Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Man Who Saw God Everywhere

By John Stallings

"For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28)

Do all things really work together for good? 

Of all the questions that trouble the hearts of God’s people, none is the greater than the question Why? No matter how many sermons we hear or how many Bible verses we memorize, the question returns again and again.

Why did this happen? Lord, why didn’t you answer our prayers?

When we see the pain of a fallen world, we wonder, “Where is God?” Over the centuries the greatest minds have wrestled with the problem of pain and suffering and still the questions come:

Why me?
Why now?
Why this?

The questions hang in the air. We wonder why things happen the way they do, why a teacher in Libya is shot and killed, why the bus didn’t make it to the church, why the baby was born with such disabilities.

Why do these things happen? Why do they happen to good, decent people? Why do they happen to people who love the Lord? Let’s drill down a bit into this subject.


The doctrine of Providence of God helps us understand. If it does not answer every question, it surely provides the only possible basis for understanding. Though the word itself is not found in most modern translations of the Bible, the concept is certainly biblical. Providence refers to God’s gracious oversight of the universe.” Every one of those words is important. God’s providence is one aspect of his grace. Oversight means that he directs the course of affairs. The word universe tells us that God not only knows the big picture, he also concerns himself with the tiniest details.

Here are five statements that unfold the meaning of God’s providence in more detail:

He upholds all things.
He governs all events.
He directs everything to its appointed end.
He does this all the time and in every circumstance.  
He does it always for His own glory.

Providence is the invisible hand of God.

The doctrine of God’s Providence teaches us several important truths: 

First, God cares about the tiniest details of life. Nothing escapes his notice for he is concerned about the small as well as the big. In fact, with God there is no big or small. He knows when a sparrow falls and attends every funeral, and he numbers the hairs on our head. With some folk God has to do a lot of subtracting. He keeps track of the stars in the skies and the rivers that flow to the oceans. He sets the day of our birth, the day of our death, and he ordains everything that comes to pass in between. 
Second, he uses everything and wastes nothing. There are no accidents with God, only incidents. This includes events that seem to us to be senseless tragedies. 

Third, God’s ultimate intention is to shape His children into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). He often uses difficult moments and human tragedies to accomplish that purpose.

Many verses in the Bible teach these truths, including Acts 17:28 (“in him we live and move and have our being”), Colossians 1:17 (“in him all things hold together”), Hebrews 1:3 (“He upholds the universe by the word of his power”), Proverbs 16:9 (“The heart of man plans his way but the Lord establishes his steps”), and especially Psalm 115:3, (“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases”).

The doctrine of God’s providence is really a combination of four other attributes:

He is in control
Predestination—He is in charge of how everything turns out
Wisdom—He makes no mistakes
Goodness—He has our best interests at heart

Someone has said, “God doesn’t roll dice.” Nothing happens by chance. Ever! Devine providence is the invisible hand of God moving through the circumstances of life.

Providence Illustrated through Joseph

In many ways Joseph’s whole life is the Old Testament illustration of a profound New Testament truth. Deep in our hearts we know that Romans 8:28 is true.

Joseph’s story goes something like this. Because Joseph was the favored son of his father Jacob, he was the object of envy by his many brothers. The day came when his brothers conspired to sell him to the Midianites who happened to be passing by. They splashed his “coat of many colors” with the blood of a goat in order to make it appear that he had been killed by a wild animal. They showed the coat to Jacob, who believed their lie and sorrowfully concluded that Joseph was dead.

Meanwhile Joseph was taken to Egypt by the Midianites. There he was sold again, this time to Potiphar, who was head of Pharaoh’s security force. Genesis 39 tells us that Joseph gained favor with Potiphar because the Lord was with him to bless him. Eventually Potiphar put Joseph in charge of his entire household. This was a high honor for a Hebrew slave. Because he was competent, confident, and good-looking, Potiphar’s wife approached him about having a sexual affair. Joseph refused, pointing out that he could not betray Potiphar and he would not sin against God .The woman persisted, to the point that one day when everyone else was gone, she attempted to pull him down on her bed. Joseph fled from the scene, leaving his cloak behind. Joe had a difficult time keeping a coat didn’t he? Humiliated by his refusal, she accused him of rape. It was a false charge, of course, but Potiphar believed his wife and had Joseph thrown in prison.

In prison Joseph prospered once again and gained the respect of his fellow prisoners and of the guards. This happened because the Lord was with him to bless him. Eventually the cupbearer and the baker were thrown in the same prison and Joseph befriended them. One night they both had dreams they could not interpret. But Joseph was able to interpret them with the Lord’s help. The dreams came true exactly as Joseph had predicted—the baker was hung but the cupbearer was released. Joseph asked him to remember him after he was out, but he didn’t.

Two years passed and Pharaoh had a dream that he could not interpret. That’s when the cupbearer remembered Joseph’s amazing ability and mentioned it to Pharaoh who ordered Joseph brought before him. Joseph correctly interpreted his dream and was rewarded by Pharaoh, who made him the Prime Minister of Egypt. Not bad for a Hebrew slave who had been sold into slavery by his brothers!

Eventually a famine settled on the Near East. Jacob told his sons to go to Egypt and buy some grain. They go and in the process meet Joseph—only they don’t know it’s Joseph. This happens twice. Then Joseph reveals his true identity. They are shocked and then scared because they betrayed him and now he’s in a position to get even. But Joseph doesn’t do that. In fact, he stuns them with these words:

And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest.  And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt (Genesis 45:5-8).

But that’s not the end of the story. The brothers go back to Canaan and tell their aged father that Joseph is still alive. He can’t believe it, but eventually they convince him to come to Egypt with them. He makes the trip and is reunited with the son he had given up for dead many years ago. Then he meets the Pharaoh who offers to let Joseph’s family settle in Egypt for as long as they like. The family settles in Egypt and lives in peace there for many years. Finally Jacob dies at the age of 147. Now it’s just Joseph and his brothers. They fear that with Jacob’s death Joseph will be free to take revenge on them. So they tell Joseph, “Oh, by the way, before Dad died he told us to tell you to treat us kindly.” It sounds like just one more deception to cover their guilt.


Listen to Joseph’s response. These are the words of a man who believes in the providence of God.

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Genesis 50:19-20).
How could Joseph talk like that after all that happened to him? The answer is simple: He saw God everywhere!

Look how Joseph says it: “You meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.” 

 Both sides of that statement are true. “You meant evil against me”—what the bothers had done was indeed evil and Joseph doesn’t sugarcoat the truth. They are 100% responsible for their sin. “God meant it for good”—this doesn’t mean that evil isn’t evil. It just means that God is able to take the evil actions of sinful men and use them to accomplish his plans. Joseph saw the “invisible hand” of God at work in his life. He understood that behind his conniving brothers stood the Lord God who had orchestrated the entire affair in order to get him to just the right place at just the right moment in order to save his whole family.

Providence Applied

Joseph is saying, “Though your motives were bad, God’s motives were good.” Though it took years and years for God’s purposes to be clear, in the end Joseph saw the hand of God behind everything that had happened to him.

Think about the implications of that statement:

At just the right moment Joseph’s brothers threw him into the cistern.
At just the right moment the Midianites came along.
At just the right moment he was sold to Potiphar.
At just the right moment Potiphar’s wife falsely accused him.
At just the right moment he met the baker and the cupbearer.
At just the right moment the cupbearer remembered Joseph.
At just the right moment Pharaoh called for him.
At just the right moment he was promoted to Prime Minister.
At just the right moment Jacob sent his sons to Egypt.
At just the right moment the brothers met Joseph.
At just the right moment Jacob’s family moved to Egypt.
At just the right moment Pharaoh offered them the land of Goshen.
At just the right moment they settled there and prospered.

All of this happened at “just the right moment” and in “just the right way” so that the right people would be in the right place so that in the end everything would come out the way God had ordained in the beginning. God never violated anyone’s free will, yet everything happened as he had planned. That’s the providence of God in action.
At just the right time Joseph was thrown into prison.

Think of the “minutiae of providence.” If we look with the eyes of faith, we can see God’s fingerprints everywhere.

Here’s a mighty question from Joseph’s life,

“Can you trust God with the details of your life?”

But that’s not quite the right question. We need to change one word.

Not “Can you?” but “Will you?”

“Will you trust God with the details of your life?”
There’s another way to say thisEither you run the universe or he does. A lot of people try to run the universe, but it never works out. Or you and I can bow before the Lord and say, “You are in charge… I’m not. I will trust you with every detail of my life.”
If you’ve been around for a while, you can look back and see how God has likewise lead you with his gracious beneficence. I know I can.

He Maketh No Mistake

In the 1920s a young man named A. M. Overton became the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Baldwyn, Mississippi. Baldwyn is a small community in north Mississippi on the road between Tupelo and Corinth.. In 1932 Mrs. Overton was pregnant with their fourth child, but when it came time for delivery there were complications and both she and the baby died. During the funeral, the preacher officiating at the service noticed Pastor Overton writing something on a piece of paper. After the service the minister asked him about it, and he handed him the paper with a poem he had just written. The poem was unknown for many years until someone set it to music. It eventually went around the world.

The poem is called “He Maketh No Mistake.”

My Father’s way may twist and turn
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know,
He maketh no mistake.
My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,
For He doth know the way.
Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith, my all, in Him,
He maketh no mistake.
There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may,
I’ll simply trust and leave it all to Him.
For by and by the mist will lift,
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.

That will be the testimony of every child of God. When we finally get to heaven, we’ll look back over the pathway of life and see that through all the twists and turns and seeming detours that he was with us all the way.
Until that morning comes and the sunlight of God’s presence fills our faces, we move on through the twilight still believing that though life is often hard, God is good. In the end we will say with all the children of God as we look back on our earthly pilgrimage, “He made not one mistake.”

Fear not! We have a great God!

There is more to this intriguing story but we will have to wait until we get to heaven. 

Joseph, the man who saw God everywhere will tell us the rest of the story in his own words.



Thursday, March 19, 2015

Life's Crazy Bounces

by John Stallings

If you’re like most people, you’ve never heard the name Coleman Mockler.

His story is told in Jim Collin’s excellent book, “Good to great.” The book tells about men who took good companies that people never expected to be more than average & made them great.

Though the name Coleman Mockler probably doesn’t ring a bell, you have no doubt heard the name of the company he made great, especially if you are a man & you shave. The company of which I speak is Gillette.

During Mockler’s tenure as CEO of Gillette, he steadied the company through three hostile takeovers all on the promise of a series of products that might prove profitable. These products were the Sensor & the Mach3. Now when Mockler did all this, these well known brands were in development & it was his determination & leadership that kept Gillette from being just another good company bought & sold to gain market share.

With his patience, Gillette became great. Mockler was a shy & unassuming man, & with his success also came a degree of fame. Forbes magazine came knocking & when they couldn’t agree about a picture of him to run with their article, they used a cartoon of him in the image of Conan the barbarian, showing him conquering all his competitors.

Mockler had the picture in his hands, seeing it for the first time as he walked in the halls of his office & had a heart attack still grasping the picture. He died that day.


Look at King David. When he was made king he had every reason to believe all would be right with the world but his first wife grew to hate him. Who better to be king than the man who’d started as a boy giant-killer, was a sensitive poet, a great warrior & leader of men?

Then his father-in-law was bent on killing him, his second marriage started off in adultery, murder & the loss of a child. His daughter was raped by her brother & then this son was killed by another brother. His wickedly vengeful son Absalom starts a civil war ousting David & taking his stepmothers as wives.

We’ve all heard of the providence of God. Though the word isn’t found in most modern translations, in English the word “Providence” has two parts. Its “pro” & “Video” put together, literally meaning “to see before.” It refers to God’s gracious oversight of the universe. The word’s deepest meaning is: God not only knows the big picture, He also concerns Himself with the tiniest details.

The title of this blog, “Life’s crazy bounces” may trouble you at first because we are 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 He has planned for us to experience.


God doesn’t roll dice. Nothing happens in God’s world by chance.

God is in charge of what happens, when it happens, how it happens, why it happens & even what happens after it happens. This is true of all events from the beginning of time. He does this for our good & His glory. God isn’t the author of sin yet evil serves His purpose. He doesn’t violate our free-will yet free will serves His purpose. We’re not supposed to understand all this; we’re just supposed to believe it.


Have you ever heard the saying, “God moves in mysterious ways?” Many people think it’s a scripture verse but in reality it’s from a song written in the 1800s by an Englishman named William Cowper. Here’s the first phrase;


Although the Bible doesn’t actually contain this verse, the principle is everywhere between it covers.

God takes time in His Word telling us the stories of men whose lives dramatize the fact that He isn’t a time-dweller. He’s not a senile old fuddy-duddy, He never gets in a hurry nor is He always scurrying around trying to catch up.

I heard about a man who was praying & said, “God, is it true that a million dollars is about the same as a penny in your sight?” God answered, “Yes, it’s true.” Then the man asked, “God is it true that a minute is about the same to you as a thousand years?” God answered again that this was true. The man then asked, “God will you give me a million dollars?” God answered, “Of course, in a minute.”

God’s ways, His thoughts & His schedule differs greatly from ours & He wants us to understand this fact.


Joseph is one of the best examples of a young man whose life was subjected to many crazy bounces. If anyone could say they experienced rejection it would be Joseph. He was one of Jacob’s twelve sons, & was in the line of the great patriarchs of God’s people. Joseph was also from a long line of unhealthy family favoritism, as matter of fact he was caught up in one of the worst cases of sibling rivalry ever.

Talk about dysfunctional families. Joseph grew up in a home torn by the conflict of two wives vying for their husband Jacob’s attention. The rivalry escalated when Jacob began to favor Joseph the first son of his favorite wife Rachel. This smells bad already, right? Oh yeah, troubles brewing here.

Joseph was too young & immature to deflect in any way the favoritism his father showed toward him; in fact he seemed to relish it. He wore the flashy coat his father gave him & actually flaunted it telling his brothers about his dreams of the future when one day people would bow down to him, including them.

Not surprisingly the anger Joseph’s brothers felt grew into hatred & when they got their chance they threw him in a pit, finally selling him into slavery. For Joseph it well might have seemed his life was over but God had other plans for him. To use baseball terminology, it might have seemed he’d bounced out of the park & out of play. Things went from bad to worse for a few years but in God’s time Joseph won the favor & respect of the great Pharaoh whose dreams he interpreted & eventually he was made second in command in all of Egypt.

This seemingly crazy bounce played into God’s plan for Joseph to be instrumental in saving many lives in the years to come through his wise stewardship of Egypt’s grain reserves. As the story unfolds, many years later his brothers visited Egypt to buy grain to take back home to Canaan. They didn’t recognize Joseph but he recognized them & when he revealed his identity to them they were shocked & terrified.

But what does Joseph say to them? He absolves them from blame or responsibility & tells them it was God who’d sent him to Egypt to save many from starvation. After what appeared to be nonsensical bounces in the life of Joseph, a divine plan & pattern finally snapped into focus.

And likewise, God has plans for each of us.

As Joseph’s story closes his father died which gave the brothers further cause to fear for their lives. But Joseph reassured them that the providence of God was at work through it all & said to them;

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done to save the lives of multitudes.”


The life of Moses was also a study in crazy 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 did God wait until Pharaoh decides to kill all male infants before Moses is born? 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 stiff-necked people 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. And let’s not forget, 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.”


We live in a day when it’s possible for anyone to write a book. Some of the most unsavory of characters have written books & made millions. Victims of crimes have written books telling their side of the story. O.J Simpson has written a book as have members of his jury. Even O.Js prosecutors have written book. Books are written on romance, science fiction, drama, poetry, & there are biographies and autobiographies. Some books are written to enlighten the public, others are written to confuse them.

It seems everyone wants to write a book including me & some books that are written are actually worth reading. I spent a lot of money over the years before I woke up to realize you’re blessed if you get one or two nuggets out of the average book, the rest aren’t worth a whole lot. Some books are extremely important, while others don’t say much at all.

I’ve never had a book written exclusively about me but two of my songs are included in books telling the back-story of the song. This is humbling on more than one level.

Did you know that your life story is being recorded? Well it is. You say, “Brother, my life is so boring no one would write about me.” Oh but you’re wrong. The devil loves for people to think no one is watching & that no one cares what they do or say. But the devil is a liar. You are so important God is writing your life story every moment. Most people aren’t aware that God has that much interest in them but He does. God is a God of justice & He’s going to be very honest in His book about you & me.

The reason God is writing about us is there’ll come a day in which we’ll have to stand before Him & there’ll be no denying anything God chooses to bring to light. Now I don’t profess to know how God keeps His records I just know He does it.

In 1 Cor.3:11-15 Paul tells us that we who are saved will appear at the Judgment seat of Christ to be judged according to our works. This of course isn’t to be confused with the Great white throne judgment where sinners will be judged & punishment will be meted out. The child of God won’t have to worry about being lost when he comes to this judgment, but we’ll all be judged according to our works.

If you study Paul’s words here, the only concern for the Christian is that his works will be burned if God finds they weren’t done out of the right motivation. God will determine if our works are wood, hay & stubble or gold, silver & precious stones.

For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay & stubble.

Every man’s work shall be made manifest for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

If any man’s work shall be burned he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.—1 Cor.3:11-15
Notice our work won’t be judged by what SIZE it is but what SORT it is. We’ll also be judged as to our attitude, aspirations, & abilities. Our works will be presented before God on that day & He’ll take His Holy Ghost blow torch & hit our pile of works with it. If it can stand up under the fire, then we’ll receive a reward.

Years ago I read a book entitled, “The thimble crown.” The writer depicts a man who thought he had so much to present to God, down on his knees trying to find the small amount of his life’s work after God’s judgment fire had hit it. Then in the story, the man was presented with a crown, but it was the size of a thimble.

This should give us all pause, that the things we do, we do for the glory of God.


Let me tell you the story of a strapping young eighteen year old Greek man named Marcus Engels. Several years ago Marcus was riding in a car one night with some other young people in the Saint Louis Missouri area when their car was struck by a drunk driver. Marcus was left legally & permanently blind by the accident.

When the dust settled from the tragic wreck, Marcus was forced to accept the hard cold reality that a lifetime of blindness loomed ahead of him. However, instead of allowing himself to be enveloped by grief, Marcus determined to fight his way out of his set of his circumstances & be a whole person. He’s certainly more than made good on that vow.

Today, fourteen years later Marcus is indeed a shining example of what can happen when a person refuses to give in to self-pity & despair. The reason I know about Marcus is, he’s my son-in-law. He’s one of the nations leading motivational speakers, speaking annually to multitudes in schools & other venues, challenging young & old alike to be all they can be, by God’s grace in spite of their setbacks.

I know you’ll forgive me if I seem to be biased but I know of no greater example than Marcus of what can be done in a life touched by unforeseen bounces. He doesn’t need my endorsement or help of any kind from me, but since I felt his story so fit this article he has graciously allowed me to use it.

If you’d like to know more about Marcus you can pull up the address below & be further informed. If you take a moment to look at Marcus’ website I know you’ll be happy you did for Marcus is one the most inspiring young men in America today.


4. WE’RE READY FOR THE BOUNCES OF LIFE WHEN WE BELIEVE---- HE WHO HAS STARTED A GOOD WORK IN US WILL COMPLETE IT.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 Paul’s 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. We believe that God’s Will in human history --will ultimately be done. The only problem is that so many times we just cannot see it, & are tempted to doubt that all things work together for good.

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.

Won’t it be a wonderful day when we’re finally be able to see it & say, “Ah! Now I understand?"

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.

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.


My father’s way may twist & turn my heart may throb & ache,
But in my soul I’m glad to know He maketh no mistake.

My cherished plans may go astray; my hopes may fade away,
But I’ll trust my Lord to lead, for He doth know the way.

Though night be dark and it may seem that day will never break,
I’ll pin my faith my all in Him, He maketh no mistake.

There’s so much now I cannot see, my eyesight’s far too dim,
But come what may I’ll simply trust, and leave it all to Him.

For by and bye the mist will lift, and plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way though dark to me, He maketh no mistake.

By A.M Overton



Friday, March 13, 2015

Mary And Martha...Sitting Or Serving

By John Stallings

Martha, Martha, you’re fussing far too much about nothing.--The Message Bible. Luke 10:41

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “The devil’s in the details.” A general interpretation of the phrase is – “An important venture or enterprise can be ruined by the malfunction of even the smallest part of the plan.”

This principle proves true in things as complicated as the Space Shuttle & as elementary as baking a cake, or forgetting a button was missing on a garment. Attention to detail is very often the thing that sets excellence apart from mediocrity.

However, in the story before us, I suggest that just the opposite is true. Attention to detail & failure to see the pressing, over-arching need of the hour earned some rather harsh words from Jesus.

Mary, Martha and Lazarus were a family who lived in the hamlet of Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem. Because of that proximity, Jesus and His disciples stopped by often.

They were a family particularly loved by Jesus; a fact that’s made crystal clear in the Gospels.

This story of Mary, Martha and Jesus has always intrigued me. Preachers use it in all sorts of ways. Martha represents works, and Mary represents faith. When we want to teach that work and busyness is good, we lean toward Martha. When we want to stress being spiritual and less busy, we lean toward Mary.

You probably know a lot more Martha’s than you do Mary’s. When you read this story it’s undeniable that Jesus put His disapproval on Martha’s busyness, and His approval on Mary’s choice to sit at his feet.

Frankly, Jesus made an interesting yet perplexing house guest. What would you have served if He came to your house; how would you prepare for it? Would you go with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on paper plates, or Lobster on Grandma’s china?

Another complication was you could never know what Jesus would do or say. He called things as He saw them. Public opinion swayed Him no more than a gnat lighting on His sleeve. If a dog had plopped down at His feet, He probably would have scratched his neck a bit, pulled off a tick or two and used the occasion to talk about the love of God.

Jesus was massively unpredictable. He might stride into a room and start talking to a woman guest and ask about her fifth husband, (or live- in partner.) He might ask the prestigious dinner guests why they clamored for the best seats at the table. He might allow an uninvited woman to crash the party and make a spectacle of herself, pouring perfume on His feet; and defend her actions.


Mary and Martha are a study in contrasts. Mary is a carefree, open spirit, & very tender hearted. She’s an “in the moment” type, less practical, more impulsive & demonstrative. She doesn’t live in the past or future but the present moment recognizing present opportunity & wanting to take full advantage of it. In many paintings she’s portrayed as the younger more beautiful of the two.

Martha is the hard worker who throws herself into her work. She’s committed, a dedicated water- hauler, chef, usually exhausted, a bit frazzled & stressed-out. She’s detail-focused if not detail-obsessed who knows how to get the job done. Jesus told her she was “distracted by her many tasks.” Luke 10:40. Martha was a prime-practitioner of Middle Eastern hospitality, self-righteous but also teachable.

Distant Martha- Devoted Mary. Angry Martha- Adoring Mary. Get the picture?

I feel somehow that Martha may have been an ancestor of mine because my mother and my grandmother were a lot like her. Though my mother was a preacher’s wife and a minister herself, she stayed so busy and frazzled; I believe it would have been possible that if Jesus himself had stopped by our house at certain times, she might have said as she ironed, “So, Lord, what brings you to our neck of the woods?”

Jesus was blunt with Martha in this story.
Some feel He was giving her a little pat on the head and telling her to calm down. The “Martha, Martha” comment seems to have a bit of “tone” to it. But I can also hear compassion in Jesus’ voice as He says… “Martha, Martha, don’t let the cares of the world weigh you down. It’s not worth it.”
Luke doesn’t tell us how Martha responded to this but I can guess. Though she loved Jesus dearly, I don’t think His words improved her disposition one bit.

In this vignette, The Sea Walker, The Blind Man healer, The Man the multitudes were following comes under one roof to enjoy food and fellowship with one family, perhaps his best friends. But He finds things a bit dysfunctional on this day and the air is crackling with tension. Martha, a “worker bee,” is in the kitchen preparing a meal and Mary has vacated the kitchen to curl- up at Jesus’ feet.


Martha loved Jesus every bit as much a Mary did. Jesus was at this home this day by the invitation of both Martha and Mary. Martha had probably carried the scrub bucket under her arm all day and had cleaned her house from top to bottom. Remember, she didn’t have the options women have today.

She didn’t have a freezer. She probably had to kill a few chickens and grind flour to make bread. She had to walk into the center of the village to get clean water. Obviously Domino’s Pizza didn’t deliver in thirty minutes back then and KFC wasn’t an option either. Martha wanted to hear Jesus’ words too, but she was only hearing bits and pieces because she felt obligated to prepare the meal. Any woman who’s ever cooked for guests knows exactly the dilemma Martha faced. Another thing she needed was a microwave. Martha had places to go, people to see and things to do.

To me, this isn’t a “Martha bad-Mary good,” scenario. In Martha’s own words, “Mary has left me to serve alone”, indicating that they had both been working, & Martha was used to having Mary in the kitchen at her side. They both loved Jesus, and both wanted his fellowship. But obviously, on this day, Mary had all she could take, pulled off her apron and went to Jesus’ feet and sat down. As far as Martha was concerned, now the “fat was in the fire.”

Mary had a choice and she chose Jesus. In all probability, she had spiritual and physical needs that were crushing her, and she knew Jesus was the only one who could help her. Mary was sitting at the feet of infinite wisdom; the one whose words spun the planets, and she knew that a few moments at His feet would be life-altering.

I’m going to cut Mary even more slack here. We don’t know for sure because the text doesn’t tell us, but I truly believe she sensed in her spirit that this day & this visit was different than Jesus’ other visits. She sensed an urgency that caused her to believe this was an extraordinary visit. Maybe she truly felt this was the last time she’d have this kind of time with Jesus so she acted boldly & assumed a position of a disciple by sitting at Jesus’ feet.

Martha the entertainer was in a purple rage because she wanted Jesus to have an extraordinary meal and was extremely upset with her sister Mary for not helping her. Martha’s objective was an “event” to show Jesus a great time in her beautiful home and dazzle Him with her gourmet cooking. She wanted things perfect on this occasion and Mary was letting her down. Martha saw Jesus as her guest, but Mary saw herself as Jesus’ guest.


And yes, I’m guilty too. We are …“cumbered by many things?” We love to be busy. Don’t sit us in a room with nothing to do. It’s not that we like hard work all that much, but we’ve got to be doing something. If nothing else, it makes the time go faster.

Now Martha pulls the old classic triangulation tactic; pulling Mary into the mix to show the contrast between what she and her sister are doing. Martha said to Jesus, “Tell my sister to help me. Why do I have to do everything by myself?” Martha wants to make herself the pattern for Mary.

So now Martha decides to manipulate Mary through Jesus. But Jesus doesn’t bite. He sees that Martha has shouldered the weight of the occasion. He knows she’s slaving feverishly in the kitchen while Mary sits at His feet absorbing His teachings. Martha had opened her home to Jesus, while Mary had opened her heart and was soaking up every word He had to say. Martha was concerned with feeding bodies while Mary was interested in getting her soul fed.

Martha had invited Jesus into her house but didn’t have time to talk to Him. Before we judge her too harshly, haven’t you and I done the same thing at times? Mary was sitting in the presence of God and time had lost all meaning to her. Martha wanted to impress Jesus, but Mary was so impressed by Jesus that she could see only Him.

Then Martha brashly storms into the presence of God and starts ordering Him around; but He didn’t follow her orders. Jesus reacted to her brashness, but not as she may have expected. He saw something in Martha’s heart and whatever it was He didn’t like it a bit; then the stinging chastisement… “Now- now Martha, Martha, there- there- settle down. You’re up in the air about nothing.”
One thing Jesus sees is that Martha has slipped into self-pity. She pities herself and she implies, (no she comes out and say’s it, though she puts it in the form of a question) that Jesus doesn’t even care about her and her problem. In a sense she’s saying, “God, you don’t love me.” That’s where self-pity takes us.


When a person allows self pity to climb into the saddle, there aren’t enough hugs; there aren’t enough kisses or affirmations to satisfy them. A person in self pity will actually go so far as to indict the very God of heaven and call him loveless.

I can’t tell you exactly what’s going on with Martha, or why she seems to be so driven on this occasion, but it’s obvious that Jesus is having none of it.

However, I’m going to stick my neck out here and say that despite Martha’s complaints, it wouldn’t surprise me if she has no intention of sharing her work load with anyone. Maybe at first she did, but not now. She’s in a huff but really and truly she doesn’t want any help. If Mary had jumped up and ran to help her, she’d probably have infuriated Martha by peeling the potatoes wrong, and the two would have ended up in an intense standoff over where the soup spoons should go relative to the steak knives. Martha did what we all have done at one time or another; she got an “attitude.”

But Jesus would flatly not get involved in turning Mary over to Martha’s “fretting machine” and see her ground to emotional powder. He refused to affirm Martha’s attitude of “I do everything” and elevate her work above Mary’s sitting at His feet in fellowship.


As He would so often do, Jesus was taking this occasion to focus on a human problem; this time it’s the problem of learning to sit still. This “stillness” teaching has in it the very seeds of saving our lives and also saving our souls. Jesus is recommending Mary’s choice of activities, sitting quietly at His feet, marinating in his glory.

If you’re a “Martha” right now, something inside you is probably churning and saying, “Wait a minute, isn’t this the same Jesus who commanded us to work while it is day and to feed the poor and visit the sick? If everyone is sitting around at Jesus feet, who’s going to get out there and do the work? How are you going to get big extravaganzas’ off the ground without a few Martha’s on the planning committee? If everyone opts to sit and pray, then the work won’t get done and all the progress will stop.”


The “Martha” in us assumes that its “easy” to sit at Jesus feet like Mary did; and furthermore assumes that what Martha was doing was the hard work. BUT, if Martha’s work was harder than what Mary was doing and if Mary was shirking- not- working,------ then it seems to me that a lot more of us would be doing what Mary did; spending quiet time with the Lord.

It’s easier do dishes, balance checkbooks, wash our car, go canoeing, anything that has a little action in it, than to sit, listen, wait and pray.

God’s phone number is JER-33-3, Call unto me and I will answer thee and show thee great and HIDDEN things which thou knowest not.—but these things will be revealed only to those who seek His face in prayer.

Obviously we can’t stop all our work, but we need to embrace the thought that our church’s, homes and personal lives wouldn’t come to a grinding halt if we loosened up our schedules a bit and took more time to sit at the Lords feet. I’m afraid too many Christians these days suffer from an “overload syndrome.” There’s too much information flying around us to properly process, and if we don’t have a keen listening ear to God, our minds and spirits will be flying around also.

If our work, even our work for God, comes between us & hearing God, then in the final analysis, all of our efforts will be of non-effect.


Jesus said at the end of this story in Luke 10:42 …One thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken from her.
Ask yourself, what do you have that absolutely cannot be taken away from you? You may matriculate from the highest halls of learning, build a successful business, travel the world and attain wealth and fame, but all of that can be lost and pales into insignificance compared to the incomparable riches in Jesus Christ. Mary’s “good part” sitting at Jesus’ feet included, greater understanding of the Kingdom of God, a closer relationship with Jesus, peace, joy, love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, all the benefits of The Kingdom of God. There are “many things”, and then there are the “best things.”

No one can interfere with our personal relationship with Jesus unless we allow them to. We all have a right to that, and no one should be allowed to demand so much of us that we can’t enjoy our relationship with Him. Everything else that Mary had, or ever could have, could be taken away from her, but Jesus said.... “The part that Mary has chosen won’t be taken away.”

Nothing is as important as knowing Him. Jesus said in Matthew 12:29-30,

Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly of heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
Mary wasn’t going to stay at Jesus’ feet forever. Soon He would be gone and she would be back to her duties. Her work would always be there. However she was wise enough to take that golden opportunity that very well may have never come again.

Others, like Mary, reached out for “that good part” as Jesus passed their way. Some were leprous, others were blind, and some were tax collectors who had swindled good people out of their money. Some were Samaritan. Some were prostitutes. All were sinners and all of them found a “that good part” in Christ.

This story isn’t about Jesus disapproving of activity. Mary’s choosing “that good part” isn’t about being idle or living a cloistered life on our knees like Monks. Neither is it a story downplaying our physical needs, for a hallmark of Jesus’ ministry was feeding the physically hungry. This is a story about priorities, and it deals with the balancing of our WORK and our WORSHIP; about keeping our devotional lives strong so that we can better lead our lives supernaturally nourished by Christ’s fellowship.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 - But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteous and all these things shall be added unto you.


No matter what conflicting thoughts Martha’s behavior that day in Bethany might conjure up, there is something about her that is absolutely awesome.

In John eleven, there’s another story about this family that Jesus loved. Jesus heard that Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus was sick and by the time He arrived in Bethany, Lazarus had been dead four days.

When Jesus came into town Martha heard He was there, and leaving Mary sitting in the house, she ran to meet Jesus. The interaction and exchange they had there is most phenomenal, and it’s often overlooked.

Jesus was comforting Martha about her brother Lazarus and assured her… I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.
Then Jesus got in Martha’s face and asked her if she believed this statement. What Martha said to Jesus next is astonishing. Martha said:

…Yea Lord; I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, which should come into the world.

Do you realize how profound that statement is? Later Jesus and his disciples were in Caesarea Philippi when Jesus asked Simon Peter the same question He asked Martha … “who do you think I am?”
Peter answered…. Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Before Peter spoke those words; the declaration that became the foundational proclamation upon which all of the Christian faith stands, Martha had already spoken them! Martha was actually the first one to know who Jesus truly was!

How much of Mary do see in yourself and how much Martha do you see? Do you share with me the deep desire to excel in Mary-hood? Aren’t you challenged by her example of patience, devotion and gentle nature?

If I admit that I’m a little more like Martha, then let me be the best Martha I can be. Don’t let me be the Martha who allows the pressures of life to overcome her; who lets the performance trap ensnare her, who feels she was “saved to serve” and is trying to work her way into God’s favor. Let me be the transformed Martha, the teachable Martha; the Martha with the revelation of The Christ, the Martha with the servant’s heart.

So you see, in the final cut, we can’t chose Mary, and dismiss Martha. Or vice versa. We all need a Balance of what both these sisters possessed.

I think Titus blended the two beautifully in Titus 2:14; speaking of Jesus,

Who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto Himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

I don’t know about you but I’m ready for “that good part.” I’m ready to claim my full relationship with Jesus. I’m not satisfied with simply a DESIRE to be near Jesus, and I am willing to release whatever is keeping me from sitting down at the feet of my lord.




Sunday, March 8, 2015

"What The World Needs Now Is...Love!"

By John Stallings

We don’t control love. Love isn’t a tangible thing we can pick up off the floor, hold in our hands, caress and even throw against the wall.

Rather, love controls us. Love holds us in its hands and caresses us, and if you’ve had much experience you know love can throw us against the wall.

It’s helpful to have an understanding of the context of Paul’s statements on love to the church at Corinth. Corinth is located on an Isthmus in Greece. It had seaports on both the Adriatic & Agaean seas, was a center of commerce and a very important city in Greece. It became such a center of immorality they actuality made a religion out of it. Think Dodge City in the old west, or even modern day Vegas.

Corinth was a hotbed of immorality & it was in this city that Paul planted a church. Not surprisingly the church had problems & they were reported to Paul by people like Stephanas, Fortunatus & Achaicus who came to see him in Ephesus.

Paul was told of the immorality & the way the Lord’s Supper was being abused. Some were showing up drunk & being gluttonous. Others were in error about the Resurrection. They were also choosing sides & arguing over who the best preachers were. There were cliques, factions, animosities, backbiting & gossip going on; in short, it was too much like some of the churches I’ve known.

Division was the big problem Paul was addressing here. They had waded off into the spiritual “misty moonlight” sporting all the gifts. Paul was telling them it didn’t matter about how powerful the gifts were that they possessed; they meant nothing if not bathed in love.

Paul knew if he didn’t spell out love in simple terms it would go right over the heads of the Corinthians. He knew he was going to have to tell them what love is, then circle the field, come back around & tell them what love isn’t. In other words, Paul was going to have to preach love in them, up them, down them, over them, & around them. So he embarks on a whole chapter to accomplish this- 1 Corinthians 13.

Let’s keep in mind that when Paul uses the word love here he’s using the word “agape.” Maybe you’ll remember it. It simply means a selfless love for the welfare of others, not dependent on any loveableness in the person loved. It’s a product of a will to love in obedience to God’s command. Its love like Christ manifested on the cross. It has nothing to do with romance. It has nothing to do with friendship; it has nothing to do with emotion. It’s an act of the will.

Our basic understanding of God’s love is as flawed as we are. Eros or erotic love is what we hear most about in our culture. This of course is sexual love. As human beings we tend to embrace this kind of love. Eros love looks for something lovely or worth loving. Eros love is on a treasure hunt. This is the kind of love we give to things that are expensive, attractive or lends status to our lives.

Studies show that adults coo over & dote over “pretty” babies more than “plain ones.” If you don’t follow the news closely this may shock you but recently studies were released that show some parents (hopefully no one we know) will be more protective of “pretty” children than “plain” ones. Pretty kids are kept close in grocery stores while not so cute kids are left to wander all over the place, almost as if they wouldn’t be missed if they disappeared.

Agape love is a stronger, purer kind of love. This love is the kind that creates value in the object of the loved one. It’s the Amazing Love, the kind God has for you & me. In fact, were it not for this kind of love we’d have never been created in the first place. God created us so He could love & protect us & when man fell in The Garden of Eden He sent one third of all He was to redeem us. Romans 5.

Now let’s unpack Paul’s teaching to the Corinthians on Agape love. In a subtle way Paul is telling these people to “get a life” because all the other gifts they’re operating will burn on judgment day & minus love, they’ll have nothing to show for the time they spent on earth. Everything but love is perishable.

Paul never refutes the validity of the gifts the Corinthians were using but rather is warning them that they aren’t helpful without love. If I have faith to move a mountain but no love, I might throw it in someone else’s path. A person wielding the powerful gifts of the spirit without love would indeed be a dangerous individual.

The fifteen snapshots of love are as follows;

1. Love is PATIENT.

Love doesn’t demand immediate results. Love waits, waits, & waits some more. Love extends its grace in the most heated moments of life. Love isn’t easily frustrated & short-sided. Love considers the feeling of everyone involved. Love takes a long time before it will burst into flames.

2. Love is KIND.

Love doesn’t go on a rampage, like a bull in a China shop. Love thinks about the feelings of others. Love looks for ways to make peace & be helpful. It looks for the best in others. Love sees the good in a person that is often buried beneath layers of annoying characteristics.

3. Love isn’t JEALOUS.

Love won’t boil over with jealousy. It demonstrates an attitude of contentment for the way God has provided for others. It overcomes envy & resentment of others. Love wants others to thrive & blossom. Some will try to convince their spouse that the reason they’re so possessive is that they love & feel so deeply. This is obviously a ploy to cover for selfishness, the antitheses of love. If we allow it to, love will teach us to jump up & down over the good things happening to others.

4. Love doesn’t BOAST

Love is neither boastful, arrogant, conceited nor does it seek vainglory. Love has an accepting attitude of others gifts & abilities & also their weaknesses. Love doesn’t brag & isn’t puffed up with pride. When we love like God loves we will encourage others to succeed & are “watching their backs” so to speak.

5. Love isn’t ARROGANT,

Love doesn’t behave itself unseemly, and doesn’t go on rampages. Love isn’t obnoxious. It doesn’t harbor an inner sense of its own importance. It’s full of humility & recognition that every breath comes from God.

6. Love isn’t RUDE

Love will make us more tactful & polite. Love has a way of letting us see the needs of others more than our own needs. Love doesn’t seek to publicly embarrass & punish people & make public scenes.

7. Love doesn’t INSIST ON ITS OWN WAY

Love has a spirit of arbitration & encourages compromises & peace. It won’t be a party to confusion. Love is a truce seeker. Love is a peace-maker not just a peace-keeper. It seeks to bring all parties to the table & grieves at the thought of pettiness. Love doesn’t foster a rule-or-ruin spirit & will never ramrod people to get its own way.

When wise Solomon suggested cutting the baby in half to satisfy the two quarreling mothers, he knew the real mother wouldn’t allow it. Love won’t allow a church, home or nation to be torn asunder just to have its way. Love won’t cut things to pieces but bitterness & hatred will.

Love isn’t touchy. Some people are overly sensitive & cause those around them to walk on egg shells. They seem to need to live in bubble wrap.

8. Love isn’t IRRITABLE

Real love doesn’t overreact to people having differences of opinion. It’s never short tempered. Love shouldn’t be confused with softness because a loving parent will have to discipline a child, but its done out of love. If love for a three year old child is always shown in softness, the child probably won’t live to turn four.

9. Love isn’t RESENTFUL

Love doesn’t hold grudges & when hurt it forgives on the spot & moves forward with joy.

10. Love doesn’t REJOICE AT WRONG.

Love has a way of keeping us from enjoying it when bad things happen to others. Something twisted in human nature seems to make many people more ready to hear bad news than good news. People say “Did you hear about so-n-so” & go off with the dirty little details. Love won’t do this.


Real love is thrilled to see justices served. It’s truly happy when things go right for others. Love rejoices in right.


Love enables us to hang in there when the going gets tough, no matter how difficult the situation. Love bears all things & will hold on when it seems all hope of a good outcome has vanished.


Love won’t accept a bad report on a person or situation unless compelled to do so. Love will encourage us to put the best construction on peoples & actions. In our world many people fly off the handle & jump to conclusions before they know the facts. Love isn’t gullible, naive’ or unrealistic but chooses to focus on the rose instead of the thorn. Love believes all things.


Love has a way of looking to God’s future & seeing a better day. Love is stubborn when it comes to a good outlook & holds to the proposition that God’s purposes will be accomplished no matter how things may look.


Love never bails out, but helps outlast the circumstances & see them change. Love won’t cave in & give up but keeps on going even when all the prospects are negative. Love will endure even when it seems clear that others have evil motives & intentions. Love will do this because it delights in the virtue & happiness of others. Giving is to love what eating is to hunger. Giving is the way a Godly love manifests itself. 1 John 3:16-18.

Without acts of service, love has no skeletal structure. Love never fails. If you’ve had a problem succeeding, generate a giving, serving love & you can’t be defeated. Love, along with faith & hope will outlast the stars.

The hardest place to flesh out love is in families & marriages. Marriage isn’t a set-up where we say, “you do your part & I’ll do mine.” To be happy each partner must GIVE more than he/she expects to GET. If we try to use math to keep score we’ll be in crisis mode all the time.

How does your conduct measure up to Paul’s description of love? Do you manifest love in your dealings with others, be they friend or foe? How can God produce this kind of love in us? It starts with His saving grace & trust in Him. If you don’t know Jesus you’ll never be able to express or even understand agape love.

All God needs is our willingness to make ourselves available to Him. As He makes a home within us, our actions & attitudes change. Isn’t this what you & I, our families & those we relate to each day need more of?

As Christians we have our work cut out for us. Think of the multitudes of people all around us who don’t know God loves them. They need to hear that God loved them enough to send His son to save them.

Remember, we must show our love to the unlovely for without love our labor means nothing.

Luke 6:32 says..."If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? --New Living translation

 Love is truly the more excellent way.

Love is God's way!