Tag Archives: Paul

The Trouble with Words


Have you ever known someone who said they would accomplish a task, but when things got tough they flaked out? Have you ever been this person? Are you this person? 

In our culture today it seems like this is acceptable. People of all ages are in the habit of volunteering for some duty and quitting before the duty is completed, or they volunteer for the duty and merely do enough to scrape by, grumbling the whole time about the job they have to do. When this happens, it affects everyone involved – not just you. 

To say you will accomplish a task and then proceed to do a half-hearted job is dishonest and lacking integrity. To quit on your responsibility before you have completed it is to put others in a bind and show that you are untrustworthy. 

When we behave in such a way we teach our children this is acceptable, and then we wonder why they don’t want to stick with that sport or this instrument or any such optional activity. 

When you make up your mind to take on a responsibility, integrity says you follow through to its completion. 

As a leader in different organizations who delegates so that the workload is lighter for all, I have experienced the flakiness of this generation for years. I have seen people volunteer for a task and never begin to do the work. I have seen people volunteer with gusto but wither away into oblivion before the completion of the job. This reflects on their personality as well as the leadership who trusted them with the responsibility. 

If I seem like this is a soapbox issue for me, it is because it is. 

I was raised to give my word and follow through. I was raised that to do less was dishonest and left lasting impressions on others concerning my integrity. I was taught that this was a reflection on my character as a son of God. 

Imagine if Jesus gave up before the cross. Imagine if Paul quit after the first scourging. Imagine if church leaders stopped leading. Imagine if parents stopped parenting. What would the world be like? It could be that it wouldn’t be much different than it currently is. 

Jesus spoke of the integrity that should be associated with our words when he said “let your yes be yes”. When you make a commitment, your word should be your bond. You should be the type of people others can rely on to follow through with their promises. 

The apostle Paul said this:

Colossians 3:23-24

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Would you quit if Jesus was there in the flesh? Would you halfheartedly work for him? Yet this passage says that’s exactly what we do when we don’t follow through with our word. 

I encourage you to volunteer with many different ministries and organizations – as much as you can juggle. However, be it a church ministry, community organization or relationship, work at it as working for the Lord.  If you realized it was a mistake to volunteer be honest and admit your error so others can finish what you started. But please work with integrity, leaving the job well done for the next person to follow in your steps. 

This is the way of the kingdom. 

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James vs. Paul: A contradiction?

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Over the last few weeks I’ve been talking about faith in my sermons on Sunday mornings. We have seen that it is impossible to please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). We have defined faith as follows:

Believing in something so much that you ACT on that belief without hesitation.

Faith isn’t merely saying you believe in something but living like you believe in that something.

As we talk about faith there are many who want us to talk about James 2. Many people have an opinion one way or the other about this passage. Many in the churches of Christ love this passage and use it to talk about the things we do as Christians. Some people dismiss this chapter because they believe in the “faith alone” passages of Romans and Galatians. Which is it? Are we saved by faith alone or do works come into play?

Paul says this:
Romans 4:1-5
​”What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about–but not before God. What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.
However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.”

He also says this:
Galatians 2:15-16
“We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified.”

So it seems that we are saved by faith alone. This is true, but you must understand the type of works that Paul is talking about in these passages. He is not talking about the works done as a result of faith. He is talking about the works people do in order to fulfill the law – as in the Old Testament Levitical Law System.

People believed that if they followed the rules of the Old Testament to the letter they would be found righteous. The problem with this is if you break one of the laws even once you have been found unrighteous, and there is no undoing that stained record. A person cannot justify themselves by following law.

But James says this:
James 2:14-17
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”

So which is it? Do you need works for Salvation? James thinks so, but he is talking about a different kind of works entirely. He is not talking about following a religion legalistically. He is talking about a life that shows its faith by what it does.

The kind of deeds James is referring to have to do with faith. Faith without action is mere words. It’s not faith at all. If we are going to claim to have faith then there needs to be evidence of it by the lifestyle we show daily. Your lifestyle, the deeds you do daily, shows whether or not you have faith.

James and Paul are not in contradiction with each other. They both believe that faith shows itself in what we do (Galatians 5:6).

So, you are not saved by proving yourself worthy. You are saved by a faith in God that expresses itself daily in a lifestyle of love for God and others and trust in the Creator to sustain and fulfill you.

So are you saved by faith? Yes! But faith cannot be defined without action. May your life reflect that saving faith, and may others see that faith in you.


Why me, God?

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I’m a nobody.

There’s nothing overly special about me. I’m not stronger or smarter than the average person. I don’t have some kind of special knowledge. I don’t love better than others. I don’t sin less than anyone. I’m abundantly average.

In fact, I feel like I am weaker than most. I don’t know nearly all that I want to know, and my wisdom isn’t very wise compared to those I look up to. I struggle with loving other people because of my innate ability to be selfish. Oh, and I sin – a lot. Maybe I’m less than average.

I didn’t always see myself like this. I used to think I was everything to everyone. I was God’s gift to the world, but then I grew up and the voices around me began to make headway into my own thoughts. I began to see myself in light of the achievements of others and the opinions of others. That’s when I began to have a real view of myself.

The real view of me isn’t pretty. It’s nothing to brag about.

In this view of me, however, I also see that I AM God’s gift to the world.

As long as I am relying on my strength and knowledge and prowess I become puffed up and useless for God. How can He use me if I’m not willing to be used? But I have nothing to offer to Him. I’m just a messed up heap of brokenness.

Paul, the guy that wrote most of the New Testament, thought about himself in similar ways. He had a lot to brag about but he considered all those things as garbage. He had some kind of ailment or personal torment that he prayed for God to remove, but He didn’t. He struggled with the battle between what he wants to do and what he actually does – just like me.

Yet, when it all boiled down he came to one conclusion:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10

When I realize that I’m just an ordinary person with nothing special to give then I can also realize that Jesus wants to work through me. If I was full of myself there would be no room for Jesus. When, in my weakness, I allow Him to work amazing things then I get to see the glory of God working through me.

As far as pottery is concerned I’m just a cracked pot, but Jesus sees me as priceless and has chosen to work through me to change the world. He’s chosen you too. Are you willing to be empty of yourself so that He can move in and be glorified in you?

I can focus on my faults and inadequacies all day long, but it’s much more fun to focus on how Jesus is going to use me today in spite of all those things. Oh, and He does use me daily…it’s all about Him.

May Jesus be glorified in us as He changes the world by using His favorite instruments – us.


Hats Off Please!

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I recently shaved my head…again. I’ve been bald several times over the last few years, and I like it. It is wonderful to not have to worry about bed head or the wind messing up my hair. I like to wear hats, so no hat hair, but I do have to watch the rings on my head after wearing hats.

It’s easy to maintain. There are no barber fees just the cost of shaving cream and razors. It’s almost therapeutic to shave each day. But I DO have to worry about sunburn.

I don’t like to wear sunscreen. There’s something about that lotion that makes my skin feeling oily, and I’ve never liked the feeling. The ones that don’t leave my skin oily leave it feeling silky smooth. I don’t like that either – I’ve always associated skin like that with women. Plus, I tan normally and don’t burn, so it’s ok, right? I know I should wear sunscreen, and now that I’m bald I am very careful about how I take care of my exposed scalp. When I’m not wearing sunscreen I make sure I’m wearing a hat.

There is one time, though that wearing a hat is a bit confusing. It is when I pray. Do I take it off or not? Why do people take their hats off during prayer? Where does this idea come from?

I’m pretty sure it comes from 1 Corinthians 11:4

Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head.

On the outset it looks like this is exactly speaking of wearing hats during prayer or not. However, verse three gives a bit of context that is necessary for understanding verse four.

Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

Here in verse 3 the writer, Paul, defines who/what the head is. The head of man is Christ. Then he talks about covering the head. If verse three was written elsewhere then verse 4 could be easily explained as speaking of physical head coverings. But Paul gave a definition then used the terminology he just defined in the next verses. Verse 4 could read that “every man who prays or prophesies with Christ covered dishonors Christ.”

So, are we to pray without our hats or not? 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us we should “pray without ceasing”. Seems to me that prayer time is not determined by our physical circumstances. God lives in us and not a temple. Therefore physical environments such as removing a hat cannot keep our prayers from reaching the Father.

Even though it may not be a problem to take off our hats during prayer time, there is still a large part of Christian culture that believes this should be done. Many people are taught in military and in other cultural circumstances that there are times to take off your hat to show respect. Even though taking your hat off during prayer is probably not what 1 Corinthians 11 is talking about, when with a group it is best to do it out of respect for those around you.

We have freedom in Christ. God is everywhere – especially in our hearts. Hats don’t stop that, but in all things respect for those around you shows love for them.

1 Corinthians 10:23
“Everything is permissible”–but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”–but not everything is constructive.


Running Away with Jonah

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A you familiar with the story of Jonah? Jonah is a short book (four chapters) in the Old Testament in the Bible. It tells the story of Jonah in the days when Nineveh was a scourge upon the earth. Nineveh was the capitol city of Assyria, and they weren’t treating the Jews rightly.

Jonah was a prophet of God, and he was pretty used to hearing His voice. One day, however, God spoke to him to give him a message that he didn’t want to hear. God wanted Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh to tell the people to repent. God wanted them to repent so He could forgive them.

Jonah hated the Assyrians and despised the people of Nineveh. He couldn’t believe God would even consider forgiving a people so evil as they. Jonah was upset. He was willing to give God’s messages to the people of Israel, but he wanted nothing to do with these Ninevites.

He decided that what God had asked of him was too much. He would go just so far for God but no further.

So Jonah ran. He got in a ship sailing for Tarshish in the opposite direction from Nineveh. He figured he could run from God, but God is omniscient and omni-present, so it wasn’t a successful venture.

Out on the sea God caused a violent storm to come upon the ship. The sailors tried to figure out who was responsible for this unnatural storm, and the lot fell upon Jonah. Jonah confessed to his running from God and told them that in order to stop the storm they had to throw him overboard. Jonah knew that being thrown overboard into the ocean would mean certain death for him.

The sailors reluctantly agreed and threw him overboard. Immediately the sea calmed down. As Jonah sank deep into the sea a giant fish swallowed him. Jonah knew he had messed up royally. God had shown him the way to go, and he had not been willing. So, in the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed.

After three days God caused the fish to spit Jonah out on the shore. Then, God called Jonah once again to go to Nineveh. This time Jonah went, although he was still wishing for the demise of his enemies.

When he spoke the word of The Lord to the Ninevites they repented and prayed to God clothed in sackcloth and sitting on ashes (signs of genuine remorse). Jonah went up on a hill outside of town to watch God smite them, but He forgave them instead. Jonah became furious.

Jonah couldn’t see how the forgiveness of God is greater than our understanding. He couldn’t see the plans of God. He was filled with hatred and vengeance toward these people.

Did Jonah ever come around? Read the book and find out.

Lets look at ourselves in the meantime. There have been many times I’ve heard people say that they know God wants them to do this or that, but…

When we know what God’s will for us is, and we reject that will, then He is no longer the King of our lives. We have dethroned God and placed ourselves on that throne. We are very much like Jonah.

The may be decisions you are called to make in life. Will you make them? There are moral choices you are called to make. Will you make them?

We live in an age where the people in most churches live lives very similar to that of the world. When confronted with a direct command from scripture, it is not uncommon for them to say “yes, I know, but…” Is that what God wants of us? No!

The Hebrew writer tells us that if we know the good we should do, and we don’t do it, we sin. Paul tells us in Romans 6 that we are to quit sinning on purpose expecting grace to cover us. Does grace cover us? Yes! But should we abuse that privilege? No!

You are called to live a life like Christ. When faced with the hardest time of his life – the crucifixion – he didn’t tell God he wasn’t willing to go through it. He loves you too much to go against God’s will for him, though we know he really struggled with the pain that was to come.

Look at your life. Find the areas where your life doesn’t match up with the life God has called you to live. Pray to God for help in changing direction. And find people you can surround yourself with that will help you along the way. You don’t have to live like the world. Your witness will be much more effective when you make this change.

May you stop giving God ultimatums. May you follow Him with wild abandon. And may the world watch as you live in joy and peace from knowing God’s love and grace all the more.

If there’s anything I can do for you, or if you would like to comment on this article, then please feel free to shoot me a message at http://www.mrdobbs.org. Blessings to you as you follow Him.

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“Woo Hoo” was the Word of the Evening

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The other day I took my kids to a local retreat center just north of town called Ashwood Palms to do some fishing in their ponds. My son has been asking me to take him fishing there since the last time we went which was about six months ago. When I told him our plans for the evening he was jumping up and down and shouting “WooHoo!”

We made all the necessary arrangements including a trip to Walmart to buy night crawlers. Then we got our gear together and made sure we had a snack for the venture. After that it was off to the fishing hole.

Our outing wasn’t about any particular type of fish. We weren’t even concerned with size. My hope for my son and my daughter was that they would simply catch fish, and lots of them.

They did just that! When they’d hook a fish there would be such excitement it heir little voices, and “WooHoo” seemed to be the word of the evening! Azariah and Sophia were congratulating each other like good sports. It didn’t matter that the fish they were catching were only inches long; they didn’t care about size. They were just excited to have the opportunity to fish and be catching.

I love seeing an excitement for fishing growing in the lives of my children.

There was once another group of fishermen who showed enthusiasm for their ventures. The group was Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They had heard John the Baptizer teaching in their area and had become followers of his, yet they had not neglected their duties as fishermen. The story that many people remember about this group is when Jesus told them to cast their net on the other side of the boat after they had caught nothing all the night before. When they did this they caught so many fish in one cast that they had to get a second boat to haul in all the fish.

They were excited. But this wasn’t the first time they had been excited in the presence of Jesus. When Jesus met Andrew, he was so excited about who Jesus was (the Messiah) that he ran to tell his brother the good news. When Jesus met another future disciple named Philip, it made him so excited that he ran to tell Nathaniel. This was the same guy that we read about later in the book of acts studying with an Ethiopian Eunuch.

These men were excited about Jesus, and he called them “Fishers of Men”.

I tell those stories because they have direct implications to each of us. In Matthew 28, Jesus commanded his disciples to “go and make disciples, baptizing them.” But he also gave them the charge to “teach them everything I have commanded you.” The disciples obeyed. A little over 50 days after the resurrection, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they began to preach. 3000 people were baptized that day, and the process of disciple making started.

We know that this command to “make disciples…teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” was fulfilled through the disciples of Jesus. In 2 Timothy 2:2 we read discourse between Paul and Timothy, one of Paul’s disciples. He encourages Timothy to teach others who can then teach others. In that one verse four generations of disciples are represented.

Let me make one thing clear: this command is for each one of us.

The Christian music group Casting Crowns sings a song, “Here I Go Again” that has these lyrics: “here I go again talkin’ ’bout the rain and mulling over things that won’t live past today, and as I dance around the truth time is not his friend. This might be my last chance to tell him that You love him.”

The song is giving a great description of how we treat evangelism every day. Time after time we are presented with chances to talk to our friends and relatives about the love of Jesus, but instead we talk about the rain or work or kids or fishing or anything other than the saving message of grace in Christ.

I know all our reasons for shying back, but my question is this: if Jesus’ disciples were to make disciples that did the same things that they did, then if we aren’t spreading the message of Christ then can we really say we are disciples of Christ? This was a command, and it wasn’t “go make disciples, baptizing…and teaching some to obey.” This was a blanket statement for all of us.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all saw evangelism with the same kind of “WooHoo” excitement my children have for catching inedible fish?!

The story is told of an older man who went down to the beach after a storm to gather shells. When he got down there he found the sand littered with starfish. As he walked along in amazement at the sheer numbers he saw a lone child tossing starfish back in the sea. “Why are you doing that? There are so many you’ll never get them all! What does it matter? Why try?” The boy was unfazed, and as he picked up another starfish and tossed it back in the ocean he said, “it mattered to that one.”

Instead of being overwhelmed with numbers like the population of the earth or probability statistics, we are called to have the childlike enthusiasm that my children have. I know we can have that kind of enthusiasm too! Every time we see our child do something great we tell others with that kind of enthusiasm. Every time we get a new gadget we show it off with great enthusiasm.

You have been given life eternal through Christ regardless of your past. It was given to you freely with your baptism. Your friends and neighbors don’t have that gift, and they’re dying in their sins. You have the cure. Will you not tell them? Will you not offer them healing?

May we be people who re-evaluate our attitude toward the salvation we have received. May we then become downright giddy as we thank God for his saving grace, and may we be people who just can’t keep it in.

After the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when 3000 people were baptized into Christ the excitement was so prevalent that it took them only approximately a year to spread the message to the entire known world. When we catch this fire in this day when we are more connected than ever through texting and Facebook and twitter, we will change the world quickly as well. Let’s do just that!

If you have any questions or comments regarding this article, you can email me at jddobbs@verizon.net or call me at the office at 245-1611. You can also read all my previous articles at http://www.mrdobbs.org. God bless you, and spread the Word!


Parents, Please Read Part Two

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It’s that time of year again, time for the yearly – as I heard one mom recently call it – “bikini battle”.

Last week, when we were on our camping trip, I took our group to Pedernales Falls State Park. We explored around the falls in the morning, then went over to the swimming area after lunch. It was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, and the temperature was over 80°. For early march this was above normal for the hill country of Texas, but we were enjoying it.

On the way to park at the trailhead that leads down to the swimming area we had our own “bikini battle”.

I had already declared that anyone who had a bikini would have to wear a t-shirt over it while they swim for modesty’s sake. Then I was asked about tankinis. If you’re not familiar with that – it’s a more modest bikini. Then I was asked if the guys could go without shirts. Finally the decision was made – if one group has to wear a t-shirt, then the rest of the group can wear them to make it fair to everyone.

I got a mild groan out of that decision.

It wasn’t long before we were strolling down the trail to the water where everyone had a great time. We waded the rapids. We splashed and dunked each other. We even swam, and everyone had a grand time. I didn’t hear one complaint from anyone about having to wear a t-shirt. They were having too much fun to care.

Every year I question whether or not this battle is worth fighting. Sure, I can control their modesty when they are with me, but they are going to go to the beach with their friends, and who knows what they’ll be wearing then?!

Parents, this article is primarily for you. You still have these kids living in your home. You. Have been given the right by God Himself and the responsibility to guide your children in all areas of their life as they continue to develop the ability to make good choices.

Our culture has pushed sex and the sexualization of the human body to limits beyond what is healthy. When our teens are looking for swimsuits to wear at the beach and other places their mind goes to “what will make me look hottest”?

Parents, if you have a teenage boy, the statistics show that he has probably seen pornography, and now more than ever, the chances show he may even be addicted. If he has access to mobile Internet on an iPhone, iPad, or android phone then the chances of him accessing pornography on a regular basis go up.

There have been a couple of times over the last year or so when I went up to a teenager and simply said “when are you going to quit looking at the porn?” I didn’t know whether or not they were, but I knew that the chances said they were. In each case the teen didn’t deny it. In fact, their demeanor changed as if it was a weight that had been lifted that an adult finally knew.

I talk about guys and pornography (female viewing or porn is on the rise as well) because it changes the way they view our daughters. If your daughter is wearing something that shows more skin than it covers up, then what do you think is going on in the mind of these boys? Most bikinis cover less than the normal underwear that a girl would wear. They won’t go out in public in their underwear, but they’ll go out in a bikini.

When our girls are scantily clad they are sending a message about who they are. It sends the message that sexuality is prevalent in their thinking. It sends the message that they are interested in guys drooling over their bodies. To many guys it sends the message that they are an easy score. I’m not even going to talk about the fact that the teen guys aren’t the only ones that see them. What about the sexual predator that is on the same each or at the same lake. That reason sees your daughter as well.

My daughter knows our rules about modesty in swimwear, and she doesn’t fight it. She knows we are doing it so that her inner beauty is shown more brightly. We don’t even let her wear pants with words on the buttocks because we don’t want attention to be drawn to that area. She doesn’t wear tight fitting clothing.

One teen girl magazine tried to help its readers see this recently with an article that declared that boys think that. “modest is hottest”. I appreciate the effort of this magazine, but I don’t even want my daughter to be regarded as “hot” because it’s a sexual term. Sure, I’m a protective father, but I love my daughter and want her future husband to know that she was kept pure. I want him to know her for her inner beauty and not be focused on her outer beauty.

When the inner beauty is the focus, then the relationship lasts much longer.

This isn’t just a suggestion from me, a dad and youth minister. It is a directive from the apostle Paul to his young preacher, Timothy. I Timothy 2:9 says, “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety…” Paul doesn’t want homes to dress like prostitutes. If you look at the trends, many women today go to church on Sunday wearing less than prostitutes did in the days of Jesus.

Let’s start a trend of modesty.

Mothers and fathers, may you set the standards for your children in the area of modesty. May they be raised to have a healthy self-image that sees that they really are beautiful, and they don’t need to dress a certain way to show that. May you help them overcome pornography and it’s influences – even the pornography that is on television and in movies. And may the generations coming up change the direction of the sexualization of America.

If you have any comments or questions about this or any other issue, please feel free to call me at 245-1611 or email me at jddobbs@verizon.net. You can comment on this article directly at http://www.mrdobbs.org where I keep all my articles. God bless you, and have a great week!


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