"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

The Normal Practices of a New Covenant Church

Many "reformed" churches are dying. The authoritarian male elders have no idea why. They think it is "because most people today don't accept the clear teaching of Scripture." The reality is those church elders are stuck in a Hebrew Old Covenant rule of law. The vapor of death descends from the law-oriented lips of the leaders who believe they have "spiritual authority" over people.  Their demand for obedience from God's people is the natural outgrowth of their false belief that they are God's appointed vicars to the church.

More than a few church elders today seek to "rule over" Christ's people in the manner Moses and the Hebrew priests and prophets ruled over Israel. Even worse, these men actually believe God wants them to rule over His people. The biblical truth that the Old Covenant system of worship, including authoritarian elders, has become obsolete to God (Hebrews 8:13) is a foreign language to them. 

For those men who wish to rule like Old Covenant leaders in Israel, I have a simple question. 

In I Kings 1, King David of Israel is dying. He already has four wives (including Bathsheeba, Deborah and Haggith), and many concubines. As King David lies on his death bed, the elders of Israel search the country far and wide for a "beautiful young woman" to "lie with the king" and "keep him warm" (v. 2). The cultural custom of Old Covenant Israel was that the kings of Israel could have many wives and many concubines. Kings of nations in Old Testament times must be virile and able reproduce many sons. 

Here is my question: When a Christian pastor is sick and lying on his death bed, do the church elders call for "a young, beautiful woman to strip and lie beside him in bed to keep him warm?" If not, why not? This practice was as much a part of Old Covenant Israel as worship on the Sabbath, paying tithes to the Temple, etc.... Why do church elders today pick and choose which laws and practices of the Old Covenant Scriptures they will follow? 

Not one Hebraic civil, ceremonial or moral law is binding on a Christian. Every one of the Old Covenant practices of Israel pointed to the coming Messiah but is now obsolete when it comes to the people of God.

Jesus Christ has come. 

The revelation of God in "the law of Israel" has progressed to the full and final revelation of truth in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the law. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. All the ceremonies, civil ordinances and legal commands of the Old Covenant way of life have now been made obsolete. The righteousness that sinners need must be received as a gift from God through faith in Who Jesus is and what the Christ has done (Philippians 3:9). 

So what "law" do we believers in Christ have over us?

Only one. It's called the Royal Law of love.
"A new commandment I give you: Love one another as I have loved you. In this manner, you must love one another. By this love will all know that you are My disciples."   (John 13:34-35).
Think about this for a moment. Are you truly loving someone else as Jesus loves you? That means are you thinking selflessly, serving sacrificially, doing what you do for the ultimate good of the one being loved, without regard for your own welfare, benefit or reputation? If you can answer that question with "Yes, I am!" then do what you are doing, and don't worry what others say. If not, then stop doing what you are doing. It's that simple.

That's how sin is defined for the Christian. We don't need any other law. For example, you can't take another woman as your own and truly love your wife the way Jesus loves you. You only need one law to understand what sin is, and that is the Royal Law of love.

Of course, we all fail the Royal Law. But when that happens we own our sin rather than point our finger at someone else. We humbly seek forgiveness for not loving as we are loved by Jesus. We quickly and easily seek forgiveness of others because we've learned to rest in the forgiveness we have from Him who loves us. We don't draw our identity from our failure. We are who we are because of His victory.

That's New Covenant living.

Jesus told us that "heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall never pass away" (Matthew 24:35). In Biblical language, "heaven and earth" is Old Covenant Israel. The law of Israel has passed away. Any Christian church which bases its governmental structure and principles of operation along the same lines Hebrew leaders governed and led Old Covenant Israel is missing the Spirit of God and will die a legal death.



So what should be the normal practices of a New Covenant Church?

I will list them:

New Covenant Primacy

On top of the Mount of Transfiguration, the mountain shook, the glory of God descended, and Moses (the Old Covenant Lawgiver) and Elijah (the Old Covenant Prophet) disappeared, and only the transfigured Jesus remained. Then the voice of God proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son, acouete auton (hear Him!).” Any church that emphasizes to followers of Jesus instructions on how to live from the Old Testament Law and/or Prophets will be a church that teaches, “if you will…THEN GOD will.” Indeed, the Old Covenant is conditional. But Jesus is “the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets,” all the blessings and promises of God are “yes and amen in Christ" (II Corinthians 1:20). Therefore, our desire this side of the cross should be “to know Him, and the power of His resurrection” and to “rest in His righteousness, and not my own that comes from my obedience to any law” (Philippians 3:7-11). In other words, we are to get our identity, and our marching orders,  from Jesus Christ, who told us, “By this will everyone know that you are mine, if you love one another as I love you.” (John 13:35). For more information read Radically New (2016).

Limited Pastoral Authority

Contrary to the Old Testament, leadership in the New Covenant is based on a person’s giftings by the Holy Spirit. I believe the New Testament teaches there is no inherent spiritual authority in church position or office. Jesus Christ has all spiritual authority and those who know Him serve one another in the power and grace of His Spirit within us. Old Covenant style leadership fights for control; New Covenant style leadership serves in love. In a modern culture where governments grant tax exemption and legal requirements for churches, pastors may have legal authority, but the notion there is a position of spiritual authority over anyone is not a practice Jesus taught (see Matthew 20:25-26). For more information read Fraudulent Authority (2017)

Broad Evangelical Unity

In my experience, very little good is done when we evangelicals make it a priority to tell others what we are against. The Gospel is Good News. Gospel preachers are neither moralizers nor motivators. We are called to proclaim the Good News in the highways and hedges of life as broadcasters. We in the church are to only report the news, we are not called to make it (see John 17:23). I’d rather the world and culture know me for what I’m for (the person and work of Jesus Christ) than what I’m against. For more information read Hardball Religion (2010).

Full Gender Equality

In the New Covenant Church, men and women are equals. What distinguishes us from one another is our giftedness. Jesus Christ is the sole authority over His church, for “there is Jew nor Gentile, neither male nor female, neither slave nor free, for you are all one in Christ” (Galatians 3:28).  We are the collective body of Christ; He alone is our Head. In a New Covenant Church, servant leadership is determined by giftings, not gender. For more information read What’s with Paul and Women (2014).

Shared Grace Theology

Those whose lives have been changed by the Gospel will tell you the most transformative truth is “The Gospel message of God's grace in Jesus Christ." This also should be the message of every Christian teacher. It should be the theme of every Christian church. It should be the philosophy of every Christian ministry. Christians must know grace to know Christ. Therefore, if you want to get a feel for whether or not a church shares the grace theology of the New Testament, ask yourself how many prisoners, down-and-out, homeless and helpless, invalid and disabled, needy persons the Christians who gather at that building are reaching in the community - not only on Sundays but throughout the week. The message of grace first transforms what a person thinks and feels; then it will transform how a person lives and loves. For more information see Happiness Doesn’t Just Happen (2002). 

I recently heard that a group of church elders read my above statements regarding "The Normal Practices of a New Covenant Church,"  and responded, "That's so opposite of the way we practice things at our church."

I'm glad that my writing was clear and understandable to the point they could see the differences. The lack of their implementation of New Covenant principles, as well as their emphasis on Old Covenant authoritarian leadership, may be a couple reasons their church will continue to decline in Kingdom influence. 

"Always" by Irving Berlin: A Wonderful Love Story

Irving Berlin and his wife Ellen (1926)
Today I had the pleasure of listening to Douglas Newell, director of the Enid Symphony Orchestra, and his wife speak and sing at the Enid Rotary Club. Doug told a fascinating story about  Irving Berlin .

Many of us know the composer Irving Berlin for his famous compositions like God Bless America or White Christmas. But there is a lesser-known song that Berlin composed in 1926 called Always. The back story of the composition of that song is what Doug Newell shared at Rotary.

It seems that Berlin's first wife died of typhoid after contracting the disease on their honeymoon. Berlin remained a widower until he fell in love with a young heiress named Ellin Mackay, the daughter of Clarence Mackay, who was the prominent head of the Postal Telegraph Cable Company. Because Berlin was a pauper musician and Ellin a very prominent socialite, their lives were followed in every possible detail by the press, which found the romance of the poor immigrant from the Lower East Side and the young heiress a good story.

Ellin's father opposed the match from the start. He went so far as to send his daughter off to Europe to find other suitors and "to forget Mr. Berlin." However, Irving Berlin continued to woo Ellin. He eventually won her heart

Ellin's father vowed that their marriage "would only happen 'over my dead body.'" There was no way his prosperous daughter would ever be married to this "poor pauper of a musician." 

Irving and Ellin chose to elope. 

On the morning of their wedding, Irving Berlin wrote the song Always. He put the sheet of music and lyrics in a gift box which he handed to his soon-to-be wife, with a note that said, "All the royalties of this song will be yours."

The words of the song are as follows:

Everything went wrong,
And the whole day long
I'd feel so blue.
For the longest while
I'd forget to smile,
Then I met you.
Now that my blue days have passed,
Now that I've found you at last -

I'll be loving you always
With a love that's true always.
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand always.

Always.

Days may not be fair always,
That's when I'll be there always.
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.

I'll be loving you, oh always
With a love that's true always.
When the things you've planned
Need a helping hand,
I will understand always.

Always.

Days may not be fair always,
That's when I'll be there always.
Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.

Not for just an hour,
Not for just a day,
Not for just a year,
But always.

By the time of Ellin Berlin's death, she had earned millions from the royalties of Always.

Douglas Newell said that as a boy he would often listen to his father sing this song to his mother on their way home from church on Sunday nights in South Carolina.  It forever made an impression on him.

What a great story. 

And what a great song. 

Can One Be a Christian and a Political Progressive?

The person best suited to answer the question "Can one be a Christian and a political progressive?" is one of the leaders of the Liberal Democrat Party in the United Kingdom. Some believed he was destined to become the next unrivaled leader of the Liberal Democrat Party.

His name is Tim Farron.

Yesterday, June 14, 2017, Tim Farron shockingly resigned from the Liberal Democratic party.

In his resignation speech, Tim said,  "To be a political leader...especially of a progressive liberal party in 2017... and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible's teaching... has felt impossible to me." 

Let me tell you a little about Tim Farron. He's a remarkably astute liberal politician, with a passion for classical liberal government, and a love for the people of England.

And, he is a committed Christian.

In the fall of 2013, I went to London, England with my friend Senator Norman Lamb for a WW II heritage tour of England and France. We stopped by U.K's Parliament to visit with one of England's most powerful politicians, a Liberal Democrat leader also named Norman Lamb.

It was while researching the United Kingdom's Norman Lamb that I first became aware of this young, up-and-coming Liberal Democrat politician named Tim Farron. Tim has long been a rival to Norman Lamb from the same Liberal Democrat party. I began following Tim Farron from a distance because of what I learned about his Christian convictions.

Tim Farron has never hidden his evangelical Christian faith. He's a committed follower of the teachings of Jesus Christ. After being excoriated by the press for his views that "gay sex is a sin," Tim responded with a biblical axiom, "the Christian teaching is that we are all sinners."

But soon Tim Farron realized that the press and fellow liberal politicians were far more interested in what Tim privately believed about sin than they were about what Tim publicly declared about poverty. It wasn't enough that he was a classical political liberal and believed that religion had no place in the public realm. The liberal progressives of 2017 increasingly have made known their position that they want no one in government who privately believes differently than they.

That's intolerance, not liberty.

The scary part in Tim's resignation speech makes it clear that liberal progressives in 2017 are the most intolerant people of all.
I seem to be the subject of suspicion because of what I believe and Who my faith is in. In which case we are kidding ourselves if we think we yet live in a tolerant, liberal society."
Progressive liberals, in both the United States and England, are creating a religious litmus test over whether or not one can serve in government. Liberal Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders said last week Christians are not the "type of people" that should be in government.

The world is changing. Hostility toward the Christian faith is increasing.

It used to be persecution against Christians was something you read about in history books. Now it's something you read about in the newspaper. Persecution of Christians used to occurr in third-world countries ruled by totalitarian dictators. Now it seems persecution is occurring in Western Civilization within countries ruled by liberal progressives.

Give me old fashioned liberalism.

Give me liberty.

2017 progressive political liberalism is totalitarian governmental fascism in disguise.

Get ready America.

Soon, to be a follower of Jesus Christ might very well cost you.

On the bright side, true revival is the flower formed from the seed of suffering.

In the end, more people will know the love of Christ and love other people the way Jesus loves sinners because Christianity is the only answer to man's private sinful dilemma.

Click here to read the full text of Tim Farron's resignation speech.

The Southern Baptist International Mission Board, Restrictions on Women, and Eternal Subordination

Recently a letter was sent from International Mission Board headquarters in Richmond to all missionary leaders regarding a paper under review regarding the official position of the IMB regarding women in ministry, women on the mission field, and a woman's subjection to men.

The paper makes official the "complementarian" view of the International Mission Board.

For those of you unfamiliar with the meaning of the word complementarianism, I would encourage you to read this article entitled Complementarianism as a Movement.

Many Christian men and women hold to complementarianism.

However, the problem with the IMB position paper on complementarianism that is now being formulated is the same problem the IMB had ten years ago when I served as a trustee. Back then a group of men took it upon themselves to narrow the doctrinal requirements for serving as a Southern Baptist missionary. They formulated doctrinal papers on spiritual gifts and baptism which stated positions that went far beyond the Baptist Faith and Message. They then demanded applicants agree to the doctrinal positions before serving as a missionary. I objected back then when the issue was forbidding anyone with a "private prayer language" or anyone who was "baptized by immersion in a church that didn't believe in eternal security."

It took ten years but those two poor doctrinal policies were eventually reversed.

Now the issue is complementarianism.

It seems the International Mission Board is moving to prohibit anyone from serving on the field who will not agree that complementarianism is the biblical view of women within the organization structure of the IMB. In the past, women were considered "Team Leaders" as were men. However, in the new complementarian mandate, IMB leadership is going so far as considering removing the title "Team Leader" from any woman, referring instead to her as "the Team Leader's wife."

According to complementarianism, a woman is not to serve in a position of leadership because it would place her in authority "over men." Consistent with that view, it is being proposed that no woman can lead anybody at the IMB in the future. She can only support her man who leads.

What is most serious of all, the paper under formulation is using the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father as the theological basis for the subjection of all women to the authority of men within the International Mission Board.  That means, a woman is to be eternally subject to the authority and will of the man, just as Jesus is eternally subject to the authority and will of the Father.

The idea of equality in the Trinity and between men and women is anathema in the complementarian view. Nearly 10 years ago I wrote about the false doctrine of eternal subordination, a view that was gaining traction in the Southern Baptist Convention then.

I never dreamed I would see the day when it would be implemented as back-door policy at the IMB.



Bernie Sanders Is a Danger to Religious Freedom

This past Wednesday, June 7, 2017, Senator Bernie Sanders angrily shouted down Russell T. Vought, President Trump's nominee for Deputy Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. One would hope the American public could watch this horrible exchange, but for some reason, our government has chosen to remove the video from the public square.

Why was Senator Sanders so angry? It seems Sen. Sanders believed Vought was unsuitable for public office because Mr. Vought believes that mercy from God is found only through faith in Jesus Christ. Someone with that kind of religious belief, says Sanders, "is really not someone who this country is supposed to be about." 

Huh?

David French of the National Review pinpoints the trouble behind Sanders religious test for public service:
This is a disgraceful and unconstitutional line of questioning from the man who came close to being the Democratic nominee for president. He’s not only imposing a religious test for public office in direct violation of Article VI of the United States Constitution, he’s gone so far as to label this decent man — who’s seeking to serve his country in a vital role — as “not someone who this country is supposed to be about.” Vought expressed entirely orthodox Christian beliefs. There is nothing “extreme” about his statements, and they mirror the statements of faith of countless Christian churches and schools across the land. Are these believers also not fit for public office? I’ve written that Christians and Muslims don’t worship the same God. I suppose that means America’s not “about” me, either.
Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford warned that Sander’s comments “dangerously close to crossing a clear constitutional line for how we evaluate qualifications for public service.”

This week I will be writing about a couple of problems we face within the Southern Baptist Convention. However, those problems pale in comparison to the outright attack against Christians, exampled by Senator Bernie Sanders.

David French rightly points out that Christians can and do believe Jesus Christ is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life," and Senator Sanders job is to protect the right of orthodox Christians to believe as they see fit, without fear of punishment or exclusion from the public realm. Religious freedom,

Mr. Sanders, belongs to even those people whom you don't like.

The Good News Is About God's Goodness in Christ

Many evangelicals feel it necessary to convince a sinner of his guilt before sharing the Good News of God's grace in Jesus Christ.  The starting point for many who share Christ is man's inherent sinfulness and the danger of hell-fire judgment. This is why many pastors and leaders of evangelical churches focus on the Law and yell about sin.  The church believes the Law must condemn before the Lawgiver can save. 

This philosophy often leads preachers and soul winners to avoid proclaiming the goodness of God for sinners until sinners are worked over good with the Law.  For this reason, the message often heard in church shows more concern with convincing sinners of sin than sinners of the grace, glory, and goodness of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

Some reading this blog so far might be thinking - "What's wrong with convincing sinners of sin? You can't lead a horse to water without thirst. A sinner will never know his need of God's salvation without knowledge of his condemnation and need for salvation."

Not so fast.

In our zeal to deliver sinners from judgment, we often miss the beauty and simplicity of preaching Christ. Jesus said, "I have come that you might live life more abundantly." (John 10:10). Proclaiming the goodness of God in Jesus Christ breathes life into those who don't know themselves dead. To yell and scream at a dead person with a boulder on his chest does no good in removing the boulder. Likewise, for Christians to yell and scream at sinners about their sin does no good in changing a sinner's lfie.

Gospel-preaching never requires the sinner to feel his sin before coming to Christ by faith. Only God can awaken the dead, and the evangelist's job is to simply preach Christ, not sin and the sinner condemned.

18th century Baptists held to a radical emphasis on simply preaching and proclaiming Jesus Christ--leaving the work of conviction and conversion to the Spirit. These 18th century Baptists were supremely Christocentric.They were not as concerned that the sinner knew and felt his sin as they were the sinner heard the goodness of God in the person of Jesus Christ. This is how they put it in their First London Confession of Faith (1644):

Article 25 of the 1646 London Confession of Faith

The preaching of the gospel to the conversion of sinners, is absolutely free; no way requiring as absolutely necessary, any qualifications, preparations, or terrors of the law, or preceding ministry of the law, but only and alone the naked soul, a sinner and ungodly, to receive Christ crucified, dead and buried, and risen again; who is made a prince and a Savior for such sinners as through the gospel shall be brought to believe on Him. John 3:14,15, 1:12; Isa. 55:1; John 7:37; 1 Tim. 1:15; Rom. 4:5, 5:8; Acts 5:30,31, 2:36, 1 Cor. 1:22,24.
The starting point for these 18th Century Baptists was the goodness of God in Christ, not the sinfulness of man. The Law and the prophets in the Old Testament all pointed to Christ. The Law was never given to drive a man to be righteous in himself, but rather to drive the sinner to faith in the One who fulfilled the Law for sinners and provides a righteousness that comes from outside the sinner's own obedience.

The feasts, the Sabbaths, the festivals, the sacrifices, the laws of Israel, the Temple, the priesthood, and all the other important features of the Old Covenant fulfilled in Christ. With the establishment of the New Covenant, signed and sealed with the blood of Christ, the Old Covenant faded into oblivion because it possessed a fading glory, but the goodness and grace of God in the person and work of Jesus Christ has an eternal glory (I Corinthians 3:7-18).

So the next time you hear a preacher berate the sinner with words of judgment and condemnation, please know that he is neither speaking in a manner that focuses the listener on the centrality of Christ's goodness which leads to repentance.

If one objects, "But Christ spoke harsh words of condemnation to the Pharisees in Matthew 23!"

Yes, but notice that Christ always reserved His words of condemnation to the religious who deemed themselves superior to sinners.

If we are biblical evangelists, we will do two things:
(1). We will always proclaim the finished work of Christ for sinners, and emphasize the grace, love and kindness of God in Christ, for we recognize that is it the goodness of God in Christ, combined with the work of the Spirit, that alone leads sinners to repentance.
(2). We will refrain from constantly complaining of sin and peoples' sinfulness because we recognize that only the Good News of God's goodness in Jesus Christ will ever lead a sinner to change his ways. 
Isn't it odd how the modern evangelical church get things reversed? We preachers tend to yell and scream at the world for sin, and the world screams and yells at us for yelling at them.

Maybe if we simply loved sinners and proclaimed Jesus Christ at least some of the yelling would stop.

The #1 Thing to Look for When Joining a Church

I am often asked, "What's the best way to know whether or not a church is worth joining?"

My answer often surprises people. The measure of the greatness of a church is not seen in the size of the church, nor the missions emphasis, nor the children's or youth programs, nor the style of worship. 

Nope. Not at all.

Neither is it measured by the kind of church governance (e.g. elders, congregational, etc.) nor by the relevant ways the church seeks to make an impact in the community. 

A church is worth joining if the message emphasized is God's love for sinners in Christ rather than a sinner's love for God by commitment.

Think about that for a moment. 

If a person's love for God is always emphasized to the neglect of God's love for persons; or if one is constantly challenged to be "fully devoted to God" rather than the glorious gospel of "God being fully devoted" to His people in Jesus Christ, or if a person's love for God is always questioned and compared to another person's love for God (especially those who lead) through a verbal "measuring of each other's personal holiness," then you should put on those proverbial sneakers and run from that church as fast as possible.

Church leaders who feel it their duty to "get people to love God more" by controlling the movies they see or the books they read or the tertiary doctrines they believe is church leadership that has gone astray. When there is more of an emphasis on the covenant you sign to join a church than the covenant God sealed when He gave you His Son, then you've entered a land of law, not liberty. 

In the New Testament, the emphasis is always about God's love for sinners in Christ. When sinners are captivated and overwhelmed by the unconditional, eternal, and transformational love of God in Jesus Christ, we sinners come to a place of personal liberty to "love others as Christ loves us." 

Listen to John in I John 4:7-11:
7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we love God, but that He loves us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loves us, we also ought to love one another.
The above passage contains an inviolable principle of relationships that many churches miss.

We are only at liberty to love other people as Christ loves us when the emphasis of gospel preaching is about God's love for us in Christ.

So next time you consider a church home,  listen closely to the words of the person on the platform. Those who spend more time controlling and directing the conduct of the people than championing and declaring the love of God toward people in Christ are showing tell-tale signs of a pervasive belief in their "spiritual authority" over people rather than their "gifted service" to people.

The Truth will set you free.

A James Bond (Roger Moore) Touching Tribute

Sir Roger Moore died at the age of 89 this week, and condolences and remembrances have been placed on social media from around the world. One particular tribute from Mark Haynes caught my eye.  The anecdote Mark tells about "James Bond"  reveals the power of kindness toward a child, something worth remembering by all of us who have the pleasure of being around children on a regular basis.
"As a seven-year-old in about 1983, in the days before First Class Lounges at airports, I was with my grandad in Nice Airport and saw Roger Moore sitting at the departure gate, reading a paper. I told my granddad I'd just seen James Bond and asked if we could go over so I could get his autograph. My grandad had no idea who James Bond or Roger Moore were, so we walked over and he popped me in front of Roger Moore, with the words "my grandson says you're famous. Can you sign this?"
As charming as you'd expect, Roger asks my name and duly signs the back of my plane ticket, a fulsome note full of best wishes. I'm ecstatic, but as we head back to our seats, I glance down at the signature. It's hard to decipher it but it definitely doesn't say 'James Bond'. My grandad looks at it, half figures out it says 'Roger Moore' - I have absolutely no idea who that is, and my hearts sinks. I tell my grandad he's signed it wrong, that he's put someone else's name - so my grandad heads back to Roger Moore, holding the ticket which he's only just signed.
I remember staying by our seats and my grandad saying "he says you've signed the wrong name. He says your name is James Bond." Roger Moore's face crinkled up with realisation and he beckoned me over. When I was by his knee, he leant over, looked from side to side, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said to me, "I have to sign my name as 'Roger Moore' because otherwise...Blofeld might find out I was here." He asked me not to tell anyone that I'd just seen James Bond, and he thanked me for keeping his secret. I went back to our seats, my nerves absolutely jangling with delight. My grandad asked me if he'd signed 'James Bond.' No, I said. I'd got it wrong. I was working with James Bond now.
Many, many years later, I was working as a scriptwriter on a recording that involved UNICEF, and Roger Moore was doing a piece to camera as an ambassador. He was completely lovely and while the cameramen were setting up, I told him in passing the story of when I met him in Nice Airport. He was happy to hear it, and he had a chuckle and said "Well, I don't remember but I'm glad you got to meet James Bond." So that was lovely.
And then he did something so brilliant. After the filming, he walked past me in the corridor, heading out to his car - but as he got level, he paused, looked both ways, raised an eyebrow and in a hushed voice said, "Of course I remember our meeting in Nice. But I didn't say anything in there, because those cameramen - any one of them could be working for Blofeld."
I was as delighted at 30 as I had been at 7. What a man. What a tremendous man."
Yes, indeed, Mark. Thanks for sharing.

Talking TO Someone Rather Than About Someone

"To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable..."  (Luke 18:9).

In the verse above, what do you believe is the most important word? I may surprise you in that I would choose the first word as the most important word, the little preposition "to."

Jesus could have spoken "about" some who were confident of their own righteousness, but He doesn't do that. He speaks "to" those who were confident of their own righteousness. Jesus always spoke to people, not about people.

And so should we.

Mary Anne Evans once wrote,
"Gossip is a sort of smoke that comes from the dirty tobacco-pipes of those who diffuse it: it proves nothing but the bad taste of the smoker."
Christians are to be people with impeccable tastes. We are never to gossip about others, but we are called to speak to others - just like Jesus did. I've had a rule in my ministry for years called the Principle of Loyalty that goes something like this:
"I will neither give nor receive a negative word about you unless you yourself have been spoken to first."
I never ceased to be amazed at the number of people who wish to talk to me about someone else without ever going to that someone.  I will not listen. In fact, applying the Principle of Loyalty I will ask the person wishing to share with me the latest gossip, "Have you gone and spoken personally to the person you wish to discuss with me?" If the answer is no, I tell them I will not even communicate with them until they do.

I learned from Spurgeon that a pastor who listens to gossip is as guilty as the creator of outright lies. Spurgeon said to pastors he mentored:
"Don't allow certain busybodies to bring you all the gossip of the place. Drive the creatures away. Abhor those mischief-making, tattling handmaidens to strife. Those who will fetch will carry, and no doubt the gossips go from your house and report every observation which falls from your lips, with plenty of garnishing of their own. Remember that, as the receiver is as bad as the thief, so the hearer of scandal is a sharer in the guilt of it. If there were no listening ears there would be no talebearing tongues. While you are a buyer of ill wares the demand will create the supply, and the factories of falsehoood will be working full time. No one wishes to become a creator of lies, and yet he who hears slanders with pleasure and believes them with readiness will hatch many a brood into active life” (Lectures to My Students, p. 328).
As a Christian, if you are offended with someone and talk about that person to other people and not to that person himself, then you are doing opposite of what Jesus did.

Jesus said, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matthew 7:1).  The Greek word translated "judge" in this verse is krino. This Greek word can mean condemn or "to call in question, conclude, decree, determine, esteem, ordain, think, or my sentence is". Out of 107 times where krino is used in the Bible, only six render it as "condemn" or "damn".

When we look closely at Matthew 7:1-5 the context clearly indicates that it does not only mean "condemn". In verse 2 He says "with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged: and with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again". So clearly  krinos here not only means condemning people, but it also means "concluding, calling into question, decreeing, determining, esteeming, ordaining, thinking, or sentencing." 

Principle: The way we deal with other people is the way we will be dealt with by God. 

"For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you" (Matthew 7:2).

I want God talking to me, not about me. 

The FBI Director, Grammar, and the Serial Comma

America erupted in a firestorm of politics, name-calling, and backlash over the firing of James Comey as FBI Director.  There are possibly many lessons one can learn from this chapter in American politics, but I may be the only one who offers a grammar lesson.

Comey issued a "good-bye" letter to the FBI. I first read the Director's letter on my ABC News Twitter feed. After reading the letter, a comment from a fellow Twitter reader caught my eye. Sweetie Bird wrote of Director Comey, "He uses the serial comma, and for that alone, I shall forever admire him."

Of all the things Sweetie Bird could express her admiration about  FBI Director Comey, it's "because he uses the serial comma"  she decides to bestow her praise. 

He uses the serial comma.

I laughed when I read that statement.

Let me explain what the serial comma is. Director Comey wrote in his good-bye letter:
"In times of turbulence, the American people should see the FBI as a rock of competence, honesty, and independence."
The last comma in that sentence (in red so you can see it) is the serial comma. It's the last comma in a list of three or more items and usually comes before the word "and" or the word "or."  If you read newspapers a great deal, you won't see the serial comma because newspapers don't use it to save space. More and more book publishers are also not using the last comma in a series of items, and according to experts in grammar, the serial comma is truly an optional comma. You don't have to use it.

Unless you are a grammar snob. 

The serial comma is also called The Harvard Comma or the Oxford Comma because those two institutions and their publishing houses would die before they allowed any book they published to hit the market without the serial comma. It's expected, demanded, and enforced (visual pun intended). 

Typically, we all might say, "Who cares?" Except, in this one point I side with the snobs. Let me show you why. 

In a documentary of the late Merle Haggard, the text writer promoting the film did not use the serial comma. A sentence from the documentary's description is lifted to show how sometimes not using the serial comma can cause great confusion:
Those interviewed were Merle's two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson and Robert Duvall. 
In this convoluted culture of ours, a man married to two men is not as unusual as one might think, and without the serial comma, it looks as if Merle was married to two men. However, if the serial comma were to be used, it might prevent any confusion. For example:
Those interviewed were Merle's two ex-wives, Kris Kristofferson, and Robert Duvall.
I always use the serial comma. If you've never thought about using it, the admiration Sweetie Bird expressed to Director Comey could be the impetus for you to begin.

If you would like some assistance with proper grammar and punctuation in your writing, I would highly encourage you to download the free software for Windows or Mac called Grammarly.  It is an essential for writers.

Grammarly automatically corrects improper grammar, spelling, and the absence of the serial comma.