Thursday, December 14, 2017

"I'm Dreaming Of A RIGHT Christmas"

By John Stallings


A pastor worked in his study all through Christmas Eve preparing for the Christmas morning service.

Being very tired he dozed off & dreamt of a world to which the Savior had never come. In his dream he was looking around his home but there were no Christmas decorations, no candles or Christmas wreaths.He walked into his study & thumbed through his library but found no books about Jesus, & the Bible he found ended at Malachi.

He noticed that the last words of the Bible were,

LEST I COME & SMITE THE EARTH WITH A CURSE.

He walked out unto the streets & found no church spires pointing heavenward.He went back inside & a knock on the door brought a request to visit a dying mother. He went to her bedside but could find no comforting scriptures, for the gospels were not there. Paul’s comforting letters that included passages about life beyond the grave were missing. There was no promise beyond the grave. Even John’s book of Revelation was not there.

He could only bow his head & weep in hopeless desperation. Two days later he stood by the mother’s grave & conducted her burial but he could give no word of changed hearts & glorious resurrections, only, “ashes to ashes & dust to dust.” It was just one long, last, final farewell.

Suddenly nearby music awoke him from his sleep & he was sobbing uncontrollably. He realized he was hearing his own church choir in the sanctuary next door practicing for their Christmas service & singing “Oh come let us adore Him.” The fact was, Jesus had come & His coming had split history in two, giving hope for eternal life to all who trust in Him.

WHAT WOULD A WORLD WITHOUT CHRIST LOOK LIKE?

Had Christ not come we’d have no New Testament, no gospel, no church, no Lord’s Day, no repentance, no forgiveness of sins, no changed & transformed hearts & lives & no hope of His eternal presence.The angel wouldn’t have told Mary, -With God nothing is impossible.The angels wouldn’t have sung to the shepherds, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will to men.

One of my favorite secular Christmas songs has always been ErvIn Berlin’s White Christmas. Though it’s always been a dream of mine, I can’t say that I ever experienced a white Christmas. In the last few years that dream has faded & been replaced with the desire to celebrate each year, a Right Christmas.What does a right Christmas look like?

A RIGHT CHRISTMAS IS BEAUTIFULLY SIMPLE & SIMPLY BEAUTIFUL.

Have you ever tried to explain the real meaning of Christmas to a child? It isn’t easy. There is so much tradition mixed up with spiritual truth that it’s sometimes hard to tell Jesus from Santa Claus & the Wise men from the snowmen.The very young have puzzled looks on their faces as they try to sort it all out. “Let me see if I’ve got this straight….Christmas is baby Jesus’ birthday, but I get the presents?” They end up thinking;-“Is this a great religion or what?”

THE MOST NEGLECTED CHRISTMAS VERSE OF ALL

There is one verse that for me sums up the real meaning of Christmas better than any verse in the Bible. Within this short verse we find the answer to the question, what is the right attitude about Christmas & --what is a right Christmas? Here is the verse,

---2 Corinthians 8:9: For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.

Let’s examine this verse for in it I believe we find the essence of a right attitude toward Christmas.

A. HE WAS RICH

I read last week that Wal-Mart is the richest & most successful business that’s ever existed on planet earth. My computer even knows who Wal-mart is because it just corrected my spelling of the name.This brings up a question in my mind: “Why don’t we let Wal-mart bail out General Motors?” But I digress. Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-mart was a “rich-en.” He was among the group of old boys who would light their cigars with a hundred dollar bill. The average rich ride first class. The medium rich charter a jet. The super rich own the jet. The incredibly rich own the airline.But Jesus Christ owns the skies. The Bible says---

HE WAS RICH!

This is speaking of what He had in heaven before He came to earth. You can take the richest men who ever lived, the most powerful rulers who ever lived, the wisest men who ever lived, the mightiest generals who ever lived, the strongest athletes in every sport, the most spell-binding orators, the greatest political leaders & any other great men on earth, calculate their wealth…power…skill…genius…wisdom…insight…& ability. Whatever that vast sum comes to, Jesus had more in heaven. No man or collection of men could touch Him. The pre-existent Jesus Christ wasn’t a pauper but a man who lived in glorious untold splendor.He Was Rich!!

B. HE BECAME POOR

When you & I celebrate a right Christmas we keep in mind the lowly baby Jesus who became poor. Exactly what does that mean? He was rich in eternity but He became poor when He moved into time. He left heaven for a remote village in a forgotten province, to join a despised race, to be born of an obscure teenage peasant girl in a stable, wrapped in rags & placed in a feeding-trough instead of a crib.But Jesus didn’t act “high & mighty.” He knew it all but wasn’t a “know it all.” He owned all the stuff but never did “strut His stuff.” He wasn’t a “name-dropper.” He wasn’t a showoff. He never asked people, “Want me to beam you into the 21st century?” Jesus could have constantly been saying things like, “I’ve got some property on Jupiter.”

But Jesus’ purpose wasn’t to show-off but to show-up. Jesus was holding the entire Universe together but you couldn’t tell it by watching or listening to Him. He wasn’t like that.Here is the creator of the universe who looked no different than the guy down the street. Jesus became poor & pitched His tent among us for a while. He didn’t Lord it over us but loved us so much He was willing to die for us. He wasn’t on an ego trip he was on a rescue mission.

A right Christmas is one that remembers that we are something special to God.Notice that Jesus became poor. You & I are made poor by circumstances but Jesus of His own free will became poor. The man who was richer than any man has ever been gave it up freely & became poorer than any man has ever been.If we have a right Christmas we’ll be remembering that the heart of it all, the heart of the gospel is that the richest person in the universe of His own free will became poorer than the poor.

I love the story of the atheist who would never go to church with his Christian family. One Christmas season, his wife & children were readying themselves to go to Sunday morning service & pleaded with him to go just this once. It was a special Christmas service & there’d be beautiful music.The unbelieving man refused to go, as usual, telling his family it would just be a waste of time for him, that Christmas was just a silly old tradition about a man who never really existed.The family left for church leaving the father sitting in his recliner near a large picture window that overlooked a big back yard. It was snowing & the sight of the flakes building up on the barn behind the house was breathtaking. He thought how much it looked like a Norman Rockwell painting.

Then something happened that almost startled him out of his chair. A flock of about twenty birds, not seeing the glass window, flew right into it, leaving several of them wounded & flapping around on the ground. The man, pitying the poor birds slowly got up & walked toward the window to get a better look. He stood & watched the birds slowly regain their composure & then begin to wander around the backyard in a state of confusion.

He went & dressed & got some bread from the kitchen thinking he’d try to feed the birds if they’d allow him to get close enough.His worst fears were realized when he approached the dazed & confused birds when they fluttered away, seeing every move he made as a threat to them. This went on for quite some time & the man finally had an idea. If he could open the big barn doors, & get the nearly frozen birds to go in they could have shelter from the blistering winds & maybe live to fly again.The man slowly moved across the barnyard & opened the doors, placing the bread crumbs on the ground hoping the birds natural survival instinct would kick in. The man tried every trick he could think of to get those disoriented birds to see that life was within their reach just a few feet away, but the birds stubbornly refused to co-operate.

Finally the man, not able to stand the bitter cold had to give up & go back inside to warm himself. As he stood at the window & watched the birds, still wandering aimlessly around the yard, the thought came to him; there was only one way he could ever hope to get those birds to go into the barn, but it wasn’t within his power to do it.The only way the birds could be saved was if he himself could become a bird & join the little flock & lead them into the safety of the barn.When his family returned from church, the man shared the experience with them.

Through that visual experience with the birds God had shown him the meaning of Christmas. Bethlehem was about God wrapping himself in human flesh & becoming a man. He entered the human race & became poor like us so that we would hear Him saying, “I love you.” Immanuel—God with us.

C. THAT WE MIGHT BECOME RICH

Here is “The right Christmas” message;

Jesus became poor so that we who were poor might become rich.

Think abut that. All the riches & grace of God is available to me by virtue of my relationship with Jesus Christ. All the power & all the right standing with God are mine through Him.You may say, “You don’t deserve that.” Indeed I don’t but that’s the grace of our Lord Jesus. If I deserved it I wouldn’t need Jesus, but through my relationship with Him suddenly I’m a rich man.

The theologians have a word for it. They call it the doctrine of imputation. He takes my sin & I take His righteousness. That’s grace by association.

Do you remember the wedding of Lady Diana & Prince Charles? We saw a T.V movie about it recently. Diana didn’t exactly come from poverty but compared to the royal family, her family was poor. But now, by virtue of her marriage to Prince Charles, all the wealth, all the prestige, all the power, all the pomp & glory of the royal family belong to her. Once she was an outsider; now she has access to the Queen. Did she earn such a lofty standing? No. It was imputed to her by virtue of her relationship to Prince Charles. Imputed honor- imputed wealth -& imputed standing.

What do you call a poor girl who marries a prince? You call her “Your Highness.”So it is that when we came to Jesus we were spiritual paupers. Our hands were empty & our pockets were bare. We had nothing to offer & no claim to make. All our lives it had been, one step forward & two steps back but when we came to Him, we were fed, clothed, filled, forgiven, & crowned with every good thing.Jesus took away our rags & placed around us His own righteousness.

Everything that was against us was gone & everything we lacked we now have. All this happened because of Christmas. He who was rich became poor for my sake, that through His poverty I might be rich.The Son of God became a son of man in order that the sons of men might become the sons of God.Again, what is a right Christmas?

A—He was rich

B---He became poor

C---That we might become rich.

And that’s the true meaning of Christmas.Only one thing remains. Have you found the Christ of Christmas & asked Him to be your Savior? Have you placed your trust in Him? Have you given up your spiritual poverty for the riches He offers to you?

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” I love this verse;

How silently, how silently
This wondrous gift was giv’n
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessing of His heav’n.
No ear may hear His coming,
But in the world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive Him still,
The dear Christ enters in.

And so He does!

May that be our experience as we all enjoy,

A RIGHT CHRISTMAS!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Blessings,

John

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Child With Four Names

By John Stallings

There are lots of people with three names.


Among them are, Sandra Day-O'Conner, US Supreme Court Judge, Jaquelyn Kennedy Onasis, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tommy Lee Jones, Billy Bob Thornton, Billy Ray Cyrus, James Earl Jones, and Sara Jessica Parker.

Of course we can’t forget those with one name like Madonna, or Cher or Elvis.

One of the many important decisions confronting new parents is, “What shall we call our baby?” Most new parents spend hours debating this question. We all realize that names matter. Shall the new baby be named after his father, his uncle, a favorite friend? Should he be given a name that happens to be popular at the moment? Or one that simply sounds good?

Charles Phillip Arthur George


Names are important because once you pick out a name the child will be stuck with it for a long, long time! Babies have no voice in the selection of their names. They have to live with them — to live them down or live them up.

Every so often you’ll run across a person with multiple names, such as Charles Phillip Arthur George Windsor. That’s sounds odd until you discover it’s Prince Charles. If you say that’s a heavy load to lay on a baby, remember He’s royalty and He needs a long name.
So it is with Jesus.

Even before His birth, Jesus was a child with many names. The prophet Isaiah, writing 700 years before He was born, prophesied that Messiah would have four names:

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

We know that there are many other names for Jesus; however this verse reveals four of those names. Each one features an aspect of His character. They teach who He is and how He can help us. One of our beloved carols is cast in a plaintive question:

What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?”


Listen to Isaiah’s divinely-inspired answer. These four names speak to us about wisdom, power, security, and assurance. The first name is…

1. WONDERFUL COUNSELOR


Literally this title means “a wonder of a counselor.” It speaks of the wisdom of his plan. The word “wonderful” means “astonishing” or “extraordinary.” The writers of the Old Testament used it for acts of God which man cannot understand. The word “counselor” means “advisor” or “ideal ruler.”

There are several professions that make their living giving advice to others but they can’t claim perfection. Psychiatrists routinely make $150 (and sometimes $350) an hour for their counsel. Much of it is good, some not so good. But the Lord goes to no one for advice. And when anyone comes to him, He gives them the counsel they need.

He is therefore the perfect teacher and the ultimate counselor. This gives us insight into his working. His plans are not our plans, His ways not our ways. He will accomplish things beyond human comprehension and He will do it in ways we cannot fathom. He will do the greatest work ever accomplished and He will do it seamlessly. A violent death would not be man’s way to victory but it was God’s plan and our Lord carried it out perfectly.

As the Wonderful Counselor, He gives great direction to His people. Those who follow him will not walk in darkness but in the blazing light of day. In this tiny baby we see all the wisdom of God wrapped in swaddling clothes.What Child is This? He is the Wonderful Counselor. Then He’s the…

2. MIGHTY GOD


This speaks of the “Power of Accomplishment.” It is first of all a statement of deity. The baby born in the manger is not just the Son of God; He is also God the Son. All the fullness of God dwells in the Lord Jesus Christ. As the ancient creeds declare, He is “very God of very God.”

That can never be said of any mere human baby. Something else is important in this title. The word translated “mighty” is the word gibo, which means “strong one” or “the powerful, valiant warrior.” Thus the term “mighty God is actually a military title. He is the God who fights for his people! At the Incarnation, God took the form of human flesh. That’s why one of his names is Immanuel–God with us.

Now take the first two titles together and what do you have?

As the Wonderful Counselor — He makes the Plans.
As the Mighty God —He makes the plans Work.

All of his wonderful plans will be carried out with all of God’s infinite might. There is in this little baby’s arms flailing around in His crude bassinet all the strength of Deity. The power of God is in those tiny fists. He has strength which is divine. The omnipotence of God is at His command. Whatever He desires, He is able to achieve.

Carl Sagan Meets Jesus


When we meet Jesus, we meet God. If He is not the “mighty God,” then we are deceived and it is blasphemy to worship him. There is no middle ground here.

If He is not God, we are fools to worship Him. If He is God, we are fools not to.

Some time back renowned astronomer Carl Sagan died. He is best remembered for his famous PBS series called “Cosmos” in which he evangelized for his evolutionary views, especially the notion that the universe is billions and billions of years old. He repeatedly said that he didn’t believe in the afterlife. However, he also said he wasn’t an atheist because he didn’t know enough to rule out the possibility of God. I would argue that God never gave a human being the power to be a real atheist, but that’s another article.

Carl Sagan is an evolutionist no longer. And at this moment he is neither an atheist nor an agnostic, for he has met the Mighty God whom he refused to worship in this life. Despite his great learning and his notable achievements, Carl Sagan died a fool’s death because he would not bow before the Babe of Bethlehem.

HERE’S THE REAL REASON MANY PEOPLE RESENT MANGER SCENES IN THE PUBLIC SQUARE…


Banning manger scenes or other Christmas scenes from public places has nothing whatsoever to do with being “politically correct” or offending people of other religions. Let’s do a post-mortem on the real reason some people fight so hard to call Christmas trees “Holiday trees” and say “Season’s greetings,” or “Happy holidays” taking all mention of Christ out of Christmas.

Christmas is the great dividing line of the human race. No wonder some people want all mention of Christmas expunged from our public schools and from our public life, indeed from human consciousness. They understand that Christians believe Christmas is based on the belief that at Bethlehem, God Incarnate slipped out of timelessness into time, to land in the arms of a virgin girl. Now, if this is true, then unbelievers have problems.

When a person says there is no God, rejecting Christianities tenants, they are telling themselves they can live like the devil then die like a dog. How “very nice” for them. They want to believe that at death, that’s it, it’s over. They’ll never be faced with standing before a Holy God being judged based on what they did with their life, and especially what they did with Jesus.

These “atheists” may never darken a church door. They can live their lives and never open a Bible. They never have to even hear the name of God or Jesus Christ except in cursing. But once a year, here comes Jesus again. And that’s every year, for about a month. More toasters will be sold in Jesus’ name than any name in history. More turkey and Ham will be sold in His name and more money will be spent in His name than any other name. The only way these folk could escape it would be to leave the planet.


Now, if they’re not careful they’ll hear Christ’s name coming out of their own mouth, and we couldn’t have that. A manger scene isn’t only about a cute little baby. Who could be offended by that? The entire world loves a baby. But baby Jesus is different. If you accept that manger scene then you’ve got to accept that God exists, the miracle of the virgin birth, and the rest that goes along with it. This is too painful for them because when you extrapolate it out, you’re faced with things like- one day giving account for yourself to God and then issues like what your eternal address will be, - heaven or hell.

If we take out manger scenes and the name of Christ, we’ve erased some of the best gospel preaching imaginable, and to these people that’s a good thing.

In this tiny baby we see the power of God sleeping on Mary’s lap. What Child is this? He is the Mighty God. He is also…

3. THE EVERLASTING FATHER


In the Hebrew the phrase is literally “the Father of Eternity.” This speaks of the purpose of his coming.

He is before, above, and beyond time. He is the possessor of eternity. He is eternally like a father to his people. This is not a statement about the Trinity, but about the character of our Lord. All that a good father is, Jesus is to his people.

Because He’s like a father, -caring for his people. Because He owns eternity, He can give us eternal life. That’s so important for those of us who live on this sin-cursed planet. No one lives forever. Sooner or later we will also find our own place in the graveyard. We’re not immortal, but transitory. We’re here today, gone tomorrow. A dead Christ will do us no good. Dying men need an undying Christ.

Here’s a key phrase: He is a father forever! That’s important to me because I had a father, but not a father forever. I had a father, but he is gone now… He was a very good man, but he was not a father forever. . I am father to daughters but not a father forever. I will someday pass away. All human fathers must go. But Jesus is a father forever! He’ll outlast the stars in the heavens.

When our children need anything, we run to help them. If they cry, we go. If they want us, we will come to them. We would never kick them out. They belong to us. They are ours, in a manner of speaking. What we are in a poor way to them, Jesus is in a perfect way to all who believe in Him.

In this tiny baby we see the love of God sleeping in a stable. What child is this? He is the everlasting Father and he’s also…


4. PRINCE OF PEACE

The phrase literally means “the prince whose coming brings peace” This speaks of the effect of his coming. This final title is the climax of all that has gone before. The word “prince” means something like “General of the Army.” It speaks of his high position. The word “peace” speaks of his basic nature.

Recently I read that there are more wars raging right now than at any time this century. All over globe there are ethnic conflicts and tribal wars. Closer to home not a day goes by without word that someone else has been murdered in America. We see so much killing that it no longer surprises us—or even bothers us.

In Florida where I live, just this week a man, embittered because his wife had lost her teaching job went to a school-board meeting intent on killing several school board officials. The video has been played over and over with the warning about its violence. He was a very angry man but thankfully a bad shot and was gunned down by officials. This video will probably go viral on YouTube.
We’re practically immune to violence because we live in a violent world.

Isaiah 9:6 tells us that God’s plan for world peace is focused on a one person—a baby asleep in a manger in Bethlehem. He is the ultimate man of peace.

· In the past, His coming made peace with God*
. In the present, those who come to Him find peace in their heart when Christ comes in.
· In the future, His second coming will usher in a kingdom of peace. There is no peace today. -So much strife and bloodshed. He is not a failure. We are.


Christ is no warrior, no greedy conqueror, and no empire builder. He came to bring peace. He did. He does. He will.

In this tiny baby we see the peace of God welcomed by angels and shepherds. What child is this? He is the Prince of Peace.

In this one verse you have the four names of Jesus. This is what they mean to us today:


If you are confused…He is the Wonderful Counselor.
If you are weak…..He is the Mighty God.
If you are scared……He is the Everlasting Father.
If you are disturbed….He is the Prince of Peace.
You never know what may happen in the world because a baby was born. No doubt the Innkeeper didn’t know who he was turning away. Even Mary couldn’t fully imagine what it all meant that night. But that baby born in Bethlehem has become the centerpiece of human history. We even divide time itself by his coming—B.C. and A.D.

What child is this? He is … the Wonderful Counselor … the Mighty God … the Everlasting Father … the Prince of Peace.

For to us”


The most important part of our verse is the first three words……."For to us” The gift of Christ is a personal gift from God to us. A gift requires a response. If I put a gift under your tree, you may acknowledge it, may admire it, may even thank me for it, but it isn’t yours until you open it and take it for your own.

Why Would God Visit Us?


Mankind has made a total mess of things. We blew our one shot at immortality—and now the graveyards are filling up. But God is not finished with us yet. Go to Psalm 8 and find these words;

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?”


David seems to say; why bother with people like us? We ruined Eden, you gave us another chance, and we fouled up so badly that you sent a flood to wipe out the human race except for one family. Why not just hit the delete button on the human race? Why not just admit that this was an experiment that didn’t work out? No one could blame God if He decided to get rid of us all and start over again.

David’s question comes to the very heart of Christmas—What is man that God should pay attention to us? What is man that God should care about us after we’ve failed so miserably? Why should God care about us at all?

The New King James Version renders verse 4 this way: “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” Why would God care enough to visit people like us? It is right at this point that we see the glory and wonder and mystery of the gospel.

Jesus visited us to become like us in his nature. That’s the Incarnation. That’s Bethlehem. That’s Christmas. He came into this world as a tiny baby, born in a stable, in an obscure village, born in poverty, unwanted by the world. He was just another face in the crowd. Few knew that He was coming. No one cared that He had arrived. Jesus “had” to do this. In order to truly “visit” us, He had to become like us.

Jesus tasted death because that is our common destiny… Jesus could not have truly “visited” us if He had held himself back from “the last enemy” that confronts us—death. In order to be fully human, He had to taste death. Jesus suffered and died because that was the only way He could save us. Only by dying could He give us life.

Jesus came to restore all that we had lost in Eden. The Bible calls Jesus “the last Adam.” One of the verses of “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing” calls him the “Second Adam from above.” He came to reverse the curse that we brought upon ourselves. Now in heaven He is crowned with glory and honor. One day all those who believe in Jesus will share that glory with him.

God said, “I will not leave you alone. I will not let you destroy yourself, each other, and the world I have made. I love you too much to let you alone.” So He sent prophets. We killed them. He wrote letters. We ignored them. He told us how to live—and we said, “Who are you to tell us what to do?” We mocked the God who made us, we broke his laws, we said we didn’t need him, and we made up our own gods that we liked much better because they looked so much like us.


Oh, we made a mess of things. God had every reason to kill us all. But he didn’t. He said, “I love you too much to let you go.” And after we had trashed everything, God said, “I’m coming down there so you’ll know once and for all how much I love you.” We didn’t pay any attention; it didn’t even make sense to us. How could God visit us? But He did—and He came to the world in a very strange way. He entered a virgin’s womb and came out as a baby, born in Bethlehem, a baby named Jesus, born to save us from our sins.

So He came as a baby, and when He grew up, we butchered Him, slaughtered Him and murdered Him on a cross. That’s the thanks we gave to God for visiting us. But we were wrong about everything. After we killed Him, He came back from the dead—proving that He was right all along and we were really wrong—dead wrong about everything—and still God loved us and came from heaven to earth on the greatest rescue mission in history.

He came because we blew it so badly.He came and we killed him.He died and became our Savior.

WHAT A STORY! WHAT A CHRIST!


That’s the good news of Christmas: God has done it all. The only thing left to you and me is to believe. God wrapped up his Son in swaddling clothes and said to the whole world, “This is my Christmas gift to you.”

Someone rightly called Christmas “the happiest holiday.” But it will only be truly happy for those who truly believe in Jesus. I cannot prove to you that what I have said is true. You will have to decide that for yourself. But I can say without any reservation that I have staked my life on the truth that Jesus is the Christ, the incomparable Son of God.

Christmas matters because truth matters. And the heart of the truth is that God did not leave us alone, but in our misery He came to visit us one dark night in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.

Christmas is all about who we are, and who God is, and how far God will go to reach us.


Blessings,


John


Merry Christmas



Thank you for reading my blog. It helps to know if someone benefits from my time here so if you enjoy these posts or have any thoughts or questions, please take a few seconds and leave us a comment.
Let me know any suggestions about subjects you’d like me to write about. Also, please share this blog with others.--JAS

Friday, December 8, 2017

Even The Devil Has The Right Theology.

by John Stallings

James is very plain spoken.

He puts things bluntly. He gets on our toes so consequently he’s a little hard to read. He writes about ethics & practical Christian living. Sometimes reading James you don't know whether to laugh or cry. The whole letter of James leaves you with the kind of brisk, stinging feeling we men get after a close shave & the application of aftershave. It’s a-- “Thanks, I needed that” feeling.

For most of Jesus’ ministry, James didn’t believe His claims as to His person or work. [John 7:5.] Somewhere along the line God changed his heart.

It speaks volumes to me that James opens his book by calling himself, “A servant of God & of the Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s also revealing that he never reminds us of his earthly blood-kinship with Jesus. He grew up in the same household. He shared the same mother. He was blood-kin with our Lord & yet he calls himself --Jesus’ servant.

James has a way with words. Listen to this verse;

Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness and receive with meekness the engrafted word which is able to save your souls.--James 1:21

In this verse James tells us to receive the word & then turns around and tells us how to receive it, with meekness. The only way the word will do us much good is as it's engrafted into our spirits. A cusory reading of the word always helps but its when we allow God by His Holy Spirit to engraft or carve it into our hearts that we see change. James had a right to talk about meekness. He could have legitimately opened his book by saying, -James, the brother of Jesus Christ, or James, the leader of the church of Jerusalem. He could have introduced himself as—James, the pastor of the most important church in Palestine. He could have said, James the pillar of the church of God. He could have said, James the moderator of the first general assembly. All that would have been true but James is too meek for that. He describes himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. This fact goes a long way in telling me what I need to know about James.

James grew up with Jesus, no doubt slept in the same bed with Him as a boy & believed that He was divine. Maybe we don’t think of this fact when we preach Jesus’ divinity but when you think about it, what greater testimony to Jesus’ divinity could there be than for a young man to call his brother God. Even though he once doubted Him, now as a man he says of himself, “I’m the servant of my God and Savior Jesus Christ.”

James was a man of tremendous stature in the early church. James, more than anyone else helped the early Christians to stand together & his leadership brought much needed cohesiveness & balance. [Acts 15] James encouraged Paul to reach out to the Gentiles & release them from the legalism of the ceremonial law. It’s not hard to figure out how slow the Church might have grown if they’d done as some wanted to do & demand that the Gentiles be circumcised. Had not a strong balanced leader been at the helm & the spirit of reason been folded into the early churches passion, who knows what would have happened in those early years?

Legend tells us that shortly after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D when the Jews were becoming Christian, James was commanded to renounce Jesus. When he refused James was thrown from the top of the temple & then stoned to death as he lay dying from his injuries. James’ willingness to die for his faith is another compelling argument for the claims of Christ.

James writes with such effectiveness some have wondered if he was flying in the face of the great Apostle Paul. For example, Paul has much to say about grace with no works mixed in but James sees the flip side, asking us to please show him our works, then he’ll see if we have real faith. James believes that the Christian life is more than saying we believe this or that, or even having perfect theology because ……the devil also believes and trembles. James 2:9.

James believes it's not enough to have the right theology, we must have a heart connection with Christ that causes us to live what we believe. We've all seen the good people who knock on our door & stand militantly, presenting their theology to us in a highly regimented fashion. Have you ever noticed they don't seem very warm nor compassionate? I've said it many times & its not original with me, but the way to tell a cult from true Christianity is; a cult asks us to-Believe something, while the gospel asks us to--Receive someone.

James teaches us that the Christian life can’t just be adherence to a set of doctrines but an everyday walk with God. James is concerned less with what we say we believe & more with what we’re going to do when we get up in the morning. Of course if you’ve spent a modicum of time in Bible reading & study you understand that it contains no contradictions. Paul was writing about the root of faith & James wrote about the fruit of faith.

As a pastor I’ve preached through the book of James several times, the first time it got so dry it sounded like a Texas weather report; “dry & windy.” I vowed from that time forward to just use the book of James for reference passages, & never to try preaching through it again. If you are a bottom line person, here it is;-- James is tough stuff.

Never say never. The day came when I was confronted again with the book of James & embarked again on preaching through it, with one caveat; I got on my knees & asked God to give me the key to the real relevance of the book for our day. I pity any teacher or preacher who tackles James without “wisdom from above.”

IS JAMES A LITTLE “CRAZY?”

I’m not being disrespectful but in the second verse of his book he says;

My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; knowing this that the trying of your faith worketh patience. [1:2]

Has James been walking in the Sun too much without his hat or has he gone senile? This concept is strangely out of sync with most theology heard these days. He’s saying in essence; -- “when trials & tests come your way, throw a party. Don’t just count it joy, count it all joy. Get all happy & excited. Put on your shouting shoes & get ready to do the sanctified version of – “The boot scooting boogie.” Send out invitations & let everyone know what’s going on, that you’re going through a rough patch & want everyone to celebrate the occasion with you.”

Obviously James is anything but crazy. Much of the book of James is taken up with helping us to determine if what we possess is real or fake. James is telling us unless our faith can hold up under testing it isn’t the real deal. If you want to know what real faith consists of read James 1:19-27. James wants us to see true faith, because fake faith can’t save us.

Have you ever watched one of the Antique shows where people bring their family heirlooms to be tested by experts? Sometimes you can see a person’s face fall when they learn that what they thought was a true antique worth something is really not valuable at all. James is quick to tell us that if our faith is the real article it will show itself in humility, right relationships, a tight reign on our tongues & we won’t be bickering with one another.

It’s important to keep in mind that James is addressing Christians. Over & over he says, “My brethren, & my beloved brethren.” James doesn’t say what the speech problem was with these Christians he was writing to. Maybe it was proud speech, maybe it was gossip, maybe it was exaggeration or maybe it was sarcasm. It’s possible that these good folk had tongues so long they could sit on the back porch & lick the skillet in the kitchen. We don’t know what form the wrong speech took but we do know they were having problems with the “two ounce slab of trouble,” --the tongue.

NEVER LET IT GO!


Our tongues must be watched constantly & words must be used carefully. Most of the trouble we get into is tongue trouble. That’s why God placed it between two powerful jaws, behind two rows of rock-hard teeth covered by two strong lips.

A man was visiting the U.S & was attempting to answer a question about his family, “Do you have any children?” Trying to explain that his wife couldn’t have a child he said, “My wife is impregnable.” Seeing that word wasn’t quite proper he said, “No, you see my wife is inconceivable.” Again, realizing he’d chosen an inappropriate adjective he said, “You see, my wife is unbearable.”

The following statement was actually taken from a letter received by a public welfare department. “I’m very annoyed that you branded my boy illiterate. This is a dirty lie! I was married a week before that boy was born.”

In speaking of the power of the tongue, Pastor James makes four very interesting comparisons.

The Horse. ---The horse is used to symbolize strength. We use “horse-power” to tell us how powerful our car engine is. We can only guess how many times history has been changed by horses. Think of all the battles that have been fought from the backs of horses. Think of how many lives have been saved not only in battle but in travel incurred in the opening up of new frontiers. I’ve heard it said that if horses could know how much strength they possessed in comparison to a man, no man could ever get close enough to touch them. Ten or twenty men couldn’t bring the smallest horse under control & if enough man-power was used to hold the horse down, that still would be a far cry from getting the horse to allow a rider to sit on his back & obey him.

Yet this powerful animal can be easily made as humble & docile as a puppy. This animal who, due to its strength, could be as independent as any animal on earth, can be brought quickly under complete subjection by placing a tiny bit in its most tender & vulnerable place; its mouth. Now you have a totally different situation. The horse will now learn to obey every command of its master.

We've seen so many thousands of horses with riders as they move seeming like a single unit, its easy for us to think the horse is actually thinking, "this is my purpose in life, this is what I was born for." In reality no horse is enjoying being ridden by a human being but tolerates it because he has no choice. Again it's the bit that works the magic.

THE WIND. ---The wind drives ships on the seas as if they were toys. We saw the effect of wind in the Hurricanes that have wreaked such destruction in the last few years. Wind can be one of the most terrifying forces of nature & when on the rampage it can overturn & destroy everything man or nature puts in its path. But when the wind is softly blowing, nothing is more welcomed & refreshing especially in the dog days of summer. To have cool fragrant breezes blowing on our face is one of the most pleasurable experiences of life.

THE RUDDER.—Think of this. Here’s a little wooden vessel out riding the crest of the ocean waves. The ocean could say to the small boat; “little boat, compared to me, you’re no more than a splinter. I can swallow you up & take you to the bottom so quickly you won’t know what hit you. You could be a thousand times larger than you are & still I could smash you to smithereens in less than a heartbeat.”

But the little vessel answers, “Oh mighty ocean, you need to think again. I have something that will allow me to defeat you. I have an unseen little sliver of wood that is hidden beneath the surface called a rudder. This rudder has more power over me than you could ever have & because of it, I’ll ride your back & be steered anywhere in this vast ocean I want to go. You may even destroy my rigging & sweep my decks clean & even blow directly against me, but as long as I have this small piece of wood beneath the surface & as long as it’s working properly, I will go exactly where it directs me.”

FIRE.—James reminds us that a great forest can be totally devastated by a little spark or flame. Recently in the Western states we saw how utterly devastating fire can be to the strongest trees & the most modernly constructed houses. Anyone who has witnessed fire leap from tree-top to tree-top knows the frightening destructive power it possesses. If fire burned unaffected by rain or man’s efforts to stop it, it could totally wipe out everything on the face of the earth & would also be capable of consuming all the oxygen, thus all life on earth.

James wants us to see this graphic vision of these potentially destructive forces & then he wants us to understand that the tongue has the power to do more damage than all of them put together. James shows us the extremes we go to with our tongues; with it we bless our God and Father & with it we curse men who have been made in the similitude of God. James 3:9-10.

James also reminds us that a fountain --can’t bring forth both sweet & bitter water. 3:11.

Tongue control also includes saying positive things one to another. Have you ever noticed the verse right at the end of the Old Testament, Malachi 3:17? -- Listen to it;

Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon His name.

Our tongues are to glorify God, but the praise isn’t just from the tongue. It’s the expression of our hearts and minds.

God isn’t glorified just because we have the right theology or hold firmly to a set of doctrines. Even the devil believes because he knows from first hand experience who God is. But that doesn’t cause him to live a godly life.

God is truly praised when our whole being exalts Him & blesses others.

Those efforts on our part will be recorded for eternity.

Blessings,

John

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"Regrets, I've Had A Few..........."

By John Stallings


Sarah was rich.
She had inherited twenty million dollars, plus she had an additional income of one thousand dollars a day. That was a lot of money in the late 1800s.

Sarah was well known & powerful. Her name would open any door in America & all sorts of organizations clamored for her support.

Sarah was rich, well known, powerful, and miserable. Her only daughter died at five weeks of age & her husband died leaving her with her name, her money, her memories & her guilt.

Sarah chose a strange way to deal with her guilt. She moved from Connecticut to San Jose California & bought an eight-room farmhouse on one-hundred sixty acres. Over the years I’ve passed in front of this house several times but have never seen inside. Sarah hired sixteen carpenters & put them to work. For the next thirty-eight years the craftsmen labored every day, twenty-four hours a day to build a mansion.

This place has a macabre touch, even when driving by it. Each window has thirteen panes, each wall thirteen panels, each closet thirteen hooks, & each chandelier thirteen globes. Corridors in the house snake randomly some leading nowhere. One door opened to a blank wall & one to a fifty-foot drop. One set of stairs led to a ceiling that had no door. Trap doors. Secret passageways. Tunnels. This was no retirement home for Sarah; it was a castle for her past.

There were visitors…… The visitors came each night. Legend has it that every evening a servant would pass through the secret labyrinth that led to the bell tower. He would ring the bell…to summon the spirits. Sarah would then enter the “blue room,” a room reserved for her night time guests. Together they would linger until 2:00 a.m. Then Sarah would return to her quarters & the ghosts would return to their graves.

What guests, what ghosts? Indians & soldiers killed on the U.S frontier by bullets from the most popular rifle in America---the Winchester. What had brought millions of dollars to Sarah Winchester had brought death to them. So Sarah spent her remaining years providing a home for the dead.

You could visit the Winchester mansion if you wished to & walk the halls & see its remains if you’re into poltergeist, & see first hand what unresolved guilt can do to a human being. Truth be told, we don’t have to “know the way to San Jose” to see such a spectacle. We can see lives imprisoned by yesterday’s guilt & shame in our own cities. Lives haunted by failure are all around us. They are just down the street or down the hall. Do you know any Sarah Winchesters?

Frank Sinatra sang the song “My way” back in 1969, & it became his signature song. Actually Paul Anka wrote the song. In the song was the line... “Regrets…I’ve had a few…but then again…too few to mention...” It was a song sung to celebrate a tough life, a full life, a planned life, a life where a man stands tall, takes the blows, relies on himself & does it his way.

This song is nonsense of course. But it was the kind of nonsense that people bought & bought into, a life where I’m in control & I call the shots, a life with few if any regrets.

In truth, there is no such thing as a life lived with no regrets in the literal sense because we all fall short in so many ways. Only Jesus could say “It is finished” & know that He had perfectly completed all that God had for Him to do & He never made a single mistake doing it. The rest of us will struggle with a sense of failure, of jobs left undone, of projects left unfinished, of dreams unfulfilled, of steps not taken, or roads not traveled, or decisions made that now seem like wrong choices. I see no way to escape this.

There are many things we can look back on with joy & cling to them as “precious memories.” But sadly there are certain events in all of our lives that we remember with regret. While it would be wonderful to live a life of no regrets, it isn’t in the realm of possibility. By the time one reaches old age, & generally long before, one can look back & see things he wishes he’d done differently. Sometimes the regretful experiences are only mildly disturbing but other things can so upset a life that they lead to mental breakdown or illness.

In any life & in any family, even the best of them, there are regrets. Things don’t always turn out right. Parents disappoint us. Children don’t always turn out the way we hope. As hard as we try we can’t always get it together & make things turn out right. Things happen. People change. Words get said that can never be taken back. And our lives are forever altered.

Let’s go back & look at some famous men in the Bible & see if they had any regrets.

ADAM

There can be no doubt that our great ancestor had deep regrets. After all he lived in paradise & had access to the tree of life, meaning he was looking at unending life. He didn’t have to do any hard labor because everything was there for the taking. God walked with Adam in the garden, so for a time he had full fellowship with Him. Adam gave it all up.

I can imagine that many times as he toiled, he thought about how he blew it. He gave up the good life & exchanged it for fighting thorns & thistles & realized that his destiny now was to be dust himself. I can’t imagine Adam seeing how his children suffered & coming to terms with the magnitude of what he’d done wouldn’t have filled him with regret for his transgression.

SAMUEL

I can’t recall of a single passage in the Bible that speaks ill of Samuel. He was God’s man & he judged Israel all the days of his life. Samuel was a prophet who we find in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews along with the others in faith’s hall of fame. But Samuel in his old age made his sons judges over Israel & they were a deep disappointment to him to say the least. When a child goes wrong, the first thing a parent wonders is where they went wrong in their parenting. It would be hard to imagine anything more regrettable that would cut a man deeper than this one.

ANCIENT ISRAEL

God delivered these folk from Egyptian slavery & offered them the Promised Land & they had so little faith they turned back from Canaan into the wilderness. What regrets they must have had as they wandered back & forth, up & down until everyone above twenty was dead.

DAVID

David was the common shepherd boy who stood up to the Philistines & killed their giant warrior with a sling. When the Lord saw that Saul was unfit to continue to lead Israel David was crowned king. Under David’s rule the nation of Israel went from a backwater group of nomads to the shining star of the Mid East.

Though David was a great man & Israel’s greatest king, he stumbled into gross sin with Bathsheba. He had a great record but sadly it was marred by adultery, lying & murder. In many ways it’s hard to accept that a man who was after God’s own heart could have such a blot on his record. The majesty of much of David’s life wasn’t sufficient to erase the ugliness of his transgressions. We don’t have to wonder if David had regrets. All we have to do is read what he wrote, especially the forty-first & fifty-first Psalms to see the evidence of his regrets relating to his moral breakdown.

The Lord sent the prophet Nathan to face the king with his sin & David repented. True repentance is a dynamic, life changing experience that looks forward not backward.

I love the words David wrote in Psalm 103: 12—As far as the east is from the west so far has God removed our transgressions from us. David could well have adopted Frank Sinatra’s song, “regrets I’ve had a few…...” & so might you.

David reaped a lot through his children. Absalom, a son David loved murdered Amnon, another son of David. A while later Absalom tried to take the kingdom away from his father. David had to flee the save his own life. Later when Absalom was killed in battle & David got the news, he wept—“O Absalom my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” What sorrow, what regret. Later, David’s son Solomon had another son of David’s put to death, Adonijah.

Moving into the New Testament we first look at;

JUDAS

It would be difficult to conceive of anyone having more regrets than did this turncoat & traitor. Though Judas did take the blood-money back & throw it at his accomplices, his deep regret is evidenced in his suicide. But think about this; Judas has been in hell for many hundreds of years & has had all this time to think about & regret what he did. Not only that, he still has all eternity to wallow in hell’s flames & wish he’d never been born.

THE APOSTLE PETER
Here’s another on our list of people who had deep regrets. In one way Peter did worse than Judas because he swore an oath that he never knew Jesus. As an aside, the difference in these two men I believe is the cross. By that I mean if Judas had gotten the revelation of what Christ’s death meant, he might not have taken his own life. If he’d lived long enough to see that the very essence of Calvary was to offer full & free pardon, he might have held on until he could be forgiven like Peter did.

Peter’s life & experience is an encouragement to all those who need to repent & turn around. Peter spent the rest of his life trying to erase the memory in his mind & in the mind of others of his failure. As sad as his failure was, his life after Christ forgave him was exemplary. Peter went on, according to tradition, to be crucified upside down for his Lord. May we all be as successful as Peter.

PAUL

Paul’s life is so well known that we need not spend all that much time with him here. Do you think Paul had any regrets? In Acts 22, when he described how he persecuted Christians, he said, “I persecuted this way—to the death.Vr.4. What did he mean by…to the death? One wonders how many orphans he left because of the killing & jailing sprees he conducted. He was on his way to wreak more havoc when God put him under arrest on the Damascus Turnpike. Do you think those regrets ever completely passed from his thoughts as he lived day to day? I don’t think so. If ever a man lived who must have longed to rewrite his past it had to be Paul. But he was able to get victory by turning his past over to Christ. He died out to self & let faith in the living Lord renew his life.

There are so many others that we could mention, but;

THE QUESTION BECOMES WHAT WILL WE DO WITH OUR FAILURES?
Though God can forgive & forget everything that has been wrong in our lives, we aren’t that capable. The Lord has been able to bury all our yesterdays but maybe we haven’t been able to bury them that deeply. Our horizons are shorter. We may still get troubling thoughts & try as we may we can’t get the thoughts outside our head & hearts.

IF ONLY

Maybe these words keep playing in our head…if only. If only I’d heeded the advice of my parents I wouldn’t be where I am. If only I’d been paying attention I wouldn’t have these problems. If only, if only, if only. To have appropriate & legitimate feelings of regret is one thing. But to allow our failures to shape & dominate us forever is something different.

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister was the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Within 2 months John Landy eclipsed the record & on August 7, 1954 the two met together for a historic race. As they moved into the last lap, Landy held the lead. It looked as if he’d win but as he neared the finish he was haunted by the question “where is Bannister?” As he turned to look Bannister took the lead.

Landy later told a reporter, “If only I hadn’t looked back I would have won.” The devil wants us to look back & dwell on the past but we need to keep our eyes trained on the future.

The prophet Joel said, I will restore to you the years that the locusts have wasted. The life Christ gives to us isn’t about constantly ransacking the archives of our lives. It’s about standing face to face with the resurrected Christ & saying… “We’re not going to talk about this anymore.” There’s no way you & I can recreate segments of our private histories, we’re stuck with them. We can’t alter a painful past any more than we can control a threatening future. But God recreates our past by forgiving it.

So the key is to say, “I’m not going to live in the past. I won’t let my yesterdays define who I am today. By God’s grace I’ll go forward one day at a time, one step at a time, trusting God to lead me, following the Lord to the best of my ability, believing that with Christ the best is always yet to come. In the spiritual life it’s not where we’ve been but where we’re going that matters.

Grab hold of God’s pardon & rejoice in knowing that Jesus Christ is your advocate & there are no accusations coming from heaven.

Your forgiveness & your future are grounded in the love of Christ.

Blessings,

John

Monday, November 27, 2017

Holy Bounce-ology

By John Stallings


Recently a 33 year old man from Brooklyn, New York was distraught that he was about to be robbed for the second time in nine months, this time by two youths intent on stealing his watch and Laptop.

The man started screaming uncontrollably, “Why does this have to happen to me? Why does this always have to happen to me?” The poor guy was so upset that his nerves got the best of him and he was making so much noise about it that the muggers got nervous. The victim later told police that one of the robbers …answered “Oh please, don’t be a crazy person. This is New York. Everybody gets mugged.”

I don’t want to be flip here, because getting mugged as anyone whose ever been robbed knows all too well, is no fun. But the philosophical robber had it right. What is true on the tough streets of Brooklyn is true in this rough-and-tumble place called real life. Eventually everybody- no matter how spiritual, clever, lucky, well bred or bright -gets “mugged" in life. Real life has this way of periodically knocking our underpinnings out from underneath us…of upsetting our orderly assumptions…of messing with that idyllic script we all wrote for ourselves...of throwing our lives into upsetting chaos.

Sometime early on in our adult lives most-if-not-all-of-us write a wildly optimistic script for ourselves…a script that would have things go predictably, safely, gently and well for us.

At some point in our innocence we imagine that our lives will unfold in smooth, rational, comfortable patterns. We imagine that we’ll get the right education, find the right job, and begin building a satisfying career that will see us steadily and predictably advance in expertise, influence, and income.

We imagine that we will on cue find just the right person to fall in love with, a wonderful Christian individual, establish a happy partnership in a beautiful home with that mate, and together have God’s blessings and the right genetics to have a couple of darling, bright and precocious children and grandchildren who will do us proud by their well-rounded development into exceptional adults.

In addition to fulfillment and contentment at home and work, we likewise imagine that what lies ahead for us is a long, contented life marked by good health, good luck, heavenly blessings, good judgment, and maybe a few unpleasant surprises. Right?

Then…sooner or later…something called real life shows up and says to each of us, "HEL…LOOO!"

Few if any make it into midlife who have not been thrown at least one “cosmic sucker punch,” often when they least expected it. A marriage fails… a child dies… a car accident happens… a career derails…perhaps disease or illness comes…maybe we just find ourselves struggling to cope with a mix of vexing life difficulties. I once knew a pastor who jokingly told people that his favorite scripture was “grin and bear it.” Funny guy!

When we got our first computer there was a cute little video making the rounds with an animated girl singing the pop song “I will survive.” Just as she’s really getting into the song a big wrecking ball comes down and squashes her. Though it was really a shocking thing to see, after the initial viewing I almost burst my sides laughing. The whole thing rings so true. Maybe we won’t all get hit so hard but that’s exactly the kind of thing life is famous for. Remember the song “That’s life?”

Each of us "gets mugged" in different ways – but we all experience the painful shock to our system when some aspect of our life goes completely hay-wire, and we find ourselves struggling in ways we never remotely imagined. Perhaps one of the most essential truths of living is…over a lifetime, bad, unwanted things happen to us and all of us are eventually thrown to the mat by life.

These thoughts may trouble you at first because we’re taught that nothing happens to the child of God in a “happenstance way.” And that is true. God’s people don’t just bounce around helplessly with no rhyme or reason to their experience. Very true. So the correct idea is that- “bouncing” is a word or concept we mortals use to explain what our life experience sometimes feels like. But from God’s perspective, we’re all on a divine time-clock experiencing exactly what God intends for us. If God didn’t send it, He allowed it and will be faithful to work it all out for our good and His glory.

General George Patton said, “Success is determined by how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”

You may hit bottom when you make wrong, foolish choices, or you may hit bottom because of the wrong foolish choices of others. Failure can send you plummeting down to the depths of discouragement. When your money runs low or your health is snatched away--when depression drags you down and you can’t seem to find any hope---when you feel all alone and God feels far away-- you look around and discover you’ve hit bottom. The real issue is: how do you bounce back then?

BOWLING BALL, BASKET BALL

What would happen if you dropped a bowling ball? Would it bounce back up, or would it hit the floor with a thud? That's right; it would hit the floor and pretty much stay there. Bowling balls aren't very good at bouncing back.

Now, what would happen if you dropped a basketball? Would it bounce back up, or would it hug the floor? Right again, it would bounce right back up.

Now, why will the basketball bounce back up and the bowling ball won't? Someone might explain that the density and composition of the basketball is key to its ability to bounce. The simple fact is that the basketball is made of the right stuff and has what it takes to bounce back, the bowling ball doesn't.

God made us like that. When things aren't going too well for us we can either be the basketball or the bowling ball. We can choose to either hit the floor and stay there, or we can bounce back higher than we were before. We can do that because we’re made of the right stuff. God gave us the strength to overcome life’s downers. He gave us the ability to bounce back.

So remember this the next time you’re feeling down, sad, angry, or lonely; you can bounce back. You can do it with God’s help.

I am persuaded that because life is the way it is, a healthy measure of resilience is crucial to each of us if we are to successfully navigate spiritually and emotionally through the often unpredictable, challenging tumble of our lives. Life has taught me that resilience is a profound and saving virtue…resilience is a life stance and skill that can rescue us from bitter, poisoned, withdrawn and joyless living.

Life is tricky. That just might be the understatement of the year. Resilience is something you and I must intentionally nurture if we are going to cope in life.

We’ve observed people we know both in the public arena and in our private lives respond very differently to adversity. We all have watched as some people who become paraplegics by some terrible accident find it impossible to adapt to this loss, fold their spiritual and emotional tents and sit there immobilized in self-pitying despair because they have lost the use of their legs.

Meanwhile other, more resilient people who have experienced the exact same thing, and are outwardly no different than those who emotionally and physically collapse get right back out there, decide to make the most of a bad situation, and begin training joyfully for wheelchair marathons!

Similarly, we all know people who have gone through a painful divorce who treat their failure in love as permanent and refuse to believe they can ever be successfully and joyfully intimate with another person…while other persons more resilient at heart who have been just as deeply hurt and surprised by the collapse of a marriage, move on from their failed relationship with faith that they can and will learn from the experience, and eventually once again start seeking the kind of life-saving love and intimacy we all seek.

Likewise, we witness some people who tragically lose a beloved child or a spouse in the prime of life spend the next four decades hating God, and stewing in the unfairness of the capricious loss they have suffered…while others who experience the same loss and grief, who are again, just as deeply shattered and shaken by the shock of such loss somehow quickly and courageously begin once again to open new doors out into their worlds…by risking new, caring relationships and commitments that reconnect them in love and vulnerability.

I marveled at the resiliency of the late Superman actor Christopher Reeve. Without a lot of fuss he turned the terrible loss he suffered toward the brightest possible light, and adapted his life productively to the new possibilities his disability allowed.

Let me introduce you to my blind son-in-law, Marcus Engel. I have written about him before because he’s a very interesting individual. Though I don’t see men as women do I must admit Marcus is a tall, dark and handsome dude. To make it even more disgusting [kidding] he’s well over six feet and from Greek extraction. At age 18, Marcus was riding in a car that was t-boned by a drunk driver. Marcus lost his sight because of that accident but in the ensuing years has with infectious spirit adapted to being sightless to the extent that I can say in spite of the daily hardships and frustrations which come with blindness, leads as full, joyful and engaged a life as anyone I’ve ever met or heard of.

Today in his thirties, Marcus along with my eldest daughter, the lovely and gracious Marvelyne, and his faithful Guide dog Garrett, [Marcus’ third dog] travels the nation as a motivational speaker, speaking in schools, colleges and I suppose any venue open to him. It’s an inspiration just to be in Marcus’ presence.

Let me give you a quick antic dote to show you the depth of Marcus’ resiliency. I first heard about it on Face book. A week or so ago, Marcus had finished giving a speech at a college and was signing books. His new Guide dog Garrett, just walked off. This type of thing is almost unheard of, what with all the training the dogs go through. What I’ve learned about Guide dogs is that when they get all rigged in their “harness” they are strictly business and really pay attention only to their owner. However when you take off the harness, they are just as playful as any other dog, and probably friendlier.

Marvelyne said they located Garrett in a happy mood running up and down the halls. He had his harness on his back that Marc uses to hold on to. I’ve often marveled at the teaming an unsighted person with a dog in this way because I know a lot of people who can see who can’t handle a dog.

Non-the-less the system works. With his usual acumen, Marcus took the whole incident in stride, understanding that if human beings can have lapses in judgment and acceptable behavior, certainly a young inexperienced guide dog can.

BOUNCE-OLOGY

Isn't it encouraging realizing that God has built into all of us the innate ability to bounce back from anything that life might throw at us? In other words, we’re actually designed that way by our all-wise heavenly Father. Let that sink in; you and I were designed by God with the equipment to bounce-back from anything life shells out. Obviously Christians have this ability in spades although some don’t seem to realize how ‘bouncy” they really are.

If we fall accidentally, or are slammed to the ground by the actions of another; the harder the fall, - the higher the bounce. To further simplify it, this experience can be traced through an acronym spelled FIRE;

F-Fall
I-Impact
R-Restoration
E-Elevation

Let’s use a tennis ball as an example. If you saw in slow-motion a tennis racket hitting a tennis ball, you’d see the ball sinking into the racket and partially losing its shape because of the pressure of the strike. We could call that the “Fall.” As the “Impact” of the fall/strike unfolds, you’d see the ball leaving the racket and being thrust forward at a high rate of speed, but you’d also notice the ball as it moves through the air, thanks to the way it’s engineered, regaining its original shape. This is “restoration,” because the ball, once “bent out of shape” has now regained its original form.

Then depending on the force of the swing the ball was subjected to, and the trajectory of the strike, the ball would reach a certain height or distance. This is Elevation.
Once the ball has left the racket, and the further it moves away from the strike, built-in buoyancy assumes control. Can you see it? Praise the Lord, the harder we’re hit the higher we bounce back. I’ve been slammed so hard at times; I knew I was going to need an oxygen mask to breathe when the “elevation” came.

Any blow a Christian takes can do nothing but push them further along the path God has laid out for them. Why? Because that blow has to pass through a “divine sifter” and that sifter transforms the blow from destructive to constructive.

LIFE DOESN'T ALWAYS MOVE ALONG THE PATH WE ANTICIPATE.

MOSES

Moses is a study in bounces. He started off a basket case. By all accounts he should have been dead. He was in the equivalent of a Hebrew refugee camp. Moses was abandoned by his parents under threat of the State. The pharaoh king fearful of the sheer number of the Israeli population ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill any boy babies as soon as they were born. He of course expected this to be carried out, but Moses was spared. Moses was part of a despised minority [baby boys] so despised in fact they were victims of legalized murder.

A question arises here; why didn’t God just allow His deliverer to be born before Pharaoh decided to kill all the Hebrew male babies?Think about it this way; the lethal environment into which Moses was born provided an opportunity for a Hebrew child to be raised by the daughter of Pharaoh. The man who was going to take 2,000,000 rough-necks through a hostile desert for 40 years, meet face to face with Pharaoh as God’s spokesman & write the first five books in the Bible required a very special kind of training & the development of some unique abilities.

So God arranges a set of circumstances wherein a Hebrew mother places a perfectly healthy beautiful child into a wicker basket which would end up in the possession of the daughter of Pharaoh who raises him in a manner fitting royalty. Think about the utter improbability of a baby boy born to a hated Hebrew slave receiving grooming required to do all that God had planned for Moses. Yet it’s no problem for God because He’s sovereign.

Moses was banished to oblivion in the bleak "Desert University" for forty years until God called him one day out of a burning bush. This calling was the continuation of a life that was marked by ups & downs. We’re told that after a long life of 120 years, Moses died secure in the arms of God.He came a long way from the wicker basket & passed on in accordance with God’s timetable for him. He must have marveled as he looked back over his life & all that God had wrought through him. Before he died, Moses was still robust enough to climb Mt. Nebo in the land of Moab, a mountain that’s extremely high. He hadn’t sat on the sidelines of life & though he wasn’t perfect we are told after his departure,

--No prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.”

PAUL

Paul said,--being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ…… Phil.1:6

Paul knew what it was to be on a roller coaster ride in his life experience. He had learned to be the big dog or to be considered a complete flop. He knew how to have everything or how to have nothing. Paul could take it all in stride because he understood the sovereignty of God & had all faith that He would finish every work He started.Sometimes Paul soared to great heights & sometime he plummeted to the depths.

Listen to some of his life in his own words;

Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night & a day have I been in the deep;In journeyings often in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;In weariness, & painfulness, in watchings often, in cold & nakedness, beside those things that are without that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. --2 Cor.25-28

Paul gives us a verse of verses when he tells us;--We know that all things work together good for those who love God who are the called according to his purpose.—Romans 8:28

As Christians we believe that God holds the future in His hands.There are many times when we’ll not see the good even if it were right under our nose. We have to accept that our notion of what is good may not always square with what God calls good in His divine wisdom & infinite understanding. Sometimes life is a tapestry, a weaving, a quilt. If we look at it from the backside all we see is a confusing jumble of knots & threads & colors. It seems chaotic without rhyme or reason. We don’t always see what God’s hand is creating. But turn the tapestry over and you see the beautiful pattern.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God who are called according to His purpose. That promise is our anchor in this troubling & confusing world. That promise is our security, our comfort, our hope.

JESUS AND “ROCKY”

Peter is one of my favorite characters in the Bible, partly because we know a great deal about him. The Greek word we know as Peter really means "rock." Call me crazy but I like to think Jesus might have called him Rocky. Jesus built His church, not as many suppose, on Peter himself, but rather on his declaration of faith that Jesus was The Christ, The Son of The Living God. In scripture we see Peter struggling with the gap between what he wanted to be, and what he was.

Through the years, the gap narrowed and Peter became the Rock, the head of the disciples, a strong, powerful leader of the church who eventually was martyred in Rome. We can see the growth in Peter through the years and his experience can serve as an example for all of us who struggle in life.When you deal with the tension-anxiety-causing gaps in your life remember Peter. When you think of Peter, think of the four Rs.

Real,
Rash,
Resilient, and
Redeemable.


Peter was authentic. People were never in doubt as to who Peter was. He told you. He lived it. Peter accepted himself and was comfortable with himself. When he failed, he admitted it. When he felt guilty, he did something about it. He didn't wallow in the guilt. Peter was refreshingly open about his imperfections and shortcomings. When you are open about where you are, when you admit to yourself and those around you that you are not what you want to be, then you are opening yourself to the possibility of change.

When you deny where you are and who you are by pretending to yourself and to the world, you are denying yourself the opportunity to do something about it. No doctor can help people get well when they deny they are sick! Why would Jesus choose a Simon Peter rather than a self-righteous Pharisee? The insufferable Pharisees couldn't admit any defects, while Peter openly displayed his, admitted his humanness, and thereby opened himself to the transforming power of Christ. Peter's defects were redeemed.

There was little pretense in Peter. Peter was real, authentic, a genuine person who took himself as he came, didn't excuse himself; and didn't look for rationalizations. He presented himself as he was. Here I am, like me or not. Peter accepted himself, and, in the accepting, found the grace and power to change. Peter was real, rash, adventurous, impulsive, impetuous, thereby lovable, thereby able to grow, and able to make changes in his life. Peter impulsively tried to walk on water like Jesus, and sunk like a rock. Is that why Jesus called him Rocky??

When the soldiers arrested Jesus, Peter impulsively, impetuously, rashly, drew his sword and cut off a man's ear. Not that we should emulate this behavior, but it shows his personality. His feelings were near the surface. He took chances. He risked. Because he risked, he made himself vulnerable, and sometimes he made mistakes, like cutting off the guard's ear. Jesus reprimanded him for that.

If our goal is to never make a mistake, you and I will never do anything. We’ll remain rigid and frigid, immovable, and thereby irredeemable. Peter was resilient. He kept bouncing back. Jesus had to reprimand him on occasion. At one point, Jesus didn’t like the advice Peter was giving him, and He told Peter, "Get thee behind me, Satan." Those were strong words but Peter didn't pout, sulk, get mad, or quit the group. He didn't say, "Jesus, take this job and shove it!" He persisted. He bounced back.

When he denied knowing Jesus to the maid in the courtyard outside the trial, and thereby, let Jesus down; when he was not there with Jesus through the trial and the crucifixion, he was filled with remorse, but unlike Judas, he didn't let his remorse drive him to suicide. Peter was resilient. He bounced back. After the crucifixion, he went to the upper room and led the group in their praying and deciding what to do next. He was filled with Holy Ghost power and in the first gospel sermon ever preached saw 3,000 souls saved.

When the women found the tomb of Jesus empty, they ran to report to Peter. Peter bounced back. He kept trying. He refused to give up. He sought to become the kind of person God was calling him to be. Peter was redeemable and there was always hope for him. Even though he disobeyed; even though he let Jesus down; even though he lied by denying he knew Jesus; even though he resorted to violence and cut off the guard's ear, in spite of Jesus' stand on non-resistance; the Lord was patient, long-suffering, and merciful.

Jesus called and kept calling, "Come, follow me." The Lord did not give up on Peter, and he became the Rock--an exemplary, Spirit-filled, powerful leader of the movement. Don't lower your expectations.

Instead, be like Peter; be real, rash, resilient, and thereby redeemable.


Keep bouncing back!


Blessings,


John

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Thanksgiving Message

By John Stallings


I once read the story of a young Canadian student in 1860 who was awakened one night by the sound of two ships colliding.

His name was Ed Spencer. He jumped out of bed, saw the situation and being a strong swimmer, jumped in and started swimming out to the rescue. Many passengers of those ships died that night but Ed’s willingness to risk his life saved seventeen of them.

Ed suffered from paralysis after that night and wasn’t able to complete his studies, basically becoming an invalid for the rest of his life. Years later, now an old man living in California, Ed was interviewed by a Los Angeles paper and asked what he recalled about the rescue. “Only this” replied Ed, “of the seventeen I saved, not one of them ever thanked me.”

Someone has said, “Of all the emotions we human beings experience, gratitude is the hardest for us to feel.”

A SIMPLE ENOUGH STORY, WITH A FAMILIAR RING

Luke 17:11-19 tells the story of ten men suffering from leprosy that Jesus healed and sent on their way. One turns back, happy and thankful to Jesus. But Jesus asks,

“Were there not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?” Can none be found to return and give Glory to God except this outsider?” Message Bible.—

This sounds so eerily familiar that it reminds us of one of our first childhood lessons; “What do say when you’re given something? Thank you. Okay, good for you.”

I often wonder when reading this story, was Jesus upset, surprised, amazed or disappointed; or maybe a combination of them all.

THERE ARE SEVERAL BOXES IN THIS STORY.

1. THE BOX OF LEPROSY.


We know enough about leprosy to know it’s a dirty disease, a horrible flesh eating sickness and no one can recover from it. In Bible days a person infected with the disease had to give up home and family and live outside the social matrix because of its contagious nature. The physical suffering was compounded by the fact that lepers were social exiles, they were forever unclean.

Lepers were boxed in, not only by the disease, but because of its contagious nature they were considered ritually unclean. A leper was allowed no contact with non-lepers, and that’s why, in this story, the lepers “stood at a distance” when they called out to Jesus. They stood far off like wounded animals with rags wrapped around their hands. Others had their feet wrapped up with pieces of cloth. They could stay just close enough to society to allow them to beg, as long as they cried loudly, unclean, unclean, unclean.

Think what it would be like to have leprosy. It’s hard to think about. Imagine the waiting, the hoping, wondering how long it will take and how much suffering will be experienced before death.

There was a very famous leper in the Old Testament named Naaman. His story is in 2 Kings 5.Naaman was boxed in by pride and anger and almost lost his miracle because of it. He finally dipped seven times in a muddy little river, quiet beneath his dignity, but his obedience enabled him to escape the terrible box of leprosy.

2. THE RACIAL BOX.

We are not told specifically if the non-returning lepers were Jews, but the fact that Jesus makes much of the tenth and thankful leper being a “foreigner” or Samaritan, seems to imply it. Also the fact that the Jews and Samaritans fraternize in this story is in itself an “out-of-the-box” experience. It’s also out-of-the-box for a Samaritan to be willing to come back and thank a Jewish healer.

We remember that in Jesus’ day the Jews looked down on the Samaritans. Racial prejudice is something that is still alive and well in our world. However the gospel of Christ is fundamentally incompatible with racial prejudice.

THE ISSUE IS SIN-NOT SKIN
When God sees this world he doesn’t look at skin color. All people regardless of their race, background or skin color are significant, loved, fallen and redeemable. No race has any advantage over any other race and no group is better than any other group. God doesn’t play favorites and skin color doesn’t matter to Him. Race isn’t an issue with God. “Red and yellow black and white, they are precious in His sight.”

3. THERE WAS THE GEOGRAPHICAL BOX.

We know that Jews tried to avoid traveling through Samaria, yet here is Jesus, Luke tells us, in “the region between Samaria and Galilee.” Jesus was skirting the borderlands, the in-between area that doesn’t fit neatly in any geographical box.

4. JESUS STEPPED OUTSIDE THE HEALING BOX HERE.

Read this story carefully and what do you find; Jesus usually healed with a touch, but in this case He didn’t. As a matter of fact, He didn’t pray, He didn’t pronounce their healing; He did very little except to tell the lepers to go show themselves to the priest. The priests controlled most everything in those days. This approach is indeed out of the box for Jesus.

Priests even functioned as health inspectors. As the lepers started to go at Jesus’ instruction, they noticed that their sores and wounds were drying up, and their blemishes began to disappear. With every step they took they felt stronger, younger, and more energetic. When they rounded the final turn on the way to the village, they were completely healed. It must have been an incredible walk for them.

Think of it—after all their suffering, all of the sudden at the word of a stranger, their loneliness, pain and banishment began to evaporate. In a matter of moments they all had the clean, healthy, supple skin of a baby.

Someone may say, “I don’t believe in divine healing.” That’s O.k. Healing isn’t for you anyway. Healing is for believers. If you’re sick or have a friend or relative who is, here are 101 reasons God will heal those who’ll trust Him for healing;

God said…

1) I am the Lord that healeth thee (Ex. 15:26).
2) Your days shall be one hundred and twenty years (Gen. 6:3).
3) You shall be buried in a good old age (Gen. 15:15).
4) You shall come to your grave in a full age like as a shock of corn cometh in his season (Job 5:26).
5) When I see the blood, I will pass over you and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you (Ex. 12:13).
6) I will take sickness away from the midst of you and the number of your days I will fulfill (Ex. 23: 25, 26).
7) I will not put any of the diseases you are afraid of on you, but I will take all sickness away from you (Deut. 7:15).
8) It will be well with you and your days shall be multiplied and prolonged as the days of heaven upon the earth (Deut. 11:9,21).
9) I turned the curse into a blessing unto you, because I loved you (Deut. 23:5 and Neh. 13:2).
10) I have redeemed you from every sickness and every plague (Deut. 28:61 and Gal. 3:13).
11) As your days, so shall your strength be (Deut. 33:25).
12) I have found a ransom for you, your flesh shall be fresher than a child’s and you shall return to the days of your youth (Job 33:24, 25).
13) I have healed you and brought up your soul from the grave; I have kept you alive from going down into the pit (Ps. 30:1, 2).
14) I will give you strength and bless you with peace (Ps. 29:11).
15) I will preserve you and keep you alive (Ps. 41:2).
16) I will strengthen you upon the bed of languishing; I will turn all your bed in your sickness (Ps. 41:3).
17) I am the health of your countenance and your God (Ps.43: 5).
18) No plague shall come near your dwelling (Ps. 91:10).
19) I will satisfy you with long life (Ps. 91:16).
20) I heal all your diseases (Ps. 103:3).
21) I sent My word and healed you and delivered you from your destructions (Ps.107:20).
22) You shall not die, but live, and declare My works (Ps. 118:17).
23) I heal your broken heart and bind up your wounds (Ps. 147:3).
24) The years of your life shall be many (Pr. 4:10).
25) Trusting Me brings health to your navel and marrow to your bones (Pr. 3:8).
26) My words are life to you, and health/medicine to all your flesh (Pr. 4:22).
27) (My) good report makes your bones fat (Pr. 15:30).
28) (My) pleasant words are sweet to your soul and health to your bones (Pr. 16:24).
29) My joy is your strength. A merry heart does good like a medicine (Neh. 8:10; Pr.17:22).
30) The eyes of the blind shall be opened. The eyes of them that see shall not be dim (Isa. 32:3; 35:5).
31) The ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. The ears of them that hear shall hearken (Isa. 32:3; 35:5).
32) The tongue of the dumb shall sing. The tongue of the stammerers shall be ready to speak plainly (Isa. 35:6; 32:4).
33) The lame man shall leap as a hart (Isa. 35:6).
34) I will recover you and make you to live. I am ready to save you (Isa. 38:16, 20).
35) I give power to the faint. I increase strength to them that have no might (Isa. 40:29).
36) I will renew your strength. I will strengthen and help you (Isa. 40:31; 41:10).
37) To your old age and gray hairs I will carry you and I will deliver you (Isa. 46:4).
38) I bore your sickness (Isa. 53:4).
39) I carried your pains (Isa. 53:4).
40) I was put to sickness for you (Isa. 53:10).
41) With My stripes you are healed (Isa. 53:5).
42) I will heal you (Isa. 57:19).
43) Your light shall break forth as the morning and your health shall spring forth speedily (Isa. 58:8).
44) I will restore health unto you, and I will heal you of your wounds saith the Lord (Jer.30:17).
45) Behold I will bring it health and cure, and I will cure you, and will reveal unto you the abundance of peace and truth (Jer. 33:6).
46) I will bind up that which was broken and will strengthen that which was sick (Eze.34:16).
47) Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you and you shall live. And I shall put My Spirit in you and you shall live (Eze. 37:5,14).
48) Whithersoever the rivers shall come shall live. They shall be healed and everything shall live where the river comes (Eze. 47:9).
49) Seek Me and you shall live (Amos 5:4, 6).
50) I have arisen with healing in My wings (beams) (Mal. 4:2).

New Testament

51) I will, be thou clean (Mt. 8:3).
52) I took your infirmities (Mt. 8:17).
53) I bore your sicknesses (Mt. 8:17).
54) If you’re sick you need a physician. (I am the Lord your physician) (Mt. 9:12 &
55) I am moved with compassion toward the sick and I heal them (Mt. 14:14).
56) I heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease (Mt. 4:23).
57) According to your faith, be it unto you (Mt. 9:29).
58) I give you power and authority over all unclean spirits to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease (Mt. 10:1 & Lk. 9:1).
59) I heal them all (Mt. 12:15 & Heb. 13:8).
60) As many as touch Me are made perfectly whole (Mt. 14:36).
61) Healing is the children’s bread (Mt. 15:26).
62) I do all things well. I make the deaf to hear and the dumb to speak (Mk. 7:37).
63) If you can believe, all things are possible to him that believeth (Mk. 9:23; 11:23,24).
64) When hands are laid on you, you shall recover (Mk. 16:18).
65) My anointing heals the brokenhearted, and delivers the captives, recovers sight to the blind, and sets at liberty those that are bruised (Lk. 4:18; Isa. 10:27; 61:1).
66) I heal all those who have need of healing (Lk. 9:11).
67) I am not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them (Lk. 9:56).
68) Behold, I give you authority over all the enemy’s power and nothing shall by any means hurt you (Lk. 10:19).
69) Sickness is satanic bondage and you ought to be loosed today (Lk. 13:16 & II Cor.6:2).
70) In Me is life (Jn. 1:4).
71) I am the bread of life. I give you life (Jn. 6:33, 35).
72) The words I speak unto you are spirit and life (Jn. 6:63).
73) I am come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10).
74) I am the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25).
75) If you ask anything in My name, I will do it (Jn. 14:14).
76) Faith in My name makes you strong and gives you perfect soundness (Acts 3:16).
77) I stretch forth My hand to heal (Acts 4:30).
78) I, Jesus Christ, make you whole (Acts 9:34).
79) I do good and heal all that are oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38).
80) My power causes diseases to depart from you (Acts 19:12).
81) The law of the Spirit of life in Me has made you free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:2).
82) The same Spirit that raised Me from the dead now lives in you and that Spirit will quicken your mortal body (Rom. 8:11).
83) Your body is a member of Me (I Cor. 6:15).
84) Your body is the temple of My Spirit and you’re to glorify Me in your body (I Cor.6:19, 20).
85) If you’ll rightly discern My body which was broken for you, and judge yourself, you’ll not be judged and you’ll not be weak, sickly or die prematurely (I Cor. 11:29-31).
86) I have set gifts of healing in My body (I Cor. 12:9).
87) My life may be made manifest in your mortal flesh (II Cor. 4:10, 11).
88) I have delivered you from death, I do deliver you, and if you trust Me I will yet deliver you (II Cor. 1:10).
89) I have given you My name and have put all things under your feet (Eph. 1:21, 22).
90) I want it to be well with you and I want you to live long on the earth. (Eph. 6:3).
91) I have delivered you from the authority of darkness (Col. 1:13).
92) I will deliver you from every evil work (II Tim. 4:18).
93) I tasted death for you. I destroyed the devil who had the power of death. I’ve delivered you from the fear of death and bondage (Heb. 2:9, 14, 15).
94) I wash your body with pure water (Heb. 10:22; Eph. 5:26).
95) Lift up the weak hands and the feeble knees. Don’t let that which is lame be turned aside but rather let Me heal it (Heb. 12:12, 13).
96) Let the elders anoint you and pray for you in My name and I will raise you up (Jas.5:14, 15).
97) Pray for one another and I will heal you (Jas. 5:16).
98) By My stripes you were healed (I Pet. 2:24).
99) My Divine power has given unto you all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of Me (II Pet. 1:3).
100) Whosoever will let him come and take of the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).
101) Beloved, I wish above all things that you may…be in health (III Jn. 2


NINE WAYS TO SAY “NO THANKS
"

What if a newspaper of that day had gone to do a story on these nine lepers who didn’t return to thank Jesus? Imagine them gathered in one room and the reporter asking for their side of this story. Let’s first talk to leper, Jim.

1. JIM, what happened to you after Jesus healed you of leprosy? Jim might reply, “Well, I guess I wanted to wait for just a little while longer to see if the cure was real and was going to last. After all, there’s a little thing called “remission” you know. And by the time I realized the healing was the real thing, Jesus was dead.

2. JACK. And how about you jack? “Well I started to wonder if I had ever had leprosy. Whatever I had was much improved so I really didn’t give it much more thought.

3. JASON. “And you Jason, why didn’t you return? “Well, I was grateful for the cure but I had to take my son to his baseball game that day. I have been so busy lately, you wouldn’t believe it. You know now-a-days, I don’t know where the time goes.” And another thing, I was very anxious to just get back to my old life, my old routine.

4. LYLE was next to speak; “I didn’t know we were supposed to return to thank Jesus. I was just following instructions. You know, Jesus told us to go and show ourselves to the priest and that’s what I did. As lepers, we’ve become so used to following orders that we really just do as we’re told. And another thing, when Jesus told us to go, our feet started to move before our minds could think about it. We lepers move, eat, sleep, and speak according to instructions with little choice in the matter.

5. TIM “Tim, can you tell us why you never returned to thank Jesus for your cure? Well, I once took a psychological behavioral test to show me what personality type I was, and would you believe, I’m a procrastinator? Yeah, that’s right, and also the test said that we procrastinators are indecisive, tentative, and I found I have a touch of ADD. Hey, look at that bird up in the sky.

6—8. THE LAST FOUR lepers were Deaf leper, who loved music, Leper-Con, he was Irish, Spotted leper; strange name I know, but his healing caused him to have an identity crisis. He’d been a leper so long he wasn’t prepared to change. He was so at home with lepers that he couldn’t readjust.

9. The ninth leper sent word that he highly resented being labeled an ingrate simply because he conformed to the traditional way of expressing his thanks; in the Temple, before the priest, just like Jesus instructed. He also wanted to go on record that he felt a sense of “entitlement” to the better things in life, and added that it was about time God answered his prayers.

10. THE LEPER WHO RETURNED TO THANK JESUS.
This former leper teaches us, by his actions, to be more spontaneous with our gratitude. Luke said that he was “praising God with a loud voice.” In fact, the ex-leper fell on his face before Jesus. He was completely carried away and beside himself with joy and happiness. He felt like dancing a jig and shouting from the housetops. He was so excited, so anxious to thank this stranger that he didn’t even take time to have his healing verified by the priest.

He didn’t show up at the interview because he was so busy telling people what Jesus had done, he didn’t feel he could spare the time. He said he was so ecstatic he wasn’t in any shape to answer questions, even a year later.

Sometimes it’s good to throw away the restraints and let yourself be carried away with gratitude and joy.

A SENSE OF URGENCY CHANGES US IN REGARDS TO PRAISE.

Most of us find it easy to stay inside the box, playing it safe and following directions until something earthshaking happens. At those times, we find it comfortable to throw off restraints. We seem more inclined to give gratitude free rein when we feel a sense of urgency. People stand up at funerals and weddings and shock others with their free-flowing expressions of love and praise.

If a person is diagnosed with cancer, they are quick to begin telling the people they love how much they love them. Now time is of the essence, so they do it, now. Most of us would agree that we shouldn’t operate like this, but being human we do.

Our lives would be much more fulfilling if we would integrate appreciation and praise, not only to God but to one another into our everyday lives. If you think I’m wrong, ask yourself, have you ever grown tired of being loved, thanked and appreciated?

HERE ARE SOME THINGS THIS STORY TEACHES US.
# God reminds us that if we don’t cultivate thankfulness, it will take more and more to make us thankful.

# Jesus would also remind us of some of the things for which HE gave thanks.

# He gave thanks for 5 loaves and 2 fishes, before He multiplied them to feed a multitude.

# He gave thanks for the bread and wine He ate with His disciples before His death, even though He said they were symbolic of His broken body and shed blood.

# He gave thanks to His father at the tomb of Lazarus, just for hearing His prayer.

# Who in your opinion would be the "lepers" in our society? Do you think Jesus would minister to them if He were on earth in a physical body? What could you and I do to reach out to these people, or should we just leave them alone?

One last thing in this story is found in Luke 17:19. Jesus told the returning leper,

Arise and go thy way, thy faith hath made thee whole.”

The returning leper received a gift the other nine missed out on.

He received “wholeness” for body, mind, soul and spirit.

Blessings,


John