Friday, January 16, 2009

Receiving and Doing God's Word

Chuckle: "Old age is when former classmates are so gray and wrinkled and bald that they don't recognize you!"

Good Quote: "If your morals make you dreary, depend upon it, they are wrong." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

RECEIVING AND DOING THE WORD (James 1:21-27 NIV)

". . . humbly accept (receive/welcome) the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says" (James 1:21-22 NIV).

We must welcome God's Word into our hearts before we can do what it says. In our first passage, "receive" is a hospitality word. It means to welcome someone in the same way you would invite an old friend into your home with a warm, enthusiastic, and sincere welcome. In a similar way, God wants us to eagerly welcome the truth of his Word into our hearts as if it is my very best friend whom I haven't seen for a long time. Remember when you asked Jesus into your heart and life as Savior and Lord - He stood at the door of your heart and knocked - you asked Him in - you were born again - your sins were forgiven - the burden of sin was lifted - you were filled with unspeakable joy. We should continually welcome/receive God's Word into our lives with that same sense of expectation, excitement, and joy! After all, it's Almighty God speaking to us . . . !

Next, God would have us do what his Word says -- practice it in our lives. Listen again to what James says: (vs. 22) "Do not merely listen to (hear) the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." Assume you came to me and said: "Jerry, your looking a little heavy - a little flabby in places." But you said, "I want to help you" and then you gave me a book on body-building by Arnold Swartzenagger. I can study that book until the pages are worn out and it won't change my flabby condition one iota. I'm still the same old fat preacher, because I haven't changed my habits. The purpose of the book is realized only when readers to do what it says. You have heard and read the Bible and maybe even underlined some verses, but what are you doing about it? Are you following its instructions. To live out what the Bible says, here are three things we must do.

1. Respond to the Word: "Do not merely listen to the word." The word here for listening without doing is like auditing a class in college. You just sit in on a class, but without the responsibilities of doing the class work or taking the exams. Also, no credit is given for auditing a class. Just auditing requires no real effort on the student's part except to attend. But God does not give us the option of just auditing his Word. He requires us to put into practice what we learn there. If we listen to the Bible, we will learn some things about ourselves we would rather not know. But if we respond and act upon it, we will become different people and our lives will reflect that difference.

2. Remember the Word: (vs. 25) "look intently into the perfect law that gives freedom." Keep on looking, studying until the truth becomes a part of you. This truth is a challenge for us preachers. Studies show that by Wednesday you will have forgotten most of what the pastor says on Sunday. But If you take notes, you will remember so much better. But, if you listen, take notes, then go home and study them you will remember 25% more. Then if you take the truths and practice them they will become a permanent part of your lifestyle. Your learning will be evident by the changes in your behavior.

3. Reproduce the word: Only the Holy Spirit can help us do this. We will see a pattern of reproducing the words in the way we live. The word will be reproduced in others as they see us living or doing the word. James tells us how we can identify a doer of the Word:
(a). He/she exercises self-control: (vs. 26) "If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless." Our speech becomes a blessing to others rather than something that puts others down. We also will control our anger.
(b). He/she shows love and compassion for others: (vs. 27) "Religion that the Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress." The welfare of others becomes of paramount importance to us.
(c). He/she lives a life of cleanliness and purity: (vs. 27) ". . . and keeps oneself from being polluted by the world." Adherence to God's Word will inoculate us against all the satanic evils the world can throw at us.

Love, Jerry & Dotse

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Living the Bible

Chuckle: "A bore talks about himself; a gossip talks about others; and a brilliant conversationalist talks about you."

Good Quote: "Some students drink at the fountain of knowledge -- others just gargle." --Unknown

LIVING THE BIBLE

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry . . . . Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. . . . The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it -- he will be blessed in what he does" (James 1:19, 22, 25).

In our day, there is certainly no shortage of Bibles -- they are everywhere - in all sizes, shapes, and colors. The Bible is a perennial best seller. However, the primary function of many Bibles, in our homes, is as a dust collector. This reminds me of the story about a pastor who visited the home of a church family. Before he left, he asked if the family wished him to read from the Bible. The mother replied, 'oh yes!' She then told her small son to go into the next room and 'get the big book we read so much.' The excited little boy quickly returned with the Sears-Roebuck catalog!

Sadly, many don't even know the purpose of the Bible. The purpose is to cause each of us to live out what it says. The printed words come alive within us by the power of the Holy Spirit and change our lives. We must read, study, memorize, and meditate on it, but the purpose of all that is to change our lives. It's not if we know Biblical content, but does it lead us to faith in Jesus Christ and produce righteousness in our lives. Let's think together about how we should do the Bible.

First, before we can do what the Bible says, we must hear and listen to it. According to Webster, to hear is "to receive sound through the ears." To listen is "to pay attention in order to hear." We can have sound waves stimulate our eardrums without listening with the intent to learn and understand. Our spiritual ears should listen as God speaks to us through reading the Word, listening to preaching and teaching, spending time in meditation, and being persistent in prayer. Hearing is the starting point. Here are four ways to help you hear and listen to the Biblical message better than you may have before.
Pay attention: "Be quick to hear." Focus on what we're hearing. In this electronic information age, our attention spans are short. With TV and computer images changing every few seconds, we are not trained to listen attentively for extended periods. Have you been conversing with someone - and say to yourself: "when will they ever hush so I can talk." We think ahead to what we want to say and are not really listening to the other person. Some won't even let you finish - some finish your sentences for you. We must learn to concentrate on listening. Say to the Lord right now: "Lord, I'm going to concentrate on your word, and if you want to say something to me, I'm listening." I'm not going to think about other things.
Stop talking: If we are to learn to listen, we must just shut-up. James says "be slow to speak." If we're talking, we aren't listening and aren't learning very much. I must make time to listen to God and others as they teach me. If I didn't, what I write here would be worthless. The same applies to you if you are a teacher, or a parent teaching your children. Even our prayers can become all talk and no listening. When you pray, how about taking a few minutes to just listen to God. Socrates was teaching someone to be an orator who talked all the time. He said: "my price is double because I must teach you to hold your tongue before I can teach you to use your tongue."
Control your anger: James says: "be slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires." You have a hard time listening if you are angry, bitter, or resentful. These attitudes set barrier between us and God.
Purify your life: James is very pointed here: (vs. 21) "Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent." The bible says sin separates us from our God. To hear God, we must let him clean up our lives. Why am I so miserable? Why am I not enjoying life? Sin separates us from God and destroys all the joys of fellowship with Him. And if we have filthy lives, we can't hear God. Just take that life off and throw it away, like a dirty shirt. The old hymn: "nothing between my soul and the Savior, none of this world's elusive dreams." We often rationalize about our sins not being really that bad -- a minor thing. We can keep our pet sins - but if we do, we won't hear God clearly.

Love, Jerry & Dotse