Sunday, May 29, 2016

Our Unique Bible

By John Stallings

Unique… “One and only, different from all others, having no like or equal.”

A prominent Christian minister stood in the pulpit recently and his message focused on how Christianity was like no other religion.

His actual words were;-“I’m here to tell you that Islam isn’t just as good as Christianity. Islam was founded by Muhammad, a demon-possessed pedophile who had 12 wives and his last one was a 9 year old girl.”

Those words hit like a thunderbolt causing the Council of American Islamic Relations to say in response;

“It’s unfortunate that a top leader of the Christian church would use such hate-filled and bigoted language in describing the faith of 1/5 of the world’s population.” Then they asked the minister for an apology. They didn’t get it.

But how do you apologize for telling the truth? How do you apologize for saying that there’s a big difference in what a Christian believes and what a Muslim believes?

We’ve gone in our society from saying everyone has a right to their opinion to the absurd notion that every opinion has equal merit.

Christianity refuses to take its place alongside other religions. The reason for this isn’t—because I say so, or someone is trying to be stubborn. The reason is---Our Bible! Yes, our Bible is, as regards this question, “The Problem.”

Why? Our Bible sets Christianity apart from everything else. When you know the truth about this book you can clearly see why Christianity is very different from every other religion.

A. HERE IS A BOOK THAT WAS WRITTEN...

1. Over a long period of time
a. About 1500 years
b. A span of 40 generations
2. By approximately 40 authors from every walk of life
a. Moses, political leader trained in the universities of Egypt
b. Peter, fisherman
c. Amos, herdsman
d. Joshua, military general
e. Nehemiah, cup bearer to the king of Persia
f. Daniel, prime minister in the courts of Babylon
g. Luke, physician
h. Solomon, philosopher king
i. Matthew, tax collector
j. Paul, rabbi and tent maker
3. In different places
a. Moses in the wilderness
b. Jeremiah in a dungeon
c. Daniel on a hillside, and in a palace
d. Paul inside prison walls
e. Luke while traveling
f. John in exile on the isle of Patmos
g. Others in the rigors of a military campaign
4. At different times a. David in times of war
b. Solomon in times of peace
5. During different moods
a.Some writing from the heights of joy
b. Others from the depths of sorrow and despair

You might say, John, you can’t say the Bible is God’s Word simply because it claims to be. What does it matter what the Bible says about itself? After all, isn’t that “circular reasoning,” to try and prove the Bible is God’s Word simply because it claims to be God’s Word?”- Not really; hundreds of times the Bible claims to be recording the actual spoken words of God.

Exodus 7:1….And the LORD said unto Moses, See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron they brother shall be thy prophet.

Exodus 20:1-3…And God spake all these things, saying, I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

There are many other times where the Bible say’s its recording God’s actual words. For instance it records some of God’s spoken words with Adam and Eve. It records conversations God had with Abram; it records God talking with Moses at the burning bush. Human language according to the Bible is not a barrier for God and the Bible claims to be a record of some of His spoken words.

And the LORD said unto me, they have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. -- Duet. 18:17-18

Here the Bible says that God put His words in the mouth of His prophets and that a prophet’s words were God’s words. So not only does the Bible claim to have God’s words spoken, but it claims to have the prophet’s words which were God’s words. God took His spoken words through the prophets very seriously.

And Samuel said to Saul, thou hast done foolishly; thou hast not kept the commandment of the LORD thy God which he commanded thee: for now would the LORD have established thy kingdom upon Israel forever.

But now thy kingdom shall not continue; the LORD hath sought him a man after His own heart, and the LORD hath commanded him to be caption over His people, because thou hast not kept that which the LORD commanded thee.—
1 Samuel 13:13-14

Samuel here says that Saul has not kept the command that the Lord gave him. Who gave the command? The Lord didn’t speak to Saul directly. Samuel had told Saul God’s commands. When Saul broke Samuel’s commands he broke God’s commands because they were one and the same. That is only one of many times when a prophet said he spoke with the same authority as God.

If you were to take the books of the OT and look through them you would find that they all have the same claims to authority, they either record God’s words or someone speaking God’s words.

NEW TESTAMENT


When you come to the NT the Bible is just as explicit that its God’s words its recording.

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.—2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is one of the clearest and best-known verses in the Bible about the origin of the scriptures. Many people think that the word “inspired” here means that after the Bible was written, God breathed into these books. The Greek word here literally means breathed out not breathed in. So Paul is saying that the words of the Bible are literally from the breath of God.

As also in all his epistles, speaking of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and some unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.—2 Peter 3:16

When Peter writes this letter he considers Paul’s letters as scripture. This is the same word for the OT scriptures. Peter says that Paul’s writing have the same authority as the OT scriptures.

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.—
1 Thess. 2:13

Paul is claiming that his letter is the word of God, not the word of man. He realizes that his letter should have the same authority as the other scriptures.

Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever.—1 Peter 1:23

Peter quotes from Isaiah in the OT and tells those he’s writing to that the words that have been preached to them, the message that he has been telling them is the word of God that will endure forever. He’s fully aware that he’s writing God’s words and that those words would abide forever.

How many times do you think the Bible claims to be the very words of God or have the authority of the word of God? 50? 100? 200...Try over 1,500. It’s almost as if God made sure His signature is on every page of the Bible.

THE BIBLE DOESN’T LEAVE US WITH ANY OPTIONS!

Either the Bible is the very words of God as it claims to be or the Bible writers were deranged lunatics and the Bible is the most fraudulent book ever written. Furthermore, we’re just as crazy for thinking it contains morally worthy teachings and is the biggest pack of lies in the history of the world.

THE BOOK OF MORMON

You’ve most likely heard of the Book of Mormon. It’s the record of a lost civilization that existed in America. This book contains the details of coinages, descriptions of mountains, cities, rivers and intricate details of a past civilization.

BUT-The Mormons have a serious problem. To wit; not one geographic site that’s mentioned in the book has ever been discovered. Not one piece of archaeological evidence has ever been unearthed that substantiates the claims of the book of Mormon. Zero, Zip, Nada! Joseph Smith claimed to be speaking for God but there has never been a single prophet or man or woman of God of any era that has agreed with the book of Mormon. Incidentally, Mohammed’s writing of the Koran has as many problems being substantiated as the Book of Mormon.

The Bible is very different. Rather than being one individual’s testimony about God, the Bible is a book of 40 different authors over a period of 1,500 years. Find another book that took 1,500 years to write. The Bible was written in three different languages. During that time empires rose and fell, cultures came and went yet none of that affected the unity of the message of the Bible. There is no way there could have been some kind of general editor who trimmed it’s message or orchestrated it to insure that it would say things that were consistent over 1,500 years. It’s impossible.


What if we had a book of medicine that was written by 40 different authors over a period of 1,500 years, from all over the world, many of whom didn’t know one another yet when the book came together it was so up-to-date that it’s medical advice could still be used to heal the sick? Would that not be incredible? Yet the Bible talks about great lofty subjects such as man and his relationship with God, something even more controversial than medicine yet talks with intelligence, consistency and unity.

Admittedly in some cases the writers of the Bible knew what previous authors had written. For instance Malachi probably was acquainted with other books of the OT, but Daniel would have never known what Ezekiel had written. Paul didn’t know what John was writing, James didn’t know what Paul was writing, yet they wrote with agreement concerning things of God.

The Bible writers wrote on different topics but over all the diversity there is one central theme found in all of them and that’s man’s separation from God because of his sin and the restoration of that relationship that God provides through His Son. The Bible isn’t 66 different stories but ONE story developing in 66 books.

As one anonymous writer had said, “This book contains the mind of God, the state of man, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers ... It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and will condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.”

Jesus is the central figure in the Bible. In the OT He’s the one hoped for and looked forward to and in the NT He’s the model but in both He’s the center of everything.

Christ even said He was the theme of the Bible.

Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.—John 5:39

For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.—John 5:46

Then He said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself.—Luke 24:25-27

In Genesis 1:1 the word used for God is Elohim. Elohim is a uni-plural noun denoting both oneness and plurality, meaning that God is revealed in Genesis 1:1 as existing in three persons. From verse one in the Bible the trinity is exposed to our thinking yet it’s much later on that he’s presented as a trinity; the father, the Son and The Holy Spirit.

It’s no wonder to me that many die-hard skeptics have been converted as they read the Bible because of its unparalleled unity. It’s as if God was building one cathedral with 40 different architects from all corners of the world who did their work separately over 1,500 years and when the pieces were all eventually shipped to one location and assembled, they fit perfectly.

THE PRINTING PRESS WAS INVENTED TO PRINT MORE BIBLES

The Bible has been on the best seller list for over 300 years. The famous atheist Voltaire who died in 1778 said that within 100 years the only copy of the Bible still in existence would be in a dusty glass cabinet in some old relic museum.

Less than 50 years after Voltaire’s death the Geneva Bible society purchased his house in Paris so they could use his printing press to print Bibles because of the high demand in for them in Europe.

The Bible is the only book in existence that is actually alive. Cut it anywhere and it bleeds. It pulsates with a divine power to change lives. I believe many Christians are weak and spiritually shriveled because they simply won’t read, study or care about this book.

In A. Z. Conrad’s delightful poem, “There It Stands,” are these impressive words spoken about the Bible:

Century follows century ... There it stands.
Empires rise and fall and are forgotten ... There it stands.
Atheists rail against it ... There it stands.
Agnostics smile cynically ... There it stands.
Profane prayerless punsters caricature it ... There it stands.
Unbelief abandons it ... There it stands.

Higher critics deny its claim to inspiration ... There it stands.
The flames are kindled against it ... There it stands.
The tooth of time gnaws but makes no dent in it ... There it stands.
Infidels predict its abandonment ... There it stands.
Modernists try to explain it away ... There it stands.
The Bible is the word that lives forever, because it deals with eternal issues. The Bible is never out of date, or old-fashioned. It tells us where man is from, where he is going, why he is here, and how he should live while here on the earth. It deals with the greatest principles of ethics: love, justice, righteousness, truth, beauty and self-disciplined obedience to God.

When John Lennon of The Beatles boasted of his group’s popularity as exceeding that of Christ--the eclipse and ultimate demise of his group had already begun. And today as their inconsequential words move toward Oblivion, the influence and power of the words of Jesus will continue. He alone, of all men of all time, could say, “I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:20).

As we read the New Testament we see mirrored therein the likeness of those around us. If we are completely honest we also see ourselves. The word of God is the mirror of the soul. If we would see ourselves not as we see or even as others see us, but as God sees us, we have but to look into this mirror fashioned by God. If we do not like what we see either in ourselves or in the world about us, and the chances are that we will not, the book contains the remedy. Its God’s inspired word that provides the hope of the future of mankind.

The salvation of the individual soul and the salvation of society in general rest upon an acceptance of the truths in this book. It was James who said,

“He that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall he blessed in his doing.” (James 1:25).

As mentioned by the apostle Peter, “The word of God, liveth and abideth forever.

The sixty-six books of the Bible have a unity of theme and purpose unmatched in any other book. On occasion we hear the derogatory statement that the Bible is merely one of many allegedly inspired books. Yet man’s investigation and time’s ravages have proved the Bible to stand alone as the one, truly inspired book of ages.

Only the Bible pleads for the universal brotherhood of man and the Fatherhood of God. Admittedly, other books have been influential; other books have made certain contributions toward the betterment of mankind. But only the Bible points the way from earth to heaven.

Most books are for the old or the young, the rich or the poor, the educated or the unschooled, but the Bible is for everyone. While meaningful to a child, it is even more challenging to the mature man. It can be compared to the ocean. At its edge it is shallow enough for a child to wade in perfect safety.

Yet farther out man cannot cope with its great depth which defies man’s finest intellectual abilities. Such names as Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Priestly, and Kelvin grace the list of men of science who were noted for their implicit faith in the Bible as the inspired word of God.

When the world renowned chemist-physicist, Michael Faraday, lay dying he was asked, “Faraday, what are your speculations now?”

“Speculations,” he replied, “I have none! Thank God I am not resting my dying head upon speculations.” Then he quoted the words of
the apostle Paul,

“I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (II Tim. 1:12).

Pastor James has further advice for us;

Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted WORD which is able to save your souls.
Jesus said;


“Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass a way.”

Blessings,


John

Monday, May 23, 2016

What Happens In Vegas...Doesn't Stay In Vegas!

By John Stallings

One day a band of strange men came to Israel’s camp at Gilgal.  [Joshua chapter 9.]

Their clothes were worn out and their shoes were full of holes. Their donkeys carried on their backs old sacks that were ready to fall to pieces. Even the skin bottles, which these men had used for carrying wine, were old and torn, and the little bit of bread that remained in their sacks was dry and moldy.

God had promised the land to Joshua, and he and the children of Israel were to destroy all the inhabitants of the land. The Promised Land included the neighboring country called Gibeon.

These strange men asked to speak with Joshua and with his officers. They said they had come from a country very far away, and that their people wished to be friends with the Israelites. But the men of Israel answered, “We do not know who you are. You may live in Canaan, and we cannot be friends with these people of Canaan because God has told us to destroy them all.”

The men showed their moldy bread and said, “See, we brought this for our journey and it was hot when we took it from our homes. We are indeed from a far country. When we heard how your God brought you from Egypt and helped you to destroy your enemies, our people became afraid of you and they sent us to ask you to let us live and become your servants.”

THESE MEN WERE DECIEVING JOSHUA

Joshua and his men examined the bread and saw that it was moldy. They believed the story the men told them. Joshua and his officers didn’t know they were being tricked and worst of all, they didn’t take time to pray about it.

The Bible says, “They asked not counsel at the mouth of the Lord.”

Joshua thought the matter was so clear that he had no need to seek God’s direction. So instead of talking to God about these people and asking God what to do, Joshua promised to let these men live and sent them back to their homes.

When the Israelite soldiers went out again to battle against the people of Canaan, they hadn’t gone very far when they came to the part of the land where the Gibeonites lived.

Then they learned that the strange visitors at Gilgal had come from Gibeon. They were near neighbors to the Israelites. They had taken dry, moldy bread and worn-out shoes and purposefully deceived Joshua and the officers of Israel making them believe they’d come from a country far away.

In realty, they were Canaanites—people whom God wanted the Israelites to destroy. Joshua was a great leader and loved God with all his heart- but he was fooled. Hind-sight is usually 20/20 isn’t it?

THE PRICE CAN BE HIGH WHEN OUR GUARD IS LOW

Normally Israel would be more alert but they didn’t think they were under attack. Is that not a favorite technique of Satan today? How many times do people who are in serious trouble begin their explanation by saying,

“I didn’t realize....”? “I didn’t realize taking a drag on a joint would lead to addiction. I didn’t realize a little flirtation at the office would lead to an affair.”

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS………NEVER STAYS IN VEGAS!

You are probably aware of the advertising slogan for Las Vegas. It plays on the latent adolescence in all of us. After some titillating, open-ended scene the ad ends with the wink-wink, "What happens in Vegas- stays in Vegas."

This slogan is an effective marketing mentality. The clear implication is that you can do pretty much whatever you want in Vegas. Of course, the irony is that you can do pretty much whatever you want to anywhere. And given our privacy invasion, everyone can know about it too, as many politicians recently have learned.

What happens in Vegas, comes home to your family, your church, and it appears in the test results in your Doctor’s office. It pops up on your bank statement and it lives forever in your conscience.

The market-slogan encourages you to believe you can hop on a plane, travel way out to the desert, enthusiastically indulge in all the hedonistic pleasures that sin city has to offer, when your Vegas trip is over you hop on your return flight and by the time your plane touches down you’re back to your normal life. Their promise is that-“what you do in Vegas stays in Vegas. There will be no connection between your secret behaviors in Sin City and the other 51 weeks out of the year."

There are even bumper stickers that say, “WHIVSIV.” There’s a line of clothing saying the same. The insidious intent behind this phrase is that there are vacuums in which sin is free. It says that there are actually “safe zones” that exist in which a person can sin and not be held accountable. But the Bible says,

Be sure your sin will find you out.” (Numbers 32:23).

Also, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” (Galatians 6:7-8).

Can you smoke in Vegas and have no cancer risk anywhere else? Can you murder in Vegas without penalty back home? Can you lie, cheat, steal, drink, gamble, or be unfaithful in Vegas with impunity? I think not. Life is interconnected. Sin in one area of life causes repercussions in other areas. To believe –"What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" is just another satanic deception opening a life up to attack. Here’s the truth; What happens in Vegas -follows you home.

Since Satan often uses lies and sneak attacks, like he did with Israel at GiIgal, I want to spoil his fun and share with you some techniques for catching Satan attempting to sneak into your life.

ASK DIRECTIONS FROM THE LORD

The devil wants us to commit “assumicide.” At the heart of all sin is the assumption that we don’t need God in some area of our lives. The most poignant comment in Joshua 9 is the statement in vs. 14,

“…the leaders…did not ask direction from the Lord.”  They examined the evidence through human eyes and the issue seemed a no-brainer to them –

#- But they did not ask direction from the Lord! Common sense suggested the Gibeonites were being truthful –

#-But they did not ask direction from the Lord. The whole situation seemed innocent enough –

#-But they did not ask direction from the Lord. Just to be sure no one will miss the point of this message, let me spell it out clearly –

#-  "Ask direction from the Lord!

If you are a teen and wondering whom to date, what are you supposed to do… Ask direction from the Lord!

If you want to find that special person and marry them what should you do…Ask direction from the Lord!

If you are about ready to give up on your marriage what are you supposed to do…Ask direction from the Lord!

If you are trying to choose a college what should you do...Ask direction from the Lord!

If you need to make a career choice what should you do…Ask direction from the Lord!

If you are surfing the net looking for something to interest you, what should you do… Ask direction from the Lord!

There are no circumstances in our lives where we do not need the Lord’s direction. Wise Christians slow down and take time to be in the presence of God before making major decisions.

 Proverbs 3 says,-“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

The first technique for catching Satan attempting to sneak into your life is ask direction from the Lord! A second technique for catching Satan attempting to sneak into your life is:

EXPECT THE DEVIL TO GANG UP ON YOU

Have you ever noticed how much help the Devil has? The Bible refers to the devil and his angels. He has help! He has-big time back-up! The Bible speaks of principalities and powers and rulers of the darkness of this world. He has help! Look at how those on Satan’s side band together in vs. 1-2 –

“...when all the kings west of the Jordan heard about these things....they came together to make war against Joshua and Israel.” Normally those city-states would go to war against each other.

When God’s people begin to do God’s will, the forces of evil will inevitably unite. It happened in the days Jesus walked this earth. Traditionally Pharisees and Sadducees couldn’t stand each other, but their common enmity for Jesus caused them to unite. Evil can put some strange bed-bedfellows together.

Herod and Pilate were mortal enemies but they became friends the day they crucified Jesus. The Romans and the Jews had nothing but animosity for each other but they co-operated to kill Jesus. Evil unites when it is threatened by righteousness. Listen to the words of Ps. 2:1-2 –

“Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against his Anointed One.”

If you take a stand for God evil will unite against you if it perceives you as a threat. If you are a new Christian let me be especially clear to you. You have recently won a great victory. People have said and done reinforcing things. You feel forgiven and clean and empowered to live a righteous life. Don’t be naive. If you become a threat to Satan, he will unite evil and attack. How do you catch Satan attempting to sneak into your life?

First, ask direction from the Lord!

Second, expect the devil to gang up on you.

The third technique for catching Satan attempting to sneak into your life is…

EXPECT THE DEVIL TO FREQUENTLY CHANGE STRATEGIES

Sometimes Satan can be in your face and loud. I Peter 5 describes the devil as… “a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

At times you have heard his roar. At other times Satan can be so subtle you hardly recognize him. The devouring lion can change forms and become a sneaky serpent. II Corinthians 2 reminds us.. “Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning.”

Jesus said in John 8:44,

“The devil was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

Satan prefers deception because if you don’t realize he is present, then you won’t try to get away from him. He loves to hear you say, “I didn’t realize....”

In Australia there is a plant called the Sun Dew Plant. It looks inviting. It's covered with a substance that looks like dew but is so sticky that when an insect lights on it, it can’t get away. As the struggling insect tries to fly the vibration alerts the plant and it begins to close up and in short time devours the insect. The very thing that attracted the hapless insect becomes the instrument of its death. That is how Satan operates. That’s why the Bible warns in Hebrew 3:13 –

“...encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”

This story in Joshua 9 takes an interesting turn before it concludes centuries later. The story ultimately teaches us that…

GOD’S FAITHFULNESS IS GREATER THAN OUR FOOLISHNESS

Eventually the Gibeonites become a blessing to Israel. David will put the tabernacle in Gibeon. One of David’s mighty men was a Gibeonite. Solomon offered sacrifices at Gibeon. It was at Gibeon that Solomon asked for wisdom. The Gibeonites came back from captivity with the Israelites and helped build the wall around Jerusalem. God’s mercy was bigger than Israel’s mistakes.  

Your life may be a hodgepodge of success and failures, of promises made and broken, of sin resisted and given in to. Your life may be a huge mess no man can straighten out. Here’s the good news. God specializes in messes.  Here’s another satanic lie…

“NO ONE WILL EVER KNOW”

Many will remember the late eighties when a world known evangelist was exposed for consorting with known prostitutes. He did the right thing by confessing his sin and to his credit has kept his home and ministry together.

He was cruising around and slumming in large cities  dressed like Willie Nelson, at least the pictures looked like that to me. His obvious intent was to hide his sin. He believed he could pull it off and the world would never know. The longer I live the more amazed I am at man’s ability to lie to himself and rationalize almost anything.

This preacher wanted to be famous and he was. He wanted to be able to go to any corner of the earth and immediately be recognized. And he could. He poured decades of his life into being, among other things the most famous preacher on the planet.

But then, on the other hand he occasionally wanted to slip out of the spotlight’s glare and redeem a small part of his privacy and go slumming. In his desire to just be incognito for a few minutes now and then, he convinced himself that he wouldn’t get caught because no one would recognize him. The question that still haunts is this; if the evangelist had never been caught would he have persisted in his double life? Another lie is…

MY SIN AFFECTS ONLY ME”

No. Sin affects other people. Exodus 32:21.

“And Moses said unto Aaron, What did this people unto thee, that thou hast brought so great a sin upon them?”

The characters flaws and unrepented sins that were lodged in the heart of Aaron did not exist in a vacuum. Aware of it or not, his sins impacted Israel.

A Christian young man in our aquaintence recenlty found that sin has awful consequences. During his late teens he lived extremly loose morally. In later years he became a Christian, married a fine young Christian girl and they have several beautiful children.

One day the phone rang and what he heard turned his world upside down. One of the girls with whom he’d committed fornication and had borne his child had applied for Government assistance. Now this young fellow was being asked to supply DNA to ascertain who the father of the child was. The upshot was, this young man who was now struggling to support his new family has to also support a child he fathered during his wild teenage years. For this sin and indescretion he'll pay many hundreds of dollars per month for the next number of years.

When we teach our kids about the dangers of alcohol and drugs, we err if we don’t also stress the dibilitating consequences of any kind of sexuel contact outside the boundraies of marriage.

I CAN STOP WHENEVER I WANT TO”

No. Sin entraps. Moses predicted this unforeseen result of sin in Exodus 23:33.

 “They shall not dwell in thy land, lest they make thee sin against me: for if thou serve their gods, it will surely be a snare unto thee.”

Like the ancient Chinese finger trap, one may easily enter into the act of sin, but soon find that it is impossible to back out of it. One man found out that the sweet little clingy teenager who only needed the comfort of a strong male figure in her life turned into vicious, manipulative hustler once she had him in her clutches. Also, just as every coin has two sides, every individual act of sin has two sides: Commit the sin; Cover the sin. The instant a sin is committed the flip side comes into play.

"I CAN MANAGE MY WEAKNESS”

No. Sin opens the door to other sins.

“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the LORD, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” 1 Samuel 15:23.

How can rebellion possibly be related to witchcraft? How could iniquity ever share common ground with stubbornness and idolatry? Because all branches of sin grow from the same trunk. That’s why John the Baptist said,

“And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees.” Matthew 3:10.

The root of offense gives rise to many sinful branches. Saul didn’t conquer his initial disobedience; therefore, he experienced a chain reaction of repeated sin and tragedy in his life. David’s lust led to adultery; his adultery led to deceit; his deceit led to murder. Once the essence of sin gains admission into one’s life, it brings with it the seeds of further transgressions. James said,

“For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.” James 3:16.

GOD WILL FORGIVE ME”

Yes, if you repent and forsake your sin because sin cannot go unpunished. When we sweep sin under the rug, when we treat it differently from person to person or when we simply let it slide the sinning person gets a false view of God’s justice. God knows that without consequences, sin loses its dread. A diminished view of sin means a diminished view of Calvary. Ambivalence toward sin casts doubt on the efficacious blood of Jesus.

Operate your life out of truth, not mythology.

Vegas lies when it says “WHIVSIV.”

Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.”


Blessings,


John

Monday, May 16, 2016

"I See Dead People "

By John Stallings


Ezekiel 37:3….And he said to me, son of man can these bones live?

Many times I’ve seen dead animals in the road and unfortunately have hit some of them myself when driving. It’s not a pleasant experience to see the carcasses of those unfortunate creatures that have fallen prey to the dangers of modern life. If you do much hi-way driving you’ll see this “road kill” in every state in the country.

The valley of dry bones was perhaps Ezekiel’s most famous vision. What he saw in this dismal valley of dry bones was, to say the least, a gruesome vision that shook him to his core; a scary sight of utter annihilation and holocaust.

Ezekiel was one of the most visionary prophets, subject to long trances where he was uncommunicative, after which he’d describe amazing images. He was a street preacher who delivered basically a turn or burn message. If you heeded his message, you could learn, turn and be saved. If you didn’t heed, you’d burn. He was the son of a Zadokite priest.

Ezekiel went into captivity at the age of eight & was called by God to be a prophet at age thirty. To say that Ezekiel was a little weird is like saying the ocean is a little wet. When God called the prophet Amos to preach he just said “Yes.” It took Ezekiel over three chapters to tell about his calling. It’s as if the whole universe had to get involved. Did he ever have a flair for the dramatic? The vision he had of the valley full of dry bones is one of the most dramatic ever penned. In his vision this strange preacher goes to a grave-yard to preach a sermon.

All of the prophets did odd things but Ezekiel takes the cake. He was known to lie on his side for 390 days at the time eating nothing but one, 8 ounce meal a day that was cooked over manure. He shaved his head as well as his beard. You might call Ezekiel eccentric, for when his wife died an untimely death he was strangely catatonic, almost mute & showed no sorrow. He was a young contemporary of Jeremiah, but while Jeremiah was preaching in Jerusalem, Ezekiel was preaching in Babylon. Ezekiel uses incredible detail in his writing & his message was that God wasn’t through judging Israel. He uses the phrase “Know that I am God” sixty-five times in the book.

Lets back up a bit. What made this dry bones vision important was that Israel had been attacked, defeated and devastated. The War Wagons of their enemy had pretty much plowed their nation under, and most of its population had been marched off like common criminals to a strange land. What was worse and made the defeat so complete, was the loss of the temple, the official dwelling place of God and symbol of National identity. The temple’s precious metals had been looted and razed like a shack, and it became a heap of ruins. It was a fate worse than death and for all practical purposes; a viable Israel was now extinct.

The gutsy young Ezekiel preached in the streets for 22 years, calling the people of Israel from judgment to repentance. In Ezekiel 37, God puts his hand on Ezekiel and leads him down into the middle of this valley of bleached dry bones. For God to whisk men away like this isn’t all that unusual, for in Acts 8:39 --the spirit of the Lord caught Phillip away and he was found later at Azotus preaching.

But what did this valley full of dead bones mean? Why was God showing Ezekiel this scene of mass carnage & catastrophe; what was the point of it? Common sense told him the bones were proof that life once existed; that these bones were once living organisms filled with the life of God. The mystifying thing was that all there is to see are bones that have been dead so long they’re bleached white, lying all over this large valley, dislocated and disjointed. The buzzards had done their work well. Many questions flood our minds here. Did this valley have a name? How long had the bones been there? Why had their families not given them a decent burial? Who had these people been and what lesson did they have to teach? These & a few more questions probably came to Ezekiel’s mind as he walked around the valley. Also, being human, another thing crossed his mind; this thing looks hopeless.

Here is a valley full of the bones of some past large army that were obviously badly defeated in battle. What was God going to show his man here? One of the symbolic lessons of the bones had to be the potential and possibility that had been squandered.

TRUTHFULLY, WE’VE ALL VISITED THIS VALLEY.

We’ve all been to this valley where you walk knee-deep in the brokenness of the world. Cancer struck close by in our lives and all at once we saw dry bones. Our project fell apart and all at once we saw dry bones. Our dreams were destroyed and there, facing us were dry bones. A career is ended and we see dry bones. The family breadwinner is laid off and there are dry bones. Relationships are lost and we see dry bones. A son or daughter is killed in war and suddenly you see dry bones. All at once the devil takes the word hopeless- and tacks it above everything in our lives. We don’t know the reason; all we know is that we are walking down the valley of dry bones. The most casual glimpse of our world today, especially if you see it through the prism of television news reveals dry bones. Perhaps you hadn’t thought about it but as you read this, maybe you’re in some kind of dry bones situation.

THIS VALLEY REPRESENTS VERY BIG AND VERY COMPLICATED PROBLEMS.

Ezekiel says, “and behold they were very many and they were very dry.” That lets us know we’re not dealing with some small thing here; it had been a gigantic army in bygone days and obviously had been terribly defeated and decimated.

Maybe the dry bones in your life aren’t a small thing either, but rather a very big problem that’s going to need a very big intervention from God. Perhaps some awful thing has made inroads into your family and Satan tells you it’s hopeless. Not only were the problems very bad, Ezekiel says the bones were scattered. They weren’t skeletons intact; the picture is of bones that were in a configuration which hardly made sense. Have you ever felt that not only was your situation dead and very dry, it was so multi-leveled and complicated that you were almost embarrassed how warped, dysfunctional and unexplainable it was? It’s like a plate of spaghetti, lying there all tangled up on the plate, and you feel almost embarrassed because things have gotten so crazy. Have you ever felt that your circumstances were even too much for God? They never are, and that’s also one of things this story teaches us.

WHY DID EZEKIEL HAVE TO GO OUT INTO THE MIDDLE OF THIS VALLEY?

Why couldn’t God have passed him over it, given him a bird’s- eye view and whisked him away? Why did he sit him down in the midst of this horrific place? God operates on the principle that some problems can’t be dealt with from a distance. None of us relish going among the dead. We’d prefer to be with the living, at least among people that have a little life in them, but often God puts us right there so we can see how really messed-up things are. God never intended for His church to be a cloistered group of over-pious people separated from the suffering of this world.

It’s easier to send provisions to foreign countries than it is to send our sons and daughters. Many people have no problem writing a large check for missions but they resent scooting down the pew in church to let the downtrodden and needy sit next to them.

THE BIG QUESTION COMES.

After Ezekiel gets into this valley & has a good look around & gets a close- up of all this carnage, God pops a question to him; can these bones live? But this question isn’t asked to get information. As so often when God asks a question, he’s after something deeper. In the Garden of Eden God asked Adam and Eve “Where are you.”? Remember the question God directed toward Cain after he killed Abel; “What have you done with your brother?” It’s like the question Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” This is the kind of rhetorical question we’re dealing with.

As we read this story, we find that we’re being asked a question too.

* Can these bones live?
* Is there any reason for hope here?
* Can anything good come from something this terrible?”

Sometimes we lie awake at night and ask ourselves questions about things in our lives, and the lives of our friends and maybe even the world. “Is there any reason for hope, honest to goodness hope, that isn’t rooted in shallow sentimental optimism or total denial? Can these bones live? It’s a big question, and of course Ezekiel is baffled, and answers in a way that puts the problem back in God’s lap. Only God knows the answer so Ezekiel answers, O Lord God, thou knowest.

GOD’S REMEDY; EZEKIEL, --PROPHESY TO THESE BONES.

God tells Ezekiel to start prophesying and preaching to these dead dry bones. To the natural mind, this was very foolish; to walk among these long dead, chalky white bones, talking, encouraging, coaching and cajoling them to rise up and live. The only thing powerful enough to bring this army back to life was the Word of the Lord.

FOR EZEKIEL IT WAS NOW REALITY TIME.

He must speak to dead people. It wasn’t time for manipulation. A big resume’ couldn’t put flesh back on these bones. No artificial flesh or prayer clothes laid over these bones was going to work. No magic or incantations would work either. These weren’t sick people they were stone cold dead; not people, but chalky bones. No slick solutions were going to do one wit of good in this valley, only words of prophecy accompanied by the mighty power of God.

I heard about a man who went day after day to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. Some tourist’s had been observing him until one day one of them asked the old man how long he’d been coming to the wall to pray. He answered that he’d been coming there for 60 years. Then they asked him if he felt he’d ever gotten a prayed answered and the old man thought a moment and replied, “not that I can recall.” One of the tourists asked him how he felt about that & the old man retorted, “Well. It’s like talking to a brick wall.” The old gentleman then just shook his head and sadly walked away.

It is obvious that if Ezekiel is going to pray over these dry bones in his own strength he’s going to be talking to a wall. But Ezekiel began to prophesy and say exactly what God had instructed; “O ye dry bones hear the word of the Lord.” The driest bones are those who haven’t heard the Word of God. Ezekiel said these same words twice, and then he heard a noise, and a shaking and a movement began, and the bones started to come together. The word of God had again proven its creative power, just as it had on creation day when God said, “Let there be light.”

Now look what Ezekiel had; God had put flesh and sinew on the skeletons and wrapped skin around them but now he had a great big crowd of dead people lying deathly still. There was absolutely no life in them. There was a form, but no force. What Ezekiel now had on his hands was a perfect picture of what Paul told Timothy end-time religion would look like. He said it would…. “Have a form of Godliness, but denying the power thereof; from such turn away.” 2 Tim. 3:5. In other words, they would have the form but no force.

So we must speak to the dry bones of our lives and Prophesy to them but we can’t do it in our strength or in our name, for there is no power without God’s power.

Then another part of this story unfolds. God told Ezekiel to prophecy to the wind. God tells Ezekiel in verse 9, “Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord God; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” The bodies, even though they are now covered with flesh, are only cadavers and it will take the wind to breathe life into them.

IN SCRIPTURE, THE WIND IS A TYPE OF THE SPIRIT OF GOD.

The Hebrew word RUACH is used for breath, wind and spirit. When the wind came into that dry dead valley, the Holy Spirit came, as on the day of Pentecost, when one of the evidences that the Holy Spirit had arrived was the sound of a rushing mighty wind. It was the breath of God that was required to bring life, just as in John 20:22 when Jesus breathed on His disciples and they received the Holy Ghost.

After the Holy Ghost was poured out on the day of Pentecost, the disciples who had been cowering with fear were filled with power from on high to be witnesses for Christ, and to be willing to ultimately give their lives for Him.

Preachers can’t change hearts and lives. The powerful wind of the Holy Spirit must come and complete the job. Without the anointing of the spirit, sermons are dry and lifeless. All preaching is dependent upon God’s Holy Spirit to speak to the hearts of individuals and prepare them to except Christ as Savior. Ephesians 2:1-4 depicts lost, sinful man as exactly like the dry bones in Ezekiel’s valley. We were …. Dead in trespasses and sins, but God has quickened us (or breathed life into us) together with Christ.

AN EXCEEDING GREAT ARMY ROSE UP-- NOT A MOB.

Ezekiel practiced simple obedience and prophesied and when he did, God raised up these dead bones to become an exceeding great army. God’s power transcends the power of death and the grave. They didn’t manifest as an unruly mob but as an organized, disciplined army, ready to march to battle. An army carries the thought of obedience under a General. Then God told Ezekiel what all of this represented. He told him in the eleventh verse…Son of man these bones are the whole house of Israel.

This had all been an allegory depicting how Israel who was in captivity was going to be brought back and reborn. In verse 14 God tells Ezekiel about Israel, “And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the Lord have spoken it, and performed it, saith the Lord.” Remember, this is God dealing with a nation. He deals with nations and He deals with individuals.

THERE IS HOPE IN EVERY SITUATION

Ezekiel couldn’t see the wind but he began to see the dance of trees and grass and fields of wildflowers as they responded to the caressing winds. Then he witnessed the army as it began to spring to life also.

What is God saying to you through this story? For one thing he wants us to see things from another perspective. They look hopeless to us but not to him. What would be a crushing debt to me would be pocket change to Bill Gates.

Have you given up hope? Do you think the best years of your life are behind you? Do you feel that God has forgotten you? Get up from your heap of discarded dreams. Let the Holy Spirit breathe new life into your soul and you will see God’s spirit move into your valley of dry bones and show-out in ways you would have never believed. You’ll find yourself dancing once again, responding to the breeze of God’s Holy Grace. God specializes in dry bones, lifeless souls, impossible situations, dead ends and dashed hopes.

MULTITUDES ARE LANGUISHING; WAITING FOR YOU & ME TO START BELIEVING THAT GOD CAN REVIVE US, & THAT DRY, DEAD BONES CAN LIVE AGAIN.

Blessings,

John

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Meanwhile, Back In Eygpt

By John Stallings

If you know anything about the life of Joseph you know that his life started in an ancient soap opera.

Joseph’s father Jacob had been caught up in drama trying to wrest his beloved Rachel out of the hands of a conniving father Laban & the drama started all over when Joseph was born to Rachel & became her favorite son. We all know that favoritism is the death-knell to family unity.

I’m going to try to point out some of the “types” in this story, because Joseph’s story is a beautiful type of Christ & His church. Is my imagination running away with me? I don’t think so. It of course isn’t a perfect picture because Joseph wasn’t perfect or perfectly obedient, but Jesus was perfect & always obedient to His Father’s will. Also Joseph didn’t actually die & Jesus did. That said, there are many breathtaking similarities between Joseph & Jesus.

Joseph’s problems began as a wet-behind-the-ears kid when he was sent by his father to check on the safety of his brothers in the field. Jesus’ assignment was to come to the earth to redeem his fallen brethren. Joseph’s dealings with his brothers are a typical picture of the way Christ deals with His erring brothers. Joseph was mocked & despised by his brothers, first put in a pit, then sold to a caravan headed to Egypt. His beautiful coat was taken from him, splotched with animal blood & presented to his father as proof he was dead. Joseph was rejected by his own who were Jewish & ultimately accepted by Gentiles.

Jesus was despised & rejected of men & at His death his only garment was taken away & gambled over. Jesus was also rejected by His people the Jews, but later the Gentiles accepted Him & His Gospel.

In this story, the experience of Joseph’s brothers parallels the experience sinners have when Christ’s saving mercy is revealed to them.

So Joseph ends up in Egypt & Jacob thinks his favorite boy is dead. Eventually Joseph was locked up on a false rape charge without a hearing. Jesus was found guilty of crimes he never committed & was given a sham, mock trail at night which wasn’t the custom of the day.

Joseph was locked up with two convicts, one was released & resorted, the other was hanged. Jesus was crucified between two thieves, one was eternally lost & the other one was saved by simple faith in Christ.

Joseph went from a jail to a palace overnight & was made second in command in all Egypt & people bowed the knee in his presence. Jesus, after being lashed, butchered & slaughtered on a Roman cross, ultimately went back to His Father in heaven & was glorified, exalted & sat down at right hand of the Throne of God where…He ever liveth to make intercession for us.

Just as Joseph was his father’s darling, so is Jesus God’s Beloved Son. With Joseph gone, Benjamin moves up in line & becomes Jacob’s favorite, due to the fact he was born to the now dead but beloved Rachel. Meanwhile back in Egypt, Joseph, thanks to hair-pen curves & 180’s is out of jail & has ended up second in command with full power over the food stored up for famine. The famine is so widespread that it reaches Jacob & the boys in Canaan.

This famine is a picture of the spiritual death which spread all over Adam’s race. Romans 3:23 says, …All have sinned & come short of the glory of God. When the famine came & they were perishing, Joseph’s family heard some good news. Jacob called his sons together & said, “Boys, we don’t have to die. I’ve heard that there is corn in Egypt!

This is the news of the gospel preached to hungry weary dying sinners. In John 6:48-50 Jesus said…I am the bread of life.

Jacob couldn’t be sure what he’d heard was true but we are sure Christ is the answer to our innate hunger because we have the sure Word of God. Jacob couldn’t be sure he could get enough food for all his family. Remember there were 70 in all. But we are assured that God’s grace is abundantly sufficient in Christ to save to the uttermost all that come to Him in faith.

Note that the command was given by Jacob & it was urgent; -- “Do not hesitate. Don’t stand here looking at one another. There is corn in Egypt. Go down & buy some food that we may live & not die.”

So Jacob sends his sons, all but Benjamin to Egypt to buy food & they end up in front of Joseph. They were fully prepared to pay for what they needed & didn’t come with their hands out. Little did they know the man they would deal with was a kinsman who didn’t need their money but wanted their hearts.

The truth is; neither can we buy God’s grace & goodness. People will try to contribute to their salvation with good works but our good works are like a long fly-ball hit to center field, right into the hands of the center-fielder. They look good but mean nothing.

Rev.14:13 says…. Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth yea saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors & their works do follow them.

Yes our works will be with us in heaven, but they follow us, they don’t lead us there.

Joseph recognizes his road weary brothers but they don’t recognize him or know he recognizes them. Though he had no intention of harming them, Joseph put his brothers in jail for three days. They were locked-up on suspicion of being spies but in truth Joseph wanted them to see the good he would later do for them wasn’t based on their guiltlessness but his mercy.

Joseph still needs to find out what’s happened to his father & his blood brother Benjamin. He also wants to find out if his brothers have been as mean to Benjamin as they were to him because he was daddy’s favorite.

So Joseph tricks the brothers into going back home & getting Benjamin but he holds another brother hostage until they bring Benny boy back. Back in Canaan, at first Jacob refuses to let Benjamin go back with them but eventually they run out of food & Judah provides his personal assurance of Benjamin’s safety. Jacob has no choice but to send Benjamin back to Egypt with the others.

When Joseph sees that Benjamin is still alive he throws a party with Benjamin as the guest of honor. After the party the brothers prepare to go home but Joseph has one more card up his sleeve.

The brothers set off for home thrilled that their trip down to Egypt was successful & they’d recovered their brother Simeon who’d been held hostage by Joseph. They had Benjamin in tow & they had managed to get more food. All is well.

But unbeknownst to them, Joseph had instructed his servant to plant one of his personal items, a silver cup in one of their bags. Then Joseph’s servant catches up with them on the trail & accuses them of stealing his cup; a cup he used for “divination,” --that is to see the future. I guess the Diane Warwick Hotline wasn’t around to find out the future so he says he can do it with a cup. By the way; as I remember it, Diane Warwick didn’t even know the way to San Jose so she couldn’t have helped anyway.

I don’t think this is anything more than a “leg-pulling” exercise because while Joseph was in jail he interpreted dreams without a cup & later interpreted Pharaoh’s dreams without it & made it clear that interpretations belonged to God. So this “cup thing” is just a prop to make the brothers “crime” seem more serious.

The brothers now find themselves under suspicion so they knee-jerk & protest their innocence by making a vow that if the cup is found on any of them the one who stole it could be killed & the rest will be slaves. So the servant searches the donkeys & aha! ---there’s the cup in Benjamin’s bag. These boys had long ago ripped off Joseph’s coat to sell him down the river & now they tore their clothes in what would surely be their entrance into slavery.

Can anyone say— “You reap what you sow?” You reap later & you indeed reap larger.

QUESTION—WHY DID JOSEPH PLANT THIS CUP IN HIS MOST LOVED BROTHER’S SACK?

Why set up Benny boy? If law enforcement set’s anyone up, it’s someone they despise & are eager to convict. Knowing what we know about how Joseph’s brothers had treated him; we could hardly blame him for dispensing a little frontier justice here, but why Benjamin? The brothers are probably thinking to themselves about now; “Those rotten sons of Rachel, they’re no good. We don’t like Joseph & we can’t trust Benjamin.”

How do you think Judah is feeling now, being he’s the one who talked Jacob into letting Benjamin come along? Even if Judah got out of this “Egypt Caper” alive, he still had to go home & face the “firing squad” of his father’s wrath. As if this family hadn’t had enough drama for three lifetimes, now this unfortunate turn of events; all instigated by Joseph.

But still we haven’t answered the question about the cup. Why did Joseph plant the cup on Benjamin? After all, years earlier Benjamin had pleaded with the brothers not to kill Joseph so he can’t figure out why God would be putting him through all this.

Here’s the answer; while Benjamin is in the eye of this storm, he isn’t the object of the testing. Joseph has singled out Benjamin to test his brothers because he wants to know if they’re still as bloodthirsty as they used to be. If, when the cup is found on Benjamin, would they sacrifice him to slavery as they did Joseph all those years ago?

Just as these brothers grief over the way things turned out reveals, sifts & refines their character, so we, as we walk with the Lord will be tested from time to time to reveal what’s in our hearts. James said,--Knowing this that the trial of your faith worketh patience.-1:3. God gives us many tests & we need not worry if we fail; He gives His tests over until we pass.

I love it when a plan comes together.

Joseph doesn’t know if his brothers are repentant for their earlier sins so he replicates the situation to see what the brothers will do this time. Are they still harboring hatred for Rachel’s boys? If they are they’ll cut Benjamin loose & try to save their own skin. They can cut him loose to slavery & go home with food & be none the worse for wear. See the position Joseph has placed them in? If they align themselves with Benjamin, Joseph can reasonably conclude they have changed. Those who’ve failed so ignominiously before, now have a chance to demonstrate growth & Joseph has an opportunity to see if the brothers still hate their father & Rachel’s’ offspring.

One of the delights of God’s heart is to see His children loving & caring one for another. One of the six things God hates is; --- they that sow discord among the brethren.

When they appear back before Joseph he says, “How could you be so stupid? Don’t you know that I don’t practice divination?” At this point, if Judah had been a little sharper he could have said, “Oh yeah, how could you divine that we stole your divining cup if you didn’t have it?

But Judah tries another approach. Judah says, “It is God who has found your servants guilty.” By this I think he means God is behind the mysterious appearance of the cup as delayed retribution for what they did to Joseph years ago. After all Genesis 42:21-23 tells us they thought they were having all this trouble as a result of what they did to Joseph.

What follows is the longest recorded speech in the book of Genesis: Judah’s plea in front of Joseph. It’s interesting that Judah says, “If you keep Benjamin it will kill my father. He already lost his favorite son & if he loses this one he won’t be able to stand it. So out of regard for our father, spare him.” Judah also explains how invested his father is in his son Joseph that disappeared all those years ago.

Judah is showing humility & that’s the only way we can & should come before God. We’re told;--God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.

Remember, this is the first time Joseph is hearing of the heartbreak that Jacob experienced when he got the news of Joseph’s death. That news, while gut-wrenching probably didn’t come as a surprise to Joseph. What must have been surprising to Joseph was the new-found love for their father Jacob & Benjamin. This is what indicates the transformation.

Another striking thing is Judah never questions their guilt. He doesn’t try to quibble with the judge but rather he is asking for mercy from the judge. This is a real mark of transformation. Their hatred for the chosen one of their father now becomes the basis for their plea for mercy; mercy from the offended one.

When Joseph is certain of the change in his brothers, he asks everyone but family to leave & reveals himself to his brothers. First he told them his name, I am Joseph. Then he declared his relationship to them….I am your brother.

He acts quickly to dispel their fears & assures them they are safe & forgiven for all past wrongs done to him. He assures them he is really their brother & tells them not to be afraid. He gives them many promises; “I will sustain you, you shall be near me, I will nourish you, no evil shall befall you, you have my word for it.” Doesn’t this sound like God’s Amazing love for us? He wants us to feel His love & to be secure, fearing nothing.

This revelation to his brothers is at once stunning & frightening. The narrative says they were dismayed. Where did they really stand with this ruler? Can they overcome their foul deeds or are they doomed? What feelings of guilt & remorse must have gone through their minds? They had nothing in their hands to give to make up for the past so all they could do was throw themselves on the mercy of the one they had offended & were now face to face with.

Now we have the wonderful revelation of God’s plan. Their rejection of Joseph had actually been a part of God’s strategy. After twenty-two years God’s plan has snapped into focus & becomes crystal clear. We all knew God was with Joseph but bad things kept happening to him. God worked through the actions of bad boys & worse circumstances to bring about good for all. See how God takes the bad & works his wonder with them & things out so magnificently?

Had Joseph’s brothers not treated him badly, he wouldn’t have been in Egypt but at home starving with them. Through Joseph’s mistreatment the world is saved from starvation. It took 22 years for God’s plan to play out but now it all makes sense. 22 years of hell on earth is a high price to pay but it paid off & now we see the good that comes from it.

Sometimes we can look at a snapshot of things & they make little sense but when we see the whole movie it causes us to celebrate His goodness & marvel at His plan.

But God isn’t through with these people yet. Look what He does. More benefits are coming to these brothers. Joseph tells them the famine won’t be over for five more years so they can stay in Egypt & ride things out where there is food. He tells the brothers to go back & get Jacob & bring him back with them & volunteers to take care of the whole family. The brothers lives are spared & they are reconciled to the one they’d offended.

God’s love is so vast it reaches to all mankind. There’s always plenty of room at God’s table. But that’s still not all. Pharaoh hears the family is coming to Egypt & showers even more blessings on them. He says they can pick from the choicest land & Pharaoh will give it to them. Can anyone say favor??

Pharaoh even sends a Limo. He sends them carts to make their journey easier. Pharaoh told them to leave their stuff because he’ll give them better brands of whatever they need.

They are to go home with the message---
Joseph is alive!
He is Lord of all!
He has all you could ever need!
Come see Joseph.


This provision goes beyond mere salvation. This is…exceeding abundantly above all we could ask or think. Those affiliated with Joseph are blessed for Joseph’s sake. They are blessed with salvation, with provisions for living an extraordinary life & with a choice inheritance.

Beyond all the material blessings Jacob’s joy is the greatest blessing of the whole ordeal because his years of heartache are ended. His son is “back from the dead.” Maybe Jacob is a little puzzled but he exercises faith & travels back to see Joseph & claim the inheritance that awaits him because of the plan through which God has delivered him & his family.

This story is reminiscent of Calvary because God is in His Son, reconciling the whole world to Him. The brothers were to have one message. They didn’t invent a message of their own. And the message is,

....And whosoever will let him take of the water of life freely.

Blessings,

John





Sunday, May 8, 2016

Small Story... Big Message

By John Stallings

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


This story in Luke is chock full of spiritual nourishment. It’s especially intriguing to me because at first blush, it seems Luke has just tacked the story on at the end of chapter ten. As far as context goes, it doesn’t fit with anything that goes before or comes afterward.

However if you’re anything like me, this grabs your interest even more & assures that something rich & insightful is clustered in the mere five verses.


Mary, Martha & Lazarus were a family who lived in the hamlet of Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem. Because of that proximity, Jesus & His disciples often stopped by. I’m assuming of these two sisters, Martha was the oldest because it was her home & she had invited Jesus. The other reason I figure she was the elder sister was because she got irritated with Mary; that’s running pretty true to form, don’t you think?

They were a family particularly loved by Jesus; a fact made crystal clear in the gospels. Preachers have used this vignette in all sorts of ways; usually Martha represents Works & Mary represents Faith. This stereotype isn’t necessarily true nor is it fair.

When you read the story its clear Jesus put his disapproval on Martha’s busyness & His approval on Mary’s choice to sit at His feet. But there’s much more than meets the eye here.

If you think Martha’s job was easy ask yourself what you’d do in her place? What would you serve Jesus? Would you go with peanut butter & jelly sandwiches on paper plates or Lobster on Grandma’s china? Apparently Jesus knew the good wine from the bad.

And you never knew what Jesus would do or say. He called things as He saw them. Public opinion moved Him no more than a gnat lighting on His sleeve. If a dog plopped down at His feet He would have scratched his neck a little & used the occasion to talk about the kingdom of God.

Moving along, one thing is sure; there’s much tension in Bethany this evening.

Mary & Martha were a study in contrasts. Mary is a carefree, open spirit & very tender-hearted, while Martha is a hard “worker bee,” committed, dedicated water-hauler, cooking, stressed-out & self-righteous; but teachable. Distant Martha—Devoted Mary. Angry Martha—Adoring Mary. Get the picture?

There’s no question that Jesus was blunt with Martha in this story but we also hear love in His tone as he speaks to her. There was a symbolic, verbal “pat on the head” in His voice but there was also compassion as He called her name twice, “Martha, Martha, don’t let the cares of the world weigh you down.”

In this story, the sea walker, the blind man healer, the man the multitudes are following , comes under one roof to enjoy food & fellowship with one family, perhaps His best friends.

But He finds things a bit dysfunctional on this day & the air is crackling with tension. Martha is in the kitchen preparing a meal & Mary has vacated the kitchen to curl- up at Jesus’ feet. Martha had probably carried the scrub bucket all day long & had cleaned her house from top to bottom. Remember she didn’t have the options women have today. She didn’t have a freezer. She had to kill a few chickens & grind flour to make bread, & walk into the center of the village to get clean water.

This isn’t a - good-Mary—bad Martha scenario. Both of them loved Jesus & wanted His fellowship but obviously on this day Mary had all she could take, pulled off her apron & went to Jesus feet & sat down. As far as Martha was concerned, the “fat was in the fire.”

Then Martha pulls the old classic triangulation tactic, pulling Jesus into it. She decides to manipulate Mary through Jesus. She says, “Tell my sister to help me; why do I have to do everything myself?” Martha wants to make herself the pattern for Mary. But Jesus doesn’t bite. Obviously He “gets it.” He sees that Martha is working hard while Mary is sitting at His feet absorbing His words.

Martha opened her home, but Mary opened her heart. Martha wants to feed bodies but Mary wants her soul fed. Martha had invited Jesus into her home but didn’t have time to talk to Him. There are several spiritual lessons in this story & the first one comes in the form of a question;

1. HAVE YOU OPENED YOUR HOME TO JESUS?

Say what we might about Martha but If everyone would do what she did & throw their home open to Jesus most of our problems would vanish. Think about that; if every home in America were to make Jesus not just welcome, but would obey His precepts, there’d be no more divorces, no more hellish turmoil, no spousal abuse, & very little if any juvenile delinquency. Just one change, opening the door of our homes to Jesus would change everything.

Some of my most precious memories as a child are in the home. I was a preacher’s kid & we moved frequently. That would have given many kids a problem but I thrived as a youngster, although always an outsider, because of the closeness of our family.

I might not have had the advantage of staying in one place long but it was more than compensated for by the love we felt at home.

I was raised without T.V up until I was 17 & as I look back I can’t remember ever having a problem being entertained. I have to be honest, I don’t know what I’d do without my T.V & computer now but I got along fine as a kid without all this technology.

I don’t remember a void in my life as a kid & I guess it was because we’d gather around the piano & sing & we just enjoyed being together. I’m sure those hours not spent in front of a T.V were responsible for my learning to play the guitar & writing songs which became a great part of my life. I also picked around on the piano but never mastered it. I use the same system to pay the piano as I do in typing & it’s the scriptural method, “Seek & ye shall find.”

I’m certain my family was far from perfect; I know time puts a halo on things, but I can’t remember ever hearing my parents raise their voice to one another or get into raw-dog arguments. I’m sure they cleared the air from time to time but we kids never heard it.

I also got spankings when I needed them. One thing that wasn’t allowed was talking back to either parent. As a matter of fact I used to think the commandment that said --“Honor thy father & mother that thy days may be long upon the earth”—meant if you didn’t honor them they might kill you. That’s basically a joke but it’s not too far from the truth. I never got a vicious beating, & don’t think any child should be subjected to that, but suffice to say, my dad gave spankings that were absolutely & positively unacceptable. If spankings are acceptable to the child they’re not worth giving.

The Bible says. Rebellion is born in the heart of a child but the rod will drive it far from him. ---Proverbs 22:15

Here’s what a Christian home looks like;

1. Christlike family members treat each other like they’d like to be treated.—Matt7:12

2. The Christian home shares joys & blessing as well as burdens & sorrow.-Gal.6:2

3. The Christian home worships together.

4. A sense of belonging in the Christian home is a constant source of strength.

5. A Christian home is marked by openness, integrity & an absence of hypocrisy making trust possible.

6. In a Christian home, parents listen to children & children listen to parents.

7. In a Christian home malicious judgments are avoided.—Matt. 7:1-3

8. Harmony & understanding prevail in a Christian home.-Matt.5:43-44

9. Members of a Christian home enjoy each others company.

10. Christian homes don’t conform to the world.—Heb.12:1-2


Another question suggested by this story is;


2. HAS WHAT STARTED AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO SERVE THE LORD BECOME AN OPPORTUNITY TO SHOWCASE YOUR TALENTS?

Can you see Martha rearranging the little knickknacks on her shelves? Can you see her cutting the carrots with special little curlicues, & arranging them with the other snacks in a perfect picture on the tray? These things are lovely & appreciated & are a way of showing love but they can never take the place of time at Jesus’ feet.

Let’s face it; a salad is a salad even if the tomatoes aren’t arranged in a special design on the top. Mashed potatoes are mashed potatoes even without special presentation. A pie crust is a pie crust even if the edge isn’t curled in a special way. These are things that aren’t really needful. If you want to do them its fine, but if you do, don’t complain or use it as an excuse for not having time to sit at Jesus’ feet.

There’s a fine line here & it’s easy to cross without knowing it. This isn’t said to criticize Martha or judge her heart, because she loved & adored Jesus every bit as much as Mary did. But it’s possible, just possible that she’s getting close to the slippery slope of becoming a “show boat” wanting to be in the spotlight more than wanting to worship at Jesus’ feet.

Let’s move to other areas of Christian service like playing a musical instrument, singing solo’s, writing songs, singing in the choir or being Worship leader. Do you look at your opportunities for service as areas where you can truly make a difference in the lives of people, or have you allowed “mission creep” to cause you to drift into being a religious entertainer?

There are those today who present themselves as “Experts in Worship” who strut like Peacocks. I heard about an evangelist who came on the platform in a bright red suit with sequins on it; a black shirt, white tie, white buck shoes, his greasy-black hair piled up on his head ,a loud flashy electric guitar around his neck & announced, “Don’t see me, see Jesus.”

Colossi ans 3:17 says,--And whatsoever ye do in word or deed do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.

Another question from this little story is;


3. ARE YOU LEARNING TO BETTER BALANCE YOUR PERSONAL DEVOTIONS WITH YOUR PRACTICAL DUTIES?

We should be careful not to look at these two sisters & call Mary spiritual & Martha practical. If you look closely at Luke 10:39 you’ll see—“And she had a sister called Mary which ALSO sat at Jesus’ feet, & heard His word.

This implies that Marta sat at Jesus’ feet also, just at different times. In verse 40 Martha says, -- Lord don’t you care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” In other words in the normal course of events it was normal for both the women to work together but on this one occasion Mary had left Martha to work alone. So both the sisters were practical as well as spiritual.

The lesson here is; personal devotion & practical duties should never be pitted against each other. As a matter of fact, out of our personal devotions should spring motivation for our practical duties. If we don’t get the spiritual part of our lives right, the practical side will only produce good ideas, not God ideas.

We’ve all heard the old saying, “He/she is so heavenly minded that they’re no earthly good.” This should never be said of a true Christian because whatever God requires & expects from us will never lie outside the realm of possibility. God isn’t an unreasonable God & He knows exactly how much time we have at our disposal. If He asks us to spend time with Him & also work hard to put food on our tables, then we know its well within our power to do it.

I believe it was John Wesley who said; “I have so much to accomplish each day if I didn’t spend time (probably hours) with God I could never get it all done.”


4. DOES THE LORD’S WORK HAVE PRIORITY OVER THE LORD’S PRESENCE IN YOUR LIFE?

Let me give you an illustration here. What if you had a son you missed very much & though he lived in the same town with you, he never could get around to sitting down & visiting with you. There was so much you wanted to say to him & you wanted to catch up with what’s going on in his life, but that talk just never seems to take place.

One day the doorbell rings & your heart skips a beat because your son is at the door. When you open it, he says, “I noticed your lawn needed cutting so I’m going to cut it for you, I love you mom/dad.”

When he’s finished mowing your lawn he’s off to do other things. You feel bad & you still love the kid, you just are so hungry to visit with him. A few days later your son knocks at the door again & tells you he’s going to wash your car & also he’s noticed there a some limbs on your backyard trees that need to be cut back & with a smile on his face once again he’s off to do things for you that desperately need to be done.

Now your heart is breaking because it seems your beloved son doesn’t really want to sit & just talk to you. You so appreciate the work he’s doing, after all, he’s saving you a ton of money, but your heart yearns for just a little personal time with your boy. If this went on month after month & year after year you’d start to feel your son’s love for you must be deficient in some way.

The work your son is doing is wonderful, & you realize the work he’s doing is an expression of his love for you, but it can’t take the place of his personal presence by your side, talking with you.

Likewise God loves the fact that we’re busy for Him, but His heart yearns for “face-time” with us where we just come into His presence to personally commune with Him.


5. DO YOU FIND YOURSELF MORE & MORE FOCUSING ON JESUS?

Jesus told Martha in the 42nd verse; ONE THING IS NEEDED.

Jesus told the rich young ruler, -You still lack ONE THING. Sell everything you have & give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and then follow me.

Jesus focused the young man’s attention on following Him. If someone hasn’t decided to follow they would have to be driven to follow. We miss the point if we think that Jesus was trying to get the young man to become poor. No! Proverbs 19:17 says, --He that hath pity on the poor lendeth to the Lord & that which he hath given He will pay him again.

God will be in debt to no man & if man will pay interest on a loan we know God will certainly pay interest & dividends. Jesus was trying to get the young millionaire to become a billionaire.

Paul said, -….This ONE THING I do, forgetting what is behind & straining towards what is ahead, I press toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.—Phil. 3:13-14.

Jesus says to Martha, ONE THING IS NEEDED. She was distracted & looking at everything but Him. Have you & I made provision for this ONE THING?
The secret to life & happiness is putting Him at the center of everything we do.

6. THOUGH YOU KNOW THE WORK IS IMPORTANT, DO YOU PREFER MARY’S PLACE OVER MARTHA’S PLACE?

Jesus said in verse 42, -Mary has chosen the better part.

There’s a lot of Martha in all of us. As a matter of fact more Martha’s are reading this than Mary’s. Yes, I’m guilty too. We are “cumbered by many things.” We prefer action movies. Don’t sit us in a room with nothing to do. It’s not that we enjoy hard work all that much, we’ve just got to be doing something; it makes the time go faster.


Jesus describes the ONE THING as the better part. Jesus didn’t condemn Martha’s activity anywhere in this story. Though He didn’t condemn her He said, -- there’s a better way Martha. Martha was in a purple rage because she so much wanted to have an extraordinary meal for Jesus. Her objective was the “event” to have a gourmet meal on the table.

Martha saw Jesus as HER guest but Mary saw HERSELF as Jesus’ guest. Again the focus is on Jesus. We need to always prefer Mary’s place, even while serving as Martha did.


7. ARE YOU LEARNING TO TRUST THE LORD & NOT WORRY OR BE UPSET?


Jesus said to Martha, -- Martha, Martha, you are worried & upset about so many things. You might not agree with me on this but I don’t believe Jesus said this because of anything He saw Martha doing that day. I believe He looked right through to her heart & saw the upset, turmoil & worry.

Jesus used a word we don’t use much these days if we use it at all, the word “cumbered.” It actually means, flustered, busy, & over-occupied. Note- God’s Word never tells us that things won’t come that could cause us to worry. He just tells us not to worry & when these things come, cast them on the Lord for He cares for you.

Don't  worry --is a very clear command of God’s word & He wouldn’t ask that of us were it not possible.

This little story is very powerful wouldn’t you say? It’s much more than just an evening with Jesus. It’s teaching us that Jesus can deal with everything that troubles us.


Let’s learn from it & allow ourselves to be changed by it.


Blessings,


John

Monday, May 2, 2016

Making The Best Of A Bad Situation

By John Stallings


“Part of the hospital’s roof blew off. Power was lost. Snakes swarm in the waters that flooded some hallways. We lost our generator within 24 hours. We could not get fuel. We had to “hand-bag ventilate patients,” Dr. Albert Barracas said. In the midst of this chaos, the hospitals doctors worked around the clock, putting their patient’s health above their own.

Such heroic stories abound in the midst of the death, destruction & displacement of Hurricane Katrina, the storm which in 2005 landed a cruel blow to the Gulf Coast region of the United States. Katrina led many Americans to do some extraordinary things.

Sadly because Katrina was turned into a political football, much of this heroism has been lost. One thing for sure, the great city of Houston has particularly been the unsung hero, especially the homes that took in house guests. Among all those in Houston who sacrificed is the home of Kirby Robinson which took in 27 unexpected house guests.

These ordinary people “made the best of a bad situation.”

Many, many people have chosen to “take lemons & make lemonade.” Because they did the world is a much better & safer place to live.

MADD was founded because Candy Lightner’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver. Polly Klass’s father Marc has made a huge impact on child abuse laws & Nancy Brinker has raised money & awareness for breast cancer victims in memory of her sister through the Susan B. Anthony Foundation.

There are thousands of service men & women stationed around the world today who'd rather be home with their families but instead are making the best of a bad situation, which by definition is what all wars are. Recently “popular” actress Sally Field made a sassy remark  about the wars we've fought-  which had to be “bleeped.” In essence she expostulated that if mothers ruled the world there’d be no more -----wars. First of all I doubt the truthfulness of that statement & secondly, she failed to mention that if we didn’t stand up to the terrorists, most women would be barefoot, pregnant, & illiterate & we’d all soon be wearing Muslim head gear.

Have you ever been in a bad situation you couldn’t alter, improve or get out of? I heard a man say once that he finally gave up on changing people but he kept a long list of candidates just in case he ever decided to try again.

TITUS

Right after the two Timothy’s there’s the little “post card” sized book called Titus. Though it only contains 46 verses it’s still a powerhouse because it’s chocked full of rich theology pertaining to salvation & Christian maturity.

But Titus also contains an intriguing story about a young preacher caught on the horns of a dilemma. Paul is writing to Titus his young protégé’ whom he’s left on the island of Crete & as we read between the lines some interesting facts emerge.

Crete is a small oblong island off the coast of Greece with a spine of rough- hewn mountains running right down the middle of it. Today’s Crete is a picturesque island humming with commerce & would be a delightful stop on any Greek island tour, but evidently in Paul & Titus’ day it left much to be desired.

ANYWHERE BUT CRETE

Paul left young Titus on the island on one of their missionary trips & Titus has failed to develop any kind of traction so he wants to leave. That last statement was probably an understatement; Titus is begging to leave. His attitude has become--“anywhere but Crete.”

Scholars believe Paul’s little letter to Titus was written in response to a letter Titus previously wrote him asking to be moved. But of course we don’t have that letter. That’s O.K., we’re on solid ground because of evidence we’ll piece together.

I can relate to Titus here for more than one reason not the least of which is that I’ve always had some sort of anxiety on small islands. No offense to the good people of Key West Florida but for some reason I’ve almost always had a bad feeling when I went & had to stay there more than a night or two. I first visited Key West as a boy of about ten when my father conducted a revival there. Then in the sixties, seventies & eighties I would go regularly for preaching engagements. Though I don’t know exactly why, I’m usually a little depressed in Key West.

The reason I say almost always is that we went down to Key West in the mid-nineties with extended family for a visit & that heavy feeling didn’t hit me then. Also, we stopped-over there for one day & night on a 2003 Disney Cruise & I was o.k. with Key West both times. Maybe I’m getting better or maybe Key West is.

Anyway, Key West people are great & we were always treated well by them. I think my feelings have something to do with the 100 plus mile drive over water on a two lane road that caused me to feel I’d never get out of there alive. Other problems are, Key West is about two & one half miles long & a half-mile wide (of course they’ve been enlarging the place for years—dredging) & Miami, the nearest city of any size is several hours north.

There’ something about an island, maybe it’s island fever & maybe that was part of Titus’s problem with Crete, I don’t know. But it’s almost certain that Titus wrote to Paul & said “get me out of here.” In this little letter we have Paul’s response; “No chance Titus, you’re going to stay in Crete.”

To be more precise, Paul said in chapter 1:5, ---For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting and ordain elders in every city as I appointed thee.

To piece more of the story together, Paul agrees with Titus—get this—Paul agrees Crete is a bad place. In verses 10-14 of chapter one Paul tells Titus that even one of their prophets has said terrible things about his own people in Crete. He called them liars, evil beasts & slow bellies or gluttons. Wow! But still Paul refuses to let young Titus off the hook; he stays in Crete!

No matter who we are we’ve all been to Crete symbolically. Crete is the place we want to leave but can’t. Crete is the place of discouragement & desire to give up & quit. Crete is the place of bad circumstances & extreme weariness. Crete is the place of outward opposition & inward despair. Crete is symbolic of any place that’s getting on your last nerve & you’d give almost anything to get away. Crete represents a place of suffering, a hopeless situation with impossible people. The problem is you can’t leave. You’re stuck. All the whining in the world isn’t going to change the facts.

The only way you can catalogue Crete & make any sense of it is, “You’re going to have to make the best of a bad situation.” A friend of mine humorously says his favorite scripture verse is, “Grin & bear it.” If that were really a verse, it would be tailor made for Crete.

These ancient Cretans must have been “hum-dingers.” If you mentioned the name Crete people would automatically think of dishonesty, overindulgence & laziness. (Titus 1:12)

Paul offers to Titus his reasons for leaving him in Crete. You might call it Paul’s CRETIAN FORMULA.”

Titus must stay in Crete because;

1. TITUS NEEDS CRETE!

What!? Yes, this terrible place called Crete was going to build character & endurance in Titus. We hear more these days about deliverance than we do development but God is greatly invested in our spiritual maturity. How are we ever going to see God work miracles for us if we are constantly leaving the place where the miracle is needed?

When we pray for God to make us sweet we expect Him to turn over a bucket of honey in our souls, but instead God sends “sister sandpaper” along to test our patience. When we want to be more loving God sends the unlovely into our lives. Isn’t it strange how that works? That’s God again, turning man’s wisdom on its head. We want spiritual strength & stamina so God sends us to his “spiritual gym,”-- pressure. Sometimes I think trouble may just be the tenth gift of the spirit.

I heard a man tell about going into a potters shop once while visiting Israel. The potter opened his Kiln & let him see the different vessels that were at different stages of baking. The man asked the potter how he knew when it was time to take a vessel out of the heat, whereupon the potter reached in a got one of the vessels & thumped it. He said, “When I thump the vessel & it doesn’t ‘sing” or have that certain sound, back into the oven it goes.” That man left the potters shop carrying with him the following lesson; --when God puts us in the fire, if we want out, we’d better “sing” or we go right back in.

We have the tribe of Gad with us today. You might wonder who the tribe of Gad is. They’re the millions of Christians who’re in “Spiritual orbit” gadding from one place to the other looking for that perfect situation. They are looking for smooth sailing. If we could see the kingdom of God the way God sees it, we’d see something comparable to millions of fleas hopping & popping up & down trying to leave the circumstances they’re in. God’s challenge to us is, “If you want to grow & mature, stay in Crete.”

Titus isn’t in Crete to be punished but perfected.
Titus isn’t in Crete to be miserable but to become mature.
Titus isn’t in Crete to be comfortable but to be conformed to the image of Christ.
Titus will learn patience in Crete & that will lead to perfection.
Titus will face tough opposition in Crete, & someday thank God for all he endured.

Yes, Titus needed Crete, but also;

2. CRETE NEEDED TITUS.

In the second chapter of Titus Paul tells Titus just how much the people of Crete need him. The women, men & young people desperately need him, his teaching & his example.

Titus was young so maybe we’ll give him a little slack here, but what did he want, a beach ministry? Did he want to ride a gravy train with biscuit wheels? I’ve heard people say if things went bad for America we should all move to the country, hide out & grow tribulation food. That sounds good but then who will minister to all the human need? Who’ll be around when people need spiritual answers? When things get bad in the world are we called to retreat to hiding places & let the world do the best it can? No! We are the salt & light department.

What if every Doctor said; “You know I’m tired of sick people. I’m sick of listening to people whine all day long. I want to be around healthy people from now on?” What then would sick people do?

What if every teacher said; “I’m tired of being around uneducated & ignorant people. I want to spend the rest of my life around smart people?”

What if our policemen & women got tired of keeping us safe & said, “I’m sick of dealing with the worst of humanity & fearing for my life at every traffic stop. I want to quit & spend the rest of my life around good, upstanding law-abiding folk?”

What if our fire-fighters got tired of fires & left their jobs to go become farmers? If all these public servants said, “get me out of Crete” we’d all be in trouble.

What if Jesus had said; “Father, I’m tired of these human beings. They don’t like me, they don’t even know who I am & I’m definitely not appreciated. Even my home town of Nazareth ran me off. I don’t think this whole thing is working. Please let me come back to heaven, this is just too hard?” Jesus even said that He could have done that but aren’t we glad He stayed with His mission until all of man’s sin debt was paid? Praise God, Jesus made the best of not only a bad situation but a situation that defies description because He was constrained by love to finish His task.

Paul told Titus in chapter two verse 14; ---Who gave Himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, & purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works.

In chapter three of Titus, Paul reminds him that he used to be foolish, deceptive, lustful, pleasure loving, envious hateful & malicious. Then He gives to Titus & also to us the great verse about our free salvation;

Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration & renewing of the Holy Ghost….The third thing Paul stressed to Titus was;

3. GOD NEEDS YOU IN CRETE.

God uses people to reach people. God needs Titus to be in Crete for a witness of His love. In spite of their bad reputation, in spite of their seeming unlovely ness, God still loves them & wants to redeem them & that’s why He needs Titus to be there.

If there were ever a place you’d think would be beyond God’s love it would be Crete. But Titus’ presence there proves Crete mattered to God. How could God love Crete?

It’s not that Cretans are loveable; it’s because God is love.
God loved Crete not because of what they were but what He is.
His love is not dependent on their character but His character.

In Titus 1:5 Paul tells Titus to set in order” things that were wanting. A medical term is used here; like a doctor setting a bone. He’s telling Titus to put relationships back together among the Cretans. We don’t think of setting a bone as healing but in truth it’s a very vital part of the healing process. A lot of people are sick because they’re “out of joint” in their relationships & wont properly heal until they’re back in place like a doctor sets a bone in place.

In Ephesians 6:18 Paul tells the church there;

Praying always with all prayer & supplication in the Spirit & watching thereunto with all PERSEVERANCE & supplication….

The word perseverance means to persist or endure in spite of elements arrayed against you. From its Latin roots the word literally means “through severity.” In an age of instant oatmeal & microwave popcorn we’re not too big on perseverance. Before we can persevere we need to be in severe circumstances.

Perseverance was what Paul was asking of Titus in Crete. But Paul wasn’t asking Titus to do anything he didn’t do & with regularity. Listen to 2 Corinthians 11:24—

Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night & a day I have been in the deep; journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; In weariness & painfulness in watchings often, in hunger & thirst in fastings often in cold & nakedness. Beside those things that are without that, which cometh upon me daily, -- the care of all the churches.

One of the necessary elements of perseverance is TIME. Time is a requirement for us to say we’ve persevered. When a child asks “are we there yet,” without a sufficient amount of time passing, you know they’re not doing too good at persevering. Time is where we have our biggest problems & not coincidentally, time is one of the things God uses to test us. The very fact that we live in time not timelessness helps us to realize that everything has a lifespan & so will our trials & tribulations.

Paul said,--For our light affliction which is but for a moment worketh in us a far more exceeding & eternal weight of glory; while we look not at the things which are seen but at the things that are not seen….2 Cor. 4:17-18Life is often rough & if you are blessed to sails its seas for long you’ll hit a storm or two. Don’t jump ship or ask God to discharge you. Maybe you’re living in Crete or working in Crete. Maybe your marriage seems like Crete to you.

For Titus to be successful in Crete he was going have to trust in God. Trusting will help us in Crete like nothing else.

Psalm 37:5 states; --Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in Him; and He shall bring it to pass.

Don’t pray for a better place, pray for strength to stay where you are & prevail. Don’t get into the spiritual fetal position. God is making you into the kind of person He wants you to be & when you’ve been tried you’ll come forth as pure gold.



STAY IN CRETE.

Blessings,

John