sermon follow-up: welcome his word

“… with humility, set aside all moral filth and the growth of wickedness, and welcome the word planted deep inside you, the very word that is able to save you.” (James 1:21 CEB)

What are the true necessities of life?

  • Food?
  • Clothing?
  • Shelter?

No, not at all. You’d be better off homeless, naked, and starving than to try to live without what God has to say to you.

Some live naked all of their life. Many live homeless all of their days. Nearly everyone could go a day without eating. But you would be a fool to live a single day without God’s word as your guide.

You must have air to live. How many breaths do you take a day, not even choosing to take a single one? The wind blows how and where it wills and God’s Spirit moves the same, but do you choose to not breathe the breath of heaven?

Scripture conveys God’s speech to you and what is more important than hearing and obeying God? Your growth in the life of God will be proportionate to the time and effort you put into welcoming the word of God into your will and ways. Yes, it can be put that simple.

But there are Christians who don’t welcome God’s life into their will and their ways and rest assured they:

  • have become blind for they are unable to see their own deepest need,
  • have grown lazy, wanting the benefits of relationship but without effort,
  • are souls who have forgotten their Savior and Lord.

However, Christians who welcome God’s word understand:

  • there are no shortcuts in the walk with God,
  • God’s word leads a person to God himself,
  • there is no substitute for hearing God speak to you and seeing him lived out through you.

This door of welcome opens with an attitude and atmosphere of “humility.” Welcoming the word with humility involves constantly reminding yourself of your place in relation to his word: you stand under it, not over it or beside it. You are the host of God’s word, and how you perceive and relate to his word is how you relate to and serve him.

The room of your heart is readied as you sweep aside “all moral filth” and any “growth of wickedness” you see unfitting for this word’s presence. Your good intentions are not right welcome enough; your life must make adjustments. The only way to grasp the essence of Scripture is to live what you learn from it and live it so as to learn it.

“Whoever desires to understand and take delight in the words of Christ must strive to conform his whole life to Him.” (Thomas a Kempis)

Believers who welcome God’s word into their life seek to be comfortable with his word and for his word to be comfortable with them. They ready themselves for this word’s arrival and eagerly look forward to it and this is how they do it:

  • They throw open the doors of their heart and habits and so say, “Make yourself at home; my home is your home.”
  • They are attentive and observant of the word, ready to serve the word they’ve welcomed. They say, “Here, let me get that for you” as the word brings need to light.
  • They welcome the word because they long for presence with God and know that by listening to him and living for him they are saying to the God who speaks to them, “I’m so glad we can spend time together.”

So let me ask you plainly: how are you doing at actively welcoming God’s word into your life? Perhaps you need more time together. C.H. Spurgeon once said:

“There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write ‘damnation’ with your fingers.”

Change that! And here are some ways to do that:

  • Get up a little earlier and start the day reading and praying over the word.
  • Daily memorize a sentence or phrase you can meditate on throughout the day.
  • Check out some of the many Bible reading schedules available online.
  • Try listening to Scripture during your commute, jog, walk with the dog, or exercise.
  • Download a Bible reading app (such as YouVersion or AcroBible) for your smartphone and use it when you’re in “downtime” (like standing in a checkout line at the store).
  • Share a verse each day with others via whatever social networking site you’re into (Facebook, Google+, etc.).
  • Make it a personal project to copy by hand (no typing allowed) a complete book of the Bible (such as James).
  • Over a period of time, commit to perfect memory a select segment or paragraph of the word (such as Philippians 4:8-9 or 2 Peter 1:3-11). Even if you eventually forget how to quote it perfectly, you’ll be astounded how much of it comes to mind and at important times.
  • Deliberately mention something you’ve encountered with the word that day with someone else that same day.
  • Saturate yourself so with his word that you sometimes catch yourself falling asleep in bed thinking about his word and praying to its Author.

Yes, “welcome the word planted deep inside you” for this is “the very word that is able to save you.”

goodness will go with you

“But there are those who study the perfect law, the law of freedom, and continue to do it. They don’t listen and then forget, but they put it into practice in their lives. They will be blessed in whatever they do.” (James 1:25 CEB)

“… blessed in whatever they do.” That’s quite a promise. Note its goodness (“blessed”) and scope (“whatever”). Notice how it settles into your spirit and grabs a hold of your heart.

It’s important to remember:

  • This isn’t a promise that if you’re a person of genuine, practicing faith you’ll have plenty of tangible things.
  • This isn’t a promise that if you’re an obedient follower of Christ your life will be swept free of difficulties and troubles.
  • This isn’t a promise that if you put enough of God’s word into you and do all you can to allow your behavior be shaped by your belief that you’ll be “successful” by the world’s definition of “success.”

It’s equally vital to recall:

  • This is a promise that God himself will gift you as you serve him.
  • This is a promise that your doing God’s will is never in vain because his doing is right there with your doing.
  • This is a promise that there is nothing you do for God or go through with God that he doesn’t work good in, whether you ever even see it or realize it.

Trust God your Father, the one who gives you, his child, his word, this word, this reason to live for him.

“But those who study and practice the perfect law that brings freedom, those who aren’t about listening to it and then not recalling their responsibility to live by it, will find their way blessed at every turn.” (James 1:25 DSV)

My heavenly Father, you call me to live after your goodness and you promise your goodness to me as I do so. As you are faithful to your promises, father, may I be faithful in my promise always to serve you. May that be when your goodness is obvious and instant to my finite senses as well as when your goodness is obscured or even invisible to me completely. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

Civil War & Stephens County, OK (19)

Reed, Bartley Hampton (1839-1913)

Far more men died in the Civil War from sickness than did from shot and shell. Falling ill enough to be left behind in a hospital was often a death sentence for a soldier during the Civil War, no matter which side on which they served. The experience of the USA, 29th Missouri Infantry Regiment serves as an example. During the war, three hundred and sixty nine men died in the service of the 29th. While 75 of that number were killed or mortally wounded, nearly four times that number (294) died due to the effects of disease.

Bartley Hampton Reed was one of those fortunate to emerge from a Civil War hospital alive and Bartley served as a Private in Company E of the USA, 29th Missouri Infantry. He enlisted on Aug. 18, 1862, mustered into service on Sept. 6, 1862, and served until he was mustered out of service on June 12, 1865, two months after what is generally recognized as the end of the Civil War. The scope of the experiences of his regiment stretched across much of the South and included their involvement in a number of the Civil War’s better known battles. Following is an excerpt from their regimental record:

“SERVICE … Sherman’s Yazoo Expedition December 22, 1862, to January 3, 1863. Chickasaw Bayou December 26-28. Chickasaw Bluff December 29. … Assault and capture of Fort Hindman, Arkansas Post, January 10-11, 1863. … Siege of Vicksburg May 18-July 4. Siege of Jackson July 10-17. … Moved to Memphis, thence march to Chattanooga, Tenn., September 27-November 21. … Chattanooga-Ringgold Campaign November 23-27. Lookout Mountain November 23-24. Missionary Ridge November 25. Ringgold Gap, Taylor’s Ridge, November 27. … Battle of Resaca May 13-15, 1864. … Battles about Dallas, New Hope Church and Allatoona Hills May 25-June 5 … Assault on Kenesaw June 27. … Battle of Atlanta July 22. Siege of Atlanta July 22-August 25. … Battle of Jonesboro August 31-September 1. … Operations in North Georgia and North Alabama against Hood September 29-November 3. … Regiment led advance of the 15th Army Corps on march to the sea November 15-December 10 [aka: Savannah Campaign]. … Siege of Savannah December 10-21. Campaign of the Carolinas January to April, 1865. … Battle of Bentonville, N. C., March 20-21. … Occupation of Raleigh April 14 … Surrender of Johnston and his army. March to Washington, D. C., via Richmond, Va., April 29-May 20. Grand Review May 24. … Mustered out June 12, 1865.”

However, as trying as the experiences of combat must have been for the men of the 29th Missouri, perhaps the biggest test for Bartley is recorded in a brief entry in his personal record of service card that simply reads:

“Left sick at Memphis, Tenn, Sept. 21, 1863.”

Working in Bartley’s favor for his recovery was the fact that he was a young man (b. 1839 in Missouri) and that he was perhaps already a married man at the time (“Sarah Elizabeth;” b. 3/23/1843; d. 3/5/1904). Surviving his hospitalization in Memphis, Bartley would go on to become the father of at least two children, both sons, the first, Bartley Henderson Reed, being born one year and one week after his hospitalization (b. Sept. 23, 1864 in Madison County, Missouri; d. Sept. 18, 1891) and the second, Joseph L. Reed, being born four years and four months after he was discharged from military service (b. Nov. 29, 1869; d. Nov. 19, 1901).

When exactly Bartley moved to Oklahoma I don’t know, but he does show up in the 1910 Census, living as a widower in Pontotoc County, OK (1st Ward of Ada, Oklahoma [#13-13]).

Bartley died on Wed., Mar. 19, 1913. His body is buried in the Marlow cemetery (section 12, block 69, lot 4) in Marlow [Stephens County], Oklahoma. While there is no indication of his military service engraved on his gravestone, his name is listed on the veterans monument in that cemetery. His service as a Union soldier is also documented (under the name “B.H. Reed”) in N. Dale Talkington’s work The Long Blue Line: Civil War Union Soldiers and Sailors Buried in Oklahoma (p. 524).

don’t be a bed head

“Those who hear but don’t do the word are like those who look at their faces in a mirror. They look at themselves, walk away, and immediately forget what they were like.” (James 1:23-24 CEB)

Over the course of a lifetime, a great many American women will spend one full year looking in a mirror. They are careful students of themselves. Why? They have a singular purpose in mind: to make whatever “adjustments” they deem necessary to their appearance. This is of tremendous importance to them. Of such value even, it could be argued that for many, their life revolves around this activity.

Now picture this. A woman gets up in the morning, bathes, puts on her makeup, dresses, and then proceeds to head out the door to go to work – never touching her hair all day long. She washes, dries, and cuts it as needed, but otherwise does nothing with her hair. Imagine her appearance. Imagine the looks and comments she receives. Now imagine her doing this every day for all of her days. She’s a lifelong walking, talking case of “bed head.”

Ludicrous to consider? “Never would happen,” you say?

James says a great many of us, men and women alike, do just that. We carefully listen to, read, or think about the word of God, the “mirror,” and then do nothing about changing our way of living to bring it in line with what we experienced in the word. Bam!

Think I’ll brush up a bit today.

“Listening to the word and then not living it is like studying your face in a mirror and walking off from it while forgetting to do anything about what you saw.” (James 1:23-24 DSV)

Father, in the name of Jesus, help me to connect my brain with my behavior today. Amen.