Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Nine Ways To Say "No Thanks"-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

Saturday, November 22, 2014

"Love Grew Where the Blood Fell " with "It Is Finished"



Praise report about John Stallings' song..."Love grew where the blood fell"

By Paul Davis

Music is a powerful avenue for bringing about change in the lives of men. In the Bible we see examples of how the children of Israel went forward into battle singing praises to God and the enemy was put to flight.

We also see that David was able to set King Saul free from being tormented by devils as he played his harp. The prophet Elisha called for a minstrel to come when he was asked to bring the Word of the Lord in the
midst of a situation.

 When Jesus and His disciples finished the Last Supper, they sang a hymn together before they left their gathering before Christ’s trials.

Today we have the testimony of a song in our midst that worked to bring about a great blessing in a gathering of believers.

Recently the brethren in Africa were gathered for a conference in a large meeting hall in Abuja, Nigeria, with upwards of 2,500 men and women present. As the last meeting was coming to a close, the people began to sing the song, Love Grew Where the Blood Fell.

 Suddenly, a brother stepped forward to the microphone and started to sing the verses of the song, which were not well known by the congregation. Immediately, the power of the Holy Ghost began to flood into the auditorium.

All those gathered came under the influence of the Holy Spirit and under the anointing of the words that were being sung. The whole strength of the meetings was sealed in that
Instant, because the song about His shed Blood was sung with the anointing of the Spirit of the living God.

May this song be a blessing to you and all in your house.

 The Benson Company in Nashville Tennessee recently published Stallings' song “Love Grew” coupled with “It is finished” a song by Bill and Gloria Gaither as a mini-musical for Easter.



Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Characteristics Of People Making Progress

by John Stallings


But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ . . .
2 Peter 3:18

Have you ever seen the birth of a calf or a foal?

It usually doesn’t happen in a house or hospital. Painkillers, doctors, nurses, and delivery tables aren’t part of the process. It’s a raw, wild event, and no one is there to help the little animal make its entrance into the world.

When I’ve seen this process, the little creatures are practically born on their feet, and they don’t have to wait a year to learn to walk. It takes place within minutes, and then no one teaches the animal where to go. It knows instinctively where to go to get its first meal. No one tells it where the meal is located. The mother simply stands there calmly waiting for the little one to find its food.

No human being is born knowing that much within minutes of its birth. The baby may someday be an astronaut or brain surgeon, but, at the moment of birth, it knows nothing. Though the baby will someday be a thinking person with possibly a genius IQ, in infancy it must be taught everything, because it’s not equipped with instincts like animals. Yet the baby has something special the animal doesn’t have, and that’s a little mind.

Animals can’t appreciate a fine painting or a Beethoven concerto. Dogs may howl in response to the music, but they don’t understand what they’re hearing. Animals can’t read, though they’ve tried to get some of the primates to do so. Animals can’t acquire scientific knowledge, make decisions, render judgments, and display discipline. They can’t gain access to God, enjoy an actual relationship with Him, and be enlightened by His Spirit. That’s reserved for you and me.

SPIRITUAL GROWTH ISN’T AUTOMATIC.

Human beings grow and develop physically, and it’s hoped they will grow spiritually and emotionally, but it’s not automatic. Many people never grow beyond a certain point emotionally and spiritually, yet this development is the only way to have a full, happy, and productive life.

The writer of Hebrews 5:12-13 says, You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right.

“Growing in grace” sounds like an oxymoron. How can you grow in something you’ve been given? It sounds like other oxymorons; i.e., act naturally, definite maybe, unbiased opinion, military intelligence—(oops!) or temporary tax cut.

God intends for us to grow in grace; it’s a command in 2 Peter 3:18, when Peter tells us to Grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Did you notice these were Peter’s last words to us? The last words a man speaks are usually considered important. When William Wallace of Braveheart fame, the thirteenth century Scottish patriot died, his final word was “freedom.” Peter was crucified upside down shortly after writing these words and his dying wish was to see Christians growing.

In fact, it’s easy to understand why Peter might have this concern. He had let the Lord down and had a cussing fit, denying he ever knew Jesus. Peter knew what the consequences of immaturity were and was eager that others be spared the pain it brought him.

We aren’t meant to remain spiritual babies (Ephesians 4:14). I have been privileged to raise three beautiful girls from babyhood to adults, and as you know, babies are all incredibly cute. A baby who crawls and drools is cute, but an eighteen year old who crawls and drools is a different story. Just as parents live to see their child grow up, God also wants to see His children grow up.

Christian maturity is of utmost importance because it’s “proof of life.” A painting or photograph doesn’t grow. The stake that holds a young sapling doesn’t grow, but the sapling is expected to grow. Lack of growth in the Christian life warns of false profession, backsliding, and hypocrisy.

HERE ARE SOME CHARACTERISTICS OF PEOPLE MAKING PROGRESS.

Spiritually- and emotionally-mature people can love and respect others without having to change them or becoming critical and judgmental. They don’t expect anyone to be perfect in meeting their needs whether it is their spouse, boss, friend, or parent. They love and respect people for who they are – not what they can give them or how they behave. They take responsibility for their own thoughts, decisions, opinions, goals, and actions, regardless of the approval or disapproval of others.

When stressed, they don’t fall into a victim mentality or blame others. They can state their own beliefs and values to those who don’t agree with them without being adversarial. They can accurately assess their strengths and weaknesses and have no problem discussing them with others. Deeply in tune with their own feelings, they can move into the emotional worlds of others, meeting them at the place of their feelings, needs, and concerns. They are convinced that they are absolutely and unconditionally loved by God and consequently have nothing to prove. They can have equal relationships with others as opposed to “one-up-one-down” relationships.

THERE’S A DIFFERENCE IN GROWING UP AND GETTING OLDER.

We may be tempted to think because we’ve been around a long time this gives us automatic entitlement to maturity. Not necessarily! You can have a tree you think looks mature in your garden, but when the winds come, you discover its roots are not very deep at all, and it blows down. It will be in the fires of testing that our maturity, or lack of it, will be revealed.

A school teacher was hoping to be promoted to the job of vice principal, but when she was passed over for the post she complained that she had the most seniority and experience. “I’ve been teaching for 20 years,” she told the school board chairman. With gentleness and wisdom he replied, “You haven’t been teaching 20 years; you’ve taught one year 20 times.”

One sign of spiritual maturity is the ability to properly process emotions. Many who should be mature are constantly ruled by anger, sadness, or hurt. They whine, complain, distance themselves, blame others, and use sarcasm like children when they don’t get their way. They are highly defensive to criticism or differences of opinion, and they expect to be taken care of while using other people as objects.

Emotional volatility is a dead giveaway to immaturity. This is evidenced by temper tantrums, explosive behavior, low frustration tolerance, over-sensitivity, unreasonable jealousy, inability to forgive, and mood swings. Not to be ruled by emotions doesn’t mean we don’t have them, but as we mature, we learn how, when, and where to express them and the proper degree of expression.

Mature people can deal constructively with reality, the need for change, and find more satisfaction in giving than receiving. Mature people have learned to relate well to others and enjoy them and can have satisfying relationships. An outgoing personality is another dead giveaway to maturity. Maturity is practically a prerequisite for a happy, fulfilling life.

Spiritually- and emotionally-mature people know the best way to deal with a problem is to deal head on. A person’s level of maturity can be related to the degree to which they face their problems or avoid them. Maturity confronts – immaturity avoids. A mature person’s sense of security permits him to consider the needs of others while immaturity thinks mainly of self.

An immature person curses the rain, but the mature person views life as a learning experience, and when things don’t go well; he looks for the soft spot in the problem that will allow him to succeed anyway. When frustrated, the immature person looks for someone to blame, while the mature person looks for solutions. Immature people attack people, while mature people attack problems. A mature person’s approach to life is to believe he can do all God asks of him and will succeed if he is consistent.

JESUS IS OUR MATURITY ROLE MODEL.

Luke 2:52 says, And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

Let’s look at Jesus’ example as he looks at Jerusalem and laments in Matthew 23:37.

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
Notice the maturity in the way Jesus handled this. Would you or I have done this? Or would we have just zapped them because they weren’t learning and had gone so wrong? If it were our creation, how would we have reacted? Jesus showed some feelings here, but He still reacted in a measured and restrained way. Jesus had divine power, and He could have gathered the people up and forced them to see it His way, but He didn’t. He is satisfied to let mankind come to its own decisions. Jesus has emotions here, but has them under control.

In Luke 22:43-44 we read about another time when Jesus was under deep stress. He went off and prayed.

Then an angel from heaven appeared unto Him strengthening Him. And being in agony, he prayed the more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.
You see, it’s okay to feel deeply about things like Christ did. That’s a natural response – to hurt and have feelings, but the feelings didn’t divert Him from His mission to die for mankind on the cross.

LET’S LOOK AT PAUL’S VISION OF CHRISTIAN MATURITY.

In 1 Corinthians 13:11 Paul says,

When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man I put away childish things.

Paul is telling us there’s a time to grow up.

Verse 12 - For now we see through a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.Verse 13 - And now abideth faith, hope, and love these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Paul is telling us how important it is for us to grow and mature in God so that we might be love motivated. A child is a little “black hole” of selfishness. A child doesn’t yet know what’s out there in the big world and thinks everything revolves around him. Gradually and incrementally the child’s world opens up. The very nature of maturity is moving outside of self into the larger world of others. Paul is using this analogy with the Corinthians saying you can’t always be a child. What a child must do physically, we must do spiritually.

When you look at Paul’s life, he’s a good example of growing in grace. Watch the progression of his growth. As he ages and grows, he starts to talk about his sense of unworthiness. He wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:9 and calls himself the “least of all the apostles.” Later he writes in Ephesians 3:8 calling himself “the least of all God’s people.” At the end of his life he writes in 1Timothy 1:15 that he is “the worst of sinners.” The closer Paul gets to God, the smaller he is in his own sight.

LET’S LOOK AT PETER’S VISION OF MATURITY.
2 Peter 1:5-8

But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness; to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness, love; for if these are yours and abound, you will neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 9 - For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed for his old sins.

Verses 10 and 11- Therefore brethren, be ever more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble
.

For so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

So Peter says here, I want you to grow and develop in these areas. Now all this seems like a lot of work, and it is, but God isn’t rushing us. Spiritual maturity doesn’t come easily, and it doesn’t come overnight. You wonder if it’s worth it. It depends on what you want out of life and where you’re headed in life. Some people shy away from going deeper with God out of fear it will be too much sacrifice and too hard on the flesh. Their attitude is “There Be Dragons.” But as the scriptures tell us, the benefits more than compensate for the effort experienced.

IN ROMAN 12, THERE ARE 20 MARKS OF THE MATURING CHRISTIAN.

1. YOUR MIND IS BECOMING RENEWED SO YOU CAN EMPATHIZE WITH OTHERS. (Verse 1)

2. YOU ARE WILLING TO SEE THE BODY OF CHRIST GROW AND RECOGNIZE ALL HAVE A PLACE. (Verses 4-7)

3. YOU MORE AND MORE HATE EVIL AND CLING TO THAT WHICH IS GOOD. (Verse 9)

4. RELATIONSHIPS ARE STARTING TO MEAN MORE TO YOU THAN THINGS. (Verse 10)

5. YOU’RE BECOMING MORE PATIENT AND LESS PANICKY. (Verse 12)

6. YOU ARE HELPING OTHERS MORE. (Verse 13)

7. YOU’RE MORE ABLE TO BLESS THEM THAT CURSE YOU. (Verse 14)

8. YOUR TONGUE IS UNDER CONTROL. (JAMES 3:1-2)

9. YOU ARE STARTING TO FEEL HOW OTHERS FEEL – NOT THE WAY THEY FEEL, BUT HOW THEY FEEL. (Verses 14-15)

10. YOU ARE WILLING TO ASSOCIATE WITH LOWLY PEOPLE. (Verse 16)

11. YOU AREN’T CONCEITED ANYMORE. (Verse 16)

12. YOU HAVE A “NO-PAY-BACK” MENTALITY. (Verse 17)

13. HARMONY BECOMES THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN YOUR LIFE. (Verse 16)

14. MORE AND MORE YOU HATE CONFUSION. (Verses 18-19)

15. YOU BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND OTHERS’ DIFFERENCES; YOU STOP SAYING, “WHY CAN’T THEY BE MORE LIKE ME?” (Verse 18)

16. YOU ARE EXTENDING YOURSELF MORE – SHARING YOURSELF MORE. (Verse 1)

17. YOU’RE EXAMINING YOURSELF MORE. (Verse 3)

18. YOU’RE EDUCATING YOURSELF MORE. (Verse 3)

19. YOU’RE SEEING YOUR GIFT, NOT AS CHRISTMAS GIFTS ALL WRAPPED UP, BUT A GIFT FOR YOU TO HELP OTHERS. (Verses 5-8)

20. YOU’RE ENJOYING LIFE MORE. (Galatians 5:22 … Fruit of the Spirit is JOY)


SPIRITUAL GROWTH IS NOT ALL OUR HARD WORK.

I’ve had the occasion when flying in past years to be able to go to the front of the airplane and look in the cockpit where the pilots were. (I don’t think that’s allowed these days.) I had pictured the pilot with both hands on the wheel looking intensely into the windshield. I was shocked to see the pilots relaxing, talking, hands off the controls, not even looking where the plane was going. The pilot took off and landed the plane, but other than that, he really didn’t do much. Of course I was always glad the pilots were there. Most of the time, the pilot isn’t flying the plane hands-on; the automatic pilot takes over that job.

Though we’ve said that growth isn’t automatic, this process is similar to what God does in us when he reprograms our minds and transforms the way we think. We used to do things our way, but as God renews us, we start doing things in ways that please Him. A sinner doesn’t have to wear a note on his sleeve reminding him to curse and tell off-color jokes; he just does it naturally. It’s the same way with the Christian. Once His mind and nature is changed, he doesn’t have to “try to do the right thing.” He does the right thing automatically as he walks with God. The pilot can always override the automatic pilot and take the plane into his own hands. Likewise, we must choose daily if we’ll yield ourselves to God and let Him “do the driving.” That’s what Romans 12:1-2 is all about.

I found a television show I really liked once, and I found myself organizing my week around seeing it. I would race home to be sure not to miss the show, and often I’d tape it so I could watch it later if I couldn’t be there when it aired. One day it dawned on me that I was being programmed, and my life was being arranged by people who didn’t exist in a plot that really wasn’t that good and that didn’t honor God. I was spending more time thinking about the fictional people on that stupid show than I was my own life. The Holy Spirit so convicted me that, though I still enjoy watching some television, I’ve never allowed myself to get that caught up again.

How do we transform our minds? Simple! We read and study God’s word. Remember Peter said to grow in grace and in THE KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If we really want to grow in God, we must get to know The Book and live according to it. The Bible speaks to every situation you and I will ever face. As we get to know Jesus and His word better, His divine Holy Spirit gives us all we’ll need to live a holy life and grow in Him.

Let me reiterate: Growing spiritually isn’t automatic. You can’t drift into being a stronger Christian; it takes work. It won’t just happen by itself, and much of your success will depend on how much you love Jesus. God was so pleased with His Son Jesus; His desire is to “bring many sons to glory.” It’s His plan to grow you and me until we think, act, and feel just like He does.

If a person has studied classical music for 30 years yet never sits down and plays the masters’ compositions but only plays Chopsticks, wouldn’t that be odd? Pro musicians associate with other pros. They show they are pros by their love for music and the time they put into it. They work on their craft constantly and spend hours practicing, trying to improve. That’s love! That’s devotion!


CAN WE, AS DISCIPLES OF JESUS CHRIST, DO LESS?


ASK YOURSELF WHAT STEPS YOU NEED TO TAKE TODAY TO GROW IN GOD.

Blessings,


John

Friday, November 14, 2014

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

Friday, November 7, 2014

Putting The Worlds Most Influential Evangelist To The Bible Test

By John Stallings


….beware of false prophets. Matthew 7:15


There are others with large audiences, but by her standards they are dwarfed.

She gets her message to more people than anyone else on earth.

Let’s face it, she’s number one; the world’s most powerful evangelist.

She’s a consummate entertainer, a publisher, publishing her own magazine O, which is a massive success, (2.7 million Monthly readership) and any book she promotes through her book club instantly becomes a bestseller. She’s an Internet powerhouse and her website is visited by millions. She’s the power behind an Internet and cable conglomerate called Oxygen that specializes in feminist programming. She’s a mega-business tycoon with her own Production Company, Harpo productions and studio. Her flagship Television talk show is always top rated; as a matter of fact, it’s the top rated talk show in history and reaches 30 million people a week in 111 countries.

She is also an award winning actress, a financial powerhouse worth hundreds of millions of dollars, as well as a mover and shaker who underwrites various and sundry causes. She is many things, but let’s talk about her as an evangelist. She is warm, down to earth, charming and is exceptionally good with ordinary folk. Her vast multimedia empire gives her a platform that no living preacher can match and believe me she’s using that platform to spread religion.

She espouses her own spiritual ideas and frequently features her favorite spiritual adviser's on her show. Her website offers answers to many spiritual questions. We’ve established the fact that she’s spreading religion, but what religion is she spreading?

THE MOST POWERFUL TELEVISION EVANGELIST IN THE WORLD TODAY IS OPRAH WINFREY.

I warn you in advance, if you’re an Oprah fan, some of the things I’m going to say will be tough to hear. And she is spreading the “New Age” religion & make no mistake, Oprah Winfrey isn’t a Christian nor does she claim to be. She is a consummate New Ager, and there’s no question that millions of 40- something housewives faithfully watch her and give a positive nod to everything she says. The massively influential Oprah was named in 1997 by Newsweek magazine, “The most important person in books and magazines.” It was that year when she started Angel Network, a philanthropic outreach that has raised 27 million dollars for needy people worldwide.

 She got my attention when she endorsed Barack Obama for the Democrat candidate for the Presidency in 2008.That endorsement changed the political landscape giving America a problem we didn't need--THE OBAMA PROBLEM!

In 2004, Time magazine named Oprah one of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2005, she received the prestigious NAACP Hall of Fame award. Let’s give credit where credit is due, in many ways Oprah’s show offers an alternative to some of the other trashy programming airing on daytime TV. She has the most magnetic personality imaginable. I give her that, hands down. She can be justifiably proud of the way she has risen from very humble and painful beginnings to such mega-stardom and world fame & at least Oprah is using her fame and influence to seek to improve people’s lives.

 I’m sure that Oprah the evangelist has helped and encouraged multitudes to make many positive changes in their lives. Kudos are in order here. But remember, Satan is perfectly happy to let us mix in some of our own goodness, if in so doing he can take our eyes off the perfection that is in Christ Jesus alone.

Satan is happy to see us making short-term improvements in our lives, so long as we forget that it’s only the Gospel of Jesus Christ that can bring us real forgiveness for our sins and eternal life with God. How does what Oprah teaches harmonize with what the Bible teaches? Hold on tight, I’m going to tell you.

1. OPRAH FEELS THE BIBLE IS TOO LIMITED & BELIEVES NEW AGE THINKING ILLUMINATES & FILLS THE GAPS THE BIBLE MISSES.


She believes New Age thinking mostly agrees with the Bible, but it seriously doesn’t and there are huge life-or- death differences. Oprah believes in the FORCE- “I call it God,” she says. But this is a terrible mistake. The Lord isn’t a force, but rather an all-powerful Person. Oprah says each of us is part of that force and we have the potential to reach down deep inside ourselves and tap into that force. She goes on, saying that we don’t need Jesus and “Our biggest mistake is to believe that there’s only one way. Actually, there are many paths leading to “what you call God. There couldn’t possibly be only one way.”

If Oprah is correct, Jesus is a liar, for Jesus said,

 I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me. John 14:6.

 So Jesus says he’s the only way, but Oprah contradicts Jesus and says there are many ways to God. She teaches that God cares more about our hearts than whether or not we call Jesus Lord. But Oprah is wrong! Houston, we have a problem.

Acts 4:12 makes it clear that, “There is no other name…by which we must be saved.”

2. OPRAH CLAIMS TO COMMUNICATE WITH THE SPIRITS OF HER ANCESTORS & OTHER DEAD PEOPLE.

New Age religion encourages such things but the Bible fiercely forbids trying to communicate with dead people or other spirit beings. The Bible clearly tells us in Isaiah 8:19 that we should inquire of God instead of going to old spirits or demons that are out to trick and destroy us. Old Testament King Saul in his backslidings started going to fortune tellers when God had forbidden it, seeking to learn from hell what heaven would no longer tell him. Oprah ignores the Bible and goes ahead and seeks the very type of contact that God forbids.

3. OPRAH FEELS TO LIVE WITH HER BOYFRIEND STEDMAN, UNMARRIED- IS PERFECTLY OKAY.

The Bible calls this fornication and obviously living in sin. The Bible commands that a couple be married before they live together. Oprah says, “it works so well this way, I wouldn’t want to mess it up.” So America’s beloved “Evangelist Oprah” slaps God in the face and by example, encourages millions of others to follow suit. Shame, shame Oprah! You feel that your feelings matter more than the facts of what God commands us to do. Your acid test is your subjective feelings rather than God’s objective commandments. Oprah’s religion contradicts the Bible. She spreads falsehoods about the most basic things: the nature of God, the way of salvation, the source of supernatural truth, and the standard for moral living.

4. OPRAH GETS HER THEOLOGY FROM GURUS AND NEW AGE TEACHERS.

New Agers like Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra, Shirley MacLaine, Betty Eadie and James Van Praagh are often on her program. These people don’t believe in a personal God but in an impersonal power. Shirley MacLaine goes so far as to say, “if everyone was taught one basic spiritual law, we’d all be happier and that law is that; everyone is God; everyone.” Oprah’s guru says, “The Universe is wise and compassionate and doesn’t burden you with a destiny. It provides you with potential. Your life depends on your choices. There are no right or wrong answers, only your holy life, and the experiences that you create in it.” These people promote a Godless religion and a Christless spirituality in a slick manner which popularizes the principle of reincarnation; which says that if you don’t get it right this time you will the next.

This is anti-Bible. What about salvation through Jesus Christ? These Guru’s deny this and speak of, no right, no wrong, no sin no judgment, no hell, no need for a savior. Your soul creates another life for you to live and die many times. This is re-incarnation. But the Bible says,

Man is destined to die once and after that the judgment. Hebrews 9:27.

This is “Karma”…. “Nothing happens to you that don’t come from a choice you made, either in this life or a previous life. Its all in your hands and this is the lesson of Karma.” The message Oprah sends out is; -- don’t just listen to the Bible or think hard about the words God speaks; just watch Oprah and her Guru and feel them emote. They may sincerely believe what they’re saying but they have put there faith in lies, and are spreading those lies to millions of people. I’ll go so far as to give them the benefit of the doubt that they don’t realize that Satan himself is the author of the ideas they promote.

Satan isn’t stupid. He knows the best possible way to spread his message isn’t through some wild-eyed seemingly nutty person, but rather through a likable, warm woman full of good intentions, eager to help people. Another of Oprah’s Guru’s is a woman named Iyanla Vanzant who makes statements like, “The power is in your hands. The reason you are on this planet is to awaken to your God-self, to celebrate life, and to do what brings you JOY!” That’s just another re-hash of Satan’s old lie in the garden of Eden “You will be like God.” But now Satan doesn’t speak through a snake, he uses powerful and popular women. If we chose to follow our own warm-fuzzy feelings rather than the word of God, we are asking to become dupes of Satan. God says,

Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit.”… Woe to the women “who prophesy out of their own imagination.” (Ezekiel 13:3,-17).

5. OPRAH & HER GURUS ARE BIG ON THE IDEA OF FORGIVENESS.

That seems strange to me because there’s never a hint of the problem of sin on Oprah’s shows. Only the power of positive thinking can change the world. Bad human behavior is only the result of the need for attitude adjustments or the “realignment of energies.” They can be heard talking about forgiving all the time but if there’s no personal God to sin against, and if there’s no such thing as a wrong choice or a sin, what real need does anyone have for forgiveness? What they teach is all about just keeping your feelings positive. Dismiss the notion that something is wrong with you or anyone else and delight in your own “evolving Godhood.” This view is a cheap counterfeit replacement for what Bible forgiveness really is. It’s an insult to the Son of God who died that we might be forgiven of our sins.

Personally, I like Oprah. I admire her talent and accomplishments. From the first time I saw her in the early eighties, I recognized there was something special about her and have often enjoyed watching her unique interviews. She’s a breath of fresh air in many ways & if nothing else, she provides a positive outlook when these days negativity abounds. Looking at her in purely human terms, “what’s not to like about Oprah?” However we must remember that while New Age Humanism sounds great, (who isn’t for the human race?), from a scriptural standpoint, Oprah the evangelist will destroy your spirit if you place your faith in the religion she promotes.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit but try the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and now is already in the world.”(1 John 4:1-3)

THERE ARE SOME THINGS THAT CANNOT BE COMPROMISED.TO WIT….

God has provided only one message of salvation: the Bible. God has provided just one way to be saved. If you or I reject Jesus we will perish in hell. But if we believe in Him and Him alone, we will live forever in heaven. It’s just that simple. My prayer is; may God help people who are confused or deceived by false religion.

I AM PRAYING FOR YOU OPRAH, AND THAT’S THE TRUTH.

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Where Would You Like To Be One Year From Today?

By John Stallings

Elisha said to her, “This time next year you’re going to be nursing an infant son….. 2Kings 4: 16-- The Message

Because we’re created for eternity, all of us have dreams.

A little girl dreams of someday becoming a ballerina. A little boy wants to grow up & be a fireman.A young woman dreams of becoming a lawyer. A stay- at- home mom dreams of running her own business. A single mom dreams of someday being able to stay at home & take care of her kids. A business man dreams of one day owning his own business.Some want a new truck or a piece of land.Still others dream of “making it” in singing, acting or sports.Some want to raise kids to be successful in life.

Each of us has the desire for more of life, to do more, to accomplish more & get more out of our lives.One thing we all have in common; everyone has & needs dreams. Someone has said, “If you have no dream, how you will ever have a dream come true?” Dreams deliver us to a new reality. We need to follow our dreams, and never stop dreaming, though we reach 100 years of age. What dreams languish in your heart today? W.H Murray said, “Whatever your dream began it, for boldness has magic in it.” How true. We are drawn by our dreams.

DREAMS CAN SOMETIMES BE TRICKY

There seems to be a principle about dreams that they are born, die and then surprisingly they come to life again. Every song and sermon I’ve ever written has gone through a cycle; the birth, - attacks of doubt about its validity, --death, --and resurrection. I write the song, get excited about it, and sleep on it for awhile, and then excitement starts to wane. Then, sometimes almost immediately, sometimes weeks or months later, the feeling I had about the song reignites. The danger of this is that in the cooling period, a lot of worthwhile writing can drop through the cracks and be lost. None the less, this is the way it works with me, and I would guess others.

In the book of Second Kings the fourth chapter there is a great story with just such a dynamic; the birth, death & resurrection of a dream. The story unfolds among four characters; Elisha, God’s prophet, Gehazi, his assistant, the Shunammite woman, a noble, wealthy & pious woman, and her miracle son. Each of these characters has modern day counterparts which makes the story more intriguing & allows it to be instructive for Christian living.Elisha, God’s servant, who was Elijah’s successor, is presented in an extremely positive light in the biblical record & it’s almost impossible to find a word of negativity spoken of him or his actions.

Gehazi, Elisha’s assistant on the other hand seems to be pretty much a hireling. We find his name popping up often & in the next chapter he takes money from Namaan the leper, money Elisha refuses to take as payment for the Syrian commanders healing. For this, God struck Gehazi & his descendants with Namaan’s leprosy. He’s a perfect type of a minister who’s in it for the money.The Shunammite woman is described as “great” or “notable”, a Hebrew word that can speak of wealth, piety, renown or all the above. Elisha periodically passed by her home as he traveled the countryside. As she became acquainted with him she perceived him to be a great man of God so she and her husband built a room or prophet’s chamber in their home for him.

This woman to me is a type of the church.Because of her hitherto childlessness, this woman could have become bitter but she was still reaching out to people & loving them. Because of her lack of children she could have blamed God for it & felt she wanted no man of God to stay in her home. She definitely had the right attitude & there must have been an atmosphere of faith & godliness in her house.

Though the Shunammite woman might not be very familiar today, she served as an important symbol in the 19th & early 20th centuries. There weren’t enough clergy for every town to have their own minister so frontier preachers maintained a circuit & served several communities which meant they were traveling all the time. My grandfather was one of these circuit riding preachers & served Tennessee & Georgia as an evangelist for the Presbyterian Church. He had only one eye, he played the violin & was later a piano teacher.In those days, numerous homes along the preacher’s way were known as “Shunammite Households” because they would maintain a “prophet’s chamber” available on a moments notice to provide food & lodging to those doing the Lord’s work.

Lest we forget the Shunammite woman’s son, he was born as a result of an Abraham-Sarah-like miracle. To me he represents Everyman, a child of the church & the individual Christian.The father in this story seems basically to be only background or “white-noise,” & he plays a “bit part.”Elisha was grateful for the kindness shown him by this Shunammite woman & in turn he wanted to bless her. When He found she had no children & her husband was old, he spoke the blessing of a child into her life.

AT FIRST THIS WOMAN DIDN’T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BELIEVE GOD COULD GIVE HER A CHILD.

Elisha gave her a word of prophecy that one year from that time, she and her husband would have a son. She reacted by telling the prophet not to lie to her, showing that her faith was weak in this area. None- the- less, exactly at that time the next year the prophecy came true and she held a son in her arms. Isn’t it great that even when we don’t have enough faith, God is gracious to have mercy on us in spite of our doubts? However God expects our faith to grow so He’ll stretch us & test our faith just as He did in this woman’s case.So this Shunammite woman realized her dream & it came to fruition at the precise time Elisha told her it would happen, exactly one year from the time he prophesied it.

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE ONE YEAR FROM NOW?

Why not take the long view and believe that one year from now you will be out of debt, greatly blessed, or maybe engaged to a great person, if you’re single, and on your way to a great future. Isn’t that better than believing that you’ve fallen into a black hole and things will never improve? There’s nothing wrong with a one year plan, because a lot can happen in one year. I’m not talking about a New Years resolution, but rather believing God for something great exactly one year from now.When this son was about 12 years old he was with his father in the field one day and suddenly the boy ran to his dad complaining of pains in his head. Though the details are scanty, most commentators believe in all probability he fell victim to a sunstroke because of direct exposure to the sun. Being a child he succumbed quickly because he probably wasn’t wearing any protective head-gear.

This is reminiscent of young Christians who expose themselves to the perils of this worlds system for long periods of time without making sure they're constantly protected by “The whole armor of God.”When the boy fell ill they took him to his mother to be comforted but within a short time he died in her arms. How many former Christian workers have we seen die in the arms of the church in the last two decades? The Shunammite woman knows her son is dead but she does a rather strange thing. She takes him up to Elisha’s room, lays him on the bed, & shuts the door. Then she goes out & shouts to her husband from a distance asking him to send her one of the servants with a donkey, she wants to go see the man of God.So now this woman has seen her dream come true, held the dream in her arms, and then sees the dream shattered & her son die right before her eyes.

THIS WOMAN STUBBORNLY REFUSED TO BECOME OFFENDED AT GOD.

This Shunammite woman doesn’t seem to accept that her child is really dead. She tells no one & in effect by putting the child in the prophet’s private room & shutting the door, she’s effectively hiding his condition from her husband, & to an extent, even from herself.Look at some of alternatives she now had: she could go into a rage, start panicking and screaming and cursing the God who had given her the gift and now so cruelly taken it from her. She could have had a melt-down & gone on a tirade saying, “Well I quit. If that’s what God does to you, I want no more to do with him.” Some people blame God when bad things happen to them. I’ve seen folk who never again darkened a church door after life dealt them a disappointment similar to this. But you don’t see those kinds of hysterics with this woman. Look what a paragon of faith she is. She doesn’t even cry or tell her husband what’s happened, probably because she knows he isn’t able to handle the situation spiritually or emotionally.

It would have been understandable if she’d gone into a rage & ranted against God & His man who’d built her up for a letdown. But this woman is a model of level-headedness. She wasn’t going to make a big scene; she was going to seek out the originator of the promise made to her. She wasn’t going to go public against the man of God & malign his character but rather she was going to him privately with her problem.She’s in mission mode now. Nothing would deter her. She climbs on the donkey & says, “Drive & go forward. Don’t slacken the pace unless I tell you to.” The servant is probably running beside her goading the little donkey with a stick. We’re not told how much trouble she had finding Elisha. It probably wasn’t all that easy because he was at Carmel about 15 miles away. But she found him and when she saw him she ran to him & fell at his feet to tell him what had happened. When some folk have trouble, they run from God. They stay out of church and hibernate, but this woman is going in the right direction; God is always the right direction.

Isaiah 55: 6-7 says, Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near……

LONG BEFORE THE MODERN CONFESSION TEACHING, THIS WOMAN HAS A STRONG POSITIVE ATTITUDE.

Elisha must have been eternally vigilant because he wasn’t in bed sleeping; he was outside & saw her coming. He asked her if things were well with her & back at home & she answered, “All is well.” Think about that. No matter how many times I read her words I get chills down my spine. This woman acts like she’s already read Romans 4:17 hundreds of years before Paul ever penned it, by “calling things which were not as if they were.”

It’s interesting that when the Shunammite woman fell at Elisha’s feet Gehazi attempts to push her away from the prophet. The bible has little good to say about Gehazi. Though he takes the commands of the prophet & obeys them well, there’s that sense of unbelief that hovers between the lines when he’s mentioned. We know one thing for sure; he had a greed for money which finally proved his undoing. It’s sad because Gehazi had all the time in the world to soak up righteous principles from his master Elisha but he doesn’t seem to hunger for that.

He’s emblematic of people who are exposed to the church but never internalize the truth for themselves. They [especially the professional hirelings] see the church only as a place to extract dollars.Elisha was so sensitive to her need that he immediately tells Gehazi to run ahead and place his staff on the child. Here again Gehazi shows his inadequacy & spiritual impotence. The narrative doesn’t mention him praying for the boy. Even laying Elisha’s mantle on him does no good.Gehazi simply didn’t have the spiritual goods to get the job done even with Elisha’s mantel. He tried & failed once, & he gave up. Evidently he’d never heard about, “try, try again.”To me this Gehazi fits the description of those Paul speaks of in 2nd Timothy 3:8,….. Having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.

The boy is stone cold dead.In the bible the euphemism for death is sleep. “For this cause many are weak & sickly among you & many sleep.--1 Cor. 11:30 God’s people need to be awake & alert in these days when sin & darkness abounds. Paul says in Romans 13:11-12….it is high time to wake out of sleep…..When Elisha arrives at the Shunammites house things are still the same & the boy lies dead on his bed. The boy is now with the prophet but he’s still dead.

Many people are “in the church” on a weekly basis but they remain asleep. Parking a lawnmower in a garage doesn’t make it an automobile.Unlike Gehazi, Elisha throws himself into the task of reviving the child. First he shuts the door, putting everyone outside. This is a private matter. I don’t know about you but I think we’ve been remiss in airing the church’s dirty laundry & allowing our business to be put in the streets. We have “Christian Magazines” just for this purpose. However one reason for that is we haven’t had, as the body of Christ, the spiritual power to restore anyone.

Paul told us when a Christian slips,…Brethren if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself lest thou also be tempted. Gal.6:

Maybe I’m reading it wrong but it would seem to me if people aren’t restored, it must be because there’s no one around spiritual enough to restore them. We can criticize, we can publicize but we can’t restore. It becomes much easier to just cut the fallen ones loose.Elisha knows he’s the only one that can get the job done & that any hope of life for the boy depends on his relationship with God.

Notice how hard Elisha works to get this boy healed. He stretches himself out on the child eye to eye, mouth to mouth, & hand to hand. We’ll never win the world from behind the four walls of a church. We must “press the flesh” so to speak to ever see the lost won to Christ. There are only two types of institutions that I know of who have stained or clouded glass on their windows & that’s the church & bars.For too long the church has sat behind walls & been entertained with no connection to the lost & dying in our world. Consequently we’ve lost our “street cred.”

Elisha stretches himself out on the boy the second time & this time something happens. The boy sneezes. He not only sneezes, he sneezes seven times. Do you know what a sneeze is? The dictionary defines it as—“a sudden violent, spasmodic audible expiration of breath through the nose & mouth especially as a reflex act.”A sneeze occurs as a reaction to an irritant of some kind; dust, dander, allergen etc.I did some research on sneezing & found that in sneezing, the respiratory system convulses with a blast of air traveling at the speed of 240 mph in its attempt to dislodge and expel the offending particle.

The spiritual counterpart to sneezing is repentance.Listen to 2nd Cor. 7:10-11---For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. For behold this selfsame thing that ye sorrowed after a godly sort what carefulness it wrought in you, yea what clearing of yourselves, yea what indignation, yea what fear, yea what vehement desire, yea what zeal, yea what revenge. In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

In the analogy of reviving a body to life, sneezing is a perfect picture of the individual Christian’s repentance.Why did the boy sneeze seven times? The number seven in the bible is the number of completion. The book of Revelation has seven churches, seven lampstands, seven spirits, seven eyes, seven seals, trumpets, plagues, bowls, thunders, heads, crowns, mountains, & kings. There are many other lists of seven in the bible.When the child sneezed seven times it was an example of complete repentance. One or two sneezes won’t get the job done; he must sneeze until all the impediments are completely gone.

I WANT GOD TO WORK IN MY LIFE LIKE THAT--TO STRETCH OUT & BREATHE ALL OVER ME.

What a miraculous story. A story that would never have happened if the woman had not been a fighter. What if she had gotten so caught up in the finality of death that she collapsed in despair? She could have allowed a hundred things to divert her that day and her dream would have been over. She could have gotten mad at God for what seemed like a cruel joke played on her by granting her a son and then taking him away. She could have even been angry enough at the man of God that she would never want to see him again. She could have said, “Well, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.” She could have said, “Well I’m too old now to see another miracle, that’s it for me, after all, God works in mysterious ways.”It's one thing to bow to Gods will, we haven’t much choice, but it’s another to give up when a little more fight may win the day. The violent take it by force!

If I’m lying on my deathbed I don’t want to hear people praying, “Lord, if it be thy will, heal Him.” I don’t want my wife to pray, “Take him on Jesus, I know heavens a lonely place & you need a few more roses to bloom in your flower garden.” I’ve told Juda [jokingly] if she ever prays for me like that I’ll come back & haunt her for the rest of her life. God didn’t kill this young man, the devil did. It’s my conviction that when someone is facing death, we shouldn’t pray, “if it be thy will, heal the person, but according to thy will heal them.”

Let’s look at this story and understand that just because a dream comes, doesn’t mean it can’t and won’t slip away. However, If it does, we need to fight with everything within us to see it resurrected. There may be something in your life today that you need to fight for. Let me ask you about your dream, how much do you want it? Are you going to give up without a fight? You may have laid your dream up on a shelf and it’s been there for years. It perhaps has grown dusty and parched with age but I want to encourage you to take that dream off the shelf today and allow God to breathe life back into it. Do believe it can happen? I know it can.

WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING IN 2015—ONE YEAR FROM NOW?

Friend, don’t settle for shallow living. Maybe you’ve seen some of the dreams you’ve had for yourself turn to nightmares so consequently you’ve began to dream dreams that are always safe & quiet requiring little risk, practically none in fact.But have you considered lately the dreams God has for you?

Listen to 1 Cor.2:9;

No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has imagined what God has prepared for them who love Him.

In the great New Testament Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11:35, the Holy Spirit brings the Shunammite woman back to our remembrance; ---Women received their dead raised to life again.God made sure the story of this woman & her son lived on for a reason. If like her, your promise has died, follow her example & stretch it out before the living God & expect a miracle.Ask the Lord to revive the promise—your life----your ministry---your job. Ask God to remove everything in your path.

Dear friend, dream big with huge faith attached to it. Most of all make sure you’re dreaming never scheming. Know that any dream worth its salt will have some opposition.

If we, like this woman, will stay positive, will keep our eye on the one who placed the dream in us, refuse to quit or become offended, act in faith & keep our love-level high, our future also holds some miraculous surprises...


ONE YEAR FROM NOW!

Blessings,

John