Monday, April 14, 2014

Criteria For Christian Conduct


By John Stallings

Several years ago I remember hearing a girl interviewed who had just won a beauty/talent contest.

 Evidently she had made the fact that she was a Christian very clear so the interviewer asked what her church taught & what she believed. Her answer was basically “we don’t do this & we don’t do that.” When pressed further for information on the positives of her faith & what her code of conduct might be, she stuck with the list of several things her church considered sins. That’s all she had.

I didn’t expect her to be a theologian but I was somewhat disappointed that she seemed to be clueless in regards to the tenants of her faith. It would have been great to hear her tell how knowing Christ had changed her or even something as simple as- “every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before.”

Maybe her lack of knowledge stemmed from the fact that her church just wouldn’t preach the gospel, or maybe she just wasn’t listening. Who knew?

God makes it clear on the pages of His Word the things that He considers sins, that grieve His heart. There are the Ten Commandments from the Old Testament & the New Testament is replete with teachings not only from the mouth of Jesus but from the inspired pens of the other writers, all of whose words are “God-breathed,” & essential to our faith.

But there are areas about which the Bible doesn’t clearly speak. There are issues that we confront in our Christian lives where there isn’t a clear-cut Biblical proof-text to steer us.

In cases like that, God gives us personal freedom & leaves it up to us to decide how we’ll conduct our lives. There are however several Biblical principles that we can use that are helpful. I’m going to present these principles in eight words. The first word is;

1. CONFORMITY

Romans 12: 2 says….be not conformed to this world but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind…..
Here we have a very helpful principle. Does our conduct conform us more to the world than to Christ? Does it cool our love for Christ? Another translation of Romans 12:2 says; don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.

 When we were raising daughters, there was one argument I heard from them more times than I can count. I don’t know why it should have surprised me because I used it many times on my parents. Here it is; “everybody else is doing it.” My answer was usually, If the crowds doing it, it’s wrong. Then I’d quote Matthew 7:14 …..Straight is the gate & narrow is the way which leadeth unto life & few there be that find it.

If I’m reading that verse right, the majority will not find the right road. The reason so many are on the broad road that leads to destruction is because we’re born on that road. The straight road leading to life must be “found.”

2 Corinthians 6:17 says…..come out from among them & be ye separate saith the Lord & touch not the unclean thing; & I will receive you.

1 John 2:15 says—if a man loves the world the love of the Father is not in him. I heard a story as a youngster about a Christian girl who was, against her better judgment, at a dance hall where alcohol was flowing freely. She was dancing with a young man she was fond of & felt she should at least give a Christian witness as she twirled across the floor. She asked him bluntly if he was a Christian & his reply without hesitation, was “No & you’re not either or you wouldn’t be here.” The fact that she was participating in an obviously worldly activity that was conforming her to the world made it just about impossible for her to give a Christian witness.

As Christians we should ask- is the activity bringing us more into conformity with Christ or less? The next helpful principle when we’re faced with a grey area is;

2. CONDEMNING

Romans 14: 2-3 says—for one believeth he may eat all things: another who is weak eateth herbs. Let him not that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth, for God hath received him.

In the areas of non-essentials, we have to be careful of our human tendency to feel what we do is right & sit in judgment of what others do. I have seen men who drink a case of Coke a week criticize people who drink coffee when Coke has as much or more stimulant in it as coffee. We shouldn’t criticize people for not buttering their spiritual toast the same way we do.

Every Christian has a strong personal conviction about something. I call it their “pet rock.” The trouble comes when we try to impose that conviction on others if they don’t share it. If we let everyone put their “pet rock” or personal conviction on our spiritual wagon it will become so heavy we can’t pull it. The next word is;

3. CONVICTIONS.

Romans 14:5 says….let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind

The first step to Christian maturity is realizing there are some things you can do that I can’t do & visa versa. Obviously when it comes to essentials we’re all subject to the same standards but in non-essentials we’re free to do what we feel good about.

When I traveled as an evangelist I found some churches allowed books & records to be sold in their lobby & others had a conviction against it. I never complained even though it sometimes meant loss of sales for us because this was their conviction. Who was I to ask them to go against it to accommodate me?

There are some churches who won’t allow food to be eaten on church property & others regularly have suppers & even raise money selling meals. We don’t “work for our Salvation” but everyone has to “work out their own Salvation.”


The fourth principle is;

4. CONSIDERATE

Romans 14:13 says,……..that no man put a stumbling block in his brother’s way.
In England many Christians think nothing about going to a Pub & having beer. There have been cases where Christian young people from America went to England where the standards on alcohol were different &, trying to fit in, they got drunk.

Men are affected & tempted more by what they see & women are tempted more by what they hear. The Bible doesn’t tell a woman exactly how long her hemline should be but God will give her the wisdom to be considerate of men & dress modestly. Obviously if a woman is dressing to “knock men’s socks off” she’s displeasing the Lord.

1 Corinthians 8:12 says, But when ye sin so against the brethren & wound their weak conscious, ye sin against Christ.
Luke 17:1-2 says, ….it is impossible but that offenses will come but woe be to him through whom they come; it were better for him if a millstone were hanged about his neck and he cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones. The next principle is;


5. CONSISTENT

Romans 14: 16 says, let not then your good be evil spoken of…
This principle is one of seeking to be in agreement as much as is possible with other Christians.

I have heard people say, “if was wrong in Jesus’ day its wrong now & if it’s wrong in one place its wrong everywhere.” That “aint necessarily so.” Let me explain with a couple of examples.

 A few years ago we went to Jamaica for meetings in two large churches. Shortly after we arrived, in conversation with a pastor I asked if there were any local customs we should be aware of. He acted relieved that I brought it up & went on to tell me that the Christian ladies of Jamaica didn’t wear slacks or pant suits. He added that a lady would have almost zero credibility there if she appeared in public in either of these outfits. Juda wears pant suits & had packed more of them than dresses but because of the local custom, she always wore dresses in public. If we had taken the attitude that we’d dress exactly as we wanted to, or we’d dress like we dressed in the States that would violate the principle of consistency & furthermore would show a stubborn unbending attitude which would have been displeasing to God.

 In parts of Germany to wear a neck tie is considered unspiritual but to drink wine is perfectly acceptable. Of course in America the exact opposite would be the rule in most places.

· In the early seventies I pastored in Montgomery Alabama. The church board asked me if I enjoyed bowling & answered that I did on occasion. In a very nice way they explained to me that there was only one bowling alley in town & it had a bad reputation as a hang-out for unsavory people. The bottom line was that if I were seen there I would be the subject of gossip. That was all I needed to hear & during my years as pastor in that city I never darkened the door of that establishment.

But about 90 miles north of Montgomery was the big city of Birmingham. I had several pastor friends there & there were dozens of beautiful bowling alleys. I’d go up occasionally & have lunch with my preacher friends & we’d go bowling. Now the alleys in Birmingham looked just like the one in Montgomery & certainly they were all built to the same basic specifications but when I bowled in Birmingham I was in no danger of being a stumbling block. Had I gone to the bowling alley in Montgomery, I’m sure it would have been displeasing to God as well as given me a bad testimony. But there was no problem in Birmingham. In conducting myself in this way I was honoring the principle of consistency. The next word is;

6. CONSTRUCTIVE

Roman 14:19 says; Let us follow therefore after the things that make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.As God’s people our goal is unity. We should always ask ourselves—do my words, actions, attitudes and standards make for peace? In the Sermon on the mount Jesus said, --Blessed are the peacemakers.

1 Corinthians 11:15-16 says; --But if a woman have long hair it is a glory to her; for hair is given her for a covering. But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom….

A pastor friend of mine had a disgruntled man in his church to stand during service years ago, hold up the new church songbook & proceed to criticize it & say he didn’t think the books were worth the money the church spent on them. The pastor meekly asked the people if they were enjoying the books & 98% raised their hands that they were. That man stood in the pastor’s office a few months later & said “Pastor, after the night I stood & said what I did about the songbooks, I lost hundreds of dollars a week in my business.”

That man very unwisely violated the constructive principle & he suffered for it. What he said had a divisive edge on it, it didn’t make for peace & wasn’t appropriate in the public forum he chose. The next principle is;

7. CONSCIENCE

Roman 14:22 says,--hast thou faith? Have it to thyself before God. Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth.
This principle simply tells us if we feel bad about something we shouldn’t do it.

In 1Timothy 1:19 Paul told Timothy, Holding fast a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck….

Though I used the verse earlier, Paul said in Philippians 2:12 ---Work out your own salvation with fear & trembling.

While everyone has a conscience, only Christians have the indwelling Holy Spirit. Paul said in Romans 2:15, which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness….

Going against our inner monitor telling us what we ought to do is the first step to a hardening heart. If we do it often, soon our conscience will become seared. The last principle is;


8. CHRISTLIKE

Is our conduct Christ like? Are our activities making us more Christ like?

Romans 15:1-3 says,--We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not Himself……

In all that we do, we should ask the question; is the welfare of others uppermost in my mind? Our little loss of liberty, if it comes to that will be more than compensated with the joy, power & the good testimony we’ll have in the long run.

Blessings,

John

Monday, April 7, 2014

Satan's Plan For America

By John Stallings


I LOVE AMERICA!

You love America too, or you probably wouldn’t be reading this.

But I don’t love seeing what this great nation is becoming.

Today in America we have oil spills, endangered seals, crooked deals, big-wheels, unpaid bills, fast-food meals, cheap thrills, sleeping pills, and you can’t tell the Jacks from the Jills.

THE FOLLOWING ARE A FEW OF MY “LEAST FAVORITE THINGS” ABOUT WHAT THE U.S.A IS BECOMING;

Out: Prayer and the Bible in schools.
In: Sex education, evolution, situation ethics & “self-esteem.”

Out: Heterosexuality.
In: Homosexuality.

Out: Chastity.
In: Lust, illegitimate babies, abortion on demand.

Out: Unborn babies safe in their mother's womb.
In: Whales, trees, and snail darters safe.Kill babies and “Free Willy.”

Out: Families
In: Easy divorce and single parents.

Out: Men and women.
In: “Gays,” “lesbians,” and “trans-genders.”

Out: Marriage between a man and a woman.
In: Marriage between a man and a man, a woman and a woman, a man and several women, a woman and several men, several men, several women, or 6 guys & a duck.

Out: Decency.
In: NAMBLA- [North American Man/Boy Love Association.]

Out: National sovereignty.
In: Leaning toward One world government.

Out: Biblical truth.
In: One world religion.

Out: Robust, booming private sector/free market economy.
In: Government control of business.


Bondage has always been Satan’s plan for mankind. As we can see, Satan has gotten quite a ways down his list of accomplishments necessary for the destruction of America. All of this happened in two generations!! What’s going on??

Now let’s look at what’s happened in the last approximately two years.

SOFT TYRANNY

Washington has totally trashed the principles our founders espoused & given us a government that makes us “subjects,” not “citizens.”

Never has a national agenda taken America so far left so fast. Never has there been such a power grab as we’re now witnessing. We must stop this runaway train right now, - this November, quarantine this administration, and then vote them out in 2016.

Although it’s hip to castigate George W. Bush, Bush certainly did a much better job of listening to the people. As an example, when he proposed the Social Security reform, and the public resisted it, the White House backed off.

No more. This administration isn’t listening to the people- period. The citizenry is rebelling and trying to speak but this government has turned a deaf ear to their cries. There are just two possibilities; we’re either going to be free & self-governing- or ruled.

The following is just food for thought; could it be that the reason these Liberals don’t care about the people & what they think-is- that they don’t plan to ever leave office? God forbid that would ever happen for if it did it would play right into Satan’s hands. Marshall Law would be declared & the president would simply transition to a military government, a government of the gun. This would be done for the “safety of the people.”

Satan loves nothing better than anarchy and it would be very likely that the nation would be reduced to rubble. Then the “powers that be” would stand on that rubble and say, “well now, we can get about the task of rebuilding this nation after our own vision.” It would be a vision hatched in hell and it would be one that has failed time & time again wherever and whenever it has been tried throughout history. Make no mistake it would be serfdom for the masses.

Alex de Tocqueville coined the term Soft Tyranny in his 1840 book “Democracy in America.” Here’s a quote from that book;

“After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the government then extends its arms over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small, complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence: it does not tyrannize but compresses, enervates, and stupefies a people till they are reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is shepherd.” Book Four, Chapter VI.

IMHO, there are four main areas that we the people must contend for as I believe these are the areas the present administration is trying to stamp out.

LIMITED-BUT CONSTITUTIONAL GOVERNMENT
INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY
PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY
FREE ENTERPRISE
NATIONAL SECURITY


Washington is weak in these areas so we need to start to get involved in government, local & national in every way possible. Impressive men and women are coming forward who heretofore were unknown and never dreamed of running for any kind of office, but they see their country being so upended they can no longer sit by and do nothing. In the coming election, I won’t vote for an individual unless they have near the top of their agenda repealing ObamaCare because a thousand liberty-stealing evils live inside this Trojan horse. It won’t be easy and it won’t be done overnight but that’s one of the pressing “changes” we’ll desperately need.

When Liberals in Washington see something that makes them nervous and insecure, they instinctively laugh and make light of it. They go after people they’re afraid of and have done this with Sarah Palin & also the Tea Partiers. This behavior is a dead-giveaway. Anything you see them ridiculing, take a closer look at it.

Washington chafes under the Tea Party folk because they see them as a group who’ve figured out their power grab quicker than most. While the Tea Partiers aren’t perfect, [who is?] they are truly a grass roots movement and to me are extremely inspirational.

We can very easily sum up Satan’s plan for America in a few words. The first one is;

DECEPTION

We are much more vulnerable to Satan’s deception than to any of his other schemes. Why? Because when he tempts us or accuses us, we know it. But when he deceives us, we don’t know it. Makes sense doesn’t it? If Satan can get people to believe a lie then he can control them. Sad to say, that’s exactly what he’s doing across our land, deceiving multitudes.

For example, how on God’s green earth can we allow a Muslim Mosque to be built within a stone’s throw of the graveyard of over 3,000 Americans in lower Manhattan where the Twin Towers once stood? Have we become so deceived that we can’t face the fact that the men who flew the planes that fateful day on 9/11 were Muslim extremists? Can we still say—“Muslim extremists?”

Would we allow a Shinto Shrine representing the Japanese religion to be built within the shadow of Pearl Harbor? I don’t think so.

Let’s look at one of many deceptions buried in the monstrous new OBAMACARE .. The Internet address where this can be verified is;

http://dailypaul.com.node/105079

“Buried deep within the massive US Health Care Bill (PDF) in a “non-discussed” section titled: Subtitle C-11 Sec. 2521— National Medical Device Registry, and which states its purpose as:
“The Secretary shall establish a national medical device registry (in this subsection referred to as the ‘registry’) to facilitate analysis of postmarket safety and outcomes data on each device that—‘‘(A) is or has been used in or on a patient; and ‘‘(B) is a class III device; or ‘‘(ii) a class II device that is implantable.”

In “real world speak”, according to this report, this new law, when fully implemented, provides the framework for making the United States the first Nation in the World to require each and every one of its citizens to have implanted in them a radio-frequency identification (RFID) microchip for the purpose of controlling who is, or isn’t, allowed medical care in their country.

Shades of Revelation 13:16;

He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead.-NIV.

Obviously the best way to pass anything in the way of new legislation is to point out the “good side” of it and hide the “kickers.” Healthcare for everyone sounds attractive so long as the truth is hidden that with it comes more power and control over the people for the administration.

Bald-faced deception/lying have become prevalent of late among people seeking high office. It seems all that has to be done to cause a potential public servant to be disqualified is to look back over the things they’ve said in the past. We have people running for office who tell themselves they were in countries they never set foot in and tell it so often it seems like the truth to them.

If a man running for high office says he was in Viet Nam & meant to say South Korea, he could be said to have misspoken. If however he says again and again that he was in Viet Nam but never was, he lied. If he adds Viet Nam to his resume and knowingly continues to deceive, he’s a liar.

Another tool Satan is using to destroy America is;

DISCOURAGEMENT

Satan uses discouragement on individuals as well as whole nations.

Listen to a quote from, Rules for radicals, a book written by the late Saul Alinsky and whose principles have been endorsed & emulated by both Barak Obama, and Hillary Clinton;

"Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive affirmative non-challenging attitude change among the masses. They must be made to feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the present system they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is essential to any revolution."
Notice the words-frustrated-defeated-lost-futureless-and revolution. Does this sound like what Americans are feeling presently?

In Rules for Radicals (his final work, published one year before Alinsky’s death), he addressed the 1960s generation of leftist radicals, outlining his views on organizing for mass power. The documentary, "The Democratic Promise: Saul Alinsky and His Legacy," claims that "Alinsky championed new ways to organize the poor and powerless that created a backyard revolution in cities across America."

Alinsky was the subject of Hillary Rodham's senior honors thesis at Wellesley College, "There Is Only the Fight...” An Analysis of the Alinsky Model. Rodham commented on Lewinsky’s "charm," but rejected grassroots community organizing as outdated. Once Hillary Rodham Clinton became First Lady of the United States, the thesis was suppressed by the White House for fear of being associated too closely with Lewinsky’s ideas.

Alinsky also had a significant influence on Barack Obama, who used Alinsky's techniques while participating in Chicago community organizations in the 1980s. So we see that our President and Secretary of State are both believers in the tenants of the Saul Alinsky method, which is a sort of “soft tyranny” leading to revolution.

As I've opined in this bog several times, Obama is not a fool. As you know there is a big difference in being smart and being wise. There isn't a thimble full of wisdom in the White House at this point but they know exactly what they're doing; overwhelming the U.S economy to create systemic failure which will bring about economic crisis and subsequently social chaos. Obama Care and Cap and Trade/Tax have nothing to do with health care or global warming but all to do with redistribution of income and ultimate payoff to Obama's biggest contributors. Add up all the clues and they're alarmingly diabolical.

The next plank in Satan’s platform for America’s demise is;

DEFEAT

The book of Daniel tells us;

And he shall speak words against the Most High and shall wear out the saints of the Most High….Daniel 7:25

Daniel was writing about the end times-saying that the saints of God will be “worn out.” There’s no way around it, Daniel was speaking to you and me. I’m not suggesting that The Anti-Christ is on the scene at present but John spoke of “many anti-Christ’s” [1 John 2:18] and we know the anti-Christ spirit has long been at work in the world.

Over the last months & years haven’t you felt it? You get up in the morning & flip on the news [if you have the nerve,] and feel like you should yell “incoming” like the fighting men do on the battlefield? If you personally don’t feel “worn-out,” don’t you honestly feel it in the people you talk to, work or go to school with?

SATAN ALWAYS PLAYS CHESS!

Many Christians don’t understand the idea of warfare, and if they do, they see it like a kid occasionally confronting a bully on the playground in elementary school. We need a revelation of what’s happening to us right now, as individuals and as a nation. We need to understand we’re fighting a battle in and for our nation and Satan has a strategic battle plan. Too many people see warfare as a game like pinochle, or even worse, dodge ball. While we’re playing Checkers, Satan’s playing chess.

Satan is and has been at work with his plan for America since we first came into being. He strategically weaves things into society and even the church over the decades and even generations.

Lastly, Satan’s plan for America is;

DESTRUCTION

Someone has said, “Either America will have a revival or a funeral.” Francis Schaffer warned us- “If we don’t fight to save our nation, we’ll wake up one day soon and discover the America we once knew is gone.”

GOD’S PLAN FOR AMERICA

Make no mistake; Satan is behind the erosion of our freedoms we are seeing. Satan is “The master of Deceit.”

I wish I could tell you that I had all the answers to solve the dilemma we face in America, but I don’t. I do however have some insights. The one thing Satan can’t stand is any kind of repentance. Repentance throws Satan off his game. The reason for that is, he’s incapable of repentance and can’t comprehend it.

The thing that America needs for her survival is—Revival! The plan God has for us is laid out very succinctly in 2 Chronicles 7:14.

1. IF MY PEOPLE

I’ve said it so many times but it’s not original with me—God isn’t looking at the wino face down in the ditch, expecting him to get up and lead us in a national awakening. He’s looking at His people, who are called by His name. This change we can believe in doesn’t begin in the White House with some elected officials; it begins in the Church House with the born-again people of God.

Peter said, -For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God……1 Peter 4:17

We have a “saint problem” in America, not a “sinner problem.” Sinners aren’t alive spiritually, how could they be revived? Revival won’t come through the Chamber of Commerce or the Kiwanis, or the Masons, or the Mooses or the Gooses. It’s going to come through the redeemed that are called by His name, those who know Jesus Christ.

The Baby butchers, Whiskey distillers and Dope dealers can’t hold back revival but Hollywood, Wall Street and Washington can’t bring revival. The people of revival are God’s people. “If my people…

2. HUMBLE THEMSELVES

We must realize that we have nothing to strut about yet we are far too self-satisfied, self-serving and self-promoting. The word humble means “to bend, to bring low.”

Jesus said; - And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased: and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. Matthew 23:12. The reason we’re not on our way up is because we haven’t been on our way down. Then God’s people must-

3. PRAY

Prayer doesn’t make a difference, prayer is the difference.

Below is a statement that was made over a hundred years ago. If you don’t recognize the words, humor me-especially you speed readers- and don’t jump ahead, -- but rather absorb the words and ask yourself if they sound like a preacher or politician.

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us: and w e have vainly imagined in the deceitfulness of our hearts that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us! It behooves us, then to humble ourselves before the offended power to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.”

On April 30th, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Fasting, Humiliation and Prayer.

Isn’t it an absolutely awesome thing that a President would lead our nation to prayer? Until the Supreme Court said students could not be led in prayer in our public schools it was a daily activity. Prayer may never be reinstated in school but it can be reinstated in our personal lives. No one can keep us from praying if we desire to pray.

I don’t believe there has ever been a spiritual awakening that didn’t begin with fervent prayer. Revival isn’t planned out or worked up, but it is prayed down.

4. SEEK MY FACE…..

We are told here that we’re not to seek revival but the Reviver! God isn’t a “spare tire” that we use when we’re in trouble but He’s the fuel that makes our lives go. There is also a sense here that we’re not to seek God’s hands, or His provision, but rather to seek His face, His pleasure. His smile.


5. TURN FROM THEIR WICKED WAYS

There are many wicked ways Christian have but time and space fail me here. Let’s try jealousy, envy, backbiting, robbing God in tithes and offerings, and putting God Mammon on the throne of our lives. The Psalmists said,

If I regard iniquity in my heart the Lord will not hear me. Psalm 66:18


6. THE PROMISE-THEN WILL I HEAR FROM HEAVEN AND WILL FORGIVE THEIR SIN AND HEAL THEIR LAND.

Is it too late for America? The pain our nation feels right now doesn’t have to be the agonizing pain of death. It can be, - it must be the rejoicing pain of birth-the rebirth of our great nation.

Though we may have taken a thousand steps away from God, it only takes one step to return.

In 1999, a headline appeared in a Texas newspaper. The headline read, “Comatose man wakes after 7 ½ years.”
Police officer Gary Dockery had taken a bullet in the forehead and was in a coma for 7 ½ years. What was so remarkable was when he woke up; he immediately spoke clearly to his sister as if no time had passed. A family friend said, “There’s not but one way to describe it. It’s a miracle of God.” When officer Dockery awoke he asked for his sons whom he’d not seen since they were 5 and 12 years old, then 12 and 19.

If a man who had been asleep for 7 ½ years can wake up, there’s still hope for America.

We in America have two great national songs; “The National Anthem,” and “God bless America.” England has only one, “God save the Queen.” I love my UK friends but a song for one woman to be blessed seems a little selfish to me.

Listen to these inspired words by Erving Berlin;

From the mountains,
To the prairies,
To the oceans, white with foam,
God bless America,
My home, sweet home-


God bless America, indeed!


Blessings,


John

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Special milestone and Comments




By John Stallings

Dear Friends,

Seven years ago this week we started this little blog and dedicated it to communicating the reality of Christ. At this writing nearly 500 articles have been published, each post averaging 3,000 words. 

Listed below, in no particular order are some of the countries who've found us. I stand totally amazed at this. As you can see it reaches around the world.


We don't claim to have all the answers but only desire to be fuel on God's fire and declare to the best of our ability the Whole Counsel of God. This motivation got me started as a boy and will by His Grace continue to do so until He comes or calls.

United States,
United Kingdom
Angola
Argentina,
Austria,
Brunei, 
Bosnia and Herzegovina, 
Belgium,
Bulgaria,
Georgia,
Jordan,
Bahamas
Brazil,
Barbados,
Belize,
Botswana,
Bangladesh,
Curacao,
Crete
Cameroon,
Greece,
Colombia,
Chile,
Costa Rico,
Czech Republic,
Ecuador, 
Dominican Republic,
Estonia,
Finland, 
Congo [GRC]
Norway,
Peru
Puerto Rico,
Panama,
Germany,
Canada,
Russia,
S. Korea,
Netherlands,
Egypt,
Nigeria,
Israel,
Panama,
Ukraine,
China,
Hong Kong,
Indonesia
Oman,
Fiji,
Spain, 
Portugal,
Nigeria,
France,
Australia,
New Zealand,
Switzerland,
Poland,
Georgia,
Lebanon,
Latvia,
Slovakia,
Moldova
Myanmar {Burma}
Sweden,
St.Marten,
Saint Kitts and Nevis,
St.Vincent & Grenadines,
Tanzania,
Denmark,
Ireland,
Pakistan,
Kazakhstan,
Kuwait,
Iraq,
Iran,
Taiwan,
Belarus,
Turkey,
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,
Malaysia
Morocco,
Romania
Nicaragua
Venezuela, 
Vietnam.
Saudi Arabia
Sri Lanka,
Bahrain,
Venezuela, 
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

Monday, March 31, 2014

Mountian Dew

By John Stallings


It is like the Dew on Mount Hermon….Psalm 133:3


On April 13, 1984, in Durango, Colorado Ruthie & Verena Cady were born, joined at the chest & sharing a three-chambered heart.

On July 22, 1991, the seven year old Siamese twin girls died within 15 minutes of each other.

“Ruthie died 15 minutes ahead of Verena,” Mrs. Cady said. During the next few minutes the surviving seven year old twin talked with her mother.

Mrs. Cady said, “Verena talked about the whole thing. She said,
“This is the time we’re going to be dying.” “She asked me to get daddy & she gave me a list of friends she wanted to send flowers to. She asked to be cremated because she didn’t want to be in a box, she wanted to be free.”

The twins were connected from the sternum to the navel & shared a three –chambered heart which prevented doctors from separating them. Most Siamese twins die at birth. Doctors told Mrs. Cady & her husband, Peter, that if the girls lived a year it would be a miracle.

The twins studied at an elementary school & sang in a church choir. Their favorite activity was biking on a custom two-set tricycle that let one pedal & the other relax, their parents said.

“They could laugh at life,” said their mother, who wrote a 1989 cover article about the twins for People magazine. “They were almost always happy & smiling.”

They looked alike, smiled alike & wore identical shirts & bathing suits that their mother would stitch together.

“They had two completely different personalities, but they complimented each other,” said Mrs. Cady.

The girls would alternate days on which each would make the major decisions. They learned to compromise. “When you can’t get away from the other person you’re arguing with, you solve it quickly,” their mother said.

For the first two years when the family lived in Colorado, the sleeping girls would awake every hour because Durango’s 6,500-foot elevation made breathing difficult. The family later moved to Rhode Island where Mr. Cady was offered a college teaching job.

Does that story tug at your heart-strings? It certainly does mine.

Though these girls had different nervous systems & personalities, they were sustained by the same heart & literally needed each other to survive.


"MAKE THEM ONE…"

I think Verena & Ruth have something to teach Christians because we’re also all part of the same body. If you think that’s extreme, turn to John seventeen & read the priestly prayer Christ prayed before going to the cross. He pleads & prays to His Father that His children might be unified as He & His father are. In verse 21 He prays; -Make them one.

The founder of a business that grew to a billion dollars in annual revenues expressed the power of teamwork in this way; “If you could get all the people in an organization rowing in the same direction you could dominate any industry, in any market, against any competition, at any time.”

The church or the body of Christ is in a similar position. We’re all in the same boat; a lifeboat. Many of us have our oars in the water but sadly we aren’t all rowing in the same direction.

Satan really only has one weapon & that’s division. Anywhere you have a Difference there is a great opportunity for Division.

You can have division between white & black, tall & short, fat & skinny, men & women, educated & uneducated, rich & poor, Democrats & Republicans, Liberal & Conservative, outgoing & incoming, worldly & spiritual, Northern & Southern etc.

When Satan sees a Difference he goes to work to create the Division, in families, churches, businesses & nations.

PSALMS

Psalms help us in a unique way because every human emotion has its echo in the book. In them we learn that God cares about the circumstances of our lives, our reaction to every experience & about our relationships with one another. The Psalms are rich in imagery & figures of speech.

The Psalms touch us at the deepest levels of our being & probe all human experiences, also possessing the capacity to lift up our eyes to see God & our brothers & sisters.

PSALM 133--I dearly love this Psalm’s simplicity as well as its profound content.

Behold how good & how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity.

It is like the precious ointment upon the head that ran down upon the beard even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments.

As the DEW of HERMON, & as the dew that ascended upon the MOUNTAINS of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.



This Psalm is about unity but David doesn’t provide a road-map for going from disunity to unity. He doesn’t leave a trail of “Holy bread-crumbs” for us to follow; he just speaks about how glorious solidarity & unity is.

I heard about a Scottish Presbyterian who was stranded on an island in the middle of the south pacific. For years he lived alone on the island. When he was picked up the captain of the rescue ship said to him, “I thought you were alone on this island.” “I was,” replied the castaway. “Then why are there three huts on the beach?” “Well, the first one is my house, and the second one is my church.” “What about the other one?”

“Oh, that’s my old church.”

Although we love to sing about being one, Christians are mostly united about our love of dividing. If you doubt this, check the Wikipedia article called, List of Christian Denominations. Christians not only disagree, we enjoy our disagreements. How else could you explain so many different “flavors” marching under the “Christian banner?”

The first word in Psalm 133 is;

BEHOLD…..


The word behold tells us to stop, look, listen. The next word is;

HOW….

You’ll notice the word HOW occurs twice in the first sentence. Generally when we use the word HOW, we’re raising a question. The scriptures are replete with HOWS.

HOW can two walk together except they be agreed?
HOW shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?
HOW long shall you halt between two opinions?
HOW shall I know this? Zacharias, Elisabeth’s husband asked this.
HOW can this be? Mary asked the angel.

But in Psalm 133, neither of the HOWS raises a question & this is very unusual. Both the HOWS make an imperative statement accentuated by closing with an exclamation point. Behold how;

GOOD AND PLEASANT…..

Its not every day that we find anything that’s both good & pleasant. Visiting the dentist is good but it isn’t pleasant. Eating a healthy diet with plenty of fiber is good but it’s not always pleasant. Driving the speed limit is good, but many of you aggressive drivers who’ll read this know it’s not always pleasant.

David doesn’t say it will be easy to live in unity. There’ll be times when we have to work hard at staying unified. As an example, marriage is constant negotiation; from where to keep the thermostat to which restaurant we go to eat. Like the twin girls, we are constantly engaged in the give & take of relationships.

I believe it’s healthy to have disagreements but the key is how we handle them. Married folk know where all their spouses “buttons” are. We could get up any morning & start a fight with our spouse if that’s what we wanted. But if we’re wise, once we learn where those buttons are, we try to stay off of them. There’s a difference between unity & uniformity. God never called us to uniformity, but rather is calling us in all our relationships, to unity.

The Psalmist seems to stand in total awe & amazement as he gives us the message; there is nothing so sweet as this intangible-untouchable-indefinable-unexplainable-unclassifiable-indescribable- unspeakable thing called UNITY!

UNITY is sweet, good & Pleasant. In other words, how sweet it is!

The Hebrew word for pleasant is a musical synonym for harmony. I enjoy music of almost all kinds but the one thing I can’t stand is when music has no harmony or things are out of tune.—Behold how good & how pleasant it is for brethren to;

DWELL…

The word dwell means residency, a continuation & a perpetuating harmony. Unity is to dwell among us, not just be an occasional visitor, an ever-present resident, not a temporary guest. Brethren should dwell together;

IN UNITY…

Unity is good for us –body, mind, soul & spirit. I can’t understand people who foolishly add stressful things to their lives when we have enough problems with the world the flesh & the devil. It makes no sense to waste time dwelling on bitterness & grudges, stinking thinking & other toxic thoughts & patterns.

And in Colossians 3:14 he said, -- And beyond all these put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity.

UNITY IS LIKE…

Now David describes Unity by using two similes, oil & dew. First it’s like OIL. The Oil spoken of here is special oil the priest used in the tabernacle. This oil was a preparation made of four different spices, which gave it a special fragrance, & was prohibited for use elsewhere. The Old Testament priesthood was a type of the New Testament church, pastors & leaders.

Most of you are familiar with the priesthood of all believers. When The Psalms were written the priests were the primary communicators with God but Jesus changed all that with His death & resurrection. Now we can all have the oil of the Holy Spirit poured out on us. The “it” refers to the unity we can experience & the special blessings that accompany it.

OIL lubricates dry bones, loosens the frozen nuts & bolts, soothes rough skin & softens hard hearts in the body of Christ.

When this oil starts flowing it doesn’t stop. It flowed from Aaron’s head down the beard over the collar & onto his robe. There’s an inexhaustible supply of oil.

David could have used other examples. The reason he uses Aaron is he was someone special; a high priest. So too is this unity we can experience- something special. Through Aaron’s anointing he was qualified to serve as priest & with the Holy Spirit’s anointing we are also qualified to do the work of God.

Have you ever been in a fighting church? I’ve been in lots of them & they have a terrible odor. The fragrance of Jesus, the great high priest isn’t among them. The most important thing a church can have is the fragrance of unity. The preaching doesn’t have to be great nor the buildings elaborate, but the fragrance of unity is indispensable.

Satan wants our homes & churches to be models of Balkanization, factions & disunity. Have you ever visited in a fighting home? I have. I’ve been in homes as guest & felt so bound up I almost choked. You can ask someone to pass the gravy & when you hear the words coming out of your mouth you say, “What in the world did I say that for?” All I did was ask for the gravy & the words seemed to go into a synthesizer & emerged sounding like something echoing through the forests of Transylvania.

Tension is palpable, & can’t be hidden. I’d rather be in Alabama with a banjo on my knee than to be where strife resides. The first thing that hits you in the face when you enter one of these homes is the tension between the personalities in conflict.

But you can also feel love & sense unity. You can walk into a home or a church & feel the fragrance of Christ’s unity radiating from people.

UNITY IS LIKE THE “DEW ON MT. HERMON….”

I’ve visited Israel three times, as a matter of fact on our first visit we left just a few days before the six day war of 1967. When you look at your map of Palestine, you see a long piece of real estate & way up in the North East corner, almost directly across from Beirut, is Mount Hermon.

Mount Hermon is the highest point in the region—9,200 feet above sea level. Very little rain falls in this arid region but heavy dew falls each morning providing the moisture necessary for life & growth. There is such heavy, penetrating dew it makes the area abnormally lush & green on the slopes & up on the mountain. This dew makes the desert bloom.

Again David illustrates how rich the blessings will be when this “unity dew” falls on us. This dew will so penetrate us that it will moisten our minds, wash away worries & dampen the dusty demons that try to gain entrance.

This dew drenches everything. Everything gets covered with it. And so it is when the dew of unity comes.

Homes & churches that are filled with conflict & controversy are nothing less than a tragedy for everyone involved.

Some people think that they can talk trash around their kids & it will not affect them. Here’s the truth; if you talk negatively about your pastor, or anyone else around your kids, the person talked about will be able to feel it, literally see it in the kid’s eyes when they’re around them.

A few years ago Juda & I were pastoring a small church in the South & there was a young couple in the church with several small children. This couple just didn’t like us, period. That’s hard to understand given the fact that I’m so lovable. I knew they were angry at us but one Sunday Morning I walked up to greet the mother. She was holding her small child in her arms & when the baby saw me he began kicking & screaming almost uncontrollably.

The boy, just a few months old pitched a conniption- fit right there. Later I was sharing it with Juda & to my total shock she said the same thing had happened when she tried to speak to the lady. Both times the baby, who as I remember wasn’t even talking yet, reacted the same.

We all know this can happen with children but I’d never seen it so distinctly in evidence in a child that small. It wasn’t imaginary. The mother was extremely embarrassed & I’ll always believe she understood exactly what was happening. The couple had other children, the oldest had gotten old enough to be able to hide it, but the younger one, & the baby just couldn’t do it. Because of the attitude of the parents toward us we instinctively knew what the problem was with the youngest one. Make no mistake; when there is negative talk in the home, even the youngest somehow soak it up & it gets in their spirit.

I remember thinking, dear God, if people only understood the damage they do to their children when they allow bickering, fighting, hostility, criticism & strife to reign in their homes.

The converse is also true; when parents speak well of their church at home the children will be happier about attending & they will have the same sweet spirit their parents have.

Some people seem to think we’ve been given the ministry of demolition but they have it wrong; it’s the ministry of reconciliation that God has given us.-2 Cor.5:18

There’s a vast difference between being a peace lover, a peace keeper or a peace-maker. We all enjoy peace & it doesn’t take that much effort to keep peace, if it’s already on the scene. However it takes initiative, concern, prayer, tact & sometimes vulnerability to make peace where there isn’t any. When we do all possible to promote peace, we’re protecting what is cherished in the heart of Jesus, that for which He prayed in John 17.

Let me give some advice here that I’ve garnered over more than half a century of ministry. If someone comes to you wanting to dish out slander & gossip; they have just given you the biggest insult possible. Why? Because they’ve assumed that your ears are garbage cans.

We should say this when that happens; “Hey, wait a minute here, you’ve just insulted me. You’re handing out verbal garbage so that implies that you think I’m a garbage can. Don’t ever insult me like that again.”

THE HIGH COST OF DISUNITY

When reading Psalm 133, I often wonder if David was talking out of his experience with his brothers. Remember how abusively his brother talked to him when he went down to visit on the battle line, when he defeated Goliath? Perhaps he was ruminating about how it felt to have so much jealousy in his home life. He also could have been referring to Israel, which had a civil war & split in half forming the Northern & Southern kingdoms.

Ladies & gentlemen, let’s try with all diligence to cultivate a healthy self/critical spirit, instead of being so hard on one another. There used to be a saying, “Don’t criticize until you can show-how.”

When I was a kid, I used to occasionally try to use an axe, a hoe, a shovel or a rake. [Not at the same time.] My dad was raised on the farm, & he was an artist with all those tools.

I remember him occasionally critiquing  me in a nice way about how I was using the tools. Then he’d proceed to take the axe, hammer, or shovel out of my hands & demonstrate how to use it. The thing I remember about all his work was the ease with which he did it. I would sling the axe with all my might & make very little impact. He’d lift it up & let it fall a certain way & huge chunks would fly. My point is he felt free to correct me because he could turn around & model a more effective way to do it.

If you have a “bone to pick” with your church or your fellow Christian, before you point out their failures, ask yourself if you know how to do better than they the thing you’re criticizing. When we cultivate that healthy self/critical attitude we’ll soon realize there’s room for improvement within all of us.

As with my father, show a better way & people will usually take it but let’s make sure we’re exemplifying in our own lives the things we’re trying to straighten out in others. Anyone can “point out the gap” but what is needed is someone to “stand in the gap.” When we’re overly critical of someone, Romans 2:1 says it’s a guarantee that we’re harboring that same thing in our own lives; consequently we’re quick to spot it in others.

I well remember one of the first funerals I conducted as a young pastor. The deceased was a long-standing member of the church. I did some research & when I spoke to members of the congregation, I heard, “Oh that family doesn’t get along.”

I also learned that I couldn’t get the family together so I had to meet most of them separately, & they all had different things they wanted me to say about the deceased. I had to walk a tight-rope as I navigated the family’s “land-mines.”

I learned much later that this—“celebration of their family member’s life”—was the last time that family would ever sit together in the same room.

Lastly, Psalm 133 tells us; where unity dwells;

THERE GOD COMMANDED THE BLESSING, EVEN LIFE FOR EVERMORE

Did you know the Lord has commanded blessings to come upon you & me when we’re at peace with our brothers & sisters in the Lord?

Is there someone you can’t quite get along with? Pray for that person. Go out of your way to be a blessing to them. Do your best to walk in peace & unity. The world will know we’re true followers of Christ when we do this.

Make the decision to live in peace with your brothers & sisters if the only thing you can agree on is “Jesus is Lord!”

Focus on the love you have for God & for seeing people come to know Him. As you focus on walking in peace & unity, you’ll walk into the place of blessing the Lord has commanded for you.

Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit, in the bond of peace. Eph.4:3


Blessings,


John

Monday, March 17, 2014

"Life Comes At You Fast"

By John Stallings

One of the most talked about commercials in years is the Nationwide insurance ad about having the right coverage,-Life comes at you fast.”

When Nationwide introduced “Life Comes At You Fast” a few years back they operated in 23 local markets. After eight years, they’re now the #4 insurer throughout America, profits grew from $100 million to $2 billion and they became a Fortune 100 company.

In “Reflection,” the first TV spot to air, a young man is seen admiring his good looks in the bathroom mirror. After one last satisfied look, he opens his medicine cabinet to grab a hairbrush. When he closes the door, the reflection is no longer a handsome, 20-year-old, but an overweight, balding 55-year-old. As the baffled man continues to stare at his older reflection, the voice over states, “Life comes at you fast. Plan your retirement with Nationwide.”

In keeping with its unique campaign, Nationwide ads use humor to make an important point: Life Comes at You Fast – often before you realize it. Whether it’s getting married, having a child, buying a new home, or saving for college or retirement, advance preparation is key, especially when it comes to insurance and financial planning.

They couldn’t have said it better. Life does have a way of “coming at us fast.”

A dramatic example of how fast life comes was the death in 2006 of "Steve" Irwin "The Crocodile Hunter."Irwin was an Australian television personality, wildlife expert, and conservationist who achieved worldwide fame from the television series The Crocodile Hunter, an internationally broadcast wildlife documentary series which he co-hosted with his wife Terri. Together, the couple also co-owned and operated Australia Zoo, founded by Irwin's parents. Irwin died on 4 September 2006 after being pierced in the chest by a stingray barb while filming in Australia's Great Barrier Reef. Terri has continued to operate Australia Zoo and raise two children.

I read that Irwin often spoke openly of his belief that he wouldn’t live to be forty. That didn’t surprise me, because many times I predicted he would die with his boots on but frankly I thought one of the Crocs he teased would finally kill him.His last words were; "I'm dying."

Some time back Ryan Dunn the guy who was in all the Jackass movies died behind the wheel of a high-powered sports car as it careened out of control near Philadelphia, killing him as well as a male passenger.The victims were burned beyond recognition.The car driven by Dunn who’d reportedly been drinking was traveling at 130 MPH when it struck a tree. Life came at these young men fast; life was over in their mid-thirties.

SULLY

Think about this picture, which I’m sure we all recognize! When Captain Sully Sullenberger ate his cereal January 15, 2009, he had no idea that things would turn out like they did that day. He hadn’t a clue when his passenger Jet lifted off the runway on a routine flight to Charlotte, that by the time he was wheels-up he’d only have seconds before his plane would be struck by birds and both engines would be knocked out rendering his plane unable to fly.

This gives a whole new meaning to –Life comes at you fast. Seconds…he only had seconds to make a decision and that decision was to land in the Hudson River within view of the New York skyline. Captain Sullenberger will go down in history as a hero because of his ability to stay calm and obviously think outside the box and do the unthinkable to save the lives of all souls aboard his plane. Who would think a plane could land in a river and some of the passengers could escape without even getting their feet wet?

In the New Testament book of James there are these challenging words,

Come now, ye that say, Today or tomorrow we will go into
this city, and spend a year there, and trade, and get gain: whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. What is your life? For ye are a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall both live, and do this or that.” (James 4:13-15).

Christians ought to consider all their plans as tentative, depending upon the will of God.

There is another emphasis in this passage of scripture, however, which I’d like to point out. It comes in the brief question, “What is your life?” James indicated the brevity of life by comparing it to a vapor which appears for a little while and then vanishes away. No doubt all of us have whiled away part of an afternoon, watching the beautiful white cumulus clouds that often appear in summertime.

As I recall such experiences I remember occasionally watching a cloud vanish into the blue of the sky as I watched its outer edges melt away. James suggested that life itself is much like such a cloud.
In the scriptures we also find life compared to the making of a journey. Such a figure suggests that there is a destination to be reached.

Similarly, life has been compared to water spilled on the ground, a disturbing figure because it implies futility and waste.

Again, life has been compared to a frail and fragile flower. This suggests that there is a period of growth, a period of maturity and finally a period of withering away. Life has been called a dream. It has been likened to a tale that is told. It has been compared to a hand breadth, suggesting its very limited dimensions. Actually, these are only a few of the many figures of speech relating to life which one finds in the scriptures.

Someone once summarized man's earthly life this way: "Man's life means tender teens, teachable twenties, tireless thirties, fiery forties, forceful fifties, serious sixties, sacred seventies, aching eighties, shortening breath, dead, the sod, then God."

LIFE CAME AT JOB FAST

I don’t think it possible to find a better example of the vicissitudes and unpredictability of life than Job. It’s almost an understatement to say life came at Job fast.

In his despair at one point he said,

My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle,


And are spend without hope.


Oh remember that my life is a breath;


Mine eye shall no more see good.


The eye of him that seeth me shall behold me no more,


Thine eyes shall be upon me, but I shall not be.


As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away,


So he that goeth down to Sheol shall come up no more,


He shall return no more to his house,


Neither shall the place know him any more.” (Job. 7:6-10)

There are many things that can be lost in life. There’s….

The Loss of Those You Love

You may have lost a relative or a close friend either by death or by distance—either way you have lost them. They are no longer there. That is one kind of loss that is hard to bear.

The Loss of Things You Love

Another category is the loss of personal necessities or benefits—the loss of a job, a desire, a goal or a dream in life. The loss occurs and suddenly you know you will never realize the dream you have had in your heart.

We can learn from Job how to handle losses. He lost both people and things. I Look at the list of Job’s spiritual and material possessions.

Job was an incredible man of God, a man who was greatly respected.

He had a large family: seven sons and three daughters—10 children. Quite a “quiver” full .

He had abundant possessions—7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 oxen, 500 donkeys and servants by the dozen.

He had prestige. People knew and respected Job.The Bible says Job lost it all. He did not deserve it, but it happened. Job was a good man who trusted God, loved his family and treated people fair. Life’s circumstances and conditions came at Job fast and in a negative way—He lost everything. How did he respond? Listen…

Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; BLESSED BE THE NAME OF THE LORD.”

Life came at Job fast.

In all of this Job did not sin with his lips.” (Job 2:10). God has the right to bring the unpleasant as well as the pleasant. Without this concept, you and I will never be able to persevere through pressure.

Remember that our major goal in life is not to be happy or satisfied, but to glorify God. Paul said, “…to live is Christ.” (Philippians 1:19-26).

To understand Job’s mindset and action strategy to endure life’s fast changes, read, meditate on and apply Job’s counsel in Job 5:17-22. Job proclaims God’s righteous judgment in Job 23:8-14.

Neither shall the place know him any more.” (Job. 7:6-10)

LIFE COMES AT YOU FAST, WEIGH YOUR OPTIONS CAREFULLY.

An experience we’ve all had that will help to bring this truth home as good as any is a student doing their studies in school. The student leaves school in the afternoon with the knowledge that the next day he/she has an important test coming up. By the time they get home they realize they only have a few hours before bed time. In these precious hours they know they’ll have to eat supper, do whatever chores they have responsibility for and study. Life is coming fast and there’s seemingly never enough time. The student now has to make a decision. Will he spend part or all of his time watching T.V or retreat to their room and use those precious two or three hours in study?

The pastor who puts off getting his Sunday sermon until Saturday won’t be very effective. When I first started pastoring, my father gave me some good advice. He said, “Son, be sure to have a comfortable study stocked with good books, a comfortable chair and a desk.” He added, “Preachers who don’t have a study and don’t spend a lot of time there, soon won’t need a study, they’ll be unemployed.”

Life feels so arbitrary at times. None of us knows what is going to happen to us when we awaken in the morning. Will debris fall off the back of a truck, hit our vehicle and injure us? Will one of our children be grabbed by a stranger while playing outdoors? Will a doctor call and say there is a spot on the X-ray that needs more attention?

Each morning I pray that I have the wisdom and grace to handle whatever comes my way. Sometimes death seems as arbitrary as the person who draws the short stick.

Over the years I’ve lost several cousins to  heart attacks before they reached fifty. When people we know die before they get old, we wonder why. Death is easier to comprehend when one has lived a full life and dies at a ripe old age.

But when a child or an adult who is not yet of senior years dies, we question why these gentle souls were taken so soon. When one dies violently from the hands of another, it’s not unusual to question the sanity of our world.

While it is easy to focus on the downside of life's capricious nature, unpredictability works both ways. If we win the lottery, we don’t complain. In fact, we think life has been especially good to us whether we deserve it or not.

Rarely do we say, "Why me?" when the sun is shining (unless it is 98 degrees), or when our health is fine and our pantries are full. We accept our good fortune with grace and often for granted — as if we earned those blessings. But as soon as the tide changes, we start to whimper and question God.

IS THE RAPTURE STILL IMMINENT?

Here are some synonyms for “imminent:”

About to happen, looming, coming up, forthcoming, pending, impending, in the offing, on the cards, on the agenda, on the horizon, just round the corner, in the stars, in the pipeline, and at hand. The one antonym is; distant.

How do you feel about the recent failed Rapture prediction? The non-Christian world is having a field day. I have read several of the secular world’s comments, and they are obviously even more adamant in their opinion of us Christians; i.e. we are all ignorant and a few bricks shy of a load. Our elevator does not reach the top floor. We are not the sharpest knives in the drawer..

Many good Christian people are totally embarrassed, and will now shy away from even mentioning the Rapture to others. Why associate them selves with this obvious cult leader and suffer the ridicule? Is it any wonder that we, who know the Rapture is true and will happen, find it difficult in helping our own Christian brothers and sisters in Christ to see the reality that the Rapture will, in fact, happen, at God’s chosen time?

Actually, this is 89 year old Harold Camping’s third failed prediction, and I feel confident that he is now working on his fourth. Here’s the truth.

First or all, any Rapture-believing Christian knew for a fact that there would be no Rapture on Mr. Camping’s predicted date. Jesus said,

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is.”

(Mark 13:32-33) I don’t bet, but if I did, that would be the one day that I could bet that the Rapture would not occur, and I would win.

Camping is not the first to make failed predictions for the Rapture, and he won’t be the last. It is people like him, and so many others, that Satan has used to deceive mankind. I have no doubt that Satan is behind this whole charade, laughing hilariously at the confusion he has caused. Satan and his minions laugh. Sadly, for those without Christ, the laughter will be turned to tears when the Rapture does occur, and it will happen, at God’s chosen time.

The first thing that came to mind when Mr. Camping announced his Rapture prediction was the result we are now hearing, and also something Peter said,

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” (2 Peter 3:3-4)

These two verses and the results from this charlatan, Mr. Camping, indicate to me that this too can be considered a sign of the last days preceding the return of Christ for His Church.

THE RAPTURE WILL COME AT THE WORLD WITH GREAT RAPIDITY.

In other words it will-“Come at us fast.”

When will the Rapture occur? I haven’t a clue, except it will happen when God is ready for it to happen. I will say this; God makes it clear that we cannot know the day or the hour, but I do believe we can know the season, and the season seems to be upon us. How long is the season? I don’t know. Are we at the beginning of the season, the middle, or near the end? Again, I don’t know. I do know that Jesus was very displeased with the Pharisees and Sadducees for not recognizing the signs of His first coming to earth. Does it not make sense that He expects us to recognize the signs He is showing us today of His near second coming and the Rapture preceding it?

The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:1-3)

I am aware of Jesus’ statement to the Apostles just prior to His ascension back to Heaven. “And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7)

Since Scripture cannot contradict itself, in comparing Matthew 16:1-3 with Acts 1:7, I don’t believe Jesus is saying we cannot recognize the signs He gives us, but He is saying that the Father has control of the times and seasons, and they are in His hands. Also, again, we cannot know the day or the hour. Further, when the season does arrive, He will show us the signs we need to know for that season, in order that we may know that we are in that season.

Therefore, what we have just witnessed simply strengthens my belief that our departure may be sooner than we think, because Jesus also said, “Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not.” (Luke 12:40)

The hour we are in would certainly qualify, since we and our Bridegroom are now the world’s laughing stock. No one would expect it. But, I must caution. How long is the hour in question? At what part of the hour are we? Only God Himself has those answers. We do not know, but we should be watching and be prepared. In the meantime, there is much work to do. As Paul would say,

I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14)

Let us press on, and be looking up.

The Rapture is still imminent!

Blessings,

John

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Rape Of Dinah


By John Stallings


A young ministerial student was given the assignment of reading the genealogies from the first chapter of Matthew & making an oral report to his class.

He stood in front of the class of young ministers & read the seventeen verses from the first chapter of Matthew & closed the Bible saying,-- “That’s a reading of the genealogies, but there’s no message there,” --& started to sit down.

His professor said, “Young man, you are mistaken, there’s a treasure trove of messages in those genealogies, it’s your business to find them.”

We could almost say the same thing the young minister said of Genesis 34, because it’s an awful chapter in the Bible as well as in human history. But as horrendous as the thirty-one verses penned by Moses are, they pack powerful messages on several important subjects.

We know that the Bible wasn’t written in chapters, they were added later for ease of use. In this entire section or 34th chapter, God’s name is absent. It’s the only chapter outside of Esther that God’s name isn’t mentioned. However in Esther we can easily see the fingerprints of God, but in this chapter we don’t see His name or His influence.

For the first time in twenty years, Jacob is finally at peace. He’s been tied up in strife with his parents, his wives, his father-in-law & his brother but now it seems as if he’s found some rest.

He has finally reconciled with his brother Esau after the fight with an angel. Jacob gives up his pilgrimage at last, settles down, raises his colors & sinks a well.

BUT PEACE CAN HAVE ITS OWN SET OF PROBLEMS.

Jacob settles his family in Shalem in the region of Shechem, an area lying between Mt. Elba & Mt. Gerizim, about 41 miles north of Jerusalem. They camp within sight of the city of Shechem & purchase a piece of land. Jacob pitches his tent & then sets up an alter which he names “El Elohe Israel”—which means “God, the God of Israel, or “mighty is the God of Israel.”

The reality is, Jacob shouldn’t be settling down in Shechem, he should have gone on to Bethel. God will remind him of that in 35:1.

Instead of taking his children back to Bethel, the place of his spiritual awakening & acquaint them with his God, he took them to Shechem, red-neck territory, to introduce them to the business world.

Jacob’s kids were now teenagers & living so close to the city it was only natural for them to want to walk into town when they’d finish their chores. Dinah, Jacob’s only daughter [the narrative points out she was a daughter he had with Leah, not his favorite wife] who is between 15 & 17 years of age would often visit her friends in town.

There’s always a price to pay when God’s children & covenant people start mingling with the world.—Come ye out from among them & be ye separate --is the command of God.

That doesn’t mean we isolate ourselves from people, just that we don’t form alliances with the ungodly.

More & more as Dinah would venture into the city she began to catch the eye of a man named Shechem, the son of Hamor, leader of the town.

One day Shechem’s lustful eye caused him to follow his lust & he grabbed Dinah off the street, raped her & took her to his house to hold her hostage. Then, & this is weird, -- he “fell in love the girl.” The reason I put that in quotes is because this man took Dinah by force & wants to keep her by force. Then he says he loves her. Give me a break! While to be fair, this isn’t a rape & run case, —to call it love to me is sick!

He then spoke to his father Hamor about making overtures to Jacob to get Dinah as his wife. He sounds a little like a cave man, “Me want woman.” Or maybe he was a Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde personality.

Word travels fast & it’s sad to see papa Jacob’s reaction. ---

When Jacob heard that his daughter Dinah had been defiled [raped] -- his sons were in the fields; so he kept quiet about it until they came home. 34:5

This kills me because Jacob kept quiet, meaning he didn’t rush to find & help Dinah or to confront the young man or his father; he waited until his sons came home.--he just doesn’t react to the news & even send word to his sons about what happened.

A major earmark of this family is Jacob’s favoritism. I’m sure if it had been Rachel’s daughter he’d have reacted differently; remember how passionate he was about the troubles Joseph & Benjamin went through?

WHERE IS DINAH’S VOICE? A  SILENT SCREAM!

Let me interject something right here; you’ll notice that never in this story is the voice of Dinah heard. I’m not second- guessing Moses here for not giving her a voice, because he’s writing the Bible, what I am saying is there’s a thing in our society sociologists call “the silent scream.” It refers to the inner cry of the victimized female who never reports the crime of rape against her for fear she’ll be accused of provoking the attack.

Let’s not be too hard on Dinah just because we have so few details about her. If we go back & read the complete narrative we can see others saying what they want & offering to pay any price to get it but we never hear what Dinah wants. It offends me greatly that she had no choice or voice; if she did it’s never mentioned.

According to a recent National Violence against Women survey, one in six women in America report experiencing rape or sexual assault. According to the Justice Department, 20-25% of college women report they have experienced complete or attempted sexual assault. Again, it’s difficult to get accurate numbers on rape because many women hesitate to report it for fear of being accused of provoking it.

Rape is a crime & a sin that has affected the lives of multitudes of women. If you’re reading this & you’ve been raped, you’ve been sinned against horribly & on behalf of good, godly, & decent men I express my anger & grief at what’s happened to you. There are many others who’ve experienced it & by the help of God’s Holy Spirit   you can overcome this violation.

JACOB—A PASSIVE PARENT

It would be an understatement to say Jacob wasn’t a very strong spiritual leader in the home. There is no mention of him instructing his children in the Lord. Since Jacob was a man of blatant favoritism, & Leah wasn’t his favorite wife, Dinah probably wasn’t given much attention or watched closely enough. Because of that she explored other avenues for attention & affection.

I’m pointing out the obvious here but it’s a parent’s duty to keep watch over their children & its obvious Dinah was falling through the cracks as many modern day latch-key kids are doing. If parents don’t take time with their children, the children almost certainly will take their time later.

It doesn’t appear to me that Jacob ever communicated with his sons except to tell them where to graze the sheep. It’s so important to tell our children we love them, to tell them how important they are to us & to God.

SELECTIVE OUTRAGE

Jacob was a man of “selective outrage.” He could get worked up when one of his sons had problems but he wasn’t emotionally available to Dinah & what happened to his only daughter seemed to affect him less than a fly crawling on his beard.

When folk have selective outrage, they carefully select what they get upset over, based not on principle but on personal agenda’s & preferences.

Jesus gave us a perfect illustration of selective outrage when he told of the man who could see the speck in another person’s eye but didn’t notice the poll hanging out of his own eye. Jesus goes on to say this is a prefect example of a hypocrite.-Matt.7:1-5

Paul gave us another example of selective outrage when he castigated the people who judge others, saying-- they do exactly what they are criticizing in others, they just can’t or won’t see it.--Romans 2:1

This is what makes the Liberal point of view so hard to follow & catalogue. How can you be for Abortion & against the death penalty? A Liberal will look at both issues & be upset by the killing of a cold blooded murderer, but not moved at all by going into the womb to kill an innocent baby. This then is selective outrage.

Jacob kept quiet about Dinah until the boys came in & let them handle it. Edmond Burke once said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” A soon as the brothers heard what happened to their sister they went ballistic. Shechem’s dad Hamor had come out to Jacob’s tent to seek terms for marriage between Shechem & Dinah asking Jacob to name his price for the girl.

Nether Shechem or Hamor offer an apology for Dinah’s rape; their idea was, “Hey, let’s all just get married & be one big happy family.” [And you thought I was kidding when I called this red-neck country.] For Jacob’s daughter to marry among these people would have been disastrous. Remember when Abraham was looking for a bride for Isaac, he didn’t take one from where they were living. Also remember how Jacob was sent away to find a wife.

Remember, Jacob’s name had been changed to Israel not that long ago so Shechem not only sinned against Dinah he’d sinned against a patriarch, a family & a fledgling nation.

JACOB’S SONS WILL NOW PLAY “THE RELIGION CARD.”

Jacob’s boys felt they were justified in taking action because of the violation against Dinah. They are going to take circumcision, an outward sign of an inward submission to God, & use it as a ploy to further their dastardly plans. I don’t know which was worse, Jacob’s silence or his son’s schemes. The boys are going to practice deceit, but then deceit has always been a problem in this patriarchal family right from the start.

The sons spoke up & said, “We can’t do business with men who’re not circumcised.” Then they ask that to keep the peace, all the men of the town be circumcised. So Hamor & Shechem, leaders of the family, convince all the other men to be circumcised.

The driving force behind the men of Shechem being willing to do this was financial gain because each of the groups were using each other to make money. In truth this is why Jacob stopped here in the first place. To these men circumcision was a small price to pay for the financial gain they thought they’d get. So the young men of Shechem let no grass grow under their feet & proceeded immediately with the cutting.

JACOB'S SONS GO ON A GENOCIDAL SPREE 

Three days after the circumcision, the worst day after such a procedure when all the men of Shechem are sore & weak, two of Dinah’s full brothers Simeon & Levi attack the town secretly, go door to door killing all the men & retrieving their sister. They loot the houses & take the women & children off as slaves. The rape of Dinah was disgraceful but what these boys did in committing wholesale murder is savagely & inhumanly excessive.

When people take vengeance into their own hands to settle even legitimate issues, the devil sees to it that they cross the line & the punishment won’t fit the crime. There’ll be no equity, only exponential revenge. Two wrongs don’t make a right nor does might make right. I’ve seen people try to be “Holy Ghost Juniors” by taking things into their own hands that should be turned over to God & in so doing they make a mess that will need a lifetime to heal.

What would you do if someone came to your house & tried to get between you & your child you were in the process of disciplining? If I don’t miss my guess the person interfering would get the punishment you meant for your child. Never try to punish one of God’s kids, leave that to Him & He’ll do it right. If you take the job into your hands you’ll get the spanking yourself, & it might be as much as seven-times worse for you. –Genesis 4:15

FORGIVENESS—GOD’S PLAN TO SETTLE DISPUTES

If Jacob’s sons could have brought themselves to forgive Shechem, they could have avoided hell on earth. They were worse off now than they were after the rape of Dinah. A little forgiveness goes a long way in healing hurts. Hatred has no place in our lives even when people do despicable things to us. Allowing hatred & resentment to motivate you is like burning down your own house to get rid of a rat.

Only now after this carnage does Jacob speak. He gives Simeon & Levi an earful because they have brought trouble on him a made him a stench to the Canaanites & Perizites, thus threatening the safety of the family. Jacob says, “We are few in number & if they join forces against me & attack me, my household will be destroyed.”

Of course the boys are bitter & ask, -“Should he have treated our sister like a prostitute?”

All Jacob can think of is his own reputation. His ego has been hurt & now he thinks of his lowered status in the community.

Never mind the fact that his daughter has been raped, his sons abused the rite of circumcision, or that every male citizen of Shechem has been slaughtered, or that the city itself has been plundered, or that its women & children had been taken captive, or that Jacob’s sons had degraded & dehumanized themselves by committing acts of unspeakable wickedness. His concerns are tactical & strategic, rather than ethical.

COMPROMISE IS A GREAT LESSON OF THIS TRAGIC STORY.

The saddest aspect of this story is that just when a father is needed most, Jacob is silent. He twiddles his thumbs about his daughter’s rape while his sons do as bad or worse to the man or men responsible. Jacob, who wanted nothing more than to retire & have some peace, loses his daughter to rape & loses the respect of his sons who now despise him. None of this would have happened if Jacob hadn’t loved the world & instead taken his household directly to Bethel.

If we could talk to Jacob today about his experiences as a father, the interview might go something like this;

“Jacob, what did you do when your daughter was raped?”

“Well. Nothing but I heard about it & it upset me.”

“I see. What about your son’s slaughter of the men of Shechem?” “Did you do anything then?”

“Oh well. I thought the sooner we could forget about that the better.”

“Jacob, what about when your oldest son Reuben slept with one of your concubines? What did you do about that?”

“Well, nothing, I knew it happened though… & I couldn’t believe he didn’t know better. But the embarrassment of a confrontation would have really been unpleasant.”

“Jacob, what did you do when you saw the hatred & jealousy that your ten sons had for Joseph? Didn’t you realize your favoritism sowed the seeds of division in your home?”

“I guess I didn’t realize it would be such a problem, I mean, boys will be boys.”

Jacob has been silent about Dinah’s rape & most young Israeli girls would just as soon forget Shechem & let it shrivel into histories dust-ben. The good news is that though Jacob is silent about Dinah’s rape, God is not.

Two thousand years after Dinah’s tragedy, when it would seem God & everyone else has forgotten it, one-third of all God is came & paid a visit to Shechem. [John 4] When He arrived its spiritual condition was much the same as when Jacob left it; dominated by compromise, intermarriage & distorted worship.

There in the place where Jacob had sold out & dug his well, Jesus sits down at that self-same well & encounters a woman. She is a grown-up Dinah: outcast, lonely & we can surmise tormented by the sexual abuse of more than one man. She lives in her own world isolated by silence.

But here is the new Jacob who isn’t silent to one living in shame.
This lady of Shechem is given a voice. As they converse, the conversation turns from the water in Jacob’s well to living water & from the failed men she had lived with to the hope of the Messiah. She runs into the town with the wonderful news;

Come see a man who told me all the things that I have done; is this the Messiah?”[John 4:29]

The memory of the rape & desecration of Dinah at Shechem is finally transformed & set right.

Biblical & even secular Scholars & Historians through the centuries have agreed that when Jesus sat down to talk to this woman, things changed for women everywhere. This one conversation between Jesus & the woman at the well of Samaria transformed the status of women, making them equals with men, if not totally liberated, when they for centuries had endured a status on the level with beasts of burden.

We can even use this story as a paradigm for our own healing. We can go back to our darkest hours of pain & allow Jesus to visit with us there & bring healing.

We can hear His voice in that terrible place & see the dark wells of pain turned into springs of living water & hearts once weighed down with shame & sorrow can soar again like the birds into the heavens.

We see in the story Moses tells us of Jacob & Dinah the tragedy of compromise. When we compromise God will discipline us & allow us to experience the consequences of our actions.

Moses doesn’t approve of the bloody actions that are taken in this story, but is showing us that God is sovereign & is able to take the worst of circumstances & accomplish His purposes.

Do you believe that?

Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Blessings,

John