About sarhodes

I serve as the Pastor at Bethel Friends Church in Poland, Ohio. I am married to Meagan and we have been married since 2003. We have two children, Mercedes Grace and Abigail Elizabeth. Mercedes was born on September 1, 2011 and Abigail was born on December 4, 2013. I graduated in 2000 from Northmont High School in Clayton, Ohio (just northwest of Dayton). I graduated with a BA in pastoral studies from Cedarville University in 2006 and the an M.Div. from Asbury Theological Seminary in 2010. I enjoy movies, especially action moves like Braveheart, the Patriot and Gladiator. I especially enjoy historical movies. I also enjoy documentaries. I enjoy reading: I love historical books, especially Revolutionary War biographies. I enjoy reading theological books as well. I enjoy spending time with Meagan, Mercedes and Abigail. I also enjoy fishing and watching football.

The Power of Prayer and the Response of Praise (James 5:13-18)

The Power of Prayer and the Response of Praise (James 5:13-18)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on Sunday, August 02, 2020

A minister said to a child: “So your mother says your prayers for you each night. What does she say?” The youngster replied, “Thank God he’s in bed.”[1]

Prayer is very important in our Christian life.  A man named William R. Newell said this about prayer: “kneeling is a good way to pray because it is uncomfortable. Daniel prayed on his knees.” Jim Elliot [who was killed as a missionary in Ecuador] said, “God is still on His throne, we’re still His footstool, and there’s only a knee’s distance between!” He also said, “That saint who advances on his knees never retreats.”[2]

Many others have written on prayer. Why? I think that is obvious, prayer is our connection with God. I believe people write on prayer because prayer is so difficult for us, all of us, including pastors.  One reason I believe prayer is difficult is because it takes faith. We are having faith that our prayer is heard. Another thing about prayer is humility. It is humbling to ask for help and confess our sins to God. Of course, another reason is time.

In James 5:13-18 we see James wrapping up his epistle. Here James writes about prayer. As we discuss this passage, I hope you will be encouraged by James instructions on the power of prayer.

Read James 5:13-18:

 Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

  • In verse 13 James instructs us to pray in our troubles.
    • Prayer is the subject of the next several verses
    • Prayer is also the better use of our tongues. If you recall James has written about the tongue in several verses. Some of this is review, but allow me to remind you:
    • 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, now James gives us some good instructions for the tongue; prayer and he will also mention praise.
    • Now, what type of trouble is James talking about? It is easy to think that the trouble has something to do with illness. In fact, at first glance I thought the trouble had something to do with illness. I thought that because in verse 14 James writes about sickness. But I am going to share a different thought on that verb translated “sickness” in a moment.
    • For now, trouble could likely mean persecution. Recall that in James 2:6 the rich were dragging the people into courts. We also know that James was the pastor of the Jerusalem church and we know there was persecution in Jerusalem. James himself was stoned to death in AD 62. Stephen was stoned to death prior to this letters writing. In Hebrews, which I think was written in or around Jerusalem, in chapter 13:3 there is a hint about persecution there. So, I think the trouble James is referring to is persecution.
    • James says to pray.
    • What are you doing in your trouble? I urge you to pray. This is a topic which I have covered before, but it always needs repeating, pray.
    • Francois Fenelon, a seventeenth-century Roman Catholic Frenchman, said this about prayer:
    • Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them; tell Him your dislikes, that He may help you to conquer them; talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them; show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability, Tell Him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.
    • If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weight their words, for there is nothing to be held back; neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of the heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God. [3]
    • Now, still in this verse James writes about the opposite of trouble, happiness. If you are happy, sing songs of praise. Col 3:16-17: Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
  • Now, in verses 14 and 15 James tells us about communal prayer for illness.
    • I said communal prayer because now you are to get more people involved in your prayer.
    • James says, is anyone of you sick? You should call the elders of the church to pray over you and anoint you with oil in the name of the Lord. And in verse 15, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well.
    • This is a somewhat difficult passage for me to talk about. It is difficult because it would be easy to say if you have done this and you are not well, your faith is not strong enough. Look again: James says, the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. The text continues to say: The Lord will raise you up; if you have sinned you will be forgiven.
    • Now, what does sin have to do with the sickness?
    • We cannot say that if you are not better after being prayed over and anointed by the elders, your faith is weak and your sickness may be because of sin.
    • I know that I have opened a can of worms and I am going to get rid of the worms now. I am going to try to get those worms to catch fish or something productive.
    • The dear man, who was my youth pastor in high school and a spiritual advisor now, lost his daughter to leukemia when she was around 16 or 17 years of age. He is and was a very godly man who spent lots of time in prayer and had great faith. But he was told by some that he had unconfessed sin and that is why his daughter was not healed.
    • I don’t believe that for a second. At least not in that case.
    • Though I will talk about confession in a minute.
    • The Greek verb translated “sick” can mean weak. It is quite likely that James is not writing about a physical ailment but a spiritual weakness and/or some physical weakness from the persecution. Think about it for a moment. These people are facing persecution. They are drained. It has been difficult to maintain the faith. Their faith has been challenged and maybe weakened.
    • Now, James says call the elders.
    • The elders are to pray over the person and anoint him/her with oil. The verb translated “to anoint” literally means “to rub” or “smear” with oil. This could carry the idea of putting oil on wounds from persecution. At the same time this anointing could simply be symbolic as it was in the Old Testament.
    • Either way, it is quite likely that the sickness is not a literal physical illness but a weakened faith.
    • The prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well. God will honor your request. This is especially true if we believe this is talking about a weakened faith from persecution.
    • The text goes on to say that his sins will be forgiven. What is the sin? Where does this come from?
    • It is possible that the sin is a weakened faith.
    • It is also possible that the sin is just an unnamed sin. Why is it forgiven? Do the elders forgive the sin? I don’t think so. I think we can know the sin is forgiven because the individual has come to the elders. Since he has come to the elders, that implies a contrite heart willing to confess sin.
    • Suppose the person has an actual physical ailment? This passage says they will be healed in faith. You may be questioning your faith because you have not been healed. Remember that our prayers must always be about God’s will. We pray in Jesus’ name because we are praying in Jesus’ character or manner. Look at verse 14. At the end of the verse it says that the prayer and anointing are in the name of the Lord.
    • In the Bible times, name meant character. Our prayers need to be in the character or person of Jesus. This must include Jesus’ will and desires. Our prayers must be in submission to His will.
    • So, the prayer in faith will bring healing if that is in God’s will. The question is whether James is referring to spiritual healing or physical healing.
    • It seems to me to be about a spiritual weakness which needs a spiritual healing.
    • Also, about elders: notice the idea of calling upon the spiritual advisors for support. The New Testament gives this type of instruction often. It was important for the church to be a community. You need to, I need to, we all need to be able to call for help spiritually; and that is what the next verse is about.
  • In verse 16 James shows that communal confession goes along with prayer.
  • In Psalm 66:18 the Psalmist writes that if he had cherished sin in his heart the Lord would not hear his prayer.
  • I don’t think you must always be concerned about some unconfessed sin that you don’t know about.
  • What you must be careful of is repetitive sin. This is sin that you are going through and you cannot conquer. This is sin which you have given into time and time again. We should always confess our sins to God, but we must also confess them to each other.
  • This doesn’t mean giving your dirty laundry to the whole church. Who wants to be first we can have an open mic right now. No!
  • This does mean having a prayer partner or a group of Christian friends that you can share your struggles with at a specific time and place. There is a time for public confession as well. Don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think that is what James is writing about.
  • We need to confess because in confession we clear our minds and hearts.
  • We need to confess because in confession we can hear the person we confess to say that we are forgiven, or God forgives you. We need to hear that.
  • We need to confess to everyone we have offended in our sin (as far as possible). In some cases that may be a large group of people.
  • We need to confess so that we can be held accountable not to continue in that sin.
  • This means the person we confess to, or at least one of the people, should say, “You are forgiven, now how do we prevent you from falling into this sin again?”
  • We are not meant to live the Christian life alone. Unchecked sin corrupts absolutely. Our sin is contagious, always. It is not secret. If you don’t believe me look how divorce affects children. Be sure your sin will find you out and it does hurt other people (Numbers 32:23).
  • This verse about confession and sin implies that the sickness may be actually weakened faith in the previous verse.
  • I know that some of you need to confess and I urge you to do that. Make it a point to confess the sin today.
  • You may have to confess to your spouse that you have looked at pornography.
  • You may have to confess to your children that you have treated them badly.
  • You may have to confess to your boss that you did something wrong.
  • You may have to confess to someone else.
  • Don’t ignore the Spirit’s nudging about this. In Matthew 5:23-24 Jesus told the people that if they are about to worship God and they realize they have an unresolved issue with someone else, they must resolve that and then come back to worship.
  • In confessing our sin we can truly be spiritually healed and fulfilled.
  • In verses 17-18 James gives an example of the power of prayer: Let’s re-read those verses: Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. 18 Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.
  • Recall that James was the half brother of Jesus and he was called James the just. It is said that he spent hours on his knees in prayer so much so that his knees were callous like a camel’s flesh. So it is only fitting that as he closes his epistle he writes on prayer.
  • God is right there ready and waiting on your prayers
  • I want you all to know that whether you are battling a physical ailment or a spiritual problem I am here to help you.
  • Stanley Jones said of prayer: Prayer is surrender—- surrender to the will of God and cooperation with that will. If I throw out a boat hook from a boat and catch hold of the shore and pull, do I pull the shore to me, or do I pull myself to the shore? Prayer is not pulling God to my will, but the aligning of my will to the will of God.[4]


Let’s pray now


[1] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 456.

[2] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 453 (cited from Elizabeth Elliot, Shadow of the Almighty)

[3] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 451 (cited from Charles R. Swindoll, Strengthening Your Grip)

[4] Swindoll, Charles R. Read in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes. Thomas Nelson. Nashville, TN 1998. Page 453 (quoted from E. Stanley Jones, a Song of Ascents)

God does love You (1 John 3:1)

God does love You (1 John 3:1)

Prepared and preached by Pastor Steve Rhodes for Bethel Friends Church in Poland, OH on  Sunday, July 26, 2020 

There is a show on Netflix it is called “Anne with an ‘E.'” The show is about “Anne of Green Gables.” It is a wonderful, cute show about an orphan girl who mistakenly ends up at Green Gables. They were expecting a boy. Here an older brother and sister are to take her in. Many of you may know of the book. The first episode is sad. Then she is sent away, back to the orphanage, as they think she stole from them. In reality she did not. When they find the piece of jewelry which they thought she stole they try to track her down. Finally, the brother finds her and tries to persuade her to come back. She ignores him, UNTIL he calls her his daughter. Then she comes back. Later they ask her to take their name. It was so exciting for her.

How special it is to have the rights and privileges of being part of a family?

Today, I plan to encourage you with the truth of God’s love. God loves us so much that He adopted us. We are part of his family. There is a lot of discouragement going around, isn’t there? Today, my goal is to encourage you.

There are certain lies we believe but these lies need rebuked with Biblical Truth. Here are some:

  • Lie: “My WORTH = my WORK,” what I DO. NO! This is not true. I’m a human BEING, not a human DOING (Eph 1:3, 8):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ… verse 8: which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight…

  • Lie: “I’m all ALONE.” This is not true, see: Mt 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

  • Lie “It’s all ON ME!” (Mt 11:28-30) This is not true, see Matthew 11:28-30:

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

  • Lie: “What I’m doing doesn’t MATTER. I’m making no visible DIFFERENCE.” That is a lie, see: Isa 49:3-4:

He said to Me, “You are My Servant, Israel,
In Whom I will show My glory.”
But I said, “I have toiled in vain,
I have spent My strength for nothing and vanity;
Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the Lord,
And My reward with My God.”

Heb 11:13, 27, 39:

All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.

verse 39:

By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen.

  • Lie: “My BEST is not good enough.” That is a lie, see Jn 15:4-5:

Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.

Sometimes we feel like failures. You are not. This is a lie we believe. The world may make you think you are a failure. You are not. God loves you.

My theme is: You are not a failure, God does love you no matter what. He loves you so much He calls you His children.

Let’s read: 1 John 3:1: We are only going to read and focus on the beginning of the passage.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him.

  1. See how great a love…
    1. I like the translation.
    2. It begins with “See.” It is as if this is saying, “Take notice”!
    3. Some translation would say, “Behold.” This is a really important statement.
    4. What are we noticing? What is of significance?
    5. We are noticing God’s love. This is God’s “great” love.
    6. Think about how you love people. Do you know people that you will love no matter what?
    7. Do you know people that you will always love?
    8. Do you have a love for people that is hard to modify? It is hard to find the adjective to describe the love. Maybe the love is a verb, it is action, and it is hard to find an adverb to describe the love.
    9. God loves us with a great love. It is hard to find adjectives to describe God’s love for us. It is hard to find adverbs to describe God’s love. God’s love has been portrayed in action. His love has been portrayed in the action of dying for us.
    10. In this case God lavished love on us.
  2. God Lavished on Us. The NASB says “bestowed.” The NIV says “lavished.”
    1. This is important.
    2. This has the idea of a rich gift.
    3. Think about it, who is God?
    4. What belongs to God?
    5. What power does God have?
    6. What rights does God have?
    7. What authority does God have?
    8. Just think about it. If we are to believe in God, which I do, then we have to believe He has all power, all authority, all rights, and everything belongs to Him.
    9. And He notices me.
    10. You are not a failure. God loves you no matter what. He lavishes you with His love.
  • We are God’s Children.
    1. We are called God’s children. I like what the Archaeological Study Bible says: The underlying word of “sonship” is “adoption.” Adoption was common among the Greeks and Romans, who granted the adopted son all the privileges of a natural son, including inheritance rights (see “Adoption in the Roman World”).
    2. We have the privileges of being a daughter or son of God.
    3. What are these privileges?
      1. This can be quite a theological topic, but to just think of a few. We have eternal life with Him.
      2. We have a constant contact with God.
  • God will not give up on us.
  1. I remember hearing my dad talk to my barber once and my dad was comparing his love for us to God’s love. My dad said, “I could never stop loving my children.”
  2. It is, maybe, easy to give up on some stranger, some employee, some neighbor, but it ought to be that you never give up on your child. You never stop loving your child.
  3. God loves us that much.
  1. In the Greco-Roman world there was an actual adoption process for your own children. You were considered a slave of your own parents, until at a certain age your parent chooses to adopt you and consider you their own child. Then you have the rights of the family.
  2. To some extent this includes rewards in Heaven. It includes authority in Heaven.
  3. That is the idea the Bible has in mind. God went through the process of adopting you.
  4. The Life Application Study Bible: 3:1   As believers, our self-worth is based on the fact that God loves us and calls us his children. We are his children now, not just sometime in the distant future. Knowing that we are his children should encourage us to live as Jesus did.[1]
  5. Think of the following:
  6. You will face challenges in your careers, but God loves you and supports you no matter what. God is in your corner. God has your back.
  7. You will face difficulties in college, but God has your back. You are His child. Give Him a call on the prayer line.
  8. You will face family trials, but God includes you as part of His family.
  9. God loves you.
  10. God will never stop loving you.
  11. Your parents may stop holding your hand, but God does not (Isa. 41:10 and 13).
  12. We get older and our parents go to Heaven, remember that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us.
  13. God is there to hold our hand.
  14. God cares, He always cares.
  15. Regardless of your age, God loves you.
  16. Regardless of your mistakes, God loves you.
  17. Get rid of the idea that you are a failure, you are not. God is in your corner.


See what manner of love the Father has given unto us.

He lavished love on you.

Stop tuning your mind into these ideas that He doesn’t love you.

Stop tuning your mind into these ideas that you are a failure.

God loves you!

Remember the Joel Osteen illustration about the TV of the mind? Sometimes we are thinking about the wrong things. We need to use the remote control of our mind and change the channel. You are God’s child, tune into that channel.

There was a Little House on the Prairie episode about the Ingalls family adopting Albert. He was so happy to be adopted. It means so much.

You are adopted by God.

You are His child.

Do you know Jesus? Luke 9:23

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)



[1] Tyndale House Publishers (2011-08-01). Life Application Study Bible NLT (LASB: Full Size) (Kindle Locations 161133-161142). Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.

July 19 Q & A Sunday

We have a different type of Sunday today. We are doing a question and answer Sunday. So, I have had several questions come in and I will answer them with a few songs in between. I am trying to keep the answers brief so contact me with any follow-up questions.

July 19:

  • Do you believe the bible teaches on generational Curses/ Sins?
    • Ex 34:7-7 and Deut 5:8-10 talks about the consequence of sin going to the 3rd and 4th generation (also, Lev 26:39).
    • Then again, Deut 24:16 says that fathers should not be put to death for their children nor children for their fathers.
    • It seems to me that children end up committing similar sins from their parents. It just happens. A child observes certain sins in his parents and ends up copying them. I like what John Piper shares: The generations to come who experience the penalty of the fathers’ sins are those who hate God. We are not told how the fathers’ sins become the children’s sins. But what we are told is that when the father’s sins are visited on the children it is because the children are really sinful. That is the form in which the fathers’ sins are visited. Therefore, all judgment is really deserved by the person who is punished.  Because of God’s grace, which is finally secured by Christ, the children can confess their own sins and the sins of their fathers and be forgiven and accepted by God.[1]
    • Notice Leviticus 26:40-42: “‘But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their ancestors—their unfaithfulness and their hostility toward me, 41 which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies—then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, 42 I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land.
    • Notice how that passage also talks about confessing sins of their fathers. In Daniel 9:5ff he prays to the Lord saying “we” have sinned.
    • So, yes, I think there are generational sins, but I think they can be forgiven and prevented in Christ. I think generational curses would be the consequence of the sins.
  • Where does evil come from?
    • Evil is a parasite. It lives off of good. Because of good we know evil. We know right from wrong and therefore we know what is good and so we know evil.
    • Evil has no existence on its own; it is really the absence of good.
    • Evil is not things like rocks and trees. It is a parasite that lives off of good.
    • An example is cold. We would think cold exists. However, this is incorrect. Cold does not exist. Cold is the absence of heat. Similarly, darkness does not exist; it is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good, or better, evil is the absence of God. God did not have to create evil, but rather only allow for the absence of good.[2]
    • As finite human beings we can never understand an infinite God (Romans 11:33-34).
    • God did not create evil, but He did allow it. Evil exists because of free will. If we were not free we would be worshipping God out of obligation.
    • With temptation let quote Tozer: When Satan comes around to taunt me about my past sins, I remind him that everything that had been charged against me came from him, and now everything I have—forgiveness and peace and freedom—I have freely received from my Lord Jesus Christ![3]
  • Why didn’t God just get rid of Satan? Why does He allow us to be tempted?
    • This question is similar to the question about evil.
    • We cannot for sure know why God allows the things He allows. God is sovereign and we know that. He is in control.
    • God will get rid of satan and we know this from Rev. 20. So, it seems that God is allowing satan to do things for a time in order to build us up. We oftentimes do not grow without hardship.
    • We face hard times and 2 Tim 2:12 says: If we endure, we will also reign with Him…[4]
    • About that Bobby Murphy wrote this from Chapter 11 of the Knowledge of the Holy
    • Is it [our goal] that we will have a comfortable and trouble free life? Sociologist Tony Campolo claims that the chief goal of most people is to get through life with as little discomfort and pain as possible and that is probably true. It’s also true, I think, that they project their desires on to God. They assume that His chief goal for them is the same as theirs. They then become bitter and disillusioned when pain and discomfort come upon them. The tragedies and trials of life make them worse persons instead of better ones.
    • Obviously, God’s chief aim for us is not that we have a comfortable and trouble free life. So what is it then? Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 2:11-12. This passage was part of a Christian hymn written in the first century. Notice what we who follow Jesus will do in verse 12. We will reign with Him. John also tells us what God’s chief aim for us is in Revelation 22:1-5. This passage is about eternal life in heaven after the Second Coming of Jesus and our bodily resurrections. Verse 5 tells what it is that we will do there. We will reign with God forever and forever.
    • We go through troubles, sickness, pain because God is preparing us to reign with Him.
    • So, why did God not take care of satan earlier? It is because He is preparing us to reign with Him and God allows satan to tempt us to build us up in preparing us to reign with Him.
  • Romans 8:39-30 talks about predestination. Is it possible… if you dare… that you could talk about those verses one of the next two Sundays??? I have always had a hard time understanding the subject of election.
    • Predestination (mentioned 6 times in the Bible) means God foreordains or predetermines people or events to accomplish what He wills.  It’s a broad concept in that what is foreordained can be any number of occurrences such as the Romans and Jews killing Jesus (Acts 4:28), or the elect experiencing fullness of life (1 Corinthians 2:7ff.).  Election is a subcategory of predestination in that what He foreordains specifically is to “save” or “damn” specific individuals.
    • Let’s look at the scripture referenced in the question:

Romans 8:29-30:

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

  • In summary my view is that predestination is either corporate or based on God’s foreknowledge. In other words, the predestined are either the corporate church. Or, the predestined are those God foreknew would be saved.
  • Why do we need predestined?
  • Jesus says:
  • John 6:44: No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day.[5]
  • John 6:65: And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.”[6]
  • Romans 3:10-23: talks about humanity being dead in our sins. We are totally depraved.
  • The Bible affirms God’s sovereignty, but also our freewill.
  • Salvation does start with God, but we do have freewill.
  • Salvation is God’s idea.
  • We were dead in our sins, but God wants a relationship with us and if we are totally depraved how do we receive Christ? We need the Holy Spirit to draw us to Him. So, that is predestination.
    • There are at least 3 views on this:
      • God elects unconditionally and the elect are predestined. The non-elect are essentially predestined to hell.
      • God elects and predestines based on foreknowledge. God knew who would receive Him given the opportunity and they are predestined.
      • Election and predestination are corporate. This means that the elect are not individuals, but the corporate church is elect.
    • Again, I believe number 2 or number 3 depending on the day. Remember that technically God does not look to the future to see who will be saved. Everything is eternally present. So, the term “foreknowledge” is anthropomorphic, meaning it is ascribing to God human attributes. Bottom line. God knows who would receive Him, in their own freewill, given the opportunity, and He makes sure they have the opportunity. The opportunity means that they receive the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Remember, no one can receive Jesus without the Holy Spirit’s conviction. We are dead in our sins.
    • This is called “prevenient grace.” This means the grace of the Lord coming before-hand giving us the convicting power of the Holy Spirit so we can be saved.
    • I would not be opposed to the idea that the Lord gives everyone, at some time or many times, the Holy Spirit’s conviction so they can be saved. However, the predestined, and elect, are only those whom God knows will be saved.
    • Now, you may ask, “What about the person who will never hear the Gospel?” Well, God can still give them the convicting power of the Holy Spirit so they can be saved. God is not limited by us. There are many testimonies of the Muslim in a Muslim extremist country having a dream about a Savior on a cross. Cornelius in Acts 10 is one who God communicated with and then God sent Peter.
    • Remember, God is sovereign. He knows all things. He knows the future. God is omnipresent. However, God loves us and He has given us freewill. We are dead in our sins without Jesus. So, prevenient grace means that the Holy Spirit convicts people they are sinners in need of a Savior. Those who receive Jesus as Lord and Savior are predestined and elect. Or, it could be corporate meaning the church as a whole is the corporate predestined/elect.
  • A similar question: I know God gives us freewill to accept or reject Jesus. How does God bring the people that have rejected Him to salvation that we pray for. If we pray for several years for an unsaved friend and they accept Jesus on their deathbed, they have nothing to loose at that point and they miss the joy of being a Christian during their life.
    • I believe the Holy Spirit is wooing people to come to know Him as Lord and Savior.
    • So, as we pray, God factors in our prayers and they do make a difference. We know that God desires all to be saved (2 Peter 3:8-9), so when we pray we can know that we are praying something that God desires. When we pray for someone to be saved we are praying God’s will. God desires a relationship with everyone.
    • However, God does not seem to overrule our freewill. The Holy Spirit is wooing people to Him.
    • You are right, the person who receives Christ on their deathbed does miss out on life with Christ (John 10:11; 15).
  • Miracles: we all believe in miracles, when we pray to God we ask for the simple stuff and even if it does not go okay it is okay.
    • Why do we not ask for the real miracles in which there is no answer? I think we should pray for the real miracle. Why do we not pray for the real miracle, probably because we are too dependent on modern medicine. I think we should pray for the real miracle.
    • What about a child who has a brain tumor? Further, what if we have no reason to believe that God will answer us? I still think we should pray and be honest with the Lord asking Him to increase our faith.
    • Does God change His mind? Does prayer change His mind?
    • No, this is a mystery. Numbers 23:19 says that God does not change His mind. Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. James 1:17 says that God does not change. Malachi 3:6 also says that He does not change. There are passages that say that He relented. Those are passages using anthropomorphic language. That means the writers are ascribing to God human attributes. He is coming down to our level. So, does prayer change His mind? No. But does prayer change things? Yes. Luke 18:1; 1 John 5:14-15 and many other passages talk about prayer. How does that work? God is omnipresent so maybe He factored in our prayers in eternity past. Prayer does change things, but God is perfect and so prayer does not change His mind. To change God’s mind He would have to be imperfect to begin with.
  • Faith: What really is faith?
    • We say we have faith in God and trust Him, but when we pray we often spell out everything we ask Him to do.
    • Why don’t we really trust Him?
    • Do we trust that He will take care of us, even if…?
    • Can we trust Him with His will for our life?
    • These questions are going to be lumped together.
    • Faith means to trust in something or someone. In general Biblical faith is trusting in the unseen (Heb 11:1).
    • The person who asked the question is right that we should just pray and say that we surrender to His will. Think of the background to the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul.”
  • What are your thoughts on the Passion Translation?
    • I don’t know anything about the Passion Translation so I am going off of what a good source shares. The website gotquestions.com is a really good source for many questions. It shares: The TPT goes well beyond the idea of “translation” and reimagines the Bible as one human author thinks it ought to be written.
    • Any good translation should be worked through by multiple translators who are committed to the Word of God and also know the original languages very well.

This is translated by one author and that is a problem. Gotquestions shares the following: The Passion Translation is primarily the work of a single author, Brian Simmons. Simmons has a long track record as a passionate and successful missionary and evangelist. Part of his success has been in developing translations of Scripture for people with no Bibles in their own language. However, any translation completed by a single person raises questions of accountability. Such efforts are far more prone to personal preferences. As it turns out, The Passion Translation of the Bible not only reflects Simmons’ New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) theology [The New Apostolic Reformation, or NAR, is an unbiblical religious movement that emphasizes experience over Scripture, mysticism over doctrine, and modern-day “apostles” over the plain text of the Bible.][7], but it appears to be deliberately written in order to promote it.

The FAQ section of The Passion Translation website makes several concerning remarks about the translation process:

“… the meaning of a passage took priority over the form of the original words. Sometimes in order to communicate the correct intended meaning, words needed to be changed.”

“The Passion Translation is more in favor of prioritizing God’s original message over the words’ literal meaning.”

In other words, The Passion Translation of the Bible is not about finding corresponding words in different languages or presenting original words in a new language. The above comments imply that the Bible does not mean what it says, and so it needs to be changed to say what it should say. This is not an unfair assessment on our part, as passages in The Passion Translation of the Bible show extreme tampering with the text.[8]

  • So, I would have concerns about the Passion Translation.
  • There are many good translations: NASB; NKJV; NIV; NLT


  • And what the heck is Paul talking about in 2 Cor. 12 with out of body experiences and third heaven??
    • The Hebrew people talked of 3 heavens. Some other cultures even talked of more than 3 heavens. For the Hebrew people the 3rd of Heaven was where God resided. The second heaven was outer space. The first heaven was the atmosphere.

2 Cor. 12:2-4

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven.

And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows—

was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak.[9]

  • I strongly believe and most seem to believe that Paul is talking about dying and being taken up to Heaven. Or, in some state God took him to Heaven without him dying.
  • Notice, in contrast to the near death experiences which we hear about, Paul was told not to share about his experience.
  • I wonder if this happened in Acts 14:19: But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead.[10]
  • Interracial marriage?
    • I received another question about interracial marriage.
    • According to the Bible interracial marriage are totally fine and Biblical.
    • We learn in Numbers that “Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman” (Num. 12:1).
    • So, Moses was in an interracial marriage.
    • We also know based off of Galatians 3:28 that there is no longer Greek, nor Jew, slave, nor free, male nor female, we are all one in Christ (paraphrased).
    • We see in Revelation 7:9-11 that in Heaven there are many tribes, tongues and nationalities worshipping the Lord.
    • We see in Ephesians 2:11-22 Paul makes the case that we are all one in Christ.
    • What is wrong is marriage between a non-believer and a believer (2 Cor. 6:14).
    • As Christians we are redeemed but we are still battling a sin nature and part of that sin nature is racism. Own it up and repent of it.
    • Your family may not have owned slaved or been part of racism in the past, but if you are talking with someone who has been part of racism you can still say “we, as a country, have sins in our past.”
    • One thing that we do is we make excuses to make us feel better. We say things like: “All cultures owned slaved.” Or, “There was slavery in the Bible.” Or, “Most slaves had it good.” All of those are things we tell ourselves to make us feel good. The Bible NEVER endorses racism, or slavery. In fact, it seems that in the first few hundred years of Christianity the slavery institution fell apart, likely because of Christians. In the Old Testament slavery was more like indentured servants and they were supposed to be freed after the sixth year (Exodus 21:2).
    • We have these biases which make us feel better. One article writes about these: There are many ways in which implicit biases function in our lives. Confirmation bias, for example, is the tendency to search for, interpret, focus on, and remember information in a way that confirms one’s preconceptions.(2) People tend to react more favorably to information that supports their own point of view. Another example of a more insidious bias is the fundamental attribution error in which an observer ascribes to a subject fundamental or inherent deficiencies rather than to situational contexts that might also be at work. In addition, the observer is more likely to attribute his or her own deficiencies to circumstances or situational contexts, rather than to his or her own personal short-comings.
    • Many authors attribute the fundamental attribution error to a lack of empathy or the inability to take another person’s perspective. How does this cognitive error play out in real life? In a CBS News article from 2016, Stephanie Pappas reported on the widespread tendency to blame, rather than to empathize with individuals, when accidents happen.[11] She cites the horrific news story of the two-year old who died by alligator attack while playing next to a pond at Disney World. While she notes that there was some initial sympathy for the parents, the overall tone quickly moved to blame them for negligence. Clearly, it was their fault that their son had died. People ignored the numerous reports of the parents being right next to the child and of the father’s desperate attempts to pry his son from the alligator’s jaws. Rather than looking at broader circumstances or explanations—namely, that accidents do happen—most blamed the event on the inherent flaws of the parents.[12]
    • So, we have to watch for these tendencies which we do to make us feel better inside. Slavery was a sin in the past. Racism was a sin in the past. Any racism within us is a sin in us today. Repent of it.
    • If you read the Old Testament prophets that we repent to God saying, “’We’ have sinned…” They said “we” even if they personally did not commit the sins (see Daniel 9:5).
    • The slavery and racism in the United States history was a sin in our past. We need to quit making excuses to make us feel better. It is a sin in our past no matter how you look at it.

Psalm 139:23-24: 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.


Tozer writes:

Is the Lord Jesus Christ your most precious treasure in this world? If so, you can count yourself among normal Christians.

Is the moral beauty which is found only in Jesus Christ constantly drawing you to praise and worship? If so you are indeed among those whom God’s Word identifies as normal, believing, practicing Christians.

But I can almost anticipate an objection. If someone is that delighted and that occupied with the person of Jesus Christ, is he or she not an extremist rather than a normal Christian?

Have professing Christians really come to that time in their humanistic and secularistic leanings that they can sincerely deny that loving Jesus Christ with all their heart and soul and strength is normal Christianity? We must not be reading and studying the same Bible!

How can anyone profess to be a follower and a disciple of Jesus Christ and not be overwhelmed by His attributes? These divine attributes attest that He is indeed Lord of all, completely worthy of our worship and praise. WHT105–106

Lord, I pray that You would restore in Your Church a belief that those who love You with all their heart, soul and mind are normal, and worthy of imitation. May we be overwhelmed by Your attributes. Amen.[13]


[1] https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/how-god-visits-sins-on-the-third-and-fourth-generation

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/did-God-create-evil.html

[3] Tozer, A. W.. Tozer on the Holy Spirit: A 365-Day Devotional . Moody Publishers. Kindle Edition.

[4] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 2 Ti 2:12.

[5] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 6:44.

[6] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Jn 6:65.

[7] https://www.gotquestions.org/New-Apostolic-Reformation.html

[8] https://www.gotquestions.org/Passion-Translation.html

[9] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), 2 Co 12:2–4.

[10] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Ac 14:19.

[11] Stephanie Pappas, “Blame the parents? Child tragedies reveal empathy decline” CBS News Online, June 21, 2016. Accessed 10/13/2018.

[12] https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/confirmation-bias


WHT Whatever Happened to Worship?

[13] Tozer on the Almighty God : A 366-Day Devotional (Camp Hill, PA: WingSpread, 2004).

Question and Answer Sunday

We have a different type of Sunday today. We are doing a question and answer Sunday. So, I have had several questions come in and I will answer them with a few songs in between. I am trying to keep the answers brief so contact me with any follow-up questions.

Q and A Sunday:

  1. Why isn’t there more of a movement by Christian organizations like the Colson Center, etc to spearhead protests for what is right?
    1. I believe there is more going on than we realize. There have been multiple prolife marches.
    2. Last year Focus on the Family did a prolife event at Time Square.
    3. I will try to communicate these better in the future.
    4. Please follow up with me if I did not answer this sufficiently.
  2. Will we recognize our family and friends in heaven (Debbie Patsko)?
    1. This question has two parts: 1) memory 2) how would we recognize loved ones? Will heaven be physical? Will we have bodies?
    2. YES, I believe we will recognize our family and friends in Heaven. The parable of the Rich man and Lazarus, which you can read later on in Luke 16:19-31, shows people recognizing each other. That is a parable which means it may or may not be a true story. A parable is a story that comes alongside to teach, but still I don’t think Jesus would lead us astray with a parable. Plus, it is the only parable with people with real names.
    3. This gets into a broader topic but when we talk about heaven there is the present heaven and then the future new heaven and new earth (Revelation 21-22). Sometimes the present heaven is called the “intermediate heaven.” I believe we will recognize family and friends in both. To be sure, the new heaven and new earth will be a physical real place. We will have resurrected bodies. In 1 Cor. 15 Jesus is called the “first fruits” of the resurrection. For some more Scripture passages:
    4. Rev 6:9-11 describes people with physical bodies talking to God, and that will likely be during the tribulation period, which would be the intermediate heaven.
    5. In Rev 7:9-11 we have a great multitude of people worshipping God in Heaven. This means they have bodies and voices. That is still the intermediate Heaven. So, I believe the intermediate heaven and the future new heaven and new earth are physical places and we will have bodies. The other part of this question concerns memory.
    6. Remember that memory makes us who we are and so all, or some of our memory, must carry on into Heaven.
    7. We can talk more about this, but here is a short answer:
    8. Randy Alcorn writes: Scripture nowhere suggests a “memory wipe” causing us not to recognize family and friends. In fact, if we wouldn’t know our loved ones, the “comfort” of an afterlife reunion, spoken of in 1 Thessalonians 4:14-18, would be no comfort at all. Theologian J. C. Ryle said of this passage, “There would be no point in these words of consolation if they did not imply the mutual recognition of saints. The hope with which he cheers wearied Christians is the hope of meeting their beloved friends again. . . . In the moment that we who are saved shall meet our several friends in heaven, we shall at once know them, and they will at once know us.”[1]
    9. Further: At the Transfiguration, the three disciples recognized Moses and Elijah, even though they weren’t told who the two men were, and they couldn’t have previously known what they looked like (Matthew 17:1-4). This may suggest that we will instantly recognize people we know of but have not previously met, perhaps as a result of distinguishing characteristics emanating through their physical appearance. If we will recognize people we haven’t known on Earth, surely we will recognize people we have known![2]
  3. Will our pets be there (Debbie Patsko)?
    1. I remember a Twilight Zone episode about a man and his dog.
    2. Hyder Simpson is an elderly mountain manwho lives with his wife Rachel and his hound dog Rip in the backwoods. Rachel does not like having the dog indoors, but Rip saved Hyder’s life once and Hyder refuses to part with him. Rachel has seen some bad omens recently and warns Hyder not to go raccoon hunting that night. When Rip dives into a pond after a raccoon, Hyder jumps in after him, but only the raccoon comes up out of the water. The next morning, Hyder and Rip wake up next to the pond. When they return home, Hyder finds that neither Rachel, the preacher, nor the neighbors can hear him or see him; they are under the impression that he has died.
    3. Walking along the road, Hyder and Rip encounter an unfamiliar fence and begin to follow it. They come to a gate tended by a man, who Hyder initially believes to be Saint Peter. Explaining that he is only a gatekeeper, the man explains that Hyder can enter the Elysian Fieldsof the afterlife. Simpson is appreciative, but disheartened to hear that neither raccoon hunting nor any of his other usual pleasures can be found inside. Told that Rip cannot enter and will be taken elsewhere, Hyder angrily declines the offer of entry and decides to keep walking along the “Eternity Road,” saying, “Any place that’s too high-falutin’ for Rip is too fancy for me.”
    4. Later, Hyder and Rip stop to rest and are met by a young man, who introduces himself as an angel dispatched to find them and bring them to Heaven. When Hyder explains his previous encounter, the angel tells him that the gate was actually the entrance to Hell. The gatekeeper had stopped Rip from entering because Rip would have smelled the brimstone inside and warned Hyder that something was wrong. The angel says, “You see, Mr. Simpson, a man, well, he’ll walk right into Hell with both eyes open. But even the Devilcan’t fool a dog!”
    5. As the angel leads Hyder along the Eternity Road toward Heaven, the angel tells Hyder that a square dance and raccoon hunt are scheduled for that night. He also assures Hyder that Rachel, who will soon be coming along the road, will not be misled into entering Hell. The closing narration is:
    6. “Travelers to unknown regions would be well advised to take along the family dog. He could just save you from entering the wrong gate. At least, it happened that way once—in a mountainous area of the Twilight Zone.”
    7. Look at Genesis 1:30: And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
  4. That passage references animals in the Garden of Eden and also references the “breath of life in them.” Animals were in paradise when God first created it prior to the fall of man. In the eternal Heaven, in Revelation 22 it seems that that Heaven is a reflection of the first Garden of Eden. We will see a Tree of Life again in verse 2 as there was a tree of life in the first Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9). We see a river in the eternal Heaven in Revelation 22:1. We see two rivers in the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2:10 and 13. It does seem that the eternal New Jerusalem Heaven is going to be like the Garden of Eden was meant to be, only much better. It would seem that since animals were in the first garden, they will be with us in eternity. Let’s talk about this for a moment.
  5. Psalm 104 is all about animals and then we get to verse 30 and it references renewing them. This seems to mean that they are resurrected in Heaven.
  6. Heaven will be awesome with or without your pet.
  7. Heaven will be with God in paradise.
  8. DON’T discourage people from grieving the loss of an animal. That is appropriate. God created animals for us, and we are sad when they leave us.
  9. I believe the Bible teaches us not to abuse animals. We are to take care of them.
  10. Romans 8 teaches us that all creation is waiting redemption, and this includes animals.
  11. If a person was raised in a Christian home and you know deep down they believe, but for whatever the reasons, don’t practice any religion, are they saved (Debbie Patsko)?
    1. Only God knows if they are truly saved. On one hand I believe that God’s grace is more than we can even begin to understand. On the other hand if one truly knows Jesus one would expect they would live life with Jesus.
    2. Think of John 15, Jesus says that He is the Vine, we are the branches. We are called to live life with We live life with Jesus by spiritual disciplines which includes church, small groups, Sunday School, daily time with the Lord. The Christian life is not simply about fire insurance but living life with Jesus now.
    3. I would never condemn someone to hell, but Jesus does say that we are known by our fruits (Matt 7:16).
  12. Lisa Lotze: When can Christians defend themselves? If a madman asks you to deny the faith, but it does no good should we deny the faith. What about mob violence trying to take your cross or Bibles or pictures of Jesus? How is it helpful to go underground as a church when going underground means that you cannot share the Gospel, but if you are not underground and just deny Jesus you are alive to share the Gospel?
    1. This is a tough one which may need a further conversation.
    2. There is a difference between state sanctioned persecution versus individual persecution.
    3. In actual persecution Christians are never called to defend themselves. Instead we are called to trust in Christ. We are called to understand that they are really persecuting Jesus, not us. Jesus can handle it. In Matt 10:19 Jesus says: But when they hand you over, do not worry about how or what you are to say; for it will be given you in that hour what you are to say.
    4. The underground church is sharing the Gospel by marketplace evangelism. The church is underground meeting for worship, but they still have jobs, occupations, etc.
    5. The underground church is growing rapidly too.
    6. Sometimes God does do more through our death than our life…
    7. Now, back to defending ourselves. I think that Christians can defend ourselves. However, we should not jump to that. Augustine wrote up the just war theory. To an extent we can apply the principles. 1) A war needed to be waged by legitimate authority. This means that first we should try to contact the police. 2) The War needed to be a just cause. 3) The war needed to have the right intentions. I believe we need to exhaust as many peaceful things before we get to violence. Remember Jesus taught to turn the other cheek (Matt 5:38-40). Romans 12:14-20 says: Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  1. Remember that people have a different worldview than we do as Christians and we should try to show love.
  2. This question was asked in conversation about riots and mob protests. Every situation is different. We CANNOT REASON with a mob. In that case, we probably cannot reason and we should try contacting the police first and getting to a safe place. We do need to be careful. Too often United State Christians are quickly talking about using guns to shoot people that we are called to share the Gospel with. Remember, if you shoot them, even in self-defense, they die and they may go to hell. However, they kill you and you go to heaven with Jesus. I am not saying don’t defend ourselves, but why do we brain storm situations that no one ever wants to be in. Try to seek peace.
  3. Suppose, your business is being attacked by an angry mob, can you as a Christian defend your business with a gun? I believe Christians are divided on this and I am too. Firstly, leave it to the police. Biblically, it is easy to substantiate the military using force and the police using force, it is difficult to substantiate an individuate using force.
  4. However, I do think we can use reason to show that it is okay and appropriate to defend ourselves and our family. This means when the police have not arrived, or cannot help, we are forced to do what we can to protect ourselves and our property. But, if it is a mob we may not get far and it would probably be wiser to use our weapons to get out of the situation.
  5. The question was posed about groups that wanted pictures of a white Jesus taken down. Again, you cannot reason with a mob. However, civil dialogue is a great thing.
  6. I think if an organized group had a good dialogue about Jesus pictures, etc I would talk with them.
  7. It is true that Jesus was not white.
  8. These topics take discernment and this means that we must be living in a relationship with Jesus seeking His wisdom.

[1] Alcorn, Randy. Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions . Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.


[2] Alcorn, Randy. Heaven: Biblical Answers to Common Questions . Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition.


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.


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.


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.


[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


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


Television programming

The Internet

Publications (books, magazines, and newspapers)

Laws and public figures



Tier 2 Churches

Faith Communities

Adult education


Therapy experiences

Extended families.


Tier 3 Peers




Colleges and Universities


  • 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.


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)



[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]


[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.


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.


[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.


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.


[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