Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Great Falling Away

By John Stallings


Behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the LORD will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. (Isa. 60:2)

The greatest revival  in history is here and will continue for some time. We know that a great awakening is sweeping across the nations. We look with joy as God fulfills His promise to pour out His Spirit on all flesh and empower His people to bring the gospel to all nations. What a privilege to live in this awesome hour of history!

Listen to Peter on the Day of Pentecost….

It shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams… I will pour out My Spirit in those days; and they shall prophesy… before the coming of the great and awesome day of the LORD. (Acts 2:17-20)

The Spirit is speaking about this outpouring in our day. We are in the middle of the great end-time outpouring of the Spirit. The Spirit  will continue to release the miracles seen in the book of Acts.

BUT CONSIDER THE CRISIS THAT IS AT HAND

We’re living under the threat of natural disasters, terrorism, lawlessness, and war. The oldest citizens among us can scarcely remember floods, earthquakes and violent storms like we’re witnessing today. –Matt.24:4-12-

Radical Islam is growing more intolerant as they seek global domination while Western governments are growing more tolerant as they legalize perversion and corruption. Fear is quickly becoming a predominate emotion.

Men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things… (Lk. 21:26)

Abortion continues to kill 4,000 babies each day in America. The sanctity of marriage has come under siege, threatening to destroy the moral foundations of our nation. Sexual immorality, both heterosexual and homosexual, is reaching epic heights of depravity.
Entire school systems are giving way to this craziness. The number of women and children being trafficked in the sex industry is growing at an alarming rate. The list could go on and on.

Satan, realizing he can’t prevail against God’s church, has joined it and is presenting “another gospel.” A new wave of confusion is systematically seducing young adults into deception. Sincere believers, once ablaze for The Lord, are being allured into compromise on biblical truths and practices.

A kind of “social gospel” is insidiously supplanting the true gospel of Jesus Christ, but no amount of ministry activity can “balance out” the profound spiritual compromises that many are making. More and more is being done in the name of justice and humanity, and less and less in the name of Jesus. In the name of tolerance we are settling for politically correct theology that trivializes God’s glory. Our works of compassion and justice must flow from allegiance to God and His Word, not take their place.

The tsunami of the greatest revival in America’s history approaches even as our nation stands on such precarious footing. The onslaught of darkness is increasing in classrooms, boardrooms, courtrooms, and bedrooms. Confusion is pouring forth from many pulpits and from the halls of Washington.

We live in a very significant hour of history. I believe we are in the time described in the Scripture as the “beginning of sorrows,” or “the beginning of birth pains,” that precedes the Great Tribulation -Mt. 24:4-8, 21. The Bible tells us that during the Great Tribulation, sin will become fully ripe with unprecedented and unimaginable levels of debauchery.

In the letter to the Thessalonians, a church that was eagerly awaiting the return of the Lord, Paul outlined a few events that will come to pass before "the day of the Lord" arrives. The day of the Lord is a general term pointing to an entire series of events that culminate with Jesus landing on the Mount of Olives and taking up the throne of David in Jerusalem.

He says in II Thessalonians 2:1-4 that two things must happen -- a great falling away, and the revelation of the Antichrist, or man of sin. He goes on to discuss this pivotal character in end time history, and then starting in verse 10 Paul introduces the theme of end-time delusion. There are constant reminders throughout the New Testament, from the teachings of Jesus Himself to the writings of Paul, John, Peter, James, and Jude, indicating that the end times will be times of great delusion and deception. These warnings are specifically directed at "the elect" that they might not also be carried away with the "strong delusion" that God will send expressly for the purpose of separating true believers in Him from those who "have not a love of the truth."

The Great “Falling Away”

Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed... (II Thessalonians 2:1,2)

There are some things in the Bible that are hard to understand and we can generally leave them open to interpretation. But there are some things that are all too clear. One of these things that should be without debate is that the Rapture of the church will not occur until after something Paul calls “a falling away” happens first.

This has always seemed strange to me but there are those who equate the “falling away” with the Rapture, or the catching up of the Lord's people to meet Him in the air [I Thessalonians 4:17]. They see the Body of Christ "falling away" from the earth as the Lord miraculously draws them up to be with Him in the air.

However, the Greek word translated "falling away" is the word "apostasia," the basis for the English word apostasy. It is the act of going back on the faith. It is a denying of the basic tenets of the faith one once held. “Falling away” is a deviation from or forsaking of an authentically established position.

While there has been a general apostasy on earth since I was a boy, it’s getting exponentially worse almost daily. This falling away will result in persecution of the true believers who refuse to follow “religion” in its retreat from true, authentic Christianity. In fact, it’s likely that it’s just this sort of persecution that will create the unity among Christians that will help them overcome the division that keeps her from coming together as one chaste virgin to meet her Bridegroom King.

Expect to see more liberalism/ modernism, also referred to as “Liberation theology” or the social gospel, continue to invade and take over more mainline Christian  denominations. We can also expect to see true Bible believing Christians come under more and more pressure to comply with the form of Christianity that will be spearheaded by the media, the press, and the United Nations. It will be ecumenical, multicultural, tolerant of other faiths and religions, and ultimately conceivably enforced at gunpoint or through other coercive means.

Before you say this is not a possibility in our lifetime; there are restrictions on preaching already being enforced in places like Australia and Canada on the preaching and teaching of Biblical truth. Laws are being passed that will make it "illegal" to teach the Biblical view when it comes to such issues as abortion and homosexuality. And this is just the tip of the iceberg and a shadow of things to come over the next decade.

T.V evangelist John Hagee recently sent lawyers to defend him from accusations he’d preached “hate speech.” Hagee said that the “handwriting is on the wall” because even though he won that round the victory cost him about ten thousand dollars. I don’t claim to be a prophet but I’ve predicted  for decades that the time would come when preaching the gospel would be costly.

A MOMENTOUS TIME IN HISTORY

I believe we’re blessed to be alive at such a time in history; a heaven sent revival flourishes world-wide in spite of the fact that we’re witnessing the slow undoing of Western civilization. Should Christ tarry His coming it will be interesting in the days ahead just to see what sort of order will come about following the collapse of much of our social, governmental, financial, and technological systems. Of course that’s just around the corner.

The Bible foretells that the current systems will ultimately be brought under the control of one great authoritarian dictator.  This seemingly benevolent dictator will become personally indwelt by Satan himself, the great enemy of God, and will bring havoc down on the heads of God's people until God Himself removes him from the scene. It’s then that God establishes His own Kingdom, with Israel serving as the planet's political focal point.

But the Falling Away is only one of the signs Paul wrote about. In addition to a general apostasy, there will also be the revealing of the man of sin.

That Man of Sin shall be revealed...

 Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed... (II Thessalonians 2:1,2)

There is much written in the Bible about this man.
He is called the "Antichrist" by John -I John 2:18, 22 and 4:3, the "little horn" and the "prince that shall come" by Daniel- Daniel 7:8 and 8:9; Daniel 9:26. He is the "idol shepherd" of Zechariah 11:17. According to the Book of Revelation, where he is called "the Beast" -Revelation 13:1, he will be a much admired world leader- Revelation 13:3 and exercise incredible authority over the Western hemisphere. It is for this reason that he is often referred to as the coming "one-world leader." He institutes an economic system involving personal identification numbers- Revelation 13:18- that is used all over the world, just as credit cards are now used all over the world.

Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.-II Thessalonians 2:4

People speculate that certain current leaders have all the earmarks of the anti-Christ. I would just remind them that this is because the spirit of the anti-Christ is and has been in the world for some time. I seriously doubt any of the current “usual suspects” people point to have the power to raise the dead, a power that the “man of sin” will have.

 This man decides to break the treaty he has made between Israel and her neighbors half way through the term of the treaty, or 3 1/2 years after its signing. At that time he will enter the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and sit himself down in the mercy seat of the Most High God and he will declare that there is no higher God in the universe then himself. He will then demand that all the people of the earth, or at least all the people under his control, worship him as God under penalty of death. The Jews will become irate saying he's blaspheming, claiming to be God. His answer will be-"You're looking at God." Paul said-"Blindness in part has happened to the Jews." On this day the scales will fall from their eyes.

According to Daniel 9, this event marks the beginning of the final 3 1/2 years of the "times of the Gentiles."

At the end of that time, the Lord Jesus Christ will return to the earth and to Jerusalem where He will fulfill the Old Testament promises to Israel that Zion shall never be without a descendant of David to rule as King. Everything on the planet will come under the direct control and supervision of Jesus, who is God in the flesh, and those who were faithful to Him and His promises during the current age the church age will "live and reign with him." (Revelation 20:4).

God shall send them strong delusion...

And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie... II Thessalonians 2:11

One of the great characteristics of the end times is described in the New Testament as deception, or delusion, on a grand, unprecedented scale. Jesus warned that the deception that is coming in His Name and accompanied by great shows of power will be so convincing that even the very elect stand in danger of being carried away in the deception.-Matthew 24:24.

In discussing the end time delusion that will accompany the world's acceptance of Satan himself as the savior of the world, Paul points out that when this "man of sin" arrives on the scene, he will be accompanied by great signs and wonders -II Thessalonians 2:9.

The world believes that Israel is an imposter in the Holy Land and is "occupying" "Palestinian" territory! The world also believes that there can be peace outside of submission to God and His authority. All of this is purely delusional. The fact of the matter is that God has given Israel to the Jews with an oath and a promise that cannot be broken. The world will know no peace until the Prince of Peace returns and takes up His rule from David's throne in Jerusalem. Anyone who has read and believes the Bible knows these things, but the world doesn't know these things.

One day soon, God, by divine intervention in the return to earth of His Son, is going to snap history in two. The climactic point of history will be reached. God is going to crown Jesus King of kings and Lord of it all. There will be a coronation in the sky. What a moment that is going to be! All of us are there in our white robes, and the orchestras of heaven are going to play. The choirs are going to sing; the angels will furnish the music.

The stars will sing together. They are beginning to find now that stars do sing. They send forth rays that make music to ears that can hear. The stars will sing, and our ears will be attuned to the songs of the universe.

And then, the angels will fold their wings. They will sit down, and then we are going to sing. We'll stand and sing redemption's theme song, "Saved, saved by the blood of the crucified One."

The angels can't join us because they never knew the joy that our salvation brings. I'm glad to be a Christian in this momentous hour. Aren’t you?


Blessings


John

Saturday, July 25, 2015

"Saving Face" --That Old Devil EGO


By John Stallings


In 1985 a super group of American popular singers were invited to Los Angeles to record a song written by Michael Jackson called, “We are the world.” It was billed as USA for Africa.

Arranger Quincy Jones held the baton & the charity single was intended to raise funds to help famine relief efforts in Ethiopia which experienced unusual drought in 1984/85.

The single sold 800,000 copies its first week & was the highest debuting single since John Lennon’s “Imagine, “ & won Grammy Awards for song of the year & record of the year.

Jones coined a statement that day that took on a life of its own when he placed a sign at the front of the studio reading, “Please check your ego at the door.”

Jones knew he had a few dozen of the most successful solo artists in the world in one place & all of them were used to running their own show so he said in essence; “You’re not going to sing a solo [though an effort was made to somehow feature everyone’s voice at some point-that to me was comical,] you’re not going to fiddle with the sound-system & you’re not going to call the shots. This is a group effort- period!”

From all accounts things went well that day because Jones was wise enough to see the obvious pitfalls of a venture like this & “nip old man ego in the bud,” & each of the performers realized the occasion was bigger than them.

WHAT IS EGO?
  • Ego is the invisible shield planted around self to protect it from the outside world.
    · Ego is being shy & unable to move outside to connect with others.
    · Ego is fear of what others think.
    · Ego is critical & will not accept compliments.
    · Ego is lack of trust in others because trust has been violated.
    · Ego is living inside a comfort zone to protect from failure & other people.
    · Ego can be thinking you’re perfect or striving for perfection.
    · Ego will take the credit when credit doesn’t belong to you.
    · Ego has a mind like a steel-trap. Closed.
    · Ego is not allowing yourself to learn & grow for fear of responsibility.
    · Ego is refusal to forgive because you feel justified in your anger.
    · Ego takes offense quickly at what others do or say.
    · Ego is self-righteous & critical.
    · Ego is false humility.
    · Ego is oppressive & loves living in the past.
    · Ego is having to be in control of everything.
    · Ego is thinking no one can do it as good as you.
    · Ego is an inability to admit you need help.
    · Ego needs to “keep up with the Jones.”
    · Ego needs to appear like everything is perfect when it isn’t.
    · Ego is a victim.
    · Ego is prideful
    · Ego will never, never apologize but if necessary, to preserve itself, will go down to the grave with every relationship torn asunder.
    · If we turn our lives over to God our ego will safely be left outside the doorway of our life.
    · In short---EGO IS ;
E.—Edging
G.—God
O. ----Out

WE ALL HAVE AN EGO

If we didn’t have an ego we wouldn’t last long on this earth. Our Ego tells us what we want to eat for dinner, who our friends are & what books we want to read. The dangerous part of our ego’s is when it gets so swollen & inflated it turns into an evil monster with another name—self-centeredness.

Duke University did studies on ego & found that people who were egotistical & self-absorbed scored the lowest in any test measuring happiness.

We’ve all seen people who were egotists & usually they wonder why they have it so hard in life, but no one likes a person with a big-head, puffed-up with pride.

A crowded United Airlines flight was cancelled. A single agent was rebooking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the desk, slapped his ticket down on the desk & said, “I have to be on this flight & it has to be first class.”
The agent replied, “I’m sorry sir. I’ll be happy to try to help you but I’ve got to help these folks first.” The passenger asked loudly, “Do you know who I am?” Without hesitating the agent smiled & grabbed her public address microphone. “May I have your attention please? She began, her voice heard clearly throughout the terminal. “We have a passenger here at Gate 14 who doesn’t know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity please come to Gate 14.”

In the first chapters of the book of John, John the Baptist comes on the scene as the forerunner of his cousin Jesus. By taking a close look at what was happening here we can see the dynamics of what can take place when an individual is willing to make their ego subservient to a cause greater than itself.

John the Baptist throughout his life played second fiddle. That’s what his life was about. He played before, & he played behind, & he supported the main melody, the main act the main event, the “one who was coming,” which was Jesus. That was his job so that when Jesus came His voice would ring loud & clear.

It was John’s job to wake people up before Jesus came. It was John’s job to create an air of expectancy about Jesus & prepare peoples ears to hear His message. It had been many years since a great prophet had been active in Israel so John’s job was to wake the people up to the fact that God was sending Jesus the Messiah.

John was to be the dry run before the test. He was to be the lightening before the storm. He was to be the first tremor of the earthquake that was on its way. His job was to be the “leaked press release” before the president’s speech so that before Jesus came to speak, people would be speaking about what was going to be spoken.

The prophets Isaiah & Malachi years before had said that someone would come to do this, to prepare the way for God’s Messiah. John was to be a voice crying in the wilderness & he knew he was that voice. So up & down the West bank John went dressed like a prophet of old, eating bugs & stirring the people up with anticipation.- of Jesus who was to Come.

SO HOW DID JOHN LET GO OF HIS EGO?

John put his ego aside. He had disciples but he knew he wasn’t going to keep them for himself. They would be sent by him to Jesus.

I’m sure you’ve heard the term “Saving Face.” John wasn’t in the business of saving face; he was spending all his energies preparing the hearts of people for his cousin, whom he knew was the one sent from God to die for the sins of the world. Let’s take the word FACE as an acronym, using each letter to make a word describing John’s method of operation. The first word is;

FEAR

John let go of fear. Fear of being rejected & subjugated to his cousin Jesus. John could well have felt like his disciples following Jesus meant that they were rejecting him or that they had no more use for him. If John had given in to that fear he would have had to spend all his energy protecting his ego & kept his disciples in orbit around him, “The great John.”

We often see husbands so fearful that their wives will get out from under their control that they spend all their time working on their minds making sure there isn’t one speck of difference in the way they see things. I’ve known men who called their wives from work every hour, on the hour to talk, especially if they felt they needed to be conditioning her to think like they do on some issue. This is nothing more than fear that things will get out of their control. It’s an autocratic, mental domination stemming from an ego that would be crushed if it wasn’t regulating everything in their sphere. This in the long run plays out as genuine hurtful even destructive behavior.

Relationships will be healthier when we love others deeply enough to serve their needs rather than using them to meet our needs & further our agenda’s.

Our next letter is A, which stands for

ATTACHMENT;

Attachment- to being right; to being the only star in our personal solar system. John could have viewed his disciples leaving him for Jesus as an attack on what he was teaching. He could have allowed himself to let him view their behavior as a sell-out & dug in his heels to defend his precious ego. He could have started criticizing Jesus & pushing himself. He might have responded like a Blow fish blowing himself up to look bigger than he really was in order to compete with Jesus & keep his disciples as HIS disciples.


Do we have a heavy investment in always being right? We are in the middle of an argument with our spouse, a friend or loved one & we come to realize we are dead wrong. Do we admit it or do we dig in even deeper because our Ego is too fragile to “lose.” We are willing to hurt the other person & damage the relationship rather than simply admit we were wrong & apologize.

Why can’t we apologize when we know we’re wrong? Why can’t we say things like “I might be wrong”? Why do we have to have the last word in every altercation? Why can’t we reach out to others & extend an Olive branch of peace & understanding? It seems to me that if we allowed it free rein, our ego would destroy all our relationships & alienate the rest of the world so long as it was coddled, catered to, stroked & never threatened. The C stands for;

CONTROL,

.....the need to control others. If John needed his disciples to do things his way in order to feel good about himself he never would have let them go with Jesus. He’d have tried to control them. He might have tried to manipulate them or to somehow use guilt to get them to do his bidding. If we need others to behave or look or think certain ways in order for us to feel good about ourselves then we’ll be people who have a strong need to control others.
We need to learn from John. We need to learn how to love people deeply enough to let them go. To trust them enough to release them to blossom & bloom into the people God created them to be. Finally, E stands for;

ENTITLEMENT,
...the idea that I should be loved & respected without any personal responsibility or obligation. John might have felt that his disciples owed him their loyalty & that it was his right & privilege. Again if John had felt that way he would never have encouraged his disciples to follow Jesus.
However John doesn’t have a sense of entitlement. He’d rather serve others than expect them to serve him. If you & I really care for others we will let go of the FACE of an over inflated Ego & look for ways to serve them rather than thinking they owe us.

THE EGO’S OF JAMES & JOHN

In the tenth chapter of Mark, James & John the sons of Zebedee, came to Jesus & asked Him- to grant that they may sit, one on they right hand & the other on thy left hand in thy glory.
Before we condemn these two men let’s look at ourselves & ask if we don’t have the same basic desire for recognition & importance; the same desire for attention & the same desire to be first. There is deep down within all of us an instinct to be out front, to lead the parade. And it’s something that runs the whole gamut of life.

Sigmund Freud contended that sex was mans dominate impulse but later psychoanalysts argued that the quest for attention & for distinction is the basic drive of human life. Our first cry as a baby was a bid for attention. We came into this world a bundle of ego.

A SWOLLEN EGO CAUSES US TO LIVE ABOVE OUR MEANS

People will drive cars they really can’t afford but they do it anyway because it feeds their ego.
Much of the latest housing crisis in America with people losing their homes is due in many cases to buying above what they could actually afford to pay for, thus they are going into foreclosure in record numbers. EGO is responsible for much of this.

EGO will cause you to be a name-dropper. In an attempt to pacify an enlarged ego some people will try to identify with so-called “big-name people.” They will make you think they know somebody they really don’t know. They will try to convince you they sip tea with famous folk. That actually happens to people.

SPREADING GOSSIP & LIES ABOUT PEOPLE IS THE REFUGE OF A SICK EGO.

When a person fails to harness their ego they will be driven to try to push others down in order to lift themselves up. When they do that they engage in a vicious sin & a sin God particularly hates. They will spread evil vicious lies on people.

Lately we’ve heard the politicians, Clinton & Obama, accusing each other of elitism. This also is one of the places the Ego goes, to snobbish exclusivism. This happens in churches. I’ve heard pastors say, “we have so many school teachers, & so many lawyers & so many doctors & businessmen in our church.” Now don’t get me wrong; these people ought to be in church. That’s fine. The problem is they can sometimes say this as if other people don’t count. Maybe we could call this; “An Ego-driven church.” If there’s any place that a doctor should forget he’s a doctor & a PHD should forget his education, church should be the place. When a church is true to its calling, it says, “Whosoever will may come.”
THAT BOY IS BACK IN TOWN

When Jesus returned to His hometown of Nazareth, the people responded to him with their EGO’S in full bloom. Jesus offended almost everyone. He asked His family, “Who are my brothers & sisters?” He told His disciples, “Get behind me Satan.”
He offended the Pharisees….the ancient religious right. He offended the Sadducees…the liberal, spiritual, well-educated left. He offended the Herodians…the opportunistic secularists of the day. Have you noticed how many folk are getting miffed in the gospel stories?
You can tell a lot about people when they are offended, especially when you see what it is in them that has been offended.

YOU KNOW WHEN YOU’VE BEEN OFFENDED THAT EGOS IN CONTROL.

When you find yourself saying “She didn’t include me…” They disagreed with me & were critical of me.” How dare he suggest such a thing?” “They didn’t consult me.” When we’re in that state…we’re controlled by something & it’s not God.

When Jesus goes home & He’s teaching, the home-boys & girls get offended. “Where did He get this stuff?” “I remember this guy from school. He had pimples back in Junior High. He was terrible at stick-ball. Who does He think He is?” “Its all well & good for someone to be a prophet but not someone I baby- sat…The carpenters son…might as well have been my son…nothing good can come out of Nazareth, certainly not me.”

Can you see how these people’s Ego’s caused them to be offended? In Jesus’ teaching in their temple, He mentioned how Elijah was sent to a woman during the famine & she received a miracle & she wasn’t even Jewish. He also mentioned General Namaan who was healed of leprosy & he’d been Israel’s enemy. They felt like God worked only through the Jewish people & here was Jesus, point blank telling them it wasn’t so. These Nazarene’s blew a fuse. They said, “Enough of this. Man the battle stations….Lower the draw bridge…Stones for everyone…Lock & load.” Jesus had bruised their tender & sensitive Ego’s.

NAMAAN’S EGO ALMOST LOST HIM HIS MIRACLE

You will no doubt remember him from 2 Kings. Namaan was a great man, a general in the ancient army of Aram, the area we now call Syria. He was great but afflicted with leprosy so he comes south to Israel & meets with the prophet Elisha.

He has heard that Elisha can heal him so he goes to Elisha’s humble house but Elisha won’t even come out to meet him. Instead Elisha sends his servant out to tell him to “go wash in the Jordan River seven times & you’ll be clean.”

Namaan gets miffed. He’s hurt & upset. Remember this man has a large ego. He’s filled with pride & flies into a rage. “No exception for a man like me? And what is this Jordan River? Its nothing compared to the rivers of Damascus! It’s just a puddle or a pond.” It was all beneath him. His ego almost outweighed his chance for healing.

Namaan had some good & faithful servants who said, “Do it anyway Namaan, do it anyway.” Namaan put his ego aside & found his healing & a new life in a seemingly small & insignificant thing like dipping himself in the Jordan seven times.

THE GREATEST SERMON CHRIST NEVER PREACHED

Our example in humility & laying aside of ego is Christ. In John 13:1-14, Jesus laid aside His garments & took a towel & began to wash His disciple’s feet. Jesus didn’t preach this sermon but a sermon it was; a sermon in humility. In Jesus’ day, this was a job for slaves because people’s feet got every kind of filth on them from dirt to dung. This one, who was the Messiah of God, humbled Himself & became obedient to the circumstances of human existence to the point of death on a cross.

Jesus affirmed Himself on Palm Sunday as Messiah & allowed the crowds to shout hosanna. But then, with not an egotistical bone in His body, He went from the praises of Palm Sunday to the humiliation of the Roman cross.

But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled Himself & became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.—Philippians 2:7-8

Blessings,


John

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Seven Ducks In A Dirty River

By John Stallings


……..but he was a leper. -- 2nd Kings 5:1


Imagine if you attended a well known college or university.

You graduated with honors & now you have a really great job with a large company. You had worked hard through the years & gotten lots of promotions & eventually became CEO of the company.

You continue to grow the business & expand it further into other countries. NOW YOU’VE MADE IT!! You’ve made a name for yourself. You’re smart & everybody knows it & well known in your field of expertise. Not to mention you’re rich.

One morning you’re combing your hair & feel a burning pain in the upper part of your body. You see your doctor & he tells you you’re seriously ill. Not only that, you must enter the hospital immediately for a battery of tests with radical surgery soon to follow. You must cancel all plans as of that moment & put your life on hold and you’re told that most cases like yours have an extremely high mortality rate. How do you think you’d feel? You’d be devastated, it’s just that simple.

Now all the education, all the hard work, all the riches mean nothing. Not only that, what about all the employees in your large company who look to you for sustenance. Suddenly everything goes up in smoke.

This brings us to one of the most interesting stories in the Old Testament. In the book of 2nd Kings we find a man named Naaman in the very same situation we just described. His chief claim to fame is --- he’s mentioned in a sermon by Jesus in Luke 4:27. Jesus commented that the only leper healed in Elisha’s time was Namaan the leper.

Our response to our bad health news would very likely be taken much more mildly than Naamans so long ago. His world abruptly blew apart. He was the captain of the Syrian Army. He was a mighty man of valor, a great man of courage, a great leader & military tactician. He was brilliant with many battles behind him most of which he’d won. He was a big- shot & a national hero in his own country. Had he lived in our day Namaan would have been a governor, head of a chamber of commerce or president of some bank. But---Naaman was a leper.

Naaman had the whole world seemingly in the palm of his hand. He had all that fleshly appetites could possibly want. He was on top of the world & at the top of his game. Unfortunately his life took a bad twist & when we meet him here in 2nd Kings he’s hideously & terminally ill with a flesh devouring disease.

The best comparison I can think of with leprosy in our modern day would be AIDS. Barring a miracle, life as he knows it is over for Naaman. He’s going to die sometime soon. Death would be a blessing considering the alternative of the digits & limbs of his body literally falling off.

But now Naaman must be quarantined because he’s contagious. He’s unclean. There’s no cure. This once powerful man is now powerless, he’s a pathetic case. He’s really sick. His position in the Army now means absolutely nothing at all. The battles he’s won; the achievements he’s had so far in life are totally insignificant.

As it oft-times happens, help came from a strange source-a young Jewish girl. She had been taken captive & was now a servant to Namaan’s wife. This girl was probably a teenager snatched from her home & may have even witnessed the death of her parents. Her reaction to Namaan’s tragedy was remarkably Christian. She had no hatred or resentment, only a desire to help. She told of a prophet by the name of Elisha in Samaria who could heal him of his disease. Samaria was the capitol of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This constituted great news for Naaman.

Now Naaman is on a search for God & God’s man.

SADLY SOME PEOPLE NEVER THINK OF GOD UNTIL THEY’RE DESPERATE?

Far too many people take no time for God when things are running smoothly. They don’t acknowledge Him in any way. I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but God loves us enough to rock our world to get our attention. If we place God on the back burner, sooner or later we’ll get a rude awakening & it won’t be pleasant.

So Naaman asked permission from the King to go see the prophet Elisha. The King sent him to another even weaker King & we are furnished with a little comic relief here at the expense of “The high & the mighty.” It was a typical case of bureaucratic bungling which causes two kings, the king of Syria & the king of Israel to have a short “Mexican-standoff.” The King of Israel had a conniption hissy-fit thinking he was being messed with by the king of Syria. He couldn’t cure a fly with a headache & he knew it, so he got all bent out of shape & rent his clothes. It’s really comical when you read it in 2nd Kings 5:6-7.

Well Elisha the prophet heard about the kerfluffel & sent word to the king of Israel to send Naaman to him. It’s slowly sinking into Naaman’s head that God is his only hope. Naaman lets no grass grow under his feet. You’ve really got to picture the scene of Naaman arriving at Elisha’s house. His big chariot wheels barely fit between the curbs. He pulls up in front of Elisha’s house with all his entourage thinking Elisha is going to lay hands on him. Naaman’s horses are puffing & pawing on the ground & Elisha’s neighbors are hanging out their windows. One of Naaman's snappily dressed servants walks up to the door & knocks.

But Elisha sends his servant out to tell Naaman to go duck in the river Jordan River seven times. It’s this simple; General Naaman, a commander of the Army of Aram who was packing a lot of gold & silver in his luggage as well as clothes, was supposed to go squat around in a muddy river like a five year old boy.

JUST DO IT NAMAAN
The instructions given Namaan are reminiscent of the Nike commercial— “Just do it.” When Naaman gets the orders to go to this dirty river & duck he’s gets so angry & upset he turns & starts home. What kind of shabby welcome is this? The approach Elisha is using & these seemingly nonsensical instructions are totally unacceptable. His home town of Damascus was known for its clean pure rivers & endless supply of clean water. Namaan’s servant reminds him that if the prophet had asked him to so some great thing he’d have been willing to do it.

NOTICE HOW THE SERVANTS, BASICALLY POWERLESS PEOPLE, ARE PLAYING SUCH IMPORTANT ROLLS IN THIS STORY.

Namaan was fortunate to have such wise people around him who weren’t afraid to speak truth to power. So often simple common sense tips the scales in the right direction. So finally Naaman goes down to the river & walks out into the muddy water. He really wants to get well. He leaves his clothes & shoes on the bank. The water was greenish & smelled like fish. There was nothing remotely sacred about it. Can’t you just hear him say “Ooooooooo its Soooo cold & muddy?” I can imagine his teeth were chattering & his sores were burning. He pinches his nose & tries to think of nothing but numbers.

1. After the first DUCK Naaman still had leprosy --but his DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD was washed away.

He was obedient & that was a good start but what he needed was more of God. If he was going to be healed it would take more obedience. Many people have all of God they want. Today “our greatest need is to see our need.”

Abraham was the poster boy for disobedience in Genesis. God told him to leave Ur & go to Canaan but he went as far as Haran & settled down there; a direct act of disobedience. He didn’t sojourn there, he settled there & there’s a big difference. As a matter of fact, when studying Abraham’s life Haran is called the “land of disobedience.” Many people never see their dreams come true in life because they fail to fully execute God’s will for their lives.

Also Abraham strayed down into Egypt which is a type of the world. Abraham was a man with flocks & herds & when the rain stopped he was in trouble. So he felt driven to leave & go south toward Egypt. Abraham didn’t consult God about the matter, he just went. This was a tragic mistake for each step took him away from the alter & closer to Egypt.

Egypt looked good with its lush green delta & the Nile River. There would be plenty of food there. But the trip turned out to be disastrous because Abraham took council with this fears instead of with God.

So we can readily see that when Namaan got rid of his disobedience he was definitely on the right track but he still had a ways to go.

If God tells us to jump through a wall it’s our business to jump & God’s business to make a hole. The people standing around watching will be happy to tell us two seconds after we jump if God told us.

2. The second DUCK & Naaman still had leprosy-- but his STUBBORNESS was washed away.

Proverbs 29:1 says---He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed & that without remedy.1 Peter 5:5 tells us to---- clothe ourselves with humility toward one another.

Saul is a great example of stubbornness in the Old Testament. In 1 Samuel 15 God told Samuel to tell King Saul to wipe out the Amalekites. Saul in his stubbornness didn’t complete the job & allowed the King to live & took many of the spoils of the land including the animals. It was in this context that God said;

For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, & stubbornness is as iniquity & idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.

Namaan isn’t whole yet but he now has a handle on his stubbornness & this is a great victory for him. The sins of Naaman’s character & his lack of Godly graces were much more of a challenge to God than the healing of his leprosy. As a matter of fact the ducking in the muddy Jordan really had nothing to do with the leprosy but all to do with the sins of Naaman’s heart. Man looks upon the outward appearance but God sees the heart.


3. The third DUCK & Naaman still had leprosy-- but his PRIDE was washed away.

Pride was a major problem for Naaman. After all he was a man of high estate & authority. Pride is a pesky weed that sprouts up when & where we least expect it. Someone has said that pride is the Dandelion of the soul. Its roots go deep & if a small amount is left it can sprout again & again. It will always be standing two or three inches above the grass. If the grass grows two inches, the dandelion will grow three. The danger in pride is that it thrives on goodness. We tend to think of real sin as adultery, murder & car-jacking but pride is perhaps the most dangerous sin of all because of its deceptiveness.

I remember reading a story about Ronald Reagan back when he was governor of California. He was making a speech in Mexico & afterwards he sat down to a rather unenthusiastic applause. A Spanish speaker then got up to speak & he was applauded on almost every paragraph. To hide his embarrassment, Reagan applauded at every opportunity. He clapped when he spoke, and always clapped a little more than everyone else. Then our American ambassador leaned over & said, “Mr. President, I don’t think I’d do that, the man is interpreting your speech.”

This was a very innocent mistake but it points up how easy it is for us look prideful or slip into prideful actions. It seems you can beat pride down & do all you can to eliminate it but there it is, it’s still alive. Part of the problem with pride is that it’s easy to see in others but not so easy to see in ourselves. The self-centered see everything through the prism of self. There’s a little “mini-me” lens in the eye & our main question is always, “what about me?” Pride causes us to look through a straw & of course at the end of the straw is “us.”

I saw a cartoon years ago where a smiling woman said, “That’s enough about me, lets talk about you. What do you think about me?”

One time Mohammad Ali was riding on a plane when the stewardess came up & told him to buckle his safety belt. Ali answered; “Superman didn’t need a safety belt.” She answered; “Yes, & Superman doesn’t need no plane.” Pride can convince us that we are somehow better & more important than other people.

Juda & I once met with a denominational leader about becoming part of his organization. All through the conversation he would refer to “the little man.” By this he meant the basically unknown men who pastored the small churches in his group. During an hour conversation he must have used that phrase “The little man” two or three dozen times. We left there with a sick feeling in the pit of our stomachs & I told Juda I didn’t believe that man would hold his leadership very long unless he lost that way of referring to his ministers. Sure enough before long he was voted out of his leadership position & consigned to a small church, which in his own words was a “little mans” place.

I like the way The Message Bible paraphrases Proverbs 16:18---First pride—then the crash—the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.
Someone has rightly said; when the head starts swelling, the mind stops growing. If we are having marriage problems & we refuse to talk to anyone about it, that’s pride. When we’ve got financial problems & we refuse to admit & get help, that’s pride. When we are having problems as parents or aren’t cutting it on the job, we don’t want anyone to know about it & we refuse to seek help, that’s pride; & a very destructive kind of pride. Pride is the wall that keeps sinners from Christ & it leads us to exclude Him from His rightful place in our hearts.

I remember a song we used to sing when I was a boy;

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but lost,
And pour contempt on all my pride.



4. The fourth DUCK & Naaman still had leprosy--- but his SELF- PITY was washed away.

Let’s not forget that Namaan was a strong, proud accomplished warrior, the ranking general of his nation’s armed forces, an honored & well-rewarded member of Syria’s ruling elite. He was accustomed to adulation from commoners & to riveted attention from their admiring eyes. But now he is forced to leave the confines of his home & endure people’s stares. His clothes may conceal the fiery inflamed skin & the white scaly patches that cover most of his body, but his face is so afflicted that it is clear he’s a ritually unclean man who has been marginalized by the dreaded disease of leprosy.

How art the mighty fallen. There can be no reasonable doubt that Namaan is filled with self-pity & suppressed anger. Everyone in his household knows of his dreaded disease. As already stated, all through this story God is using servants, those who some would call “small people” to bring Namaan’s miracle into fruition. God is orchestrating every detail in this story to minister to Namaan’s pride & self-pity because it was such a great weight to the powerful man. But when he obeys the man of God’s instruction self-pity is washed away.


5. The fifth DUCK Naaman still had leprosy-- but his ANGER was washed away.

When Namaan is told he’s to duck seven times in an old dirty river his response is to stomp off in rage. His anger is stirred up & his ego is wounded by the prophet who is again stepping on his pride & marginalizing him. Even the Holy Man has refused to come to him directly. How much more humiliating can it get? Is this prophet going to shrink away from looking on his afflicted personage? The anger almost did the trick of cheating this man out of his miracle because he was definitely headed home until one of his servants reminded him that had he been asked to do some great thing he’d probably been glad to do it, just not this demeaning dip in an unclean river called Jordan.


6. The sixth DUCK Naaman still had leprosy --but his SELF-RIGHTOUSNESS was washed away.

Have you ever noticed that rebellion & arrogance usually carry with them a strong sense of self-righteousness? Head-strong people will almost invariably have an attitude of “I’m right,” & it’s usually the “in your face” variety.

Job was correct when he said;

If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say I am perfect it shall also prove me perverse. Job 9:20


Luke gives us a very succinct story in Luke 18:9-14. He starts off by saying;

And Jesus spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: two men went into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee & the other a publican. The Pharisee stood & prayed thus with himself, God I thank thee that I am not as other men are, extortionist, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.

I fast twice in a week & give tithe of all I possess. And the publican standing afar off would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.

I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exhalteth himself shall be abased & he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

We all want to be O.K. We want to be accepted. Who is acceptable to God? This story we have read throws some light on that question. The Pharisees were seriously religious. They weren’t Jesus’ favorite people. But we shouldn’t forget that at least they were serious about keeping the Law. They felt that their nation had suffered in the past because they hadn’t kept the law. They studied it very carefully & had codified it into 248 positive rules & 365 negatives ones. As if that wasn’t enough they had a bunch more to sort of keep them from “getting into trouble.” So we can’t say that was all bad.

The other group, the tax collectors were considered the dregs of society. They had to collect taxes from the common folk & pass them on to the Romans. But they were crooked & often took more than they were supposed to & lined their pockets with it.

Jesus takes one person from each of these groups & tells his story about what happened when they both went into the temple to pray. In this story Jesus is aiming at the problem of self-righteousness.

Here is the real problem with self-righteousness;

SELF-RIGHTOUSNESS MAKES IT POSSIBLE FOR OUR GOODNESS TO SEPARATE US FROM GOD.

Let me say that again---Self-righteousness makes it possible for our goodness to separate us from God. Whew! Doesn’t that sound strange? Surely God prefers good to evil. After all it was God who gave the Ten Commandments. But the reason self-righteousness is so dangerous is that instead of our goodness bringing us closer to God, it can lead us far away from Him. The reason for that is-- self-righteousness is just another manifestation of the sin of pride. When I speak of pride here I don’t just mean the pleasure & satisfaction we get out of a job well done or when one of our kids does well at school. The problem comes with the tendency of the individual to do so well in his own strength that he refuses to acknowledge any dependence on God. Haven’t you heard people say; “I feel I’m a pretty good person, I don’t really need God. I bet I live as good a life as those people down at the church.”

SELF RIGHTOUSNESS IS A SLIPPERY CONCEPT

To show you how slippery it is, a Sunday school teacher taught one morning about this proud Pharisee & in her closing prayer she said, “Lord I thank you that I’m not like the Pharisee in this story.” We can smile at this but then if we’re not careful we can turn around & feel that the fact that we are humble sinners saved by grace is something to be boastful of.

7. The seventh time Namaan ducked into the cold muddy water his skin became like a BABY’S SKIN.
The pivotal point of the whole story is found in verse 15 of 2 Kings 5. Namaan goes to Elisha’s house & stands before him & says. –“Now I know that there is no God in all the earth except in Israel.”
Namaan is a converted man. He finally got emptied out & realized that his connections had gotten him nowhere. Elisha wasn’t even going to dignify him, he was just going to ask him to do an extremely stupid thing, & his bags of money would get him nowhere. When Namaan was finally stripped of all his pride & “fig-leaves” & stepped down to bathe in the murky Jordon waters, he met the wonder-working grace & power of God.

It was in his moment of vulnerability, helplessness & humiliation that Naaman found God & so have lots of others. Stripped, obedient & trusting, that’s the territory where God finds fertile human soil. Again, think of the way God used human instrumentality in this story. Every person is acting out of their own free will & not under compulsion. Yet from these many threads God weaves a tapestry of grace with Namaan at the center. If it weren’t for each of these people, their understanding, their care, their advice, Namaan would never have been healed.

So at the end of our stories lengthy journey through-

• Self-pity-
• Rage-
• Righteous indignation-
• Pride-
• Stubbornness-
• Disobedience- &
• Sympathetic intervention----

--We arrive at the final destination, -the good news that the compassion of God is offered even beyond the borders of Israel to persons of all nations.
God’s love was & is so radically inclusive that it embraces even enemy generals.

Elisha sends Namaan off to his new life, cleansed of the leprosy of his body & renewed in his soul. What will Namaan do? What happened to him? We don’t know. But Elisha is content to send him away in God’s peace & in God’s grace. The God who sought Namaan out & healed him in body & soul will also guide him when he gets back home.

Leprosy is a type of mans sinful condition. We were all born spiritual lepers. The only cure of the spiritual leprosy is to be cleansed by the blood of Christ. ---There is a fountain filled with blood, Drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunged beneath the flood, lose all their guilty stains.

If you haven’t been plunged into the river of Christ’s forgiveness & washed in his blood, why not do it today. You will know the same life changing miracle that Namaan experienced.

If we serve the same loving & nurturing God, & we do, what will stop us from seeing the cries of our hearts come to fruition? As I see it, the only things that could hinder us would be the same things that almost sidetracked Namaan.

When we look at some of these hindrances & see ourselves there, we can follow Namaan’s example & throw off the old cloaks that self has weaved for us to wear & plunge into the waters of God's love, mercy & forgiveness.


Blessings,


John









Monday, July 13, 2015

If I Had Not Believed...

By John Stallings


A short time ago America’s top commander, General David Petraeus fainted during a congressional hearing as he was being grilled by senators about US strategy in Afghanistan.

He collapsed about an hour into the hearing as John McCain questioned him. McCain stopped mid-sentence, his face frozen as Petraeus slumped forward from his seat.

The hearing was suspended as Petraeus, looking dazed was led out by army colleagues. He returned 20 minutes later, blaming skipping breakfast and jet-lag and dehydration for the fainting spell. Thankfully the general bounced back quickly and resumed answering questions without a hitch.

I remember a lady in one of the churches my father pastored when I was a kid who would keel over once in a while. She had a tendency to do this in hot weather at picnics or outdoor events when she was surrounded by people. The only explanation I ever heard was that when people are crowded together, especially in the Florida heat [I’ve sometimes wondered if we don’t have our own Sun] it has a way of sucking up the oxygen. Most people aren’t terribly affected by this and never faint, but obviously some do.

When I was growing up, there would be a youngster now and then who’d faint, or something akin to it, on the playground. There were times I wished I could have fainted but somehow never did.

As long as a bad fall doesn’t occur and things are otherwise uneventful, as soon as the person regains consciousness they can just pick up where they left off.

However, sometimes people will slump over or fall down and though it might look as if they’ve fainted, it’s much more serious like a heart attack or stroke.

FAINTING GOATS

Maybe you’ve heard of the “fainting goats.” These little fellows suffer from a genetic condition which causes them to faint at the slightest provocation. You can say “boo” to them and they’ll fall over, stiff as a board. If you’ve never seen one of these you can check them out on YouTube. Any kind of stress, even the stress of hearing the dinner bell ring can knock them over. Of course it only lasts for a few seconds and they’re back on their feet. The younger goats are most susceptible to this. The older ones have learned to control it and the most you’ll see of them is their legs will stiffen and they’ll just stand for a moment, then all is well again.

A MORE SERIOUS KIND OF FAINTING…

In Psalm 27:13, David said;

I would have fainted unless I had believed to see the goodness of God in the land of the living.
David explains that he had a close call. His knees had gone weak and the whole world seemed to grow black for him. He had been on the verge of toppling over in a dead faint. David is speaking here of spiritual fainting.

But when he was reeling in his tracks and ready to fall, there was one firm staff that wouldn’t break in the grip of his clutching fingers. There was one solid wall he could lean on without fear that it would give way. Here’s how David puts it as he looks back over it all. He declares with humility;--I would have fainted unless I had believed… he leaned on his faith in God that things would be made right. That was the only hope he saw.

Fainting is one of the most common and deadly foes you and I have to face. We know from our own experience with it that it can be a worker of havoc in our lives. For every one who faints physically there are literally scores who faint spiritually. How many spiritual fainters are there in our churches?

When a person has fainted, they’re no good to anyone during that time. Once they could be counted on to be in their places. But as soon as someone keels over they lose their availability. Their fire of enthusiasm has gone out. They have become spiritually listless and lifeless. They’re almost like a dead person. Might as well not hand them a songbook, they can’t sing. Don’t call on them to pray, they can’t do that either. No need to preach to them they can’t listen. As in actual physical fainting, when a persons having a spiritual fainting fit, others have to come to them and help them. Others must leave their posts in order to look after them. Where they once were an asset, now they’re a liability. They are huge rocks standing in the mouth of the grave where God is trying to raise some needy Lazarus from the dead.

These fainters don’t mean to be antagonistic to the work of God. They aren’t vicious or living corrupt lives. They’ve just fainted.

I attended a funeral one time and at the graveside service, the elderly minister who was officiating was overcome by the stifling heat and had to be helped to a seat to regain his breath. He almost fell over into the Palms. Thankfully the “old soldier” was able to regain his composure and complete the service.

Sadly some people aren’t so fortunate to be able to bounce back from fainting. Their lives are strewn with half-finished tasks. There are paintings they didn’t quite paint and books thrown aside with only the preface written. What dreams or goals have we laid aside when we’d only just begun?

A large house of worship exists in Florida, not far from where we live. I visited the building during many of the stages of its being built and marveled at the immense size of it. The leader of the flock that was building this mammoth house of worship was constantly on T.V and radio sharing his vision of what God would do with this beautiful structure. Today that man is gone and the church has been sold and resold. Just a few huddle in a building almost large enough to have an inside weather pattern of its own. Why; because the builder fainted and gave up the work years ago.

I’m told that if you visit the Panama Canal Zone in certain areas you’ll see along the sides of the roads great heaps of machinery slowly sinking into the mud and wasting away. These worthless heaps were left the by the French in the early twentieth century when they undertook to build the canal to join two seas. The effort cost them untold amounts of money and not a few lives, but they left the task unfinished. At some point along the way the French decided the enterprise was either undesirable or impossible and they fainted before their dream became reality.

If lack of opportunely and lack of ability have slain their thousands, and they have, fainting has slain its tens of thousands. No amount of talent or ability or even genius can help us if we don’t have stick ability and staying power to see a thing through. It’s said of Thomas Edison that when he got on the track of a new invention he pursued it with the tenacity of a bull dog until it became reality.

AGAIN AND AGAIN -BIBLE WRITERS WARN AGAINST FAINTING.

The Holy Men of old who penned the Bible spoke of “not fainting” as one of the prominent characteristics of the hero’s of faith.

MOSES

The best compliment Moses could be given was that he endured. Heb. 11:27. There was opposition, there was disappointment, there were bitter heartaches but he endured. At age forty his picture was in all the Egyptian post offices because he had a murder rap on him but still he endured. The writers knew God had a great part to play in Moses’ success so they said: He endured as seeing Him who is invisible.
ABRAHAMAbraham was drawn by a dream about a great nation that seemed destined never to come true. God had made him a lot of promises but long years had slipped by and nothing had come of it. We can say what we will about Abraham, he had this sturdy quality about him that just wouldn’t quit. The years were flying fast but the promised heir hadn’t come. But staunch old Abraham never believed for a moment that God was going to let him down. Paul writes about him with great admiration and says; he staggered not at the promises. Rom. 4:20. Refusing to faint, Abraham finally realized his dream.

WHAT ARE SOME CAUSES OF FAINTING?

1. SOME FAINT BECAUSE OF A BAD ATMOSPHERE

To be surrounded by stale air and not enough oxygen can cause some people to faint. Have you noticed that if you spend enough time around certain folk you’ll sort of take on the coloring of their personalities? This is almost inevitable. But there are some atmospheres that are rich with hope and help. Nowadays we hear the term “vibes” frequently. This is a new way of saying that people and places give off vibes, or create an atmosphere. The Apostle Peter created such an atmosphere because his shadow had healing in it. Acts 5:15.

There are homes you can enter and you feel a warm atmosphere of welcome. Visit other homes and you feel a chill that bites you like a killing frost. I have preached in some churches whose congregations and the attitude they projected lifted me on eagle wings. You say when you’re in these churches, “Surely God is in this place. Gen. 28:16. Others I have preached in made me feel as if I never wanted to preach again. We should beware of the atmosphere we create and also be aware of the atmosphere we’re in when we’re with our associates.

Juda and I visited a church in Orlando several years ago and the ushers, or “greeters” made us feel like we were members of the Mafia. The pastor seemed to be the only friendly guy in the place. As we drove home we discussed how drained we felt just by being in that atmosphere. Of course God blesses individuals, not groups so we can always get our soul fed no matter what, but that doesn’t mean we’d ever want to go back to an atmosphere like that. I heard a few months ago that the pastor of that church had resigned and returned to his roots in Europe and the church had folded. This didn’t come as surprise to us because the place had no spiritual breath.

There are atmospheres in which a vital spiritual life is flatly impossible.

You will remember the story of Herod and how he was influenced to have John the Baptist’s head cut off? Obviously Herod didn’t really want to kill John but he was influenced by the people around him. The Bible says;

For the sake of them that sat with him at meat, he commanded John to be killed. Matt. 14:9.

The companion of fools shall be destroyed.
Prov. 13:20


2. SOME FAINT AT THE SIGHT OF BLOOD.


A young enthusiastic man came to Jesus one day with the best of intentions and said; Lord, I will follow you whithersoever thou goest. Matt. 8:19.

Jesus didn’t paint a very appetizing picture to the young man. He told him he was more homeless than a fox and if he followed Jesus, he may have to sleep unfed on a mountainside. In all reality, Jesus was showing this young man a cross with blood stains on it and the eager young man fell into a dead “faint.” He yearned for the benefits of being a follower of Jesus but the price was greater than he was willing to pay.

3. WE FAINT FROM SHEER EXHAUSTION.
The Christ life isn’t a life of drifting with the current but rather a going against the tide and at times we get tired.

Paul is seeking to strengthen us when he says;

And let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we faint not.-
Gal. 6:9

We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters, about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it.

Do you recognize the words above? They are the words of none other than the great apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 1:8—NLT.It sounds like Paul was ready to drop doesn’t it?

I heard about a man who ordered flowers for his deceased father and when the beautiful spray of flowers arrived at the funeral home the card attached read “Enjoy your trip.” It was obviously a mix-up at the florist so the man called to chew the people out who were responsible for the fluke. The florist shop worker, trying to defuse the situation told the man, “Sir, this isn’t so bad, somewhere in town at another funeral home is a spray of flowers with an attached card that reads, “Congratulations on your new location.” It sounds like fatigue & burn-out can happen even to people who work with flowers for a living.

Elijah had a fainting fit after his great victory at Mount Carmel. After that he ran seventeen miles to Jezreel then another day’s journey into the wilderness. He was so far gone he even asked God to kill him.

The Children of Israel got tired of wandering in the wilderness and wanted to go back to the leeks and garlic of Egypt. Numbers 11:5

In spite of all the temptations to faint by which David was surrounded somehow he managed to stand firm. He tells us;

I would have fainted- unless I had believed to see the goodnes of the Lord in the land of the living.

We’re told in Isa. 40:31- if we wait on God, we’ll be able to - run and not be weary, and to walk and not faint.
4. PRAYERLESSNESS WILL CAUSE US TO FAINT.

In Luke 18:1 Jesus told a parable;--to the end, that men ought always to pray and not faint.
Any problem you and I come to prayerless, we also come to it powerless.

In all candidness, I can relate to David’s feelings though we don’t know exactly what he makes reference to in Psalm 27. I see freedoms eroding and godlessness becoming prevalent everywhere I look these days in America.

If I didn’t have faith in God that He’ll straighten this mess out, I think I could engage in some “faint feelings” also.

But notice in the fourteenth verse right after David pours out his heart about believing God in spite of the way things look, he says;

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say wait on the Lord. Psalm 27:14

In the movie Castaway, Tom Hanks was lost at sea. His wife, played by Helen Hunt after a time of waiting, followed her friend's advice, moved on and married someone else. Of course he finally found his way home to discover no one was waiting for him. Watching the movie we're trapped between conflicting feelings and emotions. On one hand we understand the wife's hopelessness and need to move on but at the same time we're unsettled by the fact that if she'd only waited a little longer her faith would have been rewarded.

Romans 8:24-25 says,-For we are saved by hope; but hope that is seen is not hope. For what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for? But if we hope for that we see not, then we with patience wait for it.

If you don't know what to do, then do nothing! Wait on the Lord until you're sure what to do. One day, praise God the waiting will be over! Until then, trust God and continue to dwell close to Him and keep believing His promises.


Where would I be today, where would you be, if we had fainted,


If we had not believed…..?

Blessings,


John

Friday, July 10, 2015

Special milestone and Comments

By John Stallings

Dear Friends,

Eight years ago this month we started this little blog and dedicated it to communicating the reality  of the living Christ and his ability to meet any and all human need. At this writing nearly 500 articles have been published. 

Listed below, in no particular order are some of the countries who've found us. I stand totally amazed at this. Approximately 140 countries are so far represented and  as you can see readership reaches around the world.


Our only motivation is a desire to be fuel on God's fires and declare to the best of our ability the Whole Counsel of God. This motivation captured me as a boy and will by His Grace continue to do so until He comes or calls. 

United States,
United Kingdom
Albania,
Angola
Argentina,
Armenia,
Aruba,
Austria,
Australia,
Brunei, 
Bosnia and Herzegovina, 
Belgium,
Bulgaria,
Georgia,
Jordan,
Bahamas
Brazil,
Barbados,
Belize,
Botswana,
Bangladesh,
Cayman Islands,
Curacao,
Crete
Cambodia,
Cameroon,
Greece,
Colombia,
Chile,
Costa Rico,
Croatia,
Czech Republic,
Ecuador, 
Dominican Republic,
El Salvador,
Estonia,
Finland, 
Congo [GRC]
Norway,
Netherlands,
Netherlands Antilles,
Nepal,
Peru
Puerto Rico,
Panama,
Germany,
Canada,
Russia,
S. Korea,
Netherlands,
Sweden,
Egypt,
Nigeria,
Israel,
Panama,
Ukraine,
China,
Hong Kong,
Honduras,
Indonesia
Oman,
Fiji,
Spain, 
Ireland,
Suriname,
Portugal,
Nigeria,
France,
Australia,
New Zealand,
Switzerland,
Swaziland,
Poland,
Georgia,
Lebanon,
Latvia,
Slovenia,
Macedonia {FYROM}
Moldova
Myanmar {Burma}
Sweden,
St.Marten,
Saint Kitts and Nevis,
St.Vincent & Grenadines,
Tanzania,
Denmark,
Ireland,
Pakistan,
Kazakhstan,
Kuwait,
Iraq,
Iran,
Taiwan,
Belarus,
Hungary,
Turkey,
Cyprus,
India,
Italy,
Jamaica
Mexico,
Monaco,
Trinidad and Tobago, 
Thailand, 
Romania,  
Singapore,
Switzerland,
S. Africa,
St. Lucia,
Namibia,
Kenya
Serbia,
Ghana,
Philippines,
Slovakia,
Taiwan, 
Thailand,
Uganda,
Uruguay,
Paraguay,
Japan,
Lithuania
Luxembourg,
Lesotho,
Malaysia
Morocco,
Montenegro,
Macau,
Romania
Nicaragua
Venezuela, 
Vietnam,
Samoa,
Saudi Arabia
Sri Lanka, Asakivia,
Slovakia,
Bahrain,
United Arab Emirates,
Qatar,
Zambia, and
Zimbabwe. 

If you've been blessed by the blog, please take a moment to let us know.---johnjuda@embarqmail.com


Blessings in Christ,

John

Friday, July 3, 2015

"Jesus Take The Wheel"

By John Stallings


A few years back Carrie Underwood won first place on the T.V talent show American Idol.

One of Carrie’s biggest hits has been the song “Jesus take the wheel.” It tells the story of a young mother who was trying to make it home for Christmas when her car spun out of control. In desperation she threw her hands up and asked Jesus to take control of the car.

Here are the words of that, I believe, powerful song…

She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati
On a snow white Christmas Eve
Going home to see her Mama and her Daddy with the baby in the backseat
Fifty miles to go and she was running low on faith and gasoline
It'd been a long hard year
She had a lot on her mind and she didn't pay attention
she was going way too fast
Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass
She saw both their lives flash before her eyes
She didn't even have time to cry
She was sooo scared
She threw her hands up in the air
Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel
It was still getting colder when she made it to the shoulder
And the car came to a stop
She cried when she saw that baby in the backseat sleeping like a rock
And for the first time in a long time
She bowed her head to pray
She said I'm sorry for the way
I've been living my life
I know I've got to change
So from now on tonight
Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Ooh, Jesus take the wheel
(James/Lindsey/Sampson)

These lyrics resonate with millions of people because they express what we all so often feel … the need for guidance in our lives. When in our humanness we’ve gotten things all messed up we reach out for a power beyond ourselves to take control.

SOMETHING NEW

In 1988 something new happened in the American political process. That year, for the first time in a long time, an avowedly evangelical candidate ran for the presidency of the United States.

George Bush won the election but if you roll the tape of your mind backwards—back before the Republican Convention, back to the early primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina, you may recall that Pat Robertson was also a candidate for president.

When Robertson entered the race, there was great furor among the mainstream media in America. How could an ordained minister, a “televangelist” at that, dare to run for president?

For a while it seemed as if Pat might actually have a chance to win. He won the Iowa caucuses, came in third in New Hampshire, and second in South Carolina. Nearly two million people voted for him. By the time of the Republican Convention, Pat Robertson, the man the media loved to hate, came in third place behind George Bush and Bob Dole. Third place would seem to be a good showing for somebody who was new on the national political scene.

After the general election was over and after George Bush had become President, Pat Robertson wrote the story of his political campaign from the standpoint of his Christian faith. The book that resulted is a book about the will of God called The Plan.

Bittersweet Victory

The book is about the fact of Robertson’s defeat in the 1988 election, and highlights the strange feeling among his delegates to the Republican Convention in New Orleans. On the one hand, they ought to be happy because their man had done so well. At last their views were being heard. But the victory was tempered by the reality that Pat Robertson had come in third. He paints the picture and poses the question this way:

“In the quest for the highest secular prize our nation has to offer, a third place finish is respectable. But my supporters were devastated. It was as if they mourned for the dead, feeling—as I did—that God had called me to win, not run third.

So in New Orleans I was asking one simple question—did God call me to run for president or not? And if He did call me, why did I lose?”

Pat Robertson’s book asked- How do you explain coming in third when you truly believed that it was God’s will for you to win?

WHAT HAPPENED LORD?

It’s a common question, isn’t it? You set out to get a new job, you work hard for it, you go through the interview, do your very best, believing your heart this is the job God wants you to have. Then somebody else gets the job. And you say, “Lord, I thought I was doing your will.”

Or you get the job, and you say, “Thank you, Lord.” Six months later you’re fired. And you say, “What happened, Lord?”

Or you think, “If only we could move to Florida, we would be happy.” So you move believing it to be the will of God. When you get there, you still are not happy. And you say, “Lord, did we make a mistake?”

You are a college student dreaming of being a doctor. You pray that God will help you get into medical school. You go through the grueling years of pre-medical courses, staying up late at night, taking chemistry, science and math courses. To your delight, you are accepted by the first school you apply to. Two years later you are washed out, unable to handle the pressure. And you say, “God, I thought you wanted me to be a doctor. Where did I go wrong?”

We know that we weren’t put on the earth without a purpose, to grope blindly through the darkness. But that’s the way life feels sometimes, especially when you come in third.

DISCOVERING GOD’S WILL

Let’s begin where a man named Saul began when he was struck down on the road to Damascus. After he learned that it was Jesus talking to him, he only asked one question:

Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 22:10)

Simple. Straightforward. No conditions or qualifications. It was the question that changed Saul the tormentor into Paul, the flaming evangelist.

“Lord, what do you want me to do?”

We all have to start right here. Same question. You’ll never discover God’s will if you start anywhere else. This is Step One and we can’t skip it.

It’s a primary question for those high school students who wonder if they should go to college, and if so, which one? It’s a central concern for all the college students who wonder what they should do for the next 50 years. It’s the crucial issue for every college graduate. What do you do now? Which job do you take? Should you get married? Where should you live?

It’s also the key question for the adults. It’s for the people who are in their thirties, their forties, the mid-life transition point. It’s for the people who are weighing one opportunity versus another, the job they have versus the job they want, the house they have versus another house they would like to have, a relationship they’re in versus another relationship they’d like to be in.

IS THAT ALL THERE IS?

Perhaps you’re in mid-life. You’ve put in 10 or 15 or 20 years at your job and now you’re wondering, “Is that all there is?” One day you wake up and realize, “My dreams aren’t coming true.” Maybe you’re at the top or you’ve just realized that you aren’t going to make it to the top. What do you do now? Being at that mid-life transition point seems to make the decisions harder, not easier. When you’re 17, you think the whole world is spread out before you. After 25 years the window of opportunity is slowly beginning to close. You can’t go back, you aren’t happy where you are, the future looks bleak, so you ask the question, “Lord, what is it that you want me to do?”

A few more years pass and now you are 55 or 60 or 65 or 70. If you’re a Christian, you want your closing years to count for the Lord.

OUR SECRET FEAR

We all want to stand before the Lord and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I think all of us have a secret fear that someday the Lord will say to us, “You did a good job at what you chose to do, but, unfortunately, it’s not what I sent you to earth to do.” We worry that someday after leading a very successful life; God will say to us, “Nice going, but you missed the whole thing.”

A WORD TO THE WISE

Ephesians 5:17 says,

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Knowing the will of God for your life is the primary difference between being wise and being foolish. In God’s eyes, the number one thing that makes the difference between you as a wise or foolish person is that you know, understand and do God’s will for your life.

The following IMHO are four wrong ideas about God’s guidance and a biblical answer for each one. Each of these myths is quite popular and devastating in its impact.

Myth # -1 GOD WANTS YOU TO KNOW THE FUTURE

What a mistake. It’s rarely God’s will that you should know your personal future. God isn’t interested in showing you your future. God wants to show you the next step. That’s how he reveals his will for your life—one step at a time.

Psalm 119:105 paints a clear picture about how we discover the will of God:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

The picture here is not of a blazing light. It’s a picture of a man in total darkness walking along a dangerous trail. There is no moon in the sky. Darkness clings to him. The only thing he has to illuminate his way is a lantern. As he holds the lantern in his hand, it lights the step right in front of him. When he takes that step, the light goes forward one more step.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

How does God guide his people? He’ll show us the next step. God isn’t about showing us what’s going to happen six months or a year from now. He wants us to know the next step, and nothing more.

Let’s face it; we all want to know the future. At least we think we do. We want to know what is going to happen next year so we can be ready in advance. But God won’t play that game.

GOD KNOWS—BUT HE’S NOT TELLING

Does God know the future? Yes, he does. But the Bible says,

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

God knows what will happen tomorrow, but he’s not telling anyone about it.

If you and I knew the future, we wouldn’t be able to understand it because there are so many factors that play into it. Most of us want simple answers, “Will the stock market go up or down?” “Should I take that new job?” “If I ask Sally to marry me, will she say yes?” God knows the big picture, but if he showed us, either we wouldn’t understand it or it would scare us half to death.

If we knew the future, it would make us either lazy or arrogant. It might make us lazy because we wouldn’t have to work so hard, already knowing what the future was going to be. Or it might tend to make us arrogant because we would know something other people wouldn’t know. Either way, whether lazy or arrogant, we’d be insufferable.

The most important reason it’s good not to know the future is that knowing your future destroys your faith. If you knew the future, you wouldn’t be walking by faith but by sight. It’s God’s desire to show you the next step, and he will.

DOES GOD HAVE A BLUEPRINT FOR YOUR LIFE?

Does God have a blueprint for your life that includes everything from the moment of your birth to the moment of your death? The answer to that question is “Yes.” But—and this is an all-important point…

I don’t know of any way you can get a copy.

He’s got the only copy, and he’s got it in a “lock box” up in heaven, and he’s got the only key. God wants to teach us to trust him- step by step. He reveals his will one step at a time so you will trust him moment by moment.

The second popular myth about God’s will is...

Myth # 2: GOD WILL GIVE YOU TOTAL CERTAINTY BEFORE YOU MAKE A DECISION.

Many people believe they must be 100% certain of God’s will before they make a decision. I can understand their thinking. After all, if you are facing a life-changing decision—a potential marriage, a cross-country move, a new career, which college to attend, whether or not to begin chemotherapy—you’d like to know in advance beyond any doubt that you are doing what God wants you to do.

If you have any doubt, don’t, or so the saying goes. If you aren’t sure about the new job, don’t take it, don’t make the move, don’t say yes, and don’t make any decision with less than total certainty.

But is that good advice? Is it realistic? Is that the way God normally works? I think not.

HOW MUCH DID THEY KNOW?

Did Noah know all about the flood? No, but he built the ark anyway.

Did Abraham have total certainty? No, but he left Ur of the Chaldees.

Did Jacob know where he was going? No, but he left home because he couldn’t safely stay there.

Did Moses understand what it meant to lead God’s people out of Egypt? No, but he said yes when the Lord called him.

Did Joshua know how the walls were going to come tumbling down? No, but he marched around Jericho anyway.

Did Gideon fully grasp God’s plan to defeat the Midianites? No, he doubted it from the beginning but God delivered his people anyway.

Did young David have a clue of what was to come when Samuel said to Jesse, “This is the one"? No, but the Spirit of the Lord came upon him anyway.

Did Daniel know Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in advance?

Did the three Hebrew children know how they would be delivered?

Was Daniel sure the lions would welcome him dropping in on them?

Did Peter know he could walk on water?

Did Paul know the serpent wouldn’t hurt him?

The answer is no. The life of faith means living with uncertainty even in the midst of doing God’s will. That’s the whole point of Hebrews 11. Those great men and women didn’t know the future, or have certainty, but they trusted God anyway, sometimes in the face of great suffering. And because of that, they won a great reward.

LOOKING FOR “THE MAN”

Acts 16 is a very interesting chapter. This chapter records Paul’s second missionary journey. He and his team had been preaching in various places in Phrygia and Galatia but when he attempted to go to the province of Asia, the Holy Spirit “prevented them.” (16:6) No one knows exactly how the Holy Spirit stopped them. So then they decided to go to Bithynia but “the Spirit would not allow them to.” (16:7). Then Paul had a vision in which a man from Macedonia appeared to him and cried out,

Come over and help us.”

Macedonia was Greece, across the Aegean Sea. That was Europe. Going to Macedonia meant moving from Asia to Europe. Paul’s vision was a direct, supernatural message from God. So Paul and his companions crossed the sea, went to Macedonia, and began to preach the gospel.

Now, if you just took that story the way that most people take the will of God, there are several things you’d expect based on the vision of the man from Macedonia. First, that when you got to Macedonia, the first person you would meet would be “the man,” -right there welcoming you off the boat. “I’m the man you saw in your dream. Welcome to Macedonia.”

If it had been me I’d have had great expectations of what would be waiting on me. I’d have been expecting “the man” to run up and shake my hand and say, “Come on, you’re staying at my house. I’ve got a whole area set aside for you with big bedrooms and a sauna. Let’s hurry up. My wife has supper on the table. Man I’m glad you’re here. We’re gonna start a church.”

Thinking rationally a person would expect when they got to a crucial point in their ministry that God would give them another vision and show them the next thing that he wanted them to do.

Then they’d expect that they’d stay in Macedonia a long time, perhaps for the rest of their life, until another miracle took place.

But look what happened to the Apostle Paul when he got to Macedonia. The man from Macedonia was nowhere to be found. So far as we know, Paul never met the man who appeared in his vision.

Who’s the first person Paul meets in Macedonia? Not a man but a group of women, and one woman in particular whose name was Lydia. It was a man who said, “Come over and help us.” But Paul meets a woman.

Now, if we were following the 100 percent certainty idea, we might say to ourselves, “I can’t stay and preach the gospel to you because I’m looking for the man who appeared to me in the vision.” But that’s not the way Paul operated. Paul assumed that since there was a group of women there, they were the ones he was to preach to. Paul stayed there for many days, leading Lydia and the members of her household to faith in Jesus Christ.

JAILHOUSE ROCK

But that’s not the end of chapter 16. While he stayed with Lydia, a demon-possessed girl followed Paul around, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She was saying the right things but with a wrong spirit. The whole thing troubled Paul so much that he finally cast the demon out of the girl. But she had made money for the merchants as a fortune teller. So the merchants got mad at Paul and had him arrested. He was thrown in jail along with Silas after the two of them were savagely beaten.

They ended up singing hymns at midnight when a mighty earthquake destroyed the jail, breaking all the chains. The jailer woke up, assumed everyone had escaped and prepared to kill himself. When he discovered that the prisoners were still there, he fell down before Paul and cried, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul led him to Christ, then led his whole family to Christ, then baptized them all right then and there—in the middle of the night!

You might think that the stage is set for a great revival but that’s not what happened. The next day Paul and Silas were released but Paul didn’t want to leave town like a common criminal. So Paul demanded—and got—an official escort out of town. The town leaders in essence say to him, “Paul, you know we practice freedom of religion, but you’ve caused a lot of trouble here. We would like you to leave town just as soon as you can.” The Bible says that Paul thanked the people he was with, prayed with them, then he and his team went on to the next city. That’s Acts 16.

But where was the man from Macedonia? He never showed up. He was a “no-show.” So far as we know Paul never got another supernatural vision telling him what to do next. And he didn’t stay there for years. He only stayed in Philippi for a few days and then went on to the next city.

DID PAUL FLOP AT PHILIPPI?

From the world’s point of view, what Paul did in Philippi looks like a failure. He was in trouble almost from the moment he got there. He ends up having the town fathers asking him to leave quietly. Is this success? Where’s the great church Paul came to establish? Acts 16 appears from a human standpoint to record a dismal failure. But from God’s point of view what the Apostle Paul did was a success because he followed the leading that God gave him. He took a step, God gave more light, he took another step, and God gave more light.

Because Paul knew that God had sent him to preach the gospel, it didn’t matter to him whether he was in jail or on the streets, he was going to preach the gospel wherever he was. Paul continued to do the will of God as he understood it. And step by step, throughout Acts 16, even through twists and turns, Paul did exactly what God wanted him to do although what he did in the end was not what he expected to do in the beginning.

MOMENT BY MOMENT-STEP BY STEP

God leads his people step by step. You might have a supernatural vision along the way but it isn’t mandatory. What is necessary is a willing heart and a willingness to move out in faith in obedience in the leading of the Lord. You and I will rarely know the future, and things won’t always work out like we expect, but we’ll still be doing God’s will step by step.

Doing God’s will means taking the next step—whatever it is—without a definite promise about the end result. Without 100% certainty when the moment comes to decide, we must make the best decision we can with the information we’ve got, trusting God for the results. Sometimes we’ll know more, sometimes less, but living by faith means taking the next step anyway.

And that leads us directly to the third myth.

Myth # 3: GOD WANTS ME TO BE HAPPY

Millions of people buy into this false idea. They believe that it is God’s will that they should be happy. It sounds good, doesn’t it? “God wants me to be happy, fulfilled and successful.” That thinking has been used to justify all manner of bizarre and even evil behavior. That philosophy lurks behind the words of a song popular in the late 70s: “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”

People have used this myth to justify every kind of sinful behavior. Some Christians have said, “It’s God’s will that I should divorce my spouse and marry someone else because we’re in love, and God wants us to be happy. After all, everyone has the right to happiness.” The correct theological term for that is “Balderdash and Bologna.”

NOT NECESSARILY HAPPY-BUT HOLY

If it’s not God’s will for us to be happy, what is God’s will? It’s God’s will for us to be holy. It’s God’s will for us to be like Jesus. It’s God’s will for us to be in a place of maximum usefulness for the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:29 says, “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”

That is the will of God for your life. He wants you to become Christ like. Whatever makes you like Jesus is good. Whatever doesn’t make you like Jesus is bad. And God wants to shape our lives day by day into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Was Jesus a Failure?

If God’s will is to make us happy and successful, then Jesus was a failure. He was rejected, beaten, hated, despised, mocked, abused and finally crucified—the world’s ultimate sign of rejection. And to this day there are millions of people who mock the name of Jesus Christ, laugh at him, care nothing for him, and think he was a failure. Was he? Was Jesus Christ a failure? After 2,000 years has Jesus finally been vindicated? In the hearts of those who believe—yes. But to the people of the world—no.

Will God’s plan for you and me always bring immediate worldly wealth and success? No, but God’s plan will always bring peace and joy. Our duty is to find his perfect plan for our lives and to follow it with the ability that he gives us. It’s his responsibility to bring about the results.

Here’s the final myth.

Myth # 4: GOD MAKES HIS WILL HARD TO FIND

God wants you to know his will more than you want to know it. God is more committed to showing you his will than you are to discovering it. And he has taken full responsibility for getting you from here to there step by step. He said, “I will never leave you.” (Hebrews 13:5) And he won’t. He said, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.” (Psalm 32:8) And he will. He said, “Lo, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) And he is. Basically God is saying, “Trust me.”

Sometimes that means victory. Sometimes that means coming in third.

In his book, Pat Robertson looks back at his campaign and draws three conclusions. (I am paraphrasing his words) First, “I now understand it was God’s will for me to run. It was not God’s will for me to win.” Number two, “I didn’t understand that until the end looking back.” Number three, “I see that out of the pain and humiliation of that defeat, God brought great blessing.”

Robertson talks about how thousands of Christians got involved in the political process for the first time and how the Lord used the defeat to prune CBN back so it was poised for even greater growth in the future. He concludes that what seemed to be a tragedy ultimately brought great blessing. That’s what often happens when we do God’s will.

Do you want to know God’s will? If the answer is no or if you are not sure, then let me ask a second question: Are you willing to be made willing? Are you willing to be made willing? If you will say, “Lord, I am not sure I am willing, but I am willing to be made willing,” he will lead you step by step.

In closing, here’s an excerpt from Pat Robertson’s book.

“The week before the Super Tuesday primary I flew into the Bristol, Tennessee, Tri-Cities airport for a rally. There were about one thousand people in that early-morning crowd-shouting, clapping, waving banners. After a brief speech, I walked across to shake hands with the people.

One member of that big crowd lives in my memory -- a little towheaded, freckle-faced boy about 10 years old. He looked up at me with eyes full of trust, and as I shook his hand, said with all the earnestness he could muster, "Please win!"

To him I must reply, "Son I don't know your name, but I want you to know this. I followed God's plan for me, so in His eyes I did win."

And you, too, can always be a winner, if you just put your hand in God's hand and walk on down the road with Him.

Blessings,


John

P.S. I felt as if I'd been kicked in the stomach upon hearing of the homegoing of one of God's 5 Star Generals, David Wilkerson.  Our hearts and  prayers go out to his wife who's currently fighting for her life and his family and great church in New York. Blessings--Jas