Friday, July 3, 2015

"Jesus Take The Wheel"

By John Stallings


A few years back Carrie Underwood won first place on the T.V talent show American Idol.

One of Carrie’s biggest hits has been the song “Jesus take the wheel.” It tells the story of a young mother who was trying to make it home for Christmas when her car spun out of control. In desperation she threw her hands up and asked Jesus to take control of the car.

Here are the words of that, I believe, powerful song…

She was driving last Friday on her way to Cincinnati
On a snow white Christmas Eve
Going home to see her Mama and her Daddy with the baby in the backseat
Fifty miles to go and she was running low on faith and gasoline
It'd been a long hard year
She had a lot on her mind and she didn't pay attention
she was going way too fast
Before she knew it she was spinning on a thin black sheet of glass
She saw both their lives flash before her eyes
She didn't even have time to cry
She was sooo scared
She threw her hands up in the air
Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Jesus take the wheel
It was still getting colder when she made it to the shoulder
And the car came to a stop
She cried when she saw that baby in the backseat sleeping like a rock
And for the first time in a long time
She bowed her head to pray
She said I'm sorry for the way
I've been living my life
I know I've got to change
So from now on tonight
Jesus take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can't do this on my own
I'm letting go
So give me one more chance
Save me from this road I'm on
Ooh, Jesus take the wheel
(James/Lindsey/Sampson)

These lyrics resonate with millions of people because they express what we all so often feel … the need for guidance in our lives. When in our humanness we’ve gotten things all messed up we reach out for a power beyond ourselves to take control.

SOMETHING NEW

In 1988 something new happened in the American political process. That year, for the first time in a long time, an avowedly evangelical candidate ran for the presidency of the United States.

George Bush won the election but if you roll the tape of your mind backwards—back before the Republican Convention, back to the early primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina, you may recall that Pat Robertson was also a candidate for president.

When Robertson entered the race, there was great furor among the mainstream media in America. How could an ordained minister, a “televangelist” at that, dare to run for president?

For a while it seemed as if Pat might actually have a chance to win. He won the Iowa caucuses, came in third in New Hampshire, and second in South Carolina. Nearly two million people voted for him. By the time of the Republican Convention, Pat Robertson, the man the media loved to hate, came in third place behind George Bush and Bob Dole. Third place would seem to be a good showing for somebody who was new on the national political scene.

After the general election was over and after George Bush had become President, Pat Robertson wrote the story of his political campaign from the standpoint of his Christian faith. The book that resulted is a book about the will of God called The Plan.

Bittersweet Victory

The book is about the fact of Robertson’s defeat in the 1988 election, and highlights the strange feeling among his delegates to the Republican Convention in New Orleans. On the one hand, they ought to be happy because their man had done so well. At last their views were being heard. But the victory was tempered by the reality that Pat Robertson had come in third. He paints the picture and poses the question this way:

“In the quest for the highest secular prize our nation has to offer, a third place finish is respectable. But my supporters were devastated. It was as if they mourned for the dead, feeling—as I did—that God had called me to win, not run third.

So in New Orleans I was asking one simple question—did God call me to run for president or not? And if He did call me, why did I lose?”

Pat Robertson’s book asked- How do you explain coming in third when you truly believed that it was God’s will for you to win?

WHAT HAPPENED LORD?

It’s a common question, isn’t it? You set out to get a new job, you work hard for it, you go through the interview, do your very best, believing your heart this is the job God wants you to have. Then somebody else gets the job. And you say, “Lord, I thought I was doing your will.”

Or you get the job, and you say, “Thank you, Lord.” Six months later you’re fired. And you say, “What happened, Lord?”

Or you think, “If only we could move to Florida, we would be happy.” So you move believing it to be the will of God. When you get there, you still are not happy. And you say, “Lord, did we make a mistake?”

You are a college student dreaming of being a doctor. You pray that God will help you get into medical school. You go through the grueling years of pre-medical courses, staying up late at night, taking chemistry, science and math courses. To your delight, you are accepted by the first school you apply to. Two years later you are washed out, unable to handle the pressure. And you say, “God, I thought you wanted me to be a doctor. Where did I go wrong?”

We know that we weren’t put on the earth without a purpose, to grope blindly through the darkness. But that’s the way life feels sometimes, especially when you come in third.

DISCOVERING GOD’S WILL

Let’s begin where a man named Saul began when he was struck down on the road to Damascus. After he learned that it was Jesus talking to him, he only asked one question:

Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 22:10)

Simple. Straightforward. No conditions or qualifications. It was the question that changed Saul the tormentor into Paul, the flaming evangelist.

“Lord, what do you want me to do?”

We all have to start right here. Same question. You’ll never discover God’s will if you start anywhere else. This is Step One and we can’t skip it.

It’s a primary question for those high school students who wonder if they should go to college, and if so, which one? It’s a central concern for all the college students who wonder what they should do for the next 50 years. It’s the crucial issue for every college graduate. What do you do now? Which job do you take? Should you get married? Where should you live?

It’s also the key question for the adults. It’s for the people who are in their thirties, their forties, the mid-life transition point. It’s for the people who are weighing one opportunity versus another, the job they have versus the job they want, the house they have versus another house they would like to have, a relationship they’re in versus another relationship they’d like to be in.

IS THAT ALL THERE IS?

Perhaps you’re in mid-life. You’ve put in 10 or 15 or 20 years at your job and now you’re wondering, “Is that all there is?” One day you wake up and realize, “My dreams aren’t coming true.” Maybe you’re at the top or you’ve just realized that you aren’t going to make it to the top. What do you do now? Being at that mid-life transition point seems to make the decisions harder, not easier. When you’re 17, you think the whole world is spread out before you. After 25 years the window of opportunity is slowly beginning to close. You can’t go back, you aren’t happy where you are, the future looks bleak, so you ask the question, “Lord, what is it that you want me to do?”

A few more years pass and now you are 55 or 60 or 65 or 70. If you’re a Christian, you want your closing years to count for the Lord.

OUR SECRET FEAR

We all want to stand before the Lord and hear him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” I think all of us have a secret fear that someday the Lord will say to us, “You did a good job at what you chose to do, but, unfortunately, it’s not what I sent you to earth to do.” We worry that someday after leading a very successful life; God will say to us, “Nice going, but you missed the whole thing.”

A WORD TO THE WISE

Ephesians 5:17 says,

Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Knowing the will of God for your life is the primary difference between being wise and being foolish. In God’s eyes, the number one thing that makes the difference between you as a wise or foolish person is that you know, understand and do God’s will for your life.

The following IMHO are four wrong ideas about God’s guidance and a biblical answer for each one. Each of these myths is quite popular and devastating in its impact.

Myth # -1 GOD WANTS YOU TO KNOW THE FUTURE

What a mistake. It’s rarely God’s will that you should know your personal future. God isn’t interested in showing you your future. God wants to show you the next step. That’s how he reveals his will for your life—one step at a time.

Psalm 119:105 paints a clear picture about how we discover the will of God:

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”

The picture here is not of a blazing light. It’s a picture of a man in total darkness walking along a dangerous trail. There is no moon in the sky. Darkness clings to him. The only thing he has to illuminate his way is a lantern. As he holds the lantern in his hand, it lights the step right in front of him. When he takes that step, the light goes forward one more step.

ONE STEP AT A TIME

How does God guide his people? He’ll show us the next step. God isn’t about showing us what’s going to happen six months or a year from now. He wants us to know the next step, and nothing more.

Let’s face it; we all want to know the future. At least we think we do. We want to know what is going to happen next year so we can be ready in advance. But God won’t play that game.

GOD KNOWS—BUT HE’S NOT TELLING

Does God know the future? Yes, he does. But the Bible says,

“The secret things belong to the Lord our God.” (Deuteronomy 29:29)

God knows what will happen tomorrow, but he’s not telling anyone about it.

If you and I knew the future, we wouldn’t be able to understand it because there are so many factors that play into it. Most of us want simple answers, “Will the stock market go up or down?” “Should I take that new job?” “If I ask Sally to marry me, will she say yes?” God knows the big picture, but if he showed us, either we wouldn’t understand it or it would scare us half to death.

If we knew the future, it would make us either lazy or arrogant. It might make us lazy because we wouldn’t have to work so hard, already knowing what the future was going to be. Or it might tend to make us arrogant because we would know something other people wouldn’t know. Either way, whether lazy or arrogant, we’d be insufferable.

The most important reason it’s good not to know the future is that knowing your future destroys your faith. If you knew the future, you wouldn’t be walking by faith but by sight. It’s God’s desire to show you the next step, and he will.

DOES GOD HAVE A BLUEPRINT FOR YOUR LIFE?

Does God have a blueprint for your life that includes everything from the moment of your birth to the moment of your death? The answer to that question is “Yes.” But—and this is an all-important point…

I don’t know of any way you can get a copy.

He’s got the only copy, and he’s got it in a “lock box” up in heaven, and he’s got the only key. God wants to teach us to trust him- step by step. He reveals his will one step at a time so you will trust him moment by moment.

The second popular myth about God’s will is...

Myth # 2: GOD WILL GIVE YOU TOTAL CERTAINTY BEFORE YOU MAKE A DECISION.

Many people believe they must be 100% certain of God’s will before they make a decision. I can understand their thinking. After all, if you are facing a life-changing decision—a potential marriage, a cross-country move, a new career, which college to attend, whether or not to begin chemotherapy—you’d like to know in advance beyond any doubt that you are doing what God wants you to do.

If you have any doubt, don’t, or so the saying goes. If you aren’t sure about the new job, don’t take it, don’t make the move, don’t say yes, and don’t make any decision with less than total certainty.

But is that good advice? Is it realistic? Is that the way God normally works? I think not.

HOW MUCH DID THEY KNOW?

Did Noah know all about the flood? No, but he built the ark anyway.

Did Abraham have total certainty? No, but he left Ur of the Chaldees.

Did Jacob know where he was going? No, but he left home because he couldn’t safely stay there.

Did Moses understand what it meant to lead God’s people out of Egypt? No, but he said yes when the Lord called him.

Did Joshua know how the walls were going to come tumbling down? No, but he marched around Jericho anyway.

Did Gideon fully grasp God’s plan to defeat the Midianites? No, he doubted it from the beginning but God delivered his people anyway.

Did young David have a clue of what was to come when Samuel said to Jesse, “This is the one"? No, but the Spirit of the Lord came upon him anyway.

Did Daniel know Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in advance?

Did the three Hebrew children know how they would be delivered?

Was Daniel sure the lions would welcome him dropping in on them?

Did Peter know he could walk on water?

Did Paul know the serpent wouldn’t hurt him?

The answer is no. The life of faith means living with uncertainty even in the midst of doing God’s will. That’s the whole point of Hebrews 11. Those great men and women didn’t know the future, or have certainty, but they trusted God anyway, sometimes in the face of great suffering. And because of that, they won a great reward.

LOOKING FOR “THE MAN”

Acts 16 is a very interesting chapter. This chapter records Paul’s second missionary journey. He and his team had been preaching in various places in Phrygia and Galatia but when he attempted to go to the province of Asia, the Holy Spirit “prevented them.” (16:6) No one knows exactly how the Holy Spirit stopped them. So then they decided to go to Bithynia but “the Spirit would not allow them to.” (16:7). Then Paul had a vision in which a man from Macedonia appeared to him and cried out,

Come over and help us.”

Macedonia was Greece, across the Aegean Sea. That was Europe. Going to Macedonia meant moving from Asia to Europe. Paul’s vision was a direct, supernatural message from God. So Paul and his companions crossed the sea, went to Macedonia, and began to preach the gospel.

Now, if you just took that story the way that most people take the will of God, there are several things you’d expect based on the vision of the man from Macedonia. First, that when you got to Macedonia, the first person you would meet would be “the man,” -right there welcoming you off the boat. “I’m the man you saw in your dream. Welcome to Macedonia.”

If it had been me I’d have had great expectations of what would be waiting on me. I’d have been expecting “the man” to run up and shake my hand and say, “Come on, you’re staying at my house. I’ve got a whole area set aside for you with big bedrooms and a sauna. Let’s hurry up. My wife has supper on the table. Man I’m glad you’re here. We’re gonna start a church.”

Thinking rationally a person would expect when they got to a crucial point in their ministry that God would give them another vision and show them the next thing that he wanted them to do.

Then they’d expect that they’d stay in Macedonia a long time, perhaps for the rest of their life, until another miracle took place.

But look what happened to the Apostle Paul when he got to Macedonia. The man from Macedonia was nowhere to be found. So far as we know, Paul never met the man who appeared in his vision.

Who’s the first person Paul meets in Macedonia? Not a man but a group of women, and one woman in particular whose name was Lydia. It was a man who said, “Come over and help us.” But Paul meets a woman.

Now, if we were following the 100 percent certainty idea, we might say to ourselves, “I can’t stay and preach the gospel to you because I’m looking for the man who appeared to me in the vision.” But that’s not the way Paul operated. Paul assumed that since there was a group of women there, they were the ones he was to preach to. Paul stayed there for many days, leading Lydia and the members of her household to faith in Jesus Christ.

JAILHOUSE ROCK

But that’s not the end of chapter 16. While he stayed with Lydia, a demon-possessed girl followed Paul around, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” She was saying the right things but with a wrong spirit. The whole thing troubled Paul so much that he finally cast the demon out of the girl. But she had made money for the merchants as a fortune teller. So the merchants got mad at Paul and had him arrested. He was thrown in jail along with Silas after the two of them were savagely beaten.

They ended up singing hymns at midnight when a mighty earthquake destroyed the jail, breaking all the chains. The jailer woke up, assumed everyone had escaped and prepared to kill himself. When he discovered that the prisoners were still there, he fell down before Paul and cried, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul led him to Christ, then led his whole family to Christ, then baptized them all right then and there—in the middle of the night!

You might think that the stage is set for a great revival but that’s not what happened. The next day Paul and Silas were released but Paul didn’t want to leave town like a common criminal. So Paul demanded—and got—an official escort out of town. The town leaders in essence say to him, “Paul, you know we practice freedom of religion, but you’ve caused a lot of trouble here. We would like you to leave town just as soon as you can.” The Bible says that Paul thanked the people he was with, prayed with them, then he and his team went on to the next city. That’s Acts 16.

But where was the man from Macedonia? He never showed up. He was a “no-show.” So far as we know Paul never got another supernatural vision telling him what to do next. And he didn’t stay there for years. He only stayed in Philippi for a few days and then went on to the next city.

DID PAUL FLOP AT PHILIPPI?

From the world’s point of view, what Paul did in Philippi looks like a failure. He was in trouble almost from the moment he got there. He ends up having the town fathers asking him to leave quietly. Is this success? Where’s the great church Paul came to establish? Acts 16 appears from a human standpoint to record a dismal failure. But from God’s point of view what the Apostle Paul did was a success because he followed the leading that God gave him. He took a step, God gave more light, he took another step, and God gave more light.

Because Paul knew that God had sent him to preach the gospel, it didn’t matter to him whether he was in jail or on the streets, he was going to preach the gospel wherever he was. Paul continued to do the will of God as he understood it. And step by step, throughout Acts 16, even through twists and turns, Paul did exactly what God wanted him to do although what he did in the end was not what he expected to do in the beginning.

MOMENT BY MOMENT-STEP BY STEP

God leads his people step by step. You might have a supernatural vision along the way but it isn’t mandatory. What is necessary is a willing heart and a willingness to move out in faith in obedience in the leading of the Lord. You and I will rarely know the future, and things won’t always work out like we expect, but we’ll still be doing God’s will step by step.

Doing God’s will means taking the next step—whatever it is—without a definite promise about the end result. Without 100% certainty when the moment comes to decide, we must make the best decision we can with the information we’ve got, trusting God for the results. Sometimes we’ll know more, sometimes less, but living by faith means taking the next step anyway.

And that leads us directly to the third myth.

Myth # 3: GOD WANTS ME TO BE HAPPY

Millions of people buy into this false idea. They believe that it is God’s will that they should be happy. It sounds good, doesn’t it? “God wants me to be happy, fulfilled and successful.” That thinking has been used to justify all manner of bizarre and even evil behavior. That philosophy lurks behind the words of a song popular in the late 70s: “How can it be wrong when it feels so right?”

People have used this myth to justify every kind of sinful behavior. Some Christians have said, “It’s God’s will that I should divorce my spouse and marry someone else because we’re in love, and God wants us to be happy. After all, everyone has the right to happiness.” The correct theological term for that is “Balderdash and Bologna.”

NOT NECESSARILY HAPPY-BUT HOLY

If it’s not God’s will for us to be happy, what is God’s will? It’s God’s will for us to be holy. It’s God’s will for us to be like Jesus. It’s God’s will for us to be in a place of maximum usefulness for the kingdom of God.

Romans 8:29 says, “Those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.”

That is the will of God for your life. He wants you to become Christ like. Whatever makes you like Jesus is good. Whatever doesn’t make you like Jesus is bad. And God wants to shape our lives day by day into the image of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Was Jesus a Failure?

If God’s will is to make us happy and successful, then Jesus was a failure. He was rejected, beaten, hated, despised, mocked, abused and finally crucified—the world’s ultimate sign of rejection. And to this day there are millions of people who mock the name of Jesus Christ, laugh at him, care nothing for him, and think he was a failure. Was he? Was Jesus Christ a failure? After 2,000 years has Jesus finally been vindicated? In the hearts of those who believe—yes. But to the people of the world—no.

Will God’s plan for you and me always bring immediate worldly wealth and success? No, but God’s plan will always bring peace and joy. Our duty is to find his perfect plan for our lives and to follow it with the ability that he gives us. It’s his responsibility to bring about the results.

Here’s the final myth.

Myth # 4: GOD MAKES HIS WILL HARD TO FIND

God wants you to know his will more than you want to know it. God is more committed to showing you his will than you are to discovering it. And he has taken full responsibility for getting you from here to there step by step. He said, “I will never leave you.” (Hebrews 13:5) And he won’t. He said, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go.” (Psalm 32:8) And he will. He said, “Lo, I am with you always.” (Matthew 28:20) And he is. Basically God is saying, “Trust me.”

Sometimes that means victory. Sometimes that means coming in third.

In his book, Pat Robertson looks back at his campaign and draws three conclusions. (I am paraphrasing his words) First, “I now understand it was God’s will for me to run. It was not God’s will for me to win.” Number two, “I didn’t understand that until the end looking back.” Number three, “I see that out of the pain and humiliation of that defeat, God brought great blessing.”

Robertson talks about how thousands of Christians got involved in the political process for the first time and how the Lord used the defeat to prune CBN back so it was poised for even greater growth in the future. He concludes that what seemed to be a tragedy ultimately brought great blessing. That’s what often happens when we do God’s will.

Do you want to know God’s will? If the answer is no or if you are not sure, then let me ask a second question: Are you willing to be made willing? Are you willing to be made willing? If you will say, “Lord, I am not sure I am willing, but I am willing to be made willing,” he will lead you step by step.

In closing, here’s an excerpt from Pat Robertson’s book.

“The week before the Super Tuesday primary I flew into the Bristol, Tennessee, Tri-Cities airport for a rally. There were about one thousand people in that early-morning crowd-shouting, clapping, waving banners. After a brief speech, I walked across to shake hands with the people.

One member of that big crowd lives in my memory -- a little towheaded, freckle-faced boy about 10 years old. He looked up at me with eyes full of trust, and as I shook his hand, said with all the earnestness he could muster, "Please win!"

To him I must reply, "Son I don't know your name, but I want you to know this. I followed God's plan for me, so in His eyes I did win."

And you, too, can always be a winner, if you just put your hand in God's hand and walk on down the road with Him.

Blessings,


John

P.S. I felt as if I'd been kicked in the stomach upon hearing of the homegoing of one of God's 5 Star Generals, David Wilkerson.  Our hearts and  prayers go out to his wife who's currently fighting for her life and his family and great church in New York. Blessings--Jas

Sunday, June 28, 2015

SShhhhhh

By John Stallings


Once I was asked to speak at a church banquet and as I rose to speak, people were finishing their deserts and still engaged in small talk.

Not being all that used to speaking under these conditions, I just stood there and looked out at the folk. The Pastor who understood the room said to me, tell them to SSssssshhhh. I didn’t want to do it but finally I leaned into the mike and said, SSSssssshhhh, in a gentle but firm way and as I did I noticed things slightly quiet down.

The Pastors wife then spoke up and said “Bro. Stallings, tell them louder to SSSsssshhhhh. I looked at her and said, “Does that work?” She answered, “It’s the only thing that does work.” Well I SSSSssshhhed them again a little louder and this time they looked as if a gunshot had gone off. I finally had my audience and all it took was a fairly loud SSssssshhhhh. Everyone seemed fine with it.

I’ve thought many times about that and wondered why we human beings respond so well to SSssssshhh. I can remember many times as a child when my Mother would just say SSshhh to us. Often that’s all she would say and it usually got the job done. Sometimes if the ssshhh wasn’t heeded things got a little rougher. Maybe it was even the first thing she ever said to me as baby, sssshhhhh it’s o.k., be quiet son—Sssssshhhh. There there-sssshhhh.

One time I was going through a stressful patch and somehow a mania hit me to just talk-talk-talk about it to anyone who would listen. One night as I meditated I distinctly heard God’s voice whisper to me, “son, ssshhhhhhh. Give it a rest. Stop dwelling on the problem son, you’re making too big a thing out of this SSSssssshhhhh. Keep it low key-low key—easy-does-it, keep the problem small in your mind.” Yes God said exactly that to my spirit. I was stunned in a way but then as usual I began to see God’s point. I was so revved up that I had the problem all out of proportion.

Over the last years our nation has gone through some tough elections. It seems that even now about all we hear are negative things said from both sides of the political spectrum. It causes us to wonder how things have gotten so crazy. I often wonder how two groups of people in America can look at the same event and come to such dramatically different conclusions? Yes we have problems and yes we should be able to speak our convictions but let’s not “throw the baby [America] out with the bath water.” Won’t we all wake up Americans tomorrow? The answer to that is yes, If we keep our hearts right. It's not just the "left wing" or the Right wing" we need to be concerned about, it's the whole bird we need to watch.

Many times the best thing we can do when things get stressful is just stand back, take a deep breath and relax. Sssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

I remember an actor named Larry Hagman who for many years played J.R on the TV show Dallas. I read that one day a week he wouldn’t talk to anyone , he’d wear a sign on his chest saying “please excuse me I’m not talking today, It’s my day of silence.” I think Larry had a good idea. Sometimes a little peace and quiet is fine. God bless you Larry!

Power Leakage occurs with too much talk.Samson lost his power because he wanted to talk and when he spoke he gave away the secret of this power. Have you ever talked until you were just totally tired out? Talking takes the strength out of you. Ask any preacher or teacher. In WW2 there was a big promotion in American called “Loose lips sink ships.” They observed that when people were loose in their talk about the work they were doing, for some reason more bad things happened. Have you ever been riding down the road or engaged in some activity when all at once you started thinking about something you said? Am I the only one who does that? You shake your head and say "Oh God, why did I say that? "

Perhaps that’s why David said in Psalm 141:3;

“Set a watch Oh Lord before my mouth keep the door of my lips.”

Help me to SSSSssssshhhhhhhh.I once heard a man say, “I can tell you what I know and I can tell you what I think, which one do you want to hear?” Believe me, telling what we know takes lot’s less time doesn’t it? But most of the time when we talk we don’t make a clear distinction between the two.

WE SHOULD BE WARY OF IDLE CHATTER.

Jesus said in Matthew 12:36, “But I say unto you that every idle word that men speak they shall give account thereof in the Day of Judgment.”
This is speaking of idle gossip. Frightening isn’t it? How often have you heard these words, “you didn’t hear this from me?” That opener will usually start a statement off that will be hurtful to someone and believe it or not, very often the reason for the statement is to hurt someone. The definition of Gossip is; “Rumor or talk of a personal or sensational nature, someone who habitually spreads sensational or intimate facts.” We have all seen the gossip rags in grocery stores and sadly that’s where America’s mind set is these days. Too bad we Christians are not exempt, but we aren’t, we seem to crave it as much as anyone.

MANY DON’T SEEM TO BE AWARE THAT LOOSE AND IDLE TALK IS WRONG.

If you’ve ever wondered why people continue to engage in such a harmful practice, the answer is many faceted: many seem to feel its o.k. because we get away with it. We do it and nothing bad happens to us immediately. Other folk do it because they’ve never heard a reliable source talk or teach on it. And maybe it’s this; some are too rebellious to stop gossiping.

Proverbs 9; 8 tells us “A scoffer who is rebuked will only hate you; the wise when rebuked will love you.”

It is obvious that gossip isn’t a popular subject but it sure as a popular thing to do.

James 3:5-8 says, “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, yet it boasts great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire. And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. For every species of beasts and birds, of reptile and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil full of deadly poison.”{NASB}.

Though the tongue can’t be tamed outside a divine intervention of the Holy Ghost, just as a wild animal, it can be trained and there- in lies our victory. Meditating on and speaking what is true-God’s Word, day and night.God’s word places the practice of gossip in serious categories. In Romans 1:29-30 it is among sins like deceit, malice, slander and arrogance, and is called deceiving and defamatory, accompanied by cruelty and pride.


In 2 Timothy 3; 1-3 we find another Pauline list of vices and sins and God places gossip right in the middle of it. Is it any wonder that one of the Ten Commandments is, “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor?” We can say what we will but that which slips from our lips is a dead give away of what’s in our hearts. We often forget that mouth/heart connection don’t we?

The Psalmist David cried out;

let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight Oh Lord my rock and my Redeemer.”Psalm 19; 14.

GOSSIP IS A DEVILISH GENIUS- IT GIVES A DRUG-LIKE EFFECT AS IT SWINGS BETWEEN LIFTING US UP AND PUTTING SOMEONE ELSE DOWN.

Isn’t it amazing how fake we can be sometimes? Have you ever seen someone run another person down and practically demonize them and almost in the next breath walk up to that person and embrace them like they were long lost buddies? I am not finger pointing and saying I’ve always been strong in this area. I’m saying to you that God is dealing with me and breaking me in this area and I weep at the times I’ve let myself and God down going against what I knew to be right.

We seem to feel that we can make our hum-drum lives better and feel better about ourselves if we run someone else down. The real issue isn’t so much about the other person as it is our own mentality and self-portrait. And maybe we also possess just a dash of criticism of God and the way he made the other person.

Listen to how hellish the Corinthians sound in 2 Corinthians 12:20.

“For I am afraid that when I come I may not find you as I want you to be, and you may not find me as you want me to be. I fear that there may be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder.”
Read that verse sometime and also read the verse after it. Friend I don’t know about you but that sounds like hell to me, but its Christians.

Over the years I have personally witnessed how gossip has affected friendships. The arrogance of others has cost me pain from lies and, just as important, half-truths that were spread about me. Perhaps you’ve experienced the same. I say this not out of bitterness because I’m a healed man today , but I never want my words to ever cause anyone the pain vicious gossip has cost me.

As a people, what do we possibly have to gain by this? It does nothing but separate and destroy us. We are, and have been too long, destroying the Kingdom of God He has so graciously provided.

The good news is that we can beat this quagmire if we come together and put forth an effort to be real with each other and learn again to love as Jesus taught us to love.

Lesson One.---SSSSSSSSSSSSssssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhh.


Blessings,


John

Friday, June 26, 2015

Is Anyone Born Gay?

By John Stallings


Is there a “Gay Gene?”

I read an article recently about Pastor Jim Swilly, the pastor of a Georgia “mega church” announcing that he is gay.

Pastor Swilley stated, “I know a lot of straight people think it is a choice. It is not.” He went on to say that he has known of his homosexuality since he was a boy.

Is it true that homosexuals have no choice in the matter? Are people born gay? More importantly, is this really the question we should be asking? We’ll get back to that.

I’m not an expert on gender issues and sexual identity. I don’t pretend to be. So, I’m not going to be giving my expert opinions about those things, because I don’t have any. I am simply going to attempt to stick with what the Bible clearly teaches.

The 'born gay' argument for homosexuality states that same sex attraction is natural to some individuals in that it is genetically determined, not freely chosen.

It would stand to reason that if homosexuality is genetically determined, it cannot be resisted or changed and, therefore, must be morally permissible. How could it be otherwise? To condemn it would be condemning someone for something that was out of their control.

Most gay people say that they’ve been attracted to the same sex for as long as they can remember, just as heterosexuals would say about their sexual preference. So it’s natural to them.

There are two ways that the argument for homosexuality is promoted:
first, by pointing to genetic studies related to same-sex attraction;
and second, by an appeal to personal experience.

The field of genetics has not discovered a gay gene. Many scientists think homosexuality is caused by a complex combination of genes, brain chemistry and psychosocial factors. Consider the following excerpt from the American Psychological Association’s publication:

“Answers to Your Questions: For a Better Understanding of Sexual Orientation and Homosexuality:”

"There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation.

Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”
In other words, there is no “gay gene.”

If science were to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that homosexuality isn’t genetically determined, [they already have,] gay people would not feel any less convinced that they were born gay. In other words, gay people wouldn’t automatically walk away from their lifestyle on the basis of what a scientists found in a laboratory.

However, if science someday proved that murderers are born murderers in the same way that many gay people believe they are born gay, it would be safe to say that gay people wouldn’t conclude that murder is morally permissible for those who are “born that way.”

What the argument seems to boil down to then, is that some gay people believe they were born gay because they are naturally attracted to their sex. The desire wasn't coerced, or forced, or acquired after years of trying, it just sort of developed as naturally as the ability to walk and talk.

"Natural" is difficult to define in relation to sexual orientation, but in this case it seems to mean something like "a development according to natural processes." How we discover whether something is natural to us is another matter, of course. I think it’s safe to say that the way most gay people would describe same-sex attraction as natural to them is the same way most heterosexuals would describe it: a deeply felt desire.

If this is true, then the 'born gay' argument seems to be saying this: homosexuality is morally permissible because same-sex attraction is natural.

But the question of nature versus nurture is a moot point.

The Bible is clear that we were all born slaves to what is known as a SIN NATURE. It is natural for people to sin. [ See Genesis 3 and Romans 5 to learn how we inherited this sin nature.]

The “born gay” argument says that if something is natural, that is, a deeply felt desire or attraction, then it is morally acceptable. However, this argument could be used to show that any desire that feels natural to someone is morally permissible. On these grounds, traits such as selfishness, violence, gluttony, laziness, or even homophobia could be justified as natural.

This is obviously a silly argument. All of us have natural desires --even deeply felt ones--that should be resisted or even eliminated because they are unhealthy, harmful, or wicked. The fact that it's a natural desire isn’t a sufficient factor in evaluating the morality of same-sex attraction.
I would argue that this calls for an authority beyond us to help us understand which desires are good and which are bad. Like say, -the Bible.

There are only two ways to get around the biblical teaching against homosexual behavior: by gross misinterpretation or by moving away from a high view of the Bible.

The Bible endorses heterosexuality and discourages homosexuality in two ways:

1. The model of the male/female marriage relationship as outlined in the creation account (Genesis 1-3) and supported throughout the Bible; and

2. By specifically forbidding perversions of this model, including adultery, polygamy, incest, lust, homosexuality, etc. [ Leviticus 18; Romans 1]

God loves gay people. Since we all know God loves all people, I don’t think it really necessary to list here a bunch of Bible verses about God’s love for humanity.

God doesn’t love labels. He loves people. Whether people are gay or straight, Asian or European, black, white, Hispanic, male or female—He loves people, as they are. One thing that unites us all is that God loves us with a crazy, unconditional love. If God loves that way, then godly people do too.

However God designed sex to be expressed between a man and a woman in the context of marriage. Any other sexual expression is therefore, outside of God’s design.

To understand God’s design for human sexuality, let’s go all the way back to the beginning, to the book of Genesis, 2:18-25. The Lord God said,

“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him. The Lord God made a woman, brought her to the man. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh. The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.”

We learn a lot about God’s design right in these few verses.

1. First, God created sex, and therefore sex is a good thing.

2. Second, He created humans with gender, male and female, and the suitable complement for Adam was a woman.

3. Third, sex was designed for man and woman in a committed relationship called marriage.
Any sexual expression outside of that design is sinful and ultimately destructive.

At the risk of beating a dead cliche’, “God created Adam and Eve, not Adam and Freddy.”

Homosexuality is a departure from that design, because God did not create sex or marriage to be a same sex relationship. Since homosexuality violates God’s blueprint for sexuality, it shouldn’t be too surprising that when the Bible speaks about homosexuality it describes it as a sinful departure from God’s will for us.

Leviticus 20:13 says: ‘”If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable...Romans 1:18 and 26-27 says:

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness…Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
There is not one example where homosexuality is mentioned in the Bible where it is condoned. Because it is outside of God’s design, it is always described as sin.

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind. 1 Corinthians 6:9

Those who practice the homosexual lifestyle learn sooner or later that it’s anything but gay. The truth is that the median age of death for the homosexual male is 38 and for lesbians it is 45. This shorter life span is no doubt due to the following risks associated with homosexual behavior:
They are more likely to face chronic, potentially fatal liver disease (infective hepatitis) which increases the risk of liver cancer. They put themselves at risk of contracting AIDS, which, in spite of medical breakthroughs still eventually kills everyone infected.

Those who practice homosexuality have a high frequency of fatal rectal cancer. They have a much higher than average incidence of suicide-six times as high as that of heterosexual men. Between 25 and 33 percent of homosexual men are alcoholics while the national average is less than 7 percent.

Does this sound like a comfortable, healthy, desirable lifestyle? I don't think so. In fact, as I look at these statistics I remember the warning of Proverbs:

There is a way that seems right to man but in the end it leads to death. –Proverbs 14:12.

When man sinned in the Garden of Eden, many of our natural drives turned selfish, wicked,
harmful, unhealthy, etc. Further, the fall of man into sin wreaked havoc on the natural order, resulting in birth defects, deformities, diseases, etc. So now people are born with serious maladies, deformities, handicaps; some children contract terminal illnesses and die untimely deaths. Others experience a lifetime of suffering. Some are mentally handicapped or mentally ill.

We come into this world imperfect physically and morally/spiritually. It could be argued that it is not fair that these people suffered such ravages of the natural order. It is not a child's fault that he/she is born deaf or blind. But it is a fact that, marred as our world now is through sin, some are born with greater challenges, more miserable maladies, more intense moral challenges than others.

It’s possible then, just possible that the same distorted natural order that produces people who experience chronic pain, or depression, or deformities, or die untimely deaths, or suffer from sexual addiction could produce others with sexual tendencies counter to God's ideal. Everyone who wants to follow Jesus will have to, by his grace, resist temptation and radically alter certain tendencies. No doubt some are saddled with greater challenges than others to overcome.
Some gay people dedicate their lives to Christ and become straight, with varying degrees of difficulty in making the change. I don’t doubt or underestimate the massive life-restructuring that is necessary for some to become straight.

But at the same time I will not deny the power of God to change lives.

Sexual temptation is perhaps the hardest to fight, but God’s promise is real. He will strengthen
us so that we can win over any temptation, and always provide a way of escape. We all struggle with weaknesses, this is true for everyone who wants to follow Christ.

1 Corinthians 10:13 Paul says,

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

When it comes to same-sex desires, this does seem to be a very powerful tendency. Can God transform that? Sure He can. There are stories of that happening, as people pursue God and Christian counseling, that God actually changes whole tendencies and preferences.

My own experience with sinful tendencies is that He has not taken all my fleshly proclivities away. What He has done is given me strength to face them, as I am honest with God, honest with other supportive friends, as I flee tempting situations, and then trust God to be faithful. It’s actually in that weakness that spiritual growth happens, as we learn what it means to rely on God, as we learn what it means for him to be our strength.

There is no “ flip of the switch” to change any of these temptations or weaknesses. If there was, we would all flip the switch. With people who feel an attraction to their own sex, they must do the same as the person who fights heterosexual temptation, a hot temper, urges to steal, kill, cheat and lie. This must be confessed to God as we walk daily before Him, leaning on His Holy Spirit to help us live overcoming lives.

It appears that our society has come to a point where if one holds that homosexuality is immoral or if one does not support gay marriage… he is often considered ignorant, mean, or "homophobic." There is a social tyranny to this issue that is extremely troubling.

If we were talking about harming others for their sexual preferences, that would be one thing, but to disagree philosophically and Biblically and be put down for it is quite another.

Getting back to Pastor Swilley, I don’t doubt that he has felt a natural inclination to sin in this way. I personally have had a natural inclination towards heterosexual immorality, gluttony, and pride, to name a few. These are all lifestyle sins and God considers my sin the same as Mr. Swilleys.

Frankly I don’t know enough about Swilley to comment much more except to say, if he has admitted to being tempted in this way that’s one thing. If he’s advocating or pursuing the homosexual lifestyle, that’s entirely another thing. God has also called Mr. Swilley, myself , and every one of us to forsake what is natural to fallen people.

Outside of Christ we’re all sinful, and that means we all have a strong pull toward things outside of God’s will for us, whether it’s a hot temper, jealousy, slander, gossip, materialism, pornography, drunkenness, spiritual pride or a gambling addiction. Every one of us has life struggles with sin, strong magnetic pulls away from God and toward sin. Having an orientation toward something doesn’t make it legitimate.

THE REAL QUESTION WE SHOULD BE ASKING
The question isn’t really- is a person born gay? The way they were born really has nothing to do with anything because our choices, not our temptations define us. We’ve already established that some were born with hot tempers or with a greater sex drive than others. Who hasn’t had a child to lie to them and manipulate them? All of us are born needing a new nature and we receive it by yielding ourselves to God and His gracious provision through Jesus Christ His Son.

Listen again to Paul;

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.
For when I am weak, then I am strong.-
2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul describes both outer struggles, persecution and the like, and this inner struggle he had which he describes as a thorn in the flesh, something that Satan used to torment him. We don’t know if it was a sin struggle, an emotional struggle, or a physical struggle, because he doesn’t tell us. It could have been any of these. Three times he prays fervently for God to take it away, and each time God said no, and then a final word:

My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.

This is a very profound reality for anyone who wants more than anything else to be godly. Some of our struggles that we want so badly for God to remove, that we see as enemies to our life, may be the very things God will use to give us real life, real godliness, and depth of maturity.
In Paul’s case, when he prayed for God to change him, to remove the struggle, God didn’t do that. And what Paul came to learn is that the struggle itself was the very thing God used to give him what he wanted most—authentic godliness.

Struggles are not enjoyable, but the deeper the struggle the greater the opportunity for God to be strong in our weakness. When God allows a thorn in the flesh, when God allows a struggle, even as we pray for him to remove it, maybe the most gracious thing He can do is to not remove it, so that this profound growth can happen.

WE NEED TO LOOK CLOSELY AT OUR OWN LIVES
Many folk seem to believe the Bible classifies sin and that the sin of homosexuality is listed as being worse than other sins that we ourselves commit. But this is really a misinterpretation of scripture.

If there were a list of sins from worst to best-then at the top of the list would be pride or arrogance...the belief that my sin doesn't move me as far from God's holiness as your sin does.
The Bible clearly teaches that all of us have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God. It states that this world is in its current depraved state because each of us have given in to sinful desires and are therefore totally dependent on the grace of God.

In I Corinthians 6 Paul says,

-Don't fool yourselves. Those who live immoral lives, who were idol worshipers, adulterers, or homosexuals, will have not share in his kingdom.... And then it says, .

..THERE WAS A TIME WHEN SOME OF YOU WERE JUST LIKE THAT....but now your sins are washed away...You're set apart for God, and He's accepted you because of what the Lord Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God have done for you.Paul acknowledges here that practicing homosexuals in the church were able to find freedom from the practice and that Christ gave them a fresh start. So, healing/change is possible.

As with any addiction, sexual or otherwise, homosexuality will not just go away because the homosexual wants it to disappear. It requires confession, repentance, healing, and accountability. The way out is not easy. If it were, more would have chosen it. But it is possible

Years ago an article was written in the TIMES OF LONDON entitled, What's Wrong With the World? The author of the article was grappling with some of the things that make the world a bad place.

British author and Christian spokesman G. K. Chesterton wrote a letter to the editor following that piece and said,

“I noted with interest the article that you published yesterday entitled, 'What's wrong with the world?' I felt compelled to write and tell you:

I AM.”

Sincerely,

G. K. Chesterton.

Chesterton was right!

We -- you and I -- not just homosexuals -- are what’s wrong with the world. All of our lives are affected by sin...and all of us are equally in need of God's redemption. The ground is level at the cross. We are no better than any other sinners and we have to be humble enough to realize this if we are to act compassionately toward homosexuals in the world who like us desperately need to experience the Love of God.

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:1-2


Blessings,


John

Saturday, June 20, 2015

"Birthright"

By John Stallings


I think the reason so many people enjoy Soap operas on T.V  is they make them feel normal. Or perhaps they make them feel that others are having more problems than they are.

I can get the same feeling from the six-o’clock news or some movies for that matter.

If you like soap operas or if you just love a good story, you’re going to love this. As in the “soaps,” we need a reminder of what’s gone before….. so here it is.

God called Abraham & Sarah to leave their home country & head out to the far land of Canaan, taking with them the promise of descendants as numerous as the stars. But for decades Sarah was unable to bear children until finally the birth of Isaac.

Isaac was a late bloomer, who at forty was still living in the basement of his parent’s tent. Concerned about the future of the family lineage, Abraham sends his servant back to his homeland to seek a bride for Isaac. He finds just the right one; a beautiful, generous, energetic & determined young lady named Rebekah. She responds to the stranger & agrees to go with him to a far away land to marry another stranger.

GOTTA LOVE THIS YOUNG WOMAN CALLED REBEKAH!

Isaac married Rebekah when he was 40 years old. Speaking of soap operas…. Rebekah too was barren- so Isaac asked the Lord to let her bear children.

Have you ever noticed how many women in the Bible struggled to have children? Mary the mother of Jesus was a notable exception of course. Rebekah, like her mother-in-law Sarah, like Hannah the mother of Samuel, like Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist, struggled with the reality that it was difficult for them to get pregnant.

God answered Isaac’s prayer & Rebekah got pregnant, but it was a difficult pregnancy. Twin boys were mixing it up inside her. In Genesis 25:22-23 when she inquired about this “young & restless” unborn duo, God answered; “you’re carrying two nations in your womb.”

These boys’ rambunctious little hands were already clawing at each other in Rebecca’s womb. They were at war before they saw the light of day.

The conflict goes on even to this day. Some say it’s the longest family feud in history.

Being a man, I can’t say much about the gynecological side of Sarah or Rebekah’s situation, [thank God] but I will make a theological comment. Isn’t it interesting that these were all women hand-picked by God to do His will in bringing the ones into the world He planned to use? But even though it was God’s will, still the process wasn’t easy. God wanted the babies to be born but it seemed so hard for them to get here.

Being willing to be used of God is a good thing but people often forget that being used of God has its struggles as well as its great blessings. Indeed, just because God is in a venture doesn’t necessarily guarantee smooth sailing. Paul got into a two-week storm on the high seas on his way to Rome.

When the twins, Jacob & Esau came out of the womb, one was red & the other was hairy. Jacob was grasping Esau’s heel. Jacob’s name actually means “Grabber” or “Supplanter.”

I don’t know if you saw the movie “Twins” with Arnold Schwarzenegger & Danny De Vito. Believe it or not in the movie the pair supposedly was twins. Jacob & Esau were a bit like that; all the testosterone seemed to go to Esau. He’s born covered with hair & loves the outdoors & was probably the captain of his high school football team. Esau was also a skillful hunter, a man of the open country. With him what you saw was what you got, & he probably wore his heart on his sleeve.

Jacob was an introvert, a quiet man preferring to stay among the tents & be near his momma. He preferred cooking to killing. He was a good cook, & loved doing needlework. He thoroughly enjoyed helping out around the house. But the kid was clever & ambitious. If he grew up today, he’d probably be big crossword puzzle guy, more of a chess player than a football player like Esau. Isn’t it interesting that all these thousands of years later we can recognize in these very different brothers people we know?

Papa Isaac loved wild game so Esau the hunter was his favorite son. Rebekah was partial to Jacob. If you’re like me you ask yourself, what kind of family was this, showing partiality & favoritism to one child over the other? Where in the world did these brothers come from anyway; one smooth & smart, the other strong & hairy?

This is a real family. This is a real mother & a real father. Maybe they’re like your parents. Maybe these words were often spoken; “Look how good your brother is doing in school. Don’t you think you’d be wise to model yourself after him a bit more?”

Family dynamics are subtle & hard to understand, let alone untangle. Back before we adopted such sophisticated words like dysfunctional, people just came out with the truth: Isaac loved Esau, but Rebekah loved Jacob.

It didn’t mean that both the parents didn’t love both the boys; it just means they each had a favorite son.

THE SIN OF FAVORITISM IS EGREGIOUS

The sin of favoritism in this family is terrible & it wounded deeply just as it does in families today. Favoritism is about as brutal & blunt an object as a person can be pummeled with. The neglected or seemingly unwanted child will often spend a lifetime yearning & competing for the love of a parent.

Just as is always the case in a family breakdown, the real crunch-time came over something trivial. In the case of Jacob & Esau, it was a bowl of stew.

This whole scene might not have happened if Isaac had taken his responsibility as a parent & transferred the birthright earlier. God had told Rebekah even before the birth of the boys that… the older would serve the younger.

One day Esau came in from working in the field & he was famished. Jacob has been puttering around the kitchen & has come up with some great smelling stew. Esau says, “Give me some of that red stuff.” Jacob says, “its not red stuff its bourguignon & you can’t have any.” “But why not” says Esau, “I’m starving.”

Esau made the worst possible deal. In Philippians 3:19 the apostle Paul speaks of those

whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, & whose glory is in their shame who mind earthly things.

Esau traded the eternal for the temporal, the spiritual for the physical, & the unseen for the seen! Losing his birthright cost Esau his standing among God’s people. In Hebrews 12:16-17

—lest there be any fornicator or profane person as Esau who for one morsel of bread sold his birthright. For ye know that afterward when he would have inherited the blessing he was rejected for he found no place of repentance though he sought it carefully with tears.

Esau had no appreciation for what God was doing in his life. Life was about pleasure to Esau. Spiritual matters were a waste of time. Life was about pleasure.

JACOB-WHAT A GUY!

Watch carefully now as Jacob shows us his prowess in thinking on his feet. He’s a quick-witted opportunist. He’s neither afraid nor ashamed to take full advantage of the situation & he’s not above using deception & trickery.

But there’s something else. Jacob has been thinking about Esau’s birthright & what it meant. For one thing it meant he’d receive a double share of the inheritance which was intended for the eldest son. He also knows the promises that God made to Abraham & he values those promises.

But the birthright wasn’t all Jacob wanted. Not even close. I suspect that he wanted to be the one through whom the promises to Abraham would continue.

“O.K says Jacob, you give me your birthright, sign the family fortune over to me & make me the heir, make me the older brother—first born in the family & I’ll give you a little bowl of stew.”

Surely Esau is exaggerating about his hunger here. Surely he could have gotten food from one of the other tents. Maybe these brothers are still quite young & there’s an element of clowning around in what they’re doing. Maybe it starts out kidding but Jacob is deadly serious now.Whatever the exact dynamics are here, one thing we know is, Esau despised his birthright. He didn’t value it, at least not now. He was one of those people who lived for today -“for tomorrow we die.” He had no time for things like birthrights & the big picture in life. His attitude was—you can’t eat a covenant. Consequently, because Esau frivolously bartered away his birthright, the promise didn’t pass to the elder child of Isaac.

Strike one against Jacob. He has tricked his brother & taken something extremely valuable.

Isaac was old now & could no longer see so he called Esau to his bedside. “Go to the open country, kill some wild game & prepare me the tasty food I like so much so I can give you my blessing before I die” he said.

Rebekah overheard the conversation. She told her favorite son Jacob to get himself in gear fast & kill two choice goats so she can prepare her dying husband the meal the way she knows he likes it.

Jacob didn’t only want the birthright & a double portion of the family inheritance; he wanted his father’s blessing too. Jacob was crooked but not dumb. He knew the inheritance wasn’t his but he wanted it anyway. He knew that he came from a line that was promised by God to do great things.

Jacob takes the skins & covers his arms & chest with the hair so he can fool his father, thus pulling the rug out from under Esau, stealing the blessing given the oldest son---the family fortune.

Jacob fools his father & by deception gets Esau’s blessing. Jacob had hardly left his father’s tent when Esau came in with a sumptuous meal he’d prepared from the game he’d killed.

When Isaac & Esau realized they’d been duped, they both reacted violently. Papa Isaac trembled all over. He has been deceived by his youngest son. Something promised to his older son Esau. What must he have thought? How sickening this must have been for him. Esau burst out in a loud bitter cry, “Bless me, bless me too my father.” Esau wept loudly, “Please give me a blessing too.”-Gen.27:39-40

I think it could be safely said that most all who read this story will be able to relate because most all of us have been wronged & hurt by family at some point. It’s bad enough when a friend hurts us but family is supposed to be that “safe zone,” where everyone is there for one another & looks out for one another.

People get a little crazy when someone dies or is near death. It literally brings out the worst in people. Relationships have been broken with parents, children, & siblings many times over material things. Families will hurt one another to the point of splintering & fracturing beyond belief.

This sets Esau up with a grudge against his brother & his plan is to kill him. Everything is gone for him. He is wronged on so many levels. Rebekah gets wind of Esau’s intentions [have you noticed that Rebekah is the major player in this story?] & tells Jacob he’d better “get out of Dodge” -& quick.

She instructs Jacob to go 400 miles away to her brothers place, his uncle Laban & she’ll let him know when Esau is no longer mad at him. This will all blow over quickly. Right? Wrong!

On his way to Haran where his uncle lived, Jacob stopped to sleep one night, using a stone for a pillow. I think I used one of those rock pillows a while back in a motel somewhere. As I remember there was a rock garden in the mattress also.

JACOB THE DREAMER & A TITHER

Jacob dreamed a spectacular dream that night & saw a stairway stretching from heaven to earth with angels walking up & down the ladder. Standing at the top of the ladder the Lord spoke to him promising protection for his journey. Gen. 28:13-15

The next morning Jacob took the stone he’d used as a pillow & poured oil on it & named the place Bethel, “the house of God.” Ever the pragmatist Jacob made a vow—if God comes through giving him food & clothes & lets him return home safely, then the Lord will be his God & he’ll give a tenth of his blessings to God.

When Jacob gets to his uncle Laban’s house, he finds out quickly that Laban is as big a crook & double-dealer as he is. Both these men would make good Las Vegas card sharks. Old Jake is about to get a dose of his own medicine.

Jacob is thunderstruck & falls in love with pretty Rachel the youngest daughter & Laban promises her to Jacob if he’ll work for him 7 years. Jacob becomes embroiled in a fierce tug of war between Rachel & the older less beautiful Leah & has eleven kids with them & their servants. He ends up working for Laban for 20 years & in his spare time manipulates the breeding of the flocks so that he has the strong cattle & Laban has the weak ones. That’s our boy!

Laban’s sons find out about the evil plan & tell their dad & the “fat’s in the fire.” Jacob slithers out of it by saying, --turn about is fair play.

THE STORY CONTINUES

Just before it’s too late God warns Jacob it’s time to leave & head back home so Jacob loads up, slips away & heads back to Canaan. Jacob leaves his uncle’s house a very rich man.

Laban is madder than an old wet-setting hen & pursues him & asks, “Why did you deceive me? You didn’t even let me say good-bye to my daughters & grandchildren.” At this point Jacob & Laban made a truce & set up stones as a boundary, promising they’d not pass this border to harm the other.

Laban made Jacob swear an oath not to mistreat his daughters or to take any other wives. Jacob complied. Laban kissed his family, blessed them & left for home.

Jacob now sends servants ahead to tell his brother Esau he was heading home. They return with some very interesting news. Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men.

At this point Jacob freaked & divided his company into two groups so Esau wouldn’t kill everyone. Jacob sent out three waves of gifts hoping they would somehow pacify Esau. In essence -giving him some of his money back.

All Jacob could do now was wait. That night he sent his wives, servants, all his possessions & 11 sons to the other side of the Jabbok River. This river was actually a boundary between Jacob’s old life & his new life.

He remained alone that night, camping under the stars.

Jacob had a lot to think about. He probably thought about his lies, his deceptions & his fears. He had to be worried sick that his brother Esau was going to kill him. He had no way of knowing he was going to wrestle with God all night long, until daybreak. Gen. 32:24-31.

JACOB’S LIFE NOW COMES FULL-CIRCLE


Jacob, who had wrestled with his brother Esau in the womb, wrestled with him all through childhood, had been wrestling with Laban for over 20 years, wrestled for position & power & wealth was going to have to wrestle with God.

God could have left a greasy spot where Jacob used to be but God doesn’t always do what He can do, He does what He wants to do. His intention wasn’t to kill Jacob but to change him.

But in this wrestling match we find one of the redeeming aspects of Jacob’s make-up; he wouldn’t let go of God. He refused to let go until he received a blessing.

Isn’t it true that often you & I give up too quick? We can learn something from Jacob. He would grab hold & refuse to quit until he was victorious. That night God changed Jacob. He even changed his name from Jacob to Israel.

After this encounter, Jacob walked with a limp the rest of his life. When he makes an appearance in Hebrews 11, he’s at the end of his life & still ….leaning on his staff.

The next day Jacob meets Esau by himself, bowing to the ground seven times. Esau ran to meet him & embraced him, threw his arms around his neck & kissed him. And they wept…..Gen.33:3-4.

Jacob, relieved & totally frazzled out by the events of the last hours looked his brother in the eye—“Now that you have received me favorably to see your face is like seeing the face of God.-Gen.33:10

This story isn’t one we can make come together in a tidy package, wrap up & put a bow on & feel really good about. Yes these brothers did meet & seemingly patch things up. But if you follow the story after this, they went their own way & never saw each other again; neither did they see their mother again. I’m sure they had to deal with feelings of hurt, anger & bitterness for years to come.

What we can be assured of is that God is bigger than all our problems & hard feelings. Nothing is ever beyond repair with God. If we’ll allow Him to, He’ll reconcile us amid the ashes & rubble of our brokenness. God loved Jacob, He loved Esau, He loved Isaac & He loved Rebekah.

And God loves you & me. He loves each of us through the imperfections & sins of our lives. God is merciful & gracious. We might not want to give people second & third chances when they hurt us but God does. As in the lives of those in this “soap opera,” God’s will is accomplished regardless of how much we try to mess it up.

I can’t understand every little detail & every facet of what Jacob’s life meant. I wish I had more answers. But actually, all I need to do is simply to marvel at the fact that God was, & is in control & knowing that means everything to me.

I’m sure that Jacob was haunted many times by the thought that someday his brother would hang him from the nearest tree & leave him for buzzard food. After all Esau had vowed to kill him.

A FUNNY THING HAPPENED……

But a strange thing happened on the way to Jacob’s date with death; Esau’s heart was changed. Where there was bitterness there was now brotherly love. God’s tender mercies were working that day because God didn’t want to destroy, He wanted to reconcile.

God works on both ends of a situation. He not only worked all night on Jacob, he was working to change the heart & mind of Esau.

God showed Jacob, as He wants to show us through this story that regardless of the odds, & regardless of the way things might appear to be, He’s going to accomplish His ends, for our good & His glory. He doesn’t leave us to struggle through our problems alone.

If we believe that, what else matters?


Blessings,


John





Monday, June 15, 2015

When God Does A Quick Work


By John Stallings


A 25 year old man had just ascended to the throne to become Judah’s 13th king. His name was Hezekiah. He was a high-caliber young man, but he lacked experience. Unbelievable challenges loomed large in his path.

To really understand the importance of this young man we must look at the times he lived in. The Assyrians from Nineveh ruled most of the Middle East. There were continual wars between them & the Egyptians for territory.

Israel & Judah were separate & Israel was known as Samaria at this time. They even warred between themselves occasionally. Hezekiah lived & reigned in a time when the very existence of Judah was threatened. The nation was blessed with a dynamic duo; the righteous king Hezekiah & an outstanding Hebrew prophet named Isaiah at this critical point in its history.

But let’s back up a bit. Ahaz, the king before Hezekiah, was a nasty piece of work who left no happy tracks. They don’t come worse than this guy. Mean, wicked & evil are words that come to mind in describing king Ahaz. This added to the seriousness of Hezekiah’s situation.

Ahaz made images of Baals & burned incense to them. He even offered his son up in the fire to these Gods. In him we see the attitude & actions of a man far from the Lord. But better things lie ahead for the people of Judah. You might say Ahaz is the “darkness before the dawn.”

The Bible gets right to the point doesn’t it? In 2 Chronicles 28:1-4 we’re taken straight into the depths of Ahaz’s depravity. If we were using New Testament language, we’d say, “He reaped what he sowed.” God allowed many nations to attack & humble Judah because of Ahaz’ wickedness.

Part of the story is in 2 Kings 16:7-11. With enemies all around him, Ahaz reached out to the King of Assyria & said, “I’m your servant…come & save me!” What Ahaz should have done was to ask this of the Lord, but he didn’t. Do you see any parallels here with our great nation? Are we making God number one or are we leaning on the arm of flesh?

Ahaz even went to Damascus to meet the king of Assyria & started to copy his altars. He made Urijah the priest copy the plans & reconstruct the alter back in the temple in Jerusalem. God had already given instructions as to how He wanted worship to be conducted but this man was following the world & worshipping false gods. The king of Assyria even turned against Ahaz & he now entered his “time of trouble.”

SHUTTING DOWN THE TEMPLE

The ultimate act of rebellion came when Ahaz closed the temple. 2 Chron.28:24;

And Ahaz gathered together the utensils of the house of God & cut the utensils in pieces. He shut the doors of the Lord’s temple & set up alters at every street corner in Jerusalem. In every town in Judah he built high places to burn sacrifices to other Gods & provoked the Lord, the God of his fathers to anger.

We see finally the actions of king Ahaz in cutting up the temple utensils & locking the doors so that no one could worship God. I wonder if America hasn’t made the same mistake when we’ve relegated God’s Word & ways to the dust-bin & replaced Him with other gods.

2 Chronicles 28:27says;

Ahaz rested with his fathers & was buried in the city of Jerusalem, but he was not placed in the tombs of the kings of Israel. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king.

Ahaz wasn’t buried with the other kings of Israel & he deserved exactly what he got. As dark as this period has been however, again, it’s the ‘dark before dawn.” Change was coming!

TO BE FAIR, AHAZ LEFT ONE THING BEHIND; --- HE GAVE THE WORLD A GREAT SON, --HEZEKIAH.

When we look at Hezekiah’s life & heritage, we see he broke the family mould. We tend to think that sons are always like their fathers but here we see that challenged. It’s a relief to see that the transmission of character doesn’t always operate. We could look at some marital unions & feel the world would be better off if they never multiplied, but thankfully in many cases sons aren’t always like their fathers.

When we look at the long history of Israel we see this dynamic played out often. For instance, Ahab, the wimp married to Jezebel, was the son of a very godly father & the father of a godly son. Hezekiah, a godly man, was the son of an evil father. But he was also the father of an evil son, Manasseh who was probably the worst king on record. But Manasseh was the grandfather of Josiah, one of Judah’s most godly kings. So there you go.

At an age when many young men are eager to gratify their fleshly desires, it’s evident that young Hezekiah wanted to please the Lord. Though his family lineage was unfavorable, he was a righteous man & he called God’s people back to true worship.

God was angry with the people of Judah & Jerusalem & He punished them. They were losing their battles & many of the people had been taken away by the enemy. They had become an object of ridicule. But change is coming.

In the first month of the first year of Hezekiah’s reign, the young monarch opened the doors of the temple & repaired them. For years the House of God had been unused & deserted. He brought in the priests & Levites & gathered them in the courtyard on the east side of the temple. Only the priests were to go into the holy apartments, so for the work to go on, the religious leaders had to participate.

However, the priests had let impurities into their lives & into their temple. They had been unfaithful to God & had done what God said was wrong. Consequently, they had to re-consecrate themselves to be ready to serve the Lord & make the temple a holy place again.

A PRIORITY IN HEZEKIAH’S CHANGES

Notice, Hezekiah didn’t deal first with the civil problems of his kingdom. He had the wisdom to realize if he was going to improve things, he’d have to first deal with Judah’s spiritual condition.

Are you seeing the relevance to us today? America has problems, & our problems are getting worse not better. Our politicians are telling us change is needed. Here’s a new concept that should be old; change must begin within the human heart. When I was just a boy I can remember my parents taking me to hear Billy Graham. I can hear him almost like it was yesterday uttering these words; “America needs revival & it has to start in our hearts.” It’s still true!

The church must be the leader of this change because a nation will only be as strong as its churches.

Judah’s priests responded to Hezekiah & sanctified themselves & went in to clean up the house of God. They brought all the trash into the courtyard & the Levites picked it up & took it out & dumped it by the brook Kidron. For 8 days they worked on cleaning out the temple & for 8 more days they cleaned the rest of the buildings. The various instruments used in the sanctuary services were also cleaned & sanctified.

Hezekiah rose up early, gathered the rulers of the city & went up to the house of the Lord. He had brought 7 bulls, 7 lambs, & 7 male goats for sin offerings for the sanctuary & for Judah. The bulls, rams, & lambs were sacrificed & their blood sprinkled on the alter. Then the male goats were brought out to the congregation & starting with the king, each person confessed their sins over the heads of the goats by laying hands on their heads. Then these goats were killed to make atonement & their blood was presented as a sin offering for all the sins of Judah.

It was a joyous time in Jerusalem. Hezekiah encouraged the people to bring individual sacrifices to the Lord as many as were of a willing heart. There was one sad thing that day; there were too few priests so the Levites had to help until enough priests made themselves ready.

THIS CHANGE HAPPENED QUICKLY

2 Chronicles 29:36 says, --The thing was done suddenly.

It doesn’t take long when people decide to really make a change.
Notice again the sequence of events that happened under the leadership of Hezekiah:

1. The king declares he wants to make a covenant with God.
2. There is an opening of the doors & cleaning of the temple along with the cleansing of the priests & Levites.
3. There was a restoration of worship in the temple.
4. There was a cleansing of a nation & a voluntary spontaneous outpouring of love for the Lord. Gifts & offerings were brought that the temple might be set in order.


So it’s clear that Hezekiah restored worship in Israel on a scale that had never before been seen. The memory of the success of his godly grandfather Jotham & the unmitigated failure of his evil father Ahaz drove him to dedicate his career to instituting a revival of worship among his people. What a sight to see this young man of God at the threshold of his reign, leading a people who’re willing to be led in national revival.

WE SHOULD BE ENCOURAGED BY THIS STORY
This story shows no matter how far the decline has taken a nation, a home, a church, or an individual; nothing is too hard for the Lord. Do you believe that? We might very well be a part of the Laodicean church but I still believe God can revive His people. We’ve seen it in the past & God can do it again in the present. We should never lose hope for our great nation & its people no matter how bad things are.

BUT TROUBLE AGAIN DOGS HEZEKIAH’S STEPS

Hezekiah was a man of courage. He had reinstated spiritual worship in Jerusalem & smashed the pagan alters & images that dotted the rolling hills of Judah. But if you turn to 2 Chronicles 32: 1, you’ll find that after all he’d done for his people & for true worship of God, Sennacherib, king of Assyria came & invaded Judah.

Sometimes when we’ve done all we know to please God, testing will still come our way. Here is a man who has done things right up to this point but God is testing him further. The vicious, barbaric armies are coming to attack & Jerusalem is about to fall. What would you do? How would you face this situation? Well Hezekiah faced it with courage, not only for himself, but he finds the strength to lift up the hearts of God’s people, his own soldiers & warriors.

Hezekiah tells his people to- “be strong & courageous. Be not afraid or dismayed for the king of Assyria nor for all the multitude that is with him.
When you & I are courageous we’ll also be encouraging to others. Sennacherib sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah trying to scare him into surrendering. Do you know what Hezekiah did with the letter?

HE SPREAD THE LETTER OUT BEFORE THE LORD-2 Kings 19:14.
Isn’t that humbling? After Hezekiah prayed, he went to bed & slept the sleep of the righteous. While Hezekiah was sleeping, God visited the Assyrian army & killed 185,000 of them. Hezekiah knew he didn’t have an army large enough to beat these barbarians so he just put it in God’s hands & God killed 185,000 warriors in one night. What a test & what a triumph of this man of prayer.

BUT ANOTHER TEST IS COMING FOR HEZEKIAH
If you turn to 2 Kings Chapter 20, you see that Hezekiah falls desperately ill. After all these victories, God tells him to –Set thine house in order for thou shalt die & not live.

Now Hezekiah finds himself in more hot water, so to speak. At mid-life, in his prime, he finds himself sick, probably the bubonic plague. He’s terminal. He doesn’t know exactly how sick he is but here comes the prophet Isaiah with a bedside manner that would get him a big F in any pastoral care class. His prognosis is from the Great Physician Himself, God. He said in essence, “You’re not going to walk out of here. Don’t buy any green bananas. With what you’ve got your chances are zero! Set your house in order.”

In the last few years we’ve seen so many world-wide tragedies. Multitudes have suddenly & unexpectedly died in earthquakes, storms, fires, floods & war. Were their houses in order? Is your house in order? There are no guarantees of tomorrow.

To put it simply, life had caved in for Hezekiah. He’d been handed nothing less that a death sentence. He was now on death row. But he doesn’t relinquish himself to death. He looks death in the eye & tackles it head-on. In other words, Hezekiah prays. That’s exactly what we need to do when we’re face to face with our own brokenness & the brokenness of this world.

PRAY!!!

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall & prayed for God to give him more time. He poured out his heart for the continuance of his life. He asks God for a second opinion & he gets it.

I heard about a man whose doctor told him he was grossly overweight. The man got agitated & said, “Well, I want a second opinion.” The doctor said, “Alright you’re ugly too.” Another man asked his doctor for a second opinion & he said, “O.k., come back tomorrow.”

GOD DOES A QUICK WORK!

I don’t know what was in Hezekiah’s heart. I do know he was only 39 years old & probably had much unfinished work he wanted to complete. How astonishingly fast his prayer got an answer. Isaiah had just delivered the news of his impending death & hadn’t even gotten out of the palace when Hezekiah’s prayer is heard in the courts of heaven. God told Isaiah to go back & tell the king he had 15 more years to live.

God also gave Hezekiah a sign causing the shadow to go back on the sundial ten degrees. The sun-dial was the instrument by which the king might know the time of day because obviously there were no clocks as we have now. Hezekiah asked that the shadow might go backward so Isaiah prayed & the shadow moved backward ten degrees. God also promised to protect the city of Jerusalem.

We read in Isaiah 38 the great Psalm of thanksgiving that arose from Hezekiah’s heart for this momentous answer to prayer in his life. What a man of prayer!!!

Politician Phil Gramm recently said in essence that we American’s are a nation of whiners, not seeing the great things we have going for us. People jumped down Gramm’s throat including McCain, & he probably faces political exile for saying it, but I tended to agree with him. We are “Whining & dining” enjoying the good things God has blessed us with but not seeing how really blessed we are. [I might be sent to Belarus for saying this. Kidding!]

Don’t misunderstand me here. Yes we have problems, but we should follow this man Hezekiah’s example & instead of going to cry on someone’s shoulder, go straight to God with our petitions. While we’re at it we could also follow the example Jesus set in His prayer life.

WAS HEZEKIAH’S HEALING IN THE PERFECT OR PERMISSIVE WILL OF GOD?

For years I’ve heard Bible students debate whether or not Hezekiah should have prayed for God to heal him. We know that when Israel was in the wilderness, God gave them their request but sent leanness to their souls. Psalm 106:15.
Those who say Hezekiah shouldn’t have lived longer point to the fact that he had children during those extra 15 years & one of them was Manasseh, Judah’s most wicked king; Even though he repented in 2 Chronicles 33. Other scholars believe
That when God said, “set your house in order” that literally meant, “Pick out a man to succeed you on the throne.” God had promised that Judah would always have a descendant of David on the throne therefore Hezekiah was actually holding on to the promise of God & pleading his case that he would live & have a son to fulfill this promise.

Also, though Manasseh was a bad king, he had a grandson named Josiah, one of the greatest kings & reformers Judah ever knew. Also if you turn to Proverbs 25, you’ll read of “the men of Hezekiah.” The men of Hezekiah were a group of scribes, whose job it was to copy Old Testament scriptures & put them in order. The order of some of our Old Testament books & chapters that we actually have in our Bible today goes back to the men of Hezekiah. Some of those Psalms are put together to commemorate Hezekiah’s recovery from sickness.

AS FAR AS I KNOW, BESIDES JESUS, HEZEKIAH IS THE ONLY MAN WHO KNEW HOW MUCH TIME WAS ALLOTTED TO HIM ON THIS EARTH.

If you knew you were going to die in a few days or weeks what would you do. How would you spend that time? That’s an awesome question is it not?

Whatever the answer to the question of whether Hezekiah should have prayed to God for the elongation of his life, the fact of the matter is that he put those years to good use. He made some mistakes, [that’s another message,] but I believe that much of his 15 years were used wisely.

If you were going to die in a short time how would you go about getting ready to go? Would you need to put your house in order regarding your personal salvation? What sort of changes would you be compelled to make?

Ladies & gentlemen, we’re dealing with a God of love & a God who catches our tears in a bottle. He hears our prayers & He cares. As this story underscores, we serve a miracle working, healing God. What a joy & a privilege to serve a God like that.

God not only offers 15 more years, as he did with Hezekiah, He offers us all eternal life if we trust in His word & call on His name. If there’s to be change of any consequence in our nation it must start with a humble position of our hearts before God.

The God who didn’t balk at Hezekiah’s request won’t balk when we pray for ourselves, our families & our beloved nation. He wants to help us but He wants us to turn to Him in faith believing nothing is impossible.

We see in the example of Hezekiah that the key to an honorable life is to humble ourselves before God & obey Him.

 Just as God was willing to throw His massive solar system in reverse for Hezekiah, He’ll do it for us when we turn to Him in prayer.


Blessings,


John

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Husband God Honors

By John Stallings


When a young man stands in front of the preacher at the time of marriage, it’s not at all certain what kind of husband that young man will eventually be.

As the years pass and the stresses and strains of life come, he might show himself to be selfish, egotistical, a “ne’er-do-well” when it comes to being a provider, a tyrant or “petty dictator,” or one who’ll never have much time or concern for the welfare of his family. As the years go by it’s possible that he may prove to be a physical or verbal abuser, or even an unfaithful philanderer.

But while all this is possible, it’s also possible that he’ll become a fine, devoted Christian husband and father. It’s this last one that we choose to believe.

I have been that young man, barely 21 years old, standing in front of the preacher with my soon to be bride. I’ve also, more times than I could count been the pastor standing there to unite two young people in holy union and see them set sail on the seas of matrimony.

One thing is for sure, the most burning question at that moment in time is; “are you ready?” The boy, just out of his teens has a lot to learn in order to be the kind of husband God wants him to be. Another sure thing is; this young man will have to grow and keep growing if he is to be equal to the task of being a Christian husband and father.

The greatest thing about this day is that this young man will now be trusted with one of the most tremendous privileges in life; to be the head of one of God’s families. Among his responsibilities will be…

TO LOVE HIS WIFE MORE THAN ANY OTHER HUMAN ON EARTH.

In the Ephesian letter, the apostle Paul said, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself up for it.” (Eph. 5:25).

Paul adds, “Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies.”

For both husbands and wives its good occasionally to turn back to the thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians and read the list of qualities which love possesses. If that love is what it ought to be, the rest of the problems in the home will be melted by its warmth.

Many times over the years I’ve been on my way to church on Sunday, and noticed a car pulling a trailer with a fishing boat on it. Usually in the car will be three or four men going to spend the day on the water. I can’t help but wonder what their wives were to do that day. Let’s face it; a lot of men love themselves more than they love their wives, at least in the realm of recreation. Many husbands spend unbelievable amounts of time and money fishing, hunting in the woods, golfing and following all the sporting events that come along. The wife is left at home to provide whatever recreation she can. Something’s wrong with this picture.

The Bible makes it clear that not only in recreation but in every other phase of their activities; husbands are to be considerate of their wives- to love them as they love themselves. If wives were to follow their husband’s example, and spent as much time and money outside the home in recreation, the husbands would blow a fuse.

Though many men are willing to work hard and expend great energy at work and with hobbies and leisure, they act like indolent teenagers at home, shirking their responsibility toward their wives and kids.

I believe a family should find common activities in which husband and wife can both be recreated. I realize it’s not always realistic nor for that matter necessary for couples to do everything together, but in the absence of that when a husband loves his wife as he loves himself he will provide for her the same extent and quality, though not necessarily the same kind of recreation that he provides for himself.

HE’S RESPONSIBLE TO PROVIDE FOR HIS FAMILY.
When Paul wrote to Timothy who was to go out and preach to others, he said,

“If a man provide not for his own, and especially for his own household, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (I Tim. 5:8).

It is pretty hard to be worse than an unbeliever, but to be able to
provide and not to provide is a serious charge that God places against whoever is guilty of it.

HE’S RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HEADSHIP OF THE HOME AND FOR THE DISCIPLINING AND TRAINING OF THE CHILDREN.

In the third place the husband has the responsibility as head of the home for training and disciplining the children. This is not something that he can abandon to the wife, though certainly she’s an important part of that training process. Many mothers Home School their kids and my hat’s off to these great women. I believe that should Jesus tarry His coming, Home Schooled young people will be leaders and considered the intellectual ‘cream of the crop” in the nation.

The head of the family ought, therefore, to be a Christian, because a key part of his responsibility is to train his children in religious matters. He must see that they have secular training of the right kind and he must also see that they have religious training. In fact, it is more important that they get to heaven than it is that they get a good job, so the husband ought to be a Christian- leading in this most important activity. Long before the church, the home was God’s first idea and His plan is for fathers to be the priest of their home.

GOD DEALS WITH MEN IN NO UNCERTAIN TERMS.

We recently dealt with Peter’s advice to women in 1Peter 3:1-6. In this piece we’re going to deal with one verse; 1 Peter 3:7. Here’s where God shows men the treasure we really have in our wives.

At first glance it might appear that Peter has shortchanged the women as far as the number of verses. The ladies get six verses on being Godly wives, the men only one on being godly husbands.

However it would be a mistake to think Peter lets men off easy. The seventh verse of 1 Peter 3 is a doosy. This verse is very “nutrient dense.” Men, we have a command here to love our wives as Christ loved the Church. With God’s help we’re going to drill down into this verse and when we do, we’ll no doubt be surprised at the treasures we find.

In verse seven, Peter doesn’t, as we might expect give men advice on being sensitive to the needs of their wives. Of course that is part of it and will come later but first Peter is telling us to “get some knowledge about women.” He could have chosen a word that denotes sympathy and compassion but instead the word he uses goes more toward deep understanding and knowledge. Peter says -it’s the husband’s job to study his wife, to get to know her intimately and to live together with her on the basis of that knowledge. In modern colloquium, can’t you just hear some “smarty-pants” saying, “Read a book already?”

Isn’t it interesting that God’s command to husbands isn’t that they be sensitive types but that first they are called to know what makes their wife tick? This may sound good to “information junkies.” But it may make some men say, “Are you kidding me? You mean to obey God I have to understand my wife? I have to know what makes her tick. Are you kidding?” For some husbands this would seem an impossible task.

But then Peter continues, - Showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life.
What does Peter mean by- “weaker vessel?” It certainly isn’t a spiritual weakness because in the proceeding six verses he describes the woman as a means to God’s redemptive work. Indeed the wives are evangelizing their husbands through their actions. In a previous blog we talked about that at length. Peter might be talking about physical weakness, that generally men are stronger than women, but it’s hard to see how that would fit the overall kind of understanding of wives Peter is calling for.

I believe when Peter talks about weaker here, he’s talking about something different. I see a clue in the word “vessel’ because it actually has a sexual connotation. When you see that along with the words “fellow heirs” in verse 7, it would seem that Peter is talking about the physical union. God has designed into the wife a basic dependency on the husband. In Genesis 2:18 God says-I will make a helper suitable for him—then he tells the woman, “Your desire will be for your husband and he shall rule over you." This speaks to the fundamental union between husbands and wives and the dependency on the husband God has designed into the wife.

If we can see this then we can see what God is telling us about the real key to the understanding of our wives and,—don’t miss this,—our place in their lives. God has given your wife a dependency on you and if you start there –if you as a man will see the key place you have in your wife’s fulfillment, you will be on your way to understanding what makes her tick. It’s the kind of knowledge that if used rightly is of great benefit to our wives and if used wrongly or ignored does tremendous damage.

Without getting too intense here, I don’t think we men fully understand how powerful it really is when God says;-The two will become one flesh.

Men, when we think about it, it’s as plain as the nose on our face. God wants us to understand our wives and a large part of that understanding is to understand- the way we live impacts her. Every word you speak either good or evil, every gesture of kindness or cruelty, every decision to be active or passive in the marriage has profound implications on your bride because God has established her as a part of you.

If we abuse that knowledge, if we bully or ignore, if we “ Lord” that understanding over our wives then we should expect judgment from a holy God, because to abuse such a precious trust is unconscionable and will not be overlooked. As husbands we must cultivate the horizontal relationship with our wife in the interest of the vertical relationship between God and us. It’s very interesting that God says if we don’t do this; it will effect our very prayers.

He tells us that our prayers will be hindered or road- blocked or impeded. Peter is telling us that the shape of our marriage is going to have a lot to do with our relationship to God.

WATCH HOW THE ORDER IS REVERSED

In other parts of scripture such as in Ephesians 4, we first have a relationship with God, the vertical relationship, and then we move out in our horizontal relationships, getting along with each other. Not here! Here, failure to keep the horizontal impacts the vertical. Can you see that God has set our marriages up to reflect His Church and if we don’t love and respect our wives and treat them with utmost respect we are saying something false about Christ? It’s so serious in the eyes of God that it’s something akin to blasphemy.

A Christian marriage rightly understood is a powerful advertisement for the gospel. It reflects the glory of God and opens a window into eternity and brings a bit of heaven down to earth. Husbands, our wives should be the best friends we have in the world. A godly marriage gets better and better and better as the years go by.

“SWEETHEART, GO FOR IT!!”

God wants the husband to be supportive of his wife, so supportive he can open the door and say. “Honey, the world is yours.” If she can sing, write songs, teach, buy and sell, if she can organize, if she can design, if she can administrate, if she can encourage, if she can counsel, if she can program a computer, if she can start a company, if she can think creatively, he says, “Go for it!”

It would help husbands to go back and read Proverbs 31 again. This virtuous lady, this homemaker finds a field and she buys it. From her earnings she plants a vineyard. Proverbs 31:11 says,-The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain. NASB. This biblical husband will have no lack of gain. Obviously God is speaking of the ideal here, assuming both partners in the marriage are biblically upright and Godly in their endeavors and intentions.

Unworthy husbands and unwilling wives can take the union of marriage that could and should be heaven on earth and turn it into a living hell.

RIGHT BRAIN, LEFT BRAIN

In Song of Solomon 4:3, the lover says to his beloved, “Your temples behind your veil are like the halves of a pomegranate.”
If you open a pomegranate you find that it has many sections inside, little ones and big ones. Obviously this is what a woman’s mind is like. Complex, with many sections big and small. Modern science backs up Solomon’s insight. We know that the brain contains two hemispheres—the left and the right. Neuroscientists tell us that women typically have a larger pathway between the two hemispheres so that information flows more freely. To put it simply, most men have a footpath, most women have a superhighway. They are generally more verbal and more in touch with their emotions and better at forming deep relationships.

Men are better with non-verbal tasks. That’s why we have the remote control.

While we’re speaking of Song of Solomon, we may as well talk about the physical side of marriage. Some Christians, especially older ones, seem to feel that the physical body is just ‘in the way” of the godly marriage. It’s an issue many married couples face. Here’s the truth; according to God’s Word, He designed sex to create an intimate bond between husbands and wives. Still multitudes of couples struggle to find fulfillment in this area.

My godly mother would have had a stroke and a mild heart attack if she’d ever heard the words— “marriage can be –hot and holy!” Now for those I haven’t lost, let’s be real; God created sex and it’s O.k. for couples to find pleasure making love.

About all you’ll ever hear in church is, “sex is O.K within the bonds and bounds of marriage.” That’s true!! But there’s more to be said, however it probably won’t be said. The Bible has more to say about sex than people think. Some Christians, who rightly got angry because the Senators didn’t read the Bills they passed a few months back, should go back and brush-up on their Bible. Sex is more than “The forbidden fruit,” “The destroyer of lives,” and “The tool of the devil.” God in His Word encourages married couples to understand the gift He’s given us in martial sexual-love. I’ve reached the limit in my ability to teach further on this subject so I’ll stop right here while we all go back and do some scriptural research.

Moving along, women are amazing. That’s why you can be married for 30 years and still find your wife fascinating and captivating. Her mind works in so many ways and the wise husband recognizes this and encourages her to develop. That’s what the Proverbs 31 wife did. She developed her abilities for the good of her own family.

Some husbands fear their wives will change if they turn them loose. The godly woman spoken of here will change, but for the better. We husbands must encourage our wives to be all they can be for the glory of God. Don’t stifle her growth. Water it, nourish it and bring it to full bloom.

Proverbs 18:22 says---he who finds a wife finds a good thing.

One of the saddest things in marriages is that both parties seem to think their spouse is a mind-reader. We tend to think our spouse knows what we’re thinking and nothing could be further from the truth.

Men will say, “My wife knows I love her, I’ve told her many times.” But have you told her lately? We think we don’t have to tell her over and over again but that’s wrong. You have to tell her over and over again. Then show her- and show her again. I’ve never understood why some men will refuse to give their wives any money to spend on themselves, and then she divorces him and takes everything he’s got.

Men will say, “I work hard for a living to provide a nice home, clothes and food. What more do you want?” Our wives married us, not a paycheck. Many wives who’re well off financially are desperately lonely, waiting for their husbands to notice them, waiting to be appreciated, waiting to be remembered, waiting for their husband to talk to them, waiting and hoping.

A STRONG AND STRANGE WARNING

Peter is now going to close this tutorial on a godly marriage with a powerful warning to husbands. If we haven’t taken him seriously up to now, here’s the motivation for getting deadly serious about our marriage;-“That your prayers be not hindered.”

Men, if you and I don’t treat our wives with honor and respect, God will just ignore our prayers. The word for hindered is a military term for an army digging a trench in a road to stop the enemy’s advance. It describes what Satan will do in our spiritual lives if we don’t take this admonition seriously. If husbands don’t take this seriously and love and respect their wives, Satan will dig a trench and our prayers will never get through. Gentlemen, we can’t ignore our wives and get through to God. Almighty God is going to take the side of the weaker vessel! It isn’t until we’re truly one in our marriage that we’re truly one with God.

We already understand this principle when it comes to fellow Christians. We know we can’t as James said, “Bless God and curse men.” And this is especially true with our marriage partners. If our prayers seem dull and ineffective, maybe it’s time to do a “relational inventory.”

I’ve experienced this in my own prayer life. I’ve sat in my morning prayer time and had my attempts at praying to come back and hit me in the face. Then I heard the Holy Spirit say, “John, before you pray you’ve got some unfinished business with Juda from yesterday. Go take care of it then come back and we’ll talk.”

God is so profoundly concerned that Christian husbands live in an understanding and loving relationship with their wives, that He’ll “interrupt” His relationship with them when they’re not doing so.

No Christian husband would ever presume to think that much spiritual good will be accomplished by his life without an effective prayer life. Most of us will quickly acknowledge that. But do we as quickly acknowledge that, according to God’s Word, we aren’t going to have an effective prayer life unless we live with our wives in “understanding, bestowing honor on her?”

To take time with our wife developing and maintaining a good marriage is God’s Will, and pleasing in His sight. In doing this we’re not taking time away from our “real ministry” or other “vitally important pursuits.”

Couples taking time fellowshipping with one another and just being with one another is time well spent. That could very well be the understatement of the century.

 Especially since God is telling us;

nothing else of any spiritual significance is going to happen in our lives without it.

Blessings,


John