Friday, October 17, 2014

LOOK UP!

By John Stallings

Charles Lindbergh told of his lonely flight to Paris in 1927… the first man to cross the Atlantic alone in a plane.

 

Lindberg reported running into a blinding storm out of whose thick clouds lightening flashed. The flier looked to his right, but the clouds and the storm seemed to extend as far as he could see to the right. He looked to his left, but, again, the storm seemed to extend as far as he could see to his left. The clouds seemed to sink ever lower. The pilot said that he knew his little plane wouldn’t stand that buffeting wind and those sharp lightening bolts for long. There was just one thing to do. Lindbergh tilted the controls upward. The little plane trembled and shivered and climbed until it shot through the clouds and out into the bright sunshine of a cloudless sky.

 

 The guide leading his tour group on some narrow ledge of the Alps, or some other high place, will say every so often, "Do not look down." Those of us who suffer from fear of heights find it the hardest thing in the world not to look down.

Movie-makers have many ways to build suspense and instill terror through their pictures. One time-honored device is to appeal to our fear of heights which comes from looking down. They will picture someone perched on the narrow ledge of a skyscraper, seventy or a hundred stories from the ground. This doesn’t frighten us as much if the ledge is wide enough to stand on. 

LOOK UP!

We get chills down our spines seeing the person up on the ledge and then panning the camera down all the way to the street where traffic is moving. This makes some of us want to scream. It is the downward look which is so terrifying, so chilling, and so unbearable.

Recently I was watching a T.V show where some young adventurous folk were laughingly throwing things off a sky scraper in New York. I’m sure they’d gotten permission from the city and had the area roped off. Nonetheless, as I watched, with the camera panning down then going back to the people on a roof doing the throwing, I was surprised at how nervous and squeamish I got. I’ve never had that much of a problem with fear but my body couldn’t survive the amount of medication it would take to get me to even go to the rooftop where this was going on.

Life can be pretty dreadful if we spend our time looking down. I’m not saying for a moment that there’s not the strong temptation to look down, to look for the worst. Heaven knows there’s more than enough that is low, distasteful, destructive and discouraging to look at these days.

An honest and Godly faith will not deny that there are awful realities in life. We know that the faith of Christ stated honestly isn’t “pie in the sky” descriptions of life. Jesus never claimed that things cannot be horrific and tragic. He rather made plenty of space for the things that are destructive and harmful, the devilish, demonic powers that are loose in the world

In all reality there’s a frightening, chilling list, of ruthless forces coming against our lives and playing havoc with our dreams and our hopes. In these words of Jesus, we can hear the roar of a great storm with its screaming winds leaving a fearful and empty silence in its wake.

Let Jesus speak. He says … "ye shall hear of wars and commotion, nation shall rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, great earthquakes shall be in diverse places." Luke 21:9

On and on He goes about outside conditions, "signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars." How apropos a description this is for our times!

Jesus does not stop with His recitation of our day. He probes at the internal struggle of our souls. Jesus says that under the pressure of outside forces a man's spiritual defenses may feel as if they’re crumbling. And they indeed can crumble. But the facts are; you and I can stand anything if our faith holds fast. If an anchor holds, then never mind how strong and contrary the winds might be. If, on the other hand, our faith fails and our spiritual fortress is overrun, then all hope is lost.

Jesus spoke of it in these awesome words: "Men's hearts failing them for fear." Fear has an awesome mortality rate. Things can go so awfully wrong that the confidence upon which life is built can begin to totter. The night of sorrow or pain can be so long and so lonely that it seems that all about us there is only insanity, and ugliness.

The temptation is to look down. That is what we are seeing all around us. We see such violations of honor in places of public trust and responsibility. Many people have decided that everybody is a crook in public life. The temptation is to look down. Those of us who love the church and the gospel and are in the role of the leadership see so much that is discouraging. So many of our churches are little more than social clubs, or places to vent emotional energy.

I’m embarrassed and ashamed at some things I see being done in the name of God. I blush at some of the schemes and methods some folk practice who’re supposed to be the shepherds of the people of God. Is it any wonder that men and women give up on the church?

It’s easy to look down, but Jesus says that at such a time, "Look up. Lift up your head." Do not look down where all is ugly and corrupt and the world around us seems so low, so conniving and so selfish.

On the other hand, you and I know people whose hearts beat not just for themselves? Fix your mind and heart on them, not on the low-lifes. Look up!

The divorce rate seems to always be climbing and many people seem not to take seriously the vow "till death do us part." Sometimes I almost choke on those words in marriage ceremonies. Don't look down! I know of couples who’ve celebrated their 50th wedding anniversaries in joy and happiness. Don't look down! Look up!

You and I need to be one of those examples upon which others may look and take strength. There are such people. I have known, still know, scores of folk whose example gives us courage, whose dauntless faith inspires our faith. Look up toward such examples. I have known people who lived such giant lives in God that I can hardly hope to have all of their gifts and graces. As in Elijah’s day, God still has thousands who “haven’t bowed their knee to Baal.”


Look up! Lift up your heads! Your redemption dreweth nigh

Jesus still lives; the Holy Spirit is still at work; the God of all comfort is still on the throne. Things may go so terribly wrong that everything seems defiled and spoiled. Look up. This is the worst and most sinister danger- that we, looking down, will be content to live in the lowlands of doubt, fear and defeat.

Some may have come to that really desperate and terrible place, to that awful night of the soul where you suspect that there is no God anywhere in all the thick and starless night through which you are passing. Some may be at the place where they wonder if trying to be decent and honest is still worthwhile, that right and wrong are just words that people use. When that kind of terrible doubt grips you by the throat and starts choking you, shake yourself loose and look up! God no doubt is on His way to rescue you right now.

Like Lindbergh, by looking up you can climb above the clouds and mists and rains which have now blinded your view.

The clouds may be heavy where you’re traveling. Look up, and by faith face skyward. Above the clouds the sun is shining, somewhere warm winds are blowing, and the skies are cloudless and clear. 

Up above the clouds of gossip and slander there is –A fellowship, and a joy divine.

My good friend Gordon Jensen wrote a beautiful song that comes to mind.

Redemption Draweth Nigh

Years of time have come and gone. Since I first heard it told

How Jesus would come again some day
If back then it seemed so real
Then I just can’t help but feel
How much closer His coming is today
[Chorus]
Signs of the times are everywhere
There’s a brand new feeling in the air
Keep your eyes upon the eastern sky
Lift up your head redemption draweth nigh.

 Look up! 


 Blessings,


John

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Man Who Kissed Heaven's Door & Went To Hell

By John Stallings


It is said that when Leonardo da Vinci was painting his masterpiece, The last Supper, he needed a sitter for the figure of Christ. 


He finally found a man in one of the churches of Rome of fine character & fine features who agreed to sit for the painting.

He then looked for models for the disciples. Years went by, gradually the picture progressed, more faces were added, until one remained—Judas Iscariot.

Leonardo had a vision of what he wanted. He went into the backstreets of Rome, where he finally found a beggar on the streets with a face so villainous he shuddered everytime he looked at it.

He paid the man who sat for Judas’ likeness & when he was finished, Leonardo asked his name. - “Pietro Bandinelli,” he replied, “Fifty years ago I sat for your picture of Christ.”

Obviously sin had taken its toll in the life & on the face of this man. Sin is progressive. No sinful act is just a simple sin. Unless we repent, sin becomes a stepping-stone that leads us deeper into rebellion against God.

I’ll be candid; when I read the story of Judas Iscariot I feel a level of revulsion & disgust that I don’t feel when I read the stories of any other traitor in history.

The actions of traitors like Brutus, Booth, and Benedict Arnold pale into insignificance when compared to Judas. He didn’t betray a nation, an emperor or a president, he betrayed Jesus Christ, one third of all God is who came to earth so that all people—including Judas himself-could be saved from their sins & experience the love of God in a personal way.

Have you noticed that many of the alleged murders who are currently in the news have something in common? They don’t look like murderers. Once in a while one will appear that we can look at & just see the hate dripping from them, but it seems to be rare these days. Even the people who are close to these accused criminals can’t believe they’re guilt of what they’re accused of because they never saw their violent side.

Dante drew a word picture of the circles of hell & put Judas at the very deepest point---the epitome of evil. Over the centuries people have shunned even the shadow of Judas. From what I’ve heard people the world over will only name their pigs after Judas.

BUT WHAT SORT OF PERSON WAS JUDAS?

The very name Judas comes down the centuries as a tragic figure that is synonymous with treachery & deceit. Why is it that twenty centuries later we still feel contempt for Judas but a contempt that’s mixed with confusion about why he acted as he did? If he’d been a simple traitor/ low-life/ scum-bag, why didn’t he just take his money & run? Why did he return the money & then hang himself? What do we know about him? He doesn’t say much. He seems to be slightly nervous & jumpy & definitely very secretive.

At first glance, Judas didn’t look like a traitor. Judas got a good start in life. Even after he came to be part of the twelve, he must have had a good honest face because he was trusted with being the treasurer of Jesus’ & the disciple’s meager finances.

We can infer from reading the New Testament that Judas had no obvious vices. He didn’t have a bad past, like Matthew the tax-collector. Most of the other disciples were known for some weakness prior to following Jesus. Thomas was a skeptic, Peter was famous for impulsiveness, & James & John were known as “sons of thunder,” but, at least in the early years nothing uncomplimentary is said about Judas’ character.

Judas was a man of great promise, there can be no doubt of that. Jesus saw qualities in Judas that could be mightily used in the Kingdom of God. Think what we will, Judas was called to be an apostle, called to follow Jesus & called to be one of those who’d lay the foundation of the church.

Let’s be real. The more we learn about Judas, the more he suddenly begins to be alarmingly human, alarmingly like us; a mixture of complex emotions, hopes, fears, sins & failings. Not at all the devil, but a sinful man, & more than we’d like to confess, like the rest of us. Of course at some point the devil entered into Judas.

WHY WAS JUDAS SO MYSTERIOUS?

In the early days of Judas’ tenure with the Lord, you’d have been proud to have him as a member of your church. He seemed to be a model citizen. The Bible never gives us a hint that he was in any way a problem to Jesus. He was never pushy as were James & John & we hear nothing of his making rash statements & boasting like Peter. He seemed to be quiet, businesslike, self-possessed & respectable. Yet the perplexing truth is he of his own free will chose to sell out the Messiah…the only Son of God!!! As the old saying goes, “You never can tell.”

Why would Judas follow Jesus in the first place? How could a likeable, respectful man like this with such a good beginning spend three years in the company of Jesus Christ & then do what he did? I mean, he listened daily to Jesus’ teachings…he saw Him work His miracles. He let Jesus wash his feet at the last supper. Judas was right there to hear Him teach, preach & tell parables. He saw Christ’s’ compassion, the healings & diverse miracles. He helped pass out food during the feeding of the 5,000 & was there to see Lazarus raised from the dead. He was even sitting in the boat when Jesus calmed the stormy sea.

…but then he betrayed Him for 30 pieces of silver.

One thing that seemed to trigger Judas was-- he saw what he thought was a waste of money when Mary poured a pound of expensive perfume on Jesus' feet so he “went off the reservation.” He tried to cover it by saying the money should have been given to the poor but John tells us he was just greedy. He'd already been skimming off the top of the Disciples' treasury & wanted his share of the loot. When his betrayal plan came to fruition, he even went so far as to arrange a signal by which he would identify Jesus as one customarily greeted his rabbi, with a kiss.Jesus said-I am the door of heaven..so in that moment Judas kissed heaven's door. How could he, why would he do this?

I’ve heard people say that Judas was predestined to betray Jesus. I don’t believe that for a minute. If Judas was predestined to do this deed then he had no choice & we’d be wrong in blaming him for doing something over which he had no control. It would be an odd & capricious God who’d predestine a man to such a fate & then condemn him for eternity for simply fulfilling his destiny. This violates everything I know about God & everything the Bible teaches about Him. Ezekiel 33:11 God says, “I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked…& in 2 Peter 3:9 he says- He’s not willing for anyone to perish but for all to come to repentance.

No, just like you & me, Judas had free choice. He had just as much possibility of becoming what the eleven others became as he had of becoming history’s best-know traitor. Judas wasn’t doomed from birth but was doomed by his own choices.

WHAT WAS JUDAS’ MOTIVE IN MAKING THIS HORRIBLE CHOICE?

If a prosecutor hopes to win a conviction then he has to offer a reasonable motive for why the defendant did it. A jury expects to hear why the accused committed the crime. Am I right? Call it what you may, we human beings expect some rational explanation for an individuals behavior.

Why do you suppose Judas did it? How could he do such a thing? After all, the Bible is very explicit; it was Judas who sold Jesus out. He had a choice. All the four gospel writers hold him responsible for his decision & they agree he wasn’t a patsy or a pawn or forced to betray Jesus.

Even at the last hour it seems that Jesus was holding the door open for Judas not to go through with the terrible arrangement. His motive to betray Jesus has long fueled speculation & conjecture & imaginative attempts to explain his reasons & motives.

WAS IT JEALOUSY?

More evil is done behind the cloak of jealousy than the world could ever dream. I’ve heard people say,-“Me? Jealous? Why there’s not a jealous bone in my body!” Maybe not- but there’s an awful lot of jealous flesh hanging on those bones. As a pastor I’ve heard people admit to things that would make a drunken sailor blush but I’ve never heard a person admit to jealousy. The hardest thing for an individual to do in this life is admit their true motives, & I think that’s the case because so often the motive for our actions is a pathetic, petty little jealous spirit.

Judas was from Kerioth, a village in southern Judea, so he was the only Judean in the original 12. Maybe this made him feel like the odd-man out. Judas was definitely not one of the inner circle with Jesus like Peter, John & James. It’s not difficult to imagine that Judas slowly grew jealous & embittered because in his opinion the Galileans had a higher place of authority than he.

“The outsider complex” has caused many people to go off the deep end. This complex causes people to feel left-out & that can lead to some strange behavior. From what I’ve read & heard, the main reason the teens in Columbine High School did what they did was the feeling of being estranged from everyone else.

FOLLOW THE MONEY


When people say, “Its not about the money, what they are really saying is “It’s about the money.” During a dispute over money, people will often bring great righteous principles into the discussion, but in reality the fact is they are hung up about money. They will try to say with a straight face, “You know, it’s not just about the money here, there’s right & wrong to consider,” but in reality the bottom line is…….money!!!

Many a family that was once a close knit unit has been shredded in battles over disputed inheritances. Money will do it when nothing else can. If the heartbreak of a divorce or death wasn’t enough, the bloodbath & bitterness over money & divided assets will finish the job in fine fashion. The corrupt love of money is a powerful & terrible motivator. Just think of what people will do for money.

Consider the impact of money on our political woes in America at the present moment. Business leaders have gone along with immoral & unethical decisions & greedy stockholders demanding higher profits. This ought to get our attention. This ought to concern us very much.

Judas was most likely the son of a poor peasant & had never had the opportunity to handle money & it was a heady experience to feel those drachmas jingling in the money bag. Maybe Judas said to himself, “Hey, I’ve gone to some degree of trouble for these guys & these Galileans don’t appreciate me… they really owe me a few bucks at least.”

I read somewhere that banking officials say that 60% of the individuals who regularly handle money take money at some point. I’ve heard dozens of stories over the years about the men who count churches offerings being caught pilfering money. Judas’ position as group treasurer not only provided him with the irresistible temptation to have “sticky fingers” it also provided him with the opportunity. Thirty pieces of silver wasn’t all that much money but it probably represented more than was in the entire disciples’ treasury.

It’s possible if not probable that greed & the feeling of being an outsider played a big part in Judas’ act of betrayal & gave the devil the opportunity to tempt him, but I think the biggest causative factor was….

JUDAS’ DISSATISFACTION WITH THE DIRECTION OF JESUS’ MINISTRY.

There was a great movement who wanted, with good cause, to drive the Romans from Israel so that their national glory could be restored. It’s probable that from the get-go Judas expected Jesus to lead an insurrection against Rome & set up His own earthly kingdom. Jesus definitely had the power & ability to do this & Judas knew it. He joined the disciples when he saw Jesus’ power demonstrated & he saw this as an opportunity to fulfill his dreams for Israel.

Judas sincerely believed that Jesus was the culmination of all the prophecies concerning the coming Messiah who would deliver Israel from bondage & make it the head of all the nations. Judas may have read all the prophecies, but ignored the passages that spoke of the suffering Messiah. He hopped on the disciples’ bandwagon with the anticipation & expectation the he’d be in the inner circle of the coming kingdom.

I believe the seeds of Judas’ betrayal plans were most likely conceived after the feeding of the 5,000. After that miracle, the people wanted to crown Jesus king of Israel but Jesus stopped them, foretelling his death on the cross.

JESUS BROUGHT OUT HIS ‘CANNIBAL SERMON.”

Just when things were looking up,& the momentum was there to catapult Him up into power, He goes & pulls out the strangest sermon anyone has ever heard. He says, unless you eat my flesh & drink my blood you have no life in you. John 6:56

I can imagine Peter seeing the people leaving & he comes to Jesus & whispers, “Now, Lord, the multitudes are leaving like rats from a sinking ship. Why don’t you pull out that sermon you preached the other day on happiness or something, anything except this strange new sermon about people eating your flesh & drinking your blood. The folks don’t understand it & as a matter of fact neither do I.”

But Jesus continued to speak about the cross. When Judas saw Him offending the leaders of the Jews & he saw the growing opposition of the Pharisees toward Jesus, Judas knew that his dream was fading so he took matters into his own hands.

Judas didn’t have much more patience. He’d been waiting for three years for Jesus to act…to use His great powers to run Rome out of Israel. His impatience led him to something he later regretted.

It’s entirely possible that Judas didn’t think Jesus would allow Himself to be arrested. He was going to manipulate Jesus into a corner & make Him fit into his plans but it all went disastrously wrong. Judas must have been horrified. He made a terrible mistake & feels he must hang himself as a failure.

Maybe we should ask ourselves if we’ve ever made plans & expected God to just follow us. Do we ever ask ourselves if what we do fits in with what God might expect from us?

Because of Judas’ attitude toward the Roman occupation of Israel, he began to see Jesus as a Cause not The Christ. His self involved, self-focused attitude caused him to miss Jesus’ main mission & that was to die for the sins of the entire world. Like so many people he couldn’t see that money wouldn’t give him what he wanted & in the end would lead him to do something that brought him unbearable guilt & shame.

Jesus said—You can’t serve God & money. He didn’t say, you can’t serve God & the Devil. The reason He said it that way is that mammon or money is the God of this world. If a person isn’t worshipping the Lord you can be sure they are money worshippers.

Judas is a perfect example of the fact that sin always tricks us. As James 1;14 says—Sinful desire causes us to be dragged away & enticed. Satan will always package things in such a way as to appeal to our natural desires. He is a master at hiding the fact that yielding to the desire will eventually bring us sorrow & grief as it certainly did Judas.

Are you ready for a real shocker? Judas’ biggest sin wasn’t his betrayal of Jesus. His biggest mistake was that he didn’t repent & receive forgiveness from the Lord.

There’s not a lot of difference between what Judas & Peter did on that fateful night. Both of these disciples sank to an unbelievable low. It was indeed a bad night for them both. Each in his own way totally forsook Jesus. Yet one died & the other lived. One was lost & the other was saved. What was the difference? Peter repented & Judas didn’t. Yes Judas felt great remorse for his sin but remorse alone isn’t repentance. Judas should have gone to Jesus but instead he went back to “religion,” or the religious leaders & religion won’t save us will it? Religion was what got Judas in trouble in the first place.

If Judas had only waited for a few days instead of hanging himself, if he had asked for forgiveness, if he’d had gotten the revelation of what the cross was all about like Peter did, when the resurrected Jesus came back, instead of calling Peter’s name alone, He’d have called for both Peter & Judas.

Dear friend, this is something the world needs to hear. God can & will forgive any sin, but only if we ask Him to do so. As Jesus said,

--Unless you repent, you too will perish.—Luke 13:3


Blessings,

John Stallings

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

America's Greatest Sin

By John Stallings


Recently I heard an economist explaining how America got into the financial trouble we’re now in.

Toward the end of his rather lengthy presentation, he said something that I wasn’t expecting to hear. I was shocked. He said, - “Abortion is at the root of all our problems. America could come out of this current dilemma in a few years but the one thing that would stop us from getting the American dream back would be -soon there won’t be enough people alive to have a robust work force. We’ve killed too many.”

This man wasn’t on an “anti-abortion rant,” as a matter of fact he only mentioned Abortion in passing. His field of expertise is economics.

He said something else that almost floored me; -“our only hope for a future is the Latin-Americans & other ethnic groups who are still having lots of children.” I might add Muslims to that list, because they’ve always had large families.

 For every person who’s retired today & drawing Social Security, there are several working people, forced to pay the bill, though they themselves will never collect Social Security. The government has been up front about the fact that S.S in all likelihood won’t be there for anyone who’s presently under fifty-five. Why? Not enough people in the work force to support it.

According to a government accounting office report, every human being that is born and lives in America has the average potential of contributing more than $250,000 to the tax base during their working years. An abortion robs this nation of not only significant tax revenue for the next 40 years, but it also depletes millions of dollars worth of consumption of goods and services that make up the base economy of this country.

If you don’t believe in the Biblical principle of sowing & reaping, then you could say the Karma Wagon is about to back up on our collective heads.

Can you see how America has fallen for a big lie from hell- that we needed to stop having children? The motive in most cases has been selfishness and obviously it resulted in a lack of new Americans being born. What follows naturally then is the promotion of Abortion as essentially a method of birth control to bring zero population growth into fruition. The thought Satan has in mind is the destruction of America’s future.

AMERICA’S GREATEST SIN IS ABORTION!!

God’s words are simple…I have set before you life & death, blessings & curses…..CHOOSE LIFE!-Duet.30:20

This message isn’t intended to go back into anyone’s past and condemn them. Thank God he forgives and forgets. The reason I deal with this issue is because I honestly believe that we need to refresh our minds about exactly what Abortion is.

In the overwhelming majority of cases, we are talking about a willful decision to evacuate the womb for the sake of convenience and the happiness of the woman with end result being a dead child.

On January 22, 1973 the Supreme Court ruled that unborn human beings are not legal persons according to the U.S. Constitution. An unborn baby is the property of the owner (mother) and she can have the child killed at her request, even up to the time of birth if her doctor agrees.

If you’d had an Abortion, just remember we’ve all made serious mistakes in our past. It would be my prayer that anyone who’s been involved with an Abortion would simply ask God for forgiveness and purpose by His grace never to do it again.

Also keep in mind that you’ll meet that innocent creation of God someday in heaven.

I spoke in a church a while back & made the remark - “An election is coming & I’d like to tell you how to vote!” That got their attention. The good folk grew so pale you’d have thought five double-hump Camels had just walked into the room. I almost considered not making my next statement for fear that someone would have a stroke.

I was certain I’d wounded if not killed one of their sacred cows by mentioning politics from the pulpit but I forged on; “First of all VOTE! Then I added- “VOTE CHRISTIANITY! No man ever has nor ever will get my vote who believes in abortion.” What happened next really stunned me. The congregation en masse gave those statements a healthy ovation.

I later learned that the church leadership never mentioned civic issues nor gave the people any inkling of how to vote. To me it’s simple; vote your convictions. Yes, how you vote is between you & God & God is never going to tell you to vote to kill babies.

Who in the world could be offended at us when we say we’re going to vote Christianity to the best of our ability? We can’t always know everything there is to know about a candidate, unless they have a voting record, & sometimes people will change. But as much as is possible, we as Christians should vote our Christian principles.

When speaking of Abortion,

I’ve heard people say; --“There isn’t enough food to feed multitudes of new people! All those babies could someday starve.” That’s not only a lie, it’s a ridiculous lie!! There’s plenty of food & we can grow more if we need it. Let me qualify that statement. Having a food surplus isn’t really a big deal; that is if the government will get out of the way & let farmers do what they do best.

If we say it’s O.K to snuff out the lives of young Americans because we “can’t afford,” or choose not to feed them, maybe we should remember what we call people who put economics above morality; among other things we call them prostitutes, thieves and drug dealers.

At present one of the most fertile areas of farm land in California has had vital water supplies shut down leaving farmers with little or no work because the Liberals in Washington are afraid of doing harm to a small fish. The last time this happened I believe it was a snail-darter & or a frog or Spotted Owl. May God help us!!

I’ve heard people say—“We’re running out of room on the planet.” That’s the silliest lie yet. Have you driven around the U.S lately? Have you ever driven through Texas? In some parts of Texas there’s so much space if you get a good pair of glasses you can see next week’s train coming today.

Have you been to Australia, or New Zealand? I haven’t but they tell me these places are sparsely populated. I went to China in 1981 & as I remember there were lots of open spaces there. Have you done any flying lately in the U.S or oversees? In some places the cities are crowded but mostly what you see as you look out the window is open space. Yes there probably are unlivable areas but certainly there’s still plenty of room on this earth.

Al Gore’s movie about Climate Change is another ridiculous lie. I believe we should be good stewards of the beautiful planet God has given us but the Polar Bears are doing fine & will continue to as long as we respect them as God’s creatures. In reality, the biggest source of pollution in many ways is the earth itself. In the middle of our oceans oil can be seen seeping up from the bottom where it’s leaking out. There are places on the planet where you can walk along & see ponds of oil just lying on the top-soil. You can’t walk the countryside without getting oil on your shoes.

Again this doesn’t mean we should squander our natural resources. Common sense tells us fossil fuels will probably run out someday but not someday soon. If & when that happens we can start building engines that can run on water, air, cooking oil, animal dung & a myriad of other substances. You will no doubt remember that the bomb Timothy McVeigh used to flatten the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City was made partially of cow dung. Who’d have thunk it?

I’ve heard people say— “if we said anything about abortion in our church people would leave.” That’s o.k. There are other places they could go where they won't take a stand on anything.

I’ve heard people say—“churches should stick to preaching the gospel.” Well, the gospel is based on truth & sometimes we must expose the sins that make the gospel necessary.

I’ve heard people ask--- “if we preach this, won’t we offend people?” Maybe; but we need to hear the bad news or we’ll never appreciate the good news.

I’ve heard people say—“If we preach against the sins of our day we just might lose our tax exempt status.” Well then we could do what the vast majority of churches do around the world that never had a tax exemption in the first place.

We’ve slaughtered over 50 million Americans through Abortion since 1973. How many great musicians, scientists, ministers, architects, economists, inventors etc. were in that great multitude? The sad thing is, we’ve killed our answers & thereby we may just have killed our future. Sometimes we forget that blood has a voice. If God could hear Abel’s voice crying out to Him from the ground where his brother Cain had murdered him, I wonder what the voices of over 50,000,000 babies would sound like to Him.

SHOULD WE BE SINGLE ISSUE VOTERS?

Most of us approach various candidates by saying, -What are his/her qualifications for office? I’m not at all sure that’s the best way to do it. What about asking,--What, if anything disqualifies this person from holding office? Is there any issue he/she stands for that is so wrongheaded that I wouldn’t vote for them no matter what else he does or doesn’t believe?

What if a candidate were to say, -“I’m running on a platform that supports bribery as a matter of public policy?” Would we say that man is disqualified for office no matter what else he might believe? What if a candidate said rape isn’t so bad & we should repeal the rape laws? Would you vote for that man? What if a candidate says he is a racist & says that black people should be denied the right to vote & he believes slavery should be legal in America? Would you vote for that man? Would it matter if he added that he was pro-life? I don’t think so, do you?

What if a woman were to marry a man & the day before the marriage he told her he believes adultery is O.K & while he does love her he intends to cheat on her? Wouldn’t you agree that if a man told his sweetheart that it would be a deal-breaker no matter what other good qualities he brings to the table?

Here’s a question; what do you feel disqualifies a man from holding public office? I believe a man who stands up & says he’ll do everything in his power to promote Abortion here in America & in other parts of the world disqualifies himself from any position of public office. It’s the same as the endorsement of racism, fraud, or bribery, except that abortion, or child-killing is more serious than those.

There are laws against intentionally maiming dogs & cats. Thank God!! And there are laws that protect a wide range of endangered species. But what about the unborn? Jesus said…

….whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better that a millstone were hanged about his neck and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.—Matt.18:6

These are solemn words telling us that those who deliberately hurt little children will someday face the Lord.

THE STRONGEST STATEMENT ON GOD’S PRENATAL CARE IN ALL THE BIBLE.

Psalm 139:13-14 says;- For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee for I am fearfully & wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works & that my soul knoweth right well.

How much does God know about the unborn baby growing in the womb? Everything! Like a skillful weaver God takes the tiny hands & legs & joins them together. He forms the heart & then sets it beating. He watches out for the little thumb to make sure it finds the mouth.

Who makes babies? God does!

What else but satanic can we call a law the kills an eight week fetus? An eight-week old fetus has a beating heart, an EKG, brain waves, thumb-sucking, pain sensitivity, finger grasping, & genetic humanity. But under our present laws an unborn baby isn’t a human person with rights under the 14th Amendment which says that “no state shall deprive any person of life without due process of law.” Why then is it that it’s illegal to maim, or mutilate an animal [who would want to?] but the sensitive unborn baby has no rights at all?

Isn’t it strange that there are quotas on porpoises & whales but it’s always open season on unborn babies? If you destroy the egg of a bald eagle you can be fined $5000: if you destroy an unborn baby you’ll make about $350. Do you think that our ghettos or crime ridden streets are the most dangerous places in America? Think again. A baby in its mother’s womb has a one in three chance of making it out alive. Isn’t it a little schizophrenic that today in America a 14 year old girl may not buy cigarettes or alcohol or attend an x-rated movie; in some places she can’t even get her ears pierced without her mother’s permission? But she can have an Abortion. Again doesn’t this sound like “an evil plan” a satanic plot to you?

If you took a pregnant female dog and abused her like a woman is abused in an abortion clinic and then evacuated her womb of the pups she was carrying and the law found out about it you would be arrested and marked as an unreasonably cruel person. You would no doubt be treated by the news media and liberal justice system as the scum of the earth.

WHAT IS IT?

If you were sitting at your computer and one of your kids came up behind you and said, “Hey, mom/dad, can I kill this? The first question you’d ask without looking up would be, “what is it?” If it’s a roach or some other ugly bug you’d immediately say, “Yes, please kill that thing immediately. You can’t kill it quickly enough.” If it’s the four year old kid from next door of course your answers going to be entirely different. [I hope]

When the question of either drowning an unborn baby in salt water in the womb or vacuuming it almost out of its mother’s womb and than slitting the throat, our question must be-“What is it you’re killing?” The only truthful answer to that question is, “It’s a living breathing baby made in God’s image."

This may surprise you but I actually agree with Marlo Thomas &; Barbara Streisand on an important issue. During the last election they said-“One candidate should be elected because of his position on abortion & one defeated for the same reason.” They were right of course but they weren’t thinking exactly as I was. They had the candidates backward.

I WONDER-DO WOMEN KNOW THESE THINGS? DO THEY KNOW WHAT THEY’RE DOING IN AN ABORTION?

I’m not wondering if they lack intelligence. I just wonder if they close their eyes to the truth like some do with tobacco, gluttony, drunkenness, or other dangerous substances. They’re not going to expose themselves to in-depth information on the subject.

An encouraging bit of information is that there are actually fewer abortions since the sonogram became available, probably because the future mom can see the little person growing inside her. From the moment of conception a baby has as individual identity. The baby has its own set of genes &; chromosomes. At 19 days after conception the eyes begin to develop. At 24 days the heart begins beating. At 30 days the unborn baby is an inch long yet he has a brain, eyes, ears, mouth, kidneys, & liver. At 35 days his fingers have formed & at 40 days brain waves can be detected & recorded. In the tenth week after conception the baby squints, swallows & hiccups & has fingerprints that will stay with him for the rest of his life.

By the fourth month his ears are functioning, he begins to suck his thumb & he can hear his mother’s voice for the first time. By the seventh month he can see & hear & taste & touch. He recognizes his mother’s voice when he hears it. By the ninth month the baby weights between six & nine pounds & his heart pumps 300 gallons of blood per day. He is now capable of life outside the womb if only he gets the chance.

ABORTION IS WRONG BECAUSE IT’S WRONG TO KILL BABIES

Abortion is as simple yet profound as that, & I know of no other conclusion that’s consistent with the Christian faith. I made up my mind where I stood on the abortion issue a long time ago but I can’t nor would I compel your conscience. You have to make up your own mind.

I have always been & will continue to be a thorn in the devils side on this subject. There are many who are ambivalent about abortion because they don’t want to be “crusaders.” They say things like “I’m against Abortion but I don’t want to impose my views on others.”

Let’s use that logic in other areas of moral values. How would you respond to someone who said;

“I’m against slavery but I don’t think we should go overboard & make it illegal?” Or;

“I’m against slavery but I’m not offended if you still own a few slaves. After all I’m not going to be a radical on the subject."-Or;

“I’m against slavery but other issues are much more important.”

If a person said that & then added, “Oh, by the way, I’m pro-life,” would that matter? No it wouldn’t & shouldn’t. Support for slavery is an absolute disqualifying issue for any leader, it doesn’t matter how good his other positions might be. Don’t you agree? I feel the same way about abortion & as I said, I will not nor have I ever voted for anyone who believes it permissible to kill the unborn.

ABORTION WAS HATCHED IN THE HALLS OF HELL!

We live fairly close to an abortion clinic & almost every day when we pass we see people outside on the sidewalk with signs engaged in peaceful demonstrations. Once in a while we see a large refrigerated truck backing up to the building; as a matter of fact the truck is so large it usually blocks traffic for some time.

Knowing some things I know, that I won’t drag your mind into, I always get a queasy feeling because in my heart I know the cargo that truck has backed up to load on. This whole business is the work of Satan & those who profit from it. The people who traffic in this awful enterprise will someday face God in judgment.

Especially despicable in my view are politicians who use words such as “Freedom” & “choice” & are doing it for crass political gain. A verse comes to mind that seems appropriate here;

The thief comes to steal kill & destroy: I have come that they might have life & have it to the full. John 10:10.

One more verse; the one we started with;

…..Chose life!


God commands us to choose life. This is a command for individuals, families, churches, cities, states & nations.


Blessings,


John

Friday, October 3, 2014

A Woman Named Somebody

By John Stallings


Somebody touched me....Luke 8:46


A man in New York City died at the age of 63 without ever having had a job.

He spent his entire adult life in college. During those years he acquired so many academic degrees that they "looked like the alphabet" behind his name.

Why did this man spend his entire life in college? When he was a child, a wealthy relative died who had named him as a beneficiary in his will. It stated that he was to be given enough money for his own support every year as long as he stayed in school, and it was to be discontinued when he had completed his education.

The man met the terms of the will, but by remaining in school indefinitely. He turned a technicality into a steady income for life-- something his benefactor never intended. Unfortunately, he spent thousands of hours listening to professors and reading books but never "doing." He acquired more and more knowledge but didn't put it into practice.

When we only listen to the promises of God, study the promises of God, hear sermons on the promises of God but never act on our faith in the promises of God, we are doing the same thing. We are just trying to keep from living in the real world where God intends us to live and we wall ourselves off studying or talking about faith. Justifying faith is an active, obedient faith.

A LITTLE FAITH AND A LOT OF OBEDIENCE
Galatians 3:6 says;

Abraham believed God and it was accounted unto him as righteousness.
Abraham wasn’t all he could be in the righteousness department but he believed God and was so obedient to God that He put it down in the righteousness column.

Abraham’s faith was an active faith. When God first spoke to Abraham he was in the city of Ur of the Chaldees.

Gen 12:1-2 NKJV says- Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.
Abraham didn’t just study about God's promises, he believed them. Abraham obeyed God and followed Him to a new country. He didn’t just talk about believing God; his faith caused him to follow God in terms of his promises.

FAITH COUPON
Faith is one of the most crucial components in the life of the Christian. Although we as Christians cannot see God, we nonetheless believe that He exists and that He is active in our lives. Faith is more than just a wistful optimism about life. It is the very substance of what a Christian does. It is a gift from God--the unshakable confidence that allows a Christian to navigate life.

Have you ever gone to the store with a coupon? Most of us have.

Let’s say you have a coupon for a two pound bag of flour. If you pay full price for one bag of flour, you can present the coupon for the purchase of another item. The coupon in that transaction is the same as cash.

This is the way God dealt with Abraham. Because he so literally believed and acted on his faith, God gave him a “faith coupon.”

The good news about faith is that we all have enough faith to be obedient to God.

A TOUCHING FAITH

Unfortunately the word faith has a blurred meaning. It is the most important knowledge you could ever acquire, but Satan is going to discourage your tapping into that. It’s not what we think faith means, it’s what the scriptures say.

The devil has always been against the scriptures. He tried to kill the Word of God- Jesus Christ himself. Then he tried to set up a system where you could only ask the priests for an interpretation of the scriptures. He tried to hide it in a hidden language and then he burned the Bibles because Satan doesn’t want us to become conversant with faith. Bibles are all around us and Satan wants to change the translations and the meanings of the words and how we use the words in our daily language.

We can learn much about faith by studying the actions of the woman with the issue of blood. Her story has captured the hearts of multiplied millions over the centuries. What we really have in the story is a miracle within a miracle. In all three accounts Matthew 9, Mark 5, Luke 8 this miracle takes place within the context of raising of Jairus’ daughter.

The unnamed woman in the story had heard about the Rabbi. A man claimed that he was once blind but could now see after the Rabbi from Galilee had touched his eyes. She had heard another man tell her that he had been paralyzed until the man named Jesus commanded him to walk.

Someone else showed her his hands and told her that they had been once been scared by leprosy. A friend told her that the Rabbi even cured an older woman of a fever and the woman’s son-in-law was now counted among his followers. Other reports from relatives and friends from Capernaum were always the same. This man had special powers; maybe just maybe he could cure her.

One day as Jesus was teaching in one of the villages along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a man named Jairus came begging Jesus to come to his house and heal his 12 year old daughter who was desperately sick. As Jesus began to walk with Jairus toward his house, hundreds of people pressed in on him, many of them no doubt hoping for their own cure, many others listening to his every word, still others attracted by all the commotion.

A woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the hem of his cloak. Immediately her bleeding stopped.

Who touched me?”

Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing around you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know power has gone out from me.”

Then the woman, seeing that she couldn’t go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”

If you visit the Holy Land, you’ll notice how narrow and crowded the streets are. In some places you can almost reach out and touch the buildings on both sides of the street. So we know the scene must have been chaotic and confusing–Jairus on one side of Jesus tugging at his sleeve– “Hurry, Lord, my daughter is dying"–the disciples forming a moving wave like bodyguards for a rock star, and hundreds of eager people pushing, milling, shouting, stretching out their arms to touch him as he passes by.

Meanwhile, totally unnoticed, a frail, stooped, sickly woman pushes her way through the throng. Her face is partially covered so no one will recognize her. Her arms are thin, her hands shake as she stretches them toward Jesus. Now she is only a few feet away. Now he is passing right by her. No one notices as she reaches out to touch the blue and white tassel on the corner of his cloak.

AN ISSUE OF BLOOD

The Bible is not very specific about her problem and the translators handle it in different ways. The King James Version says she had “an issue of blood” for 12 years. The modern translations speak of a hemorrhage of blood. Most commentators agree it was some kind of chronic uterine bleeding. Whether continually or periodic, it was not normal and in those days, and there was no cure for the condition.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Leviticus 15:25-27 contained certain regulations for women with an uncontrollable flow of blood. It basically says that such women are to be considered unclean and defiled as long as the flow of blood continues. Furthermore, anyone who touched such a woman would themselves become unclean and defiled.

In a practical sense, this meant that this poor woman had become an outcast in her own village.
By the Law of Moses this woman wasn’t allowed to touch any human being. The law demanded that a woman suffering in this way should be segregated. For twelve years this woman had been excommunicated from the Temple and from the synagogue, and from every religious place of assembly. She was divorced from her husband, shut out from her family, ostracized by society, and treated as a pariah.

She had endured incurable illness, social isolation, constant pain, financial poverty and personal humiliation. It’s hard to imagine a more pitiful situation. She’d been among the “living dead” for twelve long years. Now at last, Jesus has come to her village.

DOCTOR, DOCTOR

In Mark’s version of this story, he includes one detail that Luke omits. Mark 5:26 notes that this woman “had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.” Why do you think Luke left that detail out? Luke was a doctor, and a member of the AMA of his day. Probably his motivation was -he didn’t want to make his own profession look bad!

They didn’t have any effective treatments for this kind of chronic hemorrhaging. As a matter of fact, the Talmud lists several “cures” for this problem: 1. Drinking a goblet of wine containing a powder composed of rubber, alum and garden crocuses. 2. Eating Persian onions cooked in wine administered with the words “Arise out of your flow of blood.” 3. Carrying the ash of an ostrich egg in a certain cloth.

With all those weird “cures” happening, it’s a wonder to me that they didn’t have a stricken woman to stand on her head and whistle “Yankee Doodle went to town”.

With “cures” like that, it’s no wonder this woman was not getting any better. It’s very likely that she’d started off wealthy because she’d spent a lot of money over more than a decade and gone broke trying to regain her health.

The doctors simply could not help her. For 12 years she had suffered from this “issue of blood.” Her prognosis was grim. Without a miracle, there was no hope.

TOUCHING THE TASSEL

Now at last Jesus has come to her village. The word spreads like wildfire–"He’s here.” “Who’s here?” “Jesus, that man from Nazareth who heals the sick. He just came to town and Jairus is talking to him.” With that, this poor woman makes the decision that somehow, some way she must get through to see Jesus. If only she could touch him. She obviously had “a touching faith.”

Perhaps there was a bit of superstition in her faith. Perhaps she thought there was some kind of “magic” in his clothing. Who knows? In her mind, she thinks, “If only I can reach out and touch the hem of his garment perhaps that will be enough.” In truth, her faith was immature and incomplete, but it was enough to make her risk public rejection… enough to make her reach out with a sickly hand to the Son of God.

But there’s something else at work here. She did not speak to Jesus because she was embarrassed and ashamed of her condition. After 12 years of public humiliation, she wouldn’t risk exposure and the taunts of the crowd. She wanted to simply touch him, receive her healing and then slip away unnoticed. After so many years, she was used to coping with life that way.

Now she reaches out and touches Jesus. The old versions speak of “the hem of his garment.” That’s certainly an acceptable translation, but the Greek word probably refers to one of the four tassels all Jewish men wore on their outer garments. Numbers 15:37-41 specified that tassels must be sewn on the four corners of the cloak and each must contain a blue thread. The tassels were visual reminders to obey God’s commandments. No matter the design of the cloak, at least one of the tassels would always hang from the back of the wearer. It was this tassel that the woman touched as Jesus walked by.

The story is very clear on what happened when she touched the tassel. Two different words are used. She was “immediately” and “instantly” healed. The text even specifies that at the moment she touched the tassel, the bleeding stopped. She didn’t need to get a handful of his garment, just touching the hem or tassel threw the switch and the power flowed.

It was a marvelous miracle. Jesus is going the other direction, Jairus tugging and talking and crying all at the same time. Meanwhile, the crowd is so tightly packed in the narrow alleyway that you could hardly breathe, much less move. The disciples are trying to do crowd control with little success. No one sees this wretched woman off to the side, no one notices as she elbows her way to the center, no one pays attention as she reaches out her hand, no one speaks to her and she speaks to no one.

Jesus doesn’t even notice this woman. As he passes by, her hand brushes his tassel. Something
like an electrical shock moves from her fingers through her hand, up her arm and into every part of her body. Only it is not an electrical shock, but the infusion of a mighty power with which she wasn’t familiar. In less time than it takes to tell it, her weary arteries, her shrunken veins, her diseased organs, her withered muscles, her shattered nerves were filled with health and life and strength. The disastrous decay of twelve years is instantly halted and then reversed.

She is well again! Healthy again! Whole again!

She turns to go, not ungrateful–no, not at all–but fearful lest she call attention to herself and respectful of the greater work Jesus must do. Also, she might be stoned for breaking the law and Jairus was just the man who could enforce it. She must not bother Jesus. With a smile on her face, the first real smile in a long, long time, she turns to go home.

“WHO TOUCHED ME?”

But just at that moment, Jesus stops, turns and surveying the crowd asks, “Who touched me?” It seemed to Peter and the other disciples like an absurd question. Hundreds of people milling around and he wants to know who touched him? Everybody was touching him. There were so many people crowded around Jesus it could have been anyone. Besides, what difference does it make? A touch is a touch is a touch.

But that’s not true. There’s the touch of hostility. Jesus certainly knew that touch. Then there’s the touch of curiosity. That’s the touch of the crowd milling around. Then there’s the touch of faith. That’s the touch of this poor woman. If the disciples couldn’t tell the difference, that’s O.K, Jesus could. He knew that someone had touched him in faith. He felt the faith in the passing brush of her fingers on his tassel.

Many times we go to church services and “elbow or jostle Jesus” but too often fail to touch him with the deliberate touch of faith that demands an answer. Many things could be said about this little lady but there’s one thing for sure, she didn’t just jostle or elbow Jesus. Her’s was a deliberate touch.

Jesus didn’t ask the question for his own benefit. He knew before he turned who had touched him. He’s the Son of God, after all. He asked not for his sake, but for her sake and for the sake of the crowd.

He asked for her sake so that he could raise the level of her faith. If she went away without a further word, she might actually believe there was some magic power in his clothing. There wasn’t any “abracadabra” going on. He wanted to assure her that it was her faith in him that made the difference. Furthermore, he wanted her to know that the healing would be permanent. Finally, he wanted to establish a personal relationship with her. To do all those things, she needed to identify herself to Jesus and to the crowd.

He also asked “Who touched me?” for the sake of the crowd. So that Jairus would know what Jesus could do, so that the curious onlookers would see his power fully displayed. And perhaps most importantly, he wanted the crowd to know that he wasn’t ashamed to be touched by an “untouchable.”

This woman had taken a real chance by touching Jesus. According to the law, her touch could make Jesus unclean. But because he was the Son of God, his power of healing overcame her uncleanness. But she did not know that when she touched him.

What a crucial point this is. Jesus was not ashamed to be touched by an “untouchable” and he was not embarrassed to be publicly identified with the outcasts of this world. He was at home with publicans and sinners, he ate supper with gluttons and drunkards, he welcomed the prostitutes, he touched the lepers and, in this story, he is not ashamed to be touched by an unclean person. Jesus had friends in “low places.”

Not ashamed? No, not at all. Delighted, and glad to identify himself with her. Delighted that she had the courage to reach out and glad that he could heal her. And he didn’t care who knew about it. No, that’s not strong enough. He wanted the whole crowd to know what he had done.
Why is this so important? Because with our Lord there are no “untouchable” people. In Jesus’ eyes, everyone is touchable. Thank God, there are no hopeless cases with him.
What does it mean to be a Christian if we only welcome the lovely, the clean, the pure and the safe? How can we even call ourselves Christian if we refuse to help people because they don’t meet up to our standard of cleanliness?

That’s not how Jesus lived his life. He wasn’t ashamed or embarrassed to eat with sinners, to embrace the shameful, to consort with the unclean and to touch the untouchable. It didn’t bother him that some people were bothered by his lifestyle. He just went ahead and loved everyone who crossed his path.

Let’s not talk about following in his steps or walking where Jesus walked until we are willing to do what he did and identify ourselves with the untouchables of this world.

POWER HAS GONE OUT OF ME”

Notice his words. “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” These strange words mean at least this much: That Jesus was conscious of God’s power flowing out from him into the body of the woman who touched his garment. Power that had been his passed from him to her. It resulted in her healing, but the power had to go out from him first.

There is a universal truth here. If you follow Jesus and get involved with the needy people of this world, you will be conscious of power flowing out from your life as well. By definition those in need lack the strength necessary to face the challenges of life. The only way they can get strength or power is from those who have more than they do. Ministering to such people means that power or strength or virtue will flow out from your life to theirs. It will cost you something that you will not easily replace–the very strength of your own life.

Some reading this will understand what I mean when I say ministry will sap you of physical as well as spiritual strength. There’s no addition of help to others, without the subtraction of power from us. If omnipotence cannot help others without depletion, how can we ever expect to bless the world without self-sacrifice?

At the risk of putting emphasis on the human side of what Jesus did at Calvary, this truth explains something that many people have puzzled over. When Jesus was finally crucified, why did he die so quickly? The Romans assumed that when they crucified someone it would take 24-48 hours for that person to die. But Jesus died after only six hours on the cross. Why?

It’s very possible that because he had spent his life giving himself for others and when he finally came to the end, he had given and given and given, and from a human point of view, he had given all that he had. Could that not be at least part of the explanation? Sometimes we say in a sentimental way, “He died of a broken heart.” There is at least this much truth in that statement- When he died, he was exhausted from giving himself for others.

If you follow Jesus, the same thing will happen to you. You will give and give and the power will go out from you. You can help people, but it will cost you something.

“GO IN PEACE”

When Jesus asks, “Who touched me?” the woman knows he is talking about her. Luke says that she came trembling and fell at Jesus’ feet. Then she publicly declared what Jesus had done for her and how she had been instantly healed. I imagine there was clapping and cheering all around and Jairus saying, “That’s good. Now come on, Jesus, my little girl needs you.”

But before they go on, Jesus looks at her and says, “Daughter, your faith has healed you.” The word for “daughter” is unusual. It’s the only time the gospels record Jesus using this particular word. It’s a term of affectionate endearment, something like “Maiden” or “Little girl” or even “Sweetheart.” Then he said, “Go in peace,” or literally “Go into peace,” meaning “Go from this place and walk in good health. You are healed forever of your disease.”

TWO ENDURING PICTURES

Let’s focus on two enduring pictures that remain from this story. They are images of Jesus and of this woman that encourage us along the way.

1. The Sensitivity of Jesus.The most sensitive man in all history is Jesus Christ. No one ever cared about people like he did. No one ever gave of himself like he did. No one ever felt the pain of others like he did. He is–and was–and always will be–the most truly sensitive man to ever walk the face of the earth.
As he walked down a crowded street, hundreds of hands reached out to him. Yet he felt the thin, sickly hand of faith. He felt it! He felt her touch … He stopped … He turned … He spoke to her.

He was not offended or angry at her. Nor was he too busy or too tired to bother with her. Think of it. He whom all the forces of Hell could not stop was diverted by the touch of a sickly hand! This woman did by her touch what Satan himself could not do. She stopped Jesus in his tracks.

And he spoke to her as if she were the only person in the crowd. When he turned, it was just Jesus and her. No one else mattered.

He loves you as if there was only one person in the entire universe to love. He hears you as if you were the only one speaking to him. He attends to your needs as if yours were the only needs in all the world. What a Savior!

All that touches you touches him. If it is pain, then he feels the pain. If it is sorrow, then he feels the sorrow. If it is rejection, then he feels the rejection. If it is loss, then he feels the loss. If it is failure, then he feels the failure. Whatever it is that hurts you, he feels it. If it’s touching you, it’s touching him.

That’s what the writer to the Hebrews meant when he said,

For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities…..Hebrews 4:15

We don’t represent a cold, uncaring Christ. Nor do we offer this world a preoccupied Christ who is too busy to notice their problems. Thank God, we do not have an unemotional Christ who runs the universe like some high-powered businessman. No, we have a sensitive Jesus who feels our deepest need.

2. The Power of Feeble Faith.This story shows us a second picture. In this poor woman we see the amazing power of feeble
faith. She didn’t have a huge amount of faith and what she had was partially misdirected. But she had a mustard seed and through it, God moved the mountain of her illness.

This story means that we don’t have to agonize over the “correct” way to come to God. You don’t have to worry about crossing all your “t’s” or dotting all your “i’s”. You don’t have to know the Bible before you come to God and you don’t have to have a degree in theology. You don’t even have to be a member of a church. Those things are good, but they aren’t the main thing. If you come to Jesus Christ in simple faith–even though your faith be as feeble as this woman’s was–he will not turn you away.

Do you ever feel as if your problems keep you from coming to God? Do you ever feel so dirty and unclean that you think Jesus would not have anything to do with you? Do not despair. Jesus is not offended by your problems. He’s seen it all before and He won’t turn you away.

Only a touch and this woman is healed. Not by her toiling, not by her promises to do better, not by an offer to do something for Jesus if he would do something for her. No deals here. She reached out a trembling hand and in an instant, she was healed. It happened so fast that it could only be called a miracle.

That’s what feeble faith can do. You and I should never look at the measure of our faith but
rather the measure of our God. The hardest part is reaching out with the hand of faith. If you want to touch Jesus, all you have to do is reach out to him.

REACH OUT AND TOUCH HIM--Maybe you are familiar with the song I wrote nearly forty years ago entitled,

Touching Jesus.”

The chorus says,

“Touching Jesus is all that matters,
Then your life will never be the same,
There is only one way to touch him,
Just believe when you call on His name.”


Even feeble faith is powerful when it’s directed toward the right object. You don’t have to have strong faith. You can have weak faith so long as it is resting upon a strong object. And who could be stronger than Jesus Christ himself?

If you have the strength to stretch out your hand to him, his mighty power will flow into your life.

Just a touch and Jesus himself will enter your life.


Blessings,


John

Saturday, September 20, 2014

"You Gotta Know When To Hold Them, Know When To Fold Them..."

by John Stallings


If you like to read cartoons you’ll probably be familiar with the character Pigpen from Peanuts.

Pigpen always had a cloud of dust spinning around him. It seemed as if he didn’t do anything to cause it… it didn’t require any effort on his part to create the cloud; he didn’t even seem to be aware of the dust. The cartoon and the character Pigpen wouldn’t have been the same without that dust cloud.

Have you ever met a dusty Christian? I have. As a matter of fact I’ve been a little dusty myself from time to time. Of course we’re not talking about actual dust here, but the residue that can stick to us as we move through the experiences of life.

In Matthew 10:14, Jesus gave some superb advice to His followers when they were faced with those who didn’t embrace their message. He told them as they went to spread the good news, not to waste time or get involved in a debate, but to just “shake the dust off your feet” and move on to the next house or village.

This statement of Jesus to His disciples is one of the most amazing statements He ever made. Jesus didn’t want his disciples to be “Pigpens” going around all dusty.

To put it practically, Jesus knew that the best they could do wouldn’t always be enough so if they didn’t receive a welcome or a hearing in a place, if they “hit a brick wall,” they shouldn’t keep beating their heads against the wall, but rather, dust themselves off and move on. You will make mistakes. Some folk will reject you. You’ll say the wrong thing on occasion. You’ll come up against something called “other peoples problems." You can’t do anything about that so don’t make it your problem.

You can go down to the 7/11 and buy several baby pacifiers; put them in people’s mouths and they still won’t like you. If you’ve given it all you’ve got and it still didn’t work, instead of breaking into tears, instead of moaning the blues, “get outta Dodge.” If you hang around and have a crying jag because of a lack of decent treatment, those tears are going to make mud out of the dust at your feet and mud is harder than dust to shake off.

There are some of us who don’t know when to quit. I tend to have this problem where certain things are involved. I remember learning to water ski when I was sixteen. I have looked back over the years with amazement at the good man who was driving the boat that day. I know it took at least twenty tries before I could get up on the skis. That takes a lot of time not to mention fuel. With the patience of that brother driving the boat and the grace of merciful God I finally quit plowing water and stood up on the skis. Neither the boat driver nor I were willing to give up and I finally succeeded but I pushed around a lake full of water in the process.

Some of us will go to ridiculous lengths to avoid failure. I saw a funny carton once showing a man standing in front of his boss’s desk holding his hat in his hands. The caption read, “Fired? Does that mean I don’t get the raise?” There are times when persistence becomes an obsessive-compulsive issue.

So Jesus’ advice to dust off our feet will help us when we encounter unpleasant situations in life. If we’re not careful, we’ll carry the dust of past experiences into every situation we face and instead of our days being fresh and new we’ll be choking on the dust of the past.

Kenny Rogers had it right; “You gotta know when to hold them, and know when to fold them.”

There are five types of dust God wants us to shake off. First there is the dust of;

1. REPRESSION

Repression has to do with experiences that are pushed down into our sub-conscious minds. This is dust of painful emotions, or memories that have been repressed.

The things that we’ve repressed or pushed down are like the bottom part of an iceberg. 90% of an iceberg is invisible beneath the waterline. We push those painful memories down and about the only time they come out is when we have crazy dreams. I don’t mean to imply that all dreams are crazy but some of them are “pinto dreams” brought on by eating too many beans too close to bed time.

Dust represents the past. Obviously we can’t live in the moment if we’re carrying around the dust of past hurts and rejections. You will no doubt remember that dust has been used in the Bible to represent many things.

Genesis 2:7 tells us that God fashioned man out of the dust of the earth.
Psalms 103:13 reminds us that God “remembers that we are but dust.”
Ecclesiastes 3:20 says “we came from dust and to the dust we’ll return.”
Ecclesiastes 12: 7 again tells us that “we’ll go back to the dust but our spirits will return to the God who made us.”

 In ancient times when people mourned, they would put ashes on themselves, that’s why in Job 42:6, he tells us he repented in dust and ashes.

Not only is dust referred to in the Bible, we who live in 2014 still use it in clich├ęs to illustrate experiences we face in life. We say; “Another one bites the dust” and “wait till the dust settles,” “I’m not trying to throw dust in your eye,” and sometimes a fight is called a “dust-up.”

ONE SQUARE INCH OF HUMAN SKIN

I’m told that one square inch of human skin contains;

19 million cells,
65 hairs,
19 feet of blood vessels,
19 thousand sensory cells,
And 20 living animals.

That’s right, there are 20 microscopic bugs living on every square inch of our skin called “dust mites.” Did you know that 75% of the dust in your house is dead human skin? Now that’s gross.

A little boy was told by his Sunday School teacher that God made man from the dust of the earth. Not long afterward he went to a funeral and heard the preacher say-“ashes to ashes, and dust to dust,” telling the people that we came from dust and at death we returned to dust. The next day the boy called his mother into his room. He held up his bed-spread and pointed to the dust under the bed and said, “Momma, there’s someone under my bed who’s either coming or going.”

Some experiences are so traumatic we put them away where we aren’t able to retrieve them at will, so that they become information that we don’t have ready access to. Have you ever been in a situation that was so painful you can’t pull it back and have almost no recollection of it? Car wrecks and other serious accidents can be in that category for some people. A person can be involved in a physical altercation and be struck several blows, and be stunned when they look in a mirror at the marks on their face and body. It’s not that it wasn’t painful; the point is it was so painful they repressed it.

Make no mistake; even though we may have repressed the painful experience, it can still remain with us as “dust.” Our brain has the capability to store 15 trillion memories, most of which we aren’t consciously aware of.

AT PEACE WITH OUR PAST

God doesn’t want us to live our lives looking in the rearview mirror so we need by His grace to shake off the repressed dust of our past. Then we need to shake off the dust of;

2. REGRETS AND REMORSE

In 1 Samuel 16:1, King Saul had died and the prophet Samuel was still mourning his passing. God asked the prophet, -- “How long are you going to mourn for Saul?” God is saying, just how much of your precious time are you planning to put into this, when I had rejected Saul anyway? Fill your horn of oil and get moving. You have work to do because there’s a future king at the house of Jesse and your next assignment is to go anoint David one of his sons to be Israel’s future king.

Psalms 30:5 says;

weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning.

We need to shake off the dust of regret about what we may have done or not done. Or maybe we need to shake off the dust of what another person has done to us.

Martin Luther told the story of how God used his wife to help him shake off a spirit that had stolen his joy. Morning after morning his wife would come to breakfast dressed all in black. She’d serve him his breakfast with her “funeral face” on. After a few days of this, Luther asked his wife why she was dressing in black. She answered, “Well, you’ve been coming to the table each morning acting like God is dead so I just thought I’d dress for the occasion.”

George W. Truett pastored the First Baptist Church in Dallas the first half of the twentieth century. One day when he was first called to pastor the church, he and a much loved church deacon went hunting. Deep in the woods as they were trying to get over a barbed wire fence, Truett’s gun accidentally discharged instantly killing his friend. Though it was an accident and everyone knew it and readily forgave him, Truett was so devastated because of what he’d done it was unclear for a number of months if he would even be able to remain in the ministry.

Truett referred to the incident many times throughout his life. One night in the depths of despair, Jesus visited him in his bedroom. He never related all that happened or all Jesus said but it must have been a wondrous visitation. Truett emerged from the depression that had enveloped him to pastor his church until his death nearly fifty years later. During those years the church grew to be the largest church in the world at that time. This church stands as a memorial to God’s power to help a broken man shake off the dust of regret and remorse. Then God wants us to shake off the dust of…

3. RUIN

The book of Lamentations is a book of dirges and mourning written against the backdrop of the Babylonian invasion and destruction of Jerusalem. The war wagons of Babylonia had plowed this city under reducing it to a vast gravel plain, even razing the temple. In this little book we can see the awful suffering endured by the people of that city at the hand of their enemies.

The writer of the book of Lamentations is believed to be Jeremiah. You’ll remember that he was the weeping prophet. To be frank, Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet of nothing but judgment. He accepted his calling with reluctance. He was forbidden to marry so that he could be a full time prophet of doom. Jeremiah was “a man of constant sorrow” and wept openly about the sins of his people. Of course the fact that his message went unheeded so long probably added to his depression. In a ministry that spanned some 50 years, there is no record of even one convert.

King Zedekiah didn’t appreciate Jeremiah’s ministry as witnessed by the fact that while the city of Jerusalem was under attack he was sitting in jail. It would seem that Jeremiah had his own “dust cloud.”

But the wonderful thing about this story is that even after enduring a life of rejection, hatred, being mocked, imprisoned, ignored, after seeing his beloved Jerusalem ransacked, desecrated and destroyed; after experiencing the horror of war, the brutality of the enemy and pangs of hunger, Jeremiah was still able to stand in the midst of the rubble of the city and the bodies of the dead and lift his voice in praise to God for His great unfailing faithfulness to His people.

Somewhere during all of this carnage Jeremiah “shook off the dust” of ruin and got a glimpse of just who God is and how great He is. Were it not for Jeremiah shaking off that dust, we wouldn’t have the great song we sing,-“Great is thy faithfulness.” He wrote those words in Jeremiah 3:21.

Like Jeremiah, you and I go through times when life seems to fall apart at the seams. It’s during these times that we can read Jeremiah’s book of Lamentations and see overwhelming the evidence of the unchanging faithfulness of our great God.

BALANCING THINGS OUT

In the interest of balance let me say that some people move on prematurely. Let’s don’t spin Jesus’ words to mean we should quit at the first rifle- crack of opposition. At the first sign of opposition or disagreement some folk have a “knee jerk” reaction and skip-town. “If the boss is going be like that, I quit! If things go south on me I’ll find a new job, a new spouse and a new church if I have to.

We should examine ourselves in those situations and if our foot-dusting is giving us too much satisfaction, maybe we dusted ourselves off too soon and for the wrong reasons. Sometimes persistence is called for. Jesus told many stories emphasizing that sometimes the wise thing to do is to keep knocking. But non-the-less what Jesus is saying here is; blessed is the person who knows when to quit. Next, we should shake off the dust of…

4. REJECTION AND RIDICULE

Rejection is one of the cruelest tools people use on one another. There’s no more brutal weapon. I don’t do rejection well, because I want everyone to like me. This seems to be a fairly universal feeling. Rejection says-in so many words—“You are worthless. You aren’t even worth the air you’re breathing. I wish you’d get out of my face and out of my sight because I can’t stand looking at you. You make no more impression on me than a bum stumbling down the street so please just go! I don’t know who you think you are but you and your opinions mean less to me than a gnat buzzing around my face.” Now most people don’t actually use these words when they reject someone but that’s how it comes across to the rejected person. Do you see why I say rejection is so brutal?

On the other hand some people don’t care what anybody thinks about them nor do they care about anyone else’s opinions. I would submit that these people have a whole different set of psychological problems.

I’ve shared this before but as a young preacher there were times I felt like quitting because I couldn’t stand the look a few people would have on their faces while I preached. I finally got the victory over it because I finally learned that most folk who have a perpetual frown on their face have it because they’ve held their face that way so long it’s frozen in place.

Jesus Himself was no stranger to rejection. When He visited His home town those who’d grown up with Him were incredulous. They took offense at Him and Jesus was taken-aback at their reaction. [Mark 6:3] When He left that town He just shook the dust of His feet and never returned.

The Apostle Paul was more or less rejected by the church at Corinth. The congregation there thought nothing of comparing him unfavorably to other teachers more to their liking. Paul made allowances for our limitations when he compared us to earthen vessels that God has chosen to use to store the treasure of the gospel.

Sometimes we just have to shake off rejection and move on, reminding ourselves that we’re “accepted in the beloved.” Lastly we need to shake off the dust of…

5. RESENTMENT AND ANGER

Have you ever been in a group of people who were sharing their favorite verse of scripture? I can tell you a passage of scripture that you’ve never heard mentioned in that category. Here it is, spoken by Jesus…

Matthew 5:29–30 says, “If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.”

Are these verses figurative or literal? I can assure you that these verses are figurative; otherwise, this message would be a case of the blind leading the blind. If you were to gouge out your right eye and chop off your right hand, the problem remains. You would still ogle with your left eye and misbehave with your left hand. Cutting off your hand or plucking out an eye doesn’t keep you from committing mental adultery. So should you pluck out your left eye?

Take a look around the storehouse of your mind and see if you can locate a resentment. It will be old and ugly but don’t let that fool you; it’s still very much alive.

Do you feel a little hostility toward someone for an action or a word that hurt you or maybe something that should have happened that didn’t? Or maybe you have resentment toward a person because of who that person is. Resentments are very resilient die-hards and can survive on very little. They can thrive in darkness or light. Often resentments are present even when people aren’t consciously aware of them and they grow like one of those monster pumpkins with roots running deep.

Recently I heard a team of doctors discussing cancer. They said that a cancerous tumor has such a voracious appetite that it steals energy from its host. That explains why people with cancer can be losing weight eating the same amount of food. Resentment, like a tumor drains away energy, takes away life and makes us exist on a different, lower level. Resentment crowds out what really belongs to us. What Jesus is talking about is-rather than actually cutting off body parts, - that for some things to be removed from us is terribly hard, even almost impossible.

To get rid of some things in our lives is like “spiritual surgery.” Resentment can become such a part of us that its removal amounts to a loss like amputation. Resentment can be so much a part of a person it can actually define their personality. If that’s so and it is, then removal of resentment can actually temporarily lead to a sense of loss of identity. To give it up can be as spiritually painful as physical amputation.

There’s no way we can bring resentments along with us into God’s kingdom. Heaven will consist of “spiritual amputees” whose anger and resentments have been removed. Giving up resentment will seem like at the time the most unnatural, self-destructive thing we can imagine. Forgiveness, in some respects, for some things can be almost as great a miracle as walking on the water, yet to gouge it from our lives is necessary to spiritual health. One reason anger and resentment must be dealt with [before sundown] is that; these two bad boys are famous for MUTATING into something uglier.

HERE’S WHY WE MUST SHAKE OFF THE DUST OF OUR RESENTMENTS…

Have you ever spent time in the company of a resentful person? It’s awful, it’s sad, it’s upsetting and it’s depressing. What would be really sad would be to be that person oneself, then you could never escape the company of a resentful person. What these folk are like is simple, they keep talking about things that happened years ago and you can tell they’re “feeling it.”

Have you ever been around a health clinic or hospital and seen a special waste container labeled BIOHAZARD? Into this contained are put items that present a health threat to anyone who comes in contact with them. Imagine with me now another kind of BIOHAZARD. Into this container goes anything that represents a threat to our soul’s health, whether it be-Repression, Rejection, Ruin, Regrets, or Resentment.

The question becomes; are we willing to take the action of putting all the dust of the past and present into this container intended for dangerous spiritual waste and give it all to God?

God will gladly accept these ugly offerings because He knows that in their place won’t be a gaping wound, but will become the site of renewed spiritual health and vitality.



Blessings,



John