Looking Intently in the Mirror

Thank you to Nathan Booth for getting the website techie stuff sorted out this morning. Sorry for the delay in sending out this article.

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.
(James 1:21-25)

The word here is described as:

  • A seed implanted in the heart.
  • A mirror that reveals and exposes your character.
  • The perfect law of liberty.

We also see how we are to be doers and not hearers only.

  • If we hear but don’t do, we are deceiving ourselves. If we plant a good seed in the ground, but fail to remove all the weeds competing for the same resources, then the good seed is not going to be productive. That’s why James says to get rid of the filthiness and wickedness. Only then can the implanted word “save” our souls.
  • If we hear but don’t do, we are like one who looks intently into a mirror but then walks away and forgets what the mirror told him. The mirror tells it like it is, and I do not always like looking in the mirror. If the mirror tells me I need to lose weight and take better care of myself, what do I do with that info? Do I walk into the kitchen and eat a pound of bacon? You see, James tells us that studying the Bible can actually end up deceiving us. Not that the Bible deceives us, but that we deceive ourselves thinking we did something great by merely studying the Bible. So I read the book of James…great! What did I do with the information I studied in James? That’s what matters!
  • If we hear but don’t do, we will not be blessed. If we hear and do and “persevere,” then James says we will be blessed in our “doing.” I love how James calls the God’s Word the “perfect law of liberty.” LAW and LIBERTY don’t fit well together in our thinking. It is like chocolate and broccoli! We want to think liberty is being able to do whatever we want. Freedom from restrictions, absence of restraint, nobody telling us what to do, no inhibitions, no rules…that’s freedom! That’s actually slavery, because that’s where it ends up. With that mindset, we become enslaved to debt, pleasure, substances, people, etc. God’s rules, His perfect Law, brings liberty. Freedom is in following Him. Liberty is in being liberated from the chains of selfishness and lust.

Always Learning?

Paul once wrote to Timothy about those who were always learning and never able to come to a knowledge of the truth (2 Timothy 3:7). Jesus said it this way, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40). They were searching and studying and learning, but never arrived at truth. Why? Because they were unwilling to come to Jesus.

There are places that the road of truth will take us, and we at times will find ourselves very uncomfortable with the conclusions we have to make. On that pathway, the light of truth will expose us and show us the actions we must take in order to be consistent with the truth. So the choice is there, accept, believe and obey the truth before us, or another option is to keep learning. We can fill our brains with all kinds of Bible facts, and never get one bit closer to Jesus.

Another example comes from the book of Mark. The people in Jesus’ hometown were asking some great questions, which if they had the right heart they would have come to believe in Jesus. Read the following passage.

Mark 6:1-6
He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief. And he went about among the villages teaching.

If they would have really thought about these questions in sincerity they would have come to the right conclusion about Jesus. Nicodemus, a ruler among the Pharisees, knew that Jesus could not do these mighty works unless He came from God (John 3). Others like the woman with the blood issue (Mark 5) and the Roman centurion (Matthew 8) also came to the right conclusions about Jesus. They all had limited information, but it was enough to produce a strong conviction about the identity and authority of Jesus.

So, what about us? Are we filling ourselves full of Bible facts, but failing to reach the obvious conclusions or take the steps necessary to be pleasing with Him? What are we doing with all of the Bible information and teaching that passes through our eyes and ears?

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
(James 1:22)


people really did ask some great questions about Jesus.

God Laid It On My Heart

Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left.
(Isaiah 30:21)

There are times when someone will preface what he or she is about to say or do with, “God laid it on my heart.” If I really feel passionate about saying something or going a certain direction, I might feel like God is leading me and is behind these words or actions. It may be that God approves of what you and I are about to say and do, but how will you confirm that?

Let’s take some time to ponder the concept of God laying things on our heart. Here are some thoughts from Scripture:

Within Scripture I know for sure what God has laid upon my heart. We know that Jesus promised the apostles before He left this earth that He would send the Holy Spirit to guide them into all truth (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:5-15). Having that truth, the apostles then wrote it down, and we have in the pages of the God-breathed Scripture the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:9-16; 2 Timothy 3:15-17). As Paul said, when we read we learn the revealed mind of God (Ephesians 3:4).

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;
(Hebrews 1:1-2)

Not everything going on inside of me is from God. We are in a spiritual war between the Spirit and the flesh (Galatians 5:17), so not all leadings and impulses I have within are from God. Paul tells us that we have to bring all thoughts into the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), so that tells you not every thought we have is a prompting of the Holy Spirit. There are those Paul said who had a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge (Romans 10:2).

Several different opinions, interpretations and directions arise from people claiming that God laid something on their heart. A problem arises when you and I choose our words and pathway based upon what we believe God is laying on our heart. The problem is that so many are saying that but are going in completely different directions spiritually. Remember that God is not the author of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). We can know for sure that God is not laying contradictory things on different hearts. Let’s be careful of crediting God with something that He may have had no part in (Jeremiah 23:32).

We are to test all things by the standard of God’s word, and that includes any promptings or thoughts I may have within. “Test all things; hold fast to what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The Bereans were praised by God because they tested what Paul said by comparing it with Scripture (Acts 17:11). “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). In the same way the hearts of men are misread and misinterpreted, the word of God is also misread and misinterpreted. Knowing that, Peter warns us to be very careful not to twist the Scriptures to fit with our own desires and interpretations (2 Peter 3:14-18).

My conscience is there to help me as a guide, but it must be trained and conditioned by the word of God. Go back to the verse from Isaiah at the beginning of the article. This passage says that people will hear a word behind them telling them which way to go, to the right or to the left. I’ve often hear this passage quoted to go along with the concept that God lays things on your heart. Yes, God is speaking today and yes, He is telling us which way to go, but how does He do that? The voice of God is clearly speaking today in His word, and the apostle John wrote that if we follow His commandments, our hearts can be assured that we are one with God.

My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.
(1 John 3:18-22)

So, if I end up by the providence of God in a situation where He wants me to be, what do I say? Do I let my heart lead me? Have I prayed for wisdom to speak the truth from God’s word that this person needs to hear? Have I diligently studied God’s word so that I can be approved of God when I step up to speak for Him (2 Timothy 2:15)?

If I feel prompted to go a certain direction in life, have I tested that with the word of God to make sure this is the way God wants me to go? Have I sat down with wise, godly Christians to seek their counsel as to which way I should go (Titus 2:1-5; Proverbs 1:5; 24:6)? Yes, God may be leading you that direction, but He is calling you to check His word first, pray about it, and seek godly counsel. If that impulse or thought you have is not in line with God’s word, then you know it wasn’t from God.


When God Sent a Famine

NOTE: Sorry that some of you received the draft of this email yesterday. Oops!

What happens when God brings a famine of His word? Take some time to meditate upon the following passages that contrast the attitude of Israel toward God’s word before and after their captivity.

Their attitudes toward God’s word BEFORE captivity:

The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
(2 Chronicles 36:15-16)

Their descendants’ attitudes toward God’s word AFTER captivity:

Ezra opened the book in the sight of all the people for he was standing above all the people; and when he opened it, all the people stood up. Then Ezra blessed the LORD the great God. And all the people answered, “Amen, Amen!” while lifting up their hands; then they bowed low and worshiped the LORD with their faces to the ground. Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, explained the law to the people while the people remained in their place. They read from the book, from the law of God, translating to give the sense so that they understood the reading. Then Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people were weeping when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, “Go, eat of the fat, drink of the sweet, and send portions to him who has nothing prepared; for this day is holy to our Lord. Do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, for the day is holy; do not be grieved.” All the people went away to eat, to drink, to send portions and to celebrate a great festival, because they understood the words which had been made known to them.
(Nehemiah 8:5-12)

What happened in between? God brought a famine!

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, but rather for hearing the words of the LORD. “People will stagger from sea to sea and from the north even to the east; they will go to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, but they will not find it. “In that day the beautiful virgins and the young men will faint from thirst.
(Amos 8:11-13)

It’s the old “Don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone” teaching. God basically told them, since you don’t want My Word, I’ll take it away from you. This was a hard lesson, but Israel needed to learn it.

Here are a few final passages about hunger for God’s word:

  • I opened my mouth wide and panted, for I longed for Your commandments (Psalms 119:131, also vs. 20,40,162,174,).
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).
  • I have not departed from the commandment of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:12).
  • Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious (1 Peter 2:1-3).

God’s Word Can Make You Wiser

O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. Your commandments make me wiser than my enemies, for they are ever mine. I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, because I have observed Your precepts.
(Psalms 119:97-100)

What power did the word of God have upon David? According to these verses, God’s word:

  • Made David wiser than his enemies.
  • Gave him more insight than all his teachers.
  • He was able to understand more than the aged.

I do not believe David was being arrogant and cocky when he said this. You can say these words out of a prideful heart thinking you are the cat’s meow of Christianity. And if we have that attitude, God will have to teach us some very difficult lessons in humility (Phil. 3:15)!

What I believe David is saying is that because of God’s word he was able to deal effectively with his enemies. We all have enemies, whether or not we follow God’s word. But when we listen carefully to the instruction of Scripture, we have an understanding and perspective that is foreign to the people of the world. It will truly stand out and shine.

God’s word did not make David the “smartest man on campus.” He was not more intelligent than his teachers. David wasn’t the man with his hand always up because he knew all the answers. This didn’t mean that David was condescending to his teachers and argued constantly with them because he knew better. You can look to Jesus at 12 years old as an example (see Luke 2). The teachers of the Word in the temple were just amazed at his understanding and answers. That is the power of the Word in a person’s heart. There is such growth and insight that comes from it.

Finally, the word of God made an old man out of David real quick. The Bible and its wisdom will make a young man or woman sound like they are decades older. Why? That’s the power of the Holy Spirit producing His wisdom within you through the word. How often do you see that young man or young woman at church who simply blows you away with their understanding? They may be 10, but they sound like they’re 40!

God’s word is just awesome and powerful, isn’t it?

Trust the Line

Last Friday, Shane Blackmer wrote about our need to “Hold the Line.” Today I want to write just about about the “line” itself.

My son, Joseph, and a friend, Noah, were working last week to put gutters on our garage. This garage is older, it wasn’t built properly, and clearly has some foundation issues; because of this the roof sags.

When Joseph and Noah snapped a chalk line across the fascia board, an optical illusion occurred. If you looked straight at the garage, the line looked like a frown, it looked much higher in the middle and lower on the ends. But the line wasn’t the problem. If you went over to the edge of the roof and looked down the fascia board you could clearly see that the line was straight as an arrow.

The line wasn’t the problem, it was the building.

I believe there is a lesson in that! We may have built our lives on the wrong foundation, or we may not have taken the care to upkeep ourselves spiritually. As a result, lives become crooked and sag, just like that garage. In fact we may become so crooked that we begin to think the line (God’s word and standard of authority) is the problem.

Trust the line. There is nothing wrong with the line. God’s word is straight; we are the ones who need correcting.

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways (Psalms 119:15, ESV).

“Fix your eyes” on the line. Use the line to help point out what needs to be corrected in your life. His commandments are true (Psalm 119:142,151), sure (Psalm 119:86) and they are right (Psalm 119:128,172).

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, because “All flesh is as grace, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grace. The grace withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you (1 Peter 1:22-25).

Look at the above passage and see what God’s word says about itself. It is incorruptible. The word has power to transform someone so that because of the word a person is “born again.” God’s word “lives.” The word abides forever. Everything else on earth perishes, but God’s word endures forever. This word includes the gospel which saves men’s souls.

This is only one of many places in the Bible where such claims are made. The Psalmist wrote, “Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven” (Psalms 119:89). Jesus Himself claimed, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The apostle Peter, as he knew his time was short on earth, promised to the brethren that they would always have access to these words which came from God. Read 2 Peter 1:12-21. Atheists, skeptics, and even some claiming to follow Jesus will claim that things have been lost over the years. They claim we cannot have any assurance that the Bible we have now is what they were given then.

A claim is not true just because someone makes it. A claim must be tested. So, test the claims of the Scripture. The truth never suffers from investigation.

The Word of the Lord Endures Forever

We just finished a meeting last week with Dr. H.E. Payne, Jr. (most know him as Buddy Payne). He is the President of Florida College. Among his other lectures on microscopic and macroscopic evidence for intelligent design, Dr. Payne also presented two lessons on “Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible?” I encourage you to listen to these two lectures. The overwhelming answer at the end of part 2 is “YES!!”

Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible? Part 1

Can We Trust Our English Versions of the Bible? Part 2

Do all that is in your heart

Listen to your heart. Follow your heart. That is the advice that is often given to people in a number of different avenues of life. Do all that is in your heart.

In some areas, everyone would agree that this bad advice. For example, if your friend comes up to you and says, “I am thinking about robbing a bank,” you wouldn’t respond with, “Listen to your heart and follow it.”

But what about when someone seeks to do what is clearly in our minds a “good work” for God? Would we see a problem with giving the advice, “Do all that is in your heart”?

Read the following interaction between King David, Nathan the prophet, and the Lord.

Now when David lived in his house, David said to Nathan the prophet, “Behold, I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of the covenant of the LORD is under a tent.” And Nathan said to David, “Do all that is in your heart, for God is with you.” But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan, “Go and tell my servant David, ‘Thus says the LORD: It is not you who will build me a house to dwell in'” (1 Chronicles 17:1-4).

Put yourself in Nathan’s sandals for a moment. Here is the man after God’s own heart, King David, and what does he desire to do? What is in David’s heart? He wants to build a temple for God! David is humbled by God’s blessings. He is observant and sees how he is living in a palace, while the ark of the covenant is still housed in the tabernacle (movable tent).

For me, I can see how Nathan quickly responded the way he did. Sure, David, go for it! God is with you! Do all that is in your heart! Who wouldn’t want to be a cheerleader for David in such a situation? Isn’t this a good work for God?

Do all that is in your heart

The problem with that is this: Nathan didn’t ask God first. Nathan gave the religious green light to David, but God came to Nathan and told him to go back to the king. Nathan gave approval for David building the temple, when God didn’t want David to build the temple. Solomon, David’s son, was going to build this sacred house for the Lord.

Here is a quote from a dear sister in our congregation as we were studying this text on Wednesday night in Bible class.

“Before we follow our heart, we should go to God and make sure we are following His heart.” Amen, Linda.

Let God and His word, not our hearts, define what a good work is. The heart is deceitful, Jeremiah wrote (Jeremiah 17:9-10), especially when we are considering how to live for, serve and worship God. Our intentions, like David’s, may be pure and noble. God honored and richly blessed David for having this in his heart. However, for David to be pleasing to God, he had to follow God’s voice and allow Solomon to build this temple.

Let us “do all” that is in God’s heart, not ours.

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 5

We wrap up our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 5.” Friday’s theme for our blog is “the church family.” Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

On Monday, we saw that the word of God has many aspects to it (law, decisions, witness, etc.), and all are valuable and profitable to us. Tuesday we looked at how David loved and cherished God’s words. Wednesday’s focus was on what the word of God is (perfect, sure, right, etc.). On Thursday we considered what the word of God does (restores the soul, rejoices the heart, enlightens the eyes, etc.).

Today we should simply consider the question: What is my response to God’s word?


Fifth observation – Our response to His word.

Verse 11 says, “In keeping them there is great reward.” All of these wonderful benefits come when I commit to living out what God asked me to do. The value and reward is realized not in merely reading and reciting God’s word, but in keeping it.

Take a look at the rest of Psalm 19:

Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, and I shall be innocent of great transgression. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer (Psalms 19:11-14).

David’s heart is exposed here as he fully opens his heart to the Lord and His word. He is vulnerable, transparent and accountable to God, asking God to expose his sins. David wants the Lord and His word, not his sins to rule over him. He wants to be blameless and innocent before God. His prayer is that his words and even his deepest thoughts will be acceptable in God’s sight. That is the heart of David. This is why he was called a man after God’s own heart.

Finally, to be the men today God called us to be, we must have that very same mindset toward the Word. Keep it in our homes. Follow it at work. Seek to influence and encourage our church family that they also do the same.

“In keeping them there is great reward.”

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4

We continue our look into Psalm 19:7-11 this week, “God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4.” Thursday’s theme for our blog is living as lights in a dark world. Let’s consider this passage in light of that theme today.

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. Moreover by them Your servant is warned, and in keeping them there is great reward (Psalms 19:7-11).

God’s Word: Its Value and Power, part 4

Fourth observation – What the word of God does…

  • Converting (restoring) the soul – God’s law turns the wayward soul back to Him. The Lord is our shepherd, and “He restores” our soul (Psalm 23:3). Because the Law of the Lord is perfect, only it has that power to transform the sinner to a saint.
  • Making wise the simple (naive, gullible) – Being naive and gullible is not a good place to stay (Proverbs 1:22; 7:7; 9:4-6). God wants His people to grow up and learn to discern good from evil (Ephesians 4:14-15). He wants us to be able to sort out the true from the false. That happens when we “exercise our senses” in using God’s word (Hebrews 5:11-14).
  • Rejoicing the heart – God’s statutes (precepts) lead to true joy. There is a “passing pleasure” in sin (Hebrews 11:25), but it fades quickly into darkness, pain, slavery and consequences. Doing “right” produces real happiness, freedom and fulfillment.
  • Enlightening the eyes – The word of God turns the light on for us. Our hearts were darkened, and so was our understanding. God’s commands shine the light both in our hearts and on our pathway in life. “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
  • By them Your servant is warned – If I am about to drive off a cliff, I really want someone to let me know BEFORE it happens! The same goes for the Scriptures; it helps put guardrails on the road. God loves us enough to put lots of big yellow caution signs and “Wrong Way” signs in His word. Being warned of danger is a blessing.
  • In keeping them there is great reward – Both in this life and in eternity (Luke 18:29-30), God pours out His blessings on His people when they follow His word (Proverbs 3:16-18). There are rewards in the things we avoid because we follow God’s will. We also have rewards in what comes exclusively to His people because we walk in His word (Galatians 6:7-9).

“The unfolding (entrance) of Your words brings light; it gives understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130).