on God or an object to support your words.
  • An oath or swearing had three parts. It was a testing to the truth, calling for God to witness and, thirdly, invoking God’s punishment if you violated your word. To say “I swear to God” meant I want you to know I’m telling the truth, I want God to witness I’m telling the truth and I want God to punish me if I’m not telling the truth. Very serious. You’re invoking the curse of God on you if you lie in an effort to try to convince somebody that you’re really telling the truth.
  • People did this in that time period. One reason that Jesus preached against it was that the Pharisees would swear by the temple thinking they were okay to do that. But Jesus says that God created the temple. No matter what, when you swear, you are swearing by God.
  • There are a number of times in the epistle of Hebrews that it references how God would swear by Himself in Genesis and that is true. But God can do that because He is God and there is no one greater. Besides that, it is likely what James is condemning is flippant swearing. He is not condemning an oath in a court room.
  • So, James tells us not to swear.
  • One of my sources read: Misuse of the name of God, profaning the name of God, blaspheming the name of God, dragging down the name of God, invoking the name of God illegitimately, all of that is, in a sense, related to the kind of swearing that James has in mind. But it’s a very specific thing that he’s after here that was a part of that Jewish culture. May I add to you that it wasn’t only Jewish, it also belonged in the Greek culture. Have you ever heard anybody say, “By Jove,” have you heard that? Jove was a Greek god and when the Greeks wanted to swear they swore by Zeus or by Jove, or by somebody…J-o-v-e.
  • Next James tells us the motivation not to swear. The motivation is that we are habitually honest. “Let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.”
    • These days we have contracts for business deals, we have to sign things at banks, and we have to swear an oath at a court room because people are not trustworthy. People will lie to protect themselves. Teachers can tell you that parents will lie to protect their children.
    • James is saying this should not be true among Christians.
    • A preacher was going to preach on honesty and he told everyone to read Joshua 25. The next Sunday he came and said, “Great. Now you’re the ones I want to talk to. Joshua has only twenty-four chapters, and I am especially concerned about you tonight.”[6]
    • That was meant in humor, but there is a point there. Christians must do better.
    • When I was a senior in high school I went with my youth pastor, Dave, to pick up an old truck he was going to buy. It was actually a truck that was pretty much in parts. He was purchasing this in order to restore his 69 Chevy truck. Dave had agreed on a set price with the seller to purchase this for. I remember the seller filling out the title with the price he was selling it for. He asked Dave, “How much do you want me to write down that I am selling this to you for? The government gets enough of our money.” He said this because, though he had already received the money from Dave, Dave would have to pay taxes on whatever amount written down that he was selling it for. So, the seller was willing to write down as little as one dollar so that Dave wouldn’t have to pay as much in taxes. But Dave was paying much more. This was a lie.
    • Dave responded to the seller by saying, something like, “Just write down the amount we agreed on, it’s the right thing to do.”
    • That was an amazing example of integrity, of Christians doing the right thing. That was an example that I was not taught, but I caught. That was an example that I needed to see. Here I was a young man about to graduate high school. Here I was a young man with all the pressures of the world and I saw an example of a godly man doing the right thing.
    • I want to ask you to reflect on your honesty:
      • How’s that working for you?
      • Have you told any white lies lately? Maybe you have fudged some numbers in order to get something cheaper.
      • Maybe you have tried to use a coupon twice.
      • Maybe you have been pulled over for speeding, what did you tell the police?
      • Maybe you didn’t do something correct at work and when confronted you stretched the truth.
        • Students, this message is for you too. The Word of God is for every age group and every age group must still fight off sin.
        • Even pastors must fight the temptation to stretch the truth. I was listening to Chip Ingram on Moody Bible Radio. He is a pastor out west. Back in the late 70’s he would say, “there were X amount of people at Bible study last week.” His wife confronted him about this. He knew exactly how many were at the Bible study, but it would sound better to say 65-70 rather than 64 people were there.
      • It is not my goal to make you feel bad, nor is it my goal to make you feel extra special. If this goes either way it is the convicting power of Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s work. It should make you feel good to confess this to God and move forward.

There was a young Christian man in a southern university. He made the football team as the starting split end. And he continually was before God saying, “Help me in the climax of moments to be absolutely honest. I pray for honesty— that one mark of integrity. I want to be that, Lord, and I’ll work on it through the season.”

The rival team came that night, homecoming. He ran his route and went into the end zone. The quarterback shot him the pass and he got it low. He landed on it, and the referee shouted, “Touchdown!” But that boy knew he had trapped that ball (For you who aren’t into that, it means that he didn’t really catch it. He landed on it while it was on the ground and it looked like he caught it.). The stands were just cheering, you know, sending him on his way, the hero of the game. He said, “Wait a minute.” Can you imagine this? Walked up to the referee and shook his head. He said, “I trapped it.” The referee canceled the touchdown and they lost the game.

Now you may not understand much about football, but you know what it is to be a fan. And that boy stood all alone, not only against a team that said, “What does it matter, man?” but against the stands full of people. He said, “I can’t take the credit. I did not catch it.[7]

  • Lastly, James gives the consequence. The consequence is condemnation. The consequence is judgment.
    • What does this mean? What it means is James is consistent with the pattern of the whole epistle. The whole epistle calls us to look into our hearts and see if we have a living faith. If you are living the faith you will not be habitually lying.
    • You will not settle for lies, not even little bitty white lies, not even a stretch of the truth.

Closing:

We need integrity in our world today. I don’t know if our founding fathers had more integrity, but they did seem to care about it more than we do. They cared about their reputation for integrity. We are in a country founded on Judeo-Christian values and we have lost them. We are also in a country founded on sacrifice. Our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence knowing they were risking their lives and their livelihood. If the British caught John Adams or George Washington or Thomas Jefferson or any others, they would have been tortured and killed. Some were captured and some suffered losses. There is a popular writing about what happened to some of them and I considered sharing it, but I am not because there are questions about its accuracy. Either way, we do know that they were taking risks by signing the Declaration of Independence. We know also that they cared about their integrity.

I don’t want to close this sermon without giving you an opportunity to confess what you need to confess. So, I am going to open in prayer and then give you a moment of silence. It is important to confess our sins to God. We are forgiven, but we must confess.

Dear Jesus thank you for the forgiveness which you offer us. Go ahead and confess anything right now. Ask God to help you do better.

1 John 1:9-10

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Dear God thank you for the forgiveness we know we have in You, Amen.

[1] https://www.idahostatejournal.com/opinion/columns/paul-harvey-s-warning-to-america-if-i-were-the-devil/article_fd1e24af-17d1-5ee0-b3d8-8dd97d87f2cd.html

[2] https://www.azquotes.com/author/7392-Thomas_Jefferson/tag/integrity

[3] ibid.

[4] https://www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/4356.George_Washington

[5] Chernow, Ron. Washington (pp. 501-502). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[6] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 272. (cited from Bob Phillips, The World’s Greatest Collection of Heavenly Humor)

 

[7] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 304. (cited from James K. Krames, “Tender Loving Heart,” Living Free

Remember the Basics, Remember the Resurrection (2 Timothy 2:8-13)

Remember the Basics, Remember the Resurrection (2 Timothy 2:8-13)

Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 28, 2020

Today, we wanted to focus on the resurrection. Unfortunately, on resurrection Sunday we could not be together physically, so we wanted to celebrate resurrection Sunday the last Sunday of June. Now, here we are and it still is not safe for the choir to sing. It also is not safe for everyone to join us. Still, it is a day to celebrate the resurrection in a special way. We actually should celebrate the resurrection year-round, but I think it is good to focus on the resurrection on special days. Today, I want to talk about a passage in which Paul brought the people of Ephesus back to the basics of the faith.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need a reminder of why I am doing something. Sometimes I get discouraged and I feel like just checking out. I feel like quitting. It might be helpful to see the finish line, but sometimes it is rough because we can’t.

In 1952, a very brave and strong young lady waded into the Pacific Ocean. Florence Chadwick was determined to break another record. To date, no woman had ever crossed the channel between Catelina Island and the California coast.

Long-distance swimming wasn’t new to Florence. She was a seasoned long distance competitor. In fact, she was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions.

But this was a twenty-six-mile stretch. And the conditions that July morning were not optimal. Not only was the water incredibly cold, but a thick blanket of fog had settled in. And to make matters worse, there were sharks who trailed her course and had to be driven off several times!

Florence’s coach and family followed along in a small boat, cheering her on. “Go for it, Florence! You can do it!”

But it was foggy. Real foggy. And even when she’d been swimming for fifteen hours, Florence still couldn’t see the shore line.

A bit discouraged and very tired, she finally took her last stroke, telling her family she just couldn’t go on.

She quit.

They all consoled Florence as they pulled her aboard, and she collapsed with exhaustion. Well, as it turned out, Florence quit much too soon that cold July morning. She swam twenty-five and a half miles, but because she couldn’t see the end—couldn’t see the coast—Florence fell short of her goal by just half-a-mile. Had she only known! One half a mile!

By the way, Florence didn’t give up. She gave it another try. Just two months after her first attempt, she became the first woman in history to swim the twenty-six-mile channel. She set a new speed record, as well.[1]

In our Christian life we can get discouraged as well. We cannot literally see the finish line, though God may give us glimpses of the finish line and the reward. Sometimes we need a reminder. In 2 Timothy 2:8-13 Paul gives Timothy a reminder of the reason for persevering. The reason is the Gospel. Let’s look at this nice outline of the importance of the Gospel. Read with me 2 Timothy 2:8-13:

Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned. 10 For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. 11 It is a trustworthy statement:

For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
12 If we endure, we will also reign with Him;
If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.

As I begin, I think it would be so very wrong for me to think that everyone comes to the church happy and ready to face another week. No, I realize that some come here discouraged. You may be discouraged in your Christian life. You may be discouraged in your life in general. You may be tired as you have been fighting illness. You may be tired of dealing with a nagging knee problem. You may be tired of trying to get a good job. You may be tired of bill collectors. You may be tired of caring for a loved one. You may be tired of rooting for the Browns. You may be tired, tired, and just tired. You may wonder where God is. Well, I hope that as we talk about this passage it will be a helpful reminder of the Gospel. This may not help you in direct ways, but I hope at least indirectly this will help you. God is Faithful to the end.

  • Reminders (2:8-10)
    • Here Paul gives a reminder of the gospel worth suffering for.
    • In verse 8, Paul begins by reminding Timothy of Jesus. Notice Paul even tells Timothy “Remember.” He is very straightforward. Remember who: Jesus Christ rose from the dead. If Jesus didn’t raise from the dead we would be worshipping a dead Lord. No, He conquered the grave. But more than that, Paul says that Jesus is a descendant of David. The Jewish Messiah, the Jewish anointed King, was to be a descendant of David. Now, what this verse is stating is that Jesus is God as He conquered the grave and rose from the dead. This verse is also stating that Jesus is man, as He is a descendant of David.
    • So, our hope is in Jesus. We’ll get discouraged but just remember that our hope is in Jesus. Our hope is in the One who conquered the grave. Our hope is in the One who is fully man, and so He could take care of our sins. Our hope is in the One who is fully God, so He could take the wrath of God because of our sins. Our hope is in the One who reigns intermediating for us right now.
    • God’s messenger is chained but His message is never chained. (2:8-10): Now Paul is chained. Paul is in prison. But I love this verse because Paul says that the Word of God is not in prison.
    • Sometimes we take the Bible too lightly, but the Bible is God’s Word declaring God’s good news of salvation. Isaiah 55 says that the Word of God will go out and it will not come back void. It will accomplish its message.
    • Then Paul says that he will endure all things so that people can receive the Gospel. Paul says “those who are chosen” which pretty much means those that will receive salvation and trust in Christ. Why do we do this? Why not be discouraged? The answer is that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for you and for me and everyone else and Paul says that he is willing to endure hardship for the Gospel. Are you?

Billy Graham said: The evangelistic harvest is always urgent. The destiny of men and of nations is always being decided. Every generation is strategic. We are not responsible for the past generation, and we cannot bear the full responsibility for the next one; but we do have our generation. God will hold us responsible as to how well we fulfill our responsibilities to this age and take advantage of our opportunities.[2]

I also read someone said: It is my opinion that the best evangelistic center in the greater metropolitan Boston area is not a church. It is a filling station in Arlington. It was owned and operated by a man named Bob who caught the vision early in his life that his vocation and his calling were to be welded together. As time passed, his station became known as the place to go for gas, new tires or, other car services. I have seen a half dozen cars lined up bumper to bumper near two pumps in front of that little station just waiting to be served by that man. He has no banners out, no “Jesus Saves” flags, no signs, no “ichthuses,” nothing plastered all over the station or in the windows, no sign, “Bring your car to Bob and take your soul to Jesus.” He simply did his job! He did it well and people knew he was in partnership with the Lord. He led dozens of people to faith in Jesus Christ.[3]

You are an evangelist wherever you go. Billy Graham shared the importance and the other illustration showed our vocation.

  • The results (2:11-13)

Remember how we need reminders and encouragement. When I was in eighth grade I committed to strip wall paper. I made a deal with my dad that for a certain amount of money I would take care of this job. Well, I got home from school and began the job. By 6:00 I made little progress. I was stripping the wallpaper and the glue in a downstairs hallway, up the stairway and the upstairs hallway. The glue was on real thick and it didn’t come off easy.  I decided I was going to quit. I told my dad that I didn’t care about the money. But my dad said that I had to do the job. I had committed to do the job and I needed to follow through. Well I finished, but it wasn’t easy. But the money was my return for my labor.

In the Christian life we have a return as well.

  • For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him (2:11). This is pretty straightforward. But Paul is not talking about literal death. He is talking about baptism. When we give our life to Christ we die to ourselves and our ways. We now live with Him instead.
  • If we endure, we will also reign with Him (2:12a) Why endure? I know we get discouraged and frustrated, but we will reign with Him. We will have eternal life with Him. This is eternity. Our life might be 80-90-100 years but eternity is a long time.
  • If we deny Him, He also will deny us (2:12b). This is talking about a total absolute denial. If we deny Christ, He will deny us. In Matthew 10:33 Jesus said that whoever denies Him, he will also deny before His Father in Heaven.
  • If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself. (2:13)
    • This is likely referring to our momentary lapses in faith. Even though we lose faith at times, God is still faithful. This is not a total falling away.
    • God doesn’t change and cannot deny Himself. God is what we call immutable. This means that He doesn’t change.
  • This is critical in the Christian life. What if God could change? That would mean that He wouldn’t be that great, right? That would also mean that He could change His mind on our salvation. One minute we are saved and another minute God decides not to save us. That wouldn’t be good at all.

Close:

So, persistence paid off for Florence Chadwick and her 26 mile swim. Maybe you can think of a time you were persistent and it paid off. One day, I was trying to go for a long run. I was running and my legs just wanted to give out. Usually, I can tell my legs to keep going and they will. I know I should take the advice of the comedian who said, “Sometimes I feel like exercising, but then I go back to sleep until that feeling goes away.” But anyways, I couldn’t sleep, I was in the middle of Alliance and my legs just stopped. I stopped looked around and then started going again. Somehow I was able to be persistent and finish.

The devil was training three of his assistants how to get Christians to doubt their faith and to turn away from God.  He opened his tool box and told each one to pick the tool they thought would work best.  One picked persecution.  The devil said, “No, that one is the least effective.”  Another picked temptation.  The devil said, “No, that won’t work.”  The third one picked the smallest tool in the box and handed it to the devil.  The devil smiled as he looked at the tool of discouragement and said,  “Yes, while this one is small, it will do the job better than all the rest. Discouragement is the most useful tool. Discouragement has caused the fall of more Christians than any other tool.  Keep it handy at all times.

Sometimes in our lives as Christ followers we will feel like quitting but this passage is our reminder.

So, this is a different resurrection message. This is a reminder of the basics of the faith.

Our finish line is with God in Heaven and the Gospel of Christ. This is great news to share with all people.

Pray.

[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 212. Exerted from Leadership Journal.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Billy Graham. Quoted from Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote. Page 183.

[3] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 184.

(Father’s Day) God’s instructions to Fathers

(Father’s Day) God’s instructions to Fathers

Scripture: Ephesians 6:4 and Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Prepared and preached by Rev Steve Rhodes for the First Baptist Church of Alliance

06.21.2020

Let me once again say Happy Father’s Day to all the father’s out there. I also want to recognize others who serve as paternal influences. A while back, I was listening to a Christian radio program titled: “Unshackled.” This is a Christian radio program about The Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago, Illinois. This is an older radio program that shares about people who encounter Christ at the Pacific Garden Mission. The show shares about their life prior to Christ and after Christ. It is always interesting to hear these testimonies. In this case I heard about a man who was abused and neglected by an alcoholic father. This father did not only abuse and neglect one child but others as well. Eventually, one of the sons, now an adult, becomes a Christian. He is eager to share the Gospel with others and he wants to become a missionary. But there was a problem. His wife didn’t feel called to be a missionary’s wife. So, he decided he was called to be a missionary to his local area. First and foremost, he would share the gospel with his father. He prayed and discussed the gospel with his father. Guess what, his father gave his life to Christ! The point is, without Christ, we have nothing! We need Christ. This man did the most caring thing for his father. He was the messenger of eternal life. Praise God! How much does Christ mean to you! Boldly share Christ with your family.

As part of Father’s day I wish to talk about the command to care for your parents. But, I also want to talk about one of the Scriptural exhortations to parents.

William Franklin writes, “If he’s wealthy and prominent, and you stand in awe of him, call him ‘Father.’ If he sits in shirt sleeves and suspenders at a ball game and picnic, call him ‘Pop.’ If he wheels the baby carriage and carries bundles meekly, call him ‘Papa; (with the accent on the first syllable). If he belongs to a literary circle and writes cultured papers, call him ‘Papa’ (with the accent on the last syllable). If, however, he makes a pal of you when you’re good, and is too wise to let you pull the wool over his loving eyes when you’re not; if, moreover, you’re quite sure no other fellow you know has quite so fine a father, you may call him ‘Dad.’”[1]

Let me read the Scripture and then share some things with you.

Exodus 20:12:

Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.

Again: I wish to talk about the command to care for your parents. But I also want to talk about one of the Scriptural exhortations to parents.

  1. Honor your father… Let’s briefly look at the passage itself.
    1. One of my sources says: Although this word/commandment requires children to honor their parents in all sorts of ways large and small, there can be little doubt that its most basic insistence from the point of view of establishing a responsibility that might otherwise be shirked is to demand that children take care of their parents in their parents’ old age, when they are no longer able to work for themselves, as well as to honor whatever their parents have prescribed by way of inheritance for their children. Thus the commandment is followed by the promise of living long in the promised land. Just as parents who have lived long in their own personal lives need to be cared for at the end of those long lives, so Israel as a nation (not every individual therein) would be able to enjoy a long life in the land God was giving them.
    2. So, that is an application to us all, isn’t it? We must never neglect our parents and it is something that I am encouraged by as I see my parents and many of you care for your parents. God has given many caregivers.
    3. The ESV Study Bible says: The word “honor” means to treat someone with the proper respect due to the person and their role. With regard to parents, this means (1) treating them with deference (cf.21:15, 17); (2) providing for them and looking after them in their old age (for this sense of honor, see 3:9). Both Jesus and Paul underline the importance of this command (Mark 7:1–13Eph. 6:1–31 Tim. 5:4). This is the only one of the Ten Commandments with a specific promise attached to it: that your days may be long—meaning not just a long life, but one that is filled with God’s presence and favor.
    4. We are always supposed to honor our parents. Children, hear this now. God has set up an order and we are to honor our parents.

Now, I would like to transition in order to talk about a responsibility that God has given parents. But I would like to also talk about other paternal influences.

  • Being a paternal influence even if you are not a biological father.
  • Think about the relationships God has used:
    • Fishing: what a great way to build up children.
    • Golfing: another opportunity.
  • Hunting
  • Riding
  • Reading: My uncle was a teacher and told the parents to read with their kids for 10 minutes a night, it can even be comic books, just read with them. They will not do it. Reading with children is critical. Let me add, it is critical to let them see you read as well.
  • Scouts
  • Coaching: how many coaches have been great influences on children.

One of George Barna’s books shares: Research suggests that there are 3 tiers of influence on our children.  Tier 1 represents influences that have the greatest impact on our children, while Tier 3 represents influences which affect our children but are less effective.

Tier 1

Contemporary music

Movies

Television programming

The Internet

Publications (books, magazines, and newspapers)

Laws and public figures

Parents

 

Tier 2 Churches

Faith Communities

Adult education

Counseling

Therapy experiences

Extended families.

 

Tier 3 Peers

Schools

Radio

Mentors

Colleges and Universities

Siblings

  • Father’s nurture your children spiritually:
    1. The well-known “Prayer for His Son” by General Douglas MacArthur includes these words: “Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, brave enough to face himself when he is afraid . . . Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenges. Let him learn to stand in the storm; let him learn compassion for those who fall.”[2]
    2. Research regarding all facets of moral and spiritual development whether related to worldview, beliefs or behaviors – shows that such development starts as early as age two. The process then progresses rather quickly.  Social scientists have known for years that the moral foundations of children are generally determined by the time the individual reaches age nine.  Research confirms a parallel outcome in the spiritual dimension:  By age nine, most children have their spiritual morals in place.  The implication of this finding is clear: Anyone who wishes to have significant influence on the development of a person’s moral and spiritual foundations had better exert that influence while the person is still open-minded and impressionable – in other words, while the person is still young. 47 – Barna
    3. In multiple places in the Old Testament the Bible exhorts to teach your children the spiritual things.

Gen 18:19

For I have chosen him, so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring upon Abraham what He has spoken about him.”

Deut 11:19:

You shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up.

Psalm 78:4:

We will not conceal them from their children,
But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord,
And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.

Proverbs 22:6:

Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

2 Tim 3:15:

15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.

  1. Listen, if your children don’t have Christ, they don’t have anything. It doesn’t matter how much money they have or how educated they are.
  2. Many times, we place more priority in their physical education than their spiritual education.
  3. I have a great illustration from Mark Driscoll:

From Mark Driscoll:

11 Practical Ways for Men to Lead a Family

As men, we bear a greater burden before God for the well-being of our families and our church. Our wives and children should flourish under our loving leadership.

By the grace of God, you can be who God has called you to be, do what God has called you to do, and love as God has loved you.

As men, we will never in this life experience perfection, but by the grace of God we can experience progress every day until we enter perfection in the life to come. So don’t sulk, don’t sin, and don’t settle, but instead strive.

Here are 11 practical tips for husbands to strive to lead their family well:

  1. As the family leader, model humility, honesty, repentance, service, study, and worship. Your life preaches at least as loudly as your words, so teach and model humble godliness by the grace of God.
  2. Make sure everyone in your familyhas a good, age-appropriate Bible that they regularly read. Read the Bible yourself and with them so they are encouraged to read on their own.
  3. Make sure you have some basic Bible study toolsavailable for your family in either print or digital form and that everyone learns to use them. If you do not know where to begin, ask your pastor or a godly student of Scripture in your church about things like a good Bible commentary, concordance, dictionary, and atlas.
  4. Buy good Christian books for everyone in your family to read. Include Christian biographies among those books.
  5. Choose good books that you and your wife can be reading together, including books of the Bible, and discuss what you are learning.
  6. If there are Bible-based classes offered in your church, attend with your family.
  7. Redeem your commute by listening to good sermons and classes, many of which you can download for free.
  8. Have dinner together with your family most nights, and use that time to pray together, keep a journal log of prayer requests for other people, and read a portion of the Bible and talk about it together.
  9. Pray for each member of your family every day and let them know you are praying for them.
  10. Place a hand on the head of each of your children every day and pray over them. Then kiss them on the head and make sure they often get a loving hug.
  11. While either snuggling or holding hands, pray with and for your wife every day and remember to include the reasons you are thankful to God for her that day. If these things have not been common in your home, it is very likely that your family has been aching for them and will be thankful for your loving leadership as the head of your home.

A Father’s Prayer

Our Father who art in heaven

I am a father on earth

You have given me this gift and responsibility

Grant me the wisdom to carry it out.

Let my fatherhood be one of encouragement and support, not of expectations and control.

Let me protect my children, but not too much; advise them, but just a little.

Let me be honest about my feelings toward them – including my anger, disappointment, hurt,

excitement, joy and love.

Let me be firm without dominating them.

Let me be sensitive to their feelings without trying to change them.

Let me be there for them when they need me and get out of their way when they don’t.

Let me offer them the roots of belonging and the wings of freedom.

Help me, Father in heaven, to be a father on earth.

Close:

So, praise God for Fathers. Fathers you have had a challenge and children, so have you.

 

God created us to be with him. (Genesis 1-2)

Our sin separated us from God. (Genesis 3)

Sins cannot be removed by good deeds (Gen 4-Mal 4)

Paying the price for sin, Jesus died and rose again. (Matthew – Luke)

Everyone who trusts in him alone has eternal life. (John – Jude)

Life that’s eternal means we will be with Jesus forever. (Revelation 22:5)

 

Prayer:

[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 204 quoted from Peter S. Seymour, “A Father’s Love,” Hallmark card.

[2] (Today in the Word, April 1, 2013)

Be Patient and Wait on the Lord for Your Reward (James 5:1-11)

James 5:1-11

Be Patient and Wait on the Lord for Your Reward

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 14, 2020

I find waiting quite difficult and having patience while waiting is more challenging.

Waiting can be difficult. It is hard to wait with patience. You see, we can wait without being patient. Many times, we don’t have a choice but to wait:

I was on my way to seminary one day. I was making the two-hour commute in great time. Then all of a sudden, the traffic stopped. I sat there for three hours. I was in the hills of Kentucky and there was no way to cut over to the other side of the highway, plus that is illegal. I had no choice but to wait and wait and wait.

One waits so long and then grows impatient. Impatience can lead to complaining, grumbling and an overall bad Christian testimony.

In today’s Scripture passage found in James 5:1-11 James gives some serious instructions to the rich who have everything and then he gives a loving exhortation to the poorer people. As we look at this passage you will see that the rich are warned to repent, and why they must repent, and the poor are exhorted to be patient and wait on the Lord for He is near. Let me repeat: As we look at this passage you will see that the rich are warned to repent, and why they must repent, and the poor are exhorted to be patient and wait on the Lord for He is near.

Open your Bibles and let’s read James 5:1-11:

Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries which are coming upon you. Your riches have rotted and your garments have become moth-eaten. Your gold and your silver have rusted; and their rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure! Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived luxuriously on the earth and led a life of wanton pleasure; you have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and put to death the righteous man; he does not resist you.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near. Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door. 10 As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful.

  • Let’s first look at verses 1-6. In these verses James warns the rich to repent and then describes why they must repent.
    • James once again starts with the phrase, “Come now,” or in the NIV, “Now listen.”
    • James simply gets their attention.
    • Now look at verse 1. James says, “Weep and howl.” This is not simply crying, or mourning.
    • This carried the idea of loud cries. This is a public sign of mourning.
    • Verse 1 is very much reminiscent of the Old Testament. In the Old Testament there are places where the prophet Jeremiah or Ezekiel would tell people they need to repent. They need to weep and howl.
    • James says they must weep and howl because of the misery that is coming upon them.
    • What misery? I believe James is referring to a final judgment. Again, like an Old Testament prophet James affirms a final judgment and James is about to describe why they will be judged.
    • Verse 2 is in the past tense, but I believe this is only because James is looking at it from the judgment seat. I don’t think their riches had already rotted.
    • But James’ point is that they will. They have stored up for themselves treasures on earth.
    • In Matthew 6:19-20 Jesus exhorted his followers to store up treasures in Heaven that last for eternity.
    • But, you know what? You have to wait on heavenly treasures. You have to wait. Most people want their treasure now.
      • Where’s your treasure?
      • This is a good place for me to share a short story I read the other day:

A woman in West Palm Beach, Florida, died alone at the age of 71. The coroner’s report was tragic. “Causes of death: Malnutrition.” The dear old lady wasted away to 50 pounds. Investigators who found her said the place where she lived was a veritable pigpen, the biggest mess you can imagine. One seasoned inspector declared he’d never seen a residence in greater disarray.

         The woman had begged food at her neighbor’s back doors and gotten what clothes she had from the Salvation Army. From all outward appearances she was a penniless recluse, a pitiful and forgotten widow. But such was not the case.

         Amid the jumble of her unclean, disheveled belongings, two keys were found which led the officials to safe-deposit boxes at two different local banks. What they found was absolutely unbelievable.

         The first contained over seven hundred AT&T stock certificates, plus hundreds of other valuable certificates, bonds, and solid financial securities, not to mention a stack of cash amounting to nearly $200,000. The second box had no certificates, only more currency—lots of it—$600,000 to be exact. Adding the net worth of both boxes, they found that the woman had in her possession well over A MILLION DOLLARS. Charles Osgood, reporting on CBS radio, announced that the estate would probably fall into the hands of a distant niece and nephew, neither of whom dreamed she had a thin dime to her name. She was, however, a millionaire who died a stark victim of starvation in a humble hovel many miles away. [1]

  • Sometimes we hoard things and we end up harming ourselves and those around us. Store up treasures in Heaven.
  • Verse 3 continues the theme about the material possessions that are falling apart. But these material possessions talk. Okay, they don’t literally talk, but what we have and what we do with our life testifies to who we are.
  • The gold and silver, the possessions will be a testimony to the way these rich people get their possessions. That is described in the next few verses.
  • In verse 4, we find out what is going on: Behold, the pay of the laborers who mowed your fields, and which has been withheld by you, cries out against you; and the outcry of those who did the harvesting has reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.[2]
    • Lord of the Sabaoth just means Lord of Hosts.
    • You see, these lower class, poor people worked for the rich. They worked and they haven’t been paid. That is the situation James describes.
      • The ESV Study Bible says: These landowners have cheated their field workers and harvesters to support their own lavish lifestyle, and now the cries of the defrauded have reached the ears of the final Judge, who will soon act in response. The Lord of hosts, or “Lord of heaven’s armies,” pictures God as a warrior going into battle against his enemies (1 Sam. 17:45; 17:14; 19:14).
      • The IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary says: The law of Moses forbade withholding wages, even overnight; if the injured worker cried out to God, God would avenge him (Deut 24:14–15; cf., e.g., Lev 19:13; Prov 11:24; Jer 22:13; Mal 3:5). That the wrong done the oppressed would itself cry out to God against the oppressor was also an Old Testament image (Gen 4:10). In first-century Palestine, many day laborers depended on their daily wages to purchase food for themselves and their families; withholding money could mean that they would go hungry.
      • And as far as the rich and their profit: The income absentee landlords received from agriculture was such that the wages they paid workers could not even begin to reflect the profits they accumulated. Although the rich supported public building projects (in return for attached inscriptions honoring them), they were far less inclined to pay sufficient wages to their workers. At least as early as the second century, Jewish teachers suggested that even failing to leave gleanings for the poor was robbing them (based on Lev 19:9–10; 23:22; Deut 24:19).
    • Verse 5 affirms that they are living in plenty. If you look you can see where James says they are living in “wanton pleasure” or “self indulgence.” The Greek word where we get “wanton pleasure” or “self-indulgence” can carry the idea of unrestrained pleasure, even sexual pleasure.
    • Then verse 6 is the strongest: “You” notice how James continuously uses the second person pronoun “you” to accuse them. I count ten times that James writes with “you” or “your.”
      • James accuses them of murder.
        • This could be in one of a few ways.
          • Either they are guilty of murder by not paying their workers. This means their workers go hungry which could kill them, so they are guilty of murder.
          • Or, they used the courts to condemn innocent people to death.
        • Remember James 2:6-7: James said the rich were dragging them into courts.
      • It is clear that James makes a strong case of why the rich need to repent. Now, these rich may be non-Christians. Or, they may claim Christianity, but they clearly are not living like Christ.
        • Analyze where you stand.
          • Are you oppressing anyone who works for you?
            • Sure, it may not be withholding money, but it could be withholding respect. I worked as a McDonald’s manager for 5 years, prior to that I was at Tractor Supply Company, prior to that I was at Lowe’s, prior to that I was at a pet store.
            • I saw many times when a franchise owner, district superintendent, or supervisor would work the salary managers 6-7 long days a week. I was cussed at many times by my supervisor in front of my employees.
            • Evaluate your conduct at work.
          • I’ll ask again, Are your treasures on earth? If you say no, does your life reflect that your treasure is in Heaven?
          • Verse 5 is particularly applicable to us. We live in a country of self indulgence and wanton pleasure. Is your entertainment and enjoyment pure and holy?
          • Do you put entertainment and enjoyment in front of your relationship with God? Do you value entertainment over devotional time with God? Do you value entertainment over your commitment to the church?
            • Please know, I battle these things too. So, I don’t mean to talk down to you. I must ask myself these questions as well.
          • Okay, in verses 7-11 James exhorts the poor to be patient in their suffering.
            • The verb we get “Be patient” from carries the idea that they are waiting for something. What are they waiting for? The Lord’s return. And you know what? He will come someday. Jesus has not come yet, but we have the promise that He will come.
            • James says in verse 8 that His coming is near. In verse 9 He says that the Judge, that is Jesus, is standing at the door. This carries the idea that He is near and that He is watching.
            • Before you say, “That was 2000 years ago.” Let me remind you that 2 Peter 3:8 says that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years is to us. Why is God waiting? 2 Peter 3:9 says that the Lord is patiently waiting so more can be saved.
              • Who is God patiently waiting on? Let me answer that.
              • He is waiting on me and you. He is waiting on us to get the gospel out. He is waiting on more people to have repeated opportunities to receive or reject the Gospel and we are His instruments.
  • How much does the gospel mean to you? Are you sharing the gospel?
  • James then gives the people the example of the prophets. You see they were persecuted for serving the Lord. Acts 5:41 has a group of people rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be persecuted for Christ’s sake. Matthew 5:10 has Jesus saying blessed are you when persecuted for my sake.
  • You may ask, “Why does God allow bad things to happen?” We can’t answer for sure, but sometimes God is preparing us. God is building us up.

A young man desired to go to India as a missionary with the London Missionary Society. Mr. Wilks was appointed to consider the young man’s fitness for such a post. He wrote to the young man, and told him to call on him at six o’clock the next morning.

         Although the applicant lived many miles off, he was at the house punctually at six o’clock and was ushered into the drawing room. He waited—- and waited—- and waited wonderingly, but patiently. Finally Mr. Wilks entered the room about mid-morning.

         Without apology, Mr. Wilks began, “Well, young man, so you want to be a missionary?”

         “Yes, sir, I do.”

         “Do you love the Lord Jesus Christ?”

         “Yes, sir, I certainly do.”

         “And have you any education?”

         “Yes, sir, a little.”

         “Well, now, we’ll try you; can you spell “cat’?”

         The young man looked confused, and hardly knew how to answer so preposterous a question. His mind evidently halted between indignation and submission, but in a moment he replied steadily, “C, a, t, cat.”

         “Very good,” said Mr. Wilks. “Now can you spell ‘dog’?”

         The youthful Job was stunned but replied, “D, o, g, dog.”

         “Well, that is right; I see you will do in your spelling, and now for your arithmetic; how much is two times two?”

         The patient youth gave the right reply and was dismissed.

         Mr. Wilks gave his report at the committee meeting. He said, “I cordially recommend that young man; his testimony and character have duly examined. I tried his self-denial, he was in the morning early; I tried his patience by keeping him waiting; I tried his humility and temper by insulting his intelligence. He will do just fine.”[3]

You know what, that young man would need that humility, and patience in India.

So, James exhorts them to be patient in their persecution, in their struggles. They have their reward. Verse 11 says the Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 As I said, waiting is particularly difficult for me. I have a story that may help. As you listen to the story see who you identify with:

There was once a fellow who, with his dad, farmed a little piece of land. Several times a year they would load up the old ox-drawn cart with vegetables and go into the nearest city to sell their produce. Except for their name and the patch of ground, father and son had little in common. The old man believed in taking it easy. The boy was usually in a hurry— the go-getter type.

One morning, bright and early, they hitched up the ox to the loaded cart and started on the long journey. The son figured that if they walked faster, kept going all day and night, they’d make market by early the next morning. So he kept prodding the ox with a stick, urging the beast to get a move on.

“Take it easy, son,” said the old man. “You’ll last longer.”

“But if we get to market ahead of the others, we’ll have a better chance of getting good prices,” argued the son.

No reply. Dad just pulled his hat down over his eyes and fell asleep on the seat. Itchy and irritated, the young man kept goading the ox to walk faster. His stubborn pace refused to change.

Four hours and four miles later down the road, they came to a little house. The father woke up, smiled, and said, “Here’s your uncle’s place. Let’s stop in and say hello.”

“But we’ve lost an hour already,” complained the hot shot.

“Then a few more minutes won’t matter. My brother and I live so close, yet we see each other so seldom,” The father answered slowly.

The boy fidgeted and fumed while the two old men laughed and talked away almost an hour. On the move again, the man took his turn leading the ox. As they approached a fork in the road, the farmer led the ox to the right.

“The left is the shorter way,” said the son.

“I know it,” replied the old man, “but this way is much prettier.”

“Have you no respect for time?” The young man asked impatiently.

“Oh, I respect it very much! That’s why I like to use it to look at beauty and enjoy each moment to the fullest.”

The winding path led through graceful meadows, wildflowers, and along a rippling stream— all of which the young man missed as he churned within, preoccupied and boiling with anxiety. He didn’t even notice how lovely the sunset was that day.

Twilight found them in what looked like a huge, colorful garden. The old man breathed in the aroma, listened to the bubbling brook, and pulled the ox to a halt. “Let’s sleep here,” he sighed.

“This is the last trip I’m taking with you,” snapped the son. “You’re more interested in watching sunsets and smelling flowers than in making money!”

“Why, that’s the nicest thing you’ve said in a long time,” smiled the dad. A couple of minutes later he was snoring— as his boy glared back at the stars. The night dragged slowly, the son was restless.

Before sunrise the young man hurriedly shook his father awake. They hitched up and went on. About a mile down the road they happened upon another farmer—- a total stranger—– trying to pull his cart out of a ditch.

“Let’s give him a hand,” Whispered the old man.

“And lose more time!” the boy exploded.

“Relax son. You might be in a ditch sometime yourself. We need to help others in need— don’t forget that.” The boy looked away in anger.

It was almost eight o’clock that morning by the time the other cart was back on the road. Suddenly a great flash split the sky. What sounded like thunder followed. Beyond the hills, the sky grew dark.

“Looks like a big rain in the city,” said the old man.

“If we hurried, we’d be almost sold out by now,” grumbled his son.

“Take it easy, you’ll last longer. And you’ll enjoy life so much more,” counseled the kind old gentleman.

It was late afternoon by the time they got to the hill overlooking the city. They stopped and stared down at it for a long, long time. Neither of them said a word, Finally, the young man put his hand on his father’s shoulder and said, “I see what you mean, Dad.”

They turned their cart around and began to roll slowly away from what had once been the city of Hiroshima.[4]

I admit, I am most like the young man. I schedule myself and go quickly. This is something I must admit the Lord is working on in me.

But one thing is for sure: we must all understand that we are better to store up treasure in Heaven, repent of treating coworkers, or employees unjustly, and be patient waiting until the Lord comes again or calls us home. At that time Jesus will make things right and we will have our reward. We must heed James warning that the rich are warned to repent, and why they must repent, and the poor are exhorted to be patient and wait on the Lord for He is near.

A passage quite similar is Phil 4:4-8:

In this passage Paul exhorts the persecuted Philippians, listen as I read:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! [Even in persecution, rejoice] 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. [Even in persecution, let your gentleness be known to all] The Lord is near. [And now a pattern for thinking—] 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.[5]

Prayer

[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 611. (from his book, Improving Your Serve)

[2] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jas 5:4.

Old Testament *Old Testament. The common modern term for the Hebrew Bible (including Aramaic portions) as defined by the Jewish and Protestant Christian canons; Jewish readers generally call this the Tenach.

[3] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 429. (from Charles H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students.)

[4] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 427. (from his book, Come Before Winter.)

[5]The Holy Bible : New International Version, electronic ed., Php 4:4-8 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996, c1984).

If the Lord Wills… (James 4:13-17)

If the Lord Wills… (James 4:13-17)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, June 7, 2020

The past few weeks we have been continuing our journey through James. In chapter three, and the first part of chapter four, James has been writing about the wisdom of God as opposed to the wisdom of the world. Our wisdom is evidenced by our works, our words, and our life. In James 4:4 James said that friendship with the world makes us enemies of God. There is a dichotomy between Christ and the world’s culture. James says in chapter 4:7 “submit to God.”

The Scripture passage we are going to look at today is written about submitting to God’s will rather than our own. We don’t talk much about God’s will anymore. I have the feeling that a long time ago Christians focused on God’s will more.

You may ask, “How do I know God’s will?” Well, there are several ways to know God’s will, but one way that I don’t recommend is the open window method. I read an example of the Open Window Method just the other day.

There’s the example of Christians who use the open window method in seeking God’s will. You put your Bible by a window and (Whew!) the pages blow and you put your finger on a verse. One man did that and pointed to the verse, “Judas went and hanged himself.” Not a very good life verse, and he did it again. This time he put his finger on the verse that said, “Go and do thou likewise.” The third verse he found said, “Whatever thou doest, do quickly.”[1]

The open window method is not the best method.

What you do need to know is that God does have a will, and as we plan, our plans must submit to God’s will. We are going to look at James 4:13-17 and that is exactly what I intend to show. Our plans must submit to God’s will. We must be dependent on God day-by-day.

Let’s read James 4:13-17

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” 14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” 16 But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.

  • First you will see that planning without God is condemned in verse 13.
    • You may look at verse 13 and think James is condemning planning. But I really don’t think that is the case.
    • If that were the case, I would have a large problem.
    • I am very planned. I am spontaneous…. As long as it is planned.
    • I am a planner. You may be this way too. I don’t think James is condemning planning or planners. I don’t think you need to go home and throw away your calendars or delete your Google calendar.
    • Look at the verse. James is getting their attention. “Come now…” James is the only one in the New Testament to use that phrase and he will use it again in chapter 5:1. It is just a matter of getting their attention. James seems to like these expressions.
    • James gives an illustration of the way they do business, the way they plan. “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.
    • James is describing business planning, but business planning according to the way of the world. The way of the world may give you money and maybe fame but when we miss God’s will we miss something. “Young film star Shia Labeouf has made millions in the past few years….yet he has achieved the American dream. He has everything—- except peace. ‘Sometimes I feel like I’m living a meaningless life and I get frightened,’ he said in a 2009 PARADE Magazine interview. I have no idea where this insecurity comes from, but it’s a God-sized hole. If I knew, I’d fill it, and I’d be on my way.’[2]
    • The way of the world can lead to this God sized hole. We need God’s way.
    • Now let’s get back to James 4:13. James is describing business planning. But James is describing business planning without God. You need to understand, James doesn’t condemn planning. James gives us a different order for planning. Let me repeat that: James doesn’t condemn planning. James gives us a different order for planning. The Christian way is to consult God with our plans. The Christian way is to recognize and seek God’s will daily.
    • Do you see the difference? We consult God and His will in our planning. Remember last week James 4:7: submit, be subject to, God.
    • When our planning is only based off of profit we trump God. We get into idolatry. It is idolatry because we are putting our business transactions and our own interest in front of God.
    • And we must know that when our planning puts our self-interest above God, we are using the wisdom of the world. Remember what the wisdom of the world is about? In James 3:16 the wisdom of the world is about selfish ambition and jealousy and produces disorder and evil.
    • I have a wonderful illustration of someone who intentionally placed God’s interest in front of the world. In the book First Time Dad by John Fuller, he writes: Arthur Gordon, a former editor and bestselling author, once recalled a cherished memory of childhood:
    • When I was around thirteen and my brother ten, Father had promised to take us to the circus. But at lunchtime there was a phone call; some urgent business required his attention downtown. We braced ourselves for the disappointment. Then we heard him say, “No, I won’t be down. It’ll have to wait.”
    • When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. “The circus keeps coming back, you know.”
    • “I know,” said Father. “But childhood doesn’t.” [3]
    • This father could’ve helped his income, but he thought it was a time to focus on his family. I believe that he saw that the better option was to spend time with his family on this day and some sixty plus years later the thirteen-year-old son remembered it.
    • The point is that James was condemning their arrogant, presumptuous attitude to leave God out. They were traveling merchants who likely claimed to be Christians but lived as atheist.

Now let’s look closer at verses 14-15

  • Verses 14-15 show us that our life is temporary so we must focus on God’s will.
    • James continues to be very straightforward. You don’t know what tomorrow will bring.
    • What is life? You are a mist. James basically says that our life is a puff of smoke. How long does it take for a little bit of smoke to dissipate in the air? When it is winter and it is cold outside, how long does it take for your visible breath to become invisible? It doesn’t take long. James compares our life to a quick puff of smoke, a quick visible exhale.
    • But I wonder do you think of life that way? Do you realize that we must think of eternity?
    • I think many people think more about planning their business transactions than their eternity. I have known many people who claim to be agnostic. This means they don’t know whether or not God exists; or they think we cannot know whether or not God exists. Yet, they are not trying to find out.
    • But this is eternity. Our life might be 80-90-100 years so don’t we want to be sure that our eternity is with God in Heaven? I read something that is fitting:

There are two fixed points in our lives: birth and death. Death is especially unbendable. One astute writer used these words to describe what we’ve all felt.

This frustrates us, especially in a time of scientific breakthrough and exploding knowledge, that we should be able to break out of earth’s environment and yet be stopped cold by death’s unyielding mystery.

An electroencephalogram may replace a mirror held before the mouth, autopsies may become more sophisticated, cosmetic embalming may take the place of pennies on the eyelids and canvas shrouds, but death continues to confront us with its black wall. Everything changes; death is changeless.

We may postpone it, we may tame its violence, but death is still there waiting for us. Death always waits. The door of the hearse is never closed.

Dairy farmer and sales executive live in death’s shadow, with Nobel Prize winner and prostitute, mother, infant, teen and old man. The hearse stands waiting for the surgeon who transplants a heart as well as the hopeful recipient, for the funeral director as well as the corpse he manipulates. Death spares none.[4]

  • But as Christians we can know that we will meet God in Heaven and we must view things from an eternal perspective, rather than a temporal perspective. Still ask yourself some questions:
    • How often do I think about eternity?
    • Do I recognize that a 1/1 ratio of people will die?
    • Do I view my life as if I will live forever?
    • Do I recognize that God is in control?
  • Now look at verse 15: instead of planning without God we should think, “If the Lord wills…” We don’t talk that way, do we? But the Bible talks that way. Acts 18:21 has Paul with an example of saying, “I will come back if it is God’s will.”
  • John MacArthur notes that the true Christian submits his plans to the Lordship of Christ.
    • Proverbs 19:21: Many plans are on a man’s heart, but the counsel of the Lord will stand.
    • In Acts 21:14 the people say “the will of the Lord be done.”
  • Romans 1:10 Paul says “by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you.”
  • I really think it is time that we, in Biblical Wisdom, seek God’s will first.
  • How do you know God’s will?
    • The question of how to know God’s will relates to spiritual disciplines. First, let me tell you how you will not know God’s will.
      • You will not know God’s will if you are not spending time with God.
      • You will not know God’s will if you are not reading the Bible.
  • You will not know God’s will if you don’t pray.
  • You will not know God’s will without the body of Christ.

God speaks through His Word, His church, the Holy Spirit.

  • God’s Word: God’s Word is the Bible and God speaks through the Bible. Many times God’s will will be common Biblical knowledge. You may say, “I don’t know whether God’s will is for me to rob a bank to pay off my debt.” Well, read the Bible, Ex 20:15: “You shall not steal.”
    • You may say, “Is it God’s will that I buy a really nice house that will require a large loan.” Read the Proverbs. Proverbs 22:7: the borrower is servant to the lender.
    • Sometimes God will be very specific to give you a certain verse at a certain time that is very applicable, so it is important to be reading and memorizing the Scriptures.
  • God’s church: The Christian life is not meant for “I” and “me.” The Christian life is not for individual pronouns. This means the Christian life is meant for “us,” “we,” and “our.” We are a church and God speaks through the church. God’s will may be determined by getting pastoral advice. But God’s will is also determined through a Christian brother or sister.
  • We need strong Christian friends that we confide in. You can call it a prayer partner, an accountability partner, or whatever you want. But you need, just as I need, a Christian friend that you meet with about once a week and pray with. This is someone that you confess your struggles to and receive godly support and advice from.
  • As iron sharpens iron so a man sharpens his brother or a sister her sister (Proverbs 27:17).
  • God, the Holy Spirit, is another way God speaks. You may have this intuition type of feeling and that is the Holy Spirit speaking to you.
  • Now, let me add. We have human error and we have a sin nature that messes us up. God’s will, whether God has spoken to you through the church, being a Christian brother or sister, or through what you believe is the Holy Spirit, must be confirmed by His Word. God’s will, will not contradict His Word. God will not tell you to rob a bank.
  • Lastly, sins of omission are sins (verses 16-17).
    • James says that they are boasting and bragging and that is evil. It sounds like their boasting and bragging is about their selfish achievements.
    • Then James says that when you know what you are to do and don’t do, that is a sin. This is called a sin of omission. These are sins too. We must do what we know is right.

Close:

The other day I read a wonderful story from Charles Swindoll:

My wife and I had the pleasure of spending an evening with former astronaut, General Charles M. Duke. All of us in the room sat in rapt fascination as the man told of the Apollo 16 mission to the moon, including some interesting tidbits related to driving the “Rover,” the lunar vehicle, and his actually walking on the surface. We were full of questions which General Duke patiently and carefully answered one after another.

I asked, “Once you were there, weren’t you free to make your own decisions and carry out some of your own experiments… you know, sort of do as you pleased — maybe stay a little longer if you liked?” He smiled back, “Sure, Chuck, if we didn’t want to return to earth!”

He then described the intricate plan, the exact and precise instructions, the essential discipline, the instant obedience that was needed right down to the split second. By the way, he said they had landed somewhat “heavy” when they touched down on the moon. He was referring to their fuel supply. They had plenty left. Guess how much. One minute. They landed with sixty seconds of fuel remaining. Talk about being exact! I got the distinct impression that a rebel doesn’t fit inside a spacesuit. Whoever represents the United States in the space program must have an unconditional respect for authority. [5]

God is the authority in a Christian’s life. We must be subject to God’s authority and we must seek His will. In our planning, in your planning, seek God’s will and submit to God’s will.

Prayer

[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 247. (quoting Leslie and Bernice Flynn, God’s Will: You Can Know It.)

[2] Bill Brown, PhD; President of Ceadrville University. Torch. Cedarville University magazine spring-summer 2011 edition. Page 3. Article Sabbath Rest.

[3] John Fuller; First Time Dad. Moody Publishers; Chicago, ILL. 2011. page 38

[4] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 139-140. (this comes from Joseph Bayly, The Last Thing We Talk About).

[5] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 414-415.

Don’t be Guided by the World (James 4:1-12)

James 4:1-12

Christians, Don’t Be Guided by the World

Sunday, May 31, 2020

I hate snakes! This is something that I have in common with Indiana Jones.

A newspaper reports of a taxidermist who was bitten by a frozen 10-pound rattlesnake as he cuts into it. Robert Herndon buys poisonous rattles, freezes them to death, and markets the preserved remains. And he usually tapes their mouths when cutting. But he missed the tape this time.[1]

You see, sometimes we don’t realize how bad something is. We think we are safe.

There was a woman who had a pet snake. This snake was a Boa Constrictor. The snake grew and got too big for its’ cage. So, she just started allowing it free roam in the house. Then for a while she noticed that it was not eating. She thought she should call the vet but didn’t call. One day she was taking a nap and woke up to find the snake lying next to her, stretched out as she was. So, she thought, “I better call the vet about his lack of appetite.” She calls the vet and the vet says, “You need to get rid of the snake. It is not eating because it is preparing itself for a big meal. It is lying next to you to size you up to see if it can eat you.”

We have the same problem with the world. We are around it all the time. We live in the world, we think it is not harming us, but in reality, we are being polluted.

We are going to look at James 4:1-12 and I intend to show you that James’ main point is that we must submit to God and not the world.

My theme is:

Christians, Don’t Be Guided by the World.

Let’s read James 4:1-12:

What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture speaks to no purpose: “He jealously desires the Spirit which He has made to dwell in us”? But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

  • Allow me to start by connecting this passage to last week’s passage.
    • Last week we talked about two types of wisdom (3:13-18).
    • I believe that James is still talking about two types of wisdom. The wisdom of the world produces disorder and every evil practice.
    • The wisdom of God produces purity, peace-loving, considerateness, submissiveness, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and sincere.
    • Now James is going to show them that their problems are because they are using the wisdom of the world and they need cleaned up.
  • Now, let’s move to James 4:4
    • James says that friendship with the world is hatred or hostility toward God.
    • Remember when the Bible writes of the world it usually is talking about the world’s systems, the world’s cultures. Culture: cult of the populace, religion of the populace.
    • The noun for friendship with the world can also mean “love” of the world. This is the same word by which we get Philadelphia, brotherly love.
    • Look at the rest of verse 4: anyone who is a friend of the world is an enemy of God.
      • That is a really strong statement, isn’t it?
      • Well think of it this way: the world’s systems are sinful. Sin is against God. So, what is it like if we are befriending sin?
  • 2 Cor 4:4 says that the devil is the god of this age, meaning the god of this world. The devil is and has been trying to take what is God’s.
  • We must realize that whether or not something is wrong is not relative to opinion but to Scripture and the Spirit’s conviction.
  • The world is an offense to God because of sin. Psalm 66:18: If I had cherished sin in my heart the Lord wouldn’t listen. Sin is against God. He is too pure to look upon sin.
  • Now because of our friendship with the world we have disorder and evil. Look at verses 1-3
    • James uses a literature structure called diatribe. This is a bitter, sharply abusive denunciation.
    • Notice the repeated questions. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?
    • Now notice the repeated sentences that start with the second person pronoun “you.”
    • You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
      • What a picturesque passage. You really want something and you are willing to go to extremes for it.
      • The term used for pleasures is the same word we get hedonism from. The doctrine of pleasure and happiness.
  • lust, fight, murder, have, ask, battle are all verbs
  • Look the way of the world is about sin and self. The way of God is about His way.
    • How are you doing?
    • Are you befriending the world?
    • Or, are you submitting to God?
    • Do you look at sin and think, “oh well?”
    • Do you condone sin?
    • Do you try to excuse it?
    • When you are watching a movie or television show and there is outright sexual sin, such as sex outside of the bonds of marriage, how do you feel?
    • When you are watching television and you see disrespect for parents, how do you feel? Are you offended? God is.
      • Pray to God that you can see sin the way He does.
      • I read something the other day:

Evangelism, fine as it is, is not revival. After a successful meeting, Billy Graham was asked, “Is this revival?” Graham replied, “No. When revival comes, I expect to see two things which we have not seen yet. First, a new sense of the holiness of God on the part of Christians; and second, a new sense of the sinfulness of sin on the part of Christians.”

  • Now let’s look at the antidote to the pollution from the world found in verses 7-10
    • Submit yourselves to God. Submit to God rather than the world. You are all, we are all, submitting to something in the spiritual.
    • The key idea is to “be subject.” The verb translated “submit” literally means to “be subject.” Are you subject to God?
    • àYou see many times we want God to be sovereign but not in control
    • àWe cannot be in the driver’s seat at the same time as God. We must let God be in the driver’s seat, we must be in the passenger seat. But wait, if you are in the passenger seat you can still control the driving, so you must be in the back seat. But wait, back seat drivers, have you ever heard of them? We must let God be the driver so we should be in the trunk. Submit to God. Be subject to God.
    • Now James references the devil. Resist the devil.
      • Eph 4:27: don’t give the devil a foothold; 1 Pet 5:8f: the devil goes around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.
      • àIs James saying that the devil has something to do with the problems?
    • I wonder; do you try to resist the devil? Do you recognize that the devil is trying to tempt you and be the source of your problems? James says to “resist the devil.” And what? The devil will flee. We must recognize that this is Scripture. This means you must believe it. You may have to resist the devil for a while, you may have to be persistent, but God’s Word says that the devil will flee.
    • Look at verse 8: draw near to God and what He will draw near to you. Or, the NIV says come near to God and He will come near to you.
      • You may wonder, “Why am I not that close to God?” I have heard people tell me, “I don’t feel close to God.” I will ask, “Are you involved in a church? Are you reading the Scriptures and taking time for prayer? “They might say, “No.” Look if you are not working on your relationship with God you will not feel His leading. Draw near to God.
    • Now look at the next phrase. This is very direct, wash your hands you sinners, and purify your hearts you double minded.
      • This phrase is reminiscent of the Old Testament prophetic books. This is about ceremonial cleansing. We need cleansed from our sins. We must get rid of the sin.
      • And how are they double minded? They are trying to have both the world’s wisdom and God’s wisdom. We cannot have both. They are contrasting. We must get rid of the world. We must cleanse the world off of us and then go to God.
    • Now verse 9 is about mourning, why? This is because they are taking sin too lightly, they should be resisting sin. They should be mourning over sin.
    • Now, humble yourselves to God. This kind of goes with verse 7, submit, be subject to God. And the Lord will lift you up. This is the antidote for being polluted by the world.
  • Now before James moves on he talks about the tongue once again in verses 11-12.
    • Again, this goes back to our words. James is saying that we must not gossip and talk bad about each other. We must submit to God and that means submitting to God’s law.
    • It appears that their gossip and slander was unbiblical judgment and God is the only judge. We are told to confront sin (See James 5:19-20). However, we must always confront sin using the Scriptures. When we use the Scriptures we are quoting God and His Word.
      • The wisdom of God is and must be evidenced by our works, our words and our life.
      • We must submit to God and not to the world. We must recognize the sinfulness of sin and the holiness of God. We must have the wisdom of God.

Close:

Do you like snakes? The snake is there just trying to wrap its’ way around you. It is coming up your legs, but it is going up slowly, not fast. It will eventually try to kill you, not your physical body, but your spiritual. The snake is the world. The world is trying to gradually and slowly take you from God. Don’t let it! Stick close to God.

Look again at verses 7-10:

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.

That is how you keep from being polluted by the world. You submit to God.

Prayer

[1]Tan, Paul Lee: Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations : A Treasury of Illustrations, Anecdotes, Facts and Quotations for Pastors, Teachers and Christian Workers. Garland TX : Bible Communications, 1996, c1979

James 3:13-18: Two Types of Wisdom

James 3:13-18: Two Types of Wisdom

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for and at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, May 24, 2020

Last week we continued our discussion on the New Testament epistle of James. Last week we looked at James 3:1-12. This passage talked about our language. Our language cannot be hypocritical. Blessing and cursing should not come out of the same mouth.

This week we will talk about wisdom; our language should be guided by wisdom from God.

How do you know if someone is wise? What is the test? Is there a difference between worldly wisdom and the wisdom of God?

In a commentary on 1 Cor by New Testament scholar Gordon Fee, on page 81 a man named Celsus is quoted. He wrote this during the early church and his goal appears to be against the church. He says:

Their injunctions are like this. [that is an act or instance of enjoining.] ‘Let no one educated, no one wise, no one sensible draw near. For these abilities are thought by us to be evils. But as for anyone ignorant, anyone stupid, anyone uneducated, anyone who is a child, let him come boldly.’ By the fact that they themselves admit that these people are worthy of their God, they show that they want and are able to convince only the foolish, dishonorable and stupid, and only slaves, women, and children.” Footnote shows that this is quoted by Origen in Contra Celsum

In other words, to this man, the early church was full of ignorant and unlearned people. Now, there certainly were many very learned people in the early church, but to him there was a different type of wisdom in the church than in the world.

Today, we will look at two types of wisdom, one from the world and one type from God. Wisdom must guide our language and our actions, and the wisdom of God should be evidenced by our works and our words.

Read James 3:13-18

Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every evil thing. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. 18 And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

  • In verse 13, we see a test of wisdom.
    • James starts with a question, who is wise? Before anyone can answer he gives a self-test.
    • Let him show it by his good life.
    • Now before I talk more about this good life, allow me to talk about wise and understanding. James asks: who is wise and understanding?
      • Are they the same? Are wisdom and understanding the same?
      • They are listed as two different things, two different adjectives.
        • John MacArthur says:

Notice again back at verse 13, he says, “Who is wise and understanding?” Now I don’t want to make a big distinction between those words because I think basically they’re synonyms put there for emphasis. But they do have a bit of a shade of difference in their meaning. This is the only time in the whole New Testament these two words appear together…… The simple distinction is that wisdom probably relates to the application of principles whereas understanding relates to the understanding of those principles or the knowledge of those principles. One would have more impact on the mind and one might have more impact on the conduct. But basically they have to do with the same thing. You can’t be wise if you don’t understand and you can’t really understand if you’re not wise.

  • Swindoll says: “Wisdom is the ability to see with discernment, to view life as God perceives it. Understanding is the skill to respond with insight. Knowledge is the rare trait of learning with perception—- discovering and growing. [1]
  • So, there is a hair of difference and I believe that James gave both of those adjectives for a reason.
  • Wisdom, according to MacArthur is the application of principles and understanding is understanding those principles.
  • Wisdom, according to Swindoll, is to see with discernment as God perceives things. Understanding is the ability to respond with insight. Let’s move on.
  • If you are wise, show it with your life. Godly wisdom is evidenced by our works, our words, and our life.
  • James says to show this by your good deeds done in humility. Those deeds they come from wisdom. Again, Godly wisdom is evidenced by our works, our words, and our life.
  • How many people have you known that are wise, at least by the world’s standards?
  • How many people have you known who are highly learned, but hard to be around?
  • How many people have you known who have great knowledge, but they don’t help anyone?
  • They are selfish?

In the next few verses James will talk specifically about this wisdom of the world.

  • Verses 14-16 show us a little about wisdom of the world.
    • Verse 14 starts with a conjunction that shows contrast “but” and it is a “big but” too.
    • And then there is this conditional conjunction, “if.” “If” is a conjunction showing a condition. Now what is the condition?
    • If you have bitter jealousy, you don’t just have envy, your envy is bitter.
      • If you have bitter jealousy this means that you are so envious, so jealous that you cannot bear to think of someone, you cannot bear to see someone, you cannot bear to look at their house. You think, “I cannot believe they can afford the new fishing boat. I deserve a new fishing boat.” No that’s just what my bitter jealousy might be. Point is the jealousy is advanced and it will cause damage.
      • And this bitter jealousy is about “you,” who “YOU.” Look at the next phrase: “and selfish ambition.” It is about SELFISHNESS.
        • Listen there is nothing wrong with ambition.
        • Selfish ambition is wrong, ambition is not wrong. I will watch Star Trek and watch Captain Kirk or Captain Picard and think I want to captain my own space vessel. Is that wrong? If so, it is the motivation that is wrong. Do I want to do something because I believe God has called me to do so and I believe that I can help out people? That is good ambition. However, if my motives are selfish, that is selfish ambition, and that is wrong (Phil 2:3-5).
  • Well, James writes if you have these two traits, don’t boast about it. If you talk about your wisdom, yet your life is full of selfish ambition and bitter envy, you are missing the truth. Where is the truth? The truth is in your actions. The truth is in your words.
  • The wisdom of selfish ambition and bitter envy is of the devil, earthly, unspiritual. This means it comes from our sin nature. The devil is alive and active, don’t think he isn’t. Read Eph 6:12.
  • How do you know if your wisdom is this way? Verse 16. This kind of wisdom leads to disorder, and evil practices.
    • Now, let’s talk about you. Do your practices produce disorder?
    • Do your words produce disorder or evil?
  • Before we go into the wisdom of God, let me give some of the differences of the two types of wisdom: The world versus God’s wisdom:
  • The world’s wisdom: Look like a model.
  • God’s wisdom: you are beautiful. God created you the way you are.
  • The world’s wisdom: Have a sarcastic answer which makes you look good and others bad.
  • God’s wisdom: Love your enemies (Phil 2), return evil with good.
  • The world’s wisdom: Do what you have to do to get to the top.
  • God’s wisdom: Jesus gave up everything and went to the bottom.
  • The world’s wisdom may say to drink, do drugs, have fun.
  • God’s wisdom says, these things harm you. They take you out of control of your actions. Your body belongs to God.
  • The world’s wisdom may say your voice isn’t good enough, your body isn’t good enough, you are too fat, too tall, too short, your hair is ugly, and your clothes are too cheap.
  • God’s wisdom says, “I created you the way you are for a reason.”
  • The world’s wisdom: Disrespect your parents or others.
  • God’s wisdom says, be submissive to authorities. Respect all people. Jesus was submissive to authorities that were corrupt.
  • The world’s wisdom: It is ok to have sex, just use protection.
  • God’s wisdom says, that sacrifices your purity. Sex is a gift God has given you for reproduction and joy with someone you have a lifelong commitment with in marriage. Sex is emotional and emotions are hurt if the intimacy of sex is shared with more people.
  • The world’s wisdom: Have fun! Life is short and there is no eternity.
  • God’s wisdom says we will all face judgment someday and there is an eternity. There is one way to Heaven.
  • The world’s wisdom says, if life doesn’t seem fun or you have had some trauma it is ok to end your life.
  • God’s wisdom says that He created you for a purpose. Life will get tuff but lean on God.
  • The world’s wisdom skews our view. We see through a haze. When I was 24 years old I realized that I needed glasses. I was so excited to be able to have perfect vision once again. But when I went to work as a McDonald’s manager my view got skewed again. I would leave work and my glasses would be coated with grease. I would have to clean them off. Just as my glasses were coated with grease so is our view of reality. The world’s wisdom skews our view.
  • We need God’s wisdom. Godly wisdom is evidenced by good works.

Verses 17-18 show us a little about the wisdom of God.

    1. God’s wisdom produces purity.
    2. God’s wisdom produces peace.
    3. I am sure there have been several people in the world who were wise yet their words didn’t produce peace.
    4. God’s wisdom is gentle, this means you think of others first (Phil 2:3-5).
    5. God’s wisdom is reasonable.
    6. God’s wisdom is full of mercy.
    7. God’s wisdom produces the good fruit.
    8. God’s wisdom is impartial, unwavering without hypocrisy, objective.
    9. Verse 18 wraps it up. If you do things in peace the outcome is righteousness.

Close:

How do you know if someone is wise? What is the test? Is there a difference between worldly wisdom and the wisdom of God?

The test of wisdom is right here in Scripture. Do an individual’s actions produce disorder and evil practices? Or, do an individual’s actions, an individual’s life, show purity, peace loving, considerateness, submissiveness, mercy, good fruit, impartiality and sincerity?

Apply this to yourself, by looking at your life: Do your actions produce disorder and evil practices? Or, do your actions, does your life, show purity, peace, gentleness, reasonableness, mercy, good fruit, objectivity?

Now, you can examine yourself, but it would be better to ask a close friend.

Pray.

 

[1] Swinoll, Charles R. The Strong Family. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 613.

Our Tongue is a Dangerous Weapon (James 3:1-12)

James 3:1-12: Our Tongue is a Dangerous Weapon

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, May 17, 2020

I want to tell you about a weapon that causes a lot of harm. This weapon is allowed on airplanes, you don’t have to check the weapon prior to boarding the plane. This weapon is allowed in schools. The teachers try to keep this weapon controlled by the students, but the teachers cannot, and do not, remove the weapon. The weapon is in the White House and all the other places of government. They have this weapon in other countries as well. Infants have this weapon, though they have not mastered its use. This weapon has been around as long as humanity. This weapon is the tongue.

The tongue allows us to form words.

Words can make us laugh.

The tongue forms words and words can make us cry.

Words can hurt.

Words can lie:

When I was about 4 years old my dad got a new car. My dad worked for a company that provided company cars for their employees. Now I was on the sidewalk in the front yard when my dad arrived home. I saw the car and thought, “this car would look better with a stripe down the side.” I had some keys which somehow, I had acquired. My parents were about to regret that I had acquired those keys. I took a key and scratched the car all the way down the side. Later on, my dad would mention what happened and I said that the cat did it. My dad always knew that the cat didn’t do this and later on the truth would come out. My point is that I lied. With my tongue I could have told the truth, but I didn’t.

Words can share important information.

Words can make us feel good.

Words come from the tongue.

Let’s read James 3:1-12 and see what James says about the tongue.

Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.

See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

  1. In verse 1 James introduces a way the tongue is commonly used, to teach.
    1. Do not be too quick to become a teacher.
    2. By this time, it has been at most 15 years since Jesus’ resurrection. The church was young.
    3. Maybe they had a problem appointing teachers too hastily.
    4. James says that teachers will be judged more strictly.
      1. Wow! James used the “J” word. James talks about judgment.
      2. The Bible affirms that there will be a judgment and the New Testament affirms a high bar for spiritual leadership. To ignore that and teach something contrary to Scripture is a grievous mistake.
    5. In verse 2 James gets to the argument about our speech.
      1. Notice how James doesn’t talk down to them. He uses the inclusive first person pronoun “we.” We all stumble. We all mess up. He includes himself.
      2. Look at the rest of the verse: If anyone is not at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
      3. James introduces the idea that what we say can control our whole body.
  • In verses 3-12 James talks about the tongues ability to cause great danger and our lack of ability to tame the tongue.
    1. Look at verses 3-4:
      1. We can control big horses with a bit in their mouth.
      2. We can control big ships with a small rudder.
    2. In verse 5 James says the tongue is small too. The tongue is small like the rudder that guides a ship or the bit that guides the horse. Yet, the tongue causes great danger.
    3. James compares the tongue to the spark that starts a forest fire.

A fire can begin with just a small spark, but it can grow to destroy a city. A fire reportedly started in the O’Leary barn in Chicago at 8:30 p.m., October 8, 1871; and because that fire spread, over 100,000 people were left homeless, 17,500 buildings were destroyed, and 300 people died. It cost the city over $400 million.

  1. How are you doing right about now?
  2. Have you started any forest fires with your words? Proverbs 26:20: for lack of wood the fire goes out and where there is no whisper the gossip stops.
  3. The tongue forms our words and our words can start a fire of gossip. Have you been guilty of this? Have we been guilty of this? These days this can also happen through Facebook, email, twitter, or text messaging.
  4. We all best take this warning. We all should be careful with our communication.
  5. A few years ago, I was upset with the way someone said something in a meeting. I didn’t say anything for a few days, but then after sitting on it for so many days; I realized that I was not going to let it go. I sat down and typed a very harsh email to the individual. I don’t think the email said anything untrue, yet it was too much truth and too little grace. It was unloving.
  6. Our conversations can get this way, even in church. We may have a responsibility in the church and others must help with this responsibility. Well, when we think that someone else is not taking it seriously, we let them have it, all truth, and no grace. That is wrong. That is really what James is writing about, being hurtful to someone else.
  7. I don’t know if you have seen the movie, The King’s Speech. There is an amazing moment where the main character enters a room and sees his daughter (the young, not yet Queen, Elizabeth) watching the news on filmstrip. She is watching Hitler speak in German. “What’s he saying daddy,” she asks. He says, “I don’t know but he seems to be saying it well.”
    1. Destructive regimes use the voice and use the pen. They use words, they use the tongue, and they start a forest fire.
    2. That is why James writes verse 6: And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 
  8. Skip to verse 9: with the tongue we praise our Lord and we curse men.
  9. When I was in youth group I was told that this passage is where we get instructions not to use curse words, or cuss words, or swear words.
  10. This passage is not about any particular list of words. This passage is about using our words against people.
  11. Sure, if I am using a word that is generally considered a cuss word against someone else; this verse applies.
  12. James concludes this passage by stating that blessing and cursing should not come out of the same mouth.

Close: Words can curse or bless

The Language of God, Francis S. Collins pages 159-160

Francis Collins writes:

My Junior year in college, 1968, was full of deeply troubling events. Soviet tanks had rolled into Czechoslovakia; the Vietnam War had escalated with the Tet offensive; and Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King had been assassinated. But at the very end of the year, another much more positive event occurred that electrified the world— the launch of Apollo 8. It was the first manned space craft to orbit the moon. Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders traveled through space for three days that December, while the world held its breath. Then they began to circle the moon, taking the first human photos of Earth rising over the moon’s surface, reminding us all just how small and fragile our planet appears from the vantage point of space. On Christmas Eve, the three astronauts broadcast a live television transmission from their capsule. After commenting on their experiences and on the starkness of the lunar landscape, they jointly read the first ten verses of Genesis 1. As an agnostic on the way to becoming an Atheist at the time, I still remember the surprising sense of awe that settled over me as those unforgettable words— “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” —- reached my ears from 240,000 miles away, spoken by men who were scientists and engineers, but for whom these words had obvious powerful meaning.

Shortly afterward, the famous American atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair filed suit against NASA for permitting this Christmas Eve reading of the Bible. She argued that U.S. astronauts, who are federal employees, should be banned from public prayer in space. Though the courts ultimately rejected her suit, NASA discouraged such references to faith in future flights. Thus, Buzz Aldrin of Apollo 11 arranged to take communion on the surface of the moon during the first human lunar landing in 1969, but that event was never publicly reported.

The astronauts used their words to bless, while the atheist used words to curse.

Let’s use our words to bless. Let’s pray that we can use our words to bless. You’ll mess up, we all will, when we do, use our words to apologize then try to do better.

Prayer.

 

 

[1] The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jas 3:6

Hannah, a Godly Mother (1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2)

Mother’s Day Sermon

Hannah, a Godly Mother (1 Samuel chapters 1 and 2) Prepared and Preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, Ohio on Sunday, May, 10, 2020

The mother has an important part in God’s plan. Would Samuel have been born apart from Hannah’s prayers?

The story is told of William C. Burns, the man who mightily blessed Hudson Taylor and Murray McCheyne, of how when he was only a boy of seventeen he visited the city of Glasgow with his mother for the first time in his life. The mother suddenly lost her boy in the crowd and after many anxious moments discovered him in an alley with his head buried in his hands, sobbing with a broken heart.

“What ails you, lad?” asked the Scottish mother. “Oh, Mither, Mither,” said the country boy, “the thud of these Christless feet on the way to hell breaks my heart.” One can understand how he grew up to be the mighty revivalist of Scotland and China.

—Alliance Weekly[1]

Prayer, what does it matter? Seeking the Lord, who cares, dependence upon the Lord, not that important, is it? Well, obviously I think all of these things in our lives are very important. Prayers, seeking the Lord, dependence on God are important as they affect our whole life. But when you are a parent these affect more than you, but your children, even if your children are not born yet. Unfortunately, in my ministry I have worked with children who haven’t had godly parents. Unfortunately, I have worked with children who have had absent parents. It is always refreshing to see a good family. It is refreshing for me to see a family that puts God first. I know there are many families in this church that seek the Lord, depend upon God and have a vibrant prayer life.

I am not the only one who thinks that prayer and seeking the Lord are very important, in the Old Testament there was a woman who sought the Lord and she was rewarded because of this. I know as soon as I mentioned the Old Testament you thought of Hannah in 1 Samuel. But for those of you who haven’t thought of Hannah, she is the one I am thinking of. Hannah was a very godly woman. I want to talk about her for a few minutes and I intend to show you that she was a godly mother and because she was a godly mother she gave birth to one of the greatest Old Testament prophets. The prophet Samuel ordained King Saul and King David, Israel’s first two kings. Because of Hannah we have the Old Testament narratives of first and second Samuel. Let me explain this as we walk through chapter 1. But let me add a note, a very important note: As I talk about 1 Samuel 1 I will talk about Hannah’s devotion to the Lord and her husband’s support. My challenge is that you also are devoted to the Lord. But just because you are devoted to the Lord this doesn’t mean that your kids will also grow up to be godly. If you have an adult or teenage child that you are struggling with it is easy to blame yourself. But I know of parents that have been and are very godly and yet their children rebel.

My theme:

Hannah went to the Lord with her need and so should we.

We will read 1 Samuel 1 as we talk about it.

  • Let’s talk about Hannah’s devotion to the Lord.
    • Let’s read verses 1-8: Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the Lord of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests to the Lord there. When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the Lord had closed her womb. Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the Lord had closed her womb. It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the Lord, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
    • In the first couple of verses we have an introduction to the passage. We have a little bit about their lifestyle. Hannah was married to Elkanah. Elkanah had two wives.
      • It is most likely from context and wording that Elkanah was married to Hannah first. But when Hannah could not have children he took a second wife named Peninnah. Hannah means “grace” and Peninnah means “ruby.”
      • It was important back in those times for a man and woman to be able to have children. Back then children grew up and were expected to take care of their parents as they grew older. Children helped with the family business as well.
  • I believe we still expect children to help take care of their parents as they get older. My dad set a very good example for me. I remember many Saturdays watching my dad fix his mom’s car, fix the plumbing in the basement of her house, fix the flooring, electric and much more. Then, my grandmother lived with us later as well.
  • The IVP Bible Backgrounds Commentary shows that a barren woman would often be shamed/discarded, or ostracized, or given a lower status. Mesopotamian prayers and legal texts show that this was common throughout the middle east.
  • So, the text shows us that Hannah was barren. This was a big deal. It was tragic.
  • As we talk about Hannah’s commitment to the Lord, we must also talk about Elkinah’s commitment to the Lord. Verse 3 shows that Elkinah would take his family to Shiloh to worship and make sacrifices. He gave sacrifices to his two wives and to his children.
  • Now, this was a big commitment. Shiloh was about 15 miles from Jerusalem and Shiloh was about a two day journey. Now many of you are thinking, “Why Shiloh? What about Jerusalem?” I am glad you asked. At this point Jerusalem had not yet been conquered by King David. So, at this point the Ark of the Covenant, Israel’s temple and worship center were in Shiloh.
  • But as stated, it was a two day journey. How are you guys doing taking your family to church? When I was a kid we went to church several times a year but sometimes only two or three times a year. We would go to church on Mother’s day because my dad knew that was what mom wanted.
  • I know it is hard to get up on Sunday mornings, the devil makes you extra tired. But it was a two day walk for them!
  • Now you may think: “It was only once a year.” You are right, this is only talked about once a year. But it was at least 4 days of travel and they probably stayed over a week. Then there was the cost of the sacrifices.
  • So, men take a lesson from Elkanah—lead your family in worship.
  • Verse 5 shows that Elkanah loved Hannah more. But also that “the Lord had closed her womb.”
  • Major principle: The Lord is in control. I was at a doctor’s office and there was a sign—“Physicians treat, God heals.”
  • Verses 6-8 show the pain that Hannah experienced being barren. Peninnah is described as a rival. She would provoke Hannah as Hannah had no children. It is possible that she provoked Hannah because Elkanah loved Hannah more.
  • So, the Scriptures show that God controls the womb and now Hannah believes that. She believes it so much that she spends extra time in prayer about a son.
  • Hannah prays.
    • let’s read verses 9-18:
    • Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the Lord. 10 She, greatly distressed, prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly. 11 She made a vow and said, “O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” 12 Now it came about, as she continued praying before the Lord, that Eli was watching her mouth. 13 As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard. So Eli thought she was drunk. 14 Then Eli said to her, “How long will you make yourself drunk? Put away your wine from you.” 15 But Hannah replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord. 16 Do not consider your maidservant as a worthless woman, for I have spoken until now out of my great concern and provocation.” 17 Then Eli answered and said, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him.” 18 She said, “Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.” So the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.
    • She prays for a son. She prays so intensely that Eli, the priest, thinks she is drunk. She is praying with her mouth but her lips are moving without sounds coming out.
    • Now, Hannah prays for a son but also makes a vow. If the Lord gives her a son, she will dedicate him to the Lord his whole life, and no razor will touch his head.
    • Even beyond the Bible vows were common in the ancient Middle East: usually these went to a deity. This includes Hittite, Ugaritic, Mesopotamian, and less often, Egyptian. In Ugaritic literature King Keret makes a vow in requesting a wife who could produce offspring. In return he offered gold and silver corresponding to his bride’s weight.
    • Now, that is the Nazirite vow which is usually a temporary vow but she promises that Samuel will have that vow his whole
    • It is not that this was uncommon: gifts of children to the temple are evidenced in Sumerian texts from the beginning of the second millennium.
    • Have you ever wanted something so very badly? Well, Hannah did in this case so she went to the One who could ultimately provide it.
  • The Lord rewarded Hannah’s vow
    • Let’s read verses 19-20.
    • 19 Then they arose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned again to their house in Ramah. And Elkanah had relations with Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. 20 It came about in due time, after Hannah had conceived, that she gave birth to a son; and she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of the Lord.”
    • God provided a baby and they name him Samuel. So, Hannah follows through and after the child was weaned she brings him to the temple.
    • So, Samuel was probably two to three years old when he was dedicated to the temple.
    • I read this and think, “That is amazing, she dedicates her son to serve in temple service his whole life.”
    • I am thinking it is quite likely there were more people to help raise Samuel than just Eli. And if you want, later on I encourage you to read 1 Samuel chapter 3. That tells about Samuel when he was about 12 years old.
    • But I don’t want Hannah’s dedication to go unnoticed. Mom’s care for their children unconditionally.
    • Mothers are committed, mothers love their children. This mother gave her child up to serve the Lord. She was that committed to the Lord. She knew the Lord will take care of her son.
  • Now, for a minute I want to talk about Elkinah’s support for Hannah.
    • Yes, Elkinah led them to the annual festival, or festivals but he also supported her in her turmoil.
    • Verse 8 is a verse that shows Elkanah’s support. Now we think, “what! What is he saying? He is better than ten sons.” Well it is possible what is meant is “don’t I treat you better than if you had ten sons.” Either way, he is trying to comfort her.
    • Then in verse 23, they have already given birth to the boy and it is time to sacrifice again. But she says, let me stay home until the boy is weaned. And what does Elkanah say? He supports her. He says do what seems best.
    • You know, Hannah made this vow to the Lord to dedicate the boy to God for his whole life. Elkanah could have made the vow invalid. According to Numbers 30:6-15 a husband can revoke a woman’s vow. But Elkanah doesn’t do this. He supports her.
    • They take the boy Samuel to Shiloh to minister before the Lord and Elkanah supports her decisions.
    • How are you guys doing with this? How are you doing with supporting your wife? How are you doing with supporting her emotionally when she may be going through hard times? How are you doing supporting her decisions?
    • I know many men who are unsupportive. I heard a counselor say it is possible that for a long time a marriage is dead. The two are living together but simply fulfilling the needs of life. That is not what God meant for in marriage. Marriage is supposed to be joyful and we are supposed to support each other.
    • I know that many of you are great supports for your wife as well.

Closing:

There is great value in raising godly children. This value starts when moms and dads are seeking the Lord at home.

A mother in New England was helping pack a box to be sent to India. Her son, aged four, insisted on putting in an offering all his own, a little leaflet entitled “Come to Jesus.” His name was written on it with the little prayer, “May the one who gets this soon learn to love Jesus.” When the child’s leaflet reached that far-off land it was finally given to a Hindu priest who was teaching the missionaries the language. He took it without looking at it, but on his way back to his mountain home he thought of the leaflet, took it out, and read the writing on the outside.

The child’s prayer so touched him that he was then eager to read further. He soon gave up his idols and became a devoted missionary to his own people. Fifteen years after that, American missionaries visited his mountain village, and there found the converted Hindu priest with a congregation of fifteen hundred people who had learned to love Jesus as their Saviour, through the influence and teaching of that leaflet.

That 4 year old had to have learned it from his mother and father. We need godly mothers like Hannah. We need supportive fathers. Unfortunately, it is far too often that the mother teaches about faith and not the father. In this case it was Hannah who spent time in intense prayer, it was Hannah who made the vow, it was Hannah who went through the turmoil. But at least Elkanah was supportive.

Praise God for godly mothers. Praise God for a mother’s work.

A little boy looks up at you,

With eyes opened wide.

He puts his trusting hand in yours,

And something stirs inside

He leads you to the window,

Where you stand and stare …

A robin hops out on the lawn,

But you didn’t see it there.

Your mind is deep in thought;

The years are racing past.

A small hand moves in yours …

“Why do they grow so fast?”

Soon you’ll watch him go off to school,

So full of promise and hope;

And suddenly you can’t speak,

For the lump that’s in your throat.

Time will pass so quickly;

The days will turn to years.

You’ll treasure every moment;

All the laughter and the tears.

One day he’ll meet that special girl,

And want her for his wife.

He’ll take her hand in his,

And build a brand-new life.

Suddenly … your thoughts come back,

To all the living he’s not yet done.

You whisper a grateful prayer …

And embrace your tiny son.

—Patricia J. White[2]

I pray that you will seek the Lord in your life as Hannah did.

I do understand that for many of you this mother’s day may be sad. You have lost your mother, she has passed away. My prayers are with you. Or, maybe you have not been able to have children. Or, maybe you are single, you have a gift of celibacy. There is certainly such a thing as spiritual children. These are adults and children that you mentor and take on a parental roll with. And praise God for that. My prayers are for God’s comfort.

Let’s pray

Happy mother’s day

[1]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

[2]Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

Our Faith is Validated by Our Works (James 2:14-26)

I have a very interesting quote about the growth of Christianity. I will use this often; the quote is from the fourth century.

Emperor Julian (332-63)

Atheism [Christianity]has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead.  It is a scandal that there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for ours as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.[1]

The early church grew by helping others, taking care of people.

I want to look at James 2:14-26 and show you that faith and good works must go together.

Read James 2:14-26

14 What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,” and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that? 17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.

18 But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” 19 You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God. 24 You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 In the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.

  1. In verse 14 James give an exhortation by a question (verse 14).
    1. I actually count 6 questions in this passage. It seems that James communicated by questions.
    2. Notice in verse 14 James says “if a man ‘claims to’ or ‘says he has’ faith…”
    3. You see this is an example of a person saying they have faith. This is not something observable. This is not someone saying, “so and so has faith, I can tell.”
    4. But read the rest of verse 14: this man has no deeds. He has no good works. His actions don’t match his words. He claims to have faith but that is not observable.
    5. Answer the question. What do you think? Do you think it is good if a man or woman says they are a Christian, but their life doesn’t match up?
    6. To be a Christian means to be “like Christ” or “little Christ.”
    7. Some people are now calling themselves “Christ followers” in order to distinguish themselves from all the people who are “Christians” in name only.
    8. Read the next question: Can that faith save him?
    9. Now, let me ask you a question: Are we saved by works or are we saved by faith?
    10. When reading the Bible always remember that Scripture interprets Scripture. If we read Ephesians 2:8 it says we are saved by faith not by works. But Ephesians also says that we are saved for good works (Eph 2:10).
    11. So, I believe what James is really asking is: Do the works validate their faith? What we do should show we are Christians.
  2. In the next ten verses James gives 4 illustrations. One of those illustrations is a case study (verses 15-25).
    1. James gives us a very straightforward example. What good is it when we simply say, we’ll pray but we don’t help? Now, I know that many times you may not be able to physically help and prayer is very important. However, it is imperative that we do help as we can.
    2. Faith is dead without actions.
    3. Christians are the best and worst witnesses for and against Christianity. People are watching. People are watching now more than ever. As America’s culture becomes more and more secular this will allow Christians to shine. Or, this will allow Christians to look very bad to the world.
    4. Trouble is too many Christians, alleged Christians, don’t want to get their hands dirty.
    5. What do I mean?
    6. Many Americans are eager to send money but will not go help themselves.
    7. One way Americans are eager to send money but not get their hands dirty is that many times we are eager to pay towards a homeless shelter but not go and serve ourselves.
    8. There may be many reasons:
    9. It is in a bad section of town.
    10. We are too busy.
    11. It isn’t my gift.
    12. There is a book called: Same Kind of Different as Me.
    13. This book is a true story that follows two people’s paths in life until they meet up.
    14. One person was raised in a middle class white family. He grows up and becomes very successful and very wealthy.
    15. The second person is a poor uneducated black man. He grew up as a modern-day slave. His parents worked a farm and he did too. He experienced heavy racism. Eventually this man ran away. However, he never had been educated. He lived homeless and learned how to fend for himself.
    16. Eventually the wealthy white man, now married, is convinced by his wife to begin helping at a homeless shelter. They had committed their life to Christ and she wanted to go deeper. He was willing to give money, but she wanted to do more. So, they start helping at a homeless shelter. She then says that she wants to take one group from the homeless shelter to dinner and a play.
    17. Now, the relationship grows between this wealthy man and woman and this uneducated poor black man.
    18. The wealthy white man asks to take the uneducated black man out to breakfast. At breakfast the black man asks, “Why are you doing this?” the white man says, “To be your friend.” The black man says, “I like to fish, but I notice when white people fish they catch and release. I don’t want a ‘catch and release’ friendship.”
    19. Well, this wealthy husband and wife decided to do more than give money and because they did they touched many lives. One of those lives was that uneducated black man. Later on, they formed a friendship that will last the rest of their lives and has lasted the rest of her life, as he was there for the woman’s death. The wealthy white man and the uneducated black man published this book together.
    20. Let’s go back to James’ illustrations.
    21. James says he will show his faith by what he does.
    22. In verse 19, James begins to make the case that our belief doesn’t mean anything without actions. Even the demons have orthodox beliefs. Even the demons believe in one God, and they shudder.
    23. In verses 21-25, James give some Old Testament evidence.
    24. Abraham’s faith was verified by what he did, being willing to offer up Isaac.
    25. Verse 24: a person is justified by what he does, not by faith alone.
    26. Now, it appears that James uses “justify” in a different way than Paul does. Justify usually means to declare righteous. But from context it appears that James uses this verb to mean that their faith is declared right. James is saying that your faith is validated by your works.
    27. You are not saved by works, but your works validate your faith.
    28. Verse 25 shows that Rahab’s faith was validated by her aid to the Israelite spies.
  • The exhortation (verse 26)
    1. The body is dead without the spirit.
    2. So, we also have not real faith without works. Our faith is dead, it has no life, without works.

Chuck Swindoll shares:

Persistence pays.

It’s a costly investment, no question about it. But the dividends are so much greater than the original outlay that you’ll almost forget the price. And if the final benefits are really significant, you’ll wonder why you ever hesitated to begin with.

A primary reason we are tempted to give up is other people . . . you know, the less than 20 percent whose major role it is in life to encourage others to toss in the towel. For whatever reason. Those white-flag specialists never run out of excuses you and I ought to use for quitting. The world’s full of “why-sweat-it” experts.

I’m sure Anne Mansfield Sullivan had a host of folks telling her that the blind, 7-year-old brat wasn’t worth it. But Anne persisted—in spite of temper tantrums, physical abuse, mealtime madness, and even thankless parents. In her heart she knew it was worth all the pain. Was it ever! Within two years her pupil, Helen Keller, was able to read and write in braille. She ultimately graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College (where Miss Sullivan had “spelled” each lecture into her hand), and Helen Keller devoted the rest of her life to aiding the deaf and the blind.

Want another for instance? Well, this particular man was told that if he hadn’t written a book by age thirty-five, chances were good he never would. He was almost forty, I should add. There were others who reminded him that for every book published, ninety-five became dust-collecting manuscripts. But he persisted. Even though he was warned that stories like he wanted to write weren’t popular. Nor were they considered worthy of top prizes in the literary field (his work later won the Pulitzer). Hollywood hotshots also told him such a book certainly held no dramatic possibilities. But James Michener hung tough. He refused to wash the desire out of his hair as he persisted. And he presented to the public Tales of the South Pacific. Oh, by the way, the Broadway critics had warned, “It’ll never make a musical.”

How many military battles would never have been won without persistence? How many men and women would never have graduated from school . . . or changed careers in midstream . . . or stayed together in marriage . . . or reared a mentally disabled child? Think of the criminal cases that would never have been solved without the relentless persistence of detectives. How about the great music that would never have been finished, the grand pieces of art that would never have graced museums, cathedrals, and monuments the world over? Back behind the impeccable beauty of each work is a dream that wouldn’t die mixed with the dogged determination of a genius of whom this indifferent world is not worthy.

Think also of the speeches, the sermons, the books that have shaped thinking, infused new hope, prompted fresh faith, and aroused the will to win. For long and lonely hours away from the applause—even the awareness—of the public, the one preparing that verbal missile persisted all alone with such mundane materials as dictionary, thesaurus, historical volumes, biographical data, and a desk full of other research works. The same could be said of those who labor to find cures for diseases. And how about those who experiment with inventions?

I once heard about a couple of men who were working alongside the inventor Thomas Edison. Weary to the point of exasperation, one man sighed, “What a waste! We have tried no less than seven hundred experiments and nothing has worked. We are not a bit better off than when we started.”

With an optimistic twinkle in his eye, Edison quipped, “Oh, yes, we are! We now know seven hundred things that won’t work. We’re closer than we’ve ever been before.” With that, he rolled up his sleeves and plunged back in.

If necessity is the mother of invention, persistence is certainly the father.

God honors it. Maybe because He models it so well. His love for His people, the Jews, persists to this very day, even though they have disobeyed Him more often than they have loved Him in return. And just think of His patient persistence in continually reaching out to the lost, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). And how about His persistence with us? You and I can recall one time after another when He could have (and should have!) wiped us out of the human race, but He didn’t. Why? The answer is in Philippians 1:6:

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (NIV)

The One who began will continue right up to the end. Being the original finisher, He will persist. I’m comforted to know He won’t be talked out of a plan that has to do with developing me. I need help! Don’t you?[2]

Persist in good works.

Pray.

 

[1] Neill, Stephen. A History of Christian Missions, Second Edition, Revised by Owen Chadwick. 1991. Pages 38.

[2] Excerpted from Come Before Winter and Share My Hope, Copyright © 1985, 1988, 1994 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved worldwide. Used by permission.