Only A Sinner

If you are a child of God today, that is, a born-again, washed in His blood, believer in the Lord Jesus Christ solely for salvation, then you can truly say, “I’m only a sinner, saved by grace.”

That’s right. We wholeheartedly agree with the Apostle Paul, writing under the Holy Spirit’s superintendence in the inspired Word, that “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works lest any man should boast.” (Eph.2:8,9)

What have we to boast of then? Salvation was planned and purposed in the wise counsels of the Godhead. God bought us, He sought us, He caught us and He’s got us, all by His matchless and marvelous grace. Boasting excluded!  “I’m only a sinner saved by grace.” An unknown (to me) preacher said wisely “He who sings his own praise is usually off key,” and never was that truer than when the subject is salvation which is “the gift of God…eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

Then, too, what else are we tempted to boast about?  Whatever you have has been given to you. Are you in fair or good health? Your next breath will be drawn at the mercies of God. Do you live in a comfortable house, with a beautiful family, enjoying a productive and profitable career, worshipping with a spiritually robust community of believers who are pastored by a man of God committed to teaching the whole counsel of God? Then, count your blessings and name them one by one, because all of the above and anything good that you could possibly add to the list are from God as gifts of His grace. He is keeping His promise beyond measure: “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Phil.4:19) I know Paul was writing to a generous local church when he penned those wonderful words to the believers in Philippi, but churches are made up of individual members of the body and I am confident that members of that Philippian assembly could recite personally how that even through their sacrificial living and giving God had supplied all of their needs.  I can testify that from my childhood I claimed this verse as a “guidepost” for my journey with Him, and for the past 70 plus years I have never had to fret or stew about needs being met. As my pastor at Fourth Baptist Church in Minneapolis, when I was in seminary there, Dr. R.V. Clearwaters, said to his congregation many times, “Nothing over, nothing lacking.”  Pastors in independent Baptist Churches have never been known to be “well-heeled,” but I have never asked a pulpit committee what kind of salary or benefits I might expect when assuming the position of pastor; and, through the years (not boasting on anyone but God who promised me as a lad that He would supply all my needs according to His riches in glory) I have turned down many offers at budget review time for a raise in salary. He never fails and the present economic landscape looms with threatening clouds but His promises still stand.  So, what have we to boast of for all of these blessings? I am still “Only a sinner, saved by grace!”

Theodore Roosevelt delivered a speech to Trinity College in Hartford, CT in 1918, and what he said about boasting in general, not about our salvation or God’s goodness, might deserve our consideration: “I wish it were possible to censor all boasting, and devote ourselves to achievement; not to improper exaggeration of what we have done, and above all, not to grandiloquent statements of what we are going to do. Remember that every great speech that has come down through history has obtained and kept its place only because it represented either achievement in the past, or a resolute purpose for achievement in the future.”  Yes, and we who are His can say, past, present or future achievements are to His glory and our mantra ever remains, “I’m only a sinner, saved by grace.”

Paul wanted every person to know that even the powerful preaching of the cross that demonstrably transformed lives was not anything he dared boast about: “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Gal.6:14) He also said to the Corinthian Christians: “But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness…Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men…But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise…and the base things of the world, and the things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and the things that are naught, to bring to pass the things are: that no flesh should glory in his presence.” (I Cor. 1:23-29) We marvel then at the wonders of His grace and glory and humbly confess once again, “I’m only a sinner saved by grace!”

One John Bangs wrote: “I love to watch the Rooster crow; he’s like so many men I know who brag and bluster, rant and shout and beat their manly breasts about the first blame thing to crow about.” But when it comes to our position and privileges before almighty God, we have nothing to “crow about.” It is all of grace and for His glory.

On Monday, Sept. 26, 2022, Queen Elizabeth was lowered to her final resting place in Windsor Castle’s King George VI Memorial Chapel in the Royal Vault, having reigned over England’s empire for 70 years.  She was universally acclaimed as a good person, a good Queen; and some believe that she was a woman of faith and had a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Only God knows where she is spending eternity, but an interesting story was told the days leading up to her burial. Someone close to the Queen overheard her saying to another person, “I hope the Lord comes back in my lifetime,” upon which the other conversant asked, “And why is that, your majesty?” She replied, “So I can cast my crown at His feet.” That story, if true, resonates in the hearts of all Christians, worldwide.  We look forward to that day when we by His grace will join the multitude before His throne and where we will join the “four and twenty elders (and) fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that lived for ever and ever, and cast (our) crowns before the throne….” (Rev.4:10) And, we shall do so knowing full well that we are “Only a sinner, saved by grace!”

Naught have I gotten but what I’ve received; grace hath bestowed it since I have believed; Boasting excluded, pride I abase, I’m only a sinner saved by grace!” (James Gray, 1851-1935)

The Lost Axe Head

Elisha the prophet had just exercised serious discipline upon his servant Gehazi for lying to Naaman, the Syrian captain, and to Elisha. The punishment: lifelong leprosy for Gehazi and the plague of leprosy upon Gehazi’s posterity forever! One would assume such harshness would keep enrollment in the school of the prophets down. But not so. Enrollment soared so much that the school outgrew its dormitory and classroom space and needed a building program. (2 Kings 6:1) Lesson to be noted: Lowering standards of deportment in a school, church, or organization that has the Word of God as its rule for faith and practice will not diminish enrollment. To the contrary, it may have the opposite effect! (cmp. 2 Kings 5:27-6:2)

So, school leaders petitioned Elisha for permission to build. They sought not only his permission but, wisely, his presence. Elisha was on board, and the plan was that each of the sons of the prophets would take on the task of “felling a beam” of a tree near the Jordan river, from which the expansion would be built. Interestingly, they did not engage a feasibility study for the project; nor did they “float” a bond program to finance it, nor even a Kosher bake sale! They just rolled up their sleeves and individually went to work. And, all went well until…

Until one of the aspiring prophets lost his axe head! It was a borrowed axe, and the last the young lumber jack saw of it was when the axe head disappeared into the Jordan river. That was an immediate crisis, and the instinctive response of the borrower was to cry out for his master’s help. Explaining the dilemma, the young man told Elisha what had happened, underscoring the fact that the axe was borrowed. The prophet asked him where the axe head had fallen into the water, the exact place. Elisha then instructed him to “cut down a stick” and cast the stick into the water at that very place. It was done as per instructions—and, lo, the axe head “did swim.” The young prophet to be took it up, and the problem was solved.

We can learn from these seven verses, 2 Kings 6:1-7, some lessons that might just help us through some of our life crises today:

(1) The axe head was lost while the son of the prophets was working. Never do anything and your tools will never get dirty, dull, or damaged. You will not get anything done—but you will always have nice, clean tools to work with, when and if you ever decide to go to work. God has given us tools with which to work, tools for ministry. They are called “gifts” in Eph. 4 and I Peter 4:10. There are varying gifts to be used for edification (building) of the body of Christ, the church. Sadly, too many believers have put their tools on a shelf and are not using them to build His body.

(2) The young man lost his axe head at a critical time—just when he was felling a beam. You will no doubt do the same if you are in the heat of a battle working to advance His kingdom. Just at the worst time, just when it is most important that your work not be interrupted, you will find yourself in a crisis moment. The Devil knows your most vulnerable point, and the most opportune time to strike. Beware of his strategy.

(3) The young man was wise in crying out to his master. We would do well to do the same. Jesus is Lord of the church, and He is our Lord. At that critical moment, that crisis moment, when we have lost our axe head, as it were, in the course of our labors for Him, we must not forget to cry out to Him, “Master!”

(4) The axe was borrowed. Whatever we have with which to serve our Lord and His church is either a “gift” or borrowed. There is, in our flesh, no good thing. (Rom.7:18) The body we possess, the next breath we draw—both are borrowed. The prophet in training knew it would do no good to keep on hacking away at the beam with an axe handle—no matter how good the handle was. The size of the tree was not an issue, either. He needed an axe head, and without help from his master, it was a lost cause.

(5) The prophet Elisha wanted to know the exact place where the axe head was lost. That axe head was his power—power now lost. We have been given power. (Acts 1:8) Our power will never be lost, for He indwells us. But we may lose access to the use of His power for service. We may lose power with Him in our prayer closet, our quiet time, our devotional worship of Him. It will do no good to keep busy with activity; the spiritual beams in our life cannot be felled with the prettiest handles, nicest looking “tools,” most fervent activity. We must have the source of our power, His Holy Spirit, at liberty to fell the spiritual beams in our ministries.

(6) To retrieve the power, a stick had to be cut down. We may have to be cut down also. Our Lord Jesus was prophesied in Isaiah 11:1 as a branch out of the stem of Jesse. As the branch, He was cut down. He humbled Himself, He learned obedience through suffering; He was crucified, having been humiliated. The stick was cut down before the power was recovered. Cutting is painful, but for service it can be very productive. (John 15)

(7) And, our Master can miraculously make the lost axehead (our power) “swim” again right before our eyes. All the young man had to do was reach out and take hold! The power was back, the work resumed. Paul, the Apostle, knew what it was to have been cut down. He writes to the carnal Corinthian church, “Most gladly, therefore, will I glory in my infirmities—that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9)

Have you grown weary in well doing? Are your tools on the shelf clean he but not being put to good use for His glory? In the heat of the battle, did Satan get to you, so that you lost your power? Go back to the place you lost it. Confess your sin; cry out to your Master for help. Let yourself be cut down, so that in humility you can once again see His power at work in your life.

“And what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” (Eph.1:19)

Your Power Source

An American, viewing Niagara Falls with an Englishman friend, said, “Come and I will show you the greatest unused power in the world.” They proceeded to the foot of the falls, and the host remarked, “There is the greatest unused power in the world.” His Englishman friend replied, “Oh, no, my friend, the greatest unused power in the world is the Holy Spirit of the living God.”

Jesus promised His followers, before He ascended to heaven following His resurrection, that “Ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you.” (Acts 1:8) That promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2, and from that day forward to the present hour, every person who receives Christ as Savior is indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God. (John 14:17)

A lady once said to a preacher, “I got the Holy Spirit last night.” (Unless she had just been saved, that was the wrong terminology.) The preacher said, “I know something better than that.” She asked, “What could be better than that?” To which the man of God responded, “It would be far better if the Holy Spirit could get all of you.”

Again, the 19th century evangelist D.L. Moody was the subject of a committee of ministers searching for the right man to conduct a city-wide evangelistic campaign. One young minister wanted to know why the committee would consider Mr. Moody, asking, “Does he have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit?” There was silence before an older, godly preacher replied, “No, he does not have a monopoly on the Holy Spirit, but the Holy Spirit has a monopoly on D.L. Moody.”

One well-respected Bible teacher said it well in a message he preached 60 years ago on Romans 5:1-11: “Wherever the Christian church is weak (and it is weak in many places), and wherever Christians are weak individually, it is always because they have never graduated into the high school of the Holy Spirit—they are still babes in Christ, no matter how long they have been Christians.” (Ray Steadman)

The Bible teaches that God the Holy Spirit indwells each believer; He also instructs, convicts, guides, and intercedes in prayer for us before the Father’s throne of mercy. (John 14:17,26; 15:26; 16:8; Romans 8:16) The Holy Spirit is God the Spirit, often referred to as the “third member of the Trinity.” He possesses a will (I Cor. 12:11), omniscient knowledge (I Cor. 2:10,11) and all the attributes of personality. (Rom. 8:27; 15:30; I Cor. 2:13) He is known in scripture as the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of the Lord God, the Spirit of your Father, the Spirit of Christ, the Spirit of God’s Son, the Spirit of holiness, the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of worship and truth, the Spirit of life, faith, adoption and love, and the Spirit of eternity, grace and glory. He can be lied to, resisted, grieved and blasphemed. He is God and is omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent. He is likened in scripture to breath or wind; a dove; fire, light and living water; the earnest of our inheritance and the seal of our redemption.

Any believer who earnestly strives to serve and please God must know, hear, follow, and trust the indwelling guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. Someone asked how he could know the Holy Spirit was living in him. The answer: the same way you know there is music on a DVD. You can read the label and believe it is truthful, or you can play the DVD and hear the music.  We can believe the Holy Spirit indwells us because God tells us in the Bible He does; and we can experience His indwelling presence as we obey God’s Word in surrender and observe His mighty working in our lives—moment by moment, day by day—as we are filled by God’s Spirit for service.

British pastor and author John Stott was the subject of a friend’s tribute on Stott’s 80th birthday. The tribute read: “Stott has begun each day with a prayer like this: ‘Good morning, heavenly Father. Good morning, Lord Jesus. Good morning, Holy Spirit.’ Stott then goes on to worship each member of the Trinity individually, acknowledging and praising them for their work in the lives of believers. He then continues, ‘Father, I pray that I may live this day in Your presence and please You more and more. Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow You. Holy Spirit, I pray that this day You will fill me with Yourself and cause Your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, three Persons in one God, have mercy upon me. Amen.’” (copied)

I like what Maurice Wood commented about the working of God’s Holy Spirit in our day-by-day Christian living: “The Holy Spirit loves to so arrange men’s circumstances that they are brought within the sphere of God’s influence.” Well, we know that there is not a place on earth that we are not within the “sphere of God’s influence,” but I think we know what Wood meant. We read in the Bible how God arranges the circumstances in and through the lives of His people—either the nation of Israel or the Church that He is continually building. And we can attest that He is still leading, guiding, guarding and arranging our work and walk to bring us to our realization that there is nothing we can do apart from His Holy Spirit’s empowerment that will please and glorify God and yield eternal dividends.

A mouse and an elephant were constant traveling companions. One day, after they had crossed a bridge that spanned a deep ravine, the mouse exclaimed, “Boy, we really shook that old bridge.” Thus it is with God and us.  We really “shook” that old bridge. But if there is any shaking done, it is the Holy Spirit of God that does it.

The British missionary Hudson Taylor wrote, “Many Christians estimate difficulties in the light of their own resources, and thus attempt little and often fail.  All giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on His power and presence with them.”

Let us never attempt anything for God’s glory and for His Kingdom’s advancement without obeying the injunction to “be filled with the Spirit.” (Eph. 5:18) Every Christian is already indwelt; filling comes through surrender to God’s Spirit, moment by moment. He is our sole source of spiritual power. Without that power, we are powerless. Never forget it. Never forget Him.

But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:55–on the occasion of Stephen’s martyrdom.)

God’s Formula for Success

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep; but I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

So, Robert Frost is a poet pausing beside the woods pondering the deep wonders of the forest’s beauty, and thinking of the promises which he had made which forbade him to stay any longer in that enchanting spot.

Promises. Many make them in haste and keep them, if at all, in misery. One philosopher said, “We must have a good memory to keep all the promises we make.”

God does have a perfect memory and He has never made a promise He has not kept (or will not if the fulfillment comes in the future). He promised Abraham that Israel would be liberated from their bondage in Egypt after 400 years, and they were!

He promised the nation again that they would be taken captive for 70 years, and they were!

He promised, through His prophets, that a virgin would conceive and give birth to His Son, the Savior of the world, and in the fulness of time, and in the very town predicted, she did! And Christ, the Messiah, was born.

God does keep every promise He makes! In the third chapter of Proverbs, He makes some special promises that include length of life, peace, favor and good understanding in the sight of God and man.

In verse six He promises success. Success which is not measured by the standards of secularism; not by popularity, not by the size of bank accounts, or the height on the world’s ladder of success to which one has risen, not by the number of degrees one has been awarded or the wardrobe he possesses, or the size and location of his house, or the make or model of his car or the authority he exercises over others.  God uses none of these measurements in assessing success or failure in a person, but He does have his divine measurements, including:

(1) Whether we are trusting in the Lord. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart,” He admonishes. Hear what the Word of God says: “…have no confidence in the flesh.” (Phil.3:3); “It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man; it is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes.” (Ps.118:8) Even trust in friends may prove disappointing: “Yea, mine own familiar friend, which did eat of my bread (think Judas Iscariot) hath lifted up his heel against me.” (Ps.4:19) Surely, do not trust in beauty: “But thou didst trust in thine own beauty and played the harlot because of thy renown.” (Ezek.16:15) Lying words are not to be trusted: “Trust ye not in lying words….” (Jer.7:4) Nor is “your own” way to be trusted: “Ye have plowed wickedness…because thou didst trust in thy way, in the multitude of thy mighty men, therefore shall a tumult arise among thy people and all thy fortresses shall be spoiled.” (Hos.10:13,14)
But, do trust in the Lord:
“Blessed is the man that maketh the Lord his trust.” (Ps.40:4); “Trust in the Lord…and verily thou shalt be fed.” (Ps.37:3) “Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass.” (Ps.37:5); “What time I am afraid, I will trust… in God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.” (Ps.56:3,4) “Trust in Him at all times ye people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Ps.62:8) “Therefore we labor and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God who is the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe.” (I Tim.4:10) see also: Ps.84:12; 91:2; 125:1; 34:8; 31:1; 18:23; 25:20; 16:1; 7:1)

(2) Whether we are trusting Him with our whole heart. Unreserved, unfaltering, unquestioning trust, based upon faith, not feeling.

(3) Whether we are leaning on the Lord or on our own understanding. “Be not wise in thine own eyes….” (v.5) “For my thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord; for as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” (Isa.55:8,9)

(4) Whether we are acknowledging Him in all our ways. Acknowledging Him in our marriage, our home, our job, our business dealings and our relationships with people of all walks of life. The question is not “What do I want?” The question is “What does God want? What is His will?”

(5) And whether He is directing our paths. He may lead you o’er a route not known; He may take you to some places you would not have chosen to go. He may not show you what is ahead next, but He will lead you, and when He leads you, your way will prove prosperous and you will enjoy good success finding favor in the sight of God and man. (Provs.3:4-6)

“No chart or compass have the birds that migrate every year; they know they will be shown the way; they feel no doubt or fear. Can we not be as filled with faith? Our minds as free from doubt? Can we not trust in God above, to point our pathway out?” (unknown)

A lad in the Alps had fallen off a cliff while trying to reach a rare flower deep in a ravine. What to do? Another boy, small enough to be let down on a rope, volunteered to attempt to go to his friend’s rescue with these words: “I’ll go over if you let this man hold the rope.’’ The man was his dad.  We, brethren can “go where you want me to go, dear Lord and do what You want me to do,” because our Abba (Father) is holding the rope! Trust Him! With all of your heart!

Preserve me, O God: for in Thee do I put my trust.” (Ps.16:1)

A Good Man

Who wouldn’t like God to say of him that “he was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith”? That is what He said to the whole world of a man who is usually overlooked when a list of the great saints of the ages is reeled off. (Acts 11:24)

Barnabas is the man of whom I speak. Though he was always in a supporting rather than starring role, he was a key figure in the New Testament Church in its infancy.

The world has its role models today, and young people look to them for leadership. They set styles, dictate tastes, and foster fads. Millions mimic their words and ways.

It is an excellent thing when the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ—when any local New Testament assembly that exists as a church, with a mission to perpetuate God’s truth through the publication and proclamation of His Word, and through the planting of like assemblies of the faithful worldwide—has men and women who are role models, especially for our youth. People they can look to and see how, in a practical way, a Christian lives; what he likes; how he looks and what he listens to; in sum, how he lives the life of a believer in a world not friendly to people of faith.

I hope that some who are reading these lines will determine, with God’s help and by His grace, to be that person. Not that you want to be someone or something in and of yourself, but for God’s glory, and for the help of someone else who might look to you for leadership.

Our youth have seen too much of the world’s darlings; they need to see someone who is Christ-like. Sadly, all too often, when young people come to church, they see men and women just like the models of the world. They too often see carnality, covetousness, adultery, and pride.

Because God spoke so highly of this one called Barnabas, we would do well to consider what it was about him that God blessed. If we can’t set him up as a 21st-century role model, we can at least—and should at least try to—duplicate in our lives those character traits that made him the good person that God said he was.

First, Barnabas was dedicated and surrendered to God. (Act 4:34-37) He was engaged seriously in doing the work of God. God says of Barnabas that he was a man full of compassion, generous, and honest. When an offering was taken up in Antioch for the saints in Jerusalem who were suffering the effects of famine, it was sent by the hands of Saul (Paul) and Barnabas.  He was a trusted and trustworthy co-laborer of the Apostle Paul. (Acts 11:30)

Though he was not one of the deacons of that first church (Jerusalem assembly), he possessed the qualifications of one.  He was said to be a man “full of the Holy Ghost.” That means he was saved (born again), surrendered to the Lord, and filled with the Holy Spirit. (Eph. 5:18) A person such as Barnabas who is filled with the Holy Spirit evidences that filling through the fruit of the Spirit, which is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance.” (Gal. 5: 22,23) These have been—and are—the “norm” of Christian living. Barnabas was such a Sprit-filled believer.  His life of surrendered service still speaks to us in 2022.

Also, Barnabas, companion of the Apostle Paul on his first missionary trip, was known for his loyalty. He was loyal to the young John Mark, who had made a bad decision when he returned home during that historic first missionary journey (embarked upon by Paul, Barnabas and John Mark).  Barnabas was ready and willing to give John Mark a second chance when plans were made for the second missionary trip. Not so with the Apostle Paul; for him it was “one and done.” Again, we note Barnabas’ loyalty to Peter, who had “dissimulated” with some Jewish converts to Christianity who wanted Gentiles to submit to circumcision. Barnabas, “son of consolation,” was willing to give these Judaizers the benefit of the doubt, so much so that he sided with this departure from the truth until Paul came to set things straight.  He was loyal, perhaps to a fault, to his friend Peter. (Gal.2:11-14)

And in Acts 15:26, at the church council in Jerusalem, convened to address the matters concerning circumcision, faith, grace, and law, Barnabas is identified by “chosen men of Antioch” as a man who, with Paul, had “hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He was with Paul at Iconium when the rulers of the city planned to stone them.  He was with Paul when chief men of the city persecuted them and threw them out of town, and again at Lystra, when Paul was stoned and left for dead.  No one who reads the book of Acts doubts that this “second man” with Paul was, like his missionary mentor, the Apostle, a man of great courage.

Paul was the great Apostle. The last half of the book of Acts and one-half of the New Testament was either about him or written by him. Barnabas had a supporting role—but Paul could not have done what he did without the aid of his loyal and trusted companion.

May God give His church today a host of men and women like Barnabas, “son of consolation.” Not only in spirit but in might. Men who will be totally dedicated and surrendered to the work and will of God. “Laymen” and “Second Men” who will hold up the arms of the leader. Men who are Spirit-filled, loyal first to our Lord, the Christ, and then to His appointed leader.

Men who will hazard their very lives, if need be, for the Lord Jesus.

“For better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows no victory or defeat.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, and of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold it, and brought the money, and laid it at the apostles’ feet.” (Acts 4:36,37)

First Things First

There are so many interesting things in Scripture, not all of which are “heavy duty” doctrinal matters but just the ordinary events of everyday life that sometimes perplex, sometimes amuse, but always warrant some level of meditation and musing.  I want to share with you what I have been thinking about lately under the heading of “First Things First.”

We read fewer than 100 words in our English Bible before the word “first” occurs: “And the evening and the morning were the first day.” That is important, of course, because of the “evening and morning” formula of the Jewish reckoning of a 24-hour day, which is critical in our conviction that God created the world and all that is in it in six 24-hour days (not in billions and billions of years, as evolutionists and “Day-Age” creationists would have us believe).

Moving on through the Old Testament, it is noted that when God ordained certain feasts for the nation of Israel to commemorate annually, one of them was the feast of “first fruits.” (Lev.23:9-14) One of seven religious festivals observed every year, the feast of first fruits affirmed that there would be a full harvest to come, and it found its fulfillment in the resurrection of Christ (I Cor.15:23), assuring the Church that Christ our Lord was indeed the first fruits of the resurrection and that there would be more to come—namely, the Church, comprised of “they that are His at His coming.”

Fast forward to the New Testament and we will focus on some “everyday, as-life-unfolded events.” When Jesus made His initial appearance to the disciples, John records that when two disciples of John the Baptist heard Jesus say “come and seek,” one of them, Andrew, “first findeth his own brother Simon.” Andrew was excited about having met the one that John had just announced was “the Lamb of God,” and he could not wait to find his own brother, first, to tell him that the Rabbi, Master, had come! Isn’t that the way it is?  When you have some earth-shaking news—some exuberant, off-the-charts news—you cannot wait to first tell those you love the most and are closest to. Time has not changed that.

In fact, the Gospel of Mark is one of the four gospel accounts that makes sure we know that “when Jesus was risen the first day of the week (another “first”), He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven devils.” (Mark 16:9) Later that day, he would appear to the disciples who were “hunkered down” and laying low, as it were. But He wanted to appear first to the woman who had seen Him hours before—beaten, battered, bloodied and bruised for our iniquities as He hung upon the cross, showing Mary of Magdala His resurrected body. He knew that this woman whose body had once been inhabited by seven demons would rejoice that day, probably as none other. Just an interesting tidbit that Mark thinks we’d be delighted in musing over!

Paul, the apostle to Gentiles, stressed that he was not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, for it was the “power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.” (Romans 1:16) He would later remind the Corinthian believers that “I delivered unto you first of all that which also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” (I Cor. 15:3) Just another word, this word “first”? I think not. It is a word often used to show order or priority, and it is interesting to see how, when, and on what occasions it “pops up.”

And of a greater significance than in most other instances, let us not forget that Christ is “the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last.” (Rev. 22:13) He is the “firstborn from the dead” (Col. 1:18); the “first begotten into the world” (Hebs.1:6); the “first begotten of the dead” (Rev. 1:5); the “firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29); and the “firstborn of every creature.” (Col. 1:15) Need more be said about the preeminence of the Lord Jesus Christ?

There are other “firsts,” of course.  The fourth commandment, to honor our parents, is the “first commandment with promise.” (Eph. 6:4; Ex. 20:12) We worship God corporately, as a church body, “the first day of the week.” (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 16: 1,2) Women are to first learn piety at home (Titus 5:4), and judgment must begin first at the House of God. (I Pet. 4:17) And don’t forget that “the dead in Christ shall rise first.” (I Th.4:16)

But, at the top of our list of firsts must come these: (1) The one commandment that God considers utmost is, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matt. 23:38) Then, in His sermon on the mount, Jesus exhorted the great multitude gathered to hear Him preach, that they should “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” (Matt. 6:33)

So, every “first” is important, but some are more important than others. The “great commandment” and the “seek ye first” exhortation in Christ’s message to the multitude are in a class of their own. How is it with you, my friend? Are you putting Him first in your life? He is not worthy of any place but first.

Obert Logan, a former safety for the Dallas Cowboys, was once quoted as saying, “The thing I remember most about my rookie season was he (Dallas Cowboys Coach Tom Landry) asked us players on the first day of training camp what our priorities were. He said, ‘I don’t know what your priorities are, but mine are God, family and the Dallas Cowboys.’ That made quite an impression on me, because I thought football was going to be his top priority.”

What is first for you?

And He is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.” (Col.1:18)

Same Sex and Homosexuality, part 2

With about 1 million same-sex couples—some legally “married,” some living as partners—in our nation today, it is important for believers to know how to respond and relate to this trend. It will become more prevalent, and polls suggest that new generations coming on will only become more accepting of it. It is a late-20th and 21st-century phenomenon (the widespread practice and acceptability of it—with mayors of large cities leading “Gay Pride” parades).  It will possibly, if not probably, touch every one of us up close and personally through a family member or close friend, neighbor, church-family member, or acquaintance. Thus, I introduced some thoughts on this subject in the previous “You and God” post. In today’s installment, I want to continue with some “Do’s and Don’ts” when confronted with this situation. 

I write not as a professional counselor but as a pastor whose only counsel is the Word of God and His wisdom, which is from above; and I draw upon a half-century of pastoral experience, for what that is worth.  I write with a broken and burdened heart for our peoples, but with a heart full of love and compassion for all who are victims to Satan’s deception, and for the extended circle of family and friends whose lives are turned upside down by those startling words, “I am gay.” When you hear that from a person you care deeply about, I would like to offer some “Do’s” and some “Don’ts.” I will begin with the “Don’ts”:

  1. Hearing that may be like suddenly learning of an unexpected death in the family.  Satan’s victim may have struggled with it for years before “coming out,” while you may have been clueless. So, try to allow yourself some time to process this news, and even grieve over it, before you react to it. It may well be like the death of one dear, so give yourself some time alone and with God. The don’t here is: “Don’t immediately launch into a hyper reaction to what you just learned.”
  2. Don’t reject or disown your loved one or friend who has decided to be honest with you. Read the account of the prodigal son in Luke 15, and study the devastated father’s reaction to the preposterous request of the younger son for his part of Dad’s inheritance early. Ask for God’s grace to respond, when you do respond, with the same steadiness, maturity, faith, hope and love that the father of the prodigal demonstrated, praying for the same outcome.
  3. Don’t assess blame. Do not blame God for not keeping His promise that if you train up a child in the way that he should go, when he is old, he will not depart from it. (Provs. 22:6) That, like many of Solomon’s proverbs, is a general rule of life, to which there may be and are often exceptions. Compare Cain and Abel, Isaac and Esau, Joseph and his often-wicked brothers—and many more, all of whom had the same upbringing. Do not blame yourself. Blame sin and Satan, and the “old nature.” You cannot and should not blame anyone else.
  4. Don’t bombard him (allow me to use “him” in the remainder of this post, for brevity, realizing that it is often a “her”) with a bunch of scripture verses, or knock him over the head by calling him the worst names you can drudge up. He probably already knows the verses and suffers from the guilt accompanied by sin.
  5. Don’t cut him off from any further visits with the family, contacts, or communication.
  6. Don’t dismiss this as a “passing phase” that he will one day move on from, or out of.
  7. Don’t beat him down as an abject failure in life.
  8. Don’t fail to recognize the crux of the problem as being spiritual and originating in the heart, like all sin that has resulted from the fall of man into sin.
  9. Don’t try to figure out the why of this. Some will say he was born that way, some will ascribe it to environmental factors, etc. The truth is: No provable reason can be offered except that Satan is a master deceiver and appeals to our fallen sin nature with the lie that this is desirable, pleasurable, and something one should not be reticent to do if the urge is there. Some will believe that lie and participate in this sinful practice, much as some are gluttons, alcoholics, pornographers, liars, thieves, covetous, and more.
  10. Don’t fail to assure him of your unconditional love, even though you hate the sin, allowing and praying for God’s love to flow through you to him unimpeded.

Now, for some “Do’s”:

  1. As stated above, but now positively: Always affirm your love to the one who has shattered your dreams with the words “I am gay.” God can do this through you, as God does and will always love your loved one. Remember, you too are a “broken” piece of humanity, just the same as all sinners, needing God’s love and grace.
  2. Pray, pray, pray—and never cease praying—for him, not despairing even though the answer may not come soon.
  3. Keep the lines of communication open on your side.
  4. Acknowledge that this is sin; he knows it, and to call it anything else would be scripturally untrue (cf. the previous post on this subject).
  5. Be ready, anxious, and willing to restore him upon repentance. Again, the prodigal son’s father in Luke 15 is a sterling example.
  6. Affirm the self-worth of the person. Yes, he is broken and has transgressed God’s law, but if he has achieved success in other worthwhile endeavors, acknowledge that with praise.
  7. Let him know that he is welcome to come home at any time.
  8. Trust God’s Holy Spirit to work in his heart and know that the key to your loved one’s redemption will be, not your logic, but your love and God’s irresistible grace applied to one’s heart by the Holy Spirit.
  9. Consider—if you still have children at home—not allowing your kids to do a “sleep-over” in the home of a friend. Too, too many children have been exposed to drugs and/or molestation in the home of someone that had been a trusted friend of the family. Just a word to the wise. I have heard the anguish in the voices of parents and grandparents whose kids’ lives have ended in apparent ruin (some in suicides) because of “sleep-overs.”
  10. Cling to and cultivate an attitude of HOPE! No circumstance is beyond the reach of our great God, so cast this burden upon Him and continue to hope that what you never could do, God can—and will—do according to His good pleasure.

Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 15:13)

Note: I highly recommend the book “A Changed Affection” by Becket Cook, who was deceived into the practice and pursuit of same-sex relationships from a fairly early childhood experience (exposed in a sleep-over). He was powerfully converted to Christ and transformed by God’s grace, with a mission now to share his testimony with others. The book will impact you and encourage you immeasurably.

Same Sex and Homosexuality

In its 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision, the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. Surveys estimate that, by 2019, there were 543,000 same-sex “married couple” households—in addition to 469,000 households with same-sex unmarried partners living together—in the U.S.  That means there were nearly 1 million households composed of same-sex couples.

A recent poll by Gallup found that support for same-sex marriage had reached an all-time high of 70% of the general population. And a demographer at the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, Gary Gates, reported that there are 9 million Americans—or roughly 3.5% of the population—who fit the description of “gay, bisexual, or transgender.”

Probably every person reading this post can think of someone—a relative, friend, neighbor, church member or acquaintance—whose life has been impacted by the “coming out” of a person they know and/or love. Such was rare 50 years ago; not so in today’s world.

I believe it is important for all of us to take a serious look at how we respond to these (usually) shocking revelations. (Maybe not so shocking in this culture, but still usually troubling and surprising.) What ought our Christ-like response be? How do we navigate ongoing friendships and relationships with loved ones and friends whose lifestyle is, frankly, totally foreign, incomprehensible, and abhorrent to our way of thinking? 

Have you grappled with these issues?  I will not be able to allay your concerns or even answer your questions, but I think it behooves each of us to search the mind and heart of God for Holy Spirit directed thinking, resulting in Biblical relations, as we cope with this modern phenomenon; i.e., 70% of our population supporting legalized marriage among same-sex couples, and an ever-rising number of such marriages occurring annually. Support for the practice is likely to continue increasing as Gen-Zers (people born between 1997 and 2012) and the Alpha Generation (people born between 2013 and 2025) move through adolescence and adulthood.

First, God labels as “vile affections” when “women did change the natural use into that which is against nature and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men, working that which is unseemly.” Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, states the reason for men and women doing such things is “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge,” resulting in God giving them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient.” (Romans 1:26-28) The sin of homosexuality is often called “fornication.” Paul cites it—along with many other sins, such as unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, debate, deceit, and others—and says, “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.” (Romans 1:29-32)

So, homosexuality and same-sex “marriage” are sins, according to Romans. But in the same passage, 21 other sins—the practice of which is “worthy of death”—are listed. We tend to elevate homosexuality in gravity or abhorrence above many of those 21 other sins listed right next to fornication. It is a sin—to be sure—but not necessarily in a class of its own.

The Apostle Paul said that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, “of whom I am chief.” (I Tim. 1:15) Jesus said of His own ministry that the Son of Man came to seek and save that which was lost. (Luke 19:10) Christ our Lord was often criticized for associating with sinners—such as when Simon, a Pharisee, was critical of Jesus for letting a woman known for her sin wash His feet with her hands and hair. Jesus reminded His critic that persons who are forgiven much, love much. (Luke 7:36-48) On another occasion, Jesus led His disciples out of their way to go through Samaria to meet, dialogue with, and lead to a saving knowledge of truth a woman who had been, and was even then, living in adultery. Shocking again, no doubt, to His disciples and to the woman and to the people of her town, many of whom also put their trust in this seeking Savior.

I cite these biblical examples as a reminder that there are all sorts of sinners needing to hear the good news of salvation. Homosexuals are not excluded!  We need to love them as souls like our Lord loved them; we need to have compassion on them, as He did—and go out of our way, if needs be, to share the saving truth with them. We need to remember what Jude said when he exhorted: “And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.” (Jude 22,23)

That said, how do we do this? How do we react and relate to the loved one who, out of nowhere, one day announces that he/she has same-sex attractions? What do we say or do when a person that we dearly love, and who is part of our closest circle of family or friends, announces “I am gay”?  Perhaps many who are reading this post can say, “I have already crossed that bridge.” If so, and you have insights to share, please feel free to share them with me by responding under the section at the close of this installment, where it says “Comment.” Or simply hit the reply button to email. In a future blog, I may be able to pass along some of the discussion that would be helpful as we navigate what (for many of us) are uncharted waters.

I will continue this post, Lord willing, in the next installment of “You and God.” I hope to address questions such as: “Can a Christian have same-sex attraction?” “If so, am I supposed to live my life alone, unhappy and unfulfilled?” “Why would God create me with these desires and attractions?” I pray for wisdom, as I am sure you who love Christ, His Word, and souls do. May we trust our teacher of truth—the indwelling Holy Spirit—and nothing more or less than the Word of truth—the Bible—as we prayerfully seek to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.2:5)

Please stay tuned.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Best Practices

The term “best practices” is sometimes used in the world of business to identify activities, methods, and processes that are proven to be the most successful, yielding fewer complications and failures and producing the best outcomes.

For the Christian, Jesus set forth a clear set of best practices in Matthew 22:37-39: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Tom Landry, the Dallas Cowboy’s first and only coach for 29 years—during which he led that famed team to 20 consecutive winning seasons, including 13 division titles, five NFC championships, and two Super Bowls—was once asked why he had been so successful. He replied, “In 1958, I did something everyone who has been successful must do. I determined my priorities for life: God, family, football.”

Many have done that, but the cares of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the allure of materialism have sidetracked their pursuit. Lewis Sperry Chafer, referring to a friend who was devoting most of his time and energy in pursuit of an insignificant practice, said, “He reminds me of a bulldog chasing a train: what’s he going to do with it if he catches it?”

Another practice that Jesus put at the top of the list for His followers is found in His Sermon on the Mount, when He said, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33) The things Jesus referred to were what we eat, what we wear, and the basic necessities of life. He has promised to supply all of our needs, Paul reminds us in Phil. 4:19, “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  So, our priorities should be to seek God first, and to pursue the advancement of His kingdom and His righteousness as we trust Him to take care of our necessities of life.

In one of his sermons, Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., founder of Bob Jones University, told of growing up in southeast Alabama, where hunters loved to go possum hunting with good possum dogs. He said, “Many of the best possum dogs in the country were plain, ordinary cur dogs. We did not judge them by their ancestors. Most of the dogs had no certificates of birth, and they had no family trees.  One of the best possum dogs I ever saw was an old, mangy cur dog that nobody would have wanted for any other purpose except to hunt possums. There was a type of dog that nobody wanted. It was a rabbit-chasing dog.  Sometimes, that kind of dog would go down a possum trail until he reached where a rabbit trail had crossed the possum trail; then he would leave the possum trail and follow the rabbit trail. Everybody in our section of the country had contempt for such a dog.  We all liked good rabbit dogs. We liked to chase rabbits, and we did this often; but when we had a dog on a possum trail, we expected him to stay on the trail until he got the possum up a tree. About the worst thing anybody could say about a dog in our country when I was a boy was to call him a rabbit chaser. Some of you are on the possum trail of divine purpose. It is up to you to decide whether you are going to stay on the possum trail or whether you are going to be a rabbit chaser as long as you live.”

The Psalmist was laser-focused on staying on course for God: “I have set the Lord always before me.” (Ps. 16:8). “My voice shalt Thou hear in the morning, O Lord; in the morning will I direct my prayer unto Thee and will look up.” (Ps.5:3)

Such was the sterling priority practice of the teenage Jewish exile, Daniel, in Babylon. In adulthood, he would stand at the right hand of five kings, of five different kingdoms, as a counselor/administrator.  His consistent practice of pursuing God was demonstrated in his pattern of praying with an open window toward the city of God, Jerusalem, three times a day—even on the threat of death. (Daniel 6:10)  His practice of godliness, of faith, of prayer, and of obedience had stayed him in good stead. It would, in the den of lions’ experience, prove successful again. “Oh, that men would praise the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men!” (Ps. 107:8)

I counted dollars while God counted crosses. I counted gains, while He counted losses. I counted my worth by the things gained in store, but He sized me up by the scars that I bore. I coveted honors and sought for degrees. He wept as He counted the hours on my knees. And I never knew ‘til one day at a grave how vain are the things that we spend life to save.” (The Heavenly Herald)

Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which I also am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil.3:12-14)

A Decision for and a Protest Against, part 2

I grew up in the 1950s listening to the founder of Radio Bible Class, M.R. DeHahn, on our local AM radio station in Ottumwa, Iowa. DeHahn would teach the Word of God on Sunday morning broadcasts as we ate a bite of breakfast and scurried around, getting ready for church. The late medical doctor/Bible teacher had a gravelly voice and an exceptional ability to expound God’s Word in a way that any sincere heart could hear and believe.  His son once wrote of Dr. DeHahn, “Oh, he wasn’t a perfect man. He had his faults. He was human. Some people even thought of him as stubborn. But he was a man of the Book, the Word of God. And he was a man of courage. My father went home to be with the Lord on December 13, 1965. Yet I can recall his words to me on one occasion as if he said them only yesterday. Accenting his statement by pounding his fist on his desk, he said, ‘Richard, I don’t care if the whole world differs with me. I must do what’s right. I must act according to my convictions.’”

Convictions. That’s what we are speaking to in this second installment of “A Decision for and a Protest Against.”  In the previous post, I enumerated five convictions that all believers could be reasonably expected to adhere to.  Here are a few more fundamental tenets of the faithful:

(6)  It is important to conduct my life so as not to be a stumbling block to another believer, or a reproach to Christ in the eyes of the lost. “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” (I Cor.8:13) Paul, in Titus 2:5, says that we ought to so live “that the Word of God be not blasphemed.” Again, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful for me, but all things edify not.” (I Cor.10:23)

(7) Concerning marriage, a believer should hold to the conviction that marriage is a lifetime covenant, severed only by death. Those words traditionally have been repeated by couples at a wedding altar, and a breach of those holy vows is a serious matter before the God in whose name they have been uttered. Marriage is to be severed by death, and the Bible says that “God hates divorce.” Though it is common in our world today, it has never been a viable option for believers who are seeking to maintain Biblical convictions consistent with God’s revealed Word and will. “For the woman which hath a husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth.” (Romans 7:1) “Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the Lord, the God of Israel, saith that He hateth putting away.” (Malachi 2:15,16)

(8) It is my conviction that I am a steward before God of my time, my talents, and my tithes, and that I will one day give an account to Him of my stewardship of these things. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” (2 Cor.5:10)

(9) It is my daily duty to make sure that my mind and mouth are always in conformity to the Word of God: “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Cor.10:4); “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Col. 3:17); “If any man offend not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body.” (James 3:2)

(10) It is my conviction that my citizenship is in heaven and that I am only passing through this life/world as a pilgrim; and that, therefore, my affections should be set on “things above and not on things of this earth.” (Col.3:1) “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.” (I Pt. 2:11) “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on earth.” (Hebs. 11:13) “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:19)

Convictions. They are part of the testimony of every believer.  We do not look for opportunities to be controversial and “swim upstream,” against the current of culture. But inevitably, our stand for truth and upon God’s Word will pit us against the philosophies of the age at times. Back in the 1990s, Reggie White, a Pro Bowl defensive end with the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers, was a “shoo-in” as a future NFL Hall of Famer. But on a popular television program, while calling for ethnic and racial harmony, White put his neck in a noose, politically, when he said that homosexuality was a sin. He was excoriated by the public and denounced by fans. But he stood his ground, saying that “I am going to speak the truth. If people think that’s a contradiction and that’s hate, they need to take it up with God, not with Reggie White.“ White, an ordained Christian evangelical minister, lost a lucrative contract as a sports commentator with a major network, as well as multiple opportunities to endorse popular products that would have yielded handsome financial dividends. But he stood on his convictions.*

George Norris, a U.S. Senator from Nebraska in the early 20th century, having taken a stand that was very unpopular with his constituents, said, “I would rather lie in the silent grave, remembered by both friends and enemies as one who remained true to his faith and who never faltered in what he believed to be his duty, than to still live, old and aged, lacking the confidence of both factions.” (Quoted in Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy)

*Reggie White was inducted posthumously into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2006, two years after his death at the age of 43.